Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Yes, You Can! Carrots!

Today during lunch, I walked through the Pike Place Market. I like Wednesdays at the Market. Those are the Farm Days.

On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays the local farms bring their wares. Today I was able to find carrots that traveled no more than 50 miles. Now other than the carrots I grow in my front yard, you can't get any more local.

I did grow carrots this season, but I did not grow enough to can for the winter, so I am supplementing my crop with those of a local farmer. Four dollars for a couple of glorious bunches. The stall worker asked if I wanted to top the leaves, but I give those to the chickens for a treat, so I said, "No. Thank you!" and was on my walk back to the office.

I love a beautiful carrot and these are some lovely carrots, and sweet!

I cut off the tops and threw them to the chickens who happily and noisily noshed on the greenery.

I scrubbed the carrots down and then gave them a peeling, scrubbed them down again and plopped them into a bowl of cold water as I got the jars and lids ready.

 I gave the peelings to the chickens which made them even happier! I like happy chickens, that means they lay happy eggs which make my belly happy!!
In the meanwhile, I had started getting my jars ready. I give them a quick wash and rinse and then plop them in my big pot full of water and bring them to a boil and then drop the temperature to med to just keep them hot and sanitized. In a small sauce pan I put my lids in to boil.

I like canning veggies in pint jars because I feel that is the right amount for two people most of the time. Less waste than opening a quart and then not finishing it. Others might prefer quarts.

I like my carrots diced in the round, others like sticks. It is a preference thing, do whatcha like.

I will usually slice my rounds about a half inch thick. Does that mean they are all a 1/2 inch? No. Some are 3/4 of an inch and others are 1/4 inch. It all evens out.... (bad joke, sorry)

Anyways, I get my carrots sliced up and I put a kettle on to boil. I figure if I do not have to ladle hot liquids if I don't gotta then I wont.

I pour my carrots into a hot empty jar (sadly I do have to add the empty jar part...) and pack them in tight until they squeak.. Then I add about a half teaspoon of salt and poor in my hot water from the kettle. Easy Peasy!

 Now, the important part.  Make sure to read this.

Vegetables in order to be canned safely must be pressure canned.

If you have not added any kind of acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar and are simply strait canning vegetable with a water base then the vegetables MUST be processed in a pressure canner in order to make sure all pathogens and bacteria have been killed.

A water bath canner will work for jams, jellies, pickles, pie filling and such because fruits are generally high in acids, you have added an acid; such as vinegar or lemon juice, or you have used a large quantity of sugar. These factors retard bacterial growth on these items.

Unfortunately with vegetables they are lacking in acids and in order for them to be safely canned only the high heat and pressure of a pressure canner will sufficiently kill the natural bacteria that can grow out of hand.

If you do not have a pressure canner make pickles. Do not attempt to water bath can vegetables. You will usually hear of one or two families in the news every year that have got extremely ill because of badly canned green beans.

And now that I have sufficiently scared you...

You will now process the cans at Ten lbs in your pressure canner! For pints you will need to process them for 25 minutes at ten pounds and for Quarts, 30 minutes.

Make sure to read the instructions for your pressure canner. Most now-a-days are very easy to use and you should have very little fear of the exploding pressure canner of olden days. The ones made in the last 30-40 years are very safe. Be a little wary of your grandmother's pressure canner though, the ones that have clamps. As long as you keep an eye on the pressure you will be fine.

Do not try to remove the lid when it is still processing or until the pressure gauge has dropped down to zero. When you go to take the lid off, do not be surprised if it makes a POP sounds.

I tend to remove my jars once the pressure has been released and let them cool on the counter. Other people leave them in the pressure cooker to cool down inside. Both work.

Be very careful, the jars are scalding hot and will be for a while. You will know that you are properly sealed once you hear the ping of the lid and the top is firm. The sounds of the pop/ping of the lid sealing is one of my most favourite sounds.

