3 Jars of Pickles (canning a little at a time and a pickle recipe)

There is nothing saying that canning has to take all day.  Preparation, a zillion jars, boxes of veggies, apron donned, friends over.  You are every bit as efficient if you are able to can a few things at a time on a whim.

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Do you remember my interns from a few years back?  Ethan and Stephanie would bring in a bunch of green beans every day.  And then some more at night sometimes.  I often prefer canned green beans and we could only eat so many fresh.  Now, I was accustomed to ordering two bushels of green beans from a farmer family of mine.  In a two day whirlwind I would put up enough green beans for winter so what was I going to do with all of my beans?

I wanted to teach the young interns to can so we put up a few jars.  It didn’t take any time at all and then every day we just canned a few more and pretty soon the entire larder was filled with that exceptional summer of green beans and I never did have to order green beans to put up!

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That summer changed my perception on canning.  If things are harvested today or are fresh right now and you are not going to eat them now, can them.  It all adds up.  Sunday I was perusing the farmers market tables taking in all the bounty and color (mind you the only thing in season in Colorado right now is asparagus and spinach, everything else got shipped in from California….) and saw the cutest, crispest looking little cucumbers.  I had never seen that particular varietal so I brought them home.  They just filled two 12 ounce jars and one pint jar.  That is three jars of pickles off my list of larder needs.

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Easy Pickles

Holding jar at an angle place cucumbers around the edges and in the center, finagling the puzzle until they all fit snug and are ends up (doesn’t matter which end).  Or slice into 1/2 rounds and place in jars.  There should be one inch head space still.

Fill clean jar of cucumbers 1/2 way up with vinegar (I used my friend, HotRod’s homemade malt vinegar).

Add 1 teaspoon each of dried dill (dill isn’t in season yet), mustard seeds, celery seeds, and sea salt.

Add a smidge of hot red pepper flakes if you wish.  Maybe a clove of garlic.  A half teaspoon of sugar.  Your choice.  It’s fun to play with flavors.  It doesn’t change the recipe.

Fill to 1/2 inch headspace with water.  Run a damp wash rag over the rim and then replace lids.

Place in a canning or stew pot of hot water.  Water level has to cover jars.  You can put a towel between the jars to keep from clinking.  Bring to boil and boil 5 minutes plus 1 minute for every 1000 feet above sea level.  So, I did 11 or 12 minutes.  Remove from pot and let sit on counter overnight.  You will hear that lovely “click”, a favorite sound among homesteaders.  The pickles are done in a few months.  Label date and contents.

NOTE: Pour boiling water from a kettle into jars to rinse them out.  Put lids in a bowl and pour boiling water over them.  That is all you need to do.  The whole idea is to have clean, hot jars.  That does the trick.

Happy Canning!

Summer List and Sunshine

Summer is quickly becoming one of my favorite seasons.  Sometimes in Colorado it seems like we have seven and a half months of winter a few weeks of spring, a few months of summer, a few weeks of autumn, then right back to winter.  Yesterday felt so good at seventy four degrees.

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Summer does have a wicked tendency to come and go before you can get your tan lines straightened out.  Along with our shop we do farmer’s markets and now Doug has a 9-5 job too.  We watch the baby, I am writing a novel, and we have three garden plots, and…well, we need to make a list of what we really want to do.

I am a notorious list maker.  If I don’t make a list of the things we want to do this summer then we shall miss it.

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So far we have seen a bluegrass concert at Red Rocks.  I have read a good book, The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton.  I have a beautiful garden started.

  1. Go to pool one morning a week.
  2. Take Maryjane to the carnival next week.
  3. Take Maryjane to rodeo next week.
  4. Go hiking on a trail we have never been on.
  5. Ride bike as far down the trail as I can go.
  6. Read three great books.
  7. Dance under the full moon of the summer solstice.
  8. Order lemonade at the county fair.
  9. Drink coffee on the balcony every morning.
  10. Go to the mountains and picnic by a stream at least once this summer.

I would like to add road trips and vacations and time in hammocks and bonfires but time, especially summertime, is elusive.  But we will do all we can to soak up each beautiful warm moment.

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Tell me,   what do you want to do this summer?

Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 6 (Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplants)

Well, it’s Memorial Weekend.  If you are following along, this is what your garden might look like:

  1. Potatoes, onions, garlic are shoving through the straw.
  2. Kale, chard, collards, mustards, lettuces, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, pak choi, and spinach are about an inch tall. Don’t try to thin them, let them be!
  3. Peas are 2 inches high.
  4. Sunflowers and pumpkins are all beginning to pop out of the soil.
  5. Morning glories have sprouted.  Looks like we might lose one or two herb plants, but the rest look like they are hanging on despite our cool nights.
  6. The other seeds are still under the warm soil working.

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Now, we put in the summer plants.  If we started these from seeds right now they would never make it.  Best to find a good source (I like Kevin at the Parker Farmer’s Market right as you walk in.) and let them get the nightshades up and going.

