Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tomato Drink

Do you have a bunch of little tomatoes? I did and I wasn't sure what to do with so many. I ended up drying some to turn into powder and mix in when I make taco shells and noodles. The rest I made into a tomato juice drink something like V-8 juice. I searched for a few recipe and did not exactly like the looks of any of them. It is my juice after all so I made up a recipe. I know this is frowned upon by the canning experts but I wasn't water bathing.

New guidelines are out about canning tomatoes, no water bathing. I  can hear the " But I've been doing it for years. My grandmother and great grandmother did it before me" True and I and my grandmothers before me also water bathed. I wondered if something had changed. Vitamin levels are lower in foods produced in the store with some vitamins missing all together. With the push for uniformity and longer fresh dates in the forefront of genetic breeding programs, good for you gets pushed out. With the alterations has come a lower acid level in tomatoes produced today. You might get around the vitamin levels a little by producing it yourself because your soil is superior but remember this is genetic alterations so it is there to stay.  How much lower the acid levels are I don't know but tomatoes have always been on the border line for safety in canning with a water bath method.

If you are using heirloom tomatoes grown in your own soil then you might be fine.  The whole point of heirloom is not to genetically modify. One other method to change acid levels is to include lots of manure in the soil. I do because of the flavor and higher acidic taste. It is surprising  just how much you can change the flavor with changing your soil. Some flowers you can change the hue or even color with changing the soil.

I'm not worried about my homegrown because of how acidic they taste and they are heirloom. I do buy outside tomatoes to can though and those I will be changing to pressure cooker methods for. Hopefully someday I will be doing only homegrown tomatoes exclusively. Also keep in mind that the yellow tomato varieties are naturally lower in acid. We use to have to use a great deal of those varieties because of our son's reflux problems.

As for the tomato drink I made, it doesn't have a recipe and it was pressure canned at 12 pounds pressure for 35 minutes because I added vegetables. My first step was to wash my small tomatoes and put them into a large pot with a quarter inch of water to keep them from burning on the bottom. Then I chopped up small bell peppers and a few green pimento peppers I had in the garden. I added finely chopped celery and carrots too. Carrots were not in any of the recipes I saw on the Internet but I wanted it in mine. When the carrots, celery, and peppers were cooked, I put the whole mixture through my Victoria strainer. The skins and most of the seeds were removed. I used the applesauce screen since that is the only one I have. I then put the mixture back on the stove to heat and added a little bit of sugar, a small amount of Worchester sauce, some garlic, salt, and parsley until I like the flavor. Yes, the two different batches tasted mildly different but I liked them both. Next time I am thinking of adding a bit of onion.

How much the flavor was effected by canning process I have yet to learn. I am in the middle of making Halloween costumes and finishing up a order for 202 project bags for a company in Colorado. I just can't seem to get much else done with fall chores and four grandkids here most of the time. Besides my refrigerator is a crowded mess. Do any of you make your own tomato drink? What do you do with a bumper crop of small tomatoes?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Potatoes and Other Things


This has nothing to do with today's subject but let me introduce you to our newest member of the menagerie, his name is Duke. With Kirk setting traps, our older cat spending long hours hunting, they just could not keep up with the influx of mice so Duke entered the scene. He is already catching mice at his tiny size. One day I watched him kill a mouse in the morning and another in the evening. Don't know how many he scores a day but it is impressive for so small a kitten. My advice would be if you want a cat to cuddle, go to the shelter; if you want a mouser, find a barn cat's kittens. They have the instincts to hunt or their parents would not have survived. Our cats of course have a back up of cat food to keep them healthy but I would not choose a shelter kitten for a barn cat job. They have the wrong resume. Duke is beyond spoiled as the grandkids seldom let his feet touch the ground. Good thing the three oldest are in school most of the day and there is just our three-year-old grand daughter left at home or the kitten would not get any work done.
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Gardens are coming to a close here up north and ours for the most part came to a halt back on August 22 when we had a killing frost. Yes, even a bit early for here. I thought with all that I had learned the past 33 years gardening in our old home, same altitude, same growing zone, that the learning curve would mainly just be the change in soil. Boy was I ever wrong. Things that I could grow before like Brussel Sprouts just don't stand a chance up here. I even tried two different varieties. My first thought was they are a cool weather crop and hence should do pretty well up here? I've tried for two summers and they don't even come close to developing. Corn is another huge struggle and I have not gotten a crop in two years. I've not given up on it. I do love my corn and I have a few ideas to try. What I have learned from observation of the last couple summers is that we have far cooler nights and that halts growing until the temp raises in the morning. That means not only short season but cool season crops, really cool weather crops have to be found.

My sister has a kind of bean I am unfamiliar with that did well for her and she lives at a even higher altitude but I think their nights are warmer. She promised to send me some and said if I like them she will send more for seed. Like the taste I'm thinking is less important than if they will grow in a survival situation.  My dried bean experiments that has been going on for 6 years is taking a very different turn but I'll talk more about that later.

Short season, really cool weather crops will take priority and cold frames, tires, and row covers are going to have to be a big part of our plan. The greenhouse frame will have to go up next summer and since the tomatoes and peppers did well up against the house on the south side, we will work on a frame that can cover that area also. Anything that tempers the cool weather and holds warmth is going to be a biggy.
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Since it is the time many will be digging their potatoes I thought I would update you on my experiments. I would not have my tators so early in September with the unusually warm weather we have had after the killing frost but when I dug up a few hills for eating, I discovered some rotten were rotten. I was shocked! My potatoes don't even rot when I hit them with a shovel while digging. They just scab over and remain firm. I'm blaming the ghostly pale, BIG fat worm lurking amongst my crop. Anyone know who it might be? He looked like a pretty shady character and I didn't like the look of him. The bites out of the potatoes were pretty good sized and I wasn't about to take a chance loosing the whole crop, so I dug.

At the encouragement of my sister, the same one with the beans, I tried Pontiacs since I LOVE red potatoes but they failed. I put Dakota's back in and they gave me a puny crop. They did better last year but not a terribly impressive show. The King George potatoes came through as they have through disease, drought, hail, and every other adversity. They even produced potatoes on plants that did not blossom last year. I never knew that was even possible. I get some pretty big ones too with quite a few per hill. More than anything else I've grown.
                                               Photo is of a King George Potato
I was thinking when I stabbed a few Dakotas, "Now these are going to turn to mush and I will have to put them in the mulch pile. There are too many of them to have for supper." Hmmm......" What shall I do to not waste them?" Here is where the brain fart enters in. "What if I took all the damaged potatoes and made potato flour from them?"  You know this brain never rests.  I hurried, washed them, boil the potato pieces, cut them up into smaller pieces, dried them in the dehydrator, put them through the blender to chop them up even littler, and I will put them through the wheat grinder when I get it out to grind wheat. The guilt of wasting food is gone and I am feeling pretty smart. Something I savor whenever possible. Especially since I have been doing some carpentry work lately and that always leaves me feeling and looking pretty dumb.

I have decided to halt my potato diversity plan for now and move on to my next experiment in the form of figuring out how to work with true potato seeds. Something the plants don't produce every year. Some of you don't even know what that is probably. I sure wondered what the clusters of green balls that produce where the blossoms were? That is them, true potato seeds. Potatoes that I had saved, put in the ground, saved some from that crop, and put in again produced the potato seeds. Not sure if that was what it takes or if the weather was just right but I plan to find out by keeping records. I've been wanting true potato seeds to begin my next experiments because of the  "What ifs?", which send surges of panic through me. "What if we were in a survival situation and my potato cropped failed? What would we put in the ground the next year to get a crop?" It isn't like you can keep tiny potatoes in storage for years. There were thousands who starved to death in Ireland from a potato famine. It could happen again as history repeats itself.

Don't know how long true potato seeds last but surely longer than small potatoes. I can see I have more research to do but now I can begin to learn for I have some seeds to grow into plants and begin the next phase of experimentation.

It is my understanding from research that it is the true potato seeds which harbor the genetic crosses that become new strains of potatoes. I'm not at the moment interested in producing a new kind of potato as I only have one kind that is doing well but I am hoping that the seeds remain viable for a few years giving me a back up safety system. First I have to plant them and see how long it takes to produce plants large enough to put in the garden. Well actually first I had to try to remove the seeds from the green firm balls. I'm hoping unlike peppers and cucumbers that there isn't a specific age development at which you have to do this. I just picked a few off of plants that were dying and a few more off the ground where they had fallen.

