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The Perfect Day

October 22nd, 2009

I think yesterday may have been the perfect day. It was sunny and warm, with the high hitting 70 or slightly above. I spent the day working in the garden soaking up the sun and getting some much needed vitamin D after the weeks and weeks of dull dreary weather.
I was able to get a lot accomplished in the 4-5 hours I spent working outside. I emptied more pots and the pile on my back deck keeps growing, I’m about a third of the way through. I still have a lot on the front porch that housed tomatoes through the summer. All of the spent potting soil will be added to my flowerbeds as a mulch and any leftovers will be put in the compost pile.
I planted some Mediterranean White Heather on the back hillside. I had to build a few small rock walls to help retain the soil which I amended for these plants. They’ll provide some much needed winter interest since they bloom in winter. I have some Mediterranean Pink Heather on my front hillside and it is quite lovely. I noticed on the plant tag that it said they were zone 6 plants, when I bought pink ones 3 years ago they were listed at zone 5, hmmmm. They’re supposed to be tough little plants that can take cold dry exposed areas, which is exactly where I planted them. I’ll let you know how they come through the winter.
All-in-all I’m very pleased with the amount of garden chores I was able to check off my list. I still have many more of course, the most important being the planting of my garlic. I plan on spending a few hours in the garden again today making the most of our Indian Summer!

How do you classify “The Perfect Day” in the garden?

Indian Summer

October 21st, 2009

Indian Summer [in-dee-uhn suhm-er] an informal expression given to a period of sunny, warm weather in autumn in the northern hemisphere, typically in late October or early November, after the leaves have turned but before the first snowfall.
Since we seem to be having our indian summer here in NE Ohio, I’ve been putting in some much needed time getting gardening chores finished up. Yesterday I spent the afternoon emptying pots and stacking them to dry a bit. They’ll all be moved into the garage for winter storage today or tomorrow (depending on the weather).
As much as I don’t really want to see winter come, I do welcome the down time in winter. Fall preparations remind me how much I need a break from all the activity. A gardener needs to have some time off just like the garden does. I love the seasons of gardening in the north, each for what it offers. Spring is a time of excitement, Summer for bounty, Fall for comfort and Winter for rest.

How would you describe each of the seasons you experience in your area of the world?

Homemade Ketchup

October 20th, 2009

In our efforts to eat healthier and more locally I’ve been learning to make more and more things here at home instead of buying them at the store. Usually they’re very easy to make and most of the time they taste better than their store-bought counterpart and they’re much cheaper as well. My latest make my own efforts involved ketchup.
Homemade_KetchupMaking ketchup is actually much easier than it sounds. I used the recipe from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects
Of course since I lack the ability to follow a recipe to a T, I changed the recipe a bit. I used roasted tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes and I used olive oil and ground cardamom since I didn’t have whole pods.

Regular ol’ Tomato Ketchup (but better)
from: Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects

1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
5 whole cloves
5 cardamom pods (crushed) I used 1/2 t. ground cardamom
1 star anise
10 black peppercorns
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes (I used roasted homegrown tomatoes)
1 large yellow onion, quartered
2 Tablespoons neutral vegetable oil (I used olive)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (I used organic evaporated cane juice and organic molasses)
1/2 cup champagne vinegar (I used organic white balsamic)
1 teaspoon hungarian paprika (I used smoked paprika)
freshly ground black pepper

1. Using a piece of cheesecloth (or an empty tea bag), tie the cinnamon, bay, cloves, cardamom, anise, and peppercorns into a bundle. Set aside.

2. Pour tomatoes and their juice into a food processor or blender (or put roasted tomatoes through food mill). Puree until totally smooth, and set aside all but 1/4 cup. To the remainder, add the onion and puree.

3. In a large dutch oven (this will splatter so use a large tall pot), heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion puree and the 2 teaspoons of salt and stir well. Cook for 8-10 minutes, letting the puree reduce and lightly brown. Add the tomato, sugar and vinegar, turn heat to a low simmer, and reduce for about 15 minutes uncovered, with an occasional stir (cooking time is reduced if using roasted tomatoes since they’re already reduced). Add the spice bundle and reduce for 10 minutes more, with an occasional stir (I added the spice packet when I added the tomatoes). When it’s done reducing, it should be a little thinner than commercial ketchup. Stir in paprika, taste for seasoning and add salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed.

4. Let ketchup cool and remove the spice bundle. Pour into a jar and chill overnight, or at least for 6 hours.

Will store in fridge for up to 2 months.
To can: ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 headspace and process in a water-bath canner for 15 minutes (more at higher elevations).

I must admit, this is a great recipe. I’ve had homemade ketchup before and I’ve never really liked it; this is a different story. This ketchup has that perfect sweet tanginess that I love, it might even be better with some heat added (perhaps some of those cayennes I’ve dried). Of course if you’re expecting the texture of the stuff from the grocery you’ll be dissappointed, but in flavor this is by far better than store bought. I’ll still be keeping some regular ketchup in my cabinet, but this will become a regular at our table for sure. I used some of this ketchup to make sloppy joes and they were fantastic! I would highly recommend this recipe to anyone interested in making some homemade ketchup.

Have you ever tried making something at home that you usually buy at the store?

Quote if the Day: Barbara Damrosch

October 19th, 2009

“Gardening has a magical quality when you are a child.”
Barbara Damrosch

We spent the afternoon with my family yesterday and our nieces and nephew were super excited to help clean out their garden plot for winter. I remember liking gardening until I got to be a certain age, then I didn’t much care for it for many many years. I came into it again several years ago and each year it becomes a bigger part of my life.

Were you a gardener as a kid, or did you come into as an adult?

Harvesting Yukon Gold Potatoes

October 18th, 2009

On October 6, I harvested my potatoes my from raised potato bed (read this blog post to see how I planted my potatoes). When harvested the first plant, I was disappointed because I only found a few small potatoes.
There were a few medium sized potatoes at the top of the box and none in the middle. By the time I got to the bottom of the box I was imagining that I’d end up with only a few more potatoes than I had planted back in early summer. I struck gold however with the second plant I dug up, there was a nice batch of potatoes with a few fairly large ones.
I actually ended up with a decent harvest (11 pounds), especially considering that Yukon Gold potatoes aren’t supposed to be heavy producers. Only 6 of my seed potatoes produced a decent crop of potatoes, and they were all on one side of the box. I think that lack of sun on the one side was probably the reason for the absence of potatoes. I’m sure if I had great garden soil and a lot of sunshine I could do much better. But we all have to deal with the gardens we have, so I’m happy with my harvest.
We enjoyed a few of the potatoes a few nights later and were particularly delicious; we simply cut them into small bits and fried them in a little bacon grease and enjoyed them with a side of farm fresh eggs. The rest of them are in the basement in a box waiting for other delicious meals, I’m considering a hearty potato soup next.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy potatoes?


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.