Monday, August 24, 2009

Let the canning begin.

Here are my first two forays into canning this year. As anyone in Missouri knows the tomato harvest is down a bit this year so this is all I have gotten this far.

I found a neat trick through Mother Earth news about getting the skins off of tomatoes. I have tried the blanch/cold water technique, and although effective, is a little more work than I like to do.

The unofficial mantra around the farm is "Work smart, not hard". That doesn't mean that hard work never occurs, we just try to limit it.

The trick is to freeze the tomatoes first. Then when you have a good amount ( pictured is 4 gallon freezer bags full) take them out of the freezer and as they thaw the skins kind of pop off. A little trim around the top and you are ready to can.

Pack in Hot, sterilized jars, leaving a half/quarter inch head space. wipe the rim off the jar off , add a flat lid, screw on the ring part, and hot water bath for 10 minutes. High acid foods ,like tomatoes, don't need to be pressure canned.

I also tried my hand at basil pesto. Our Friends Darian and Sarah gave us a jar last year and it was really good. You can put pesto on/in lots of stuff so I planted 3 basil plants this year so that I could try my hand at it. Here is the recipe I used
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.
2 Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
I mixed sweet,spicy globe,and Thai basil. Also I used walnuts instead of the traditional pine nuts. We have a walnut tree in our backyard and I am hoping I can get enough to make another batch in the fall. pesto is supper easy to make and you just freeze it until you need it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Then there were seven.

Sad news. Something got into the coop last night and sent two of the chickens to the great beyond.
Even thought we didn't expect to avoid varmint problems we are still pretty bummed.
I guess the thing that really frosts my cookies is that whatever it was just took the head of one and nothing from the other. The coop also didn't show any damage so I will be going out to reinforce it today so as to discourage a repeat attack. hopefully this will be the end of our chicken losses.
Saffron and Aussie

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Well, not really. Technically they are lacto-fermented sour cucumbers.
I have had the book Wild Fermentation for about a year, and besides a disastrous attempt at sour kraut ,I have not really gotten to try anything out.
I really thought this year would be no different since between the rainy summer, and the hungry chickens, my cucumber plants haven't produced much. Then fate stepped in the form of a whole bag of cucumbers from Jenifer's (Mrs Phantom Chicken Farm) cousin. "Use these up before they go bad" they told me. No Problem.
I broke out my copy of Mr Katz's book and whipped them up in about ten minutes. The recipe is super simple and just involves a brine,garlic, dill and black peppercorns. I let them set in the basement covered for a week and they turned out great. I sprung the cukes on our supper club this last weekend and everyone seemed to like them.
I had never had anything live culture besides yogurt before and I am digging it. Now that I have had some success I am looking forward to trying some more recipes. For anyone who likes food based literature Wild Fermentation is a must.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Stakes have it.

I love to grow whatever I can in the garden, but there are some things that grow really well regardless of gardening skill.
I am of course talking about tomatoes. Tomatoes are one of those plants that will grow almost anywhere. cracks in pavement, abandoned lots, etc. After the nuclear Apocalypse the world will we overrun with cockroaches and volunteer tomato plants.
This being said, I planted 12 plants and had 5 volunteers this year and decided to try a little of the scientific method on the best way to support the plants.

I had staked my plants last year and did pretty good, but i remember my parents using cages when I was a kid so i got some of those to. I also found a interesting way of hanging them from a trellis.

I would have liked to get a couple of the hanging tomato bags but wasn't able to get any in time.

anyone who had luck with them shoot me a line.

Well, Don Corleone had it figured out. The cages would work fine, if the plants only got 3 feet high, but mine grow to at least 5 or 6 feet. This and the weight of the plants have pulled to cages out of the ground and laid the plants over on their side.

The trellis looked like a great idea, but either the variety of plant I have was not conducive to trellising, or I didn't do something right but they grew to only about 3 feet high then started growing out.

My scientific curiosity satisfied, I spent the morning staking all of the plants in the cages and support the trellised plants as best I could.

Next year it will be all stakes for sure.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Bounty.

This is some of the stuff we have been able to get out of the garden this year. We planted a white varity of zuccini this year along with a striped roma tomato (the little one) . The little thing at the bottom of the picture is a African Burr Gurchin. It and the roma are varities I grew from seed. The garlic is from the winter garden I planted last november.
The garden is in a less than ideal location this year, also the soil we used to fill in the pool (stay tuned for a post about that adventure)was of poor quality,so as a result haven't had as good as haul as I would like. The plan is to bump out more beds in the spring to take more advantage of the sun. We will just have to see how it works out.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The ladies.

We finally got chickens here at the farm. we were going to wait but Jenifer sprung them on me as a fathers day present. for anyone thinking of getting chickens I highly recommend them, if for nothing else the entertainment. They are hilarious. we are also looking foward to the eggs that are soon to come.
I am starting this blog without any real introduction , but am planning of posting the back story as we go along. my adventure in urban homesteading has been going on now for nearly two years and I thought that might be alot to squeze into one post. stay tuned.