Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Big Empty Heads

I dunno about you but I've just about had it with this incredibly long and incredibly hot summer. Sheesh! At present its over 90*. Again. I think the weather guy said this makes the 47th such day this year.

Big Empty Heads

With everything that started growing so early this season its kind of strange to think about taking the garden out now. Especially with another hot blue sky day.

I've started taking down the spent sunflowers. These tall, lazy giants will be next. Their big heads are mostly empty from thieving birds. Actually. I kinda like the little, flitty yellow tweety birds that seem to think I planted the sunflowers just for them.

Spent sunflowers

This grove of giants was one of my favorite gardens this year. This is where I planted those lovely potatoes - now distant meals. But I've started some late beans in this garden hoping to make it just under the wire of the frost. Tomorrow I'll hack down these giant stalks and feed them to the pigz. The pigz love the leaves and will goof around with the stalks. And they'll find any remaining seeds.

A friend reminded me about goat cheese stuffed and fried squash blossoms. Sounds great!

In the meantime, some things just keep setting blossoms. I can't tell if they are confused or if we'll have to keep dealing with this hot summer thru September.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tomato of Doom

Doom I say!

I dunno there's just something hinky with this tomato. Its just not right. I think its a Tomato of Doom.

Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Giant Bubby Pepper Poke Disaster

Well friends, we've had our first casualty in The Great Pepper War of 2012. It was just two days ago during the last and final surge against the never ended bucket of peppers. There I was in the kitchen, surrounded by boiling cauldrons of bubbling pepper goodness.

Man down! The Bubby takes one for the team.

The end was in sight - I only had a few sweet peppers left in that bottomless bucket. But I wanted to have one final triumphant extra spicy salsa. So I donned my heavy, hot pepper handling gloves and headed to the far back corner of the garden to get one of the bad boys. You know the ones - those extra long, extra skinny, pointy, extra hotsy totsy peppers with the special warnings on them. Oh yeah, this was gonna be a spicy salsa for the record books. I marched out to get the Holy Hot one. Without incident.

On my way back to the house I was greeted by the dogs wagging all around. They had been on morning patrols and were covered in dew, those weird sticky green seeds, and had come to report no unusual goings on. "Good work, men!" I called to them as I made my way thru the wagging, panting, bouncing horde of dogs. Zander...aka "The Bubby" was especially bouncy as he followed me to the door.

Just as I as opening the door, my prized Holy Hot pepper in my protective gloved hand... it happened. In an instant my joyful pepper victory turned to horror. I was being slightly jostled by a bouncing Bubby and then.....a yelp.

I turned and saw The Bubby. Crying and pawing at his eye.

I looked at The Bubby. I looked at the Holy Hot pepper in my hand. It took me a few seconds before I realized that I had just stabbed The Bubby in the eye with a scorching hot pepper.

"Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"  I cried.

"Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooee!" Cried Zander.

He ran. I ran. There was running. And crying. and more running and crying. Finally I got ahold of my 100lbs+ squirming crying puppy. His poor little eye was starting to tear up. And when I mean little, I mean to tell you that he has very small squinty eyes to begin with. Talk about a one in a million shot! Sheesh!

Then there was a lot more running and crying. Mostly by me. Luckily I was better in this crisis than, you know, other ones. I sprang to action with the phone in one hand - cuz you know we have the Good Vet on speed dial - and a cold compress in the other.

After more running, chasing, and wrestling I got Zander tackled and was able to hold the cold washcloth on his eye. He did not protest.

Of course the whole time I was trying to figure out what I was going to tell the Good Vet. As you can imagine they've heard just about everything from us. In fact I am fairly certain they have a standing appointment for us in their books. Probably called something like the "What Could They Possibly Come Up With Now Hour."  We tend to win awards from them with titles like, "The Weirdest Thing We've Seen Today"  and "The Worst Wound in 15 Years of Vet Practice." And my personal favorite, "Seriously? How Did This Happen?"

After determining that the eye poke was probably not fatal I brought Zander in the house, gave him some snuggles, a can of food, and watched him. He promptly passed out on the floor - asleep. When he woke up a short time later I tripled checked his eye - it was no longer tearing nor red. I made sure he could see and follow my hand to ensure his vision was not impacted, gave him more snuggles, and sent him back outside to play with his sister, Kai.

And thusly ended The Great Pepper War of 2012. Just one man down, I think we did OK.

Happy Wednesday everyone!  Any body got a canning casualty to top that one?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Foundations of Vibrant Health

Does everyone know my pal, Freemotion?  Did you see the dramatic 56 POUNDS her husband recently lost? By eating bacon? Now that's MY kind of eating-for-health plan! 

Friends, you gotta get ahold of this learning. You know how I'm always saying to take everything you've ever learned about nutrition from women's magazines and throw it directly in the trash? If this doesn't convince you then I just don't know what will. 

Freemotion is a Nutritional Therapist and she really knows her stuff. Recently she's been working on healing her wonky bloodsugar and she recruited her hubby in her efforts. Not only has her health dramatically changed for the better but holy cow! You should see her hubster!

