Monday, August 13, 2012

Totally Worth It

As Darran and I lay in an exhausted heap on the living room floor last night I asked him what I should post about on 4 Acres this week. He said, "I don't know." I said, well what do you remember about this week. He said, "zzzzzzz." Well, not really zzzzz, but he'd nodded off. That really did answer my question though.

This last week has been a whole lot of hard work. 

We've been pumping water with a hand pump and bailing buckets into a pipe system to water the garden. Every day, sometimes twice a day. FYI: water is heavy.

This is a VERY old pump, it breaks almost daily. It's a dang good thing Darran has skillz.

We've been weeding like mad and hauling the weeds to the goats and chickens. (We try not to waste anything around here). Not to brag, but one thing I'm highly skilled at growing is weeds. Oh, and FYI: weeds, when in sufficient amounts, are heavy.

Darran has been building Fort Knox back by the creek. Goatopia is getting an entire other layer of wire on top of the wire there now. These two tiny goats require quite the pen to be kept IN.


I made laundry soap. I've got it down to 20 minutes flat.

On top of those things, I've begun preparing for our homeschool year. We start in a week. Oh yes, and I've begun training for a 5k...

Yes, it's been a week of reminding us how hard this lifestyle really can be. But it's also been a week of reminding us how rewarding this lifestyle can be.

Yep, totally worth it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Not Licked Yet

After feeling like our little experiment this year was a big fat flop (other than the eggs that we have in abundance) I was looking toward next year. Taking my lessons from this year's failures and making plans for doing better next year. I had really just about given up on this year; when we went on vacation we didn't even bother having anyone water the garden because we thought it was too far gone.

But lo and behold plants are amazing, resilient things and I am flat out amazed that this year will yield far and beyond what we'd originally thought. We returned from vacation and realized that many of these amazing heirloom varieties were holding on for dear life and would likely produce. Since then we've hauled water like crazy and had some rain recently (that made all the difference, there's just nothing like actual RAIN). I went out to the garden yesterday and was exceedingly excited to find:

Several little baby yellow squash.
An entire row of purple beans are doing well and flowering!
Darran informed me that purple beans turn green when you cook them.
I informed him that we would eat them raw then, because we are eating purple beans!
We picked this, our first zucchini ever on 4 Acres. I sort of felt it needed
memorialized somehow. Can you bronze a zucchini? Guess we'll just eat it.
THIS I was most excited to find. Like, just won the lottery excited. Really.
Our first ever spaghetti squash. I've never even heard of anyone growing spaghetti
squash around here. Maybe they do? I've never seen it though. We love spaghetti squash.
Ya, this little thing right here was nothing short of miraculous to me. Guess you had to be there?
Will we grow most of our own food for the winter ahead as we'd hoped? No. But we are grateful that through this far from perfect, hectic, hot and dry, crazy summer we will have a pretty good first harvest here at 4 Acres.

Mostly, we are grateful for the priceless family time and the adventures we've had while trying. And... 

Summer's not over and we're not licked yet!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lower Sugar Chokecherry Jam Recipe

Last weekend I made chokecherry jam and jelly. 
I don't ever remember the chokecherries being ready this early! This has been such a strange year.

Making chokecherry jams, jellies, syrup, and wine is a tradition of sorts around here. It's been done for as long as there's been people here I suppose. Everyone's grandmother had the best chokecherry jelly recipe. 

If Ellie and Fiona had their way, they'd have kept them all to themselves!
I have fond memories of picking chokecherries by the bucketsful, of the delicious smells in the kitchen, and the ping of the jar lids as they sealed. My mom used to make chokecherry/crabapple jelly. Ah, memories...

Not many people still carry on the tradition around here, but me...well, I do.

Being that we eat paleo we don't eat as much jam and jelly as we used to, but I still like to make my own. Plus, I'm convinced most things that grow wild are better for us. In fact:

100 g of raw, pitted chokecherries contains 379 mg of potassium, 67 mg of phosphorus, 60 mg of calcium and 27 mg of magnesium, along with lesser amounts of sodium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese. That same 100 g also has 168 IU of vitamin A, 347 mcg of lutein, 90 mcg of beta-carotene, 21.1 mcg of vitamin K and 5.5 mg of vitamin C. Chokecherries also contain a bit of vitamin E and the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. 
source: Nutritional Value for Chokecherries 

Lower Sugar Chokecherry Jam
8 cups chokecherries washed and stems removed
3 cups water
1 and 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 package Sure-Jell for less or no sugar (pink box)
Cook chokecherries and water in a large pot over low to medium heat until very soft. Stir as needed.
Strain mixture through a cheese cloth or colander to get pits out. I use a colander and potato masher to get as much of the fruit as possible without the pits.
Return mixture to stove over medium to medium-high heat. 
Mix together 1/4 cup sugar and the Sure-Jell. Add to the chokecherry mixture. Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining 1 cup of sugar until dissolved. Let boil for 1 minute stirring constantly.
Pour directly into hot jars and water bath can. I usually process in a water bath for 15 minutes.
Makes 2 pint jars of jam.
I use much less sugar than traditional recipes; I also use organic real cane sugar. Still, I wouldn't call this a paleo recipe, but it works for us. Those used to much sweeter recipes (many would call for double this much sugar) may not like this one, but I love how it's tangier and tastes more like chokecherries than traditional recipes. Yum.