My attempt to move from Southern California and create a happy and sustainable urban homestead in North Dakota, with some musings on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.
I was outside most of the day Sunday removing two large Mugo Pines (aka Scrub Pine or Mountain Pine) from the front yard. More on that in another post! While I was out there a hairy woodpecker stopped in to visit.
He was not afraid of me one bit, even though I looked mighty and wielded a shovel/pick axe/pry bar. The hairy and downy woodpeckers that frequent the homestead are quite bold and not skittish around people. The large Pileated Woodpeckers? They're another story. This one allowed me to get pretty close and snap some nice photos.
If you look closely in this photo you can see the unusual toes of the woodpecker. Woodpecker toes and feet have evolved specifically for arboreal life scampering around in and clinging to trees. Woodpeckers have two toes facing forward and two toes facing backwards, this is known as having zygodactyl feet.
This hairy woodpecker stuck around for a while and likely decided that my grunting and swearing while digging out the mugo pine stumps was oft-putting, and after a few minutes, flew off. Sorry my friend, I apologize for the colorful language.
What kind of feeders to we use to feed our feathered friends? We learned about the Droll Yankees brand of bird feeders from an Audubon Society presentation a few years ago and are hooked on their bird feeders now. They're much sturdier than others we've had and come with a lifetime warranty. I've heard numerous unsolicited testimonials from people who've shipped 10 or 15 year old feeders to them and gotten new back ones in the mail, no questions asked. We use the Droll Yankee Nyjer Seed Feeder and the Tube Feeder for sunflower seeds and love them (but probably not as much as the birds).
All the ladies posed together for a picture. This is a pretty typical scene around the Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes household. Shakk Ti likes to sit behind your legs against the couch and Shadowfax prefers to be on your feet.
Where are the dudes? Well John and Tito are solitary creatures, content to hang out and do their own thing.
We're having a slight departure from our normal postings of deaf dogs, canning, and gardening topics and pivot to some local news of interest. The Stanley Cup wass in Grand Forks, North Dakota today - August, 12, 2014. The team that wins the Stanley Cup is allowed to have it for 100 days and in 1994 the tradition was started to allow each player on the team to do (pretty much) whatever they want wherever they want with it.
Los Angeles Kings player Matt Greene attended the University of North Dakota and was bringing the cup to the Ralph Englestad Arena for ordinary everyday fans to view and take pictures of it. I met Alycia for lunch nearby and we had full intended to go see the Stanley Cup (it was open for viewing between 12 and 3), but we were confronted by this scene:
This was a big ass line, you can't see the end of it. And it didn't get any shorter. By the time we got done with lunch around 1:15, the line was actually longer than when we started. Alycia had to be back at school by 2:15, I hadn't brought any sunscreen, and I had a whole bunch of work to do back at home. So we opted to skip it. Instead we looked at pictures of the Stanley Cup and associated chaos thanks to The Ralph Englestad Arena.
Jamming season is officially done for the year. I spent a few hours yesterday making blueberry-currant jam, which marks the end of jam making, but not canning for the year. We'll be making our special pickled beets in another few weeks, once the beets are ready.
The final jam/jelly making tally for the year was as follows (all numbers are half-pint or pint containers):
- 3 Currant Jelly (this is an experimental jelly this year)
- 7 Raspberry Currant Jam (recipe here)
- 19 Strawberry Jam
- 26 Blueberry Currant Jam
Your initial reaction might be "Holy Buckets!! What do you need that much jam for?" And verily 'tis a fair question. 55 jars of jam and jelly may seem like a lot, but we'll probably give away 15 to 20 as gifts or in exchange to friends who make other homemade things. My volleyball friend Matt and I have a regular homemade beer for homemade jam exchange. The rest of the jam is used as an inoculation to ward off or cure the winter blues, and kept on hand in case of scurvy.
There are few other things quite as inspiring as a pantry full of homemade goods. Also in this shot are the dozen quarts of peaches we canned this year, and some applesauce from last year. We may not can applesauce this year, we'll have to see.
Next to those peaches, on the bottom right of the photo, are the boxes of Bob's Red Mill Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix. It's the best gluten free flour mix we've tried, and when we get it through the Amazon Subscribe and Save Program, it winds up being much cheaper than we can ever find in the store. And even though it's gluten free, fresh out of the oven on a chilly winter day with some homemade blueberry jam on it, it is excellent.
How about you awesome readers? Any canning or food preservation victories so far this summer?
Here's yet another picture of Shaak Ti lounging around upside down in her bed and looking groggily at me. It looks uncomfortable, but who am I to argue.
She spends more time upside down; awake, asleep, playing, you name it, than any other dog I've ever met or even heard of. What a goofball. As I write this she's upside down laying against the couch, passed out from baking her brain out on the back steps.
I spotted our first Monarch Butterfly of the season yesterday and was able to snap this photo before it flew off (it's middle bottom of the picture). It was briefly resting on the Summer Sun Heliopsis (heliopsis scabra) before it took off for parts unknown. Like many other gardeners across the country, it's taken a long time to spot the first Monarch of the season, and sadly it may be the only one we see all year.
The last picture below is the vegetable garden. The pink and purple petunias line the front, just behind the landscaping blocks. Since it's in the front yard, this helps give the illusion to a passerby that the whole area is flowers and fun plants, not a working vegetable garden. The area between the landscaping blocks and apple trees was turf last year. We used the lasagna mulching technique to cover over the grass earlier this year, and the quality of soil will continue to improve as we add mulch, manure, and compost.
Behind the petunias are apple trees, watermelon, potatoes, and beets (between the apple trees). In the last week the watermelon have finally gotten the consecutive days of heat that they need and they've taken off.
This is just a snapshot of what's blooming and growing on the homestead in this first week of August. Berry season and intensive jamming are almost behind us. After my blueberry currant jam making tomorrow or Wednesday, we should be chock full of jam for the year and also have plenty to give away as Holiday presents. As jamming season ends, tomato season begins!!
This week we stripped all the currants from the red currant and black currant bushes and processed them for jam making. It was a pretty good year for the currants and we got enough of them to make +/- 6 batches of Raspberry-Currant and Blueberry Currant jam.
Lovely bowl of red currants. Don't worry, we washed them thoroughly and removed those leaves. While we removed the leaves, we left the currants on their stems. We harvested about 8 quarts total of currants.
Stunningly colored black currants. Currants are full of pectin and with them added to a jam recipe, we don't have to use any additional pectin, it all comes from the currants and the jam sets up great. The currants give the Raspberry-Currant and Blueberry Currant jams a nice tannin-y tart bite.