Thursday, September 10, 2015

Canning for Survival

The Revival

I've noticed that there are many young people who are interested in learning how to live off the land.  They are trying to eat healthier, less expensively and slow the pace of their lives down, similar in many ways to their great grandparents lifestyle.  In today's fast paced society, with an overload of communication, a bombardment of the mind and senses vying for every minute of your day, it is time to stop.  It is time to participate in the joy of real living.

Taking a walk without your smartphone, listening to nature, getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city to capture the beauty that exists all around will refresh anyone.  Being silent is an ominous thing that brings immense pleasure, once you give it a try.

Go outside, find an alpaca ranch or any type of farm online, call them and go for a visit.  See how they live, drink in the peace and joy of a simpler life, a simpler time.

Then, start something new outside.  If you don't have enough land to start a garden, join a community garden to dig in the earth and get back to nature.  Feel your inner child.  Play in the mud.  It is very therapeutic, especially with friends, children and other loved ones.

Then, watch the things you've planted grow.   It's quite an amazing process, to create something from nothing, to let your imagination manifest itself on the land.  

A garden keeps on giving if it's nurtured, just like people who are loved and guided well.  Then, low and behold the fruits of your labors are realized.  You have created an abundance of delicious, fresh and succulent foods.  Another adventure awaits;  the art of storing and preserving your well earned edibles has been passed down since time began.  

If you seek, you will find an expert who will be happy to share his or her wealth of knowledge and experience in food preservation.  Then, you can enjoy these wonders until the following year when the production starts all over, again.  All you need to do is, be willing to help them with their own harvest.  Gladys is my wonderful teacher.  Here she is in her canning kitchen.

We cut the green tops off the beets, then outside with a hose and powerful spray nozzle Gladys washed the beets to get all the dirt off before cooking.  Great idea, instead of doing this dirty job in the kitchen.  You only get these simple little tips from a veteran canner.

Next, snip off the stringy stuff and some of the tip.  Snip pretty close to the beet to take off the greens.  The greens are wonderful steamed along with their stalks (just a little salt and pepper).

Once snipped and rinsed, put them in a large pot, cover with water and cook till fork tender.

Simmering beets.

While the beets are simmering, sterilized the pint jars in the dishwasher.

Cover the jar lids with water and bring them to a boil.  This will soften the rubber around the edges.  After the water has come to a boil, turn off the burner and let them sit.

Combine the ingredients for pickled beets and bring to a boil, if these are the type you are making.  The recipe is in the Ball Canning Book or you can find one you like online.  Just look for pickled beet recipes.  This one includes apple cider vinegar, sugar, cinnamon sticks and pickling spices.

Carefully, cut and put the beet pieces in the sterile jars, leaving about 1/2 inch to the top.  After you pour the pickling juice over the beets, move a knife down the sides of the jar to release any air bubbles.  The liquid level will go down a bit, so you will need to add a little more fluid.  Remember, leave about 1/2 an inch to the top.

Clean the tops of the jars and put the lids on.  Screw the tops on tightly.  They are now ready to be put in the water bath.  Just cover them with water in a canning pot, bring them to a boil and let them remain covered for 25 minutes.  If you are using quart jars, the time is different.  For the non-acidic foods (non pickled), they must be canned in a pressure cooker or boiled for 3 hours.  Always, keep the water bath well over the tops of the jars.  See Ball canning books for times and preparation.

Now, for the green beans.  Choose beans that are juicy when you snap them open.  If the beans inside are large and not very juicy, do not can them (tough and not so good).  Cut them into 1 inch pieces.

Place the green beans in a large colander.  Rinse them thoroughly.

Use a jar funnel to keep the beans directed into the jars.  This also helps keep the top of the jars clean.  

Gladys always uses this type of salt for canning.

Put one teaspoon of salt in each jar of green beans.

Boil water in a kettle, then pour it into the jar with the beans.  Leave one inch at the top and remember to use the knife trick to release air bubbles.  Then, fill as needed, clean around tops, put on sterile lids, tighten and place in pressure cooker.

Please be sure to read your pressure cooker instructions carefully to do your canning.  Our recipe called for ten pounds of pressure for 20 minutes.  Yours may be different depending on the size of the cooker, the number of jars, etc.  Always handle pressure cooking with the greatest of care and safety.

Pressure cookers are tricky things.  Be safe.

Our tomatoes ready for the boiling water.  These do not require pressure cooking, as they are very acidic.  So, we just put a teaspoon of salt, covered with boiling water, put the lids on, then covered with a water bath in a regular canning pot.  Since these are quart jars, I think it was 35 minutes of boiling to preserve.

One more thing about canning, you want to listen for and see that all the lids pop.  As they cool they make a popping sound and the tops suck downward.  If this doesn't happen, they are not properly preserved.  So, after they are completely cooled put the ones that didn't pop in the refrigerator and eat them first.  Here are my beautiful canned tomatoes.  Great for all sorts of recipes.

Gladys taking the beets out of the pressure cooker.  Now, we just wait to hear the popping of all those jars.  What a sweet sound - food through the winter, healthier eating money saved.  One more tip:  Always heat home canned food to boiling before you eat it.  Just an extra precaution.

