We Are Makers
Donnalee Blankenship makes pottery.
Anna Blankenship makes soap.
Brandon Blankenship makes honey (and stories). Well, the honeybees make the honey, he manages the honeybees for Blankenship Farms. He is the chief bottle washer, literally. Brandon’s dad would call what Brandon does around the farm tinkering. He is obsessed with experiments that increase the yield of fruits, vegetables and honeybees. He is completing an application for a patent for a all-natural pesticide that, based on the last three years of testing, promises to reduce harmful pests without introducing toxicity into the environment.
If we have materials, we make something. That’s why we have stacks (Donnalee calls them piles) of stuff everywhere. Our favorite times are when bunches of people come over to make stuff. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. We enjoy making simply stuff.
We have been blessed in many ways and the chief among these ways is our marriage. The one true God blessed us with each other. We have stumped our toes on about every rock you can image. We have bruised ourselves and each other. Even so, God keeps blessing. It is a mystery.
More than anything, we want to give the gift of our experience to help and encourage other married people.
Random Thoughts on Food
The older we get, the more we become convinced of the importance of whole, simply foods. They seem to be the key to quality and quantity of life. Brandon struggled with mental fog and fatigue which he responded to with Mountain Dew™. They worked. A 20-ounce Mountain Dew™ cleared his mental fog and energized his afternoon. Then, he needed another one and another until he was drinking 10-12 a day. As his weight closed in on 300 pounds, Mountain Dew™ got less and less effective.
He did quit Mountain Dew™ abruptly (which he nor his medical doctor recommends). We decided to change our diet as a family. We started changing our diet to more fruits, nuts and vegetables and less meat. Where our diet might have been 80% meat and 20% other stuff, we intentionally changed it to 80% fruits and vegetables (green and leafy) and 20% other stuff (including meat). We try to minimize refined sugar, bread and anything highly processed.
We also reduced our portion size. We exchanged our regular sized plates for half-sized plates. Even when the half-sized plates are full they have less calories on them than the full size plate. If 1,000 unused calories equals one pound of fat, it seems logical to reduce the average calories per meal. Roughly reduce your biggest meal of the day by 35 calories and lose a pound a month (12 pounds a year).
That does not mean that we won’t eat a triple chocolate cake with ice cream. What it does mean is that we don’t eat that every day.
Random Thoughts on Growing
We started growing cucumbers because we could not find a grower that would grow cucumbers like we need them for our cinnamon sweet pickles. After a season or two, we realized that we were applying tons of pesticides in addition to other chemicals like fungicides, herbicides and manufactured fertilizers. That cannot be good.
The year after that realization, we embraced an entirely natural management style on the farm. Our long term goal is a sustainable management style.
The challenge has been to find alternatives to chemicals. An example of this would be wasp spray. If yellow jackets established a nest in a walkway, before we would empty a whole can of poison on them. A sprayer loaded with bio-degradable soapy water works just as well and it does not contaminate anything. We are constantly discovering those alternatives and if you have suggestions, please share your ideas with us.
Random Thoughts on Preservation
Rather than using preservatives, we adjust the Ph of our canned goods to be slightly acidic by adding lemon juice, vinegar, and such. Also, we do not can raw goods. All of our canned goods are cooked at 212 degrees for at least ten minutes. This discourages bacterial growth.
Many people have asked about shelf life for our edibles. Our edibles are marked with a month and year when they are canned.
Jellies and jams are good for two years. Once opened they should be refrigerated. After they are opened, they should be eaten within six months.
If when the jar is opened it has a white crust on the top, just spoon it off. This is a layer of sugar crystals that formed at the top of the jar. Most of this is removed by hand during the canning process by spooning it off. Commercial techniques to eliminate this effect can be used such as introducing chemicals or butter to the recipe. We have chosen to use as few ingredients as possible. This may result in a jar occasionally having this thin layer of white crust.
Cinnamon pickles take seven days to make and are aged six months before distribution. Due to the syrup they are packed in, they actually improve in taste as they age. The best taste will be from six months until eighteen months. They have a shelf life of two years.
Containers are treated with a sanitizer and then rinsed with distilled water or heated to 212 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of ten minutes.
If the lid of any canned good (whether commercially processed or homemade) is bulging out, throw it out.
Infants, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems should not eat raw, including raw honey. Even though we go to these extreme measures to make sure that everything is clean – clean – clean (Donnalee is a clean freak), there are bacteria and fugus that occur in nature that can cause serious injury or even death to people who do not have a fully developed, healthy immune system.
The best way to Contact Donnalee Blankenship or Brandon Blankenship is through Facebook.
We support the many ministries of Hopequest Ministry Group because we know people with life dominating issues and we have seen the rescuing and Hopequest’s restorative work.
(c) Brandon Blankenship Alabama Birmingham Hoover Pelham