Monday, August 29, 2016

elderberry fun

A couple of years ago, maybe three now, I planted two elderberry bushes in my quest to add perennial fruit to the farm.  I had read about the elderberry, where both the flowers and the berries could be used.  The bushes flowered this year for the first time.  I have not seen or tasted elderberry and knew very little about them and what I did know was not due to experience but only research.  So I left my flowers, thinking that I would not harvest the flowers but let them bear fruit this first year and then next year when I knew what to expect I could use some of the flowers and let some turn to berries. Not all of the berries ripen at the same time.  They are a dark purple/blue and the stem turns to red when ready.  The berries are tiny and must be removed from the stems.  There is some toxicity to the stems and so I was careful to separate the berries from the stem.  It was pretty time consuming but eventually I had washed and destemmed all of the ripe berries from my first harvest.  I had been undecided about what I wanted to try with the berries but eventually my decision was made for me.  I had enough berries for cordial but not enough for jelly.

So cordial it is.  The berries are placed in a quart jar, vodka is added along with some pieces of lemon peel.  The mixture is allowed to stand in a dark place for at least one and up to six months.  When the cordial is ready the vodka is strained and some sugar added.  The vodka/sugar mix is then allowed to stand a few more days until the sugar is dissolved.
clusters of berries


jars of vodka and berries--future cordial
   I am hoping to be set up by next spring to make some elderflower wine but in the meantime I have three separate jars of cordial and I am thinking that I will try opening one after about a month and then wait longer with the others.  It might be nice to have one at Thanksgiving and one at Christmastime.  I intend to make cordials or liqueur from other farm fruits when I am able.  My young pear trees have not started to produce yet.and this year my first potential plum crop of a decent size disappeared overnight.  Darn squirrels. 

I have a collection of cordial glasses started.  Cordial glasses are tiny glasses that hold a small amount of liqueur that is meant to be sipped.  I didn't decide that I needed them it just sort of happened and now I am excited to use them.  I bought my first ones because they were just so cute.  that same reason is pretty much why I have bought any of them.  They are all thrift store finds; many are vintage, a couple more modern.

Check back for links to the cordial recipe and my cordial collection.

I am joining Susan at BNOTP for Met Monday here.


The recipe for the cordial can be found here. 

I talk about the cordial glasses here.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Garden update and a little produce before and after

This has been a challenging year for the summer garden.  But all is not lost.  I am currently seeding for some fall crops and starting to get seeds planted for the winter greenhouse.  My garden went in late as I was waiting for the deer fence before I planted anything.  The fence had its own challenges but it was successful in keeping out the deer.  Not so successful in keeping out what I am assuming is rabbits that took out whole rows of transplants.  I am getting some peppers and some tomatoes and basil.  The vine crops are hanging in there so I am hopeful for fall squashes and pumpkins.

We  had kind of a monsoon week, rain several days in a row with the worst being nearly six inches that fell in one day.  During that wet period my basil went to seed.  I picked a bunch and am hoping that the plants will continue to produce.  My pickings:

dishtowel full of basil
I used some of the basil for a freezer pesto and the rest was frozen in ice cube trays in olive oil.

three jars of pesto for the freezer
I also picked some peppers and made a couple of batches of pepper jelly.  My brother is a fan so much of my jelly will go to him.  My kids like pepper jelly too but made their own last year. 

pepper jelly before
 I usually put it up in 4 ounce jelly jars.  Today's two batches resulted in 24 jars.

pepper jelly after
Next update should be a fruit update.  And maybe some recipes.  Thanks for visiting.

Joining Susan at BNOTP for Met Monday here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

bitten by the thrifting bug

My blog friend Kim who blogs at Exquisitely Unremarkable recently blogged about how her thrift store stinks.   She didn't appear to be talking about the smells but the selection and the prices.  Quite a few of her comments were from people who felt the same way about their thrift stores.  I live in the midwest in a rural area so there are several area towns that are often destinations and while we are there for other purposes we usually do a little thrifting too.  We have three very nice goodwill stores with 75 miles of my house.  One town that does not have a Goodwill has a different thrift store and an estate store, a cross between a thrift store and an antique shop.  There is a new Goodwill that just opened, which will be the fourth one in our area, which we have not had a chance to check out yet.  One town has a Goodwill and a Savers.   The Savers is a little bit more pricey but much of the stock is a little bit nicer too.

