Monday, July 29, 2013

Where Have we Been?

We haven't purposely forgotten to update the blog but lots of things have been going on and time just got away from us. We have been selling lots of vegetables, we have been harvesting and canning for our personal needs in the next year, and our various volunteer efforts have taken a lot of our time.

The reality of how fragile life can be came to us since the last update as well when during a not too severe (seemingly) structure fire a Fire Fighter from another department was trapped and burned to death. I was not initially on that fire as we were only providing tanker support as mutual aid but when my radio went off for an all call and that a Fire Fighter was down I knew it was bad. You know you train and train but sometimes things just happen when they shouldn't and once I got there and looked at the fire it didn't look that bad; but it turned out to be deadly and I think the best thing we can do to memorialize that Fire Fighter is to study and learn from that tragedy.

Next month I start advanced level Fire Fighting school which runs through December and then I am going to continue my EMS training at the EMT level. I find that I gain far more from belonging to the Fire Department than I am able to give and I highly recommend it to anyone who moves into a rural area and wants to give back to their community.

I don't think its a secret that we like old things or that we enjoy hitting yard/garage/farm sales and we scored pretty good a couple weeks ago.

This Huot roller was sitting in the yard of an older couple who were moving to Texas and Holly saw it driving by and so we turned around and checked it out. Everything works on it, the drawers slide smoothly and i got it for $65 which is a pretty good deal as these are highly sought after by shop rats.

This will go up in the pole barn shop and will probably become my socket wrench box and I couldn't be happier with it. The pickle fork on the box was a buck and will be used to replace the steering knuckles on the IH tractor.

And then we saw these two shelving units with boxes of screws, bolts, nails, and electrical connectors and we got the whole shebang for $35. I can now find fasteners and its like having our own hardware store in the garage.
On top of everything else the work continues on the Blue Dodge that has now become our daily driver. We put new tires on it so it drives very smooth now and if you have been following the blog you may remember how this front quarter panel was caved in when we bought it but I managed to get it mostly pounded out and it will soon see a grinder and some Bondo.
This is a tomato horn worm....

They are big, ugly, and destructive and we kill them by cutting them up with scissors rather than using chemicals. But its gross as they have a green goo for insides and I must confess its not my favorite activity.

There was some angst by folks around here because the Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies were very late in arriving but they are now here in large numbers and we enjoy watching them. Besides Hummingbird feeders we ensure there is a source of water for these creatures and we have flowers and other plants to attract and nourish them.

This was my attempt at taking a picture of a bee in a Hibiscus flower just to prove to the doubters that the bees have indeed arrived.
This time of year is great because we get to not only see the fruits of our labor we get to eat pretty darned well too.

We have cured onions and are making onion marmalade this week...

We have eaten and canned lots of beets...

We got a good crop of both Yukon Gold and Pontiac Red potatoes...

And of course its tomato time and we eat them with just about every meal. Unfortunately we sell so many we probably wont be able to can any this year.

Also, the corn is finally starting to show some decent progress

Another week or two and we will be eating fresh corn. Its actually not very cost effective to grow your own corn since you can get it for about $.25 an ear here right out of the field but it sure is satisfying.
One of the things you find when you grow your own food is that you have to plan for how your going to preserve it and that isn't as easy as it sounds. It takes planning, a little creativity, and you just have to buckle down and do it on top of everything else. 

We have canned pickled beets, frozen peas and beets, canned relish made with onions, beets and cabbage, made blackberry jam, and canned potatoes.

The old pantry just isn't big enough so we have decided to move the freezer to the garage (on the left in this photo) and put in new cupboards along this wall.
So what does canning entail? In this case we decided to show family how we were canning potatoes and I wont be posting a recipe because my personal view is that you need to get ideas about canning from a blog like this but actual recipes need to come from your local cooperative extension office or something like the Ball Blue Book. We are over 1000 feet in elevation so canning times and pressures are different than say someone below 1000 feet and there are other variables to consider. Canning is a safe way to preserve food but you need to follow instructions carefully.
In this case we canned a mixture of Yukon Gold and Pontiac Red potatoes. First we wash them thoroughly.

Jars need to be hot but not sterilized since we will be pressure canning and we heat our jars in hot water, some people heat them in the oven.

We have seen people can potatoes with skins still on them but I think your flirting with potential bacteria contamination so we peel ours then wash the potatoes again

Insert smart alec comment about all my time peeling potatoes while on KP duty in the military....or as Holly says...I ought to be good at it.

We keep small potatoes whole and cut bigger ones into what I describe as chunks...I dont know how esle to describe it. Then we cook them for about 3 or 4 minutes but you still want them fairly firm. Notice the yellow pieces in the pot? Those are Yukon Gold and they are the most creamy and tastiest potato around and I think next year thats all we will plant.

You pack the potatoes into hot jars, fill with boiling water, wipe the rims and then put on the lids and rings and place into the pressure canner.

We use a pressure canner with a series of weights to adjust pressure and its pretty straight forward. Lots of people are intimidated by pressure canning but its actually a good way to preserve low acid foods (we can acidic foods with a water bath canner) and come this winter when we open a quart of potatoes we canned and make soup or stew or have fried potatoes we will be glad we made the effort to learn.
Judy started some Geraniums by seed and they actually grew and she is proud as punch of them. I guess its hard to start Geraniums from seed but she didnt seem to have much trouble so who knows?

And what would post be without at least one picture of my buddy Bandit

Okay two pictures of Bandit....look at the look on his face back by the stove!
So that brings us up to date and just about closes a tough month. The weather here has been mild (its gotten down in the 50s several times at night lately), we have gotten some good soaking rain on a fairly regular basis, two of our heifers are getting ready to drop calves soon, and we traded an old golf cart for a couple of sheep....August should be interesting.

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