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Monday, August 22, 2016

Too Many Cucumbers--What to Do? Freezer Pickles

Too Many Cucumbers--What to Do?  Freezer Pickles

Long ago and far away, Ellen lived with me.  Whenever we had too many cucumbers, she would make cucumber pickles.  I didn’t like pickles, so I never tried them.  She ate them with abandon. I was stupid.

I found myself with way more cucumbers than I could eat, and I remembered her pickles.  Maybe I would like them?  I talked to her about it, and she wasn’t sure where the recipe was, but gave me some hints.  I looked all over and couldn’t find it.  She told me as much as she could remember, so I started to look around on the Internet.

I found a recipe that looked close and made a half batch--in case I didn’t like it.  They have to sit overnight before freezing.  The next day, I tried them and liked them.  I made another half batch and my cucumber problem was under control.

Here is the recipe I used:

Crispy freezer pickles
6 or 7 cups sliced cucumbers
2 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup diced onions
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. Salt

In a large bowl mix all ingredients and stir until sugar dissolves.
Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend.

Fill freezer containers, label, date and freeze until ready to use

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I No Longer have a Garden Companion

I No Longer have a Garden Companion

Whenever I want to take my dog, Maggie, outside, I tell her where we are going.  Going for a walk, going around the yard, going to the woods, going to the creek and going to the garden.  I figured she would learn the words--my dog Pollie did.  I’ll never forget the day she learned “Woods.”  She was heading towards the creek, and I told her “Woods.”  She turned the other direction, barked with joy and headed towards the woods trail.  It wasn’t that she liked the woods anymore than the creek.  I think she was just happy she understood what I was saying.

Maggie is definitely not as smart as Pollie was.  I have been telling her for years where I wanted to go, and she only seemed to grasp it a little.  I think a lot of time, she was watching my body language to figure it out.  (Which is actually pretty smart.)

Now that I am retired, we are spending more time together.  I give her a long walk nearly every day.  She loves them.  Sometimes I take her on an additional short walk, later in the day if the weather isn’t too warm.  She loves that too.  She enjoys going around the yard.  I wasn’t so sure if she liked going to the garden.

Since my yard isn’t fenced and she loves to play in traffic, I have to keep her on a leash.  When I go up to the garden, I attach her leash to a tree.  It is in the shade, and the leash is long.  She would sit and wait for me to finish my gardening.

I think that she didn’t mind it so much when I was working since she spent so much time inside the house when I was gone.  I think she was happy to be outside.  Now that she is out so much more, I guess she changed her mind--or maybe she just learned the word.

Last week, I told her I was going to the garden, grabbed her leash and she just looked at me.  I asked her if she wanted to come with me, and she walked away.

This has happened time after time.  Once, she did decide to come with me.  I made a big deal about how happy I was and made sure I was only in the garden about 10 minutes.  The next time, just a few hours later, she didn’t want to go with me.

Sigh, I lost my garden companion.  She isn’t the first.  Pollie didn’t have to stay on a leash.  She would go out with me, but after a few minutes, she would go and sit by the house.  Our previous dog, Brucie, ended up not wanting to garden with us, too.  I guess it just isn’t a dog thing.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Book Review: Three Daughters of Madame Liang by Pearl S. Buck

Book Review: Three Daughters of Madame Liang by Pearl S. Buck

I have read a couple books by Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize in Literature winning author, Pearl S. Buck, and I loved them.  When I saw this one, I didn’t hesitate to buy it.  I am glad to say that it is another fine book written by her.

She spent her early years, as a daughter of missionaries, in China.  Her understanding of the Chinese culture and people brings her novels to life.

This story takes place after the communists took over the government.  Madame Liang sent her three daughters to America to escape Communism.  The story is about their return to their home country and what they learn, both good and bad, about the changes.

I know that probably doesn’t sound exciting--and it isn’t an exciting book.  Instead it is a fascinating book that explores China and its culture--contrasting it with our own.  I felt reading this book was like sipping cup after cup of Chinese tea.

The book takes place in the 1950’s and was published in 1969.

As a side note, she was born in Hillsboro, WV--also the birthplace of Ellen’s horse, Dante.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

My Dried Shell Beans

My Dried Shell Beans

About half my crop of shell beans are in, and I am very pleased.  I planted them on the dry end of the garden, so I probably have less than if I planted them anywhere else, but so far, they have done better here than anything else I have tried in that spot.  I think I will expand them down to the far corner where I tried some pole beans this year that are currently languishing.  (No great loss--I have plenty of green beans this year.)

I like growing shell beans because they are just so pretty to look at and fun to pick.  They are cheap enough to buy in the store, and I can’t taste any difference in the flavor.  I will save some of these to plant next year, and I will buy new varieties to try, too.

I use these mostly in my soup.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My Hummingbird Feeder

My Hummingbird Feeder

When Kevin asked me what I would like for a retirement gift, I told him I would like a hummingbird feeder.  I have always planted flowers to attract hummingbirds, but never had a feeder.  Not only would I like to help these fascinating birds out, but I figured I would now have time to watch them.

