Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Outdoor Canning

 
We set up an outdoor canning area in order to keep the kitchen clean and cool.  I didn't relish the idea of lugging in produce across the new wood floor, cutting, slicing, dicing, washing, then blanching, draining, chilling, etc... and having that mess in the kitchen.  And since I'm pretty messy while cooking, a lot of it would have ended up on the floor.


 
Now, this outdoor "kitchen" is nothing more than a tent with a couple of folding tables, a gas grill with side burner, a fire pit and a couple of folding chairs.  Nothing fancy by any means.  But having it set up outside, I can run the hose and wash produce and dump the water in the grass and it flows right down into the garden, and I don't have to think about all that water going into the septic tank.   
 
I can peel and just fling the discards right into the pig bucket or on the grass.
 
The burner on the gas grill works well for heating water for blanching or even canning.  I canned carrots in the pressure canner on the burner.  To can the carrots, I used the so-called "cold pack" method.  The hardest part about the whole process is the peeling - it took what seemed like hours. 

I had some old seed I was trying to use up and figured it wouldn't germinate well so I seeded quite heavily.  I never did get around to thinning them out and before I knew it I had a million medium sized carrots.  Obviously, peeling lots of small carrots takes longer than peeling one large one.... Lesson learned here. I did manage to can up 32 pints of carrots, and froze quite a lot, not to mention ate a lot of them fresh.  Frankly I don't want to see another fresh carrot for a while....
 
Anyway, I cut the carrots into the size pieces I wanted and filled the clean jars.  Meanwhile, I brought a pot of water to boil on the grill burner.  I dropped my canning jar lids in that water to heat them.  When the water came to a boil, I moved the pot over to my work station.  I used the hot water to ladle over  the carrots in the jars, filling to within 1" of the top.  Then placed a jar lid and ring and placed each jar in the canner.  After filling all the jars with the boiling water, I added 3 quarts of the water to the canner and set the canner on the burner to heat up. 
 
 
To save on propane, Marc set up a makeshift fire pit.  He found broken chimney blocks from a chimney that had been removed from the house years ago and used them to fashion a spot for me to place a big pot or canner.  Wood is free and propane definitely is not.  In the pic above I'm blanching corn on the cob.  I blanched enough corn for 28 dinners, then more squash and zucchini, and finally about 5+ pounds of green beans, all for freezing, in one session.  I can't imagine the mess all of that would have made in the kitchen.
 
I keep a bottle of dishwashing liquid by the hose and when I'm done I wash everything and store all my supplies in a commercial food grade "lug" - ready for the next canning session.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Zucchini... out the Wazoo



 
 
I've often heard that you can't kill squash and zucchini and that you're inundated with them when you grown them.  I've never had the best of luck with them in the past.  The only reason we have so many fruits is that we have a lot of  plants. 
 
Stink bugs seem to be everywhere here and they love to eat everything, especially squash.  Plus it seems like several fruits on each plant mold.  So if we only had a few plants we wouldn't have much squash or zucchini to eat I'm sure.  I think we have about 20 plants producing right now and more coming up. And butternut squash are about 7 inches long.  Fingers crossed that nothing eats them!
 
Every couple of days I am blanching and freezing them.  In the pic above I have 9+ pounds bagged up ready for the freezer.  We're eating it fresh just about every day too.  We may get tired of it soon, but in the winter we will be happy to have lots of it in the freezer.
 
I made fried zucchini the other night and they turned out good, even though I forgot to add salt.  I made them by dredging the slices first in seasoned flour, then dipping them in beaten egg, then a final coating in panko crumbs.  My thermometer broke so I had to wing it on the temp.  As you can see they are a wee bit darker than I would prefer.  I made home made sour cream ranch to dip them in.  Yummy.
 
I am weighing or talllying up everything that we put up this year.  I've tried in the past and petered out but I am determined to get a grand total on everything that we put up this year.  Stay tuned for more exciting posts on vegetables . . .
 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Blueberry Pancakes

 
The couple from whom we bought the farm had planted some blueberry bushes but apparently didn't water them well, so about half or more of them died off over the course of the summer and through the winter.  A few survived and having fresh blueberries is quite a treat.  They are so much easier to care for than strawberries and easier to pick than the black raspberries.  So we'd like to plant more in the future.  The plants we have are very small so this may be the first year they've borne fruit.
 
I go out and pick the black raspberries and blueberries every couple of days.  I get just enough blueberries to use in muffins or pancakes or to eat over ice cream, but not enough to freeze.

 
My way of making blueberry pancakes is to simply make the usual recipe from the red & white checked cookbook, pour the batter on the griddle and sprinkle on a few blueberries before flipping the pancake. 

 
The stove we bought for this house has a large burner in the center, which is perfect for a griddle. 
 
The blueberries are sweet and make delicious pancakes. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Totes Ma Goats

New Kids on the Block er... Rock
I've wanted goats for as long as I can remember.  I've never actually had any so it has been a learning curve.  I wanted a doe (female) for milk and two males to train to pull a cart (more about this strange obsession below).  Dana and Mike gave me the little doeling for a birthday present!  She got some from the same place on the same day - we had like six goats on the backseat on the way home.

I got the two little boys so I would have matching working goats.  Well, one of the little boys was never quite "right" and he died.  It was pitiful knowing there was nothing I could do for him.  Just about the time I was going to put him down, he died.

I got them on March 20th.  They were born around a week before that.  So as of this writing they are still on the bottle... twice a day.  We are working to wean them off the bottle.  While Dana and Mike had milk cows producing it wasn't a problem, but they had to dry up the cows and that left me in the lurch.  I bought four gallons of goat milk from the same lady I got the goats from and decided it was time to wean them.  Because they're bottle fed, they treat me and Marc like their parents.  If anything startles them they run straight for us for protection.  It's completely adorable.

They wear collars with little bells and when they're out "playing" they prance and jump and the bell jingles.

In this pic of Snowflake below, you can see where she was "disbudded" - a nice word for having her horns seared to the point they won't grow.  I had the breeder take care of this unpleasant matter before getting any of them.  I certainly didn't want a horned goat and yet I knew I could never dehorn one.  As of today, the horn area is completely healed and the hair has grown over so you wouldn't know it was ever there.

Snowflake
I am not good at coming up with names.  Rylan named Snowflake.  The jury's still out on the boy, whom I call Boy.  I am leaning towards Casper the Friendly Goat. 

They have really grown. The pic below is Boy, quite soon after I got him.  He's just chillaxin.

 
And here he is trying to get in Marc's lap in that same chair.  He's just a BIT bigger now as you can see. He will get quite large - as tall as my waist. He'll be strong enough to pull a cart with a heavy load in it.
 
He kept leaning against Marc - it was so cute.   He definitely has a sweet personality. He has been "wethered" (neutered) so he is going to stay mild mannered.
 
Back to the goat cart obsession.  I remember my Dad had a do-it-yourself book called Children's Play Structures or some such.  He once set out to make a playhouse/fort, but it never got off the ground so to speak.  Anyway, in this book there were plans to make a Goat Cart and it showed a goat pulling kids (human ones) in a cart.  I was fascinated and still am.  I have visions of Boy pulling my grandkids in a cart in a parade.  He is becoming leash trained, so we're on the way. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

No Thank You

 
 
If you have gleaned anything at all about me reading my blog... take away this - I hate above all else, bugs of all kinds.  I even detest butterflies, except from a distance. 
 
One morning I saw this... thing... on the back screen door and got the best pic I could without actually going outside where it might come at me.  After querying my facebook peeps I learned it's a Luna Moth. 
 
After a quick google search, I found out it has a wingspan of up to 4.5 inches.  Not sure how big this one was as I wasn't getting too close.  Interestingly, according to google, the adult lives for only about one week and are rarely seen.  Frankly I  hope I never see another one.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Fish On

 
Fish On
 Late afternoon and time for a little fishing after work is done for the day.

 
We have three ponds on our place, the one pictured above being the largest.  The two pics above are taken with Marc in the same spot, I have just moved to different vantage points.  This pond is horse shoe shaped, with a peninsula in the middle. 
 
In it are bass and perch.  We've caught fish for dinner twice.  Catching them is fun but I draw the line at cleaning them.  Cleaning perch is a lot of work, but delicious eating.

Catch of the Day

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Spring Brings Surprises

Narcissus
Each new season brings surprises here.  We noticed that quite literally on the first day of spring the frogs started singing.  Shortly thereafter bugs began to appear.  We decided at that point we really liked winter best of all.  In Texas you have bugs all year round so it never occurs to you that in some parts of the country winter means no critters.   We've decided we like a season with no bugs.
 
Cheery Daffodils
Spring brought other surprises too. Common yellow daffodils are everywhere here, even scattered in the woods. I can only guess that squirrels carried some bulbs into the woods and found that they didn't like them, dropped them, and they took root there.
 
First Spring Daffodils
My sisters who read this may recognize this statue.  When I was a kid, my Dad built a concrete, kidney shaped fish pond in our backyard.  I thought it was enough like a miniature swimming pool that I thought it might be fun to take a dip .... it was slimy and nasty and I never tried that again.  Anyway, he had this statute which is really a fountain in it.  There was a light switch at the back door and it activated the pump and water came out of the fish's mouth. I guess my parents pulled this fountain out of the pond when they sold the house and moved on.  They never had another fish pond so I guess this statue hung out in a flower garden for the next 20 or so years.  I have carried it around for the past 26 years and broke it once but Marc was able to fix it.  It has traveled from Texas to Arkansas and now resides by the well house, and lo and behold the first flowers of spring came up right beside it!
 
Marc built a rustic cedar fence and pergola in front (pics to come when I can figure out how to download them again off the "cloud"...) and I dug a SMALL clump of daffodils and transplanted them and turns out there were almost 50 bulbs in that little clump.  So I guess there are thousands on our place.  Next came Narcissus, or at least what I consider a Narcissus, pictured above.  They are very dainty flowers.  There weren't as many as the yellow daffodils.
 
Then came the purple and yellow bearded irises.  We didn't have as many here as some other folks do, but it was a nice surprise to have them pop up.  There are clumps of these beautiful flowers blooming along the highways.  Next spring I need to carry a bucket and shovel with me and dig some up.
 

Dana brought me a spray of roses that grow in her yard.  It's a climbing rose that's very prolific and hardy.  The flowers are small and don't have much scent, but lots of petals and lots of flowers.  I would really like to get cuttings started so I can have them growing here too.