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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.


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. 

The weekend

Husband is working overtime, from here into the rest of the year. It has it's good and bad sides. Good, is we can use the money. Bad, the job is hurting him, and the boys don't get to see him as much. 

And the very bad? It forces me to be more sociable, nicer to people. That is a difficult task for me. -wry grin-  my people skills have been improving. And I have began to meet some nice people. At least to my face they are nice. The culture here is far different than I am use to, and it seems I have to be wary of intentions. We are learning that, slowly. But we have befriended one person that we seem to be able to trust. A gentleman biker, and not a client. 

He heard I have been canning on a campfire, so swung by and dropped this off for me.

A table top stove.

Awesome, right?

The copper connectors have broken off, but we have some things off of a motorcycle that will work to repair it. It is propane, and I can afford to get a small bottle. This means I can pressure can! I do need to get to the extension office and have my canner tested. I blew it up a few years ago, and it doesn't seem to be working correctly.

He is also my plum hookup. When he brought this by, he told me he is plum-full. And whatever was left was mine. After work Saturday, I swung by and gathered a good amount. Plum jelly here I come. He also showed me is crabapple trees, and told me come fall I can have all I was willing to deal with. My eyes lit up and I actually told him he was the bees knees. He laughed and said he thought I would enjoy that. 

He has been wonderful, here I am gushing. Ha! We swung by on Sunday to pick up a very old bale for our garden. While we were standing there talking, his huge bull, and I mean huge! Waylaid into a new bale, a hay explosion that shook the ground. Well, no, but it was a mess. We helped clean up, he feed some off to his goats, than offered the rest to us. We made two trips, one with new feed hay and one for the decaying mulch hay. Husband looked over his generator for him, to see why it wasn't working.

Covered in hay and picking minuscule thorns out of my palms, I stayed behind on the second trip to start dinner. Rain was threatening. As the hamburgers sizzled, and the green beans rolled in the water, the thunderstorm struck. I quickly shoved dry logs into the fire, hoping the blaze would prevent the rain from cooling off the flywheel too much to be of any cooking use, and covered everything with lids. Everyone ran into the house. 

It took me a moment before I made a decision. I was home, it was still light outside and the rain was drenching. I ran out in nothing but a tank top and boxer shorts and took the most luxurious shower I have had in almost a year. Soon Medium and Small were outside in their swim trunks taking advantage of the rain. Baths are nice, but there is nothing like a good cleansing shower. 

I feel wonderful this morning. 

Friday night was a bit odd. The boys and I were headed down the driveway, when I abruptly stopped. Someone had taken a lot of time to arrange Mimosa leaves (only mimosa that we have found so far) across my drive.

We weren't sure if we should cross it, and if we did, what would happen. We didn't end up in fairy land, and I hope whoever did it, did it to keep evil out, rather than to keep our evil in.


Friday, July 11, 2014


I have weeds! I am a human being!

Excuse my Elephant-man moment.

I was asked to post pictures of the weeds in my garden. Suddenly I feel I am defending myself against being called Martha Stewert. No, not really just whipping up the drama, it's for effect.

Weeds in my green beans

Weeds in my onion

Brussel sprouts and weeds

Dill weeds! (You knew that was coming.)

I even have tomatoes in my weeds.

Weeds and squash.

Now I hope my accuser feels better.  Otherwise I might end up in a pickle.

Oh the garden puns are bad with this one.

I get an hour, sometimes a bit more, in the garden daily. Harvesting takes most of the time, but I try to weed as I go along. All the weeds pictured above have been severally crippled. Yet there are more waiting for my attention. Sunday is my only real day to get out there.

Husband works a lot. He has many other things to take up his only day off. And my attempt to get the boys involved in the garden project gets mixed results. Some days they are on it. Especially if they find horn worms, then it is on! Weeding isn't on their bucket lists. And I don't blame them, I wouldn't want it there either. But this weekend I am picking up a year old bale (free) to use as mulch. The soil here drains way too well. I have had to water in the week between rains. I am use to heavier soil, so find this odd. The hay will help that and then I can be called names for the weedlessness of my garden. And I will accept them humbly.  

I think the lack of chocking weeds comes from the fact that the garden soil was broken by hand. I scooted along on my butt, slowly pulling out root balls and rocks. It took two months to prepare the soil. And I think it was worth it. I have had gardens with life force destroying weeds. The tedium of removing them brought tears to the eyes and blisters on the fingers. And although this took much longer than the tiller, I believe it was worth it. With the weather cooler in the early spring, I wasn't sweating and cursing. I think I will continue to prep this side of the garden in this manner, we can till the other side for the food items that can defend themselves much better. 

And I might just be a little bit gung-ho about things. My first garden after the wreck, my first garden on my new land. There is a good chance of slackness taking over. And my garden of weeds will return to its former glory. 

I expect my accuser to reciprocate. Let me see those weeds baby. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Canning Jar breakage

To be honest I am not completely sure of the reason my jars are breaking. However I have deduced a few things.

1) I am canning over a campfire.  The heat is difficult to regulate this way, and extreme heat could contribute.

2) The jars that have been breaking are old and have been used many times over the years.

3) only the older Kerr jars are breaking. My Mason jars, which are older, have faired just fine. None of my Ball jars and no newer Kerr jars have suffered.

4) No cracks, chips, or deep scratches are obvious. 

I used only Mason and Ball jars the past two nights, and only the Kerr pint jars, and I am happy to say that there was zero failures. 

Your guess is as good as mine. I think the combination of age, and extreme heat are the main culprits. And possibly just a bad batch of glass.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A Frivolous post

am canning 2 quarts of green beans nightly. However, I am losing quart jars at half the rate, 1 per night so far. They are just too old. I only have so many pint jars, and they are just as elderly. 

 I finally was able to harvest peas. Not even a half pint, but still I am stoked.  It took years for me to find the peas that would actually produce in Kansas drought. I will try a different pea type come fall, see how well they do. I have hope! 

Cucumbers are close to harvest,

So are some of the squashes.

Food wise, I think this winter will be vastly better. 

Husband was mowing the lawn the other day.

I of course took photos. Husband and his idiot stick. Someday we may have a tractor again. Until then, this is how we have to keep the fields cleared.

When he caught me taking his photo he informed me "it's hard work being eye candy".

Of course I don't find it that hard, but then I'm just watching. (Ewww mushy stuff!)

We keep are spirits high, even when things are difficult. We have ran into many problems, many I have kept from you. We will eventually get everything straightened out. We always do. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Using the way back machine

Today is Large's 17th Birthday!

I introduced him to you on July 30 th 2006

Over the years he has taken on the world

Shown his eye was always on the ball, err eggs.

He is always up to learn a new skill

Never afraid to make a statement or stand out.

He steps up when the need arises

Though at times a bit of a slacker 

And always keeps us guessing.

And we love him for all of it.

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