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

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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?

Feb 092017
 

This post contains affiliate links.  Prices are constantly changing, but these were the prices when I first found them.

Growing Through Reading

Here are 3 ebook deals happening right now, all for under $3 each, to help satisfy your gardening desires. Or maybe to help you begin a new project or learn something new.  Just like plants, our brains and souls need stimulation and nourishment in order to grow.  Reading does this in so many way – fiction or non-fiction, electronically or on paper, in your main language or one you are trying to learn – reading not only  helps you learn new things (or take you to far away places), it also helps your brain grow and strengthen.

While I would love for you to spend hours reading through old post on this site, here are 4 books I think you would prefer. (While these are also available in paper versions for a bit more, the links below are to the ebook versions.)

Square Foot Gardening with Kids: Learn Together: – Gardening basics – Science and math – Water conservation – Self-sufficiency – Healthy eating (All New Square Foot Gardening)

” In Square Foot Gardening with Kids, Mel reveals all of the tips, tricks, and fun projects he has used over the decades in one of his most cherished pursuits: teaching youngsters to build and grow their own kid-sized SFGs.”

Square Foot Gardening was one of the pivoting influences to get me into using raised beds.  While I still mix several various methods in my gardening, it is easy to see the influences this has had.


Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency: DIY Projects to Get Your Self-Reliant Lifestyle Started

Inside are 25 various projects, ones that you do not necessarily need a lot of room for, but which could benefit you.  Personally, I think the cider press looked very useful, something I wish I had done 5 years ago. Now that I have more free brain cells to use, this looks like a good project to do with the kids. (They love to work and build with wood.)

If I am going to grow herbs, it would be nice to be able to dry them … and I am going to need a new compost bin, no matter which home we move into (none seems to have one) ….


Gardening for the Homebrewer: Grow and Process Plants for Making Beer, Wine, Gruit, Cider, Perry, and More

“Learn how to grow, dry, and store fresh hops. Or go off the beaten path and grow everything you need for your first gruit, cider, perry, or fruit wine. Have just a balcony or a windowsill? No problem! A variety of plant recommendations will suit gardeners of all types, even ones with limited space.”

When I was younger, I would admire the shelves of jars, filled with these interesting round things floating on top of liquid.  Later on I realized they were grapes.  Still later (okay, a few decades) I realized that perhaps she was making wine.  Growing up in a fairly teetotaler household, that was the last thing on my mind. 😉

I also had an uncle (same side of the family) who would often brew his own drinks.  I was in awe of how he knew to even do that.  Then I came across books like this one and realized how he knew what to do.  While some of the knowledge was passed down from one generation to the next, or local culture, other bits came from books like this.

Please enjoy responsibly.

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.

Jun 302016
 

IMG_20160630_071352900_HDR

Got up at 5 this morning after a late night. I was moving so slow last night, I decided to tackle things this morning instead.

9 pints of pizza sauce (made last night) canned in pressure canner, 20 lbs of tomatoes in the oven for roasting, 20 more pounds on their way, load of laundry done, kids dressed and fed, and my dentist appointment accomplished.

It is now 9 a.m.

Up next, canning crushed tomatoes.

Thankfully I made today’s lunch on Monday.

Is there any doubt that am more productive in the mornings? I would much rather get up at 3 a.m. to work than stay up till 3 a.m. working.

What is your best time of day? How do you utilize this knowledge to make you day easier?

May 272016
 

2016 Garden Update

Garden perennials are my friend. They get planted once, then come back over and over if treated right.  A great return on investment in my book.

There are now several various perennials in my garden, both flowers and fruits.  The flowers were somewhat unplanned, a rush planting when I happened to find them unexpectedly and they needed planting right then.  What could have been disastrous turned out to actually be the right call on my part.  There are a few that I wish I had put elsewhere, but those can be easily moved later in the year.

Last week a friend gave me two starts of Rhubarb.  Yippee, another perennial! This will be a long-term relationship as it will take several years before I can reap the rewards. Till then they will have a home in one of the garden beds.

