Sunday, January 29, 2012

Meyer lemon

This weekend the feed store got all their fruit trees in and while some of them will last a while those that are unusual go quick. They had a nice assortment this year of citrus and even had olive bushes (I almost got one but the lemon tree just cost too much for me to get two). I wanted a Meyer lemon. I used to have some that I started from seed (of course, they would likely not have produced true but I had heard from several people that they would still produce nice lemons) but they all died (my lack of watering enough again).  The feed store had two Meyer lemon trees and they were really nice sized.  I went ahead and splurged and got the smaller one (the other would have never fit in my car).
The Meyer lemon is a native of China where it was a decorative house plant. It is thought to be a cross between a lemon and common orange or mandarin. It is rounder and sweeter than true lemons. Meyer lemons were brought to the United States by an agricultural explorer named Frank Nicholas Meyer who collected plant samples all over the world for the United States Department of Agriculture. In the 1940's Meyer lemons were quite popular in California but most were destroyed when it was found they were symptomless carriers of the Citrus tristeza virus which had killed millions of citrus all over the world. A virus free selection was found in the 1950's. 
My pretty little Meyer lemon tree has lots of buds on it. I can't wait to see if it produces anything this year. It, of course, cannot live outside here especially while it is so cold at night but I put it on the porch during the warmer days and move it back in at night until we can get the greenhouse done.

This Week's Harvest 1/29

I finally got down to my garden today and was very pleased with how everything is growing. I picked more spinach and a few more broccoli shoots.

Of course, our harvest included eggs as well though not from the garden.
Also in the garden I found this! 
 This is definitely a small head of cabbge and these red ones look like they might be developing little heads as well!
I haven't been able to get into the garden all week since we are now just using the one car and I have to go in to work early (though I can't clock in until 12:00, ugg!) in order to get a ride with Phil when he goes in. The weekends are all the more cherished these days!

Greenhouse Redo

My greenhouse has been in very sad shape for several years now, mostly because it was used to house meat birds and other birds for a while. I want to get it back to at least be usable this year so today I worked on taking stuff out of it and re-plasticing the sides. I actually only got two sides done as I didn't have enough plastic for the back but it already looks so much better. It was a heck of a job. There is actually a chicken pen attached to the other side. The bantam chickens in it did not appreciate me invading their space with hammer (there was a gutter on that side that had to come down too), staple gun and roll of plastic but I was determined to get that side done as well as it would be the harder side and I wanted it out of the way. The roof is going to get some corrugated plastic roofing once I get a way to get it home.
I also picked up 5 more bags of cranberries at the store. These I picked through and cleaned and then put in the freezer. I have ordered the stuff I will need to try to make wine for the first time and hope to use them for that. It is something I have wanted to try for a long time. I am not much of a wine drinker but if it's there I'll drink it. Anyone who has made wine and wants to leave me a link to a blog post they did on it would be greatly appreciated.
Besides that there was broccoli (on sale and from the garden), spinach (from the garden This Weeks Harvest will be the next post) and turnip greens (from the raised beds at work) to blanch and freeze.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thinking About Getting a Meat Smoker

I have pretty much decided on this one. It's electric. I know that is not the most self sufficient meat smoker I could have but ...

1. I don't know a lot about meat smoking yet and want to start with something easy...and
2. I am pretty sure that I am way too busy (lazy) to want to have one where I have to keep a fire going or keep tending all day.

This one I just add chips to every 45 minutes to and hour. I think I can do that. There also seems to be a device you can buy to lengthen the time and make it work better. I have yet to check into all that.
I have found an amazing forum on meat smoking (sorry I had to delete the forum link since they insisted on deleting the link to my blog on said forum-I never have understood this competition thing  that some forums do--to me it is all about sharing good information--not making money so any links are welcome on my forum but I sure will  not promote their site when they can't even leave up my link when I just posted it on the "get to know you" part of my forum so they could get to damn know me).  I am sure it is going to help me out a lot. If you are thinking of learning to smoke meat, they also have a free little e-course that sends you a chapter a day and they have some really great newsletters.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cranberry Juice and Jellied Sauce

