Saturday, October 29, 2011


This year was my first year making pickles.  I've never had enough cucumbers to make into pickles, but the greenhouse really performed well this year, I picked about 3 5-gallon buckets full.  I used the Seedsavers heritage pickling cucumbers.  Have I ever told you how much I love my greenhouse?

The first batch I made were sweet pickles.  I couldn't decide on a recipe, so I took a shortcut and bought some Mrs. Wages mixes. 

I used my mandoline to slice them uniformly, then packed my hot jars and processed in a boiling water bath. 

The eldest loves pickles and has been asking for weeks to try them.  I was a little nervous having never made them before (and cheating by using the mix which did NOT smell like sweet pickles when I made them!!)  I took a bite and LOVED it, the girl?  She was expecting dill pickles and was completely disappointed to find that they were sweet and 'yucky'.  The hubby and I really enjoyed them, though!
The next batch is going to be kosher dills.  I am going to do a mix of slices (for our homegrown hamburgers) spears, and slices to go with sandwiches.  

 I hope they pass the 7 year old's taste test!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Final garden harvest

It's forecasted to get down into the 30's at night this week, so I needed to harvest all the remaining produce out in the garden.  It always makes me sad to see the end of all my hard work (and yet, I'm looking forward to the rest!). 

My 12 little tomato plants really outdid themselves this year.  This is the first year we've produced more than a couple tomatoes, I think I brought in about 200 pounds of fruit. 

I have 4 large boxes filled with totally green tomatoes in layers, 2 filled with slightly orange ones (hopefully they'll all survive after the baby gets done touching them all).  I'm looking up recipes for pickled green cherry tomatoes. 

We've been busy canning them and making spaghetti sauce.  Since our wind generator died again 2 weeks after we got it fixed, I haven't been able to dehydrate the peels as I did before, so I'm saving them in freezer bags for when I can run the dehydrator again. 

I picked a bunch of zucchini, which I plan to shred, then freeze to make into bread in the coming months.  My other plan was to dehydrate those as well, and 'spike' our meals with the yummy goodness, but that is also on hold.

We still need to go pick our pumpkins.  I planted a 'giant pumpkin' plant, and got exactly 1 large pumpkin from it and a lumina pumpkin plant, which grew 4 small pumpkins.  Perfect for our family of 5!  Next year, I hope that we can grow more, since we all love roasted seeds.  My hubby loves pumpkin pie, so maybe I'll plant some sugar pumpkins, too.

My corn never did well, the heritage popcorn did the best, and I'm able to harvest a couple ears to save and plant next year. 

My watermelon plant finally produced 2 melons.  I left them outside to ripen as long as possible and they are very sweet. 

The greenhouse still is growing beets, leeks, cabbage, pickling cucumbers and carrots, the frost shouldn't affect them, so I have some time left before I need to process those!

I'm participating in the Homestead Barn Hop.  Feel free to peruse other blogs, I know this is my favorite part of the week.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Home maintenance: Skylight Replacement

One of the joys of being a homeowner is doing maintenance.  When we first bought the house we knew that the original owners had removed a skylight in the bathroom over the garden tub.  Unfortunately, after the first winter, the skylight in the kitchen started to leak.  We patched it, knowing that in the future we'd have to either replace the skylight or remove it altogether.  I really like the additional light in the kitchen and it saves on energy, which is important to our off-grid lives.  We would forget about the leak in the dry months, only to be wetly reminded once fall came around again and the bucket came out to catch the drips.  For a time, we would cover the roof with a tarp (and some tires and concrete blocks to hold it down)....oh yeah....we looked pretty tacky!

Finally this summer, my hubby decided to remove it and I convinced him to install a solar tube in it's place.  

My feeble attempt to contain the mess.

When he removed the skylight, he discovered that the roof was badly damaged and a large area would have to be replaced.  Also, that night it decided to rain for the first time in weeks, so out came the tarp again!  I felt like I had OCD trying to keep up with the falling drywall and dust, along with keeping the baby out of the kitchen. 

After replacing the roof, he installed the solar tube, but he declined to tackle the drywall.  For some reason in our area it's incredibly difficult to find a contractor to do work, even the simplest project is a hassle trying to find someone. 

After a few weeks of contacting drywall installers, we finally were able to have one out for an estimate.  The crew came back the next day and finished it up beautifully in less than 4 hours. 

After a quick coat of paint, it looks perfect and like there never was anything different in that space!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tomatoes: Dehydrating

I saved the skins and seeds from making sauce to dehydrate to make powder.  Why powder?  Well, to add to soups or stews to give it a little tomato flavor, of course!  You can also add it to spruce up your recipes without adding extra liquid.

I placed the skins and seeds on a roll-up tray in a thin layer.

After about 4 hours on high, I used a fork to lift and flip the mass of skins.

I let it dry another 4 hours.  It probably didn't need that long, but I wanted to err on the side of caution.

The next morning, I put it into a quart canning jar and used the bottom of my blender to create it's own canister to grind it up into.

I had to keep shaking the jar to get it to grind, but it only took a couple of minutes to become a fine powder.

The kids were astonished as to how small the skins from over 100 tomatoes ground up into!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tomatoes: Gettin' saucy!

I picked a peck of pickled p....wait, I picked a ton of tomatoes, well, not a ton, but about 20 pounds.   Not bad for the first picking.  I have about 4 times as many green ones still out on the vine.  With this batch, I wanted to try something easy:  sauce.

First I washed them all.

Then cut into quarters.

Don't worry, I separated them into 2 pans, even though I knew they would cook down a lot.
 After cooking on low for about an hour, I ran them through my food mill to remove the skins and seeds.  I saved the skins and seeds for my next project.  The sauce was really thin and filled one pot.

I let it cook all day long.  The smell was tantalizing, it made me hungry for soup or stew, perfect on this first chilly day this fall.  I cooked it down to about half.

I used the Ball Canning guide, adding 1 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice per pint, then placing them in a boiling water bath canner for 40 minutes (I had to add extra time due to our elevation).

I only got 6 pints out of this batch, I could have cooked it down farther, but I was tired of stirring it periodically all day to prevent it from burning, and frankly, I didn't want to stay up late watching the canner.  I love the color!