Tag Archive for canning

Quick Little Update

This year has been a bit of a chaotic one, but in a good way. We started off our growing season with the massive project of re-doing the fencing around both of the gardens. Originally it was a mess of pulp-wood posts and hodge-podged fencing that was constantly falling in due to snow load and getting pushes out of place by the groundhogs. Brand new cedar posts and welded wire fencing fixed that. We now have a fence secure enough that we can use it as a trellis and actually did use it as a make-shift clothesline while ours needed to be replaced.

The garden itself has preformed admirably thus far! We’re up to 7 quarts of snap beans in the freezer, a batch of salsa, sauce, and ketchup from our own tomatoes, enough zucchini for stir-fries and a few loaves of zucchini bread for the freezer, roughly 80lbs of potatoes from the 12lbs that went in, and more than enough fresh produce to have kept our bellies happy over the course of late-summer. I did purchase “ugly seconds” tomatoes from a local farm to make additional pasta sauce and salsa with. I also found a wicked deal on cucumbers (40 lbs for $25) to stock the shelves with pickles and relishes.

On top of what our own garden has been producing and the deals I’ve found via local farms, blueberry and strawberry picking season was also I huge success as this year we weren’t impeded by the hunt for a new vehicle in the midst of it all. Up next is apple picking season, which has just started, and then what I hope will be an annual trip for a trunk full of pumpkins.

Chicken wise, the basement chest freezer is half full of poultry. We have enough for at least one roasted chicken a month, and given that each bird provides a week’s worth of meals for the four of us, I’m more than happy with that!

In another month, however, we’ll have to make a decision as to which of the new six roosters to keep over winter as an assistant to Greenleaf, our head rooster. We have a couple young cocks we’re keeping an eye on, so we might end up with two. As long as the fox doesn’t snag any more birds, we’ll also have five new hens to add into the flock for the winter. We lost seven hens total this year – five to the fox, two to illness – which is higher than most years, but still fit within the 25% margin that we try to work with. (We always try to keep a flock 25% larger than we absolutely need so that when losses do occur, and they will, it’s not such a blow.)

Schemes and dreams are already in the works for next growing season as we’re currently ahead on firewood and has reserved energy from not having to stress about that. I’ll post more in the future about our goals for next spring, but right now I’ll say that we might be working out a farmstand here at the homestead to bring in a little extra and we might be adding a porcine or two for meat raising. While next year remains simmering on the backburner, the fall garden is slowly filling in, a new placement for the blueberry bushes and irrigation for said plants is in the works, and garlic cloves are waiting impatiently to be planted.

Jellies and Sauce

I had a very plesant surprise the other day: my apple jelly set up great! It was the first time I had ever tried making jelly and I’m proud of how it came out. It may be a little on the runnier side, but it’s jelly!

The apricot/apple jelly from the picture, my second batch, is another story. It didn’t even thicken into a syrup. After much angst and research, I went back to the store to pick up a second box of pectin to have a go at it. The plan was to rectify things by re-boiling the jelly, cooking it longer and testing it in a multitude of ways.

Initially I started with nine jars worth of syrup. After cooking it longer, I ended up with seven and a smidge. Things looked to be testing well; even the rest batch in the looked to be jelling up. I went ahead and processed the seven jars in the water bath.

I opened up the test jar this morning. Looks can most definitely be deceiving. While the apricot/apple acts like a jelly from the outside, its still a syrup on the spoon. Granted, it’s a super thick syrup, but it’s still a syrup.

The plus side? It tastes just like the duck sauce from the local American-Chinese restaurant we order take-out from. So, while we don’t have apricot/apple jelly, we do have seven jars of duck sauce.

The One Year Mark

Actually, I lie, it’s been over a year. It’s been about a year and a month. We closed on our house last year on June 13th. It’s amazing the things that change in over a year.

Kiddos

Not only have we added two more children to our mix (Belle, a border collie mix, and Jacks, a mini-rex), but we also said goodbye to our beloved Guepo (common goldfish of 9.5 inches). Thankfully, his sister, Kitana, is doing well.  Aside from the loss, the family as a whole has really bonded into one that I’ve always dreamed of. While some may not think of animals as kids or family, we do. This is our family, part of what makes us multifarious.

We also had a few visitors. One of which I really felt needed to be acknowledge because he’s just so cute! I give to you Steve the Snake:

He’s a cute little garter snake that accidentally got nicked on the head with the lawn mower. We brought him in and cleaned up the cut. We used the extra fish tank as a temp home for him for a few days to make sure he healed alright. I’m happy to say that we were able to let him go a couple days ago. Since the cut wasn’t very deep, and he got very lucky, he made a full recovery.

Heating

This past year has also brought us more of a want to be self-sufficient. We’re slowly working towards having an outdoor woodboiler. Right now we have our new-to-us, used-to-someone-else oil tank that needs to go into the basement this summer. The previous one is a bit old and is a little untrustworthy. The “new” one is only 150 gallons, which is just the right size as the most we ever have delievered is 125 at a time. Plus, this means that once we have the outdoor woodboiler there is no need to fret about having too much oil just sitting there.

This past winter we only used 600 gallons of heating oil, which compared to many is nothing at all. If I remember hearing right, I think the average amount of oil a single-family household consumes a winter is 800 gallons, which puts us roughly 200 less than that. But, that’s a national statistic. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Maine or New England average is much higher.

Gardening/Harvesting

Last year we only had one small garden bed that contained some peas, beans, and tomatoes. This year, we increased by far! Total, we have:

  • 8 silver fir tomatoes
  • 5 sunrise cherry tomatoes
  • 6 buttercup squash plants
  • 6 pie pumpkin plants
  • 8 bell pepper plants
  • 12 sugar snap pea plants
  • 6 – 8 string bean plants
  • Lettuce
  • ~ 40 potato plants

I also went strawberry picking this past season. I currently have three cups frozen in the freezer that I hope to make strawberry-rhubarb jam with in the near future. I’m also planning on going blueberry picking.

As you can tell, part of being self-sufficient comes into learning new trades as well. For me, the big one this year will be canning. My mom was wonderful enough to bequeath to me the canning jars her and my grandmother used.


So far, I have 42 jars. Some may be used for making Yule gifts, I’m not sure yet. Mom says that she has even more jars somewhere! Here’s hoping that I can find enough things to fill them with!