Mice in the camper!

My camper is my happy place. It is my escape from stress and the best way for me to relax. Last week I discovered mice have invaded my happy place. I have always taken precautions when closing the camper for the summer before winter storage. I can only remember one other time that we had mice in a camper and that was after we had stored our tent trailer in a small shed with a dirt floor. Now we store our camper in a shed with a concrete floor. I noticed a couple of mouse droppings inside the camper after we had used it several times. When we moved our fifth wheel camper out of storage, I did not find any evidence of mice.

We have a permanent campsite on our farm, near our pond, and we often use the camper spontaneously. I like to keep food in the refrigerator and in the pantry so that we can relax any time we like.

I was putting away some groceries in the pantry when I noticed that a bag of croutons had a hole in the bottom and croutons were scattered all over the shelf. I knew that I needed to remove any food that would attract mice and I needed to remove anything that they could chew into and damage.

We bought a variety of products to kill mice as I was unsure which one would be most effective but I wanted to eliminate the mice as soon as possible. We set two traps on the top shelf, some glue traps among the canned foods and a mouse poison bait on the floor of the pantry.

So far, the traps have been the most effective. We caught a mouse the first night and again several days ago. One glue trap had a trace of mouse hair but all the glue was gone.

I have done a bit of research to keep our food safe from mice. I will store my food that is not in cans or bottles in smaller plastic totes. I hope that we caught all the mice sharing our camper but I am not sure that is true. I will be cautious and store any food that attracts mice in plastic for the rest of the summer.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Is it safe to eat rhubarb?

It is time to stop pulling rhubarb and picking asparagus. We often have callers asking if rhubarb is poisonous after the middle of June. Actually, it is safe to pull rhubarb all summer long but we stop in mid-June for the health of the plant. Rhubarb plants will feed their roots while growing the rest of the summer. It is safe to pull a small amount of rhubarb for an occasional pie or crisp throughout the summer as long as the plantings are well established. You should pull the thinnest, most tender stalks when harvesting later in the summer.

You will not be able to harvest asparagus throughout the summer as the stalks will grow their fern-like foliage and you will not enjoy eating it. The easiest way to keep the weeds out of the asparagus is to mulch it. I used some grass clippings on mine this summer.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Need to wash an quilt?

I have gotten a few calls lately from callers that needed to wash a quilt. We always need to get a bit more information when giving washing directions. It is important to know the age and condition of the quilt along with how the quilt was constructed and quilted. In addition, is the quilt actually soiled or does it need to be freshened?

Callers need to know that a hand pieced and hand quilted quilt is more delicate than one that was assembled and quilted by machine. It is important to know if the quilt has been washed before, as some unwashed fabrics will bleed into the wash water. Often red or other intense color fabrics will run and discolor other fabrics in the quilt. We would advise using cool to cold water to wash this quilt and the use of Shout brand color catchers in the washing machine. Color catchers will adsorb the loose dye preventing dye transfer into other parts of the quilt.

You may want to wash a hand pieced and quilted quilt by hand. Usually the bathtub will be large enough to immerse the quilt and gently agitate the quilt. Letting water out of the tub is easier on the quilt that the spin cycle of a washing machine. You should plan to rinse the quilt by adding clear water and draining the tub several times.

The stitching in a hand pieced or hand quilted quilt is easily broken so it is important not to use a dryer. Air-drying is the recommended technique. If you have access to a clothesline, make a sling of a bed sheet and place the quilt on top to dry is the best option. Never allow the quilt to hang by the wet weight of the quilt. That is a sure way to damage the quilt.

A newer, machine pieced and quilted quilt is safe in the dryer on a gentle setting. It may be best to remove it from the dryer before it is completely dry. Allow it to air dry on a bed.

Please call us if you have other questions about washing a quilt. We love to help.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Blanching?

We are starting to get calls about freezing and blanching fruits and vegetables. We often explain to callers that blanching is a quality step and not a safety step. Blanching vegetables will kill the enzymes present that will continue to soften the food even in the freezer. Blanching will also protect the color of the vegetable. The directions for blanching are often confusing for callers.

We tell callers to blanch vegetables in small batches; work with a quart of product at a time. Start water heating on the stove and when it boils, add the vegetables. Wait until the food returns to a boil to begin timing the blanching time. When the time is up, remove the vegetables from the boiling water and plunge them into ice water. The ice water will stop the cooking process. Plan to cool the vegetables for at least as long as the blanching time. Cooling for a bit longer will not hurt the quality of the food and will help it cool much faster in the freezer. Callers can choose from freezing in a container or freezing on a tray and then transferring vegetables into a freezer bag or container after 24 hours. Tray freezing will allow the caller to enjoy any amount of vegetable at a time without thawing an entire container of food.

Happy blanching!

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Tree Sap?

