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Monday, August 29, 2011

Jammin'

The dynamic duo jam makers struck again this weekend!  We were at Costco (my happy place!) on Sunday and I wanted some raspberries.  My wonderful hubby said "Why don't we buy a whole flat and make some raspberry jam?"  Well, all right!  So we did.

We personally don't mind the seeds in raspberry jam.  That being considered, this was by far the easiest and quickest batch of jam we've made to date because there wasn't anything that required pitting or peeling prior to getting down to the business of cooking.  We continue to use the low sugar recipes (and pectin) and just cannot imagine using three more cups of sugar in these jams!  They come out pretty sweet as it is, but you still really get the full essence of the fresh fruit without that extra sugar.  Just seems like the full sugar versions would just taste like nothing but sugar.

We ended up with 18 half pint jars from six 12 oz containers of raspberries.

We started with this:










And ended with this:










This isn't all the jars of course.  Now we're going to have to come up with a place to store all these wonderful jars of goodness!

We also had fresh baby yellow and zucchini squashes from the garden with dinner last night.  They were FAB!

To end a very productive day, we made brownies...and smeared some fresh raspberry jam on top.  I think I've died and gone to heaven...warm gooey chocolate and fresh raspberries are one of the most perfect combinations!

And last, but not least, the worms are doing awesome!  They are really digging (pardon the pun!) their new home.

Until next time - worms rule.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Proudsquash mom

So remember the little acorn squash I mentioned last week?  She is over 6 feet long now and continues to add new leaves.  There are a few blossom buds, so I had hopes that we may have a squash yet.

Well look what I found last night!!!


Grow, baby, grow!!  I'm such a proud squash mom!  :)

Until next time...worms still rule.

Monday, August 22, 2011

More jam!

We got adventurous this weekend and made some plum jam!  Black plums were on sale at the grocery store, so we thought, why not try making some plum jam?
It was a little trickier than the peach jam we made.  It wasn't setting up as easily, but I had read up on what to do if your jam was not passing the "jell test".  So twice we added some supplemental pectin and cooked it another minute.  And finally, it was "jelling" appropriately.  I'm glad our first try at jam with the peaches went so smoothly...it's good for things to go exactly like they're supposed to the first time you do something new!  But this was also a good experience for learning how to make adjustments, which must be done on the fly, and still come out with a satisfactory end product.  We ended up with 7 half pint jars out of about 3 1/2 pounds of plums.

The jam came out just fine and dandy.  It's nice and sweet, and we used the lower sugar recipe.  Neither my wonderful hubby or I can imagine using the full sugar recipes...seems like you would totally overpower the goodness of the fruit with sugar.  Makes my teeth hurt thinking about it!

The worms are doing well...I know you were dying to know, but too shy to ask.  They have been happily munching away on all our produce scraps.  We're starting to get a good build up of castings...black gold!  My hubby turned the organic matter in the worm condo and it was warm in there, letting us know everything is working as it should. 

In the Little Garden That Could, we have picked close to a dozen baby yellow squashes.  Can't wait to eat them.  I started picking some of the beans that grew about an 3/4 of an inch long and then just stopped.  The bean plants are doing all they can to stay alive in this oppressive heat.  I'm picking the mini beans for the worms.  Maybe, if it EVER cools down below 100 and I get this whole stunted batch off of the plants, they might have a chance to make one more round that we can eat before they're done.

We still dream of having our own little homestead.  It's fun to talk about all the things we'd like to do with a small parcel of land.  With all the uncertainty in the world, it's fun and gives us hope to dream about something positive!  We look forward to being more self-sufficient and able to produce at least some of our own food.  We'll have a couple of chickens and a greenhouse.  We will plant some fruit trees and we'll have bees.  Someday.  It won't be easy.  But it'll be worth all the work.  I read in a homesteading book once (I wish I could rememer which one, I've read through so many) that although some people may look at growing your own food and living off the land as a lower standard of living, he considers being more self-sufficient a higher standard of living because you create your own food from your own soil with your own two hands.  You know exactly where your food comes from.  I consider it a higher standard to living too!

Well, until next time...worms still rule.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nothing much

Well, nothing really newsworthy to write about...stop snickering...my blogs may not be newsworthy to everyone, but I do try to keep it interesting.

Work has been busy - nothing like new software upgrades to drive you crazy.  Why do software companies put out "new and improved" versions of their software that actually take more work (they really do require more steps) to do the same old basic functions?  How is making something more work better???

The Little Garden That Could is alive, but that's about it.  This unbearable heat and drought is just keeping it from being able to produce anything.  My acorn squash puts on new leaves every day though!  I don't know if she'll ever produce an actual squash, but she's running about four feet out into the yard now.

