Last Post for Awhile

“The time has come,” the Walrus said…

Boo, I have to leave for awhile. 😦  My surgery is tomorrow, and who knows how long I’ll be stuck in the hospital.  The last week has been a whirlwind of getting things ready and making sure K will be ok while I’m gone (I’m sure he will be but of course I worry).  By okay, I mean doing laundry and making sure he has enough food in the fridge.  Yes, the man can do his own laundry, but I’m feeling very “motherly” this week I guess.

Anyway, we headed to the garden for about 20 minutes today, just so I could take some status pics and do some quick weeding.  Who knows what it’ll look like when I come back.  I don’t know how much time K will have to spend at the garden with all the time with me, at work, and driving back and forth he’ll have to do.  He’ll try, but we’ll see.  It has rained just about every other day this week and the garden has once again, exploded.  Good God, why did we plant so much lettuce?  K will try to give some away later this week.  We will definitely only plant one bed next year. And two beds of spinach because it’s almost gone to seed and we didn’t get as much as we would have liked.

So, pictures…

Our carrots are getting pretty tall. I bet we have cute little baby carrots hidden underneath the dirt! K will have to thin these out this week.

Carrots

Carrots

We’ve also got green strawberries a-growing! We went picking because we only have three plants, so it wouldn’t have given us enough to make jam, but hopefully we can enjoy enough for a snack later on when these are ripe.

Strawberry plant

Strawberry plant

The sugarsnap peas are officially out of control.  They are going to be too tall for the stakes soon.

Sugarsnap peas

Sugarsnap peas

The red lettuce, the one we took from the “borderland”, has also officially rebounded. It’s huge.

Red lettuce

Red lettuce

Way too much freaking lettuce.  They need to be thinned out so badly, and I just did some last week! There is NO room in the beds.

Amish deer tongue lettuce with some black seeded simpson lettuce

Amish deer tongue lettuce with some black seeded simpson lettuce

Salad bowl lettuce

Salad bowl lettuce

We have garlic scapes!

Garlic scape

Garlic scape

Brussels sprouts look happy. So do the tomatoes.

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts

Tomater plants

Tomater plants

The zucchini plants have gotten so big and we have zucchini flowers and baby zucchinis just starting to grow!

Zucchini plants

Zucchini plants

The green beans have really shot up. We just planted this a week or two ago.

Green beans

Green beans

I really need to get going, so I’m not posting every single plant in the garden today.  But all in all, things look great.  Hopefully they won’t all be dead by the time I get back 🙂

One last look at the garden as it was today:

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I’m setting this post up to actually be published tomorrow, 6/15, so I won’t be around to read any comments for awhile. I hope to be back posting within a month, so please check back in July for new posts.  Thanks for being my blog readers!

Strawberry Picking

I know myself too well.  I couldn’t let my last free day go by without trying to go strawberry picking!  K and I have a TON to do today, but we headed out to Indian Ladder farms today to see if there were any berries ripe.  The season JUST started yesterday, so I don’t think they are as ripe as they could be. They could probably use another week.  But I don’t have another week and after tasting them at the farm today, they are still twice as yummy right now as they are bought in the store, shipped underripe from California.

Indian Ladder is selling PYO for $2.75 a quart this year.  Yes, that’s definitely more expensive than the grocery store, which I think sells them for $1.99 a quart, pesticide, herbicide-laden fake-red HUGE monsters.  While we were picking, we actually heard someone else say out loud, “Why are these so small?” Because they don’t have 12 tons of Miracle-Gro heaped on them! Eh, I’m not patient today 🙂

We purchased quart cartons at the farm store (actually, we recycled the ones we had from last year, but we paid for them again) and headed out to the field.

Signs

Signs

Man, it’s a good thing they have signs or we might have ended up in Timbuktu!

Strawberry field

Strawberry field

It’s so early in the season, I was surprised there was anyone picking this weekend.  Apparently, a lot of people picked yesterday too, one of the farmhands told us.

