Water Bath Canning vs Pressure Canning

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There really is no debate on which you should choose. There are somethings are safe to water bath can but everything can be pressure canned. Why can’t I water bath can low acid foods? My grandma only ever water bath canned. I have heard pressure canners can explode. Tons of reasons to avoid pressure canning. But one big one to use it. BOTULISM!! A silent, odorless killer. Other things can happen as well but this is the big one.

What is botulism?

Picture courtesy of the CDC.

Botulism is a bacteria that can kill you. If nothing else it will make you feel sick enough you want to die.

It is a rare, potentially fatal illness caused by a toxin. The toxin is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The disease begins with weakness, blurred vision, feeling tired, and trouble speaking.

It is a nasty illness that we can avoid by properly preserving our food bounty.

 

What can I water bath can?

Things that are considered high acid foods. Tomatoes are a big one, unless of you are growing low acid tomatoes, those varieties are a story for another time. Jams and jellies, pickled anything. Fruit preserves and most anything that you add lemon juice, vinegar, or are fermented.

Some fruits are considered naturally high in acid:

 

  • apples
  • berries
  • blackberries
  • blueberries
  • cranberries
  • peaches
  • pears
  • raspberries
  • strawberries

What should I pressure can?

Anything that is not on the above list. Those things can also be pressure canned. There are no safe ways to can fresh squash, including pumpkins. Those need to be prepared how you want them and then pressure canned. Or simply frozen.

Other items, not produce related, that you should pressure can are meats, soups, and broths. Your other option is to freeze them. All of this will prevent you, your family, friends, and customers from being poisoned.

Did You Know?

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Did you know that you can start your garden even if you are on food stamps?

Yes, any seeds or plants that are edible can be purchased with your EBT card. You can use containers and such you have to start your seeds. Compost and newsprint to start your no-till garden.

What seeds to buy to start

Some things are easier to grow from seeds than others. For the beginner I recommend peas, beans, cucumbers, lettuce, squash and melons from seed. They will grow in anything. And are great for direct sowing.

I recommend bush varieties so that they are easier to care for and take up less space. A few well tended plants will provide enough for your family.

Herbs that grow well from seed are basil, parsley, dill, and coriander. If you are feeling adventurous you can pot a few peppercorns to grow indoors. This is one of my experiments this year. We will see how it goes. My family just loves fresh ground pepper.

What plants to buy

Tomatoes, peppers, brassicas, and cabbages all do best for beginners if purchased as started plants. They will give you a bit of a headstart on your summer garden.

Many grocers offer a limited selection of plants. Go with what you can find. It is money well spent since vegetables are so expensive in the grocery store and there have been so many recalls recently. Another option is to use some vegetables that are in the store already.

Many times you can save the roots from bunching onions, celery, lettuce, tops of pineapples, etc. Place them in water to get the roots started again and you can then place them in pots.

Starting plants from seed

If you cannot find started plants then you will need to start from seeds. I have been lucky enough to have a small greenhouse. If this is not in your budget you can either purchase the seed starting kits or make your own.

The key is to find a sunny spot that you can leave the seeds in to grow. You also need to make sure that the growing medium stays moist. Too much water and mold will grow. Too little water and the seeds will dry out and no longer be viable. I love the self watering cells that come with starter pellets. They make it very easy and do come in window sill sizes as well.

A quick note on soil

Plants need healthy well drained soil to grow. A quick easy way to do this is to use newspaper and/or cardboard and compost. I like to layer with cardboard in the fall to kill weeds. I lay the cardboard down and cover with compost.

Spring I will use newspaper and compost. I can plant directly and weeds will be controlled at the same time. I do like to add straw over top when possible to help maintain moisture.

One tool that I have found invaluable when I am doing a no-till garden is a cultivator. It will help keep the soil loose and aerated throughout the growing season. It is a pricey investment but has saved my back, knees and hands in countless situations.

 

Switching to Infused Oils

I have been doing research on essential oils vs infused oils a lot lately. I have come across several websites, one in particular that has inspired me, that explain the difference. There is also the cost involved in obtaining either one. I primarily use them when I am making homemade soaps, lotions, and other similar products. I have used some in medicinal products I have made for my family.

Why am I switching over?

There is not enough information on the long term use of essential oils. They are highly concentrated oils extracted by distillation. It is always recommended to dilute them for topical use and not to take them internally. They are often preferred because of their concentrated aroma. I have noticed that the soaps and lotions that I market do better if they have a strong scent. However, I am willing to forgo the strong scents for a gentle scent and a safer product.

There is also the issue of sustainability. It takes so much more  plant matter to create essential oils that over harvesting of plants takes place. Wildwood Apothecary has an excellent article regarding why she is EO free and what it takes to make EO. There are plenty of other articles around the net as well that explain this very well, such as the one over at Evolutionary Herbalism.

So what is going to happen?

Well it means that I need to grow more of my own herbs and flowers and other useful plants. Such as chore, you know. Then I will start producing more of my own infused oils. The cold process takes 4 to 6 weeks to produce. For a faster result and a little more aroma I will also be doing a hot process which only takes about an hour but has the same shelf life.

As for the investment in EO, I cannot stand waste. I will continue to use these oils in things until the run out. They will be replaced with the items that I make. I am hoping to eventually offer my own line of Enchanted Infused Oils on my etsy shop.

Light, Love and Peace

Tammy ~SSM~

Finding Resources in Your Own Backyard

It has been a massive search for things to use for building materials. I was considering pallets but as right now I have no way to transport them without paying someone. Remember I like free and cheap. I can’t afford to put out money and run to Home Depot, Lowe’s, or any other type of store.

So what to do to get stuff done has become the question. Well here are some ideas I have come up with, inspired by my new friends over at Accidental Hippies.

Where to get wood?

It is all around our property honestly. From trees that need to come down to the ones that have already fallen. Not to mention the pieces from various older projects that are just hanging out. We already have a chainsaw and many other tools to make them all work.

How to put them together?

Well that is a little tricky. We have various size screws and nails already. Some cam be recycled from old projects and well there is always tongue and groove. They are also inexpensive enough to just go and buy. Free is best but cheap works well too.

Tools?

Well with what we already have and family members close by we can find what we need. Somethings we could even possibly make. There are plenty of options here including for human power. We want to be self sufficient not hermits. I am lucky to have a family equipped with multiple trade skills.

My main outlay will hopefully be in food. Nothing like working hard and having a good heart meal to celebrate a job well done.

Upcoming projects

  • Garden fence
  • Rabbit cages
  • Our own henhouse
  • Property fencing
  • House repairs
  • Barn
  • Outdoor kitchen

Not all of these this year but as time goes by. And many other things that will come up over time.

Light, Love, and Peace

Tammy~SSM~

Single Sustainable Mom vs Enchanted Farmstead

There has been some question as to why there are two different names floating around. I am Single Sustainable Mom and my farm name is Enchanted Farmstead. It really is that simple. I use SSM for Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest. For farm business I use the farm name.

Single Sustainable Mom

I have spent the last few years establishing an online presence as SSM. I talk about family life, farming, work, basically my entire life. The trials and tribulations of being a single mom, trying to be eco-friendly, and life as an adventure. I am a mom, nurse, farmer, crafter, and so much more. I want to inspire other people to look at life as a journey, adventure. I want people to realize that no matter the cards you are dealt you can always discard and pick up new cards and take off with it. That is Single Sustainable Mom.

 

Enchanted Farmstead

I own the farm. It is not a person but a place, my home. It is part of the lifestyle of sustainability that I am creating for my family. I am creating a home that is a sanctuary, a life that I do not need a vacation from. The end goal is that the land pays for itself by providing most of what my family needs. Whether it be food or products to sell. It is a business, escape from the world, and a place of peace all rolled into one.

 

Light, Love, and Peace
~Tammy~SSM

 

Make Your Own Household Cleaners

Part of becoming sustainable is getting back to basics and making much of our needed supplies ourselves. I have made laundry soap before and for a lot less than what the stores sell it. That is a really old post actually. It is complete with video, well video of sorts. I haven’t gotten into making those yet but hopefully I will as things settle into routine on the farmstead. This isn’t so much about chemicals, I am still addicted to bleach and its smell, it’s a nurse thing, but about saving money. The fewer chemicals in my home is an added bonus. I will share my recipes in future posts, as well making available some of the products for sale.

Things I Keep On Hand to Make Cleaners

Cleaning Tools

What Can I Make With All of This?

