Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quiet


This morning we went to town and did our grocery shopping and picked up materials to make an extension for the chicken coop. We've been concerned that they need more room to range, and we can't let them loose in the yard because of the neighbor dogs, so we're making a bigger enclosure to attach to the coop. Our friend Ken is coming tomorrow to help Ben put it together, and have dinner with us.
So right now I'm heading to the kitchen to put together a lasagna for tomorrow's dinner. We'll also have salad, no knead bread, and I'm going to make a no egg cake too. Ben's outside mowing the lawn right now, so things seem fairly quiet and calm right now. I'm looking forward to spending sometime in the kitchen baking, it always makes me feel so happy and calm.
The garden is doing fairly well. The cucumbers are just about finished, but I think I might get another couple pounds of green beans, and the tomatoes are really starting to ripen now. We've also finally got some pepper plants doing their thing. And I've got two carving pumpkins on the vine right now, so as long as all goes well, we'll have our jack o'lantern pumpkins for Halloween.
Our grocery shopping pretty much came out exactly with the last of the monthly grocery budget (remember, we're doing that all cash thing, now?). I thought that was pretty cool. There was about fifty cents left when we finished. I have to admit, I did use money from that envelope to eat out a couple of times, so really, if I get more disciplined about that, we might even be able to cut the grocery budget. Plus, we planned for two weeks this time, because we probably won't get to the store next weekend.
Anyway, I'd better get to work on that lasagna and yummy chocolate cake, I just wanted to check in. Hope everyone else is having a great holiday weekend!

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Preparing Pumpkin Puree

Yesterday I turned these four pie pumpkins and one acorn squash into puree for using in pies and breads and rolls as such come this fall. Lesson number one is to make sure that your pumpkins are ripe. After I cut into these, I realized they weren't nearly ready yet, even though they've been orange for a couple of weeks. I was a little disappointed, but figured what was done was done and I processed them anyway. So, make sure they're completely ready before hacking into them.
Next, wipe any dirt off them, and cut them in half. With the method I use for cooking them, it's best to try to get two even halves, so they don't dry out when cooking. Scrape out the guts and seeds. Save the seeds for roasting! (that'll be another post)

After the insides are clean, place the halves cut side down on foil lined baking sheets. This is why a complete half is better than an odd shap, as you can see with my squash, because it can get dry if the cut sides don't all touch the pan.

Yeah, that's a rogue acorn squash in there too. You can use most winter squashes in the same way, for pies or any recipe calling for canned pumpkin.

Roast these at 350 degrees for about an hour to an hour and a half. They are ready when you can squeeze them slightly and they give, or when a fork is easily inserted into the flesh.

Scrape the flesh from the skins into a large bowl. You can see that some of my pumpkin is still slightly green. Don't be like me. Make sure the pumpkins are ripe.

The next step is to puree the flesh. You can use a potato masher, if you don't mind it not being as quite as smooth as the canned stuff. I used our immersion blender. That did a great job and got it all really smooth in just a few minutes. If you have a food mill or victorio strainer with a pumpkin screen, you could use either of those as well.

Make sure to leave a very generous headspace, especially when using canning jars. This full jar ended up breaking because of the expansion. I should have filled it much less.

I packed my puree into jars for freezing. Canning jars make good reusable freezer containers and we were given tons of quart jars by a friend. When you pack the puree into containers, it's best to think of what the use will be. I froze mine in two cup increments. The full quart jar has four cups of puree, which will be enough to make two pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. The other jar has two cups, which is just right for a double batch of pumpkin pancakes or bread. A regular can of pumpkin is about two cups, so that's usually standard in a lot of recipes. If it seems more versatile to freeze in one cup increments, by all means do so. But you'll want to think ahead, and not just freeze it all in one container, or you'll have to thaw and use it all at once.

Do not can pumpkin puree products.

It is not safe, because the puree is too thick for the heat to penetrate correctly, even in a pressure canner.

