pumpkin harvest
August 30, 2010, 5:04 pm
Filed under: food issues, gardening | Tags: , , , ,

can hardly wait for this beauty!

Pumpkin has been missing from the shelves of the grocery store for a long time now. There’s a big pumpkin shortage and the interesting part of that story is that 95% of all the commercially grown pumpkin is grown in a very small area in Illinois. They’ve had terrible growing seasons and alas, no pumpkin! Read more in the Washington Post here. Libby’s grows 5000 acres of pumpkins in Morton Illinois!

Apparently some west coast growers are stepping in to fill some of the demand, but it’s not quite enough to satisfy our need for stuff.

How do things look for this year’s pumpkin pie season? I don’t know, I’ve read that they’ve had a lot of rain again this year, but this picture looks good!

now that's a lot of pumpkins!

Photo: Abbie Short (Carmi Times)

I found an article about the harvest in the Carmi Times, of the harvest beginning in Norris City, Il. Apparently Nestle (owner of Libby’s) has been planting up more and more acres in this region, a bit south of Morton. They were renting 250 acres but in the last five years it’s grown to 1600 acres. They say that they can get 1500 pumpkins per acre. You can do the math on that.

Here’s how our own pumpkin math worked out.

This year we put in a nice big patch of pumpkins–and they took off.

pumpkin patch june 26, 2010

But alas, it wasn’t a huge crop, and many of them started to develop and then rotted. Sigh. And then, they were just so early with the heat! And who wants to eat them when it’s 90 degrees? Not us. So they’re packed away now.

Luxury Winter Pie pumpkins–we harvested 4 of these cute little basketballs. From Baker Creek: “This beautiful pumpkin was introduced by Johnson & Stokes in 1893. Lovely 6-lb golden fruit have white netting and are perfect for pies. In fact, this is one of the best tasting pie pumpkins you can grow, with very sweet and smooth flesh, a favorite of all who grow it.” They did have a slightly textured surface on them. And only one of them got to the 6 pound size. But they’re all cut up and frozen waiting for pie time.

handles fell off so needed to process three of these fast!

Musquee de Provence pumpkins–are very beautiful –as per the photo that opened this post! Baker Creek describes them: “These gorgeous, big flat pumpkins are shaped like a big wheel of cheese, and are heavily lobed and ribbed. The skin is a beautiful, rich brown color when ripe. The flesh is deep orange, thick and very fine flavored, fruit grow to 20 lbs. each. This is a traditional variety from southern France and makes a great variety for fall markets.” These aren’t ready yet but we’ve got three that are starting to turn orange. A lot of little ones developed and then rotted at about 2 or 3 pound size. ARGH.

We also grew some butternut squash “Rogosa Violina Gioia.” According to Baker Creek these are: “Italian Butternut-type squash, these have a violin shape and wrinkled tan skin, the flesh is deep orange and sweet, perfect for desserts, roasting, stuffing and baking. Good for marketing.” Yep they sure do look different than your usual butternut squash. Wrinkly–a LOT! We’ve harvested 3 of those and have two more coming along. One of them was 7.5 pounds! It had a tiny spot of damage, so we blanched them and froze them in chunks just to be safe.

butternut squash italian style


the goat wash
August 30, 2010, 11:42 am
Filed under: goats

Ah those little goaties. They get so dirty. Luckily they are not so hard to bathe. Check it out.

Ok so I survived the bath, but i didn't really like it.

tomato canning time
August 29, 2010, 2:40 pm
Filed under: tomatoes | Tags: , , , , , ,

is officially finished. Today I decided to end it. I’m tired of canning. This morning the goal was to find the countertop again. And so a major peel-athon resulted in this:

that's all the big pots we have and they were all full up

And at the end of the big summer production, naturally we had to get all the jars to take a look. I mean you just keep on canning. Every day or two you do another batch or two. Who knew where we were at. We just kept buying jars. The big boon was a load of free jars I got from my master gardener buds! Thanks guys.

