Tuesday, August 30, 2016

SHIPPING CRATE FIND

Over the last few months, I've discovered some fun "treasures" downstairs in our loading dock area where residents put their trash.  Bag trash goes down the trash chutes into a separate area.  For large items, cardboard boxes, etc, we have large dumpsters to use.

So when I can remember, I try to go check them out.  Saturday, I went down to check the mail and struck gold again!


Someone in the building had something shipped from overseas.  It came in this crate.  It's awesome.  Solid wood, very well constructed...


...and large.  It has a heavy lid and it's big, about 3' wide, 2' deep and about 2 1/2' tall.  

Wooden shipping crate
It also has nice, heavy duty folding handles on each side.  I don't know what yet, but I have big plans for this. I was thinking that once I got it stripped of labels and cleaned up, it might make a great storage container?  It's too big (unfortunately) to become a piece of furniture inside the house at the farm.  There's just no space for it.  It could be painted?  Stenciled?  Put wheels on it?  I don't think it would hold up outside, exposed to the elements, so the barn/shed are the only options I can think of.  

So that's my gold find.  Well, at least "I" think it's gold.  I'm sure 2nd Man just looked at me dragging this thing back in and thought "seriously"?  But he just smiled and let me be excited.  

As it should be, LOL!

Monday, August 29, 2016

CANNING PEACH JAM WITHOUT PECTIN

It's time for more jam! We loved the way the blueberry jam came out, simple and allowing the full flavor of the fruit to come out in the end product.  Things became so much easier when I found this great three ingredient recipe over at The Yummy Life.  At HEB (grocery store chain) they had fresh from Texas peaches, and so we thought it was time for some peach jam.

Peach Jam without Pectin
This is 10 cups of pitted, chopped peaches.  No peeling, they cook long enough that the skins just become one with the jam.  Five cups of sugar and the juice and zest of one large lemon...


 I put everything in my jam pan and turned it on...


...stir and heat to boiling...


It will foam, this is normal...just keep working through it....

Mashing peaches
At the foaming point, I started mashing the fruit with the potato masher.  It's really just whatever you like.  We like love our jam to be chunky...

Peaches cooking for jam
It's bubbling and thick so it was almost ready.

Canning
I got the jars and my prepping area ready to go...the water was already boiling in the water bath canner...



One last check, it was dark and thick and passed the freezer plate test.  I put a plate in the freezer, put a tsp of jam on it, placed it back in the freezer for a minute or so and then checked to see if it ran when I tilted it.  You can also do this with the back of a spoon.  If it didn't run or ran very slowly, it was ready. 

It was ready!
Canning Peach Jam
I ladled it into the waiting, sterilized jars, lids and rings...

Peach Jam no pectin
I boiled them for 15 minutes, took the pan off the heat and let it sit for another 5 minutes and then removed them to a waiting towel for cooling.  This batch made eight, 1/2 pint jars.  

Homemade Peach Jam on English Muffins
Once again, it was so good on muffins!  And to think about having the taste of "Summer" in the middle of Winter will be wonderful.  We always have English muffins on hand but if not, 2nd Man can whip up a loaf or two of fresh bread.  So now our grand total is 15 jars (1/2 pints) of jam.

That canning bug has bitten!

DISCLAIMER:

PLEASE NOTE:  You are responsible to know and understand the current canning and processing recommendations for safety.  Canning is fun but you MUST follow guidelines to make sure you are doing it safely. I had to learn (and still am) so do your research on safe canning techniques.

 A great link to official information is http://nchfp.uga.edu/ and 
of course, the literal bible of home canning information, the Ball Website.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

SUNDAY UPDATE

GOOD MORNING!  Sorry about being absent yesterday, we were out and about early, had some errands to run and were on the run all day.  It's been an odd weather weekend, nice in parts of the area, rainy in others.  

And at the farm?  Rainy.  Yesterday anyway.  

Homemade French Toast
Today is nice.  For now.  But more rain "possibly" coming this afternoon.  So we are running more errands. I'm heading to some garden centers to start the Fall garden planning.  

Guess what I'll be doing later this afternoon?  Canning!  Still doing jams and jellies, we want to get those fresh Summer flavors put up for use in the Winter.

2nd Man made us French Toast this morning, it was SO good.  Homemade bread dipped in eggs, milk, vanilla and covered in butter and yummy Pennsylvania maple syrup.

French Toast with Maple Syrup
Hope your weekend is going well!  More later tonight (and I'll catch up on comments).

Friday, August 26, 2016

CANNING THEMED DISH TOWELS

Found these at the store the other day, when I felt the need to do some "retail therapy, ha.  They have the cutest images and sayings on them:






There is one with 'blueberry lemon jam', another with 'farm fresh pickles'...hmm, where do I know about blueberry lemon jam?  Oh yeah, I made some!





...and another for 'strawberry jam' and then 'tomato herb sauce'.  They are so cute and are on their way to the farm this weekend!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

GARDEN TABLE, INSPIRATION THURSDAY

Every Thursday, we like to post a picture of something we've found online that inspires us to do something similar at the farm.  
Sort of our own blog bulletin board so that we can eventually look back and, hopefully anyway, recreate it...enjoy!

Outdoor dining tables area, image via Pinterest
Some of you that have paid attention to the garden pictures may have noticed a large area where there are no raised beds.  It's a large, rectangular area just inside the front gate.  The reason is this...our plans are to have a LARGE table in that spot.  Something that could perhaps do double duty, as a place to sit and work on garden plans, rest, and of course, on nice days/evenings, dinner with friends and family.

We like this idea, we wanted a big table to fill the area but were wondering how to get something so big. We saw this picture and realized that two matching tables, end to end, would solve that problem.  We could also seat about 10.  How fun would it be to eating dinner IN a garden?  With our property being large, we have the opportunity for multiple areas like this, smaller or bigger.   For now, maybe this Fall or next Spring, we'll focus on the one for the garden.  Now to find some old tables like this and of course TWO of them in the same find, ha.  

Be inspired!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

ALOE VERA GROWING WELL

A little over a year ago, 2nd Family GAVE US THIS aloe vera cutting.  They said we needed it because it's always good to have some around in an emergency.

Aloe Vera giveaway cutting
I put it in this pot next to the front door and just watered it on occasion (once every couple of weeks I guess, it is a succulent family plant after all).  

Large Aloe Vera in clay pot
Here it is last weekend!  It's gone aloe-crazy 
Obviously, it's very happy in that spot and happy with the way we care for it.  I think we'll just keep doing the same thing...unless it outgrows the pot it's in.  Might be time to split it up and share the love, ha.

Anyone else keep aloe vera around?


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

SNAKES ALIVE

Okay, after the delicious food post yesterday, we go to something creepy...if snakes freak you out, CLICK HERE to see an adorable kitten posting from a couple of years ago, LOL!

After all these rains, "J" from 2nd Family warned us Friday that things were very "snake-y" out there.  I said "snake-y"?  What do you mean...?

So she sent this...




Friday morning they found this in their chicken coop!  It had eaten one egg, and thankfully none of their chickens...

Then there was this second picture she sent to describe "snake-y"...

Dog bitten by snake
This is their dog Blue.  He was bitten in the face by a water moccasin...they took him to the vet and he got a shot and they said to give him Benadryl for the swelling.  He's much better now, but that sure is a sad (and puffy) face! 

AND SO...

(click on the embedded video below): 



This happened...I was far from the house and not able to go get a weapon as it would have been gone by the time I got back.  Of course I was sitting on a 700 pound mower that could be used as a weapon but A) I wasn't sure if it was a dangerous snake and B) if it was, I wasn't sure what the outcome of rolling over it might be.

Flying venomous snake? 


Snakenado? 

Um, HELL no!


We (and 2nd Family) thought it might be a rat snake...another friend asked someone who knows snakes and they said it looked like a cottonmouth.  

Yikes!  

Rat snake - not at all dangerous and eats rats and mice on the farm (and this one looks like it had a 'recent' meal).  

Cottonmouth - dangerous and poisonous snake that I shouldn't have let go.

Snake in the Grass
This was taken with my iPhone camera, zoomed in, I was not close enough to be in danger.  I am certain it did not like the roar of the mower.  I will admit, it's definitely a way to get the blood pumping!  

Yes, now we understand the word "snake-y".

Thoughts?  
Anyone have a snake encounter lately?  


Monday, August 22, 2016

BLUEBERRY JAM WITHOUT PECTIN

With my NEW GIFTS, it's time to start some canning!  

I kind of wanted to do something simple that allowed the full flavor of the fruit to come out in the end product. After much research online, I began seeing a theme.  And it was all summed up perfectly at this site.  I found this great three ingredient recipe over at The Yummy Life (thank you Monica for doing all the hard work first so the rest of us will have this great method!).

Three Ingredient No Pectin Blueberry Jam
There are only three ingredients.  I chose blueberries as they are everywhere in stores and farmers markets right now.  Plus sugar and Lemon.  That's it.

Ball jars
And I bought my jars, choosing half pint jars for this project...

Sterilizing jars in dishwasher
I used our dishwasher's sterilize setting for the jars and just kept them in the hot, steaming dishwasher until I needed them.  

Hmm, something about this picture makes me feel like I was being watched...LOL!


I didn't realize that new canning guidelines were put out a couple of years ago and the lids no longer need to be kept in boiling water.  The boiling water can affect the sealant.  So I washed the rings and lids and got them out and ready...


This is six cups of blueberries, three cups of sugar and the zest and juice of a large lemon.  For a small batch like this, I could have used half the lemon but I wanted the lemon flavor to be noticeable with the blueberries.  


You just start heating until it boils...it will foam up at that point but you just have to get past this stage (some people will skim it off, and you can, but it will disappear as it thickens, just have patience).  

Once you get past that point, you keep cooking as it reduces and thickens.  The use of pectin would make this happen quickly...


...but I wanted to be in the moment and see the process through...turn the temp down and keep simmering.  It will happen. At this point (I missed getting a photo) I took a potato masher and smashed the blueberries so we could have a chunky type jam).  This is all personal preference, we like thick and chunky.


While the berries were reducing, I put the jars over on the counter and got everything ready (the water was already boiling on the water bath canner).

Blueberry Jam with no pectin
Finally, it was ready.  I checked the texture using the chilled plate method. I put a plate in the freezer, put a tsp of jam on it, placed it back in the freezer for a minute or two and checked to see if it ran when I tilted it.  You can also do this with a spoon.  If it didn't run or ran very slowly, it was ready. 


My batch of jam was ready!  I got my canning funnel out and started filling the jars. I was a bit messy the first few times but I got better.  I removed the air bubbles, cleaned the rims with a damp cloth...


...topped them off to make sure I got the headspace at 1/4" and put the lids and rings on the jars...

Waterbath canning
...and then put them in the boiling water.  Once the water was back at the boiling point, I set the timer for 15 minutes.

Blueberry Jam
After the timer chimed, I turned the heat off and let them sit in the water for about five minutes and then took them out.  Voila!  

Four, half pint jars!

It was so much fun, I went out, bought six more cups of blueberries...

Blueberry Jam
...and made four more jars!  

So now we have eight jars of blueberry goodness in the pantry.  Well, one is in the refrigerator now...

Homemade Blueberry Jam on English Muffins
It was SO delicious this morning as we got ready for work!  This method really brings out the true flavor of the fruit.  It was amazing.

I'm already planning the next batch...I'm thinking peaches...

Is there such a thing as the canning bug?  
'Cause I think I've been bitten by it!

DISCLAIMER:

PLEASE NOTE:  You are responsible to know and understand the current canning and processing recommendations for safety.  Canning is fun but you MUST follow guidelines to make sure you are doing it safely. I had to learn (and still am) so do your research on safe canning techniques.

 A great link to official information is http://nchfp.uga.edu/ and 
of course, the literal bible of home canning information, the Ball website.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

PUT YOUR MUSCLE, VINTAGE POSTER SUNDAY

Most every Sunday, we try to post an image of old posters that we find during online surfing.  We enjoy the ones that reflect farming, gardening and/or food preservation and rationing.  We enjoy them because we often wonder if anyone today would heed the kind of advice they gave back then...enjoy!

Sign Up For a Farm Job, vintage poster image courtesy of US National Archives, public domain
During WWII, a large number of men were off to serve in the war.  That left a shortage in farm labor to deal with the fields of food and orchards, but the food still needed to get to the public.  So posters like these were put up to urge men, usually young men, to sign up and help out on farms.

I wonder if a poster like this would get today's young people to sign up for a farm job?  For some, they might ask if there was a Starbuck's nearby...or a Pokestop...LOL!

Hope you are having a good day, we are back to rain today so I'm canning and 2nd Man is baking.  It will be a good day!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

OFF TO THE FARM TODAY

Since last weekend was a washout with the rain, and also our anniversary, today will be two weeks since the last visit...


Need to check things out, see if the Zen Machine starts (and/or if the grass even needs mowing) and then to check the garden to see how the okra is doing and harvest some more herbs and jalapeños and do a few more projects.  

Hope your weekend is off to a great start!