Picture Snob

August 31, 2011

Plant bulbs in fall for blooms in spring

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Now is the time in most of the country when you can start looking for bulbs that will bloom in the spring. The selections are amazing and almost every nursery has collections of mixed bulbs which include tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, and crocus as well as less familar species. I succombed to the impulse buy at Costco and got their 50 bulb mix of yellow and red rannumculus, forgetting temporarily(until I got home) that the ranunculus I planted last fall did not do well. In fact, I have not seen one, not one, ranunculus open it's flower. If the plants sent up leaves, the deer must have cropped them off as soon as they broke ground. Nonetheless, I am planting them again and hope to put some in around the new house to brighten up the heavy clay that the construction has left.

This fall bulb selection looks really interesting. It is a bulb collection of wildflowers. The picture shows tulips, daffidols and crocus.There is no information of the species but since the flowers are supposed to naturalize and spread, I'm thinking it's worth a try.

At Wild Flower Bulb Garden

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August 30, 2011

Lawn furniture on sale for fall--an all weather two seat bench

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This two seat bench has a slightly reclined seat and arcing arms. It makes a comfortable addition to any porch, patio, deck, or yard, as well as any indoor living space. Two removable back cushions add comfort, and they independently adjust to give support high or low, where it's needed so you can actually relax and stay seated for as long as you wish. A 1-piece cushion adorns the seat and is also easily removed. The slats are far enough apart to allow rain water to fall through and dry out and close enough together to provide an even seating surface.

The Gibranta 2-seater bench is part of a collection that includes an arm chair and a coffee table. The wood is eucalyptus which is sustainably harvested. It is a beautiful hardwood with excellent weather-resistant properties. Eucalyptus is dense and naturally resistant to rot and insect infestation. It weathers to an attractive grey, but can be kept it's original bronze by oiling.

At Strathwood two seat bench

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August 29, 2011

Now is the time to keep it going--Fall planting

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Just because fall is near we don't have to give up the garden! Right now the bounty coming out of the garden may seem overwhelming. It's hard to figure out what to do with it--can it, freeze it, give it away? But with the first frosts the bounty will diminish and if you have new seeds germinated, the promise of the garden will continue.

If you're interested in growing fall and winter crops now is the time to get your plants started. August and early September is the best time to start beets, kale, Chinese cabbage, daikons, collards, rutabaga, turnips, and mustard greens. You can also continue to sow carrot, lettuce, cilantro, arugula, and radish successions. You might wait to sow spinach in mid-September, when cooler soil temperatures make germination easier, or you can shade your seeded rows to protect them from the sun. Bush snap beans can be started, but they may need to protect them from October frosts to get much of a harvest. It's too late for all but those in the Deep South or with extended frost-free falls to sow cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

At Siberian Kale

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August 26, 2011

Spice rack makes a good seed saving container

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August is a great month. You can enjoy the fruits of the garden that you've worked so hard to produce. It's a month when you kind of coast a little. But it's good to remember to harvest more than the ripe tomatoes and corn. My corn just started coming in and, man, is it delicious!

Lots of plants are now making seed and it is a fairly easy task to harvest the seed also. I just cut the seeds off my Russian Kale. It is so easy to do. I just clipped the tips of the seeded stalks and put them in a paper bag. Since the stalk and seed pods are bulky, I break them up inside the bag with my hand and throw the husks away. Then the seeds can be stored in a plastic bag and labeled. The labeling is really necessary because although you think you might remember, the seeds of all the cabbage family look exactly alike. So be careful you know which is which.

The cilantro is also going to seed. The seed of cilantro is the spice coriander. So the seed can be used to replinish your spice rack as well as stored for more cilantro. Try planting the seed now and to get in a last crop of cilantro. It is a quick growing plant and can provide tasty additions to salads and salsas up until the first frost.

