Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jammin' - and Running Free

Our wild raspberries are really starting to come in. They've got a few more days before the majority ripen up, but seeing a handful of ripe raspberries was enough to make us risk the brambles we had to wade through to pick them. We only ended up with about 1/2 a pound, and I decided to make a jar of Raspberry Jam out of them. Bernie doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, but he can't resist many things made of fruit. He likes to put his jam over a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but honestly, you should try it. It's wonderful!

So for those of you with berries that always wanted to know how to make jam, I'm going to share the recipe for the most simple jar of jam you will ever make.

1/2 pound Berries
1 cup of Sugar

Pour the sugar over the berries and gently stir the mixture. Let it sit for about 15 minutes or so. Then heat the whole thing on low heat until the sugar melts, stirring the entire time. Once it gets soupy, turn your heat up to high and stir as it boils for about 5 minutes - or until it gets thick. Turn the heat off and pour your jam into a clean, sterile jar.

Now you have berry jam. There are several ways to make jam, but this is probably the easiest. If you have a lot of berries, you may want to use a recipe that adds pectin to reduce the amount of time you spend over the stove. But for a small amount, it will only take you 5 minutes or so. 1/2 pound of berries makes less than 1 pint of jam, so I didn't mess around with canning it since that small amount won't last long around here. Several of you wrote that you would like to see a webpage on the Back to Basic Living website on the basics of canning, and I will start working on that in the next week or two, as more berries come in. I typically water bath can all of my fruit and sometimes tomatoes, and pressure can anything else.

Here's a picture of the jam over a bowl of ice cream:


I have to tell you, I almost didn't post that picture. It reminds me of bird poop over ice cream. I think it's all the seeds. If you are really turned off by seeds in your jam, you can smoosh the berries through a sieve first. But I'm going to warn you - it's going to take a lot more berries that way. There is very little fruit around each of those little seeds. But it's your choice. Personally, I can get past the bird poop looking jam.....

The chicks are doing great. They were five weeks old yesterday. Friday afternoon Bernie and I let them out in the chicken yard for the evening. They loved it. They ran around eating everything they could get their little beaks on. They flew and ran and played and challenged each other. It was really a hoot watching them. It took me a while to get them all inside as darkness was settling, but it was worth it.

This weekend I let them out in the chicken yard at 6:30 each morning. They are really loving being outside. We check on them every few minutes, and they are doing fine. They pretty much ignore me when I go into the chicken yard to sit with them, but I just chalk it up to the excitement of being outside. To compensate, I don't let them out in the mornings until they eat out of my hands, jump on me, and act like they still love me. Then I open their little chicken door and they go outside and act like I have cooties.

They are really getting big and starting to look like miniature chickens. Bernie says my chickens are way prettier than any five week old chickens he's ever seen. I absolutely agree with him. Duke is starting to cluck already. I love the little peep-peep noises they make, but the clucking is pretty exciting. Here's a picture of Duke - not a great one because I chopped off his beak in the picture, but it really shows off his comb and his developing waddles, and his size compared to the Silver Leghorn he's standing next to:


Dad gum, that's a good looking boy! Here's a picture of the only other rooster I think (*hope*) we have. His name is Bobby Lee. He's a Phoenix and, although not as developed as Duke, quite handsome in his own right:


Look at that boy strutting around. I sure am proud to have such good looking boys. I really hope they get along and stay sweet. I just can't bare to think of one of them ending up on the table. I've tried to be delicate and casually mention that to both of them on a couple of occasions. Let's hope they are listening.

Not only are the boys good looking, but the girls are so pretty now. They've filled out and feathered out and just fill me with pride. I put several new pictures of the chicks up on the Back to Basic Living website.

Oh - and I finally learned to tell the Phoenix's from the Silver Leghorn's! The Phoenix's have slate colored legs, and the Silver Leghorn's have yellow legs. It took an awful lot of googling to figure that out! I sure am relieved though. I don't know why, but it is, for some reason, important to me.

The chicks are great. Bernie and I are great. Elvis and Priscilla are tolerating all the greatness. Life is good on the homestead.

Bee Free,

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