Here on our little hillside, in WV, we try to live a simple life. One where we can try to make the best decisions in regards to what we feed our family, and where we source our foods. We try to make green decision that are not only good for our family but for our community and planet as well. There is no place I would rather raise a family, than these WV hills! So I guess it is our responsibility to preserve them, and our heritage.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

the "new normal"

I sit here today, in the middle of a snow/ice storm, checking out all the damage we need to repair to the trees, and fence, and land from these recent storms.  In the past 6 months, here at our little piece of heaven, we have experienced two storms, the derecho in July and then Sandy in October, that knocked out the power for 9 and 10 days. Sadly the folks at the bottom of our mountain had to deal with a flash flood in the earlier part of the year, that completely washed away their houses.  We have always been very cautious about being prepared, and have learned very valuable lessons from each storm as to what additional preparations we need to make.  Seeing as this degree of storm is to be considered the "new normal", I guess we should prepare for the loss of power, for over a week, at least twice a year.  Really??

Sadly, the weather is not just affecting me, but is making an impact worldwide.  The new normal, and it is only getting worse.  I always keep an eye on climate news, but have began to notice an increase in climate statistics being released and articles regarding the current drought and heat records, that should have all of us taking a serious look at how we intend to provide for our families in the coming years.  These weather changes are also something we need to be prepared for.  Their affects are going to be far reaching.  Which means we have a lot more preparation to do.

The drought and heat affects the price of practically everything.  In 2013 food prices are expected to raise .  Crop production will be lower due to drought, causing a world wide food shortage, the world population has exceeded 7 billion, and we are producing less food.  Did you read about the pork shortage?  How about the price rise on rice?  Have you noticed that the can of vegetables you bought at the grocery store a few years ago for 35 cents now costs 70 cents?  The price of a gallon of milk has practically doubled in the past decade and is expected to go higher.  There seems to be no slow in the rising cost of feeding our families.  

FEMA recommends having a 3 day emergency supply of food and water, per person, on hand in case if an emergency.  Do you have at least that?  Do you have a means of providing food or water for your family, if the disaster went beyond that 3 days?  Luckily most folks around here seem to be of a "different breed", and are for the most part prepared, at least for a few days of being snowed in.  When Sandy hit, most emergency response crews and news media went to NY, and NJ where thousands were without power.  When here in our West Virginia mountains, we too had thousands who were without power.  You saw a great response from volunteers to help those who were not prepared, and help remove debris and restore power.  What you did not see, was many news crews.  Just a few reporting on the amount of snow, and our wonderful local coverage.  I believe this is because our people are strong and resilient, and self sufficient.  For the most part, we have the necessities to keep our families safe, warm and fed.  We have a rich and strong heritage to thank for that.  We should take pride in the skills we have in gardening, preserving, hunting, fishing, foraging and living off the land provided to us.  
wild morals found last spring

We all should to try to make an extra effort to provide at least some of our families foods, and to start buying locally and seasonally.    There are so many ways to provide good food.  From a small container garden, or window herb garden, to a raised bed or traditional garden.  There is also foraging for wild foods, nuts, mushrooms, berries, etc.  Make sure you are taking advantage of local fishing and hunting. You can also try visiting a you pick it farm or participating in a community garden or invest in a CSA.  You have the option to can, freeze, or dry what you gather to save the excess for winter, or in case of an emergency.  

When it comes to storing grains and dry beans, it is super simple.  Just sterilize and dry your mason jars and use them.  I like to use the half gallon jars for pasta and quarts for rice and beans, even popcorn. You can date and label the lids.  Rice, pastas, and beans will stay good in dry storage for a long time.  It is also a great way to keep the pantry stocked and easy to replenish.  
dry storage
Do you know your local farmers?  Beekeeper?  Do you know a local supplier of meat, dairy, cheese, or grains?  You know what you are capable of supplying, you should also be aware of what others in your area can offer.  You should always try to buy locally before you have something imported anyhow.  Supporting your local farmer, supports you.  Check out your local farmers market, when open, and meet some of your local farmers.  You should be able to find most everything you need locally.  Have you ever placed an order at your local butcher?  You may be surprised to find out what they have to offer.   Take some time to become familiar with your local food sources.  It is better for your family, your pocketbook, and our planet.

