Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pickled beets and the Cadillac of canning jars!

If you are a canner, you share my awe and envy every time you see a Weck canning jar.  They are so beautiful!  They are made entirely of glass, including the lid, with a rubber gasket and two little metal clips to hold it in place while canning.  In early spring, I started buying just a few.  I would love to increase the amount I have, but they are not cheap!  I have been waiting and waiting to can up some beets in these glorious jars.  My husband is from Pennsylvania, and so is my dad so pickled beets is very much a part of our taste repertoire.  I think they make beets taste soooooooooo good.

For picture purposes, I stacked the jars, but you do not want to store your jars this way.  You shouldn't do this for most jars because if there is a problem with your canning and gases start accumulating in the jars, it will pop the lid off.  You want that to happen so that you know it is no longer good.   Anyways, here's a recipe I used. 

Pickled Beets:
7 lbs. beets
4 cups 5% vinegar
1 1/2 tsp pickling or canning salt
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves

Trim the beets (ends and stalks to about an inch) and wash.  Bring to a boil in a pan of water until they are tender, 25-30 min. Let beets cool and throw out the cooking liquid (you can let that cool and water a part of your garden with it).  Once cooled, cut up your beets.  I made mine into 1/4" slices, but I've seen people use dices as well.  I've also seen baby beets canned whole.  You decide! Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and the water.  Use a cheesecloth for the spices or a tea infuser ball and place in vinegar mixture.  Bring to a boil and then add the beets for five more minutes.  Remove the spice bag and start filling your jars, leaving 1/2" headspace.  Pints and quarts are process for 30 minutes at sea level.  Since I am at a high elevation, I had to process for 40 minutes.  This recipe makes approximately 8 pints.  

Now I had leftover pickling liquid.  Waste not, want not.  In Pennsylvania, there is this beautiful creation called "red beet eggs."  Once you are done with the beets, use your liquid to infuse hard boiled eggs.  Store in the fridge over night and try them the next day.  

This is the only picture I have because the family ate them all...very quickly!  I haven't looked into whether or not these can be canned.  ???  I swear I have seen them canned but that could be my over-40 mind playing tricks on me.  Let me know if you know this is a canning recipe as well.  ???  For safety's sake until we know for sure, keep them in your fridge until all is consumed!  I hope you enjoyed this post!  Blessings to you!  Enjoy your harvest and the work of your hands!

When life gives you hail, IMPROVISE!

You saw the damage. Not pretty.  This was my best year for tomatoes.  I lost four plants, two of which were massive!  They were magnificent.  But amazingly, the plants did their job and protected the tomatoes...everything was stripped except for the tomatoes.  I lost some, but I had 17 pounds of perfectly good green tomatoes.  What to do, what to do????  Usually it's in late fall when I have this problem and I just let the green tomatoes ripen inside.  I've been seeing so much on green tomatoes lately that I wanted to try some things.

Here's a sampling of some of my tomatoes.  They were just gorgeous.  I decided to make a green tomato salsa, picalilli (which is a green tomato relish), and also with some of my zucchini, I made mock pineapple.

It all turned out beautifully and the mock pineapple (zucchini) tastes just like pineapple!  We put it on some pizza.  It's awesome.  I found something else that I will no longer need to buy.  I rarely use pineapple so that's going to be a real treat!  I hope through life's storms you find the unexpected treasures!  Blessings to you!  Happy canning and harvesting!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When hail prevails...or does it?

These WERE my eleven/twelve-foot "Sunzilla" sunflowers. We had a massive hailstorm that reeked havoc in my garden.  (Sorry for the pic was terribly humid the next morning).  I love giant sunflowers.  They can survive most hail storms...they just tilt their heads down and take a little beating.  This was no little hail storm.  

