Tomato thief in the garden

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Given our 7 foot fence around the yard, have to rule out deer…my best guess is a raccoon scaling the fence for a snack. 

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Probably the same one who decided that my first tomato looked too good to ripen to save for seeds and pulled the branch off.  It was nice enough to leave the green ones on the fine which I have hung up on my garage where they are turning orange last time I checked them.

Butterfly in butterfly garden

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My daughters and I started a butterfly garden a couple of years ago, though we have seen a few butterflies pass by this was the first time we have been able to capture one on camera. 

This butterfly was visiting our butterfly bush, which for by many standards is basically a noxious weed.  But it doesn’t need much water, makes pretty flowers, and butterflies/bees like it so seems like a good plant to me.

How to make Peach Jam

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While heading to a friend’s house we came across a local fruit stand selling fresh peaches.  With the great quality and low prices I couldn’t help leaving with a couple dozen peaches.  By the time I made it back to the car, I knew there is no way we were going to eat this many so Maddie (my recently turned 6 year old) and I decided to make the homemade peach jam.

Now the other than Maddies “pinches of love” we simply followed the recipe on the package of Pectin.

  • 4 pounds of peaches (or about 8 peaches)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 packet of Ball Fruit Pectin
  • 5 pinches of love (each jar)

Now I will share with you a couple of techniques for “cutting up the peaches” I did this by hand because I did not take the time to learn these (yeah I was in a hurry)  First which I like the best is cut the peaches in half (remove pit) and then simply use a citrus juicer to get the meat off.  This also mashes them up a little for you and safe of kids to help out.  If you don’t have a citrus juicer, you can also use the same technique for removing skins off of tomatoes.  Boil the peaches for 30-60 seconds then dump them in an ice bath and the skins should slide right off.  If they still have trouble try leaving them in for another 30 seconds (given they are probably not completely ripe) and you should have better luck.

Add the peaches, lemon, and pectin into a pot over medium heat stirring constantly as it comes to a full boil.  Add sugar then let boil for 1 minute then remove from heat.  Fill jars up to 1/4 inch from the top add lids/rings and boil for 5 minutes and you should have yourself some delicious peach jam which is good for about 12 months in your pantry.

The more educational part of this post is my demonstration of how to improvise when you are missing fancy tools like a water bath canner (ok it is just a large pot) that barely covers the top of the jars.

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Here is our “jar tongs” to get the jars promptly out of the water bath using my BBQ tongs.

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In the end the jam setup well and all five jars remained sealed.  Though I think I either need to get a bigger pot or some half pint jars for the next time I try this.

As a finishing touch my daughter insisted on this custom make labels using some mailing labels I had lying around.

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In the end the jars look pretty good and she is excited to start selling them…though we probably will opt to keep a couple jars for ourselves and share a few with some friends/family.

How to make your own Stevia sweetener

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Stevia is an ultra sweet sweetener that has no calories and is grown natively for ages in South America that is 300 times more sweet than other sweeteners.  The good news you can grow your own in your backyard and make some in your own backyard.

1. You can start a stevia plant by seeds but you can save yourself a lot of pain and just buy one at your local nursery and root cuttings in moist soil and keep your plant around for years.

2. Once the plant is 12” to 18” tall harvest top 2/3 of the plant.

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3. Place plant on dehydrator tray at 90 degrees F, checking every 8 hours until the leaves are crisp (took 18 hours for mine to get to the correct dryness.

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4. Pull off the leaves off of the stem, if the end break off keep those as well (this cab be the sweetest part of the plant)

5. Grind the leaves and into a powder using a blender or coffee grinder.

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One teaspoon of raw stevia powder has the equivalent sweetness of 1 cup of regular sugar and can be used as is in baked goods though to make up for the bulk you will want to also add 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce.

You can also make your own liquid sweetener by adding 1 tablespoon of raw stevia to 1 cup water and boil for 10 minutes.  Filter leaves out using a coffee filter and keep in the refrigerator for and add to your liquid drinks as needed.

Making homemade strawberry syrup

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Though not the best summer for tomatoes, our mild summer has been great for strawberries.  Until recently I was picking about a pint a day from our modest “strawberry patch”  Many became a quick snack, smoothies, and others got frozen for consumption this summer.

This morning the kids wanted something special for breakfast so decided on making some homemade strawberry syrup.

 

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Homemade Strawberry Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Directions:

Combine all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer to allow the syrup to thicken and reduce to about one half by volume (15 — 20 minutes)

Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before serving

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This is great of pancakes/waffles but my daughters also enjoyed this on vanilla ice cream.  With my oldest daughters loves of sugar and strawberries she asked if she could eat it by itself, which I had to say no too…

First Tomato 2010

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This is an unfortunately record, being the latest I have gotten my first ripe tomato.  In case if anyone was wondering, this was on the 1 gallon milk carton upside down garden planter.