Anyhow the girl and I tallied it up and here’s what we have. 44 quarts of canned tomatoes–some sauce and some plain, and including 9 jars of ketchup! We made three kinds: Jamie Oliver’s, Blender Ketchup, and Currywurst Sauce.

Here’s what that looks like on the counter:

three kinds of ketchup!

It doesn’t even look like that much does it? Sigh. So much work. And that doesn’t count the many pounds of chopped frozen tomatoes, the frozen squash and pumpkin, and the refrigerator pickles! And I’ll probably cave in and try and save some more of those crazy tomatoes. Hard to believe that it’s all come in within one month. Yikes!

Tonight we’ll have some dad fries and have a ketchup sampling. I think i’ll have a beer with that!

Boring notes about canning because I’ll forget next time.

Cour di Bue–they peel SO easily! Love em. Japanese Black Trifele make a beautiful sauce. Marzano that are underripe don’t really like to peel. The big thing that slows us down–lack of icecubes! Four trays puts a limit on how long you can process. Need more pint jars. Favorite sauce is handful of basil couple of tablespoons of olive oil, salt and an onion. Canned some raw packed tomatoes and they just always look so ugly–they float up and leave you with watery stuff at the bottom. Better to crush them a bit and cook em down some, for a nicer jar. Our hard water leaves a white residue on the jars. Wipe them off with vinegar.

my favorite canning tool

I picked this up at an estate sale the label on it proclaims it as a do-all tool that lifts, whips, mixes, mashes, crushes and strains.

perfect for scooping tomatoes

It’s just perfect for managing the skinning operation.

The set up needs to be, from left to the stovetop. Three bowls: Bowl of fresh washed tomatoes, bowl for skins, ice cube water bowl, chopping board. And on Stove, boiling water pot for skinning, pot or two or 3 for tomatoes. And the canner.

rain barrel jammers
August 25, 2010, 8:19 pm
Filed under: the yard | Tags: , , ,

Ah date night at the acres! How I do love it. Of course, it’s not actually at night because we go to bed at 9 pm. But anyhow we do have a good time with our assorted projects. The rain barrel project has been ongoing all summer. We got some cool barrels aways back they were 15.00 a piece. And then the doode created an insanely beautiful set up for them. Check it out.

beautiful set up

plumbed together underneath

And the platform painted to match what will be our new house color to boot.

They were beautiful. And alas, there they sat being beautiful and not useful all summer long. Sigh.

We needed a new plan. The problem was upstairs. For most people putting up a rain barrel would have been complete with the barrel part. But we live in the kooky house with really terrible drainage problems. Our falling down flat roof garage was not really capable of getting the water to the drain spout. Instead it pooled in the sagging middle, or caused water damage along the eaves. And this was an extra problem since the garage not only drains its own flat roof pool, but it also accepts the runoff from one third of the house roof!

After long talks about how to fix the problem and install the rain barrel system, and one failed attempt to use flexible drainage pipes, we were kind of stalled out. I went to our favorite re-use place Construction Junction and bought them out of all the gutter and downspout they had. Three pieces, all different, 16.00.

And so we come to the date night part. We’ve been watching Food Jammers on tv, and admire their approach to designing newfangled crazy ways to cook stuff. These guys discuss and draw and then they just make it happen. We needed the same thing. Just get it done. What’s the harm in some crappy thing? We were almost there after all. So we got out all of our assorted bits and pieces and then we jammed stuff together, bits and bobs, and came up with this. It was pretty fun, and we didn’t argue as much as we usually do when we’re project-ing. We had a big rain storm heading our way and we wanted to be able to test something. Focus! Connect. And voila, here it is.

the run we needed. notice pool in middle of garage!

making the slope. doode made little supports out of scrap wood

i paid 10.00 for this brown downspout length notice the -just make it work- connections

this wabi sabi corner treatment is quite aesthetically pleasing!

