Coyotes

A few days ago we had a nasty surprise.. coyotes ran away with 2 of our oldest Buff Orpington hens! We searched the property for the missing ladies until we discovered a small pile of feathers. We followed the trail of random feathers all the way to the boundary fence where it continued along side coyote tracks. We found a second pile of feathers about 10 feet from the first. The flock is now locked up in their coop to keep them safe as those coyotes will be back for more. Awesome hubby has set up the trail camera so we can keep an eye on their activity and we have the rifle ready for them too.

Hatching Eggs and our New Incubator

Candling Day 4

Candling chicken eggs at day 4 – embryo and vascular system

Chickens are part of my design for sustainable food and fertilizer on our farm. To be sustainable though, I need to be able to breed our seed flock. That means incubating eggs and growing chicks!

I started a clutch of 14 Buff Orpington eggs in our incubator 5 days ago. This is our 3rd use of this new model. Our first attempt failed miserably when we couldn’t keep the temperature and humidity levels constant and the incubator got so hot that all the embryos died. We did further research, corrected the problems and ran the incubator for a week before trying again.

Chick

Miracle chick 24 hours after hatching

Our second attempt was progressing great until day 18 when there was a power outage that lasted 48 hours! I had just put the eggs on lockdown after I candled all 6 eggs and confirmed each held a baby chick ready to hatch. Awesome Hubby hooked up the bator to a battery and generator but the power was out for so long we just couldn’t keep the incubator running. When the power returned I candled the eggs again and was amazed to see some movement so I turned the bator back on and hoped for the best. The first chick (pictured above) hatched 3 days late and was perfect. A second little chick hatched after another 3 days but didn’t survive its first week. The remaining chicks all eventually died in their shells 😦 Our miracle chick is sleeping in Awesome Son’s room in the ‘newborn brooder’ box that Awesome Hubby made for the Olive Eggers. I’m keeping it in the house because it’s all alone and doesn’t have the body heat of other chicks. We gave it a teddy and a little mirror and our kids have been acting as ‘mom’ by cuddling it throughout the day, talking to it and letting it fall asleep in their hands.

Hen in full moult

Mama hen went into a very hard molt after hatching her chicks. Here she is when her new feathers were coming in.

So back to our current hatch. It’s recommended that you candle the eggs (using a flashlight) around day 10 to remove any infertile or non-developing eggs. You can candle them at anytime though and its one of my favorite things to do. According to my research you can sometimes see the developing embryo or spider veins by day 4/5 so I grabbed a flashlight and checked them one by one. Every single one of those 14 eggs has a visible embryo and veins, yay! There were no infertile eggs in this batch. Our breeding rooster, The King, sure takes good care of his girls! The photograph above was taken last night and I was amazed at how clearly I could see the embryo and vascular system so early.

Buff Orpington Chicks 6 weeks

8 week old chicks in broody coop and mom watching them from the adjoining main coop

Besides using an incubator, you can also hatch out chicks under a broody hen. Buff Orpingtons are known for natural broodiness and we had 5 hens go broody this summer and hatch out a couple chicks for us. One hen played mom to the chicks and protected those little babies, cuddling them and clucking softly to them. I moved the mom and chicks into the broody coop that Awesome Hubby built when her chicks were 2 weeks old. I had 5 chicks that were 12 weeks old that needed to be integrated with the main flock but they were getting pecked so much I moved them back to the broody room. The mommy hen paid little attention to the older chicks except to peck them if they got too close to her babies. She turned their favorite roosting spot into her spot and it was so funny watching them circle around not knowing what to do. Eventually they settled on a spot close to her and each night they got a little closer until they all slept cuddled up together. I also moved the orphaned Olive Eggers in but gave them a separate brooder and heat lamp with their own food and water. After a week or so the Olive Eggers started to use their little escape hatch to come out of the brooder and into the main coop but as they didn’t have the broody mom’s protection, they would run and hide from the others and return to their safe brooder to eat. When the mom’s chicks were 8 weeks and the older chicks were nearing Point of Lay I moved them all in with the main flock. They settled in fine as the 2 coops are adjoining and they had been able to see/hear each other all along. The remaining chicks and the Olive Eggers made friends and now roost together rather than sleep on the floor with mom.

