How to Can Beets

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“I dropped the beets!” one of the farm workers at the stand said.

“This is how you drop the beat!” Doug replied and promptly started beat boxing.  He had the rest of the folks behind the table curled over laughing.  I laughed thinking about it as I loaded my beets into a bag at the market.  It is beet canning week. (Now the beat boxing pops into my head every time I say the word!)

Having canned beets means quick Borscht, throw a jar into a blender with yogurt and cucumber and dill.  It means salad toppings.  It means an easy, pretty side dish at the table during any season.

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We have talked plenty about how to pickle beets but not about how to just can them as is.  First boil the beets after removing greens (save these for smoothies and other dishes you would use greens in.  They are delicious.)  Boil for 40 minutes.  Cool a bit then under water peel off skins.

Do put your apron on.  The beets want a complete red society and they are coming after your favorite white shirt.

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Pour boiling water from a kettle into jars.  Put lids in a bowl, pour boiling water over.  This is how I sterilize.  My jars are clean, I just need to get them hot and rinsed out good with boiling water.  Swish the water around and empty.  Put funnel on top and pour in diced beets to one inch from top.  Gently push down veggies or shake jar to make more room.

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Now here is where we can do fun variations.  In some of them I just did plain beets so I can improvise later.  In three of them I added a thick slice of peeled orange.  In the remaining one I only had enough beet to fill it half way so I added a diced apple.

They all get a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  The fruit ones got vanilla salt, the rest got good sea salt.  A tablespoon of brown sugar went into the fruit ones as well as a splash of orange juice to enhance the flavor.

Heat that kettle up again and pour water into jars to 1 inch from top.  Use a knife to jiggle around the sides and the water will lower while releasing air.  Add more water to one inch headspace.

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Have a pressure canner with 3 inches of water heating up on the stove without lid.  Run a damp paper towel over the rims of the jars and replace lids.  Place in pot.  Put lid on.  Most of y’all are going to do 10 pounds of pressure but in our high altitude we have to use all the weights all the time.  When the thing starts sounding like a bomb, or salsa music, start shaking your hips and time 30 minutes plus 1 minute for every 100o feet above sea level you are.

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Always wait for pressure to release before opening the lid.  Remove stained glass-like jars and admire on a towel on the counter.  Enjoy whenever you want!

Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 12

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Every year’s garden is different. As soon as you think you have it figured out, the next year throws you for a loop.  This is why becoming a professional farmer can cause severe anxiety issues.  There is no control.  Over anything!  Here in our three community garden plots we are simply trying to feed ourselves for the summer.  And we are eating delicious food.  This year we may not see pumpkins (which is crazy to me, my farm was called Pumpkin Hollow Farm, for crying out loud!) but we will see for the first time ever sweet potatoes.  We have had lots of rain for Colorado and it shows.  So for starting with a plot that had sand and ant hills, with little amending to the soil, and two tons of hail thrown in, I’d say we’re looking pretty good this year.

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In season now are peas.  Glorious purple snow peas and crunchy snap peas.  A few thick pods of English peas are ready but I do believe that I am missing several vines of English peas.  The rabbit seems to know nothing of it.

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The collard greens are prolific and delicious young.  Crisp them in the oven with the snow and snap peas, some garlic, salt, and a good drizzle of olive oil for a farm to table side.  The tomatoes are setting on their vines as well.  Yesterday I did have a hankering for fried green tomatoes but they aren’t quite that big yet!

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The cabbages are growing their heads.  Now, there is a fine line in the high plains of Colorado, one week you could have happily growing cabbage and the next little black bugs will be sent by Mother Nature to take them out since they aren’t ready yet.  The clean up crew.  So, sometimes you can just harvest as is, without the finished head.  Chiffonade the leaves and stir fry.  With the snow and snap peas, of course!

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Some of the potatoes have flowered and some are yet to flower.  Potato flowers are amazingly beautiful.  They always surprise me in their lovely understated elegance.  I let the mustard, radish, and arugula plants go to seed.  I enjoy their flowers and they may reseed themselves, which is always a nice treat.

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The herbs have been prolific.  Waving California poppies, knee high cilantro in bloom, morning glories grasping for the trellis, volunteer borage with its star-like blooms.  Chamomile and its glorious scent, the first head of Calendula, roses.

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Lots of fresh lettuces, baby carrots, greens, young onions, and herbs await.  I am better after an hour in the garden.  My medicine.  Watching the water crystals from the sprayer bounce off the leaves of the great sunflowers, watching birds flit by, a lady bug lands on a nearby leaf.  I am in my element in a garden, wherever it may be.

Embracing Your Wild True Self

Today  is usually when I write about farming.  I will write about it tomorrow.  For this blog and lines of prose are written from my soul and much as a diary.  I am not afraid that the world knows about our ups and downs, about our work, our life, our children.  I write because every cell in my body prompts me to do so after half a cup of coffee.  If my words speak to someone then it was the day to write those words.  Today is not a day to write about watering more.  That can wait until tomorrow, for there is more on my heart today than hoses and rabbits eating the peas.

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No, today we are standing tall, pushing our chins up a bit higher, and embracing the miraculous gift of self.  And the bravery it takes to step out of the mainstream expectations of peers, friends, and society to really become one’s true self.

There will always be biting tongues when you decide to enter your own, to fulfill your destiny, for the mirrors of what could have been reflect and others get defensive.  People hide in their religions and contain themselves in their caves of denial and fear, or regret, and if someone is not just as they are, they must be working for the other side or must be unstable.

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Goodness, how does anyone ever get the nerve to stand up and embrace their destiny, their unexplainable gifts, their sides of enchantment and wild when there is someone in their family or friends ready to snap them back down to their cubicle, church pew, and norm?  This is detrimental to a soul that is traversing this land during this life with really only a handful of minutes finding and discovering their true essence, discovering frequencies above the norm, and seeing the immense beauty in the world that is unexplainable, magical, and beautiful.  Let folks be.  Embrace your own magic.

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There is great harm in not letting someone become their own true self.  There will be work undone, people and animals not helped, blind eyes turned.  But, one cannot convince another to open their eyes, their minds, or their hearts.  I can only speak to those of you that need courage to embrace and become your powerful and gifted self.  Creator by any other name is still Creator.  We are created to be so much more than destructive forces saving souls while killing spirits.

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When you decide to stand up and show your true colors, when you decide to accept your gifts to benefit mankind and the natural world, when you decide that you are pretty incredible, there will be those that do not understand your work.  They cannot fathom what you do.  They cannot see why you are different.  It doesn’t matter.  Stand tall and choose your tribe wisely.  This means that there will be family who are detrimental to your peace and will affect your work.  Release them.  Friends must be friends that accept you for who you are.  If not release them.  Even if you are left with five people, they are your tribe, your helpers in this life, the ones that allow you to be your true self.  We should no longer be afraid of what people think.

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Stand tall.  Embrace your true calling.  When you are doing the work that you were intended to do, every door will open so that you can be your highest self.  The world is really quite enchanting, today notice a few more things you didn’t before…and stand strong.  You are amazing.

 

 

 

How to Respectfully Wildcraft (and the enchantment of medicinal plants)

 

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It is wild crafting time.  We have a very short growing season here and a year’s worth of herbs to gather in a short time, sustainably, and respectfully.

I love wild crafting.  I am in my element when outdoors.  Even now, I am on my balcony surrounded by plants.  I am outside every moment I can and being around plants is even better.  I gather wherever I go, friends’ houses, great aunt’s house, sides of barely trodden roads.  (Never in polluted areas and never on private property without permission.)

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There is a special way to properly wild craft.  When I was younger I foolishly thought that you could just gather what was in the yard and put them in alcohol and make a medicine.  There is so much more to that including the plants choosing to help you, full moon cycles, various transports, and intuition.  Wild crafting requires patience, quiet, and listening.

One must approach the plant humbly.  Ask permission of the plant spirits.  If a twig or leaf or root or flower will not come off easily it is saying no.  You can also see parts of the plants moving.  That is where they are agreeing to be taken.  It is really quite enchanting and I am afraid that we have been lost in our modern world and have forgotten these things.  We do not take roots if we do not need to.  The Oregon Grape Root, dalonigei, has a large underground network of roots and will be alright if one harvests the roots.  Echinacea, sochani, is not so easy or prolific and the leaves and flowers contain as much of the medicine within them as the root.  Always leave tobacco to thank the plant spirits.

Only take a third.  A third each for nature, for regrowth, and for your medicine.  It should look as if the area has been undisturbed.  No one should notice that you have wild crafted there.  Having gratitude for the plants and the availability of the medicines is important and humbly taking only what you need is to be remembered.

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There are few true medicine keepers today and it is imperative for the average herbalist (and large herb companies) to understand the importance of maintaining a respectful and ceremonial way of gathering in order to get the plants’ help in making medicines as well as keeping the energy of the medicine.

These things really cannot be adequately explained in print but it should be noted so that we can take care of our natural medicines (including dandelions!) and Mother Earth, Etsia Eloheno.

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Today I was blessed to gather sumac, spruce, cedar, mullein, calendula, Echinacea, and Oregon grape root from Aunt Donna’s.  Yesterday I gathered maple and dandelion from Rodney and Pat’s.  Tomorrow I gather roses, yucca, purslane, and lady sage.  I do love this time of year.

Farmgirl Gardening Series (Knee High by 4th of July)

“Here we go corn, here we go!” clap clap “Here we go corn, here we go!” stomp stomp.  My cheerleading days come in handy around here.  The corn is indeed up to my knee.  The sweet corn will likely make it before the season ends!  Some of the popcorn is up to Maryjane’s knee and I don’t think that counts, but we will keep cheering and watering and see what happens.

I did not ever thin the carrots.  I meant to, I really did.  I reached down and pulled one of the thousands of seedlings and out came a tiny little carrot.  I dusted the dirt off and ate the sweet the little thing and decided I rather like baby carrots and wandered off to the next task.  In season this week is the end of the mustard, kale, lettuce, arugula, collards, and herbs.

Just like when kids go from being little ones and one year in junior high shoot up taller than dad, the plants will do the same.  They are ten year olds right now, just cute and new but in the next four weeks we will see them jump up and start coming into their own.

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The gardens look beautiful.  Each person’s plot their own, filled with their favorites, the bunny rather enjoying the buffet.  Shh, I told him I wouldn’t tell on him!

Next week, compost tea and fall crops (already!), see you ’round the garden!