When you are ready to pop open your canned carrots in the winter, look into the jar closely. Is there any growth along the top or sedimentation that looks iffy on the bottom? When you pop open the jar does it smell funny? If there is ANY doubt, throw it out.

Botulising yourself is not fun. Don't even chance it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Yes. You Can Can!!

  • Kody - You are a brave woman. My mom recently got a new pressure cooker and she's still afraid it's going to explode.
  •  Me - The newer ones dont explode as often as the old ones. This is the one that Andy gave me and although it has a quirk or two, it works pretty darn well! I'm less afraid of it exploding than the jars breaking because I can't see them....
  •  Kody - Is that a pressure canner or cooker? Or is it the same thing? We just can with a hot bath, I know no other way.
  • Me -  If you are canning veggies, you HAVE TO USE a pressure canner/cooker (same difference) Veggies do not have natural acids to kill botulism, so in order to be safe you have to pressure can vegetables. Jams, jellies, pie fillings you can do in a water bath because you usually add sugars and most fruit already have a high acid amount
  • Me - You usually will hear about someone getting really sick from home canned foods a couple times a year and the most common thing they get sick from is improperly canned green beans.
  • Kody - Remind me to never eat canned veggies unless they come from your house.
  • Me - Pickled veggies you can do in a water bath because you are usually using vinegar which adds the acid you need
  • Kody - I've only ever canned fruit, Applesauce/butter, or jam.
  •  Me - Try veggies! Just borrow your mom's canner! Go in on it with friends, easy peasy and safe as long as you follow the rules. This is an awesome website for dat shit:
    The National Center for Home Food Preservation is your source for methods of home food preservation.
  • Kody -  I need to get my blueberries picked this week and get some apples for Applesauce.... I'm a little behind. :)

    I want to do pickles!
  • Me - Bill Pace in Bellevue has 25lb boxes for $25 I believe... But your local fruit stand should have cukes, too.
  •  Kody - I'm going to check Country Farms tomorrow. I'm out of canning jars - I use them to store my dry bulk stuffs.
  • Me - LOL! That is very good too!!
  • Andy -  I am SOOOO glad you didn't blow your head off!!
  • Me -  ME TOO!!!!
  • PJ -  I just picked some green beans from my garden (that's right...i'm all growin' veggies n shit), so it's good to know that I now have to get all the canning stuff. *sigh*
  • Me -  If you need to borrow a pressure cooker, just holler
  •  PJ - Is it possible to pressure cook meat in a jar?
  • Me - Actually, yes. You can a lot of meats raw and they will cook as they are being sealed
  • PJ -  Good to know. I've started making home cooked meals for the dogs to wean then off of kibble and to help Josie's allergies. I just freeze the batches, but it would be nice to just leave them unfrozen.
  • PJ -  Can you just bring the pressure cooker over and teach me? PLEASE TEACH ME!!!!
  • Me - Happily

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer in Seattle

Well, Poop.

I am currently laid up after throwing out my back, so I have been taking a look at my stats for this blog.

The most common search phrase that brings you to my blog?

"raccoon poop"

That is right, the most common thing that causes people to come to my blog is.... Poop.

Last year, after finding a raccoon latrine on the roof of my garage, I wrote a long rant about the walking bio-hazard I consider them to be. You can find the "Walking Biohazards" post here.

I am not sure how I feel about "poop" being the common denominator that causes people to find my blog. I guess like celebrity, any traffic is good traffic. But, really? Poop?

In total the blog has had 3,780 hits. That means that since I started this blog in March of 2011, I have had 3,780 hits, which in my mind is pretty awesome!

Of that, 1,808 of those hits are due to searches for information on raccoon poop! This is the shit that people want to know about. (pun intended)

They want to know what it looks like. It looks like blunted cat poop with seeds.

Where they can find it. On roofs, in attics, under trees, in crawl spaces. Basically, any flat location that a raccoon has access to.

They want to know is it dangerous? HELL, YES. It is foul stuff full of roundworms and other nasty things.

