Saving the Harvest

While our garden and orchard have been hit and miss due to the cool summer, animal intrusion, and redoing of the beds, we did enjoy a ton of broccoli, some really nice onions, and a few beets.

As you may remember, I can only eat so much broccoli. Come winter, I usually heat up corn, peas, or green beans and call it good when it comes to a side dish. I was thinking I should really make more of an effort in that department, and since I was tired of broccoli, I thought maybe pickled broccoli would be the answer. I know, my family doesn’t really eat pickles, but this is broccoli not cucumbers, so maybe it would be OK.

It all started when a few weeks ago, me and the MR went shopping with my dad; and on the way home, we stopped at a local farm and picked a couple baskets of tomatoes. No, we don’t love tomatoes that much either, but Sweet Miss complimented my Smokey Tomato Jam (or rather Putting Up with Erin’s Smokey Tomato Jam), so of course I had to make some for her October care package.

And since I was there, and I’d really liked the jam, I decided to check out what other recipes Erin had on her blog. That’s when I came across Pepper Pickled Broccoli, Beet, Carrot, and Apple Slaw, and Roasted Onion and Sage Jam. Have I mentioned that we have a banner crop of sage, too?

Now, I’m not sure how they all turned out. The onion jam was quite lovely on a cracker with a touch of cream cheese, and I can imagine it would make a wonderful glaze over a pork roast. The pickled broccoli and the beet slaw are supposed to hang around for three weeks or so before we try them out. You want all those flavors to meld, so I’ve been practicing patience. I’m just excited to have a ready supply of beets that I can eat in moderation; the MR chooses to abstain.

I really like tomato jam spread on a grilled cheese sandwich with all that gooey cheese. I have pretty fancy tastes as you can see.

All my jars have been sitting on the counter, but soon they’ll be adding some color and beauty to the pantry and a dose of flavor to our winter menus.canned-goods

Any favorite recipes for your fall harvest? Do you have a canning web site you like to use?

(Sadly, my links are on the blink, so Putting Up with Erin is the blog where I found these amazing recipes. Google Smokey Tomato Jam, and you’ll end up in the right spot.)

The Big, The Bad, The Broken

We love the windows, we love the view they afford, and we love the light they let in. Let’s be honest, the windows are what makes this house so special.Great Room Closer

But they can be a bit of a headache. During the cool months, I love the extra heat they allow in, but during the summer, it’s another story. It can be 75-degrees outside and 85-degrees inside. The glare is so obnoxious, we’ve had to don hats upon occasion. That’s why we went the window film route. (You can check that out here and here.)

The films have been great. They really cut down on the heat absorption and glare, but… Isn’t there always a but? Window films can cause problems. While they’re not insured for fogging, they are for breakage, and lucky us we had two windows break. Last fall is when we noticed them, and we decided to wait until spring in case the cold weather caused any other problems.

I know I said spring, but this has been the headache that never seems to end. The film company had me contact the glass company. The glass company comes to measure, but didn’t bring a large enough ladder. Come on guys; you’ve been here before. Once the glass was measured properly, they tried to order it, but the glass company no longer made one of the larger sizes that we needed.

Sadly, we were out of town, and they didn’t want to order the glass until we’d signed off on another pane from a different manufacturer that was slightly different in hue. We scheduled a meet up in September, and then the glass had to be ordered and an install time scheduled. Can you see why this is lasting forever?

Meanwhile, the film company is pushing to have the films put on before installation. Last time we had the windows replaced, there was a problem, and one was broken. My question was who would pay for the film then. It ended up being a mute point in that the glass company felt the films could pose a safety threat to their men. The film company was all like I never heard of such a silly thing.

Anyways, last Tuesday the glass guys showed up with ladders, gloves, and two very large panes of glass.


I don’t know about you, but three grown men on ladders, huffing and puffing, using colorful language, and carrying heavy things makes me nervous. Perhaps I should have been. They were able to take out the old broken window and break the new window as they were replacing it. At least the new one isn’t as cracked as the old one. To be fair, the windows are large, slightly off, the house is over 20 years old, things have shifted, and I’m totally glad they’re the ones doing it.

This being the smaller of the two windows they were replacing, I decided to go to knit group and let the MR hold down the fort. The second install went off without a hitch. Of course by the time the second window was removed, the sun had broken through the morning fog. It was a glorious day—just the kind of day that makes ladybugs swarm on a sunny, southern exposure with easy access to the indoors.

So in another two weeks, the new window should arrive, they’ll schedule an install time, I’ll call the film company, and schedule them, and maybe we’ll have it all taken care of by Christmas—if we’re lucky.

