Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Autumn Glory!

Howdy All! I have been one busy bee since my kiddos went back to the higher institution of learning on Monday.  Monday I spent the entire time they were gone processing tomatoes and making tomato sauce.  MANY, MANY pounds of tomatoes led to 8 pints of nice thick sauce.  In years past, I have not cooked it down enough and it's been a bit watery.  Not this year!  It's some fine looking sauce for sure.  I used 5 different types of tomatoes in it, two different types of romas, pineapple tomato and two others I'm unsure of.  They may be a roma type as they are not juicy but more firm, but the sauce is lip smacking good!  Nothing like homemade sauce made from heirloom tomato varieties.

Yesterday, I aggravated the tendonitis in my wrists by chopping 14 cups of pumpkin.  Now those very fresh, right off the vine pumpkins are HARD, let me tell you.  So, needing to peel and chop that many did a number on my wrists.  But, it was worth it in the end!  I made the above pictured wonderful Autumn Glory Compote (from the Complete Book of Home Preserving).  It is AMAZING! when completed.  Got 8 half pint jars put up, and I have lots of pumpkin cubes left over and another pineapple, so I'll definitely be making more of that to get through the winter.  I can picture it served along with a slice of ham for Christmas dinner.  Or on a bowl of homemade vanilla ice cream Yummy!

Since my whole  loving it so much and thought perhaps you may have an overabundance of pumpkins like I do, I thought I'd include it here for you.  Oh, also in the picture above is my first hat ever that I knit myself!  I made it for my wonderful hubby out of soft organic cotton yarn.  It's so cozy, he said he can't wait for the weather to get cold enough for him to need it.  I was kinda happy with it for my first effort, being that I taught myself how to do it using a youtube video.  There are some wonderful uses for youtube, and those are the ones I concentrate on.  Now, I just have to find me a great fiddle teaching video!

Anyways, here's the Autumn Glory Compote. Do give it a go if you're of a mind to.  It's entirely delicious and worth the effort it takes to make it.

2 cinnamon sticks (each about 4 inches broken into pieces)
5 cups cubed seeded peeled pie pumpkin
5 cups cubed cored peeled fresh pineapple
Grated zest and juice of two lemons
1 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
1 cup golden raisins
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar (I used 1 1/2 cups since I like it a little less sweet, the pineapple made up for the less sugar just fine)
1/2 cup water

1.  Prepare canner, jars and lids.
2. Tie cinnamon stick pieces into a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.
3.  In a large stainless saucepan, combine pumpkin and pineapple.  Add lemon zest and juice, apricots, raisins, sugar, water and spice bag.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring constantly, until heated through, about 5 minutes.  Discard spice bag.
4.  Using a slotted spoon, pack hot pumpkin mixture into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar.  Ladle hot syrup into jar to cover pumpkin mixture, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot syrup.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
5.  Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 25 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Bringing a little bit of Autumn into the larder, ~Peacemom

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Yesterday's pumpkin harvest yielded sixteen pumpkins!  With 5 still green on the vines.  Not at all sure they would make it because the powdery mildew has killed the plants so severly.  We got sixteen pumpkins from 5 plants, pretty amazing!  Going to be lots of pies, trifles, breads, grilled slices and maybe even some of the cucumber pickles I found a recipe for. 
I do know the garden and putting by all the food has taken over the blog these days.  To be honest, I'm doing other things as well, lots of fun things with the boys with school starting tomorrow and we've introduced the two "little" girls in with the big chickens now, more on that later.  But the garden is producing RIGHT NOW! so a lot of my time has been spent getting the food harvested and in jars or the freezer, so that's where my highest focus is.  And that's as it should be, I'm thinking.  You've got to get while the gettin's good.  I'm looking forward to just making quick meals this winter with lots of delicious food that I've already prepared ready to just open up or thaw.  A few weeks of intense work will give us months of wonderful meals.  Next on the agenda is getting pickles up and starting work on the tomato sauces.

