Monday, June 19, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Garden Producing Veggies and Fruits



June 19, 2017

Usually by mid June I am having a full counter with vegetables but this year its slower and I really have no idea, well besides I did not plant many different vegetables. 



I have gotten a few ripe tomatoes as well as bell peppers from the plants I raised all Winter ( Winter in Alabama is from January through March, those are the cold months) The cucumbers have fallen over and have began to run. I am sure I seen a bloom on the squash and the okra is growing but I know not to expect okra till more toward the end of summer.



I read up on "Ginger" and I re-potted it a few days ago, I am glad I did my homework because I was not aware it liked more shade than sun, so I will keep it in the house and see how that goes, this is the second year but this year it has many more shoots and has grown. I did not mean to but one shoot broke :(




What I have been blessed with is blackberries, I live closer to the woods than to the city and I have a long drive way onto this property and it has plenty of blackberry bushes as well as the one side that separates the land. Over they years I have picked these bushes and if I could not home can at the time I would freeze the berries and do them later. Since I am headed off the grid and I need to reduce the power bill I am trying my best to can more than freeze, and sooner than later give up the deep freezer. The past weekend I cleaned out the blackberry shelf in the deep freezer and home canned all of last years and this years blackberries, saving only a couple quarts to trade/barter with.



We enjoy a blackberry pie or cobbler from time to time or just the berries in a home made milk shake, there are so many desserts to make with blackberries and the medicinal properties are awesome, a little juice will help an upset stomach! I home canned 15 pints and 1 half pint of blackberries in light syrup. Two quarts of juice.



I also made 20 half pints of the blackberry jelly "no seed". I have found that many people love the taste of the berry but cannot digest the seeds due to health problems so I always make a couple cases of no seed jelly, I will share with the elderly in the Winter, or as a Christmas gift. 

For more on how to make blackberry jelly click here : Making Blackberry Jelly


I did trade one quart of blackberries already, for a basket of strawberries, no trade was needed but I always feel like I should also have something in season to share, plus when you trade you will know that one does not walk away empty handed. I think that is that wee bit of American Indian I have in me.

For more on how to make Strawberry pie filling click here : Easy Strawberry pie filling 


While going through the deep freezer I also noticed blueberries and mango, I think you know what I will be doing this week :) 

How is your garden growing? Any home canning or freezing going on?

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How to Make Strawberry Pie Filling - Getting Off The Grid



In Spring and early Summer we get tons of strawberries and usually for a good price or sometimes a friend sharing, some people grow their own but I am not good with strawberries so I will buy them or trade for them. This Spring I have been bless with delicious sweet strawberries and I did not just want to make jam, I want other strawberry products. So I made a batch of strawberry pie filling and more!

When making strawberry pie filling you will need to buy a product called " Clear Jel" its specially made to home can pie filling, regular corn starch for some reason will separate when it home canned. I invested $10 in a huge jar ( Found on Amazon) and I am sure it will last me for a long time because I used around 1/2 cup for the batch of strawberry pie filling I made and that was all.



You`ll Need :

3 1/2 cups of ripe strawberries

1 cup of sugar

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of Clear Jel

3 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice

1 cup of water

Pint and/or half pint canning jars


Now lets get started!



First in home canning always is getting your jars washed and cleaned, no matter if they are new or not wash them with hot soapy water and sterilize them, kills all bacteria! I also wash my lids and rings but I do not sterilize them.



Have ripe strawberries washed with green caps removed and  remove the stems. Set aside.

Next : You need to blanch the strawberries for one minute in boiling water, so put on around a gallon of water to boil and have an empty pot that has a lid setting near by. 

Put the strawberries in the boiling water, allow to return to a boil and boil 1 minute. Remove the strawberries with a slotted spoon into the empty pot, cover with lid keeping the berries hot.

"Why Blanch? What is blanching? Blanching means heating the fruit at high temperature for a brief time to stop the enzymes that can cause the flavor to degrade during storage."

Next step : to make the Jel :

In a large cooking pot put 1 cup of sugar with 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of Clear Jel, Add one cup of water and stir over medium high heat till thicken, add 3 and 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice and stir ti mixed in. 

Note: This will become very thick fast, removed from heat is need be while adding the lemon juice.

Stir in the strawberries, and its okay of a little strawberry juice comes in with the berries.

Dip into the pint canning jars and put lids on.

Process in a hot water bath for 30 minutes.

Remove onto a towel and allow to cool, each jar should seal as it cools down, you`ll hear a pop noise.

And that is how I made my Strawberry pie filling.