They are predicting that we may see global food riots, like in 2008, next year due to the rise in prices and the decline in the harvest.  Climate scientists are predicting the drought to continue into 2013.  This drought is going to cause problems globally, in crop production, livestock numbers, soil conditions, water levels, etc.. So when preparing for your families needs, this should be something you consider.  Please take the effort to be cautious in your choices that can harm our planet.  Start your "new normal", recycle, reuse, compost, conserve, buy locally, eat naturally, live green!

Monday, November 19, 2012

beer bread

I was first introduced to beer bread at a Tastefully Simple party.  It was a sweet, yeasty, heavy bread that was just so good.  I wondered what it would be like, if it was made with a good beer.  It was a little pricey, but I had to have it!  It was yummy!  I have seen a few different brands of boxed mixes since then, but had not stumbled across a recipe until recently.  The ingredients are so basic and inexpensive.  All you needed was a can of beer.

Mix your dry ingredients
(The recipe below is the one I found.  It can altered.)

3 cups flour                                                               
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

add 12oz of beer

It will be gooey, but that is okay, add it to a greased or well buttered loaf pan

Melt 2 tsp of butter and put on top..... this helps to keep the bread moist. 

Add to a loaf pan and bake @ 375 degrees for about 40-45 minutes

As I make this bread I find myself wondering what it would taste like to add some Blue Moon beer and maybe some orange zest and cranberry.....or maybe a cheesy herb bread with a dark Guinness....I don't know?  After making this bread, I decided I like mine a little sweeter.  Next time I will probably add a few more tsp. of sugar to the recipe.   Have fun with this basic recipe and make it your own.  I would love to hear how you alter this.  Please comment below with your changes and additions....Enjoy!!

Breads- 5 minute bread

I love the fall, I mean, what better time to warm your house, and fill it with the delicious aroma of baked goods from your oven.  Throughout November I am going to be trying different bread recipes, and comparing to see which is the best bread for me to make.  I am also going to share with you some tried and true favorites.  Like my great grandmothers hot roll recipe.  This post will come around Thanksgiving.  My favorite time of year to have these rolls on the table, surrounded by family.
I recently tried the 5 minute bread.  It is a bread where you make the dough ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake.  It is considered to be an artisan bread and was a very dense, heavy bread with a slightly stronger yeasty taste.  It was quite good.  Especially warmed with a little butter.  It was also fairly simple to make and bake.  I cut the recipe in half when I tried it to see if I liked it before I ended up with 4 loaves.

3 C lukewarm water
1 1/2 TBSP yeast ( 2 packs)
1 1/2 TBSP Coarse salt
6 1/2 C flour (27.6oz)

Mix salt water and yeast in at least a 5 quart bowl.
add flour all at once, mix with wooden spoon or use mixer

Since I cut the recipe in half, my dough seemed a bit too soft so I had to add more flour, should be a good bread dough consistency though.

Cover and let rise 2-5 hours
You can now make your first loaf of bread or put the dough in the fridge to firm up some.
 If not using right away store in an air tight container in fridge until ready to use.  Up to 2 weeks.

When ready, grab some flour, sprinkle on one corner of the dough and you hands.  Pull off a quarter of the dough, about the size of a softball tuck the side under until you form a dough ball.  It is easiest to transfer the dough if you is a pizza peel with cornmeal on it, if not, you can try to slide off a cookie sheet that was dusted in cornmeal, otherwise you may flatten the dough after it has raised, just be careful.

Let rise again for 30-45 minutes.   Cut 3-4 1/4 inch slashes into the dough ball and then put on hot baking stone or cookie sheet (that preheated in your oven).  Also place a Pyrex dish (or other oven proof container) of water on a shelf lower than the baking stone to raise the moisture level in the oven.  Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.

This bread is yummy and perfect for grilled sandwiches or as a side to a good bowl of soup or stew.

Above recipe makes 4 loaves

Saturday, October 27, 2012

taco seasoning

I love making my own taco seasoning.  It is so much healthier for you than the store bought brands with all the added sodium.  One package of store bought taco seasoning contains 98% of ones daily value of sodium. Not to mention all the preservatives and anti-caking agents....geesh!!  Besides it is mostly corn anyhow.

