Grapes, Ribs and An Update

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Hello Everyone!  It’s been a crazy busy summer here at Grace Note.  We’ve had the boys in marching band, necessitating me running back and forth to drop them off and pick them up daily (it’s about 13 or so miles to their school from here, so many miles traveled).  They are now back in school and so my schedule just got a lot busier! We’ve been working on the garden and also spending some time having fun with the family.  We had a nice overnight getaway with the boys and they went to a water park, we shopped in our favorite town (Freeport, Maine) for a bit and ate out a couple of times, which we don’t do often.  It was a very needed and welcome change of scenery for us.

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Recently, I discovered that we have very fruitful grape vines growing on our front fence!  Now, I knew the vines were there of course, because they are large and sprawling, but I did not know we would be getting a plethora of grapes from them.  And these aren’t wild grapes as you would find growing everywhere else in our town.  We had many of those at our last house, and I made some of the world’s best tasting grape jelly from them.  The flavor on the wild ones is so intensely grape it’s awesome for jelly.  But these are seedless and much sweeter than wild grapes. Also the location of the vines tends to tell me that they were planted to grow along that fence.  God bless the soul that planted those lovelies for another family to enjoy!  I tasted them when they weren’t ripe.  And they were N-A-S-T-Y!

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Then, I decided to try again once they were dark purple.  Heavenly!  Over the weekend, I went through and harvested all I could find, leaving some for the fairies and elementals, of course.  You never want to take all the food you find to forage as that tends to bring bad luck to you later.  It may be a silly superstition, but I am taking no chances, so I leave some for the birds and animals that I share my plot with, too.  I got enough to make some juice out of once we were done snacking on them.  Above is the amount that made 2 1/2 quarts of juice.

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Once I took the stems off, and crushed them, I added just a bit of water to cover them and brought them to a boil on medium-high heat until they were rolling. Then, reducing to simmer, I let them simmer for about a 1/2 hour until the skins were nice and soft.  You can see in the picture above that they aren’t truly seedless, but when you pull the fresh grape from the vine, most of those seeds dislodge from the grape and remain with the stem.  Some of them didn’t, and so you can see them there in this picture.  After I simmered the grapes, I strained the solids out with a fine mesh sieve and fed the left over pulp to the chickens.  The juice is currently sitting in my fridge where it will remain for a couple few days until the sediment has settled and I can skim off the clearer juice.  Right now the whole batch is very cloudy.  Now, I will either can it in pint jars and get 5 of those or I will just make jam out of it…if I can keep the kids from drinking it first.  That’s never a given around here, I have to watch them like a hawk.  Teenagers can put a serious dent in your food supplies if you just let them have free range.

So, I may have already told you this, but my husband is a serious pack rat.  It can border on hoarder if I don’t intervene.  So, it’s always dangerous when he happily trips off to the transfer station here in town on Saturday because, more times than not, he will bring home something.  A couple of months or so ago he came home with that lovely blue Webber charcoal grill.  He has been talking about wanting to get one for a long time, but since we have to weigh expenses around here, heat and the electric bill usually win out long before his need for a grill he will only use occasionally.  BUT, that day he went to the transfer station and brought home this beauty, was a good day indeed.  It was rusted through on a couple of parts and was missing the rack. It was being dropped off for the metal recycling pile by our friend, Baron, who had since gotten a new grill to replace this one. Well, if it’s fixable and still in decent shape, we can’t let that happen, now can we? So, he skipped off (okay, he didn’t skip, but for the visual, it was necessary.  Plus, he was happy enough to find this thing that he could have been skipping) to the local Ace hardware and found the parts he needed to fix it.  I will tell you, handy husbands are truly the best kind.  He has saved us so much money figuring out how to fix things, he amazes me.  But I digress…so after spending about an hour or so replacing the rusted and missing pieces, we now have a nice new-to-us Webber grill!  He has been wanting to figure out how to smoke a nice rack of ribs since our friend, Scott, made them for us one night almost 20 years ago now, they were perfect.  Michael has tried many times to smoke them on the gas grill, but they never came out tender and juicy and falling of the bone.  Good, but not great, you know?  Since he got this grill, we have enjoyed three rib dinners and this last one you see above was divine.  I’m not joking, so amazing!  We all enjoyed his experiments thoroughly.  So, thank you Baron, for giving this grill to my husband instead of trashing it, we will cherish it for years to come.  And perhaps we’ll even invite you for some ribs…

18-09-04 010 Okay, so let’s get onto homestead news.  Gardens got about a 5 out of 10 this year.  First year and lots of things went wrong.  Terrible early blight on the tomatoes, so I didn’t get much of a harvest from those. I didn’t quite work the potato boxes correctly, so the yield wasn’t as high as it could have been, I planted the beans too close together for the few pollinators we did have this summer (distinct lack of those here for sure, contrary to what the above picture looks like).

Can we discuss squash beetles and powdery mildew?  I had vine borer beetles in the spring and thankfully the plants managed to survive them, but then these little demons moved in and I’m battling them now.  And then there’s the ever lovely powdery mildew or as I like to call it, Satan’s snot.  It moved in and I battled it with milk spray, but it had too good of a hold before I saw it and it was here to stay…along with the mosaic on the cukes.  Yep, a very frustrating gardening year here.  But, lessons were learned, and I will be much more proactive next year in nipping this crap in the bud before it becomes this big of a problem for us again. So frustrating!

But there is some good news! Though we didn’t get an abundant crop of food this year, we did get some really wonderful and interesting varieties!  I love the crinkly peppers (they are sweet) and the roly poly tomatoes (they are heirloom, and the flavor is amazing).  You can see the blighty leaves around the tomatoes, when I saw that show up I wanted to cry.

We also managed to get some wonderful beans, as well. I planted 4 types of beans this year- two green, one yellow wax and then there’s the above long red ones.  I saw them in Baker Creek catalog and KNEW I had to try them this year!  They are very hearty, as the mosaic, heat nor bugs did them in and they are producing these incredible long reddish purple beans.  They resemble noodles and are supposed to be good in stirfrys.  I harvested a bunch of them today and am adding them to our menu tonight so am hoping for the best with them.  I don’t know if they would can very well, but I think they would be pretty in a jar in any case and may give it a try if I end up with enough of them.  I just love experimenting with new veggies and flowers, it’s wonderful to expand your horizons and I recommend it highly.

I will leave you with some of the wonderful flowers that are blooming here on the homestead.  I am so very ready for this hot, humid and bug filled summer to makes its departure, and hoping for a beautiful, chilly and long autumn season.  We have wood to split and gardens to put to bed here, and I’m anxious to get that woodstove installed soon.  I am also direly needing a creative outlet right now and so may be picking up a few sewing projects and doing more with this blog as well.  What projects are you planning for the coming autumn season?  Are you ready for some more restful time to come?  Until then, be well, be kind to each other and blessings to you all.