For the first time, it caused a little bit of leakage into our basement.  All this happened while I was away from home.  But the heroes of the day were my children.  Just before I left, I had them cover up my front yard garden with tarps. I have hail cloth over my tomatoes.  It shouldn't have been a problem.  My oldest was on the computer in the basement and my second oldest was going to show her how much hail there was at the basement window when she stepped into a puddle.  The children snapped into action.  The main portion of the basement is the library.  They all had to physically move the heavy shelves away from the window and the puddles on the floor.  My son jumped outside and into the window well to remove all the hailstones and water to help stop the flow inside.  The girls put out towels and fans.  The towels that were soaked were then washed in the washing machine.  Color this mama proud!!!  They really made good decisions and they saved the library!!!

Like I said, I also have hail cloth over the tomatoes.  Well, hail cloth doesn't work if the hail comes in sideways...ummm, seriously, it came in sideways!

The tomatoes here next to the chunnel were about 6 feet tall.  Next year, I will bring the hail cloth down on all sides and enclose's kind of ridiculous, but a gardener's gotta do what a gardener's gotta do.  More hail cloth is on my Christmas list!

This was a big squash plant--again, under the hail cloth, that got decimated. But good news, it's back and doing pretty well!

Considering what happened to everything else, this is 2 of 4 brussel sprouts I have.  They endured and took quite a beating, but they are doing fine.  I am anticipating those fantastic brussel sprouts after the first frost!  So excited!  The hail comes...the hail just have to keep on growing.  Every year is a learning curve!  I hope you are having better weather where you are at.  It is now scorching hot again.  Oh peas have all sprouted and I'm getting ready to seed more lettuce and carrots and greens.  Next post...what I did with all the damaged goods!  Blessings to you and happy end of summer!!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How to Make Homemade Mayo!


Posted by PicasaI finally broke down and tried my hand at this wonderful condiment.  With homegrown eggs, this is definitely the recipe to make.  I've had chickens for quite awhile so I am not sure why I haven't tried it yet. 

Here is a recipe I used:  
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
2 cups 100% vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar

Make sure everything is room temperature.  Get your eggs and using an immersion blender or regular blender, beat those eggs!!!  Once the eggs are completely mixed, add everything but the oil.  Now you are ready for the tricky part.  My eggs were tiny because they were from a newly laying flock so I had to judge when it was enough oil.  Believe it or not, I only needed 1 cup of oil because my eggs were so small. As your machine is whirring, drizzle SLOWLY with the oil.  I used an immersion blender and had an extra pair of hands helping me out. Incorporate the oil.  Researching this, you hear people say that their mayo broke.  That means everything starts to separate.  You don't want that because this is an emulsion...everybody needs to stick together!  How can you tell when you have enough oil?  You will see things start thickening up pretty quickly.  If you see oil start pooling on top and it won't incorporate into your emulsion very quickly, stop adding oil.  Your emulsion is full...try to get that last little bit of oil worked in, but do not add more.  Voila!!!  You have mayonnaise.  Smell it...taste's pretty darn amazing!  Mine looks a bit yellow.  That's because I used dijon mustard.  If you research all the recipes, you could use vinegar and other ingredients...this just seemed pretty simple to me and the taste is spot on.  

I hope this helps anyone who has been scared to try their hand at this.  It really is quite easy and I know I will never have to buy mayo again!  Next blog post I will show you what I am doing with this mayo!  Have a great day, everyone!  Blessings!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It was bound to happen...

My husband warned me. I still planted the garden out front.  It increases my yields and looks so nice.  But it happened...and mama is not happy.

Someone sliced a zucchini from one of my plants and left half of it there.  Hmmmm.  Can someone please tell me what is wrong with people?  Earlier this year, we had an incident with someone cutting off every bud off my roses, just before they were ready to bloom.  I was livid.  I think we know who did it and she has moved out (she lived with renters across the street).  But I am really not sure anymore since this has occurred.  I don't know.  I really don't understand what causes people to go on your personal property and take something that is clearly not theirs.  What troubles me is that someone with a knife was on my property.  This was no animal...they are clean cuts from a blade.  I reported the first incident.  I wonder if I should report this?  Over the weekend, I was extremely sick.  My family was gone for most of the weekend, while I slept a lot trying to recover so my normal presence in the garden wasn't felt.

I felt much better this morning, but I think I overdid it.  I picked a load of veggies from the backyard and prepped some beds for fall.  I planted peas, and will work on getting more things planted once I feel better.  Here's what I picked:

The newest flock of chickens are starting to lay.  Two out of the nine are laying.  My zucchini (from the front) is going gangbusters...I really need to shred them and get them in the freezer.  I think with the cabbage, carrots, and eggs, I will make homemade coleslaw.  The carrots are just beautiful.  I cut the carrot tops off to freeze so I can throw them into a pot for vegetable broth.

After my stint this morning, I was wiped out.  I had gone to bed very early tonight with what seems to be a fever.  I am now awake blogging because I can't go back to sleep.  Ever since I turned forty a couple years ago, my health has been all out of whack.  I am seriously going to devote myself to getting really healthy and being kinder and gentler and more aware of what is going into my body.  It's a process.

I hope your garden is growing well and that no one is thieving your goodies (grrrr).  Blessings to you!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Food, Not Lawns

We have had tons of rain around here which has been most welcome.  I haven't had to water in a very long time which is very odd for these parts.  I will take it, though.  I've done something new this year.  I am growing vegetables in my front yard as well.  It has been great!

I have a flower bed in the very front.  That has been there for years and it is very low maintenance.  I have lavender, liatris, chives, lilies, bulbs for all sorts of things, and salvia.  Well, I am not a huge proponent of grass so I put in two additional beds.  The one directly behind my flower bed is full of different kinds of squashed.  I have zucchini, straightneck squashes, large squashes like "Sweet Meat" and "Delicata."  I also have a bush variety of a butternut squash growing here and some bush beans, and I believe there is a pumpkin tucked in there.

I am training the long vines to grow towards the tree.  If anything reaches I will have them grow up fabulous would that be--a squash or pumpkin tree?!  I also put in another bed right in front of my window.  Here is where I have pumpkins, melons, and watermelons growing.

I have sugar pie pumpkins growing and they are doing very well.  However, the melons and watermelons just aren't growing like the pumpkins are.  I'm not sure if it's the altitude...maybe I planted too late...? I was looking forward to having them, but I will try again next year.  I think I will put my tomatoes in the above bed next season.   As you can see by my lawn (or lack thereof), it is a bit sparse.  I am not in the business of growing grass.  Of course, the True Lawn guy noticed too and came knocking on my door with his little apprentice.  The apprentice had no idea what he was talking about and was trying to get me to spray my tree and my grass......dude, do you see the vegetables up front...we eat those....why on earth would I want to spray???  Well, they got a little lecture about the history of grass and why I despise it and if I am going to water something I should be able to eat it.  The older gentleman was nice and was trying to sell the organic line...ummm yeah, I have chickens so I produce my own fertilizer.  I don't think they knew what to do with me.  Anyways, if you are not restricted by a covenant and want more footage for growing your vegetables, try some nice beds up front.  By incorporating some nice flowers and some architecture, you can get a lot of produce AND be the talk of the neighborhood!  Happy growing, friends!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New favorite catching up!

Hey, all.  Long time no write for me!  It has probably been one of the busiest summers I have had so far.  My oldest child graduated in May.  We had all the tornado-like activities associated with that.  We have had massive fires here in Colorado.  The most destructive fire in Colorado history was just five miles north of our house.  We know many people who live in that fact, we ate at a friend's house for a supper club we are involved with, and two days later, the fire hit.  They lost their home.  It is so devastating.  But, there is always beauty for ashes...last week, I helped them move a lot of their perennials to some raised beds.  There is regrowth and they are going to rebuild.  It is very encouraging in such a tragic time.

My garden is doing pretty well.  Because of the scorching heat, I've had all my beets bolt--that was very sad for me!!!  I will reseed and hopefully I will get some before winter.  I'm growing a lot of new things.  My favorite new plant so far:  purple cauliflower named "Graffiti."  It is spectacular.  I have four plants in total, but so far, only one has produced a head.  No matter because this thing is something special!!!!!

