Monday, July 26, 2010

Late season garden

Perhaps you're thinking that's not a very impressive picture. But consider that a mere hour and a half before, that ground looked something like this:

Actually, even that picture was after about 20 minutes of weeding. I forgot to get a true "before" picture. This is a community garden plot that I and others have tended (or not) for the past three years. This year, there was some delay in getting it started, partly due to the fact that the building behind it was scheduled for demolition. As you can see, it's still standing, along with the painted "telegraph office" announcement that probably looked funky at one point in time.

I was so impressed by the mullein that I had to leave it standing as well. Anyway, then there was a misunderstanding about whether another party wanted the plot, and several weeks later, at the end of July, feeling guilt-ridden at its unsightliness and unable to let a little piece of land on which I could grow MORE vegetables go to waste, I cleared the plot and re-planted.

I have no idea whether it will produce or not. I mixed in quite a bit of compost and planted mustard and turnips, which should be fine, as those are supposed to be good for fall harvesting. I also planted some beans with short growing seasons (55-60 days). I have no idea if they will do well or not, but at least it's better than the overgrowth of weeds.

Someone planted daylilies somewhere along the way, so this is what it looked like when I left. Mullein is supposed to be a good dye plant, so maybe I'll grab some of my natural-color yarn and give it a shot!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

DIY canning labels

Half the time, my preserves, jams, and pickles wind up sitting on the dining room table for weeks, simply waiting for me to stick labels on them. More often than not, I've run out of the store-bought labels and it takes me that long to get to the store.

But thanks to a tip from the HomeGrown community, as long as I have a package of sticker paper for my printer, I can get more labels any time I need them.

Shown above are labels from Homegrown as well as A Sonoma Garden. And here's another idea which uses card stock instead of sticky labels.

Oh, and that super neat hand-writing. Not mine. These jars a joint effort with me and T.; I pick and/or purchase the fruit, chop/hull it, make the jam, process the jars in a water bath, and print out the stickers. She writes the label, much more neatly than I ever could. Sounds like a good deal, yes?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Heat wave survival tips

After reading this interview with the author of the book "Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer)," I am more determined than ever to avoid air conditioning when possible. Based on the people around me, I seem to be more affected by heat more quickly than others, and I have developed some coping strategies.

In no particular order, here are Julie's Top Heat Wave Survival Tips.

1. Find a body of water. Play, boat, kayak, lounge. I am a huge fan of kayaking, and there are several places in the Rochester region. I wrote about a favorite trip here. The picture above is at Keshequa Creek in Sonyea State Forest.

2. Make a refreshing drink. I will soon be trying Frappucheapo. Meanwhile, a household favorite is herbal lemonade. Steep about 3 cups of lemon balm or mint (easily...too easily...grown herbs in any garden or pots) in a gallon of water for a couple of hours. Add one cup of lemon juice and sweeten to taste. I use a couple of tablespoons of honey or agave nectar. Incredibly refreshing!

The lemon balm would take over my driveway if I let it.

3. Window fans. We have 2 in our bedroom. Blow the hot air out during the day; turn around and blow the cool air in at night. I can't tell you how wonderful these are.

4. Spring rolls. When it's too hot to even grill, my standby is either a big salad, fruit, or if I have a little energy, spring rolls. These can be made quickly with whatever you happen to have around. I keep the wrappers on hand, and fill with some combination of lettuce, herbs, tofu, veggies, and/or cellophane noodles (which don't have to be boiled, just soaked briefly in hot water, so you don't even have to turn on the stove). Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

5. Public library. Or an air-conditioned public space of your choosing. You could go to a coffeeshop or movie, but libraries are so wonderful, and FREE! Remember libraries? That's where we went to read things before we had the internet. Check them out!

6. Take some cues from pre-AC days. People kept their windows closed to keep the cool air in, drank lots of ice water, took it easy during the heat of the day. I recently visited Chautauqua Institution, where most places don't have AC. Their tree-lined streets made it feel quite cool, and notice the awnings on the houses, which also keep the sun away.

Feel free to share other survival tips in the comments! I'm sure I've left many out!


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