Things

I have been silent on the blog front for a year now.  Things happened in 2015, things that are worth mentioning.  I just needed to take some time to myself to work out a balance in my life.

So here is the high(and low)light reel of 2015 –

The biggest thing that happened was the loss of two of the kindest, most gentle souls I have had the pleasure of calling family.  We said goodbye to great men, my stepdad Ki, and our Grandpa B.  Both were major blows to the family and both are so deeply missed.  That’s about all I am going to say on the subject as I can’t see to type through the tears that still well up when I think of these two wonderful men and how very much they meant to me.

IMG_6674

Another big thing that happened – I finally got my Handsome Husband to the doctor for a top to toe check up.  There it was discovered that he needed to make a 180 degree change. It was frightening to hear that he had some serious threats to his health and I can now safely say that he jumped head first into the necessary changes and did indeed pull a complete 180.  He is now the picture of health and balance.  The choices he has made since seeing his doctor have led to many ripples in his pond, ripples that reach far into the ponds of our daughter, our friends, family and even my own pond.  There is a new invigoration that has become infectious.  In all the years I have been at his side, the current one is turning out to be the greatest thus far, releasing a new hope, and energy in all that we do and dream about doing.

Those three are really the big life changers that happened in the past year.  Of course there have been the usual life curve balls, but every year offers those kinds of hurdles.  Ones that only seem insurmountable when you’re staring them in the eye, but once over them you look back and realize it was nothing more than a rock to which we have move aside, gone around or merely stepped over.  The good that has come from the past year makes the lesser trials easier to shrug off.

These are the important things.

Good things, like learning to make cheese and butter and kefir.

The fun things, like an impromptu family weekend road trip full of spontaneity and surprises.

Weekends away with great friends, discovering new places, finding beauty in the surprising places and creating lasting memories.

Accomplishing things, like conquering that pressure canner, building a fabulous canning cupboard and filling that cupboard up.

Strength building things, like finally flying alone for the first time (me), which then led to the best week spent with my mom driving from northern Washington State back to So Cal.

Special things, like spending time with our most adorable niece,

adopting a spunky new family member,

and finally meeting my farm crush, Rachael of THE FARMSTEAD, after 3 years of online stalking friendship.

11707528_944538435603735_7714811316176648870_n

These are the things that make the bumps, hills and mountains that we come across worth the struggle.

These are the ONLY things that matter.

tea

Advertisements

I can CAN

I’ve been a bit silent lately. Hopefully you noticed since I am such a HUGE part of your lives now, Ha, riiiight. Let me tell you though, even on a little city lot I have plenty to keep me busy this summer. The garden is growing like mad. I have been picking enough cucumbers each week to put up a handful of cans of pickles each week for the past few weeks. It is fun having such a bounty that I can pick a new recipe each week to try out and since upgrading my 1970’s home canning cookbook to this beauty
SAMSUNG
I have been busy putting veggie to canning jar pretty much every weekend. We have Kosher Dills, Refrigerator Dills,
PhotoGrid_1403998740543
Dilly Beans and Dill Pickle Slices.
PhotoGrid_1404799770652
Midge has been asking for sweet pickle relish and I have been picking at least 2 good-sized zucchini nearly every day so I can now add sweet pickle relish, that is DELICIOUS and I even canned up a couple pints of zucchini pickles!
PhotoGrid_1406002167224
The relish is fun, it is made with all our homegrown veggies, I didn’t have any red bells so I substituted our pretty lilac bells
PhotoGrid_1405626943517
This new canning cookbook has gotten me so excited to can. I may have dog-eared a page or two of recipes I cannot wait to try.
SAMSUNG
Up next is trying a few more canning recipes for all my zucchini and then restock my mason jar collection in time to hopefully put up gobs of tomato products next month.

Do you can? What is your favorite canning recipe or favorite thing to can? Please share.

