Sunday, 29 July 2012

18 lbs of Cucumber and Growing

It's a funny thing with vegetable gardens.  I spent a lot of time earlier in the spring getting it all ready.  Chuck ran the rototiller over the ground for me, but then it was me for six weeks getting everything planted.  And then it was nothing.  Everything was growing just as it was meant to - no input required from me at all (well - OK, I turned the hose on to run the sprinkler, but that was it).

But now the work is starting again.  I went out this morning to have a look at everything and I think much of it is ready to harvest.  I filled a bowl with beans, found a zucchini about the size of a baseball bat, pulled a carrot for sampling (yummy) and decided to have a look for cucumbers.  

There is a lot of grass growing around the cucumber plants so it's kinda hard to see what's there.  I started pulling leaves aside and honestly, there was a cucumber party happening here.  I picked 11 cucumbers - 10 of which were heavier than a pound and there's a whole pile of blossoms there too, so there will be more.  Many many more.  

There's also an acorn squash that is almost big enough, and 5 sugar pumpkins with piles of additional blossoms.  

I've probably got 50 white and another 30 red onions and I don't really care to speculate on the quantity of tomatoes I have, but I don't think I'll be buying tomato sauce this winter.

It isn't all roses though - the potatoes took a terrible beating from the potato beetle infestation we had earlier.  Between the bugs and the drought, the plants have all died.  I do have some potatoes though - I have little tiny russets about the size of the little wee ones you can get now.

Anyway, it was two trips to get everything up to the house where I weighed it all.
  • 3 lbs of beans
  • 18 lbs of cucumber
  • 3.3 lbs of zucchini
 The beans have been blanched and are now in the freezer, the cucumbers have a date with my stockpot for pickles and the zucchini is sitting on the counter looking at me.  I think part of it'll be zucchini bread, and the rest will be shredded and frozen.  It'll be a nice addition to soup in the fall.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

What the Bear Did

I'm not the sharpest tool at the end of the day.  I spend 8 hours looking at minute details of auditing software in languages I can't read (literally - Hungarian is unlike any other European language out there) so by the end of the day I'm ready to just slide into my car and cruise home listening to the radio - no real thought required.  

Half the fun of this is I like the radio announcer who's on from 2 - 6 while I'm driving home.  He's got an intelligent show and has been actively working to raise the I.Q. of the listener base by a few points.  There's always something going on and while I don't much care for Harley motorcycles myself, I can't help but admire the devotion he has to his ride.  He's involved in the community and actively working at shining the light on the little known events that could really use people's support.

But I didn't hear him this week.  No big deal - it's summer.  People take vacation.  But I happened across a job posting for a radio announcer in the drive home shift for this station on Monday.  I was concerned, but I knew they were test driving other announcers to co-host with him so I checked their website to make sure he was still there. No mention of this guy.  I dug a little deeper and found out that the station cut him loose last Friday.

Now, apart from the poor business decision I see in "letting someone go" (what a terrible 
euphemism for getting fired) on a Friday, I thought he was the most engaging, entertaining and thought provoking announcer this station had.  He was working at expanding the topics beyond bacon, beer, boobs and bikes.

I'm absolutely gutted by this "restructuring" decision that has been made.  It's balled up my routine.

But more importantly, I'll miss you Kornicky.  Good luck.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Read it all before you start

So.  It's 34° outside, 28° inside and I've just finished making a shawl.  A lovely 100% merino wool shawl at that.  I can hardly bear to hold it, let alone wrap it around my shoulders but here it is - all washed and blocked.

This is the March design from Rockin' Sock Club.  Yup, I've had this since the end of March and if I had actually started it in March I could have worn it when it was still a little cool out.  But for one reason or another I didn't start - probably because I was digging a garden.  Anyway, the leaf motif around the edge is gorgeous - I can see this pattern being reused for something later on.

A word about patterns.  Like many people, I prefer to use charts to work lace.  I find it easier to follow than the written instructions.  However, I have learned that it is always worth reading the written instructions as well.  In this case, the chart icon for all the wrong side rows was a blank square.  They key indicated that blank squares were knit.  Not, knit on the right side and purl on the wrong side (which is what I was expecting to see).  Just knit.  So I knit them.  The leaf pattern (a 15 row pattern) was to be repeated 59 times.  So I knit this leaf 59 times.  Plus one slightly different leaf at the beginning and one slightly different leaf at the end.  And on the very.last.row of my very.last.leaf there was a new icon.  This icon said to purl two together.  Except I was knitting.

As it turns out, if I had read the written instructions, I would have known that all the wrong side rows were to be purled.  Just like I expected them to be.

The moral of the story.  If it looks wrong, it probably is.  And read ALL the instructions through before you start.

Sunday, 8 July 2012


Those who know me know that I have a strong interest in traditional women's skills.  Knitting and cooking are two of the big ones, and I'm making strides into food preservation, but there are a lot of foods we now buy which traditionally would have been made at home.

A few days ago, while cruising through someone else's blog**, I read about their attempts at making butter at home.  Not with a butter churn, not with a handful of marbles in a peanut butter jar (a science experiment my son's class did several years ago), but with a stand mixer.  Honestly, it was like being struck by lightening.  I was stunned at the simplicity and wondered why I've never thought of it before.  After all, that's the big thing you need to watch out for with a stand mixer - you let your cream whip for too long and before you know it, it's butter.

So I trotted out to the store this morning and got some whipping cream (word on the blog-osphere: get the heaviest cream you can find and don't bother trying with anything lighter than whipping cream).  

I put a cup of cream in the mixer, fitted it with the whisk and turned it on.  A word of advice, if you have a splatter guard, use it.

 I ran it on high for a few minutes, and watched it become whipped cream, then heavily whipped cream.  It was about here that I stopped the mixer and changed the attachment to the beater blade. I started it up again and very quickly the cream broke and I had butter and buttermilk.  I poured off the buttermilk, washed the remaining butter a few times to get all the buttermilk out 

et voilá - I had butter.   Start to finish, it took about 10 minutes.

It would be dead simple to adapt this to be garlic butter, herbed butter or even a slightly sweet butter.  And if you get a high quality cream, there's nothing funky in your butter either.  

Would I do this all the time?  Not likely as it simply isn't cost effective.   I don't have a cow so I have to pay retail for the cream which cost me about $7 for a litre.  I used one cup of cream to get about half a cup of butter and half a cup of buttermilk (which I never use), so I can see getting about a pound of butter out of the entire litre.  But butter doesn't cost $7/lb.

That being said, I'll definitely do this again.

**A huge thank you to Purplebeary83 who put the idea in my head.  She'll claim it wasn't her idea at all, but she made it look easy enough that I had to try it myself.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Hot 'nuff for ya?

Like most of the nation, Perth is being slow roasted in a heatwave.  The Weather Network is telling me that it's 30C.  My thermometer in the shade of my porch is saying 34C.  The thermometer in my kitchen says 32C.
34C in the shade
But there comes a point when it really doesn't matter what the number on the scale says and I think I've reached it.  It's too hot.
There - I said it.   And I'm one of summer's biggest fans; I love the heat, I adore the long sunny days but seriously - enough is enough.  It's too hot, too dry, people are getting cranky and I'm developing a deep and emotional attachment to my fan.  
Too dry
My dog is prostrate on the kitchen floor and the only reason I know the cat is even alive is she flicked her tail when I touched her.

So I'm knitting a shawl, a scarf and looking at mitten patterns.    Chuck is quite convinced I've spent a little too much time in the sun.