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Aug 12, 2018

Veggie Pruning and Making Fermented Armenian Cucumber Pickles

Veggie Pruning & Making Fermented Armenian Cucumber Pickles-
It was 103 yesterday, but woke up to 65 degrees this morning, what a relief! It's 12:30 p.m. and only 73 degrees, so much cooler. Dave did a marathon in the heat yesterday. I told him to wait til this morning when it would be cooler, but he was a man on a mission! He did a heavy pruning of the tomatoes vines with no fruit and tied them up more-

Yesterday you couldn't see the soil it was so overgrown!

Cuke vines tied up on the fence now, were all over the ground before 

Ditto our HUGE Italian peppers bending over to the ground, he had to stake them up again. It's always good to cut any non-productive vines out, to let the existing fruit have more sun to ripen, and let more water in. We watered heavily last night and the garden looks so much better! We'll be fertilizing the tomatoes today as well. Fast growers need lots of food...

Last weekend I ran across some small Armenian Cucumbers. I thought they would be great, but wasn't that familiar with them. I googled them and there are tons of recipes out there. I always have trouble finding nice pickling cukes here locally. They're either bad, bruised, slimy or just none to buy. Maybe next year I will grow my own. I bought a bag and today started making some fermented pickles. I combined the two recipes below to see how they would come out. I put in small, fresh dill since I couldn't find any heads to buy locally. It smells great, so it should work well for the pickles and I've used that before instead of the heads. For some reason dill is something I can never grow here and I have no idea why, must be the soil? So I basically added a small package of organic fresh dill, 3 large cloves fresh garlic, 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon of celery seed, 1 teaspoon of mustard seed, and 1 black tea bag in the bottom (for tannins/crunch)-

The rest is just 2 sliced up yellow Gypsy peppers from the garden, and the sea salt and water-

I was disappointed when I opened up the bag of cucumbers that they were getting a little slimy so I scrubbed them really well and cut off any bad spots. It was my own fault that I didn't process them last weekend since I forgot to buy the dill! I'm sure they'll be fine and fermented pickles tend to be a little softer anyway. My fermenting jar with weights works great on anything with the water lock-

I have used this fermenting jars for several years and LOVE IT! It's a half gallon w/ceramic weights-


A water lock lets the gasses escape but keeps the bad bacteria out. I put the crock on my kitchen counter, covered, and will keep an eye on them-

Soon to be pickles!!!

I wanted to add- this is so much FASTER than canning (unless you eat gallons per year) AND you get the healthy probiotics. Once you get the flavor you want, you just put them in a jar and refrigerate, they'll keep a long time. Recipes here and you can certainly modify as needed. The salt/water ratio is KEY. and Fermented Pickles w/Tea

Aug 11, 2018

110 Record High and Still Harvesting, Review Hello Fresh Meals

110 Record High & Still Harvesting-
Yesterday was an all-time record high of 110! It's just SO HOT there's no way around that. I'm working every day on keeping the chickens cooler by giving them cool snacks and treats, running the mister, watering the coop/run area well. We're both watering the gardens, trees and grass. We're still harvesting as things are picking up production in the garden. We got a couple of really big zucchinis, more tomatoes, 2 kinds of peppers. We're getting more cucumbers as well, slicing and Lemon-

Almost Pesto time!

Herbs growing like crazy!

The chickens are still laying, but not that much. We get one egg every day or two. The smoke from the forest fires combined, with the heat, that is a bit much. My allergies are crazy! Today I woke up and there was a little bit of clouds in the sky, hoping that would move some of the smoke out. It's 10 degrees cooler today, only 98! Terrible smoke still. I'm ready for Autumn!

Hawaiian Poke Bowl

Review Hello Fresh Meals
Last week I showed some photos of the Hello Fresh two dinners/for two people package that I got.
Hello Fresh Delivery They did a great job packaging everything and here's my review of the actual meals themselves.

With the Hawaiian Poke Bowl there was a little bit of dishonest advertising on their photo. It showed shaved coconut but in reality the coconut I received was almost like a granular coconut. Very small.

One thing about these meal, you use a lot of bowls to prep! Maybe it's just the way I cook, but I don't usually use 5 bowls to make one meal. The directions were pretty clear and instructions definitely made for novices. After I put all of the ingredients together, cooked the chicken and assemble the meal here's my verdict. I'm not that familiar with traditional Hawaiian foods and so maybe it's supposed to be pretty bland, but it was. I think I would have added a lot more ginger and maybe even some garlic? I don't know if that's traditional would have given it a lot more flavor. It looked better than it tasted, although the lime rice was great! I can see doing this homemade, basically making a large batch of rice, meat, nuts, and seasoned raw vegetables and then assembling for several meals. It is definitely not something I would make again as far as their recipe.

The second recipe was the Pork Poblano Tacos which I made last night. Sorry no photos. The ingredients were fine, everything all listed, but they forgot the poblano pepper! Pretty funny since it's supposed to be a poblano tacos. Since that was missing I used one large Italian pepper, wasn't quite the same. I also added a sweet Gypsy pepper. I had a feeling it was going to be really bland so I added maybe half a teaspoon, or less, of Chipotle powder. I was kind of surprised that the kiwi salsa recipe did not include a jalapeno pepper? Since I had our own home-grown right tomato I did use ours instead of theirs. One of the other things I noticed was that the kiwi they shipped was definitely not ripe. Probably shipping some of these kinds of produce you're going to have under ripe fruits or vegetables. Again the directions were clear, but the meal was basically pretty bland. Considering how many ingredients were in it, it didn't have much flavor. I did email Hello Fresh right away and said- "Hey, no poblano pepper, really?" They emailed me back within an hour and said they would give me $1.35 credit. Since I've already closed my account it can just sit there.

