Saturday, August 31, 2013

Basil Jelly???

What do you do when you have basil going bonkers outside??
Old picture, but you can see the basil hiding everything else. 
Don't get me wrong, we love the fresh basil, and are drying basil to put away for the winter, but we still have plenty so we decided to try making Basil Jelly. No, this not just me going "Let's make Jam out of everything" and no this is not me trying to justify what we have, but me trying to find more ways to use the basil.
Basil anyone??
First we took a ton of basil, and washed it all very well. Then we followed the directions on Sweet Domesticity. They were very easy to follow and she tends to have great ideas. In the end, we got 5 half pints. Enough to decide if we like it, not enough we are stuck with it if we don't. Daddy came up with the idea to try and make canned pesto yesterday. Now to find a recipe. Good thing no one here is afraid of work.
5 half pints of jelly

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Pooka has always loved her pretty purple peppers. She knows she is not allowed to eat them, but she loves the vibrant purple color of them.She has waited and wondered what other colors they may have.

Purple peppers
Her wait is over. Yesterday she was walking through the garden and screamed "It's red Mommy, The pepper turned red." Sure enough, one of her peppers had finally turned red. The rest of the bush shows all the other colors the peppers turned. Now to see if the when they turn red if they get any milder. That is a test for Daddy

Lots of colors

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thinking for fall

The last few weeks, Pooka and I have been wondering about what fall will bring. We know it will mean less tomatoes and peppers, but we are trying to extend our harvest of at least some of the veggies. Peas are one that have taken off this year and may do well as the temperatures begin to drop.
Soon to be peas and beans
So the last few weeks, Pooka and I have been begining to think of getting the sugar snap peas, the green beans and the carrot seeds planted. Most have begun to sprout.

Another group of carrots
The pak choi is doing well, and we will be transplanting it soon. Then we will be restarting the spinach and the lettuce again. Daddy and I even agreed to go to the nursery and buy some more broccoli plants to get in the ground so we will have plenty of broccoli. If it is anything like last year, the broccoli lived past when the snow had begun to fall.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Butterflies and caterpillars oh my

Around here, we seem to be on a butterfly and caterpilar rollercoaster. We are constantly finding new caterpillars in the garden that we have to "raise" In fact, as soon as ones go into cocoons, we are bringing in more caterpillars. I think Pooka is on her 4th Generation this summer. 
Everyone takes a nap
Time to move guys
Once the caterpillars are in their cocoons, I gently take out the cocoons (which would be much easier if they would use the darn stick instead of the walls 

New babies
Then we clean out the old/dried herbs and frass (yes thats the term for caterpillar poop). Then the new inhabitants of the bug house are placed in their new home. Generally they are sometimes even collected off the carrots or parsley before the bug house is vacant. Good thing I keep enough jars around.
Look at them growing up

Then the cycle starts over where we feed them daily to make sure they get enough food and are happy. The upside to bringing them inside, I can decide what they eat instead of them eating all of one plant. Pooka says they are getting a more balanced diet.

Someone woke up
Meanwhile the cocoons we removed from the bug house move into Pooka's butterfly house. This house sits in the garage and we give the butterflies time to develop.

Fly free Sushi

Once they are awake and happy, Pooka is allowed to spend an afternoon with them and watching and naming them before we release them back into the yard to do their thing and make more caterpillars for Pooka. The butterflies also help to pollinate the garden.

Friday, August 23, 2013


I think Cave Johnson the Lemon tree is confused by this weather. Not that I can blame him, but he has yet to finish ripening the big lemon that he has been working on all summer. Then the other day he broke out in these pretty blooms. I swear the tree thinks it is spring. Granted from the way the weather has been behaving, I can't blame him too much.

A blooming Lemon tree, in August
On the other hand, Pooka is loving seeing all the blooms on the lemon tree. She is waiting rather patiently for the one giant lemon, but now she is getting it in her head that she will have enough lemons to make strawberry lemonade. I will probably end up buying a few more lemons and a few more strawberries to make it happen.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Life is everchanging

Yesterday, Pooka started kindergarten. Pooka emerged yesterday ready to be a big girl and go to a big kid school. She was able to walk away and stretch her wings as she began to really grow up.

Surprise of the day
When we got home from dropping her and Brother off. Daddy and I saw that one of her caterpillars emerged from his cocoon. It seemed the perfect metaphor for the day.

After school Pooka and K released this butterfly to grow and live on his own. Much like I need to let go just a bit so she can learn to fly and grow on her own. Good luck Cluckaboo (the butterfly's name).

Good luck butterfly

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Using Blue potatoes

Since the blue potato harvest was so small (and the potatoes were blue) I had people wonder what you do with blue potatoes. They also wondered if the potatoes were blue on the inside. Well this proves they were very colored indeed.
Cut potatoes
 We just sliced and diced the potatoes till they were all about the same size then baked them in the oven with some garlic and some butter. Nice garlic potatoes for dinner one night. They tasted wonderful, so we will try them again next year and see if we can get any bigger ones. 
Potatoes anyone?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Purple Peppers

The purple peppers are very pretty looking, and are fairly small, so they look innocent. They are not. In fact, we tried these recently and Pooka is not allowed to try them. I swear I think my tongue started bleeding. Daddy on the other hand loves hot peppers, and he admitted they are a bit hot to eat by themselves. We have been subjecting them to people we know who keep saying they love spicy things. At least it is a good laugh.
I will admit we picked them when the peppers are purple. They eventually turn red, so we are waiting to see if they get hotter or milder when they mature, so we are waiting for one to turn red and Daddy will try it again then. Until then, the Purple, to cream, to yellow, to orange to red makes a great coloring in the front yard, if you could see them around the basil plants.
We have found that Daddy likes them put in a refrigerator Garlic Dill pickle we make. He said they gave them a bit of a tang, but could actually use a 3rd one into a 1/2 pint jar. That jar barely lasted an hour before Daddy and Uncle M had eaten them all. We also just put them in some salsa, so hopefully they are good like that. We may even try making our own hot pepper flakes with the dehydrator. Nothing will go to waste if I can help it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Seeds seeds everywhere

The milkweed pods have started blowing their little seeds around, which meant Pooka and I started harvesting the seeds, especially since I don't want milkweed growing everywhere.
Milkweed ready for harvest
First we cut the little pods off once they show signs of being read. This generally is the pod either opening up a bit, or bits of white fuzz hanging out. I wish I had better knowledge of when they are ready besides the seeds getting away, but I don't.
Seeds all lined up and ready to go
Here you see one that is ready for harvest. The seeds have this nice brown color to them, and they are all lined up. Pooka said "I love the texture of them, and they look pretty too." Next I get the brown paper bag of seeds and hand it to Pooka. Once we have it split open a bit, Pooka gets to put the pod in the bag.
Seed removal
Once the pod is in the bag, Pooka gets to put her fingers in the pod and drop the seeds into the bag. There is ton of white fuzz like you would see on a dandlelion, so do not do this if you have anything sticky on you hands. (I made that mistake after handling a sunflower. I looked like a yeti with the amount of fuzz on my hands). I am leaving the seeds in their until next year, but I may let Pooka plant one or two not just to make sure they are viable. They probably won't flower, but she will know they are there.
Weird yellow dots
I found these little yellow dots all over the milkweed. Apparently they are an aphid that really likes milkweed. Lovely, now to find another way to get rid of the buggers.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yellow onion harvest

Last Thursday, we pulled the last of the onions. As you can see, they had all pretty much fallen over and were drying out. A couple had flowers, but even they weren't still standing.
Daddy pulled the first few and they are a bit bigger then the red onions. I really think they got so long because we had them too close together. For our first year, I don't think we did all that bad.
Test pull of onions
The onions are sitting in the garage drying. I don't have a firm harvest total on them yet. I am waiting for them to dry and to be able to pull off the greens before I weigh them. Now to find a way to store all of these.
Onions drying

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another mystery.

Saturday Morning, we had a bit of a surprise. Pooka and I were about to leave to do some errands and she noticed what she called a "giant yellow spider" in her basil. I went to investigate.

The yellow spider
As I headed that way, I saw lots of debris on the ground. It looked like some sort of plant had a rough night. Now the night before was a fairly normal night, but I do remember hearing a small thud, but attributed it to the cats.
debris everywhere

Apparently, it was a sunflower. This wouldn't be the first time we had a sunflower fall over, so I grabbed Pooka from the car and got out our plant tape and shears to tie it back up.
Once the sunflower was standing once more, I noticed this little mess. Looks like something likes our sunflower seeds.
Someone is a very messy eater
It was eating out of the giant sunflower next to the one that fell. Best answer I have gotten is something climbed the smaller sunflower to eat off this guy, and at some point the sunflower couldn't hold whatever it was and it fell, sending our little friend with it. Fortunately, there wasn't any damage that couldn't be fixed. We did lose one branch on the Thai basil, but nothing else. Hopefully our little friend learned a lesson, but since that giant sunflower is missing more seeds since this picture, I doubt it. At least the plants are a bit studier now.
Dinner for 1 I hope

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Red and Blue and Purple

A while back, we harvested the red tomatoes. They had begun to dry out and fall over. Sounded like a good time to harvest them to me.  They were not the biggest of things, but we would use them. We laid them out to dry on Daddy's table saw, and about a week ago, I finally got around to pulling the dried greens off.
Dried and ready to go.
The harvest did look a lot smaller when all was said and done. But they are onions and we will use them. I will say it has been nice not having to buy onions in like 2 weeks. All told, the final harvest of red onion was 44.5 oz or 2.78 lbs. Not too bad. We made our money back on them which is all we asked for. Next year we are going to space them out a bit more, as well as amend the bed better. At least this proves we can grow them.
Most of the final Red Onion harvest (we did eat some before hand)
Speaking of harvests, do you remember the blue potato harvest? Brother was happy we had blue potatoes, but I will say I was rather disappointed. They were small and not what I was expecting. However, Brother was happy and that is all we could ask.

Blue potato harvest.
What did we do with such small potatoes, we cut them up into small chunks. This is where you can really see the coloring of the potatoes. Although I do admit they look more purple in the picture.

Sliced and diced
The chopped potatoes were roasted with just some butter, garlic and onion. Made a great side dish one night to go with a fresh picked salad. Brother ate his potatoes with complaining and actually asked for seconds. A rare feat indeed since he hates any potatoes that are not French fries. We are  going to try them again next year, but if for no other reason than to have Brother eat one dinner of blue (PURPLE as pooka still contends) potatoes without a fight. Maybe then we will get enough to make him blue French fries.
Garlic Blue potatoes

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Pooka had a very big surprise the other day. She went outside to check the front garden and this was on the amaryllis that is on the front porch. We didn't expect these to bloom at all and I was trying to figure out if I cut them back to get some color in the winter. Maybe it is a good thing we didn't. It has 4 buds on it total, but the first has bright burst of color on the front porch.
Pooka's picture of her flower

Helping out

Yesterday, Daddy brought home another tomato plant for Pooka. While I know it is another plant, this one has a story. Pooka's gave her Great Grandmother a tomato plant for Mother's day. Great Grandma has not been feeling very well this spring and summer and realize the other day that the tomato plant was suffering a bit from neglect. Normally, we wouldn't care, but Great Grandma didn't want Pooka to be upset if the plant died and Great Grandma realized she was not able to get to the plant to even pick her tomatoes.
Great Grandma's tomato plant
Great Grandma asked me if Pooka could raise her tomato plant. Since we had planted it in a pot to begin with (and hopefully make it easier for Great Grandma to get to) I agreed. It wasn't looking too bad we it got home, but you could tell it needed a bit of TLC. We pruned off some of the dead branches and it is looking much better. Pooka asked if we could make sure to give Great Grandma a tomato every time we see her so she won't miss her plant. Judging by what didn't survive transport, I think that is going to be very possible. These fell off on their own when we got it out of the car.

Casualties of the move

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Yesterday, Pooka and I walked outside and were surprised by the sunflowers. Now generally, we plant the sunflowers and forget them. In fact, we don't even water them much, but we were amazed at how well they were doing this year. Some are over 12 ft tall, but what amazed us more was all the different ways the sunflowers had bloomed.
Velvet Queen
Pooka's new red sunflowers had bloomed. They are a bit shorter then the others, but still a good 6 feet tall. She loves the red look of them and the fact that they are different. We all know Pooka loves things to be different.
Here you can see the varying heights of the sunflowers. That velvet queen looks so tiny compared to the mammoth next to it.
Tiny flowers
 We have giant sunflowers, but this was just the cutest little sunflowers. They are hidden under another sunflower, but they have the smallest heads. At least I think they are sunflowers.
 I am assuming this one came from the velvet sunflowers seeds. This is not quite what we were expecting, but it gives a nice color and surprise to everything. If we go off of just Pooka seeds next year, we may have some very interesting results.

This is our biggest sunflower. The bloom is bigger than my hand. Forgive the horrible angle, it is so big, it has fallen over a bit and I had to climb underneath it to get a picture.

I am curious on what kind of seeds we will be able to save from all these flowers. I think its a great experiment in genetics and to teach Pooka with. She wants to see what kind of sunflowers she will get next year, maybe multi headed, colored giants?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A gift for Pooka

Pooka saw her Grandma K this last week. Grandma K and Pooka get along wonderfully even if Pooka was trying to tell Grandma K what she should be planting around her house. Pooka was asking about some of Grandma K's statues and Grandma K gave Pooka this little fellow.
A gift for Pooka
 Pooka has decided his name is Ribbit. Hes a cute little guy that Pooka made sure to take good care of when we brought him home. In fact, as soon as Ribbit came out of the suitcase, he was the first thing she had to put away. (She had checked the garden the minute she got out of the car).
Welcome home
Ribbit now lives next to her black eyed susans. I am not sure which is protecting which, but she decided he looked really good there and that is where he will be living for awhile. Pooka can't wait to show her friends what her Grandma K gave her. All Grandma K asked is that Pooka think of her when she looks at it. I am sure that will happen quite a bit. Thank you Grandma K for everything.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Getting closer

The tomatillo plants are filling out. Pooka eyes them daily wondering when she can finally harvest. I keep telling her it should be soon, but we have to wait till papery skin pulls back from the fruit. Pooka is waiting anxiously for the day she can start making green salsa.

Tomatillos on the plant
We had a couple of tomatillos fall off the plant during a storm one night, but there wasn't much to actually call a harvest.  Pooka wanted to try these, but I told her they probably didn't taste right.
Almost a harvest
Daddy has already consented that we will probably be growing tomatillos next year, and that Pooka consistantly drools over the purple tomatillo seeds she has seen in stores. We have already talked about picking them up soon so Pooka can grow them next year. Then we will be making Salsa Purpura instead of Salsa Verde.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pooka and the nursery

A week ago, Pooka decided to spend her money. We went out to the store to see if she could find a toy she liked, but she didn't see anything she wanted. When we got home, she asked if I  could take her to the nursery to spend her money. I asked if her is was sure and she said "Yes, I want to buy something at the nursery."

We went to the nursery on a Friday. The nursery staff know us on sight and asked if we were back for our "weekly field trip " Pooka told me to look for milkweed to attract more butterflies, but couldn't find anything. Nor could she find anything she wanted in the veggies or herbs. They were on sale, but rather picked over. Pooka went back to one of the nursery employees and asked "Do you have any plants that will attract good bugs like butterflies?" 

Black eyed susan
The nursery person was a bit taken aback by a child so young knowing that question. She asked Pooka if she wanted a plant that came back year after year, or would only be for this year. Pooka told her she wanted one that would come back year after year. She took Pooka to look at the black eyed susans. Pooka checked with me if she had enough money to buy one and I told her she did. 

As we walked back, Pooka mentioned she had been looking for milkweed. The staff said they had pulled them that day because they were getting to hard to water, but she would take Pooka in the back if she wanted one and would charge Pooka a quarter each. Pooka was very excited so we went back and she found 2 4-packs she wanted. One was still flowering but most had gone to seed. The lady at the nursery told Pooka if she lets the seed pods dry out, then she can save the seeds for next year. 

Pooka's haul, milkweed and black eyed susans
They ended up not charging Pooka for any of the milkweed and telling Pooka to come back in 10 years and they could give her a job. I only worry she may not have a paycheck if she works at a nursery. Pooka came home and told me she was going to plant her plants "all by myself, you can sit on the porch and watch." She laid them out in the garlic bed. Her milkweed was spread throughout the bed.
Laying out her purchase
Pooka then planted all of her plants by herself. I still need to go through and rinse off the sidewalk, but she is happy, and her black eyed susan was planted in a place the garlic didn't do well, but the susans should be happy back there. If we need to we can move them next year, but I think they should be okay there. Pooka is just happy to have done it all by herself and she was a big girl.
Pooka's plantings