Still Workin’

Some days things take longer than others. You know those times, when the internet lags, but all the work you need to do is online with approaching deadlines and then the power goes out. Yep, that’s how these days can feel. Some folks complain about the weather being too hot. Some folks give their opinions over politics. Some of us just keep on truckin’. I find that I’m still working on some ideas and projects that never seem to end. 2020 holds that theme of never-ending. When will Covid-19 “end”? When will the political banter “end”?

The Neverending Story

Perhaps we all need a winsome Luck Dragon like Falkor to take us away from all the woes of the world. OR maybe we can use some creative outlets to break the tension, anxiety and uncertainties. Then, those outlets might allow us to think more clearly and solve the quandaries of today with less quarrel. I allow my creative outlets to produce results that hopefully inspire our readers. Whether in the garden, kitchen, studio, or makerspace, it is my goal to keep us positively motivated. We are all in this time together. Let’s make the best of it!

Seize the Season

One way to make the best of life is to use that which is at hand. BLUEBERRIES are now at hand, or should I say in season at this very moment. I made a beeline to Peek-a-Blueberry Farm in Bath, NY to get my hands full of these azure colored gems. Since our most local berry farm in town is closed due to Covid-19, I had to do some research. If you have never picked your own fruit, promise that you will put this on your bucket list. That sweet farm I found even provides a picking bucket and I overfilled it. With all that abundance I tested a scrumptious Blueberry Lemon Loaf recipe from Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. If you are local to the Southern Tier Library System, please check out the book for all the vegan inspiration. If you are a reader from a far-off universe, test this recipe from V is for Vegetables. This recipe far surpasses the old adage of making lemonade from life’s lemons.

Masks are Lemons

If you read Work with Whatcha Got, this mask was in progress. It certainly has become a Lemony Snicket! I wanted to test a different pattern in an extra large size to compare it to our Face Mask Pattern and Tutorial. I wanted a slouchy effect that felt more like a bandana tied around my head than a close-fitting face mask. This tutorial is one of the most popular on YouTube, so I wanted to give it a whirl. The pattern size is slightly larger than the one Tangled Hangers provided, but after a few tweaks and retries, I struggle with the design. It’s just too big on my face. Dastardly Device! Luckily, the majority of my Work with Whatcha Got ensemble is complete and ready to reveal.

The headband I created out of the excess fabric from the skirt hem. It fits very well and holds down those stray hairs on a hot day. To make a similar one, follow this tutorial and share your creation in the comments. I wanted to accent the tank top with some fabric from the skirt to tie the two together. There was a sheet of paper towel closest at hand, so it became my pattern paper. I creased the paper in the seam gap on the shoulder strap and cut out an abstract shape. The pattern was traced onto the fabric, then pinned in place on the shirt. I decided to alter the shape just before the final application.

Tell me what you think of my work. I enjoy this comfortably cool “new” addition to my wardrobe as much as I enjoyed the journey of upcycling the “lemons” from my closet. Although some parts of the project took longer than expected, it feels great to meet my goal. While we can’t control what comes at us tomorrow, we can Keep Calm and Create.

I’m still working on creating new programs for the (dare I say) Fall season. In the meantime, I have to return to this free (until August 31) Anti-racism Training. There is a lot of work ahead of us. The work begins with you. The work begins with me.

That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll check you on the flip side!

e’Scape Plan

My escape plan each evening tends to lead to my garden. Warm weather leaves me craving fresh air and birdsong. A mindful gardener is always at the ready to harvest and process their bounty in preparation of the pending seasons of cold.

It is by virtue of living in the Finger Lakes (#FLX) region that I discovered the delicacy we will discuss today. This type of tinkering is far from the electronic tech stuff we explore in our maker space, Creation Station, but I dare you not to geek out on the genetic code of garlic. It’s a super food and I told myself I’d marry it one day. (Ha!) I believe I’ve achieved that marital status, as the crop is the easiest to maintain and provides two harvests per planting. Garlic is the double duty power plant you need in your homestead (and when I say homestead, that’s anything you call your dwelling—my first “homestead” gardens were in pots and tin cans on a curbside in Philadelphia). Space is not a major concern for this allium. Give a clove a six inch dirt covering to rest inside in the fall and it will show its gratitude as the first green shoot to pop out of the ground in spring.

Garlic in May, before the Scapes Soar

While I’m busy prepping and planting my remaining garden beds in spring, Garlic is growing and showing off. By late June, the flower stem begins to develop and curl. That is the scape. Once the scape curls, I harvest it by cutting it off of the plant a few inches above the leaves, which allows for more nutrients to go directly to the bulb.

More than 2.5 Pounds of Garlic Scapes to Process

Once washed and dried, I weighed my bounty to assess just how much I could make of each recipe I found in this video. I really love the Garlic Scape Powder recommendation, but Pesto and Pickled Scapes are a favorite in our home, so garlic powder will wait until I harvest the rest of the plant in a few weeks. I decided to put up a batch of pickled scapes to eat throughout the year and process a couple cups of Garlic Scape Pesto to enjoy now.

