Tag Archives: putting by

The Garden

The week has been cooler and mostly drier at least during the daytime, but it really hasn’t dried out enough to mow, at least not with the tractor. A few evenings have provided pleasant weeding weather with armloads of greens for the chickens and chicks and an endless supply of flea beetles on the amaranth being pulled for them.  The weeds are still winning this year, but I am striving to keep them out of the beds of beans, tomatoes, peppers and asparagus. The squash have spread out so much they are shading out most of the weeds in their bed and the pumpkins are beginning to do the same in the three sisters bed. The paths are a mess and the harvested beds also. They must soon be cleared for fall veggies. The paths are a dilemma, most have weed cloth down but enough soil has accumulated on top that the weeds are prolific.  Prior years of piling pulled weeds as mulch and laying down spoiled hay as mulch have created several inches of soil. Some weeds pull easily from this, but the weed cloth is deteriorating and some weeds go through it. There are also the rocks that have been tossed out of beds as they were worked, before I started collecting them to put on the rock piles. I would love to remove the weed cloth and everything on top of it, but it is so heavy when you pull it up and then what do you do with it.  Occasionally I just weed wack the growth down.

The garlic has cured on the screens in the garage and was trimmed of stalk and roots to take to the wire shelves of the root cellar. The onions didn’t do well. There was only one spoiled garlic, but few sound onions. I wish I had brought them straight into the house to chop and freeze. We have enjoyed a few of them, but I guess I will be buying onions this winter. The squash plants are over whelming. We are eating them fried, roasted with other vegetables, baked with cheese, added to stir fries and curry and quart bags frozen for winter use.


The year’s harvest of garlic and a day’s crop of squash.

The cucumbers are full of blooms and tiny little cukes are showing, so soon there will be pickles. Bush beans are blooming but not the pole beans. Hopefully we will add beans to our meals as well. The pole beans are climbing the popcorn stalks and tiny ears are forming on the stalks. The peppers are loving the cooler wet weather, the tomatoes not so much. It may not be a good tomato year unless it dries out a bit.

Each evening as I go out to secure the chickens for the night, I enjoy a small handful of raspberries. Because of destroying their bed and transplanting a half dozen plants, there won’t be enough this year to make jam or to freeze, but they will volunteer themselves and the bed will be more prolific next year.

We may have chicks today or tomorrow, though I am doubtful. Momma let herself be driven off the nest by a broody hen who has taken over the clutch. I didn’t see any activity when she left to feed this morning.

Loving life on our mountain farm.

The Chicken Tree and Blackberry Jam

Three years ago with son’s first deer hunt, followed the next two years with meat chicken kills and processing, we realized that we were both creating an attractant for the dogs and losing a great deal of free nitrogen fertilizer.  As we don’t raise any other animals and I don’t want to give the by products of this process to another animal if we had pigs, we discussed solutions.  Last fall, as we created a garbage bag of feathers and offal that we would have to safely get rid of, we settled on a plan to plant a tree each time we did a deer or chicken kill.

This past weekend after we finished the cull coop and couldn’t spend the other day of son’s visit continuing the house staining project due to all of the rain we are having, we decided to cull 4 of the birds.  Each time we improve on the time before, knowing that as the chickens are raised humanely, that we wanted to kill them as humanely as possible.  As this hadn’t been planned in advance and we didn’t discuss it until Saturday evening, there was no tree to plant.  Sunday after we were done putting the 4 in freezer camp, Son #1 dug a tree sized hole, deposited the feathers and other discarded parts in the bottom of the hole, tossed some of the dirt back in to keep the dogs and carrion eaters out of it and set out to buy a tree.  Unfortunately, two of the local nurseries are closed during this part of the summer to reopen in the fall until after Christmas, Lowes and Home Depot only had Leyland Cypress and Cedars and as we are over run with cedars and end up cutting a few each year from the hay field areas and the Leyland Cypress is susceptible to a fungus that kills it in a few  years here, they were not options.  The last nursery is closed on Sunday and Monday, though we could see some trees in their lot.  The hole was left as is until this morning.

Neither Mountaingdad nor I slept well last night, so we were both up fairly early and decided to go get a bagel in town then go look at those trees.  We came home with an 8 foot Appalachian Redbud.  They grow wild up here, but there were no small ones in our woodlot to transplant.  Being a native tree, it should thrive here and will provide the beautiful red buds and pink flowers in the spring and heart shaped leaves in the summer.  Perhaps next year I will make Redbud jam.  The trip home was interesting as the tree was slighter longer than the inside of his Xterra, so with the wrapped huge pot up against the back gate, the leafy top wrapped in netting and held in my arms in the passenger seat, we got the tree home undamaged and planted in the prepared hole.


