Monday, June 30, 2008

Sous Chef Needed

It seems that a day in the garden is always followed by a day in the kitchen. I spent yesterday tending to the vegetable garden in hopes of getting control of the weed situation. About 5 hours later I had completed 1/3 of it and had gained a plentiful harvest of lettuce, radishes, onions, beets, sugar peas and a quart of very ripe strawberries. The blueberry bushes and raspberry patch have also begun ripening. And so today was spent processing my harvest. The veggies have either been turned into a luscious salad or frozen for later use.

These beautiful raspberries came from a local farm market. Unfortunately, my harvest was a little too meager...but was a delicious addition to yesterday's breakfast.

These berries very quickly became.........


Black Raspberry Jam!

The pie is nectarine/blueberry and was featured on the cover of this month's Country Living Magazine. It smells absolutely wonderful.....

Would you like a piece?
I just love homemade pickled beets! These 7 quarts just came out of the water bath...I can hear the lids popping as I write this. Now all that is left is the clean-up. I need a sous chef!
Hopefully I will have some time tomorrow to work on labels.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Reducing Our Carbon Footprint

While vacationing, I have had some time to read and reflect.  We have tried fairly hard to reduce our carbon footprint at home by recycling, driving less, growing our own food, etc.  I realize, however, that there is so much more that we could be doing for our environment.  It seems that each year while on vacation, I make some personal resolutions to begin when I get home.  This year is no exception.  In fact, perhaps this year has been the most productive.  With our upcoming plans for living full time on the farm, hubby and I have had many discussions about energy efficiency, consumption, etc in planning to build our log home.
I have made a resolution to drive less and ride a bike more for daily errands.  Presently, we live close enough to the grocery store, post office, and bank for me to use a bike for those destinations.  While on vacation, we found a tiny bike shop with the best selection of old fashioned cruisers.  I picked up this adorable pink cruiser outfitted with the most perfect baskets.  It will serve me well for errands around town.  Eventually, when we move to the farm full time, it will be quite handy for trips between the house and barn and garden....with more than enough basket room for transporting produce. My first project when we return home from vacation will be to sew a basket liner in pink fabric for the front basket.

Other ideas percolating in my brain are:

Recycling large canning jars or spaghetti jars for water vessels...just fill with ice, water, a citrus slice and go.  No more buying plastic water bottles.  What could be cuter for a picnic than an old canning jar with a colorful fabric bow tied around it!  Did you know that it takes several times the amount of water in a plastic bottle to actually produce the bottle.  What a terrible waste.

I truly need to choose items with friendlier packaging.  I will be searching for vegetable based laundry detergents in recycled paper packaging from now on.

Recently, we have made a homemade rain collection system from recycled 50 gallon plastic drums that our farm neighbor brings home for us from his bakery job.  This water will be used to water our blueberries, grapes and fruit trees during times of drought.  I plan to add a rain barrel to our home, when built, and use that water for watering houseplants.

I carry my own fabric bags to the grocery store instead of using all of those plastic bags.  Eventually, I would love to live a plastic-free life.  

I have decided to stop using disposable razors and use an old refillable razor....once again no plastic to add to our landfills.

The list goes on and on......

What a Week!

What a wonderful week we have had.  The weather has been perfect...sunny and hot.  This year I asked each family to plan and execute one night's meal and the food has been fabulous.  We have done the usual beach activities as well as golf,mini golf, hang gliding lessons and movie night.  We held family pool and bowling tournaments involving both young and old.  Last evening we attempted to get everyone together for a group photo (with the exception of my son Andy...who had to return to Charlotte on Tuesday).  Even Maddie and Sadie cooperated.  

Thursday, June 19, 2008

On Vacation

My Honey and I are heading to the beach
for a week's rest and relaxation!
If I don't talk to you during that time.....have a wonderful week. I will be back with tales from the beach real soon!

Monday, June 16, 2008

My new buddy...

Ok, most of you who know me, know that I have been spending an inordinate amout of time lately in the business of picking and preserving strawberries. We have hundreds and hundreds of plants and thousands and thousands of berries. Though most of my picking is done alone, it is wonderful to have help. I was treated to help this weekend when my son came home from North Carolina for a long weekend visit. Friday afternoon he and his girlfriend helped me pick enough berries to make 2 dozen pints of jam. What a wonderful weekend we had!

Most of the time, however, my garden companions look a little more like:



Friday, June 13, 2008

Final Product...

....ready for gift or sale! With a little Photoshop tutorial from my son, Andy (visiting this weekend from North Carolina) I finally made labels for my strawberry jam. Here is the finished product.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Quick Projects

Ok, I will let you in on a little secret. I LOVE CLOTHES! That being said though, I must clarify. I am an extremely frugal shopper and shop outlets or Marshalls or TJ Maxx, However, if I can make something rather than buy it, even better. I have always loved, belts, jewelry, bags, etc. What is more fun than dressing in a funky outfit and having just the right accessory to accompany it! That is perhaps what drove me to learn to make jewelry and bags. I found a cute madras belt(top belt in picture) in the J. Crew outlet the other day. Then I remembered that I had seen madras fabric at our local JoAnns. I picked up a quarter yard of each fabric that they had and quickly whipped up two more belts (bottom two in picture)....pastel madras and pink patchwork...for pennies on the dollar.