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In the book, Wisdom of a Radish, by Lynda Hopkins all of her tomato starts die (as they do often) and she had to go buy plants to put in the ground.  She mutters to herself, “Only f#@k up farmers have to buy starts!”

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Now every year when Doug  and I buy our starts we chant that.  We don’t mind.  Sometimes a farmer has to rely on other farmers to ensure success.  No shame.

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Dig the holes 1 1/2 feet apart for peppers and eggplants, 2 feet for tomatoes.  Then walk back down rows and pop in starts complete with labels.  Then walk down aisle with a bag of organic garden soil and fill the holes, patting around the plants so they stand up nice.  Water well then add straw around the bases to keep them upright and allow less moisture to escape.  Put snazzy looking tomato cage over.  Or not.  I am still saving up for the other 28.  I planted 20 tomatoes, 12 various peppers, and 4 eggplants.  That may seem like a lot but we want tomatoes as deep into winter as we can get!

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I have gone without and had a brilliant crop, they just run all over the ground and tempt animals and black spots.  Anything could work that has a little strength.  We have a week to think about it.  In the meantime, enjoy your garden and your Memorial weekend!

See you next week!

Homestead Anywhere and How to Preserve Rhubarb

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This sentiment is going around facebook and I read some of the comments.  Impossible.  You need at least so many acres.  Too hard of work.  But it isn’t all or nothing, folks. We are all where we are supposed to be through circumstances of decision or fate.  I am in an incredibly urban environment right now, decidedly un-homesteady.  But, there are still many things I can do to homestead because the result is so delightful.  I will have a freezer stocked with nutritious food, a gallery of canned goods in the living room, healthy drinks at the ready, flowers and herbs and a community garden.  No one is an island, Lord we learned that on our last farm and we’ll remember it on our next, but it isn’t all or nothing.  One can homestead anywhere.

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Putting up rhubarb, for instance.  A reward all year!  Aunt Donna had us over to harvest some of that delicious, crisp summer treat, a celebration of getting through winter, a testament to survival, a perfect meal to surprise folks with at Christmas should you have any left!  I have mentioned it before but it bears repeating how Aunt Donna taught me to put it up.  I have canned it and it is good, syrupy and soft and still quite fine, but the easiest way, and the way to keep it crisp and fresh as the day one snaps it off at its base, is to freeze it.

Cut stalks, discarding far ends and rogue strings, into 1/2 inch chunks.  4 cups of rhubarb go into a quart sized freezer bag.  Now, don’t skimp, you know how cheap trash bags are….same with freezer bags, get the good zippered ones.  I despise freezer burn.

Add 1 cup of sugar.  Zipper to one inch then suck the air of the bag with your lips and finish closing it.  Label and freeze.  One large bag yielded enough to share and 5 quarts of frozen rhubarb.  Thank you, Aunt Donna!

It was lovely to have a glass of my own homemade raspberry mint kombucha while chopping.  For dinner we had a pile of freshly harvested dandelions prepared in a Cherokee fashion  with crisp bacon (from a local heritage pig farm) and the fat from the pan poured over the cold, tart greens sprinkled with salt.

Self sufficiency on any level is quite nice.

 

A Novel Breathes Life and the Wisdom of the Elders

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My friends, you must read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert.  I keep referring to it.  I loved how it stated that genius lands on people, not people become geniuses.  An idea has its own entity, its own life and “lands” on willing recipients.  Sometimes a recipient isn’t ready for it and it goes to another person.  That is the reason we see books, movies, songs that we were going to write.  With this in mind, I asked for an idea to land on me.  I wrote snippets in California.  I asked every day for an idea.  And one landed on me last week.

I then sat in front of my computer, a first time novelist, trying to construct a “proper” novel setting.  Where do I insert dialogue?  How many adjectives should I use?  How do I set the pace?  I have been reading novels this month trying to see the map of it all.

When I do my work in herbalism, I just kind of zone out, so to speak, and do the work.  My hands move deftly to the right plants and combinations, and I can “see” easily.  If I were to overthink it, I wouldn’t get much done.  I went into that same zone and just started writing.  It was as if I were meeting the characters myself as they hopped from fingertips to screen.  “Oh, well, hello, nice to meet you!”  “Are you coming back at the end of the book?  How nice.”  The prose and which person I used to speak changes and surprises me.  I am not writing this book, it seems, I am just privy to how it is creating itself, much like my paintings, much like my recipes, much like my work as an herbalist, I am merely the middleman…woman.

The book starts in the nineteen thirties.  As I was visiting my grandparents yesterday I asked a few basic questions, like did they drink tea or coffee more?  Did many folks have cars?  I told them I was trying to research the Cherokee land disputes that took place in the 30’s due to land rushes and oil companies.  Turns out Grandpa remembers all about it.  Grandma and Grandpa took turns illustrating in real life the dust bowl, the depression, the locusts, the farming, history unveiling itself.  Many, many things we never learned in public schools.  I was fascinated, humbled, grateful.

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These beautiful old dolls are among my grandmother’s.  As if my day couldn’t get any better, they were gifted to me.

