Author Archives: angelina

Lip Balm Production

lip balm 3I’ve been working on this lip balm project for a long time. I had a hard time deciding on the ingredients I wanted to use in my formula. I definitely wanted the consistency of Burt’s Bees but I wanted a calendula base. So I started off infusing sunflower oil with calendula.

lip balm 1Next I chose to use coconut oil (instead of cocoa butter) as a secondary oil. It adds a lot to the texture, making it creamier, because it’s solid at room temperature. (If you want to confuse people at Whole Foods, ask them for “denatured” coconut oil.)

Years ago I made lip balm with my sister and my friend Sharon and was super disappointed in the texture. It was super slick and came right off my lips. We only used oil (liquid at room temperature) and beeswax that time. This formula is much nicer. It’s richer, isn’t as slick, and feels great.

For this batch I used a peppermint oil for flavoring. It’s pretty light. I prefer it stronger generally. I re-melted this batch after my first try because the first time the peppermint disappeared completely. For the next batch I’m going to be using a cacao oil.

This week I sold 8 of my 3x strength wound salves (thanks to being included in this post on The Kitchn “15 Stocking Stuffers That Don’t Suck“) and so I’m already working on a new batch of salve. This is my happy place. Making these apothecary products. Selling them means I get to make MORE.

3x strength Wound Salve

Angelina Versus The Broken Faucet

broken faucetIt is a well known fact of the universe that things break when:

You can’t afford to fix them

In threes

When you are most emotionally crippled

When there is maximum chaos in your life

Several days ago this kitchen faucet broke. Philip tried to fix it. He discovered that one of the shut-off valves under the sink doesn’t work which complicates the process of fixing it. So we decided we would just buy a new faucet and pay a plumber to come fix it. The next day I had to do dishes in my bathtub. But before I could do that I had to clean up the massive trash evisceration I came home to. The trash was left out from under the sink and the dog got bored. But before I could clean up the trash I had to change out of my rain soaked clothes because it was pouring on my way home from work.

I changed out of my clothes and sat around for two hours trying to psyche myself up to face the trash which Chick thoughtfully dragged through the living room and bedroom. I finally picked that all up and realized that I couldn’t do anything else until I’d mopped the floor. But to mop the floor I really needed to clean the bathroom. Also – if you’re going to do your dishes in your bathtub you don’t want the toilet to be grimy because you’ll see it out of the corner of your eye and you’ll never trust that the dishes got really clean. So I had to clean the whole bathroom and then mop the floors and THEN do dishes in my tub. By the time I did that I was so tired I took Max out to eat even though by now we’d realized that after paying all our bills and the mortgage we were getting low-ish on funds. Facing Max’s birthday weekend meant other meals out so in the end it became clear that we could not afford a plumber. Just the faucet.

under the sink sitchSo yesterday was my first day off after a grueling week at work and I spent the whole day watching kitchen faucet replacement videos and going to Home Depot to get the replacement, a basin wrench, and silicone sealant.

First thing I discover is that Philip was right about one of the shut-off valves being  broken. This necessitated shutting off the water to the whole house which, because I wasn’t sure if we had one I could shut off myself, necessitated calling the water department and waiting for their guy to show up and show me how unnecessary it was for him to come out and turn my water off.

I unscrewed the nuts connecting the old faucet to the water supply. It was just as easy as all the videos suggested it would be. The next step was to unscrew the nut holding the faucet to the underside of the sink. But there was no nut on mine. It looks nothing like ANY of the videos I watched. This is the THING I had to grapple with:

Satan designed thisAfter 45 minutes trying to use the useless basin wrench to budge this motherfucker I had to give up. Max was starting to feel like the broken faucet and lack of water to the house was infringing on his birthday celebration. It was. So I headed out to Home Depot to ask them what the hell this THING is and how to remove it and then off to get Max his cupcakes and other treats. Home Depot guy doesn’t know what the hell this is. So I ask him to show me how to cap off the water supply line with the broken shut-off so I can turn the house water back on, celebrate my kid’s birthday, and come back to this mess later. 60 hundred hours later…

dirty broken faucetLet’s not discuss how two Safeways let my boy down by not having his favorite cupcakes, how I now have this hideous unbudging mess in my kitchen. Seriously, gross. And I realize I haven’t eaten since breakfast. Note to plumbing newbies like me:

NEVER ATTEMPT FIXING PLUMBING ISSUES ON AN EMPTY STOMACH

I managed to get Max his favorite cookie and frosting sandwiches from Sift which made him happy, hung out and watched him play one of his new video games, and opened presents and then I made him onion rings at 10pm. I was one exhausted human. I went to sleep with a leaky valve under my sink. I slept relatively well, for me.