I use my taco seasoning in so many ways.   I of course use it for tacos.  It is good in beef and venison burger, as well as ground chicken and turkey.  I also add it to strip or shredded chicken or re-fried beans to make burritos or soft tacos.  You can season homemade tortilla chips (make your our taco Doritos) . You can also add some to a little oil (1/4 cup) and mix with saltine or oyster crackers and bake at 250 for 15 minutes to make a taco cracker snack.
 I usually end up making a double batch of meat and planning taco salads, or taco pie for dinner a night or two later.  You could also freeze the seasoned meat if you had leftovers and use it next time you wanted a quick meal.

The mix is good for 1 pound of meat, for everything else, season to taste....

You can measure out the spices as you make dinner or measure some out ahead of time in snack sized zippered bags, or a baby food container and have it when you need it.

Taco Seasoning
1 TBSP Cumin
1 TBSP Chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried minced onion
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

You can either add 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper powder to mix or add hot sauce to taste (when cooking), depending on how hot you like it and if you want straight heat or a little vinegary tang.

For quick tacos I normally brown the meat then add water and the mix, then cook till the water is all absorbed/ evaporated.

hot pepper mustard

One thing we love so much, that I have to make every year, is hot pepper mustard.  This spicy but tangy mustard is delicious on everything!!  It is great as a dip for tortilla chips.  It is great as a sandwich spread, or on a wrap.  It is good with chicken, ham, cheese, turkey, chips, crackers, etc.  To top it off the ingredients are simple and so is the recipe.

You will need approximately 3 dozen banana or wax peppers

You will need to seed and grind them. 
You can grind them in a blender or food processor

Put them in a pot with 1 1/2 cups water, 1 1/2 cups white vinegar, and 1/4 cup salt.   Boil for 5 minutes to soften peppers.  Then remove from heat.

Next add
5 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Flour
1 TBSP Turmeric
1 TBSP Dry ground mustard
1 16 oz. jar of yellow mustard

I have found it best to mix all of these ingredients together, adding the mustard slowly and stirring out the lumps in the flour.  Then scoop out a cup or two of the peppers and stir them in before adding the mix to the rest of the peppers.  This helps to make sure that the flour doesn't lump up when added to your mix.

Stir this mixture well and cook until it reaches your desired thickness.  Add hot mix to hot jars and turn upside down for 5-10 minutes to seal.  Then flip right ways up and wait 24 hours.  Make sure it sealed and label it before storing.

So simple and absolutely delicious!!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Deer Jerky

A necessity for any deer hunter is a bag full of deer jerky to munch on while in the woods.  They usually have to wait until their first harvest of the season is processed and the jerky is made before they get this hunters treat.  For some reason, this year we seemed to have a good bit of burger left over from last deer season.  Seems like everyone has left over deer burger this year.  I have already finished one batch.  I also have the first of three batches for my sister and her husband on the dehydrator now.  We also had a package of jerky strip meat left in the freezer, so it is marinating in the fridge and will be ready to go on soon.
marinating strip meat

Now everyone has their favorite jerky recipe or flavor.  Some people like it flat, some like it round.  Some like it made with burger, some like it made with steak strips.  Some like it smokey, others like it salty.  I have even had some that is marinated in red wine.  Point is there are a thousand different ways you can make your own jerky.  Our family has been using this recipe for years and I have found it to be one of the best I have had..  I am going to share this with you as well as the marinade recipe I used for the strip meat.

This burger recipe is fairly easy, the flavors gets distributed well and it is not as tough as others when done.

Start with 5 lbs. of deer burger

I mix all the spices together in a bowl and then add them to the meat gradually to help make sure it gets distributed evenly though out the meat and that there are no parts that have an abundance of any one spice in it.

For the spices you will need
2 tsp meat tenderizer (Morton's tender quick works)
6 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 TBSP Black pepper
1 tsp red pepper (cayenne)
1 tsp ground marjoram
3 tsp Accent
2 TBSP Seasoned salt

You will also need 2 TBSP of Worcestershire sauce

Put the burger in a large mixing bowl
Sprinkle top liberally with spice mixture and a bit of the W sauce
Mix this well will your hands
flop the meat over in the bowl and sprinkle with spice mix again
mix thoroughly
flop again, add more spice, mix and repeat until spice mix and W sauce are both thoroughly distributed through out the entire 5 lbs.
jerky and seasonings mixed

You can make it immediately or let sit in refrigerator for up to 24 hours
If you have a Jerky gun, add meat and press out into either strips or rope, whichever you prefer,
onto a dehydrator.  Times for drying will vary depending on your dehydrator so dry accordingly.
The one we have without a fan can take up to 4 days to dry while the one with a fan can get it done in less than a day.

