Monday, October 1, 2012

To Market... To Market

... and bring home:  a quarter-bushel of Empire apples, a quarter-bushel of Spartan apples, a quarter-bushel of Roma tomatoes,  10 lbs of red onions, a 1 kg jar of local honey, and some grass-fed skirt steak.

Only two more outdoor Saturdays for our local market.  Then the vendors decrease in number as the market moves indoors.

Southern Ontario had a freak frost during apple blossom time, so apples are twice or more what they were last year and year before.  I paid $15 for my half-bushel of C-grade apples.  I'll sort through to store the best ones for a while.  The others will go into the food dehydrator and canned apple sauce.  I'm eating fresh too while I have them.  But I'll keep a close eye on the "keepers" to bake/dehydrate those that start to go right away.

Honey prices keep escalating.  The jar I bought should nicely supplement my souvenir jars from places we visit (tupelo from Florida,  sourwood from the Great Smokey Mountains,  southwester wild flower from New Mexico).

I bought the tomatoes because I wanted to dehydrate some,  have some on hand for hot sauce (I have very hot peppers fermenting right now), and some to eat fresh.

About a third of the red onions will be dehydrated,  a third used in salsa and relish, and a third used in daily cooking (as long as they last in  my warmish basement storage).

I think I'm nearing "ready for winter".

Friday, September 21, 2012

There's A Hole In the Bucket...

... actually it's a whole set of cracks, the handle-holding spot broke, and so I spilled my gathered produce as I dodged the ladder set by my back gate...

The bucket is plastic, of course, and it's been out in the sun and weather for more than a few seasons.  It originally held muffin batter, I think (the label is all worn off).

Anyway, the old bucket went into our plastic recycling -- and I picked up four much newer buckets of a similar size on the neighborhood boulevard.  They have metal bails and originally held drywall compound -- much sturdier!

I also brought home three glass jars for hold dried foods,  a former olive oil bottle whose dark green glass will perfectly hold a Christmas gift of fermented hot pepper sauce,  a Windex spray bottle, a 2.5 gallon water jug (it has a spout that comes off) for emergency water storage,  a gallon metal tin, and a shoebox sized filing box (with label holder).

I'm all for reuse over recycling!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hot Mustard Relish

I came home after a week away to find all sorts of things ready to use in the garden: hot red peppers, cucumbers, tomatillos, zucchini, green beans. I made a batch of mustard pickles with red pepper and onions I had on hand with freshly gathered green beans, cucumbers, and tomatillos.

We liked the flavor of the mustard sauce so much, I decided to throw together a mustard relish heated by some of the hot red peppers.

Hot Mustard Relish Makes 9-11 half pint jars.
2-4 hot red peppers (even more if your peppers are somewhat mild or you like it really hot!) with seeds and membrane removed
2 sweet red peppers
1 sweet green pepper
6-8 tomatillos
6-8 cucumbers (if seedy, remove seeds)
3 cups chopped onions (3-4 med - to - large onions)
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons mustard powder
1/3 cup organic sugar (or light brown sugar)
4-6 teaspoons pickling salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/4 cup white vinegar

I ran all the vegetables through my food processor. Add more tomatillos and cucumbers if needed to get a final quantity of a generous 8 cups. Taste for heat as you add the hot peppers and they blend through the vegetable mix. It is far easier to add more peppers than cope with a relish that is too hot!

Prepare your jars and lids. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine the spices, sugar, salt, flour, and vinegar. Cook until thickened. Add the processed vegetables -- you may want to keep back some of your hot peppers so you can adjust the heat. Simmer gently for about five minutes to blend flavors and develop the relish's heat.

Ladle into hot jars, leaving a generous 1/2 inch head space. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tomato Stock

This is a pantry basic for me. I fire-roast my tomatoes and drain off liquid (see my post on passata) from them to make it. It certainly cuts down the boiling-down time to produce tomato sauce! I usually produce 1 pint of tomato stock for every 2 pints of tomato sauce (this is still some boiling down) I put up.

You can refrigerate the drained liquid for several days if you're accumlating it from several small batches of sauce making.

Recipe for Tomato Stock

12 cups of drained tomato liquid
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 c fresh basil
1 small onion, cut up
1-2 stalks of celery, cut up
1/2 c parsley
other herbs to taste: tarragon, hot pepper, oregano
Bottled lemon juice or citric acid for jars

Put 1 cup of the liquid in the blender. Add the seasoning ingredients. Puree.

Put the rest of the liquid into a pot. Add the seasoning puree. Salt to taste. Prepare your jars as you heat the stock to boiling; you can simmer it for 5 to 10 to develop flavours for your tasting and adjusting.

For each pint jar, use one tablespoon of lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid for acidification (double amount for quart jars). Pour stock into jars, seal, and process 35 minutes for pints, 40 minutes for quarts.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fire-Roasted Passata

Passata from its Italian name: passata di pomodoro, when tomatoes have been "passed" through a sieve to remove seeds and lumps.

I bought a bottle of Del Monte passata this summer and really enjoyed its versatility and "closer to fresh" taste. Unadorned in the bottle, it combines well with any kind of pesto to make a sauce for pizza or pasta. It is thicker than tomato juice or canned tomatoes but not as thick as tomato paste.

Most home processing of tomatoes requires a boiling off of tomatoes to thicken their consistency for sauce. I use a method that involves fire-roasting, drainage, and passing through an Italian-type tomato press to remove the liquid.

Equipment: grill (with cover), tongs, large colander, bowl of sufficient size to hold the colander, masher (optional), spoon for scooping, pot or bowl for pulp transfer if you can't set your sieving device next to your draining setup, Italian tomato press (a large food mill would also work but is more effort), container to hold strained pulp.

Tomatoes and their washing: I use Roma tomatoes for all my preserving. I can obtain a bushel at a time from local grocers or the farmers market in my area. A quarter bushel will yield 6 to 8 pints of passata and 2-3 pints of tomato stock -- yield depends on tomato size and dryness (due to the season's weather). Ripe Romas make the best passata. They also roast quickly and pass through your sieving device easily. I wash the tomatoes in cool water to which I've added a tablespoon or two of vinegar. This will kill mold spores and bacteria on the tomatoes in case you have hold any of the steps over night.

Fire-roasting: I do this on a gas grill. It can be done on a charcoal grill as well -- I imagine there would be more "fire flavour" in the result. You can also roast tomatoes in the oven, but it's too hot where I live to do at the time of tomato harvest. I roast the tomatoes under cover until they are lightly browned on both sides or until they soften and begin to bubble a bit. You don't want them so soft that they fall apart as you lift them from the grill.

Draining: Put the tomatoes in a colander over a bowl. You want them to cool before putting them through your sieving device anyway. If properly cooked, they will flatten on themselves and begin to release some of their juice. Stir to promote this; mashing also helps. I let one batch drain while I load my grill with the next batch.

Sieving: Once the roasted tomatoes have reduced in volume by a quarter to a third, spoon into your sieving device or the vessel to transfer the pulp to your sieving device. Your device will take out the seeds and skins (which can be composted) and leave you with an unseasoned puree of sauce consistency.

Don't throw out the juice you drained. It makes a wonderful gazpacho base or canned tomato stock for winter soups.

Processing: Once you've sieved all your tomatoes, measure the puree to determine how many jars you'll need. Prepare them and heat the puree just to boiling. Put a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice in each pint jar (double it for quarts), fill with puree with at least a half inch head space. Process pints for 35 minutes, quarts for 40.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Orangey Canned Beets

I bought beets because I want them for winter. I also wanted them with an orangey flavour. This was going to be easy to do because I have dried orange peel and some orange oil. I thought caraway would be nice too and I threw in some green peppercorns for a bit of a bit.

Recipe for Orangey Canned Beets

8 cups cooked, peeled, sliced beets
3 cups white vinegar
2/3 c water
1/2 c organic sugar (more if you really have a sweet tooth)
1 tablespoon dried orange peel
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons green peppercorns
a few drops of orange oil if you have (to taste)

Put your peel, caraway and peppercorns in a large tea ball or a cheese cloth bag. Place in pot with the vinegar, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes (prepare your jars while doing this). Add orange oil to taste if using.

Take out the spices and add the beets to the vinegar brew. Bring to a boil. Put in jars, leaving at least 1/2 inch headspace once topped up with brew. For pints, process 30 minutes. I had quarts, so I processed 35.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Drying Beets

These dried in less than twelve hours in my electric dehydrator -- do it overnight while the power rates are low here in Ontario!

Wash your beets but leave roots and up to two inches of top intact so they don't bleed as much.
Place larger beets in the first layer in your pot and then place smaller ones on top. Cook until you can easily stick a knife into them. The smaller ones will cook quicker, so take those out first. Douse in cold water and slip the skins off.

