Saturday, November 2, 2013

A perfect fall day

I never posted this when I took these pictures two months ago....

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cotton and Carrots

We have cotton in the garden!

This one is about to pop open. The fact that the cotton used for our clothes grows on plants still amazes me. 

Mason and I picked a gallon of carrots yesterday. They are big but surprisingly sweet.  

This guy LOVES carrots. 

Strangely enough our raspberries are producing a few berries. The vines looked like dead sticks all summer and now that it's fall, we are getting to try a few. 

Waylon and Ziggy enjoyed their morning snack. 

We had a frost Sunday morning that took several victims, including this basil.  

Overall the garden is thriving though!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fall harvest begins!

We're working on the beginnings of a fall harvest here at Okra Hill: beets and carrots! I just loved the color combination of the magenta beets, orange carrots, green tops and aqua teal basket. 

Instead of taking the carrots and beets inside to clean up, I decided to do that outside... the goat pen with one of my favorite helpers! Waylon and Ziggy were very excited about their treats. The back pen doesn't have much vegetation so after a few weeks of living there, the guys are back out front. 

These goats crack me up...they refuse to move out of the way so I could dump the greens in so Ziggy got a beet green hat. I've heard the greens on beets are delicious but I didn't feel like trying them this go-round (they were covered in bug munchings). 

My little gentleman farmer...

It never fails...if I buy produce at the store because I'm tired of waiting for our's to produce, I find out a day later our carrots (green beans, broccoli, etc) are ready. Case in point...I bought carrots....

and then harvested carrots shortly after. I keep our carrots in water in the fridge (after trimming the tops, scrubbing them down and peeling). They'll stay fresh and crunchy this way for a while (I change out the water every few days or so). 

Fall is definitely here with cooler temperatures and my boys wearing Halloween costumes and eating candy. Happy days to you!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dill Disappointment

This summer I worked hard, canning lots of pickles. I  made a ton of dills because our family and friends love them and I like to share them. Well....sometimes, just because something looks great (and you spent a lot of time on it) doesn't mean it tastes great. 

I opened one of my dill pickle pints the other day and thought they tasted awfully salty. Borderline, disgusting. I opened another one, hoping one jar was just "off." Nope, strike two. After opening four, I decided all of my dill pickles were NOT my usual delicious canning creations. Not even close. 

So Tyler, Mason and I loaded up the wagon with all of the dill pickles and took them out to our compost pile. At least they can be useful out there. 

Makes me sick to think of the hours I spent putting these together. Ugh! I think the problem was I used apple cider vinegar (which I have done in the past) and I increased the amount of brine I made (and probably used the wrong salt:vinegar ratio). Live and learn...If you happen to have a jar of my 2013 dills, please throw them out!

After our pickle dumping, I pulled my two younger boys around to the back to see the goats in their back pen. Ashley built a new pen for Waylon and Ziggy in the back because they have eaten almost everything in the front pen. 

In other news, the South Carolina State Fair opens today. I entered several things in the competitive Home and Craft Division. Two blue ribbons for Okra Hill: my blackberry jelly and my molasses-ginger cookies (my third year in a row earning a first place for those!). I earned four second places: whole dill pickles (thank goodness the canning is not judged on taste!), zucchini bread and butter pickles, muscadine jelly, and tomato-basil jam. 

Monday, September 9, 2013


I have always loved seeing cotton growing in the fields of South Carolina. Last year Ashley saved a few seeds from some cotton we had picked up and he surprised me by planting cotton in our garden.  

It's a beautiful plant- I had no clue they had such pretty blossoms. 

Even though the cotton won't provide food for us, it does make me smile (and I am especially excited about seeing the white bolls later in the fall).  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New chickens, new eggs

Our new chickens have finally started laying eggs. Although they haven't figured out to use their boxes, they have given us an egg every day or so. 

When I cracked this morning's egg for pancakes, it was a double yoke! For chickens born in April, I think they are doing pretty well.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Newest garden cart

While the big boys went dove hunting with Daddy, Tyler helped me with this morning's garden haul. An old neighbor gave us this car and it has been great for all sorts of things- now including transporting okra and peas. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Making Muscadine Jelly

Our muscadine vines are producing a great crop of grapes this summer.  We all have enjoyed eating the grapes while standing in the yard but now there are so many coming in that I need to do something with them.  

On Sunday our neighbors brought over their juicer and we juiced 2 gallons. I was disappointed that the juice was fairly bitter.  I did some research online and found that juicing the grapes on the stove is preferred when making jelly so I picked another gallon.  

The first step is washing the grapes, followed by mashing them with a potato masher. 

Once the grapes' skins have popped, I heated them on the stove.  

After boiling the juice and pulp for 10 minutes, I strained the juice through a colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth. 

Look at this amazing juice! If hadn't already committed this batch to jelly, I would have served it at breakfast. Muscadine juice has a much milder flavor than the more common Concord grape juice.  I stopped at this point and refrigerated the juice over night. 

Then tonight I strained the juice through wet cheesecloth again to remove any remaining particles (the goal for jelly juice is a very clear product).  

Now armed with 5 1/2 cups of juice, I followed the low-sugar SureJell recipe for grape jelly. 

Almost ready to can (pre foam-skimming). 

A little while later and I had 7 half-pints of muscadine jelly. Perfect for biscuits and PBJ sandwiches.  

I think this concludes my canning fair entry preparations for this year. In other news, Levi started Kindergarten last week (and it's partial immersion Spanish--so cool that kids have this option now). Mason begins 3 year-old preschool next week. And Tyler turned one a month ago. It's a fun time for our family!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Grilled okra at OHF

Tonight I am grilling okra as one of sides with steak sandwiches.  I saw this method in Food Network Magazine a couple of years ago.  
It's easy enough: toss your okra with oil, salt and paprika. Thread onto double skewers. Grill over medium heat until slightly charred (or however you prefer).  

Our summer garden is winding down   Ashley has planted the beginnings of our fall crops, which include kale, beets, carrots, and spinach. 

One of our new tries for the summer included peanuts. Being that we are from   South Carolina, we enjoy boiled peanuts and will crank up the crockpot to take care of these.

Happy tail-end of summer!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bread-n-butter pickles

Tonight I added to my canning know-how bread and butter pickles. Although I prefer dill, Ashley and Levi are lovers of a bnb pickle.  We will see how these taste in a month (how long you have to wait for them to properly cure) but I proud of their looks!

I am about over cucumber harvesting even though I know I will miss their taste. 

Note: this was my first post using my iPhone.  I am getting used to having a smartphone and am pleased with its camera.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Getting Good Use Out of the Place

My oldest son turned 5 June 15th. We gave him a "big boy bike", which he is working hard on learning how to ride. It won't be long and before he'll ride sans training wheels and will be able to cruise all over the place. He'll get good use out of those knobby tires!

Ashley constructed a massive slip-n-slide in the backyard for the party, which was enjoyed by all of Levi's cousins and friends. When we were building the house, I mentioned that we had an unfair advantage because we immediately had a landscaped yard, thanks to Ashley's line of work. His work with irrigation came in handy for the slip-n-slide project, too: he rigged up three irrigation heads on stands to provide the water stream. 

We used our side yard as the supper and sweets location--it worked out perfectly, thanks to mild weather (little humidity). We've never used the parking side yard much (favoring the front, back and garden side yards) but after having the party there, we'll use it more. Debbie, Ashley's mom, is helping me dream up ways to create more of a room feel (think arbor, picket fence, and more plants). Oh the party's theme was construction (in case you notice the caution tape everywhere). 

The fort got lots of use, too!

Back to the blackberries...stinkbugs have been a BIG nuisance. 

Notice how the berries have white spots? That's where the evil stinkbugs injected their "poison". Yuck.

Never fear, I have waged a war against these pests...flicking them into a bucket of soapy water. And I continue to harvest around 2 gallons of blackberries a DAY. 

Last week I made blackberry jelly for the first time. Here are the berries getting ready to be juiced.

Then squeezing the berries and putting the juice in a jar. Jellying is a lot of work!

 This past Saturday we had an unwelcome visitor...while my friend Sandra and I were enjoying our lunch in the dining room, our heard our dog barking. I went outside and discovered this HUGE snake. I called my father-in-law, who came over and took care of it (we can't have snakes like that roaming about when we have chickens). Good riddance!