“Labor” Day Weekend

Well, my weekend was filled with labor, in the truest sense of the word.  We had a lot of projects to finish and things around the property to take care of.  We’ve been so busy, that our weekends are taken up with getting all of the things done we can’t during the week, and that’s starting to get a bit old.  It would be nice to take some time to do something more diverting!

We had a few woodworking projects to finish, and Beloved worked on those, with a bit of help from myself and our oldest daughter.  General clean up around the property and some planning were taken care of.  We are finally ordering our metal carport this week.  We’ve been using portable ones from Costco for years, and are finally upgrading.  The dogs and some locked storage will be built into the rear of the carport.  It will also be used as a work out area, completed with heavy bag, etc.

I worked in the garden and took care of a bunch of preservation projects that needed to be done.  I had my boys pick tomatoes, which really needed to be done, and then I slow roasted them in the oven.  Next, I will puree them and can or freeze the result.

I finally roasted up all of the jalapeno peppers that have come out of the garden and made a puree with sea salt to add to salsas.  I’m just going to keep that in the frig with some olive oil on top to preserve it.

I  made more lacto-fermented pickles, including a half gallon for my Mom, but I am so done with pickles.  The lemon cucumbers keep coming, and I will be giving a bunch of them away this week.  I don’t think I’ll plant those next year.  If you like fresh eating cukes that are prolific, I would recommend them, though.

I made some grape jelly, putting me closer to my goal of 52 pints of jams/jellies for the year.  Current score:

16 Pints Peach Jam

4 Pints Blueberry Jam

4 Pints Mixed Berry Jam

8 Pints Grape Jelly

20 Left to go!  I will be making plum jam this week.

Today, I have red chilies to dehydrate in the oven.  I am dehydrating them whole, and then will store them in sealed, vacuum packed jars. Others I will grind up, first, before putting them in jars.  It’s been a good year for my garden, as I’ve put up hundreds of pounds of food.  After years of struggling with gardens, I am really enjoying my bumper crops!

I have some orders for dairy free pesto to fill this week, and then I might go ahead and harvest the rest of my basil and make more for myself to freeze and dry the rest of the leaves.

We did find some time to do some fun things this weekend.  I took my daughter to a formal dance, which required me to dress formally, as well.  That was a switch and I have to say I really am a jeans kind of gal.  But it’s nice to dress up every so often.

We took the whole family out to see Monsters University on Sunday and were quickly reminded why we only go to the movies once or twice a year -$52 admission!  CHA-CHING!  The movie was cute and baby sat on my lap the whole time.  She did get a fright and jumped out of her seat once.  Poor thing!

We had fun.

I ordered the rest of our school books, and now I’m really excited to receive them.  Books on my porch is like Christmas to me.  How about you?  I think I have a good plan of attack for schooling five children at once . . . I hope!

All in all, it was a good weekend.  We didn’t get everything on our list done, but we almost never do.  I have a few more weeks left before school starts, so I need to put my head down and get busy.  This week, we start some of our new routine with music lessons for my two middle children.  It looks like Wednesday is going to be music lesson day at our house.  This makes me think of a  friend, who has since passed away, who used to take her children to several music lessons on Wednesdays.  She put together packets of schoolwork for them to do in the car and called it Wednesday School.   I always remember her telling me about that.  She was a neat lady and is missed by many.

I also have a few sewing projects to complete this week: nightgown for the little one, curtains for her play kitchen (which is finally almost completed!), Judo pants hemming for my seven year old, and setting a waistband on a new skirt for me.  Lots to do!  September is always a busy time.

What’s keeping you busy this week?

Blessings today, Kris

My Garden Plan 2011

I have purposely decided not to be as ambitious in my garden this year.  For one, my ambitions never seem to pan out.  For another, I am 30 weeks pregnant.  I want to be careful not to plant too much that has to be canned, etc., as I’m pretty sure canning is out for me this year.

So I planted what I have had success with in the past, and what I know I can deal with when it’s ready.  Here’s what I planted this year:

Tomatoes, of course!  I like to plant a lot of sauce tomatoes and then dehydrate them.  I can handle dehydrating this year.

Sweet Peppers.  I haven’t had a lot of luck with these, but I’m going to keep trying.  I like red peppers okay.  I just don’t like the store price, and forget about organic!  Whoa.

Jalapeno Peppers.  These can be frozen, no problem.  Can also be dried, but I prefer freezing.

Broccoli.  We’ll freeze whatever we don’t use fresh.  It’s a popular vegie at our house.

Pickling Cucumbers.  They will probably be the most time consuming.  Whatever I don’t pickle, we’ll eat fresh.

