Monday, June 16, 2014

Birds of a Feather...

Here is my garden in progress now!  Just had to be patient but finally with the warm weather and rains, everything is blooming and doing great.  I'll have some great veggies to put up soon this summer and have already been eating lots of salads with radishes and carrots.

While I was watering and weeding the other day, I kept hearing a bunch of  peeping.  I was gathering some good garden peas and look over to see this.  See it?  A cute chicken clucking away and looking inside the dog house?
No, look closer...
How about now? 
Yep, a baby robin perched away on my beagle's doggy bed.  Probably the same baby bird that my boyfriend recently rescued after he fell out of the nest and was hopping around to follow one of my Bantam chickens.  I was worried he would get pecked to death, so he put him back in the nest while I flapped around the yard to keep Momma Robin away.  

So, cute and all but the chickens all kept trying to find the baby birds and Momma again was squawking and trying to peck my eyes out when I would go anywhere.  I was able for the most part to keep them away and I think he learned how to fly later and took off.  Good thing, because I've read that wild birds carry some bad diseases like Newcastle disease that can wipe out my whole egg laying flock! Anyone else have good ways to keep wild birds out of your yard?  I usually knock down their nests in the beginning and have all the birdfeeders in the front yard to discourage them from finding the back yard. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Saving all those strawberries

My family went strawberry picking this weekend and I came home with so many strawberries!  We went to Spencer Farm in Noblesville, IN and I highly recommend it.  Such a nice place with lots of berries to pick!

Yum, but then what to do with them?  Here is a little glimpse of how I start preserving and saving them until I'm ready to bake.  First, I wash them in a vinegar bath, leaving the caps and hulls on.  Just add 1 cup of white distilled vinegar to 3 cups of water.

Let them sit for a minute or two and swish them around to get all the dirt and grit off them.  The vinegar will kill the mold spores and this helps them last MUCH longer in your refrigerator and not get moldy and mushy.  After they are washed, drain them in a colander while running a little water over them to rinse.  Then, just lay them in a single layer on a towel to dry.  I chose red for obvious reasons and since berries stain, wear some old clothes too!

Now I was able to store some in a cute little berry container in my fridge for snacking this week.  You can also place them on paper towels in a container, but don't seal it completely or all the moisture will build up inside and make them go bad faster.

I also like to flash freeze some of them whole and chopped on a baking sheet.  Just freeze for about an hour and then you can place them all in a freezer container or freezer bag without the fruit sticking together in one big frozen mess.  The whole ones are perfect for summer smoothies and the chopped ones are good for scones.  Using frozen berries, they stay together while baking and don't spread out in the dough. Save those strawberry tops for your compost pile or chickens! Mine love them!

Another way to save the berries is frozen with sugar.  Halve a quart of strawberries and then sprinkle 1/2 cup of sugar over them and stir together.  The sugar will break down the strawberries more and create a yummy syrup.  Once frozen, just thaw later and use for ice cream toppings and strawberry shortcakes!

And then, if you still have more berries, use them up for some good jam!  There are countless recipes out there for traditional jams and also other variations.  Always use a trusted recipe that has been tested and follow canning directions carefully.  It's not hard at all , but you don't want to go through all the work to not have your jars seal or go bad.  You can also make freezer jam that does not need to be processed in a canner that will last up to a year!  Tonight I made just a regular strawberry jam from the Ball Book of Canning and ended up with 10 half pints.  You really can't beat a fresh jar of jam on some warm homemade bread.  I think I'll have to make some of that tomorrow night! 

Happy Berry Pickin'!