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.

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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.

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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.

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SUCCESS!!

After months of weekly trials I am finally ready to share that I have successfully baked a loaf of sourdough bread! I’m not sure if sourdough has been or currently is an elusive creature for other bakers, but I for one, have been in pursuit of the perfect loaf for far too long.

Let me take you back a bit. Years really, back to the original Martha Stewart Shows, to a particular episode when Ms. Stewart toured a bakery that created famous sourdough made with yeast from red cabbage leaves. This episode has replayed in my mind for all these years, though I never attempted to recreate this bread. That was, until this year. You all know I strive to bake all our bread products. I have had great successes but have also baked up many a brick, most of which have been in an attempt to create the much coveted sourdough. My first attempt at a starter was using packaged yeast. It never really amounted to much, and suffered a sentence of a forgotten life in a jar in the back of the refrigerator. I eventually came back to that ridiculous idea of sourdough made from red cabbage leaves. After a quick internet search I found Two Sisters Bakery Recipes Blog and this article about their sourdough starter.

Even with the guidance of Two Sisters, I still struggled. Seems I could have a nice, airy loaf OR a great sour flavor but never both in the same loaf of bread. UGH! I nearly threw in the towel, convinced fresh-baked sourdough bread was just going to be “one of those things”. Before I was to fully resign myself to this failure I decided to give it another go, this time I would practice the often recurring skill required in homesteading – P.A.T.I.E.N.C.E. I mean, I have admitted to the knowledge that this is a key homestead skill, as shared in my Slow Down post. I reread the steps I have written down and hanging next to my work space in the kitchen. Opted to let this go ’round rest in the fridge over night and see what would come of it. Well….

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This is what came out of the oven! The most perfect loaf of sourdough bread I have ever baked! The crust has just enough crunch, not so much as to be reminiscent of a crouton. The interior is chewy, moist and airy. Oh and the flavor, that delicious tang from a patiently (there’s that word again) soured starter. The ultimate pay off for my persistence, every week pulling the starter from the fridge, feeding it, letting it set 8-10 hours to activate, measuring, mixing, kneading, rising and baking.

This may seem a silly celebration, but it is mine to celebrate, and celebrate I shall, with another gratifying slice of my homemade, from scratch, with my organically grown red cabbage, sourdough bread!
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Tell me, what homestead skills have been more trial than success for you? What was that elusive “thing” that you nearly gave up on?

6 Things I Learned from Raising Meat Birds

Last week I started to write a post about the 10 things I Learned from raising meat birds that was more about the specifics on what it takes to raise them and just never made it to completion. That happens from time to time when I am writing. I think I have an inspired post, then, somewhere along the way the message gets lost, or the enthusiasm wanes. Whatever the case was this time, I just don’t see that post making the cut. I do want to tell you a bit about this, our first experience raising and processing meat birds. However, I do not plan to give you a blow-by-blow how-to. There are plenty of videos and blog posts already dedicated to that information. I, instead, would like to share some discoveries, both self and production based, that were made along the 10 week journey.

So here goes, What I learned from raising meat birds.

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1 – Cornish Cross are an incredible bird. Fast growing and docile. Completely misunderstood. Yes, they are eating, drinking and pooping machines, but that is not their fault. These birds are programmed to be fast growing, food inhaling, water guzzling little tanks. Sure they seemed to be constantly starving, but they were in no way lazy. We housed our 8 in an 8ft x 4ft tractor that we moved daily to fresh patches of grass. Once on a new patch, every one of these little high-production machines eagerly ran about hunting bugs, gobbling up the green grass and discovering the perfect dust bath location.

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2 – The fast growth rate of this hybrid (not to be confused with GMO) broiler gives a family the promise of healthy, humanely raised meat in as little as 2 months, from start to finish. Chicken may not be the most cost-effective meat to produce, but hatch to freezer in 8 weeks means a family can have meat on the table through the months, and years, it takes to raise the larger meat animals.

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3 – In regards to the how to raise meat birds, I have discovered the tractor raising is geared for much larger, acreage, homesteads. In our little yard, it made more work and mess. We all agree, we want to raise more meat birds, in the spring, but would prefer to integrate the chicks into our laying flock to allow them the freedom to forage and be part of the “whole” for the extent of their lives. This set up would allow all our birds, both the layer’s and the meat birds more space and a cleaner environment. I say meat birds since we are toying with the idea of doing a mix next time of the Cornish cross and Freedom rangers. Raising a combination will allow us to compare the two varieties side by side to become better informed of the pros & cons of both.

