Yes, An Obsession

I am an admitted Downton Abbey junkie, anxiously counting the days until Season 5. And honestly, if there is a perfect era to fantasize about living in, it’s the Edwardian. Indoor plumbing and electricity, but still simplicity and elegance. And yes – Downton isn’t strictly Edwardian, I know – but it started there!

At any rate, to tide me (us) over until Season 5, I’ve been Pinteresting just a bit…


The Hoax of the Frozen Tomatoes

Last year I had a conundrum when it came to putting up tomatoes. I grew my own, but as luck would have it, they didn’t all ripen at the same time. I just couldn’t get enough to put up a full canner load at the same time. So I thought about solutions and scoured the internet and came up with freezing tomatoes. Everything on the internet said you could just pop them into freezer bags whole – no prep at all. No blanching and skinning, no coring. No dicing or quartering. Literally pop them in the bag, and presto chango – preserved tomatoes, all ready to go. And even my sister had done it, and sworn by it.

But friends – do not be seduced. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. And so it is with freezing completely unprepared tomatoes. Naturally. These things were far more trouble than they were worth. Defrosting was a nightmare – it took forever. And when I didn’t have forever to wait, using the defrost function on the microwave (yes, I cheated a few times dang it) turned them into cardboard-textured mush. Moreover, I ended up pitching half of them into the trash, because have you ever tried to peel a skin and pull a core out a half-defrosted, cardboard-textured tomato? If you haven’t, take my word for it that it is not something you want to spend your time on. Completely the definition of “fruitless (such as it were, that is) endeavor”.

Sigh. This year I planted a variety that is supposed to ripen at once, more or less. Unless nature is wanting to play a cruel joke on me two years running, which frankly, I won’t quite rule out!

And So The Garden Grows

I woke up this morning when the alarm went off (ugh, Monday) and realized that the summer has been rapidly slipping away. How is it nearly August already? This summer has been a study in what not to do – do not take business trips, do not work 50 hours per week, do not spend time indoors too tired to do much else…

I’m hoping I can get back on track as we move into the tail end of summer and the beginning of fall. I’m seven months into my job promotion, so I’m starting to feel a bit less like every day is a panic attack (although only slightly). And we’re house hunting – oh, did I mention that? So while weekends have been consumed with seeing real estate in every free moment, there will be an end in sight once we find the right place.

All that aside, we made it over to the garden plot today to assess the state of affairs, and have mixed results. The row of yellow onions is looking amazing. We had half a row of chard come up and it’s huge – definitely ready to harvest some of that this week. I’m think pork and chard hand pies are in order! The beans are mixed – the edamame and Jacob’s Cattle have been ravaged by the rabbits, but are still producing beans. The rattlesnake pole beans are hardly doing anything at all – they’re barely a foot off the ground. By comparison, the ones my sister is growing at her house are topping six feet! Grrrr, that’s gardening for you. But we do have a nice showing of green tomatoes, and the plants have finally grown to a good size. We’ve got a few jalepenos and one solitary sweet pepper has survived. And happy surprises – we have a little watermelon, with more flowers on the plant, and cucumbers just starting to form. And shockingly – the pumpkin plant that I thought was dead and was tempted to rip out has rebounded and is taking over. All of the potatoes rotted in the ground and didn’t do a single thing.

So, a mixed bag. Much like my summer I suppose. You get out what you put in, so I’m glad it’s not quite over yet. Still time to make the most of things.

Happy Anniversary To Me!

Apparently, 8 years ago today I started this blog. Has it really been 8 years? I actually remember that night vividly, and it’s interesting that it’s the summer solstice. Today was the longest day of the year, but it hardly feels like it at all. It’s been a rainy summer, so getting outside has been tricky. At any rate, we’ve got a few months left – maybe we’ll get some nice weather yet.

Camping Gear From the Dollar Tree

Yep, you read that correctly. I am a fan of the Dollar Tree. There’s a lot of junk in there, no doubt, but there’s a lot of treasure. You just have to know what to look for. Did you know you can find a bunch of stuff that’s great for you camping kit there? Well, it’s true. Some of the gear I’ve picked up in the last year has included -

- Metal buffet serving spoons. They’re the perfect size for camp cooking.

- Metal buffet spatulas. Ditto on being the perfect size.

- Mini cutting board.

- Paring knife with plastic sheath.

- Mini colander.

- Metal can opener.

- Purell hand sanitizer wipes.

- Pocket packages of tissue.

- Plastic toiletries containers.

- Jif To Go peanut butter

- Reynolds Wrappers aluminum foil sheets

- Cream of Wheat instant farina 3-pack

- Advil or Aleve travel packs

Mostly kitchen and toiletry items, but no camping trip is complete without them, so why spend a fortune?

The Ant & The Grasshopper: Prepping For The Rest Of Us – The Car Kit

Remember way back when when I started this series, posting about how to set up your commuter bag? Well, I didn’t forget about you! Granted, I didn’t plan to go so long in between posts on the topic, but here we are again at any rate. Hopefully you’re all walking around with a fully stocked commuter bag and have been prepared to face everyday emergencies where ever you are.

