Homemade Pot Labels

Pot Labels

Pot Labels

Having been in the farm/garden/nursery business for many years, it always seemed to me that the buying of pot labels was a chore.  You have to buy specific ones for every item.  You have to buy in multiples of 100 or 1000.  Color photo ones make the pot more marketable.

Now that I am just an Innkeeper and have a backyard garden, my options are more fluid.  Finally found a material that is basically free, recyclable, lasts long enough, accepts a Sharpie marking, holds up in the sun and weather and is easy to make.

The photo shows how easy this is to do.  Take a 32 oz yogurt or cottage cheese container, this is the best size as shorter ones don’t leave enough room to write on and also stick into the pot or garden row.  Cut from the opening down to the base creating strips from 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide.  This gives you about 16 strips.  Now snip the strips from the bottom.  That’s it!

See sample label.  You may choose to ‘sharpen’ the end that gets inserted into the soil.  I don’t find that this is necessary, and could make a weak point in the label itself.  I have also found that the slight curvature in the strip in the long direction makes the strip stronger and more resistant to bending than flat strips made from other flat material.

Ok, now for the marking technique. I use either a Fine or Ultra Fine Black Sharpie, on the inside; the white smooth side of the strip.  Ultra Fine holds up for a few months outside or longer for pots that are in a greenhouse.  The ‘Fine’ holds up all summer, even outside.

Labels can be cleaned off and reused or recycled with the other plastics, as needed.

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Our Neighborhood – The Far Northwest Corner

A satellite map of our area with just a few labels added.  Highland Garden House is at ‘HGH.’  For perspective, it is 60 highway miles from Seattle to HGH.  It is 35 miles direct to Mt. Baker, but via highway it is 70.

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Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Canadian Bacon/Cured Pork Loin

Brined and ready to cook

Brined and ready to cook

Making your own cured meats is a lot easier than you may have thought.  Mostly just choosing the right cuts, do a days-long soak in a brine, then slow cook or slow cook/smoke.

This recipe makes a salt cured pork loin that results in a Canadian Bacon-like meat.  It is suitable to be used like ham.

I buy what is referred to as a half boneless pork loin, it is 5-6 pounds and sold in a vacuum sealed package for between $1.69 and $1.99 a pound, on sale.

The brine:

1 gallon water
1 cup Morton’s Kosher Salt, available at most supermarkets
1 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp Himalaya Pink Salt, Costco sells in 3 lb container, more info here.
1 cup honey, pure Maple Syrup or any sweet syrup
2 tbsp dried whole Italian Mix Herbs
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tbsp Wright’s Liquid Smoke

The meat:

~5 lb pork loin

I have found that making 1/2 this brine recipe will be enough for a 5-6 lb half pork loin, or you can make the full batch and freeze the unused portion for next time.

Mix the brine up and bring to a boil.  Cool.  Then chill.  Cut the loin into 4 equal roast size pieces.  Make sure they are all approx. the same size.  Ragged edges and excess fat layer needs to be trimmed off so you have nice neat pieces.  I use the stainless steel bowl pictured above.  Put the four pieces into the bowl and cover with the chilled brine.  The meat will want to float, so place a plate or bowl on the top of the meat to keep them all submerged. Place in refer for 3 days, check every day to make sure the pieces are submerged.

Fully Cooked

Fully Cooked

Remove from brine and wash off in cold water.  Discard brine. Place pieces on a rack that is sitting on/in a sheet pan lined with foil.  See photo above.  Place back in refer for 24 more hours, to dry off.  The drying and cooking pan are one and the same.  Place in a 200° f oven for 4 to 5 hours, the interior needs to be about 150 °f tested with a meat thermometer. (My oven needed to be set at 225 to result in 200.)

Cool, enjoy!  This is s fully cooked meat and can be used hot or cold.  After chilling, you can slice paper thin sheets across the grain for sandwiches or breakfast meats.  Re-fry like ham slices, dice for stir frys, etc.  Freezes beautifully.  I like to wrap each piece in foil to keep air away from the meat.  (You can use the same foil you lined the sheet pan with.) Then place in a gallon freezer Zip-lock bag and squeeze as much air out as possible and zip close.  This is a good way to freeze many things.

