Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pink Lemonade Blueberry


I know what you are thinking--"Her next victims". I truly hope not. I got these at Tractor Supply yesterday. I was just so amazed that there were pink blueberries.
I really could not find a whole lot of information on them. They are basically like any other blueberry and need an acid soil. These say they grow in zones 5-8. It is self pollinating and will ripen in mid to late summer and will grow to 4-5 ft.
I may put these up in the berry garden but I am not sure yet.

Curing and Smoking Meat

This was just a really wonderful video that I posted on the forum a while ago but since there was so much interest in the bacon post I thought you all would like to see it too.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Buckboard Bacon

It seems like making bacon would be hard but it was pretty simple. This is buckboard bacon, it is made from a pork butt instead of belly. It tastes kind of like a mix of bacon and a light ham flavor. It was darn good is what it was.
I took a 6 lb pork butt, cut out the bone and cut it in half. I used this as a cure: 1 lb of pickling salt, 8 oz sugar and 2 oz of pink salt/prague powder. (Thank you David the Gastronomic Gardener. ). I mixed this up and then sprinkled slightly more than a quarter cup all over the two pieces of meat and made sure to rub it into and cracks or grooves in the meat. It was then put in a Ziplock bag and put in the refrigerator.
I turned the bag over once in the morning and once in the afternoon and rubbed the meat through the bag. It stayed in the refrigerator for 10 days. Yesterday I took it out and soaked it for about an hour in cold water to remove some of the salt.
Then I sliced off an outside piece and then the next piece and fried them up (the outside piece will be saltier so it is important to try the next piece as well) to make sure enough of the salt had been removed.
It was perfect. The meat was then patted dry with paper towels and put back in the refrigerator uncovered so that it could form a pellicle. A pellicle is a thin skin or coating of proteins that form on meat and helps the smoke adhere to it. The next day at 9:00 a.m. the meat was put in my smoker which was set on 200. It had the probe of my digital thermometer in it so that I could tell what the internal temperature of the meat was.
I smoked it with hickory until the internal temperature reached 155 F and then removed it from the smoker (it was about 2:00 p.m. when it reached that temperature).
 After it had cooled some it was put in the freezer for a couple hours so that I would be able to slice it easier.
Here are both pieces completely sliced.
I then packaged them 12 slices or pieces of slices (some, of course, weren't perfect) and vacuum sealed them.
I ended up with 5 packages of buckboard bacon. I am quite pleased with how well this went and am looking forward to trying more things in the smoker.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What did you do today?

We made a new raised bed. Phil had a 1x8 that has been sitting at the shop since...well FOREVER now but he finally got it home now that he has a truck and he made me another raised bed with it. As you can see I have started filling it already.
There now are 6 in the garden, though you really can't see the sixth one in this picture, you can see one little corner beside the purple cabbage. I still would like one more small raised bed where that large pot is.
While down there I picked the broccoli sprouts and spinach (I blanched them and froze them).
I also had the smoker going because I was smoking my buckboard bacon (which will be the next post) so I  smoked a whole chicken as well. It was wonderful! I had sprinkled it with a Cajun spice mix.
Michelle says we should just smoke everything from now on but she wasn't the one having to run out and put chips in the smoker every 20 minutes while trying to do other things like can these 14 jars of potatoes in my new canner.
Funny that I have been canning for years but this new canner made me nervous all over again like  it was my first time again.
So this is what we did today. I'll schedule the buckboard bacon post for tomorrow so everyone will see this one first.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Random Pictures of this Morning

I am just amazed at how fast they are growing. 
They have completely dug up the dirt in their pens and it will be great to put in the garden later. 
Inside the greenhouse I transplanted the peppers. It is supposed to be 80 degrees F. today but then dropping to 68 tomorrow and 58 the day after. 
 The meyer lemon in the greenhouse. It is going to have to come off of the bench when it starts growing again. 
In the asparagus bed I only see three little sprouts and they are all this size. Maybe next year. 
The Viroflay spinach growing well in the back yard raised bed. 
There are also peas all around the fence in the back yard raised bed. This variety Little Marvel only grows 24 inches. 
Here are the cabbages again. Getting so much closer to picking one. 
The purple cabbage and the broccoli. I think I will be pulling the broccoli soon to make way for something else. 
This bed has the lettuce and just a couple radishes. I am going to plant more radishes. 
The head lettuce that I planted last weekend is looking good so far. 
The onions are sprouting as well. 
That's it for the garden pictures. This is the quiche I made this morning for us to have for supper. It has ham and turnip greens in it. 
There is a recipe on here for quiche, just use the search at the top on the left to find it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


When I first moved here I planted some strawberries at the side of our house where the little hill is. I planted them in tiers and they were lovely, produced well, and spread all over the place. Slowly over the last several years or so most of them have died off mainly because the fig tree produced so much shade on that side of the garden.
Two years ago I redid the tier garden and replanted. That is when I realized how much shade fig tree caused. Those strawberries didn't grow or produce well.
Last year I planted those cute strawberries with the pink flowers like in the picture above. I don't remember what they were. I put them in the berry garden and got just a couple of strawberries from them and now most of those have died off. They also died off in those pots as well.
It is possible I have evolved into a strawberry serial killer since this year I am trying again.
The fig tree as you know was cut down (though it still lives, it isn't fooling me, they are worse than chickweed to kill) and so were a couple of other trees that had grown up to block sunlight from the upper berry garden. Today I picked up two packages of 10 roots each of Allstar strawberries. No there wasn't any research or planning on what variety. They were there in the store at the garden center counter, they were only $3 a package and I just took them.
So the research had to come afterwards.
Allstar strawberries are a midseason strawberry developed by the USDA at the University of Maryland and released to the public in 1981. It is a widely adapted variety that grows well from the East to the Midwest. It is highly resistant to red stele and moderately resistant to Verticillium wilt. It is also quite resistant to root rot (which may have been my problem with last years varieties).
I believe this year I will hill up a couple small rows. I don't usually hill up the dirt for strawberries but it couldn't hurt to try something different.
Oh, I also bought another blackberry plant. I am a blackberry killer as well. Now that I think I it, I tend to kill lots of berry plants and I really need to fix that problem this year.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Greenhouse Roof

So today was the day to put the greenhouse roof on and it was raining. It wasn't a hard rain though and then it turned into more like a sprinkle so we went out to do the roof anyway. My greenhouse has always been just pure plastic over wood but I have always wanted the corrugated roofing put on it. This roofing is plastic and costs us $15 a sheet but we only needed 5 sheets, a little wood and some screws with a type of rubber washer on them (I really don't know what they are called, sorry).
First step, put the wood on:

Second step put the first panel on. He actually bent the panel over the peak so we would not have to deal with a seam at the top. It didn't work perfectly and took a little "tweeking" but it did work.

Keep adding panels and screwing them down:
And the finished product:
Then I spent quite a while putting plastic on the back and on the door. I also had a lot of clean up to do inside (and outside) and it is not quite done even yet, but it looks a whole lot better. My seedlings are still in there but I did lose several over the weeks that I had to go to work all day. These were the tomatoes so I may have to buy a few after all but the peppers and herbs are still in the house. We have a bit of a cold snap coming, at least the nights will be cold, so I may not move everything out there until the middle of next week. I will, however, be glad to get the lemon tree out there. It has not really thrived in the dry heat of the house though I have put it on the porch as much as possible.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Pigs Are Here!

