Friday, July 27, 2018

Canning days are here again

Bonus points if you can read that title and not automatically think of this song.

I've been curled up with the Ball Blue Book these past few summer nights.  Exciting reading, I know, but there are some great things happening right now that we want to enjoy come winter.  Plus, of course, scoring blue ribbons at the local fair.

My canning buddy with his busy bee.

For the first time I'm putting up a flavored vinegar.  This one is mint and lemon in white wine vinegar. We really like salads and thanks to Jamie Oliver we most often make our own dressings.  This seems like it would be good over sturdy greens in winter. 

Our wild blackberries are going crazy this year.  There are so many of them out there and not nearly enough time to pick them all.  Hopefully I'll can some jam and freeze a quart more for the winter.  The flavor of the berries varies from patch to patch: the ones behind the chicken run are very tart and the ones by the shed super sweet.  No idea why.  Soil, maybe? Chicken poo? Who knows.

Last year I canned blueberry syrup for our pancakes and it was a huge hit.  This year I did another batch of blueberry and also some blackberry syrup.  Here the cooked berries are draining overnight.  The blueberries made a purple juice while the blackberries are more of a maroon. We weren't thinking of this use for the brackets when we went with open shelving (um, more like they were cheap) but dang, look at that! Perfect!

The Ball Book had a recipe for blueberry syrup and I just substituted blackberries with the second batch.  Substituting anything while canning is pretty frowned upon for food safety reasons but I can't imagine the acidity levels are that different.  Cutting the Ball Book recipe in half results in 4 jelly jars of syrup for each batch.  The blackberry syrup is very good - nor overly sweet at all and still managed to keep its fruit flavor.  Besides pancakes I'd like to put these over coffee cakes this winter and maybe scones.

We have a busy weekend ahead of us but here's hoping to get some more jars put up next week: at least some jars of garlic and some mixed berry jam.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A week in pictures & garlic harvest

A beautiful blue jay feather. This is the second one we've found this week.

Relaxing in the hammock with the baby.

A evening with the family at the lake.

A mostly vegetarian meal from the garden.  We're getting zucchini and potatoes now and it's really exciting.  You know it's a good dinner when a toddler nabs a bite while you're taking a picture.  

A grey sky after some much needed rain.  We got an entire night of storms and the rain barrel system on the chicken coop hit it out of the ballpark.  We had let it go empty before the storm to see how it would work and it was totally full the next day.  And the coop has a tiny roof! Maybe 9 x 5 feet? Now that I see how well it's working it makes me regret not taking advantage of this resource earlier.

I was able to find transplants on clearance this week, a flat for $10.  Some got planted in the garden. Not shown: cucumber, pepper, tomato and herb transplants.

The rest my helper and I planted up in pots on the porch.

Some sweet zinnias in the garden.  I pulled the rest of the fava plants and would like to get a second round of bush beans planted tomorrow along with the cucumbers.

Cannas and winter squash.  My husband is still mowing in between the rows for me.  You can see how much Japanese Beetle damage we're getting - the edges of the canna leaves are brown and tattered.

I love these tiger lilies.

The sunflowers are beautiful too.  In this picture he's bothering Bee, who is in one of her favorite napping spots.

The quail pen is being totally overtaken by winter squash.  This should look really fun in another month.

The wild blackberries are coming on.  I've put about a quart in the freezer and would like to can some blackberry pancake syrup this week. Maybe blueberry syrup too if there's time to pick berries at my parent's house.  That was a really nice treat for us last winter.

I can't seem to find on the blog when I planted garlic last fall.  Anyway, it's ready to be pulled and cured so I did that this evening.


Here's what I ended up with.  File this under "free food" since it was planted entirely with the cloves that were leftover after I put up last year's harvest by canning the garlic.

None of them are very big, but it's a ton of garlic.  Enough to can a couple of pints for the house, give away and re-plant this fall.  I wonder how long we can continue re-planting from the same original batch? Free garlic every year? Count us in.  Most of the stuff in the stores is imported from China.  No thanks.

Well, that's it.  It's been a wonderful week.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Settling into our new normal

It finally feels like things are getting back to normal around here.  A busy, messy, wonderful whirlwind of life that's our new every day.  The baby is doing wonderfully.  Maybe it's because we've done this once before but it seems like he's so easy to take care of.  It feels like we're starting to find our footing again.  

There's been so much going on over the last week.  

First, a HUGE thank you to Marlene over at Poppy Patchwork!  

This sweet package of gifts came the day before we went to the hospital, sent all the way from England. I was so excited and touched to receive it in the mail.  Look at the cute fabric for the little bag! And the tea towel! She even included a pattern and an example of French seaming for me - it makes me want to get my sewing machine out again.  Marlene: THANK YOU!  I have a little surprise to send back your way and I'm going to stop over and leave a note in the comments - I'm not sure about the return address on the package and want to check it with you.

When you visit Marlene's blog be sure to notice that she and I have matching cats.  Bee has a twin.  How funny is that?  In Bee news: the oddest thing happened while we were at the hospital - Bee lost her voice.  I have no idea what happened (when you Google this it could be anything from a virus to rabies, yay) but she sounds like she smokes about three packs a day.  She has lost her "meow" or, as the little man says "Bee lost her me-mowl. Is lost out in the grass." which is so funny I make him tell this to everyone.  We talk about how she looks for her "me-mowl" when she goes outside in the morning.  So far it's still missing.

Well, what else is new? The little man is thrilled to be a big brother but it's a huge adjustment and we're trying to spend as much one on one time with him as possible.  Of course, as a mom, it never feels like I'm doing enough.  There's been lots of "stirring it up" in the kitchen.

He wanted pancakes for dinner.  With sprinkles.  It was like eating sugar topped with more sugar but who cares, once in a while won't hurt anyone.

I did sneak some blueberries into the batch just on principal. 

Sigh.  It's totally worth the mess. Over the last couple of days we've made pancakes, play dough,  apple cake, flat breads and pizza crust together.  We're now completely out of flour. 

Our little town had a big festival for the holiday weekend complete with a car show.  The baby rode in a carrier and we all went downtown to check out the classic cars and eat ice cream.  It was really nice to get out as a family.

I've also had some time to myself this week and have been working every day to slowly dig the garden out of neglect.

There's food in here, promise.

Tada!  The same spot after weeding.  Hello, herbs! You can't really tell from the picture, but that sage plant is a good foot and a half wide.  And the lemongrass is huge.


Parts of the garden are either done for the season already (snow peas, lettuce) and are being pulled out or they're so hopeless that they're being replaced (this deer-eaten chard).  I'm hoping to make it to a greenhouse tomorrow and find some transplants to fill in the gaps. 

The weeds are being carried over to the poultry yard where they're being gone through and eaten by the birds.  Another problem in the garden is that it's being attacked by Japanese Beetles.  We had zero last week and now they're everywhere.  I want to remember when this happened so that next year I can get traps out in time.  They're really chewing up the cannas.  I'm feeding probably a couple hundred of them to the poultry every day.  It's SO gross but the birds, especially the geese, love them.

Well, enough for tonight,  Time to try and get a little rest before the baby wakes up.  He's been wide awake in the middle of the night the past couple of days, which is adorable but tiring.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018