Busy, busy harvesting bee!  ~Peacemom

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bringing On The Warmth

Today, we are getting one more step towards ready for Autumn's grand arrival.  Called a local man who has a tree service here in town and got a cord of hardwood delivered.  Pretty nice wood, as you can see.  We've got a woodstove we're contemplating hooking up for the winter, but for now, this will do for the fireplace.  Living here in New England, where power outages are common in winter, we feel a whole lot more secure having some alternate form of heat from the electric powered furnace.  The fireplace won't make it balmy in the whole house, but it will keep three of the rooms liveable if need be, so that's pretty important to us. 

Next, we're gonna pay for some oil to fill the tank, and then think about getting the generator we've been contemplating for a few winters now.  We're also working up a thought to trade some labor for a snowblower, we've a friend who may not need his any longer and we need one ourselves.  He needs some cosmetic work done on his house he wants to sell, and I can paint with the best of them, scrub grime and lay laminate floor tiles to spruce it up, so we're contemplating making that offer.  We'll see what happens.

Heck, I could probably pay him in cucumbers for that snowblower!  Today's harvest, 13 more.  That brings our total since I started counting, so there were more before this, to 51 cucumbers!  Wowser!  I messed up a batch of pickles yesterday, over cooked the little buggers.  I was very upset about that, we homesteaders NEVER like to lose any produce we worked so hard to get here.  I was very frustrated, but then put it all in perspective.  I've gotten a whole lot of produce out of that garden put up.  The big picture includes reminding myself I don't have to be perfect.  I'm a work in progress and am trying very hard to be kinder to myself in my self talk and thoughts. 

Wishing you warm wood for your cozy fires, ~Peacemom

Monday, August 20, 2012

Can You Feel It?

...I can! Blessed Autumn is surely on it's way. Harvest is happening, leaves are starting to turn and the air is chillier when we wake. Actually had to pull up the blanket last night! We drove out to the coast yesterday to escape all the mayhem going on at our home (more on that in a minute), and we collected seaweed, saltwater, farm stand corn and lobsters. Which we brought home and steamed in a huge pot of water along with my garden fresh potatoes and onions over the open fire. It was AMAZING! If you've not tried this and have access to fresh seaweed and ocean water, you must give it a go. May just be the best lobster I've ever had, and the corn and potatoes had a hint of salt, it was outstanding!

This is the mayhem I spoke of earlier. The site work has begun on the house next door. I told you before that we had kind of an oasis up here, totally private, up away from the traffic, very nice indeed. 3 seasons out of the year, our view of the road, and subsequently everyone else's view of us is eliminated by the line of trees in the front of both properties. A line it took many years to grow as some of these trees must be over 100 years old gauging by the size of the trunks. The new owners are cutting down all the trees in front of their property. Allowing a complete view of our home from the street in front of their property. It is making me quite sad to have these huge trees just cut down, not to mention that they hired the guy across the street to do this with his buddy and two chain saws, so it's like one tree at a time, zzzzzzZZZZZZzzzzZZZZZZZZzzzzzzZZZZZZzzzz until they've eliminated the tree into chunks of wood. This starts at about 7:30 in the morning right next to our house and goes on all day until they can't see at about 8:00pm. Lovely.

I don't begrudge the guy his firewood, but honestly, I'm upset that our privacy is eliminated along with these trees, so I'm more then a bit annoyed about the whole thing. If we could have been in a position to purchase that land, we would have, but we weren't so now, it's being "city-fied". This is when someone from the city buys the property because they can afford it more easily then anyone living here, doesn't care to work with the pre-existing land and just chops away at everything until all the charm is gone so they can build their ugly McMansion. Then they commute to their job, are never even home, and sell it in a few years because it's just too far from their Starbucks. Sarcastic? Sorry, just seen it happen too many times.

Meanwhile, we're living in a destruction zone. We thoroughly enjoyed the peace and loveliness of the hayfield and then to have this happen to it, it's just too much to endure.

