Friday, May 22, 2009

More rhubarb

I think the rhubarb we have is called "Victoria." I don't know for sure as I got my start from my mom's rhubarb patch which has been there forever or close enough to forever that I can't remember her not having the patch. And she doesn't remember the name of the variety either. So we're calling it Victoria until we learn differently.

But yesterday I stuck in two starts of "Canada Red" which should be a much redder variety. When I cook our rhubarb it usually turns sort of a chartreuse color tho when I make juice from it and drain away the solids, the juice is a pretty dark pink. Go figure.

Anyway, I was looking to increase our rhubarb production and decided if I was going to add a couple more plants I should consider a different variety. And the color was enough to sell me on Canada Red or Canadian Red (depending on who you ask for the name).

Now what are we going to do with more rhubarb? Well, pretty much the same thing we've been doing with it over the years. Make stewed rhubarb, rhubarb crisp, rhubarb-berry preserves, rhubarb fruit leather and rhubarb beverages. (See previous post "What do you do with rhubarb?" for ideas and recipes.) There's a rhubarb liqueur made with vodka that I like to have on hand and, a favorite with DS, rhubarb ade or rhubarb punch. I can even can the punch and have it ready to go straight from the jar.

This year I'm trying something a little different. When I cooked the rhubarb to make juice, instead of just separating the cooked fruit and the liquid (and tossing the strained fruit), DH ran the fruit through the ricer like we do with apples or tomatoes. Then I poured the juice into 2-quart jars and let them sit overnight in the fridge. In the morning I strained the juice to remove the sediment. I tried using a coffee filter but it was taking forever so I switched to a mesh strainer.

After straining over 10 quarts of juice, I ended up with almost 1 quart of pulp and 9+ quarts of juice.I used the pulp to make a rhubarb-strawberry fruit leather. I heated the rhubarb in a pan on low, added about a cup of honey, and stirred in maybe a quart of well-mashed strawberries. I stirred it over low heat and as soon as it appeared to be well-blended and the honey had dissolved, I put the fruit mixture in the dehydrator to dry. The rhubarb juice I used to make punch which I canned in the water bath canner. So now I can make punch and leather with one batch of rhubarb instead of doing almost the same steps twice to make two separate recipes.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Frost advisory tonight and tomorrow

DH has set out about 60 of the 144 tomatoes we started from seed back in mid-March. The sugar snap peas are looking great, the lovage is 3-feet tall and bushy and I just bought a half-dozen geraniums on sale. So what's the latest weather forecast? Frost, of course.

And yesterday's early evening storm almost destroyed the rest of the tomato seedlings. They were setting in enamel dishpans under the house eaves and we didn't realize the pans had filled with water till this morning. DS and I carefully drained the water and set everything on the grass to dry out this afternoon under the overcast sky. Some of the newspaper pots completely disintegrated and several plants had enough dirt washed out that the roots were exposed. It's mainly the Heinz F1 hybrid plums, some of the Brandywines and a few of the Yellow Pears that were affected. Almost all the Mortgage Lifters went in the ground on Friday or Saturday. I think they'll all make it but we'll put them back in the garage overnight to be safe.

DH called me from work after hearing the weather report so I'm off to gather baskets, plastic containers and some of the 2-liter bottles he's planning to recycle as individual plant waterers. (He cuts the bottom off the bottle, inverts it and buries about one-third of it in the ground to one side of the vegetable transplant. See photo below.) We'll cover each garden-planted tomato, the emerging pole beans and anything else that should be protected from frost when he gets home later this evening. Maybe the next couple of nights will be the last of the frost warnings -- and, of course, this isn't as bad as a couple of years ago when we had a HARD freeze on May 30.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

First-time caving...

But I've been assured it won't be his last.

DS and DH (in orange hat) went on another Wild GUYde Adventure with Lester Zook and a group of fellow homeschoolers. This time they explored Glade Cave in the northwestern corner of our county. A quick search online prior to the trip told me that no matter what the time of year or drought/non-drought status of the surrounding area, the cave is muddy and wet. This proved true.

After seeing the online photos snapped by other Glade Cave trippers, DS hoped they'd be able to make it to the lake room but I guess Lester considered it too long of a trek for this group of mostly first-time cavers. Plus, from some reports, after all the rain we've had this spring (wonderful after several years of drought) the water would have been up to the necks of many in the group. Maybe next time. Because I've been told several times since Monday, the day of this trip, that DS's ready to go caving again. Just as soon as we get the mud rinsed out of his clothes and shoes...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Spring Garden Update

We're finally getting rain this spring and the garden's showing its appreciation.Spinach, lettuce and radishes were on the menu by the first of April and two weeks ago we harvested the first of the asparagus and rhubarb. I even managed to stash about 2 quarts of rhubarb in the freezer but we tend to eat any asparagus available. We're a greedy bunch. [Photo shows lettuce and spinach after the fourth harvest and still producing.]

DH started bok choy, broccoli, and two types of swiss chard in the cold frames earlier this spring and has begun setting them out in the regular beds this past week. The tomatoes we seeded in mid-March are looking great and will probably go into the garden late next week. May 15 is the safe last frost date around here.

I'm starting Hillbilly Potato-leafed tomatoes for DS as they're his favorite and will also have winter and summer squash as well as gourds ready to go out in the garden beds by the end of this month when the nights should be consistently warmer.

The garden got pushed to the side the last few days as DS and DH spent Friday on a hike of Mud Pond trail with Lester Zook's WILD GUYde Adventures. The hike was supposed to happen earlier in the week but was postponed due to rain. And they went canoeing with the same group this past Tuesday -- the rain didn't bother DS in the least.
I had my own trip last weekend when a friend and I went to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival on Sunday. We left at 5am, I got back home about 7pm and it rained the whole time. The festival was oh so wet but we had a great time. Met some wonderful people at the Ravelry meetup and, of course, purchased a little fiber, too. I couldn't resist getting a skein of Blue Moon Fiber's Socks that Rock in the Hurdy Gurdy colorway -- for once I was glad it was raining as it meant The Fold's booth wasn't as packed as usual. I could even browse for a few minutes... Then I found some gorgeous dyed Coopworth wool at the Wild 'n' Woolly Farm booth and scooped it up for part of a Ravelry swap package I need to mail out this week.