Sunday, November 23, 2008

I love weekends!

I got busy yesterday & canned:
6 pints of applesauce
5 pints of blackberry plum jam
4 pints of apple plum jam
and....

are

you

ready

for this?

4 pints of apple peel jelly

After much lamenting over tossing apple peels & cores out to the bunny or the compost pile, I finally found a use for all that appley goodness. I came across this little tidbit in the Backwoods Home Magazine:

You can make apple PEEL jelly from the apple peel you’d ordinarily pitch or compost.
Place apple peels, lightly packed, into a 4.5 qt. pot with 5 cups of water. There should be about 3-4 inches of peels in the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and boil for 15 minutes, stirring as little as possible. Remove from heat, put the lid on the pot, and allow to stand overnight. (Optional, add a cinnamon stick when you let it sit overnight.)

Strain the liquid into a measuring cup, and make certain you have 5 cups. Return to the pot. Gradually dissolve 1 box of pectin into the liquid and bring to a full rolling boil, over high heat. Add 7 cups of sugar (all at once), stirring to dissolve. Return to boiling, and boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim foam if necessary, and can into ½ pt. jelly jars. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

The red peels make the jelly a beautiful rose-pink. It makes a really light, flavorful jelly that went over well with homemade biscuits this morning.

You may be thinking...what in the HECK are you going to do with all that jelly? Well, we'll eat our fair share of it and I'll be giving some as Christmas gifts. I'm hoping to have at least one more super productive canning Saturday before the holidays roll around. Homemade gifts are always the best!

Monday, November 10, 2008

More on chickens...

I just read a nice little article from Mother Earth News (http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/2007-12-01/Best-Chickens-for-the-Homestead.aspx?page=5) that recommended Barred Rocks for a nice docile egg layer. It is important that my two young 'uns are able to interact with the flock, so these are a strong possibility!

Barred Rocks
(These look just like Dominiques to me!)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Here chick...chick...chick!

The gardens are just about ready for winter. I have to do my yearly leaf gathering run through town soon to pick up fall leaves people have raked and left outside for the trash. Those go over my beds for winter (beautiful leaf blankies) and into the compost pile to make some awesome spring compost. I'm also considering making my own leaf mold. I've read that if you add just a bit of water to leaves in a black trash bag and leave them sealed until spring...you'll open them up to find leaf mold. Another garden additive that would benefit my terrible clay soil...all for free! I also love that I'm keeping these leaves out of the landfills...what a waste!

Aside from knitting, I'm doing research this winter. I hope to add a small flock of chickens (4-6 lovely ladies) to the OAH in the spring. While I love the "Easter Egg" layers, I need chickens that will give the most eggs dependably. I also love the speckled eggs, but can't seem to find which chickens lay those. Anyone have suggestions?

Here's what I've got so far:
Rhode Island Reds McMurray Hatchery claims that these are the best layers.
Dominiques A friend who has these says they are supposed to lay dependably through the winter...though the website doesn't say anything about that. This is her first year with her chickens, so I'll look forward to hearing if this holds true.
White Rocks These are classified as "heavy chickens." I wasn't really looking to go with larger breeds; however, they are supposed to lay through the winter.

I'm also looking for the perfect coop or chicken tractor. I'd like to have it built in early spring...maybe April or so.
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