Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Same Old, Same Old

Nothing new to report around here. Keeping busy with kids, harvesting the tomatoes and green peppers from the garden, canning the tomatoes...

We went to the store on Sat in the big town and the grocery store had excellent-looking white corn on sale 4/$1 so I caved and bought another crate-- 48 ears. We ate some for dinner, made fresh corn fritters for another dinner and I need to can the rest today. On Sunday, the same grocery store had ads in the paper and the corn is now on sale for 6/$1!! agh! I just might get one more crate of corn...

We had Maisie the dog spayed last week. Poor girl. She gave me such a pitiful look with those brown eyes of hers when I picked her up from the vets in the evening. A couple of days easing into her favorite chair and taking it easy and now she's back to her old self again. We take her in tomorrow morning to remove the stitches and get a rabies shot for her.

The vet is nice; holistic and homeopathic. We found them online and they are not too far for us to drive, we have to leave an hour before the appointment to get there on time. A very hippie sort of house converted into a vet's office. My kind of place. When you go in, there's peace signs and pictures of animals on the walls; an old church pew painted sky blue; an owl puzzle glued together and hung on the wall. Probably not the most sterile of places, but it looks clean and the vet assistant was very nice and easy for me to lip-read and understand. We went through a spay/neuter organization that helps low-income people to get their pets fixed and they were on the list of participating vets. I think we will keep them as our permanent vet for our other animals, I felt very at ease there and so did Maisie.

We took her to another vet previously, and the entire time, Maisie growled. It got to the point that the vet felt the need to muzzle her. It was kind of funny to see her in a muzzle, her tongue working around the edges trying to figure out how to get it off, and at the same time, I was a little disturbed that she was so nervous being there and the vet and his assistant didn't seem to try and calm her or ease her fears. At the vets where she was spayed, she didn't growl once, and only barked when the cat sleeping on the fax machine moved and caught her attention. Big difference in behavior and I'm going to follow her cue and continue to take Maisie there.

We can learn a lot from animal behavior. I have had cats that didn't like a certain person, and I pooh-poohed it and later, I found that person to be not the kind of person I should be friends with. People that my cats adore have usually turned out to be great friends for me, including my husband. The first time I brought him home, I opened the door where my cats were and they ran out and Tiko immediately did the cat thing between Andrew's legs and purred loudly. Tiga held back a little bit, sizing Andrew up and sniffing his hands and legs before deciding he was OK. Tiko and Tiga were great big Tabby cats, my first on-my-own-away-from-home cats. I miss those big fellas! I'll always have a place in my heart for a Tabby cat.

The day is going fast, so I need to get going and do what needs to be done. See ya next Month! :o)

Monday, August 23, 2010

How To: Wet Walnuts (Walnut Syrup)

If you're like me, you love wet walnuts on ice cream! Yum!

Just look at that spoonful!

The only thing I don't like about buying wet walnuts at the store, is the cost-- ouch!
So, I searched and searched and finally found a recipe to make and can my own wet walnuts!
I've been making my own for quite a while now, and the recipe has been tweaked and changed to the way I like it. Here's the way I make it:

You'll need:

8 cups of light brown sugar (for no measuring, buy 2 bags of brown sugar 32 oz or 2 pounds each)

2/3 cup corn starch

3 tsp maple extract

16 cups of walnuts

6 cups cold water

You'll also need your canning supplies plus 10 clean pint-size canning jars and lids.

{Makes 10 pints}

Dump your brown sugar in a large pot and add corn starch.

Add the maple extract

Add the 6 cups of cold water and whisk to combine ingredients.
Bring to a boil.

While waiting for the syrup to boil, get your clean jars and fill with walnuts. Divide the 16 cups of walnuts evenly into 10 jars.
I like to tap the jars on the counter to help settle the nuts and then add a few more, pressing firmly to make sure there is at least 1-inch headspace.

When the syrup starts to boil, let it boil at least 10 minutes.

Using the jar funnel, ladle the hot syrup into each jar, until it reaches the top, leaving 1-inch headspace. Wipe rims, cap with lids, then place into canning pot.

10 jars fit nicely here.
Cover and bring to a boil. When boiling starts, can for 10 minutes.

Let sit in canner off the heat for a little bit, then remove and cover with a towel to keep from cooling too fast. When cool, check for sealed lids and store in a cool place.

Once you open a jar, keep in the fridge.
Incidentally, this is also the recipe for my pancake syrup, just keep out the walnuts.
When I had the wet walnuts in the canner, I made another batch of syrup.

I love yard sales, where else can I pick up a 1/2 gallon Atlas jar for 25 cents??

The syrup recipe will make 3 quarts. I pour 1 quart into the old syrup bottle and 2 quarts in the 1/2 gallon jar.

Store in the fridge and refill the syrup bottle as needed.

Let me know if you make this and how you like it! This also makes nice gifts for people and you can use those smaller 1/2 pint jars instead.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Catching up

* None of the fallen feathers from the chickens go to waste around here. The kids like to gather them up and make things with them. Cat toys are the main project, but Evelyn crafted this indian hat and was so proud of it. With all the sales on school supplies going on, I am stocking up on plenty of markers, crayons, pens, construction paper, and glue. Glue goes fast around here and we have already used up one bottle within a week of purchasing it!!

*Sylvia's 'attachment' preference is tape. Lots of it!! She uses so much of my tape that I have to hide it or else it will be gone. On one of our little visits into town, we decided to let the kids have fun in the dollar store and pick one item each to get since they had behaved well that day. Sylvia picked tape! 8 rolls of tape for $1! I tell ya, that was the best thing she could have ever picked! She likes to wrap little toys in construction paper ( trying to get her to switch to newspaper) and lots of tape to seal it up, then she leaves her "presents" around the house for us to find and unwrap. I swear she uses half a roll of tape just to tape one present! But it's her tape and her dollar, so I'm not saying a word. I try to show her she can use less tape, but she pushes my hands away and keeps at it.

*Andrew has the day off on Sunday, so I am going to butcher a rooster or two for dinner that day. It cannot be put off any longer! Just this afternoon, looking through the window, I caught 4 roosters, taking turns, mounting one poor little hen! Poor girl! I rushed outside and scattered them, but told myself it's time for them to go. The young ones are almost as big as the older ones, and if it wasn't for their non-existent spurs, I'd never be able to tell which is which! Only the two older roos have long spurs.

*Working on a wet walnut how-to post. I should have that up next week. I popped open one of the jars I canned last week, poured some on ice cream and it's so good! I'd like to try it with pecans one day, just substitute the walnuts with pecans. Maybe over the holidays when the nuts go on sale... This is when I miss living in Louisiana where we could pick fallen pecans and fill paper bags full of them for free!

*I think Peter is ready to be potty trained. He keeps taking off the diapers or he sticks his hand down the front of the diapers to play with his willy and then the fit gets messed up and the pee trickles down his legs. After the supply of diapers I have runs out, I'll be switching to training pants and then start potty training. I can see the light at the end of the diaper tunnel!! hooray!! more than 8 years of constant diaper changing and I'll soon be done!

*One of the young hens laid their first egg today! Pretty soon, the other ones will start laying and I should be getting at least 8-10 daily. When I have several dozen, I'd like to try and sell some. Make a sign and hang it out front. I might be able to avoid doing that and sell to friends and family only. Did you see that massive recall on eggs the other day??? Good grief! Makes me happy I have my own chickens.

*My mom feel down twice this week. Makes 3 times this year. Nothing broken or sprained, but she gets sore and hurts a few days afterwards. I need to keep a closer eye on her and get her in for a check-up. I want her to live a good long time, watch her grandchildren grow up and hopefully, she'll live long enough to see her great-grandchildren, too.

*Good news/Bad news:: I got my period/I'm not pregnant! It's never fun or easy when Aunt Flo comes to visit me every month, but when she is here, it's a relief to know I have dodged the pregnancy bullet once again. Andrew has an appointment for a consultation for getting snip-snipped! I can't wait! No more worrying when Aunt Flo is late or having to deal with raincoats anymore! Was that TMI??? :o) It's my blog, I can write what I want!

