Friday, October 11

Sometimes Dreams Come True...and miracles do happen

 Some of you may have heard by now, but I am guessing most of you have not.

 It became official this afternoon. 

I want to welcome you to our farm and future home. Yes, you read that right. 

We are the new owners of 20 acres of land just three miles down the road. 

There is no house, no barn, no fence, just rows and rows of soybeans planted by the farmer who is leasing the land. 

The story of how we came to this place is a long one. So grab a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable. I promise it's good. :) 

We we first got married we talked of owning land. Just something big enough to grow a nice garden. We were living in an apartment in Illinois and had only been married 6 months. That fall we began our canning journey and made applesauce. We knew nothing about food additives, or GMO's or any of those things that are so common to talk over now. 
All we knew was the satisfaction of hard work and the taste of good food. 

Fast forward 18 months. We purchased our first house on one acre. It was a cute little Sears home with 4 bedrooms and 1 bath on the second floor. That spring we planted a large garden and grew peas, beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and a few other things. We now had two babies and I made them fresh baby food from the garden and froze and canned what I could. 
We talked of adding fruit trees.

Fast forward another two years and add another baby. We took a job transfer to Pennsylvania and purchased a house with 3/4 of an acre as that was all that we could afford. That spring we planted our garden with beans, tomatoes, and peppers. 
We added pressure canning to our list and another baby. 

Fast forward another three years and my husband lost his job during a buyout. By this time we had added those fruit trees and wished we had more land for animals. My husband took a job in New Jersey and began a daily commute of three hours. The job came with an amazing salary, a very large bonus, and a commuter stipend. We looked at buying a house there, even put in an offer on one. Thankfully that fell through and he kept commuting.

 We poured every penny we could into the mortgage. The job turned sour quickly and he began applying to other jobs in six different states. Our goal was land and we knew we couldn't afford anything here. We heard nothing for two very long years. Then he was hired on at a company just fifteen minutes from our house in Pennsylvania. We had come full circle
We planted grapes and a fig tree. 
We still dreamed of animals. 

Fast forward another year. My neighbor was downsizing and looking for a home. One day she called me to look at a place on In the process of looking  I came across a listing for a piece of land. A foreclosure just 3 and a half miles down the road. It should never come up in the feed, the price was out of the range of the search parameters I had put in. I mentioned it to her and then thought nothing of it. But dreams don't die, they may get buried or set aside, but they never go away.
We still dreamed of land.
Web Soil Survey- find the soil survey for you property.

 I mentioned it to David about a week later in a tongue and cheek manner. We drove by it the next day. We kept thinking about it and made an appointment to meet with a Realtor. The land was perfect.
David began the process of the financing, which can be tricky when dealing with land and a foreclosure. There has not been one glitch in the whole process everything has gone smoothly. We closed on the land this afternoon. 

 We now dream of a farm.
We dream of a farmhouse with a root cellar and walk in pantry.
We dream of a barn and animals and fences.
We dream of bees, an orchard, and gardens.
We've come a long way in 14 years. 

Now for the best part. The ONLY reason we could ever afford to buy was because of the job my husband had in New Jersey. Because of that awful, painful, terrible, experience we had almost paid our mortgage off, allowing us to have money to buy the land we had dreamed of for so many years.

 Land that is truly on the outskirts of town. 
God is good! 

Looking toward the road.

So, I welcome you to the future home of Shining Stars Farm.

 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.
Philippians 2:14-16

Monday, October 7

Making Applesauce

Last week we set aside a day four our annual sauce making. The children love applesauce day, and love to help make the sauce. They are now all old enough to help cut, stir, crank, and fill the jars. All of their help really makes the process go fast, or at least compared to when I used to do it by myself when they were to little to help very much.

We started with six bushels of apples this year. I had decided that I need at least 100 jars to get through to the next season and we eat sauce almost every day. I do have about 35 quarts left from last year. Hopefully it will be enough. With the boys eating more I am not sure how we will do this year, only time will tell. 

I bought 4 varieties of apples. Golden Delicious, Smokehouse, Empire, and McIntosh. We like the sweetness of this combination best. I don't have to add any sugar.

This is our set up. I found this table at the thrift shop last year. My plan is to refinish it, but we use it all the time I can't imagine taking it out of the kitchen to work on it. It's perfect for clamping the strainer to.I use a Victorio Strainer strainer and love it. I made sure to wash all the jars ahead of time so I wouldn't have to take any time away for that. 

The first thing we do is wash the apples in the sink. To keep the flavors even we select 8 apples of each variety dup them in the water and then begin cutting them. I found that this is the perfect amount to fill my pots for cooking. All we do is remove the stems and cut into about 12 pieces.

I have a 22 quart stock pot and a 16 quart pot that I use. Just make sure your posts have a thick bottom to prevent burning. When a pot is full of apple pieces I add about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of water to the bottom and cook them down on medium heat. Since one burner has the canning pot I rotate the pots so one is cooking while one is getting strained and then we fill a bowl with cut apples until a pot is free. This keeps the process going smoothly and without breaks, unless we get ahead of the canner! 

The strainer makes it so easy! Put the cooked apples in the hopper turn the crank and out comes the applesauce. Hot fresh applesauce has got to be one on the best foods on this earth! 

After we have sent one pot full of apples through we then take the peels and sent them through two more times. By the time they are pressed that many times they look like paper. 

I have a stainless steel bowl that holds 8 quarts. I know when it is full that it is time to start filling the jars. I keep my jars war in the oven at 170 degrees until I need them. Then I pull them out and fill at the end of the little table. After doing this for so many years I have found out the most efficient way to make sauce in this kitchen. From here they can go right into the canner. 

Applesauce processes in a water bath for 20 minutes. I ran out of my Tattler lids and had to use the metal ones. I was quickly reminded why I love Tattler for applesauce. With the metal lids I have seepage that runs down the jars and makes them sticky. With the Tattler due to the tightening after they  come out of the canner I don't have this problem and cleaning the jars for storage is so much easier! There you have it one really long day and 108 jars of sauce for the pantry. 

I left them on the table for a few days before I washed and moved them all downstairs. They are so pretty all lined up in rows. 


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