Sunday, August 29, 2010

Canning Pears and New Dehydrator Tool

The last few posts I shared pictures of the feral pears, my brother Eric and I harvested.  They finally reached a good stage of ripening,  so he and I got busy peeling, and quartering them for canning. These pears were not as symmetrically and smoothly formed as ones from the store. Nor were they perfect, as they come from a tree which was either left over from an old homestead or were truly wild, planted by a bird or critter. It took a bit more time to get them peeled and cut up and no way are they actually quarters! LOL Some might be, but the majority are just whatever shape they ended up;-o I weighed them when we were done, and we have 7 pounds in these two bowls


We had a pot on the stove with 6 cups of water, 2 cups of honey, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda , in it.


Heated the liquid up a bit and added the pears to simmer in the syrup for about 5 minutes


Assembled my jars and tools while the pears cooked and got the water to a full boil in the canner.


See that tool with the red handles, balanced on the edge of the bowl? Invaluable tool I pilfered from my husband’s tool shed. It has a magnet on one end. That is soooo handy when fishing hot flats and rings out of that bowl of boiling water! Mechanics use it to fish out fallen bits during vehicle repairs.


Filled the jars up for water bathing in the canner. Half plain and half spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice.

End results… 11 pints:)


Canned Pears

7 pounds of peeled and quartered pears

9 cups water

3 cups honey or sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking soda for every 1 cup of honey

Start a big pot simmering with the water, honey and baking soda. Add the prepared pears and cook them for 5 minutes.

Ladle the pear and syrup into your clean canning jars. I ended up using 11.

Process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes.

Can be spiced with your choice of spices:) I used allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg in mine. I just put a pinch of each on the top of some of them. Gave them a good stir through with the handle end of  my wooden spoon before sealing and processing in the canner

You will notice in my post I said I used 6 cups of water and 2 of honey for my syrup. Which deviates from the recipe. I wrote the recipe the way I will do it next time. I was shy a bit of syrup when filling the jars, and improvised by filling the rest of the way with apple juice. So, I decide to increase the proportions in the recipe, thinking I would rather have too much syrup than not enough. If I end up with a small glass extra, cool! Sounds like a tasty drink:)

We found our pear tree, at the edge of the woods. I like to imagine some other woman, in the past, planting and harvesting from this same tree. Many times you can find fruit trees and other edible stands of plants, near spots which were old homesteads.

I started destemming more elderberries while the canner was going. I ended up spending 4 hours total destemming last nite. I plunked on the couch with  bowls around me and watched 2 silly movies when I did it;-) I decide to dry some of them in my dehydrator. I had found the nicest tool to use with berries, herbs or other small things. It is a Clean-A-Screen by American Harvest company. It has little finger places along its side so that when you are through drying your harvest, you can lift the screen out and flex it, thus loosening the berries or whatever else you might have dried that is sticky. I am certain many of you already use this, but it was new for me!



Today I have been invited to a friends apple orchard to watch and learn about making apple cider! Have a beautiful day, wherever you are. Honey and herbal hugs to you from Comfrey Cottages



Friday, August 27, 2010

Rejoicing in the fruits of Mother’s labor




A week ago, my brother Eric and I harvested the first pictures batch of elderberries, from a wild spot. These were preserved as a tincture, and syrup, and some were dried. We also harvested from a feral pear tree, and I have been letting them soften just a tad on the counter. Pears are a fruit that seems to develop well, on one’s counter, if it is picked a bit hard. The wild plums were picked by Katee and a week ago. We picked them yellow, and they have developed a nice red color, also in the kitchen. Last night, Eric and I went and picked the last of the elderberries at our spot, and I have been invited to a friends property to harvest what berries she has, this morning. Eric introduced me to a nice lady, last evening, who has an apple tree, but didn’t want to harvest from it. We went to her home last night and got a tour of her lovely garden, I tried the apple, it was nice, so made plans to harvest there today. In the meantime, I had talked to our local state museum folks, and been assured I can harvest the wild plums Katee and I found there. So…. I need to go to Val’s to pick elderberries, stopping at the store for her on the way….bring berries home, emptying the carrying basket, get Katee to go with me for the plums, stop and get apples on the way home… and then get busy canning up the pears and de- stemming the elderberries. I might wait and do up the plums in the morning. Just depends on how it goes!

This past few days, we have enjoyed cooler temperatures and I am just rejoicing in the gifts from our Mother’s labors.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Recommendation: Anthill by E.O. Wilson

I love to read. I just had to share with you all about the novel Anthill by Edward O. Wilson. This book should especially appeal to anyone who loves nature, is interested in ecology preservation, and loved a fine story with an admirable lead character:) An inspirational story of how a boy, in love with local beautiful wildlife spot, explores and learns natures secrets and determines to follow a career path that will help him save it from the most savage ecological predator: man himself. Now if that mini review hasn't convinced you to read the book.. consider this line...
"They were obedient to a simple truth that separates our two species: where humans send their young men to war, ants send their old ladies."
Food for thought, don't you agree.
The author, E. O. Wilson is such an interesting person. You might enjoy checking out his Biodiversity Foundation.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Not everything is “pretty” about butterflies!

I love to watch butterflies. Who doesn’t?! When I first started planting specifically to draw bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to the gardens I read about them extensively and at first was a bit taken back by reading how they like to suck the juice off animal dung and carrion! Nasty right? But, everything has a purpose, regardless of whether it is considered pretty by us humans. Now I have seen butterflies on dung… but never carrion. While driving in the country wildgathering with my brother Eric, we saw a tremendous amount of butterflies gathered in the road ahead of us. We had the car windows down and as we approached this gathering, many butterflies flew up and right into the car with us! We pulled over and got out and saw this less than savory sight…. Now don’t scroll down and look if you are squeamish!


Now I have never ever seen a blue butterfly around these parts, let alone one eating road kill! Sorry this a bit gross folks, but with all the butterfly talk lately, I just had to share to see if anyone else might know what kind of butterfly it is. Would love to see it in the gardens, in a prettier setting!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Been a snake it’d bit me!! Hello Tilia! Been looking for you!

When we were on vacation in Minnesota, this year, right outside our cabin door was a Basswood tree, otherwise known as Linden or Lime tree.  This particular one was a Tilia americana L.  I really appreciated being able to sit outside the cabin under this tree and get to know her better. One of the first dried herbs I ever purchased from an herb store was linden flowers. I have seen these trees on my various rambles, but had never had so much time to be with it:) Now this one at the cabin, blocked the view of the lake we were staying on, but I didn’t care:)


That is our cabin with the tree in front of it! lol



I was so excited! Unfortunately, this tree was just a week or so away from flowering. But, again, I didn’t care! I spent the week just sitting there getting to know Tilia for who she was and letting her know I was grateful for the times I had used her for a relaxing tea for nervous tension and how I appreciated her diaphoretic properties (sweat inducing) plus nervine properties when I had a bad cold. I have used the tea many times to promote sleep, also.

Since I have been back home I been hunting around for a basswood I could get too and maybe do a bit of harvesting from. Haven’t had much of a chance to look around too much … but tried to keep an eye pealed. Well today, lo and behold, there has been one sitting right in my son Jesse’s yard all along!


Now the time for flower picking is passed, but I will be ready for next year:) Thinking this particular tree is a Tilia cordata. Wish I could convince my son and his wife to let me put a beehive in their yard next year. Sure would love to harvest my own basswood honey:) I met a beekeeper while in Minnesota, who sold me some basswood honey and it tastes like honey with melted butter in it! Seriously delicious folks!!

Been a great day! Went to check on the wild plum stand I know of, (they aren’t quite ready), and found 3 cottonwoods near there, so psyched about that for harvesting the buds this winter! Went over to a part of the woods I had seen a feral pear tree at earlier, and was able to harvest quite a few pears. They look small compared to store bought, but they sure are tasty! And free! I picked enough to can:) That sure will be good this winter:)


Got about half a basket full. Figured that would keep me busy until next weekend, when I get a chance to go back. They were just slightly under ripe, but still loaded with flavor. They will soften just a bit before wed., when I get a chance to can them. Good to still have them firm when canning anyway:)

And if they wasn’t grand enough to have harvested and discovered all that… I found another stand of wild plums, near the pear tree, plus more accessible cottonwoods:)

To top of the day I got to spend a couple of hours with 1 year old Ariana and 4 year old Colin. Life is good!




Friday, August 13, 2010

The Butterfly Palace

On a brief getaway my hubby and I took in July, we ended up in Branson, Missouri. My favorite thing there was The Butterfly Palace.


My digital camera gave out while here so I had to use my hubby’s 35 mm, so not many pictures. But go to the website and there are a lot of beautiful ones:) One of the coolest features was the 3D movie you get to watch before entering the atrium full of butterflies. It was narrated by Judy Densch, one of my favorite women! If you ever find yourself near Branson, I highly recommend the Butterfly Palace for entertainment, fun and learning. Very interesting to see the butterfly “nursery” and we happened to be there when some of the butterflies were ready to be released into the atrium!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lily and the Lemon Balm harvest

Diligently stripping off non perfect leaves:)



Rolling Down the River

This time of year, my husband and his friends that duck hunt with him, start fixing up their duck blinds on Clear Lake. This lake is located right next to the river. We have to launch at Liverpool, drive down the Illinois River a ways, take a cut near Emiquon that is called Goofy Ridge Ditch, drive down that, cross over a levee (which is covered in water right now. we have been in flood stage forever),  and then we are at Clear Lake. Two of the blinds were a mess! The winds and ice had forced them into the willows and the beaver had been at them! lol One of them is just being used as a larder by one beaver. Just filled so full of willow for the beavers supper that it is half sunk! lol Just like last year



Can you see how full it is? All those willows will have to be raked out, being mindful that a pissy beaver, or snake doesn’t come out of it!

