Canning Tomatoes

Garden Canning

tomato canning fooling aroundI was fortunate to have a 12-year-old fabulous helper today named Nathanael, who is doing this canning tomatoes thing for his first time. He did not volunteer for the position, but instead was coerced into it by his Grandma. We were down in the garden today and have some tomatoes harvested. You can see some of them on the table being sorted through to find the ripe ones to put in the canning pile.

 

Wait a minute. Is that worker fooling around there instead of sorting?

variety of tomatoes on counterHours later, we are finally ready to can our tomatoes with a good selection on the counter. We had quite a wide variety this year due to many volunteers popping up all over our garden. Beef steaks, Burgundy Reds, Glaciers, Early Girls, Romas and Large Cherry tomatoes. Really, really large cherry tomatoes.

 

Complicated, canning tomatoes

Nathanael learned the whole canning process this year. How to blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 10-12 seconds and then quickly set in cold water in the sink. It is fun to see how easy it is to peel and core them this way. We work to get our jar funnel with hot lid seals and rings ready and waiting for us on the counter next to the stove.Nathanael getting jarstomato canning jar bath

After a simmer in the saucepan with us stirring constantly, we are ready for the next step. Pouring the hot tomato sauce into hot jars lined-up on the counter, cleaning the jar lids and carefully placing the seal and tightening the ring. During this simmering process for the tomatoes we are also heating up our big canning pot “water bath” so we can seal the jars in it after we put the sauce into the jars.

Putting the jars into the boiling water bath is kind of tricky. Hot and a little dangerous. Canning has one of the strangest tools ever invented. Here is Nathanael getting used to the thing-a-ma-jig plier thingy used to pick up the steaming hot jars out of the boiling water.got tomatoes canned

Every year we put a supply of products; tomato sauce, catsup and salsa in the pantry covering our needs for the next 9-12 months. We also end up giving canned foods to family and friends but only if they return the empty jars. It is kind of an unspoken rule. We enjoy eating fresher, sweeter vegetables without additives.

Yellow Rose Blooms

Treasured Fragrance

Yellow Rose Blossom
Blossom Yellow Rose

A golden hybrid tea rose that we planted as a bare root one year ago, offered its first yellow rose blossom today and it is a true beauty. There is a slight fragrance from it’s petals and it is opening in a most graceful form. Though these floral beauties have an abundance of thorns, they are still a favored flowers for many gardeners. There is just an overpowering attraction to the fragrance that they fill the air with along with their soft fluffy petals.

My husband and I both love roses and gardening. The first date we had, I saw his rose garden. His green thumb showed beautifully with a dark red rose bush covering the whole corner of his garden right at the sidewalk that you walked into his house. This rose looked so happy and full of fragrant blossoms I immediately knew he was a man to take a really close look at, a keeper.

Ongoing Growth

Many years have passed since we first met, and we have both built a large garden now in the wilderness of Elk WA, a beautiful mountainous area in the rural areas of northern Spokane. We do not have an unlimited budget so the planting of beautiful flowers has taken longer than the staples like vegetables, berries, fruit, and spices, one thing at a time.

I will have to render this beauty in the studio.

 

Thrift Store Score

pot on the shelf with price tag
innocuous pot on shelf

It Pays to Keep Your Eyes Open

I was on the lookout for a thrift store score  while shopping at Value Village in downtown Spokane. I was casually walking through the kitchen utensils, pots and pans even though I had no need for more stuff like that. Suddenly, I noticed this item on the top shelf, I could see what looked like a large aluminum canning boiler for $14.99. Hmmmm, why would the price for this aluminum pot be $14.99 when the one next to it was an enamel coated canner at $8.99? Strange.

Curiosity getting the best of me, I turned the pot a little and caught site of the tube that was hiding on the back side. Oh My Gosh!

You’d have to know me better to understand why I grabbed this as fast as I could. After placing it in my cart I was doing a little jig and dancing down the isle. GIG! People started making large arcs around me in their travel patterns like there was really something wrong with me.

A Note of Explanation

This is a great canning tool I have been wanting for a long time. I’ve been saving change in the little coffee can to purchase us one.  Even though I always kept an eye out for one, I had not been successful in finding a thrift store score, or even any at garage sales for at least two canning seasons. I was no where near saving enough to buy a new one yet, even the $80 one was way out of sight for us. Here are some Google’d available purchase options from the internet to show you about these steamer juicers.

Back to Basics Aluminum Steam Juicer – A12 (Discontinued by Manufacturer) selling for $182

or this one

Victorio Steam Juicer with Glass Lid (Aluminum) selling for $80

steam juicer aluminum
aluminun steam juicer & canner

Borrowing

I have a sister-in-law whom I borrowed this exact same unit from, on a regular basis to make juices, jams, syrups etc etc etc. I honestly believe that Dan and Ann got so tired of Pete and I using her juicer every canning season, that they simply decided to move away. Not just a little move either, it was far enough away so I could not drive over and borrow the steamer again. It was all the way to Alabama from Washington state… is that far enough? Actually, I think they would have to start doing the South America thing if they wanted to get any further away. It really had nothing to do with their grandkids living there, I’m sure. LOL!

Ann! look at what I found :)! Could you send up some peaches and pears so we can make some juices? LOL!

I get a real kick out of going to garage sales, thrift stores and online at Craigslist or other places. Sometimes, people make fun of me because of the scores I find, and how I absolutely jump up and down in joy when I get a find like this.  I feel safer hoping and finding in estate sales, garage sales and thrift stores because I won’t be spending our hard earned cash on overpriced items? I don’t know. It is truly fun for me to find useful things out of someone else’s throw aways. I may be just fulfilling a deep desire or fixation to shop combined with fears of bankruptcy. This cheaper avenue to shop is probably so I don’t bankrupt our budget? What do you think?

Flowers Blooming Everywhere

They’re everywhere

The garden has flowers blooming everywhere and it has become quite an inspiration to my artistic soul. I can’t seem to quit painting the bright petals waving in the wind. Walking down with the intention of weeding, harvesting and checking everything, and the next thing I know, I am photographing the beautiful explosions of color everywhere. I can’t help myself, there really are flowers blooming where ever I look.

garden flowers
garden flowers and house

Progressive accumulation of beauty

We have spent years building the fences and slowly planting the whole garden as economically as we can. Flowers were not as high on the list as vegetables and fruit bushes and trees. But now, I have saved seeds for most all the established crops that we plant every year, so now I can buy a couple nice flower seeds or starts each year. We want plenty of flowers blooming that attract the bees and butterflies so pollination happens, and the marigolds are being planted as a deterrent to the buggy pests that don’t like their smell. We are using old fashioned methods that don’t have chemicals to worry about in our food.

First Impression Entering Garden

In this picture you can see the view from standing right when you enter the main garden gate and turn right to look back up the hill.

This thick patch of flowers up close were actually accidental. I had been spreading marigold and dahlia seeds along our driveway and couldn’t figure out why they were not sprouting up. I thought that I must have not dried them correctly and I had screwed them up. When I walked in the garden, I gave up and just scattered half a coffee can full of flower seed on the ground. Marigolds, dahlias, marigolds, dahlias.

Walked away thinking some should sprout.

A couple of weeks later, there were more marigolds and dahlias sprouting up than I have ever seen. I started transplanting the marigolds in a row along the fenceline and have done just over 3/4 of the whole garden. Our garden is big, and it is true that marigolds help keep away pests. I read it in a real book and also on the internet here.

I tried transplanting more blossoms outside of the garden and found out that Bambi absolutely loves to eat marigolds. Now I know, why none of my seeds came up along the driveway at the beginning of the season, they were hors d’ouvres for the deer population.

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Pickin’ Choke Cherry Berries

Choke Cherry’s

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Choke cherry picking is one of the funnest kinds of berry picking! They fall off in clumps into your bucket when you pick like you are milking a cow. Near my friends house in northern Spokane, Washington my friend noticed some loaded ripe chokecherry bushes during a walk through the trees with her little dog, Skippy. She gave me a call and we met the next afternoon to get some. Choke cherry jam is super “ono” luscious!

Berry Pickin’ Friends

choke cherry picking
Linda P. choke cherry pickin

I am so happy to have a berry pickin’ friend, Linda, sorry about the branch in front of her face. My friend is very special to me because she is a true berry picking cohort. Who can you call and say, Hey, the berries are on over here do you want to go pick? I know her response will be, Sure!, if it is at all possible. Then we either meet at the trail head or drive together to the location and pick to our hearts content.

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There is no babysitting required between the two of us. We both love the outdoors, and peace & quiet of harvesting these delicious little fruits, even though there is rarely much peace and quiet as we cruise together and talk about all kinds of stuff.  A good friend that loves gardening, cooking, flowers and berry picking is really a treasure to any pirate soul like me.

Want to Get to Know Someone?

Go pick some berries with ’em. I remember the first time Linda and I went up in the mountains to pick huckleberries together. Not knowing her very well,  I assumed that she may not know what is needed, and boy was I wrong! Bringing an extra bucket with the basics that most people forget about, lunch for two, water, bug spray, TP, sunblock I found that was not even necessary. She surprised me at how prepared she was showing up with jeans, comfy shoes, and long sleeve light shirt with lunch, water, TP, small bucket (with bungie cord belt to hold it close at the waist), along with a hat and jacket. I have learned so very much about picking berries from this expert already.

Larry and Pete in garden
Larry and Pete in garden

Here are our better halves discussing important world events in our the garden. Linda and I are so lucky to have found the best husbands who also enjoy each others company.

I count my blessings every time Linda and I go for berries together. We get to see some of the best views in the mountains as we walk and talk, and when we get home we can exchange recipes for the best jellies, jams, and syrups that ever existed on the planet. We get together to do dinner and play cards together as often as possible. Thank God for the gift of wonderful friends to share our lives with.

Dahlia Smiles

The garden smiles at us with colorful Dahlia blossoms in every conceivable color among many other types of flower. It just warms your soul as you stroll through looking at what needs to be done. You can’t help but touch the soft petals and admire the brilliant hues in each custom little work of art.

It is really inspiring to have cut flowers throughout the house and I feel blessed to be able to have this luxury available. I am thinking of doing a series of what we have blooming in the garden. The colors are so very much alive and refreshing!

dahlia smiles blossom
dahlia blossoms

I used to think that flower joy was only part of the female section of human kind, but lately I have seen how much my husband enjoys flowers and their magical happy influences. Love of floral beauty has no gender boundaries at all. He is a real green thumb at roses, and orchids and I love both of those types too. Sometimes, we just luck out and get with a partner in life that loves what we love. Sharing our loves is a real deep kind of friendship in life.

 

Garden Helper

Grandpa & Ben in PumpkinsGarden work with a grandchild, is always fun and a bit educational. Anticipation of the great tasting food almost always makes the work together more fun as it seems to take less time to do with the company. As a family, we really look forward to the garden on the weekends. Any kind of picking is an anticipation to really great tasting food, so it is almost always positive even though it is work. Harvesting isn’t the only thing done on our days off, there is also enough chores to fill two summers with the weeding, trimming, watering, bracing, tilling, composting and more.

This weekend we had a little helper named Ben who is 4 years old. He helped Grandpa find all the pumpkins, there is always a contest on which one do you think will be the biggest one?

Grandpa and Ben Cabbage

Then they picked a big old cabbage even though Ben was sure he would not want to eat it anyhow.

Next was picking corn for dinner. They had to go and husk it in the compost pile. Ben is a strong and great helper for his age.

Grand children are the best. Kind of a second chance at parenting that is so much easier, cause it isn’t all the time. Thank God for children who share there children with their parents!

Baby asparagus

What does young asparagus look like?

Identifying who are not the weeds.

Never having grown this before, I had a hard time trying to figure out which were the weeds and which were little baby asparagus sprouts. I know I pulled out many of them before I figured out they do not look like the spears that we steam and put on our dinner plates.

