Sunday, July 31, 2016

Rotten Fruit - Getting Off The Grid


 
 
 

I have to say that I was disappointed with all those peaches, most of them had worms so I got one batch of Cinnamon peaches before I gave up, I was working myself down for nothing. Four half pints was it.
 
 

I moved on to the next project for the night and that was Spearmint jelly. I still had enough of the juice left to make one more batch so while Tony was out I made it, seems that the smell bothers his COPD. I got seven half pints.
 

 
And last was the figs, I made them two ways because sometimes I want figs for a dish and not full of sugar as they are for preserves. I canned four pints whole figs in light syrup and then I made twelve more half pints of fig jam with lemon zest.

For a total of 27 jars of home canned fruit/ jelly/ jam.

I do have to say I am happy that the newly planted yellow squash, They are getting bigger everyday. 
 
 

The two large flower pots of cucumbers I have are now running and blooming! I miss having fresh cucumbers in my salads. I will have to make sure the pest don`t chow down on the plants. 
 
 

I mentioned to Tony that I needed to get those few bushes cut down with the chainsaw so that I could get the greenhouse up and he said okay he would help me, since he does NOT want me to use any type of chainsaw. He added how Mr. Wright had his greenhouse with a double layer of plastic ( Mr. Wright was a friend and he owned several greenhouses, made a living selling plants). I do remember how my mother built hers and I would love to have it made like that one, and with a double layer of plastic.

I think I will have a couple weeks between cleaning the dead garden up and tilling it for the Fall planting of kale, turnip greens, collards and mixed greens. If its Gods will I will have another wonderful year of greens for me and everyone else.

I will continue to harvest herbs, sage and basil,  leaves for infusions of healing plants.

I also need to finish the cleaning up around the garage and the small shed, A snake was killed less than 20 feet from my back door. I don`t want that to happen again. This is two years in a row I have had snakes that close to the house.

Nothing exciting on the homestead today so I will take a day to relax.

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Kindness - Giving And Receiving - Getting Off The Grid


 
 
On this journey of mine I am learning more than I could have ever expected to learn and one thing that I am receiving is kindness for the small things I do but I never expected anything back. Kindness, giving and receiving. Getting off the grid is more than just the homestead, living off what you grow and getting solar power and well water. What people see on T.V. is just what the how wants to show the public, yes they do show some struggles but they never show how much you get back when you share what you have, no matter how small or big.


I am not passive nor aggressive toward people, I treat each person differently because we are not all the same. Some require more attention than others, some give and want nothing in return, some want everything and will not give anything. That is just how this world works.

The past month I have been blown away by the acts of kindness I have received for the little acts of kindness I have shown, I will have to admit its all been from men but they are all elderly men, with wives, except one.
 
 

Midday yesterday I got a call from a number I did not know, so thinking it was one of those calls, Tony answered doing the crazy voice but it was another man that we know, the apple and pear tree man. He had called telling us we could have all those small peaches if we wanted to try and make something AND he has me some jars. I was shaking my head yes to those peaches while Tony was still on the phone so he would say yes. When I got there the jars are new and still in the box! I had assumed they were the jars coming back from me sending food, I told him " you did not have to buy me any jars!" and he said " I feel bad I have so many of your jars now still filled with food." Then while I was there he told me that in a couple weeks, when ripe, I could have his muscadines and other fruits! This  older man lives alone, I do not know what happened to his wife but I know all his children live in other states, he told me he has one daughter and had wishes all his children was girls :)
 
 

Tony called the man who plowed the field back in the spring, I fed him a good meal and sent a plate of food home with him, I also sent my home canned fruit spreads and relishes. He asked for no money, just a favor if patching his roof that is leaking by the chimney. Well Tony got sick and has not been able to fix that for him but Tony still calls him, last night he wanted to talk to me so I took the phone and I was asked " what size jars do you use?" I explained that I use all sizes but for the most part pint jars for vegetables and half pints for jams and jellies. He told me he has my jars but they got mixed in with their jars and then he said " I may just bring ALL the jars to you." I was blown away! I told him they would get used and that I would send some back filled with foods.
 

 
The fig man. I send a little produce every now and then and out of no where he gives me his figs. I know that they, him and his wife, have been sick with heart problems and both are diabetic now. They want nothing back but I send jars of pickled eggs and things that are not sweet, but they have always expected the Christmas cookies!

So, the old saying is true! What you put out now, kindness and giving freely from your heart, will come back to you when you least expect it.
 
 

Now what to make with all those small peaches? Pickled? Peach butter? peach jelly?


By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Getting Off The Grid - Food storage update


 
 
I can say WOW when it comes to knowing what you need and what you get to put away, because the two doesn`t match at all. Living off the land with solar power is going to be something for me to conquer and when I want to get something done usually I do. Yes I do have my ups and downs with doubt, that is a part of feeling failure but keep going, regardless, till you make it. 
 
 

I feel blessed to have received free fruit, actually I have been given all the apples from one tree and I got 78 jars fill with seven different type of apple products. I am waiting on the pears but I put up around 100 jars ( quarts, pints and half pints) last year, I have not did inventory on those for this year, yet. Last Friday I was given all th figs from a huge bush ( big as a tree) and in two days I made 23 half pints of fig preserves. I made blackberry jelly and froze berries from the wild blackberry bushes. I made several types of zucchini preserves ( pineapple, orange and strawberry) and I would say at least 48 half pints.
 
 
 

But it seems all I am getting free is fruits and I take them and I can them.
 
 
 

Then I see the mint and I want to try this spearmint jelly, so I make a batch, seven pints and its really good, reminds me of Christmas and mowing grass at my dad house in July :)
 
 

I seen eggs on sale for $1.48 per two and a half dozen so I bought two flats =  five dozen and I made nine pints of pickled eggs because those are loved here and I can always trade pickled eggs for something I want. I plan to buy a few more flats and put away more pickled eggs at .60 per dozen!

I had room left in the pressure canner so I chopped four pints of potatoes and canned those for later in the Winter or when I come home from work dog tired and in need of a quick dinner, with most of th cooking part done its easy on me, plus its home canned and " clean" eating.
 
 

I am sure that the tomatoes are done/ gone/ dried up. I canned three more pints of salsa and then loaded the crisper with fresh tomatoes to eat raw.

I have food for months and months if need be in the deep freezer, I have okra, squash, zucchini, cabbage, green tomatoes, turnip greens,sweet potatoes,bell pepper, fish and deer. I also have mango and strawberries frozen. This year I already had to live from my stock and only on the stock when I had to live on one half of my income, I did miss junk food.

I have began to harvest sage, the new plants are now getting leaves big enough to pick and dry. I will also dry more mint and basil as the days get nearer to fall.

I need to make a trip up to sand mountain,Alabama, the growing place around here and buy straight from the fields. Buy What? I don`t know but no more sweets.

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry



Sunday, July 24, 2016

How To Make Fig Preserves - Getting Off The Grid


 
 
A man gave me the tree of figs. I am blown away by this kindness, so what to do? Make fig preserves! 

I made fig preserves two ways, first I did this version : I washed my half pint jars and warmed my lids, set aside.

2 quarts of chopped figs

4 cups of sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup lemon juice

Wash figs in cold water and remove any stems.

Cover the figs with boiling water for 10 minutes.

Drain and chop, I chopped these in big pieces.

In a large cooking pot put the figs, sugar and water in and cook till the figs are tender and a syrup is thick. Add lemon juice and cook another minute.

Ladle into jar , clean rims and apply lids.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. 

Make 9 pints
 

 

Second version : Lemon figs



4 quarts of chopped figs

2 cups of sugar

1/2 cup water

1 lemon

Wash figs in cold water and remove any stems.

Cover the figs with boiling water for 10 minutes.

Drain and chop, I chopped these small pieces.

Wash and slice lemon thinly, remove the middle membrane and seeds, leaving a little flesh, then chop into small pieces.

In a large cooking pot put the figs, sugar and water in and cook till the figs are tender and a syrup is thick. Add lemon and cook another five minutes.

Ladle into jar , clean rims and apply lids.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.
 
 

That is how I preserved the figs I received this weekend, I do plan to make them two more ways as soon as I get more.

Figs are a special treat for me since this is the first year my small bush has figs but none of mine are ready, yet.


Friday July 22,2016 I got a call from a man and he asked " do you want some figs?" I answered with a "Yes!" and that is how it began. Getting off the grid is has a lot to do with sharing, the elderly gentleman was sent a watermelon and then not even two days later I was getting figs. So I made fig preserves. Then two days passed and I got the call " come pick`em" so I sent Tony to get the figs and I sent two pints of pickled eggs and that is not the end, his instruction were " come about every two to three days and pick them ALL!"

Caring is sharing. 


By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry





Saturday, July 23, 2016

How To Make Spearmint Jelly


 
 
Making jelly is one of the easiest things I have ever done for food storage and you can use it in every meal. You can use jelly for breakfast on toast, or any bread, or you can use it making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch or you can use jelly as a glaze for meats for dinner. Today I made spearmint jelly.
 
 

To make Spearmint jelly you will need :

3 cups of spearmint leaves

4 cups of sugar

1 box fruit pectin

2-3 drops green food color ( optional)

Water

Canning jars and lids.

Rinse spearmint leaves in cold water, gently.

In a large cooking pot bring 4 cups of water to a rolling boil, add spearmint leaves and mash/ bruise to release the natural oils. Cover and let set for several hours to make its own tea. 

Clean you jars and lids according to the manufacturers directions.

Measure sugar and put into a bowl, set aside.

Strain 4 cups of prepared spearmint tea in a large cooking pot ( I use stainless steel) and add food color and one box of fruit pectin, bring to a rolling boil.

Add sugar and stir till melted, bring mixture to a rolling boil that you cannot stir down and cook for one minute.

Remove from heat and carefully ladle into jars. 

Wipe rim of jars clean and apply lids.

Process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Makes seven 1/2 pints.

Spearmint is a plant that grows so nicely here in Central Alabama, we have a long growing season and it thrives with little care. I started out with a small plant and now its covered the entire bed that I put it in and is creeping into the grass. I really don`t mind this invasive plant because I can cook with it so many ways or add it to drinks. Plus when the lawn mower runs over it the smell lingers for a good long time. I have been told it can be used as rodent control but have not tested this out, yet.
 
 

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How Much Food Is Needed - Getting Off The Grid


 
 
No one ever said life is easy and anyone who is looking for an easy way out  will never find that path. Getting off the grid is harder than anything you will ever do, protection and food are just a couple things I have learned about this year. How much food is needed has been the question in my mind for a while.

For food, How much food would it take to keep you for one year? How about your family?

I asked this question many times and although I tried to keep track of the food consumed here its just impossible to calculate how much food to store for one year. So while I was reading in one of my many Face book groups I got a hint of what to do, or rather how to get the numbers I need.

One is  home canning summer vegetables that you grow, not just feeding yourself during the hot summer months but the rest of the year too. 

Here goes those numbers : One vegetable per day, a pint or quart, for two would be 364 jars. You know you will eat more than one vegetable a day! One lady said " two vegetables a day, can seven different vegetables." For two vegetables a day for one year that is 728 jars! That is 61 cases of food. Making seven different vegetables would be 2,548 jars or 213 cases! 

What about the freezer? Well getting off the grid would mean no power or solar power so you can`t expect to have a couple deep freezers sucking all the power dry. ( yes I am going solar when I do the final act, I am the NEW off the grid lifestyle) BUT I do have several vegetables and some meat stored in the freezer.

I did a numbers check on the stuff I have canned and I can say it look pitiful! Seems I am receiving free fruits and no vegetables. No one can live on just fruit. 

With this realization I am now fine tuning my goal, I know what I need to accomplish and its going to be a hard road.

No, I have not gave up on shopping at the grocery store but I do want to reduce my spending as much as possible so I don`t have to work my days at a job to please others while doing without myself because the pay is so little. I want to reduce the bills so I don`t have to continue life day in day out in this rat race the world has became.

What I have canned this year : I have 33 pint jars of tomatoes , 12 pint jars of salsa = 2 half pints, 36 pint jars of squash or zucchini products, 5 pint jars of pork n beans, 6 pint jars of chicken broth, 2 pint jars of carrots, 14 pint jars of peaches and 78 pint jars of apple products. I made a batch of chili and two batches of soup but I also eat that regular and its not considered as  " for Winter from the garden."

Just pitiful! 

I have not tallied up what I have frozen this year and I am still eating from last years freezing of food. I still have food canned from last year that I am still eating also, kale and potatoes and beans are a few.

Calculating fresh home grown food is hardest, Giving up ALL junk food would be extremely hard. However I have heard of a few plants that can sub for coffee if that is something one has to have, I am one :)

Now that I have broke the bad news to those who are like me and is seeking a better life, off the grid, can you manage to feed yourself for a year where you live? I am in Alabama and we have eight to nine months warm weather.

By Andria Perry
Photo By Andria Perry

Monday, July 18, 2016

Repeats - Getting Off The Grid





 
 
I know sometimes it seems as though you are repeating what you have accomplished because getting off the grid is about taking what you have at the moment and preserving it, sometimes the crop that is mature and you are harvesting is more than one days work but many weeks work as the fruit or vegetable ripens. Repeats.

As I mentioned in my previous post :http://getoffthegrid2.blogspot.com/2016/07/finding-balance-getting-off-grid.html  I am into the tomato harvest but after calculating the cost I am now leaning more to what I know I usually buy and maxing out on that for the moment.
 
 

That is salsa. All through the year we have taco salads, tacos, red beans and rice and many more dishes that I use salsa in. The smallest jars of salsa at the dollar stores are one dollar and the pint jars costing from two dollars and more at the grocery store.

With the canning jars being around eight dollars a case, I sowed and raised my own tomatoes and bell peppers and I got the onions extremely cheap it is cost effective for me to make those widely used condiment.

Time consuming? Yes. Most of the time used in canning is the peeling but after that is over the process is fast and easy. I made seven pints in Sunday.

But its also time to harvest those herbs, for food and medicine. 
 
 

After having a wonderful crop of blackberries this year I also learned the benefits of using the leaves for tea, with the berries gone there is still a use for those bushes, harvesting leaves! I pick a handful and lay them on my pie racks and allow them to air dry and then I store them inside a mason jar whole.

I also sowed seeds for sage this year, it is beginning to get leaves to harvest, I pick, dry whole and store in a mason jar, why whole? I leave all the goodness for cooking that is still inside the leaves, even dried. Same for the basil.

Now for the spearmint, I have so much that its creeping across the steps and blocking entry into the house so I will cut the entire stems filled with leaves and I will hang them to air dry. ( FYI - I grow mint all around the front porch and I don`t have a big mosquito problem, seems they don`t like it) 

What is new on the homestead? Cucumbers! I had planned to put them into the ground but I may leave them in the large flower pots and see how that will work. And more yellow squash was sown a couple days ago. I am sure that it will produce before frost since both are fast growing plants.
 
 

I would like to share something that happened late yesterday.

I walk daily, if possible, and I take the dogs with me because they love to get out of the back yard. One on a leash because he tends to do his own thing and run off, one walks with me with no problems.

As I passed the dried up corn crop I checked on the eggplants and new peppers put in last month to see if I needed to water them but they were fine. The bell pepper plants that I put in last Spring were in sire need of water.

The ground was so dry, seems like what little rain we get dries up quickly in the extreme daily heat that is nearing 100° or more. 

There was this one dark cloud in the sky with the evening sunshine and I looked up and I said " Please God let it rain here" and I continued my 30 minute walk with the dogs. I put the dogs in the back yard, cleaned their water buckets and gave them fresh water and dog food. I drug the water hose down to the garden area, the bell peppers are in the first section and I can water them by hose, and began to water the wilted plants.

I heard something behind me and looked over at the tin shed. I did not see anything and turned back to my watering.

But then it got louder and the next thing I know it pouring down rain! Sunshine and rain. My garden was getting water from the heavens. I looked up into the rain while standing in the garden with a watering hose in hand and said " Thank you!"

The rain felt good on my hot skin and I stood and enjoyed a mid July rain.
 
 

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry



Friday, July 15, 2016

Finding Balance - Getting Off The Grid


 
 
 
One day I do see myself as working less out in the world for money and working more at home, getting off the grid and working is not easy at all times, I am finding a balance.

 
 

 

With a nice early crop of squash and zucchini they are finally spent so the first row in the field, which was zucchini, was mowed down and then plowed up. My intention is to replant yellow squash and get another crop before our first freeze. (Our first freeze can be anywhere from late October to late November.) With the tilling finished I have NOT had time to actually rake it down and plant.

With little rain, till this week, the grass has been at a stand still but it will be mowed soon. Seems the only place it did grow was in the vegetable garden.

I did skip one day picking what is left growing after the month long dry and hot weather, tomatoes and bell peppers, because we are in the evening storm pattern and the lightening has been the threat that runs you inside for cover.
 
 

Daily I have been canning what I have harvested, making salsa for the most part because I got the onions very cheap and I grow the bell peppers and tomatoes. Although fresh is healthier it is more expensive to home can plain tomatoes than it is to buy them. Right now I am thinking about restocking with factory canned tomatoes. ( The math: My canning jars cost around $8.00 a case, around .66 each, I grow and pick = time but little money,I wash them = water= money, The power I use to home can = money. Just a couple days ago I seen at Aldi grocery store the canned tomatoes are .60 each so I will switch to making something that is more cost effective)

 

Due to the invasion of my privacy I had to spend an entire morning upgrading security in my small piece of this world, my homestead, I am a minimalist and I don`t own a lot but I do have a nice stock of food, people should ask and not take because I would share my food. So I fell behind but I will catch up.

Having to go to work and tend to the homestead is not always easy, some days I do both, other days I do one or the other. Finding balance for me is getting easier.

By Andria Perry
Photo By Andria Perry