Friday, May 29, 2015

Freezing Carrot "Juice" for Smoothies

We still have carrots in the ground from last year.  The overwintering thing is brilliant--but we may have once again planted too many carrots.  We're eating them every day, but with just the two of us twenty, thirty, forty pounds of carrots lasts a long time.  With the Vitamix we started putting them in our smoothies nearly every day, too.  And still, there was a good patch of them out in the garden.
Wanting the space they were still currently occupying Matt and I decided to see if we could puree up the carrots and then freeze them.  In this way we could preserve the carrots, get back the garden space, and still have carroty-goodness in our smoothies.

We were uncertain about how freezing carrots "juice" would work.   We have never tried to thaw it and use it in any fashion except in smoothies.  As such, I can't say it would be tasty to thaw and drink as carrot juice.  It might be, but somehow I doubt it.  Watery things never seem to thaw well in that way.  It works perfect as a solution for our problem though.
How We Make Vitamix Carrot "Juice"
We take a couple pounds of carrots and a handful of ice cubes and process them until smooth and fairly liquid.
Then we pour this semi-liquid into ice cube trays or our silicon cupcake pan and pop it in the freezer.
Once frozen we remove them from the trays and store them in jars or bags in the freezer. 

This makes it a snap to add a carroty cupcake puck or a handful of orange ice cubes to our morning smoothie.  The ice cubes seems to blend up more quickly than the cupcake pucks which makes sense since they are much smaller.
The start of a smoothie--banana, greens, and carrot cubes.
We still need to make a few more batches of juice before the last of them are out of the garden, but we're close.  We'll have to wait until it dries out a bit first, too.  So much rain lately, but hey, no complaints here!

(Note:  It is not really juice since we puree up the whole carrot along with a handful of ice cubes thus retaining all the fiber and nutrients in the fleshy, pulpy part of the carrot, too, not just the juice.  Its really more of a carrot slurry, but that doesn't sound as appetizing.)

Friday, May 22, 2015

In Print

This week we received our issues of both Mother Earth News and Rocky Mountain Gardening.  As it happens, Matt and I are mentioned in both!  Its a small thing, but quite made my day.  Mother Earth News is a nationally circulated magazine.  Rocky Mountain Gardening (formerly Zone 4) is a top regional gardening magazine.  Huzzah!

It is a two fold happiness.  I am happy for my name to be in print, but I am also happy to be able to share my love of the gardening, cooking, and the other small joys of the simple life with others in this way.
At Matt's insistence I submitted a tip to the Country Lore section of Mother Earth News about my canning jar ring toss storage system.  My friend, Kris, wrote an article about tomatillos for Rocky Mountain Gardening for which she interviewed Matt and used some of my photos to round out the article.  
We thought it was pretty cool, even more so since we received both magazines on the same day.  In fact, I am going to look into writing articles and submitting more photos for these and similar publications.  I mean, I am already taking photos and writing about it here...why not try to expand into different mediums, too.
Speaking of writing in different formats, a book I contributed two chapters for has also recently been released into print as well.  Its a textbook about the relationship between animals (including humans) and the earth.    Its crazy to think some college student may read my words as part of a class assignment.  Crazy, and cool.  The book has been in the works since 2007!  I am so glad to finally see it finished, for a variety of reasons.
So, huzzah!  I am pleased.    (And for the record we're in the Summer 2015 issue of Zone 4 and the June/July issue of Mother Earth News.)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Monument Geyser Basin

Matt and I are systematically checking off the things we want to experience in Yellowstone.  On our last trip we finally checked off the Monument Geyser Basin.  This basin is not so well known or visited primarily because of two factors, in my opinion.  First, there are no brightly colored hot spring pools or geysers that erupt a hundred feet in the air or anything.  Its a geothermal landscape the evokes the lunar and ancient.  Second, there is a darn steep hill to climb in order to get there.  With so many dramatic geothermal areas readily accessible with just a short, flat walk there are not so many takers for Monument Geyser.  Fine by me.
Glacier Lilies
The trail departs from a pull-out about 8.5 miles north of the Madison Junction.  The first half mile or so of the hike is a fairly flat meander along the Gibbon River under the shade of the surrounding trees.  After that the trail quickly starts to climb.  All told its about 650-700 feet elevation gain in less than a mile.  Its pretty intense.   Everything that we'd read about the hike indicated that it would be though so we weren't surprised.  Still, it was a short and strenuous bit.

When at last it leveled out we were rewarded with a lovely view of the surrounding hills with the river trickling through the middle of it all.  I am not sure the overlook would have been worth it in and of itself, but coupled with a geyser basin it was quite lovely.  At the overlook the trail takes a hard right and drops right into the Monument Geyser Basin.  The white, almost-lunar landscape could be seen through the trees as we approached.  Puff of steam drifted off as well.
Monument Geyser Basin is filled with formations that have, over time, sealed themselves shut, for the most part.  There are some fumeroles and Monument Geyser itself still spits and sprays a bit.  It was a fascinating glimpse of the power of time.  The white patch spreading out in the forest that had been building and growing and changing for eons.  Monument Geyser is over 10 feet tall.  Considering that, like coral reefs, sinter formations develop slowly, millimeters at a time, this is an impressive monument indeed.
I could see that if a person wasn't really much into geysers though that it wouldn't have been so impressive.  It wasn't dramatically colored like Grand Prismatic Spring.  It did rocket off over the river like Riverside Geyser.  Still, for a geyser nut like me it was keen.  We had the place to ourselves--aside from briefly sharing it with a foursome.  It was so quiet.  The quiet action of eternity.
Matt and I preformed a little meditation on sound sitting up there.  We sat on some down logs and let our minds loose to wander into the surroundings.  Just the bubble, gurgle, hiss...lulling us into the deepest of relaxation.  I am not sure how long we sat there in that quiet peace actually.  All of the sudden a volunteer Ranger came through and startled us both from ourselves with a friendly, "Hello."  He was hiking with a hand saw--checking to keep the trail clear of dead fall.
We made our way back out the way we'd came.  It was wonderfully downhill the whole way.  The whole thing was only about 2.5 miles round trip.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!

