Wednesday, July 29, 2009

giant tomato

we got a huge amish paste tomato. it was so large i decided to save seed from it.

these seeds will be added to the omelay christmas seed mailer.

we canned more tomatoes today.

scooping into the cooked tomatoes.

pouring them into the jars.

this is a specialized jar lifter.

it can also provide endless hours of entertainment for small children.

going into the show canner.

this baby holds fifteen quarts.

we canned twenty six more quarts of tomatoes today. we didn't get the second batch of green tomato salsa done yet. regular tomatoes take precedence over all other canning. the green tomatoes will hold for another day. i took the day off tomorrow to get a little ahead on this canning business.

i went down and got eleven bales of hay to be sure the cows have plenty of hay laying around while we are gone to st. louis. we'll have to keep the cows confined to the inner paddocks while we are gone. the outer paddocks are electric fence only.

i have decided to use my existing used steel to re-roof the garage and adjoining pantry. this will give me the opportunity to get those roofs completed much less expensively. furthermore, i'll get a little more experience before i attempt the complex roof lines of the main house. i also plan to extend the roof of the utility room to include a solar storage tank and water heater addition. i have decided on an entirely new design for my solar storage based on newly acquired materials.

with all this canning we have been clearing out the pump-house of canning jars. it will soon be empty enough that i'll light a fire under my arse to tear off and put the new roof on the thing. it needs better insulation. i have most of the stuff to do it. i just need the time. although that opens a whole other can of worms. the pump house roof will provide partial support of my solar hot water collectors.

solar facts; at our latitude 37°, during equinox the altitude of the sun is 53°, during the winter solstice the angle of the sun is roughly 29°. if my solar collectors were angled to optimize for winter solstice they would have to be sticking up at a 61° angle. i have double the square footage of collectors i need for the size tank i have.
to even out my solar gain for domestic hot water i should angle my collectors to optimize for the winter months. during the summer months a trash can filled with water will stay above bathing temperature.

just some thoughts to help me figure everything out.

pantry 09 update

life is all about our pantry right now. of course regular summer activities are happening too. my youngest, romneya martin grey omelay, will be one year old within the week. he is great, very happy and self entertaining. he has found his place here at the pile of omelays--the feistiest omelays yet. somehow he has assimilated all of the feisty behaviors of all the kids and added his own special brand of feisty for good measure. we encourage this... why might you ask?

everyone needs their super-power that they can fall back onto throughout their life. here at the pile it seem to be feisty.

tabitha has been logging a canning legend over at her blog. follows is my attempt at making a list out of it.

pantry 09
pickled beets 15 quarts
pickled beets 18 pints
plain beets 26 quarts
pickles dill spears 54 pints
tomatillo salsa 6 quarts
pickled pepperoncini 5 pints
tomatoes 92 quarts
zucchini relish 26 half pints
green tomato salsa 10 quarts

one of our rows of tomatoes was so stricken with blight we decided to harvest all of the green tomatoes from it and close that row down. it made over half a wheelbarrow load of green tomatoes. what good are green tomatoes is these quantities? our first year here we discovered a recipe from susan over at farmgirlfare. it is absolutely profound, unique, delicious and loved by all of the omelays. she calls it relish, don't be fooled by the name this is no two year-old christmas present here. we had tacos from the green tomato salsa left-overs. it is better than i remember. it is not sweet, my closest comparison is to chile verde sauce but not as spicy.

the table is full once again with tomatoes and will likely make more than 25 more quarts. we are hoping for more than one hundred and fifty quarts of tomatoes in the pantry total. canned tomatoes enter our weekly diet more than two times and could easily ramp up to three times per week minimum. three times per week means that we can eat one hundred and fifty six quarts of tomatoes. these numbers seem staggering but omelay boys are healthy eaters and never seem full.

this years pantry fervor is fueled by having been so sick all last winter. last year with a new baby, an almost completely failed garden and all of our other issues we had a tiny pantry. hence, we ate relatively poorly all winter. not this year. tabitha is also planning to make echinacea tincture (thanks tansy) very soon. this should help bolster our winter health also.

i have already started warning fellow employees that if N1H1 takes a grip and threatens pandemic to expect me to wear a mask and gloves while at work. call me paranoid but i'm not adverse to looking funny for the sake of my families health.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

seed-saving part two

tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to save seed from. they are perfect and usually pollinate themselves. there is no need to do any complex bloom protection like necessary in squash, peppers and many other plants.

we just pick the biggest fruit from the best and strongest plants. this year was a true test since there were so many rampant diseases out there. all the fruit we chose this year were unusually large. we grow our garden organically but don't have or need any certification. the term organic has become another term for corporate farms to squeeze out the little guy anyway.

just know, we don't use any pesticide or herbicide and even shy away from the natural indiscriminate alternatives like neem. our plants produce fruit because of tabitha's gardening prowess and lots of cow manure compost.

next years players

amish paste
this tomato produces large meaty fruit. it is good fresh but really shines when cooked. other tomatoes when cooked usually pale in comparison to their fresh counterparts. these amish paste were bred to be pantried-up. they are so meaty that it takes two or three times the amount of tomatoes to supply a given amount of seed. they are smooth skinned which means that they simply pop out of their skin when blanched. this is a huge time saver when canning large quantities of fruit. no need to dig out that woody stem either. simply slice off the top and pop out the fruit. the examples that we saved seed from this year were grapefruit sized.

cherokee purple
these tomatoes are considered kinda ugly. usually greenish on top passing red and graduating to a deep purple on the bottom. i find them beautiful. they, far and away, have the richest tomato flavor of any tomato i have ever tasted. these are perfect slicers, thick round slabs hiding your burger. they are well adapted to our area and given proper nutrients will fight against disease better than most. eating one of these is the best example of why store bought tomatoes shouldn't be called tomatoes. the flavor is so rich and complex that a good comparison would be the difference between a giant box of "rose" wine and a bottle of opus one. the tomatoes that we saved were large almost softball sized and true to cherokee purple type.

german yellow stripe
these tomatoes are beautiful in every way. they have a mild but complex flavor. they are stunning to look at. they are huge, we had several that were closing on two pounds. we had only one plant this year and i wished we had a whole row of them--next year. cut open is where these tomatoes really show their stuff. there is a burst of red in the center bleeding to iridescent yellow. they are so beautiful that it is almost a shame to eat them--almost. their mildness is not wimpy and bland like the waxy stuff in the store. a subtle burst of flavor explodes in your mouth from them. they are more like fish where cherokee purples would be like beef. yellow stripe tomatoes are excellent in salsa. the cilantro, onion and pepper flavors dance with these beauties to make some of the best salsa ever.

after the huge response for seed i collected extra seeds from the amish paste and cherokee purples. there are no more german stripes that are worthy of saving seed from. christmas seed packages will have fewer german stripes than the others. we had only three seeds this spring while one plant survived.

this is my second german stripe seed jar fermenting. allegedly letting the seeds ferment in this fashion kills any seed borne diseases. although, we believe that we don't have any tomato diseases that are transmitted from the seed. you can never be too careful.

these are from several large amish paste tomatoes.

toly really loves to swing. it is allegedly really great for his sensory processing issues.

sometimes you can see him grasp the rope extra tight. almost as if the spin of the earth is enough for him to handle let alone an increased g-force swing.

the kids love the trampoline. it is near impossible to get a decent photo of them with all the crazy jumping.

rome will be one year old very soon

he already is attempting the most dangerous things for his age.

he is such a happy baby

but he loves attention.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

the christmas seed card list is closed!!

wow, that was a huge response. i have other seed obligations to fulfill so i cannot promise anymore than those already in this queue.

