August 31, 2010: A Wonderful SurPRIZE & Spinning My Wheels

A Wonderful SurPRIZE
"Dirt Lover" Lori celebrated her blog's first birthday on August 11th., and she recently offered a lovely prize to one of the readers of  Beyond Dirt - My Creative Journey  to celebrate the occasion.  I happen to be the recipient of said lovely prize, and couldn't be happier!  It arrived in the mail today, thank you Lori! 

A beautiful hard covered volume of Country Gardens

Gorgeous floral photos

 Full of ideas for decorating house and patio

 An entry I can only dream about

Lori's blog is one of my favorites.  I hope you all join me in following her Creative Journey.

Spinning My Wheels

Mr. Granny came into the kitchen last night, around eight-o'clock, and told me I was just spinning my wheels.  He said I'd been working all day, and the kitchen was just as messy at eight as it had been at four!  It did seem like I was working really hard, yet accomplishing very little, but everything I did yesterday was so time consuming.  

First there was that big basket of tomatoes, out on the patio table, that had to have something done to them soon.  They got washed, cut up and put in the big pot, simmered until they were soft, pureed with the stick blender, strained through the chinois (fancy name for the strainer), and back on the stove to simmer down to half the original volume.

That took care of all the tomatoes but two, which will be used as slicers today.

While the tomato sauce was simmering, I decided some home made hamburger buns would be good for a dinner of grilled hamburgers, so I had the bread machine whip out the dough, then got them in the oven to bake.  As soon as the dough was out of the machine, I filled it again for a fresh loaf of bread.  I'm sure loving that new bread machine!  Once the buns were out of the oven, I decided to bake a "pumpkin" pie with the half of a baked butternut squash that was languishing in the fridge.  I know, I know....I said I'd never bake another butternut squash pie after the knock down drag out fight I had with Mr. Granny over the last one.   It's been just over a year since the last butternut pie was baked, and I haven't let Mr. Granny forget about it for a moment.  I'm one who holds grudges.

Fresh baked bread, buns and pie.  Yes, I had a big slice of it.  Then I had another big slice of it.  I'm going to have another big slice of it for lunch today.  I'll eat the whole damned pie myself!  

Oh, notice the new Crockpot in the picture above!  I replaced the one with the cracked crock last weekend.  Mr. Granny bought himself a new 42" LCD TV, so I treated myself to a new Crockpot.  Somehow that doesn't sound fair.  But that was another job accomplished yesterday, the cooker was filled with enough chicken thighs for a week's worth of dog dinners.

The other day I dug down to the bottom of the chest freezer, and retrieved a 10-pound turkey breast that had been hiding for a couple of months.  I put it in the refrigerator to thaw, thinking it would be ready to cook today, but it was ready yesterday.  That meant the grilled hamburgers on home made buns had to be put on hold while I cooked the turkey.  Buns were packaged and frozen, the roaster oven was hauled off the shelf in the garage and set up out on the patio, and the turkey was put in to roast.

It's unbelievable how fast a turkey roasts in these roaster ovens.  I usually forget I have this one sitting out in the garage, but every time I use it I wonder why I don't use it more often.  

The turkey was moist and tender....and ready two hours before our regular dinner time!    We decided to have an early dinner, so I did a quick microwave stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, while Mr. Granny made a quick run to the store for some canned cranberry sauce.  Don't tell me you're shocked that I'd eat canned cranberry sauce....I love the stuff.

With dinner finished, and my third load of dishes in the dishwasher, my job still wasn't finished.  The tomato sauce was still simmering on the stove, and ready to be canned.  I rummaged through the refrigerator and found one pint jar of jam that was nearly empty, transferred the jam to another container and washed the jar.  Then I went out to the garage and checked all the cupboards.  I found three more pint jars and 10 quart jars.  I brought the pints inside and got them washed, started the water in the canner cooking, and assembled all my canning tools.

 The four pint jars were filled, as well as two freezer containers.  

That's the absolute end of the pint jars, so once I fill those 10 quart jars with diced tomatoes, and maybe round up enough half-pints for one more batch of hot pepper jelly, my canning will be finished for the year.

August 30, 2010: Harvest Monday

Daphne's Dandelions is the host for Harvest Monday, where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. Please visit her blog and leave a link, so we can enjoy your harvest photos!

