Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Prayers for the people of Moore OK

Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Moore, OK. 
As you morn and cry over your losses we will  morn and cry with you.
May God bring you strength to endure the days, weeks and months ahead
and may you know that the American people are behind you with offers 
of help, prayers and best wishes for better times ahead.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rain Gutter Garden

Part of being prepared for anything that life has to throw at you is learning how to do things that will help you survive no matter what problems come along. Be it a sudden lay off, the main bread winner gets sick, rising food prices or what have you. Learning to live a self sustainable life no matter where you live can go a long way to help you get through any rough times.

Gardening and growing your own food is one way to become self sustaining. Some people would be surprised at how much food they could grow every year if only they thought out of the box. When you mention gardening to them they automatically think of a big plot of land of maybe a acre or two. Next they start thinking about all the work involved in growing a garden the way our grandmothers and great grandmothers did. Once they do that they say the heck with it because there is to much work involved.

I have had a 30 ft x 20 ft garden for quite some time and last year I decided to expand on the amount of food I could produce each year. I started by buying two drawf fruit trees. One plum and one cherry.

Cherry Tree

Plum Tree

Even though both of them bloomed this year I will not be able to harvest from them. The branches are to thin to handle the weight of the fruits this year so if any fruit does start to grow I will pick it off and discard it. Hopefully the branches will be able to support the weight of fruit next year.

Since I can not enlarge my actual garden I must find other ways to grow more food. For me going vertical  is about the only way I can enlarge my growing area. This past weekend I was able to add another 40 feet by 6 inch growing space in the form of rain gutter gardening. I bought 4-10 foot sections of vinyl rain gutter, 12 bracing brackets and 8 end caps. I also bought 4-8 foot long boards to hang the gutters on. I didn't have to use the boards but I did it so I would not have to put so many holes in the siding of my garage. 

I drill holes 6 inches apart all along the bottom of the gutters.

Then my son and his friend attached each of the boards to the side of the garage with 3 long 4 inch screws.

Then they used one inch screws to attach the gutter and brackets to the wood.

I have not had a chance to fill them with soil and plant yet because it started raining on us when we were getting the last gutter up Saturday. Yesterday was real windy and then today we work up to a heavy frost and the temp was 28 degrees. By the time I took my son to work at 6 am we had climbed up to a balmy 30 degrees. LOL

Tomorrow I will be filling these with soil and planting them since last night was suppose to be our last frost. I will take some more pictures in an few weeks after the plants start growing good. 

I also ripped out every thing I had in a flower bed I have not used in a couple of years and I am starting it over as a herb bed. Flowers are nice to look at and some of them are edible but I would rather have herbs since I use them in cooking a lot. 

Next on my to do list will be to get two more fruit trees. I want a granny smith apple and a peach tree. Then  next year more vertical gardening will be added.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Red Bud Trees and Red Bud Jelly

 There is nothing better than free food. Right? Well there is free food all over the world you just have to look for it and learn all about it. I recently learned that the flowers from a Red Bud tree make a very tasty jelly so I decided to try it. And it came out great. The seed pods are edible to. You can use them in place of snow peas in recipes as long as you pick them before the seeds start to grow. Since the Red Bud tree is a member of the pea family the pods taste close to the snow peas. I will have to wait on the pods but not the jelly.

My Red Bud trees are in full bloom right now. I love looking at the blooms and they have a lovey smell. They are such a pretty pink as you can see from the close up.

The two  pictures above were taken two days before the blooms fully opened. When they did I picked 8 cups of blooms and washed them real well.

I then packed 4 cups of blooms in each of two quart mason jars and added 1 quart of hot water over the blooms in each jars.

After the water had cooled I set the jars in the refrigerator to chill and steep for 24 hours. The next day I strained the red bud infusion through a coffee filter. That left about 3 cups of the strained infusion in each jar. It's hard to tell because of condensation on the jar but the color is a light purple color.

I added enough water to make 4 cups of the infusion and place it in a large pot and brought it to a rolling boil. I then added one package of Sure Jel and one tablespoon of lemon juice to the pot and brought it back to a rolling boil that I could not stir down. 

I let it boil for one minute then I added 5 cups of sugar and one tablespoon butter and brought it back to a rolling boil that I could not stir down. I let it boil for one minute and then turned off the burner.

After it sit for a minute to let the bubbles settle down it looked like this.

I filled the jars to the half inch line. Wipe the rims and applied the two piece caps. I then place the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  I got 7-8 oz jars and 1-4 oz jar out of this recipe.


The jelly came out a real pretty pink rose color and it is so yummy! I will be making more of this every year from now on. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Been Busy, Busy, Busy

Winter is finally over and spring is here. It's that time of year to get the yard cleaned up and get my garden ready so for the past couple of weeks I have been spending a lot of time out side. After being cooped up in the house most of the winter it sure feels good to get out side and enjoy the fresh air and getting my hands into the nice moist earth. I have been pulling weeds, picking up branches that fall during the winter, trash that people throw out of their cars as they drive by, getting my garden and herb bed ready to plant and foraging for wild spring foods.

So far in the foraging department I have been picking purslane, wild onions and red bud flowers. I use the purslane in soups, stews and salads and I will be making red bud jelly with the red bud flowers. Will also be making lilac jelly in a few more days when the lilacs bloom. I am all for free food and learning to forage is helping me to feed my family better and cheaper. Plus if the time comes when the world as we know it ends and grocery stores are no longer around I will have other ways to provide for my family. :)

I have been doing some canning here and there in the last few weeks. One thing I made for the first time was Mango Chutney. I have never had any type of chutney before so I looked on line for a recipe I thought I might like. I found this one http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Mango-Chutney-230708.

I followed the recipe almost to a T but I used apple cider vinegar instead of white and I didn't have any golden raisins so I used plain raisins. It turned out so good that I will be making more of this soon. Doesn't it look pretty?

I got 5 half pints out of the recipe.

Valdilia onions were on sale up here about 3 weeks ago so I bought 16 pounds of them and made most of them into caramelized onions and canned them. I have already opened one jar of them, heated them up and served over New York Strip Steak. It was so good!

To make the caramelized onions I simply sliced all the onions and put them into two crock pots with a stick of butter in each. I turned the crock pot on low and let it cook for 24 hours. I then drained off the juice and reserved it. Fill the jars with the onions and topped off with enough of the juice to one inch level, wipe the rims of the jars with vinegar, applied the two piece caps and pressure canned for 40 minutes.

Warning: This is not a USDA approved recipe so if you try it you try it at your own risk.

Because my two crock pots would only hold half of the 16 pounds of onions it took me two days to get them all canned since each batch had to cook in the crock pots for 24 hours. So here is a picture of all the canning I got done in two days. Five of the jars are mango chutney and the rest are onions. Since I am the only one that likes caramelized onions in my family these should be enough to last me a year. :)

Next it will be the red bud jelly. This will be my first time making it so I will report back as soon and I get it done. :)