In case you're curious, the unripe pumpkin did turn out okay, just with not quite as strong a good pumpkin taste. But I've learned, and the ones on the vine now are staying there for a good long while!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A busy day

I'm still not feeling well enough to be out mowing the lawn, but I've found lots of other things to keep me busy so far today. Well, actually, I do feel well enough, but Ben says I'm not allowed, and he's going to take some time this afternoon to get the back yard finished for me. Anyway, here's some random pictures and some info about my busy day.
Can you guess one of my tasks for the day? I'll have a whole separate post about how I deal with these.

Here's proof that I styled my hair some way other than a ponytail yesterday. That's sad that I feel the need to document it, but there you go. Of course, I'm right back to the ponytail again today. :D
Our friend Ken is from Georgia and he was visiting his parents this past weekend. His mom is a big organic gardener, and he brought us tons of beautiful smelling herbs! I'm planning to dehydrate the thyme, oregano, and rosemary, which you see here, but the mints and basil and parsley we'll use fresh. Actually, these trays are on the deydrator now, so the house smells like prime herbage.
A note about my dehydrator. I'm using a Mr. Coffee Dehydrator I got at Goodwill for $5. When I saw it, I snapped it right up, because we used to have one when we first got married, but it burned out, and I missed it a lot. So keep your eyes open at the thrift stores if you're looking for one!
Here's one of the ears of corn. The corn just got it's ears in the last two weeks, so we're not dealing with corn yet, but I'm definately looking forward to it! Also, you can see my weed problem in this picture. Yes, I'm kind of ashamed.
Ripening Opalkas! I'm really looking forward to making some tomato sauce next week.
And here is my travel knitting project. I piqued Amy's curiosity with a picture of this earlier this week, and I told her I'd post details. This is an Elizabeth Zimmerman Pi Shawl. The pattern is in The Knitter's Almanac. I'm doing the most basic version. I started this in January, though I think it's the project for July in the book. She says it's great travel knitting, and it most definately is. You don't have to carry a pattern or remember much, because it's really just tons and tons of straight knitting. It's a little hard to photograph because the needle gathers the edges up, but that's another reason it's great travel knitting, because with the edges gathered all around, it's like a bag to hold it's own ball of yarn. In the end, it'll be a round shawl with concentric circles of eyelets in it. I use a row counter as my round marker, so then I just have to turn the little dial each round, and I don't even have to keep track of where I am on paper or anything. The yarn is wool, nylon, and angora from a sweater that I picked up at the Goodwill when we lived in AZ and unravelled. It's about lace-weight. Maybe slightly heavier, but no where near fingering thickness. I didn't dye the yarn, this is the color the sweater was. I do have a lot of little balls of it because it kept breaking when I was taking the sweater apart, so there will be lots of joins in my shawl.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I've got weeds


Yes, the garden is terribly weed bound. Being away and then both of us being sick has left it un-hoed and unattended for three weeks now. Not that we were being super diligent about it before that anyway. But that's not really the main problem. It's really more of a symptom of my problem right now.
Summer seems to have flown by, and usually I'd be glad for that, since I do not do well in high heat. This summer though, I feel like I've been missing out on things. My garden went in so late, I didn't put up any berries or jams, etc, etc. But in addition to those physical things, I've been having this scary feeling of wasting time. When I was younger, it was fun to waste time, just hanging out, but now it seems like I'd better get on the ball, because there's not all that much time left to be young (and dreams were made and used and wasted... I know, drama queen much?).
I suppose I'm just feeling frustrated because I had planned to lose weight this summer, while it would be easier for me, since there's built in exercise with the summer outdoor work and it's not too cold to be out doing things, but instead I've stayed the same weight the whole time. I'd like to say, but I worked out, so I'm healthier, but I'm afraid that's not really very true. I spent July moping around because I was hot and tired, and now I feel like I've spent August on the couch being sick.
I'm all about solutions here at BeppyCat & Co. though. I know that when I go through a season of being down, it's impossible to find one final solution to banish the depression, but there are everyday things I can do to build myself up and keep from backsliding too far into couch potato puddledom. And my steps for today will be:
Wash my hair and style it nicely, not just put it wet into another ponytail.
Prepare and eat my lunch as planned, do not fall back on a bag of crackers. Add in some veggies from the garden.
Sweep the entire house!
Listen to a fun cd, like Queen or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Knit! Do not sit down unless I'm knitting at the same time. (I've been disappointed in my productivity, tending to just zone out, when I could be getting something done. For today, it's not as much about the knitting as it is about the feeling of accomplishment.)
Get every dish washed, leave no canning pot behind! (My husband is genetically unable to completely finish washing any dishes, especially those he's dirtied himself.)
Of course, I'd like to get outside and hoe the garden and mow the lawn, but I really am still sick and haven't even finished my antibiotics yet. I definately do not want to deal with this for any longer than necessary, so I've got to be careful about not just sending myself back to the dr.
Does anyone else have any tried and true motivational tips? What do you do on the days it's hard to get moving, or things don't seem worth the trouble?