The Strawberry Report....

Farm life teaches you to be creative. When you have an enormous harvest of one crop, you either gift it, sell it, or find alternate uses for it! Strawberries have been that crop for us this year. We have already gifted, frozen, preserved in Jam, and eaten our fill of shortcake. What to do with the rest? There is nothing sadder than seeing food go to waste...especiallly when knowing that 6 months from now we would give anything to enjoy the taste. We may have found a way to have the taste of fresh strawberries all year long! This past winter, in preparation for summer's harvest, my dear hubby ordered every possible kitchen appliance that could make food preservation easier. For several weeks the mailman dropped off packages that contained things like pressure cookers and, to my surprise, a food dehydrator. "Aha!" Now I knew how to deal with a glut of berries. I would try drying them.

Tuesday I picked about 15 more quarts of berries. What I did not turn into jam, I decided I would dehydrate. I washed them, sliced them 1/4 inch thick and layed them on the racks. The racks were stacked on top of each other in the dehydrator, and the controls set for 135 degrees and 9 hours of drying time.

When the dehydrator turned off, I opened the front, pulled out the racks and to my delight found beautiful, dark red strawberry chips. I popped one in my mouth and found it to be slightly chewy but with flavor so intense. I was stunned! This just might work. The flavor of fresh, homegrown, organic berries in the middle of winter was now a reality....complete with all the little seeds that like to lodge themselves in your molars.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Bet You Can't Guess.....

....what I am doing right now!
Today my friend Ann and I spent two hours and picked about 15 quarts of strawberries on our farm. I gave several quarts away and with the rest of them made 18 more pints of jam. I can hear the lids popping as I write this! Yummy....homemade strawberry jam to last throughout the coming year.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Gardening Before Sewing (for now)

I cannot complain that I am not sewing. For now I am spending quite a bit of time out of doors. The wet Spring that we had has been great for jumpstarting the gardens. Unfortunately, though, the weeds have had that same jump start! And so, with gloved hands, I continuously battle the onslaught of weeds in hopes of bringing a tiny bit of control over my gardens.

It has been a tough year for the vegetables....I have had to re-plant quite a few of the initial plants that I had grown. Cool nights a few weeks ago wiped out my cucumbers. I subsequently re-planted them and they were attacked by some sort of insect. Now I have noticed new leafy growth; so hopefully they will gain a foothold and begin to produce.

The berries are a different subject. We have experienced an explosion of ripe strawberries. Our blueberry bushes are so loaded with unripened fruit that the branches are hanging very low from the weight. We have gooseberries and tons of blossoms on our raspberries and blackberries. The apple trees have bounced back from their heavy winter pruning and will have a moderate yield, also. I have also noticed quite a few clusters of teeny tiny grapes hanging from the vines that we planted last year.

For now, though, the strawberries are enough to keep this farmgirl busy....

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Life is Unpredictable

It always seems that just when life becomes calm and comfortable, something always has a way of shaking things up a bit. I think it is life's natural prevention against complacency. Recently, my 26 year old daughter has had the need to move back in with us for a while (til she gets her feet on the ground). this has been a bit of a blessing for me, since it gives me another bit of time to be close to her. She is delightful to be around and takes care of her own business, so there is no downside to this situation aside from just a little less privacy. The complicating factor (and a mixed blessing) has been her new puppy, Primo.

Primo is six weeks old, full of piss and vinegar, cute as a button....and deaf. Needless to say, this puppy training process is going to be challenging! There is a lot of information on the internet about training deaf dogs, so we will all be quite educated, eventually!

Maddie has turned out to be quite a wonderful babysitter....ever patient, tolerant Maddie.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Fun With Half-Aprons

In between gardening and other home projects, I have tried to sit and sew for about an hour each day. In the past few days I have tried several different half-apron ideas that have been percolating in my thoughts. I am attempting to wade through all of the fabric that I have stashed away in the past year. It is always good to downsize. At the present, I am only accomplishing a transformation....
Now, if I could only sell the aprons and bags that I have made, then I would truly be downsizing. Here are a few pictures of this week's aprons. The first is a reversible laundry apron with large, roomy pockets for clothespins.

The second is just a half, ruffled...sort of that French Country look.

I had a blast using fancy stitches on my embroidery machine to finish this apron.

And Yes, MJ....these are all on my Etsy, now!

This is my favorite. The bottom edge is scalloped and it is reversible. I love its flirty lines and the bright floral print.So, if I never sell any of these aprons, at least I will have the biggest apron wardrobe I know. Perhaps I will have to have an apron closet added to my home!! Otherwise...look out, you just might be receiving an apron for your next important holiday.

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