Thursday, June 30, 2011

Family Garden Update

It has been a while since we planted the garden.  My parents keep planting more and more every day.  We are harvesting a few things already.  Here is a few pictures I took the other day.

Here is one of the raised beds.  The carrots are growing well and we have harvested a few to thin them out.  The beats are growing very well too.  We have also harvested some to thin them out.  The onions are getting huge.  We just pull them as we want some.  Some onions we let get nice and big to dry and store.

On the other side of the onions is a patch of lettuce that we have been harvesting and some cilantro that we will use to make salsa when the tomatoes are ready!!

Here are the second batch of peas.  They are looking good.  The first patch was planted in the lower garden close to the house.  They were fenced off but something still got in and ate them all. 

Pumpkins and squash growing well.  Notice the top soil.  Every time it rains here it has been flooding.  The top soil keeps getting washed away.  Hopefully we don't get any more flooding this growing season.

Here is a portion of the nearly 200 tomato plants.  They are doing well.  We had a couple of floods after we planted them, but they are on the highest part of the garden. 

Here is a patch of sweet potatoes.  Dad read in one of his garden books that sweet potatoes like it hot and damp.  It suggested to use the clear plastic.  The plastic keeps the moisture in and the heat in.  They are looking pretty good.  It is neat to look at the plastic.  On hot days you can see all the condensation just running back down the plastic back into the soil.  He waters them all around the edge of the plastic.

Here is a patch of beans growing.  There are several different types here.  Both green beans and some dry bean varieties. 

Here is a nice looking potato patch.  This is in the lower garden close to the house.  The black raspberry bushes are to the left of the potatoes.  The bushes are loaded and we have just started harvesting raspberries!!

The blue berries are ripening up too.  There is a lot of work to be done out here and I am a little disappointed I can't help.  I had abdominal surgery done on Tuesday so I am out of commission for a little while.  Good thing this is a family garden and not just mine.  So my parents and siblings will pick up the slack until I am fully recovered.  Hopefully I will be all healed up by the time harvest starts.  My pantry is getting low and I need to can a lot of goodies this year!!!

I am linking to Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's A Boy!!

It's a boy!!  And a girl, and a boy, and another girl!!  The baby bunnies (kits) are officially now 5 weeks old.  My goodness how time flies.  They grow so fast and seem like they get bigger every day.  They are finally at an age that we were able to sex them.  The term to sex a rabbit, means to determine the sex of a rabbit.  My son learned to do this last year when he was just 9.  He is very good at it.  He was able to determine the sex of the little ones last week.  So he is very proud that he has 2 boys (bucks) and 2 girls (does). 

These two little ones are boys.  They are a broken castor and broken black.
They are pet quality rabbits.  Which means that their markings are not
correct for rabbit shows.  They still are very pretty and
will make someone a great pet.  They seem to be the friendlier
than the two does.

This solid black one is a doe.  She is of show quality.  Her
fur is simply gorgeous.  Mini-Rex rabbits have short, dense, compact fur.
It feels like velvet.  If you pet a Mini-Rex and then a long hair or
other type of rabbit you will feel the difference in their fur.
The mother of these bunnies has almost perfect fur. 
Sometimes their fur maybe slightly too long for a Mini-Rex
or not quite compact enough.  For showing they judge on
quality of fur, body shape and type, color, and markings.
This little doe is solid black and has great fur.  So she will
make someone a great show rabbit!!

The one on the right is the other doe.  She is a solid castor.  As
she gets older the brown will darken up on her.  Castor is a
unique color in rabbits. It is part of the agouti color group.
What is the agouti color group? It is a group of colors that the
hair shaft forms a ring of color.  In general you have
a surface color, an intermediate color and a base color. 
When you blow on it's fur you will see this ring of color.
If you go back and see the first photos of these little ones at
Baby Bunnies , their skin was black.  When you blow
on the fur you will see the black close to the skin and
change color as the fur goes out.  My son just loves
blowing on the fur and seeing this!! She also has beautiful
fur and will make a great show rabbit!

