Fall garden

Mr B finally got done moving dirt where we wanted to plant a fall garden. Sunshine, Biff, and I got out there and got the dirt mounded up so we could plant the corn for the sisters method of planting. 

We used some of the old compost heap to enrich the soil. I call it the “ooey gooey”.

We also planted a row of cow peas  (aka black eye peas) and a row of chard.

In a week or two, after the corn has sprouted, we’ll go back and plant the squash, beans, and Rocky Mountain bee plant in the mounds with the corn.

I’m just glad we finally got the fall garden started.  It’s been so frustrating watching the destruction of a garden full of plants that were producing food. I’m ready to see things growing there again, because I’m tired of looking at the giant dirt scars Mr B has left everywhere with his obsession and compulsion to move dirt.

Waiting game

Some time ago, when the garden was in full swing, producing lots of food, Mr B asked when he would be able to plow it all under so he could level the area to prevent standing water. I told him that December & January  would be perfect,  since nothing would be growing, producing, or planted during that time.

Side note: we’re ignoring the fact that the garden only held water because Mr B extended the distance between rows and therefore had to extend the length of the rows which led to the garden covering a low spot that held water which means that now Mr B is having to solve a problem that he created that isn’t going to be a problem in the future since the garden won’t be extending through that low spot anymore… when you’re a carpenter with a hammer, all problems look like nails to you. Mr B is a Tasmanian devil with a fleet of tractors so all problems look like dirt that needs to be moved. I digress…

By the end of July, the entire garden full of plants that were producing food had been destroyed so he could move dirt. He then made some rows and commenced working on something else. 

So here I sit today, staring at rows made by Mr B that he says need to be tilled.

I’m not sure why I need all these tilled rows, since we are doing are significant portion of this fall garden with the four sisters. The four sisters (corn, squash, beans, and Rocky Mountain bee flower) get planted in mounds that are 2′ in diameter and 18″ tall.

It’s like he can’t stand NOT micro-managing every aspect of all the things. All. The. Things. It would be endearing if it didn’t cause so much chaos. It would be cute if it didn’t mean that projects that he doesn’t prioritize get left undone. It would be funny if it weren’t so frustrating. I digress.

Ultimately,  I wind up in a place where Sunshine is actually ready and willing to help me with gardening,  and we’re on hold because a carpenter with a hammer sees only nails.

Final note: this afternoon,  my garden is being planted, whether Mr B has moved to dirt he thinks need to be moved or hasn’t gotten to it.

Stocking up

Recently, Mr B and I had a little pow-wow about ordering up some more jars. We agreed upon an order of pint jars and I ordered them up. I threw in some pickling salt since it was on special.

Then I realized that I was going to need a pressure canner soon to deal with beans and peas. So I asked Mr B if he’d use his Amazon Prime 2 day to get it here quick.

Yesterday, all the things arrived at once. We had more than one delivery truck in the yard bringing us goodies.

The shelves are starting to fill up with supplies and equipment.

Now, I’ve got to get a fall garden planted so I can have a use for that equipment.

Filling the shelves

I’ve progressed from jam to pickled things. I pickled those chard stems and turnips. I pickled some sweet Armenian cucumbers. Then I found out Mrs B likes pickled okra, so I made her some pickled okra out of some backdoor okra from work. I still had Armenian cucumbers to do something with, so I made some spicy pickles with them. I also pickled some asparagus.

I’ve seen so many different pickled recipes that I’m beginning to wonder what DOESN’T get pickled. Somebody stop me before I pickle watermelon rinds, because that little “ping” sound of the lids sealing is kind of addicting.

Learning to pickle things

So I decided to try learning to pickle some things. I started with pickled chard stems, which I have now tried two ways. Mr B like both of the formulas I tried, but he said that the second one was even better. Sunshine got to sample the second formula, and he liked it too. Sorry, I forgot to take pictures. Maybe next time, after we grow our fall chard.

The other thing I have tried pickling was turnips. Sunshine loves turnips; however, the turnips were going soft and rubbery before he could eat them all

side note: that’s what happens when you plant as many fucking turnips as Sunshine planted, but that’s a post for another day

so I decided to try a pickle turnip that Tia and I found on the internet.

pickled turnips

side note: here’s the link in case you’re interested

Sunshine and Mr B tried them last night and said that they were really good.

I’m glad I’m finding ways to preserve foods that don’t require a freezer, because freezers are quite electricity intensive, especially here in Texas.

Marathon Jam Session

Not the musical kind of jam session. I’m not that cool.

