Sunday, August 31, 2014

Canning on a Friday night

I'm canning seven quarts of green beans in the pressure cooker. I snapped them while rewatching an episode of "Warehouse 13." Is rewatching a word? Great show. Good beans.

C. picked the beans over a few days. At least the deer left us some!

We ate the biggest tomato so far – 20.5 ounces – yesterday on sandwiches. It made two, with some slices left over for dessert.

The garden is running our days now. C.'s days, anyway. She picks greens by the laundry-basketful for the rabbits and the big animals. Tomatoes are everywhere in the kitchen – ripening in bowls on the counter, waiting for the jar in the fridge. Ghostly white mini cucumbers and patty pan squash fill the crisper drawers. C. canned four quarts of dill pickles and three of tomatoes last night, and I made eight loaves of zucchini bread and a pan of brownies. Most of the z bread is in the freezer, for the far-off time when zucchini sounds appealing. Right now the damn things are everywhere, and growing threateningly larger.

Guineas in the zucchini squash.

Indigo Rose tomatoes. Funny that they are really purple, and Prudens Purple tomatoes are
pink. And then there are Violet Jaspers, a small streaky red-and-green variety.

Our tomatillos are HUGE this year.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Boa in the chicken house!

C. called me out to the chicken house. "And bring the camera!" she said. It was a small snake, maybe 20 inches long, with a funny blunt tail.

I'm crazy about snakes, but had never seen one of these. His scales were tiny, as were his eyes. He had a rubbery look about him. We scooped him up and let him run through our fingers for a while. I took him out to the garden – C. said the chickens would kill him if we left him in the chicken house. I looked him up – he's a rubber boa, not uncommon in this part of the West. He eats young gophers, moles and voles. He's welcome to stay.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mid-August, and a bat extraction

We're up early, for a weekend. It's the last installment of the four-part estate sale in town.

The weather has gone cooler and rainy. It's wonderful.

Time to think about getting wood in, and doors up. (After the estate sale.)

The sale was good; we brought home treasures and some lumber. And grandson KC came up with friends Cullen and DJ to camp. They slept on the roof under the giant stars we have out here.

We had a bat in the building, and this time it didn't end badly with a little grave outside. Cullen and I modified an old fishing net with duct tape and pink tulle, and I bumped the bat from a tall corner into the net with a stick, and Cullen folded the net over the little guy and carried him outside, where he nimbly clambered out and flew off. We stopped briefly for photos in the hall.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

First firewood

Yesterday we hit the fabulous Deer Park book sale, and that and some garden work took up the whole day. Improvised some bookshelves in an unused doorway to the old girls' bathroom. Ate giant-tomato sandwiches.

Today we answered a Craig's List ad for free firewood from a couple in Riverside that had a medium-sized pine hit their house in last week's wind storm. So we have a couple of loads of green pine for next winter. They have two more downed trees we can get next weekend. Pine isn't the best for heating, but it's OK, especially when mixed with fir and larch. And it feels good to be slightly ahead on next winter's wood supply (especially since we haven't started on this winter's supply yet).

It's funny that they were giving away the wood. They heat with pellets. I think that's nuts. Pellets don't grow on trees – you have to buy them. So they have perfectly good firewood that they can't use because it isn't chopped up and extruded into little tubes. And the hopper-feeders on pellet stoves run on electricity, so in a power outage you've got nothing.

It's hot out. I should be climbing the ladder and looking at the underside of the roof sump box in the girls' locker room. It leaks like crazy there, and rain is forecast for midweek. I hate working on a ladder.

C. started to can borscht yesterday, but the pressure cooker wouldn't hold a seal. So we have seven jars of red Russian soup in the fridge. I think I know what's for dinner. I guess I'd better order a new gasket online as we can't be without the canner.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Garden notes August

Tomatozilla! It's a prudens purple, and luscious. It weighs 18.6 ounces, and I think it's our biggest ever. The vines are full of lots of big ones, though, so we may top it this season.

And C. dug up this interesting mutant spud with a waistline. It's a Yukon gold, from the dry, neglected orchard area where she found some neglected (and large) cucumbers and patty pan squash. It weighs 17.2 ounces (in case you were wondering).

Next year, we need to:
• widen the paths
• plant more Amish paste tomatoes – those suckers are HUGE.
• improve our deer-proofing
• bring the silo from the Ancestral Home to serve as a garden shed
• come up with a watering system for at least some of the beds

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It's what's for dinner

A big fat tomato. On still-warm, homemade wheat bread, with a slap of mayo. Mmmm. Not sure of the variety as the tags are buried in a tomato jungle, but this particular tomato was about the size of a softball, very red and perfectly ripe. In thick slices it easily made two open-faced sandwiches, with some to spare.

It is good to have a garden.

I would have taken a photo, but I was hungry and my fingers were sticky.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Freak wind storm No. 2

So another storm hit Saturday evening, knocked the power (and well pump) out, and took trees down on the hill above us as we watched. Crack! Poom! as the tree hit the ground. And dust and debris rose in a great cloud that was immediately ripped to tatters by the crazy wind.

Maybe these aren't "freak" storms, but the new norm. We'll have to wait and see if we get another one next week...

We closed the place up, got the kerosene lamp and candles ready, and waited for the return of our mod cons. Our frozen food was hauled back to town – again. I bought ice in Deer Park and we used water left from the last disaster. And we waited. The days were hot, and the nights dark. About noon today the lights came on, and water gushed again from the taps.

We've had the sprinkler going since then, trying to catch up with the poor parched garden.

The last freak storm decimated the big trailer park in Riverside, about five miles from here, and knocked down power lines on our road and all across north Spokane County. Some poor bastard was impaled by a pine branch while driving his car. (I've heard he is recovering.) This one took down more power lines in our area, and the corner of a house that lost most of its pine trees last week. My neighbor had his van crushed by a tree – and my friend from work had two smash his pickup. We lost a couple of trees, including a massive fir that was ripped out by the roots and is hung up on big pine. No idea how we'll take it down.

That's Annie the dachshund at left for scale.

The top is gone out of the tree at right, and the uprooted leaner is at center.

The leaner.