24 Carrot Rabbitry

City-fied Self-Sufficiency

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Posts Tagged ‘canning’

So much to do! So little time!

To say that I haven’t posted much lately would be a bit of an understatement.  Yes, I could have, but once you get behind, it’s hard to play catch-up.  Do you really get behind on a blog, or can you just jump back in?

Anyway, much of my time lately has been taken up by bunnies and gardening.

Squeak’s most recent litter, now 4 weeks old, was not getting enough milk — Squeak was not producing enough.  So we took up baby bunny feeding.

Fluffy’s most recent litter, now 10 days old, doesn’t like staying in the nest box.  Therefore, they keep going missing, and we keep finding them huddled on the walkway, waiting to be either stepped on (we haven’t done that yet, thank goodness) or picked up, or worse.  So we’ve been spending some time looking for baby bunnies.  Bunny-Wan Kenobi found one of the poor things outside the rabbitry.  It was less than a week old, and died of exposure.  One has never been found, and is probably under the rabbitry frame.  They’re not big enough yet to be too big to fit through the cage wire.  I’ll be installing babysaver wire soon.  I hadn’t needed it before!

The garden has been putting out cucumbers and tomatoes like nobody’s business (thank goodness I planted only one cucumber plant!).  This has caused me to venture into canning, something I was planning to do.  Yesterday and today, I finally canned my first vegetable victims ever!

So far:

8 pints of bread & butter pickles

10 pints of dill spears

A bunch of tomato sauce that I’ve been using so fast, I haven’t had a chance to can it.  But, not to worry — there are probably two more buckets’ worth of tomatoes out there ready to pick now!

I have also been waging war against bugs trying to demolish my garden.  First cutworms, then squash vine borers, then armyworms, and, finally, flea beetles.  It’s difficult to find something that will kill flea beetles without killing bees.  I like bees.  I NEED bees.  And I haven’t seen a lot of bees, so I certainly don’t want to kill the ones that do make it around here!

We also planted a bunch of dwarf fruit trees in containers.  My beloved Shay built a composter that I have already filled up.  My uncle and I went to war against a bunch of invasive vines that he has been battling for decades (maybe we can finally, FINALLY kill them!).  They’ve been growing all over the ligustrum hedge along the back fence for all this time, and sometimes putting runners out into the yard.  With my grandmother’s stroke and illness over the last couple of years of her life, and then with our moving in, the vines have put out many, many runners.  So we’re spraying them with some Roundup product (poison ivy plus tough brush, or something like that) in order to get control.  It seems to be working on the vines on the ligustrums.  Let’s hope it works on the poison ivy, too.

I have so much more to do!

A trip to the feed store, canning tomatoes,  filing an amended return for my mom, spraying more vines, planting new squash plants, finding a dehydrator, treating fur mites on Fluffy’s babies (all those trips outside they’ve been taking), a lot of kitchen cleanup…

I miss Mammaw.  She was my great-grandmother.  She could cook, sew (an amazing seamstress, she was!), crochet, knit, embroider, and can.  I can cook.  I need to learn how to sew and can.  I’m sure I would learn faster (and do it faster!) if someone who knew how to do it was with me.  This is my mom’s first time canning, too.  No, I don’t miss Mammaw just for all the useful info she could give me, I miss her for herself, too.  :)

I got up Christmas morning and meandered out, to find my kids rummaging through their Christmas Morning Delay Devices Christmas stockings.  We tell them that if (if?) they get up before the adults on Christmas, they can go into their stockings and open any presents in them, and munch on any munchies in there.  We’ll typically put a looooooooong jerky stick in there, nuts, tangerines, and Christmas chocolates.  Maybe not the breakfast of champions, but hey, it’s Christmas!

So right away they want me to empty my stocking.  Considering I filled it myself along with all the other ones, I’m not in a big hurry, since I know what’s in there.  So I do a couple of things and then give in to my kids.  ILoveBunnies hands me my stocking, with a suspicious giggle.

I reach in, and pull out……… a roll of Teflon tape?  Okay, so I didn’t put that in there.  Especially not with carefully curled ribbon tied around it!