Did they eat rice cakes, frozen microscopic meals, and non-fat, low-fat, food like substances? Oh no friends, they ate like kings! Meat and fat and veggies and everything. Did they spend hours and days in the gym sweatin' to the oldies? Nope. And what about taking those recommended pills pills and more pills to help with blood pressure and all that? Nope nope nope!  They are both healthy and vibrant and feeling great thanks to better nutrition.

What's the secret? Lean in friends.... eating real food the right way. Chances are if you are following the SAD (Standard American Diet) you are only eating what is marketed to you and not what your body needs.

So what does your body need? Well, there is an easy way to find out. Check out the upcoming teleclass to learn how to get and stay healthy. This is fabulous class is not about weight loss - its about health - but just one look at Peter and you'll see how eating real food the right way can change your life, your health, and your body.

Run right over to the Blue Viola Farm blog to learn more - she's got a post today on how you probably aren't digesting as much of your food as you think you are - and register for the class now. Or "like" her on Facebook and get a coupon code for a big discount for the class. (Or you can click here to read about registration and to learn how to get that discount.)  Are you kinda shy and would prefer to have a one-to-one session? Sure! Contact her thru facebook or on her blog.

Put down that diet breakfast bar right now and find out who you can get and stay healthy - eating bacon. Oh hallelujah!

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fall Planting and Shelling Beans

Someone asked me yesterday if there was still time for fall planting? Sure! There's always time for more planting.  As you know I've been planting turnips like crazy - and I'm also starting some frost-defiant and extra short season growers as well.

I harvested the potatoes in this bed a while ago and now its ready to be planted again.

Greens and radishes can do just fine in a short growing season. And they can be easily covered if we get an early frost. We'll see if the old wives tale about the cicadas is true - there could be a very early frost. Popular lore has it that the first frost will be 90 days after the cicadas start screaming.. I mean.. singing. Our weather guy had a segment on this earlier in the summer. And while their online story says "not to worry" I remember him saying on the newscast that its about "80% accurate."  If that's the case then mid-September could be very interesting around here.

A salad mix and radishes is just the thing to be planted now. Its low risk because all of the seeds were on end of season sale and if we get a couple salads? Super! And at worst I'll just loose a few things in the garden - but if so I'll just give them to the chickens and the pigz. We normally continue the harvest thru October tho so I'm not too worried.

This one $1 package of turnips has yielded about 167,000 turnip sprouts so far.

The Great Pepper War begins again today with hopefully the last round of salsa. But wow! The tomatoes are still coming on. With a rain day promised for today I'll be canning all day.

A lovely bean landscape.

After tomatoes and salsa, I've got some beans to can. I just love these horticulture beans. Not only are they just lovely - they are absolutely delish. I've been soaking a big pan of them in water - and a splash of whey - since last nite.

Now who's still planting for fall? Everyone canning today?  Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Great Pepper War of 2012

Friends, I am slain.
The Capsaicin Menace

They got me. Day Three of the Salsa Surge was brutal. By days end the kitchen was destroyed, my feet hurt, it was very very hot, and I still had one last 2.5 gallon bucket of peppers giving me the stink eye. I ended up putting that bucket in the fridge and then laying on the couch in a heap.

Who's idea was it anyway to get 197 pounds of peppers? Sheesh!

Making salsa is actually a really fun canning project - as long as you aren't doing it for 3 days in a row. And it is a great way to get started in canning. You don't need a pressure canner - just a big, deep pot to boil the jars in... and you can easily grow or purchase everything you need to make a batch of salsa.

My own peppers waiting to sacrifice themselves in the Great Pepper War

I'm partial the Ball Blue Book's zesty salsa. If you don't have the book, I found the recipe online here. This basic recipe goes pretty fast and you can always spice it up later when you use it. I really love this Black Bean and Corn Salsa. I just open a can of our home made salsa, a can of our home canned black beans, and toss in a handful of frozen corn (picked fresh, grilled, then popped in the freezer) and some spices. Its a great taste of summer anytime.

So much salsa....

The only thing about canning salsa is that you have to follow the directions and the measurements to the letter. While you might be tempted to toss in a few extra tomatoes, or use more garlic, the food safety mavens all agree that you need to use the same proportions to ensure nothing goes wrong. I really like the Pick Your Own website - here - for food preservation information. They have easy to follow instructions and have a lot of pictures.

Some folks are nervous about canning - but following the directions for an approved recipe to the letter is the best way to make sure your home canned products turn out perfect every time. You can also check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation for a detailed explanation of why you should follow an approved recipe.

I know some people who use those packages of salsa mix to make their home canned salsa. To me it seems pretty expensive and you know how I feel about industrialized food. I think the value of these mixes is that you only have to add the tomatoes (and vinegar).  But for me the tomato peeling and chopping takes the most time so I don't think I'd be saving that much time. For me the onions and peppers are a breeze. Plus I like having chunky style salsa so having some kind of reconstituted onions and peppers seems a little odd to me. But some folks like it and if that works then superduper.