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Menu for 8-24 to 8-30

Last week the menu never really got used because I was so sick and Ben was doing the cooking, so I kept the same shopping list and just repeated a lot of the meals for this week. We're just switching to an all cash budget, and I've only got about twenty dollars in the grocery envelope to spend on groceries for next week, so I did change some things around, such as making stew with some hamburger meat instead of having meatballs, in order to stretch the hamburger. and replacing one of the chicken meals with beans and rice, to save some chicken for next week too.

We did get plenty of cereal and snacks and there's meat in the freezer, so the twenty next week will be for fruits and what veggies we need and milk, so there's not really much challenge. I just wanted to be sure that there was a good mix of things each week and this week wasn't a meat every night week with next week being a beans and rice every night week. We also have a two beers left in the back of the fridge, so I'm planning that yummy no-knead bread for both weeks as a bit of a treat.

Sunday
L: Out
D: Homemade Pizza

Monday
B: Applesauce Muffins
L: Leftover Pizza
D: Nachos

Tuesday
B: Baked Oatmeal
L: Turkey Sandwich
D: Pioneer Woman's Chicken Legs with Green Beans and Biscuits

Wednesday
B: Bake Oatmeal
L: Quesadillas
D: Hamburger Stew over Leftover Biscuits

Thursday
B: Baked Oatmeal
L: Salad with Leftover Chicken Legs
D: Red Beans and Rice

Friday
B: Omelets
L: Cereal
D: Homemade Pizza Night!

Saturday
B: Cereal
L: Pizza Night Leftovers
D: Leftover Beans and Rice and Salads

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Friday, August 22, 2008

My Week

I'm not better, but I'm better enough to start being bored. Thus, amusing myself with photography. I'm just glad the aches have eased enough for me to knit. I miss my chickens and my garden, but I'm grateful I have Ben to take care of those things and me.

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This Lawn is Your Lawn

Very interesting video and campaign. I'm completely food not lawns. If I had my way, we'd get a tractor and farm the entire two acres around the house. Maybe wheat... I bet I could grow enough for the two of us. And no, that's not just because I don't want to mow.

Also, I'm fascinated by the way they built the garden. I'm hoping to work as neatly next spring and have a more nicely organized garden.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

John Denver Rocks

I may be totally high on nyquill right now, but I'm pretty sure I'd stand by that statement even while sober. Now you all know a little about my definition of "rocking". I hope it explains some things.

Well, on Monday, I mentioned that I was hoping that I hadn't caught Ben's flu from him. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened. By Monday afternoon, I had a fever of 102, and I was down, man. But, my temp has been hovering between normal and 100 since then, so I'm not too concerned. I think it got that high on Monday just because I was trying to ignore being sick and had been out mowing the lawn and stuff anyway. But I paid for it, because I've pretty much spent all my time since then on the couch or in bed.

I'm not even bored yet, and I haven't knit a single stitch, if that tells you how sick I've been. I have been reading the Little House books. I just mentioned to Julie today how weird it is that they make me feel so cozy and safe, even though things keep happening that seem to put them on the verge of disaster all the time. Anyway, now I'm playing around with seeqpod, listening to Annie's Song, and being filled like the mountains in springtime.

