Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Pumpkin Celebration

Bob's Pumpkin from Halloween 2007 ~ Jen added the greeting

Tonight is Halloween night so last night the 3 of us got together in my kitchen and carved our Halloween jack o' lanterns. We started this tradition several years ago and I really enjoy the evening.

We each picked out our own pumpkin. Each one had its own personality that spoke to the new owner. This nice whimsical round one is mine:

Isn't he beautiful? So round and orange.

We set up our work space in my small cluttered kitchen. The guys shared a work table, while I used my kitchen counter.

Jack and Bob carving their pumpkins and having fun. (the front of Jack's sweatshirt says, "When did my wild oats turn into shredded wheat?" Ha!)

Here's my cleaned out beauty:

And here's just some of the gooey insides that came out of our pumpkins.

Stringy stuff & seeds ~ I will roast the seeds later, maybe tonight!

I will save a few of these field pumpkin seeds to plant next summer. These field pumpkins make great Halloween and fall decorations, but not so good pies. For pie making, I grow special small and tender Pie Pumpkins

The rest of the pumpkins seeds I will salt and roast in the oven. Probably later tonight or tomorrow. Jack really likes them. I find them a bit tedious to get out of their shells.

Now comes the artistic portion of our program:

Jack carefully drawing his pumpkin face features

Bob concentrating hard on his careful carving ~ notice his open mouth with his tongue poking out like a cute little kid hard at work

I don't usually draw or plan my pumpkin faces. I just carefully clean out the insides and then stare at the front of my pumpkin for several minutes until some creative idea comes to me. Then I just pick up a sharp knife and start carving. Usually I do the nose first, then the mouth and last the eyes.

We have found over the years that we each have our own unique pumpkin carving styles. The faces vary from year to year, but our unique styles remain consistent.

Here is our finished trio of carved jack o' lanterns:

Jack's on the left, mine in the middle, Bob's on the right

Jack's scary faced pumpkin all lit up!

Bob's happy vampire pumpkin glowing eerily!

My crazy laughing wacko (menopausal!) pumpkin on fire (hot flash!)

Our family of jack o' lanterns ready for Halloween night

Happy Halloween Everyone!! May you only get treats and no tricks.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cleaning Out the Refrigerator

Fall Vegetable Soup goes into the Crock Pot

Summer is over despite the warm weather. We are well into fall, so it's time for me to clean out my refrigerator and use up the remainder of the fresh vegetables while they are still somewhat fresh and not yet compost.

I woke up yesterday with the desire to putter around in my kitchen cooking and even cleaning up a bit. So out from the fridge and into the crock pot went a variety of veggies:

bok choy
broccoli leaves
yellow crookneck squash
Roma tomatoes
green bell pepper
red slightly spicy "mystery" pepper
1/2 can of garbanzo beans
extra virgin olive oil
homemade vegetable stock + some water
herbs & spices (including basil, oregano, bay leaf, black pepper, paprika etc)

Turned the crock pot on high and let it simmer for about 8 hours.

Here's my bowl of "End of Summer" veggie soup that accompanied my dinner last night:

Tasty Vegetable Soup ~ and more room in the fridge now too!

For the last couple of days I have had an almost tame deer, a doe, hanging around my house all day and night. I am accustomed to having deer around, I do live in the forest, but usually they don't show themselves so boldly in the middle of the day, nor so close to the house.

I don't usually feed the deer, as I don't want to tame them. I prefer to let wild things stay wild and free. This deer did get a couple of handouts from me. Some old carrots that weren't tasty enough for my soup pot yesterday. She enjoyed those quite a bit.

Here's a photo of her in the background while she was eating the carrots:

My friendly Doe in the background eating her carrots, and my black cat "Charity" (sitting high in his new climbing tree that Jack made for us) in the foreground. Yes, Charity is a boy kitty, but that's a story for another day.