It's heavy machinery and men scraping away at farmland topsoil that has been built for an eternity, to use it for a house and a dog run. No longer will it feed anyone, or just be a respite for wildlife. Sad, honestly makes me very sad. But, as there's nothing we can do but leave our home every day while it all goes on, that's what we do. The noise is overwhelming. I just hope they are done the site work quickly so that we can enjoy the fast approaching autumn in some semblance of peace.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Todays' Harvest

Today's harvest included 65 Cofra onions to put up for winter, along with 5 Walla Walla Sweet onions which I will dice and freeze (there are 35 more still in the garden!), all the potatoes, which did not grow as well as I'd hoped, they are all of a small size. Next year, I will plant them in raised beds so that I can give them deep soil. The bed they were planted in this year ended up very compacted unfortunately. All the hot weather sure made for more packed soil all around.

These are more of the tomatoes that are pouring out of the garden right now. I'm determined to get a batch of salsa put up today as our friend gave us some of his jalapenos and I've got copious onions as you could see. I don't do cilantro, so I'll add some fresh parsley to it. Perhaps I'll post that later if it's a success.

As you can see above, this is round two of the cukes. I've had a very successful crop of cukes, I froze about 15 of them, we're still eating off the last batch and I'm gonna be pickling these as soon as I'm able to get to that. Salsa first, pickles second.

I've also picked another pumpkin. I just had a hard time believing they were already ready to be harvested. The package said they were about 100 days to maturity. We planted them the weekend after Labor Day. That would be 65 days from when I harvested the first one. And there are many more ready to get off the vine. I emailed High Mowing Seeds(wonderful seeds, wonderful folks) to as them if it's possible that they are already ready to harvest. They told me that because of the sunlight length they get (about 14 hours a day during the summer) and the warm summer, they believe it is entirely possible they are ready to harvest. Their advice? Cut one open and see if the seeds are fully matured. If so, they are good to go. So, I'll be trying that expirement today as well. Perhaps there will be grilled pumpkin on the menu this evening! Yummy!!

We had a bit of a bittersweet day here on our little farmstead yesterday. I found a loving home for Mattie, our Golden Wyandotte rooster. He wasn't supposed to be a rooster, we thought we bought three laying hens. But that happens sometimes. He was Maestro's pet, so we really didn't want him to get eaten, plus, he is a great and gentle rooster, very beautiful and friendly. I posted on facebook that I had a great roo to give away if anyone was interested and a friend of mine from high school took him. He'll have 18 ladies all to himself and all the room to roam. They are nice folks and have two kids that will enjoy him. We just didn't need another roo. Snowball and he were at each other through the fence all the time and our place is just a bit too small for so much machismo. Godspeed, Mattie, we loved you while you were with us.

Peaceful harvest to you all, ~Peacemom

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Harvest Time has begun!

Above is this morning's stroll through the garden. With all the dry weather we had, then rain, my large tomatoes are splitting (dang it!). The large ones in this picture are HUGE, see the pumpkin for a reference point. This is a baby pam pumpkin, so a pie type not a jack o' lantern, but these are very large tomatoes indeed. The yellowish one is a "pineapple" tomato, very sweet and yummy.

This is the cucumbers I harvested that were hiding from me in my jungle of a garden. This is in actuality only half of them, as I made a dish to freeze that included the other half. I did not know you could freeze cukes, did you? I'm giving the recipe a go, I figured I have nothing to lose as we can't possibly eat all these...and I have given a few away, too.

We've been crazy busy here, good busy, but very busy. We entertained friends the last two weekends and I have had the boys out doing something almost every day of their summer vacation break, so it's been a great one for them. We've had the summer I wanted for them when I quit my job, full of fun and friends and it's been one to remember. I also took the time to write on my calendar everything we've done each day so that we all could look at the calendar and remember all the fun we've had and that the loss of income has been more then worth it. It has, for sure.