I'm pretty sure that I'll end up on the couch again all day tomorrow, but hopefully, I'll feel up to knitting then. I don't want to push it and start getting up and doing things too soon, since this is about the worst cold/flu thing that I have had in a long time. I'm hoping I won't have to go to the dr, but if I don't get better by next week, I'll assume it's bacterial and go get checked for strep. But one thing at a time, and right now at least I'm not miserable sick, like I was on Monday when all my skin hurt. Now I'm just sort of in a stuffy cotton cocoon of sick. Which isn't so bad if the most pressing thing you have to do is learn the words to Leaving on a Jet Plane.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Freezing Green Beans

I've decided to freeze my green beans this year, because I like the way they turn out better, we need to get replacement parts for our pressure canner, and it's the easiest way to deal with very small batches.
This is not quite a pound of green beans after I've trimmed them and cut them. My mom always showed me to trim them first and then rinse them. I suppose because trimming them is bound to get them messy again with dried blossoms and little leaves and they'd just need rinsing again anyway. So rinse them really well and make sure they're clean after they've been trimmed and cut.


Put them into a pot of boiling water for about two - four minutes, scoop them out and put them directly into a sink of cold water.


I like to pack them into snack bags for portioned servings.
And then all the snack bags go into a labeled freezer bag and into the freezer.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

The Weekend

The makings of mint tea for Ben to sooth his throat. My mint is growing like crazy. I've found a plant even I can't kill!



Ben was pretty sick all weekend, so we stayed home and he rested. But I did pick the green beans and more cucumbers. I blanched and froze the green beans, and we started on the process of some kosher dill spears. Yesterday, Ben slept a lot of the morning, because his cough had kept him up most of the night, so I mowed the lawn and then in the afternoon, I mixed up a batch of chocolate chip cookies and froze them in cookie dough balls.

I've got lots of plans for today. I've got to bake muffins for this week's breakfasts. I'm planning applesauce muffins. There's always more mowing, and I think I'll pick more green beans and cukes. I've got to do some grocery shopping, and the kosher spears will be ready to pack and can this afternoon. There's some random cleaning to do and some correspondence/emailing to catch up on, and I've also decided that I'm making it a goal to knit at least one round on my shawl every day, and if I can manage to do that, I'll have it finished by the end of Oct.

We do have to fix the wheel on the chicken coop, since the tire came of the rim from the mud while we were gone. It's so not classy to have a chicken coop sitting on the rims in the yard. That's even worse than having an El Camino sitting on the rims in your yard, right? Anyway, I'm putting Ben in charge of getting that fixed, but the neighbor did offer to come lift it up with his tractor for us so it shouldn't be to hard to get fixed.

I think that's about all I've got planned for today, but I get the feeling Ben might have passed that bug right back to me, because I have a nagging sore throat this morning. But the nights have been cool lately, so maybe it'll pass once I've been up for a while. I'll just have to see how it goes, because I feel like I've been resting too much for a few weeks now, feeling tired and all. The heat in July wore me out, but I've realized that whether I rest or not, I'm still tired, so I might as well try to get more done, so at least then I won't feel behind too.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Columbo Says Relax.

Yesterday I hoed a large section of the garden, and mowed over the sections of the yard that had chicken litter and scratched up sections (to clean it up, so the neightbors to the west wouldn't complain about the coop having been close to their property). The green beans are about ready for their first harvesting and so are the snap peas. There will definately be more pickles ready this weekend too. The corn isn't being eaten anymore and it's all tasseled out, but there's no silk on the stalks yet. But the pumpkins and squashes have powdery mildew! I'm concerned about that, because they seem to have been doing really well, and I thought I'd get a number of pumpkins, but now I'm afraid the plants will die first. I found some advice about using baking soda or milk with molasses in water to spray on and kill the mildew. I'm going to get a sprayer this evening and one of those solutions and maybe at least get them to survive till the pumpkins that are on the vine now are ripe.

Today, I'm planning to knit and read, I've got a book from the library (1491 by Charles C. Mann) that I really want to finish reading before it's due back. I've also been watching all the episodes of America's Got Talent on YouTube. I found a clip of Terry Fator the other day, and even though I haven't ever seen the show before, I decided that it must be a pretty good show if he won. Not to mention, I want to be like Sharon Osbourne when I grow up.

I'm taking a pause on my socks, because I'm afraid I might have erred on the side of too snug so I think I have to rip back and try again. And I don't really want to right now. So I'm working on my Pi Shawl for now, since I'm in the section of 48 rows of straight knitting, and I can just knit and knit while I read. Good thing I got the hardcover version, since it stays open by it's self!

Ben's going to be home a bit early today too, so maybe we'll watch a movie or something. He was out all night last night, winning a Rock Band tournament. Yes, I do find it's better not to ask. Actually, the tournament didn't last all night, I think it was over by twelve, but he planned to sleep on Ken's couch so he wouldn't have to drive home sleepy. But he did win, which is really cool! Anyway, he's coming home early because the week long meeting will be over, and he wants to get some rest.

I'm looking forward to it, because there's just something special to me about getting to hang out and watch movies in the afternoon. It's my favorite time of day, I guess, so I love it when we do stuff together then. Reminds me of getting out of school early, maybe.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Pound Cake Solution

The pound cake I made yesterday to thank my neighbors for their help while we were away had a little snag. I baked it in a bundt pan, and I was planning to serve it whole on a platter with strawberry sauce in a dish in the center of the cake, with the entire thing sprinkled in powdered sugar. But the cake got stuck, and a lot of the edges and points broke off when I tried to remove it from the pan! I don't know if I let it cool too long (twenty minutes as per the recipe) or if the pan just wasn't greased well at those points to begin with, but I felt like I couldn't really give a broken cake.

I generally wouldn't give a sliced cake either, but it was rather a rich cake with a number of expensive ingredients (five eggs, half a pound of butter, a cup of milk, plus more sugar than a double batch of cookies and as much flour as a loaf of bread), so I definately wasn't going to start over again and make another one. Because of this, I decided to slice the cake and arranged the slices in a ring around the strawberry sauce.

I think this was a good solution. Perhaps not as elegant or generous as a full cake, but still a good token of thanks, plus Ben was happy because we ended up getting to keep about half the cake! I got 32 pieces from one cake, so even though it's a rich recipe, it goes really far.

I've never made a pound cake before, so I turned to the stand-by and used the recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook that was a gift from my in-laws when Ben and I got married. It's the special bridal version, and I can't think of a better heirloom to have, it's so useful, pretty and special to me.

A TIP:

When placing a glass dish on a glass platter, as I have here, wet a paper towel or paper napkin, squeeze it out and fold it to size. Then use that to cusion the two pieces and avoid slipping and sliding.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

We're Back!

Well, I'm back home this morning, and I'm so thanking last week Wednesday past me for cleaning the house before we left, because it still looks pretty good. If only I could go back in time and talk past me into weeding the garden.

Yep, the chickens are scratching and the garden is the messiest mess of weeds there is, I have an ear/throat infection or cold of some sort, and I think I need a vacation from my vacation. BUT, the neighbors mowed the lawn for us! And the house is standing, the cats are fed and happy, I got a ton of yarn at the Stitch n Pitch Tigers game we went to before we flew out, and I'm home again to a fairly clean house. So things are good.

My brother's surprise party on Saturday went really well. Ben told him he wanted to take him golfing, and then while they were out there, the whole party gathered in the clubhouse. When they came back up after the ninth hole, the waitress asked them if they could help her move somethings, and then when he came in, it was a big surprise. He didn't suspect a thing either, and it was a very nice party. Not too big a deal, but good to see lots of my family, and have some pizza.

Other than the game and the party, we were only there for Friday, and that day we pretty much spent hanging out with my parents. Ben helped my mom can some yellow snap beans on Saturday morning, and I think he enjoyed that. On Friday we went to Clare and stocked up on some bread flour and rolled oats and spices at Amish prices. The airlines must think I'm the craziest person ever, with twenty-five pounds of bread flour in my luggage.

