Away and Back again, 10/15/2019

Almost another week away helping family. Eldest son and his wife purchased their first home and it required some serious upgrades some of which needed to be done before they put anything in the house. The first two trips by me were to help out by getting their young teen to and/or from his new High School as the bus transportation for this school did not go to where they had been living for several years, and to help pack boxes of books, extra linens, and items they could do without for a few weeks. By the second trip, some items could be moved, but had to be secured in the largest bedroom with the door closed.

This trip was to help finish moving the last of the household goods and items from the shed, get the move out house cleaned up, help start unpacking the books and kitchen items, and help them get floor leveling applied to two of the 4 rooms that needed it done in order to lay laminate flooring and ceramic tile. A couple of the days, I worked on house stuff while they were at work and school, over the weekend, I was working with them.

Soon they will have their house in order. Now they can walk to local restaurants, the library, the parks, instead of a 15-20 minute drive, and they have plenty of space to have a separate library, music room, guest room and home office. On the flip side, they no longer are in the woods with a creek in their front yard.

I took knitting and drop spindles with me and they never left my bag. I did read some, but was so tired by bedtime, that I didn’t even do much of that.

My garden is a mess, idle beds are weedy, beds that had stuff still growing are dead or dying and the pumpkins are taking over. I can see a few in the bed, but still don’t know how many. I pulled a few weeds when I got home this morning, picked a few remaining peppers and beans. After a day or two of resting up, I will tackle the dead and dying plants, remove more weeds, continue my fight with Creeping Charlie and Mint, put more cardboard down and cover it and the idle beds with a thick layer of hay, and get the bed ready for garlic and potato onions to be planted in about a month. The forecast is for rain tomorrow. There is still no frost in the forecast for the next 2 weeks.

For the rest of this day, I am going to sit, maybe nap, and fix dinner.

Autumn at last? – 10/4/2019

The fourth day of October and the first day in forever that it will finally be less than 90f (32+c) during the heat of the day. The last time this area hit 90 on October 1 was the October before Pearl Harbor. And though we have had two brief showers this week, it is still bone dry with full outdoor burn bans in effect. It has been hot, dry, and brittle here while other parts of our country have experienced record rain falls and flooding, and a record snowfall.

Our average first frost date is October 10. It has happened only once that early since I have lived here and I am certain it is going to be well after that this year. It has been too hot to put the garden to bed for the winter and too early to plant the garlic and potato onions that need to wait for much cooler weather.

Like in past years, I had put a Jade plant, a Dracena, and a hanging spider plant on the front, north facing porch for the summer.

The back of the house faces south so the kitchen and both baths have south facing windows that hold 2 small philodendron, three holiday cacti, an aloe, and a ponytail palm cluster.

Last winter, I bought the tiny succulent in the nobby glass candle holder in the above picture and this spring, I divided the aloe. Then fell prey to the outdoor display at the grocer of a concrete looking pot of succulents, realized that two tiny hen and chicks had survived the winter outdoors, was gifted a most gorgeous succulent dish garden in a hand thrown bowl, and bought a yellow flowering Kalanchoe. The second aloe pot was moved to the porch, the purchased and gifted succulents added to the same table, though the Kalanchoe was re-potted from the tacky plastic pot it came in to a ceramic one and a matching pot purchased to plant the hen and chicks.

The spider plant “babies” were potted in a second hanging pot and hung on the opposite side of the entry way and then a friend gifted me a different variety of already rooted “babies” so I added them to the new pot. Now I have two spider plants that will need to come inside when frost threatens. The jade plant and the Dracena have places that they overwinter indoors, but now there are succulents to bring in as well.

The area in front of the south facing doors to the back deck is where the big guy follows the sun on cool days. He has already taken to lying there for short periods of time now that the sun is beginning to move to the south of the house during the day and casting light in his spot. It gets too hot now and he doesn’t stay there long, but that is his spot.

The corner in front of the hutch, in “his spot” is where the jade usually goes, but that is the door that opens onto the deck that wasn’t usable for two years until this spring, so I can’t put the succulents there.

A some shuffling in my craft area, along with a bit of decluttering this summer cleared a small folding bookshelf that is about the same width as the kitchen cabinets on the opposite side of the french doors, so it was placed against the cabinet in front of the semi-fixed side of the doors. Though there is no frost in our near future, it is supposed to dip into the lower 40’s f (5 to 6c) at night later this week. The spider plants can withstand that, but I didn’t want to risk the succulents and Dracena, all tropical plants, so each pot was brought in, sprayed down with a water spray to rid them of stink bugs and spiders, thoroughly watered and put in their over winter spots.

In that spot, they will be warm, get sun for about half the day, and be where I can monitor the plants for mites and scale, a problem that the spider plants and aloe seem to suffer in the winter indoors. There are hanging hooks in the utility room window that will get the spider plants later. I will trim back any damaged foliage, most of the longer “babies,” spray them with a very strong stream of water outdoors before they are brought in and hung in the windows. I love my houseplants as much as my gardens.

Maybe with the cooler days, the spent plants in the garden can be trimmed back or pulled, the asparagus tops cut to the ground and mulched, and the bed for the garlic and onions prepared for planting in late November. I will continue to harvest peppers and beans as long as they provide and will bring in the pumpkins once I can find them in the vines, probably not until a frost kills back the growth.

Waste Not …-9/21/2019

I am certain that my Great Grandmother who grew up in eastern rural North Carolina in a large family was raised with a huge garden, yard chickens, and the knowledge to can and otherwise preserve what could not be eaten right away to have for the non productive winter months. They probably could grow collards or kale well into the winter, likely made kraut and pickles in large crocks to be dipped into all winter, cold stored apples and pumpkins.

My Grandmother was born in the same environment, but moved to the city as a young woman and I am unaware whether she canned, but I know she didn’t after I was born, she was working outside the home at a bank by then. My mother made a few attempts when I was a young teen, but I remember jars of foods she had prepared, bursting on the shelves in the room off the garage.

Though I had a garden of some size through most of my adult life in nearly every home and making Pomegranate jelly with my Dad most autumns, I really didn’t get into canning until we retired and bought our farm. I keep a decent sized garden, have a small orchard, and many wild berries. This area has a strong ethic of buy local and eat local and the environmental impact of doing so spoke loudly to me. I knew that I wanted to raise chickens for eggs and grow much of our food. That which I can’t or don’t grow, I try to purchase from the Farmers’ Market, both meat and produce. Though I don’t buy produce to can, I do try to save as much of what we grow as I possible by freezing, fermenting, or canning.

The Asian Pear trees produce much more than fruit than we can consume. Last year, we gathered the apples and pears and took them to Wilderness Road Regional Museum and pressed them into a delicious fruit cider. Some of the pears were made into marmalade and jam. This year I was away from about the time the fruit was ripening until the middle of last week. The deer got a lot of it, but enough remained to make 7 pints of applesauce, 3 pints of pear sauce, more than 5 half pints of Pear Marmalade. And a enough of the undamaged ones to enjoy fresh and to barter for some hot peppers in two varieties that I don’t grow.

After a decade of trying to water bath can in an 8 quart stock pot, constantly looking for a shallow “rack” to put under the jars, I purchased a real water bath canner, a 21.5 quart one with a real rack.

Though the tomatoes didn’t do well this year, there are jars of tomato sauce, pizza sauce, and salsa. The cucumbers thrived and many jars of pickles were canned, other varieties fermented and stored in the refrigerator. The hot peppers are still producing and 5 quarts are pickled in the refrigerator, the rest to be shelf stable canned, or being turned into fermented hot sauces in the style of Sriracha or dried.

There are just the two of us with occasional visits from grown children, some of the pickles and sauces will be shared, but we should eat well. The garden is still producing green beans to be enjoyed and frozen, hot peppers to be canned, and pumpkins that won’t be revealed until the leaves die back or we get a frost.

Each year I look at the shelves and wonder if we will eat it all, each spring I anxiously await fresh foods from the Farmers’ Market and early garden as the shelves empty of preserved garden goodness and fill with empty jars awaiting a new season of canning. The canner won’t be put away until the last pepper is picked and the excess pumpkin canned for holiday pies, then the canning tools and food mill will be packed in the big pot and stored away for another year. Waste not, want not.