I started them on their "back to school" more late nights, we've had some VERY late nights this summer. Little Red is NOT a morning person, so I knew I needed to get him back into the swing early enough to be well rested for school to begin. They go back to school in two weeks and I wanted them to be more on their schedule for that. I'm a firm believer in routine and boundaries for kids, they thrive when they are well rested and know what the boundaries are for them. As they get older, I'm allowing Maestro a bit more freedoms, and that's been interesting. For now it's little things like staying in the car when I just need to quick run into a store or post office to mail something. I've never done that before. I've also been allowing him more choices in things like his new school clothing (we shopped together for his clothes and he picked out what he wanted, which I was happy to note was tasteful and age appropriate). In years past, I just bought what I wanted them to wear. I still do for Little Red because, God bless him, the kid can't match to save his life...and he'd wear nothing but athletic pants and tee shirts every day as if we let him.

When the boys go to their room at night, they share a room with bunks, they go in at 7:30. As they are both very avid readers, they are allowed to read until 8:30, then it's lights out and no more chatter. Some nights it's tougher then others to actually enforce this as they don't stop talking when they are together and are very loud when they chatter. They have what seems to the outsider like their own language between them. It's almost like twins, they are close enough in age and in each other's space all the time and they just chatter incessantly. It seems non-sensical to others, but they understand it all between them. Kind of funny and neat at the same time.

Well, I've got to get back to the garden. Pulled the wax beans plants as they were done and being eaten by some weird little orange fuzzy things, so I pulled them. Gonna try swiss chard there, so need to get that in the ground and also weed the corn so I can start some sugar snaps under them. Trellises of the best kind, those corn plants.

What's happening in your little corner today? ~Peacemom

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wax Beans, Yessah!

Today I added to the winter larder 6 pints of homegrown organic waxed beans!  We discovered when we came back from 4 days away in Maine, the bean fairy had arrived and blessed us with a copious amount of these yellow goddesses to add to the pantry. 

Very quickly beans can go big and tough on you, so I got out there yesterday and battled the Baby Pam Pumpkins, which are their neighbors expounding everywhere, and harvested most of what is ready and still tender.  We'll have a lot more coming due and the green beans planted along with them have only started to flower, so I'll be able to put more of those up as well.  It felt a fitting activity for today, I'm feeling the precurser to winter on the edge of the season.  Time to get the crops stored, the firewood stacked and plans started for the winter to come.

A close tour of the garden also yielded a status on the little plot.  First, let me say, I've got tomatoes.  Oh, yessah, I've got tomatoes.  I planted many different types, most of which I can't identify because the tags are faded.  Bad planning on my part.  I'm going to get a photo inventory of them all and ask Laura as she's the one I got all the seedlings from.  In any case, so far they are quite unique!
Are they giant grapes you ask?  Nope, this is one of the beauties in my tomato nightshade family.  I love them!  They are almost black, though, researching online, I think they are techinically called blue. 

Though this is pepper shaped in nature, it's actually a roma type tomato which I think may be called Opalla.  Very cool, indeed!  I can't wait to sample all the different nuances of the different types!

These are my favorite producers, they are called Juliette.  They mature early and are delicious!  Very sweet and firm, great for slicing in a salad, or if you're Maestro, eating straight from the vine.

The corn is making a respectable showing.  This is sweet corn, hopefully if we get it before any varmin do, it will be tasty.  Next year, I decided I will plant the corn outside the garden along with the pumpkins.  The pumpkins have totally taken over the garden and are moving beyond the fence out into the yard.  Soon, I'll be battling them to get to the clothesline!

Here's one of the little creepers now.  The bottoms are going orange on them, and I found a couple of spongy ones, I'm hoping I don't have some sort of vine borer beatle at work because we've got a lot of pumpkins coming along and I'm looking forward to some pumpkin bread and pumpkin truffle!
And here we have the green pole beans, well on their way to fruition.  Looking forward to some green bean casserole for Thanksgiving!
Last, but not least, are the cucumbers just beginning to look like they should.  I planted Marketmore and pickling cukes, can't wait to try my hand at dill pickles.  I've not made them before, but my oldest and I love them, so thought I'd give it a go.

This is a tour of my little garden, on it's way to becoming foodstuffs.  What does your garden look like?  Did you stop by the farmer's market to check out the produce there?  Local is where it's at, friends!

Here's to many garden adventures, ~Peacemom