If you have adopted homesteading, urban homesteading, apartment homesteading, homestead living or a homestead farm as your way of life. or can identify with the grouping, you will know that there is always something to do. There is always a list of things that needs doing that might include pen cleaning, fence fixing, baking, canning, stocking up the pantry and planning. With the start of a New Year I thought it might be interesting to explore the homestead happenings thus far this fall and early winter season.
Fall and early winter is the time when all the planning that I did last January comes to fruition. However, as I explored in the article In the garden - When Garden Planning does Not go as Planned, things don't always go as planned in the garden and that holds true for dealing with the produce I brought in as well. Luckily for me, this produce can wait as higher priority projects such as getting the two batches of broilers butchered takes the highest priority.
I had it planned that as the first batch was processed, the second batch would be able to go into the chicken tractor I built in the article I try Pastured Poultry for the first time with a DIY moveable chicken coop. Although I was quite impressed with the quality of the first batch of chickens, due to a number of circumstances one being the fact that I left them too long before I weighed them, the birds were bigger than I thought and ranged anywhere from 8 pounds (3.62 kg) to 13 pounds (5.9 kg). Processing took longer than what I had planned and so the second batch of broilers did not get into the chicken tractor as soon as I had planned and therefore their daily movement onto fresh grass was cut short due to the first snow in the middle of November.
Despite my inability to move the tractor in the snow, the birds received daily inputs of wheat straw bedding and the birds did well. As planned, they were smaller than the first batch at a range of 6 pounds (2.7 kg) to around 9 pounds (4.1 kg), but with the processing now pushed into November, it became tougher to do it outside. Although I was blessed with a couple nice days towards the end of November, the majority of the processing needed to occur in my dining room. But slow and steadily, I was able to get the second batch of birds done by December 8 for a total of 102 birds being processed. Although the customers that have bought some so far are quite happy with the product, smaller birds would have been preferred by some.
With the pastured poultry processed and in the freezer I could start distributing the sold bird whilst also shifting gears to the next priority. So with a thorough cleaning of the kitchen it was time to do Christmas baking.
I buy most of my staple baking supplies in bulk and store in the freezer in 5 gallon pails or on the shelf if spoilage is not a concern. For the "one off" items used at Christmas time, I buy when on sale and store in the freezer or on the shelf. And so when I realized that I only had 12 days to get all the baking done, not having to go shopping was a huge time saver. But what to bake?
I knew that I had a number of trays that had been ordered and that I wanted to gift a few, so I sat down with my cookbooks and came up with a list of what I wanted to make to fill the trays. Going through it, I listed over 21 different possibilities and narrowed down the list with what I could make at each different baking session. Because I needed to concern myself with gluten and peanut allergies, coming up with a plan of attack is crucial. As an example, on days when I am baking gluten free I do nothing else and clean thoroughly to ensure no cross contamination. I also know that tart baking days themselves take a number of hours so nothing else is planned. And, when an item goes into the oven, I plan for a no bake item to be made. But like most things I plan, I allowed for flexibility dependent on what was going on, how much time I had and what I felt like baking.
So for the next 12 days, mixed with the odd batch of bread for sales and the every day egg washing, I managed to get finished on December 21 with 21 different slices, cookies and dainties baked, sliced and frozen for assembling the Christmas trays. I can usually get a fair amount done in a baking session.
With over 21 dainties baked for the trays, I was able to spend the Thursday before Christmas with a good friend butchering 4 of my turkeys for sales of fresh turkeys. Like all my poultry this year they were big, weighing 22 pounds (10 kg) to 27 pounds (12 kg). The customers were happy with the product and so I was happy. Now to get the remaining birds done in the New Year.
Before I knew it, Christmas Eve was here and it was time to assemble the trays. A gluten free tray was made first and wrapped in plastic to ensure no cross contamination. The remaining trays were assembled, 12 in total of various sizes. Included in the Christmas Dainty tray's were certainly the Nanaimo Bars I made in Nanaimo Bars - A Nanaimo Bar Recipe for Christmas Dainties tray.
Once assembled, the trays were wrapped and loaded into the truck along with the turkeys for delivery to customers and friends.
With the poultry processing completed for the time being and the Christmas orders completed for the year, it is time to shift priorities to restocking the pantry and using up some of the produce I had brought in from the garden in September. I often let zucchini get a little bigger so that I can bake with it. Normally, baking with zucchini is the start of the Christmas baking season but this year with the poultry processing I did not get as much done. So right after Christmas, I pulled the last two remaining zucchini out and used them up in 8 zucchini loaves of different flavors and 4 chocolate zucchini cakes. The zucchini were ripening a bit but the skins were still soft so no peeling was needed. I still have some pumpkin to process, but for now they can wait.