For those of you that own cars, you want to be just as prepared with your vehicle. If you break down on the side of the road, get stuck in a snow storm on Lake Shore Drive, or have to evacuate in an emergency, you’ll want a car that is stocked with a well-rounded supply of basics. You need to think of two sets of stuff for the car – stuff the car, and stuff for the people.

The stuff for the car is pretty simple -

- Motor oil

- Spare windshield wiper blades

- Tire patch kit

- Tire gauge

- Reflective warning triangles

- Windshield scraper

- Small shovel

- Paper map of your area. Because sometimes the internet is not an option.

And the supplies for the people is pretty straight-forward as well. Just think “commuter bag”, on a slightly larger scale. I absolutely love the Sterlite Stack & Carry containers for organization (not only do I use one in the car, I also use them for my sewing kit and camp kitchen gear, and husband uses one for his miniatures painting supplies).


One section is given over to small supplies for the car, one section is for first aid, and the third section is for food/emergency supplies.

The smaller car items listed above are stored in the “car section”, including the tire gauge and patch kit. Rounding out the kit are the following -

- Head lamp (great for repairs after dark if needed)

- Mini multi-tool

- Permanent marker

- Measuring tape (kind of more of a general reference item for gardening, or when we need to measure something we want to buy – just not a bad place to stick one, really)

- 2 glow sticks

- Mini flashlight (hand crank, so we don’t have to worry about battery replacement)

The first aid section has an assortment of basic supplies, not much different than what’s contained in our commuter bags -

- Pain reliever

- Band aids

- Butterfly closures (for deeper cuts that may need stitches later)

- Alcohol/disinfecting wipes

- Neosporin

- Aloe vera or burn gel

- Ace bandage (If you sprain your ankle or have a bad knee, you’ll want one. Can also be used as a tourniquet in a pinch.)

- Baby wipes (Great for cleaning up without having to use water.)

- Maxi pads (Not just for the ladies – these are great for absorbing a lot of blood without getting sopping and saturated. They also take up a lot less room in your kit.)

- Pair of rubber gloves (In case you need to perform first aid on someone else – you can never be to careful around blood.)

- Cough drops

- Travel package of facial tissue (If you have a runny nose while you’re out, you’ll want some. Can also double as toilet paper in a pinch.)

- Mini bottle of sunscreen (because if you have to walk home in the blinding sun, the last think you want to do is get sunburned.)

- First aid card or mini booklet (Because in an emergency, your might draw a blank and forget how to do the Heimlich maneuver.)

- Few emergency blankets

- Few emergency ponchos

And the food section – not meant to keep anyone alive for an extended period of time, but as a decent energy boost and keeping a growling stomach at bay. It’s tricky to pack items that will withstand the frequent extreme temperature fluctuations of  a car, so this is what we’ve landed on -

- Box of raisins

- Couple of packages of pop tarts.

- Crackers

- Bottled water

And while certainly not necessary from an emergency standpoint, we do have routinely have a few more items in the car that make even short trips more enjoyable with a small child (and in general, sparing the toys) -

- Small trash can that lives in the back seat floor board underneath the car seat. Corralling loose ends keeps the car tidy.

- Small assortment of children’s books.

- A coloring book and crayons (just don’t leave them in full sun so they melt).

- Few small hand toys, like Hot Wheels cars.

- A spare child’s hat (ball cap in summer and knit in winter) and gloves in the winter.

- A couple of towels to wipe up spills and clean up messes.

All of that pretty much fits in the seat pocket on the backside of the passenger seat, keeping everything out of the way yet still easily accessible. If you don’t have a built in seat pocket, so you can sew up a simple car organizer that does the trick just as well (and maybe even better).

Time Flies When You’re…

Having fun? But also when nature completely elects to skip the entire spring season, and winter instantly fast forwards to summer. So, Apartment Farming has consisted of the following mad dash to get ahead of the three months of the year that we basically lost -

- Transplanted and summarily killed an entire flat of tomatoes and peppers that got set out into the garden without a proper hardening off period due to extreme weather fluctuations (I will not go into a rant about climate change…).

- Killed half a flat of peas due to some weird dampening off situation and too-late transplanting (again with the weird weather…).

- Waited for weeks on end for the mud pit otherwise known as our community garden plot to dry out so we could actually plant out any surviving plant matter that we could lay our hands on (thank you commercially grown vegetables starts from a psuedo-big box retailer – not the Devil That Shall Not Be Named, but perhaps an equally onerous competitor…)

- Discovered that you can, in fact, regrow green onions. Oh wait, I did take a minute and blog about that… small miracles!

- Started the DIY key hook project from way back when. As it my typical trend, the simplest concept is proving to have unexpected roadblocks (like the screws are too long for the wood I chose; seriously!?). Hindsight will likely prove all of these obstacles are 100% attributable to human error, so stay tuned for the post on that.

- I have backslid on how I want to be feeding my family. Commercial lunch meat has re-entered our lives. Now I’m not going to be too hard on myself, because in some respects this is a first-world problem from someone who has a decent income to make the choices I want regarding the type and quantity of food I put on the table – and that’s a luxury that not everyone has. But damn it, I could probably do better here.

So yeah… all that and a woefully neglected blog. Have I mentioned my day job is giving me a literal run for my money on top of it all? But I am still here, and still Apartment Farming – and god help me if I can’t find 20 minutes per week to write something interesting and/or mildly amusing about it here!