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Thursday, October 14, 2021

My Week: Still No Computer

Hi friends,

I am still without a computer this week. Please forgive any strange autocorrects. I finished harvesting all of the green, unripe figs and preserved all of them as whole, sweet figs in spiced heavy syrup. As I made each subsequent batch, I grew a bit horrified by how much sugar these were using. So I’ve figured it would be wise to use this syrup as part sugar/part water in future baking. I began by trying out a spice snack cake recipe. This actually took care of 2 problems in 1 go. Not only did I use some of the syrup, but I also used some of the preserved figs in a way that my family loved. I puréed a half-dozen figs in some syrup and used in place of puréed pumpkin in a snack cake recipe. I then cut the sugar in half and subbed syrup for water in the recipe. The cake was delicious. Even my sometimes picky husband said the cake was very good. On Saturday, 1 daughter and I will pick all of the crabapples. I’ll extract the juice, using some in jelly and some mixed with commercial apple juice and spices for hot spiced apple cider.

Remember last week when I mentioned my green pumpkin in the garden? Well, guess what? I found a second green pumpkin hiding under a shrub at the edge of the pumpkin patch. So I may end up with 2 green pumpkins to experiment with. Such a pleasant surprise!

I don’t know if you know this, but the leaves on Brussel sprouts are edible — not just the sprouts. I’ve been mixing these leaves with other garden greens this month. Then Wednesday, I used only Brussel sprout leaves as a sautéed leafy green veggie. The leaves have a nice texture, neither tough nor too chewy, but still a substantial and satisfying texture. Brussel sprout plants can yield more food in leaves than sprouts in many varieties. Yet many people throw away the leaves.

The photo at the top of the post is of my indoor radish green operation. I’m growing radish greens under lights to use in salads and cooking in early November. The “pots” were made with gallon plastic milk jugs. I cut off the handle and spout, leaving a 4-inch or so base in which to fill with soil and plant with seeds. I used a corkscrew to puncture drainage holes in the bottom before adding soil.

What I like about using milk jug bases as planting containers —they are free, and they are square in shape. I can fit more planting area beneath the limited lighting space using square pots compared to traditional round growing pots. They seem to be doing well. I add a new pot of soil with seed as we finish drinking a jug of milk. I need just 1 more empty milk jug to fill out this growing space under the lights.

The Weather

The weather experts say this October has had temps more like what we typically see in November. I believe them. To combat the chilly temps, we’re all dressing in layers, plus I’m keeping a pot of hot tea in the kitchen all day for anyone needing a quick warming up. I make a large pot with 1 teabag of black tea plus a tea ball of herbs from my garden that I dried in summer. One of my favorites is peppermint and black tea. The other herbs I use in tea are black currant leaves and berries, lemon balm, cherry stems, and lavender— all are delicious on their own or when blended with black tea. And all of the herbs are free to me from my garden.

I’m also keeping myself physically active, exercising whenever I feel a chill during the day. I encourage all of my family members to move more when they’re cold, too. This winter is expected to be an expensive heating season. So we’ll be doing what we can to stay warm without breaking the bank.

A funny aside on the cool temps — the activity monitor on my phone added a new activity category. At the top of the info is a listing for “downhill snow sports distance”. I’m not sure if I accidentally enabled tracking of my snow sporting activities or this was added by some algorithm, but I find it entertaining every day as I track my steps.

The Bunnies

Despite the chilly and wet weather, the bunnies return to our front and back lawn every afternoon. They are so adorable! I totally forgive them for munching on my garden this summer. Watching the bunnies is our free entertainment each day.

Seed Collecting

One quiet, rainy afternoon, I sat down to remove seeds from the pods I’d been drying indoors. My work went something like this. With my mug of tea and a large piece of junk mail spread on the kitchen table, I brought several containers of various pods to pop open. One daughter entered the kitchen seeking a snack and asked, “whatcha doing?” Me: I’m getting next year’s garden seeds for free. Daughter: Cool. Next daughter enters the kitchen: What’s going on? Me: These are next year’s seeds. I’m popping open the pods to get them out. Daughter: Can I help? Me: Sure, just put the seeds in this envelope. Husband hears us girls gabbing in the kitchen and comes down for tea: Is this a party? Me: Just getting next year’s garden seeds, all for free! We popped open radish pods, bean pods, and pulled nasturtiums and spinach seeds off the dried vines — an idyllic sort of afternoon.

I have now collected seed from nasturtiums, radishes, spinach, green beans, bell peppers, petunias, and marigolds to use in next summer’s garden. These seeds are in addition to the seed potatoes and garlic cloves that are ready for next year.

This afternoon I’ll be baking pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies to frost and decorate Saturday afternoon. This is an October tradition in my family that goes back over 30 years for us. I almost skipped them this year then received a special request to do them again. I don’t really need a bunch of frosted cookies around, but maybe my family does for their sentimental value. Traditions — the things, rituals, and activities that uniquely bind each family together.

How was your week? Does it feel like fall in your neighborhood yet? What were the highlights of this past week?

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

One other post — Cheap & Cheerful Meals


  1. I turned several milk jugs into planters last spring and found the bottoms very hard to put holes into. I ended up using a power drill. Have fun with your cookie decorating. It's great that your family wants to continue with that tradition.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I twisted the corkscrew (on a Swiss Army knife) into the bottoms of jugs and that seemed to work better than punching or poking. You’re right that milk jug plastic is awkward to poke holes in. I’m glad the drill worked for you.
      Thank you. I’m looking forward to making the pumpkin cookies with family.

  2. Yes! It FINALLY feels like fall. The past few weeks have been up and down between low 80's and mid 90's, but the next 10 days' forecast only has one high of 81 and everything else highs of 70's and low's in the 40's. My green beans had slowed on production when the temps went back up to the 90's, but I'm expecting to have loads over the next few weeks now with cooler temps. I've already canned about 27 quarts, have another canner load of 7 to do this morning, but would love to have another 30-40 canned if they keep producing.

    We harvested our second area of sweet potatoes last weekend and had 35 lbs, on top of 19 lbs harvested earlier. This was exciting! I've dabbled a bit with them before but never planted or harvested a significant crop. I have a couple more smaller areas to harvest this weekend.

    Also still harvesting quite a few Hatch chiles, as well as various bell peppers. I'm chopping and freezing the chiles, and experimented with roasting the last batch prior to freezing, which I'll probably also do with the next batch.

    We're converting an area not far outside our back door to more of a permaculture style of garden, so planning to get some seeds and bulbs (including garlic bulbs and potato onions) planted out there over the next few days as well. We need to transplant a tree to that area as soon as it drops it's leaves. We had planted the tree last year, thinking we were done expanding the garden, but then added another row of beds this year, which now left the tree too close.

    One of the biggest great things about fall is that it gets cool enough for backpacking! :D I prefer highs in the 50's for hiking, actually.

    1. Cat, I also prefer cooler weather for hiking--less sweat=more fun!

      Lili, I love your seed story. It's nice when your family makes what could be a chore into a fun event.

    2. Wow, Cat! I bet you could almost raise all your food needs, except meat, dairy, grains. Have you estimated how much of your family’s food you grow? I feel glad when we’ve got about half our meal from various gardening/foraging.

      I hope you have several good backpacking trips lined up for this fall.

    3. Hi Kris, popping the seeds out of their pods felt so old-time-y. And having company did make the time go quickly!

    4. Lili, I sure wish we could! This is the first year I've gardened this intensively, and I've been pleasantly surprised by the results. From the end of May till now, we're at over 800 lbs of produce. Some items, though, I think it would be hard to grow enough of, one being potatoes. We grew and harvested 80 lbs of potatoes in June, but of course, that's only about 3-4 months' worth with our size of family. I tried to replant in July for a fall harvest, which theoretically is possible, but apparently, due to the heat, nothing ever came up.

      But I do hope to take lessons learned from this year, tweak things about, and see just how much I can grow next year, building on this year's success and knowledge gleaned. Our whole lot is only about 1/6th acre, counting the house, and my husband is not onboard with a front yard garden, other than our fruit trees.

    5. Wow, Cat. That's an amazing yield for 1/6 acre of land! I'm hoping to expand our plantings next year as well in several different spots of the yard, including amongst some of our flowers. I chuckled when you mentioned not planting a garden in the front yard. My dear Father in Law had a front yard that wouldn't grow grass and had poor, sandy soil. One year, he planted a full garden in his suburban (no HOA!) front yard complete with corn, butter beans, squash, green beans, etc. He had a great harvest that one year. He never replanted as my MIL was not happy at all. But since then, the grass in the front yard always looked great! Thanks for the memory :)

    6. Anonymous, that sounds like an amazing garden! I keep hoping my husband will change his mind, but not counting on it. My dad tells us about when growing up in Providence, RI, his dad had their whole (small) urban front yard planted in berry bushes and strawberry plants. Goals! ;)

    7. Cat, that’s an incredible amount of food grown on your lot. Well done! Imagine how much you could grow on a bigger plot of land. You’re an inspiration.
      I’m hoping to continue building on my knowledge gained, too. I learned a lot this year. We are clearing a spot in the front yard for a pumpkin patch. It’s not a spot that can be seen from the road, however. This would be the sunniest and warmest places, so I’m planning pumpkins, squash, peppers, sunflowers, and maybe corn and pole beans. We’ll see how it turns out. A neighbor plants a pumpkin patch where it can be seen from the street. It’s a fun thing to watch grow all summer.

  3. Cat-I used to bring a case or two of green chiles home with me when my dd lived in New Mexico. I would roast them, skin them, and then chop them up and put them in ziploc bags to freeze, then I could just hack off however much I needed. One of my most favorite smells is chiles roasting. Omg, they smell so good, and down in New Mexico there would be people selling them at stands all over so you’d be driving past one and get a whiff of that beautiful smell lol.there’s a grocery store here that sells hatch chiles by the case but I didn’t need any this year.

    Fall left us here this week, and mr winter made an appearance. Snow. Cold. Yuck. It’s supposed to be nicer this weekend. Hoping he’s right because I’m not ready for winter yet.

    I had to buy a new washer yesterday. Mine hasn’t been spinning out in the cycle so I had to go down and manually put the machine on drain and spin,sometimes multiple times before they spun out enough, til that totally quit on Wednesday. I tried calling the two repair shops but it was going to be 3-6 weeks before I could even get the first service call appointment. That wasn’t going to work for me so I went and bought a new one yesterday and my Dh picked it up and got it hooked up last nite. I will be playing catch-up today with laundry since I was getting farther and farther behind as my old machine was getting more and more difficult.

    1. Hi Diane,
      Winter already? I am not at all ready for snow to come. I hope this next week is beautiful and autumnal in your area.
      I am so glad you were able to get a new washer yesterday, and I’m especially glad your hubby is handy enough to hook it up! Wishing you luck as you catch up on laundry today!

    2. Diane, I agree with the wonderful smell of peppers roasting. My dear 90 yr old mother and I roasted and canned a case of pimentos at the end of the summer. (I mainly TRIED to help her! She's quite the feisty 90 yr old:) The house smelled so good. We use a family recipe for the pimentos and then make our special kind of southern pimento cheese.
      Lynn from NC Outer Banks

  4. Lili, were those green, unripe figs hard or were they beginning to partially ripen and slightly soft? All of the green ones I've ever had were rock hard. I was wondering if yours were the same and if these were the ones you were canning. I'm thinking I may have missed a chance to use those green ones. Using the syrup and fruit in the cake sounds smart and a good use of resources.

    1. Oops, forgot again to leave my name. Lynn
      Lynn from NC Outer Banks

    2. Hi Lynn,
      The green figs were unripe and hard. I had to simmer them twice in water for 10 minutes each time, to both soften and help remove the bitter, unripe taste. Then I simmered them in spiced heavy syrup for 30 minutes to infuse with sweetness and spice. They can also be chopped in the food processor after the 2 periods of simmering in water, then adding sugar and spices for a fig jam. So far, this is the best I’ve been able to do with this later harvest that never has time to ripen.

    3. Well-now I'll know for the next time! Thanks for the extra detail re: your prep of the hard, green ones. It's good to know that with a bit of work (and sufficient sugar :) that you can make the inedible, edible!
      Lynn from NC Outer Banks

  5. We made your lentil soup recipe today and it turned out very good! I'm lucky to have a teen who loves to bake bread and he made a beautiful sourdough loaf to go with the soup, delicious.-Kathryn

    1. Hi Kathryn,
      What a wonderful son you have! He’ll be able to use his bread-baking skills for the rest of his life and make someone else very happy!
      I’m glad you enjoyed the lentil soup. We love it, here.

  6. Thank you for being so kind to the the bunnies.

    1. Hi Farhana,
      It helps that the bunnies are extra cute!


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