So the joke’s on me, once again.  After all, Bunny-Wan Kenobi is famous for this sort of thing.  Grab something really odd around the house, wrap it, and give it as a gift!  I should have expected this from my little squirrel.  :)

Finally, all the bleary-eyed adults who stayed up way too late (that would be four of the six people in the house) made their way out to the den, and we prayed and thanked God for sending Jesus to come and live among us, and to die for our sins, so that we can have a relationship with Him and go to Heaven and be with Him forever someday.

Then we teased the kids that we didn’t want to be like everyone else, and so we were going to wait another day or two to open presents.  They, of course, weren’t falling for it at all.

We had discussed what we were going to do about Christmas, since things are going so crazy in this country right now, and times are getting scarier as our government spends us into oblivion.  We thought about having just a few gifts for the children, and not worrying about giving among us adults, and we thought about pooling for a single gift for each adult.  Ultimately, we all had so many things we wanted to give, that we just gave what we wanted to.

Most of the gifts were practical — a full/queen microplush blanket for my mom, who has been using the microplush throws we have to help keep her legs from cramping at night.  The throws are so small, though, since they’re really intended only to put over your lap, that she was having trouble covering enough of herself.  So now she has a big microplush blanket that she can cocoon herself in if she so desires.  The kids gave her a warm hat that covers her ears, which hurt from the cold very easily.

For my uncle, I am repairing his work shoes, using some tough but soft scrap leather to sew inside and outside the toe where it was wearing through.  The shoes are otherwise still in great condition, and he just loves them.  It’s such an undertaking, though, that he all but made me promise that the effort would be our Christmas gift to him.  The kids gave him a new pocket knife, as ILoveBunnies took note that he needed a new one, and was about to replace it.

For my beloved Shay, I got a copy of the just-released biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  Shay loves biographies, and this one looks really interesting.  I think I might snitch it after he reads it.

For ILoveBunnies, we bought a new Bible.  One that seems well-bound, with genuine leather rather than bonded leather.  Her old Bible’s cover and spine had almost completely separated from the pages inside.  She didn’t want a new Bible, because she loved her old one, and all she wanted was a cover for it to protect it.  It was beyond any real saving, though, as far as being able to use it a lot is concerned.  I reassembled it with packing tape to last her ’til Christmas.  My uncle got her a Bible cover in her favorite color (turquoise!) for her new Bible, and my mom got her a cover for her old Bible, so it would have some protection, which made her happy.  But she’s decided she really does love her new Bible after all.

We also got her some hunting arrows and arrowheads, which she can’t wait to try out.  :)

We abandoned practicality for Bunny-Wan Kenobi, and gave him a toy John Deere tractor with plow attachment.  He’s as happy as a clam and can’t wait to tear up the yard with it.  Maybe he can use it to plant my herb garden.  Hmmmmm……

There were a few gifts for me under the tree as well.  I had told my uncle that I didn’t need to have any presents for Christmas, but that if he insisted, maybe he could get me a pressure canner so I could learn how to can.  He finally cornered me and asked me if that was really what I wanted, since that would actually create more work for me, rather than making anything easier.

I responded that yes, I did really want a pressure canner, in spite of the extra work that canning would be, since it would be a way for me to help ensure a food supply for my family, particularly once we get our garden going.  I explained that what concerns me most right now is the ability to care for my family during the hard economic times that are almost surely ahead, and that anything that would help ease that concern would be a wonderful gift to me.  I had a number of things on my to-get/to-do list along these preparatory lines.  However, a pressure canner was not at the top of the list.

“Really?  Well, then what’s at the top?”

“A hand-crank grain mill.”

I then explained to him that flour has a very short shelf life, but that whole wheat berries can last for ages (remember when they took the wheat from that Egyptian tomb, planted it, and it grew and produced?).  Without a grain mill, though, I can’t do a whole lot with whole wheat berries.  With a grain mill and a supply of wheat, I can, at the very least, make sure my family has bread to eat.  With a hand-crank mill, I can do that even without electricity (with the help of my solar oven that I need to finish ;) ).

