Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Our Favorite Barbeque Sauce

I love barbeque sauce.   Sweet and sticky meat is the best meat of all.   I love it.

So I was thrilled when I got a slab of ribs for cheap...well, cheaper than usual... and wanted to have it with some homemade barbeque sauce and then Claire hopped on my Pinterest food board and found this recipe for Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce.   We tried it and loved it.  

Tip, via my fabulous sister:   Wrap the ribs in foil and cook them on low in your crockpot all day.   By dinnertime, the meat will be falling off the bones and all you have to do is slather it with sauce and pop it in the broiler to caramelize the sauce a bit. To. Die. For.  Or you can serve the sauce on the side.   Or both!     The same technique works for frozen chops as well.   Easy squeezy!

I love this sauce so much that I multiplied the recipe by a lot and canned it so we'd always have it on hand.   Here is the expanded recipe.  Enough for your own pantry and gifts as well.

Robin's Favorite Barbeque Sauce
www.rurification.com

7 1/2 cups brown sugar
6 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
3 rounded tablespoons mustard powder
3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons paprika [smoked paprika is really good, too!]
3 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder  or 1 entire head of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon onion powder  or 2 onions, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes


Mix all ingredients together in a large pot and bring to boil.   Ladle into clean jars; cover with lids and rings and process for canning. 

Makes 8 pints of sauce.  Perfect for giving as gifts. 



Saturday, August 16, 2014

Deer

Here is a pic of one of our local cattle deer.  It was very surprising to see her up between the studio and house since we don't tolerate them anywhere near the garden or house and the dog mostly keeps the deer far away from the buildings.  She munched her way across the yard and since she was making good time and it looked like she was a nursing mother, I left her alone.   Claire and I watched from the studio and Lily and Eric watched from the house, where Lily got the pics. 

She was munching on grass tops and wildflowers.   I wish deer ate ragweed and poison ivy.  Notice the ginormous ragweed she's standing behind.  I'd feel better about deer if they ate that kind of stuff instead of my flowers and veggies.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Toad and Snake

You never know what interesting things you'll see out here.   We went outside the other morning and the cat was staring at this toad.  

On closer inspection, we noticed that a garter snake has taken up residence under these rocks and was attempting to eat the toad.  

That's quite a mouthful.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Old Locks

Before
Life has been a little wild around here this summer.   Eric is building.   I'm weaving.   The youngest has discovered programming.  The oldest is starting college.   We've been canning and gardening and then canning some more.    I've been planning and making decisions and buying a lot of building supplies.

We've had a bit of fun tracking down old doors and things.  I scored some nice old doors that we don't have to strip at all and some that we do.  I found some nice old glass knobs at a salvage place and I've learned a bunch of stuff about old door hardware.   I've also gotten lots of practice stripping 100 years of old paint, varnish and shellac off of old doors.

Cleaned up and ready to re-install
I disassembled my first antique lock, then promptly broke a piece while cleaning the bug nests out of it, then jiggered a replacement piece out of an old picture hanger and made it work again.  I've used these pics in case anyone else wants to know what the insides are supposed to look like. 

I cleaned it all up and oiled it and now it's as good as new.   All it needs is a skeleton key. We'll use it on one of the new old doors in the addition.

It was nice to have a new puzzle to work on and I must say that working on it made me think of my dad a lot.   There's something about the smell of wd-40.  He'd have gotten a kick out of the whole process.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Tomatoes Mean Spaghetti Sauce

Confession:  Our tomatoes are just so-so this year.   So I went to a local place [Reeves Greenhouses, just north of Worthington, In] and got 100 lbs of canning tomatoes.    They were nice ones, too!    I got the boxes of small ones because frankly, I don't care what size they are and I figured those would be the hardest for them to get rid of, so I was happy to take them off their hands.    I paid $10 for 25 lb box, which I thought was a good deal given that I didn't have to grow them or pick them.   I canned 3 boxes and each box netted 14 quarts of plain canned tomatoes.   The final box I saved back to make sauces with.    This year we're making regular spaghetti sauce and Tomato Jam, Claire's favorite ketchup of all time. [Links below].

As it looks like a good year for tomatoes in general, I always advise to get as much as you can afford, can them quickly and easily and then decide what to do with them later.   Plain canned tomatoes are one of the most versatile and healthy things we can store.   And they taste way better than what you get at the store.

I am a lazy tomato canner.   I core them and cut them into big hunks and squash them into jars.   No peeling.   Then I follow the directions from the Ball Blue Book [link in the book list on the sidebar] for canning fresh pack quarts. [1 tsp salt, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, fill with hot water, process 45 minutes in boiling water bath.]  Easy squeezy.

