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Monday, July 25, 2011

Preserving your own food

There is something inherently satisfying about preserving your own food.  The ultimate would be to preserve food that you grew yourself, but we're not there...yet.

We ventured down to the Farmer's Market in downtown Austin on Saturday and bought a half bushel of fresh peaches.  Saturday evening we prepped them:  removed the skins and pits and cut them up.  Some were prepped for jam and some for just canned peaches.  We had to dig out the canning pots and supplies, but at least everything is under one roof these days!  And we got the propane two burner cooker set up under a new canopy on the back porch.  That canopy is a life saver from the scorching sun!  It was still hot, but without the sun roasting your skin and top of your head, and with a little breeze, it's survivable.  The advantage to this set up that you don't heat up the whole house boiling a huge kettle of water while canning.

And you'll be SO excited...I actually have pictures this time!!  We ended up with 12 half pint jars of jam and 11 pints of peaches.  Yay!

We started out with this lovely 25 lb box of peaches.

Here's the prepping in progress.

Prep done - ready to be made into jam and jars of peaches.

Here's our "supervisor" in the lid to peach box, keeping a close eye on our work.

Jars of jam going into the canner.

Finished jars of peaches and jam.

Peach cobbler for dessert!

"Supervisor" guarded the finished product all afternoon and evening.

We also have some progress towards being able to vermicompost again!  (aka have worms eat your kitchen scraps)   Check out the awesome three tiered worm bin my wonderful hubby built!  It's that beautiful?    We had worms in Colorado and because of the sometimes frigid temps, they lived right in the house.  They were in a corner of the living room and no one ever even knew they were there.  Here in Texas, they need to be indoors because of the extreme heat - especially right now as we hit day 40 of 100+ degrees this summer.  Ack!   If you maintain your vermicomposting bin properly, there is absolutely no odor or anything.  They are really quiet "pets".  They are not demanding, don't need to go for walks, don't need to go out to potty, don't need to be brushed, are very easy to maintain and simply amazing little critters. 

Now we just need some worms!

Oh! And we harvested two zucchinis and one yellow squash this weekend from the Little Garden That Could!  The beans are progressing nicely too.  We thought we had lost our two acorn squash plants.  They were doing well after transplanting and then suddenly cratered.  But they have a lot of "want to" because they are sending out new little runners and leaves and one of them is even full of little budding blossoms.  The pepper plants are taking their time, but they are getting taller and stronger every day.  The basil is just flat out of control!  It's a thing of beauty.  That has to be the happiest plant in the garden.

Well that's all from our little urban homestead.  Very productive and satisfying weekend.  Have you ever tried your hand at preserving your own food?

Until next time

Monday, July 18, 2011

I think I could be famous for that...

Whew!  It was a busy weekend in the kitchen on Sunday on our little urban homestead.  We started off Sunday morning with stuffed french toast with my homemade blueberry sauce.  Hadn't made either one in a while.  I think I almost drooled in the blueberry sauce as it cooked (but I DIDN'T!).  It smells SO heavenly when it's cooking.  I really think I could be famous for that breakfast...if not the blueberry sauce alone.

A co-worker had some peaches that needed to be put up, so I took them home and prepped them for the freezer for her.  I have a couple of cups for us in the fridge - I even made peach pie "dumplings" last night for dessert.  My wonderful hubby is not a big fruit eater at all, but even he ate them.  Guess there was enough pie dough surrounding the fruit to help disguise it.  :)

I also tried a new chicken recipe and made a lemony chicken piccata over angel hair pasta with spinach on the side.  Not bad for my first try.

In the Little Garden That Could some of the squash plants are struggling.  One of the zucchinis just about completely cratered, but it is hanging in there and making a come back.  Really weird, cuz the other two right beside it are fine.  The acorn squash are having a hard time too, but hanging in there.  We'll see how it goes. It's so blasted hot out this year with no rain.  There is a beautiful zucchini on one of the plants that will be ready in just a day or two.  And the yellow squash have quite a few that will be ready in about a week.  This weekend we bought some ground oyster shell for them to give them a little bit of a calcium boost.  At Tractor Supply, you could buy a cute little 2 lb package for $6 or the 50 lb, not so cute paper bag that looks like a sac of concrete for $10.  Hmmm.  You do the math!  Too bad we don't have any chickens to give that to...

The beans have been completely covered in blossoms for about a week.  I kept asking them when the beans were coming - after all, that's what the blossoms are supposed to be doing.  And yesterday we spotted bunches and bunches of little baby beans.  They are the cutest things you've ever seen.

Started thinking about Christmas this weekend.  We went to Joann's and Michaels.  I've been dying to do something creative.  I was so adventurous that I even braved the "storage room" and moved boxes and dug through the craft boxes (which were of course towards the back and on the bottom!).  We're trying to do as much homemade as possible for Christmas.  And now's the time to get started.  Got some good ideas for our two nieces...but not the for the boys yet.  Why does it seem harder to do homemade for boys?