We really had to work the design around this strange shaped piece of rusty brown downspout. We needed to use each piece we had to make it to the final destination.

this open part adds to the rube goldberg effect

and bingo we made it. I caulked the leaky corner with silver gutter caulk we had around.

Ok so now we’re golden upstairs. But we still needed to get the water into the barrels. Buoyed by our success upstairs we were set to tackle the downspout issue. We needed to get from square downspout on an angle to small round opening in top of barrel. We struggled to solve this one. And then a trip to the barn provided the answer–an old crystal water bottle that we’d cut the bottom out of so that I could use it as a little cloche for some plant or other in the spring.

you can watch the water shooting into the barrels

It was so awesome! We did it. And later when it poured for a few minutes the darn things filled right up. We kept going outside in the rain to check on things. Up on the roof, yep check it’s working. The barrels, yep it’s working. A teeny half inch of rain filled them both up. And then they overflowed–sigh we need to finish the overflow system. And we need to figure out the hose to garden part. I took it upon myself to test the flow and managed to soak my entire leg by mistake–dang we have pretty good pressure at the tank! Doode had a good laugh at that part.

Anyhow that’s how you make a rain barrel turdacres style.

eggplant harvest dinner aka what to do with 1 pound of eggplant
August 24, 2010, 9:13 pm
Filed under: eggplant, recipe | Tags: ,

We have a couple of eggplant plants that survived the flea beetle attacks of the early season. Two of the plants in the garden were kind of overtaken by a rogue squash but the one I planted out by the garage enjoyed a nice sunny spot and no competition for the sun. This past week the doode noticed that our eggplant was ready to go.

Somehow I never seem to get around to cooking up eggplant. I just plant it. This happens with other veggies too. Like green beans. Sigh.

Anyhow, but in the spirit of compromise I said ok and cooked him up an eggplant parmesan. It was pretty stressful, what with our meager supply of eggplant, and also the huge expectation of a great dish. Last summer the doode decided that he liked eggplant parmesan after we had an amazing version on our vacation in Italy. It was pretty good. Not too cheesy but lots of olive oil and very thinly sliced eggplant.

Ok, so the pressure on, I turned to my trusty google. And after much comparing I decided to try it the the french way. Instead of frying the eggplant, you put the slices on a baking sheet in the oven on top of some olive oil. Then you turn it on at 375 and wait until it’s a bit soft.

Here’s the recipe.
Quick Eggplant Parmesan

1 lb japanese eggplants sliced and roasted in the oven until soft
2 japanese black trifele tomatoes chopped and cooked down in a pot until a bit saucy with a bit of salt and pepper
1 scallion chopped
Handful of basil leaves chopped with scissors
1 ball of fresh mozzarella sliced (about 4-6 oz)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
Drizzle of good olive oil on top as per Jamie Oliver style (the doode insisted and ok, it was a good addition).

In a baking pan, lay the eggplant slices. Top with mozzarella basil parmesan green onion. Pour tomatoes over top. Bake in the oven at 350 until cheese melts about 15 minutes. Sprinkle a dash of olive oil across the top.
Serves two of us.

Guess what? It was FANTASTIC! Definitely the best eggplant I’ve ever made. It was easy fast and fresh tasting. And it did kind of recall that great dinner we had last year.

the cat came back
August 20, 2010, 10:18 am
Filed under: canada | Tags: ,

We’ve been worried sick about our little northern pet pal Charlie who went missing 11 days ago while best pal was visiting us at the acres. We don’t know how many lives he used up in his crazy adventure out and about in east Toronto, but we’re sure glad he came back. Cheers little dude. Enjoy your weekend Charlie, I’m sure you will be quite spoiled!!!

the handsome urban adventurer

we have caterpillar!
August 17, 2010, 10:00 am
Filed under: gardening, the yard | Tags: , , ,

I was wandering the pumpkin patch last evening, and noticed that the two milkweed plants we have were being eaten. A closer look and VOILA!! There it was, that old familiar striped caterpillar eating away! We have a monarch caterpillar! I’m so excited and will take a picture tonight.