At Spice Rack

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August 25, 2011

Lots of good buys on lawn furniture

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At this time of year, as autumn approaches, the lawn furniture begins to go on sale. Amazon is full of bargains. This Strathwood Chaise lounge would provide years of comfortable ease. The back adjusts to five positions and there is a tray that extends out and then folds back in. The chair's slotted surface allows rain to flow through, rather than collect and damage the wood. Of course the down side is you have to buy or make a cushion for this model, also on sale. Rust-resistant hardware and mortise and tenon construction add to the piece's strength and durability.

It's made of eucalyptus wood which is hard and weathers well. It will weather when exposed to the elements, turning a soft shade of silver/gray similar to the weathering of teak. In addition, when untreated, natural splitting or cracks will appear, but this will not affect the durability of the furniture. If you want to guard against this weathering process and to maintain a desired look, apply coats of a hardwood oil.

At Chaise Lounge

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August 24, 2011

A float recliner for easy living

A floater is perfect for the pool, the lake, or the river, maybe even the ocean! This floater features a backrest, headrest, and an ottoman-style open footrest. It even has a built in cupholder so you can sip while you lounge around.
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The Spring Float recliner is made of tough ABS plastic, with a super-quick Jet Valve for easy inflation and deflation. It's also a breeze to carry thanks to the mesh carrying bag, which lets you conveniently tote it to the beach or pool. And when you're done on the water, the Spring Float folds up easily for transport and storage. The Spring Float recliner--which supports up to 250 pounds--measures 17.5 by 2.3 by 20 inches when folded.

You might as well reward yourself for all the hard work you put into the garden!

At Float Recliner

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August 23, 2011

Monsanto has a new GMO! Sweet corn!

Organic consumers association reports on Monsanto's new frankenfood, made specifically for humans. Here is their article.

Monsanto's New Sweet Corn, Another Unregulated, Unlabeled Frankenfood
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Government regulation of genetically engineered crops, already weak, is increasingly non-existent. The latest example of this new hands-off policy is the commercialization of Monsanto's first flagship product for the produce aisle: genetically engineered sweet corn, containing the Bt toxin and herbicide-resistant genes.

Monsanto's new sweet corn produces Bt toxin, a genetically modified version of an insecticide from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. Until now, Monsanto's Bt corn and cotton crops have mostly been used in animal feed and highly processed ingredients. Even with this limited exposure, Bt toxin has already been found in the blood of pregnant women and fetuses. No one knows what will happen to people who eat Monsanto's new Bt sweet corn, but Bt crops have proven deadly for grazing animals from livestock to monarch butterflies.

Monsanto's new sweet corn is also "RoundUp Ready," meaning it can tolerate unlimited amounts of Monsanto's herbicide RoundUp. Roundup causes endocrine disruption, damage to DNA, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and cancer, as well as birth defects. Many of these effects are found at very low doses, comparable to levels of pesticide residues found in food and the environment. Monsanto's new sweet corn will have a lot more RoundUp on it than non-genetically engineered varieties.

This is outrageous! We've got to fight back against unregulated, unlabeled genetically engineered foods!

Take Action!

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August 22, 2011

Blackberries are ripe!!!!

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My neighbor has about two acres of Himalayan Blackberries gone wild. They become ripe in August and I did the very first picking this week, getting the lower fruit easily. I was able to pick a half gallon in a half an hour. A fully ripe blackberry is one of the most delicious of all the fruits--just so sweet and fragrant and melt in the mouth good. Those are the ones that just fall off the stem.

I brought the berries home and used an old recipe to make a cobbler. Delicious! But one has to give up all thought of health. The recipe starts with melting a cup of butter and pouring it into a 9 by 11 inch pan. Gently cook the berries with 3/4 cup sugar just until juicy. Mix 3/4 cup sugar, one tablespoon baking powder and one cut flour with 2/3 cup milk. Pour the berries into the pan and then pour the pancake like mixture of flour into the berries and bake for 30 minutes. Wow! Try it with some ice cream!

If you decide to plant some vines, be careful where you place them as they tend to escape and spread and can take over an area and they are very difficult to get rid of. But the fruit can't be beat.