The week of August 23-August 29
36 oz. bush beans
46 oz. pole beans
16 oz. beets
28 oz. carrots
84 oz. cucumbers
9 oz. lettuce
70 oz. sweet peppers
54 oz. butternut
6 oz. yellow crookneck squash
52 oz. zucchini
24 oz. strawberries
968 oz. tomatoes

Total for week: 1393 ounces = 87 pounds
Total ytd: 603 pounds

Cooler days and chilly nights are slowing down the tomato production, not to mention that I've ripped out a few more plants this week.  The sweet peppers are huge, but slow turning color.  I probably have three or four that are turning red or yellow now.  My second planting of pole beans is beginning to bear, but certainly not in the amounts the Fortex have given me.  Fortex continues to be the largest provider of green beans for freezer and table, but I think I'll stop picking them now so they can produce seeds for me to plant next year.

I've been narrowing down my tomato choices for the 2011 garden, determined not to grow so many next year.  The three that are definitely on my grow list so far, are Suduth's Strain Brandywine (thank you, Dan), Amish Paste (thank you, Kelly) and Eva Purple Ball (thank you, DaBeardedOne).  I have seeds from these three fermenting in small cups on my windowsill.  Those will be my three indeterminates.  My determinate is yet to be chosen, but I may go back to growing Celebrity, which has been my tomato of choice in past years.

August 26, 2010: Same Old Same Old


The end is near.  I promise.  I really am out of jars now, and I've been ripping out tomato plants like crazy.  Today I canned three quarts and seven pints of diced tomatoes in juice.  Very labor intensive, as I peeled, cored, seeded and diced all the tomatoes, then heated up the juice I'd made earlier today, added the diced tomatoes, brought it to a boil, ladled into jars with lemon juice and salt, then processed them in the boiling water bath.  I had leftover juice, so I canned another two quarts and one pint.  Today's canning brought this year's total to:

40 pints salsa
23 quarts tomato juice
14 pints tomato sauce
7 pints barbecue sauce
7 pints diced tomatoes
3 quarts diced tomatoes

5 half-pints sweet pickle relish
5 quarts refrigerator dill pickles

11 pints peach jam
6-1/2 half-pints hot pepper jelly
3-1/2 pints peach-blueberry jam
9 pints strawberry jam
5 pints apple butter

I should have a few jars freed up by the time my jalapeno peppers are ready, so I'd like to make one more batch of hot pepper jelly.  I may, if the tomatoes continue to pile up, buy another dozen pints for more salsa.

Besides canning tomatoes today, I picked, snapped, blanched and froze a bunch of green beans.  I'd say there were about four pounds all together, but I cooked up a big pot of them to add to Annie and Otto's meals.  Probably three pounds or so were frozen, but I won't know until I bag them tomorrow.  The Fortex pole beans are producing again.  I am so in love with that variety!

My neighbor, Pat, was in the hospital with pneumonia again this week.  This is the second time this summer.  The doctor told her she had to get rid of her little dog, Bandit, as she is too allergic to animal dander.  I'm sure she's just sick about it, she was awfully fond of the little guy.  Bandit has gone to Spokane with Pat's son.  I do hope they keep him in their family.

August 24, 2010: Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes!

Dirt Lover, Lori, asked if I used a Victorio strainer to process my tomatoes.  No, I don't have one, although I wish I did!  Trying to describe what I used, I Googled it and found I'm using a "vintage" colander!  Fitting for a "vintage" Granny, I'd say.

My vintage strainer.

Nine and a half quarts of tomato juice were canned today.

But I still have this to look forward to tomorrow.

August 24, 2010: Ruthless Garden Destruction

I feel rather badly that I'm ripping out tomato plants, when so many of you are still waiting for yours to ripen.  It has just become necessary to remove some of the plants that are encroaching on more desirable  varieties, or those that are looking sickly and bedraggled from the recent hot temperatures.  I mean, it's not like I really need more tomatoes!  

Before I started on the tomatoes, I cut back some of the huge marigolds that were hiding the red zinnias from view, then trimmed the butternut squash vines that were growing out into the lawn.

I tried to be really careful but, unfortunately, a couple of lovely little immature butternuts were accidentally pulled with the overgrown vines.  The garden cart is heaped full of marigolds, butternut vines and an entire Nyagous tomato plant.  I did save the nearly ripe tomatoes.

I feel badly about that butternut squash on top of the garden cart.  I've picked two ripe ones so far, and they are running right at 4 pounds each.

Behind the garden shed, two of the five plants got the axe.  The Brandywine, Eva Purple Ball and Spawn of Angora Super Sweet (aka Velvet Red Cherry) remain, but I think spawn will be the next to go.  It's not super sweet, nor is it very productive.  There are some watering concerns back here, too.  I had installed drip lines to feed all the plants behind the shed, but our irrigation water got contaminated with milfoil, an invasive water plant, and it completely clogged the emitters, making the entire line useless.

