Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer's Bounty

On Sunday afternoon, I was given a case of farmer's market tomatoes.  As much as I would love to say that I grew these beauties myself, this is not the case.  I do, however, know the farmer who did.

A case of ripe tomatoes means that I was going to be spending an afternoon in the kitchen canning said tomatoes.  That's exactly what I did yesterday.  For those of you who have never done this, this is what to do.

1.  The easiest and fastest way to peel the tomatoes is to put them into a pot of boiling water for 30 - 45 seconds.

2.  Take them out of the boiling water and drop them into a bowl of ice water.

3.  This process causes the peels practically slide right off.  I'm making chopped hot-pack tomatoes, so I core and roughly chop each tomato, removing any blemishes or soft spots.

4.  Fill a large pot with the chopped tomatoes ... I use my favorite turquoise Paula Deen stock pot.  Simmer the tomatoes, stirring them frequently, until they are hot and bubbling vigorously.

5.  Ladle the hot tomatoes into sterilized jars.  Seal jars with lids and rings, which have been simmering in a pot of water.  Process in a water bath canner for 45 minutes (for these quart jars).

6.  Use jar tongs to remove the jars to a cooling rack.  For me, the most rewarding part of canning is hearing the 'pop' of the lids as the jars cool ... which indicates that the jar is sealed.

I started working on this at about 2:00 yesterday afternoon, and I was putting the last of the jars into the canner at 6:30.  Not a quick process, by any means, but a very 'fruitful' one ... which yielded 17 gleaming quarts of tomatoes, ready to store and use in all sorts of recipes for the next year.  It also resulted in tomato juice all over the kitchen and myself, and a mountain of dirty pots, bowls, and utensils.  My sweet husband did all the dishes and cleaned the kitchen for me.  By the time he was finished, the only evidence of the afternoon's activity was the hum of the dishwasher and the jars of hot tomatoes cooling on the counter.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Snapshot ... Thinking Like a Groundhog

There has been no action in the groundhog traps since I caught the one a few days ago.  The groundhogs are still out there, but none of them have gone into the trap.

I see one right now ... the brazen little varmint.  It is walking along the furniture in the pavilion, sitting on the chairs, and perching on the railing like a cat.


Despite what the Havahart people say, cantaloupe isn't doing it for these groundhogs anymore.  After a quick trip to the grocery store, I rebaited the traps yesterday evening with green beans and corn-on-the-cob slices.

When at war, it's best to know one's enemy.  I read that groundhogs are active during the day, and they sleep at night.  Knowing this, I have been tripping the traps after sundown to lessen the chance of trapping something undesirable ... good thing, too, because this raccoon came by last night and feasted on the corn outside the trap.



The raccoon didn't touch the green beans ... I sure hope this isn't an indication of how groundhogs feel about green beans.

I had no idea that trapping these destructive little pests would be so difficult.  Set the traps, monitor the traps so any potential captives won't stay in there too long, trip the traps at night, reset the traps in the morning ..... it's practically a full-time job trying to outsmart these critters. 

Here's hoping that your Sunday will be a good one, and that mine will be fruitful.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Five Random Things

This has been a week filled with lots of different things, so it seems fitting to finish it by participating in Random 5 Friday.

1.  I caught a groundhog shortly after I put out the trap on Wednesday.  I loaded him into the truck, took him a few miles down the road and let him go at an abandoned/dilapidated house.  There are lots of outbuildings and places there where he dig to his heart's content and make a new home.  I think the rest of the groundhogs got the memo about cantaloupe, though, because no one touched it yesterday.  I can hear them now, "Eat that stuff and you disappear, man."

"I smell cantaloupe."
"Oh, crap, I can't get this thing open."

"No!  I don't want to go for a ride."

"Hey, Lady, you need to wash your truck."

2.  I took my camera out with me early this morning when I went to bait and set the groundhog traps.  Everything was covered with dew, making for some really pretty photo opportunities.

A frosted flower on 'Plain Talk'

New leaf on 'Sombrieul'
Japanese Beetles are still here ... and there were a LOT more of them than in the past few years.

3.  I'm working hard to get my new rose garden along the fence behind the greenhouse finished.  The weather has been terribly uncooperative, with hot temps and stifling humidity ... so I worked in short shifts and took lots of water breaks, planting 10 or 12 roses per day.  Yesterday, though, was unseasonably cool and wonderful, and I got a LOT done.  It doesn't look like much yet, but it's going to fill in and be fantastic!  (I'll give you a start-to-finish post about this when I actually get to the 'finished' part of the process.)

I'm being a good girl and finishing each rose completely before I move on to the next one.
See how they are all hooked to the irrigation line?

That little patio table is shading a small rose so it can acclimate to its new location without getting scalded.

4.  This is where Dorothy spends her mornings ... sitting at the kitchen door watching birds.

5.  As of today, The Husband and I have been married for 33 years!  We met at a college party in December 1979, went on our first date a few weeks later in January 1980, were engaged by mid-March, and four months later we were married.  Three daughters, numerous homes, untold challenges, and we are still crazy for one another. 

Today will be another beautiful day.  The Husband has to work, and I plan to continue planting roses ... at least until lunchtime.  We'll have to see about skipping out and doing something special this evening.  Honestly, it doesn't have to be much because any time I spend with him is special.

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart ... I love  you!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Shhhh ... Be Vewwy, Vewwy Quiet

I'm hunting groundhogs.

