Sunday, August 29, 2010

Now Back To Crocheting ...

Seems like my posts have been about everything else but crocheting lately ! I guess that's because my life has been busy with other things this summer. But with the cooler weather trying to make a comeback here in Colorado (at night anyway), my mind is starting to move back towards my love of yarn.

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is to turn my little flowers into crochet patterns. It is exciting because I think about how other crafters will adapt the ideas into their own creations. With new yarns, or an added accent button, I imagine that my patterns will help someone crochet a flower unique and special to them.

The latest patterns to join my others include directions for the Pansy, a Daffodil, and the Frilly Daisy. Here is a group picture of these new flowers:

I think these flowers will make a nice addition to my other patterns. To see all the patterns I have available, come over to my etsy shop soon.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

✈ Cucumbers, So Many ✈

I'm swimming in cucumbers from the garden, and I only have two plants ! I eat a salad most days, and still find I have to manage the cucumber supply. Here's a recipe I've been using to make 'pickles', that I keep in the refrigerator instead of canning.

Start by gathering some jars with lids. Slice the cucumbers any way you like and put them in the jars. I fill them full, and notice that in about a week they have shrunk up. Next, combine these ingredients in a saucepan and heat until about boiling. I use this amount of liquid for 2 pint jars.

~ 2 1/2 Cups White Vinegar
~ 2 Cups Sugar
~ 2 TBs non-ionized Salt
~ 1 TBs Celery Seed Spice
~ 1 TBs Mustard Seed Spice
~ Dash Dill Spice

Once hot, carefully spoon the liquid into the jars until the cucumbers are covered. Allow the jars to cool, then put on lids and place the jars in the refrigerator.

As the jars cool down further, the liquid will thicken up. I gently turn the jars upside down and back a few times over a few days. This causes the spices to mix and stay further down in the jars over time.

After a few days, the refrigerator 'pickles' are ready to eat. I use them sparingly because of the sugar, but a few on a garden burger or in a salad add a really nice taste.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

♪ Garden Notes ♪

Gardening season is racing ahead and I can barely keep up ! What a strange year this has been for us in Colorado. Wet. We aren't used to that ! Today we even got a new batch of mosquitoes. They kept me swatting as I dug up some new potatoes, which made for a nice potato salad.

I got cheesecloth put on the sunflowers to see if that helps keep birds away from the seeds. I tried a t-shirt first, but that was pretty heavy and made the flower droop.

Here is my first ever batch of fried okra & hot peppers ! DH said it was good:

Here is the raw okra, along with some black-eyed-peas (which I discovered were not quite ready):

The corn is in too. I froze about 3 dozen ears last weekend. I also made some refrigerator pickles from cucumbers, since I can't keep up with eating the fresh ones:

And of course the beets are still coming in:
I have frozen some hot peppers too. The remaining peppers will be used to make salsa, once our onions and tomatoes are ready. I'm planning to can the salsa in jars, so stay tuned for my posting about that adventure !

༻ Snake Relocated ༺

At our farm we separate local prairie snakes into two categories: friendly and not-friendly. Bull snakes are the type we like to see. They are fairly docile, eat mice, and some say keep the other type, rattle snakes, away. Here is a bull snake looking for mice around the house:

bull snakeThis week, sadly, I inadvertently relocated one of the farm's bull snakes into town.

Since my car is parked outside, I do get rabbits and mice in the engine occasionally. Well, a bull snake must have been looking around in there for a meal when I decided to go to town. I made a few stops, running errands and leaving the car in different spots, as my day progressed. Here is a picture that shows the stripped tail, a sure sign that this snake is not a rattler:

Around mid-day I was enjoying lunch, with the car windows open, at a local grocery store's parking lot. An attendant walked near me to get grocery carts. Suddenly, he started pointing to my car tire and said, "Look, there is a garter snake!"

I looked out my side window and saw the familiar grey and black stripes of a snake. It looked pretty big ! I hopped out and came around to take a look. Sure enough, it was a bull snake ! I could only imagine that he had dropped out from under my car.

A few people gathered and someone got a tree branch to see if they could pick the snake up to relocate it to a nearby field. But the snake wasn't interested in that, so it slithered to the car parked behind me, and zip, fast as could be, it went up inside a Ford Mustang. The owner was one of the people standing around, so at least he knew what was happening !!

The snake didn't come out, and since the man with the Mustang started a conversation with another person, I went on my way. Hopefully he drove to a park and sat for awhile until the bull snake found a suitable new home.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

♪ Granola Recipe Favorite ♪

Recently, after tiring of buying granola so often, I decided to try my hand at making it at home. I searched around on blogs for recipes and opinions, finally finding several recipes that sounded tasty. The whole process turned out to be pretty easy, so I thought I'd share my experience here. This recipe makes enough granola to fill two large freezer bags like this:

First let me say that I'm not a real kitchen person. I know the basics, but even at that, I sometimes mess up simple things. So I needed a recipe that wasn't too complicated or challenging.