Zucchini.  Enough said.  So versatile and what we don’t use fresh can be made into relish, pickled and or shredded and frozen for zucchini bread.

Shelling Peas.  We eat these all w inter.  I plan to freeze them, but may try dehydrating some, too.

Green Beans.  We also eat these all winter.  Will freeze them like last year.

And some melons.  Never had good success with these here, as our season seems to be a bit too short.  But I keep trying.  I got cantaloupe on my own.  Two of my boys wanted to plant a watermelon each and my Mom was accidentally sent some honeydew, which she passed on to me.  We’ll see what happens with those.

Don’t mistake me for a green thumb.  My thumb is closer to brown in color.  Honestly, I am not a great gardener.  I just keep trying every single year and I learn my lessons the hard (and sometimes costly) way.  But I think it’s important to try to grow what we can and it’s great for the kids to see that we can raise some of our own food.  It helps the food budget, too.  I like organic produce, and this is a good way to get it. 

I will keep you updated on how my garden grows this summer.  I would love to hear how yours gets along, too, and I love comments.

Blessings today, Kris

Preserving the Bounty

I’ve been busy here at Almost Plum Nearly putting up as much food as I can for the winter time, which tends to be a little leaner for folks in our industry.  The Lord always takes care of us, but he also prompts us to do some of the work, so here it is.  Here’s a photo of a few of the things I’ve been working on.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  I do hope to put up more, uh…..just not this week (big sigh of relief).  I’m looking forward to starting school with my children this week, so a break from canning is in order!

Pictured from left to right: Ovendried Tomatoes packed in Olive Oil (refrigerated), Dried Peach Slices, Vinegared Onions, Zucchini Relish, Garlic Dills, Peach Halves, Peach Jam, Blackberry Jam (and the Strawberry Jam got cut off somehow).

So total, I canned the following:

15 Pints Peach Jam

5 Pints Blackberry Jam

5 Pints Strawberry Jam

5 Pints Apricot Jam

5 Pints Plum Jam (low sugar, not a hit here)

5 Pints Raspberry Jam

5 Pints Cranberry Jam

4 Quarts Garlic Dill Pickles

1 Quart Dried Peaches (some missing in photo because of little hands ;D)

2 Pints Dried Tomatoes packed in oil

2 Pints Vinegared Onions

4 Cups Zucchini Relish

I would still like to make some Jalapeno Jelly (LOVE THAT STUFF), more fruit jam (as I calculate for 1 pint per week, so I need at least 7 more, not including gifts), more garlic dill pickles, vinegared onions and I plan to make this Master Tonic and bottle it for my family and to share with others.  And the tomatoes keep coming, so if I get really brave, I might do salsa.  We’ll see.

If I find more great deals on fruit, I will gladly can, jam and dry that, too.  Keeping my ears to the ground!

Lots to Do!

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been too busy to even plan or post my weekly menus lately.  And I am not afraid to be honest with you all and say that  I’m pretty overwhelmed right now.

I am still trying to get ready for school to start and I’ve got a bunch of food to deal with over here.  It’s all my doing, of course.  Afterall, I went out and got the food!  But my gut tells me it’s important to put up as much as I can for this winter, and although my canning skills are limited, I’m pretty ambitious.  So here I am with 6 bags of peaches (which I got at .10 a pound, thank you very much), a bag of pickling cucumbers and even more Roma tomatoes ripening in the garden – and I just dehydrated a whole bunch.

Tomorrows plan is to get the pickles done and make about four batches of peach jam, if I have enough jars, with the peaches that are ready to go.  Some of them need a few days to ripen.  The rest of the peaches will be either dried or canned and I’ve never done either with peaches.  I always find being on a learning curve with time pressure a lot of……well, pressure.  I also need to make a last ditch effort to fertilize my garden and see if I can’t get some winter squash out of it.  I am just starting to get some fruit on those and they probably won’t have enough time, but one can hope.

Tuesday we have swim lessons, so we’ll come home and reorganize our library.  It’s good sized, so that should take the afternoon.

Wednesday I will deal with drying and canning the rest of the peaches, I hope.

Thursday is just plain busy with outside activities(swim & horse lessons and something else I can’t remember right now, eek!) in the AM, so we will probably get the rest of our school supplies organized and I get to go to a homeschool meeting that night, yay!

Friday I will leave for planning and overflow of whatever I didn’t get done earlier in the week. We’re painting the exterior of our house over the weekend, so I might need to run errands for that for Beloved.  It’s going to feel so good to have house paint.  We’ve been without it at all since last fall -we’ve had some primer on it in wetter areas and just recently finished the primer and Beloved finished the prep work this weekend.  I like my house to be pretty and a year is a long time to wait for it.  I am so thankful!

Anyway, suffice it to say that I really can’t wait until my life slows down a bit so I can enjoy schooling my children.  I’m tired and not operating on my own strength, right now.  Good thing I can depend on Someone else for that!

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. Psalm 28:7

Blessings today, Kris

Harvest Bounty

Tonight, most of our meal was from the garden.  It is such an indescribable feeling to know you have provided for your family in this way.  Knowing what is (or isn’t) in your food and providing it at minimal cost to your household is just one reason to grow your own…..well…………..everything!

Baked Ratatouille with Rice/Green Beans with Mushroom Saute

And the recent news should give us all pause.  The recall of eggs, meat and locally, milk, give me even more incentive to work toward being more self-sufficient.  We have many “home improvement” projects on the books -if you consider actually having house paint a home improvement.  I think it’s just being civilized!  But although we have all these things that need to be done, it is our goal to begin raising our own eggs within the next year.  We also plan to plant some fruit, too.

The next best thing (and sometimes it’s the best thing if you simply cannot do it yourself) is your local farmer whom you trust and have a relationship with.  We get our eggs and milk from local farmers/friends.  We’ve spent time with or know these folks and we’ve seen firsthand how the animals are treated and how the product is being handled.  We are free to ask question and make requests because they are available to us. 

We are so programmed to go to the local grocery or big box stores for everything that this concept probably seems foreign to many.  But I would encourage you all to look at what you’re eating and where it comes from.  Are your eggs really coming from Iowa?  Why?  How are they being raised?  How many hands have touched them?

If I didn’t feel strongly enough about my food sources before this past week, I do now.  I am even more determined to feed my family organic, fresh and local as much as possible.

Today’s pickin’s, minus what we ate at dinner or the blackberries my children are picking as I write!

So plant a fall garden, find a local farmer, join a food co-op, learn how to preserve the bounty -whatever you have to do to provide your family with the best local, real food around.  Just do it.

Blessings, Kris

Pantry Challenge

This week I am doing a Pantry Challenge. 

Sometimes I really feel like all I do is go to the store and spend money.  I’m feeling this particularly keenly this week for some reason, so I’ve decided I’m just not going to do it.  I’m making this week a Pantry Challenge week.  Periodically, I try to challenge myself to prepare all of our food for five days out of our pantry.  Honestly, we keep a pretty well-stocked pantry and we have our garden going right now, too, so hopefully it won’t be too difficult.  The biggest challenge for me with this is the bread situation.

We have some bread and tortillas in the freezer so that’s a good start.  If we run out of those, I will have to make my own.  This is not a big deal for some homemakers, but I still have not mastered this art.  I can make Foccacia bread, however.  So I made some to go with our dinner of Broccoli and Chicken Rice Bake with sliced Brandywine tomatoes tonight.  Those tomatoes are so good and we grew them ourselves!

I would encourage everyone to challenge themselves to plan to cook from their pantry for a set period of time.  This is good practice for emergency situations when you simply can’t get to the store or the store runs out of food.  It really shows you where you need to make improvements in your pantry inventory and your frugal cooking skills.  It helps keep you prepared, sharp and innovative.

If you had to cook from your pantry for five days, could you do it?

How long can your family live off your pantry inventory?

I’ll keep you posted as our week unfolds.

Blessings today, Kris

An Afternoon in the Garden

Today, I spent the afternoon in the garden, weeding and planting.  We are very blessed with extremely fertile soil.  But you know what that means, right?  The weeds do quite well here, too.

We planted small seedlings in mid-May and some of them were so small and difficult to see once the weeds started coming up, it’s hard to know what to get rid of.  I don’t know which weed it is, but we have one that completely covers the dirt, like it’s spreading.  It is not difficult to pull out, though.  I used a hoe and got really dirty, but with the help of my eldest son, I got them all cleaned out of there.  We were also able to plant several plants that I picked up Saturday.  Some of our seedlings didn’t make it and I wanted to add a few things, too. 

I also planted some flowers in my big pots outside my front door.  I keep grasses in there year round and then I add annuals/perennials seasonally.  Those are the only non-edible things I plan to plant at this house.  Everything we plant, including all of the landscaping, will be edible or medicinal.  That’s my plan.  I mean to ask for certain plants for birthdays and anniversaries.

There was a lot of work to do.  But before we knew it, two hours had passed and  we got it all done!  It was time to start dinner.