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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lost

We had a landslide and a tree fall on our fencing yesterday. We cleaned it up and repaired the fence. The cows were secured, but the sheep were spooked. Large didn't tell me until last night that he couldn't find the sheep.

They were spotted, and we attempted to get them back to our property. But without them following the cows, it is next to impossible. Hopefully I can spot them tonight, away from anyone else's animals, so I can start shooting them one by one. I have little choice left. Update, just got a phone call, they did come back on their own. We will see if they stay.

Large and I spend several hours each morning and evening patching or remaking fencing. If there is a weak spot the cows will find it. They do not like being down in the holler, they want horizon. But we can't afford to give them that yet, so we patch work a fence, praying each night that they will be there come morning.

When does one say enough is enough? 

One of the reasons I came here was because of my livestock, and now I am slowly losing my herd. Between them and Husband, my stomach is knotted in stress and worry. I barely sleep, I barely function. Most days feel like autopilot. It seems better to have no emotion than to cry endlessly. With dry eyes one can at least get things accomplished.

I assumed things would get better, but almost a year into it, things have steadily grown worse. I want to be able to fall back in love with the land, but right now it could all be swallowed and I wouldn't bat an eye. I try to remember why we loved it so. Instead I glare at it in spite. 

There are so many things to rant about, nepotism, forced union dues, liars, thieves, drug addiction. But it all becomes a blur, intertwining with all the other stressful events taking place. Murphy's law is in full force here. 1 good thing means a week of hell. 

I am glad some of you think I am so strong, so resilient. The fact is I am merely hard headed, and now I am lost. If only 1 good thing would happen with no consequences, maybe then I could be happy again. Maybe Husband could find that joy he first felt when we got here. Until then, I am buying stock in antacids and tissues.



Tomorrow, back to the optimism.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The things I done did.


I got to can in the daylight! Talk about bliss. There is something to the saying about taking things for granted. . . 

I digress, last night I harvest a decent amount of cucumbers, crookneck squash and summer squash.


I am running dangerously low on canning jars. An added stress in my life. Wait, I promised not to get whinny about things. Let us move on. One solution to lack of jars;


A bit of airing out and sun drying. 

I decided to use some of the crooknecked squash in a relish. Sunshine is always needed in the darkest of winter.


Sunshine relish

4 lbs shredded crookneck squash 
2 large onions, minced
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons canning salt
4 cups sugar
3 cups cider vinegar
1 tablespoon each celery seed,  and ground turmeric
1 tablespoon whole seed mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cracked peppercorn

Directions
In a large pot combine the sugar, vinegar , salt and seasonings. Bring to
a boil. Add squash, onion and bell pepper then return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer
for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Ladle hot mixture into six hot pint jars, leaving 1/2-in.
headspace. Remove air bubbles; wipe rims and adjust lids. Process
for 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner. 


I went ahead and canned a few jars of straight squash. Just sliced summer squash in water. A bit of salt if you'd like. You really should pressure can these at 10 lbs for 30 mins. I hot water bathed for over 90 mins.


And finally some sweet pickles. I have the mixture premade so that I don't have to have a plethora of cucumbers to start canning. Just reheat the mixture if you have leftover.



2-1/2 pounds 3-inch pickling cucumbers, well-scrubbed and quartered into spears (about 12 cups spears)
4 cups cider vinegar
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
6 heads dill
2 medium sweet white onions, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 12 1/2inch-thick slices (I actually minced them this time)
7 whole cloves, crushed

In a large saucepan, stir together vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, celery seeds, cloves and pepper. Bring to a boil over a high heat, stir to dissolve sugar.

Put dill and 1 slice of onion (or the minced onion) at the bottom of each of your sterile jars.

Pack spears into sterile quart (pints for me) jars. ladle vinegar mix over cucumbers in the jar, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Process in hot water bath for 5, 10, 15 minutes depending on how high you are from sea level.

The above picture was taken just as I removed the jars from the canner. The pickles will stop floating in 24 hours. I know that freaks some of you out. -wry grin-

Friday, July 25, 2014

Blackberry Jelly


Another after dark, campfire canning event.

The berries were dutifully smashed, then processed through my food mill. Next I drained the juice, pulp and seed through three layers of cheese cloth, and allowed it to drip over night. And then into the next day, unable to get to it until after dinner, as the sun set.

With the campfire roaring, I placed my canner, a pot of water for the jars and a pot of the juice to boil (4 cups) I use a fly wheel on top of my campfire. Keeps my pots from going black and gives me a more consistent heat. Once the juice slow rolled, I added one box of pectin, and brought to a hard boil.

Using a flashlight, I checked it periodically to make sure it was a hard boil, then allowed it to roll for one minute. Next I dumped 4 1/2 cups sugar into the scalding juice and returned it to a hard boil, again checking on it with my flashlight. It should only take a minute, but sometimes it can take 5, as bringing it back up, without burning it can be tricky on an open fire.