This month we had near record breaking temperatures, on both the high and low ranges.  It has gone as high as 104F on the 17th., and a low of 45F last night.  We're expecting to hit 99F once more, this week, then the temperatures should settle down to the high 70s to low 80s, with nights in the low to mid 50s.  Sounds like good garden cleanup weather to me!

August 23, 2010: Harvest Monday

Daphne's Dandelions  is the host for Harvest Monday, where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. Please visit her blog and leave a link, so we can enjoy your harvest photos!

August 17

August 18 (1)

August 18 (2)

August 19

August 20

August 22 (1)

August 22 (2)

The Week of August 16-22

58 oz. bush beans = 3.6 pounds
78 ounces pole beans = 4.9 pounds of Fortex beans
16 oz. carrots
52 ounces cucumbers = 3.25 pounds
4 oz. basil
6 oz. lettuce
20 oz. sweet peppers
115 ounces butternut = 7.2 pounds
30 oz. crookneck = 1.9 pounds
96 ounces zucchini = 6 pounds
12 oz. strawberries
1380 ounces tomatoes = 86.25 pounds

Total for week: 1867 ounces = 116.7 pounds
Total year to date: 516 pounds
 This week's harvest was all about the tomatoes and beans.  I got about five pounds of beans in the freezer, and most of the tomatoes canned.  My youngest son did get a good sized bag of green beans, quite a few tomatoes, all of the crookneck squash, a few zucchinis and a butternut squash.  
We had our first butternut squash of the year for Sunday's dinner, baked with butter and brown sugar, and served with breaded  pork cutlets, broccoli sauteed with fresh garlic, and slice Brandywine tomatoes.

Saturday's kitchen mess ended up with 12 pints of tomato sauce canned.  Talk about a long process!  I started cooking the tomatoes in the morning, after breakfast, and had two crockpots and my soup pot full of sauce still simmering away until nearly 11 that night.  By the time I got the last five jars out of the canner, it was past midnight!

August 21, 2010: I Cracked My Crock, and Other Kitchen Mishaps

There is only one fresh tomato left in my kitchen right now, and that's for my lunch. Both of my crockpots are full of sauce in the making and simmering away. The big soup pot is on the stove, filled with the last batch of the day, which will soon be ready to puree with my immersion blender and run through the colander. I can't believe I've had that immersion blender in the kitchen drawer all these years and never thought to use it for the tomato juice/sauce! I can't remember what blog I was reading recently that reminded me to try it, but whoever you are, thank you! Previous to using that, I was cooking down the tomatoes and running them through the colander, which was giving me a really thin juice and wasting a lot of good pulp. Now I use the stick blender to puree skin and all, so only the seeds and a small amount of skin get removed by the colander, making a lovely, thick juice.


Guess what happens when writing a blog takes one away from the stove.

The pot isn't quite so full now.

Yucky mess.

Well, with that cleaned up, and everything under control once more, the phone rang and my daughter wanted me to go to Costco with her. I turned everything on low, and left Mr. Granny in charge. I kept my fingers crossed that the large crockpot would hold together until its batch of sauce was finished. I had noticed a fine crack in the crock, and it has gone all the way through the to the bottom but not up the sides. It looks like a new crockpot is in my future. That's one appliance I wouldn't want to be without.

The pot of apple butter that I was cooking yesterday gave me five pints. I'd love to make more, but the jar situation is getting really bad around here, and I really don't think I want to buy more of them. I rummaged through cupboards this morning, and found probably enough pint jars for today's tomato sauce, and I have a few more quart jars for juice. After that, if I can't find room in the freezer, I'll have to give most of the tomatoes away.

August 20, 2010: WOOT!

It's been a busy couple of days here, what with picking and processing tomatoes, picking apples over at Pat's house next door, and making apple butter. If that wasn't enough, I've spent hours in the last two days refreshing WOOT! during their Woot-off, just waiting for their BOC (stands for bag of crap) to appear, and I just happened to go take my fresh loaf of bread out of the bread maker, walk over to refresh the page, and there it was! I actually think I got it (it disappears/sells out in a matter of seconds). The order status thingy is still running in circles, but it's showing the purchase on my account. (Update: I got the email order confirmation! I'm really getting a BOC!)

If you have never experienced a Woot-off, you haven't lived. Normally, WOOT! offers one item a day for sale, but during a woot-off, they clear out their warehouse and sell everything really cheap. As soon as an item is sold, they offer the next one. Sometimes it's just a matter of a few minutes between items, others take a bit longer. Usually a Woot-off only lasts for the day, but this one has been going on for two days and nights. Of course, the main thing is waiting for them to offer the famous BOC. I think this was the first one offered since bought them out, and it was sure a stroke of luck to get it....maybe. It might really be a bag of crap!

