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To grow beans and peas, you need a sturdy system of trellis to hold up those heavy plants. This year, we tried something new. Instead of three poles that meet at the top like a teepee, we made a series of poles in lopsided x-shapes. Each pair of poles is screwed together at the top to allow the poles to scissor to adjust to the row. The ends of the stakes are driven partially into the ground, but not pounded. Instead, we took 1.5′ wood stakes and pounded them in alongside the bottom of the larger stakes. Then we ran two screws through to join the short, pounded-in stake to the longer, above-ground poles. The pole sets are every 4′ and joined by a long pole screwed into the top of the x-shape. They also have short screws sticking out every 6-8″ on the side of the pole that faces outward. These screws are what the jute twine is wrapped around to make the trellis. At the end of the season when we’re done, we can cut the twine off and burn it with the remains of the plants. Easy clean up.

Here is what it looks like tonight. It’s raining, so I’m sure I’ll be going out to train another foot of new vine growth tomorrow. Beans go nuts in the rain!

We also have trellis for peas in the back. That was my dad’s idea, and I will never do it again for peas. It’s just T posts every 10′ with chicken wire tied loosely to the poles. Luckily these varieties of peas only grow 2-4′. My Aunt has the same set-up with long-vining peas and the weight of them is tipping over her sturdy T-posts as if they were made of taffy.

The cucumbers are on a trellis that I got at a store a few years back. It’s working perfectly for them. I have to tie the cukes up and keep them trimmed to allow sunlight and bees access to the flowers. This has been my most successful year with cucumbers, and I’m fairly sure the trellis is the reason why. I use jute to tie them up somewhat loosely.

The melons are using the garden fence as a trellis, and it seems to be working so far. Many flowers, but no fruits. Hopefully they take off soon!

By the way, my green beans and late-night pickles turned out lovely!  They’ll be wonderful to dig into this winter.

So a funny thing happened with that house I put an offer in on. I offered full asking price with a large amount of earnest money and 20% cash down. The other offers came in under the asking price with lower down and lower earnest. But for some reason my offer was rejected and the sellers are countering one of the lower offers. No idea what’s going on. The only thing I can think of was that the seller’s agent wanted the lions share of the payment so he is taking on both the seller and buyer agent parts in the transaction. Maybe he didn’t even show the sellers my offer. Who knows?

So we’re moving along. I had an apartment lined up in case we couldn’t find a house fast enough. Back into another apartment. I hate even writing those words. Apartments are anathema to the way we live. They’re confined, have no privacy, can’t be changed or worked on or improved in any way, and above all there is no land to work. My parents have already said that the garden is still mine. I’ll probably make the 2 hour drive here a few times a week to get produce for canning and eating, but I would have loved to have a plot of land of my own to work with next spring. And I would have loved to get a start on chickens this winter. It takes so long for them to start laying. Guess I’ll just have to find a local farm over that way to get eggs from in the meantime.

It’s disappointing, but that’s life. We do the best with what we have, and keep dreaming about the rest.

On a different note, the garden is going nuts! I’ve made a dozen pints of pickles, and tonight I’m starting on canning beans. Look at all the beans we got from just leaving the plants alone for one day…

Those are cucumbers, then Dragon’s Tongue beans, then some plain type of heirloom green bean. To can the beans, I rinsed them clean then set them in some salty ice water for the afternoon. I think this step ensures that you have crisp beans instead of sogged out, nasty things. When I had free time in the evening, I got my jars ready (washed them, then boiled them in water and a dash of vinegar) and quickly cut the beans up to 1-2″ pieces (leaving off the stem and blossom end). 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt went into the bottom of each hot jar, followed by as many bean pieces as I could pack in there. Over the top I poured plain, boiling water. I cleaned the rims, popped on some heated/sterilized lids, screwed on the rings, then processed the jars in a pressure canner for 20 minutes at 10#. As I write this, the stove is off and the pressure is slowly dropping. I can’t wait until the pressure hits 0 so I can take the lid off and see how all 7 pints turned out!

Important Note: NEVER water bath can green beans, as you risk allowing the Clostridium botulinum bacteria to proliferate inside your families food. Even after pressure canning beans, you may get a can that hisses a bit too much, bulges, or explodes upward when you open it. That is a danger sign. Throw any offending cans/jars of beans into the trash immediately, and sterilize all work surfaces. Botulism is not something you want to inoculate your loved ones with.

The unthinkable has happened. We actually found a house that we like. Not only like. I LOVE this place, and the acreage. I’m sure my husband will, too. It’s on 10 acres, about 60% of which is open field and the rest wooded. The house itself is 1300 sq ft, heated with a central wood stove, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a huge sun room that faces south. A corn field borders one side, woods are across the street, and the neighbors house on the south side isn’t even visible from the house. It wasn’t even on the market long enough for them to put a sign in the yard and they had two offers. I put ours in last night. Now all we can do is cross our fingers and wait for a few days. The agent said we should hear back before Friday.

If you click on this picture, it’ll take you to a bigger version. In it, you can make out the fenced-in garden area in the SE corner of the field. The posts are probably 10′ high, and I’d estimate the area is 75’x150′. You can also see the shed that sits next to the house in the foreground. Looks a bit aged on the outside, but the inside looks brand new.

The south side of the house, as viewed from underneath one of several established apple trees. The master bedroom is to the left, bathroom in the center, and the row of windows is the south facing sun room. There’s a small deck out back that would be perfect for outdoor breakfasts. I’m not really sure what the dug-out area was meant to be. It leads to what looks like a water feature with large stones set in a wide circle. Unfinished water feature project?

A look into the wooded section of the land. There’s a trail wide enough for a truck to drive down. It’s in desperate need of some thinning so the trees there can grow thicker, so we should be able to season some wood up for next year if we get the property. It ends in a cedar swamp a few hundred feet back. There is a deer blind in a tree (that I probably wouldn’t trust) and a deer blind on the ground (that needs a lil tlc before I’d sit in it), and there are plenty of deer in the area. Venison sausage, here we come!

Looking from the NW corner. Long driveway leading to the house, lined by some lilacs (?) and small trees. You can see a post waaaay in the back of the picture marking out the far border of the property. Not the tall electrical post. That shorter one topped with a birdhouse. There is a lot of area available to turn to hay or pasture, and no close neighbors to complain about the animals. I hear a milk cow and a couple weaner pigs in our future.

We should hear back in the next couple days whether or not our offer was accepted. I have a good feeling, though. Cross your fingers for us!

Step 1: Pick a crate full of fresh strawberries from a farm down the road. Eat copious amounts while picking. Watch your kids so they don’t take strawberries out of the neighbor’s baskets.

Step 2: Bring the red-stained kids and crates of strawberries home. Rinse them and cut their tops off. (The berries, not the kids!)



Step 3: Prepare your work area. Gather sugar, berries, pectin, freshly washed jars and lids, and plenty of towels in case you make a mess. I like to use a double layer of towels over the counter top for hot items, like when I’m filling the jars with jam. It’s also a good idea to move away any nice rugs. Replace them with towels if you don’t want to be scrubbing bits of sticky jam from the floor.

Step 4: Smash the berries. To do this you can either use a potato masher and a small bowl, doing one cup at a time, or you can use a food mill/grinder. I used the grinder attachment for my mom’s kitchen-aid stand mixer. The saran wrap is there for a good reason – when you push strawberries down the chute, sometimes the juice will ROCKET out of the grinder’s end. If you aren’t a fan of cleaning up huge, stain-making messes, I’d put some saran wrap over your catching bowl and the grinder.

Step 5: Follow the directions on the inside pamphlet for the pectin. This recipe called for 5 cups of smashed berries, 7 cups of sugar, and a tablespoon of butter (to keep the foam tamed). First, I heated the fruits, pectin, and butter to a boil in a large saucepan. Then I added the sugar, stirring constantly, and brought it to a rolling boil again. After one minute of boiling and stirring, I removed it from the heat source.

Step 6: This whole time I was grinding and measuring and stirring, I had the hot water bath (my pressure canner filled halfway with water and a dash of vinegar to help with the hard water) sterilizing my clean jars. As soon as the jam finished its final boil, I removed the hot jars from the water with tongs. I lined them up and used a ladle and funnel to fill each jar to within a 1/2-inch of the top. Then I wiped the rims clean with a damp rag and popped the hot lids (take a dipper of the canner water and put the lids in a bowl with it) on. A quick screw, and the jars were ready to go back into the hot water bath, where they stayed for 10 minutes.

Step 7: Remove the hot, filled jars from the water bath. I like to set mine on that double layer of towels, and I drape another towel over top so the jars cool slowly. A quickly cooling jar is liable to crack or explode under the pressure. Leave them alone for at least 12 hours. You’ll hear popping sounds. Every pop means a sealed jar. Check them the next morning. Any that haven’t sealed can go into the refrigerator to be used up right away, or you can try to re-can them in fresh jars with fresh lids.

Step 8: Kick back with your family and eat the rest of the strawberries. You can make tarts, rhubarb crunch, shortcake, muffins, pancakes, shakes, smoothies, ice cream sundaes, syrups, pies… all sorts of fun goodies. We decided to try a few of them in champagne. Oh my goodness, was that yummy! I highly recommend it. Let the strawberries soak in it for a while, then when you eat them they are all bubbly and delicious. Hoorah for strawberries!

I received a rather hostile comment the other day on my last post. It was from a person claiming to be an old neighbor, and loaded with accusations and falsities. I tracked the IP address to a certain hotel in California, and know exactly who sent it. I’m not worried about why they sent it, but I figured I should let them know publicly that any further actions could cost them. Let’s go through a fun law, shall we?


18 U.S.C. § 1028 : US Code – Section 1028: Fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and information

(a) Whoever, in a circumstance described in subsection (c) of
this section -
(7) knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful
authority, a means of identification of another person with the
intent to commit, or to aid or abet, or in connection with, any
unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or
that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local
shall be punished as provided in subsection (b) of this section.
(b) The punishment for an offense under subsection (a) of this
section is -
(D) an offense under paragraph (7) of such subsection that
involves the transfer, possession, or use of 1 or more means of
identification if, as a result of the offense, any individual
committing the offense obtains anything of value aggregating
$1,000 or more during any 1-year period;
(2) except as provided in paragraphs (3) and (4), a fine under
this title or imprisonment for not more than 5 years


I’m not into playing games. Make up another fake name to sling insults at me, and I will report you. The internet is NOT anonymous, no matter how it seems. I purposefully do not post names on here, even though I know how easy it really is to find a person’s real identity. It’s a courtesy to my family, friends, and readers. I will not post yours either.

Have a wonderful day!

July 2011

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