Saturday, July 15, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Life On The Homestead

July 15, 2017

The good and the bad, no one said life was easy.

The Bad :

Things change and they can change in a blink of the eye. Sure we make plans to live the best life we know how but then when life throws you a curve ball and it was totally unexpected, things change and sometimes never go back to the way they were.

That is kind of what has happened here. Things happened.

First a mild winter and a rainy Spring and Summer and that means bugs, bugs and more bugs. 

I lost crops that was going to be food for the winter.

The grass and/or weeds took over the bottom field, so much rain I could not keep up with it. 

Next the riding mower broke down and I just did like I always have, push mowed, but never made it to the bottom field so its four feet tall. I worked so hard in the garden and mowing I totally exhausted myself, so much so I stayed in bed a whole day and slept 16 hours. 

I am completely defeated, tired to the bone.

What is funny is people were shocked to hear me admit defeat, they said " I have never heard you give up on anything!" Well there is a first time for everything. I just cannot do everything with nothing. I refuse to mow anything but around the house until I get a new mower, and I plan to this week. 

The Good :

While I gave up the upkeep of the property I never gave up on providing for myself, even with cost.

I bought more peaches and I made more peach products  and I hope they will last for a good long time. 

I made a different Peach jelly/jam, sliced peaches in light syrup and a few more jars of whole pickled peaches.

And I made three pints and one half pint of tomato sauce. As I get the tomatoes I process ( home can) what we do not eat, I try not to waste any.

Another wonderful thing is the tomato seed Tony had sowed in a flower pot outside got big enough to be planted in the garden on Monday and the bell pepper plants I had sowed from seed got put into the ground on Wednesday. 

What I did was I took up the wire cages from the tomatoes that were dead or already had all the tomatoes it could bare and was no longer flowering, I mowed them down. In those spaces Tony planted more tomatoes and I replaced the wire cages for each plant.

I am beginning to get okra and I made a meal of fried okra and green tomatoes one evening. I am also getting cucumbers, not many but enough to feed us a couple daily. 

For how to home can peaches click here :  Pickled peaches and Jelly  

After thoughts :

Although I had planned things so well, that I would be off the grid with solar power, well water, a root cellar and a large greenhouse things just are not happening, I am in limbo and I cannot make these decisions at all because of the unknown, that little curve ball is still in motion. I do know one thing about me and that is without proper tools I cannot and will not be able to handle this place alone.

So I must invest to reap the benefits. We`ll see how thing are in one month and maybe then I will know what will take place and what will not. 

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Pickled Peaches and Peach Jelly

July 12, 2017

This year was not a good year for the peach crops in Alabama, most of the peach farms were low to no peaches and the lucky ones did have a hefty price tag. No matter how much this household loves peaches I will not pay that inflated price for my states peaches. So I shopped Aldi`s grocery store and got my peaches shipping in from California for the low price of .99 per pound. I home canned several wonderful peach products for us to enjoy for the next twelve months, Pickled peaches and peach jelly are two I will talk about today. 

Home canning peaches is an easy canning job. Most people scold off the peelings but I prefer to do things differently, to get the most out of the fruits, I hand peel! By hand peeling I can get one more peach product from the fruit, with no waste, plus scolding is a harder way in my opinion. 

What do I do with the peelings? I make jelly! After all there is a lot of flavor in the peels and you also have that tiny amount of peach still on the peel when you do it by hand. 

Most of the time I work with five to ten pounds of fruit at a time so not to be overwhelmed.

Peach Jelly

How And What to do :

First of all, I always wash and sterilize my jars and get the lid and rings ready before I do anything. Next I make sure I have hot water waiting in the canner, whether water bath or pressure canner.

Wash the peaches in cold water, making sure that the fuzzy is all gone. 

Next I peel the peaches, putting peels into one large cooking pot and the peach into another large vessel, bowl or cooking pot, with cold water and fruit fresh to keep them from turning brown.

When I get them all peeled I cook the peelings over medium heat, just covering them with water and stirring every now and then. When the peel looks light brown in color and the juice is a reddish color they are done. Strain off the peels and use the juice to make your jelly. 

Using the Ball liquid pectin, I just follow the directions for plum jelly. 

BUT where the recipe states it makes 5 half pints I got 9 half pints, so have your jars and lids ready, just in case.

Store jelly in a cool space til used. 

Pickled Peaches

This was always a favorite on the holiday dinner table when I was a child and the recipe was passed down to me from wonderful cooks dating back to around early 1900`s. They are tangy from the vinegar and sweet from the sugar, with that spicy taste from the cloves and pickling spices. 

I made a mixture of sliced pickled peaches and whole pickled peaches, both are delicious just the same but the sliced cooks faster.

How to home can pickle peaches :

You will need : 

Pint and/ or quart  home canning jars

Lids and rings for each jar

2 1/2 cups of white vinegar

2 1/2 cups of white sugar

3 tablespoons of pickling spices

1 tablespoon of whole cloves (I used ground cloves, this will make the liquid dark)

Peel peaches and set them aside in cold water with fruit fresh.

In a large cooking pot add the vinegar, sugar and spices and bring to a boil.

Drain the water and fruit fresh from the peaches.

Add peaches to the hot liquid carefully and cook till a fork inserts easily into the peach. 

Remove from the heat and fill jars to 1/2 head space.

Wipe rims of jars clean and apply lids.

Process 30 minutes in a water bath. 

Store in a cool place. 

NOTE : peach colors vary, some are white and some are deep yellow. Its just different type of peaches but the taste are the same.

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - How To Home Can Or Freeze Sweet Potatoes

July 9, 2017

While I would have loved to grown all of my food this year I have not, mother nature allowed to much rain and some of my crops died. Since I am okay money wise ( still working full time) I am buying a little from the farmers market and home canning or freezing, while I prefer home canning since it cost money/ power to run a deep freezer.

As I mentioned in my last article I bought a box of sweet potatoes, a 20 pound box and the freezer is low of sweet potatoes, Plus this year since I have the pressure canner I home canned more than I froze.

First I always wash and sterilize my jars and get the lid and rings ready before I do anything. Next I make sure I have hot water waiting in the pressure canner.

How to home can sweet potatoes :

Make light syrup using 2 1/4 cups sugar and 5 1/4 water = 6 1/2 cups, set aside on low heat.

Peel the sweet potatoes and rinse in cold water. Cube sweet potatoes in medium size chunks. 

In a large cooking pot fill 1/2 full with water, bring to a boil. Add sweet potatoes and bring back to a boil, boil 10 minutes. 

Remove sweet potatoes from boiling water using a slotted spoon, put directly into pint jars. Fill jars with the light syrup, wipe the rim of jars with a clean damp cloth and apply lids.

Put 7 filled pint jars into the pressure canner and process for 65 minutes.

That is how to home can sweet potatoes in light syrup.

How to freeze mashed sweet potatoes : 

I have learned that you always, I mean always cook th sweet potatoes first. Why? When you cook a potato that has not been Pre-cooked its grainy / woody texture that is not any good.

For Mashed sweet potatoes - Peel and cube sweet potatoes as small as you can cube them, put them into a large cooking pot and just barely cover them with water, boil till soft, there should not be much water left, cook till most all is gone, stirring often.

Remove from heat and pour into a stainer and back into the cooking pot. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, mix well. 

Allow to cool completely.

Make appropriate size meals and spoon into a freezer bag, label and freeze. Enjoy sweet potatoes for six months or more. 

Just thaw in the freezer bag when ready to eat, season as you like.

Freezing whole sweet potatoes :

Wash the sweet potatoes to get rid of any dirt. Bake sweet potatoes till done. 

Cool completely.

Fill freezer bags with the sweet potatoes and freeze. its that simple, when you want a baked sweet potatoes take out what you need and reseal the rest.

Sweet potato pie 

To make sweet potato pie filling just remove a quart freezer bag of mashed sweet potatoes, thaw. 

Add 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of vanilla flavor. Mix well.

Pour into a 9 inch pie crust and bake for about 45 minutes or till golden brown around the edges. 

That is how I use sweet potatoes as a stock up for the homestead.

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Farmers Market And Gardening

July 6, 2017 

I have this dream of getting off the grid and growing all my own food, even hunting if need be, but more than likely I will be a 100% vegetarian. A few years passed and I learned the hard lesson that sometimes you cannot grow your own food, mother nature just will not cooperate! 

This year we are blessed with rain, sometimes to much, but with the mild Winter that central Alabama had was not good because the pests are out early and attacking everything in its path. I lost a couple fruit trees and a few crops, zucchini, yellow squash and half of the tomato plants.

With no peaches I began to call the peach farmers around Alabama only to find out they were also hit hard and had few peaches and they have a hefty price on them! 

Next I drove 45 minutes away to the Alabama farmers market to see what they had that I could use to stockpile. 

The only food I seen that I could actually stock up on at a good price was sweet potatoes, so I bought a 20 pound box for $10. When I got home I took them all out of the box to make sure none was beginning to rot and all of them were perfect and I counted 51 sweet potatoes and that averages out to .19 for each potato. 

I worked in the evenings on canning and freezing the sweet potatoes. And as always I baked a couple for dinner after smelling the sweet potatoes cooking, I could not resist.

The first night - July fourth, I home canned 7 pints and made two quarts of mashed sweet potatoes for pies.

Night Two - July fifth, I home canned 7 more pints and I baked 12 sweet potatoes and froze those.
So all together I got 14 pint jars of sweet potatoes in light syrup, 2 quarts freezer bags of mashed sweet potatoes for that fast pie and 12 baked sweet potatoes for a quick out of the freezer dinner when needed. Over the several days I had the box in the house we had 3 baked sweet potatoes one night for dinner and 2 deserts made with them.

 For a total of 33 meals with sweet potatoes. And that averages out to around .30 per cooked sweet potato serving. Not to bad in my book. 

Do you love`em or hate`em? Sweet potatoes that is.

Note : Yes I know syrup is misspelled :)

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry