PEASSSSSS!!!! Actual, live, eat 'em right off the vine sweet peas. I eat the smaller pods, I open the older ones and lick out the peas in an ecstasy of gardening goodness. The ones above will be eaten for dinner tonight. (The ones left after River got to them, that is.)
So much has been going on in our "inside lives" that we haven't spent a lot of time doing anything outside. The garden is woefully underplanted, and I'm going to have to go ahead and get some plants from the store, as much as I hate it. You do what you can, right?
A couple of weekends ago, we took a trip to a local strawberry farm to pick our own berries. I've done berries here, and they'd be fine for a novelty for the kids, but I don't have enough space for a big patch. We wound up with an enormous mass of the lovely red fruits (including Jeffrey's "magic"--i.e. "unripe" ones)
and so later that afternoon, I set to preserving them. I made one big wad of them into strawberry jam. This was my third attempt at jam--the first resulted in a thick brownish sludge, the second resulted in a thin, goopy mess and the third:
I kinda wish I had a "TA DAAAAHHHH!" sound bite right now. Or, like, angel trumpets. The jam set beautifully and I made eight half pints of it! Huzzah!!
The rest of the berries I culled and sliced for freezing. They were so pretty on the tray that I took a picture of them. After they froze on the trays, I popped them off and slipped them into some Ziploc Vacuum Freezer bags. I'd been thinking about one of those vacuum storage systems for a while, because I make ahead and freeze pancakes, muffins, cookies, biscuits, etc. and wanted to be able to preserve them for a bit longer if possible. And I hate it when my blocks of cheese go bad fast. But the price of the systems kept me from buying them, along with the fact that reusing the bags for anything is impossible. I had heard about a Reynolds product that worked on a battery and the last time I went to HellMart, I headed to the freezer bag aisle, where I found the Ziploc system. Four bucks got me some bags and a little handpump. At face, this is pretty low-tech: a handpump goes over a hole in the bag and you, um, pump the air out. But the storage potential made me go nuts. I would prefer to can our produce, but Jeffrey hates what he calls "olive green" green beans and peas that are canned. And the kids LOVE frozen berries. So the idea that I can freeze stuff without the frantic "suck-with-a-straw-hurry-to-seal-curse-the-invention-of-air" deal is awesome. The pump removes every bit of air in the bag and you can reseal them after cutting off a wodge of cheese or grabbing a few berries.
The package and website cautions against reusing the bags, although to be honest, I'll probably reuse the ones I keep fruit and breads in--at the very least, these would make great "keepers" for wet socks and clothes that the kids mess up while on the road. No more icky soured clothes!!! You can check them out here: http://www.ziploc.com/?p=b10 Oh, by the way, I got five quart bags of frozen berries. I'd like to have more, but I'm going to fill out our fruit stash for the winter with blueberries (maybe even a few from our new rabbit eye bushes below),
peaches, and blackberries from the farm in Cowtown.
Let's see...I've given up hilling the potatoes...they grew all the way up to the top of the potato bin and I couldn't see using any more soil or straw. I'm hoping all the growth will mean lots of potatoes, but you know my skepticism with this concept. I was pretty surprised to see how close the blossoms of the potato are to eggplant blossoms and interested to find out after some research that they belong to the same family: edible Nightshade. Cool.
I decided to dig a corn trough this year instead of put them in a raised bed. Corn requires a lot of water and gets so tall that a raised bed made it difficult to deal with. The trough is roughly six feet by six feet, and I was able to get thirty-six kernals planted. I put mini pumpkins in each corner. The corn is starting to come up now, so tomorrow I'll put in some Henderson limas. YUM!! The corn trough picture is bad, I know. I think I'm going to call it: Large Lopsided Square of Dirt. You might be able to pick out the corn if you squint and say an incantation.
I dug out a BUNCH of the chocolate mint when I discovered it was started to invade the raised beds. Um. No. I transplanted some of it to a different spot, but was going to dry the rest until I decided to try doing some mint jelly with it. It has such a nice flavor that I thought it might do. The only pectin I have is powdered, though, so I have to make a HellMart run for some liquid stuff. Hope I can find it...
In other, horribly disgusting news, I have stinkwort mushrooms in one of my beds. I'm not sure what sin I committed to deserve the variety I have. They're nicknamed "Dead Man's Fingers" (charming) and emit an odor that is so gross and profound that you can smell it when you walk out the back door. Topping off the nastiness is a brown slimy wad of ook that apparently draws flies, which adds to the general grodiness. (Click on the pic to get a gander at the mushroom loogy. Shudder.) A Googling of the mushroom revealed that you can actually cook with these, which makes me want to yark. I just...no. I'll have to dig them out soon, once I gather the courage to do so. Tomorrow is a planting day! Woohoo!