Here are some things I do with my beautiful jars of tomatoes:
  • Enchilada Sauce
  • Tomato Jam [It's glorified ketchup, but the best darn ketchup you've ever had.]
  • Minestrone or a variation thereof.
  • Tomasqua [great for a glut of summer squash along with the tomatoes]
  • Spaghetti Sauce [below.]


Robin's Spaghetti Sauce
www.rurification.com
  • garlic
  • onions
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • canned tomatoes
  • salt
  • dried basil, oregano, thyme and parsley.

Here's my approach to spaghetti sauce.  It's not really a recipe, but more of a process.  I don't measure.  It's always fantastic. It's always easy.   In fact, Claire has taken over making this sauce and hers is even better.   [She won't tell me her secret.]

1.  Slice up some onions and garlic and saute them in olive oil and butter until transparent.
2.  Open a couple of jars of tomatoes or tomasqua and dump it in with the onions.
3.  Cook it down, down, down until it's the consistency you want. 
4.  Add dried oregano [plenty], salt [to taste], basil [plenty], thyme [generous pinch], and parsley [generous pinch].  Stir it well.
5.   Grind it all up in the blender to pulverize the skins and vegetable chunks.   My crew prefers smooth sauce.

For canning:  put into clean jars and cover with clean lids and rings.  Process according to instructions in the Ball Blue Book [link in the book list on the sidebar] or another reputable canning instruction source.

If you want to make a meat sauce, then cook up some ground beef or sausage until it's crumbly and crispy, then add it to the sauce.    [Note:  I do not can meat sauce.]  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Wood Stacks

In anticipation of our new wood stove, I bought three face cords of firewood from a local guy who delivers.  

Can I just say how much I love people who aren't afraid to work?   Who are friendly and knowledgeable?  Who chop firewood and Bring It To My House So I Don't Have To?    I love all you guys!

Lee Franklin brought us a very generous three cords and managed to back in and drop it as close as possible to where we stacked it, saving us many steps since we had planned to have it dropped further down the hill and walk it to the stacks.   Thank you, Lee!   

All of our planning brought up a lot of questions about wood and stacking wood and measuring wood, etc.   Here are some links to great information about firewood.  Hopefully you'll find something to help you, too.

How much wood is in a cord?   Here's a page from woodburning.org that tells you all about it.   We got face cords, which is enough 18" long pieces of wood to fill a rack that is 8' long and 4' high.   I'm hoping that 5 of those will get us through the winter.   [We had some wood stacked already in addition to the new stuff.]

What's the best way to stack wood?  Everyone has an opinion about that.   Here are some interesting links all about it.
  • Cornell University recommends stacking it off the ground and covering with something other than a tarp.  No more than 2 layers deep [across].  We're doing it this way.   
  • Stihl [the chainsaw guys] has an interesting section on stacking and shows three ways to do it, including the Shaker round stacks.
  • Mother Earth News has a long article about stacking wood.
What kind of wood is good to burn?
  • Woodheat.org is a great resource and has a handy dandy chart of the types of wood they recommend burning.   Note:  The important thing is to know how much heat you're likely to get out of one type of wood or another.   Hard woods give lots of heat.  Soft woods don't, but they're easier to control for things like cooking.
How do you cover the stacks?  Ideally, you put your wood in a wood shed.   We don't have a wood shed and if we did, it would be home to mice, snakes and wasps.   No fun.   Our wood piles are out in the open and we covered them with assorted scraps of metal roofing, plywood, old broken toboggans.   Some folks say to use tarps, but where we are, that keeps the wet in and encourages mold.   If we need to, we can fold a tarp and put it across the top, but not cover the whole stack.   

We stacked our wood with plenty of holes between the logs and we also oriented our stacks so the prevailing winds blow through the wood.   We put 4 feet between stacks so it's easy to get the mower between them and plenty of air circulation. These little things can help encourage the wood to dry here.


Friday, July 18, 2014

New Wood Stove

Made in the USA to be one of the greenest stoves in America, the Encore® FlexBurn™ is unlike any other wood stove on the market today. It adapts to your lifestyle, so you can choose to operate in catalytic or non-catalytic mode.I finally decided on a wood stove.    This is the one I bought.  Vermont Castings, Encore.  [photo from their site]

Yes, it was expensive. But I got a discount for buying in July.   I went with the enamel finish because we live on a gravel road and have you ever tried dusting one of the plain cast iron ones?    I have.  Never again.  So we went with the more expensive, but ultimately easier to clean and therefore less stressful enamel.

It's a flex burn, which means we can do a super efficient catalytic burn or just a plain old burn.  Either way, it's a pretty efficient stove so we could go with the smaller size of the Encore instead of the Defiant.    I chose the brown, with a matte black chimney.    It will go against slate tile about the same colors as the mat below the stove above. 

