Friday, July 31, 2015

Canning Tomatoes

A friend gave me two cases of leftover farmer's market tomatoes last weekend.  What does one do with that many ripe tomatoes all at once?  Can them, of course.  It means that most of a day will be spent with a ton of chopping and cooking and mess, but there's nothing like the taste home-canned tomatoes.   For that one day's worth of effort, we now have 25 quarts of stewed tomatoes.

The finished jars were so pretty, I decided to make them into a watercolor using the Waterlogue iPad app.

Here is how I did it.

1.  Peeled the tomatoes by scalding them in boiling water, then placing them in cold water ... the skins slide right off.  Cut out cores, bruises, and any other blemishes.

2.  For this recipe, in addition to the chopped tomatoes, I added onion, green pepper, a couple of jalapenos, garlic, basil, and some salt.

When my back was turned, as I was working at the other counter chopping tomatoes and stirring the onions and peppers in the pot, Dorothy must have thought that I wouldn't notice her sitting in the empty tomato crate.  

3.  When tomato mixture is simmering strongly, ladle it into prepared jars and process the jars in a hot water bath.

4.  The jars should simmer for at least 30 minutes after the water begins to boil.

5.  Remove jars from the canning pot, and let them cool.  All that's left at this point is to wash the piles of pots and utensils, clean up the mess on the kitchen counters, and admire the colorful results of a productive day.  This fall and winter, these tomatoes will be good for soup, pasta sauce, chili, and whatever else I think of.

For those of you who do canning ... is there any more satisfying sound than the sharp "dink" that you hear as the lid on that last jar pops to indicate that it's sealed?

Friday, July 24, 2015

What You Don't Want to Hear at Bedtime

It was 10:00 on Wednesday night ... bedtime.  I was upstairs turning down the bed, and my husband hollered up to me, 

"Connie ... Ruby got skunked!" 

This is not our skunk.  I got the photo HERE.

Bedtime had to wait, because I now had a dog to bathe.  I gathered up the ingredients for the as-if-by-magic, miraculously-effective de-skunking solution (1 quart of 3% peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1-2 teaspoons dish detergent), but found that there was only a scant tablespoon of baking soda in the cupboard.  

Plan B.  In the aftermath of Daniel getting skunked in 2012 (an incident in which the magic peroxide/baking soda/dish detergent skunk solution worked perfectly), I bought and squirreled away a bottle of Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover ... just in case.  I was very thankful to have it.

Ruby was really stinky, and not too happy to be saturated with chilly liquid from the bottle.

Dog shampoo and skunk odor remover, left exactly as they were when I finished with them late Wednesday night.

She was even less thrilled to get shampooed and thoroughly rinsed with the hose ...

Garden hose, right where I tossed it.

... even though the water I used was warm water from the kitchen sink ... thanks to my handy-dandy hose/faucet adapter.

Hose/faucet adapter on the kitchen window sill.

It was just after 11 pm by the time I finished rinsing Ruby and rubbed her down with a towel.  No more stinky skunk odor, thank goodness ... just normal, clean wet dog smell.  After all of this excitement, it took a little while for us to settle down and get sleepy again.  At about midnight, we tucked the dogs into their crates and headed up to bed.

Living out in the country like we do, it's not unusual for us to smell skunk on the breeze from time to time.  My neighbor told me last week that he saw a mama skunk and two young ones back by our barn.  I wonder if that is the same one that Ruby encountered?  

I believe in being prepared ... I have written 'baking soda' on my grocery list.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Snapshot ... A Little Bit More Siding.

There is small progress to report on the renovation of our little outbuilding that we call The Shack.  I spent the past week working to repair and restore the rest of the pile of the Shack's siding that we removed earlier in the year.  Yesterday morning, my husband and I installed some of that siding ... until the weather got too hot and forced us to quit for the day. 

When we started on it yesterday, the north wall of The Shack looked exactly the same as when you last saw it in THIS post.

End of day photo, 7/6/15.

It takes more time than you'd think to sort through the restored siding to choose which pieces to use, in order to have as little waste as possible.  I am keenly aware that I only have the Shack's existing siding available for this renovation, since it's not possible to run to Home Depot or Lowes to pick up some more 50+ year old half-inch by six-inch pine siding if I run out.  As long as my waste pile doesn't exceed the square footage of these new windows, I figure I'm good.

I was measuring and cutting the pieces of siding, and my husband was nailing them up and caulking them in place.  Soon, we reached what we considered to be a milestone ... the top of the trim on the picture windows.

After a water and snack break, we got back to work ... fabricating and installing aluminum window flashing, adding spacer strips over the window trim, and nailing up one more course of siding.

End of day, 7/18/15.

By this time, it was getting to be close to noon and the temperature and humidity made for uncomfortable working conditions.  We put away our tools and quit for the day ... pleased with what we accomplished, and excited to get back to it when the weather is more favorable.

