Hiking in the Wilson Creek Area

10June2015_BeerSixty-one bottles of Cream Stout – My favorite beer recipe!  It spent 3 months 3 weeks in primary, but tasted very good when I bottled it, so I am hoping for a great beer when it is done carbing.  With the end of the school year, the kids getting me sick, and the garden, I simply did not have the time or energy to bottle. 

Just thought I would add a few images of a few of our short (6 –8 mile) hikes in the Wilson Creek area. 

We have been to Wilson Creek four times this year, each time trying to hike a different path.  In February, our first hike, there were no other people and we did a short 8 mile circuit.  While the trails are mostly marked with trail numbers, they do not necessarily correspond to the map that is provided (for free).  However, it is (almost) impossible not to find your way back to the main parking area.  The area is well laid out, with bathrooms in the parking area.  The area is used by hikers, cyclists, ATVers, and people riding horses, with some trail restrictions to keep everything friendly. 


While there was little wild life other than two herds of wild horses in the winter, there are now thousands of lizards that just love to run right in front of you while you are hiking and not paying attention.  I have seen 4 kinds of lizards, including the one on the right. 

We found a nice place to get out of the rain, if it ever rains, close to the end of the trail.  The area is so different from what we are used to in Juneau, but it, it nice being in an open area, seeing for miles, and watching the small and large animals as the seasons progress.

10June2015_Hike2 10June2015_Hike3 10June2015_Hike4

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The Beginning of Summer

Flashjpg_Page1The image on the left shows the final garden layout as planted (using Garden Planner), with the exception of the corn.  My germination rates for the corn was about 20%, so I needed to do a second planting/replanting.  I did the replanting a bit closer than before, and I staggered in a zig-zag pattern in order to have more corn and to provide support for when it is windy.  Wind damage was a huge problem last year.  The newly planted corn is coming up now, so I am expecting a good corn year.

The garlic is growing quite well, and the garlic scapes were harvested (and eaten) last week.  I am turning off the water to the garlic, and will check it in about 4 weeks to see if is ready for harvest.  A quick look underground revealed some nice large bulbs!10June2015_Garden  There are about 186 or so garlic bulbs planted, which should last us for a while.  I plan on saving a portion to replant, as garlic bulbs for planting are quite expensive. 

The image on the right is of our over-wintered onions and the potatoes.  The onions are going to seed, and since I have never done this, I have no idea what will happen, other than I will get some onion seeds.  Overall, we planted over 120 new onion plants, including a red, yellow, and sweet.  I also planted about 100 green onions.  Next year, I will be planting Walla Walla Onions in the fall rather than in the spring, in order to obtain larger onions.  I actually did not know that you could fall plant them. 


The potatoes now have a layer of mulch around them for protection from the heat and for better water retention in the soil. The potatoes suffered a bit last year from dryness, and I hope to dramatically increase the yield this year with the mulch and the new irrigation system.   The mulch will be extended to much of the garden, with the future plan to establish a no (or limited) till garden.  For now, however, we do need to get some organics into the soil, as it is fairly poor, and I have yet to see a worm in the soil when digging. 

As for the irrigation system, it is working wonderfully well, and we are seeing an increase in yields already.  So far, we have harvested over 30 pounds of really large and sweet strawberries, as well as other berries, and now snap peas.  Overall, the garden looks healthier, the plants are bigger, and I am using over 50 percent less water than last 10June2015_Garden3year. 

The image on the right is of out Egyptian Walking Onions and Garlic Chives that are in the herb garden.  The Walking Onions are fun to watch grow.  We are leaving them alone for now, hoping to find a place to plant more in the future.

The image below left is of the garlic (on the left) and the onions (on the right).


One thing I did is move my three hops plants into the main garden.  They were simply not happy where they were, and the only place that has water and support this year is the garden. 

Miscellaneous:  Hatched 3 chickens in January – All three turned out to be males.  They, plus one other year old rooster, and now part of the freezer inventory.  Our main rooster, who kept the others in line, died, and the others simply started tearing up the hens.  They will now soon be broth.

