catone (4th instar) has grown to 30mm which is slightly larger than a typical 4th instar caterpillar so it should be getting ready for another molt today. cattwo (3rd instar) is 12mm which is average for its size. since it molted just yesterday, i'd give it another day or two before it goes through its next molt (4th instar).
in the late morning i went to the bank to deposit my state tax return check (it's already been a month, better do it before i forget). along the way i passed by the patch of milkweed plants on the corner of harrison street and mondamin court. these are large milkweeds with plenty of juicy leaves. some have aphids on them but many do not. aphids are a good sign in this case, means no pesticide, but it also means these plants are neglected so they don't belong to anyone. i picked 3 leaves and quickly stashed them into an empty jar with a wet paper towel before making my bike getaway. coming back from the bank i went to market basket to get a few things, in particular another large watermelon that was on sale ($3.99).
in just 2 hours since this morning, catone managed to eat even more milkweed leaf, chewing through the stem, which i didn't think they did. i washed the new leaves, making sure they're aphids free. since catone was still working on that old piece of leaf, i just added a new one into the jar; when catone's ready it'll simply move onto the next leaf. as for the rest, i put them back into a jar with some water and placed the whole thing in the refrigerator to help them keep better. when i need another fresh leave i just need to take out the leaf beforehand and let it come to room temperature.
my father stopped by briefly to give me copies of my parents' 1040 and schedule C forms from 2015 and 2014 in order to apply for the mass solar loan from avidia. after i finished scanning the documents, i submitted the application online.
after watering my own yard in the afternoon (as well as cleaning off some green mold off of some shingles), i went to the community garden to water my plot and to collect some thai basil. i decided earlier today that i was going to try and make homemade tomato sauce again, despite its labor intensiveness. i simply had too many tomatoes and had to use them up before they go bad.
around 5pm i started working on the tomato sauce.
first step is peeling the tomatoes. this is done with a technique calling blanching, where the tomatoes are boiled briefly to loosen the skin before plunging them into an ice bath. this is actually sort of fun and easy but also kind of gruesome. once the tomatoes are in the ice bath, the skin comes off effortlessly like tissue paper.
next i chopped up the peeled tomatoes into quarters and tossed them into the blender in portions. this is a different step compared to the last 2 times i made tomato sauce, where i just pressed the tomatoes using a potato masher. this makes for a finer sauce, though i made sure i didn't blend it too much as i still want some chunks. i also didn't strain out the seeds or the pulpy interior. earlier i'd processed a whole onion and some garlic and was cooking them in a pot already. once the tomatoes were blended, i poured the puree into the pot and let it simmer. i also hand chopped some thai basil and added it to the sauce as well.
i was finished with all the cooking by 6:30pm (1-1/2 hours later). i waited an hour for the sauce to simmer (with the lid off to evaporate the liquid faster), occasionally stirring and tasting it. i added 2 tsp of salt. i also added 2 6 oz. cans of tomato paste that i had in my cupboard. they expired in april 2014 so this tomato sauce was the perfect excuse to use them otherwise toss them out. the sauce would've thicken on its own, but adding the paste speeds up the process. the paste seemed fine, and the moment i added it to the sauce it immediately thickened it up. i always thought it was weird adding canned tomato paste to homemade tomato sauce, but i now consider it as a shortcut, otherwise the sauce has to simmer for hours to reach the same thickness. and it didn't really change the flavor all that much. the final sauce was pretty good, a savory blend of sweet and salty and sour. unlike in the past, i didn't add any hot peppers. the thai basil adds a complex aroma to the sauce, a different layer of sweetness. i made enough sauce to fill nearly 3 plastic quart-size containers. i plan on making a lasagna later this week.
all that effort to make homemade tomato sauce and i don't use it to make dinner. instead, i finished up the leftover grilled chicken from my 2 nights of chicken wraps last week to make a chicken caesar salad with the extra lettuce and some croutons and dressing i had on hand. for dessert i cut up the watermelon. i ended up dicing half, saving one quarter in a pyrex container while eating the other quarter (i did this because it was trash night and i wanted to throw out the extra watermelon peels). the rest of the half i put in the fridge.
monarch caterpillars evening report: catone (4th instar) hasn't moved since this late afternoon, crawling onto the new leaf to await the next molt, which will be 5th instar. i was a little worried earlier because i realized i put in the 2nd leaf in the wrong direction, the top surface of the leaf facing the catone. from my observations, it seems like monarch caterpillars prefer to feed from the underside of the milkweed leaf, where it's softer and has a downy texture, compared to the topside, which is tougher. but the reason why catone didn't feed on the new leaf is simply because it was getting ready to molt. once it finishes molting i'm sure it will eating both the new and the old leaves. as for cattwo (3rd instar), it cycles between feeding and then crawling to an area away from the feeding hole. at one point it was active for so long, i thought it was undergoing another molt (despite having just molted already yesterday).
the moment the weather turns cold, i immediately become shower adversed. normally i shower at least twice a day - in the morning and then at night - but i haven't showered since last night and i feel fine. i did however change my t-shirt when i accidentally splashed some tomato sauce on it (what was expecting wearing a white t-shirt while working with tomatoes?).
my days of single living will soon come to a close: my next roommate li arrives on thursday, actually moving in his stuff in the early afternoon (that reminds me, i volunteered to help him move). he will be staying for the next 3 months. i've meet him before and he seems like a decent person, so i'm not worried about if he's going to fit well living here. what does concern me is i can no longer just leave all my stuff around the house, that i have to think about being tidy again!