Friday, September 26, 2008

An Orchard of Apples

A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible. ~Welsh Proverb

When #2 son comes home from school one of his jobs recently is to take the days worth of apple skins and cores up into the woods to share with the deer and other animals. Maybe some time in the future an orchard might grow from these scraps. And I feel like we have peeled an orchards worth of apples this week. Even with a Dr's appointment and sitting at a friends house while an electrician did some work we still did an amazing amount of apples. We got 10 1/2 quarts of applesauce with red hots (a fav of #1 daughter's), 25 pints of apple butter and 35 quarts of apple pie filling...and there are still apples left which have to be made into cider. The equipment is all set up but the kids and I haven't found the time yet.

Last night #1 daughter came down to help do some work in the house today. We ended up making more apple pie filling instead of laying bathroom tile because the man was afraid the cool damp weather was not conducive to this. So he is getting heat in the house tonight. Tomorrow #1 daughter and #1 son are going to help, so we can lay the tile in the bathroom, tiles behind and under the woodstove and prime the walls in the kitchen and living room. I am looking forward to having all my children working together. Sounds like the start to a beautiful weekend.

Monday, September 22, 2008

11:44 AM

"Autumn begins with a subtle change in the light, with skies a deeper blue, and nights that become suddenly clear and chilled. The season comes full with the first frost, the disappearance of migrant birds, and the harvesting of the season's last crops."- Glenn Wolff and Jerry Dennis

Autumn begins today at 11:44 AM. Autumn brings a calmness usually which I am looking forward too.

I haven’t seen any geese flying south yet but the birds are starting to come to the empty feeders, hoping to find something. They won't as I don't wish to be a bear magnet. The harvesting of the season’s last crops is done except for potatoes and horseradish.

Friday I cut down all the corn and fed it to the pigs and steer. I cut down this year’s bearing canes on three of the blackberry plants to give the sheep a treat. The zucchini is still producing so I left that. I pulled the small cabbages that I didn’t use for sauerkraut and put them in the root cellar. The peppers have flowers on them so I left them too. I don't know why, they won't produce before frost.

Saturday we worked on the house and then made a trip to Home Depot. I am playing with designs for tile behind the woodstove when I should just be slapping some up there. The paint primer should go on this week if all goes as planned. (Murphy’s law says it won’t but one can always hope)

Yesterday we went to a friends and picked apples, like this years berries, the apples were abundant. She said to come get more when we are done with these. The bed of the truck is covered in apples, so I don’t think I will need more!
After apple picking we loaded the steers and pigs on to the trailer and watched them drive away. This years pigs are leaving a month early but I needed to get rid of the steers now so the pigs had to go to so I didn’t have two transport bills. Which brings to mind, that I need my own trailer to transport animals. While loading was going on #2 daughter found a walking stick. I haven’t seen one for years so it was nice to know they are still around. Today I should start digging potatoes but my shoulders hurt from picking, so I am not even going into the garden. I am heading to Mom’s kitchen to lean over pots of applesauce and apple butter. Tomorrow we will make apple pie filling. After school for the next couple of days, the kids and I will make cider. (They don't know that yet!)

Soon things will calm down. The jobs won't lessen but the need for things to be done immediately (like before it rots) won't be there, which I think is what was overwhelming me. So Welcome Autumn.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Summers End

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.” ~ H.L. Hunt

Woke up this morning and it was 38.3 degrees. The last days of summer are going quickly or maybe I am hastening them along thinking the work will end if summer does. Foolish me!

Monday we worked all day on those garden huckleberries....and at the end of the day we only had 10 pints of pie filling. I woke up Tuesday morning and just couldn't fathom doing a whole days work for 10 pints of a non meal product. It was not a priority. So the balance of the berries ended up in the wheel barrow going to the pigs. We used or pawned off what we could of the pears, the pigs got the rest. The leftover crabapples from my brothers tree, well past their the pigs. Wanting to give them some roughage with their fruit, I pulled everything out of my garden by the greenhouse. The only thing left in there is turnips, parsnips, ground cherries, peppers and some sunflowers. All the cherry, grape and pear tomatoes went to work with the man to share with his fellow workers.

The decision was made to send the pigs and steers on their trip. It was scheduled for the 27th as I had feed for both to last until then. Today the steers got out. The man had to come home from work to help get them back in. Then the kids came home from school and the steers were in the neighbors yard. The kids and I were able to get them in. As we are walking up the driveway patting ourselves on our backs for having managed without the man, we started to smell something really was our dinner burning on the stove. The telephone will be busy today to move their trip forward to this weekend. It is either that or we will need to build a really big spit.

I realize everyone has their breaking point and I seem to have reached mine. With so many irons in the fire, one is eventually going to get burnt, I just wish it hadn't been my dinner. The overload is my own fault really. I over-estimate our stamina and under-estimate the quantity of the product and time needed to process.
So the plan for this weekend is to get some more irons out of the fire. We have to go to a friends to get apples for cider, sauce, butter and pie filling. That leaves the potatoes to dig and store, the large garden to clean up, horseradish to make after a frost, the freezers to clean and the sheep to shear.

So soon the list, along with the days, will be shorter. The bright side being my shelves and freezers will be full. It is then when I have time that I will be happy about all the work. It is then I will be happy with my decisions.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rescue Me

With my deepest apologies to Aretha Franklin I offer my version of Rescue Me. If I added audio it would be even worse…trust me!

Rescue me
Oh take me out of here
Rescue me
I want an ice cold beer
'Coz I'm tired and so hot
If I plant another garden I should be shot

Come on and rescue me
From my own stupidity
Come on baby and rescue me
'Coz I’m canning way to much
No more tomatoes can I touch

Rescue me
Come on and take my arm
I really don’t need a farm
'Coz I'm crazy and losing it
Don’t have time to move more sh*t

Come on and rescue me
From my own stupidity
Come on baby and rescue me
'Coz I’m canning way to much
No more tomatoes can I touch
Rescue me

Rescue me
Oh take me out of here
Rescue me
I want an ice cold beer
'Coz I'm tired and so hot
If I plant another garden I should be shot

Come on and rescue me
Come on baby, save me baby, help me baby, save me baby
Can't you see I lost my sanity
Can't you see that I’m loony
Rescue me

Come on and take my arm
I really don’t need a farm
No more tomatoes, no more beans
No more glass canning jars to clean
take me baby out of here
for an ice cold beer
Can't you see that I'm tired

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chinese Fortune Cookie

"Vacation can wait. Stick to the project" ~ Chinese fortune cookie

We had Chinese for dinner Friday as I had seen enough of the kitchen. Saturday after helping a friend, I finally read my fortune cookie. "Vacation can wait. Stick to the project". I would have loved to have had a weekend away from canning but I guess it was not meant to be. So this morning I finished the second dish/wash cloth to a set, picked the rest of the garden huckleberries (47 pounds!!!), went to Mom's where we canned 11 1/2 quarts of tomatoes and 17-1/2 pints of hot pepper butter. We finished at 4 and cleaned up and I am done for the day.

After making 11 1/2 quarts of hot peppers and not making a dent in them, I had to find something else. I found hot pepper butter . I do NOT do hot peppers but the man loves them. I made 1/2 a batch to see how it was and he loved it as did the kids. They finally talked me into trying it and it has less heat than the Raspberry Chipotle Sauce I make so I made another batch. I ran the recipe up to Cyndy with a taste test and tried pawning some huckleberries off on her but didn't get away with it this time. I called another friend to pawn off some more hot peppers and I am waiting on her to call back. If she doesn't want them I will make poppers for the man to take to work for the guys. So I am taking a mini vacation until tomorrow when we tackle the huckleberries. October can not come soon enough for me as I want to be done with canning and time away from canning and the garden is a vacation. Oh and the next time we have Chinese I am not going to read the fortune.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pickled Peppers

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?

Another ending is… Where are the pickles Peter Piper picked? I would have to answer, they are on my counter. I went to the Farmers Market again. I saw a container of hot peppers for $10. Well the man loves hot peppers, so I bought them to pickle some for him. I did not realize how many peppers were in that container. When they poured it into a paper bag the bag bulged all over. It was difficult to carry as if you pushed on the side they over flowed the top and went rolling. Of course there was no room on the top to hold the bag either. I gave one to the man who usually has no problems with hot and he was not able to keep it in his mouth! So I approached them with caution, gloves on. And to answer the how many…I pickled 11 ½ quarts and didn’t make a dent! I ran out of vinegar first.

