Monday, August 31, 2009

Today's Kitchen Project...

Just look at that color! - Currant/Raspberry Jelly

I canned a batch of jelly completely on my own for the first time today... and it was a complete success! I feel so accomplished this fall, learning this new skill. Next, I need to apply it to preserving vegetables. Rob is going moose hunting next weekend, and it would also be great to get some stew meat canned up. I need to learn to use the pressure canner, soon!

My first attempt at 100% whole wheat bread...

Let it rise...

In the oven...

Everyone was eating it before I could even get a picture!!!

I love fresh artisan bread, and it went especially well with the Raspberry Jam we made last week. Today we are making Current Jelly, as we were able to pick over 2 quarts from just one wild current bush!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Homemade Spiced Apple Cider

1 gallon apple juice
1 can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tbsp cinnamon (or to taste)
20 cloves (or to taste)

Mix all ingredients and heat to simmering... tastes great and makes the house smell awesome!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Smells like fall time...

When I go outside, I can smell the change of the season. Instead of green, my nostrils fill with the smell of earth, brown leaves, and berries. I love fall time, not just for the smells, but for the colors, and the crisp air. Its time to start bundling up a bit, and time to turn the heater back on in the house (almost). Time to break out the scented candles and close the curtains, and give the house back that cozy feeling that it only gets when it is cold outside. All summer long the doors and windows are open, giving the house that nice, fresh feel. Now, when you walk into my home, you smell vegetable soup cooking on the stove, fresh bread baking in the oven, hot apple cider simmering away, and yummy, earthy scented candles burning in the corner of the room. Cozy is the best way to describe it. What could be better than that?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Happiness is...

Happiness is...

A kid who actually likes school
A baby who only cries when she really needs something
Home-canned produce on the pantry shelves
New pantry curtains, home made, of course
Food in the dehydrator
A clean house
Dinner cooking on the stove
A content and happy family

...welcome to my evening.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dilly Beans

Still canning away! I get my first CSA box on Wednesday, and I have a feeling I'll be canning some of that too! I'm looking forward to a full pantry this winter!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lazy Saturday Morning...

Yes, she's a big girl, and she snores, too!

Bear Scat and other fun stuff...

When we got home from Stephen's school event yesterday, we were greeted by a HUGE pile of bear scat at the bottom of the driveway! I'm talking "there's no way that came from a black bear" huge! I know that bears live here on my property, even over-wintering in places, but this reminded me of just how close they really are. It doesn't worry me, but reminds me that Stephen needs to stay close to the house when he plays outside, and that we need to be aware of our surroundings. (Like day before yesterday when I was out in the thick bushes picking rosehips for my jelly) Rob, on the other hand, freaked out a little bit, being the city boy that he hates to admit that he sometimes is.. (hehehe)

A little background on this particular piece of property... My father purchased 40 acres from the original homesteaders, who are close family friends. He then sold 10 of the acres to my sister, who eventually decided that she was more interested in city life. When she told me she was going to sell the place, I immediately sold my house and bought hers! So, although I have only owned this land going on 2 years, I have literally lived here my whole life. The bears were just part of the land, my father always being more interested in providing a sanctuary for wildlife, rather than hunting it. There are bears, moose, fox, Sandhill Cranes (that come back every year to have their babies in my back yard), porcupines, coyotes, wolves, lynx... etc. etc.

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to be in such an amazing place... just look at what I get to wake up to every morning!!!

That's a photo of Denali... the tallest mountain in North America, which I took from my front porch this morning. She greets me every morning, reminding me that its a big world out there. Look at that photo and tell me that I'm not the luckiest person in the world, to be able to raise my children in such an amazing place!!! This is the piece of land I was meant to be on. My heart is here. My life is here. I can't imagine being anywhere else in the world.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wild Rosehip Jelly!!!

Today was a good day. I officially made not only my first batch of jelly ever, but it was my first time canning as well! Rosehip jelly, made from Wild Sitka Roses that grow all over my property. This is better than homegrown... this is wild food foraging!

Wild Sitka Rosehips

Boiling the rosehips to make the juice

Cooking the juice with the sugar and pectin

Made 1 dozen half-pint jars

Beautiful color

I was determined to learn how to can this year, and I'm excited to learn how easy it really is! Tomorrow its on to Raspberry Jam!

On another note, I officially joined a local CSA this week. Glacier Valley Farm CSA is unique in that you purchase the produce by the week, rather than by the season. Its a good price, and if you live in Anchorage or the Mat-Su Valley, I encourage you to check them out!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A new business possibility...

Working on a new business venture this week. Hopefully it will pan out and allow me to make a little extra cash to help out around here. Rob is so wonderful to take on the task of supporting the family financially on his own, but I feel like I need to do what I can as well. I may be a stay at home mom now, but I was a successful Paralegal until Lily came along. I don't regret my decision to stay at home, but that extra paycheck sure was a good thing! I'll speak more of my new business when the time is right, but for now I am just happy that something may be happening!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fall is upon us!