In addition to the cauldrons of salsa, I also used the instructions for blanching and freezing sliced peppers on the Pick Your Own site. Later today I'll fire up the grill and will roast the rest of the peppers - they will be frozen in slices to be used in cooking all winter. Thanks for that tip - you know who you are!

Hope everyone is enjoying their Friday! Now back to the Great Pepper War! Charge!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Picking Peppers

Wow! What a haul!
Ten gallons of peppers picked in nothing flat.

We drove several towns over and went to a Upick produce place. We really love Schacht Farm Market. Its kind of a long drive for us but its worth it for their stupendous selection of peppers for picking.

Aren't they beautiful?

We brought our own buckets and set off for a flurry of pepper picking. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any of my sweet bell peppers to produce here - which is why we went to Upick our way to pepper paradise. They had both sweet and hot peppers available, but we only needed the sweet ones. Our jalapenos, Hungarian Wax, and Marconi peppers grew like gangbusters.

Just like a bucket of sunshine!

By the time we got there I was over-sugared and over-caffeined ...and I was ready for the pepper picking time of my life. But wouldn't you know it - the one stinkin' day it rained here in Central Ohio... but we persevered. Our spicy spirits weren't stymied by a small smattering of sprinkles. Altho I ended up with muddy shoes and soggy socks.

Within a few minutes both of our buckets were full and we started back to the market to cash out.  Not everyone is as excited as I am about peppers, apparently. I thought I should have gotten some kind of award for our quick, and prolific, picking.

Anyway, now I'm gearing up to salsa making!

Tomorrow's post.. how to handle "hot pepper hands".... more on this later. In the meantime, everybody salsa!

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, August 20, 2012

For our Dear Sister in the Westlands

Editors Note: A dear friend lost her beloved companion this morning - her dog Deirdre died in her arms. We send our friend our love and thoughts of comfort in this most sad time. This is how it happened here in The Good Land.

Little Mo hurried ahead of Princess Kai thru the passageway to OFG's inner chamber. When they stepped into the room Kai could see her liege sitting with a scroll of great sadness hanging loosely in her hand, the early morning light just barely peaking into the chamber. Col Ti stood silently beside OFG, as always keeping watch over her.

OFG turned her tear stained face toward the Princess, "Assemble the troops. Order the flags at half staff. I've just received word that a noble huntress has fallen."

Kai bowed her head reverently and shared the moment with her mother. Then silently she turned and left, quietly dispatching orders to her Men at Arms standing outside the chamber. 

A hush blanketed the barnyard as the troops stood to attention. All were in their dress armor, glistening in the morning's sun. OFG's voice carried across the parade yard for all to hear.

"We've received word from the House of Ehren that the noble and much beloved Deirdre LionSlayer of the Veld has fallen."

Some among the crowd glanced about in shock, some stood stone faced, but all felt the heavy weight of this great loss. The House of Ehren was legendary throughout all the lands. The mistress of that great family was a fire haired woman who's sacred light sparkled with the glow of all whom she saved. Her healing powers were well known. Many broken and fallen warriors and hunters were brought to her from all directions. 

She administered her tender mercies to these wounded souls, strengthened them in mind and body, and found them places of rest and love. Her banner was a large red dog hunting a lion across a dark green field, the golden words embroidered across the top loosely translated into the common tongue as "Saving Dogs."

"We send our most tender condolences and love to our dear sister in the Westlands. We weep with her over this great loss, our hearts most broken with this heavy blow." 

"But even as we wipe our tears of sorrow, we thank the Great Father of All of Us for His extravagant gift to us - for this great companion, for the time spent with Deirdre, for her friendship, bravery, and love. We shall sing songs of her heroic deeds, of her soulful eyes, and all her wisdom she shared with the younger hunters and warriors.  We rejoice in her great lineage, of the ones who were well suited for the most kingly of hunts, and know that she is ever in green fields joining her ancestors." 

"Join me now as we pray peace and comfort over the House of Ehren and we ask strength in this time of sorrow."

All bowed their heads as Shine King of Barncats struck the Great Bell of Remembrance. Then OD the Gander strode forward, took up a shining silver trumpet and played a song of such sorrow that none could contain their grief.   

As the troops were dismissed young Zander stood with his Princess sister Kai and watched the assembly go about their way. 

Knowing her thoughts he said, "It is the way of things."

"Yes." She agreed. "But it doesn't seem fair that they have to live so long while we get to go on to the Land of Unspeakable Joy before them. It must be so sad after we leave. It doesn't seem right." 

The young captain Zander turned to her, "We have to trust the way of things. Its all that we can do." 

Kai nodded, "You know what else we can do?"  She said with a gleam in her eye. 

Zander laughed. "Do you think of nothing but hunting, Sister?" 

"Nope," said Kai shaking her bon-bon tail. "A hunt for Dee Dee then? In her great honor? There are no lions here but I know where we can find a possum!"  Kai laughed and bounded off her brother following close at her heels. 


Friday, August 17, 2012

Ohio's Stories from the Great Depression

No time to blog today - I'm totally sucked into this amazing website. Have you seen Ohio's Department of Aging Great Depression Story Project?

