It seems like yesterday that Will and I were strolling hand in hand through Home Depot, talking romance and kitchen cabinets, the pros and cons of circular saws and worm drive saws, concrete counter tops and building not only a homestead, but a new life together. But, gee, it’s a whole week later and I’m back to day to day life, taking care of Mom, doing homestead chores and only talking to him on the phone. It was hard leaving, but we’re hoping that he will be able to come out to Minnesota before spring. He really is a great guy.
I planted my very first crop in the greenhouse today; a big pot with three hills of bush cucumbers. Yeah! Spring is here for sure. I haven’t had much luck in the new greenhouse yet, as along with the pepper plants I brought in last fall, I also brought in APHIDS! And I’ve been going Mano a Mano with them for months! I finally seem to be winning, using a mixture of water, ground hot pepper and dish detergent; sprays didn’t faze them.
For the last two months, I’ve been ordering a bunch of new fruits for the orchard and around the kitchen garden we’re planning for spring, next to the house. I’m planting a fenced patch, surrounded by semi-dwarf fruit trees and shrub fruits, such as Nanking cherries, currants and blueberries, which on one half we’ll plant into strawberries and the other will be square foot gardens, filled with veggies for the kitchen. This is going to be a fun project! And it’ll be oh so handy to just walk outside with a basket and knife and pick lunch. Next to the house, with the house acting as a wind buffer, I’m even trying sweet cherries and an apricot, both zone 4-5. We’ll have to wait to see how that’ll work, as we’re actually in zone 3. I’ll keep you posted.
The main orchard gets new zone 3 pears from Fedco (I didn’t know there were any!), plums, pie cherries and Manchurian apricots. Plus we’re planting three Valiant grapes by the back yard and two seedless grapes next to the house. Both are zones 4-5, but I’m hoping that next to the house, we’ll be able to keep them going, regardless. You can usually count on moving up a zone when you plant on the leeward side of the house, especially right next to it, as some heat does escape the building, from basement foundation to walls.
I’m hoping to get the orchard fenced too, so I can free range the chickens and turkeys in there and keep them out of my proposed wildflower beds along the driveway and also my flower beds in the front yard. Boy those chickens and turkeys can sure dig a big hole in a flower bed when they dust themselves! The orchard is about 100′ x 75′ and that’ll give them a good area to run in. It will also keep down the weeds, grass and bugs! That’s a win-win situation for sure.
I had four flying squirrels on the tray bird feeder outside the greenhouse window last night. I actually got to see them come gliding in to the feeder, then away. That was really neat. But I had other "wildlife" out there this morning. A weasel! That wasn’t so cool, as I’ve had dozens of chickes slaughtered overnight by one small, white weasel. I got the .22 and now have another ermine tail tied on my horse bridle. I always feel bad when I have to shoot one but they sure play hell in the poultry house.
Prickly pear jelly
Thank you for your inspiration and help. My son went to Southern California and brought me back some prickly pears. I made jelly out of them, but it was too sweet. Do you have a recipe for prickly pear jelly that we could us in the future, or other uses for them?
I really, really love prickly pears! In New Mexico we used to eat them as a fruit (after removing the spines, of course!), spitting out the seeds to make more plants, as a jam and jelly, and we also made a sweet drink from the plump fruit. We ate the despined pads, too, which are called nopalitos and when sliced, resemble green beans.
To make jelly, simply remove the spines via a propane torch or over your stovetop. Native Americans use a low fire. Then rinse the fruit and quarter it. Put all your fruit into a large kettle and add just enough water to cover then boil, covered until tender. I then mash mine and simmer a couple of minutes longer. Strain through a jelly bag for several hours or over night.
To each 2 1/2 C juice, stir in 1 package of powdered pectin and bring to a boil. Boil one minute and add 3 Tbsp lemon juice and 3 1/2 C sugar. Bring to a boil, stiring all the time to prevent scorching. Boil hard for 5 minutes at a rolling boil and ladle the jelly out into hot, sterilized jars. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.
The lemon juice not only helps the jelly to set but lessens the "too sweet" taste. If you make jam out of the prickly pear fruit, you just mash the cooked fruit through a strainer and add to your juice; measure the same regarding sugar and pectin, adding the lemon juice, as well.
Without the sugar, lemon juice and pectin, the mashed fruit makes terrific fruit leather when dried on a lightly oiled cookie sheet in a very low temperature oven or a gas oven with only the pilot light on for heat. You have to turn the leather so it dries on both sides after it has set. I simply get hold of one corner and gently peel it back, then flip it over. Pretty good! — Jackie
No vinegar in chickens’ water
Last summer a friend gave me a hen and a rooster. I found I like having chickens around, so I ordered 25 buff orpingtons 2 black jersey giants, which will be arriving in February.
We have hard water and one of my cats is prone to urinary tract infections. To help prevent them I put cider vinegar in the cats water. It seems to work I haven’t had to take my cat to vet in over a year. I know chickens pee and poop at the same time but, do I need to put vinegar in the chickens water also. Any problem I can prevent is a very big plus.
Brown City, Michigan
No, you don’t have to put vinegar in your chickens’ drinking water. I’ve never heard of a chicken having any problems like cats do. Their elimination system is vastly different. But you can certainly put vinegar in their water; some folks swear by it. Personally, I tried it for several months awhile back and couldn’t see any difference after that time so I quit because of the Ncost involved.
Enjoy your chickens; they are a whole lot of fun and you’ll LOVE the homegrown eggs, too! — Jackie
Removing seeds for grape juice
I love what you write and I’ve been canning since dirt. It is so refressing to get some new ideas. I just found out about BWH a few months ago and have really loved reading youre starting over
articles. My husband and I live on a 5 acre farm and raise much of what we eat. We raise wild Scotish Soay sheep, chickens, and a big garden and orchard. We arn’t off the grid yet but when we retire would like to be as self sufficient as possible. My husband is starting a rough cut limber business so hope to do that early. My question is this, can I leave grape seeds in grape jucie? I got a recipe last year from "The Have More Plan" by the Robinson’s. Great old book for the ages!
1/2 Cup of hot simmerin mashed fruit
1/4 to 3/4 Cup sugar (I’m sure you can use any sweetener, or none)
Add boiling water to fill the quart jar leaving 1/2 headspace.
I dearly love blueberry juice.and the grape juice is great too. But I was thinking I’d read something about removing seeds.
Battle Ground Washington
Sounds like you have great plans! It really isn’t necessary to remove the seeds in your grape juice, but it is more convenient and sometimes the seeds can give a bitter taste to the juice as it is stored for lengthy times. Just pour the juice through a sieve to remove the seeds and any other "debris" in your juice, if you choose.
Thanks for the good wishes; we’re chomping at the bit to get started with spring growing. The peppers go in the flats in just two weeks. I’m so excited! — Jackie