I followed directions that recommended you put the balls in the blender with water and chop them up. This left me with a mess, too much pulp per tiny seeds. Wondering how to separate this mess I put them in canning jars and waited to see which seeds floated, they are the bad ones, and which seeds fell to the bottom. The seeds just didn't want to fall because they were held up by all the pulp. I shook the jars now and then and tried skimming off pulp from the top. There were just too many seeds that ended up coming with each scoop and I felt wasteful. There has got to be a better way. If you know of it please share. I dried the seeds and pulp that I wasn't able to separate both ended up on parchment paper together and I figured the pulp will just rot away when I plant the seeds. That is plant them next spring under grow lights. Answers just don't come quickly when it involves gardening. It takes years to sometimes to find the answers and gain the skills needed.  It is one area I would gladly pay to be an apprentice to speed up the process. There are just so few that have the knowledge in my area
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 Have any of you tried working with true potato seeds?


Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Menagerie


With so little time I've hired a lawn crew, Gertrude and Agnus. The sweet girls not only mow and fertilize the lawn for free, they volunteered to clean up the garden stubble. And that was even before our 3 year old bestowed the illustrious titles of Blue Wave and Purple Sparkles. Everyone should have a Blue Wave and Purple Sparkles especially since they leave the strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, and cabbage alone unlike the critters that begin with a G and are milked twice a day.

My only complaint about the lambs is this morning they left me desperately scramblinhg for wool as I tried my best to stop their headlong rush to greet the (dress clad) Jehovah Witness ladies, mistaking
their vehicle for the arrival of the grand daughters. Yes, our two lambs when not forming a greeting committee or mowing the lawn can be seen trailing along with the kids, one with a purple leash and dog collar and the other a blue set. Probably where the Blue Wave and Purple Sparkle inspiration came from. Who is who I don't know but I have been informed that the nice selection of sheep collars I have is not nearly as handy as the dog ones. Why the sheep need collars at all is beyond me since the lambs follow the grandkids everywhere. Maybe it has something to do with we don't have a dog.

But then who needs a dog when you have baby bunnies to play with. Yes, we have four, all girls of course. You might have recalled we inherited a boy and a girl meat rabbit from the grand kids. Once there were two and now there are six.


Assigned to bug control and lawn fertilization is a strikingly handsome Asian Blue, copper brown and iridescent peacock like feathered rooster named Rainbow Dash.  ("Cause it's such a good name!", says our 6 year old) and of course the name has to be used every year for something. First it was kid wether goats and now it is a rooster. Hopefully he lives a long life and I won't have to try and find another excuse not to name something that we register by that name. Rainbow Dash is not alone for he competes with Sir Gallop for the ladies, lots of ladies. Sir Gallop is named for way he runs crossed the yard. Rainbow Dash may be dashingly handsome but Sir Gallop is the true gentleman as he checks the yard to see if all the ladies are in the coop before retiring.

This year is the first for raising the Easter Egg breed and Asian Blues. So far I am super impressed with the Easter Egg breed. It is not an official breed yet but they get really big, really quick making them a great meat bird. Not to confuse that with gets really big really quick as in the Cornish but Cornish are not foraging birds, don't lay well at all, and have to be babied. My Easter Egg chickens are free range and they have laid sooner than my Rhode Island Reds and Wyodottes, plus are friendly. (Butter is a great example, she hops up on the stand when I am milking and insists on being petted and petted and petted.) Though a pullet, they still lay large adult size eggs. Now if we could just find the eggs. I found a nest with 28  eggs tonight behind a pile of plywood hemmed in on one side with a heap of antlers. I am tired of playing hide and seek especially when it requires contortion acts like last night and then I am left to display my horrible throwing abilities as I pitch the eggs off into the field beyond not knowing how old they are.

We got a partial weekend to ourselves. Kirk rushed to insolate a shed, putting down a rubber mat floor, and we put together nest boxes.Next to build for the coop or cccc...poop as the 3 year old calls it, is the roosts, hook up electricity, add a window, and a small door for just the chickens. And that is only what the chickens need before winter. So much to do and so little time.

