Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Crockpot Tomato Soup

This is the Crockpot Tomato Soup recipe that I like to use from A Year of Slow Cooking:


    --3 lbs of vine-ripened tomatoes
    --1 med onion, chopped
    --2 cups tomato juice (no salt added)
    --1 cup cooking sherry
    --3 T granulated white sugar
    --1 gluten-free chicken boullion cube
    --2 T chopped fresh basil

    to add later:
    --1 cup heavy cream
    --salt and pepper to taste


    Use a 5-6 quart crockpot for this soup.

    Wash all of your tomatoes, and cut them in quarters. No need to peel the tomatoes.

    Put all the tomatoes in your crockpot.

    Chop up the onion, and add it. Cover with the tomato juice and sherry, and drop in the boullion cube. Stir in the sugar and chopped basil.

    Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

    If you'd like your soup to have chunks, go ahead and stir in the cream. If you'd prefer a chunk-free soup, CAREFULLY use an immersible blender to soupify, or blend in small batches in a traditional blender. Then stir in the heavy cream.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017


4-25-16 - Jeff pointed out that the rhubarb is growing - I've never seen it in this stage before...



5-29-16:  I found and removed the flower

6-6-16 - after first harvest

We have four rhubarb plants on the property - 3 are on a ridge (man-made, small, I don't know what else to call it) just North of the high tunnel, and one plant is in the high tunnel.  Two of the three outside we knew the previous owners were going to take to their new house.  Well, as hearty as rhubarb is, the plants in those two spots did come back, but small and traumatized.  We decided to leave those plants be for this year, to let them recover.  The largest plant we have is the one outdoors that was not touched.  It was probably 6 feet across before I harvested the first time.  I've harvested a total of 3 times, and gave rhubarb to a few people, and made a dessert once.  And we have 18 or 20 cups of chopped up rhubarb in the freezer.  It's been about a month since I've harvested it, so I really should do one last big harvest and take the rest of the plants.
6-17-16 - see the big leaves to the right that are still crinkley?  New rhubarb shoots...

Fun fact:  As a kid when I would read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, I didn't know what a "pie plant" was, and so in my head I just envisioned a pumpkin, because, you know, pumpkin pie.  But a pie plant is actually a rhubarb plant!  The more you know...

Hey All - I wrote this post the end of July but never posted it.  Posting it now for posterity, cuz I'm gonna want to go back and reference this in the future.  Also, now I want rhubarb crunch...

Monday, January 9, 2017

Our Alaskan Garden Finale (part 4 = August 2016)

Well, now that I've gotten back into blogging a bit, I thought I might work on finishing up this Gardening series - partly to finish what I started and partly because I want to be able to look back on it and see it documented....



8-27-2016 and we were still getting blossoms on our pea plants.
Kinda crazy, considering 8-27-2015 was the day I drove through a blizzard...
The high tunnel is pretty amazing for extending the growing season.
Pretty obvious I stopped taking many pics after I broke my phone the end of July...  This was all I had of produce/gardening for all of August.  That, and things were getting kind crazy at work, and I was getting to the point of "Geez, how long will all of this grow?"

For our first year, I think we did a pretty darn good job.  I don't have any stats, but I know I've made a few loafs of zucchini bread, three or four rhubarb dump cakes, countless pans of carrots/beans/pea pods.  I made (what I like to call) salsa (and others would possibly refer to as pico de gallo, but no cilantro because cilantro is gross) using cherry tomatoes, and it was, well, different.

We have a lot of frozen tomatoes.  I want to try to make tomato paste, but haven't decided yet to buy a food mill.  I've also considered making pasta sauce, all to use up those frozen tomatoes.  We've decided we most definitely need to plant way fewer tomato plants in 2017.

It was nice that we had two different kind of beans planted, because one type started producing way before the other.  But whoever decided to plant the one kind on that tall lattice thing is my enemy because I am short and it was very hard to get to the beans.  I'm gonna need to see if I can find some "dwarf" plants for 2017.  No need to have my beans trying to be 10+ feet tall...

The zucchini and squash had a big problem.  We have one or two nice zucchini, some decent round squash, but had a big blossom end rot problem.  Not sure why, but it resulted in a lot less zucchini in the freezer than I had hoped for.  But hey, I have no idea where my loaf pans are, so whatever...

The giant cabbage split, or got pecked to death, or something.  The strawberries were delicious, but I want to figure out a different way to plant them this year than in a 4x4 box.  Strawberries don't frequently come back the following year up here; it gets too cold.  The corn got ears, but didn't develop.  I was super sad about that.  I found out that I LOVE picking carrots, and want to plant a whole lot more next season.  Celery never got thick, but got tall, and we have some in the freezer, which I've used.

