Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Francie Socks

I started this Francie Sock Pattern back at the beginning of April. I'm using It took a month to knit the first sock, but then I took a hiatus to use my #1 size needles to knit Magic Slippers. You can see the magic slippers I made in this post. I was really taken by the patterns that are created on the leg that look like branches and especially the shaping on the foot that is like a tree grown. Unfortunately my short feet meant that I had to end the pattern early to make them the right length. I still like the way the bottom looks.
Also I'm using using Plymouth Happy Feet yarn, and the patterns in the color tend to disguise the patterns in the knitting a bit.

I cast on the second sock about a month ago, but knitting time hasn't presented itself since my attention is mostly on the garden these days. I'm taking the second sock along on our vacation and maybe I'll make some progress while we're in the car. Maybe I'll finish the second sock in time to wear them for fall. I try to avoid wearing socks at all during the summer.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Since we're headed on vacation this next week, I thought it was time to go through the photos we took on our getaway weekend at the beginning of the month on the northern part of Lake Champlain. Here are a few of the best.
My first experience of these frogs was a sudden movement through tall grass as I walked. I jumped. All I could see was the grass moving quickly and I had no idea what it was. As we walked farther we caught glimpses of the many frogs. Later in the day we got a really nice photo of one posing on a tree trunk.
We also caught a beautiful sunset from the Burlington Harbor.
I love the way you can see the light waning in this one. It's hard to see at this size but there is a small sailboat still out on the water.

Last week I was worried that our garden might suffer without us around for a week, but my fears have been allayed by the more than 3 inches of rain this week with more in the forecast this weekend. Nevertheless, I may try out the watering spikes I bought which attach to soda bottles. There will be no news from the garden next week. Instead I have a few updates on knitting projects set to post.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Buttercup Squash

Here's a timeline of the quick growth of my first buttercup squash on the plant.

A day or so after it bloomed
Three days later
A week later
Unfortunately the two other female blossoms that have bloomed since aren't progressing as fast. I was sure they were fertilized, yet they are just about the same size as when they bloomed 3 or 4 days ago. I'm afraid they may have a yellowish tint which may mean they will be dropping off soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


This morning I spent some time preparing for my fall garden by transplanting my last three Brussels Sprout plants and direct seeding kale and spinach. I also pulled some mesculn which was past it's prime and re-seeded more.

I considered pulling onions, but considering how wet it's been it wasn't the best time. However later this afternoon I decided I needed onions for dinner and we were all out. I went back out and pulled those onions which were smallest and had the most browned leaves. They ended up being almost all smaller than an apricot. I'm not expecting much from my other onions, I got them in the ground a little late, and half of them were in the shade of my mystery plant for much of the season. No matter what their size, I'll get my return on the $2 I spent on the sets.
Since they were so small I halved them and roasted them in the oven at 375 along with halved canned tomatoes (no fresh ones yet) and a sliced eggplant from the farmers market. Everything got a liberal dose of olive oil and some salt. Meanwhile, I simmered down the liquid from the canned tomatoes adding oregano and basil and a teaspoon of sugar. When the vegetables where done roasting after about 30 minutes, I roughly chopped them and added them to the pot. Now we're just waiting for the pasta water to boil.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I took advantage of the break in the rain today to pick blueberries this afternoon. At first it was my intention to just pick for us to eat and make a cobbler, but I just kept on picking and decided that I'll go ahead and can my blueberries for Christmas gifts. I make them blueberries in their own syrup. Basically you add 1/2 cup sugar for every quart of berries and cook them over high heat until they glisten. Place in 1/2 pint jars with any liquid they make and top with hot water if needed. Leave 1/2" head space. Process in the canner for 15 minutes. The berries tend to float on top after processing. I just make sure to give the jar a good shake before opening, and once they are stirred in, and the seal is broken they mix in the syrup again. They're great on pancakes or waffles or with vanilla ice cream.
Growing up, Blueberry Cobbler was the quintessential summertime dessert. We'd go pick some blueberries from the bushes in the back yard and this would be for dessert. The recipe's easy and is from an old Southern Living anthology. Here's the cobbler after we served ourselves some.

Blueberry Cobbler

3 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 stick butter, melted
cinnamon and nutmeg

Pour the blueberries into a 10" x 6" baking pan. Sprinkle the lemon juice on top.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and egg until it resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle on top of the berries and drizzle the butter on top. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg on top.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

More Garlic

Today as I pulled the dead vines of the mystery plant of the tepee, I decided to go ahead and pull the rest of my garlic. We have gotten a lot of rain in the past few days and and showers are predicted for the rest of the week. I was afraid that the ripe garlic might begin to rot in the ground. I harvested 6 heads of the large variety and 5 heads of my medium variety. You can see the big difference in size. The larger variety could have probably stayed in the ground a little longer, but the medium variety had soft necks and layers of skin brush away with the dirt.

I found some notes from when I planted the garlic last year and found that the variety I harvested last week was purple skinned. The head of it I have hanging in the kitchen is turning purple as it dries. The rest in the barn doesn't appear to have that color yet.

Here are all three varieties hanging in the barn. The one in the middle is the purple skinned that I harvested last week.

Monday, July 21, 2008

More Pickles

After Friday's successful batch of Bread and Butter Pickles I decided that I should make more. I bought 6 more pounds of pickling cucumbers and made 8 jars with them today. Last week as I was planning my fall garden I discovered that cucumbers grow quickly and so I looked at area stores for pickling cucumber seeds. I only found slicing cucumbers, but I did buy those and plant them where the mystery squash was. They've already sprouted. Next year I need to plant my own pickling cucumbers.

Also today, I harvested my first batch of the Romano Bush Beans. They are a flat bean, with bulges. I picked about one and half pounds of them. I had thought I might be able to can a jar of dilly beans as I did the pickles, but there were more beans on the bushes than I thought and so I was able to can three jars of dilly beans. The dill came from my garden also.

I first tried dilly beans last Fall and loved them so much that I made a batch over February vacation with store-bought green beans. I also made a version of them with my class this Spring as we studied life on the home front of World War II. The students loved them and they were easy to make with the group.
The beans tend to float after the canning process and they need to cure for a few weeks and absorb the brine. I find that they seem to float less when the jar is upside down. I'm hoping to put up more jars of dilly beans in the coming month because I know that three jars is not enough to keep me satisfied all winter.

Green Tomatoes

Like many gardeners in my area, I'm anxiously awaiting the first red tomato. So far I have plenty of green paste tomatoes. My two plants of this variety are prolific. My other two tomatoes of unknown variety are slower in developing. The heirloom has just two wrinkled fruit, and the other plant has three round developing tomatoes. You can see they are all covered with water droplets, as we got a strong thunderstorm and over an inch of rain yesterday.
Paste Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomato

Surprise Tomato Variety
We'll be leaving town for a week vacation on Saturday and I hope that they don't ripen while I'm away.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


This morning I pulled one of my three varieties of garlic. It was the last variety to put up the garlic scapes (blossoms), so I had thought it would be the last variety to be ready. However, it was turning brown faster than the other kinds so I decided to pull it rather than risk it rotting. I pulled 6 heads. They're a bit on the small size but I remember that it was a rather small head that I planted them from.
The first head got damaged as I dug it up because I didn't realize how deep the garlic heads were. They were 4 to 6 inches below the ground and I mistakenly nicked the head with the trowel. Since the head was damaged, I didn't hang it to dry with the rest. Instead I brought it into the kitchen to dry so we can use it soon. I peeled off the outer layers of skin to see the size of the cloves. The other 5 heads were hung in the barn to cure for a few weeks.
Of the varieties still in the ground, one seems close to being ready to pull, while the largest variety is still on the green side. I'll be keeping an eye on them in the coming week.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Today I tried making pickles for the first time. I started small, just one batch. I ordered the pickling cucumbers from my CSA and decided it was best to make the pickles today while the cucumbers were the freshest. I made one batch of Bread and Butter Pickles from The Joy of Cooking:All about Canning and Preserving. It made 4 pints. When I sliced the cucumbers for the recipe, I had just enough cucumber slices left over to experiment with a jar of dill pickles, using dill from my garden. I can't tell you how either recipe turned out yet because I'm waiting for them to cool so I can check the seals on the jars.

Odd and Ends:
Here's my buttercup squash coming along nicely. I had two more female blossoms bloom earlier this week but I can't say for sure yet whether they are going to set. I've noticed that honey bees seem to be frequenting the male flowers which is a good sign. I've also done some pollinating on my own just to make sure, but even still the first 3 female blossoms didn't take. I hope to get more than just one squash out of this plant.
Yesterday, I noticed this Katydid on the underside of a zucchini leaf. I ran back in to get the camera and it was still there when I returned.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The End of the Mystery Plant

Yesterday the mystery plant met it's demise. When it was first discovered and transplanted back in April, it seemed so much like a squash, especially it's seed leaves.
The mystery plant grew vigorously and took over the whole tepee built for it. This was just a few days ago. When my true squashes sprouted and began to grow the comparison between the two started to cast some doubt. The zucchini and buttercup squashes had prickly leaves and stems and the mystery plant did not. The mystery plant was an adept climber, while the buttercup squash had to be coaxed and trained. And the mystery plant's leaves looked less and less similar to those of the squash. But the true test came when it finally blossomed. It seemed to take forever to do so. It finally bloomed and in doing so, revealed itself to be an impostor. I didn't even let the flowers open. Here's the beginning of the flowers.
Yesterday I cut it off at the base of each of the 3 plants. I'm letting it dry on the tepee before I tear it down because my compost has so much green matter in it right now. At the base of the tepee I planted some cucumbers to replace it. Oh well, it was worth a try.

Recent harvests:
1 very large beet. The rest of the beets are from a 2nd seeding attempt and are not yet harvesting size. But this one joined some other beets from our CSA to make a Beet Rosti last night for dinner.
Carrot thinnings. I think these will be a snack before the day is out. Most of these are from my carrots that are planted under the squash tepee and don't get full sun. I'm glad to see that they are still developing a root despite the limited light.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Raspberry Pepper Jam

Last fall I bought some Raspberry Pepper Jam at a farmers market. We really enjoyed it with cream cheese on crackers and it was the perfect blend of sweet and hot. My goal this summer was to re-create that jam. Unfortunately I could not find any recipes for it online. I found some related ones and used those to experiment when I made strawberry jam. The strawberry pepper jam was just alright. It wasn't quite hot enough and I didn't like the texture, it was too clear, more like jelly. I made a few changes and think I've hit on a good recipe for Raspberry Pepper Jam.

So here it is.

Raspberry Pepper Jam


5 cups fresh raspberries
2 jalapeno peppers
1 bell pepper (red or green)
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 package powdered pectin

(Note: Jalapeno peppers vary in strength. Depending on your preference and the strength of the peppers, you may need to add more.)


Wash and pick through raspberries. Place one cup in the bottom of a large sauce pan and crush. Add the remaining 4 cups of berries to the pan. In a food processor, chop the jalapenos and bell peppers. Be careful of the jalapeno oils that come out. They made me cough if I accidentally breathed some. Add the chopped peppers to the pan along with the sugar and vinegar.

Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring often. The sugar should dissolve.
Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 15 minutes until all the berries are broken apart. This concentrates the berry flavor and boils off some of the liquid content. At this point, stir in the powdered pectin. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 1 to 2 minutes.
Ladle into hot 1/2 pint jars and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Makes about (5) 1/2 pint jars.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

I'm joining on the bandwagon a little late and posting what is blooming today in the garden to join in May Dreams Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Luckily I took some photos earlier in the day.
First, flowers in the vegetable garden:
Green bean flowers
Paste Tomato Flower
Unknown Heirloom Tomato Flower
Buttercup Squash Blossom
Jalapeno Pepper Blossom

Flowers around the yard:
Bee Balm
Wild Daisy
Nettle Leaved Bell Flower (thanks to KD for the identification)
Day lily
Pale Pink Lily

Also blooming but not pictured is a wild white yarrow.