Category Archives: Gardening

The 2017 Great Greenhouse Apocalypse

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Survivors of the 2017 Great Greenhouse Apocalypse

Well, aren’t I glad I didn’t stay home yesterday and work in the yard when the weather was beautiful and the sun was shining because today it is gray and rainy and my yard chores will not be done, and the lawn won’t be mowed, nor the garden beds roto-tilled.

I guess it’ll be time in the greenhouse adjusting watering for the survivor plantlings and I’ll be feeling badly that most of my greenlings are dead. That’s right. Dead.  Dead. Dead. I gave them their first fertilization, mixed it too strong, and now … sad, withered, wilted , shriveled, dead or on life support mixed peppers, tomatoes, and basil plants  must be interred in the compost bin.

It’s far too late in the season to begin again so I’ll be planting garden center veggies … which if you add in the cost of running the greenhouse, seeds, planting medium, the new mist watering system and buying 5$ plants to grow a veg … well, off the top of my head I’m estimating that each tomato or pepper I harvest this fall will cost me 10-15$ (well, maybe not ‘that’ much). But, hey, I can’t worry about that now, can I?

Because, it’s not the money, or the harvest itself (well, maybe a little), but it is digging in dirt, waging war against weeds, and against the hordes of fruit loving, voracious beaks the crazy bird lady next door entices to the neighborhood, and my horrible assigned pressurized irrigation time (middle of the night). Those things keep my heart pumping and mind focused, but it’s truly the wonder in my spirit when I watch a minuscule seed burst open seeking sunlight,then mature into God’s gift of life … fresh, bountiful food for our table, bounty in the freezer and  jars on shelves.

I’m fearful the sight of shriveled, dead plantlings might burn your eyes out, so here’s a photo of The Survivors of the Wanderingkeri 2017 great greenhouse apocalypse …. Chimayo Chili Peppers.

Free Seeds and Wildebeests

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It’s the middle of February (it flabbergasts me that its been 7 weeks of winter and the days are visibly lengthening already) … which means it’s time to open the greenhouse! Last week I gathered the peat moss and vermiculite, cleaned & sterilized the planting trays and turned on the heat in the greenhouse. Ah! The smell of wet earth and the promise of an abundant harvest tickles me right down to my toes.

Anticipation

Anticipation

Spring may be 5 weeks away, but the garlic is 4 inches high in the garden box, the chives are sending out bright green shoots and weeds are already bursting out around the perennials. And although I’m still itching to use up all the snow on the ski hill, my fingernails are beginning to fill up with dirt.

Yesterday I took the seeded trays from the darkness of their incubator, setting them side by side beneath the misters I installed last week. The misting system needs a bit of tweaking to narrow their coverage a bit since they’re watering windows and floors along with the plants on the shelves. Overall my “I’m tickled” level was high …

So far on the shelves I’ve Chimayo Peppers, Mixed Peppers, Roma Tomatoes, Spinach, Marigolds  and Spearmint. I’ll be starting some Black Heirloom Tomatoes seeds (… I love FREE seeds). These were sent in the box with my misting system from Dripworks.com (they’re my go to watering system guys).  I may as well plant them too, right? Can’t waste a good seed!

A MUST Read!

A MUST Read!

Cheers to this lovely time of year, the cusp of a seasonal change … snow or rain, ski or garden … I love these days when I don’t have to make a choice. I can do both. Whether I will or not is entirely dependent on the whims of my thoughts this wet Monday morning.  I may stay in low gear and savor homemade pumpkin waffles made with pumpkins from last fall’s harvest, smell the dirt while checking on the plantlings then settle back into a cosy chair to finish this totally marvelously written memoir by Beryl Markam titled West with the Night.  I closed my eyes last night with scenes of Africa, giraffes in telegraph wire necklaces, lions on railroad tracks, wildebeests in their dervish dances viewed from the cockpit of a tiny 2 seater bi-plane.

Life is an Adventure … I never know where the hours will take me. Vaya con Dios my friends!

 

 

 

Pick, Pit, Slice, & Juice … It’s Harvest Time!!

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Boxes of Love

Boxes of Love

It’s Harvest Time! Pick, pit, slice, juice,  freeze a little here, bottle a little there, dehydrate a bit over there. My backyard garden has reached the tipping point … we can’t eat the fresh goodies fast enough, and the neighbors are starting to hide when they see me coming.  … Monday it was pear sauce, pear leather, and whole tomatoes, along with drying fresh mint. Yesterday, a small batch of green beans and today it’s more apple slices for the dehydrator, hot pepper jelly, and grape juice.  I do have to fess up that I burnt a batch of pears … the house smells yucky.

Hot Pepper Jelly

Hot Pepper Jelly

For at least a month I’ve been harvesting apples, making apple butter and dried apple rings (with cinnamon and sugar).  We had to fight for our pears this year; blister mites started early, ugly things, but they tasted great. We also have a dwarf apple tree grafted with 3 different types of apples; early summer, mid-summer and late-summer which spaces out the dehydration time (thank goodness)! Don’t ask me what kind of apples they are … ’cause I don’t remember … in fact, I’m not certain I ever knew.

Beans from a Bucket

Beans from a Bucket

And blackberries! It’s been a bumper crop; I’ve frozen blackberries, given blackberries away and away and away again. I have so much blackberry jam from 2 years ago … I don’t think I’ll be doing that again for a while. And the Chilean Chimnaya Peppers are are brilliant red and ready for rista tying.  And just a note, these babies are HOT …  1/2 of one replaced 10 jalapenos in my hot pepper jelly recipe.

Our dwarf peach tree is totally loaded.  So tomorrow early on it’ll be peach jam, bottled peaches, peach pie, and peach cobbler … and more whole tomatoes. Which to remind myself, I’d better check the zucchini; when I came home from fishing last week there was one that grated out 6 1/2 cups … the double chocolate zucchini cake was irresistible!

A Little Bit Here ... A Little Bit There It's Harvest Time!!

A Little Bit Here … A Little Bit There
It’s Harvest Time!!

Now, why am I bragging about the harvest in my yard?  Because this bountiful harvest comes from a small, city lot with poor rocky, clay-based soil.  How do we do it? Well, Sweetie built 6 grow boxes (4′ x 5′), pick axed and pry bar’d holes to plant 6 fruit trees (we only have 4 surviving though)  …  and dirt, manure, sphagnum moss, and compost comes in bags!  Anyway, I love having fresh produce and fresh fruit  all summer. I can feel a bit virtuous that I’m ‘Eating Local’ … mostly,  I love the feeling of having a ‘bit put by’ … just in case. I am not a ‘farmer’, nor a great gardener, just someone who love the smell of freshly turned soil in the spring, who loves the buzz of bees around the fruit and vegetable flowers, and who loves the taste of tomatoes warm and sweet from the vine.

Growing something from seed, or a greenhouse plant can change us.  There is hope  in planting a garden …  faith that the tiny seed will grow into a plant willing to share all it has with us.  Once you fall in love with a box of dirt and a garden catalog … whoa Nelly … your tomorrow will never be the same.  So why not give it a go? Next spring … find a corner, dig a hole, build a box, salvage a pot or bin  and plant something you love.  Your world will never be the same. I promise.

  Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; (Jeremiah 29:5)

 

 

All Things Basil

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First Harvest ... Basil 2016

First Harvest … Basil 2016

Wanderingkeri has actually been wanderingkeri at home this week … I admit that wandering is in my blood … but love it when my domestic garden-y self has time to just “be”. I arrived home from last week’s journey to discover a dying apricot tree, over-watered garlic, tomatoes in need of fertilizer and burgeoning basil plants.  Garden & yard “work”, I use the term work loosely because for me it is “Dirt Therapy” … my mind is free to ponder thoughts I don’t often make time for when I’m on the move … and as I go about the tasks of tilling the earth, planting and watching the miracle of seed, to plant ,to fruit, to table happen I marvel at the hand of our Creator and how perfectly the world is put together.

