October 30, 2010

Jewels of the Summer Harvest

Benita (Basically Benita) asked to see the fruits of my garden preservation labors. I delayed that somewhat, hoping to wait until I had canned, frozen, dried, shelled, and cured everything I could. But since I'm still waiting for our first frost, I'm still harvesting and preserving from out summer garden, plus I've started to preserve from our fall garden. I'm thinking it may be awhile before I can finally can sit back with nothing more to do than simply admire it all! Benita told me once that her mother called her own jars of harvest canned goods her "jewels." I can honestly say I feel the same way. These make me feel richer than money in the bank!

[The curious can click on any image for a larger view. Really, these are larger than I usually upload.]

This is not the original pantry that came with the house. That one was 4x6 foot, and it quickly became obvious that it was terribly inadequate for the type of food storage we were planning to do. We did quite a bit of brainstorming about that earlier this year, and came up with a new plan, requiring only minimal remodeling. Basically it only required repurposing the rooms in the addition. You can see photos of these rooms (before we moved in) here, and how they fit in to the floor plan, here.

By moving Dan's office and studio into the spare room, we had an 8 x 12 foot room to use as the pantry. The original pantry is going to become the utility room. It will house the ironing board, vacuum cleaner, cleaning supplies, and will be where we put the new water heater.

We planned to build shelves, but found the ones you see for about a third of the cost for lumber. They are rated at 120 pounds per shelf, and although the shelf with all the jars of green beans sags a bit (photo below), they are holding up admirably. What I don't like about them, besides that they are plastic, is the wasted space in between shelves. Well, for my purposes it's wasted, except for hanging handfuls of herbs to dry, like you see in the above photo.

I put cardboard in between the stacked layers of canning jars. Not sure if I like it that way, or storing them in stacked boxes. They're easier to assess and access this way.

All my empty canning jar boxes are on top, as are various pots, pans, my dehydrator, canning utensils, and egg cartons I saved. Heavier items, like bins of potatoes (now in fridge) and sweet potatoes, cooler of turnips, 5 gallon container of coconut oil, cases of empty jars, etc., all fit on the bottom.  Canned goods, dried beans and grains, gallon jugs of vinegars and blackstrap molasses, various mixing bowels, a box of veterinary supplies, winter squashes, and my lone pumpkin, reside on the middle shelves. There's still quite a bit of room, for more good things to eat.

The green cupboards and island aren't meant to be permanent fixtures here. They will be replaced if I can incorporate them into the design for my new kitchen, whenever we finally get around to that, hopefully by 2012. I already have a replacement for the island, an small, old cabinet that was left in our outbuildings. It will fit better and be a more sturdy base for this...

... my Country Living grain mill. Yes, it's a hand job, purchased during our old Y2K preparation days. DS used to have the daily chore of grinding flour for me, back in our homeschooling high school days. Now the honor will fall to me. Who needs to go to the gym, when such fantastic homestead equipment is available to give my bi's and tri's a workout!?!

I'm using the island to store tools, and also empty glass jars and bottles. I've gotten where I don't even recycle glass containers anymore. I save them to reuse myself.

Inside the green cupboards ...

.... mostly store bought items. I purchase them on sale, from clearance bins, or discount grocery stores, all as storage items. I do try to buy at least a couple cans or boxes of something extra every time I shop. With the garden doing so well, these are mostly convenience foods or things I can't grow for myself: macaroni and cheese, coffee, black olives, sugar, baking soda, canned soups, canned tuna, olive oil, pastas, seasoning mixes, stuff like that.

To the right of the green cabinets, is my extra fridge, the one that came with the house. It's small, but even so, when I bought a new one, I kept it with a mind for future surplus eggs and goat milk.

Right how it hold the last of my spring potatoes (I originally had two bins full, which I kept on one of the bottom shelves), my remaining handful of onions, flours, cereals, my sourdough starter crock, a few condiments, opened coffee container, and seeds.