So my review is- Overall very well organized, well marked and shipped well. Lot's of menus to choose from. Maybe their general menu mode is to go for blander/middle of road flavors,without the punch. The addition of something with more flavor to the Poke Bowl would have made a huge difference, and the tacos as well. So if shopping is an issues, you're learning to cook, or you're experimenting, you could give it a try it. For me, I'll pass. I'll keep the menus and make again, with more flavorful ingredients, and save a lot by shopping locally. And less bowls too!

Aug 4, 2018

Blue Skies & Cooler, Homemade Chokecherry Syrup, 1st Home Grown Salad, Hello Fresh Delivery, New Chickens Update

Squirrel cooling off near mister in 100+ degree weather

Blue Skies and Cooler! 
Weather that was forecast a day or two ago turned out to be right! We had a nice cool front that came in off the Pacific Ocean and seem to move almost all the smoke out of the area and cool us down. Whenever I hear low pressure this time of year I do a happy dance. Low means cooler and sometimes wind which can be great in this kind of situation. We've been watering and watering to keep everything alive and the triple temperatures. Anya still loves laying in the sun, even with the heat, the weirdo-

It was a really nice to be in, and out, of the house and do little projects. Here's some random projects I tackled....

Dave and I wound up having the same identical eyeglasses cases from Costco, which caused some confusion. I started thinking of a way I could put something colorful on mine. I decided not to buy anything, but instead pulled out some nice blue and white French plaid ribbon. A few cuts, a little liquid nails and I can certainly tell now which one is mine!

I also made some chokecherry jelly today syrup, see below.  Hard boiled some fresh eggs in my little Egglette cups, works brilliant! Time for deviled eggs, yum. We went out to a late lunch at Kilted Kod, a food truck that has the best fish and chips I've ever had anywhere. They use big, juicy chunks of Cod, handmade and cooked to order. Very light and crunchy batter, just incredible. According to local people from the U.K. it's very authentic. After lunch we stopped at Goodwill and found an amazing gift for one of our grandchildren. While I don't think my kids usually read this blog I'm not going to post what it is until after we give it to him. But it was an amazing score!

Tonight we sat on the back porch and just enjoyed the cooler weather. We have a couple of hummingbirds that come to our feeders on a regular basis. We have two and every three to four days I mix up new hummingbird food. Basically it's three parts water and one part sugar dissolved well and cooled. We have lots of plants that are blooming now to also provide natural food. The smoke started rolling in a bit this afternoon, but at least it's cooler, breezy and the smoke is much less than it was. Forecast for some possible rain tonight! Praying for NO lightning! We have enough fires as it is.

Homemade Chokecherry Syrup-
I was thinking we would have a really nice harvest of Chokecherries this year to make more jelly with. In the past we've had a Qt or more. I have made some jelly before and it has a wonderful citrus type flavor and beautiful color. Dave picked everything off the shrub and sadly there was only about one cup total of chokecherries.

With that small amount I decided to just make a very small batch of syrup for pancakes and waffles. Basically you clean the choke cherries, cover with a little bit of water and bring to a boil and simmer until they're soft. I was lucky these chokecherries were actually very juicy!

After you boil them you pour the liquid and chokecherries through a sieve. I took a big, flat metal spoon and pushed the chokecherries and the juice through the strainer into a bowl-

I worked on that for about a good 5 to 10 minutes until there was some juice in the bottom along with some pulp. I had a little trouble deciphering how much sugar to put into such a small amount of juice. I wound up with it a little bit too sweet so I added some store-bought boysenberry syrup. I brought that to a boil as well with the sugar. Then I poured that back through the strainer another time and was able to get more chokecherry juice out of the mix. I wound up with a half small jelly batch-

It's a tart version of boysenberry syrup, but hey it does have a lot of vitamin C! We'll hope for a better harvest next year. I'm really happy at least we have lots and lots of apples and pears on the trees.
Recipe here Mennonitegirlscancook

1st Home Grown Salad- 
We had our first nice summer garden salad with homegrown tomatoes, Lemon and slicing cukes and basil, added some chunks of avocado, red wine vinegar and olive oil, above. Our daughter Angie stopped by, gifting us with three HUG yellow squash and one big cuke. We'll be eating those!

We have some small zuccini almost ready. Looking forward to more fresh tomatoes to make some salsa.

Hello Fresh Delivery-
Today I got the test order from Hello Fresh in the mail. I haven't cooked the two meals yet but here's a preview of what I got and how they shipped it-

The box came very well insulated with cellulose packing material as well as two small and two very large ice bags-

The upper two bags of food whole nice and cold-

The two meat packages were down in the bottom next to a frozen ice bag also very very cold.

There were materials inside on how to cook each of the meals as well as photos of the finished product-

Great directions if you don't know how to cook 

I'm cooking this first!

I bought these with a $50 off coupon so the total for two meals for two people was $15. $15.00 for four meals, not bad! I can cook from scratch cheaper, but this was a treat/experiement. We will definitely reuse the four ice bags, especially the two really large ones. We're going on a road trip soon and those will be great to put in the cooler since they are huge. As soon as I cook those meals I will post a review, but the ingredients look really great! Watch for more updates!

New Chickens Update-
The three new chickens are working out really. They got to free-range with the 2 big hens tonight and they all had a great time. All very healthy and curious and the flock pecking order seems to be settled in. While they do tend to run away from the two big hens, for no particular reason, probably just from sheer size. Annie, the white hen is definitely the braver of the three and seems to be the natural leader. It will be interesting over time to see if she butts heads with Rosie, the big Red Rhode Island Red. She's been the dominant hen for quite a while now, so time will tell.