Tag Archives: Canning

House update: concrete slab pour

The post you’ve all been waiting for!

I know, I know, it’s been nearly a week since I said we’d get the slab poured, and here I am just now writing about it.

But really, it’s only been 3 days since it was poured. Yep, that’s right, it was done this past Monday, not last Friday.

Yeah, the overnight lows were forecasted to be down around freezing for Friday and Saturday night. Frozen concrete is not a good thing. And while there are steps you can take to make sure the slab does not freeze, waiting an extra couple of days for the temps to warm up is an easy fix.

On top of that, none of the concrete companies in town could do a Friday pour before noon. Doing a slab this size takes about 8 hours. It gets dark here around 7pm right now. I think you can see the problem there.

So, we decided that it was best to just wait till Monday.

It was chilly that morning before the sun hit the pad.

But the crew was there and the cement showed up right on time.

The interior footers were poured first.

Then they started on the slab.

Flower Girl didn’t want to miss a moment, even when she was so cold. But the sun came up and we all warmed up.

There wasn’t much for us to do other than watch.

But watch, we did!

And then spent a few minutes stabbing in the bolts for the walls.

Pajii gave it a go.

Princess Girl looked over the plans to make sure we were doing it right.

I had a moment of panic when I did some measuring and thought we were an entire inch and a half off. Till I realized I was measuring to the wrong side of the form boards. Whew!

Lots and lots of bolts.

The concrete crew we hired did an efficient job.

Looks like he is standing on the edge of a huge drop off. In reality, there’s enough space on the other side of the house for a cement truck to pull up there.

More finishing.

The last thing to do was cut the relief cuts to hopefully control some of the cracking. Our concrete contractor uses a big machine to do the cuts rather than a skill saw by hand.

Here it is with the concrete blankets on. My brother and my dad were each able to loan us enough blankets to cover half the pad. We decided that since we got them for free, it couldn’t hurt to use them. Better safe than sorry.

On Wednesday we started taking down the forms. We can’t take off all of then yet because that’s what the plastic is stapled to.

Since we are going to stain the slab and use it as our finished floor, the concrete guy didn’t want to put on a chemical seal/cure on it. So instead, we wetted everything down then covered it in 6mil black plastic to keep the water from evaporating. This will allow the slab to slowly cure over the course of a week or so without adding something to the top that will make the stain not work.

Pajii and Princess Girl took off all the blankets today. I stayed inside out of the pounding wind because I came down with a cold on Tuesday (great timing, right).

Instead of working on the house, I’ve been resting and recuperating and making chicken stock out of the carcasses of the chickens we processed over the weekend.

One of these pots of stock got canned into jars. The other became soup for dinner tonight. Hopefully it will help me feel better. This not being able to breath thing is getting old real quick.

The next stage of building the house is getting the metal frame up, but that may take a while. In the meantime, we need to finish up our septic system and fresh water cistern and get started on the garage. Still got a lot to do. But it’s moving forward. Slowly but surely.

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Culling old chickens

So, I know you’re anxious to know about the slab, but that’s for another post. Sorry, you’ll have to wait another day or two.

For now, I want to share with you a task that we had to take care of that had nothing to do with the house build.

You may remember that back in April, we acquired a flock of about 20 old hens from some friends of ours. We were told they were roughly 5 years old. We did not expect many eggs out of them, but for several months during the summer we got about 10-12 eggs out of them every day so we were happy. Then the end of summer came and between the diminished daylight and the molting and the fact that they were old and that they kept eating their eggs, we didn’t get very many eggs out of them. For the last month or two, we’ve only gotten an egg or so a week. Very frustrating. So, we decided it was time for them to go.

Warning: this is a Homesteading blog about homesteaderly things and one of the things we do on this homestead is produce our own meat. The following pictures may not be suitable for all viewers. While I will not be posting “how-to” pics, or ones that are too bloody, some people may not like seeing dead chickens. I respect your decision to click away if you’d rather not see anything objectionable.

For those of you who are ok with that sort of thing, read on.

As I said above, this is not a how-to type post. There are plenty of those out there, and I especially found the one by The Prairie Homestead and the video by Joel Salatin she linked to at the end of her post to be useful.

This is more of a “this is how we spent our day” post. Actually, how we spent a day and a half, even into this evening as the canner is busily boiling away as I type this.

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Hubs was the main chicken dispatcher.

He was also the main feather plucker.

My brother and sis-in-law joined is to help with the task.

Sis-in-law ended up doing most of the cleaning.

Flower Girl was rather eager to help with the whole process.

She thought that the tiny egg yolks we found inside some of the hens were really cool.

One of the hens was obviously still producing some eggs as we found different size yolks.

Nearly 12 year old Princess Girl was not nearly as interested in getting her hands dirty as her little sister, but she did process one chicken completely from catching it in the run to putting the cut-up meat into the jars.

I’m so proud of her. And when she wasn’t helping with the actual processing, she was a great gopher, as we all had dirty hands, she’d be the one to run and get stuff for us.

She also took a lot of these pictures since my hands were perpetually covered in ick or water.

This chicken wing looks like an octopus tentacle!

Since these chickens we’re so old, we knew that their meat would be pretty darn tough.

By canning the meat, it is pressure cooked as it is canned. This high pressure cooking/canning for over an hour makes the meat nice and tender.

And yes, I’m canning after dark.

These are great for use in soups or as chicken salad, etc. And I’m so excited that we were able to put these chickens to good use since they had become useless in the egg production category. It feels great to be able to produce some of our own food again. I’ve missed that since we moved back to Nevada and spent so much of our time building the homestead living systems.

We’ll, that’s it for the day. I’ll update in a day or two about our slab, I promise.

The Heat is On

Howdy, howdy!

Boy, I’m horrible at keeping you all up-to-date. I keep procrastinating because there’s so many parts to our story I haven’t told yet. But I figure I should just go forward from here, otherwise I’m gonna get further and further behind. πŸ™‚

So summer is officially here and the temperatures are rising. Where I sit right now, under the shade shelter we built, with the breeze blowing across me, it’s not too hot. Inside the trailer? Well, as long as the breeze is blowing through the open windows, it’s bearable. At least Bachan and Pagee have AC in their trailer.

We’ve been having quite the time keeping tarps on the shade shelter frames. The wind has been atrocious.

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But we keep redesigning and rebuilding. And then it’s good till the next wind storm. And by wind storm, I mean literal hurricane force winds. Yeah, anything that’s not tied down – and even some things that are – gets blown off the mountain down into the canyon.

But that’s life up here. You learn to deal with it. You prepare the best you can, and trust God for the rest.

Our schedule is about to heat up, too. Our house plans were turned into the building department this last week! We have just a short month or two to prepare for the work to begin. And then we’re gonna go crazy!

Not that we haven’t been keeping busy.Β  We finally got our shower all put together.

You may remember that our trailer does not have a working bathroom. So we’ve been washing up with buckets and wash cloths, or going down to Mom’s to take showers.

But now, we can take full on regular showers right here on the homestead! I’ll do a explanatory post on that whole system some time.

And speaking of my mom, she brought a TON of cherries from her trees up to gain some help in pitting them. Her and Princess Girl pitted a large refrigerator drawer full of cherries. Flower Girl helped by being the official taste tester. πŸ™‚

The following day, the girls and I went to Mom’s to help her make jam and a couple cobblers.

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The end result was 27 cups of jam using three different recipes, and two cobblers.

Life hasn’t all been hard work over the last month, though. I’ve had a little bit of time to relax here and there. A couple Sundays ago, I spent nearly the whole afternoon in the hammock.

The girl’s and I had an opportunity to dress in 1860’s clothing and join in a Civil War Days event.

And just the other day, amongst errands, we spontaneously decided to take our fast-food to a park for an impromptu picnic. (I learned that I feel less guilty about eating fast-food if we turn it into a picnic. πŸ˜‰ )

And amongst all the work of settling into the trailers, getting our house plans turned in to the building department, and the myriad of other things we do every day, Princess Girl and I have been working at our summer job at least a couple days a week.

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One thing I’m learning is that up here on the homesteadΒ  everything takes more time. Because we are living completely off grid in an old camping trailer, there are extra steps to nearly every task.

Gonna make breakfast? Gotta gather up of the food and utensils and dishes needed to take out to the outdoor kitchen first.

Gonna go potty? Well, do your business, but know in just a couple of days, you’re gonna have to take care of that bag of poo. (Another post on that is also in the works, just in case you’re wondering. πŸ˜‰ )

Gotta get something from the shed? You gotta walk all the way over there and back -several times usually – to get what you need.

But it’s a good kind of work and we’re happy to be here. As has been my mantra for the last several months, “the trade off is worth it!”

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Blackberry Syrup with Honey

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So…we’re moving in just a couple of weeks. And we had a freezer full of food to eat up since we will be living in camping trailers and won’t have freezer space available to us (have you seen how small those freezers are?).

We had several bags of wild blackberries in the freezer from two summers ago. First of all, they just needed to be used. Because, you know, two summers ago!

Second of all, as I said, we don’t want to transport frozen food to Nevada. So we either needed to eat them or transform them into something that is doesn’t need to be refrigerated/frozen.

We had so many that we could eat cobbler several times a week from now till we leave. And as much as we all love cobbler, we’re just not that into desserts around here. We see them as a treat rather than a staple.

So a canned good of some sort was the order of the day.

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I coulda made jam. But as much as we had would have probably made about 5 pints of jam. Way too much for us to go through. That would have lasted us years! We just don’t eat that much jam.

So I chose to make syrup. By straining out the pulp and seeds I knew I’d get a smaller volume of juice. Not only that, but one jar of syrup will be gone in just a couple of days. We don’t make pancakes all that often, but when we do, we open a jar of our delicious homemade fruit syurp, use it for the pancakes, and the remainder gets used in oatmeal till it’s gone a day or two later.

I started out with 10 cups of frozen blackberries. I put them in a pot with about 1 cup of water and heated them till boiling, then cooked them for about 5 minutes. I then took a potato masher and mushed them up to get out as much juice as possible.

After that, I scooped them into some jelly bags to drain. You could use a piece of muslin or linen fabric, or several layers of cheescloth if you don’t have jelly bags.

I hung the jelly bags from a cabinet doorknob and let them drip into a bowl.

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They drained like that for about an hour or so. I probably could have let them drain for several more hours and gotten more juice out of them, but I was in a hurry.

I ended up with 4 cups of juice. I added this and one 1 cup of honey to a pot on the stove and started heating it. I chose this amount of honey because that’s what tasted good to us. Feel free to adjust the amount to your liking. You can also use any other kind of sweetener you’d prefer.

Once it was boiling, I sprinkled in about two tablespoons of no-sugar-needed pectin. I figured this would thicken it up into more of a syrup consistency without waiting for it to boil down on the stove. If you’d prefer not to use pectin, you can just let it simmer for a while on the stove, but be prepared to lose a bunch of volume. If you do use pectin, be careful not too add to much or you’ll end up with jelly!

Once it boiled good for a minute or so, I ladled it into prepared jars and processed it for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. For detailed instructions on water bath canning, check out this site.

You can see from the following picture that the syrup is thick enough to coat the inside of the jar. Yummy!

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I ended up with 5 cups of syrup in 4 jars (two 12oz jars and two 8oz jars).

Can’t wait to have some pancakes!

And yes, we left enough blackberries out to make a couple cobblers. πŸ™‚

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Preserving the harvest

There is a house in our neighborhood which is vacant and for sale. In the back yard stands two apple trees and five (yes 5!) plum trees.

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Last year I got permission from the owner/tenant to pick their apples since it was obvious by the number of apples on the ground that they were not going to be doing anything with them.

This year I called the realtor and he gave us permission to take all the fruit we want.

Yay!

So I’ve been supplying us with plums to snack on for a couple weeks now. And I’ve had a basket of apples sitting in the corner waiting for me to do something with them.

Then two days ago a friend gave me some cucumbers and zucchini that she had left over after making all the pickles and relish she wanted.

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So today, I sat down with my recipe books and a pad of paper and made some lists.

Apples : make into cider
Cucumbers: pickle them
Zucchini: shred and freeze
Plums: unknown (I don’t care for plum jam/jelly. What else is there to do with plums?)

As you can see, I had some research to do. I finally decided to make plum butter amd a plum bbq sauce. But first we gotta go pick the plums!

Fist on the agenda for the day was to make the pickles since they are best when the cukes are fresh and they were already 4 das old.

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I’m not going to give a tutorial on how to make pickles. There are already a million of them out there, and I followed the instructions from the Ball Blue Book (one of my go-to canning guides). The only thing I changed is that I left out the sugar. I mean, really. Dill pickles do not need sugar!

However I did want to mention one tidbit that might be handy. The instructions say to tie the spices in a bag. I’ve heard that you can use a tea bag (the kind you buy empty and put loose leaf tea in to steep). But I don’t have any of those lying around, besides, I don’t like to use disposable if I can help it. You can tie the spices up in a square of cheesecloth or fabric, but that just seems awkward. What I’ve done for years now is use panty hose.

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Yep, I purchased a cheap pair specifically for this purpose so they had never been worn. I gave them a good washing. Snipped off the foot portion and tied a knot in the end. Then I just fill the tube with the spices and knot the other end.

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Because the fabric is so stretchy, when it is time to clean, it is a simple task to unknot it, turn it inside out over the compost bucket, and then rinse and wash. And since it is nylon, it dries almost instantly, too.

So once I had the pickles all canned, it was time to deal with the apples. The Hubby and Princess Girl helped cut them up. Because they were so wormy we only got about half of each apple for the pot. The wormy parts went into a bucket to be fed to the chickens. No waste that way.

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I put them on the stove to cook a bit and while they were heating, Princess Girl and I attacked the zucchini.

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I shredded, she packed. We put approximately two cups into each bag since that’s what most of my recipies tend to call for.

We did not blanch the zucchini. I have seen directions that call for it, but in my experience, it has never made a difference in the end product.

I got called away to help Mom with some stuff and when I came back I found that the apples on the stove had cooked down to apple sauce!

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I realized I had cooked them too long to make cider, so I changed my plans and decided to make apple butter instead. Unfortunately, all the peels were still in there. I know some people cook their apple butter with the peels on and they eventually break down into the sauce, but I believe that lends a bitter taste to the sauce and resulting butter. So, I strained out the peels.

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(Gotta teach Princess Girl how to take clearer pictures!)

I spooned the peely sauce into a mesh strainer and by tapping the strainer “ears” on the rim of the bowl and stirring the sauce in the strainer, I got most of the sauce separated from the peels.

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Another of Princess Girl's photos

Even though the apples were not real sweet, the sauce is some of the best I’ve made. I think that is because usually I use the Victorio strainer and it mashes the peels up and strains them out. And while the peels don’t end up in the final product, I think some of their flavor does.

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Princess Girl told me I have to keep this picture and post it. πŸ™‚

At any rate, I got all the peels strained out of the sauce (more food for the chickens!) And ended up with 10 cups of sauce which I put in the slow cooker with some cinnamon and clove. I will let it cook over night.

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I have to buy some honey tomorrow to use as the sweetener since we don’t have enough at the moment.

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Princess Girl helped me finish up the zucchini and get the bags ready for the freezer.

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Twelve pints of pickles canned, 6 bags of zucchini in the freezer, and apple butter cooking in the slow cooker. I’d say it was a productive day.

And tomorrow we go pick apples and plums.

I love harvest season and knowing that I am providing healthy food for my family. And it’s especially great when I get that food for free!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121