29 October 2014

Drying Some Pears

The old pears trees have a bumper crop this year.  We stopped and picked up a 5-gallon bucket full the other afternoon.  These pears are Keiffers, an old homestead variety.  I am attaching a link to a site I found that can give you more information on the fruit:  http://www.ediblecommunities.com/louisville/august-september-2014/in-the-garden-key-to-tasty-kieffer-pears-chillin.htm

I've learned over the years, that these pears are hard as a rock when you pick them or grab them up off the ground.  To make them ready to eat or preserve, I placed them in a couple of cardboard boxes and closed the lids.  After just a few days, they ripened nicely.  In the photos below, you can see how I processed them.  A couple of notes on the process:  While using my apple peeler to slice the fruit, I held the paring blade back so that it would not make contact with the fruit.  The ripe pears were too soft to peel and the peelings are good on the dried fruit.  So, as I cranked, I was simply coring and slicing the pears.  Next, they went into a bath of good old 7-UP !  The citric acid in the drink helps to keep the sliced fruit from turning brown on the trays and the residual sugar only enhances the fruit's natural sweetness.  If you don't like using soda pop in the process, a weak solution of lemon juice and water also works well.

Processing pears for the food dryer

I held the paring blade away from the soft pears as I cored and sliced them.

After a few minutes in the 7-UP bath, the slices were arranged on the dryer trays.

Here is the sliced fruit in the dryer, ready to close the door.
The dried pears are tasty and just one more way of using what you have on the home place.  My wife also plans to make a batch of what we call "pear honey", sort of a pear version of apple butter.

19 October 2014

A Great Weekend!

We are experiencing some wonderful fall weather here in Southern Indiana.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, we're preparing for deer season and today, we went over and put up a couple of deer stands.  These metal ladder stands will help us get the height advantage on our quarry.  Below you can see one of the stands.  This one will probably be used by my son, Rob.  My stand is over on the far end of the field in another good spot.
This ladder stand is in some prime white-tailed deer habitat.
Yesterday, Patti and I spent some time shooting her revolver.  It's a little snub-nosed revolver in .38 Special caliber.  It's quite manageable for her, although she said the trigger pull is a bit rough.  She did very well with it, slaying the cardboard box at which she was shooting.  We'll be doing some more practicing with it soon.  It was time well spent.

Shooting practice went well!
Of course, we picked up a few more persimmons while we were there.  I noticed that a buck had made a scrape directly under one of the branches of the persimmon tree.  A buck deer has a pre-orbital gland that he uses to deposit scent on small branches that are head high or so.  He will find a small hanging twig, then work his head around so that the the twig works around and slightly into that gland and leaves a trace of strong smelling, waxy material on twig.  Directly beneath that, he will add a 'scrape' where he paws away the vegetation to bare soil.  He then leaves scent on the site by urinating down the inside of his rear legs.  The urine runs over two more scent glands, the tarsal glands, and leaves his unique scent on the scrape.  All of this sounds a bit crude, but the 'girls' love it!!  A buck in rut will have a route of these scrapes and will check them regularly during the breeding season to see if any receptive does are paying attention.  Obviously, I asked Patti to skip over that site as she picked up persimmons!
Picking up persimmons



16 October 2014

Here in Southern Indiana, we're getting ready for deer season.  Every year, we look forward to killing and preserving some of the best meat that is available!  We have a couple of trail cams in place and some deer stands erected as a part of our preparations.

Another important part of getting ready for this year's deer kill is to clean out any remaining packages of deer meat from last season.  This year, that has involved several packages of deer burger and some packaged cut meat.  My son, Rob, and I made this remaining meat into deer jerky.  In a nutshell, here's what we did.

After thawing the meat, we place the low-fat deer burger into a large mixing bowl.  We prepared the cut meat by first trimming off all of the white tissue that we could.  Next, we chopped the meat into fine pieces in the food processor.  We put a cupful or so at a time into the processor.  We blended the burger and chopped meat together, then added jerky seasoning (We used 'original', hickory, and cracked pepper) and mixed it thoroughly.  Using our jerky gun, we 'squoze' fat ribbons of meat mash onto the food dryer trays.  We then placed the trays in the dryer and cranked up the heat.  As the meat dried, we occasionally rotated the trays so that all the jerky dried more evenly.
Deer jerky in our homemade food dryer.
In the attached photo, you can see jerky being made in our old homemade food dryer.  I build this dryer around 1980 and it still performs very well.  The photo is from my book "The Self-Reliant Homestead".

This year's project yielded several bags of tasty jerky.  We will take some of it with us as we head out to fill the freezer again this November.

10 October 2014

It seems incredible, but it's been nearly two years since I posted on here.  I was recently contacted by a fellow blogger, Patrice Lewis, who maintains her own blog called Rural Revolution ( http://www.rural-revolution.com/  If you haven't checked it out, I suggest you do so.). One of her readers who had also followed this blog had inquired as to my whereabouts!  I'm actually flattered that anyone noticed that I was missing! As you can see, it's been just shy of two years since I've posted.  But I've been busy, honest!!

In the time since my last post, I've retired from my career as an Indiana Conservation Officer (37+ yrs.); made two trips out west, including a backpacking trip in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.  We traveled to Williamsburg, VA and to the Ozarks in Missouri.  I still work two part time jobs, one as a security officer at a nearby hospital and I help an Amish friend (he doesn't drive) with his 'portable building' construction business, hauling him around to his display sites and assisting on a few setups.  I volunteer as a Reserve Deputy on the local County Sheriff Department.  In early '14, I took a Purdue University Master Gardener Course and have been putting in hours with that.  We added more raspberry and blueberry bushes to our place here, and did some canning and freezing of garden produce.  Of course, there's the other normal life stuff, but those are the biggies!
 
Our current project, which I'll write about here is an off-grid cabin we're building over on our 30 acres (our old place).  We have a good start on it and hope to finish it before winter.
 
Thanks to my 'follower' and to Patrice for checking up on me and shaking my chain.  It is past time to get back to work!!!
Our latest project is a 16 x 20 ft. off-grid cabin.  Here you can see the base that is nearly completed.

Back in the spring, we planted 85 or so spruce trees in three widely spaced rows.

I will post more photos of the cabin project as it progresses.  We have some ideas that I'll document such as a solar shower, gravity fed water supply, 12v lights, etc.  We're excited about the project!

Although it's hard to see here, there are small apple trees inside the cages.

We planted spruce trees, and added six disease resistant apple trees, three each of Redfree and Liberty.  It wasn't long before the deer had sampled them and in doing so, had gotten their antlers tangled in the small cages I had placed around the trees.  After I straightened and re-set the small cages, I made larger cages from regular woven field fence wire and place them around the trees as well.  I've used that method before, and figure it will work again.

Today was a rainy, cool day and I picked a big bucket of pears to give to a friend, then picked up a gallon of persimmons.  There is a bumper crop of both this year.

A few persimmons in the bucket and more in the background to be gathered.

Persimmons aren't really good until they fall off the tree.  
Use the sweet, gooey ones and don't pick the hard, bitter ones!
I guess these shots of persimmons takes me back to where I left off nearly 24 months ago. Now, I look forward to sharing photos and information about our building project and other goings on.  Thanks for looking and please stay tuned.




31 October 2012

Oops!

My wife just let me know that I omitted an ingredient from the Persimmon Pudding recipe I posted some days ago.  I have corrected the recipe by adding '1 tsp. baking soda' .  I apologize for the error and hope I haven't caused any culinary flops. 

27 October 2012

Catching Up

The fall colors have seemed to have peaked.  Some strong winds and rains have brought down many of the leaves and are bringing the first stages of winter drabness to the countryside.  That changing of the seasons is just one of the things that makes living in our part of the country so enjoyable.  The new header picture is one I took along the East Fork of White River in Martin County.  This stretch of stream is one of the best in the Midwest.  It courses through woodlands and fields, river bottoms and rugged bluffs.  It passes landmarks with names like Devil's Elbow, Heathen Bend, Norman Rock, The Old Man's Nose, McBride's Bluff and the Pinnacle.  The shot above was taken at Clark's Ferry.  Great country!!

I helped some friends get in the last of a late hay crop and also helped in getting in some corn. The ear corn was hauled to the stationary sheller that was set up and run through.  Even with the severe drought in our area, this corn made about 90 bushels to the acre or so.

We've been enjoying turnips from the garden and some lettuce and spinach.  The cooler weather has also caused us to keep the soup pot going.  We've picked up a quarter of beef from the processor and stowed it in the freezer.  The beef was part of one that we had purchased from a local raiser.  To this, the boys and I plan to add a deer or two when the season opens.  This is just a great time of year!

A friend just moved in a new kitchen stove into their house.  Actually, his wife had located the stove and bought it a week or so ago.  They moved it this week with the help of a brother and his sons.  It is a Pioneer Princess that is only about three years old.  The Pioneer Maid that it replaced had an oven that was just about baked out, so to speak, and the lady of the house had been on the lookout for a replacement.  As you can see, this one is a dandy.  Not only is this the family's cookstove, it is the source of heat for the winter.
The new Princess
Patti and I made a trip last week to celebrate her birthday.  While exiting one of our favorite eating places, we noticed that trees along the streets in downtown Bloomington are now sporting some hand knitted winter garb.  Life must be good when we can have sweaters for our trees!

A tree sweater in Bloomington, IN
 One of the things I had on my list to do this year was to make a bike ride to a state park we like to visit.  I made the trip a week ago and rode over to Red Hills State Park in Illinois.  Below is a shot of one portion of the ride along U.S. 50.  I enjoyed the fifty mile ride, although I think it cured me of wanting to make a bike trek across the United States!
U.S. 50 in Illinois

18 October 2012

A Couple of Recipes

Since I wrote about persimmons, I've had an inquiry about the recipe we use for persimmon pudding.

Here it is.  In addition, I'm adding a great recipe for chewy persimmon cookies.  Both of these recipes are used by my mother-in-law.  I'm pretty certain that, if you try them, you'll like them too!



Mim’s Persimmon Pudding
2c. persimmon pulp
1 ½ c. sugar
1 ½ c. flour
1 ½ c. milk
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
¼ stick margarine or butter, melted

Mix the dry ingredients together.  Add the wet ingredients and mix well.  Pour the batter into a buttered 9x13-inch pan.  Bake in a 325o oven for 45 minutes.  Serve with a dollop of ice cream or Cool Whip® on top.

Mim’s Persimmon Cookies
1 c. persimmon pulp
1 c. chopped nuts
1 c. raising
2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
½ c. shortening
1 tsp. soda
1 egg
½ tsp. each of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg
dash salt
½ c. flaked coconut
½ c shredded carrots

Mix all the ingredients together well.  Drop the stiff batter by the spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350o.  Makes about 2-3 dozen.
            Once your friends and family try these, you’ll probably need to double the recipe to allow for ‘take home bags’.