Monday, December 19, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile - Loofah update

Yeaaaahhhhhh....another posting that didn't get posted when I wrote it ages ago.  Ah well...I did update it with how the loofah is doing now...

How’s it going? you?

Some of my faithful readers will remember that I had a loofah plant that was started too late in the season and it didn’t start producing baby loofah blossoms until early fall. So daHubster bless his heart, lugged in the 50 gallon container it was planted in, trellis and all.

It sits in front of the one south facing windows in the house. It needs a lot of water. It puts out a blossom or two a week. I’ve had 2 or 3 fruits set since. However, once the fruit grows to about 2-3 inches it withers and dies. Not sure why.  It could not be getting enough water. I’ve stepped up my water to every other day. The weather hasn’t been too sunny lately, so it might not be getting enough sun. I honestly didn’t think it would pollinate itself, but that doesn’t seem to be problem, since it has set a few in the time it has been inside.

I’m about ready to concede failure of The Great Loofah Experiment. But I won’t, ‘cause I’m stubborn like that.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile, or...

Comforter Redux, Part Deux.

I actually wrote this several weeks ago and thought I posted it, but apparently didn't. Oh well, better late than never...

You might think I’m being redundant (redundant) in the title, but I’m not (I’m not).  See, last spring I wrote a blog about my comforter, waxing poetic about how I loved the colors of the fabric, the reversible-ness of it, etc, etc.  Unfortunately it was very cheaply made (as only a $50 comforter from can be), and the quilt batting inside was disintegrating, making for a very chilly and uncomfortable comforter.

But I love my blankey. I really wanted to save it. I got the wild-hair-up-my-butt-brainstorm to re-stuff it. The problem is is that I am not a quilter. I am not even much of a sewer, truth be told.  I’d dabbled in my 20's with making pillows for my grandmother's couch, and once sewed a pair of M.C. Hammer pants (don’t ask). I used to be able to run a sorta straight seam on a sewing machine.  But I’ve since developed an unreasonable fear of my sewing machines. It is probably from carting them all over the country with me as I moved hither and yon, always thinking about using them, but never doing it. They taunted me when we were in the same room alone. No really, they did. I even took videos of them taunting me, but it got lost it in the last move.

(You’re still stuck on those Hammer Pants, aren’t you?)

Anyway, I thought I could maybe just slit a hole in the side of my comforter, shove some poly-fill in there, sew it up and be done. And that’s pretty much what I did.  Then shoved some more poly-fill, and then some more, and more…

(I will just stop here for a moment and answer that *other* question burning in your head.  I didn’t use quilt batting for one reason – I’ve never quilted anything before, I’d never made a blanket before, but I *had* made pillows before.  And that’s why I used poly-fill. It makes sense if you think about it. Stupid sense, but whatever.)

You would not believe how much poly-fill a comforter with very little quilt-stitching to begin with can eat up. 6 bags later there was a very pretty mountain of poly-fill in the MIDDLE of my comforter. There was a veritable moat of under-stuffed fabric around this mountain of poly-fill. And as much as I would shake it,  pat it, and move it around to the edges of the fabric, all the poly-fill would gravitate to the middle again, sitting there looking like a recently fed troll in the middle of my bed.  It made it, for instance, impossible to watch TV in bed at night. Not to mention how cold it would get at the outer edges of the comforter, with no poly-fill there to keep me warm.

However, summer was coming, and I could ignore the problem for a few months by stuffing my comforter into a garbage bag and throwing it into the back of my closet. Unfortunately, all summers come to an end, and autumn was upon us.  I was recovering from hand surgery, not working, and had very little money. But I had time to mull the problem, and 2 very sullen sewing machines sitting around my house, sneering at me.  It was time to teach them a lesson.

I needed to figure out how to quilt an extremely puffy king sized comforter without breaking a needle or jamming the machine.  My wonderful hubster, being engineering-ly inclined, suggested the term “baffles.” Basically, sewing the comforter into tubes and stuffing the individual tubes after sewing.


I set about un-stuffing the beast filling four 13 gallon-sized garbage bags, in case you were wondering, or probably enough to fill one set of Hammer pants (not that I would know this).  After washing and ironing the fabric of the comforter (oh yeah: another reason I don’t sew is that I don’t iron, and you really need to iron things when you are sewing…you really, really do. Trust me on this), I set about dissecting the fabric so that the “baffles” were even along the length of the comforter.  I folded it in half, ironed a crease, folded it in half again, and ironed another crease.  This gave me 4 even quarters after sewing 3 lines.  “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this…” this chant was going through my head often during this project.

(Let me just interject that if you coming back to sewing after taking a decade or two off, you might want to sew on some scrap fabric, just for the heck of it.  You need to check the tension of you stitches, make sure the bottom thread isn’t bunching up in the machine or at the bottom of your fabric, etc.  Yeah, take it from me. You really REALLY want to do that.)

So, I eventually got the 3 seams sewn. I started stuffing the first baffle with poly-fill.  Wow, it’s still too large of an area. The Poly-fill sinks to the bottom of the comforter and lays there like a flopping fish, growing ever more bloated and unwieldy.  I almost cried.  But I bravely pushed on.  My sewing machine is apparently a wee bit out of shape, and the sewing I did made it realize that maybe it didn’t have the chops to consider sneering at me anymore. Take that, sewing machine!

I divided the existing quarters in half, ironed more creases, and sewed those. I have to say that it wasn’t a bad sewing job, running a king-sized comforter through the machine while maintaining a semi-straight line. Even un-stuffed, all that material is heavy!

But it worked! Making the baffles smaller did the trick. With less fabric to move around in, the poly-fill has less place to go, and therefore went where I wanted it to.  The only problem was…

I ran out of poly-fill, and needed to pick up another bag of it to finish the job.  Can you believe it? I’m calling myself the poly-fill queen from now on.

I didn’t take any pictures of me sewing the comforter for the blog, but I will put up an end-product pic.  Just don’t look at the rest of my bedroom…it’s bad. Someday I will repaint the walls, sew up some curtains….QUIT SNICKERING at me. I swear, you all are as bad as my sewing machine…

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Musings at the Junque Pile - Do I know how to multi-task or what?

This morning I got up early to "get some things done." Sha. Right.

I have no problem getting up early on the weekends. I have several furry alarm clocks who decide that breakfast comes earlier on Saturdays and Sundays than it does during the week when I need to get up for work.Monday thru Friday, I am routinely up by 6:00am.  Weekends, the yowling horde generally starts in around 4:30am.

This is good, right?

Anyway, after throwing a pillow or two at an offending cat, I managed to slug-a-bed until 5-ish this morning. Score me for an extra half-hour! Whoo hoo! The jokes on them, though, because I still don't feed them until after 6:00am.  One needs meds, and I don't deviate from the schedule (much).  I'm just ambulatory enough to squirt them with a water bottle until it's mealtime.

So, up I get, coffee I make. Yoda, I am not.

This morning's schedule is to dye hair (yes, I admit to it, who am I kidding?), do a major facial with steam, baking soda scrub, with a witch hazel chaser, and a pedicure.  I also need to do my Christmas cards.

The amazing thing is, once the dye is on, I can plaster my face, soak my feet AND write out cards while all that beauty stuff does their individual things.

I hope I don't drip on the cards, though.  That would be tacky.  *nods*

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Junque Food & Junque Pile

Greetings from the Micro Mini Ranch...or, as we wont to call it lately, Kitty Thunderdome. We have one cat that is beating up on another one, and the one that's getting his tail kicked (or bitten as the case may be), is too nice to beat back. He's not a wimp. I prefer to think of him as a gentleman.  I currently have 5 cats, four males and a female. We've determined that female is biting the tail of one of the guys. We aren't sure if he's provoking it, or if she's just being a drama princess. Anyway, things came to a head (or a tail, what have you) this past Friday night during dinner.  The poor guy's tail was bitten pretty bad. We've been watching him like a hawk. Cleaning it, trying to keep the puncture wounds open so they don't fester under the skin. I also have some left over antibiotics from another cat that I'm giving to him as a preventative measure.  He seems to be rebounding fast.

Can't we all just get along???

Anywhoo...My mother and I are working on a beef stroganoff recipe for the crockpot.  We'll see how this first version comes out, and if we like it, I'll be sharing it here.

In the meantime, Holiday decorations continue to be put up here and there. The tree is up in the living room, but I don't have any lights in the window's yet.  Today, I dug out my Christmas themed potholders and oven mitts, and some kitchen towels and put them up in the kitchen.  It's slowly but surely looking a little like Christmas around here  :)

I'm also getting the week's worth of breakfasts ready.  Crust-less mini quiches from the South Beach Diet Boo

k are on the menu this time.  Basically, it's eggs (or egg whites), a little bit of cheese, as much veggies as you have or want, spices, etc, and pour into muffin tins and bake for 30 mins until they are puffy and cooked through. this week's quiches will have broccoli, red pepper, green onion, and mozzarella cheese.  I generally eat 2 for breakfast, and I always throw some Louisiana Hot Sauce or Srichacha sauce on them! MMMmmm!

I love this stuff!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Junque Food - Post T-day Stuffing my face....

Ok, so a more organized person would have said something about Thanksgiving, and the lucious tidbits they bakes prior to the big day. But heck, I yam what I yam...and that's usually a day late and about $10 short.  :)

I was sitting here NOMming on some of our leftover T-day stuffing and gravy, and just loving it. And I thought, "Aw heck, I'll share it with you guys."  'Cause I love you, and everything.

This is my Mom's recipe. She got it out of a magazine about a 100 years ago, but it's devolved into this very easy recipe, but it's perfect as it. I really doesn't need any fanciness to it.

Mom's Famous Stuffing Recipe
Ø      1 tube of breakfast sausage defrosted
Ø      1 package of Brownberry Sage and Onion bread cubes
Ø      1 large onion diced
Ø      several stalks of celery diced
Ø      a bunch of pistachios, shelled and coarsely chopped
Ø      Chicken broth
Ø      Milk

1. Crumble and brown the sausage
2. Transfer sausage out of pan, and brown onion and celery
3. In a large baking dish combine bread cubes, sausage, celery, onion, & pistachios
4. Pour chicken broth until bread is moistened
5. Top off with a little bit of milk
6. Bake for just under an hour at 325f, or when the top of stuffing is brown and crunchy

Wednesday, I browned the sausage, onions, and celery. Then I put it all in the fridge to wait for the next day's mixing with the bread, nuts, and liquids.  Since space was at a premium in my oven, we cooked it in a Nesco, and it came out beautifully.

Actually, we made a double batch, and froze half of it, omitting the liquids. Now I get to have my favorite stuffing sometime in the near future, too!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile, or Tails of Two Kitties

Thanks to my mom for that's all hers.

So, most of you know that my mother moved in with me with in the last month. She brought with her two cats, which added to the 3 that already rule the roost here at the micro-mini ranch. Buddy and Kibs are hers, and mine are Boston, Norm, and Celeste.  Celeste doesn't have too much to say in this story, as she doesn't come out from under the bed very often.

There was the normal hissing and spitting contests that happen when new cats are introduced to one another. We didn't think it would be much more than growling and batting at one another, as all cats are in the advanced adult age, all but 2 are over 10 years old.

A couple of days ago, mom came to me holding Buddy, saying, "I think he broke his tail."  We examined him, and his tail did have a lump in it, but he was holding it up, and it would wag around. He cried when we touched the lump, and we felt bad.

Now, Buddy is a special needs cat. We don't know if he has a birth defect or was malnourished as a youn'un, but he's extremely skinny, and his back legs are too long for his body. He's got really bad balance, and he walks just plain funny. Teetering from side to side, he often stumbles and falls on his rump. We try not to giggle at him, because we don't know if it hurts his feelings or anything like that. For the most part, Buddy is a happy cat. He loves to snuggle, and years of being in a neglectful home, prior to Mom rescuing him, he was picked on by other cats. It has given him a spunky attitude. He doesn't take crap from anybody. He will bitch-slap any cat that gets in his way. Or so we thought.

We figured he took a slightly harder than normal fall, and bumped or sprained his tail. We were pretty sure it wasn't broken. The other thought we hard was that one of my cats, Norm, had bitten him. So we decided to watch Buddy's tail and see if the swelling was more like and infected bite. As I said, the tail was up and swishing, so while we were concerned, we weren't whisking him off to the vet just yet.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon, when I picked Kibs up for a snuggle. He's got a little hernia on his belly, that he's had forever, and doesn't seem to bother him much. But when I picked him up, he cried like he hurt. I figured I put too much pressure on his little belly, and vowed to be more careful in supporting him when I picked him up.  He is also a sweet heart, and a rescue, and though we aren't sure, we think he's the oldest of the bunch, which would put him in the 16-17 year range.

Last night I bent down to pet him, as he is always at my feet looking for love. As I ran my hand over the base of his tail, he made a pain noise. Oh no. And oh yes. He's got a bump on his tail, too.  WTF?!?!

He, like Buddy, has his tail up and swishing, so it's not broken, but damn if he doesn't also have a swollen bump, too. What is going on here??

We've made the tentative conclusion that both of the new cats have been part of some weird Kitty Hazing Ritual. Mr. Norm, who is the most gentlest cat when it comes to people, is a weee bit territorial around other cats. I'm thinking he's throwing his weight around, and making sure that everyone knows who's king of the jungle around here.

Rotten little bastard.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Junque Food part 2 - how to use up a GIANT zucchini

Yesterday I got I wild hair to use up a GIANT zucchini that has been sitting in the kitchen for awhile. We'd already used one to make a tomato sauce based casserole (great vegetarian meal, BTW), but after having enchiladas the night before, I was looking for something different.

I turned to my trusty Good Housekeeping recipe book. It's the one we all have, with the red plaid cover. I'd gotten it ages ago as a wedding present, and have used the heck out of it. I already knew that this zuke was big enough for more than one dish, so I was planning on using half of it to make zucchini bread. I figured I'd freeze it for Thanksgiving. So that left me to find a casserole type dish that wasn't tomato based for dinner.

And the GH doesn't fail me.  Cheesy Artichoke Casserole, right there in the index. I tried to look up the same recipe on GH's website, but they didn't have it online. So here goes:

1 can of artichoke hearts
2 small zukes (I used half of one large one, seeded and cut into thin ribbons)
1 cup fresh mushrooms (I actually had some in my fridge), but a can of sliced 'shrooms would work well, thrown into the casserole just before baking)
1 small onion diced (I used 1/2 a large onion left over from yesterday's enchiladas)
1 8oz container of sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese (I used shredded Mozzarella)
1 package of refrigerated crescent rolls (I used bread crumbs instead)
Parmesan cheese

If you are using frozen artichoke hearts, cook as package directs. Canned 'chokes, I just drained and sliced into quarters, then set aside.

Place zukes, shrooms, and onion in a steamer basket, cover and steam over boiling water (about 2 inches) for 8 mins until crisp/tender.

While they are steaming mx sour cream, flour, salt, pepper together. Stir in milk. Drain veggies, and stir the veggies, including the chokes and the shredded cheese together in a casserole dish (I had to use an extra large lasagna pan to fit it all). Place the crescent rolls or bread crumbs and parm cheese on top of casserole and bake for 20-25 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

It was super good. Next time I might cover the casserole for most of the cooking time, and then take off the cover to let the bread crumbs toast more. I will probably add some more cheese, too.  'cause that's how I roll.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Junque Food - What's Been Cooking at the Micro-Mini-Ranch

The name of the game the last few weeks (and into the indefinite future) is: "Use what you have." Since I am off work due to hand surgery, and Mom's currently looking for work, there's only daMan currently bringing in a full paycheck. Money is tight, as it is for most of you out there. But as a result, we've set upon ourselves the challenge to not grocery shop, except for necessities. We've been hitting the pantry, the canned goods shelves, and the last of the garden growings for our meals. And we are getting pretty creative about the whole thing too.

I'm a nut for tacos, and I've made fish tacos, meat tacos and I had a yen for chicken tacos, but I wanted something different, so I thought we'd try our hand at enchiladas. I didnt have a can of enchilada sauce in the pantry, though, so I pondered how to make it from canned diced tomatoes without blending. I do have a blender/food processor combo, but I'm not fond of it. It was a $10.00 cheapy thing I got at Walmart, but it's loud, and frankly, it scares the poop outta me. I really only use it to grind up cukes for making relish. Yeah, I'm a chicken. BAWK.