Row of strawberry plants

Row of strawberry plants

Strawberry picking is hard, at least for me.  Last year was the first year ever I picked them, and it’s definitely not my favorite thing.  They’re ripe in the summertime, when the sun is beating down on you and it’s hot.  You have to bend over, and search through the plant for the perfect ripe ones.  Then you straighten up and drop them in your bucket.  I much prefer blueberry picking – they’re right at the perfect level for me 🙂

Strawberries!

Strawberries!

So, we picked three quarts today.  Two of the quarts will eventually go towards 4 pints of strawberry jam, yum 🙂  The last quart is for snacking on or a pie or dessert if K feels like making one.  But first, since we won’t be here the next few days, we needed to freeze them.

3 quarts

3 quarts

I hulled the strawberries, then placed them on a single layer on a baking sheet.

Getting ready to freeze

Getting ready to freeze

I had a few sheets full, then stuck them into our freezer for about an hour.

While I waited, Zöe-cat did not help me at all…except to amuse me 🙂  She loves this position! I tell her it’s quite unlady-like all the time.

My Zoe

My Zoe

Finally, I dumped them out of the sheets and into separate freezer quart bags.  This way, they (hopefully) won’t clump together when I go to defrost them later.

Frozen strawberries

Frozen strawberries

Now I’m ready to make strawberry jam when I’m back home! Yum!

Cherry Jam

It’s cherry season in the northeast!

Well, it’s almost cherry season.  Actually, strawberry season is approaching quickly, but alas, it seems I will be missing out on both this year due to my surgery :(. K and I are going to try to squeeze in some quick strawberry picking this weekend before we leave for Boston. I’m going to see if I can just freeze the berries and make them into jam later in the summer when I’m recovering and home from work.

In the meantime, today’s post is on my adventure making cherry jam last year.  There’s lots of websites out there that tell you exactly what you need to make jam, but here are the highlights:

You DON’T need a real boiling water canner.  In fact, K and I just use the largest stockpot we own, which I think is around 12 quarts.  We use the rack that came with our crockpot to hold the jars within the pot, so the there’s some space between the bottom of the jars and the bottom of the pot.

First you need to sterilize your lids and bands.

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Sterilizing lids and bands

Then you need to sterilize your mason jars.  If you have a bigger pot, you can sterilize bigger jars and more of them, but this is all we can do at one time.

Sterilizing the mason jars

Sterilizing the mason jars

Then you need to pit lots and lots of cherries – a full quart.  Lots of cherries will be consumed while doing this task 🙂  Afterwards, giving them a quick chop in the food processor is needed.  Don’t chop them to a pulp, just a little bit.

Chopping up the previously pitted cherries

Chopping up the previously pitted cherries

After that, crush up the cherries a little bit.  This helps release pectin as well.

Chopped cherries.

Chopped cherries.

Combine the cherries, lots o’ sugar (6 cups worth!) and pectin into a large saucepot and bring it to a boil.

Cooking down the cherries

Cooking down the cherries

When its ready, ladle it into the mason jars that have been sitting in the canner, sterilizing.

Ladling the cherries into jars

Ladling the cherries into jars

Using the magnet stick, take the lids out of the boiling water and affix it to the job of the jar.  Be careful to keep everything as sterile as you can!

Magnet

Magnet

Lid is on

Lid is on

Finally, screw on the bands and voila, jam! Leave it out to cool down to room temperature for 12-24 hours. As the jam cools, you’ll hear a “ping!” as the jar cools.  The air in the jar starts contracting and sucks down the lid creating a sort of vacuum.  If you don’t hear a ping, you can still check physically to see if the lids has been sucked down.  If in 12-24 hours, the seal hasn’t formed, you can repeat the process with a new lid.  Or you can just stick that jar in the fridge and use it as needed without processing.  At least that’s what we did, without a problem!