It is an amazing purple...the colors of nature just astound me.  These cauliflower plants went through a recent hail storm and received very minimal damage.  I have noticed absolutely no pests.  I was hoping they would grow--it took my breath away and startled me when I discovered this, the farthest plant, had a fully developed head growing.  For perspective, here's a picture of my daughter with it.

It is nearly as big as her head.  It weighed in at a little over a pound.  I roasted it with a little bit of butter, olive oil, and garlic.  It was delicious and still retained its beautiful color.  This is definitely something I would not mind growing again!  What a showstopper!  How is your garden growing?  Anything new that you are trying?  I hope you are having a wonderful summer.  Blessings!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My own personal product reviews

I am elbow deep in spring cleaning so I thought I would try a few new things.  Proviso:  I am not getting any special perks from any company.  This is just one mama's honest opinion about a product I've just tried.

So I tried these cleaners under the brand of Method.  They are environmentally sound and tout their "greenness" so I decided to get these three.  There are a few others in the line, but I only got these.  Here's what I think.

This is the glass and surface cleaner.  I loved this product.  It has a lovely smell of mint and did a fine job on the mirrors.  The scent is very pleasant and refreshing.  I would definitely buy this again.

This is the all-purpose cleaner.  It has the scent of French lavender.  If you like lavender, this is very nice.  Again, it cleaned well and I liked it.  

This is the anti-bacterial kitchen cleaner.  I used it on my counters and it did clean  nicely.  However, the so-called lemon verbena scent was appalling.  It smells like lemon mixed with tea tree oil (maybe?) and mothballs(?).  My daughter described it as "bad breath."  I used it once and I really don't think I would ever use it again because I live my life through smell and this just did not appeal to me.  It did clean and I am sure it would knock out any germs.  I just can't have my space smelling like that.  Smell is subjective so if you like it, God bless you.  It just isn't for me.

I also found a new (to me) organizer.  Having my own backyard flock, I need lots of egg cartons and they can get quite messy and gross.  I found these bad boys at Target and I think I will love them.  They can be washed and reused.  I will probably get a few more, plus they look so nice.  Another problem I have with regular cardboard egg cartons is that sometimes my chickens lay huge eggs and they don't quite fit.  This organizer can hold any size egg.  I'm sold!

I hope you are doing well.  Have you started spring cleaning?  We are on day two and I'm miserable...oh well!  And we have a blizzard going on outside.  Enjoy your day!  Blessings!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lots of green here and some mishaps...

It's St. Patrick's Day and I hope everyone is enjoying it!  We've already had our meal of corned beef and cabbage.  Goodness, it's so good!!!!  I let mine cook overnight in the crockpot and it is just effortless!!! Yum!

We have had a few mishaps here.  My first round of seedlings with lettuce and spinach was sabotaged...we have cats.  I brought the tray out from under my lights and upstairs to our main floor.  It was left out overnight and the cats ATE all the spinach.  I think they are really needing some greens, but goodness sakes, leave my plant babies alone, LOL!!!  So that tray was done.  I've been hardening off my cabbages and mustards under the hoophouses outside and they are going gangbusters out there.  I really need to get them into the ground, but I am just so pressed for time.  I've been helping a friend all month with her home daycare because she went on vacation to Australia.  Needless to say, I prefer the plants right now because I am so excited for spring and I have so many new things going on and *sigh*, a gardener just wants to get her hands in the dirt.  But I am really happy for my friend because this home daycare business is A LOT of work and I am exhausted by the time the weekend rolls around.

Here is our green project for the day:  we transplanted 25 tomato seedlings into much bigger pots.  I am going to conduct my own growth and taste tests this year with San Marzano tomatoes vs. Amish Paste.  Does anyone have a preference out there on which one you like to grow/eat???  I've never grown either one before so I am anxious for summer to see the results.  I am super excited to can all the summer goodness as well.  I was so busy canning last summer that I never posted my production results.  I know I canned over 70 jars of jam (we go through a lot of it--plus it's great for gifts).  Hopefully, I can be more on top of it as far as posting what I'm preserving this year.  I will try!

My sweet little helper!

