Preserving for Baby (and for soup!)

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We had already preserved carrots, and broccoli, green beans, and peaches.  We got a few more bags from another farm that we wanted to turn into baby food.  We were on a time crunch to make it happen before it went to waste.  We had a long to-do list of other chores to get done and there really wasn’t enough to can, so we tried something else.

We started with green beans.  We cooked them for a few minutes in boiling water and drained them.  When they cooled a bit, we put them in the food processer.  Then we poured the puree into cocktail size ice cube trays.  Two ounces, perfect!

Then we repeated the process with the broccoli.  The next morning, the cubes were solid and we transferred them to freezer bags.  Labeled, of course!  Stuff looks suspiciously similar come early spring!

We did the same thing with the carrots and simply pureed the peaches.

We have some jars of baby food that we thought to make while we were canning, Asian pears, apple sauce, squash.  We can easily puree any of the canned items we have already put up.  We can feed her quite a bit of our own meals squished up.  But, this will be nice for Emily.  She simply has to defrost some cubes overnight and will have baby food at the ready.

As I was putting away cubes of carrots, I thought this would be a great way to store extra vegetables coming out of the garden.  Not quite enough to can, but certainly enough to add flavor and extra vegetables to soups and other recipes throughout the winter.

Just one more way to preserve the bounty!

Homesteading School

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“I am not able to can, I live in the city.”  The young lady stood in front of me shifting from one foot to the other in front of my booth.  She looked at our array of canned sweet apples, pickles, beets, zucchini, apricot syrup, just a bit of this and that from our root cellars.  They don’t look like the ones at the other booths at the farmers market.  Ours sport handwritten labels on clean glass canning jars without anything resembling a store shelf.  It makes people wonder while holding the glass orbs in their hands.  “You made this?”  No factory, no helpers, just a housewife in the kitchen putting up food for the winter.  An image that appeals to young and old that come by the booth.  “My grandmother used to can.”  “You are able to can zucchini?”  “This is spaghetti sauce?”

“I can teach you,” I say and their eyes light up.

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They say the economy is getting better but I am not sure how that can be.  I know an awful lot of people trying to hold onto jobs, keep their shops, keep their houses, keep their way of life but we are all being forced to make some decisions and go back in time a bit to a more simpler and, yes, easier time.  I may not know if we have to move or if we can afford to stay here, or what will happen, but I am preparing for slim pickin’s.  We will have food, that I can tell you.  This week I am canning carrots; brown sugar carrots for a delicious side dish and plain for stews.

Doug made me some beautiful brochures that I can distribute at farmers markets and to curious folks.  I am speaking at a few events this summer where I can share these brochures as well.  Besides telling about our apothecary, I am advertising about my homesteading school.  I will set up classes to teach people how to can, how to knit, crochet, spin, take care of chickens, garden in small spaces, make their own bread, make their own medicines, and inspire folks to become more self sufficient.  If we are more self sufficient, we are in a better place to help others and they can help those around them too.  We end up becoming a stronger community if we know these skills.  It takes the worry out of everyday life as well if you know you can make a sweater, pull out fish from the freezer, retrieve eggs from the chicken coop, or pick a lovely salad out of the pots on the front porch.  You worry just a smidge less.

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I keep thinking, ‘If I could just get somewhere that has a well, or that I can stay in for many years, that already has an orchard, that already has a root cellar, that I can afford easily….’  Acquaintances of ours have lost houses, animals, everything.  The fire wiped out over four hundred houses not far from us.  They had everything they wanted in a homestead, and in a second, it was gone.  Perhaps I should stop searching for the perfect because perfect is not guaranteed to last.  Perhaps my faith needs to get a bit stronger.  God has always provided.  And I can do my part by providing just as much for my family as possible.  And help others learn to do the same for theirs.  I have carrots to chop.  Have a blessed day!

Early Crops for Spring

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“Take me home, country roads, to the place…I belooongg!”  I was belting out my favorite John Denver song while tilling the sweet ground.  The few inches of leaves (from my neighbor’s trash last fall) and compost that I put on before the fierce winter weather did the ground good.  It is dark and fragrant.  The moisture stayed in many parts of it.  This winter has been the most moisture we have received here in a long time and though I am still cold, it is nice to have so much damp ground.  The pastures last year were so dry that hay spiked in price, animals went hungry, people panicked.  The air is sweet with cool snow.

I raked back the majority of the unbroken-down mulch to the side.  I gently tufted the soil with a rake, not turning it (too many nice microorganisms workin’ for a livin’ down there!), just loosening the top.  Mulch will return once the plants are up.

I made an impromptu chart on the back of an index card during a sudden moment of gardening inspiration in January.  I listed all the seeds to be planted in April (my early crops), all the ones that are planted third week of May (summer crops), and the ones that will be replanted the end of July and August (late crops….same as the early crops).  I have eleven raised beds so I had to do some fancy finagling to get everything to fit.  So I gave each bed a number and set to work jotting down what should be planted where.  What will have time to finish growing in order to put in summer crops?  Where will I have space to put in late crops and still have room for perennials and medicinal herbs?

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Collard greens, Swiss chard, two kinds of kale, radishes, and two kinds of lettuce went into bed 1 which will be followed by tomatoes and peppers with greens continuously grown around them.

In a brief moment of gardening brilliance I set  up three tomato cages and planted peas around the perimeter in a circle in lieu of a trellis.  The peas and a few red potatoes and the most beautiful scarlet carrots went into bed 3 to be followed by soybeans and lettuce.

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The limited potatoes are because I purchased them from the nursery then left them on the car floor.  Where they were then trampled by various teenager’s feet and piles of this and that.  The remaining potatoes are shriveling and look rather pathetic but I still intend to plant them today in the potato barrels.

Cabbage and cauliflower went into bed 4 nestled in with surprise onion shoots from last year.  I don’t have the heart to pull them out.  I will be lucky if the delicious cabbage and cauliflower ever transpire, we have a short growing season and bugs that love them so I don’t have anything planned for bed 4.  Just a nice, long luxurious growing season for the cruciferous delicacies I love.

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The garlic is coming up with frost burned tips, slow but sure.  I do hope they make it!  One cannot survive in the kitchen without a smidge of garlic.

Onions went in to bed 8.  The possibly dead…possibly sleeping…Cabernet Sauvignon grape vine slumbers (hopefully) next to them.  And in a fit of ridiculous hopefulness, Brussels sprout seeds joined the onions in bed.

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The snow gently covered them for the last two days since I planted.  Today should shine bright and cool.  We will be nearing temperatures in the 70’s by the weekend and early germinated shoots ought to be sticking their heads up to peek at their new world.  I will have my face to the sun, singing, “Take me home, country roads…..”