Monday, August 29, 2011

how to can peaches

I actually took all these photos last year but never got around to posting them at the time. So I'll do it now. I canned a lot of peaches last week. Not anywhere nearly as many as last year though, must have been a smaller crop this year! Or maybe more people showed up to pick them!

I've been canning peaches for a few years, and they are WONDERFUL. I got into making jam probably ten years ago, it was something my mom used to do when I was a kid, but she no longer had time, and I hate to see the summer fruit go to waste. And then I guess I figured if I could make jam I could can peaches, because when they are ripe boy they are all ripe at the same time and have to be used! It's really not difficult, but it's enormously time-consuming particularly if you are working alone! Totally worth it though when winter rolls around and you get to eat peaches! So here's how you do it:

1) Pick the peaches! Or buy them at a place that has good fresh local-grown delicious fruit!

2) Get your stove all set up! On the back left is the big stock pot for boiling the finished jars. On the front left is a pot of boiling sugar water (I use a mixture of 1 part sugar to 2 parts water, you don't end up eating this part (well, you could) it's just used for preserving them). On the back right is a small pot in which I boil the jar lids. And on the front right is a pot for boiling the peaches so that they are easier to skin. Oh yeah, and wash your jars! I don't have a pic of that.

3) Dunk a few peaches at a time into boiling water for 30 seconds.

4) Then immediately submerge them in cold water. This will loosen the skin.

5) Peel and pit the peaches. I cut them into chunks, and drop those into a solution of ascorbic acid (you can get this at the grocery store in the canning section), 1 tsp per 1 cup of water. Make sure they stay in there at least a few minutes, this will keep them from turning brown. Don't rinse this off!

6) Fill the jars! Use some care arranging them so that they pack in as tight as possible, because they will float up.

7) Pour the boiling sugar syrup into the jars, leaving almost an inch of head room.

8) You've probably made a sticky mess out of the rim of the jar by this point, so you need to wipe it off really well with a damp paper towel. You don't want any peachy or sugary goo on the rim or it won't seal! Put on the lid (which you have now removed from the boiling water, so it's freshly sterilized), tighten down the ring, and submerge the jars into boiling water for 15 minutes.

9) And there you have it! Canned peaches! It's really kind of magical, they will look just as lovely and fresh a year from now, and taste oh so delicious! You have to make sure your jars seal though! If the lids still make that popping sound when you put your finger on them, they haven't sealed. It can take a while on these big jars, but if they're no longer hot and are heading toward cool and still haven't sealed, take the lid off, clean the rim again, clean the lid again, put it all together again, and put it back in the water bath for 15 minutes. If you keep everything clean, this is unlikely to be a problem. I've never had a jar not seal when canning peaches, and out of 88 jars of jam this year I didn't have a single one not seal.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

animal bath day!

It was about a hundred degrees outside, and I was getting annoyed at being nagged to do things that I already know I need to do (OH I hate that! grr!), so I decided to go outside give all the 4-legged black animals baths today. They got real clean and I got real gross, but it was worth it!

Angus is fairly stoic about the whole thing.


Sudsy Shylah!

Washing Shylah!

Washing Gwen!

Gwen, who actually enjoys baths, still manages to ALWAYS stand on the hose and reduce the water to a trickle...

Clean girls!

Pretty Shylah!

I had to put them in the shade to spend some time brushing out their manes and tails. Whew it was hot!

All done, Shylah says "I'm outta here!"

So long, horses!

So clean, it'll last for at least a few minutes, right?

Uh oh...

Aw heck...

Come on!

Oh well, it never lasts...

The end...

And Angus resumes his usual position...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

don't mess with that mama!

I wish I had photos of what happened, but I'll take a cue from another blog I read and do a little photoshopping to help you imagine what I saw!

I had just gotten out of the pool yesterday morning, following a hot 3 mile walk with Angus, and was sitting in the back yard sunning my toes when I heard the chickens go on "full alert" and saw a Cooper's Hawk land on the corral fence where the chickens and ducks hang out. Eeek, the babies!

Angus and I made a hasty beeline for the back gate and ran out to the barn, and as I got closer the hawk took off and flew toward the yard, and I was grateful to see there was nothing clutched in its talons. I love raptors, for the most part, but I really hate Cooper's Hawks... So I watched it fly in front of me, maybe just 8 or 10 feet off the ground, and Angus barked at it.

And then I realized there was another bird hot on its heels, just a few feet behind and a few feet lower but moving right a long. What the heck? I did a double take, probably a triple take, it just didn't register at first what on earth was chasing the hawk...

Holy crap! It was the mama hen! I have seen these little hens go to extremes to protect their babies, (attacking cats, screaming up at hawks that land on coops when birds are enclosed) but I have NEVER seen a hen chase a hawk on the wing. I was absolutely blown away. Don't mess with a mama hen!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

rockin' weekend

Oh boy, it's already Tuesday night and I'm just now blogging about the weekend?? It was a busy one! I canned peaches (I'm up to 12.5 quarts, that may be it for the year... smaller crop this year it seemed). I baked cupcakes. I worked on my big scrimshaw project. And I went to a concert on Saturday night!

Again, I have to give a big shoutout to the Sutter Creek Theatre. It's this quaint little old building in a cute little town owned by some super nice people that gets some pretty awesome musicians playing there, and never seems to get the publicity it deserves. People are missing out! I have never seen a show there that I haven't REALLY enjoyed, and I think I've seen maybe five different shows (some I see every year). It's very intimate, you're right there with the musicians, it's totally unlike a big concert. I love live music in small venues! Seriously. Someone needs to take me on more hot dates that include these sorts of things, because it rocks my socks.

Anyway... on Saturday night a group called Waterloo was playing there, and they are an ABBA tribute band. ABBA, you say? Yes I love love love ABBA. Blame my brother Douglas. He left the "ABBA Gold" CD sitting around years and years ago, and I thought "ha, ABBA, what a nerd." And then on a whim I played the CD and holy cow I'll be darned if I wasn't a nerd too. ABBA also rocks my socks. So I had a great time there, enjoyed the performance, enjoyed the setting, and by the time they played Dancing Queen at the end of the show we were ALL on our feet dancing along! And some of us (Jan!) were doing some pretty exciting chair-dancing through the whole show! ;-)

So really, go look at their schedule, join their mailing list, go see a concert there, you'll love it. And you might see me there. Next month, in fact! :-)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

packaging overkill yeah?

A couple weeks ago I ordered a substantial amount of art supplies after doing inventory on my colored pencils. I already got most of it, but several items were back-ordered.

This morning I got a box on the doorstep!

With a lot of air in it!

And one pencil!

I dunno, do you think that was a big enough box for it? ;-)

Friday, August 19, 2011

scenes from lately

Righty-o, so as someone commented on my last entry, ten days between postings is way too long. I know! but I do have a fairly legitimate excuse this time around. Blogging has always been a nighttime thing for me, with occasional exception, and for the last almost two weeks I haven't been home at night because I was house-sitting overnight, and although I did have the laptop with me, it does not have photo editing software on it (not that I remembered to bring my camera card reader anyway), and on top of that the internet there was down for several of those days anyway, AND by the time I finished all my chores (here and there) it was always late and I was always just too dang wiped out!

I've been very busy, and time is flying, and I can't figure out how it's Friday again because it just was Friday, that couldn't have been a week ago. Cripes. My big scrimshaw project, the "Greatest Generation" (WWII) pistol and knife is heavily into the sketch/revision stage, and I'm pouring hours and hours of work into coming up with some pretty kick-ass designs, if I may say so myself. This project is gonna rock! I've still been baking like an insane person, but Sunday is the last day of the whole "recipe testing" thing. And then I'll be doing some (how much? I don't know) of the baking for a wedding. I love it, I really do. It does take some serious time though! And of course right now ALL the fruit is ripe. Either the nectarines are late or the peaches are early but it's all ready at once. I made 88 jars of jam this season, I've frozen a bunch of pie fillings, and I'm going to be spending the vast majority of the weekend (when I'm not baking cupcakes or researching airplanes or sketching General MacArthur) canning peaches. Tis the season. Summer fruit is awesome, but holy cow.

Anyway, here are some photos for your entertainment... things seen around here lately:

This is what happens when someone decides to lay eggs behind the hay stack where I can't reach them:

Got your ducks in a row? Aren't they a cute little blended family. ;-) Do you suppose Diego (the rooster) wonders why his kids in the previous photo don't look like his "kids" in the next photos?


In the garden:

They're growing!

Angus (left) had a play date today with Trog (middle) and Porter (right). Angus is soooooo tired now! Hee hee!

I'll try to be better about blogging. Really.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

ladybug scrimshaw pendant

This is a custom piece I did for the people who were my table-neighbors at Blade Show a few months ago! Penny shown for scale.

"Ladybug #2" (pendant)
18 by 25 millimeters
multicolor scrimshaw on ancient mammoth ivory
sold (custom)

Sunday, August 07, 2011

art show planning!

Well, I won't have my "official" notice until next week, but I can tell you officially enough that I will have a booth at the Draft Horse Classic again this year, and I'm SOOOO happy about that! I had a booth for seven years, and then in 2009 I was in Kansas, and last year I was in Wyoming. I wouldn't trade either of those opportunities away, but I've REALLY missed DHC and it'll be good to be back. I don't have the art show schedule yet so I'll be posting all that info later, but the Draft Horse Classic is September 22-25 at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, CA.

So... since in the last couple years I have only done scrimshaw-oriented stuff, I need to start getting my brain in gear for an art show so I don't forget anything. I know I have some things I need to order, and that'll include some new images for note cards. Yeah, I have note cards. I really only tend to sell them at shows, I don't deal with them on line. I used to like to "release" a few new images every year, and since it's been a few years, I may do 6 new cards this year. We'll see... I have been through a number of printing companies since I went into the art biz, and I have one I like now but I'm paying more for it and I think I'll end up having to raise card prices over-all because the new ones are going to cost more to print than what I used to spend on it.

I'd really like to be able to do something with scrimshaw other than have original work. That's so hard. It's not like you can make a print of it. Nothing compares with holding an original, so I've held off on putting images onto cards or postcards or anything. Any thoughts? I know someone who sells baseball-card size prints of engravings... maybe something like that? They are so SMALL though, I really don't want to have to enlarge an image a zillion percent for a good photo, that kind of defeats the novelty of how tiny the original work is!

I'd also like to be a little better set up for working/demonstrating something during the show this year. I always do work on something (a drawing), but it's difficult for people to see what I'm doing, and it's fairly uncomfortable to sit there on those tall chairs and work. I like to be up at customer-level though, I'll have to think about that. I'd love to demo scrimshaw, but then I'd need to bring the scope and a sturdy table. Oh there are just so many options!

Feel free to throw some ideas at me, I'm pretty scatterbrained right now but I don't have very long to get this all sorted out! :-)