Mar 142017
 

This post from a few years ago came up in a search I did recently.  Reading through it, I was reminded of how our gardening can start off with great intentions, but time can make us forget the blessings and larger purpose it may serve.  

Botanical Garden Fountain
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

 

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

 

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

your  husband will appreciate your gardening efforts if you include items and varieties he likes.

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

playing in the dirt is actually called “working”.

She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

it is okay to not grow everything. instead go to the produce auction or farmer’s market if there are things you want but can’t grow due to time or space.

She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
you don’t have to do it all yourself, hire help as needed. different stages in life call for different things.
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

gardening … need I say more?

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

pulling weeds … and weeds … there are more? Didn’t I just pull those?!? (not such an issue with raised beds, but we did have to haul in dirt and build the boxes)

She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

endless nights of canning, because you still have so much yet to do.  meanwhile, the next crop is ripe and ready to be put up.

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

have you ever “blessed” someone with a random bag of zucchini?

She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

all the canning and preserving serves a valuable purpose during the colder months. (or when a new child in the home meant not being able to shop as much for two months, those stores were very much a blessing.)

She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

when not in the garden, you are allowed to do non-gardening related crafts.  even better if it is something useful.

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

our gardening habits will also reflect upon the rest of our household.  let it be a good reflection upon them.

She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

otherwise known as running a produce stand, listing extras on Craigslist, trading for other items or services, selling at a local store, etc.  

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

all that planning means rejoicing when the first vegetable or bloom appears in the garden.  it wasn’t all for naught.

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

learn from those who have done it for more seasons than you, and share kindly with the new gardener just starting out.  you were there once too.

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

while it would be great to sit and watch the flowers and birds (or hang out on the favorite social media site), we can’t do that all day.

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

gardening should not make you grumpy, short tempered, annoyed, or isolated.  instead it should add happiness to your home. if it doesn’t, then you need to sit down and redo you gardening plan.

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

your house may be perfect; your garden beds weed free, organic and trimmed; and you may even be one of those gardeners who can work outside for an hour in the humidity without a hair coming out of place or breaking a nail.  If your heart is not in the right place, though, it doesn’t mean a thing.  

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

enjoy what you have worked to make happen.  now would be the time to get that cup of tea (or peppermint cappuccino) and enjoy the flowers and birds, knowing that you have worked hard and blessed others … till it is time to go weed again or put the next load of jars in the canner.

PROVERBS 31: 10-31 (KJV)

Vase of roses in window

Bible passage taken from KingJamesBibleOnline

growinghomemakers link-up banner Modest Mom blog button copy

Feb 272017
 

mason jars

After spending all the time canning produce from your garden or elsewhere, the last thing you want to happen is to have jar go bad and not realize it till you “smell something funky” when you go to your pantry.

Take a few minutes to look over the jars you have.

Are they all still sealed?

Do any need to be wiped down?  If so, do it now before you forget.

If any have gone bad, dump the contents and sanitize the jars.  Check for chips before storing them till they are needed again.

Feb 132017
 

Chickens in Pen 2

I am continuing to go through draft posts, things I had started and not finished.  While this is a few year old, the topic is as relevant today as it was then … well, except I do not live in the same area any more … I may have to make contentions with others and start my own Farm Market Swap this year.

Last week my friend sent me an inviataion for this year’s Farm Market Swap.  Now to come up with ideas of what to take.

Last year I was not sure what to expect, so I took several of most things I canned.  Of course I left what we needed to make it through this year.  Turns out I took way too much.  Guess to much is better than not enough.

This year I decided to not take as much stuff.  Instead I will take a bit of two or three things.  To keep it interesting for everyone I am looking for things that are a bit more unusual.

Here are some ideas I have come across:

Chocolate Cherry Sauce (she talks about how this is not a low acid)

Chocolate Raspberry Sauce

Blackberry Syrup

*********************************************************

In the end I made Blackberry Syrup.  I made so much we are still using it on pancakes and waffles.  That is, we are using it once I remember to get out a new jar when the current one is empty.

The Chocolate Raspberry Sauce is something I tried, but chose not to take.  It came out too thick and not raspberry enough for my tastes.

blackberry bushes bloom

When we moved, the idea of doing anything like this seemed like an impossible feat.  What has happened this past week, though, has changed my thinking on this.

Friday, Jack and I joined a group of home schoolers for a party.  While the kids were playing, we mom began talking.

As it turns out, not only have we been blessed to live in an area with other CM home schoolers, but also ladies who like to garden, sew, cook, raise animals ….  by the fall, I think I may be ready to try something like this with these women.  Of course, others are always invited.  The more the merrier.