Slice the beets horizontally 1/8 inch thick. You might want to cut large beets in half from top to bottom before slicing them. They shrink considerably as they dry, so if you want "chips" you'll want to have whole slices.

Lay them on your drying trays. Mine dried in less than twelve hours at 135 degrees F. I plan to use them for snacking, soups, and crushed for food colouring.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Putting Beets By

On Sunday I bought 10 pounds of beets at the local Farm Boy. Nice medium-sized beets.

That evening I cooked up two 6 qt pots full. One pot went into my electric food dryer (6 trays full!) and the other pot was peeled and sliced for refrigerator storage overnight.

You can see how much less storage dried takes over canned!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hot Pepper Update

These beauties are fattening up and reddening nicely.  Pickled pepper rings for pizza and burgers, here we come!

I've got four bushes like this.

The four jalapeno bushes are loaded with fat ones as well.  I'm hoping some will redden for making my own chipoltes.

This Year's Jazzy Labels

You can make great labels if you have a colour laser printer,  Inkscape, and Broderbund collection of clip art and fonts.  With IrfanView you can even swap colours on things like frames.  With GIMP you can make the "white" in your clip art transparent so you can layer things like pepper pictures on frames.

I print on plain multi-purpose paper.  I use school glue to glue them on to the jars (after they've cooled from water-bath processing).  A little soaking is all it takes to get them after the jars are emptied -- much nicer to deal with than the sticky adhesive on Avery labels or the labels that come with canning jars.

The Thick of Canning Season

The date when I can get bushels of regional Roma tomatoes, sweet red peppers, and peaches from my grocer down the road came early this year, so I'm doing my heavy canning in mid-August rather than the end of it (and sometimes right into the Labor Day weekend).

Friday: 20 pints Zesty Tomato Sauce, 16 pints Tomato Stock, 7 pints Rummed Peaches.

Saturday:  6 quarts Pickled Sweet Peppers, 6 quarts Jardiniere,  began drying peppers, roasted peppers

Sunday:   3 pints and 5 half-pints Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, 7 half pints Peach Salsa, 7 pints Fire-Roasted Passata.  Jarred up 3 pints of dried sweet peppers.

Monday: 9 pints Melba-Brandied Peaches, 5 pints 6-Pepper Hellish Relish, 6 half-pints Bumbleberry Sauce.  Jarred up two more pints of dried sweet peppers and a pint of dried sweet cherries.

The major shelf got filled. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Year Of Peppers

Every year there are some things that don't do so well (apple blossoms felled by frost,  squash that didn't produce female blossoms because it was too hot) and other things that do gang-busters.  Like peppers...

I am growing four jalapeno and four red hot pepper plants and they are loaded with peppers.

On Thursday I got a bushel of red shephard peppers -- some years these are skinny in flesh and circumference and length, but not this year!  Almost as fleshy as regular sweet peppers and nearly twice as long.  Wonderful to roast on the barbeque for Roasted Red Pepper Spread -- a dozen of these beauties was enough for a double batch of the stuff.

On Saturday at the Farmers Market, one vendor was offering a bushel of orange and yellow sweet peppers for $10.  How could I resist -- especially in light of my dearth of squash and a winter need for vitamin A.

Oh, I picked up a half-dozen green peppers to go with them at the No Frills at 77 cents a pound....

I dried and canned my way through all but two green and two red peppers 5 days.  I have 5 jars of dried sweet peppers (from 2 to 3 cup in size),  6 quarts of pickled sweet peppers,  4 jars of  sweet and sour yellow pepper soup, and they made substantial contributions to the content of jardiniere and a 6-pepper Hellish Relish.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jungle Time

We've had a few days of rain,  like we often do in the first week or so of August,  so the grass is greening up again,  the rhubarb is robust, and the pole beans continue to outgrow whatever I put them on!
bean tower

A neighbor was taking down her wooden porch railings.  One was 8 feet long, the other was 14.  We cut the longer to match the shorter and installed them with braces.   The trimmed piece was put to use as a snap pea trellis further back in the garden.

You can see the watering jug for a cucumber planted under this trellis.  The bean didn't grow over the horizontal spindles until I cover them with chicken wire.

