Friday, July 1, 2016

Wow... Hey! Long time no write...

My grandmother who raised me passed away in the last few days of 2015, and it's been a maelstrom of feelings and activities here ever since.  I have flown to Minnesota twice since then, and boy has that process changed since I last flew 20 years ago.

My youngest has graduated from High School.

I am now in the process of purchasing a house in Minnesota and will be moving in a month.  This has been a long time coming over the last four years, so do not be concerned that I am making great sweeping changes in my grief.  Believe me, this was overdue.

Where I am moving I will no longer be on satellite internet service with its monthly bandwidth cap.  Hallelujah!  Hopefully this will translate to more frequent posts to all my blogs (yes plural).  Especially to my movie review blog since viewing and posting can become a daily thing, any time of the day I wish (for a change).

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring Planting

Zucchini and cucumbers

Two-thirds of the garden is in, but only if you count the scraggly remains of the cabbages I planted last fall.  The dog carnage was nearly total, though I did manage to replant a few that weren't thrown halfway across the yard by digging paws.  There is now a nice hardware cloth fence around my beds.  Unfortunately I used all but three of my garden stakes to hold it up.

I would have all my beds finished, except Burpee seems to think I don't know when to plant, and is holding my order until the "appropriate time for your planting zone".  We're close to the Gulf.  I've had to turn on the air conditioner.  I think the danger of frost has passed.

My rosemary survived the winter in spectacular fashion.  For some reason our oak tree doesn't drop its dead leaves until the spring... I'm not sure if it's the clogging infestation of spanish moss, or if it's just a stubborn tree, but believe it or not I raked that yard just last week to add decomposing leaves to the bottoms of my garden beds, and now it's like I never raked at all.  I'm leaving it in with the rosemary to act as a mulch, but I'm going to have to wait until the yard dries out a bit before I hit the rest of it again.  Three days straight of rain, and we were approaching an ark scenario.

Rory, the smooth fox terrier, loves the puddles.  He'll go splashing through them and get confused when the other dogs won't join in the messy fun.  He's gotten huge since we got him last fall.  He was the size of the chihuahua, starving and covered in fleas.  He's now bigger than my daughter's dog; she's some sort of massive corgi-something mix and happens to be the exact same color as Mr. Pickles, the aforementioned chihuahua.

Thanks to a rusting old chain link fence, and dogs who love to chase cats and squirrels, we have a major undertaking coming up, where we're going to have to replace a sizable chunk of our chain link material.  They're like bats... they can squeeze through the smallest fricking opening and go running down the street.  If it wasn't for the nearby train tracks, I might let them roam, but they're just far too close.

I'll update this when the tomato and pepper plants arrive.  I have tried starting my own seeds, but I just have far better luck with purchased plants.  I'm hoping the hardware cloth will also cut down on the number of hookworms I get on my tomatoes... they really did a number last year.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Garden Woes and Hope of Spring

After my previous post five months ago, a few things happened.

One, more blossoms appeared on my pepper plant, and quite a few ended up fruiting, so that was not the last pepper of the season.  As a matter of fact, I just picked the last tiny pepper off the plant four days ago and sauteed it for topping an Italian sausage I had for dinner.

Two, I planted my cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower... however the dogs didn't like this arrangement and dug most of them up for me.  So no sauerkraut from the garden, though there will be a nice, big, beautiful hardware cloth fence around the beds soon, as I've ordered my plants for this summer's garden and the dogs also made a hole in the chain-link fence, so when we picked up the repair materials for that, it was quite easy to get the other stuff.  It was practically on the same shelf.

Three, I have shifted my blogging focus.  A nice gardening blog is all well and good, but not when the author is a craptastic gardener.  The dog fiasco didn't help much.  So I've started an additional blog over at Knitter's Media Reviews to focus on movie, television, and book reviews with an eye for recommendations for fellow knitters and crocheters who like to have something running on the TV while they work.  I will still be posting my personal journal-style posts here, but they will probably be much less frequent on average.

I know, I haven't posted in four months, and you're wondering how I could possibly post *less* than that, but I did say "average".  Over there I'm trying for a consistent five posts a week.  Here I've posted 482 posts at an average of 5.75 posts per month (I started this thing back in 2008, can you believe it?!?)

