Saturday, February 20, 2010

Winter Applesauce

So I went to this fruit market I heard about recently that sometimes carries produce seconds.  I was hoping to stock up on something good and do some preserving/canning/freezing, whatever may be.  Today they had apples, 3 pounds for 99¢.  Macoun, Fuji, and Gala, so of course I bought all that I could carry over in those clear plastic produce bags.  I would have preferred a bushel basket, but I guess they don't have those available.  :)

After much peeling and coring it was time to make sauce, and to my horror I do (did) not have a large enough pot to cook down my apples.  So, off to the store I run, and of coarse they don't have an inexpensive commercial sized stock pot.  Nope.  BUT, what they did have was a very expensive 8.5 quart dutch oven,  which when combined with my usual stock-pot will provide enough volume to cook down all those apples.  The new problem is that I can't boil water in the lobster pot (my canner) to sterilize and seal my jars with the other two darned things on the stove top.  Sigh.  What I need is to borrow one of those fancy, high-end, commercial grade appliance, six-burner gas ranges.  Yup, that is what I need.

But that is not happening, so I am trying to come up with plan B which is looking like boiling the sauced (thus reduced) apples in the new big 'ol pan once the canning set-up is up to a boil.  My husband doesn't understand why I wanted all these apples to make sauce when I can just buy some at the store......I am starting to not understand why either, lol!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sweet Potato Know-How

After talking sweet potatoes with one of my gardening girlfriends this evening (Linna over at Linna's Garden Journal) I decided to try and nail down my technique for this upcoming gardening season.  It of coarse helps that we had some baked sweet potatoes for dinner tonight, but they weren't my own.  These were farmstand potatoes and were quite large and delicious.  I want large and delicious tubers out of my garden this year.  And the photo?  While looking for a an actual potato picture I came across this this little "sweet tot" and had to put him in instead.  I can't believe how quickly they grow, these children.

Alright, now back to the vines.....the article linked by the title above is written by a Canadian maritime gardener and I found it to be just what I needed.  Simplified.   No-nonsense.  I have been debating over raised rows or containers for the Georgia Jets.  After reading this article and talking with my friend I think I will fill one of the new raised beds using the lasagna gardening method as Linna suggested, along with raised rows composed of light soil for planting the slips in.  Why not combine multiple techniques, right?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Interesting Atlas

The USDA put together a Food Environment Atlas, it is linked above.  The part I found most interesting was the "Farm to School Program" statistics.  Boy would I like to see more of that on the map!

When looking under my county in Massachusetts I found the following:

*There are 359 Fast Food Restaurants, but only 156 farms with direct sales.  Hmm.  If only we could reverse that number.  Fast Farm Food anyone??

*There are zero Farm to School programs, and 16 Farmer's Markets which worked out to be around .02 markets per 1,000 people.

Massachusetts didn't do so hot on the Food Insecurity figures either.
Check out your State (and County) and tell me what you find, inquiring minds want to know!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Plastics.  I personally have a love-hate relationship with them.  I try to use glass as much as possible for food storage and serving, but having small children means a total avoidance of plastics is unreasonable.  Back when I had my son you couldn't find glass bottles in the baby stores, at least now we have the option. Instead my kids were fed using those endocrine disrupting plastic bottles.  No good, but I figure my milk also went through the plastic breast pump so it would have been 'tainted' no matter what.  Then it was years of BPA ridden sippy cups.  Finally, BPA free bottles and cups are easy to find.  But what about the rest of it?  I am constantly reading up on these things, but then my Mummy brain forgets them.  Which brand of plastic wrap is OK?  Which stuff should we avoid like the plague?

I decided to compile a short list here on the blog so I know where to look the next time I 'can't remember'.  I have not done extensive research here, just a quick "Ok", and "Not Ok" list.  Please inform me of any mistakes I may have made along the way.....this info is probably constantly changing!  (And, of coarse as a side note heat can/will cause all plastics to leach so avoid microwave and dishwasher treatment.  Some sources even recommend avoiding hot beverages.)

  • PETE/PET (#1), single use only!
  • LDPE (#4)
  • PP (#5)
  • Ziploc brand bags/wrap use LDPE
"Not O-kay":
  • PC (#7)
  • PVC (#3)
  • PS (# 6), **no alcoholic beverages or fatty substances for styrofoam containers.**
  • Avoid Reynolds brand plastics (PVC or vinyl)

You Will be Missed

This morning over coffee my husband deliverd the somber news of Captain Phil's death.  The Captain suffered a stroke during a crab off load in Alaska while filming.  Some of you may be familiar with Discovery's hit show Deadliest Catch.  We have been fans since day one.  It all started when on a vacation on a little island called Jost Van Dyke.  Here we came across two characters one evening, a captain and client of a sail boat charter.  There were funny stories passed along that evening over drink, but the captain also talked of his first, and only trip as a crab boat hand as a young man.  He said of his life at sea, that those were the scariest days he had ever had, and the pay he received was large enough to be the downpayment on his first house.

We had seen how hairy life on a crab boat could be thanks to reality television, one of those 'top ten deadliest jobs' shows or something of the like.  It was not long after that the Captains and crews of the Discovery Channel's show Deadliest Catch were regular guests in our family room.  We have been devoted fans, enjoying both the laughs and the frightening moments that come along with watching these characters fish.

We had a chance to hear captain Phil speak a few years back, he and another Captain from the show came to New Bedford for a Q and A at The Working Waterfront Festival.  Phil and Jonathan were every bit as colorful in real life as they are on TV, there is nothing "extra" put on for show.   I am grateful I was able to witness this man talk about his life's passion in person, and he will be remembered by those that welcomed his gritty voice, chain smoking, family fights, and constant antics into their homes over the years.   R.I.P. Captain Phil Harris, you will be missed.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Boy am I behind on posting.....we had quite a bit of germination on the 26th of last month, here is a shot of one of the cells sprouting:

And here they are today, chuggin' right along:

It's the standard seed growing station.  Fluorescent shop lights hung on adjustable shelves.  Everything is growing quite nicely aside from the Red Wing onion seeds.  Nadda, nothing, crickets.  Hmph.

So, I have been saying for a week now that I need to do a germination test on the buggers, but of coarse, I haven't yet.  They can take up to 13 days to germinate so there is a minute possibility they are taking their sweet time, but I don't remember things taking this long last year.

I have ben squirreled away reading my latest gardening periodicals as much as possible lately.  My 'Christmas Cash Stash' has just about run dry, but it was fun while it lasted!

Lastly, I have been trying to nail down the 2010 garden layout which has been proving difficult since the new beds aren't actually built yet, so it's more fantasy than reality at the moment. Below are my cut-outs, each meant to resemble one raised bed.  The trouble is I grow more nightshades than anything else, so proper rotation is an issue.

 (And some good news, we are expecting............a shed.  :)  Well, not yet, but very soon we will, and that means I will have a potting shed/bench for potting, storing, and curing.  YIPEE!!!)