Friday, August 22, 2014

Orion Strong Birthday Bash

Last year i posted about Orion Strong's fight against AML Leukemia. On Saturday, June 15th 2013, 14 year old Orion Strong was diagnosed with AML , a rare type of leukemia, with long treatments and many expenses. Orion is the son of Kharma Strong,  (Truth, Love and Light Tribe) one of my online friends and a member of the online crafting community that i have been apart of for many years. 

After four successful rounds of chemo and complete remission for five months, Orion went to his six month check up to learn that his white blood cells are super low again or "neutropenic". His heart check also showed signs of weakness from the prior chemo. On May 19th he was readmitted into UCSF, where he was an inpatient for several months for chemotherapy. The chemo after relapse was unsuccessful and the leukemia has been very aggressive. 

14 Months and 3 days after being diagnosed with AML leukemia, 15 year old, Orion Strong has a life threatening fungal infection and refractory leukemia. Today, he has decided to discontinue his treatment and leave the hospitals care, so that he may live out his days at home, finding peace. 

Please keep Orion and his family in your thoughts, share his story and donate if you can.

Orion is at home now is his newly renovated cottage. He is still in need of a few things. He would like a small fridge, a rug, curtains and a few other decoration things. You can donate directly at and read more about his fight. 

Orion's 16th birthday is coming up in September. His family is holding an auction fundraiser on Sept 6th in Graton California. Please spread the word!

 Let's help make it the best birthday ever!! Orion loves soft and fuzzy things, glow in the dark stuff, nerf guns, cool swords and random toys. He could also use some e-gift cards for Barnes & Noble and Target. 

Ecards can be sent to

Cards and packages can be sent to

Orion Strong 
PO BOX 12 
Guerneville, CA 95446

Please show your support for this amazing young man and his beautiful family. There are many ways you can help.
You can join Hope For Orion facebook page and share your supportive messages of love and healing on his wall. 
You can share the page and help spread the word.  You can donate directly through the Youcaring fundraiser page. You can send cards, gifts and ecards to addresses posted above.

i have been following Orion's Journey from the beginning. i have Hope for Orion. I truly do believe in the power of love. i believe in magic and miracles. Since coming home his white blood cells which have been at 0 for months miraculously rose to 180!  He has stopped fevering and has been eating very well, considering he has only been off IV nutrition for a few days. All of the love, support and positive energy he has been receiving has really helped to keep his spirits up, which helps his body to stay strong.  Anything that we can do to help show this family some love is very appreciated. 

Please help make Orion's 16th birthday the  most amazing birthday ever!!  Please spread the word! Thank you!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Saving seeds-Legumes

Seed saving is easy and economical.  i use to have quite a collection of saved seeds. Last year i had to start over with them, but was able to save a few. This year i'm trying to save seeds on as many plants as i can. 

i save seeds on many of my flowers and vegetables. Not all plants are great for saving seed because many cross pollinate and some diseases can be carried in the seed. 

Beans and peas are some of the easiest plants to collect seeds on making them perfect for those new to collecting seeds. They are mostly self pollinating so you don't have to worry about cross pollination.

This year i grew several varieties of beans.  i grow some for harvesting fresh like green and yellow wax beans, and some to use as dry beans.  Collecting seeds for them is the same.  

This year, i grew Black beans, Soy beans and October beans as a dry beans. They are not harvested green in the pods, rather they are left to dry on the plants.  Once the pods dry they can be picked and shelled. i like to allow the beans to air dry for a few days, and make sure they are completely dry before storing. i put aside some of the beans as seeds for next year and put them in a paper envelope, and store the others as you would any dried bean.  i like to keep mine in canning jars in the pantry, though some folks prefer to keep them in the freezer.  Like any dried beans, they have to be soaked before cooking.

