Monday, May 19, 2014

Farm Update

It's been a while since I've posted. I haven't posted much in general in the last few months. Forgive me, it's a busy time of year, ya know. There are way more chores, and work to be done now that the weather is nice. I love it! I can say with utmost certainty that farm livin' is the life for me. 

Marmalade, out and about on the farm, looking for an afternoon snack.

Speaking of chickens (as always), the weekend before last, we gave the coop a fresh coat of paint. Random tip for anyone out there considering the same: get a paint sprayer! Something that would have taken us two days to do, took my husband twenty minutes. And it was HOT that day, so we were happy to get it done quickly.

Afterward, we cooled off by taking a dip in the pond. I'm not gonna lie, it took my husband a good twenty minutes of coaxing to get me to step foot in the water, and an additional twenty to get waste deep. The water felt so good on that hot day, but I'm a little more than freaked out by the thought of water snakes, and snapping turtles. Really though, can you blame me!?

 Our little girls are out free-ranging in the big world now. Two months old, and growing!

We have several Easter Eggers, and Olive Eggers, but I just couldn't wait another two months to get a blue egg. I'm impatient, okay? So I found a woman that had six pullets for sale (two blue egg layers in the mix). Though Priscilla here (a Silver Laced Wyandotte) lays a brown egg, she's pretty and very inquisitive; so she came home with me, too.

Whilst mowing the lawn back by the chicken coop one day last week, I spotted a very large bed of asparagus. Then quickly squealed with delight like a little girl. I love, love, love asparagus. It takes so long to establish, and with all the other stuff going on, I just didn't mess with planting any this year. This was a wonderful and tasty surprise that we enjoyed for dinner that night.

My fifty foot row of yard long beans have sprouted.
I planted a fifty foot row of three different types of cucumbers. I'm especially excited for the Mexican Sour Gherkins.

Three fifty foot rows of tomatoes went in a couple weeks ago. Seventy-two tomato plants in total. Can you say mega-super-ultra canning fun this summer?

This morning I spotted the first tomato bloom. Ripe, juicy, garden fresh heirloom tomatoes; need I say more?

 The garden so far. Right now it just looks like a somewhat tilled patch of dirt, but I promise there are plants in there! This weekend we'll be expanding the garden to make room for pumpkins, watermelon, and winter squash.

The fruit trees have long since lost their blooms, and now have tiny fruit. Peaches are one of my favorite fruits to preserve. Luckily it appears our peach tree will give us a good harvest this summer.

Good thing I make wine, otherwise I don't know what I'd do with all of the grapes we're going to get. I'm gonna be a wine making (and drinking) fool. You won't hear me complaining! You may not hear me at all; I may be off by myself, tipsy, and happily rolling around in the grass.

"Can I have some of those grapes you were talking about?" Broomhilda, you have something on your, uh... never mind.

And finally, my favorite chore of the day: collecting fresh, beautiful eggs. It just doesn't get any better than farm life, folks.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Rhubarb Strawberry Jam

It's gorgeous outside. A little on the hot side dare I say, but I'm not complaining - I'll take eighty five degrees over thirty degrees any day.

We put the majority of the garden in over the last two weekends. We had planned on having a 60'x100' garden, but due to this being our first spring here and not knowing the quality of the ground, we ended up having to move the garden from the original plotted spot to a slightly smaller area in the pasture. The people that lived here before us kept horses, so the pasture closest to the barn is nice and fertilized. We put in seventy-two heirloom tomatoes, thirty heirloom peppers, a fifty foot row of summer squash, a fifty foot row of green beans, and a fifty food row of cucumbers. We use t-posts, and twine to support the tomatoes, and climbing vines. It's worked wonders for us so far. Sometime in the next week I need to plant the pumpkins, winter squash, watermelon, eggplant, corn, and garden berries. This will be my first year growing garden berries (garden huckleberries, and ground cherries), and I'm pretty excited to grow something that will give me fruit the first year. Eventually I'll add on to our little orchard, but I'm so darn impatient when it comes to fruit trees. I like quick results!

As a young 'un, I remember my granny and grandpa growing rhubarb in their garden. As an adult, I faintly remembered the smell of the freshly picked rhubarb, but the taste has been long gone. From what I gather, my granny was a pro when it came to strawberry rhubarb pies. She passed away when I was eight, and that was the last I saw or heard of rhubarb until this spring. I kinda forgot about it to be honest. I love gardening and growing new things, but never thought about planting my own rhubarb. I'm always more focused on tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and green beans when spring rolls around. You can imagine how delightfully surprised I was to find a rhubarb plant emerging from the ground when spring finally sprung a few weeks ago. Not wanting that beautiful red stalked veggie/fruit to go to waste, I knew it'd be my first canning project of the year.

Once I cut the stalks, and got a whiff of that sweet, apple-y, citrus-y aroma, I was totally bummed that I just had the one plant - though I should consider myself lucky! I ended up with three cups of chopped rhubarb, and knew that'd be just enough for a batch of tasty jam. Though the Ball Book of Home Preserving has a rhubarb BBQ sauce that I can't wait to try, should someone be sweet enough to throw some more rhubarb my way.

This recipe is adapted from the Ball Book of Home Preserving as I prefer using Ball's Low Sugar Pectin.

Rhubarb Strawberry Jam
makes 4 to 5 half pints

3 C. Chopped Rhubarb
3 C. Chopped Strawberries
2 1/2 C. Granulated Sugar
1/3 C. Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp. Butter
1 pkg. or 3 Tbsp. Ball Low Sugar Pectin

Prepare jars, and lids. Combine rhubarb, strawberries, butter, and lemon juice in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, stirring constantly. Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat. Ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Remove lid and let stand in canner for additional 5 minutes. Remove jars, cool, and store.

It's so good. I can't believe I lost so many precious years with rhubarb. Never again, sweet, delicious, rhubarb.... never again.