I hope that people are able to find helpful information on how to deal with a raccoon latrine, but I still feel weird that poop is the reason so many people do end up on this blog. I kinda feel like I should be writing a very different blog...

Thursday, June 21, 2012


 I like entertaining my friends.   Unfortunately, or fortunately, I have a little house. My tiny Seattle home is 580 sq ft. of "cozy serenity". No fooling, that is what the ad said about the house when I first came to look at it.

The house is small but the yard is goodly sized, as you have seen with my garden and livestock(snerk).

But I rarely invite people into my house, because it is, well, small. It gets very tight in here very quickly. So I wait for the warmer months to entertain.

Last month, I worked on expanding my patio a bit, with extra paver stones my neighbor had I was able to bring the flat spot a little closer to the house. Opening up more space for people to gather and tables to be set up.

It isn't fancy by any means but it works and keeps drunk people, mainly me, from tripping and falling due to uneven divots.  Not that I would know from any experience...

It is well know among my friends that I make a most evil sangria. It has caused many a friend to fall down. My friends act badly, drink too much, talk too loud, tell colourful jokes in mixed company and are generally wonderful.

It may be a cocktail party but a good gathering should be filled with too much loud laughter, crass conversation and inappropriateness in my opinion. I have been to too many stuffy, boring cocktail parties where people don't drink to excess and don't talk about anything interesting.

A patio on a warm summer's night with good friends laughing uproariously and loudly, enjoying good food and good drink is always wonderful. Wear your best outfit if you must, but if you showed up in clam diggers and a wife-beater, I wouldn't kick you out of the yard.

Patios were made for such things. Just avoid falling into the pool... Carlo the pool boy hates that...

Back Blowout 2

The first time I threw out my back, I was 16. I throw out my back a few times a year and it gets worse every year.

Currently, I am writing this from the comforts of my floor. I would have rather gone to work, or worked in my garden, or a number of other activities that would have been a million times more entertaining that lying on the floor hoping that the boyfriend's dog didn't piddle in this location during a moment of excitement.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Last of Last Year's Blueberry Jam

Yes! We Can! Strawberry Jam!

This last Sunday, I took a lovely drive out to Carnation, WA to Harvold Berry Farm for some strawberry picking. The boyfriend was busy fixing the oil pan on a Volkswagon, so I took Olive, The WonderDog, out for a drive in the "country".

When I was a kid, Carnation was in fact all farm land. Actually, a good portion of that area is now suburbs and Microsoft campus and bedroom communities. A lot of the farm land has gone away and it the city/town councils fight over how many chickens people can have in their backyards because of density. There are a couple of larger berry farms in the same area, but they feel like farm theme parks than actual farms to me, so I never go to them. They have train rides and picnic areas and petting zoos. All very geared towards bringing the families who don't really care what a farm is, but would like a good family outing. Great marketing, but not for me.

So I took the boyfriend's dog for a drive and headed to Horvald's to pick some strawberries. Maybe a bit early in the season, they should sweeten up more as it gets warmer, but they have a good flavour for canning if not the sweetness. 
 Harvold's has none of that fancy stuff, it is just a huge strawberry field with a couple of weigh shacks and slightly surly farm hands. They aren't really there to have a conversation with you, they are their to point you to a good picking spot and then to wiegh your berries at the end.

They are pleasant. But friendly, nope. Which works for me, I am not there to chat, I am there to pick berries. I leave Olive in the car with the windows down, since dogs are not allowed in the fields. She may be a chihuahua but she is also all teeth if she doesn't like your looks. I was also close enough to see the car if she were to get into any trouble. I could here her bark from the bed I was steadfastly clearing of berries.

The berries smelled like heaven and there were quite a few families out busily picking. Children in their Sunday best were squealing with joy about finding the most biggest, most beautiful, red ripe strawberries! Parents lugged their huge cameras about and took faux candid shots of their kids, eating a strawberry, picking a strawberry, trampling a strawberry, having a tantrum in the dirt.... But I digress.

Anyways, after about 50 feet of toil and 30 minutes of sweat I had my flat of berries. I do not know how farm labourers do it and I give much props to them for doing so. My knees ached for the rest of the day for that short amount of time of work and the thought of someone doing it for 10 hours a day made them scream. I appreciate those who go out and pick these so that I might enjoy them.

Picking your own berries is less expensive than buying from your local urban grocery store. Twelve pounds of fresh picked strawberries cost me
12 dollars. Ok, the drive to the country may have cost me another 8 dollars in gas, but I got to enjoy a lovely morning driving on an idyllic stretch of road.  The drive down the Fall City Carnation Road is a curvaceous split through mostly farm land and when heading north spits you out into lovely Monroe, WA. Home of the Evergreen State Fair and gateway to Leavenworth, WA.  It is a nice drive and makes for lovely daydreams about farm life.

There are quite a few farms that are open to the public for pick your own and educational farms like Oxbow Farms.

Oxbow Farms teaches the public about environmental stewardship and sustainable food practices.

You can find most of the produce provided by these farms at many of the Farmers Markets in the urban area. In the Seattle area you can find information on those farmers markets at Puget Sound Fresh. Quite possibly one of my more favourite web sites. You can find a listing of farms in the area that provide to your local CSA.

Harvold's Berry Farm's Strawberry Field
I can go on and on about the glory, greatness and goodness of the farmers, and I will at some point. But for now I am going to have to tell you about making strawberry jam!

Strawberry Jam

Eight Lbs of freshly picked strawberries
Four (or more) cups of sugar
Juice of one Lemon
2-4 Tbsp of Pectin

Place berries into a large pot with sugar and mix so that they are covered. Allow the berries to throw off their juices for an hour then turn on the to medium high.

Sprinkle in the pectin according to the instructions on their box and allow the jam to come to a full rolling boil.

Add the juice of one full lemon to add some acid to the jam.

As the jam boils a foamy skim will form on the top, scrap this off and discard.

You can check the cooled thickness of the jam by placing a plate in the freezer for about a minute then drop a tablespoon of the jam mixture on the plate and put it back in the freezer for another minute or two.

Once cooled it should give you a true idea of the thickness of the jam.

Pour the jam into sterilized jam jars and process per your preferred method. You can find more information on canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Never On Sunday

Never On A Sunday

I am not one of those people who are able to sit and do nothing on a sunny Sunday. If the weather is relatively fine I will be found outside working on my garden of just putzing around in my yard. Those who are able to relax on their days off are very lucky.

I usually do my normal chores of laundry and general house-cleaning, but on a lovely Sunday I also tend to try to work in the yard as much as possible. For example:

This morning at 8AM, I built a table. Using the legs from an old table I got years ago from a friend and a pallet I got from a garage clean out.

Next, I weeded the garden pathways and laid down burlap coffee bags I found for free on Craigslist. (I tend to find quite a few things on Craigslist for free. I found a claw foot bathtub that the boyfriend and I are planning on turning into a love seat.)

In fact we dragged home this huge rabbit hutch, I found on CL, yesterday! It needs a good scrubbing and some of the chicken wire has rusted through, so they will need replacing, but otherwise in pretty good shape! Woo rabbit meat!

I worked on weeding the veggie and herb beds, 
then proceeded onto relocating a few plants. Crocosmia, Siberian Irises, Death Lilies and Ferns. I worked on clearing out the millions of hyacinth leaves and stems that are turning into mush under my cherry tree. I am not a fan of the hyacinths, but they came with the yard and refuse to leave. 

Then I got a hold of the chainsaw... I really need this thing taken away from me, but it is so freaking HANDY!

AND of course;

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


An article in the Christian Science Monitor from when I was the City Chickens Coordinator at Seattle Tilth.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Let's Drink Some Wine and Curk a Tookey!!

I love to cook. When I was younger I had considered going to culinary school. How do you know when I am truly happy? I am in the kitchen. I am not a great cook, but I am a good cook. Nothing I cook will win the James Beard Award, but it will satisfy and make my friends and loved ones smile.