We frequently shared produce.  Cucumbers went to the lady down the street.  Lettuce went to anyone who would take it!  Turnip greens went to some southerners at work who were so darned excited to have them, and to the neighbor who gave us some salmon in return.  We harvested a ton of produce right before our trip to Fairbanks, and didn't want it to go bad, so we took a bunch over to Jeff's coworker; his family really enjoyed it and I was happy to hear that.

The things I'm really disappointed in:
We didn't really work the soil before it snowed.  My bad.  I didn't really know where to start, didn't really ask for help, and just let time pass.  I have no idea how bad this is going to affect the garden for 2017.
Without thinking, I invited someone to participate in the garden with us.  I should have thought about my personality and the fact that me not having full control over my project would not go well.  We will not be asking anyone to join us in gardening for 2017.

We've not yet made a plan for 2017.  There is a rip in the south side wall and there are some wear spots in the roof.  I know that I have a lot of work to do once the snow gets melty (it'll stick around for a while back there).  And I still need to make plans of what to plant where.  We'll have to see if we put the roof on, or if we go for more of a "low tunnel" situation, since this tall, huge high tunnel is in need of some fixing and is really way to big for us.  I don't know, maybe with me not working full time it won't be too big for us.  Time will tell.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Our Alaskan Garden (part 3 = July 2016)

Snap Peas:

July 1; July 3; July 4; July 6; July 19; July 22

Zucchini & Squash:

July 3 x 2; July 22; July 28
After getting that awesome first zucchini, we had problems.  Blossom end rot problems.  There can be many causes, but I figured I would concentrate on the "too much production" problem, and I cut off all the rotting veg and leaves.  And I've also been harvesting when the veg is smaller than I would like, but I don't want it to "turn."  We've also worked on decreasing the watering (whole 'nother story) and since then we have had better luck.  I have long given up on a huge zucchini crop, though.


July 4; July 5; July 7; July 22; July 28 x 2


July 7; July 10; July 28 x 2

Sweet Corn:
July 19; July 22; July 28

The other stuff:
7-3-2016:  Strawberries
7-6-2016:  Cucumber
7-7-2016:  100+ degrees in the high tunnel...
7-28-16:  ginormous cabbage
7-28-16:  front to back:  turnips, cauliflower, carrots, lettuce, celery

And (some of) the HARVESTS:

July 1; July 7; July 10; July 19; July 22

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My 2016 Instagram as Evaluated by Makelight Insights

Instagram has been all colorful with the Makelight Insights Year of Colour Insight Reports.  I do have a tendency to the nerdy, and like to see numerical/graphed/charted data, so "Hey, bandwagon, don't forget me!"

So, here's my visual color evaluation of my 2016 Instagram posts:

Hmmm, that's a lot more brown than I had anticipated...  But I can see where the Berry Bravo Quilt, my gardening, and even fireweed are...

And lucky for me, they get even more detailed than that...
Yes, monthly colors!  January is the Copper Basin 300, so pics of dogs and scenery.  Okay, brown makes sense.  Skip down to June, July, and August to see my gardening colors...  I may even start using a month "separator" this year as I've seen others start to do, so as I scroll through my Instagram I can see the year mapped out a bit better.  Yep, another bandwagon...

I had already blogged about my 2016 Best Nine, but I ran that on December 9 (way too early), so was happy to see a new Your Top Nine from Makelight Insights (which I ran on January 4).
My Best Nine ended up in there, but also a new photo of the cabin that's on work property that I can see from my office.  The light was brightening the snowy trees and the sky was a dark blue; so happy to see that others liked it also.

They also had this color evaluation:  surprising to see so much orange/brown/red, until I look at the pics...

They've even shown Individual Image Palettes for the Top 9:
Yep, lots of brown.  Way less purple in that pic of the Berry Bravo Quilt than I had anticipated...

Okay, I know it's a lot of analytics, but here's a bit more:
Most Common Themes (what they've evaluated my photos to include) vs Most Popular Themes (based on likes).  Hmm, need to get more pics of log cabins, I guess....

So, enough geekery for you?  I like seeing stuff like this, so if you have any suggests for (free) sights that with analyze stuff for me, let me know!

Also, if there are any aspects of Alaska life that you would like to read blog posts about, let me know!  And, if you're here for the Alaska stuff, please don't let the quilting/crafting and everyday life stuff turn you away.  Just give me blog post ideas and I'll do my best to provide!

Happy 2017 everyone!