Once it jelled on a spoon (did I mention it is July, yet I can see my breath at night?) I poured the soon to be jelly into my sterile jars and processed in the hot water bath for 30 mins. It should only take 10, but my fire wasn't fully cooperating. 


And there you go. Very basic blackberry jelly. Up next, rum/ blackberry vanilla spiced blackberry jelly and chocolate raspberry jam.


My confession;

I have an aversion to crunchy jam or jelly. There is a time and a place for crunch, this is not one of them. I realize that many people do like blackberry jam. I won't hate you because of our differences. Just know that. I am a texture person, and I will look at you like you just emerged naked from a spaceship that flew out of a unicorn's rear end. But we can still be friends.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Interestingness

As odd as the mimosa leaves strung out across my driveway was, it pales in comparison to what happened next.


Just about every night we hear rocks being dropped or smashed together. The only time it happens is during a new moon, or very cloudy night where little moon light can penatrate the dense canopy of trees along the Creek Styx. (Those new, this is what the boys have named our creek).

I figured it was just raccoons, breaking open food items on the rocks. Our dogs have grown use to it, so no longer bother to acknowledge the noise with bursts of nervous barks like the once did. They ignore it and go no where near the area the sound emanates from.  However, if the dead leaves or the underbrush is disturbed closer to the house, they quickly become alert, and very protective, as per their job description states. We insist they sign a contract before allowing them room and board. 

One night the sounds of dropping rocks woke me. It was very loud, and didn't sound like small, easily raccooned moved rocks. But I am a neophyte, a babe in the woods, so what do I really know? The next day, Large and Small were out and came back with a tale of cairns being built in the stream, near the abandoned bus.


I am stubborn in my refusal to go near this during the warm months, citing rats and snakes. 

Large informed me of two different stacked rocks. My boys have been known to fib, luckily Small is horrible at it, and I knew that the pillar of rocks were indeed there, and that neither child had built them.

The first one is easy to explain, if I had any rushing water the last few days.


However the second stands over 4ft, and the bottom rock is hefty. Husband says easily 100lbs, too much for one child to lift on his own.


 


I know a few things about cairns. I also know that hikers will stack rocks to mark trails or danger. However this one is too tall for traditional trail marking. Plus they would have had to go through barbed-wire fencing to erect it. 

Now there are a few theories.

1) stowaway stoner creating a fairy land 
2) we have our own Blair Witch
3) Bigfoot
4) someone is getting a kick out of messing with us.

Now I do not know a lot about Appalachian folklore, and the role of cairns in it. I tried looking it up, but so far have found nothing. 

Things have been interesting, fun and a bit creepy. If someone is trying to scare us off, they will have to try a tad harder.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Braiding onions

It's been a few years since I posted braided onions. Don't want info going stale, ya know.



Normally I wouldn't be pulling onions until next month, however we had a couple of puppies decide to play in the onion bed, so more than half my bulbs were uprooted.

First you want to lay your onions out to dry for a couple of days. Allowing them to crust up, and the skins to be nice and dry.

Once confident in that, time to braid. You will need some string or twine. 

Food the twine in half. Make a loop at the end,


Take the opposite end and run it through the loop.


Tighten.

With the next onion, place the top between the two strands of twine, wrap around one side, then the other, almost a figure 8.



Repeat until you have as many on your braid as you want. Tie off the end, make a loop, and hang in a dry, cool, darkish area.




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Berry time.


Blackberries and raspberries are ready and waiting to be plucked, or fall, whichever their suicidal tendencies may lean. Medium and I stopped at the top of our driveway, and slowly walked the half mile down, gathering what we could reach, bloodying our hands purple. 

Medium immediately started to complain when he realized how thick the thorns were. Between the blackberries, the rose bushes, stinging nettles, and something I have yet to identify, cat scratch fever was proclaimed by my middle son. Suck it up buttercup. I received a glare to my laughing reply. A few scratches, no real blood, however we discovered that one of the thorny plants enjoyed breaking its talons off into the soft flesh of mammals. I think I still have one in the back of my neck.

Being interrogated by the locals, lead me to believe I would be fighting off territorial 25ft snakes, with venom dripping from their eyes. I was vexed by the thorns, spiders and hornets. Oh dear, the hornets were our bane! We could have that berry, but woe is you if you plucked that one, or that one! The buzzing of the hornets changed swiftly from the medolic hum to a high pitch "mine mine mine". At one point Medium suggested pushing me down the hill and running for it. "I know where you live boyo".

Once the hornets realized we were superior, having thumbs and all, they let us be. And we resumed our plucking. The woods alive with birds and other insects, yet left us alone to enjoy light banter and thorn drama. 