People are surprised when I tell them I can cook (they are also surprised when I build a fence or fix an oil leak in my car or start a campfire, but that is neither here nor there). When asked how I make something taste sooooooo good, I tell them I "put a little Love into it". Yes, I know that sounds all hippy dippy cliched and shit, but it is true. When you love doing something you put every ounce of yourself into doing it. That is when it turns out beautiful. That is when the magic happens and it becomes a shortcake instead of a plain old scone or turns Sunday night beef stew into boeuf bourguignon.

I love cook books, I have a few older ones from the 30s and 40s. The recipes all call for a pound of butter or a half cup of lard or heavy cream and I love recipes like that!! Don't get me wrong, I make my fair share of vegetarian and healthy food dishes, but when a recipe calls for bacon drippings, I start to salivate. I keep a pickle jar of bacon drippings for cooking. I also have a containing of duck fat, specifically for potatoes. You do not know joy until you have roasted potatoes in duck fat!

Occasionally, I can be a food snob. But I have also been known to stop at Popeye's Chicken, because they make an AWESOME spicy fried chicken. I also like Sonic Drive-Ins and have to stop there anytime I go on a road trip. I like little hole in the wall restaurants and I like those places where I must put on my best pair of Spanx. I like good food and I like when I find some weird little restaurant hidden in an alley as much as I like the fanciest roof-top restaurants.
But I mainly like to cook at home, I like feeling all the ingredients under my fingers and the scents mingling. I like how my house smells after baking bread or cookies or roasting a chicken. It smells like a home should smell.

I took an after school cooking class many years ago when I was a latch key kid. It was a way for my mother to have someone to watch over me for a few hours in the afternoons and it was a way for me to learn how to make hobo stew. It was probably the first thing I ever learned how to cook. After that I was on my way to being a home chef. The next item I cooked was zucchini bread, but forgot the oil and my mother kindly ate it and gently said... "I think you may have forgotten something in the recipe..." And I was on my way!

I tend to like cooking from scratch. I like real unprocessed ingredients, most of the time, although I am not above making brownies from the a mix when I am have a choco-attack. But you get a much better product that is healthier for you when you make it by scratch, you don't have the glut of preservatives and colouring or artificial flavours (what is chocolate-y flavour, anyways?!). I admit I have no problems with purchasing things to make my life easier, I do not believe I will try to make wonton wrappers by scratch anytime soon, but simple things like cookies and cakes do not need to come from a box. Trust me, a lemon chiffon cake made from scratch is one hundred times better than Betty Crocker's boxed stuff.

I love to experiment with foods and although I have a shit-ton of cookbooks, I tend to use those as reference books and then take the long way round to see if a pinch of this or a dash of that will make it even better. I have had my fair share of failures. The strata I did not allow to sit long enough to soak up the egg mixture that became a hockey puck. Or the chocolate pudding that wouldn't set no matter what I tried. Or even the chunky creme brulee (still gives me the shivers...).But I keep trying, Julia Child did not learn to cook until she was in her 30s.

I love to cook for my boyfriend and he is a very good eater. He also has no qualms about telling me when something is not quite right, which is the only way to truly figure out if a dish is amazing or just, eh. You need the feedback, I do not like to hear that something is always good as you don't grow as a cook if you do not know if something needs to be tweaked. And when you finally get a recipe correct it is as though you have finally summited a mountain! Ok, maybe not that cool,,, but it is still pretty darn awesome!

All I know is that food brings friends together, heck it brings strangers together. Food makes people smile when shared and good food makes people smile even more. It encourages community and good conversation and laughter and drinking. Good food shared brings joy and everyone likes a bit of joy whereever they can get it.  The best bit of advice I ever got from my mother was "Never say no to a free meal". She was right.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Good Fences

The boyfriend and I spent most of the day working on the fence between my front and back yard. It is now chihuahua proof!

