June 26, 2012

June on the Homestead

I don't know about where you are, but it has been HOT here.  Missouri hasn't seen 100° temps here in June since the 1950's.  We start early in the morning getting everything soaked down, critters fed and fully supplied with cold, fresh water and then hightail it into the house before noon if possible.  With temps like these though, the critters have to be checked on all afternoon to be sure none of them are suffering from the heat.  Yesterday we even put fans on the chickens it was so bad, not sure what the humidity was, but it was high.

Here are some odds and ends of what we attended to this morning:

Grape Tomatoes

Cucumber and Green Bean Patch
(Straight Eight and Dasher Cucumbers and Strike Green Beans)


Thai Peppers
(Cute little plants, but I'm not sure what to use them for)

Orange Bell Peppers

Tabasco Peppers
(Not quite sure what I'll do with these either)

Winter Onions
(Walking Onions)

(Planted late in hopes of missing the squash bug cycle)

Roma Tomato Patch
(Two dozen plants left to grow willy nilly)

Kale for juicing!

One can never have too many Hollyhocks...

Our mystery melon...
(Any produce last year that wasn't consumed or preserved went to the chickens.  This spring I was delighted to find all kinds of mystery plants where our chicken tractor happened to be last fall.)

Big Beef Tomatoes
(Covered in Diatomaceous Earth for the Aphids)

This is your red flag.  Here is a perfect example of what to look for before the leaves on your tomatoes begin to disappear.  This is hornworm droppings.  If you watch carefully, you can spot this on your leaves and remove the worms before they devour your plant in two days.  Believe me, it doesn't take long at all!  Once you spot this, get down on your knees and look at the underneath of the leaves just above the droppings.  The big green worms should be easy to find!

See, there he is.  He was on the leaf just above his droppings.  (See the Aphids? Not as easy to get rid of as the worms.)  Feed these big, juicy worms to your chickens and they will love you for life.  Whatever you do, catch the worms early!

And last but not least, here is a fella that has never had his picture taken before:

This is our daughter's beloved rabbit, Pippen.  Her grandfather and her constructed this handy dandy pen for him which includes a back and sides that can be closed up or let down depending on the weather.  She absolutely fell in love with him at the pet store.  They told her he was a dwarf bunny and she spent $30 of her own money on him.  We soon discovered how clueless the local pet store people are when he grew into an almost full size rabbit that she could've gotten from our neighbors for $5.  Lesson learned but either way, she loves him and that's what counts.

I hope you are managing to stay cool today!  If you have any suggestions what I can do with those hot Thai peppers....please let me know!!

June 25, 2012

Canning Blackberries

Having just barely gotten past our Blueberry season, the Blackberries are ripening!  These pictured here are the thornless and tame blackberries that are famous for getting bigger than your thumb.  We have gotten truly spoiled with this variety.  

A few weeks back, even before blueberry season was over, a dear friend of ours called to invite us to pick his wild blackberries on his homestead.  I've never seen so many wild blackberries!  There must've been acres of them.  You could pick all week and not be able to tell you picked at all!  We did not hesitate to jump at the chance.  They are delicious!  I have to admit, they are more sweet than these tame ones pictured here.  The only problem with the wild ones is that we braved the thorns and the ticks and the chiggers.  For those of you in the northern territories, chiggers are nasty little critters that you will never forget if you get in a mess of them.  They'll turn your ankle so raw before you ever know what bit ya!

Needless to say, after two trips to the wild blackberry patch to get the most tastiest blackberries I've ever eaten, three nasty tick bites and one round of antibiotics, I think we'll stick to the tame blackberries growing right here on our own homestead.  However, I must say thank you to our dear friend who not only opened his fields to our family, but also fixed us an extremely delicious homegrown meal of grilled steak and chicken fajitas, before we braved the wilds.

My favorite thing to do with blackberries is to flash freeze them on a cookie sheet and then drop them into a labeled freezer bag for future smoothie use.  While looking for new blackberry smoothies recipes, I came across some yummy sounding ones I thought I'd share with you.  

Doesn't this one look delicious??  It is a Blackberry Banana Mint Smoothie from Eat Good 4 Life blog.  We grow all kinds of mint and I'm always excited to find a new recipe that I can use the mint in.  I'll be mixing this one up as soon as this post is finished.

Here is a simple but good Blackberry Banana Smoothie recipe from Taste of Home that only has 4 ingredients.  What an easy breakfast!

Cooking the blackberries down for canning blackberry jam, they look a little more like raspberries than blackberries.  Click the Blackberry Jam Recipe link for my EASY tried and true recipe that we make every year.

The recipe uses 7 quarts of blackberries.  You may not want to make that much at one time, so just figure 1 cup of sugar for every quart of blackberries.  You'll never go back to store bought jam!

Here is a little added bonus recipe, one that I found in searching for new canning recipes.  It is called Maple-Brown Sugar-Bourbon-Blackberries.  YUM!!  Anything that uses brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and bourbon......count me in.  I do not usually use alcohol unless marinating meat with red wine, but this sounds really good and the alcohol will cook off.  You can find the complete recipe at Life Currents blog.

Now it's your turn!  Tell me what your favorite thing to do with blackberries is!  Leave me a link to your favorite post on blackberries.  

Later this week we will be heading to another friend's orchard to pick peaches.....I can't wait!  The thought of popping open a jar of fresh peaches at the dinner table this winter is pushing me to pick as many bushels as possible!  

Happy Canning!

June 12, 2012

Preserving Blueberries

Glorious Blueberries!!

Not only are Blueberries totally delicious, they are extremely healthy too.  Blueberries are known to have the highest antioxidant of all fresh fruit.  They are full of Anthocyanin, Vitamin C, B Complex, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Copper, Selenium, Zinc, and Iron.  In case you need more convincing, see the Top 10 Health Benefits of Blueberries on the Women's Fitness site.


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