Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

It's still summer!

This sunflower is about to give up.... all this talk of fall this and pumpkin that has really got him down. He's thrown himself down into this tree.

Don't worry little sunflower.... there's no need to despair.

Typically our September is the driest month and we usually have glorious sunny skies and warm temperatures.

Hang in there - dont' give up!

It's still summer. I'm not ready to give it up and neither is this sunflower.

Happy Saturday everyone!

Friday, August 28, 2015

How to freeze small portions of tomato sauce.

If you are running towards the end of the summer finish line then you know that saving time is crucial. You want to make sure you save all of your harvest but sometimes that means doing small lots of tomatoes and not huge vats for an all day canning marathon.

Small buckets of tomatoes. Easy peasy.

One of the easiest ways to capture the best of your harvest is to do a small batch of tomato sauce in your crockpot and then freeze it into small portions. I've never thought using ice cube trays was enough to be worth it..... so now I use cupcake trays to freeze-for-keeping small-ish portions of tomato sauce.

Sure you can cook down tomatoes in a crock pot!

You can easily clean a small bucket of tomatoes while making dinner and then cook them in your pokey pot overnight. In the morning just cool the sauce, give it a whirl in your blender, then pour into cupcake trays. I give the cups a little shot of cooking spray first so the sauce pops out when they are frozen.

Freeze the trays then just turn out the frozen cups of sauce and voila!

Use a blender to smooth out the sauce. The not-red stuff is just the cooking spray.

Last year I was not convinced that this was going to work at all. But it did! And it worked really well. What if you only want to make one pizza?.... Or you just need a half a cup of tomato sauce and you don't want to open a whole jar? Just grab one of these frozen wonders and you are good to go.

This year I used standard sized cup cakes and a couple trays of the huge, mammoth muffin sized trays.

A couple tips:
* Using a blender to smooth out the sauce is super fast and it makes pouring the sauce quick and easy.
* If the frozen cups don't slide right out then you can always let them sit for a few minutes. Or if you are super-coordinated you can set the trays in warm water for a few seconds and then pop them out.
* Wrap the frozen tomato cups in waxed paper so they stay separated.

That's what I'm working on today. Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Stock losses.

* Upon hearing of the terrible stock losses, OFG runs out and counts chickens, goats, and pigz.... *

Poultry is the new currency. We are loaded. 

Every body here is present and accounted for... I dunno what stock losses they are talking about.

There is one casualty tho - as usual Nicholas is sitting around watching the stock ticker.... you know he can't handle it.

Happy Wednesday everyone! No stock losses here. Good luck, suckers!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Happy Pigz

Those are some happy pigz.....

Enjoy it now, porker. 

Mostly I've limited my contact with the pigz to taking the dogs down there to glare at them. They are alright. Bacon. All I see is bacon.

Altho, we did have one incident where one of the pigz kissed Kai!  But that is another story for another day. I have to get out there. We are having glorious weather.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, August 24, 2015

You cant beat beets.

You just cant.
Beets are best. 

Got these little beauties at one of the auctions. If you are out there and want to make a million bucks - start growing beets. I have no idea why beets are so expensive. I honestly thought I was the only one who liked them. But they are going for $9 - $12 a bushel basket. I thought I was lucky to get these for $6 and it's a half a peck.

Why didn't I grow my own? They wouldn't grow! For heavens sakes, I started seeds four different times. Beet failure is one of the reasons I'm so glad for our local produce stands and auctions.

Happy Monday everyone! Get out there and harvest your beets!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Don't Practice Santeria....

This..... this is not what it looks like....

No chicken voodoo here. 

Don't worry, I don't practice santeria.... this is not chicken voodoo. We were just having Annoying Little Rooster Day.

Unfortunately we got a late start yesterday and so we were swarmed by bugs and yellow jackets. We lit some citronella candles to keep the bugs at bay. For the full effect you have to imagine me with my butcher knives standing between two tiki torches.

In the end it worked out really well for everyone - except those Annoying Little Roosters. The hens rejoiced and now we'll have some lovely chicken and noodles this winter.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday, August 21, 2015

How to get your pressure canner guage checked.

Do you know that you should regularly get the gauge checked on your pressure canner? I finally went in and got mine inspected - what a easy process!

If you home can food then you know safety is the highest priority. Most of us were a little leery of getting started with canning. But then you kind of get into the grove and used to it. And then you find out what a terrific value home canning can be. But you shouldn't slack off and become complacent... be sure to keep up with the maintenance of your canner.

The difference between water bath canning and pressure canning is getting the temperature of the contents of the jar high enough to kill off any bacteria. You get the temperature high enough with a  pressure canner. If you don't get the temperature high enough then the food will not be safe to eat. So knowing that your gauge is accurate is extremely important.

You also want to make sure that your seals are sealing, your lid fits property, and there is nothing clogging up the steam vent on the top. You can get all of these things checked in a jiffy at your local Extension Office.

I called up my local office and asked if I could get my gauges checked and they said, 'Sure! Come on in." There is a gal who teaches classes and provides this service. So I ran right down.  She was terrific and I learned a lot. The process just took a few minutes - I should have taken pictures but I didn't think about it. Rats.

Since I didn't have any pictures of the process here is an unrelated picture of Nicholas. 
LOOK at his huge paws!

I took the entire lid of both of my pressure canners. You can take the gauges off - but I took the whole thing. She had a gauge that is calibrated by the Fancy Pants Calibration Office (I honestly don't remember who provides it)....and a bicycle pump. Yep. How fun is that?

She put my lid on the contraption and increased the pressure. I could see the standard gauge and my gauge registering the pressure... that's when I saw that my gauge was off!

Fortunately, my first gauge was within 2 pounds of accuracy - so this was OK. But she cautioned me to make sure I ran the pressure a little high to be extra careful. However, when it got to the upper reaches - 15 pounds - it was really off. This is a problem.

Meat is canned at 15 pounds of pressure so my first gauge was out of the meat canning business. Was there a way to adjust it? Nope. I was sad. Improper canning can have dire results so I'm not taking any chances. Fortunately I can get a replacement steam gauge for my pressure canner here.

However, my second gauge was right on the money at all pressures. What a relief!

Next she checked the lids to make sure the handles were secure. A-OK on that. Then she checked the little rubber stopper thingy on the top... yep those were fine also. Could she see thru the steam vents? She checked this by holding it up to the light. Yep that was perfect also. In truth, I always check this at home. Just hold the lid up to the light and peep in - you should be able to see daylight thru the tiny hole.

We also checked the rubber seals - that is the big rubber ring thingy that fits inside the lip of the lid. The first one was perfect. It didn't show any wear, was intact, and was secure - meaning it was kind of hard to spin around in the brackets that hold it in place. She also bent the seal over her finger to check for any cracks. It was perfect. The first one got and A+++.

The second seal (remember I brought in two lids) did not get an A+++. The first thing she did was try and move the seal around in a circle while it was in place in the lid. It just spun around easily. Oh-oh.... Nope that one needs to be replaced. That is easy enough also - I can order this replacement seal.

She gave me some forms that stated the condition of the canner and results.

And that was it! I think it took about 10 minutes and that was mostly because we were chatting.

If you are uneasy about canning you should call up your local extension office. The gal I talked to holds classes to teach people the right way to can foods. She was so much fun that I would love to go to some of her classes even tho I know most of the basics of canning.

I asked her some questions that I get about canning... here is what she said:

OFG: What is the number one mistake people make with home canned foods?
Canning Gal:  Probably not knowing when to use a pressure canner. Also using non-standard methods because "That's the way Grandma used to do it."

She said she often works with older folks who might be holding on to old school ways. One thing to remember is that we seem to have more "superbugs" so not using proper canning protocols is just bad business.

OFG: What else?
CG: Using unapproved recipes. There are a lot of books out there that are just wrong - and also a lot of information on the internet that is not up to proper specifications.

 Most extension offices provide recipes and instruction sheets for how to's. This is also a terrific site that provides a lot of information. I'm always a little suspect when I see canning recipes online. So I always double check with an extension office. To make sure you are in the right place just look for a URL that looks like of like this: http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/canning. See the "extension.umn.edu? Yep. That is the ticket. Your state has a website that has approved canning recipes.

OFG: OK, here is the "uncomfortable potato" question..... what about providing home canned goods to friends, family....or say.... to a potluck at a local church?
CG: We recommend that you use home canned goods for home. However, if you want to give gifts then jams and jellies are a good option because they are easy to do and hard to do incorrectly, provided that you follow an approved recipe.

Here is the backstory and it serves as a good warning. There is a community nearby that had a terrible situation where someone brought potato salad to a potluck....made from incorrectly home canned potatoes. People got botulism - some were critically ill and someone died. While botulism is very rare - it happens. It looks like a stroke or some other neurological problem. Fortunately, a local doctor had seen a case of botulism early in her career and was able to properly diagnose and treat the folks. If not for her quick action the situation could have been much worse.

OFG: So how can we guard against that?
CG: Always follow proper canning processes and approved recipes. For low acid foods we recommend that you boil them for 10 minutes. This may not destroy all food borne contaminants but it is a good secondary precaution.

She also said that in these cases it's "eater beware." So if you find yourself in suspect circumstances... you can always gracefully decline. I know folks who do not practice proper food safety in their own kitchens. Someone I know regularly scares the dickens out of my with their "cooking" practices. Never feel bad about being polite and just pushing food around on your plate.

If you aren't scared off and you'd love to get into canning there are some terrific resources out there to help you on your way. You can find a list of my canning tools here. Here is a quick list:

* I have not one but TWO Presto 23-quart pressure canners.
* Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
* I like this set of tools because it comes with a timer.
* Lids, lids, lids, and more lids.

Today I'm having another pickle day... and even more tomato sauce. And I'm canning with confidence now that I know my gauges and canning parts are inspected. My replacement parts are on the way.

Happy Friday everyone! Have you gotten your pressure canner checked out?

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