Besides, I’ve been wanting to get back to baking my own bread.  I used to when we lived in Delaware.  I could bake only rolls, but I baked them anyway.  The reason I couldn’t bake loaves is that my oven was a gas oven, and the fire would come on with a *thump* and make the loaves fall.  I understand probably not all gas ovens do this, but mine did.

I told him that I don’t like making requests for gifts, and the only reason that I was mentioning this was that he made me.  He laughed, and proceeded to ask me where he would buy this mill I wanted.  *Sigh*  …So then I had to shop for my own gift, too… LOL… but I made sure he didn’t pay to have it here by Christmas.  Nobody had the one I wanted locally.  So on Christmas morning, I knew that hadn’t arrived, but it was on the way.

There were two gifts there for me, though.  The first one was from my beloved Shay.  Upon unwrapping it, I found a marvelous new kitchen faucet!  (Oooooooooooooh… now I get the bit about the Teflon tape!)  It was tall, and had two levers, and the faucet neck was shaped like a question mark, to make it easy to get a big pot under it.  And… it had a sprayer!


Shay knows that if he got me one of those sparkly baubles guaranteed by the television to elicit gasps of joy and such from the lady on the receiving end of it, I’d genuinely appreciate it and treasure it.  But if he really wants to make me truly happy, he will give me something at least somewhat practical.  Something that will make my work at home easier, or that will help me better care for my family.  But he still wants to make sure it’s a treat as well.

He has known ever since we moved here that I’ve wanted a new faucet.  Admittedly, I wanted a new, tall faucet at our apartment, as well, but I made do because it did have a sprayer.  So it wasn’t too difficult to wash the larger items I have.  The kitchen faucet here is like the one at the apartment — one of those old standard low ones that is hard to get a large pot under.  But it has no sprayer to make living with it easier.

So a new kitchen faucet, to me, is a big deal!  It’s not really a necessity, since I was getting by with the one I already had, so he really is treating me, which is what he wanted to do.  <3  But it will make things so much easier for me, for my mom, and for ILoveBunnies.

The other gift under the tree was from my mom, and it was a pressure canner!  I thought this was really funny, that I had had that conversation with my uncle, and I knew he had ordered the mill, and here I got a canner as well.  So now I get to learn how to can, and I can do something with all those vegetables I plan to grow!

It says it can do seven quart jars at a time... wow!

It’s also a pressure cooker, so maybe it’ll replace my other pressure cooker.  The other one is smaller, though… this thing is pretty big!  I do have limited cabinet space, though, so I don’t know if I can fit both of them.

Since then, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of my new grain mill, and pricing grain at Whole Foods.  YIKES!!  You know, I figured it ought to be less expensive to buy the grain whole and in bulk.  If I buy it at Whole Foods, it will cost five times as much as I can buy flour at Wal-Mart!  Five times!  Come on, now… I mean, how much did they pay for the grain themselves?  What’s the markup?  It’s got to be incredible.  So I’m looking for alternatives.

Meanwhile, last night, my uncle walked out of his room with a box, and asked me if he had ordered the mill from a site called Everything Kitchens.  Why, yes, he had, I replied.  Sheepishly, he admitted that, in the confusion of several of us all wrapping gifts together in his room, he had completely missed this box, which had been there the whole time.  We had never expected it to arrive in time for Christmas, but it had!

The Family Grain Mill with Hand Crank Base

It’s got great reviews and had free shipping from several places online.  It doesn’t grind the finest flour possible (#10 – cake flour), but it does grind it almost that fine — #9, which is bread flour.  And you can still bake cakes with it, they just won’t be as fine as they are with cake flour.  I’ve done that before, with all-purpose flour from the store, and it’s been fine.  You can buy cake flour there, too, but I rarely do.

You can also crack grains with it for homemade hot cereals, and you can grind to any fineness in between.  Some things require two passes, like for cornmeal or bean flour — crack it first, then grind it.

They also make other attachments for use with the same base.  There’s a grain flaker/roller, a meat grinder, a shredder, and I don’t know what else.  You can also get a motorized base for it, but they also sell an adapter for the attachments that makes them compatible with a KitchenAid mixer.  WHICH I HAVE!!