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It Begins–Again!

GardenPlan_2015Once again, it is time to start the garden. On the left is a rather poor quality image of my garden design that was done in Garden Planner.  This is the second year I have used Garden Planner in Idaho, and I do enjoy it a bit better than paper and pencil for planning the garden each year.  There are some limitations, such as print quality, but overall it is an easy product to use, especially when changing plans.

The start to the gardening season was delayed by about a month, mainly due to the kids at school donating their various toxic germs to me.  But, things are starting to move along, and with the long growing season here, I have no doubt that we will once again produce more food than we need. 

Last year, I used soaker hoses for irrigation, but the hoses did a very poor job, with some areas receiving very little water, and some areas becoming flooded with water running into the furrows.  This year I amusing a Garden_2015_1ribbon system that has little slits every 8 inches to let the water drip out.  So far, the product is working amazingly well, and cutting my watering time down by at least half.  We will see what happens then things start growing, but the drip system has been watering the garlic and onions for the past month with no problems. 

The image on the right is of the garlic (6 different varieties) that I planted last fall, and the onions that we transplanted after cleaning up the garden last year.  The onions were hidden in the Tomato plants, and were very small, so I decided to try to over-winter them to see if they would grow. 

In the furrow you can see strips of cardboard.  We are in the process of lining the entire garden with cardboard and newspaper.  When that is done we will apply a thick layer of alfalfa as mulch.  This is an attempt at improving the soil, as well as using less water and having cooler soil temperatures during the summer heat.

The plant count so far is:

180 heads of garlic
200+ onion plants
144 corn plants (actually 288 as I always grow 2 plants per hole)
150 potato plants (3 varieties)
66 feet of sugar snap peas
150 or so carrots

I will be planting the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, melons, pumpkins and watermelon this weekend.  I plan on growing the cucumbers on a trellis system, and may try to do the same with the melons. 

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A Bit of Catching Up!

DSC00004_1The summer has passed, and winter is now upon us. We were quite fortunate this year, with an abundant harvest, great health, and a generally satisfying life. We were able to harvest over 1,000 pounds of tomatoes, 1,000 pounds of various squash, a few dozen smaller watermelons and other types of melons, including two watermelons which weighed in at over 80 pounds. I was able to save a bit over 50 pounds of dried corn, 85 pounds of potatoes, thousands of individual sweet and hot peppers, a few hundred pounds of cucumbers, and much, much more.

The tomatoes and squash were preserved, with the tomatoes canned as either tomato2014_DSC00004 sauce, pasta sauce, or salsa, or dehydrated and frozen for later use.  The squash, especially the zucchini, was dehydrated, and the cucumbers were turned into pickles.   All together, we have over 350 jars of various things that I canned this year, and an entire chest freezer full of dehydrated fruit and vegetables.  We are still dehydrating peppers, making the upstairs a very spicy experience!

The chickens are laying around 40 eggs per week, though the cold weather has slowed them 2014_DSC00003down a bit this week.  Prior to this past cold spell which brought freezing temperatures and snow, I was able to plant  garlic, which consists of 7 types of garlic with a total of about 500 cloves planted. 

Planning for next years garden has begun, incorporating lessons learned from this year, including the elimination of some vegetable varieties, increasing other types of vegetables, and placing certain crops, especially the corn, in a more protected location that is out of the wind. 

A very small sample of some of the vegetables we harvested this year, and a small batch of tomato sauce:

2014_DSC00002  2014_DSC00021    2014_DSC000412014_DSC00050  2014_DSC00005

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Sunrise–16 July 2014



Taken from my side patio, 6:38 AM, 16 July 2014.  Caldwell (Sunnyslope Area) Idaho.

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Peppers, Tomatoes, and Another Batch of Pickles, and More!


It would seem that all we are growing are cucumbers, but we are really growing other things too. 

