Fenders

The Fenders are friends and neighbors in Indiana. Angie gave me a tour of some of the projects they had been working on. We could smell honeysuckle as we checked out the ways they have worked to make their property naturally beautiful and useful. I forgot to take pictures of the garden and the wood carving picture didn’t come out. However, between the hand built canoes, the shelter from locally grown and milled wood, the pond with dueling zip lines, the mason jar chandeliers, the bark they pressed for a year to use as decorative finishes on the bar and the bed frame I can see both creativity, time and care they put into their projects. Thanks for sharing <3

Salsa 2012

Canned salsa up close
Canned salsa up close

Yesterday and today we made salsa again. This year Mekayla helped Clare and me some, which was very nice. We went a bit overboard this time, making nearly 28 pints of salsa in total. In addition to a bunch of tomatoes from our garden, we also got a 25 lb box of tomatoes from a local farmer’s market. We ended up canning 2 batches yesterday and 1 today. The first 2 batches turned out approximately medium (compared to Pace brand salsa), and the third batch was close to hot. I could have probably canned 7 quarts instead of pints today, but I didn’t think we had that much to do, so I washed the pint jars. I am very happy with the final product. It turned out much more flavorful than last year, which I think was due to having more peppers and more seeds, and more vinegar and salt.

Here is approximately what we used
10-12 quarts peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes
2 bell pepper
1 lb anaheim peppers
1 lb poblano peppers
1/4 lb serrano peppers
1/2 lb jalapeno peppers
3 lbs white onions
9 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
6 tbsp salt
3 small cans tomato paste
2 cups white vinegar

Garden 2011

Salsa ingredients from the garden - tomatoes and hot peppers
Salsa ingredients from the garden - tomatoes and hot peppers
Now that 2011 is over and the garden has been long gone, I am finally getting around to showing it off. This year I did a few things differently than in past years. Instead of using black plastic, I used weed block, with mulch on top of it. This seemed to work quite well in keeping the garden from getting too warm. It also helped keep in the moisture, and did in fact block the weeds, except in the peripheral areas of the garden where I ran out of weed block. Maybe next year I will spend a few extra dollars to get a bit more.
Garden progress - putting mulch over the weed block
Garden progress - putting mulch over the weed block

I also experimented with alternating rows of tall plants (tomatoes) and short ones – herbs, eggplant, peppers, etc. This seemed to work fairly well. The tomatoes did very well this year. I was particularly happy with the Black Krim, which produced a fair amount of incredibly tasty fruit. The pineapple tomato barely produced anything, which was disappointing. All of the cherry tomatoes did very good as in past years. The eggplant didn’t end up producing much. They had lots of flowers, but I only got about one piece of fruit per plant. I’m not sure what I did wrong there. And the giant pumpkin produced one giant pumpkin – 92 pounds. Speaking of squash, I also had a couple volunteer patty pan squash from the year before. In addition to all the tomatoes, I tried an armenian cucumber, which tasted very good – a little crunchier than a gerkin. We also tried a tomatillo plant, which thrived, but when they were finally ready to be harvested, we were too busy to figure out what to do with them. Oh well.Time to start planning the 2012 garden.
more details follow

Lightning McQueen raking leaves

Sunday afternoon after nap Spencer helped me rake leaves. We had a pretty good time. He is getting more helpful all the time. Here is a short video of him scooping leaves into the wheelbarrow. We dumped all the leaves onto the garden to compost. (We went to the zoo for trick or treating in the morning. He did not want to take off his awesome Lightning McQueen costume)
[videoplayer file=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/raking.mp4″ width=384 height=308 image=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/raking.png” /]

Pumpkins

Meg and Rob by the giant pumpkin we grew
Meg and Rob by the giant pumpkin we grew
Clare recently bought a new onesie for Meg with some pumpkins on it, and the text “daddy’s little pumpkin”, which pleased me, since she has lots of “i love mommy” shirts, but not many shirts with “daddy” on them. Clare put that on Meg this morning, and I got the great idea of taking a picture of Meg with the giant pumpkin that we grew in the garden this year. Not only did Meg’s shirt match the pumpkin, but I thought it would also be a good indication of how big the pumpkin is. We probably could have gotten it bigger, but we didn’t try too hard. Clare had originally suggested that growing a pumpkin could be fun. When I went to buy plants, the only one I could find was a giant pumpkin, so I bought it. It got quite big very quickly. It probably would have gotten bigger had I watered it more and given it more fertilizer, but I wasn’t really interested in having a 1000 pound pumpkin. It is probably about 100 pounds. I didn’t weigh it.
Rob and Meg with the giant pumpkin
Rob and Meg with the giant pumpkin

Salsa 2011

13 pints of canned salsa
13 pints of canned salsa
Yesterday we canned salsa. It has been three years since the the last time I canned salsa. This year, I had the help of Nick and Karen, which was much appreciated. Clare helped out by taking Spencer and Meg to the zoo with Alisa and Tao, so they were out of our hair. I want to mention that Clare is a supermom, for carrying Meg in the Baby Bjorn and Spencer on her shoulders around the zoo for two hours. I don’t think it would have gotten done without both of those key points.
Salsa ingredients from the garden - tomatoes and hot peppers
Salsa ingredients from the garden - tomatoes and hot peppers
Salsa ready to be put in jars
Salsa ready to be put in jars

I harvested about 40 tomatoes and about 10 hot peppers. Nick bought an additional 5 or 10 large tomatoes (5 pounds) from the Boulder farmer’s market. We put in 5 anaheim peppers and a couple banana peppers, with the seeds removed. We also put in two large green bell peppers, and three medium onions. We put in one bulb of minced garlic. Then we added some salt, cumin, and coriander. It now occurs to me that we forgot the vinegar! Whoops. We also added one large can of tomato paste to thicken it up a little bit. Even though we let the chopped tomatoes drain in a colander before putting them in, it was still a little bit runny.
Leftover tomato juice
Leftover tomato juice

We started preparing the salsa around 10:30, just after Clare left with the kids, and got the first batch into the canner around 1 p.m., just around the time that Clare got back from the zoo Then we took a lunch break, and got the second batch in around 3 I think. We processed the jars for 45 minutes (the closest recipe in the blue book said 35 minutes, plus 10 minutes more for our altitude).
Batch one (left) versus batch two (right)
Batch one (left) versus batch two (right)

Today I inspected the jars after waiting the necessary 12-24 hours for the jars to properly seal and cool. There is one thing I would do differently. We did two batches – 7 pints and then 6 pints. With the first batch, the salsa separated a little bit, with some kind of very runny, watery juice at the bottom of the jars. I think this is because we didn’t cook the salsa long enough. The second batch, which had a longer cooking time did not have this problem. I also filled a few of the jars a bit too full. One of the jars had a bit of salsa on the outside of the jar, but all of the jars seemed to seal. I pressed on all of the lids, and none of them indented. I then took the rings off and checked that each lid was on firmly.

Tomato-stained Nick
Tomato-stained Nick
Karen amuses herself by smelling celery bitters
Karen amuses herself by smelling celery bitters