Saturday, July 14, 2012

Unset Jam... Runny Jelly...?

I may seem like a pro, but even my jams/jellies don't always turn out perfect. There are times when I get syrup when I was going for a lovely gel set. There is a way to save your hard work, and get that jelly to still set. Even after you've already sealed your jars.

The bad news is, you have to unseal the jars now. UGH!

So here's the secrets to the rescue...

First measure out your jam/jelly after you've opened the jars. You are going to want to do this in batches no more then 6 cups. Jam/Jelly was never meant to be done in large batches. Doubling a recipe is what may have caused the trouble in the first place.

Once you have your batch ready and standing by in a pot on the stove, turn the heat up to medium-high and get out a second pot to place on another burner.

Here you need the following for the new small pot:

1/4 cup of water per quart of unset jelly
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tsp of powdered pectin
1/4 cup of sugar

Heat the water to boiling w/ the lemon juice and pectin. After 45 seconds at a boil, add the sugar. Give that another 45 seconds to activate the pectin. Dip a spoon in and make sure the liquid is coating the spoon and creating a 'sheet' as it drips off. This is NOT a steady stream of liquid, but more like a curtain.

Now add it to your 'oops' batch of jelly and bring that to a rolling boil for one minute. Test this batch with the spoon method as well. If you need to give it another 30 seconds go for it!

That should do the trick, works for me everytime.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gardening For Chickens

Freshly harvested Sunflower heads ready to be dried for storage.

When I plan out my garden each season, I plan it according to my family's needs, things I want to experiment with and what my chickens would like. Though I toss them a fresh tomato or strawberries while harvesting for my fridge, I also have to think about what I can preserve for them come the fall and winter months.

While the ideas spin around in my head I have to keep in mind foods that store well with little processing and are safe for the chickens to consume. Though potatoes store well, raw potatoes are not good for chickens. Rice works great, but I'd have to plant a lot to get a little and I'd have to cook it before I fed it them.

My favorite options end up being very simple. Sunflowers are easy to plant and plentiful. I get the added bonus of beautiful flowers in the garden that attract beneficial insects and birds through out the summer. They're easy to harvest because I just cut the head off the stock after they've bent over and started to brown. You can seed the seeds in the head of the sunflower becoming plump as it grows, so you'll know when its ready. You'll need to find a warm place with good ventilation to allow them to dry for a couple weeks before you can put them up. The only real trick is getting the heads before the birds devour all the seeds.

Another good one we like to do is corn. We plant so much that we allow some of the ears to dry right on the stock. We'll then shuck them clean when the kernels are hard and store them in the house until winter. You also have the option that corn on the cob freezes well. Simply shuck and clean the corn and store in the freezer in gallon storage bags. Thaw them completely before giving to your chickens. I don't have the space in my freezer to store extra food for the chickens like that, it's already super stocked for the winter for us.

There are LOTS of great options out there for your chickens to get their portion of your garden all year long. As you see, you can freeze, dry, cure or can almost anything you'd eat for them too. So clear a little plot in your garden for some great produce you can share with your feathered friends.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Predator Attack

Last week turned out to be a rough beginning to the Summer season. We had an attack that ended up killing 2 pekin ducks and maiming a 3rd. our dear Ms. Lily who's not 3 years old lost a good amount of her neck, skin and muscle tissue too. Somehow she fought her attacker and escaped with her life, but just barely.

I'm been giving her extra daily attention, regularly cleanings and treatments with SWAT and Blu-kote I have to keep antibiotics in her water, along with some serious vitamins (Nutri-Drench) until she's back to eating and moving more on her own.

Last night she took a bath, and showed a lot of energy she's been lacking for a week now. I think we can finally say we're out of the critical condition phase of things.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spring Round Up!

First of all, please forgive me!? It's been an overwhelming spring, lots of projects and lots of sick. In fact I was sick all of April and 1/2 of May! The time in-between I managed, with lots of help from my husband, to get the final gardens in and rolling. We added over 700 sq ft of new garden space this year... with tilling, compost moving and planting... there went most of my spring!

So I wanted to show off some of what we've accomplished and what we are now enjoying from our hard work. Hopefully my next round of posts will be more canning posts and recipes I'll be trying with all the yummy stuff rolling in.

Here are the blue mop head hydrangeas in bloom

The lavender lace cap hydrangeas are now opening up

Our meat bird project birds, 4 Cornish x & 1 Pekin duck. 7 Weeks old.

The deck bed in bloom

The larger of the 2 veggie gardens

Green bean tee pees filling out, already have green beans on them (Blue Lake Pole)

Rows of corn, sunflowers, squash and tomatoes

The grape vine has a good amount of grapes this year

Already picked our first raspberries this week, 100's more to ripen soon

Need to refinish the paths in the small garden, by herbs, carrots, garlic, cukes and tomatoes are going now

Random sunflower popper up in a rock pile. Daughter won't let me pull it out!

Harvested the potatoes today, got 17lbs of red & yukon gold

She's so proud of that green bean tee pee she fits in perfectly!

Well that is all I have today, but I will be back soon... hopefully I will have some advice, or a cool project by then. For now... over and out!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Getting a Better Germination Rate - Corn

Now we just love corn! Sweet corn, popcorn, indian corn... and we switch out which we grow each season. (This is to stop possible cross pollination which can wreck the flavor in your crop.)

If you haven't noticed, corn seed is very hard... like little yellow rocks. In years past we've planted the corn and occasionally went too long in between waterings during the germination period. This caused a few issues. The seeds need to remain moist during this time and missing waterings or watering unevenly had the seeds sprouting at different rates in one series of rows. Example; we'd plant 30 seeds in 3 rows of 10, uneven watering left 10 out 30 stalks 2 weeks immature and perhaps 5 or 6 seeds never germinated. This does make a difference on harvesting since they depend on one another to wind pollinate within those rows. Less stalks come to age at the same time, so pollination rates diminish as well.

