Things I Learned Alone On The Farm

Brandon-Blankenship Things I Learned Alone On the Farm

There is always something to do on a farm. Even when you fix everything that is broken, there is preventative maintenance¬†to do: greasing equipment, treating wood handles, sharpening…. If you get all of the preventative maintenance done, there is always something that could be improved. Better soil, better fences, better drainage, better water, all of this makes a better farm.

Often, my mind joins my hands and is consumed in the work. Other times, the work itself (like driving a tractor) lends itself to watching things, to learning. Here are some of the things I learned alone on the farm:

  1. Honeybees are a living example of the Christian lifestyle. They work and work to have a surplus of the food stores they need to survive. Even when they give away 2/3 of what they make, they have plenty left for themselves.
  2. Thousands of honeybees work in perfect harmony with each other toward a common goal. Best as I can tell, excluding queen selection, they never argue in spite of making countless daily decisions that will determine their survival.
  3. Border collies work when they are hurt.
  4. On the farm, it is obvious that death in its full meaning is at work every day. Wood rots, metal rusts, moths destroy and the cute field mouse eats next season’s seeds.
  5. Life will force its way through rock.
  6. Left alone, the plants that I don’t (or can’t) eat will overtake the plants that I can eat.
  7. The honeybee makes honey for the survival of the honeybee colony. The beekeeper only manages surplus.
  8. A good file is more valuable than a new axe.
  9. A bucket of bolts and screws saves a bunch of trips to the hardware store.
  10. I can track the season by what is blooming.
  11. Good soil is better than the best fertilizer.
  12. This year’s potato harvest has to last until next year’s potato harvest.
  13. Acquaintances are indirectly proportionate to the work that needs to be done.
  14. Friends are directly proportionate to the work that needs to be done.

### Brandon Blankenship, On the farm.

October Farm Schedule

Oct2013 Peppers Crop
The work schedule in cooler months makes Spring and Summer work pleasurable. For me, this schedule starts when the night temperatures drop into the 50s. In most of Alabama, Ryegrass (Lolium) will germinate once night temperatures are consistently in the 50s. If you are not in Alabama, wait for a 20 degree temperature spread from day to night. Over seeding with Ryegrass keeps our grass green through the cooler months and the deer keep it mowed for us.

This also starts the most successful time of year for transplanting trees and bushes. Winter vegetable plantings should be in by now.

This is also a good time for preventative equipment maintenance. Consider:

Replace oil, fuel and air filters.
Change and properly dispose of used oil.
Check fluid levels and add when necessary.
Inspect or replace spark plugs (and adjust gap).
Lube grease fittings.
Where possible, hand turn bearings and spindles and replace when necessary.
Check belts and replace where necessary.
Check blades and sharpen or replace as necessary.
Check tire pressure (do this after every major temperature change).
Replace broken items discovered during these inspections.
Add items from your unique user manuals.

Pauper Pear Jelly 2013

pauperpearjelly2013

Each year our compost gets better and better because as we do more canning, the fruit and vegetable scraps are dumped in the compost. These scraps break down into dark rich soil. While Mom was visiting recently, she offhandedly mentioned that when she was growing up they would cook the peels down to get the juice out of them. I grew up around canning, but apparently missed a lot. In part, I took Mom to mean that we were not well off enough to throw out perfectly good food. So, I gave it a try.

Since we were making pear jam and pear honey, I decided to cook down the peels and the cores and give a try to Pauper Pear Jelly. Here is the recipe:

Put the scraps from pealing pears in a large pot. Add two cups of water, bring the water to a boil and then turn the heat back, cover and let it simmer. Once the fruit pulp has cooked down, pour the liquid off, let cool and strain. Repeat the strain or filter the liquid until it has the clarity you want. For a jelly, it should be clear. For jam, preservative, etc., it can have more pulp. Discard the cooked down pulp (that is, everything left over) into the compost.

For the jelly:

5 cups juice
7 cups sugar
2 pouches Certo pectin

In another pot (large enough to hold 11 cups or more), pour in juice and bring to a rolling boil. You can add water if you are short on juice. I prefer to add apple juice (which naturally contains pectin or white grape juice which is naturally sweet).

Add sugar one cup at the time and stir until a rolling boil returns. Repeat until all the sugar is added.

At this point, turn the heat back to a simmer and skim any foam or white film that rises to the top. Some people add a little butter to stop the foaming. I prefer not to do this as I am uncertain of the impact it has on shelf life. Also, I want my ingredient list as short as possible.

Return to a rolling boil and add the pectin. Bring back to a rolling boil and let the boil roll for at least one minute. Turn off heat and skim the foam off again.

Ladle quickly into prepared jars and follow canning instructions.

Wait 24 hours, bake some buttered biscuits and heap some Pauper Pear Jelly on the biscuit. Enjoy!

Note: You may be tempted to cut back on the pectin because you are dealing with pears. Don’t. Since we are effectively steaming the pear juice out of the peal and core, the juice is weaker.