That's not a big pile of snow there at the back of this picture. This weather has me so anxious! Yesterday I just couldn't help myself. I covered a mound with 3 layers of fabric in hopes of warming up the soil enough that I can plant some peas, lettuce, beets, onions, spinach, radishes and carrots soon. I really should have waited until Grampa Tom brings me some compost to put on it, but arrruugg! He'd better bring it soon or I'll have the whole garden done. Growl!
This year Grampa Tom planted some wheat on our row corp land. I had him save me a couple of buckets for bread. They were sitting outside in the shed, but I was concerned about them going rancid or getting bugs in them.
You fill the jars with dry goods. I decided to use jars that had previously used lids. Most of them will seal again, and I can use the ones that don't first.
Once you get a whole bunch of jars filled, put them in a preheated oven at 170 degrees for one hour.
This kills any bug eggs or bacteria that might cause the dry goods to go bad.
When you take them out of the oven let them cool, then sort out any that didn't seal and label and store the rest! They ought to last for years if I don't get to them. You can do this with flour, rice, dried beans, just about any dried grain you want to keep in your pantry. Hmmm... wonder if it would work with dried fruit? Might have to try that. Anyway, it's a great way to heat the house on a cold dreary day outside.
Well, it's official, my garbage can garden is a bust. After I pulled the dying cucumber and tomato plants, I replanted cucumber, onions and lettuce. All of them came up beautifully, but then fizzled. I thought maybe the cucumber would make it, but today it is dry and shriveled in spite of plenty of water. My "soil" is obviously composting and burning the roots when they get down far enough. The level has sunk about a foot. Oh well, it will probably be a great planter next year and I'll bet it saved a penny or two on the heat bill. They say composting soil will reach temps of up to 160 degrees.
On a happier note, I bought some asparagus and rhubarb seed because I'm to cheap to buy roots. I put a few in some pots to see how well they would germinate and they came up nicely. I'd have pictures of the rhubarb but the pot fell over this weekend. I think I'll wait till spring and plant the rest directly into the ground. All the experts advise planting roots, so I'll let you know how this experiment goes.
Tonight while I was doing dishes, I happened to turn around about the time my supplemental lighting came on in the garden. All of a sudden I realized there was something bright yellow amongst all the green. My tomato plant is a lemon boy! I was expecting some sort of a red tomato. I like red tomatoes better, but yellow tomatoes are better.
I have been so lazy since the snow fell. I'm so glad. I was needing a break! I had done a lot of work in the garden and taken hundreds of pictures for my assessing job in the last few weeks. We generally don't get the pictures done before the middle of February, but the weather was so beautiful that we got them ALL done by the 10th of January. Once we get the materials to finish up, it shouldn't take long.
Thursday I sat around and vegged all day. Yesterday and today I've been avoiding doing much physical. Just playing with my grandson and renewing the pursuit of my writing projects. I actually managed to complete another chapter of Genesis on my blog in which I'm translating all the names in the Bible into English. I've also made some headway on a new project: a seven week course on beating depression naturally.
The Bible project is online at http://whatsinanamebible.blogspot.com/ but I'm not ready to publish the depression project yet. I'm wondering how I ought to post it. I'd like to post the entire thing in one post somewhere, maybe something like Squiddo and possibly an e-book. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.
Ran across this site the other day. I so want to do this! I'm thinking about making the north wall out of old tires filled with compost and strawberry plants. It will take me forever to come up with enough bottles. And then there's the project of convincing Grampa Tom it will be a good idea ;)
Just got finished posting all the 2011 income and expenses in Quicken. Once again, we managed to come out in the black, although I'm sure Betty will find some depreciation or something that we can take that will knock it back down to $0. I'm a little bit frustrated. I was hoping for a little bigger number than last year, but gas prices and chickens in the garden both took a bigger bite out of the pie this year than they did last year.
We finally made the decision that we need to raise our egg prices. We make about $1/doz over our basic costs, but when we add in the cost of getting them to the stores, we wind up only making about $4-5/hour and that's not cutting it. Thankfully there's a big demand for our eggs out there. We just can't keep up with it. Our stores are telling us they are running out of the eggs we deliver every two weeks within 4 days! We are in dire need of more land and more buildings. If we could deliver all the eggs our stores could handle, it would sure cut down on our mileage costs per dozen!