Well, I would like to believe it is, but my boyfriend's dog is a bit of an escape artist and small so she can fit through things I would never have thought of. It is also nice to have a bit of privacy from the prying eyes of the world.

I have an anxiety disorder. So I get panic attacks on occasion. It makes it hard to leave the yard, let alone the house. So it might be nice to have a bit more privacy in my yard so I can wander through it and work in my garden when I feel like the sky is about to fall on my head.

It isn't that I don't like my neighbors, because I actually do. They are awesome, and give me booze and talk philosophy with me and play music. So yes, I do like my neighbors. But when the panic comes on, I just want to hide and try to get my mind out of the worry loop that it gets in. Working on my little farm also puts me at ease, but I admit, I can not/ do not want to interact with people when I am having an attack.

So a fence was partly to keep the chihuahua from running rampant in the vegetable patch and partly to help me feel safe in my own personal space.

The giant metal part on top is the beginning of my boyfriend's arbor. He has big plans and at this point I just smile and nod.

Also, today I have learned that I should never, under any circumstances be left alone with a chainsaw. My lilacs look like they have been ambushed and the odd branch on the fir was taken down in one swift cut. OK, it really isn't as bad as all that. They definitely could use a pruning and they will be much happier in the long run, but it was very hard to stop once I started. I kept thinking about the Bad Pruning pictures on the Plant Amnesty website.

The boyfriend fixed the new lawnmower, we got for free from the neighbor down the alley, right before he broke it. Another neighbor has several lawn mowers in their garage that do not run so we will try to Frankenstein a working lawnmower together. But the backyard got a bit of a haircut.

I volunteered at the Seattle Tilth's Edible Plant Sale On May 5th and got my pickling cucumbers and paste tomatoes in the process. I could have spent a whole lot more money there, but I only took $20.00 to avoid spending a bunch. Some plant sales are dangerous. Seattle Tilth had an amazing selection of things and it is inevitable that I go for three items and leave with fifteen. MY GARDEN IS NOT THAT BIG!
My brain constantly reminds me of this fact, but my heart and soul scream for romanesco broccoli and every tomato under the sun!  My pocket book ends up being the decider in these cases and if I limit it to what is in my pocket then I am limited to what I actually need.

I know you can barely see it, but I have carrots, lettuce and cucumbers. Radishes, scarlet runner beans and yardlong beans. That pile of weeds in the back are actually flowers so "Nyah". There are beets in there as well, but they are sad and will most likely be replaced with chard.

Because, I am also prone to throwing out my back I have but two loves in my life; the boyfriend and
Capsicum Patch!

(the boyfriend and I have an understanding). There are other fancy patches out there that get icy or get hot. Salonpas is just glorious spicy pain, but the good kind. Although I have learned to never put it on directly after a shower... And never accidentally touch sensitive bits after touching the sticky part. Just a warning... do not stick a finger up your nose, in your eyes or on other um.. delicate bits.

My evening will be spent, relaxing as best I can, on my back. But at least I feel as though I accomplished something today.

Tomorrow will be a full solar eclipse in our region but it looks like the weather is coming in and we will not be enjoying feeling infinitely small in the vast universe. Although, working my little plot of land always helps keep my ego in check. I believe I control some of the aspects in my yard, in truth, it controls me.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Day Dreaming in a Cubicle - Mid Life Ramblings

I work in a cubicle. I have, for many years, worked in cubicles all over Seattle. I do not like the term "cubicle farm" because if this is a farm then this is a form of H E Double Hockey sticks.

I am currently AT work, mind you it is break-time, but I am here. Was this what I had hoped to do with my life during my youth? Nah.

I had hoped to homestead in the wilds of Alaska, the back country of Montana or the plains of Oklahoma, my closest neighbors a canoe ride and a days hike down river. Living off the land and my wits... (I feel like I should burst into the Monty Python's Lumberjack Song right about now.) But I never did, I still live off the land, my tiny .25 acre of a yard, and wits, I am pretty darn charming. But my days of homesteading in secluded locations may no longer be viable.

