Saturday, September 30, 2006

I have grapevine wreaths! took them out of the garage and tagged them for sale. I made these standing in the orchard this summer while picking raspberries - seeing these grapevines strangling the trees is distressing, but I never seem to have tools (like a chainsaw!) with me when I go raspberry picking. So each wreath is one or more vines pulled down out of a tree and wrapped while still green. I believe a reasonable price is is 50 cents for each inch of diameter of the wreath, they range from 14 inch diameter up to 28 inches. Here are a few closeup pictures of representative samples, you can click on them to see a bigger picture. They are very rustic, they have not been treated with any varnish or chemicals.

My plan is to sell these at the last farmer's market of the season locally. Internet sales would necessarily include shipping costs.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Jonathon, Kieffer pears, Bosc pears, and a few Stark Crimson Delicious apples.... What have I done? I have to process these this week! Last night I spent an hour with my husband (quality time) repairing an old apple-peeler and adjusting it, and another hour peeling apples to freeze, just barely made a dent in these baskets. Maybe I can take the pears to the farmer's market as they look pretty good - but the apples are awfully disfigured - I tell everyone they are high-protein apples - they have worms in them... All no-spray.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bright Meadow Farms Peppery Pear Salsa

Yield: six 8 oz. jars or three 16 oz. jars

1 cup white vinegar
8 cups coarsely chopped, cored, peeled pears - see preparation note, below, in number 2
2 red bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
2-3 red jalapeno peppers, seeded (unless you like HOT salsa) and coarsely chopped
1 cup granulated sugar or 1 cup sucralose (Splenda)
2 tbsp sea salt, canning salt, or kosher salt
1 tbsp dry mustand
1 tsp ground turmeric or few threads saffron
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp Watkins brand ground black pepper
1/2 tsp Clear Jel (optional)

1. Prepare canner, jars and lids by sterilizing per manufacturer's instructions.
2. Drop pears into vinegar in large stainless steel saucepan as they are prepared. This will reduce the browning that may occur as the rest of the recipe is prepared. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
3. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary by adding more salsa to jars. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to boil and process for 20 minutes (time for both 8- and 16-oz jars). Remove canner lid. Turn off heat. Wait 5 minutes then remove jars, cool and store.

For more information on canning refer to your local extension office or a recent canning cookbook such as the Ball Blue Book, the Ball Complete Book of home preserving, or Rodale's Stocking Up.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Georgia Lewis. My great-aunt and a farmgirl. Yesterday I attended her funeral. She was 89 years old. The minister mentioned her love of quilting and her flower garden. She hand-embroidered over 30 quilts, one for each grandchild. She also mentioned how important "doing right" was with my great-aunt.

I remember visiting her garden as a child and being entranced by the mirrored ball she had placed in the center of the garden, and being surrounded by sunshine and roses, and playing with her collie, Lad. She was one of the sweetest, nicest people I know. She was very thoughtful and kind. I will miss her.

The minister read this scripture. Funny because for the last two weeks I have been thinking of making a redwork quilt with the lines of the scripture in individual quilt blocks.

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sugarless jams and jellies. Some of my family members are diabetic, some are overweight, and some are on Sugar Busters diet. So my plan to supply jams and jellies for Christmas gifts is probably not realistic unless I include some sugarless jams. I found some recipes on the Splenda web site for jams. I considered using stevia but seem to remember someone saying it doesn't hold up well with heat processing or long storage, so that might not work, although I found several recipes on the Internet. Mother Earth News had an article on Making Low-Sugar Jams and Jellies in the June/July 2006 issue, and I learned that I must use a different type of pectin for making jam with low-sugar or honey. So I'll be off to the health food store for some low-methoxyl pectin. Hope the fruit doesn't spoil before I get everything together - maybe I should just freeze it for now.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Living, working, and gardening in Ohio and owning my husband's inherited family farm in Michigan brings some interesting problems. One is trespassers.

This weekend we noticed a break in the fencerow where the adjoining farm has a path that looks heavily used by 4-wheelers (all-terrain vehicles, ATV's, quads, etc...) and the path leads right out into our field.

E and his brother were very busy, so didn't have time to drag a brush pile up and block the access point, so it will be another week or two before we get there and have a chance to do this.

The entire farm is very clearly posted "NO TRESPASSING". These guys are not the only ones - I have chased away deer hunters and mushroom hunters who claimed they had permission from the owner. E has taken down and confiscated deer stands. There are beer cans in the orchard occasionally, and the new neighbors across the street have asked permission to scour the orchard for firewood for their bonfires (NO), the old neighbors to the north have asked if they can erect temporary fences in the orchard to let their horses graze because they don't have enough land (NO). The neighbors to the south put their deer stand up on their property - but they are shooting into our field.

Of course we wonder who is on the property when we are not there. We do ask a neighbor that we trust to kind of keep an eye on the place and there are two legitimate visitors - the honey field beekeeper and the guy who spreads manure.

Land envy is what all these people have in common. They need land to pursue the activities they choose. We have the land, but not enough time to "protect" it. So they just "borrow" it.

I have land envy, too. I look at the farms around here in Ohio and think that I would like to buy one so I can put up a greenhouse, or install a training facility for fiber/needle arts technology. The ones I want due to location near our house, or near my father's farm, are not for sale, so I just keep on looking. Every time I see a real estate sign in front of a farm I get a quickening of the pulse. Could this be the one?

So, today I read 1 Kings Chapter 21. 1 Later the following events took place: Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. 2 And Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money." 3 But Naboth said to Ahab, "The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance." 4 Ahab went home resentful and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, "I will not give you my ancestral inheritance." He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat. 5 His wife Jezebel came to him and said, "Why are you so depressed that you will not eat?" 6 He said to her, "Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, "Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it'; but he answered, "I will not give you my vineyard.' " 7 His wife Jezebel said to him, "Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."

The chapter goes on to discuss how she accomplished the death/murder of Naboth through political maneuverings, and thereby gained ownership of the land that Ahab desired. I always thought Jezebel was contemptible because she was unfaithful - a whore, more or less- she worshiped Asherah/Astarte and encouraged the Baal-worshipers, so she was unfaithful to Jehovah. She was punished - she was killed and her body was left for the dogs and the vultures.

I never really looked at this story through the frame of land envy until today. The conflicts in the Middle East are about land envy also. Our president has made it clear that we are keeping the oil-rich Iraqi land away from the hands of the terrorists by our presence in Iraq - and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is about keeping the ancestral land - but whose ancestors?

As I picked the Damson plums off our heavily-laden tree, the neighbor's dog was barking at me. He was disturbed by my presence on my own property, because he's not used to seeing me there.

While the neighbor attempted to quiet her dog, I was thinking about the abundance God has blessed us with - we can't possibly use all the fruit that grows on this land unless we hire someone to help harvest and process the food - but it's not an good economic proposition these days to be a farmer, hence our jobs in Ohio. Sources as diverse as the
Ohio Farmer magazine (2006) and the Minnesota Wheat Grower's association (1995) are emphasizing the need for farm diversification - especially diversifying into off-farm income.

The question - how can we share the wealth, loving our neighbors, without giving up our property rights? Are property rights really God-given? Can privately-owned farms be sustainable enterprises?

"Despite the fact that farmers have been forced to concentrate most of their energies on maintaining a healthy bottom line, they, and their colleagues in rural communities, are increasingly becoming aware that there is more to life than bread. Simply maintaining an income level that keeps the wolf away from the door does not constitute a life.

Increasingly, therefore, questions about quality of life, and social goals are being considered as part of the sustainable agriculture agenda. Slowly we are beginning to recognize that a set of values that we call "the common good" underlies everything that all of us do. Farming is no exception."
- Fred Kirschenmann, University of Nebraska- Lincoln

How to use Damson Plum Jam. I found a recipe at for roast turkey with a Damson plum glaze. It called for Chinese 5-spice powder and whole peppercorns, both of which I also have in my cupboard. Sounds yummy!

Also a recipe for a Damson Plum Tart at RecipeSource, this was also known as ZWETSCHGENDATSCHE by my German forbearers. Here is another recipe for this with a beautiful photo on Recipezaar.
Damson Plums - Bosc Pears - Ida Red apples - more elderberries - Jolly Elf Tomatos. I spent Labor Day weekend laboring at the farm - making jams and jellies from Damson Plums and apples and elderberries - canning pears for the first time in my life - and making salsa. E and his brother were busy with installing a new fuel oil tank so they stayed out of the kitchen all weekend!

This was my first introduction to the Damson Plum. DH identified the tree for me and asked it it was good for anything? (Poor photo from my cell phone - I really need to get a better cell phone camera or start carrying an actual camera!) The fruits are about the size of a large grape - but the tree was just loaded with plums. Research online tells me that the fruit is extremely tart (I knew that by tasting!) and that it makes excellent jams and pies. I tried the jam first - I don't think I would have needed the pectin but added it anyway. It came out a little firm. I also found a recipe for a plum tart. I picked a total of four gallons of the plums and didn't come near picking them all from one tree. I am wondering how to process the rest of them (I have three gallons left) and think that drying into plums is probably not feasible for such a small fruit. Perhaps cooking, then freezing the paste?

I picked 4 half bushels of pears. They are a tad bit underripe, but I may not get back to the farm in time to pick them when they ripen. I want to make some pear mincemeat, perhaps some chutney, and pear butter. I canned 5 quarts of the ripest ones today - seemed like it took hours to peel, cut in half, trim, then treat with lemon juice, poach in a honey syrup, then pack into the jars. I tried to give some away to my stepmother, she said "no, thanks"!

The salsa also took a lot of prep time - since I used Jolly Elf tomatos - they are quite small and there was a lot of cutting to yield a small amount of salsa. I actually used jalapenos in this recipe, sometimes this makes it a little hotter than I like it, but we'll see.

I cut a jelly bag from an old pillowcase and used it to strain the quartered apples. Since I didn't have a stand for the jelly bag at the farm I improvised using a colander. The apples were also a tad bit underripe- makes for good jelly but not too great for pie, which was requested by my brother-in-law. I made apple jelly, apple-elderberry jelly, and apple-plum jelly.

I found the elderberries were mixed as to ripeness - some were perfect, including the largest single head of berries I've ever seen - others were still way too red. I scouted the edge of the property along the creek and found another elderberry bush - I probably was able to pick about a quart all together. I was not too picky about the smallest stems, since I was making jelly I reasoned that they would not end up in the final product anyway. The jelly hasn't set yet. I will probably have to re-process it.

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