I never pick more than a third of the stalks from a rhubarb plant at a time.  This year I mulched them. When it was brutally hot and dry (no rain in several weeks), I did water them twice.  No longer now in August!  But I'll have rhubarb to combine with elderberries for wine and preserves.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Audrey the Audacious

She's a volunteer from the the compost, growing out of the compost bin.  This is not a small bin.  This is not a small sunflower.  Before she bloomed, I was wondering if I was growing my own exterior "Little Shop of Horrors"!

I might even get sunflower seeds this fall...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How 7 Bales of Straw Saved My Sanity (and Garden)

Last year we had a dry July -- simply no rain.  And the hot weather came in June.  We finally returned to a better rainfall cycle in August. 

I watered every odd day on the calender for six weeks!  I use rain water for my "kitchen" garden -- greens, herbs, peppers, and cherry tomatoes in a space on the east side of house -- so I could water every day there if I needed to (with peppers and tomatoes in pots I sometimes needed to!).  The fenced-in main garden and the perennial foods area (rhubarb, elderberries, grapes, asparagus, some berry bushes, and Jerusalem artichokes) are too extensive to be served by rain water alone.  Our city limits watering to every other day.   I used little mulch and my watering system was overly complicated.

We had a dry winter.  We got some spring rain.  The forecast was for a hot summer with lots of dry days.  Things had to change or I would grow to hate my garden.  We got a trailer; it was big enough to haul 10 bales of straw home. 

I moved my blueberries so I wouldn't have to water their old location; they weren't getting enough sun anyway.  (In their new spot, they don't get enough acid -- I think next year they go into big pots.)
I pulled up the soaker hose that had fed them and re-routed it through the asparagus bed with bean patches on either side of it.

Grapes don't require a lot of watering since they have deep root systems.  A bale of straw went on them so I could get by watering them only every ten days or so.  A bale and a half of straw went around the berry bushes,  the plum tree,  the elderberries, and the rhubarb.     I didn't water anything in that area until mid-July or so.

A half-bale went around the apple tree.  I mulched the black raspberries (but not soon enough or deep enough -- another change for next year).  More straw on the potato beds, but they simply did not do as well as last year.  It might have been the seed or that this was a second year in that place. 

A half-bale went around my kale plants in my kitchen beds and around the kohlrabi.  Dried grass clippings mulched all my herbs and pots.  My peppers were withering  quickly until I did that.  A 37 degree C  day will still send them into a droop, but they perk right up with an evening water.

In the main garden I mulched as I planted.  I didn't even think about watering until the end of June.  Then I got out my hoses,  simplified the joins, and came up with a system that involved no Ys,  only two hoses,  the ability to turn off flow at the last end, and my rain sweeper attachment. With it I could water everything in about an hour.  I still used my 2 gallon jugs for watering the grapes, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers (filling them with the free hose end), but the attachment can gently feed a 30 inch  long section of trellis planting.  I'd often get weeding done while jugs were filling or the attachment was watering a section of bean or pea trellis.

I had snap peas and greens aplenty.  The pole beans are producing the dried beans I like.  If I get rain, I don't water.  I've eaten, dried, and canned kale.  My jalapenos are super happy and my other hot peppers are pretty chirpy.  I've got a late crop of snap peas coming up in one of the potato beds.  It's not perfect, but I don't dread odd-numbered days on the calender as much.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Re-Use Earwig Trap

Earwigs love to nest in -- and ruin -- my ripening grapes.  I don't  have as many this year because they bloomed early and frost hit some of the blossom.  I also deeply mulched the grapes this year so I wouldn't have to water them as often. The little earwig traps I bought a couple of years ago would be lost in it.

I've been eating tall tubs of Astro yogurt all summer.  I kept three out of the blue box to make earwig traps.  If they didn't work, I could always toss them back into the blue box.

The trap needs a way for the earwigs to get in,  the impossibility that they can get out again, and a bait to draw them in the first place.  A bait that they drown in keeps them from getting out.  They like beer and liquid detergent with a scent also helps draw them.  The detergent assures a drowning.

I drilled  four or five 1/4" holes in the top inch of yogurt container.  The lids go back on to keep out the rain and bigger vermin. The earwigs will crawl through the holes and drop into the bail solution.  Every few days I can remove lids and empty out dead earwigs and spent bait.

I had some very old near-beer sitting around.  It's the hops and malt that draws the earwigs, not the alcohol, so that was fine to use.  I had picked up a couple of detergent jugs early in the summer with push-spigots on them to replace my older outdoor sink water supplies.  Rinsing them out, I got a fair amount of diluted detergent which I stashed in another tall yogurt container.  I mixed the near-bear, detergent, and water in 64 oz. jug and now have a good month's supply of earwig bait.