They asked folks who lived thru the Depression to send in their memories - how they lived, what happened, and thoughts about lessons learned. I just love it. You know how I go on and on about the Old Timers and this is why - so much institutional knowledge. Its just fabulous.

Our grandparents all lived thru the Depression - some country and some city. I've mentioned before that our Grandma Marybelle lived on a farm and they made extra money selling chicken dinners for $0.25. They took the cream from their cows into town to sell for money to buy the things they couldn't grow themselves. One day Grandma and her brother were monkeying around - and spilled the cream. They had no money that week for extra groceries. And there was crying over that spilled cream for sure.

My grandparents owned a little country store. During the hardest times they sold folks groceries on credit. Of course not many people could pay it back. They kept the register books with the record of credit.  Years later when the books were rediscovered my aunts and uncles all got together and burned all the credit records as a celebration of how many people had been helped. I still remember older people coming into the store saying how grateful they were that Grandpa helped them.

I wish I knew more about how our grandparents lived then - ever detail seems precious now. That's why I'm enjoying reading these stories so much.

A couple things that stand out as I'm reading these memories. First, folks didn't really know how poor they were - there was no one around (like TV or magazines) to tell them how bad they had it. Mostly they were glad they were all together and had food to eat - especially folks on the farm. Next, the folks that did OK had big gardens and everyone canned everything they could get their hands on. Next time you are driving around ask yourself what would happen if everyone had a big garden in their yard instead of a bunch of useless grass.

Also, it seems that many folks were grateful for how they learned to make do and how they learned to get by. Many of the story tellers mentioned that they wouldn't have changed what happened and how it strengthened them.

I understand this completely. I see it whenever I go to buy more canning jars. Almost always and older lady comes up to me, puts her hand on my arm, and says in a hushed tone, "Do you do your own canning, honey?"

"Yes, ma'am I do. We raise a big garden, chickens and hogs and I put up the harvest." I reply.

"Good for you, dear." She'll say with pride in her eyes, patting my arm. "Folks today couldn't make it in hard times like we had. They don't know what it means to work hard. So it's nice to see someone with some sense."

I love it when this happens. And it happens a lot.

If you are lucky enough to know folks who lived during the Depression make time to ask them what happened and how they made do - they will probably have some great stories. But if not, spend some time reading what these folks have to say about it. Good lessons for us all. 

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Best News Story EVER

Did everyone see this yesterday? As long as I live there will never be another news story better than this. Of course they got the headline wrong, it should have been "Scout Leader Mauled by Rabid Beaver" for the most amount of stupid joke making.

Of course, no one is glad that the scout leader was hurt...and we wish him well in his recovery from being attacked by a rabid beaver. And fortunately local health officials say "a rabid beaver attack is unusual."

But the stupid jokes alone make it almost worth it.

Can you imagine the calls home and the parent's reply? If I had a kid calling me up that a rabid beaver attacked a scout leader, I would tell that kid to stay away from bath salts.  And then if that kid said the beaver also went crazy on a pool noodle, I'd tell him to hand the phone to an adult.

That's definitely all the news that's fit to print - and then some.

Happy Thursday everyone!  Any body else got a better news story than that?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Moving The Bacon Bits to Pig Paradise

Yesterday we achieved one of this summer's biggest objectives....we finally moved The Bacon Bits to their new pig preserve - it was like they went straight to paradise.

For the last week or so we've been working very hard trying to fence in The Impenetrable Forest, much like we did last year. The new pig yard, sometimes called a pig "lot", has about 400 feet of fence deep in our woods down by the pond. Completing this project was a lynchpin in our strategy to eventually fence around the pond to make a safe place for our critters.

The most hated Fox Central is just on the other side and once we complete this fencing project (all the way around the pond) we'll have a great new barnyard that is safe for all and well patrolled by the dogs. The new pig lot is on the south side of the pond and extends just beyond it. The next pond-fence project steps will be to run a line of fence behind it and on the north side.

For this new hog area we put up about 200 feet of field fence - mostly tacking it up on the trees and a few tposts so that it joined the existing line of fence we ran a couple summers ago. This line of fence is not exactly on the south property line but is close enough so that when we fence the actual property boundary we'll have another dog moat on that side of the property. I'm thrilled - having a dog moat around the barnyard is one of my biggest goals.

You'll remember that we fenced last year's pigz in the woods and they did a great job of clearing the area - down the very last nub. We're hoping the little Bacon Bits will do just as good of a job. Once we released them into their new world they ran straight for the underbrush and started happily munching away.

Getting them down to their new yard required some careful planning. We couldn't just carry them down there, they are much to wild to 'herd', and heaven knows that some body's big idea of putting frightened, screaming pigz in wheeled garbage cans wasn't the best idea.

Since these pigz aren't very big we figured we could stuff them in our biggest dog carrier and....and... um... well.... After looking around and evaluating our resources we decided to use my water trolley.

This worked great. The dog cage was just big enough to be mounted in the wagon and all's we needed to do was snatch up them Bacon Bits and shove them in the cage. This part was largely successful.