The freezer is a small one and a perfect fit along that short wall.  I can't hang much on that wall because of the freezer lid. In some ways I feel like that makes it wasted space, but I have started to hang my canning tools there.

I've tried to organize the freezer contents with smaller boxes. In addition to my frozen fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, and broth, I store grains, flours, nuts, seeds, and a few miscellaneous items in here. This is because we always have a moth problem in warmer weather. Just can't seem to get rid of those things. Since I buy so much in bulk, I don't want to risk losing those things to moths, which we have every summer. I'm running out of space though, so I think a future project will be to can all the meat broth I've made and frozen.

As I mentioned above, as long as the garden keeps producing, I'll keep preserving. But here are my 2010 food preservation totals so far. (The ** indicates locally, but not home grown):
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
    • 2 quarts frozen broccoli
    • 1 cup dried tomatoes
    • 22 pints canned Swiss chard
    • 33 quarts canned green beans (yup, we like 'em canned)
    • 3 quarts tomatoes & okra (just to see what DH thinks)
    • 2 quarts dried onions
    • pumpkin - 1 pint frozen puree and 1 in storage
    • 13 stored buttercup squashes
    • 1 pint frozen cut corn
    • 8 quarts frozen yellow squash
    • 3 quarts frozen sliced sweet peppers (so far. They're still producing)
    • 25 quarts frozen okra
    • 24 pounds stored potatoes
    • couple pounds stored turnips (can also overwinter in garden under mulch)
    • 13 quarts canned sweet potatoes
    • 3 pounds stored sweet potatoes
    • 1 pint dehydrated tomatoes (more if frost continues to delay)
  • Proteins
    • 11 frozen chickens
    • 12 dozen frozen whole eggs (so far, hopefully more)
    • 3+ quarts dried black turtle beans (still shelling)
  • Soups & Sauces
    • 33 pints canned pizza sauce
    • 7 quarts canned veggie soup
    • 4 quarts frozen potato soup
    • 10 pints tomato soup
    • 5 pints frozen sweet basil pesto
    • frozen broth (various amounts) totally about 4 gallons
  • Jams & Jellies
    • 12 pints strawberry** jam
    • 19 half pints apple** butter
    • 10 half pints blueberry jam
  • Pickles & Relishes
    • 3 pints pickled beets (more to come I hope)
    • 11 pints dill pickles
    • 2 pints sweet pickle chips
    • 5 pints pickle relish
  • Dessert ingredients
  • Herbs (all dried) amounts in ounces
    • sweet basil
    • thyme
    • oregano
    • dill seed
    • catnip
    • rosemary
    • garlic - about 12 bulbs worth, which I replanted
  • Miscellaneous 
    • 2 & 1/2 pounds popcorn
    • pecans - just beginning to collect
I haven't included the amaranth and sunflower seeds we grew for the chickens. Also, I have some relishes and pickled hot peppers from previous years. Of course we've already eaten some of it, and with the fall garden now producing, I'll have more to add before the end of the year.

Considering our long term goal to become food self-sufficient, the real question is, do I have enough of each item to last until I harvest it again? The answer to that question, is here.

Jewels of the Summer Harvest © October 2010 by Leigh at http://my5acredream.blogspot.com/

October 29, 2010

Colors of October

Sue, at Life Looms Large, is wrapping up her year of Colors of The Month. I didn't join in until last December, so my year of color will consist of 11 months. Here's October. (Click images to biggify)

The month began with just a hint of autumn color.
And autumn blooming flowers and berries ....

Toward the end of the month, autumn color in our area has become brilliant. I took a walk through our woods to see what I could find to photograph. Unfortunately, our homestead autumn colors are dull more subtle, so I don't have any breathtaking panoramas to show you.

We evidently don't have anything growing on the place that produces those glorious autumn colors! Here's what I did find though....

To see more Colors of Autumn, or to join the challenge, click here.

If you'd like to participate in another, similar challenge (or just admire the photography), check out Benita's A Year of Seasons.

