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Canning tomato sauce is the name of the game this week. I have about 150 pounds of tomatoes picked so far. I think I will only be canning about 50 or 60 pounds of them between today and tomorrow. Some of them are still quite green. We shall see how it goes.
I want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. I appreciate you all so much. I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the homestead this week.
Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates
There is so much going on right now. It is harvest time in the garden. Not just to the tomatoes, though that is the big one. However, I’m going to start with the creamery and animals and finish up with garden updates.
Scott is taking a break from working on the creamery. He finally got the entire project “dried-in”. The next big event will be putting on the metal roof. That will happen later, and in the meantime, he is using his time to clean up the construction mess and tidying up the property in general.
Mowing the fields is also happening. Cleaning up the grass in the orchard and garden area got done. General cleaning everywhere. It makes the building look so much nicer when the grass is cut and the scrap wood is gathered up and hauled off. Re-organization of supplies and tools also helps. And then there is helping me with various garden projects. I can’t turn that down. What a blessing he is when lending a hand in the garden.
Yet again, we had the ag tech out for AI purposes. Will it ever end? Violet showed signs of coming into heat yet again. Well she is taken care of yet again. Now we wait another three weeks to see if it took this time.
The calves are getting fat. They get two gallons of milk per day. I like to spoil them. Wendell is big enough to live on grass but I keep giving him the milk. He would push Virginia out of the way if I did not. He is quite committed to getting his twice daily rations of milk.
Several goats have had to have their heads removed from the fence yet again. It seems that every time they get access to a new area of pasture, they have to experiment will eating the grass on the other side of the fence. Nope the new grass is just not good enough for them. And some of them just never seem to learn that sticking their head with horns through the fence will get them caught.
We have a pair of blue herons on the big pond now. For the longest time there was only one. Now there is a pair. Have you ever seen a blue heron? They are majestic and graceful in flight. I love watching them. I have heard that when you have blue heron’s it indicates the pond is healthy.
I am so pleased with how our quail operating is progressing. The hens are in full production with their laying of eggs. I have 15 hens and get 15 eggs nearly every day.
The incubator is humming along. Today the eggs in there are one week old. This process is so exciting. We have an entire life cycle operating quite efficiently. It is the one place on the homestead where everything is going smoothly at the moment. Perhaps I need to knock on wood now. I may have just jinxed them.
I’m thinking the donkeys are just about ready for another hoof trimming. They really don’t like it. Daisy and Sweet Pea will stand still while it is going on, but they really only come up for their trimming because of the sweet feed. Donkeys are the friendliest of animals and we love our crew.
Let me pass on a bit of trivia regarding the donkeys. Did you know that they all have a cross on their backs? There are a couple of Christian legends that say it is a gift our Lord gave to the humble donkey that carried Him into Jerusalem. They are similar stories but not the same.
According to one legend, the little donkey so loved his Master that he followed Him to Calvary. Grief-stricken at the sight, he turned away but remained at his station at the foot of the cross. The shadow of the Cross fell upon him and from that day all purebred donkeys wear the Master’s Cross on their back.
Another story recounts that when Jesus was carrying his cross to the mount, a little donkey tried to help him but couldn’t get through the crowd. When the crowd dispersed, the donkey went up to Jesus, and stood behind the cross and as the sun went down, the shadow of the cross fell across the donkey and now every donkey has the cross.
According a theology lecturer at the University of Notre Dame, the tales never actually appeared in the Bible. Other facts about donkeys and the Bible is it is the only animal in the Bible other than the serpent to speak, and it plays a significant role in more than one Christian prophecy. The prophecy of Zachariah comes to mind.
Let me start with the sunflowers. I hope to harvest them in the next couple of days. The really big ones are bending over the stalks. What is happening right now is the seeds are forming. That makes those giant heads really heavy and thus the bending over. The harvesting can be tricky once the seeds become fully ripe. Shaking the plant in any way can cause the seeds to come loose.
Scott and I have a plan to work on them together. I will hold the stalk while Scott cuts it through close to the ground. Then I will gently lower the stalk to the ground. At that point, we will cut off just two or three feet of stalk with the flower. They will get tied together in bundles of three and hung up to complete the drying process. The birds are going to be really happy this winter.
I have harvested the black beans. Perhaps I already mentioned that last week. Still to harvest are the red and white beans. Then all will need to be shelled out. That’s a fun project that Scott and I will do together while watching Amazon Prime originals in the evening.
I’ve also picked the baby lima beans. The green ones I cooked and we ate them days ago. The dried ones also need to be shelled out. All of these dried beans will be used to plant again next year.
I made a really neat string of cayenne peppers and hung it up to dry. That’s all you have to do. After they are dry, I can do a couple of things with them. I might powder them up to make my own cayenne pepper seasoning. And I can chop them up into flakes and roast them in the oven. That adds a kind of nutty flavor to them. Then just toss them into soups, stir fries, and so on. Use them as you would store bought stuff. Using your own homemade seasonings is very satisfying.
