Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Frost and too many beans

Well we had been very lucky and escaped the early frosts. The beans seemed to know their days were numbered and they got busy. The Thai Red Roselle was a feast for the local bees. The flowers drew tame honey bees, bumble bees, all sorts of wasps and small bee I think were wild honey bees. I picked calyxs with a back ground symphony of buzzing. Oh and chicks underfoot.

October 27th had a frost forecast. Then we knew we were in trouble. You could feel the air. Frost was very close. Ralph tore all the bean plants up and put them in the shop. I chopped the Thai Red down with the limb loppers. They are a very sturdy bush at this stage. We saved the produce from the frost and made a lightning fast trip to Cabela's toget thenew dehydrator. It has been very busy. We had dehydrated Peppers, sweet and jalapeƱo. Wesalvaged as much of the That red as we could. Now I love the tea, it will be no where near enough for the year. I just had too much to do. Salvaging beans by freezing and canning was well worth it. We do have a wonderful assortment of beans for the winter. Blue Lake Several varieties of Roma. Jade, which are wonderful both canned and frozen.

I shelled the Horticultural instead of letting them dry on the vine. Then I pressure canned them with good results. Then bother sort of disaster struck....just as I was catching up on our own beans andthe like, Ralph went to the produce auction. A man with an itchy bidding finger.....a new dehydrator and a big all America canner. Yes you can see where this is going.

I have learned how to can Sweet Potatoes, grapes and layered mixed vegetable pickles. We have also jumped into fermenting and have a marvelous collection of crocks burping and bubbling away. Peppers, cabbage and green beans are acquiring new flavors and we wait with anticipation.

Ralph found a wonderful book called the Pickled Pantry. It is already looking quite well used. Today  30 quarts of plain tomatoes have been processed and the last shell beans are in pints. Tomorrow  more tomatoes and I will be getting Ralph to start moving jars to the basement. Yes there are holes to fill.

The grapes were a stroke of luck. There was a huge pallet of them at the second to last farm produce auction. We love grapes so we bought two of the big boxes full of bags of plump, firm green table grapes grown for Welches.

Far to many for us to eat so I researched canning them. We have a good winters supply of grapes, I love them and know I will have to practice self control.

Now off to take the last batch of tomatoes out of the canner. Do dishes and prepare for tomorrow and dealing with a temporary over abundance.

God Bless you all and enjoy the fall and all it brings you..

Friday, October 13, 2017

A long hard summer

I was horrified to realize I had not posted in so long.

Summer got away on us this year. The pantry is full of canned corn, Honey Select, Kandy Korn, Stowells Evergreen and Virginia Gourdseed. The yard is chewed down by the poultry. It was extremely dry until Harvey dropped a mere 8" of rain on us.

Ralph herniated a disc in his back. I learned how to run the Flail Mower on the Grillo. We had a dreadful experience with "Free" rabbits and relearned things are never what they seem. So no rabbits which I think was God looking after us.

The ducks took all summer but hatched 1 duckling that had 5 mothers. The hens went wildly broody and are such fun. Currently there are two with 25 chicks in a shared system of motherhood. One hen we call Terminator 4 has......4 very well protected chicks. One hen moved her babies to the Tobacco barn when they were tiny, they now live in a 'chalet' of bags of shavings in an empty until now boxstall.

No possum problems but snapping turtles seem to like the barn. We had to shoot one and saw tracks of others through the dirt ally way. A huge stray dog showed up one night. One of the biggest German Shepard I have ever seen. He barked at the front door. We let him in. He was friendly and polite. A old cut on his head that needed to be treated and a studded collar but no tag or name. We would have loved to keep him but called Animal control. He went to a no Kill shelter and the young man was sure he would find a good home.

Shoeless Joe, our best Rooster, a marvelous Australorpe got hit in the eye by a Turkey Tom's wing. He was very ill and I treated the eye. He lost his vision in that eye. I was so upset but he is a brilliant Rooster and after I lifted him onto his normal place on the roosts the first night, he learned if he ran to me, I would carry him past the roosters testing his dominance,  and safely put him on his perch.
He regained his machismo as he healed and maintains 10 hens as his own. However every night a call Joe Joe sees him running to be picked up and carried to his perch.

The saddest thing ever though was our wonderful tyrant house Chicken, LLFP.....or Peepers as we often called her, died quite unexpectedly and shockingly fast. She lay her egg in the morning, oversaw my cooking for breakfast, chased the cat, marched behind me all about the house, just her happy self all morning. After lunch I lay down for a short nap, she was beside me preening. She fluffed up and marched to the edge of the bed and jumped down, all as normal as can be. I got up to wash the floors [a continual job with an incontinent house pet]. She was laying by the side of the bed, near Ralph's slippers, one of her favorite places, she gave a funny shudder. I looked again and thought how odd, went to check her but she was gone. So fast and sudden I couldn't quite beleive it. She was hatched in May of 2016 and gave us so many wonderful moments. Her daughters are beautiful. I am so glad when she went broody last February I set her eggs under her. We have 3 lovely golden girls and a dark black and gold colored one that remind me of Peepers every day. Goldwing is a son and we are keeping him. I still miss the clicking of her claws as she followed me through the house.

Ralph's house chick, Rascal, was fast friends with LLFP. Rascal was quiet for several days and stuck to Ralph like glue. We have started to let her out with the main flock, she comes to the back door at night to come in. They are the worst house pets in some ways, but a real delight in others. I will never judge people with chicken pets again. God bless my ornery little chicken for all the joy she brought me.

Our new orchard looks wonderful, we did loose the cherry trees and two of the plum trees but over all the trees look awesome. We had 6 of our own fresh Cortland Apples. The Blue Berry bushes had losses but that was our own fault, we went cheap and bought younger bushes. The bigger bushes, Premier and Brightwell are doing very well. The Chicago Hardy Fig trees are looking good. The raspberry canes from our neighbor are phenomenal. Again the smaller cheaper varieties did not do as well.

We had septic problems.....never start canning season with a sink that won't drain. The plumber found the problem and we discovered a disposable shop towel in the line from the addition to the septic tank. This was one of those shop towels with the fine reinforcing mesh in them to make them last longer. It's funny because we don't have them and have never used them. It must have been here from the previous owners. Anyway it tool some serious roto rooting to get it our, then some ooohing and ahhing as we figured out what it was and how it had not broken down at all.

The Thai Red Roselle is my favorite of all crops. This year I have finally figured out how to use it as tea. It is marvelous sweetened with honey or, yes sugar, I am going to try sorghum to sweeten the next batch. The jam is wonderful in place of cranberries for turkey or chicken. However drying the calyxs led to the death of our dehydrator, TSM, the company we got it from was more than unhelpful.  No warranty on the thermostat which we suspected is the problem and no help at all to diagnose the problem. It was not that old and we had taken very good care of it. You expect a dehydrator to last a long time and be repairable. With two 60 foot rows of Roselle producing calyxs heavily, we are going to get a dehydrator at Cabela's. They have some very nice ones with a very good warranty.

Now I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of our crazy summer.....oh the Solar eclipse.....not terribly dark but quite interesting. The turkeys were extremely nervous and acting strangely, There were no birds singing at all, the cicadas stopped buzzing. It was still in the oddest way. Then as the sun returned to normal, so did the turkeys. They lay down around the picnic table where I was husking corn as if they had not been wacko minutes before.

Photos are in the works......God bless you all in these strange times. With the world going mad, take time with family and enjoy every single moment you can.