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Yup, I did say that.

I spent Saturday afternoon picking the berries off of our Evergreen Huckleberry bushes. These things are all over our property and we use them a lot like a hedge. They are ever so much better than boxwoods! We apparently have two varieties.

One makes dusky blue berries kind of like miniature blueberries and the other has shiny black berries. They are both quite tasty, but have tiny seeds.

I managed to pick one and half milk pails full of these tasty treats. The pails are 9 quarts, but that is measured in fluid quarts and not dry quarts, whatever that means. (Maybe it is similar to “dry heat” like you would find in the desert???) Anyhow! We have lived here for five, going on six years, and I have never seen this big of a crop of berries. I am usually lucky to get half of a gallon size ziptop bag done before I am too tired of hunting down these little dudes. Not a problem this year. The bushes are loaded, and the berries are huge. I could harvest two more pails and still leave plenty for the wild birds. We did not get any good blackberries this season though. Bummer.

I brought the berries in and picked out the bugs, leaves and other big debris, washed them, and then ran them through the Mighty Squeezo.

I really love this thing. I just have to figure out how much puree to use with the “normal” recipes. I should have enough juice to make two batches of straight Huckleberry jelly and one batch of Huckleberry/Apple jelly. I will have to see how much more juice drains out overnight.

I had a snazzy Jelly Bag setup with the metal legs that hook over a bowl to catch the juice, but the juice drips and splatters everywhere. I also have this loathing for fruit flies. (I have no idea where they hide, since I did not have any until about 5PM, but now they have a small posse hovering about my kitchen.) I took one of my glass milk jars, sterilized it, and hung the jelly bag inside. It can drip all it wants and the juice will stay inside the jar and off of my counter top. I put the lid on, and the fruit flies can not get inside! Ha!

I also have about 2 gallons of applesauce to cook down a bit more in the morning and then can up. I think I’ll spice some and leave some plain. Perhaps even some apple butter will come out of that. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Yep!  You heard right!

Mosey on over to Missouri Star Quilt Company and check out the daily deal. They have a pack of  “Sweethearts” charm squares by Benartex for free. Well, almost. You have to pay for shipping which is $5 if you live in the US, no matter how much you purchase. They have great deals on other things as well. Their service has always been great too.

They have a great quilting forum where we chat about all kinds of quilty things, and some non-quilty things too! They have a special weekly topic post and if you respond you are entered into a giveaway for some fabric goodness of some sort.

Go check them out!   GO!!      I got mine!

It is here!  The first day of school. Our cooperative preschool starts a couple weeks after the Elementary. It is supposed to be “Slow Start Day”. Somebody forgot to tell the kids, they hit the classroom raring to go. They had about an hour to get acquainted with their new classmates and poke around the room.

Little Missy Marie LOVES school, once she gets there. Some days it can be quite the struggle to get her out of the house. Once she is buckled into the car, it is all good though. This is her second start with all of the other kids. She jumped in about half way through her first year. As a child with hearing loss she is incorporated into the school district at 3 years old instead of the mandatory First Grade.

Yeah, did you know Kindergarten is optional? NOT at our house mind you, but it is. So she will have two and a half years of preschool under her belt by the time she takes on Kindergarten. She was so into the whole school routine today, she headed straight for the cubbies to dump her stuff and bee-line it to the sink to wash her hands. She got a bit of a shock when her name was not on the cubby she expected. Her teacher explained that since she was a big girl now, she got a cubby on the top shelf. She didn’t really care why. “Just give me someplace to put my junk so I can go play!”

Painting Pals.

Books, cars, Legos, and the paint easel were all on her agenda today. She is starting to have more interest in the arts & crafts activities. So watch out family! Refrigerator Art may be coming in the mail! My fridge & freezer are full from her efforts with crayons and finger paints over the summer.

Tomorrow is the real deal. Two and a half hours of class. I hope Miss Mary is ready. Heaven help her!

We planted a garden this year. It didn’t do as well as we wanted. The pumpkins are fine, really fine. Everything else, not really doing much to speak of. One of the ladies in the pre-school co-op was heading to Eastern Washington for Labor Day weekend.

In an impressive multi-person barter I ended up with two boxes of Roma tomatoes and a box of Gala apples. Now what to do with 40 pounds of tomatoes….  Make sauce!

Enter the Squeezo Strainer

My darling husband had to add on the pieces of wood at the end of the island counter so the kitchen equipment had some place to clamp on to. (Love ya Honey!)

I washed the tomatoes before I cut them up to run them through the Squeezo. I tried to get a photo of the water, but it didn’t show the color properly. The soapy water had an odd greenish-yellow tint to it. We agreed that it was probably some oily coating that was applied to protect the produce. There is a reason I wash all of the produce before I use it. Ugh.

The family all chipped in to help turn the crank to process the tomatoes. (Yes, even the teenager!) It made the work go faster, and was more fun than by myself.

I think we had about 5.5 gallons of juice & pulp. The big stock pot holds 4 gallons and the small pot can handle about 1.5 with room to move. I got a late start on the processing and the sauce went on to reduce at about 10:30PM. I got it cranked up and brought it to a boil, then reduced the heat and let it simmer over night on the lowest setting to keep it from scorching. This is probably not the best method, but I figured it can work while I sleep.

It took almost all day to reduce to the right consistency. Which was fine. I thought I had quart jars in the cupboard, but I only had pints & half pints. Thankfully my sweet husband came to the rescue and wagged home a couple of boxes of new quart jars on his way back from town. (Love ya Honey!)

I made this batch without salt. My grandmother can’t eat salt, she puffs up like the Stay-Puft marshmallow man. So this batch of sauce is made with her in mind. I’ll send her a few jars. We don’t need all of that salt either. We can add some in when we actually use it. I put up 6 jars of plain and then added the tail end of a bottle of old vine Zinfandel wine that we had left from the weekend. I heated up the remaining sauce to reduce it down while the other jars were processing.

About 28 hours later and we ended up with 12 jars of sauce from 40 pounds of tomatoes. This may last us 3 to 6 months. It may have been cheaper to buy them from the store, but at least I know what is in these jars. If I had a 3 acre garden and grew the tomatoes myself, then it might be cheaper to process them. This is still not too bad and we had fun with it. I am sure it will taste so much better than the store brands.

I also ran a test batch of salsa for my husband. He makes at least one big batch every year, but we don’t always eat it all up before it starts to turn. I had one space open in the canner so I thought I’d give his recipe a go to see if it would take the heat of canning. Apparently it separated out some. I’ll wait to see if it redistributes as it cools.

On to the wild berries and the 20 pound box of apples….

This post is a bit late. We had folks over last weekend for our annual Labor Day get together.

It usually involves large quantities of smoked meats. This year was no exception. We had pulled pork, brisket, and chicken. My dear husband made those yummy baked/smoked beans again too.

This is a view of the table of goodies. Everybody usually brings a salad or some other yummy side dish. It was good by all accounts.

We had outdoor seating this year. The area in front of the new barn is fairly level and we have enjoyed having the picnic table out there all summer. We may be able to have the picnic in the backyard next year.

We put in about 8 or 10 tractor bucket loads of well-aged compost in the backyard where we used to have the milking parlor/hay tent. After a bit of leveling and some addition of peat moss, we seeded that area,watered it, and this is the result. After a few days of rain we had quite the jungle going out there. Hubby waited as long as possible before mowing, since he didn’t want to rip the new grass out by the roots. The new lawn seemed to take the trim well enough.

This is the strangest shade of green. It just about glows. Everything seemed to like the rain. The garden especially. We have 4 green beans now. They ought to be ready to eat in a week. What a huge disappointment this year’s garden has been. Not nearly enough warm weather early on in the season. Oh well! There is always next year!

I have been using patterns from the Sew Baby line for awhile now. They are absolutely great! There are few pattern pieces and the directions are clear. A lot of the patterns are designed for children, but they carry lines of patterns for us grown-ups too!

The SewBaby site has a blog now, and if you go and check them out, you can enter to win a free smock pattern!  Sew baby, pop on over and check them out!