Category Archives: canning

No Thinking or Resting, only Doing

When I’m by myself, I like to stay busy. Well, I like to keep busy when other people are around, but they usually want to talk or some other silly stuff, so it slows down my need for busy-ness.

This past weekend, Porkchop was gone, and is still gone doing nonsense like this:

Yeah, she’s at Disney World. She drove down with her older brother and his family. I declined the invitation because I really do dislike Disney World. Also it’s June. In Florida.

So, I’ve been keeping busy.

On Saturday, I biked to the Tower Grove Farmers’ market and hit up the free yoga class. I also picked up some strawberries for jam-making and green onions. After lunch and a supply run for canning lids and sugar, I made four jars of jam (sorry for the poor photo quality; all pictures were taken with my phone camera):

After making the jam, I had to do clean-up, which I do not enjoy. And then it was out to the garden for pruning and tying tomatoes, and then to the community garden for weeding and scoping out work for Sunday.

This is the star tomato plant in our backyard garden:

I have high hopes for this quick-growing plant!

Sunday, I awoke bright and early and started the day with making tea…compost tea. Our tumbler has holes that allow compost juice to collect in the base. You just unscrew the cap, dump it out, and mix it with water (1 part compost juice to 10 parts water). It is highly nutritious for plants, and can be one of the most foul things ever.

Our compost is kind of ripe at the moment, and the compost juice stunk to high heaven. I’m not a delicate person, but I thought I was going to lose my breakfast. The slugs didn’t help, especially the dead slug floating in the juice. While I was mixing up the tea, I thought it was the most disgusting thing I had ever smelled. (Note foreshadowing.)

So, my work in the community garden started with weeding the tomato bed and hauling in compost tea for it (two trips down the alley carrying one of those pails that holds 40 pounds of cat litter). The day progressed to working on the potato bed. I added the second tier and filled it with as much dirt as I could before my back started protesting:

I then staked and tied as many tomato plants as I could using my stakes from last year, as well as some that I found lying around the community garden. After that, I planted green and black beans. Finally, I ended my day with installing a fence in the cucumber bed. The little sour gherkins are desperate for something to climb! And, who knows, maybe the big cucumber plants will use it too. Nothing fancy, just fencing left from last year:

In between all of this work, I did a lot of weeding. In total, I spent about four hours in the community garden.

I’m still impressed by the squash plants. HUGE!

And the cantaloupe vine already has flowers!

After garden work, I did some clean up around the house. This included dumping a bin that Porkchop had filled with leaves and left in the basement doorway (yeah, I’m looking at YOU, Porkchop!). The bin had filled with water and was even sprouting some sunflowers from the bird feeder seed. So, this bin had been sitting around for at least a month, growing fouler with each passing day. When I picked it up, dozens of mosquitoes flew out of it. Great – not only was it sprouting sunflowers, it was breeding mosquitoes. I drug the bin to the back corner of our yard and dumped it. And the stench that arose was THE most horrible smell EVER. EVER!!!

When I went out in the yard to do other stuff, I would get a whiff of the smell and hope that no one else could smell it. Our neighbors already think we’re strange, and I don’t need another mark against me. But, honestly, who could NOT smell that smell? Even with a nose swollen on the inside from allergies, I could smell it with no problem. Ugh… On the bright side, the leaves should be a wonderful addition to the compost bin (after they’ve dried out some and are less stinky).

Once the outside work was taken care of, I settled inside and poached a chicken. Using the stock and the dark meat, I made chao xa ga (Vietnamese version of chicken congee). For the past month or so, I’ve been craving a simple chicken and rice dish that my mom used to make, but I wanted it to be a little different. When I saw this recipe, I knew it was what I had been tasting in my head. The whole process took quite some time, but it was well worth the effort.

With the rest of the chicken, I made a pesto-ish chicken salad that I had for lunch today. I also froze two cups of shredded chicken and 8 cups of chicken broth (and that was after using 9 cups for the recipe!). If you’re looking for good poaching directions, I suggest this post. Seriously, use a whole chicken that was raised locally…don’t buy cut up parts at the big grocery store. After driving through Tyson country in Arkansas, there is no way I can buy that crap ever again. Ever smell a commercial chicken house? It’s filth. Pure, unadulterated filth. Chickens are not meant to be raised in that manner. Now that I think about it, commercial chicken houses smell even worse than the gross leaf bin did.

Anyway….I also had a special treat yesterday from the Mud House: an iced caramel latte (decaf) and a piece of gooey butter cake. The cake had cherries in it from trees in our neighborhood. Nice! Now I want to plant a cherry tree for sure!

That’s it! Have a great week!

Weekend Night Sounds

It’s Friday night, which means in a couple of hours, our block will look and sound like this:

This place is essentially two doors down from us. It’s annoying, and the atmosphere outside the bar often feels unsafe. The bar used to be a sedate place where neighborhood drunks went, but due to a change in ownership, it is now hopping.

It’s a complicated situation with the liquor license, and I don’t want to give full details here because it’s boring. A few folks in the area are working on a protest petition, and I sincerely hope we’re able to get the liquor license revoked.

But on to more fun things…

We’ve been doing a lot of neighborhood cleaning/gardening activities recently. Last Saturday was the cleanup blitz, and we worked on our alley with six other people. We picked up a lot of trash, raked up a ton of leaves, and generally made things look neater. On Sunday, we attended our community garden organizational meeting, and are gearing up to plant things tomorrow.

Yes, planting day finally! We will be planting in the community garden and in our own backyard.

Actually, we’ve already planted some things at our place. Here are radishes, spinach, and sugar snap peas:

This photo was taken last week, and things are much bigger already. We also have onions and beets coming up in this bed.

In the other beds, we have a ton of volunteer plants: self-seeded tomatoes, squash, peppers, and other unknown things. I’ve been pulling up these volunteers because I already have seedlings that I want to plant, and it is really quite sad. I decided to leave a couple of tomato plants, and today I found them chopped off!! Damned cut worms at it already!! Or maybe squirrels…grrrr.

We have so many unknown squash plants coming up, this year I will remember to not put squash seeds into the compost bin!

Our most interesting volunteer is this guy:

At first I thought it was cabbage, and then cauliflower, but it is now much taller and has broccoli-looking things forming. This plant, and two others that I pulled out, are growing from leaves that I had composted (in situ, maybe). It is really quite strange. I remember getting broccoli in the fall through Fair Shares, and I remember it having leaves and some stalk associated with it. I’m letting this one grow just for fun. If I get some broccoli out of it, even sweeter.

Speaking of sweet, we have a million strawberry flowers!

Okay, not a million, but very close. We let these plant run loose and haven’t been cutting the runners off. I’m surprised we have so many flowers.

And check out these flowers:

Blueberries! Very exciting.

Other food stuff…

Last week I mixed up some olive oil dough from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and Porkchop made us mini pizzas using the dough:

This is mine and is pesto and sundried tomato (actually ovendried because these are tomatoes we grew last summer, dried, and froze). We enjoyed these pizzas so much, we had them two nights in a row.

This week has been all about beef brisket. We had Suzi and Dale over for dinner on Sunday, and I cooked an 8 pound brisket using this Smitten Kitchen recipe (we also had mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, fresh baked bread, and pound cake with strawberries picked last summer and whipped cream). The brisket was delicious, but there was SO much of it. If you combined all the previous times in my life that I’ve eaten brisket, it would be less than how much I’ve consumed this week. We have 1 and half pieces left, and I do hope Porkchop takes care of those.

I’ve also been baking a lot of my favorite whole wheat banana bread. This is the second Friday night in a row I’ve made it. But, this loaf is for tomorrow’s community garden planting.

I can’t wait to start having fresh vegetables again!


Porkchop found a perfect switch in the yard:

She and her switch are not to be messed with.

Keetah is the most photogenic of all of us:

It’s too bad my head is in the corner of this picture. Otherwise, it would be perfect.

Have a great weekend!