so happy to be home

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Just wanted to take a moment to say how much I love being home.  Could the merry month of May be better?  I’ve never been happier than in Oregon in late spring.

The Master Food Preserver canning demo at Down to Earth yesterday went well.  I had a small group of students — newbies to canning all — who sat through the entire demo, so it ended up being more of a 2-hour lecture than a Q & A period.  I was happy to teach what they wanted to learn!  Then there were more people before and after who stopped by to talk to me and pick up handouts on everything from canning equipment to low-sugar jams/jellies to a strawberry-rhubarb preserves recipe to pie fillings.  The Down to Earth people couldn’t be nicer, and they created a great display and teaching space in the north enclosed porch area.  You should definitely come check it out.  I’ll announce the next class (which will be taught by another MFP volunteer) as soon as I can.

Surely because of my fame, as evidenced by activities such as the above, I was featured on TV the other day.  All right, it was just part of my face, my hair, and my arm, but I want you all to know that was me in the corner at Bar 201 on KVAL’s 11 pm news on Friday.  We enjoyed a few of Rico’s new drinks before heading over to the grand reopening of Café Zenon, which has done a really nice job in sound-abatement for the restaurant.  The space has a lovely feel to it.

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But all is not fun, drinks, restaurants, teaching, and games.  In the past three weeks, I’ve devoted many hours to the garden, preparing for the crops to come.  The front of my house has been rather neglected since we moved in, as I learn more about landscaping, hardy plants and natives.  This year, I finally managed to put in a new border at the property line, with the help of my wonderful neighbors (see their restored 1920s farmhouse to the left), who rototilled the lawn and labored with me to amend our Willamette Valley clay with river sand.  I now have a hedge, or rather, a hedge to be.

The plants are an OSU-developed cultivar of the Japanese strain of the haskap berry or blue honeysuckle, part of a western U. S. trial for a viable commercial crop. The plants were suddenly made available to Master Gardeners just before I left for Buffalo, so they were languishing in pots over a month and now look a bit beat up and munched as insect salad.  Keep your fingers crossed for me, please.

I’m hoping the elogated, vitamin-packed skinny blue berries will make a wonderful local jam in a few years, once they’ve started filling in.  They aren’t very sweet, which is great for jam because of all the added sugar, and much more flavorful than blueberries.  When cooked, they turn a rich mahogany color.  (Or so they tell me.)

DSCF4577In other garden news, I have almost all my rows planted, with the exception of beans and my late summer vegetables: peppers, basil, squash.   I’m still working on building the pepper bed.

The tomatoes, cabbages, potatoes, and other vegetables and herbs are weathering the weather.  I collected leek and garlic scapes this morning.  I’m pretty sure I ruined my grape crop this year, because I pruned back the overgrown vines severely to stimulate growth that’s not six feet high.  Planting the vines next to a fence was one of the many brilliant ideas previous owners had to ensure none of the old plantings would ever be healthy.  Ugh.  One of my ideas is just to bring out the vines away from the fence in the south, creating an arbor that runs parallel to the house and the overgrown masses of irises that are pretty for, oh, two weeks out of the year.

But that’s a project for another time.  I managed to strain my back a little, so I need to take it easy for the next week before I go back to Buffalo to finish my fellowship research and attend what promises to be an excellent Joyce conference.  Well, “easy.”  And I have mucho work to do inside, as you might imagine.  I needed a break.  Now that my brain has relaxed a bit and I’m not sleepless with anxiety and almost psychotic with heavily detail-oriented editing and research, I think I can actually do it.

You know, I could almost live with this flip-flopping of brain and brawn projects.  There are worse things you could do in an Oregon summer.

6 thoughts on “so happy to be home

  1. mrasbach 24 May 2009 / 3:00 pm

    What a beautiful garden! If I could look at a row of irises like that whenever I wanted, I’d be a happy, happy woman.

    I do have a canning question for you, though. I’ve been buying used jars from an estate liquidation fellow I know who’s suddenly come upon a glut of them. Judging by some of the random brands and shapes among the Kerr and Ball (Presto?) I’m assuming they are a lot older than I had originally thought. Are these older jars safe to can with? Have the glass standards changed? Are there even glass standards or is the uniformity of new canning jars a byproduct of the Jardin monopoly?

    Yipes, my thoughts went on a ramble there. I’m primarily concerned with my immediate safety. Can I successfully can with jars that might be 50 years old?

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  2. Eugenia 24 May 2009 / 4:58 pm

    Thanks! I wouldn’t can with the offbrand jars, personally, and we don’t recommend it as Master Food Preservers. You don’t know how well the glass will hold up under heat/pressure if they’re old and not meant for canning originally. I keep mystery jars for other things, like gifting refrigerator pickles and vinegars, especially if they’re pretty. If you can’t find a lid that fits, though, this could be a problem.

    The older Ball jars can be really wonderful. You can’t safely use the clamp-lid ones anymore, but if they look like the ones you can buy new today, they are probably better quality. The glass was thicker then. Look over each jar carefully for chips and cracks, especially around the rim. If it seems sound, it should be perfectly fine to use.

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  3. papa tom 25 May 2009 / 2:15 am

    if you want a new home for those old jars, I’d be happy to clear a spot on my shelf. I sort of collect and use them for beverages and my old stand-by for replenishing the inevitable breakage (BRING) seems to be running dry (seriously, like not a single jar in the whole dang shack!). I’d be happy to trade or purchase.

    :-)

    –t

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  4. mrasbach 26 May 2009 / 9:55 am

    Thanks for the info, Eugenia. I was curious primarily because I’d seen info on some canning sites that it wasn’t safe to use jars that were more than 10 years old, but I couldn’t find similar info on any extension service site. I’ll happily use these jars now!

    Papa, aside from a couple mayonnaise and a Presto jar, all of the quarts I got were pretty standard. I’ve yet to sort through the pints, though. I’ll let you know.

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  5. Eugenia 26 May 2009 / 10:15 am

    Mary: The ones that look like the Ball/Kerr canning jars we use today *probably* aren’t more than 10-15 years old, but they might be. The online canning sites are likely recommending this based on safety problems with clamp lid jars and the likelihood that the older jars have chips or cracks. Just to stress my earlier point — please don’t use the clamp lid jars for canning.

    Good luck!

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