Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Cockeyed Pasta e Fagioli Soup and Canning it too

Of all the varieties of soups I can Mel loves this one the best. She's  in good company. The stories behind me making this soup goes back some 25 years.

At my old church, there was a large crowd of homeless and unemployed people in our town so we opened up a ministry to help feed them. Wednesday night we opened our doors to feed these people. Our church operated a neighborhood, and widows and orphans food pantry service. The first  time I made this soup one of our freezers in the church went out. On average there would be 100 to 200 people at the Wednesday night service.

I was in charge of menu planning. My being a lay pastor and chef made me voted in as chairman of this committee a no brainer. We had twenty pounds of Italian sausages in that freezer along with 20 lbs of kale and ten pounds of diced carrots all thawed. I needed a recipe that fed people and used up these items. Believe me when I say that I was getting pretty adept at finding recipes that would use all the meats and vegetables in the broken almost 25 cu ft freezer. It was loaded. At first, I thought sausage dogs but there was a 50/50 mixture of hot and mild sausages. I knew most would want the mild leaving me with a glut of hot sausages. That was no good. Pasta e Fagioli was the answer.

I grabbed a case of tomatoes, 10 large onions, and a couple of sleeves of celery from our cold storage. Going into the dry storage, I grabbed the 10 dusty boxes of ditalini pasta (nobody wanted and was just taking up space), 2- #10 cans of diced tomatoes, and a #10 can of dark red kidney beans, 4  jars of Parmesan cheese, a jar of beef base, 3 bottles of V8 juice, and a #10 of great northern beans. I was set! All I needed to purchase with the garlic and bay leaves. We had plenty of fresh oregano, basil, and rosemary (my donation from my garden).

A quick run to the store for the two items and I was ready to cook. My bread dough that I made earlier was ready to be molded into seven french loaves. I did that and set to work removing the sausages from the casings. By now the other five ladies in our group arrived and started prepping the vegetables. One of the ladies started browning and breaking up the sausages. Many cooks working together make large meal preparation a breeze. We made thirty gallons of soup that night with not a drop left.

When my husband was ill, but not on hospice services yet, he had frequent doctor appointments in Savannah (72 miles from home one way). We always made a point of stopping at  Olive Garden for their all you could eat soup, salad, and bread sticks lunch special. By the time Olive Garden came to our town, he was too ill to go. His favorite soup... Pasta e Fagioli. He tried them all at one time or other, but he decided this was the one he liked best. So within a year, I started making it at home until he could no longer eat it. I froze the uneaten portions for later enjoyment. With my homemade Italian sausage, he preferred mine over Olive Garden's.

So today on our homestead, I'm making Pasta e Fagioli cockeyed style and canning it too. In case you didn't know, Pasta e Fagioli translates to pasta and beans. I started it a few days ago by purchasing the ground pork and ground turkey. I do a half and half mix because of my pork sensitivity. I make mine in between a mild and hot so it's spicy but won't burn the roof off the top of your mouth. I mixed the seasonings into the meat and let it sit in my refrigerator to marry and honeymoon. I made a total weight of 5 lbs. Three lbs for the soup and two lbs for caseless sausage dogs later. Caseless sausage is meat formed into sausage links and frozen. You brown them off while partially frozen, and then  cook it like cased sausage.

I diced all my clean vegetables yesterday. Being a one-handed chef has it's limitations. I'll take these short cuts when I can. I'll have my butcher grind my meat instead of me doing it. If the meat was home grown, I would be the butcher. I bought my kale already cleaned and cut up in the bags from the grocery store. But other than that, I did my own carrots, onions, celery, and garlic.

Here's my recipe. Keep in mind all of this made 4 gallons of soup.

3 lbs Italian sausage (mix of mild and hot)
*2 lb of ground beef (optional)
3 large onions, diced
1 bunch of celery, diced
1 lb of carrots, diced
12 cloves of garlic, minced
2 lbs kale, cleaned and chopped
1 gallon bag of frozen plum tomatoes or 3- 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes
2 qt jars of beef broth
2 qt jars of chicken broth
4- 15.5 oz cans of cannelini beans, rinsed (or great northern or white kidney beans)
4- 15.5 oz cans of dark red kidney beans
1- 8 oz jar of real, grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbs dried oregano
2 tbs dried basil
1 tbs dried rosemary crushed
1 tbs dried red pepper (you can add more if you want it really hot)
3 tsp black pepper
3 large bay leaves

1 tbs salt (taste soup first if using commercial broth. You may not need it)
2-3  qts water
2- bottles of V8 juice
**5 lbs of ditalini pasta or other formed pasta like macaroni or ahells

Brown the sausage in 4 gallon stock pot. When partially cooked add half of your aromatic vegetables (onions, celery, carrots.and garlic) Cook, stirring occasionally for ten minutes. Your vegetables will be cooked and tender.

While these items are in the pot cooking. Place your frozen tomatoes in a sink of lukewarm water. I turn the hot and cold water on full while filling the sink. Pour tomatoes in the sink of water. If your like me, I cored and x marked the base of my tomatoes before freezing them. The skins slip off the tomatoes after a couple of minutes. Chop the partially thawed tomatoes and add them to the pot. Stir well.

Add the oregano, basil, rosemary, pepper, bay leaves and remaining vegetables into the pot. Stir well and cook for ten minutes.

Add the beans, cheese, and kale to the pot, and add the V-8, broths, and water to the pot. Simmer for ten minutes. The kale will have shrunk down.

If canning, ladle soup with plenty of liquid in each clean and hot jar. I use my dishwasher to heat my jars, or you can place them in the oven on warm for a few minutes. You don't have to sterilize them because we are pressure canning this soup. Leave 1"head space. Process for 65 minutes for pints, 90 for qts at 5,10,15,20 lbs of pressure depending.on your altitude. For me, it's 65 minutes at 15 lbs of pressure for pint jars. Notice there's no pasta in this so it's just Fagioli at this point. Pasta will be added later. Or, if you are feeding a crowd add the pasta to the soup. Add more liquid if needed after the pasta cooks and bring to a boil and serve. **NOTE: this will make 5-6 gallons of soup total volume when pasta is added depending on the pasta used.

To serve this soup after it's canned, cook your pasta in salted water as usual, but don't drain the water. Add the jarred soup after the pasta has cooked and bring to a boil. For us, it's two handfuls of pasta to a jar of soup. Serve with crusty bread or bread sticks. Or, be like Olive Garden and add a Romaine salad. Enjoy.

* I added the canned ground beef because Mel didn't like the texture of it. A hide in plain sight and no waste kind of thing.
** hold off adding if canning this recipe.

There you have it...my cockeyed Pasta e Fagioli. It may not be an authentic Italian version, but it's mighty tasty. Today was a perfect day to make this because it was all cooked on top of our wood stove. It's the first day we've had it running all day for heat. So the bread sticks are in the oven. I left enough soup from canning 30 pint jars to enjoy all winter to have some two nights' dinner. On a colder winter night like tonight, it's a blessing! Coupled with my fresh made garlic bread sticks and a small handful of grated Parmesan cheese dressing the soup, it's a winter or anytime meal fit for a king.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

It's Cold Here Now

We had our first frost in late October. There's something magical and almost ethereal about a frost covered landscape although short lived. Now we're getting into the colder temperatures going into winter. The wood stove with its toasty warmth keeps us warm. The trees are beginning to look bare as they have shed most of their fall colors. A few still have leaves dangling and a good wind would probably blow them loose. The nights are mostly in the 30s-40s. Yes, winter is on its way. All plant life is settling in for their winter slumber.

Bye bye Bayonet 8/17
I pulled up the last of the unwanted weeds from the bunny patches. I left only the goodies they love to eat alone. The Spanish Bayonet that our hero Bobby dug up with his bobcat last August, came back with a vengeance this year by sprouting ten little plants from roots not dug up. I dug them up with a spade as they popped up. Matter of fact, since they are an evergreen, they are still popping up. I expect this to continue for several years until I get it all dug up. Anyhow, the unwanted weeds should be less next year.

The weather has been crazy this year. We didn't have much of a spring or fall this year. I think about a week or less temperature wise. It's very unusual to have 89+ degree temperatures in the spring and\fall,  but this year we did. It made for an early, wet, long, hot summer. It makes me wonder if we're going to have an equally cold, long winter too although it's been late in starting. It may drag on until May. It has before with snow falls in April.

Now that would be a serious kick in the pants, if I couldn't plant until June. Just when I was starting to get used to having four seasons again after thirty years of living in coastal GA and FL. It would be like living up north of the Mason-Dixon line with a very short growing season instead of the GA foothills.

I haven't gardened like that in forty years. My garden may look like the picture in order to get even half the harvest I got this year. That's insane for Georgia. I'm not equipped for that eventuality. It would take some major cash to buy row covers and insulated tubes. I couldn't do that in the orchard. But we'll see when the time comes.

There's no predicting or second guessing Mother Nature. I may be concerned for nothing. I need to take my own advice and not borrow trouble. Bad or not right things are going to happen. You can't be prepared for everything in the beginning, or even in the middle of homesteading. I mean, unless you have a million bucks (to possibly waste) and a place to store it all. That's not us or anyone we know. If you are that person, throw a little cash our way. Even another $20K would do it. Another $40K would put us totally off grid and 90% self sufficient (we can live very nicely without the last 10%). <laughing>

For now, I'll sit by the wood stove, bathed in its warmth, and let the temperatures drop. I have my fiber to blend, sort, and spin, or my hands busily working on this or that knitting project. Rest assured that after its slumber, spring will come again.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Cooler Weather is Finally Here~ New Project, Fall/Winter Routines, and Polar Opposites

It's the time of year we usually hate. The cooler weather is finally here. It's time to move inside from our back porch living. For months, we've used our back porch as a living area. We moved one of our TVs in there, cooked our meals and eaten out there. Mainly because it's been too hot inside to do it. It's with a sadness that we move it all back indoors.

But before we move it all back indoors, we do a fall cleaning top to bottom. Every piece of wood furniture get a coat of oil based, homemade furniture polish. All the wood soaks up the oils hungrily. All cabinets are emptied and cleaned. All the mattress are turned. Everything dusted, etc.

You ever notice how one project leads to another, and yet another? I noticed that our kitchen cabinet are looking a little worse for wear. It's my winter/spring painting project.

Originally, these cabinets were bought at the Restore. I actually love the detail on these cabinets. They were painted white. Mel did nothing other than give them a good cleaning and hung them. The person who had them before, painted the hinges too. Yuck! They are solid wood which is a definite plus and a rarity these days. I'll have to do a light sanding of the cabinets first before I paint them.

My choice of paint, an oil based enamel paint. Yes, I know they now make a latex enamel paint, but it just doesn't wear as strong or as long as oil based enamel does. I originally painted my crown molding of my old homestead with it. I had to repaint it in two years. I went back to my old tried and true oil based enamel. After ten years, it still looked great. My kitchen cabinets get a weekly scrub down and I need a paint that can withstand the abuse.

I'm thinking a semi gloss rather than a high gloss, but it will depend on what I can find when I purchase the paint. I think I'll just update the hinges, knobs, and pulls. I could try to sand all the paint off the current one, but I'm picking my battles. I may still opt for sanding them down the hinges and replace the pulls while I recouperate. It's enough to buy 12 packages of new hinges and 23 new cabinet pulls. If I calculated it right, the whole project will cost under $100. Not too shoddy for a kitchen revamp. What I'd really love to do is replace the linoleum floors in the kitchen and bathrooms, but that's opening up another can of worms.

I might actually get started this winter. I figure two cabinet doors and their cabinets a week and I can have this project done in 6 weeks. I'll give myself 12 weeks to be safe. Yes, I'm being optimistic because I have a major surgery scheduled for this winter too. I can hang the painted cabinet doors by their hinges between two chairs in our back porch to dry. This way I can do both sides and edges at the same time.Whether I can do the actual cabinets themselves will depend on the amount of fumes the paint gives off. With the house closed up for winter, this is a huge consideration.

I could wait for spring when the weather is warmer. but springtime around here is hectic with planting and spring cleaning before we open up the house again. So maybe I'll leave the cabinet doors off and drive Mel nuts. <grinning>

Polar Opposites Coming Together as a Team

It's often said that two, nonrelated females can't live in the same house for long. That's not true. My grandmother lived with her roommate for fifteen years quite contently. Females tend to be set in their ways and have distinct ways of getting jobs done especially when they are middle aged. Mel and I are past that as sexagenarians. As she puts it, "We've done our bit for God and country. We don't need men in our lives to muck it up." Or, as I put it, "I've had the love of my life and I'm getting too old to train another one." Don't get us wrong. We like our male counterparts, we just don't feel the need to have them constantly under foot.

  • In case you haven't noticed, or didn't know. Mel and I are the Odd Couple. She's Felix Unger to my Oscar Madison. She's a semi neat freak to my semi slob. In my defense, I'm not quite as bad as Oscar. My mobility, pain, and chronic fatigue issues make picking up after myself and other things challenging. In Mel's defense, months can go by without her dusting or vacuuming. 
  • She rarely cooks and hate preserving food. I love it. I like rich and different flavors and she could care less. 
  • I can't stand a messy sink and have to wipe it down immediately. She can leave the cap off the toothpaste, yucky water, toothpaste splatters and stuff in her sink. 
  • Her method of gardening is sprinkle various seeds wherever and stand back and watch them grow (if they grow). I'm more methodical and hover over them nurturing them until they produce. My way is definitely better for the long run for a decent harvest. This year proved it. None of her seed strewing produced and mine see my previous year end tally post.
  • There are things that she does that drives me nuts and things I do that drives her nuts. It's a two-way street, but we manage to get things done because we have a common vision.

Now that cooler weather is again upon us, we are in close quarters again. This creates a certain amount of tension as you can imagine. We both have to focus on peace and tranquility.

For example, with the fall clean up, everything gets moved around to her liking. I honestly could care less so long as I have clear walkways. I prefer having my medicine box by my computer and she wants it all put in my bathroom. That's okay for her, she's got one pill to take once a day. I've got some twelve prescriptions with some pills taken up to four times a day. She'll put my pill minder in my bathroom. I'll move it back by my laptop.We agree to disagree although her reason for wanting this is valid.... to protect our pets.
  •  I like a lot of light to read and do whatever. She is perfectly content to read by candles or oil light. She's at the formal dining table with her laptop and books while I'm at the breakfast table with lamps shining bright. There's no way we could work at the same table. 
  • Because of my strokes, I cannot read at night because my mind is too tired from the day's activities. She reads at night. 
  • I go to bed early, and she's up until the wee hours.
  •  I'm an early riser and she rises late. 
  • She's sensitive to any light while sleeping. I am not. It plays havoc in the early hours when I have to most energy to do things in the dark before sunrise. 
  • As a consideration for both of us, we use ear buds while at our respective laptops. We are far enough away to do our own thing, but close enough to share whatever we find or if we need help.

Even with the cooler/cold weather, I'm finding outdoor things to do. We have two large, black garbage cans that we collect kindling for the wood stove in. I've steadily been filling them with branches, breaking them into  6"-12" that we've gathered into pile throughout the year. We fill a 5-gallon bucket from the trashcans for in house use. Breaking branches over 2" thick with one handed is difficult. I'll do what I can to strip the smaller branches off to fill the trashcans.

Those larger branches are dragged to a space behind the workshop where Mel will either chop them up with her chop saw or her small chain saw during the winter to supplement our firewood stores. As you can imagine, there's quite a few branches that fall during the year from our over treed acreage. There's no shortage of branches to pick from within our half acre of cleared land.
It's teamwork towards a common goal.

It also gives us a break from each other. I can find tons of busy work for hours outside if the need arises. So does Mel. Plus, I have doctor and therapy appointments, grocery and assorted shopping to do that gives us our needed space apart. At times when her seasonal depression is at its worst, it's a blessing.

There's rabbits to tend too also. So we stay busy during the late fall and winter months. She does the bucks because they are rowdy and playful. They would be difficult for me to do one handed. I do the does except for Cara. Cara is still in junior mode and a handful. It's teamwork towards a common goal.

It's usually about five months of not gardening going on here. There's combing, blending, spinning and packaging of angora fiber that we've collected all year long. It's just too hot and busy to do it any other time of year. All the gathering, washing, and dyeing of the fiber (angora, sheep and alpaca wool) is done in early fall and spring when the outside temperatures are coolish. To everything around here there is a season and work to be done.

All our other fibers blending are locally sourced. I don't see us raising alpacas, but Baby Doll sheep or Angora goats are a definite possibility. We have no interest in raising Alpacas, but luckily there's a homestead within 20 miles of us that does.We do occasionally buy from other non-local vendor when I want something special like merino wool or sari silk, but those times are rare. We try to produce what we can here or locally. This is done together or do whenever task that lasts all winter.

We've decided to wait and breed of English Angora does in the late winter/early spring. The nighttime temperatures are very close to freezing now freezing, we don't want to lose any kits to the sharp temperature fall offs. Only one of the does is an experienced mama. The chances of a first time mamas giving birth on the wire cage bottom (not in the nesting boxes),or not pulling enough hair to keep her babies warm enough are chances we aren't willing to take. So we'll be breeding three does in the spring with babies ready for their fur-ever home just after Easter.

Since it got colder so fast and after much discussion, we decided to breed  our does starting in February of next year and breed the does 30 days apart. This way we'll have litters to sell in April, May, and June. We won't glut the market nor have tons of babies at once to get adopted.

Well that's it for this week.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Planting Garlic Cockeyed Style

I bought heads of garlic from the store this week. The bulbs were on sale for 5/$1 so the price was right. I bought twenty heads. Twenty??!! Yes, twenty. I hear ya. That's a whole lot of garlic. You must really love it. We do but I had other plans to justify this mad purchase. First let me say that, these heads were gorgeous! Firm, plump cloves in a tight bulb, unlike garlic that has been sitting around for a while.

I broke all but two heads into cloves. The two full heads would be used for cooking in the next few weeks. Ten heads were sliced on my mandolin, and put into the dehydrator for garlic powder later. The remaining eight heads of garlic cloves went into a baggie. These were destined for planting in the orchard.

This week I loaded the pull behind cart for the yard tractor with compost. Neat trick single handed, but I accomplished it. It was time to side dress/aka fertilize the fruit trees and bushes before their long winter's dormancy. I tossed my thrift store find of an old military folding shovel on top of the pile, the baggie of garlic cloves, and headed for the orchard.

I also had all the skins peeled from the heads in a paper bag. I could have dumped it all in the new compost pile, but figured it could also compost in place over winter in the orchard too. The extra garlic smell would deter deer and several other critters away from my young trees and bushes. In this bag I also had cayenne and various other pepper seeds. There is a method to my madness just keep reading.

Down in the orchard, I shoveled and raked in the compost around the tree trunks in about three foot circumference. This is the first year for these trees on our property so three feet is good. Next year, I'll do six feet to catch the feeder roots. I use my index finger's first joint to measure down a small hole in the compost about an inch (or there about) down. I push in a garlic clove pointy side up. Moving over about a foot and plant another. I did this all the way around the tree. Then, I eyeballed six inches, the breadth of my hand from the tip of my pinky finger to the tip of my thumb is six inches out stretched, and planted a clove in between where I planted the previous row. Yes, I know garlic can be planted six inches apart. I covered up all the cloves and moved to the next tree and repeated the process. I sprinkled the whole area with the pepper seeds and garlic skins. All this will be covered with hay/straw mulch next month. We'll let Mother Nature water it all in.

By spring thaw, the bulbs and seeds should germinate giving me a jump start on harvesting. The seeds will know the optimum time to grow as the soil warms. While an abundant harvest of garlic would be sweet, I really don't expect the garlic to do much this year. I'll let most of it go to seed. My main purpose for planting this much garlic is to use it as a varmint (squirrels, rabbits,deer, etc) and organic pest (moths, flies, mosquitoes, etc) control.

I repeated this around the raspberry, blueberry, and grapes except the initial circumference was one foot around the bases of the plants. It has taken me all week to do this, but it's done. In the spring, we'll be sowing more wheat, barley and orchard grass in the orchard too.

That's it for this week.
Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Making Kimchi Cockeyed Style

I love my kimchi. In case you didn't know, kimchi is a Korean fermented cabbage dish. Except unlike sauerkraut that uses green or red cabbage, it's base is an oriental cabbage called Napa. It's loaded with spices and vegetables like daikon radishes, green onions, and carrots. It's seasoned with gochugaru peppers (a hot, sweet and smoky flavored pepper), ginger root, and lots of garlic.

It's my favorite year around food. During the summer months. this hot dish raises your internal temperature so the outside air feels cooler. In the winter, anything that makes you feel warmer is a good thing. I'll eat it especially when I feel like I'm getting a cold. It knocks the cold right out. The capsaicin, garlic, and ginger will chase away a cold faster than anything I know. Being a fermented food, it promotes good  gut health too. To add extra heat to mine, I add cayenne pepper to mine or siracha to mine. In a pinch, you can use only cayenne peppers to make kimchi (I have), but it's not the same.

All summer long, I've harvested, dried, and ground my gochugaru and cayenne peppers. The cayenne I use in a number of dishes, but the gochugaru peppers I save for this. I make kimchi on average of twice a year, in the spring and fall.

I harvested my ginger and a couple heads of garlic last week and left them on the porch to dry and age a bit. When I dug up some of the ginger root. I noticed nodules on the fingers where the root was starting to sprout. I cut these off leaving 1/2 an inch of the root. I plan on planting these in pots for even more ginger next year. I should have left an 1" or 2", but that would have been more than 90% of the root I broke off. I needed 2"-3" of the root for kimchi. I imagine there are more nodes on the ginger roots I left in the pot so next spring I'll have even more if these don't grow. Which reminds me, I've got to put my ginger, turmeric, and baby trees into my portable greenhouse soon so they don't freeze.

I harvested my Napa cabbages yesterday. It's been a crazy fall with temperatures in the 80s. I was afraid they would bolt. I harvested all six heads. It took Hurricane Michael's rains as it side swiped us for it to cool down into normal fall weather. They've been in the vegetable compartment of my refrigerator just chillin' and waiting for today. So I bring them out and let them come to room temperature.

Next, I chop the Napa into bite sized pieces keeping in mind that the cabbage will shrink so about 3" pieces. I layer it in my cleaned kitchen sink with 1/4 cup of sea salt between each 2" layer. Yes, it's a lot of salt, but most will be rinsed off. It's roughly 10 lbs of cabbage so it will fill one of side of my kitchen dual sinks by the time I finish chopping it all up. The salt will draw the water out of the cabbage.

I leave the drain plugged. Every twenty minutes or so I'll give them a good toss to distribute the salt more for the next hour.  It's amazing how much water that's in cabbage. I'll have 1/4 of my sink full of cabbage water by the time an hour has passed.

Next I julienne a two carrots, and two 5" daikon roots. I use a mandolin, because being a one-handed chef, it's easier. I still haven't bought a food processor yet. I don't bother peeling these. I just give them a good scrubbing. I believe there are more vitamins and minerals in the peel than in the whole vegetable. I might be wrong so don't quote me. My Momma used to say that the peels make you pretty. It didn't work for me, I'm just saying. I'll cut these julienned vegetables into 2" pieces. As I chop them, I'll toss them onto the cabbage in the sink. They'll get the brining too. I'll chop the green onions into 2" pieces as well, and toss them into the sink.

Some people will add sugar to their kimchi pepper mix, but I don't. I prefer a natural sweetener. One small apple grated with a TBS of lemon juice to keep it white does the trick. I'll mix the apple with a cup of gochugaru peppers, and 1/3 cup of cayenne peppers. I like it hot, but not burn the roof of your mouth hot. A few tears is okay. Clearing my sinuses is a plus. I'll mince my garlic cloves (2 heads) and my ginger root in my electric mini chopper, and add it to the pepper mixture. Again, I use the mini chopper to mince these roots rather than a knife because it's faster and easier.

Other people add squid, shrimp, and/or fish sauce to their sauce mix, but I do not. I like to keep my options open and keep mine vegetarian. I also do not add any thickener like rice flour to mine. I prefer the clean fresh taste of the juice.

I'll open the drain of the sink and let the cabbage water drain. It's done it's job distributing and dissolving the salt throughout the vegetables after an hour. You know the cabbage is ready by bending a thick piece. It should bend rather than snap and crack. I'll rinsed the cabbage in cold water three times. In biting a piece of cabbage, there should be a slight salt flavor and not seriously salty.

Next, I'll drain the vegetable mixture. Some liquid is okay, but you don't need a whole lot. The cabbage will continue leaching water as it ferments. I'll massage the pieces of vegetables with the pepper mixture a layer at a time to make sure every piece is covered.

Not me, obliviously.
Notice the gloves. It is strongly advised that you wear them. Your hands will burn for hours without them. Also, cover the work surface with plastic wrap or parchment. The capsaicin is very strong. Even in cleaning the surfaces afterwards will burn you. I personally use a vinyl tablecloth that I cut into fours to cover my surface. I just take it outside and hose it off well, and then toss it in the washer by itself to clean it. I also use vinegar in the final rinse to neutralize any capsaicin. Lord help you if you touch the sensitive tissue near your eyes and other places while the capsaicin is active.

I'll put the whole mixture into a small, Rubbermaid tote to ferment on my back porch. I'll leave one corner of the lid not strapped down to let the gasses escape. Otherwise, it will blow the lid off. Or, for smaller batches, I'll use my German fermenting pot. I'll stir it once a day to distribute the vegetables into the liquid for a week at around 70 degrees. If it's cooler, the fermenting may take longer. In serious colder climates it can take months. In Korea, they bury their kimchi pots in the ground all winter long.I taste it. If it's to my liking, I'll jar it up.

I'll put one quart jar into my refrigerator. The rest, I'll water bath for 30 minutes. Sterilized hot jars and hot lids. I'll loosely leave the rings on these jars after they cool and seal. These is still a fermenting product. I leave the rings on them to hold the mess down in storage. A loose fitted ring to me is fingertip tight and backing off a full turn. It will rattle, but if the lid pops, it is contained.

I've tried canning this in pint jars before, but I can eat a pint in one sitting with rice and a lovely piece of fish. So now, I only do quarts. It's approximately three, conservative servings for me. Yes. I love me some kimchi!

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

New Firewood Access~ Mel's Project

For years now, we've used a section of our front porch as a firewood staging area. The last stacking area before it comes inside to burn. It's always been the left side of the porch as you face the house. It's also the area for our porch swing in non firewood times. We have several firewood and kindling storage buildings around the property holding cords of wood to season up.

The only problem with this set up was the stairs were on the opposite side of the porch. We or the firewood delivery service would back up next to the porch rail and chuck to wood over the rail and then stack it a half cord at a time. We often thought wouldn't it be nice if there was a gate to make unloading the wood easier. We could load the wood into the back of the pick up, and back it next to the porch. No more climbing from the pick up bed over the rail to sort the wood. It would be a simple step across.

This month Mel's project was to remedy this. She dismantled the rails from two- four feet sections and hinged gates to where they would be anchored by the 4x4 posts. We still need to prime and paint the additions, but it works. She replaced the bottom rail with a 2x4s and added a 2x3s cross pieces for sturdier use. Nice job Mel! Thanks again to Jason at the Big Bear Homestead for the table saw. Without this gift, we'd have to depend on Mel's makeshift table saw out of a circular saw contraption. Big Bear's is definitely safer.

Painting the porch was on my to-do list anyhow. I want to replace the dark brown with an evergreen color. It means painting the front shutters and trim too. It's more in line with our colors we envisioned for the Cockeyed Homestead. It was to be a fall project for me. Now it will depend on my healing time after surgeries on my foot. The transition will happen. It's Mel's favorite color and a nod to my husband's Irish heritage. To me, brown is yucky. It will definitely be brighter and fresher looking. Pressure washing the almond colored (now tan) siding is a Mel project. It'll make short work of cleaning the windows and screens too.

As soon as it's painted and pressure washed the porch will be ready for its winter mode transition. I should be able to prime and paint it, at least the gate sections before next week. The weather has been cooler and drier unlike all summer long. The high humidity this summer here gave a whole new meaning to watching paint dry. It would take two days if it wasn't raining. This fall, it's rained maybe once a week.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Still Canning and End of the Year Harvest Tally

The green bean harvest is finally done. The beans still left on half a dozen plants will be the seed stock for next year's garden. I've left the beans on the plant to die naturally. Then I'll pick the beans and shell them. I canned 100 new pint jars of green beans this year. Coupled with what's leftover from last year's harvest, we have enough jars to eat green beans twice a week until next year's harvest. We've been eating fresh green beans for the last two months too. It was a great year for green beans for us. All from the equivalent of two pack of seeds. I planted seeds from my 2017 seed saving efforts. So we are self sufficient in green beans. Yeah! Only about $0.30 a jar of homegrown, chemical free goodness.

 I've canning about three cases (36 pint jars) of large diced tomatoes, 2 cases of stewed tomatoes, and 2 cases of tomato salsa so far. I've also 12-gallon bags of tomatoes in the freezer for making sauces (tomato sauce for BBQ and ketchup too) later on. We are almost at the end of our tomato harvest, but I'm still picking them. All of this is from 14 Roma, 4 Cherokee Purple, and 2 beefsteak tomato plants. Plus we've been able to have sliced, fresh tomatoes at every meal for the past month. I'll let some of each go to seed production for the rest of the season until frost.We are now self sufficient in tomatoes too. Yeah! For diced tomatoes $0.30, stewed tomatoes $0.50, for the salsa $0.70 a jar. It's been a good year for our tomatoes.

We grew a heirloom bi-colored corn in the orchard this year. I didn't expect much, but I harvested 34 salvageable  ears of plump corn. It was better than I expected. I've been shucking corn on the porch today and will be canning it up into pints jars. While a pint jar will hold two cups of corn and liquid, I normally will put only a cup of corn in each jar. That's about the most the two of us will eat in a meal.

I'll also be making 1/2 pint jars of my pickled corn relish about a case worth because Mel doesn't like it. Her loss is my gain. I have a few peppers leftover from putting up my tomato salsa that will go great in them.

I'll have to let you know how many jars I get out of the 34 ears. It's going to be about half of what we need for a year, I think. So almost self sufficient in corn. A Semi-Yeah toward self sufficiency! I'll buy a case of corn this month to round out our needs, but that's better than buying two or three cases. A case of corn is about $20 right now (about 30 odd ears). With the addition of the case of corn about $0.75 a jar. This price would drop significantly without the purchase of corn.

The reason for bi-colored corn is Mel loves Silver Queen, a white corn. While I love yellow corn, what can I say, I hail from the plains of NE. I'm just a transplanted southerner. This compromise gives us both what we like to eat.

By gerry-rigging the corn cutter onto a bucket, I could easily take the kernels off the cob one-handed. The other side has slits in to to hold the sliding prongs. To substitute the hand pressure, I used rubber bands looped around the end of the cutter so all I had to do is push the cob through to take off the kernels after the corn was blanched. The hardest part was finding a bucket my 9 1/2" cutter could stretch across. This 2-gallon bucket worked well. The next time I'll purchase a corn cutter, I'll get a longer one like the one pictured. It's easier doing a lot of corn in a 5-gallon bucket. The corn cutter usually last about three seasons and become dull or breaks. Ya gotta love the planned obsolescent of gizmos these days. I usually buy two of any gizmo I buy because of it. They always seem to break in the middle of a job.

How do I figure our yearly intake? I calculate a meat and two vegetables for one meal a day. This is our big meal of the day. If I want to serve the vegetable once a week, then it's 52 jars. Twice a week is 104 jars needed. For just the two of us that means pint and half pint jars where a family of four to six would need quart jars. Leftover jarred vegetables go into a container and into the freezer. When the container is full, it's time to make a large batch of soup or Mulligan stew. I'll hold out enough for two meals and can the balance. I do this for all the meals I cook and before long you have a pantry full of heat and eat meals.

The idea of canning 52 jars of anything may seem pretty daunting, let alone 52 jars of all the vegetables you eat. But I small batch can. One canner load at a time (8 jars). It all adds up. Before my strokes, I thought it was nothing to can several  cases (4-6 cases of qt jars) of jarred produce in one day in my big pressure canner, 22 pints or 8 qts at a time. Now, all I can manage between prepping and canning is about 16 pint jars or one large canner load a day. A day's harvest equals a day or two days of canning and/or dehydrating. I don't have the energy to harvest and preserve that much a day. My foot sure won't let me especially this year with all the problems I've been having. So small batch canning it is. Perfect for harvest from a small garden.

It was far easier to do more before my stroke, but it's still doable even living post stroke. It takes more steps going to and from the breakfast nook table where I let my jars cool down and seal carrying one jar at a time. My kitchen counter space isn't large enough to let them rest in there.The same goes from cleaning the jars before they go into the food storage building. But I place all the cleaned jars back into the case the jars came in to carry case by case of filled jars into the store building. Little by little, it gets done.

I also harvested enough Muscadines for 5 gallons of wine and a dozen pints of Catawba grape jelly. Next year's harvest should be double.

I still have my cabbages, napa, ginger, carrots, and turmeric to harvest. The leeks, onions and garlic will overwinter. I can almost taste the Bavarian sauerkraut and kim chi. I've harvested, dried, and ground my gochugaru peppers already.

I love going "shopping" in my storage building after the fresh eating season is done. I'll carry my market bag and pick the jars I need for the week. The same goes for my freezer. I'll "shop" and meal plan at the same time because I know what's available on the shelves. I stocked it, after all. Remember, I upcycled all my plastic bags into plarn and knitted or Mel crocheted the market bags. When I actually do go to the grocery store, I also love looking at the items and saying, "I don't need that, and that, and that." I'd bypass the vegetable aisle totally if the spices weren't on the same aisle. If it weren't for our dairy, meat, cola addiction, and paper needs I could by pass the grocery store all together for the most part. I love the  wide long handle on this pattern. I can wear it across my body and it doesn't cut into my hand.

Isn't that grand. I used to not mind shopping too much. But now, it's a chore. Stores are too large to navigate now, especially with a bum foot.  Everything is so expensive in comparison.  I spend more time waiting on a parking spot or motorized cart than I do shopping. It seems that everything I need to purchase is in the back of the store or some distant corner. So I'd rather not shop in the stores and instead, do my version of shopping. Yes, being a one-handed canner ain't easy, but it sure beats going to the regular grocery store by price and health.

Y'all have a blessed day!