After taking a year off in the plant starting area, I set out to start my tomato plants for the year.  While they sprouted, they did not grow much at all.  Perhaps it was the lack of putting them under a florescent light?  Either way, I knew I was going to have to look elsewhere for plants.  My neighbor had several extras so I went that route.  There are now 10 cherry plants (of two varieties), 3 yellow tomato plants, and 3 red ‘regular’ tomato plants.  So far so good.  I mixed up where they were planted a bit to see if my success at cherry tomatoes last year had to do with the type of plant or the location.

Over a month ago I picked up a bag of onion sets, planning to put them in the ground when I had a few free moments.  It is a bit too late at this time, but I hope to get at least a few from the bag of 100.  These are used a lot in our beef stew recipe.  I found they are available in the winter months at the store, in the form of pearl onion, though they are almost $4 a bag.  By spending about $2 and a bit of time now, I can have many more of these frozen in the freezer for future use.

Radishes were a spring crop that I harvested but did not plant.  Last year I had spread seeds in the gaps in the strawberry bed, leaving some to go to seed.  I would like to say it was a planned experiment, but like most things last year it was a “perfectly imperfect garden”.  This year I had radishes in the strawberry bed, as well as in the yard.  I gathered up the seed pods, saving them for this fall.  Several were opened, the seeds spread in a different bed this time.  I will let you know what happens.

strawberry patch collage

Three or four years ago I took two smaller raised beds and converted them to a strawberry patch. It was a learning curve for me, but now things seem to be doing well.  The strawberries came back strong this year.  While I have only gotten a picture of one day’s harvest, we have had several bowls of these the past two weeks.  I think part of the success was a mild winter.  They did not have to be covered and uncovered like they would have if it had been as cold as it was two winters ago.  They are already sending out runners, all of which are being directed towards one side of the bed.  If I can start getting that side established then I will be able to take out the old plants in 1/4 of the bed each year starting in Year 4.  This is a great way to keep the bed renewed and producing.

The blackberry plants began blooming this week.  I did a bad job keeping up with their trimming last summer and am paying for it this year.  The one group is too large and will cause me problems soon.  Later this summer I will trim them like they should have been in order to have upright canes.  Something I did do right last year as to lay canes over in order to create new plants for this year.  While I should have a nice small-ish crop this year, I am looking at having a much larger crop next spring.  All we can do is learn and grow, literally.

As for my goal of using up the canned goods I already have, I made 6 batches of cornbread muffins earlier this week.  It resulted in almost 9 dozen, most going to the freezer.  There are very few things left, namely – pickled beets, about 6 jars of crushed tomatoes, green tomato pie filling (destined for muffins), various jams and 2 more quarts of corn.  There are also a few quarts of  applesauce to be used up in the next month or so.  I had not realized exactly how much I had canned and how many jar I had till this past year.  I did no canning last year and yet we still have food in the basement.

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

Jul 082015
 

produce auction collage

This post in 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.

Arthur Produce Auction

The Arthur Produce Auction can be found off of Route 133, at 354 N CR 100E, Arthur, IL 61911.  Produce auctions are held every Tuesday and Friday starting at 10 am.  The first auction is typically held the Tuesday before the first Friday in May.

The tree auction held the first Friday of May.

In April and May you will find flowers and other early season plants and produce.  As the season progresses there will be berries, apples, peaches, peppers, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, and other produce.  In September and October pumpkins, gourds, and mums will make an appearance.  The auction runs through about the end of October, or when there is no more produce.

Most of the produce found at this auction is freshly picked, often from that morning or the day before.  There may be some out of area items, though they are always noted as such.  The same is said for any items that may have been cooled, though those are few in number.

217-543-5100 is the phone number for their voicemail, which also gives the phone number for the produce manager.  To hear the market report, auction schedule and other information call 712-432-8514

Arthur Produce Auction Hauling Produce In Part One

Arthur Produce Auction Selling Produce Part Two

Arthur Produce Auction Hauling Produce Out Part Three

 

Central Illinois Produce Auction

Located at 875 N 1400 St, Shobonier, IL 62885-4141 outside of Vandalia.  Auctions are held every Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m.  The voicemail for the Central Illinois Produce Auction is 618-846-3001.  Call 712-432-8599 for additional information.

The first auction of the 2015 season was on April 24  10 a.m.

 

 

May 192015
 

produce auction collage

This post in 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.

Kentucky is oriented such that it is wider East to West than North to South.  This means that most of the state is similar in growing zones, 6a – 7a.  Not only does this affect their winter temperatures, but also their summer ones.  While the state gets both hot and cold, it is normally not really an extreme either way.  The result is a nice growing season, with a bit of a break in between growing seasons.

Produce auctions across Kentucky are pretty evenly distributed from East to West, with 5 different auctions being found while searching online.

1. Fairview Produce Auction is located at 10292 US 68 East, Pembroke, KY 42266. Along 68-80; 1/2 mile west of Jeff Davis monument park. 10 miles east of Hopkinsville, 70 miles North of Nashville, 60 miles west of Bowling Green” according to this Kentucky Department of Agriculture website.

Here is another short YouTube video from 2007 of the Fairview Produce Auction.

2. Lincoln County Produce Auction, located outside Crab Orchard, KY at 2896 Ky Highway 39 N  Crab OrchardKentucky 40419.  Their phone number is (606) 355-0030.  They are currently on their summer auction schedule – Mondays at 1 pm, and Wednesdays and Fridays at 11 am.

Here is an article from the 2004 opening

3. Casey County Produce Auction – The Casey County Produce Auction is located between Bowling Green and Lexington, KY, in the south central part of the state.

From their website, “Auctions occur every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from April to October at 525 South Fork Creek Road. A market information line is available at (606)787-0570.”  They also have a schedule available for download that will list all the auctions.

4. Hart County Produce Auction – located at 6880 Cub Run Hwy, Munfordville, KY 42765.

While not exclusively about the produce auction,  here is a 2010 blog post from Amish America that gives you a good feel for the Hart County Produce Auction.

5. Bath County Produce Auction – is located between Mount Sterling and Morehead, near I-64, at 2914 East Highway 60, Owingsville, KY 40360.  To find when the next auction is, take a look at the auction schedule.  There is also an attached map.  It seems that all auctions are in the evenings, at 6 pm.

May 012015
 

produce auction collage

This post in 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.

Cedar Valley Produce Auction – according to their brochure, the first auction this year is April 17th.  Auctions are held on Mondays at 4 PM, and Tuesdays and Fridays at 10 AM.  Cedar Valley Produce Auction is located at 18072 Addison Ave, Elma, IA 50628.  This is in the northern part of the state, near Minnesota.

From their website:

“In 2001 a group of farmers built the Cedar Valley Produce Auction by the town of Elma in northeast Iowa, and in the following years it has grown and now sells over $3 million annually! Selling flowers in the spring and then produce in the summer. All produce and flowers are grown locally and sold at the auction. … The auction also supplies local produce it wholesale prices. In the spring the Auction sells flowers in flats, and hanging baskets and mid summer changes over to sell fresh produce.”

 Sara, at Learning The Frugal Life, shares her experience going to a local produce auction in Iowa for the first time.  I love hearing other’s experiences and how other auctions are run.

Southern Iowa Produce Auctionis located in the southeast  portion of the state at 19141 Ice Avenue, Bloomfield, IA. Their first auction for the 2015 Season was Friday, April 10, followed by a second auction on April 17.  After the first two auction, they moved to twice weekly auctions through mid-July, on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10 AM.  For a market report or schedule information, call 712-432-8593.

Curving Back has a great post with lots of pictures if you are wanting to see a photo representation of this auction.

Lamoni Produce Auction/Farmsong Produce Auction, located at 16340 Farm Song Road, has produce auctions every Tuesday and Friday at 10 am.  In July they change to having three auctions – Monday at 4 PM and the Wednesday and Friday auctions at 10 AM.  In September they change  back to twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Fridays.  Located in south central  Iowa, they are right on the boarder with Missouri and would be a convenient stop for those living in either state.