A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Black Walnuts - Part 2

Having woken up with very sore hands, arms, shoulder and back, I decided I really did need to find another way to husk these treasures without quite so much abuse to my system. (If you missed reading Part 1, here it is.) I had read about people driving over them, but worried about that crushing the actual nutmeats and ruining my labors. At this point, I was absolutely up for the risk... so when my mom offered her limestone driveway as a place to husk the nuts "smarter, not harder," I went for it! Shane loaded the second 100+ pounds into the truck and off I went!

Do you see the white creepy crawly visitor coming out of the husk of the walnut? That's a husk fly larvae. They live their entire lives in the husk and cause no damage to the nut itself. They are gross, and really work to soften the husk, which I found just made it easier for me to remove (once I got over them being so yucky). :-)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Black Walnuts - Part 1

While on a trip to the west side of Michigan camping for Shane's birthday, we discovered a hickory tree that was dropping its bounty.  That bounty needed rescuing... I was sure of it! :-)

I gathered over several days as they fell in the wind and rain and we easily removed the green husks to reveal the tasty nuts encased in their shells.

While out and about, I also gathered some acorns for crafts, and the leaves from the respective trees for reference.

When we came home, I spent time learning about them, and discovered I would need a special nutcracker to make lighter work of removing the shells, once they were allowed to dry and ready to be cracked.  The same nutcracker was also designed for the very tough to crack black walnut, should I ever have a chance to get hold of some of them.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Be nice. Just do it.

I bought a new sewing machine almost two years ago.  I bought it from a Viking dealer within a Jo-Ann Fabric Store and it was a nice enough machine that it came with two classes to teach me how to use it.  After my first class (January 2012), I was waiting near the door for S to pick me up when I overheard a young man asking about Mason jars.  Anyone who knows me, knows this perks my ears up. I heard the associate tell him that they did not sell single jars (they do now, but did not at the time), and that he could go to Wal-Mart to buy a case. He explained that he needed only one, to which she replied that she could not help him.

Me, being me, I walked over and offered to help. I called Shane and asked him to check the trunk of the car for a quart jar before he came in to get me and my sewing machine. I know it sounds silly, but there is always a chance there are jars in my car.  On this occasion, there was not.

The fun part of the story is WHY this young man wanted the jar...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Spreading The Love - Blueberry (Wedded) Bliss

I received a call a few weeks ago from a very nice young lady who had purchased some jams and jellies from me (my side "job" as Earthly Grace Preserves) at the farm stand last summer. She thought of me as she was planning her sister's bridal shower. The bride had selected blue and white as her colors, and she hoped I could make some blueberry favors for her to hand out to her guests. We put our heads together and decided on two flavors for the guests to choose from: Blueberry and Blueberry Basil. I offered to include the decoration and labeling to eliminate some work for her as well. Once the details were arranged, I went to work.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I entered the fair with a few things... here's what happened.

I decided it would be fun to enter some canned goods into the fair and see how I could do against some locals. I immediately learned that the judges do not taste the product and that items are therefore judged by appearance. For most items, this means headspace, consistency, color, etc. Essentially, they are really looking at the "art of canning."

I labeled my entries with the required information: Item Name, Process used for canning (Water bath or pressure), Time processed, Date Canned.  Entries must have been canned since the last fair to be considered.

Jams and Jellies are expected to be plain and combination flavors (like my blueberry basil, chipotle peach, strawberries and cream, etc.) are only accepted in the "Any Other" class. You are allowed one entry per class.

There are 9 sections offered: Fruits, Jellies, Jams, Preserves, Vegetable, Juices, Relishes, Pickles and Meats. I entered 7 of those, omitting Preserves and Pickles, this time. ;-)

I dropped off 23 entries the night before judging and went home to try to sleep. I had taken the next day off work to spend at the fair with a great friend and was eager to see the results.

Here are my results:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tastes of summer - Peaches

I thought they were so pretty,
I "instagramed" the pic.
When my best farm friend showed up with a surprise peck of peaches, I wasn't bummed.  I popped them into the refrigerator for a couple days and pondered what to do with them.  They were ripe, so I couldn't afford to let them sit on the counter, or even in the refrigerator for long. I decided these sweet, smaller, first peaches of the season should go to something besides jam, so I made a list of possibilities and landed on Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce (recipe can be found here). Boy am I glad I did! It is simply delicious. It's a thinner barbecue sauce than one made with tomatoes, but will be great on grilled meats. It will be fun to experiment with cooking with it. One peck of sweet little peaches yielded 24 jars of this deliciousness. There were about 18 little sweet treats left out of the peck for fresh eating as well.

Not bad for a leisurely hour of picking
For round two of peachiness, two Saturdays ago, Lexi and I picked a beautiful bushel of peaches to start our weekend off right!

So juicy!
She begged to try one before we left, so we looked for the ripest one of the bunch and shared it. It was so juicy and delicious!  She sat on the cart with our bounty and enjoyed the "fruit of her labor" happily.

They were not immediately ripe, which bought me some time to do other chores. The downside to this was that they were ready during the week! So, how much does a bushel of peaches actually work up to in preserved goodness? Let me show you!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Waste Not, Want Not: Part 3

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I LOVE using every part of the produce, ingredients and other items I work with. I've written on it before with cherriesvanilla beans and re-purposing old objects. This time I just have to share with you how this can be done with corn. Yes, corn can be used beyond cutting or eating it off the cob!  How? You ask... Well, let me tell you!

Over the weekend, we picked up 5 dozen ears of corn from the farm stand, which amounts to 65 ears. My math is correct... they offer a farmer's dozen of 13 ears! Our first goal was to can the corn for winter use. This meant husking and cleaning the silk from all 65 ears, then cutting the corn off each and every ear. There was just one ear that wasn't fulling developed (partial pollination likely to blame), so it went straight to a chicken that's been ill and in isolation for a few days. Not bad for a big batch of corn, 1 in 65 right? The rest were beautiful and full of sweet and tasty kernels.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What did I do with my Saturday night? Extracted honey. You?

In the Spring of 2012, I helped (watched and took pictures, mostly) Vicki at Zilke Vegetable Farm hive some honeybees to replace hives that had been lost over a particularly hard winter. I wrote about this experience, and how it changed my outlook on those little busy buzzers forever.  

Last weekend, we had the privilege of helping extract honey from the frames that had been produced by those bees (well, some - one of the two hives was lost this last Winter and re-hived in the Spring).

Monday, July 29, 2013

Just call me Finnegan and we can begin again...

There once was a girl named Brandi Finnegan
She wrote for a while in her blog again
Along came life and got in her way again
Poor old Brandi Finnegan.... Begin again!!

So... I am about a year behind in posts.  What to do?
I could:
1. Never blog again (Not an ideal option - but I do try to keep things in Project Life - although that is WAY behind too...)
2. Take a week off work and do nothing but write (Yeah right! It'd probably take two anyway)
3. Just post lots of pictures from the last year (Not helpful and equally time consuming)
4. Start again fresh, and try to stay current

Well, I guess the best option is option 4.

So here goes!  I am going to do my best to make my posts shorter and more to the point, which will help me keep up on them, but some things really do deserve a little more description.

Keep an eye out... I have some fun things we've done lately to share!

And here's the full version I found to get stuck in your head for the day (you're welcome!):

MICHAEL FINNEGAN (Traditional Nursery Rhyme) There was an old man named Michael Finnegan He had whiskers on his chin again Along came the wind and blew them off again Poor old Michael Finnegan....Begin again. There was an old man named Michael Finnegan He kicked up an awful dinnegann Because they said he must not sing again Poor old Michael Finnegan....Begin again. There was an old man called Michael Finnegan Ran a race and thought he'd win again Got so puffed that he had to go in again Poor old Michael Finnegan....Begin again. There was an old man named Michael Finnegan He drank through all his good gin again And so he wasted all his tin again Poor old Michael Finnegan....Begin again. There was an old man named Michael Finnegan He went fishing with a pin again Caught a fish and dropped it in again Poor old Michael Finnegan....Begin again. There was an old man called Michael Finnegan Climbed a tree and barked his shin again Took off several yards of skin again Poor old Michael Finnegan....Begin again. There was an old man named Michael Finnegan He grew fat and then grew thin again Then he died and had to begin again Poor old Michael Finnegan....Begin again.