Another favorite bean i like to grow is Scarlet and Sunset runners. i've grown Scarlet runner for many years, mainly as an ornamental plant to attract hummingbirds. Rather than harvesting the beans, i allow them to dry in the pods and save the seeds from year to year. This year, i grew Sunset runners which are similar but have a lovely peach color.  They grew very well and produced lots of pods. 

The young pods before the seeds develop can be picked and cooked like green beans, usually cut like french beans because they are quite large. The fresh green pods can be shelled once plump and the fresh bean seeds cooked, or the pods can be left on the plant until dry and then shelled and saved as seed and stored as dry beans. The flowers are also edible and can be used in salads.

In the photo above you can see the subtle color difference between the dried bean seeds and the fresh. The beans from the yellow and green pods are beautiful pink and purple. Once dried they darken slightly and shrink a bit. Always allow them to dry completely before storing.

i don't have any images of peas since my spring peas were done a month ago and my fall peas and just starting. However yesterday i came across some wild Sweet pea that was going to seed and i couldn't help but collect seeds on them. Collecting seeds on peas is the same as beans. After the flowers are finished, the pods will appear. Wait for them to dry completely and them shell them and store the seeds.

It's best to store your collected seeds in paper envelopes. In the past i've placed them in ziplock bags, but if you get one bean seed that isn't completely dry it will mold and cause them all to go bad. So i've found that staring them in envelopes is best.

Once you start collecting seeds it becomes a bit addictive. 

Collecting seeds on Cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, melons) isn't advisable unless you are only planting one variety or have them spaced very far apart. If planted too close together they will cross pollinate. Tomatoes is another plant i do not collect seeds on. i like to grow heirlooms which are open pollinated, but i grow quite a variety and so i'd be afraid of cross pollination. Tomato seeds also have to be fermented, which seems like too much work and there are many tomato diseases that can be carried over through infected seed. So i prefer to stick with purchased tomato seeds that are guaranteed to be disease free.

As i collect more seeds through out the season i'll share instruction on collecting them.  i look forward to building up my seed library again.  As much as i love to buy seeds, it's also very rewarding to save your own seeds from year to year. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pickles by the Pint.

This year my cucumbers did absolutely horrible. The plants were attacked by both squash bugs and cucumber beetles before they ever really had a chance to get going. i had to pull many of my plants, but i had a few hang on and produce a few small cucumbers. Although i was picking a cucumber here and there, most of them were really small and deformed and i knew i would never gather up enough for a batch of pickles. 

The recipe i use for refrigerator pickles makes one gallon of pickles. In the past i broke the recipe down to quarts, since i didn't have any gallon jars. i also didn't have room in my fridge for 4 quarts, so i would make two at a time.  Since i was only getting a few cucumbers at a time this year, i decided to break the recipe down into pints.  

i found it's incredibly quick and easy to make one pint of pickles. Refrigerator pickles can last up to two months in the fridge, and because they are not canned/processed you don't have to sterilize the jars.  Just wash in hot soapy water, rinse well and you are ready to go.


cucumbers (i used two small)
1/2 Tbsp dill seed, small dill head or a small bunch of dill weed.
1/2 Tbsp whole peppercorns
1 whole clove garlic (peeled)
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup + 2 Tbs vinegar
1 Tbs pickling salt
1 tsp sugar (optional)

Peel garlic and place 1 clove in bottom of pint jar, add dill and peppercorns. Wash cucumbers and cut in slices or spears.  Pack into pint jar.

Combine water, vinegar, sugar (if using) and pickling salt in a non-corrosive pot and heat until boiling. Microwave works well too and only takes about 2 min. ;) 

Now pour hot brine over cucumbers leaving about 1/4-1/2 headspace. It's okay if you don't use all the brine.  Let cool completely, and then put the lid on and tighten ring. 

That's it.  Place in fridge and allow them to 'pickle' for one week before opening for the best flavor. i always taste them after a day or two, and keep nibbling and by the time the week is up most of the pickles are gone. :) So it really just depends on the flavor you're looking for.  They get stronger with age and will last up to 2 months in the fridge.  i've been playing around with the dill using a combination of seeds and dill weed. The different parts of the dill plant each offer a slightly different flavor. 

