Dabbling

I think sometimes this blog can get a little confusing. We’ve had people ask us if we’d up-and-moved to Glen Aubrey! No, no, no. We’re still here… in Rochester, if you’re still confused. We’ll be here for just about another year, an estimate of 42 and a half weeks (Casey loves his countdowns!). We have been down in Glen Aubrey to help with the “farm” on 4 occasions this summer, with one more coming up (look for a “Summer Summary” blog post in a couple of weeks!:)

One other thing before I jump into the fun stuff. There is one thing that makes me feel uncomfortable about blogging, and that is when we come off sounding like experts, or that we’re sure of our plans. Of course we feel like we are being led to start the Hust Roost, and we feel that we should shoot for our dreams and work hard, but we know that if God is not FOR it, it won’t amount to anything. It’s easy to get confident because we have a great idea in our heads, but in reality it could be a lot harder than we picture. But… whether the idea thrives or fails (and I’m sure there will be some of both!) we hope to glorify God through it all.

Anyways… time for some dabbling! Back at the “ranch” (our little apartment) we’ve been using our spare time this summer to learn and try whatever we can.

Baking
Occasionally I bake a loaf or two of bread, hoping that I’ll eventually figure out the strategies and ingredients that work best for me (aka the easiest). I found a great book the other week that goes through the basics of WHY you use different strategies, basically the science behind the “art.” When I finish skimming the book I’ll try baking a loaf and see if my learning has improved my baking… I’m going for less dense and more fluffy! Pies, bagels and doughnuts are also on the list for this summer, just to experiment and see what we enjoy baking, potentially for the future store!

Gardening
Another thing we’ve been dabbling in since May has been our own garden! Of course for Casey this is old news, but I’ve never had a vegetable garden. Some things I’ve learned have been:
1. Gardening takes patience. It seems to take forever and ever for things to start growing…

it took a month to get this far

At least until it gets really warm….

you could practically see the pole-beans growing a foot a day!

Do you see that big basil plant on the step? I finally caved and bought one from Wegmans since our other basil plants are still only 3 inches tall 🙁 See them in the background? Patience is a great virtue (and I could use more of it) but I learned that we should definitely start some seeds indoors!
2. Rain is a wonderful thing which I will never complain about! That way we don’t have to water the garden. 🙂
3. Good fertilizer is key for speed of growth… but you don’t have to waste money on store-bought chemicals! Crushed egg shells add calcium that peppers and tomatoes need, green compost and manure adds nitrogen, etc…
3. Veggies right out of the garden really do taste better than the store! Fresh peas, zucchini, asparagus, radishes… all taste good enough to eat raw with no veggie dip!

Casey enjoying one of his favorites, a ruby radish!
Behind him you can see the broccoli.

In our little garden we grew a row each of: arugula, leaf lettuce, onions, beets, radishes, broccoli, hot pepper, green bean, and peas. We also have 4 tomato plants, a zucchini plant, an acorn squash plant and some herbs… oh, and one lone carrot (that was me who planted the row of carrots, and I messed up!!)

So far we’ve harvested arugula, lettuce, radishes, onions, peppers, and peas!

a beautiful arugula salad

We were very blessed that our landlord allowed us to have this opportunity!!!




Jamming
We recently discovered the JACKPOT for blackberries! Our apartment is across the street from a field and a cemetery. All around the borders there are the hugest blackberry bushes! We’ve been out picking every other day since we discovered them, and each time we seem to get about THIS many:

probably about 2 quarts here

We couldn’t possibly eat them all so Casey suggested jam (or at least we did not want to test that possibility)! Now I wasn’t so sure about jam because I thought you needed a bunch of equipment, but Casey assured me it was easy. We found that we could just sterilize the jars in the toaster oven set at 300 degrees. Also, Casey found online that I should cover the berries in sugar and let them sit for a while. Sounded good to me!

After a few hours sitting with sugar

Later when researching I found out there is a reason you do this! The high concentration of sugar draws the juice out of the berries (osmotic pressure) and also pulls the pectin out with it. Now pectin is something that is absolutely necessary for jamming..  it’s the substance that causes the berry mush to gel up when you heat it. Most people buy pectin at the store but it’s a natural component of all fruit in the cell walls (some fruits have more than others though). I wanted to try it without store-bought pectin.
I was surprised that I had all the rest of the ingredients… lemon juice and sugar! Lemon juice is necessary to draw more pectin out of the fruit. The sugar (besides being for flavor) is to preserve the jam. No bacteria can grow when there’s a high concentration of sugar! You can also add whatever flavors you want. I did a batch (with Claire) where we added clove…  it smelled like Christmas! I did another batch where I added red wine and clove. And then the final batch… I added cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger! All have been sampled and approved, even given away. 🙂 Here are the instructions I followed if you are interested: http://highheelgourmet.com/2013/07/04/basic-jam-for-beginners/

Here are some of the results:

a decent mess
We actually made 2 and a half more jars!

A nice mess and LOTS of blackberry jam… 🙂

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