You will notice that this meat is not pink like bought hams.  This is because you have not used any sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite as a preservative.  See this link for more details on this.  But, the pink salt does lend a slight pinkish tone to the cooked meat.

After you have made this recipe once, you now will be able to alter the brine to fine tune your personal product.  Pure Maple Syrup with red pepper flakes and fresh sage anyone?

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Ptarmigan Ridge Hike – Mt. Baker Area

Here’s a hike for everyone!  It is an out and back hike no matter how far you go.  End of trail is maybe 4.5 miles, but you can turn around at any point and feel that you have had a genuine mountain experience at any distance.

This trail is only available to access from about late June to Mid October, as the parking lot is at 5000ft and is a State Highway.

Mt. Baker looms in front of you while Mt Shuksan keeps an eye on your back.

If there is only one mountain hike you can do, this is the one.  It requires no special skills or equipment.  It is not a lot of elevation

Trail conditions

Trail conditions

change so hikers of all ages can participate.  It gives you a real above-the-timberline, rocky experience without having to hike through all that brush to get there. You drive to the Artist Ridge parking lot on the ridge between Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan, this is the major elevation increase that puts you at the timber line. (See photo to left of an example of the trail conditions.)

As always, I recommend trekking poles and a printed map of the various options and routes along this trail.  There are a few side trails that can be taken, even one that circles around Table Mountain, skirts Chain Lakes and returns you to Picture Lake.  But, if you have parked at the Artist Ridge parking lot, that is where you want to return to.

Detailed information on this trail can be found at Washington Trails Association.

More of my own photos below, click to view in larger size:

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Posted in Day Trips-Driving, Family Friendly, Geology, Hikes & Walks, Mt Baker, North Cascades | Leave a comment

Bluff Trail – Coupeville Area

Bluff TrailThe Bluff Trail is a gem of a hike on central Whidbey Island, just a few miles from Coupeville.  We hiked this loop trail at the end of September, and also visited the Sunnyside Cemetery and some other historic buildings along the ridge.

Here is a complete article on this trail: Bluff Trail.

We parked at the top of the hill by the Cemetery, a Discover Pass is required here and also at the small lot on the beach.  Many people park along the beach road where no Discover Pass is required.

I was thinking that this would be a pretty easy stroll, but was wrong.  There is a steepness factor that is a bit disconcerting, at least to me.  The bluff itself is very steep and the trail is right on the edge, for quite a ways.  Everything is tilted just enough to make me somewhat dizzy!  As always, we hiked with our trekking poles, which helped immensely.   If you were to start to fall down this slope, it would be very difficult to stop.

Perego's Lake from top of Bluff

Perego’s Lake from top of Bluff Trail

Steep!

Steep!

Here is a detailed map of the Bluff Trail and all the trails in the

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Posted in Coupeville, Day Trips-Driving, Family Friendly, Geology, Hikes & Walks, Local History, The Sea Shore, Whidbey Is. | 1 Comment

The Methow

Dry and Open Forest TrailI find it interesting that we call our area “The Skagit” and just over the ‘hill’ you have “The Methow.”  It is the same terminology:  it describes an area of great diversity, not a single place or town or famous beach or river or pub.  It is the state of mind of the locals and all who visit.  It is more the whole community and collection of all the things that make the two areas great.  Each area’s name is after the main river that flows through it.  We have a lot in common and a lot in uncommon.

Took a little one day visit in October 2014 to “The Methow.”  This was the one day that I picked off the calendar that was supposed to be better weather than what we have been having, on both sides of the ‘hill.’  (the ‘hill’ is the Cascade Range.)

A good two lane paved road connects us over the North Cascades.  This road is closed 3-5 months of the year due to heavy snow fall and extreme avalanche risk.  This is a Summer Road.  You go over two 5000 ft Passes on this road.  The long slow drive up the Skagit River is taken over by the extreme and fast descent from Washington Pass to “The Methow,”  on the east side.  The highway is generally closed from Nov to April.  But winters can be variable and in 1974 the road was not opened until June 14!  In 2003 it was closed on October 17.  In the winter of 1976-77 it did not close at all.

