Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fall Garden Finds

While something ate my elderberry, all is not lost.
I have found some garden treasures, 
some hidden away and some in marvelous display.
This sweet little pumpkin developed on the vine
that trailed out into the woods.

Then I found this orange sized green ball.
An undeveloped pumpkin?

It's a watermelon from the vines I thought had died off.
Here it was hidden in the weeds.
I cut it open, obviously not good for eating,
but took a small taste just to see what might have been.
Delicious!  Maybe next year?

There are several other small pumpkins that 
I doubt will turn orange but I'll bring them in
soon, just in case.  If nothing else, they will
make fine decorations.

Another little treasure.

We had cool temperatures,
hot temperatures, then
cool and wet temperatures.
Nature couldn't make up its mind,
so typically St Louis!
I have roses reblooming

at the same time the burning bushes are beginning to flame

Bees are flocking to the honeysuckle that 
decided to bloom again as well.

While the nearby mums start to open.

Of course you all have seen my short,
late season beans.

And the crazy potatoes that started to grow.

I wonder what could be next?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

They Ate My Elderberry- And That's Not All

They ate my elderberry!
Just the other day it was covered with leaves.
My husband reminded me it's about time for leaves to fall,
but that doesn't explain the footprints
or should I say hoof prints
in the damp ground!

They didn't stop there.
This patch of late green beans may look OK from a distance.

I might even be getting a healthy amount of beans,
considering I planted them a month late, well at least a month late.

But take a good look.
See all the snapped off vines?
That's what they did all summer long up at the big garden.
Now they found the little one. 

I think the potatoes are confused.
I was just about to dig them all up
and they started growing again!
It must have been a spell where it was
cool, hot, cool and wet.
I'll see what happens, maybe I'll just leave
them and get them later.

In the meantime,
Deer Beware!

Friday, October 10, 2014

No Elves Here

Maybe it was just wishful thinking.
Maybe I was just needed a little sweet treat.
But I looked and looked.
I even tried to spy with my camera.
No matter how hard I tried,
I just couldn't find those little elves
or a cookie factory anywhere !

Inside the Hollow
Wood cutting and Splitting 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It's Blooming !!!

It's Blooming!!!

I am temporarily taking care of this orchid, 
(which I initially thought would be a really bad thing
based on my historic incompetence with growing indoor plants) 
but several weeks later- It's Blooming!!!

See- I didn't kill it !
Woo Hoo!  Yipee!

This is an amazing thing,
the Patron Saint of Flowers must be watching over me
because I never could have done this alone!

Not only did it bloom but there are 
More On The Way.

This orchid needs watering every day.
It isn't as if it is embeded in a deep pot of dirt; 
rather, it's almost as if it's just a bundle of roots.
There is a plastic pot with holes punched in the bottom
inside of this ceramic pot.  I keep a plastic water bottle
next to it and when I pass by, I give it a sip.

It worked, it worked, it worked!
(Imagine me doing the Blooming Orchid Dance, 
if there is a blooming orchid dance).

When it comes time to return it, I hope it 
is still as healthy!  Then the pressure will be off.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Wood Cutting and Splitting

With predictions of a cold, snowy winter, it's time to
make sure we have adequate firewood for the season.
While we do have a furnace, we supplement by using a 
wood burning insert in our fireplace which is especially 
helpful when we have our occasional power outages
and to help keep electric bills down.

There is a huge downed tree just up the Taylor Trail. 
This will eventually be the entry to the path through the woods 
between our house and my in-laws. I shall 
make a red cloak for Taylor so she can carry a nice
 basket of goodies next door. (Sound familiar??)

Storms take down a lot of 
trees around here, some have been aging 
for awhile, some fell from recent storms. 
Tom takes care of the sawing and my job will
be using the splitter controls after he places
the logs for me.  Then I can help stack.

We're not far from the house, just up the Taylor Trail.

We have a lot of fungus growth on the trees. 
I have heard that if it grows on bark, it's safe to eat but I don't 
think I want to experiment. It does make for 
some interesting patterns and textures. 

The new log splitter comes in very handy.
It saves many hours of time over splitting by hand.
My inlaw's house is next door so it will be used to
clean up the storm damage and provide firewood there too.

About half the tree cut and split.

I began stacking while Tom was finishing up the grass cutting.
Only a portion fits in the wood holder that is on the
 courtyard for easy access. We have a larger location 
up by the garden for the majority of the wood. 
We bring it down as necessary and if it's icy, we place a 
bunch on the front porch to avoid 
slipping and sliding across the way. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Macaroni Bar

A macaroni bar! 
The office cafe often prepares personalized entrees that
are really fantastic- but a bit pricey!

They recently added a macaroni bar where you select the 
ingredients to be combined with whatever noodles you choose.
They use small skillets to quickly stir fry your choices and 
then add the sauce of your choice plus cheeses.  In no time
flat you have a specialized meal.
So why not do it at home?

My selections were:
chicken, cubed and precooked- seasoned with Montreal Steak seasoning
orange sweet pepper, skin peeled
green onion, chopped including stems
spinach leaves, fresh
 Mozzarella, shredded
Parmesan grated, not the powdered type
Alfredo sauce 
(bacon would have been nice)
broccoli (that I forgot to add!)
elbow noodles

I placed the chicken and vegetables into a buttered skillet
and cooked until the spinach was wilted.
I used Montreal Steak seasoning rather than the chicken
because I wanted more pepper in it.

I added the noodles and let them heat a little.
I then added the Alfredo sauce and continued to stir.
At the last minute I added the cheeses until they melted.
Since we like the same things I did not personalize this
but it would be easy to do using a second small skillet
or quickly wiping the skillet clean.

With precooking chicken, enough for two meals,I saved a lot of time. 
I doubled what I needed and used half of the chicken
for quesadillas the night before.  I sprinkled taco seasoning, 
 did a quick stir fry in bacon grease to add additional flavor
and mixed it with my cheeses before cooking 
them on the flat grill.  

  I was not sure if my husband would like the macaroni bar
but he went back for seconds so I think it was a winner!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Final Fruits

We're down to the last of the harvest.
There are a couple of green tomatoes still on the vine
that might produce a few more red ones, but there isn't
really enough to put the energy into it.  We canned
plenty of sauce and have dehydrated quite a few.

My pumpkins didn't do well this year due to a couple of factors.

First, we let the kids smash last year's pumpkins and scatter 
the seeds, just for fun.  I think every seed took!
I should have thinned them out but wanted to see what nature
would do on it's own.  I had a lot of pumpkins starting,
and the vines spread out of the garden and wind down 
through the woods so who knows what else I will find.

Secondly, I have had to be out of town a lot.
Squash bugs will get out of control unless I remove
eggs daily by pressing duct tape to the leaves.
Early in the season I was well ahead of the game,
even the ants seemed to be eating the eggs and I had 
very few to remove.  Spiders perched on the leaves of
my zucchini, yellow squash and pumpkins so I think they
were enjoying whatever happened to hatch.
I'd find an adult or two but they didn't last long either.

Then I left for week and everything decided to hatch 
at once!  I couldn't ask my poor husband to do everything
plus go squash bug hunting! 
(Which,  by the way, I seem to taken an inordinate pleasure in)
When I returned they were everywhere.

The adults lounged on leaves,
lounged on each other,
basked in the sunlight having little squash bug BBQs,
probably a few brews too.

I took desperate measures and sprayed them-
Yes, I did.  I sprayed them.
They loved it.
I think they inhaled- deeply.
And continued to multiply
and conquer.

  I really don't care, I had so many squash that I was
feeding them to the chickens, who I swear managed
to smile toothy grins at the carpet of squash in their pen.
Never mind that they don't have teeth or can grin.
They did.

The only concern I have is that the bugs are going to overwinter
buried deep in the ground where I can't get to them.
That means even more next year so I decided that I will starve them out.
No squash for a year.
Well, maybe one plant in some other area, but none in the garden.

I'll see what these little guys do,
the two in front are pumpkins and are continuing to turn orange.
They will make either cute decorations, maybe cupcakes
or more chicken feed (the chicks vote for feed).
Taylor might vote for the cupcakes!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Help Wash Away My Problems

We are not destined to have a dishwasher.
Until 2001, appliances worked well for us, rarely a problem
unless it was user error (No, you can't put corn husks
down a garbage disposal!)  Well, you can but it is
a lot of work getting them out again.

Then we moved into a newly built house
which means all new appliances
that failed one by one, much earlier than anticipated.
Much earlier!

Jenn Air dual ovens - the display went out
  ( I  set the temperature and listen for the Ding
then have a grocery store wind up timer)
Jenn Air range with flat grill- auto light went out
   on the grill so I have to light it with a bbq lighter.
 Refrigerator- really nice one with whistles and bells. Broken
Refrigerator #2- cheapest model I could find.  Works so far
but the service guys that put on the handles tightened them
so much that the handle broke!  I gave up, let it dangle.
Dishwasher #1-  motor fell apart, the service tech said
 he'd never seen anything like it- out of warranty of course.
Dishwasher #2- Bosch, beautiful and quiet.  All of the models
before ours were recalled.  Ours was a month after the recall 
models even though we had the same symptoms.  Out of
warranty of course.  They could start switching out parts but
couldn't say what part was bad so we might pay as much to
experiment with it than a new dishwasher costs.

No new dishwasher.
I was through, done. 

In reading Consumer Reports, I found that appliances,
regardless of price, no longer had that service life that
we experienced growing up.  In fact, none really made it
10 years although some were thousands of dollars.
And here our 1950s refrigerator sits just cooling away in the garage.
I remember my grandmother's side by side  Kelvinator  (Foodarama?) which would
hold enough food for 4 families, ran for decades.  
Why can't I even get 5 years out of an appliance?
The only thing that has not broken is the trash compactor!

We hand washed dishes for the last three years 
and then took the plunge when we found a deal on a 
new model that someone ordered but backed out of.
My husband installed it and like Magic,
you could place your dishes into this big, black box,
push a button and they came out clean!!!

Except the glasses.
Oh, they were clean but coated in a cloudy film.
I tried liquid detergent, powdered detergent, hot water
and cooler water but nothing seems to help.
I  essentially wash the dishes before putting them into
the dishwasher. I don't put in pots and pans, mostly 
plates, silverware and glasses plus  a couple of bowls.

We have well water and use a softener.
We use a rinse agent- which is a required lubricant for our model.
I have suggestions of using vinegar in the bottom of the washer,
opening the door when the cycle is through (if I am right there),
adding a secondary rinse agent that helps with cloudiness.

Any other suggestions?
I can't have people drinking out of these glasses
and what is the point of the dishwasher if I can't wash
my glasses, that part fills up first between water, milk and coffee!

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

When Pumpkin isn't Pumpkin

If you know me well, you would have locked me up
in a padded room and thrown away the key!

"You can have the donuts," I said to my husband,
"they did something different this year and they 
don't taste the same."  

My husband asked me to explain further.
Well, not really, but in my mind he did so I continued.
"The pumpkin donuts are my favorites and this year
they taste more cinnamony.  Not bad, but not pumpkin,"
I said as I tried a second one just to see if I was right.
 Yep, I'm right.  Just not like last year.

My husband takes a donut of his own.
He chews and thinks about it.
Then, he looks right at me and says something like, 
"That's because they are CIDER donuts."


I guess that explains it.
I even looked on their website.
There are three types of Fall donuts.
You have to READ the BOX, they all look alike.

See what I mean, in the photo.
The packaging is the same.
They were on the same display, next to each other.
I was in too much of a hurry and I didn't read the box.

As you can see, I have two boxes and one is pumpkin!!!
I stopped in the next day and got the correct package.

Yummmmmm !!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Winter Weather Forecast Using Persimmon Seeds

The branches of the wild persimmon tree are hanging low
this time of year, heavy with ripening fruit sweet and sticky, 
that will become Fall treats for roaming deer, raccoon, 
opossum and other wildlife that happen by.

 These wild persimmons are quite a bit smaller than 
your grocery store variety, full of heavy brown seeds
that provide a glimpse into the upcoming winter weather
if you believe in folk legend.  It's at least as accurate as
the forecasters so I'll lean towards the persimmon's story.

If you wait until they are very ripe the seeds will be easier 
to open.  They should be soft and sort of orange in color.
Break open the fruit and touch your tongue to the sweet
pulp.  (Yes, this is required!) then slide a few seeds
into your palm being careful to not let them slip away.

Rinse the seeds under running water with the drain plug in
and try to score the gooey casing that covers the seeds.  If you
are successful, pull off that coating to get to the dry seed.

Some people will try to open the seeds with a knife.
Don't, unless you are really, super careful or you might find
you need a bandage or two.  I use a pliers.

  Place the seed sideways with the seam of the seed
between the top and bottom of the pliers and then 
gently squeeze until the seed begins to open a little.
Then you can peel it apart to find the little treasure within.

If you see a Spoon or Shovel shape= heavy snow, cold winter
If you see a Fork (a spoon with tines) then winter will be mild,
perhaps with light, fluffy snow.
If you see a Knife shape- cold, icy winds will blow.

It looks like we're in for some heavy, wet snow this year.

You must use persimmons grown locally to find your forecast.

I just wish I had a 4th choice- 
BBQ Tongs shaped
You know,  for a warm winter with Bermuda shorts and tank tops!

Good luck with your own forecast!