If you're curious about what some have received in their BOC, just go on YouTube and search for "WOOT bag of crap". I'd like to be like the lady that got 24 MP3 players (from 2GB to 16GB capacity) and three digital camera bags. Oh, well, whatever I get it was worth the $3 that it cost me (I had a code for free shipping), just for the two days of entertainment and the excitement of "the kill".

Now, back to the matters at hand, cooking and gardening.

Wednesday I caught up with most of the tomatoes, by making and canning five quarts of tomato juice. Of course, I then went to the garden and picked more.

I began a big pot of barbecue sauce (Ball Blue Book recipe) before dinner yesterday, and pulled six pints from the boiling water bath at ten-thirty last night. Talk about time consuming!

This morning I took a basket over to Pat's yard and picked a bunch of golden delicious apples that were just going to waste. She doesn't spray them, but they're nice apples with a bit of trimming, and very good for applesauce or, in this case, apple butter. I'm doing mine in the crockpot, so I'll probably be up late canning again tonight. Notice the two wooden spoons holding the lid off the crockpot. That's a good way to keep the spatters from going all over the kitchen, while allowing the contents to cook down and thicken.

I still have two large containers of tomatoes, not to mention a windowsill full, left from yesterdays picking.

Then I picked more today, from behind the garden shed, but I'm just going to ignore the rest of them until tomorrow morning. I'm trying to convince myself to start a batch of ketchup this afternoon, since I'll be up half the night with the apple butter, anyway.

August 17, 2010: Baby, It's Hot Outside

At six o'clock tonight, it was still 102 degrees. Luckily, we are expecting the temperatures to drop into the 80s by next week. I don't know if we broke the 105 degree record today or not, but it must have been close. *My TV just told me the high was only 103 today.

I caught up with the tomatoes today. Well, almost. I still have ten more on the windowsill, but all the rest of them have been processed. Well, almost. Ten pints of salsa were made, making forty pints this month, and a big pot of tomato juice is ready to can, but I ran out of lemon juice. The tomato juice is cooling in the refrigerator, and I'll have to go to the store in the morning so I can finish it up into either juice or sauce. Of course, there will probably be more tomatoes to pick tomorrow, it's too darned hot to do it tonight and the green beans really must be picked. Oh, yes...two more zucchini. I wonder what doorstep I can leave them on.

August 16, 2010: I Can't Catch Up!

Five quarts of tomato juice and a pan of zucchini brownies should have made a dent in it, don't you think?

Well, it didn't. I just had to go out and pick more.

And these had to be added to what was leftover from yesterday. I think there are still six zucchini hiding in the refrigerator.

So now I have all of these to can tomorrow.

Oh, I'm not complaining. Not much, anyway. I am at the point where I'm going to eliminate any tomato plants that either don't taste very good or don't look really healthy.

Like this one. Why are the worst tasting tomatoes always the biggest and healthiest? It went right up over the roof. But not any's gone. I chopped it down.

August 16, 2010: Harvest Monday

Daphne's Dandelions is the host for Harvest Monday, where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. Please visit her blog and leave a link, so we can enjoy your harvest photos!

The Week of August 9-15

26 oz. bush beans
35 oz. pole beans
46 oz. beets
15 oz. carrots
65 oz. cucumbers
11 oz. basil
32 oz. potatoes
53 oz. sweet peppers
30 oz. crookneck squash
80 oz. zucchini
48 oz. strawberries
1087 oz. tomatoes (nearly 68 pounds. Finally!)

Total for week: 1528 ounces = 95.5 pounds
Total year to date: 399 pounds

As you can see, the tomatoes are finally ripening! It's been a busy week of picking and canning, and I find myself once again behind. The patio table is covered with ripe tomatoes, the refrigerator is stuffed full of zucchini, green beans, beets and crookneck squash. There will be a lot of harvesting, canning and freezing in Granny's kitchen in the next few weeks.

I'll probably be taking out a few of the tomato plants. Some are showing stress from the heat or beginning to show some early blight, and some are just not being put to good use, as they are being replaced with larger, more flavorful varieties. All of the small, yellow fruited plants are going. I'll keep the red/black cherry tomatoes, as they can just be tossed in the pot and cooked up for tomato sauce.

I have two of the prettiest eggplants. I'm seriously thinking of planting some in pots in my front yard next year. These were doing nothing, as far as showing anything but blossoms, until this past week. Suddenly they are absolutely loaded with little "eggs". This variety is called Red Egg, and I have no idea what it might taste like when ripe. Actually, I've never eaten eggplant, so I don't have any idea what it's supposed to taste like!