Friday, October 31, 2014

Roaming Chickens

Those brown chickens are pretty hard to keep inside the fencing. A few are regularly found outside the fence and roaming around on their own. Sometimes it seems like there are more outside the fencing than inside.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Homecoming Mum

Texans distinguish themselves by being the only ones to get excited about Homecoming Mums. The first year we were here we saw them and wondered what they were. Last year we thought they were rather unusual. And this year we succumbed.

When high school Daughter came home saying she not only wanted one this year, but wanted to make it, I wasn't quite sure what she was talking about. Although I'd seen them, I hadn't paid much attention to their construction. So with a little internet searching we decided it was something we thought we could make. We had heard that they might cost over $75 dollars if you bought one already made, and we figured we could make one for less. Some people spend over $100! On a mum!

With a little more investigation, I found that Hobby Lobby had homecoming supplies. Indeed, they had an entire aisle full of the various required elements for a mum. And after watching a lady making special orders, I had a better idea what to buy.

So with all our supplies - ribbons, trinkets, cardboard, artificial flower, stapler and glue gun - we took over the dining room table and set to work. For us it was a little trial-and-error but we gradually worked out what looked good. There is definitely a creative element to making one. We made the starburst layer and the streamers layer, then glued it all together with the mum.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Wood Chips

After reading and watching a video about wood chip gardening, Guv'nor was convinced we needed to try this method. Watch the video here.

The basic idea is to use a thick layer of fresh hardwood chips on an area of ground. Over time (about a year) the wood chips decompose and turn the ground into a fertile growing area with minimal work.

It took persistence but he finally found a tree company who would deliver wood chips to our property. He marked out an area and spread out the wood chips. He also added some cow and chicken manure and also compost from what we had in our compost bins.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Canning Class

I took another class over at Homestead Heritage recently. This time it was a canning and preserving class. I've never done proper canning. Up until now I've been freezing or dehydrating anything extra we've had.

I had a couple of "light bulb" moments during the class.

1. People can die from improperly canned food (botulism).
2. There are two basic types of canning: water bath and pressure.
3. There is a difference between pressure cooker and pressure canner.
4. The seals are one time use only.
5. You don't have to keep the rims on after the jars are sealed.
6. There is a gadget that peels, cores, and mashes apples for applesauce.

We did several types of food preservation in class: dehydration, pressure canning, hot bath canning, and lacto-fermentation. At the end of the day I was able to take home with me most of the things we worked on in class: beef cubes, pinto beans, tomatoes, green beans, jalapenos, applesauce, jam, and salsa.

I was inspired by the class and have bought most of the equipment to do both hot bath and pressure canning.

The class begins in an old restored cabin.

The ladies had everything organized for us.

We used several pressure canners.

This pressure canner was the nicest one.

We also did hot water bath canning.

There were six other ladies taking the class with me.

They had samples of previous canned foods.

They suggested several good canning books.
Oddly enough, I had one of them already but didn't know how to use it.

We sliced fresh tomatoes to dehydrate.

We started the process, but didn't have enough time to see it finished.

Huge chunks of grass-fed beef were provided.

We cut the beef into bite sized pieces.

We put as much beef in each jar as we could press in.

For this meat, we used the pressure canner for 75 minutes.

The beef is fully cooked and the jars are sealed when they are finished processing.

We put previous soaked pinto beans into jars.

We processed the raw pinto beans in the pressure canner for 75 minutes.
The jar on the left is cooked and sealed.

A huge tray of fresh and washed green beans were provided.

I chose to put the green beans in whole rather than chopping them.

We processed the green beans in the pressure canner for 20 minutes.

Here's my jar of cooked and sealed green beans.

We boiled fresh tomatoes for a few minutes so we could peel them easily.

We chopped the tomatoes to make stewed tomatoes.

We filled each jar to the top with little empty space and processed for 10 minutes.

Here is my sealed jar of stewed tomatoes.

This clever device makes applesauce - separating the skin and core while mashing the stewed apples.

We made a small batch of strawberry jam from frozen strawberries.

Here are some of my jars cooling on the counter.