From the pictures you can see how different they are from what is harvested. They have a skinny little stem with fernlike leaves, almost looks like a carrot top at first. They grow taller kind of fast, almost making a hedge as they branch out with more feathery leaves.

  

At the roots more spears appear peeping their heads out of the soil. The rules are to let the shoots smaller than a pencil go on up and make seeds, if you take a look you can see the seed pods beginning to be formed as small green orbs about the size of a sewing pin head. They proceed to turn black before they fall off onto the soil below. If you squish them in you hand they crack open and have many many tiny seeds inside.

We harvest the fatter spears that are between 6-9 inches tall. Simply using a sharp knife I cut them off right at the ground and drop them into the basket. Homegrown steamed asparagus is very tender and sweet at the table. It is well worth the effort to grow.

Garden first up…

asparagus?

A tall plant of the lily family with fine feathery foliage, cultivated for its edible tender young shoots, eaten as a vegetable and considered a delicacy.

I was beginning to think our asparagus in the garden would never get established. Just when I was about to give up, last year a few shoots arrived… just enough to win a stay of execution from me.

When multiple little heads popped-up early this year as the last of the winter snow was still melting, I was surprised and so glad we didn’t give up. We have had some really nice vegetables at our dinner table since. I look forward to more and more as the row seed’s itself now.

Asparagus patches are not for the “instant gratification” type of gardener cause you have to be willing to let this plant establish itself before you get any type of satisfaction from your labors. It is an addition to your garden that takes quite a while to become productive.

Patience is the key.

The story began 2-3 years ago, buying roots that are expensive (so are the seeds), with care the seeds seem to be the better way to go money wise. When the little guys first come up, they are feathery little shoots and it is really easy to confuse them with weeds. If they survive my indiscriminate weeding due to their foreign appearance, they eventually get enough root to start shooting up the familiar looking spears on the side the next year. I will make it a point to get some closeup shots to show you how the “young guys” look in the next post, hopefully you will be able to avoid my mistakes.

Planting asparagus is a worthwhile adventure to take in your gardening journey as long as you have enough patience to wait for the miracle, this fellow Inland Northwest gardener proclaims!

 

 

Garden, Where the Food Is

PanoGardenFrmHse001
Garden From House 2018

Ex-Farmers Grow Great Gardens

This artist married a man who grew up on a farm in a family fed by their garden. Ex-farmers are who you pair up with when you need to get stuff done without any bureaucracy. My husband Pete is a, double green thumb man, with knowledge on how to test soil, plant rotate crops. A great garden guy coming from a family of gardening geniuses.

The combination of an artistic love for growing bright flowers and seeing bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds come and enjoy them, along with really yummy home grown vegetables and fruit that are healthy is a win-win situation for our family.

Over the years, we have cleared land to expand and fence to keep out the deer. We planted what we could each year by either visiting family and friends to take starts or just buy seed & roots to start things on our own whenever we could. Our best partners in gardening were our brother and sister in-laws who moved down south to Arkansas so now we are kind of on our own. Boo Hoo! Each year I save seeds to start over again the next year, and am starting to get to know our gardening neighbors.

Tractor Work in Garden

Here is a video I took of Pete clearing the second half of our garden where we planted an orchard in 2016. It looks like now we will be getting our first fruits on those trees and bushes this year, apples, blackberries, choke cherries, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, pears, peach, apricot but we will see what happens.

https://youtu.be/ZYkWa_hwZIs

Early this spring we finished planting the majority of our vegetable garden and have cleared another section to move all the berries uphill into their own section permanently.

I look forward to enjoying each afternoon working in the garden afterwork, in the summer, which gets me out of the studio. My dog loves to cruise to the garden with me so he can play in the water. The fresh air is great, and the physical work of weeding and caring for the plants is refreshing.

No blue screens at all.

harvesting tomato, cucumberAt the peak of the harvest season with all the work of canning, the garden can be a challenge but the food produced tastes so much better and the health benefits are great that it is worth it to us.