So anyway, how to get a sauce out of tomato chunks? I can, and have, used a potato masher. It does OK, but I have limited use of my hands at the moment, and mashing tomatoes as they simmer takes a long time. I'm just going to have to have chunks. Which is fine with me. Then it hit me. V8 juice! I usually have some on my pantry shelves. I like to throw a can of it in chili when I make it in the crock pot. Perfect.

Since we are going to have chunky enchilada sauce, I decide to go all the way, and con Mom into chopping up an onion, and some jalepenos I just picked out of the garden before they got frost on them. One was pretty close to being ripe, and it was so pretty I had to take a picture of it. Who knew that peppers turned red on the inside first? I didn't!

So the sauce was shaping up to be pretty decent. We used a large can of diced tomatoes, half of a very large onion, a good cup of diced orange bell pepper, and metric ton of Cumin (we love Cumin), a little bit of orengo, 2 cans of V8 juice, and simmered for an hour. Viola! sauce!

I used up some corn tortillas I had in the freezer, which was perfect, they were pretty dry and crumbly, and the sauce perked them up quite a bit.

I used a can of chicken, threw some diced onions in with it, rolled it up in the tortillas, and smothered them in the sauce. Served with a side of refried beans covered in gooey cheese and even more onions.

it was OH. MY. GOD. good. It officially deserved the NOMmy title. And that was Friday.  :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Junque Yard - Compost Happens & Loofah Uprising

I'm still typing one-handed, and can't take (decent) pictures, but I wish I could!

Yesterday daMan started cleaning up the yard for the winter. Containers that held plants or dirt have been emptied into the compost pile in the back behind the garage. Compost is one life's greatest inventions. It's the process of creating nutrient rich soil where none used to be. Cooking waste, everything except animal products like meat, bones, and dairy, get thrown into a garbage can that has holes drilled into it for ventilation, and so that worms can get in there. More on that in a minute. that stuff gets layered with grass clipping, shredded paper products, or in our cases, an over abundance of straw and wet down water. the act of decomposition starts and the pile heats up accelerating the whole, but whats really fascinating to those who grow, is that its worms that make the magic happen. they tunnel through the chunks and clumps breaking up the bigger pieces so they break down faster, eating as they go, and their leavings are the rich soil, so good for growing your veggies.

We are very lazy composters. We don't turn the piles or water them down as much as we could, making composting the process go much faster.But the beauty of it is, it doesn't matter. Compost happens. And now that you know that compost is glorified worm poop, that makes the phrases "Compost Happens" that much more funny. For gardeners, anyway.

Ok, so enough with the science already, it is only 7am on a Sunday...

The other cool thing about the fall clean up yesterday was that I was lamenting to daMan that my poor loofah plant never had a chance. I had planted it late, and it never even started flowering until late August, and I didn't water it enough. I had quite a few loofah wanna-be's hanging on the vines, but they probably wouldn't be able to come to fruition with the cold setting in. We've already had a few cold nights, and the leaves were starting to turn brown.  I wistfully sighed that it was too bad we couldn't bring it inside and see if those little loofah-lings would grow.

And in true daMan fashion, he made it happen. he cleaned out the corner of the patio the loofah was in, meaning he ripped out the corn stalks that grew up out of the seams in the concrete (we have no idea how that got there, but in typical me fashion, I refused to get rid of it so I could see what it would do), untangling a mess of loofah vine that had escaped the giant container I'd planted it in (it grows like a pumpkin or a zucchini in that it vines like crazy with tons of curly tendrils), putting it on a little wagon and carting it into the living room to the one window where it might get a scant bit of sunlight during the day. So there is a giant pot complete with trellis and 2 additional poles to catch the extra vines IN MY LIVING ROOM. It looks horrendous.

I love it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile - update after surgery

I had surgery last week. carpal tunnel release & a thumb joint replacement. I got my stitches out yesterday, and a brand new shiny splint to wear for awhile. I think it needs some decorating...all that plain white is just begging for color!

I'm probably not supposed to be typing so much, but its been a week, and I'm going a little stir crazy. I'm mostly typing one handed anyway, so that's ok, right?

There needs to be more one-handed activities out there for people. Im trying to come up with some. I mean how many hours of facebook slot machines can I play?

I was thinking of sneaking off to the craft store. I can set myself the challenge of finding something cheap (very cheap) to do with one hand whilst I mend...can't I?

I also found this recipe for pumpkin bars with cream cheese icing. Wicked easy to make & I have all the ingredients except for the cream cheese. W00t!

So comment & send me suggestions I can do whilst Im healing....plz?  :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Junque Pile - removing acrylic nails

Today is the day of my hand surgery, and as I'm up early (not surprised), starving (not supposed to eat), and un-caffeinated (no liquids either), I thought I'd write in blog. Lucky you! :)

Last night I had to remove my acrylic nails. Those of you that know me on FB know that I was dreading this, probably more than the surgery itself. I've worn acrylic over my nails for well over 10 years. My natural nails are very soft. They don't break, they split and peel. A layer of acrylic once a month saves me from picking at my nails and cuticles. And it's probably the one girly thing I do to make myself look nice. It's vanity, what can I say?

But the result of having acrylics for so long is that my nails are weaker and softer than ever. Not a problem when the acrylic is on, but in the rare cases where I break one, I actually get the willies. I don't keep my nails super long, unless it's been a loooooong time between visits to the salon. But the pads of skin at the very tops of my fingers are not used to being touched (because the nail over-hangs) that if it's exposed to air, touching with it feels "ooogey."  *shudder*

So last night I got out the acetone nail polish and my dremel tool and went to work. I soaked each nail, chipped off what I could, and dremeled the nail beds, soaked some more, and finally chipped it all off.

I'm feeling a little like Samson without his hair. Isn't that crazy?

I can't find my nail file with the buffing/shining pads on it, so they are rough until I feel well enough to haul my booty to Walgreens. But at least it's done.

Maybe I'll get used to having short, flimsy, pathetic nails, and my addiction to acrylic will be broken. But I doubt it.  :)

anyway, this is the last post for awhile. I might try after surgery to see what I can type, but you can expect lots of typos, and probably pretty short posts for awhile.

See you on the other side!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

More Musings from the Junque-pile

Another Saturday update. I wish I had more exciting things to tell you, but it's all pretty mundane here at the micro-mini ranch.

Our household grew by 3: my mother has come to live with us, bring her two cats to add to the herd. They are integrating pretty well. One is a special needs cat who spends most of his time in the basement. But he's coming up for meals. Buddy was picked on as a kitten, and we were worried that he might be picked on here, but he's pretty good at hissing to keep the other cats away. His disability is hard to describe. He's got extremely enlongated hind legs, and as a result, he walks with his lower legs on the ground, much like a rabbit. His joints don't seem to hold up his back end very well, and as a result, he stumbles and falls over a lot. I swear I'm going to shoot video of him walking and going down the stairs. He's very endearing, though, and has a pretty sweet personality - to humans, anyway. 

The house is a wreck with boxes and bags. We will be slowly but surely finding places to put Mom's stuff in the coming weeks.

Much as I didn't want it, Autumn is here. There is a definitely nip in the air. Trees are starting to show their final colors, but they don't seem to be in a hurry. Partial reds and oranges mixed in with greens. it's all very pretty.

I go for my hand surgery next week. Here's hoping that it's successful, and that I'll be on the road to recovery long before the holidays start. Otherwise I might go mad from inactivity.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile

Interesting things afoot here at the micro-mini-ranch.  My mother moved in with us yesterday. It's been in the works for while, but yesterday was the big move out of her place and into mine. She brings 2 cats into the herd, and it's going to be a hoot watching everyone interact with each other. There's been some minor hissing and a little growling, but no fur flying...yet.

I'm also going to be a little scarcer than normal (and I've been pretty scarce lately anyway). I'm going to having surgery on my hand in about a week and a half. I'll be having a joint replacement on my thumb, and expect to be outta commission for a bit. I doubt, though, that I will be off the interwebz for long, though.

It does mean that my end of summer season, with all my normal harvesting and canning stuff won't be done, or if it is, I won't be recording it. This makes me sad, but there is always next year.

I do plan on working to better plan out gardens during the winter months. And winter is also the time I experiment with new mixings of soaps and cleaning agents for the house. I suspect that once my hand heals, I'll be able to get back into jewelry making and general around the house crafting. When I do, I'll be posting about it!

