Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jason cooks Dinner

I am very lucky to have a partner who enjoys cooking. He also really likes to make the plate look fabulous. I don't have that flare when I am cooking. The other day Jason made pork chops with onions and peppers and jelly bean tomatoes. It must be love!

TMI Post

If talking about menstruation freaks you out, read no further.

I have been trying to find ways to live more simply, reuse more, have a more sustainable our local natural foods store, Jimbo's (great name, eh? I miss Mississippi Market), they sell reusable pads for women for something like $20 a pad. I took a look at them and thought, "Hey, I think that I could make them from cloth scraps." I had some old fabric that originally were bedsheets. I used them to make workout pants in a previous post. I cut them in pad-like shape and added velcro for the "wings." They worked nicely for last month's visit with Aunt Flo and washed easily for next month's visit. Each pad took about 15 minutes to make and because I used fabric scraps cost mere pennies.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Surprising Find-Peas!

At the beginning of the summer, I planted peas along the fence that separates our yard from the front yard of our town home complex. That area doesn't get much sun, but I thought that I would try it. At first they seemed to grow all right, but they never got very tall and started turning yellow and I just assumed that they were fated to die. Imagine my surprise then when I was watering the raspberry vines planted along the wall and I saw this:

All told there were 10 pea pods on about 12 plants. Not a huge crop but a nice, sweet, surprise.

Worm Composting Bin

One way that Jason and I try to be more sustainable is by composting. We have a tiny yard (made even smaller by our 4 garden beds) and no good space for a regular compost bin. Plus we brought with us when we moved my worm bin that I had in my apartment in MN. We can feed all of our food waste to the worms and our yard waste gets picked up by the city.

I got my worm bin from one of my favorite authors, Ellen Sandbeck, from her company LaVerme's Worms.

Ellen has written many books but two of my favorites are Organic Housekeeping and Green Barbarians. After reading Organic Housekeeping and sending it to a few friends, I happened to see the book at a stand at the Minneapolis Green Expo. I told my friend Tanya how much I loved the book and crazily enough, Ellen, the author, overheard me. I had never met an author that I loved before. Anyways, buy her books and check out her worm bins. Back to the blog post...

It was nice because it came fully equipped with bedding and worms so I didn't need to figure out how to get the right pH and all of that stuff for the worms. We mentally split the worm bin into 6 quadrants and each week we feed a different quadrant. By the time that we get back to the original quadrant, all the food has been eaten by the worms. The liquid left over from the food gets filtered to the bottom and out a spigot. "Worm Juice" is a great fertilizing tea for our garden.
I use unbleached paper and sewing scraps as dry bedding since San Diego doesn't get many fall leaves

The worm bin after moving the dry bedding

pouring in the food for my worms

Lately I have been blending all of our food scraps. Since in the summer we eat a ton more vegetables, we have lots more food scraps for the bin. By blending them, I can get more food food in each quadrant and the worms can eat it quicker. Jason says that I am coddling the worms, but I am just making it work. It's a little gross, but worth the effort.

Putting the scraps in the blender

Although it looks gross to us, the worms say, "YUMMY!"

Monday, July 5, 2010

First Tomatoes of the Season!

Summer is here! Today was the first day that I got more than one or two little currant tomatoes. I got about 10 yellow tomatoes (the sharpie had worn off the label so I am not sure what kind of tomato), one orange banana tomato, and 6 of the red currant tomatoes. The yellow ones are really sweet. Although I could have eaten them all, I brought them home to an excited Jason. I can't wait for more tomatoes!
There are the tomatoes that lasted long enough we could photograph them, they were so yummy they kept disappearing into out mouths!

Jason was excited for our 1st tomatoes!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Canning Happens

Happy 4th of July! Today I slept in, finished a book that I was reading, fed my worms (the compost was getting a little stinky), and planned for my new class that starts on Monday. Then with the rest of the afternoon ahead of me, I decided that it was time to do some canning.