It was markedly colder when I got up this morning. Partly, I'm sure, because we are getting up earlier due to Stephen's new school schedule, but also, it is almost the end of August already!

Mom mentioned yesterday that she may not be ready for chickens until next spring, so today, after Lily's 2 month doctor appointment, we are going to see what we can do to help her be ready now. I am itching for some chickens!!!

Speaking of Lily, I can't believe how fast she is growing now. If only the garden was so cooperative!

We discovered yesterday that the rosehips appear to be ready to harvest. Usually they are best after the first frost, so I'm not sure if I should harvest them now, or wait a few weeks. I'm looking forward to making batches of rosehip jelly, and I will probably dehydrate some of them as well. The cranberries are ready to pick also. Lots to do!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Still thinking about next summer's gardens...

This morning, the compost pile is definitely on my mind. I am really looking forward to being able to turn this lovely stuff into my garden, and to get some healthy, organic vegetables out of it. Depending on the state of the oldest compost pile next spring, I may end up using it a year early. I have discussed my 3 year compost plan before, but I think I may not have to wait that long. Even if there is still a little bit of identifiable material left, it will still help out my soil immensely.

I have come to the conclusion that the nutrient-poor soil in the garden beds is probably the main reason I had such an unsuccessful garden this year. Next year I will scale back the sheer number of different plants I will be growing, and try to concentrate on 6 or 7 items that are the most important to me, and with a little luck, and a little compost and cow poop, maybe I will actually have something to can at the end of the season!

No one ever claimed that organic was easier, but in the long run, its soooo worth it!

On another track... I can't believe that the farmer's markets are already starting to wrap up for the season. I was a little disappointed by the selection in the farmer's markets I visited this year. I expected to be able to find more than zucchini, but that was really the only prevalent vegetable. Everything else was very hit-or-miss. Don't get me wrong... I love zucchini, but Alaska has so much more vegetable potential! One of the markets I attended had over 100 vendors, and only 2 of them even had vegetables. The rest was all just deep fried foods and tourist items. I guess when things go more mainstream, sometimes people miss the point. Hopefully this will change in the future, as more and more people find the benefits of eating locally grown foods.

Fall is quickly upon us, and today is the first day of school! Time seems to go by a little faster every year. Stephen is starting kindergarten, and he is excited for the transition! Hopefully his good attitude about school will continue. I always loved school, and I'm sure he will too.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm not quite sure why I find this so funny...

One of my eggplants is actually producing flower buds all of a sudden. I had given them up as a total loss, and now this! Of course there is not enough time for it to produce a mature vegetable, but now I'm curious as to what it will do. The garden is a crazy place, indeed. Now if only my zucchini flowers would do something productive... they are pretty enough, but I really would like to get at least one squash for my effort!

We hit up a farmer's market while we were in Anchorage today. I bought a huge yellow zucchini, a few snow apples (white turnips), and some fresh green beans. I will be making homemade vegetable beef soup this Friday, and they will add so much to the flavor. I LOVE homemade soup, especially in the fall and winter. Nothing like healthy comfort food! YUMMY!

I also just ate 2 of the reddest, most amazing tasting strawberries ever, out of my 3 tiered raised strawberry beds. Absolute heaven!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ewwww... cattle poop!

I'm going to be adding aged steer manure to my raised garden beds and to my compost pile today. My husband thinks I'm nuts... he's such a city boy! LOL I just amazes me the differences between him and myself, him growing up in big city California and me growing up on a little farm in Alaska. When Rob's parents were here last week I served scrambled eggs with fresh eggs, and they (my husband included) actually complained that the eggs were too yellow! Can you believe that?! They are so used to old store bought eggs that they thought the yellow color meant that there was something wrong!

I'll be getting 3 chickens very soon. I don't have a chicken coop yet, so they will be living at my mother's house with her 3 new hens, while I work on my husband a while longer. He thinks that chickens will be a big pain in the ass. We are also going to be raising a turkey next spring for thanksgiving dinner. I'm really excited!

Sooner or later Rob will let me do this here, but for now, at least mom is only 6 miles away!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Starting the harvest...

Today I harvested more snap peas and some of the green onions. The peas will still produce for another 2 months if I keep picking every 2 or 3 days, and the onions needed to be thinned very badly. I have one absolutely huge cucumber, which I just don't quite want to pick yet. There are also quite a few babies, which might at least get to pickle size if the weather doesn't get too much colder. The tomato plants are still looking pitiful, with one green tomato about the size of a golf ball. Maybe I'll at least get to eat this one! Carrots are small, almost not worth mentioning, but they are still trying, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt until the last possible moment.

I went ahead and turned under all the spinach and kale... they were definitely not doing anything. The cabbages look healthy, but there are no heads. I will give them the benefit of the doubt as well, but I'm not holding my breath.

Next year I think I will try heirloom seeds for most of my produce, along with better soil. Hopefully this will make the difference!

I also turned the compost again today, getting the top layer (wet from the rain) into the center of the pile. The center was bone dry, so I obviously need to water it more often. We just haven't had enough rain this year, even though the last 2 weeks have been very rainy. I'll just keep at it!