My tips for things to go smoothly :


1 - have the jars on a space of the counter that is not in the way of the stove and sink because this is the last step before canning.

2 - Have all the fruit cleaned and ready to process, set the sugar, clear jel and lemon juice together next to the stove with that cooking pot.

3- Have all the pots and spoons needed laid out, one for boiling water, one for keeping them berries hot and one for making the jel.

4 - Have the water in the hot bath canner already hot so that the hot filled jars of fruit wont bust when put into cold water, plus it keeps the temp up and the boiling will begin faster.

I hope these tips help make canning strawberry pie filling easier for you.

Another Strawberry Product! 



With the berries that were over ripe I made something else, I took those berries and I chopped them and put them into a pint jar, covered them with vodka and set this in a cool dark closet. I shake the jar everyday or every other day, In a few weeks I will strain and have a nice bottle of Strawberry extract! No waste. 



By Andria Perry 
Photos By Andria Perry



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Fried Green Tomatoes


The tomatoes, I have been watching them carefully, waiting and waiting for them to turn red but its taking them to long!

So, while I mowed the grass for days and days, looking at the tomatoes, I decided not to wait, I looked for the pretty green tomatoes that were the perfect size to fry, Yes fried green tomatoes! And I took four and that was plenty for the two of us.



I washed them in cold water and a little soap to make sure they are clean.



Next I sliced them around 1/4 inch thick, you don`t want them to thin they will fry hard, to thick and they will be mushy.



No need for dipping them in this and that, the poor mans way taste just as good, if not better, and that is just rolled in flour.

I heated the skillet with enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom and I carefully placed the green tomato slices in the hot grease. 



When I seen the edges turning light brown I flipped them, and repeated the process till I fried all of the sliced green tomatoes.


When you remove them from the skillet allow them to drain on paper towels a couple minutes before serving hot. Sprinkle with salt.

This is an ANY time of the year favorite. What I will do before the tomato season ends is I will slice green tomatoes and put them in the vacuum seal bags and freeze them, no matter what time of the year you can enjoy fried green tomatoes!

I heard of a new sandwich idea but have yet to try and that is the fried green tomato BLT. 

You use the white bread, the mayo, the lettuce and the bacon but you top with friend green tomatoes instead of a ripe red tomato, who knows I may love this and I may not but its worth a try. What do you think? Would you try this new sandwich?

You might also like : cooking dandelion greens 

By Andria Perry
Photo By Andria Perry


Friday, June 9, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - When The Rain Stopped




A week of rain is of coarse needed but not so good for the homesteader in the Springtime of the year when not only are the vegetables growing in the garden but the grass as well.

Yesterday I was one of the first days without rain so later in the day I pulled out the push mower and got busy in the garden, YES the garden, I will not have help this year tilling so I am mowing around the plants, I did this several years ago and I did okay with that small garden and I pray this year it will be the same. I got all the rows mowed and around each plant as close as possible. 




The tomato plants are loaded with green tomatoes and the bell Pepper plants are showing me all their babies. The Jalapeno`s and sweet banana peppers are all in full bloom. The squash are looking better as well as the cucumbers, the okra is a slow grower so not much on those at the moment.



Seems the black berries are just sitting waiting for more sun, I have only been able to pick one quart so far this season, not a good year for these berries so far. 





The perennial flowers are in full bloom, The annuals, the sun flowers and Marigolds are thriving And I will separate them in a few days. 

But.........

With all the rain water sits in small natural pot holes and this raises mosquitoes and that makes another problem for being out in the garden and just the general area, getting bitten is not good with some many diseases carried by mosquitoes.

As much as I hate to I will have to use a store bought spray once again to control the mosquitoes but only around the wooded areas of the property, not near my food.  I also notified the city and they agreed to come out and spray, I am thinking they kept their word because I have noticed less mosquitoes.

Now....

For me its day three of push mowing the grass, the rider mower just wont run and I cannot wait for it to be fixed, with rain starting again next Monday I need to get as much as I can mowed. 

Day 1 - I mowed around the house doors, so to see how to get in and out safely and I mowed around all the vegetable plants. Worked two hours.

Day 2-  I mowed the front yard and half the drive way, this took three hours

Day 3 - I am about to head out the door, I plan on mowing for two hours of I feel like it three.

I am sure I will stop and pick blackberries if I see them :)

That is what is going on around the homestead, What is happening around your place?

You might also like : What is growing on the homestead 

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Saturday, June 3, 2017

How To Cut Up A Whole Chicken - Getting Off The Grid



    I am thinking about raising chickens, making this homestead a farming homestead and not just vegetables, nuts and fruits. If I get chickens I will have the eggs, the chickens for extra food and the poop for fertilizer.
    After I overheard a conversation that a couple of young ladies at the grocery store were having about buying a whole chicken, one said " cook it whole" and the other one said " I wish I knew how to cut it up, its so cheap but I don`t so I will buy this pack that is already cut " I decided to share how to cut up a whole chicken. Its not hard at all and will save you money because you can make many meals with one chicken.The knowledge of cutting up a whole chicken will come in handy if you raise your own food.
    After the two moved along I walked up and bought one of those chickens and they were very cheap! at .85 per pound, since I do not have chickens, yet.
    After removing the packaging and rinsing the whole chicken in cold water and removing the gizzard, heart and neck bone I began to cut it in sections. with a very sharp knife, I do have a favorite for this job.
    First I lay the chicken breast side up and I cut the skin holding the thighs into place, I bend the thigh back until I hear the joint pop and break, I make my cut there and the thigh comes off easy. Then I feel for the joint that holds the drumstick to the thigh and I make my cut there and pop that apart and cut it the rest of the way.
    I do the same to each wing as the thigh.
    Now you have the breast and the back bone.
    Carefully run the sharp knife in between the back and breast on each side, cutting the small bones.
    To remove the breast from the bone feel for the bone in the middle and began cutting there, staying close as possible, let the knife guide you down beside the bone and then underneath and out at the bottom while holding the breast with the other hand.
    Now, I have a cut up chicken and four or more meals. I freeze each meal size portion of chicken in a separate zip lock freezer bag.
    How Do I make dinners from this?
    I do not throw anything away, everything, even the bones will be used.
    Meal One : One breast is made into chicken nuggets but cutting the breast in long strips and then into cubes or "nuggets." I mix up flour and my spices, I wet the nuggets and drag them into the flour mixture and drop into hot grease and fry till light brown, drain on a paper towel. I pair this with a baked potato and sweet peas.
    Meal two : I do the other breast as I did for the nuggets but I refrigerate overnight and I make a huge vegetable filled salad for dinner, I chop the cold fried nuggets into smaller pieces. I will toss the chicken into sweet and sour sauce and dress the salad with ginger sesame dressing , b-b-q sauce needs no other sauce or Texas Pete`s hot sauce and dress the salad with ranch dressing, I have salad with chicken.
    Meal three - B-B-Q chicken thighs and drumsticks- Grill time! Toss them on the grill and cook till done, using your favorite b-b-q sauce. Serve with grilled corn and baked beans.
    Meal four : Remember I said " throw nothing away?" You can freeze the bones and skins to do this at a later day. Boil the back bone of the chicken and the breast bone that still has a small amount of chicken attached and skin for a couple of hours in water. Remove the chicken from the broth and allow to cool, remove the chicken from the bones. I got 2 cups of chicken and four cups of broth. Put this in the refrigerator over night. Remove the yellow fat from the top of the cold broth ( note: you can save an use this fat for frying) Chop one onion, a couple ribs of celery, carrots and a few potatoes cook in the chicken broth, add garlic and parsley. Salt to your taste. Add a cup of cooked pasta and you have chicken noodle soup!
    BUT do not forget you have all those soft chicken bones and skins, the dogs get a treat! Since the bones are so soft they are safe for the dogs.
    Now that is how to cut and use a whole chicken.
    By Andria Perry
    Photos by Andria Perry

    Friday, June 2, 2017

    How To Make Your Own Spearmint Extract - Getting Off The Grid



    There are always a few things that you can learn to do at home to use up different foods or fresh grown herbs so they do not go to waste, one is make extracts. Its really easy!

    I bake a lot around the holidays and to go and buy each bottle of extract/ flavoring I want can be expensive so why not save that money for a gift or something else and make your own all through the year, for way, way less than you pay at the grocery store.

    Today I began my first pint jar of extract and it was so simple that I am sure to make all different flavors and the cost is minimal.


    Spearmint extract

    You`ll Need :

    1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of fresh mint

    Vodka - 80 proof - Enough to cover the mint

    1 - Pint Mason jar

    Instructions :

    Remove spearmint leaves from the stems and rinse in cool water, pat dry.


    Chop up the mint leaves and pack them into a pint mason jar, chopping and smashing the leaves makes the oils release.



    Cover with vodka, it takes about 1 1/2 cups to cover the leaves.

    Apply lid and shake. 

    Put in a dark cool place for 6 -8 weeks.

    Strain the leaves and put into cute tiny jars or leave in the pint Mason jar.



    Since I was on a roll I also made Banana Extract, not knowing what the turn out would be I just made a small jar, a 1/2 pint jar so not to waste if it does not turn out good.

    Banana Extract 

    You`ll need :

    1-  ripe banana 

    1 cup vodka

    Instructions :

    Peel and slice one banana and place into the 1/2 pint mason jar

    Cover with the vodka. 

    Apply lid and shake.

    Put in a dark cool place for 1 week, strain banana. 


    How To Use Extracts

    Most people will be thinking why so much Mint extract and what do you use Banana extract for?

    I will use the mint extract for cookies and to make chocolate chop mint ice cream, for starters.

    As far as the banana extract it will make your banana bread have a richer flavor and talk about an out of this world banana pudding?!



    How much Does all this cost?

    I bought the mint plant years and years ago, it comes back every spring, I think I paid $2.49 for the plant back in 2010. So I will say its free by now.

    The banana was .44 per pound and I do not know how much one cost but it can`t be much, a few cents?

    The bottle of vodka cost $6.49 (750 ML) I have used a couple cups and I have the same amount left so I am thinking I can get three to four batches of extract from one bottle.

    I am sure I can manage to get another couple of extracts made from what is left in that bottle. 

    The Savings 

     I paid $2.69 for 1 ounce of mint extract at the grocery store.  I should get 16 ounces from the one pint, that`s $43.04 for a pint of mint extract purchased at the grocery store! By making my own I will save $36.55.


    Now you know why I am making my own extracts and trying a few more ways of "do it yourself" in the kitchen items and make more for less.

    How about you? Wanna try making extracts?

    By Andria Perry
    Photos By Andria Perry

    Tuesday, May 30, 2017

    Getting Off The Grid - A Full Time Job - Power Bill





    Getting off the grid, sounds nice and will be so easy, right? Not really.

     In the last couple of years as I am slowing learning and converting my ways to get off the grid I have learned many things and one is that its a full time job. But what was expected? No work just because of solar power meaning no huge power bill, not having to have money to pay? Plant the veggies and they just grow?

    If you have a vegetable and herb garden, If you have livestock for meat, if you have fields to keep up on your homestead its work, If you can and freeze your own food, its a full time job.

    Seems there are factors that have not been thought about when I began to plan this journey of getting free power and water, growing my own vegetables and fruits, etc. 

    That is sickness

    Last week one of our own was in the hospital and I had to hire someone to just come by and feed the dogs and cat. The grass has grown up, everywhere, vegetable garden as well as in the backyard where the dogs live.

    The Weather

    Next I need to think about the rain and/or drought, these are acts of God and cannot be controlled.

    Regroup and Plan

    While I will be off the power grid and on well water, soon than later, it may be at a smaller place and not to far from town. A large homestead is not needed to accomplish the goals you make in life, I wont leave the property vacant but I would rent to other like minded people, that will make it a farm. I will be thinking a lot about this part of life this year.

    While home canning seems to be the way to go, I also think that having a greenhouse to grow fresh foods all year round is idea for my needs since I eat many of my vegetables raw.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Its May 29, 2017 and I just got back home from a four day absence, this place is grown up! However, I still walked the dogs, took a little time to show them I missed them as well as all the love they were showing me.What was disturbing was when I put them into the back yard after our walk I had to stop and pick off all the ticks that were climbing my socks.

    Around the garage I am getting the smell of death, not all the time but more than not and that is the sure sign I have a snake there and he is letting me know to back off. Not happy about that!

    The vegetable garden needs the grass and weeds to be pulled or mowed down, I think it rained a couple of those days, plus an all day off and on rain today.

    The GOOD!



    I have plenty of tomatoes and I am now seeing baby bell peppers.



    The cucumbers are looking like cucumber plants now as well as the okra.




    The squashes have really grown, but they are fast growing anyways.



    I have three different plantings of sunflowers, all look so healthy. The marigolds will soon need separating. 




    The sage I transplanted has taken to the area really good and looks better.




    The third sowing of bell pepper seed has nice small plants, soon they will go into the garden for bell peppers till frost.



    Ahhhh, blackberries! They are beginning to turn, Yum!




    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The power bill

    I have been tracking the cost of power for a while now and finding ways to cut back as much as possible, being this is a large place I do not expect it to get to low.

    BUT.........

    I never expected for this bill to be $26 cheaper than last month. I am happy that my efforts are paying off, I owe $130.25 for 30 days of power.

    Now if I can make it get to be 1/2 of what it is now I can say that I have accomplished something huge.

    What is going on around your homestead?

    By Andria Perry
    Photos By Andria Perry