Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Favorite "New" Kindling Source

Willow tree twigs make the best fire starters!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Planting Preparation

James hooked up his tiller and went to work.   The existing garden space had been taken over by weeds and grass, so he tilled up the old space... and more than doubled it.  We might be drowning in produce next summer if we actually plant all this!

He also knocked down a tree.  I prefer the saw method, but I'm not a man.

Finally, the future strawberry bed was tilled up.

If I can get my act together, we'll spread some clover seed.  I understand full well that I am very late in the season to be doing this, but when I'm pregnant, I am forced to recognize my limits.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fall Preserving

James requested apple cider, and since I just happened to have boxes of apples around, I cooked down some apples for cider.

I still have two boxes of apples left.  I think there will be more apple chunks, cider, and leather in our future.

Here's the pulp after straining.

While I was photographing, it just so happens the cider was in the canner.  Just trust me, its pretty pink color and rich apple/cinnamon/cloves smell will be worth the wait.

We've been decorating cookies too.

And since I started the canning around 6 am, the cat thinks she should come in.  Think again, Andromeda, think again.  No pets in my house, and you're a work animal, not a pet.

Since I was brewing, baking, and otherwise humidifying a cool kitchen, the bones from last night's chicken were combined with some apple butter, garlic, carrots, and onion for broth.  I'm trying to work up my courage to attempt pressure canning.

I can't bear to waste the pulp, so last night I ran it through the food mill before straining to separate the peels and seeds.  This will be dehydrated for apple leather.  James loves it too.

It's a good All Hallow's Eve!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Last Apple Harvest for the Year

with a few pears and hedge apples thrown in for good measure.

Tomorrow, we're canning apple rings (hopefully), and we even have help!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Garlic Planting

I'm a little late, but had a bit of fiasco with my attempt to order new garlic to plant this fall.  The summary: the company wouldn't be shipping my garlic until early November.

So today, after admiring the asparagus for a time (we were delighted to discover an overgrown asparagus bed when we moved in), I cleaned out the weeds, grass, and dead iris foliage to make space for my garlic planting.

We love garlic, and I love that planting it in the fall leaves me one less thing to do in the spring.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pepper Preserving

Too many peppers were shriveling on the counter, so it was time to cut them up for drying and powdering for chili powder.

I don't stick to just chilis or just hot peppers.  Anything's game, since the blend is always different from year to year.

All the peppers are laid out on the trays, and the dehydrator is sitting outside for today as the smell of drying peppers makes my preggo nausea kick in in an awful way.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Since moving, there are many activities that have fallen by the wayside.  In the last few weeks, here are a few that I've been working to revive...

Home cooking, involving more than just pasta or rice.  I have a hard time cooking when I'm nauseous, and I'm more nauseous when it's hot, so guess what happened...  No cooking.  In the last few weeks, though, I've made homemade pizza (success), Spanish rice (success for the adults), and enchiladas (another success).  Fortunately, returning to cooking also means James has a greater supply of leftovers from which to choose his lunch.

Making bread.  This morning, I mixed up a batch of "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day."  Tonight, I bake.

Grinding wheat.  I haven't ground wheat since before we moved.

Pathetically, peeling carrots.  I went to the grocery store today and bought another bag of carrots.  Then I came home and peeled the old bag, relieved that carrots survive in the crisper drawer so long despite my neglect.

Next up, some yard work!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apple Raiding

I think, in the relief from the heat, our plants and trees are confused.  Here is a blooming "Delicious"-type apple tree.  It's September!
Last year, I purchased 200 pounds of "juice grade" apples to make applesauce, apple butter, and juice.  We split this with the family at Secondhand Ranch, and decided that 200 pounds was only half of what we needed for a year's worth of apple canning.

This year, at our new house, we've found two nearby families who have productive apple trees but will not be picking any of them!  So far, Q and I have gone twice to fill a bag with apples and walk home.  I estimate we walk about 1/2 mile total each trip, and with 20+ pounds of apples in the bag, this may not be the most efficient method for picking apples for me, at 24 weeks pregnant.  Still, if I drive, I'm not getting exercise.  If I take a wagon, I'm afraid the kids will want to ride on the way home, and I'm certainly not up to 50+ pounds of apples plus 25-60 pounds of children (depending on how many are with me).  Bags it is!
"Pick!  Pick!"  he said and gifted me with these flowers.

Tasting apples for quality!
So far, the family together harvested 20 pounds, Q and I picked up 27 yesterday, and today Q, the Screamer, and I picked up 24.  There are plenty more apples, and we have many more days to harvest.

I'm piling up the rejects so when I return, I don't have to pick through them again.
Bag full of apples

Today I made one batch of applesauce, 4 quarts.  I need a bigger pot!  The canner can hold 7 quarts, but my pot to cook down the apples can only hold about 16 pounds at a time (3/5 of a batch).  When we work at Secondhand Ranch, Myle has propane burners outside and HUGE stockpots to cook down the apples.  We can really get  moving then!

My second problem is my food mill.  It needs to be clamped onto a counter or tabletop.  At our old house, I had to clamp the food mill onto the counter above my dishwasher, which was inconvenient as it required having the washer open.  Here, my counters again are not deep enough to clamp.  My table? It has an angle edge, so the clamp will not stay.  Someday, I will design my own kitchen for canning, and part of it will have deep-lipped counters for just such tools!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Winter Heating

Uncle Bruce needs some help with wood this winter, so James suggested we visit the garden waste dump and fill our truck and trailer with wood to split.  We also need a supply of wood, as the house being on the market and moving prevented us from stocking up last spring/this summer!  Everyone got in on the act, although I stuck mostly to photo shooting.  Lifting wood usually ends in a pulled round ligament around my growing belly!

Little Miss Independent

Look at that strong boy!

I can do it!

Deer on the way home
I thought I snapped a picture of the awesome teamwork I witnessed between the girls, but I guess it didn't turn out, as I don't have one on the camera.

Now it's time for James to do some splitting!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.   It's Purgatory Ranch.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Learning Curve is Steep...

 ... but, oh, so worth it!

A brief evening at Purgatory Ranch learning the ins and outs of our new machinery while the children enjoy the cooler weather!

The Assistant took care of pictures of the evening!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Newest Member of the Ranch

I'm hoping James will tell the story himself (SOON!), but until then...

As it always works with James, he:
  • needed a trailer for the tractor he was receiving as a birthday present.  Driving down the road on the way to purchase the tractor, he found a trailer that had been set out for sale less than an hour before.  He bought it at a great price.
  • went shopping Labor Day weekend.  All tractor stores were closed for a long weekend.  James knocked at the door of his preferred store, was greeted by the owner, and bought a tractor from a closed store.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Potato Harvest 2012 Results

VERY belatedly...

Potato Type Seed Weight Yield Ratio
Dakota Crisp 15 58  3.867
Red Norland 5 52 10.4
Yukon 10 12 1.2
Kennebec 31 35 1.13
Viking 15 28 1.866
Misc. 10 66.5 6.65
All-Blue 5 42 8.4
TOTALS 40 293.5 7.3375

There's some monkey business with reformatting by blogger, but at least the numbers are here:

We had great yields of All-Blue and Red Norland (1:8.4 and 1:10.4).  Our leftover potatoes also produced well, especially considering that we could have (and would have) just discarded those potatoes in the compost bin.  Kennebec, Yukon, and Viking, planted in the new, less fertilized bed, had pretty lousy yields.  All told, our average was 7 pounds of potatoes for every pound of see potato we planted.  This is better than we've done in years past... we must finally have the compost about right in the original bed.

We also yielded 27 pounds of large onions.  Some rotted after our delay in harvesting, so next year we hope to do even better!

Garlic was only mediocre, but it was rather weed-stricken and less composted.  This fall, I hope to compost that bed, and on we go!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Canning Strawberries

In an attempt to move away from preserving fruit only in the form of jam, I've been buying and juicing lemons to make strawberry lemonade concentrate.

Par for the course, the yield was lower than predicted in the book (5 pints and 1 1/2 pint instead of 6 pints).  My stick (immersion) blender that was such a labor saver in making the tomato sauce saved me more dishes again. Ah, I am really glad I have it!  I like that the bulk of the seeds have migrated to the top, as that should make them easy to skim off when I'm ready to reconstitute it.  We have a few delicious possibilities for these jars: use for freezer pops, cold juice in the summer, or mixed with ginger ale or tonic water for a more exciting drink.

Then, because I was going to be heating the canner anyway, I decided to make batch of strawberry vanilla jam.  Next year, I'll try the strawberry balsamic jam, and the next year, I'll try lemony strawberry jam.  It's easy to buy plain jam in the store, so I might as well use my time to make more creative jams.  8 pints (the suggested yield) of delicious jam are now waiting eating and gifting this winter!

All of the strawberries were picked/purchased in the spring, cut up in the appropriate measure for the recipe, and frozen.  Except for the little excitement of a river of thawing strawberry juice on the kitchen floor this morning, freezing the strawberries pre-measured was a great time saver today.  Probably not next year, but the year after we hope to have a large enough strawberry bed to provide our own berries!

Still on the docket for canning, I'll make blueberry jam and blueberry lime jam.  Just not today, or tomorrow either!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tomato Sauce and a Laundry Line

Yesterday, in an effort to use up some tomatoes and not have to freeze them, I canned tomato sauce for the first time.  Out of maybe 20 pounds, I now have 7 pints and 2 1/2 pints of tomato sauce.  Yum!

 We moved into our new house without a dryer.  One is coming, eventually, but in the meantime, I've made do with a drying rack.  Unfortunately (and fortunately), the fall winds are arriving, and small things (like cloth napkins) flutter off the line as soon as they are mostly dry.  Also, we had a brief bout with a stomach bug, and there's no good way to wash multiple sets of bedding and set them out to dry without a new laundry line.

James, so kindly, dug the hole for a new laundry line.  I'm looking forward to using it tomorrow!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.


20 pounds of peaches (this is half of them!)

Add-ins for salsa

Cutting boards for me and my helper

7 pints of peach salsa

Monday, August 6, 2012

Canning Adventures

Belatedly, as this took place in early July...
Cucumbers shredded for relish

Onions cleaned, to be diced for relish
Dye for lime pickles

First round of cherries being washed.  36 lbs total

Various pitting tools...
We broke the spring-loaded pitter, and in the breaking decided how we would completely redesign it.
By the end, we were pretty efficient with knives.

No words...

My first canning casualty, it exploded promptly on being placed in the canner.
What a sticky mess!

End of the day...
Many, many jars of sweet cherries in light syrup
One batch of lime pickles
One batch of relish.

Onions were grown at Purgatory Ranch.  Pickles came from our in town garden or (mostly) from our good friends.

With gratitude to the friends who picked up the cherries, cut the onions, and pitted the lion's share of cherries (this includes James!), I declare we had a successful canning day, even for the two pregnant women involved.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.