Sunday, August 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
- Now I am finding spots on my tomatoes and peppers that I have diagnosed to be sunscald. Sunscald usually begins looking like white/yellow spots that are sunken and leathery in texture. Once affected, it usually prevents the fruit from ripening properly. I know this is sunscald because the spots are on the top side of the fruits, and most of the fruits underneath are not affected. The spots on the peppers and tomato in the photos above did begin white, sunken, and leathery but are now also beginning to mold. The tomato has other problems as well (that burn me up too).
- Sunscald is caused by the sudden exposure of fruits to direct sunlight in hot, dry weather. It's also caused by extended periods of direct sunlight. It can happen when extreme weather such as hail or strong winds move the protective foliage from the fruits. When septoria or blight cause leaves to drop, fruits can be left exposed to intense sun. In retrospect, I remember several consecutive days when we had some strong winds and storms that pushed the pepper plants to one side. I did stake them, but long after they had started leaning. I didn't want to snap the stem in an effort to straighten the plant, so they've been sort of diagonal since the storm. I believe this is what exposed the peppers to direct sun. My tomatoes have been affected by blight, explaining why the first pickings of tomatoes have been fine, but this past week, the tomatoes have looked horrible.
- Now, when I spot a fruit that has sunscald, I can pick off that fruit in order to encourage the plant to set more fruit. Other suggestions for preventing sunscald: use a shade cloth during the hottest part of the day (realistically, I will not be diligent enough to do this), plant tomatoes upside-down, limit pruning and keep foliage healthy in order to provide shade to protect fruit.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
- birth to 5 years old. I had a stereotypical little Asian girl hairstyle (I don't know why Chinese parents do this to their kids). Bangs, about shoulder-length hair. The texture was sort of medium (not too thick or fine), and straight. The color of my hair was a dark brown. I had no thoughts about my hair, but did like to put my younger sister's hair in pink plastic rollers, and at one point, I wanted to be a hair stylist.
- 5-10 years old. During this period, I started growing my hair (b/c my mom didn't cut it, not because I had any care about it), and being the late 70's early 80's, lots of hair accessories became the norm - we would buy simple barrettes and weave ribbon through them, let the ribbon hang down a few inches and maybe add some color coordinating beads. In the younger years, used yarn and barrettes, later on, the Scrunci was invented. Soon thereafter, the banana clip was invented. Fun stuff.
- 10-15 years old. The largest amount of change probably happened during this time. I began living at the pool each summer from about 8-12 years old, and my hair color was still overall a dark brown, but also became a little brassy. I also had some lighter - almost blondish colored highlights (from the sun). Around 10 years of age, my hair texture changed dramatically and became extremely full and wavy. Towards the mid 80's, I dreaded haircuts because the hairdressers would inevitably tell me how much they loved "playing" with my hair and blow dry it waaaay up and out, with big wings on the sides and bangs that curled up. All eyes were on me as I left the joints, and I was not happy. It was Miss America hair and I hated it. Big, huge, fluffy, wavy. The exact opposite of the loose, straight, flat, hairstyles I liked. Truth be told, it was probably the typical Caucasian hair that I desired - light, wispy, soft-looking, etc. There are probably a whole host of ethnic-identity issues here, but as I said, I'm not feeling profoundish today - just wanna talk about my hair. One hairdresser told me I'd be glad to have thick, full hair one day.
- 15-20 years old. This was a time of experimentation. When I was 15, I kept only the hair on the very top of my head, but shaved the rest of my head to the scalp (picture this with my combat boots, fishnet stockings, blackberry lipstick, and black liquid eyeliner). Most of the time, I wore the top part of my hair in a braid or ponytail. I also experimented with color and tried: auburn (loved it), magenta (not me), blond streaks (including Sun-In and Frost and Tip), but most of the time, it was dyed blue-black. I liked the style of the shaved head, but also liked that with most of my head shaved, I finally got rid of the dense, heavy head of hair that I cannot stand and have fought for years.
- 20-25 years old. During this time, I'm raising my first child and ponytailing most of the time. I like the ponytail b/c I don't like hair in my face, and obviously, it's easy. I feel alert with my hair out of my face. It's not necessarily attractive, but this is also not necessarily my focus.
- 25-30 years old. More change, though not so wild. I am a busy working mom, and have starting working on my second Master's degree part time in the evenings. I spend a lot of money on a haircut, and as a result, try not to cut too often. At this point, I grow it long, long, long, then cut it chin length. Then long, long, long, then chin length. Once, I donated to Locks of Love (though they probably threw it out when they got it because my hair is still very big, frizzy, wavy, unruly, scraggly, etc.). One year, I discovered a straightening iron, which gives my hair a very sleek look, but since I have so much of it, it takes about an hour to do - an hour more than I have to invest in my hair. Ironically, it was taking me an hour to get my hair to look like the hair that most Asian people have naturally.