I’m looking forward to hatching out more babies in 17 days 🙂

Vegetable Garden Plans: Putting our animals to work for us

Our awesome farm is teeming with wild birds. It’s slowly reverting back to natural woodlands and meadows so there’s plenty of food and shelter here. I’ve always loved watching the birds. I like to walk through forest and sit in gardens listening to them sing. I keep lots of feeders out for them to keep them around for natural bug control. Its good to keep a balance between providing habitat for them in our garden and protecting our own harvest from being devoured. I heard loud cawing and went to investigate.

Goat's Tethered

Our Pygmy Goats are helping to clear our future vegetable garden site

Our future vegetable garden is designated in the area that the previous owners tied up their horses. The ground is blanketed with hay and horse manure and has a healthy growth of weeds with thick bramble on 3 sides. It’s an organic garden dream site: south facing, protected from wind, fertile and chemical free. It’s also a great patch for our animals to forage for their own food. I’ve tethered our goats in there and they’re doing a fine job munching back the weeds and bramble. I stopped to watch five rogue chickens happily scratching up the weeds and pecking up all the creepy crawlies along side the goats. Awesome teamwork, dudes! These Buff Orpingtons decided to free-range right where I was planning to put them to work in the chicken tractor. We inherited an awesome chicken tractor with the farm. We used it to house our broody Buff Orpington and her clutch of chicks before Awesome Hubby extended the chicken coop and built us an adjoining broody coop. I need to remove the chicken wire from the bottom of the tractor so I can get our future vegetable garden tilled, fertilized, weeded, deseeded, debugged and mulched.

I’d read that chicken wire on the bottom will prevent burrowing predators from harming the cooped chickens so it was reassuring to have for the chicks. However, the chicken wire bottom makes the tractor useless for its true purpose. Our chickens scratch up the dirt, eat the weeds and weed seeds, peck at every bug that moves and leave the soil fertilized and well tilled. Right now they are free-ranging the property and like to stay within 20 yards of the barn area. At dusk they take themselves back to the coop leaving behind widening patches of weed-free, fluffy, dark soil. A chicken tractor allows you to get the chickens to do what they do at a specific site, turning it into a prepared bed, before you move the tractor to the next spot you need to clear. Unfortunately, with the wire on the bottom we got no benefit from having the chickens in there eating, pecking, scratching or dust bathing as they could only nibble on the greens poking through the wire. The tractor is integrated permaculture genius using chicken power to get the benefits of expensive machinery without the soil destruction, weed seed disturbance and pollution.. but alas not with a caged bottom. I have to take the wire off asap and move the chickens over there as its a big space. In the meantime the goats are clearing the brush and leaving behind their berries (goat manure is excellent ‘cold’ fertilizer that won’t burn plant roots).

I found the source of cawing. A beautiful blue Steller’s Jay sitting on the fence post flew off as I rounded the corner. I didn’t get a photo so found this one on the interwebs and learned that the Steller’s Jay is the official provincial bird of B.C.

Gosh, I just love living here.

Cleaning up the Front Yard – Part 2

Yesterday I cleared/planted the raised bed at the front door and cleared the triangle patch beside the steps. I need to find something to seed that prepared patch before the weeds take over again. I pulled out my box of seeds and looked through them: cover crops, spring planted vegetables, summer planted vegetables, herbs, annual flowers.. nothing that I could direct sow at this time of year. Oh wait!

Wildflower Alternative Lawn & Hummingbird Mix

Wildflower Alternative Lawn and Hummingbird Seed Mixes

I bought a low growing wildflower mix from West Coast Seeds that I had planned to use around the edges of the backyard to merge the lawn with the woodland. Awesome Hubby was not impressed with the idea; he likes his non-native, space wasting, water sucking, high maintenance and inedible lawn to be a monoculture of just grass. Fair enough. I will leave his backyard alone and take my beautiful plans elsewhere on the property 🙂

According to the seed packet, the best time to plant these wildflowers is between October and May. Mmm that’s close enough. The Hummingbird mix was a free gift of nectar rich wildflowers that emerge at different points during the growing season. I love seeing hummingbirds and the flowers that attract them are good for attracting butterflies too. Both of these are mixes of zero maintenance perennial and self-seeding flowers that will naturalize in the area planted. They can take light foot traffic, attract pollinators and feed other beneficial insects and look super pretty. All you have to do is sprinkle them over the raked seed bed and firm down for good seed to soil contact. I didn’t even water them as the sky started spitting minutes after I scattered the seed. The concrete path that edges this bed is broken and has an odd shape, the wildflowers should cover and soften the area and the downspout will keep it well watered too.

Seeded bed

Seeded front corner with wildflower and hummingbird mix

I used all of the hummingbird mix (there was only a teeny bit anyway) and a handful of the alternative lawn mix to fill in the bed. I will save the rest of the alternative lawn mix to fill in any gaps later and to transition the front “lawn” area into the shady woodland garden that I’m hoping to complete soon. Every organic gardener knows that the more wildlife and diversity in your garden, the more fertile the garden and the healthier the growth. Not only are you providing food for the birds and insects (I like feeding things) but you are attracting the pollinators and pest controllers that will make your garden flourish without chemicals and hard labour. I feel excited to see how this little experimental bed works out.

**The beautiful photograph at the top was captured by Awesome Hubby last winter from our front porch.  

Cleaning up the Front Yard – Part 1

As I’ve said before: This property has been neglected for a VERY long time. There has been no gardening or yard maintenance carried out here for years but underneath all the overgrowth is pretty decent, unpolluted soil. It just requires a big clean up! I wasn’t able to do any gardening this summer with the move. I had great plans for all the work I would have done by now but with packing and cleaning and painting and fixing and building and more cleaning and unpacking .. well I promised Awesome Hubby that I would leave the garden until the kids went back to school. So I dug up my most favorite plants from the old house, harvested all the herbs and vegetables that I could and postponed my Autumn Vegetable Garden plan until next year. Now that’s its time to bring all the houseplants in for the year I need to find a place for the outdoor perennials that have been sitting in pots for 2 months too.

I looked at the pots on the patio table: thyme, sage, lavender, lewisia cotyledon, strawberry and miniature tea roses. The first 4 like a well drained area or even sandy soil. That got me thinking I have garlic that I harvested from the old house and garlic will do well in the poorest soils too. The last 2 like a well draining loamy soil but are tolerant of sandier conditions if well mulched. I decided to plant my fall garlic with this grouping of plants as the tall, green spikes will add some height and interest around the small shrubs. All of these plants like full sun but will tolerate partial sun conditions and still produce. So now to survey the “gardens” around the house and find a site.

Gathering the supplies

Group Plants with similar requirements for site specific planting

The front yard is South facing but alas is heavily shaded by mature trees. In the centre of the front yard the shade is so deep that even the creeping buttercup won’t grow there. I’m working on a woodland design for this area. Closer to the porch, the yard gets about 6 hours of dappled sun in the middle of the day and these areas are completely carpeted with creeping buttercup. There is a raised bed to the right that has been mulched in wood chip and there’s a narrow gravel bed along the house to the left. The gravel strip would be great for the lewisia cotyledon, lavender, sage and thyme (alpine/rock garden) but not suitable for the roses, garlic or strawberries. I checked out the raised bed as it should be well draining and its location gets the most sunshine. It was also the least weedy area. Under the wood chip there was dark, rich sandy soil, 2 inches under the soil was black plastic weed barrier and even richer looking soil. There was also a lot of garbage. This site will be perfect for this grouping of plants. I grabbed my tools and supplies and set to work.

Cleared raised bed

Weeding by hand reduces the disturbance to the soil. The blue plastic makes me cringe 😦

First I hand pulled the weeds and raked back the wood chip. Then I picked out all the litter and dug out the black plastic weed barrier. I smoothed the wood chip back into place and scraped the moss off the stone wall. This only took about 30 minutes and the bed looked nice and clean (except for confetti sized pieces of blue tarp that had long ago disintegrated, I will need to mulch the bed to hide that). As I stood back to take a photo I noticed the triangle shaped bed between this raised bed and the steps up the path completely overgrown with weeds, as is everything on this property. I couldn’t ignore how it was ruining my photo so I had to clear out that bed too.