I had secretly prayed that the broken faucet would be taken home to hell in Satan’s arms so that I could get on with installing the new faucet. No such luck.

the nut to bustOver coffee this morning I have come to believe that this nut (pictured above) is the one to crush. I actually attempted to loosen it for 30 minutes last night to no avail. But I think I was trying to do it the wrong direction. So when I’m done drinking my courage in a cup and after I get dressed in grimy clothes I’m going to try this one more time. Failing this?

I WILL SAW THIS MOTHERFUCKER OFF THE SINK WITH A HACKSAW

 

Tomato Fever

IMG_20140913_162610Canning season is in full flush. I have 12 quarts and 33 pints of peaches in the cupboard. I have 12 pints of salsa (14 total including the two that we’re just eating) and 7 quarts of plain tomato sauce done. (Plus about 4 quarts in the freezer)

IMG_20140919_141920I still have 2.5 boxes of tomatoes left and there are so many things I want to do with them it’s a little bit paralyzing. Having so much choice is a lucky situation to be in. After a week of being so broke I woke up in a money panic every morning I find myself mentally knocking on wood every few hours that payday came and I was able to pay my phone bill, buy 150lbs of tomatoes, and beer. Those two boxes of tomatoes are only 50lbs of the total. I had to make three trips to the farm to get my tomatoes home.

IMG_20140915_174253Side note: please don’t buy meat in big disrespectful bags like this. It looks like trash and that was once an animal, a living breathing being. I understand eating meat is the norm for many people including my own son and husband – but do it respectfully or don’t do it at all.  It’s much better to eat no meat than to buy it like this.

IMG_20140920_205501I dislike most salsa recipes in the canning books so I’m working on my own recipe now. It’s going to take a couple of years to perfect, I’m sure, but this first batch is pretty damn good. No bell peppers or cucumbers or carrots in my salsa, please! This batch is made with: tomatoes, onions, pickled jalapenos (because I need to use mine up, otherwise it would just be fresh ones), Mexican oregano, garlic, a ton of fresh cilantro, and some lime juice and salt.

IMG_20140920_213924Night canning results in me staying up several hours afterwards to wind back down. Last night I was up way too late and ended up falling asleep at my desk. I need to knock this off. I feel like a wreck today as a result. I have two and a half boxes of tomatoes left and here are the things I’m thinking of doing with them:

Summer vegetable soup to freeze (with corn, green beans, new potatoes, zucchini, and basil)

Ratatouille to freeze – I only have a few jars of it and it’s such a great thing to pull out of the freezer in cold(ish)* weather and serve over polenta.

Bruschetta topping – I’ve never canned this but I’m definitely going to try a recipe I have for this.

Black bean soup to freeze – with corn, lots of tomato, summer squash, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, and lime juice.

I think I better get my ass dressed if I hope to get anything at all done with those toms today. Which should I do first? Bruschetta topping, probably. Followed by the ratatouille.

I miss writing and I need to get more things listed in my Etsy shop but tomato canning season is something I look forward to all year and I don’t feel right if I haven’t put a lot of good stuff in the pantry and freezer. I’m such a damn squirrel.

The Post Apocalyptic First Aid Kit: put together your own or BUY MINE

first aid kit 1Last summer was a calamitous one. You know how you can go a long time without getting any cuts or sprains and then suddenly every time you turn around the kitchen knife is lodged in your thumb, table corners conspire to trip you so you sprain your wrist in a fall, and steps suddenly disappear under your feet sending you sprawling on the cement walkway below scraping off a big hank of skin so thick it makes you sick to your stomach to cut it off?

We had one of those summers. That was the summer I finally understood the value of having a first aid kit in the house. We had various components of one. We own at least six pairs of scissors, all suitable for cutting bandaging to size, but when I needed a pair to cut off some skin from my mom’s injury (yes, for real) and cut bandages, I spent 5 precious minutes searching for a single pair while she bled. We had bandage tape but it was not in the same spot as the bandaging. That was the day I decided I needed to put together a first aid kit for our family.

first aid kit 6I could have bought one, of course, but there is no first aid kit out there that blends natural medicine with some modern manufactured supplies. I don’t use Neosporin for cuts and abrasions, I use a handmade comfrey wound salve, or did until I made my own formula with antibacterial herbs in a triple infusion that is much better and stronger than the one I used to buy*. I don’t use Calamine lotion or anti-itch ointment from the store for poison oak, I use natural powdered clay. My son is the one who gets the poison oak and this has worked very well for him.

first aid kit 3I was also inspired by my dystopian novel “Winter; Cricket and Grey” to make a first aid kit that included some natural bandaging in addition to the sterile manufactured gauze pads and band aids. In the spirit of being resourceful during tough times when manufactured goods may be hard to come by I have put cloth bandage rolls in the kit made from natural cotton muslin that’s been pre-washed to improve absorption.

first aid kit 2I put a lot of thought into what should be included in my first aid kits. I’m going to list each item I included  below:first aid kit 4What all first aid kits should include:

Scissors – they don’t have to be fancy, they just need to be able to cut through bandages and bandage tape. Hopefully you won’t ever need yours to cut hanging skin off a wound.

Tweezers – make certain they are sharp edged otherwise they are useless. The ones in this kit are small but have a really nice sharp edge for pulling out splinters. Dull ones make it more painful and frustrating and you will end up cussing so loud you’ll surprise yourself.

Triple Strength Wound Salve – this is in place of using antibacterial ointments. It’s natural, it’s effective, and it’s really good for your skin. The bonus is that it’s made from ingredients that would most likely still be available during an apocalyptic situation. It can be made at home if you take the time to learn how.

Sprain Bandage – I can’t stand Ace bandages. We have one or two lying around and have certainly had cause to use them but they look creepy with that flesh-like color and they’re always too long and after a few uses get stretched out in an unpleasant manner. I have made sprain bandages from cotton stretch satin. Each kit has two lengths of it so you can use either just one or use both if you need more of it. They are pretty and decorated with a felt heart.

Muslin Bandaging – 100 percent cotton washable bandaging. Two different widths for different needs. It is for making pads and for fixing them in place. It is also perfect for using with the poultice.

Band Aids – I’ve included 20 in each kit I’m selling but it’s not a bad idea to add more to your kit of different sizes. I’ll be honest, we have a lot of different band aid sizes and types at our house but the ones I find most useful are the ones I’ve put in the kits (1″ x 3″) and it’s frustrating having so many less useful sizes and shapes lying around when this is what I most often need. I’ve chosen latex-free because a lot of people have allergies to latex.

20 Sterile Gauze Pads – These were really useful with my mom’s arm injury and I will make sure I always have some on hand as long as they’re available. They’re very porous, though, and the muslin bandaging is better for particularly bloody situations. In either case, where bandages sticking to wounds is a worry, rub some salve on the wound or on the bandaging directly to keep it from sticking.

2 Rolls Bandage Cloth Bandage Tape – You can use muslin to tie wound pads in place but it’s good to have tape on hand as well.

1 Use Comfrey Poultice – If you use this poultice for a wound you can get 2 uses from it but for a sprain you’ll want to use the whole thing. I’ve seen a comfrey poultice in action (my mom used it on my cousin’s sprained ankle and it worked wonderfully well) and is truly be a great value to every first aid kit. It reduces inflammation which is the main thing you want to do with a sprain. The added benefit of using a poultice instead of an anti-inflammatory pill is that it has healing properties on skin. Comfrey speeds up cell regrowth and is known to be healing for bones as well.

Bentonite Clay – any pink or green clay powder will do just as well. I include this because it worked so well soothing my son’s poison oak that he’s a real believer and we always have some around. It helps dry up weepy rashes and reduces the itching. Plus – it’s full of minerals that are good for skin.