And today I gifted her a big old apple that had been in my fridge for quite awhile. I cut it up for her to make it easier to eat, and she liked that a lot too. She was practically following me around my property earlier. Sort of put me on alert. I am sure I will regret feeding her at some point. Probably when she helps herself to my red petunias on my porch table or when she eats and breaks my fruit trees. She was so cute and so skinny. My heart just softened in a moment of weakness. We are all connected in nature, and she looked hungry. So I fed her.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Sunday, October 26, 2008

*Falling* Down on the Job

I have been so busy with Fall chores around my home, garden and business that I truly have been "falling" down on the job of keeping my blog up to date. My apologies to my loyal readers. I'll try not to let that happen again. (yeah, right.)

Fall seems to be the time to gather, clean, organize and plan. Plan for winter. Plan for the upcoming holidays. Clean and organize everything. An awesome task around my cluttered and busy home. And I must say that I don't seem to have much energy for any of that lately. But I plod on, however slowly.

In the above photo you see a close-up in my produce scale of these beautiful Jonagold apples:

Jonagold Apple Harvest ~ almost 9 lbs!

My triple graft apple tree (has 3 kinds of apples on one tree) gave me the best Jonagold harvest ever this year! I picked more Jonagolds this year than I have in the past 9 years from that little tree. Mother Nature really outdid herself there. These apples are sweet, juicy and crisp. Great eating apples. Nature's perfect snacks.

Also on that same triple graft apple tree are my Mutsu apples seen here after harvesting:

Mutsu Apple Harvest ~ 4 1/2 lbs

Big beautiful green apples with a yellow-pink blush. This year the Mutsu apples were bigger than normal, but the overall harvest was about the same as usual. Maybe a bit heavier. These are not quite as sweet as the Jonagolds, but are still very tasty.

Also from that same tree I harvested about 8 pounds of Gala apples in September
Those apples are getting soft now and are not as good eaten out of hand as the rest, but will still be fine for baking or making applesauce and jelly.

That tree had so many Galas this year that the Gala trunk of the tree broke in half from the weight of the apples. I had to pick about 4 pounds of apples prematurely in order to unweight the branches and hopefully save the tree. I tied and taped up the broken trunk and pray that the tree will heal itself. The Gala trunk of this tree is vital to the apple production on the rest of the tree, since the Gala apple blossoms are the pollinators for the Jonagold and the Mutsu blossoms. I guess I really should thin out my apples the next time the harvest looks heavy. Before the tree breaks.

Shown below is the very last zucchini summer squash from my summer 2008 garden. I found him hiding at the edge of my garden underneath a big squash leaf. Surprised and pleased me!
Big Clarimore Zuke ~ soon to be soup!

Hardware Bob had made enough basil pesto for the season so he allowed me to harvest the rest of his basil plants before the cold nights froze the beautiful green leaves. I made one last batch of pesto and then bunched the rest for drying. We will use the dried basil in our winter cooking. Winter comfort foods such as soups and stews need lots of herbs and spices.

Basil drying for winter storage and use ~ thank you Bob!

Below is a gratuitious photo of my pretty red petunias that have survived through 2 summers and one winter so far, even with me forgetting to water and prune them. Also growing in the pot are a few yellow marigolds that started from some seed casually scattered in there.

Pretty Red Petunias ~ will you make it through another Winter?

Well, it's late October. Fall is well established, however, we are still having very warm days with cooler nights. The upcoming cold weather is going to be a shock to our systems no doubt. I have cleaned and readied my woodstove that I use for winter heating, but have not yet made a fire in it this season. The cold weather will come soon enough. I am just going to enjoy the sun as long as I can.

Happy Fall everyone!

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bell Pepper Celebration!

Green & Red Bell Peppers ~ Homegrown by me!

For 10 summers now, I have been trying to grow bell peppers in my garden. I want big beautiful bell peppers of many colors! I always plant them. Sometimes the plants do grow well, but the peppers have never really pleased me. I have tried several different seed varieties from many sources. I especially want to grow red and yellow/orange/gold bell peppers. They are sweeter than the typical green ones and they are so expensive in the supermarket. I never buy them in the market. Sometimes our local organic farmer has colorful bell peppers, and then I will buy one or two. This year I did buy a few purple bells from our farmer friends to make my favorite stuffed pepper dinner recipe.

