Pear Sauce, Pigs & Vinegar

Remember those five 5 gallon buckets of pears? And I said I was finished? Well there are still tons of pears coming off that same tree and we thought it would continue to be great pig food. So I got five more 5 gallon buckets.

From the last of the first batch of pears, I made my first vinegar. It isn’t ‘done’ yet, and I don’t know how it will turn out, so I haven’t told you about it. But it looks right according to all of the pictures I’ve looked at and all of the information I have read. I’m excited to finally try making vinegar. I wanted to and had to because my friend Grace also tried her first batch out of the same pears, and she started hers before I did. Today she is making her first ever batch of soap, too, something we have yet to do. Good for her, I hope it turns out perfect.

Bowl of very ripe pears, vinegar crock, pig bucket, pan for pear sauce


After I brought home the last batch of pears, I decided that pear sauce would be a good thing to make. Since we aren’t eating any sugar and haven’t in almost a year, I was thinking pear sauce, made out of the really ripe, dripping pears would make a good sweetener for things like winter squash pie. Pears have a good amount of carbohydrates like sugar, but there is no processing or additives in these pears. The tree hasn’t even been pruned, sprayed or fertilized for, well for as long as anyone can remember. The only thing I did to make pear sauce, was peel and core the pears and cook them down. The vinegar got the peels and the pigs got the cores and seeds. I did add a tablespoon of citric acid powder, just because. The sauce has cooked down to a beautiful golden brown. It was canned in the water bath for 20 minutes. I think the next time I try making a pie, without a crust, I’ll add about 1/4 cup of pear sauce for sweetener and see how that tastes.

Since the first batch of vinegar seems to be doing it’s thing correctly, it actually made some ‘mother’. I decided that I should start more vinegar, this time in the five gallon crock instead of the one gallon. I’ll give you many more details about the vinegar once the first batch is ‘finished’ and I find out if it actually worked. For now, know I am once again experimenting on us an hope it works and doesn’t make us sick. That is always one of Frank’s concerns, and rightly so, but I just tell him we’re not dead yet.


The pigs really, really like the pears, and so do the chickens. I am truly grateful for this abundance of food, for us and the animals, and the people that are so willing to share. I hope I am able to share something with them sometime that they will enjoy as well.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 14

Well, let’s see, what have we been up to lately? Bunches. Last week we got a comment that accused us of putting the youngsters to shame with all of the work we’ve been doing. It struck me as kind of funny at the time, and I’ve thought about it a couple of times since then. Because of that comment, I thought I’d let you know that the two men that are doing most of the hard work around here, Frank and Henry, are 65 and 60 years old, respectively. This little tid bit of information may motivate someone out there, so I thought I would share. As for the woman here? I’m 56.

The ditch we showed you last week looks exactly the same as it did then, except we ran a soaker hose across the yard where the rest of the ditch is to be dug. Emmet has been back since this ditch was

started, but during that visit he dug a different ditch, the one between these two buildings, and about half of it was done in the dark by lantern light. The one picture I tried to take showed too much of Emmet’s face, so I didn’t keep it. After the ditch was dug, Frank and Emmet ran 12/2 in conduit connecting the two buildings. And then there was light. Inside that is. Frank did his first night time tractor driving and covered up

the ditch with the bucket. He didn’t like it much, he prefers the visibility daylight provides instead. So now we have temporary power to these two buildings. Temporary because the solar panel installation will provide the power to these buildings in the long run.

 

Today Frank and Henry finished installing the braces and brackets for the new antenna towers. There is one on the garage, one on the garden shed and one on the house by the current antenna pole. Frank has been determining the angle of attachment because these towers will fold over at the bottom so they can be laid down to install or work on antennas. This has taken a lot of planning, plus acquiring some needed equipment and accessories. We will continue to give you updates on how this project is progressing.