Here is what I use (it is a blend of a few recipes I found):

- Liquid Mix Ingredients: 2/3 cup Honey, 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil, 1/3 cup Brown Sugar, 2 tsp each Vanilla and Almond Extract
- Dry Mix Ingredients: 1/2 cup Almonds (whole), 1 cup Coconut Flakes, 1/2 cup Sesame Seeds, 1/2 Cup Sunflower Seeds, 5 Cups Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
- 2 Cups Raisins or other dried Fruits
- Cooking Spray for baking sheets

Let me tell you upfront that making granola takes an hour or two in the kitchen, plus utilization of a few bowls, pans, measuring cups/spoons and spatulas. The time starts when you start digging out everything you need, continues during preparation, cooking, cooling, and then finally there is a bit of cleanup. So don't plan to try this process if you only have a half hour to spare.

I use one very large bowl, two metal baking sheets, a manual nut chopper, and a small sauce pan. Plan on having the counter space to lay the baking sheets out on, since there is stirring to be done during and after the cooking steps. The oven needs to have two racks that are arranged pretty low in the oven. I have found that the lower rack browns the granola better.

Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees, then:
1) Combine the Dry Ingredients in the very large bowl, mix well. Chop Almonds as part of this step
2) Combine the Liquid Ingredients in the small sauce pan - all except the Vanilla and Almond Extract for now
3) Heat the Liquid Ingredients til it is all combined, then remove from heat, and stir in the Vanilla and Almond Extract
4) Pour the Liquid over the Dry Ingredients, mix well. I use two large spatulas to turn and mix
5) Spray the baking sheets, then dish on the mixture, smoothing it out to cover all the surfaces
6) Bake for 30 minutes, with these activities mixed in:
a) stir after 10 minutes
b) remove after 10 more minutes (total 20 minutes) to add the raisins
c) remove after 10 more minutes (total 3o minutes) and start the cooling process
7) Allow the granola to slowly cool down. Stir every 5-10 minutes to prevent clumping
8) Optional - I like to put the granola back in the large bowl to finish cooling, since it is easier to stir it there
9) Once cool, put the granola in your favorite container
10) I refrigerate 1/2 of it for immediate use, and put the other half in the freezer

As I mentioned earlier, my lower baking sheet tends to brown the granola better. That's probably why I mix the batches back together to even out the colors. Regardless, this recipe has worked well for my family and it has become a frequent activity at our house.

Do you have a good granola recipe? Please share in the comments section so that I can continue to improve.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

❤ Sunflowers Open ❤

As promised earlier, I got my sunflower pictures fixed up. Now I can show a series of pictures that illustrate how my 10 foot sunflower plants look as they bloomed this year. Their sheer size is so amazing, then on top of that grandness, big lovely flowers pop open over a course of a few days. Here is my series, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did watching these beauties:

Continued vigilance will be needed if I'm going to get the seeds before anyone else. Hopefully I'll do a post in the future about that process. If the birds get them, at least I know the seeds will be going to a good cause though.

♪ Garden Goodies ♪

My sink was full this morning - check out the day's harvest !!

garden vegetable pepper kohlrabi turnip
The turnips (I had about 8 more like that one) got frozen, as did the hot peppers. The kohlrabi was used in a stir-fry for dinner. Tip: did you know that if you get hot pepper oil in a cut or in your eye, that washing it with milk relieves the pain? Even soy milk works.

A few days ago I made some refrigerator pickled beets. I found out that you shouldn't replace the sugar with Splenda. That batch came out too acidic and I had to compost it. The other jars were made with sugar, and those are delicious !

mason jars canningSuch a pretty color ! beets jar
All the efforts in the garden are paying off this year. Despite some busy Colorado potato beetles, the produce is turning out nicely. Next I need to get ready for the corn !!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

༺ Garden Pictures ༻

We enjoyed our first tomato of the season this week. I grew this one in a pot on the patio, so it stayed a little warmer I think. It was sweet and delicious ! The ones in the garden are still green, but look out, when they are ready I'll have to be doing some serious kitchen time.

I also have some nice interesting plants in the garden this year, including okra, eggplants, musk melons, and this cutie - a kohlrabi ->

garden kohlrabi
I should probably pick this one and try it in a salad soon.

The Colorado potato beetles have moved from the potatoes to the eggplants. What a damaging little bug these guys are ! I have to be diligent with picking them off every day, or else the plants would be stripped.

The sunflowers are getting really big, and the bees are really enjoying them. I need to work on my pictures, but soon I'll write a post showing the stages of the sunflowers as they open up. I found this fascinating to watch.