I have been looking for some pigs to raise for this year and finally found some on Craigslist. Then when I called I thought I still might not get any since the farmer was taking them to a sale today but he said to call again because he might leave some. Turns out he did. He said he left his small ones.
So this evening at 3:00 we met one of his workers at the farm. I was just amazed at the size of his full grown pigs. I had seen adult pigs when we lived in the North but they were usually in small pens and incredibly fat. These pigs were is a really large enclosure and they were absolutely HUGE but not really fat, just big muscular pigs. He also had geese, lots of guinea and llama (I am sure he had more animals as we weren't on the main farm just the farm across the road from the main farm that he had acquired apparently as well).
We had brought a medium dog carrier but luckily we brought a wooden crate as well because we definitely needed the crate. These "babies" are big! (We transferred them to the crate with the dog carrier and we could not close the door when they were in it!).
Here they are in our pen. I was so worried since I had heard so many stories about how hard it is to contain pigs but the pen seems to be adequate.
They had never seen dirt before as they were in a completely wooden pen with house attached. I took it since there were 4 of these enclosures that it was where the sows had their piglets and then they stayed in them until he sold them. Anyway, they are completely impressed with their bigger pen and dirt to dig in.
I have always read that pigs need some type of house just to get out of the sun and rain though this man had no house for his huge pigs (there were like 10 of them so it would have had to be a BIG house anyway) but we used the crate we brought them home in to make them a little house for now.
I got the pigs for $50 each. They are either a  Hamshire /Yorkshire cross or pure Hamshire as I did not get to see the mother but did get to see the males and there was some of each breed.
They have the Hamshire coloring with the black with white band. Hamshires are probably the oldest breed of hog in America. They are known for being fast growers that produce a very good carcass for meat and are also good tempered. Sows are known to be good mothers.
The Yorkshires are slower growing pink pigs. They are found in almost every American state. It is muscular with a high proportion of lean meat.
I am incredibly please to be raising a larger animals that will really provide us with a lot of good meat later. I am fairly sure we won't get attached. They are fairly large already and they, well, smell bad from being in their small enclosure. I hope they grow well and do well here.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Smoking Ribs Part 2

These first two pictures are of the ribs at the 3 hour point. They were smoked at 240 degrees F with hickory smoke. They had a rub put on them as well.

They were then put back in the smoker wrapped in foil and sprayed with apple cider vinegar for 2 hours when they were taken back out and smoked for another half hour (it was supposed to be an hour but they were already so tender that I only did them a half hour).
Here you go. This is the ribs when done.
 These were without a doubt the best ribs we had ever eaten. The baked potatoes, however, did not get done even after 2 1/2 hours in the smoker and I had to finish them in the oven. We had turnips with them and sourdough bread. 
The sourdough bread didn't rise much and I mistakenly thought it wouldn't when I put it in the little oven. Should have put it in the big oven because it rose up right to the top and hit the top burner and I had to snatch it out and put it in the big oven. It also could have used a pan of water in the oven with it as the crust was really crisp but the sourdough favor was wonderful. 

I am so full!

Now We're Smoking!

Wind is way down today and we got the smoker seasoned this morning. To season it the smoker has to run for 3 hours and then you add wood chips for the last 45 minutes. We added mesquite chips to season it with and were lucky we did because though I knew mesquite was strong I didn't know how strong until we smelled that smoke. Really kind of awful smelling. Good thing I had found some hickory chips yesterday. After it was seasoned we put a couple small slabs of ribs in it to have for supper. I meant to get a picture but then forgot so you all will have to wait until we open it again before I can show them to you. I was told on a forum that you should smoke it for 3 hours, then wrap it in foil for two hours then without the foil for another hour or so. Mine are kind of small so it might not take quite that long.
I was also told that you should only have a thin blue smoke coming out and not a thicker white one. We are doing pretty good with that. Phil is handling all the loading of the chips and seems to really enjoy doing this.

Besides smoking I have yogurt in the oven growing and sourdough bread in the oven as well-not really growing so well. It is incredibly slow rising today. I am thinking about doing only one rising since it may take forever to get a second one.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Today was my first time ever making sausage. It sounds quite wonderful to be able to make your own sausage but it really was a lot of work. I take it that it will get easier with practice and time. I made it easy on myself this time and used collagen casings and a boxed mix (Eastman Outdoors).
The first problem was putting the meat grinder together. It took me at least a half hour to do this. The instructions came for two different models and they would have one section for one on putting it together then a section for the other model on putting it together, then one section on what not to do (which, strangely, involved a lot of the same things from the first section for both models then it had a section on usage but it didn't take very long to figure out that they had the model numbers wrong on this section since my machine had no reverse (I looked for it in vain before figuring out that the model numbers were wrong, sigh). Anyway, I did eventually get the thing together.
I had a 6 lb Boston butt to cut up. The recipe called for 5 lbs but the Boston butt had a bone in it so I figured I was good.

Used one of my new butchering knives to cut the meat off the bone and then cut it up into pieces that could fit in the grinder.
Then came the grinding. The first grinding is real easy and quick but the second grinding you have to be a lot slower with or the grinder gets clogged. Once I figured it out though, things ran pretty smoothly.
So I had these tubes of collagen casings and didn't know how to use them. They would not fit completely on my grinder. So I just put what I could on the grinder and made them in pieces. There was a bit of wrinkly sausage before I realized I needed to hold it longer and let it fill more but it went a long fine after that
. It just took a long time to get them all done.
Now I had watched several videos on how to twist them into links. None of them worked for me. They came unraveled every time. Maybe it was because of the collagen casings. I really don't know but I ended up tying them all which was really time consuming. You can tell when I got tired because the sausages got longer.
We did have a little leftover which made three little sausage patties which I fried up so we could try them. Tasted like sausage!
The plan for today was to get the smoker seasoned. It has to season for 3 hours. But we had some terribly strong wind today and some real low temperature for us (when I looked out this afternoon it said 42 degrees F which wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't been for the wind!). Can't have fire outside, even in the smoker, with that much wind. I was disappointed.
The second plan was to go shopping, get yogurt going and sourdough bread going and do the sausage at the same time. Not possible. Maybe tomorrow I can get the yogurt and sourdough bread done. There are also quail cages to clean and more work on the greenhouse to do but there will be other (warmer) weekends I'm sure.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


The pepper plant in the picture above are not doing too bad but my tomato plants were terribly leggy. I had added the fluorescent light but it wasn't helping much. Plus I had a bunch seeds that I still  needed to get started and no room on the windowsill. My greenhouse still has no roof but I thought I might still be able to use it- sort of. I took the fluorescent light out to the greenhouse, propped it across some blocks on the bench, then ran plastic across and upper shelf to the lower bench to make a mini greenhouse underneath. I moved all the tomatoes out there under the light except the Golden Nugget ones (which wouldn't fit) and one basil plant went out as well. I am fairly sure that the heat let off by the light will keep it warm enough (I hope so anyway.).
This left a bit more room in front of the window so I got the herbs started; sage, oregano, Giant parsley, more basil and thyme and I got my Pepino melons started as well.
Since I am showing the peppers in the picture I do want to mention that the Jimmy Nardello had a wonderful germination rate without me having to add any heat this year and I got just two Cubanelle but those seeds were last years old seeds which didn't germinate very well for me even last year. Almost all of the tomato plants came up which means I will likely have too many but I will plant them somewhere. Maybe I will get them planted out where the washer runs off this year as I had planned to last year.
Anyway, hopefully my seedlings will still grow in the greenhouse and I will have plenty of plants started this year so I won't be having to buy any.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

So Phil took HIS truck to work this morning!

After three weeks of my going to work at 6:30, it is rather a joyous occasion for me to see him drive away this morning in this truck. It is a 1994 Chevy Silverado. The year is still in the range of vehicles that Phil can fix himself (usually). It, of course, runs great or he wouldn't have bought it but it was dirty. It had been used as a work truck with no regard to the interior. There was grease, oil, and drink stains everywhere. Phil got some upholstery cleaner from the auto parts store and combined with a few scrub brushes I had we were able to miraculously get it clean (one spot on the front seat needs a little more work but it will come clean). It looks like a whole new truck inside now. He also had to fix a few of the lights and one of the front seats and it does need a bumper which he will look for at U-Pull-It (a junkyard where you go in find the parts you need and take them off yourself - sort of a "pick your own" deal only with vehicle parts. It is quite easy though with cars lined up and organized. You can find the vehicle you need via computer.). 
We have not had a truck in a very long time and we are quite pleased with all the things we can do with one now. No longer will my poor little Cavalier have to haul hay and feed. Phil can now bring the 2x10 home that he has at the shop (it will go to make one of the last raised beds in the garden).  I'll be able to get the plastic corrugated roofing for my greenhouse. Fruit trees and bags of manure can be brought home easier (probably not in his plans but in mine). And best of all we can make several trips to the dump to get rid of some of the junk that has be accumulating around the house.