Let’s Jam.

Hey ya’ll!

Hope everyone is having a great week. 🙂

Yesterday was a really full day of canning, including chicken broth, zucchini relish and bread & butter pickles, but the only thing I’m gonna bother telling ya’ll about is the blueberry jam. Because.

Oh. My. Blueberries. THE JAM.

Jam is so much more interesting than jelly. It has texture. It has body. It’s like summer in a jar.

So, as I told ya’ll last week, we ventured to a local pick-your-own blueberry farm. Seeing as how we came back with six gallons of fresh, plump, juicy berries, jam just seemed like the thing to do.

And without further adieu, here is the recipe…

 

Blueberry Jam (recipe is easily doubled)

Here’s what you’ll need to have on hand:

3 pints blueberries

3 cups sugar

1 T butter (to keep the mixture from foaming)

1 box Sure Jell fruit pectin

5 half pint canning jars (**While the jam is cooking, I allow my jars to warm up in the canner.)

Water bath canner

 

Instructions:

  1. Place blueberries in a large pot over medium high heat.IMG_2633
  2. When they begin to boil, stir in butter and pectin.IMG_2643
  3. Once the berries reach a rolling boil, stir in sugar and allow to reach a full boil again.IMG_2644
  4. Boil for one minute, stirring. Turn off heat.
  5. Fill hot, sterilized half pint jars with mixture, leaving 1/4″ headspace. IMG_2645
  6. Wipe rims of jars. Attach lids and bands. Process jars in boiling water canner, covered with one inch of water, for 10 minutes.
  7. After processing, remove jars from canner and allow to cool on counter.

 

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Just look at that, would ya? Mmm.

Now, take a big spoon and spread this deliciousness on a homemade buttermilk biscuit, or just eat it by the spoonful. Either way is yummy. 😉

Green beans are on the agenda for next week, so stay tuned! In the meantime, get you some blueberries and make some jam!

Blessings,

Erin

The Ripening Process

“I just don’t think these tomatoes are ever gonna turn red…” says many a gardener, every year.

Isn’t that just like us? Always rushing things.

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The plants are barely in the ground and we wanna be plucking fruit. Results, now. Please and thank you. Oh, and make them ripe, juicy, perfectly round and blemish free. K?

And while we’re at it, could ya throw in a harvest free of disease, weeds, pesky bugs, soil testing and all that jazz, too, because who has time for that?

“Cursed is the ground, because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it…”

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Hmm.

It is a finicky thing, the tomato. As the vine is growing, we must constantly check for signs of blight and other fungal diseases, acting wisely, and in haste, at the earliest signs of a threat. The soil must be tested and amended consistently in order to grow a strong, healthy plant that can stand up to threats of disease and pests. We must give each one plenty of room to grow, never overcrowding, which leads to insufficient air flow and a breeding ground for various issues. The roots need to be deeply watered, but not too often. And daily inspection is required, lest the well camouflaged hornworms destroy the vulnerable new growth of the plant.

Yes, the vine growth stage has many a growing pain. A lengthy and tiresome process at times. And perhaps the very thing about gardening that provides the most life lessons.

But wait, we’re supposed to be talking about ripening fruit, aren’t we? My apologies.

Did you know that the main determiner in how fast a tomato turns red is the variety? The variety of the tomato also determines how long it will take to reach the mature green stage.

Mature green stage. I’m not gonna detour on that. But I so could.

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Just keep in mind that a tomato (or, children & adults, for that matter…) absolutely cannot ripen, no matter how forced, unless it has reached its mature green stage.

And the time it takes for that stage to be reached is different. for. every. tomato. and very dependent on the quality of the vine growth stage.

Know your varieties. Test and amend your soil. Water deeply. Give them room. Tomatoes and kids.

Believe it or not, outside temperature is another factor in the ripening process. We can understand this in the south, surely. How many times have we thrown caution to the wind, planting our tomatoes way earlier than the Good Friday rule of thumb, only to find the loaded vines taking just as long to ripen as everyone else’s?

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Here’s why. Lycopene and carotene, two substances that help a tomato ripen, are only produced between the temperatures of 50 and 85 degrees F. Tomatoes will remain green if it’s any cooler than 50 degrees. Anything warmer than 85 degrees and the process that produces lycopene and carotene is halted. Interesting, yes?

And then there’s ethylene. The third and final part of the ripening trilogy. Ethylene is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas that triggers a tomato to turn red. Only when a tomato has reached the green mature stage does it start to produce ethylene and begin the ripening process.

 

So you see, everything in its own perfectly appointed time.

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We have much to learn here on this earth. Us humans, given dominion over the creation. When will we realize that the very things we are given authority over are touched by the hand of God, and from them flow the most profound lessons, if approached in humility and respect, with eyes to see and ears to hear?

Blessings to ya’ll on this unseasonably cool Sunday… 🙂

 

 

 

This week on the farm…

As usual, it’s been a full week on the farm. Here’s a little of what we’ve been up to this week…

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We harvested our first mess of snap beans early this week…

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We were planning to wean our Nubian kids this week, as they are approaching the age of four months. However, upon weighing them, we weren’t very please with their gain since cutting bottles back. So, we’ve decided to keep them on milk for at least another couple of months in order to breed late fall/early winter.

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Our Cochin hen, Skit, hatched out two of the cutest, tiniest little chicks you ever did see! The girls have lovingly named them Tipper and Skippy. 🙂

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Blossom end rot also reared its ugly head in the garden this week. We have treated this go ’round by inserting 2 or 3 TUMS into the soil at the base of each plant for a quick release of calcium via the root system. Give it a try!

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The unseasonably cool mornings we’ve had this week allowed us a nice trip to a local blueberry farm, where we picked 6 gallons in just over an hour!

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I’ve also been side dressing pepper plants with Epsom salts to increase growth and fruit set…

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And of course, with fresh blueberries comes blueberry cobbler!

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Landry and I check on the swarm hive that we caught last week. Lots of comb being drawn out, as you can see here, but no evidence of brood just yet. Soon though!

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Our purple hull pea patch is looking very nice!

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And the girls even managed to get away from farm chores one cool morning and work on their fort. 🙂

Hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Blessings from the farm… 🙂

Bread & Butter Zucchini Pickles

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Ahh, canning season… One of my most favorite things about spring/summer. 🙂

With all the busyness and bounty that comes along this time of year, we’ve set aside Wednesday as our “canning day”. It’s something I absolutely must schedule for a certain day – else it may not get done. So, it’s my intention to share with ya’ll the recipes we are using each week in our endeavors.

First up…

Bread & Butter Zucchini Pickles

3 1/2 pounds medium zucchini

1 cup thinly sliced, halved onion (1 large)

3 T pickling salt

crushed ice

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 T mustard seeds

1 t celery seeds

1/2 t whole peppercorns

1/2 t ground turmeric

5 pint size mason jars

  1. Wash zucchini. Slice off the stem and blossom ends. Cut crosswise into 1/4″ thick slices. Measure 12 cups zucchini slices.
  2. In an extra large nonmetal bowl, combine the 12 cups zucchini and the 1 cup onion slices. Sprinkle with salt and toss gently to coat. Top with 2 inches of crushed ice. Weight down mixture with a heavy plate. Allow to stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
  3. After the 2 hours has passed, removed any remaining ice in zucchini mixture. Transfer mixture to colander set in sink, drain.
  4. In a 5 to 6 quart stainless steel, enamel or nonstick heavy pot, combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, peppercorns and turmeric. Bring to boiling, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add zucchini mixture. Return to boiling, stirring frequently. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  5. Ladle hot mixture into hot, sterilized pint canning jars, leaving a 1/2 ” headspace. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids.
  6. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (start timing when water returns to a boil). Remove jars from canner, cool on wire racks.

 

And that’s it. A quick and easy something to do with all those excess zucchini. I can’t wait to try them out on a BBQ sandwich!

Ya’ll enjoy, and be inspired. 🙂

Sanctuary Scutwork

A repost from a few years back. Sometimes, old words are the best motivators for new words…

Happy Friday, ya’ll. 🙂

 

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden to work it and take care of it.” – Genesis 2:15

I love that verse. I love the fact that as soon as God breathed life into the nostrils of man, he put the man in a garden. To work it. To take care of it.

I love that the Hebrew word for “work” here is ‘abad. It means so much more than the four letter word we translate it into. Out of the 290 times it is used in the Old Testament, 227 of those times it means “to serve”. To serve! God put man in the garden to serve Him by working the land He provided.

Not only did God put man there to serve Him by working the land, he put him there to keep it. To shamar it. To retain posession of it. To guard it. To observe it. To give heed to it.  To preserve it. To protect it.

Is that not fascinating?!

Well, maybe it doesn’t fascinate you as much as it does me. 🙂  But we take it pretty seriously around here. It’s how we came to name this place where we reside, “The Sanctuary”. A sacred place, and a refuge. This is where we serve God by getting our hands dirty. This is where we worship Him by exercising the skills He has gifted us with. This is where we observe and protect and guard His creation. This is where we retain posession of a parcel of land that is sold out for His work, not ours. This is where we preserve His will for family (Deut 6).

Sssooo, once a week, I’d like to invite you to The Sanctuary. It’s not a long trip. Just to your inbox. 🙂  Come and see what we do and how we live. There are always projects of some kind going on. And we’d love for you to be a part of it!

It’ll be as if you are getting your hands dirty, too. Come alongside…

 

 

 

 

Garden Tip #1

Tip #1 from the “live and learn school of gardening”: Do not ever, EVER, use bermuda grass hay as mulch in your garden. It WILL re-root and come back with a vengeance.

In fact, I’m convinced that Genesis 3:17-19 should actually read as so…

“Cursed is the ground because of you and your so called ‘bright ideas’; through the painful toil of removing roots of bermuda grass hay that you insisted wouldb ea good choice for mulch, you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, as well as masses of super strong root systems that dig deep and hold on tight to the earth, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow and the aching of your back from bending over to pull those stubborn roots you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

And, in all reality, there is so. much. deep. truth. in. this.

One day I’ll expound on it, but, for now, that is all.

🙂

Getting our wide heads stuck in the narrow gate (Life lessons from a cow)

I have come to love, and look forward to, the ways in which Jesus speaks to me through the crazy antics of the animals he has entrusted in our care. Every day there is a lesson to be learned. Or, better yet, the opportunity to recall and put into practice a lesson previously learned.

Last Tuesday morning was no exception.

Carson and I struggled out of bed before daylight, the time change really taking a toll on our bodies. We geared up and headed out for our morning milking. As we walked along, listening to the birds early morning “hello’s”, a cute little calf tail, happily swishing around, caught my eye. My line of sight quickly shifted to the left and there stood Ferdinand along side his momma, nursing away. His swishing tail a sign of delight. This, my friends, should not be. 

See, we do not allow the calf to stay with his momma all day and night. He would take all her milk. So, they reside in separate areas, only to come together for a brief time after morning and evening milkings. In a perfect world, Bess would happily share her milk with us, while having her calf frolic freely with her all day and night. But we don’t live in a perfect world. And the word “sharing” is not in her vocabulary. Anyway…

Carson and I made our way to the barn, frantically discussing all the possible ways Ferdinand could have escaped into the pasture with Bess. Jumped the fence, ran through the fence, climbed the fence… 

Try “none of the above.” It actually didn’t have a thing to do with the fence. Oh, the ironies.

This is what we found.

 

The gate, completely lifted off the hinges, with a narrow opening just big enough for a three week old calf to slip through.

We knew what happened, but didn’t really believe it until we saw it…

I stood right there watching her, dumbfounded. 

A big, wide head wedging its way into the narrow spaces of the gate. 

We had a heart to heart about why she should not be doing this. And I calmly explained to her all the dangers of continuing this behavior. She responded back with a snort and a long, loud “Mmmoooo!!”  

Lesson learned? Negative. She did it again two days later.

As I walked away after the second occurence, the Lord brought Matthew 7:13-14 to my mind. 

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Interesting.

The Greek word for narrow here comes from the root word “histemi”, meaning “to make stand immovable, to place, put, set; to make firm, fix, establish.” In other words, it cannot be changed. 

Once the post holes are dug, the posts are set, the concrete is poured, the support braces are intact… it’s there. The space is created for a specific size gate and it cannot hold a larger gate, nor a smaller one, than what is permitted by the posts that support it. 

But here we come, all wide in our ever changing ways. If we can’t enter the gate in a correct way, we seem, like Bess, determined to get our overgrown belief systems  squeezed through that narrow space  between the rungs. And if that doesn’t work, let’s just rip it off the hinges.

I found the Greek word for wide very intriguing. It comes from the root word “plassos”, meaning “to mold, form; used of a potter.”

It’s the same word Timothy uses to describe how God “formed” Adam and Eve. 

The only problem is this – God is not the potter for the wide gate. We are. 

Overgrown belief systems.  Be it Pharisee in nature, or worldliness. 

And if we continue trying to wedge our wide ways into the narrow rungs of the gate, one day  we might find ourselves stuck. 

But then again, that might not be such a bad thing…