Resolutions 2012: Create stuff

All things in this picture were made by me!

So, if you ever read this blog before my baby-induced hiatus, you might already know… I kinda like to make stuff.  Peruse my archives, you’ll find 6 1/2 years of knitting content.  That is some hard-core, committed craftiness.  But ever since I’ve had Baby J in my life, I’ve been a bit busier.  Which is totally to be expected, I’m sure, but I miss it.

This resolution is to create something at least once a week. Knitting, sewing, major cooking/baking project, gardening, setting up my worm farm* — I say anything goes as long as I’m creating something with my hands, it counts.  Of course, this includes the sew-along that I’m undertaking along with Africankelli, Finny Knits, Sue Walsh, and many others!  (Click here for more info about how to join us… there are prizes!)

In a way, this isn’t really a resolution.  I love making stuff.  It’s not a challenge in itself – it’s a challenge to make the time.  I also need to plan ahead a little bit to make sure I have all the supplies I need so I don’t have that frustration when I actually have the time to do something.

*  Worm farm, eh?  Yes, it was my Christmas gift from my husband.  You have to know a girl pretty well to buy her a worm farm for Christmas, but for me it’s perfect.  I’ve been calling around to local bait shops trying to track down a 1/2 pound of red wigglers to get my vermicomposting operation started.

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Garden Journal: Mid-March

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It’s been a beautiful spring so far (all 2 days of it) in the Ozarks.  My windows are open and I’m enjoying the crisp breeze as I write this.  I hadn’t planned to do much of a garden this year, but then I decided I might as well try to do a few no-brainer things.  I have had really good luck with peas and lettuce in the past, so I planted some seeds today and we’ll see what comes up.  I’ve never grown green beans, but I hear they are pretty easy so I will probably attempt those as well (I think I still need to wait a little while to plant them, though.)

Unlike last year, when I was all-consumed with caring for a brand new baby, by the time the plants are producing this summer, I bet Josiah will enjoy spending some time outside while I pick peas or pull a few weeds.  I can’t wait for him to taste his first fresh-picked garden veggies.  Yum!

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Back to the garden!



Grow, my pretties, grow!

Originally uploaded by kerner



I’ve been very lucky the past couple of weeks – we’ve gotten rain about every other day, and the temperatures have been a delightful moderate 70-80 degrees (unheard of for July in Missouri, but I’ll take it!). Lucky, that is to say, because I have completely been ignoring my garden and it seems to be doing fine without me. It’s good to know not everything around here is falling apart!

(ah, here comes another rain storm now. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve had to water my plants in a month. Craziness.)

My “big” tomato plant continues to look like a half-dead weed, but there are about 4-5 tomatoes on it that look somewhat promising. My cherry tomato plant is doing much better. I get about 2 ripe tomatoes a day (which mysteriously disappear if I don’t pick them immediately – is my dog eating them?), but it’s still putting on lots of blooms, and I think I’m going to be flooded in cherry tomatoes before long.



Renegade cherry tomatoes jump the fence

Originally uploaded by kerner


I get so frustrated with my ineptitude at gardening sometimes, but there really is nothing like walking into the backyard, picking a tomato off the plant, and popping it in my mouth. Yes – I AM the master of the universe… or at least this little 4×8 foot section of it.

I have about a 2ft x 2ft area in one corner of my garden that has been empty ever since the lettuce bolted and I pulled it out. What should I plant?

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Friday on the Farm



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Originally uploaded by kerner



Leaving work on Friday morning to go spend the day with my grandparents was a fantastic idea, if I do say so myself. My cousin Paul was visiting too, so I got to chat with him and catch up on the news about his 3 siblings before he went off to do some work on my uncle Gene’s farm down the road.  



Shadow the Green Bean Hunter

Originally uploaded by kerner


After he left, Grandma and I got down to green bean canning. She wasn’t sure she was going to have enough green beans at first, but there turned out to be quite a few hiding under the leaves. I also got to meet my grandpa’s new dog, Shadow. For some reason he really wanted to “help” with the bean picking by trying to get between me (or Grandma) and the beans, but he wasn’t trying to eat them or anything. I think he’s still a puppy, but they’re not really sure because apparently he had been living in the barn for a while before he decided to become the new family dog.



Screw the lids on tight!

Originally uploaded by kerner


I very much enjoyed my canning lesson from Grandma.  She pretty much let me do everything, although the details about how long to process the beans in the pressure cooker, etc. were just a magic number in her head.  I assume there are instructions somewhere if I ever get a pressure cooker of my own to use.  She sent me home with my efforts, 5 pint jars (“since there are just two of you) and two 1 1/2-pint jars (“for company”).  She has already canned 55 qts of green beans this summer, and did about 3 more while I was there to finish up what we had picked.  I think she’s ready for a long winter!

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My maiden canning voyage



That’s a lot of fruit!

Originally uploaded by kerner




Chop, chop!

Originally uploaded by kerner




Jammin’

Originally uploaded by kerner




Sterilize, sterilize, sterilize

Originally uploaded by kerner




Finished jam

Originally uploaded by kerner


I did it!  I made 12 quarts (plus) of mixed summer berry preserves and canned it.  It was quite an undertaking. 

First of all, that much jam requires a gob of fruit.  Like, 6 packs of strawberries, 4 packs of blueberries, and 2 bags of cherries, plus one bag of frozen raspberries thrown in for good measure.  Luckily I caught them on sale.  I guess that’s kind of the point of canning, isn’t it, to get the fruit at its peak and at its best price?

(I only get a little bit of fruit each week with my farmshare, so yes I caved and bought non organic fruit from the evil Wal Mart empire.  I’ve never done this before and didn’t feel like wasting $50 of fruit from the farmer’s market.)

When I made the cherry jam, I didn’t chop up the cherries at all after pitting them, and it was quite chunky.  To eliminate that this time around, I sent everything through the food processor for a few pulses. 

I cooked the jam in two batches because the canner I bought only holds 7 jars at a time.  Since I had 12 jars to work with, I split the fruit in half and did 6 and 6.  Apparently the key to good jam is to cook it as hot and fast as you can without burning it.  This is a lot easier said than done when you are making a huge batch.  I followed the recipe for cooking times even though it wasn’t cooked down as much as I thought it would be.  I think that’s what the pectin is for. 

I was raelly paranoid about getting everything super clean, and I’m still not sure I did it right.  But so far (a week later) the jars don’t look moldy and the jam appears to have set up, so I think I’m in the clear.

Now that I’ve gotten a small taste of success, I have a whole list of other things I really want to try to can: peach halves, apple butter, maybe even tomatoes or the elusive tomato jelly?  I have delusions of a Christmas gift basket with canned goods from every month of the year. Thankfully, I know myself well enough to know that that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.

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Tomato, To-mah-to



Tomato

Originally uploaded by kerner




To-mah-to

Originally uploaded by kerner


Good news… my every-other-day waterings are working! I have about 8 little bitty tomatoes starting on the tomato plant that I thought was dying. My grape tomato plant is looking pretty good too!  Still nothing on the lima brean front, but I remain hopeful. 

Gardening is interesting for me… I’m really quite terrible at it, but for some reason I keep trying.  I went to a class at a gardening center earlier this spring, and I was really convinced this was going to be the year.  Turns out I still have quite a bit to learn, but that’s okay.  I do feel quite blessed that I don’t have to depend on this little garden to feed myself or my family.  Both my grandmothers managed to do that for quite large families, which is totally amazing to me.  I think I need to drive out to the farm soon and see if there’s any tips I can get grandma to share.

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Working on the Farm

Picking green beans

Originally uploaded by kerner


 

Chicken coop

Originally uploaded by kerner


Washing beets

Originally uploaded by kerner


Yesterday I posted on twitter that I had spent my morning picking green beans, and I almost immediately got a response asking if I had a new job. Um… no. Somehow I doubt I could make my mortgage if I decided to quit the attorney gig and take up vegetable gardening. (Besides, that’s hard work!)