We are starting to harvest tomatoes and peppers now and carrots.  The peppers on the left are Anaheim and Banana, which are now strung up and hanging outside sun drying. Later this week I will also be harvesting some of the Pepperoncini Peppers for, well, pickling….  We have about 45 pepper plants of 13 different varieties.  Interestingly, I forgot to plant one of the peppers I really wanted, and one that we use frequently – Jalapeno Peppers.  I will make sure they are planted next year.

Some of the larger tomatoes are starting to be ripe, as in the Pink Berkley seen on the right.  25July2014_DSC_0010The others that are ripe are the Golden Nugget Cherry Tomatoes and the Principle Borghese, which is a paste tomato that is often used for sun dried tomatoes.  Instead of sun drying out tomatoes, we are using our dehydrators to dry them.  We have already completed one batch, which we vacuum sealed. 

Below are some of the tomatoes ready for the dehydrator.  The red ones are the Principle Borghese and the yellow are the Golden Nugget.  24Jul42014_DSCF7198

As I said, I made another batch of pickles using a different recipe. This time I used the Dill Sandwich Slices recipe from the Ball – Complete Book of Home Preserving book.

***One thing about the Pickle recipes that I post is that I do not include complete instructions. If you have never canned, or are unfamiliar with the processes I describe, please look up how to can, jar preparation, hot water bath versus pressure canning, and all other things canning related. To make it easy, you can just buy the referenced book.  Canning is safe, but you really need to understand what you are doing before you do it. ***

While I plan to process more cucumbers, I will more than likely not post the recipe unless it is something new.

Pickle Recipe – Dill Slices: 25July2014_DSC_0050

Batch Size:  9 – 10 Pints


6 Tbsps. pickling spice (as discussed in this post:  Click Me!)
8 cups Braggs vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
8 cups Water (filtered)
1 1/2 cups white sugar 
1 cup canning or pickling salt 
10 each bay leaves 
20 garlic cloves
10 Dill Heads
5 tsps. mustard seeds
24 cups pickling cucumbers

Place 5 tablespoons picking spice in a cheesecloth bag, tying closing the top.  In a non reactive pan, place the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and spice bag.  Slowly bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes.

In prepared jars, place 2 cloves garlic, one dill head, 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds, and one bay leaf.  Pack pickles leaving 3/4 inch head space and top with pickling liquid, leaving 1.2 inch head space. 

26Jul42014_DSCF7205Process for 15 minutes (again, because of altitude, I did 20 minutes).  Turn off heat, remove canner top, and remove jars after 5 minutes.

In other news, we are staring to actually get a nice supply of eggs.  We are now up to 3 per day as the chickens are starting to get to the right age.  I am still not sure which rooster I will keep (we have two) as they are both getting along and are fairly calm roosters. 

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Canning Pickles


The cucumber plants are still churning out cucumbers, to once again I am making pickles.  This time I am doing two batches, and ended up with 15 quarts of pickles total.  This brings our pickle stores to around 32 quarts and 8 pints.  A lot of pickles with more to come I am sure.

One of the issues for these two batches may be the size of the cucumbers.  They were a bit large, but fresh, so I am hoping that they will end up crisp.

For this batch of pickles, I used a recipe based on the Ball – Complete Book of Home Preserving, and modified the base recipe to our needs.

***One thing about the Pickle recipes that I post is that I do not include complete instructions. If you have never canned, or are unfamiliar with the processes I describe, please look up how to can, jar preparation, hot water bath versus pressure canning, and all other things canning related. To make it easy, you can just buy the referenced book. Canning is safe, but you really need to understand what you are doing before you do it. ***

Pickle Recipe 2:17Jul42014_DSCF7120

Batch Size:  7 – 8 Quarts 


Brine –

8 lbs. pickling cucumbers 
1/2 cup pickling or canning salt
Water (filtered) to cover cucumbers

Pickling Ingredients –

3/4 cup  pickling or canning salt
8 cups water (filtered)
2 Tbsp. Pickling Spice  (see below)
6 cups vinegar (Braggs)
1/4 cup white sugar 
7 – 8 tsp. yellow mustard seeds (1 tsp. per quart) 
10 (approximately) heads dill
14 garlic cloves 
14 Arbol chilies – whole dry