In the meantime, I'll be integrating Mom's stuff with ours, cleaning and unpacking like the dickens, and gearing up for a few weeks of leisure time while I recoup.

I was thinking that during my recovery period, that I will probably use this place to list some interesting recipes and other things that I see on other places online.

I won't be totally gone.  :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile

it's been forever and a day since I've posted. I'm sorry. There hasn't been a lot of exciting things happening in the garden, even though it's technically harvest time.

daHubster pulled about 10 lbs of potatoes out of the garden about 2 weeks ago. They were wrapped in burlap and boxed, and are currently hardening their skins in a cool, dark place. They were all different sizes, from the size of a grape to the size of a lemon. Not bad for $1.50 bag of seed potatoes planted a month late!

The Loofa plant just flowered about a week ago. I think that there might be 2 loofas that set, but the weather turned cold quickly afterward the flowers started, and I don't think much will come. I was happy to see that it tried! Next year, I will plant them way earlier. I I think I need to put them in a sunnier spot. Definitely need to water them more.

My pumpkins are still growing. We have one good sized, one medium sized, and one dinky one. All are still green, though. I'm hoping all grow more before first frost.

We had quite a tomato haul this year. We picked them and froze them for processing this winter. I feel smuggly smart about this - instead of sweating over the stove in the summer putting tomatoes up, I can do it in the winter when I *want* the house heated up.

I was unhappy with the variety of cucumbers I planted this year. They were a bush variety, but they didn't get very bushy. There were still runners that leaked over the side of the raised bed, and most of the cukes were bitter. They also produced very round, bulbous cukes...that ripened uber fast, and weren't much good for anything other than grinding up into relish. Another "live and learn" lesson.

Unfortunately, care of the garden has taken a back seat lately, as I run from doctor's appt to doctor's appt. I finally have the answers for my hand problems, and will probably be having surgery soon. Add that to dislocating my knee a month ago, I haven't been able to give my plants the love they've needed during the end of summer and beginning of fall. I hope they can forgive me.

These last few weekends, thru the end of this month, I've been working with my mother to close up her apartment. She will be moving in with daHubster and I for awhile. As with everyone else, she's been hit with difficult times due to the economy tanking. I'm happy she is willing to come here and get back on her feet again.

But it re-enforces my hate of packing and moving. It's just not a fun job anyway you look at it.

So, if I'm scarce for awhile, it's because of all of this. It's my hope that as Autumn ramps up, with the expectation of Winter, I'll be able to experiment more with cooking, dehydrating, and canning, and be able to share it all with you.  :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

More Musings from the Junque-pile

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday was rainy and muggy as all get out. This morning dawned chilly and sunny. I'm not even sure it's supposed to make it higher than 70 today. I'm happy for not sweating, yet sad that autumn is coming. Me no likey da cold weather.

Things were busy yesterday despite the rain. daHubster pulled out the potato cage and spent a good chunk of time *carefully* digging up our potato crop. Those little guys have very delicate skins. Since this was our first year trying to grow potatoes, we weren't sure what to expect when we dug them up. Would there be a lot? What size would they be.  I was actually pleasantly surprised with the amount of taters he pulled out of the ground. And they were all shapes and sizes, from the size of a pea to the size of an orange!  There was quite a lot, too...probably about 10 lbs worth. Not bad for a $1.50 investment of seed potatoes, planted about a month too late. They are currently wrapped in burlap in the basement. Everything I've read about potatoes says they need to dry for about 2 weeks.

Yesterday I hit the farmer's market hard for more peppers. since my little guys didn't produce the luscious amounts of bell peppers I wanted, I wanted to supplement them with the gorgeous, ripe reds, yellows, and orange bell peppers that the market is offering right now.  I found one vendor that must have had a bumper crop, and was selling orange peppers 3 for $2.00. Reds and yellows were 75 cents each. BARGAIN!  Peppers are still around $3.00 in the grocery store. EACH! That just gets my goat. I spent a few hours chopping my load of peppers for the freezer yesterday afternoon, plugged into my iPod.

I also pruned my basil plants, the leaves were starting to fade, and I didn't want to lose the whole thing. I love the dried basil. I used it all winter in soups and sauces. This year I planted Purple and lemon basil in addition to Large Leaf. I think next year I will stick to just the large leaf. The lemon basil smells great, and the purple is pretty, but I think I prefer just plain old basil. I wonder if I threw some more seeds into the basil pot if I'd get another small crop before it gets too cold for them outside. Hmm...

I also bought some more bunches of green onions that I also chopped and dehydrated (outside) overnight. Green onions are so pretty in their little air tight glass containers when they are dried. And tasty too. I threw a handful into some scrambled eggs for yesterday's breakfast. Delicious.

End of summer is my favorite time. I've fallen in love with putting food away for the cold months. Figuring out bargains, then chopping, drying, canning,'s all good!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Musings from the Junque Yard

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

I plan on laboring away. I am behind in processing my pickled nana peppers. I seriously need to put up a few quarts of those before I lose them.

Our potatoes have finally died back, and we need to pull up the wire cage surrounding them and see what they did. I'm not holding our breath it was our first time doing them, I have no idea what they will bring. But I'm excited to see!

Our carrots are also ready to pick. Had I been on the ball, I would have already planted more for another harvest before (or shortly after) frost. I've read that carrots can take a little frost, it makes them sweeter. I plan on canning a few pints into sliced hot carrots - the kind you find mixed in with commercially canned jalapenos. I bet they will be tasty. I've set aside some recipes to try.

The tomatoes are coming along splendidly! We are past the halfway mark for picking. Since neither daHubster nor I like raw tomatoes, only cooked, we always process them. Not sure if I mentioned this, but instead of canning them in the dead heat of summer, we've been freezing them whole and will can them in the dead of winter. It's a stroke of brilliance....can when I *WANT* to heat the house up, right???  *grin*

I have 5 (count them 5!) pumpkins growing in their little mini patch. They are cooking 'kins, so they won't get huge, and they set so late in the season that I fear they won't get big enough before frost. Oh well, we shall see. I was hoping to be able to make pumpkin pie with my very own 'kins. Whatta hoot that'd be!

My loofa planting is ginormous. But it never flowered. I'm a tad bummed, but will try again next year.

I waited to long to pick my basil, and the plants are fading. I wonder if there's enough oils in the leaves to dry anyway. I may try it. I might also sneak in a quick planting to see if I get some viable newbie plants before the weather turns too cold.

I've let my weeding go in the past month. My poor strawberry patch looks like a jungle. I need to thin it out before frost, other wise next years crop will be pitiful.

So much to do, and I wont get to it all. But that's OK. This season was a great learning experience.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Junque Yard & Junque Food

I feel like it has been forever since I updated here.  I haven't because there hasn't been anything Earth shattering going on around here. My knee is healing well, and I'm off crutches and the cane I downgraded myself to last week.  So that makes me happy.

Yesterday I bought tons of veggies at the farmer's market - green onions to dehydrate, more garlic (homegrown tastes so much better than what is in the store, I cannot recommend it highly enough), more banana peppers (mine are still producing, but not the quantity I got last year, and I am running out of jars of pickled nanas at an alarming rate), cukes (I'm getting tons of flowers, but not so much are actually fruiting) for pickling. I keep picking and using the bell peppers I have, so they aren't turning red on the vine - however, I found a vendor that had an over abundance of orange and red bells for 75 cents a piece - SCORE!  Those will be chopped and frozen for putting into dishes.

My biggest score, and here's my nuttiness showing, was a 10 lb box of Michigan blueberries. A greenhouse I pass by on my way to work everyday has been advertising the blueberries for a couple of weeks now, and I realized that if I wanted to make jam and freeze a bunch for the winter, I had to get them NOW. So I did.

Now, I'm staring at the bounty in my kitchen, and wondering WTF was I thinking? Good thing I have tomorrow off, Imma be processing all this stuff for freaking ever.

I have my mother coming over today to help with the processing, which is greatly appreciated.

I have a friend from out of town coming over tomorrow, which makes me happy, too...She can yack at me while I'm chopping and canning.

It's a great thing that I work better under pressure. I have to finish cleaning the house, and then just dig in.

