Monday, September 26, 2016

BACK IN THE KITCHEN

Fall has come and settled itself in nicely here.  The long hot days of summer are but just a memory.


My tomatoes are in boxes and slowly ripening.  As they ripen.. this is what happens next:


When I have enough fresh (and frozen - I freeze them to get enough as they are not all ripening at the same speed) then I pile them in a stock pot, add salt and let them simmer away...



Once they have simmered and reduced to about half in size, and the sauce is thick and rich, they are ready for the blender.  I scoop enough tomatoes to put in my blender to fill half way.  One thing I have learned - the hard way of course - is that you NEVER fill the blender full of hot tomatoes.  The tomatoes have a way of blowing the lid off, and hot hot hot tomatoes come out, get everywhere... and burn!  So... no shortcuts here, and trying to do too much at once.  Trust me on this one! {smiles}



One stockpot full of tomatoes, makes this much canned tomatoes, a little over 6 quarts... you can see it takes a lot of tomatoes to can.  But really, there is no taste in the world like the tomatoes you can at home!  And so this is why I do it.  Just looking at those golden jars full of goodness makes my soul joyful!


While I was busy in the kitchen... this little fellow was snoozing, and I thought how nice it would be to take a cat nap in the middle of the day, lol!

But... no time for naps!



These lovely plums given to me by my dear friend GT were fully ripe and ready to be put to good use! 


First they needed to be pitted.  They filled my saucepot to overflowing! I froze most of them, and saved 8 pounds to make plum jelly.  The recipe I use calls for 4 pounds of plums for one batch, and I was going to make a double batch. I was able to get 2 batches of plum jelly, and 3 gallon zip lock bags full of plums out of just ONE brown bag of plums!  I will freeze the remainder of the plums... so our freezer will be well-stocked for winter smoothies. :)



Making the plum juice.... After cooking the plums, the juice is strained through cheesecloth to make the jelly.



With the plum jelly all plum done,  I was plum wore out... but from first taste test... the jelly sure is plum good! {smiles}

Next, it was time to strain the beans from my vanilla extract.  I started this extract back in March, and it takes about 6 months for the alcohol to extract the vanilla from the beans.



It was a beautiful rich color, and smelled oh so good of strong vanilla.  If you want to see how I make my own vanilla extract, you can see my post here on how I do it.



Next on my list was taking my dried raspberry leaves and putting them in storage.  I cut down all the raspberry branches that had bloomed this year, and hung the branches upside down to dry.  Once the leaves had dried, I collected them and put them in this ziplock bag.  I will add an oxygenizer to the bag to keep them from going moldy, should any of them have not completely dried.

You may wonder why would you save raspberry leaves?

There are so many health benefits to raspberry tea (especially for women)  that it really is a remarkable addition to your home health collection.  Drinking raspberry tea has been done for centuries, but it has been just recently that more research has been done on why it seems to be so beneficial.  Just a few of the benefits of raspberry tea:

1. The specific combination of nutrients in raspberry leaves (magnesium, potassium, vitamin B and iron) are highly beneficial to the female reproductive system, both in pregnant women, and those suffering from PMS, endometriosis, or those who are trying to conceive.

2.  It has a high concentration of vitamin C.

3. Because it is high in tannins, it can be used both internally and externally. It can be swished as a tincture tea for gum disease and gingivitis, and the tea can soothe sunburns, eczema and rashes.

You can read more on the raspberry tea here.   Since I grow my own raspberries, and the raspberry leaves are high in vitamin C, I like to make my own raspberry tea, and add it to smoothies, or drink as a hot tea sweetened with a little honey.



My next endeavor will be putting up the pumpkin.  This is the pumpkin that grew in my potato patch spontaneously.  It is turning orange rapidly, and once it is ready, I will be putting it up as well.


I still have flowers blooming in my garden, despite all the frosts and freezes we have gotten, and for that I am very thankful!  This verbena is still going strong, after being planted in an old metal oil can.

We have been enjoying absolutely amazing fall weather here... today it got up to the 80s, which was a nice treat!  Bright blue skies, brilliant foliage and the warm temps today made me glad that I got the canning done this past week when the temps were a bit cooler!  I hope that you are enjoying lovely fall weather too!

Here is a little poem I wrote today, as I marveled aloud in praise to the Lord who has created this beautiful world for us to enjoy.  May your day be blessed, in HIM!














Friday, September 23, 2016

Butter Tart Squares

It felt good to be back in the kitchen after the summer months where baking/cookies duties were limited as much as possible!  We used the grill or cooked on the stove top most of the summer to avoid heating up the house.  How lovely it felt this past week to be back in the kitchen, and actually looking forward to the heat from the oven as our temps have been in the 50s and 60s during the day.

I want to share this little recipe with you.  It is so easy to make, and really doesn't need much effort... these little squares are rich and delicious.


BUTTER TART SQUARES

CRUST:
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

FILLING:
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans, or raisins
1 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp cream
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix crust ingredients: flour, brown sugar, and butter.  Press into an 8x8 pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Mix filling ingredients together. Spread over the cooked crust.  Place pan back in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly and brown.  Cool, slice into squares and serve.

I cut the squares in tiny pieces, so if you go back for seconds there are no guilty feelings {smiles}. If you need a little "pick-me-up" along about 3 in the afternoon... these little squares will do the trick, along with a nice hot cup of tea, of course!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Crisp Fall Days

We are full swing into fall here... with very crispy and cool mornings spiced up with lovely and warm days, and after a hot summer, the cool weather is refreshing!


A rather unique cloud formation I thought! Like an arrow shooting through the sky...


Sally... a.k.a. Sal is a rooster.  He was the last chick hatched out this spring, and is the newest kid on the block... and since Pepper has taken up where his father left off... poor Sal is often on the outside looking in.  He is so skittish and won't let me get close to him at all.


Goldie has turned out to be a remarkable mother.. and now, she is back broody again.  I've given her some eggs to sit on.  I know it is late in the year, but since she is such a great mother, I guess we will let nature have its course.  I've learned that it is better to work with their nature, then to try to change it.


The chickadees are chirping gladly as they visit our feeder.  Always a delight to have such sweet guests!



Singing a cheerful song and I was glad to listen to the spontaneous concert!


These roses showed up via UPS from ProFlowers... sent by a dear friend of mine RH (thank you dear friend, you really brightened my day!) ... just in time for my birthday... yes, it is *that* time of year again!  I'm a year older, and hopefully wiser {smiles}|...

My family celebrated by taking me out to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant... where I forgot to get a picture lol!  Can you believe it?!  My son treated all of us to dinner there, and it was a very special time for all of us.  How nice it is to have the "tables turned" when our precious kids are blessing us on special days!



A group of my friends gathered at a local restaurant a few days after my birthday to share breakfast together. My dear friend SL treated all of us, which was so sweet of  her!  How blessed I am to have such a wonderful group of friends.   It is always time of sweet fellowship for all of us.  Expressions of family and friends in need of prayer were made, and at the end of our gathering, we each prayed for these needs, and there was a beautiful presence of the Lord with us as we prayed.  In fact, the waitress came over and just talked to us for quite a while, and said amen when we finished.  It was a lovely time to be able to share and pray freely about the Lord in this family oriented restaurant, and of course, enjoy good food too!


Flowers still blooming in September... you can't go wrong with geraniums here!  They don't mind frosts, and will probably continue blooming until the snow flies...


Amazingly, 'ole Sal (as we affectionately call him now) has not crowed yet.  I wonder if it is a dominance thing.  He certainly has been procreating though, so he is doing part of his job as a rooster.  So far, he and Pepper get along quite amicably.  I'm thankful for that!


I pulled up all my corn stalks, and decorated my garden gate with them.  The corn stalks also provide a snack for the chickens as they meander into my garden.  I have opened up the garden for them now since everything except cold weather veggies have been pulled up.


The harvest moon that came up this past week.  I didn't get my tripod out to steady the picture so it is a bit fuzzy, but it was enjoyable to watch it come up.


After a rainy Saturday, the most glorious sunset happened... beautiful hues of pinks spread across the sky ...


I never, ever tire of our sunsets here!


It was a frosty foggy fall morning, and was about 35 degrees outside when I took this picture.


An old log fence just down the road from us... all decked out in bright colors from the shrubs announcing the arrival of fall.


Yellow, gold and red hues... beautiful moments of fall.


I want to plant some of these trees in our driveway!  Just down the road from us, these gorgeous trees line the neighbors driveway... gorgeous aren't they!


Brittle yellow hued ferns... like a candle shining its brightest before flickering out, these ferns put on the brightest show before fading for the season.


Wild elderberries growing at the edge of the river.


Mountain ash berries growing in abundance... they will provide a source of food for many animals and birds in preparation for the winter.


A little seating area at the edge of the riverbank.


Oregon grapes growing prolifically... if you like sour... these berries are for you!  They are edible, but incredibly sour... I have baked with them and they make great jellies and jams


Another little sitting area along the river... a great place to sit and watch the wildlife.


