Life Moves On

The pile of tomatoes on the counter was more than I could mentally and physically deal with the other day, so I bagged them and tossed them in the freezer. There are at least that many out there again that I need to pick, but it was drizzly rain when I went to turn the chickens out this morning, so they are still there. I really like the paste variety I planted this year, the slicer is a nice meaty, low seed variety with decent flavor, but grows flat oval tomatoes with deep stem inset that weigh well over a pound each. I can’t eat one alone at a session and don’t like to refrigerate tomatoes, so I will have to do some research on a different variety for next year’s garden.

Sometime in the near future, I will haul the bags out of the freezer, slip the peels and make a big pot of pasta sauce for dinner and the remaining amount will be put in wide mouth pint jars and frozen instead of canning them. I reread the instructions on the reuseable lids to see that the band needs to not be too tight when they go in the waterbath and tightened 10 minutes after you remove the jars and still I am experiencing failure to seal, but not at the rate I was having. I now remember why I sold off the first couple dozen of them I tried a few years ago. I guess I will use them for freezing and try to get metal lids for next year. I also can’t/don’t want to put them on jars I am making for others in case I don’t get them back. We have a chest freezer, so filling it will jars and the bamboo fiber boxes I bought, of sauces, beans, soups, and stews isn’t a bad idea.

Last night, I taught soap making at a “It Takes a Village” session at Wilderness Road Regional Museum. Because I was on the teaching end and it was more instructional than hands on, I have no pictures except the finished product from cutting this morning. The participants took turns stirring the soap mixture until it looked like time would run out before it turned trace to be able to pour it into the mold, so we cheated and used the immersion blender I use at home to finish the stir process that can take up to an hour or more of hand stirring. I had made a batch a month ago, so they could each take home a cured bar of the same recipe.

Though the cutting box isn’t a necessary part of soap making, I love the ease of being able to uniformly cut 1″ bars with the bench scraper. The rack came in my microwave and never gets used there, so it makes a great curing rack. The wooden box mold is one of two that Son 1 made for me as a gift early on in my soap making. I line it with parchment or freezer paper, the other one I made a liner from a silicone baking mat, so the saponified soap comes out of the box easily. The silicone loaf molds are good too, but I have had the bottom of a batch break out like a cake or bread from a pan that wasn’t properly greased. It may be because it wasn’t as firm as it should have been when unmolded, but the wood boxes with a liner, hold the heat better and unmold nicer. I probably should have waited until this evening to unmold it, but it was firm enough to do. This is a simply Old Fashioned Lye soap with a lemon/mint scent. It can be used for body soap, a stain rub on clothing, or grated and used as laundry soap.

Today is hubby’s birthday, so he gets to guide the day culminating with a dinner of his choice, either prepared by me or out if the weather permits patio dining somewhere. He recently lost his summer version of the Greek fisherman’s hat he wears, so in addition to a new leather belt from the local Street Fair in Blacksburg a couple weeks ago, his hat was replaced. We joked about options to prevent losing it. He had “lost” the other one earlier this summer, but we remembered where it was likely left and it’s return happened. This loss is a mystery, unless he wore it in the restaurant where we had lunch after our long bike ride down the Virginia Creeper Trail and it is too far away to go back and retrieve it. Maybe this one needs his name and phone number put in it.

Tomorrow, I will dress in my Revolutionary War garb and set up as a spinner and vendor at the Montgomery Museum Heritage Day event in Christiansburg. Ever since I began vending at events and craft fairs, I have struggled with a method to haul the most stuff in the least trips. I have crated and carried, bought a RubberMaid flat cart that promptly had a wheel failure the second time I used it inspite of the advertised weight load. I don’t think it was the weight, but rather the terrain, plus my load wouldn’t stay on the flat unsided surface. Daughter owns a folding wagon that she loaned me to try. With is larger wheels, deep sides, I have managed to test load everything needed but part of my ladder rack that I think could be strapped on top and my spinning wheel.

Next week when I go to my fiber retreat, I don’t need the table or the chair, so it should hold everything for vending and spinning. I probably will only take spindles, as that is what I have used mostly for spinning the past year and a half, and knitting to it.

A friend from that group is getting into pattern designs as Mountain Legacy Designs. I am test knitting one of her patterns at the moment and since I can no longer force myself to spin worsted weight yarn needed for the pattern, I purchased a skein from another friend, Sunrise Valley Farm . They can be found on Etsy in the link or at the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market. The test knit is progressing nicely, though I am taking my time on it.

I hope that Gail from the farm who is also a member of the retreat group can attend with me next year as a participant and maybe a vendor. It would be nice to travel together and room together at the retreat.

The test knitting has slowed my spinning this week, but earlier in the week, I posted 84.34 g of spun singles, and 41.70 g of plied yarn for the prior 7 days.

I’m glad it is cool and wet

It stayed fairly mild today, and we are finally getting rain. It rained all morning, so I started early, peeling tomatoes and getting a pot of crushed tomatoes cooking, the giant canner pot set up and filled with water and jars. That pot takes forever to boil. All of the tomatoes that were in the freezer were added to a large pot. The huge canner didn’t get to a boil before we needed lunch, a walk that got rained out, and a few supplies from the natural food store in town. When we got home, the pot was started again and by the time I had the tomatoes ready to can, it boiled. Eight pints of tomatoes were sealed in jars, loaded and canned. While they were canning, 2 pounds of the tomatillos were started with a handful of chopped jalapenos from the freezer and 7 half pints of Tomatillo, Jalapeno, Lime jam were prepped and canned. The last pound and a half of tomatillos with onion, garlic, herbs, hot peppers, and salt were simmered into 3 half pints of spicy simmer sauce and canned.

We saw a break in the rain and took advantage to get our walk in before it was time to prep dinner. The pond that is close to home is so low, we really need the rain. We got lightly rained on, but not too wet and has continued to rain off and on all afternoon and evening. Just before it got too dark, I caught a break in the rain and took the 16 liter tote out to the garden. I guess tomorrow will be a repeat of today.

The tomatoes are almost all paste tomatoes so I will make pasta sauce, a small batch of garlic dill pickles with the cucumbers, the tomatillos will be chopped and frozen. The ground cherries are prolific, but tiny and I still need another cup or so to make a batch of jam. If you even brush the plants, the ripe tiny fruits in their Chinese lantern husk drop to the ground.

I will probably grow them again, but I need to make sure they are where they can spread out and a garden fabric around them to be able to easily gather them. The tomatillos are full of fruits getting larger and they are spreading over the cucumbers and ground cherries. I only need to plant two next year and make sure they have a cage and room to grow. There are so many more tomatoes, a few still green, most turning red, so there will be several more canning sessions for them. The peppers are finally beginning to produce some fruits, though it looks like at least a third of the ones planted were eaten before they established or are still only a few inches tall. I need a better way to trellis tomatoes and I say that every year but haven’t solved the situation. They are sprawling all over the straw, but are within a couple of weeks of being done.

The fall bed needs to be smoothed from digging the potatoes, supplemented with some compost and blood meal and planted. It is going to be a mini greenhouse that will hopefully provide for a while even after the first few lighter frosts that hopefully are still 10 weeks away.

The spring is so tiring from preparing the garden, by now there are too many weeds, but the produce it provides is welcome and a lot of work to preserve, but we enjoy it all winter long.

From one type of busy to another

The heat finally broke today! I don’t think it got to 80 or just barely. We even took a walk. The past few weeks we have had Grandson 1 in residence, beginning with a basketball camp for a weekend, followed by having him here to visit and help out a bit. During his stay, we took a rail to trails 17+ mile bike ride on the Virginia Creeper Trail and took his almost 10 year old female cousin too. Another day we went to a very dry Falls of Dismal for a swim, there were still a couple pools deep enough for him to squat and immerse. Friday night, his Dad arrived for the weekend and toted down 3 kayaks on the top of his little car. Those kayaks were ours when we lived in Virginia Beach and often went kayaking, then they moved to the mountains with us and visited Claytor Lake and the New River a few times. Later those kayaks which weren’t getting much use here were driven to Son 1’s house as he could access the Shenandoah River and have gotten much use. Yesterday, those three kayaks, daughter’s two tandem sit on top kayaks and 7 of us ranging in age from 9 to 78 years old launched on the New River and floated a 5 mile section with a class 1 rapids. It was hot even on the water unless the breeze blew, but it was a great time. I enjoyed being back in the yellow boat with the yellow paddle I used to use.

The kayaks were loaded back up in the late afternoon for the trip back north today.

Before we left yesterday, Grandson helped me finish picking the peaches from our tree. We brought in a plastic tub full, most in decent shape to put in the fruit bowl, sent more than a dozen home with them, but the rest were very ripe, bruised, or had some damage. After they left, I began processing peaches. Excited that we finally got real fruit from the peach tree.

Three different peach jams were in the plan. I got the Peach Sriracha jam done and a second batch peeled and cut and realized it was time to prepare dinner for Daughter and her two kiddos who came over this evening, so that batch was doused in a bit of lemon juice and stashed in the refrigerator. After they left, the second batch became Ginger Peach jam and while it was processing, the last batch was peeled and cut and a batch of chunky peach jam was cooked and processed. The jars are all sitting on a towel on the kitchen counter until tomorrow and all the sticky peach juice has been wiped up. All three batches are low sugar jams and each tasted wonderful from the warm samples.

We will never eat that much, so I’m sure some of them will find their way to other homes. If the forecast holds true, we have several more milder days and a bit more rain that we finally got this evening, so I will tackle the two bags of tomatoes in the freezer and the bag of tomatillos and see what they become. The tomatillos will likely become Tomatillo/Jalapeno Jam and Tomatillo simmer sauce. The tomatoes may just be canned as plain tomatoes that can be later turned into pasta or pizza sauce or added to chili. I’m sure there are more tomatoes, tomatillos, and ground cherries ready for me to pick as I haven’t harvested in a few days.

Very soon it will be time to harvest the apples and Asian pears, before the wild critters get them all. Though canning has gotten a late start this year, it will be nice to fill up the shelves for winter.