As I explored in Vegan Beans and Odd shaped glass jars - pressure canning with reusing glass jars and reusing canning lids, I make a lot of vegan beans and so I buy navy beans in 40 pound quantities and store in 5 gallon sealed pails. In addition to the navy beans, I also have pails of kidney beans and pinto beans. Although they store well in the dried form, the convenience of use is not there and so I like to have jars of kidney and pinto beans sitting at the ready. Vegan beans are a staple for me, so stocking up the pantry with these items needed to be done. But soaking is required first.
Once the beans have soaked, I get the necessary jars washed and ready to fill. For the lids, I wash the canning lids from an up and coming company I have decided to try. Finally, although I have been doing this type of canning for a long time now I still find that I consult the reference book from Homesteading Family course on Canning, The Abundant Pantry - Canning, for processing times and quantities.
I was first exposed to the new USA based canning lid company, ForJars, when Makeitmake talked about them in most of her canning videos. After talking to the creator about them and heard how much she liked them, I emailed the company about the possibility of them developing a GEM lid for Canadian customers since the production of them has ceased here. ForJars was aware of the issue and informed me that they were looking at it. Since that time, I ordered some standard and wide mouth snap lids and decided that the stocking up of my pantry with beans was a good time to try them out.
Since receiving the ForJars lids there has been many video's I have watched that have raved about ForJars. But the Heartway Farms interview, ForJars Exclusive Interview | Canning Lids and Supplies | Food Preservation and Stocking Up, was very informative and cemented in my mind that this is a company I can get behind. Recently, I received an email that ForJars had opened a Canadian distribution site in British Columbia and to celebrate were offering 20% off any orders when the promo code was used. Be sure to check out their Canadian web site at www.forjars.ca or the USA site at www.forjars.co if you are stocking up for the upcoming canning seasons.
In a recent follow up email from ForJars they informed me that they are working out the small quirks to their new GEM snap lid and that GEM canning lids will be available very soon. Nice!
With the exception of my GEM jars, for the canning of the beans I decided to use a majority of ForJars lids, with a couple other lids thrown in for comparison purposes. A couple commercially filled glass jars with one piece lids were reused as another test of suitability for reusing.
I was quite impressed with the ForJars lids. They are thicker and therefore more weight to them, they are not as bendable, there is more sealing compound around the lid and when you pushed down on them, the "pop" sound was not as tinny sounding as other lids of same size were. The lids and bands are also identified as being rust proof due to a stainless steel component within the metal, an interesting development in the snap lid manufacturing industry. Makeitmake did an enjoyable interview and give away with ForJars on ForJars Giveaway where they addressed the stainless steel component plus some other information about the company, the lids, jars, other product lines and confirmed GEM lids are on their way.
Although they recommend the lid for one use, I do plan on using them again if they meet the criteria as I explored in Recycle canning lids, upcycle canning lids and repurpose canning lids....but can I reuse canning lids for home canning? . But what I found interesting is that they recommended simmering the lids before use despite the interpretations of recommendations for not sterilizing jars as identified in this article Summary of New Rules for Sterilizing Canning Jars and Lids by Healthy Canning. In the canning world, it is common place for people to not heat their lids despite the National Center for Home Food Preservation procedural recommendation to "Place the preheated lid, gasket down, onto the cleaned jar-sealing surface." as identified in their article General Canning Information. Most snap lid companies have suggested that heating is not required claiming that it will cause the compound to prematurely spread. However, as I believe that it is necessary to heat the lids to promote a proper seal and ensure proper tension on the bands, I have always heated my lids and in some cases sterilized my jars. When reusing a canning lid I always preheat them and never noticed the sealing compound spreading, so it makes me wonder if premature spreading of the compound is the reason. I may never know for sure. None the less, I will continue to preheat my lids and will certainly ensure it is done with the much superior canning lids from ForJars.
With the jars washed, the lids heating and the beans soaked, the kidney and pinto beans were put into jars, filled with water, lid attached and processed in the first canner full. As usual, I soaked too many beans and so for the second batch I added the extra jars of pinto and kidney beans to the canner with jars of vegan beans that I prepared with the sauce poured over. A third batch of vegan beans was required. It was a long, but productive canning session mixed in with other homestead happenings. But at the end of it all, I am now stocking up the pantry with 10 pints of pinto beans in water, 10 pints of kidney beans in water and 24 pints of vegan beans.