Colors of October photos especially, but text too, © October 2010 by Leigh at http://my5acredream.blogspot.com/

October 27, 2010

Found It! Recipe for the Perfect Sweet Potato Pie

I love sweet potato pie. I like it way better than pumpkin pie, and it's probably my favorite way to eat sweet potatoes. When we first harvested our sweet potatoes, I made a pie. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the recipe I used years ago and since it's not a common recipe in cookbooks, I picked one off the internet.

That pie was disappointing. At first, I thought it was the variety of sweet potatoes I'd grown, Porto Rico. In fact, I decided that I would look at the bright side of my Sweet Potato Disappointment, as an opportunity to try a different variety next year. Still, I figured I could search out a good pie recipe using the remains of this year's crop, because we do like pie. I decided to keep trying different recipes until I hit on the right one.

That didn't take long. My second pie was perfect. Well, the taste was, because my pie wasn't exceptionally photogenic. No cookbook awards for looks, but the pie is a blue ribbon winner in my cookbook.

The recipe is one I adapted from my own recipe collection, one for pumpkin pie. It worked very well for sweet potatoes. I should mention to that it uses honey instead of sugar, and is dairy free. And of course you can substitute flours and fats according to personal preferences.

Sweet Potato Honey Pie

1 & 1/3 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 C organic palm shortening
1 egg plus enough cold water to = 1/4 C (or enough to get desired consistency)

Cut shortening into flour and salt mixture. Beat egg into water and add to flour mixture. Mix with a fork (not hands) until moist. Roll out between sheets of vegetable oil sprayed waxed paper, and place in pie pan.


2 C sweet potato puree
3/4 C honey
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp sea salt

Mix puree, honey, & eggs. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake for 10 mins in oven preheated to 425° F. Turn down to 350 and bake another 30 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.  Cool. Can be served with whipped cream if you wish.

As I mentioned, this was originally a pumpkin recipe, so that's another option for filling, as would be any winter squash. It is sweeter with sweet potatoes and some squashes, but the honey could be adjusted to taste if desired.

I also have to thank you all for suggestions on how to use my canned sweet potatoes. I thought it was interesting that the top mentioned SP favorite, was fries, followed by pecan topped casserole. I'm going to try some fries with the sweet potatoes I didn't have to can. With those, I'll try muffins, biscuits, cookies, pancakes, breads, and of course, make plenty of pies.

October 2010 by Leigh at http://www.5acresandadream.com/

October 25, 2010

Grand Opening --or-- Charlie Leads The Way

On Saturday, we finally finished the fence. Saturday afternoon, we opened the gate and Charlie led the way to new grazing.

We have been taking our walks this way, through the gate and out into the field, so he knew where we were going. I called the Girls to follow us, chickens too, though all were fairly reluctant to venture into new territory.

Jasmine was the first to venture out and follow us...

... but Surprise and Baby hung back.

Charlie and I have come a long way since his "don't touch me" days. I still limit touching, and never pet. I massage his neck and back, and he doesn't mind that.

Surprise and Baby eventually made their way, albeit cautiously.

The chickens were another story. Lord B found the open gate quickly and lost no time.

The hens wanted to follow him, but being creatures of habit.....

... walked right past the open gate meaning they remained in the old field. Then couldn't figure out how he got out there.

How do they like it? I think these photos speak for themselves.....

The chickens finally made it too.

Being closer to the road means new things to see and wonder about.

Eating is more important than sight seeing though.

So everybody is happy with the new arrangement. I know Dan and I are certainly glad to have this project under our belts, even though there are a few things still left on the "to do" list. There are a few brush piles to be cleaned up, the blueberry bush to fence in, and a loafing shed to build. Still, we're relieved they're on better grass. Improving the first field is an important project on our list as well. But, that will be another project, and another story.

Related Posts:
Vacation Fence Project
Progress On The Fence

October 22, 2010

Fall Garden in October

October has been a fabulous month! The weather couldn't be more perfect, though from a gardener's perspective, we could certainly use more rain. Last year we'd already had our first frost by this time, but this year the nights continue to be mild. I have high hopes of eeking as many tender veggies out of my garden as I can. For example sweet peppers, tomatoes and zucchini...