At Blackberry Vine

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August 12, 2011

This Summertime salad just keeps on giving

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Now that the Sungold tomatoes are ripening and the cucumbers and beans are ready to be picked I can begin to make my favorite summertime green bean salad. The Sungold tomatoes are cherry type and are the sweetest of all the tomatoes. I usually plant a six pack of them to make sure I get enough for all the summertime salads.

The green bean salad I make is very simple. Steam the green beans for about 10 minutes and add them with whatever tomatoes are on hand. Slice cucumbers and a red onion, add olive oil and balsamic vinegar and salt to taste. It's sooooo simple. I always keep the leftover salad and the next day add more ingredients and serve it again. You can add broccoli and some sweet corn for variety. Potatoes can also be used for a potato salad without mayonnaise.

So enjoy the bounty of the garden in mid summer. These are the months we have been working for all year long.

At Sun Gold Tomato 20 Seeds - Golden Orange Cherry - Sweet

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August 11, 2011

Simple and quick--a great pickled cucumber recipe

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This recipe is so simple and it produces pickled cucumbers in a couple of days! I friend gave to me with a quart jar of the pickled cucumbers. So delicious.

Put 1/4 cup of white vinegar and one teaspoon of salt in a quart jar. Add one teaspoon dill or celery seed and one tablespoon of powerdered garlic and a few cut garlic cloves. Fill jar half full with water. Add as many cucumbers as will fill the jar and fill to the top with water. Let set in the fridge for two days and open and eat. No heating, no sealing--it couldn't be more simple and they are very fresh crisp and delicious. They don't keep as long as processed pickles, but then they won't last long once you taste them.

For more pickle ideas, this book might help:

At Pickles and Relishes

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August 10, 2011

An old approach to preserving food made new!

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Here is an interesting book that argues quite sensibly that canning and freezing are inefficient uses of energy and take many of the nutrients out of the food in the process. Typical books about preserving garden produce nearly always assume that modern "kitchen gardeners" will boil or freeze their vegetables and fruits. It's worthwhile investigating traditional but little-known French techniques for storing and preserving edibles in ways that maximize flavor and nutrition.

The book has chapters on preserving in oil, vinegar, sugar, alcohol, and lactic fermentation. There are helpful instructions on preserving vegetables in a root cellar or in the ground and a discussion of which method works best for each vegetable. Recipes are included. I remember drying tomato paste and rolling it into balls and dipping it in olive oil before storing the little golf ball sized balls in a jar in the cold room. Using one or two of them for a spagetti or a soup was a delight as the flavor was very near to fresh. I think this book is a great addition to the gardener's bookshelf.

At Preserving Food without Canning or Freezing

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August 9, 2011

A juicer/steamer makes extracting juice easy and mess free

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Here is another great tool for processing your garden bounty. This stainless steel juicer is simple to use. You add fresh fruit in the top container, fill the bottom container with water, and bring to a boil on the stove top. The steam from the boiling water gently extracts the juice, which drips into the center pan where it can be collected from the surgical-quality tube. You can drink the vitamin-rich juice fresh, or save it for making jelly or syrup. Without the center pan and tube, the juicer steamer can also be used to steam vegetables on the stove top.

Instructions and a recipe book come included. One user makes elderberry juice which she cans to use for winter colds and flu! Strawberry, grape, peach and apple all release their juice and their nutrients with this method of processing.

At Stainless-Steel Juicer Steamer

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August 8, 2011

The August garden cruise

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So the garden is thriving, the warm weather crops ripening, and the fall lettuce and greens are planted. The weeds are not so critical right except around the new plantings. Most of the vegetables and high and mighty and in control, so weed control begins to lessen. This is time to enjoy the abundance, to give away, to sell or barter the excess!

But if you can't stand to be idle and not try to can, preserve, dry or freeze whatever you can for the winter, then it's time to stock up on some dual purpose canning jars. A pint size jar that you are able to use for canning and/or for freezing is always a good buy and I use canning jars and their lids to store dried herbs, nuts and spices. These jars have an embossed fruit design. There are convenient measurement marks on the side of the jars to help you out with how much to fill.

At Can-or-Freeze Canning Jar 1 Pt

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August 5, 2011

Labeling GMOs has to be a grass roots project

It seems like such a no brainer. Label GMOs and let the consumer decide whether they want the product or not. But so far the lobbying industry funded in large part by Monsanto has successfully fought letting people decide for themselves. The only information you can get on a food product is when the label voluntarily says it has no GMOs. Some people are looking for such a designation when theys shop. But the simpiler solution is to have the GMO products themselves labeled as such.

In California there is a ballot initiative to label GMO products. If you are interested in supporting this initiative or are interested in how to start such a campaign in our own state, you can go to www.labelGMOs.org Nothing is going to happen about this situation, where corporations with a vested interest in keeping information secret control the legislatures, without a large grassroots effort to demand to know what is in your food!

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August 4, 2011

Mid Summer Garden delights and invites a fall planting

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So great to be away for 10 days and come back to a garden full of vegies and be able to pick kale, lettuce, summer squash and cucumbers for supper. This is really one of the great pleasures of gardening and of life. To have grown your own food connects you to the earth and the planet and to all life in ways grocery shopping just cannot even begin to touch.

Even though this year the garden is late, the corn is just starting to tassle and there are very few ripe tomatoes, it is still producing enough to feed me and half the neighborhood. Peppers are ripe and green beans just coming on so it's a total cruise from here on to the end of the growing season.

However that shouldn't stop us from thinking about fall planting of lettuces, peas, and greens of all kinds. If your soil is too hot from the summer sun, think about getting a sun shade to protect the seedlings from sunburn. The problem I see with this item is that you have to rig up your own frame to hold the shade fabric in place. I guess you would need staples or a grommet kit to really make it work well.

At Coolaroo shade fabric

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August 3, 2011

The problems of an aging lawnmower overcome

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I bought a Craftsman lawnmower, a 6.0 self propelled one, my first venture into self propelled. It's really been a good mower, but this year I've had it to the repair shop several times. Once at the beginning of the year for a tune up and blade sharpening and the next two times, it's been the transmission. The belt keeps slipping off, and once broke.

Last evening it happened again as I was mowing the high grass around the new house. It looks so much better now that it's been mowed. It looks as if it had a lawn. It's just an illusion. The high grass is sparce and there's lots of bare ground showing, but the mowed grass will help create a mulch for seeds to germinate. But the mower stopped and at that point I started considering a new mower.

I decided after reading up on mowers and looking at comsumer reports to find the best buy. So many choices! And lots of new features from electric start(tempting) to rear wheel drive(more traction) to self cleaning blade(not really so good--you have to hook up a hose to do the job). There was one feature I like which was the ability to remove the grass bag with the mower running because the wheel stop independently. It also means you can pick up a large rock or stick and remove it before runninng it over without having to start the engine again. All these new features cost of course and noticed that a lot of mowers were not carb compliant enough for Californa.

A friend came by and showed me how to put the belt back on the wheel which is simple enough to do. There were only three screws to undo the cover. But I decided on the replacement mower. This Husqvarna seems to have all the features I want.

At Husqvarna HU800HW (22") 160cc Honda Self-Propelled Lawn Mower

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August 2, 2011

A food dehydrator is a good investment

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This is a simple and lightweight dehydrator that has five removable trays. You can dry a variety of delicious nutritious snacks with this great tool for preserving your garden bounty. Dried fruit is a tasty way to stave off hunger without consuming tons of calories.

This dehydrator is designed for efficient, even drying. It handles everything from fruit slices to beef jerky on five spacious, height adjustable trays. It's equipped with an electric fan and automatically rotating trays that spin in both directions. It is designed to prevent the overheating that eliminates food's vital nutrients.

The clear vented lid controls moisture and lets you monitor the process without disruption. Includes 5 stackable rotating trays, fruit leather sheet, drying screen and instructional cookbook.

At Rotating Food Dehydrator

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August 1, 2011

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