Actually, I took the morning off to work at my CSA – we are required to work 12 hours as part of our membership. I spent the first part of the morning picking green beans, while a more mechanically-inclined member got put to work repairing farm equipment, door frames, and more all over the farm.

I cut some salad greens for a while with Karen, one of the unpaid interns on the farm.  She graduated from Rice University with a degree in civil engineering over a year ago, and hasn’t found a job yet.  She would really like to teach English abroad, but apparently with all the teacher lay-offs around the country, those spots are getting harder and harder to come by.  To pass the time during her job search, she took a position at the farm for the summer working for room and board.  I am so thankful for my job right now, even on days that I daydream about doing something more creative.

I finished the morning by washing beets… I never knew how much work went into preparing the food on harvest day.  All the greens are washed on a large washing table and spun dry, all the produce is washed and counted, and smaller items have to be counted and bagged or tied into bunches. 

My favorite part of visiting the farm is talking to Curtis, the farmer.  His enthusiasm for his work is amazing.  He is already planning for the winter farm share in addition to growing for the summer season.  Seriously, you have never heard someone get so excited about onions!  But to try to make a living and support a family of 9 (!) by running an organic farm, I think you have to be completely dedicated to your way of life.  It’s very inspirational.

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Sigh…



Late May Garden

Originally uploaded by kerner


This is my garden exactly 1 month ago. So pretty – peas threatening to climb off the trellis and into the trees above, tomato plants growing strong, lettuce plentiful…



My sad, pathetic garden

Originally uploaded by kerner


Here is my garden today. The peas and lettuce are done, so I ripped
them out. They are spring crops so I guess I’m not that surprised that
a week of 95 degree weather did them in. One of my tomato plants
mysteriously turned yellow, shriveled up and dried, so I ripped it out.
The remaining cherry tomato plant looks pretty decent, but the big
tomato plant is growing like gangbusters, yet only has about 3 blooms
on it.

How frustrating. Not that I really know what I’m doing when it comes to
gardening, but I really had my hopes up this year. Even though I know
it’s too late, I planted some beans along the trellis just to try to
salvage a little something out of the garden this year.

How is your garden doing not that we are in the heat of summer?

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First Fruits



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Originally uploaded by kerner




Cherry Tomatoes – Hand for Scale

Originally uploaded by kerner 




June 6 Harvest

Originally uploaded by kerner


How fitting that I harvested my first veggies of the season – both sugar snap peas and regular peas, along with some lettuce – on the same day that my pastor spoke about the importance of bringing our best to God – our first fruits.

As I sat in church on Saturday night, I thought of how earlier that day I gobbled up those delicious sweet peas (some of them didn’t even make it into the house). After watching them grow all season, watering and tending them, it was so exciting to finally, literally, enjoy the fruit of my labor.

I have to say, the phrase “first fruits” has to mean more to a gardener: You know exactly how long you’ve waited, and all the work that goes into it, before you ever get a single edible thing. I was challenged by that sermon to more consciously bring God my best in all that I do.

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I think Maaatha would approve


I think Maaartha would approve
Originally uploaded by kerner

My CSA started up for the summer – wahoo! This time we subscribed to a full share, instead of splitting it with another couple, so we’re really going to have to eat our veggies to keep up. It has been really cool and rainy still this spring, so are mostly still eating greens from the greenhouse. I’m not complaining, there was quite a variety: Chard, Spinach, Tat soi, Pac choi, Carrots, Baby lettuce, Lettuce Cilantro, Turnips, Spring onions, and Kale.

But my favorite thing of the week was my “egg share.” Normally the eggs are the beautiful brown eggs that you expect to see when you buy fresh organic eggs. But this week I got one random blue-green egg, which of course immediately made me think of Martha Stewart and her fancy chickens that lay all different colors of eggs. I’m still trying to come up with a way to use that egg that is Maaaatha-worthy.

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