The humane trap is on duty, prepared to do its thing.  I baited it with cantaloupe (which the trap manufacturer says their tests show to be the most irresistible.)  This groundhog ate all the pieces of cantaloupe that led up to the trap, but ignored the ones toward the back of the trap beyond the trip plate. 

I put more cantaloupe out this morning.  Wish me luck ... it's just a matter of time ... and I have the game camera set to capture all the action as it happens.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

An Addition to the Greenhouse

The north side of my greenhouse is almost always shady.  A combination of the path of the sun and the fact that the greenhouse is nestled underneath a large cedar tree on that side makes it a great place to pot plants, etc.  The only downside to this spot is the cedar tree ... it drops needles and berries onto everything below ... potting table, potted plants, stacks of pots, and humans. 

While standing on the deck one day recently, I came up with a solution to my problem.  I could build a roof over this spot!  I scribbled and schemed and measured, and took inventory of my stash of salvaged treasures, and I came up with this:

Let's start at the beginning, and I will show you how it all came together.  (Click HERE if you want to go to a post that shows you how the greenhouse itself was built.)

This is what the spot behind the greenhouse looked like right before we started construction.  (It's a mess, I know.)

Son-in-law and I moved all the junk, he cut down the weeds and raked, I stacked empty pots and relocated a cute little Black Rat Snake, and soon the spot was ready for us to get started.

Part of the planning for this was to make best use of materials, with as little waste as possible.  The roofing I chose comes in sheets that are 8-feet long, so we had to carefully calculate where to place the support columns.

The shop vac was there because we used it to suck the thunderstorm water out of the holes.
This is the Lowes shelf tag on the polycarbonate roof panels that we used for this project.

Speaking of columns, I gave you a peek at one of them in yesterday's post.

I have had these for a while, holding on to them, waiting for a project to come along to use them.  (I love acorns and oak leaves!  It's a huge coincidence that these columns match the greenhouse's iron storm door almost exactly.)

(old photo to show you the door)

It took some fiddling to get the columns plumb and in the right spots, so the roof beam would be level and square to the building.  The ground in this location slopes about 15 inches, so the column on the far corner has a raised concrete base.  (That's the concrete form that you see right now.)


To support the main beam along the 20-foot run from corner post to corner post, I had another pair of salvaged cast iron columns on hand ... these columns have ROSES on them!

Once the columns and the main beam were in place, progress really got rolling and things happened fast.  (This is what it looked like when we left on our vacation, with about half of the roof rafters in place.)


When we got home, I took my morning coffee and went outside and looked down from the deck and saw that my new covered greenhouse porch was completely finished!

The smoked polycarbonate roof barely impacts the light that comes into the greenhouse itself, and it should keep whatever is under it protected from rain and the fallout from the cedar tree.

I see that roof has already caught a few cedar needles.

Now I have a protected spot to work and to store things ... twenty feet long and seven feet wide.

Once we are past this current wave of heat and high humidity, I hope to get out there to organize all the crap and to build in a potting bench.  I also have to stabilize the water hydrant, and decide what to do about flooring this space.  For now, though, I plan to just stare at it and appreciate our Son-in-law's fine workmanship.  He did a great job interpreting my scribbles, working with salvaged materials in an unconventional way, and bringing my design to life!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Home Sweet Home

We are home!  It felt SO good to sleep in our own bed last night!!  While we were gone, our son-in-law was working on a project for me ...

I'm thrilled with how it turned out, and I know you are going to love it as much as I do.  (I will show it to you tomorrow, after I finish formatting the photos.)

Now it's time for me to catch up on all the stuff I missed while we were away.  What have you been up to for the past week?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Las Vegas, Day Three

More fun in Las Vegas to share with you.
Our first stop on Day Three was the Ethel M's factory ... the luxury chocolate division of M&M Mars.  Outside the building is a cactus garden dedicated to Ethel Mars.  (I have been through the garden before, and I would have wandered through again if it hadn't already been over 100 degrees already.)


There was no way we were risking our chocolate in the cooler in the car in the Vegas heat while we played tourist, so we stopped back at the condo to put our packages into the fridge.

We had lunch at 'Hot and Juicy' with friends who live here in Vegas.  We have eaten there before, and it was a definite 'do again' for this trip.  I ordered a pound of shrimp with potatoes and Andouille sausage ... messy as all get out, and totally delicious!  Our friends had never eaten there, and they needed a short lesson in how to peel and eat head-on shrimp.



Next stop, the garden in the atrium at Bellagio.  Bellagio changes this garden seasonally ... now they have a summer garden theme, with a greenhouse filled with birds, treehouse, summer flowers, and more.

There was a light crowd, which made the garden even more enjoyable.

Beautiful greenhouse, filled with flowers, garden vignettes, and birds.


Curious Canary, and my reflection.

Loved the treehouse!


Row boat on the 'lake'.


Chickadee, covered with seeds, sand, and petals.

Giant flowers.

Giant birds and kites hanging from the ceiling.

Galvanized trough filled with dwarf sunflowers.

There had to be roses, of course ... miniature roses in this case.

The highlight of the day for me was going to see Penn and Teller yesterday evening.  This was a true 'Bucket List' item for me, and I enjoyed every single minute of the show!

Today is our last day in Las Vegas.  We have more to do, and I should hush and get my shower so we can get on our way.

Happy Sunday, Everyone!
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