I got to play this game called Ladder Ball with Adam and Donna. That was really fun, and it turns out I'm super good at it. Ben and I think we might have to buy a set. That was pretty much all I got to visit with Donna. I'll have to call her sometime this week and see if she had fun at the game. They went early and got to meet some of the players and stuff. I think that was totally cool, but I don't really know baseball, and ma was more interested in the yarn, so we didn't bother. On Saturday, for lunch, Ma and Dad and Adam and Ben and I went to a place called Cliff's in Sterling that has the yummiest pizza ever, and Adam did karioke. He did really well, and sang El Paso by Marty Robbins.

Today, I'm planning to bake the neighbors a pound cake with berries and whipped cream to thank them for helping us out and taking care of everything while we were gone. Especially mowing the lawn! That was kind of them, since I definately would have had a hard time with the push mower, as long as it must have gotten. And now it's all even again!

Anyway, I won't have to mow the lawn, but I am going to bake a pound cake and some bread for the week. And I've got plenty of laundry to do (from the trip. Luckily, past me really pulled through and finished all the other laundry before we left last week). Also, there's always the mess of the garden to try to tame and figure out. I have no idea how I'm ever going to weed it now, especially the grass growing through the straw in the pumpkin and squash areas. Gardening definately has a learning curve to it, and I'm totally learning that weeding isn't just an unimportant chore. It matters a lot to a garden, and it isn't anything that has an easy way out. But since I'm not feeling top notch, I might as well give it one more day. It won't matter, as bad as it is, and maybe if I don't over do it today, I can keep from actually getting sick. Good news is that my wrist is feeling better now, so hopefully that won't flair up and slow me down for a good long while again.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Well, here I am at home in MI. We're only here for a couple of days for my older brother's fortieth birthday surprise party.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Sewing Day


Today I spent the day in my sewing room, working on aprons my mom requested. The bottom one is a dish towel apron, then a plain navy blue work apron, and the striped apron on top. And yes, that's matching homemade bias tape on the striped one. Yes, I love my mommy a lot.
I also started taking apart a pair of shorts to use as a pattern for more. I love these shorts so much, but I've had them so long I have no idea when I got them, they're sort of smell-stained, and they're practically in shreds. I loved my shorts to death. Anyway, I'm hoping to make at least one new pair of them, but also try a longer, less sporty version as well, for wearing out in public. So far, ripping the serged commercial seams is a big pain, so I only got about halfway through before I decided to finish sewing the aprons.
My tendinitis is acting up again, and my wrist keeps hurting everytime I forget and lean on my hand to get up or something. Unfortunately, my braces tend to cause more pain (in my fingers and thumb joints), so it doesn't seem worth wearing one unless my wrist gets really painful. I'm really hoping it's better by the end of the week, because we're planning a trip, and I want to knit on the plane!

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Monday, August 04, 2008

A Day in the Garden

On Saturday, we got up early and got out into the garden to do some much needed weeding and hoeing. It wasn't too hot yet, and with both of us working we were finished within an hour or so. It was good to get it done, since it had been too wet all week to get out there, and the weeds were going a bit crazy.
The pie pumpkin plants have about 7 or 8 pumkins among them. This is the one that's farthest along so far. I can't wait to start freezing puree!
Here's me behind the corn. Don't I look like some kind of farmer? It's probably not the best look for me, but Ben wanted to show how tall the corn is.
Here's Ben's arty evocotive picture of a bean blossom. I think he should enter it in the State Fair art show. Anyway, the beans are all blossoming really well, and I'm hoping for a good harvest from them.
There were a number of pickles ready to pick, and since Ben wanted to can this weekend (one of his favorite hobbies, if you can believe it), he picked a couple more that were just about ready to have enough to do pickles. So, the radishes were our first harvest, but here's the first thing our garden's produced that I'm interested in. But I didn't get to eat any fresh! He needed all of them for the recipe. I'll be staking out the cumcumber rows for the next one. That one I get to eat fresh.
Here's the finished product: Dill Slices. He put whole jalapeno peppers (also from the garden!) into a couple of the jars to see if he'd get spicy dill slices. Now I've got a canning mess to clean up in my kitchen this morning, but he's pretty happy and proud, so it seems worth it.

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