Friday, August 31, 2012

August Rain Totals

During summer break, I often go to my neighbor's house once a week for "Girls Time". On August 13th, we sat in the sweltering heat in her breezeway. The temperature suddenly dropped, the breeze kicked up, and a surprising little lightening storm swept in! It was wonderful! The drops were hitting so hard that they formed a little mist that blew against my arms, legs and even my face. It was delicious! The total rainfall from this gem of a storm was 4/10ths of an inch!

On August 18th, another sweet rain started up while I was at school setting up my room. I was hoping that it was also falling on my garden at home. Turns out we collected 2/10ths of an inch in the rain gauge. Later that night, another happy shower deposited 2/10ths of an inch more!

Other than that, we only had some teasing thunder in the distance, but I won't complain. 8/10ths of an inch of rain is good for August in Texas!

This picture was actually taken earlier this summer, but it looks nice here!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Way They Should Go...

It seems as if the watermelon vines grow 5 inches at night! Daily I check to make sure they are inside the garden fence so they won't be eaten by critters. The next day I have to tuck more vines in to keep them safe.

Recently as I was watering, weeding, and picking, I thought about the watermelon vines.  I have to constantly redirect their growth and point them in the right direction to safe places where I won't step on them and there is room for their fruit. The watermelon vines reminded me of children, they constantly want to go their own way and we constantly have to redirect them. We encourage our children and correct them, showing them the way they should go to stay safe and follow God. Often they try to stray away and, like the vine growing through the fence, we have to go after them and bring them back to where they are safe!

Even as adults we feel the "right" to do our own thing and make our own choices! Those choices come with consequences as God tries to poke us back through the fence and in the direction He wants us, His children, to grow. Instead of stamping our foot in rebellion, maybe we should thank Him for His love and correction, leading us to where we are safe in Him!

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6

Watermelon vine trying to escape!
I need to get busy poking this one back inside!
I must have missed this one several days!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Grape Juice 101!

When I moved to this area 11 years ago, my neighbor taught me how to make grape juice from the local wild grapes. We have an abundance of them draped through the trees. Although they are a favorite of the deer and the birds, there is more than enough to go around.

Making grape juice isn't at all hard. The hardest part is climbing the ladder in the heat to collect the grapes. Once that is done, the rest is a piece of cake!

To make homemade grape juice, follow these easy steps!

1. Gather two large and one small pot, a cup and a half cup measuring cups, a bag of sugar, a canning rack or cup towel (this keeps the jars from bouncing on the bottom of the pan and breaking), quart jars, new lids, screw-on rings for the lids, a jar lifter, and tongs.

2. Sterilize the jars by filling them with water and placing them on a cup towel (or canning rack) in a big pot of water. They need to be completely submerged. At the same time set another large pot of water on and heat to a boil. Put some water in the small pot and submerge the lids to soften the rubber. They do not need to boil. While all of this heating is going on, wash and stem the grapes.

3. Use the jar lifter to carefully pour the water from the jars and set them on a towel on your counter. Fill each jar with 1 cup of stemmed grapes, 1/2 - 1 cup of sugar (I prefer 1/2 cup), and fill them to 1/2 inch from the top with the hot water that was in the second pan. Use the tongs to take a lid from the small pot. Put the lid on top and screw the ring over it until it is just snug but not too tight.
(You can be sterilizing a second batch of jars while you are filling these jars!)

4. After that batch of jars is filled, remove some of the water from the original pan with the towel in the bottom. Submerge the filled jars in the hot water and return them to the stove for a 15 minute water bath (bring the water back to a boil, lower the heat to a slow boil). At the end of 15 minutes, remove the filled jars from the water bath with the jar lifter, setting them on the towel that is on the counter top. As they cool they will begin to seal with a "pop". When they have sealed you can tighten the rings if you want.

5. After the jars are cool, place them in a cool, dry place to store for at least a month. If any jar does not seal, place it in the refrigerator after it cools. You can drink it after a few days, but it will taste weaker than the stored jars.

6. To serve, strain the juice. I strain mine directly over a glass of ice!! It is a beautiful pink-purple color and the best grape juice I've ever tasted!

Wild Texas Grapes

Grapes hang in bunches under the leaves.

Gather bunches of grapes using snippers.

Rinse and drain the grapes.

Pull the grapes off their stems. (If you have sensitive skin you may want to used latex gloves!)

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Put the lids in a smaller pot to heat.

Put a cup towel or canning rack in the bottom of your largest pan to use when you sterilize
 the jars and process the juice in a water bath.

Fill and submerge the jars. Bring the water to a boil to sterilize them.

Several pans of water heating on the stove.

Use the jar lifter to remove and empty the jars. Set them on a cup towel to fill.

Put grapes and sugar in each jar. Fill to within 1/2 inch from the top with near-boiling water.
Put the filled jars in the large pan and process in a water bath.

Clean up is so easy!

As the jars sit on the shelf the grape juice will evenly mix.

More Zucchini Pests!

I've become an avid squash bug squasher and have managed to keep these persistent pests at bay! Now I have a new zucchini enemy: mealy bugs! I have been removing infested leaves and squashing these little furry creatures daily. The problem seems to be improving.

Yesterday I found a new type of insect eggs! Egad! I passionately cut the stem and carried the eggs to the trash!

Later that evening as I was relaxing after dinner, I looked up images of insect eggs on Google. There were the eggs I had cut off! I eagerly opened the page only to find that they were lacewing eggs and were beneficial! Off to the trash can I hurried and fished them out, placing them back in the garden by the zucchini plants! Whew! Time and experience will create a gardener of me yet!

Mealy bugs

Lacewing eggs