I wanted to change quite a few things but I didn’t want to delete anything in this blog, so I’ve moved:
Using up Green Tomatoes November 14, 2009
This past weekend, my husband and I finally pulled out all the plants so I could start to put the garden to bed for the winter. As we pulled the tomato plants, I picked off the green tomatoes and was shocked at the number. The pile seemed to double every time I turned around.
I wasn’t willing to throw away all my tomatoes, so I consulted my friend google in search of green tomato recipes. Over the course of two days I made a sweet relish, a green salsa, and spicy fireballs (pickled green cherry tomatoes). I started with basic relish and salsa recipes and made some minor changes based on the ingredients I had on hand (and based on the ingredients I forgot to add). The relish is wonderfully sweet. We used it to make tuna salad for dinner on Wednesday. Yummy! The salsa came out too hot for me (I’m a wimp), but my husband really enjoys it. I havn’t tried the fireballs yet as they are supposed to age for at least two weeks to develop flavor, but I expect they’ll come out very hot.
I am not an expert on canning, but I do understand the basic principles. In general you are not supposed to alter a recipe, however I feel the changes I made produce a safe food product. My version of the recipes were not tested outside my kitchen. Always make sure jars have sealed once they cooled and check seal again prior to use.
Chop the tomatoes and peppers by your preferred method (I used the food processor). Add pickling salt and mix. Allow to sit for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature, then drain. Boil the sugar, vinegar, and seeds for 5 minutes. Add the tomato mixture and simmer for 10 minutes. Seal in hot, sterile jars (pint or half pint) leaving 1/2 inch head space and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Time given is for sea level.
Chop tomatoes, onion, peppers, and garlic by prefered method (I used the food processor). Combine with remaining ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Seal in hot, sterile jars (pint or half pint) leaving 1/2 inch head space and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes for half pint and 15 minutes for pint. Time given is for sea level.
*I used a red bell pepper because it’s what I had on hand, you may substitute any color you prefer.
*I used jalapeños with seeds removed because I am a wimp and do not like hot salsa. Feel free include as many seeds as you like or substitute a hotter pepper.
*Bottled lime juice has a standard acidity level. Juice from fresh limes may not provide the acidity level needed for this recipe. You may use fresh lime juice, but store the salsa in the refrigerator and use in a timely manner. Bottled lemon juice may be substituted, however the same warning for fresh lemon juice applies.
Sophie’s Lounge Pants November 8, 2009
I made these pants for a friend’s little girl. I used a cotton/acrylic blend yarn that is super soft and wonderful to knit with. Thanks to a road trip and the uncle keeping BeBop entertained, I finished these in a week!
Reflections on My Garden November 3, 2009
Stephanie at Keeper of the Home is hosting an Organic Gardening Carnival and has asked for reflections on gardening from this past season. This year was my first real garden. Last year we had two tomatoes in pots, some herbs, and a few flowers. The year before that we lived in the desert.
When I started planning for this year, I used the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. His garden approach is designed to grow plants efficiently with little waste or excess work. My husband and I built two raised bed that measure 4×4 feet, as Mel recommends, so that plants are accessible on all sides. We also inherited a bed from some neighbors when they moved out. The three beds gave us about 48 square feet of garden space and the various pots provided another 10 to 15 square feet. Mel’s system is to plant only the amount you need instead of planting a whole packet of seeds. I think I focused a little too much on not over planting, and instead I didn’t plant enough! I focused almost entirely on vegetables and herbs with too few flowers, which left our garden void of color amidst the rainbow of colors in my neighbors yards. There were several bare spots left from my conservative planting that we filled in with plants a little too late in the season, resulting in a garden full of plants that did not produce any vegetables. My plan for next year will still be based on the square foot system for the vegetable plants, but I will fill in the empty spaces with companion plants, herbs and flowers, in an intensive system (more posts on this to come!)
As I started to plant for this year, I didn’t want to set my expectations too high and then become frustrated. Instead I set a goal of making at least one salad entirely from the garden. I met the goal and beyond, enjoying my harvest at many meals. When measured against my modest goal, this year was a huge success. However, I made many mistakes. Here’s what I learned:
- Starting plants from seed indoors is very easy. Killing them when you try to harden them off is also very easy. When you set your seedlings outside to harden off, set a timer so they don’t bake in the sun.
- The frost-free date is MUCH later than the garden can be worked. I waited until all risk of frost was over to do anything in the garden and started everything late. I didn’t know that some plants (like peas) actually like to be planted before the frosts are over. Next year I will plant early and have back up seedlings just in case.
- Squirrels are corn devouring pests, preventing any from growing in my garden. One mischievous squirrel must have buried his corn in the back and forgotten about it because we had a corn stock start growing up one day. It didn’t survive very long before the squirrels ate it too. I’m going to have to figure out some deterrent methods for next year.
- Cucumbers really like my garden. They grow like weeds. I planted slicing cucumbers, not pickling, and my attempts at preserving them didn’t really work. There is a finite number of cucumbers that our family can eat and give away to the neighbors in a week. My garden produced much more, and I had to toss cucumbers on a few occasions. Next year I will plant varieties that I can preserve.
- I picked a wonderful spot to grow my tomatoes. I had more than I knew what to do with. I had three cherry tomato bushes and while they’re great to eat off the bush or in a salad, we did start to get sick of them. I had three Roma tomato bushes that produced quite a bit of fruit, but not a kind that made a good sauce. I had three golden girl tomato bushes, they didn’t do so well and I’m not sure why. I will try different varieties of tomatoes next year.
- Lettuce! This is my biggest lesson learned. I planted seeds in three or four spots within a square, according to the square foot method. I got nice big lettuce plants and we were able to pick leaves off the bottom for several weeks before the plants bolted. When they did start to bolt the leaves got very bitter, but I hadn’t planted a succession crop so we only had bitter lettuce. Next year plant lots of lettuce and harvest it young.
- I planted banana peppers early, and they did very well. I planted bell pepper a little late and never got much of a harvest. Next year I’m going to try to start them from seed.
- I had several plants just not produce: squash, cantaloupe, strawberries (first year). I think most is due to being planted too late in the season. My lesson here is to just try again!
- Saving seeds is a whole lot easier than I though. I plan to write more in this as well, particularly the lettuce. I’d never seen lettuce go to seed before, it was beautiful!
Plants grow fast, and the garden changes quite a bit week to week. I fell behind on documenting my garden and never managed to recover. My goal next year is to at minimum take and post a picture on a weekly basis. In planning for next year I have read at least a hundred gardening books (no really, I’ve checked out every one my library carries relating to vegetable gardens). I’m starting to develop a pretty ambitious plan that I hope will supply our produce needs through summer and fall and provide at least a few meals through the winter. I will be posting reviews of my favorite books as well as my plan step by step. I hope you come back and follow my adventure.
The Replacement Baby Pants October 30, 2009
I finally finished them! These pants are to replace the pair that got lost in the mail a few months ago. I made them a size bigger and discovered that it takes forever to knit toddler pants.
La Di Da Diapers October 20, 2009
Several months ago I had the priviledge of testing a new diaper pattern and made a few for BeBop. They are medium diapers and fit my little guy very well. He’s a skinny kid, and I had problems with other patterns being too baggy and hanging down to his knees. I made these with front opening pockets that I can stuff with our old infant prefolds. The outer layer of top two diapers are made using old fat quarters I had and the bottom two are from a t-shirt. The inner layers are all from an old set of jersey sheets I got at the thrift store.
A good friend of my is expecting a little girl very soon and I made these diapers for her. I realized after mailing them off to her that you can’t tell the size from the picture. They are about the same size as a pampers swaddler newborn diaper, but much cuter. These are serged fitted diapers (my first!), with trifold lay in doubler. The outer fabric on the top diaper is some that my friend gave to me several years ago. The bottom two are made from a pajama top that she gave me for Christmas right before BeBop was born. I wonder if she’ll recognize the fabric. The inner is flannel from receiving blankets that I got at the thrift store.
If you are looking to make diapers I highly recommend getting the La Di Da Diaper pattern. The instructions give multiple ways to finished the diaper and are very detailed with pictures for each step.
Recent Knitting August 11, 2009
I know I haven’t posted anything recently, and I’d like to say I spent all my time knitting. I spent a little of my time knitting, and more of my time frustrated with WordPress. There’s nothing wrong with WordPress, I have just experienced quite a bit of user error. But onto the knitting…
I made a pair of baby pants for a friend. The yarn was hand dyed with easter egg dye. I was trying to create a yarn that would have short color repeats and no pooling of color. I think if I had knitted this in any other size it would have. This is the first pair I have made using the Adorabubble Baby Britches pattern. If you are looking for a pattern for baby pants I highly recommend this one. Melanie has created a unique gusset that doesn’t require grafting. Someone commented that the color pattern looks like ripples from a rock dropped in water. Even though they didn’t completely meet my vision I like the way these pants turned out. Unfortunately, they were lost in the mail.
I actually started these socks at the end of April and finished them sometime in May, but didn’t take a picture until August. They are 100% superwash wool boot socks custom made for my husband. My second pair of completed socks! I used the Bernat Socks for the Family pattern. Its a free pattern but you have to register and log into their site to view it.