Jam-making session would probably be more accurate. I brought home a few fresh cantaloupes to go with the back door ones that I cut up and flash-froze. I made this vanilla cantaloupe jam using some of the imported Mexican Vanilla extract that we sell at work. I won’t be providing step-by-step pictures because I suck at taking pictures. I do not live a Pinterest-perfect life. Besides, the website where Tia found me this recipe has plenty of lovely pictures and instructions.

I’m making this jam (and some strawberry jam) to go in my Christmas gift baskets to our families. His family really gets into that sort of thing, and my family just kind of goes along with my homemade gifts these last few years. These jams are NOT for the community at large here (although there will be enough that they can certainly have some); these jams are for Christmas gifts. We will be gifting our friends some stuff too, and I paid for this fruit and these jars with my own paycheck.

side note: If it was grown here (like the blackberries), I’m more than ok with sharing. All of the vegetables we’ve grown, all of the freegan fruit I’ve brought home… All of that is fair game. But I didn’t go and order up all this fruit from my boss for people to just eat it indiscriminately. I’ll be packing up and storing a lot of the jams made this week to safeguard them for Christmas gifting.

I bought a lot of fruit for this jam. Perhaps more than I needed. There are several days worth of jam sessions happening this week. I’m making good progress, though.

vanilla cantaloupe jam

With Sunshine out of town for work, it’s the perfect time to have a marathon jam session. I don’t have him bitching about how hot it is in our house because of the stove going on high trying to boil these giant pots of jam mix and jars full of jam. However, it also means that I have no help lifting this heavy ass pot full of jars of jam and boiling water. Good thing I don’t work again until Friday morning.

Sunday night, when I got in from work with all that fruit I had the boss get for me, I immediately began cutting it up so I could get it in the fridge over in Biff’s RV.

side note: Biff is awesome about letting me encroach on his living space. I’ve got fruit in his fridge and jars of jam in his cabinet. Everybody pretty much knows which jars they better not touch (the 12 ounce cut crystal looking ones) and which ones they can take and eat (the plain old pint jars) without fear of dying a slow and painful death.

After I got the strawberries cut up, I started in on the cantaloupes. About 1/3 of the way through the second one, Mr B popped over to say hi. Apparently, Mr B is as horrified by watching me with a giant kitchen knife as I am horrified by watching him navigate the roads while also doing endless shit on his phone. He took my chef’s knife from me and proceeded to halve, slice, and chop the cantaloupes while I scooped seeds out and gathered up the chunks he was making, getting them into the storage containers they spent the night in.

side note: I think I’ve mentioned that Mr B is one hell of a cook. He cooks far more than I ever have, and therefore he’s much better at cutting shit than I am. I’ll gladly take the help, because I cut my hands/fingers at least 5 times over that long 4 day weekend at work while the boss was out of town.

Sunday night, as I finally crawled into bed at almost 1AM, my house smelled like a Bath&Bodyworks shop in the spring, with cantaloupe and strawberry scent permeating everything. I can think of much worse smells to have permeating my home LOL. The vanilla cantaloupe jam smelled rather like cake as I boiled the fruit/sugar/pectin mixture, and it was pretty close to divine. Mr B popped in and helped for a few minutes and pre-cleaned the empty jam mix pot by scraping every last bit of goo out of it with a spoon. He looked like an overgrown kid while doing it, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Making jam is sweaty work, and when one has a kitchen the size of most people’s stovetop it requires that most of the house be rearranged to facilitate jam-making. I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer to do marathon jam sessions rather than have to rearrange the entire house multiple times. It’s just less work that way.

 

final note: I have fallen into a rabbit hole on the internet. Did you know that corncob jelly is a thing? There’s also cotton candy jelly, Mountain Dew Jelly, sriracha jelly, Root Beer jelly, honeysuckle jelly, and a whole host of other interesting flavors of jams and jellies. I am thinking that Kool Aid jelly is a must try. Yes, that’s really a thing and I really want to make some purple koolaid jelly.

New Skills

Yesterday, my neighbor came over and taught me to can jam. We made blackberry jam using some of the wild blackberries that I picked.

First we heated the jars and lids.

water bath pot

Then we started boiling the blackberries.

cooking berries

Then we added sugar and pectin.

cooking jam mix

Then we put the jam in jars.

jars and utensils

This weird little tool is a lid lifter, to help me lift the lids out of the boiling water.

lid lifter

My first batch of jam, hiding in the cabinet that Biff so graciously allowed me to take over in his RV.

my first jars of jam

I’m making more today, because I need to get some fruit out of the freezer so that I can freeze some more vegetables. I’m starting to think I’m not going to get some proper lazy/rest time until after Christmas.