Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Canning Blueberries

I'm finally recovered from that throat infection. I think. Yesterday I had a relapse and woke up with no voice, but today I'm feeling quite well.

I got right to canning since my poor "fresh" produce has been sitting in the fridge for a week. It didn't seem that much the worse for it, though.  Thankfully, I didn't find too many berries that I had to cull. No more than usual, I'd say.

I canned the blueberries in extra light syrup, using the instructions for "fresh berries in syrup" from my Ball book.  I wanted to do pie filling, but I couldn't find any clearjel, so I figured this would be a good compromise.  I can always thicken them for pie if I want, and they'll be great the way they are on yogurt.

I think I didn't leave enough head space though, since they seem to have lost a lot of the syrup. I hope I do better with the peaches!

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Friday, August 27, 2010

A Quick Knitting Tip

To take advantage of all the couch time I've been putting in while waiting for this throat infection to clear up, I started a new knitting project. 

This is the Cardi-Vest sweater from the latest issue of Crafts n Things.  I was intrigued by the construction, since it's knit side to side for a middle band, the the bottom ribbing and the top to the shoulders are picked up and knit from the long sides of the first piece.

Also, it's knit from Caron Simply Soft, which is a great yarn.  Yes, I just happen to have a sweater's worth of this raspberry color of Simply Soft on hand.  No, I'm not ashamed.  It took 6 years, but I've found the perfect project for it.  What can I say? I love yarn.

I don't often knit lace, and I was finding it frustrating to look back and forth between my work and the pattern.  Then I remembered a tip I'd heard in the KnitPicks podcast.

I wrote each row of the pattern repeat on one side of an index card.  That way, it's easy to know my place, and I don't look at the wrong line in the middle of knitting.  It's really made the work go much more quickly.  I like this method for lace knitting even better than following a graph.  It's a lot easier for me to keep on track with it.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Pullet Egg of the Year

We found the first egg from the new ladies last night. It's such an adorable teeny tiny thing. I doubt there's even a yolk in it, but we'll see once I collect enough pullet eggs to make us omelets for dinner.

We're both so excited to finally get to eat some of our eggs again!

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Peach Leather

I bought all those delicious Michigan peaches with dreams of canned slices in syrup, peach jam, and honey spiced peaches dancing in my head.  Instead, I ended up coming down with the same throat infection that Ben had at the beginning of last week.

I'm definately in no shape for canning.

So, I've resorted to peach leather to preserve many of my wonderful peaches.  I'm still hoping to can some, but the ones that are overripe and sliding down the slippery slope of past their prime are being dried for quick storage.

To make the dried peach leather, I start by washing the peaches well, and cutting them into quarters into the blender.  I run them through the "drink" setting twice to get a nice smooth puree, and then spread them onto parchment paper on my dehydrator tray.

About ten hours later, and I have yummy, very storable, peach roll-up.  To get them to actually roll up well, I do the rolling when the sheet is still hot and fresh from the dehydrator.  Then it will hold its shape better, and not want to unroll.  After cutting into quarters, I know that each roll up is approximately one peach worth of peachy goodness.  (Because I used 4 peaches per sheet.  Except the one pictured, that was an odd end piece of parchment, so it was only two peaches.)

Then I head back to the couch with my cough drops, ibuprofen, antibiotics and juice to watch Jaws.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

On the Way Home

We're driving home today, all vacationed out. I might actually need a vacation to recover from all this! :-)

I'm all loaded up on the best souvenier of all, produce!  We've got a few pecks of Michigan peaches, and 10 lb of blueberries.  I'm planning on some canning this week.

I'm really looking forward to getting some canned goods put up, since I haven't gotten the chance to do any canning yet this summer.

Lots of canning jar pings coming up next week!

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vacation, all I ever wanted

So we're actually on the long awaited vacation.  We left on Tuesday night and drove until we got too tired, then finished the drive yesterday.  It took so much longer than I expected it would!

We did slow ourselves down to do a little sightseeing though.  We were going be so close, so we couldn't resist stopping off to see the old alma mater.  I expected it would seem small, as things from the past tend to do, but instead, I was shocked that I'd used to walk SO far!  I had more energy when I was younger, I suppose.

This is the bridge we were standing on when Ben proposed to me.  We had a real trip down memory lane, including sandwiches at my first Jimmy Johns! Ah, memories...

Today there's a lot planned. We might get to meet up with my parents, while at the same time checking out some awesome old timey stuff, then there's the salon w my sisters in law, a family potrait session w the James Gang, and a date w my honey at the drive in theater!

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quiet Days

Well, I can't say I'm exactly thrilled about the canceled vacation, but we had a fairly calm and quiet weekend. It's always restful to be able to just spend time together watching movies.

Ben's still feeling pretty unwell. Right now he's going on his 15th hour straight of being asleep.  I can only assume all the sleep is healing him right up.

Hopefully, he'll feel well enough that tomorrow we can head out and salvage the 2nd half of our vacation. But I want to make sure he won't end up ill again, since he's so busy with work.

So, if we don't get to go to the lake and visit family in MI, at least we've had a whole week of spending time together. Sure it was in the er and dr's waiting rooms... but we'll always have the pharmacy at midnight.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sometimes things seem hard, don't they?

I have to throw a disclaimer on this post. It's not inspiring. It's not at all crafty. The picture of the pullets on the way home is just a random pic to give the post something worthwhile. I pretty much am feeling sad, and am about to whine. Please feel free not to read it if other people whining bothers you as much as it bothers me. I'm making an exception to my zero tolerance on negativity just to vent a bit.  But who knows? Maybe by the end, I'll find my silver lining.

Well, I've been a slacker blogger this week, but I had a good reason. I was having a very busy and overwhelming week.

After we brought the new pullets home last weekend, I was working on getting all the kinks out of the new housing situation. It seemed especially important for everything to go smoothly because we were headed to MI to spend the week visiting with family and the neighbor had to be on chicken duty.

Getting ready for a week long trip added that much more busy-ness with packing and baking and cleaning and last minute things like finishing and wrapping the backlog of niece and nephew b-day presents that I always seem to accumulate.

So I thought I was having an overwhelming week.  Then Ben got sick. Well, he'd been sick but he hadn't really said much about it, so I didn't realize, but Friday night he said his throat hurt so bad he had to go to urgent care to have it seen.

At urgent care they just told him it was a sore throat and that's all and there wasn't strep, so take some ibuprofen and bye bye.  We still planned to leave on Saturday, just slightly delayed for some sleeping in, since we didn't get home that night till 12.

So yesterday morning, we got up and finished packing.  We were just about ready to head out when he started feeling dizzy and lightheaded and very ill. When he went back to bed in the middle of packing the car, I figured we'd better get a second opinion about what was wrong with him.

I drove him in to see his regular doctor, who said even though it isn't strep, it's a bacterial infection and prescribed an antibiotic.

So here we are, not going anywhere at all for a while, at least. I've got boxes and suitcases all packed for a roadtrip all around with no roadtrip to be taken.  I'll have to start again on the goal of having all laundry and dishes clean and put away at one time.  We probably won't get to see my family at all, because we'll need to head right up north to Ben's family get together. All the fun plans are either cancelled or just seem like so much less fun.

This trip was stressing me out so much to begin with, and now it's going to be abbreviated and the parts I was looking forward to the most (giving the b-day presents, cooking w my little brother, a big dinner w my whole family) are pretty much cancelled.

So I'm going to stop feeling sorry for myself now.  I've done my venting, and that actually helped a little to get it off my chest.  I suppose the trick now will be to figure out how to make the best of the situation and work on having a good week even if it's a different one from what I had planned.

I'll definately update and let you know if I figure out how to do that.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

New Pullets

Well, it was what seemed like a marathon of building and planning last week, but we were ready with a cozy coop when we brought home the next batch of pullets on Saturday.  We had a lovely drive to Augusta, MO to see our chicken supplying friends.  It's always a treat to get out to their place, because they have all the outbuildings my heart could desire, with rabbits and goats, dogs, chickens, and a garden that's so much better than my own.
It's pretty hard to get a picture of the whole coop set up right now, because there's still some construction paraphenalia in the way.  Pretty much what we did was block off one end of the shed by building a wall.  We used the chain link panel with the door from last year's pullet enclosure to make part of the wall, and the rest is nesting boxes, chicken wire, and trellis.
We divided the space for now so the pullets and older chickens will be kept separate.  I think we're going to wait till the littler ones start laying to do a complete integration.  I'm hoping it will go a little easier on them than it did for Matilda and Brunhilda last year.  First of all, because there are so many more of these, and also because they'll be living in pretty much the same space for the next couple of months.

Above is a good shot of my homemade feeder.  I have a post about that coming up, with some step by step photos.  It wasn't hard to make at all, and I got the idea from Backwoods Home Magazine, but I'm happy to show my version.  I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out, and I think it's working really nicely as well.

We used a hinged gate sort of set up for the dividing wall.  That way we can swing it one way to get to the pullet side, and swing it the other to get to the older chicken side.  We made the gate from scraps of things we had in the garage, and took apart the old coop's extension pen and re-used that chicken wire to staple to the gate.

The big chickens are on the left side with the nesting boxes.  You can see Matilda there on the left of the photo.  Guess what? 
Well, you know...
Okay, I'll say it. 

Chicken Butt!

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

By Bethany James in Corel Painter Essentials with Wacom Craft Tablet 2010
We've been having lots of fun working on the new chicken housing that's going in the new shed.  We're on a bit of a deadline, because we go to pick up a dozen new hens on Saturday. I'm looking forward to having more eggs soon, but a little apprehesive about creating an uproar in the barnyard.  I get a bit stressed when it comes to animals in disharmony.

Today we only worked for about an hour or so, partly because it's so hot!  And partly because we ran out of the screws we need to finish up our nesting boxes.  It's actually nice to feel like we're playing hooky a little, since we have been working until dark on the project for the last five days or so.

When I'm not outside feathering the nest for the new chicks, so to speak, I've been having fun going through the tutorials that came with my Wacom tablet.  I drew the little chickie picture above in Corel Painter Essentials.  Which is a crazy super fun program.  I'm really pleased with the great software that came bundled with the tablet.  It really made the whole thing such a spectacular deal, considering that Adobe products are so expensive to buy separately.

Yesterday I tried a new recipe from Cook's Country magazine for Ovenbaked Crunchy Buttermilk Chicken.  Our verdict is that it was pretty good, but not that much better than regular seasoned baked chicken, and way more expensive and way way more effort.  So I'll stick with slapping the chicken quarters on a pan and sprinkling them with garlic powder, onion powder, and salt.  Much easier.

Today I baked Ben some Irish Soda Bread, since there was buttermilk left from the chicken.  Left in the carton!  I know better than to reuse anything raw chicken was soaking in, lol. 

It was a really pleasant day actually, because I didn't work outside at all until Ben came home.  Have I mentioned I don't like the hot summer weather?  I pretended it was winter out there, and stayed all day cleaning and baking.  So nice to have a break from the bugs and weeds for a bit.  It's not that I don't like to garden, it's just good to have a break from anything that you have to do a lot of once in a while, I guess.

Tomorrow, I'm planning a little dehydrating experiment with bananas.  Is the suspense killing you?

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