Sometimes I fall into an irreconcilable sadness, wondering if we will ever get our own place, our own homestead, the city life here…I try to make the most of it.  I visit other’s farms, I try to save money (try being the key word), I cry.  It all seems so impossible.  But I can, at this moment, write….

The Entertaining Farmgirls Supper Club

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We Entertaining Farmgirls had such a good time at the last dinner party.  I love hosting farm to table dinners and though I don’t have a farm to host it on, I sure do have a beautiful place with views and a great kitchen to hold them in!  The next one is Sunday, June 12th and I have some spots left.  Wouldn’t you like to join us?

Shyanne and I are creating a four course beautiful meal with all the bells and whistles.  Organic, local, our own homegrown from the community garden, a blend of amazing culinary treasures.  An amazing late spring meal complete with drink pairings, enchantment, and new friends.  The stragglers can enjoy the sunset on the balcony with us.

We love the element of the surprise menu.  (If you have food preferences, whisper them to me and I will tell you which dinner to sign up for!)  The nice table settings, the glasses clinking, homemade comfort food, and fun.

Contact me for more information, for the donation amount, and to save your spot at table! 303-617-3370

Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 5 (Jalagi Adusgi, plant markers, and weeds)

 

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Cherokee Garden

Welcome to our Cherokee garden.  Maryjane loves to garden.  She likes to play in the back of my truck, then come over and plant some seeds, then water, then relax in the sun.  “This is too fun, Grammie!” she squeals.

This last week the nights (and frankly some of the days) were too cold for summer plants.  This week I will plant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

This week we made signs denoting where everything is.  Selu-corn, Iya-Pumpkins, Nunv-potatoes, Sahlol– lobelia, Jisdu unigisdi– what the rabbit eats, or rose hips.  I even labeled the “weeds”.  Plant markers are notoriously impossible.  They shed their lettering by mid-season.  This time we “laminated” them with packing tape.

 

My garden is already beginning to flourish.  All the cold crop seeds have germinated.  Potatoes, onions, and garlic are just peeking over the soil, there are more to come up.  Mustard, kale, chard, lettuce, peas, radishes, cauliflower, beets, cabbage, carrots, pak choi, spinach, broccoli, herb seedlings, all raising up in song to Nudah (the sun) and to another beautiful day in the garden.

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Maryjane in the sun

A note on weeds:  Heavens, weeds will be there from the beginning to the end.  No use trying to eradicate them.  Mother Nature is a smidge savvier than you and I.  I go through the garden nearly every day and pick wayward, tiny weeds coming up.  That is the best we can do.  No worries.  The plants will still grow.  Plants want to grow!

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The Little Farmgirl

I hope your seedlings are up, your weeds are down, and you are watering each day if it doesn’t rain!

See you next week in our Jalagi Adusgi!

Pressure Canner (homesteading necessity, chicken stock recipe, and buying only what you need)

We are slowly building our life and items we need back up.  We just purchase what we need as cash allows.  Last night we joyfully added to the cart a few imperative homesteading items.  A pressure canner (when the lid is off it’s a water bath canner), jars, stock pot, and canning gear.

First things first, chicken stock.  I am shocked at how much organic stock costs.  Here is my recipe for it should you need it from a prior blog post.

Click here for recipe

I am heading to my Great Aunt Donna’s for rhubarb this weekend.  And the hunt is on for everything I can get my hands on to can.  Rows of organic canned goods are amazing to have on hand any time of the year, goodness without listeria, E Coli, or whatever the heck else is in our food system.  Great, delicious, wonderful home grown food….oh, I am getting carried away.  Stock, that is where I was at…

My old pantry

The Balcony Garden

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I love that seeds want to grow.  That Mother Nature is so efficient and that life wants to be.  That one could plant corn seeds in a five gallon bucket and it will grow.  I love the option to farm in pots.

I feel so blessed and so happy when I am digging in the soil of the community garden.  A place of therapeutic bliss while in between farms.  I know that I can grow in pots as well.  My balcony garden is a place of respite.  I opted to grow more herbs and flowers than vegetables because I have the three plots at the gardens.  I did include a raspberry shoot I rescued, and transplanted sunchokes, which are doing great.  A rose garden adorns my third floor balcony.  Roses are so easy to grow in Colorado.  We have few pests and it loves an east or west facing balcony or garden spot.  I had a vision while we were in California of the rose garden I needed to create.  I have roses growing in the community garden as well as home.

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The six year old geraniums left the shop (against their will) and have joined the balcony.  They think it’s autumn presently, for the nights are so cool, but they will flourish.

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Pots of herbs, and petunias, and lavender, stinging nettles, and the poinsettia from Christmas line the walk and new table.  Bird feeders and a saucer of water entice the birds (when the kitties aren’t around).  I am planting tall sunflowers in each pot to create an enchanting privacy fence.

This is the perfect space for morning cups of coffee and writing.  For lunches alfresco with Maryjane.  For dinners with friends and laughs, the view of the mountains beyond.  It is a nice balcony farm indeed.  Just goes to show, one can grow anywhere!