Rosey the Riveter

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dandelion Jelly

I've been wanting to make Dandelion Jelly for awhile, and I decided today was the day.  I braved the drizzle and gathered my dandelions, with a little help from the neighbors' yards (do not gather them from the side of the road, and make sure they haven't been sprayed with any 'cides').  I gathered about 4 cups of flower heads, and came home to remove the green parts (they can be bitter, so you don't want them in your jelly).

Once you have 2 cups worth of 'fluff', bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil and add in the dandelions.  Let boil for 10 minutes.  Then, using a jelly bag or coffee filter or what have you, strain out the liquid.  You should have 2 cups of dandelion juice.

Now, there are lots of recipes for Dandelion Jelly online, but I wanted one that was low in sugar.  So I decided to use the "Nana's Dandelion Jelly" recipe from the Pomona Pectin cookbook.

I brought the juice back to a boil, added 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and 2 1/2 tsp of calcium water.  After returning to a boil, I added in a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar and 2 1/2 tsp of Pomona Pectin. Again, bring to a boil, stirring all the while, and then remove from heat and jar them up for canning.  Process for 10 minutes.  I ended up with 5 4-ounce jars.

They are a pretty golden color (some people add yellow food coloring... but why?) and taste like spring!  Because this is a low-sugar recipe, it doesn't taste as much like honey as the full-sugar recipes do, but I am ok with that!  It felt good to play with jars again, and I am very excited that Strawberry Season is only about 3-4 weeks away here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Walk Around the Homestead - March 2014

It's been almost two months since I've posted... been a busy bee!  My latest endeavor, becoming a Master Gardener, involved classes twice a week for 12 weeks.  We just 'graduated' as Interns, and now we need to complete 50 hours of volunteer time before we are considered full-fledged Master Gardeners.  I absolutely loved the classes, I learned a ton, and met some really great people. 

That's the happy news.  The sad news is that we lost not one, but both of our beehives.  There was plenty of honey left, but lots of dead bees.  Not sure if it was the cold, or what, but I know they didn't starve, and I know it wasn't Colony Collapse (CCD), because that's when the bees just up and disappear.  Thankfully, the Nuc that I'd overwintered on my deck was thriving, so that got moved into one of the hives.  They now have lots more frames of drawn comb for eggs, storing pollen, and collecting honey.  Once the weather warms, we will go ahead and do a split and  be back to our two hives.  Because they won't have to waste time and energy drawing out comb, I am optimistic that we will be able to harvest some honey this year.  We won't be able to raise any Nucs for new beekeepers, but I'm okay with that right now.

Looking at the 10 day forecast, there appears to be no more dangers of frost until April 5th.  At that point, there is only a 10% chance of it getting below freezing, so I am also optimistic that gardening season has arrived.  Let's take a walk around the homestead and see what's happening!
The daffodils have been blooming for awhile now... about 4 weeks later than normal, since we've had such a cold winter.
I have trimmed back all of the liriope.  We just need to add more mulch, and divide some of the larger clumps.
The peach tree has been pruned, and with no time to spare.  Only a few days later, the blossoms started to open, and it is absolutely gorgeous to behold.  This is the first year I expected to get fruit, so we'll see what happens.
The Mallow is showing signs of new growth, as is the echinacea.  Unfortunately, the bee balm isn't, as I don't think it got enough water last year.   Luckily, I had given some to Mom so I am hoping to be able to take some of that back with me when I visit over Spring Break.
We saved all of our leaves last fall, and after running then through the lawnmower, I used them as mulch in the garden.  There are hardly any weeds, and the soil is so nice!  I will definitely be doing that again.  I've brushed the leaves aside in some places, where I've planted peas, carrots, radishes, cabbages, and pak choi.  I also added some Urea (Nitrogen) and Potash (Potassium), as my soil test indicated I was low on the Potassium (but sky high on everything else.  Go figure!)  Once the plants pop through, I will add a layer of compost and then put the leaves back as mulch to keep out the warm-weather weeds.
I mulched the herb beds with wood chips, and as you can see the yarrow, garlic chives, and chamomile are loving the cool weather.  The jury is still out on whether or not the rosemary and lavender survived this cold winter, and I am not sure if the Stevia and Lemon Verbena will come back, either.
The roses have been pruned, and the bed weeded.  It just needs to be mulched.  I have been having a problem with black spot (yes, on the KnockOuts no less), so hopefully cleaning out the bed will help.  The left container holds a lilac, and the right container holds a blueberry.  Both will be moved at some point!
The chickens have been laying faithfully every since the days have gotten longer,  We are now getting 4 eggs a day.  Rosie, our Lavender Orp, is not laying at all for some reason.  She shows no signs of being an internal layer, having worms, or any other issue, so I don't know what to think about that.
This rhubarb shoot was a complete surprise and made my day!  I was convinced that none of my plants had survived... this is NOT the ideal climate to be growing rhubarb... but I have to try!  This will be the year I can finally harvest some of the stalks, so keep your fingers crossed.
Here is my 'garden ghetto' of winter-sown seeds.  I didn't like the milk jugs I've used in the past, so this year I used clear clam shell containers and it's working out well.
These little sprouts are sunflowers!  I've also got a ton of zinnias, calendula, horehound, feverfew, toothache plant, holy Basil, Mammoth Basil, and plenty of others I can't remember off the top of my head.
 For the first time this year, I decided to try starting some seeds indoors, because the warmer-weather plants don't do so well with the winter-sowing.  Here you see my Juliet Tomatoes and some Heinz Tomatoes, along with some of Abby's Forget-Me-Nots.  I was going to give up on the idea of growing tomatoes (they have not done well for me at all the past few years, as I have early blight in the soil), but I decided to try growing in containers and choosing some resistant varieties.  My friend Donna Rae swears by the Juliets, and I thought the Heinz would be fun for homemade ketchup, so we'll see how that goes.

I will try to be better about posting, now that Spring is here and I have something to post about!!!