 

 

As you can tell from the picture on the header, the concrete for the outdoor kitchen was installed last week. I have to tell you, watching Henry mix the concrete bag after bag made me tired. That was a lot of work, but it went quickly and smoothly. Frank brought the bags of concrete over in the bucket of the tractor so no one had to lift them. We kept water in a five gallon bucket for Henry to pour into the wheelbarrow, which saved time and effort as well.

Here is the first appliance for the outdoor kitchen. Neat, huh? It is neat and exciting to think about completing this project and having a functional, no-grid, rather primitive kitchen right off the back porch. But when I really stop and think about using it out of necessity in a survival scenario, the neat factor drops like a rock. This kitchen has not been conceived, nor created to invite friends over to enjoy tea and crumpets. I picture processing vegetables and meat out here, washing clothes and fixing breakfast before a hard days work. It’s rather daunting, actually.

 

Last week our friend Grace let me know there were some local pears ripe and available. There are folks that have pear trees, but aren’t using the pears. One gentleman’s tree is loaded and they are falling by the dozens to the ground. Yesterday instead of butchering and canning chickens, I went and got pears, five 5 gallon buckets full of pears. Guess what I

Washed pears in the sunrise that’s peeking in the backdoor.

did today? Yep, but I only got started. So far we have 21 quarts of canned pears. We did it a little different this time, no sugar (just like the peaches), and no peeling. When we had finished canning peaches a month or so ago, one person commented that they don’t peel their fruit before they can it. I thought that sounded great and read about other folks doing the same thing, so that’s what I did. Aren’t they beautiful? And there are lots left to put way. I hope to have them finished by the weekend.

 

We have had some cold nights this week, into the 40’s. This was the first ‘cold’ test for the greenhouse and the water barrels we are using for the thermal mass. The first night it got down to 47*, the greenhouse against the wall was 59*. Yea! That is where the tomatoes, peppers, ginger, potatoes and turmeric are living. The temperature on the thermometers along the outside wall read 54*. Another yea! That’s when I discovered that I hadn’t thought to close the screen at the top of the storm door on the greenhouse. That may have kept it even warmer in there. The plants are happy, even when it gets over 100* most afternoons. It is supposed to cool off, even for the highs later in the week. Today it got up to 97*, it was a hot day.

Beets
Carrots

Cabbage
Brocolli

Brussel sprouts
Muskmelon

Squash

Onions!

Spinach

Since I have been watering the plants in the greenhouse almost everyday, I thought it would be good to use the water well that is right next door. This water well has a Simple Pump installed that works very well, it’s just that we haven’t been using it at all. When I pumped some water out of it the other day it smelled awful, so today I put about half a gallon of bleach in it. We’ll let it sit for a couple of days then pump water out of it until the bleach smell is gone. It will be an easy walk with my watering can back and forth to the well. I figure it is a good time to get the well into good working condition since we may be using it regularly before long. I wiped down the main rod to remove any dust and grime. Before I use it again I will clean and lubricate the rod again with olive oil.

 

For now, I am filling the watering can with the hose and rural water supply. I have also been ‘watering’ the clothesline poles for several days. It is really dry here and it hasn’t rained since we put the poles in the ground with the dry concrete. I have watered each pole a number of times, several days apart. I’m ready to use it, it just isn’t ready to be used yet.

 

 

 

I almost forgot to tell you. Monday when Frank and Henry were finishing up shelving and braces in preparation for working on the antenna towers, I tore the carpet out of the bedroom. This

house has old, old, about 35 year old shag carpet in the bedroom, hallway and living room. Did I tell you it’s old? Well, last weekend Frank took up a small piece of the bedroom carpet, just to see what was underneath. That showed me what to do. I thought it would take quite a while and be difficult. It took less than an hour and was a breeze. The hardest part was moving the mattress out into the

hallway and back, and that wasn’t difficult. Now we have a somewhat uneven, paint splotched and stained in some places, plywood bedroom floor. It’s great! We haven’t decided what we’re going to do with it next, but there’s no hurry. We’re just glad to have the carpet and everything that was living in it out of our bedroom.

After I finished with the carpet, I snapped a few green beans I had picked over the weekend and thawed out the gallon bag of cowpeas I had put in the freezer over the summer. Out came the canner and they all went in together even though the green beans only require 25 minutes to can and the cowpeas require 40 minutes. I ended up with three pints of green beans and 10 pints of cowpeas. It sure is nice to have a few more jars of food on the shelf.

There is an interesting article on The Economic Collapse today that Frank ran across, The Numbers Say That a Major Global Recession Has Already Begun. We know that not everybody follows the markets, but we’re all invested heavily, one way or another. Please pay attention. And if you can or would, please pray for the Middle East. Things are not looking good there. Do you think the world economy and the Middle East problems might be connected? Certainly food for thought. A couple of extra cans of green beans might come in handy some day. You just never know when the stores might not be there.

Life continues to rush by at break neck speed. It’s amazing how much we are getting done and how much is yet to be completed. We have never worked this hard and accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. Ever. It’s quite fascinating. This afternoon after Frank and Henry had quit for the day and we were waiting for the last batch of pears to be finished, Frank and I talked about how hard we have been working. I told him we are practicing for what is to come, when there won’t be a choice of working hard all day or not. It’s hard work, it’s good practice and it’s providing us with many things that will make life a little easier. There is nothing like experience for learning. It’s your turn, do, learn, and experience. It will get you one step closer to being as ready as you can.

Until next time – Fern

Dream Big, Be Patient

As I brought some of our salsa, jalapenos and pears into the kitchen from the pantry this afternoon, I mentioned to Frank how great and unbelievable it is that we have finally reached this point in our lives. It is very humbling and brings great peace to our hearts to have some of our dreams come true. Let me explain.

This morning (Saturday) I made our usual homemade biscuits for breakfast. Then I fed the cats, opened up the chicken house and fed the chickens. This led me to the barn where I fed Pearl, our Pyrenees, milked One Stripe and fed the rest of the does. Enjoying the beautiful sunshine, I made my way back to the house and strained the milk. This time I didn’t cool the milk because we needed to make yogurt

After the yogurt was started, it was time to make bread out of the sourdough sponge I had left out overnight to ferment. 

We had set out a bag of Cushaw squash to thaw for a pie a day or two ago, so it was time to get the pie going. This would also warm up the kitchen so the bread would rise more quickly.

By now it was time for lunch, which brings me back to the beginning of this post. It has taken many, many years of dreams, planning, postponing, and planning again to make it to this point. When we were newly married, our big date was to walk around downtown and window shop. We couldn’t afford to buy anything. We just spent time together, walking, holding hands, and dreaming. Dreaming that someday we would live in the country and be as self reliant as possible. Now, thirty-something years later, we still have not achieved all of our dreams and goals, but many of them seem to be coming together.

Five years ago, we had not learned how to can vegetables. At that point the only thing we had canned was salmon when we lived in Alaska. 

Five years ago, we barely knew how to garden. We had a lot of book learning, but no practical experience. We grew one fairly successful garden about 20 years ago, then about five years ago we began to garden again.
  
 

Three years ago, I had never made cheese

Two years ago, I had never tried growing herbs.

A year and a half ago, we had just started to get into ham radio.

One year ago, I had not canned any fruit on my own. 

Six months ago, I had never used a dehydrator

  

Two months ago, I knew little to nothing about kefir and had never tried it. 

One month ago, I had never made sourdough bread. I have made a lot of bread, but now I have the self-sustaining means of continuing to do so indefinitely without yeast. As long as the wheat and flour hold out, that is. 

Two weeks ago, we had never tried any herbal, medicinal teas. Today we added some celery seed/chamomile tea to our daily repertoire.

And I almost forgot to mention.  234 days ago we had never had anything to do with a blog. We had been reading a few, but never written anything like this. And, believe it or not, we used to seldom take pictures of anything. Now somedays we are doing something and one of us will say, “Hmm, we should have taken some pictures for the blog.” It is interesting how things turn out while you are pursuing your dreams.

You may not live on your own little piece of dirt yet. You may not have all of the livestock or garden space you want. You may not have the money to do some of the things you really feel are important to be prepared. But you do have the opportunity to learn all you can wherever you are. Dream big. Really big. Be patient and frugal and determined and diligent and vigilant. Then dream big again. When Frank and I first got married he had a saying that has been a motto of ours ever since. “Postpone gratification for long-term gains.” Think about that. There are so many things we can do without. Sometimes there are things that are nice to have or that we just want. And sometimes it is really hard to put some things off. And then sometimes things happen that cause our goals and dreams to be postponed or changed. But that is not the end of them. Keep them close to your heart, discipline yourself that you might always keep them in focus, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the things of the world.

Know that most dreams don’t come true over night, at least not in my experience. And most days, I think that if they did come true overnight, I wouldn’t appreciate them near as much. So, today, my heart is full of gratitude. Gratitude that God has seen fit to bless us with this little spot of land upon which we can achieve the things of our dreams by the sweat of our brow and the touch of His hand. Since we have been here, we have learned much, and I feel we have just begun. Hold fast to your dreams. They may come true in the most unexpected ways.

Until next time – Fern

 

Pear Butter, One Great Comfort Food

After we finished canning all of the pears, we were ready – well, kind of – to make pear butter. We made some last summer for the first time and it was very good. The recipe is so simple. All you need is plenty of time to cook down the pears.

I saved the softest pears to use in the butter. When I was almost finished peeling them, Frank started the first half cooking. Jackie Clay has a simple, yummy recipe in her book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food.

The recipe calls for:
1/2 cup water
7 lbs. pears
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
4 cups sugar (we used 2 1/2)
Put everything in the pot and start simmering. We ended up with 11 1/2 pounds of pears so we adjusted the recipe accordingly. 

We let the butter simmer all afternoon, but it still wasn’t cooked down to the desired consistency. This is all a matter of preference. Here it is about half way through the day. So, into the frig it went.

Life got busy and a few days later, Frank started the butter simmering again and let it cook down for another afternoon. It cooked down to a beautiful, rich butter. 

We planned to can it up that evening, but there just weren’t enough hours in that day. So the next morning, after another night in the frig, it finally made it into the jars. We processed it in the water bath for 10 minutes.





Our 11/ 1/2 lbs of pears yielded 7 1/2 pints of butter. We still have some butter left from last year, so here is a comparison. Since we took more time to cook down the butter this year, it is a darker color.

It is hard to tell in a picture, but this year’s butter is also thicker with less liquid surrounding the fruit pulp.

We plan to go and pick more pears if there are any left. Sometimes I wonder at all of these plans we have, but we both feel a sense of urgency about doing all we are able. We will continue to can and preserve our harvest as time allows. Each new jar of food on the shelf adds to our peace of mind. What are you adding to your shelf today?

Until next time – Fern

It Was a Pear-y Good Day!

Since we were blessed with an abundance of pears…..it was time to can them up. 

To start this project off, we cleaned up the kitchen and brought in a few more cases of jars from the storage shed. You can never have too many jars. We weren’t really planning on getting this many pears to preserve, but are very thankful we did. 

Since we were going to be working on the pears, I put the lima beans on to cook for lunch. They could do their thing without much attention from me. 

Now all of the jars, lids and rings are washed and ready. It’s time to get started on the pears.

I told a friend that I had 25 gallons of pears waiting at home to be processed and she told me her mother uses her apple peeler to peel their pears. We have had one since the days of Y2K, but it has never been out of the box – a new

antique. I was glad to hear it would work on pears since we had so many, and I actually knew where it was. I got it out and had Frank take a look at it to see how it worked and if he thought it might to the job. It is a simple, but effective machine.

 

 


Since the pears had been sitting, ripening for a week, we suspected they might be too soft to work with the peeler. They were. But not for the reason we expected. The pear is ‘speared’ onto the shaft of the peeler, then the peeling  

blade is released to do it’s work. It wasn’t that the pear was too soft for the peeling blade, the core of the pear was too soft to hold it in place, so the pear started spinning around on the shaft instead of getting peeled. If we have the chance to pick more pears, I will try this again when they are more firm. I think it would work great and save a lot of time.

