Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reclaiming the Garden

A recent storm did some damage to the pea plants and as I was repairing (attempting anyway) them I noticed that the garden was in desperate need of weeding. In some places you could not even see the plants that were supposed to be there. Most of the bok choi had bolted as well as some other crops that were on the way out. I took the weeded garden as an opportunity to move the soaker hose around as well and mulch, mulch, mulch!

There are some holes now that will be filled very soon. I still have not had any success in getting the ground cherries to grow. Not one germinated out of an entire row. :( Try, try again.

What it looks like now. Those holes are calling my name. Plant me! Plant me!!

Carrots, cayenne pepper, and cabbage. Part of Marah's garden (right side) which is so large now its over taking my garden. I have thinned and thinned her garden when she is not looking and its still so full you can't even tell. :)

Lettuce, mesclun, spinach. Sadly I weeded almost half a row of spinach without even noticing. The weeds had overtaken. Such a sad gardener I am.

The poor peas. The wind blew them completely off their supports and snapped several of then off at the ground. I have added some more supports but they had started attaching themselves any where they could and are a sad looking lot right now. They had just flowered too.

Potatoes in the front. Way back is squash, zucchini, cucumbers.

Tomatoes, and a tomatillo. I have never grown one before so another new plant this year.
Squash and zucchini.


Making Strawberry Cordial

A few weeks back over at Not Dabbling in Normal Kathie posted about making berry cordial. I have never even tasted cordial but it was all so Anne of Green Gables that I had to try it out.

There are directions in the link above. I just started this today so in a week will be ready to strain and mix the berries with sugar.

1 pound of berries into a clean jar.

Now filled with vodka. Add lid and off to a cool, dark place for a week. :)

Cost Comparison {Store Jam vs Homemade}

I thought it would be interesting to look at the cost comparison between making your own jam versus buying it in the store. I have not figured out the cost yet so as I write this will find out. I do not think it will be cheaper but knowing what is in my jam makes it worth all the effort.

We normally buy jam at Costco or Trader Joe's. I unfortunately cannot find receipts from either of these stores when I have purchases jam. So my guesses for these stores will be just that, a guess.

Costco strawberry jam: 2 32 ounce jars for $5.00 We do not purchase strawberry jam at Costco anymore as it has HFCS in it.

Costco NW Marion berry jam: 2 32 ounce jars for $6.89. This is what we have been purchasing. No HFCS and locally grown berries.

Safeway Organic Strawberry $2.89 11/oz I took this price off of the website and it is the club card price.

Trader Joe's Organic Strawberry Jam: $3.49 no idea on jar size. I asked on Facebook if anyone local knows the price and a friend thought it is around this price. So again another guess.

Our jam:
I am going to estimate that we used about 45 lbs of berries to make the jam yesterday. We made 5 double batches so 10 total batches of jam. So each batch used 4.5 lbs of strawberries. At $1.25 a pound that's $5 per batch for the strawberries.

No/Low Sugar Needed Pectin was $2.12 a box and one box is used for each batch.

We buy Organic cane sugar at Costco for about $10-13 (guessing here and may be low) for 10 lbs. I can't find the receipt so I will use $12 for the comparison. I used about 1/2 cup of sugar for each single batch. We will use 2 cups = 1 pound for the comparison. Though with sugar it could be plus or minus a little. So 20 cups of sugar equals 10 pounds. If my math is correct that is $0.60 per cup.

I am not including jars, bands of lids in the comparison. Jars can be found free on craigslist or super cheap at yard sales and thrift stores. I know our local Goodwill sells them for 29 cents each.

The final tally:
Berries: $5
Pectin: $2.12
Sugar $0.60
Total: $7.72 per single batch. I made 5 double batches so $15.44.
Total I had 29 pints, 8 half pints, and 1 almost full pint. For ease in division lets say 34 pints divided by 5 batches is 6.8 jars per batch.
Not bad!! $2.28 per pint (16 ounces) for homemade strawberry jam.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Garden Harvest and Boiled Eggs

We had salad for dinner the other night and I thinned out the lettuce. I went a tad overboard in the thinning and filled our pasta serving dish.

Add a bit of radish also from the garden. Some grated carrots (from the store, ours are not ready for a while.) YUM!

Add some boiled eggs from our chickens. Delicious!

Anyone have tips for peeling fresh hard boiled eggs. Someone told me to add vinegar to the water but that has not helped at all. I end up peeling so much egg off with the shell. Tips appreciated, I will try them all!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Making Strawberry Jam

We went u picking on Saturday at a local farm. The weather was cool and the berries plentiful. We forgot the camera so unfortunately have no photos of the farm. We had all the kids with us and wondered how we would do. My hope was 60 pounds of berries. Two years ago we had a bit over 30 and the jam was gone by December. We did pretty well and came in at 62 pounds in a little over 2 hours!!

The berries at home. They were in the garage hence the icky floor.

The beginning of the assembly line. Cutting of the stems.

After cutting they were washed in the sink and placed here to dry a bit.
In past years I have used the potato masher to crush the strawberries. This year I decided to try the food processor and hope we did not end up with puree. There are not as many larger chunks but as we have not eaten the jam yet I cannot tell you what I prefer yet.
Into the bowl, and another bowl, and a pitcher. I kept having to find more and more containers. I could not can it fast enough.

One of our helpers. She decided she was tired of washing and took a break to color.
Into the pot. I was able to make a double batch of jam and fit it in the pot and the canner at one time. This greatly sped up the process. 5 batches would have been 10.

The workspace. Water bath canner heating up, jam cooking, tea kettle heating with extra water, and towels on counter to place hot jars.
More workspace. Bands, sugar, pectin, pot with hot water and lids.

The workspace after. A bit messier and a full counter!

This is the jar I poured the last bit of each batch that would not fill a jar completely.

29 pints, 8 half pints. We ran out of pectin or we would have made more. Joe had all ready been to the store today and cleaned them out of no sugar needed pectin.

In addition to jam we froze a lot of whole berries and the leftover crushed berries. No pictures of that.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Poop Cookies

I used to have these cookies as a child and now my kids get to enjoy them. They think it is hilarious that we used to call them poop cookies. I mean isn't Poop cookie just so much more fun compared to say No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal cookie? If its not you need to get in touch with your inner 6 year old boy.

Appetizing they do not look, but they are pretty good. Kind of a sickening sweetness mixed with the chew of oatmeal. Joe says they are too sweet but he prefers the bitter to the sweet. I know, whats wrong with him right?

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
aka Poop Cookies
2 cups sugar (did I say they were healthy?)
1/2 cup butter (again never said they were healthy)
1/2 cup milk (protein!!)
6 TBSP cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
3-4 cups oats
Mix sugar, butter, and milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and cocoa. Mix well. Add oats. Drop by whatever size of cookie spoon you desire onto wax paper, foil, whatever you choose and let set for about 6 hours.

We start eating when cool but they are really mushy and still warm in the middle. The dough is really hot so the dropping job is not one for a kid (or mom) who can't stop themselves from licking. Burns will happen. I know someone that happened too. She scraped the biggest glob onto the pan and well her finger hurt so she had to lick it really quick cause that's what you do when you are burning right? You lick the burning, hot, melted chocolate off the finger. She's okay now.

Book of Days- Summer Book 1

I was delighted to read that I had won a download of the Book of Days Summer Book 1 from Simple Mom's Summer Week of Giveaways! I downloaded it a few days ago but until this morning had not had time to look at it in detail. Now that I have had a chance to read through the June Book of Days I am super excited! There are recipes, games, crafts, activities, and more. There are lists of books I will be putting on hold at the library and websites that will I am sure be added to our favorites. I will be sure to post a few updates as the month goes on to tell you how its going. So off I go to get a binder and the hole punch out of the garage so can start our Book!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Letting Go of Things

I have been decluttering our house like a mad woman the past few weeks. We are getting ready for a yard sale on June 20th as well as doing the Dave Ramsey plan for our finances, so saving an emergency fund. Every little bit helps add to that. We are a single income family of 6 so we have to be smart with our money!

I listed a bunch of things on Craigslist last night and also posted them on my Facebook to see if anyone local I knew wanted them. A friend asked me how I was able to get rid of some items I had listed, specifically the cake topper, knife/serving set, and champagne glasses from our wedding. I told her that I have pictures and the memories and do I really need the stuff?

How much of the things in our home have emotional baggage? Are we keeping them because we use the item or because Aunt Marge gave it to us and we can't even begin to thing what she would do if we sold it? Do we walk by the item daily and feel fond memories or is it stored in a box in the garage?

I am guilty of having many things that I keep because of emotional baggage. I am starting to get to the point in the decluttering process where these things can start to go. The wedding stuff I had every intention of putting in a shadow box. 7 years later the stuff is still in the same boxes they were put in right after our wedding. They have been moved three times! If I even put it in a box I do not have the wall space to hang it. I do have stuff that I will probably never get rid of. A small box of keepsakes from my childhood. Every now and then I go through it and toss what I feel is no longer worth keeping. It has gone from a medium tote to a small tote over the years and will probably shrink again and again. I enjoy these items. Going through them with the kids or by myself brings back fuzzy, warm memories. Its hilarious to read the diary of a second grade me.

How I have been deciding to get rid of or keep items in my home is pretty simple. I ask myself a few questions:

1) Do I want to clean and take care of said item?
2) Do I want to pick up said item a million times if the kids get into it?
3) Does it serve a purpose and do I have anything else that does this job?
4) Do I have a place to put said item?
5) Am I keeping the item because I (or other member of household) like and use the item or because so and so bought it for us?

As I sort through things in our home I just run the questions through my head. Keepsakes are a bit different as their purpose is the memory they provide. I really do not want to display earlier mentioned 2nd grade diary. :) They do have a "home", though it is the garage. They are taken care of in a water tight tote.

So are you decluttering? What is your criteria for keeping things in your house?