Flannel Jammies Farm

...praising God on our 1/5 acre of suburbia

Monday, July 29, 2013

corn cutting made easy...

It's that time of year...  you drive down the quiet roads and tall stalks of green corn, pregnant with plump ears, obstruct your view on either side.  The corn is in abundance now, sweet, juicy, and totally delicious! 

That means it's also time to put up some corn, locking in that sweet taste of summer for the colder, darker months ahead.  Whether you freeze it, can it, dehydrate it, grind it... whatever... you need to start by shucking the husks off (I am blessed with a daughter who's been doing this job for me!) and cleaning the tender ears and then...

the job I loathe...

cutting the corn off the cob.  I get it everywhere!  I've tried using my knife with the ears in a bowl.  I've tried the much-pinned method of standing the ear in a Bundt pan and cutting the kernels off, with them supposedly falling just-so into the pan.. only not-so when I tried it.  Corn ends up everywhere!  Am I just a slob?  Am I just too flagrant with the knife?  As my husband would say, "Who could tell and how would a little bunny know?"

When I recently went a little nuts and bought a bushel of bi-color corn from one of my favorite local farms, I was faced with all that corn to cut from the cob.  And it came to me, as I'm sure it's come to many others in the past:  a mandoline! 

So I set it up.  I adjusted the cutting depth to allow the corn to be cut perfectly from the cob without destroying the kernels and without cutting into the cob.  And I laid that ear on the mandoline, holding it firmly on top with my fingers WELL out of the cutting path, and I swiped it over the blade.

The sky opened!  Angels sang!  The corn cut quickly, cleanly, beautifully... and all the corn gathered politely just under the mandoline.

I was done with that bushel of corn in record time.  Clean up was a snap.  And later that day I had a couple dozen jars of beautiful bi-color corn for my larder. 

I'm under no delusion that I'm the first person to think of this method, but I had to share my happiness over its efficacy!

Happy days of summer corn, y'all!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

beekeeping = dangerous business

 a slightly tongue-in-cheek look at our beekeeping week

Here you will find a DO NOT DO list for beginning beekeepers... like us...

1.  Do not go into the hive more than necessary.  These are, as a fellow beekeeper put it, bugs in a box.  They are wild things; we pose a threat each time we go into their world by possibly introducing pests, possibly crushing bees or their handiwork, possibly dropping a heavy frame of honey and bees (like I did last night), possibly (probably) alarming the bees unnecessarily which possibly (probably) incites them to stinging protective measures.

2.  Do not forget to tuck your pants into socks, thick socks, not thin summer cotton socks with cutesy verbiage on the sides.  (my ankles got 7 lovely stings, right through those cotton socks...)

3.  Do not forget to tuck all of that pant leg/heavy sock mess into some ankle boots or wellies.  (my husband received one sting last night just above the top of his shoe and through his sock; below is what it looked like this morning in the ER...)

4.  Do not leave tools, camera, sugar-syrup pitchers, debris, or even dead or dying bees strewn about the bee yard area.  The pitchers will be filled with hungry bees in moments, that tool you left will be rusted, your camera will be a total loss, and those bees become land mines.  (my sweet doggie, Scarlett, stepped on a stray bee this morning and ended up at the vet after I pulled the stinger out of her pad; now both bee stung patients are resting...)

5.  Do not try to mark your Queen while sweaty, cranky, and crammed into your smallest bathroom with your mate, particularly if one or both of you has never done this before.  The Queen will wear the results for a long time.

6.  And most important...
Do not forget for a moment
why you started this great beekeeping adventure.
Do not let the setbacks
keep you from a lifetime of joy and grace.
Do not allow the stings
to keep you from protecting and nurturing
these wondrous creatures.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

July's gifts of grace and abundance...

May brought changes... a "retirement" of sorts... but really just a retreat from working in the world and a homecoming to urban homesteading and well-being full-time.  It is abundant provision and grace from God that allowed this change and I am ever grateful.

June brought so many activities... finishing up this or that, getting the gardens going, building bee relationships, visits with friends.

And now July...

The gardens here at Flannel Jammies Farm are bursting with goodness!  We are daily harvesting so many varieties of tomatoes, lovely cool cucumbers, green beans, eggplant, Swiss chard, blueberries, peppers, and herbs of all varieties. 

The front walk herb garden has a permanent resident: the tiniest of bunnies, munching happily on green goodies and hiding under the hawthorne as I come to harvest herbs for supper.

Our sign waves ever so slightly in the warm breeze.

And the bees!  We now have our first hive full of bees and a nucleus colony we just received.  These amazing bees fascinate me morning and evening, each day.  Working together in harmony, they create a safe haven to raise young, they store up golden goodness to get them through the winter, and they reach out into the gardens, pollinating the plants for our daily harvest.  With precision and efficiency, these bees build perfect hex-pattern comb and fulfill each life-cycle task with no laziness, no complaining, no selfishness.  They are a gift in my world, teaching me so much about God's wondrous creation and about living in community.

And speaking of putting away stores for the winter, we've been canning and freezing and dehydrating here, too.  Pickles and beets and jams and relishes and corn... oh! the corn...  I think of those bursts of flavor we'll enjoy in the cold and dark of winter each time the pantry doors open, and I am filled with thanksgiving.

Celebrate July, dear ones.  Give thanks for the harvest.  Play in the rains and laugh, laugh, laugh.  Share the gifts you have been given.  Sunday blessings to one and all from Flannel Jammies Farm...

Monday, July 1, 2013

happiness = small batch canning

I have the big, blue, speckled waterbath canner.  I am also blessed to have a huge and heavy All-American pressure canner.  So spoiled, I know.

But Flannel Jammies Farm is, well, an urban farm... on 1/5 acre... total.  Our gardens are beyond organic and we do grow intensively and all year.  Sometimes when I'm harvesting beets or carrots or cucumbers there just isn't enough harvest for one of those big canners to make an appearance.  That's the perfect time for small batch canning!

There's no shame in canning 3 jars of jam instead of 13, if that's what your harvest warrants! 

Back to cucumbers, though.  We grow mostly pickling cucumbers, a little row of them in a 4'x4' raised bed, climbing up a leaning handmade trellis.  As the sun crosses the sky, the trellised cucumbers shade Swiss Chard and cilantro beneath in the brightest and hottest part of the day.  This time of year I'll harvest 5 or so cucumbers a day, maybe more.  After a couple of days, I've got enough on hand to do a small batch of pickles! 

So I start with about 14 pickling cucumbers, scrubbed clean, blossoms removed.  Aren't they pretty and green? 

I cut them into spears or crinkle cuts or chunks.  I love pickles... crave them, snack on them, eat them with potato chips after a rough day.  Any-hoo...

I pack them into jars and cover them with the pickling liquid, sealing the jars carefully, and get them into my trusty small-batch canning basket and lower that into a large stock pot of boiling water.  After processing, cooling, and seal-checking, they glisten in my pantry until ready to devour!  A few days later, I'll have enough to do another small batch... or maybe there will be a couple of really good days and I'll have enough for a big canner load.

Here's a link to a quick and easy Flex-batch Kosher Dill Pickle canning recipe from Ball's Fresh Preserving website.  It's the first pickle recipe I used when I started canning.  And here's another recipe from my sweet friend, Lanette, at Homesteading on the Homefront; it's similar to one that I use often...  Bread and Butter Pickles.  A tip: use Pickle Crisp or Kosher Dill Pickle Mix with Pickle Crisp for that satisfying *snap* when you bite into a pickle!
(thanks so much, Rose, for the adorable timer!!)