  • Laundry Soap
  • Fabric Softener
  • Disinfecting Cleaner
  • Dish Soap (I still handwash)
  • Furniture Polish
  • Electronics Cleaner
  • Glass Cleaner

Venison Tenderloin

Bambi

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs venison tenderloins
  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 3 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups soy sauce

Directions:

  1. Mix brown Sugar and Soy sauce together in a bowl. They should combine nicely into a soupy soy liquid.
  2. Put Deer Loin in a cooking tray and pour Brown Sugar/Soy Sauce mixture over loin. Roll tenderloin over in mixture, completely covering it.
  3. Let meat marinate in mixture at least 3 hours or overnight in fridge. 
  4. Remove loin from tray and place on a bake sheet. Save the marinade.
  5. Wrap a piece of bacon around the very end of the tenderloin, securing the bacon strip with a toothpick. Repeat this process until the entire loin is wrapped in ten or so bacon “loops.” 
  6. Drizzle remaining marinade over deer loin. You can continue to baste the loin with the marinade throughout the cooking process with either a brush or a turkey baster.
  7. Place on center rack in oven and bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and place on cutting board. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. 

Potato Soup

potato soup
Photo courtesy of Bing Search

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 whole onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1/2 pound of cubed ham
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 potatoes peeled cubed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. In a heavy pan saute garlic, celery and onions in butter.
  2. Add in ham and potatoes, cover with water and bring to a boil, 10 minutes.
  3. Lower heat and allow to simmer, add in heavy cream.
  4. In separate pan boil the other potatoes. Once they are fork tender drain and mash.
  5. Slowly add mashed potatoes to the broth to thicken it.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Check Your Local Code Before You Get Urban Chickens

IMG_1197Looking to keep poultry in town? Here is an example of our local code that says yes, we can keep chickens within certain limits, such as keep your chicken house clean. It even says that pygmy goats would be permitted as pets. So are you allowed to milk pets to keep them healthy? Hhmmm…something my urban and town living friends need to look at. I just wish we could do it in our apartment complex!

While most of us would like to do what we want but when you live in town or a city it doesn’t hurt to check out the local codes. Avoid becoming a news item because someone who doesn’t like gardening and such turns you in, become a news item for doing it according to code or working to change code so that everyone can enjoy gardens and such.

Busy Mom Menu Planning Tips

mom cooking

Pre-planning your menu will do several things for you. It will force you to double check your calendar. It will force you to go through your pantry, fridge and freezer (helps keep things fresh). It will also force you to make a grocery list (which will help you stay in budget). Quick note about budgets, I know they are hard but we will discuss those another day. 

This is where I start. I get paid every two weeks so typically that means 42 meals (3 meals per day for 14 days) need to be planned out. You guessed it, breakfast, lunch and dinner all need to be planned. So now that we have figured that out I check out what I have on hand. If I am lucky I have some things left from my last grocery shopping. I try to add one or two extra meals to my budget each week and/or bulk items. 

Next I get out my calendar to see what is going on during those two weeks. What is my work schedule, what is on tap for the kids, what is on tap for Daddy aka Papa. That will also determine what gets made on what days. 

By now I am using what limited “extra” brain power to see what I have on hand to make and write down those meal ideas. I have a habit of starting with dinner ideas. Now I take a piece of paper and divide it in thirds. One column I put the day of the week with the appropriate date on it. List what I know I have for dinner, list what would work on each particular night depending on our schedules. Now in the third column I start writing my shopping list. 

The next thing I do during the school year is pull out the lunch calendar. Lunches are frequently left overs when school is out but in honor of going back to school I am going to add this tidbit. I ask the kids which days they are buying and which they are taking. From there we get down to the nitty gritty and figure out what they want for those days they are taking. I write these down on the calendar so that I know what they have planned (yes they some times change their minds, too bad it gets carved into stone). I make sure to add any extra items to the grocery list. 

Next we look at breakfast, ours is usually pretty basic. I need to have pancakes on hand (make them and then freeze them for future use). Eggs, bread and/or biscuits, cereal and the like. Though honestly if there are “favorite” left overs they will get eaten for breakfast as well. Mac and cheese anyone? If I am running low on any necessaries they get added to the grocery list as well.

Ok, so dinners are on the calendar, lunches are on the calendar and breakfast is fly by the seat of our pants. It really all comes down to schedules. Are these plans written in stone no, except for planned school lunches, those are written in stone. Now you have not only planned out your menu for two weeks, you have a realistic working grocery list and perhaps a budget!

Light, Love and Peace!