Monthly Archives: August 2014

Ketchup is a tomato hog

So busy. I mean, SoOo busy.

That’s how I feel, almost daily. Between keeping on top of all the day-to-day things (bills! Dishes! Laundry! Dinners!) there’s also the planning.

Okay, so we’ve got twenty pounds of tomatoes on the table, plus five pounds of cucumbers, four quarts of hot peppers, and a platter of yellow squash.  Fresh, for how long?

Basically for the past four weekends, Stubborn Boy and I have spent Saturday doing our outdoor chores, and Sundays indoors, canning and pickling.

We don’t have an awesome dill pickle recipe yet. We’ve tried three or four different recipes so far, but none of them knock our socks off yet. So we keep batching them weekly with different proportions of vinegar, dill, and garlic. *I am actually eagerly awaiting the day we can have a party and do a huge taste test.

As for the tomatoes, we were eating as many of them as we could, when I finally figured out we could just turn them into tomato paste and jarred crushed tomatoes. I have to say though, knowing how many tomatoes it takes to make tomato paste or ketchup, no wonder the rest of the world think we Americans are bonkers for ketchup. We batched up a couple of quarts of tomatoes, which yielded something like seven ice-cube size tomato paste balls.

And that, I guess, is where this is going.  I don’t think very many of us can say that we’re glutenous, but when you start realizing that it takes several pounds of tomatoes to make one little jar of ketchup, plus eight quarts of strawberries to make four quarts of jam, things start to go a little wonky in my head.

Well, I’d love to keep ranting, but I’ve got kale chips and a chard-stem bake in the oven. Later, with photos soon I promise!

Wasting the planet away…

Working on a jet often feels wasteful to me. Imagine serving 150 people a drink of water. Using 150 small plastic cups. Now imagine we do that same drink service two or three times.  I don’t know about you, but my mom would KILL me  when I was little if I didn’t reuse the same glass.  One last thing to imagine. That all of that plastic was NOT recycled, and went right into the trash.

This all used to go into the trash. Can you imagine?

This all used to go into the trash. Can you imagine?

That happens on airplanes every day. There used to be this law that said we HAD to throw plastic, even cans, into the trash on international flights. Something about burning all international trash to not potentially allow foreign bacteria into non-native countries.

Seriously? Plastic is a non-native species that could contaminate countries? Sure; it can contaminate their waste streams…

Then a bunch of flight attendants who said, “I’m recycling whether you like it or not” started taking the trash off the jet, into the terminal, to dump it into the recycling bins in the airports. Then we got yelled at and threatened for “stealing.” Sorry, airline; didn’t realize that trash was so precious to you.

Then the company instituted a new set of recycling initiatives. Yay!  So now we recycle cans, plastic, and newspapers.

Except sometimes, my crew members don’t like recycling cups. After all, a strangers’ mouth has been on it. Ew!  (Haven’t you people heard of soap and water?)

As for me, I recycle. It just makes me feel less wasteful. Also, you use far fewer trash bags when you recycle and stack the cups and bottles. As an experiment, I sorted things into four categories. Also, if (WHEN!) they make recycling mandatory, I’m all up to speed. Go me!

Compostables, plastic and paper, cans, and trash.  My company doesn’t accept compostables just yet.  *Although, wouldn’t that be cool?

Sorting the "haul." Compost, plastics, paper, aluminum.

Sorting the “haul.” Compost, plastics, paper, aluminum.

After snapping this shot, I actually took the compostables in a plastic bag and dragged them around with me. But confession time… it was pretty gooey work. The coffee grounds were all leaky and the cardboard coffee aprons and sandwich boxes were bulky, and it made my life rather unpleasant. Not to mention a little oderous, so for now, I’ll sort them and hope someone at the catering kitchen takes it a step further.

Who knows? Maybe if I have some free time between flying a full flight schedule and running a farm, I can even be the one to start it.

I’ll do anything to stay out of the heat right now…

It’s like, a million degrees outside. Dog days of summer, indeed.  So I find it a little jarring to be putting in the winter crops. This is the first year I will actually get the winter crops into the ground in time. It’s one of those weird things; the soil temp feels about 80 yet I’m planting autumn peas, winter Kale and snow carrots.

I started the little seedlings a few weeks ago, and while they’ve managed to survive the porch, today after I put them into the ground I can almost visualize them gasping for water and cool air.

