Thursday, April 29, 2010

the fruit of our labor

After a nearer to normal winter than we have had for years here in the south  the fruit trees here on the land are showing us just how close to normal we actually had.  The peach tree has so many baby peaches on it I am positive it will lose some of its older branches.  The last time we had a good crop of them the poor thing broke off most of its old limbs under the weight of the fruit and high winds, even with shaking as many off as we could.  I am not afraid to say we have several hundred peaches forming on the tree at this point. My mouth is watering already over them even if I do have to cut away  sections of them in order to allow the bugs n insects their portions.
 The quince trees/bushes are also having a banner year for fruit. Only one other time have we had a few quince  form on the  bush only to have the deer eat them the night before I was going to harvest them. According to everything I have found while researching our quince here  they are supposed to bear fruit on year old growth. By my own calculations  it is only on two year old growth that they grow. This may be because of our recently past winters and simply not getting cold enough or this is just more of the false information that seemingly abounds on the internet. Of course if they grow on two year old growth the reason we have not been getting fruit on them is because I have pruned them out because of my research telling me to do so. Either way I am not going to complain as a couple of our quince are just loaded with  baby fruits that are not in an area where the deer will get them. I have not checked the tree down where the deer like to nibble and won't. I am perfectly willing to share with the local wild life so long as they are not overly greedy. This will be the first year that I will have the joy of preserving  some quince, from all my research  it seems to be yet another of those lotsa work to get to the end product crops.
The almond and blueberries are also  doing there thing and making some fruit. Both of these fruit providers have undergone some major pruning over the last couple of years and  by next sure should be producing well again. In the mean time we gather what little we can off them and wait til it is their turn to provide us with a bountiful harvest.

The blackberries are just beginning  to blossom. Right on time too as we have just gone through  our blackberry winter. I have only found one plant actually blooming as yet so will be hard to see how well or poorly they should produce this season.

The rhubarb we have is doing crazy things this season. The one plant that grew fast  went immediately to making seed. I of course allowed it because I had never seen one go to seed in all my years  and wanted to see how it went about doing so.  It will give me a chance to save the seed as well so  as long as it is something I can learn from it is all good. The remaining plots of rhubarb are very slow in growing. I  do believe that they and the strawberries will be ripening at about the same. Again I am not complaining, rhubarb only really goes well with strawberries anyway doesn't it?

The strawberries are looking to have a  nice yield as well this season. After starting with just 20 plants a few years ago we are up to  over a hundred now  with plans on adding more each year. After the first year of a yield of  4 berries and last year of having a few quarts to  freeze, this year is looking like we may have enough to even put back a few  jars of preserves too.
 The grapes are just coming in to their leaves on  the trellis and the wild grapes and other wild grape like fruits are also  doing their thing. no idea on how any of the grapes will be doing this year but if the leaf coverage and growth of the wild ones is  any sign it looks to be a good year thus far.

The Oregon grap or Mahonia is starting to ripen. The Mohonia is like a funny looking,evergreen, shiny leaved, prickly thing that produces zillions of bluish purple berries  that can be harvested and turned in to jams and other yumminess. This will be the first year that I actually harvest these for more than just a fun nibble.
 The remainder of our fruits are not yet in the ground. They will be going in here in the next couple of weeks.  This year we are planting watermelon, gooseberry, cantaloupe, tigger melon, thai golden round melon and  piel de sapo melon.  To round out our fruit for the year we usually purchase some cull apples from a local grower. Why grow them  when  you live in the apple capital of the south and can get them  for 5 bucks a bushel and they  can deal with the hassle of bugs, insects and  disease.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

simple supper-pancakes and ham

We enjoy breakfast for supper on occasion and more often than not it is pancakes  with a bit of meat and some fruit either on top or  served to the side. Total cost for the two of us for our supper and another morning of pancakes is about a $1.25 a rather expensive  meal or two  for us in all actuality. From start to finish, prep and cooking  it takes about a half hour once we get the fire hot.

The other night when we  made them we had dandelion pancakes with dandelion syrup, a couple slices of ham  and we were going to have melon  but I never got around to fixing it.  To make the pancakes  I just use whatever recipe I  use for regular pancakes and substitute 1 cup of the flour with one cup corn meal  and add a cup of dandelion petals to the mix. I also replace the sugar in the recipe with  dandelion syrup.  This makes for a very healthy  pancake no matter what time of day.

around the homestead-making sausage

Yesterday  we butchered bunnies so today  we made us some sausage. Since rabbit is a very lean meat I added some pig fat to  the meat when we ground it. When I browsed sausage making recipes and seasoning mixes to refresh my memory since I have not made fresh sausage in about 18 years, most of the recipes had a 1 to 1 ratio of either bacon or bacon fat to rabbit meat. That seemed like too much fat to me so we went with a 3  or so parts meat to one part  fat back ratio. I cut that into  bite size chunks and ran it through our tiny grinder.  Next we cut the meat bit into  manageable chunks and ran that through the grinder.
Once we got all the meat and fat ground through  once I mixed with my hands a bit and then  added our spice mix. I didn't use a recipe when it came to adding the seasonings, I just threw spices and seasonings until it seemed about right. I added maybe a touch too much of salt but other than  that my eyeball served me well. I tossed in some sage, cumin,sea salt, pepper,a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg  and some grated garlic and ginger. Manthing doesn't care for much sage flavoring while I don't care for spicy sausage. If I had some apples I would haved diced them up in there too. Here is a site with  several sausage recipes and here is one with  hundreds.

Once the spices were mixed in by hand  we ran it through the grinder again to mix it in  better.  Since we were having some of it for supper this evening I made them in to patties. The remainder I put in  saran wrap and rolled into logs  and once it is frozen  I will slice it into serving sized portions.

Tonight we had  our patties  with some  rice and okra

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

poison ivy and jewel weed - oil-soap-salve and ice cubes

Since I tend to have an on going case of poison ivy from spring  until fall each year I decided   this year instead of running out and buying enough poison soap for an army I would just make my own.  Lye soap in itself is supposed to be good for washing the oil from the poisons off but jewelweed  is supposed to be one of the best plants known  to treat poison ivy or oak.  By simply infusing the jewelweed in oil and then replacing some of the oil in the soap recipe it will give me the same bars of soap that are sold in town for anywhere from 5 bucks  to 9 bucks  a bar.

For someone like me  it is the best solution since I have no insurance to keep running to a doctor, don't want to go to a doctor  and I am always playing in the stuff and always have at least a few spots of poison. I get it in my hair I believe and because I can't wash my hair daily nor would I if I had the ability, I tend to spread it about in small patches. I also get it on me from petting the dogs that run through it  while guarding us from  evil monsters in the woods. Thankfully I don't ever get too bad of a case but just enough of it to make me itchy, scratchy n cuss a bunch. Now I can  come in from outside and not worry about using 10 bars of  the soap through the summer as it only cost me a few bucks   to make enough for a few years and I know exactly what I am using. I can also use it  on my hair to get the oils off as needed.  

Since I was doing a few things at once today, I made the  soap in the crock pot as it just makes things so much easier.  I halved the recipe, replaced 1/2 of the oil with infused jewelweed oil  and added a bit of  ground oat meal just before putting it into the molds.  Some folks prefer to make a tea  from the jewelweed and use that in place of the water in the soap recipe. I prefer the oils because I use the oil for other things besides the soap, by making the tea I am  limiting what I can do. No matter what you use your soap will turn out a light brown color so it isn't the prettiest of soaps.

To make a salve   that can be used to dab onto  insect bites, rashes, etc take one cup of infused oil and mix with  1 ounce of beeswax that has been melted. Cool and place in air tight container. Jewelweed is good for many skin irritations from acne, to hives, bug bites, stings or just plain sensitive skin. Like wise a simple dab of oil works well too. The salves work great in first aid kits or travel bags because of their light weight.

Another simple use for jewelweed is to make a tea from the leaves and flowers and make ice cubes to  rub over an affected area. These work well for littles as they can get all messy while being healed. The plant itself can also be picked fresh and used. Crush  the stem  and rub it on the poison ivy affected area, just remember that often times jewelweed and poison ivy grow in the same location.

Jewelweed  seeds are edible  although not something you would want to go and pick for  harvesting and making a meal of. They are something fun to show others and for a little trail side snack they are pretty tasty.