It’s been a while, and that is basically because nothing really interesting has been happening. August has been rather nice, however. The temperatures are warm, the rain has been almost normal instead of the constant cold and floods about every other day that we seemed to have in June and July. There have only been a few flash floods in August and not even one federally declared disaster.
At the beginning of the month, I attended a workshop on safe canning. I’ve been making jam and jelly for years and my dad got me a giant pressure canner for my Christmas/birthday present. One of the great disappointments of the poor harvest this year is that I don’t have a thing to can! All is well though, because Pleasant surprise #1 was that I was not wrong when I switch back tot eh “Easy Pick” variety of beans that was my first successful plant when I moved out here and finally got my garden growing. I have been experimenting with other varieties and been not as happy with the results, and switched back to Easy Pick. They are tasty and live up to their name with nice rows of beans that fall right off the bush into the bowl, practically on their own. I also tried another variety called “Strike”, and they are a paler green and prettier to look at. They also hold better in the field, staying round and not looking as bulgy around the seeds as the Easy Pick if they get skipped picking for a few days, but they taste dry and starchy if they get older, even if they look nice and fresh and round. Go, Easy Pick, go!
Anyway, armed with the knowledge that a pressure canner does not really explode if you look at it sideways and that botulism sucks, I canned my first pints of beans the other day, and they seem to be okay. It was a little depressing to see my nice green beans turn into darker green canned beans, but I froze some also, and the canned ones will be great for soup in the middle of winter.
The canning ladies from the county extension office recommended a site from the University of Georgia: www.uga.edu/nchfp
which is the National CEnter for Home Food Preservation, the best canning site on the web, and they have a nice book that you can get from them too. I was stuck in a seat next to the wall with Ma and Pa open kettle canning, whom I had much more in common with than the average attendee. Pa Kettle uses the same kind of set up that I have for my canner, which is the burner from a garage sale turkey fryer instead of trying to haul the canner up onto the stove. Apparently canning on a glass top stove is a no-no which will void the warranty which mine probably already voided due to already having canned and having had my sister get my stove at a yard sale for me in the first place.
Speaking of my sister, now I have to touch on the subject of my lovely niece. That girl never ceases to amaze me with her fantabulous green thumb. She is like the anti-me. Here’s an older picture of her planting marigolds with me in the side garden.
The best flowerbed I ever had until I turned her and my mom loose in the newly laid garden on the pond bank with a pack of sampler seeds that I got free in the mail and just stuck in with my seed orders. I try and I try, what do I get? She throws seeds and she gets this:
And it’s the first year that has even been used as a garden, too!
Speaking of gardens, Pleasant Surprise #3 (or is is 4) is the little Mexican Gherkin cucumber seeds I picked up, I believe from the John Scheeper’s catalog. I actually wanted them last year, but never got around to ordering them. They are fantastic, miniature cucumber vines which make cukes about as big as the end of my thumb that are tart and crispy and lovely. A keeper for sure. I believe they may actually be heirlooms, too which makes seed saving a possibility except that I only planted a sampler pack and none of them have made it out of the garden, I just eat them right up!
I was reading through a garden book and found out why my Diva’s and other seedless types of cukes always got weird and deformy last year, and the year before that, and .... They are cross pollinating! I have a stand of Summer Dance cukes planted a few rows away from the Mexican Gherkins, but they seem to be straight and uncrossed with the other cukes.
Pleasant Surprise (not so surprising): I have once again found myself the proud pillow for the chins of, yes, the best dogs in the world. Again! How does this keep on happening?
Spence is the closer one, about 70 pounds that last time we had him weighed. Bruce in the background looks about the same size, but don’t be fooled. He is gentle giant of about 90 pounds and still growing. They both have this lovely Weimaraner strut but seem to be a little less inclined to get up the the night and bark at the bending of a blade of grass.
The last Pleasant Surprise:
Not sure that things really show up in the picture, but the BEES ARE BACK!!! My terrible neglected gardens from last year have yielded a lot of herbs that just went to seed, and I looked at the flowers on the oregano and found there were so many pollinators they were bumping into each other! Now, my belated pumpkins which will never bear fruit as they were planted late in June and we had a few weeks of 60 degree temperatures in July are full of rich, lovely smelling flowers and the flowers are full of both native bumbles and the furrin honeybees that have been having such a rough time. I’ll tell you, I’m not the only one that has a smile on their face about some good news for once!
Now, I am off to the Fair! (August may be my new favorite month.)