Monday, August 12, 2013

Victoria Plum Vanilla Jam

Beautiful Victorias!

Victoria Plum Vanilla Jam

This makes a beautiful golden jam that is hard to resist.

10 cups of Victoria plums, washed, pitted, and chopped
2 cups of vanilla sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tablespoon of butter (if desired)

Add all ingredients to heavy bottomed pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, removing any foam. Cook 15 minutes, remove from heat, allow to cool. Reheat and cook another 15 minutes. Repeat until you reach desired thickness. If you want it smoother, hit it with a stick blender. Ladle into hot jars with 1/2 headspace, and process 10 minutes. Makes 5 pints

In the works!


Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.
-Mae West 

 Plumageddon has come! I have a medium sized italian plum tree that was FULL of fruit.  When all was said and done, I harvested 62 lbs of plums off of it.  Unfortunately, these are not freestone, and I don't have a pitter (I will be getting one before next season), so dear readers, I processed them all by hand.  My hands and fingernails were stained for days, but it was worth it. They turn into delicious things.

About a third of said plums

Processing by hand sucks

The first thing I made was Plum BBQ Sauce. It was a perfect combination of flavors, hitting your taste buds in waves. Beginning with sweetness, then moving right on into just the right amount of tartness. As soon as the tartness starts to fade, you feel the heat rise, and ride out the spice until you take another bite and start again. After using quite a bit of it, I canned the remainder, 4 pints.

Next began the string of jams and a butter. We had been hitting up our local blueberry U-Pick pretty hard, and had quite a stock of those suckers, so, you will see them in a lot of these recipes. Plus, its just an all around awesome flavor combination, and makes a beautiful jam.

Can you smell it?

This came to pass in Plum Blueberry Jam, Plum Blueberry Butter, and Plum Blueberry Vanilla Jam. To be clear, these plums can easily stand alone, like in this Plum Ginger Vanilla Jam.  Or, they can be paired with other fruit like this Plum Apple Ginger Jam. Sometimes you get volunteer plums from your neighbors tree that overhang your yard, and get to try Victoria Plum Vanilla Jam.

A few jars 

After all of that, I still have about three 1 gallon ziplocks full of processed plums in my freezer.  Next round, baked goods, and possibly an attempt at plum wine.

Food totals: 213.5 lbs since last post

10 lbs cherries
5 lbs beans
1 lb 2 oz strawberries
9.5 lbs  carrots
17 lbs onions
1.5 lbs rainbow chard
5 lbs lemon cucumber
62 lbs plums
.5 lbs Blackberries
12 lbs Victoria plums
145 lbs apples
.25 lbs Corni De Toro peppers
.5 lbs Poblano peppers
4 lbs tomatillos
2 lbs ground cherries
224.75 lbs to goal

Plum Apple Ginger Jam

Plum Apple Ginger Jam

6 cups of plums, washed, pitted, and chopped
4 cups of apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and diced
1 cup sugar
2 cup of brown sugar
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tablespoon of butter (if desired)

Add all ingredients to heavy bottomed pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, removing any foam. Cook 15 minutes, remove from heat, allow to cool. Reheat and cook another 15 minutes. Repeat until you reach desired thickness. If you want it smoother, hit it with a stick blender. Ladle into hot jars with 1/2 headspace, and process 10 minutes. Makes 5 pints

Plum Ginger Vanilla Jam

Tarty goodness!

Plum Ginger Vanilla Jam

This is a tart jam, please ignore if the tang is not your friend.

10 cups of plums, washed, pitted, and chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and diced
2 cups of vanilla sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 lemon, juiced
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 Tablespoon of butter (if desired)

Add all ingredients to heavy bottomed pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, removing any foam. Cook 15 minutes, remove from heat, allow to cool. Reheat and cook another 15 minutes. Repeat until you reach desired thickness. If you want it smoother, hit it with a stick blender. Ladle into hot jars with 1/2 headspace, and process 10 minutes. Makes 5 pints

Plum Blueberry Vanilla Jam

Plums and Blueberries, an awesome combo!

Plum Blueberry Vanilla Jam

This is a heavenly jam, and, possibly my favorite. It is made extra fabulous by the addition of Vanilla sugar.  Make this sugar by adding a whole or already scraped vanilla bean pod to sugar, I use quart jars. Let sit for several months for best vanilla flavor. Refill when empty (use same pod) and start again.

6 cups Plums, washed, pitted, chopped
4 cups Blueberries, cleaned
2 cups Vanilla sugar
1 cup Brown sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon of Butter (if desired)

Add all ingredients to heavy bottomed pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, removing any foam. Cook 15 minutes, remove from heat, allow to cool. Reheat and cook another 15 minutes. Repeat until you reach desired thickness. If you want it smoother, hit it with a stick blender. Ladle into hot jars with 1/2 headspace, and process 10 minutes. Makes 5 pints

Plum Blueberry Butter

Crock Pot Fruit Butter

Adapted from a recipe on Simple Bites

2 cups blueberries, cleaned and checked over for stems
4 cups plums, washed, pitted, chopped
2 1/2 cups sugar
zest and juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

You can puree the fruit before hand in a blender or food processor, or do it later with a stick blender (this is what I did).

Put all the ingredients in the crock pot and cook on high. Leave the lid propped open to let steam escape and butter to thicken.  Cook 4-5 hrs on low, 6-8 on high. Stir occasionally. Once butter is to desired thickness, ladle into hot jars with 1/2 headspace and process 10 min. Makes 4 pints.

You may want to reduce sugar if your plums aren't as tart as mine.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Plum Blueberry Jam

Plums and Blueberries, who can resist?

Plum Blueberry Jam

6 cups fresh Italian plums, washed, pitted, and chopped
4 cups fresh blueberries, washed and checked for stems
4 cups of sugar
Juice of 2 limes
1 Tablespoon of butter if desired (to lessen foam)

Add plums, blueberries, sugar, and lime juice to stock pot.  On low heat, bring to a simmer. Add in butter if using. Simmer for 15 minutes, skimming off any foam, remove from heat and allow to cool.

Reheat and simmer 15 minutes. Repeat this step until jam thickens. You will get a good feel for its set when it cools. Pack hot jam in clean hot jars, with 1/2 in. headspace, and process for 10 minutes. Makes ~5 pints.

Plum BBQ Sauce

Plum BBQ

Plum BBQ Sauce

6 cups plums, washed, pitted, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons mustard
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon coriander
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Add all ingredients to a heavy bottomed stock pot. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer about an hour, stirring occasionally.

If sauce is too thin, uncover and simmer until desired thickness is reached.  This will make a chunky sauce. If you want it smooth, blend it in your blender, use a stick blender, or use your food processor.  If your plums are not very tart, you may want to decrease the sugar. This recipe is based on tart italian plums. Omit cayenne pepper if you want less spice. Recipe made 5 pint jars for canning.

Smooth and saucy!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Learn By Doing

The doer alone learneth.

-Friedrich Nietzsche 

Here we are again and it is time for some learnin'. Part of my new school of thought is "just do it, and figure it out as you go". I have the tendency to research the crap out something before I do it, leaving me, often times, with too many preconceived notions, and anxiety about the process. Which ends with me taking little or no action out of fear. While I still research (its my nature, can't help it), I set a limit, and focus on the overview, or any safety concerns. It has transformed the way I think about so many things. It doesn't have to be perfect or great, it may even suck, but I will have done it, I will have learned something, and I will do it better the next time. Now, on to garden business.

I recently harvested enough lemon cucumbers to actually make something with them. I only had four, so it couldn't be big, and, I wanted something that could stick around for a while. I settled on some refrigerator pickles, and couldn't be happier.

Garden Haul

Pay no attention to the fig, I promptly ate that. I did have a bunch of beans that was not enough to make anything else with (besides, I'm the only one who eats them), so I decided to pickle them too, along with that tiny walla walla onion. First step is to blanch the beans. Throw them in boiling water for a minute or two, then throw them in some ice water, or under cold running water to stop the cooking process. For the beautiful Dragon Wax Beans, this removed most of their fabulous color which was a little disappointing.

Blanch Those Beans!

Next, I halved and thinly sliced the onion, diced some garlic, and peeled and sliced my cucumbers. The pickle juice is easy. Water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and some spices. I used coriander and mustard seeds for the spice, but you could use whatever you want. I chose rice vinegar for its more subtle taste, however, a white wine, champagne, or even apple cider would work. Technically, any vinegar would do, but darker ones would likely overpower those delicate lemon cukes. 

Peel and Slice!

Then, you just throw it all in a quart mason jar, throw it in the fridge, and let the magic happen. I held out about 30 minutes and it was awesome.  The next morning, it was divine. Everything is transformed into a light, refreshing, condiment that is perfect for summer.   

Fill it up

Pickles! (and beans, yeah!)

On a side note, if you happen to not have an abundance of veggies, or, are getting one or two every few days, never fear! Just add them as you get them. I added in some beans the second day without blanching them and they were good, though not as good as the ones that were blanched.  You cannot mess this up, it will be fabulous, and you will wonder why you waited so long.

Refrigerator Pickles

3/4 c Vinegar

1 c Water

3 T Sugar

1 T Salt

1/2 t Coriander

1/2 t Mustard Seeds

2 Cloves Garlic, Diced

1 sm Onion, thinly sliced

4 Lemon Cucumbers, peeled and sliced

10-15 Wax beans, blanched

Blanch beans. Dice garlic, and thinly slice onions and cucumbers. Combine first 6 ingredients in a quart mason jar and shake to mix. Add in veggies and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Food totals: 33 lbs since last post

10 lbs cherries
3 lbs beans
1 lb 2 oz strawberries
9.5 lbs  carrots
8 lbs onions
.5 lbs rainbow chard
1.5 lbs lemon cucumber
27.5 lbs plums
.25 lbs Blackberries

438.25 lbs to goal

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose...

Remember you will not always win. Some days, the most resourceful individual will taste defeat. But there is, in this case, always tomorrow - after you have done your best to achieve success today.
-Maxwell Maltz 

The thunder chickens got into my garden again.  Chickens have brains the size of my thumbnail.  They are dumb on a level that challenges reason, and yet, they keep getting in.  This time, Maven, the smart one, found a weak spot in the fence and pushed her way in.  Of course she couldn't get out. But, that's ok, my husband found her just when she had finished stripping all the Kale plants of EVERY leaf, and eating all of the cabbage seedlings. Not to mention making a mess of the rows.  

Sad naked Kale

Always reminds me of this...

Gimme that Kale!!!

Despite the girls' best efforts, I still have managed to make some progress.  Everything is growing, flowering, fruiting, and becoming generally awesome. Both apple trees are full of apples and almost ripe. The fig tree is fruiting, for real now, and I think its going to be ridiculous.  The pear tree has double the fruit of last year, and the plum tree has at least 1000 plums on it. No joke.

Plum Crazy!

The tomatoes are getting close. There are hundreds of them a week or two from being ripe. 

West tomato wall, almost 6ft!

Beautiful San Marzanos, soon to be paste.

I hilled, or "earthed up" the potatoes. Apparently, I was supposed to do that when they were about 4" and every 4" until the container is full. It is already time to do it again. Oops. They seem to be doing great though. I suppose I will find out when harvest time comes. Isn't trial and error fun? 

Hilling taters

I finally got a cucumber! And, there are easily 20 more coming right away. I am pickling some of these bad boys as soon as possible. Hopefully I will have enough to do several jars of a few types.

Lemon Cucumber!

Got my first ground cherry too. It is definitely on the small end of the scale judging by the later husks. I ate it, and it did indeed taste of vanilla and pineapple. Amazing!

Who knew?

Ground cherry growing outside of the husk

I have 7 tomatillo plants. They are all full of glorious globes of wonder! The husks look like lanterns, and the flowers have attracted more bees than anything else in the garden.


The front yard has ground cherries in it too.  My herb buckets didn't do as well as I had hoped, but, to be fair, I was overzealous and planted to early. And, from seed.  Should have started them inside. Next year.

Daisies, ground cherries, lavender, meadowsweet,
valerian, and a half finished bamboo border.

