Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thinking About Seeds

I'm pouring over my seed catalogs, trying to decide which varieties to try this year. Last summer was crummy here, and apparently it was in some of the seed-producing regions as well, because many basic varieties, like Walla Walla onions, are not available.

So I'll be trying some new things. My lettuces will continue to be my good-producing Red Sails, Forellenschluss, Black-Seeded Simpson, Buttercrunch, and the to-die-for Salad Bowl. But almost everything else will be different from what I've planted before. Last year I tried a bunch of Fedco's tomatoes, and although it certainly wasn't a tomato summer, I'm not sure I want to try their tomatoes again. I'm not really certain that they're going to do well here, and I don't want to have another crummy tomato harvest again if I can help it.

However, I really like the fact that they're anti-Monsanto and have lots of open pollinated varieties, and want to support that kind of company. So this year I'm getting my squash, cukes, and tomato seed from Territorial, and everything else I'm getting from Fedco.

I've made up my garden plan and a simplified planting schedule, so hopefully I'll be able to keep up better. It's supposed to be a warm summer according to the Climate Prediction Center, which will help the tomatoes and curcurbits, if it actually happens. The only problem is that I'm running into timing constraints with the onions, but I'm sure I can work it all out somehow. If not, maybe Mr. E will dig me another bed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Leaving you with a few wintery scenes from our home.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


8.2 degrees F. (-13 C).

Need I say more?

Of course I do. There was ice on the inside of Thing 1's window this morning. The new thermal shade must be doing its thing. Yikes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Colder than....

It got to about 13F here last night. Saturday it snowed somewhere between 1 and 4 inches, depending on where you measured. It took the ground quite a while to freeze so that the snow could stick. We're expecting more snow Tuesday night, although no-one is guessing how much.

Thing 1 walked to school this morning, and although it was a late start day, it was only 15F when he left. I totally bundled him up as if he were going skiing, so he should be fine. He left with a neighbor boy who was wearing much less.

Forty minutes later, I went to the bus stop with Thing 2 and all the other neighborhood kids. By then it was 23 degrees, but an icy north wind cut right through single layers (pants) and stung my cheeks. I hustled home to a warm house and hot tea.

I'm sure the rosemary is shot, and I'm going to cut it down to the ground in hopes that I can dry the needles. It may not work, but it'll be completely brown and useless by spring, so I figure I should get it while I can, and hopefully some good will come of it.

I'm also "should have"-ing. I should have covered the carrots and turnips with leaves. I should have dug some horseradish before the ground froze solid. I should have brought in those last cabbages.

Saturday was spent with friends from Mr. E's work, the brave souls who ventured out in the snow to our neck of the woods. Sunday was spent with Mr. E's friends and their wives (my friends, too). Lots of food and catching up on all the happenings.

Today I'm relaxing, wrapping gifts, and cleaning up the kitchen. Dinner will be all the leftovers, and a fire will be roaring in the wood stove.

Keep warm!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Preparing for Winter

Gee, I realize that for some of you winter is already here, but this weekend we're to get REALLY chilly. Well, for here, anyway.

The goofy weather of 2008 continues. We've had a really mild fall, with temps not getting much below 28 degrees. Winter is to hit us with a vengence this weekend and into next week, with snow expected Friday night, and temperatures down to 13 degrees by early next week.

So today was, erm, garden cleanup day. I still had some Wall-o-Waters up as an experiment to see how long the tomatoes would last (they didn't), some pea fence up, hoses still attached to the house, and all the soaker hoses on the ground. So I roped Thing 1 into helping me gather all of that mess up and store it. Then I went around the herb garden collecting the pots that were scattered about.

As I was cleaning up the herb garden, I frightened a little frog who was hiding in a rain-filled flat. I'm not sure if he could survive the water freezing solid, but he seemed happy in the water for now, so I left the flat.

Other bits, I got new tires for the car, as mine were balding, and got a bit of shopping done. If we do get snow, transportation grinds to a halt, and so will the Xmas shopping. Monday and Tuesday look clear, but icy, and then we're back to snow for Wed. We're supposed to be hosting a couple of parties this weekend; one for Mr. E's work friends, and one for his buddies he's known since, well, forever (like the 1970s!). We'll see if they happen or not. Mr. E swears that the forecasters have to say it'll snow seven times before it actually does.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The One-Pound Turnip

I was making beef stew in the crockpot this morning, and ran out to the garden to pull some carrots. I just love being able to do that, even if it was 38 degrees and misty. Anyway, I had planted some turnips in the fall, and forgot to thin them appropriately, so I did about a month ago but figured that the turnip trial was a wash. I decided today to check to see if there were any of a usable size, and what did I find? A monster one-pound turnip!

Egads! It wasn't very pretty, or I might've taken a picture of the giant. But I chopped it up and tossed it into the stew. I love the horseradishy taste of turnips, and they provide minerals, fiber, and some vegetable protein. So I chuck them into soups and stews to stretch out the meat, add a different layer of flavor that potatoes alone would lack.

I don't understand where people got off of eating turnips. My mom never made them. I found out what they were (and that I liked them) from eating Campbell's Alphabet Soup, and reading the label. Turnips, yum, lima beans, yuck. Still don't like lima beans.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Busy Busy

It's that time of year. With Thanksgiving so late this year, it seems like the holidays are knocking on the door, and I'm not even close to being prepared.

We have a wall of bookcases in the family room, and it had been years since we've had a really good book purge. So Sunday I went through, separated the books into hardback or paperback fiction, nonfiction, kid books and Jane Austen (she deserves a shelf all on her own, don't you think?). Then I alphabetized all the books (not in an OCD way, just the librarian in me coming out) dusted the heck out of everything, and tried to "artfully" get the books back on the shelf without causing the shelves to bend under too much weight. Now I have two grocery sacks of books to go to the used book store after letting friends' kids grab what they want.

Yesterday I tried to get the laundry room straightened out, but didn't manage to. I did finish four loads of laundry, but still need to find homes for outgrown coats, and I have a pile of things that need to go to charity. I did manage to hang the other new curtain in our room, get the lights, wreath and garland up, and some shopping in.

Last night was Meatless Monday, and I made spinach ravioli (Costco) with a butter and parmesan sauce. Quick, simple, filling, and yummy.

Today, I'm off to volunteer at Thing 2's class, then find a new coat that will stand up to Seattle rain and (whenever it gets here) 30 degree temps. I've managed to get a few things picked up for Xmas, but have only one person knocked off the list. Plus we're hosting two parties, one on the 13th, and one on the 14th, so I'm just a little stressed out at the moment.

Gotta find some ho.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Can Until You Can't

I guess I still can, but I'm getting a little tired of it going solo.

The latest additions: another four quarts of applesauce and six half-pints of apple preserves. I'll use the apple preserves to make mini-apple tarts for Xmas parties. It's a little too sweet in large quantities. (Note to self: drastically reduce the amount of sugar when using home-grown apples!)

I just made another apple cake today. In my haste to lick the batter from the bowl put the cake in the oven, I forgot to put on the topping before I baked the cake. I took one look at it when the timer went off and thought "what the heck happened to the cake?" Duh, strusel topping! I quickly whipped it up and put it on the cake, turning on the broiler to brown it up. Cake saved.

I figure that since the boys are sick of apples fruit is fairly cheap right now, and since it usually goes up late spring, I'll buy fresh fruit for eating now and save the applesauce for later.

Yes, I still have copious amounts of apples in the fridge and garage, although I'm down to about 10 pounds in the garage and five in the fridge. Unfortunately, few are good for baking. I really need to borrow a dehydrator, or get racks for my oven. Apparently the manufacturer makes special racks (my oven has a special dehydrator setting), but they're not telling where you can get them. Typical.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

October Harvest Totals

Wow! I guess it's been awhile! Life has a funny way of getting in the way of blogging....

So, last month I brought in another 60 lbs of food from the garden bringing the total for the year to 253.4 lbs. Last year, I brought in only 34 lbs during October, and that included all of the carrots and a lot of acorn squash, which didn't grow at all this year. Total for last year, 180 lbs. I was finished harvesting by the end of October, so I'm up over 73 lbs over last year, and there's still food to be tallied.

I have left the carrots in the ground this year, because it seems like the best way to store them for me. All the carrots I pulled last year dessicated in the garage, and the ones I left in the ground, although hairy, were still edible through April. I pulled three for stew the other day, and they were gorgeous, bright orange, without a trace of bitterness.

In fact, there's still quite a bit of food out in the garden. There's a little spinach, some parsnips and turnips, cabbages and the aforementioned carrots. The turnips didn't get thinned, unfortunately, so I'm looking at a lot of greens, without too much root.

We've had a rather warm and wet fall this year. Normally we have a low 20s night or two before Halloween, but not this year. I think we've only made it to 28 degrees. It doesn't really feel like November to me; it's just not cold enough, although it's definitely dark and wet enough.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Planting Garlic

Yesterday I roped Thing 1 into helping me with the garlic planting. Garlic is easy enough for kids of almost any age to help with. I just plopped the garlic on the ground at the spacing I wanted it planted, and Thing 1 stuck them in the ground and covered them up. We planted about 80 cloves of garlic and 18 cloves of shallots.

