Thursday, September 3, 2015

Canning Peaches

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Peaches and peaches and peaches!!

We've been a bit behind on processing and putting up fruits and veggies for the year. But, peaches are looking great.
We got three big crates and spent all of Tuesday peeling, cutting, jarring, and eating so many peaches!
We ended up with about two dozen jars of peaches, which will hopefully last us until next season.

It's all worth it. Charlie goes crazy for peaches, and who doesn't love a good fruit pie in the middle of winter? Warm and gooey, with a big scoop of ice cream.. now it's so simple. We really love local and fresh too, so this is our best option.

It is a LOT of work though, so I was more then happy when Mom got home from work to help with the jarring part. My goodness, I could not have finished without her.

So, here's how we do our peaches..

We look for the best, ones with big bad spots are put aside to be cut up and frozen (or eaten while we work). This just makes it a little bit easier when we're peeling and slicing the peaches we plan to can. You don't want any bruises going into the jar because that can ruin the whole container. You want something that is at a good ripeness, the kind that gives a little when you squeeze it, but doesn't drip juice.

So the best ones are washed, get a small x (let's say quarter size) cut into the bottom, and parboiled..
- This is a ~30 second bath in boiling water then plop them right into an ice bath. Once cooled off (10 seconds) I pull them out and grab one of those flaps from the x we cut in the bottom. This just helps it peel a bit easier. Also, here's where it's important to really have the best, properly ripened peaches. Too ripe and you'll lose a lot of flesh, not ripe enough and it's very hard to peel.

Once they're peeled we check for any bruises and cut out the pit. I like mine to be halved or quarter when I open them up in the winter, so cut to whatever your preference is. You should be left with a big bowl of beautiful peach flesh with no bruises and not pits or stems.

Toss those peaches into a jar until it is almost full. Now there is a liquid added into the peaches to keep them at the right consistency. If you want no sugar added, you can just fill it up to a half inch below the rim, with water. If you aren't worried about it make a simple syrup and toss that in it's place. This year, for the first time, we made a light simple syrup with local honey. I boiled about 4 cups of water to a cup and a half honey. (occasionally a little less honey, we'll see how it turns out). I love honey, in everything, so hopefully theseare as delicious as usual!
 ** The simple syrup is to keep the color and consistency of the peaches, adding water will not hurt the peaches, but they may brown a bit more and not quite stay the same. Totally your own preference.

So jars are full and ready to hit the water bath. Mom and I had a disagreement, and met in the middle, at 25 minutes. All the tops popped, no casualties. All in all, a pretty good canning experience.

 Here we are right in the middle of a few steps at once, we've got some fresh peaches, peeled peaches, peaches in need of simple syrup, and a few ready to go. It really was a team effort.

And in case you were wondering, of COURSE Charlie was helping us. Here she is getting sleepy, so mom took a break to read her a book. 

Monday, July 6, 2015


This fluctuating weather is making us crazy. The excessive rain and then heat have things blooming early, ducks happily digging in mud, and plants growing out of control. I genuinely can't keep up with pruning and containing my tomato plants. Some are growing into all three surrounding tomato cages! Our little tomatoes, pictured to the left two weeks ago, have a hundred tomatoes on each plant. Which is just about enough for me to snack on while weeding, pruning, and harvesting a few to bring inside.  I've also got an abundance of cucumbers flowering and growing all across the garden. It truly is a beautiful thing! I certainly won't complain about too many edibles.

Sully meeting Charlie for her 6 month photos
Our ducks, which we purchased in late May are really growing up nicely. They grow much more quickly then chickens, so we were a bit unprepared. They've been outside since week 3, it's certainly warm enough outside for them. They share space with some of our very spoiled chickens in the "little kid house." This is where newbies go and our most spoiled hen, Sully. It's a tough life for her here on our little farm. 
Our neighbor purchased a great duck house for our ducks, so once it's fixed up a bit, they'll have their own space and safe house to sleep in. Here they are growing out nicely, and enjoying their kiddie pool.

Besides an abundance of fruits and veggies, some amazing flowers are in full bloom. We've had flowers since april it seems, but these I've been really looking forward to. A lily, calla lily, and morning glory growing in among my tomatoes.