I know that the experts say that you should only can produce that was picked the same day, but since I am canning the produce that I have grown, I need to wait until I have enough to can. So my produce has been picked all week and may be up to 7 days old. I figure that if I went to the grocery store to buy produce, it would be at least that old. I guess we'll see how it tastes. I had 1 lb. 10 oz. of pickling cucumbers and 2 lbs 6 oz of green and purple beans. Not enough for a full batch of anything, so I decided to make a half batch of dilly beans and a half batch of dill pickles. To make the dill pickles, the cucumbers needed to sit in a brine for 2 hours, so I set that up first. My in-laws got me a pasta put with a colander that fits in the pot. It was perfect for keeping the cucumbers under water.

Next I had to get the water in the boiling water canner boiling. That can take 45 minutes if it is full of water. I put 7 pint jars inside the canner to sterilize them. Then I started the pickling liquid for the dilly beans. My dilly bean recipe comes from my aunt Cindy, but I add more crushed red pepper because Jason and I like spicy pickles. While the pickling liquid heated up, I sliced the ends off of the beans and cut them so that they would fit into a wide-mouthed pint jar. My recipe calls for fresh dill, but I only had dried dill. I hope that it works all right.

All of my ingredients ready to go

Once the water in the canner started boiling, I could fill the jars. I packed them full of beans, with a piece of garlic and jalapeƱo in each one (they both are from our garden as well) and then filled the jar up with the pickling liquid. I had a minor set back with the dilly beans. One jar broke when I put it back in the canner. I couldn't fish out all of the beans so I did the rest of my canning with beans floating through the water. Oops! Once the jars were filled and the lids were on, I put them in the boiling canner for 15 minutes.

Filling the jars with beans

The boiling canner with sterilized jars

Oops, one jar broke!

Filling the jars with pickling liquid

As the dilly beans were finishing, the 2 hours that the cucumbers needed to sit in the brine was up. I quickly prepared the pickling liquid for the dill pickles. I needed to sterilize more jars and add some more water to the boiling canner. After filling the jars, and processing them for 15 minutes, I had 4 pints of dill pickles.

Jason and I get to spend the rest of the 4th together, watching movies and hanging out! He get's the day off tomorrow, and I only work in the morning. I hope that everyone has a fun time with friends and family!

Letting the jars cool

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ripping out the Beans

The next few weeks I will probably not be posting during the week. I will finally be working full-time (yay!), but I will be working crazy hours. I will be teaching an intermediate ESL class from 9am-12:40 M-F, a private class from 2-3pm, then an evening beginning ESL class from 5:30-10pm M-Th. I have weird breaks in there that I will use for lesson planning, working out, and going to the community garden, but it might be hard to find time to blog as well. We'll see what happens. This crazy schedule will only be through August, then I will either have found a better job (cross your fingers) or I will go back to working my evening class and subbing for the morning school.

The last 2 weeks or so my purple stringless beans have been slowly producing less and less. I looked at a bunch of websites and I think that the plants are just finished, so after work on Friday I went to the community garden and pulled out the 4 beans plants. I also decided to trim any tomato plants that were taller than I could reach. I think that because I have been tying the tomatoes to the poles, they are growing taller than they normally would if I were just using a tomato cage. I had a wheelbarrow packed full of plant matter by the time I was finished. In 6 months or so, they will be good compost for the community garden.

On my way home I stopped at Walter Anderson Nursery to look at what plants I should put up the trellis to take the place of the beans. (We have been trying to grow eggplant from seeds, but they haven't grown). I bought an eggplant seedling and a loofah gourd seedling. They will be shaded by the tomatoes a little, but I hope that they will grow nevertheless. I'll keep you posted on how they do!

Today Jason and I are volunteering at a garden build for Victory Garden San Diego. We'll help someone put in 4 raised beds, an irrigation system, and plant all the beds. It's a cool organization that helps people put in gardens through coordinating groups of volunteers. It's our 1st time volunteering. Hopefully Jason and I will meet some cool people. We need more friends.