But since it didn’t work for this project, that meant some extra hours peeling by hand. That set us back several hours before we could fire up the water bath canner and we didn’t think we would get them all finished in one day. But then the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system went down in many places around the country. That got us to thinking. Not knowing how long that system would be down and what the outcome might be, we decided to get all of the pears canned in case we may need to turn our attention to other things over the next few days.

After we got enough peeled and sliced for the first batch, we mixed up the syrup. 
The ratio we ended up using was:
24 cups water
7 cups sugar
1/2 cup Fruit Fresh When the syrup was hot, we added the pears and let them heat for 5 minutes.

We heated the jars, rings and lids…..then we used a slotted spoon to dip out the pears, then ladled in the syrup. We used the water bath canner. When it came to boiling, we processed them for 25 minutes.

We found out that even though the slices may be pretty, they were kind of a pain to pack into the jars. For the next round of pear peeling, I cut the pears into chunks instead of slices. They packed much easier and I was able to get more pears in each jar.

I was very glad to see the bottom of the last bucket for the evening. 



It was a pear-y, pear-y long day by the time the last of the jars came out of the canner. We ended up with 28 quarts of beautiful pears.

Now, going back to the shut down of the EBT system. Frank has a few thoughts he would like to share. 

Being an avid news reader, I found multiple different excuses as to why the system went down. I also found official versions with different times that the system quit working and found this to be a little bit unnerving. Our state, Oklahoma, was one of the 17 states where the cards would not work. Hours past, and the cards still didn’t work. Let me explain here. There are many people that need assistance and help from time to time. This is by no means finding fault with these people for their circumstances. 

But I try to picture in my mind what it would be like in California, for example, which was one of the states that was effected by the outage, what would really happen if this system didn’t come back up. What would all of these people do? Where are they going to get food and the other necessities that they need to live? Could this happen in our society? Now we know that the answer is yes, it can happen. There is an old saying, “If something can happen, It will.” Food for thought. It’s always a good idea to follow the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” Some day, some where, some how, one of these major systems is going to shut down. Here’s your wake up call folks. Pay attention. The wolf is at the door. May God help us all.

Frank and Fern

An Abundance of Pears

There is an old, old pear tree on our neighbors place and they were kind enough to share with us again this year. Last year there were a lot of pears, but due to the very hot, dry conditions, they were pretty small. We made our first pear butter out of them. This year there are still a lot of pears, not as many as last year, but they are almost three times as big! And, we got three times as many! We thank God daily for all that He provides for us.

Our goal is to can pear slices and more pear butter. The butter will make great Christmas presents and we can share with some of the older folks at church that don’t can anymore.

We found out last year that collecting pears was much easier if we shook the limb and let them fall to the ground. This may cause a little bruising, but the ground has a fairly thick layer of grass that cushions the fall and this technique was much easier on our bodies that working from a ladder. Finding alternative ways to do things increases our productivity and success in many different ways.

This year we decided to take our shepherd’s crook with us to see if we could shake the lower limbs with it. It worked great!

In some places, the grass is tall enough to make it almost like an Easter egg hunt.

Without using the ladder at all, we filled up all 6 of our five gallon buckets. Some are still pretty green. I will let them sit for a few days before I start peeling and slicing for canning.

I am so excited and grateful to be able to put up some more nourishing fruit. And one of the best things about these is, I know they haven’t been sprayed with anything or fertilized with anything accept the occasional gift from a passing cow. These are as pure as they can be. Yum!!

I will let you see how they all turn out. It will round out our pantry with peaches and pears going into winter and that is another very satisfying feeling. This is another activity that will be completed while teaching at school, dealing with the fall garden, milking, blogging and being a wife. It is part of what increases the peace and contentment I talked about a few days ago. Keep doing whatever you need to do to increase your preparedness, both for you and your family. It will bring untold blessings.

Until next time – Fern