 

Have you attended something like this before?  What were your experiences?

Sep 012016
 

processing tomatoesHave you noticed a lack of canning posts this year?  If not, I sure have.  I have also noticed the lack of variety in our home canned items in the pantry, the abundance of empty jars sitting around, and the amount of other items left over from past canning seasons.

The jam and jelly making marathon 3 years ago meant we are still eating blackberry jam, tomato marmalade, and apple jelly syrup (the jelly did not set).  Thanks to the Farm Market Swap last year, we do have some variety in the house.

Due to the demands of life we right now, spending hours canning produce and taking care of a large garden were things I had to admit I could not do this year.  What I did do were the basics, things we would really have missed if they were not present.  These are also things that happen to make my life easier.  Namely – cherry tomatoes, a few regular tomato plants, pearl onions for stews this winter, pizza sauce, and crushed tomatoes.  If there is anything else we really need, like spaghetti sauce, I can easily order a few jars online if I really did not want to go to the store.  At this point, it is worth if for me to accept that option.

The blackberry bushes and strawberry beds are at a point where not a lot of attention is needed.  This is a nice stage, as I can reap the fruits of my labor without spending a lot of labor doing so.  What I was not going to do with these fruits, was to make jams. (see paragraph above)  Instead we ate them fresh as they came on and I did not feel guilty about it one bit.

In mid summer, I was presented with the opportunity to can tomatoes.  My garden had not started to produce enough, but a local farmer/gardener had grown some in a greenhouse and theirs were ready.  As it turns out, they were a bit green still, but I was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.  I knew that if I did not take advantage of this opportunity at this moment, there would be no canning done during the normal growing season.

tomato canning goals 2016

I sat down, making a list of my pantry desires.  As it turns out, we really do not eat a quart of beets a week.  At this rate I can safely say it is more like a quart every 3 weeks.  Not looking to make that mistake again, I added in the desired, realistic amount.

First up, diced tomatoes.  I had not canned these before, only crushed, but hoped diced would be just as easy and a nicer texture in some of our meals this winter.  After all, the diced tomatoes at the grocery store came out looking so nice this past winter. diced tomatoes collage

Um, yeah, I am not the grocery store.  🙂 They will taste the same, but not exactly like I hoped they would look.  Perhaps if the tomatoes had been more mature it would have worked out better.

We like the taste of roasted tomatoes in the new tomato soup recipe we have been using.  Made it the other day with candy onions and the taste was even better.  Thought it was so good I would try it with pizza sauce.  It changes the first steps a bit, though that is not too hard of a change.

Using pickyourown.org‘s recipe I adjusted the steps to incorporate roasting the tomatoes.  Before placing the tomatoes on the pans to roast (make sure you line it well with foil or else you will be getting new pans out of this process), I squeezed out all the extra juice I could.  This was collected in bowls and pans for use later if needed.

roasted tomatoes collage

Since roasting takes at least an hour, after many batches the house was smelling very yummy.

Using the roasted tomatoes, I proceeded with the recipe, adding back in any extra liquid needed.  As it turned out, I added back in most of what I had squeezed out.  The roasting process had removed a fair amount from the tomatoes themselves, so there really was less liquid than when I started the whole process.

Without the need to cook down the recipe, I was able to greatly reduce the amount of stop top cooking time.  It sort of made up for the late night I had finishing up the last batch roasting in the oven.

pizza sauce collage

In the images above, I got a bit zealous filling the jars.  The jar in the top right corner is too full.  If I tried to place this in the pressure canner, it would never seal.  Removing a table spoon or two (lower left photo above) put it exactly where it needed to be.  A quick wiping of the jar lid and it was ready to go.

What I have not shown you is the canning of crushed tomatoes.  I was tempted to can up more pizza sauce.  However, at the end of the light night of roasting, I nixed that idea and moved on to crushed tomatoes.

Right now though, I think I will go use some of the above pizza sauce and make lunch.  That sounds really good today.

 

This post contains affiliate links.

Apr 132016
 

1460544989575-749573063

Breakfast today is to be muffins. My fall back has been chocolate zucchini muffins, but I am ready for a change.

Several jars of Green Tomato Pie Filling sit on the shelves of the pantry needing to be used. My initial thought was to use the bread recipe, making muffins instead.  However, I do not have plain yogurt and it seemed a bit to complicated for me this morning.

A search online search resulted in a zucchini recipe I think would work well with a substitution … and I have all the ingredients.

IMG_20160413_061955117

A Few Changes:

1. I left out the extra spices as the canned filling already had them included.

2 I blended up the 2 cups of pie filling before stirring it into the batter.

1460549238271-490402767

Results:

After adding the filling I realized I did not cut down on the sugar in the recipe. This did not turn out to be an issue, though in the future I would adjust the sugar to help them be a bit healthier.

The batter was very thick, making me concerned about sticking to the wrappers. It clung a bit, but the papers came off easily.

In all, I am very happy with the results (2.5 dozen muffins) and will repeat this recipe in the future.

Next time, though, I could do without 3 boys trying to be up at 5:30 a.m.  This would help cut down on the prep time for me.

Feb 112016
 

produce auction collage

This post is part of a series about produce auctions across the USA.  While this is not a comprehensive list, I have tried to include auctions about which I can find information.  If you know of any others, feel free to leave a note in the comments section.

New Jersey is called The Garden State for a reason, though it originally had little to do with gardening.  Coming in as one of the smaller states in the Union, there are still 5 different climates found within its borders.

There are currently 2 produce auctions found within New Jersey’s borders:

Vineland Produce Auction

1088 N Main Road

Vineland, New Jersey 08360
Phone: 856-691-0721
Fax: 856-794-2301

Email: info@vinelandproduce.com

Website: www.vinelandproduce.com

Open mid-April through late November. Auction are held Monday – Saturday at 10:45 a.m.

Tri-County Cooperative Auction Market
619 Route 33 West
Hightstown, NJ 08520
Phone: 609-448-0193

Email: Bill@tricountycoop.net

Website:

Auctions held Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays starting at 5:30 p.m.  Call to check for the opening of the auction season

There used to be a third auction, Swedesboro Auction, though I was having trouble finding detailed information. When I could not find any more information than the basics, I called the phone number listed.  Unfortunantly it had been disconnected.  So the searching continued.

The results?  The Swedesboro Auction is no longer in existence.  Instead the Former Swedesboro Auction property to be preserved as open space.

The acquisition of the Swedesboro Auction property completes an eight-year effort to save not only the last significant piece of open space in Swedesboro, but also an important part of our history that will be preserved to remind people of the important role agriculture played in Swedesboro’s past.”  -County Freeholder Robert Damminger

Having spent time on the East Coast, I know that open space can be very limited.  While I am glad to see that this will not become another developed area, I am sad at the loss of a market for both sellers and buyers.

The Landisville Produce Auction was another name I came across.  This one was a bit harder to find, as I believe the name officially is the Landisville Produce CoOp and there are no live auctions held.  An article on the Press Of Atlantic City website from 2013 gave more information.  It turns out that the Landisville Produce Auction may be the oldest in the country.  The combination of history and gardening always catches my attention.

Felix Donato owner of Landisville Produce Cooperative, the oldest agricultural coop in the nation
Feb 042016
 

produce auction collage

This post is part of a series about produce auctions across the USA.  While this is not a comprehensive list, I have tried to include auctions about which I can find information.  If you know of any others, feel free to leave a note in the comments section.

New York State currently has 6 produce auction sites across the state.  Most are held on Tuesdays and Fridays, though some also are held on Mondays.  You will want to check their times and days before heading out, especially early and late in the season.

Finger Lake Times wrote an article in 2013 about the Seneca Produce Auction.  It was nice to hear from those who bought and sold at this auction, as well as those who help run it.

Often we hear from the buyers at an auction, about worries concerning available produce.  Here is a look from A Farmer’s Perspective: The Talk at the Produce Auction.

Cornell University’s Extension Office has a pdf available showing the locations of produce auctions in the state of New York.  Their map may give you a better idea where the closest produce auction would be for you.

Chautauqua Produce Auction
7844 Rt. 474, Clymer, New York 14724
Phone: (716) 355-6500 or (716) 355-6391
Time: Tues. & Fri. at 10:00 am
Email: nwesterberg@stny.rr.com
Website: www.chautauquaproduceauction.com

Finger Lakes Produce Auction
3691 Route 14A, Penn Yan, New York 14527
Phone: (315) 531-8446
Time: Mon. at 10:00 am, Wed. & Fri. at 9:00 am
Website: www.fingerlakesproduceauction.com

Finger Lakes Produce Auction’s Facebook page

Genesee Valley Produce Auction
8855 Country Road 3, P.O. Box 163, Centerville, NY 14029
Phone: (585) 567-8640 (auction days from 8:30 am)
Phone: (585) 567-4312 (8-8:30 am all other days)
Time: Tues. & Fri. at 10:00 am

Mohawk Valley Produce Auction
840 Fordsbush Road
Fort Plain, New York 13339
Phone: (518) 568-3579
Time: Tues. and Fri. at 10:00 am

