Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dried Tomato Disappointment

Looking for tea today, I moved my quart jar of dried Principe Borghese tomatoes - 8 lbs fresh.  Full of little worms covered in webbing (not moving around).  *sigh*  It only cost $5.60 for the tomatoes, but it took me a while to pick them and then wash, dry, slice and dehydrate them... I guess it's good I didn't eat them.  Was it one bad tomato?  Were there several? I'll never know.  I wonder if I should have frozen the dried tomatoes after they cooled off (just put the whole jar in the freezer, right?)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

REPOST: Backyard Crop & Preserves Swap

Backyard Crop and Preserved Food Swap
11-2 pm
@ North Oakland Farmers' Market
5715 Market St, Oakland
co-sponsored by EBCA Swappers and Victory Garden Foundation

This is a special Fall Harvest edition of our monthly Backyard Crop Swaps!

Bring all your excesses from your fall harvest and swap them with your neighbors.
Fruits, vegetables, herbs, eggs, honey, etc. Anything you grow or raise yourself is fair game & totally swappable.

This time we will also have "put up" items for swap as well. Bring a few jars of that jam you just made. How about pickles or pasta sauce? Turn your mass amounts of one thing in to a bunch of different things.

Don't forget to tell your friends, family, & neighbors!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Ground Cherries!

I ended up with about a gallon of ground cherries - cooked them down and finished making the jelly.  I had the same issue as last year - it doesn't seem to want to set very well, but finally set with a very soft jell - just perfect for eating out of the jar!

Ground Cherry Jelly
12 - 8 oz jars

Friday, October 28, 2011


In the first week of October, a friend forwarded an e-mail to me with a photo attached of a pear tree about to break under its own weight.  I made arrangements and arrived at the warehouse space near Jack London Square to investigate - the pears were different from other pears I have seen - dark brown on the outside, like a sunburn that scratches off, to a light green underneath.  The pears were hard and either under-ripe or just not dessert pears - but there were a lot of them so I set to work harvesting.

I poached two dozen of them the next day, and set rest out on trays in single layers to ripen - and a week later, still not ripe, I did some research and found an interesting article on Kieffer Pears.

I think that the tree is possibly a Kieffer Pear - not so great for eating raw, but excellent for canning. The pears are usually ripe in October, just as hard as they were back in July, and the trees often grow so tall that most people can't pick all the fruit easily.

However - the pears lack the sort of rusty stipple - but look more like Passe Crassane in the picture here:

An interesting tip I picked up from these articles is that you should not store any of the pears too close to tomatoes or other fruit while you're letting them ripen - the esters will cause the softer fruits to speed up too much and get moldy (I realized this with some tomatoes that were on the table with the pears!).

After about three weeks of ripening indoors - some of the pears turned into little squishy spore bombs, so I decided it was time.  I decided to do a batch of canned pears in light syrup with vanilla and a batch of pickled pears (apple cider vinegar & spices).  I still have 3 trays of pears with blemishes and am going to make some pear chutney - and then maybe I'll try my hand at chow-chow since I have some green tomatoes!

Canned Pears
  • 4 quarts & 1 pint canned pears, plain
  • 8 qts & 3 pints canned pears, with vanilla
  • 1 qt & 9 pints pickled pears

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Goodbye, Garden!

Goodbye, garden!  We just didn't get warm enough and you were not the most disappointing garden - last year was pretty bad.  At least I got a few more tomatoes than last year but I can't believe that even the zucchini weren't even half as productive compared to last year.

Time to dump Kassenhoff and get on the ball with starting my own tomatoes in January since their tomato plants never seem to thrive or produce.

After it's done raining, I'm pulling up the sorrel and useless feral arugula (with teeny leaves) and planting some cauliflower, broccoli, mustard, radishes, daikon and stuff... probably too late to sow seeds directly into the ground with this early rain.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Fall Tomatoes

After spending 4 hours at Mariquita's farms in Gilroy, exhausted from picking 160 lbs of tomatoes - I wasn't sure I'd have energy for much else. It took nearly a full week for me to process two big batches of marinara and one big batch of pottsville relish!

The part that seems to take the most time is the same regardless of equipment - the foodmill. I use the food mill attachment on my Kitchen Aid, but I am pretty sure it took a lot longer using a chinois. I have to stop and take it apart to get all the skins out - but the chinois was a lot more physical labor.

Since I often cook red wine into my pasta sauce, I decided to put it in the sauce while I was cooking it down. I made sure to add lemon juice to each quart this year and processed everything nice and hot for a good 45 minutes.

Tomato sauce
  • 27 qts
Pottsville relish
  • ~2 gallons (forgot to count jars!)
Tomato juice
  • 4 qts, frozen

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jenn's Big Summer Adventure: Part 16 - Round-up

Week 1 (2500 mi):

1. August 19 - Oakland to SLC
2. August 20 - SLC to Sidney NE
3. August 21 - Sidney NE to Des Moines IA
4. August 22 - Des Moines IA to Mentor OH
  • Sullivan's Grocery, Dixon IL
5. August 23-24 - Mentor OH
Week 2 (1694 mi):
1. August 25 - Mentor OH to Toledo OH (149 mi)
2. August 26 - Toledo OH to Elgin IL (325 mi)
3. August 27 - Elgin IL to Briggs Forest, Iowa (329 mi)
4. August 28 - Independence IA to O'Neill NE (275 mi)
5. August 29 - O'Neill NE to Manderson SD (250 mi)
  • Wounded Knee Monument
6. August 30 - Manderson SD to Custer SP (226 mi)
7. August 31 - Custer SP to Rapid City (140 mi)
Week 3 (1326 mi):
8. Sept 1 - Custer SP to Buffalo WY (300 mi)
9. Sept 2 - Buffalo WY to Old Faithful (326 mi)
10. Sept 3  - Old Faithful to Mammothsite (55 mi)
  • Old Faithful, Yellowstone
  • Yellowstone Geothermal features
  • Mammothsite
11. Sept 4 - Mammothsite to Jackson (175 mi)
12. Sept 5 (320 mi)
13. Sept 6

14. Sept 7 (150 mi)
Week 4 (950 mi):
15. Sept 8 (275 mi)
16. Sept 9
17. Sept 10 (325 mi)
18. Sept 11 (350 mi)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Jenn's Big Summer Adventure: Part 15 - Packing

I just don't know how to successfully pack for multi-week, multi climate trips - I ended up sending home the sleep sack that I bought and buying a warmer sleep sack - and then even ended up sleeping indoors more than expected because I brought a bivy instead of a tent.

Packed up and leaving Ohio (2011-08-25)

Just a day out from Cleveland in Indiana (2011-08-26) - note: I'm actually wearing my Camelback, but discovered that it actually tired out my shoulders wearing it all the time over my jacket.

This is what it looked like in Wyoming (2011--09-01):

Wearing my new hi-vis jacket, above Prairie OR (2011-09-08):

This is just before getting home, in Lassen (2011-09-11):

On my way from California to Ohio, I realized that just trying to put the big stuff sacks on the back was not going to work - I wanted a waterproof duffel so that I wouldn't have to worry about stuffing things into smaller sacks. I attached it with a 6' motorcycle tiedown (double duty - in case I needed it for actually tying down the motorcycle) and a bungee through the handle on each side to the luggage rack.

I wasn't clever enough to take pictures of the contents - I am very impressed with the level of organization in some of these postings!

Basically it was like this:

Tank bag:

  • bandanas x2
  • headlamp
  • maps
  • phone
  • gps
  • Solio charger
  • glasses/cases (I wear separate Rx glasses & sunglasses)
  • sunblock (which I never used)
  • hairbrush

Jacket pockets:

  • phone
  • camera
  • wallet
  • lip balm, antacid, bandana, tissues

Camelback backpack:

  • 1.5 L water bladder
  • a couple paperback books
  • charger cables for phone & camera
  • extra layer (or stuff in the jacket liner)

Cabela's waterproof duffel:

  • North Face Bivy
  • Sleeping bag
  • very small hammock
  • big agnes sleep pad
  • Keen sandals inside (cheapie flip flops clipped to the outside)
  • Clothing - probably took more than I should have but I didn't want to be doing laundry every two days!

Jandd cordura mountain bike panniers:

  • toiletries
  • towel
  • swimsuit
  • rain pants
  • pack covers (for panniers & duffel - orange for visibility)
  • food - lots of udon noodles & cubes of veggie stock, tea, miso, couscous, gravy packets, dried veggies, Bumble Bars
  • spicewheel (from
  • teeny stove & isopro fuel
  • nesting pair of pans, bowl, insulated stainless steel cup
  • Alite Monarch butterfly folding chair
  • tool kit
  • extra tube

I ended up making about 4 boxes back home to ship back tie downs, trinkets, gifts, broken glasses, sleeping bag, clothing & books I finished.

Next time - I'm just bringing the regular tent, not the bivy - unless it is >60 degrees at night, I just get too cold sleeping outdoors in a hammock or bivy. The bivy was fine in Illinois but in Iowa with storms coming in - it got too cold and I was up putting on all my layers at 2:30am.

That is - for a real camping trip. I think I might just take Custer SP Blue Bell Campground host Vern's suggestion and look at overnights at state parks and KOAs with cheap cabins for the next multi week road trip - there's so much less overhead in unpacking, setting up, breaking down and packing for a longer trip that it seems like it would be more fun (and lighter) that way.

Next time, I'll actually wear my sunblock on my face - or get some sort of UV block for my visor - I ended up with some solar radiation damage on my face between the bottom of my sunglasses where there is a gap above the bottom of the face opening.

I'll also make sure I have actual waterproofing on my coat!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jenn's Big Summer Adventure: Part 14 - Lassen

Sunday (9/11) morning, I awoke and realized that I had a lot more miles to put on to get home. I had a quick breakfast of tea and a now rancid Bumble bar (blech!) then headed off on Hwy 89 through Lassen. Amazing, gorgeous views but damned cameras die again!



September is alpine spring in Lassen!

The roads were gorgeous, amazing and fun - and there were not really any other cars on them!

There was still quite a lot of snow up there:

Can you see how clear that lake is?

There's a name for this rock - it's leftover from a glacier or something:

Second to last picture before my camera died on me:

The rest of the drive down Hwy 89 was just stupendous - it's absolutely beautiful there. I did see a lot more highway patrol and sheriff cars than at any other place or time on my trip, so I was very careful not to enjoy the road too much.

I arrived at Sierra Hot Springs for a soak - I was disappointed that the cafe was closed as I was counting on it for lunch. Overall, the pools did not impress me much either - the main pool was quite dirty. Some guests said that a load of folks from Burningman had been hanging out there all night (eww! nobody cleans the pool after large groups?) but that doesn't result in a heavy scummy layer of ick at the waterline and hairballs at the bottom. The sandy bottom of the hot pool was novel but also full of hair. I took a nice hot shower and got back on the bike, pinning it all the way down 80 til I got hit with a small rain squall and could not see. I powered through 200 miles, stopping once for gas, and got home to see my kitties, make dinner, sleep in my own bed!

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Jenn's Big Summer Adventure: Part 13 - Wild Horses & Hwy 395 South to California

Saturday (9/10) morning, I found myself almost instantly at the BLM Wild Horse pens -- I had to find a turnout and make a u-turn to go back! The gate was open but the place appeared abandoned, except for hundreds of gorgeous horses in different pens.

The first pen seemed to have the wildest bunch of horses - I suppose they get more exposure to people, cars and the rare motorcycle that way.



It was amazing to watch this first group of horses move around as a herd - it was like watching starlings or other birds moving around in big clouds. The horses shifted back and forth, quivered, waited anxiously - wondering whether something was going to happen, prepared to dart off, despite their confinement.


It seemed like the babies all looked like the mommas!


Other pens had slightly less jittery horses, some were getting to be downright friendly and came up to the fence to see if I had brought them any treats.


One of the hands at the ranch told me that there was a special type of horse that was going to be auctioned off - but the rest could be had for $125 if you had a trailer and a place to keep a horse!

Heading south on 395, the terrain changes to high desert with wide open, subtle landscapes and gorgeous skies. I guess a lot of people don't find it attractive but I quite enjoyed it and would not ever think of calling it ugly. Just when I was getting into a groove - along comes a really big lake - just one of those areas that photos don't do justice.


I stopped for gas in Lakeview - where the two teenagers on duty were very attentive, admired my Zombie hunting permit on my windscreen and sighed loudly that they were envious of my trip. Just past the shut-down downtown, I found a little Sunday lunch at a cafe with a great big motorcycle parked there. It was all pretty blue and chrome -- and the driver was just as shiny, so I sat at the counter and struck up conversation. Turns out Jason is from the East Bay but heading north!

Admire Jason's pretty motorcycle here:


After eating my iceberg lettuce, toast and ...yeah, that's pretty much all they had that was vegan at this stop - I continued south, heading for Lassen. I was out of camp stove fuel, so I thought I'd be clever and try to find some on the way down - stopping several times at places that promised outdoors/outfitter/camping/fishing supplies. I was a bit concerned about being able to have dinner or breakfast since I didn't see a restaurant in Lassen.

