Fig Preserves

I look forward to this time each year, when the figs are ripening and I can spend an afternoon in the kitchen making fig preserves. My grandmother made fig preserves each year, so making my own brings back memories of her.

I don’t have a fig tree of my own, so when my uncle called and said his figs were ripening, I had to make it point to go by after work and pick. My uncle actually owns the house and land that used to belong to my grandparents, so I was picking from the same tress my grandmother used to pick from, and that made it even more special.

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I picked about two gallons of figs, and got about 17 pints of preserves from it.  I’m not sure what kind they are — Celeste maybe.

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I love the color of the preserves.  Usually fig preserves is brown, but this ended up being very pink. It’s beautiful!

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And it’s delicious too!  Mmm, Mmm!

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I used the Sure-gel recipe, minus the water.  Honestly, I just forget to add the water, and it turned out wonderful without it.

 

8 Week Update

I realize that it’s been a while since I posted anything about homesteading.  But, really, not much has been happening.

Phoenix’ babies turned 8 weeks old today.  They are growing well, but still not as big as they should be at this point.  They weigh between 2 pounds 14 ounces and 4 pounds; the average being 3-1/2 pounds.  The goal is to have them weigh between 4 to 4-1/2 pounds by this point.  We likely need to start giving them more hay or treat matter to fatten them up a little.

I didn’t weigh Aeries’ babies today — they will be 8 weeks old on Wednesday, and I am expecting similar results and maybe even a little smaller.  We shall see.

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The next litter is due June 14, so we’ll soon have more babies to play with.

Other than bunny news — the chickens are not producing many eggs at the moment.  We’re averaging just around 1 egg a day from 8 chickens.  Last week and prior we were averaging 6-7 a day, and then suddenly it just dropped off.  We believe they are molting so that is likely the reason.

And the garden is beginning to produce some.  We’ve harvested collards, peas, lettuce, spinach, kale, and onions.  The tomatoes, zuchinni, and pumpkin plants are growing nicely.  Beans, corn, peppers, and swiss chard have been planted.  And the potato cages have been made — now I just need to get some potato starts.

Also we bought some fresh sausage from the farmer’s market last weekend at $7.50 a pound!  Wow, I almost fainted from the price.  I think I need to raise my own pig… but that is certainly not going to be possible while living inside the city limits.  Maybe one day… pigs, goats, and sheep.  At least that is the dream for now.

Roughin’ It

We purchased on older model pop-up camper this week.  Honeyman wants to travel an hour or two for hunting purposes, and we like to go to the beach or mountains for short weekend get-a-ways.  So I expect it will get a lot of use.  We have been looking at campers for sale for several weeks and it is amazing the prices these things still sell for.  They hold their value much better than a car does.  We saw some that were 10-15 years old and people wanted $3000-$4000 for them.

We found an ’81 Coleman for a much better price.  Overall, we were looking for a good deal with solid bones and a good top — and this one fit that perfectly.   It doesn’t have a microwave, or a porta-potty (I think I’m ok with that), and the other little extras that the newer pop-up campers have.  But, I’m good with that.  There are two areas of the canvas that are unraveling and need to be restitched — good thing I’m pretty handy with a needle and thread.  Also, the board under the sink area is rotted out and will need to be replaced.

The tires however, may take a little more work.  Not 10 minutes into the drive last night, one of the tires blew (that is how the dent in the side panel got there).  Not to worry though — it came with a spare.  I’m not sure in which decade the tires were last changed, but whenever it was, it was too long ago — they are permanently rusted in place now!  The lug nuts will not budge.  So honeyman was driving home with the left side of the truck and camper on the road, and the right side on the grassy edge.  It was a sight to see.  That worked until he got into town and then the grassy edge became concrete curbs and sidewalks, so that wasn’t going to work any more.  He pulled off at the first tire center he found and left it in the parking lot overnight.  Bright and early this morning, we drove back up there when they opened.  Surely, they could get the tire off with their impact wrench… Wrong!  They couldn’t get it off either.  The lug nuts really are stuck!  So we had to tow it home.  Golly geez, that was expensive!  The tow cost a 1/3 of what we paid for the camper itself.  Not sure how we’re going to get the tires off and replaced, but hopefully it won’t be too bad on the pocketbook.

The inside is something ugly though (hope it didn’t overhear me say that).  What was it about the 70’s and early 80’s that made designers think that gold, orange, and brown were the choice decorating colors?  Ewww!  So, while honeyman works on the wheels, I’ll be doing my magic on the inside.  A trip to the fabric store is at the top of the list.  Yippee!  And then a trip to the hardware store for paint. I love to sew and paint so this is right up my alley. I’m not sure I’ll be adding curtains or fluffy pillows, but a color change in the cushions and laminate is definitely on the list.  And maybe curtains if I can find some tracks to hang up on the inside.  I haven’t completely ruled them out yet.

As if we didn’t already have a lot to keep us busy, we have another project now.  I love taking something old and ugly and making it beautiful again.  It’s so much fun to dig in, work with my hands, watch the progress, and then end up with a nice finished project.  I think that’s why I like quilting and sewing so much.  Although I typically start with nice, not ugly, fabric, it is still nothing more than a flat 44″ by something inch panel that has no real use.  But throw together a little designing, a little cutting, and a little sewing and you end up with really nice usable items — quilts, aprons, clothes, curtains, bags, etc.  It’s amazing all the things you can make with fabric, and it’s ‘sew’ much fun!  It’s the enjoyment and the feeling of achievement – a job well done.

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Cute As A Button

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To say these kits are cute is an understatement.  They are fourteen adorable little bouncing balls of fur.  Four of the fourteen are all white, and I think they might be the absolute cutest of them all.

DSC_0109-001These have been outside since birth, so I’m not able to peek in on them as often as I did the last litter that was inside.  For that reason, they haven’t been held as much and you can really tell. They are just 3 weeks old, but already they don’t like to be picked up at all.  They scream and kick their little feet — much like a toddler pitching a fit.  And that’s assuming you can even catch them.  We have a 12′ long cage that is divided down the middle — 1/2 for each mama.  Well, the babies are still small enough to run between the fence dividing the halves, so as soon as we try to grab them from one side they have run to the other side.  We have learned to be a little sneaky and bribe them with Timothy hay.

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At 3 weeks old though, the litter from the black/red mama (Phoenix) weighs an average of 13-1/2 ounces.  That is a whole 5 ounces larger at this age than our first litter from the broken mama (Aries).  I’m sure this is due mostly to the fact that Phoenix is quite a bit bigger than Aeries.  However, the kits from Aries are also bigger this time by several ounces on average.  I’m guessing that could be from having a smaller litter to nurse (7 vs 10).  Or maybe first litters are, on average, just smaller.  I’m really not sure.

DSC_0107-001It hadn’t been all easy going though.  At 1 week old, one got stuck in the corner between the wire and the frame.  I had to get my grandkid’s mother (size zero) to climb in the cage to get him out.   Sure wish I had a picture to share as it was quite funny looking.  That issue has been fixed.

Another one just plain fell out of the cage.  Not sure how, but we’re thinking the door opened just slightly and he just plopped out of the cage.  I found him early the next morning just sitting there on the ground, and I’m so glad I found him before the dogs did.  That problem with the cage has been fixed as well.    However, they like to lay in a big pile next to the door, so there have been several times now that when we open the door, no matter how careful we are, one will fall out or jump out.  So on any given day now you may find us chasing a baby bunny through the yard.  In fact, between the bunnies and the chickens, I’ve been chasing quite a few animals lately.  Thankfully, though, I have been able to catch each one of them and get them safely back to their little homes.

Overall, all 14 kits are growing and developing quite perfectly.  Our first litter of kits was just 3 months ago and it has been a ton of fun to watch these cuties grow.  Already we’re planning when we might breed our third female — you remember, the one we got in trade that was supposed to be a male…  Chances are I’ll be showing you pictures of her cute babies in about 6 weeks.

DSC_0112-001I think this light red one is really cute a well.  His undercoat is white, versus the dark undercoat of the other two red ones..

 

 

Stop and Smell the Wisteria

Wisteria

While I understand that some people plant Wisteria on purpose, in this part of the country (the Southeastern US) it is considered an invasive species.  It can overtake and choke out acres of trees and other native plants.  It blooms in the spring around here… the blooms are beautiful, very delicate, about 9 inches long, and only last about 2 weeks.  The plants then continue to grow and spread over the remaining of the summer.

But, it smells oh so delicious!  I really wish I could describe the smell to those of you who may not be lucky enough to have this plant grow where you live.  It’s sweeter than honey suckle.  More fragrant than gardenia.  It’s easy to catch whiffs of it as you’re driving down the road and you just have to close your eyes (not advised while actually driving) and breath in the wonderful, intoxicating scent.  It is truly heavenly!  In fact, in my opinion, heaven should smell like wisteria, gardenia, and jasmine.  From what I hear not all wisteria smells this heavenly, but the Lord has certainly blessed us with a highly fragrant species in this corner of the world, and for that I am grateful.

Now if I could just find a use for it…

In the meantime though, I will continue to enjoy it for it’s beauty and intoxicating fragrance.  That is certainly enjoyment enough.

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Kits, Kits, and more Kits

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  When you’re working 70-hours a week it’s hard to find time to fit anything else in.  I did find time to make a bow tie and suspenders for monkey #2 for his aunt’s wedding that he is in this weekend (Pictures in a post later this weekend). And I made it to a hockey game this week, so that was a much needed rest even if my team did lose.

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But the real news this week is more new kits.  We woke up Easter morning to this.

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It’s kind of like Christmas morning.  You know there is something there to be unwrapped, but you’re not sure what it is (or in this case, how many) until you dig deeper.  It was still pretty early in the morning and quite cold, so I left them alone until mid-day and then decided to dig down to see.  And I found this.

DSC_0011-001There were actually 8 little ones, but one was dead.  The other 7 were very active and squirming all over the place.

Here is the proud mama.  She is very wary of me and wonders what I’m doing messing with her babies.

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Then three days later, we woke up and our broken female was pulling fur like crazy.  She was a day late to deliver so we were already wondering if she was really pregnant or not.  She is the same female that had our last litter and she doesn’t get real big.  And I still haven’t figured out how to tell if a female rabbit is pregnant by feeling for lumps at 10-14 days gestation.  So, even though we bred them on purpose and counted down the 31-days to delivery, we were still uncertain if she was even pregnant.  From what I hear breeding isn’t always successful.

But about 2 hours later, I checked on her again and found this.  I guess it was successful.  [smile]

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Again I waited until mid-day for it to warm up before I dug deeper.  And I found 8 squirming little ones. We have since lost one due to the cold.  It was 40 degrees and rainy all day yesterday, and one got away from the rest of the litter and died of exposure.  We didn’t find him until it was too late.  {tear}

Here is mama looking on while I check out her babies.  She is probably a little more trusting of us since she is the mama from our first litter.

DSC_0049-001Here is a picture of one of each litter taken today — one is two days old and the other is 5 days old.  It shows just how much they grow in just a few days.  It’s amazing.

DSC_0052-001Update on the first litter we had in January — we still have 4 left from a litter of 10.  We sold 5 to homes looking for a pet.  And one male we traded for another male to someone else looking to diversify their gene pool.  I thought it was a great idea, so I was all for it.

About a week later, honeyman mentioned that he had put the new male with our other male for a few minutes because he wanted to see how they would get along.  But he said that our male just kept trying to hump the new one.  I thought that was strange.  I mean male dogs hump each other, but do male rabbits?  So, I asked, “You did check to make sure it was a male that we got in trade, didn’t you?”  Well, he hadn’t so we decided to check right then.  And I bet you can guess what we found before I even tell you.  It wasn’t a male after all, but a female that we had gotten in trade.  The man who traded with us also said he (she) was 9-months old, but I’m not sure how to tell the age of a rabbit, so I’m not sure about that either.  I guess we’ll try to breed her one day and see how it turns out.  Honeyman said they didn’t actually mate that day he put them together.  Maybe I better count down the 31-days just to make sure.  Otherwise, I guess it’s a lesson learned.

But, here are our 4 remaining from the first litter.  They are about 9-1/2 weeks old and approximately 4 pounds.  We are keeping the white and brown one.  The others are… well they are very close to eating size if they don’t get sold in the next couple of weeks.

DSC_0065-001Back to work.  Thankfully, April 15th is almost here.

 

 

 

Disappointing Seed Start

I would prefer to grow my veggies by seeds.  It is cheaper, we can grow more varieties than what we might find locally, and it would enable us to start with heirloom seed instead of the hybrids that are available at the local nursery.

However, I’ve not ever had much success with starting plants by seeds.  Years ago we set up a table with a hot light.  They grew but they were spindly.  Since then we’ve not had a place to dedicate to seeds.  I did grow some nice bean plants last year from seed, but usually we have just purchased plants when it was time to set out the garden.

2012 Bean plants

2012 Bean plants

But this year, I thought I would try again.  We purchased a lot of heirloom seeds by mail order last fall.  I looked up my local extension office to find planting instructions for each.  I even had honeyman build me a very nice cold frame.   I was all set to plant my seeds.

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We can plant most summer crops around 4/15 here in central NC.  So I counted back 8 weeks and started the seeds around mid-February and put them in the cold frame.

This is my first time using a cold frame so I wasn’t up on all the rules.  For instance, I didn’t know that when it was sunny and 50 degrees outside that you needed to open the windows and vent it.  When I finally figured that part out, I realized that sunny and 50 degrees outside meant 90-100 degrees inside the cold frame!  Who knew the windows would make it that much hotter when the sun shines in.  In addition, I wasn’t aware that the pots would dry out faster and require more watering.  Well, maybe I could have figured that out, but with working 12-14 hours days at the time, there were many days I didn’t get outside to check on them.  So, three weeks after planting, there was nothing.  It was like a barren desert.

So, I replanted.  And this time I followed the rules.  I watered them more often and I vented the windows.  Jump ahead two weeks… well, I guess you can’t call it nothing, but it’s close enough.  The collards are up and there a couple of little sprouts of herbs.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Collards, cabbage & onions

Collards, cabbage & onions

herbs, broccoli, cauliflower, bak choy, kohlrabi

herbs, broccoli, cauliflower, bak choy, kohlrabi

So, I thought maybe I had bad seed.  I read online that you can tell bad seed from good seed by soaking them overnight in water.  Good seed are supposed to sink to the bottom, and bad seed are supposed to float.  So I set up little cups of water and put different seeds in each.

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By the next morning, 99% of the seed had sunk to the bottom.  So that means the seeds are good right?  So I planted the seeds that had been soaking all night.  I thought having soaked in water all night would give them a head start and they should sprout even faster.    I had put more in each cup than I thought I needed because I didn’t expect 99% of them to be good.  Therefore, I ended up with more pots than I had originally planted due to the fact that I had extra seeds soaked.  I certainly didn’t want to waste them.

Back in the cold frame they went, well watered this time.

DSC_0986 DSC_0987This was 6 days ago… I have one new sprout.  Just one!

I haven’t completely given up hope on the seeds, but since planting time is just 3-4 weeks away I’m beginning to wonder if I should put money aside in the budget to buy some plants.