Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sorry, We've Moved Out of the Appartment

There will be no more posts on this blog because we have bought house and moved.  I will have my own garden at home this year, hopefully.  The house we bought is a fixer-upper.  We have been working on the inside so far, but have big plans for the yard as well.  The yard needs a complete overhaul.  We will be adding raised bed gardens, a chicken coop, a grape arbor, and planting a couple fruit trees.  I am starting a new blog about it called: Urban Homesteading on a Small City Lot.  It should be fun with lots of pictures and loads of funny stories.  I don't know what I'm doing but I have been doing my research.  I've borrowed several books, googled the heck out of these subjects and will include references when appropriate to help out anyone hoping to do it themselves.  I hope you enjoyed the apartment gardening blog.  The next blog will be even more fun, I promise.

I Canned Tomatoes and Froze Pasta Sauce

I wrote this post in September of last year and saved it as a draft, but never posted it.  Here it is now.  I tried to finish it with what I could remember. Sorry.

We had a very busy week last week, with the Chelan County Fair and everything else going on.  My auntie Linda and I sewed frontier women costumes to wear to the fair because we had a booth for my aunt's business, Etched in Time, LLC, and I brought a bunch of soaps to sell.  The whole thing was kind of a bust.  Fair attendance was very low and even of the few people who attended, not many came into our barn.  We thought it would be a popular barn because the wine garden and wine tasting events were in it, but we were very wrong about that.  We were so bored that I crocheted soap savers until I couldn't stand it and then I saw an example of double stitch hand quilt piecing and decided to give that a go.  I actually hand pieced a pretty large part of a quilt just sitting there at our booth. I used pieces left over from making my costume.  It was really four days of sweltering heat and boredom.  We did meet some nice people, though, especially the other vendors.  The lady who owns the Attic Window Quilt Shop in Wenatchee was just across from us.  That is where I got inspired to do the hand quilt piecing.

Here is the section I worked on.

This is a close up of the double stitch on the front.  You put the fabrics right side together and stitch a running stitch along the edge (it is supposed to be 1/4 inch from the side, but I didn't have a measuring device with me).  Then you open the fabric up and finger press the seam allowances to one side and running stitch along the seam to hold the seam allowance flat.  I stitched pieces together end to end and then rows together.

This is what the back looks like.  I pressed the seam allowances under the blue piece on the short seams then all in the same direction on the long seams.

Well, this is supposed to be a gardening blog, so I should get back on subject, right?  You may have noticed in the above picture that there are a plethora of canned tomatoes pickles and jams under the quilt piece.

There are 14 quarts of canned tomatoes, 7 quarts of pickles 4 assorted sized jars of pickled green beans, and there used to be four batches of apricot jam and one batch of peach jam.  I have been giving the jam away.  We gave some to my husband's parents and grandparents when we visited them.  My family all makes there own jam, so we trade flavors sometimes, but jam isn't a very good gift for them.  People who don't make jam always appreciate it, though.  Store bought jam just doesn't compare.  All of these tomatoes came from our community garden plot and my porch and the cucumbers were from the community garden plot, before the squash bugs hit.

Here is an update on the plants on the balcony:

Here is one of the eight small pots with Thai basil.  They are looking great.  I will have to pick these and dry them before it frosts.

This is the poor little rescue Roma tomato.  It is doing better than the other two. It hasn't gotten a chance to get root bound yet.

Here is one of the large Roma tomatoes typical from this bush.

The super hot jalapeno plant has not been having any peppers for a while.  It finally has just two small ones.  It is very crowded in it's pot with beans and nasturtiums.

The eggplant is still going strong.  I have picked over twenty fruits already and as you can see, there are plenty more growing.  Wow, I never thought that it would do this well.  Especially after the aphid problem earlier in the year.

The sungold cherry tomato is not doing well at all.  Its roots are so crowded.  Note to self: this variety does not make a good container tomato.  The plant of the same variety that I planted in the community garden is doing very well.  It has produced so many delicious cherry tomatoes that I am kind of glad this one is a dud. I don't know what I would do with all of the tomatoes.  I even canned a jar of them.  I peeled each little guy before packing it in the jar.  I gave that one to my aunt who shares the community garden space.  She loves them so much.

These are the other two Romas.  They are covered by pole beans, and, as you would expect, they are kind of suffering from it, that and being completely root bound in their pots.  They are still making some tomatoes, though.

