Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pretty Colors of Summer in the Kitchen

As the canning of pickles, tomatoes, and green beans continues, I decided to stop for a moment and appreciate the colors of summer in the kitchen as we prepare vegetables for the canner and the freezer.

Sometimes I have to wonder how red, green, and gold became xmas colors when they are so obviously summer colors.

Yes the table was a bit of a mess, but when three children need lunch and you are the middle of preparing vegetables for processing, things aren't always perfectly tidy for an impromptu photo session. 

Spices waiting to be mixed with vinegar so they can get poured over the cumbers and be melded altogether into the most wonderful dill pickles.

More of those holiday colors contained in a bucket of summer

A day's picking. If you look close at the basket you will see a small tomato that should have went to the chickens instead of coming in the house. Even our abundant garden is not perfect and the chickens happily take care of any veggies that are past their prime for what ever reason.

Oat Bucket Farm Website

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pickles, Tomatoes, and Jelly, Oh My!

Yesterday we canned dill pickles, and oh my goat they smelled so good! They are also incredibly pretty with all of their colors, seasonings, and sprigs of dill. We also got the first few jars of tomatoes ran through the canner. Our tomatoes are producing, but the plants don't look as good as they could (see the post before this one). I hope they give us enough. We also made peach jelly and put up several jars of that. 

Quart jar of pretty dill pickles

Quarts of tomatoes and pints of peach jelly waiting to be carried to the pantry

Green beans and mulberry jelly are slated to be done today. We have spent the last several mornings, doing a garden version of 'downward facing dog' and lunge positions and such while we practically stand on our heads picking grocery bag after grocery bag of green beans. We are being over run by green beans, but we ran short last year, so the abundance this year is welcome. Even if it is a million degrees by nine in the morning.

This life is a lot of hard work, but it's so worth it. I love watching the pantry fill with rows of things we have grown and processed in our little kitchen. I love opening an egg carton to the brown,cream,white, speckled, blue, and green eggs that our chickens lay. And I love seeing the half gallon jars of healthy, fresh milk in the fridge.

Oat Bucket Farm Website

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Battlefield Garden

I think there is a bindweed mother ship and a pig weed mother ship under my place and my garden has become the battle ground as they fight for supremacy. It has been so hot, we can barely get the animal chores done and things picked before we have to seek the relief of the air conditioning. The bindweed mother ship and pig weed mother ship have taken full advantage of the fact that the heat is keeping us from spending good quantities of time ripping their evil minions out by their sorry roots. 

In the battle for the garden, the green beans, cucumbers and squash are holding their own. The tomatoes appear to be on the front lines and are doing their best, but without some help, even they would be in trouble.The bell peppers need lots of help. They just don't have what it takes to stand up to the climbing, strangling onslaught of the bind weed or the shadowing presence of the tree-like pig weed. So that is where we spend the most time weeding, doing our best to shore up the peppers' defenses against the determined and tenacious weed army.

We don't normally have this much trouble with weeds in our garden, but the combination of not getting the straw in soon enough and the heat hitting so early and staying for an extended visit, hampered the head start we usually have on them.  We usually have them under control, before they ever get a root hold in the garden.

Despite the horrible heat, the drought that has forced us to completely replace rainfall with water from the hose, and the evil invasion of bindweed and pig weed, the garden continues to produce well...much to our continued surprise. On two separate mornings we have went into the garden and walked out with thirty pounds of cucumbers. There have been several smaller pickings as well. We have picked and picked and picked green beans. The tomatoes are finally coming ready as well.

We have canned quart after quart of green beans and pickles. Tomorrow we will add canning tomatoes to to the canning of the pickles and beans.

Because we don't have a ton of space, we plant the bush variety of both green beans and cucumbers. We have had so much luck with them, year after year, that even if we ever get a place with more room we will stick with the bush varieties. I am extremely impressed with the Contender bush beans. Even in this heat, and even though they have been producing lots of beans for about a month, the plants still look great and are still putting on tons of beans. The couple of rows of Blue Lakes that we planted look good, but they have barely given a handful of beans. I'm glad most of the green beans are Contenders.

Oat Bucket Farm Website

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Open Faced Veggie Sandwiches

I posted this last year, but its buried back there quite a ways. I thought I would post it again. Now is the time that the gardens are over flowing and the baby goats are being weaned, so there's lots vegetables and milk to be had. Make some of the milk into cream cheese, use the cheese to make this recipe and enjoy!

Open Faced Veggie Sandwiches

16 oz cream cheese 

1 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch Dip seasoning

two pimento stuffed green olives chopped small

a handful of black olives (more or less as you want) chopped small

1 or 2 cloves of garlic chopped small

green bell peppers and onion chopped small - as more or  little as you want but more is better with the bell pepper

two carrots, shredded with a cheese grater

shredded zucchini - however much you want 

Use hands and mix it all together well. Spread on toasted rye bread (whole wheat works nicely too) and top with sliced cucumber and tomato. Serve with celery sticks on the side and enjoy!

Oat Bucket Farm Website

Pickled Beets and Jelly

We pulled quite a few beets from the garden. Wonderful, red yummies. I love pickled beets. Before they can be pickled though, they have to be par boiled. After we were done par boiling, we had several quarts of beet water or rather beet juice. A few cups had to be used in the pickling, but after that there was still quarts of it left. We really didn't want to waste it. I stood there and looked at the juice and thought, beets are tasty and kind of sweet...what about making jelly with it?

After some consideration, we decided this would be an excellent use to put the left over juice to. I jumped on the computer and looked up beet jelly, and sure enough, even though we had never heard of such a thing and beet jelly seemed like a new invention to us, someone else had already thought it. Not only had it already been thought of, but there were numerous recipes for it. I was thankful for the recipes. I would never have thought of putting a half a cup of lemon juice into it.

So armed with a recipe and the beet juice, we went to work. It turned out wonderful! A pretty red in the jar, it tastes absolutely fantastic! I am so happy we didn't have to pour away all of that juice. We had planned to use some in soups and stews and breads, but even with that there would have been too much. Now all of that extra is sitting in jars in the pantry. 

I can tell I will need to grow more beets next year. Not only are pickled beets a much loved food, but now beet jelly is a favorite and often requested jelly. My three year old was trying to eat some straight out of the jar with his hands.

A pint of beet jelly and a quart of pickled beets. The jelly looks so pretty with the sun shining through it.

From the other side. 

Beet Jelly:

4 cups beet juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
6cups sugar
1 box Sure Jell

You can either slice and cook six large beets until done in enough water to make 4 cups, or you can save the juice after par boiling beets for pickling. If you use the water left over from par boiling, save back a beet to cut up and toss in the water and boil until soft for richer color and flavor.

Boil plain water, pour into clean bowl and place lids and rings into the hot water and set aside.

Add lemon juice to the beet juice. Mix in Sure Jell and bring to a boil. Stir in sugar and stir constantly until it reaches a boil again. Continue stirring while it boils hard for 3 minutes. Ladle into clean jars (really? Do clean jars really need to be mentioned? Is there someone actually out there that would ladle it into dirty jars?) Fish lids and rings out of their bowl of hot water, place them on the jars (after making sure to wipe clean the rim and threads on the jar). Water bath them for 5 minutes. Remove from water bath and let cool.

Oat Bucket Farm Website

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chard Is So Pretty!

We have cut tons and tons of chard. It is holding up amazingly well in the awful heat we have been having. Its wonderful in salad, but there is no way we can eat that much salad fast enough to consume it all before it goes bad. So a bunch went into the freezer. We treat the leafy tops like spinach when we blanch and freeze it. The stalks we treat like broccoli when we blanch and freeze it. We eat the stalks like any other vegetable. The leaves we use like we would frozen spinach. It goes into dips, manicotti, enchiladas, etc. Usually right along with spinach.

A piled sink full, waiting to be washed.

So pretty!

Stalks waiting to be blanched.

More pretty leaves.

Leaves blanching

Blanched,cooled,and waiting to be bagged and frozen.

More pretty stalks.

Another beautiful leaf. They make really pretty additions to salads when fresh.

Oat Bucket Farm Website

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Graduation and Goodbye

I meant to post this a couple of weeks ago, but things got really hectic. Now that life has leveled out a bit and I have time to breathe, I can get back to blogging.

The graduation part of the title refers to the Jr chickens. They got big enough to graduate to the big chicken pen! They are very happy being able to run around and hunt down bugs. They are proper looking chickens now. They have all of their feathers and are just smaller versions of the older ladies.

And now for the goodbye. We buried Lucy, one of our flock matriarchs last night. She was seven years old and still laid an egg on occasion. She was my favorite hen. She came here as a day old chick and lived her entire life here. I don't know if it was old age that took her, or if she just couldn't take the constant triple digit temperatures. Either way, it was sad to find her departed from this world during evening chores. RIP Lucy, you will be missed old girl.

Oat Bucket Farm Website