This family of geese were still here...


A beautiful pair aren't they...


More sitting areas... this time of year would be perfect for a little picnic.


The glorious colors of fall! Is there any sight more glorious than this?


Finally... the last blooming wildflower of the season - daisies.  I found this one growing in our backyard, the last of the season.  When I see the daisies blooming, I know summer's end is near... and this brave little daisy is still blooming, how happy I was to find it.  I called my daughter over as she is currently enrolled in a drawing class, and so she used this little daisy for one of her projects.

And so the days are moving along... brisk, crisp, and gorgeous fall days.  I am enjoying each and every one... and praising the Lord for His everlasting goodness that I witness each day around me.  :)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fall Days, Comfort Foods and Mysteries ...

Hello dear friends!  It seems the season of summer has come and gone, quite quickly, and far too fast! Yet, we have enjoyed every possible minute of the warm daylight hours!  However, early in August we began to see this...



... the geese have been heading south for a month now, earlier than usual, their loud calls piercing and deep as they have been flying over our home... headed south.  If this is any indication, it seems to point to an earlier than usual winter.  I think summer left right around the time the geese did, and fall has since arrived in all its glorious beauty.



And our very short growing season here has come to an end.  We had the last spring frost on June 9th, and our first fall frost was September 9th, exactly three months apart.


My tomatoes were just starting to ripen, and this year... they were sooo tiny!  Most of my tomatoes were not bigger than a golf ball, and they had just begun to ripen when our first frost hit.


Inside the greenhouse, my peppers are quite happy, and growing very contentedly. So far the frost/freeze has not bothered them.


My sugar pumpkins began ripening on the vine towards the end of August.


Broccoli is also just getting started, and it should continue growing, despite any frosts we may get.


Our corn did great this year, and was very sweet.



Yum!


A picture of my garden in the prime of its growing season, about mid-August.


After the frost... the death of a garden...


Such are the seasons of a garden... we were blessed with a good abundance of vegetables this summer and now... it has come to an end.


Carrots are still growing bountifully.  So far the frosts have not affected the carrots.  I will wait until the tops wither before I pull all of them up.


Amazingly enough, my strawberries are producing again in September!


I had to cover the berries with a net because some of my chickens had figured out how to get in my garden, and were eating them!


Some of my Roma tomatoes on the vine beginning to ripen before the frost.  Since we got the frost on September 9th, I have picked all my tomatoes and brought them inside to ripen.  The short growing season we have here means that usually we have fresh tomatoes ripening all the way into October, which is pretty nice!



I keep my tomatoes in cardboard boxes with newspaper and check them every day for the ones that have ripened.



Some of the bounty from the garden this year.



I planted Blue Lake stringless green beans, and they did very well.

Overall, my garden with its ups and downs this summer, did pretty well.  I estimate that about 3 pounds of potatoes planted in the garden grew about 100 pounds, and that is the biggest potato harvest I've ever gotten.  My tomatoes were very small, and did not grow quickly.  I suspect this is in part due to the cooler weather we had early in the summer.  It is hard to believe that the main gardening season has come to an end for this year.  But... the shortening days, frosty nights, and clear breezy days assure me that fall is indeed here, and winter is nipping on its heels!

~ IN OTHER NEWS ~

I'll share some pictures of pieces of our lives over the past few days... 



Our daughter's paintings are being displayed in a local art gallery.

~ A MOONLIT WALK ~


The new moon was truly lovely as it came up one evening while we were at the river enjoying the quietness of the sunset.


My husband and I drove down to the river, and just watched the sun set, and listened to the call of the birds, the squirrels, and the crickets.  So peaceful and beautiful, we let the music of nature wash our souls with its loveliness.


This little flower was growing along the bank of the river, and its bright colors were in contrast to the deepening shadows of the night.


A family of rabbits kept an eye on us as we walked along the bank of the river.  They did not seem afraid of us at all.  Momma ran off in the bushes, but he sat very still and let me take his picture, which was hard to do.   I had to use a flash as it was almost completely dark.


Leaving the river and walking back up the path, I loved how the moon seemed to be lighting up the path for us.

~  DISASTER AVERTED ~
 

One morning last week we had a water emergency. I was about to go on a walk with Annie, and had put on a load of laundry.  I heard a funny noise in our bedroom, and went in to investigate.  I found a flood! A plastic connector from the water heater closet in our bedroom had just snapped without any apparent cause, and massive amounts of water were pouring from the water heater onto the floor.  I frantically called my husband, who didn't answer!  Of course!   I knew that the main line to shut off the water was under the house, not the best place for it, but it is what it is.  I was about to get under the house when my husband called me back, and told me to turn the main electric circuit off, as that would shut off the pump.  Phew!  That worked, and the flood was halted. 

