Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!!

It's so good to be back!

I hope you all had a safe, healthy and joyous Christmas.  And I pray that at least once during all the busy-ness, meal preparation (and/or meal consumption thank-you-very-much), family and friends, you found some quiet moments to reflect.  If you didn't, it's not too late.  Steal a moment first chance you get.

my mother's Christmas cookie plate

December was a wonderful whirlwind.  First of all, thanks to all who ordered and gifted cookbooks this year!!  I had so much fun giving every 5th one away (13 were mailed off for free)!  That deal is over for now, but I will re-introduce it in time for Mother's Day gifting (and receiving).


After seven years of homeschooling, it finally occurred to me to use our two weeks off of school the week before Christmas and the week of Christmas.  This way I had extra time to bake, wrap gifts, visit with friends, and pack for holiday traveling.  New Year's week is not a big deal around here so we're back to school this week but mornings only to ease us back into things.


While I killed all three kids' Beta fish by not taking them to our willing neighbor while we were away, I'm happy to announce that our cat, chickens and bees are still with us!  Jamey can hear the bees buzzing when he puts his ear to the hives.  This is no guarantee that they'll survive until spring, we're sure glad they're not dead yet!

A semi-distant relative through marriage was given a white elephant gift of a vintage-looking bee hat/veil. Since she doesn't have bees (or mosquitoes, evidently), she thought of us and I was thrilled to be the recipient of it!  Thank you, April!! I will wear it with pride this summer and won't fear a bee getting caught in my hair any longer!


The seed catalogs are pouring in and our minds are busy with ideas and plans for this spring and summer. New gardens?  New animals?  I must admit, it wasn't long ago that I was SO happy for that garden and all its weeds to wither up in the cold and die.  But now, I'm longing to be out in the sun again- hanging up laundry in the warm breezes and digging in the flower beds while popping blueberries in my mouth.

Just before Christmas, I received a promotional email from Tattler Reusable Lids announcing a one-day 50% off sale on all their lids.  I announced it on this site's facebook page but for those who missed it, I'll make sure to announce the next one, too.  We went ahead and bought another lot of them since we'd like to make the switch all the way over this year.

In other canning news, after years of waffling, I'm in the process of saving my swagbucks to purchase a pressure canner.  Please say a little prayer for me.  For some reason, they make me nervous. Oh, maybe it's because a family member had a pressure canner lid fly off and hot food splattered all over their kitchen.  But I'm putting on my brave face (and maybe my bee veil and Jamey's new chainsaw chaps) and diving in.  You'll hear all about it when I get it and start using it and I'm counting on those of you who are pros to give me pointers when the time comes.

On another note (how many topics can I cover in one post?), I recently received a very nice email from a male reader asking if any other men read my blog (since they rarely comment).  If there are any readers out there (of the male variety) who would like to show Bob he's not the only one, let us know in the comments below and thanks for reading!

So, here we go! 2014 is here.  I'm so glad to have you along.

Blessings for the whole year through,
Jane Pin It

28 comments:

  1. It's so good to see you back! I've missed your posts. I grew up pressure canning, and am amazed at all you've managed to accomplish in your food preservation without one! You'll love it once you get used to it. :-)

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  2. The cookies look yummy. Happy New Year!

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  3. You're going to love pressure canning! There are so many safety features on the newer models that you need not fear. I have pressure canning videos on my YouTube channel (of the same name), and would be happy to talk you through any concerns you have. I'd gladly give you my phone number, privately. You are welcome to call anytime. Your home is beautiful with a blanket of snow. Don't feel like the Lone Ranger...you're not the only mom who's killed a pet. I set off an aerosol 'bomb' before leaving my home one weekend, killing my sons hamster. I never even thought about the poor critter trapped in the cage. So sad. My husband checked our bees recently after a below -0- night. They were still buzzing and we were thrilled. I hope they can hang in there. We took Christmas week off from homeschooling as well. We worked Monday of this week and will get back in full swing tomorrow. Stay warm, and all my best. K ~

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  4. So glad to see you back after your holiday. I missed reading your blog.

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  5. I was the lucky recipient of a free cook book!! Thank you so much! Many blessings and joy in the New Year!!

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  6. I purchased a Presto pressure canner and was terrified I'd blow up the kitchen. I made myself use it and I LOVE it. It was highly recommended to me and I would recommend it to others. I'm a first year canner and fou f it to be very easy and simple and it also doubles as a water bath canner.

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  7. I bought a pressure canner maybe three years ago from Walmart. Used it once and then returned it the next day. It wasn't the pressure that scared me so much (though it did) but the fact that I have a flat surface stove top. I was terrified the entire ONE time I tried using it that the glass surface would break or crack and I would then be stove-less. If I had a normal non-flat-surface stove I think I would totally buy one (again) though!

    I have asked this before but I don't remember where so I am so sorry if you answered it and I just didn't see the reply. But how do you get water to the bees when the temps are freezing? Do you have a heated water feeder thingy (I'm all sorts of technical, obviously)?

    Happy New Year,
    KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

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    1. Where we live, water rarely freezes solid for days on end without melting some midday, so keeping their water source supplied is a goal of ours. They can also get water from the condensation on the inside of the hive which is generated by their heat. So, to answer your question, we aren't using a "heated water feeder thingy" (you speak my language:-)).

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  8. Glad you're back - I've missed reading your posts, but it was a nice time to look around at your past posts, and enjoy those! I too have been wanting to try pressure canning so I wait anxiously for your opinion, once that time comes. Happy New Year!

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  9. I am a man and I enjoy reading your blog. I don't actually recall how I found it but our family is interested in the same sorts of "homesteading" activities which often are pretty unisex in nature. I often will let my wife know of a post that I think she'll find interesting since she doesn't get online much.

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  10. I understand that you want to protect your pickled beets, but my husband and I (I'm the main reader, sorry, Bob!) have a question....where do you live? I love hearing about your plantings and harvests, but there is a large difference between living and farming in, say, Minnesota versus Texas. :) Can you give us a general idea of your location and/or climate? Thanks! Looking forward to garden posts this spring!

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    1. Hi, Liz. We live in hardiness zone 6b (you can find a map here http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/#). If you go to the link and click on your own state it will get larger and you can determine your hardiness zone and compare it with 6b's (temperature wise). This will be much more accurate for comparing planting seasons than our actual location (which, as you guessed, we keep quiet). Happy planning and planting!

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  11. I am wondering what you do to care for your chickens while you are gone from home for a few days? Do you have a neighbor or someone who comes over, or do you have them set up so that help is not needed? We have had chickens for almost a year now, and while they are extremely easy to manage when we are home, we find it difficult to go on vacation since water needs changing, eggs need collecting, etc. while we are gone. Any advice or suggestions in this area would be most helpful.

    As for pressure canning, you will love it. I don't do much in mine except a few veggies and stock, but the stock makes the whole thing worth while. When we roast a chicken, we save the carcass in the freezer, and when we have a couple saved, we make stock. It saves me so much money and is really very easy to pressure can. Can't wait to hear all about what you will put up with yours. Also, so glad you are back to the blogging world. I love reading your posts.

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    1. Hi, Virginia. We have a large feeder and waterer that can last several days and we just collect the eggs when we get home. If we're gone a whole week, we ask a neighbor or friend to fill the feed and water as needed mid week and collect the eggs (we usually let them keep them). We take good care of our chickens, but we aren't fanatical about it- they've proven very resilient the few times they've ran out of food or water. Keep in mind that our chickens have constant access to a large chicken yard where they can forage. This time of year they're allowed in the gardens, too, so they are very busy scratching through the straw, eating grubs and such.

      Thanks for the encouragement regarding the pressure canner. I hadn't even thought of canning stock- whoohoo!!

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  12. Welcome back sweet friend. Happy 2014 to you all. Your tree photo is gorgeous...so welcoming and cosy. Don't rush the gardening days...they will be here soon enough. Enjoy these cosy days of winter. I am with you...I like the week off before Christmas week as well. Have a lovely weekend. Love, Camille

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  13. Hey there! I have two pressure canners, you are welcome to borrow one to try it out! I too love pressure canner - you will love it. Although I have to admit, I was scared too at first. Many years ago my grandpa, while drunk, attempted to make split pea soup, passed out on the couch, and left the pressure cooker on. It blew, and the lid embedded itself in the ceiling and it covered the whole kitchen in split pea soup. I think you are OK as long as you are not drunk :) . On an aside, there is a lot of good cooking that can be done in pressure cookers too. It's a lost art!! Kimberlee

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  14. I've missed your posts! Hi Bob! Does it count if I show my hubby certain posts that I know are up his alley? :) I know my friends hubby (I don't think she comments) for sure reads all the bee ones. If anyone was scared of a pressure canner it is me! But I am getting more used that hissing noise and am more trusting of the lid staying on. When we bought ours my husband was insistent of it being one with a metal to metal seal (vs. having a rubber gasket) he envisioned it breaking eventually and it being a headache to find a new one. So I love making canned vegetable soup (diff. kinds). Soon I want to try canning beans so I don't get stuck in the 'forgot to soak' predicament. For me, I think the real beauty of it is that you can leisurely make a big pot of soup in the winter (which feels wonderful!) and can it when you want to instead of making yourself can-the-produce-that's-rotting-in the summer-heat-when-you'd-rather-not-heat-the-house-up-anymore! :)-Simone

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  15. The photo of your house makes me happy...I just love it. Happy New Year to you and your sweet family...xo

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  16. I have always had decent luck with pressure canners. I don't use them often but no problems thus far the past few years. I think checking to make sure you have a good seal on the lid is very important.

    Would like to try the tattler lids sometime, as well.

    read often, don't comment much :)

    Lindsey

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  17. Your home is so inviting and lovely! It's exactly what I'm aiming for in my own home. A pressure canner is on my wish list as well. I've never canned before, but I'm going to learn this year to keep up with our garden produce.

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  18. So good to have you back, Jane!

    Count me in as another scaredy cat who has had a new pressure canner for a year but can't screw up the courage to use it. My MIL was cooking lentils (they cook so fast, why would she do them in a pressure canner?) in hers (many years ago, I must admit) and the lid blew and plastered lentils all over the kitchen. I have the freezer space to freeze oodles of soups, homemade broth, etc. but know if we ever had a really long power failure, I would be out of luck while jars of pressure canned goods on the shelf would be fine. Also, canned soups, stews and such would be a great instant "convenience" food for me when I forget to take something out of the freezer to thaw. We will have to support each other in being big and brave and learning how to pressure can!

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  19. Jane! Happy New Year! So glad you're back.

    I'm a fairly new convert to pressure canning, but I'm totally enthused. I have been using my waterbath canner less and doing more stuff in the pressure canner. It uses so much less water and keeps more heat inside with shorter processing time for comparable items. And I love that I can do baked beans, stock, and salsa with corn/beans. My best friend has a pressure canner and she's a pro, so it was great to be able to call her up for the first few times and have her help me to get over my fears.

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  20. I have used a pressure canner for a while but don't feel expert.

    My husband and I are learning about pressure cooking. We used some money we received as Christmas gifts to purchase a pressure cooker. Yesterday we made a roast with vegetables that was amazing in about 1 hour. Vegetables alone only take minutes to cook after about 10 minutes to get the pressure up. The colors remain so vibrant! Still need to try cooking dried beans.

    I have begun making plans for our gardens too. We don't have much space to work in so planning is essential. Thanks for sharing all your experiences!

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  21. Margo- I would love to try pressure canning beans, so far from my (minor) research, it seems most people just do them plain, and then add a sauce once going to serve it. I would love to find a version with the tomato/bbq sauce already in the can, so its already to go....is this what you mean by 'baked beans'? If you have a successful recipie and you have the time, would you care to share it? you can email it to smv_1@hotmail.com

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  22. Yay!!! So glad you're back! Hope you had a lovely Christmas. Your home is so warm and inviting....I think we have the same taste in decor as I spy what looks like a couple Moss prints in the living room and Cat's Meow pieces above the closet door :) Speaking of canning....all of my applesauce molded....I am heartbroken. I followed the Ball blue book instructions....and thought maybe I just had some bad lids (regular lids) but every one I opened is molded. I think it comes down to my apples...some of them had mold on them and I thought I scrubbed them thoroughly enough, but apparantly not. I'm on the fence as to whether to throw out all my apple butter too. Have you ever had that happen? I may just freeze my applesauce from here on out :( Also...do you have to provide a heat source for your chickens? I hope to one day have a small "flock" when we get our forever home. Thank you for all your advice it's very helpful. Blessings always, Jan

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    1. Oh, Jan. I am heartbroken with you over your applesauce! I'm confused as well as to what happened-especially if the lids all held a tight seal and really popped as you opened them. Goodness. As far as our chickens go, we usually have a light in the hen house that's on a timer to extend the daylight in the morning and late afternoon so their laying doesn't slow down as much. It does put off a little heat, but not that much. It stopped working, so during this current cold snap, Jamey just cut large pieces of cardboard to make sure they had a wind barrier (our hen house is very old and drafty) and moved them to that protected end of the roost once they were already "asleep". They're all still alive this morning and it got down to right around zero last night. We are careful to only buy breeds that can handle our weather temps. That makes us less worried when it gets cold like this.

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  23. I love my pressure cooker and don't know what I'd do without it! I've gotten to the point I just leave it in the corner of my dining room, since it's so big and I don't feel like hauling it up and down the stairs all the time. This year I killed all our baby turkeys-I thought it was warm enough and they were stinking up the garage, so I moved them out too early. So don't feel bad about the fish!

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Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

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