Kosher Dill Pickles

Finally!
PhotoGrid_1403927533168
A successful crop of cucumbers which in my house automatically translates into Dill Pickles!!! The recipe I use is adapted from a cookbook with a publish date older than I am. I cannot remember how this book found itself in my possession but I am certainly happy it did.
SAMSUNG
I add a little extra spice and garlic to my version since that’s the way we like our pickles around here. I weighed my cucumbers and had about 7 pounds but I only got 6 quarts out of them. The original recipe calls for 2 1/2 pounds and says it makes about 5 quarts, that has yet to prove true in my experience. So I just grab a handful of all the ingredients, mix up the liquid following the measurements and have a go at it, I figure I can heat more liquid if need be and will fill as many jars as my cucumbers will fit.

Kosher Dill Pickles

Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds 4-inch cucumbers (about 25)
Fresh dill
Garlic Cloves
Hot peppers
(I used fresh cayenne long and super chile from the garden and chiles de arbol – the little dry, red ones from the Hispanic foods section at the market)
Pickling Salt (or in my case Kosher salt)
4 cups Cider vinegar
3 quarts water – filtered before tap please

Directions:

Get your water bather canner filled and heating on the stove before you start your pickles. Follow manufacturer directions for your canner.

1. Prepare your jars and lids according to manufacturer directions.

2. Thoroughly wash cucumbers. Quarter them lengthwise.

3. Combine the vinegar and water in a large saucepan, bring to a boil.

4. Rinse the dill, peel the garlic and wash peppers (if using fresh)
PhotoGrid_1403998573400

5. Pack cucumbers, dill (like 6-8 little stems. Don’t count, just grab a small bundle), peppers (I like 2, you might try 1 to start) and garlic (again I like 2 big cloves or 3-4 smaller, cause garlic = heaven in my home) into hot jars. Pack them in as tight as you can get them

6. Measure 1 Tablespoon salt into each jar.

7. Once your vinegar mixture is boiling, using a canning funnel, carefully lade the hot mixture into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Run a table knife down the insides of the jars to release any trapped air bubbles.

8. Wipe off the rim of the jar with a towel. Place lids and rings on and screw down firmly.

9. By now, the water bath canner should be hot, Place your filled jars on the rack in canner, making sure the jars don’t touch. Once all jars are in the canner, check water level. If necessary add more boiling water so that the water is at least 1-inch over the tops of the jars.

10. Once the water begins to boil, start your timer. Process in boiling water for 20 minutes*.

11. When your pickles are finished processing, turn off heat under canner and, using can lifter, carefully transfer your jars to a rack or towel in a draft-free area. Leave space between jars to allow air to circulate. Now wait for the chorus of pings to begin. Such a sweet sound to be heard at the end of processing.
PhotoGrid_1403998740543

*Note: The processing time is for sea level, for every 1000 feet above sea level add 1 minute to the processing time.

I like to can my pickles for a shelf stable pickle that I can pull one can at a time to refrigerate. If I had an entire fridge I could dedicate to just pickles, I would likely just make refrigerator pickles. Here is a link to a Refrigerator Pickle recipe from the folks over at Wood Streets Gardens that looks a lot like my canned one. Though they add a spice that I hadn’t ever thought to try. Think I’ll add it to my next batch.

Now the hardest part, waiting to break into a jar of these delicious pickles! We can hardly stand it. Like a young child in the weeks leading up to Christmas, with each day drawing us just that much closer to the date marked on the calendar, it just gets harder and harder to not sneak a peek (or taste) of what’s inside.

Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite pickle recipe? What vegetable do you most like pickled? Please share.

Top 10 Things I love about this life, #9 might be the best.

Last summer was when we first brought home chickens. It was the beginning of July and so marked the beginning of this homesteading journey that we had no idea we were setting out on at that time. With this also being my 100th blog post, I thought it the right moment to stop and reflect on the past year, where my family and I started, what I’ve learned and share a few highlights. So I give you, the top 10 things I love about our little urban homestead life, as discovered in the first year.