I arrived at Manzanita Lake just in time to get a walk-in cabin, buy isopro fuel, beer and a few vegetables before they closed the store at 5 or 6 or whatever it was. I got a cute little cabin, unloaded my gear, set up my hammock on the porch and proceeded to enjoy a cold beer, chocolate and my book for an hour or so before exploring the campground and the little chilly lake.


I had a hot shower, then returned to my cabin to make dinner (more udon noodles with curry and veg), drink beer and hang out with my neighbors at their fire, tell ghost stories to their children and acquire the brightest green laser pointer ever from the camp host.

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Friday, September 09, 2011

Jenn's Big Summer Adventure: Part 12 - Rodeo & County Fair

Friday (9/9), after making my intentions to stay another night official to the management, I made breakfast and then spent a couple luxurious hours reading in the hot tub all by myself. The only other occupant in the pool house was a moth that I rescued from the pool - and who disappeared after his wings dried off. It was very relaxing.

Finally, I got dressed and headed to the fair - taking little other than my camera, wallet and recommendation to try the special donut holes made by the local Lyons club - you got it - "Lyon's balls."

First, I checked out the exhibits - there was a lot of random crap there, I have to say. While there were some good photos - there were SO MANY photos - and just about everyone got a ribbon. There were crafts but there was also a huge amount of ephemera - like a pair of mason jars purporting to date to 1916 - with a blue ribbon for first place, and old books dating back to 1910 -- seriously? I am looking into this for local county fairs so I can get some ribbons for random antique or odd items.

There were some quilts - but they were all one one rack and not displayed very well:


There were also plenty of hand-sewn items - some rather odd entries but I'll leave it to your imagination.

The produce was more interesting and fun - though you can probably only look at about 12 giant zucchini before you wonder how pithy they are inside and whether they are worth eating. I think the giant cabbages were probably excellent though.



The preserves were very interesting and lots of fun to see the patterns and types of things folks made. Not a single entry for ground cherry jelly!



Someone made zucchini pickles like I do!


This area had a high number of anti-abortion billboards, and this was only one of a couple anti-abortion displays in the exhibition halls:

Finally, I went to the grandstand where they started some of the rodeo contests for roping and barrel racing - the little kids on horses were so much fun! I had a couple beers and made conversation with some local folks. Someone recommended that I check out the BLM wild horse pens just past town on my way out. There were a LOT of Clarks participating in the day's events!

The guys had a hard time catching this horse:

The race started, and the horses hadn't even gone all the way around when one horse got pushed by another into a wall, threw his rider, then freaked out and caught his leg on the fence - apparently breaking his leg all the way through. The rider did not get up and was carted off in an ambulance, the horse was sedated and taken away in a trailer, probably to his doom. It was at that point that I decided it was time to take a break and head back to make dinner and watch things not involving death and hospitalization.

The evening rodeo performance was mostly steer roping and steer riding - it was very amusing and I kept rooting for the steers! Again - lots of Clarks present. I made friends with a 3 and 4 year old who were sitting behind me and utterly fascinated with my yellow high vis jacket. I shared some of my pictures with them and they were so cute that when the rodeo ended - I said it was nice to meet them and you know what they said? "Thank you for showing us your pictures!" Mom had not even coached them - I can't even get a prompt thank you for a gift from certain younger relatives - and here these little gentlemen were thanking me for showing them pictures of groundhogs and burros!

I have firmly decided that cowboy hats only look good on cowboys under the age of 11 or so.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Jenn's Big Summer Adventure: Part 11 - Eastern Oregon

Thursday (9/8) morning, stomach still bothering me, I packed up and headed out. On my way to the motorcycle, I spied a preying mantis on the ground - looking like he was having a pretty hard morning:


For breakfast, I headed back to Shangri La and took up the loveseat, enjoyed a nice tofu scramble and ordered a falafel sandwich to go for lunch later. I also found myself powerless to resist the charms of a certain necklace in the jewelry case (made by the owner's husband!). Next stop was at Co-Op in Boise for antacids, drinks & snacks. This was probably one of the best grocery stores I have been to on this trip - it was full of high quality products and piles of local produce (including golden chanterelles from Eastern Oregon!). At a red light, another motorcyclist waves at me and comes up to introduce himself as a fellow ADV Rider who had seen my request for recommendations for motorcycles with tires in stock.

As I head out of Boise, I am sad to note that one of the freeway overcrossings has a big sign for "Black Cat Road" - but there aren't any nearby offramps and I don't want to do a 15 mile detour to get a picture of the sign. The terrain becomes more agricultural and I can smell spinach and onions at the same time, like a big Greek salad!

My plan for the next several days is to stop before I think I need to - and hydrate more. My stomach is still a bit off - so I stop at a store that promises alcohol, tobacco, firearms, pawn and cold drinks for a rest stop.

After that, I go from nice rolling farm land onto Hwy 26 where the farmland is flat and hot. Lots of big big ag completely lacking places to stop to eat my sandwich. Finally, I stop at Willow Creek Cafe in Vale, OR where I get permission to eat my sandwich, order tea and find myself regaled with macabre tales of true crime and dumbassery in a charming cafe where the walls are covered with these amazing Log Cabin quilts that have rounded edges and curves (with Log Cabin?) made by Bev, the owner.



Once the tales of true crime (some dentist killed his wife by strangling her with a piano wire or something) are exhausted, talk turns to travel and "what are you doing on that motorcycle?" The farmer and his daughter (who appears to be about my age) talk about her brief time in Portland - which he thought was quite dangerous, and then he proceeds to tell me about his trip to Oakland with a load of onions, casually dropping in the word "Negroes" (which he pronounces as "NIG-rows"). We discuss my route and the three of them agree that there is absolutely nothing redeeming to see on my route - it's just not nice - and I'd be better off taking the shorter route.

After warning me how dangerous it is in eastern Oregon and that there are bad people who might cause me harm, the other two guests leave. Now that I have her to myself, I get Bev to lead me on a grand tour of her quilts, she graciously answers my questions and gives me her two instruction books so I can learn to make such awesome quilts myself!


At a stop for gas a few miles away, an old farmer in a cowboy hat exits the store as I am removing my helmet, and looks quite astonished, remarking "Why a lady motor-sickle rider!"

I've rather run out of responses - since he's right on both counts and his lack of exposure to women on motorcycles is pretty funny since I don't think he'd react like that to a woman on some big ag combine or something.

Hwy 26 features more buttes, rolling hills, antelope and antelope. It's actually quite pretty and nice, with lots of variation along the long straightaways. There's no traffic and I'm still not seeing any law enforcement - wishing I had a street bike to go ZOOM!








My next stop is at the El Dorado Restaurant in Unity where I drink iced tea and chat with owner, Kathy. After hearing my story about the quilts at Willow Creek, she suggests that I visit a quilt shop in Prarie City owned by her friends. I pop into the local post office to mail home my new quilt books - afraid they'll get wet by the dark clouds ahead and not willing to unpack the entire duffel - and notice a bunch of cute kitties across the street! Then, I get introductions by a woman named Memory to all her cute kitties.

Simba - king of the orange kittens!


Kitties put on a show for me!


Baby Blue Eyes (all the cuter being crossed!)

Momma's got TWO extra toes!

Babies at play

Leaving Unity:

I have to confess that I thought the folks at Willow Creek Cafe were just having one over on me - I continued to see gorgeous scenery going into Prairie City and was glad that I pointed my wheels toward a place on the map with the words "forest" and "Malheur" - bringing to my mind the image of some forested mountains, desolate and beautiful - and so far, not disappointing. Even before I got to Unity, the skies were pink from the sun going through the haze of smoke blowing over from Central Oregon forest fires is making the sky pink - and there were also giant piles of clouds that look to threaten rain never produce anything on my route.



Just above Prairie City, I stopped to admire the views and a giant Conestoga Wagon.



My new jacket sure stands out in this weather!

Prairie City was as quaint as can be and I found my way to the quilt shop just in time to meet Viola who lead me to the John Day fairgrounds to get a sneak preview of the quilt show and buy a quilt kit so I can make gorgeous stars like those in this quilt:


I won't overwhelm with too many quilt photos - you can see them all here:

I think this was my favorite one:

After many warnings about deer, I left the kind folks at the John Day County Fair Grounds, bought gas at Clark & Canyon City Blvd and got on my way.

Going through the Malheur Forest was gorgeous -- just all amazing - forests, prairie, mountains buttes -- I was just bummed that it was already getting dark. I did not see a single deer.

When I arrived in Burns, I soon discovered that the first few hotels were sold out! Apparently, this is because of the county fair and rodeo. I end up at Rory & Ryan's based on a a review by Super Suz and got a discount on the efficiency apartment unit with a kitchen. As soon as the pretty concierge informed me that both her brothers were going to be at the Friday night rodeo - I decided to stick around. I'd never been to a rodeo before!

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