Playing Catch-up…or is that ketchup?

Here’s our front lawn! A bit on the beige side!

As the heat wave and lack of rain continue, much of my time is spent dragging hoses and watering, watering, watering. I’m just trying to keep the potager and the 3 main flower gardens as healthy as I can, but the lawn and the rest of the gardens are on their own! This week the forecast is for record-breaking heat and rain is doubtful, so no relief in sight. Today our entire area is under an extreme heat advisory. It already feels like a sauna and it’s only 9 a.m.

Homemade ketchup is the best!

Garden work is done in the mornings as much as possible, and during the heat of the afternoon it’s time to work in the kitchen preserving the harvest. One of my favorite preserving is making ketchup. It takes most of a day to cook down the tomatoes, peppers and onions; run them through a food mill and then cook them again with a cheesecloth bag of spices until the mixture is reduced by half. The entire house smells SO GOOD! Staying nearby for frequent stirring is a must, so I snap beans, arrange bouquets, or whatever else I can do in the kitchen. Once it’s cooked down, the sugar and vinegar is added, which necessitates another cooking session to get it nice and thick again. Then it’s time to bottle, using many of the same old bottles that my grandmother and mother used, and that I’ve used for nearly 50 years. When was the last time you had “Hillbilly Cola” or “Palm Hill Cola?” The Pepsi bottles were added in much later years, found when we moved in but they come in handy.

The tomatoes are coming on at a furious pace, and even though I’m giving lots away there’s still plenty to can. This time it was tomato juice and diced tomatoes. Next up is marinara sauce, and maybe I’ll oven roast/dry a batch or two of cherry tomatoes even though we still have some left from last year’s preserving.

I spent one day at my mother’s freezing sweet corn for her freezer. That brought back lots of memories when the two of us and my paternal grandmother used to do corn together. No one could cut corn off a cob faster than Grandma Miller. She was a whiz with a knife! And no, I don’t bother to grow sweet corn. Our area is famous for growing fantastic corn…field corn, popcorn, and the sweetest, best sweet corn ever! So, I let the experts grow it and save my space for crops that don’t attract so many raccoons! Another day I canned sweet pickles and pickled beets. Yet another day, elderberry jelly was made and pepper strips were frozen.

A typical day’s harvest…

Still, the produce comes in faster than we can eat it, or than I can process it. It’s amazing how much my little potager can bring forth. D keeps telling me I should grow less, and for the first time I am actually considering turning a couple of beds over to flowers next year. We just don’t need so many tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and summer squash so I’ll cut back on those.

Meanwhile, I’m falling way behind on deadheading which means there will be lots of thinning out of volunteer seedlings at some point, although maybe the birds will eat the majority of the seeds and it won’t be a problem. A gardener can hope! And one of the great mysteries of life is how weeds can grow and thrive without rain. I see lots of weeds, but they are SO hard to pull in the dry, hard soil. Definitely should have put on more mulch last spring. The lavandins need shearing, and it’s past time to do a search and destroy mission on the squash and pumpkin leaves. Lots of catching up to do, but I’m trying to be prudent and not overdo in the heat. Wherever you are, be safe, be healthy, and most of all be happy! Enjoy those flowers and the summer bounty. Despite the current heat, frost will soon be on the way!


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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12 Responses to Playing Catch-up…or is that ketchup?

  1. Wow! How you can keep up at all with all that heat misery is beyond me! I’m right proud of you. Ironic, isn’t it, that canning season is in the hottest part of summer. My own canning days are long gone. Last year, I harvested, dried, and processed herbs — no cooking involved — enough for at least two years stored in my pantry. This year? We’ll see.

    Liked by 2 people

    • carolee says:

      Every time I spend an afternoon canning, I envision my great grandmother first carrying buckets of water into the cabin, then loading the stove with firewood to heat the water to wash the cans. Then the produce must be washed, cut, and cooked. And then the cans were heated to sterilize, the food spooned into the jars. The sealing wax was heated and poured carefully into the “canal” and then the glass lid was fitted over it and pushed down into the was to seal. I still have some of her sealing wax jars. When the “modern, improved” jars with the wire bail came along, requiring only a rubber ring and glass top to seal Gma was pleased. I still have some of those jars, too because we still used them when I first started canning with my mother. Now, whenever I just turn on the tap, or flip the knob on the stove I think how very easy I have it!!! And to think, all those hundreds of jars were not run through a pressure canner, or a water bath canner. But, they did sit on shelves in a cool root cellar (and later a real basement!) and nourished a family all winter long.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. bcparkison says:

    Frost? Goodness wouldn’t that be nice. I amost can’t get out early enough to avoid heat. It is here …in every corner and though we have been blessed with a shower here and there the weeds seem to enjoy it mostly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • carolee says:

      As much as I dislike the extreme heat, I dread frost more! I can work in the heat some, but the cold really seems to get to me more as I age and my fingers get too numb to accomplish anything!


  3. Kit Miracle says:

    I hear you, Carolee. I canned for many years but finally gave it up. Too much work, extra steps, and the heat. My husband thought he would try it when he retired “because I like canned tomatoes better than frozen.” “Good luck with that, hon. You’ll learn.” and he did. Our freezers are near capacity and the produce still keeps coming. The grass hasn’t dried up yet, either. My studio was converted from the old summer kitchen and I often think of the meals and canned goods that came out of that building.


    • carolee says:

      I guess canning is just in my blood! Not only do I like the taste better, and knowing what is NOT in my food, I just truly enjoy the process and seeing all those jars lined up on the shelves. However, now I’m having to stack boxes of canned goods in the garage, and that’s just not so pretty!!! No room in the freezers here either. I looked at buying another one, but dang those things are EXPENSIVE! So, I’m canning what I can, and freezing what I must. Hoping to give away MORE!!!


  4. jorjagrael says:

    My garden didn’t do as well this year, but I’ve still canned lots of beans! I may try the homemade ketchup.


    • carolee says:

      I’m saving a few jars for beans…if they do anything. I planted rows for canning, but I think the seeds are just cooking in the 106 degree soil temps rather than germinating. So far, just a plant here, and a plant there. Probably there are enough beans on the shelf to get us through another year, or I can “borrow” some from my mother, who still has fifty jars and doesn’t even like them!


  5. Going Batty in Wales says:

    I feel tired just reading that post! I don’t know how you do it all! I do love seeing my shelves full of good things to eat through the winter but am very grateful that our seasons here are less extreme than yours. And yes, we should all be grateful for piped water, stoves that don’t require us to haul wood or coal and all the other things that make life easier.


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