Parking your car underneath a tree can actually do permanent damage to the finish of your car. It seems that we have all experienced parking under a tree and discovering some sap on the hood or trunk of the car. I always thought this was just a minor inconvenience in life and never worried too much about removing the sap. According to Consumer Reports magazine, “Heat accelerates how sap sticks to the paint. The longer you wait, the harder it is to remove.” Sap left on the car can actually eat through the paint.

The magazine recommends using rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth to remove sap. Test it on an inconspicuous area of the car before attacking the sap on the hood. If rubbing alcohol does not seem to work, some specialized cleaners remove both sap and bug stains. As we do with stains on clothing, wash the car after using either of these products. Waxing the car will help to further protect the finish on the car.

If you find sap on the windows of the car, remove it with a plastic scraper. If necessary, a single edged razor blade can also remove sap. Just be careful not to scratch the glass.

I will look more carefully at my parking spots if I need to park under a tree at my grandsons’ baseball games this summer.

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Freezing Strawberries

I have been seeing strawberries in the grocery store since mid-winter. Before we know it, strawberries will begin bearing in our area. When strawberries are ripe, we get many calls asking for directions to freeze strawberries. So, if you need directions and AnswerLine is not open now, read on.

Freezing or any type of preserving of food never improves the quality of the food. So choose only fully ripe and firm berries. Look for a nice deep red color on the berries. Do not freeze anything that is immature, green, or damaged. Always wash produce well before freezing. Remove the caps from the berries.

Often, the recommendation for freezing fruit includes using a sugar syrup. The reason for this is to preserve the color and texture of the food. We do not use syrups to make the berries sweeter. There are several different syrups to choose. You will want to choose the one that best fits how you will use the strawberries once you have thawed them. Whole berries are best to freeze in syrup.

 

Syrups to use when freezing fruit

Type of syrup Percent syrup Cups of sugar Cups of water Yield of syrup
Very Light

10%

½

4

4 ½ cups
Light

20%

1

4

4 ¾ cups
Medium

30%

1 ¾

4

5 cups
Heavy

40%

2 ¾

4

5 1/3 cups
Very Heavy

50%

4

4

6 cups

 

You can also freeze whole berries in a sugar pack. Simply add ¾ cup of sugar to a quart of strawberries. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves or you can let it stand for 15 minutes. Place into a container but allow enough room so the strawberries can expand in the freezer without pushing the lid off.

If you prefer sliced berries, use the sugar pack after you have prepared and sliced the berries. Stir until the sugar dissolves or let them sit for 15 minutes. Freeze and enjoy.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Cupcakes

Cupcakes made by Beth Marrs

One of my favorite hobbies is baking. Now that I am an “empty nester”, there is a limit on how often and what sort of foods I can bake. Baking bread every week helps satisfy that need to bake but I also love reading about cooking and baking. Yesterday I read an interesting blog on the King Arthur Flour website. The blog had directions for making cupcakes out of your favorite cake recipe. This blog included some information that I had not heard before so I thought that it would be fun to share that information.

Most cake recipes will make great cupcakes. I had never thought of making angel food cupcakes or chiffon cake cupcakes and apparently, they do not make great cupcakes. I think with the difficulty of making those cakes, you would be happier with the full sized version.

It has been a while since I have needed to make cupcakes so I had not realized the variety of cupcake pans available. When the kids were home, I think that the mini cupcakes would have disappeared too quickly. Making jumbo cupcakes might have made the kids happy but would not have made enough cupcakes for everyone to have more than one.

It does not matter what size pan you choose, you will want to fill the wells in the pans most of the way full. King Arthur Flour says to fill them about 4/5 full. I did not know that the baking temperature affects the shape of the top of the cupcake. Using a lower temperature like 325° (but a slightly longer baking time) will yield a flatter topped cupcake. Sometimes this is desirable depending on how you want to decorate the cupcake. Baking at a lower temperature will also allow the outer rim of the cupcake to brown a bit. If you want a nice, domed top to the cupcake, bake at 375°. This higher temperature activates the baking power in the cake and results in a more even crumb inside the cake. You will also shorten the oven time for the cupcakes.

I have always wondered how to calculate the baking time for cupcakes and King Arthur Flour has some tips for that, too. They say to reduce baking time by 5% if your recipe called for 9” pans and you plan to bake at the same temperature listed in the recipe. If your recipe called for a 9”x13” cake pan, reduce baking time by as much as 40-50%. However, the most important thing they recommend is recognizing when the cupcakes are done cooking. The surface should be lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center should look crumb free when removed. The cupcakes should spring back if lightly touched. If you have a thermometer, you can insert that and if the temperature is between 205° and 210° the cupcakes are done.

This makes me want to leave the office and go home and bake some cake. Or cupcakes.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

My rhubarb froze, help!