So now you see the problem! Now, for the solution.

Soak your corn seeds before planting. Just place what you plan on planting into a cup of room temperature water and allow to soak 12 to 48 hours before planting. The corn will double in volume and be soft to the touch full of water. This will help start germination quickly and you'll notice your sprouts all come up right on time.

This year we've already planted 2 groups of 3 rows 2 weeks apart each. We've had 100% germination and all corn broke ground within a week and within 24 hours of each other. This will make for great timing on pollination and we should have many consecutive harvests the whole summer doing it in this manner.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What to do with a broken pot? (project)

So while transplanting all my house plants back into their outdoor porch pots, I picked up one of my favorite glazed clay pots to find it split in 2. It was an almost perfect split! Now, usually during a situation like this I find myself searching pinterest or google for ideas for broken pots. I've done mosaics, tiled tables, buried them... I even could have gorilla glued this along the seam and it would have been good enough to use a couple more years. No chips or broken pieces... a perfect split I tell ya!!!

I just HAPPEN to look over at my plaster end tables next to my bench that were about to be spring cleaned for the season and thought, well now.... I could REALLY bump up the end tables by planting them too. So I got to work turning my end tables into multi-use planters.

Step 1. - CLEAN everything. We're using adhesive here, and the surface needs to be spotless, dirtless and dustless.

Step 2. Rough up the area on the tables you need the pot to adhere to. Make some grip for your adhesive. Try a low grit sandpaper.

Step 3. Adhesive! In this situation your basic glue, hot glue or caulk won't work. "Water tight" is not ok. If water and dirt pool inside the pot caulk will warp and eventually release your pretty pot. Seeing the pot is clay and the table I have plaster... I went with a cement adhesive/fixer and expandable sealant. This is meant for brick, driveways, stairs... things that are going to get weathered regularly and it will hold even with pooling water for years. Check out the pic for the one I found, Home Depot has it in their cement/mortar aisle for about $6. Make sure to add a thick amount to all the areas that tough. The more the merrier with this stuff!

Step 4. Allow to cure! The can says 6 hours for basic sure... 10 days for FULL cure. I gave it 24 hours before I stood them up. Then 2 more days before I went on to the next step.

Step 5. Time to fill. As you see, my perfect crack was kinda wavy so they don't sit flat. I was going to fill with the adhesive on the sides, but thought better of that. The soil would slip fall out the bottom. So what to do to keep soil retention, and still allow drainage? Metal hanging pot liners!  I just HAPPEN to have a bunch of old ones needing to be replaced so I took 1 out of a long basket, cut it in half and used this to line the pots before adding the soil. Walla!

Step 6. Fill your planter tables! I chose a long growing ground cover vine called Vera. It will spill over the pot to the base of the porch and not grow up so the top of the table is clear to put things on.

So now you have a broken planter idea that is pretty budget friendly. This should work with wood tables as well, but you may have to experiment with the adhesive you use. My original plant with these was to use grout, but they didn't have it in a tube (it is out there though!) so I had to come up with a second idea on the fly.


Monday, March 12, 2012

The Importance of Mulch

Well, I've said it before and I think I'll take this opportunity to say it again!


It's not that 'little' extra... its absolutely VITAL! Not only does it help with water retention at the root of your plant like most people mention... no no... it does SO much more. Gimme a minute to sell you on it.

Before we talk about types and costs... let me explain simply all the whys. This way you'll be ready to run out and get all the mulch you need ASAP.

1.) Water Retention - Like stated above, save yourself some time having to water again and again. Mulching will help hold water in the dirt longer.

2.) Root Shading - Some plants may be hot season plants and enjoy 80 degree weather on their tops, but their roots sure do need some shade from scorching. Some plants are so tender in that sense they couldn't survive without root mulching or at least base planted grasses and such to protect their root, like clematis.

3.) Disease protection - Many diseases that attack your plants come directly from the dirt they live in. Many fungi and bacteria thrive in the dirt, maybe even working in harmony with the roots... but if allowed to get airborne or simply splash up during a heavy rain and get on your plants leaves; well... all H#7% can break loose. Example: Blight

4.) Weed Control - It may not keep ALL weeds out of your precious beds, but it could cut your weeding down significantly. I've seen more then a 80% reduction in the amount of weeds in my veggie beds by simply mulching every season. My back thanks me!

5.) Permanent Paths - So not only IN the garden, but around the garden. You don't want to step on your plants or too close as you can damage the unseen roots, as well as cause soil compaction. This pushes the vital amounts of air in the soil out that the plants need to thrive. So mulch out your walkways so they are easy to stay on, also keeping weeds out of those paths so less need to mow and cause even more compaction and stress on the ground around your growing area.

You know whats sad? I could go ON and ON and ON about how great MULCH is... but I'll take a minute to give you some mulch options... because shoot... it can pretty much be WHATEVER you think of or have on hand at the time. So add to the list!

(I've labeled these with $ as cheapest(or free) $$ mid price $$$ expensive)


Wood mulch $$$
Grass clipping $ (make sure it was before the grass went to seed)
Hay or straw $$
Gravel $$$
Shredded News Paper $
Pine Straw $$
Compost $
Weed Fabric $$$

So, you see where I'm going with all this? This Mulching thing; total amazing! So scream it from the mountain tops... share this with a friend... and don't forget, whatever you are growing, whatever you are planning for your garden.... JUST MULCH IT!!!