Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Tom and the Amazing Bean Stalk

Gardening, Backyard Homesteading

Who'd a thunk that gardening could be so popular?

Heather Zydek - proprietress of Blue Bungalow Farm - is gradually working towards self-sufficiency with amazing results.  All from a city garden.  I wouldn't be surprised if she attains that goal of self-sufficiency before too long.  Especially if the city fathers would allow her to raise chickens.

Heather, I want you to know that I am pretty close to that self-sufficiency thingy you're striving-for.  And one day in the future I'm going to decide to retire from my day job and move up to The Platz and live there full-time.  Then I will have my chickens.  And maybe Jill a couple of goats.  No pigs though - we think we can get pretty close to sustainability without the stink.

Jill and I went to the Door County Fair again this year to take in one of our favorite events.  

Poultry judging. 

I find chickens fascinating.  We inspected a roll-about chicken coop, grabbed a bunch of chicken literature for our late night reading pleasure and discussed the possibilities of fresh eggs, chicken personalities and an occasional, plump, free range roaster in the oven.  I can see the attraction and this is why we periodically indulge the fantasy.

We also went to scout for chinks in the armor of entrants of various vegetables, canned goods and flowers.  One of the Best Of Show winners was somebody's homemade kraut.  Judging from the appearance of that blue ribbon kraut I'd put my sauerkraut or pickled red cabbage up against it any day of the week.  And here's the irony of the canned goods division - what I found out is that nobody tastes any of the goods.  Just like the cattle and poultry judging it's all a beauty contest.  Same for the tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, onions and flowers.  A beauty contest.  The subtleties of taste and texture counts for zilch.  This left me somewhat disappointed.  But I digress.

I take a great deal of pride in my garden and the vegetables it produces.  And what I may lack in variety I make-up for in sheer scale.  Lately I've been feeling a little bit like Jack and his amazing bean stalk. 

Check this out:

I filled two large paper grocery bags with fresh-picked green beans yesterday.  That's after I canned a bunch of dilled green beans for garnish and relish use and flash-froze a quantity while building-up my stockpile for personal consumption this winter.  Furthermore, I predict that this will be repeated before next weekend.

I was negligent in checking on the pickle patch and some of my pickles have graduated to cucumbers.  

In fact one of the fellas at last weekend's Schützenfest assembled a really nice cucumber salad from some of the mutant pickles along with a sweet onion from the garden.  With an adequate inventory of Polish dill and bread and butter pickles remaining from last year's bumper crop the plan this year is to make lime pickles.  This only happens in odd-numbered years - therefore regular lime and maybe spicy lime are in order.

Then there is the tomato factory.

The plants have become larger than life and are laden with fruit. There is absolutely nothing like a warm, vine-ripened tomato plucked fresh and eaten like an apple.  I keep low fat cottage cheese at the day job to go with fresh sliced tomatoes for lunch.  There is nothing better.  I figure we all should gorge ourselves on fresh tomatoes now because by January any of us tomato lovers will be insufferable - complaining about the leathery and tasteless pseudo-tomatoes sold at the grocery. 

Aside from eating them at every opportunity I've started canning them when there are enough to fill the canner with jars.  They'll be converting into casseroles, sauces and Uncle Dick's Tomato Juice in the winter.

You can't possibly eat all of that can you?  what do you do with the excess?

Good questions.  Once the freezers and pantry are stocked a little bit of the surplus goes to my co-workers.  But most of it goes to the Tosa Food Pantry at St. Bernard's.  I try to plant extra rows for the hungry.  It's good truck - put to good use.


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