Thursday, May 31, 2012

Preserving the Harvest: Puttin' Up Pickles

So many projects need done, yet, some demand attention right away. The men got our well in proper working order, garden beans have been snapped, blanched and frozen, trash burned, wash is on the line. With the garden in full swing, the cucumbers have started coming in quite bountifully. Seems time to put up some farmhouse pickles.

As you can see, I can my pickles in various states: some in spears, some in slices and some whole. Today's pickles are all dill, though I generally put up some bread-n-butters as well as spicy garlic pickles. With the dill heads in full bloom today, dill seemed the right choice.

Working together makes the task lighter, so I prepare the cucumbers, one farmgirl prepares the jars and picks the herbs, the farmboys set the fire under the canner, and one farmgirl prepares and stirs the brine. Right now the girls and I are waiting on the timer to ring and signal the jars need removed, so we'll post the recipe for you.

Farmhouse Dill Pickles

4 qts. medium cucumbers
8 sprays of dill
4 garlic cloves
1 qt. vinegar (here I used white)
1 c. salt
3 qts. water

The day before, we wash the cucumbers and cover them with water in a bowl. They stand overnight.

The next way, put a spray or two of dill and one clove of garlic in each jar. Pack your cucumbers (prepared as you like) into your jars (size of jar depends on your preference...I use whatever is available). Combine vinegar, salt and water in a pot and bring to a rolling boil. Fill the jars to overflowing with the vinegar mixture. Now seal them in your water bath or pressure canner.

You can dig in anytime you want, but for best flavor, we let them cure for six weeks in a dark pantry before opening.

**Just a note: The vinegar mixture used here is rather universal. We have used it to pickle garlic, onions, banana peppers and hot peppers. So, try it with any pickling project.

   Now, to get started on some carrots...seems this year, we grew a bumper crop:)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When In the Pantry...

   Walking into the pantry today, something caught the corner of my eye. I was busy; no time for nonsense, yet I stopped and stood there for just a minute. My eyes came to focus on several little black spots; black spots that seemed to be everywhere.
   With no idea what on earth could have caused this phenomenon, my hand reached out to swipe them away from the shelves when...the moved. I don't mean they drifted along; no, they scurried here and there and everywhere causing me to leap, jump, holler and swat. They weren't little black spots; they were little baby spiders!
   After some seriously embarrassing moves (thankfully no teens were on hand to use this against me in the future), a damp cloth and a big broom...the pantry is clear again; safe to least for now.
   So, when in the careful what you reach for!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

He Never Leaves Us....

A home filled with love
Given by God above
My husband, my best friend 
Faithful and strong to the end
Children who are my treasures
Bringing laughter, prayers and pleasures
Garden filled with growing
His provisions we are knowing
Hens scratching and a-laying
Thank the Lord, that's what I'm praying
Here my home with health is blessed
My Heavenly Father sure knows best
For in His hand He keeps us
Faithfully He never leaves us

   I am spending this night and day with warm soup, plenty of tea, and some steam in hopes of squashing this nasty summer congestion. With the Lord's help, the canner will be up and running again tomorrow..and so will I.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Weekend Up-To's

   My weekend was a full one; so much to do and only so much time. Gardens were weeded and mulched; produce was harvested and now awaits preserving; stalls were was a busy weekend. Unfortunately it seems, I have come down with a nasty cough and cold which, of course, I do not have time for.
   The only good thing about having the cold is it has forced me to really put some concentrated time into this quilt...I am down to one more turn and then it will come off the frame for binding. It's exciting to be nearly finished.
   Farm boy took over the kitchen and worked up a wonderful barbeque sauce- made in the slow cooker with fresh tomatoes, peppers and spices. It tasted absolutely wonderful on some grilled burgers!
   Finally, some whittling was done. Tiny wooden wildflowers made from slender oak limbs now grace my kitchen table (right alongside dozens of tomatoes).

   What kept you busy this weekend?

Saturday, May 26, 2012



Romans 12:3

King James Version (KJV)
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Today I Have...

...been canning plenty of tomato sauce, green beans, salsa, and jam...
picking hornworms off the tomatoes and feeding them to the chickens...
kneading wonderful bread dough,...
making delicious cheese and yogurt...and
finding new friends.

