Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bountiful Harvest

For some reason this year my squashes aren't doing well.  Except for the one in the garden bed with the Ghost Peppers.  That pumpkin plant is exploding!  But all the rest are having issues even though they are getting plenty of rainfall.  So we'll see what happens.  Ironically, the two pumpkin plants that I put in the other pepper bed aren't growing at all.  Apparently not all squashes and peppers are good companion plants.

On the other hand, my hot peppers are going wild.  And my small sweet bells are doing just as well.

Today's Harvest

Despite, or maybe because of, the plants being harvested while we were gone there was still quite a bit to harvest this afternoon.  Above is a mix of sweet bells, cayennes, habaneros, jalapenos, one onion, and the one ripe ghost pepper.  That one front and center is the ghost pepper.

There are actually quite a few onions ready for harvest.  The tops toppled and dried up while we were gone.  And I know it wasn't due to lack of water since it rained well while we were gone.  Well enough to trigger flood warnings for my area.  So later this week onions will get harvested  and put in the dehydrator.  So will the cayennes and jalapenos.  And the tomatoes I spied on the way through will get harvested and dried as well. 

Those sweet bells, the habaneros, and the ghost pepper are headed for a different fate though.  They are headed to become Habanero Gold and Ghost Gold.  The Habanero Gold is already a successful recipe in my house so that will be relatively easy.  On the other hand, Ghost Gold is going to be a new creation.  So I'm expecting that there might be an imperfect batch or two as I work on that recipe.  And there are taste testers ready and willing to help me create a good master recipe.  We are all looking forward to it.

And apparently someone upstairs is aware that I might need to do a few batches to get it right because there's another ghost pepper on the bush that should be fully ripe tomorrow or the next day.  :-)

There is a truly bountiful harvest in my garden.  I am ever so grateful for these gifts.

Coming Home..........

When we got home I started relaxing.  But the true moment of full relaxation was when I opened the door and could smell my house.  It doesn't smell bad.  It's the smell of old wood houses with wood floors.  And it brings back so many good childhood memories.  And now good adult memories.

And after a week away, my gaze was hungry for the familiar.  And instead of seeing "mess", I saw home.  I saw the sewing machine I had been using the day before we left.  And our furniture, books, stuff!  I saw home.

I don't know how to describe the feeling to those who may not have ever felt it.  Physically, you stand slightly taller and straighter as stress goes away.  Your shoulders and back muscles relax from the load they were carrying.  And yet at the same time, the exhaustion from that load comes crashing down.

But then the mental hits, and you know that you are somewhere safe.  On the vacation we went to a place where they could measure brain waves to see who was more relaxed.  I easily beat all but the youngest members of our group.  I'd love to see what level I register at now that I am home.  Right now I'm tired mentally.  But at the same time rejuvenated because of all the grace filled, beautiful blessings that are present here, at home, for us.

As I sit here now, continuing to let stress go, my skin gets running sensations of pins and needles as the muscle groups relax.

But all of that is me.  Perhaps the best parts came from my son.

When I asked him if he wanted to sit in the van to see the end of his movie while I unloaded, he shook his head no.  He actually shook his head.  He's never done that before.  Earlier in the week, he nodded.  I'm hoping that he may continue to do so.  But I ramble.  He wanted to be home.  And he wanted to be IN his home, not just sitting in the van in the yard.  And upon entering his home, he did all his normal come home behaviors with the biggest, happiest grin on his face.

And then, of course, he started acting out.  Something that I'm pretty sure was because he was feeling those same sensations that I was and he doesn't have a way to express it.

But the best moment of them all was when I sent him to bed.  He climbed in bed, and then just had to "find" all of his toys.  And then quite a few minutes of squirming around just to feel his bed, sheets, pillows, and blankets around him.  And then that amazingly happy smile as he gave me a good night kiss, rolled over and pulled the blanket up.  While I wish I could share that smile with you, I can't.  I don't keep a camera on hand for moments like that.  And the moment with him was some much more important than any camera shot.  It was one of those smiles that shows perfect happiness with the world and makes you feel like you just got a full body hug at the same time.

I love my son for so many reasons.  The ability to remind me of the simplest joys in life is just one of those reasons.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

We are HOME!

Sometimes you have to go away for a while in order to truly appreciate what you are coming back to.  We went on "vacation" to a family reunion for a week.  I won't go in to the events of the reunion.  It's over and done, and we are home.  Although there was the really good point of reconnecting with a cousin that I haven't seen or spent time with in a really, really long time.

My yard looks like a jungle because it is growing as well as my garden.  It took me a moment to see the garden beds through the grass.  So I will be mowing Monday and Tuesday mornings.  But there was true joy in seeing my yard, garden and house as whole layers of stress rolled off of my shoulders.  I'm home.