We plan to put up higher fences this year so the chickens don't get into the gardens. Grampa Tom wasn't willing to spend the thousands of dollars it would take to re-fence the place, but a couple of months ago I came up with an idea to use the existing fence as a base and then extend it with pvc pipe and netting. Should be able to do everything we need to with less than $1000.
Besides the fencing, we are planning to concentrate on just the higher demand garden produce this year. We plan to grow more tomatoes and sweet corn and we're going to try our hand at growing specialty berries that produce high dollars per acre like black berries, elderberries and black currants. If we can do a good job on the little patches that we put in here at the home place, we'll expand by replacing some of our row crop land up at our son's with them.
The last couple of years have been pretty cold and wet for the garden. Hopefully this warm dry spell that started last summer will last through the spring so we can get things started earlier and have something to sell when the markets start! That will make a big difference. We have the ability now to irrigate that we didn't have last summer when the heat shut everything down so even if it lasts all summer, we should do OK.
I'm planning to take a food service manager's course this spring so we can work toward adding value to more of what we produce. The laws in Illinois have changed so it is a little easier for small businesses who process and produce foods. It's still not easy, but before the regulations were so burdensome that only businesses that were capable of high volume could afford the costs. The thing is you can't start out doing millions of dollars of business! And there's so much less risk of contamination in a small business where the owners do most of the work. In a huge company if an employee does a sloppy job, it's unlikely he will be found out and he risks the loss of his job at most. But, if the owner of a small business is sloppy, he can't get business to begin with with and if he slacks off after building the business up, he risks not only his business, but his home, his way of life, everything.
Our goal for next year? To have to pay income taxes on the farm! And I hope you wind up having to pay lots of income taxes too, not because the tax rates raise, but because you make more!
I'm so excited! I made ketchup! One of our wedding presents was a book on canning. It had all kinds of recipes and instructions for making and canning almost anything. Perfect gift for a new farm wife. I spent the first couple of years of our marriage trying out the many recipes, but the recipes for dill pickles and ketchup were disappointing. I grew up on the store bought stuff and the recipes in the book were nothing like my kosher dills and store bought ketchup. The dills were soft and tasted weird and the ketchup tasted more like barbecue sauce than ketchup. I like barbecue sauce, but when I want ketchup, I want ketchup!
A few years ago, I was complaining on CCU that I had never found a recipe for ketchup that was like the store bought stuff. Cheryl posted a recipe that looked much simpler than any I had seen before so I saved it. Since then I either haven't had tomatoes or didn't want to take the time to try it out.
Of course, when I went to find it on my computer, I couldn't come up with it, so I surfed the net to see what I could come up with. Almost every recipe said to start with tomato paste. I wanted to start with tomatoes, so I had to look up how to make tomato paste and combine the recipes. I also wanted to use honey so I made some adjustments.
I'm not what I'd call a health food nut yet, but I am on my way :) Most of my adult life, food has been a matter of what we could afford. Now that the kids are out of the house and most of the debt is out of the way, I'm trying to learn how to cook with more natural stuff like honey, natural fats and sea salt. Next year, I plan to grow a lot of stevia and learn how to make all sorts of stuff with stevia.
Hope you can follow me here ... (this is how I cook) ... I took 4 gallon bags of tomatoes out of the freezer and peeled them. Then I cooked them down in the roaster with 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 1/2 cup of honey, 1tsp of sea salt, a cup of dried onions and a tsp of minced garlic. When they were the consistency of ketchup, I put them through the blender and did a taste test. It was still really tomato-ee so I added more honey, vinegar and sea salt. I think I ended up with another cup of honey, a cup and 1/2 of vinegar and a couple of tsps. of sea salt before it compared to the store bought stuff. I'd add a little of one thing, Taste it and then take a taste of the store bought stuff. Then I'd add a little of the next thing ... I think I got it pretty close :) Of course this made it really thin again, so I had to cook it down for a few more hours. Once it plopped like the store bought stuff I put it in jars.
Did you know you can freeze ketchup? I didn't! I'll probably try that if these don't seal. Yes, I know, you are supposed to use jars with new lids. If I were doing this for someone else, or if this contained meat, I'd do that, but my MIL has been using used jars forever and rarely has one come unsealed. Us old country girls can be cheap!
One of my goals for 2012 is to start making all of my own condiments. Did you notice I said goals, not resolutions? Resolutions tend to set me up for failure, so I make goals ... and I don't just make them at New Years. I readjust my goals at least monthly and sometimes daily!