madchemist Josh
send me an email omelay (at) gmail (dot) com containing your snail mail address and i'll collect them to be sent out by christmas along with our annual christmas card/letter

patrick, we'll get you some robust tomato plants next spring from the greenhouse

pantry work and seed saving

the pile of omelays has been aflutter with filling our pantry. our table has been covered with tomatoes for the past couple of weeks.

those two baskets regularly collect the morsels of tomato goodness. the table is the holding pattern.

this bowl is queued to blanch in that pot of boiling water just on the right.

it takes a few seconds until the skins loosen.

their next stop is the sink filled with cool water.

tabitha is slipping off the skin.

and cutting out the stem.

then quarter them to fit into the jar.

here they are cooking down a bit in our five gallon stockpot.

stir frequently.

here are the jars ricked-up for tomatoes.

steamy goodness.

here they are in the pressure canners. tabitha likes pressure canned tomatoes better. she claims that the quality is better.

notice the paper plate. during canning season we have been almost exclusively using them. sink and dishwasher space is at a premium. if we had tv-trays we would probably be using them too. remember the covered kitchen table? so far our tomato canning has culminated into over sixty quarts. we hope to double that number before we collapse into tomato stained heaps.

while my lovely wife busied herself with other mysterious canning activities i saved seed from our most glorious tomato specimens. here are two german-stripe-tomatoes that have had the skins removed. beautiful aren't they?

imagine a thick slab of this hiding your burger.

alas these will be canned as soon as i collect a little hope from them for next years garden. i slice them along their equator and jab my finger in each seedy section. the seeds ooze out into a jar labeled german-stripe.

i put the lid back on the jar and leave them to ferment for a few days. a white layer of mold covers the top of the goo. i fill the jar most of the way with water and shake vigorously. the floaty white stuff can easily be poured off along with most of the water. i usually repeat the first step two or three times until there are only clean seeds remaining. the seeds need to be strained and put on a piece of shiny paper to dry. paper towels don't work that well.

i am only saving seed from the german stripe, cherokee purple and amish paste tomatoes this year. i'll be sending small packets that contain each of these for christmas this year. if you'd like to get on our christmas mailer please comment here on my blog. i'll probably only have enough for a limited run including my prior commitments. so, first come first serve. this was a huge success two years ago with many happy seed recipients.

toly has his appointment in st. louis in a couple of weeks. he has been fine since his last episode. we will be attending the zoo while in the city. mostly we are looking forward to visiting with tansy

Monday, July 20, 2009

we might be getting some tomatoes after all

this is the third time this year that our table had been covered. we have 42 quarts canned up so far and tabitha will probably put-up another twenty eight today. we use tomatoes very frequently and can easily use one hundred and fifty quarts.

tabitha has also pickled an incredible fifty five pints of cucumbers.

this is zucchini relish.

the kittens are bonafide. they are already excellent hunters.

kassi's sunflowers that she grew from seed.

we harvested a top super from the bees. the honey is spectacular-spectacular. toly loves it and won't touch the stuff that we buy.

these amish paste tomatoes are really pumping out the fruit.

this is our second planting of cucumbers. they are already getting the wilt.

the root cellar is settling nicely. the cover of mint is really taken.

the chickens love their coop. i need to build more nest boxes soon. we have two broody hens right now and have no blood line control yet so they just sit there most of the day in vain.

these plants are doing ok. there is lots of waste from these. we won't be growing omar lebanese again.

the okra is doing fabulously.

the cow is looking pretty good too.

the garden is a complete jungle.

we are never growing melons again. we just lost our last plant the other day.

these rows seemed so wide when we first planted them. now you can barely walk between.

our peppers are putting on tons of fruit too. we'll be pickling lots of them too.

baby blue birds.

i am disappointed with this variety of pole bean. it'll probably be back to rattlesnake pole bean again next year.

beautiful foliage though.

anyone seen japanese beetles eating marigold flowers?

barring the catastrophic, we'll be getting a bunch of butternut squash.

we also made a bunch of soap. this is our best batch ever.
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