Meanwhile, I finished some rather lovely projects at knit group. The socks are for Sweet Miss. When your family travels to Italy for two weeks and you stay home because you’re a grown up, and have a job, and are responsible, you get a pair of hand-knit socks. The most complicated hand-knit socks I’ve ever made. The poncho/cowl/shawlette is mitered, garter stitch squares joined at an angle. I had some Noro that I knit up into tiny squares and hated, so I took it out and made something lovely in colors perfect for fall.


Any projects household projects going on forever and ever? What are you knitting?






Clearing Out

I was talking to my dad last night—just checking in—when he mentioned his Kindle was having some problems. The screen would close down in the middle of reading things. I suggested checking the sleep settings. And it had stopped receiving my blog. He didn’t know how long it had been since he’d gotten one…

Well gee Dad, I haven’t really done anything lately. But, he interrupted, the MR had that guy come and remove all the brush. You know you’re in trouble when your 77-year-old father is giving you blog post ideas. Maybe I’ll take him on as my assistant and let him write a few stories.

So here’s brush cutting in honor of Papa Willy. The MR and his dad had a fellow out this summer to look at the blackberry situation; let’s just say we have a lot. The guy wanted $4,000 to $5,000 to take out our bushes. The MR decided to keep looking.

That’s when he found the Brush Wrangler, who came in with a much better price. Unfortunately, with our dry August, they couldn’t schedule any work due to fire danger. One stray spark can create a world a trouble. We were next up on the list when we headed to Oregon to move Baby Girl into her sorority house. Finally, at the end of September the Brush Wrangler tackled our berry bushes.

Now some of you may be wondering why we’d get rid of blackberries. Obviously, you’ve never had them in your backyard. They’ll take over everything in sight. The MR takes a walk to the mailboxes a few times each month with his pruners to get rid of errant boughs.

I do have a thing for blackberry crisp and blackberry jam, but in Washington State, blackberres are classified as a noxious weed. The Himalayan blackberry is a non-native species that is out of control. OK, I’ll step down from my soap box for the moment.

Anyways, I was off at my ladies’ Bible study, when the MR started sending pictures to our family’s group text. It was amazing.


That little red machine was clearing a swath through the wilderness.

Now when I got home, I looked at the tennis court, and I still saw blackberries. What was going on? Aren’t they trying to get rid of these?



Well, the MR explained that the slope was too high, too steep, and the soil too loose for them to reach the very top of the patch of bushes below the tennis court. All you have to do is wander down below it, and you’ll see the progress.


This whole area was a mass of sticker bushes.


It’s amazing. The tiny path he used to drive the riding lawn mower down to the meadow has become a vast thoroughfare.

After the work was down, the MR figured the Brush Wrangler had cleared about an acre of berry bushes.


Now that the blackberries are gone, he has gained easy access (OK, maybe just easier access) to the vine maples and saplings blocking the view of the river. For the last few weeks, he’s been out cutting down trees and applying stump and brush killer to keep everything from coming back.

When I ventured down to see his progress the other day, I tried to explore the trail down to the valley floor. The former owners had roughed out a road down to the highway. I’m afraid it’s succombed to blackberries.

The workers have found a lot of things at different job sites. At one place, they’d found a barn the owners didn’t even know they had hidden among the blackberries. All they found at our house was an old fence post and some logging wire. We’re kind of boring in comparison.

Now that it’s mid-October, we’re gearing up for our first big storm of the season. It looks like rain and strong winds are headed our way. Stay safe our Northwest neighbors.

And if we have power, and water, and the dog doesn’t start barking at deer while I’m trying to sleep, I’ll have more to share on Monday. Otherwise my dad might start complaining about technical difficulties, again.

What killer weed is taking over your patch of earth?




Finishing Up

The MR finished the guest bathroom remodel earlier this week. First it was the shower.

New Shower

Then it was the tile under the window.

Commode & Tile

That left the counter, the sink and the light fixture. The counter, sink, and faucet were a package deal, but someone failed to mention that to the manufacturer. The store received our custom-cut counter without a sink which put everything on hold for a while.

Meanwhile, the MR had bought and installed a new light fixture. After our old, dim lighting system, it was a bit on the bright side, so he also added a dimmer. We don’t want our guests to feel like they’re being interoggated, or do we?


If we do this again, I’ll have to take pictures before he installs them in a very dark room with no windows.

The sink arrived before we left on our trip, but the MR decided to wait until after we got home to install it—just in case. He didn’t want the housesitter left without a working bathroom. Turns out he was right. While the counter fit perfectly, the sink was a bit deeper than the old one, and the stopper was too low to fit with the current plumbing. He ordered a pop-up stopper which came in the mail this week, and now we’re good to go.


He used the same accent tile featured in the shower as the back splash.


Our new bathroom is so subdued compared to where we started.


I’m hoping our guests appreciate it as much as I do. The MR has been checking a few other things off his to-do list this week, but that will have to wait till next time. You’re going to be amazed.

Any bathroom updates at your house? Remodeling horro stories to share?


Fall Harvest

My garden has been a bit neglected with our recent trips. It’s hard to keep up with the weeding and thinning when you’re on the other side of the world.

I’ve spent a few hours the past week snipping the flowers off all the tomato plants. I planted three marzanos down in the kitchen garden. They were lush and full when I removed the Walls-O-Water, but they’ve been late to set fruit. We’re expecting mid-60s to low-70s for the next 10 days, so by removing the flowers, I’m hoping to encourage the fruit to ripen. So far, they look nothing like my idea of San Marzano paste tomatoes. I’ll be happy with whatever we get.

Worms can’t process the tomato seeds, so when I add the castings to my garden, I get tons of volunteers. Since many of my sowings didn’t produce anything, I decided to let these plants grow. They’ve set quite a bit of fruit, so far. I also have a canteloupe peeping out from amongst the tomatoes (another seed that worms don’t process). I may wind up with more than I bargained for.

The beets have actually faired pretty well after the early problem with predators, and my onions (that were meant to scare away pests) are also looking good. I even picked a few blueberries this afternoon.


You may be wondering what I have in mind for all those tomatoes. Well, I really like Putting Up with Erin’s Smokey Tomato Jam. (I’m having trouble with the link, so here’s where to go: .) Sweet Miss has requested a jar, and what mother can refuse a food request from her kid?

The recipe starts with six pounds of tomatoes, so I may be headed to the farmstand or market. Until then, I’ve been enjoying tomatoes on toast with an Italian flair.


It’s just toasted bread of a good quality, spread with cream cheese, sprinkled with sliced tomatoes, and dried thyme. (This is what happens when I forget to water the thyme plant in the kitchen window, and it dries out all by itself.) And then this is the final part, the kicker, the piece-de-resistance, drizzled the whole thing with black truffle oil.

On our trip, we visited an olive oil factory outside Sorrento. They had around 70 different types of olive oil that were so tatsty. We dipped bread, dipped bread, and dipped some more. I was able to drag the MR and Baby Girl away after buying five cans of olive oil, some basalmic, and some for Sweet Miss. She used her lemon olive oil on pasta—amazing.

Sometimes that little extra step makes a world of difference.

Are you enjoying a fall harvest?

Inspiration and Disappointment

I wanted to call this post the Grapes of Wrath. Not because it has anything to do with the Dust Bowl, starving displaced families, or Steinbeck, but it does have something to do with grapes and wrath. Alas, I thought better of it.

Let’s start at the beginning. Earlier this month, me, and Baby Girl, and the MR traveled to Italy. We started in the beautiful city of Florence, a truly, lovely place we’d never been to before.


After wandering the streets our first day and checking out the Uffuzi Gallery Museum, we had scheduled a Vespa ride in Tuscany beginning and ending at an ancient castle turned winery. This was the home of the Pazzis who tried to assassinate the Medicis in 1478 and were summarily executed.


After a history of plotting and rebellion, it has turned into a family home and winery in recent years. Wandering through the barrel room and other areas of the production, we were reminded of our own wine-making efforts at home.


Sure we only made one small bottle last year, but the MR said the grapes looked great. He thought we might be able to make up to three bottles with our banner harvest. After visiting the winery, it was time for some beautiful scenery.

Not everyone was born to drive a Vespa, so I became a passenger on the MR’s scooter. Just a short drive from an ancient and densely-populated city, we wound up in the rolling countryside the hills speckled with grape vines and olive trees.


This was at the beginning of two weeks of adventures, and the ideas of wine-making were put on the back burner till we got home. Unfortunately, just because we’re away doesn’t mean the rest of the world stands still back home. We had visitors. The MR thinks it was probably raccoons who came, climbed under the netting, moved boards holding it in place, ate the grapes, and tore up the vines.


Oh well, there’s always next year. Now you understand my grapes and wrath.

Any tips on getting rid of raccoons?





A Dime a Dozen

Me, and the MR, and Baby Girl have been on an adventure for the past few weeks exploring Italy. 

With Baby Girl studying architecture, it made sense to visit Florence and Rome with their rich history and amazing architecture. 

We visited the Duomo and Michaelangelo’s David in Florence and St. Peter’s Basilica, the Coliseum, the Pantheon, and the Spanish Steps in Rome. 

Between those two heavy hitters we visited Sorrento—a great stopping off point for many beautiful places. The MR dreamed of the Amalfi Coast, and we made certain to visit Pompei on the way to the train station. 

In the midst of all that, we took time to visit Capri. If you’re Italian, it’s aah-Capri (with a smile and a hint of wistfulness) where big white houses on the hill are everywhere. 

While Italy has been wonderful, I for one am looking forward to going home. 

What have you been up to this September?