The Reintroduction: A Pantry Full of Jars   22 comments

Canning Abundance

The abundance of this year’s foray into water-bath canning. This is but a portion of what all I’ve canned, and there’s still more to be done. From left to right: blackberry jam, tomato jam, blackberry syrup, tomato puree, apple sauce, apple butter, salsa, pickled green beans.


The reintroduction continues. I’m catching readers up on my summer and current life in anticipation of resuming this blog, with some adjustments to the thrust of the content. In the first post, I talked weather. Now I want to talk about my garden and food preservation.

— ∞ —

Okay, I don’t actually have a pantry here. More like a cupboard, and counters, and a multitude of jars spread all over the place in various nooks and crannies. The contents of those jars vary: blackberry jam and syrup, pickle spears, bread and butter pickles, apple butter, apple sauce, tomato puree, whole tomatoes, tomato jam, pickled green beans, salsa. There are over 100 jars in all. It started in early September and has been going ever since, though now I’m starting to slow down. But I hope to make more salsa and apple sauce, pickled jalapenos and other pickled peppers, sauerkraut and perhaps some other ferments. I still have a couple cases of jars that I’d like to fill.

To be honest, I’m proud of all this. I’m excited, too. Before this year, my only foray into water bath canning was making some pickles last year and helping with pickled beans three years ago. I had experimented with fermenting various veggies, but I hadn’t yet fallen into the world of traditional canning. This year I was determined to tackle that project. I picked up a simple canning set and waited for the blackberries and tomatoes to ripen—my main goals. I wanted jam, syrup and tomato sauce above all else. If I managed some other projects, that would simply be icing on the cake.

I started late. I should have began with the blackberries three or four weeks before I did. However, the summer here—as mentioned in the previous post—has been warm and sunny and went late, with minimal clouds and almost no rain until the last few days. So the blackberries held well, molding a bit after a couple of misty days in the second half of September but bouncing back with new fruit. I was able to harvest out enough for multiple batches of jam and two small batches of syrup, which I wanted as a local replacement for maple syrup.

Granted, I’ll still enjoy myself a bit of maple syrup over the course of the year—there’s no real replacement for it—but one of the main goals with my canning is to attempt to replace at least some non-local sources of food with the most local of foods—those from my garden or otherwise off the land I live on. So, wild blackberries and tomatoes and apples from the farm’s two apple trees were high on the canning list. Admittedly, I have brought in some outside food. My mix of cucumber seeds turned out to largely be lemon cucumbers, which are perhaps the worst for pickling, and I had no hot pepper plants in the hoop house—just bell and sweet. So I picked up jalapenos, other hot peppers and pickling cucumbers from a couple local farms.

In terms of other goals, I wanted to extend and maximize my harvest from and use of the land I live on, to reduce the money I spend on buying canned goods, and to provide myself a stock of homemade goods for Christmas and birthday presents. I figured jam, syrup and tomato sauce were three good areas to target in that regard. Nice jam is expensive at the store (in terms of personal use) and a great gift when homemade. Also, I use a good amount of tomato sauce throughout the year. Meanwhile, there are a number of Himalayan blackberry thickets spread across the farm and I had a hoop house full of tomatoes, producing fruit far beyond what I could eat fresh. A perfect combination of factors.

If there’s one thing it seems we all should be in a world either lacking in abundant energy (eventually) or heading that way (now), it’s opportunistic of available resources. Himalayan blackberries are something of a pain and a nuisance, but they do produce copious amounts of sweet berries without any tending, and they’re well established around the farm and, well, pretty much everywhere out here. And the beauty of tomatoes is that if you can keep blight or mold from knocking them out and provide them a bit of pruning and tending, they’ll produce a ridiculous amount of fruit for you that just invites preservation and enjoyment throughout the cold and dark months of late fall, winter and spring when relatively little or nothing is growing out in the garden. So I began there, with the blackberries and then tomatoes. But then I moved into the copious and overwhelming number of green beans and then took on the desired projects of pickles and salsa, which partly required bringing in the aforementioned outside food. Finally, I began to harvest out some of the abundant apples on the farm’s two apple trees (it’s been a good fruit year) and made apple sauce and butter.

It’s been so good. First of all, I discovered in my work that canning really is quite easy. Most of my jars have sealed fine and, while it’s somewhat time-consuming, it’s really not a challenging task. There’s something very satisfying in it, in fact. Much as with building a wooden gate, there’s something incredibly fulfilling about a task that ends in a real, tangible product. Finishing up a bout of canning with a cache of cooling, canned goods on the counter provides a satisfaction unmatched by so many of the sort of ethereal tasks common in today’s supposed information economy. But also, watching the canned food pile up has been a good antidote to the other reality manifesting in the last few weeks: the dying of my garden.

It’s not yet all gone, and with luck the tomatoes will survive into November (though there are rumblings of an upcoming cold snap in the weather models, so I may not be that lucky.) However, a few weeks ago I started losing the outside crops one by one. A chilly night killed off the outside basil first of all. Then went the green beans a few nights later. The squash at that point was already looking a bit ragged but a yet cooler night perhaps a week later finished off the last remaining hardy plants. I went out one morning to see a stretch of perked up, but browned and blackened squash leaves whereas the day before they had still been a relatively healthy green. About that same time, the basil in the hoop house started to blacken a bit, though some of the plants remained strong. And the tomatoes and cucumbers are looking more ragged by the day, though they’re so far hanging on.

Some of the garden remains fine, such as the various brassicas, the lettuce and the root crops. The lettuce will go if we get a real cold night, but the more established brassicas and the root crops should be fine. They’ll provide me a bit of fall and winter eating, although my elaborate winter plans didn’t pan out to the degree that I had hoped. This was due to my own failure to follow through on those ambitious plans more than uncooperative weather or any other garden-specific variable. I simply lost some of my steam in the late summer and the fall starts that I did get in, I got in late. I have a number of very small plants that may not survive a good cold snap or that—even if they do survive—probably aren’t going to grow enough to give me any real harvest. Although, if I’m lucky, I may get some nice, early spring harvests from them if they survive the winter.

In some ways, the garden dying off is nice in that I no longer have to worry about maintaining it (not that I’ve been doing too good a job of that of late, anyway.) On the other hand, it’s another good lesson of just how tough a (partially) self-sustaining life is. I have the grocery stores for the winter, of course—which I’m going to need even with my multitude of canned goods. If I didn’t, I would be in a bit more dire of straights with the current garden (though I do have probably a couple hundred pounds of potatoes, mostly still in the ground.) I would have had to have been much more on top of things if the garden was going to be one of my main sources of food going forward.

Still, I realize that this all requires a long process of successive steps (and a number of setbacks, as well.) There’s a steep learning curve to this sort of life, particularly within the context of a culture that hardly values it. In the meantime, I can celebrate my many filled jars, my new found canning skills, my jump start on Christmas gifts, and I can dream of just how much farther along I might get next year. I plan to start my canning earlier in 2013, to expand my repertoire, and to make it more of a year round affair rather than just a flurry of activity in the late summer and early fall. I also hope to better plan my garden around canning, preservation, and winter crops next year. Not all of this will happen and what does happen may not go smoothly, but one of this summer’s many lessons is just how much you can accomplish even when all doesn’t go according to plan and even when you realize you don’t quite have the amount of personal motivation, spare time and energy throughout the summer as you might optimistically imagine during those first promising days of spring.

Looking at the picture posted above, though—a mere portion of what I’ve canned—I can’t help but feel a certain satisfaction, joy and pride at what I’ve accomplished. So here’s to a winter of good eating, and future winters of even better eating. And here’s to the slow emptying of the “pantry,” and the eventual replenishment of the same.

22 responses to “The Reintroduction: A Pantry Full of Jars

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  1. Every summer I think about canning but have been afraid to try. I do freeze quite a bit of local produce. Your photo of some of your canned items is absolutely beautiful!

    • Thank you! I highly recommend you try canning. It really is easier than it sounds, I think. I’ve been intimidated by it in the past, but I just jumped in this year and fell in love. I forgot to mention in the post, but I found many recipes and much inspiration at the amazing blog, Food in Jars. I recommend browsing around that site a bit, finding some inspiration, and going for it.

  2. What will you be getting, primarily, from grocery stores this winter? That looks and sounds like you have quite the stockpile!

    • Hmm, that’s not a bad question, actually. I can get meat from the farm. I have the canned stuff. I have lots of potatoes. I’m not sure about my winter squash stash—I harvested out a bunch, but much of it doesn’t seem to be ripe. Trying to ripen it off in the hoop house. We’ll see. I should have kale and maybe some broccoli and cauliflower from the garden. Got duck and chicken eggs here from the farm.

      So, let’s see. Bread, first of all. Granted, I could just buy wheat flour and make my own—I should—but I’m still kind of addicted to Gabriel’s sandwich bread. I’ll probably keep buying it. Butter. Of course, I should get back into the habit of making my own butter from my raw milk. Fell off that during the busy summer. It won’t cover all my butter, but a chunk of it. Alliums. Although, hopefully I’ll be able to get onions and garlic more from Ginger and maybe at the Hillsdale farmer’s market. So I guess mainly it’ll be grains, other dried goods, and cheese. And chocolate. And sugar. And the occasional bag of Kettle chips. Oh, and fruit. I’ll probably be buying some apples and other fruit at the store. Probably bacon from New Seasons, as I still have a habit of doing that. Coffee comes from the farmers market. That should mostly be it.

      Guess I’m doing pretty decent foodwise. But could do better! Next year. :)

  3. Lookin’ Good, Joel!

    My recollection from my kid-years is that canning in my family’s household started right after the cherry harvest in June (this was in Salem, OR from the late ’30′s through the early ’50′s) and extended sporadically across the summer through mid October.

    When the summer heat came on my Dad would set up a temporary canning kitchen under the big weeping willow behind the house and we’d keep on keepin’ on. We’d all pitch in – even my next-oldest sibling and myself – washing jars, feeding the portable woodstove, peeling stuff, shucking corn, hauling the ‘waste’ to the chickens or the compost pile while the ‘elders’ did the actual canning.

    We had a large garden which was well-tended and it seemed that each succeeding year it produced more than it did the previous year, plus we’d pick up other stuff like peaches, corn (we devoted only a small portion of the garden to corn for eating fresh) and cherries. However, by the time we left the place in ’53, my folks had reduced the size of the garden and had pretty much given up canning much of anything – partly due to the fact that the household population had dropped from six to three as my older siblings moved on, plus the fact that by then my folks were tired of a ritual that they no longer deemed necessary.

    Anyway, I guess my point is that food preservation is a good skill to acquire whether you have your own garden or not. I still pick and freeze wild blackberries (they’re more than abundant hereabouts) and have, over the years, done some canning, drying and pickling myself.

    • Thanks, Martin! I really wish I had more fruit available. Peaches, pears and cherries would be fantastic. Last year, Ginger brought multiple boxes of peaches home from the farmers markets and we cut up and froze plenty of bags of them. It was the same with cherries. I remember her pulling those out during the winter and whipping up some pretty fantastic smoothies. I’ve always really loved canned peaches and pears, too, so it would be fantastic to have some jars of those. Oh well. As always, there’s next year.

      The idea of tiring of this ritual seems crazy to me, but I’m only in my first year of serious canning. I could see the tides turning at some point in the future. And, of course, my lifestyle allows for it, though there were times when I started to feel a little overwhelmed by working a full day of farming and then coming home and jumping into a big canning project.

      Still, wouldn’t even think of trading that for less hours of working retail or some office job.

      I haven’t done any real fermentation pickling this year since I’ve been so focused on the canning. But I still want to try a couple jars of pickled peppers using this recipe. And sauerkraut is still on the menu. One day I might get into the drying, as well. I need to build a solar dehydrator.

      • Although it might be too late to do this, this year, sometime next year during harvest season on your return home from one of your trips to Portland, leave a little earlier than you otherwise might and get off 26 (I’m assuming that’s your usual route) at Jackson School Rd. Then head south to Scotch Church Rd. and trend west along Scotch Church Rd., Zion Church Rd. and Verboort Rd. to Hwy 47; take a right on 47 and continue on through the town of Banks and back on to 26 west of Banks. This will add a few miles and some time to your journey, but there used to be several roadside veggie stands at farms along this route that sold stuff for reasonable $$, especially around Verboort. Don’t know if they’re still there or not since I haven’t been in the area for a few years, but it’s a pretty drive anyway.

        • Thanks for the suggestion, Martin. I do indeed take Highway 26—I’ll have to give that route a try at some point next year and keep an eye out for good, inexpensive produce. I wonder if that perhaps was the detour I took last winter at one point when they had the tunnel closed for construction? Sounds about right. It was at night, though, so I couldn’t really see what I was passing.

          • Probably wasn’t – the route I described is on the valley floor, way east of the tunnel. You were probably rerouted to hwy 6 and then back up to 26 via Timber, though 6 does pass just south of Banks. Another thing I neglected to mention is that there used to be quite a few U-pick farms south of Hillsboro and out between Forest Grove and McMinnville – you might want to check that out next year too. In your spare time, of course. Heh.

            • I just came back from Portland a few days ago, saw the Jackson School Rd exit, and realized I was indeed wrong—totally different route. I’ll aim to check it out next year. In, yes, all that free time.

  4. Hi Joel,

    Well done and nice photo. It is a great array of foodstuffs and should bring lots of winter cheer! The canning system looks exactly the same as the one I use here. All of the bottles sit in a huge stove top hot water bath which vacuum seals them. Very low tech, but hasn’t failed once yet. I was a bit nervous about the first few bottles.

    Nice to see you back too, I’ve missed communicating with you, Martin and Lew etc. as it is enjoyable to read about all of your journeys, but I also learn stuff too and local news from the other side of the globe is always interesting. Autumn and winter are the time for blogging and Interneting though! hehe. Work when there’s work and then relax when there’s none.

    I’m down to 3 bottles of last seasons stone fruit (Apricots and Peaches), 4 jars of Apricot and Plum jam and 30 jars of tomato chutney.

    I can at about the same time as you do in terms of the season. It’s a job for February / March here which equates to about August / September for you, so I reckon you might be on the money with your timing. Salsa would have been a far more useful idea than the tomato chutney.

    Things are warming up here, although the wood fire is still going strong at night. October has been slightly drier than the previous months, although this is actually quite normal for this time of year (March is also one of the driest months too).

    Did you end up getting the rain that was predicted? The photos that I’ve seen of failed corn crops are not good. Reports are saying that about 70% to 80% of the US corn crop failed. Yikes!

    For your interest, you can see a photo of some of my fruit trees growing during the drought that ended in early 2009 here in an article. Note that there is still a lot of ground cover with no exposed soil:

    http://permaculturenews.org/2012/09/29/food-forests-part-5-water-friend-and-foe/

    It was pretty unpleasant times, with temperatures for days on end hovering around 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) with winds blowing in from the dry center of the continent. It culminated in one day during February 2009 of temperatures in Melbourne of 46.4 Celsius (115 Fahrenheit) and very strong winds. The drought had gone on for about 10 years, but now seems to have broken…. What a headache!

    Also, I’ve just had published a new article showing all of the stuff going on here this month. It’s a video so if you have 8 minutes or so to burn, please check it out. You’ll see some footage of the pet wombat here too! We’re not on speaking terms at the moment as it cropped the tops off about 200 strawberry bushes the other night. Grrr.

    http://permaculturenews.org/2012/10/15/fernglade-farm-mid-spring-october-2012-update-australia/

    PS: Bought my first demijohn today to experiment with home brew mead. Should be fun. Have you ever done home brew?

    Chris

    • Hey Chris,

      I’ve home brewed beer about four times. Three times with a friend and once entirely on my own, having borrowed my friend’s equipment. By the fourth time, I felt like I had a pretty good sense of what I was doing. That was why I wanted to do it on my own, actually, was to sort of cement the process in my mind. However, I don’t have equipment of my own and haven’t gotten back to it, though it’s on the long to do list. I’ve also made my own ginger ale a number of times, which is fantastic. (Blackberry soda was on the menu for this year, but jam and syrup ended up taking priority and I never got to a picking of berries that I didn’t want to turn into something else.) I’ve never tried to brew mead, though—that would also be a fun project to attempt. You’ll have to let me know how your attempts go.

      We did end up getting some good rain. We started off with an inch or two, which kind of primed the soil for the deluge we received Sunday and Monday of multiple inches. I don’t know the final tally, but probably somewhere around 3-5 inches. It wet everything down nicely. Yesterday we had a few showers, but it was mostly dry with intermittent sun. Today, the sun’s shining very nicely and I believe that’s the forecast for tomorrow, as well, before getting a bit more rain. This is great, as it should really help bring our grass back. Perhaps we’ll be able to get the sheep and cows back fully on pasture without any hay feeding. Also, the creeks are getting recharged a bit, which is certainly good news for our drinking water. I noticed the water coming out a touch yellow last night due to sediment from the storm. Excellent.

      I’m glad you stopped by! I’ve been seeing your comments over at the Archdruid, but I’ve missed our interactions, as well. I like the little community here. Also glad to see you’ve got some new videos and articles up. I’ll have to catch up on those soon, though I’m about to head to Portland shortly to visit a woman I’ve been seeing, so it’ll have to wait a couple days.

      So the tomato chutney hasn’t been so much a hit? I was eyeing a tomato-apple chutney recipe and considering trying a small batch of it to see how it is. I wonder if it would go well with lamb or beef? I’m always intrigued by chutneys, but it’s a question of if I’ll actually eat them. On the other hand, I made another batch of salsa the night before last and then canned it last night during the debate. Eleven more pints put away, and it seemed better than my first batch on a pre-canning tasting. I put a small can of tomato paste in the first batch to thicken it up, but I think it kicked the sweetness over the edge. So this time I left it out and the salsa tasted about perfect.

      Sorry to hear about your wombat troubles. 200 bushes! Ouch, that’s brutal. Do you suppose they’ll grow back okay? How big a set back is this? Hopefully you’ll be able to forgive the little guy. I always just think of pest damage as the land’s rent. Of course, you still try to limit it, but it helps.

      Joel

  5. Yup. There’s something really satisfying about jars cooling on the counter. And hearing the “ping” sound that means they’ve sealed. Enough satisfaction to get you through cleaning up the kitchen :-). I have a friend who took a food preservation class at the local county extension office, last year. I helped her can up some zucchini relish (wonderful stuff! Want to make my own, next year.) and carrots. I wasn’t paying attention and got some really bad blisters from a sharp edged stainless steel spoon. But helping out with the whole process with someone who knows what they’re doing really helped any apprehension I had.

    One week-end, I plunged into a regular orgy of canning and freezing. Produce waits for no man (or woman). I had to get on the stick. That weekend, I finished off freezing the apples (12 bags in the freezer, to join the 8 of blackberries), tomato paste to go in the 3 trays of lasagna I made (one to eat now, 2 to freeze), jars of plum jelly and jars of apple butter. Whew!

    Some observations: Apples. I have a nifty little cast iron machine that peels, cores and slices apple. I’ve been dragging it around for years. A wonderful invention. As with working with so many tools, I discovered that you need to gently hold the peeling blade against the apple with one finger, while turning the crank to get them to peel properly. I tossed them in a bowl of salt water as I went along, so they wouldn’t turn color. I was not looking forward to all the cooking down and mashing. Since I can’t leave a recipe alone … I had this brainstorm. I tossed a bowl of sliced apples in the microwave for 12 minutes. Just to see what it would do. It came out with an almost perfect consistency. Like slightly lumpy applesauce. A little lumpy, but acceptable. Saved a lot of time and effort.

    A neighbor gave me a lot of tomatoes which I turned into tomato sauce for the lasagna. While I was poking around on the Web to see how to do that, I discovered that it cans up pretty easy. But, my, it takes a lot of tomatoes. Next year, I hope to grow my own and can up some paste.

    Found an older Ball canning book while unpacking my cook books. Don’t even know where I picked it up. It is invaluable.

    I wonder about all the electricity to pull off all this canning. We’re on a two month billing cycle. Got the bill, yesterday, that covers the canning time period. Haven’t had the guts to open it, yet. :-). I’m beginning to think about more drying, maybe some experiments with wood. Solar cookers?

    But, as far as the economy of the whole thing, I noticed the other day that jam at our local “cheap” grocery store was “on sale” for $4+ a bottle. That was a store brand. And, probably stuffed full of high fructose corn syrup, rather than good old cane sugar.

    I’m going to be house sitting for about a week, at the end of October. 3 goats, a flock of chickens, several dogs and cats. Morning chores, evening chores, stay overnight. Home every two days or so to take care of my cat and dog. Ought to be an interesting adventure.

    • Man, it sounds like you’ve had a pretty productive summer as well, Lew. I love the sound of that cast iron apple peeling machine. I love anything and everything cast iron, so that sounds like a joy to me on multiple levels. I’ve put an old hand crank Foley food mill (almost exactly like this one) to major use this summer—one of the best gifts I ever received. Multiple batches of apples, blackberries and tomatoes have gone through it and it does a great job of straining out seeds and skins. It’s been a huge help. It does take a little longer, though, and I have to admit to eyeing some of the newer hand crank ones like the Roma. Not sure if it would work better or not, but seems like it might be a bit faster and more efficient. Still, can’t complain with what I do have.

      The cost of jam is amazing, especially when you consider how much of most jam is sugar. One of the things I did with my jam was seriously cut down on the sugar content. I have nothing against sugar—I love it—but I found that I could do a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts fruit and have a delicious and very sweet jam. These recipes that call for a 1:1 ratio of sugar to fruit (or even more sugar than fruit!) seem insane to me. So that just seems one more reason to go the home canning route if you can. Plus, I used organic fruit and organic sugar, so I know where it’s all coming from.

      I do think about the electricity component of all this canning. I’ve been using the stove A LOT. At times, I’ve had multiple burners and the oven on when I’m doing a couple projects at once. It’s crazy, and I’d be curious to know what the result is in the electric bill. I don’t pay that, though, so I probably won’t know—and this farm uses quite a bit of electricity otherwise, I think, so I’m not sure how much of a blip it will make. If you feel compelled, please do share how much your electric usage increased, because I am curious about that aspect. Finding ways to do this with less energy usage—or with more usage of passive solar—would be great. I wonder how a solar oven would work to cook down apple butter and tomato sauce? Seems it would be about perfect, except I wonder about venting out the moisture.

      I’ll be curious to hear how your house sitting goes. Goats and chickens—sounds lovely.

      • “White Mountain Apple Parer, Corer, Slicer.” Don’t know if they make them any more, or if the quality is the same in newer models. I’m going to a big fall swap meat this week-end, and will keep my eye out for a Foley.

        The electric bill was $130 for two months and covers the period I was canning. The lowest bill, so far. And, I’m also supporting an electric fence and two freezers in the basement. (Long story.) So, not bad. But I’m still going to poke into alternatives.

        LOL. The folks I’m going to be house sitting for called this morning. They picked up another goat that needs to be bottle fed. Did I mind? Well, at this late date … what, I’m going to say I mind? :-) . So, 4 goats all together, two on the bottle. I’ve bottle fed a goat, once, and it’s fun. It’s just for a week.

        Miss Nell, my cat caught her first mouse! Go Nell! Earning her keep.

        • Oh, and I meant to mention re: blackberries. A lot of the blackberries I put up were the Himalayans. But I also have a big patch of another variety. After LOTS of looking around on the Net, I found them. Split leaf or evergreen blackberries. Next year I’m going to hold off a bit longer and harvest more of those. They ripen a bit later. They’re larger, juicier, a bit sweeter and don’t seem quit as seedy.

          • Just got back from the swap meet. Found a nice, old heavy Foley for $8. :-) . I am ready for next year.

            I also found a nice colander. My old one was a really thin gage mettle and the legs always were getting bent. This one is a really heavy gage mettle and the very sturdy legs are riveted into the body. $5.

            Way too much junk to go through and way too many people. I’m feeling a bit burned out. Nap time.

          • Oh, the evergreen blackberries. I’m a bit familiar with those. I probably harvested some of those this year, though it was mainly Himalayan. I’ll have to pay more attention next year and compare the berries.

            That electric bill doesn’t seem too bad, all considering. Not ideal, but not too terrible. As for the apple slicer, corer, and peeler—I could use one of those about now. I just harvested a big box of apples from the tree in the yard to make into apple sauce and possibly more apple butter. I could just cook them and run them through the Foley, but I’d prefer to make chunkier apple sauce, which would mean pealing and coring before hand. Hmm. I guess it’ll depend on the amount of time I have. I don’t mind all that work in the sense of it being meditative, but man it can take awhile.

            Congratulations on picking up that Foley! I hope you enjoy it as much as I have mine. It’s been a hell of a time saver, I have to say. Swap meets are pretty grand.

            I remember bottle feeding a number of lambs early this year. It was a pain at times, but it’s also fun and adorable. I pretty much enjoy feeding any animal—humans included. There’s something pretty satisfying about providing that nourishment. I think a week should be manageable.

  6. Hi Joel,

    > “By the fourth time, I felt like I had a pretty good sense of what I was doing”

    Man, I’ve got no idea about the mead and am going off a recipe found on the Internet! I make yoghurt, preserves and bread, but I’ve never tried making home brew. Hopefully I don’t poison myself! It’s bubbling away right now in a demijohn on the kitchen bench. Only time will tell, but it smells good and that maybe a good start. The proof will be in the pudding as they say though.

    I reckon it takes about 3 weeks to change your palate, which is why no one notices how low quality most of the processed food is these days. . hehe!

    By the way, you never said how your experiments with home brew turned out? The home brew shop here was amazing as they had all sorts of stuff and it was nice to see someone turning their hobby into a living. The demijohn was beautifully manufactured glass and it is a real pleasure to watch it bubbling away.

    > “Perhaps we’ll be able to get the sheep and cows back fully on pasture”

    Wow, I didn’t realise the drought was quite that bad out your way. Fortunately the weather should be turning to cooler now. The centre of the continent here is where the very worst of my summer weather comes from and it is hitting record breaking temperatures and dry spells. They don’t say it in the short article, but they broke the record for the longest continuous stretch of days without rain there on record.

    http://www.weatherzone.com.au/news/red-hot-in-the-red-centre/22697

    Our water is collected from the roof into water tanks (about 25,000 gallons storage). Do you collect drinking water from the local creeks and rivers?

    > “head to Portland shortly to visit a woman I’ve been seeing”

    As they say here, good-on-ya-mate! Nice work. Life is in the living.

    > “So the tomato chutney hasn’t been so much a hit”

    I gave the wrong impression. It is good and the green tomatoes are better for this purpose than the red tomatoes (I made two batches to see the difference). However, there is just sooooo much of the stuff, I can’t eat it all. This seasons cherry tomato plants have begun sprouting too (inside, of course) but I won’t see much fruit until about February – March as I don’t have a hothouse. Any tomatoes bigger than cherries haven’t had enough heat over the past few years to ripen

    >”Sorry to hear about your wombat troubles.”

    Yeah, well I guess they needed a pruning anyway – makes me feel a bit better. Given the neighbours propensity for running them over they need all the help they can get.

    You know everything around here likes strawberries. Even with netting, birds, dogs, mice, wallabies, wombats all want their share. Strawberry plants are always on the move anyway so at least you get lots of runners which I transplant around.

    I found my first self seeded strawberry randomly down in the herbage today too which is really exciting. This one was purely due to the actions of the wildlife too which is awesome. Lots of wild plums, apricots and cherries are self seeding too.

    • I didn’t say how the homebrewing came out, did I? The first batch was a bit of a disaster. We accidentally multiplied the roasted malt in the recipe by ten, so that messed it up pretty well. Beyond that, it seemed to get skunked in some way. I don’t know if it was just the taste of that extra malt or if something really did go wrong otherwise in the process. Overall, though, not a good beer. That was multiple years ago, in fact, and I think I have a bottle or two still hanging around somewhere that has yet to be used. (Should really just dump it, I suppose.) The second batch was better, but still not quite what we wanted. It wasn’t fantastic. The third batch was a strong IPA and it came out pretty decent. Oddly enough, it had a bit of a Belgian taste to it, even though we didn’t use a Belgian yeast. Not sure how that came through. The fourth one I did was a red ale and I thought it came out well, too. It was nothing particularly noteworthy, but it was a very solid beer, quite drinkable. I was pretty pleased, considering that was the first one I did on my own.

      I hope the mead does indeed come out good. If it’s smelling good, that does seem like a solid start. And if it doesn’t taste that good, well . . . should still give you a buzz, right? That’s good for something.

      Yeah, the drought was pretty good. The pastures didn’t die off completely, mind you, but they quite dried out and after awhile the animals ate down the grass and it just didn’t grow back. But boy, the rain has come back now. We’ve had multiple inches since it started back up and it’s almost as if there was never a drought at all. Portland has already passed its average October rainfall, with a week left in the month and the first ten days of the month completely dry. I don’t know if we’ve passed it out here, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The creeks and rivers are filling back up and the grass is starting to green and grow.

      We do indeed get our drinking water from a creek that runs through the property. A number of properties right around us get their water similarly. So it was a little unnerving to see the creeks get down to a trickle. Thankfully, the rains returned in time and now we won’t have to worry until next summer, and probably next summer will be just fine. Water just isn’t normally a problem out here—though that reality is what made the fact that it started to become a problem so eye-opening. Even out here, a drought can get you, or at least come close.

      Speaking of which, sounds like you’re getting hit harder out there, or at least the center of Australia. I hope the rain and cooler weather does indeed come through. Along with our rain here, it’s become pretty darn cold the last week or so. Morning temperatures in the low 40s, high 30s. Thankfully the tomatoes are holding on in the hoop house. It’s about to warm up a bit, too, so I think they’ll survive until I get back without dying off. When it looks like a cold snap’s going to hit, I’ll harvest out all the green tomatoes and bring them in to try to ripen them off a bit inside.

      Congratulations on the self-seeding happening around the property. You’ve got to love it when the natural cycles do the work for you. I guess there’s a silver lining to the wombat and other wildlife troubles.

  7. I did a good bit of pressure canning this year. Home made spaghetti sauce from a bull I had butchered and garden peppers and tomatoes. Lots of corn the we had to buy from a local farmer as the cows invaded my corn patch and decimated my crop. Did well in the green bean department. The lesson for the year is to grow more tomatoes, peppers, and peas. I only grew enough for garden fresh not enough for canning. I’d love a batch of black berries, they just don’t seem to do as well here in the desert.

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