WinthropWinthrop is a tiny western-motif town that is a pleasure to stroll about in.  Wood sidewalks and all!

Winthrop is home to the oldest legal saloon in Washington state.

In 1883 the lure of gold brought the first permanent white settlers.

The North Cascades National Park with its pristine forests and stunning views borders to the west.

Winthrop (pop. 393 – 2009 census, elevation 1765′) is known for the American Old West design of all the buildings in town, making it a popular Washington vacation destination.

Additional photos taken in October of 2017 around Washington Pass:

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Posted in Day Trips-Driving, Hikes & Walks, Methow Valley, Rivers and Lakes, The Mountains, Winthrop | 1 Comment

Fragrance Viewpoint Hike

This is a short up and back hike that is just north of the Skagit County line in Larrabee  State Park.  Round trip is about 3 miles.

Take Chuckanut Drive, SR 11, north out of Burlington and follow it until you just cross the Skagit County line, park in the first parking area to the right.  This is also the parking area for a number of other trails in this area.  Discover Pass required.

Walk north on the Interurban Trail for 1/3 of a mile.  The trail on the right, after 1/3 mile,  is the one to the Viewpoint.  After about a mile and 8 ‘medium switchbacks,’ you come to a fork in the trail and a sign:  right to the view point and left for another 1.1 miles to Fragrance Lake.  The view point is really worth the effort!  Gaze to the west over Samish Bay to the San Juan Islands.

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Posted in Chuckanut Mtns, Family Friendly, Hikes & Walks, The Sea Shore | 1 Comment

Blueberry Time – How to tell if they are ripe.

Unsorted blueberries in water

Unsorted blueberries in water

At Highland Garden House we have a few blueberry bushes; they are a nice landscape shrub and provide some fresh blueberries in July and August for our breakfast guests, and enough to freeze for winter use.

This post is not about selecting or growing  blueberries, it is about how to tell when they are ready to pick!  In our part of the country, our Skagit Valley farmers grow blueberries on a large commercial scale.  Many of the berries are planted in rows in order to be picked by machine.  This may sound foreign, but the blueberry is pretty tough, is easily knocked off the bush when ripe, is round, so rolls down a fabric slope as the leaves and other non-round material is sorted off.  All this is done in the field as the machine straddles the row with one to three ‘operators.’  The picked berries are dumped into flats and washed and sorted a few more times before packaging.  They are not huge machines but have been built to do this one thing.

Some floaters scooped off

Some floaters scooped off

At home you pick your berries by hand.  I like to hold the clusters still with my left hand and pick and hold the picked berries in my right.  But, on to the ripeness indicator.

Blueberries are ripe when they are dark blue and come away from the cluster branch easily.  Well, this is all subjective. You taste the picked ones and they are pretty nice.

This is the ‘real’ blueberry ripeness test:

Pick a double handful that you think are ripe.  Put the berries in a bowl of water.  Some will float and some will sink.  The sinkers are fully ripe, the floaters are not quite ripe,  even if they all are the same color and appeared to be ripe as your were picking.

Fully ripe on right, floaters on left

Fully ripe on right, floaters on left

Now you can scoop the floaters off separately from the sinkers, these are slightly under ripe, still taste good, but will last longer in the fridge.  Then scoop the sinkers out, use these first, or maybe these are the ones that get frozen! (Place washed and sorted blueberries on sheet pans. Place in freezer.  When frozen, pack in Zip Lock bags, forcing the excess air out. Back into freezer.  Don’t forget to date them!)

You can do this same test when you buy blueberries, you will be washing them anyway:  The sinkers are to be used first, the floaters will keep up to 2 weeks in fridge.

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Home made bird ‘suet’ feeder recipes

Been buying these cakes for years and use them all Winter.  The variety of birds that you attract is greatly increased, as some birds do not really go for the dry seed in my tube feeder.