Big Red Bell Pepper ~ a green Cal Wonder turned red in the sun

In years past, I have tried growing bell peppers from seeds and also resorted to buying pepper plants when my seeds wouldn't sprout correctly, or when I couldn't find the seeds I wanted. I have planted and grown green, light yellow, purple, gold and red bell pepper plants. I said, I grew the plants. However, usually the plants only produced a sparse few peppers, mostly green, mostly small and not very tasty.

The purple variety, as I recall, produced many peppers, but they were all the size of a ping pong ball at maturity, (maturity = turns color) which didn't work very well for my stuffed peppers recipe.

Gold & Green Bell Peppers!

This year, I started two varieties, a Green Cal Wonder, and a Golden Cal Wonder from seeds. The plants were healthy if a bit small at transplanting time. They flowered well and started to bear fruit. Little peppers formed on each plant. However, they kept getting shaded by the adjacent summer squash leaves that were taking over my entire raised bed garden. I kept moving and even pruning the big squash leaves away from my peppers, but the little pepper plants did not get enough direct sunlight to really produce well. That is until the end of summer when the squash plants started to die back and let the sunlight into the rest of the garden.

Then the recent cold nights hit and a few rainy and cold days. Peppers love heat, bells being no exception. So I went ahead and harvested all of the rest of the peppers, green, red and gold and brought them into the kitchen. Perhaps a bit prematurely, since it has been sunny outside now for a few days.

The peppers that were already starting to turn yellow or red have since turned color completely in the warmth of the house. They are beautiful, thick walled, crunchy, juicy and sweet. I have been enjoying them mostly raw in fresh green salads. Also some in stir fries. Only one or two were really large enough or the right shape (square & blocky) for my stuffed pepper recipe, so I doubt I will use them that way.

So I am celebrating my harvest of beautiful bell peppers. There are more peppers of more color variety that actually taste good, than I have ever grown before. So this really is a pepper celebration.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, My Sweet Jessie

My Sweet Kitty Jessie

Today is my baby's birthday.

Jessie, my precious silver tabby kitty is 16 years old today. Old enough to drive if I'd let her. Old enough to date. She's smart enough to do those things alright.

Ah, but these are human milestones. Feline milestones come much sooner. Kitties progress from kittens to adult cats by age 1 year. In feline years my baby's age is the equivalent of 80 years for a human. Even so, she doesn't look that old.

Jessie & her furry friends

Just look at her cute face and big bright expressive green eyes. She is so beautiful, even now when she is older and moves a bit more slowly. Her fur is still smooth and shiny, with the most beautiful stripes and patterns. I never tire of looking at her or petting her. She loves her neck and chin scratched gently, purring all the while.

My Jessie is way more than a "pet" to me. She is my companion, my confidant, and my best friend. She has comforted me when I was sad, upset and crying. She cuddles with me and purrs peacefully when I am happy and smiling. She sleeps with me most nights either in her basket beside my bed or up on the bed if there is room. She understands me, and I her. We know each other very well. We can read each other's minds most of the time. I call her my psychic kitty. She also understands what I say to her. She reads my body language and tone of voice, and I swear she understands my words most of the time. I guess she really senses my feelings, my energy and my thoughts more than my words.

She is my precious baby, my friend and companion. We have both grown older. She has a few health problems now. I give her medicine twice per day for her hyperthyroidism, and I give her subcutaneous fluids once a week to help her kidneys function better for her. Always a small slender cat, she is so skinny now since the hyperthyroidism hit. I worry for her health and longevity every day. I weigh her every few days and keep track of her weight trends. She needs to eat more to gain more, but she doesn't gain much. Again, I worry.

I love her so much. The thought of not having her around forever saddens me and makes me cry. Who will comfort me with her soft meows and loud purrs when she is gone from this life?

She is a very good kitty. A loving friend to me. I have tried to be the best mom for her.

Jessie at her scratching post

So enough of the sad thoughts about her getting older and leaving me. (I have tears in my eyes now.) She is still here, and in good health, all things considered. She still brings me joy every single day. I miss her when I must leave home for a few days. I worry about her when I am away.

She is 16 years old today. A Libra girl. My sweet baby. Her full name is Whispering Jessie, because her meow is so soft and gentle.

Happy Birthday my sweet Whispering Jessie! I will always love you.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket