Sunday, June 28, 2009

Random shots before the rain...

It's like a sauna tonight but Tool Belt Jim went out and did some mowing because a thunderstorm is on its way. I took advantage of the clouds to shoot some photos around the homestead. Enjoy.

The daylilies in front of my house are at their best and won't last much longer.

So delicate and lovely.

I love 4 oclocks. Takes me back to summer days at my grandma Reaves house. She always had these beautiful flowers that seem to open up around 4 in the evening. Picked these seeds while on a trip to Colorado.

Wildflowers that came up in my garden and were too pretty to pull up and throw away.

This fungus has destroyed my grape crop for three years in a row. Any suggestions? I spray every year but must not be doing it early enough. Looks like I'll lose my crop once again.

I have little eggplants starting to grow. Never planted them before this year.

Tame berries are loaded and will make great jelly.

Shasta Daisies. A sweet lady that recently passed away introduced me to Shasta Daisies many years ago and I love this flower that returns year after year. We'll miss you Ruth Curtis.
We do have some corn and the boys are showing me how tall it is.

Think Tool Belt Jim is telling me this is the corn he planted for seed. Notice his sweat soaked shirt. And also notice the sky behind him. While we were checking out the garden the wind came up from the North and began to blow. You could actually hear it coming across the bottom. He took the boys home just in time before the rain started. Guess I won't have to water the garden tonight after all.
Life on the homestead. It's good. And a lot of work. But still good. I'm thankful for all my blessings. Are you?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Making strawberry jelly today

I have a freezer with lots of strawberries, blueberries, apples, peaches and blackberries. I kept thinking I would get some jelly made and now that summer is here and it will soon be time for picking blackberries again, looks like now is the time. So I took several bags of straweberries from the freezer and today I'll walk you through jelly making.

I dug out my packages of SureJell fruit pectin from the cabinet and checked the "use by" date to make sure it was still current. It was saving me from having to go back into town to the grocery store. I washed my fruit jars and made sure my little red thingy that keeps you from spilling the jelly everywhere was ready for use. Handy little thing so make sure you have one.
The directions say to leave the strawberries whole but I have a grandson who can't stand to taste anything pulpy so I ran it through my food processor anyway. You'll find I make directions work for me. But don't change much else when making jelly cause jelly is particular.

I use the cooked jelly part of the directions. There is directions for making freezer jelly and my mom use to do that but I need my freezer space so I opt for the old-fashioned cooking method.

The directions say to "measure EXACT amount of prepared fruit (or juice for jelly) into 6 or 8 quart saucepot. "

Just a side note here. For every 3 and 3/4 cups prepared strawberry juice you will also be using 4 and 1/2 cups sugar. This will make 6 cups or 3 pints jelly. Does this tell you how much sugar is in one pint of jelly. So if you are on a diet, keep the jelly to a minimum or notice the low sugar part below.

Back to the directions:

"measure EXACT amount of sugar into separate bowl. Reducing sugar or using sugar substitutes will result in set failures. Try SureJel for less or No Sugar Needed recipes Fruit Pectin for no or low sugar jams and jellies."

"Stir a box of pectin into fruit or juice in saucepot. Add 1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine to reduce foaming, if desired. " (I was out of butter so I skipped this part.)

"Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly."
"Stir in sugar quickly. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam."

"Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process jams 10 minutes; jelly 5 minutes. Adjust processing time according to Altitude chart. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)"

"Let stand at room temperature 24 hours (or time indicated on recipe.) Store unopened jams and jellies in cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year. Refrigerate opened jams and jellies up to 3 weeks."

I made 3 separate batches of jelly one at a time for a total of 9 pints.

Now here's another little hint. If you love homemade jelly but don't feel you want to take the time to make it, just hunt down your local Amish country store and at my nearest store I can buy homemade jelly for $2.50 a pint. Still get the homemade part but don't have to do the work. So don't feel guilty, just take advantage of what is available. I love my local Amish country store and am so excited that it is time for fresh fruits and vegetable. Gonna make a trip out there soon!!

Happy jelly making everyone!!! My grandma would be proud!!!

The good, the bad and the UGLY...

I'll tell you like it is here on the blog and this story is UGLY.....

We are very big here on the homestead of preserving food, preparing for hard times, and hopefully getting prepared for any kind of disaster that could strike.

But, here's my latest disaster...

We bought some wheat from a very popular preparedness store whose name I won't mention but just read the bag. We stored it on a shelf in our pantry which is climate controlled (air conditioned) in the dry basement. Should have been an excellent location.

I made jelly today and when I bent over to lift the box that contained my fruit jars I could hear a sizzling sound and it was coming from the bag of wheat. I wasn't about to touch it cause I didn't know if it was about to explode or what.

When Tool Belt Jim came in I told him about the bag and he picked it up and took it outside. Thank God for that. He tore open the bag and GUESS WHAT? There was more than wheat inside. It was full of bugs that must have just hatched!!!!
See all those black specks in there? Bugs!!!

See those black specks on the bag? Bugs...When Tool Belt Jim opened the bag they headed everywhere!!!! Notice the side of the bag says Home Storage Products. you betcha...

You can bet I will notify the company and find out what that is all about? My guess is the wheat was full of eggs and must have been time for them to hatch. These things don't come cheap and now I guess it is safe to feed it to my chickens.

At this point I'll have to admit I am ignorant of this stuff but I intend to get educated real fast. And we were going to buy some more from this company but I don't plan on buying anymore wheat and now I am wondering about some of their other dry goods like flour etc.

Anybody know more about this kind of thing? I'll let you know what the company has to say. I'll send my pictures to them.

I am just thankful the bag didn't explode in the pantry and I would have thousands of bugs everywhere!!!!!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

He's moving out again...

My youngest son, Police Officer Tim is gonna be moving out again. He has rented a house in town so I am once again on that emotional roller coaster. I watched him move out and go off to college and watched him move back home. Then I watched him again move out and go off to Police Academy and then watched him once again move back home. And now I will watch him move out probably for the final time.
I am on one hand happy for him as I remember how exciting it was to have my own place and be on my own. But I am already feeling sad because I won't be hearing his footsteps coming in after getting off work. There's something about knowing your kids are home and safe in bed that helps a mother sleep, even if the kid is 21 years old and a police officer.

Is it normal to have such a hard time letting your youngest go? Maybe I need some counseling! I am sure Officer Tim's dad and sister would say so.

I wish you the best Police Officer Tim and youngest son and my prayers will continue for your safety in your job and also that you grow and mature in wisdom and character. You'll always be "my baby" though. Love you!!!

Quote for the Day...

"Are the things you're living for worth Christ dying for?"

Leonard Ravenhill

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thermometer is reading 100 degrees outside!

It's hot outside...

My local Red Cross is setting up a "cooling center" today because our heat index is suppose to be from 100 degrees to 110 degrees. Be sure and check on your friends and the elderly in this heat. I remember my Great Aunt would always sit with the windows closed and when I would turn on the air conditioning she would wait until I left and then turn it back off again. That's what happens when you have been through the depression.

So let's look out for one another! And keep cool!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Can you remember doing this as a kid?

Eventually Koda peeled off his pullup and went "a La Natural" but mom wouldn't let me put any of those pictures up on the blog.
Good place as any to dry the underwear after playing in the sprinkler. What a fun way to beat the heat!
Do you remember running through the sprinkler when you were a kid? Some things never change!

It's all about the well...

Grandson Caleb had been working up at the barn helping his dad with the combine when a trip to the farm store was in need of. So Tool Belt Jim took advantage of the opportunity and had him help him run the wire and pipe for the well. We have a drilled well on the property and want to use it as an alternate source of water. Will need to get it tested but if all else fails, we can water the animals and the garden with it and save on our water bill. Just another way to prepare for hard times. Have your own water supply available if possible.

The Homestead is Ablaze with color and growth...

Come and have a seat on the porch in the cool of the evening and let me show you what's happening around the homestead.

First, the animals are growing in leaps and bounds. Here's the three banties. Have to temporarily keep them in their little pen inside the big pen because they are so mean to anything they come close to.

The ducks go "quack, quack, quack" all day now. Just love to hear them talking to each other. And now they are no longer scared of the chickens so there is some semblance of peace in the barnyard.

And finally the guineas have "bonded" with the silkies. We had to keep them in a small pen for a few days so they would feel like they belonged together. Silkies are suppose to make good mothers and the guineas are little and need "mothering."

Notice I do have a crop of onions coming up through the straw. Planted them late but they're looking good so far.

And I'm pleased to see potatoes coming up through the straw also. Remember we planted them almost on top of the ground because it was so late . This is our latest experiment.

The peppers and onions and tomatoes planted directly in the ground in the greenhouse are doing great. Unfortunately, the stakes are in the ground but the tomatoes never got tied to the stakes and now I think they are too big to tie up without breaking the branches. But I have lots of green tomatoes. Can hardly wait for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

These giant white flowers are actually carrots that have gone to seed. They are approximately 3 - 4 feet tall growing along the same fence the grape vines are on. Going to let them go to seed to see what happens.

The Tiger Lilies are about to burst forth in bloom

I planted a sunflower plant against the greenhouse so I would have food for the birds and maybe chickens. Do chickens eat sunflower seeds?

I just love this vine. It belonged to my friend Priscilla's grandmother and it will take over wherever you plant it. She always called it a Moonflower vine. The root looks like a sweet potato vine and gets bigger every year. If you don't watch it, it will spread everywhere. Attracts bumblebees also.

Same vine growing up my windmill. Has huge flowers that close up in the evening. Looks like morning glory flower

I am so happy to see I am going to have lots of grapes. Tool Belt Jim has been spraying them. Hopefully the fungus disease that has gotten them for the last several years will stay away this year. Love grape jelly

Think this is a neat picture.

My favorite daylily is this one called "the Gentle Shepherd."

These pink, lacy ones look so delicate.

These are the 4 o'clocks from the seeds taken in Colorado about 4 years ago. They have done splendidly even after being stored for several years.
Hope you enjoyed the tour of the Homestead. Enjoying the beauty of the simple life for a season.
We'll do it again sometime.