Life on a little urban homestead in the making, with ideas for self-sufficiency, Permaculture, DIYing, organic gardening, food preservation, Chicken keeping, cookery, crafts, thrifting and more...

Sep 21, 2020

Canning Pears, Autumn Garden Clean Up, Losing Power, Blue Skies/ Birds Are Back, Blogger Legacy Gone/ Problems

Canning Pears-
Last week I finished up canning all the pears, although I left some fresh on the table-

Nice to have so much home-canned fruits! 

I used a ratio between "extra light" and "light" syrup. I asked Dave to decide if I should do a "spiced" pear, he declined. Works for me! This is a good reminder, if you're going to plant some trees, plant fruit trees! And a few different varieties. You can keep, barter or sell if needed. Our apple harvest this weekend was about 20 apples, sad. I do have some frozen from last year, so I may make some apple butter in the next month.

Autumn Garden Clean Up-
It's that time of year! Starting to remove things that aren't producing from the garden. The Lemon cukes were first. I harvested them, then Dave removed the chicken mini-fence. The girls feasted on the leaves! 

Next Dave harvested all the ripe tomatoes, about 1 gallon +, some peppers, then he trimmed them all way back. The trimmings went to the compost bin-

They look naked! 

Still lots left to ripen, will watch the weather closely-

Collards still going great! 

Flowers have rebounded since it's cooled off -

Losing Power-
We lost power here for about an hour Friday morning. I had just started working and heard a loud BAM, then lights out. It was so smoky that at 8:30 am it was dark. Luckily a storm blew in the night and really cleared the air!!! I turned on a LED battery lantern and called the power company. It was on in about an hour. I had already planned to fill and clean my oil lamps. With September being preparedness month I kind of laughed a bit. So this weekend I got them all out, washed and filled, they had been dusty and low on oil-

I also put new batteries in a few small flashlights. They are also ready! We bought new wiper blades for the cars, they were really bad. My car battery died too, luckily it was under warranty and got a new one for $40.00! Glad it died in nice weather in the garage. Dave and I jumped it, and off he went coming home with a new one! 

Blue Skies/ Birds Are Back-
Saturday I realized I was hearing the birds sing. I realized that with the heavy smoke they weren't around-

Smoky skies!

Sunday the sky was an even deeper blue and the birds were singing like crazy! I posted a video/audio on my Instagram, link on upper right. Listen to them! It's amazing. I sat outside for quite a while just listening to them, made me so happy. 

Blogger Legacy Gone/Problems-
From what I can see Blogger "legacy" is gone, can't find it now. It's free so I can't complain too much. I'm sure Google had to update it for all the phones/browsers out there. I have had 0 luck with multiple help tickets on not being able to add HTML code. Shocker. I kept getting "do this and this", when they obviously didn't bother reading my notes that I already had followed the instructions. Duh. I wonder if Google doesn't want people to be able to add codes, like Amazon links, to earn money? What can expect? I also don't like the "labels" feature, the previous drop down menu was easier to see. Anyone else having problems???

Sep 11, 2020

Independence Days Challenge

Independence Days Challenge-
It's been cooling off a little bit here, but a few hot days once in a while. Generally the days are getting so much shorter that it's cooling off at night really nicely. Trees locally are getting some color, as is our huge maple tree-

We're getting a little bit of smoke again from California, not much we can do about that. There's also terrible fires now over in the Oregon areas we love. One is nearing an urban area where Dave's nephew lives, he may have to evacuate. I can't believe there are stupid people doing stupid things, like gender reveals involving explosives! Yeah that's a great idea to do in a drought stricken area! My one daughter was smart enough to do a pie reveal. One was supposed to be pink or blue, easy and safe! So anyway, here's what we've been up to lately-

1. Plant Something- 
Not this time of year, too hot/cold. I don't do fall plantings here. Might do some flower bulbs for spring.

2. Harvest Something- 
We just had a really nice harvest of tomatoes! They were late but prolific!!!

Many of these are heading for the freezer. We've also been getting Basil, several kinds of peppers, Kale, Collard greens, lemon cukes (almost done), the last of the blackberries and yellow squash. I'll be the drying some yellow squash for this winter. My BIG Italian peppers haven't turned red yet, but should soon. They're worth the wait! 

Collard greens

Green cabbage coming along slowly, red cabbage never got heads for some reason-

We have our mini-pumpkin patch too, I planted a mixed-seed varieties-

3. Preserve/Store Something-
I finished up the jams, chutneys, from the peaches that we had-

We let the pears ripen inside since they were pretty green over Labor Day weekend, which is when I had hoped to can them. I'll be canning these this weekend-

Will be harvesting our apples next weekend. Didn't have a great crop this year, but I'll decide what to do with those.  I still have plenty of apples in the freezer and canned previously. I may dry some. I have a small, nice food dryer. It's been challenging finding canning supplies and I guess that seem to be a national issue since it's been on the news Washingtonpost Canning Shortage  I was able to find some pint size jars on Amazon, so I did order one box today. Wasn't much more than I would usually pay in the grocery store, although haven't bought jars in a few years. I have tons of Basil and will make pesto to freeze soon. 

4. Manage Reserves- Get a Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep-
I went out to the Eddie Bauer Outlet on a whim. It's on the outskirts of Boise and found some great deals. I found women's flannel lined jeans, polar fleece lined wind pants (water resistant) and a regular pair of jeans. The warm ones will be handy in winter! They were all $17 each, a real steal,  very expensive (overpriced) originally-

Nice pockets!

So soft and warm 

Cheery flannel!

I got a new HEPA air filter replacement as my previous one died.  It turns out Amazon does not honor the warranties after a certain point, so I contacted the manufacturer directly. Took about 3 weeks, then I got a new one in the mail a few days ago. The other ones have lasted for years and years so I was really shocked it died after 4 months!

I ordered some pasta bowls from Ikea online that were delivered. Even with the shipping I can't find good ones for their prices. My old ones were in bad shape, but they lasted lots of years! 

When I ordered canning jars on Amazon I also bought a Vidalia Chopper/ Dicer-

I like making things like corn relish, but it is so much dicing for big batches! I've decided to make another big batch, for the fridge. I'm running out of canning jars and it should last quite a few months chilled in my 2 Qt. jars.  

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipe-
Will be using some of my homemade Chutney that I now that I have some. I posted recently about the BLT sandwich with catfish although I did substitute tilapia for that. Was great with our fresh tomatoes! Also tried the new Mexican dish that I posted about last week-

Cooked down the last of the frozen Rhubarb and made sauce for Dave.

6. Build Community Food Systems-
We supported our local Orchard and farmstead stand by buying our peaches, corn, apples and a few other things. We may go back next weekend to see if we can get some more apples and corn. The local Gala apples were the best I've ever had in my entire life. To say they were crispy was putting it mildly, really juicy and amazing-

7. Recycle/Re-Use-
I did some mending of some clothes, donated some bedding, towels, toys & decor to our local thrift store. I realized I had stashed some new bath towels from last time we went to Ikea, last year. The ones we were using we're getting pretty beat up, so it's nice to be able to get into the hall closet and bring out new ones! Sadly Ikea discontinued their apple green bath towels which I love, sigh. 

8. Skill Up-
I checked out Jamie Oliver's cookbook Ultimate Veg since I've been seeing some of the episodes on PBS. I love his recipes! I'm happy we can still get things from the Library, just can't go in. He has a really great use of spices and different cooking techniques I'm getting familiar with. Will be posting some reviews later as I try some of them-

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something-
Last year we added some new fence boards in our backyard after a small dog got in and killed two of our hens.  Dave didn't like the way the new boards stood out from the old.  He borrowed one of  relatives electric pressure washer. We are both pretty shocked about how fast a lot of dirt just came right off the boards. Electric pressure washers don't have the same high pressure as the gas powered ones do, but it did a great job! Clean part of the board on the right- 

Before photo last fall-

River saying high to neighbor kitty Posey

After shot- 

After shot, was really dark before! 

Not perfect but it will weather out anyway. 

After working in my home office/bedroom I realized how dirty our blinds were. When we bought the house the 2 front bedrooms had heavy, wood grain, plastic white blinds. Great for light control, so we added curtains and kept them-

I realized how dirty they were, so I asked Dave to take them down and I could wash them. Turns out they were too long for the tub! So Dave took them out washed them down and rinsed well, let dry. So white now!!!


So much cleaner! That's it for now! 

Sep 9, 2020

50 Degree Drop, Making Peach Chutney & Low Sugar Jams, Rick Bayless Mexican Chilaquiles

50 Degree Drop-
We had some record-setting heat last week, about 103! Luckily things moderated. Monday night we had a cold front blowing in from Canada and the temperature dropped. We had really high gusting winds, some power outages, and downed trees. Part of the highway was closed due to severe blowing dust. Luckily we didn't have any damage here. We woke up and it was 45 degrees Tuesday morning! The winds also pushed some small fires into larger grass fires and forest fires. I was listening to a climatologist interview this morning and he said we just had real extremes. He are having severe heat and fires in the West, and in the Mountain West severe cold and snow. Terrible fires now in Oregon too, very sad. Glad I bought the heater for my home office, never thought I'd use it this early. It's warming into the 80's this week, but fall is in the air...

