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Showing posts from October, 2016

Harvesting Bottle Gourds

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This year, we used a little extra square footage of ground gained by eliminating the cranberries to plant some bottle gourds. These are purely decorative, and I didn’t have much of a plan in mind — other than to see if it could be done.

This photo was taken near the end of September or the beginning of October — quickly, as the bottle gourd bed was right next to the yellow jacket nest. Though we had a bunch of baby gourds back in July, several shriveled and died back during the droughty summer. 
We ended up harvesting two. 
Though we have been threatened with a frost or freeze several times this fall, it hasn’t yet come to pass. Still, I brought in the last pumpkins, squash, and gourds about a week ago, and they are sitting in the dining room to cure by the heat register:

This plan ordinarily works quite well, but our furnace is broken! We’ve been muddling through with long underwear, blankets, and a space heater until the repairman can make it here on Tuesday — and we’re lucky that …

Making Limoncello

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Back in the summer I fell in love with a new drink that made quick work of a bottle of homemade limoncello I had received as a gift. Eager to continue enjoying my Sunshine Spritzers, I hit the liquor store for a bottle of limoncello — only to discover that the commercial stuff is pretty terrible.

So, like most things in life, if you want it done right, you need to do it yourself (doubly true when your limoncello-making friend moves away). Luckily, it’s pretty easy to do:

First, I had to zest 10 lemons, which is by far the hardest part of the job if you are elbow grease-averse. (I am not.) All the zest went into a big half-gallon Mason jar, along with a liter of vodka:


I put on a lid and let it sit for a couple weeks in a fairly dark corner of the kitchen. In that time, all the essential oils from the lemon zest were infused into the alcohol.
When I got around to the next step, I made a simple syrup of 3 cups sugar and 4 cups water (boiled for 15 minutes without stirring).
When that c…

Our New Gardening Tool

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Throughout most of the summer, the lack of rain meant that there were hardly any weeds to pull — a much-appreciated silver lining to the drought. 
Even so, crabgrass managed to take hold on the patio quickly with just a little rain in September to get it started. Since summer was mostly over and we weren’t spending much time eating outdoors anymore, we mostly ignored it. 
Not surprisingly, it got out of hand.
The state of the patio was far too embarrassing for photos, but here’s a sense:

Imagine this time about 50, and you’ve got an idea of how awful it looked.
It’s all gone to seed now, which means that when we finally got out butts in gear to pull it out, this happened:

Thousands of seeds falling between the cracks in the bricks is bad news for next year. So Kirk decided on an unconventional weed-killing method:

That’s our Shop-Vac, commissioned to suck up all the seeds before they could work their way into the cracks or around the rest of the yard or garden on the wind. Hopefully …

The Catawba Grape Harvest

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This year’s drought wreaked havoc on our usually very reliable Concord grapes:

As you can see, they shriveled and died on the vine. At least the birds are enjoying a feast of raisins.
On the bright side, our Catawba vines had never given us more than just a few bunches in the past, but they seem to love the dry weather:

There are still some green ones in the mix, but with temperatures cooling and daylight waning, we picked them at the bend in the road between September and October.

After we cut the ripe bunches and left them available for eat out of hand for a week, I decided we needed to process them. The fruit fly situation gets out of hand quickly if you let it, and these are seeded grapes, so they’re not that fun to eat anyway. 
So I pulled every last one off of their stems and made Catawba grape jelly. There was just shy of three pounds when that project was complete, so I raided the fridge for some Himrod grapes from earlier in the season to add to the mix. 
The jam making proces…