Home sweet home

I cannot believe I forgot to share the darling illustration I created of my house. I made this last month after working on a similar project for work, and I just adore it.

HOME-SWEET-HOME

How stinkin’ cute, right?

I designed this one of my building at work for a giant poster right when you walk in the building.

VMH

I think they are so charming. I am tossing up the idea of selling them on my shop — not that folks want to buy an image of my house (creepy!), but I could do theirs! So cute.

Speaking of designing things, I have exciting news! At the end of the summer I am going back to school to get my master’s degree in publications design. I am pretty freakin’ excited about it. Also terrified because, you know… homework. Haven’t done that in five years. But on the whole, I’m pumped for all of the awesome things I’m about to learn. In fact, I’ve started dreaming in Photoshop and inDesign — anyone else do that? It’s like I am editing my dreams. Strange, but cool.

Speaking of my sweet home, my pride and joy, my garden, is doing phenomenal. this season. Last night I made my first batch of pizza sauce from some 50+ tomatoes I picked over the weekend.

tometers

I also and the proud grower of a watermelon! Brian wants to pick it so badly, but I think it needs a few more days. I have never been so pumped to have grown something in my life haha.Watermleon

In other news, B and I just got back from a weekend trip to Buffalo, NY. My family had a family reunion and we had a great time.

I’ve got a few furniture projects I want to finish before the summer is over and I get crazy busy with school — a dresser and two nightstands to be exact. Here’s hoping I can find the time and cool weather to tackle each project!

At war with wildlife

I think I’ve become a crazy person. Seriously, certifiable. Last week I discovered that deer have been decimating my garden. No, I am not being melodramatic. They’ve hopped my 4-foot fence, stepped over my 2-foot garden fencing, pushed aside the wildlife netting and munched away to their hearts’ content. Buh-bye green beans, sorry squash, later tomatoes.

I even found hoof prints and many eaten plants to corroborate my story. Le sigh.

I’m cool with deer and wildlife. I try not to kill bugs outside because it’s their home, too. I even have an unspoken deal with the snakes that I find from time to time: Stay out of my house (which they always do — thank goodness), and I’ll simply relocate you so you aren’t in my way. I try not to tempt the deer with too many of their favorites, and I sure as hell thought Remmy would be a great deterrent, but this year the deer have my number. And my veggies.

So I am at war. And I think I’m winning. Muahahaha.

After finding my eaten garden and cursing up a storm, I promptly went inside to research how to keep deer away from my garden. There were lots of tips and tricks, so I got to work.

GardenProtection

  1. Irish Spring soap: Rumor has it deer aren’t crazy about Irish Spring soap. Apparently, nor is Brian. I’d bought a bulk pack of the green bars that remained almost untouched, so I drilled holes and attached the bars of soap to my garden fencing. It now smells very fresh and clean out there.
  2. Bells: I made this one up myself. I read a lot about how noises will scare deer away. I thought adding bells to my tomato plants might frighten a deer away if they heard a noise while they were eating. The jury is definitely still out on that one. I may have added an old wind chime, too.
  3. Extra fencing: The deer thankfully have not attempted to hop into my lush tomatoes, otherwise I’d still be weeping. But in an attempt to further deter their snacking, I added another set of fencing in front of my tomato garden. It leans a little, so they can’t get as close. Can they still hop it? Oh heck yes. Have they, oh heck no.
  4. Tightened netting (not pictured): The deer plainly don’t care about the wildlife netting, but I tightened it nonetheless. So far, no netting breaches have occurred. On the other hand, I can barely get through the damn netting haha. It makes picking my produce quite difficult.
  5. Motion-activated sprinkler: The gem in my deer fighting arsenal, my motion-activated sprinkler stands guard just waiting for an unsuspecting deer to cross its path. Then BAM! SPRINKLER! It’s hilarious. I frequently get soaked. So does Remmy. In theory, so do the deer. It might be useless, who knows. But I sure get a lot of joy out of it.

You’ll also see in the above photo and old, sheer curtain. I was so pissed last week about the deer that the first couple of nights that I actually covered my tomatoes at night. Then it stormed in the middle of the night and I ran outside in basically my skivvies (does anyone say skivvies?) to make sure the wind wasn’t wrapping the curtain around the plants and killing them. Since then, I’ve forced myself to be slightly less neurotic (ahem, crazy).

All of my deer proofing seems to be doing the trick. Who knows if it is the soap or the sprinkler, but one way or another, the deer have stopped eating my garden. I’m happy to share a jar or two of pasta sauce with them as a thank you. Silly deer, Jess’ garden is for people.

Everything should be turning green/growing like crazy in the next few weeks. I harvested a zucchini, crookneck squash and cucumber already.

harvest1

And the first of my tomatoes are turning red! I may or may not have squealed with delight when I saw this. And Brian may or may not have walked out of the house at that exact moment. Whatever, he doesn’t understand my garden love.

RipeTomatoes

If nothing else, at least my added measures protect the garden from my not-so-ferocious dog. Except the soap. He likes to steal that.

remnotingarden

Mint Jelly

I’ve wanted to make mint jelly for the past few years, but never grew enough mint to make it happen. Mint is basically a tasty weed and takes over a garden, so I’ve never planted mine in the ground. Just in a small pot… and even though I have a green thumb in my garden, I have blacker than black thumb for potted plants.

Lucky me, my neighbor offered me a bunch of hers this past weekend, so I got to try my hand at making some jelly! The recipe I followed was from my Ball recipe book  — I highly recommend their home preserving book. It’s one of my favorites! (I get no money from the sale of this book, in case you care) — and I doubled it to make 9 jars instead of 4 or 5.

The mint jelly recipe was a cool one to try for me because I usually make jam. With jam, you use the whole fruit. With jelly, you are using just the liquid. So I got to use a fancy jelly straining bag for the first time! (nerd alert!)

After boiling the mint leaves in water for a bit, I poured the entire mixture into the jelly bag, which then separated the leaves from the mint water mixture.

mintjelly-straining-web

Once I got the amount I needed, I put it back into the pot and added in the sugar, lemon juice and liquid pectin.

A few things I learned:

1. Mint jelly is only green if you add food coloring. Otherwise, it’s a yellow-y color.

2. Even if you aren’t making a huge batch of jam or jelly, use a big pot! I have a stock pot, but opted for a smaller pot for this batch of jelly. HUGE mistake. The jelly bubbled over at one point and has permanently (or so it seems) stickied my stove. Joy.

3. Follow the recipe, even if your jelly isn’t super jelly-like when it is suggesting you take it off the heat. I have a hard time with this because in my mind it needs to be jelly before it is canned. But once your jelly cools and sits for a few days, it will gel up perfectly. If you over boil, it will be rubbery and gross. Listen to the experts — they know what they are talking about (mostly).

By doubling my recipe, I was able to get nine jars of mint jelly.

mintjelly-web

I got a text from my mom (my biggest jelly and jam fan) this morning saying how good the jelly was on her lamb dinner last night. Glad to have found another recipe that I like for canning.

All in all, this took me about 2.5 hours from start to finish, start being taking out supplies and picking the mint, finish being clean-up and jar storage. Not bad.