As long as you know the base proportions, to get the consistency right, the rest is very easy.  I estimate that you can make your own for half what you would pay for bought cakes, which would be .69 to .99 per cake, plus tax, around here.  Most of the ingredients that you buy to make your own cakes from scratch are not taxed in my state, but the pre-prepared ones are taxed at 8.7%, so I have already saved that much by making my own!  (You see, the suet cakes are ‘bird food,’ therefore they are taxes at regular sales tax rates, but the actual raw ingredients, except the bought wild bird seed, are ‘people food,’ and are not taxed!)

The ‘grease’ component is either Crisco or lard.  Lard is cheaper and the birds love it.  The grease component that you use must be hard at room temperature. The other base component is peanut butter.  Any kind.  I use what I normally have on, Adams Natural Crunchy, but if you are buying it only ‘for the birds,’ buy the cheapest kind in the largest container to get the most for your money.

The recipe below is enough for 5 to 6 suet feeder size cakes.  Read the technique all the way through before starting, please.

1 cup shortening or lard (If you eat bacon, save ALL the grease and use it instead of some of the lard or shortening.)

1 cup peanut butter

3 to 4 cups of Flours, cornmeal, oats, etc

3 to 4 cups Dry bird seed mix

Optional: Dried fruit of any kind; raisins, Craisins, etc.

In a metal bowl, slowly melt the shortening or lard on the stove.  When it is melted, stir in the peanut butter.  You must work quickly at this stage, as it will start to ‘set up’ right away.  Have your ingredients all at-hand and at room temperature. This is a good time to clean out those odds and ends of flours and seeds in your pantry that you have not used in a long time.  Add, 1/2 to 1 cup each of the following:  flour, cornmeal, whole rolled oats, wheat or rye flakes, etc, to total 3 to 4 cups.  Now you have a stiff batter.  Add 3 to 4 cups of regular bird seed and stir it all up, one cup at a time.  Now you have a very stiff batter.

Cooling

Cooling

Press the batter into shallow pans that are lined with foil or wax paper.  This recipe makes two 6 by 8 pans, full, see photo at left. Make sure the cake is the thickness that will fit into your feeders; about 3/4 inch or less.  (If the batter starts to stiffen up too quickly, just return pan to a low stove-top burner and remelt.) Cool, then freeze.  Cut to fit in your feeders.  I save and reuse the plastic trays that the store-bought cakes come in and use them to refill with this recipe.  I also use the bottoms of 1/2 gallon plastic milk jugs and other ‘orphan’ plastic  freezer containers cut to fit into the wire feeder cages.  Sour cream/large yogurt/cottage cheese containers cut down to 1.5 inch trays also work well. If you use this method and pour the hot mix directly into the plastic trays, you have a more solid cake and it is harder for the birds to break it up. (Starlings and Flickers are adept at this!) If you are lacking these trays, line the back and sides of the feeder with foil, leaving the one ‘feeding face’ open.

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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Flourless Corn Muffins

Finished!

Finished!

This corn muffin recipe is gluten-free and makes a hearty muffin that freezes well.

I like Bob’s Red Mill Corn Meal because it is sort of ‘rough’ and the medium grind adds a lot of texture.  In addition, my local Cash and Carry stocks it in 25 lb bags, which makes it about 54¢ a pound.  I have experimented with different pan techniques and found that the silicone baking muffin pan without cupcake papers is the best.

The Recipe:

Preheat oven to 450f

2 cups medium corn meal

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp flax meal with 3 tbsp warm water, let sit at least an hour

1 1/2 cups 2% milk, warmed (Or 1 cup whole milk and 1/2 cup warm water.)

3 tbsp olive oil

Optional: 1/4 – 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, whole sliced jalapenos to push into the top of unbaked muffins.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

Mix the dry together in a bowl, add the wet and mix well.

Place a silicone baking muffin pan on a sheet pan.  Fill cups, without papers, most of the way full.  These muffins don’t rise much.

Bake in hot oven 20 minutes, turning pan several times.

 

Baked!

Baked!

Let cool before popping out of pan.  These are best served hot right out of the oven, but freeze well and when thawed and then reheated, in microwave, are very good.  They do not become rubbery because there is no flour in them.

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