Consecration Acres

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

Goat and garden news and multiplying marmalade

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I’ve given this week my all, and perhaps some. Joseph has not been sleeping (I don’t know if it’s teeth, introducing solids or something else) so there’s not been much to draw on, but it is all thoroughly gone now and I am ready for a Sabbath. Sunday is such an interesting day. By intentionally limiting my activities that day I find that I am not only refreshed heading into the week, but even quite anxious for and optimistic about Monday morning. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”, indeed!

Bad news first: Penny is not pregnant. Our vet came out and ultrasounded her.  I was not surprised.  Though her body condition’s improved, she is not round and wide like we’ve seen her pregnant now twice in the past. So, no babies for her this year. We’ll milk her through and try again next year. Can I tell you how incredibly grateful I am that I saw Ella flagging back on Christmas Eve? That was such an answer to prayer. We would have had two un-bred goats otherwise.

And now the good news: our home soil test kit arrived and the boys checked the pH of the soil we had our neighbor haul up from the creek bed and it’s NEUTRAL!! After hearing stories of horrible alkalinity hereabouts, my berry loving heart leapt. Yay! All our garden crops should be fine and the berries will just need some monitoring and nudging rather than extreme measures. Elijah also checked nitrogen—very low, but no surprise. That and phosphorus are both typically low in our area and situation. I’m more curious about potassium levels as they are supposed to be high around here, just typically unavailable due our overabundance of magnesium. We may find at some point that we can just supplement N and P and go without the K for a while.

I bought some onion sets from a guy out in AZ. I kept reading that, in our area, you could plant onions sets in the Spring, but I couldn’t find anyone who actually carried them. They all just looked at me funny and said that they only had them in the Fall. Anyhow, I am glad to get ahold of some as I am anxious to get some experience curing and storing them under my belt. There are a bunch of things we are planning to grow, not only because we enjoy eating them, but to learn how to store them. This is a big year for gardening school.

And we are still waiting on gypsum, which has proven harder to get ahold of than we anticipated. We hope that it gets here before summer gets more of a foothold. It was seriously warm here today.

Aside from taking the kids to the dentist (an all-day event) I spent a good chunk of every day canning or preparing to can. I made more marinara sauce (not as good as last time as the tomato seeds were awfully bitter!), a batch of sweet pickles and then I started marmalade yesterday. Having an abundance of good oranges and a penchant for marmalade, I wanted to make a lot. My recipe yield was six ½-pints. I wanted twelve pints, so I quadrupled the recipe. That math makes sense to me. Anyhow, as I sliced fruit and added quart after quart of water, I had to keep switching to bigger pots to accommodate the bulk (note to self: slice finger near the end of the process next time not on the fourth out of twenty-eight pieces of citrus—ow) and finally set it to boil in a fairly full 20-quart stock pot. After two hours of boiling, the bulk had reduced somewhat, but was still impressive. I was tired, so I stuck it in the fridge to finish today. This morning I pulled it out, sweetened it and set it to boil again. As I can’t do much sugar and the recipe relied largely on the sugar candying for thickening, I added some gelatin to help it along. Half an hour later it had reduced a little more, but was still a rather giant vat. It was also still extremely runny, so added more gelatin, mixed it well and then started ladling it into jars. I ladled and ladled and ladled, ran out of clean pint jars and started filling quart jars. When it was finally empty I had 13 pints and six quarts—more than twice what I was anticipating! I have reviewed the recipe numerous times to see if there was something I missed…I simply cannot figure it out. So, in two weeks (the minimum aging period for this recipe) we will start eating vast quantities of marmalade…or perhaps marmalade sauce, if it doesn’t set…

Also in the kitchen this week, I started a new batch of sauerkraut. The last one that I made a couple of months back tastes a little odd and no one ever wanted any. This one tastes better, but it started off funny. When I went to check the brine level at the end of the first 24 hours (I prefer self-brining, it possible, but will add water if it’s low at that point) the cabbage had reduced in volume by about 1/3 overnight! I’ve never had one do that before. Fermentation mysteries.

I’m taking advantage of cheap apples (40 lbs for $15) and made an apple crisp. Lovely. I really think one ought to be thoroughly sick of whatever fruit is in season before moving on to whatever is next, and I have not gotten my fill of apples yet. I’ll give it a good old college try this month.

The sweet potatoes are growing, if slowly, in the windowsill. I lost one of the original ones to rot, so I started another from that same batch the next week. I read that typically slips are grown from potatoes around 2” in diameter (not the 4” monsters that were sprouting in my pantry), so I have a couple of jars with some smaller ones as well. Nothing growing on those yet.

And I found a flea on my bed this afternoon. One of our houses was infested with fleas when we moved into it, so I am well-acquainted with the nasty little things. Time to keep Joseph away from the kitties and review the instructions on treating fleas with DE.

Never a dull moment.



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