Making Peach Chutney & Low Sugar Jams-
I thought I'd mention this since in this post- there's a canning supplies shortage in Boise. It's the first time I've ever seen this. I can't find canning jars anywhere, as well as lids and rings. Luckily I had about lots of extra lids last year that I didn't use. Now I'm down to my last 13 Quart jars! I used just about everything else up. Hopefully that will be enough for my pears to can this weekend, if not I will do something else with the excess. It's funny, in March, after Covid hit, I thought I should probably buy some extra jars, and I didn't. Now I'm kicking myself, live and learn! Anyway here's some of what I did on my long Labor Day weekend!....

I decided to use some of my peaches to make some peach chutney. After trying Jamie Oliver's flatbread with chutney, yogurt and eggs why buy some over-priced/processed chutney? I had seen several "authentic versions". I used the basic Ball Peach Chutney recipe as a base since I'd be canning it. In addition to what they had listed I also added 1 Tsp Turmeric, 1/2 Tsp Cardamom, 50% more Mustard seeds and 2 cloves diced fresh garlic. Ball had the garlic as "optional". I cut the recipe in 1/2 since I didn't want quite that much!  This does take a while to cook down and thicken, as I found out! Over two hours! No pectin is used and it thickens on cooling. Good description here as well as another recipe BBC.Co.UK How To Make Chutney

Cooking away

All done!

Next I did two batched of peach jams. The Pomona Pectin worked great! Sets up FAST. I did all the peaches in one day. Size-wise, to clarify of you're new to canning, a 1/2 pint is a standard "Jelly Jar". See the smaller ones above. 

At the end of the day I canned, all low sugar-

Peach Jam, 11 X 1/2 pints and four X Pints. I tossed in about 1 cup of our fresh Blackberries and mashed them in. Nice color/flavor bonus, and it looks like jars of sunshine!

Spiced Peach jam, four X 1/2 Pints and three X Pints. I add cinnamon, cloves and a pinch of Allspice. Tastes like peach pie filling!

Peach Chutney, I canned six X half Pints and two Pints. You can use jam, along with onions and ginger on top of pork chops beside the traditional use.  Just heat thru and put on top!

Next Corn Relish-

For the corn relish I used this basic recipe, Summery Corn Relish  but with White vinegar and white onions. I also added 8 cloves of garlic, smashed. I started with a giant can of corn, a little less than one Gallon ($3.00), and adjusted the recipe accordingly. Total was 6 Qts. I may make more next month. I saw this on someone's blog, wished I had one! Relish is lots of dicing!!! I may buy one-

Next Rhubarb sauce!  I thawed out some rhubarb from last year and made about two Quarts of rhubarb sauce. Dave loves the stuff! Basically I thawed the rhubarb, drained off most of the juice, cooked that down, added sugar to taste. It wasn't enough to bother with canning (and I'm getting low on jars) so it will be in the refrigerator. Should keep for months. 

My pantry rack looked like this before canning, last 3 jars of last year's jam, with last year's peaches and apples-

After canning, here we go! Added jams and chutney-

Corn relish added-

I have room below for the pears, then I'll be done! I'l be freezing some tomatoes and peppers. Will dehydrate some squash for soups. And maybe a few other things. I'm thinking about plums?

Rick Bayless's Mexican Chilaquiles-
After seeing this the other night I decided to try it! Rick Bayless, famous American chef, called it Mexican comfort food. I followed the recipe, roasting a chicken with Mexican seasonings, and using a store-bought Tomatillo salsa. Basically you heat up salsa, add chicken broth and onions, simmer, toss in tortilla chips, toss, toss, add shredded chicken, toss, toss, cover for 2-3 minutes. That's it! Top with sliced onions, Cilantro Mexican cheeses. Recipe video (with link for printed version) Rick Bayless  It was spicy and unique. You could also probably use other meats. I think it's a keeper. I cut the recipe in half and it was still a LOT! He also advises soaking white onion slices to "de-flame" them, as done in Mexico. Get rids of some of the heat, but keeps the nice crunch! I'd never heard of that! You learn something new every day...
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