Tag Archives: agriculture

Killing Jack

During the summer, I am busily growing veggies and standing on sentry duty for hungry moose sneaking a snack. I have NO problem running “Mama” off with a rake in hand. Crazy? Maybe. BUT…considering gardening in Alaska means all most all plants need a three month head start before they ever see REAL dirt.

Not really.

Warm weather fruits and vegetables need to grow in a greenhouse. This is where I grow my Sugar Pumpkins, THE favorite.  🙂

Pumpkin vines

This year was the first year I had great success with these little buggers. In addition, I used a vertical gardening method to keep the vines from taking over the floor space.

Taking over is a drastic understatement, and growing them upright was the ONLY way to go! With fruit set, these vines still grew to 25ft, weaving in and out of the rope lattice I’d threaded across the ceiling.

This year they’re NOT growing past 10 ft…I’ll nip that in the bud!

Figuring it will save more energy for production.

Love them!!! It’s an instant gratification thing. They grow SO FAST!

I spend a lot of time in my little Garden of Eden. Some people look at me funny as I climb up and down the ladder, hand pollinating the babies.  LOL 🙂

OK…..moving on…I swear I’m not a whack job.

BUT someone has to love growing veggies or the rest of ya’ll would STARVE! 😀

Not to mention they make the CUTEST Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations……Easily lasting that long, and longer, without any preservation assistance.

I still have four sitting in my garden window, too small to bother processing, but serve as a nice reminder of summer.

Here you can see the FAT little seeds I saved for the 2012 garden. Given that I purchased open-pollinated seeds originally, the organic growing methods and hand pollination I am relatively assured these seeds will produce a like…off-spring???

***I’m forgetting Biology 101 at the moment.***

After cleaning all the gunk out of the middle, I lined a large roasting pan with the pumpkin, cut side down. They get about an 1/2 inch of water to soak in, a tin foil cover and “steam bath” for about an hour in a 350* F oven.

With pumpkins in the oven, I turn back to the seeds I plopped in a bowl. Wash off all of the orange….guts…..brains….whatever you call them. It’s not as time consuming as it might seem.

Well….I thought I took a picture of CLEAN seeds but apparently NOT! That’s what I get for burning through files, deleting pictures willy-nilly.  lol

Needless to say, after a simple wash, spread them on a sheet of foil to dry. This is a great activity to involve the rugrats.   Word of advice, do not use paper towel, they stick to the towel and are a b**** to get off.  Spritz the towel down with water and start all over. Learned this one the hard way.

These little guys will be bone dry and ready for storage in about 24 hours assuming a relatively dry home. Alaska happens to be classified a desert, so you might have a little longer. They should be mixed every few hours to dry consistently.

 

You can also try a dehydrator, but I would ONLY use one designed with an adjustable thermostat set to less than 100*F anything above that and you will kill the seed. ***think bath tub temperature for a kid***

 

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Once the steamed pumpkin is out of the oven, remove the cover and allow them to cool down.

 

Masochistic behavior IS the sign of a true whack job…regardless of what your husband might tell you. ***giggle***

 

 

***”Not that there’s anything WRONG with that.”***

 

 

With clean pint jars waiting on the cutting board, I start sterilizing.

Do not forget to put your lids and rings on the stove to heat up.

Sterilizing back in the day meant standing over the stove turning jars in a pan of boiling water. Burning the hell out of your fingers if you were too cheap to own a pair of tongs.

 

Now…

 

…if I have my timing down, the jars would be just finishing a quick cycle in the dishwasher with the “heat dry” on.

 

****My Mummy LOVES the dishwasher trick; she’s been standing over the stove canning veggies for a millennium. :D***

 

Instead… I happen to be fortunate enough to have an “Insta-Hot” tap at my sink, therefore I just spin the jars through that boiling water and VOILA!!!

Using my trusty funnel I fill my jars with bright orange squish…

…past the recommended fill line, as you can see, ‘cuz I’m a rebel like that.

I’ll have you know, although I joke around, I’ve NEVER blown anything up!