The tomatoes I showed you in my last garden post were the spring planted Romas, making an amazing comeback. The ones pictured above are entirely volunteer. These look like Rutgers, which just popped up from seeds surviving the compost. As you can see, they are producing beautiful tomatoes. I'm doubtful they'll have time to ripen before first frost, but one can hope.

Actually, last year, I managed to keep my tomato plants alive by covering them at night whenever frost was predicted. I was successful until December 1st. This year the plants are spread out a bit more, so maybe I can choose a few to protect.

Except for powdery mildew, the late planted zucchini is doing well. Of 15 seeds planted, only three plants grew to produce. Still, even that is enough zucchini for the two of us!

Fall plantings that are doing well include carrots, beets, and turnips.

I planted the carrots first. They are Scarlet Nantes, a new variety for me. The goats love the leaves from these.

The beets (in the back) are Red Detroit from purchased seed. The turnips (in the front), are Purple Top White Globe from seed I saved. On the goats' scorecard, beet greens come in second after carrot tops, followed by turnip greens in a "well, only if you don't have anything else" third place.

I've never had any of these root crops do this well before. Some are very ready to be harvested. All of them were badly in need of thinning.

Enough thinnings for salad and roasting. I am so pleased with how the carrots look so far, as our heavy southern soils aren't conducive to carrot growing. It seems even the few improvements we've made so far are beginning to pay off.

The beets, I decided to pickle. I wouldn't have ever thought to pickle beets, but after reading Robin's post about them, I wanted to try it too. Our library doesn't have a copy of the cookbook she mentions, but I found the recipe nonetheless, here. I had to cut the recipe in half and didn't have the ginger or anise, but when I tasted the pickling syrup, heaven!

I only hope the remainder grow well and produce lots, though I need to let a few plants go to seed. I will definitely be planting beets this spring too, just to make sure we have plenty of these pickles on hand. Three pint jars isn't going to last long around here.

Things that are coming along more slowly, are my cabbage plants. These were from a garden center.

These are flanked by more volunteer tomato plants, which are taking over my fall potato patch. Even so a few fall planted potatoes are coming up. More prolific however, are plants from potatoes we missed during our summer harvest.

These sprouted from unharvested spring potatoes, and so are interspersed with the broccoli.  I have about a dozen or so plants, which have already flowered. We'll harvest them after a frost or freeze kills the aerial parts.

Speaking of broccoli, it too is coming along slowly.

The variety is a new one for me, Watham 29. It's open pollinated and supposed to make larger heads than the Di Cicco I've been planting. So far I've seen no sign of heads however.

About that chicken. This particular chicken, one of my two Ameraucanas, loves to come see whatever I'm doing. Even though the chickens are fenced in with the goats, my Ameraucanas are fliers, and always come out to forage in the yard. When it first happened, I told myself I needed to clip their flight feathers. But they generally stick close to where the other chickens are and haven't strayed across the street (where they could get into the neighbors' yards).  Anyway, this one always runs up when she sees me. I'm not allowed to pet her mind you, but if I don't touch, she's right there with me for whatever I'm doing.

The grand champion of slow this fall, is the lettuce.

This is Parris Cos, from saved seed. I planted it the last week of August, and it's just now starting to sprout. ?????

While I was thinning the root veggies, I pulled all the radishes...

These are Pink Beauties, planted the same day as the lettuce. The seed package was a thank you from a Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds order. I planted a generous sprinkling, but these three are the only ones that grew. I planted more later, a winter variety called China Rose. I am looking forward to trying the Pink Beauties though. We've always grown Cherry Belle and I'm ready to try something different.

The only no-shows I've had this fall have been the onion seeds I planted, Yellow Ebenezer. I reckon that means I won't be making my own onion sets this fall. Ah well. Another research project for this winter. And there's always next spring.