I couldn't be happier.  :)

To my East Coast peeps, I hope that Irene does you no harm. Take it easy out there...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Junque Yard

This morning's haul....cukes, beans, tomatoes, and nana peppers. YUM! The bowl weighed 15 lbs when I was done.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile

It's Friday, and I have to admit that this week went by very quickly. I'm ready for the weekend. *nods*

Last Saturday started off with promise. I'd written my blog post about getting organized and making breakfasts for myself again. I'd combed the sale pages of the grocery stores, looking for inexpensive things to buy for the week. I'm lucky in that I have 2 farmer's markets and 4 different grocery stores within a less than 5 mile radius around my house, so I choose what I buy and go onto the next store without worrying that money I'm saving is being used up in gas. And I don't shop for groceries weekly. We might pick up milk or an incidental once a week, but we are fortunate enough to have fairly well stocked pantry shelves.

So I have my list, and the weather is beautiful, and DaHubster and I take off for a whirlwind round of "get this at this store..." Around noon, some thunderclouds roll in, but we weren't concerned, having already been to the farmer's market, and pulling into the first grocery store on our list.  Getting what we need in that store, we go outside to the parking lot, and find a monsoon swirling in the parking lot. Heavy rain. Do we run for it? Sure...halfway to the car, it starts to hail. OUCH. Not large hail, but it hit with enough force to sting. They were the size of a Jolly Rancher candy. He's throwing stuff in the back of the car, and I'm trying to get dive into the car without getting cracked on the noggin when my foot slides on a bit of hail, and with a large CRACK, my knee dislocates as my lower leg flies in a direction not sanctioned by the laws of nature. OH.MY.GOD. That is the most sickening sensation I can ever imagine. Fighting the urge to vomit and scream simultaneously, I bundle my leg and the rest of me in the car to avoid anymore incidences with the hail, which is still pouring out of the sky. The scream won, I'm happy to say, as the vomit would have been a bit more than I can handle, but would you believe that it was raining so hard, that the poor Hubster didn't hear it?  He bopped into the car with a little grin that said, "Wasn't that an adventure??" Then looked at me trying to regain the ability to speak. After the "What happened?" and whatnot, I held up a finger for him to give me a minute. Then I told him. We had to wait for the hail and rain to let up a bit before driving anywhere, so we talked about whether to go to the ER or home. I voted for home. I've done this before, and I know what to do.

I still have crutches from the last time this happened. I'm using them for when I'm walking. But it's only for support. The knee is wobbly but holding. I can't wrap or immobilize, because the last time this happened, I developed a blot clot, or a DVT in the large vein in my leg. Movement is the best thing to do to avoid that. Of course, a clot could have still formed, and moving around means that it could lodge somewhere else, but I've been monitoring myself carefully, and now that it's nearly a week since the incident, I'm pretty well sure that that hasn't happened. No cramps, no shortness of breath or sudden headaches. I'm thinking I dodged a bullet this time. And I'm extremely grateful.

I have been wicked tired, though. Getting my crutching muscles back up to snuff has been tiring. Getting the "What did you do??" looks at work, not so fun. I've just spent most of the summer in a hand brace for my thumb, now to be seen using a crutch? Not so cool. I'm sure that someone somewhere thinks I'm being abused or something. I guess you could say that I am, but i't is Mother Nature who's doing the abusing. LOL. I've been laughing it off. I mean, it's a great story to tell. How many people do you know that have slipped on ice in the dead of August?? Well, in the Northern Hemisphere that is...

So the great breakfast experiment has been put off for a week or so. I'll be whipping up egg cups and healthy junk this weekend, barring Mother Nature's wicked sense of humor.

And if you see a chick with a crutch attempting to pull carrots out of her garden, stop and give her a hand, ok? She might feed you something good.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Junque Food - Breakfast Challenges

Good Morning! Did anyone try out some of the homemade beauty products I listed in my last blog? If so, let me know...throw me a comment.  I get responses at my Face Book page, but rarely here. My blog needs some lovin'...  :)

Anyhoo, I was talking with my friend Vino, and we were discussing healthy breakfasts. As I diabetic, I need to eat regularly, and breakfast is not my most favorite meal of the day. Mainly because I don't have time to cook it every day. However, what I have been known to do is cook ahead, portion off, and take breakfasts and lunches with me to work. When I do that I generally spend a fair amount of time on Sundays doing this. It gets old, especially when the weather is nice, and I wanna go play outdoors (Please, Mom...can I?).

I am particularly fond of making a no-crust mini-quiche recipe I found in a South Beach Diet book a hundred years ago. That particular recipe isn't online, but it is super simple in that you whisk up eggs, add some low-fat/no-fat shredded cheese, any diced veggies you have on hand and bake it in muffin tins. 2 "muffins" are your meal. That's an awesome recipe as you can package up the portions into baggies, freeze them, and they zap in the microwave in a couple of minutes (take them out of the baggie first or YUCK!).

Unfortunately, I get bored of eating the same thing for more than 3 days. I need variety. And I need to plan ahead, or I do nothing and am completely unprepared. When I'm in a good organizational mood, I can plan a week's worth of meals (not just breakfast, but lunch and dinner too), checked against what I have on-hand, make a list of what I need from the store, get it, prepare it, and I'm golden. I also get SUPER WIFE points, but that's a story for another time...

I can admit that my organizational skills have not been up to snuff lately. And as a result, I've made bad food choices. And my pants are a wee bit tighter than they should be at the moment. THIS MUST CHANGE!

So, here's some ideas I have for mixing it up in the breakfast department:
Yogurt (home made if I can get DaHubster to make it - he's the yogurt guru around here) or store bought with home made granola and frozen berries
Different variations on the baked egg dishes like this one I just found off the South Beach Diet website that looks decidedly NOM.
Bumping up my salad intake, and eating it in the morning (I've done it in the past, and can do it occasionally, but I get bored with salads quickly)
Sliced turkey wraps with a homemade veggie in vinegarette dressing

I need ideas, people! Help a sister out. Don't worry about sugar content or portion, I can work with anything. I've been doing it a long time, and can work pretty much any recipe to fit my dietetic needs. The only requirement is that I need to be able to make it ahead of time, and take it to work with me (I have access to a microwave at work).

If I try your recipe, I will happily send you a glass bead pendant from my stock of lampworking days, along with my thanks and gratitude. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Musings at the Junque Pile - Home Made Beauty Products

I thought I'd give you, dear readers, a break from my garden for a minute.

I have a confession to make. I'm cheap.

No, really.  I hate to spend money on myself. Ask anyone. And I have a seriously hard time remembering to do girly things like get a haircut (yes, we won't talk about that here), go get a manicure (I'm actually a few weeks overdue for a fill - this is my one vice, but I'm ignoring it right now) or a pedicure. I buy the cheapest facial scrub I can, only because it is cheaper to buy it than make it (except for the stuff I will tell you about below). But I do have a few on the cheap things that I do here at the micro-mini ranch that proves that yes, I am a girl. A girls gotta get a boost every once in a while, right?

The bestest gentle facial astringent/toner out there: Witch Hazel. No kidding. It's like what, a buck a bottle? My current bottle is going on 3 years old. Wash your face, grab a cotton ball soaked in this stuff, and go to town. Cleans your pores, tightens said pores, and doesn't burn or smell overly astringent. Leaves your skin feeling cool and firm, but not dry or tight. LOVE this stuff, especially in the summer time, when I produce enough oil on my face to fuel my car for a week (Oh, I wish).

The bestest cheapest foot soak for cleaning your feet without scrubbing: 2 cups of vinegar in warm to lukewarm water. I am a diabetic, and I have a condition called neuropathy, where the bottoms of my feet and toes feel like they are always asleep. It is not recommended that neuropathy sufferer's get pedicures, as you can't feel how hot the water is, and any cuts, bumps or bruises may go unnoticed and get infected. As a result, I am very careful with my feet. I have found that a vinegar foot soak is a great way to exfoliate my feet without major scrubbing. It also helps alleviate mild cases of athlete's foot (when done every day for up to 2 weeks). I still scrub, but I don't have to really scrub hard. Most of the dead skin cells are whisked away by the vinegar. And I'm sure that I don't want to know how that happens. I'm just glad it does.

For scrubbing rough, dry skin patches on your feet or elbows (or where ever you might have them), the bestest cheapest body scrub is: mix up 1/4 cup of sugar and just enough olive oil to saturate the sugar, but not dissolve it.  Then rub briskly on your dry patches, followed by a good soaping and rinsing.  If you do this to your feet, DO NOT shower afterwards. Your feet will be too slippery, and I don't want to hear about anyone falling and knocking themselves senseless. Put on some socks and go to bed.

Try these things out and see if they do just as good a job as some of those spendy commercial products. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. If you find you do like them, make up small batches and add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil to give yourself a special spa-like treat.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Junque Food -Banana Pepper recipes!

Whilst looking up some new 'Nana pepper recipes, I found some darn good ones (and not just peppers, too!)  to try!

Pickled carrots & jalepenos - YUM!

a pickled 'nana recipe that leave the 'nanas whole.

Stuffed Banana Peppers - these are breaded and deep fried (or pan fried, if you prefer)
Ricotta-stuffed Banana Peppers - a homemade take on "poppers"

Scrambled Eggs with Banana Peppers, Feta & Chives

Here's a comment on another blog that I will most definitely be trying: "Here's an easy recipe that I use all the time. Brown bulk sausage and drain thoroughly. Either melt a soft cheese product or make a quick white sauce and add your favorite cheese to it. Mix the cheese (or cheese sauce) into the sausage. Slice the top of the banana pepper off and make a slit down one side, seed the pepper. Spoon the sausage and cheese mixture into the pepper. Cover the entire pepper with store-bought canned crescent rolls to seal them up ( Large peppers may take up to 3 crescents, but with this , the more the better). Bake according to the crescent roll can. These are simply delicious. I usually make 6-8 peppers and refrigerate the left overs. A friend of mine gave me the recipe, but she uses hamburger instead. If you freeze your peppers whole, you can thaw them out and fix this any time of the year.

heck, I might go to the store right now and get some crescent rolls. :) 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Junque Yard

This morning is muggy but not hot. We had some rain overnight, but not enough to get rid of of the humidity. I'm debating turning of the AC, but I think I'll leave it as I do my chores. Sweating is over rated anyway.

We are finally starting to see some color in the tomatoes! Heavy with fruit, the tomato plants seemed to have been in an indefinite holding pattern. It's been warm enough, the sun has been out, they just seem to be taking their sweet time ripening.  But last night I spied a few lil buggers starting to tinge orange. YAY!

The peppers are growing like weeds.

The cukes have flowers like you read about. heh. I love that phrase, even if it doesn't make any sense.

My poor pumpkins. Still no female flowers. All male. My brain keeps wanting to make inappropriate same sex jokes, but I've far.

The raspberries are almost done. Did I say that last week? I really mean it this week.

I finally filled the bird seed feeders, and put up a new nyjer sock for the finches. They love me now. We seem to have an over abundance of birds in our yard this year - with or without the feeders. I think it might be because we haven't had to mow the lawn for over a month (not enough rain for the grass to grow). We have a lot of clover and thistle, and I think the birds are eating it up. We also have a LOT of worms, and the robins are feasting.

My flower garden in the front yard is pathetically choked with weeds. I really REALLY need to get off my dufus and take care of that.

*slurps coffee*

Maybe later.   :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile

There's an new indoor / outdoor farmer's market that recently opened a few blocks from my house. They've been advertising on Face Book, and since I'm all over that subject matter, I was anxious to see how it was going. We arrived on Saturday, and I would be lying if I didn't say that I was disappointed. There were only 2 vendors there, one of which was the owner's / directors.

They have a good sized building, and the space for close to 100 vendors. I understand that most farmer's and other vendor types who want to sell are probably already booked at other farmer's markets for the summer. My happiness in this new place is that it wants to be a year round market, and I am sure that the other local sellers will want to come here when the weather turns colder, and the usual outdoor shut down at the end of the season. I certainly plan on shopping there in the fall and winter. I want this place to succeed.

Which led me to wonder what could I do to help them along? I don't have a voice in the community. I don't particularly want one. I do, however, want to develop an extra income source, something that might get me out of an office every day, eventually. I'm wondering if I should attempt to sell at farmer's markets? I could start off with dried herbs - I have plenty of that. According the local laws, I can sell any canned food product that is highly acidic such as pickles and jams, without having to have a commercial grade kitchen. I could do that. I wonder if they would let me sell some of the beads and jewelry I used to make (and want to get back into in a big bad way)?

Definitely some food for thought, as it were. Do I want to pay the table fee? Get a vendor's license? Figure out if I need to charge sales tax? It would mean setting up a growing area in the basement with grow lights, etc.

Do I have the desire? Heck yes.

Do I have the stamina? Umm...maybe.

I kinda want to.

What do you think? Give me pros and cons, please.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Junque Food - Sunday meal

DaHubster and I have long been talking about buying meat locally from the farmer's market we frequent. The prices are more expensive than at the grocery store, but as we are wanting to try to eat more local it makes a bit of sense. Local farms produce grass fed meat, which is supposed to be healthier for you and the animal. Smaller farms have more expensive overhead than commercial farms. I get it. We are even rebellious enough to want to "stick it" to the government that dictates what and how we eat, even if it means paying a little more for it. Those of you who talk to me during the week have heard my political views ad nauseum, and I won't bring that hear. Sufficiet to say, we want to try locally grown meat, particularly lamb, which is claiming a premium in the grocery stores anyway these days, so why not?

There's a vendor at the farmer's market we go to who sells beef and lamb. They freeze it solid and take it in coolers to sell instead of taking orders one week and have their customers pick it up the next week. We discussed it amongst ourselves, wondering if we should try some lamb, and initially decided against it this week. Then changed our minds when the blueberries I'd wanted to buy for jam weren't available as I thought they would be. Hubster actually went back to the market to get it. Unfortunately, they were out of lamb steaks by that time, so he picked up 2 lamb shanks. Neither one of has cooked it, but the seller told DaHubs to cook it long and slow. He thought that meant indirect heating on the grill, more so than how you would cook a steak, but I had doubt. Calling on my best friend in the world, the internet, I saw that long and slow for lamb shanks really meant braising in a dutch oven for HOURS. The meat is tough. Looking around for recipes, I finally settled on this one. I figure if I have to cook it for hours, why heat up my house for it? So, the crock pot it is! this recipe has all the goodness we love in food: garlic, onions, more garlic, tomatoes, etc. It's going to be a hit, I just know it.

I also have a garden bounty salad marinating in the fridge of cucumbers, hot nana peppers, onions, and carrots. YUM.

I will let you know how it comes out.  :)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Junque Yard

I know it's finally summer when I spend more time picking fruits and veggies than I do weeds. Such a great feeling to fill up a couple of bowls of NOMmies, and take it into the kitchen and prepare it for where ever it's going to go.

Yesterday I picked a bowl of cucumbers. I'm trying to pick them when they are relatively small, because last year I found that the smaller they were, the tastier and crunchier they were when I made them into pickles. The larger cukes became soggier pickles. So my plan of attack is to make smaller ones into baby dills, and any larger ones into relish. I have had a small bowl of whole baby cukes soaking in salted water in the fridge overnight.

I also picked a good size bowl of banana peppers. I think I only planted hot nanas this year. Last year, the hot nanas I got from the farmer's market were so tastey that I mixed them in with my own mild nana peppers when I pickled those. We've been eating canned nanas on EVERYTHING. hot dogs and brats, pizza, you name it. It's been awesome. I had promised to share some of that bounty with some of my internet friends, but I didn't, because the recipe I used made them pretty salty. I don't want to be responsible for anyone retaining water or getting high blood pressure from my salty nanas, so if you are still out there, and haven't defriended me for going back on my promise, I swear, You will get some this year!

I also picked some young carrots yesterday. They were 3-4 inches long, and oh so very sweet. We planted lots, and plan on planting more before frost because I can't bear to eat commercially grown carrots anymore. There is such a taste difference. I have a friend (I'm looking at your, JayBee), who loves the pickled carrots that come in canned jalapenos. I plan on canning up some of that this year, too - just reversed - more carrots than jalapenos (which I am also growing).

Then there's the beans and raspberries. The only produce that seems to be hit each year by Japanese beetles. Those creepy beetles are pretty to look at, with their iridescent brown backs and a stripe of black with white spots on either side. But they are like little zombies hanging on the leaves of my plants. Clacking at you with their little mandible. Flying at you when you brush up against them. *shudder* All they do is munch on leaves, and do what appears to be the horizontal mamba with each other out in plain sight. HAVE THEY NO SHAME? I've been making DaHubster go out ahead of me, and he swoops them into a jar of soapy water to kill them. UGH! they creep me out.