This is the book Gladys has used all her canning life.  They have new editions of the same book, so pick one up at your local garden store or online.  Happy preserving your fruits, vegetables and a very special way of life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Surprises in the Garden

A New Game...

What the heck is this and where did it come from???   Well I figured it out.  I bought some green leafed plants from a store in Yelm that just said, Big Squash".  As the squash grew up, hah, they weren't kidding.  This baby was as big as a pumpkin.  I googled types of squash and found this to be a Hubbard Squash.  The insides are a beautiful bright orange color, as you can see.

This is what the Hubbard Squash looks like on the outside.  And, it's vine grows like something out of Jack in the Beanstalk, huge and sprawling.  So, you need a lot of room, but it's worth it.  Very yummy.

My next surprise was another squash I've never seen in any of the grocery stores. I looked it up on google, too.  This is one of the Delicata Squash.  It's good raw,  before the dark green stripes appear and is still a bit small ( larger than a zucchini from the store, though).  As it grows and gets bigger, the green stripes become darker.

Another major surprise to me, is that most people don't know beet greens are edible and a great source of iron.  I like mine steamed with a little salt and pepper.  Just cut them from the beets to cook.  Oh, and don't forget the red stalks, that's the best part.  I only picked a couple to eat right away.  

Next week, I'll harvest the rest of the beets to take to my friend Gladys's.  She has a canning kitchen in her basement.   There, we'll make and can pickled beets from our wonderful garden.  And of course, I'll be blogging about the experience as I'm a beginner and Gladys is an expert.  A couple of friends said they would like to learn, too.  So, I'll probably take them along........But, first I must ask Gladys if it's okay.  Extra helping hands are always welcome, however.

Find a friend like Gladys to help and to teach you some of the smart ways to eat healthier, save money and stop contributing to all the trash in the dumps.

Friday, August 14, 2015


Making  a Teepee Trellis for Climbers

During a storm about 2 years ago, several fir branches fell from our trees.  We decided to use them in several projects in the garden and this one is perfect for them.  They're about 3 inches round, so we just propped them together at the top and pushed them into the ground about 6 inches deep. 

I lashed them together by going around each branch, then the other and so on.  Robert held them together while I put several layers over and over for strength.  It gets a little windy around here, at times, so I figure more is better.

 Once the top is lashed together and stable, it's a good idea to stake the bottom of each section.  I like to make sure the posts aren't going anywhere.

In order for the plants to climb, I used cotton string to tie around and go from post to post.  Start at about 6 inches from the ground, then add string every 6 to 8 inches up the posts for the bean, peas or whatever other climber you want to cover your teepee.

Once you have your string up, plant at the outside base of every post.  For extra coverage, plant in between the posts, too. The effect will be a completely covered teepee that is absolutely beautiful and the plants will love it.  I made the mistake of planting, then making the teepee.  Then, I had a tangled mess where I broke some of the vines while trying to get them to climb.  After traumatizing my peas, I gave them a very long watering that perked them right up.

Another good idea is to leave one section open (with no string) so you can go inside to pick your veggies.  Plus, it's a fun place for kids to play and hide once it's grown.

An abundant and luscious crop awaits you that is clean, 
off the ground and less likely to be pest ridden. 
I hope you try this one.  It's not only good for the plants, looks great in the garden and growing vertically always gives you more space for additional crops.

Here we are in less than 2 weeks.  Up to the 4th string on the trellis.  Wow.

Monday, June 29, 2015


Alpaca Fiber Pathway in my Garden

    Now this is fun.  I am in the process of spreading alpaca fiber in all the pathways of my garden.  My expectations are that the fiber will keep the weeds down, so I will have a lot less maintenance.  And, the fiber should keep things from becoming a muddy mess.

     All I have to do is wet felt all of it.  That, my friends is going to be a lot of work.   The fiber needs to be felted, so it doesn't end up all over the yard on a windy day.  that would really be a mess.
     I'm only using thirds,  This is fiber that most people throw away.  It's shorn from the animals lower legs, belly and around the butt.  Plus, I have a few years worth as I've been saving it for just this type of occasion.  You know the old saying, "waste not, want not".
     My next step will be to put some water, soap and a little vinegar in a bottle to spray the fiber.  Then, I'll do a little dance all over it to rub and mat it together.    

Image result for felting mongolian style

                            The two photos below show how the Mongolian people felt large pieces.
They either beat the fiber to death with
sticks or wrap it and drag it behind a
horse, turning it several times.                                      Image result for Mongolian style feltmaking on horse   

                       As you can see, the fiber pathways are coming along nicely.  I've been working on getting a lot more of them down between garden plots.
                          Here are a couple more, plus my teepee.  Grass & weeds have started 
 growing up through the fiber, so I need to add more as a better barrier.

Below is my favorite.  Love the way this looks, so I'll add color to the white ones.

Let me know what you think about this crazy idea.  Do you think you'll try it?  Just remember to felt it down before it blows away, or all over your yard.