End Of Summer Canning

Well, I want to be canning but it seems that I can’t get there from here because my schedule is overflowing with work things to do. However, it appears there may be canning opportunities next week!

What to can? Well, I’m not completely sure what will be on the menu, though apples are likely. Barber’s Orchard is just down the road and they’ve got some delicious apples! I found this article about what kinds of foods are in season in North Carolina throughout the year and it seems, logically, that what’s in season is what’s eligible for preserving. I’d like to freeze some things but I have extremely limited freezer space so I couldn’t really do much with that.

Although I’d be happy to not deal with apple sauce for a while (due to the relatively recent apple sauce extravaganza at the church with over 21 gallon bags to freeze), I’m still quite likely to do something or another with apples. I’d like to make stewed (not sauced) apples or something like I usually put into apple pies so that I could have canned apple pie filling. I’ve still got some of these spiced apples that I canned a couple of years ago and they’re pretty yummy but not exactly what I wanted to do.

Hopefully more posts and photos of fruity veggie goodness will follow soon!

Freezing Fresh Basil

Last week I joined several ladies at the church for a “Canning Bee” as we sliced, cooked, squished, and bagged countless apples into over 20 gallons of applesauce. It was all spooned into plastic bags and frozen and it made quite a windfall for the Community Table! While I think it is really great to give food to community organizations that provide meals to those who need some assistance, I also think it’s pretty awesome to give them really GOOD food–good tasting and good for you, too!

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That same day, the woman with the proliferation of apples brought an equally abundant harvest of basil. In fact, it was so much basil that the whole church smelled deliciously of basil even the next day long after the apples were gone.

Ultimately, I was the recipient of the lion’s share of this harvest (two gallon sized bags crammed full!) and was delighted but clueless as to what to do with it all. My hope was to make pesto at some point but that point was not any time soon, so the only option I could come across was freezing.

However, I’ve never frozen basil before. One suggestion I had been given was to place them flat in a ziplock and freeze them that way. Then they could be crushed when frozen and wouldn’t have to be chopped. I was pretty worried that they would turn brown or black if I did that. I did a small sample of leaves in this way and while it was super easy to “chop” them by simply squishing the bag, they did indeed turn quite dark.

Even though I was willing to use a small portion of the enormous bounty of basil for that test, I wasn’t willing to risk it all, so I found a solution on Pinterest. (see my Pinterest page for my boards.) Here’s what I found and it really does a super job and it’s part way towards the pesto I want to make, too, because it involves olive oil.

You will need: fresh basil, olive oil of your choice, some kind of container to freeze it in that is (my suggestion) no larger than a 1 cup size.

Wash the leaves, trimming off any flowers and long stems. Let them air dry on a paper towel or clean dishtowels. This took about 20 min for me and I wasn’t super patient about the drying part! It was really late at night and I’d been chopping and squishing apples all day!

There seem to be several options at this point.

Chopping: fine or coarse. I chose coarse because, as I said, I was tired. Plus, my little tiny food processor would have taken FOREVER to do this much basil–if, of course, I could find the blades!

Containers: some people choose to freeze the basil in ice cube trays. I thought that was a brilliant idea! I didn’t have any, though, and I did have a few of those ziplock type small plastic containers. I think you could use anything you wanted but I’d guess it shouldn’t be more than about a cup size since you’ll have to thaw the whole container when you’re ready to use it.

Pour a layer of olive oil in the bottom of the container and swish it to cover the sides. The OO is what keeps the leaves from turning dark, so you want as much of everything covered as possible. Pack in the leaves, covering with the oil, and stick in the freezer. I did mine in layers since it was a rough chop: put in a bunch of basil, pour in some OO, squish, repeat.

Yummmy! I’m looking forward to making pesto soon!

Oh Savannah

Oh Sa Vannah! Oh don’t you cry for me!

Wait, I think that’s wrong.

Anyhow, photos of the loveliness that is Savanna, GA.  It was very good to go earlier in the spring because it was not so hot you melted into the ground and it wasn’t so humid either. Yet still full of all the pretty!

If you go to Savannah  you cannot avoid all the ghost stories and the fact that everyone insists that where they live or work is the most haunted place in America. So, of course a visit to one of the many historic cemeteries is in order. This bird was on a branch of a tree at the cemetery. The tree itself was nearly dead and covered in Spanish Moss that was a soft, powdery greywhite cloud around the tree. Like a ghost of what was once the green moss virtually dripping with life. What would have been a rather ordinary looking bird in some other context was just so beautiful sitting there. It is, perhaps, my favorite shot of the whole trip.