With the money I saved from the summer purchase, I was able to get a heat activated fan that sits on the stove, a nice galvanized wood holder and a nice tool set, as well as a second ash pan so we can leave one to cool completely before we need to dump it.  

Why this stove?   I haunted forums and read dozens and dozens of reviews.   There are much cheaper stoves out there and some of them are very good.   I wanted to make this decision one time.   Everyone that I read loved this stove and it received the highest marks in consumer testing.  Also, I like the way it looks.  

Still a lot of construction to go so it will be Halloween before install.   I'll keep you updated.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Peaches, Peaches

Peaches!   Yay!    We got our first bushel from Freedom Country Store in Worthington, Indiana and they are delicious!    It's been a week of peach dumplings, chutney, pies and loads and loads of peels and pits.  
Peaches can be a lot of work.    I used a vegetable peeler to get the skins off because this batch of peaches was still pretty firm.   Worked brilliantly!

I made three batches of my favorite Peach Chutney. I LOVE that stuff.   Love it.

Really, really love it.  

Really.

I still had loads and loads of peaches cut up, so I popped them in small ziplock bags, 2 cups each, and stacked them up in the freezer.   One bag is the perfect size for smoothies and two bags is perfect for pies. 

What are your favorite peach recipes?  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

First Inspection - July 2014

It's been a month since we installed the nucs in the hives and we did a one-month inspection this week.  

There are a lot of bees.  

But they are not in a hurry to draw out more comb.   Both hives had only 7 frames drawn out and had not even started an 8th.   Weird.    Since they came with 5 frames, I'm unimpressed.

Lily caught a pic of them festooning as we pulled the frames apart.  Bees festoon a lot and it's interesting to see how they hold on.  Blow the pic up for a closer look; it's really cool.

Both queens looked like they were laying well and each hive had a frame or two of honey.  We put a super on each hive to encourage some growth and we're feeding sugar water and honey for the rest of the season.

I hope the queens are busy, busy, busy because I'd like to have a lot of bees in each hive before winter. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bergamot

This is Monarda didyma.   It is my all time favorite summer garden flower.  It is traditionally known as bergamot, but only because it smells like the citrus fruit, bergamot, the oil of which is used to infuse Earl Grey tea.   It's not really bergamot; it's really monarda.

I love it.  The butterflies love it.  The bees love it.   The hummingbirds love it.   The hummingbird moths love it.  It blooms the same time as the orange tigerlilies [native daylillies] and the tall purple hosta flowers.  

It smells divine - a citrusy spicy scent - and it dries beautifully.   If you cut the flowers, they'll just keep branching and blooming, so feel free to cut as many as you want for drying or bouquets.  The dried flowers are great in potpourri.  You can use the whole head or just the individual florets.

It likes damp feet, so you can find it wild around ditches and along creeks.    It's reasonably tolerant of a wide variety of soil types as long as it gets enough moisture.   It does not like dry weather or drought.   We get both the red and the lavender blooms wild around here.   I like the red ones and encourage it along the creeks.   

Friday, June 27, 2014

Black Raspberries

The wild black raspberries are on.    They're a couple of weeks late this year, but the harvest looks like a good one.

Black raspberries ripen one a time per cluster.  It's rare to find more than that, so the daily pickings are slim and to get them all, you have to keep going back.   We pick twice a week or so until they're gone or until we have enough for jam. 

We pick first thing in the morning, when it's cool and the dew is all over everything.   It's wet work, fraught with thorns and spiderwebs, but the cat and the dog keep us company and we're often serenaded by one of our Yellow Breasted Chats.   We see the occasional green snake twined around a cane.   The daddy long legs love the berries as much as we do, but they often hide when we disturb the canes.  

When the berries are fully ripe, they pull off easily.   If one resists, then you know it's not ripe enough yet.  

We make just plain black raspberry jam with them and guard each jar jealously so we can make these Raspberry White Chocolate Bars during the holidays.    Worth every spiderweb and thorn!

Here's the link to Black Raspberry Jam - full sugar version with regular pectin.
Here's the link to the low sugar version of Black Raspberry Jam.  [My favorite!]

For more jam recipes as easy as these, check out my ebook on the sidebar.  A Simple Jar of Jam: 180+ recipes & variations for jam using low sugar pectin.  Every purchase goes a long way toward supporting the blog.   Thank you!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Thinning

One of the garden skills I've been working on for the past couple of years is thinning. 

I'm really good at sowing a lot of seed and then it comes up all green and beautiful and I get really excited about growing food and then I get radishes and carrots that are the size of toothpicks.  

It took a concentrated effort to actually Pull Some Up so that the others would have room to flourish.  

It's totally a life lesson for me.  

Aside from dying inside every time I have to pull up a perfectly OK start of lettuce or arugula or radishes or beets or carrots or .... everything,  I get stuck at trying to decide exactly which ones must go.   