Weedy triangle bed

Admiring the cleared out raised bed only to notice weed mania to the right!

I hand pulled the weeds and found the richest black soil hiding underneath. I did have to dig out some grass that had reclaimed the edge of the bed but most of the weeds pulled easily. There was a lot of litter and random squares of black plastic to pick out. A quick rake and I stood back to admire the beautiful prepared bed. Hmm it looks perfect for seeding with some butterfly attraction mix maybe 🙂

Scoop of Black Gold

Add one scoop of worm castings per planting hole

By now my back was a bit achy and I needed a break. While I was sippin’ a mug of hot tea I moved the potted plants around the raised bed until I found a pattern I was happy with. I then grabbed some bulbs of my homegrown garlic and separated the cloves. Whenever I plant something in the ground I make sure to add a generous scoop of my homemade worm castings to the planting hole. Worm casting inoculate the soil with beneficial bacteria, increase the humus content and provide water soluble, slow release nutrients. Adding a scoop of worm compost to the planting hole makes sure all the benefits are easily accessed by the root system and protects from transplant shock. This gives my transplants the best chance of surviving after they spent the summer drying out in little pots. I’m pretty good at saving dying plants anyway but with worm castings my plants can recover from the worst abuse or neglect. Besides the nutrients added by sheet mulching, worm casting are the only fertilizer I use.

Cleared weeds to right, planted bed

One bed planted and one prepared.

It took about 10 minutes to plant the 12 plants and then another 2 minutes to poke 30 garlic cloves down into the soil. Garlic has to be planted right way up, about 2 inches deep and 3 inches apart. I didn’t have anything on hand to plant in the area closest to the door yet (a flowering climber to wrap around the railing would be pretty) but I found some abandoned ornaments in the front “lawn” and gave them a new home.

Front Raised Bed Complete

Low maintenance perennial bed that will provide food, fragrance and flowers right at our doorstep.

All that was left to do was hand pull the random weeds growing between cracks in the wall and path and give the area a quick sweep. Awesome Hubby has already used our power washer to quickly blast off the moss from the paths and once I finish clearing out the weeds we can scrub the paths up nicely. I’m quite happy with this raised bed for now. Its a sweet perennial bed of fragrant herbs, juicy fruit and delicate flowers. The garlic will establish a root system and put on a little growth before overwintering and resuming growth in the spring. All I need now is a little fresh mulch to tuck the bed in for the winter.. and to scatter some seed on that prepared corner before Mother Nature fills it in for me 🙂

Our Worm Factory 360

Worm Factory 360

Worm Factory 360

I bought our Worm Factory 360 in August 2014 and since then have been diverting most of our kitchen and garden waste into it: vegetable peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, dead houseplants and weeds to recycle into the best plant food imaginable. The Worm Factory 360 is an example of a stackable, vertical “flow-through” system. You fill the tray with your organic matter to compost and when the tray is full you just add a new tray on top and start filling that one. The worms move up through the trays to reach the food leavings their castings below. Worm composting bins are designed to be kept INDOORS as the optimal temperature range for Red Wiggler worms is 20 – 30 degrees Celsius. I was worried about bad smells and fruit flies in the house but the bin has operated better than I could have imagined! You can store them outside as well if they are protected from the hot sun and freezing conditions.  I kept our Worm Factory under the kitchen counter for the first 9 months and moved the bin to our shaded patio for the summer as an experiment. The weather has cooled down and its time to bring it back inside. Before I bring it in though, I’m going to harvest the finished castings to supplement my houseplants for the winter.

Newspaper Layer

Feeding Tray with Newspaper Cover

You can see that the bottom trays are squashed down more than the top trays, this happens as the worms convert the organic matter into Vermicompost. If you remove the lid and leave it upside down, you can stack the top trays onto it. I always have a layer of newspaper covering the top tray. This helps to prevent fruit flies from infesting the bin. I don’t have fruit fly problems when I remember to keep a thick layer of dry bedding or newspaper covering the top tray. This top tray was started Sept 2, 2015. I half filled it with straw and dead leaves and mixed it up with a scoop of finished compost from the bottom tray to inoculate the “bedding”. The bedding is the carbon material that the worms eat and live in. I sprayed it lightly with water until it felt slightly damp and then added my newspaper cover. To add food waste to the bin I pull back the newspaper and bury the food under the bedding. You only add new waste material to the top “Feeding” tray.

Food layer - 1 month oldThe second tray is our composting waste from August. The material is already breaking down but still recognizable. The worms were very active in this layer. The third tray is our composting waste from July. The material was mostly broken down with recognizable pieces. I gave them both a quick stir and moved on.

Compare Finished Castings at 3 months and 4 months

Ok so now we get to the really exciting part. The 4th tray is from June and the 5th tray started May, both are more than ready for harvesting, yay! The June tray was crumbly and dark and only a few unfinished clumps that were no longer recognizable. There are fewer worms than I saw in the trays above. The compost in this tray is finer than any bagged compost I’ve ever purchased. You can sift unfinished clumps out and return them to the top feeding tray if you like. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

Finished compost, bottom layer, worms fleeingOn the surface of the bottom tray you can easily see skinny Red Wigglers making their escape to migrate upwards. These are the young worms that hatched from cocoons left behind before their parents moved up. Worm castings are toxic to worms and so as they convert the lower food into castings they move higher up in the bin searching for more food. This makes it easier to separate the worms from the compost.

Finished Castings, worms escapingThe May tray was noticeably darker and had a much finer texture than the tray from June. I stirred it around and around but found nothing that wasn’t finished composting. All the bedding, food and plant material has been turned into what looks like rich, black soil. This tray had food added to it daily for a month and then left alone with the worms to finish for just over 3 months.

Scoop of Black GoldThis is the only fertilizer I have used on my houseplants, seedlings, transplants and gardens for a year now. I love having the perfect food, inoculation, tonic and cure for my plant babies on hand. I can just scoop out a little from the bottom tray as and when I need it. If you are harvesting a whole tray or two, you can store the finished worm compost in ventilated containers. I always use it all straight away. I’m planning on refreshing up the oodles of houseplants decorating the patio that I need to bring in for the winter so it’s an ideal time to harvest these lower 2 trays.

Slow Release: Mix 10% worm compost into potting soil, rake into the top inch of seed beds or add a scoop directly to each planting hole.

Feeding/Side Dressings: Sprinkle a teaspoon amount of worm compost onto the root zone and gentle scratch into surface of the soil around each plant.

Growth Boost and Tonic : Make compost tea to water houseplants during growth and to protect seedlings from damping off. Spray on leaves of sick or stressed plants for instant absorption.

 

Do You Compost?

I have to admit I get weirdly excited about compost. Compost is the ultimate in recycling magic. Basically you turn your garbage into a high value product (black gold) for FREE! Finished compost is dark, crumbly, smells like the forest floor and is the single best thing you can add to the soil.

What’s so great about compost?

Environmentally Friendly

  • Reduce contribution to landfills by up to 50% if you divert compostable waste to your garden
  • Lower your carbon footprint by replacing bought soil products, you cant get more local than your own home
  • Substitute artificial petro-chemical fertilizers that pollute the environment during manufacture
  • Avoid polluting the water ways with the run-off from chemical fertilizers applied to the soil
  • Use less water. Soil can retain 16,000 more gallons of water per acre for every 1 percent of organic material.

Restores Fertility to Soil

  • Improve soil structure; loosens clay soil and binds sandy soil.
  • Increases the microbiology of the soil, alive soil is healthy soil and compost literally feeds the soil
  • Allows for better water retention and distribution
  • Allows for better air circulation
  • Used as a mulch it improves the appearance of the soil and gives garden beds a ‘finished’ look.

Happier Plants

  • Boosts plant immunity to stress for healthier, stronger plants
  • Suppresses disease and pests
  • Provide natural, slow release nutrients to the soil that won’t burn plant roots
  • Encourages the presence of beneficial organisms that form symbiotic relationships with plants, benefits that can’t be replicated by any artificial means.
  • Neutralizes soil pH and buffers plants from pH extremes

Good for you!

