Raised in a Barn…

Day-to-Day Life of a Country Mama

Apple Vinegar

I completely forgot to talk about this in my apple juice post! I also have vinegar in the making. I put the scrap ends from chopping up the apples in a glass gallon jar. Then I added two quarts of water with a half cup of sugar dissolved in it. It was a little more than I needed to cover it, but it was a pretty good guess. Then I covered the jar top with a cotton towel and fastened it with a rubber band.

It’s now sitting on the kitchen counter and will be for the next couple weeks while it ferments. I’ll try to keep y’all updated on it’s progress. I’m following the instructions I found on Pinterest for making fruit vinegar. Here is the site link:


Apple Juice

With apples now coming into season, I bought a half bushel the other day to can juice. It was my first time making a large batch. It went well other than not getting to try out the apple peeler we were given. (I think I need to tighten up something on it.) I ended up just chopping them by hand.

Following the Ball Blue Book, I removed the stem and blossomed the ends of the apples. Then I chopped them and put them in my big pressure canner to cook. The pot still didn’t look like it could hold them all and I was worried about sticking so I cooked them in two batches.

I put in more water than was called for to make a lighter favored juice for the girls. I think it equaled out to be 2 and a half quarts per cooking batch. I let the apples simmer until they were soft. I don’t have a jelly bag so I used the same strainer I used when I made the grape juice. I dipped out and worked through the apples and juice, turning the apples in the strainer gently. I wanted some pulp, but not apple sauce so this was a little tricky.

It result was a nice, light, low-pulp apple juice. I heated it back up, poured it into sterile jars, and added lids. Then they went into the hot water canner. They were supposed to go for 10 minutes, but with young children no timing is exact. It was probably closer to 15. (I’d be curious if this effects the nutritional value.)

Now we have a little over a gallon and a half of unsweetened apple juice ready for the pantry. I will probably be buying more apples soon to put up some more juice and maybe apple sauce too. Hopefully, I have many rounds of canning to come!

Tree Update

The fruit trees are looking pretty good. I mulched them and have kept up with watering them good once a week. They have have some really nice growth.

This is the peach tree I am least happy with. I didn’t prune the very top this spring like I should have. That is why it didn’t bush out as nicely as the other tree. Now, I’m trying to decide on how to prune it next early spring. I may go ahead and take the top off to see if that fixes it. I’ll have to reread on pruning peaches in the book I have.

This peach tree looks great! I have decided that I need to prune off the large branch near the bottom of the tree. The branch is as thick as the trunk that I’m trying to cultivate and I’m afraid it could cause a bad split under the weight of fruit especially since it’s so close to the ground. This may require some reading too to double check.

The banana tree has grown so fast! It has even sprouted a new tree on one side. I’m trying to figure out how to promote fruit growth because the lady I bought it from says she has never had hers produce any bananas. I’m curious if our growing season is too short. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out where to check on this. Most articles I have found deal with keeping the tree alive, not producing fruit. If y’all know anything about it, please comment!

Ginger Syrup

I know I rarely talk about something store bought, but I had to share this! I found this ginger syrup at our health food store and I love it. The bottle has several usage suggestions and a recipe for roasted nuts that sounds good. I have been using it on my pancakes (a little goes a long way) and experimenting with it in teas.

It’s perfect for teas. It is just ginger and organic cane sugar so I use it in place of my sweetener. It adds a nice hint of ginger to it. My next experiment is going to be steeping a cup of tea from my recently dried basil. (I have only used fresh basil so far for tea.) I think I’ll use a bit of this syrup after the initial flavor taste. I think basil and ginger would be a nice pairing. If you’re a fan of herbal teas, you may want to keep an eye out for the syrup and try it.

Visitors to the Garden

We have been having some great visitors to the garden. I’m hoping that part of them will become permanent residents. One is a small praying mantis. I have actually had to move him a couple times as I have pulled some plants from the garden, but I still run across him now and then. I also have seen a toad a couple times.