Have a wonderful Saturday!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

An Exciting Discovery

 While working in the garden today I had an amazing discovery...beautiful swallowtail caterpillars making their home among the dill plants.
 When touched, the caterpillar lifts his head revealing feathery orange 'antenna' fascinating!
  Colorful and unique in their markings, the swallowtail butterfly is common to our area and quite striking to encounter. The beautiful adults have been abundant in gracing our herb gardens this year. Their beauty has been absolutely captivating.

For more information about the swallowtail, please click here.

What exciting discoveries have you had in your garden this week?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Things a Dog Will Do

   As the day started, coffee brewed, chores were done, and a strange sound seemed to linger about the kitchen. Standing there trying to identify the strange racket, farm boy came into the house and announced his find: it was Hadassah, or more like what Hadassah had.
   It seems our girl had caught a locus- in her mouth- between her teeth- unharmed. She was simply walking around the back step, holding the locus as it made a rowdy buzzing racket. When we went out to her and asked what she had, she let it go and then hopped up and caught it again...between her teeth, unharmed.

   All in all, she never harmed the scared little creature...only played with it. I guess all the work we have been doing training her to catch or herd the livestock gently without harming them carried over to the little locus. Funny, isn't it, the things a dog will do.

Visits from Jenn!

Simply Jenn here, to share a little bit about me.

10 random things? Challenge accepted!

1. I love MMA.
2. I have crazy, bush-woman curly hair.
3. I don't like chickens that much, but I love Doc Holiday and my goat babies.
4. I'm not much of a veggie gardener, but I love my herb gardens and flowers!
5. I find grace and comfort in butterflies. They remind me of who I am in Christ, and all His promises.
6. I can't stand having long finger nails. Garden dirt, animal fur, bread dough, and so much more get stuck in there! Never fun; I cannot stand that feeling.
7. I'm a swim instructor - I love teaching babies how to swim!! And by babies, I mean preschool-age children.
8. I love to read Amish fiction.
9. I never, ever, wear matching socks. I'm in love with crazy socks - stripes, polka dots, pink, red, green, orange, blue, yellow, purple, spotted, neon, what have you.
10. I'm "super fun size" according to one of my new coworkers. At just under 5', I suppose he's justified in that statement.

Well, here was 10 random things about me. I hope you enjoyed my visit! Oh, and a bonus, just for you. I have my own blog, The Unclaimed Treasure. I haven't updated it in a while, sadly, due to my hectic schedule. But I hope to get back in the habit of blogging before Summer Sessions start at college.

Love to all!
-Simply Jenn

Monday, May 21, 2012

Through the Garden Gate

    Today, while passing through the garden gate I was greeted by beautiful butterflies and happy bees searching the colorful blossoms for sweet nectar and pollen. Pausing for a moment, their activity brings such a feeling of joy..and of my own need to get busy!
   In the herb garden, blooms are abundant and fragrance is strong. My feet brush the tender plants causing them to release their treasured oils; a deep breath..ah. I gathered catnip and mint, basil and sage for drying today.
   The corn is coming up nicely; beans are companion planted here and melons are popping up at the end of the rows. Farm boy and I are mulching this field today with composted coop shavings/manure. Right now I am trying to assess whether there are enough soaker hoses to place along the rows..there doesn't appear to be.
   Tomatoes, green beans, sunflowers and squash are busting from the bushes..along with the pests that plague them. Daily gatherings require a five gallon bucket as well as a large wash tub- and a careful awareness of what may be hiding among the foliage.
   This tiny little frog leaped from the leaves onto my foot and...well, let's just say, I was showing off moves never seen before. He scared me half to death! Poor cute thing; bet I scared him too.

 Cucumbers, peppers, and baby okra plants are thirsty in the dry, hot days. With the weeding done, this weeks barn muck will become the mulch in this part of the garden. After picking this plot, pickles need to be well as some salsa!
 The goats are calling me- they are sure death will some swiftly if I don't hurry to them and see what is the matter. Farm boy has finished his breakfast and gathered the shovels. My coffee is done; harvesting complete...better start the days work...passing once again, through the garden gate.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Farmboy Cooks: Green Chili Sauce

     The hot pepper harvest is in full swing; bushes hang heavy with spicy delights. In an effort to keep creative in the kitchen, the farm boy was loosed on a bowl full of green chilies..and the results were fantastic! He scratched together a plan and roamed the garden rows for the extra elements. I stood by with pen in hand noting the process as his green chili sauce came to life.

Green Chili Sauce Flex-Recipe

for every 1 cup of chopped green chilies:
2 small green tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup stock
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in heavy bottom sauce pan and cook low and slow, over medium heat, until it reaches desired thickness. 
For a chunky sauce, leave as is.
For smoother sauce, run through a food mill before placing in pint canning jar.
Refrigerate a few days before eating to let the flavors develop..if you can.

   Needless to say, we have made this recipe in double portion, and in triple, canning in pint size jars through a water bath method..and it's wonderful! Beautiful color, tangy heat..excellent with chips, on a sandwich or burger, slathered over enchiladas...even dropped in soup. We just keep finding ways to eat it!

A few notes:
 *It took approximately 15 chilies to make 2 cups.
 *Farm boy decided he liked the 2 cup notion over the 15 chilies, because chilies vary in size.
 *Subsequent recipes were made using a variety of peppers: banana, chili, tobasco, and jalepeno. Yum all the way.

 **We did leave a batch in chunky form and found it works just as well (more like a salsa than a sauce in that form). 
 **To decrease the heat: remove the seeds from you peppers and add a few more green tomatoes (but the farm boy likes it HOT).   

   After all this talk of spicy food, think I better warm up the skillet...suddenly feel in the mood for taquitoes!!
That farm boy can run loose in my kitchen any day:)

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

King James Version (KJV)
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Lament

Hopes and dreams
of great and might things
desires to be the treasure
meant to be
Rebellion and confusion
darken hearts and communication
leading down the path
toward destruction
Here hearts are broken
dreams are ended
prayers are pleaded
grief takes hold

How do we mend from here?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Farmhouse Cooking.....Fresh Tomato Sauce

Garlic Rosemary sauce ready for canning.

   We love homegrown tomatoes! It is no secret that I have a tendency to grow rows and rows of various tomato varieties year after year...but, I have my reasons. Aside from the delicious fresh tomatoes eaten straight off the vine or as a compliment to sandwiches and salads, tomato sauce is a staple we can't live without.
   In past years I spent hours at the stove top cooking down homegrown tomatoes for sauce; not any more! After reading an article about a chef cooking fresh tomato sauce in the oven I had to try it. Tweaking the recipe to fit my little homestead, success has been reached and the results are delicious.

here: tomatoes spice or garlic

   From my own testing I can honestly say, every recipe I have for stewing or saucing tomatoes has worked fine cooking in the oven instead of the stove top (also does well in crock pot, but that's another post). My cooking style is extremely flexible and very "on hand demand"- yes, this drives some of my friends and family nuts, works great for me.

garlic and chilies added

oven version
olive oil
herbs (optional)

Cooking three variations at one whack.

   So here's the process. For every 20 tomatoes use: 6 garlic cloves and a 9x13 dish. Turn the oven on 375 and wash the tomatoes. Core the tomatoes and basically tear them into pieces (skin on, seeds in, you can rough chop them if it makes more sense) and place them in the dish. Clean and chop the garlic (mine is small/ chop it your way) adding it to the tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil over the whole thing..salt it good.
   Sometimes I stop here, stir it up and cook it - leaving herbs to be added when I use the sauce; not always. My herbs are generally fresh from the garden: rosemary, oregano, thyme- one or all or mix (remember, flexible). As you can see, sometimes, I make various mixtures all at the same time. Pictured here is one pan just garlic, one pan garlic/rosemary and one pan is garlic/chilies (oh, so good).
   The baking is 375 for about 30 minutes. From here I can put it straight into jars as roasted (stewed) tomatoes, or run it through a food mill to make a nice tomato sauce. I often freeze or pressure can it for later use. Excellent on pizzas, pasta, chicken, veggies or in soups. Since freezer space if limited right now (after butchering) we canned our sauce this weekend.  
   Now, what I love about my flexi-recipe is it adjusts to "on hand". If I have ten tomatoes, adjust to three garlic..drizzle with oil and salt/sugar..cook. Five tomatoes..yep, just adjust. When the garden goes crazy and I harvest a bucket guessed it..just adjust! I can make one batch or several..a 9x13 or a big old roaster pan full. I can add garlic or herbs or work a straight tomato...See the joy here?