Well, my first harvest this season was basil … from seed, to seedling in the greenhouse I tended the plants, wished them well when as greenlings they moved into their summer beds and last evening pinched off a colander full of perfect leaves. The plants wanted to become a bit leggy with little fullness (kind of like a sprouting teenager). Then I had this colander full of basil; Sweetie was up at Council and what was I going to do with all this basil by myself? I texted Peter, my step-son, who is a fantabulous chef, asking for suggestions.  I declined to make pesto (my standard go-to) and besides, I haven’t replaced my blender/food processor that I tossed out in a fit of “oh heck! this isn’t worth the effort to keep fixing” moment. Between Peter’s suggestions and a broader web search I spent the evening making all things basil for dinner.

It's not chicken

It’s not chicken

Paula Deen’s Chicken with Butter & Basil … which I will still have to try using chicken … because the chicken breast I thawed wasn’t actually chicken … turned out it was a tiny pork roast (note to self … be more specific on labeling your freezer food Keri).  I’d already prepped the ingredients for the recipe, so in another “what the heck” moment, I cut the roast in half (lengthwise), buttered it and popped it on a very hot grill. Turns out pork is Yummy with basil and butter … along with avocado and tomato slices and Giada’s refreshing Italian Lemonade.

Ah .. Italian Lemonade ...

Ah .. Italian Lemonade …

While I was in the midst of my “that’s not chicken” moment, I was also making Giada De Laurentis’ Italian Lemonade (another use for basil) and from one of Peter’s suggestions I found Jamie Oliver’s Lime-Basil Sorbet recipe for dessert. The sorbet wasn’t ready for that evening’s meal, but the following night … another score point for fresh basil.  The sorbet was perfectly sweet & tart and the basil added an unusual twist that brought it all together.  Refreshing and light for an end of the evening nosh. And if that wasn’t all; last night, cold from the fridge, Sweetie pronounced  the left-over pork roast “wonderful” and ate it with a bit of mustard, he said it would have been perfect if the mustard was Chinese rather than Trader Joe’s spicy brown.

Well, later today we’re heading for an over-nighter on the river … the goal is catch fish, not mess with camping & cooking.  Our go-to for a quick evening meal … we buy a Costco rotisserie chicken, a couple of small sides along with some muffins or rolls for breakfast then toss them into a small cooler along with the Jet-boil, a couple of bags of mint tea & Starbucks Via packs and we’re set.  No muss, no fuss and plenty of time for tossing a line … tossing a line, now that’s another perfect time to ponder.

Here’s to Pondering what’s important … and, Oh! Do I need to ask if it is okay to eat sorbet for breakfast?

From Vine to Bottle to Table

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Amazing .. you can still buy these!

 

Here’s a question … do you know what this is?

I woke this morning thinking about my Grandma Penrod and her patience as she taught me to “put up” tomato juice for the first time using the standing sieve and pestle … just like this.  This was my introduction to the wonderful world of juicing tomatoes for canning.

My dear grandmother and I spent hours in her basement squishing juice and pulp through those tiny holes in the sieve with the wooden pestle, scraping the pulp off into the juice, then emptying the battered skins and seeds into the trash.  I didn’t think we would ever get through that first bushel of tomatoes.  I used this method for about 3 years or so then my dad brought home to my mother a “Vitorio” juicer (which, being young and poor, I borrowed).

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Vitorio Juicer (like the one I had)

Wonder of all wonders that baby could “crank” through a bushel of tomato juice in about a third of the time. Cranking was tiring and as the years went by (and I bought my own magic juicer) I had my kids turn the crank and squish the fruit through the feed tube (lots of fun and lots of mess). Seeing dozens of bottles of juice lined up on the counter, lids popping as the bottles cooled … made my heart just sigh with accomplishment.