I had already cleared the bed last weekend of weeds and stray potatoes, so it was nice and fluffy, waiting for the alliums. I don't put down any fertilizer for them in the fall. I put down quite a bit of rock phosphate when the beds were built, so I'm hoping it's still around. However, this spring I'm going to get a soil test done to see what minerals my soil is missing.

I grow Music and Inchelium Red garlic. Music is a potent hardneck variety, and Inchelium Red is a local-ish heritage softneck variety which is much more mild and sweet - great for roasting and braiding. I've been saving my seed from these two for over five years now.

I'm glad we got the planting done. The weather, which has been dry and sunny most of the month, is supposed to turn back to rainy by the end of the week. There's really so much yardwork yet to do, and I'm spending way too much time on the computer, and not getting the work done. Oh, to be disciplined!

I've been trying to grow shallots here for a few years, with no success. At my old house, they grew like gangbusters in rocky, sandy, infertile soil. Here, on my loamy soil, I'm lucky to get any. Yet still I try. Third time's a charm, right?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Was it a Deer?

My friend, M, suspects that the apple thief may be a deer. My father also thought so, until I told him that the apples were eight feet up. He's not so sure that our puny deer could reach that high.

I'll hope that it was a deer (M's other guess was a bear, but we don't have them here). However, usually when the deer are around, other things, like the strawberry plants, are munched on as well, and there are usually scat and hoof marks all over the place, and there were none at all.

Yummy scents wafting from the kitchen. I'm making vegetable stock.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mark Bittman's Miso Soup

I love miso soup. I love how we cozy up at our local sushi restaurant (it's always freezing in there in the winter), and slurp our miso soup straight from the cup. It warms my stomach, and relaxes me. I could forgo the sushi and just have the soup!

I borrowed Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian from the library, to try and find new ideas for Meatless Monday. Ooooh. A miso soup recipe that didn't look too complicated (none of his recipes look complicated. This is the first one I've tried)! So I ran out to the store that stocks lots of asian foods. I bought kombo (dried kelp), red miso, some scallions, and firm silken tofu. As it looked, the recipe wasn't complicated. You soak the kombu and a little ginger in water for 8 hours, remove them, heat up the "broth" to steaming, and add the miso and tofu. Drop in the scallion, and viola! Miso soup.

For a first crack at it, it was darn good. It was just missing something at the end, one low note (I don't know how foodies describe it). I ran through the list of "add-ons", or variations to the recipe. Mr. E thinks maybe a little garlic. I'm thinking mushroom or seaweed. Bittman's recipe used too much tofu for my taste, so I reduced it a bit. I also tried the cold-soak "broth", but it didn't have quite enough flavor for my liking, so I heated it up a little bit before pulling out the kelp and ginger.

Miso Soup - adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
makes 4 large servings

1 Quart Kombu Dashi (below)
1/3 Cup red miso
6 ounces firm silken tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 Cup minced scallion

Heat the dashi until steaming. It's important that the dashi doesn't boil. Reduce heat to low. Using a whisk, mix 1/2 Cup kombu dashi with the miso in a bowl until smooth. Pour the miso mixture into the pot and add the tofu. Stir a couple of times and let sit for a minute. Add scallion and serve.

Kombu Dashi

2 Quarts water
1 piece dried kelp (kombu)
3 nickle-sized slices unpeeled ginger

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not boil. As soon as the liquid is about to boil, reduce the heat, and pull out the kelp and the ginger. Use immediately or refrigerate up to two days.

Or, alternatively, you can soak the ingredients using cold water for 6-8 hours, but it didn't give my dashi enough flavor. I wound up heating it up at the end anyway.

That's it. Really simple.

Paging through the book, there are many recipes I'm dying to try before having to return the book. There are so many variations of each recipe, it's hard to write them all down. If I find enough good recipes between now and when I need to return it, I'll probably buy the book.

I really like how the recipes have you cook up a pound of beans, and then use half, and save half for another meal. He does that with rice, too, I think. The "broth" that you make to begin with (kombu dashi) makes enough for two batches of soup, so I have some more in the fridge for my next attempt, maybe tonight.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Apple Thief

I'm not sure what happened - I'll let you decide.

Friday I brought in all but about seven or eight apples from the last tree. A few weren't ready yet, and the rest were too high for me to reach without a ladder. On Sunday, Mr. E took a few of the lower apples, found that the crows had got them, and tossed them into the horse pasture. He said there were still some left. Today I went out to cut some lettuces for dinner, and found a major branch broken, and all of the apples gone!

Now, if it were a rat, raccoon, or the like, there's no way they could've broken that branch. It looks as if someone really wanted those apples, smashing their way into the tree, or a young child climbed up to get at them.

What's disconcerting is that it the tree is way back in my back yard. Which abuts a horse pasture, which abuts another house. There are no roads anywhere nearby that someone could've been driving by and seen them. The only creatures back there at this time of year are horses. I feel like my privacy has been infringed upon.

The only thing I can think of is it was some of the construction crew working on the (illegal) building on the other side of the horse pasture, or the young kids living there. It's a 6,000 square foot mansion. You'd think they could afford apples for their kids.

I'm not so sad about losing the apples - after bringing in 121 pounds of them, I have enough. It's the broken branch and the fact that the person didn't ask. I would've given them the apples - without breaking the branch.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Over 200 Pounds

No, not me. The amount of food that's come in from the garden so far. Woo hoo.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Chill in the Air

Sorry for the lack of posting. I've had that "deer in the headlights" feeling the last few days.

And all the crashing coming while I was reading Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance, set me into a period of despair and zoning out. Well, not quite despair, but close. And the feeling was not because of the book; I really enjoyed it. Actually, her book is what kept me from delving into despair.

At any rate, too many thoughts in my head, and none of them coming to any sort of logical... well, anything.

Last night I noticed that the temperature had dropped to 40 degrees, and it was only 8:00. So Thing 1 and I ran outside with some Reemay and a flashlight and covered the tomatoes. It didn't quite get down to freezing, but if I hadn't covered them, I know we would've had frost....

Yesterday, we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50 crows in the backyard. It was looking like a scene from "The Birds". I generally don't mind they're coming around. They ate quite a few bugs out of the grass, so I figure they're helping out with pest control. And if they, er, drop anything, I figure it's free fertilizer.

However, when I went to cover the tomatoes last night, I found tomatoes laying all over the place, with definite peck marks in them. So today I'm going to bring in all of those tomatoes - just as soon as the temperature outside warms up a bit.

It was so chilly in the house yesterday, I finally turned on the furnace. I've been trying to acclimatize myself to a cooler house, and when I turned on the furnace to 68, it felt too warm. So I bumped the thermostat down a little.

Although I have many outdoor projects that really need to be worked on, this weekend I'm headed out with my friends M and J for a little girl time. We go for walks, crabbing and "squidding" (jigging. Although the high tide is at something like 3am. I'm not sure that'll be happening this time), work on projects, read, and generally not have to deal with husbands and kids for a weekend. I'll be bringing Mr. E's Other Sock and a crocheted afghan to work on, and a book or two.

Until then, I need to deal with the tomatoes.

Friday, October 3, 2008

September Harvest Totals

Wow! This last month I felt as though all I did was bring in food, and so I did. During the month of September, I brought in 105.8 pounds of food from my garden!

76.4 lbs apples
5.2 lbs tomatoes
0.8 lbs garlic
15 lbs potatoes
0.7 lbs carrots
4.1 lbs cukes
3.5 lbs cabbage
0.5 lb lettuce
1 ounce dried oregano

Hmmm. That doesn't quite add up. Too much rounding, I think.

Last year I weighed everything in pounds and ounces, and boy, was that a headache to tally up. I was having nightmares about trying to add up pounds, shillings and pennies in a household ledger. So this year, I weigh everything in grams, and then convert it all to pounds.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fall Knitting

I had been working all summer on a cotton shell with pretty hem detail. I was worried when I started the project about the size. I was sort of in-between sizes, and since my last project was a little snug, I decided to go for the larger size.

So this weekend I finally get to the point where I can sew it up and try it on. Never mind the fact that I ran out of yarn and still needed to do the finish work. Gaaaack! It was WAY too big. Like, ridiculously so. Oh! The frustration!

So I ripped the whole thing apart, and rewound all the yarn. It was a summer shell, and although it's supposed to hit 80 degrees here today, Fall will return by the end of the week, and it'll be months before I get to wear it anyway.

I'll try and make it again in the spring. It was a cute pattern.

So now it's on to finish some projects that I started over a year ago: Mr. E's other sock and the blue jacket.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Surpassed Last Year!

I brought in over 30 pounds of apples today (!!!), which brings my total harvest to date at 186 pounds.

Which surpasses last year's 180 pounds.


There's no way in heck that I'm going to make my goal of 350 pounds. Hmm. A little overly ambitious, wasn't I? I'll definitely get up over 200, though. I still have an apple tree to harvest, carrots to pull, cabbages.... Maybe 250 pounds? If I'm lucky?

Nevertheless, it's been a good haul. I've run out of places to put apples, and the pantry and freezer are brimming with gardeny goodness.

Makes one feel...content.

Corn Failure

This year was the first year I tried corn in my garden. Dismal failure! I'm not sure if it was too small of a stand, or if the summer was too cold, or what, but it looks like the corn didn't pollinate at all.

On the one hand, it's a major disappointment (growing corn apparently isn't a genetic trait), on the other, I can get my corn from the local farmers, and it frees up quite a bit of space in my veggie garden for things that I can grow well.

Well, live and learn. What to try next year????

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yup, it's Fall

Brrrr! 34.4 degrees F (that'd be 1.3 C) this morning, and I had to turn on the furnace, or my kids wouldn't get up. It's off again, hopefully for a while since it's supposed to cloud up which keeps the night-time temps higher.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Meatless Monday - Butternut Squash Ravioli

I found some butternut squash ravioli at Costco last week, and we had them for dinner for Meatless Monday. They're made by the Monterrey Pasta Company, stuffed with fontina and ricotta cheeses, and made for a very fall-like supper. I tossed them in butter and fresh sage from the garden (as per their instructions), but forgot the salt and pepper, which I think it needed. Anyway, we're having them again tonight because they were so quick and yummy! Add a salad and you're done. My kind of meal.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spiced Apple Pear Freezer Butter

In an effort to rid myself of use up apples, I made two batches of Spiced Apple Pear Freezer Butter this morning. I found the recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I love this book! Every recipe that I've tried so far has turned out delicious. It's such a leap of faith to commit several pounds of produce when you have no idea how the finished product will turn out.

The Spiced Apple Pear Freezer Butter is a favorite with my youngest. It's lighter and brighter than traditional apple butter, and the best part is, it took me less than an hour from start to finish per batch, six half-pints each.

Another 12 apples gone, about 40 more sitting on my counter, and I don't want to think about what's waiting on the trees. I don't have a food dehydrator, and although my oven has a drying setting, I don't have the appropriate racks for it. Anyone have an idea for making drying racks? Another "I can't find" - apple corer. I've tried three stores and can't find a single one. What's up with that? I could string apple slices, but need to core the apples somehow.

In other news, fall is here with misty, wet weather. I had a cord of firewood delivered today, and am getting the furnace checked soon. I'm going to try and not turn the heat on for as long as possible, but if it remains cool and wet, I'll wind up turning in on sooner than later, I suppose. Our wood stove heats most of the house, but takes a while to warm up. So it's great for in the afternoon and evening, but won't heat up the house in the morning. I put the flannel sheets on the bed, and it's hard to get up out of them, especially when it's still dark outside.

We had a coyote in the back yard one morning. It was after the mice, and I saw it pounce several times, but to no avail. What happened next was strange. It started going along the ridgeline, as they always do, but now it's blocked by the f***ing left neighbor's fence. So it started up the fenceline towards our house. Now I'm all for the critters staying in the right neighbor's pasture, or down by the woods, but up by the house is not good. So I opened the back door, yelled and clapped my hands. It took off down to the ridgeline and stopped. I guess I know how scarey I am now. About 50 yards scarey. So I let it be, keeping an eye on it. After about ten minutes it suddenly ran pell-mell to the neighbor's pasture, then back and forth along the line of the woods, sometimes chasing its tail, for five minutes, then suddenly dashed into the woods. I don't know if a flea really got it or what, but it was the strangest behavior I've ever seen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Socks for Apples - Review

So now that I'm bringing in loads of apples, what about those footies socks I put on them earlier this year?

I am pleased to say that THEY WORKED! Apples with socks had little to no apple maggot or coddling moth damage. My socked apples are looking great.

However, they were a pain in the rear to put on and keep on. Every apple needs a sock, and every sock takes about half a minute to put on.... You get the idea. Time intensive. So I wouldn't recommend it for large trees or large orchards unless you have slave labor or kids. Or are really having problems with maggots and moths.

And once they're on, you have to keep pulling them up as the apples grow, or as the birds try to grab them for their nests.

The socks also act as a sort of sunscreen, so the coloring isn't as deep as the apples without, and if the sock slips so part of it is exposed, you get a little tan line. It doesn't affect the taste of the apple, it's just something to note.

And I didn't have any more problem with earwigs than I normally do.

The only really bad effect was on my non-scab resistant tree. I need to take a more careful look, but it seems like the apples with socks had a higher incidence of scab, possibly because of the increased time that the apples are wet.

This is where you say "where, oh where can I get these wonderful socks?" If you know someone who sells shoes, you might see if you can't snag a box, cheap (or free). Have friends save them for you after trying on shoes. Or Raintree Nursery sells them here, with $4 from the sale of each box going to fruit disease research at WSU Mount Vernon. They're $20 for a box of 300, and you can wash them out in the fall, and reuse them in the spring (no, I don't get anything from them for telling you that).

Socks for apples? Highly recommended!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Apple Butter and Cucumber Relish

Yesterday my friend J came over to be my kitchen slave learn about canning.

Since I had a plethora of apples, we made a batch of apple butter. Never having made it, I wanted to start right away on it because I kept hearing about how long it takes to cook down. I don't know why, but by the time the apples were mushy, the sauce was so thick, I was afraid to cook it down any more. I'm not sure if these apples were loaded in pectin, or if they were not really juicy, or what. Anyway, it didn't take forever, rather about 20 minutes, and before I knew it, we had incredible, trying not to lick up the spills with my tongue in front of J, apple butter.

I had always suspected that canning was easier with two, and it was. We had quite the dance going with me filling the jars and getting the headspace right, and J getting out the bubbles, wiping the rims, putting on the lids, and then back to me to put the jar in the canner. Of course all the prep went faster, too. J peeled all the apples while I quartered and cored them, and dumped them into the pot.

While the apple butter was bubbling away, J and I started on relish with the four pounds of too-big-for-pickles cukes from the garden. Of course dopey me didn't read that the relish had to sit in salt for four hours. But J was here for all the hard work, which is paring the cukes, and chopping everything up. Note the perfectly uniform pieces of cucumber (J's work) and the sloppily chopped red and green peppers (courtesy of moi). I wound up canning the lot at 8pm, and my wonderful hubby did up all the dishes (thanks, honey)!

So now I need to get the jars of relish to J, although there's really no rush on them since they should probably "pickle" for about a month anyway. If the tastes I had yesterday were any indication, it should turn out great, too. Big thanks to J for coming over and slaving away on a Sunday afternoon!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Apple Time

My harvest total has rocketed past the 100 lb mark with the digging of the rest of my potatoes, and the oncoming rush of apples. I figure the rodents have stolen/ruined over 10 lbs of spuds, dratted beasties.

To answer sinfonian's question, I have four semi-dwarf apple trees, planted back in 2002. The first to ripen are the Akane apples (shown in the basket), usually in late August for me. The tree is small, and so are the fruit, ranging from 3-4 oz each. They are sweet-tart and juicy. This year I had about 15 lbs from the tree. They're really disease-resistant - no scab to speak of, and the apple maggots, for whatever reason, leave them alone.

Which is not the case with the second tree to ripen, Alkemene (the green apples on the counter). It's a much larger tree, with larger, 4-6oz, very tart fruit, about a week behind Akane. Prolific and scab-resistant, The maggots just love these apples. I'm expecting about 30+lbs from this tree, almost all of which will be made into pies, applesauce, etc.

The third tree to ripen is Dayton, in late September. This has huge apples, some around 12oz. Again, the maggots don't seem to care for them much, and they're scab-resistant. The tree is shorter, wider and less prolific than Alkemene. I'm expecting around 20-25 lbs from this tree.

The last tree to ripen, in early October, is a keeper variety, Melrose. It's the largest tree of the lot, and, unfortunately, the only one not scab resistant. And the scab affects the storage qualities of the apple, so this one will probably end up applesauce or dried. I'll probably have another 25 lbs from this tree.

This is my first year of "big" harvests, and according to various sources, in time I should be getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 pounds of fruit per tree, give or take depending on the size of the tree.

Thanks for the question, sinfonian!

Monday, September 1, 2008

August Harvest Totals

Another month has come to a close. The late spring and cool summer have certainly affected the garden. At this time last year, I had taken almost 20 pounds of apples from the trees, and at least 3 lbs of tomatoes. This year, nada on both counts. Last year, I had all of my potatoes in. This year I still have another 10+ pounds in the ground. And, due to the busy-ness of the summer, I still haven't gotten my softneck garlic braided and weighed.

Yet, I am still surpassing last year's harvest. Year to date for 2007 - 78.5 lbs. Year to date for 2008 - 87.6 lbs, an overall increase of 11%, but a 30% decrease for the month over last year. Not great, but hopefully the weather will warm so I get some tomatoes, and the apple deluge is about to hit, and it's looking like it's a doozy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The End of Summer - or is it Fall?

The days are cooling, a little early for me. The spiders are appearing everywhere, making their webs wherever they know I'm going to pass. Geese, although I haven't seen them flying south yet, are starting to gather together in larger flocks. The snow level is low enough in the mountains (6,000 feet) that the news is warning hikers. Fall colors are starting to tease - the vine maples are blushing a bit and smaller trees are fading to yellow, although it may be from the heat a couple of weeks ago. And the rain has started.

The apple trees are bending under their loads. I think this weekend my earliest variety will be ready, two weeks later than last year. I'm trying to hold off as long as possible as the apples I've tasted are a little sour yet. Thing 2 can hardly wait for the first apple pie of the season.

I'm hoping that we'll have an "Indian Summer" so all my tomatoes will ripen up. I have them under a clear plastic tarp to keep the rain off, the heat in, and hopefully keep late blight at bay. There are lots of tomatoes, but they're all green, even my early variety.

My corn is just now tasseling, and although it's only a little behind all the corn in the nearby fields, it's pretty stubby looking, barely four feet tall. I think I'm going to leave growing corn for the "experts". I have failed as a decendant of Iowa corn farmers! :(

Although the parsnips didn't germinate well, I have turnips galore. The spinach is growing well, too, and I'm ready to start adding it to my salads. I have a lot of cabbage to figure out something to do with! I need to also get all of the potatoes out of the ground. I was hoping to do this while the ground was dry, but it's been raining so much, that hasn't happened, and the dratted rodents are still nibbling away at my crop.

My friend, J, wants to learn how to can. Although I'm no expert, I will love having someone else in the kitchen to help. I think canning is best done with two people! She wants to make apple butter, and since I have lots of apples, I think a batch of apple butter, and two of spiced pear apple butter are in order.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First Tomato!

I got back from vacation to find my first ripe tomatoes! And my first cucumber! Yippee! And I'd love to show them to you, but my normal computer won't connect to the net, and I'm stuck using my son's ancient second-hand laptop.

Been really busy as well, what with all the laundry from a week's camping trip, and school forms to be filled out, etc. All the rain we've been having has slowed the gardening up a bit, but the whole yard needed it since we don't water our lawn at all but especially...

...every day (which isn't allowed) like Mr. Creepy next door. Speaking of which, he built the aforementioned fence while I was away. It totally cuts off the view between the driveways, so I hope for all the neighborhood children that ride their bikes, scooters, etc. up and down our driveway, that these people are very careful pulling out of their driveway, or someone's going to get killed. Not to mention the fact that the fence doesn't gel with the neighborhood, and makes them look like the jerks they are - it's so obviously a spite fence. And all because I informed him that he was bulldozing a native growth area. Wow.

I do feel bad for the rest of the neighborhood that I haven't gotten out to weed the front like I normally do, but one of Mr. Creepy's workers parks in front of, and sometimes in, my front flower bed, and since the car looks like something from a serial killer movie, I'm not going out there while it's there. Which is every day.

So the weather is supposed to dry out starting tomorrow, so hopefully we can finish painting the house this weekend. It's starting to feel like fall already, and I have so much planting to get done - onions and whatnot. Been a very short spring/summer if the weather stays this way. Seems like our summers are ending earlier here in Western Washington. Or at least the rain is starting earlier. Anybody else notice that?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Stitch and Pitch

Last night I went to the Seattle Mariners annual Stitch and Pitch with my friend, M. It seems like the turnout is larger each year. My favorite part is the shopping, although I was a little disappointed in the selection this year. Or maybe I'm just getting pickier as I get older. I was hoping for some nice, wood needles, but didn't see any.

Lots of bamboo yarns, some organic yarns. It seemed like the theme was socks, as almost all the yarn for sale was sock weight. Frankly, I'm finishing the sock I'm working on, and that's it for sock weight yarn for a while. It takes me too long to finish a sock on size 2s. Too many projects to do to be fussing with size 2s!

I also noticed how the price of everything went up. It seems like most yarn is imported, and with the lower dollar value, yarns from Spain and Japan went from pricey to outrageous. On the other hand, it's making all the more local homespun stuff seem reasonable by comparison.

Anyway, the Ms won on a walk-off homerun, so everyone was happy. Well, the Ms fans were happy, anyway. I got about an inch done on said sock.

I'm taking a week to power down, and won't be posting. See ya back on the 18th!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Sorry for the lack of posts, but it's that time. We've been putting it off for too long. It was time to paint the house.

Two backbreaking days later, it's still not even close to being done. Well, it's 95% done, but those last 5% are going to take all summer.

This house has a ton of trim, so we're painting it backward. Mr. E sprayed all the trim, and then sprayed most of the main part of the house, and now we need to go back and get the edges and missed spots (it was 9:45pm when we finally came in on Sunday. Kinda hard to see). The trellisii look mucho better. And although Mr. E and I like the color (gray), Thing 2 and Mr. E's dad don't. Tough. Don't judge the house til it's done.

Now, what color to paint the front door?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

July Harvest Totals

I harvested a whopping 49 lbs of food from the garden in July! (Ok, whopping for me.)

The breakdown:

garlic - 0.2 lb
lettuce - 0.5 lb
onion - 1.2 lb
peas (green) - 8.8 lb
peas (soup) - 1.9 lbs
potatoes - 25.3 lb
radish - 0.4 lb
strawberries - 10.8 lb

Officially, I've pulled all the garlic, and it's drying in the garage, so that number isn't in the total, nor are the herbs that were harvested and are hanging to dry in the kitchen. I tally those numbers when they're cleaned and stored, so they'll be added to August's tally.

But, I have harvested 21 lbs more than last July (a 75% increase)! And last July included all of the garlic, and most of the potatoes. Looking forward to August!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rainy Days

When the boys were small, my mom gave them a book called "Little Puppy Cleans his Room".

" 'Rainy days are good for cleaning,' said Little Puppy's mother."

And that's what I did today. With cool, showery weather, I cleaned the downstairs until it was presentable.

Yesterday and today, Thing 2 and I cleaned out his room. My little packrat has a really hard time letting go of things, and had a meltdown about the whole business yesterday. So we did a room purge and thorough dusting (my eyes are itching like crazy), and after it was all over, he spent quite a bit of time playing in his room with his Legos, using all the clean spaces as if they had never existed before.

Tomorrow is supposed to be cool as well, and another morning of cleaning should put the house in good shape. In the afternoon, I'm planning on getting rid of last year's blueberries in the form of blueberry muffins, and I promised Thing 2 some chocolate chip cookies.

I've been on a baking binge lately. On Slow Sunday I made the baps, a loaf of wheat bread, and a dozen hot dog buns. I've never made hot dog buns before, and they turned out delicious, although too big. The recipe said to make 12, but I think 16 or 18 would be better. Definitely worth another go. I'd love to make hamburger buns now as well. If I can make buns, then the only bread I'd buy is sourdough for Thing 1 and the occasional pugliese or french bread. How's that for removal from industrial bread?!

Tonight's dinner was "breakfast for dinner", with scrambled eggs, sausage, and homemade bread with homemade strawberry jam.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Slow Sunday

Lately it seems there have been a lot of groups asking you to set aside this day or that day to think about the Earth. We have Arbor Day and Earth Day. There's been Earth Hour, World Wetlands Day, International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, and a host of others.

The latest is from the British Magazine Resurgence, called Slow Sunday. The idea behind Slow Sunday is to, in their own words,

"invite our readers to take part in simple actions that symbolise a rejection of commercialism, a passion for the planet and a desire for change."

For the first Slow Sunday, they're asking readers to bake their own bread. Most of our bread is made in factories, chock full of such wholesome ingredients as fungicides, dough conditioners, etc. Gone are the days, at least in the US, of the local bakery. When I travel to Europe, especially Germany, it's a real treat to have brotchen, hot from the oven, raced from the village bakery for breakfast. Crust so crispy, you can't help making a mess!

Resurgence's article Let's Have Some Decent Bread spells out the how and why of homemade bread. Truly slow, the recipe for "baps", a kind of roll, starts the night before. So Slow Sunday, will actually start on Saturday. Now that is slow!

My plan is to try "baps", and also make some sandwich bread as we're on our last loaf. Maybe some hamburger buns, too. I think Slow Sunday is going to keep me hopping!

In other news, the varmints are into the potatoes. I've found chewed through plant stems (I thought they were poisonous?) and many half-chewed potatoes. War has been declared. I'm starting the ground offensive, but where, oh where is the air force (owls, eagles, hawks)?

I dug up all of the Yukon Gold potatoes, 18 lbs in all, but the Yellow Finn aren't quite ready yet. They'll have to take their chances.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Onion Fairy

Today I did my final onion thinning, and had a large handful of delicious baby onions. I have quite a few in the fridge, so what to do with the bunch? I went door-to-door in my neighborhood handing out bunches of onions! One neighbor commented that she doesn't buy them anymore since they're so expensive. I never buy them either, and would rather do without. Much easier, cheaper, and fresher to grow my own.

Today's cool weather enabled me to get out in the garden, and plant eight square feet of spinach, six square feet of turnips, and about 12 square feet of carrots. I'm really behind in my fall veggie planting! I also got a bit of weeding and watering accomplished. Yet to do (hopefully tomorrow): transplant the leeks, plant about 12 square feet of cabbages, another eight square feet of spinach, more carrots, and a bunch of scallions. This will help keep us in fresh veggies during the fall and winter.

It feels odd to be planting the fall veggies already. The timing always catches me unawares. I feel like "I haven't even seen my first tomato yet, and I'm planting for fall?" But I promised myself to be on top of things (relatively) this year, and the cool day today (65 degrees and cloudy) reminded me that fall isn't that far away. I'm only, erm, two weeks late planting the spinach....

Monday, July 21, 2008

Using Less Water - Dish Tub for Vegetables

I had a "Duh, why didn't I think of that earlier?" moment a week ago. When bringing in veggies from the garden, they're of course all covered with dirt. Sometimes I would wash them off with a hose somewhere on the lawn which a.) doesn't need it, and b.) would result in a very soggy, even muddy, area which the boys would immediately jump in resulting in 1.) damage to the soil and lawn, and 2.) very muddy children.

Or, I would bring the veggies into the kitchen to wash, the consequence of which is a dirty sink and a possibly clogged drain, not to mention it's not that great for the septic system.

So I bought a small dish tub at the local hardware store, and a vegetable brush, and I can leave it by the hose at the back door, squirt in a little water, scrub away, and then use the water to irrigate the pots on the patio. Voila!

Here are the first potatoes of the year in my new veggie scrubbing tub. The potatoes are Yukon Gold, and the larger ones are over eight ounces each.

Here are the pots that are the recipients of the wash water. It was very sunny today! A little overexposed, sorry. In the back is my "mojito pot". I have spearmint and peppermint in there. If I planted them in the ground, I would have mint everywhere. The pot keeps them contained, and they seem to be happy. And I have fresh mint for my mojitos!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The End of the Peas

This morning I pulled out all the pea vines, and robbed them of the pods. I yanked up the metal fence that was holding them up, and am composting all the vines.

Then Thing 1 and I worked our tails off, me trimming shrubs away from the house, him hauling all the branches away. For several hours. No complaints from him. Not a one. Who are you and what have you done with my son???

Not only that, he came to help me shell peas afterwards.

For an hour.

Without my asking.

Mr. E took him for a well-deserved milkshake, while I blanched and froze all those peas, and more in the fridge. Four pounds of peas went into the freezer. Yea!

No milkshake for me, though. Sob.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Running in Circles

Today I saw a large bee running in circles on the mat at the back door. Round and round she went, for what reason I know not. I tried looking up the kind of bee and what the circles might mean, but I couldn't find anything. There were no other bees around that I could see. It was just this solitary, frenzied running about in circles.

Which is how things have seemed around here. Running kids to this camp and that camp, friends' houses, out to the garden to move the hose to the next bed, watering the neighbors' plants, out to hang the laundry on the line, out and back again, almost circular, like the bee.

Our next big project is painting the house. It has to be done, as the paint is coming off to bare wood. A major job, the whole place will need to be primered first, as the previous owners didn't do it to parts of the siding or any of the trellis, and that's where the paint is really coming off. Of course all the shrubs will need to be cut back away from the house first, and pressure-washing. All of that will happen this weekend.

Which means any veggie garden work needs to happen today, and I've been feeling massively sleep-deprived, even though I think I slept nine hours last night. The peas have just about had it, so I need to pull the vines and get all the peas in the freezer.

LTR - My father-in-law came over with the pressure washer, and got a sizable portion of the house cleaned. I cut back the rhodies on one side of the garage, which was a major undertaking. Getting Thing 1 to haul away all the branches was another! So in other words, I didn't get the peas dealt with at all.

The soup peas are coming along nicely. I'm suprised that they're drying down already. I figure about one more week, and they'll be ready for threshing. The peas are yellow and plump, almost the size of garbanzo beans. I've read that yellow peas make the best soup, but we'll see!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Whoo? Me?

This last week, I've been hearing the screeching of barn owls in the woods out back. They make quite the racket, and its a wonder that all the rodents don't go underground and stay there all night.

More and more holes are popping up all over the yard. I'm still not sure if it's rat or vole, but the population seems to be growing. I've tried mouse traps, but found them all sprung, with only a dead slug to show for it. Our cat stays in at night, so he's no help, and I haven't heard a coyote in a while, so the rodents are living large on peas and strawberries, and, I'm afraid, my potatoes.

I found a hole today under one of my pear trees, which is frightening. They could do a lot of damage to trees - I lost a young cherry tree that way. They use the mole runs for the most part, and munch on the plant roots. Even though I've been watering the peas, they still look thirsty.

So I'm ready for the owls, coyotes, and any other natural predators to come to my yard! Come over for a feast, owls!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rest in Peas

Picked, shelled, blanched and froze three pounds of peas today. Thing 2 is the best picker. Although he complains, he misses very few. Thing 1 is almost as fast at shelling as I am, so he helped me mow through the pile. He made up a silly song to pass the time: "Here we are, shelling peas. If we finish, when we die, on our headstone it will read: 'Rest in peas'."

Busy running Thing 1 to the camp-of-the-week, which takes most of the morning up. Preparing Thing 2 for his camp next week.

And trying to keep up with all the produce from the garden. Almost five pounds today, and that doesn't include the garlic which I pulled out, and need to string up in the garage to dry. The list of stuff to plant is growing.

Part of the problem is that I'm reading a page-turner of a book The Master Butcher's Singing Club by Louise Erdrich. I love her writing. I'm almost to the end. Finishing will free up some time, I hope.

Made a new dinner, Chicken Mole. Great way to get a chocolate fix. Mine wasn't quite chocolatey enough, but tasty. Need to tweak the recipe.

Tomorrow is shopping day, library day, etc.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Meatless Monday - Ricotta Gnocchi

Here I was thinking I was so clever with "Meatless Monday", and the folks at Meatless Monday beat me to it, erm, five years ago. It's a great site with recipes for healthy meals. Check it out!

My Meatless Monday this week was Ricotta Gnocchi adapted from an old Sunset Pasta cookbook.

2 packages frozen chopped spinach
2 eggs
1 lb ricotta cheese
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 cup grated parmesan
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
Dash pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dry basil

Cook spinach according to package directions, drain, squeezing the water out. In large bowl beat eggs. Add ricotta and mix well. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Roll mixture into 1-1/2" balls, dust in flour, and set on a cookie sheet.

Pop half the balls into boiling, salted water. Return to a gentle boil, and cook 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain well. Keep warm while cooking the rest.

I made a tomato sauce from the same book that I seriously doctored in the end. It actually turned out ok, and I spooned it over the gnocchi, sprinkled it with parmesan, and baked it at 350 for 10 minutes.

The star of the show was the gnocchi, though. We had leftover strawberry shortcake for dessert.

Off to search for more strawberry ideas....

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Preserving the Harvest

Peas and strawberries are coming in by the pound. Yesterday I used 5 lbs of strawberries to make eight half-pints of strawberry jam. Mmmmmm. I use the old-fashioned nothing but strawberries and sugar recipe. Thing 1 loves it so much, I need to make at least one more batch to make it through the year. I'm having a bumper crop of peas this year. Last year I planted 50% more peas and I've almost surpassed last year's harvest already, with less than half the peas harvested.

Today I used more strawberries to make some strawberry shortcake. I also baked three loaves of bread, made a batch of potato salad, made a trip to the grocery store, did two loads of laundry, and picked and shelled over a pound of peas (half of which we had braised in butter for dinner).

I really do need to get the boys more involved in the garden. They did pick the strawberries today, and Thing 1 joins me in weeding, but I think they would enjoy/be better off with some gardening knowledge. I haven't pushed it yet, but the time is coming.

We're all pretty tired around here. We did the Lake Union fireworks for the Fourth, and then went to Fremont for the outdoor cinema last night. Both times we didn't get home until after midnight. A general feeling of run-downedness hit today. It'll be good to get back to a calmer schedule. I'll have more time to garden and preserve what comes out of it.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Preserving the Harvest

With all the rain, the peas decided to go bonkers. Thing 1 and I picked, and Thing 2 and I shelled almost two pounds of peas. They all were blanched, packed, and frozen within an hour and a half of picking. How's that for Independence? Just say "no" to the Jolly Green Giant.

Finally planted the parsnips, picked another ton of strawberries, set the rat trap, and pulled weeds (the never-ending struggle). The garlic is just about ready to pull.

I must be doing a fairly good job with the veggie garden, because Mr. E has offered to expand it. By 50%! Either that or he's just tired of mowing the strip of grass between the veggie beds.... Oooh. Two hundred square feet....

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Mother Nature's Fireworks

Mother Nature celebrated the Fourth a little early with a thunder and lightning display last night and on into the day today. Very rare around here, I relish the storms.

However, they started up against the mountains around 10:30 last night, stopped shortly after I went to bed at 11, and then started up again, this time with a torrential downpour that lasted the rest of the night and halfway through the day today. Some 3,000 strikes were said to have happened in 24 hours in Western Washington alone. I had the windows open, as it was warm and muggy, and I sleep best with it quite cool. So with all the thunder and the pouring rain, I didn't get the best of sleep. The yard loved the drenching though! You could almost hear the plants sucking up the rain.

Now the weather forecasters are saying that it's going to be showery for a while. Although I was planning to transplant the leeks in about two weeks, I'm thinking now is the time. They should adapt better to their new home with it cool and wet for a bit.

Tomorrow will be a busy one! Mr. E wants to go downtown for the fireworks, there is a lot of planting and harvesting to do, I am desperate to make bread before it gets too warm again, and I'd like to get some strawberry jam canned as well. I think the jam will have to wait for Monday or Tuesday....

Today we went to Seattle. On the first Thursday of the month, the Science Fiction Museum is open from 5-8 for free. The EMP was open for free as well, but it wouldn't hold much interest for the boys. So we spent the afternoon at the Science Center, and then met Mr. E at the SFM. Free is a great deal! I think it saved us about $54 in entrance fees.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Harvest Goal

It's July and the Fruit and Veg Harvest tally is ticking along! I'm not sure if I ever formally announced my harvest goal for the year. Last year I did 180lbs of food. So my goal this year will be (drum roll, please) 350lbs of food!

More strawberries today, but still not enough for jam. I collapsed the holes where the varmint comes up to steal berries so I can figure out which one(s) to place traps by. By the size of the holes and teeth marks on the strawberries, I'm thinking the rat trap is in order.

The apples are a little larger than golf ball size now. The Alkemene tree is so loaded, even with thinning the apples out to 6" or more, I'm going to have to prop up a branch or two. The tree was weakened a bit from all the wet snow we had late in the year. I did go out and brush it off the tree at the time. It was bending terribly, so I'm glad I thought of it. One neighbor lost a huge branch off their 15+ year old flowering cherry.

Unfortunately, the cherries were a wash this year. The cold, damp spring inhibited pollination, and many cherries succumbed to fungus. I'll just have to get them from the farmers' market, or mooch off a neighbor. His always do really well.

I missed the boat on the broccoli. I have a really hard time deciding when the head is big enough, and I wait too long. Tomorrow I'll chop off the flowering heads and harvest any side shoots.

Lots of thunder today, but little in the way of rain. Too bad. I love a good thunderstorm, and the yard could use some water.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summer Means Strawberries

Thing 2 and I picked over two pounds of strawberries today. The June berries are finally ripening! With all the hot weather over the weekend, we had quite a few. I'm hoping to save up to make jam on Thursday, but I'm not sure I'm going to get the 5 lbs needed, especially with Thing 1 hovering around the bed, plucking berries and popping them in his mouth as soon as he can. Unfortunately, I also found quite a few holes in the ground. Someone else is helping themselves to the ripe fruit.

I also picked the first peas today. Last year I had already picked two pounds of peas by July 1. I only managed a little under a quarter pound today (and so far this year). Have I mentioned everything is late?

I still don't have the parsnips in the ground, but I did get the area they go in to all weeded out and watered today. The onions really liked the hot weather, and I'm getting ready to thin them for the second time. Mmmm. Thinnings....

I dug under a potato plant, and found one the size of an egg. Now starts the debate - to pull a plant, or not to pull a plant? That is the question. Whether tis nobler to the stomach to let the plant grow, and have many more, larger potatoes later, or to have young, steamed potatoes now? My apologies to Shakespeare.

I'm pulling the tomatoes out of the Kozy-Koates, and getting the area ready for some basil. Last year, I planted one basil plant in between each tomato plant, and it worked pretty well. This year I'm going to plant more basil. I also planted many more determinate tomatoes this year, and have hoops in place, ready to cloche the tomatoes and basil, as we have a rough time with cold night temps, and summer rains will bring late blight.

And another first for the year: I almost stepped barefoot on a snake. Ick.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


This week I learned a lot. Number one is that I shouldn't schedule two physically demanding events a day for the boys. Although they're going to bed without trouble (there's a first!), they're getting run down. Today was the last day of that, thank goodness.

Number two is that there is no way I could go to work full time. I've been away from the house about six hours a day this week, and between coming home tired, trying to get dinner, the laundry, yard work, house work, and bills paid (end of the month, and all that), I've been a stressed-out wreck. I honestly don't know how working moms do it. My hat's off to them.

And also, this'll be my last post of the month. More commitments for the weekend will leave me with no blogging opportunities. :-( I'm afraid I didn't complete NaBloPoMo this month, but I'm going to give it a go next month, when I'm not so, well, committed. And food for the theme! Should tie in well with all the produce from the garden, forays to the farmers' markets, and my experiments with Meatless Monday.

Hello and thanks to all the new readers! I love comments, even if I don't respond right away. Keep after me!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Quick post

Not much time to post today. I put down the soaker hoses with help from Thing 2. Got two of the veggie beds watered. Otherwise, been very busy running here, there, and everywhere. I think I've been home about four hours today. Tomorrow will plant parsnips. Wanted to get that done today.

Monday, June 23, 2008

In the Pink

Ooooh. Am I lobster woman today. I had to be outside for three hours today, and I was not prepared for it. It was cloudy when I left! No hat, no sunscreen, no long sleeves. And I get to do it again tomorrow! I'll be prepared this time.

Tonight was another Meatless Monday, and although I liked the Ragin' Ratatouille, the menfolk didn't care for it at all. Sigh. I'll keep trying. Anyone have a meatless dish that they'd like to recommend?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fitting in Dad's Shoes

You know the time will come when your kids will be taller than you, but it's kinda scary when Mr. E is handing down soccer cleats to his 12-year-old.

Whatever the Weather....

Ran out to check on the garden today. The radishes, lettuces and (finally) the cucumbers are up. Still no sign of corn or squash.

We had on odd, hot (83 degrees) muggy day yesterday. I guess a cold front moved through, and it pulled heat and moisture up here from down south. The only reason that 83 was unusual is because it's been so cold this year.

I think I finally turned off the furnace for the summer. We had quite a bit of wind last night. I was hoping we'd get a thunderstorm because the garden needs the water, and I just love thunderstorms. We don't get them too often here, although before we moved here apparently they had them more often and there are stories of trees that were hit.

The next week looks fairly dry, so I'm going to pull out the soaker hoses and get the boys to help lay them out. For those in the Seattle area, there's a website that shows how much water has evaporated from your soil on a daily and weekly basis. Just click on the station nearest you, and there's all sorts of useful information on solar power and irrigation requirements.

I keep hearing yelling from the other room. The guys are watching the Spain-Italy match. It's overtime....

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Well, I missed yesterday. During dinner we decided to do a spur-of-the-moment trip to the drive-in. Ergo my missing posting since after dinner is usually when I do it. Anyway, we saw Kung-Fu Panda and Get Smart. I thought they did a good job with Get Smart, having grown up watching the TV series. If you've never seen the series, the movie probably wouldn't seem as good. Anyway, we got home at 2am, since the first movie didn't start until 9:30, it being so light out.

Thinking we would all sleep in, Mr. E woke me up at 8:30 with his snoring, and Thing 1 was up at 9. He gets very cranky and unreasonable when he's short on sleep, and so do I. So we were at each other by 11, Mr. E and Thing 2 sleeping away. Which wouldn't have been so bad except for the fact that we had company coming over for dinner.

I left to go shopping. I normally don't do this on Saturday, because town is an absolute zoo. But go I must, and when I got to Costco, there wasn't a parking spot to be had. I thought of waiting for this guy to pull out, but I totally hate it when people do that, so I decided to try over on the other side of the lot. Lo and behold, an open parking place right in front of the store. Karma?

In and out and to the grocery store, also a madhouse, and 2-1/2 hours later I'm finally home. I'm totally exhausted and try to sleep, but am woken 15 minutes later.

Dinner went off well (a coworker and his family who just moved from California). Salmon, fruit and green salad, and bread. Now I sleep.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Note to Self:

No caffeine after 6pm. Otherwise one can't sleep a wink. So.... tired....

Been working hard on my first quilt, using recycled old jeans. Tune in tomorrow, when brain cells are functioning.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sour Summer?

Oh, my! Can it be? My 100th post! Woo-hoo!

Our first taste of summer came today in the form of three "ripe" strawberries. I say "ripe" because they were red all the way around, but boy, were they sour! Only my lemon-eating Thing 1 liked them.

The whole next week is forecast for off again, on again rain. The boys are defying the weather outside and are wearing shorts. I keep trying to turn off the furnace, but wind up turning it back on again a day or two later because the temp inside is in the low 60s. If it were just me, I'd probably live with it, but as it is....

No sign yet of anything I planted over the weekend.

The last two days have been teasing, as it's cloudy all day, and suddenly clears just as the sun is going down.

Made a yummers jambalaya tonight for dinner. Thing 1 went back for thirds. Hemplers, in Bellingham, makes great andouille sausage which is a must for jambalaya, and hey - it's local! Can't say the same for the shrimp or rice in it, though. If the heat won't come from outside, I can at least provide it in the form of cayenne. :-)

Speaking of yummers, I made a scalloped potato dish that was to die for. It used a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce and smoked cheddar cheese. Sounds weird, I know, but it tasted heavenly. I got the recipe for it and the jambalaya from the America's Test Kitchen Best Recipe cookbook.

