Thursday, September 20, 2012

Here it comes

Skeleton shadow on umbrella top
The change in the seasons from Summer to Autumn, I've been feeling it for the last couple of days, in fact I threw a small cotton quilt on the bed a couple of nights ago because around the wee early hours of the morning there is a distinct chill in the air, and I still have the windows wide open to catch the fresh air. Very welcome I must say from waking up to 80+ degrees I much prefer 60+.

I was out looking at my new vegetable beds that my husband is constructing and they do look magnificent, only two more to go as in filled with soil, then the timed irrigation/drip system. Will also put arches over the beds so that in winter I can place clear plastic over them and in the long hot summer shade cloth. Helps ensure that we get the maximum growing season out of the raised beds. I have my seeds lined up.

In fact, last week I got a spurt of organisation going and finally found a great use for the vintage bottle crate my daughter gave me several years ago. I am going to use it for my seed packages, looks very pretty. I have one more place I need to order some seeds from which just happens to be the oldest seed nursery in the USA. The seed company is Japanese owned and is located in Oakland, California. Be sure to read about their history, and is called Kitazawa Seed Company. In fact this year I shall be ordering some special things as holiday gifts from them. 

The raised beds are made from cedar and we had to wait weeks for a delivery to come down from Oregon, which means that my Autumn planting was delayed. But four are now done and only two more to fill with dirt and stuff. I'll still have to wait until the water system is in otherwise the seeds will burn up in the sun, it is still rather warm and sometimes downright hot at this time of the year.

Zadie's candy (Sungold)
I still have a good crop of small cherry type tomatoes, black cherry, sungold and green doctors. The sungold I am called Zadie's garden candy. She makes a beeline to this tomato plant steadies her feet and reaches up with pudgy little fingers and pops tomatoes into her mouth, seeds sometimes spurt out and you have to duck so that you don't get seed spurted on.

Black Cherry
Green Doctors
I still have quite a few vegetables that are producing rather well, Curly Kale, a volunteer Tomatillo that has taken over the pathway and I didn't have the heart to dig up when I should have. Several Peppers, Eggplants, and of course the lovely Okra. I have a new crop of Kumquats forming and this year I am prepared for frost, I've strung tiny globe lights over three sets of arches, hooked them to a timer so at night the heat will be just enough from the bulbs to keep the citrus from freezing, well that's my plan.
Yesterday was very productive in the kitchen, I made several batches of unsweetened applesauce, packaged them then popped them into the freezer. Also dried loads of apple slices, now they are stored for winter (I'm feeling like a squirrel all of a sudden). And drumroll made a batch of Tomatillo and Apple Salsa, all canned and labelled. Picked up all the apples that were on the ground, bagged them and gave them to Ted for Karen's chickens (her chickens lay wonderful eggs). All in all I am feeling rather chuffed with myself. I know it's awful to feel smug, but I do. Thank you world!!

Crazy Tomatillo

White Eggplant
Okra pods

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Light hearted reading | Online shopping reviews

I do buy online, in fact I do buy quite a bit from Amazon, especially books and some other miscellaneous things. Having said that I also read the reviews of the products. Most are straightforward to the point, don't mess around and give the facts. Like Joe Friday.

So reviews, usually are bland. However once in a while you just spend oddles of time reading and laughing at the creative side of folk with hidden talents. Personally I think all our hidden talents would make such a better world than is presently at hand. Now where in the heck is Esther going with this well someone posted a link on Facebook this morning pointing to the Amazon reviews on of all things 'Bic' pens. Not any old Bic pen you must understand, but 'Bic for Her Fashion Retractable Ball Pen'

The low star comment read as follows:

2.0 out of 5 stars THEY NEED TO PUT A WARNING ON THE PACKAGE, August 21, 2012
This review is from: BIC For Her Fashion Retractable Ball Pen, Medium Point, 1.0 mm, Assorted-Fashion Ink, 2 Count (FHAP21-ASST) (Office Product)
I know it says "for her" on the package but I, like many, assumed it was just a marketing ploy seeking to profit off of archaic gender constructs and the "war of the sexes". Little did I realize that these pens really are for girls, and ONLY girls. Non-girls risk SERIOUS side effects should they use this product. I lent one to my 13-year-old brother, not thinking anything of it, and woke up the next morning to the sound of whinnying coming from the room across the hall. I got out of bed and went to his room to find that my worst fears had been realized :

MY LITTLE BROTHER IS NOW A UNICORN and it's all my fault. Sure, you'd think that having a unicorn for a little brother would be great but my parents are FURIOUS - I've been grounded for a MONTH!!! They made an appointment for him with our family practitioner, but I'm not sure it'll do any good, and they told me that if it couldn't be fixed I'd have to get a job to help pay for his feed and lodging D:

I repeat, boys, DO NOT USE THIS PEN. Unless you want to be a unicorn, and even then be careful because there's no telling that you'll suffer the same side effects.


