Author Archives: kebbie53mo

Mulberry Jelly

If you have a mulberry tree count yourself lucky! We love to forage and harvest wild foods and making mulberry jelly has fast become one of my favorite recipes. We have access to several trees but with their short season and being a favorite of birds we have to move fast to harvest them.

 

Boone harvested about a gallon or so for me the other morning as soon as the majority of the berries were ripe. He takes a tarp, lays it under the tree and shakes the branches so the berries will drop to the tarp. Mulberries, though they resemble blackberries, are small and delicate. Picking them is tedious and time consuming. He put this batch in a foil lined bowl and into the frig until I could get to them.

The next morning I started the process of cleaning them. When shaking them from the tree, small twigs, leaves, etc. will drop with them. To be sure they are cleaned thoroughly I gather a small handful and rinse them under running water, rolling them from hand to hand and then dropping in a clean pot. I put a mesh strainer in the sink drain to keep any large particles from going down the drain. Once I have them all cleaned I pour the berries in to a colander to drain.

 

Since I am making jelly I do not destem the berries unless the stem is really large. It would take forever to destem all of them and the stem does not cause any harm in the jelly preparations since you are squeezing the juice out. If it was a jam or preserves recipe then I would destem them.

I use the mulberry jelly recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation Mulberry Jelly. It is simple and turns out great. If you have never made jelly before it is not hard to do. There are quite a few sites online that have step-by-step instructions or you can pick up a Ball canning book. My tips are: gather all of your supplies together first, pour all of the sugar required into a bowl so you can pour it all at once in the fruit and wear an apron to keep splatters off your clothes.

Happy canning!

Spring Planting

The farm has been busy this spring. The first crop of lambs has sold, we had a road pushed around our woods and now the garden season is upon us.

Early in the winter, the sheep shed was cleaned and the spent bedding was spread over the garden plot. Boone turned over the ground in early spring. When it was time to plant he did the tilling while I got all the supplies together – the seed planter, seeds, eggshells I had been saving, and a few plants that I had bought. Boone had started tomato plants under a row cover a month previous so they were ready to transplant.

garden plot

seeds, eggshells

 

This is a seeder that an gentleman in our neighborhood gifted us with when he gave up gardening a few years back.  He enjoyed much produce from us in return for his kindness. The seeder is the handiest thing ever as it saves our backs from bending over to plant.

 

There are different discs sized for beans, carrots, peas, spinach, etc. The only kind of seeds it does not handle are melon seeds due to their shape I suppose.

seed discs

First, you select the disc you need then pour in the seeds. See those little cups along the edge? They pick up the seed, then there is a little plow down behind the front wheel that digs a trench,  the seed drops out and a chain drags soil to cover it up. So nifty. Son Josh came out to help so we made short work of the planting. The eggshells were scattered around the tomato and pepper plants to keep slugs and cutworms from getting to the plants.

What we have planted so far:

  • Cantaloupe – eat fresh
  • Crimson Sweet watermelon – eat fresh and for beverages
  • Green, red, and yellow bell peppers – eat fresh, freeze
  • Kandy corn – – eat fresh, freeze
  • Onions – eat fresh, dry
  • Pole beans – eat fresh, freeze
  • Red and yellow potatoes – eat fresh, store
  • Straightneck yellow squash – eat fresh, freeze
  • Beauregard Sweet potatoes – eat fresh, freeze
  • Tomatoes – eat fresh, freeze

I still have to plant:

  • Banana peppers – eat fresh, freeze, refrigerator pickles
  • Collards – eat fresh, freeze
  • Herbs – I am revamping my herb garden and am not sure what I will be planting yet
  • Lima beans – eat fresh, freeze
  • More tomatoes including cherry (I make and freeze marinara and pizza sauce, whole tomatoes for chili, tomato paste, and tomato sauce so I need quite a lot of tomatoes!)
  • Strawberries – eat fresh, freeze, jam

2017 Lambing Season

2017 has been crazy busy. First my son and I both came down with the flu (son thinks it was the Norovirus). Whatever it was, it was vicious! Somehow, Boone did not catch it so he got the unfortunate task of taking care of us.

We have had much more rain than snow this year so have been battling yucky, mucky yard and pastures. Boone rescued a baby calf from the mud. Luckily, our greenhouse makes a great animal nursery so the calf lived there and out in our old dog pen during the day. Just as soon as he was strong enough we moved him to a small lot and shed over on the sheep farm.

calf

It is a good thing we got him moved as lambing season kicked off early this year and has not stopped yet. One of the yearling ewes did not produce enough milk so we have bottle twins.

twin lambs

They are spending their nights in the greenhouse and their days lazing around in the sun in the dog pen. Such spoiled lambs! We have been letting them graze in the backyard and have already cut their bottles from four down to two per day. In a couple of weeks, they will get to go live with the flock over on the sheep farm.

The lambs love playing King of the Haystack….

Wild Honey Gathering

We have several bee trees around us. One of them used to be in a wild cherry tree on the back of the farm down in the woods by the creek. It was blown down during a storm a couple of years ago. Boone wanted to save the bees that were in it so he cut out about an 8-foot log out of the tree and strapped it to an old stump to get it back up off the ground.

Wild Cherry bee tree

Wild Cherry bee tree

When we gather honey we never take all of it. The bees need to eat through the winter. One of our neighbors went with Boone to get the honey so he could learn how. Normally, Boone opens the tree while I work the smoker. When he and our friend got there, no bees were to be found. Not dead, not anywhere. We think they absconded for some reason. Boone did find signs of something digging up into the base of the log as there were pieces of comb laying on the ground so maybe that had something to do with the bees leaving?

He decided to gather the old honey combs and leave the new ones. Later on when checking the tree again he found bees back in it. Was this a new swarm that ran the old ones off or did they come from a neighbors box hive? We do not know but I am glad we left enough honey for them.

Honeycombs in tree cavity

Honeycombs in tree cavity

To extract the honey, we use the very scientific procedure of crushing the comb with a potato masher. Once crushed we drain the honey through a paint filter. I have tried cheesecloth but the filter works better. It works like a big jelly bag if you have ever made jelly. The filter doesn’t cost much, seems like it was a couple of dollars and it can be used over and over. I wash and rinse the new filter well before using for the first time and after using it I store in my water bath canner so no one tries to use it for straining paint!

Capped honeycomb

Capped honeycomb

Crushing comb

Crushing comb

There was a lot of comb so I needed to get the filter up above a stock pot. I stacked books on either side of the stockpot and ran a piece of pipe across to tie the filter bag off to after filling it with comb. The pipe was just what I came across first; a dowel rod, a piece of metal or anything that will not bend would have worked also.

Draining honey from comb

Draining honey from comb

After straining for most of the afternoon, I had to squeeze the rest of the honey out by hand using a pair of salad tongs. It worked really well. I had planned on trying to render the beeswax out but ran out of time with all of the holiday events we were attending and such. The spent comb was not wasted as it went to the pigs, which they loved!

Honey flowing!

Honey flowing!

After cleaning the filter, I strained the honey about 5 times. One last straining was with a jelly filter into mason jars. Normally, we only get a quart jar as we try to be conservative and leave the bees plenty. This time there was so much in the tree that Boone took a bit more and we ended up with 2 ½ quarts. The family has already requested Zippy Wings!

Filtering honey

Filtering honey

Chasing Pigs

It has been a busy week with 2016 winding down. Kentucky is experiencing a mild dry winter. Taking advantage of the mild temps and a bit of rain that came through we moved the pigs to a new field. They had pretty much turned over the small field they had been in. We moved them to a combined woods/pasture/pond area that morning but the electric fence charger had less charge than we realized and they escaped. There is nothing like chasing 3 pigs around the hills to get your blood pumping.

Boone and pigs

They love chasing the Gator for some reason, so Boone hopped in it and took off across the field with them in hot pursuit. Me? I was bent over double with my hands on my knees gasping for air.

Little Miss Rosebud

One of the neighbor’s has a small donkey herd. Generous people with huge hearts they had originally rescued a jack and jenny. Nature took its course and the herd grew beyond what they were prepared to handle. They decided to re-home the herd and found homes for all the adult donkeys so the last to go was a foal about 6 months old.

Miss Rosebud

 

Everyone in our area knows if they have an animal that needs a new owner to call Boone. He and I both love animals and if we cannot take it on we often know people that can. When we received the call asking if we were interested in a foal donkey Boone brought home little Miss Rosebud. I have been around a few donkeys in my life that were foul-tempered and would come at you with teeth bared so I was not terribly excited about her. At the least, I thought she would be a good experiment to see how a donkey lived with the sheep. I had always heard donkeys were good with predator control as they naturally dislike canines and would help keep the coyotes away.

Turns out little Miss Rosebud has the sweetest, calmest personality. We have pulled burrs out her coat, wormed her and given her shots with minimal fuss on her part. She lets us pick up her feet and loves being scratched. She has a small field to herself and part of the run-in shed while the meds take effect. She has touched noses over the fences with some of the sheep and Bruno, the calf. Most of the day, she grazes on her side of the fence with the 3 little pigs rooting on the other side.

3 little pigs

 

The sheep are now all bred so we will be moving Romeo, the ram, to his own field along with Bruno soon. At that time, we will put Miss Rosebud in with the sheep. I have great hopes they will form a tight bond.

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Big Flaky Biscuits

My dad made the best biscuits and I have never been able to duplicate his so I am always on the hunt for a great biscuit recipe. Isn’t it funny how recipes with lots of ingredients can turn out great but simple dishes like potato salad, pimiento cheese and biscuits are hard to get right? Or maybe it is just me!

Anyway, I came across this recipe on the Southern Living website and really love it. It makes big flaky biscuits. Boone loves them with Apple Maple jam or with any of my homemade jams. They are just as good with only butter or with sausage or ham on them.

Big Flaky Biscuit

 

The only thing I did different from the recipe is I never have self-rising flour so I usually make a batch up when I plan on having these biscuits.  The biscuit recipe has several ways to bake them and my favorite is to warm a cast iron skillet in the oven, then rub a bit of butter in it and put the biscuits in. That gives them a crunchy bottom that is so good. I tend to roll them a bit thicker and normally get around ten biscuits. My skillet only holds eight so I cook the last two later.

Here are the links to both recipes.

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Apple Maple Jam

One of my favorite jams is Apple Maple Jam is from a past Ball Blue Book but can also be found here: Apple Maple Jam. The original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. That is a little strong for me so I only use 1/2 teaspoon.

Apple Maple Jam

I was recently in the North Carolina mountains during apple season and bought lots of local varieties. I think the best jam is made with a variety of apples. Another good way to use this jam is to mix some with Dijon mustard, spread on a pork tenderloin, then roast.

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Fall Wind Down

The garden has been put to rest. It has been really good to us this year; potatoes, corn, peppers, melons, beans, herbs, berries and so many tomatoes that this summer I must have broken some kind of record for eating tomato sandwiches. I think I ate at least one every day.

Tomatoes

 

I love the fall. Growing in southeastern North Carolina we did not have four distinct seasons. Kentucky is in a late fall warm spell but cooler temps are on the way. Makes me want to have crackling fires and hot chocolate with a good book! But for now it is time to get out in the woods and gather pears, walnuts and hickory nuts. Yesterday was another blue sky sunny day so Boone and I got out into the woods briefly to check on one of the trail cameras. It is placed near the Cherry bee tree. The bees were happily buzzing around but thankfully ignored us.

One of the trail cams on the sheep farm caught a big bobcat. I know sooner or later we may have problems with them or the coyotes so we are considering a livestock guardian dog or maybe a donkey.

Bobcat

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