Friday, July 31, 2015

No Corn

We only had a few shoots of corn emerge from the planting in the wood chip area. So we won't be having any corn this summer. We're not sure if animals got the seeds, or if the seeds weren't planted deep enough or too deep, or if they didn't get enough water. Probably a little of all of those reasons. We'll try again next year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Whistling Ducks

We had never seen or even heard of a Black-bellied Whistling Duck until they started flying around the house. They were so unusual that we had to do a little internet searching to find out what they were.

We could tell they were ducks by their shape and the way they were flying. They circled around the house a few times making a very unusual noise. Their beaks were a bright pinkish/red with a brown body. They landed a few times behind the house near the chickens so we were able to get a better look. But they usually landed up on top of a tall dead tree. And would fly away if we got too close.

It turns out that a flock of them have been coming regularly to this area for the last few years and staying at one of Neighbor's ponds.

Here's what one online source had to say about them:

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a boisterous duck with a brilliant pink bill and an unusual, long-legged silhouette. In places like Texas and Louisiana, watch for noisy flocks of these gaudy ducks dropping into fields to forage on seeds, or loafing on golf course ponds. Listen for them, too—these ducks really do have a whistle for their call. Common south of the U.S., Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks occur in several southern states and are expanding northward. 
You can also read more about them here. You can even click on a link ("rapid peeping" at bottom right) and hear what they sound like.

 And here are a couple over at Neighbor's pond.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Sad Sunflowers

After being so excited about the sunflowers down the road, they didn't seem to last very long. So now, they just look sad.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Dehydrated Tomatoes

When I was at the farmer's market the other day, I bought 3 pounds of cherry tomatoes for $8 (2 bags for $4). I had seen a recipe for a variation of sun-dried tomatoes which used a dehydrator.

Dehydrating tomatoes is much easier than canning. All I had to do was wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. I spread them evenly on my dehydrating trays and forgot about them for 24 hours until they were crunchy.

I decided to count the tomatoes, for reference, and had 183. I used all four of the trays, so I guess I put about 40-50 per tray. As they dried, they were so small they fell through the slats in the trays.

After they were dry, I put them into two old jam jars. The recipe recommended adding a couple cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of salt to each jar then filling them with olive oil. Since these haven't been sealed properly, they are in my refrigerator until we need them.

I thought they might soften up a little after they had been in the oil awhile, but so far they are still crunchy. Next time, I probably won't dry them so long.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Canning Tomatoes

I didn't have enough room in the raised beds this year to plant tomatoes. I did plant a few cherry tomatoes in the hydroponics. So when I wanted to try canning tomatoes, I had to buy them at the local farmer's market.

I bought 9-1/2 pounds of tomatoes for $12. I'm not sure how this compares to the store price. I also bought 3 pounds of cherry tomatoes for dehydrating (post to follow).

After chopping them roughly into quarters, I cooked them for about 20 minutes. Then I used the tomato press to separate the skins and the seeds from the juice. I put the juice back in the pot and simmered it until it had reduced by half.

I filled my clean warm jars with the warm tomato sauce. The Blue Book recommended adding a little citric acid to each jar. This amount only filled 3 pint jars. Then I processed them in a hot water bath for 35 minutes.

One pint of tomato sauce cost $4.

This is the rule book for canning.

When you do any canning, you have to follow the recipe carefully.

I bought four bags of tomatoes at $3 a bag, each weighed over two pounds.

I chopped them roughly and removed the core.

I cooked the tomatoes without any added water for about 20 minutes.

This is an amazing contraption.

I ladled the stewed tomatoes into the top, and the sauce comes out one side.

The seeds and the skins come out the other side.

The sauce is simmered until reduced by half.

I used the end of a wooden spoon to measure the depth of the sauce.

When it was about half it was ready.

I filled the jars with about one inch space left at the top.

I ended up with three pint jars of sauce.

I labeled them and put them on the shelf.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Florida Again

It was summer camp time again so Daughter and I made another road trip to Florida. This year we had an extra passenger both ways. One friend flew here the week before and we took her home. Another friend came home with us and flew back. So the car was pretty full both times. The car was extra full on the way home because we had managed to squeeze in four antique chairs and two boxes of china for Engaged Couple.

Soon after we set off, I decided we'd play the "License Plate" game along the way. I started out playing on my own, as the two girls watched movies in the back seat. But after about six different state license plates, I had to enlist the help of Daughter to keep track of them on her iPhone. I was trying to keep track of them geographically in my head. Eventually, we were all scanning license plates of passing cars as we drove through the five states. The best road for spotting different ones was on I-75 (where we saw Alaska and Hawaii - and cheered/screamed) - due to all those tourists heading to Disney and the beaches. By the time we got home we had seen 46 states - we lacked Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota and Rhode Island. We also saw several extras: District of Columbia, Newfoundland-Labrador, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Puerto Rico, Chihuahua-Mexico, and Nuevo Leon-Mexico. 

I  listened to four audiobooks along the way. Unlike listening to music, audiobooks seem to keep me awake better and also seem to make the miles go by faster. Unfortunately, the titles of audiobooks are limited, especially at thrift stores and secondhand bookstores where I shop.

I drove 2950 miles in 12 days. Needless to say, I was happy to be home.

This is the longest part of the drive. Also the most monotonous.

We passed this Tesla transporter. "I'm good with brands." - Friend says.

Sadly, only one afternoon was spent at our favorite beach spot.

I'm sure this sailboat passed just for me to take this photo.

 We didn't need the newspaper to tell us Tampa was very hot.

Afternoon thunderstorms created spectacular cloud formations.

Two of the four antique chairs we managed to take home with us.

All the camp gear, bags, and chairs didn't leave much extra room.

I got so excited when I spotted this Arizona plate I had to take a photo.

Here's the beginning of the list, as we spotted them.

There was about 20 hours of listening time in my audiobooks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Smiling Cantaloupe

I didn't plant any cantaloupe this year. But somehow I ended up with one rouge plant amongst the cucumbers I planted. I think it was a mistake in the starter tray of 6 cucumbers that I bought. So any cantaloupes we get will just be a little bonus for us.

There is one out there with some unusual markings, probably from bugs or wasp bites. It looks like a smiling face to me.