Here are a few more pictures of the little ones. 
They are eating a lot of food now and are
playing all the time.  They are so fun to watch
and to hold.  Their mother Cotton though is still
very protective of her babies.  And she will let us
know when she is upset with us holding those babies.
She makes a lot of noise when we have the cage
open to long and are holding the little ones. 

The next series of photos was my attempt to get a shot
of all 4 bunnies in one photo.  They were not
being very cooperative and got too curious of the
camera as I was taking photos.  They eventually
all ran off to jump in the nesting box or go eat
or drink.  Their mama was happy when I finally
shut the door and left them alone!!

By next week we will have to start looking for new homes for these little ones.  They are so cute and it should not be that hard.  They are still nursing at night but they are also eating pellets and drinking water.  They do make great pets and can be kept in the home or outside.  And are great for taking into nursing homes.  They are so soft and stay small.  They top out at 4 1/2 pounds making them a perfect pet!!

I am linking to Homestead Barn Hop

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mulberry Pie

I seem to have a theme going this week.  Mulberries are here and I will keep picking them until they are gone.  So while they are here everything at my house is Mulberries!!

Here is how I make a Mulberry Pie

First you need to pick about a quart of Mulberries.  Then you have to de-stem them. There is no easy way to de-stem a Mulberry.  It has to be done one at a time.  I found that it went quickly by using a nail clipper to clip each stem off.  It also helped keep my hands from tuning purple.  Once I de-stemmed all the Mulberries I washed them to get all the little bugs and insects out of them. 
Then I gathered up the ingredients to make the pie filling.  Sugar, water, clear jel or cornstarch, and 1 quart of berries.  I also add a 1/4 teaspoon of Almond Flavoring to my fruit pie fillings.  It just helps enhance the fruit flavor of the pie. 

I was just shy of 1 quart of berries.  I picked these from my next door neighbors Mulberry Bush last night.  I picked from the trees at the farm in the morning.  I got almost 1 quart of  berries from the small bush next door. (Yes I did have permission to pick the berries,  he is a bachelor and does not use them, I gave him some Mulberry Jam)  I would have picked another handful this morning but it was raining and I did not want to get soaking wet to just add a handful of berries.  So I settled with what I had.  So in a saucepan put in 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, 1/4 cup of clear jel or cornstarch and the berries.  Stir on medium high heat until thick and bubbly.  Remove from the heat and add the 1/4 teaspoon of almond flavoring.  Set aside while you make your crust.

Now for the crust.  You can use any recipe that you have to make a double crust.  This recipe has been handed down for generations from my family which is known for their pies!!  For a double crust I use 2 cups of flour, 10 rounded tablespoons of vegetable shortening, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 4 tablespoons of water.  Mix the flour, salt, and vegetable shortening with a pastry blender until it is nice and crumbly. Then add your cold water and mix in with a fork just until it holds together.  After that form to balls of dough and flatten into a disk.

Now you roll out the dough.  A little trick my mom taught me is to roll out your dough between 2 pieces of wax paper.  I dust the bottom piece with flour put on a disk of dough and dust with flour.  Then put the top piece on and roll out your dough.  It makes it easy to lift the dough and to center it onto your pie pan.  This recipe will make a 9 inch pie.

Now pour your filling into the crust.  Roll out your top pie crust.  Make sure you make some sort of slit to allow the hot filling to vent.  You can do this with a sharp knife, a cookie cutter, or any decorative pie crust tool.  A lattice top will work fine too.  However you want your pie to be.  You just need to make sure you leave a small space open for a vent. Before adding the top crust brush the edge of your pie with water.  This helps the two crust form a seal.

Once you have the top crust on crimp and seal the edges with your chosen style.  Everyone does this different.  Whatever way you choose is fine.  Just seal the top and bottom crust together.

One last touch I always do with my fruit pies is to lightly brush the top with water and sprinkle with sugar.  This adds a little shine to the top and also a little sweetness to the crust.  Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. 

Once your pie is done let it sit on a trivet or hot pad to completely cool.  I like to let my fruit pies completely cool before I cut them.  This allows the filing to thicken back up.  If you want a warm slice of pie put individual slices in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.  My family will be upset when they find out that this pie is not to be eaten today.  It will be for a church picnic tomorrow. 

My husband has learned to ask about all desserts in our house.  After eating a dessert that was meant to be taken to a picnic he know asks what a dessert is for before eating.  Enjoy your Mulberry Pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or just plain. Yum!!!

To see other ways to use mulberries check out my other mulberry posts

Here is the recipe for Mulberry Pie

1 quart of Mulberries, washed and de-stemmed
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup clear jel or cornstarch

Pie Crust (for a double crust pie)
2 cups of flour
10 rounded tablespoons of vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons of cold water


Thursday, June 23, 2011

More Mulberries!!

I picked more mulberries today.  They are continuing to get ripe and it is free food.  So I will pick as much as I can to can up.  Today I picked both the purple and white varieties.  The purple mulberry is red when unripe and then ripens to a dark purple almost black.  The white variety are green when unripe and turn white when ripe.  The black seeds are very noticeable in the white mulberries.  The white mulberry is very mild in flavor compared to the black. 

To pick mulberries you can do one of two things.  Either lay a clean sheet under the tree and shake the limbs.  The ripe berries will fall to the ground.  You just collect them off the sheet.  Or you can do it the old fashion way and pick them right off the tree.  Since the mulberry trees on the farm are at the edge of a wooded area and are not mowed around them, I climb a ladder and pick by hand.  I normally hold my bucket under the branch that I am picking because the slightest touch will have them falling to the ground.

Also in case you are wondering, it is called a Mulberry Bush when it is young as it gets more mature it grows into a Mulberry Tree.  I think every has sung the song  "All around the Mulberry bush the monkey chased the weasel!!" So now you know.  It is the same thing.  The mulberry bush grows up to be a tree!

Here is the colander full of Mulberries.
 Aren't the white ones so pretty mixed in.

I decided to make another batch of mulberry spritzer. 
So I had my son mash up all the mulberries this time. 
He was very willing do to this task.  Almost a little to willing!!
Just look at all those white and purple berries mashing together. 
 It was so pretty!

Even though I had a lot of white berries in there  the batch when cooked
 up is still dark purple.  This is why you don't wear good clothes or
white clothes when working with mulberries. 
 Everything will be stained purple.  Especially
 your hands.  It does wear off after a
few washings though!!

Here is my old pillow case I use for a jelly bag.  It is stained with all
the purple things I have put through it.  The mulberry mash that
 is left over is light in color.  That is because all that dark purple
 came out into the juice. 

If you look at my last post  of the Mulberry Spritzer  this batch turned
out just as dark.  I did get almost 5 pints out of this batch.  The only thing
I did different was I did not add the spices and simmer it for a
 half an hour.  I just put my 2 quarts of mulberry juice in a saucepan
and added the 3 cups of sugar.  I brought it to a boil and then
poured it in my jars.  Then processes for 15 minutes. 
 My younger son did not like the spices in the first batch. 
 My older loves spices so he drank it all down.
  I like this batch better. Since I did not simmer it for 30 minutes
 I did not loose a lot of the juice to evaporation.

I will have to get more pectin so when I pick some more I can make another batch of jam.  I wouldn't mind making a pie or two either.  But the raspberries are starting to get ripe and cherries too. So It looks to be a very busy next few weeks!!   I love summer and get excited about picking and canning.  I love the free produce the best!!  It takes more work but it is so rewarding.  Especially come Christmas time when I have all these wonderful gifts to give and yummy drinks and jam to eat!! 

To see more uses of Mulberries check out my other posts

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mulberry Spritzer

Mulberry Spritzer

I picked enough Mulberries yesterday to make a batch of jam and a batch of Mulberry Spritzer.  I have been wanting to make this for years.  The recipe calls for blackberries.  But I never can pick enough blackberries to make this and since mulberries are very similar I decided to try this. 
First I needed 3 quarts of mulberries that have been washed.  Place in a pan and crush.  Then add 4 cups of water.  Bring this to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.  Then strain through a jelly bag.

Add water to juice if necessary to make 2 quarts of juice.  Pour into a large kettle and add 3 cups sugar.  Stir until dissolved.  Place 1 tablespoon of whole cloves and  1 tablespoon whole allspice in a cheesecloth bag and add to juice.  Add 2 cinnamon sticks to juice as well.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove spices and bring back to a boil.  Ladle into hot sterilized pint jars. 

Wipe the jar rims with a clean wash cloth

Boil new lids and place on jars using a lid lifter

Screw on rings and tighten by hand.  Place in a hot water bath and process for 15 minutes. 
Remove from the water and let sit on your counter until cool.  Once sealed put them in your pantry for future use or Christmas gifts!!  If any jars did not seal put in the fridge to use up.
To serve mix 1 part concentrate to 2 parts lemon-lime soda or club soda. 
I put mine in some champagne glasses to make it fun for the kids.
They loved it and kept asking for more. 

I was surprised at how good it tasted.  The spices added a little kick to it.  It was very refreshing.  If I make it again, (which I most likely will)  I will try a batch without the spices to taste the difference.  This makes 4 pints of concentrate.  Each concentrate will make a quart and a half of mulberry spritzer. Since I already used 1 pint up I will need to pick more mulberries to make more.  Yum!!!! 

Here is the recipe for Mulberry Spritzer

Mulberry Spritzer
3 quarts mulberries
4 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks

To see other uses for Mulberries check out my other posts

I am linking to the

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mulberry Jam

Mulberries are just getting ripe here in Ohio.  I went out to the farm today and picked a big tub of Mulberries.  If you haven't ever eaten a Mulberry they taste similar to a blackberry but are a little sweeter.  They grow on trees.  And are all over here in our part of Ohio.  I did not get any last year and this year the tree is loaded.  So today I made jam and spritzer concentrate.  Here is the process on how to make Mulberry Jam!!

First you need to wash your berries.  Get all the bugs out and rinse them.  Then let them drain in a colander.  Here is my colander filled with mulberries!!

Now you have to crush your mulberries and de-stem them.  The easiest way is to put them through a strainer.  I use my strainer and measure out 3 cups of mulberries while I am straining.  The strainer removes the stems and a lot of seeds.  You don't have to do this.  But it is a lot easier than de-stemming all the berries one at a time.  Plus we don't like a lot of seeds in our jam.  I do this also for raspberry jam.

Once I have 3 cups of Mulberries I measure out my ingredients and get ready
to make my jam.  Here are the ingredients.  3 cups Mulberries, 1/4 cup lemon juice,
 6 cups sugar, 1 pkg of powdered pectin.

Pour the mulberries, lemon juice, and pectin into a tall pan. 
Stir until the pectin is dissolved.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly.

Now add your sugar.  Stir until dissolved. 
 Bring back to a boil and boil for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.

Skim off the foam with a spoon.
  Then ladle into hot sterilized jelly jars. 

Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean wash cloth.

Boil new lids in water.
  Then with a lid lifter apply the lids to your jars.

Screw on the rings and tighten by hand. 

Place the jars into a boiling water bath.  Process for 5 minutes.  Then remove jars and let sit on the counter until cool.  Make sure all the jars sealed.  If one did not seal put in the fridge to use up.  The rest store in your pantry for later use or as Christmas presents!!

Here are the jars of sealed Mulberry Jam!!  The taller jars are a 12 oz jelly jar I got from my Grandma.  They are really neat.  This batch made about seven 8 oz jars of jam.

Here is the recipe I used for Mulberry Jam

Mulberry Jam
3 cups crushed mulberries
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 pkg powdered pectin
6 cups sugar

To see other uses for Mulberries check out my other posts
Mulberry Spritzer
More Mulberries
Mulberry Pie

I am linking to  The Homestead Barn Hop