Friday, August 28, 2009

Zucchini Relish

Zucchini Relish
Zucchini Relish
8 cups (packed) zucchini; grated
1 tablespoon hot pepper flakes
2 cups onion; chopped
2 tablespoon salt
1 3/4 cups apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon mace

Combine zucchini, hot pepper flakes, onion and salt in a large bowl.
Mix well and cover with cold water. Cover bowl with a plate and let sit over night.

Pour mixture into a colander and rinse well. Weigh down the mixture with a plate (we set a clean brick on top of the plate) and let sit about 30 to 45 minutes.

Combine the vinegar, honey horseradish and spices in a large kettle and bring to a boil.
Add in the drained zucchini mixture and stir well.

Let cook about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Makes 2 quarts.

If you would like to can this relish process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Zucchini with Green Tomato and Basil

Since we still have a lot of good green tomatoes, we decided it was time to be creative. This came out delicious!

Zucchini with Green Tomato and Basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small green tomatoes; diced
1 small zucchini; sliced thin
3 tablespoon fresh basil; finely chopped

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.
Add green tomatoes, saute 1 to 2 minutes.
Add zucchini and basil.
Cook until the zucchini is tender, but not over cooked.

2 servings

It's A Rotten Business

Tomato, Rotting On The Vine
All summer I look forward to the taste of the first garden tomato, warmed by the sun and juicy. Each year we have so many tomatoes that we can eat them every day, dry gallons of them and can about 75 to 100 quarts of the best roasted tomato sauce you ever tasted. Not this year. Because of all the rain and cool weather this summer our tomatoes are rotting on the vine. Horrible brown spots are all over them, and eventually they just fall off the vine, rotten.

There are 4 plants that, so far (knock on wood) don't seem to be bothered. I am keeping a very close eye on them and hoping that some of them will make it into a canning jar.

Tomatoes are usually a main stay for us each winter, from everything to sauce, to chili to just a good stock. I hate to think of an entire winter without them.

rotting/dying tomato plants
This will not make a good spagetti sauce!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

That's A Lot Of Bull

Chubs, The Bull
Our neighbor brought over his Dexter bull ysterday to breed with our 2 cows. "Chubs" is his name, and the girls (and baby) are liking him quite a lot.

Chubs, Molly and Winstonhanging out

Monday, August 24, 2009

Update on "Making Vinegar from Bad Wine"

As we mentioned in a previous post, we did an experiment trying to make a vinegar from some bad potato wine.

We have had great luck with apple cider vinegar (been doing it 3 or 4 years now with great success), the rest is all new to us.

Yesterday we checked on the potato wine vinegar and the top was covered with mold. I am not really sure why, but I got thinking that "bad" wine is probably not a good thing to try to make vinegar with. "Good" wine would most likely work a lot better.

Maybe the potato wine didn't work out because the taste was never quite right for vinegar, so I just let it sit longer and longer (it has been almost a year, usually a vinegar will be ready in 6 months or so) and it finally just spoiled.

Spoiled Vinegar

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Free Bees

Swarm of Bees
We have had honey bees here for the past 4 years and have had them swarm once in a while. Last week we had something new happen. A swarm came to us (not from our bees) and landed in our grape arbor. We are not sure if someone near by has bees that swarmed (we don't know of anyone within a mile that has bees) or if we had some swarm last year that we missed and they found a honey tree in the woods and have come back this year. Either way, it's free bees and we're excited.

These two photos show getting the swarm into a new hive; as long as the queen goes in the rest will follow.
Puttin the swarm into a new hive

Free Bees!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Soapwort in Full Bloom
With its pretty pink or white flowers and heavenly scent, soapwort (or bouncing bet) is a must have in a healing herb garden.

Soapwort is easy to grow in full sun in almost any soil. It will spread, so plan ahead before planting. (It is a great candidate for our “less lawn” project). It is mostly disease free and not bothered by pests. The plant is easy to divide and share.

Caution should be taken if planting soapwort near fish ponds, the sap from the roots is said to cause harm to fish.

Soapwort has been used for years as a cleaning agent for delicate fabrics; in fact museums use it today for restoring fabric. Even the Shakers recognized its cleaning power, and it was very popular among them.

To clean delicate fabrics simmer chopped leaf, root or stem in untreated water for 30 minutes. The liquid will be soapy and is also useful for general household cleaning.

The leaves can be dried, although they will not soap up as well as fresh leaves.

Soapwort is also known to help skin problems such as acne, eczema and cold sores; however it should not be taken internally.


Saopwort Leaves
Soapwort Leaves

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Old Ladder Makes a Great Herb Drying Rack

New Use For an Old Ladder
This old ladder was too short to use for its original purpose, but too good to throw away. We decided to make an herb drying rack out of it. Chains wrapped around it and attached to the wall hold it up (the other side is screwed to the wall) in our location; however it could have hung from the ceiling from chains.

Bee Balm Drying

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Zucchini Bread and Butter Pickles

Zucchini Bread & Butter Pickles
Zucchini can over run the garden and finding new ideas on using it can be challenging. We enjoy this pickle recipe. Be sure to use small zucchini.

Zucchini Bread and Butter Pickles
5 small zucchini; sliced
2 cups water
1 small onion; chopped
3 tablespoon sea salt
1 1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon mustard seed

Combine zucchini, onion, salt and water in a large bowl. Mix well and let sit about 2hours. Rinse well under cold water.
Sterilize a one quart mason jar (or 2 pints).
Combine vinegar, honey and spices in a non reactive sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add zucchini mixture and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Fill jar(s), but leave 1/4 inch head space. Wipe the mouth of the jar clean, put on lids and seal.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How We Live Off The Grid

Energy: Solar Power, Who says you can't have a great system on a shoe string budget?

