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.