It is my birthday.  I am 31 now and have sailed through another year, somehow.  It was quite a year, too.  I am so grateful--so grateful and so excited for what this next year of life on Earth will bring.   Happy birthday to me!
Fun House mirror and other carnival photos from May 1, 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015

Puttering Around the Garden

The currants are really going gangbusters this year.  There are already a few green currants alongside a mass of blossoms.  Last year we got something like six currants.  Its looking much more productive this year.  This will be its third year, I think.
The blueberries are in their second year.  One of them is not doing so hot.  The other has set small delicate white-and-pink blossoms.  Only a few, but they're the first and we're pleased.  The blueberry bush is also adorned with lovely leaves.  They're rimmed in a dusty-rose color.  Their green leaves blush with it.  Its quite an attractive plant, really.
The tulips have come and gone now.  The last one along the drive fell to petals at the end of last week.  They're so pretty and fleeting and a welcome sign of spring for me.  Now that they're gone it seems to indicate Summer will soon be in full swing.
We planted some rainbow chard around the tulips when they were still forming their flower buds.  Now, by the time the tulip blossoms are gone, the pretty pink and red and green chard has grown up around them, filling out the bed with color again--though of a different sort for sure.  I think rainbow chard is quite attractive--an excellent choice for a front yard garden, I think.

The bleeding heart is still blooming.  The wild rose bush out front set off its first blossom two days ago.  The peonies are just about there, almost bursting with potential flower.
The raspberries have come back well.  This will be their third year, too.  Last year the yield was such that we mostly eat them right off the plant--they almost never made it into the house.  This year I'd love for a small batch of raspberry jam to be possible.  Its my favorite and makes me think of my Grandma Nina and her homemade rolls slathered with jam from the root cellar.  Store-bought is no comparison.  I am crossing my fingers....  I can wait.
We have two varieties of raspberries--Red Heritage and Fall Gold.  I find it interesting how obvious their difference is in vegetation growth.  The photo above is of the Red Heritage and the canes are almost totally hidden.  The photo below is of the Fall Golds and their new growth is still significantly shorter.  I took the photos of the same day!  I thought it was pretty neat.
Matt thinned out the old strawberry plants we put in when we moved here three years ago.  They were less productive last year and from what we've read its a good idea to thin out the older plants and root new runners to keep the bed at its peak production.  They looked pretty angry about the interference for a while, but have regrouped now that they've had time to readjust.
The onions Matt started from seed were not looking great after being transplanted outside.  Things looks so shabby in fact that he had my niece help him plant sets in between each of the spindly green onions.  But, you know, those green onions have really perked up in the last week or two.  They are starting to get some thickness to them now whereas before they just looked like a blade of grass.  I top dressed them with some compost over the weekend.  That should make just about any plant happy.  So, now we're not sure how many onions we'll get out of the deal, but there will be some for sure--and likely some extra green onions to thin out, too.
Our garlic is looking to be the best crop we've ever grown.  The stalks are thicker than Matt's thumb and standing up strong.  Practice, practice, practice.  We might get this garlic thing down yet!
Both plantings of peas have come up--the second not quite as well as the first.  Matt has decided to not trellis them this year and see what happens.  We have the space--its an early crop in a bed that will later be planted with peppers and tomatoes--so its not like we need them to grow vertically.  Matt hopes that this way he can just clear out space as it comes without having to wait to take the whole trellis down before being able to plant out the first warm weather crops.  We shall see.
In the back corner bed we've transplanted out the cabbages and cauliflowers.  They look great.  We also direct planted several rows of rutabagas and a whole heck of a lot of bok choy.  The idea of some grilled baby bok choy makes my mouth water just thinking about it!
Our plum tree, which had bloomed so lovely a few weeks back, seems to be having some problems.  I think the flowers were zapped in a frost and now the poor tree isn't doing much of anything.  The branches are speckled with dead, brown flowers.  Alas.  The apple and apricot trees are still rocking it though so there is that.
Ginger loves being outside.  She really loves being outside with us.  As such, she is really enjoying the expanding garden season.  It brings her friends out to play all the time!
We had such great success avoiding leaf miners on our spinach by using the row cover/low tunnel that we're doing it again this year.  It doesn't look as attractive as an open bed of spinach, but it also doesn't attract pests to ruin my spinach leaves either.  I am happy with the trade off.  We could be thinning it to eat already, but, mostly due to time constraints, have not.  Its got to happen this week though--they're all starting to bump into each other under there.
And so it grows.