Then it was damage control.  

Thankfully the water damage had only gotten to a couple of inches in the bedroom, and I was able to soak it all up with towels, and then put several fans on the floor to dry it.  I can't even imagine the disaster that I would have returned to, had I left on my walk.  So I gave the Lord great praise for allowing me to catch the leak the instant it happened, and saving us a costly and messy cleanup! My husband was able to fix the broken connector, replacing it with a solid metal piece!  And all ended well.  So very thankful our little water emergency did not turn into a disaster! Thank you LORD! 

~ BUILDING A TRACTOR SHED  ~


My husband and son have been hard at work building a tractor shed.  This has been a project we've wanted to do ever since we moved on our place.  We are using some wood from the downed trees we've had from the beetle infestation.


There is not much I can do to help, other than moral support, and prayers.  This was very dangerous work.  My husband and son skinned the bark from the trees. Then the 32-foot Douglas fir tree beam was hoisted up with the tractor and settled it on the beams.


Here you can see just how long this beam was, and the tight fit they were working with to get it up and set in place.  I handed tools to them, and made sure they stayed hydrated as they worked... and prayed for their safety!



You can see that it was quite the balancing act using the tractor to get such a large beam up on those posts.



This is what we have gotten done so far on the shed.  We still have a lot of work to do yet to get the shed built before the snow flies!

~ MISSING EGGS ~

One night I noticed that Martha had not come into the coop for the night.  I was quite worried about her, wondering what happened.  I called and called her to no avail.  I left the coop open, and left Annie out for the night to keep an eye on the coop, in case she needed to come back in.  Early the next morning about 5 a.m. I woke to hear her sweet voice calling and I was so thankful that she was okay.  However, that day I noticed that my egg production was less than usual.  The next night, the same thing happened, no Martha!  The next morning, she showed back up as usual.  I knew it was time to go on the search to see where she was spending the night.



I began to walk through the woods around our place, and then I saw Martha's bright comb peeking out from the grass and weeds, and underneath her this is what I found!  A whole stash of eggs!  18 eggs in total.  I had to throw most of them away, except for the 2-3 on top, which I gave to our dogs.  The grass/mud contaminates the shell, and they rot quickly.  However, I was thankful to have found their egg stash, and I covered up their egg stash area so they wouldn't return here to lay eggs.

Unfortunately... this was a week or two ago, and I think they have changed their egg stash spot... as I am on the look again for it..... sigh.  I have been walking through the brush all over our property close to the house looking for them. However my husband mentioned to me today that he found two crushed egg shells way back in our woods.  I notice that the hens and Pepper are now taking long "excursions" in the afternoon.  It may be time to keep them in the coop for a day or two, just to teach them where they need to be laying their eggs! I love to let my hens free range, but the continuing need to solve the mystery of where they laying their eggs in the woods is getting old, lol!

~ SOUTHERN-STYLE POTATO SALAD ~


My kids requested a potato salad one evening for dinner.  I was more than happy to oblige, as we have a bountiful supply this year of potatoes from our garden.  It is a simple potato salad, and I've tweaked my recipe recently.  My daughter did not like the taste of the onions in it, so I switched from a white onion, to chives or green onions, and we all were amazed at how much flavor the green onion still added without any of the stomach issues that onion can cause later... lol!


This potato salad is quite simple. I simply cook the potatoes until soft and then drain them.  I use a hand beater, and add in mustard and mayonnaise until the potatoes are creamy. Then I add in salt and pepper, chopped chives, dill pickles, and boiled eggs.  Once mixed together I sprinkle with paprika.  This salad was made with ingredients mostly from my garden/chickens, which was pretty awesome!


Just looking at this picture makes me think I need to make another one soon!  I think potato salad is one of my favorite comfort foods :)


Cooking up some squash and jalapeno for dinner... we like it stir-fried.  I melt some butter in the iron skillet, add in the chopped zucchini and squash and 1-2 chopped jalapenos, and stir it until it begins to soften.  Then I add in a little Mrs. Dash, and some chicken bouillon, salt and pepper to taste, and this makes just about the best tasting zucchini ever!  

Well that kind of sums up our days around here.  Since the frost/freeze has come, my garden chores are lessening, and I hope to have more time to blog again :)  Unless of course my chickens keep me busy solving egg mysteries, lol!