Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Bath of Picked Failure

Last week I posted about our abundance of Poona Kheera cucumbers.

So, Sunday afternoon my wife and I decided to make up a batch of pickles, 7 jars worth. We found a recipe online, washed cucumbers, washed and sanitized jars, heated lids, made the brine, all of that wonderful stuff. (And by we, I mostly mean Andie did the work while I sat at the table and looked up what else we could pickle).

Cukes were stuffed into the jars; brined; lids put on. Jars set into the boiling water, place the lid back on the pot.

I think I hear a sound. Lids on the jars sealing, I wishfully think to myself.

The timer ticks for ten minutes. Then, the moment of truth:

Now, I'm no expert when it comes to canning, but I just don't think that's what pickles are supposed to look like.

My guess is that we had allowed the jars to cool off too much before placing them into the water bath, so upon entry to the hot water the glass cracked and eventually just fell apart. It was certainly disappointing, but, you live and you learn.

We did salvage three of the seven jars. Perhaps in another week or two we will crack one of them open and see if they are any good. If so, I will link to the recipe we used here, and hopefully we'll have enough cucumbers to take another stab at this game!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Poona Kheera Cukes

The humidity is in full swing here in Northwest Iowa, as temps have hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit the past couple of days, with heat indexes approaching and surpassing 115. Most of the garden is loving it. (We did have to say goodbye to the zucchini plant, the place it was in was semi-shaded and it didn't like that too well.)

While there are a few things coming ripe at this point, such as green beans, and a few cherry tomatoes, the main star of the show has been cucumbers. For some unknown reason, I thought I needed like 8 cuke plants. These are spilt roughly half and half beteen "traditional" green slicing cucumbers, and Poona Kheera cucumbers. While I have only picked a handful of the regular cukes, the Poona Kheeras are going absolutely gangbusters.

If you aren't familiar with these cucumbers, they grow in a very pale yellow/green color, but turn brown upon maturing, taking on an almost potato-like appearance.

They are excellent for slicing and eating, and I anticipate that they will hold up well for pickling, which we will be trying out in the days and weeks ahead. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

On Gardening

Note: This post originally appeared at Stopping to Think on May 30, 2015.

This something of a procrastination post. I have far more important things to be doing. Yet here we are.

I love gardening. That is not to say that I am a gifted, skilled, or even particularly competent gardener. I just enjoy it.

As I took a walk around my neighborhood this evening with my pipe stuffed with some Old Shenandoah tobacco, and eventually wound up back in my yard, I had a few rambling thoughts about this activity, at least as it exists in my life. Gardening is far from cost effective. Every time I endeavor to start a garden, my rationale is that I will be saving my family all sorts of money in the long run. Sure, I have spent forty plus dollars in seed and at least that again in topsoil, compost, and potting soil, but surely there will be a payoff, right? Then I realize that I have planted the sorts of things we tend to eat...cabbage, spinach, lettuce, zucchini. Do you have idea how much produce of that nature you can buy for eighty dollars? A lot.

But homegrown things taste better. I'm not sure that this is entirely true, either, though it surely seems to be. One's own sweat, cash, and tears (anytime it hails or gets too hot) seem to add an extra zing of flavor to any produce one produces with one's own hands. Of course I'm not actually producing any of it.

That's part of the wonder of gardening, part of what brings so much joy. It seems like magic. You take a seed. You put some dirt on top of it, and either soak it with water or let the rain do that for you. Then, a few days, a few weeks, or (in the case of my lettuce) over a month later, green things, totally unlike that seed, magically start springing forth from the earth. Over the course of time those little green things take on a wholly different shape, and you begin to reap their benefits. Crunchy red lettuce. Crisp green cabbage. Crunchy purple carrots. Yes, I planted purple carrots. If I were to take someone from Mars, someone who had no experience having seen and assumed the way plant life on Earth works, and explained to them this process, they would look at me like I'm insane. Because who would ever think a tiny white seed would jump into being a three foot tall plant with edible red fruit hanging from its vines? That is insane. But that's what happens.

Gardening teaches me a lot of things that feel very valuable as I begin to raise my children. There is the substantial upfront investment. But that on its own, if left without further care, is meaningless. There is the continual weeding, thinning, pruning. Removal of what is excess and unhelpful. The encouragement and nourishment of that which is healthy. Careful watering, fertilizing, and praying that it all isn't in vain. Patience, because things don't happen nearly as quickly as one would hope. And hopefully, one day, payoff. Fruit. And since I've planted all heirloom seeds, hopefully fruit that will be produced over and over for many years and generations to come.

Friday, July 15, 2016

What's this blog about?

This blog is intended to give you a peek into the experiences my family and I have had and will have as we adventure through this world, primarily our backyard, one cucumber at a time. I am by no means a master gardener, nor even a particularly good one, but I am learning. And as I learn anything I tend to write about it, but this content seemed a little far afield of my main blog, Stopping to Think. Not that you can't think in the garden, I certainly get plenty of that in.

You can expect posts about once a week, most likely on Thursdays, though I can by no means guarantee the day. My plan is to walk through the different parts of the growing season, the off season, infrastructure building (raised beds, irrigation, etc.), and just random thoughts which occur to me on the topics related to gardening. I will also be likely to pass along information which I find helpful, be they in the form of books, articles, podcasts, or whatever else.

Here's to healthier days ahead!