Anyway... I'm not hitting new movies very often, but I am working my way through the Netflix and Amazon Prime catalogs in a fairly regular fashion.  I review mostly independent, action, sci-fi/fantasy, and rom-coms that strike me as interesting or have someone I like in them, but they're usually on the older side.  Come check it out and see if my taste is the same as yours... and if it is you may find a hidden gem or avoid a real clunker.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The last summer crop, three peppers and a blossom.

The last summer crop, three peppers and a blossom.
I'm trying to put a post together... the first part in a series about growing your own cabbage and then making your own sauerkraut.  Unfortunately between Burpee sending my seedlings, but then taking a week to get here, UPS having a delay with one of their pallet trucks, and other delays, the first post is about a week later than I wanted.

However, I do have two new garden beds installed.  I just have to get about four more bags of dirt to fill them (we're prone to flooding in this area, so I don't want to create any low spots in my yard by just shifting it) and we can get this thing started.

Warning, there are a lot of Amazon affiliate links in this post.  Help a sister out and click 'em if you're interested.  I only get compensation if you order something within a certain time frame, so feel free to browse all you like.

I have twelve cabbage seedlings, six broccoli seedlings, and six cauliflower seedlings on the way.  The broccoli I will make into florets for the freezer, shredding the stem parts and adding that to the cabbage for some of the kraut.  The cauliflower is my favorite part of my home-canned jardinere.  Okay, the pickled cauliflower and the pickled carrots.  The celery is actually quite good too, not mushy at all, which was a surprise from last-year's batch.

I got two more beds very cheaply on Amazon... Greenland Gardener 8-Inch Raised Bed Double Garden Kit.   Compared to other raised bed kits, this is pretty inexpensive.  What cheesed me off though was that I didn't do the proper math, and didn't realize they weren't a full eight feet long.  So now that they're lined up next to my full-length cedar bed, they're coming up short.  This is gnawing at my OCD/Asperger's side to no end.  If I'm still here next year, I am totally getting two more of the short beds and installing them on the other side of the cedar bed so it is symmetrical.

They are super-simple to set up... it's just a set of boards with inter-connecting tabs and grooves.   Once the boxes were in the back yard, I could set them up by myself with no problems and no tools... although I did have a rubber mallet handy.  They're made of a composite of wood and recycled plastic, so I expect them to last for quite a while.  The color is a bit... blah.  I considered painting them, but don't want the chemicals near my food crops.
The dogs helped with this one.  :/

I always put down a weed barrier of some type.  For this pair I splurged on a roll of weed barrier landscape cloth... mostly because I wanted to start a barrier between the beds so I wouldn't have to use the trimmer to keep the grass down.  This allows me to make the space between the beds a little narrower than normal, too.  Eventually I will fill this space with pea gravel and stepping stones I make myself.  Inside the beds I also put down weed barrier cloth in overlapping layers.  I topped that with cardboard boxes (what do you think I do with all my Amazon boxes?  Compost and weed barriers, baby).  The Amazon boxes use soy ink, so I'm not too worried about those... except the shipping labels, which come off a standard printer.  I peel those off as best I can.

On top of the cardboard, I put down a brick of coconut coir that I've re-hydrated in a plastic storage bin.  That's one 11-pound brick in each segment of the garden bed, so I put down four in total.  I am thinking about another four, however, as the large bags of potting soil from Walmart or Home Depot are a) friggin' expensive, comparatively and b) of terrible quality.  It's supposed to be potting soil, and it's got more wood chips in it than most bags of topsoil or mulch.  It's like wood chips and bits of Styrofoam.  And I'm really not happy about Styrofoam, but most of their "garden soil" bags ask for them to be mixed 50/50 with local soil... and I've already stated why I don't want to dig one part of my yard to move it elsewhere.

The coconut coir is NOT a nutrient rich growing medium though, so I will have to seriously amend it with compost and liquid fish/seaweed fertilizer.

Now... figuring out the most sane and humane way to keep my dogs out of the garden beds.  :/

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bread and Cheese

Hey look!  I grew food!  Not quite a pound, but it's a start.  If the hookworms hadn't eaten my only (so far) ripe tomato, that'd be more like three pounds.  It was a big tomato... sigh.