(I'm giving it two stars because even though they got me grounded, the pens still write really nice and bring out my eyes)

The high star comment read (man's opinion)

5.0 out of 5 stars Well suited to make markings, August 27, 2012
This review is from: BIC For Her Fashion Retractable Ball Pen, Medium Point, 1.0 mm, Assorted-Fashion Ink, 2 Count (FHAP21-ASST) (Office Product)
"Wife", I said, "If you could have one new fashion accessory to go with your Snooki's Sultry Hobo Handbag what would it be?" Finally, her dreams can be realized. I'll have to teach her how to use a pen safely but it will be worth the effort once she starts earning big bucks addressing envelopes at home.

The product itself came two to a package as advertised and both of them contained ink so you don't have to worry about making your own. They really retract although the ejector plunger may wear as the wife practices pushing the ram. Also, the roller ball on the one I broke open was 1.2 mm (which rounds down to 1.0 mm) so it may be a little too heavy gauged for a female beginner penslinger. I think the balls are made out of tungsten carbide although the lab results won't be ready for several weeks. The ink pH, viscosity check, and appearance fell in line with manlier inks although the pink ink was a nice "for her" customization.

Overall, these pens are well suited to make markings on paper and other materials! A felt tipped pen would probably have been a better choice for beginners as there is less chance of eye damage. Of course no pen is truly eye safe. You can get around this by purchasing a good set of safety goggles for her before letting her hold the pen.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 

Runner ups are many, and all delightful for the most part, no bland reviews here:

193 of 196 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman..., August 27, 2012
This review is from: BIC For Her Fashion Retractable Ball Pen, Medium Point, 1.0 mm, Assorted-Fashion Ink, 2 Count (FHAP21-ASST) (Office Product)
After having gifted this precious item to my love and seeing her properly drawing unicorns and fairies for the first time (previously you see, it was as if the other pens--my pens--would take over and draw muscular mutated beasts with great big fangs and saddles loaded with projectiles and an assortment of cutlery not suitable for any kitchen work!), I thought to myself, maybe she's born with it? maybe it's BIC! I couldn't wait for her to show off in front of her friends--and indeed she did, inflicting them with such jealousy leaving them no choice but to beg their husbands for enough spare change to purchase some of their own.

But that's when it hit me. Deep down inside, I was desiring a bit--or I dare say--a lot of what they had experienced among themselves. So I did the unthinkable. I bought a set for myself. My love asked me what on earth I was doing with another set of "for her" pens and I immediately snapped back, "they're for our daughter!" But she reminded me, we don't have a daughter. Alas, I was caught in my own web of lies, and holding the pens, I broke down crying like a little girl--the little girl we didn't have, except in my own heart. I wept with my dearest until I felt closure from it all and finally came out! I gently grabbed the flower-templated paper I purchased with the pens and began writing in big smooth curvy letters--not the crooked hasty one's I was used to all my life with those blasted man pens; and drawing horses and poodles--not the tall one's mind you, but rather the cute little ones--and then heart shapes and innocent love letters (not the raunchy hair-raising instant-blush & faint one's I naturally spun out of a man-pen) and my poetry was filled with a noticeable feminine charm. I loved it. It felt so natural. Yet so guilty. Guilty, for having taking it from whatever poor woman came to the store that day to find the shelf depleted, and for my own self, for having given in to the temptation of experimenting with a different orientation. I had to confide in my best friend. He took me by surprise by confessing to me first that he was swept up by it too! The pen it was, so sleek and fragile, we fell in love with its delicate charm. And we knew we couldn't go back to those so-called "man pens" anymore, except of course, in the presence of those yet still unenlightened. So we decided to educate the society around us one at a time, bit by bit, until it becomes acceptable for a man to write both ways. My friend Butch took his pen out shopping, making note to sign his name with the new pen wherever he could, shoving it into the cashier's face, to read, to weep, and to give in to it also. "You should have seen him!" Butch cried happily, "When I retracted the pen tip in front of one of the cashiers, he became weak at the knees and whipped out his pen as well, shouting with glee that he was not alone, no more." A round of pens for our friends! And I here tell the tale of the love of two men, seized by a stranger as it were, much closer to the bosom than that which we had been raised to believe was only proper for a man. So my final words to all women, let your man experiment with them too, and don't feel ashamed or guilty if you see him do so, but give him the privacy he needs until he is strong enough to wave his pen out in public without any fear and without any shame. I've gotten too choked up to go on!