Pretty sad that I'm still making winterish comfort food in mid-June....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Of New Websites

Worldchanging has a new, just-for-Seattle area folks, website, WorldChanging Seattle. Makes a great compliment to Grist and my morning cuppa tea (Stash English Breakfast, splash of milk).

Bill McKibben has a new site up, His goal is to get the world to think of 350 as a desirable level of atmospheric CO2, and to strive to drop it to that point. Just launched in eight or nine languages, I was having trouble with the "find an action" button. Maybe there aren't any yet.

Somewhere, I would love to find out exactly how much CO2, water, gasoline, natural gas, and electricity my family is "allowed" for a sustainable existence. I suppose some would argue zero in the fossil fuels areas, but wouldn't you like to have a number to see where you stand and how far one needs to go to get there?

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Elusive Marinara Sauce

Our Meatless Monday dish tonight was gnocchi with garlic tomato sauce. It turned out so-so. The gnocchi was a little undercooked. The recipe said to pull them out of the water as soon as they floated, but they really needed a few more minutes. The gnocchi were made of only potatoes and flour. I prefer ones made with a little egg. They definitely needed salt. The sauce seemed bland, even though it had 9 cloves of garlic and a ton of herbs. It could be because the garlic was my more mild Inchelium Red. Had I used Music, you definitely would've tasted it. Mr. E says that it needs to be baked in sauce, which my recipe didn't say to do. He tried it and said it helped a bit.

I'm trying to find a new marinara sauce. The one I used to make used a can of condensed tomato soup and a can of tomato sauce. But I'm trying to get away from high fructose corn syrup, which is in the tomato soup now, and there's no getting around that. My new sauce would preferably be something I could make from my own tomatoes. Making tomato sauce is easy. I've canned some before. I just want that bold, creamy taste....

The one good thing that happened tonight was that I finally got to use my immersion blender. You have to be careful, but man, did that work great! In a matter of seconds I had all the tomatoes pulverized into a perfect saucy consistency. I always hated using the food processor (it leaked) or the blender (too small) for soups, and then all the dishes afterwards. Now I won't have to, and only the stick to wash! I can think of a million things I can use it for - applesauce, soups, tomato sauces.... Okay, maybe not a million.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thinning Onions

Ahhh! Finally two gorgemous days back to back!

After putting laundry on the line this morning, I did the first thinning of the onions. I planted seed of two varieties, Prince, which I bought last year and didn't manage to get in the ground, and Varsity, which I bought this year. I know that onion seed only has a one-year shelf life, but I figured I'd give it a try. The old Prince seed definitely had a lower germination rate. So much so that I hardly had to thin them at all. But what came up was also very weak and spindly compared to the Varsity onions. I suppose the old seed = weak seed = weak plants.

Thinning is so hard for me to do. I don't like the feeling of playing God with baby plants. "You must die even though you're a much stronger plant than the one I let live back there. You're just too close to this guy." It's cathartic to take out one's aggression on the weeds, but I feel remorse for each veggie I have to pull. I know, however, that if I want bigger, useful onions, carrots, lettuce, whatever, I need to sacrifice a few plants. At least the babies will wind up in tonight's salad.

Oh! In a DUH moment yesterday, I finally realized why I had such low germination rates with my lettuce. I could never figure out why lettuce I planted would have a tough time germinating while lettuce seed that just fell to the ground in the fall was sprouting all over the place come spring. I was planting the seed too deep. You're only supposed to plant it 1/8" deep. I was planting it at least double that. Duh. Read the directions, girl.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Busy as a Bee

I've been as busy as this little fellow today.

Today I:

(Re-)Planted 36 row feet of corn - Bodacious
Planted 4 hills of acorn squash - Tuffy
Planted 20 row feet of lettuce - Red Sails, Buttercrunch, Romaine, Salad Bowl, and Black Seeded Simpson
Planted 20 row feet of carrots - Nantes and Royal Chantenay
Planted 4 row feet of radishes - Cherry Belle

And I did one of the ickiest jobs in the garden: Cleaning off the apple maggot traps. Haven't seen any yet, but I caught a ton of other bugs. Yuck.

Some strawberries. The boys can't wait!

This is what the socks look like on the apples.

My one and only pear. This spring was so cold, even the bumbles didn't wake up in time for the pear blossoms.

And the western half of the veggie garden. In the front bed are potatoes, and off to the left out of the picture are onions. In the back are the tall soup peas (Amplissimo Viktoria) and shorter shelling peas (Early Frosty). In front of the soup peas are cabbages, broccoli and a couple of lettuces.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Blog Block

Okay, so I shouldn't be trying to cram in a posting at 11:30pm after attempting to watch a really awful, went straight to DVD and shouldn't have gone that far, David Carradine movie. I'm totally brain dead, and after three tries to write something thought-provoking, I'm packing it in and calling it a night.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Swimmin' with the Fishes

Things always seem to come in threes. Today it was taking my two (not-so-) little fishes for swimming lessons. Then we had baked cod for dinner. Lastly Thing 2 and I cleaned his awful (gak!) fish tank.

In garden news, I replanted my cukes. Everything is doing okay, considering the weather. The peas are podding. The hardneck garlic is starting to scape (grow scapes? scapify? I don't know the correct term). The potato vines are positively huge! I'll try and get the corn in tomorrow, and some lettuces, carrots,....

No, Wait!

I got distracted! I went to a book club meeting, had dinner with M and a long gab afterwords, got home at 11, and Mr. E made me watch the Top Chef finale. Now it's past midnight!


Tuesday, June 10, 2008


No real post today. I woke up with a headache, and nothing I've tried has helped. Mr. E was so kind as to make dinner tonight (bratwurst, sauteed onions, and bread), and now I'm going to try to sleep.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Blustery Day

Will summer ever arrive? Rain, rain, wind, and more rain today. Not our normal small drops, but big ones, driving hard and fast. The snow level is dropping to 2000 feet! One of the news stations said the temps are more like late October. At least in October you get crisp, sunny days.

I'm hoping to replant the corn on Wednesday. It's supposed to at least be dryish, if not our normal temperatures. If I don't get it in soon, I'll have to forgo it for this year. I bought some cucumber seed from (cringe) a rack at the grocery store. I'm not taking any more chances and starting it indoors tomorrow.

Watched "The Mole" tonight. I love that show. I thought the mole was Nichole until I heard the "next on". Actually, now that I think of it, I really think she is the mole. What doctor would threaten to kill someone in their sleep? Nope. She's it.

A mostly worthless day.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Workin', Man

Busy day today. I will be a soccer widow for the next three weeks, as the Europeans are having their big tournement. Mr. E and the boys headed to a friend's to watch Germany and Poland play. I stayed home to:

1.) Dump four wheelbarrow loads of compost on the potatoes,

2.) Weed out 1-1/2 herb beds,

3.) Weed the leeks,

4.) Put 100 socks on apples,

5.) Planted some rosemary,


6.) Prune the Alkemene apple a bit.

I have almost gone through the 300 socks I bought, and still have a tree to go. Trying not to count my apples before I've harvested them, I figure I'm looking at over 100lbs of apples this fall. WTF am I going to do with 100lbs of apples????

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Paddington in Paris

Mr. E took a (very long) business trip to London, Munich, Paris, and Tokyo. Paddington hitched a ride from Paddington Station, and insisted that his photo be taken in front of all the Parisian sights. Tres jolie, non?

Friday, June 6, 2008


If you want to watch an interesting silent movie, Metropolis has incredible sets and, for the time (1927), ground-breaking cinemetography. It's about the working class (hands) versus the upper or management class (head), and the prophesied mediator (heart) needs to help them work out their differences to save the city. Social commentary on the idiocy of mob rule and idleness of the upper classes. If you can get past the breast-grabbing, wild hand-gestured overacting, it's kind of fun. Too bad many of the action scenes were missing.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Quick Note

We have company tonight, so just jotting down today's happenings:

Picked up concert tickets for Weird Al, grocery shopping, boys to swimming, and, after all the rain today (again!) I decided it was a clam chowder kind of night.

This was after trying to find sole usable for sole muliere. It must not be in season. I did find this site which has which fish and meats are in season when.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Officially over $4 a gallon

I bought my first $4 a gallon gas today (in the US). $4.039, to be exact. I can't say that I'm sorry for it. I am in hopes that all those people who voted against all the mass transit initiatives in the Seattle area are thinking again about their choice.

In looking back in my journal, On March 20, 2007, I noted that gas was $2.70 a gallon. It cost me $1.10 to go to the grocery store, and $1.55 to Costco. Now it's more like $1.65 to the grocery store, and $2.33 to Costco. $3.05 just to take Thing 2 for a checkup.

I wish that the roads around here were better for bicycling. There are no shoulders, open ditches, and huge trucks so wide they can't fit in their lane. Really. It's quite disconcerting seeing one of them coming at you; they're crossing the center line, and there's nowhere for you to go but in a ditch or over a steep embankment. And what do they care? Nothing will happen to them. A bike path would be great, but a pipe dream at this point.