One of the things Savannah is well known for is all of the beautiful ironwork. You find it everywhere and I must have taken dozens and dozens of photos of ironwork doors, fences, railings and other details.

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Hidden gardens are pretty much everywhere all over the city. Peering over a wall, you can see all kinds of things, even a petrified lion!

And sometimes, gardens escape over the wall and into the alley!

No trip to the city is complete without a visit to the big fountain in Forsythe Park. I am amazed that I was able to get this shot without people in the background because this is a major congregating place for people, both locals and tourists.

I love trees and Savannah is full of them!

This was a particularly unusual tree. I have no idea what kind it is but it looked like one of those statues that has been carved with drapey fabric. It was very strange!

And the big bridge! With a storm right behind it. So it was time to go home. Farewell Savannah! Until we meet again.

Green Gene

In my family there are great genes for making thing, great genes for teaching things and great genes for growing things. I definitely got the first, probably the second and none at all of the last.

In the past I’ve tried to have a garden or potted plants. I love flowers and, in fact, a significant piece of my photography work has centered around flowers, trees, plants and all manner of botanical life.  But growing things myself has never been a gift of mine. I’ve managed to keep a shamrock plant alive for a while and there was an ivy plant at my house in Charlotte that grew through the siding, over the slab foundation beside the dishwasher and into the kitchen, but any successfully living green things were purely accidental.

However, I am now making an attempt at growing something!

These are little clippings from a Spider Plant and so far, there’s been no plant blood spilt! Spider Plant is a weird name for a plant since, obviously, it’s not a spider. My guess is that they are named that because of the shape of these little leaf groupings but I’m not sure. I’ve put them in water–as instructed by the giver of the clippings–and I understand that they should sprout roots at some point and I am to put them in pots. I’m assuming that will mean buying little pots and dirt. Obviously this is elementary from a certain perspective, but I’m hoping to be successful with these little guys!

So, hopefully there are big healthy Spider Plants in my future!

Leopard Moth

Leaving the church today, one of my parishoners–who happens to have an excellent eye for beautiful things in nature–called me out to see this beautiful moth. She (the moth) was napping in the sun and I managed to get these pictures of her. After looking for her on line, it turns out that she is a Leopard Moth and even though I’ve never seen one before, and I think that my sharp eyed parishoner hadn’t either, they are not uncommon in the southeast.

Click on the pictures to get a larger image.

Biltmore Gardens

Spent part of the day at the Biltmore House yesterday and by that I mean I went to the gardens. It was really hot! However, I got some pretty good photos from the day.

The uploads to my photoblog, The Mental Scrapbook, are being spaced out over a few days, but I am frustrated that wordpress does not list my photo posts in their tags section. In other words, when I tag a post with ‘photo’ or ‘photography’ or whatever along those lines and then go to the ‘tags’ section from the wordpress front page, none of the posts from that blog ever show up.

However, they do from this blog! So, here are some photos from the day:

This is some of the lovely brick work in front of the conservatory.

I love these flowers! I cannot remember what they are called. They are actually tall stalks with row after row of these little trumpets. Really beautiful.

Sometimes the flowers that have gone to seed are just as pretty as the blooms, although it is in a far different way.

I am repeatedly amazed at the macro ability of this little camera. Far more than I would have guessed. It is times like these, however, that I miss my Elan and the awesome 50mm macro. 😦

This is probably my favorite shot of the day. I love how the grass is going one way and the flower stem is going another. The bloom was actually a very pale, almost white, blue and it translated well to black and white.

Hothouse lilies smell great and are always posing for just one more shot!

The smoothness of the leaves and texture of the wood.

This little purple flower just popped out of the yellow leaves. I don’t think these leaves belong to the same plant, but they look great together.

more photos at Mental Scrapbook

Another bug mystery

Recently I posted a picture of a bug I came across just outside my front door and, as luck would have it, someone was kind enough to help me find out what kind of bug it was! And I am quite grateful for that! (by the way, she has a lovely blog and you should check it out sometime: Sharon Sperry Bloom )

Anyhow, I’ve come across another bug I need help identifying, so I wonder if there is anyone out there who has ever seen it before. It’s bright white and very odd looking. Anyone out there got any ideas?

White BugWhite Bug 2