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.

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.