Sonny, our local computer genius, was here for over 2 hours and we still don’t have a fix on my e-mails not being able to attach photos….or at least not on a regular basis.  Some still attach….then the next one takes 15 minutes or simply won’t attach.  It’s so frustrating!  I’m learning a lot, but I still don’t do technology.  Ugh! 

I’d rather be in the greenhouse planting and transplanting my future gardens!  Oh yes!  I’ve got over 27 different varieties of tomatoes this year.  Of course, my old favorites, Oregon Spring, Polish Linguisa, Early Goliath and Bush Beefsteak are there in force, but I’m trying a lot of new ones, then repeating many that did well last year.  The STAR last year was Tomcat, a very rampant indeterminate with medium/small tomatoes in huge abundance.  But I’m also giving Polefast and Ultimate Opener another shot at my permanent list because they did fairly well last year under not so good conditions (planted late, lots of rain, no rain, and heat, heat, heat).
Because I now have real flower beds, I’m starting a bunch of flowers too, including foxgloves, delphinium, pansies of three varieties, petunias, cup and saucers, datura, snail flower and more, later in the spring.  Some only need to be in the greenhouse 8 weeks before setting out; others take longer to get up and going.
At any rate, yesterday was 45 degrees ABOVE with a strong sun.  And it really, really got my gardening fever going!  I can hardly wait to get growing.  Of course it helps because my gardening sweetheart may be able to come out this spring to "play" with us in the garden, too.  Big smile.
Readers’ questions:

Old spices

My wife inherited a large amount of expensive spices from my great aunt. We don’t know how old they are, or when they were purchased, but some have been unopened. How long do spices stay good? It would take several hundred dollars to replace them, so we are loathe to throw them out.

Mike Jamison
Dickson, Tennessee

Even though many "experts" say to throw out all spices over a year old, I don’t.  I have many that are over a decade old and are just fine.  If they seem to have lost some punch, I simply use a little more.  If I had those spices, I’d hang onto them like gold.  You lucky dog! — Jackie

Water loss in canning

Today I canned some potatoes (Irish) and when I looked at them some of the jar had lost about one inch of water while the rest of them were ok. I screw the bands down the same. I have noticed this also on some other things I have canned before. Do you have any idea on why this is happening and should the product be ok to eat if it is not covered up by the juices (water)?

Chris Walters
Ellisville, Mississippi

This usually happens because we slightly overfill some jars or the pressure in the canner has varied a little, up and down, causing some liquid to boil out.  It doesn’t affect the food other than sometimes it looks a little dry.  Taste and safety is fine. — Jackie

Microwave problem

I live year round at almost 10,000 ft altitude in the mountains of southern Wyoming. I cannot use my microwave oven and others have said the same thing. What’s going on?? I first thought it was my
oven, but visiting with summer cabin owners, they said they also had problems. It will not heat a cup of water for tea…it gets warm, but takes a long time.

Martha Nestorick
Laramie, Wyoming

Sorry, I’ve never been a microwave person.  I do mostly low tech stuff.  Maybe another reader will have an answer for you.  I just keep a kettle of water on my stove in the winter and use the gas stove during the summer. — Jackie


  1. Tomatoes that have potato=type leaves will cross pollinate and at least 50 ft. should be between them, and don’t forget predominate wind directions.
    Tomatoes that have the longer, thin ‘determinate’ leaves can be grown around 10 feet of each other…

  2. I don’t really worry about tomatoes crossing too much. But if I’m going to save seeds, I DO separate them by about 20′ and so far have not had any problems with that distance. However, if you are SERIOUS about saving pure seeds, it is recommended that you either only raise one variety at a time or else cage the plants.

  3. The Ultimate Opener is touted as being the ultimate tomato to open the tomato-growing season with. It’s a fairly large, quite prolific, and best of all pretty early tomato. I think it’s going to stay around our place for awhile to come!

  4. Microwaves will work at high elevations, although the cooking process will take longer because “boiling point” is at a higher temperature at higher elevations (sorry so confusing, it has to do with physics). In other words, the higher the elevation, the longer it takes for water to boil, so therefore the longer foods will take to reach optimum temperature in the microwave.

    I hope that wasn’t too confusing . . . just try cooking things for a longer period of time until you can determine the correct time for your elevation.

  5. RE: “Microwave Problem” First off I not a big fan of the microwave mainly because its an energy hog – but the question/problem was intresting to noodle on. So here’s what I think and a couple of things that could be tried to test it out.
    *The machine is working just as it should- not a mechanical problem.
    *The same type of conditions that make high altitude cooking take longer are amplified in the microwave oven.
    >The Microwave works by beaming energy waves inside the box, these particular waves really get water molecule moving faster. Temperature is just an indication of how fast the molecules (water or others) are moving – Faster=hotter.
    >At High Altitudes there is less air pushing down on the top of the water that is being heated so it makes it easier for it to boil BUT it boils at a lower temperature.
    >In this case- the water in the mug that is being heated by microwaves at high altitude is “boiling” because the mocrowaves are exciting the water molecules HOWEVER since ther is less air pressure pushing those molecules back into the cup they escape. As the water escapes the cup it carries some energy with it and therfore reduces the temperature of the water in the mug.
    >So a cycle of heat-escape-cool occurs, and you don’t get the convient cuppa tea you set out to get.

    **DON’T belive me!!! TEST it (I like being wrong {sometimes}, it gives me more to think about)

    TEST 1: Get a clear (pyrex) cup and mark how much water is in it – carefully- you’ll be watching for a change. Put it n the microwave and check it closely every minute…..the water level should drop indicating that water is vaporizing ang carring energy(heat) away with it.

    TEST 2: PLEASE Be Carful- possible hot liquid hazzard! (Please)
    Use your mug with about half the normal amout (to be safer). Get a microwave safe saucer that will cover the mug easily and then cover the mug. Weight it down with another mug. Try heating it in the microwave.
    IF the saucer holds enough of the water vapor in the mug you may be able to coserve enough heat to notice improved heating.
    [NOTE: Do NOT do this because it might burst- but a plasitic soda bottle with a screw cap would definitely prove the point- more than 15-30 seconds at a time might cause a big POP and spray water (hot) everywhere inside the microwave which could be an electrical fire hazard]

    I tend to think the simpler methods of getting hot water are better- but this is a neat observation puzzle. ENJOY

  6. Jackie,
    Do you not worry about the different varieties of tomato cross-pollinating? If you do, how far apart do you keep them to prevent it?

    Just a theoretical guess, but here’s my theory on the microwave problem: Since microwaves heat things by causing friction between the molecules, maybe being at such high altitude (ie, low atmospheric pressure) means less friction when the molecules are excited, therefore less heat. Just a guess; I have no idea if that’s how it actually works.

  7. “Ultimate Opener”?! What an intriguing name! I’ve never heard of that one. Do you know how it got its name?

    I do the same thing you do with herbs and spices–as long as they haven’t bleached out and still have a distinct aroma, I’ll just use more to make up for any loss of flavor. And if they seem past going, I use them to “spice up” my compost pile!

Comments are closed.