Fresh Garlic Scape Pesto Process

I used the New York Times recipe for this batch of garlic pesto, but there are many options to choose. You can omit the cheese to keep this recipe vegan. The flavor is still wonderful. What I also love about this recipe is using inexpensive sunflower seeds in place of pine nuts. I have replaced pine nuts for walnuts in pesto recipes previously , but am aware that practice is not safe for nut-free homes.

Check out that fresh basil in the lower middle frame above. THAT basil is from a hydroponic plant I got at the grocery store in April. Remember when we made Chunky Knit Planters? Recall that plant in the final product?? Yep, that’s the one! Harvesting from my kitchen table is incredible.

Prepping the Pickles

In order to can the garlic scapes for pickling, I cut off the tips of the harvested end and the flower. Some people prefer to cut their scapes to straight lines for ease of packing, but I prefer to preserve the spiral. We think the curl is the most unique feature of this delicacy, so a little more time in preparation makes for a beautiful presentation.

Steamy Stockpot of Sterilized Jars

Before I start preparing the garlic scapes to be canned, I sterilized the jars in a stockpot with at least an inch of water covering them. I learned from a rustic homesteader that a rack is not required under the jars to protect the glass, so I go rogue. You might choose to follow more strict processing rules at the Ball Jar website. Once the water comes to a boil, I know the jars are sterilized and safe for use. I take them from the water bath to dry and fill each one like it is a work of art.

Filling the Jars

Using a chopstick that I sterilized in the hot water bath, I gently push down each garlicky curl. I work to keep the flower end of each curl up, so that it acts as a handle for the person who grabs it. I ensure no curls are tangled and continue to fill the jar, leaving a half inch of head space. Any straight portions of scape get stuffed in the center to completely pack the jar.

Scapes and Scraps

The bounty of scapes I harvested equaled 6 pints for pickling after making the pesto. The bowl of scraps will go to the compost bin for fertilizing the new crop this fall. Once the jars were filled, I made the brine. This Pickled Garlic Scapes recipe from Home in the Finger Lakes was very helpful and the first recipe I tried several years ago. If you don’t have pickling spice mix in your cupboard, use approximately 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns and 1 teaspoon of dill per pint. If you are a pickling guru, you may have a favorite brine recipe to share in the comments. I put the spices into each jar for equal proportions, then pour the brine over everything, allowing a 1/2 inch of headspace per jar.

Chopsticks help keep down the Scapes

As the brine fills the jar, the scapes tend to also rise, so I use the chopstick as a stopper. I hold down the scapes for a few seconds and watch them blanch into a vibrant bright green. At that moment, they seem to back down from the rise, which allows me to wipe the jar rim and place the lids on top for sealing.

Sealing it Up

We learned in our Homesteading Series at Bluebird Trail Farm in 2019 that the best way to seal your jars is to hold down the lid with one finger, while applying the screw ring with the other hand and twist to close. Then grab a towel to hold the hot jar and tighten the lid with the other hand.

Spicy Pickles

Two jars were reserved as spicy pickles. I added 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper to each jar, then realized I needed a way to mark these separate from the rest of the batch. Using chunks of fresh garlic, I used this as my marking system, which worked better than labeling the jars with marker that could contaminate the water bath.

Get in the Bath!

Each jar was then gently placed into the bubbling water bath and processed for 10 minutes. This gave me time to clean up the kitchen and prepare a pasta meal with pesto and fresh veggies. After the jars boil for 10 minutes, they can be removed from the pot of water and allowed to rest for 24 hours, undisturbed. The best part of the whole process is hearing that distinct “pop” of a lid sealing properly outside of the water bath. It’s like perfect science.

Fresh and Fermenting

I usually take the pot off of the hot burner and allow everything to cool overnight. Once I’m ready to put them up, each jar will be labeled with the ingredients, so we know what’s inside. These jars make perfect gifts during the holidays and are a great addition to any barbecue or pot luck meal. A recent study found that consumption of fermented foods are linked to low Covid-19 mortality. Pickles could be the perfect food, after all.

Zoom on Saturday

Pivoting from the e’Scape plan, let’s talk about future things. There are still a few hours to register for Photo Fun with Dan Gallagher. This class will guide you through using an interchangeable lens camera or SLR. The Southeast Steuben County Library hosted a similar class last summer and all attendees proved better portfolios and family photos with credit to Dan’s excellent teaching.

Work with Whatcha Got

Check out this video, in case you missed the first of a three part series for #SeWednesday. Jesse Bearsdlee guides viewers on how to upcycle or repurpose old clothes into a new ensemble. We learned how to make a bodice in part one. Follow this link to join us for part two on July 22 at 6pm EST. Learn how to Work with Whatcha Got, Upcycled Dress Waistband or Separate Belt.” This video series is made possible in part by the QuickARTS grant program administered by The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes and funded by the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, Inc.

That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll catch you on the flip side!