I never used to be a thrifter. Oh, I used to rarely go to an auction or antique store but hadn't in years.  My youngest daughter took me along with her once, maybe a year ago.  She and her boyfriend's mom were hitting a garage sale (it was advertised as an estate sale but it was a garage sale) and then they were checking out the two thrift stores in the same town.  My daughter was on the search for vintage tableware and decor items.  Her plan was to get a collection established and then do decor rentals for parties and photography sessions.  I ended up buying a plastic bag of crystal salt cellars for a buck.  The next time I went shopping with my sister we checked out the closest Goodwill looking for treasures for Cait's budding sideline.  We both got bitten by the bug and now we nearly always stop when we are in town and almost always find great stuff.

I think part of our good luck might be location but I think the real reason is my Italian Prosperity Jar.  Kim introduced me to the prosperity jar.  Bourbon and kale in a jar, shake it and wait for prosperity to happen.  There was this little disclaimer that you had to loosely define 'prosperity'.  I believe that for me prosperity means great stuff at Goodwill.  I certainly haven't won the lottery or gotten fabulously wealthy.

My sister and I started out grabbing up brass candlesticks.  Cait's theory was you can never have too many candlesticks. When she was getting started I gave her my collection and then we started purchasing ones as we found them.  We found dish sets, glassware, unusual pieces, vintage pieces.  Cait has run out of room to store a lot as she rents with others so until she has more space my sister's and my focus has shifted instead to things that we love.

I now have enough that I can join the ranks of the bloggers doing tablescapes at least occasionally and as a beginner.  Mom's Hobby Farm is a garden/farm life blog.  When I started including garden recipes I created a new blog to segregate those posts.  And when I wanted to include recipes that didn't include food that I had grown myself I put those recipes in a different spot, another blog.  Links to those blogs, The Farmstand Cookbook and The Bakery at Mom's Hobby Farm are at the top on my sidebar.  The last of my blogs on the sidebar, A Dozen for Dinner is where I blog about parties and holidays and dishes.  I added a new tab there called the thrifty table.  Today I posted there about some of my white dish collection.

In the picture the smallest plates are part of a set of appetizer plates.  The rimmed soup plates were a gift from my daughter Nikole and the silverware is my everyday stainless.  Those are the only parts of this tablescape that were purchased new.  Everything else on the table has been found on our thrifting expeditions.  The link to that post is here.

Ok.  Now I have been stalling long enough.  Time to get back to blogging about the farm.

Thanks for stopping by.


Friday, August 12, 2016

crisis averted

 And here is my reward--cappuccino and chocolate almond biscotti for brunch on vintage china. 

  Today's potential crisis started a couple of weeks ago.  I live in the country and so I do  not have city water or sewer.  I have a well and a septic system and both are frequently in need of my attention at best and at worst, the plumber's attention when it is something that is beyond DIY and requires the professionals.  

One evening as I was finishing up outside and putting out dog food for my three big dogs, one of my dogs, Codie, did not come to eat.  She is usually the first one so I started to call her and look for her.  As I went past the well I noticed that the lid to the well room was ajar.  Our well is below ground in a cement 'room' with an opening at the top.  With a feeling of dread I peeked into the well and there she was standing at the bottom of the well.  Thankfully she did not look to have been injured in her fall but I was not sure how I would get a 100 pound dog up out of there.  The only way to access the well is to drop a ladder down the opening  and climb into the room.  It was nearing dusk and once it was dark it would be much more difficult to get her out.  I knew that I couldn't do it alone so I called Robb, my daughter Caitlin's boyfriend, who lives about 15 miles away.  He said that he would be right over and I set about gathering equipment that might come in handy and called my parents, who also live about 15 miles away to see if they could come in case we needed more than the two of us to hoist her out.  