  • Create a natural, valuable product for free
  • Save money. No need to buy expensive soil amendments and fertilizers
  • Easy, just divert the compostable trash to the compost bin
  • Flexible: there are simple compost solutions to suit every lifestyle
  • Fun! Really!

So now that you have a few reasons why compost is awesome and why we all should be doing it let’s talk about getting started with some of the most easy-peasy options.

  1. Utilize the compost and yard waste collections offered by your current waste collection service. You’re already tossing those veggie peelings in the trash so just toss them in the compost bin and kick it to the curb as usual. Whilst you don’t benefit from any of the finished compost yourself, you have none the less diverted it from the landfill and benefitted the soil that will receive it. Good job!
  2. Build a traditional compost pile. Throw all your organic materials into a pile outside until you have a pile at least 3 sq ft. Turn the pile every now and then. In about a year you will have finished compost. This is as easy as using a compost collection service but you get the finished product too. You can build a bin to out of recycled material if you want to hide your compost. You can also speed up the process dramatically if you balance the carbon to nitrogen ratio, shred the material,  and turn the pile frequently.
  3. Start a Worm Bin. This is my personal favorite but does have a set up cost involved. You can start with an airtight container and a handful of red wiggler composting worms. Punch ventilation holes in the bin, half fill the bin with damp shredded paper (or other bedding), add your worms and bury your organic waste under the bedding as you add to it. The worms can eat about half their weight each day, turning your waste into compost in about a month.  The worms also breed and maintain their population so as long as you keep feeding them you won’t have to buy more. Worm castings are the ultimate compost and you can maintain a bin right under your kitchen sink so its suitable for everybody whether they have a yard or not.
  4. Sheet Mulching (aka Lasagna Gardening). Now I’m getting really excited. When you have a lot of organic material in the fall from all your yard chores, you can pile the organic matter onto an existing garden bed or create a new one. Just layer carbon and nitrogen until the pile is 2 ft high, finishing with a carbon layer. You then leave the sheet mulch to breakdown over the winter and plant right into it in the spring.
  5. Bury it in the garden. Rather than create a pile, you can simply dig a trench or hole anywhere in your garden and simply bury your organic waste right there.
Blackberry Jelly

Blackberry Jelly: Foraging for Summer’s bounty

Brambly Field

Bramble patches throughout the farm

Our Awesome Farm is hedged and overrun with bramble but that also means blackberries galore right at our very doorstep. The kids love picking blackberries to feed to the goats and chickens and to snack on while they play outside. They go out with the intention of bringing me back a bucket but rarely do any make it to the house 🙂 When my mom came to visit in August she picked about 8 lbs for me so I could make this year’s batch of jelly. Before having our own blackberry patch though we would forage for the juicy fruit along hedges every August. Blackberries grow everywhere and you can easily find a supply if you look around. The fruit is packed with nutrients, especially Vitamin C and Omega 3. Pick the darkest berries but remember to leave enough for the birds to enjoy too!

I used to make blackberry jam but my awesome kids didn’t like that it was so seedy so now I strain the fruit through a large colander and call it jelly. A few seeds still make it into the jelly but we’re ok with that. You can use a jelly bag instead if you want a totally clear jelly.

Here’s our recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups blackberries, rinsed and hulled
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 package pectin
  • 1 large apple, peeled and sliced (optional)
Goats clearing new garden area

Our goats love munching on the blackberries too

Method:

Add the fruit and water to a large pot. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 mins, mashing the berries down to release the juice. Strain the berries through a large colander or jelly bag to remove the seeds. Measure the juice back into the pot, there should be 4 cups. Stir in the pectin and bring the jelly to the boil, skimming off any foam. Once the jelly is at a full rolling boil, add the sugar and boil hard for 1 minute. Ladle the jelly into hot mason jars with lids and process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes.

Awesome Son with Giant Apple

Apple Butter – Preserving the Harvest with a Family Tradition

Apple Pickin' with Awesome Hubby

Apple Pickin’ in Abbotsford BC

Every September I like to take the kids apple pickin’. Its always a fun, family day outside in the fresh air and a great excuse to bake up pies and crumbles for the freezer. Last year we went to an organic “pick your own” orchard in Abbotsford, BC. I was thrilled to find my favorite apple variety, Gala, growing on our very own farm so this year I get the added pleasure of pickin’ our own apples.

