Rosey the Riveter

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Crazy Busy!

Wanted to take a few seconds out of my day to post a bit about what's going on at the Homestead (besides the end of the school year hectic schedules...)

 Teacher, librarian, and bus driver gifts are made and wrapped.  Teachers are getting two different types of Strawberry Jelly (the kids got to pick from the Jelly Cupboard), some dishtowels with Strawberry fabric added by me, and some homemade cards that say "Thanks Berry Much".  I'm glad I started these early.  It was nice not to have to stress too much about getting it all together.  Curling all the pretty ribbon on the giftbags, however... not so nice.
Peaches have arrived!  There is a new peach farm right down the road from me.  Definitely excited about getting a bushel or two when I have more time to process them.  These went into the freezer.  I flash froze them in the cupcake pan and then bagged them up after they were frozen solid (they were soft and juicy to begin with!)  Some others became peach butter.
You're looking at 15 pounds of Vidalia onions, dehydrated.  Do yourself a favor and put the dehydrator outside if you attempt this!  Now I'll be able to enjoy my favorite onions all year round.  Due to their high sugar content, they don't store well, but they dehydrate beautifully and are super in soups and casseroles, etc.
The blackberries are also here!  Most of these went in the freezer, for when I have more time.  But some went in THIS RECIPE for Spiced Blackberry Preserves.  The strawberries went straight into the dehydrator.  I am almost positive they are the last of the season for us.
This is my new shelf for storing jars.  Well, the shelf isn't new... it's been in the laundry room holding excess kitchen items which have been moved out to the garage (lots of room out there now after our yardsale junk is gone!)  Hubby added the wire to prevent the jars from falling off accidentally.  And since there are no windows in there, I think it's a good spot to store them.  From left to right, Peach Jalapeno, Pineapple Coconut Jalapeno, Spiced Blackberry Preserves, and Strawberry Anise Hyssop.

More projects in the work.  Stay tuned after I take a brief summer hiatus!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Trouble in Melon Land

 Do you see what I see?
 I had to look it up, because I couldn't figure out what these eggs were.  SQUASH BUGS!  I purposely didn't plant any squash because of the Squash Vine Borer (that, and I'm the only one who eats it).  So I was surprised to learn that the squash bugs will lay eggs on melons.  Usually, they lay on the underside of the leaves.  Thank goodness this one didn't, or I never would have known they were there.
Since the only tape we had was electrical tape, I grabbed a piece and removed the eggs.  I found more once I checked underneath the leaves.  Hopefully, I got them all.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Every time we get into the hives, we inevitably have to take out some wax because the bees like to build in the most inconvenient of places.  We save the wax in the freezer in Ziploc bags (to kill any larvae in the cells and also to prevent the sugar-water-honey from fermenting.)  After this last visit, we had a fair amount of wax, so I decided it was time to make a solar melter.  With some verbal instructions from my mentor and her husband, and a tin pan from Tim and Lisa (my beekeeping partners), I rigged it up.

Using a thumbtack, I poked a few holes in the corner of the pan.  Below the holes, I placed a silicone pan.  I then propped the tin pan at an angle so the melted wax would drain to the corner with the holes.

Into the pan went the beeswax, and I covered it with a pane of glass from a picture frame.  This helps heat things up (beeswax has a high melting point) and also helps to keep out curious bees.

So, after a whole afternoon in the sun, the only thing that drained into the silicone pan was thick sugar water from the cells.  What a sticky mess.  I was ready to give up, but decided to give it another shot.

This time, I washed the wax first with warm water.  This rinsed off most of the sugar water.  I also made the thumb-tack holes larger, using a nail instead.

Although it's slow going, I am happy to report that it's working.  Beautiful beeswax in the pan:
Not so beautiful is the gross stuff that remains!  It's called slum gum.  There still a lot of wax here to be melted, but you can see all the dark gross stuff left behind.
I've got high hopes for this beeswax! 

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Few Surprises and Some Garlic

This is the little lilac I purchase back in March.  It had blooms for awhile, then they died off, as lilacs do.  So I was surprised to see that it had blossoms on it again!  Luckily, being the lazy gardener I am, I had left the tag on it.  Sure enough, it blooms several times in a season.  This was a delightful surprise!  I may even get to make lilac jelly!

Also catching my eye today was the ginger.  This is a terrible picture, but we have sproutage!  That ginger has been out in the container for months and hasn't done a blessed thing.  So now I'm excited.
The three blueberries the birds haven't gotten to:
Finally dug up some decent sized garlic bulbs!  Sometime this week I need to harvest the rest, as long as I know the rain will hold off.
Also recently harvested is a ton of beautiful lavender, but that's another post for another day.  I've got a couple different projects planned for it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lookin' Good!

You might remember me mentioning the muskmelon that popped up out of nowhere in the compost pile. 

This is what it looked like on May 11th.  Cute, huh?

This is what it looked like like just 2 weeks later on the 25th (you can see a second plant sprouted, too):

And this is what they look like one week after that, taken today, 6/1:
"Feed me!"

I am afraid!!!!  "Suddenly Seymour, is standing beside me...."  (that's a Little Shop of Horrors reference for those of you who weren't in Show Choir, or its pit band, in high school...)

My original debate was whether or not to let it grow.  Most melons are hybrids and won't bear fruit true to the original.  Some are sterile and their seeds won't sprout (obviously not the case here!).  Some will grow, but not bear fruit.  I decided to take a 'wait and see' approach... after all, it's not like there's anything going on with the compost.  So what if I can't turn it every other week.  Melons like their roots warm, and the soil has been at 80 and climbing for awhile (I know because I left the compost thermometer in the pile.)

A few days ago, I noticed it was loaded with male flowers.  The flowers were connected directly to the stalk.

But I didn't see any females and I began to worry.

However, look what I spotted today!
Can you see how the bud (which isn't open yet) has a baby melon between it and the stalk?  If the blossom gets pollinated, it will grow into a melon.  If not, it shrivels and dies.  A little internet research reveals it's typical for male flowers to emerge about a week ahead of the females.

I don't anticipate any problems with pollination (we have tons of bees, and some of them might even be my own!) but just to be sure, I think I am going to hand pollinate.  I REALLY want melons off this baby!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Butterflies Galore!

I have lost track of how many butterflies have hatched.  Each of the kids brought a chrysalis to school, and we had several hatch here.  We lost two to the cat, who figured out how to knock over the Butterfly Keeper so the velcro tab would open.  Talk about a devastated 6 year old!

This morning as I put Joanna on the bus at about 10:15 I checked and there were no newly hatched butterflies.  Then I had a non-stop day and wasn't home at all.  After the kids got home from school, we noticed Max (the cat) had jumped up on the counter and was intently eying the Keeper (now protected by a clear Rubbermaid bin).  There were THREE butterflies in there!
The girls were thrilled and couldn't wait to release them.
We only have a few more left to hatch.  It's been a great experience, but I don't know if I'll do it again in the fall.  It's a pain trying to change/clean the cage...  may be we'll let the caterpillars munch on the parsley outside and then bring them in when they are in their last instar.  They are truly beautiful and I don't care how old you are, it's a thrill to watch them take off for freedom.