ANYTHING BUT A DAY OFF

Labor Day (click for more info) here in the U.S. was established to honor the contributions that workers have made. The normal procedure for this is to get the first Monday in September off as a Holiday. Well, if you are a farmer (very laborious – is that a word?), or if you grow your own food in a garden; then this time of year is anything but a day off.
This is what it was for our household this Labor Day:
• Processing a HUGE box of naturally grown plums received from good friends:


• Making homemade tomato paste from our tomatoes to then…
Labor day 1
• Freezing currently picked tomatoes to process later into our special spaghetti sauce from our secret recipe. (Which is actually just using a variety of heirloom tomatoes to get that outstanding flavor – I believe- my sister begs to differ).
LD 7
• Beginning fall clean-up time:

  • Clean up dead plant materials (especially from the current growing stuff which, in-turn, will result in more food to be processed – – – never ending!).
  • Start prepping for winter by shearing up fences, mending posts, painting for weather proofing, and clean up gardening tools.
  • Fix as many repairs as possible before the first snow. (One big one right now is a hole in our chicken roof. The wind sucked off a chunk of sheet metal, and apparently, that spot did not have ply board under it – was this way when we bought the farm? So we have this roughly 2’x2’ hole we have to fix.)
  • This year’s garden tool processing includes sharpening blades (we do cheat here and have a handy-dandy electric grinder/sharpener for this), and paint handles. This year we are going to try a coat of poly over the paint to see if they will hold up better. The smaller hand tools are going to get dipped! We found some rubber dip at the local hardware store that works fantastic for this!
  • If we have low to no wind sometime this weekend, we will be burning a huge pile of dried weeds that have accumulated over the summer.
  • Got to get out big Mr. Green (name of my lawn tractor – LOL), and give the whole place a really good once-over. Some spots were neglected when the weather was too hot. They are now coming back around, and I need to get them under control before they get too big to handle.
  • We have a large pile of weed barrier cloth that we got free from my sister’s work. It needs to be de-weeded, cut into usable pieces, (which uses up a ton of box-cutter knife blades. Dulls them down to nothing in just a few good cuts!), and placed in appropriately needed places:
    • Under the greenhouse fan vents where weeds build up too fast, and I can’t get in to mow.
    • Walkway row covers. (That is another yet to-do project that we want to get a jump on before next spring.)
    • Then just adding an extra layer to spots in the greenhouse where some persistent bindweed keeps sneaking in.

There is a lot more detail to our actual to-do list, but I didn’t want to scare off any potential farmer/gardeners.
So, I hope you all had a Happy Holiday Weekend. We will just keep on working.

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SO EASY AND SO FUN – BREAD IN A JAR!

We subscribe to Countryside Magazine. It is one of the few we actually enjoy and use!  It has everything for small farming, hobby or backyard garden/farming, recipes tried-and-true methods; you name it, they have it (have had it or will have it).  Perfect for anyone wanting to grow their own food.

A few years back they ran a series on “oven canning” which included several recipes for Bread-in-a-jar.  My sister and I were intrigued, so we gave it a shot.  Besides being fun to make, they were the perfect sizes to eat.  They made a fantastic gift for just about any occasion.  We did banana, blueberry, chocolate chip, spice, pumpkin and plain sweet bread.  Then, because we are so crafty, we added a sticky label with ingredients (for allergies), then decorated with bows, ribbons, and a tag.  We received so many compliments on it that we were amazed!

Well, with the house fire all of our saved and categorized Countryside issues were lost.  Along with those the bread-in-a-jar and oven canning secrets – UNTIL NOW!

I subscribe online to thewhoot.com.au it is out of Australia, but a lot of what I get from them can be done anywhere in the world (mainly recipes and crafts).  The latest wonder that they delivered to my email inbox was about Banana Bread-in-a-jar!  WOOO HOOO – oh excited me!!

This is what the completed plan looks like:

banana-bread-in-a-jar-600x400

I was so happy to find it I just had to write this up and share it! Hope you all give it a shot. The bread’s we made up (about 30 jars) sat on our pantry shelf for at least a year (maybe a couple of months more) and were still just as fresh and yummy as day one!

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ALL THIS IN JUST ONE MORNING?

Went to the greenhouse to water and check on things.  I’m pretty sure I have some Elves in there.  I go in one morning, and everything is still green and growing.  Then I go in the next morning and WOW!

I end up in there for about 2 hours, and this is only a part of what I got (ignore the onions – whole other story-darn chickens):

8-27 bounty 1 day

We are going to start (I say “start” because this will be an on-going process for the next several months) with our sauces.  With the variety of tomatoes that we have, it should be awesome!

The little green knobs in the plastic dish are our first real attempt at Mexican Gherkins (the fad now is calling them “Watermelon cucs” and putting them in their drinks?.).  They only get the size of your thumbnail and are really hard to spot on their massive tangled vines.  The variety of cherry tomatoes amazes me this year – especially since we didn’t plant any?!  They are all volunteers from the last year.

full size mexican gherkin    DSC_0011

(full-size Gherkin)                                                                       (mini tomato variety)

The flavors is what is getting me – SOO MANY!  Yellow, deep red, pink, orange, and my sister’s fav – the dark truffle (it’s the oval shaped one – they turn a deep reddish/black when they are at their peak!).  So, the bunch that you see in the top pic will be my breakfast and lunch (maybe I will pick some spinach to go with them – maybe not?!)  We share with family and friends as often as we can.  One friend came over and picked a ton (and amazingly we still have 50 tons left – yes 50?! Hee hee) and said she was going to eat them like popcorn while watching some movies – GREAT IDEA!

Farm fresh eggs pulled just this morning.  (3 chickens playing musical nesting box created this bunch)

Then I also cut some rosemary.  This is just a fraction of a fraction of what is growing in there.  I have two bushes that are about the size of a VW Bug vehicle – really!  They are HUGE.

I think the hardest part of gathering the fresh goodies is making it into the kitchen without eating them all.  Oh well, there will be more tomorrow – – – maayybee?!?

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ALRIGHT, JUST WHERE DID THESE COME FROM?

We get a ton of unusual things that happen here on our little farm.  The floods brought up odd looking snakes, beavers, opossum and who know what else has flowed down our way that is hiding yet in the field (we only have about 20 acres).
Every year has brought new surprises.  This year has brought a load of rain.  With the temps we have had, everything should be all dried out by now (that is the ones that are not man irrigated), they are not.  Here is one example of our odd summer season:

8 1 guess we are wet

From far away they just look like little white bumps in our field behind the chickens.  Look again:

8-1 mucho mushrooms

THESE MONSTERS ARE HUGE! (My foot is a women’s size 9)

8-1 size of our shrooms

There are only 4 or 5 of them out there, but the size is what shook my world.  HUGE is putting it mildly.  The sad part is that they are not edible – boo hoo!!  Especially since we love shrooms and put them in everything!  Fresh in a salad, fried loaded on a good steak, mixed with eggs for an outstanding omelet (ok, making myself really hungry now – hee hee), or one of several other goodies.  They just compliment so nicely.

We are lucky, though.  We have an outstanding mushroom farm not too far from us.  They grow several types, and THEY ARE EXCELLENT!  When we go there, we purchase bags and bags of them.  Most of them come home and get dehydrated, but several cups of them get fried up – yummm!

Ok, now I’ve done it!  Gonna have to take a trip there this weekend and get some more.  Since we have a side of beef coming in about a month for the freezer, better have some shrooms ready for it!

sidabeef

(Sorry Vegetarians, but I do love my meat with my veggies!)

I’M SO EXCITED! Can’t believe that it worked?

Our Bee Guy brings up the bees every spring via semi-truck.  When he gathers them all back to our place in the fall to go home to Arizona, he always leaves a case (yep – and it’s huge) full of fresh honey for us.  Well, this year we received a pleasant surprise.  He gave us a 25-pound bag of fresh oranges from his orchard – WOW!  These are some huge oranges:

DSC_0005 (2)

I have no clue why the bag says California (maybe he sells to them?).  I do know that they are fresh sweet and juicy – oh and ½ this bag is now gone (and it’s only been two days – hee hee). 

We sat and discussed different ways to preserve these beauties for future use.  The first idea was dehydrating.  Then came freezing, juicing and freezing the juice, and some other ideas.  Then we hit upon orange marmalade.  We make all kinds of jams and jellies, but never tried marmalade.

I grated the orange peels and froze for future cookie use.  Then we juiced and stewed up a recipe (we love our Ball Preserving Cook Book – woo hoo!!).

It worked:

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Made up a dozen of the cute little ½ pints for future Christmas gifts.  Then had enough for a couple of full pint jars and 1-half of a pint jar.  The ½ pint we now have in the fridge so I can have it on toast with peanut butter later today (yum!!).  I have to taste-test everything we do, wouldn’t want anyone to get sick right?  LMAO!!  Yes, that is my excuse for all of my food testing.  We have to make sure it is good enough to share (ok can’t stop giggling at myself now – sick woman that I am!! Ha ha ho ho ho)

orange marmalade made 5-23-16

These are the two big cuties – yum!  So glad it worked!  Happy, happy, joy, joy (doing my happy dance – hee hee)!

happy ck dance

 

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