In the kitchen · lessons learned

In a pickle

Y’all- we have so many cucumbers! I planted two kinds. The bigger variety sprouted up nicely but the mini cucumbers bombed- not a single sprout. In spite of that I have more cucumbers than I’ll ever need. The funny part is, I kept asking- “when am I going to get some cucumbers?” Well, they were hiding. My garden is so overgrown and crowded (not to mention the grass snuck back in)- the poor little cukes were hiding under all that mess. Unfortunately that meant they were not getting enough sun (chlorophyll)- so they are very light green- some even white. The good news is they still taste good!

Hubby eyeballed all those cucumbers and asked when am I going to make pickles…

So I started with refrigerator pickles. Basically it’s sliced up cucumber in a brine of salt, sugar and vinegar. Really they are just marinated cucumbers without the oil. They are pretty tasty but I worry I made too many.

Next time I make them I think I’ll omit the sugar. According to the recipe they last a week.

But we needed to make REAL pickles- like the kind you use a canner for. I started with Google and this is what I learned- water canning (aka an extra big pot with a lid) is for canning high acid content fruits like tomatoes, pickles, jams and jellies. If you want to can low acid veggies like green beans, peas- etc- you need a pressure canner (the scarier and more expensive pot). Also any kind of meat needs to be canned in a pressure canner.

I checked out Amazon, ready to just order from them instead of checking out Walmart. Glad I decided to check out Walmart before making my online purchase. It was waaay cheaper to buy the water canner at Walmart. We found a canner pot (which included the basket you can use to lift the jars out with), a canning tool set with the jar lifter, funnel, and some other handy items that I can’t remember the names of off the top of my head. We also bought pint jars and extra lids. You can reuse the jars and screw on rings, but the lids can only be used once in order to have a proper seal (muy importante!)”

I cleaned and sliced the cucumbers into wedges and made the brine. My dill didn’t come up in my garden so I had to buy some fresh dill. Unfortunately I didn’t realize I needed more so I had to be sparing with the dill when I added it to the jars. Apparently the dried dill I have in the spice cabinet shouldn’t be used because it clouds up the brine in the jars. Whole dill seeds can be used as well, but I didn’t have any at the time.

I spent all evening working on the pickles- there are so many steps! The jars have to be sterilized and then packed just so. There has to be ample head room (the pickling kit I bought came with a ruler to measure). I ended up taking the lids back off a couple of times because I forgot to remove air bubbles or I didn’t think the head room space was sufficient. The actual processing of the jars in the canner was the easiest part. After they were done I carefully lined them up on a kitchen towel on the counter. I was so pleased how they looked like real pickles.

Clean up took a hot minute. When I was done I sat in bed with a good book as it was almost bed time. Then I heard “pop”! I had a bad feeling so I got up to check on my jars. I heard another pop and checked the lids- most of them were bouncy- meaning when I pushed down they popped back up. I felt so defeated. I went to bed thinking I was going to have to reprocess them in the morning.

The next morning I checked the jars. No bouncing! The jars were all properly sealed! I guess they were just releasing pressure. I proudly put my jars away in the pantry. Lesson learned here- some things take practice and patience is key.

Next up is pickled okra!

chickens · Farmers wife life · gardening · lessons learned

Apologies and Lessons Learned

Good morning. It’s been a while since I have posted. I am very embarrassed to be honest. I have had so much to say and write about, but haven’t taken the time. I apologize for my absence.

A lot has happened since February. Weather-wise it is a completely different landscape. We had a very long winter (felt like it would never end), a teeny little spring and then we were hit square in the face with summer. This is Tennessee so we are talking hot and muggy!

Did we have chickens last time I posted? I don’t think so. We started out on our farm with our dogs and cats, two calves and two Pygmy goats. Since then we have added 16 chickens and two ducks. Two days ago we were awarded with our first egg.

It was such an exciting feeling to find that little egg! Yesterday we had two more. Maybe today there will be three? I do now know what all that clucking was about.

We’ve also made a big garden. It has begun to give us lots of produce- such a rewarding feeling. Speaking of the garden, I must hurry and finish this post because I need to get out there and start working before it is too hot. It is already 87 on the heat index and it isn’t even 8am yet.

The second part of my blog post title is lessons learned. There are so many (lessons we have learned). I’m going to start posting them weekly. The big ones that come to the front of mind are:

1. Prevention is key

2. Knowing what to prevent is also key

3. How to prevent x, y, and z are important as well.

This applies to the garden, the animals and our house. I’ll talk about it all later. I promise to post more often. I must tend to my garden now- the grass is taking over! (Hint hint on that prevention discussion).

Farmers wife life · spring

So in love with our little farm

This little panoramic video is taken from my front yard. We spent the day shopping for pasture seed, a spreader and more seeds for the garden. Afterwards we pruned trees and burned all the trimmings and dead leaves we raked up. I don’t know why but pruning trees gives me such satisfaction. Our poor hazelnut tree was choking from all the tiny mini trees trying to grow all around it. CB and I spent at least 3 hours or more working on cleaning out all the tiny trees and branches. That was the most difficult tree but the most satisfying. There’s still a little birds nest in there too- hopefully we see baby birds in there this spring or summer.

Spring fever is in full swing!! Daffodils have been popping up everywhere. I told hubby yesterday we are in store for many surprises this spring (hopefully all good). We have bushes and trees that we haven’t identified yet. I do see many blooms getting ready to open.

CB and have begun planting seeds in our makeshift indoor greenhouse (basically an old entertainment tower with glass shelves). We are starting with lettuce and herbs. We are waiting for the ground to dry up a little so we can till up the garden with out getting the equipment stuck in the mud. But it’s been raining like crazy! Now that everything is starting to turn green again, I can forgive the rain a little.

It’s that time of the year where it feels like we are making the switch from black and white to color TV. (For the younger generation- not all TVs were color back in the day). The drab landscape was starting to really bring me down- it feels like such a long winter. I know it could be worse so I have tried not to complain too much.

Last night I did not want to go inside. I sat out front watching the fire, listening to the dogs bark and the crickets and cicadas sing. To top off a beautiful day I was presented with a glorious Tennessee sunset. As I watched in awe I felt a sense of peace of come over me and in my head I heard a voice say “Be still, and know that I am God.” My eyes welled up with tears. I have not felt so happy and at peace in a long time. I knew I was finally home.

As a Navy wife, I know nothing lasts forever. I have to make my happy wherever I end up. We plan on staying here indefinitely. Whether we do or don’t- I am making the most of this wonderful experience as long as I can. Right now this feels so right, like it was meant to be.


Rain rain go away

As you can see our Holstein calf is putting on weight and doing much better. He still coughs from time to time. I have a feeling he will always do that. He talks to us now- especially when it’s feeding time. We give them a little bit of calf starter every evening and they look forward to it.

This rain is drowning us! Of course we had no idea that flooding would be an issue with our barn so we weren’t prepared. We poured some concrete last Friday and put in a drain. So now the middle stays dry but that stalls along the sides still flood. Last night the honey and CB poured more concrete. We have rain non stop in the forecast this whole week so we will see how that goes. The only saving grace is that it’s not freezing cold right now. I can always tell when it’s warmed up outside because I’ll find a spider or two trying to sneak in the house via the mud room door.

Now we have to plan for our garden. It’s going to be fun hard work. I hope I don’t kill everything!

Cattle · Farmers wife life · puppies

Snow much fun!

We had our second snow storm of the year. It’s so beautiful but darn cold. Brownie (chocolate lab) and Atticus (Australian Shepherd) absolutely love the snow. But our little rescue dog Peanut (not pictured) has no fur nor meat on his bones to keep him warm. He went for a run out in the pasture but ended up with frozen paws and we had to take him in and warm him up. I’m seriously considering getting him booties and see if he’ll wear them. Poor little guy is from SoCal- he’s not meant for the snow!

Our barn kitty- Mamasita – has put on a beautiful fur coat. She hangs out in front of the barn watching the other animals in the snow. She has been coming in at night though to sleep in the mud room. It’s been too cold to make her sleep outside. She’s seems to appreciate it and is ready to head out in the morning when I go down to the barn.

While I’m like looking forward to warmer weather- I am dreading the mud and our barn flooding again. The good news is that we made friends with a local farmer down the road. He has a nice big tractor he’s going to bring out to help build the ground level back up in the barn so it will stop flooding. People are so friendly and helpful here. Makes me happy we moved to Tennessee. I see a lot of baking in my future to pay back the kindness.

I’ll sign off here as I continue to unpack and organize. Since I can’t work and am stuck in the house I have to keep busy! I can’t wait until it warms up enough to start painting the kitchen cabinets!

Farmers wife life · puppies

Let me in!

Don’t let this picture fool you, he LOVES being outside. Our Australian Shepherd – Atticus- is almost 6 months old and a lover of cold weather. I wish I could say that I love the weather. Not! I hate being cold, it makes me a miserable whiner. And I hate turning on the heat because it runs up the utilities and it dries the air out even more. I have painful cracks on my hands- which is bad because I’m a massage therapist. My daughter CB is hoping for snow but I am hoping against it. I feel like it is coming though. We have been spared so far. It’s probably our turn here in Tennessee.

But this sweet puppy loves the cold weather and for his sake I’ll stand a little snow. He will have a ball. This summer I’m afraid he’ll be the miserable one when the heat and humidity hit. Then he will for sure be asking to come inside!

Let’s just hope if we do get snow it’s short lived. Please?


Doing better (knock on wood)

This guy has been on death’s doorstep one too many times. We are well aware if he was on a big farm with lots of cattle he probably wouldn’t have made it (unless of course he wasn’t bottle fed). He’s doing much better now- we are hesitant to believe he is completely out of the woods like I said in my last post. Although he is older than our jersey calf, the jersey calf is now bigger than him. But he (our Holstein) is trying to catch up now- eating non stop.

Yesterday we witnessed what felt like a Christmas miracle- he was running and playing like a healthy calf. We have never seen him do that. I wish I had a good video to share.

We had a good rain storm last week. Unfortunately that rain flooded out the barn. Luckily it was somewhat warm so at least the calves and goats were just wet and not cold too. The barn has a dirt floor so the challenge is to put in a good drainage system. Not sure what the previous owners did?

It’s funny this time last year I was living in the suburbs with not even a patch of grass to worry about. Now I’m knee deep in mud. I do miss the sunshine and having a running trail right outside my door- but I am so happy to be here in the country. Now we just need to keep our calf healthy…