Looking at the bag of peppers, having talked to Cyndy, knowing I was going to see her… a plan formed in my mind. I threw some in a bag, put in a pair of gloves and pawned some of my problems off on her! What are friends for? Of course, if I keep this up I may not have any! Last week I pawned elderberries and blackberries off on another friend!

So, I have come to the understanding that I should not go to the farmers market. I go, I see, I buy and pay for it later, along with unsuspecting others. It rates right up there with going to see animals or fiber. I have absolutely no self-control. And it doesn't matter if I don't bring money, my mother, kids or the man buy it so I have to stay away.

Now the man will enjoy them later, as will others. They do look very festive don’t they…kind of like, dare I say it... Christmas. Oh hell you knew I was going to have to go there….there is only 102 days! Which means we should all get those needles clicking!!! And even though I feel like I have been chained to the stove, I have been doing some fiber. I spun the jacob roving, and I have been knitting dish/wash clothes (2 of each). I finished my one valance...lots more to go but put on the back burner for now. I bought some kitchen towels to crochet. I was asked to share a table at a sale in October so I need to find things I have made and get away from the stove and get making more. And if I stay away from the farmers market and concentrate on my own garden produce I would get done faster and be able to get to clicking!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Garden Experiment

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live. ~Mortimer Adler

The seed catalogs come earlier and earlier each year. I hide them away until after Christmas. Then when the kids go back to school I start looking thru them. A long time ago Cyndy told me that seed orders should be in by Ground Hogs Day and I try to abide by that. So while snow and icy road were the norm, I was inside dreaming about warm weather and the garden. Maybe it was a fresh fruit deficiency or boredom with the usual that made me look at other fruits. I bought seed for Garden Huckleberry, Ground Cherry and Nanking Cherry plants.

As stated in an earlier posts , I weed wacked two cherry plants and I didn’t get many of the ground cherry. However I have saved gound cherry seed, so I can grow more of them as the kids love eating them right off the plant and I would like to try jam.

So that leaves us with the Garden Huckleberry, Solanum melanocerasum. When I first read about them in the seed catalog I went on line to research them. I found this site…. And it stated: “ If you love a blueberries, you’ll love garden huckleberries too!”… Ok I love blueberries but I want to know more.

So I read on…”Garden huckleberries grow on annual plants that reach about 3 feet in height. The upright, rangy bushes thrive in just about any soil, producing heavy yields of large blue-black berries that taste wonderful in pastries, pies and preserves.” ….I liked the sounds of that, easy to grow, big yield. This plant was right up my alley of lacksadaisy gardening.

…”And they're easy to harvest -- no thorns to battle as in picking wild berries.”….I love the sound of that which is one reason I have thornless blackberries! I am not into pain.

…”The plants are rarely bothered by pests and diseases.”….Since I don’t use chemicals this was the clincher.

So I bought the seed and treated it like it’s relative the tomato. Where as I like to try new things, my mom is into the tried and true and these were not tried and true, so they went into my small garden instead of the larger shared one.

I planted 17 plants and gave some to Mary. They grew over 5 feet tall and were loaded with berries. Mary called to say “now what” and I said I don’t know I will find out. So in my usual style of jumping into hot water and then learning how to swim, I went off to find out what the hell to do with all these berries. The fact the birds wouldn't touch them now had me a little worried! They are after all part of the nightshade family and I had read that the leaves contain the alkaloid solanine, and should never be eaten.

I found this site It says…”Place 8 cups of berries in a non-aluminum one gallon size pan and add enough water to not quite cover the fruit. As they begin to boil add a total of 1/3 cup of baking soda (a little at a time) and stir continuously. As you add baking soda, green foam will appear. After adding the baking soda, cook for 10 minutes at a low boil. The mixture will continue to foam quite a bit as the berries are cooking. After they have cooked for 10 minutes, drain this solution off and rinse with clean water. The berries will still be somewhat hard. Next return the pan of berries to the stove, add 1/3 cup water and ½ cup of lemon juice. Watch with amazement as the mixture changes from emerald green to a royal purple color.” Well, green foam doesn’t sound very appetizing but seeing it change color sounds cool. (insert mad scientist laugh).

So today was the day we had planned to get these out of the garden. I awoke to find out we were due for a severe thunderstorm with possible hail. I didn’t want the berries knocked off, so I got the kids on the bus, man off to work and hauled my ass out to the garden before the drops started. I got the berries off 1 ½ plants and by that time the thunder was no longer a distant rumble and self-preservation demanded I go inside.