Below is a hummingbird moth. I’d been having a number of different varieties of bees buzzing around the blooming basil. Then I noticed movement that wasn’t a bee while I was out the other day. It was this little guy flying around. It’s hard to get a picture of one with how much they move. Even this one is a little blurry.

Above is one of three lizards I have hanging around my garden. I hope they take up residence! There are two of these small gray prairie lizards and a blue-tailed skink. I think. I never get to see very much of him as he dashes for cover in a tank. And a photo was definitely out of the question.

Above is my mystery visitor. It’s a kind of wasp, but I haven’t found out what kind. It also likes buzzing through the corn. If y’all know what he is, please let me know!

Clipping Beans

I had enough bean seed when replanting to plant 2/3rds of the corn with beans. I really should have listened to my little voice and not planted them at the same time because it has now been a constant battle. At first, I clipped back the beans hesitantly, worrying that it would weaken them. Instead, it seems to have caused them to be more vigorous growers.

I have to remove vines from the corn twice a week to keep the runners from overtaking and stunting the corns’ growth. I have also had to clip a bit of foliage to allow more light in for a couple shorter stocks. It’s incredible to see how soon the beans return. Next year, I will definitely give the corn 10 days to 2 weeks to get a good head start.

I did decide to have Travis bring me home some good straw mulch. I have put down a layer of maybe 3-4 inches to control weeding and give myself some extra time (like for clipping back beans) and to even out moisture during our sometimes dry fall. It seems to have helped all of our crops.

Tomatoes and Cilantro

I finally have tomato plants!! It took all growing season, but I finally have a few plants. They will (hopefully) be just enough to give us fresh tomatoes until it turns cold. After the plants grew to 6 – 8 inches, I spread them out to where I wanted them. They seem to be handling the slight move well and have grown a few more inches. I mulched around them, but left the other half of the tank without mulch.

in this half of the tank I had spread seed for peppers and cilantro. None of the pepper plants came up, but the cilantro did. I am waiting until the cilantro gets taller to finish the mulching. I am glad to see that I can grow a fall crop of cilantro too!

Reseeding Basil

I’ve been harvesting and drying the majority of my basil patch to make room for the squash plant near it. The basil had actually reseeded a few starts so I have transferred them to one of our tanks. They will give us a good amount of fresh basil until the weather turns too cold.

I have left one where it started amongst the corn to experiment with. I want to see if I could grow a think layer of herbs under the corn to act as weed control. The basil came up so thick in its patch that hardly any plants could grow under it. I’m not sure if there will be enough sunlight through the corn to sustain the basil, but we’ll find out!

I learned something when harvesting our basil patch: basil will also root from the stem. The wind had blown a couple of the bushes so they rested on the ground. I guess there was enough moisture in the ground for long enough that the stems sent roots out along the bare sections of stem to support. I doubt that the basil is good enough at rooting to root in a vase of water like vines do, but it’s pretty neat!

The other thing I learned is that a basil patch yields a LOT of dried basil. I will probably be giving some away since I’ve only dried three bushes and already filled a large plastic container. It is loosely packed so I can get more in the container, but that’s a lot of basil. The house smelled amazing while I was drying it.

Grape Juice

I got the grape juice canned up the day after I juiced them. I certainly filled up my stove top with the task!

After one or two messes, I am paranoid about canning liquid coming to a quick boil and boiling over. The horror of cleaning sticky grape juice off my stove made me glad that each pot had a couple inches space from the top. I brought the juice to a simmer and used a measuring cup to pour it into sterilized jars.

After I added the heated flats and rings I settled them into my steaming hot water canner. I adjusted the burner and processed them according to the Ball Blue book: 10 minutes. I was so happy; the juice had yielded a little over a gallon and a half.

I’ve got them all labeled to add to our pantry. My hope is to can apple juice too next month. Since unsweetened apple juice is so naturally sweet, we may have to try mixing the two together at some point…. I have also heard that drinking a little grape juice each day is healthy for improved digestion and immune systems. We may have to find more grapes next year!

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