"I wasn't calling Rapunzel." I suddenly yelled. "Don't scratch out my eyes!"   Thorns in my hair, my ear, grasping desperately to my back. I, stuck in a frozen runners pose, please no, I pleaded. "Relax mom. I'll save you." Oh Medium, my hero.


We spent two hours picking. This is what we were able to gather just off the driveway. Next, the fields.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dill pickles

We are down to one vehicle right now. The motorcycle is firing on one cylinder at this time. Hopefully Husband will be able to get to it this weekend. Because of this, we closed shop early, so he could get to his second shift job, and I could get home.

With several hours extra time on my hands down in the hole. (Feeling so small. . . .I'd like to fly, but my wings have been so denied) I was able to process 11 pints of dill pickles. 

Unfortunately I haven't yet began to replenish my herb supply. Some of my herbs are coming up, but pickling season is now, not just next year. That means I had to buy some of the ingredients.


I had more than enough cucumbers to keep me in hamburger dills for the next two years. 11lbs.


If you don't remember or are new, I love my hand powered food processor. Makes things much easier, and less tiring. Especially when you have kids to run it for you.


My first round of slicing didn't turn out like I wanted to. Oh the despair! How could you dissapoint me so food processor? A change was made.


 
The crinkle cut cone worked wonderfully.  They will be a welcome addition to my burgers and other sandwiches. 

 
Dill is the first of my herbs to be ready. I am grateful to them for growing like they should. I must have a conversation with a few of the others. 

For dill pickles you will need;

4 quarts water
6 tablespoons coarse white Kosher salt
18-20 cucumbers, scrubbed
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled and lightly-crushed
2 tablespoons pickling spice (recipe below)
6 bay leaves
1 large bunch of dill, going to seed, washed

In a large pot, heat 1 qt of the water with salt until dissolved. Add the remaining water.

Sterilize 3 quart canning jars

divide the garlic, spices, bay leaves, and dill amongst them.

If doing halves, pack the cucumbers vertically into the jars, making sure are very tightly-packed. 

Fill the jars with brine so that the cucumbers are completely covered. Hot water bath for 20-30 mins for halves, 15 minutes for pints of chips. Ready to eat in 3 days.

Pickling spice:

2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon ground mace
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
24 bay leaves, crumbled
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger.

In a small dry pan, combine peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds. Place over medium heat and stir until fragrant, careful not to burn them. Keep the lid handy in case seeds pop. Crack peppercorns and seeds in mortar and pestle (or use the side of a knife on cutting board).

Mix together all ingredients. Store in a tightly sealed plastic or glass container.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vanilla Plum Jelly

I got a late start last night. The fire cracked and gently roared, and I found myself stumbling around in the dark, filling hot pint jars with equally scalding, yet sticky, plum juice. 



I decided to a very basic, no frilles jelly. Something I can do with my eyes shut.

Plum Jelly

4 lbs of ripe plums
1 pkg pectin
6 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large stock pot, place water and plums, heat over fire. You can use a low heat and do it slowly. I, on a campfire just had to go! Cover with lid. Stir occasionally so that the plums don't stick to the bottom, unless you are over a campfire, stir often. Once the plums start to soften and get squishy, remove from heat and run through your food mill into a clean pot. If you want unclouded jelly, you will need to run it through cheese cloth as well. 

Add pectin and vanilla to the plum juice, bring to a hard boil, for one minute. Add all the sugar, quickly. Stir until dissolved and bring back to a hard boil for 1 minute. Pour into your hot sterile jars.

Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Makes 6 pints.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Land of Milk and Honey

If you read comments on my blog, you might have run across someone that is pushing me to be a bit more honest.

So, you are right, things here are not peaches and cream. I had wanted to attempt to concentrate on the positives for now. I hear it said that the universe gives back what you release into it. I figured I could at least try.  ~shrug~

My failures or trials, or whatever you want to call them, are my own. Things are very rough for us, and have been since we got here. We will make it through, eventually.

And to answer some of your questions, no, if it requires money it will not be made, replaced, repaired or built for at least the next year. If we can scrounge up materials, then yes. 

Basically you will be watching me can a bunch of green beans. The suspense is killing you, I know. But we will not be talking about the horrifically scary driveway that broke the swing bar of my truck, nor the fact I have no interior walls in my house, or the floor is caving in, nor will we idlly chat about babbysitting cows, or refrigeration, or the fact that I am temporarily back to wearing a brace. (Falling hurts by the bye). No, what we will talk about is garden mulching, 






pickle making, dehydrating with the sun, how to get blood stains out of clothes, cooking on a campfire in the rain, preparing for the winter months and Jellies! 

And we will be happy about it, darn it! Ha! If we can't find the simplest of joys and reasons to laugh, there is no use doing any of this.  

For my sanity and my Husband's welfare, we find the optimism, the positives, and cling to the hopes. It's really all we have right now. And our love. (Gag) 

If I mess up really big, I will be sure to get pictures and fill you in. Promise. 



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