On the very first day, I saw a hummingbird on it.  I didn’t have that many more sightings for the following week, but the food was gradually going down.  Then, after about a week, the bees found it.  I think half the hive showed up, and within a day, they emptied it.  I waited a week, and then I tried it again.  That very day, they showed up and emptied it, again.

Thanks to the Internet, I found out that other people have this trouble, too.  I moved the feeder to the other side of the house and hung minto stalks on it.  Apparently, bees don’t like mint, but the hummingbirds don’t mind.  I have had it hanging up for a week, and the food gradually disappeared.  I saw hummingbirds in my flowers, but not by the feeder.  At least I didn’t see any bees.

Today, I was sitting by the window, and a hummingbird flew right over to the glass, hovered there and seemed to be looking at me.  I said, “Hello,” and it turned around and went straight to the feeder for a snack.  

Coincidence?  Probably.  Still, I like to think the hummingbird wanted me to know that he appreciated the food.
When Kevin asked me what I would like for a retirement gift, I told him I would like a hummingbird feeder.  I have always planted flowers to attract hummingbirds, but never had a feeder.  Not only would I like to help these fascinating birds out, but I figured I would now have time to watch them.

On the very first day, I saw a hummingbird on it.  I didn’t have that many more sightings for the following week, but the food was gradually going down.  Then, after about a week, the bees found it.  I think half the hive showed up, and within a day, they emptied it.  I waited a week, and then I tried it again.  That very day, they showed up and emptied it, again.

Thanks to the Internet, I found out that other people have this trouble, too.  I moved the feeder to the other side of the house and hung minto stalks on it.  Apparently, bees don’t like mint, but the hummingbirds don’t mind.  I have had it hanging up for a week, and the food gradually disappeared.  I saw hummingbirds in my flowers, but not by the feeder.  At least I didn’t see any bees.

Today, I was sitting by the window, and a hummingbird flew right over to the glass, hovered there and seemed to be looking at me.  I said, “Hello,” and it turned around and went straight to the feeder for a snack.  

Coincidence?  Probably.  Still, I like to think the hummingbird wanted me to know that he appreciated the food.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Greater Cleveland Aquarium

The Greater Cleveland Aquarium

Kevin I decided to visit the aquarium.  For those of you familiar with the Flats, (Renae) it is in the old Power House.  They opened it up 4-5 years ago.  Neither one of us is into fish that much, so it wasn't high on the list of places to visit, and honestly, it is rather pricey.  We had heard that it wasn’t that big nor was there much to see.

Consequently, i didn’t have very high hopes, but I am glad to say I was pleasantly surprised.  There was plenty to see.  Though there was parts of the exhibit that catered to kids, the exhibits also catered to adults.  We learn all about fish from all over the world.  It was fascinating.  There were a lot of turtles, too.  Kevin loves turtles.  There is a tortoise exhibit.  They have a large pen with a bunch of huge tortoises.  Kevin called one to them, and he tried to walk over to us, but there was a tortoise traffic jam, and he gave up and fell asleep.  Such is the life of a tortoise.

They have a big stingray exhibit, and you can pay to be able to feed them in the afternoon.  Glad we didn’t do that--they chomp on the food right out of your hand.

The best part was a large tank that had big fish, sharks and moray eels.  The tank has a tunnel through it, so you can watch them swim overhead.  It was neat.

What amazed me was the vast variety of different fish--and knowing that this was only a fraction of the species in the world.  It made me feel very small and unimportant--like looking at the stars.

It was a great way to spend a couple hot afternoon.  On the way home, we stopped at Steve’s Hot Dogs for their wonderful chili dogs.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Book Review: “Outlasting the Trail” by Mary Barmeyer O’ Brien

Book Review: “Outlasting the Trail” by Mary Barmeyer O’ Brien

I loved this book.  It is a fictionalized book based on the real life adventure of Mary Rockwood Powers as she made the journey from Wisconsin to California in 1856.  This would be a very hard journey for anyone, but once she embarked with her family, her husband’s mental state deteriorated--possibly a case of severe depression--and he made some very inappropriate decisions.  Probably the worst of which was picking unsuitable horses for the trip.

The book was a page turner.  Each chapter is from a different character, so you can see it from all points of view.  The hardships this family was incredible.  To see the change in Mary from a subservient wife to a strong leader was empowering.  

I highly recommend it.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

My Front Patio Garden


My Patio Garden

My house is built into a hill, so my ground floor is actually my basement.  My main floor is the second floor, so the way it works out is my living room over looks my large garage at the side of the house.  When my dad built the garage, he turned the roof into a patio.

We used to have large flower pots on the patio, but over time, they caused the roof to bow.  We ended up placing them on the brick edge, which still looked nice, but it limited the number pots we could plant.