In the fall when we kill and process the rest of the culls, this year’s chicks that exceed our coop capacity and the Red Ranger meat chicks that will be raised beginning mid August, we will be prepared with 2 or 3 three foot white or yellow pine trees from one of the nurseries after their fall products are in.  We have been creating a wind break where the wind roars down the hollow and it is still short of where it needs to end, so those trees will be planted there.  In front of that wind break is a row of shade and ornamental trees and the redbud is in line with them.

Saturday as Son #1 and  I were finishing up the coop and clean up, Daughter and her crew along with Grandson #1 went berry picking along the perimeter of the farm returning with several quarts of wineberries and blackberries.  Wineberries don’t hold up well, so they were eaten quickly, but this morning there were still about 5 or 6 cups of the blackberries left.  While out getting the tree and taking garbage down, we stopped and bought a box of low sugar pectin and daughter and I made 5 cups of reduced sugar blackberry jam, her favorite of the jams we make.  IMG_0161[1]

Five cups of wild blackberry jam cooling on the sideboard.  Added to the harvest of squash, greens and peppers that are coming in at a record rate, I feel like we are finally at the putting by stage instead of the eating it away stage.  I can’t wait for the tomatoes so I can make and can salsa and pasta sauce, the hot peppers and cucumbers for pickling, then the apples to make chutney and apple sauce.  I love as the shelves morph from empty clear jars to jars of meals in the waiting for the cold months of winter.

Putting By Commences

Our strawberry plants are first year and we probably won’t see any berries this year and strawberry jam is grandson and son-in-law’s favorite.  When I was in the grocery yesterday, I saw that 16 oz clam shells of organic strawberries were 2 for $5.00.  Not inexpensive, but a really good price for them.  I haven’t found any you pick strawberry fields within an hour drive of us and even if I did, they probably aren’t organic.  I purchased 6 clam shells of strawberries.  It was interesting that they varied in weight from barely 16 ounces to almost 22 ounces.

I pulled down my copy of preserving by the pint and set about to make jam.


I love the recipe as it has only strawberries and honey with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice.  Since it is pectin free, it requires longer cooking and a broad shallow pan to cook it, so it only makes a couple of half pints per batch.  The rhythm was quickly found, cutting the first batch, adding the honey to sit for 10 minutes and starting cutting the next batch.  While the first batch cooked, the second batch was prepped.  The first batch was cooked and put in clean jars to can.  While it was processing, the second batch was cooking and the third batch was being prepped.  When done, all 12 half pints popped as they sealed, a good sign and now they are sitting to cool on the kitchen counter.


There will be a blackberry jam making session this summer.  Blueberries and raspberries canned or frozen for muffins and pancakes or cobblers.

All of the canning supplies will be put away now as it will be a couple of months before we need them again, but it is nice to put something on the shelves now instead of using up the last of the supplies from summer past.  Perhaps we will stumble on another deal on strawberries and will put away a few more jars.

Salsa Season

With tomatoes and peppers taking over the empty spaces in my kitchen, sauces and salsas are the order of the day most days.  The lion’s share of the tomatoes become pasta sauce for the quick winter meal.  With or without meat added on serving day, spaghetti or penne cooked al dente and a salad or green beans sauteed in olive oil with a splash of lemon juice and sometimes a chunk of bread if I have been baking.

Another couple dozen jars will be canned tomato chunks with green chilies for using when I make my prize winning pot of chili on a cold eve.

Hubby and Son#1 love salsa, fresh or canned, green or red.  I have made one batch of tomatillo/jalapeno salsa and will make more with the next harvest of tomatillos.  Pico de Gallo is always welcome, but only happens when everything is fresh from the garden.  This year, I am going to try canning my own salsa as the brand of choice here has risen in price to nearly $5 per pint. To make this, I am going to use the one referenced in yesterday’s XXX hot sauce post.  We were visiting our cousin at their casa in Mexico and they have a husband and wife staff.  He cares for the grounds and does maintenance, she cleans, deals with linens and if you purchase food, will prepare breakfast and dinner for you for a very small fee.  If you want a great place to visit, check out www.Casadelplatero.net .  Our cousin likes his salsa too and this was served with breakfast and dinner’s in.

Casa del Platero Salsa

2 medium tomatoes, cut in half

1 medium onion cut in halves or quarters

2 jalapeno peppers cut in half lengthwise

2 cloves garlic

salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet in a small amount of cooking oil (I use Olive or grapeseed) cook the tomatoes, onion and peppers cut side down until lightly browned and softened.  Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, don’t let it brown, it gets bitter.  Place all in a blender or food processor and blend until a chunky salsa consistency.  Salt and pepper to taste.  May be served warm or chilled.  It will keep for a week or two in a jar in the refrigerator.  If you want it less spicy, just use less jalapeno, if you want more fire, add more or add a half of a habanero pepper.

