Category Archives: Plants and Gardening

Canning the Modern Way???

Canning is in my blood. My mother, grandmother, and great grandmother before me all preserved food by canning to provide for their families. When puzzled people ask at how my husband and I managed to raise four kids and half of the neighborhood on a single, small income, I don’t have to look any further than my larder to find the answer. I planted the garden, the Good Lord provided the water and sunshine, and I harvested and preserved the produce. My daughter has recently married and is now walking in the footsteps of her ancestors, preserving food so that her family may eat in the future. But things have apparently changed since I learned to can.

Quart of blueberries sealed in 1946

Fruit jar seal still holding over seventy years later

The new box of canning jars she brought to the house  last week came with a note, boasting that her jars and lids would stay sealed for a whole eighteen months!! This is a joke, right? The jar of blueberries to the left was canned in 1946. Although the fruit has darkened through the years, seventy-two years later, this jar is still firmly sealed, and the jar companies are bragging that their seals will last eighteen months? Pitiful!

Recently, an elderly friend of mine passed away, and her family brought me hundreds of jars from her basement. At least half of them were filled. Among these were cases of peaches from 1970, all canned in mayonnaise jars. Just as beautiful and yellow as the day they were canned, these peaches had stood the test of time. Having an over abundance of jars myself, I decided to offer these jars to a friend, who, very politely, informed me that you couldn’t can in the old mayonnaise jars because they would break in the canner and destroy your food. I suppose someone should have told me that when I started canning in the late seventies, because I’ve been using them all of this time, and never had a single one break. In fact the only canning jars that have broken for me in the canner, were ones made specifically for canning.

Apple butter canned in Alfredo sauce jar

Marlin Miller
Photo by: John Beale / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (4/19/1999)

I have also been told that one can only safely can using the regular canning lids or the new equivalents. Whoops… I’ve messed up on this one too. When I was a kid my family would spend summers camping along the river. In a cabin not far away lived an elderly hermit named Marlin Miller who would often stop by for a chat. As self-sufficient as they come, Miller canned his own food… in spaghetti sauce jars. We were living on a very limited income when I first started out, and canning jars and lids were expensive. Almost forty years later, I still reuse smaller jars with pop lids (with rims that curl under, not out) for things like tomato sauce, jellies, juices, and apple butter. The lid on the jar of apple butter above has been reused (and perfectly sealed) twelve times so far.

Vegetable soup canned in antique jars

They also tell me that antique canning jars should only be used for dry storage. Fill them with rice, popcorn, or candy. Never, never can in them. Oh boy, I’m guilty again. I have jars that date back one hundred and fifty years. Do I can in them? Sure. Why not? They are three times the thickness of the new ones, and I’ve never had one break, not even in the pressure canner.

This week, as I helped my daughter can a ham, (Yes, youngsters, meat can be canned.) I had to wonder, should I teach her the old ways that have been passed down through the generations, or should I step back and allow that knowledge to fade into oblivion? I’m in favor of the old.



Filed under Helpful Hints, Plants and Gardening, Sue's Corner

Punxy Phil Busted!

groundhog arrested 2Punxy Phil found himself in lockup this weekend when a sting operation caught him in the very act of raiding a garden. Local authorities suspect that Phil is responsible for a crime spree that included digging a hole under a woodworker’s shop, ravaging local gardens and flower beds, and the destruction of a dozen cabbage plants while they were still in the greenhouse packaging.

Though Phil adamantly pleaded his innocence (and threatened to bite anyone who got near his cell), he was found guilty of  predicting bad weather and garden raiding in the first degree. He was sentenced to a life of exile without the possibility of parole.

Locals hope that Phil’s arrest will serve as a warning to other groundhogs who might consider a life of crime.

groundhog arrested

This very, very angry groundhog (not actually Punxy Phil) was released unharmed at a nearby animal sanctuary where he will safely live out the rest of his life far away from the temptation to return to his thieving ways.



Filed under Plants and Gardening, Sue's Corner, Wildlife

Summer Memories

flowers blackeyed susan 7

flowers mini daisies 2

flowers peonies

bloom where you are planted

flower wildflower

daylily in the rain

flower mock orange

flower daisy 4


Filed under Photography, Plants and Gardening, Sue's Corner

Not All Bugs Should Die

It’s time for those of us in the northeast to begin the sad process of tearing down our gardens, and I thought I would take a moment to pass on a few pest prevention tips that are commonly overlooked.

Tip no. 1: A caterpillar covered with eggs is an asset. Place it and its cargo somewhere where it will not be injured and allow it to live. These eggs belong to parasitic wasps. The young will hatch and feed upon the caterpillar. When they mature, these youngsters will find a caterpillar host for their own eggs. (Natural pest control)

Tip no. 2: If while cleaning your garden you encounter a wolf spider with young, don’t disturb her. This head of cabbage should have been picked long ago, but the female wolf spider and her brood of hundreds are far more valuable than the cabbage they call home. If you take a close look (Not too close, these monsters bite) the pattern on her back is actually a living cloak of baby spiders that cling to their mother for safety. Mother spider and her children will find a safe place to burrow into for the winter, and wake again next spring to protect your garden from destructive pests.

Tip no. 3: The nursery web spider is a gardener’s friend. These elegant predators can grow to amazing sizes, even in the northern states. This beauty, that decided to rear her young on my son’s car, measures sixty millimeters (2 5/8 inches), and she is not fully grown. The female of this species carries her eggs with her in a cocoon-like sack until they are almost ready to hatch. She then builds a web, on a branch, or in our case under the edge of a fender, opens the cocoon, and stands guard in anticipation of her brood’s arrival. Nursery web spiders don’t panic easily, making gardening in close proximity less nerve racking. (Caution: the nursery web spider will administer a painful bite if trapped or cornered.)

Tip no. 4: Don’t kill the ladybugs, even if there are a thousand of them holding a rally on your aluminum siding. Their cute red and black bodies disguise their predatory nature. Ladybugs devour the smaller insects that destroy our vegetables and flowers.

Tip no. 5: Yellow and black garden spiders are not only a beautiful addition to the garden, but they also have voracious appetites. Just don’t expect one to eat a Japanese beetle. Yuck! (Yes, these ones will bite as well. Been there, done that, and it doesn’t feel good!)

Tip no. 6: A full-grown praying mantis is the ultimate six-legged predator in northern gardens. She is not only an exceptional hunter, but her graceful movements and her gentle nature around humans also make her an excellent garden companion. Caution: a praying mantis is not above making a snack out of a humming bird. Hang your humming bird feeder far away from plants and trees that the mantis can use as camouflage.

Tip no. 7: A toad will urinate on you if you pick him up, but he won’t actually give you warts and he does eat plenty of bugs.

Tip no. 8: Don’t kill that little snake unless he’s poisonous. A small garter snake is a great addition to any garden.

So as you clear your garden of dying plants and mulch it down for the winter, be sure not to destroy the little things that help to keep your garden pest free.



Filed under Helpful Hints, Photography, Plants and Gardening, Sue's Corner, Wildlife

The Frightening Tale of a Horrible Host


I had visitors this week, and I must admit I was a terrible host. I’ll openly confess that I’m a Christian, and I am not supposed to hate, but have you ever had someone that you absolutely abhor show up at your place unannounced and uninvited? These two were hoping that I didn’t catch them sneaking around. From my previous dealings with these guys, I knew that they were out for blood, and they didn’t care who they hurt in their effort to better themselves. You know the type… always trying to get under your skin.

Here’s where the story becomes a little brutal. Though I am not commonly prone to violence, I caught the guy where he wasn’t supposed to be and drowned him. Although, I suspected that he wasn’t alone, his girl had chosen an excellent hiding place, and in spite of the untimely death of her lover, she didn’t attempt to run. Instead, she waited. Under the cover of darkness, she struck…
Before you get too caught up in this true story of intrigue and death, and consider reporting my blog to the police; I must reveal to you that my visitors were the size of sesame seeds. Deer ticks! I hate them. I am not bug-a-fobic. I live right next to the forest, so spiders the size of Rhode Island are not uncommon outside and occasionally in the house. Creeping critters don’t usually bother me.  I have a rule about bugs that I consider extremely fair. “Outside bugs live. Inside bugs die.” Short and easy to remember, especially designed for tiny, bug brains. However, there is one bug to whom the rule does not apply. Ticks die on sight. If you’re a tick and have a death wish, the best way to fulfill your desires is to drop onto my sleeve or crawl up my pant leg.

These enterprising, little bloodsuckers are always looking for a free ride and free lunch, and to top that off, 1 in every 100 of them carries Lyme Disease! Moreover, the female that I missed burrowed herself into my side in the middle of the night. Luckily, her choice of feeding places sent burning pains throughout the surrounding area, and finding her was easy. At three o’clock in the morning, armed with tweezers, matches, rubbing alcohol, and first aid supplies, my husband and I pulled the little monster from my side and sent her to a watery grave. (Note: Though the match method has been passed down through generations of my family, this is not a recommended method of tick removal… especially if you have poor vision or shaky hands… ouch! The proper way can be found at: )

Drowning is my disposal method of choice for deer ticks. I’ve tried swatting these things, crushing them with books, and pinching them with my fingernails. You can’t crush these tiny monsters! They’re indestructible!

With the tick removed, and the injury covered with antibiotic salve, I though my ordeal was over until I stepped into the doctor’s office on Monday for a routine checkup. I made the mistake of casually mentioning a deer tick had bitten me, and my doctor immediately started talking antibiotics. It appears that it is far easier to prevent Lyme Disease by administering antibiotics with any deer tick bite than it is to treat and cure Lyme Disease. As a precaution, my physician prescribed 100M of Doxycycline Hyclate. I had never even heard of the stuff. Dutifully I headed for the pharmacy waited around for almost an hour while the pharmacist dug through the back room for a box labeled “Plague Prevention.” It appears that Doxycycline Hyclate is also an anti-malaria drug. The stack of informative papers that the pharmacist sent home with me instructed that I was to take this drug twice a day on an empty stomach and not eat for at least an hour after. Do you know what happens if you take Doxycycline Hyclate on an empty stomach? If my unfriendly, little visitors weren’t floating around in the sewer somewhere, I would have killed them a second time.

Here in the Northeast United States, deer ticks are active from March through November. They feed mostly on deer, but when a female or nymph is hungry, any warm blooded mammal will do.

So be careful out there as you’re digging in your flowerbeds and trimming your bushes. Check your clothing and skin thoroughly for ticks when you go inside. If, by chance, you do get bitten, contact your doctor immediately and possibly save yourself from a debilitating disease. Yes, the antibiotics might make you sick, but Lyme Disease will make you sicker.


A few extra facts:

The risk of catching Lyme disease from a tick is greatest during the months of June and July during the nymph stage.

Deer ticks are very small. The adults are around the size of a sesame seed. The nymphs are even smaller.

The family dog or cat may carry deer ticks into your home, check him/her often.

For more about Lyme Disease, check out Webmd at


Filed under Pets, Plants and Gardening, Sue's Corner, Wildlife