Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Apricot Jam

Our apricot tree didn't produce any fruit this year because of the very late freeze we had. We were all pretty disappointed about that! However, we've been very fortunate to be able to go to our cousins' house this week and get some from their tree! I may freeze some later, but first I wanted to make some jam. I've made one big batch today and am planning to make another this evening, but I thought I would take a few minutes to share the recipe with you in case you are lucky enough to have apricots this year and want to give it a try!

This is a simple old-fashioned recipe, so be warned....there's a lot of sugar in here!

First you will need to peel your apricots (very briefly dipping them in very hot water will make this much easier) and take out the pits. Farm Kids are great at pitting the apricots!
Next, you'll crush them, I used a potato masher for this. For this recipe you'll need two quarts of the crushed apricots.

Put them in a large saucepan and add 1/4 cup lemon juice, then add in 6 cups of sugar (I warned you!) and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Heat slowly until it boils, and then boil rapidly and stir frequently, until it gels. Once it has the desired consistency, pour into your hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace and put the lid and ring on.
Then just process in a boiling -water canner for 15 minutes.

If you are new to boiling-water canning (or canning in general) the Ball preserving books (check our Facebook page for a link to one of my favorites) are great for great step-by-step directions. Anytime you're preserving foods you need to be very careful to follow directions exactly, so refer to a canning guide for more detailed instructions if needed.

Well, back to jam-making!

What is your favorite fruit for jam or jelly?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Farm Updates-Finally!

I guess it's about time for some farm updates since so much  has been happening that I haven't had a chance to write in nearly a month! 

The garden is growing, or tying to between hail storms, very strong winds, and enough rain to flood our creek!
We have a fantastic Kale crop this year, I'm getting ready to freeze some for winter soups.

One of the things I'm most looking forward to watching grow is this White Cushaw. It was a favorite of my Dad's family when he was growing up and it's my first time growing it.

We also got a start on our new orchard! So far we have apple, pear, and cherry trees of a few different varieties.

When we moved here there was no longer any way into the top of the of the grain barn. We eventually made our way up there and discovered that it was still FULL of oats and corn from many many years ago. After hauling lots of truck loads of that old grain away we built some stairs and a door to go up there (instead of having to use a ladder and go in through a little hole!). Now we'll actually be able to use the whole building!
There are stairs where that ladder is now but I haven't taken a picture yet!

If you follow us on Facebook, you know we adopted two English Shepherds last week. They are brothers who needed a new home where they could still be together. So far, they're doing well and adjusting to farm life!

We added 50 more chicks to our these, some of them are so pretty!

We've also been spending lots of time with my sister and brother-in-law, working on things at our place and theirs. 
This is the drive up to their house.

They had a fire last winter that burned down their big chicken house, so this spring they bought this cute little one to start a few chickens again.

They also have cows....
....and my brother-in-law works for a dairy, milking cows... we got to go with him last weekend for a tour!

Here's the big girls...

...and the calves!

Have you guessed where this is going?

Yep, we got our first Holstein calf! 

And all that is why I've had a little trouble finding time to write!

What about you guys? What's been going on with you?

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Storm Season

This week we had a pretty strong storm blow through our area. We had a few nervous moments watching the sky turn black, the wind start to blow, severe thunderstorm warnings and then tornado watches issued for us while we waited anxiously for my husband to make it home from his job site.

We even ended up spending a little time in the basement as we listened to reports that a strong storm system was headed our way. Our power went out, but fortunately we had someone watching out for us and texting me with the latest storm updates! As soon as the lightening and wind calmed a bit we switched our generator on and were back to normal. The worst of the storm ended up going to our South and we only had some branches blown from some of our trees. 

Not everyone was so lucky. Two of the tiny towns to our South had a lot of damage (though, thankfully, no fatalities). The next morning when the Farm Kids heard about the trouble our neighbors to the South were having they immediately wanted to go help. With buildings down, metal grain bins shredded, and power lines down everywhere, it wasn't a situation where small children could really be in the yards and streets working on clean up. But there's always a way to help and it's so important to me that the Farm Kids know that. So we decided that since it's hot and humid out there we would pack up our wagon and buy a load of water, sports drinks, and juice boxes and head into the towns to hand out cold drinks to everyone working on the repair and clean up. We parked in the middle of town where it would be easy to go back to our SUV to reload the wagon as needed, and then headed out to walk through the town.

The damage was significant.
 These piles of metal were grain bins like the ones standing behind them.

These were not run down buildings, this is all damage from this storm.

 The vast majority of homes looked like this. This is damage from baseball size hail and very strong winds. The storm seemed to come from all directions and most houses have damage like this on all sides as well as many broken out windows.

 This tree was in the front yard of one of my favorite people we met today, a very lovely 82 year old lady who already had nearly her whole yard cleaned up (by herself!) as she had been out working on it since early morning! She was hauling loads of brush into her big pickup truck and hauling them away, had already boarded up her 11 missing windows, and was getting ready to start cleaning out the remains of her many flower beds. She showed us where each of her treasured bushes and flowers had been (nothing remained) but then happily showed us a planter of bright pink flowers that had been safely in her garage when the storm hit. They are now the only bright and colorful spot in sight! She was happy and optimistic, telling us that she was just fine, her insurance would cover the windows and she was just glad her house hadn't blown away with her in it! We will definitely always remember her and her wonderful outlook! 
By the way, we don't know where the top of this big tree went, it was nowhere to be found!

While we were out handing out our (very appreciated!) drinks, we saw others come to help as well, some of them just walking up to strangers and saying "What do you need? We can help."

It's always upsetting to see this kind of damage that people have to deal with, especially knowing that many of these folks don't have much money to work with. But it is also so uplifting and inspiring to see that every single person we encountered was smiling, telling us how happy they are to have their families safe and their homes (if maybe not their garages and barns!) still standing. They know they can find a way to fix the damage and are just thankful to live in a place where they know they can count on their community to be there to help them.

I am so very thankful to be a part of this community and to have the chance to watch my children learn from these wonderful people.

Are you having a stormy Spring? As I write this we are in another severe thunderstorm warning!

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Friday, May 16, 2014


It's been busy as usual here on the farm! 
Our last frost date has passed, yet we had a Freeze Warning AGAIN last night, which has pretty much halted planting, so work on the garden has mostly amounted to keeping the weeds at bay lately!
We're anxiously awaiting the cattle coming to our pastures, and have been finishing up fencing another pasture we hope to have calves in this year. We are also in the middle of remodeling the first room of our new (old) house! It seems like there's always so much going on, which is wonderful because we love to be busy!

This morning was pretty chilly outside so I was admiring all the little plants still under grow lights and in windows inside the house. I had quite a few herbs that really needed to get transplanted into pots. Unfortunately, I ran out of flower pots (the problem, of course, is not enough pots, it is NOT too many plants!). So I was considering running into the second hand store in town to see if they had any I could pick up for cheap. However, with all these other projects going, the budget is even tighter than usual right now and I felt a little guilty about spending anything. I went walking around outside to see if there were any empty flower pots I had overlooked (nope) and eventually ended up by one of the old my experience, you can always find something great in the barn!

Sure enough, plenty of treasures in there! I found a couple of old flower pots (chipped, but we'll call that "character"), an old enamelware bowl/pot, and an unused tool box. 
After a little scrubbing....

Great new little herb gardens!

It's warming up out there now, so I'm off to work on some of those weeds in the garden! Have a beautiful afternoon!

I love repurposing, what do you repurpose?

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Friday, May 9, 2014


Hello all! Hope everyone is enjoying a beautiful Spring day! We've been having some great weather, and finally even a little rain. The garden is coming along and the balcony is filled with herbs and tomatoes! It's such a wonderful time of year!

We also have something extra to celebrate here on the farm today. It's an Unbirthday! 

We have a few Unbirthdays each year and every year I'm so very thankful for them. Because, you see, an Unbirthday for me is the day I got one of my siblings. They came into my life as foster children and the day they came to our house is their Unbirthday. They were actually part of our family before I was born, and I can't imagine life without them.

I can't even imagine how scary it must have been for a child to be driven down this road by a social worker to a house full of strangers and an unknown life.

Little did they know they were being taken to a family who was waiting with open arms to love them and care for them. They were about to get a set of parents, grandparents, and siblings.

Not to mention chickens, cows, horses, and other assorted farm animals!

But what we got was even better. We got the amazing opportunity to have these beautiful people in our lives.
I got  to have a sister to read me stories at night. And one to make me laugh and bake cookies with me.

And a brother, whose Unbirthday it is today. He is one of the most amazing, awe-inspiring people I have ever met. He is kind, generous, smart, brave, full of life, so many things, and every time I'm with him I think that I hope I can be even half the person he is.

If he were writing this I know he would talk about all the things he learned with our family on the farm.

But for me, it's all about everything I've learned from having him in my life. Like how much we can overcome if we are full of faith and love, and hope. And how one person can light up a whole room. And how hard I can laugh sitting around telling stories with my family about the adventures of our childhoods.

 Mom used to hold his hand to help him along the rocky roads of life, now he holds her hand, and all of our hearts.

Happy Unbirthday, Big Bro!

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Friday, April 25, 2014

More Planting....

After lots of cutting, clearing, and mowing we've finally gotten another area ready for planting! Here's what we were dealing with before...

This space will now be our orchard/edible perennial garden. We've gotten a few things in over the last few days and today's project was strawberries and grape vines.
 I plan to do a couple different strawberry varieties, but we started with Berries Galore for this first bed. These are an everbearing plant with big beautiful white flowers. You can also get this variety with pink flowers.

I ran out of daylight to get a picture of the finished bed, but you get the idea!

Next, Concord Grapes. We had these when I was growing up and I loved picking them from the vines and eating them. The skins can be a bit tough so we used to bite into them a little and then squeeze the fleshy part out of the skin into our mouths!

Last but not least, we did a  little more work on the new fence. 
So far, we haven't had to buy anything new for it, we've salvaged everything from stuff that was left laying around the farm over the years before we got here. One of the things we found was some very old barbed wire. I love old barbed wire. I had an Uncle who collected it and had hundreds of different types. Odd hobby, right? But it really is kind of cool....(or maybe that's just me?)

 I feel that often I can judge how good my day was by how dirty my hands was a great one! 

What are you working on this weekend?

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