1. Fresh Produce – The joy of going out to the garden each day to see what is ready to be harvested. Planning our meals around the fresh produce we have available and knowing that it was grown with lots of care and careful planning and without the use of chemicals and pesticides. Fresh produce from our backyard garden is the best.
PhotoGrid_1402426057716

2. Fresh Eggs – Just as wonderful as the fresh produce, fresh eggs from our delightful backyard flock makes every day feel just a little like Christmas and Easter. There is a difference between grocery store eggs and fresh pasture raised eggs, yes they are healthier, the yolks are vibrantly orange and perky, but they also have more substance to them, they aren’t watery and plain. You actually have to chew fresh, pastured eggs. Weird I know, but I just don’t know any other way to describe this difference. They seem more like a real food than those old grocery store eggs.
PhotoGrid_1395926364093

3. The Chickens – Another benefit of having a backyard flock is the chickens themselves. For me, the hens are a constant source of entertainment and stress relief. I just cannot help but giggle when the girls get to running across the yard, whether it’s to great me (the feeder) or to race from one shady patch to the other. Oh and the chicks are even funnier. They hop, flap and scramble to close ranks across the yard, running in single file, following the leader, even if he is headed directly into the fence they no longer fit through. Then they have to snake their way around the gate to make their way back into the chicken yard. Just watching chickens and chicks be just that, is great therapy. Watching my broody talk to, teach, protect and care for her clutch this spring was almost magical. Nature at work as it should be, that is a great source of pleasure.
PhotoGrid_1402433708642

4. Learning and Trying New Things – This, our first year has been the year of many firsts. From bread and tortilla making to keeping chickens and hatching eggs. Growing new vegetables in the garden, lacto-fermenting our cabbage into sauerkraut (If you have never tried sauerkraut made this way, you really are missing out). The May Meet-Up was a brand new experience. Oh and I checked a big new experience off the list recently when I purchased our first half-gallon of raw goat’s milk. The 3 of us easily drank down half of it before I took the last quart and turned it into another first when I made a small batch of fresh Farm Cheese. That was to fun! To say it has been fun discovering all the “do-it-yourself” things that are out there would be a gross understatement of large proportions. With each new success comes the confidence and drive to add more “must try’s” to our list.
PhotoGrid_1402434817396

5. Overcoming Fears – With all these new experiences comes some fear and trepidation. I will openly admit I was just as apprehensive about tasting raw goat’s milk for the first time as I was excited to finally get to taste raw goat’s milk for the first time. But my biggest anxiety thus far has been learning to pressure can. This surpasses the uneasiness that comes with learning to cull that first chicken. Still trying to figure it out but what did happen was The Hubs and I working together to learn this new skill. He admitted he was a little nervous too, until he read the manufacturer’s directions, he ACTUALLY read them! We may not have conquered the pressure canner as of yet, but we are in the process (pun intended)
PhotoGrid_1402435023544

6. Getting my Hands Dirty – It’s as simple as it sounds; there is no greater therapy for me than gardening.
PhotoGrid_1402435361699

7. Accepting Failures as Lessons – It hasn’t been all rosy and drama free. We’ve lost hens, baked loaves of bread better suited for masonry work. There have been garden flops from frost to insects to chicken demolition crews. But from every failure has come a lesson learned. With each lesson has come personal growth and a broader knowledge base. Without failures there really is no growth. So I graciously (but not without some tears) accept all the failures, both grand and trivial.
1932218_714198065278686_1302764200_n

8. Patience – Patience is a learned skill and one that is vital in homesteading, farming, gardening, all aspects of “doing” for yourself. You cannot rush a hen to lay an egg. No rushing a seed to sprout or a plant to grow or set fruit. Bread needs time to rise. Patience is not something we all have in this instant world we live in but as I practice homesteading skills I discover how vital a skill it is, one long forgotten as my daughter has grown and gained independence over the years. It is hard to return to the patient side of life but it is helpful in relieving stress and undue pressure. The whole “stop and smell the roses” cliché comes to the forefront as a necessity and an actual way of life.
SAMSUNG

9. New Found Friends & Community – Meeting like-minded folks from all over the country, world even. From fellow backyard, urban homesteaders to those on acreage, living off grid or taking a stab at building a full-fledged working farm, each individual has been a great source of drive, support, strength and knowledge. This continues to prove to be a delightful by-product of this little blogging adventure. I have made new friends that live both near and far. Most I have not met in person, nor may I ever, but they are still an integral part of my life now.