Alcohol for Sterilizing – I’ve included an empty bottle with atomizer top in my kits for sale. I can’t sell alcohol without a lot of trouble so you must fill it yourself. You can fill it with rubbing alcohol OR moonshine OR Everclear. The higher the proof the better. Use it to sterilize the scissors or tweezers before use. It can also be used to sterilize wounds, but only do this if you don’t have access to clean running water which is the best way to clean wounds.

There are a few other things that would be fantastic additions to your first aid kits but which I couldn’t include in the ones I’m selling:

Fever/Pain Reducer – We don’t treat fevers in our house until they reach 103 degrees OR unless they are causing terrible discomfort. So we don’t use fever reducers often but there have been times I’ve been really grateful to have it on hand. Pain reducers are also truly beneficial in my opinion and I have never been satisfied with natural pain relievers (except for beer – true story) so this is a case where I believe in modern medicine providing superior care to natural and why in my household we blend modern medicine with natural remedies.

Epi Pen – No one in my house has any life threatening injuries but many people do have them and while they usually have an epi-pen close at hand, having one in your first aid kit is wise.

Thermometer – Not a necessary item but very useful in determining if a fever should be treated or allowed to run its course.

As always, I have to hope you never have need of any of these things, but I also hope you’re prepared in case you and your loved ones are hit with a string of injuries as we were.  Either put your own kit together or buy mine:

Post Apocalyptic First Aid Kit from Stitch and Boots

first aid kit 7*You can buy my triple strength wound salve separately from the first aid kit in my Etsy shop.

Pale Green Plaid Smock and My Cleaning Playlist

green plaid smock 5I made this cute smock from an XXL men’s shirt from the thrift store. I have a tutorial for a different version of recycling a men’s shirt into a smock. This time I did something more complicated and I’m really excited about the results.

green plaid smock 4Smocks are an essential part of a post apocalyptic wardrobe. They were also an essential part of most pre-80′s wardrobes. Back when clothes were more precious, they were made better, and people had this idea that they should be protected from the grime of creativity and work. Who wears smocks and aprons? Painters, cooks, welders, butchers, food preservers, gardeners, farmers (sometimes), woodworkers, fish mongers, housekeepers, and me.

green plaid smock 3Any person of action and/or creativity needs to protect their clothes and do it in the most stylish manner possible. I believe in putting on lipstick to clean the house. I believe in playing folk songs on my accordion to serenade bread dough (to make it rise higher). I believe in blasting opera while gardening or making jam. I believe in blasting Laibach’s cover of “I Me Mine” while scrubbing the floor. I believe in looking natty while foraging mushrooms near the misty forest floor.

When I was 17 years old I went to a standing room only opera dressed to the nines in a 1940′s inspired outfit, gloves and ALL, and ended up standing next to this really old man who was dressed in a pressed western shirt and slacks with his hair pomaded in place. This man was easily 90 years old and leaning on a cane. He told me he gave his seat to a young girl who was at the opera for the first time in standing room only. He said no one should see their first opera standing up. He told me he loved that I dressed up like people used to do. Watching the opera standing next to this old gent was the best opera experience I ever had.

I’m a casual person. I tend not to do what’s “proper” or expected unless it makes good sense to me. Tradition means very little to me as an institution. It’s only meaningful to me if it’s worthy in a modern setting to keep it alive. Dressing up for the opera is something I GET. You probably do too. Most modern people don’t get dressing up to do chores. Why wear a smock over a dress to cook in or clean house in?

green plaid smock 2Because cleaning can be dreary and dirty but if you play music that makes you happy and dance and you dress up – it’s a hell of a lot more fun! It goes faster too.

green plaid smock 6If you can’t blast music because you live in an apartment or a super stuffy neighborhood – you can stash an MP3 player in your smock pocket and listen on headphones. So I suggest if you don’t have a smock – make one or buy one of mine!

green plaid smock 7

You can buy this smock at my Etsy shop:

Light Green Plaid Smock

Wanna know what my cleaning playlist is these days? Here’s what’s on it right now:

Respect – Aretha Franklin

I Want To Hold Your Hand – The Beatles

Help! – The Beatles

I Want You – Bob Dylan

The Quest – Bryn Christopher

Rie Y Llora – Celia Cruz

Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps – Doris Day

Rocket Man – Elton John

Like a Prayer – Madonna

Fairytale of New York – The Pogues

Bella Biao – from the album “Italia; A Festival of Music”

I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor

Dancing Queen – ABBA

Volare – Dean Martin

Mambo Italiano – Rosemary Clooney

And a new addition just for scrubbing the toilet to:

Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi – Carl Orff

Post Apocalyptic Clothing Line Notes

IMG_20140827_120209[1]I’m designing a micro line of post apocalyptic style clothing inspired by my novel Cricket and Grey. I’m starting with smocks made from men’s shirts. As I’m making these I’m thinking about whole outfits to wear with them.

This started because I am faced with the reality that I need to make some money and I can either try to sell my own things in my Etsy shop or I can get a job at an office or retail store. I don’t want to have to work outside my home. So I made a push to label my salves which I was already working on because I wanted to make some apothecary items inspired by my book. Then I asked myself what else I could make that wouldn’t bore me or annoy me.

IMG_20140823_184433[1]That’s when I decided to turn my Stitch and Boots shop into a shop wholly inspired by Cricket and Grey. To create a shop that might exist in my own novel. I did the whole apron thing in the past and am tired of making retro style aprons. I want smocks! I want to recycle some things in the spirit of a post apocalyptic world. As I started cutting and pleating this first one I couldn’t help but imagine what I would wear with it.

IMG_20140825_140541[1]Especially because it looks like a cute sun dress. Designing and selling clothing is tricky if you don’t have a professional pattern grader or grading skills or a set of slopers in different sizes to work with. So in all the years I’ve been sewing professionally I have never attempted to make and sell my own clothing designs.

I had a revelation yesterday in a facebook conversation about selling hand made goods that being a fashion designer was my only design ambition and it’s the one thing I’ve never done. I’ve been the shipping manager for a fashion designer, I’ve been a costumer, I’ve designed aprons and pot holders, and I’ve been a design assistant at a men’s necktie company but not once have I attempted to design and sell my own line of clothing.

I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it on my terms and with pretty much no budget. No budget means a lot of limitations but this is perfect because anyone sewing clothes in a post apocalyptic world would have many limitations such as buying materials and lack of industrial machinery.

In talking with people out loud about this I have found that I’m very clear about a few things. I’m going to list them here:

  • I will do NO custom orders. People really take advantage of you when you offer custom. They don’t think that’s what they’re doing, but I’ve had a lot of experience with this and I’m not going to offer it.
  • I am going to price my line like a professional fashion line and that means I’m not catering to the bargain hunting crowd. If you want cheap, go to Target. My price range will be $45 – $300 per item. My sewing skills are professional and I went to school to learn this shit so my prices will reflect the quality and expertise I bring to my sewn things. No apologies. And anyone who says “I can make that myself for much cheaper” – good, go do it and stop being rude.
  • There will be pockets! There may even be one or two secret pockets.
  • Every garment will be designed with these activities in mind: gardening, bicycling, walking, running from zombies or angry mobs, going on road trips, foraging and hunting, and doing all kinds of urban homesteading activities. So no ball gowns or tight pencil skirts.
  • Sizing: I will be doing general size ranges rather than number sizes. S, M, L, and XL.
  • No wholesale orders. I can’t afford to do wholesale and am not interested. There will be no selling in other people’s shops.
  • I need to figure out a cheap way to make labels.

Alright – it’s time to get to work on my second smock!

Hope you have a great weekend!

xo

a

16 Batches of Pesto is Squirrel Behavior

pesto productionIt has begun.

The point in the summer when my squirrel instincts kick in and I start stuffing and storing food in my cheeks and no one notices because I’m really fat.

Wait – no – I mean, the point in the season where I become a squirrel but no one notices because I’m already impressively hirsute.

Gah! What I really mean is —

CANNING SEASON HAS BEGUN!

I can feel it in my bones. The need to sock food away in the pantry and freezer. I look at all produce and wonder what I can do with it to save it. I don’t do it in a small way, either. Food preserving in a small way is great and I encourage everyone to do it on any scale that suits them.

