Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Ash on my apples - harvesting food after a wildfire

Light ash fall - just the beginning!
With all the fires in Western Washington (and in other parts of the country where it's far worse), we are getting some ash fall in Seattle. Nothing like ye olde Mt. St. Helens eruption days, but still. Enough ash to make it look like a light snowfall.

It didn't exactly dawn on me initially, but now I'm wondering what's the best way to rinse the ash off my backyard fruits and vegetables? Some things will be easier to rinse off, like zucchini and tomatoes, but sticky fruits like blackberries and herbs like Italian flat leaf parsley might be more of a challenge.

I can wait for some rain before worrying about harvesting the apples. I guess when it comes down to it, it's not exactly any more harmful than grilling vegetables over a wood fire, but it will add an unwanted grittiness to foods harvested in areas in wildfire country.

For those of you in harder hit areas of the country with lots of ash fall from wildfires - what are you going to do to get the ash off your harvested fruits and vegetables?

Homeschooling - film studies class

Rear Window
Today is the first day back to school for my two homeschoolers!

My daughter is starting 8th grade this year and has been totally loving her secular, literature-based curriculum from Bookshark. This year it's based on science (rather than world history) and includes books like the wonderful, Longitude. The Bookshark curriculum covers all the core courses, but we still search for other courses to round out the school year. Last year, she did a year of American Sign Language and got quite good at it.

This year we are taking a break on the languages and doing PE (mostly running) and a Film Studies course that's based on a two-year high school curriculum by Tim Marklevitz.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we don't have to wait for high school to cover topics of interest (assuming they were even offered at our local high school). I can adapt the curriculum to her age level as well as the content of the movies, although she already watches movies way above her age range. I would definitely not recommend this movie list to younger children or high schoolers who are uncomfortable with scary movies or adult themes.

Some of the movies we'll be watching are:
  • Rear Window (1954) - unit on mise en scene
  • Do the Right Thing (1989) - unit on color and light temperature
  • Citizen Cane (1951) - unit on cinematography
  • The Conversation (1974) - unit on sound
  • Psycho (1960) - unit on editing and will be during the week of Halloween
  • Run Lola Run (1988) - unit on split screen and parallel editing
  • The Wrong Trousers (1993) - unit on stop motion animation
This is Spinal Tap
There are 26 movies covered in the first year of the curriculum. We'll see if there's interest in the second year when she starts high school next year and, assuming she's still homeschooled. She has expressed an interest in one of the local, alternative high schools.

I have seen most of the movies in the list, but it will be fun to rewatch them again with an eye towards cinematography, structure, pacing and the like.

I'm using two texts along the way:
  1. The Film Experience - An Introduction (Second Edition - it's cheaper and the content is similar to later editions)
  2. Film Studies: An Introduction (Teach Yourself) 
For a full list of the films covered (as well as the topics touched on from each movie), you can view the list on IMDB: Movies for Teaching a High School Film Course.

Warning: There are Amazon affiliate links in this post.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Making outdoor clothes drying easier

Moerman Folding Rack
As you may remember, I've tried a number of different contraptions over the years to facilitate drying our clothes outside. Everything from retractable clotheslines to several kinds of folding drying racks. And, while the folding racks work well, they are not really made to be used outside and they tend to fall over in a stiff breeze, especially when laden with big, heavy laundry.

Why bother line drying your clothes outside, you ask? Well some of the benefits include:

  • saving $150 or more per year in energy costs or coins
  • reducing your carbon emissions by about a thousand pounds or more
  • creating less wear and tear on your clothes
  • eliminating static cling
  • UV light from the sun can help disinfect clothing
  • your clothes and sheets will smell fantastic
  • it's a nice form of meditation

Brabantia Lift-O-Matic!
Because of the issues I was having with the folding racks and having to move them inside and back outside to protect them from the elements, we invested in a removable umbrella style rotary dryer clothes line that has 196 feet of drying space which, let me tell you, is more than sufficient. I can easily hang upwards of 4 loads of laundry which, let me also tell you, never happens. It also can comfortably dry sheets and large duvet covers with ease.

My husband had something similar in his yard when he was growing up, although not quite nearly as fancy. He's been wanting to get one of these for a while because he loves the smell of outdoor dried laundry. I've held off getting a more permanent line like this, but since this particular product allows you to pull it out of the ground and store it away so it's not a big eyesore in your yard, it was worth the extra cost.

The Brabantia Lift-O-Matic also comes with a spike cover thingy that keeps the dirt out of the bracket hole in the ground when you put the contraption away, as well as a weather protective cover to keep the crap off of it either while in storage or when it's out in the elements. Like I said, it's kind of pricey, but I love the darn thing.

Hills Panache Laundry Trolley
In order to help me lug all those heavy, wet clothes outside without tweaking out my back, I got a laundry trolley. While I can't say that I consistently use it (it's kind of hard to navigate on stairs, to be honest), it helps get me halfway there. And, it gives me one less excuse for not drying our clothes outside.

