Saturday, June 30, 2012

Interesting 24 Hours

What do you do when the temperature has been in the triple digits for a couple of days and the power goes out?

You throw everything in the chest freezer with bags of ice and pray the energy company fixes it quick.  Or at least that's what we did the past 24 hours.

Friday around five we had a storm pass through with hurricane strength winds.  The power went out way before the rain ever came.  We actually only got a half an inch of rain.  It was the 75 mph winds that did all the damage.

At first I thought no problem the power will come back on in a few hours and went to check on the garden.  I should have taken damage pictures but most of the garden fared well.  The potatoes and bush beans were completely blown over to the ground.  I put in some supports for the potatoes but the beans I tried fluffing and rearranging hoping they will become upright again on their own.  If not I will get some supports in for them soon.

However a few hours passed and no sign of power was coming so I decided to venture out to hunt down some dinner since I wasn't going to risk opening the fridge or freezer just yet.  As I was out and about one block might look as if nothing had happened and then the next block would be strewn with stray branches and trees that had fallen hitting nothing or in other cases houses and power lines.

Thankfully the storm had instantly cooled everything down and it was actually pleasant again.  We threw open the windows and went to bed without power.  In the morning we woke up in the same predicament and at 9 am with no sign of power coming soon it was time to attempt to save the groceries I had just bought the day before.

Most things in the freezer and chest freezer were still frozen and everything in the fridge was still cool.  Technically the food in the fridge should have been bad but it was quite full so that must have helped.  We packed everything worth saving in the chest freezer with a couple bags of ice and hoped that it would all keep.  Then we set out to find places to spend the day that did have power. 

Our house recieved power around 3pm about 22 hours after it went out.  It turns out there were 176,000 homes in the Cincinnati area without power and tonight there are at least 50,000 still without.  The storm did go through a good portion of Ohio so there are many more statewide still in the dark.

It's funny how much we depend on something and don't realize it till it's gone.  Let me tell you a house in almost 100 degree weather without the ability to even turn on a fan gets hot and uncomfortable extremely fast.  But the night before when it was cool and no one had power to watch tv, use a computer or stay holed up in the airconditioning everyone was outside sitting or porches, assessing damage and chatting to neighbors.  While I'm not happy for the circumstances that caused people to pour out of their homes it was still a pretty cool thing to see.

First Canning Of The Season

This week I made my first batch of jam for the season.  I made a blueberry lime jam and I am never going to make plain blueberry jam ever again.  The slight hint of lime completely changes the flavor and brightens the blueberries.

I did lower the amount of sugar so I cooked it just a bit longer to help it set since I had trouble last year with jam setting based on the lower sugar content.  However this recipe had added pectin so the jam is a little thick.  But it is still spreadable and I don't mind.  We just won't be gifting this batch.

The plan was to go pick more blueberries for fresh eating and jam but I just got an email from the berry patch.  Due to severe bird issues all of their berries are picked out for the season which is just crazy.  There is normally six good weeks of picking.  O well, I guess its super thick jam for this year.

Since posting I have been asked for the recipe so here it is if you would like to try it.  I got it from Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving.

4 1/2 cups blueberries
1 package powdered pectin
5 cups sugar (I only used 4)
1 T. grated lime peel
1/3 cup lime juice

Crush blueberries one layer at a time. Combine crushed blueberries and powdered pectin in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stir in grated lime peel and lime juice. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Yields about 6 half-pints.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Adding A New Honey Super

 The hive has some new height because we have added another honey super.

 It was time because most of the frames within the hive are filled with honey and capped.  However we really should have put on two boxes at once but we only just got the new equipment this past week.

 The outer frame on each end are the only ones that still have some uncapped honey.

 I label all the frames with the year the foundation was put in and if it is a frame for honey or brood.
 New foundation ready for the bees to build on

 The hive has gotten so tall that I had trouble getting the boxes back on.  The new box needed to go under the older box so that they bees will work on it.  The box was heavy with honey and had plenty of sticky propolis on it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Farmers Market Meal

This time if year I am at least one farmers market a week if not more.  I picked up the pork chops and peaches at the market this past week and grilled both on my indoor cast iron grill pan.  Served with an Asian inspired glaze that had a little bit of this and that served with pilaf was an excellent summer meal!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Standing My Ground

There are plenty of products out there to repel deer, rabbits, moles, birds, cats, gophers, snakes and the list goes on.  But I haven't found something for the average city dwelling squirrel.  I have tried cayenne pepper sprinkled around the garden, and they must like heat because it hasn't deterred them.  Short of surrounding my garden in a fortress of netting I am not sure what else to do.

So after the most recent squirrel vandalism to my tomatoes I decided to attempt some action.  It was back to the fabric store where I bought some more tulle.  With the use of clothespins and ground staples I created cylinders around the cages just to the height where the squirrels start to not be able to reach the tomatoes anymore.

Now I know that tulle is not a strong shield.  Squirrels have teeth and little claws and will quite possibly rip it all apart.  But maybe it is enough of a barrier for them to leave the 'maters alone.  Time will tell if the squirrels get to the next ripening tomato or not but it was worth the five bucks to try.

I also added some hanging aluminum pie pan pieces.  Supposedly the sound of them clanging together in the wind is like nails scratching on a chalk board.  At this point I will try anything.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Foiled Again

The squirrels stole my first ripening full size tomato and they did it again last night to my second.  I had contemplated picking it off and letting it ripen inside but I wanted a vine ripened tomato.  Below you can see the tomato they snatched and left partially eaten sitting on my neighbor's privacy fence just to taunt me.  In a day maybe two it would have been perfectly ripe.  This act of terrorism has definitely made me decide action needs to be taken soon!

Monday, June 25, 2012


This big harvest this week was the garlic.  I am so thrilled with them!  In the past I have always grown spring planted softneck varieties.  They were always puny little heads.  This year I decided to try a fall planted hardneck variety and they did fantastic.  The smallest head this year would have been the largest in years past.  I will definitely be saving the largest heads to replant this fall.

The radishes are still coming and we got the first tiny bean harvest!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weekend Recap

We had a fantastic and busy weekend.  We went and picked almost 7 pounds of blueberries.  We have been snacking on them a lot so I wouldn't be surprised if we are already down to 5 pounds.  I think I am only going to make a small batch of jam this year we still have some left over from last year.  Many of them are going to get frozen for Andy's smoothies and the rest will be eaten fresh.  We have plans to go back and definitely pick more.

We tend to be homebodies but this weekend we were socializing fools.  We went to Andy's company picnic and attended a 10 year anniversary party. 

Friday, June 22, 2012


This garlic is ready to harvest and needs to be pulled soon.  As in I should have pulled it yesterday.

You can tell garlic is ready when the bottom 2-3 leaves have turned yellow and died off.  Mine each have 3 dead leaves with a fourth and fifth leaf about ready to go too.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

On Their Way

The beans are on their way, the first planting has plenty of blossoms.  I have also spied a few tiny beans since I took this picture.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solistice!

In celebration of the summer solistice I got my first ripe cherry tomato yesterday!

Also here is the first large tomato that was beginning to have the slightest blush.  It would have been ready in a few days but then I noticed it today in my neighbor's yard with a large chunk taken out of it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Around The House

From the pictures I post it looks like our garden might be in our front yard, and I often get comments on it.  However our garden is in our backyard.  In the pictures you are seeing our neighbor's front yard.  We live on a corner so our backyard juts up to our back neighbor's front yard.  Are you now confused?  I took pictures around the house starting in the front to hopefully clear up some of the confusion.

Front of the house.

Going around to the side.

Side of the house.

Heading towards the back of the house.

The back end of our house and property.  The raised beds are to the left of the driveway, the beehive is straight ahead, and the in-ground garden is along the privacy fence all the way up to the house.

If you continue on down the street you can see how our garden is next to the back neighbor's front yard.  In the pictures you are seeing the front yards of the houses on this side street.

Monday, June 18, 2012


This was the last of the peas, the plants were pulled because of the powdery mildew.  The dill is really beginning to take off while the chard continues to go gang busters.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tulle and Tension Wire

Last year cabbage moth caterpillars devoured my kale.  I told myself I would properly cover it this year so the same thing didn't happen.  Well, it happened.  Something, devoured all my kale seedlings down to the soil except for these two.

And then I noticed that the cabbages were starting to also be destroyed.  I put off covering them because I wanted to still see the plants when I looked out at the garden.  Most of the insect  barriers I could find were white opaque cloths.  I found some netting that was ridiculously expensive.  I thought about using tulle, fabric used to make wedding veils, but at the store I couldn't find anything wider than 54 inches.  I thought I was going to have to give in and buy the opaque white cloth.  However after a good amount of searching I found tulle that was 105 inches wide. So for less than 7 dollars I snatched up 3 yards.

The kale seeds have been replanted and I have been picking off the caterpillars.  Using 9 gauge tension wire that was cut into 110 inch lengths I created hoops and have covered it with the fabric.  Now I can look out and see the plants and know they won't be destroyed.  Although I have to laugh a little at how fancy it looks because the tulle glistens in the sun.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Starting Over

My spring lettuce bed was a big flop so I ripped it all out.  I raked in 40lbs of quality soil and started over.  I planted multiple types of lettuces, cilantro and dill.  We will see what happens.

Friday, June 15, 2012


My chives are covered in what appears to be aphids.  This must be a ladybug's heaven.  I hope they show up soon and take care of the sittuation.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


This year I decided not to plant drying beans because the two rows I planted last year resulted in a whopping total 1/2 cup.  What do you do with just 1/2 cup of dried beans?  Not much I can tell you that.  So I hadn't used them yet, that was until tonight.

Yesterday I put the beans in a bowl and covered them with water and let them soak for 24 hours.  I then simmered them in a pot with water for an hour before incorporating them into the soup.

In my normal fashion I took a recipe and then modified it to meet my needs.  These are approximations of what I used to make the soup. 

In a pot I combined: two cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes, 2 cups water, 1 cup stock (any kind), beans, 1 bell pepper chopped, 1-2 cups penne pasta, 1TBS dried Italian herbs.  Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer with lid on for 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente.  Turn off heat and mix in one large bundle of baby or chopped spinach, approximately 3 cups.  Top of each serving with Parmesan or fresh basil.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Canning Entertainment

For those of you who do a lot of canning and preserving you understand that you sometimes spend hours upon hours working in the kitchen.  It's enjoyable work but at a certain point I get tired of the silence.  Sometimes I like to listen to the radio, other times I like to listen to the TV. 

We had an under the counter TV/DVD/radio combo but in broke.  With canning season upon us we decided to get a new one.  It's fun to pop in an old favorite DVD while canning jars upon jars of jams, green beans or peaches.

I have to say it's handy to have at other times too.  I can watch the news while making dinner.  Or during Christmas nothing gets me in the spirit quite like making cookies while watching a classic Christmas movie. 

Some purists are probably rolling their eyes at me right now thinking it is so sad I can't enjoy the activity on it's own or use the time to be quiet and think.  And I get it, I like quiet time.  I can fully appreciate the simple things in life.  But after a couple of hours of peeling and slicing peaches in silence I like a little bit of entertainment.  Sure someone might accuse me of being addicted to TV, needing to dull my brain with senseless entertainment.  And I might just be inclined to agree with them.  But then again I would have to wonder aren't they glued to their computer screen right now reading this?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bee Meeting

On Sunday we had our monthly beekeepers association meeting.  This month instead of meeting and just talking about beekeeping we met at one of the member's house who has 11 hives and opened them up for inspections.  It was great to observe real hives and learn from the more experienced beekeepers.

Can you see the queen?  She is the large bee in the middle at the bottom of the big cluster in the center of the picture.  She has a larger abdomen that isn't striped.

On this frame you can see two sphere like cells that are built on top of the frame and are open facing downward.  These are queen cells for supersedure.

Two drone larva with mites on them.

Of course while I was there I wanted a picture of their garden.