September Just Started….and NOW its 1/2 over!

Wow – I was surprised when I realized it was September 1, and now here it is 1/2 way over….summer moves to fast!  I have canned tomatoes until I am sick of them.  I didn’t make ketchup this year, but there are still tomatoes on the vine – I might find some time!  I canned a LOT of sauce, so I can always decant and make some later.  Last night we got the last of the green peppers off the plants and diced them up for the freezer.  Some with diced onions, some just plain.  We use them for chili, meatloaf, etc.  I was really hoping for a lot more, but the garden just didn’t do as well as we wanted it to.

Dave moved the strawberries to a raised bed, so it will be not just easier to pick, but easier to cover from the Japanese beetles next year.  He also added a little raised herb bed, which I am going to make a garlic bed instead!  LOL  I let my garlic form seed heads, so I have a big tupperware of the little bulbils (seeds).  It takes 2 years to get a head of garlic from them, but it is a lot cheaper in the long run.  Since our gardening always seems to have one or two experiements anyway I am planting one half of the raised bed with the bulbils and the other half with cloves.  That way, I will get garlic next year from the cloves, and plant bulbils next fall and always have a rotating crop going.  At least in my head that is how it is going to work.

we are getting about 5-6 eggs per day from the chickens.  I know soon it will be 18 or so!  I am trying to build a purchasing base – but not sure how I want to market it.  I don’t know if I want people dropping by yet, when we aren’t home during the day.  I might just go into town to a couple of restaurants and see if they are interested in my eggs.

My favorite indiana seed company had a 50% off sale for heirlooms and organics, so I put in an order….and got them this week – hard to believe that I am still getting tomatoes out of the garden and planning next years already!

God has blessed us here.  So many people have lost everything in fires and floods and earthquakes and hurricanes – we are thankful for everything we have!

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When did September get here?!

Seems like it has been a busy busy summer, but short!  I can’t believe this is labor day weekend already!

The garden did exceptional this year.  I managed to get a bunch of stuff canned and frozen (still working on the last of the green beans today and tomatoes every day).  I did sauerkraut for the first time in crocks – 2 of them – and ended up with 10 gallons, which canned wonderfully and tastes just like my grandmas!  I also did a crock of dill pickles – which were very salty but tart!  They even stayed crunchy (at least on the outside – I cut them).

Hubby built a very solid potato box for the basement – out of oak skids – lined with very small wire mesh on the inside and out.  It is pretty big, but Dave always over-builds – he would rather not have to rebuild something, so it always has room to grow in and is solid as a rock.

Dave is moving the strawberries into a large raised bed (also built with the same oak skids) to make insect control easier.  The Japanese beetles really take their toll and this year, the other bugs got most of the strawberries too.  I think it is going to be 5 x 20 – which will be easy to cover after the strawberries are picked with mesh (probably tulle) to keep the beetles out.

My amish paste tomatoes really are performing!  They are most definitely going to be replanted next year!  All my plants were getting way too bushy and hard to get into to pick, so Dave pruned everything, and that REALLY made the growth take off!  We are getting about 25 pounds a day off of them!  I have to make spaghetti sauce today – I have 30 pounds in the crockpots simmering down and will have another 30 pounds ready (hopefully by noon).  Funny how all that work only translates to 7 quarts!  LOL  When you look at the finished product, exhausted and covered with little red specks and splashes, it seems like a lot of work for nothing – but then, in the middle of February, when you crack open a quart for dinner….heaven!  And that is why we keep working so hard in the summer!

The chickens have just started to lay.  We have gotten 6 starter eggs – can’t wait until we are gathering 10-18 per day!!!  I am just hoping we have someone willing to buy them….

We joined a bible study group of people our own age and it starts mid-September.  Really looking forward to widening our Christian relationships!

God bless anyone who reads this.

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I Haven’t Forgotten

I’ve just been super super busy!  The computer takes second to the garden and canning during this time of year.  I overplanted, as usual, and am now picking about 10-15 pounds of cukes a DAY from my plants – sometimes more.  I have made enough bread & butter and dill pickles to last 3 families for a couple of years, and when I go to work and my co-workers see I am carrying in bags of cukes, they avoid me!  LOL  So, I am going to take everything I pick in the next few days to church on Sunday and hopefully there are people who want to take it!

The tomatoes are looking like they are gonna start ripening all at once, of course!  But, the gas man comes today to hook up my stove in the summer kitchen, so all that sauce will be created in the canning home!  I am hoping the Amish Paste tomatoes I planted taste as good as they look!  I can’t get over how BIG they are!!!

Our potatoes did GREAT for a first year planting!  We are very pleased.  I planted about 10 plants of “fingerling” potatoes because I like to roast them with garlic – and we got about 5-10 pounds or so.  They don’t keep well, so we will be using them up quick!  We got two 3-pound bags of seed potatoes on clearance in may and took a chance on them (one white and one red, $1 per bag) and so far, we have harvested the red and got 54 pounds.  We are still trying to figure out where to put them!  The white ones are getting harvested tomorrow.  I am going to figure out if I can cover the wooden crates we have in the basement with chicken wire (inside and out) and retro fit some kind of lid.  hopefully that will keep mice out.  THEN, winter storage will be in the summer kitchen because we can (kind of) control the temp out there.

The chickens are growing, but still no eggs!  I was hoping for the beginning of August, so it could be any time now.

The bees are thriving.  However, the farmer around us called and let us know that his crop duster was coming today.  We scrambled and built a quick cover and they are going to be locked in all day today to protect them.

Well, while it is still cool enough to work in the garden – outside I go!!!  Picking everything, preserving somethings, and thoroughly enjoying life!

God is GOOD and I am BLESSED!

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Summer Kitchen

Dave is still working on getting gas run to the summer kitchen; and as it turns out, even though the 1947 tappan gas range I found works, it might not hold a flame consistent enough for canning, so I am in the market for a good used stove again.  We are going to work in the building this weekend and get it cleaned and organized and ready for whenever we get a stove.  For now, i guess I will just continue to use my regular house kitchen. 

Also, this weekend, I believe i am going to start my first crock of sauerkraut.  i have never made it before – actually never fermented anything before (fresh pack pickles do not count), so I am really looking forward to it.  I love sauerkraut and can remember my grandma cooking what she canned for us, but for the life of me cannot remember my grandma canning anything except jelly.  I hope it turns out!!!!

We lost 2 chickens to our own laziness this past week.  We forgot to lock the chicken door and were already in bed when we remembered, so we thought they would be okay.  They weren’t.  Something got over the gate and got 2 of them – we found one but not the other – we think it was a cat, but can’t figure out whether or not a cat would be strong enough to carry it over the gate.  We don’t have many other kinds of predators in our area, and I don’t know of any other than a cat that can climb over a wooden gate.  The new rule is someone always goes out to count and shut the chickens in.  We have grown quite fond of them. 

The garden is growing so well!  I am a bit worried about the potatoes, or at least one of the varieties we planted.  Everything i have read says when the foliage dies, the potatoes will be ready to dig in a week or so – but i would think it is a bit early for them to be ready.  i don’t think it is an insect because only one type are affected. 

Squash bugs have always been a problem for us, so this year, I am checking under each leaf for eggs and getting rid of them.  I hope that helps!

I sent off the open-book test for my master food preserver certificate – it was really hard!  hope I hear something soon!!!

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Master Food Preserver Class, etc.

I am finally done with my class!  Five 8-hour days (one day per week), and now the test!  I have yet to sit down and take my test.  It is an open-book test and I have to complete it and mail it in.  I’m not sure how long it will be before I get my results – it is fair season and the extension offices are very busy right now!

Dave and I have been on vacation for the past week.  He painted the garage and the chicken house.  He also completely weeded the garden and all the landscaping and mulched the garden.  I helped a bit, but did not do nearly as much as him!  He is a workhorse!!

Today, I got some broccoli out of the garden and blanched it and froze it.  It is the second batch so far, and there are about 10 quarts in the freezer.  The peas are ready to be picked any time – and they will be going in the freezer too!  The garden is looking really good this year, after what was a rainy late start.  I have 52 tomato plants that were planted – and about 8 volunteer plants from last year.  I can’t wait to get fresh tomatoes for salads!  Nothing like a warm juicy tomato fresh from the vine!  I will take some pics of the garden at some point, but it is pretty big considering it is just the two of us most of the time.

Thursday and Friday, we went to Amish country in Ohio and visited Lehmans.  Wow!  What a fun time!!!  There is something so peaceful about watching an older couple riding together in a horse drawn carriage, or a man baling straw with his team of horses.  I could have stayed in that idealic setting for quite a while and just watched and learned.  However, we didn’t go for that – we went to buy! and buy we did!  I am now the proud owner of a steamer-juicer, a grain mill, an oat flaker/roller, the lids I needed for my sauerkraut crocks, wheat and oats and several kitchen gadgets.  That store is amazing!  Oh, and of course we bought 2 wind-up flashlights just in case!  and BOOKS!  I love instruction books.  Dave is the workhorse around here, but I am research and development!

Can’t wait until September, when we till up the wheat field and get our winter wheat and oats planted!  Until then, I will continue to work and preserve and learn everything I can about being self-sufficient.  And maybe, eventually, I will even be able to make a living at it!

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Master Food Preserving

Today is my 4th class.  I have one more after that and them am all done.  Hopefully, I will pass the test.  Aside from the lecture, we have labs which are fun for everyone.  The most important thing I have learned is from the first class – food safety!  I always thought the USDA guidelines were just that – suggestions.  They should be followed exactly!  If for no other reason than just to be on the safe side of making your family sick!  I have the latest USDA canning and preserving book and from now on, I am going to refer to that when trying something new.  Botulism is NOT something I want to mess around with!  It is deadly and would be so easy to be infected if you don’t use the right methods!  USDA recipes are tested over and over before they are published to make sure there is no bacteria still alive after processing.  The Ball Blue Book recipes are also tested.

I will go into the other classes and be a bit more specific about the food safety issues later, when I have more time!  For now, I have to get ready to go to class – picking today!

If you are planning on canning or freezing or drying something today, take a minute and click this link (unless you already have it) – it might just save your life!

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Bees Chickens and Home

The bees are doing really well!  They are going through a LOT of sugar water, but I suppose they are busy building their comb and taking care of the new bees.  We are going to try to add a super on each hive today – if the last 2 frames are being built out.

The chickens are growing so fast!  Cogburn (the rooster) is just starting to make his special noise.  No crowing yet, but he’s working up to it.

Dave is working daily in the garden, which despite very little rain and lots of cloud cover, is doing well!  Our first broccoli heads are showing!  That is what I look forward to most – there is nothing as good as steamed fresh picked broccoli!

Other than that, I really don’t know what to blog about!  I am still in class for master preserver every Tuesday.  and one week from today, we will be on vacation, so we can get the chicken house painted and the garage and maybe clean out the barn and hopefully have a yard sale!!

I saw a mouse this morning – how is it a house with 2 cats inside and 5 outside could possibly have a mouse living within a mile of it?  I guess they are lazy and spoiled!

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