I only do it on a large scale. I’m an inherently lazy person. I really am. I think in some way my spazzy excitement about the things I love has to be balanced out by my dark chronic depression and a damning inertia in order to prevent the world and people around me from being irradiated by my overwhelming excitement over the little things, like when I find basil for $1.25 per bunch from my local farm.

I can’t muster up the energy to make one or two batches of pesto. That would require that I drag out my food processor and all the ingredients for food that will be gone by tomorrow. WASTED USE OF ENERGY. But it’s totally worth getting it out to make 16 batches of pesto.

That’s what I made yesterday. One batch to eat last night and 15 to put in the freezer.

Need a pesto recipe? I have a great one my friend Chelsea and I developed together:

Pesto Recipe

Philip wants me to make at least 10 more batches. It’s hard to refuse when I can get locally grown basil for such a great price. I can’t afford to buy pine nuts so this pesto is made with walnuts.

Walnuts I foraged from the neighborhood for free last fall. I have plenty to use up. Tons. That cost me nothing but the labor of gathering and then cracking them and then freezing them. This makes this pesto the cheapest I’ve ever made. In Oregon one summer I froze 21 batches of pesto but each basil bunch was $2.40 and I used pine nuts which cost $16 per pound (I think we got ours from Trader Joe’s which might have been less but some pine nuts cost up to $32 per pound and eventually I just couldn’t pay it). Anyway, it was much more expensive to make that pesto but it was worth it for how much better home made pesto is than store bought.

This year the pesto is costing about $2 per batch which is just for the oil and Parmesan and garlic. A bargain.

There’s something about food preserving that makes me so excited and energized and deeply satisfied. I look forward to canning season all year just as much as I look forward to eating tomatoes and cucumbers all year. I hope I’ll get a ton of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce in the freezer this year too. Last year I didn’t process many tomatoes in the canner because I have a lot of space to use up in my freezer and if I don’t fill it then it’s wasted energy.

Today is a pickling day. Yesterday was going to be for pickling but then that basil happened and I had to go with it. Today I’m pickling (ripe) cherry tomatoes (new to me – not sure if I’ll like the results) and dilled beans which I love and haven’t made for several years. I’ll do one or two jars with a hot pepper in them for my sister and others who like a spicy pickle.

It’s already almost 1pm and I’m still in my pyjamas so it’s time to get dressed and bicycle to the farm for some dill heads and I may have to go get more vinegar. I’ll be using the burner on the BBQ for the canning today as I’ll be making batches too big for the kitchen stove.

LET’S GET THIS PICKLE PARTY GOING!

A Great Year for Tomatoes!

tomatoes and VespaThe tomatoes this year are phenomenal! The winner for most prolific is tied between my Sungold cherry tomato plant and the Ananas Noire plant which produces these small green tomatoes. They’re pretty good but not nearly as good as Aunt Ruby’s German Green which I couldn’t find in the nursery. I have a seed packet of them to start next year.

tomato soup and croutons 2This tomato soup with garlic croutons is the best tomato soup I’ve ever made – but I added too much salt so next batch I will be more cautious with the salt.  I made this just as the tomatoes were starting to ripen so it’s half homegrown tomatoes and half canned store bought tomato sauce. I will be making this again and probably actually put the recipe on the blog.

makings for ugly tomato sauceI took color theory at FIDM so I knew this sauce was going to be brownish but it is less pretty than I predicted. In future I will not combine my green tomatoes with my red ones for sauce. Also note how full the pot it. This batch of sauce cooked down to just 2 quarts of sauce.

ugly sauceOrangey brownish sauce.

fancyass chickenPhilip, Max, and Max’s friend Sam made chicken Kiev this past weekend though Sam had to leave before tasting it because it takes FOREVER to make this. Huge success with the kid. He liked the parsley garlic butter sauce. Even ate the big chunks of garlic though it was supposed to be smooth. The kid likes garlic! As it’s turning out, Max is a gourmand. He likes really fancy food. Only freshly made. He loves sushi but only from the restaurant they go to, not from the supermarket. He is still intensely picky about texture so if the salt roasted chicken he usually likes is a tiny bit rubbery or different – he won’t eat it. No leftovers.

I’m having a lot of trouble feeding him from day to day still. Back to Nature seems to have changed their cracker recipes and now they’re all sub-par and Max won’t eat them. So peanut butter and round crackers is suddenly not happening. It’s super frustrating. So everyday eating is still hugely frustrating but meanwhile he’s trying lots of things. Like, I say “hey, try this out, kid” and if what I hand him doesn’t offend him visually he’ll try it. This was not how things used to be. He used to be so suspicious of trying anything new that huge negotiations would have to be undertaken, probably with plenty of warning days in advance, in order to convince him to try things.

So for those people with extreme picky eaters like mine – even once they start trying things – this food thing can be a major uphill climb. Hang in there, (I tell you and remind myself), your kid might actually be a gourmand instead of just a problem eater but it will take a lot of patience and experimentation and time to uncover the food lover.

Today I’m going to make a big pot of experimental salsa to can. The one thing I have to figure out is how much acidity to add to it to make it safe for canning. I’m using a Ball recipe for guidance but changing some flavoring things. For one thing, I will be using my pickled jalapenos in it (which obviously means my salsa will already have higher acidity than if using fresh peppers). Also – way more cilantro. Their recipes always call for a couple of tablespoons but cilantro loses a lot of its flavor when cooked and that small amount adds almost nothing to salsa. I have found a couple of other recipes that use a lot more of it. Anyway, I’m using my green tomatoes for this and I’m pretty excited. I haven’t canned salsa for many years. It will be good to have some jars stashed away.

I spent a couple of hours looking through my extensive collection of preserving books and it got me so excited to do some new preserving projects. The one author I’m missing from my collection is Marisa McClellans two books. I can’t afford to buy them right now but I really want both of her titles: Food in Jars and Preserving by the Pint and when I have money for a couple more books I’m getting them. But my collection is pretty fantastic and it’s just about time to rev up for the canning season.

Canning projects I want to try this year:

pickled red onions

pickled cocktail onions

develop new salsa recipe (today!)

bruschetta topping

pickled ripe cherry tomatoes

Old favorites I plan to make:

tomato sauce

dilly beans

marinated summer vegetables

garlic dill pickles

canned peaches

canned vanilla pears

and more pickled jalapenos*

*Those black little dots I’ve seen in the batches this year and last year are weird but apparently not dangerous (Philip and I have been eating the jalapenos anyway with no ill effects) . Needless to say, I can’t give them to friends just to be safe. I’m going to be using a bunch of last year’s in my salsa so they will be cooked again and 100% safe at that point. But I will hold back a jar and take it to the extension office for answers. I meant to do that last year but will do it this time. I need that mystery solved.

 

Garden Clean-up

whole dreamy shebangYesterday evening I spent two hours in the garden. It got just cool enough for me to go out there without shouting “you motherfucker” at the sun every two minutes. In fact, there was a nice breeze.

What’s happening right now is a lot of ripping out and cleaning up of spent or failed plants. I tore out all my chard plants, bug eaten and covered in powdery mildew. I tore out my Black Krim tomato because every last tomato was rotting and they aren’t even remotely close to ripening. I tore out a bunch of leggy dry allysum and have a ton more to rip out. New allysum will replace it in no time.

I cut back half of my rudbeckias and still have the other half to cut back. They are all falling over and the blooms were spent. I’m hopeful that I’ll get more blooms in a few weeks after trimming them.

I ripped out a nasturtium and have more to rip out. I trimmed back my vervain and some thyme plants.

Next up I have to take out my failed bush beans, the leggy buggy tough-as-leather kale plants, the calendula (leggy and covered in powdery mildew), and the borage.

What I want to add to the garden: penstemon, thunbergia, lobelia, lettuce, more million bells, Alpine strawberries, wild violets, beets, and carrots.

I also need to get the kiwi trellised and the mandarin orange planted in a raised box.

I felt incredibly energized after gardening last night. I think this is how some people feel after yoga.

