Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Making vanilla extract at home

Well, there's so little to do in the garden, I am trying out some new things indoors.  Here is my latest venture, making vanilla extract.  It seems like it is going to be super easy to do.

What you need:
1 cup good vodka
3 vanilla beans
jar with tight lid
patience (4 out of 5 ain't bad)

Okay now, pay close attention.  Make sure your jar is clean first of all.  Take three, good quality vanilla beans and cut them in half to with in a centimeter or so of one end.  This will keep them together.  I don't know why that makes a difference, but I didn't argue (much).  Place beans in jar, glass is best, cover with 1 cup of vodka.  I used Absolut, but the better the vodka, the better the extract, once again I didn't argue.  Make sure beans are completely covered and then place lid securely on jar.  Store in a cool, dark place for the next two months.  I guess that is where the patience comes in.  Once a week or so you can gently shake the jar.  Even after just a couple of days you can smell how great this is going to be.  Don't ask me how I know, I just do.  I started mine two nights ago.  I'll keep you posted.

I ws down to just over a cup of vodka so I used the bottle it was already in.

This is after 2 days.  They look a little like giant leeches.  Hopefully it will taste better!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Comments working

Someone emailed me that they couldn't post comments. The template I was using didn't work right. It was the same on my other blog. I know there are thousands of you out there who are dying to comment on my blog, now you can!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Umm, I Got Nothin'

Well, it is definitely a slow time of year for the garden.  About the only thing I have to do right now is to go out and water the strawberries and my flower beds.  I think I may have killed my beautiful pineapple.  I forgot to bring it in when it got cold.  I guess we'll see.

In a few weeks I will start planning and maybe even start some plants indoors.  It has been a while since I have done that.  Right now I am just focusing on clearing out the guest room to make it a craft room.  That and making sure I can keep Elijah interested in school.  He is blowing through everything right now.

Have a great winter!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More cleanup

Last week, before Thanksgiving, we got out and raked the yard.  We have about 3/4 of an acre that we have to rake.  The other 1/2 acre is cover by chicken and duck pens, a guest house , and a cabinet door shop.  This took us about 4 hours to do.  "Us" would be Elijah and myself mostly.  Jeff helped to haul it to the chicken pen.  They are the best leaf shredders around.  It was tiring work and my shoulder sockets ached for a couple of days, but the main raking is finished for the year.
Just the beginning

My big helper

All work and no play makes Elijah a dull boy

Where'd he go?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Homemade Grenadine

I made some grenedine all on my own today.  If you like Tequila Sunrise, but not HFCS, then homemade grenedine is the way to go.  Originally it was made from pomegranates and sugar, boiled until slightly thick.  Now mostly what you find in the store is a blend of HFCS, coloring, and citric acid.  It gets its name from the French word for pamegranate, grenade.  The artilley is named for so because of its resemblance to the fruit.

3 large pomagranates
water to cover

Remove the seeds from the fruit.  This will be a messy job.  I cut them in half and then took the seeds out by hand.  You can use a spoon, but that tends to break many of the juice sacks, making it even messier.  Just be sure to were some food prep gloves or rubber gloves.

Put the seeds in a heavy sauce pan and add enough water to almost cover the seeds.  Bring to a boil and then simmer about 5-10 minutes.  Pour into a screen sieve.  Using a large spoon, mash the seeds to be sure to relase all juices.  Restrain back into pan and add half as much sugar as you have juice.  3 cups juice = 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Bring to a simmer and continue for 15-20 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly and pour into glass container.  Keep in fridge.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mornings in the Fall

I think fall mornings are my favorite.  Some people don't like fall because everything is dormant or getting there.  The leaves change colors and while that is a beautiful sight, they do eventually dry up, turn brown, and fall to the earth below.  Here in Oklahoma, unless you have planted some rye or fescue, your lawn of Bermuda is now a crunchy brown.  If you have had a hard freeze the flowers are gone for the year and so is the veggie garden.  So far we haven't, so I have a few flowers hanging on and so are my tomatoes, still waiting for them to get ripe.  I brought my lemons, limes, and pineapples in for one night last week, but they are back outside.  I hoping we will get some much promised and much needed rain in the next couple of days. (That can also mean snow where we are going to be snowboarding in a couple of months!)