Then we just trolleyed them across the yard, down the big hill, thru the gates, and over the bramble to the other gate, and tossed them into paradise. This happened without incident. Mostly.

The pigz took a careful look around, raced thru the underbrush, found out that the electric fence has got a kick to it, then settled down snuffing and rooting around. Once they figured out that when I yell "PigPigPig!" it means that their feeder will be verily overflowing with milk.. well.. they just knew they were in the garden of pig joy.

We set up a much more strategic feeding area than we've had before. For now we'll have to carry a bucket of water down to them, but I'll have the longest hoses I can find connected and run down to their new area by tomorrow.

I can tell you truly yesterday was my happiest day. Them little pigz finally got out of my turkey house - and out of my line of sight.....and smell. I can now happily go out and see my turkeys and my front gardens without having to smell the stench of pig awfulness. Never again with them little porkers rub their icky piggy noses on my legs again.

The next time they see me coming it will be with The Black Death and vengeance, and pork chops, will be mine. Smell ya later, oinkers!  My goal is not to have any contact with you until that glorious day when bacon shall be made. Hallelujah!

Have a glorious day everyone!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A couple articles on the drought

I'm heading off to thin turnips this morning... but first a couple articles on the drought.

This first article is pretty thought provoking - its most of the things I've been thinking about. I don't know this blog author but someone posted this on facebook and I thought I'd share. A lot of folks still don't understand why they should care about a little dry corn in The Flyover - but everyone should be aware of how deep this drought is going to impact everyone.

Its important to note that this is all gonna run down hill. While we might be a little mad at higher prices, folks elsewhere in the world are really gonna get the brutal impact if this goes on much longer. And don't think that we are the only ones with "a little dry corn" - other countries have got problems with their harvests also

Even China appears to be worried about the situation. The price on corn on the commodities market is soaring. And remember that a big hunk of the harvest has to be dedicated to fuel... it doesn't seem like such a good idea now, huh?

It looks like the government is going to take some action to help out the farmers. They announced yesterday that they will "speed up" purchasing meat for use later. Maybe they are doing it to help the farmers who can't afford to feed their livestock - or who just don't have any pasture left for their livestock  - or maybe the government is just getting a good price now while they can.

Just some thoughts for today.  Lets all keep an eye on this - maybe some late rains will help us all out but for now its important to see which way this wind blows. As for me I'm doing research on the Dust Bowl and how folks handled it. And I have cookbooks for the 1940's that talk about food rationing during the war - it just wasn't that long ago that this was part of American life. I don't think the current generations have any idea that food shortages are even a possibility. I don't know if its going to happen again, but I'd rather have a better understanding now then be scrambling to find a solution in the midst of a crisis.

Happy Tuesday everyone - are you thining turnips today? Fall planting? Getting alfalfa in?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Laundry Theft? What's with that?

Did everyone see this story a while ago about how thieves were stealing thousands of dollars of name brand laundry soap? I have a hard time believing that is real - especially when you can make your own laundry soap for just pennies a load.

You'll remember from my post last year that I was shocked and amazed that making your own laundry soap actually works. But what I didn't expect was how much money I saved. And how I couldn't go back to store brand laundry soap.

All you need to make your own laundry soap is a bar of Fels Naftha soap, Washing Soda, and Borax - I found all of these item at the local (and hated) WalMart. In fact, they were all neatly lined up on the same shelf next to that high dollar stuff. As I marched down the extra-scented aisle of various bottles of chemical soup I wondered just who among my fellow shoppers were willing to go to jail for stealing something they could make for pretty much all the change they had in their car or in their couch cushions.

I did my last laundry soap post in May last year but I had been using home made soap since about January. That's when I first bought all the ingredients. It wasn't until last week that I needed to buy more Washing Soda and Borax. You read that right - two of the three ingredients lasted over a year!!!!  Sure I need to buy a bar of Fels for every batch but that cost me exactly  $0.97 each time.

Here are the itemized costs from my receipt:

Fels Naptha:      $0.97
Borax:               $3.38
Washing Soda   $3.38

Total:                $7.73

But wait - don't say, "Wow! That's a lot!" Because... that's for all the ingredients and aside from the Fels.... that lasted me a year!  I usually had to make a new batch every other month... so my real costs for doing all our laundry for over a year was about $12.58. At our local store a big jug of Tide costs over $17.

If the savings don't get you....then check this out.... It is a fact that last month I fell off the wagon and bought a jug of All Detergent from our local Dollar Store for $4. It lasted a week. And then I noticed that the kitchen towels were...well..... weird. I couldn't seem to dry my hands on them. It was like drying my hands with waxed paper. I just didn't work. I even had to do the thing where you wash your towels once with vinegar and once with baking soda just to wash the gunk out of them.

So nope, I'm not going back to store brand laundry soap. And next time I get lazy I'll just read this post and remind myself that the $4 I'm spending at the Dollar Store for a jug of detergent just isn't worth it.

Got a bucket? Got $8? Then run right down and get the fixin's to make your own laundry soap and save yourself about a million bucks!

Happy Monday everyone! Prevent crime and make your own laundry soap!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Canning Frenzy

This is what a canning frenzy looks like. The kitchen is utterly destroyed. Every surface looks like this.....

 Just some of the 10 gallons of tomatoes I picked yesterday. They'll finish ripening on the counter.

It was cool enough yesterday that we didn't need the air conditioning, but I think the temperature of the kitchen approached "surface of the sun" hot.

The stoves were firing on all cylinders. I love my "Ol' Bessie" stoves... 

The Bubby was completely exhausted by all the activity.

Don't even think about taking his paper towel tube while he's sleeping, sister Kai.

Nicholas was another casualty.

Nicholas takes up the entire dog bed. Lookin' large, Nicholas.

More of the same today. Canning is hell, people. Keep calm and keep canning, we'll get thru this together. Now get in there, clean that kitchen, can more stuff, and remember that our rallying cry is "More jars! We need more jars!"

Happy Saturday!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Peps and Zucchini

Not a peck but a nice bucket of peppers......  These are mostly Marconi and Hungarian sweet and wax peppers.  The other day I also brought in some lovely Anaheims which became awesome chilies relleons.

And also.... proof that I grew a zucchini. Actually two if you look closely.

I know that some of you are stacking up baseball bat-sized zucchini like cord wood but gosh I just haven't had any luck the last couple years. But this was my year. Yay!

My favorite summer meal is batter dipped, than fried zucchini slices served with tomatoes and corn on the cob. Guess what I'm having for dinner?

After I get these peppers pickled that is....

Happy Friday everyone!  We got a good rain last nite and a cool down we've been waiting for all summer. The windows are open, the canner is fired up, and everyone is happy!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

So it rained here


Would have been great, tho, if it would have rained this much over a couple hours but this was about 30 minutes worth.

That's OK tho, I'm still having a "canning frenzy", as my friend D calls it. I'm gonna pickle me some peppers and maybe pickle some.. well... pickles.  Does anyone has a favorite "bread and butter" recipe?

Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mid-Summer Farm Update

Ok I know its not officially "mid-summer" but we're rushing headlong into the end of summer and a lot has happened.... with more to come.

Broom corn, soaring high into the sky.

Of course the weather has been the big story. We've been spared tornadic storms but that derecheo really walloped us. The drought, however, has taken center stage. Last year we were drowning in too much rain but this year its dry dry dry. We've also had ridiculous heat - something like 34 days above 90* and no real "normal" days. We've also had very little humidity. To the point where I'm pretty concerned. I come from a place without steamy humidity so while I'm enjoying the swamp-less air, the growing season has really been affected.

The dahlias that I really love. Not the goat.

Don't think for a minute this isn't going to affect all of us. More than half of the corn crop is suffering and its worse in other states. The one-two punch of course is the law requiring gas to contain a certain percentage of corn-based ethanol which is keeping pricing even higher. The obvious solution is to get rid of this mandate. But what do I know?

Feed prices are already going up. A couple years ago we could get a 50lbs bag of cracked corn for under $4. This last week it went up to $9.35 and its only going to get worse. We are considering getting a ton of corn just to "price fix" before it goes even higher. As it is, every time we drive past the feed store we pull all the money out of our pockets and buy what we can.

I'm starting another round of beans - they are flying out of the ground.

The feed burners... that is... everyone out is the barnyard are doing great. We've had a few losses but mostly just a few of the grand old gals in the hen flock. We haven't let any of the hennies set nests until now - the heat is just too much and we are striving for a more reasonable number of chickens, especially with feed prices so high. For now the clucks are doing a great job free ranging but when winter comes it will be a different story.

The geese are doing a great job of finding grass to graze where they can. We've been trying to keep part of the yard watered for them. Cindy never hatched any babies but the gaggle seems to be doing ok.

I know its a weed but I just love this - Iron Weed. So do the beez.

We've had a little turkey trouble - TurkZilla has become extremely aggressive. But our two remaining hens are doing great. They have not been able to successfully set nests however. And our incubator full of turkey eggs was a huge failure - not only hatchling.

The goats are doing well also. Since there is not much in the goat yard for them to graze on I've been taking them on forays into the green. This is my absolutely least favorite chore. More on this later. We have been stocking up on hay where we can get it. Anyone who has hay to cut sells out as soon as they advertise and folks from other states are already bringing in semi's in to truck the hay out of state. Usually $3.50 - $4.50 is a pretty good price but some folks are already asking $6/bale. Can you believe it?

However, with all the bramble and weeds the ladies are eating - they are milking pretty well without the expensive alfalfa. I gotta tell you - based on results I might just be over the whole "they need alfalfa" thing... Dahlia is milking like a champ, Nibs has been doing well, and Debbie - who never freshened this year is still milking!

Bee on sunflower - my favorite summer image.

Our next goat action item is to determine a breeding strategy. More on this later but you can bet it won't include getting another buck. I'm still suffering from PTBD (post traumatic buck disorder) from Too Short.

As far as the pigz go, they are doing great. The first round of porkers are still in the lower end of the hen yard. After the incursion earlier this summer we strategically set the pigz against the foxes - penning the piz between the hennies and Fox Central.Will pigz kill foxes? I dunno but the foxes aren't stupid enough to climb thru the electric into the hog lot. And putting the dog yard on the other side of the yard ensured that the foxes couldn't just waltz in and kill another one of my hennies. We haven't seen hide nor hair of them foxy vixens since finding the shattered body of my little hens.

The little pigz, the Bacon Seeds,  are about to be moved into a new yard deep in the Impenetrable Forest.  Not only will they do the clearing for us, there is also tons to eat in the woods which makes them extra cheap to feed. Since we got them late we will probably butcher them late - maybe around Christmas time depending on the weather. We need to finish up the fencing but we are excited to move them out of their temporary digs in the Turkey House. We separated them from the big pigz so make sure they were getting their fair share of feed. But they are starting to get pushy and you know how much I hate that.

The garden is actually doing pretty well this year. I finally got the soil to the point where its actually productive, but of course I've had to do a lot of watering and running the sprinkler. I'm focused on fall planting right now - tons of turnips for fodder for the barnyard - and tons of root vegetables and greens for us this winter. Thanks to a pretty good garden year we haven't had to buy much at the store this summer. I'm especially proud that I actually grew a decent sized onion. And exactly 2 zucchinis. A third is on the way.

So I think that's the full update. Lots going on and its been a lot of fancy footwork keeping everyone and everything going in this crazy, rainless, relentless summer.

Today I'm headed up to our orchard friends to get a couple of baskets of peaches. But first I have to go and move the sprinklers. Again.

Happy Wednesday everyone! How's your summer so far?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not about farming: Run. Hide. Fight.

Last week the news had a clip about a safety training video created for the City of Houston. It was made to help employees understand what to do if they were involved in a workplace or mass shooting. The video was created before the Aurora tragedy with the help of Homeland Security but was recently released on youtube.

I gotta tell you, the video is pretty good. Borrowing from the old "stop drop and roll" school of easy-to-remember training this video clearly teaches to Run. Hide. Fight.

A couple things that I liked about it, aside from the basic strategy of getting out of the situation as fast as you can, taking cover and getting out of sight, and of course fighting back - in that order - was that the video reminded people that the first responders to the scene are immediately focused on finding the shooter. I think we all know this but its good to remember that if you are caught up in this situation that you have to rely on yourself first, to stay out of the way of the first responders while they do their job, and to remember that you can be part of the solution.

While no one wants to think something like this would ever happen to them, I think we can all agree that being prepared is the best strategy. Its worth six minutes of your day to watch this video and share it with folks you know.

We'll be back to farming tomorrow, but as I'm sitting here watching the news they are talking about the Arizona shooting involving Gabby Giffords, they opened the news cast with the Sikt temple shooting in WI, and of course we are all still reeling about those folks in Colorado who just wanted to go to a movie one night.  We can't pretend that these situations don't happen.  It makes you wonder what would happen if those folks had this kind of training - its easy to remember: Run. Hide. Fight.

Its a hard thing to think about but we are all in this together so we can do this. Now go watch the video and send it to everyone you know.

Editors note: this is not the place to debate gun control so lets all keep our comments on that to ourselves. Since this is a highly charged topic I'll be keeping a tight reign on the comment moderation so lets stick to things like "great information I'm sending it to everyone I know." Ok?

Monday, August 6, 2012

How To Can Tomato Sauce

If you've been hesitant to get into canning now is the perfect time to take that leap! Making and canning your own tomato sauce is a great way to dip your toe into the world of food preservation.

How fun is this? Home canned tomato sauce ready for action!

To be sure I was a canning-ninny for the longest time. I didn't trust it. I was afraid of it. Didn't want to take that chance. I was fine with just freezing everything, thankyouverymuch. Wow what a mistake! Once I got over my fears and found out how easy it is to do my own canning, my home food preservation took off like a shot and I've never looked back.

Come on along and I'll show you how easy and fun it is to make and can your own tomato sauce. To be sure the best online reference for canning is Pick Your Own. Its easy, fun, and approachable with lots of pictures. And of course you should run right out and get a copy of the indomitable Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. With these references you should have the confidence to give home canning a try.

First step to making and canning tomato sauce:  Go get your maters!  Run right out in the yard and pick a whole bucket of ruby goodness. Or head on over to your local farm stand and ask them for a bargain like I showed you in this post from last summer.

Just scoop out the seeds and you are all set!

Next step, clean them bad boys. Some people are more particular than I am about cleaning maters. I don't have time to remove every seed or peel off the skins. I just cut off the tops, cut them length wise in such a way that the seeds are visible, use my knife to slide out the seeds, then cut the maters into chunks and drop them in a big kettle. Easy peasy. Turn the heat on low to medium, add some salt, take the scraps out to the chickens, and then sit around and wait until that sauce has cooked down.

Chunks of maters waiting to be cooked down into terrific sauce.

After a while I'll use a hand blender to make it more of a puree. How long do I cook it? Until its done. Its just not that complicated. Sometimes I'll cook it for hours for a thicker sauce destined for pizza, or just about 45 minutes for more pasta-y applications. I don't add spices or anything else. You can but I don't because I like to have the flexibility to use the sauce for different things. And, you need to be careful to follow a canning-approved recipe so that its safe. Don't just make up your own recipe when you are canning.

