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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pressure Canning Trouble Shooting

I have decided that I like to can with a pressure canner that has a weighted gauge rather than a dial. I'll admit that I've never tried a dial gauge, but with young kids and a short attention span, I would probably forget to keep an eye on the dial. If I hear noise every once in a while I don't forget that I'm canning.

I have run into a problem though with my canner. I tend to over pressurize things, which leads to some overflow. I think I have figured out that the problem is that my stove burners aren't level which in turn throws off the weighted gauge.

To attempt to solve this problem, I am trying to level out my burners by putting coins underneath the plate. This helps a bit, but I don't think that I have just the right adjustment yet. I will keep fidling with it and hopefully get it figured out within the next couple of batches. If all else fails, I'll start canning some water with food coloring to check for overflow.

I just don't think I can bring myself to using a dial though. Any thoughts?  (** Added later - I now use washers to level out my canner, and it has done the trick!)

Tools of My Trade  
Much of what I preserve is pressure canned due to their low acidity in order to kill all bacteria that would cause dangerous food born illnesses. They can be safely canned by using the recommended times and pressures given for your altitude. I have a couple older Mirro pressure canners given to me that work wonderfully, and my mom has a newer one that she loves as well. If you do some asking around, you might find someone who has given up canning and has one available, or you can look for one like the one pictured below. It should hold around 9 pint jars or 7 quart jars.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I just wanted to let everyone know that I've set up another blog, Tom Kies Woodworks, but this one is for my dad. :) He's a GREAT custom woodworker. I grew up working in his shop, carrying his lumber, and learning the rewards of hard work. Feel free to check out his site and see some of the things he's made over the years. (The furniture with the wood looking floor underneath is mine.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stoneyfield Recap

This summer I spent quite a bit of time doing business related things. I set up our Stoneyfield Farm Facebook, we became certified to sell our meat by the cut, we sold some hogs by the half and whole, and I did a lot of bookwork. There is still quite a bit to do on the business side of things, but we are slowly being able to settle in and expand.

Here is the biggest project I have been working on lately - setting up pricing and packaging so we can sell our pork by bundles. Last night I finally got the last pieces together, and now we have Mix and Match Pork Samplers available. We don't have a lot available this time, but it's nice to be set up and able to expand. (You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Orchard Recap

If you remember, at the beginning of spring I was given some saplings to start an orchard. You can read about it here and here. We planted these right next to the garden, with some in the old hog lot and some not. Just like the garden, you could tell which ones were in the hog lot. It was especially noticeable with the cherry trees since some of those were in both places. (I'll try to get pictures)

I did quite a bit of work in the orchard, mulching, seeding between trees, and watering. The orchard didn't start out as good as I had hoped though. About half of the trees ended up surviving. The ones in the hog lot did slightly better than the ones that weren't there, but I think it might have had more to do with their delivery. They were supposed to arrive dormant, and when I received them, they were starting to leaf out.

All of the peach trees had leaves, and none of those survived. Although I watered them faithfully, their leaves quickly browned up after we planted them. None of the pear trees survived either. About half of the apples and plums did, and I think all of the cherry trees did.

I called the company that sent them, and thankfully they said they would replace them free of charge if I could send the roots back before November. I will then receive new dormant trees to plant this year yet. So you can guess what I'll be doing this week. :) After I get the trees dug, I will start making wire wraps to prepare for winter. Got to keep those bunnies away!

So hopefully with trying dormant trees in the fall instead of spring, and with some added compost, we will have a bit more success this round.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Garden Recap

This summer I had high hopes for my garden, but this year wasn't that much of a garden year.

Part of the reason was because of the weather over the summer - a lot of people were disappointed with their gardens. In the spring there was so much rain that it was impossible to weed for two weeks, and the weeds loved it. Once it stopped raining, it stopped raining - things got pretty dry for awhile. The temperatures were also extremely cool for the summer, which in turn slowed down gardens in our area.

In addition to the weather, our summer continued to be full of farm and house set up. Even though gardening was high on my list of things to do, it was low on the list of what needed to be done.

Even so, we did get a bit of the garden in and did get a bit of produce. We enjoyed eating fresh out of the garden - cauliflower, beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, lettuce, etc., and I even got some canning/freezing done. I ended up canning 34 pints of green and wax beans, 27 pints of stew tomatoes, 18 pints of spaghetti sauce, and froze 52 - 2 cup bags of sweet corn. Right now I am digging yams and carrots and will have enough for fresh eating for awhile. I have also gotten 23 pints of apple sauce and there are more apples arriving this week from my parent's house. The kids are in the middle of harvesting their pumpkins and gourds too, which I think did the best out of everything!

Although I had higher hopes out of the garden, I am still thankful for what we were able to get and also for being blessed with some extras from others.

As a side note, it was quite interesting seeing how the garden grew this year. We planted the sweet corn, pumpkins, and gourds in the hog lot from last winter. They did tremendous. The rest of the garden went into newly plowed land. It didn't do too tremendous. There were a few plants, however, that bordered where the hog lot was, and there was no guessing which those were. I wish I had taken pictures, but the tomatoes that were in the new garden were maybe 2 feet tall with a handful of leaves and a tomato or two. The tomatoes that bordered the hog lot were over 4 feet tall, loaded with tomatoes, and tipping over the cages! The same was true with the carrots, beans, and the other plants.

Next year we are planting most of the main veggies in last year's hog lot, and the sweet corn and pumpkin/gourds/squash will go where we have let our pigs root this year (when not on pasture). We are also going to put the hogs in the new garden area for a bit this fall or winter to do some conditioning there - but we will have to give it sufficient time to rest so maybe that will be my flower holding ground until we get flower beds made.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I'm Back! I think . . . :)

Well, what I originally thought would be a week or two vacation became a 4 month vacation! It was definitely needed though. There was a lot around here that needed to be put in order, and I was honestly quite overwhelmed. Although we are a LONG way from being settled in and set up, I am starting to feel like things are not quite as overwhelming here.

And now I have 4 months of things that I have been itching to share - things about farming, Stoneyfield Farm - our farm, the garden, the house, the landscaping, the family, and just things that I thought would be fun to share. Although I want to jump in and start shooting off tons of new posts, I do need to pace myself or I will soon find myself with too many things that aren't getting taken care of.

So, I am going to try to catch up while keeping up with new info, I am also going to really restrain myself and try not to post more than once or twice a week for awhile. Even though I blog to keep a journal for myself later on (which is one reason why I really hate taking breaks), I might be swayed to pick certain topics if there is enough persuasion in the comments. :)

So here we go again!
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