Saturday, November 26, 2011

Garden update.. what's this blog?

Yeah, so there's a bit of a time lapse here between this post and last. Still doin' stuff, but that freak blizzard crap.. jeez. I wish I had a picture of the 15" or so we got in one single day in *October* that killed my plants... but suffice it to say, they're all gone now. What we have left is a few cleaned up garden beds and some garlic being the only thing that's gona spend the winter in 'em.

Both beds all put away with straw on the top from a recent chicken coop cleaning. 

Cascades plant here, with the Llama manure treatment again. 

Looks like hell, but I expect this horseradish is just fine underneath. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jelly and relish.. still canning!

Did my first batch of jelly the other day. Used the wild grapes I've found in the neighborhood as well as a few lbs I've found out and about in other parts of the world (top secret locations!). This is 4.8lbs of wild grapes..

 It was actually pretty stinkin' easy. In order to do it, I had to buy a new (had to? Well.. that's debatable..) kitchen gadget. But I've found this thing to be pretty useful in the jelly making role. It's a thing called a Food Mill, and it's a hand cranked thing that just sorta squeezes the heck out of whatever soft food that you put into it, and leaves the skins and seeds behind, neatly separating them. It supposedly makes the most awesome mashed potatoes, too. Here's a pic of it in action:

After this, you simmer the grapes for 10 mintes, strain out the solids from the liquids and then add a truckload of sugar and the pectin, bring to a boil and then start ladling into the cans. Process for a super short 5 minute time span and then leave 'em be. This batch made six, eight ounce jars and one small kitchen glass that I put some of the leftover stuff into. It's got a very strong grape flavor that's *way* better than I anticipated. It's actually quite, quite good, and now I'm on the hunt for some more grapes out in the wild do do up some more. Here's some more pics of the rest of the process:
Simmering on the skins...

Separating from the skins after simmering

The aftermath!

Finished product.

Additionally, I just whipped up and caned this 4.5 pints of hot pepper relish. It's made of a combo of my Portugese Hot's, Jalapenos, and Hot Cherry peppers.. I did not expect it to be very hot, and actually picked a few Habaneros to spice it up a bit after I got it all mixed together, but after it simmered for a bit a taste test showed it was quite spicy indeed. The Portugese Hots aren't all that hot, raw, so I'm not sure where all that heat came from. These are gonna be for sandwiches and hotdogs and stuff.. take a look:
4.2lbs of hot peppers!

These Portuguese Hots are huge!

Monday, September 19, 2011

My kiln

Here's a couple pics f the new-to-me but far from new pottery kiln I just got. It's an old dog, but appears to be in pretty good shape. Looks like it was only fired a couple of time, really.. inside is almost perfect. Got a whole box of standoffs and plates to go inside with it, too.

Inide is in good shape.. 
I have no idea what these do...
I know it turns on and generates heat, but I'm not sure how accurate it all is. It's old and will have to be checked out and tuned up I'm sure, but I believe it works. I didn't plug it in here, but we flipped the breakers on at the place where I picked it up and it worked (well, turned ON) out there just fine. I'll have to get someone with some experience in here to help me with this one..

Sourdough Bagel recipe...

Snap, I thought I'd lost this recipe. I'd been searching for it for days now, and finally located in the "spot I'd never lose it", which I couldn't find for days. Clearly, I should put his here so this never happens again. And no, I haven't made these yet after the sourdough-unfriendly summer temps, but here it is. Bakers Percentages included for those who wish to screw with the batch size. This recipe makes six, 4.8 ounce bagels. Dig it:

Ingredient = weight = bakers percentage

Flour = 339g = 100%
Starter = 301g = 88%
Cold water = 121g = 36%
Milk powder = 28g = .08%
Malt = 16.4g = .048%
Salt = 10.1 = .029%
Wheat gluten = 10 = .029%

I'm growing up my starter now to blast out a few of these guys. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The MRE experience..

Got my hands on a legit MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) that the Army guys are eating overseas as we speak. Though it would be interesting to see how they rough it over there, so I dug in to one yesterday for lunch. The object: to follow the directions and eat as much as I could stomach.

I say follow the directions because it's a bit of a puzzle to put the thing together. Here's the bag it all comes in:

Once you open the bag, there's a myriad of things in there. You can see the Spicy Chicken meal in the center there, the cooking bag (gren color), white bread crackers, cheese spread, peanut butter, utensil package, lime drink mix and a 'power bar' or some sort. 

This is the puzzle I spoke of before. Lots of directions here in small print. It's pretty interesting, actually. All you need to have a hot meal is about 3 ounces of water, really. It has a water activated heater inside, sort of like those kinds you put in your gloves during the winter that get warm? Except this get's so hot it'll bun your hands. I was sorta frightened for a bit when I first added the water. It was intense. 

Essentially, you take the foil food bag, and put it into the green back with the heater, add 3oz or water or so, and then fold the bag up and put it back in the cardboard box, and tilt it up on end like I'm doing here on this red colored tray, and leave it for 10-15 minutes. It get's hot! Afterwards, take the bag out, tear open the top and eat with the spoon. The foil bag acts as a 'bowl' of sorts.. you don't even need a plate, really.

Food back in the box

Peanut butter and crackers are a high protein and carb addition, apparently. 

This stuff is just like what you buy as drink mix in the store, except a bit more maltodextrin, I think...

This was sorta cool in that the bag with the spoon also contains a wet nap, a paper towel, instant coffee package, powered creamer, sugar and a small salt and pepper packet. Really, there's everything you need in here. Curious! They don't tell you how, or give you any fancy way to het up the required 6oz of water for the coffee, though. I cheated and used the microwave. 

The mix didn't really wanna mix in all the way...

A view into the bag with the heater...

And the heater itself, after use. Helpfully, they tell you not to eat this part...

And here's the finished Spicy Chicken meal in a bag. It looks a little of putting, but it was actually quite tasty. I didn't get to eat any diner on this day until 2130 hours, and this had held me over since I ate it at 1300 hours. Not bad! And yeah, it was good and spicy, too. I'd definitely eat another one of these things. It was quite interesting. 

Spicy chicken!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Got a few jar of Hot Cherry pepper relish put away and then did up nine 1/2 pint jars of Jalapeno pepper rings the next day. Very industrious! Still haven't cracked open any of the salsa, because they say to wait a couple weeks for all the flavors to meld together well, but we're getting close now and I should have some results to post soon. Here's some of that stuff I mentioned above...

Hot Cherrys, all chopped up.. 

87 Jalapeno's in this basket alone, all from the Earthbox.

Pepper rings! 
Canning still going strong. I expect to do up the Portugese Hot's in a while, but they're such a massive pepper, they're taking forever to mature. The Fatalii's are small, bu they're also taking their time to come around. I've been using them green, and they're still quite tasty, but the color is not quite there in them.. I've also got a few Hab's in the dehydrator, for use in chili's later on. Those things are killer. Dried out a few handfuls of hops from the bines, too, although it's tough to do with the small sized dehydrator I have here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Updates to a few things...

Just to keep you in the loop and document the progress, I've been doing some cylinders ont the wheel and then cutting into them to see the cross section and how well I'm keeping things even. Here's what I mean:

That one's not so bad. I kept working on the previous one, too, and came up with this:

What I'm aspiring to, however, is to imitate the quality of this cup, shown on the left, next to the finished project from what appear above. Then, when I can do this much, I'll know I've gotten to at least college level skillz. ;-) the handle on this is terrible, but hey.. first try, right?

Lastly, some flapping chicken action from the new grey colored baby.. they're already noticeably larger and more feathered out in size than they were when we got them last week.. almost all of the downy feathers are gone now, and they're turing into quite good looking birds. This grey one in the photo here, although you can't see it in the pic, has an almost Americauna-esq chicken feather set alongside her head.. they look like tiny tufs of ears/feathers on the side. Curious look!

Friday, September 2, 2011

New babies...

Got a few new additions to the family now. Three replacement chicks, about 5 weeks old when we picked them up. They're all incorporated into the club now with the remaining two big chickens, and no real issues to speak of when getting them acquainted. We got 'em from a friend of a friend, who's now my friend, Shawn, a micro-farmer out in NY state. Got a nice setup with a zillion chickens and a few head of goats. Envious! Anyway, here's a few pics of the new arrivals..

A bird in the hand.. yep. 

They're a mic of different breeds of chicken, so we're not sure exactly what we've got. We'll maybe be able to tell a bit more when they get older.. and if we've maybe even got a rooster in the group? I sorta hope so, and hope not, all at the same time. We'll see...

Friday, August 26, 2011

First adventures with the pottery wheel...

So, just finished reading that book I got on pottery wheel stuff and now hat I've scored some clay, I've given it a whirl on the wheel for the first time. Took my perfectly cleaned up wheel and turned it into a disaster real quick, that's for sure! Here's some first time ever spinning pics..

New box of clay...

Gettin' centered on the wheel.

My first pull!