Friday, July 27, 2012


My area of the country has been sadly lacking in the rain department.  In comparison to the southern part of the state we don't have much to complain about.

However, we probably hadn't had rain since the first part of June. It was getting a bit dire out at my happy place.  The grass was starting to turn brown and the veggie garden was starting to look stressed and dried out.

We did what what we could with trying to keep things watered.  We carried buckets of water and I even filched water from the swimming pool. It finally got to the point where the creek dried out ... completely.  As in no water running and the sand at the bottom of the creek bed was dried out.  No ground water seeping into the creek to keep it wet.

I got pretty sad.  It got hard to go out there and see that things were slowly dying and that there really wasn't much I could do.  There is a sandpoint well out there but it's strictly light use.  The pressure tank is small and would be turning on constantly and probably burn out. There is no way we can use it for the hours of watering the garden would need.

A few days ago it rained!!!!! The skies opened up and the rain poured down like manna from heaven.  Immediately you can tell a difference in the garden.  Nothing is looking wilted, nothing looks stressed.  It's wonderful.

This is a couple of pumpkin vines.  I'm so impressed with how big they have gotten.  I did start these from seeds.

Look!  A baby squash.  I'm pretty excited to see this. I started winter squash plants from seeds back in April.  I'm crossing my fingers that we get more than two squash this year.  Last year I started seeds in the garden and I ran out of time before the frost hit and killed the vines.

 Here is one of my tomatoes.  My tomatoes are growing and doing well.  I don't know if they will ripen in time or if we will need to bring them home at the end of the season and let the ripen.


Here is a shot of one of the grapevines we planted this year.

Grapes on one of the other grapevines we planted this year.  The grapes are the size of smallish marbles. 

This year the raspberries seem to have exploded a bit.  I'm finding raspberry canes in the least expected places.  Most of the raspberry canes we have are wild.  This is our third season out there so I imagine that the canes are starting to hit their stride, so to speak.  I'm surprised that the wildlife hasn't come and eaten them.

Monday, July 23, 2012

An epic canning day

So what do you do with meat that you decide doesn't have much flavor when you cook it or use it in dishes? 

You cook, boil and can it!

Yes, ladies and gents, that is what I spent Saturday doing.  Canning approximately 40 pounds of ground meat.  My hubby started the day cooking meat and getting a head start.  He added spices to the meat while it was cooking. 

I do believe it was 43 jars that I filled. At one point we did have to stop, make a trip to Menard's and buy more pint jars.  The canning jars were on sale this week. 

After cooking and draining the beef I filled the jars and would smack the side of the jar to help the meat settle down.  Later on I realized that this was kind of a useless step. 

After filling the jars with meat we put a bit of beef broth in the jars and filled the rest (leaving one inch headspace) with water. Then I took a plastic utensil and ran it along the inside of the jar to get rid of the air bubbles.  Doing that kind of defeated the packing down I did earlier.  While the beef was cooking was cooling and waiting to be processed, we were taking bits and pieces of the beef and taste testing.  Yum!  That was the word of the day. 

It's looks belies it's true flavor. Probably the best ground meat I've ever tasted.   If it tasted that good before being pressure cooked and canned, I can only imagine what it tastes like now!

I'm fortunate enough to have two pressure canners.  If I didn't have two of them, this process would have taken at least two days.  I was able to have the second pot ready to go as soon as the presser canner on the stove was done. I *highly* recommend getting two pressure canners.  This was one of the best moves I've made since I started canning. 

Out of the 43 or so cans only three jars didn't seal.  I'm pretty impressed with that ratio.  I really took my time and properly prepped the jars, making sure that the headspace was correct and that the top of the jars were clean, the lids were on and that the bands were finger grip tight. 

This has been one of the *hottest* summers in recent years.  Those who do canning and processing know how hot it can be when you are doing this. 

 Last year we thought ahead when we purchased a new grill.  We got one with a side burner.  I did all my processing outside.  There was no way I could have done this in the house.  

This project was started about 7 a.m., I think, and it wrapped up after 8 p.m.  I now have lots of jars of yummy meat that will help me and the other cooks in the house when it's time to think up something for dinner. Not to mention the time it will save! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

A garden update

Here are some photos from the garden this past weekend.

The garden has exploded.  Everything is green and blooming and I've been picking some goodies already.

Sugar snap peas.  Just as good as I remember them.  Very few actually make it out of the garden.  Some of the vines are more than 6 feet tall. 

Winter squash plant.  I'm *amazed* at how quickly these grew.  We've had great growing weather.  Lots of sun and heat.  

Beets! We've been picking these the last week or so.  I've never had homegrown beets before.  The smell reminds me of freshly husked corn.

My MIL has been cooking the beet greens.  I imagine it reminds her of days gone by.  She loves boiled greens.  Me, not so much.  I'm a bit particular about food textures.

Our pole beans are starting to go gangbusters.  We have a few plants that are more than 6 feet tall.  The plants are starting to put out flowers.  I can't wait!  I have fond memories from last year when all three of us were picking green beans.