If you do not have a jerky gun or a dehydrator, you can roll the meat to about 1/8" thick between two sheets of wax paper, using a rolling pin.  Remove the top sheet of wax paper and bake on a cookie sheet in a oven at less than 200 degrees until done.  This does tend to ruin the cookie sheet so use an old one or a cheap dollar store one the will only be for jerky.

While we have the meat in the dehydrator or oven we always baste it with a solution of 1 part liquid smoke 1 part water.  We like the hickory liquid smoke over the mesquite.  I use a silicone basting brush.  I rotate the trays every hour or so and baste the one I move from bottom to top with the mixture.  This gives them a good 3-4 coats of the mixture.

For the strip jerky, I used about 2 pounds of meat and marinated it with
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 TBSP brown sugar

I let this marinate for 24 hours before adding to the dehydrator.

You can swap out or add any ingredients you like, I prefer more salt and maybe a little cayenne pepper, but the boys don't.  So this is the recipe I used this time.

This Jerky is so good it is almost addicting!!  Enjoy!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

summers end

Saturday September 22nd is the Autumnal Equinox, otherwise known as the first day of fall, Mabon or autumn .  The leaves are beginning to change colors The days are getting shorter, and the vegetable growing season is all but done.  As the crisp fall air greets us every morning, we are beginning to wind down the harvest activities around here.  I still have tomatoes and banana peppers in the garden and I plan on finishing them up by the end of the weekend.   I believe that this is the last of our preserving we will be doing this year, vegetable wise anyhow.

Early bow season starts the last weekend of this month and all harvest activities need to be wrapped up so we can start processing our venison for the year.  Aside from the venison we hope to stock the freezer with, we have also split a 1200lb beef cow with family.  We should have some meat soon, it has been at the butcher for a week now.    We made it through this past year fairly well.  We still have a few roasts and a few packages of stew meat left and a decent amount of deer burger, some fish, and pork sausage.  We do not however have any beef burger or steak of any kind.    The local school has a meat processing class and the students make the best sausage around.  With the county fair coming up soon, they have been working hard making the sausage, and hopefully we can store at least 10 lbs of it this year too.  There is another local farmer we always buy ground pork from and make our own sausage, however, we don't season it quite as good.   It is also time to spend some time on the lake to stock the freezer with good fresh water perch and walleye.

This little fella comes in under the apple trees, but somehow seems to know when the start of hunting season comes in, and disappears deep into the woods.  

I must admit that this is one of my favorite times of the year.  Fresh apple cider, warm sweaters, crisp air, and football.  It is the time of the year when you can enjoy the fruits of your labors so to speak and start enjoying the foods you worked all summer to make.  Since the weather is a little chillier, I don't mind baking and warming up the house with the oven.  Not to mention filling the house with the delicious aroma of homemade breads and desserts.

It is also time to start planning those winter house projects and craft projects.  I have always loved to find ways to re-purpose items, and now thanks to Pinterest I have found tons of ways to reduce reuse and recycle.  I hope to share some of my successful projects with you over the winter.  For now however, I will just be content in saying goodbye to summer and welcoming in the fall.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

why I am never out of vinegar

I have always been cautious about what cleaning products I use around my family.  I haven't used bleach in years and have only bought green cleaners and laundry detergent.  I use vinegar for almost everything I clean in my home. Here are a few ways to use white vinegar to keep a healthy clean home for your family.

20 Ways to Clean with White Vinegar

1. To clean floors, I add between 1/2 and 1 cup of vinegar and a squirt of dawn dish detergent  and about a 1/4 cup of baking soda to a bucket of  hot water..  I also use a clean rag and wash by hand for best clean.
2.  Use a spray bottle with 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 warm water to clean counters, stove and sink.
3.  Same mixture can also be used to clean and disinfect bathroom.  
4. Add vinegar and baking soda to toilet bowl and let sit before scrubbing.  
5.  Add 1 cup to a tub of water to disinfect kids toys
6.  To clean your bathtub.. I saw this one on Pinterest and it works great.  warm 1 cup vinegar in microwave for 60-90 seconds.  add to 1 cup dawn dish detergent.  swirl to mix.  add to spray bottle.  spray bathtub and let sit for 1 hour.  Wipes clean with very little scrubbing
7.  Soak sponges and dish rags in a bowl of vinegar overnight to kill germs
8.  Clean your greasy stove tops and exhaust fans.  Soak sponge or rag in vinegar and wipe off grease.
9.  To clean flower vases.  Fill with vinegar and let sit, rinse.  Add a little salt and shake and repeat for stuck on stains.
10.  To clean your coffee machine.  Run a pot of vinegar through and repeat with a few pots of water to rinse out.
11.  To clean microwave, mix 1/2 vinegar 1/2 water and boil for a few minutes in microwave.  This should loosen everything to make wiping clean easy.   
12.  To clean and deodorize your refrigerator, mix 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 warm water, then clean shelves.   
13.  Clean windows, with a mixture of 1/2 warm water 1/2 vinegar and a clean dry rag.
14.  To clean white water spots on wooden furniture, mix 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 olive or vegetable oil and rub into stain.  Buff clean.
15.  To clean and deodorize cutting boards, wipe or soak in full strength vinegar.
16.  To kill weeds in your sidewalk, pour vinegar over them.  repeat as needed
17.  To prevent frosty car windows in winter, wipe windshield the night before with 1/2 vinegar 1/2 water and they shouldn't freeze over.
18.  As a fabric softener, add 1 cup to rinse cycle
19.  To clean your washing machine.  Add 1 cup to your washing machine.  Agitate then let sit for and hour, then rinse.  This cleans and deodorizes the washer.
20.  To remove bumper stickers, stickers, and other sticky stuff.  Spray with vinegar, let sit, spray again and try to scrape off, spray more as needed.  

I add either lemon, orange, or rosemary essential oils to almost all of these cleaners to freshen and also help clean.  
Hope these few cleaning ideas help you on your way to a green, clean home for you and your family.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Homemade Apple Pie

The apples are starting to fall from the tree, and we are being beat to them by the local deer!!

We went out and gathered a bunch of apples and the first thing on the menu was a homemade apple pie.  My great grandmother had a wonderful pie crust recipe that has been passed down through the generations, and I have been wanting a reason to make it.
After washing the apples, I peeled, cored and sliced them into sugar and cinnamon.  Then got on to making my crust.  I will share with you my family recipe for apple pie.

1 Cup Crisco
2/3 Cup boiling water
pour water over Crisco until melty.....can be microwaved a few seconds if not melting up...
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3 Cups of flour ( add more if needed if dough is sticky)

This recipe make 3 pie shells

roll out dough to line 9 inch pie pan
add cinnamon sugar coated apples
sprinkle in a little flour
and a few pats of butter

You can add a top crust that is decorative to release steam or do a lattice top.  For lattice top, just roll out dough and cut into strips longer than pie pan.  Criss cross them and cut off extra dough. Then seal edges.

bake at 350 degree for at least 30 minutes or longer if apples are not tender.  Be sure to keep an eye out that the crust does not burn, it may need rotated in the oven to avoid hot spots.   You can also brush your top crust with an egg white wash to make it shiny.

So this used two of my crusts and I had one left.....what ever shall I do?????

I had to make a pumpkin pie too.....
Which left me with some leftover pumpkin pie filling and I decided to make pumpkin muffins.
I used the pie filling and added some self rising flour, walnuts, a little sugar and vanilla....

There are still plenty of apples left.  I am planning on making apple pie filling and canning it, but I just might need to make a few more fresh pie too.

Friday, August 17, 2012


We have finished up the first round of sauerkraut.  Ended up with 8 crammed quarts.  Take your kraut out of the crock and put it into a stainless steal stock pot.  Heat to 180 degrees.  Then fill your jars with kraut and make sure it is covered with brine.  Clean your rims, then add the lid and tighten the ring.   Process in a hot water bath 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts.  You can also do in a pressure canner at 10lbs for 10 minutes.  Make sure to label the lids when they have cooled.  
Homemade kraut is the best I have had.  So much better than store bought.  We have cut the rest of our heads.  Shared a few with friends and family.  Made some coleslaw and cabbage rolls (with the venison from last years hunting season).   We also started out second round of kraut.  Should be done in a  few more weeks.  

We have also started working up our tomatoes.  So far we have made 2 batches of pizza sauce and our first round of spaghetti sauce.  Both are easy, after you blanch tomatoes to help remove skins.  It takes a few seconds, just keep your eye on them and when the skin starts to peal and slip back, pull them out.  Let them cool then remove stems and skin along with any bad spots.  You can make your sauce however you choose.  You can blend the tomatoes to make a smooth sauce or crush for a thicker.  You can also add all fresh spices and vegetables or add a packet of Mrs Wages or your favorite brand.  I have made it both ways and have found that the best sauce comes from a mixture of both.  

We have picked our first round of peppers to do tonight.  We also have a bushel of corn we are going to freeze tonight.  Luckily our friends have a huge farm and grow wonderful corn and potatoes.  This helps, and leaves us more space in our garden for other veggies.  The horticulture beans are ready to be picked and shelled and canned.  The beets are going to be ready next week.  There are many more tomatoes and corn to do and I really need to buy a bushel of green peppers to make jelly and steak peppers.  The apples on the trees will be ready soon and the peaches.  Boy, there is still a bunch to be done, but at least I know my family will be fed the best I can feed them.   

Friday, July 20, 2012


The sauerkraut is in the crock!  We picked 4 heads of our cabbage and got 2 from our friends dad. It was about 30 pounds of cabbage in all.  It was chopped into pieces slightly smaller than a quarter.  We would cut one head then add the salt.  You use a wooden spoon to bruise and grind the salt into the cabbage to start bringing out the juices.  Chop another head and add more salt, bruise cabbage and start chopping again.  Since we had 30 pounds we used slightly over 3/4 of a cup of pickling salt. About 3 TBSP per 5 lbs.  Make sure you are using a crock or suitable container that will allow for all the cabbage to be completely covered and there still be 4-5 inches to the rim.  If the juice does not cover the cabbage you will have to make a brine to add.  Use 1 1/2 TBSP per quart of water.  You will then need to weigh the cabbage down.  To do this, we covered it with a cheese cloth, then a large ceramic plate with a mason jar full of water on top of that.  It will need to be stored for 3-4 weeks at 70-75 degrees.  Over the next few weeks we will have to remove the scum as it forms.  Fermentation will be complete when bubbling stops.  Then it can be canned.  
 In the mean time, I have just finished sanitizing the jars for the green beans.  They are ready to pick this weekend.  So they will need to be cleaned, snapped, and canned.  Also the local farmers market is open this weekend and I expect to purchase a few green bell peppers to make pepper jelly.  Should be a fun weekend.  
The new compost pile is working out well.  I just need to get some horse manure to add to help in the decomposition process.  I also need to build up a wall around three sides of my new compost pile so I can better manage it.  This should help in the turning and mixing that needs done.  As it turns out, things at the new homestead are coming right along.  We are slowly getting things around here in order.     


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

moving right along

The growing season is moving right along.  Everything in the garden seems to be doing pretty good so far, despite the fact that the garden has been attacked by rabbits, groundhogs, and deer.  We had to add a new electric fence to try to keep the critters out.

 We also determined where we would put the new compost pile.  I cleaned out the area, which was full of old bricks and blocks.  Not to mention poison oak...YUCK!  I just have to make the walls and it is done.  This is the perfect place for all our kitchen and yard scraps.  Just need to haul up some horse poo to get the compost juices flowing.  Having the compost pile also reduces the amount of waste we add to the landfill and this makes me very happy.  Instead of adding to the problem, we are creating nutrious and healthy new soil. 

The early yellow transparent apples are starting to drop from the trees already so I need to start planning on what to do with those.  I am thinking about making pie filling this year. 

Hopefully a good and productive growing season will get our cellar stocked this year. 
Happy gardening!

black raspberry jelly

So after our first harvest of raspberries, we decided to make jelly.  Oh my is it good! 
 These berries are growing in our yard and are organic. 

Making the jelly is very similar to the jam, except you need to juice the berries to remove seeds before making the jelly.  I washed the berries then added them to a stock pot with just enough water so they would not stick and burn.  Simmer the berries for about 5 minutes and then cool and strain through a cheese cloth. 

You need 4 cups of juice for the jelly.  If you are running a bit short squeeze a little water through the berries in the cloth to make the 4 cups.  Add 4 tabelspoons of lemon juice and one packet of pectin.  Put on heat and bring to a boil.  Add 5 1/2 cups of sugar and return to a boil.  Bring to a hard boil for 2 minutes.  Add to jars, skim foam off top, clean rims and add lids.  Invert on countertop for 5 minutes then flip and let sit for 24 hours.  Make sure to label the jars with the contents and date.
One batch of jelly down and they are ready to be picked again.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The berries are coming

I have finally ate my first berries of the season.  The yellow and red raspberries are starting to get ripe.  Now we have to decide what to do with them.  We could make jelly, jam or wine.  We can also can or freeze them, or juice them and can or freeze the juice.  We can eat them fresh or make cobbler.  There should be plenty of berries this year so hopefully there is enough to do jelly, wine, cobbler and juice.  Guess we will see. 

If you juice them, you can can it or freeze it to use later.  Which is good if your first picking of berries doesn't leave you with enough juice for your recipe.  You can save it until your next harvest and combine the juice so you have enough.  You can also use the juice to make syrup.  What is better with your pancakes then homemade syrup?
You can also freeze the berries whole, with or without sugar.  They can be added to cereal, ice cream, or yogurt.  They can also be used to make smoothies. 
The best part of these berries is that they are organic, and free.  All we have to do is pick them and prepare them.  It doesn't get any better than that!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

and it begins

It is official.  After fertilizing liming and tilling the garden it had finally been planted.  The yard is starting to look in order.  The mowing and weed eating is caught up for now.  All of the trees have been trimmed except for the apple trees.  I need to rearrange and move some of my perennial bulb beds, and determine where the new blueberry bushes are going to go and we are about set.  For now any how. 

So far this year we have planted onions, cabbage, horticulture beans, banana peppers, green peppers, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers lettuce squash and rhubarb.  We still need to get some sweet potatoes and beets in the ground.  This years garden is going to contain a greater variety of plants then what we normally plant.  We welcomed our daughter into the world in April and have to plan for her eating in the fall.  So we need to grow vegetables to make her food as well. 

I have been debating moving part of the strawberry patch up here on our land.  Our 16 year old grows them as part of his 4-H project and keeps his garden at his grandmas house since there was more room for his garden there. I also need to start the herb garden.  This means I need to till up two additional sections of the yard to accommodate these additions.  Hopefully if I get this done it will also allow room for some sunflowers and a vining fruit like watermelon or cantaloupe. 

The lemon tree took a pretty hard hit from the late freeze we had but it is coming back strong and full of new growth.  Some of the house plants didn't fair that well.  The ones that did make it have found their summer home on the porch or patio.  We have started a few pots of annuals and even started a container of lettuce on the back patio.  The blackberries and raspberries look to be in full bloom and if all goes well we should have a great harvest in a few months.  Lots of jelly and maybe even some wine, if we can pick enough.  Hopefully the elderberries do good as well. 

Strawberry Jam

Well the canning and preserving season is upon us and with the first picking of strawberries, we decided to make strawberry jam instead of strawberry freezer jam.  We still had a few pints of freezer jam from last year so we tried our hand at jam. This jam will have a much longer shelf life than the freezer jam. There should be plenty more pickings to come that we can make more jams with later.  Strawberries are so versitle.  You can make freezer jam, jam, jelly, shortcake, pie, eat them fresh, freeze them, add rhubarb,etc.  There are so many things to do, it is a good thing you can harvest the plants a few times each spring. 

To get started I washed the berries, and grabbed two bowls.  One for the stems and leaves and another for the fresh cut berries. 
Then you crush the berries.  Add the correct amount of lemon juice.  In this case 4 TBSP.  Next add your packet of pectin.

 Bring to a boil and slowly add 7 cups of sugar, stir until dissolved.  Bring to a full rolling boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat.
You can skim the foam off the top before you fill clean sterile jars.
 Invert them for 5 minutes on kitchen cloth.

  Flip right way up and leave undisturbed for 24 hours. 

Then enjoy your freshly made strawberry jam.