A wonderful friend came over to check on the house and love on the cats while we were gone in trade for anything that was ripe in the garden.  And apparently lots of things were ripe while I was gone because she's canning salsa made mainly from that harvest.  But she did leave me something special to harvest - the first ripe ghost pepper.  It is bright red and definitely ready to harvest.  So sometime this week I will be experimenting with a pepper jelly recipe.  I'm keeping fingers crossed that it goes well.  Especially since there are quite a few volunteers for taste testings, including that cousin.

And there were surprises in the backyard.  The grapes and blackberries are finally ripe.  It's very late in the season for them but I'm glad that the birds left me some.  After getting to taste a few ripe grapes, finally (after 3 years), I find that I'm glad I took the time to research varieties and find this one.  They are absolutely delicious.  There aren't enough for canning but definitely enough for snacking on. 

As for blackberries, well I'll know how many of them there are after I wade into the mess that is that bed.

The Job's Tears are now flowering.  And the ginger is showing sprouts.  And the asparagus is sprouting ferns.

All of these blessing while I wasn't here to see them.  Yet in returning from that absence I feel all that much more thankful for their presence.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Welcome the Heat???

I'm not talking about the temperatures outside.  I'm talking about my peppers.

This year I planted two ghost peppers.  Given all of the information I found on growing them I figured that they would be fine if place on the far side of the bed next to the bed which contains the rest of my peppers.  And then this year we got unusual summer weather.  Weather that apparently the ghost peppers like.  So instead of small plants that I have to baby along to get some peppers, I have two large plants that are covered in peppers.  And a lot of blooms for more peppers.

Now originally this got a major thumbs up from me.  And I've been plotting all the fun recipes I can do for my brother, one friend, and another friend's hubby and boys.  And trust me, I'm plotting.  I'm going to have fun with those peppers.

And then yesterday I pulled some jalapenos for my friend's boys.  They like to eat them.  I sliced up four of them.  I didn't use gloves because four jalapenos is not a big deal.  Except that they were hotter than expected and my fingers had that light burn feeling for the rest of the night.  And the oils from my fingers got on my burger and corn resulting in them having a burning bite.  And then her boy eats just a couple of slices and ends up sucking down lots of water from the burn.  Now, originally I let it roll off of me because I hadn't heard anything about the jalapenos that I had sent home with her a week or so ago.  And her boy thought that maybe he had eaten a seed or two.

Well, today I was walking the garden with this same friend and showing her how many peppers are on the ghost pepper bushes.  And we were discussing how difficult they were supposed to be to grown and how well they were doing.  And I flashed back to the jalapenos at dinner.  I think we both did at the same time.  Because the next thing that both of us "wondered" about was if the ghost peppers had crossed with the jalapenos.  And now we are wondering if they crossed with the cayenne peppers as well because her toddler son grabbed one and squished it, then got very upset.

So toddler son quickly got scrubbed.  And got to drink coconut milk for any burn that may have gotten into mouth.  Then we continued our thoughts.

We know that there hasn't been a cross over with the sweet bells because I've already used several of those and there is no heat.  But apparently I've either got the hottest jalapeno and cayenne peppers that I've had in years.....or the ghost peppers cross pollinated with them and upped the heat.

So I apparently have more testing to do.  Or, I should say, my friend's hubby has some testing to do since he likes the hot peppers and is willing to taste test.

It's going to be interesting either way.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

I can't say much about Independence Day that isn't already being said all across the web.  I have enjoyed rereading both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights today.  Something everyone should do, so if you haven't please find a copy and get reading.

For us the day is rainy so no fireworks, and no cookout.  Which is actually not a big thing for us because we weren't going to be doing those things.  Instead I'm doing the first harvest of summer from the garden, shelling beans and filling the dehydrator.

I wish I could say the harvest was going to be enough for us for the year but it's not.  Again, that's part of the learning curve.  I have determined that one of the garden beds will have to be moved.  It is just too close to a silver maple even though I thought I had given it enough room.  And in a competition for nutrients between a tree and annual vegetables the tree is going to win every time.  And honestly, I don't think raised beds can provide us with enough for the year in at least some of our crops.  So I'll take what nature provides and keep learning.  I'm not going to redo the entire garden here since we are being forced to move in 2 years.  I will plan on a much larger "in the ground" garden at wherever we end up at.

On the positive side, the harvest is going to be much larger this year than it was last year.  Getting the plants in early has helped a lot with that.  And surprisingly, the ghost peppers aren't requiring any pampering at all so far.  And I've got peppers growing on the plants.  I'm looking forward to working with those peppers later this year.

As for Independence Day - I thank those who are continually striving to keep Americans free and independent.  Not just the military but also those who keep eagle eyes on our politicians to keep them in line.  And those politicians, few though they are, that work against those who are power hungry.  And those who strive to be able to stand on their own, and help others to do so when they can.  Independence Day means so much more than fireworks and cookouts.  May those who are fighting for our Independence, in ways both big and small, be blessed and protected in their efforts.