If there were a bike path, I could safely bike to town. At $2.00 a trip, I could even pay for a trailer in less than two years! Somehow I don't think that's a good enough reason for the county....

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Meatless Monday

We eat too much meat in our house. Especially Thing 1 who, if given the opportunity, would only eat steak and white bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So, in an attempt to cut back on red meat for a.) personal and environmental health, b.) financial reasons, and c.) use up all these garden veggies, I have instituted "Meatless Monday" at our house. I think that by giving it a designated day, I will always remember to do it, whereas if it's just "some night this week," I'll put it off or forget. Last night was our first Meatless Monday.

I had a ton of spinach in the fridge which needed to be used up. So I found this recipe for 5 Spinach Burritos. I'm not sure what the "5" in the title is all about. I substituted home-grown spinach for the frozen, and sauteed it, covered, with the onion and garlic. Everyone but Thing 1 liked it. His idea of a burrito is one loaded with seasoned hamburger, and nothing else will do (see what I'm up against here?).

Mr. E is now dying for all the other recipes that took me hours to look up, but he'll just have to wait (so will you). I don't understand all the ins and outs of a vegetarian diet, and I think to suddenly go all vegetarian would create serious discord, not to mention the fact that I don't think any of us really wants to go that far with it. So for now we'll just do one night a week, and expand to two or three nights a week from there as we find things we all like.

Ideally, all the food will be local. The spinach was, and the cheese and garlic. I'm working at growing my own onions, and could've used my own salsa, I think. Tortillas? There's a huge Mexican-immigrant community around here, so I might find some, somewhere. I served the meal with organic refried black beans, which went well with the burritos, although I'm planning on making my own in the future. The beans won't be local, but at least they won't be processed.

So, a (mostly) successful start to a positive life-style change for all of us!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Gotsta Get Me....

A subscription to Mother Earth News. I picked up the latest issue yesterday. Loads of really interesting stuff on how to make cheese (with recipes), herbal medicines, an article by Barbara Kinsolver, and oodles of other stuff my very sleepy brain can't think of right now.

I, er, stayed up too late reading it last night.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Socks on Apples

Say what? You put socks on your apples? Has it been that cold of a spring?

Yes, I put socks on my apples today. Actually, they're those ladies' disposable footie socks that you get at the shoe store for trying on shoes. The idea is that you cover your apples while still small with the footie sock, and the apple maggots and coddling moths either can't see or can't get to your apples. The socks expand as the apple grows.

I'm not sure if this is going to work. The instructions said to give the sock a twist around the stem to close it, but it didn't close very well. I tried wetting my fingers first, but that didn't help. I have a feeling that the first wind storm will blow away many socks, and then the search will be on to find both sock and uncovered apple. I may end up tying them closed with twine or something. I'm also afraid that they'll make nice homes for other apple-eating buggies, like earwigs.

I covered my Dayton apples first, since they were the largest. I think I covered over 80 apples. These are huge apples at harvest, and if all goes well, I should have 35-40 lbs of (hopefully worm-free) apples from this tree alone! It took a good hour to thin the apples and put the socks on. Thing 1 helped me by handing me the footies and spying any missed apples. Thank you Thing 1! He's my apple-eater, so he'd better help out (says the Little Red Hen). I'll try to do another apple tree tomorrow.

Oooh. We had great news today! Thing 1 made it into honors everything for next year!! I'm so proud of him!!!! (Yes, all exclamation points necessary....)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


The weather has finally been somewhat agreeable, not too hot and not raining, so I've been taking the opportunity to pull copious amounts of weeds.

One problem I always have is with whatever bed I plant the peas in. The beds are four feet wide by 24 feet long, oriented east-to-west, so I usually plant one long row of peas along the north side of the bed. Up until this year, I plopped stakes in the ground and tried to rein in the peas with twine. They would always fall over and into the bed on the south side, and into the lawn on the north. And I would always plant spinach just to the south side of the peas because they're something that grows quickly and I can get them out before the peas flop on top of them. But the peas block my access to the spinach from the north, and my arms aren't long enough to reach them from the south.

So what I end up with is a weedy mess.

And then I had one of those DUH moments. Why don't I plant the peas one foot to the south, and grow my spinach on the north side of the peas? By the time the peas are tall enough to cast shade, the sun is high enough in the sky to shorten it, and I think spinach would like a little shade in the warmer weather. It would make picking the peas on the south side easier, too.

Last year I made tomato cages out of some 4x4" wire mesh, but they weren't strong enough to hold up the tomatoes, and rendered it impossible to pick the tomatoes. So the wire mesh has been relegated to pea fencing, and the peas are much more upright this year than any previous year. So I've also gotten rid of the flop-over problem as well, increasing my spring garden space. Now I'm in the market for tomato cages. Anyone have favorites?

Elsewhere in the garden, my oregano seems to have some sort of stem fungus that causes the plant to wilt about this time of year. I have a feeling that, even though oregano is from the mint family, it's a might too wet for it where I currently have it. So I harvested all of my oregano on Sunday, as well as my thyme. I need to replace the thyme plants anyway, as I haven't taken proper care of them and they've gotten too woody.

I also need to plant the six cranberries that I bought from Raintree Nursery. They were on sale, and the thought of fresh cranberries in the fall was too good to pass this opportunity up. They're going to be a ground cover in the front yard, and should provide me with at least four lbs of fruit when they're a little bigger.

Even though my other pear bloomed this year, it was so cold and miserable that the bees didn't bother to show up until too late, so I can only see three pears growing. Kind of a bummer, but better than nothing. I think a purchase of mason bees might be in order next year. They're not so fussy about the cold.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Some Like it Hot

What a change a couple of days can bring! On Tuesday, it was 50F and raining. It felt like March instead of mid-May. I rounded up the rest of the cross-cut shanks from my freezer. It's one of those parts of beef that you don't ever think of using, but I tell you, it makes great veggie beef soup. And veggie soup I made. Lots of it. And I now have 18 cups of soup in the freezer. It did feel like March, after all.

And in the freezer it'll stay for now. Today is supposed to be in the 80s, and tomorrow even warmer, and muggy (which we don't normally don't get around here), and I'm thinking tuna salad in pita pockets, not soup.

The tomatoes will be loving the heat. I did manage to get the cukes planted, but not the corn. I'm having the same issues as El at Fast Grow the Weeds with regards to pulling out plants. In my case it's the finally sprouting sprouting broccoli and some spinach which needs to make way for the corn.

I'm way behind in my planting. Again. Last year it was due (in part) to a wonderful vacation in Germany. This year it's weather-related. Why, oh why, can't I keep to my planting schedule? Every winter I carefully plan my garden and when to plant what, and it never works out that way. The slugs ate all my lettuce, and I do mean all of it. So now it is May, and there is no lettuce to be had, and I won't have any for two more months. Grrr.

Okay. Think positive. The onions came up well, as did the potatoes and the peas. Even the leeks made a reasonable showing. I started lots of excellent tomatoes, and almost all of them are in the ground. Breathe deep. There, that's better.

Time to go harvest the broccoli and spinach before it gets too hot (I'm a heat wimp).

Monday, May 12, 2008

No Flour. No Rice

Just had an interesting trip to Costco. There is absolutely no rice, and no wheat flour. None. Not just my favorite brand gone. Not just stashed in the back room because they're rationing it. It's all gone. And apparently it has been for the last two weeks.

Major wake-up call here, people. I knew it was bad. I didn't know it was this bad. Did you?

I did find flour and rice at the local grocery store, double the price I paid four months ago. They were suprised that Costco was having a supply problem, but said they had lots in the back, and hadn't needed a shipment in a while. There were a couple of brands of rice gone, but maybe they hadn't restocked yet.

I now have about a two-month supply of flour, which will hopefully get us through until the spring harvest in June. Hopefully it will be a good one, and the shortages will diminish.

This has, however, made me want to redouble my efforts in the veg garden. Not so much to grow my own wheat, but to fill out our meals with more veggies. I'm thinking nutritious filler, here. That'll work well with Thing 2, as he's not that big into meat, but Thing 1 practically will eat nothing but meat and bread.

Today I'm planting out 10 tomato plants and seeding the corn. We're supposed to have hot weather on Thursday, so hopefully that'll speed germination.

Interestingly enough, Western Washington was known for good yields of oats back in the early 1900s, about 90-125 bushels per acre. For whatever reason, it's not grown anymore. I figure that we could grow enough on 3,000 feet to feed us oatmeal for breakfast three days a week, and have enough left over for occasional oatmeal bread and seed for the following year. Of course, talking dh into ripping up 3,000sq feet of lawn to do it would be impossible unless absolutely necessary. It's just a thought, though.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Giggle

Some sad news from A Year in Bread about this guy:

There has been a sad passing. The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71.

Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours.

Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was not considered a very smart cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he still was a crusty old man and was considered a positive roll model for millions.

Doughboy is survived by his wife Play Dough, two children, John Dough and Jane Dough, plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.

The funeral was held at 350 for about 20 minutes.

If this made you smile for even a brief second, please rise to the occasion and take time to pass it on and share that smile with someone else who may be having a crumby day and kneads it.