Plain sauce is just so much easier. For instance I can open a jar and use half of it one day for a sweet and sour Asian-inspired pork stir fry...and then use the rest of the sauce on a pizza the next night. Or use the whole jar as a base for a low cooked roast. Or for a fabulous meat ball bake.

Beautiful, thick sauce ready to can.

There are so many uses for home canned tomato sauce. One of the biggest lies in the grocery store is that you need to buy their expensive, fake-Italian-named pasta sauce. Don't do that. Fresh tomato sauce that you can yourself is delicious enough to stand up on its own, even plain. And you don't have to taste the stupid corn sweetener that is rampant in a lot of jarred products. Want to fancy it up? Then do it when you are making dinner. Add garlic and/or onions to a pan, saute a bit, add some wine, then the sauce then cook it for a few minutes and voila! Easy peasy.

Jars are in the water bath ready to be simmered.

While you are cooking down your sauce get your jars ready. Use your pressure canner or the biggest, deepest stock pot you have. Fill it with water and your jars - make sure the water level is above the jars and bring the whole thing up to a simmering boil. I let them simmer in there at least 10 minutes.

All my tools ready for canning. I do the same thing, the same way every time.

Got your jars simmering? Got your sauce simmering?  OK, now fill the jars - but first make sure you add lemon juice!  Why? It has to do with keeping the sauce acidic enough so that bacteria wont grow in it. I get bored with the scientific explanation so read about it in your book or on the Pick Your Own site - but just don't skip this step! How much you add depends on how big your jars are. Follow the directions given in your reference.

I don't like to can with a lot of confusion going on and I like to make sure its done safely and methodically. So I don't have the TV on or over-interested cats underfoot... I have my workspace arranged so its the most efficient and most effective. I fill the jars the same way every time so I don't forget any steps.

Make sure you follow the directions for how full to fill the jars, and also how to do the lids and rings. They need to be hot in order to seal properly. Wipe down the jar top, add the lid, and tighten.

Use a jar holder to put the filled jars into the boiling water. You need to make sure that the water level is above the jars. Then let that baby boil for the recommended amount of time. How long you boil, or "process," the jars depends on how big the jars are or if you live at an altitude.  So be sure to follow the instructions to the letter.

You can pressure can tomato sauce but for my money its easier just to use this "water bath" method. I don't find that pressure canning saves much time and I like to remove the jars and dump the hot water as soon as I can. Having a huge hot pot of water sitting there just keeps the kitchen hot and in the summer who wants that?

The jars will merrily start plinking soon after they are removed from the water - that's the sign they are properly sealed. Just let them sit there over night so they can cool. Then remove the rings and check to make extra sure that they sealed - just try and remove the lid with your hands. Doesn't budge? Then you are set. Use a wet towel to wipe down the jar, label it with the date and contents, and sit back and congratulate yourself! You did it!

See? Isn't that fun and easy? You can do it.. come on... give this a try and you'll get your confidence up to try something else!

Happy Monday everyone! Now get out there and can your own tomato sauce!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tomato time!

No time to talk - its Tomato Season!

I'm hauling them in by the bucket load......

Its like an Easter Egg hunt - the vines are positively loaded!  And my oxhearts are still bangin' - I hauled in the grand-daddy of all maters.... it was almost 20 ounces!

If you are wondering where I am... I'm in the kitchen canning this huge harvest. What a joy to have such a productive garden!

Happy Friday everyone - do you have a bucket busting tomato haul?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Peach-Pepper Jelly

Would you look at this!

Isn't it beautiful?  Peach jammy-jelly with beautiful flakes of spicy red pepper... and its delish!

I've been visiting my orchard friends getting baskets brimming full with peaches - all seconds and thirds for a bargain, of course. Most of the peaches become crisps to be enjoyed now or  frozen in smaller containers for later in the year - especially in winter. And I really love to make pie filling and freeze it for midwinter tastes-like-summer-treats.

My pal, over at the Gastronomic Gardener completely inspired me by a recent post to try something new. So I did. This peach pepper jelly is fabulous! I couldn't get enough the day I made it. I stood at the counter with crackers, fresh goat cheese and this spicy and sweet and fruity concoction thinking, "Why didn't I make this before?"

The recipe is a cinch. Mine is kind of jammy-jelly.. I couldn't bring myself to strain out the peach chunks so I just mashed it more and then added lovely red marconi peppers. They are just the right amount of heat for me.  And I couldn't bring myself to use that much sugar so I always use Pomona's pectin which lets you use less sugar or sugar alternatives.

Not only is this peach-pepper jelly great with crackers and cheese (cream cheese if you dont have chevre), but I can't wait to use it as a dippin' sauce when I make another round of jalapeno poppers. Or even as a glaze for a stunning pork roast.

Sometimes jams and jellies escape me but the options are limitless with this peachy-peppery delight.

Happy Wednesday everyone - are you all jammin' and jellying?

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