The very first thing I do with those apples is make Apple Butter. Its super easy, so delicious and fills the entire house with its spiced apple aroma. The first time I heard of apple butter was from a German colleague who was reminiscing about treats her grandmother made when she was young. I was intrigued of course so I found a recipe that was suitable for modern water bath canning, tried it out and fell in love. I shared out a few of those jars to skeptical taste testers and soon began getting requests for more! It has become an awesome family tradition ever since and something I look forward to making every year. In fact, after moving 5000 km, I now ship a whole case of apple butter to my eager family who send me subtle little “down to our last 2 jars” reminders when they are running low 🙂

Here’s the recipe I use:

Ingredients

Canning Apple Butter

Processing Apple Butter

  • 6 lbs apples – or enough to fill your crock pot very full.
  • 1 -3 cups sugar (to taste)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Core and slice apples but do not peel. Fill crock pot with apple pieces layering with sugar and pack down tightly. Sprinkle the spices on top. Put the lid on the crock pot and cook on “high” for 1 hour. Stir the apples gently and continue cooking on “low” for another 8 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove the crock pot lid and cook uncovered on “high” again for the final hour. The apple butter should be dark and thick. If its too thick you can stir in a little apple juice and if its not thick enough just continue cooking in the crock pot. Ladle the apple butter into hot jars with lids and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Share with family and friends.

Serving suggestions: I like apple butter best slathered on hot toast with a cup of tea. Awesome Son likes to add a spoonful to his oatmeal. My parents enjoy it served with pork in place of apple sauce. It is also truly incredible when paired with pumpkin bread.

**Caution: Hot apple butter BURNS! The first batch of apple butter I ever made called for cooking the apples the traditional way in a large stock pot on the stove for 12 – 24 hours, stirring regularly to prevent the caramelizing apples from sticking to the bottom and scorching the entire batch. The splatters were lethal and left me covered in painful blisters. The crock pot version is by far safer, easier, quicker and just as awesome.

Awesome Natural Cold & Flu Remedy

Awesome daughter

Awesome Daughter in need of some TLC

The weather is starting to cool and the rains have returned here after a long, hot drought. Awesome Daughter is fighting her first cold of the season complete with sore throat, stuffy nose, upset tummy and mild fever. Lemon Ginger & Honey to the rescue! Last night Awesome Hubby picked up the ingredients for us and we whipped together a jar of this mighty stuff. I added one of the “made with love” lids I found at the dollar store for some additional TLC.

This remedy can be found all over the internet, I take no credit for its invention! I’ve been using it for 15 years now and I keep a jar in the fridge all winter. I even bring one to the office with me too. The first sign of a sniffle, sore throat or chill and I head straight to the kitchen. Just add a teaspoon to hot water to make a delicious, warming tea that boosts immunity and soothes symptoms. The syrup will keep in the fridge for about a month. It can be made with cold water too for a refreshing drink.

Honey is soothing and hydrating to a sore throat, the natural sugars are an energy boost and it has natural antibacterial properties. Lemon is packed with vitamin C and is a natural antiseptic. Ginger clears the sinuses, relieves nausea, reduces inflammation and warms you up from the inside.

Lemon Ginger Honey Remedy

Ingredients:

  • Whole Fresh Lemon
  • Piece of Fresh Ginger, to taste (I use a thumb sized piece)
  • Honey, Raw if available

How to Make Remedy:

Slice the lemon into small pieces with the peel intact. Peel and slice/crush the ginger. Pack the lemon and ginger into a clean mason jar or glass container. Fill the jar with honey. Leave in the fridge to allow the ingredients to mingle. That was quick!

How to Use Remedy:

Remove jar from fridge and stir to mix the separated lemon juice and honey. Add 1 teaspoon to a cup of hot water for a soothing tea. Drink as required.

**Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I am simply sharing my personal opinions and a recipe I use to keep my family healthy and soothe them through illness. Nothing is more important than health! Please use common sense and seek advice from a qualified medical professional when it comes to taking care of your family’s health. Always do your own research before relying on the beliefs of a blogger, no matter how awesome she might be 🙂