Sunday, October 27, 2013

# 482 - First-Time Canner Preparations

Personally, I've never canned.

I grew up with a mother who would make jars of home-made pickles. For YEARS AND YEARS I refused to call it "CANNING" because the preserves and such were in jars, so I called it "JARRING." My mother would get so frustrated, "My dear, it's not called jarring, it's called c-a-n-n-i-n-g."

Well, if canning involved actual cans, I would be happier with the term. Finally, in my late thirties, I relented and began calling it "canning."

I've never seen anyone go through the entire process of canning other than when I was about 17 years old and half-way observed my husband's grandmother slicing her peaches, getting them ready for canning. Oh how I wish I'd been wise enough to be glued to her kitchen while writing down her every step to PRESERVE HER RECIPE!

Grandma Ester with my husband on her lap.
His feet are still huge.
My husband's grandmother had a peach tree in her backyard, the best peaches in Texas, and she'd make a heavenly jam that the family reunion would include in their auctions, and those jars fetched premium bids.

Lord, I miss those peach preserves.

For years, I have wanted to learn how to can. I admit, the process seems daunting to me. It's foreign to me, but I yearn to give it a try.

In my thirties, before my mother passed away, she presented me with a gifts for canning --- the big pot, jars, and books.

This week, I purchased some Liquid Pectin and a set of canning tools. I could not find the metal grate that is supposed to go at the bottom of my large canning pot, so I had to buy another one. I don't know how to use any of it, but I've GOT IT ready!

Now, I must go into over-drive to make my lists of seasons for certain veggies and fruits, so I can know which foods will be at their prime for canning, depending on the month for our Southern state of Texas.

Right now, we are exiting October and heading into November, so I will have to check the local Farmer's Market to see what they are selling. Down the street from our residence, they have days of "pick your own berries" and I need to participate so we can have very fresh, grown on the vine fruit ready to be canned berries. We get enough blackberries on our own land, so I will be ready for summer 2014 to do my own blackberry preserves.

I suppose jars of strawberry or raspberry jam will be the gift I will be handing out to everyone at Christmas 2014, well, if they are edible.

Photo: Canning preparations are underway.

Since I don't have anyone in my family alive who is experienced in canning, I have been searching on-line for instruction and found this great site:

No pressure-cooker for me, not yet.

This week, I'll be exploring my options. Pretty soon, I will be a pro at jarring...I mean, canning.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

# 481 - Hens Adjust to Daylight Savings

My five remaining free-ranging chickens on our acreage are happy and healthy. They are approximately three years old and this new lifestyle of having land to roam has made them more physically fit. Moving to the country has benefited all of us.

Over the past couple of weeks, their egg-laying activities have seen a reduction in the number of eggs laid every day because of the time-change and seasonal difference in daylight hours. Last year, we figured it out and rigged a heat lamp into their coop to offset the cold nights and to increase their laying business.

It's not consistently cool enough to add that heat lamp because our Texas weather remains rather warm for a longer period of the rest of the country is starting to shovel snow, we are still wearing shorts. Even so, the reduction of daylight hours makes a significant difference upon the hens egg-laying routine.

This coming Spring, I am truly thrilled about the prospect of getting some chicks to add to our growing farm.

Once we've added more full grown chickens to our farm, I will not worry about having too many eggs because extras are cooked up as a treat for the dogs.

For now, we are preparing for cooler weather on a consistent basis. Our chickens will hopefully adjust and begin laying a bit more frequently. This bit of getting 1-2 eggs per day from our five chickens is rather embarrassing.

Girls...we love those eggs, don't let us down!

Friday, October 11, 2013

# 480 - Country Socializing & Country Peace

Taking a walk through the forest is always interesting. This week, we took the dogs with us on a walk and they were so happy that they wore big smiles.

Liyla and Howdy are my babies.

And, on our walk this week, we make a fun discovery. These bricks will hopefully be used for another project on our land

Me, my man and my dogs, walking through the tall grass and wild flowers; peaceful is nice.

Howdy loves play-time outside.

I love play-time outside as well. We both wear straw hats since we live in Texas and need protection from the punishing heat, yet the straw allows any breeze to flow through the woven fibers, adding to our comfort. Gotta have my hat.

In fact, last week I found a great place to sit on the lake and laugh with some friends AND get some wonderful food! The views are beautiful; it is probably going to be one of my favorite places to slow down, enjoy the water and to see some friends in a relaxed atmosphere.

In my ENTIRE LIFE, I've not been a person to go to a "bar" but this hang-out is an all-round location to sit with friends, you can have a drink if you wish, but most are ordering food and boaters can pull up. Since I'm from the Bay Area of Houston, this place definitely makes me feel more at home. I am adjusting to not living close to the bay, so getting some time on the water while sitting on this deck makes me feel a sense of relief.

However, on most days, I savor being at home. Some of the best days are when my husband and I go on a hike through several acres. This weather has been so nice, our walks are even more enjoyable.

We are settling into our new hometown a bit more. It's nice that we are finally making time for some fun, for some socializing because that is needed for a person to keep their sanity --- being with family and friends is important.

We are blessed!

Monday, October 7, 2013

# 479 - Guest Cottage a Priority!

The weather has changed and I am LOVING this crisp air. The Texas heat can be oppressive and we have had to enter the month of October before the edge of melting high temperatures made an exit.

This is one of my favorite times of year in the South! It's a time of year when we are able to get our forest growth under control and do chores that are almost unbearable during hot summer months.

Yesterday, I mowed the residential-zone of our acreage until I ran out of gas. I had a great time. The dogs relaxed under the sun as I mowed.

I did laundry in between mowing sections of land, so I had a great time multi-tasking, but that's what we women do...

And my chickens had a great time looking for juicy critters as I moved stepping stones from one spot to another. Moving a stepping stone is sort of like unwrapping a big Christmas gift for a chicken...usually there are delicious, slimy goodies under the stones.

However, we've hit the time of year when our hens are laying much less often. I can clearly see that come Springtime, it's definitely time to add quite a few chicks to our growing farm. In fact, I hope to have fencing in place to add chicks and perhaps for my husband to add a few pigs to our farm as well. And one day, I will get a few goats, mostly for the goat's milk. But, I'm not ready for those, not just yet.

However, we might need a rooster. Our chickens are free-ranging, so a rooster might be a good addition. Unlike our city backyard chicken experience, when we get a rooster by mistake, this time around we have the option to keep them.

And yesterday my husband went on a walk and came across these two bones. I hope they are related to the other deer bones we find on our land and are not of the human variety. Howdy took a big whiff, then walked away, uninterested.

Another chore that I am mostly responsible for handling is keeping the chicken coop cleaned of poop. Living in the country makes this job much easier because my backyard size has expanded, considerably.

I still don't have a house. Am living in the RV. It is cramped.

Since the main house will take a lot of time to build and I'd like to jump-start the process of moving out of the RV, we might go ahead and build the guest cottage that has a screened-in outdoor room with utility room. 
Cherokee Cabin Company Saskatoon Cabin - One of many great designs that you can order as inexpensive, do-it-yourself building plans.
After that is built, we will have more room to spread out, can again use some of our own furniture, enjoy a bath-tub again, and savor a full-size refrigerator once again!
You can customize any of the cabins from Cherokee Cabin Company to fit your site and your ideas. Here’s their standard Huntsman Cabin built with stone walls, a standing seam metal roof and a wrap-around deck.  Check out all of their plans and imagine what you can build.
After it is built, we can also sell the RV and put money into more structures to improve land value.

The timing for all of this is critical. We need to have the guest cabin constructed before Spring hits because that is the prime-time to put the RV on the market.

I ADORE the front of this cabin with the big windows and double front doors.
Cottage Design Ideas
This cabin does not have to be large, just big enough to allow for comfortable living and with great views of our beautiful wooded landscape. I would love this cottage combined with the photo above decking around the cottage.

Another great benefit of building a small guest cottage FIRST will be the opportunity the project will give us in learning about constructing a large home on our own. Ideas and building methods can be explored on a smaller scale. And if the guest cottage turns out to be a disaster, then we know to stick with a builder from start to finish for the main house.

Since our children are grown and our oldest daughter, Heather, has blessed us with our first grandchild, she and her husband and daughter will be cottage guests that have priority.

Heather and sweet baby Coraline as they appear in today's photo.
My beauties, my loves that make life a joy.
The guest cabin will provide an enjoyable, private space for the kids to know is theirs, plus we'll have space in the main house as well. I will be putting up a sign at the guest cottage in humor, yet as a serious warning, that the guest cabin provides PRIORITY HOUSING for our grown children and grand-children before anyone else, period.

Last minute call? The kids get the cottage.
Holidays? The kids get the cottage.
Weekend jaunt? The kids get the cabin.
Need a break to catch up on sleep?
The kids get it. They reserve it, they get it.

Our children have always been our priority, and this commitment will stay with us until we walk through Heaven's gates. However, this "in-between" phase of moving has been difficult. We've always found a fixer-upper or beautiful home to call our own within a short search, but this is an entirely new ball game --- raw land, rural acreage, all from scratch.

As for houses, here is one that I found on Pinterest that I fell in love with ---
--- so many decisions and options to make the deciding process in itself SO MUCH FUN!

As for an off-topic add-on to this post, I saw this interesting kitchen idea that I could not bypass and chance forgetting, so I share with you. The guest cottage kitchen will be small, yet organized. I loved this metallic peg-board idea, but I'll take it on the wall! It would also hold my metallic spice containers.
Kitchen storage

Well, this week, we will be focusing on the guest cottage plans and getting started. I know where it will be built. I am ready to get moving. The weather is great, the time is right and the issue is settled. We have a certain project and it will be our focus. I want to get the guest cottage built before February, so we can put the RV on the consignment lot in Houston by March 1st.

Here we go!