I nestled the traps in the mulch under spans of vine that had grapes growing.  I've been removing earwigs every few days since and the grapes still look healthy.

Everything I've used in the traps has been diverted from the waste stream.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Rhubarb After Wine

... when you make rhubarb wine, you have shrunken, lightly sweetened rhubarb pieces left in your strainer.  They could be composted.  I tasted one -- just the right amount of sweetness (most of the sugar used in extracting the juice is in the juice). 

I really like the rhubarb-elderberry flavor combo I'm using in the wine.  I've got some elderberries frozen in the freezer.  The rhubarb chunks and a cup of elderberries went into my 2 quart glass measure (nice deep sides and a handy handle) and into the microwave.  First for three minutes, another three minutes, and then two (microwave wattages vary, so break up cooking times the first time out with something -- you can add more time to cook more, you can't undo overcooking).  The rosy hue of the rhubarb deepened,  a lot of the chunks held their shape with some saucing, and the result tasted divine over sourdough waffles with yogurt on top.  On the weekend away at a potluck breakfast I found it went equally well with yogurt on granola.  People also ate it as a side.  It was universally loved.

On the next batch of wine,  I cooked the sauce on the stove and canned it.

Rhubarb-Elderberry Sauce  (makes 5 half-pints)

6 cups rhubarb chunks (juice extracted via sugar)
1 cup elderberries (frozen is fine)
5 half-pint jars

  1. Clean and heat jars as for any canning.
  2. Cook the rhubarb and elderberries together.  The sauce is done when remaining juice in the rhubarb and juice from the elderberries combine and make a lightly gelled base for the softened fruit.  It will soften more during processing.
  3. Spoon into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.  Use a knife or spatula to get out air pockets.
  4. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  
  5. Remove, cool, check that seals are made, label and store.
If you are making two batches of wine (two gallons) at the same time or a few days apart (store the chunks from the first batch in the refrigerator), you can double the recipe and put it into pint jars.  The water bath processing should then be 20 minutes.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Rose from Rhubarb?

... wine that is!

Two years I began make a rose (don't know how to do the accent here -- it's pronounced "rose-ay") wine from rhubarb with the addition of black raspberries to colour it that delicate pink and give it a flavour lift as well.  I didn't get to drink any of it the first year because local teenagers explored my basement when we left the back door unlocked and made of with it!  After upping our house security and putting potables under lock and key as a backup, I've got 20 bottles of rose wine to enjoy in coolers, cooking, and straight sipping.

This year I had leftover canned elderberry juice and white grape juice (from my own shrubs and vines), so I've begun using those instead.  The elderberry juice adds the needed colour and both deepen the flavour dimension of the wine.

Equipment you'll need:
  • kitchen scale -- you do have to weigh the rhubarb and sugar
  • 6 qt stainless steel pot with cover
  • a second bowl or pot for the straining step
  • 2 quart measure
  • fine-mesh strainer
  • glass gallon jug  (clean and sterile)
  • fermentation lock to fit the jug's mouth
  • 2 1/2 - 3 lbs rhubarb
  • 2 1/2 lbs white sugar  (this produces a dry wine )
  • 1 cup elderberry juice
  • 2 cups white grape juice
  • 2 quarts filtered water
  • 1/2 tsp yeast nutrient (provides elements for the yeast not in the rhubarb)
  • 1/2 packet of wine yeast (champagne type is good because it sinks to bottom of your jug)
  1. Gather rhubarb, wash, slice 1/2" thick.  Put 2 and half pounds of it (or up to three pounds) in the steel pot.
  2. Add 2 and half pounds of sugar to the pot.  More sugar will make a sweeter wine, but no more than three pounds is advisable. 
  3. Stir the sugar through the rhubarb and cover.
  4. Leave for 24 hours,  stirring it every few hours.  The sugar will draw the juice from the rhubarb. 
  5. Strain the juice from the rhubarb.
  6. Put the rhubarb back into the empty pot,  add two cups of  filteredwater,  stir throroughly and strain again.  Do this twice. You're trying to get all the sugar and juice out.
  7. Measure the amount of liquid you now have.  Add the juices.  Top up with more filtered water to make a gallon.  Rhubarb liquid + elderberry juice + white grape juice + filtered water = 1 gallon.
  8. Heat to lukewarm.  Add yeast nutrient and yeast.
  9. Pour into the gallon jug.  Set up your fermentation lock with some filtered water with a little bit of bleach or sulphite in it -- be careful not to overfill!  Insert the fermentation lock into the jug's mouth.
  10. Let ferment 6 weeks in a coolish (less than 72 degrees F. but more than 60) dark place.  If fermentation takes place at more than 75 degrees,  you'll get a "lighter fluid" taste to your wine.
  11. Check that fermentation is done:  jiggle the jug and no bubbles should come up through the fermentation lock.
  12. Sterlize 5 750 ml bottles  (I use Perrier bottles I collect from household recycle bins in the neighborhood -- the caps are fine for this wine).  Use a tube siphon to tranfer the wine from the jug to the bottles.  You want to leave behind the yeast sediment at the  bottom of the jug. 
  13. Cap and label.  Store in a cool, dark place for at least four months.  
  14. When using, carefully decant into another bottle to leave behind any yeast that may have settled during the storage period.
Tomorrow:  what to do with the shrunken rhubarb after the juice is extracted

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Old Bike New Again

In the fall on Cape Cod, I rode a bike that fit me well: I wasn't too forward on my seat, my toes could rest firmly on the road when stopped, and my hands didn't go numb after twenty minutes on the bike.
These were problems I was having with my current bike after it had been supposedly adjusted to my physique at a bike shop.  I noted the make and model number, looked it up on the Internet, and found that said bike shop was a dealer for them.

Life and other expenditures got in the way of going to a new bike.  When the local Shifting Gears event had a bike fair day with free quick tune-ups in a local park, I got out the bike.  I've been doing yoga all winter and the balancing on my toes when I came to a stop was not so much an issue.  That the bike didn't shift well was.  The free tune-up guy did some de-gunking of the shift cables, but said I needed to replace them.

I set up an appointment.  I noticed riding around that if I lifted my shoulders up and back a half-inch or so, the pressure came off my hands and they didn't go numb.  If the handlebars were up an inch I'd be fine.  When I brought the bike in I asked if they could also raise the handlebars.  The stem couldn't be raised.  I could possibly replace the stem at a cost of $30-$50 plus labour.  I said I'd think about it.

When I picked up the bike, the stems available for the bike weren't going to do much -- maybe raise the handlebars a half inch and bring it close to me by a half inch.  I decided it wasn't worth the investment.

On the pedal home (gears and brakes working so smooth now), I studied the handle bar.  It had two straight ends where grips, brakes, bell, and shifters were mounted and it had a bow in the middle where the upright stem clasped it.  I couldn't do anything about the stem, but what if I changed the plane of the handle bars and bow from horizontal to more vertical?  The bow wasn't very deep, but the plane change would raise the height of the bars from between a half-inch to an inch; it would also bring the handle bars closer to me by the same amount.

I loosened the basket mount and swing it up so I could get at the stem's bolt.  I sat on the bike seat and swung the handle bars up and towards me until I was no longer hunching over the handle bars.
Of course I had to reangle the grips, brake/shifter, and bell.  Now I went around the block properly positioned back on my seat (for the first time ever on this bike), my arms no longer overextended,  my weight no longer tempted to sag onto my hands.  It felt like I could ride forever (or at least until my pedalling legs gave out).

There's a comfortable trip to Lakefield in my future!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rain -- At Last!

We've a dry few weeks -- only smatterings of rain.  Until today!  A real downpour with thunder and lightening.  So we found that the roof leak where the back room joins the kitchen is still there <>...

But I sweat the oldest planting of peas grew a foot today!  (I'm sure the warm temperatures helped too).

I've got four varieties of dried beans planted this year: red, black, pinto and Flagg.  Also more plants. Organic beans for soup and chili this winter, yea!  They are looking very healthy today.  I planted them just this week.  A tree came down on the "bean teepee" last fall, but we upcycled a neighbor's porch railing to an inverted V that beans can climb on.  I've still got the Early Risers to sprout in the green house yet.  Normally, I wait until the second week of June to put beans out, but the weather's been so warm this spring, I started them early, got them beyond the tender stage that some local bugs just love, and now they're out happily growing beyond their second set of leaves.

The weather is supposed to cool down a bit over the next week or so and we'll get some decent train too.  But I'm not regretting my mulch efforts one bit!