Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wrestling Lycopersicon lycopersicum

I do think it could be a new sport--Tomato Wrestling. It could be BIG. I mean BIG. There just needs to be a big name to endorse it and another to do the whole announcing thing, and we're all set. And the bonus would be that anyone could participate. No steroids needed, just a person, some scissors, some stakes and a lot of ties. It could be timed to see who can get the tomatoes to behave in the least amount of time. And the better you get at it, you move up to taller and vinier tomatoes that are flopping all over each other and more and more tangled. That'd be a feat of strength, stamina, and brains. What an event!

I wrestled the tomatoes yesterday, as I said I was going to. 2 hours. They were really tangled. I am ready for the big time, baby. I think I could go all the way.

Let me show you. Or should I say;

The "before" shot. Tomatoes, tomatoes, everywhere. Mainly on top of one another. But also on top of the peppers and squash. They were hogging the sun.

See that low part of the "mound" there? Those are the cherry tomatoes. They got so tall they fell over and continued to grow into one another. When I planted all these guys, they were in nice rows. I was determined to find the rows again....

Can you see the tomatoes on the left? There on the garden path? Can you see the garden path? No, no, you can't. I know. This is what I'd be stepping over everytime I went into the garden. A little TOO snug.

Though for some reason Blogger wants to put this picture upside-down (???), I would like to point out here that I DID stake these suckers about a month ago. This is a 4 foot stake, lost in the foliage. I would have to extract it and a few others like it....

To prevail!! Hah! Here are those unruly guys, 2 hours later, sort of behaving.

And finally, I had gotten both the unruly cherry tomatoes to behave, and then all their compatriots next to them. Ha!!!
I would just like to point out that the vines of these tomatoes are actually TALLER than the stakes I put them on....
And to give you some idea for how tall that is, the stakes are 8 feet tall. If I pounded 6 inches into the ground, I was having a good day. So a 7 1/2 foot stake. And a what, 8 foot tomato?

But I unearthed the peppers. Poor sunless little guys. They looked relieved. Now either they'll make peppers or die of shock. Hmmmm.... Well, either way. At least they can breathe. :)

And I reclaimed the garden path. Woo hoo!!

So, totally worth it. Why is this a sport? Well, because there is a lot at stake! Ha ha ha!!
Ok, really now. Tomatoes are actually very fragile. The vines break easily, and the tomatoes can be damaged easily, or fall off. So it takes a bit of finessing, especially if the vines have gotten as long as these vines have gotten. I untangled vines on the garden path that were from the tomato in the back of the garden. And they were growing under vines from some of the tomatoes in the middle of the garden, the tomatoes comingling freely. Darn cominglers. So be prepared to have some tomatoes fall off.
And don't panic about it, because you can still harvest them and bring them in to ripen. My favorite way is to spread them out (that's important) on some newspaper on the counter. It takes a while, but why waste tomatoes, right?
As careful as I was, I did break a vine:
I don't worry too much about that, though, because they are resilient, and I've had tomatoes in the past grow on vines that were severed almost in half. They actually develop fine and don't seem to mind the break, as long as there is still a way to get the nutrients to the rest of the plant at that point.
Speaking of, this was a vine that was broken quite a while ago. It was growing fine and actually sprouted tomatoes on it. Then I broke it off totally (oops). But here's something else you may not know about tomatoes:

They develop roots all along their stems (see those little yellow nubby hairs--they be roots!), so they can be rooted in a pot of dirt if you break off a branch. This will usually work just fine with a young branch. I don't have much hope for this branch, though. It's an "older" vine, but mainly I don't think it will work because it's supporting tomatoes. That's a lot to support on root hairs. So I'm thinking this one will probably not make it. Dang. But I will give it a couple of days, just in case. Right now it looks very shocky. I don't have much hope, but I'd kick myself if I didn't try. Oh, and another fun thing about tomato wrestling? You WILL get dirty! Very, very dirty! What more can you want?

I think I may be onto something here. You start with easy tomatoes, and as you conquer them, you move onto the behemoths. You lose points for tomatoes that fall off, and points for vines that break. There's an opportunity to use your strength to pound in the stakes, your stamina to keep at it, and your brains to figure out just WHERE the damn vines belong and to which plant, and then how to best tie them to the stake. Extra points for deftness with the scissor/tie handle and how the ties are applied to the vines.