*It's almost time for that children's consignment place to start up again. I think I'll be selling the kids' out-grown clothes there for sure. The foyer has boxes and boxes of too small clothing they don't wear anymore and it looks like a yard sale is not going to happen this year. I am considering volunteering one day a week with the sale, because she added a new bonus to volunteers this year:: for every hour past the required 4 hours you volunteer, 1% will be added to your percentage of the sale. If you just consign, the percentage you earn from the sale of your goods is 50%; with the volunteer hours, if I worked 2 8-hour shifts, that would net me 12 (16 hours minus the required 4) extra percent to my sales making my total 62%! So if I sold $100 worth of items, I'd get back $62 instead of $50. Makes a difference.

Andrew usually gets 2 days off per week, so if I can leave the kids home with him, get there early and stay most of the day, I could handle a day or two per week and try to volunteer at least 4 days which would give me, hopefully, 48 hours of volunteer time. That would be equal to 44 percent added to my 50 which makes 94%! In the past, money earned from the sale of our items went to pay for car insurance. It sure would be nice to have that extra money again. The sale starts Sept 13th, so that gives me a month to get ready for it.

*It's the weekend! Andrew is working Saturday, so I'll be canning tomatoes in the cool of the morning before it gets too hot. Off to bed for me!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Have You Seen Me?

I love watching Evelyn's mind at work. There are times I can literally see the wheels turning or when that light bulb pops on. She has a little craft box where she keeps her supplies and a particular pair of scissors that she likes to use when cutting her scraps of fabric. She usually keeps it on her dresser, but there are moments when she forgets and leaves it out somewhere-- on her bed, the floor, the table. Her younger sisters and brother love when she leaves it out! They have craft box radar and know exactly when she has left it out.

Anyway, she moaned that her little red scissors were gone. She ranted and raved that one of her sisters or brother took it! She practically wanted me to strip-search everyone to find those scissors. I told her that next time she needs to be more diligent in keeping her craft box put away and I offered (again!) that she could keep her craft box with my sewing box in the cabinet, locked and safely kept away. I assured her that the scissors would turn up eventually, but she couldn't be consoled. She was really upset.She made signs and posted them around the house. I had to laugh at the made-up phone number.
She specifically posted a sign on my dresser in my room, as if I was the one that took her scissors. I swear she gave me the evil eye a couple of times, but I hope it's only because I refused to strip-search the other kids and turn the house upside down.

Eventually, the scissors were found. Turns out, Evelyn was the one that took them outside for an outdoors crafting sessions and left the scissors behind. I found them when we went to the pool and they were in the grass under the table. Good thing they were red or else they'd probably still be out there!
Aren't kids fun?! :o)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Having Fun At The Cats' Expense

This is what we do with our cats around here... dress them up and coo over them like babies.
As long as we aren't hurting the cat and he doesn't run away, we'll play this way with him.

He was starting to get irritated by now.. those ears don't look too happy. We teach the kids to pay attention to animal behavior, to pick up on how the cat feels and don't push it or they'll get bitten or scratched.

Oops, too late! He turned into ZOMBIE CAT!! "I'll get you while you sleep tonight! I'll nibble on your toes and walk on your heads! I'll sit on your chest with my butt in your face! I'll teach ya not to humiliate me and take pictures of me in my poor 'ol misery! Grrrr! Hisss hisss!"

Sunday, August 15, 2010


This is peak canning season for me right now. The corn I got from the farmer is either in jars or in our bellies. I'm kind of sick of corn. First time ever! After I sliced the kernels off the cob, I'd nibble a little bit of the corn that was left on the cobs before I tossed it in the bucket. Imagine working on 5 dozen corn and nibbling just about every other ear... yeah, that's a lot of corn! I couldn't help it! The corn was just so sweet and tasty! Hopefully I'll crave corn again before the end of corn season around here and we can have a few more meals with fresh corn on the cob.

The tomato plants I got from the farm store were mislabeled, I think. I bought several types; always get big boy, romas, and cherry toms. Then I get whatever else strikes my fancy: early girls, better boys, types like that. The big boys were getting nice and big alright, but they weren't turning ripe. I kept waiting for them to change from the orange color to red, then today I realized they were ripe! I had all these huge orange tomatoes almost too ripe! Must have been a mix-up or the markers got switched somewhere along the way. They're good, but I had to harvest quite a bit of tomatoes after supper, so I am unexpectedly making a batch of roasted tomato sauce tonight. I'll throw it all in the crockpot after I roast them and let the crockpot do the cooking for me overnight.
The big orange ones in the upper left corner are the mystery fruit. Any guesses as to what they are?? The cherry toms are also not what I bought. I bought the regular cherry toms, but these are black cherry toms. Very prolific!! The vines grow taller than me and spread across half the fence and I am harvesting bowls and bowls of these little toms! Quite tasty, they seem to have a more concentrated taste of tomato, I like it. I've been throwing them in with the other tomatoes as I can them, we can't eat them fast enough!

Had a lull in the tomatoes the other day, so I made and canned a batch of wet walnuts or you probably know it as walnut syrup. I grew up calling them wet walnuts. My dad loves this stuff, they sold in little jars and he could easily use the whole bottle on a bowl of ice cream and I remember him grumbling when I used some on mine. I understand now, why he grumbled, they're pretty pricey for a little jar. I used up the last jar I canned last year quite a while ago, and have been craving some lately, so I finally got my ingredients together and made some. I'm thinking I'll make a second batch after I pick up some more maple extract. I have more walnuts I need to use up that have been sitting in the pantry since last Fall.
The kitchen counters are covered in jars and garden harvests. Very hard to find clear counter space this time of year. One counter has cases of canned jars that need to be moved down stairs. Another is the holding area for canned jars until I have enough to fill a case. I have a pile of empty jars in the sunroom waiting to be filled. The counters by the stove and sink are buried under tomatoes and peppers and even the stove is hidden under the canner and pots. I kind of like seeing the organized chaos, but I admit, I will be happy to have my kitchen back to normal again.
I'm happy. It's hot and canning is hot work, but I enjoy the whole process. I'm just one of those people that are happiest when they are in the kitchen. After the last couple years of not having enough tomatoes to harvest, you'll hear no complaints from me about being overwhelmed with tomatoes this year! I hope you are having good harvests too!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Good Day

It was a good day today. I was able to head to the grocery store without the kids and I really needed that little bit of time to myself. I dislike waking up to children that say, "I'm hungry/thirsty" to me first thing in the morning, before I even have a chance to get out of bed and get my feet on the floor. Say "good morning" or something first, please! I need a little bit of time to get my engine up and running, go visit the bathroom, get dressed, put on my eyes and ears (glasses and hearing aid) before I resume the mama role.

I don't know, my children seem to have the tendency to stand there looking at me, after calling for me, and I'm staring right back waiting for them to say something. Most times I can handle it, but this morning it was really rubbing me the wrong way, so I was kind of glad I had a chance to run out for a little bit.

We needed more cat food and chicken feed, so off to the local farm store in town. If I drive just a little further, maybe a mile or so, there's the library. I debated going there to borrow movies. Worked out in my head if I borrowed them today, they'd need to be returned on Saturday. Oh what the hell, it's HOT and staying inside where it's a little cooler than it is outside and watching movies sounds good to me.

Right across from the library was a pick-up truck full of corn, a local farmer selling his wares. Hmm, I wondered how much he was selling them for, and if he'd give me a discount for buying a bunch? So I walked over and much to my delight, instead of the standard $5/dozen everyone seems to be charging around here, he'd charge me $4/dozen for buying 10 dozen corn. $40 total. Then the wife said she would knock off an extra $5 to make it $35!! Yes! I was pretty happy with that, so I forked over $35 and then he gave me an extra dozen of "bad corn", where just the tops had been eaten a little by worms, but still good, but you know, people can be fussy. $35 for 11 dozen corn makes me happy-- a better deal than the chain grocery store I had been buying corn from and I saved on gas and taxes, too. Plus, I helped out a local farmer. He even said that by me buying all that corn, might cut his time in the hot sun short, waiting to sell his truckload of corn. So every body's happy!

Then while I was leaving the food store, the construction crew was hard at work, constructing new curbs and the cement truck was partially blocking my way. The construction guy saw me and goes, "Hey baby, you need to get out? You going that way baby?" I nodded and he watched for a space in the traffic and then when I could go, "You can go now baby." Totally made my day. I told Andrew when I got home and he told me I was his baby. Well of course I am! But it's nice when a stranger calls me baby and in a non-creepy way too!

On the way home, I turned up the volume on my old Madonna CD and sang along to songs that I memorized way back in high school. I find it amusing that my girls wonder how I know all the words to the Madonna songs and they don't realize that those songs are older than they are. Needless to say, I came home in good spirits.

I canned some of that tasty corn-- 7 quarts tonight. We'll eat some for dinner tomorrow and I'll work on the rest of it afterwards. I gotta add, I love that pressure canner!! I think with this corn, after I can the rest of it, I'll have enough put away for the winter until the next corn season. Bonus-- the pressure canner cans tomatoes faster than the water canner! Yay!! Tomatoes are coming in pretty good now, and I canned what I had on the counter before they spoiled-- 4 pints worth. I think after tomorrow, I'll have some more to can. We're also eating them in sandwiches, out of hand, taco toppings, etc., because what's the point of canning them all if you can't enjoy some now?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Recipe for Canned Corn

I've been asked to share my recipe for canned corn. I confess, I am always tweaking recipes and it's rare that I follow a recipe exactly as it is written. I can't help it--I usually think it can be improved if I added cinnamon or pepper or an extra dose of vanilla. The same goes for when I am using a recipe for canning jams. The recipe I use for canned corn comes from a recipe I modified a little bit. A dear friend of mine, who is mennonite, gave me her family cookbook and in it are all sorts of lovely recipes; each one I've tried has been declared delicious by my family. She gave me the cookbook when I asked her about canning and said there were some recipes in there for canning. I thought it very generous to give me the cookbook when it was only our 2nd time meeting each other! Anyway, The recipe in the book is for freezing corn and is as follows:

  • 4 qt raw corn, cut off cob
  • 1 c sugar
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 1 qt water

Boil all ingredients for 15 minutes. Set pot in ice cold water. Cool completely. Ladle both corn and liquid into freezer safe containers. Freeze. 100 ears of corn equals 12 quarts.

The very first time I made this, we were eating the corn right out of the pan!! Oh my! The sugar and the salt make a great salty-sweet flavor and it's Gretchen's favorite corn! She can always tell which corn I am using-- the store bought or my frozen corn. When I got the pressure canner, the instruction/recipe book included different canner recipes; the corn one is a basic one:

Boil corn on cob for 3 minutes. Remove from water and slice kernels off cob. Pack jars with corn then pour boiling water over corn, leaving 1 inch headspace. Pressure cook for 55 minutes using 10 pounds of pressure.

I modified the recipe a little bit and put a cup of sugar and 4 tsp of salt in the water to get that salty-sweet taste my family loves. I had some left over that wasn't enough to fill a jar for canning, and we tried it and it's as yummy as I hoped it would be.

I canned another 13 pints of corn for a total of 27 pints so far. The grocery store extended their sale on corn this week, so I plan on getting more corn for sure. I scored another wooden crate when I asked the produce worker at the store for a whole box of corn. They were happy to let me take the whole thing, which holds 48 ears in one crate. I thought they'd want it back to send back to the farmers to reuse them, but I guess they don't do that. I wonder if they throw all those crates away?? I better ask the next time I get more corn.

Anyway, let me know if you try these recipes. The sugar and the salt really add to the corn and make it taste great! Happy freezing or canning! :o)


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pressure Canner Love

I don't know what I was so nervous about, working with that pressure canner was pretty easy! I am so glad I got one and I'm already dreaming up other food to pressure can!
My very first pressure canned batch of corn-- 14 pints total.
I love the fact that it holds 10 pints (reg. mouth) at once, so that'll speed things up, but the downside is, it takes a whole 55 minutes to do one batch of corn. Now I understand why my friend's Grandma got so upset when one of her two pressure cookers broke and she immediately sent her husband to the store to buy another one. He ended up going from store to store before finding one and came home about two hours later. It was my very first time helping to can tomatoes and I didn't really understand what all the fuss was about. Having 2 pressure canners going at once would definitely help things go faster, but maybe later. First, I want to be skilled at using this one, then in a year or two, I'll buy a second. Or maybe when I get frustrated at the wait time, I'll send Andrew off to the store to get me another.

In the middle of me working on the corn last night, Andrew called from work and told me he was going to his friend Jim's house after work to pick up some peaches. We had a storm roll through in the late afternoon and Jim's neighbor had peach trees. The wind knocked a lot of peaches to the ground and the neighbor shared them with Jim, not wanting them to go to waste. Well, it was too much for Jim, so he called Andrew wanting to know if we wanted them. Well, sure! I'm not going to turn down free peaches!
We got four bags of peaches, some of them were badly bruised, but most of them were salvageable. Jim's lady hinted at peach butter, so I took all the smushed peaches and made up a batch of peach butter.

I started out with a full pot of peaches, about double the recipe in the Ball Blue Book, and it simmered for the next 5-6 hours before it was thick enough to round up on a spoon. Those peaches were juicy! I spiced it with a teaspoon of cinnamon.

I ended up with 6 pints of peach butter. I'll share them with Jim and his Lady, since he was kind enough to give me the peaches. There are enough good peaches left over to make peach cobbler and to eat out of hand. I had to fend the kids off the peaches so I could make sure I have enough to last a couple of days.

Kind of funny how things work out-- I've been wanting to stop by the farm stand and pick up some peaches, but every time I'm out by the stand, I never have enough money on me (they only take cash), so I don't stop. I've had a real craving for peaches lately, I haven't eaten any this year yet. Then unexpectedly, we get a bunch of free peaches! Nice! I'm going to save some of the pits and plant them, see if I can get any to grow. It'd be nice to have a peach tree to replace the one we have now. The peaches never grow any bigger than a ping-pong ball. Any tips on getting a peach pit to grow? Do I need to let it dry or can I plant it now?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Corn Woes

My corn isn't growing so well. I am frustrated about that-- I l.o.v.e. corn. The first year here, they hardly grew past a couple feet tall. Second year, they were growing great and we were just about to harvest the ears when raccoons beat us to it and left very little for us-- maybe a few dozen. Third year, I didn't bother. Last year, I got less than a dozen, and the rest of the corn stayed small. I wasn't going to plant any this year, but I had some seed leftover so I used that up. The corn is iffy-- some of it looks alright, some of it is still puny. I'm ready to throw in the towel on growing corn. Another part of me wants to keep trying, figure out what works and keep at it. Maybe with the chicken poop I'll be cleaning out soon, I can compost that and till it into where I plant the corn next year... I just might give it another try next year. I love corn too much to just give up on it.

Corn at the farm stands around here is pricey-- most sell for $5 a dozen. Ouch! As much as I hate to do it, I get my corn from the big chain stores, they sell for about $3 a dozen or less. We easily eat a dozen for one meal between the 7 of us. I asked around, trying to see if anyone would give me a discount if I ordered a large amount of corn, so that I can put some away for the winter. I'd like to try and not buy any metal canned foods from the store. No one is willing to cut a deal. So when the chain store has their corn on the cob on sale, I am buying a few dozen here and there to freeze and put away for the winter. I feel a little better when I know the chain store I am buying from gets their corn from a farm in Pennsylvania. Not exactly local, but closer to us than Florida or Georgia.

When freezing corn, I recycle the spaghetti jars and use those for the corn kernels. There's a certain brand of sauce that uses mason jars, a little less than one quart size and I buy those when they're on sale. (hopefully I wont have to buy any this winter with all the tomatoes I have about to ripen soon!) I use a mennonite recipe and the corn gets frozen in liquid-- water with salt and sugar added to it. I don't like loose frozen corn kernels, I think they taste tough, but after trying this recipe, the corn tastes as if I just put it in there! Very good and Gretchen, the picky eater prefers this corn over the metal canned ones from the stores.

My Mom gave me an early Christmas gift and bought me my very own pressure canner today! I was lamenting the fact that freezing the corn was taking up precious freezer space and I was going to have to limit it to about 40 jars-- one jar per week until the next corn season. But now, with the pressure canner, I am going to be able to can the corn and keep it in the pantry instead! I have 9 of those less-than-one-quart spaghetti jars in the freezer now, and I'll can the rest, so hopefully I can put away 100 quarts instead of only 40. I look forward to pressure canning my chicken broth and other things I normally freeze and freeing up space for other foods.

First, though, I need to get over my nervousness about using a pressure canner. I have heard enough horror stories about them, so I am a little worried, but I'll be sure to read, read and read again, the instructions on how to use it. I'll be pressure canning my first batch of corn tomorrow, so wish me luck!