Incubating: take two

First hatched chick
A chick unzipped from it's shell

Well, incubating: take one was quite the disappointment, so we tried again. This time we did things a little differently, with dry incubation. Instead of adding water every few days to keep the humidity around 50% we added none, left the vents open (in very humid NJ) and allowed the room to control it. The incubator is kept in the bathroom, at a steady temp inside and outside. Because of this, humidity stayed between 25-30%. 

This second batch from the incubator:

Charlie helping me take pictures
I had 30 eggs inside and 20 made it to lockdown. Pretty good statistics for the obvious infertile eggs and a sizable gap of no electric. Half hatched, 5 others pipped but didn't make it, and the rest didn't make it all the way. I'm pretty happy with these results, we've got another Cream legbar, 2 araucanas, and a few more polish on our chick porch. YUP I've re-named the porch seeing as we've got twenty little chickies running around out there!

To the left is my frizzle polish from the first batch.
To the right is my legbar pullet (90% sure it's a pullet at least!)

Mama and her chicks
So the humans had a 50% hatch rate... My broody hen outside on the other hand had a 100% hatch rate. I gave a first time mom, 8 eggs the same time we started up the incubator. She's a few years old, but hasn't been given the opportunity to hatch eggs, and she did a fantastic job. When I had checked her eggs before I thought only 6/8 were progressing properly, so imagine my surprise when I found seven chicks this morning! Clearly mama hens are better at hatching then we are, even with 3 thermometers and two hygrometers.

 More lessons learned, more chicks on the farm. Pretty soon we'll be selling a few of these polish chicks, if interested, stay tuned!

On another note, my beautiful lilies are blooming:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Incubating: take one

It all started with a teeny tiny pip! 
So a few weeks ago we bought a nice new incubator, a couple of eggs, and did a bunch of reading on incubating. I was using a method that held temperature and humidity steady until the last few days. I read quite a bit about it, and really thought we were ready. Unfortunately, we only had 6 eggs pip and 4 survived! It seems New Jersey may have a bit too high humidity to really get a proper gauge. So, I won't call it a fail, but out of the 18 that were fertile and growing, we only have a handful to show for it. Sigh..

Here's a nice little play by play of the exciting though, because believe me, it was still VERY exciting!!
This is the hatching of one of our mixes, it's a Sultan/Cochin bantam mix. 
Top left is it's little wing popping out. This was about 18 hours after it's first pip, hatching is a long process. 
Bottom left is it breaking the shell all the way around so it can "unzip" the shell around it.
The right pictures is it 75% pushed out of the shell. Only a few minutes until it was free!

Finally free, all it had to do was sleep and dry off a bit. 

Here's hoping our next hatch goes a bit better!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Our Lambs Have a New Home!

Another HOT rainless day here on the farm. Today however, this 2015 lambs got their new home. They are not too far away with a nice family who are very excited to have some sheep on their property. Mom and I really liked our chats and meeting them, I'm sure they are going to a great home!

So Rain's baby boy and Nina's white ewe lamb are off to their new home. Best of luck and hope to hear updates about life in their new pasture : )

With their departure, we've welcomed some new little ones this week. Mom was VERY excited to get a few pet ducks for the property again, so we found someone with Indian Runners, and just got them this week. We've got four runners and a girl and boy Rouen. We're undecided about where they'll be (we're still having trouble with the snapper turtles out in the pond), but looking forward to having happy ducks in mud in just a few months. 

Charlie is beside herself with interest. She "talks" to them and crawls over to watch them through the window. They're in a very messy tote at the moment, so we'll take nice pictures soon! Ducks do make a mess quickly..

We also had a visitor, Rachel, stop over this past week. Her sister came as well, and wanted to do a little fishing. It was a nice, warm day, and the perfect way to get outside and do something fun on the property. There was canoeing, shrieks, and some slimy catfish. Not a bad afternoon. Thanks for making us all relax and enjoy the day. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Egg-scellent News!

This past week Donnie & I found an awesome, new (crazy) chicken lady. Don't get me wrong, I accept the fact I am also a crazy chicken lady, just try owning a few chickens and not becoming one!. This one though, she had a whole assortment of fun new chicken breeds. Some rare, some that lay beautiful eggs, and some are just plain fun.

So we traveled up to civilization (Mt. Laurel, NJ) and met her. She showed me her fabulous breeding program and her unbelievable cabinet incubator.. which I've since added to my dream list. 

