The land of the green

I left my home the other day to head south to Nashville and Murfreesboro, Tennessee area for a tradeshow for work.  As I was leaving my brown lawned home (ok with the exception of my weeds), I invisioned that I would be encountering a virtual dust bowl as I headed south.  For some reason I just figured that south of us would have simply not received as much rain.

I visit the Nashville and Murfreesboro area about once a year.  I love it here.  I love how friendly everyone is, how it is common practice for children to refer to adults as sir and ma'am.  How gentleman hold the door for women and there is a general respect for one another.  I love the history, this area is a civil war buff's dream come true.  I love the historic homes, the rolling hills and the meat and threes.  I love the honky tonks, the country music, that wearing blue jeans, cowboy boots and a tee shirt is acceptable clothing where ever you go, even if it is out at night.  Most of all, I love how people blend the question "How are you" into one word, "Ha-u."  I always come back home saying that.

Murfreesboro reminds me of Scottsdale, Arizona in a way.  The area that I generally stay in either city is generally in the newer developments with well manicured lawns, large shoping areas and great restuarants.  Scottsdale happens to be another favorite city of mine so when you mix in the southern charm into an already neat area, this town is always a joy to visit and will remain at the top of my list of favorites.

Upon my arrival, I was stunned to see how green everything was.  Even several hours away, I started to take notice of how green the hwy ditches were, that the fields were green and the trees looked healthy and full.  The green continued as I arrived in Murfreesboro.  Below is a picture from my hotel room.

I can't even count how many times I commented on how green things were around here.  I wish I could take it back home with me!  I didn't realize how much I missed seeing green lawns, fields and ditches.  Oh well, I suppose that just as I leave the area that I love, I will have to leave the green grass behind as well.

Canning Berry Juice Concentrate

As mentioned in my previous post about how to peal a peach, I recently went to my favorite u-pick.  Not only did I come home with peaches, I also picked what the farm calls, a variety pack. Big delicious blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.

I managed to get through canning all of the peaches and raspberries over the weekend.  Last night I wrapped up the blueberries and blackberries.  Prior to canning, my 5 year old instructed me to freeze at least 1/2 of the blueberries so we can use them in smoothes.  Who am I to argue with a child who wants to make sure she has nutritious smoothies, so I did just as I was told.  

I didn't want to make any more jam or preserves so I opted to make berry concentrate following the suggestions from Mother Earth News.  I figured we would be able to enjoy wonderful summery drinks this way or use the concentrate in our smoothies.  My 5 year old would be happy.

The process was quick and easy and as a sweetener I used local honey.  These 1/2 pint jars will end up making 24 ounces of juice when diluted with water.

I would be interested to hear about other juices that some of you have canned.  Recipes seem to be difficult to find yet easy enough to do.  Please feel free to share below any tips below.

How to peel a peach

I took last Friday off to work on things around the house.  Instead, I visited my favorite u-pick as it rained and the weather was beautiful. I'm easily distracted.  I ended up picking blackberries the size of quarters, raspberries, and blueberries for 3 hours.  Ok, I admit, I ate some too.

When I went to pay for my goodies, the farm employee asked me if I wanted any peaches.  Um YES!  Around our state, our fruit trees bloomed early and then were killed off by a late frost.  So to help this farm out, a sister farm from Missouri brought their peaches for us peach deprived to enjoy.

I bought a lug, that is a 1/2 bushel and they were delicious!  My daughter could attest to that as she has eaten 8...that I counted.  She may have snuck some in without me knowing but it is difficult to discourage her from eating fruit.

On my way home from the farm, thoughts or wonderful peach recipes were running through my head.  I ended up making raspberry and peach jam, peach nectar, frozen peach slices for smoothies and canned diced and sliced peaches.  

For all of these recipes, one thing must happen.  The peach must be peeled.  If you haven't peeled a peeled a peach before, you would be surprised how easy it is to do.  Much like peeling a tomato, it only requires three steps.

1.  Place peaches in boiling water for 30-60 seconds.  

2.  Remove peaches from boiling water with a slotted spoon and place them in ice water.

3.  Slide peels off with your hand.  (Mutant hand not required)

Easy right!  You can save the peels to make peach honey if you choose or something else incredibly wonderful.  Enjoy!

Worm murderer

That is me.  I apparently have a green thumb but not a brown one.  My worms, save a handful, have perished.  Being that I carefully followed the rules on how and what to feed them, I failed in the department of their environment.

I had been placing the worm home under my deck, in the shade, out of the direct sunlight.  This rule I broke a couple days in a row a several weeks ago.  During one of the warm spells, I moved the worms indoors as they should not be outside in temps over 80 degrees.  When I moved them back outside, I set them on my deck, in the sunlight and forgot to move them for 2 days. The temps were in the 90's during that time.  Yep, you got it...fried worms.

So I am off to purchase more.  I feel so bad that I failed them and a little frustrated with myself as I should have some good compost to work with by now.

The worms that survived the heat torcher, are now residing in my basement as the temps outside have been nothing below 90 degrees.  I have noticed that other critters have come along to join them.  Unwanted bugs.  If any of you have a worm farm, could you offer suggestions on how to keep the unwanted away from my bin?  I do have the understanding that the worms will have to be inside permanently during the winter so I would like to elevate this problem now.

I am looking forward to suggestions...while I go visit the worm store.

Tips from my followers

I have been terrible at posting regularly and I have a gazillion things to share.  Today however, I want to share with you a collection of tips that a couple awesome followers have posted on my blog.

1. Ms. Christal posted on my Zucchini Relish canning recipe an alternative.

       "I've made two batches of this so far. Very, very good. I halve the amount of sugar and used 1/2 summer squash, 1/2 zukes in my second batch."

I love the idea of using less sugar and what a great way to use up some of the summer squash.

2.  On my cucumber bread recipe, an Anon person suggested to grill the bread using seasoning salt and a George Foreman.  Doesn't that sound delicious!  My husband does this with banana bread and it is amazing.

3.  I received a very nice email from Michelle regarding my lack of strawberries (mentioned here).  I have since torn out the plants.  They really were not in an ideal location and would shoot off their little plants everywhere I didn't want them.  Anyway, here is Ms. Michelle's tip on now to get a fantastic strawberry harvest.

     "I read an article from the University of Minnesota and it said to put a balanced fertilizer on your patch 10-10-10 or 13-13-13 on before they bloom and then not again until next year.  I followed that this year and have a freezer full of jam."

Ms. Michelle sent some images of the before and after.  With her permission, I will share the images with you.  Check back for the update.

Anyway,  I love hearing all of your wonderful tips.  We all can learn from each other so I hope you find them just as useful as I have.