My hubby has started researching plans for a new worm bin.  We had a pretty nice one that he built in Colorado.  But he's figuring out ways to improve it.  Have you ever priced worm bins on the internet?  Okay, maybe you haven't.  But they are insanely expensive - especially considering how little material actually goes into them.  And worms!  Oh my word.  We should quit using money and start trading in worms.  $35 per pound!  We started off with less than a pound of worms in Colorado and gave away at least 6 lbs a little over a year later when we moved.  We've been trying to compost our kitchen scraps in the garden - don't really have a designated compost pile set up yet.  But there is absolutely nothing like composting your kitchen scraps through a worm bin.  They're great "pets"!  They are very quiet, they require very, very little maintenance.  They eat your garbage.  And they give you rich fertilizer in return.  What else could you want?  They really are amazing little critters.

Sorry, still no pictures.  There's some in the camera...

Until next time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The squishes are coming, the squishes are coming!

Well the zucchini plants were the first to dig and take off growing big, but in the Little Garden That Could, the yellow squash are still small plants, but coming on strong.  They beat the zucchini to the punch for setting fruit!  One of the yellow squash plants has FOUR baby squishes (our term of endearment) and the other got her first yesterday!  Now the zucchini, not to be completely outdone each have about two squishes and lots of other blossoms.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures yet...riveting blog that this is...I can feel your disappointment and anticipation. I mean, what better things could you possibly have to do other than wait around for pictures of my vegetable plants??!!

Hey!  We're proud "parents" - and shouldn't we shout that to the world?  For us, there's nothing so satisfying as working with the soil and growing something from the tiniest of seeds.  And even if it doesn't produce enough bounty to fill our cupboards for the coming winter, we will cherish every fresh morsel, cuz it doesn't get any more organic than that. 

We are still in love with that little piece of land in Coupland.  And we still can't find a way to get it financed.  It makes me wonder how our world got so upside down.  There have always been money makers who get rich in our country.  But they created a business or product to achieve that.  What gets me, and really makes me sad for our society's priorities, are the people that reap millions upon millions of dollars a year to entertain us - whether it be with sports or music, tv, movies, etc.   Why don't teachers, fire fighters, police officers, military personnel earn that kind of money instead??!!  They actually have a direct impact on our lives.

We work every day, pay exorbitant amounts of that money earned to taxes for which proportionately speaking, we receive very little services in return, pay our bills and do all the right things.  Yet we can't borrow $60,000 (to be paid back with interest I might add) to buy a little piece of land and start building our retirement home.  We're not asking someone to give it to us.  We just want to borrow it, with interest.


Okay.  I digress.  This started out celebrating and didn't end that way.  Ooops.  Well, it is what it is.  Maybe next time I'll have pictures...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

First harvest!

We had our first harvest from the Little Garden That Could this past weekend!  Two fine looking radishes.

Look at those beauties.  They are hotter than fire though.  The zucchini squash plants are doing the best since we planted everything in the ground.  Those puppies just took off growing and haven't looked back.  The zucchini and acorn squashes have itty bitty blossoms forming.  The yellow squash have been lagging a little behind the others, but we can tell they are growing every day.  The tomatoes are coming on strong too.  They were little bitty tikes when we transplanted them.  And the herbs are totally digging their new location.

We still have to keep an eye on the (furry) kids when they go outside to mill about.  I enjoy being outside with them while they explore the yard, and sometimes the even get their business done. :)  It's very relaxing.  But I also know my children well and the first time we let them out unattended, one, if not both will make a beeline for that garden to dig and sit in the nice cool, soft soil!

We had friends over for dinner this past Sunday.  Our first guests!  We've decided it's good to have company over a month or so after moving - it finally gets you off your duff to unpack and put away all the stuff you've grown accustomed to walking around instead of finding a home for.  Also helps you finally get all your artwork hung on the walls. 

I do have to say that we fixed a fabulous meal - my Mexican food extravaganza!  We started off with chips and a great avocado and tomatillo salsa (from Costco) and homemade jalapeno ranch dip.  Then we had thin cut NY Strip steaks topped with sauteed garlic and onions, green chiles and melted Monterrey Jack cheese, ranch style beans, and made from scratch sweet corn cake.  For dessert we had (unfried) fried ice cream.  It was all wonderful!  (Sorry if that's bragging a little bit.)

Guess that's all from here for now.  We still keep dreaming of our own homestead one day!  There have been many, many trials and tribulations this year.  One thing these tough times do is confirm for my wonderful hubby and me how lucky we are to have each other - we are incredibly compatible partners.  It also makes us anxious to have our own homestead, as life seems to get more uncertain in these troubled times, so that we may be more self-sufficient and have a greater control of where our food comes from.  But also, that dream helps give us hope, something positive to dream about, to plan, to be excited about, to work towards.

Until next time...