Happy Sunday, Everyone!

Sunday Snapshots are posts devoted to moments in time that represent glimpses into everyday life in Hartwood, or wherever else I happen to be at the time. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

If Dogs Could Talk

In this scene from earlier this morning, it seems as if Ruby and Winnie are saying ...

Dear Mom,

You have been working a lot in the garden and in the basement this week.  We want to remind you that it is important for you to take time to snuggle with us, too.

Ruby and Winnie

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dewdrops on Roses and a Bouquet of Beetles

It has been five weeks since I saw the first Japanese Beetle of the season.  I rely on my system of strategically placed traps in the yard and morning and/or evening trips to the garden with my Bucket of Death (soapy water) to drown any beetles that I find on the roses.  I would like to say that the beetle population has peaked, but I'm not sure that that's true yet.

"Aunt Louisa" from the Leonie Bell Noisette collection at Tufton Farm.

Fortunately, the high beetle concentrations are only in isolated areas of the garden.  Some roses are eaten practically to nothing on the new growth, and on any flowers that I have neglected to remove ahead of time.  Most plants have a few beetles, and some have none at all.  I am thankful for small blessings like this.

This morning, I took my camera with me on my beetle hunt, to capture the sparkling dewdrops on the roses.  Beetle hunting is a nasty job, so I try to distract myself by concentrating on the beautiful things around me ... and by taking sadistic satisfaction in how many beetles end up in the bucket and how few escape.  Japanese Beetles have no major predators in the US, which is why they are such a plague.  I wish with all my heart that some type of bird or bug would learn to look upon scenes like this as an opportunity for an easy and tasty meal.

Rest assured ... every single one of these beetles ended up in the bucket after I took this photo.

Let's not dwell on the nastiness of Japanese Beetles ... let's look at another pretty rose to take our minds off of it.

"Unrootable Red China" which, despite its study name, is quite easy to root.

Five weeks of Beetle Season down, probably three or so more weeks to go.  I can't wait till it's over.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Surprise Package for Winnie

There was a package in the mailbox yesterday addressed to 'Winnie Puppy'.  Someone I have never met or heard from before found my pattern for knitting a tiny dog sweater and used it to make a sweater for a dog that she was in the process of adopting.  That adoption fell through, and the dog they ended up adopting was too large for the sweater, so she sent it to Winnie!

It is beautiful!  I am completely overwhelmed by the thought of such kindness.

The sweater fits Winnie perfectly!  

The sender's name is Becky and she has a blog named "Molly & Lucy".  Molly and Lucy are her new dogs, tiny seniors.  Becky's blog posts tell the story of how she adopted Lucy and Molly together last month from the Richmond Animal League, and how they are settling in and adapting to their new home and family.  The blog also has a page titled 'Consider an Older Dog' ... the advantages of adopting adult and/or senior dogs are many, and the rewards are beyond what I can describe.

Lucy and Molly

Thank you, Becky ... I will think of you and Molly and Lucy often ... especially when the weather gets colder and Winnie's new sweater will be put to very good use.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ruby Turns Five

Ruby was about a year and a half old in January 2012, when she was pulled from the city shelter in Abingdon, Virginia, by a volunteer who turned her over to Blue Ridge Border Collie Rescue.  She had been picked up as a stray, so we have no knowledge of her history before her time in the shelter.

This is the first time I saw Ruby.  She was nervous.

My sister is friends with the woman who was Ruby's foster mom.  When my sister met Ruby, she knew that she had found the perfect dog for me ... and for Daniel, our greyhound at the time, who needed another dog in his life after Emma's death a few months earlier.  I thought I wanted another greyhound, but I agreed to meet this sweet little black dog.  You already know the rest of the story.

Ruby's first day in her new home!

Ruby was, and still is, friendly, gentle, and eager to please.  In her three-and-a-half years with us, she has blossomed into a dog who is practically perfect in every way.

She gets along well with the cats.

Dorothy sizes up the new family member from a distance.

Alice and Dorothy talked it over and decided that Ruby wasn't too much of a threat.

Maggie is the Queen, and Ruby respects that.

She was a great companion for Daniel.

She loves to be out in the garden ...

... and she patiently humors me every spring when I do photo sessions with her and the roses.

She is aware of everything around her, and I never have to worry because she warns me about things like knocks on the door, groundhogs, squirrels, and the UPS driver.

When we adopted Winnie last year, Ruby instantly took to her and helped her learn important things like how to behave at dinnertime, how to stare down a human in hopes of getting pizza crust, and other important dog stuff.

What I love most about Ruby is that she is a quiet, gentle, loving presence in our family ... always ready to snuggle and keep her humans company.

Please join me in wishing Ruby a very happy 5th birthday.  Since we don't know when her real birthday is, we decided that it would be July 4 ... a day when everyone is celebrating and she thinks that it's for her.

Happy birthday, Ruby ... I love you and I can't imagine this family without you!!

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