One of the other blinds was just basically beat up and destroyed by Mother Nature and the beavers. We took a couple of trips to get this far in the repairs


That’s my brother Eric in that picture.

boating with gpa

And grandson Evan, who just turned 9 on the eighth. Hard to believe that little baby is now such a big guy he is most helpful and handy to have around! Been my chief lawn mower this summer too!


All along those banks are just tons, and tons of willows. That west side of Clear Lake is just separated from the Illinois River by a strip of woods, which is in flood stage right now. On the north bank, is where the pelicans are always roosting. We never had pelicans here when I was a youngster. They are residents now. All around the east bank is cottonwoods, jewelweed and other water loving plants.


That shows that from the west side of the lake you can see clear through to the river right now.


We raced off the river in time to celebrate two birthdays. Evan turned 9 and Colin turned 4. Our blessings continue

Monday, August 9, 2010

Living through the Uncomfortable Conditions Mother Earth Creates while she gives birth

while sitting on the porch this morning, i was pondering all the things happening in nature, that are contributing to the hot and muggy weather we are having. i was struck by the comparison of the process of giving birth to a human child, and the same process our mother does every year. when my daughter was pregnant and we were talking about what was in store for her. i just remember telling her she was getting ready to enter the damp and warm period of her life. as her pregnancy would mature, she would feel warmer and the whole process of having the child would be, of course warm and wet. but it wouldn't end there. who can deny the first few years of a new child's life doesn't entail more warm and wet times, than cold! so today i am just sitting here in grateful awe and seeing this uncomfortable warm and wet (hot and muggy!) weather in a different light. i am right in the middle of the yearly bringing forth of life our beautiful mother experiences. bringing forth a bounty of life for all of her children to rejoice in! all the oxygen being release and moisture, sustains all of life. the nuts, fruits, grains, vegetables and subsequent life forms able to also live and give birth to the next generation... i am awestruck and living in a state of gratefulness this morning. wishing all of you a glorious celebration of mother's birth also. take time to ponder this and you too will feel a bit different about our own uncomfortable feelings of being too warm and too moist. we are simply fully sharing with our mother empathetically at this time. what a wonderful blessing this is!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Yellow Pond Lily

Of course, being interested in herbal medicine, wild foods etc, I really loved the different plants I encountered in Minnesota. One of them was this Yellow Pond Lily.



I had seen Lily’s of other colors, but never this gorgeous deep yellow before.  It was interesting to learn that these plants rhizomes can be used for food, (if properly prepared), and the fully dried seeds can be prepare like you would popcorn, the old fashioned way, not in a modern popcorn popper! I didn’t get a chance to try it, but maybe next time;-) The seeds can also be parched , winnowed and ground into flour.  The Yellow Pond Lily can also be used medicinally. It has astringent properties, so has been used for diarrhea, vaginal discharges, bleeding and urethritis.  Various Indian tribes used the sliced and warmed rhizomes in a poultice to control pain. The Okanagan- Colville Indians applied the stem to an aching tooth. The Bella Coola Indians used a decoction of the rhizomes to sooth the pain of tuberculosis, rheumatism, gonorrhea, as well as for any part of the body which hurt. Many other tribes used it for many sorts of infections and modern science has substantiated that the yellow pond-lily’s alkaloids are strongly antimicrobial. It has been used frequently as a vulnerary, ( an herb that encourages healing of wounds). Other uses have been as a contraceptive, an aid in menopausal symptoms, and for heart problems. All in all a plant I would love to spend more time getting to know if I get to return to Minnesota someday! Besides the yellow:) I noticed that the bees were flying out to visit these lovelies also:)

reference books: Edible and Medicinal Wild Plants of Minnesota and Wisconsin by Matthew Alfs

Strength of the Earth the Classic Guide to Ojibwe uses of native plants by Frances Densmore


Part Two of Our Minnesota Vacation

Our first morning in Minnesota we stopped at Paul Bunyan Land.  Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Paul, here is a link to a bit about him. When you first enter the complex, at the booth where you pay, apparantly there is a microphone that the ticket seller uses to alert big Paul of your name, so he greats you when you enter.


Really a cute thing! There is so much to see here as the owners have set up this whole Pioneer Village part of the park, with just thousands of antiques! I can not imagine how many auctions etc, this family had to go to in order to amass this collection!

One of the many things I found interesting was this old timey school bus. And yes, those are runners on it to pull it over frozen lakes! And note the heater in it to keep the children from freezing. I made sure and shared these pics with the grandchildren when I got home. It was sure hard for them to imagine going to school being pulled in an enclosed little shed on runners, being pulled by horses!




There were various rides and attractions here also.  A funhouse mine, a spook house and others!



Gerald and I each have no trouble reaching our inner child and had a really fun time here!


The county we had our cabin in was called Ottertail County! Now you know how I feel about otters!!



One big thrill of the whole trip was being able to get up close and personal with my first loon! This fella was a real show off! My husband said that it was rare one would stick around the boat so long, so I felt very fortunate!