***I’m actually updating my post right now because I don’t want to be out there under the hot August sun any more than my poor little plants. I’ve found a million reasons to avoid the garden. (I should really can that Strawberry Rhubarb jam that is taking up space in my freezer. Ooh, it’s a really good time to start the laundry. I should cook a four-course-meal for lunch. That’ll only take me a few hours…)

Other than that, everything looks really good outside.  We have started eating the corn; I’ve dug up two buckets of potatoes and have about eight – twelve more buckets to get up. The tomatoes are starting to turn red, so canning tomato sauce is very near in my future. The cauliflower, of which I had given up hope of setting food, has started to head. I have enough beans to do a quick canning batch. *We bought a pressure canner! Hurrah! I’ve been sort of coveting one for years, and we just realized that we’ll never be able to have beans over the winter except the pickled variety, unless we a) bought a bigger freezer or b) got a pressure canner. So I’ll let you know how the beans turn out once it’s cold outside.

Well, those carrots and beets won’t plant themselves, and if I don’t get the escarole and chickory into the ground, it’s going to die and then I will likely cry.

(No seriously, I might cry. Yesterday afternoon I had forgotten to water the seedlings and they were all flopped over and looked seriously dead, and I found myself just so frustrated that the tears started pouring out of me. Stubborn Boy took over, watering them and nursing them back to health, and then he both comforted me for being so dramatic and he also chided me for being so. It’s always fifty-fifty with that one…)

A quick note about the Bee Swarm Capture…

My first capture worked. Three weeks after we captured the swarm, they were still going strong and I even saw the queen in there once.

Our set up for the bees is a grow-as-you-go venture, and we really were not ready to start another colony especially as we’ve already started two new hives this year. There just wasn’t a lot of room in the budget, yet I was worried because the hive that swarmed had been quite strong in the beginning of spring.

Here’s how the whole thing played out. Remember, each of my painted hives (Yellow, then Green, then Blue) swarmed this year. Yellow was the first to swarm.

I kept checking on my hives, and saw that Blue and Green were able to raise themselves a new queen, but for some reason Yellow was having no luck, and I was getting really worried, six weeks later, that they still were not queen right. So I decided to try yet another technique that is new to me but common amongst bee keepers.

I merged the two hives.

First I took a sheet of newspaper and put it down on top of the box where all the bee frames were. Then I put another box on top of that, and added the frames from my swarm into that box along with empty frames. Finally I shook the remaining bees into the box, slapped on the lid and walked away.

The thought is that the bees without a queen will smell the new queen, but since bees only like gradual changes (or so it seems), you have to put the newspaper in between the two boxes or the bees are likely to seek out the queen and rip her to shreds.

I went back a week later to check on everyone. Yellow is queen-right; there’s a ton of baby bee larvae inside and it looks like I might have a population explosion on my hands very soon.

Life is good.

From Shepherdess to Stewardess

I decided a few years ago to become a shepherdess, after years of being a flight attendant. But I’ve gotta tell you, am I grateful to have that flying job now or I would have positively NO summer.

The original plan, I thought, was once I was on the farm I would have everything I needed. ***Goodbye city!  Goodbye airline! Hello, nature, woods, and animals!   (Man, was I dreaming…!)

Don’t get me wrong. I simply love being outside and I love working outside. I’m outside from just after breakfast until the sky starts to darken. I do a million things, and mostly, all of them require me to be outside in the fresh air. What a delight after years of being cooped up in a tin can flying at 40,000 feet. At the farm, I’m often still working outside when I get the call to come in for dinner.  *I always crack up when this happens; it reminds me of being ten-years-old again.

But seriously, here we are into the second summer, and I have to say, seeing everyone’s summer fun posts on Facebook (here’s me at the Hamptons! Here’s me camping with my family! Here’s the whole gang in Mexico!…) make me feel a little twinge of ~something.~ Not quite jealousy, but along those lines. Like a sort of “oh Man! I wish I could be doing that! That looks awesome!” feeling.

And that’s where being a stewardess (flight attendant) can really be a blessing.

It’s sort of mandatory relaxation time. I mean, it’s not like I can go weed the garden or check on the bees when I’m off in Tulsa (or Denver, or San Francisco… you get the idea).

The way it works as a flight attendant is this: I’m busy doing my job on the jet. From the time I sign in until I finish my last flight, I’m pretty much in polyester with a plastic smile glued onto my face. But when the day is done, if I am not back at base, it’s layover time! Layover time can be anywhere from eight hours (boo! hiss!) to 48 hours at my airline.

This month, I held 18 hour layovers, in San Diego no less, where not only is it a vacation paradise but I also have friends who live there. So I finally got to have a summer!

At the Glider Park

At the Glider Park

KAMI ON PADDLEBOARD

The woman who gave summer back to me!  Thanks Gina~!

The woman who gave summer back to me! Thanks Gina~!