Sunday, May 25, 2014

Some Jam Experiments

It was time to clean out the freezer and use up last year's berries!  We still had several containers of frozen strawberries, and a whole lot of bags of frozen blackberries.  Luckily the strawberries were ready to be used for jam, since we froze them as puree. The blackberries needed to be thawed, heated and run through the food mill to remove seeds before we could use them.

We set all the berries out to thaw on Friday, and Saturday morning at least the strawberries were ready to use. While the blackberries were slowly heating on the stove (in a 22 quart pot), we decided to experiment a bit with rhubarb-strawberry jam.  Roughly we used twice as many strawberries as rhubarb, plus lemon juice - the trick was to know how much total fruit to use in order to get a nicely set jam.  After the initial runny batch, which had the consistency of apple butter, we reduced the amount of fruit by a cup, and ended up with a soft jam, slightly tart, but nicely balanced with the sweetness of strawberries.

Here is our recipe for strawberry-rhubarb jam:

  • 1 and 3/4 cups of cooked rhubarb (chopped cleaned rhubarb is heated with very little water and cooked until soft)
  • 3 and 1/2 cup of mashed strawberries (can use fresh, we used frozen "chunky" puree) 
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 1 packet of low-sugar SureJell  
We followed the SureJell instructions for cooked jam.  This sized batch made 4 pint sized jars of jam.

The blackberries yielded enough puree for 5 + batches of jam.  We kept the extra out for smoothies :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bluegills and "Krabby Patties"

Jeff has been fishing in our pond - sometimes with Toben and once in a while with Fiona as well.  They have been pretty good a catching bluegills, by the bucket full.  One afternoon of fishing usually yields 4 lbs of fish fillets.

Since the grandchildren are not too keen on fried fish, Jeff has been experimenting with making fish cakes.  He told Toben that they are "Krabby-Patties" and ever since then, Toben likes to eat them.

Here is Jeff's Fish-Cake recipe:

  • 1 lb cooked fish fillets (fried lightly in butter, in a skillet until a fork can pull the fish apart)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons "Old Bay" seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard (we used "French's")
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup mayo (we used "Hellman's light")
  • 1/3 cup bread-crumbs
Mix all ingredients, except fish, together.  Then carefully fold in the fish, cool for at least one hour in refrigerator, or over-night.  Form into paddies, and fry in medium hot skillet until done.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Herb Garden Make-Over

It all started with a visit to the annual Plant Fest & Sale of the Cumberland County Master Gardeners at the Extension Office.   The Extension Office has a nice little herb garden as a demo - which provided some ideas for the make-over plan.  The plant sale featured a lot of herb selections as well as native plants.  Here is what we bought:

Our existing herb garden already had a nice selection of herbs, but it was missing structure and a focal point.  After seeing the demo-herb garden, we realized that what we really needed was a path.  We had a stack of old bricks and a fair sized pile of wood chips - which together were the prefect start for a path.

We used string and a tape measure to find the exact center of the existing herb garden, and marked out a circle.  From there we marked out the paths, and then started digging about a foot deep.  Several existing herbs had to be dug up for transplanting, as did some of the strawberries, which still take up half the herb garden space.  

Once the circle and paths were dug out,  they were lined with bricks, and then filled in with wood chips.  The center of the circle was marked by four curved pre-formed cement sections (which we happened to have lying around as well).  

We planted flowers in the center of the circle and stuck in one of our 'yard-art' pieces and then planted our herbs, marking each one.  

This project started Saturday around lunchtime, and was finished before dusk on Sunday.  (Not too bad for Sammy and Tina) 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Garden Progress

The majority of our garden is now planted - even though we are still a couple of days away from the traditional "frost date" for our region.  Some of the hardier crops  - peas, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and potatoes - have been in the ground for a few weeks.  This weekend we planted all our tomato seedlings... meaning all 120+ of them.   Except for the tomatoes, all other seedlings are planted in plastic-covered rows.

We simply ran out of time to also plant our peppers and basil seedlings  Next weekend we'll finish it up with cucumbers, melon,s pumpkins and zucchini.  Then once the peas are harvested, we'll sow green beans and winter vegies, like rutabagas, turnips, winter squash and red beets.

Same cabbage plants from the
April post - one month later
If you look carefully, you can
see tomato plants!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

"Bud Break" status

As everyone knows, this year has had a challenging start, as far as weather is concerned.  Spring is way behind, and so are tree blossoms, asparagus and grapes - as well as everything else.  Today we got our first small harvest of asparagus, which I think may coincide with bud break of Concord grapes.

Here are some pictures of buds on our current grape varieties - for future reference:

Vidal Blanc

Young Chardonel

Friday, May 2, 2014

Leif's 2nd Birthday Celebration at the Farm

Lucky for us, Leif and his parents spent this weekend with us, and it happened to also be Leif's 2nd birthday. Turns out that Leif does like to fish, and he does not mind touching the fish, though he is just a bit camera shy:

Of course there were presents, and visitors and a party, but Leif also liked to inspect all the fields and plants together with Tina: