Friday, September 12, 2014

Time To Dry Your Hydrangea Blossoms

The last two days in Princeton, Wisconsin are a sharp contrast to the hot temperatures we had earlier this week.  It is very cold and tonight we have a chance of frost.  In case this happens, I have gathered my inside plants that I have outside.  I don't want to bring them inside yet, so I am going to cover the bunch with a blanket and hope for the best.  I hope it doesn't freeze yet.  It is way too early.  One of the reasons besides the obvious, is that I save some of the hydrangea blooms and dry them.  They have to be cut after the growing season but before a frost.  If it freezes the blossoms freeze, and they don't dry properly.  Today I cut a few just in case.  This is my process for drying them.  Some people tie the stems together and hang upside down until dry.  I don't do that.

This Hydrangea is getting the fall blush.  I hope these are ready to cut, and not too early. 

Fill a vase 3/4 full of water and cut the flowers.

Strip the leaves off the stems and place into the vase of water.

The flowers should be put into water immediately after cutting.  This allows the water to be pulled up into the stem just like any cut flower.  The difference is that the flower doesn't wilt.  Just leave the bouquet in the water until all the water evaporates.  At this time the Hydrangea has begun to dry.  It does turn light brown, but once dry they last for years.  I have never done this, but I have heard that you can color the water, and the dried flowers will have that color in the blossoms.

These dried hydrangea's are several years old.  They still have the slight pink blush.

This is what happens if you pick the blossoms too soon.  They shrivel up and don't dry properly.

If it doesn't freeze tonight, I will cut some more or wait until next year to collect more.  There are a lot of ways to decorate with dried Hydrangea.  Some years I decorate my Christmas tree with some of the dried blossoms.  If you have some or have access to them, give it a try.  It's free, it's pretty and it's fun.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Update Of My Kefir Miracle

Today's blog is going to be an update of a post I wrote when I first started to write my blog in December of 2012.  It was called the Miracle of Kefir.

If you read the first blog, I mentioned what kefir is, how wonderful it is and how it returned me to health after cancer treatment in 2006/2007.  Well, this spring something happened to the kefir grains I had.  My grains were over 6 years old, and they started to die off.  I tried to keep them going.  They still made kefir but the quality was poor and the grains quit growing.  All summer I tried to revive them.  I finally gave in and ordered new grains from a wonderful source called the kefirlady.  I was familiar with her because I followed her yahoo group for many years.  I learned from the literature she sent that I was killing my grains in two ways.  First, I was stirring with a silicone spatula.  Silicone kills the kefir.  I had never heard that before.  I also was not using enough milk in ratio to the grains.  I was starving my kefir grains by not giving them enough to eat.  I was thinking the more grains the better.  That was not true.  The kefirlady, Marilyn, raises goats and makes her milk kefir from goat milk, but her grains work perfectly fine in regular store bought milk as long as the milk isn't ultra pasteurized.  Some people were concerned that the grains would be "goaty".  Once a couple batches are made, there is no detectable goat flavor.

Finished batch of fresh kefir.

In case anyone is interested, the kefirlady also sells water kefir and kombucha.  I made water kefir in addition to milk kefir for a long time, but I found they reproduced so fast we couldn't possibly keep up.  They are different from milk kefir grains in that they grow in sugar water.  The grains use up the sugar in the water and make a fizzy drink that is slightly sweet.   It can be flavored with juices.  I often added grape juice but if left to ferment too long, it tasted a little like sweet wine.   It has good beneficial properties with probiotics just as the milk kefir does.  Kombucha is similar but the water kefir contains a greater number of good bacteria.  Good bacteria helps us to digest our food, helps with allergies and boosts our immune system.  I got this explanation of milk kefir benefits from

 "In addition to beneficial bacteria and yeast, kefir contains minerals and essential amino acids that help the body with healing and maintenance functions. The complete proteins in kefir are partially digested and therefore more easily utilized by the body. Tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids abundant in kefir, is well known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system. Because kefir also offers an abundance of calcium and magnesium, which are also important minerals for a healthy nervous system, kefir in the diet can have a particularly profound calming effect on the nerves.
Kefir’s ample supply of phosphorus, the second most abundant mineral in our bodies, helps utilize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for cell growth, maintenance and energy.
Kefir is rich in Vitamin B12, B1, and Vitamin K. It is an excellent source of biotin, a B Vitamin which aids the body’s assimilation of other B Vitamins, such as folic acid, pantothenic acid, and B12. The numerous benefits of maintaining adequate B vitamin intake range from regulation of the kidneys, liver and nervous system to helping relieve skin disorders, boost energy and promote longevity."

Hopefully I will be able to keep my new grains for a long time, and I will have plenty to share.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lemon Bars

Recently my sister reminded me of a recipe we used to make.  She got this recipe when she worked and lived in Stoughton, Wisconsin.  That was probably more than twenty five years ago. The recipe has been around for a long time, but I haven't made them in many years.  I don't know why, they are so good and go together very quickly.  It is a very easy recipe that doesn't need a mixer.

Lemon Bars

1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Cut the butter into the flour and powdered sugar just like with pie crust.   Pat it into a 8 x 8 inch pan.
Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

2 eggs
2 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Mix with a fork until blended.  Put filling over the crust while the crust is still hot.  Bake for another 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  When done, sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Cut while still warm.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fall is on the Horizon

 Fall is nearly here in spite of the warm temperatures we had today.  It was a beautiful day, but there are signs everywhere.   Here are just a few of the pictures I took today that proves fall is just around the corner. 

The corn fields are getting ready to harvest.

The corn tassels.

Ears of field corn drying up.

Lots of bees on the sedum.


Another pumpkin

Lots of tomatoes, too many to eat.

Wooly Caterpillar

Blush on the hydrangea

Jack in the Pulpit berries