Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Life Interupted

Sixteen days ago, about an hour after I'd gone to bed, I received a phone call from one of my sisters-in-law notifying my that she was at the hospital with my dad.  He had suffered a stroke.  He could not talk and was not capable of maintaining his balance while standing.  Fortunately, Dad was visiting a friend's home when the stroke occurred.  They immediately recognized the stroke symptoms and were able to get him to a medical facility where treatment could be administered quickly.  Three days later, Dad walked out of the hospital fully recovered without any permanent disabilities.

Upon the news and after a short conversation with the attending physician, Mr.B and I immediately began taking action to leave and drive the 650 miles to Missoula.  We had to turn all our stock out to pasture, top off all the water troughs, overfill the dog, chicken and rabbit feeders and pack.  We left for Missoula at 12:30 AM and arrived at the hospital by 9:15 AM.  By the time we arrived Dad had made significant progress in his recovery.

Mr.B and the littles left Dad's 2 days after his release from the hospital.  I stayed an additional week to make sure Dad was confident he could be on his own again as there are a few challenges living his chosen lifestyle.  Dad lives off-grid in a log cabin located on the side of a mountain.  His off-grid lifestyle does not include solar panels or a wind generator.  He uses kerosene lamps, a wood cook stove and a gravity fed water system.  At 70 years old he does have a gasoline powered generator for various power tools and recently purchased a log spliter.  So, when at Dad's this Farm Wife becomes Pioneer Woman.

Needless to say, this interruption has put me significantly behind on my autumn chores.  While gone a frost eliminated the remaining produce I was trying to eek out of the garden.  I still have 75% of garden clean up to finish.  I still have a mountain of compost to spread in the garden.  We are currently 9 days and counting behind on breeding.  We are also behind on getting our weathers to market ... and the list goes on and on.

Upon my return home, I found a new addition on our farm ...

Our leghorn hen, I call her Henny Penny, refuses to live in the the hen house or coop.  She is constantly escaping and free-ranging.  We've yet to find her nest or clutch of eggs.  It appears that she recently returned to the coop and became fertilized.  She's hatched a little chick and it is so cute.  I enjoy watching it follow her everywhere.  We usually hatch our eggs in an incubator so, this is a treat for us.

I will be making another trip out to Dad's in a few weeks to check in on him and help out where he may need an extra hand.  In the interim two of my three brothers will have turns checking in on him.  I' m thankful the Lord answered our prayers and he has recovered.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Vine Peach = Melon Jam

This past spring I received a free packet of vine peach (aka mango melon) seeds in my fruit and vegetable seed order.  I had never heard of a vine peach but summarized from its name that it was a vine type plant and produced some sort of fruit.  Therefore, I chose to plant it next to our cantaloupe and watermelon vines and waited to see what happened.  The vines grew heartily and produced these wonderful peach fuzz covered, softball sized, fruits that taste similar to an unsweetened, mild honeydew melon.  

After a bit of research, it turns out vine peaches are a drought tolerant, annual, heirloom fruit introduced to the early American settlers by the Native Americans.  According to the internet they taste similar to a mango, hence their pseudonym, mango melon.  However, as mentioned above, my taste buds convey they are more inline with an unsweetened honeydew melon.  Our family likes them raw, but according to my research it is said the flavor excels when canned in preserves, conserves, pickles or cooked in pies.  I can say from personal experimentation, when combined with cantaloupe and made into a jam, they are super stars.

We also harvested a bumper crop of cantaloupe this year.  Prompting me to turn to the internet and my vintage canning recipe books to figure out what to do with an abundant harvest of vine peaches and cantaloupe.  I decided to experiment and took a little of this and a little of that from various recipes and ended up with (drum roll) ...

TA DA!  Melon Jam!

This jam is a huge hit with my family.  If you find yourself harvesting more vine peaches and / or cantaloupe than you can, or want, to eat, try my recipe.

Mrs.B's Melon Jam
(recipe may be halved)

10 c. pureed cantaloupe OR 3 c. pureed vine peach & 7 c. pureed cantaloupe
4 c. pureed apricots
2  20 oz. cans crushed pineapple
2 oranges, zest and juice
12 c. sugar
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt

1.  Combine all ingredients in a LARGE stock pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
2.  Reduce heat to a hard simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 hours until mixture is thickened and reduced by 1/3.
3.  Ladle hot jam into hot sterilized jelly jars, affixing bands and lids as you go.
4.  Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Makes about 20 1/2 pints.

Note:  Dehydrated apricots need to be re-hydrated prior to pureeing and measuring, add about 1/3 of the re-hydrating liquid when pureeing.  If using canned apricots, use all the canned liquid when pureeing.  Fresh apricots will not require any additional liquid during the pureeing process.