Robb made really good time, it turns out he was kind of in the area, and showed up as I was bringing the last of the potential rescue equipment.  Prior to dropping the ladder into the opening I pulled up the sump pump to get it out of the way and noticed that there was damage to the power cords.  We have a sump pump in place because the room is below grade and when the surrounding ground is wet, water will seep into the room.  The well pump and pressure tank is positioned about three feet up from the floor but when it is really wet, like in the spring when there is a lot of snow melt or during particularly wet summers the level of water can climb and short out the well pump.We pump the water out to prevent damage. Once the ladder was in place Robb climbed down and fastened Holly's (the horse) halter around Codie's upper chest and belly and  attached the lead rope. He boosted her from below and I pulled on the rope from above and we were able to drag her out.  There was several inches of water in the bottom of the well so Robb and Codie were both wet.  We had her out before my parents arrived so I quickly called them to let them know that she was safe and that they could turn around and return home.  Codie was without any apparent injuries but she is an older dog with a heavy coat so I am sure that she had some stiffness and some bruising that wasn't apparent due to her very thick black coat.  

The next day Dad hauled the sump pump to town to work on the power cords and a day or two later he returned it and  I dropped it into the well room to pump the water out and it did not work.  Back to town it went and Dad discovered that the switch was damaged and that we cannot replace just the switch as the design has changed and the switch is no longer available.  In the meantime there is a ton of stuff going on and it is not raining so replacing the sump pump kind of moves farther down on the to do list.  Every few days I would check the level of water in the bottom of the well room, knowing that if it started to climb to the height that could damage the well I had the option to move the sump pump from the septic system and pump it out.  

All of that changed yesterday when it started to rain.  We had  a storm move thru in the early morning that deposited 4/10ths.  A second storm moved thru in the afternoon bringing another 7/10ths and when it started raining again during the evening and night I knew that I would need to do something.  We received five inches of rain during the night.  It could have been worse.  A town 35 miles to the east is reported to have received over eight inches and a town about 45 miles to the south is reported to have received 13 inches.  Some water standing in my yard and ditches is nothing compared to the flooding in those communities.  

At first light the rain had stopped so I immediately checked the water level in the well.  It was higher but not to the point yet that it would damage the well.  I hurried to town and my parents and I headed out to buy a new pump and the extra parts needed.  Once I got home I was able to glue the pvc plumbing parts together and get the pumping going.  So far so good.  I pumped a lot of water out and I am sure that for days it will seep back in but at least for now it is keeping the level down.  Potential crisis averted.  

Back to my brunch, the china is new to me and I write about it on an entertaining blog called A Dozen for Dinner.  Since I started that blog I have been bitten by the thrifting bug and am in the process of amassing new collections and expanding my white collection.  I am adding a new tab at the top called The Thrifty Table and the first post is about these dishes and can be found here..

The cappuccino was made with espresso made in my moka pot and hot milk that was frothed with my immersion blender.  

I have another blog called The Bakery At Mom's Hobby Farm.  The biscotti recipe can be found on that blog here.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

back to baking--and blogging

After a fairly lengthy unplanned blogging hiatus it is time to get back to posting.   I wish I could say that I have been crazy busy doing fun stuff and taking lots of pictures and the posts will be numerous and highly entertaining but I can't.  I have been pretty busy, some good things and some not so great things have been keeping me busy but alas, no pictures.  So my first post in a while will have to be about food.

I have been interested in French macarons for a long time.  They are cute and tasty and I love a challenge.  They are reputed to be hard to make and I have tried several different recipes and different techniques with mixed success.  My younger daughter hosted a bridal shower for my older daughter and I made macarons for the party.  They were made without food coloring to match the light sage and cream theme of the party.  I did not get pictures of those macarons so I made another batch and colored those pink.  I am pleased with how they turned out and when I got three batches in a row to turn out I am thinking that I am getting the hang of it.
For the shower two macarons were placed in a tiny cardstock box and placed at each place setting.  The boxes were sage and cream and the cream colored macarons were nestled on a paper doily.  The boxes were machine cut but then run individually by hand thru an  embosser and hand assembled.  A fun project.
The post with the recipe for the macarons is here.

Macarons are made with meringue and each batch requires three egg whites.  With multiple batches I had quite a few egg yolks and went looking for a recipe with which to use them.  I tried a recipe for a frozen zabaglione, a custard made with sweet wine.  Here it is served topped with fruit.
The post with the zabaglione recipe is here.

Joining Susan at BNOTP here.