- 30-35 years old. I have my second child at this time, and though I'm still busy, have taken slightly more interest in my appearance. I think that developmentally, this is because I am starting to feel the effects of age. I start reflecting on the self-esteem (I'm talking purely about superficial aspects) that I lacked as a teen and wondered why I thought I looked fat in my 20's when I actually looked pretty good; about why I ponytailed it when I could have worn it down and attractively. In the past year, I have also noticed a dramatic amount of hair actually falling out. I think I've probably lost about 30% of the fullness during these 5 years. In addition, I choose to dye my hair regularly to cover the grays. So now, I'm realizing I want to take more pride in my appearance, cause giiiirrrrlll, it's fadin' fast. Around age 30, I also found an amazing hair stylist (who has since moved) who showed me how to actually work with my own hair texture instead of fighting it. So instead of pulling stunts like carefully sleeping on my hair a certain way so it will dry flat, or spending an hour with a straight iron, or shaving my head, I can use a simple product on my wet hair and let it air dry. One hour later, ka-bam! A great head of hair that is loose and wavy and sort of beach-tousled looking. The greatest thing about it is that I finally accept my hair for what it is, and have actually even come to love my hair.
While I think ANYONE who has read this post deserves an award, I am passing the Meme Award on to the following blogs - just some out of many blogs that I really enjoy!
Best in Bloom Today- Cause Lynn is totally awesome! Nuff said.
The Little Things - Julie, all-around cool person striving to do the best she can for her kids and live in an authentic way.
Gardening With Soule - I love Teresa's appreciation for and wonder of the world around her.
Arabella's Garden - I really relate to L'il Ned's sense of fun and her down to earth self.
Joel the Urban Gardener - Who makes any urban gardener or Marylander proud.
Digging RI - For informative and sensitive posts typed from my second favorite state in the US.
Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel- who makes me yearn to see the world.
And because I'm not sure Bay Area Tendrils will post non-travel related things, I'm allowing myself to add an 8th:
A Faerie's Garden - a really amazing balcony gardener and cupcake baker!
Here are the guidelines:
1. Link back to the person who gave you the award
2. Reveal the 7 things about yourself
3. Tag 7 other bloggers at the end of your post and link to them
4. Let each blogger know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. Let the tagger know when your post is up.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Here's the rundown on canning night:
- 8:30pm to 8:35pm - figured out how to jerry-rig a rack to put on the bottom of the pan. I ended up using screw rings tied together with yarn.
- 8:35pm-9:15pm - cut tomatoes (my own heirloom beefsteaks). I really can't tell you why it took so damn long to cut the tomatoes.
- 9:15pm-9:30pm - gathered the rest of the ingredients (white wine, white vinegar, dried basil, dried oregano, water, my own ajo rojo garlic, sugar...
- 9:30pm to 10:10pm - washed and heated glass jars and lids, and also cooked the liquid and herb ingredients.
- 10:10pm to 10:30 - filled jars. Since I was not using a true canner, and only my large pots and pans, I could only process three jars in each pot! I had 3 burners going to process my seven half-pint jars.
...and also balsamic vinegar.
- 10:30-11am - processed the three batches of bruschetta
- 10:50pm-11:15 - cooled jars and cleaned up a bit
Total time involved: 2 hours and 45 minutes!!!
Here is the finished product - a gorgeous little jar of bruschetta. The plan is to give as gifts (to very special people!) along with some french bread or crackers, and a little bottle of olive oil.
How I calculate the cost for each $24 jar of bruschetta - my hourly work wage (I would imagine my free time would cost even more though!!!), the cost of jars, new tools (a kit that contains a jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter, etc.), vinegars, wine, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. I didn't even calculate the "cost" of my tomatoes - always a precious commodity in the Greenish Thumb garden in August when blight, pests, neglect, take over. Each tomato could easily be a $64 Dollar Tomato, though I only used a market price to calculate my cost.
As I conclude and reflect on the business of canning...
Along with some very beautiful and certainly costly little jars of bruschetta, are many questions. First and foremost, why would I ever want to do this messy and labor intensive project again?
I do recognize that much of what slowed me down was my lack of experience and the fear that was put in me by the book I read on preserving. I stood with a kitchen full of measuring cups, timers, pots, and pans having learned that if every minute detail is not followed exactly, the jar will burst, or I will feed my family botulism spores.
Though I basically read a 2 inch book cover to cover (including most of the recipes) before I began, now as I conclude, I am left with more questions than answers:
- Does a concave seal mean there's nothing to worry about with regards to the seal? Ever?
- Is it ok to see very tiny air bubbles near the top of the jar?
- Is it possible to deviate ever so slightly from the recipe - for instance, by using fresh instead of dried herbs?
- Can I stack jars in a canner?
- How can I chop tomatoes more efficiently!?
- Should I buy a canner?
- Will I ever gain confidence using the jar lifter?
- Is my fear that glass will explode into a million shards all over my kitchen warranted?
- Was I justified in screaming at my child, and later my husband, when they got too close to the jars right after I JUST said, "Don't touch the jars for 24 hours or you'll mess up the seal and all my hard work will be for nothing!"?
Any ideas, tips, comments, thoughts would be appreciated!!!
Friday, August 21, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Toss together in a large bowl:
- french bread cubed and sauteed in a pan with olive oil and chopped garlic
- tomatoes cut into wedges or large chunks
- sliced fresh mozzarella - I aim for large bite sized pieces
- basil snipped into thin ribbons
- very thinly sliced red onion
- a very generous amount of balsamic vinegar drizzled on the salad to taste
The bread will soak up the balsamic vinegar and juice from the tomatoes. Feel free to add an extra drizzle of olive oil if you like.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
One point for the rodent:
One point for me:
Stay tuned to see how this match ends...
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
The peppers are first rinsed and dried gently and thoroughly. I read about a few different methods of drying peppers, and decided to experiment. I strung some up with thread to air dry in the house (more below), but the quickest method was to use the oven. The lowest setting my oven would allow was 170 degrees, and this temperature was just right. I cracked the oven door to allow for a little air circulation. Here are the peppers ready to be dried in the oven. Notice there is room around each pepper, and that they're not touching. The larger pepper (I have yet to figure out what type of pepper it is, but it's a spicy one) was cut in half to speed drying. You can discard the seeds, but I wanted to keep the seeds for more heat in my ground pepper. ***Caution: when cutting hot peppers, it's a very good idea to wear rubber gloves as the capsaicin remains on your skin for a long time (like when you're eating something that's finger lickin' good, or like when you're putting your contacts in. Ouch).
The burgundy gaillardia...
Keys of heaven in the foreground and ever-reliable moonbeam coreopsis
A rose here and there...
Non-stop blooming marigolds and the planter in the background. My upright piece in the planter is the asparagus fern, which I'm not completely happy with - though the foliage is interesting, it does not provide the height I was looking for.
Window boxes - struggling, but these flowers are survivors!
And in the shade garden, the new astilbe...
Friday, August 14, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
- This Southern Live Oak is approximately 1500 years old.
- The Angel Oak is 65 feet tall and 9 feet in diameter.
- The largest limb is 89 feet long.
- This majestic tree creates 17,000 square feet of shade with its canopy.
- Angel Oak's name was derived from Angel Estate, however, local folklore tells stories of ghosts of former slaves appearing as angels around the tree.
- Angel Oak is the oldest living organism east of the Mississippi River.
- Angel Oak is located on John's Island, South Carolina and is owned by the City of Charleston. It is an admission free must-see when you're in or around Charleston.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Here's what the research shows: the palm is a Pindo Palm tree, aka Jelly Palm Tree if you're from Florida, or aka Pindo Date if you're from the Deep South. I did find a recipe for Palm Jelly, appropriately from The Post and Courier, a publication out of Charleston, SC. The original article "Palm Jelly, One of Mother Nature's Tasty Gifts" from The Post and Courier contains other interesting recipes, and for my anonymous bacon fat loving friend, even lists a recipe that calls for a cup of bacon fat. Oinky tasty!
As we were on the island, landscapers were removing the fruit bunches. Apparently, in the landscape Pindo Palm fruit can be a "nuisance" since they fall, become a mess, and are very attractive to wild animals. According to the recipe below, it may have been prime time for us to harvest the berries for jelly, as the fruit were beginning to fall from the palm. Here is more information and the recipe for Palm Jelly as copied from Teresa Taylor's original article. Next year I will try this for sure...
Chris (Chris Nietart is a Post and Courier reader who contributed the recipe) says the jelly is great on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, with cream cheese on an English muffin, and also makes a nice glaze for poultry and sweet potatoes.
Palm Fruit Jelly
5 cups juice (see cook's note)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin
5 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon butter, to prevent foaming
Cook's note: Gather fruit when the first fruit begins to fall from the tree, Chris says. People are happy for you to take it, especially if you give them a jar of jelly in return. I collect it in a plastic clothes basket and let the fruit ripen outdoors until it begins to fall off the stalk, usually in a day or two. I covered it with screening this year to keep flies away!
Rinse the fruit thoroughly; it is not necessary to remove the 'caps' on the fruit as they will cook off. Fill a large pot with the fruit leaving several inches at the top. Cover the fruit with water, bring it to a boil, and then cook at medium for 1 hour uncovered. Let the fruit cool down for an hour. To collect the juice: Scoop portions of fruit and juice into a jelly bag over another container and squeeze the bag to get the juice, some of it will appear thick, and then discard the pits. (This is the messy part). You may notice that your juice may vary in thickness, and you can combine all of it and stir to get a more homogenous batch before you begin the jelly making. As I measure for each batch, I sieve it through a cloth baby diaper (purchased new for this purpose) to remove any small bits of pulp.
To make jelly: In large pot (pasta size) combine palm juice and lemon juice, and stir in box of pectin, using a whisk. Heat to a boil and stir in sugar and butter. Bring mixture back to a boil and turn heat down to medium high and continue to cook for 13-15 minutes. Monitor closely so that it does not boil over. Palm jelly requires longer cooking time than other jelly.
Pour jelly into half-pint sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace, and process for 5 minutes.
Thanks also to Virginia Edmonds of Ladson, who sent a copy of a Post and Courier article from 1979. The recipe was similar; however, it did note that if the fruit mixture fails to jell, it's delicious over pancakes, waffles or ice cream.