Orleans Produce Auction
12590 Ridge Rd., Albion, NY 14411
Phone: (585) 798-5466
Time: Mon. at 11:00 am, Tues. & Fri. at 10:00 am

Website: www.bontragerauction.com/orleans-produce-auction

Seneca Produce Auction
2033 Yerkes Road, Romulus, NY 14541
Phone: (607) 869-5470
Time: Tues. at 10:00 am, Fri. at 10:00 am

Seneca Produce Auction’s Facebook page

Sep 192015
 

salsa in unwiped jars

When a new gardening season approaches, I look in the pantry to see what stores of canned goods I still have remaining.  Two years ago I canned beets. A  lot of beets.  So many beets that they lasted me 2 years!  As these were pickled, I had no qualms about eating them the second year.  There have been a few things through my canning years that I have wondered about.  I use similar steps to what is talked about over at Strangers & Pilgrims On Earth, Shelf Life of Canned Goods ~ Think Before You Throw Out.  As always, if you do not feel comfortable eating the canned item, them don’t.

Simply Canning has a lot of posts I would love to read through.  Here are two that caught my eye – How to tell if your canning jar lids are new or used and The Pantry Journal: A Canning and Preserving Notebook Keeps you Organized

Robin’s directions for pickled red onions and wine jelly sound like a fun addition to any preserver’s pantry.  They are definitely not the standard item you would find in mine.  I will add these to  the list of things to try for next year, or even this winter.  Wine jelly is something that would not have to be done at a particular time due to a harvest being ready.

I love hearing about other people’s journey to becoming a canner.  Jenn, from Pint-sized Pioneering, shares a bit of her story here.  You can read more on her About page.

This year was the first time I realized that you can use mulberries.  In my mind, mulberries were always great wildlife food.  Seems I have been missing out on a berry that is widely available and found in many yards.  The recipe for mulberry preserves, here, comes from a blog that looks as if it is no longer updated.    Here is one from pickyourown.org for mulberry jam.

 

Sep 162015
 

birds eye view of garden june 2015(This post was started in June)

Saying “no” is not easy.  We grow so accustomed to our lives that it feels like there are things we just can not live without, or rather things that would not function if we were not involved.  We can not imagine not doing XYZ, because we have always done it.  Saying “no” means stepping back and taking an honest look at life, yourself and the assumptions you have made.

Things are better now than they were this past Fall/Winter, but they are still tough.  I can feel the stress start to creep in, the feeling of things being on the verge of crumbling in one big mess.  I take a deep breath and remember to just do the next thing, not to try to fix or do everything right now.

I told my MOPS group that I could not volunteer again for the upcoming year.  I loved helping in this group, but knew that my home, my kids, and my true calling came first.  Also, I was much better at getting to know new moms one-on-one, rather than as a leader.  I volunteered on the Steering Committee because I knew that I could do the job, not because it was really where I shine.  It was time for someone else to have the opportunity to step up.

I had to tell Olaf’s parents that I could not continue to watch him over the summer.  This was a bit easier, as they had more options with school being out to find other arrangements.  He still comes over some, but not several times a week.  We’ll see what the new school year brings, but I think I am going to have to continue to say “no” to this one.  With Jack being home school and beginning 1st grade, I am looking to set more of a routine than I did last semester.  Watching another kid for several morning a week really sort of limits what we can do.  This was one “no” that made me really sad, as I was doing it because I knew it was helping out a friend, not because of the money.  Jack and Olaf also get along really well and I know they miss seeing each other.

Unlike the past 8 years, I started no garden plants at home. Zilch. I was trying to keep the house above freezing.  Getting the basement picked up enough to start plants was not exactly high on the list.  I gave myself grace to buy plants this year.  You know what?  I still somehow ended up with:

  • over 10 tomato plants
  • 26 pepper plants
  • 80 onion sets
  • tons of radishes
  • 3 cabbage plants (though I don’t think they will do anything)
  • Zinnias and marigolds
  • several handfuls of green bean plants
  • a zucchini plant
  • 3 unknown vine-ing plants
  • 4 or 5 cucumbers
  • and berry bushes/plants of various varieties.

I will say that I think it worked out okay this year.

school year 2015 2016 collage

Fast forward 3 months and I am in a slightly better place.  There are still a lot of things I have stopped doing, for now, but have picked back up a few.  I am also weighing whether I want to begin doing some things again in a few months when life calms down even more, hopefully.

As it turns out, Olaf does come two half days a week.  He goes to preschool in the mornings, so Jack and I are able to get his school work done before Olaf comes.  Usually.  Sometimes we are finishing as they are walking in the door.