Pickling Spice:24July1024_DSCF7130

1 ea. – cinnamon stick broken into small pieces 
5 bay leaves – crushed 
2 Tbsps. yellow mustard seeds 
1 Tbsp. allspice
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds 
1 Tbsp. whole black pepper corns 
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cardamom seeds 
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. cloves – whole

For the pickling spice, I mixed the ingredients and put into a half-pint jar and further mixed by rotating (not shaking) the jar until all ingredients looked fully integrated. Smelled really good. 

17Jul42014_DSCF7125The cucumbers were brined by placing them in a non-reactive pan after 1/4 cups of sale was mixed with 8 cups of water.  The cucumbers were brined for about 14 hours.  When ready to use, I triple rinsed the cucumbers, and then drained.

To process, first prepare the jars and lids (look it up if you are not sure how to prepare jars).  Then take 2 tablespoons of the pickling spice and place in a piece of cheesecloth, making a small bag and tying closed.  Place the spice bag in a pan containing the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and summer for 15 minutes.  Turn on low and cover until ready to use.

Pack jars with 1-1/2 dill heads, 2 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon mustard seed, and cucumbers to within 3/4 inches from top.  I put the Abrol chilies in between the cucumbers, on the sides of the jars to they looked nice.  Top up 19-July-2014_DSCF7144with the pickling solution to within 1/2 inches of the top of the jar.

Wipe the rim with a damp clean cloth, and attach lid and ring.  Place in canner.

Slowly bring the water up to a boil (I use medium heat).  When a boil is achieved, process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude.  because I am at 2224 feet, I processed to 15 minutes.  After the appropriate time, turn off heat, take lid of canner, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, placing them on a towel.

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Lemon Pickles


One of the varieties of cucumbers that I planted this year was Lemon Cucumbers.  Though I only planted 4 plants, they have produced over 20 pounds of cucumbers, and are still going strong.  So, I decided that I would pickle some of them.

One nice thing about this batch is that I was able to use some of the Walla Walla Onions that I planted from seed.  The onions are still a bit small, but big enough to cook with in this case.  The smell from the onions was quite fresh and strong, but not harsh.  Fairly pleasant actually.

***One thing about the Pickle recipes that I post is that I do not include complete instructions. If you have never canned, or are unfamiliar with the processes I describe, please look up how to can, jar preparation, hot water bath versus pressure canning, and all other things canning related. To make it easy, you can just buy the referenced book. Canning is safe, but you really need to understand what you are doing before you do it. ***

Pickle Recipe – Lemon 1: 20Jul42014_DSCF7152

Batch Size:  7 – 8 Pints


Brine –

8 lbs. pickling cucumbers 
3 lbs. onions
1/2 cup canning or pickling salt
Water (filtered) to cover cucumbers

Pickling Ingredients –

4 cups vinegar (Braggs) 
4 1/2 cups white sugar 
2 Tbsps.. yellow mustard seeds  
1 1/2 Tbsps. celery seeds 
1 Tbsp. ground turmeric

20Jul42014_DSCF7157Prepare cucumbers and into 1/4 inch slices.  Thinly slice the onions.  Combine onions and cucumbers, place in a non-reactive bowl and add canning salt.  Cover with cold water and store in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

When ready to process, in a non-reactive pot, add vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and turmeric, slowly bringing to a boil.  Boil for 10 minutes.

Drain the cucumber and onion mixture.  Add to liquid and slowly return to boil.

Take off heat and pack jars with cucumber mixture to within 1/2 inch or the top of the jar.  Add liquid to top off 20Jul42014_DSCF7160to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar.

Wipe rim with a damp towel, add lid and ring.

Process to 10 minutes (15 for me because of altitude), turn off heat, take off lid, and then take the jars out after 5 minutes.

This recipe made very good looking pickles.