Well, I think it's got potential.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

At Least it Wasn't 95 Degrees!

It was cooler (87 degrees--woo hoo)Sunday, so I did some more canning. That canner is getting a workout THIS year!

Let's just say I had a bounty of zucchini. So I pickled it.

I also put up some plum conserve, which is on the left in this picture. The 10 pints on the right would be the zucchini pickles. The middle loaf is zucchini bread. There were 2 loaves, but one had been "attacked" as soon as I took it out of the oven. My daughter has a previously undiscovered love of zucchini bread. So in total, I got 10 pints of pickles, an "overflow" jam jar of pickles (with the red top in the back--no I didn't put that in the canner--it would have exploded, methinks) and 2 loaves of zucchini bread, and froze a bunch. That was the harvest from the day before we left and the day we came back...... Did I mention I had a bounty of zucchini?

Finally the tomatoes are coming, so you see some in the front in this picture. I have a PLETHORA of tomatoes, but they are almost all still green. These ripened while we were away, so I picked them. They are a variety of cherry tomato called Chocolate Cherry. Bet you can't guess why I picked them, huh? Anyway, I grew them from seed, and the plants are now 6 1/2 feet tall, and loaded with tomatoes. And falling all over each other, which is a pain in my butt. My mission today is to buy some 7 foot stakes and get them off of each other. Then I may be able to walk in the vegetable garden again.

That's going to be my day today. What are you all up to?

Monday, July 28, 2008


I went on vacation! We went to Seneca Lake, and did some cabin "camping". It was a good vacation, and we did lots of things. Would you like to see? Come along on the trip!! you think we packed enough??

We stayed in a little cabin. It was really nice!

We hung out the first day, did a little fishing with the kids, they played on the playground, and that night we had a campfire, where I fed my smores habit more than I should have...

The next day, we went to the Corning Museum of Glass. I forgot my camera. You'll just have to take my word for it, it was fun. The kids had a good time because they gave them things to find like a scavenger hunt, and there were interactive exhibits. We also took in a couple of little shows. It was a nice day.

After we got back, my mom and I snuck out to visit a quilt shop called Oh Susanna. It was small, but if I tell you I could have spent hours there just looking at everything, I wouldn't be lying. I love little shops like that, with lots of quilts and samples and ideas and books to see, besides the fabric. It was just brimming. Very enjoyable.

The next morning, the kids got up before 7. Ugh. In order to keep them quiet (because they're not), we took them on the little nature trail in the campground. It was well marked, and it taught the kids how to follow a trail.

It taught me why I shouldn't take pictures while walking. Dramamine, anyone?

Oh, really now, stop it. Blech.

Then, because we'd started the day walking, why not continue? That day, we hiked the gorge in Watkins Glen. If you've never been there, put it on your list. It's a beautiful place. The trail is 1 1/2 miles, mostly up steps. There are 19 waterfalls, and the views are incomparable. Take a look....

You start out at the bottom of the gorge, and hike to the top, up about 800-odd steps. It was a good walk, with lots to see. I took over 100 pictures that day. We hiked up the gorge, and back down a trail on the side of the gorge. No steps that time and not as many views. Still, it was nice and quiet and shady--very enjoyable.

After hiking the gorge, we went on a boat ride around Seneca Lake--no walking required.
Little Boy and Little Girl sitting nicely, looking. Aaaaaahhhhhh......

That night, another campfire. A little more feeding of the smores habit I have, but not as much.

The next day, it was time to go home. The kids were antsy and fighting, and driving my younger brother insane. Hubby and I needed to sleep in our own bed. But before we left, we visited 2 wineries. There are 15 or so around the lake. The kids were NEVER going to put up with 15, but we snuck 2 in before we headed home.

Enjoyed the view, bought some good wine, and off we went for home.

It was a good time, enjoyed by all. I hope you liked it too! Thanks for taking the trip with me!


Friday, July 18, 2008

All Because of the Apricots

It's 95 degrees out. It's hot. Yet I spent the day baking and canning. I believe I am insane.

Poor Percy. I understand, buddy, I really do.

The day became what it was after a planned trip to the farmer's market and a sleepless night thinking about organizing my freezer.