UPDATE: Butch's wife filed for a divorce, citing that he keeps taking all her pens as if that's irrational behavior. Thus, I had to knock the pen down from five to four stars, not out of any weakness in of its own delicate nature, but due to its seductive charm, too potent to resist. My marriage is still intact, but I suspect my wife has gone back to another pen, a man's pen--the other day she said I've been thinking through my pen too much and she needed the assurance and security of a stronger pen that can write boldly in times when she needs that testost--I mean ink, whilst I have forgotten how to weld my own!
If you wish to read more laughter on the 'Bic for Her' just click and scroll down to the reviews. Happy writing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Getting ready for the Indian Summer

Peaches and Wine | How divine!
The peaches are ripe, and the juice runs down your chin. The dahlias are glorious, and I can see the odd leaf here and there looking rather tired after the long summer heat. It's coming the Autumn, and I shall hopefully be ready. I made a run to Noble Orchards and bought a large box of peaches, mine did not do well this year. Although my nectarines and apricots made up for them many times over.

Once again I have tomatoes coming out of my ears, though this type I'm not particularly keen on, so I went to Ted's house down the road and he loaded me up with some goodies from his plants.
Ted's Heirloom Tomatoes
Indigo Rose Heirloom Tomatoes

The secret to good flavoured chutney is not just about ingredients, but having a good, long simmer for hours over a couple of days. Reducing the ingredients into a thick sweet mass prior to canning. Ideally simmering for at least half a day, then reheating prior to canning the following day should work best.

After 8 hours looks gorgeous
I used a combination of large heirloom tomatoes and Indigo Rose, which has a rather bland taste, similar to a roma, but the colour is magnificent.

Use Summer Tomato|Peach chutney as a condiment with roast chicken, beef or pork. Slather the chutney on a cheese or vegetable baquette sandwich, or pour some over cream cheese. Serve with crackers for a simple snack with drinks.

2 cups each white and brown sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups red wine vinegar
2 cups balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp each of ground cumin, cardamon, coriander
1 dash of red chili pepper flakes
7-1/2 lbs tomatoes, chop into large pieces. Large tomatoes, remove skin and seeds prior to chop
2 large peaches, chopped
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 lb golden raisins
2 lemons, use zest and juice from both

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the sugars, vinegar, and spices. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Lower the heat, add tomatoes, onions, raisins, lemon zest and juice. Keep stirring. Add peaches after an hour. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat, and put lid on. In the morning slowly reheat, cook for an additional 2 hours then begin your canning process.

Store in sterile jars. Process jars in a water bath for 10 minutes after water begins to boil. Lift from water bath, let sit for 5 minutes then remove and cool.

Makes 12 8 oz jars

Harvest time, and it's busy

Juliette Heirloom Tomatoes
Kadota Figs
Cleaning and stemming
Roasted Tomatoes .... almost
Drying tomatoes

All the harvest seems to be ripening all at the same time, which rather puts me into a dither. Yesterday was spent gathering all the ripe figs, halving them and setting them out for drying. After 18 hours there is still a tad of moisture inside, but I bagged them immediately, and they are now in the freezer for use sometime in the winter, when I absolutely need to taste some summer on a cold, damp chilly day.

Today I did manage to gather a large basket of heirloom tomatoes called Juliette, they are medium small and quite similar to Roma. Thick skinned so it took quite a while for me to prepare them for drying. I'm trying two methods one in the ovenis roasted tomatoes, and the other method is straight drying with a new dehydrator I purchased last week.

Roasted Tomatoes - Cook at 350°F

2 lbs small Roma type tomatoes halved I used Juliette
1 bulb of garlic cleaned, and half large cloves
6 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp grated sea salt
1 good dash of red pepper flakes
Juice from whole lemon
Approx. 1/2 cup olive oil

In an large dish, combine tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice, drizzle the olive oil over the mixture.

Cook for approximately 1.75 hours, then stir to make sure they’re done. Serve over pasta, mozzarella, or put on ciabatta for a simple meal.

I am a little upset but it's my own fault there was a plant growing in the garden, actually there was three but I pulled one sadly. After the fact I found out it was a peanut plant, I was quite tickled that I had grow peanuts. So last week as I was clearing the raised beds I pulled out the peanut plant, set it aside to dry in the sun on the hopes that I could use the peanuts and sow them next year. Foiled by something I suspect a squirrel dined on my organic accident peanuts. I'm thinking they must have grown from my compost from last year. A happy accident. The first photo shows the peanut plant lurking between the peppers, and the second shows my meager harvest that was stolen by a ninja squirrel. I still have to do something with all the peppers, and of course the apples too. Wish me luck. Happy harvest to you all.