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Wine Update, and Squash!

20Jul42014_DSCF7147Racked my wines today, and I am very pleased with the results, so far.

The Cherry Wine came in with an SG of 1.000 and the Cherry Mead at 1.010.  As I mentioned in the original post, Cherry Wine and Mead, with care, 71B will go way above 14% ABV.  For the mead, it stopped in the perfect spot.

The mead it amazingly good for a 20 day old product.  The honey is present but does not mask the presence of the cherries.  There is a very pleasant sweetness, but not at all cloying. If the mead stops where it is, I will be happy and will not need to back sweeten or add any acid.  Wood?  Maybe.  I do have some wonderful medium toast French Oak chips hanging around, and I think they will go quite well with the mead.  I may split the batch and do half wood half no wood.

The issue is now what happens with the 48 ounces of cherry wine base that I added on the 20th to both the mead and the wine.  I did notice that there was some airlock activity 5 hours after adding the additional fruit, which I expected, so we shall see on the 4th of August how the wines were affected.

As for the Cherry Wine – It is really hot.  A lot of alcohol that I think will age out.  The wine I will have to back sweeten a bit, which I originally thought I might have to do anyway.  There is good cherry flavor and nothing except the alcohol that is harsh.  No wood for the wine though, as it is going to be a light and delicate wine if all goes well.

Look!  It is Misty is a zucchini standing in front of out 8 foot corn!


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Dill Pickles


We planted 6 pickling cucumber plants (4 Homemade Pickle plants and 2 store bought plants), and 4 Straight 8 cucumber plants that can also be used for pickles.  The plants started off rather poorly, but now are producing a large number of cucumbers almost daily.  Misty has already pickled 7 quarts of pickles, and I just finished another 8 quarts. 

The dill is from our garden, and this is the first time that I have been able to successfully grow dill.  In Juneau the dill would become very tall and break in the wind and rain.  The plants here are short and quite strong, but I may not have planted enough to get us through the pickling season.

One change that I made was to substitute white vinegar for filtered Braggs vinegar.  I have nothing against white vinegar, I simply thought that a cider vinegar would bring a bit of flavor to the pickles.  The liquid is not as clear with the Braggs, but as long as the final produce is good, it really does not matter.

***One thing about the Pickle recipes that I post is that I do not include complete instructions. If you have never canned, or are unfamiliar with the processes I describe, please look up how to can, jar preparation, hot water bath versus pressure canning, and all other things canning related. To make it easy, you can just buy the referenced book. Canning is safe, but you really need to understand what you are doing before you do it. ***

Pickle Recipe – Dill 1: 19Jul42014_DSCF7163

Batch Size:  7 – 8 Quarts


Brine –

8 lbs. pickling cucumbers  
1 cup canning or pickling salt
Water (filtered) to cover cucumbers

Pickling Ingredients –

6 1/2 cups vinegar (Braggs)
7 cups water (filtered)
1 Tbsp. canning or pickling salt
35 each. mixed peppercorns (I used a mixture of red, white, green, and black)
21 garlic cloves&
14 Dill Heads 
4 tsps. mustard seeds
14 Arbol chili peppers

23Jul42014_300_2116Mix the salt in the water, stir to dissolve salt.  In a non-reactive pan, place cucumbers and pour the brine over the cucumbers.  Place in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours (I did 18 hours).

Rinse and drain cucumbers well.

Prepare jars and lids.

Add the water, vinegar, and salt to a non reactive plan and slowly bring to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes.

Pack prepared jars with 2 cloves of garlic (I used whole cloves), 5 (or more) peppercorns, 1 dill head, and 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds.

Add the pickles, 2 chilies, and place 1/2 dill head on the top.  The pickles should be packed giving a generous 1.2 inch headspace.  Add vinegar solution to within 1.2 inch of the top.

Wipe rim with a damp towel, add top and ring.

Process for 15 minutes (I did 20 because of altitude).  After processing, turn off heat, remove lid from canner, and take out jars after 5 minutes.

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