4 – Teamwork is key. From teaming up, co-op style with folks who understand and appreciate what it takes to raise meat, from the cost to the time, labor and emotional commitment to the combined effort of hands, helping with the daily feeding, watering and general care to eventually sharing the burden of the final days labor, both emotionally and physically, having a team in place is crucial when raising your own meat. While we housed and cared for the birds, another individual supplied all the feed. Once completed, the birds were split 50/50. The Hubs, Midge and I shared the burden of the daily care, which for Cornish Cross was a daily, and often times twice daily, especially in the tractor. The water was refilled often, the feed was poured twice a day, the tractor took two sets of hands to relocate and during that last intense heat wave, all three of us were required to bring a pullet back from the brink of death from heat stroke.
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Processing day was a whole other entity. Having not ever processed a bird for eating, we were all more than a bit apprehensive. Of course the toughest pill to swallow was the taking of a life. Not EVER to be taken lightly and ALWAYS to be given the utmost respect and gratitude, this step must be swift and humane. This is where a newly kindled friendship, discovered via my Cluck & Hoe Facebook page, came in to play. Never had we met in person, as we do not live within an easy drive, and yet when that first conversation was had via a phone call, It felt oddly like I was speaking to a person whom I had held a decades long friendship. She, we’ll call her Kay, volunteered, no, insisted, that she would make the 2 hour drive in to help us on the final day. With her, Kay brought a wealth of knowledge, experience, compassion, patience, generosity and community. Having her there, guiding us through each step of the process helped make the weight of the day, just a little lighter. Guided by her patience and encouragement, I found my hand growing steadier, my heart filling with appreciativeness and a confidence in the acknowledgement that I can, and will, live this life I daydream of so often.

5 – Midge. This girl of ours.
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Just the thought of her and her strength, courage and compassion overwhelms me with pride, respect, and honor. I had mentioned early on the importance in all of us having a hand in every step of the process. This was talked about, but not pressed. Once we began Kay and I turned to Midge and asked her to take part in step one, at least once. Although hesitant, this girl young woman stepped up and bravely, graciously and gently did what was to be done. Like a right of passage, as her tears rolled, mine began. Dad had paused in all his tasks long enough to bear witness to this moment. It was a bittersweet experience, a palpable moment in time when a bit more of her childhood innocence was replaced with a hardened piece of the reality we talk of on a daily basis. As a whole, our family believes in the importance of reconnecting with our food. With that belief comes the responsibility to raise the animal, from start to finish, in the utmost humane, compassionate and respectful manner. To watch Midge walk the walk and still stand tall, knowing however hard it may be to take the life of an animal raised for meat, it is the path we should all be on. To be witness to the greatness which is my daughter is, and will forever be, my greatest source of joy and gratitude.

6 – I can do this, I can grow our food with compassion, humility, respect and a grateful heart. I can show these animals that are destined to be a source of sustenance for me and my family the same love and respect all beings deserve. I can hold my head high knowing the food we raised was done so in a humane manner. I can take pride in knowing the life these birds, and any other animal I raise, is a quality life, not taken for granted. A life not thought less of, but rather, more, knowing the immense role they will have on the lives of those they will provide for. I can grow what I eat and eat what I grow. I can put meaning and appreciation back into the food that nourishes our bodies and souls. Whether its man animal or produce. We know our farmer and we are our farmer and that is the most empowering knowledge I have gained thus far in my life.

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Seasonal Tug o’ War

Oh my goodness, this past weekend the weather cooled to low 80’s for daytime temps that dipped a toe into the 50’s overnight with a deliciously cool breeze. Days when it is almost too cool to linger in the shade, stepping out to feel the sun wrap around your shoulders like a comforting hug. The kind of weather that awakens the desire to light candles, drink heavily spiced warm beverages, bake loaves and loaves of bread and create dinners of soul comforting warmth with rich flavors, slow cooked ingredients and leisurely enjoyed. When windows can be thrown open to let the cool night temps seep in so you can once again snuggle under the covers and warm your cold toes on the hubby’s heater of a body (only me??)
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There is just something about this time of year, the crisp mornings fragrant with fresh dew, taking longer to shake the cloak of night off as the sun lazily rises over the horizon. Sunrises and sunsets both aglow with the warm hues of Autumn. The evenings growing darker earlier, urging everyone inside just a bit earlier each night.