I finally developed a system where first I figure out how much room I want between plants in the end, then I identify the best plants so I can keep them and then I pull up the extras.    Tiny greens [micro greens] can go into salads if you don't want to waste the starts, or they can go into the chickens or on the compost heap.   No waste.  

I've been doing better lately and have grown the best radishes in the history of radishes.   Also, I have a row of gorgeous parsips now.    Also carrots.    Also lettuce.    My garden is producing better produce.  

Which is why I'm sucking it up and applying the thinning lesson to other areas of my life.    It's still a struggle.   I hate to pull things up.    I have trouble deciding which things should go.   When the feeling hits me I take advantage and thin what's in front of me and try not to worry about the rest.  I think very slowly, so I figure it's OK to thin slowly, too.  

Along the way, there are people who fuss at my choices and I'm learning how to ignore them.    It's flattering to be asked to do things, but it's not always good for me or the family.    Adjustments must be made.    I'm doing my best to adjust and so must everyone else. 

In the end, the adjustments will pay off and we'll have more room to flourish.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cardboard Nuc Boxes

The nucs I just got came in these handy dandy cardboard nuc boxes.

Unfortunately, the woman who was minding the store where I picked them up gave me wrong information, and if I had done what she said, I would have been in quite a pickle.*  Luckily, I didn't trust what I was hearing and I didn't do what she said.  I don't want the same thing to happen to someone else, so here's a quick description of what's going on with these nucs.

1.  The lids: My lids were not taped on.   If they had fallen over in the car, it would have been a problem.    I suggest a bit of tape across the tops, just in case.

2.  The small holes at the bottom of each end:  These are hive entrances.    In the pic you can see the small hole is open on the right nuc box.   Notice that there is no screen on this entrance - that's so the bees can get in and out like a regular hive.    However!   On the other end of the box, that small bottom hole is covered by white plastic mesh, so you can open the other side and they can get some air without getting out.   [Clever ones will get out anyway.]  Make sure that you know which end is which before you open the vent. 

3. Larger holes in center of each end:   Those are vent holes and the bees need those to be open when the weather is hot.    In my boxes, there was mesh covering the large holes on both ends so that either end could be open for ventilation.    That should have been explained to me and I should have been told to open the vents as soon as I got home and got the bees out of the car to rest before installing them.  

4.  The insides [Sorry no pics!]:   There is a cardboard separator on each end of the nuc box that keeps the frames in place during handling and traveling.   It's nice....except when it's time to install the nucs.   Be really careful to let the bees know which end you're starting at so the queen can get away from that first frame you take out.   It's very easy to roll the bees with that first frame.   The separators prevent you from scooting the next frame over before you lift and take it out!   I worked slowly and in both nucs, the queen was on the back side of the very last frame I removed.  Smart girls.  

5. Installation:  I received no instructions on installation from the place where I got these bees and was not told to ventilate the bees or how.*  I used common sense to get them home, out of the car and up to the site, where I put them in the shade immediately, then I followed these instructions for installation. Since I did not know where the mesh was in the boxes, I had to keep the boxes completely closed until installation and I was afraid I'd roast the bees.   I waited only 20 minutes or so to let them rest after I got them home before I installed them.   I prepped the new hives, smoked them a bit and opened the nuc.  I tapped the side and top of the frame I would be starting from and lifted the first frame out carefully.   Be careful not to roll the bees!  

Tip:  After you get that first frame out, you can sort of tilt the bottom of the next frame away from the others as you get it out.  That will help prevent rolling in those cardboard nuc boxes.    [I also have a plastic nuc box that I use as a swarm trap - it has no frame separators on the ends so it's easy to slide the frames over before you take them out.]

We checked every frame for brood, stores and the queen.   Both nucs were full of brood and the queen was marked on one of them.  I must say that the bees were nice and calm even though they'd just endured more than an hour in the car and the trundle up the hill and had been closed up completely for who knows how long.  

I did not have to return the boxes.  One of the reasons that nucs are so expensive these days is that suppliers are using more of these cardboard things and you're paying for them.   They're plenty durable for a ride home, but they're not really keepable, so I stripped out the mesh pieces and recycled the cardboard.  


*I can no longer recommend that store for bees or equipment.   The beekeeper himself is wonderful, but the store manager has lost my business forever.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Saddle Pads

This is how I've been spending the majority of my time lately.   I got a new job last year weaving saddle pads and I must say I have never enjoyed a job so much before.   It's been great to learn how to weave something completely different from what I'm used to.

Show & Tell Saddle Pads is a small, family owned company in Clay City, Indiana.   There's a lot of love and laughter in every pad. 



For information on how to get a pad like these for your very own, contact:

Show & Tell Saddle Pads
Loni Rhodes
Clay City, Indiana
812 201 0192

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