The house remodel/work is nearing completion.  Not fully there, but oh so close.  My husband is finally able to see what I saw in my mind when we started this adventure.  The finishing touches on the drywall should be completed next week.  Then painting, finishing electrical work and install light fixtures, install a small HVAC system for the  new room, flooring, and finally trim and doors.  Yes, I know it is still not an extremely short list, but it is all quick stuff and some can be done simultaneously.

I have continued to say “no” to the produce stand.  A few people have asked me if I was planning to do it, to which I reply, “I have thought it was time to begin it several times lately, but was reminded that it was not time just yet.”  I was doing yard work outside today when someone stopped by looking for a particular item.  I did not have what she was looking for but told her I would see if I could find someone who did.  Seems roma tomatoes were not very popular to plant with gardeners in our are this year.  In talking with her, though, I mentioned I had hot peppers (that were planted to have something in that spot besides weeds) if she wanted them.  I would give them to her just so they could be used and not wasted.  And that, Dear Readers, is the extent of me ‘selling’ produce.

I also have not canned up any items.  There have been several bags of tomato soup added to the freezer, but nothing canned.  Thanks to previous years’ efforts I am still well stocked on most items and should be able to make it through to the next canning year.  I did relent and purchase commercially made spaghetti sauce.  I think pizza sauce will be the next thing I run out of and have to go buy.

There are more areas in life which have been affected by this attitude, the feeling that I have more say in my life.  It is a nice feeling to have when the expectations of others begin to feel more important than what you know is best for your family.  It is a nice feeling to have, to be able to clear things off your plate so you have room to enjoy the what is left.

nature center lounge

When my blog took an unexpected vacation, thanks to an error in a line of code, I was left examining the roll blogging plays in my life.  I felt a loss of the memories I have shared on here these past few years, ones that I have not journaled about.  This blog was begun at a point when taking time to hand write daily events seemed too overwhelming. It also provided a mental break for me, challenging me to keep growing while also being able to share a love of mine.  Was I ready to give it up at the drop of a hat?  Should I give it up?  Why not?  What if I did?  What creative outlet could I use instead, which would be realistic at this time?

These are questions I ask myself from time to time, but never faced with such a high likelihood of it actually happening.  This time, the questions felt very real, not just something out of the air to think through and debate.  I would rather have been thinking through which library books to get for Jack, new methods to help George get the next math step, or any other of the many decisions I could have been doing at that point.  These questions, however uncomfortable I felt thinking through them, had to be examined.  I was not willing to just keep going because that is what I have been doing for the past few years.

The thankfulness and relief I felt when the customer service representative told me the code had been fixed and that all should be back to the way it was, answered for me all the questions I had been asking myself.  It was a much different feeling from the relief I felt when I realized I would not have to be staying up for a few hours several evenings one week canning spaghetti sauce.

As I continue through the next few months, finishing up the work on the house, settling in to a home school routine, and going through daily life I am going to continue evaluating things as they come up.  It is so easy to let little things get added to your plate.  Before you know it, you have no room for the things you really want.

Sep 022015
 

jars of yellow spaghetti sauce in canner 3

1975 was the year of a canning supply shortage – lids were not available.  You could buy jar and rings, but no lids.  They just were not to be had.  There was even a hearing before a House Small Business Subcommittee on Commodities and Services of Congress.  Seems that the year before there was a shortage of raw materials, thereby leading to not having the materials needed to make the end product.  While consumers were encouraged not to hoard, to buy only what they needed when they needed them, not all headed the encouragement, which only exacerbated the issue.  There was even a Congressman would bought up all the lids he could find in D.C. to bring back to his constituents in his North Carolina District.  (The Ford Library has a set of letters and testimony back and forth between the Special Assistant to the President for Consumer Affairs and Congressman Rose, as well as before the Subcommittee.)

In an ABC Evening News for Saturday, June 26, 1975 talked about factories that made canning lids were working 7 days a week, 24 hours a day to try and keep up. In the same news report, Vice President of Consumer Affairs for the Kerr Mfg. Corporation, Harold Metzger said people were using more canning supplies than ever before. “No conspiracy to hoard lids here.”

The news report went on to assure people there would be enough lids the next year.

Home canners bought more of the company’s production during the first quarter of this year than ever before in the 90-year history of the corporation.” – Healthy Canning, Lids For Home Canning.  (This was a very informative and educational article about the history and advancement of the canning jar lid.  It is always good to understand the equipment with which you are working.)

Seems The Great Canning Lid Shortage of 1975 also affected Canadian home canners.

Archivist Rising wrote a blog post in 2011, just after the canning jar shortage of 2009.