After I inherited the house, I had to replace the garage roof, because by that time, it was so old that it was leaking like a sieve.  All the wood had to be replaced.  I asked the contractor what we could do to make it stronger.  He suggested that we make the roof double thick.  He claims that now I could park a truck on it.  I don’t plan to test that, but I did dramatically increase the number pots, and I can place them all over the patio.

So here is my only garden that is completely safe from the dreaded deer.  I can plant anything I want in it, and I do.  Mostly, I have flowers, but this year I also tried lettuce and kale *success” and peas and fava beans.  Turns out the chipmunks found the peas this year and destroyed them all.  This was the first year I had fava beans, and actually the yield just wasn’t high enough to make them worthwhile.  Even though I planted them as early as possible, it got too hot for the plants too soon.

I always throw in some scarlet runner beans for the hummingbirds.  The beans are edible, but you should pick them when they are small if you want them to be tender.  

This garden attracts the hummingbirds, butterflies and birds.  It is fun just to look out the window and enjoy them.  This is where Thunder’s tower resides, too, so he can also watch the activity.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Garden Tour


My tomatoes are just beginning to start ripening.  I planted about 30 of them--all different varieties.  Some years, I am deluged with tomatoes, and other years, not so much.  It is the way my garden was built.  Too much rain is a problem for my tomatoes.  Anyway, that hasn't been the case this year.  I am hoping for a lot.  I plan to try and make tomato sauce, and if I get enough peppers--salsa.  I like to dry the cherry tomatoes in the dehydrator for sun-dried tomatoes, too.  I can't ever get enough of them.



Above you will see one of my Tomatillo plants.  I planted them last year when I got them from the Seed of the Month Club.  I didn't know what I would end up doing with them, since I had never even heard of them before.  Turns out they are a sweet/sour fruit.  At first I was hesitant to even try them, and then I discovered how wonderful they are.  I made up a recipe with them that is combined with zuchinni, and it is terrific.  I can't wait until they are ready.  I will be planting them every year, now.  I just toss the seeds in the ground and they are pretty care-free from there.  I also tried some ground cherries--a relative of them.  I only got a few of them to germinate, so we'll see how they go.  They are supposed to be sweeter.



My green beans are going well.  I have bush beans in green a purple and some pole beans.  I really don't like green beans that much if they are plain, but they are fine in casseroles.  I try to freeze as much as I can for the winter.  I love growing and picking them more than eating them.

These are my towers of pole lima beans.  They are growing like crazy.  I grow King Limas and Calico Limas.  They both have huge seeds.  I really like fresh lima beans, a lot.  If I get as many as it looks like I will, I will also be freezing them.

Here is a close up of my bush lima beans.  They are doing great, too.  I should be eating some in about a week or so.  They have smaller seeds than the pole limas, but make up for it by producing a lot.

The last few years, I have been experimenting with dry beans.  You let the beans mature and dry on the vine, and then you shell them and store them in jars.  I am finding that these beans do well on the less productive end of the garden.  Next year, I may expand them all the way through that area and see how they do.

I also have peppers that are not doing much, eggplants that are just starting to bloom, zuchinnis that should start to produce soon, cucumbers that are giving me a few here and there, basil,carrots, beets and kohlrabi.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

New Glasses, New Mattress and a Library Card!

New Glasses, New Mattress and a Library Card!

Yes, I am marking things off my to do list.  The mattress was long overdue, and I am sleeping on clouds, now.  The glasses were really important because I was having so much trouble reading with the old ones.  The library card was so I would be able to use such a wonderful resource--our local libraries.

The weeds in my garden are actually under control.  I have been picking plenty of green beans.  I think I will be picking lima beans starting next week.  I should have a lot of them.  I can’t wait.  I like lima beans much more than green beans.  Everything else is doing pretty good.  I have gotten a few cukes, peppers and tomatoes.  The basil is thriving, and I have harvested garlic.

The riding is going well, though the river was high a few times this week.  Ellen told me she is glad to have me around on her weekday rides.  I was worried she would tire of me, so this is a good sign.   Kevin also seems to like having me around.

We finished watching the last season of “Justified.”  That was really good.  We are now starting “True Detective.”

Retirement isn’t exciting, but it is great.  I never expected exciting.  I don’t miss work one bit!

Book Review: “Agnes Grey” by Anne Bronte

Book Review: “Agnes Grey” by Anne Bronte


This was Anne Bronte’s first novel.  I read her other one, Tenant of Wildfell Hall,” and I thought it was riveting.  

This one wasn’t riveting.  Still, I liked this book, but I can’t really say why.  The first part of it was about how difficult the life is of a governess and the second part was a subtle and nice romance.  There wasn’t anything exciting, and the romance was rather predictable.  Yet, I really enjoyed the book.

It must have been because of the quality of the writing.  It was well-written and never boring.  The main character was very likeable and sincere.

This, like many first novels, was rather autobiographical--at least in the first part.  Anne Bronte did spend some time as a governess, though I don’t think it ended up in romance for her.

I highly recommend it if you like old British literature.

Definitely a book that women will enjoy much more than men.