The hot, dry weather continues. It’s been playing with its friend, wind, lately. This friendship is not a good combination for the garden. However, the tomatoes are piling in now, the gherkins have slowed down a bit (praise the Lord) and most of the plants, aside from the lettuces, are hanging in there. There is rain in the forecast tomorrow. RAIN. Yes please!
Our house has become a game of tetris. It started with the piles of produce. The produce is taking over the dining table. There are so many beans. I’ve been harvesting piles of dried beans and the guys have been shelling most of them. Being guys, this led to bean shelling races, which are great for task completion but not quality control. Or tidiness.
I realised that I didn’t have the infrastructure for dealing with this many beans. After shelling I normally leave trays of beans sitting around for a couple of weeks to make sure they’re dry enough to store so they don’t go mouldy. In our humid climate I don’t trust whole bean pods not to go mouldy or keep their beans from popping out. This was working until this season of many beans. I didn’t have enough trays, not without pilfering all sorts from the kitchen. We needed bean drying trays! For our next house I would like to order a harvesting/drying/food-storing room.
I thought about the bean situation, did some investigating and came up with a few things. In an ideal world I could make some wooden frames just the size I want, attach fine mesh to the bottoms and stack them on top of each other. But that’s not going to happen right now. The options of things that could be utilised or bought for drying beans includes:
- Serving trays (plastic or wooden)
- Rectangular planter trays
- Boot / floor trays
- Stacking baskets
- Vented plastic crates (confectionery spec)
Plastic crates were deemed too expensive but if you already have some that don’t have big holes or would use them for other things too, that’s an option. Serving trays are a nice big size but they aren’t good for stacking. Plastic ones are cheaper than wooden. I like things that can be used for more than one function. Rectangular plastic planter trays are multi-purpose and can fit in more spaces around the house. They also work well for raising seedlings on windowsills. While there were specials on, I bought a couple of plastic floor trays because I could also use them for sitting seedling trays in outside. I bought three plastic stacking baskets that are A3 size but not too high. They hold a good amount of beans using vertical space and could also be used for storing other things. There has been a lot of vegetable shifting and sorting.
I’ve just sowed some more beans and some red sunflowers directly in the ground in hopes of a second dry bean harvest and something pretty. Hidatsa Shield Figure was the first climbing bean variety to get pods to the dry stage, followed by Selugia, Abenaki Pean and Holy Climbing bean, so I’ve sowed some more of each of these four plus more bush beans: Kidney, Borlotto and Cannellino.
We inherited some new-to-us dining chairs that have replaced our ones that were getting wobbly and ripped. We now have a bunch of chairs sitting around in the dining area waiting for me to deal with them. More tetris.
I bought another bale of barley straw to mulch the vegetable gardens with since I’ve seen how much it helps. The plants that have been mulched look better than those that haven’t. The barley straw is helping the soil to retain moisture and keeping the plants’ roots cooler in this hot weather. I haven’t gotten to spread the new bale out yet though, as I’ve been literally swamped with food production and laundry.
The washing machine decided it was a good time to break down. Near the start of a load of the baby’s dirty cloth nappies, of course. We got it going for a bit, but as soon as the washing machine had a bunch of water in it it had a fit again. The Husband tried to fix it. This somehow necessitated getting smelly pee water all over the laundry floor. And that somehow necessitated using our bath towels and beach towels to mop it up. Then they all ended up in the washing basket. When The Husband could not fix the washing machine I was left with loads of stinky handwashing to do in the tub. I do not like handwashing. Especially this kind. My hat goes off to all the mummas in the old days who handwashed everything as well as making food and looking after kids. I knew I couldn’t keep it up while I awaited a response from an unresponsive repair guy.
Fortunately, I never quite got around to selling our old, small washing machine. It’s been sitting in our garage for years. It has a small capacity and it’s a top loader, meaning it uses a lot of water, but it was something! I cleaned it up and we hauled it inside next to Mr Brokenpants. It still works just nicely, so I was saved from more handwashing. Yuss! I thought we could just use it until (if) the seemingly non-existent repair guy fixed our other one but then we got a silver lining. We got given a new washing machine. What a blessing! To say I’m thankful is an understatement.
When the washing machine arrived there was more tetris, moving three washing machines around. This was done to the backdrop of The Little Fulla having to eat his potato salad. The tasty potato salad was an abomination to him, even though it had gherkins in it. Apparently it was the equivalent of sending him off to war. Nevertheless, the washing machines got tetris-ed and The Little Fulla ate his potato salad and nobody died. Now I can sell the old trusty washing machine, knowing that it still works well after all these years. We must also offload Mr Brokenpants.
Since the gherkins started piling up in the fridge again it was time to try making fermented pickles. It was definitely easier and faster than bottling gherkins. Bottled, pickled gherkins involve vinegar (and other ingredients), heat and processing the jars in a water bath. Fermented gherkins involve just a brine and other ingredients put into jars with the gherkins. They require some attention afterwards though – checking after a few days to see if they’re done to taste. I already had some fermenting lids and weights, which aren’t essential but are helpful, so it’s good to start experimenting with more fermentation.
Another stage of my kitchen storage mission has been achieved: storage baskets on top of the kitchen cupboards. It has always bothered me that the kitset kitchen cabinets don’t go all the way up to the ceiling. The space above them couldn’t be fully utilised. Space ought to be maximised in a small kitchen. I shopped around online until I found the biggest baskets with lids that would fit nicely in the space: three plastic baskets from Mitre 10. Then commenced the shuffling around of things in various cupboards. Items are in better places than before and it’s more tidy. It feels satisfying.
I had two chickens left to butcher, a young cockerel and either rooster Jack of Spades or his son, the big black Morpheus cockerel. I was having trouble deciding on the last one because it’s a big call replacing the rooster with a youngster. Then the younger cockerel got an abscess on his face, presumably from hurting himself when he escaped over the fence one day. He was out in the garden for quite a while before The Little Fulla noticed so I don’t know what he was up to and didn’t realise he had an abscess soon enough. He didn’t make it to butchering. I’m still trying to decide if Jack of Spades’ son is good enough to replace him. I need to decide soon because Jack of Spades is chasing the young ‘un round like nobody’s business. Today they knocked over a nestbox and smashed an egg. Some of the hens have been broody (ahem, black girls) and a couple have started moulting. At least we’re still getting some eggs in this intense weather. The oldest of the pullets are looking good and should start laying soon.