FCherry jam

Cherry jam

I am so sad I’m going to miss cherry picking this year but my MIL has promised me she will save me 15lbs or so when she goes.  I can’t wait to make some jam for next year! We are just finishing our last jar of cherry jam from last year now and I enjoy every bite!

Great Flats Pic of the Week 6/9

I can’t believe I totally forgot to take a Great Flats pic last week!  Oh well, here’s this week’s!

June 9, 2009

June 9, 2009

For a look back at all the Great Flats pics this year, check out my Great Flats page.

Two Months In

Did I already say this? I think I’m a broken record – we have way too much lettuce. We can’t possibly eat it all.  We really need to look into giving away some to the Squash Hunger program.  Oh well, we’ll pay attention to how long it lasts this year and know how much to plant for next year.

We’re about two months into our garden now (two months ago today we “rented” our plot!) and it is bursting with life.  I spent a couple of hours Sunday afternoon thinning one of the lettuce beds.  That’s right, I actually pulled out whole plants, and ended up with a ton of lettuce to eat this week and barely a dent in the garden!

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A few updated pics on other things in the garden…

The green beans we planted last week have sprouted!

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K said it would be fast, and he was right!  The corn has sprouted too!

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The strawberries are flowering all over the place and we have our first strawberry growing!

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The brussels sprouts keep getting bigger.

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And we keep trying to convince the sugarsnap peas to climb the stakes we put into the ground.  We finally strung twine in between in hopes they’ll start using it like a trellis.

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And finally, now that the golden chard has gotten a little bit bigger, we are starting to see how it got it’s name! Look at the beautiful yellow stalks.  I love it!

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That’s it for now.  Anyone want some lettuce?  It’s fresh and delicious, I swear!

Bike ride to the Farmer’s Market

We did it! The hubby and I biked all the way from our house to the farmer’s market today and back.  We didn’t use one ounce of fossil fuel.  All in all, it was about 10 miles round trip, which we did in about two hours, taking time to stop and take pics and of course go shopping.  Yay! Although, I’m so out of shape, I’m pretty tired right now.

It took us a little while to get started because we couldn’t find the bike lock we purchased last year.  So we needed to make a pit stop at Kmart before we continued down the road towards the canal bike trail.  We finally got off the busy road and onto the trail about here:

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We headed to the right and worked our way down the path.

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The trail is mostly flat, with little hills and valleys along the way.  There are some pretty views along the canal.

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But we’re surrounded on the other side by the interstate.

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Finally, we could see Schenectady in the distance.

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We headed into the Stockade and I felt better having done that ride once already.  Before we knew it, we were through the Stockade and over at the farmers market! It was much shorter than I thought it would be.

We locked our bikes to the rack in front of Schenectady City Hall.

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The market was bustling today!

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We forgot to bring cash with us, so we wrote a check for more tokens:

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We bought the usual stuff, but there was something new at the market this week!

Strawberries!

Strawberries!

They look so good! I’ve been waiting to go strawberry picking ever since the middle of May but no place is having PYO just yet.  Sadly, we didn’t buy any this week because they’re really expensive.  Buhrmaster Farms told us PYO will start in a few weeks.  Why not now?  Clearly there’s strawberries now!

After we shopped, we stopped off for a little snack.

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Chips and dip

The homemade tortilla chips were fantastic.  The guacamole had a little too much lime juice in it though.  But the pink lemonade was delicious and refreshing, and definitely got us ready to tackle the ride home.

Eating guac and chips!

Eating guac and chips!

Before we left, we listened to the band of the week, Running the River, playing some lively Irish music. They were pretty good.

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Finally we were ready to leave.  I made sure to make the most of the paper flower that came with our lemonade though.

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Our milk and chicken came home perfectly, so we can definitely do this again!  It was great to get some exercise in AND get some errands done!

