Self-Sufficiency Series

Showing posts with label Blueberries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blueberries. Show all posts

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Canning blueberries

The blueberries are ripening late this year. Last year the first pick was ready by the time I got home from Portland; this year, I just finished the first pick this morning.

Because of the extreme heat we've been having for the last month, most of the garden work (picking, weeding, etc.) is being done in the very early morning. I'm usually out in the garden by 5:30 am or so for a couple of hours of solid work before the heat from the rising sun sends me back inside. (I'm a wimp in heat.)

But the bushes are bearing prolifically.

Because my picking time was limited, the first pick (meaning, the first go-round on all the bushes) took me three days.

I ended up with two bowls full.

Together they weighed 5.5 lbs.

I sat down to sort the berries. I plucked out flower ends (top) and stems (bottom) from various berries, though most were fine..

Lihn watched with great interest. She was scared of the berries at first because they rolled. (Remember, she's the parrot equivalent of a toddler.)

She finally grew brave enough to try one, though she did little more than gum it.

Out of 5.5 lbs. of berries, I got only a little bit of debris.

Cleaned and ready to can.

Ten pints, ready for syrup. My canning book recommends cold-packing blueberries (as opposed to hot-packing) so they don't get mushy.

I dissolve sugar in water at a 1:2 ratio, bringing it to a boil for "thin" syrup.

Ladling the syrup into the jars.

Scalding the Tattler lids.

Capping the jars.

It's important to always use a rack at the bottom of the canning pots so the jars aren't directly touching the pot bottom (which can cause breakage). Blueberries are acidic, so they can be water-bath canned.

I got six jars in my medium pot, four jars in my smaller pot. The water should come to about an inch above the tops of the jars.

I put a timer by each pot to keep track. Pint jars of blueberries need to be boiled at a rolling boil for fifteen minutes.

I started the timers when the water reached a rolling boil. This photo is hard to see, but I've lifted the lid (on the left) to see the rapidly-boiling water (under all the steam).

I turned the temperatures to low under the pots and left them alone while the timers ticked.

The jars leaked juice as I pulled them out. This is normal.

About a year ago, I got lazy and purchased a can of "blueberry pie filling" from the grocery store for a dessert recipe. I use quotes because the product was a joke. There were about five blueberries in the can; the rest was filling.

But these pints of canned blueberries are chock-ful of fresh (organic!) blueberries which can be made into pie filling within minutes. Home canning -- it's the best!

I'll do another picking of blueberries in about a week. I estimate I'll have three more pickings left, maybe another ten pounds total. God bless summer fruit!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Battening down the hatches

The fall of the year is the time to batten down our farm in anticipation of winter. We never know whether we'll have a bad winter or not, so we always try to prepare for the worst.

A few years ago, we had two winters in a row that were remarkably harsh. One winter yielded a lot of snow; the next winter was a dire combination of snow and high winds. Our non-county-maintained road drifted shut so many times that it took a heroic neighbor eight hours to dig out our neighborhood, and there were nine-foot walls of snow on either side of the road. We plowed out our driveway (about 300 feet long) so many times that there was nowhere else to put the snow, so when another storm drifted it shut we had the foresight to park the car at the end of the driveway and skidded a sled over the length for about two months before we could park in front of the house again.

We always need to make sure we have adequate supplies of firewood, dog and cat food, chicken feed, hay, and (of course) people food before winter hits. We also try to clean up, so things like tools or random pieces of equipment don't get buried for six months.

Anyway, we've spent the last three weeks doing all these things to batten down. Today we expect our first really wintry storm (heavy rain, some snow, high winds) so we wanted to make sure we were ready.

Firewood has been a big preoccupation lately. Don cut the remains of the logging-truck load we brought in two years ago. We had a little over a cord left from this load.

We split and stacked this remainder. We needed to get this log yard cleared to make room for another logging-truck load.

Found an interesting fungal growth. Anyone know what type?

Over a couple of days, we split the rest of the wood...

...and stacked it on the porch.

With the help of a friend who stopped in to visit...

...Don got the awning roof finished.

Later he built a "pony wall" over the awning and below the eaves.

We also turned the spot adjacent to the awning into what we're calling the "feed lot." It required drilling some holes to put in a fence and gate.

Moving a railroad tie into place for a fence post...

...and cementing it into place.

Don mounded up some compost for me conveniently close to the garden gate in anticipation of next spring.

The girls worked at gathering more branches for a burn pile.

Later they helped me pluck pinto bean pods from the plants we pulled up. We'll let the pods dry and shell them later.

We got more tractor tires in, ready to expand the garden next spring.

I drained and coiled the hoses to store away for the winter.

The chickens, meanwhile, took advantage of some sunny weather to take dust baths.

We got a burn pile going, to get rid of some waste wood, bark, shop debris, and other burnable material.

This burn pile is where the new load of logs will be put, so we needed to get it burned, cooled, wetted, and otherwise done and out of the way.

The blueberry leaves are all red.

I gathered all the remaining pumpkins from the garden and put them in the barn. I've been giving a lot away, and we'll cut these remaining pumpkins up for cattle food.

Now that the awning is finished and the feed lot fence is made, we moved the animals from the pasture side of the property. A call of "Bossy bossy bossy bossy bossy!" brought the whole gang up fast. They know what's up!

Little Amy, Matilda's calf, was in calf-heaven. All these new playmates! She and Matilda have been in the driveway area of the house all by themselves since Amy was born. This is because I'm milking Matilda every day and wanted to keep her conveniently close.

She's met everyone through fences, of course, but now she got to introduce herself in person.

She and Tarter -- who are only four days apart -- have become fast friends. Very cute.

Over a period of days, the girls and I also sorted out a massive pile of haybale twine that had accumulated -- a couple thousand strings, I'm guessing. We divvied them into large and small widths.

We discarded the twine that was frazzled, short, knotted, or otherwise not worth salvaging.

Hay bale twine is tough as nails and has a zillion-and-one uses, so it's well worth keeping. The biggest problem is where (and how) to store it. After some debate, we suspended bundles of twine from the barn rafters.

They sort of look like freaky mutant Halloween wigs or something.

Thursday we got our firewood in!

I wasn't home when it arrived (Thursdays are my "city days") so I didn't get pictures of the unloading.

But what a pretty sight when I got home! Coupled with the trees we took down last week, this should be enough wood for three, maybe four years.

The last task Don wanted to do before today's storm blew in was make a door for the south side of the barn. For the last couple of years when winter came, he just nailed up a sheet of OSB to block the wind, rain, and snow (this door faces the prevailing wind direction). This year he wanted a proper door.

He used rollers from a friend's barn we dismantled and salvaged many years ago, so the door is a rolling rather than a swinging door. The task took him beyond nightfall, so he rigged up lights in the barn to finish.

With such a clear beautiful sky, it was hard to believe we had wind and rain moving in today.

But it did. We've had a fair bit of rain, but more than that we have high winds today. Because it's not unusual to lose power (which also means we lose water, since our well pump is electric), we topped off every livestock water tank, caught up on laundry, dishes, and showers, and have oil lamps standing by.

Don has more work to do on the barn door, but he decided against it. "I think I'm going to leave the barn alone today," he said. "I'm barned out."

We're pretty much ready for both this immediate weather, and for winter. It sure feels good to be prepared!