Consecration Acres

"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy."

Small-batch canning

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I continue to can in this, my non-canning year.  But rather than big marathon days I’ll spend an hour or maybe two prepping food and throwing it into jars.  We received a few cucumbers from a friend this week and Bethel made a very small (3 pints) batch of sweet and spicy pickles.  The friend was afraid that the cucumbers had gone too long and that they would be bitter.  If they were, we could not tell–the brine was intense and quite good.  The first jar was gone as soon as it was opened.  I often try to figure out how much of “x food product” it would take to keep my family in it for a year.  I usually end up dizzy and buying more canning jars.

In addition, this week I canned some more pluot/cardamom preserves and one box of nectarines.  I had hoped to have closer to two boxes, but the kids had been eating them down all week and then I missed peak ripe and they were heading into tipsy and fuzzy by the time I got to them.  I has able to salvage a few more pieces and tried to make nectarine preserves from them.  I learned that there is a reason peaches and nectarines are diced for these types of products.  They are extremely fibrous.  I couldn’t imagine spreading the stuff on anything so I pureed it all (thank goodness for immersion blenders) and called it butter.  I like fruit chunks in my preserves so I must remember this for next time.  I also think I need to learn to use pectin in jams and jellies.  I have steered clear of it as I can’t eat sugar in any quantity, but I know that there are low-sugar varieties available and there are certain textures I’m just not achieving without it.

Along with the rest of the house, I am trying to reclaim the pantry.  Among the many mysteries of this world, one of the greatest is, “Why Are Things Put in the Wrong Place When it Takes the Same Amount of Time and Energy to Put Them in the Right Place?”  I am not complaining and am grateful for the many hands that have pitched in over the last year so that I could grow a baby, but I do have lots of time to ponder this question as I set it all straight again.  Haven’t come up with anything yet…  We are scarily low on canned vegetables and fruit and there is work enough to do till the sun goes down.

I also made my second batch of butter this week with the last of last year’s cream and, yes, it tastes rather freezer-ish, but is still good.  It went much more smoothly this time.  I kept a close eye on temperature, washed it using the mixer until the water was good and clear (although I think I need to refrigerate my washing water next time as it was REALLY soft by the time I was trying to work the water out), and think I got the salt right (1/2 teaspoon for the butter resulting from 2 pints of thick cream), but my slapdash attempts to color it using annatto resulted in still-white butter and my melt point is still almost unusably low.  Elijah made pie crust with it this week and it was very difficult to work with.  I have the ceramic butter keeper pictured below.  You’re supposed to put a little bit of water in the section on the left to create a seal when you invert the butter-containing section and place it inside.  With this butter, what a mess…  Do I need to churn (is churn still the correct term if I am using a mixer?) for longer?  Am I still not being thorough enough with my washing and working?  Is this just a quirk of goat’s milk butter?

"Water seals out air keeping butter soft, sweet and spreadable for up to 30 days."  or rather "Globs of soft warm butter swim lazily in a puddle of water, but at least everyone knows where to find the butter."  :-)

“Water seals out air keeping butter soft, sweet and spreadable for up to 30 days.” or rather “Globs of soft warm butter swim lazily in a puddle of water, but at least everyone knows where to find the butter.” 🙂

The aforementioned pie crust was the topper for our Steak and Kidney Pie.  The crust, after being hard to work with, promptly melted into the pie but, even so, we enjoyed the dish.  The kidney tasted very similar to liver, but had a texture more like, for want of a better comparison, hot dogs.  We’ll do it again next time we end up with kidneys.  And I’ve got to hand it to Elijah–he is pretty fearless in the kitchen.

We went back to miniscule egg production again this week, so we are taking more aggressive steps to get this figured out.  Their hodgepodge watering system was replaced by one like the meat flock’s (5 gallon bucket, pvc pipe and poultry nipples, similar to this) and I’ve ordered some new nest box pads.  We’ve had astroturf in there, but the hens peck it apart and managed to completely detach it after this last replacement.  I can imagine that makes it a little slippery and un-cozy.  When I built the henhouse, I left space for a third roost.  It’s probably time to set that up as well.  And, finally, we need to get some diatomaceous earth out there to help out with mite issues and get them started on the herbal wormer I used last year on the goats.

Near-disaster with the three remaining Delaware hens.  The zip-tie leg bands that were to be checked every Friday were not and we ended up with some superficial wounds and swelling.  They all healed up ok, but if we need to band again for some reason, I think I’ll go ahead and get the spiral ones that have a little more give.  We also need a brighter color–white on a pale leg leaves much visibility to be desired.

I just read how to make bone meal here.  We probably oughtta…especially rather than throwing away bones and then buying bone meal.

We have missed all of the vegetable starting and are now into vegetable direct-seeding time.  Beets, lettuce, chard and turnips need to go in this week and next.  Can we make it happen?

We are watching for that second heat cycle in the goats….nothing yet to report…

Our manure pile needs management. We have a source of cheap pallets and they’d just need  to be wired together to make a couple of reasonable bins that we could shift the stuff between when it gets smelly…just need to dig up the manpower.

I am daily grateful to be learning this all in a time of plenty.  I read that the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a winter much like last year’s and I am so glad that water can be purchased in a pinch, that my empty pantry can be easily filled, that the results of oversights and mismanagement and accident do not include immediate impacts on the health and nourishment of my family.  It is a luxury to live a life so forgiving of my mistakes.

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