We had some nice warm days around Easter and then we have had a bit of cold weather this year.  Some places even had a bit of snow.  I’ve had five calls about rhubarb already this morning so I thought that I might repost this blog post from two years ago.  This information is very timely.

A sure sign of spring at AnswerLine are the calls from people concerned about the safety of their rhubarb plants. It seems like every year we have a week or so of really nice temperatures that allow the rhubarb plants to grow vigorously. Then the temperatures take a dive and we have a frost or freezing weather.  There is an old wives tale that says rhubarb that has frozen is poisonous and that you should destroy or dig up your plants to stay safe.

That old wives tale is just that; a tale that is not correct.   If your patch of rhubarb freezes, the fleshy part of the plant will freeze.  After a day or two, the frozen leaves and stems will become soft and blackened.  This is a result of the damage that freezing and thawing cause to the plant.  Most people, when they pick rhubarb, are particular and choose the nicest, freshest looking stalks.  They would not choose softened, black, or mushy stalks.  Those stalks should be pulled and discarded; this is something most people would do without thinking.

Remember, only the stalks or petioles should be eaten because the leaves contain moderately poisonous oxalic acid.  It is generally recommended that home gardeners stop harvesting rhubarb in early to mid-June. Continued harvest through the summer months would weaken the plants and reduce the yield and quality of next year’s crop. The rhubarb stalks may become somewhat woody by mid-summer, but they don’t become poisonous. Sometimes we have callers wanting to harvest enough for a crisp or a pie during mid-summer.  We tell them to look for some smaller, tender stalks that could be pulled.  If the rhubarb patch is an older, established patch pulling a few stalks should not cause permanent damage to the patch.

Enjoy your rhubarb.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Sunscreen questions?

Spring seems to be starting slowly this year. We have had some beautiful warm and sunny days and I realized that I need to get back into the habit of applying sunscreen. One of our favorite pastimes, when my grandsons visit, is walking down the hill to the bridge over the creek and tossing stones into the stream. The boys could do this for hours. It is so easy to just head outside without a thought to how long we will be standing in the sun.

Both my husband and I have had MOHS surgery for skin cancer. I would like to avoid that for my grandsons. I do not always understand all the factors important to choosing an effective sunscreen so I thought a little research was in order.

Sunscreens come in two different varieties; they use either an organic filter or an inorganic filter.

Organic filters are chemical compounds designed to absorb UV radiation and convert it into a small amount of heat. These filters include oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octocrylene. Some people incorrectly think that these chemicals can cause skin cancer but research has demonstrated that this is not the case.

Inorganic filters are minerals that physically block the UV light from contact with skin. The minerals may be zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They actually reflect and scatter the UV rays. Inorganic filters are often in sunscreens designed for children. These products are often thicker and look whiter than sunscreen made with an organic filter. These formulas also tend to be easier on skin so adults with sensitive skin may prefer inorganic filters too.

SPF can also be confusing. The recommendation for most people is an SPF of 30. This will protect against 97% of the UVB rays in sunshine. Sunscreens with SPF of over 50 add only a slight additional protection.

No sunscreen will perform well if not applied correctly. Think about the shot glass and teaspoon rule when applying. Use a teaspoon on your face and a shot glass amount on the rest of your body. Remember to reapply sunscreen containing an organic filter every two hours or after getting wet or sweating.

Stay safe this summer and prevent sunburns.

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Easy Sewing Projects

Last month, I was able to visit my son and his family in Idaho. Since I love to sew, I always try to pack something fun that the grandsons there can learn to sew. My goal is to teach all of my grandchildren to sew. Since I do not have the opportunity to spend much time with most of them, I always have an easy project with me when I do visit.

If the 4-H member at your house wants to try sewing, start them on something simple and small. Zippered bags, or even open top bags are quick and easy to make. This year, we made small zippered bags. They are ideal for hiding a treasured item, packing small items in a suitcase, or holding sewing supplies. This version of a bag (there are many different patterns available) requires a zipper and fusible quilt batting. The quilt batting provides some structure or stiffness to the bag without requiring a more difficult sewing technique. You simply iron the lining piece onto the batting and then sew each strip onto the opposite side. Zipper installation does not require a special zipper foot, you simply sew along the inside edge of the zipper tape. After sewing side seams and a bottom seam, you open up the bottom and sew a diagonal line across the side and bottom seam to give the bag some volume or shape.

It occurred to me that a bag similar to this one would be a great first time sewing project for a 4-H member. Each bag would take only an hour or two to construct and members could make multiple bags for themselves, friends, or family members. Making multiple bags would allow 4-H members skills to increase. You can eliminate some of the frustration that comes when you have to fit a garment and have take out seams that need to be changed. This exhibit could be finished months ahead of the County Fair.

 

 
Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

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