So instead, I sit behind this desk attempting to make ends meet and live a somewhat contented life, Some days I am happy and productive. Some days I feel unfulfilled and trapped. I do not have the luxury of leaving everything behind me and living a life unencumbered. And maybe I really do not want to, many people have done more with less and gone onto live their dream lives.

Consider if the life you lead was the life you expected to have as a child... I remember riding the bus home and looking at all the suits heading into work in the morning thinking "I'm never gonna be like that, man!" Now I am. I am still eccentric enough to not be a pure suit, but I am a suit none-the-less.

I have always been one of those people who like to see things progress. Meaning, I like to watch as things grow or get clean or turn into jam or a lawn turn into a garden bed. Working as a public servant, I do not get to enjoy the joys of seeing something progress very often. In fact, I talk to the same people with the same problem every day. Sometime I work hard to fix the issue just to have the same people call back with the exact same problem a month later. It can be frustrating.

Do not get me wrong, I enjoy my job. It isn't my dream job, but I have had worse jobs and when I did have my dream job I could barely survive. But I am always impressed with those who make a living doing what they truly enjoy. There is something very satisfying about working hard, playing hard and going to bed tired.

I am still relatively young. I am sure that I will have my country life. I just wish it would come a little faster.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Day In The Life

This last weekend, I helped my friend clear out her mother's garage. It was cluttered and disgusting and there was rat poop everywhere. A lot of the items in there just needed to go to the dump and there were quite a few items that needed to go to Goodwill and there were quite a few items that could still be used but weren't being that they were stored in a rat infested garage. 

My friend and her mother were kind enough to let me have any canning jars I could find and there were a good 20-30 usable canning jars; including a bunch of vintage baling wire glass topped ones.

 Now, I know it is silly to get all gushy about old canning jars, but they are gorgeous! Most a lovely blue and most without chips on the rim.  I see them very overpriced in antique stores on a regular basis and it always makes my bits hurt that they are considered collector's items and not used, like they should be.

I found sizes from half pints to half gallons and all will come in handy as harvest season comes up on us. I still have a few that need to be washed in a strong bleach/soap solution, but the rest are all clean and fit perfectly in paper ream boxes from work.  I am not one of those people that keep what I do not use, so they will all come in handy.

The vintage mason jars use a food safe rubber gasket to seal whatever is inside and you do have to be more diligent about getting the seal just right, but they work as well. The newer jars stack better, seal more consistently and are not as neat to look at, in my opinion.  But it is good to have a mix of bother kinds so that you have a couple of pretty jars in the front and the rest stored behind it in the newer jars.

My beans are coming up gang busters. I planted Scarlet Runners, Dow Gauk Chinese Yard Long Beans and a Burgundy Bush bean that I cannot remember the name to, but it has burgundy in it somewhere...

Carrots are popping up, French Breakfast radishes, I planted some spinach seeds I have had for a couple of years to see if any were still viable and some seem to be sprouting so I did a second sowing to stagger them. The purple broccoli my friend, Sandy, from Urban Land Army gave me are coming back from an attack by the chickens. 

This upcoming weekend, May 5th and 6th, is the Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale. There will be workshops and smart garden type peoples there to answer any questions you might have and I will be volunteering a few hours on Saturday morning so I hope to see you all there. Their Vegetable List is AWESOME this year, although it is always pretty awesome since they try for new varieties every year. 

This years I have the Calypso pickling cukes, Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth, Costata Romanesca Zucchini and the San Marzano Tomato on my list, although I am sure I will spend more than I intend. Like I do every year.

I have a very grumpy broody Welsumer chicken who is currently plotting her revenge against me. I keep kicking her out of her nesting box and stealing her eggs, so I am chicken enemy number one.  All the birds are laying consistently and I am getting anywhere from 50 to 56 eggs a week. They are DELICIOUS!

I better get them put away while I am thinking about them...