So far i've only managed to pick enough cucumbers for 3 pints.  i have new plants coming up and am hoping that i end up with a few more cucumbers before the fall.  i was disappointed that my plants did so poorly, but still grateful to get enough cucumbers for a few pints of pickles in my fridge. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Around the homestead- End of July, beginning of August.

i started this post back in July, when my garden was still looking pretty fantastic. Every year, once i hit about the second week of July it seems to peak, and then i lose complete control of it after that.  By the first week of august i am usually pulling many of my early crops and replanting for my late summer garden.  < not ready to use the F word (f@ll). 

In defense of this years gardens, we did not till 2 years in a row (so the bugs and voles were out of control) and we did not supplement our soil other than a bit of chicken/goat manure that i shoveled in there. Even our compost had been neglected last year, so we didn't even have usable compost.  i keep having to remind myself of that, since this years gardens have had a lot of different struggles. 

July is always a time of non-stop harvest. The month goes by so quickly, as there is always so much to do. After an incredibly dry May/June we had quite a bit of rain in July.  Once i start freezing/canning preserving harvest the weeds begin to take over the garden and everything else sort of gets neglected. 

Mid July i was getting tons of squash. i planted zucchini, golden zucchini (yellow squash) and patty pans. i ended up with tons of crooked neck squash, which i didn't plant. :)  i was also getting yellow wax beans, green peppers, a few tomatoes and the last of the snow peas and broccoli. Although the broccoli heads were harvest in the spring, the plants will continue to make smaller side shoots all summer. 

My cucumbers had a really bad year so i only picked a handful. i had to pull most of my plants but i have a couple that are still hanging in there.  i also planted new seeds in early July, so we'll see if they do anything. Often times they have a harder time pollinating and setting fruit once the temperatures start to cool down. 

Tomatoes have just started to come in. i still have lots of green ones on the plants, but i'm getting a ripe one here and there. i've picked enough to can a dozen pints of sauce, and am planing to make more this weekend. With the wet July and cool temperatures comes disease. Tomatoes have become really sensitive to diseases, and there are so many in our area it's almost impossible to have disease free heirloom tomatoes without spraying the crap out of them with fungicides. So far i have not seen any late blight this year (fingers crossed) but,  i think i have a different disease in each garden. i'm already seeing the usual diseases like Septoria and early blight. They mainly affect the foliage and can be somewhat controlled by constantly removing the spotty foliage. i also lost a few plants to Bacterial canker (which i've never seen here before), and i think i have V. wilt on my Brandywines.  Later this season i'll post a thread on 'Guess that tomato disease'. ;)

i dug the purple potatoes, and replanted beans in the empty space.  i have red and white potatoes planted again this year too, but they are not quite ready to dig. i didn't plant as many potatoes this year as i have in the past, do to the late blight. i'm still hoping that we'll have around  50+ lbs for the winter, once they are all dug.

i'm unsure how my sweet potatoes will do this year. i put in 18 plants and the vole killed two of them so far.  i have sweet potatoes planted in three separate beds, hoping that the voles don't find them all.  i dug a few early and they look pretty good, but i really want to keep them in the ground a bit longer. 

All of my onions bolted really early in the spring, but my garlic did okay. i had a couple of really nice fat bulbs, but most were smaller.  i braided them and have them hung up to cure in the basement. i'm looking forward to planting more this fall. i allowed some of my plants to form the bulbils. So i've been collecting them to replant at the end of summer. 

Husband has been working to get the house stained. The color ended up a bit darker, a bit redder and a bit more saturated than we were expecting. It doesn't look bad, but i think it looks more like paint than stain.  i was expecting to still see the wood grain underneath it. 

He is also started painting the doors green to match the window frames and roof. So far only one door has been painted, but it's going to look really nice when they are all done. 