Not only is bread and cheese an excellent, inexpensive, delicious, and quick meal... it's a good morning of activity.  I had a gallon of milk that had been purchased two weeks ago but had only been opened a few days ago and was barely dented.  I knew it was going to turn, and soon.  So, craving lasagne (as one does) I decided to make it into some nice ricotta.  It's pretty simple.

Add half a gallon of milk and the juice of two lemons (I used limes, actually) to a cold, cold saucepan.  Stir briefly.  Put on very low heat and add a thermometer with a temperature alarm (easiest) or regular thermometer.  Heat sloooooowly to 175°F.  This should take nearly an hour.  DO NOT STIR during this time.  when it reaches temperature, turn up the heat to medium and reset the temp alarm to 200°.  DO NOT STIR.  It should reach temperature in about five minutes.  When it does, remove from heat.  Let stand for ten minutes, then pour into a colander lined with cheesecloth (why do you think they call it that?  Hah).  Let drain for ten minutes, then refrigerate.  Sprinkle a little salt if you like, you're done.

I like to drain it over a bowl to save the whey.  It's really good for making bread... which leads me up to my bread-making portion of the morning.

Basic Bread

This is a recipe based on King Arthur Flour's Supermarket Italian Bread, and I was going to call my variation that, when I realized that what makes it Italian no longer applied.  I don't put on the sesame seeds.  I'm using whey instead of water.  Heck, it's technically not even bread, it's sandwich rolls because I portioned them out in 4.6 ounce blobs and made them into a hoagie-shaped roll.

The whey from the cheesemaking gives it a bit of sourdough twang, but not the depth of true sourdough.  It's packed with protein though which is why you can add extra moisture (I upped the whey by half a cup over the recipe's standard water) and still have a strong dough that will hold up under its own weight.


  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup dried potato flakes
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons
    instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm leftover whey, or 1 1/4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

Place all the ingredients, in order, in the bowl of a stand mixer, or large mixing bowl. Stir the dough for two minutes on lowest speed or by hand.   Knead the dough with a bread hook or by hand for 5 to 8 minutes, until it's smooth and supple, adding more water or flour as needed. 

Cover the dough and allow it to rise for 1 hour, or until it's doubled in bulk.

For Italian Loaves, transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and divide it into two pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth 16" log. Place the logs into the two wells of a lightly greased Italian bread pan, cover, and let the loaves rise until very puffy, about 1 hour.

For Sandwich Rolls, divide into eight pieces and roll into rough logs.  Sprinkle a half-sheet pan with cornmeal and lay out the rolls four across in two rows, flattening slightly into oval shapes.  Cover and let rise until rolls are puffy.

Slash the loaves or rolls diagonally, making 3 slashes in each, and immediately put them in the oven. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for about 25 minutes, until they are golden brown. For the crispiest crust, turn off the oven, prop the door open, and allow the bread to cool in the oven.

So that's how I spent my day.  What have you been doing?  :D

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

School and Other Distractons

I am hoping this will be what's coming later this month... jars of pickles as far as the eye can see.

My daughter has been back to school for two weeks now, and the routine is starting to come together.  She's taking some kick-ass classes I wish I could have taken when I was her age (digital art and animation?  Yeah, our computers were all tied into a single console unit that was the size of a classroom; that didn't happen.)  I'm rather jealous.

The garden has produced its first pickle-sized cuke (I planted them really, really late) with many more on the way, and the ginormous tomatoes are finally starting to get some color.  I am a bit bummed that more of the blossoms didn't set with fruit... all those damn bees getting into my house, and a couple of them can't wander over to the garden and help with pollination?  Arg.

I spent last Thursday and Friday making jam... one batch strawberry-rhubarb, and one batch peach-apple.  Had a bit of trouble with the peach setting up... the apples did NOT help with fruit pectin in the least.  Had to process the batch twice.  Fortunately I am using my new Tattler reusable canning lids, so it wasn't a costly problem.  I only had to replace the non-reusable lids on the two jars I'm planning on giving as gifts.

I also managed to completely goober up my tea towels with sticky jam stuff.  Here's hoping they wash out.

One new piece went up on RedBubble, and fifteen fabric designs went "live" on Spoonflower.  Check em out if you like.