Of the 44 jars, 5 pints were other company lids, 15 were GEM jars, 2 were reused jars and one piece lids and 22 jars were canned using ForJars lids. One of the ForJars lids did not seal, but there was a problem with the band that I missed which did not allow for things to seal properly. Although I have not had a lot of lid failures in the past, all in all I am happy and impressed with the ForJars lids and would recommend them.
Seed Saving and Herbs
I have always dabbled in seed saving and although it is typically flowers that I save seed from, this year I expanded my scope a bit and saved some seed from an extremely rare Arbuznyi tomato I received from Heritage Harvest Seeds. As I explored in Canning tomatoes - Preserving a surprise harvest, I am quite intrigued by this variety and with it's extremely rare status decided I would add it to my collection of saved seeds including sunflowers, calendula, marigold, sweet peas, peppers and squash.
It is not much at this time, but over time I will explore more seeds to save and add to my collection. But I am also stocking up other seeds during this winter season as I spend time planning out the gardens. Being that Heritage Harvest Seeds specializes in rare and endangered heirloom vegetable, flower, herb & ancient grain seed, I decided in my recent order to give a few new varieties a try in the New Year. In addition to some additional herbs I want to add to the food forest and some flower seeds, I ordered some Paul Robeson Tomato, North Georgia Candy Roaster squash, Farnorth Melon, Deer tongue lettuce, Canadian Wonder beans, Brown Dutch Winter lettuce and King of the North peppers. They also sent me a free packet of the extremely rare Sophie's Choice tomato to try. Looks like my plans to expand my garden in the spring will be warranted.
When I am saving seeds from flowers and such, I like to place them in paper bags to keep them separated and allow for continued air drying. I do the same for the herbs I collect throughout the summer that are too tender to go through my Excalibur 9 tray dehydrator. With my renewed interest and research into the use of herbs as I explored in Home Remedies using Natural Medicines - a glimpse into my Apothecary and use of herbal remedies, I found that I had quite a few bags to process. And so, the other day I did just that and got the herbs out of the bags and into containers.
My Why. A New Year
As the calendar turns to a New Year it is time to do some planning and make some decisions as to what projects I need to do, what projects I want to do, what I will plant, what seeds I need to order and what I will be raising for poultry next year, to name a few. It is the year to replace laying hens, so that order will need to be made soon.
A few of the decisions in the planning process have been made already with the preorder of Beltsville Small White turkey hatching eggs from Green Valley Acres in Alberta and with ordering of peony tubers from Brecks Canada and with the ordering of cut flower seeds from Heritage Harvest Seeds. But even with that done, there is still more planning to do.
Regardless of how much needs doing, what needs doing or what life sends my way, it is extremely important that I stay focused on why I live this way of life as I explored in What is my Why for a Homesteading way of life. My why is what motivates and inspires me to keep going and do the many projects and tasks that I have going on. As important as getting the jobs done is, it is good to remind myself to stay grounded in the moment and enjoy the beauty that is in front of me, however small it may seem.
Blessings like the indoor greens garden that continues to supply me with salad materials.
Or, blessings of an indoor garden that is producing a few peppers and fresh herbs.
Or, the shout of beauty and color that house plants provide into a seemingly dreary winter day.
And when I slow down enough to notice, there are glimpses of beauty everywhere. In the ever changing canvas of nature, there is always something to make you take a second and enjoy the shear magnitude and yet simplicity of the natural order of a living canvas.
Beauty in the form of hoar frost in the morning.Or how the hoar frost turns everything into a Christmas card.Or how the snow and hoar frost can transform even the most unpleasing sites into a beautiful canvas. But when the sun comes out in its ultimate glory, it can transform the entire canvas into something almost magical, a true blessing on this winding, twisting, hilly, slippery bush trail of homestead living and life in general.And it gives you the opportunity to really enjoy what is around you.
Even the animals take the time to enjoy it.
It also forces me to remember that I am but one small part in the world around me.
There is always something to be done and so in some ways it seems fitting that the ground is frozen and covered in snow forcing me to slow down and take stock of what I have accomplished and to plan for what I wish to accomplish in the New Year ahead. Call it flexibility, resiliency, over worked, laziness or management by fire, I find that living this way of life means that I am always adjusting the plans based on the priorities of the day of which there are often many. And sometimes when things do not go as planned, I have to remember that I can only do what I can do. And that's okay. I give myself some slack, take a moment to breathe, take in the beauty around me and then do the next thing in front of me. Slowly and surely, I will get things done. But along the way, I am feeling blessed.
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Thank you for joining me on the front porch of My Boreal Homestead Life as we explore this Homegrown, Homestead life, In a modern world.
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- Ash's Heirloom Seeds
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- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
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