I hope you all have a wonderful St. Patrick's day and a very blessed Sunday!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Spring is starting to spring!

It's warmed up a bit here.  I've seen the robin for a couple of weeks now.  My irises are coming up.  I guess spring has sprung!  I hope you can feel it, too, wherever you are. Here are my plant babies from the last post.

These are the Japanese Giant Red Mustard.  I started them on February 4th.  They have come along nicely.

My lettuces can seriously be harvested and they haven't been in the ground yet!  I have several tiered starts of seedlings for my lettuces.  They are just so lovely and they really do take away the cabin fever--nothing is alive--will winter ever be done feeling!

These are the cabbages and cauliflowers.  It's only been one month and they are almost ready to go out.  I have covered hoop houses in my backyard so I have been putting them out there in their trays to get acclimated.  We've been in the 50's for daytime temps and the hoop houses are even warmer than that.  I will be transplanting these in bigger containers (probably large paper towel rolls) and then putting them in the ground, depending on how warm it stays (or not).  I've never done anything for spring around here because it's a Russian roulette game as far as weather.  I think it will be a mild spring and I have my hoop houses with a layer of row cover...I'm hoping my gamble pays off!  I also have tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers going.  It's taking the eggplants forever to germinate, but I see they are about to sprout.  I've never started with seeds before for eggplants.  I have lots of new varieties...all heirlooms and I'm hoping I can fit everything in.  How is seedling starting going for you?   I have a simple set up of shoplights set up in my basement.  If you have any questions, please let me know!  I will do my best to answer them.  I will also be doing a tutorial about my chicken tunnel soon.  I have to sit my husband down and get all the measurements again...I wrote them down, but they got up and walked away like most things in this house, LOL!!!  Have a great week everyone!!!  Blessings!!!

Monday, February 18, 2013


It's cold here in Colorado, but I have to say it has been so mild that I fear a horrific summer of fires is on the horizon because we are in desperate need of moisture. With that said, I think we will have a mild spring.  I'm jumping on that opportunity because my first born child graduates high school in May.  I have planned the spring garden and have my fingers crossed because we are having the party at our house and I really, really, really would like to have a beautiful spring garden.  I have never really tried too much outside of greens, but this year, I've got a whole slew of beauties.

I have a variety of cabbages.  I vowed never to try growing cabbage again, but I think my problem was that I never started them early enough.  I am also trying green macerata cauliflower and purple of sicily cauliflower.  Oooohhhh, I hope they do well!!!!  Have you seen inside the cover of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog?  The Gettles (founders of the company) are among a sea of gorgeous giant Japanese looks like a glorious bed that I just want to lay on.  The picture was so enticing that I ordered the seed and there it is in the picture on the right half.  It's a beautiful purple and green.  Oh, it is so exciting.  I have had great luck with mustard so that should do great in my garden.  I have also seeded up many different lettuces; I have my tomatoes started because you have to start early here (plus eggplant--still waiting on some seeds I ordered).  I should get my peppers going, too.  ACK!  So much to plant!  I am quickly running out of room under my lights. I have spinach and herbs as well.  I'm trying to stay ahead of the season.  What great things are you growing this season???  Stay warm and hold onto the thought that spring is just around the corner!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl!?

I am a football fanatic.  I may be a woman, but I love football!!!!  I watch the pre-game specials, I like to hear every word of the national anthem, the half-time show is only there for spectacle (and shaking around in a swimsuit is not my cup of tea--I'd rather watch Downton Abbey), and the game itself is AWESOME!  Some people only like to watch the game for commercials.  I love the whole experience and this year, there was one commercial that just blessed my heart.  Paul Harvey spoke on how on the eighth day, God created the farmer.  It was a beautiful commercial that honored farmers.  Although it was for Dodge trucks, it spoke so much more about what a farmer is and it was so well done.  By far it was the best commercial out there! For all the farmers out there...on hundreds of acres in the country, on tiny plots in the city, to backyard farms in the suburbs...thank you Dodge for remembering those who truly are the backbone of this country!  If you haven't seen it, here it is from YouTube.