Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Seeing the finish line on Baby's Room

I can see the finish line right around the corner.

The walls are painted and the flooring is in. 

Now it just needs the trim and a closet door attached.

We shall return to normal soon.

Blisters and Sweat Equity

I have a goal for this summer: don't let the heat keep me out of the garden. I have a plan to make this years garden the best Resistance garden ever. I am going to can, preserve, pressure can, and dehydrate the living guts out of everything it produces. I am a woman on a mission.

This past weekend I met my goal for the first time. Despite sizzling heat and sun, I refused to start my inside tasks before I had crops reseeded and my second rotation of onions (both red and white) in the ground. It was touch and go for a while there, but through grit and water, I persisted. This only problem? A sunburn? Hell yes but in my haste to get the heck out of there and into shade as fast as possible, I worked my trowel a bit too hard without gloves on.

Chive Vinegar

This was the simplest act of sustainability I have ever done, and it is SO pretty!

and a day later... voila!

I can't wait to see what it looks like in a week!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Lilac Jam

As I searched for recipes for violets, I learned that lilacs are another edible flower and was immediately entranced by the task of finding a recipe to make jam with the last two remaining flowers on my lilac tree. There was lilac jelly (oh so beautiful you must wait until next year) but the Jun Food in Jars Challenge is jam, so I had to settle on the only recipe I could get my hands on that worked with my available time (as in right then and there) and my available resources (two flowers only makes about one cup of usable flower). 

This recipe I found was from Music, Life, Love blog that appears long out of service. Do I trust the recipe? It seems an awful lot like the violet recipe and it will be going in the freezer, so... what the heck, I can always dump it later if it is awful.

2 cups, loosely packed lilac blossoms (no green parts or stems)
Juice of 1 fresh lemon or 4 Tablespoons of bottled lemon juice
3/4 cup water
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water (a second time)
1 pkg. Sure-Jel pectin

1.  Put 3/4 cup water and the lilac blossoms in a blender and blend well.
2.  Add the lemon juice and notice how the lilac paste turns a richer purple as soon as the lemon juice hits the dull purple paste.
3. Add the sugar and blend again to dissolve.
4. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat  the second 3/4 cup water in a sauce pan. Slowly stir the package of pectin into and bring it to a boil, continuing to boil hard for 1 minute.
5. Pour the hot pectin into the blender with the lilac paste.
6. Blend again and pour into jars or small storage containers.
7. Let cool, then cover with lids and store in the freezer. The jam will turn a deeper purple as it sets up. You can dip out the jam whenever you want some.

I'm really quite excited about them but once again worry about the pectin texture. I really need to get better at doing pectin the natural way.

They took on a surprisingly browner hue as time went on. It still has a shade of purple, but not as much as it was.

Store in freezer for up to a month. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Violet Jam

A boy in the grass picking flowers
June is a jam month for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge and I need to be honest, I really wanted to challenge myself and jam was a hard one to find. Jam is my THING.... how could I take it up a notch?

Then I remembered that we had violets growing at the edge of the woods.  FLOWERS .... I could challenge myself by using flowers. It was a wonderful Sunday morning activity. With the help of Baby, we went foraging in the field for violets.

It was an ideal Sunday morning, drinking my tea, sitting in the shady grass with my youngest picking flowers.

I need to be honest here though one cup of packed violets is a hard earned venture, even Baby bagged out before I got them all. They almost camouflage themselves among the grass - you can only see them when you look at them from the right direction.

I love the swirl in the leaves. 

All in all, it took over an hour to procure one cup of violets but luckily that is all I needed because I picked every last one of them.

I used a recipe from  Soule Mama found HERE.  

I don't know if I did it right or used the right amount of pectin because my jam isn't as purple as hers. It also seems to have a grainy consistency. I would definitely make this again, but I might use natural pectin from apples. This was a nice experiment in foraging and I will tinker with it again. How many rounds of blooms do violets have in a season?
I Tweezed out any impurities

1 (packed) cup violet blossoms
1 cup water
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup honey
pectin (I used 1/3 of a box of Pomona pectin - turns out that 1/3 is 1 Tablespoon and 1 Teaspoon.)

1. Spend a lovely late spring morning with your youngest child foraging for violets. 
2.  Blend violets, 1/2 of the water and lemon juice.

3.  Heat remaining water and honey in a saucepan. 
4. When warm, add pectin and stir until mixed well. 
5. Add pectin/honey mix to blender. Blend again until smooth. 
6. Place in hot jars immediately to set. This is a freezer jam for preserving.

Sustainable plant watering

Look at that rich color left from Fiddleheads!

I don't know why I didn't think of it before learning it from Marisa at FoodinJars.com , but one should ALWAYS save their blanching water. It provides a nutritious drink for your plants.

From blanching my fiddle heads for 3 pints of pickled asparagus, I yielded two quarts of healthy nutritious water for my plants.

I know my Hibiscus and Orchid are thanking me!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Dandelion Jelly

Finally, I am a believer! Round one of dandelion jelly ended like this:

What did I do, make a scoby?

After a morbidly awful first round failure, I rolled my shoulders back, put my chin up, and demanded that the kids help me forage a SECOND round of dandelion blossoms. "But, MOM!" Can you hear them? Geez Louise its as if I am forcing them into child labor. This time I was smarter and employed them to each bring a pair of scissors because this time once we picked the blossom, we would cut the bottom off right then and there, cutting our prep time down to nil! Winning!
This is the prep we had to endure the first round:
I wish I had a picture of them out in the field with their baskets. It was a very nice holiday weekend activity. We were also under the gun because SP had just left to go pick up a mower to knock down the field. As he returned he alerted us to another field, well an old logging job nearby, that was chock full of dandelions so we relinquished our hold on the home field and moved along to find new ground. We were very successful in our foraging.

This round I also used a new recipe that I found on SimplyCanning.com (thanks to a member of the Food In Jars community on Facebook). The recipe found Here shows detailed pictures of how to cut the dandelions. It is far easier to use a pair of scissors that to do it with your fingers alone.

4 cups dandelion flower petals
4 cups boiling water
4 cups dandelion tea (made from the steeped petals - see below)
7 cups sugar
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 pouches liquid pectin


1. Place your dandelion petals in a heat safe container (with cover).  Cover petals with boiling water. Stir to combine. Cover (once it cools a bit) and steep overnight.

2. Drain the petals, reserving the tea.
3. Prepare your jars in a hot water canner. 
4. In a large pot (the pectin will make the jelly foam so you want room), combine the tea, sugar and lemon juice.
5. Bring mixture to a full boil.
6. Add the liquid pectin and stir constantly as it comes back to a boil.
7. Keep stirring and let it boil for one minute.
8. Remove from heat. Ladle the jelly into hot jars.
9. Affix lids and rings to the jars and place in hot water canner.
10. Process in canner for 10 minutes.

I was desperate to see if it jelled and fortunately had a bit left over that I didn't can that cooled first. By 10:00 last night, I declared the mission a success!

It really does taste just like honey!

Pickled Fiddleheads

 One of the joys of living in Maine is the multitude of things one can forage and eat. Spring is a time of a great unfolding in this state, as the abundant nature around us wakes from the slumber of winter. One prize possession the is revealed is fiddle heads. These unique edible spirals of green wonder are the baby ostrich fern.

 While all ferns have fiddleheads, it is the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) that is the unique species of edible fern. 
Image result for ostrich fern fiddleheads
SP loves to hunt down this mysterious low lying plants and bring home a bundle to be eaten. He loves to pan fry them in butter or to coat them in a batter and fry. This year he let me pickle them for Christmas treats for the family. 

I used the recipe from http://www.wellpreserved.ca found Here. One of the MOST IMPORTANT things about using fiddleheads is to exercise proper cleaning of them before cooking. All that brown whispy stuff needs to be removed completely. It's very easy but you need to do a thorough job. 

  • 2 pounds fiddleheads, cleaned thoroughly
  • 1 large white onion, cut in half then sliced into ½ circles
  • 3½ cups white vinegar
  • 3½ cups water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp chili flakes
  • 4 tsp black peppercorns
1. In a hot water canner, sterilize your jars. 
2. Put your cleaned fiddleheads into a strainer or the strainer of your pasta pot and prepare them to be blanched. 
3. Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Blanch your fiddleheads in this for 3 minutes. 
4. Remove the strainer of fiddle heads and quickly cool them under running cold water. Preserve your blanching water. It is a healthy and nutritious way to water your house plants. I got 2 pitchers worth and my plants thanked me. Really, they did. 

5. Make the bring by combining the rest onion, vinegar, water, salt, garlic,  and honey in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. 
6. While the brine is coming to a boil, prepare your hot jars by adding a clove of garlic and 1/2 teaspoon each of chili flakes and peppercorns.
7.  Pack the blanched fiddle heads into your jars.  
8. Cover the fiddle heads with the brine. Leave 1/2 inch head space. 
9. Process in a hot water canner for 10 minutes.  
10. Wait as long as you can before opening the jars to try them. SP only made it 24 hours. I challenge you to wait a week.


p.s. somehow I turned on text background color and I can't turn it off. Sorry. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Our Resistance Garden will be the best garden ever!

Due to the projected rise in food prices we are planning a garden that will sustain us thorough out the year. Our intentions are to far exceed the banner garden of the summer of 2015. Careful planning has gone into this venture with the cancellation of certain summer plans and the installation of a new fence and watering system. A lot of time and energy has gone into it so far, but I am proud to say that for the first time ever, we have the garden 90% installed. I really hope we can keep the momentum going and get in staggered crops. I also really hope that our planned road trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan doesn't completely clash with the early August Harvest. Our fingers will be crossed!
Two rows of potatoes on left. Right is root row with chard.

Two rows of Brassicas - that is 24 plants total. Room for more!

2 rows with 8 Hills each for squashes. 

Tomatoes on right, two of peppers, amaranth, kale, lettuce, peas and beans to right.

From the corner by the road.

Outside row for future, deer friendly , crops

Another view of the potato row.

Sloppy pumpkin patch to be reseeded after frost.

The full shot in all its glory.

Another angle as dusk falls

New hose hanger

New gate.

Done for the day.

60 potted plants ready for secondary crops.