Monday, November 17, 2014

Tomato skins and what to do with them

scalded tomato ready to run through the strainer   
This will be a quick post regarding tomatoes since I have quite a bit more to do in getting them processed.  Lately, I've been making up tomato juice, catsup, pickled green tomato relish and about a week ago turned 45 pounds of tomatoes into 9.5 quarts of sauce. 

Most recipes call for scalding tomatoes to peel those chewy skins off since you won't use them for making sauce/juice.  Some recipes call for crushing the tomatoes and then running them through a food mill or strainer to remove the skins and seeds.  But what about you don't use a food mill or strainer and just peel them for your crushed or chopped tomatoes?  What to do with those skins besides feed them to the chickens?  I can tell you right now that when those chickens see me coming out with the blue bucket that they run the opposite direction.   I think they are tired of tomatoes.  But with all this scalding/straining of tomatoes it reminded me of a post by a dear blogger and friend to many, who passed away a couple months ago, about making tomato powder from tomato skins.


Tomatoes, again?  Seriously?!
SciFi Chick did a excellent blog post on taking those peeled skins from the scalded tomatoes and turning them into tomato powder.  I did it last year and it really works!  And most of all, it was easy just like she said it was.  I'm so grateful that her post(s) are still available for reading and if any of you have not read her blog, please hop on over to it and glean all the wonderful information she had taken the time to put up.



Here's her post on taking those peeled tomato skins and dehydrating them:

Tomato Skins to Tomato Powder (Easy Tomato Paste & Sauce from Tomato Skins)

Well, back to the stove - the catsup is ready to be canned. I hope you try SciFi Chick's instructions on dehydrating tomato skins to make power or, at the very least, print them out and try next year!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dancing with goats

The answer to the question 'How much snow did ya get?" is about 4 inches.  Temps are warming up very quickly.  Snow is falling out of the trees, sliding off the rooftops and mud patches are beginning to show here and there.  It is the light fluffy snow so it won't stay around very long even though the ground was frozen before it fell.  With it being around 40F, it will be mud before you know it.






All the critters came out fairly easy this morning.  Well, most of them.  There are a few of the older hens who absolutely hate the stuff and need to be carried to their run but overall things went smoothly.






Except for the goats.  Normally, the goats will rush out the barn in the morning without any threats or bribes, to go out and happily follow the horse around all day.  But this morning, the goats had to be literally dragged out of the barn.  They were sure that some sort of doom was awaiting them in that white stuff that covered the barn yard.  They ran out of their enclosure to the open door, looked out and stampeded back at me to get into their enclosure.  Two went through the gate opening and the other leaped over it. 

We sometimes have to lead the goats back into the barn in the evenings using a lead rope but only one goat has a collar on at the moment.  I had to fix the other two since they were sewn smaller for their little pencil necks when they were smaller but they have grown quite a bit, hence having to take off the collars to remove the stitching.  But even the lead rope doesn't always go that smoothly.  They act like Gollum (Lord of the Rings) and bleat out "It burns!  It burns us!...." (regarding the rope).


I made a grab for the collared one but she dodge to the right, then I cornered one of the white ones. They certainly can dig in all four hooves down into the straw but I had another plan.  Grab the front feet up off the ground and walk said goat out of the barn... she walked alright, until she realized I was getting closer to the open door.  The closer I got to the barn door the more she dug her back hooves into the loose straw.  Then she just dropped to the ground like she was dead, all the while calling for her partners in crime to help her.  As soon as she realized I was still taking her to the frozen wasteland, she leapt up and started to sway her head around like she was listening to a bizarre, unheard melody in her head.  I'm sure we looked like awkward dance partners as I was trying to get the booger out the door.

Once out the door, I walked her around the corner of the barn so I could get between her & the barn gate to shut her out. She continued whining for the other two for sympathy.  Being it was one of the lower ranking goats who got nabbed, the other two were safely in the barn.  The lead (instigator) goat kept bleating back in sympathy for the other's plight.  But with one goat out, the rest should go a little more smoothly, right?

Next was Little Miss Lead Goat.  She's got a collar anyways, so it should be a lot easier to get her motivated into going out.  heh.  We did a nice little goat do-si-do in the enclosure and then the red dog comes shooting out of her cage to stir up more confusion and chaos since apparently it wasn't exciting enough for her.  Dog got booted back into her cage but she had so much straw pulled out of her cage I couldn't get the door shut and the two goats are spinning off the walls, enticing red dog into more mischief.  Nevertheless, nabbed lead goat, got her to the gate (no white goat in sight), open gate, get black goat about half way out when the white one materializes out of nowhere and shoves past me.  Black goat bends herself in half around me in mid-shove, like some goat slinky, and then goes frolicking back into her pen.  I swear, all three of them stuck their tongues out at me and bleated "nah, nah, na-nah, naaaaa!"

Grrrrr.... grabbed the black goat's collar, dragged her to the open door, shoved her out the door and, thankfully, one of the white goats followed.  Mr. H could hear all the hollerin' and yellin', and having pity on me, came into the barn, grabbed goat number three and waltzed her out the barn, all the while the red dog is shooting in & out of her cage like a giant gopher.  All three goats are then united and go bouncing away in search of the horse.

Just another day at the ranch.   So, how was your morning? 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Frost, Freeze and Winter Weather Advisories

Weather report.... cold and snow.....

Winter Storm Warning

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE 

...FIRST SNOW OF THE SEASON AT LOW ELEVATIONS...

.WITH COLD AIR IN PLACE THE NEXT PACIFIC STORM WILL BRING SNOW TO
ALL AREAS THURSDAY AND THURSDAY NIGHT. FOR LOW ELEVATIONS IT WILL
BE THE FIRST SNOW OF THE SEASON. A WARM FRONT LATE THURSDAY AND
THURSDAY NIGHT WILL CHANGE THE SNOW TO RAIN...OR FREEZING RAIN
AND THEN RAIN...IN THE LOWER VALLEYS.

...WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 8 AM TO 11 PM MST
THURSDAY... WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 AM MST
FRIDAY.
 
SNOW AND ICE AMOUNTS...STORM TOTAL OF 3 TO 6 INCHES. FREEZING
  RAIN MAY ALSO OCCUR...ADDING UP TO A TENTH OF AN INCH OF ICE TO
  THE PREVIOUSLY FALLEN SNOW.
 

So ....as of this afternoon it has been a gentle snowfall leaving about 2 inches of the white stuff and still another 12 hours or so to go. This snowfall will stick for a while because we've been on the cold side of things the past few days and the ground is a little on the frozen side.  8F this morning and high temp of around 27 today.  At least the wind died down yesterday.

We've got quite a bit of our winter preps done but there is still a few more things left on the list that got shoved on the back burner due to some other things that popped up the past couple of weeks.

But despite the cold 9F degree mornings we have had some lovely sunrises.

 Cleaned out the firebox of ashes, got the hoses blown out and coiled up for storage.....
Set up the pipe frame and plastic tarps over my sissy plants in the greenhouse, tidied it up and pulled in the Christmas tree from last year that did not get planted.  Don't want to loose it like what happened to my other ones we moved here that froze in their pots from the sub-zero temps we had the first year.

They will be kept warm with the heater but not heat
the entire greenhouse up




 Carrots were pulled, cleaned and will be either canned or stored, according to size.  The monster ones will be for the horse - he will be happy!  :-)
 What the marigolds looked like a few days ago... the freezing temps did them in.  I need to collect the seeds for spring.

 Opal on patrol....



I think this is gum weed.  Crazy thing was still in bloom yesterday even after the very cold temperatures.
 Frosty morning.....
 Dogs are ready for the cold weather in their little straw 'igloos'.... and below is what kind of weather we had a couple of days ago when we were scrambling around to get the critters in the barn set up for the cold and storm.

 Getting some straw for the chickies in the coop to keep them snug....
 ... and the supervisor, making sure we're not goofing off!

 Frosty mornings....


So you all keep safe if you have to drive or go out in this stuff.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Batten down the hatches...

I like how it states 'unseasonably warm' and quickly goes into possible single digit temps.


I know what we're going to be doing tomorrow and at least the next day.  The molting chicken post will have to wait a while.  Until then.....






Special Weather Statement

SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BOISE ID
112 PM MST SAT NOV 8 2014

IDZ028-033-ORZ062-090815-
CAMAS PRAIRIE-UPPER WEISER RIVER-BAKER COUNTY-
112 PM MST SAT NOV 8 2014

...MUCH COLDER MID WEEK...

UNSEASONABLY WARM TEMPERATURES ARE ON TRACK THIS WEEKEND DUE TO
MILD HIGH PRESSURE AT THE SURFACE AND ALOFT CENTERED OVER NEVADA.
A DUSTING OF SNOW IS NOT OUT OF THE QUESTIONS FOR
FAIRFIELD...CAMBRIDGE AND BAKER CITY AS COLD CANADIAN HIGH
PRESSURE EXPANDING SOUTH COMBINES WITH SOME MOISTURE SUNDAY
NIGHT THROUGH MONDAY. COLD AIR WILL CONTINUE THROUGH MID WEEK DUE
TO NORTH FLOW ALOFT FROM CANADA. IF THERE IS SNOW COVER AND
CLEARING WEDNESDAY AND OR THURSDAY SINGLE DIGIT LOW TEMPERATURES
ARE NOT OUT OF THE QUESTION FOR MCCALL OR IDAHO CITY. THERE IS
ANOTHER CHANCE OF SNOW OR A WINTRY MIX FOR THURSDAY AND FRIDAY AS
AN UPPER TROUGH DROPS SOUTH OVER THE INLAND NORTHWEST.







Wednesday
Night

Mostly Cloudy
Mostly
Cloudy
Lo 24 °F

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Another busy week

Brrrrr.... A cold front literally blew through and we ended up with 28F Tuesday morning which resulted in the little heater getting hooked up in the greenhouse Monday night to keep the tomatoes we picked a while back from getting frozen and to protect my sissy plants.  There are two lemons on one tree and the lime has at least one fruit so want to keep them going and not drop them. Also have to keep the cactus and the herb plants safe, too.  The greenhouse alone, without heat, keeps at a fairly warm temp but I won't take any chances.

Tomatoes are ripening up quickly, thank goodness.  Will be working on turning them into sauce or chopped, if I can squeeze some time in to do it.  Seems like roadtrips have been on the menu of late.  Canning will hopefully be done with soon.  I know it is getting a bit 'old' since when I go out with a bucket full of canning scraps the chickens see me coming and run.... in the opposite direction.  They are even getting tired of the monster zucchinis, which is amazing since they really like those.  It must be the green grass that is popping up.  Can't imagine that it is tastier since chickens have something like 26 taste buds.  But then again, they will eat styrofoam if they get the chance.

Tomatoes.... again!??
A couple night's ago we had a bout of unexpected rain but of course it had to rained.  The road grader went over the county road the day before so when we drove out the next morning we ended up with about 3 tons of mud stuck to the underside of the truck.  Wasn't suppose to rain until the weekend but I shouldn't complain since it has been so dry this year.  At least the sun came out for several hours and it warmed up a bit.

It has been a busy week with a lot of driving about.  I will be glad when it is all over with so I can catch up on the canning!  One of our trips at least was locally.  We had a 'weed day' for the area.  We've never been invited to one.  I guess they figure that we have been here two years and three winters.... we are not leaving.  Weed day is when the neighbors all gather at one of the ranches here, have coffee and donuts for breakfast, chew the fat with each other for a while and then get their chemical cocktails from the county weed people.  Then off we all go off, to and fro, to spray the 'noxious weeds' on their properties.  We don't have the required licenses to spray but it did give us a chance to meet some of our other neighbors that we have heard their names but haven't met yet and to gather some information regarding the spray day.  Later we all went back for lunch and glean more information.

end of season garden..... er, weed patch
I'm not entirely sold on the chemical cocktails for weed control but I think there can be a balance using chemical AND mechanical (or manual) control.  We did a little test our first spring by hand pulling one of the 'noxious' weeds on their list.  The ones we pulled did not grow back later that summer.  Then this past spring we noted that we had reduced the infested area by at least 2/3.  Mr. H went out with the weed cutter and mowed those down - twice - this past year so next spring will be interesting to see if comes back with a vengeance (as the 'experts' claim it will).  The cows also nibbled it down, as did the goats, yet it is considered 'toxic' to animals..... so is water if ingested in abnormally huge amounts .... but that is part of the debate. 
yum!

No cows or goats were harmed or suffered any ill effects and are quite fat and sassy several months later.   The county agents even uses goats to graze down affected areas throughout the county.  So our little experiment is a very interesting work in progress.  Nearly everyone around here spends quite a bit of time and money in spraying.... every year.  There is a lot of information (and misinformation) out there regarding the matter.  It is just deciphering which information is useful instead of promises from the chemical companies on how awesome their product is only to find out you just created a toxic environment in your soil that will last until the next millennium.

But for now we'll stick with the grazing animals, hand pulling and mowing for our weed abatement.  We can use the exercise and fresh air anyways.
the grass is always greener.....

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tomato Jam

If you have never canned before, please get a Ball Blue Book Guide to Canning, Freezing or Dehydrating or go to the website The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) before attempting any canning.  Both the Ball Blue Book and the NCHFP  have a wealth of information and will keep you & your family safe.  Please read and follow the instructions on water bath canners, pressure cookers and dehydrators.

Before we get to the tomato jam recipe, I want to remind you of the reasons for canning & preserving safety by sharing a story with you of some local history.  In 1922, the headline read:

Five Victims (1922)

The death toll stood at five today in the family of Charles W. Tuttle as a result of botudinus (botulism) poisoning from eating preserved greens at a birthday dinner Sunday for Harriet Tuttle, youngest member of the family. Two daughters and three sons are dead and the father is not expected to live. Miss Bessie Clare, and Russell Tuttle, another son, who also partook of the poisonous vegetables, have not yet shown symptoms of the poisoning. Tuttle's daughters preserved tbe
greens. 

Mr. Tuttle did indeed die from the toxin, as did the birthday girl who was celebrating her 14th birthday.  It is a sad and tragic reminder that when we can and preserve our harvests that safety is very important.  Canning and preserving has come a long way since 1922.

So PLEASE, PLEASE, if you have never ever canned anything PLEASE purchase a Ball Canning book or print out and read (carefully) the information from the National Center of Home Food Preservation regarding canning.  Obtain this information while we still have the opportunity of a 'free' internet and you can still easily find the Ball Blue Book of Canning. 


So with that all said, I would now like to share a tomato jam recipe that is easy to prepare and very good on toast.  This recipe is from NCHFP..  Their recipe calls for pectin to thicken rather than cooking the jam down to thicken,  and they do include a link for the Principles of Home Canning to read up on if you have never canned or need a refresher.


Recipe from the NCHFP:

Spiced Tomato Jam
with powdered pectin


  • 3 cups prepared tomatoes (prepare about 2¼ pounds tomatoes)
  • 1½ teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 4½ cups sugar
  • 1 box powdered pectin
Yield: About 5 half-pint jars

Please read Using Boiling Water Canners before beginning. If this is your first time canning, it is recommended that you read Principles of Home Canning.

Procedure:

To Prepare Tomatoes – Wash firm ripe tomatoes. Scald, peel, and chop tomatoes. Place chopped tomatoes in saucepan and heat slowly to simmering, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Measure 3 cups of the cooked tomatoes into a large saucepan. Add lemon rind, allspice, cinnamon and cloves.

To Make Jam - Sterilize canning jars. Add lemon juice to the prepared tomatoes in the saucepan. Measure sugar and set aside. Stir powdered pectin into prepared tomatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. At once, stir in sugar. Stir and bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Then boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat. Skim off foam. Pour hot jam into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner.
Table 1. Recommended process time for Spiced Tomato Jam With Powdered Pectin in a boiling water canner.
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Half-pints
or Pints
5 min 10 15
  This document was adapted from "So Easy to Preserve", 5th ed. 2006. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Weather report

September is supposed to be the rainy month.  Well, it pretty much went by without much of anything to get excited about.  Here mid-October we are now getting some much needed rain, the mountains are hidden in the mist and clouds and the grass is greening up before your eyes.  All-in-all, for the past couple of days we've gotten one inch (most of it within the past 24 hours) of rain with prediction of more in a couple of days.  We still have a list of stuff to get done outdoors but thank God for the rain.  It is truly a blessing.  You can hear the plants and the soil breathe a sigh of relief.

The goats, on the other hand, think it is a curse.  The dogs agree.  But both critter varieties are in need of a bath anyways so they can just adjust to a little bit of rain.  The waterfowl are delighted and the chickens (at least those who are not molting) really don't care as long as worms keep popping up and they can run back into the coop or carport if it rains too hard.


 
Seriously?  You want us to go OUT in this stuff?
Un, no, thanks.  We'll stay in here.


soggy horse



chores still need to be done
See how good we are?  Now, feed us!!!  We're getting wet!


happy duck

I'm a bad dog.... I not only inhaled my food but I ate my sister's food, too
volunteer romaine
It's dry inside-

So today is a good time to take advantage catching up on some indoor projects that have been set aside, along with the usual daily chores. And there is a bowl full of tomatoes screaming to be made into jam.