Weeeeelllllll, except for that one time…

…at Band Camp.   LMAO!!! 🙂

 

 

Juuuuuust Kidding!!!!! It was just the blender.

 

 

A little too much soap I’d say!!! ***snicker***

 

 

BACK TO THE ORANGE SQUISH…

With 2 quarts of water in the bottom of the cooker, I start it on low with the lid OFF while I’m running in circles.  This cuts the time waiting for everything to heat up so I can start “venting”.

 

 

At this point I would highly recommend referring to the one and only reference manual for these things…

Jars filled, hot lids screwed down with rings, and into the pressure cooker they all go.   Cook at 10 lbs of pressure for 60 minutes.

 

 

BLAM….. the finished product…

 

 

 

 

For the seeds….my first batch turned out beautifully.  Air dried by hand. I even designed a cute little seed packet in Word and printed it on leftover card stock.

 

***Yes….I’m a geek***

 

They’ve been living in the freezer for months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Batch….much like the second child…. back to the basics: get the job done!

 

They have been stored in the jar, on a shelf, in my pantry. This, I believe, was the first machine dehydrated batch. Relatively same  results as the first; beautifully fat clean white seeds.

****there’s a joke here….but I’ll leave it alone. Being a fat kid, I’d be allowed…..***

 

 

The third batch was taken from a commercial field pumpkin. Stored in a jar….air dried by hand, I think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I removed them from the fridge condensation had built up in the jar and low and behold….Black Mold!  That’s what I get for rushing the process.

 

***I should really keep notes, eh?***    Grrrrr!

In a nutshell…..either leave them out to dry (forgetting about them for a week)  OR use a dehydrator…..AND LABEL EVERYTHING!!!

Bleh….that’s all folks!

~I’m off like a crazy woman!

 

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A day in my hometown….Palmer, Alaska

I drove to Palmer, Saturday morning. It was a beautiful day for wandering around the farmers’ market at “The Barn.” This would be my first time visiting this particular venue since I usually don’t make it over to that side of the Valley on weekends. New pictures for the new blog and fresh produce for my cooking pleasures would make for a productive day, I thought. However, while random thoughts rolled around in my head, I had an epiphany…more like a “catch phrase” popped up like a bingo ball.

“…it shouldn’t be community supported agriculture, what about everyone else? It should be “Community Supported COMMUNITY”

There are so many others too small to fit in the small business mold; more like a micro-business. The people who spend every Friday in downtown Palmer at the Friday Fling, or the new Wasilla Saturday Market, just on the verge of getting their product on the shelves of the bigger boys…the small business owner with a store front.

Of course then I was flooded with ideas. The step where sustainable living goes from home to community; why not a local blog supporting local business as well? A place for promoting a broad spectrum of local business; small business events, craft fairs, bizarres, true harvest festivals, home shows and the homeschooling fairs….but how? AND the farmers’ markets are on their way out for the season.

Well, I grabbed my new best friend…a small scratch pad made from reused printer paper and a trusty binder clip. :o)

(NOTE TO SELF: Confirm pages when printing a simple recipe off a forum. I realized the printer had been going forever as it finished page 26 of 29!)

With that, I started handwriting business cards. Yeah, I know, can’t get any more PROFESSIONAL than that. Right?

Pulling up to the old colony barn, I was surprised to see only one booth, but that booth that stacked high with a smorgasbord of fresh produce from Glacier Valley Farm.

I chatted with the girls, as I took pictures, realizing they were excited about my idea too. What an awesome way to start the day. After not being able to step away without buying my favorite buttery Yukon Gold potatoes, I headed into downtown Palmer.

I treated myself to a Raspberry Mocha as I wandered into the Palmer Downtown Plaza. Next stop…the Hot Hot Chocolate Shoppe for more pictures. I couldn’t help but snap quite a few.  I must say it is the cutest little boutique chocolate shop.

The whole store has a warm, indulgent feeling. Of course, the “feeling” makes you buy an Almond Mocha Truffle.

Maybe a ginormous marshmallow …

…then sneak away with it before anyone sees you eating dessert at 10:30 in the morning.

This idea of mine may add 10 lbs. to my fanny. Well, damn it, I might just have to take one for the team.

Then I popped into the “Best Deli in Palmer” per some of the talk I’ve heard; to see a family friend and the chef of the Palmer Downtown Deli…Mr. Joseph Bates.

Well, go figure, that man with all the ideas finally took the day off. That’s what I get for dropping by unannounced, I suppose.

Not wanting to bother the staff at Turkey Red I headed down to the Koslosky’s Center. All of the shops I stopped in to visit with were warm and welcoming, however because I caught some of the owners unavailable I don’t feel right about posting the pictures of their stores, just yet.

The last shop I popped into was Sidekicks. A store that I will find time to go back and wander through again before the holidays rush sweeps me away. It is such an imaginative place.

With bits and bobs displayed in such a fun, colorful way, walk-in the door and the place just squeals happiness.

I personally fell in love with a picture of a cow. Don’t ask me why, it just looked like a cow with ponytails and made me giggle…May have to go back just for her.

I can see my husband shaking his head now.

Down the street, I went, with camera around my neck and my handy dandy scrapbook tucked under my arm. Thankfully, it was filling up with everyone else’s business cards… and someone gave me a map. My problem; I know where I’m going, I just have no idea the names of the streets.

Ah, ha…a use for the map! OK, sorry, sometimes I’m a little slow on the up take.

A short chat with the gal behind the counter at Fireside Books and she scratched their info into my book.

A girl after my own heart; she was out of business cards too. I took a few pictures around customers and shagged fanny out of there before people started asking questions I didn’t yet have answers too.

My fabulous day in Palmer ended at my favorite store, Non Essentials. I introduced myself to the owner, Denise, while she was grilling lunch for her customers, maybe her employees on the sidewalk. She’s was very uplifting and excited about my project; telling me, I needed to have a conversation with the Mayor of Palmer and to visit the Dog Fundraiser over by Rusty’s.

Holy, the Mayor! Have I told you I am a truly introverted “wall flower” at heart?? Am I getting in over my head?? ***FEAR!!***

…moving on… ***smile***

Asking permission to take some pictures of the store, she responded with “…only the organized shelves.”

Oh my goodness…whatever…have you seen the place?

I love to walk in and be lifted away by the subtle scent of the day.  The store filled to the brim with almost any Alaskan product you may need from locally made mustard and honey to jackets and scarves.

Start wishing you could sample a few of the wares and a tray of treats seems to appear around the corner.

Denise puts together beautiful displays of color and uniformity, on balance with bits of whimsy.It’s a bit of fresh air for my perfectionist side.

When visiting, take a few minutes to gaze at her wall of tea, you will always find something to keep you warm on a cool fall afternoon.

Walking through the park at the Palmer Library, I stopped to talk to a few teenagers hanging from the tree. “Are you a tourist,” they asked

“Nope, I was doing the same thing when I was your age…bored out of my mind, hanging from a tree,  in Palmer, Alaska”

That gotta a chuckle. I don’t mind teenagers as long as they don’t skulk way from adults. That just trips my warning flags.

My day in Palmer didn’t end with the “good vibe” that had been pushing me forward all morning. I walked in too a small boutique type shop next to Rusty’s Restaurant figuring I would start there and work my way out to the garden into the fundraiser. Unfortunately, the cool reception I received from the employee took me straight back to those “teenage years.” She was completely uninterested to hear anything I had to say, so I thanked her and walked outside to the sunshine and festivities.

Stunned at the attitude of the clerk I barely talked to the kids at the front booth, only to hand them my slip of paper and I walked back to my truck parked at the Depot.

Raised in Palmer, I should know the extremely conservative and skeptical attitudes of some of the people…but not as an adult. Let me say, the drive home was not as fun as the drive out.

Therefore, first thing…. I did the layout on a set of business cards…maybe next time I should wear a dress.

More later on “The Afternoon of Redemption at the Wasilla Saturday Market”