The rosemary plant is hanging all over the pot it is in. I really love rosemary with chicken.  I will pick and dry most of this before the frost.  I have been told by several people that it is very unlikely that it will make it through the winter in our climate.  I am thinking about bringing it inside.  That is probably a death sentence for it, too.  I am the grim reaper for house plants.  I forget about them. Maybe I will do better with this one because it is actually good to eat.

Here's my helper after I caught him "pruning" the beans again.

It is hard to stay mad at him. He is so cute.  Look at his pupils.  They have almost disappeared form the bright sun on the porch.  He is a house cat, and doesn't get outside except when I am out on the balcony taking care of the plants.

The eggplant is a very pretty plant. I think I will always grow them.  They make a pretty ornamental and they produce loads of delicious fruit. You can see the marigold peaking out.  I always try to incorporate some into my gardens for the beneficial insects and the beauty.

I emptied this cupboard to store all of my tomatoes in.  I pick and store them until I have enough ripe for a batch of sauce or at least a batch of quart jars of canned tomatoes.

Eggplants are wonderful fruit.  They keep for what seems like forever in the crisper drawer in the fridge.  These are about two weeks old. I finally took them out and made one of my favorite french dishes.  I don't have a clue what it is called, but my friend Christelle told me how to make it after I asked her what she was eating for lunch at work one day.  It is basically a stew with eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, tomatoes and whatever else you happen to have around.  You cook it and cook it until it is a thick chili-like consistency.  You season it with salt, pepper, garlic and a nice mix of french herbs.  It really tastes like there is meat in there. It is so good, even my husband really likes it.  My daughter wouldn't try it.  Apparently it looked too scary with all the different ingredients.  I still haven't gotten her to try an eggplant.

The beans are getting away from me at this point.  I pick them every other day and still, lots of them escape my notice until they are too far along.  I have been eating them raw, steaming them, frying them, giving them away, and pickling them.  I can't can them because I don't have a pressure canner yet, but I think I will buy one before I plant this many beans again. These plants on my balcony are really impressive.

Here is where the tomato sauce I made ended up.  I did my research and decided that it just wouldn't be safe to water bath process this sauce because it has too many other ingredients added to predict the acidity.  I just put it in quart sized freezer bags and froze it.  From now on I am just canning strait tomatoes.  Then I can take those canned tomatoes and make sauce when I need it.  The frozen sauce is pretty good and very convenient, but I don't have very much freezer space.  I mostly like to save that space for buying meat in bulk and freezing the rest for later. Oh, and for frozen berries and fruit for smoothies. You can see frozen strawberries in the front right corner.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Share and Tell: New Camera Pictures

Just wanted to share some pretty pictures I took with my new camera.

These are on one of the volunteer tomato bushes.  I love the colors.

Same plant, different bunch.

Sungold cherry tomatoes in the shade

Super fantastic tomatoes, right before they were picked

Another super fantastic

I've always thought skippers were cute.

This bumble bee was so big the flower could barely hold her up.

I am still figuring out how to use the camera, but I think these pictures are pretty good for point and shoot photography by a non-photographer like me.  I like my new camera.

Enter the Squash Bug

I have been noticing that the pumpkin and cucumber plants have been wilting and definitely not thriving the way they should be.  This time I finally noticed why:

Squash Bugs!!!!!

These are all nymphs.  I turned over this pumpkin leaf and these guys were all there, hiding out.

This is what the adult looks like.  They are quite large, about 3/4 inch long.

There are so many covering the underside of leaves and stems, that there is no hope of picking them off and making any dent in their population.

I am sad to say it, but I think that we can officially write off any pumpkins from the community garden plot.  I think pickle making is out of the question as well.  I picked four cucumbers today, after not picking for three days.  That is very sad for the number of plants we have. They do not look good, either.

There is really nothing to be done about these bugs.  We are not allowed to use pesticides in the community garden, not that it would be worth it if we were.  By the time the plants recovered it would be too late.  It is September already, after all.

The tomato harvest is slowing down.  There are lots of smaller green tomatoes, though, so we should have another large harvest before the frost.  I will have to keep an eye on the weather forecast though, so that I can go down and harvest everything if they predict a frost.  The green tomatoes will ripen up slowly over the next month or so, or we can use them green.  At that point we will probably dig up whatever potatoes there are, and pull everything else out as well.  None of our plants in the garden are cold hardy at all.  I am considering planting some peas, radishes, and lettuce, but given our history of bird predation and theft, I don't know if it will be worth it.  I suppose that if I find some seeds laying around, I will go ahead and plant them, but I think I will not go and buy any.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Husband Gave Me a Camera for My Birthday Yesterday, Woo Hoo!