I believe I have told how to make the juice before but am not sure why I didn't tell how to make the cranberry sauce since it is done at the same time. Cranberries were finally marked down at the store to a dollar a bag (last year I got some for a quarter a bag, and these will probably go down again if they don't all get bought). I got 5 bags this time. I washed them, picked through them and then put them all in my 16 quart stock pot. I added 6 cups of water for each bag so 30 cups. I then started them cooking and waited stirring them occasionally. After 10 minutes or so the cranberries started to pop. I let it go for a little while longer until a lot of them had popped. I then strained it all through cloth into another large pot (do not squeeze or mash the berries).
I added 1 cup of sugar per bag of cranberries and stirred it until all the sugar was dissolved.  That's it. The juice is made. I put some in a pitcher for us to drink right away.
The rest was put into quart jars and water bath canned for 10 minutes. Altogether there was 8 quarts of juice. 
Now for the jellied cranberry sauce. The pulp from making the juice was put through the strainer. 
It was then put back in the pan with 1 1/3 cups water per every 2 bags of cranberries (you figure it out if you want to I just used my cup and measured twice and then half again). Add a box of pectin and bring it to a boil stirring almost all the time because the sauce is easily scorched. 
When it boils add 1 cup of sugar for each bag of cranberries. Bring to a rolling boil and boil 1 minute. Jar and water bath can 10 minutes. 

Five pints (I ran out of pint jars that is why there are a few half pint jars there). I am quite hopeful that they will jell since I was able to make some last year that did. This makes some really good jellied cranberry sauce and it is nice to be able to have it for other meals besides Thanksgiving.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Maybe if I just ramble....

I do it a lot on the forum but usually here I try to have meaningful posts that teach you things that will be helpful with your own self sufficiency but sometimes I just feel like I need to catch you all up on what is going on .
After putting the fuel pump in Phil's car it decided to start fine but then decided to stall a lot. Obviously, we still have a problem, which meant we were left with just one running car. So all last week I had to be dropped off to work super early (at 6:00 a.m.) so that Phil could take the car on to his work. I don't actually have to be to work until was a really long week and I was NOT happy. I got absolutely nothing done at home and the damn chicken eating dog was allowed to come back and dine on almost all of the bantam chickens. I know I needed to cut down on some of the chickens and had been planning to butcher one of these weekends but looks like I won't need to do that now. It's just irritating and sad is all.
I didn't make it down to my garden all week and I never made it today. It has rained most of the day. I am sure some of the broccoli has flowered on me.
My seedlings after only being sprouted for a day decided to get leggy right off from lack of sunlight. I bought a fluorescent light to set on top of the plastic top which will hopefully help them out some. If not, well they are tomatoes so when I transplant them I will just plant them deeper and it won't matter anyway.
The seeds were out in the stores. We get a very poor selection these days but they did have some herbs and after the cats, I need to replant mine. I have found some containers with clear tops that I had saved (for seed starting) that will keep the cats out when I replant the herbs (which I haven't done yet either).
I got to use my slicer again today on smoked hog jowls (just as good as bacon but cheaper and with meat prices the way they are these days, cheaper is the only way to go) and I have a ham too that I need to slice up for sandwiches. I also have some turkey breasts from last week that I may slice up so they will get used up for sandwich meat as well.
Unfortunately I still have not gotten to use the meat grinder. We look every week for pork or beef on sale but there just isn't anything. I am really going to push the idea of getting a few pigs this year. I think it might be important to have some larger meat growing here this next year. I could clear out two of the chain link pens and that way when one pen got too messy I could move them to the other. I have found some piglets in the next town over so we'll see what happens in the next week or so here.
Cranberries were finally marked down in the store! I can't believe how long they can keep them on the shelf! Anyway, I got 5 for a dollar each and I'll be making some juice and cranberry sauce tomorrow. I made some last year as well but never did leave directions on how to do it so I will be doing that this year.
Ok, I guess my ramblings are done. See you tomorrow.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Over Night...

The tomato seedlings popped up over night. Almost every single one that I planted (the two in the front are basil.)
In other news, 6 chickens were gone last night; their pens broken into. Today we lost another. Michelle says it was a big black dog that she hadn't seen before. His days are numbered. His number would have been up today if he had just moved within the reach of Dukey's run. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Eastman Outdoors Processing Set

This is my Eastman Outdoors Processing set that I got for Christmas (I may have been just a tad spoiled this Christmas).

The 7-piece Eastman Outdoors™ processing kit includes a caping knife, skinning knife, boning/fillet knife, butcher knife, sharpening steel, cutting shears and a single-handed bone saw. It all comes housed in a protective case and also included a bonus DVD on butchering/ sausage making/ jerky making. I loved watching the DVD and learned a lot from it but hadn't really gotten to use the knives until tonight when I cut up that other turkey. All I can say is what a wonderful thing it was to have such beautifully sharp knives to work with. It was so fast and easy to cut up the turkey! Butchering next year is going to be so much quicker.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Candle Making with Molds

I showed you all how to dip candles here but a few weeks ago I got a candle making kit from the thrift store that had just about everything in it so I made some candles with molds this time. I started taking pictures with the camera but had to finish off with the phone when the camera's batteries ran out. Here is the kit..$3.49.

