Friday, July 29, 2011

It's Finished!!

After a month of working on the floral bouquet afghan it is finished.  I was rather surprised at how fast it went together.  I did up enough squares at a time to make a row.  There are 8 rows of 6 squares.  I sewed up each row and started attaching the rows as I went.  This kept me from having  a bag with a bunch of squares in it.  I only had 6 squares made up at one time.  I love the border on it.  I am still unsure if I will give this as a gift or keep it for myself.  I will enter it in our county fair this fall.

I just love how the squares form a circle with a diamond inside.  It really turned out pretty.  I was getting bored towards the last few squares, but I pushed myself to keep going.  Once I started the border my interest was renewed.  I am proud of myself that I stuck it through and got another afghan finished.  And I did not start another project in the middle of it!!!  Now all I have to do is finish all the other projects I have started in the last 5 years!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bunny Update

The baby bunnies (kits) are 9 weeks old now.  They are almost as big as their mother.  It doesn't help that their mother is small for her breed.  We only have one left in the cage.  We sold the castor and white buck when he was 6 weeks old.  He is doing well in his new home and the boys that bought him love him and pamper him.  The castor doe and the black and white buck was sold last night to a little girl who is just thrilled to have some bunnies.  She is in my son's 4-H group.  To young to show animals yet she is what they call a clover bud.  Someone from the age of Kindergarten and 3rd grade.  They let them come to meetings and do activities with them.  They just can't take projects or show animals at the fair.  But last month when my son took his rabbit that he is training for the Pet PALS program to the 4-H meeting for a demonstration this little girl fell in love with it.  She sat there the entire time just petting that bunny.  I told the mom that we had baby bunnies that would be ready to sell in a couple of weeks.  So at the meeting on Monday they asked if they were ready.  They came last night and bought two rabbits!!!  We were so excited.  Because the black doe that is left is actually going to the farm.  Grandma and Grandpa decided to keep it there for all the grand kids to enjoy.  Plus my son really loved that black one and wanted to keep it.  Can you say that he has Grandma and Grandpa wrapped around his little finger!!!

Here is the last bunny left in the cage.  Mother was a little less upset this time when we took out the other two.  I think she is starting to get tired of the little ones taking up so much space in her cage.  Especially last week during that heat wave. 

Here is a picture of mother and daughter.  The black doe does not show up real well.  A lot of times when the cage is shaded it is hard to see her in there.  I guess that is why my son calls her Shadow.  It is a good name for her.  The cage is not built yet for her.  When it gets finished we will then move her out to the farm.  This will help the mother dry up.  Even though the babies have been eating pellets since they were 3 weeks old the mother will still nurse them as long as they are in the cage with her. 

These are not the greatest pictures of the rabbits but they are not being very cooperative.  The mother still grunts and whimpers at us every time we open the cage.  Hopefully once all the babies are gone she will stop doing this. The fair is coming up in a couple of months and my son plans on showing her again.  It will be hard to show a rabbit that is being feisty!!

On a side note my son took his broken castor buck to a nursing home for the first time yesterday.  We took it to the assisted living place that my grandmother lives in.  Oh how the residents there loved that bunny.  They loved his color and how friendly and soft he was.  It was wonderful to see how a blind ladies face just lit up when the staff member took her hands and placed it on the rabbit.  This is all worth it and why my son joined the Pet PALS program.  He is not fully certified yet.  So we just don't say that he is a member yet.  We just told them that he has been training his bunny to sit in the basket.  The residents were all so amazed at how well behaved his rabbit was.  Now that my surgery was finally done and I am feeling a lot better we are going to have to make this a weekly trip.  My kids love it and my granmother and the other residents just love it too!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mint Cooler

If you want a cool and refreshing drink in the summer you only have to look in your herb garden.  The mint family of herbs make great drinks.  I made this mint cooler for a presentation I did at my church on herbs.  The ladies loved it.  I made mint ice cubes too to put in the drink. 

Here is how to make a mint cooler.  You need a quart of mint leaves.  This can be any combination of mint you have.  I used spearmint and lemon balm.  Many people don't know that lemon balm is actually in the mint family.  It is great for the digestion and really aids in IBS. 

Take your mint leaves and place in a pot.  Add 1 gallon of water to them and bring to a boil.  As soon as it comes to a boil put a lid on the pot.  Turn down the heat and let simmer covered for 10 minutes.  Add a cup of honey and stir.  Put the lid back on and let sit over night or until the solution has completely cooled.  Then pour the solution through a jelly bag and put in a jug to cool.  Serve iced with mint leaves or mint ice cubes. 

If you don't want it as sweet use less honey.  This is kind of sweet so maybe use half the honey or none if you are watching your sugar. 

You will get 1 gallon of mint cooler to put in the fridge. 


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dilly Beans

Pickled dill beans also known as Dilly Beans are easy to make and great to eat.  I picked some Roma Beans and snipped some dill and off I went to make my pickled beans.  A good friend of ours gave us this recipe.  It is an old recipe for dill pickles that has been passed down through the generations.  You can use this recipe to make dill pickles, dilly beans, and squash pickles.   The recipe is very easy.  Just get your clean sterlized jars and put a clove of garlic in the bottom.  Lay a grape leaf on the side of the jar.  Then put your beans in.  I trim the ends of them and put the beans in veritcal.  It is easier to lay the jar on the side and stack them in.  Put a head of dill on the top and then pour the vinegar solution on top.

Why the grape leaf.  I was told by my friend that the grape leaf helps keep the pickles crisp.  I have made them before without it.  But I actually had some grape leaves this year so I made them with it.  I like the look of it.  I can't wait to taste them!!
Here are my Roma Beans trimmed and washed.  Roma Beans are a flat green been that has a buttery flavor to them.  They make great dilly beans!!

I am in the process of filling the jars. 

Here are 12 pints of dilly beans waiting for the vinegar solution.

Here are the jars after the vinegar solution has been added.  Fill to within 1/2 inch from the top.  Boil your new lids and put on the jars.  Make sure you wipe the rims clean first.  Then screw on the rims and tighten by hand.  Then you process the jars in a water bath for 20 minutes. Make sure you cool the water down a little before you add a second batch of jars.  They will break if you put them right into the boiling water. 

Here are my 12 pints of dilly beans.  Aren't they pretty?  They will be ready to eat in a couple of weeks.  Pickles taste better as they age especially dill pickles. 

I had a couple of zucchini and summer squash so I sliced them up and made dill pickles out of them too.  Dill pickles and squash pickles are made the same way.  You only have to process them for 10 minutes insead of 20. 

My friend also told me to not throw away the vinegar solution after you have eaten all of your pickles or dilly beans.  Make some hard boiled eggs.  Peel and put right into the jar of the vinegar solution.  Put in the fridge for a couple of days.  You will have dill pickled eggs.  They are great in potato or macaroni salad.  They also make a great egg salad. 

Here is the recipe for the vinegar solution.  Just make as many batches as you need to cover the amount of dilly beans or pickles you have. 

4 cups water
4 cups vinegar
8 tablespoons canning salt
Bring to a boil and pour over pickles. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Canning Green Beans

Beans are in season here in Ohio.  My husband was complaining that I was canning them on some of the hottest days of the year.  I told him you don't have a choice when to can.  You have to can the food when it is ready.  And July is when beans come on in Ohio.  At the farm we have several different varieties of green beans.  My mom, brother, and I were all picking on Saturday.  We each picked some different rows.  I picked Yellow Wax Beans and Roma Beans.  Roma Beans are a flat bean that has a buttery taste to them.  They taste great cooked up in the winter!!

The first thing you need to do when you want to can beans is to snap your beans.  Sometimes I have the kids do this when I am busy.  They got off this time around and I did it myself.  You need to snap off the stems.  Then you snap them into bite size pieces or your preferred length.  I picked a 5 gallon bucket full plus a gallon bucket over flowing.  I used the gallon bucket for dilly beans which I will post on later.  I picked the beans towards the evening so by the time I got the all snapped it was getting late.  I just filled my stock pot up with them and covered them in water and put in the fridge.  This keeps them nice and crisp and also helps get any dirt off. 

When you are ready to can your beans get your jars ready.  Use clean sterilized jars.  This can be done in a dishwasher.  If you don't have one like me fill your sink up with very hot water.  Let your jars sit in it for a while.  Beans can be canned either hot packed or cold packed.  I normally cold pack my beans.  It is less work and I like that.  To cold pack your beans get your beans and place them in your jars.  I will tap the jars on the counter a few times to help the beans settle down in the jars.  Then push the beans down at the top of the jars as tight as I can get them.  By doing this you ensure that you have a nice filled jar of beans.  Then once canned they will not rise to the top and have a big space of water at the bottom of your jar. 

Here are my beans that I pulled out of the fridge.  The bottom is filled with the wax beans.

Once your jars are full you can add canning salt to them if desired.  This does not help with the preserving process.  It is for taste only.  I used to do it, but I prefer now to not salt my vegetables.  I add my flavorings when I open the jar of beans depending on what I am using them for.  If you add salt use 1 teaspoon for quart jars and 1/2 teaspoon for pint jars.  Now cover your beans in boiling water.  Fill the water leaving 1 inch head space.  Clean the rims and place on new lids that have been boiled.  Screw on the rings and tighten by hand. 

Here are my first 7 jars ready to put into the canner.

Put jars into your canner and put your water in.  Each canner has a different amount of water needed to  pressure can.  Read the instructions for your canner.  Mine uses 3 quarts of water.  Put your jars in and water and put on your lid.  Next bring your canner to the correct pressure.  Once it reaches the correct pressure then you start your timer.  Green, Wax, and Roma beans need to be pressure canned at 10  lbs of pressure if you have a weighted gauge or 11 lbs of pressure if you have a dial gauge.  When it reaches the correct pressure for your canner start your timer.  Green beans need to be pressure canned for 25 minutes for quart jars and 20 minutes for pint jars.  If you have both quart and pint jars in your canner always can them for the amount of time needed for quarts. 

Make sure your canner stays at pressure the entire time.  If it drops below 10 lbs of pressure for more than a second you will have to start your time all over again.  It is better to be safe than sorry.  Each vege that your can is given a time that is needed to heat the vegetable inside the jar to a certain temperature. This drives the air out of the jar and kills any bacteria that could be in the jar. When the time is up take the canner off the heat and let it depressurize.  I normally let the canner cool down for 10 minutes after it depressurizes.  Then remove your jars and let cool.  Load your canner up again and repeat the process until all you beans are done.  I got 14 quarts from 5 gallons of beans!!  These will go in my pantry and I will keep adding to them until the beans are done producing!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Strawberry Jam

It is not strawberry season here anymore but the local grocery store had strawberries really cheap so I bought a few. I never made any jam from our strawberries at the farm.  We just ate them fresh and I made a few desserts out of them. I wanted to make at least one batch of strawberry jam since that is my families favorite jam.   So I cut the strawberries up and put them in a pan.  It takes 2 quarts of strawberries to make jam.

Add 1 pkg of powdered pectin and bring to a boil stirring constantly.

Add 7 cups of sugar and continuously stir and bring back to a boil.  Boil for 1 minute and take off the heat.

Strawberry jam tends to foam up a lot.  

Skim off as much foam as possible.  For some reason out of all the jams I make strawberry jam really foams up.  So I skim off as much as I can.

Ladle into your clean sterilized jars.

Wipe jar rims with a clean wash cloth.  Boil new lids and put on jars.  Screw on rings and hand tighten. Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. 

This recipe makes about 8 8oz jars.  I put them into pint jars so I got 4 pint jars.  We use a lot of strawberry jam so an 8 oz jar does not last long.

Label your jars with content and the date and put up in your pantry for later use!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fall Crafts

I love to paint.  I used to pain a  lot of scenery pictures but lately I have mainly tole painted.  Here are a few fall craft items I have painted.

These are paper mache boxes that I painted and filled with goodies.  I gave them to my son's preschool teachers and someone else.  I can't remember who.  I just know I did not keep one.  I love painting paper mache boxes.  The boxes are so inexpensive but paint up real nice.  They can then be filled with home made goodies and make a wonderful gift.

This was a purchased wooden plate that I painted and gave to a friend.  I love the pilgrims.  I need to remember this design this fall and paint it again. 

I have painted this design on so many different things.  I love this design.  It is fun and easy to paint and oh so cute.  I have painted it on wood trays, paper mache boxes, wood plates, and other wooden and paper mache items.  I also don't have one of these.  I need to paint one for myself.  I just think this little girl is so cute and the fruit and veges are so whimsical!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fall Wood Crafts

Many years ago I made a bunch of fall wood crafts as prizes for a harvest party.  I love making things out of wood and painting.

Here are all the prizes.  I also filled a few quart mason jars with candy corn and decorated them with orange and black raffia.

The Autumn Greetings sign is made out of 1 inch pine.  It is just cut in a rectangle and painted.  Then screw in eyelets are put on top and wire attached to them.  Raffia tied in a bow finishes the sign off.

The oak leaves and acorns are also cut out of 1 inch pine.  The leaves are all one piece.  The acorns are cut out separately and attached with wire.  A wire hanger is added and a raffia bow finishes it off.

The Autumn Blessings sign is cut out of 1/4 inch plywood.  The pumpkin is cut out in one piece then cut apart into the three pieces.  The leaves are also cut out of 1/4 inch plywood.  After being painted the pieces are attached together using wire.  It also has a wire hanger and is finished off with a raffia bow. 

Fall is my favorite season and I love making fall crafts.  It is also a busy canning season for me so I have very little fall crafts in my house.  I really need to start keeping some of the things I make. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Christmas Woodworking

I am going to be busy this week with VBS and 4-H judging so I thought I would share some things I have made in the past.  Today I am going to share two woodworking projects that I have made several of.  They are the Primitive Creche Puzzle and the Wise Man and Camels.  I found both of these designs in some old craft books that I got at the library.  I drew up the designs and created these.  I have given the Wise Man and Camels to many newly wed couples as a gift and to several people as a Christmas gift.  I have given the Primitive Creche Puzzle as a gift to many people and I have even sold a couple. 

The creche is made out of 1 inch thick pine wood.  The stable is cut from two pieces.  The front piece I use a scroll saw to cut out the nativity pieces.  Then the frame is glued to the back and sanded together as one piece.  The stable then is able to stand upright on a flat surface.  The nativity pieces have very little detail.  Eyes are added by drilling holes.  Crowns are added to the wise men by cutting slits on the top.  The puzzle has Mary, Joseph, a shepherd, 3 wise men, a cow, 2 sheep, the baby Jesus in the manger, and a donkey.  The nativity pieces also stand up in front of the stable. The wood is just sanded and I finish the wood using Tung Oil.    The Creche is great for display but is also great for play.  My kids love to put the puzzle together.  So do many other kids who I have given this Creche to.

The only thing that I learned to do was give a diagram with the answer to the puzzle.  I had a few friends try for a while to get the puzzle back together.  They were very happy to have a cheat sheet. 

TheWise Man and Camel is also made out of 1 inch pine.  The wise man is cut out of one piece then cut apart into smaller pieces.  It is painted then glued back together.  The arms are cut out of separate pieces.  The staff is cut from a dowel rod and put in his hand through a drilled hole.  The camel's bodies are cut out in one piece then the head is cut off.  Once painted it is glued back together.  The legs are all cut out separate and glued to the camels once they are painted.  The pieces are then glued to a board.  Once everything has dried then a sealer is put on the entire thing.  Now the fun starts.  I add the cloth around the hat.  The blankets on the camels and all the fringe.  The packs are then glued on as well.  I hand bead all the tassels before they are glued on.  It is so fun to decorate each of these.  All though they all look similar each one has a little different charm added as I add all the details to it.

These are just some of the fun things I have made out of wood.  Wood is such a great medium to work with.  It is wonderful to buy a board from the lumber yard and just dream of all the possibilities.  I love cutting out, sanding, and putting together my creations!!  I know it is only July but Christmas will be here before you know it.  I normally start making things in January for the following Christmas. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Freezing and Drying Blueberries

I picked a bunch of blueberries the other day.  I mean a bunch.  I picked 4 gallons.  Well I picked 2 and 3/4  gallons.  My oldest picked a gallon but my youngest got real tired and whiny after about 1/2 an hour so I had to help him finish filling up his gallon bucket!!  Two gallons were for my brother and sister in law.  The place selling them is only open during the time they both work.  So I offered to pick some for them.  So that left me with 2 gallons of blueberries.  I decided to put them up for future use rather than to make something out of them.  So one gallon I froze and the the other gallon I decided to dehydrate.  I  will probably go back next week and pick some more to make pie filling or syrup or something!!

Freezing blueberries is super easy.  Just wash your berries and drain well.  Pick out any stems and then put them on cookie sheets that have a lip in a single layer.  Put in the freezer and freeze. 

I ran out of cookie sheets so I used a couple of my 9x13 pans to put them in.

Once they are frozen remove from the cookie sheets and put in your freezer containers or freezer bags and put in your freezer! I bought these freezer containers last year.  I really like them.  The lid screws on so it keeps a good seal.  It holds two cups.  Which works well.  Most recipes don't use more than a cup or two of berries.  Plus when you freeze your berries before you stack them up they don't freeze into a big clump.  They come out easily for muffins, breads, pies, and cereal!!

To dry blueberries you have to do a little bit more preparation.  According to my dehydrators directions you blanch the blueberries briefly in boiling water in order to get the blueberries to crack.  Then drain and load your dehydrator trays.

Dehydrate at 135 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 - 18 hours.  My blueberries are quite large and it took quite a bit longer then 18 hours.  It took a little longer than 24 hours for some of them.  I took them out as they were dry.  Put your berries in an air tight container with a lid.  Let sit for at least 24 hours to condition.  The moisture in the dried fruit will equalize throughout the container if left at room temperature for several days.  If some pieces are dryer than others, the conditioning process will allow the moisture to equalize.  If any condensation appears on the lid of the container, the berries are not thoroughly dried.  Return to the dehydrator and check periodically for dryness.  I got almost 3 pints of blue goodness from 1 gallon of blueberries. 
 My friend said she put her blueberries just straight into the dehydrator and they dried just fine.  Took a lot of time but dried up just like raisins.  So if I do it again I will not dip them in boiling water.  It made them a little sticky and hard to get off the dehydrator trays.  They still dried fine, but anything to make the process easier is always welcome!!

Dried blueberries are great for granola and granola bars.  To throw into cookies and other baked items.  You can use these in place of raisins for any recipe.  The best thing about them is they store for a long time.  And if they are dried properly they will not go bad on you.  It seems like you don't get that many blueberries when you dry them but look at the cost.  I paid $10 for these 3 pints of dried blueberries.  If I bought them in the store I would pay almost $5 for an 8oz bag of them.  So I did save a lot of money!!

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