My only lamentation is that it's hard to dry clothes outside in Seattle for more than a couple of months out of the year. It's easy to fall out of the habit in the off-season and get used to using the dryer. I then have a hard time getting back into using it each year.

For more hints and tips on line drying clothes, check out the posts from my Laundry Challenge that I hosted a few years ago.

If you much prefer drying your clothes inside, check out my post for Tips for air drying clothes indoors.

What about you? Do you line dry your clothes outside and, if so, what kind of line do you use?

Warning: there be Amazon affiliate links in this here post.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Backyard mini orchard - 2017 update

Hollywood Plums
I think the last time I posted about my backyard mini orchard was back in 2011. So, it's about time that I update y'all with what fruiting things I've got growing these days.


Back in 2011 I had:
  • 2 dwarf cherries
  • 2 columnar apples
  • 1 dwarf plum
  • 2 blueberries
  • 4 blackberries
  • 1 dwarf nectarine
  • 1 dwarf peach
  • 2 dwarf pears
  • 1 Peter's Honey Fig
  • 4 blackberries
  • 30 strawberries
  • 3 grape vines

The fig sadly didn't make it
Over the years, things have changed up a bit. I ended up (due to tree disease) ripping out the nectarine, peach and pear trees. 

I dug up the fig because it was over a side sewer line, removed 2 blackberries because 4 was waaaay too many, removed one grape because they were super seedy (and we replaced our fence that it was growing on), removed 1 blueberry because it just wasn't growing, and most of the strawberries died off over the winter (who knows why).


So, here we are in 2017 and I've got:
  • 2 dwarf cherries
  • 2 columnar apples
  • 1 dwarf plum (Hollywood)
  • 1 blueberry
  • 2 thornless blackberries
  • 3 strawberries
  • 3 grape vines

And I've added since 2011:
  • 1 super dwarf Honeycrisp apple
  • 1 dwarf almond tree
  • 1 Sudachi lime tree
  • 1 cranberry 
  • 1 super dwarf persimmon
  • 2 thornless raspberries
  • 1 arbequina olive

Fruit Production:

Right now I'm up to my eyeballs in blackberries and I'm pulling off the Hollywood plums since they are just about done for this year. I love this plum - the fruit is fantastic tasting and the tree is self-pollinating. I keep it about 8 feet tall, just so I don't have to reach too high for the fruit. I've also got some residual blueberries on the bush and I'm holding off on harvesting the apples until this weekend. I'm planning on canning some apple pie filling and applesauce.

What kind of fruiting trees/plants are you growing? What just didn't work out in your yard?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A cold hardy lime that I haven't yet killed

I am a notorious citrus tree killer. I admit it. It's not that I'm trying to kill all of them, it just happens. I think I've gone through at least three Meyer Lemon trees and one Kaffir Lime. And possibly a Key Lime. None of them ever flowered or produced any fruit.
Look at them baby limes!

My husband, at this point, is very doubtful of my abilities in citrus. So, last year when I enthusiastically brought home a cold hardy Sudachi Lime that I could plant in the ground and leave outside year round, he was less than excited. He thought I was nuts. I believe there may have been some eye rolling. This was a year ago.

But the lime tree is still alive! And living outside! In the ground! And, lo and behold, it has about 10 baby limes growing on it. He's still doubtful. Granted, the plant is only about two feet tall and they may not survive, but I'm fairly confident this time around that I'll be enjoying some lime based beverage soon. A very small lime based beverage since the fruit only gets about as big as a golf ball. But I'm not picky. I've got limes!

Have you had any success growing citrus - keeping them outdoors in the summer and moving them indoors or just keeping them indoors? Of course, if you live in the south, I'm assuming you have more citrus fruit than you can possibly handle. And, I'm incredibly jealous.

Monday, August 28, 2017

I think I'm 90% blackberries

Blackberry crisp!
'Tis the time of year wherein I'm inundated by far more blackberries than it is possible for one human to consume. Last year my daughter helped out with eating the blackberries but, for some reason, this year I've been left to my own devices.

I swear that about 90% of my body cells are being fed by a steady diet of Triple Crown Thornless blackberries and I still can't keep up with them. So, not surprisingly, I've been freezing them on sheet pans and storing them in gallon freezer bags to make this awesome blackberry crisp. But, mostly I'll be using them in my oatmeal when fruit and berry season slows down.. 

Triple Crown Thornless blackberries
I had a similar issue with our raspberries and have several bags frozen as well. I'm certainly not complaining! I've been relying on the fruit produced in our yard this year since I didn't really plant a garden until late in the season (it was really unseasonably cold here up through July) and broke down four of my raised beds and need to rebuild. 

The only vegetables I grew this year were garlic, zucchini, lettuce and tomatoes. It was a record low for me. I did make up for it by planting a fall garden, so we'll see how that goes since it's been very warm here since the beginning of August.

My fruit trees and bushes have been humming along producing loads of cherries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. The time for apples and plums is almost upon us, but more about that later!

How are your fruiting plants doing this year?

Yeah, I know I've been MIA - I can't make any promises, but maybe I'll post more than a few times this year!

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