Thursday, July 29, 2010

We're jammin, jammin...

I haven't posted in several days because I have been elbows deep in produce and spending lots of time with my canner.  My poor hubby is beginning to think he has been replaced by the steamy, hot dates I have had with my Presto.  In the last few days I have canned beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and thanks to the season's bounty at the farmer's market and some beautiful blueberries (on sale!) at the local natural foods grocery, I have have begun experimenting with jams and conserves. 

So over the next few posts I figure I will update ya'll on what jam/conserve recipes I've been experimenting with!  Starting with....

Maple Blueberry Conserve with Walnuts from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving
 (this book is great for someone who is new to canning, or for someone who routinely gets small batches of produce!)  The recipe below is for a single batch.  I doubled the recipe and got about four 8oz jelly jars out of the recipe.

  *Make sure you get all of your ingredients together before you start working.
2 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup raisins (I left these out)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp each: ground allspice and ginger

Combine blueberries, water, maple syrup, and lemon juice in a medium stainless steel saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes or until fruit is tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in sugar and raisins.  Return to boil, reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, until mixture will form a light gel, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  I heated it to 220 degrees F.

Remove from heat and stir in walnuts, allspice and ginger.

Ladle into hot jars and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner (follow your canner's instructions for canning jams and conserves) 

Makes about 1 1/2 cups if using the recipe above.

I tasted the conserve before canning it and it tasted so yummy!  This particular recipe has a little too much sugar for me, but hubby will love it and I think it will make great gifts!  We have not broken open a jar yet, but hubby can't wait to make pancakes this weekend and use this as a topping!  Yum! 

Who can blame me for having Bob Marley's "Jammin'" stuck in my head for the last few days....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chicken Nesting Box Giveaway

Go to Life on a Southern Farm and check out their fun blog about living a southern farm.  They are doing a giveaway of their nifty chicken nesting boxes! 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hot Date

Guess who has a hot date with the canner....


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer Thunder

As I type this entry, it is pouring...outside.  An hour ago it was sunny and flashes of lightening and booms of thunder rattle the windows.  The chickens have run for cover and all is eerily quite and calm while a storm picks up outside.  I love NC summers.  I love that storms can pop out of the sky in a heartbeat and then disappear with a flash.  In fact, I am willing to bet that by the time I finish writing, the storm will be calming, steam rising from the ground, and life will resume as the summer evening moves forward.  I love the smell of summer rains.  The air before, metallic, ozone, distinctive.  And the air after, earthy, clean, fresh.      

Thunderstorms remind me of my childhood.  Of course many things remind me of my childhood, but being that it is currently storming, these are the ones I will share.  I remember dashing into the house to escape the inevitable down pour that follows the first crash of thunder.  Hoping the rain would continue after the danger of a lightening strike had passed in order to safely play in the puddles.  I recall sitting by the windows (but not too closely, minding the wishes of my mother) and counting the minutes between thunder and lightening to determine the distance of the storm.  Most of all I remember the excitement and fear of waiting for that next explosion of thunder, knowing it was coming but never really being prepared for the start it would give me.  

I also remember the comfort of my parents bed in the middle of the night when a summer storm would wake me from my dreams.  The feeling of this love and support from my parents, who undoubtedly preferred for me to sleep in my own bed, is brought back by every thunderstorm I have encountered as an adult.  Of course I am sometimes still startled by thunderstorms, and I sure don't need to sleep in my parents bed now, but the heart pumping crashes of a raging storm often serve as a trigger to this precious memory.

Thunderstorms are often nature's outcast, crashing pool parties, ruining picnics, and weddings.  I have had my fair share of rants at thunderstorms, but have yet to meet one that doesn't conjure memories of days past.  So I will forgive thunderstorms for their bad reputation, just as long as they continue to provide me with memories I cherish.

*As I predicted, I am finishing this post, I hear quiet and distant rumblings as the storm has moved past.   

Thursday, July 15, 2010

30 looks good from here....

So I turned 30 today.  There I said it...the big 3-0, I am now a part of the 30 and over group, I can no longer check the box for "ages 20-29", my husband will no longer be married to a woman in her 20's,  I'll probably start getting gray hair*, and now (since most of my friends and family are in their 30's) I officially get to join the cool kids club!

When I was a little kid, 30 seemed so "old".  Everyone I knew who was in their 30's  were just like my parents... and everyone knows that when you are kid your parents are soooo old!  (sorry mom and dad!).  I always thought by the time I was 30 I would have it all figured out, but that seems to be a general consensus.

A friend said to me the other day that the year she turned 30 was the worst year of her life.  She felt like she had not accomplished any of her goals and she was not at all happy.  I thought about this and realized that things in my life certainly did not turn out the way I thought they would.  Sure, I hoped to be married by the big 3-0 and I am so lucky to have found my hubby (the most amazing guy any gal could ask for) but I also expected to be settled in a career, possibly have some kiddos, and be trucking along to the next big milestone. 

Other than the hubby part, none of these things have happened...the career...I had to quit because of the Type I diabetes...the kiddos...well let's just say that is not likely to happen.  But you will see no frown on my face.  Although I am not where I expected to be when I turned 30, I am happy...

I am happy that I have a loving, supportive husband who puts up with me. 

I am happy to be a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, home-maker, bee-keeper, baker, gardener, chicken wrangler, and as of recently a person who cans, or "puts up" her harvest.

I am happy that I am healthy and strong and managing my Type I diabetes with increasing ease.

I am happy to be at a point in my life where anything could happen.

And I am happy to be 30 (yes it's true).

I am also really happy about the chocolate stout cake baking in my oven as I write this...Happy Birthday to me!

Truly, isn't happiness all that really matters?  Who says we have to have a blueprint for our life, age shouldn't be a milestone it should be a badge wear proudly.  I intend to do so  (ask me how I feel about that when I am turning 40!)  Anticipation of what life will bring is an overwhelming feeling.  I can't say that this decade will be the one where I figure everything out but I can truthfully say I am looking forward to seeing what the years ahead bring. 

30 sure does look good from here.

*those of you who know me personally will undoubtedly get this joke about getting gray hair...for those of you who have never met me...I've had gray hair since I was in high school, so now you can feel free to laugh at my pun!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

And a special thanks to...

Thank you! Oh! Thank you! I can hardly believe this!  This bucket of cucumbers is so heavy, I just can't wait to make pickles!  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined such a bountiful garden.  I have so many thank-yous, where do I start?  First I would like to thank Legs, Rhodie, and Bandit for providing such wonderful fertilizer....and I would like to thank elbow grease and sweat for helping me and my hubby make such a wonderful plot.  I would like to thank the rain for visiting us every three days, you made such a difference this year.  And last but not least, a very special thanks goes out to our pollinators.  We couldn't have done it without you! 

 Bumblebee on cucumber flower

 A very small pollinator...some type of bee

 Honeybee...holy stinger on that one!


 Pickling cucumbers






Remember the before?

 The jungle that is our garden now...


 The bees have found one of the chicken watering fonts and have deemed this their water source.  Have you ever tried to change a bee's mind about where they get their water?  Let's just say talking sense into a bee doesn't here we have resigned to allowing the bees to use this watering font and have provided a separate one for the chickens!  We owe them that much!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Just add water...

Hubby and I are pretty active folks and when we were dating and early in our marriage we spent many dates biking, hiking, climbing, challenging complete strangers to arm wrestling competitions....well maybe not so much that last one.  But, since my diagnosis of Type I Diabetes 3 years ago, being active takes a little more planning and a lot more "take the fun out of it" preparations and anxiety on my part.  Although we still continue to be active, we often find that our exercise/activity schedule does not really match up, as exercising takes a lot of planning and a pretty consistent schedule on my part.  

Lately we have struggled with finding something we both enjoy doing together.  This should be easy enough but when you want an activity that does not fit into the category or chores, housework, and tending to the many living things we have around here, and an activity that fits into my ebbs and flows of blood sugar numbers, it gets a little tough.  

So when hubby told me he wanted to get a kayak for fishing I jumped on the chance to remind him how much I enjoyed kayaking in college and I how I thought this might be something we would enjoy doing together.  Boy was I ever right!  The great thing about kayaking is that when hubby is fishing there is a lot of lulling around on the water and I drift along in my boat using as little or as much energy as I want (this works great for my blood sugar monitoring!)  So thanks to Craigslist and a trip to the local boat store here are some pictures of our newly acquired kayaks!  

My (new to me) kayak on the left, Hubby's on the right

Maiden voyage

The view doesn't get much better!

From our trip to the coast this past weekend, Hubby in the marina

Paddling in the marsh

Paddling in the marsh, Hubby caught his first ever Red Drum.  He's been trying for 3 years to catch on on our 15 foot fishing boat, one trip out in the kayak and he bags one!

Up close and personal with wildlife, this is why I love kayaking!