This year, Autumn has new meaningful signals added as we prepare and plant our second fall garden, this time with more thought and planning in place.
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The beds have all been cleared, turned and refreshed with nutrient rich, organic garden soil.
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Our first solely heirloom planting of seeds and transplants have been nestled within this generous gift from a new farmer friend, soil that smells rich with the promise of bountiful harvests for the coming season.

There is a new, weight in the air of this particular fall,
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as we near the end of the season for our first home-raised meat birds
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and watch as the turkeys continue to grow, mature and introduce us to their calm, and sometimes comical, character.
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(Strutting for his first time at 3 months old, both the bronze turkey and the meat birds were less than impressed. We humans, well, let’s just say it is a new day when you hear a turkey call from your backyard flock for the first time)

this past weekend was just a taste of my favorite season as it continues to struggle to grab a foothold against summer and it’s blazing triple digit temperatures. A tug o’ war of sorts as we now bounce between the two seasons. One can only hope Fall will eventually out muscle the ever-increasing strength of Summer, pushing it back so we can enjoy more than a few weeks of this, my favorite season of the year.

A Triumphant Weekend

SUCCESS!!!!

This weekend was absolutely filled to the brim with rewards.

From tackling new canning recipes for the pounds and pounds of green tomatoes harvested last weekend as we prepared our garden beds for fall planting.
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Salsa Verde with green tomatoes in place of the more traditionally used tomatillos
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All canned up, salsa and pickled green tomatoes (YUM!)
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To finally overcoming the (irrational) fear of the pressure canner. YES! I finally triumphed!
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Now let me explain, the first time we, Hubs and I, tried the pressure canner things just didn’t go as they should. It struggled to reach 11 pounds pressure, the pressure gauge steamed up so we could hardly read it. Then, just as it reached pressure it let out whistle so loud that, if we had crystal in the house it would have likely shattered. The dog hightailed it to the farthest point away, as we were left standing there with our fingers in our ears, trying to make sense of what was happening and wondering if it would ever stop. It only quit once we turned off the stove. So we hung up our pressure canning hats till a later date, removed the plugs and had since been using the canner solely as a water bath canner. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook then you should know all to well the volume of pickles (tomato, cucumber, zucchini) that I have been putting up.

I finally found my resolve to win out over my nerves and set about giving it another go. Did it go swimmingly? Nope, the first attempt the lid didn’t seal tight, leaks appeared in a couple of spots and the pressure refused to rise. After conferring with the Handsome Hubs I took it off the heat, wiped all the seals and edges down, and tried again. What a difference. The steady steam started almost immediately, the lock popped up and once the weight was in place the pressure steadily rose. It took some serious hovering to keep the pressure ‘just so’ but, after 75 minutes, plus cool down time, I was giddy as I heard the sweet pings of the lids sing, one after another, until all 7 pints sealed. (Insert Happy Dance)
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It hasn’t been just pressure canning that has proven to be taxing. I have also spent many a week trying to create a good working relationship with my sourdough starter. Now, you all know I can bake a loaf of bread as seen here and here and even, here. But sourdough has been my Sasquatch, remaining elusive. Giving just a slight promise of being proven attainable but never seeing 100% actual proof. This starter was created with the wild yeast from my organically grown red cabbage. I used a method I found on Two Sisters Bakery Recipe Blog. Creating the starter has proven to be the easy part. Turning that starter into the perfect loaf of sourdough bread, well let’s just say there have been plenty of door stops, literally. Each week I would attempt to bake up a batch. Some weeks the bread had a great tangy taste but was so dense it was better suited as a bat, door stop or chicken feed (after being soaked). Other weeks the loaves would rise and be light and airy yet the flavor was reminiscent of plain ol’ white bread and while palatable, it just wasn’t what I was after. Until this past weekend when this is what I pulled out of the oven
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Not a huge rise, but at least something that resembled what it actually was and not a weapon.
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That crust; thick and crunchy. The interior; chewy, tangy and fluffy. Oh it was so good we (truth, mostly me) nearly ate an entire loaf still hot from the oven. Still too small to make a decent sandwich but perfectly worthy of soft butter and soup soaking.

If all that weren’t enough, our Easter hatch girls have begun to Join the Layer’s Club! Bubble the Marans/Orpington mix started laying a week ago and has laid an egg everyday since.
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Sunday, the Olive Egger, BamBam joined the club with our first ever olive-green egg. We are stoked (too So Cal??) to finally have a new egg color in our basket and hope she lays as faithfully as Bubbles.
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Bunny, the other Marans/Orpington mix is acting like she will be rounding out the new layer’s membership sometime this week.
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Pressure canning, delicious sourdough, olive colored eggs, all add up to a happy, happy homesteader.

The Power of Poultry

Go big or go home, right? Not quite sure how things have gotten so blown up on the bird front, but, here we are, a laying flock of 10 with 1 rooster and 1 cockerel, 9 meat birds, 9 fluffy chicks in the brooder, 49 eggs incubating and 1 turkey. Oh man, that looks more than a little nuts in writing.

Let’s break this down a bit. See if we can’t smooth out the crazy some. Our laying flock, it really consists of 6 hens, one of which seems to be constantly broody (as she currently is) another is molting and has stopped laying. we have a pullet who began laying, only to stop after 11 eggs. We have 3 pullets yet to start laying as they hatched on Easter. One pain in the a$$ rooster and one sweet, docile and quiet cockerel.
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The meat birds, we have only just begun our adventure into raising meat birds with a small batch of Cornish Cross that are about 1 month away from processing. The commitment to time and space for meat birds is brief, 8 to 10 weeks. Raising meat won’t be a full-time activity for us but something will be taking on intermittently throughout the year.
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The nine fluffy butts in the brooder? Well that is kind of cool, 8 of the 9 are the very first offspring hatched from our flock. We set 8 eggs in total, 7 Blue/Black Copper Marans and 1 Blue Copper Marans/Blue Easter Egger cross and they all hatched! The blue to black and the boy to girl ratios for the Marans is better than I expected. We have 3 Blue’s – 1 girl, 2 boys and 4 Black’s 3 girls and 1 boy. The cross is an Olive Egger boy. All the girls have a home already. We will keep both Blue Copper boys to see how they grow out, one shows promise of better features than his father and most likely will be his successor. The other boys will need to find a home or we will likely raise them to market weight and process them for the freezer. This hatch is a big step for our little homestead as we strive for more self-sufficiency.
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Then there is the CRAZY – the 49 eggs incubating. We have placed 2 dozen under our broody girl as we hope to keep a few off this hatch to build our laying flock up a bit with some more variety. I really am a colored egg snob. But I am not alone in this. I have a wonderful friend who is just as big a chicken fanatic as I am. We team up on all the hatches, I do the in-house care, she supplies eggs, feed and vaccines. It is a beautiful working friendship. Of the 49 eggs currently incubating, we have 8 Croad Langshan with the hopes of at least a couple of girls to raise up for our Croad Langshan cockerel to call his own. He is too pretty.
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The hope would be to get a small-scale breeding program together for these incredible birds. They are docile, curious, large birds. Rumor has it they are supposed to lay a plum-colored egg, but I am finding that more fiction than fact. No matter, what they lack in egg color they surely make up in every other way.

also incubating are some of our barred rock eggs. Remember, our only active rooster is the Blue Copper Marans. We have set only 6 to see what comes out. We also set 6 more of the Easter Egger’s in hopes there will be some keep-able girls. My friend threw in some Serama eggs, Super Blue Egg Layer’s and the prettiest spearmint green eggs. She has 2 active roosters, both blue egg gene. We finished things off with some ordered in Welsummer and Lavender Orpington eggs from Chicken Scratch Poultry I only plan to keep maybe 6 plus the Langshans from this entire hatch. Then my friend will take what she wants and we will hopefully sell off everything else.

And then we have the turkey…
We have only just gotten our toes wet in the big pond of raising our own meat with the Cornish Cross and now we have gone and accepted this most generous gift of a turkey poult. A Broad Breasted Bronze hatched on July 1, it will be ready to harvest in time for Thanksgiving.
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For some, this is too much to think about when it comes to their food and would much rather remain disconnected from the meat they eat. As a family, our need to reconnect with our food continues to grow. The joy and gratitude we have received from the bounty of our small garden encouraged us to take a big step closer toward our goal of a more self-sufficient life as well as an eyes wide open approach to that which we consume. Raising the meat birds and now a turkey, we will do so with a kind heart and gentle hand, our animals, no matter the role they play, will be raised with respect and a grateful heart.

I will admit, there are some serious nerves about handling a bird as large as this turkey will hopefully grow to. It is already as tall as and heavier than our roosters and strong, oh my I was not prepared for the strength it would have for its size. I am definitely more than a little intimidated by this new venture. I have already been advised I will need to help it out of any bad weather as it won’t have the sense to get in out of the rain. I have fashioned a feeder and water specifically for a bird of this magnitude. But what is to come November? I can already feel that I will have a harder time, emotionally, preparing the turkey for eating than I will the chickens. NO matter, I will face it as I do every other one, with a heart heavy with gratitude and with a hand guided by respect and love.

Fall Garden Plan

Wow, spring and summer have flown by. Though the weather here in So. California is anything but fall like I am still planning and prepping for the fall/winter garden. Last year was my first attempt at a full-fledged fall/winter garden and I definitely learned a few things, like, potatoes may like cool weather but a hard frost will kill them off. I also learned that in the limited space of our garden I need to look beyond the upcoming growing season to the one beyond. I have to keep in mind things like garlic, Brussels sprouts and cabbage will grow well into the spring. If I want to grow these things I need to plan my Spring/Summer garden accordingly. Which in turn means I need to take the lessons learned from this current garden and better apply them to next years spring garden.

I am a visual learner, a hands on kind of girl. When it comes to making a plan for the garden beds I like to draw up a diagram to keep things in order. Here is a link to my Fall Garden Planner.

FALL GARDEN PLANNER

Here is my Spring Garden Planner for 2015

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When you compare the 2 you will see I have made accommodations for some of the longer growing veggies and bulbs. Yes there are a lot of potatoes being planted, easier to grow than rice and homemade pasta is a chore so potatoes will be a go to starch for us.

I have been saving rinsed and dried egg shells from my flock to use for seed starting. I use donated Styrofoam egg cartons to hold the little seed starters as they won’t break down when wet, the only good thing to use the nasty things for and at least they are serving a purpose and not in the landfill. Before planting I uses a screw to carefully pop a hole in the bottom of each shell for drainage, then filled with a lightweight, organic seed starting mix. I uses a squirt bottle to water until the seedlings got a bit bigger and stronger.
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I started some of the crops mid August and spent this past weekend transplanting into peat pots and recycled plastic containers that Trav cut down to size and then I drilled a hole in the bottom for drainage.
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My plan is to get the garden cleared weekend after next, difficult as it will be to tear out tomato and pepper plants that could likely hold out another month. This is the hardest struggle for me. I wish I had the space to plant half at a time so things could hold out as they wanted and I wouldn’t have to rip out those that are still producing. On the bright side, I discovered THE BEST pickled green tomato recipe and will gladly can up gobs of those tasty pickles.

Keep in mind, I am only starting my 2nd fall garden here. I have gardened for years, but each move means learning to do things a little differently. Admittedly, I had never grown anything successfully in a fall/winter garden before last year and I managed to harvest quite a bounty for my first year. So here’s looking up for year 2!

Summer Bounty

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Until now, spring and fall had been my favorite seasons of the year. How could I have overlooked summer? The days are longer which means I have more daylight to get out and enjoy the bounty that the warmer days brings with them. The hens are in full production mode, gifting us with their delightful eggs each day. The sunflowers are in full bloom, and the garden is ramping up production.

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The pumpkin vines

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A beautiful tangle of textures.

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With hidden gems tucked away among the leaves.

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More zucchini

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Bell Peppers

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Black (I think) Bell Pepper

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Lilac Bell Pepper

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The promise of what’s to come.

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With a little taste each day.

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The first of 2 Yukon Gold potato harvests (6.5 pounds) Photo Credit: Amanda G.

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The haul of one day. The potatoes, a few bells, zucchini, tomatoes, a couple small red cabbage, the last of the broccoli and kale and of course the wonderful fresh eggs.

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Can you guess what this flower is?

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Autumn Beauty Sunflower Photo Credit: The Handsome Hubs

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
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I have been busy putting veggie to canning jar pretty much every weekend. We have Kosher Dills, Refrigerator Dills,
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Dilly Beans and Dill Pickle Slices.
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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!
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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
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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)
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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.
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*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.