The Germans

I have no idea why I keep referring to my husband’s visiting family as The Germans, but I guess I amuse myself 🙂

K’s mother came to this country when she was 14, so I have gotten used to eating my fair share of sauerbraten and potato pancakes when we visit their house.  She has family visiting the U.S. from Germany, and they’ve spent the last few weeks using the IL’s house as the base and traveling to Niagara Falls, Maine, Plymouth, and of course, NYC.  It was quite funny, the weekend K and I spent in Woodstock, VT, they were visiting Woodstock, NY.

We were supposed to go downstate to see them today, but we have to go next weekend again for BIL’s graduation party so my MIL surprised us Thursday night by saying everyone was coming up to our place today.  Yay!  Ha.  But we scrambled around cleaning up the house to pass a German’s inspection (LOL!) because I’ve read way too many old-fashioned books that seem to tell me they all have super clean houses, so I couldn’t bear to have a dirty one.  Then my MIL must have gotten up at the butt-crack of dawn because my ILs actually left the house at 10:30am today to make it up  here to us.  My MIL will proudly tell you it takes her about 5 hours from the time she gets up to the time she can leave the house with all it does to take her get ready, so we were a little shocked (and scrambling to clean up faster :)).

I met Renee and Hartmut (K has stayed with them in Germany before) and we all headed out the Biergarten for lunch.  Hartmut really wanted to go.  I kind of thought it was the equivalent of me going to Germany and eating McDonald’s, but he seemed pretty psyched.

Biergarten Und Wurst Haus

Biergarten Und Wurst Haus

It was pretty empty at about 1 o’clock in the afternoon, but that made it much easier to hear each other than the last time we came.

Inside the biergarten

Inside the biergarten

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Hartmut was REALLY excited.  He didn’t come out of his shell until he had a Hofbräu Dunkel in one hand and a Fleischkäse in the other. He proclaimed the biergarten to be pretty authentic.

As for me, I normally don’t drink beer, only a Framboise Lambic because it’s girly, but Renee inspired me to have a Radler, which is basically a Pilsner mixed with Sprite.  The cute British bartender (don’t worry, my husband knows I thought he was cute :)) told me they call it a Shandy in England.

I enjoyed it very much!

Me and my Radler

Me and my Radler

After the biergarten, we headed over to the New York State Museum. We tend to bring everyone who visits us here, so K and I have been here lots of times.  And except for a few exhibits, it doesn’t really change.

Entrance

Entrance

Luckily, we didn’t need to see the Adirondack exhibits for the millionth time today, as everyone really just wanted to see the 9/11 exhibit.  I went to Ground Zero itself about 3 months after 9/11 (would have been sooner since I’m from NY, but I was in my second year of law school in Colorado at the time) and to this day have the images of the area imprinted on my brain.  No matter how many times I go to the NYS Museum, even though it’s about 200 miles from Ground Zero, it still affects me.

Some exhibits:

Police car door

Police car door

Firetruck

Firetruck

343 NYC firefighters and paramedics, 23 NYPD officers, and 37 Port Authority police officers died that day, most of them rushing into the buildings as thousands were rushing out.  One NYC firefighter was killed by a man jumping off the top floors of one of the towers.

Steel girder

Steel girder

This steel girder once stood straight and tall, the length of three floors in one of the towers.  This girder was around floors 71-74, about 30 floors from where one of the planes hit, but it was still completely destroyed from the heat of the fires of the plane fuel.

As a New Yorker, I don’t think I will be ever able to see these things, even in a “sterile” museum miles away, without feeling some of the pain I felt that day.

After we pulled ourselves away from the museum, we headed back to our house to sit out on the deck and drink and talk.  Most of it, I didn’t understand, since about all the German I speak revolves around two words: “bitte” and “danke schön.”  But before we left for dinner later, I took a family pic of everyone.

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K, Brigitte, Richard, Hartmut, Renee

Tomorrow K and I are going to attempt to bike to the Farmer’s Market for the first time, but I’m a bit scared.  I wonder if the milk will be ok on the way back?  Hmm, maybe we should reconsider…