10. Who I See When I Look in the Mirror – I am not in my twenties, heck I am rapidly running out of my thirties too. I am not thin, nor am I content with the size I am. What I see when I look in the mirror runs deeper than these surface details. It is a woman (though I still feel like a girl, or more often, a 10-year-old boy), a woman, one who is finally figuring out what happiness truly is. One who is throwing aside the materialistic wants that so easily can be mistaken for needs. A woman who speaks with confidence, compassion and honesty without fear of what the listener may think. No longer do I worry so much about what someone thinks of what I am doing or why. I don’t use my words to convey the love and respect I am now living my life with. I use my actions. The level of self-confidence I carry now is the most fantastic treasure I have discovered, and so soon in my journey. As I stand at the threshold of this new chapter in my life I am already learning that stumbling is inevitable but using the bumps as building blocks as opposed to stones in a wall I can only continue to grow and flourish. For the first time in my life, I know I am where I need to be.
PhotoGrid_1399177613389

I want to thank each and every one of you for following along as we find our way on this new journey. I hope you have enjoyed the ride as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. Thank you.

Beyond Bountiful

This past weekend I had the opportunity to load up on all the citrus I wanted. As a “favor” to a friend, Midge and I helped trim her citrus trees and in the process, clear loads of oranges, lemons and avocados. Once home, unloaded and weighed it turned out we had just about 200 pounds total. 128 of those pounds was all oranges!

PhotoGrid_1402194126874

Sunday found Kiddo and I washing, juicing, zesting and canning. I found a no pectin marmalade recipe that I wanted to try. I am disappointed to report that I ended up with 4 1/2 pints of a pretty sauce as it didn’t gel. I saved it with the hope of adding in some pectin to see if I can get it to come together. I sure hoe so as it not only contains lemons and oranges from a friend but it also contains grapefruit from my new friends over at Hometown Hive.

Thankfully, it was only the marmalade making that was flop. We managed to juice enough oranges to fill 5 1/2 gallons. We put some in the freezer, sent some home with the grower of these juicy oranges and are sharing with the Grandma’s who love fresh squeezed orange juice. I have no idea what type of oranges these are but they are certainly the juiciest and sweetest. There is no “pucker factor” and I didn’t need to add any sweetener. We didn’t juice all the oranges, I would guess we still have 20 or so pounds. I want to make more marmalade and have found some other fun recipes to try. These recipes from Attainable Sustainable are for tangerines but I can easily swap in oranges.

I like the idea of the combination of orange and ginger in this jam recipe. Tangerine Ginger Jam

P1430276

Homemade Triple Sec, fantastic idea!! Tangerine Triple Sec

tangerinetriplesec

This recipe is an interesting one. I had never thought to preserve citrus in this manner and for the sake of being able to say I’ve tried it, I will try it. Salted Citrus

Tangerine-21

If she hadn’t included ideas for how to use I might have just clicked right back out of that last one, but I am intrigued.

We also juiced out most of the lemons. We filled 3 ice-cube trays to freeze smaller portions of the juice for quick grab use in things like homemade mayo, pasta dishes, dressings and marinades, when you only need a tablespoon or 2. I know I want to make some lemon curd, a lemon meringue pie and Midge requested a lemon bundt cake. But beyond that???

Oh of course lemonade, but check out this variation on the timeless classic from Yearning and Learning.

Bubbly Probiotic Lemonade
lemonade

Then there is this wonderful round-up of all recipes Meyer Lemon from Ever Growing Farm. More than a few have caught my eye. Lemon Coconut Bars, Meyer Lemon fettucine, Lavender-Meyer Lemon Tom Collins Cocktails, Natural Cleaners and more!

Meyer Lemon Extravaganza
untitled

What about the avocados you ask? Simple, a bag to my step mom who loves this creamy green fruit as much as I do, a bag to a Bestie, a pile in the fridge to delay their ripening and the majority set in a dry, warm location to ripen. I imagine a monstrous vat of guacamole being made once they ripen. I like to vacuum seal family sized portions to then freeze for a later date. Thawed in cool water, the guac tastes as good as it did when it was made. No ugly browning or off taste. A few may find their way into other salads and even a vinaigrette, but the destiny for most will be ‘that which I could live on’ guacamole!

With so many fun, different and interesting recipes I am going to have to go back and shake those trees down again and again.

Did I miss anything? How would you use this bounty?