Friday, July 1, 2011

Tomatoes are just around the corner!

I have hated tomatoes for most of my life. It wasn't till about 4 or 5 years ago that I had my first fresh of the vine tomato and I was shocked at just how amazing it was. So, tomatoes have become one of the fruits that I look forward to popping up in my garden and eating fresh off the vine. This week has been a bit of a pre-tasting with a small number of tomatoes ripening in my various gardens. I have to saw if you are just starting out tomatoes are an essential to every garden. Whether flower or veggie you must have tomatoes. They can be used in a billion ways and there is nothing as tasty as a fresh of the vine tomato. Basil is a great companion plant and you are halfway to an amazing Italian meal!

I have been snacking on fresh peas for the past month but the sun has finally reached the point of frying them all along with a lot of my lettuces. however a few have survived and we are still enjoying fresh salad. We also just received a good batch of pickle cucumbers from the farm I work at so we will be making pickles real soon.

Basic Dill Pickles

8lbs. 3-4" pickling cukes
4 cp white vinegar
12 cp water
2/3 cp pickling salt
16 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
8 sprigs fresh dill
8 heads fresh dill

Wash cucumbers, and place in a bowl of ice water. Soak for about 2 hours. Refresh ice as needed. Sterilize 8  1qt. canning jars.
In a large pot over med-high heat, combine vinegar, water, and pickling salt. Bring brine to boil.
Put 2 cloves of garlic , 1 head of dill, and enough cukes to fill in each jar. Add 2 more garlic halves and 1 dill sprig. Fill jars with hot brine. Clean jar rims and seal.
Process for 15min.
Store for at least 8 weeks before enjoying! Refrigerate after opening.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fall, then Spring, then Summer....

It's been way too long so here is a very quick update. I came out of hibernation around February and began volunteering at a local urban farm called Growing Awareness to learn as much as I could and to just be a a part of something cool. They put me in charge of their demo garden and I started planting in the fall. early spring tons of good things like peas, swish chard, leafy greens, and kale, yum! The backyard also started to get a little more order as I planted at home what I planted at GA.
Our Chickens have been laying beautiful eggs. One lays about 9 a week and another lays these huge jumbo eggs. She is also the loudest and I can't blame her I'd yell too.

The newbie urbanstead has a ton of fun things growing all over the yard:
salad mixes
tons of wildflowers
and I'm sure there is more I have forgotten.

I also started a job at a small farm, Red Tractor Farm, in order to learn more and make a little money to help out.

I have switched to a raw vegan diet which has messed with a lot of my homesteading recipes but has been great for always being in the garden and always having fresh food:).

And, I have started school again ( I wanna get some sort of agriculture degree at this point) which has been great but hard.

Anyway, that's the short bit. I will expound. I just wanted to catch everyone up.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hiding Out in Winter

It has been a long while since I have written. I think it's the cold air. As soon as it started to creep in I locked myself inside with some knitting needles and cup of hot tea and have been knitting and baking in all my spare moments.  I have finally even mastered a simple white loaf that I make every few days from The Simple Dollar blog.  The girls in the coop should be laying anyday now and are no longer little peeps but instead big fat feathery ladies.  My garden has been resting as everything I hoped to grow through winter has died with the exception of a pea plant that seems to be hanging on for dear life.  I however have been composting and fertilizing and am excited about the return in spring. 
Still hiding till it's warmer Merry Christmas to all...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Updates on the Flock

The chickens have gotten a lot bigger and sadly we lost one:( It didn't die but one morning I went out to check on Ellie and she had grown even more over night her awkwardness replaced with really colorful feathers and she came running over and her beak was all goofy looking.  she had something called crossed beak, or scissor beak.  I did a bit of research and everything said she should be fine just make sure she's eating well and so on.  Well a few days ago, I went out to feed the girls some carrot tops and poor Ellie couldn't grab them.  She had for a few days been pecking at the feeder constantly and so I sat and watched her and she basically got a little food every five or six pecks and managed to spill all the rest of the feed on the ground.  When I let the girls out to free range Ellie stayed in and pecked at her feed and then the next morning she ran straight to the feeder and started her routine.  I finally decided that I had to replace her as I couldn't have her throwing feed everywhere and it's important to me that my chickens free range and she couldn't pick up anything with her beak.  So... I called the feed store where I got her and took her back they have some layers they keep in the back to sell eggs so he put her in with them to see how she does.  I then called my friend over at East Central Ministries as they are raising pullets to sell and I checked to see if they could sell me one early.  They told me to come by and take my pick so yesterday I went and picked up my new barred rock she is probably about a month older but has been doing great with the other girls. Asher named her Kala Polka Dot hope she lives up to that name.
Molly the Leghorn (I think) & Kala Polka Dot the new Barred Rock
I also have been taking the hens to various schools around town and talking to the kids about them.  They love it and the girls do pretty well. I really only take Annie or Duffie as they seem to be the most social of the bunch.  Today I got to go to Ash's preschool for show and tell.  Fun was had by all and I learned that preschoolers have a very short attention span.
Annie the Buff Orphington hoping for a special treat.
Last but not least we have been getting awesome little salad tomatoes from the garden and today we ate our first zucchini. For winter, I planted a ton of salad and peas and one managed to pop up where I did not plant it (weird the goings on when I am not watching) and I noticed a few salad sprouts so hopefully they make it this time.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Drowning in Pears

We have been drowning in bartlett pears all this month and I had said earlier I would share a bit about canning them so here it is.  First I will talk about harvest time.  We didn't think we would get very many pears due to the fact our tree had fire blight (probably because I didn't get the leaves cleaned up right away from last year). Fireblight is not a friend to your tree and does effect your fruit production.  However our tree still produced a ton.  We harvested over three days and since we didn't spray our trees for worms most of our pears were mostly baking pears.  I sliced a lot of them and canned them in a light syrup, some of them I mashed and made something similar to applesauce but we will call it pear jelly, and I also made my first liquer.