While there I got a nice little collection of fertile eggs to hatch. We also had to purchase a new incubator seeing as the old one was ancient and faulty. The new one circulates air for a nice even temp and has an egg turner. It also holds over 30 eggs Quite the chicken upgrade on the farm.

We're adding the following breeds to our chicken coop. Crested cream legbar (blue eggs), Araucana (blue eggs), Tolbunt Polish (fabulous bird), and some silkies, since we lost our last one over the winter. 

So egg clients, prepare yourselves for BEAUTIFUL light blue and green eggs this fall! We are ecstatic to see how well we hatch these babies in 21 days. Three weeks until new baby chick pictures!

Until then, check out Tolbunt Polish on the google. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May flowers, bring fruit

April showers bring may flowers, and with those flowers come delicious fruits. We've got strawberries turning red, blackberries with big beautiful flowers and fruits just showing, tons of raspberries, and a bush overflowing with blueberries!

Our extra big blackberry plants
One of our nice ripe strawberries

Beautiful raspberry vines growing wild 

Other then the flowering fruit plants around the property, the gardens are doing exceptional for this early! We've had some very hot, sunny days. The nights are warmer, and our plants are really beautiful. 
I got a few pictures to show off how proud we are of these plants :)

Potatoes in an old, cleaned up hot tub 

Mom's rows of kale, spinach, peas, beans, and cauliflower. 

Enormous Caulifower

Wild, green garlic that we are very patiently waiting to be ready to enjoy!
A tomato plant popped in as well. Seems this soil really just had great seeds in it from last year. We've got escarole, tomatoes, and lettuce that are popping up in surprise places. No complaints here! We love the edible surprises. 
A few more weeks and we'll have all sorts of snacks to pick. For now we'll enjoy the strawberries and leafy greens. Gotta love backyard snacks : )

A Mid May Wedding

What a beautiful May we've had. We had quite a bit of April rain, but we could sure use some May rain too! Our yard looks wonderful though. It was perfect for a mid-May wedding. This past Saturday, Jen (the big sis) got married on the farm! It was lovely, and beautiful and just the perfect afternoon.

We had a large tent in the front horse field for all of the guests. A field that previously, looked a bit rough. But, Mom put LOTS of time, energy, and a bit of money to clean it up and get the best grass growing. Here it is before the tent:

There are a whole plethora of beautiful pictures out there, but I found a few that showed off how wonderful things were on the farm: 

Pre wedding, under the tent as we set up and decorated

Look at those beautiful flowers!

And of course, our BEAUTIFUL bride, her FABULOUS husband! It was a very memorable and lovely day. I think it was an amazing day, on a perfectly landscaped farm. Great job to everyone involved!
 Love you seester <3

Thank you Gretchen for some of these beautiful pictures from the big day!

Spring Cleaning

This beautiful weather had us outside all weekend dong our own version of spring cleaning. Don't get me wrong, our windows could be cleaned, floors mopped, and furniture moved around, but it was NOT stay inside weather. So we took to the gardens. With fifteen acres, it's hard to keep everything maintained and well landscaped (sorry dad!). Thinking back on what this property was ELEVEN years ago when we moved in though, I think we've made some great progress! This summers projects include putting in a small patio off the side door, push back some of the overgrown shrubbery back by the pool, and working on our fabulous gardens.

Our cleaned up herb garden (april)

Mom added some new apple trees to the back yard along with our budding blackberry bushes, raspberries, and blueberries. We also spent some time moving the rock garden to prepare for the new patio. We pulled up some vinca vine, it had about 5 years to grow freely, so it's a disaster. We got rid of the rest of the leaves to see what was growing under there, and found all our herbs coming back beautifully! Also some clematis, columbine, and other wonderful flowers popping up.
Donnie had tilled my garden for me, so I planted a few seeds and some of mom's started tomato plants. Mom planted lots of plants of her own, tomatoes, kale, brussels.

In the fall Mom planted and properly covered some garlic. It worked perfectly! We have some beautiful garlic growing here. Soon we'll be pulling it up to have fresh garlic for the first time!

With all of our planting, tilling, and cleaning up, Charlie watched and kept us on our toes. We found which leaves she liked best (the dead ones) and how entertaining it can be to just observe the chickens. Overall, she was a big help. And, we've got our first strawberry out there in April!

My little strawberry