Back to fall mornings.  They are crisp and clean.  The air just smells cleaner.  You can be pretty sure when you step out into the cool air, that you are not going to have to deal with temperatures above 80, although this is Oklahoma and the upper 90's are not unheard of in October and November.  I've seen plenty of Thanksgivings at 80+.  That is another thing, you know Thanksgiving is near!  It is one of the few holidays I spend with my family and it has always been a favorite.

Here is what I will be doing in the yard for the next few weeks.  Raking!  If I have it my way, and since I am likely to be the one taking care of the job, I will actually wait another week or two so that more leave will fall and there will be fewer days of raking.  If others seem to think we need to get it done, then I imagine I will have several days throughout the next few weeks of raking and re-raking.  Right now it is way to windy to even try, but if we do get rain, then you have to let it all dry out again.  It won't happen today, I can tell you that!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cleaning up

We got some of the garden cleaned out today.  I had a little help from Jeff and Elijah.  We pulled up dead sunflowers and waning okra.  All of the of  garden soil we had used to plant in were emptied into a pile to be put on the garden next spring.  We have decided to move it to the other half that we did not plant on this year so instead of spreading the soil on this year's plot we will add compost and chicken litter to it over the winter.  It should be nice and fertile by the spring!

Good dirt
Can you say, "Roasted marshmallows!"?

With all of the dead vegetation we pulled up, we started a base for our bonfire we will have next weekend.  The ash will make another nice addition to the garden.  The ducks are also running on it.  They will keep the soil loosened up and they will add their own bit of fertilizer too.

They make great diggers!

All was not just getting rid of the dead stuff.  I harvested the last of the okra and a few bell peppers that were left along with a couple of tomatoes.  There are still a lot of green tomatoes on the vines and they are still blooming.  There is no sign of a frost in the next week at least so we will see how many more will ripen.  Then I'll see what can be done with all the green ones.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fruits of Neglect

As you may have noticed (maybe not, I'm not sure anyone but myself sees this), there has been a lack of posting on here as of late.  There has also been a lack of gardening going on as well.  As a matter of fact, we were gone for three weeks and absolutely noting was accomplished in the garden.  The basil has gone completely to seed, the rosemary died for lack of water, the okra is hanging on and I have quite a few red jalapenos to pick.  The tomatoes seem to have new life, but I don't think I will get any ripe before it frosts, but maybe.  The garden is in dire need of cleaning out and the yard need to be mowed for what I hope will be one last time this year.  Then the leaves will begin to fall and need to be raked and hopefully we can burn the yard off this year.  Tomorrow begins the garden clean-up. 

Here are some before pics.

Clockwise from top left: Okra, tomatoes, basil, romas.  The okra nd tomatoes are still producing!

Clockwise from top left:Strawberries, ready to clean, ready to clean again, sweet potatoes.
The sweet potatoes are just awaiting the first hard frost!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Primal Challenge

Okay, there is a contest going on and I plan to take part.  I have not checked all details, but it involves quite a change in my eating habits.  Now the challenge is going get really difficult over the next few weeks.  As if it wouldn't be difficult enough, we will be out of the country for a few weeks. Don't worry, I have "house sitters" and a brother-in-law who will be around while we're gone.  Anyway, it would be hard enough to do this at home, but I'm doing it anyways!

Here is a link to the challenge and what it is all about:

If you see me, ask how it's going!  Encourage me to keep it up, or to get with it and quit making excuses.  For the next 30 days I will be posting on my blogs what I am eating and doing.  I will try to throw in some regular posts as well!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nothing but HOT!

That's really all there has been to blog about in the last several weeks.  We had 42 days straight of 90 degrees or above and at our house, just under 1/2 inch of rain during that time.  Our yard is brown as can be, except over the lateral lines for the septic tank, there it is still lovely and green.  The garden is okay, a few things have died, but it's been too hot to get out and do anything but water.  Finally, on Tuesday we got a break in the weather.  We got 1.6 inches of rain and it hasn't been above 85 since then  Monday it was 105.  What a difference 20 degrees makes.  It was chilly enough this morning that Jessica wore a jacket to work.  The landscapers have not been able to do that for a while.

The final verdict on the Topsy Turvy is in.  Don't bother!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Guineas ar Great!

We let our 8-week old guineas out of their house earlier this week.  What a difference a week has made.  I have no more squash bugs, they were beginning to take over, and the grasshoppers are disappearing like mad.  Before my basil was starting to be eaten to the nub, you couldn't walk through the yard with out a barrage of them flying at you and away from you, and they were crawling all over the place   No so much any more!  The little keets have been eating so many bugs that today was the first day in several that they ate any of their feed.  I will have to watch my tomatoes as they ripen, but it will be worth it!

First time back in the house this week

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Well, actually it is preserves.  Cherry jalapeno, to be exact.  It is really good.  I will have to make sure to not keep cream cheese and crackers around the house or I will eat all of this nectar of the gods.  Okay, maybe not quite nectar of the gods, but it is yummy!  Not that I tried it before it even had a chance to cool down, ummm.  Anyway, I think I have made all the jelly and preserves I am going to for this summer.  If I find a good deal on fruit I will just freeze it and wait until fall or winter to make those things.  It just heats up the house too much right now. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Guineas, Squirrels, and did I mention it is HOT!?

Our Guineas are now 8 weeks old.  We decided to let them out of their little house to roam the yard.  They fly well enough to get over the fence, so we clipped their wings first.  Man, they are every bit as loud as I had heard they would be.  But I guess I would be too if someone were trying to cut off my arms.  Well, they seem to really love it outside.  At least there are plenty of grasshoppers for them to dine on.

Shade is at a premium right now!

For the last several years I have planted sunflowers.  Giant gray stripe are my favorites.  Usually in the fall the birds eat them bare.  I don't really plant them for us to eat the seeds, but more for aesthetics.  This year the birds however will not get to them.  The squirrels already have.  The flower and seed head were at least 9 inches across and they have taken all all of them to an undisclosed location and eaten them.  Oh well.  I would have like to have seen them dragging them off though.

Sorry little birdies

Oh yeah, it's hot.  Not just a little hot.  It's 102 at 6 p.m.  Yes, I know this is Oklahoma and that I should expect that.  I do, I just don't have to like it.  Looks like my pineapple does though!

It's sad to think that you look forward to 99 being a cool down

Lookin' good

Friday, July 30, 2010

Corn/Black Bean Salsa and Sand Plum Jelly

It's that great time of year for the garden.  Harvesting and preserving!  My brother-in-law had picked a bunch of corn at his cousin's house and gave me some.  We don't eat a lot of corn but I thought I would try making some salsa with it.  Mmm, Mmm, good! 

Just need chips!

There are also so many things to harvest that you don't grow yourself.  You should really take the time to learn about the things that grow in your area that are not only safe to eat, but wonderful as well.  Around here, one of those things is sand plums!  Thanks again to my brother-in-law!  He had gone fishing back west this weekend and pick a couple of 5-gallon buckets full.  He brought me about 3 gallons worth.  A sand plum is small, about the size of a cherry, but let me tell you, they make some of the best jelly you will ever eat.  After sorting them out and getting rid of the bad ones (they grow wild so they would be perfectly organic and therefor a little wormy) they were washed thoroughly and then put in the pan to make juice.  No need to pit or cut and peel.  Just add water and cook until the skins pop then drain off and keep the water, then smash through the colander.  Take the smashed pulp and drain through a cheese cloth.  Add this back to the cooking water.  Measure out the juice according to your recipe and proceed. (I strained it a second time for really clear jelly).  Now I may have to break down and make some homemade bread!



I still have enough juice to make another 8-half pints!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fruits of Labor

No, this is not a post about childbirth.  It is about canning!  Some may think it is as hard and time consuming as childbirth.  For some it may be, but it almost just as rewarding.  After our peach and berry picking venture yesterday, I decided to get on the ball and get my fruits put away.  I froze my blackberries and I canned the peaches. 

The blackberries are easy enough to do.  Wash them by putting them in a tub full of cool water.  swirl them around a bit.  Drain, rinse and repeat if you need to.  Let them drain just a bit and then lay them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Be sure to cover the cookie sheet with plastic wrap or a silicone baking sheet.  Let them freeze over night and then put into your freezer containers.  That simple!


For the peaches, they involved a little more work.  First they were blanched and then peeled.  Then you halve them and cut them into your desired sizes.  Keep them in water with lemon juice (1 tbsp lemon /gallon water) or ascorbic acid and water (1 tsp/gallon).  Boil your liquid, either a simple syrup or a fruit juice, I use apple juice.  Fill your jars with peaches being sure to pack them tight, I forgot to, so my jars ended up being only about 1/2 full of peaches after processing.  Then you can water bath can or pressure can.  I chose pressure canning because it takes less time, therefor less heat in the house for the A/C to have have to cool and less cook time means less energy used by the stove and the A/C!  I ended up making one batch with cinnamon sticks in them and one regular batch!  I may have to go back and get more peaches to can some more!

Peaches in apple juice

Cinnamon peaches in applejuice.  Shrinkage, Jerry!

I also decided to make a blackberry/peach crisp.  MMMMMM!

Hot from the oven!  Now we just need some ice cream!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pick of the Crop

Elijah and I went with some friends to pick blackberries and peaches.  We figured on a couple of hours worth of work in order to get what we wanted.  It ended up being about 45 minutes, if that.  The blackberries were big and shiny.  They were not priced any better than at the store, maybe even more, but they are so much better when fresh like that.  I go them home and wash them and immediately put them in the freezer.  Later this fall they will make a great cobbler!

Okay, I had to make him pose for this one, but he really did pick quite a few!

The peaches were big and juicy.  They were plenty firm and the kids had a great time helping to pick them.  We could have filled our 1/2 bushel box from just one tree!  Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to do with all of them.  I think I'll try a recipe I have for peaches canned in apple juice.  No sugar required!

Sweet as a peach!
Such a ham!
Afterwards we went to Pops in Arcadia and got some cold drinks!  It was a fun time.  I think we will have to do it again next year.  Maybe this year if the peaches can well!

AAHH, refreshed!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

There, They're, and Their-My Little Grammar Lesson of the Day!

It is a huge pet peeve of mine, but I hate it when people don't know how to use the three words in the title of this post.  Therefor, please forgive my misuse in my previous post.  If you can't find it, I'm not going to point it out.  If you, just don't rub it in too much.

There-refers to where an object is.
They're-conjunction for "they are"
Their-shows possession

I also hate it when people misspell "y'all".  It is a conjunction for the words "you all" and the apostrophe is taking the place of the "ou".

Oh, oh, oh!  One last one.  If someone asks how you are, you are not good, you are well (unless you are not well).  Guilty!!!

Have fun gardening today, y'all!

Monday, July 19, 2010

HeAT doMe!!

Yuck!  It is that time of year again.  The heat dome has arrived.  What is a heat dome?  Fairly simply, it is this, high temperatures (95+), little wind, medium to high humidity, no rain in sight, and several days of it.  We get them every year.  It's 99 as I type this.

This week's forecast ;-{

After whining about all the cool temps rain in late June and early July, we are now paying for it with a lack of both.  This makes gardening even more of a chore.  After going for several weeks with just a quick watering here and there, now I must soak it every morning.  Most of what I have left are hot weather veggies.  Tomatoes, peppers, okra, eggplant.  (Yeah, I know, that is not a sentence.)  They still need water.  Even my okra looked a little wilty this afternoon. 

You know it's hot when okra looks like it needs to be watered, and you already have

Their not wilted, just getting heavy with seeds!
Nice shady spot

The grass is still green and lack of rain will keep it from growing so much, so less mowing for me.  I guess that would be the silver lining, if there were any clouds.  It could last another couple of weeks, so I'll just grin and bear it and wait for snowboarding in January!

The grass is always greener...in June!