As I plan to can it this year, I will add 1 Tbs lemon juice and 1/2 tsp pickling salt to each hot pint jar before spooning in the salsa and will water bath can it for 25 minutes (I live above 2000 feet so adjust to your altitude) or pressure can it for 15 minutes.

The remaining tomatoes will be eaten fresh or canned plain for those days when I just need canned tomatoes for a recipe.  It looks like a bumper crop this year.

Olio – July 13, 2014

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of things


Grandson’s play with the big guy backfired.  He is under there somewhere.


First pint of pickled jalapenos from the garden.  It will take dozens more to get Jim through the year, especially if Todd wants some too.


First summer squash and bell pepper.  The little pepper is a cayenne that broke off before ripening.  There are small cucumbers, still lots of greens, the first of the bush beans and the last of the peas.  The garden is full on providing most of what we want in veggies now.  The winter squash and pumpkins are taking over the compost bins, the sweet potato vines are thriving.

Yesterday, grandson was afraid of his bike, by the end of a session he would coast down a short hill.


Today it was a longer hill and then as I was running beside him holding his seat, I let go and he rode the length of the school parking lot, over and over.  He still needs an assist to get going, but once he is moving, he is off.  I took a video, but can’t figure out how to upload it here.


The Harvest


Yesterday just as they finished mowing the lower field, it started to rain.  We probably got two inches yesterday evening and last night.  This morning dawned thick and gray and it didn’t look good for finishing the hay.  Jeff unhooked the baler and added a second fork to the back of the tractor and started moving the already baled hay into trailer size loads around the fields.  The sun finally came out and the wind picked up, so they tettered the mowed field twice and let it sit for a couple of hours, raked it and finished baling it about an hour ago.  The total hay harvest this year is 96 big round bales.

While they were baling, I picked more raspberries.  I need less than a cup to make a batch of pure raspberry jam.  Another day or two and I will be set.  The peas are filling out faster than I can pick them and certainly faster than we can eat them, so tomorrow I will pick, shell and freeze at least a few packages for the winter.  There are tiny peppers on some of the plants, blossoms on the tomatillos, the cucumbers, squash and beans are continuing to grow.  I think there will be a handful of blueberries soon too.  The chickens are enjoying the over matured kale leaves.  I think a big armful of kale and chard will accompany me to Northern Virginia in a week when I babysit for 4 days and then bring our oldest grandson here for a few weeks of the summer to help his Mom and Dad out.

The 3 jars of mustard finished their ferment time yesterday and today and were completed and packaged in 8 oz jars for summer enjoyment and to share with our kids.

We started our morning at the Farmers’ Market and came home with radishes, turnips, carrots, spring onions, flowers, beef and pork.  We are set for a week of good eating.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Let Us Preserve

Tis the season to start putting by for the long cold, unproductive months of winter.  We have cousins in Georgia and he has a son in college in Pennsylvania.  We are slightly more than half way in between for them and love to have them for the overnight visit as they drive up and back.  Yesterday afternoon they arrived bearing gifts of fresh Georgia peaches, pecans, and a loaf of a wonderful Artisan bread.  Some of the peaches are at a stage of ripeness where we can enjoy them fresh out of hand or as breakfast fruit, some needed quick attention.  Since our peach trees still are young and not really producing fruit, they are a treasure to enjoy.


This morning they left to complete their trip north with a southbound return tomorrow and another night with us, so I pulled out the jam making supplies and set to work peeling, deseeding, chopping, measuring and making a batch of peach jam.  That is one jam I have never made before and not wanting to make too much, I first bought the ebook, The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving.  As I started collecting jars, I realized that most of my jelly jars have been given away full of jams and jellies and my stock was low.  The recipe said it made 6 cups, I had 5 1/2 cups worth of smaller jars, but figured that any surplus would go in a jar in the refrigerator to be used first.



Enough made to get us through the winter and still send a couple of jars home with them Sunday morning.  My taste test is that it is sweeter than the berry, plum and pomegranate jams I have made in the past, but a bit on toast or stirred into yogurt or oatmeal will be nice.   The black cherry tree at the top of our road is ripe and my raspberries are ripening enough to sample a couple when in the garden, but if I’m going to do anything with them, I need more jam jars.

Jim’s comment when he came through the kitchen was that I sure was industrious.  I smiled and said it kept me out of trouble.

I love this time of year with new good things to eat appearing nearly daily from the garden or in this case, as a gift.

Next up is to try one or all three of the fermented mustard recipes from the current issue of taproot Issue 10::Seed magazine.  But wait, I don’t have jars!