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Warm Weekend In The Pacific Northwest

 April 23, 2012

Springtime in Seattle

We don't have glorious days all the time, they are interspersed with days that are a lovely shade of grey. This is what makes Seattle, the Emerald City. There is so much green here because we have a nice weekend and then four days of grey and rain.

This weekend was glorious in all its sunshine-y awesomeness! We topped 70 degrees, and I understand that it is over a hundred in Texas, but 70 degrees is perfect here. Just warm enough to work out in the yard, not so warm that you peter out after an hour.  The rain will start on Tuesday.

It is beautiful in Seattle during the spring. Well, it is beautiful most of the time, just varying shade of beautiful. Spring and Autumn are my favourite times of year, although Summer is nice too, but it kinda bleeds into the end of one and the beginning of the other without too much notice.

I like Spring because you can plant things and I like Autumn because you can harvest things. Summer is when you have all the work and weeding and watering.

You stand out in the yard and stare as things ripen and hope.

For now, I work in the garden and yard, taking it close to my dream of a urban farm a little more every year. 

I spent Saturday building a fence that separates the front and back yard. The boyfriends has a chihuahua that loves bounding through my garden beds and I swear by the hairs on my chin-y chin chin I will cook that dog if I find her running over my carrot seeds one more time.

I also pulled up my green cone. It is currently in the way.  The space that it is in, will be the expansion of my backyard patio and so I need to move it someplace else and harvest all the lovely compost that has been sitting in it.

Green Cones

So, let's talk about green cones and food waste digesters. Both are ways to compost your food waste. They work on an anaerobic system to break down the food.

 Bacteria, soil life and insects help break down the waste into humus (No. Not the chick pea mash you eat at your local Mediterranean deli.) Basically it digests the food waste kinda like your stomach does.

When finished, it is black and rich and smells sweet like compost and is a great soil amendment to add to your soil.

But it is a slow process that can take months, it helps take food out of the garbage stream and lets you use it to grow more food. But it takes the time that you fill the digester and the time you let it sit and do its work.

So it can take a year and a half to two years before you get the black gold that some people talk about. 

Some things do not break down as well as you might like; egg shells, avocado pits and rinds. But I just smash up what I can with my hands and sift it through a screen if I can't handle too much texture in my compost, but truthfully, I don't mind a stray shell or pit here and there.

Sift it if it bothers you, don't if it doesn't. Dig a trench or two down the sides of your garden beds then, sprinkle a few inches of your food waste compost in to amend the soil and there you have it, you have now added your food back to your food!


This weekend I also took the time to start adding a retaining wall to my front beds. I've lived here for eleven years and have been talking about doing this the whole time. Procrastination and I are very close friends....

Anyways, my friend, Wendy, had a bag of gravel that I weaseled out of her and I had about forty retaining wall blocks that I had from a project never started and subsequently never finished. So, since one and one make two, I built a rocket!  No, just kidding, I built part of a retaining wall! Pretty thing ain't it?

Not the hardest thing in the world to build, but will all the work I did this weekend I feel like I have been beaten with a train. 

Hard Working Woman

So this weekend was busy and so will the remaining weekends from now until the end of November. But I look at the list of things I have done and I don't mind the aches and pains as much...
  • Dug up and emptied food waste digester/green cone
  • Dug up weeds
  • Built fence
  • Leveled out patio expansion location
  • Built part of a retaining wall
  • Bring home bacon
  • Fry it up in a pan...

Pretty little bean plant.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spring Is In The Air

April 2012

Royal Chantenay Carrots
French Breakfast Radishes

Scarlet Runner Beans
Royal Burgundy Beans
Dow Gauk Beans

Purple Broccoli

Chocolate Cherry Tomato
Stupice Tomato

Bloomsdale Savoy Spinach
Mesclun Mix
Tom Thumb Butterhead Lettuce

Detroit Supreme Beet
Bright Lights Swiss Chard

I have been daydreaming about my garden since the end of December and this is all I have come up with so far, but then the season is just starting.