   Let me note: it takes 35 pounds of tomatoes for 6 quarts of sauce.When I use that many tomatoes, a roasting pan works just right for all of the tomatoes at one whack. Also, when I can tomatoes or tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar to the sauce right before placing the lids on: 2 tablespoons for each quart or 1 tablespoon for each pint. This helps add acidity giving a longer shelf life.

   Maybe I'll grab some from the shelf and make a pizza tonight!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Day of Canning

Canning day begins as berries burst and beans snap. Steam hisses from the stove kettle while jars are washed and made ready. Rings are counted and lids are warmed; with coffee in hand plans are made on canning day.
The sweet scent of berries bubbling on the stove is met with the savory tang of tomatoes and garlic. Earthy fragrance of beans release with every snap. 
Teens come and go, stirring a pot or filling a jar as their busy schedule allows; conversation ebbs and flows as does their presence. A chat over work schedule is replaced by one of a local shooting competition that becomes a discussion of literature classics and new summer classes. 
As the kitchen empties. their lively chatter is replaced by bubbling and hissing; sauces and steam echoed by the call of birds outside the kitchen window.
The day comes to a close with the beauty of a sunset. Lids pop and click as jars cool on the shelf; the canner is finally silent. A satisfied smile rests on my face while warm tea touches my lips. It has been a wonderful canning day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Today I sit:
recovering from a very sick day
struggling with frustration with my body
watching the butterflies
Today I pray:
for my life back
to be active again without pain
not to be so sick so often
to feel like me
Today I hear:
my teens busy about their day
my husband sleeping after a long night of work
cicadas buzzing in the trees
the Lord answer to me
Today I realize:
it isn't about my wants
it isn't about my way
there are things I cannot control
I must learn to let go
and let God. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Farmboy Cooks: Southern Brisket

   Nothing satisfies the summer soul quite like a cookout; and summer has already taken hold here in the south. Heat and humidity are climbing as sunny days fade into balmy nights. It's definitely time for a cookout and our farm boy has been feeling the itch. 
   There in the kitchen, he rambles over the spices..tasting and breathing their pungent aromas..planning a rub for the big briskets patiently waiting in the fridge. After a few moments- success...brisket rub is born.

Smoky Spice Rub

3 tablespoons pepper
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoon mustard seed
2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon chili powder

After washing the brisket and patting it dry, work this tantalizing rub into the meat. Show it some it in good.
Wrap it up tight and let it rest a few hours...this lets the rub work and allows the meat to lose its chill before it hits the heat.

   Much controversy can erupt when talk comes about cooking a brisket. Some smoking, some grill it..oven, half and half...braise. Brisket people are passionate about their art- our farm boy is pretty simple in in his approach. He uses the grill to bring a nice caramelized crust to his brisket before slathering it with his own personal recipe barbeque sauce and placing it in airtight packets in the oven; finishing it low and slow for eight to ten hours.

   Sliced or shredded, on a bun or just on the plate, dripping in sauce or 'naked'....southern brisket hits the spot!
Especially after a long day at the range.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Into the Fields

At the end of April or the beginning of May blueberry season starts its brief time here in the south. Plump juicy bubbles of blue goodness dangle temptingly from tall sprawly bushes. Blueberries are not native to our region, but years of testing and trying have brought the blueberry to our deep south. 
We have been picking our fresh blueberries since the kids were just tots. We toted picnic lunches and wagons through the rows year after year to gather these precious treats. Often my farm boy rode on my shoulders gathering berries from overhead; his sisters at my feet gathered from below. 
He now carries his own bucket and, being the same height, challenges me to pick a load faster than he does.
His sisters are no longer at my feet but carrying their own load as well. This one prefers to softly wander just a few bushes away, gently humming as she gathers.
 For the first time our oldest didn't join us; work called her happens when they grow.
As a special treat, my husband came along for his second berry picking trip. Nice to have a few strong arms to help haul those heavy buckets:)
Pound after pound, year after year, our family heads into the fields..fields filled with history..fields filled with family...with memories..with blueberries.