Friday, September 30, 2011

First Attempt at Salsa

I don't bottle and preserve as much as Sheepy does, she bottles or dehydrates almost everything that her farm produces. She doesn't have a freezer (Taco kept unplugging the chest freezer when he was young and she got discouraged loosing all that food!) so she puts lots of food in bottles.

I'm trying to preserve more.

Last year I dehydrated lots and lots of tomatoes. I still have half of what I dehydrated!

Since Son1 spent two years in Mexico, he likes SPICY food and this year I decided to try to grow tomatoes and peppers to make some salsa for him.

The hot peppers aren't ready but I found a salsa mix at the local farm supply store.

Here is my first attempt (including mistakes!) of making Son1 salsa.

6 lbs of tomatoes from our garden. Hubby picked them last night!
I know there are 6 pounds because I weighed them!
I love canning recipes that tell me the weight of produce I need
instead of how many cups.
I ran across Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix at the local farm supply store and
decided to give it a try. 
Tomatoes in boiling water for 3 minutes. I think it was about a minute too long because the skins had really split wide open and the tomatoes were starting to get mushy.
Ice bath ready to cool the tomatoes quickly after they come out of the water bath. The bowl is sitting in the sink because sinks are easier to clean than counters.
Chillin' tomatoes! Waiting to be peeled and put in the food processor.

After the tomatoes went through the food processor they looked almost like tomato puree. I think that was partly because the food processor is the cheapest one I could fined (Black and Decker) and because the tomatoes were in the boiling water just a little too long.
Mrs. Wages spices and 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar.
Simmer for 10 minutes (that was easy!)
Vet2Be said it smells delicious!
I love my new funnel. One of my friends gave it to me for my birthday. It covers the lip of the jar so I don't have to wipe off the lip with a rag before I put a lid on.
I put my clean jars on a towel because I make such a gloopy mess. This saves me some clean up time, I throw the towel in the washing machine and it does the work.

Only 5 jars. Hmmmm..... probably because the food processor processed the tomatoes until they were almost puree--my fault. I'll have to figure out how to cook the tomatoes less as well as work the food processor a little better. I hate using so much water for so few jars but my other pot isn't tall enough to cover the jars with water.
Outside canner set up: many people who can in our area use an outdoor propane canner because it keeps the heat outside. These are able to put out alot of heat quickly, too, which means that the water doesn't take forever to heat up.
The bottles are processing for 40 minutes now. The salsa should be done and cooled before Son1 comes home for the weekend.

He can be the guinea pig. He likes "Five Alarm Salsa",
the rest of us like "No Alarm Salsa".

All done!
I like making paper labels for my jars. I hate the sound of jars rattling, the paper helps with that. I can send anyone down to the storage room to find something in particular because each food has a color label and they are printed in large type! And printing labels is much faster for me than writing on each jar.
(Yes, the jar in the front on the left is shorter. It is an old Mrs. Richardson's Fudge jar and lid. My dad taught me to re-use lids and jars until they don't seal anymore--not USDA standard, but it works for us.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Saturday's List

It's time to get ready for winter and we were able to get a bunch of things done on Saturday!

First job: finish constructing the new tarp garage for all the yard equipment (tiller, mowers, extra barrels and buckets, shovels, rakes....) so we would have room for hay in the barn.

Second job: We took down alot of trees this year and there are still lots of branches that need to be burned. We got through one more pile on Saturday waiting for the hay truck.

Third job: 297 bales of hay. No hay elevator, but 3 strong boys and hubby willing to unload and stack! 
Fourth job: seal the driveway. If it has a new coat of sealant the snow will melt much faster in the winter.

Clean gutters, too! Yay!
We also cleaned the poultry pen and covered the wire coop with new tarps. And finished building a new pen for breeding (we have 2 bucks visiting, plus Vet2Be's buck--so we needed 3 pens this fall).

There are still more chores to be done (aren't there always!) Weeding the flowerbeds, spraying more weeds, and planting grass seed in the dry lot by the barn.

It keeps us all busy and out of trouble!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Yellow Caterpillar Brightens the Day

As I was processing pints and pints and pints of chicken on the patio on Friday I noticed this little guy/gal crawling along the cement.

I haven't seen a cute, fuzzy caterpillar is such a long time! This one brought a little more sunshine this afternoon!

I found another photo of him/her at Butterflies and Moths of North America. Apparently s/he is a Banded Tussock Moth or Pale Tiger Moth.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Too Many Canning Rings!


I hate canning rings! And I hate storing them in our little house. They are worse than feral cats! They multiply and are unruly and I find them everywhere!

Here's my new idea!

 I cut a hole in the top of a yogurt lid the same size as the fabric roll that I happened to save from a roll of fabric.

I cut slits from the edge of the circle to the center.
Then I pushed the cardboard roll through the top of the lid and put the lid on the container.
I wrapped duct tape around the wedges that were pushed up as pushed the cardboard roll through the center. This gave the roll a bit more stability.
I have one for large rings, and one for small rings!
Now if I could make sure I could keep my camera level when I take photos... you wouldn't have to tilt your head to see the rings on the cardboard polls!
If you have any ideas for improving the design, leave a comment! Or if you have a particularly helpful way of storing your rings, please let me know that, too!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bottling Chicken

Yesterday I bottled chicken. I still have lots and lots to bottle. One of the local grocery stores had a great price on it and I wanted to stock up on pre-cooked chicken.

Canning meat is one of the easiest things to do, as long as you have a pressure cooker.

Here are the instructions from the Ball Blue Book

Raw pack chicken:
Pack meat into hot jars leaving 1" headspace.
If you wash the jars in the dishwasher and then leave them in there until you are ready to process the chicken.

Ladle hot water or broth over meat, leaving 1" headspace. Remove air bubbles.

Place lids and rings on jars.

Process pints for 1 hour 15 minutes (I process for 1 hour 25 minutes because of our altitude).

1 pound of chicken fits in a pint jar
That's it! Pretty simple.

Then I always have cooked chicken on hand for chicken enchiladas, chicken soup, or any recipe I might need shredded chicken for.

Here's a link for 40 different recipes using shredded chicken (I haven't tried them all--but they look delicious!)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Vet2Be needed to sell some goats. We knew that four would have to find new homes.

Earlier this summer I put them up on the local online classifieds and only got one response.

I put them up again last night and someone called just as I finished posting.

They came to get them all last night.

Poppy, she won 1st place at the County Fair! She is a beautiful doeling and very sweet.

Lilly, she's pretty, too. But not as pretty as Poppy. What she lacks in conformation she more than makes up in personality. A total sweetheart!

Lucky, we thought we were going to keep him because he is adorable! But he is also an escape artist who manages to get out of the buck pen at least twice a day. He gets his head caught in fences, and under fences. And he is a big tease when we try to catch him. So we're keeping his brother, Banjo, instead.

Jack is a 2-year old wether. We can't keep too many goats and Vet2Be decided to  keep Banjo, so Jack needed a new home. He's personable and easy going. Doesn't challenge fences, likes people without trying to run them over--a nice all around pet goat.
I listed them extremely cheap ($50 for each doeling, $25 for each wether). The first person that called wanted to know if they took all four.....

I said, "Please don't ask me to go any lower on the price. These are spectacular animals at an extraordinary price." I probably should have hung up on her at that point.

They seem like nice people. The goats will have 100+ acres to run on, but really!?!?!? Lower the price?!?!?!

Another family called while I was talking to the first family. Vet2Be wishes I would have sold the goats to them. Next time his phone number is going in the add and he can interview the people that call about his goats. He's right, the family that bought them have no idea of the quality of the goats they just bought.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Vet2Be got a call in late July from his FFA advisor.

"Want to raise some turkeys?"

We decided a few years ago to NEVER raise turkeys again because we couldn't keep them in the yard. We found them 2 1/2 blocks away once!

Well, we decided that since these were the fast growing turkeys and they are raised specifically for an FFA contest, we would give it another try.

These turnkeys are about 8 weeks old.
They grow really fast! Vet2Be will enter two, one hen and one tom, in the FFA show in late October or November. They process all the birds and then judge two of them.

I have no idea what will happen to them after that.

But I really, really, really want at least one of them for Thanksgiving! And maybe another one for Christmas!

Home-grown turkey is sooooo tasty!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Chicken Door

A few weeks ago another stall door fell off. This time it ripped the casing right out of the barn.

Although we love our barn, the builders didn't do a very good job with the doors. The heavy dutch doors were hung on the wrong size hinges as well as not being attached to a sturdy enough door frame.

The first 3 doors didn't last more than 2 years. The ones on the north side of the barn haven't been used as much (especially by horses and other large animals) so they managed to last about 16 years.

Hubby couldn't find the door he wanted to replace the old one with, so we all decided that a steel insulated door would work just as well, or better, than what was there before.

You can see Hubby had to make the doorway smaller to put in the metal door. That's okay--this door leads right out into the poultry pen so there is no reason to have a big horse door here. 
All we needed was a working door that will keep out the north wind during the winter, and this one does a wonderful job!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Burn Barrel

If you haven't ever seen a burn barrel, here is a photo of ours.

It is a metal drum with no top or bottom. It sits on about 6 firebricks. Really, it is just a chimney sitting on a few firebricks!

This one has quite a nice fire going! 
One of the great things about a burn barrel is that it burns up wood and brush quickly with very little smoke or flying cinders.

It's a good idea to be very, very careful around this much heat and fire. The photo doesn't show the hose that is close by just in case there is a problem. You can see the shovel handle in front of the barrel so that if there is a cinder that happens to start something we can either smother it with dirt or put it out with water from the hose.

We love having a burn barrel around to get rid of all the little bits of branches and twigs that are lying around. We use ours at least twice every year!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cleaning the Barn

On Saturday Hubby and I cleaned out the barn. Vet2Be was at the state fair showing dairy goats for his 4-H leader so he wasn't here to help.

He'll be helping over the next few days, though. His job is to burn all the twigs and sticks that are lying around the yard.

Barns get stacked with stuff! 

All the wheat was moved to the top of the tack room, the pallets were taken out and cleaned, Hubby tilled and smoothed the area that will hold 6 tons of hay (hopefully!)
Vet2Be and Hubby above the tack room reinforcing the ceiling so we could store the wheat up high. There is no more room for food storage in the house. Even though the barn isn't the best place for storing wheat, the wheat will be good enough to keep us alive if dire days hit our family.
All the old hay was cleaned out from the pallets. I think it's been 5 years since we did that. Not much mold, but enough that we were glad we took the time to clean them.

The chickens are doing their job! They are spreading the old hay around the dry lot so that Hubby can till it in and eventually plant grass here!

Just a few more hens working almost as hard as we did!
There is still more to do! Vet2Be will be burning the piles of sticks left from the 6 trees that were taken down this year (you can see a small pile behind the chickens in the photo above). We are getting hay in about 1 1/2 weeks--6 tons--and that all has to be stacked. The garden is still producing, so there is still some preserving to do...

And I really, really want to try my new cheese maker!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pepper Jelly

Instead of making cheese with the new Cheese Maker, we did a bunch of other things getting ready for winter... including making pepper jelly.

Our garden has never produced so well! Not that it has been a spectacular producer this year, but our plant markers DID NOT turn into plant headstones this year! I didn't even kill the zucchini!

I can't remember a year when we ever got the pepper plants to grow, let along produce any peppers. The ones that we are getting this year a beautiful! I'll be dehydrating some, too, since we are getting so many.

Pepper Jelly is a tradition for us at Thanksgiving. One year I didn't have any left in storage and I had to go to the store to BUY peppers to make it!

Yay for Pepper Jelly!
This stuff is so easy to make! We love it over cream cheese and served with crackers.

I've also heard that it makes a wonderful glaze on barbecued fish or ribs. That is on our list of things to try.

Pepper Jelly

  • 2 1/2 cups finely chopped red bell peppers
  • 1 1/4 cups finely chopped green bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup chopped jalapeno peppers
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 (1.75 ounce) package of powdered pectin
  • 5 cups white sugar

Sterilize six 8-ounce canning jars with lids. (This year I used Tattler re-usable canning lids found here, I bought mine from the local feed store. I'll post if I have any trouble with them.)

Place red bell peppers, green bell peppers, and jalapeno peppers in a large saucepan over hight heat. Mix in vinegar and fruit pectin. Stir constantly and bring to a full rolling boil. Quickly stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil, and boil exactly 4 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and skim foam.

Quickly ladle jelly into sterile jars, filling to within 1/2 inch of the tops. Cover with the lids and screw on bands.

Place jars in rack and slowly lower jars into canner. The water should cover the jars completely and should be hot but not boiling.

Bring water to a boil and process for 15 minutes.

We process 10 minutes longer than at sea level because we are about 5,000 feet above sea level and water boils at a lower temperature here.

You can find a good altitude adjustment chart here at

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Kindle Cover

Instead of making cheese the last few days, I've been making Kindle covers. Here's the latest one.

I've got one more to make tomorrow. Then I'll be making cheese with the new cheese maker.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cheese Maker!

I got a box in the mail on Wednesday (all smiles here!)

Nope! It's not a rice cooker!
It's got a great curd cutter sitting on top!
It's my new semi-automatic Master Cheese Maker!
The computer controls the stirring rod and the temperature! 
No, it wasn't cheap. It was $422.44 including shipping.

But that is much cheaper than changing my flat stove (which Hubby wanted) over to a gas stove (which is what I wanted) because we would have to extend the gas line into the kitchen.

Smooth surface stoves are not very good at temperature control, they are great for adding extra counter space and for cleaning. But making cheese requires very careful control over temperature, both how fast the curd gets to the correct temperature and keeping the curd at the right temperature for the correct amount of time.

This machine is supposed to take care of both!

There is a Yahoo group called CheeseMachine where owners of the Master Cheese Making Machine talk about making cheese and the Cheese Maker machine.

I haven't had a chance to test it yet. Things have been busy around here (aren't they always when you live on a hobby farm!) This weekend is already full, too.

I'm planning on making cheese on Monday..... I'll be posting my results! I'm sure the first few batches will go to the chickens as I get to know the machine, but I'm looking forward to being able to make more batches because someone else will be doing the stirring and heating!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Custom Soap

One of my friends wanted some custom soap for her mother's 70th birthday party and asked if I would help.

Wow! I learned alot this time around! This is the first time I've made custom soap.

She wanted the soap to look like this:
Found Here
She wanted the color to be pinkish/rose like these candles:

She also wanted goat's milk soap, but it was impossible to get the color she wanted with goat's milk. The color was always brown.

This is the mold I wanted:
Found here at Soap Making Resource
but since I was only going to charge her for materials to make the soap I don't want to invest $32 in a mold.

Instead I made one out of card board, which worked out okay. Then Hubby found pencil boxes at Hobby Lobby that were better than the cardboard molds. They were only $4 each, so we have two. If you want to see what they look like, you can find them here. The brand is Really Useful Boxes and they are smooth on the inside and very strong. I lined mine with parchment paper so that the soap would slide out easily.

But the Really Useful Boxes don't have the really nifty miter cut so that I can cut the soap straight.

Instead I used the old cardboard soap mold end as a guide.
I made a mark about 1" past the end of the box and lined up the end of the soap with the mark. Then I kept the cutter lined up with the edge of the box so that the soap was even from top to bottom.
The mark 1" from the side of the mold is on the flap that lays on the counter. The 3" x 5" card at the bottom made it easy to slide the soap along the mold.
Soap that is almost exactly the same height!
Although the soap doesn't look uniform in color in this photo, after a few days the color has evened out and I think she will be very happy with the final product.

It took me about 12 pounds of 'practice soap' before I was able to get the right color. Sheesh! That's why I only do this for friends and I don't do it for a job.

I had to throw away 4 lbs of soap that I had used titanium dioxide in. For some reason the titanium dioxide didn't allow the lye to combine with the fats, so the soap would have been dangerous to use.

The dye I used was a powdered dye, which I have never used before. I mixed it with water and then used a syringe to get the same amount into each of the 4 batches of soap so the color would be as close as possible between all the batches.

The rest of the soap will be either used at home or given away. Most of it is unscented, which means that any of my kids will use it because they don't care what the color is (and there are ranges of color for tan to brown to bright orange!)