The hot cherry peppers are producing like crazy. I have so many of these lovely peppers. They are not too terribly hot. Unlike the serrano peppers that I have. The serrano peppers are the hottest ones that I am growing this year. My jalapenos are quite mild. In fact, I made some pickled hot peppers and was informed by a customer that they simply were not hot. Next time I make a batch, I’ll add more serrano peppers to the mix and fewer jalapenos. In the meantime, I need to re-label the pickled hot peppers. What should I call them? Probably just pickled peppers.
I finished drying a batch of sweet bell peppers. I did two trays of green and one of red. Right now, I have a few more green ones that are turning red. I’m ripening them in a window. I hope to have lots more of these great peppers for cooking throughout the winter and spring.
Scott has prepared the potato beds for the next planting. I’m not sure. It may be too late in the season for fall potatoes, but I’m going to give it a go anyway. We shall see how big they get.
The green beans bloomed again and I will have another picking from them within a day or two. The purple hulled cow peas also put on a bumper crop. Those may need three or four days yet before picking. Both of these lovelies will be fresh veggie for dinner soon.
I successfully grew a small batch of red onions. They are currently in the drying process and will be ready soon. There are a few white onions still out in the garden. They do not look like they are going to get very big. Some of the tops are already dying and that means they have grown all they are going to this time around.
Now let’s talk about those tomatoes. The row is set up with tomato cages that were tied to rebar every so many feet. The sheer amount of tomatoes on the plants soon pulled that apparatus down. Yesterday, Scott went out there and tried to shore up the row. Many of the plants were laying on the ground, having broken down the make-shift trellis completely. I went out there last night to pick some and found some of the cages fell over yet again. I just need to pick and pick and pick to lighten the load.
The problem with that is I am running out of space to ripen them. I’m okay with picking my tomatoes just as they begin to turn. Once they are yellow or orange, I bring them in else the raccoon will get the results of all my fine work. I bring them in and put them on the shelves I used in the spring to start the tomatoes and peppers indoors so they are large enough to plant in the garden at the proper time. Once the seedlings are done, those shelves remain empty until this time of year when they fill up again with the fruits – literally – of my labor. The shelves are filled with tomato fruits and a few peppers.
I have four shelves currently full. There are also two 5-gallon buckets sitting in my kitchen at this very minute waiting for me to finish this podcast and return to them. They are red, ripe and ready to be turned into sauce.
Here’s my process for making tomato sauce. It’s fairly easy as long as you have the proper equipment. I start with cleaning up the tomatoes, taking out the cores and then quartering them. I put them in a pot and start heating it up very slowly on the stove. Once they are cooked, it’s time to get the seeds and skins out.
I have a Kitchen-Aid mixer that has lots of nifty attachments. One of my favorites is the food mill. Once it is set up, all I have to do is turn it on and start dipping the tomatoes out of the pot into the hopper. The seeds and skins come out in one place and the juice and pulp come out in another place. I usually run the seeds and skin waste through a second time to get the most pulp and juice possible.
Once I have the pulp and juice, it’s a matter a cooking it down to the desired thickness and then starting the canning process. Sometimes this is a two-day project. Today is one of those times. Likely I will only get the tomatoes cleaned up and cut up today. Tomorrow will be the cooking, separating seeds and skins, cooking down to desired thickness and finally canning.
Canning the sauce is as easy as dipping the thickened sauce into sterilized jars, cleaning the rims, putting on the two-piece lids and setting them in a water bath canner for 15 or 20 minutes. Zip, zam, zowie and it’s done.
What do you think? Are you ready to give it a try? I don’t do videos, only audio. But I can recommend finding a YouTube video or two to get the details of how canning is done. One day in the future I will have a class or two here at the homestead on canning. I hope to meet some of you when that day arrives.
That’s it for today’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed the donkey story. They truly are blessed creatures. We love them so much. The quail are such a blessing. And yes, the sheep, lambs, goats, and cows are a blessing as well. Our life here is full. There is always so much to do and every bit of it is a blessing. Some things are a bit onerous, like all of the cleaning. And the quail and cow waste smells something awful, but when taken in context with everything else, you just can’t beat the joy of living every day in the presence of God’s creation.
Being able to grow our own food and preserve it for the winter is also fulfilling. It gives us a security that I would not give up for anything in the world. Especially in these days of uncertainty at the grocery store. I hope I’ve inspired you to try a bit of self-sufficiency for yourself. You don’t need a big place. A few plants in pots on your apartment balcony can provide a similar experience. Grow a few peppers and tomatoes. You’ll be glad you did.
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Thank you so much for stopping by the homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.
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