Rhubarb Champagne Jam

While there isn’t much time for anything in between trips, I do try to squeeze in a smidge to process jam that we make on the boat.  I’ll make a big batch there and then bring it home to process in a water bath.  While it’s an effort to do it, I’m always so grateful in the middle of the winter that I was able to eek out the time.

This batch came from a bunch of Champagne that was open but left behind by a family celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary.  It happened to coincide with the rhubarb coming into full swing.  The combination is a lovely one with the tang of the rhubarb softened slightly by the fruity Champagne.  In any case, I love the color of it and it’s pretty special on our biscuits.
Rhubarb Champagne Jam 3

Rhubarb Champagne Jam 2

Rhubarb Champagne Jam 1
Rhubarb Champagne Jam
4 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup champagne
1 box SureJell
1/2 teaspoon butter
6 1/2 cups sugar

Have all canning equipment and jars ready, sterilized and waiting in hot water.

In a medium stock pot bring the rhubarb and champagne to a boil.  Add SureJell and bring to a boil again.  Add the butter and the sugar and bring to a full rolling boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and transfer to the hot canning jars.  Screw the lids on hand tight and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove the jars carefully from the hot water and set on a towel spread out over the counter top.  Let cool.  Make sure the lids all ‘pop’ before storing for the winter.

Makes 7 or 8, 8-ounce jars

Annie
We be jammin’

New Compost Bins from Shipping Pallets

 

After coming home from a trip to witness no less than 30 seagulls feasting on our out-of-control compost pile, some fist shaking ensued and then some head scratching.  How could we compost the many and weekly 5 gallon buckets of vegetables scraps that come off the Riggin all summer long and have the compost meal du jour, enticing as it is, be less attractive or available to our critters?  The result were these shipping pallets — free from the local dump.  We started out nailing them together and then found that it was far easier to use polypropylene line to marry the unmatched ends together.  They’ll be topped with a sheet of luan plywood and all of a sudden, the seagull restaurant is closed! New Compost Bins 1

New Compost Bins 2Annie
Happy in my tidier yard

Holy Moly Wood Chips!

I pulled into my driveway to the sight of this HUGE pile of wood chips!  These are for yet another garden expansion with the chips layered over newspaper or office paper to become the pathways in the free form beds.  Last year, we installed about 500 square feet of free form garden space which held all of the vegetables that are less attractive to wood chucks and their many relatives, therefore squashes, basil, leeks, onions, carrots and corn (although the raccoon population was well fed on the corn, the buggers).

I’ve now enticed Rebecca , our most excellent gardener who helps me when I’m out sailing, not to fear the words “expand the garden.”  She has now joined us on the dark side and is fully up for twice as much garden space as we put in last year.  This may have also had something to do with her supreme frustration with the mowed grass being blown directly into the free form beds she’s just weeded (just saying).  Paths joining the beds will take care of this perennial issue by only requiring mowing on the perimeter.  Happy me, happy Rebecca, more veggies, more fruit trees!

The wood chips, 10 yards in all, I’m told, were recycled from Rebecca’s property to make way for fruit trees there.  The wood from those Norway Maple trees, high in btu’s, will be our fire wood on the boat next summer.

Wood chips for the garden paths

Annie
More veggies!

Hypocracy Reigns Supreme

The sun was bright and high in the sky as I turned the compost pile today.  I find few things more satisfying for releasing aggression (not that I have any, of course) than turning a pile of garden refuse, kitchen waste and office paper into food for the garden.  As I stuck my pitchfork into the pile, I heard a squeak… and froze.  Pulling a little dried grass away from the surface, I found a tiny, eyes-not-yet-opened… baby rat.  And after another shuffle of a little more grass, it’s brothers or sisters.  Four of them.  All blindly scrambling for warmth into each other and trying to avoid the sudden light into their little burrow.  Do I need to say out loud how cute they were?

So it’s official.  I’m a hypocrite.  I could.  Not.  Kill.  The Babies.  And yet, I will absolutely eat meat that is packaged in one way, shape or form.  Hey, even local meat has to come in a package.  Even my own chickens.  Can’t kill ’em.  Would if I HAD to, but don’t, so can’t bring myself to do it.

The worst part is that two days later I go out to check on the hens and the coop.  I putz around in the coop for awhile, cleaning, tucking up the hawk netting and checking their water.  There were seven eggs in the coop and I figured I’d wait an hour or two to make sure no one else wanted to lay.  Less than two hours later I head back to the coop only to discover no eggs, no trace of eggs.  None.  The hens didn’t get them because I can’t see one single trace of egg yolk or shell.  But rats could have rolled them through the big hole I discover in a corner of hay.  What do I do?  March straight up to the shed for the rat poison to kill the suckers dead for getting my eggs.

Annie
Okay, so I’m a Gemini and the twins are alive and well

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Bentwood Frame

Bentwood Bentwood fences and arbors are easy to make.  Especially when you have as many trees on your property as we do.  There are general guidelines for wood that is better to use in certain applications, but like many things I do, I just create using what I have on hand.

This frame will become the entrance to the vegetable garden.  The limbs came from a tree in the backyard that needed pruning.  After laying out the two straightest branches parallel to each other, I started shaping them by pounding in stakes to secure everything.  Once the curve at the top is shaped, I then tie everything together with some strong wire or twine. 

I’ve found through trial and error that it’s necessary to use green wood that has just been cut.  Even bending wood an hour or two later increases your chances that it will break rather than bend.

If you are looking for more information, the best source I found when I was learning is a book by Jim Long called Making Bentwood Trellis, Arbors, Gates and Fences.

Annie
The potatoes need planting so I think I’ll go do that next.

Dirty House

Seedlings The house smells like dirt and I’m happy.  The seedlings are doing well and so far I haven’t forgotten to water once.  Well, except for the little plugs of single-flowered Lemon Gem marigold that I left in the tray because they weren’t big enough to transplant into larger trays with all the rest of the babies.  I want these for my salads this summer, so I need to start some more.  The herbs and lettuce varieties are showing their individuality.  The kale leaves have begun to ruffle on the edges and have that beautiful purple tinge, the red and green romaine lettuce leafs are becoming elongated and the cilantro leaves showing their bright green delicate selves.  The five different kinds of basil are beginning to distinguish themselves too, with the Lemon Basil growing it’s diminutive leaves next to the Thai basil with it’s purple hued stems and green leaves where the Purple Ruffle basil is of course, painted completely in it’s indigo palate.

Last week I started some of the fussier quick growing seeds.  These are the ones that don’t like to be transplanted such as cucumber, squash and melon.  I’m planning on trying a different sort of cold frame this year and having all of these beauties out under it’s protection by mid-May.  That’s definitely too soon to transplant to the garden, but not to soon to have them outside and getting accustomed to their new home.

Annie
I’ve got dirt under my fingernails.  Life is good.

© 2008 Baggywrinkle Publishing

Seedlings – A good start

Ellaseedlings There’s still snow on the ground and when I wake up in the morning the sky is still inky black, the floor is cold enough to require at least one pair of socks and I’m still wearing three layers when I sit at my desk to write.  But… it’s officially spring.  Which mostly makes me grumpy because I’m expecting one thing, (not much, just a little warmth or sun), and I’m getting another – cold fingers, toes and ears – inside the house. 

Then one weekend day, after coffee, cosy time with a good book and snuggling with my husband and girlies on the couch, I find myself a little antsy.  And before I know it, the colorful, crumpled seed packets are out; the flimsy, black seed trays are filled with moist, potting soil and the house smells like dirt.  It happens every year and every year I’m startled.  It’s almost as if there is an internal switch that gets flicked and all of a sudden I’m in gardening mode.  Whatever it is, I’m grateful.  I get far more from touching dirt and green things than I could ever give back to them.

Annie
My thumbs are green again

© 2008 Baggywrinkle Publishing