Then one year my Inventive Dad ‘added a motor with a pulley belt” to mom’s Vitorio and BOOM we were in major juice production mode. (I started borrowing her’s again) because bushels and bushels of tomatoes became juice in mere minutes (more or less) and canning that would have taken a full day or more, became a mild morning’s work …

Then, one day, after my house was childless and I began contemplating the harvest quantity requirements for fall canning I realized that  I probably didn’t need to can much or at all. I stopped canning  … for many many years. Just how many jars of fruit can one person use in a year?

Anyway … I married Sweetie and became addicted to his spaghetti sauce (made from store bought tomatoes).  We decided that “the sauce” would be even better with home grown and bottled tomatoes like his grandmother used and so I enlarged my garden and increased tomato production  from summer slicer amounts to my heck that’s a lot of tomatoes! AND since no juice is added to the sauce, I’ve changed up my bottling technique …  now I just toss them  fresh picked into a large kettle, stew them a bit, stick the filled jars into the cold pack pot and voila tomatoes for sauce, all chunky and juicy, seeds and all.

IMG_1651Come January, when we’ve eaten the last of the made fresh from the garden sauce,  Sweetie starts the mid-winter batch;  the jars are opened and the contents blend with secret ingredients that simmer for hours and hours filling the house with whiffs of summer.  From vine to bottle to table those tomatoes become a mouthful of wonder, topping fettuccini or polenta and crowned with fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Our meal a gift from our grandmothers …

 

 

 

 

 

 

Odd Summer & Ant Mode

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What an odd summer it’s been.  It’s been a time of waiting and attempting to fill in hours that normally would be spent in my most favorite occupation, demobilizing people from fire camp. One assignment, that’s all this year with weeks and weeks of waiting. During ‘on call’ weeks (3 on 2 off) I can’t just ‘go’ somewhere because when that call comes it’s leave now.  So, what I usually pack into a week off here and there throughout the summer I’m stretching and looking for new things to occupy my time and imagination. BIg fires in California and the Pacific Northwest, but In the area our fire team covers, well, there aren’t  … it’s been moisty  … another odd thing since winter here was anything but moisty.

Fresh Marinara in the Making

Fresh Marinara in the Making

All this unstructured waiting has created a nervousness about my activities … I feel like I have ADD. I go from one thing to another with not much thought. That is bothering me.  Little things are beginning to irritate me; like the new backyard neighbor’s wind chime. Not that I have much against wind chimes, but when it is mega windy night after night and it just tingle-lingle doing its chime-y thing well … I had to put in ear plugs. I love open windows to hear summer symphonies ; cricket serenades and tree leaf noises rustling in the air.  I start reading a book, then feel guilty I’m reading a book; I should be ‘doing’ something ‘productive’. The few posts I started became rants and I didn’t feel y’all needed that negativity  in your mind.  My mind is bouncing from one idea to the next … mostly how to spend money on things ‘to do’.

Today I started into ant mode … freezing and drying berries and herbs from the garden.  Nothing as spectacular as my cousin Kathy Rice who not only has green thumbs but green hands, arms, and feet … but it’s enough for us to use before next year.  Zucchini’s are finally coming on, tomatoes are ripening and are especially yummy with the fresh basil in a caprese salad or sandwich.  Did you know that the colors of a Caprese salad mimic the Italian flag? I inventoried and made a shopping list to replenish and  resupply my food storage needs.  https://wanderingkeri.com/2015/04/09/im-a-closet-prepper/

I’ve been working on my bartering skills … last week I learned how to use a dado on the table saw and to use the router table.  I’m making some mission style picture frames … my first set turned out fabulously; too bad my measurements were so way off.  Next week I’ll give it another shot.  I did see an art studio downtown advertising a welding class.  I think I might like to try that out … Sweetie’s magic shop has a welder just sitting in the corner… hummmm.

So the team is off rotation and I’ve been on national call for 3 days … no much going on so I’m not waiting any longer … I am heading to Ketchum Idaho to do a little camping, fishing, and hiking with my friend Jill.  Just watch, I’ll get to Twin Falls and  get a fire call … if that happens, Jill will be on her own.. (Can’t count on me much in the summer, can you?)

 

Life is Good … I am blessed … A.D.D. is in full gear and I’m looking forward to the next thing my mind can dream up. #icandoitmyself #middleofsummer #itwascoldthismorning

Scrounged Art

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Isn’t it amazing how talented everyone is and how willing they are to share their talents enhances our lives? My focus the past few weeks has been renewing my garden and yard areas. The winter (or what we had of it) was late, hit hard, warmed frightfully and froze horribly again … leaving behind skeletal remains of a cherry tree, and the partial death our apricot and peach trees. It also killed numerous perennials and gave spiders, mites, ants, and slugs a second life … anyway …

Needless to say I’ve been in recoup, redo, and redesign mode. I have gleaned over a few years Pinterest posts (the talented people’s) ideas to add depth and interest to my basic orchard, garden, and lawn setting. Last week I shared my half-finished garden entry … and promised a picture of after procrastination … here it is !

THEN every utility box known to a homeowner lives in  front of my house … a few years ago I camouflaged the power ped with a picket fence behind day lilies and gimee flowers (I love generous friends who share their green thumbs).  Now, what to do with the telephone tower sticking up in the middle of the day lilies in front of the white picket fence hiding the power ped?  What else but turn to Pinterest, and yes! I found a telephone cover topped with a bird house, an inspiration piece from Better Homes & Gardens (http://www.bhg.com/gardening/design/decorate-your-garden/) … this is my rendition.

Faux bird house topping telephone box cover

Faux bird house topping telephone box cover

My two youngest grand-kids painted the roof … Fab-u-lous isn’t it?  I love making ‘folk art’. What do you think of this one?

Yesterday I found myself imagining a separate reading space beneath a river birch that shades our patio. It’s a hidden nook that is protected during the hottest part of the day. Picture this in your mind; an Adirondack chair with ottoman, a small side table and this sign tucked into the flower bed beside it.

My favorite hiding places

My favorite hiding places

Totally fun isn’t it?

I took the idea from http://summercampprogramdirector.com. The inspiration photo had many other literary places but were geared for children; I chose the places I love to return to over and over again.

If you’d like to try your hand at rustic sign making this is a very easy project. First, find wood. I scrounged these sign pieces from Sweetie’s burn it someday pile in the back field of the gun shop. I used left over old primer paint for the base. Don’t you love scrounge projects that don’t cost anyting but time?

I spent about an hour or so searching for these the fonts. I googled the book titles for fonts and found these free downloads. (Thanks again to talented people).  Are you as addicted to Google as I am?

I tried two methods to transfer the letters onto the old wood.  I began with the instructions from http://diddledumpling.blogspot.com/2010/05/tutorial-vintage-looking-painted-sign.html to get stared but then I ran into trouble with the plain printer paper releasing the ink so I took to Pinterest again and found a similar method but using waxed paper http://www.unexpectedelegance.com/2011/09/01/wax-paper-transfer-tutorial/ .  I also used Photoshop Elements to create the words, flip them horizontialy then saved them as a jpg.  I inserted the photo (jpg) into Word to size and print it onto the waxed paper.  After the first one it was easy.  You’ll love your signs.

When I’m planning or working on a project I hear my Dad’s voice saying, “Always use the right tool for the right job”. He would have loved Council and Sweetie’s shop full of ‘magic’ tools,and the collected piles of materials which Sweetie doesn’t seem to mind that I pillage. I am blessed that he is always willing to give me a hand when I tackle something waaaaayyyyy outside my skill zone.

I wonder if he’ll mind when I start that Adirondack chair?