Since 6 goats, 20 some chickens ( No, I don't have an exact count. They are everywhere.) 6 bunnies, 1 bum calf named Sam, (the sweetest calf we have ever had), 1 cat along with a brand new kitten named Duke Wellington and four grand daughters have come to reside with us, our place and time is full.

I'll try to blog a couple times a month and let you know a few of the things I've learned. Not with the detailed information as in the past as there is just not the time. But since my brain never ceases and it would be nice to format my thoughts I'll give it a try once more.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Catching Up

I'm missed, well Lisa missed me and asked if I had reached my goals and what I was up to. My goals went out the window for the most part as family troubles crowded in consuming our time more than ever before. Poor Kirk only gets the chance to wistfully looks at his knife making equipment as he passes by on another rescue mission, though we could badly use the additional income. The ride has been interesting though. We have found out first hand what hoarding for 28 years will do. It equals a near loss of life, a stay in the ICU, permanent and significant damage to your health, and a large clean up bill to sanitize your home after close relatives have mucked it out. Not this relative though since the dirt in the 17 year old carpet in the home we moved into sent me to the hospital for a stay. Imagine what an entire house piled six foot deep with debris would have done? No, I dealt with a host of other family emergencies and continue to do so.

Though I hear there is a show about hoarders, believe me it is not entertaining. It is just more evidence of what a self-centered world we have become. As I reflect upon all the problems around us, I find the root to nearly all the them is self-centeredness. People fill their days with wants and dreams crowding out reality to the point they can no longer face it and turn to destructive behaviors. The Greatest Generation became great because they were the result of years of sacrificing wants for needs, facing a harsh reality that life isn't fair and being grateful for basics like food on the table, clothes on your backs, a roof over your heads, and a 7 day a week job with Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter off that provided those NECESITIES is happiness and what Kirk's grandpa had. I am not advocating for a 7 day work week, we would have no time to rescue our relatives but I am saying that gratitude is what makes one happy, not wants, for of them there is a never ending list. The Greatest Generation were the result of the hardy CAN DO generation that survived the Great Depression. Now we have the I Deserve Because I Exist generation. Spoilt, caught up in wishful dreams crowding out reality. My father use to counsel me, "We don't deserve a job that we LOVE, jobs are for EARNING a living. Hobbies are meant for pleasure. If you have a job that you love like I have loved ranching, feel extremely grateful." Dad wasn't always a manager of a ranch, for years he just made a living.

To add a another tid bit to your reality check. Kirk works in the coal industry. The one that supplies nearly 40% of our electricity. Obama is trying to force coal out of business and has many believing it can be replaced with green energy. I want to know what the kick back is for him because the reality is far from the hog wash he's pushing to the public.

The wind industry that after 40 years and $120 billion of taxpayers funded subsidies contributes 4.1% of US electricity and solar 0.4% of which only half is distributed. Last year the administration gave $11.3 billion of the taxpayers money to wind and solar energy. Meanwhile coal supplied nearly 40% of our electricity and over $1 billion in fees TO the federal government. Talk about reality faces fantasy. Further pushing reality aside is the fact that a two-megawatt windmill contains 260 tonnes of steel requiring 170 tonnes of coking coal and 300 tonnes of iron ore, all mined, transported and produced by hydrocarbons."

 "a windmill could spin until it falls apart and NEVER generate as much energy as was invested in building it." .... Thomas Homer -Dixon. Carbon Shift

The so called green energy DOES have a great impact on the environment. I know, I don't want to live next to one of those monstrosities.A nostalgic windmill that pumps water like the ones on the ranch, yes. The huge monsters, no. Gone would be the vast amount of wildlife that grace our property.

If you want to know what we have been up to, well in short hand it would be shoving fantasy in the hind end and inserting reality. I don't care what you want, this is what is. Face it! Make it better! Be grateful for what you have. There is nothing wrong with bettering your lot in life but don't expect it to be handed to you on a silver platter.

Thank you for listening to a frustrate woman's rants. Tomorrow's post will be about the menagerie that the Lord sent to help heal the trouble hearts of our four adorable grand daughters who have moved in to fill our days and crowd us out of bed at night.

Then now and then I will try and update you on the things I have learned through my experiments but don't expect the detailed posts of the past. I'm on too many rescue missions to find the time and postings will be sporadic. The long and short of it is my wants have to be put on hold because needs must first be fulfilled.