I know, have I nothing better to do than think about organzing my freezer all night? Well, yes, sleep would have been nice. Unfortunately, my inability to sleep as of late caused my brain to stay awake despite my best efforts of stopping it from doing so, and while it was looking for something to think about, it came about the abundance of summer squash we have and the fact that it has caused a bit of a traffic jam in the freezer.

Squashy devils. Oy!

So, having been fueled by stupidly-late night ponderings on what to do to clean up the freezer, I got up this morning to head to the farmer's market as planned, and then come home and clean up the freezer, in hopes of appeasing my brain, so MAYBE I'll get to sleep tonight.

Of course, things never go exactly as planned, do they? I find mostly not. I went to the farmer's market to buy carrots (to bake a carrot cake) and some lettuce for salads. That was it. Then home to clean. Well, I did get the carrots which were lovely, and I did get the lettuce,

but then my daughter spied cherries, so we got those,and then I spied a stand selling peaches and apricots.
We don't go to the farmer's market all the time, and you know how quickly things go in and out of season, so we bought a couple of pounds of peaches, and I eyeballed the apricots.

I like apricots. I like apricots in syrup, actually. But I shudder at eating the ones in the supermarket because of all the crap preservatives they put in those things. And fresh apricots are like $3.50 a pound or something ridiculous, and that's not happening, because what if I don't get them "syruped" and they go bad? What a huge waste of money. Plus, where are they from? California? Mexico? But these apricots were sitting there. And they looked nice. And they are very local. Plus, they were "seconds", meaning slightly blemished but still perfectly good and much cheaper. Well, I'm going to cook them, aren't I? Does it matter if they're not all that pretty? Not a bit. So, ok, no convincing here, I buy 5 pounds of "seconds" apricots for a total of--get this--- $4. Whoo hoo!

Ok, so I've got my carrots and lettuce and cherries and peaches and now apricots, and we head home. And on the way there I spy a sign that says "Blueberries U-Pick". I think about it. It's getting hot. Maybe it'd be best if we just go home. We were at the market a while. Little Boy wants a drink. .....But the blueberries will be a good price. The kids like picking things themselves. Or maybe they'll have some already picked and I'll just grab a couple pints and we'll go off home with little interruption. Hmmm...

The U-Pick won. We pulled in and since there were no already picked pints waiting for us, I asked the kids if they'd like to pick blueberries. They were extremely enthused. Kids after my own heart. Little Boy has forgotten he wanted a drink (he always does--he's SO 4), and we're off. About an hour later both in the sun and out in the shade, with the kids picking blueberries like champs, and Little Girl eating almost as many blueberries as she picked, we brought them back to the stand. Three and a half pounds of blueberries for--get this again---$4. Whoah!

Ok, really to home now. Fed the kids lunch, gave Little Boy his drink, and now to the freezer.

Messy, messy.

I pull everything out.

And attempt to put everything back in.

Ok, bit of cramming going on, but so far so good. I am nearly completely out of room. But I do have the "problem" that I just created for myself--those apricots and the blueberries. I have to do something with them. So I figure I'll can them. Apricots in syrup (yum!!!) and then I can can the blueberries in water, for baking later on. Ok, that's a plan. So I get the water going in the water-bath canner and get all my jars and such ready to go, and I prep the apricots. I get them going, make their syrup, then the jars are ready. So in they go, nicely as you please, and I pop them in the canner. But now I have to wait. 20 minutes. That's a while. So I figure, I was going to bake a carrot cake, so heck, why not?

So I do. And that goes so quickly that I have some time left, so I figure hell, I'll make some zucchini bread. It uses the same oven temp and everything. Kharma.

So I do. And then the jars of apricots are done (I got 4 pints-mmmmmm!!!), and the cake and breads are in the oven, and I'm going to get started on the blueberries. But I need to prep more jars and lids. So that's a little "down time". And I noticed that I had a frozen pie crust in the freezer that I really didn't have room for. So what if I just put together a little free-form and very rustic blueberry tart? I've got the crust. I've got the blueberries. Kharma again.

So I do. And I pop that in the oven just in time for the jars to be done, so I heat up the blueberries, get them in the jars nicely as you please and pop them in the water bath. Ok, 15 minutes of down time and now the carrot cake is done, the zucchini breads are done, and the tart is done.

And that's it. I'm done. At 5 o'clock. I only meant to clean the freezer, you know. Hmmm....

Darned apricots.