The only thing I could see that the kit was missing was the rubber mold for the pillar candle. 

I started with the larger blue molds. You had to thread the wick onto a large needle then make a hole through the center of the bottom of the mold and pull the wick through then you put this awful sticky putty around the wick and hole to keep it from leaking. 
Then you turned it over and had to tie the little sticks on so that they were tight and straight when you put the sticks in the slots.

Now it was time to melt the wax. The wax came in the form of little beads which were really easy to melt. It also came with color. I just had to scrape off a very little bit of color from these. 

I did all my colors in one pan. I didn't have any cans so did it in jars. I don't think they were any more difficult to use than a can would be. 
I did more blue than the other colors because I wanted the one rubber mold--a rabbit--to be blue. 
The rabbit had to have a wick threaded through it as well. Then you put it in its little cardboard holder and into a cup. 
Then there was nothing to do but pour the wax. I was trying to do several colors in one candle. You were supposed to pour a little of one color and then wait until it got a skin on it then pour more but they should have just told you to wait until the first color was almost completely hard because mine kind of mixed. It is still a pretty effect though. 
The floating candles used a different method. You did not stick the wick through a hole in them. You dipped their wick in wax and waited for it to harden on the wick, then you straightened it and added a little piece of foil on the end. You poured the wax in the mold and then when it got a skin on it you poked the wick, foil side first, into the candle. 
Here they are finished and out of their molds. The kit also came with one lovely scent (though it doesn't tell what the scent is) so the candles smell as good as they look.
A little closer...

Harvest Monday 1/16

Not exactly what you had in mind? This is two duck eggs, three chicken eggs, 2 bantam eggs and there were 3 quail eggs but I let Clone and Skip have them.
Since I cheated a little on the "harvest" part, I'll at least show picture of the garden. Here are the new peas sprouting in the back yard raised bed.
These are the sprouts on the broccoli. I really should get these picked...maybe tomorrow.
Here is the green cabbage. Yes it is looking like a small head coming anyway.
This is the garlic and the spinach that is coming back since I picked it.
This is the red cabbage. They do not seem to be heading and I am debating giving them some fertilizer. 
Here is the little patch of salad greens that came up from old seeds I threw in a new bed. They actually are looking pretty good.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cat Tails

By request here are the pictures of some of the cats. There are four other outdoors cats that aren't pictured here. Three are this years litter and one is Skip who is a small cat from last years litter.

Only two of the cats live inside right now. This one is probably my windowsill culprit. This is Little Butt.

Yeah, yeah, so cute until you find your plants on the floor.
This is the other possible culprit. This is Hippo. He likes to attack things, especially Little Butt but on occasion Romeo, the dog.
This next picture could be Hippo or it could be Clone. I can't tell unless the eyes are open. Clone has yellow eyes and so does Hippo but Hippo's are a lot darker. (Michelle takes all these cute cat pictures and then just leaves them on my camera.)
Clone was named Clone because he looked exactly like his mother and like a brother in the same litter. Clone and the rest of these all live outdoors, in the back shed (where Clone and Skip live) or under the house. Clone ran away for a while and returned to us almost completely starved this spring. He and Skip beg for eggs when I collect them and I often give them the bantam eggs or a few quail eggs.
This is Sweetie when she was younger. She is quite a bit heavier now. She is Hippo's mother. She lost an eye when she was little and because of this she is sometimes pampered and allowed to come in the house (and also if you don't let her in she constantly jumps and claws at Michelle's window). 
This is Cookie. Cookie is bow-legged on his back legs so looks a bit funny but he is an extremely content and lovable cat. 
And the last picture I have is of BeBe --Michelle names them I don't. I believe he got this name when he was little because we already had a cat called Baby so this one became BeBe instead. He is our alpha male now since Scampy was killed by a neighbor's dog. He takes his job very seriously and chases Clone whenever he can catch sight of him (which is why Clone stays in the back shed).

The Seeds Are Started

Michelle's cat thinks my windowsill is the best place to lay in the sun and threw my herb starts off of it three times so apparently that is not going to work (the basil managed to survive being thrown around but that is all. So for starting the other seeds we had to do something else. I had this Jiffy seed starting thing that I got last year after the growing season was over; it was on sale for just $2. Since it has a cover to it, I am fairly sure it will be safe from the stupid kitten (as long as he doesn't lay on top and block all the sunlight).

The tomatoes and peppers went in this and there are a few rows left for more herb seeds when the stores come out with them.
 I also planted the raised bed in the back yard. A few weeks ago I had planted Little Marvel and some snow peas all around the raised bed since there is a little fence around it for them to climb on and they have all come up this year. I changed the plan a bit and put onions on one side of the raised bed. The onions I bought from the store last year did so well that I decided to try it again only this year I planted some Golden Pearl onions. We'll see how they do. In the middle I planted the Viroflay spinach, and on the other side I planted the dinosaur kale.
So hopefully in a few weeks I'll have seedlings to show everyone.

Frugal Meals This Week

It is all about frugal meals this week. Car repairs and 4 weeks of poor paychecks have really taken their toll on my full freezer. Not to mention that prices on meat in the stores lately have really been ridiculous. Hamburg that you used to be able to get for $2.29 a lb is now $3.69 and I can't by it at that prices. Steaks are outrageous and pork prices have almost doubled. This week I bought two pounds of hamburg (I found some at one store on sale for $2.59 lb), 2 lbs of bacon ends and pieces, some tillapia fillets (which were on sale) and some sausage dogs. I also got the "meal deal" at one store. You had to buy 2 bags of chicken tenders (almost $13)and got a two liter soda, french fries, a half gallon of ice cream and your choice of froze veggie (I got brussel sprouts) free. That will have to do us. I do still have a turkey left from Christmas, and some turkey breasts left in the freezer.
I believe I mentioned that we had homemade sourdough pizza night before last. The toppings were some of the ham I sliced with my new slicer, mushrooms(in the storage room) and red peppers (in the freezer) so it didn't cost us a thing except really (the sauce was leftover sauce from other meals that didn't need a whole can of sauce; it was saved in a jar in the freezer).
Last night we had goulash. Our goulash is just macaroni, two cans of whole tomatoes (cut up) and a pound of scrambled hamburger (I added a little onion as well). We love the stuff. Today I am going to cook some of the turkey breasts and just make turkey salad sandwiches and I may come up with a soup to go with it.
Other possibilities for this week are tacos, breakfast for supper, the sausage dogs and baked beans, Michelle can't really cook fish so if we use that I will have to cook it, I have some tuna and tuna helper that she can make, and some of the turkey could be made into turkey casserole, and there are the chicken strips too.
We will likely have meat left over at the end of the week and the animals will still be fed and the cars have gas in them, if all goes as planned anyway.
Now if the next few weeks turn out as bad we may have a few deaths in the family. I have too many roosters and drakes anyway.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Major Car Repairs

So I think I have mentioned that Phil's car runs for about a week, then refuses to start for another week, then will start right up and run for another week? It has been like this for a while and it was no big deal since we didn't really need two cars before but my brother has decided to quit work (I will be nice and try not to go into it since it is my brother) and now Phil is left without a ride to work. Anyway after several parts changes the diagnosis turned out to be, after process of elimination, the fuel pump. Which happens to be in the gas tank; on top of the gas tank. In a Pontiac Bonneville there is no way to get to the top of the gas tank without.......dropping the gas tank and there is no way to drop the gas tank without dropping the exhaust.  I didn't have to help with that part. A few bolts to take off and things to unhook and hoses that refused to come off (on since 1997!) so had to be cut and the exhaust at least dropped down--hopefully out of the way....
then the lovely part of dropping the gas tank which I don't have picture of since I was under the car with Phil (in front of the wheel in the next picture). It involved having the gas tank held up by a jack with a board on top and slowly lowering it while I held one side and he tried to get the other side past a brake line which was stubbornly in the way, then past a metal piece that shields the exhaust on my side and then just plain past the exhaust on my side. The tank was fairly empty--or so it seemed-- but actually had several gallons of gas in it which made it much more heavy and then it decided to drop on the other side and I was struggling to keep it from doing that and hitting the ground hard or falling off the jack.
Anyway, it finally was down. Phil took a look at the pump but it looked fine--but who can tell from just looking?  Then he looked at the lines--intake, out, and air and all looked fine but one looked loose where it clipped on. We then went inside because our town has three auto parts stores and it is stupid to go to one for parts without checking it online. Good thing we did because one of them had a fuel pump for $74, the rest were $115 and $124! We went to the cheaper one (of course) and got the fuel pump (because even though we were not sure it was the problem, taking down the tank is such a big job at home that you just have to replace everything it might be while it is down), the filter, the hoses and some of the clips (we are missing one) for $123.00.
It was getting late by the time we got back. Phil got the gas drained (cause we aren't fooling ourselves into thinking I can maneuver that tank up in there while he jacks unless it is empty ----and even then it will be, to say the least, difficult), the fuel pump put on and back in the tank before it got too dark to see. We will be trying to get the tank back in and hoses back in tomorrow.
So that was today. Didn't get any sourdough bread made like I wanted or get to play with that candle kit that I got at the thrift store a few weeks ago but that is just the way it goes sometimes.