I had to go right out and try it today for taking pictures of the garden.  The light was all coming from the back of the garden as it is most of the time when I go.  I usually can't make it to the garden until after work.  One of these days I should try to take pictures in the morning.  Despite the lighting challenges, the pictures turned out pretty good.  The only concern I have is with files size we will see how this goes.  The new camera is 16 mega pixels.

Okay, so Blogger automatically adjusts the picture and file size. You don't get to see the crisp image that I took, but it makes things simple for posting.  This is what the plot looks like now.  The onions are all gone, the radishes, carrots, spinach, and lettuce are all long gone with a few exceptions.  The cucumbers are filling in the empty spaces and, as you can see, the tomatoes are getting out of control.  I swear that I have trimmed them back ruthlessly several times, but it doesn't seem to make any difference to the size of the plant.  It has made them set fewer new fruit, Which is probably good because those fruit would all be out on the long branches and break them over or tip the plant over. The neighbor on the right is letting the tomatillos grow wild and they are reaching over the fence.  They are hiding my few carrots from prying eyes, though.

The marigolds in the front are really looking great.  The other yellow ones are still looking wimpy.

Here is an up close picture.  Sure beats the iPhone picture, doesn't it?

This post is really just a test to see how the pictures look, but I did take many more pictures, which I hope to post tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Had to Get Out the 5 Gallon Pot to Make Sauce This Time

I made the hugest batch of pasta sauce I have ever made. 

The amount of tomatoes that I peeled and deseeded would not fit into my largest cooking pot.  That was even before I got halfway through all of the ripe tomatoes I had.  I poured it into the large pot that we use for beer making and kept on peeling and deseeding until all the ripe tomatoes were in there.  I also added my sauce starter recipe: garlic, onions, celery and carrots all diced and cooked in olive oil until they are very soft. I seasoned it with red peppers, black pepper, salt and loads of herbs.  After cooking it down by half so that the sauce is nice and thick, it filled seven quart jars with about a pint extra.  I put it into clean jars with good tight lids in the refrigerator until I can either borrow a pressure canner, or get some containers to freeze it all.  I might just have room in the freezer for all of it.  I would rather can it, but I read the food safety recommendations for pasta sauce and pressure canning is recommended.  I read that you can just water bath process canned tomatoes, so I will be making canned tomatoes out of the rest of the tomatoes, I think.  I just hope I can come up with enough jars.  The heirloom tomatoes are starting to make lots of fruit now, too.  The only bushes that are starting to lag a bit are the Roma tomato bushes on the porch. I fed them some fertilizer, but I think they are just suffering for being confined to a pot and being allowed to get too dry a few times. The really exciting news is that I picked five rather large eggplants two days ago, and already there are a couple more that are definitely large enough to pick.

Look at these beauties. I am going to cook them up tonight.  I need to get some Parmesan cheese or maybe lasagna fixings.  They go great in anything really, once you fry them up.  I fried a bunch of sliced eggplant up for pizza topping last time we had homemade pizza night at our house.  My aunt loved them.

Here is a blurry shot just so you can see relative size to my hand.

I ordered two crocheted cotton market bags from Amie at to put my produce from my garden in.  They got here so fast and are such great bags, I can't say enough.  They are very sturdily made and I have no fear about sticking them in the wash when they get dirty.  They hold up to the tens of pounds of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions that I have been transporting in them.  I will also use them when I go grocery shopping.  I love them. You can also see some tomatillos here that I picked this week.  I broiled them and processed them with some broiled Anaheim chilies and jalapenos.  They weren't bad.  I wish I had more of them.

Here you can see that someone climbed up into my garden, grabbed some tomatoes, ate them right there and then and threw the tops right down in the front of the garden so I could make sure and see that they were there.  Since I took this picture, I have not seen any evidence of trespass, or vandalism.  I wonder what this person was thinking.

Well, I should get back to work figuring out what to do with all of the sauce.  I will let you know how the tomato canning goes.  

I also made a trip over to the in laws garden.  Wow, it is looking really good.  The corn is getting close to being ready and they are still picking loads of green beans.  Actually they are getting even more green beans now because the pole beans are now coming on.  The pumpkins, squash and melons are doing great.  They have one pumpkin that is getting so big, it is threatening to shadow out everything else.  They have several watermelons that will definitely get ripe, not to mention cantaloupe.  I am allergic to cantaloupe, but they look really delicious.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention the piles of cucumbers that they are harvesting.  It is so cool to see. Next time I go I will have to take some pictures for you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pictures of the Community Garden

After my last post about the community garden, I had to take a little break and calm down.  I had to tell my self that the garden still looks pretty nice, and most things are still doing fine.  I didn't plant that sunflower, anyway.  It was a volunteer that made it past my weeding.  I plucked out lots of other volunteers but that one made it through.  I shouldn't be so upset.  Another gardener saw me looking at  the damage and said, "that's what you get for having the most beautiful garden."  I can either take that as a compliment and be happy, or get angry.  I am trying to be happy.

I will start with pictures of the harvest strewn on the backseat of my car.  I forgot to bring my paper bag and box with me.

Here are the tomatoes.  The green ones were on the ground, so I picked them up.  I might do something with them or wait until they ripen.  These are mostly Romas.  I think the thieves picked a bunch of the Early Girl and Superfantastic because there should be more of these.

This is over two quarts of cherry tomatoes.  I sent a bunch with Heath to work today.

There were a few purple beans, a garden salsa pepper and one jalapeno from the plant on the right hand side of the garden.

These are the other peppers.  There are two Anaheim chili peppers, two jalapenos from the other side, and two Thia hot peppers.  I can't wait to see how hot those are.

Blurry pictures are starting to bother me.  Maybe I should invest in a camera instead of trying to use my iPhone camera or borrow one from my aunt.

This tomatillo fell off of the plant.  I don't know how to tell when they are ripe, but I will try to roast this one up and see how it is.

I pulled out a few carrots that could be reached from the front to make it harder for people walking by to pick them.

These are from one of the volunteer tomatoes on the back fence.  They hid out in the peas until my aunt and I started to pull the peas out.  We decided to leave these and tie them to the fence.  This one is some kind of pink fleshed large variety and the other large volunteer tomato is a large red cherry tomato variety,  They are just starting to get ripe.

I took this picture from where the sunflower used to be.  You can see most of the garden.  the sun was getting low so the shadows are dark.

This is the cucumber patch.  They are trying to creep into the potatoes, but my aunt and I have used small stakes to hold the vines back and make them grow to the side.  It is working pretty well.  We still have to check on it and move the stakes periodically.

This is the Cheyenne pepper plant.  You can't see any peppers from here, but...

There are a few hiding back here.  I almost missed them.  I will pick them when they turn red.

These are the Garden salsa pepper and the right side jalapeno plant.

These are the Danver short carrots.

This is what is left of the right side onion rainbow shape.  The produce thieves/vandals have left these two alone so far.

This is what the potatoes look like.  I am sure there are a few small new potatoes down under the ground.  I hilled the dirt up over the stems two weeks ago.

This is the early girl tomato.  I had to cut it back quite a bit last week.  The top branches were getting very tall and trying to grow fruit way up there.  That could only lead to broken branches.

The same plant from the side.

The scarlet runner beans are just getting cooked in the sun on that fence. We are not getting nearly as many beans as we should be. At least they are protecting the garden from the cooking heat off of the sidewalk and asphalt road.

This is a picture looking down the fence at the volunteer tomatoes and tomatillo.

The cherry tomato plant is incredible.  It has produced gallons of tomatoes.  They are so sweet and delicious.

The bush beans are still looking pretty poor.  I saw the beans at my mother-in-law's house last week.  Hers are looking so good.  She has been picking beans everyday for a while.

This is one of the pumpkin plant hills.  I doubt we will get any pumpkins.  They are just too far behind.  The heat is helping, but probably not enough.  I hope I am wrong.

This is the other pumpkin hill.

Just another view of the cucumber patch.

The little Bradley heirloom tomato plant still looks pretty much the same.

The Anaheim chili looks pretty bad still, but the other peppers are really going to town in the heat.

These are the Thia hot pepper and the other jalapeno.

This is the volunteer tomato plant that I picked the two tomatoes from.  The one in the back is the cherry tomato.

This is the roma bush.  It is really starting to produce strongly now.  I have to make another batch of sauce.

From here you can see the ripening tomatoes.

Well, that is about all there is to say about the community garden plot.  I made two jars of pickles when I got home form this garden trip.  I hope to make several more.  Some of the cucumber plants were planted much later than the first and haven't even started making fruits yet.  Have a wonderful rest of the week.