Anyway, Hubby picked a small bowl of yellow beans, and I blanched them for eating with Sunday's meal. First beans of the season, YAY!

The raspberries are winding down. They ripen so fast that it's hard to keep up with them. They seem to ripen, then go to mush within a day. I've been out there almost every day picking and picking and dodging those creepy beetles. Then I freeze them for jamming later. And no, there will be NO beetles in the jam. I prommise.

Our romas are continuing to put out plump juicy looking tomatoes, but they are still very green. I learned this week that if you freeze whole tomatoes, the peels will fall off when defrosted as if you had blanched and shocked them in cold water. This will knock off about 1/3 of the time it takes to can those puppies. So that is what I plan to do, if they ever freakin' ripen.

My bell peppers are coming along. Not much exciting there. They say you should take off the first large peppers while still green, then you can let the next set of peppers ripen to whatever color they become. So I will be picking the first bunch in a few days.

My pumpkins are a disappointment. They are flowering like mad, and I see the bees are loving them, but they are not setting fruit. The flowers are all male. I had this happen with zucchini a couple of years ago. I don't know if there is anything I can do differently to make them set female flowers or what. I need to research this. In the meantime, the pumpkin patch is doing what it normally does, sprawl all over the place with vines and giant leaves - it's starting to choke out other plants. My original plan was to see which pumpkin plants set fruit, and pull out the excess plants so that the sprawl was semi-sort of contained, but that is not going to happen. Ahh well...such is the life of an urbanite farmer here at the micro mini-ranch.  :)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile

It's been interesting here at the micro-mini ranch. For the last month or so, we've been dealing with a very sick kitty. Boston is 14, and probably the most "interesting" of the herd. When you hear me complaining about being woken up at 4:30 by yowling Boston is the culprit.

He'd been loosing weight lately, which was strange because he was eating and drinking normally. The yowling was not contained to just early morning, but that was when it was the most prevalent. Then his nose got super congested. I didn't worry about a cold so much as the weight loss and constant agitation that he seemed to be in. But his nose never cleared up, and finally we decided he should go to the vet.

In recent years, he has decided that he does NOT like the vet, and gets very growly and hissy, so they have taken to knocking him out when he goes for his visits.

Xrays showed that this lungs were not congested (thankfully no pneumonia), and his other organs looked OK. Blood tests showed his liver is fine (thank God - one of my most beloved pets, Molly, died of some sort of liver disease almost 3 years ago, and it was heartbreaking). His glucose was fine, but that his thyroid was out of kilter. So the doctor sent Boston home with some pills. He was to take 1/2 of one twice a day, and they'd recheck in a month. The doctor didn't seem overly concerned about the nose congestion.

Giving a cat a pill is never a fun experience. I'm sure you've all read the old email forwards. Almost as funny as giving a cat a bath. However, we were told that it was ok to crush the pills and hide it in his food. I've been crushing the pills up and putting the powder in milk, and he's been drinking it like the treat that it is. My main problem is keeping the "special" milk away from the other cats, who are quite put out that Boston is getting a special treat, and they can't have any!

So after a month or so, Boston's stuffy nose was getting worse. He can barely eat or drink without snuffling and sneezing. He was contantly streaming goo, and has taken to running from me whenever he sees a kleenex in my hand. I even went so far as grab a baby's snot sucker in an attempt to relieve his nose of some of the crap in there. HE REALLY REALLY DOES NOT LIKE THIS! heh. I am such a mean kitty-mommy.

But then he started to run a fever. And he started hanging out in the bathroom. All the time. We could take him out of the bathroom, but he'd always go back in there. He wasn't hiding, which is a good thing, but he was not coming out of the bathroom, and he started not coming out for meals. And I became really concerned. I moved a litter box into the bathroom, along with some food and water. He appeared to be eating and using the litter box, but the fever was really bothering me.

His follow up with the doctor was a week away, but I convinced DaHubster to call and move up the appointment. They went, they knocked him out again, took more blood. The doctor was convinced that the drippy nose is a virus, and therefore antibiotics would be inefficient. He gave us a supplement in treat form that should boost his immune system to help him kick the virus.  We got his bloodwork results a day later, and his thyroid is much improved. So is the yowling. Apparently hyperthyroidism creates high blood pressure, with makes cats very agitated which results in yowling, super needy attention seeking, and the dramatic weight loss. He went from being a hefty 16 pound tomcat to being an 11 lb frail old man in a very short time.

So the pills were working, he was putting back on some weight (I am now not feeling every vertebrae when I pet him), he wasn't yowling constantly, but he's still hanging out in the bathroom, but now coming out for attention occasionally. I moved the litter box and the food out of there in an effort to get him to come out more, and it's working, but he still spends the majority of the time hanging out on the lip of the bathtub.

However, something else has happened during all this that wasn't noticed immediately. Boston has lost his hearing. Whether it was the virus, or the thyroid, or what. He is now stone deaf, and I feel awful about it. I guess I figured it out when he was coming out for meals anymore - opening a can of cat food usually brings the herd a-runnin'. But more times than not, I would have to pick him up and carry him to the kitchen. He didn't come when I called him. And he didn't turn around if I came up behind him. Again, I'm heartbroken, and I feel like a bad kitty momma. What could I have done differently? Probably nothing, but still.

I guess there's one silver lining in all of this. Boston has always been one of the more ornery cats. As he's aged he's mellowed. Now he's the sweetest. And now that he's not so needy of attention, he's more pleasant to be around. He seems to be accepting of his own hearing loss, more so than I am anyway.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile

I don't have a lot to talk about today. But I do have a general feeling of contentment that I'd like to share. DaMan and I spent the majority of yesterday deep cleaning the house, which is something I don't do enough of. Oh sure, I pick up, scour the basics, and basically try to make it so we don't live in filth, but I am not an enthusiastic cleaner.

But I have 3 cats, a dog, and a husband who works on engines for a living. Things get dirty. Yesterday we knocked back copious amounts of animal fur, scrubbed stuff that doesn't get scrubbed often enough, and it makes me feel calm. Happy. Satisfied. It's like free therapy. I should do it more often.

I've been slowly picking raspberries as they become ripe. Raspberries have an extraordinarily short time of ripeness before they go bad. Strawberries have a few days of hanging in there, so if you miss a few, or pick them and stick them in the fridge, they are OK for a few days. Not so raspberries. it's almost like they are daring you to get them before they turn. There are never enough to do anything with them but eat them immediately, which, I admit, I've done plenty of. But I wanted to try to make jam with them this year. Hard to do when you can only pick a small bowl full a day. So I've been freezing them. it is my hope that when I get enough to make a few pints of jam, they will not be too mushy. But hey, it's jam, right? you gotta mush to make jam. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Junque Yard - things growing in odd places

Earlier this week it was mentioned by an on-line friend that while she has great success with her outside garden, it's nearly impossible for her to keep a houseplant alive. I had to concur with her. I have extreme difficulty with houseplants myself. I take full credit for forgetting to water them, partial credit for owning a house that lets in very little sunlight (what the heck was I thinking?), and only survivor's guilt credit for the way my cats like to nibble on them. All of which creates a hostile environment inside for any houseplant.

My one exception to keeping an inside plant alive is a peace lily that refuses to succumb. I joke that every winter it starts its own unheard mantra: "Just 3 more months till she puts me outside for the summer." "Just 2 more months until she puts me outside for the summer.." the poor thing.

I brought it home from work about 3 years ago, maybe 4 now. It was located in the lobby, where it was over-watered religiously by another employee. It started to get root rot. It also had an infestation of little white bugs. I have no idea how this could be, as it was the only live plant in the area, and no where for those bugs to come from or go to. Anyway, it was on it's way toward dying, so I took it home to try and save it. I re-potted the poor thing, exchanging all it's soil for fresh, drying the roots and bulb by giving them an hour in the sun first.  Then I left it outside until the weather turned too cool. Peace lilies prefer low light, so I figured it would do fine in the house, seeing as that's all I had anyway. It's spot of choice is in my living room picture window, however, that is also the spot of choice for my favorite plant muncher, Celeste. She's a long haired white siamese mix with angelic looks, but is really the devil in disguise. She nibbles the leaves, she digs in its dirt. The lily is her playground. And this poor, long suffering lily puts up with that, as well as my infrequent waterings until the time comes to give it a break from it's normal dose of kitty-loving and take it outside for the summer, where it rests up, gets indirect sunlight from under the roof of my back patio area, and more frequent waterings from the hose as I water everything outside, like a caring human should.