The side of the house is really coming along.  There are actually about 65 sunflowers in various stages planted here.  The Oilseeds have yet to bloom, they should have bigger heads. I also have dragon wax beans planted along the back and in between the sunflowers.  They are producing now after a slow start from being too leggy as seedlings. Again, overzealous. What can I say? I'm an anxious gardener.

Some things are working.  Some things are not. I am learning a lot, experimenting, and getting dirty. A few weeks from now, and I will be in harvest and preserve mode. Looking forward to trying new recipes, preserving techniques, and another hard cider attempt!

Food totals: 11.75 lbs since last post

10 lbs cherries
2 lbs beans
1 lb 2 oz strawberries
9.5 lbs  carrots
5.5 lbs onions
.5 lbs rainbow chard
.25 lbs lemon cucumber

471.25 lbs to goal

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Potato Buckets

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.
-Dale Carnegie 

I have wanted to grow potatoes for a long time. As in, many, many, many years.  I want to grow fabulous heirloom, rare, unusual, odd colored potatoes.  Until this year, I have not had the space in whatever garden I had to grow them.  During my garden research for this year, I looked at quite a few versions of the potato tower.  An easy way to grow potatoes out of the ground. Easy to water, easy to harvest. No brainer. 

There are "bags" you can buy that fit the bill. But, they were too expensive for me.  There are plenty of DIY's out there using everything from buckets to bamboo mats. There is a lot of debate about growing them entirely in straw, or straw lined with dirt/compost, or straw bottomed with dirt, or layering of all of it. I went with buckets as that is what I already have, and in abundance.  All the bucket DIY's say to use 5 gal buckets, but I happen to have 3.5 gal.  So, we will see...


I started with 6 buckets and drilled holes in the bottom for drainage. This, for some reason took way longer than I had anticipated, and made worse by a dying battery.  But finally, they were all drilled and ready to go.


I had in mind for some months now, to get some seed potatoes from a local feed store that is close to my house.  I get my hay and chicken feed there already, and they had seed potatoes for 2.19 lb.  Then, when I went to buy them (likely cause it is now July), they were half price! So, I bought  about 4 lbs of 3 different varieties, all organic, for about $4.50.

Organic Cal Whites

Organic Kennebecs

I added a layer of straw into the bottom of each bucket and placed in the seed potatoes. Then, I added a compost/soil mix.  As the potatoes grow, I will add in more soil, like traditional "hilling".  A very cool benefit of bucket growing is that when you are ready to harvest, you simply dump the bucket out and pick up your taters.  I am growing these in my front yard where they can get more sun.  In the back, they would have to be in the fenced off garden or my chickens would surely get at them.

Straw Bed

All nestled in

I had read that a pound of seed potato will yield 7-10 lbs of tubers. I don't know that I will get that much due to the smaller space, but, who knows? This is surely an experiment.  I may not even get a pound, but I will get a better understanding of growing potatoes, and that is worth every penny and ounce of sweat to me. I am excited that I finally got some planted.  I have no idea why I waited so long.  I supposed it seemed overwhelming or to space intensive before. It is my intention to "put on" all those things I have "put off" for the right timimg/circumstance/money/etc, etc, etc...  Potatoes, check.

Food totals:

10 lbs cherries
8 oz beans
1 lb 2 oz strawberries
5 lbs 2 oz carrots
6 oz onions

483 lbs to goal

Monday, April 8, 2013


A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don't know ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox's or bear's, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there.
-Meister Eckhart 

I have always been told that being a "jack (or jill) of all trades" was a good thing.  Knowing a little about a lot things.  That is me.  I love to cook, but I am no chef.  I routinely burn, mangle, and fumble culinary creations.  I love to sew, but I don't think anyone but me would wear what I make.  I love to draw and paint, but lack the technical skill to express my vision.  I love to write, but my fear keeps me from finishing projects.  I could go on and on.

But, I have this pull, this desire, to really KNOW something.  To be REALLY good at one thing. The closest I got was probably when I was a Macintosh computer tech.  I worked on mainly about 10-12 models and knew them inside and out.  I knew part numbers, locations of torx and phillips screws, shortcuts, and workarounds. I could take an MacBook apart and put it back together in record time.

Unfortunately, this information holds no value for me anymore, and I no longer KNOW a thing.  I don't know if it is possible for me at this point to excel at one thing. Or, dare I say, if its even important. I just want to. I have known a few people, who have known since they were little, exactly what they wanted to to with their life.  And, then they went and did it, and lived happily ever after. Maybe its because I never knew what I wanted to do with myself. Or, because I still don't. Maybe its because I want the satisfaction of expertise? Or, maybe it would be a knowledge notch before moving on to the 10,000 other things I want to know.

What is currently preoccupying my mind that is within the scope of this blog is: gardening on a self sustaining level, changing out my one trick pony landscaping for dual purpose plants and herbs, creating systems and setups that require less work and maintenance, and not burning dinner.

Here is some things from my world last week:

Had a bonfire and roasted marshmallows!

Planted a bunch of strawberry starts in the front yard with
my garden helper  (to her right)

I had previously dug this out and now am adding buried
 buckets in of Lavender, Valerian, and Meadowsweet.
In the back are daisies. Also I am adding in a
bamboo border from the bamboo in our backyard.

Needs more bamboo.

This is what it looked like when I started. This is
getting dug out and will have sunflowers, lady's mantle,
skullcap, and  parsley.

My apple tree in the back is starting to flower

My other tree, another variety.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring has come!

“All the spring may be hidden in the single bud, and the low ground nest of the lark may hold the joy that is to herald the feet of many rose-red dawns.”  -Oscar Wilde

Spring is here, and with it, that sense of renewal, of change, and new beginnings.  The promise of awakening and growth is at every turn, on the street, in the fields, and in the cries of the morning birds. If you couldn't tell already, I love springtime.  All of it. And never more than now, being where I am.  There is no where I can go without seeing daffodils.  Soon, the Crocuses (Croci?) will bloom and the Tulips will too. The heralds of spring in this neck.

Today was a good day here.  Maya and I spent a good part of the day outside.  She with the hose, me in the garden finishing laying down the hay. Who knew "making it rain" would be this fun to this kid. We are in the PNW for crying out loud.

Make it rain momma!

I had plenty of help from the Thunder Chickens.  We chased them off all day.  The lure of wriggling worms is so strong.

Gimme some worms yo!

Chickens about to take a dirt nap

We added spinach and kale to our actually planted list. I am hoping for kale of epic proportions. I am tired of buying it.  I am thinking that I won't have to anymore, as I planted A LOT of it. 


All hayed out. I promise I'm done.

Tonight we are enjoying this fine weather as a family on the patio, bbqing, listening to Reggae, and watching Maya show off her dancing moves. 

Daddy and Daughter

Spring is here, and I am filled with the promise of what will be. New growth, opportunity, shedding my old skin for a better fit. 

life is good.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Garden Progress

Our garden space is finally all dug up and leveled.  A big thanks must go out to my Mister, as he kinda took charge of the digging and manned out 3/4 of it.  I raked it level and weeded. Then began making the raised rows that will house my seedlings. Oh, and I weeded.

Whew! Almost done!

Then I weeded some more. And, did I mention I weeded?

Tomatoes and beans will go here!

As you can see from the pics, I still have a fair amount of weeding to do.  I did, however, purchase a bale of hay to strew in the walkways.  This will keep moisture in, and the weeds to a minimum.  I will only have to weed the raised rows going forward.  Each of these rows has now been double dug, and, minus more weeding, is ready for planting! 

While getting the bale of hay at a local shop, I ran across strawberry starts for .75 and Walla Walla onions for 2.49 a bunch.  I was entirely lacking onions, so this was a great purchase for me.  I also have some strawberries in the front yard already, and I will be adding these new starts in tomorrow. The onions are ready for planting now, so they are going in tomorrow too.  These will be the first things actually planted in the garden this year.

Cheap organic starts, yay!

My plum tree is flowering, and even though I have not seen a bee yet, I am positive that this is going to be a banner year for this tree.  I can't wait, I'm out of jam.

Plum overload!