Trying hard to keep up with my exercise.  It's rather discouraging, because after at least six weeks of walking at least three times a week (as opposed to doing nothing prior to that), I'm not seeing any results.  I don't have more energy, I'm not less tired and I haven't lost an ounce.

Just found out a friend back in Colorado was diagnosed with Lymphoma.  It almost doesn't seem real.  She's one of the kindest, sweetest, most gentle souls I've ever met on this earth.  Why do things like this happen???

I'm itching to make some jam/jelly.  Don't have much access to fresh fruit (other than the grocery store) for jam.  Maybe I'll try making some jelly from some really good fruit juice...

Oh, almost forgot a worm update.  I know, I know.  You would've been crushed had I forgotten.  My wonderful hubby built an new worm bin that has a little larger bins and I think we're gonna need them.  They seem to be settling in and really doing their thing.  We talk to them every day.  We don't know what our losses were from the shipping nightmare, but the herd we have is settling in and going strong.  It's so interesting to learn about them again and how different it is to manage them in a different climate.  I mean, they are inside, so it's climate controlled.  But even indoors the heat and humidity are much different here than in Colorado and it just requires different adjustments to keep their environment optimal.  Meanwhile, hubby continues to record changes he'll make to future worm bins so that they are optimal housing units.  Ever been interested in vermicomposting?  Order a fabulous custom worm bin from us and we'll help you get started!  It's the ultimate recycling and leads right into organic gardening.

Until next time, worms rule.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Writing practice

I've always had a strong desire to write.  My wonderful hubby thinks I should, as voracious a reader as I am.

In searching for ideas/prompts, I ran across this one today:  pick a place and write about daybreak in that specific location, inventing any pertinent details.

So I imagined myself living on the piece of land we would love to live on more than anything and wrote the two descriptive paragraphs below.  It's not much, but it's a start.   And I can see and feel myself there.

******

The sun is almost ready to peek over the horizon.  I’ve already been to the barn and finished feeding the chickens and goats.  Dogs and cats at the house are next.  But first I step out onto the porch with my cup of coffee, ready to welcome the first liquid rays of sunlight.  It’s the first frosty morning of the year. My flannel work shirt is cozy and I wrap my hands around my mug and watch the rising steam sail up from my much needed caffeine fix.

Finally, like a huge glowing ball of orange honey, the sun starts to show itself - almost shy at first, and then quite proud.  The whole countryside, as far as I can see takes on the orange-pink glow of that first morning light.  It shimmers across the leaves of the pecan trees in the orchard across the road, making them look like a stage full of golden dancers.  The rooster next door starts to crow as my little corner of the world comes alive once more.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Parents again! Worm parents that is...

Well, it's been entirely too long since my last post...just struggling through this game we call life and figuring out how to survive it...won't be unscathed, but hopefully the scars aren't too ugly.  :)

We are finally worm (Eisenia fetida, aka red wigglers) parents again!  I know there are very few out there that can appreciate that.  But we're excited, and if you have any compassion for others at all, you should be excited that we're excited, even if worms don't do anything for you personally.  (Well, they do have something to do with almost everything you eat, but don't usually get any credit, kind of like our bee friends.)  They are truly amazing though.  Vermicomposting is awesome!

As I mentioned before, my wonderful hubby built an awesome new worm condo.  (And he's already plotting improvements for his next model.) The new "herd" will be excited to get settled in such high class digs once they get over the shock of their journey to their new family. 











OMG, let me tell you, I can understand why the US Postal Service is $3.8 billion in the hole!  We knew this package was coming via priority mail.  I tried calling the local post office over the course of 4 days and no one EVER answered the phone.  I wanted to give them a heads up that we were expecting a "live, perishable" package, and if need be, make arrangements to pick it up.  I work during the exact hours they are open, so I can't just drop by in person to chat with them.  Then, on the day it's due to arrive, and hadn't yet by early afternoon, my hubby decides he had better go check the mail kiosk.  Lo and behold, there's the package, CRUSHED, with a huge red and white "LIVE PERISHABLE" sticker across it, stuffed into one of those package lockers while it's 104 degrees outside!!!  How big of an incompetent boob do you have to be to handle that clearly marked package like that?!

He opened the box up and the media they were shipped in (a peat moss mix) was completed dried out, as were many of the worms.  He got them into their new condo that was already full of kitchen scraps for them and started trying to rehydrate them.  FOUR cups of water later, some of them are starting to move around.  We have no idea what percentage was lost, but we do have some still alive.  And if our efforts in Colorado are any indication, this new herd will be going strong very soon. (But that does NOT excuse the incompetence of the postal service.)

I'd take a picture of the new kids, but all you'd really be able to see are vegetable scraps and soil.  They're not really the camera hound divas you might think.

Well, that's all I have for now.  I'll keep you updated on the herd's progress.

Until next time...worms rule!