July Garden Update, 2014

hook and flower 2The garden this summer has, so far, been amazing. I have been harvesting calendula for over a month now. At first there was just a small amount each time, too little for the dehydrator, so I strung them up to dry. While pretty, they don’t dry as thoroughly this way. I ended up putting these in the dehydrator later for a few hours.

dehydrating calendulaThis is the medicinal kind Calendula officinalis and if you plan on using your calendula for salves, I suggest you plant this variety. It has the strongest medicinal qualities of all the calendula varieties. Picking them, smelling them (marigold), drying them, and plucking the petals off to store for use later make me happy. Maybe it’s the colors. Maybe it’s knowing they are so good for skin and so easy to grow. I love everything about calendula.

drying comfreyI’ve been harvesting my comfrey too. I have only one plant but it’s putting off tons of leaves and I keep cutting them and drying them. They are huge. Too huge for my dehydrator unless I cut them first. This one harvest was just too big so I hung it out in the back yard under the oak tree. I don’t like the quality of hung dry as much as the dehydrator. They turn pretty brown. Which is fine. But it’s just better in the dehydrator. I dislike the smell of comfrey. Cutting it, crumbling it, yuck. Not sure why. But it is one of the best medicinals in my opinion so well worth the unpleasant scent.

light through oilI finally FINALLY made salve with the oil I already infused months ago. This is a triple strength wound salve and it’s turned out really well and we’ve been using it and it’s GREAT STUFF.

kale harvestMom loves kale. I used to think kale was okay-ish but mostly only in soup with white beans and cooked so long it stops being tough or tasting like old man breath. Yeah, I really don’t like kale and never have. But it’s one of mom’s favorite greens so she grew a couple plants of it and I harvested it for her, cleaned it, steamed it, and then froze it. She is still having to be careful of her produce intake after surgery.

insect nurseryPrettiest little insect eggs ever. They look like beads and are hard like bead too. These clusters came off in one piece. I have to admit that kale leaves can be really beautiful.

withered blossomOur squash plants have been pretty productive. The most productive being the zucchini and the least productive being the yellow crookneck. All of them are so good fresh from the garden – I can’t get enough of them.

sage and squashStarted harvesting and drying my sage.

tomatoes and calendulaThe tomatoes I planted this year are: Ananas Noire (actually ripens green and yellow), Ethiopian Black (small black tomato), Cherokee Purple (huge and deep red), Japanese Trifele (small reddish pink), Sungolds (orange cherry tomatoes – the only cherry toms I ever grow), and Pinapple (orange with red streaking).

Purple CherokeeWe’re getting lots of tomatoes right now. And yet – we eat them almost as fast as we harvest them. I made a wonderful tomato soup the other night and I didn’t have enough of our own tomatoes that day so I had to add a can of tomato sauce to it. Even so – the fresh tomatoes made it especially good. I made garlic sourdough croutons to go with it. I did make it too salty though.

The neighbors all love our garden. They tell us all the time. Strangers walking by stop and enjoy and we’re outside they tell us how gorgeous it is. It’s gratifying. It’s so wonderful to have our front yard vegetable and flower garden giving so much joy not only to us but to a lot of other people too.

Notable failures: beans. I planted bush beans around the base of the peach tree and they started turning yellow and the beans are tiny. I think it’s the variety and I don’t like it because I can’t tell when they’re mature.  The carrots and beets have not thrived. My herbs keep flowering and not growing in size. My summer savory died. Screw summer savory!

It’s time to remove the chard which has become covered in powdery mildew. Time to cut down the spent snap dragons. Time to trim back the rudbeckias. I need to weed out all the spent sprawling allysum and take out the dying nasturtiums. I think we need some new flowers. We definitely need some penstemon and thunbergia. Maybe some lobelia and creeping verbena. Flowers to add some color once I cut down the spent ones.

Next herbal project is to develop a great lip balm. I have just ruined a big quantity of organic sunflower oil by trying to infuse it with fresh rosemary and dried peppermint. FAIL. Infusing oils with fresh herbs has failed twice for me now and I need to stop learning that lesson. I don’t like the resulting smell. It smells like bruised leaves. So this time I’m going to do a batch of sunflower oil with calendula and comfrey and then add essential oils to it. I’ll start that today.

Being out in the garden to pick vegetables and herbs this season has been amazing. Getting  back into gardening after such a long time away from it feels healing and good. So, more of that soon!

xoxo

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