I blogged back on June 26th to let people know that I might randomly post a little here about my Real Life, since I have the tendency to go about my days in ways that connect with the past. I just wrote this for my own personal livejournal, and thought it might be of interest over here, too. And I can’t help but wonder how my Victorian era counterparts dealt with summers such as the one I write about, back before Deep Woods Off was invented. I know of various herbal insect repellents, but I have tried them and really… they do not work. Maybe insects existing a century ago had not yet built up a tolerance to such mild repellents. But in this day and age, rubbing your arms with lemon balm will make you smell nice, but it won’t keep you from being bit. So, then, here’s my journal entry, to share with friends of this blog.

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I’m sure many of you know that this is a horrific year for mosquitoes. Wait, it’s a GREAT year for the skeeters, but it’s hell for us redblooded humans. I have literally been held hostage inside the house, even on perfect summer evenings. It’s just not worth what I have to go through to sit on the porch. Here’s my basic regimen for tending to the veggie garden. And keep in mind it’s Summertime, with summer temperatures.

1. Put on thick flannel pants.

2. Put on zip up hooded sweatshirt. Flip the hood up. Tighten the drawstring TIGHT at my neck.

3. Spritz my face with Deep Woods Off, and also mist down my clothes.

4. Run to the garden, stick hands in the green bean plants, scream in terror at the CLOUD of skeeters that immediately swarms me. Pick the beans as fast as possible.

4. Run to the tomatoes, yank them off the plants.

5. Grab a few raspberries.

6. Gaze sadly at the poppies and borage flowers that require a lengthy, careful harvest, and sigh. Leave them be. I can’t spare the sanity or blood loss it would take to harvest.

7. Grab my baskets and run like hell for the house, as the skeeters have already mutated to creatures immune to my Deep Woods Off.

It’s nuts. Utterly insane. Yes, we grow our own food for health and self-sufficiency reasons, but also for MENTAL health. I love spending time nuturing the plants, weeding, harvesting small flowers for tea, and just letting the day slide off me. This year, that’s impossible. All I can do is buck up, grab the food and go.

On the bright side, the tomatoes ARE prolific and I am turning them all into sauce, and canning it in pint jars. If you are curious what goes in my sauce, it’s evolved into this. No particular measurements.

*Tomatoes, blanched, peeled, thrown in the biggest pot in the house.

* At least one chopped onion.

* As much garlic as your significant other can stand on your breath.

* Oregano

* Bayleaves

* Salt and Pepper

* Sugar. Anything up to a quarter cup, to cut the acidy effect.

* Chopped bell peppers. Red and yellow are fab, green are okay.

* Chili powder

This year I’m also chopping up bok choy and tossing it in, since there’s a lot in the garden that we aren’t otherwise getting at. I figure it’s extra nutrition! Don’t worry about chopping anything neatly. You’ll see why.

When it’s all simmered for hours and has thickened up, and you’ve tasted and adjusted the spicing, cool it down. (Actually I cook mine over a few evenings, since time is limited. I stuff it in the fridge in between).

Get out your blender, throw blobs of the tomato mess in, and whirr it up till smooth. Repeat till it’s all been blended down. Viola! That bok choy has vanished into saucy goodness, and no longer poses a threat.

Eat it up, freeze it up, can it up. Whatever. Just don’t share it with the damn mosquitoes.

Living a Steampunk Life, in Real Life, Entry #2
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Lori Alden Holuta


Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.


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