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Dancing with Potted Plants

The hibiscus will stay inside until spring.

It’s the time of year here in Greenville SC when the temperature fluctuates wildly between a high that can reach the eighties to a low in the thirties at night. Yesterday for Halloween we had a deluge of rain that brought with it a warm tropical wind, and we had a high of seventy nine degrees. But I have been anxiously looking at multiple sources for weather reports. I knew that the temperature was going to plummet last night, but of course not to the exact degree. So yesterday I brought my hibiscus and gardenia pots inside, where they will stay until the freeze has passed in spring. Since the temperature dipped to thirty nine degrees last night, I did the right thing. The hibiscus plants are not hardy below forty degrees.

I’m keeping this pot with tomato and celery in my kitchen window.

The annual ritual of moving my potted plants has gotten to be a bigger chore than it used to be. I also brought in one of my avocado trees, and a potted amaryllis that I couldn’t find a spot for in my house last fall. At this point I have used up about all the space that I have in the sunny portion of our living room. I also brought in one of my pots that has both a tomato starter and a celery starter, both only a few weeks old. I put that one in the kitchen window, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do when that tomato vine starts spreading out a bit. I might experiment with keeping it clipped, (sort of like a tomato bonsai?) and see if I can coax a tomato or two from it that way. I squeezed the amaryllis into the guest room window, which already has an avocado tree, a large gardenia, and a bamboo plant that is almost ten years old now.

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Mystery Mushroom

This mushroom looked like a toy ball from a distance.

I spotted this mushroom from about two hundred feet away. It was the only one in the field and looked like a stray toy ball. I didn’t see any stem and didn’t touch it either. It’s about seven inches in diameter. It appeared after a rain that followed an extended dry period and has been there for several days now. Who knows what this is?

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Acquiring Winter Wisdom

Recycled celery from the kitchen and tomato starters from the compost will be my first winter crop…

I have tomato starters growing on the deck in little pots right now, very late October. I rescued the sprouts from the compost heap a few weeks ago, because I have a hard time letting go of living things. At the time I had a vague idea about actually starting a greenhouse this winter and miraculously having some of these ripe beauties for a salad in the middle of winter. I’ve heard that it’s possible, but I haven’t done it yet myself.

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Canning Anxieties Revealed

These jars of carrots lost a lot of liquid while in the electric pressure canner.
These jars of carrots lost a lot of liquid while in the electric pressure canner.

Yesterday was my day to can carrots, which I did, but I had some troubles that weren’t entirely unexpected, and then learned, from people who know better than me, that I shouldn’t even be using my new (sort of) electric canner. This is proof that after more than a decade of all this homesteading stuff, I still make mistakes like a gullible virgin! Let me explain.

Vegetables like carrots have to be canned with a pressure cooker. I am entirely comfortable with a water bath canner, but have had repeated trouble with loss of liquid from jars in my pressure canner. I read up on that and found out that if the jars are sealed it’s still safe, if not as attractive. But then, once, when I canned some cubed sweet potato, I found the canner itself completely empty of liquid when I opened it after processing. Now that scared me a little! I wondered what could have happened if I had left it going for another few minutes. Now I have realized that that’s when I walked out on my cook top canner in a moment of irritation. I turned my back and went on an expensive dutch date with a brand new electric canner. That turned out to be a big mistake. And I don’t know why I was even so sure that it would solve my problem (it didn’t) anyway.

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Planning for Canning

Should I use tarragon or rosemary? It’s hard to decide.

I don’t have a master plan for canning in the summer and fall. If I did I wouldn’t stick to it because that would probably be impossible. Generally, if it’s piling up then something has to be done with it before it spoils. That’s the long and short of my master plan. Some foods last for awhile though, especially if refrigerated or put into cold storage. Last year I kept my carrot crop fresh in a refrigerator drawer for a long time. I finally grated what I had left and made a couple of quarts of fermented carrots that I kept in the fridge for salads and ginger carrot salad dressing.

It is late October now, and I still have about six or seven pounds of carrots. A few days ago I decided to can them instead of fermenting them. The first step was to look for a recipe. I decided to try one from the Better Homes and Gardens Complete Canning Guide. But their Rosemary Carrots recipe requires chicken broth. Well, I have a quart of smoked turkey broth in my pantry but no chicken broth, so like any honest homesteader I had to make my chicken broth first. Since I had frozen several bags of chicken gizzards and other parts when we butchered some of our chickens in the spring, (no master plan for those either,) I decided to make broth with those. But I didn’t have time to tend to a pot of chicken broth on the stove top, so I made the broth over night in the crock pot.

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In Search of Tahini

I thought I was through writing about eggplant, but I’m not. Last time I was dishing about my eggplants I was roasting more than twenty of them to freeze in cubes and make puree. Now the cubes are in the freezer, and I scrounged up more containers for the puree too, but I didn’t want to just freeze all of it. I want to use some of the fresh puree to make baba ghannouge, which I have never made before. But even without looking up a recipe, I already know that I need tahini (sesame seed paste). So I have unfinished business with my eggplant puree, and we definitely did not grow any sesame seeds this summer!

Having now lived in Greenville for a little more than ten years I can say that I have lived here continuously longer than I have lived anywhere else. In my travels I have turned to middle eastern shops, when available, for a nutritious and reasonably priced meal. But in all the time that I have been here I never knew about Pita House, both a middle eastern market and restaurant. There’s a sign on the door that says cash or check only, and that’s the way they have been doing it for thirty two years now, according to the very friendly and polite young man at the register. They had tahini at a reasonable price, and I bought two pounds.

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