You need to use garden clippers to clip each stem off the plant. So when I came inside I plucked each berry off the stem. Trust me there was no need to worry about the rain or hail knocking them off. Amazingly enough I got 9 cups from my quick picking, so it was time to experiment!

I washed, rinsed, added enough water to cover and put them on the heat. Soon the water started to turn purple. When it started to boil we added the baking soda and the water foamed neon green. This is not a good pic. This one shows the color better. We cooked it for 10 minutes and rinsed. Added some cornstarch, lemon, water and sugar and we had garden huckleberry (mock blueberry) pie filling. It doesn't taste exactly like blueberry like they say but it is not bad so I have to pick more and try jam, syrup and freezing them for muffins and pancakes. So far as a learning experiment it is something easy to grow and is something different to can. I will be planting them again next year.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Hubbard's cupboard

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To fetch her poor dog a bone.
But when she got there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.
~ Sarah Catherine Martin

We have been so busy stocking the cupboard so Old Mother Hubbard’s dog (along with us) has something to eat this winter that we have had little time for anything else.

Last Wednesday when the kids left for school, Mom and I picked up #1 Daughter, treated her to lunch then went to the Farmers Market. Thursday and Friday were spent picking 10.5 pounds of blackberries which we turned into more blackberry topping. We also picked, grated and froze 11.5 more pounds of zucchini. And we made two batches of chili sauce, three batches of salsa, two batches of bread & butter pickles and froze 2 gallons of crushed tomatoes. We took the chickens and turkeys to the butcher and picked them up the next day. The man and I also hauled all the squash into the root cellar before the rains from Hanna came.

Saturday, we took a much needed break and went to the Endless Mt. Fiber Fest. I got to spin on Grace’s double flyer wheel, but not successfully! I liked that and a production wheel she had for sale.
The man said he would buy one but I need my house done before I need another wheel. We visited with some fiber on the foot.#2 son treated me to an ounce of dyed silk roving and an ounce of mohair blend called Falling Leaves. I picked up ½ lb of jacob roving and two skeins of Happy Feet sock yarn. We had lunch and came home. I spent the rest of the afternoon spinning and relaxing. I finished knitting the valance….now the man thinks I should make them for every window in the house. I think the man should learn to knit!

Today we went grocery shopping, stopped and picked elderberries on the way home. Once home we picked, washed, boiled and strained three gallons of elderberry juice. We froze it to make jelly at a later date. While we were processing them, the man went and picked some more elderberries, which we will do tomorrow. We picked more blackberries with one friend and when she left another stopped in to see if I wanted canning jars. YES!!!! I have to meet her tomorrow after 2:30 to get them.

Also tomorrow we have to finish the elderberries, do two more batches of salsa, a batch of bbq sauce and finish the tomatoes by crushing and freezing them. The cabbage will be made into sauerkraut this week, the garden huckleberries into jam and pie filling, and basil into pesto. Next week will be spent digging the potatoes and then I will be done for a while. After the first frost there will be applesauce, cider and horseradish sauce. Then there will be hibernation...I am so looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Back to School and Birthdays too

The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book. ~Author UnknownThe kids returned to school today. I hope they get teachers like the above but sadly our district makes the teachers teach to pass the PSSA's. Even some of the teachers hate it as they feel they are trying to teach the kids to read without teaching them their ABC's just to pass a test. I have had some teachers give out their home telephone number so if the kids had problems they could call. I was impressed by the dedication but would not think of bothering them while they are home with their family. My kids are so backwards. The one that cares about school has to work hard for every grade she gets and the one that hates school get A's without much effort. Last year he started to take that for granted so he has been forewarned.

Along with the return to school, today also marks #1 Daughter's 25th birthday! Born at home in a small house in VA, weighing 5 lbs. 2 oz, she came into the world screaming. She is still a tiny little thing and still screaming! She is so full of energy that you get exhausted just being with her!

So today while the younger two are in school and elder son at work, Mom and I are going to take the old girl out to lunch for her birthday and give her the rest of her b-day presents. Then we are going to the farmer's market to pick up some produce for some marathon canning.
At least that is the plan right now. I have been sick off and on since Friday afternoon so these plans might change. Wish us luck!