The reason why I bring this up today is because a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that another plant had somehow moved into the peace lily's pot. Now, I've had the occasional weed or clover pop in there, which is easy enough to pluck out, but this plant didn't look...weed-like. My brain tried to tell me what it was, but I refused to believe it, and decided to let it grow and see if it was true. Well, it's grown, and it is true. My brain was correct. I have a tomato plant growing under the canopy of the peace lily.  How a seed got in there, I haven't a clue. I threw a couple of inches of potting soil in the pot when I brought it outside, but it was commercial potting soil, not a mix of soil and home grown compost. I didn't start any tomatoes from seed this year, as my aforementioned lack of natural light in the house precludes me from raising healthy seedlings (I have plans to install  a grow light system in the basement in the future, but right now I lack fundage. But I digress...). I have absolutely no clue as to how a tomato plant is growing in my peace lily.

But it is.

And it is doing quite well, too.

I also have a stalk of wild corn growing the in a seam of concrete that runs between my patio and my driveway, but that's a story for another time. :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile

I woke up in a reflective mood this morning. Not exactly sure why. My hand is bothering me, which is something I haven't really talked about on the interwebz much. I like most people suffer from a mild form of carpal tunnel, but over the years, I've been dealing with (by mostly ignoring) pain and loss of strength in the place where my thumb joins the hand. It would flare up a couple of times a year, and I used various splints to immobilize it for a couple of weeks, and it would (mostly) go away. Researching the web on what might be the culprit gave me the term "Mommy thumb" basically a tendinitis in the thumb pad, cause by lifting your child repeatedly. Unfortunately, I can't blame kids on my thumb. I did blame excessive computer usage, both at work and home, as well as the fact that I read books voraciously. Holding books in one hand all the time? One wouldn't think that would be a problem, would it? Meh.

Anyway, I'm not whining about it, it's something I've lived with on and off for about 10 years. It's just that the flare ups I have have been more ON than OFF. I decided to bite the bullet, and go see a doctor about it. Xrays showed no broken bones (duh), or past fractures that might have gone undetected. He ruled it tendinitis and arthritis (I didn't even know you could see that in an Xray), approved the splint I was already using, and set me up with a physical therapist for a month of PT to see what happens.

The PT, Jenny, is super nice, and her evaluation differs from the doctor's slightly. After feeling around the area deeply (ouch), she announced that it was more likely that I've lost most of the spongy material between the joints in my thumb and hand that cushion the bones, causing said bones to grind together constantly. Because those spongy areas are gone, there's a lot of room in there, causing the tendons and ligaments to flop around, and the muscles in my hand are trying desperately to pick up the slack, which is what is causing the constant cramping and soreness.

There aren't a lot of options to "fix" the problem. After I finish my PT, injections will probably be next. Reading up on it, it's a temporary fix to alleviate pain, but does nothing to fix the problem. There is a surgery available, that involves cutting away portions of the bone and replacing it with man-made cartilage to mimic what I've lost. I'm not fond of either option, but what can you do when you have lost your "pinching mechanism" and holding items in your hand causes it to shake and drop things?

There's no real reason for telling all of this, except I woke up thinking about the things I can't do anymore. Making jewelry is the biggest loss for me right now. I can't hold my pliers steady or for long periods of time, which is crucial to the type of work I did. I'd love to be able to get that back. It hasn't affected my gardening, which is why you mostly hear me talk about that these days. I can weed and pick just fine with the other hand. Cleaning and cooking have taken a hit lately, because I have difficulty carrying large heavy pots and pans.

I still read like the devil, though...I've just traded my heavy books for a Kindle. I think I probably read more than ever!

So, we will see what happens. Thanks for listening to an old broad whine about her white girl troubles. :)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pictures from the Junque Yard

Raspberries, almost ripe for picking.
In the background are bush cucumbers, in the middle are hot banana & jalapeno peppers, and in the foreground are carrots.

A bumper crop of tomatoes are well on their way.  Carrots are in from of the tomatoes. The book was right, tomatoes do love carrots.  :)

Close up of the banana peppers, they grow up so fast. *wipes tear*
Potatoes in a can.  LOL. Not really, but that's what it looks like.
Bush Beans just at the blossom stage. Pretty little purple flowers become delicious wax beans (yeah, I don't normally like wax beans either, but they taste way different out of the garden)


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Junque Food & Junque Yard....Strawberries!

I didn't put in a reference point. What you are looking at is a HUUUGE bowl of strawberries. (duh, I mean you can see they are strawberries, but how big the bowl is -  is unclear. It's large. Trust me.)

It's always been a goal of mine to produce enough strawberries to make jam. Each year, I never think I'm going to, so I just eat them raw. Which is fine. There is nothing more perfect than a ripe strawberry just picked from your own stash. I've grown enough to make strawberry shortcake (I prefer Bisquick's Classic shortcake recipe for the biscuits) in the past. but mainly, I like to eat them fresh and whole. Taking a handful to work for breakfast is a sure way to have a great day.

That said, I've always wanted to make jam from my own berries. I've done it with store bought berries with absolutely fine results. But the news articles out there lately say that strawberries are one of the most pesticide laden commercially grown foods out there, along with celery, peppers, etc. The skin on the berries is so soft the pesticide sinks in, and sometimes normal washing isn't enough to get it off. Plus, you never know how long ago they were picked, how long they've been sitting in a warehouse, or on a truck, etc.

DaHubster's Aunt Carol makes a freezer jelly that is beyond great. every year we get a jelly jar from her, and it always goes way too fast. I want MORE! I want my own.

Actually, the last time I made strawberry jam, it didn't set up so well. It was incredibly runny, more like a strawberry sauce with chucks of berries in it. It's excellent stirred into yogurt or on top of ice cream. It did not go to waste, that's for sure.

Enough tangents..back to the point. I did a dumb thing, and assumed I wouldn't have enough strawberries for jam this year. LOL. I had about a half of of quart picked, and went to the farmer's market, where only one vendor was selling berries. At $4.50 a quart. That's not a bad deal, since most grocery stores sell theirs on sale for 2 for %.00 a pint. These berries were HUGE, and some of them were not quite ripe, which if not so diplomatically said out loud, and very kind offered to let me pick my own out of their stash behind the counter. I was embarrassed, though, sure they were thinking that I was one of the hard to deal with customers. I just took the best looking quart I could see on the table.

Then I went home and picked my own strawberries, and I could see that the quart I got at the FM was NOT needed. I had so many, that I had to inside to get a bigger bowl.  I picked until my legs were wobbly and my back hurt from bending over so much. then I sent DaHubster out to pick the rest that were ripe enough. Giant bowl. Huge amount of berries.

I should have picked first, *then* gone to the market.

Ah well, live and learn. I have a ton of strawberries, and there will be jam. And 3/4's of it will be from my own garden.

I can live with that.  :)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile - Book Review

I just finished a book that I've been wanting to read for a long, long time. Starting Over by Jackie Clay. I doubt you'll find it on Amazon, though I haven't looked. Someone might be selling a used copy of it there.  Jackie Clay is a writer and contributor of one of my favorite mags: Backwoods Home Magazine. If you haven't checked it out, and are interested in sustainable living, please do so! BHM has taught DaHubster and I many ways to cut our budget, get us started on being prepared for emergencies, and how to enjoy more while living with less. Definitely worth a looksee.

But back to Jackie. She writes articles for the magazine, mostly about her trials and successes in living on a homestead in northern Minnesota. She helped build her own home, gardens like a fiend, and cans her own veggies and meat. She keeps goats and horses, took care of her ailing elderly parents, raised at least 3 sons, lost a husband, and faced a battle with cancer. She is a miracle. Through it all, her message is, "do what you can, taking small steps if you have to." It's a very inspirational book. I don't know that I can aspire to *be* Jackie Clay, but I can marvel at her, and want to do my best to if not follow in her footsteps, take my baby steps behind her.

Jackie Clay also writes an advice column and blog: Ask Jackie Clay. Her knowledge of canning and gardening is immense, and the advice she gives is both wise and kindhearted. I love to read her stories, and I thought you might, too.

You can buy her book at the BHM website at: