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Time to Make Orange Marmalade

Oranges are in season right now and staying inside on a cold, rainy day to make marmalade is a great way to pass the time.  Your whole house will smell wonderful!

To make marmalade follow these steps:

  1. Peel off the skin by scoring the orange with a knife so you can carefully remove it in sections.
  2. Cut the peeled juicy oranges into 4 pieces.
  3. Scrape the white pith off the inside of the peel so you are left with the orange part. Put the pith into a cheesecloth or net bag. This pith has pectin in it that will help with the gelling process.
  4. Take a sharp knife and slice the scraped peel into 1/4 inch wide strips.
  5. Put the peeled oranges, bagged pith and sliced peels into a pot and just cover with water. Let sit for 12 hours.
  6. Take out the bag of pith and measure how much orange and peel mixture you have. Add one cup of sugar for each cup of liquid.
  7. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. To test if it’s done you can put a small amount of the liquid on a cold plate. If it holds together it’s ready.
  8. Put in sterilized jars. Water bath can for 10 minutes.
Peeled oranges ready to be cut in quarters.
Here’s the pith scraped from inside the orange.
Slice into thin strips. Sliced peels.
Cooking orange, sugar, peel and water mixture.
Finished product.
It can take a few days for the marmalade to set.  It tastes great on a slice of hearty bread. 

Darn That Sock!

“Oh there’s a hole in my sock dear Liza, dear Liza…”  Wait, wrong song but the hole definitely is in my daughter’s sock;  we’ve all moved to mainly wool socks and with each pair running about eighteen dollars it’s time to darn that hole.

DSC_2352

Instead of using a darning mushroom I am using a handy grapefruit.

First turn the sock inside out and put something round into the sock to stretch the wool tight.  Next weave back and forth, being sure to put the needle into solid material, to create the longitudinal warp.  Pull the stitches taut but not too tight.

DSC_2353

Use like colored yarn to fill the hole.

Once the warp is established weave the yarn back and forth, pushing the strands together to create a tight pattern.  Once you’re done turn the sock back right side out and check your work.

I would hand wash darned socks or wash them in a cold water cycle and not put them in the dryer as the new wool may shrink differently from the old sock material.

Good luck and happy darning!

Beanie Brownies

A cold dreary day like today calls for Beanier Brownies! They are fabulously easy to make and great for people who want to cut down on dairy and boost their protein and fiber intake.

Get a mix that doesn't include transfat, (many still do) and salt free beans.

Get a mix that doesn’t include transfat, (many still do) and salt free beans.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Open the powdered brownie mix and put in a bowl.
  • Open the can of beans and add water to the existing beans and liquid to the top of the can.
  • Put the beans and water in a blender and puree.
  • Add the bean puree to the powdered mix and stir.  There is no need to add eggs, oil or anything but the beans.
  • Grease a baking pan.
  • Pour in the mixture and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Ready for the oven topped with bittersweet chocolate chips and pecans.

Ready for the oven topped with bittersweet chocolate chips and pecans.

 

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes and your healthier treat is ready!

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes; until a toothpick comes out clean.

 

All set!

Let cool then cut into squares.  Bon haricot!

I fed these to my husband and kids and asked how they liked them and if they could guess the “secret” ingredient.  They all liked the rich, chewy texture and no one guessed they had beans in them!

 

By guest writer, Rae Steinbach

While winter might not be the busiest period of time for a farmer, it’s a season that can be tough on a farm. The freezing temperatures, snow, sleet, and ice can put a lot of stress on the land and outbuildings, and it can also be tough on livestock. 

If you are facing a long winter on your farm, you need to do what you can to make sure the land, the animals, and the buildings are ready. The following are a few tips to help farmers prepare for winter.

Provide Shelter for Livestock 

Most farm animals can deal with the cold well; the real problem is when they get wet or windblown in cold weather. If you want to help your animals make it through winter healthy, you need to build them some shelter. 

A barn obviously works well for providing animals with shelter, but you may also want to consider windbreaks for any areas where the animals may spend time. Consider using an electric chainsaw or multi-tool fitted with oscillating saw blades to build a winter shelter. You should also stock up on straw for bedding.

Plant Cover Crops

Planting cover crops can be a good way to maintain the soil for the next growing season. The winter can be hard on soil, and without live plants there, the soil can lose nutrients and moisture. Along with that, the land can also experience problems with soil erosion. By planting some cover crops before winter, you can combat these effects. Furthermore, some of the cover crops can provide additional food to your livestock.

Feed Animals Late in the Day

When the temperature drops to extreme cold, livestock animals need all the help they can get staying warm. Shelter is obviously one way to help them stay warm, but you could also feed them late in the day to help the animals produce more heat once the sun goes down.

Prevent Freezing Water

Livestock animals need a lot of water in winter, and this can be one of the toughest challenges when the temperature drops below freezing. Fortunately, there are several winter watering systems that can help you prevent tanks from freezing. There are devices you can buy and install and there are even some DIY watering solutions. If electricity is an issue, you could also try insulating the tanks to prevent freezing.

Provide Exercise

In the same way that humans need exercise to stay healthy, so do your livestock animals. One issue in winter is that animals tend to spend more time in shelters or huddled near windbreaks. This means they are getting less exercise. 

If you want to keep your animals healthy, you need to provide them with some exercise. Even if you are just letting them out on an open piece of land, it will do a lot to help maintain their health and overall wellbeing.

Keep Pests Out of Feed

Beyond being a tough season for your livestock, winter is also a hard season for rodents. When the temperatures drop and natural food sources become scarce, pests are much more likely to come looking for an easy meal. Make sure to protect your feed supply by storing everything in rodent-proof bins.

Maintain Your Home

With all of the time spent preparing your animals and land, you can’t forget to take care of your own home. Develop a winter home maintenance checklist to make sure your house is ready for the cold temperatures and rough weather conditions. Common steps for maintaining the home include caulking around windows, checking the weather stripping around doors and windows, and maintaining your heater.

Winter can be tough on a farm, but being proactive and taking necessary steps before the weather turns will help ensure your livestock, land, and family come through unscathed.

Guest post by Ali Clarke

Winter is coming – to the Pacific Northwest, that is. The weather may feel mild, but urban farmers still need to perform basic garden maintenance in order to ensure that produce can continue growing through the year’s nippier months. With fifteen percent of the world’s food production coming from agricultural plots in some of the busiest cities, planning winter grows in advance promotes a social and environmental awareness that benefits communities through education as much as through the food, itself. With that in mind, prepare to do some maintenance when securing an urban garden for the winter.

Choose A Garden’s Crops Wisely

First thing’s first: if a garden isn’t planted with crops that are hearty enough to survive the colder months of the year, then there won’t be any need for garden maintenance. A wintering urban garden needs to be planted with crops that will last beyond the first cold snap. Lettuce, lamb’s quarter, and a number of winter squashes are some of the vegetables best suited to endure the damp and cold of the Pacific Northwest’s winter. Cover crops will also absorb some of the additional precipitation that might otherwise overwhelm edible vegetables. Radish seeds, vetch, and clover all keep the soil of an urban garden active, and the plants can stand up against the colder nights.

Crop Protection

If the crops in a winter garden are planted too late in the season, then garden maintenance may include a few extra steps in order to keep the produce safe from the cooler weather. Moving more fragile plants inside will allow for continued produce production. Transplant these crops into reasonably sized pots, though, or else their root systems won’t have enough room to grow. If the weather forecast predicts unusually large amounts of snow and rain, guards keep debris out of a building’s gutters so that snow and rain don’t flood a close-to-home garden. Cold frames, too, help brace crops from strong, brisk winds.

Deciding When to Harvest

Any plants that have been brought inside from the garden should be harvested as they would be during their normal growing cycle. Cold weather root vegetables, though, like carrots, can be left in the ground until the weather starts to warm again. The cool soil will preserve these root vegetables and ensure that they remain pest-free. They may even taste better after spending time in the frosty outdoors. Do take care, though – one or two unseasonably warm days may spell disaster for these left-alone plants, so keep an eye on the thermometer and move quickly, should a heat wave roll in.

Guest post by Ali Clarke

Green beans

It is estimated that barely 5% of American children meet the requirements on exercise, sleep and screen time — with almost 30% falling short of all recommendations. Although children from all walks of life are falling prey to technological overloads, it is especially those living in some of the bigger cities across the country that can benefit from getting closer acquainted with nature. While this may seem like a difficult feat, it is becoming increasingly easier thanks to urban farming, which is fast gaining popularity in the USA.

Children are privy to a unique learning opportunity on an urban farm 

Too many children lack basic yet, essential life skills as they grow older.  Urban farms provide these city kids with the perfect opportunity to get their hands dirty and learn a variety of skills that will benefit them for the remainder of their lives.  Due to the hands-on approach needed when tending to an urban garden, a willing child can learn skills ranging from planting seeds and weeding a garden to identifying and combatting common pests and becoming familiar with basic animal husbandry. Having the entire family, including the children involved in tending to the farm, it also makes the workload less, giving the adults a welcome break from some of the more tedious daily chores. 

In what other ways can urban farming benefit children? 

Apart from the practical skills acquired while helping on the farm, there is a range of other skills that can be acquired almost effortlessly. Urban farming can teach children valuable lessons about healthy eating and food consciousness which will help them make good food choices later on in life. This is a valuable skill to acquire considering that nearly 1 in 5 children of school-going age in the USA is considered to be obese according to the CDC. The may also become interested in cooking as well as other aspects of food preparation such as fermenting, preserving, and smoking. Spending time on an urban farm will also instill patience and perseverance together with a sense of pride in a child who has taken the responsibilities bestowed upon him or her seriously. 

How to get a child interested in urban farming 

One of the easiest ways to create an interest in urban farming is to create excitement around the activity. Give each child their own small allotted space to tend to, allowing them to choose what they want to plant (a favorite vegetable, herb, berry etc). Be sure to reiterate the benefits of growing their own food and incorporate as many fun-filled activities into the farming as possible. If children don’t seem interested in the horticultural aspects of urban farming, perhaps enlisting their help to tend to the livestock is a good place to start as children have a natural fondness of animals.

Getting a couple of youthful hands to help you on your urban farm will benefit them as much as it will you. Not only will the children be blessed with invaluable life skills but you will also undoubtedly benefit from the extra help with the endless tasks that need to be taken care of on a daily basis.

By Ali Clarke

With bees pollinating 90% of the world’s flowering plant species, and therefore responsible for one third of the foods in our diet, the last decade or so of declining bee numbers is a real source of concern.  In countries such as China, workforces are being employed to do the work of bees, at a huge cost to the economy. Anyone who has had the pleasure of watching bees work can imagine the scale of this operation.  Replicating this effort throughout the world is not only extremely costly, it should be simply unnecessary. Urban communities can, and must, play their part in encouraging and protecting our bees before it’s too late.

Keep up the good work

One of the most useful things urban farmers can do to protect bees is to look into beekeeping.  There are currently around 120,000 beekeepers in the US, the majority of whom are enthusiastic amateurs.  You may not have the time or space to invest in commercial beekeeping, which usually requires around 300 hives, but most farms will be able to accommodate the 25 or so hives which a hobbyist beekeeper would usually have.  Ensure that you take your beekeeping equipment seriously so that you are well protected and able to enjoy the experience.

Flower power

In cities around the world, conservation, gardening and civic groups are joining forces to plant flowers to attract and nurture bees and other pollinators.  As an owner of your own portion of land, you have the ability to contribute to the effort by planting colorful flowers which will appeal to bees.  Whether it’s lavender, wisteria or sunflowers, choose the plants which you most enjoy or which grow best in your area, and designate a little space to them.  Your premises will look brighter and cheerier for it too.

Responsible pest control

While pesticides such as nicotinoids have received some of the blame for the declining bee populations, scientists have found that it’s not that straightforward.  The insects metabolize enzymes at different rates, which affects their reaction to them. You will no doubt have come to your own view on the responsible use of pesticides; suffice to say, it’s worth checking to see how any product you use will affect bees, and minimizing risks where you can.

The declining numbers of bees are a global concern; without them, the world’s food production will soon grind to a halt. Thankfully, urban farmers are in a position to be able to help. By investing a little resource into beekeeping, planting colorful attractive flowers, and managing pesticide use responsibly, urban farmers can make a powerful difference.  Even better, it’s a joy to watch these industrious creatures work their magic.

Grandma Fields’ Pumpkin Pie

Here is an old family pumpkin pie recipe from my husband’s aunt, Betsy Stapleton.  She makes this for special events and it’s always a favorite.  Besides it tasting good, I like that it doesn’t use evaporated milk.

Recipe

Put in a frying pan:

  • One large can of pumpkin puree
  • One teaspoon ginger
  • One teaspoon salt
  • Two teaspoons cinnamon
  • One pinch nutmeg

Cook, stirring frequently, until cooked down to four cups.  Cool to room temperature.

homemade pumpkin pie

Thick and delicious

Add to pumpkin mixture:

  • Three well beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • One rounded tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in half a cup of milk
  • Three and a half cups of milk

homemade pumpkin pie

Blend well

Beat with a mixer until smooth.  Pour into two large pie tins and bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until set.

 homemade pumpkin pie

Ready for baking.

Enjoy!

I wonder if I will get any pie this year?

Bean Necklaces

Every urban farmer should have at least one bean necklace for that perfect agricultural fashion accent.  Right now is a great time to harvest those end of the season beans and get crafting.

Here’s how:

Pick your beans while they are still soft.  These are scarlet runners.

Pick your beans while they are still soft. These are scarlet runners.

Many colorful varieties can be used and you can do patterns with solid color beans.

Thread a darning needle with stiff thread or a flexible wire.

Thread a darning needle with stiff thread or a flexible wire.

I like using pliers to pull the needle through the bean as it can get a little stuck at times.

Here are necklaces made with calico beans.

Here are necklaces made with calico beans.

Wait to either tie the ends or attach fasteners as the beans will shrink as they dry. It’s also a good idea to string on a few extras; it’s easy to take them off if you have too many.

 

 

 

Cool Tool to Peel Apples

I love this tool!!

Each year I just can’t resist getting a big box of apples this time of year.

It used to take me forever to carefully peel the apples, cut them up and remove the icky bits.  Last spring I went to a rummage sale and a friend handed me a weird looking contraption. “This is exactly what you need” she said with conviction.  I dutifully bought it, put it in the basement and forgot about it until this weekend.

The Peel Away is amazing!  What was even better was that my daughter and husband both found it so intriguing that they helped me; within about an hour all the apples were processed.

Here is the loooong peel that comes off.  I wonder if this is tossed over the shoulder it will still make the initial of the person one is going to marry?

Hope I toss an “A”.

Here is the apple peeled, cored and sliced.

So pretty!

Once the apple is processed making sauce or putting it in a pie is a snap!  Tonight I am going to try it on asian pears….

Ready for a pie.