First, pears straight off the tree are gross... they need to age a bit...harvest your pears before they are soft and stick them in the fridge for a day, then put them in a paper bag for about 3-4 days and your pears will be aged to perfection.  (you can now put them back in the fridge till you are ready to use them)

To prepare you jars get them together and sterilize them either in your dishwasher or boiling water for 10 minutes.  Put your little self-sealing lids in warm water to soften the rubbery part. The ring lid doesn't  really matter as long as it still screws onto the jar well.

To make basic canned pears:
Take as many pears as you want and wash them, peel them, core them, you can cut them in halves or quarters.
I think I did about 4 cups for my first test batch but do as many as you feel like doing. Sprinkle the pears with the juice of two lemons to add acidity and keep them from browning.

To make the light syrup: lightly boil 6 cups of water and add 2 cups of sugar to the boiling water.

Now add the pears to the water for about 5 minutes (this is the hot pack method, some people just pour the liquid over the pears in the jars).  After 5 minutes scoop out the pears and add them to your prepared jars then pour the liquid into each jar about a half inch from the top of the jar. then put your new lid on and seal the jar snugly but not too tight.

Now I processed the jars in a water bath which is basically a big pot with boiling water that I place the jars in. The water should cover the jar tops by one inch for about 20 minutes.  I don't have a pressure canner and so I use this method.  Processing times vary but altitude and jar sizes though so do a quick search before you take my word for it;)

To make what I call pear jelly: (basically because that's what i meant to make.)
Take as many pears as you want and wash them, peel them, core them, you can cut them in halves or quarters.I probably cut about 6 cups of pears. then I put them in a large pot, sprinkled them with about 2 TBS of lemon juice and simmered them for about 20 minutes. 

When they are soft put them in a blender and blend into sauce. You could take what you have so far and can it like this.

I wanted to make jelly so I needed to add more sugar. So I put what was left back in the pot and I knew from the blender I had 4 cups of pear so I always add 3/4 sugar to fruit for jam. So I added 3 cups of sugar to the pot. Now bring up the heat to medium and stir (babysit it) till it starts to get thick and seem to stick to the spoon.  Usually about 15 minutes.  I test by placing a plate in the freezer and dripping the jam onto to it till it isn't runny on the plate.

When the jelly is no longer runny it is ready to can.  Pour it into your prepared jars and seal it and process the same as before.

I don't think the finished product is actually pear jelly but it's darn tasty and I have been using it as jelly on my toast and it's spectacular.

To make pear liqueur: I haven't tasted this yet as it's still brewing but it smells amazing.

Drop the following in a wide mouth half gallon jar.
1/2 lb of pears sliced
1 1/2 cups of vodka
1 pinch of cinnamon
1 pinch of nutmeg
1 pinch of cloves
2 coriander seeds

Seal the jar and steep for three weeks. Strain and filter. Taste and adjust flavor by adding fruit or sugar syrup (below).
Steep another 3-4 weeks, strain. Ready to use! This yields about 1.5 pints of liqueur.

Make a syrup by adding 1 cup of sugar to 1/2 cup of boiling water. boil together for about 5 minutes till the sugar dissolves.It must be cool before adding it to the jar.

Giving Pears to friends:  Another great way to use up your pears is to give them to friends.  A friend of mine made me some pear baklava with the pears I gifted her and I recieved many fun things in trade for the pears I gifted my neighbors with.  Anyway these are just a few ideas or how I have used my abundance I didn't expect this year!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Food Delivery Day

Today we received our first delivery from Los Poblanos CSA.  I had been told many things and we often buy their produce at the farmers market so I figured I should check it out.  I would tell you about the awesomeness I found online at their site but you should really discover it's greatness yourself.  I will say we will be saving money on produce and are now able to order almost all our food at one place and have it delivered to our home!  Anyway My fridge is full of freshness from the farm and there are only two things I had never seen before.  I will post later about what they are and how I can use them.

On a much sadder note my poor pumpkins seem to be dying and I can't figure out why.  I also found out today Los Poblanos does a u pick pumpkins which is pretty cool.

Anyway made some chai mix this morning so I enjoyed a nice hot cup of chai while I fed the girls some carrot tops...a little known fact is: if you store your carrots in the fridge with the tops on they will drain the carrots of nutrients and so the carrots don't last as long. So chop those tops off and feed them to your chickens!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ash Eru

Well, I was inside blogging when Alf notified me I should check on Ash.

The kids are not allowed to play on the rocks in front of the chickens cause the rocks get pushed down and we have to re-rake till we move them.  So Ash made a sign and decided to protect the chickens from the falling rocks.  The sign translated is supposed to let Aislin know she is not allowed on the rocks.