Welcome back to the Homestead, Happy Readers!
It’s been a busy day or three. I’ve done some gathering, some canning, and some free range experimenting. I’ve also spent some time with marketing for my writing and some planning, but that’s not the topic of this blog.
Let’s get to the big project.
Garden to Jar
I got out early enough on Monday to gather from the garden without melting.
I ended up with about 50 lbs. (That’s 1.5x 5-gallon buckets) of tomatoes. I had maybe 10 lbs. on the shelf in the house already. I swapped those out for about the same amount that were just starting to blush, so call it 50 lbs.
SIDE NOTE: 1 bushel of tomatoes = 2 5-gallon buckets = Appx. 53 lbs. (In case you ever needed to know that.)
I also pulled a few of my Anaheim peppers, Banana peppers & some chili and/or cayenne peppers (I didn’t remember which plant was which, and I can’t tell the difference).
Lastly, I thought I make a quick pass through the Pink Eye Purple Hulls and ended up with another peck of those. They have done really well this year. They are still blooming, and they are turning into runner beans, which I did not know was their habit. I like it though because it make them easier to pick.
I knew I wanted to can up some salsa, so I rounded up all my frozen bell peppers from last year to go with fresh stuff. I can’t eat fire, so I chose milder peppers for the main part of the salsa. I went very light on the cayenne/chillis in the eventual batch as well.
There were not enough peppers to go with all those maters though! So I flipped through the Ball Canning book and hit on the recipe for Spaghetti Sauce with meat! Aha! I decided I would use 2 lbs. of the hamburger meat I bought earlier in the year from the local butchers, and now I knew what I would do with the rest of the quickly ripening tomatoes!
I spent 2 hours shelling peas while I watched YouTube videos. Then I washed jars… lots of jars! I even called in the Maternal Parental Unit to assist with my planned endeavor because I started way late in the afternoon (mostly because I was working on setting up my autographed book page on here and WordPress was being a @#!&*).
I had never (correctly) done the Anaheim peppers before, but I broiled them and got ’em peeled. Then I chopped and chopped and chopped. The we blanched, skinned, & cored tomatoes for hours. At one point, I thought I was done and dumped my huge pot of boiling water out before realizing I still had 1/2 a bucket of tomatoes left! Then a ‘thing’ happened. More on that below.
It took me until 2 AM to finish this up (about 8 hours start to finish). I ended up with 4 pints of salsa, 10 pints of Spaghetti Sauce with meat (that’s already cooked & ready to eat! Just dump it on the noodles!), and 3 more pints of purple hulls. I am very happy with this batch.
I was expecting more peppers (and maybe I’ll get more, TBD) this season, but I gots what I gots when I gots it, so I had to do it now! Turned out well. And OMG is that Spaghetti sauce some gooooood stuff!
Canning War Wounds
Now for the explanation of the ‘thing’ that happened.
When I brain farted and emptied my tomato blanching water and dumped all my prepped ones into the stock pot, I did not want to reverse the process. Instead, I decided to just use my water bath canner pot to get another batch of water going.
My ceilings are vaulted, so the top of my cabinet is also a storage area for large & rarely used items like my big pots. They are over my head almost at arm length.
I was frustrated and got in a hurry (this is how my problems usually start) and grabbed it off the top shelf without getting something to stand on.
Well, as I lifted it down, I tilted it and the lid slid off… toward me… and decked me right between my running lights on the top of my nose. My nose did NOT need anything to make ti bigger! Anyway, after I got the bleeding stopped, I decided to take a picture for posterity. At least I didn’t end up with two black eyes. I may end up with a scar. I’ll probably lie about how I got it, though. Shhhh!
What in the flock is going on?
I got my first duck egg today (finally, they are waaaay behind on their laying). Of course it was not in the nest box, but way in the back and all poop-covered. I raked it to a grabbable spot and put it in a nest to try to show them where these are supposed to be deposited. They are ducks though, so they are dumb. I will probably be raking more poop-covered eggs from the most inconvenient places.
I snapped a shot of all three of my roos. There’s Blue who is the blue laced red Wyandotte, and Leroy Jenkins (downturned tail feathers) & Clyde (upturned tail feathers) who are my two French Wheaton Marans.
I was observing them because the two little guinea keet teens were doing something very interesting. The two Marans tend to pick on them any time they are near, but Blue doesn’t. In fact, they have now adopted him as their flock boss. He doesn’t put up with the other two roos harassing them while he is near, so now they are ALWAYS near. They are up under his butt most of the time. They literally run between his legs. They also point out and share food with him, so I guess that’s the trade-off. Birds are weird.
The other picture is of my first test run of free ranging. It cooled off a bit when the pop-up showers were floating nearby, so I was able to stand being outside. I decided to drop the fence and let them all roam around a bit before dark. I had already had the adult guinea (Laverne) and three hens being escape artists and roaming outside, so I wanted to do a controlled test. It went well. All the chickens and ducks stayed around my house and the pen. The guinea tried to lead them astray into the neighbor’s field, but I chased her back before that could be a thing. Once I was satisfied they were going to stay in close proximity to the house, I went inside and watched them from the window in my office while I did stuff.
When dusk finally hit, I went out to see what they did, and lo and behold, they had all voluntarily put themselves back in the pen and up to roost! Woohoo! All I had to do was shut the doors. As old Hannibal from the A-Team says: “I love it when a plan comes together!”
I planted a Dill’s Giant Pumpkin in my garden. It grew up the fence. There is only one pumpkin on it so far, and it is (of course) at the top of the fence. This means it will soon either die, break off, or break my fence.
So, I cut the dang fence. Now it’s on the ground. I’ll be taking pics every other day or so. Here are two pictures taken 1 day apart while it was still on the fence. You can see the growth in diameter even after a single day.
On the front knoll of my yard, I currently have planted potatoes, tomatoes, peppers & a few marigolds. I tilled it multiple times this spring and planted late. Today, I saw a purple petunia blooming in it.
Why is that notable? Because it is a volunteer plant that has managed to reseed itself for nearly 17 years in a pile of hard packed rock!
Here’s a picture of the knoll back in 2004 when I tried to make a flower bed out there. That ground is literally rock. It grows weed and grass, but not much else well.
Except the Perpetual Purple Petunia.
Lizard & Spiders, Oh My
I spotted this little dude today. He looks like he just hatched out. I have a lot of lizards running around here, and I really enjoy them. I had heard these called ‘Horny Toad’ by some, but I knew that was not right. So I decided to look it up. This guy is actually called a Fence Lizard (or a Gray Lizard if you want to be boring).
While I was doing the research, I found out the correct names for a bunch of species in my area (NW Georgia) from this handy little site:
Another critter I found in the flowerbed today is this guy. I normally hate spiders, but these are one of the cool ones. You can actually SEE this guy, so you don’t run into his web and turn into a ninja.
It’s a Garden Spider. They catch and eat bad bugs, so I’m good to leave him alone. They are also known as the Writing Spider due to the unique web patter they make. The old wives tale is that if you whisper someone’s name in their vicinity, they will write it out in their web, and then that person will die. Gruesome and macabre, no? I wonder if this is the source of E.B. Webb’s ‘Charlotte’?
That concludes this round of Homestead Update. I hope you enjoyed. Be sure to ask any questions you might have in the comments. Let me know if there’s anything I mentioned that you would like more detail on. I’m just rambling for most of this, so pointing me in the direction of a topic would be helpful!
Now, let’s see… you know I have to mention a book for you to check out.
Try this one:
Until next time…
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