So we are finally starting to feel like we are getting back to normal. It's been one heck of a year and so much change.  We have a pretty good flock of birds right now and are finally getting lots of eggs. Despite the struggles with the garden i'm getting a good harvest.  We put in a 1700 gallon rainwater collection system, so i was able to actually water my garden without fear of draining the well. 

 i hope to put more focus back into the garden and property next year, and actually have them tilled up and start work on building up the soil again. i'd like to do raised beds for the tomatoes, since we have so many soil borne disease here. Our main focus since the house burned was just getting back home and rebuilding. So many of our goals and prior focus were put on the back burner. Kenan turned into a workaholic, spending long days in the glass shop and having no time to do anything around the property.  We had done so much to build our homestead for 13 years, and now we are having to start completely over again.  

Next year, we can start making our way back to pursuing the road to (semi) self sufficiency. We plan to put in a woodstove, so we'll no longer be dependant on the electric heat (although i'm still a little scared of woodstoves). i'm also still looking for a dairy goat, as i don't think Delilah will ever be a good milker. i'd like to extend the gardens again, and actually plant for canning and winter storage, not just for fun. i bought myself a new water bath canner, but am waiting until next year to buy a pressure canner.  We're also planning to put in fruit trees on some of the cleared land, and Kenan is now working toward building a separate glass shop/studio on our property.  Eventually we would like transition to solar. 

So yeah, lots going on here. Once garden season start slowing down i need to figure out what i want to do. i admit, i'm still feeling a bit lost these days.  i'm somewhat torn between making dolls and jewelry, or pursuing something completely different. i'm just starting to plant my late summer garden though, so i still have a while to figure it out!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ananas Noire (Black Pineapple) Heirloom Tomato review.

This year i grew all Heirloom tomatoes. i admit, when i was seed shopping i was looking for unusual varieties, rather than disease resist practical tomatoes. Now that the tomatoes are really starting to come in, i'm loving the variety of colors, shapes and flavors. i'm documenting my thoughts on some of the varieties i grew, as i won't remember next year unless i write it down. 

Most of the tomatoes i grew this year are pinks and purples.  i had planted only a few red tomatoes, and then most of them never came up. So it's been interesting this year, trying to determine when my tomatoes are ripe, as they do not turn red.  

In the picture above i have a few Cherokee purples, Black Krim, Hillbilly, Golden Jubilee, Money makers, Brandywine, Violet Jasper and Black Pineapple. 

The Black pineapple are in the upper left corner. They are a green tomato, with just a bit of pink/purple and yellow. 

The Ananas Noire (Black Pineapple) is a beautiful tomato when sliced. i found the flavor very mild compared to some of the others i have. i'm particularly fond of the Cherokee Purple and Brandywine which both have very strong sweet tomato flavors.  Compared to them the Black Pineapple seemed rather bland.

The biggest problem i have with this tomato though, is that it's very difficult to determine when it is ripe. Although i made a chart so i know which plants are planted where, once the tomatoes come off the plant i tend to lose track of what they are. This is especially true when the tomatoes are picked green. i prefer to let me tomatoes vine ripen, but the plants in garden #3 have had a really tough time and i've had to pull several of them.  So i've ended up with quite a few green tomatoes.

The ripe black pineapples look identical to some of the the other tomatoes that are unripe. So i've had to throw out several of them, because i thought they were a different variety and they became over ripe and went bad while i still was waiting for them to ripen. 

This may not have been an issue if i'd planted less varieties, but i have so many tomatoes that it seems like a pain trying to keep track of them.  i think in the future i need to stick with tomatoes that are obvious when they are ripe. i don't enjoy the guessing game with these.

In the tomatoes description is says, "Everyone loves their superb flavor that is outstanding, being both sweet and smoky with a hint of citrus. "  i'm not sure if it's because mine were not ripe enough, or over ripe....but i definitely did not find it to have a superb favor.i actually found them pretty tasteless.