We have been living off the grid for almost 6 years and began with very little money. We started out with one battery, from our Ford Explorer and a small 750 watt inverter from Home Depot (for about $80 at the time). This worked fine for lights and watching TV. The battery came in at night, and went back into the vehicle during the day. We then worked up to 2 batteries.

For 3 years we did not have a normal refrigerator. We got an small frig that was not working (for free) and put ice in it and used it as a giant cooler. Friends and neighbors would freeze milk jugs of water for us and bring some over every time they visited.. In the winter we made ice outside. (We now have a propane refrigerator, but would like to change that)

Our water pump is a 12volt RV pump (our well is just a dug 16' deep one, so this little pump works out for us). ($90 from an RV store). We also have a regular jet pump that we can run off our current inverter or generator.

For music we use a car stereo that is hooked up to it's own battery and connected to 2 small solar panels ($40 each). The stereo and battery are in a small cabinet and we have speakers wired all over the house (more on that another time).

Here is a run down of current our system. It is not by any means a professional job and would probably make a lot of the so called pros cringe, but it serves us well, with minimal maintenance. What we have discovered is that a lot of people tell us that we can't do it this way, when in actuality you can. So call us rebels or just nonconformists, in the end things work for us and they work well.

Our system is 12 volt. We have 3 12v 85 watt solar panels (they were around $500 each...we started with one, then the following year bought 2 more). These panels connect to a square D general duty safety switch; this is no more than a box with a lever on the outside so we can disconnect the solar panels from the system. Inside the box are two 30 amp cartridge type fuses. I connected the solar panels to the top terminals and from the bottom terminals I ran into the charge controller. Our charge controller is a Prostar 15 and it is made by Morning Star Corp ($125 when we got ours). In our case we cannot add any more solar panels because the charge controller only handles 15 amps and when the sun hits just right our panels actually put out 16 – 18 amps. Bear in mind this does not hurt the controller. We went with this size because it served our purpose and the price was right. When we purchase more panels we will also have to buy a larger charge controller, but these panels provide us with enough power now, so it is not an issue with us. From the charge controller I ran leads to the battery bank. Our battery bank consists of used car batteries. This is where the “professionals” cringe. We are able to get good, used car batteries from a car dealership as long as we have one to bring in for an exchange. This has worked out well for us, although we are testing batteries often to be sure we don't have a bad one bringing down our system. As they say....your battery bank is only as good as your weakest battery. If money were not an issue than things may have been done a little different, like all deep cycle batteries and not used ones, but the used ones we are recycling so maybe we would still go that route. The batteries are connected in parallel. The charge controller connects to the positive on the first battery and the negative on the last battery, this gives the bank a better charge. That's about it for the charging side of the system.

The power side of the system connects the batteries to the inverter opposite of the way the charge controller is connected, in other words: if the charge controller is connected to the positive on the first battery, the inverter is connected to the positive on the last battery. Our inverter is not hard wired, only because we have to connect to the generator, so I ran a cable from the circuit panel into a junction box and from that a 10 GA cable with a plug on it. This plugs into the inverter or generator outlet, which ever we need. This eliminates the need for a transfer switch $$$$$. When we need to use the generator we just unplug from the inverter and plug into the outlet we have hooked up for the generator. The inverter we have is the Xantrex 3000 pro watt inverter and is powerful enough to run what we need in the house (washer, vacuum, vita mix) and most of the power tools (we got the inverter second hand, hardly used, for $450). We just plan on doing certain things on sunny days (if laundry needs to be done and the sun is not shinning, either it waits, or we use the generator...usually it just waits!)

The last piece of the puzzle is of course our wind generator, which we have talked about in another post. We have finally gotten some wind, and it seems to be working well. We are hoping it will boost our power this winter when there is not as much sun light.

Living this lifestyle has been challenging. We use all compact florescent bulbs and even pay attention to the wattage of those. We always look to see how many watts or amps something uses before we buy it and have basically become much more aware of power consumption; lights go off when we leave a room. We don't use a toaster, microwave or anything else that creates a lot of heat (no electric coffee pot, we use a French press). With a larger system we wouldn't have to keep track of things as much as we do, but we also would have spent a LOT more money.

Charge Controller
Charge Controller

System Fuse Box/Shut Off
system fuse box/shut off
General View of Set Up
General View of Set Up

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pickled Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are a little bonus of garlic plants, and have many uses. Here is one of our favorite ways to enjoy them.
pickled garlic scapes
Pickled Garlic Scapes

garlic scapes
hot peppers

This is a very flexible recipe and can be fitted to whatever size jar you want to make.

Fill jar with sliced garlic scapes (take care not to get the tough ends), hot peppers (however many you like....we use only one in a pint jar), some thyme, and a little honey.

Fill jar with vinegar of your choice. We have used apple cider vinegar and white wine vinegar.

Store in the refrigerator. Let sit a few weeks before eating. They will be very spicy.

Great in a stir fry or salads, or with marinated meats...there are so many possibilities.

This recipe is very similar to our pickled egg recipe.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Making Pickled Eggs

Pickled Eggs
Pickled Eggs
12 small to meduim eggs; hard cooked, peeled
1 small onion; chopped
2 cloves garlic; sliced
1 tablespoon thyme; dried
2 hot peppers
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
apple cider vinegar

Put eggs, onion, garlic, thyme, hot peppers and peppercorns into a wide-mouth quart canning jar.
Add honey and white wine vinegar.
Top off with apple cider vinegar.
Cover and shake jar to combine ingredients.
Refrigerate. Let sit 2 weeks before serving.
Note: All white wine or all apple cider vinegar can be used.