Canning Beans

Although the weather is springlike, it is early springlike. The wind is strong and nippy, even though the sun is strong. I am still wearing a wool scarf, a wool hat, gloves, and a parka to go for my walks. It isn’t the kind of weather to sit outside and relax in the sun! So I have been turning to indoor tasks.

The Chili Beans I canned over the winter were almost gone. We like our beans, and cook all sorts of dishes with them. I decided it was time to replenish the supply. Monday I canned seven litres of Chili Beans. Yesterday I canned 14 “pints” (500 ml jars) of Molasses Beans. It was the first time I had tried canning a full canner of smaller jars, which are stacked in the canner in two layers.

Canning requires a lot of time on my feet. I did very well with it, but yesterday my knee began to complain, and I could feel it this morning when I swung my legs over the side of the bed to arise. Time to slow down a bit I think!

I like pressure canning. It is extremely precise and time consuming, but for those of us who spend our days at home it is not really an intrusive pastime. Like bread making, it requires input at specific intervals, leaving plenty of time for other tasks over the course of the day.

I used the down time during canning to work on one of my web sites. I have finished transferring the data to a new database, which was extremely time consuming. Now I will move on to more specific design elements, like SEO, setting up statistical reports, and forms of linked social media. Always a learning curve with these things, which makes it interesting.

When the web site I am refurbishing is completed, and has gone live, I will turn my attention to another web site that needs a similar update. This should take me right into the summer as far as projects are concerned.

Terra and Lares dropped by yesterday for a short visit before they met friends for dinner. Terra showed me lots of pictures from their recent trip to a Panama resort.

Next week I will be thinking about heading to the country house, so I let Terra know that arrangements will have to be made to transport Diesel back to Terra’s house. They anticipate that Diesel is not going to be pleased about the change of residence, from being an “only cat” to one of three cats, and two dogs. I wish him well, he has been such a great companion. He cannot come north because he does not tolerate car travel well, even a short trip disorients him for quite some time. A five hour drive might do him real damage. Perhaps he will visit me again when I return to the little house for the bug season.

While Tera and Lares were here I asked Lares to assist me by fetching the ladder, accessing the attic, and bringing down the live trap. It was empty! Hooray! I had decided against trying it myself, while I am here alone. If something happened I would be in a right pickle.

An enterprising squirrel has chewed through the exterior roof trim just under the roof, and is building a nest in the roof. Sigh.

Behind the houses, across the street, there was a small forest. A developer owns the property and decided to build a seniors complex there. Last fall he brought in fellows with chain saws and a giant chipper. The forest is gone. Right now there are diggers and dump trucks working over there. Progress. Maybe, but the squirrel does not think so. She has decided to move in with us, since she was displaced from her natural habitat.

We will not share the house with a squirrel, and her planned family. She has to go. I will bait the live trap, and keep an eye on it. If I catch her, I will take her to a forest far out in the countryside, and wish her luck in her new life. Then, when next Attila visits the little house in the city, he will nail a piece of metal across the area where she chewed through the 2″ thick boards.

We seem to have a distinct animal theme here at the little house in the city! They are our most frequent and avid visitors!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

Little House in the City
0°C
Date: 7:00 AM EDT Wednesday 8 April 2015
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: -0.3°C
Dewpoint: -10.6°C
Humidity: 46%
Wind: NE 22 gust 32 km/h
Wind Chill: -6

Country House
0°C
Date: 7:00 AM EDT Wednesday 8 April 2015
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -0.1°C
Dewpoint: -13.6°C
Humidity: 36%
Wind: E 9 km/h
Wind Chill: -3

Quote

“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.”
Joe Ancis

Three Days

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I have just arrived at the little house in the city. Attila and I pulled out of the country house driveway at the same time. At the highway junction he turned left, I turned right, and we flashed our headlights at each other. It was still dark enough to see each other’s headlights in our rearview mirrors.

My trip was an easy one, with lots of stops. I had to come to a complete stop twice on the Highway, for a school bus. I had to stop three times for construction. I stopped once for fuel. I stopped once to buy a snack because I was feeling a bit tired and needed a pick-me-up. And I stopped once at an apple store to buy a quarter bushel of Spy apples.

Just as I left the highway, and was driving through the countryside right outside of town, I passed a field with a huge tanker moving across it. The tanker was spraying liquid manure, and the smell hit me like a fist! This stuff was not composted manure, as we used on our farm, which has very little odour. No sir, the liquid coming out of that tank and spraying around was pure, fresh, liquified manure. Miles down the road, when I arrived home and stepped out of the car, the smell was less strong, but definitely being carried into town on the autumn breeze.

Upon arrival at the little house in the city, I unlocked the door and immediately called Attila to let him know I had arrived safely. Then I turned on the water supply, and checked to see if we had caught any mice in the mouse traps set as we left over a week ago. One was set in the basement, and it was still empty. Another was set in the tool cupboard, and it was not empty. The dead mouse was just beginning smell bad. I got that job over with as quickly as possible, carrying the mouse trap to the compost pile, digging a hole, and burying the mouse in the hole. I will spray the trap with bleach, reset it and place it back in the tool cupboard.

It took about an hour to carry all the luggage and items in from the car. Then I took a long rest, with a tall glass of water, and a handy pen and paper for the inevitable supply list.

The new kitchen curtains; enjoying the open windows!
Autumnkitchencurtain

Then it was time to pick up a few supplies; a quick trip to the local grocery store was in order. When I got back Terra was waiting form me, she stopped by on her way home from work. We had a nice chat, short and nice. She was going to go home to sleep, because she had to be back at work within eight hours, to work the night shift.

The rest of the day disappeared into cleaning and cooking activities, and ended with a brief conversation with Attila, via Skype.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I do not know how I turned off my cell phone, but I did. The result was that I slept in, until 7:14 a.m., a truly rare event in my life, and as a consequence, was too late to chat with Attila before he left for work. I felt very well rested. I slept deeply my first night here at the little house.

We receive free delivered newspapers here at the little house in the city, and they are stuffed full of flyers. I noticed that turkeys were on sale, and decided to purchase a few for the freezer. We generally eat between four and six turkeys every winter. We roast the turkey, prepare all the trimmings, mashed potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, etc. Then we eat leftovers for many days, and then Attila makes his turkey soup with whatever is left of the turkey.

So far, during this visit to the little house in the city, time seems to be getting away from me! It is passing so quickly, I hardly notice, and wonder where the day went.

On the agenda for the day was a large pot of chili, for quick meals while I am here alone. I tend to forget about preparing a meal until I feel hungry. Once I am hungry I do not want to wait until a full meal is prepared. My solution, make a big pot of chili, and a large quantity of fried mushrooms with rice. That provides me with two healthy, instant meals. I used two jars of my pressure canned Chili Beans to make my pot of chili.

Thankfully, the mouse traps were empty this morning!

The dehumidifier in the basement was full this morning. It has been emptied, and is ready to be turned on again when the electricity prices go down tonight.

During the afternoon, while the chili was being assembled, a flock of wild geese could be heard flying overhead, heading south.

I picked about four quarts of tomatoes from the garden. The squirrels have been busy raiding, and some very nice tomatoes were lying on the ground half eaten. In order to beat the squirrels to the food, I harvested the largest green tomatoes, and will ripen them on the windowsills.

Green tomatoes and hot peppers; beating the squirrels to harvest.
Autumnhotpepper

The last of the cucumbers were peeled and chopped today. I boiled them in a pot, let them cool, put them through the blender, and froze them to use as an ingredient in a future Stone Soup.

I am snacking on Coronation Grapes, I love them. They taste like Concord Grapes, but are seedless, and grown in Niagara. I bought them at NoFrills, a grocery chain, for anyone in Ontario who might be interested in finding them. I also chopped one of the Spy apples into my oatmeal this morning, and added a bit of cinnamon, yum.

When I talked to Attila at 9:00 p.m. last night, he had only been home for about an hour and half, he had worked until 7:30 p.m., no breaks, no lunch break. He came home and chopped wood until 8:30 in the evening. When I talked to him he was preparing his evening meal. They are very busy where he works, and they appreciate what he does for them.

It was a beautiful sunny day today. It was a stinker though, because somewhere near the periphery of the city, fields were being sprayed with liquified manure again. The smell was eye watering at times. This is one of the disadvantages of having farmland nearby. When city folk move to the country they are often horrified by the smells. We do not live in a Fisher Price or Lego world, where everything is made of plastic, and can be sterilized before use. No, real life includes smells, all kinds of them, including manure, and the flowers that grow because of it.

Today I didn’t accomplish any of the bigger projects on my list. I puttered about, and did a lot of little things that needed doing. Lots of time left during this visit for the big projects, to pressure can beans, mow the lawn, and sew the dining room curtains. I may, or may not, get around to all of these projects, as none of them are urgent.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I have completed the database work for the first draft of my next genealogy book. It was a tough slog! I am sure I will find errors as I go forward, but that is to be expected.

Now I am looking for photos to include, which is tricky. Old photos are no longer under copyright, but I have few of those, as the family history I am writing starts in the late 1700s, and will end in the early 1900s. My biggest challenge is defining parameters, the size and resolution of the photos and charts is where I am starting, and there is a sea of too-much-information out there!

I am beginning to narrow it down though, and am looking for online publishers who provide a lot of step-by-step written guidance on how to prepare for publication. I could publish manually, as I am a registered Publisher in Canada, but I probably will not go that route, as I have to distribute the books myself. The last book I published sold many more copies than I expected, which meant trip after trip back to the printers. Choosing an online publisher should mean that I don’t have to do the legwork myself.

This morning I awoke at 3:30 a.m., and could not get back to sleep. I was worried that I would sleep in, and miss my chat with Attila before he left for work. It was an early start to the day!

After chatting with Attila, which was challenging because Skype was suffering from feedback, I made a cup of coffee and reviewed my plans for the day. There are so many projects to choose from.

But first, time to have a little breakfast. I peeled six Spy apples, sliced them into a saucepan, added a little water, a little cranberry juice, a little sugar, and a generous teaspoon of cinnamon. Then I prepared the oatmeal crust for the apple crisp. The recipe called for baking soda, but I am trying to limit my salt intake to a healthy daily limit, and so used baking power instead. While the apple crisp was baking I hopped into the shower while the water was still hot. I had turned on the hot water heater after 7:00 p.m., and turned it off in the morning before 7:00 a.m., to take advantage of the almost half price electricity rates. Taking a shower takes a bit of planning.

Because the weather was predicted to be fair, it seemed a good opportunity to tackle mowing the lawn, so that was the project I chose for the day. I checked the back yard, and all of the leaves had come down from the big tree, covering the lawn in a thick blanket of leaves. Time to put the new mulching lawn mower to the test!

The lawn after mowing; the thick blanket of leaves is no more!
Autumnmulch

It took me about two hours to complete the task, I didn’t hurry, and only stopped doing a second pass because I ran out of gas. It was just as well that I stopped, I think I had reached my physical limit. The lawn looks pretty good I think, and the mulching was a great success. I have decided I like mulching the leaves rather than raking them up. The area mowed was about one quarter of our lawn, we have a double lot, and we really know it, when it comes time to mow it.

After taking a break, I wandered into the garden with a big plate and picked a dozen or so hot peppers, and a few dozen tomatoes showing just a hint of red. I am determined to beat the squirrels to the harvest!

And happily, they have stopped spraying liquid manure, the air today was fresh and fragrant!

I wasn’t the only one harvesting and enjoying the last of the warm weather today!
Autumnbee

Worldly Distractions

Weather

17°C
Date: 1:00 PM EDT Tuesday 30 September 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 13 km
Temperature: 17.4°C
Dewpoint: 12.6°C
Humidity: 73%
Wind: NE 19 km/h

17°C
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Wednesday 1 October 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 13 km
Temperature: 17.1°C
Dewpoint: 13.3°C
Humidity: 78%
Wind: N 21 km/h

19°C
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Thursday 2 October 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 18.9°C
Dewpoint: 13.6°C
Humidity: 71%
Wind: SSE 8 km/h

Quote

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

Pressure Canning

I am getting better at this pressure canning thing! One of the features/challenges of the All American Pressure Canner is the metal to metal seal. There is no gasket to replace.

The metal to metal seal takes some getting used to. My first foray into pressure canning was pressure canning beans, while we were at the little house. I had a 100% success rate, the jars all sealed properly. But getting it done kept me hopping, and wondering, the whole time. There was some venting around the seal at that time, but it was not serious enough to drop the pressure. During that first experiment I was afraid that the canner would run dry, run out of water. When I opened it up I discovered that my fears were groundless, almost laughable. There was almost the same amount of water in the canner at the end of the process, as there was at the beginning of the process.

Yesterday I used the All American to pressure cook ten pounds of vegetables at a go. It worked very well. But there was a significant amount of venting in three spots around the seal. I thought about it, and decided it could be down to one of two things, or both of them. First, there might not have been enough lubricant applied to the area of the seal that vented. Second, the lid might not have been adequately levelled to ensure a good seal.

The first possibility was addressed by applying olive oil to the areas of the seal where venting had occurred. The second possibility was addressed by seeking out an object with which to measure the gap between the lid and the canner, to ensure the gap was equal all the way around. I tried a table fork handle, too thin. I tried a clothespin, too thick. I tried this and that, until finally I got out a bag of Ikea allen keys, and one of them was perfect. That allen key is now kept in the envelope with the weight gauge, so it will be handy for every canning session.

This morning Attila requested canned beans for supper. I agreed to postpone processing the last ten pounds of carrots, so as to focus on canning more Chili Beans.

When it came time to close up the canner, I measured the gap precisely, and very carefully applied equal pressure to opposite tightening screws. The proof is in the pudding as they say, and my hunches were correct, the added lubricant (olive oil), and the careful measurement of the gap, and tightening of the screws, succeeded in preventing venting around the seal.

I didn’t manage to get the heat turned low enough though, to keep the weight gauge rattling only several times a minute. That gauge rattled nonstop the whole 90 minutes of processing, as I kept lowering and lowering the heat, by small increments. The pressure gauge read 11 pounds throughout the entire process. The water level was down when I opened the canner, but it was not in danger of going dry. Five of the seven quarts sealed immediately after I took them out of the canner, the rest sealed sometime during the morning.

When I opened the canner the water inside was little bit murky. A small amount of the jar contents had siphoned out. This probably occurred at the end of the canning process, when I released the pressure in the canner by removing the weight gauge. Note to self, wait a half an hour or more to remove the weight gauge, after the pressure gauge reads zero. It will be interesting to see if that solves the siphoning issue.

There is one ten pound bag of carrots waiting to be cooked tomorrow in the pressure canner, and then all of the bulk produce that was purchased will be preserved for winter use, and Attila will also have his beans.

The “new” spice rack at the little house in the city. This rack was on the wall when we moved into our country house. We are not knick knack people, so it sat empty on the wall for a year or so, then we took it down. Of course, as we usually do, we stored it away in case we needed it someday. It works perfectly at the little house in the city, as our “new” spice rack. Attila painted it to match the kitchen cupboards, and it graces the unused wall space behind the bifold door in the kitchen, well out of direct light. The 500 ml tinted mason jars fit perfectly into the openings! Eventually I will replace the two piece mason jar lids with one piece lids, which will be easier to manage during a cooking session.
Spice rack

Worldly Distractions

Weather

18°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Tuesday 23 September 2014
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 17.6°C
Dewpoint: 12.5°C
Humidity: 72%
Wind: W 17 km/h

Quote

“To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.”
Benjamin Franklin
1706 – 1790

This is not true for the vast majority of humans who live on our planet, quite the opposite. I wish it was true for all of us though, I really do.

Projects Of My Own

Saturday, September 13, 2014

We are still at the little house in the city.

Great fun in the kitchen over the last few days! I have blanched and frozen most of the celery given to us by Terra and Lares, and dried and powdered about 250 ml of dried celery leaves for flavouring in soups and stews. I have pressure cooked the beets, which we enjoyed the whole day, eating them as a mid-morning snack, and as a side dish with every meal of the day. I like them with hot sweet mustard. What a treat!

The next day I reread the manual for the All American pressure canner, and began the prep work for my very first foray into pressure canning. On this vacation I brought along three types of dried beans, kidney, navy, and pinto beans. I also brought along the video I found online, which outlines how to can chili beans in a pressure canner, using dry beans. All in all, by the time I was ready to put my hand to chopping vegetables, washing canning jars and setting up the pressure canner, it was already well past 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon.

Finally, at around 3:30 p.m. I was ready to lower my bean, vegetable, spice, and water filled jars into the canner, to begin the canning process.

I do not think I have tackled many projects with as much reading of manuals, watching of tutorials, and thinking, thinking, thinking about what I was going to do, and how I was going to do it.

And of course, as soon as I got the pressure canner going, I was sure I hadn’t set it up properly, that it would run dry on me, that the jars would break, that the range couldn’t handle the load…

Let me just say that it was a very, very tense 120 minutes, from the time I turned on the heat, until I turned it off again. I sat in the kitchen and watched that pressure canner like there was no tomorrow. I wondered that steam occasionally came from the rim rather than out the weighted release valve. I wondered if the roiling sounds inside the canner meant the jars were bursting. I wondered if it mattered that the weight did not rattle three times a minute if the canning process was compromised, even though the gage read a steady pressure. I wondered why the weight rattled almost constantly when I turned up the heat a smidgin. I just wondered about the whole thing, from beginning to end. I had a sore neck and a tension headache by the time I turned off the heat!

What I found out was that I had plenty of water left in the canner at the end of the process, and it would not have run dry, even if the weight had rattled a lot more than it did. The canner lost a surprisingly small amount of water! I found out that I really had needed to add vinegar to the water before closing up the canner, because the canning jars came out coated with minerals. I found out that the canning was successful, 100% successful, as every jar pinged as it sealed. I watched the contents of the jars “boil” for almost half an hour after I removed the jars from the canner.

And best of all… I found out that Attila LOVES the beans!

The next time I try pressure canning I won’t be nearly so nervous about it.

We managed to get out to Terra and Lares house this past week, and had a wonderful time, sitting on the verandah chatting, watching and occasionally helping Lares with the last wall of siding on the house, sharing a wonderful meal of hamburgers, and corn and potatoes that Terra picked in the garden just before putting them into the pot to cook. We ended the evening by watching a movie, Bad Words, which I really enjoyed.

Yesterday evening Terra and Lares came to ours for dinner, which was “holiday food”, french fries and chicken nuggets. Not really that bad considering we have been out of cooking mode for the entire holiday due to the window replacement project in the kitchen and dining room.

One of the things I love about our time at the little house in the city is being able to see Terra and Lares with some frequency.

It was Tink’s birthday last week, her fifth, so we called her using Skype. She is such a character. She told us she was having “frozen cupcakes” for her birthday. Attila and I both thought, “whatever turns your crank!” Luna explained to us later that “frozen” was a movie, and the cupcakes were part of the movie themed birthday party. We all had a good laugh about the frozen cupcakes.

Yesterday Attila spent the entire day just puttering. He touched up the paint on the exterior of the house, where it had peeled, apparently not quite dry when the we painted the house a few years ago. He replaced bits of rotting siding on the garage, and painted them. He cut and painted trim.

Today I decided that this year I am making chili sauce. I like my homemade chili sauce, and have found no affordable substitutes. We do buy a commercial chili sauce, but it is almost $5 a jar, and is thickened with a thickener, it tastes and feels like cornstarch to me, which isn’t real chili sauce as far as I am concerned.

I talked to Terra about a possible source for a half bushel of tomatoes, she did not know of one. Then I poked around the internet, searching, searching, searching. I found a farm just 5 km out of town, that sells all kinds of fall vegetables, including tomatoes. So I called ahead, then headed out to the farm for tomatoes. Goodness I had a good time. There were many kinds of squash, I bought three different varieties. There were freshly dug potatoes, I bought two baskets. There were hot peppers, I bought them all. There were green peppers, I bought three. I came home with a trunk full of vegetables!

Then I headed off to the hardware store and purchased another dozen 1L canning jars. I always buy North American made canning jars. In Canada that means BERNARDIN, a company I trust. Canadian Tire had another brand of canning jars, that I don’t think are made in North America. I won’t buy them. I will not buy products made outside of North America unless I have no other options. Today I had options, I bought Bernardin.

Another project I tackled after the kitchen chaos cleared, were curtains for the kitchen window. I spent an entire day sewing a set of simple kitchen curtains for the new kitchen window, installing the curtain hardware, and hanging the curtains. Again, I love them!

I have the same material to make new curtains for the dining room windows, but will tackle that project when I am visiting the little house in the city by myself. Then I will be able to pace myself, sewing over the course of a few days, instead of soldiering on and pushing the project through in one day, as I did with the kitchen window curtain.

Our evening began when Terra and Lares dropped by with another bunch of home grown celery. I had asked her earlier in the day if they had any more that they were wanting to give away. I need this bunch of celery for my chili sauce! After they left Attila and I got down to removing all the leaves, washing them, spreading them on cookie sheets, and drying them for future use as flavouring.

It was cold and raining today, not at all pleasant out there! We were warm enough in the house though, our little bit of cooking for lunch and dinner kept the house pleasantly warm.

Attila had his meltdown today, the last full day of our renovation vacation. He was determined to install the bathroom baseboard, but ran into a few issues caused by the uneven walls and floor in this old house. He felt very frustrated. Time to end the projects for this visit!!! I pointed out that he had accomplished an incredible number of projects with great success. An evening of fun was in order. So we got out the popcorn maker, found a BBC drama to watch on youtube, and sat ourselves down for a few hours of mindless entertainment.

Here is the dining room, new windows and table in place. The curtains are shower curtains, which are not ideal, but they work. Actually they work very, very well, with shower curtain hooks on the curtain rod the opening and closing of the curtains is easy indeed. The material for the new curtains is sitting in the living room beside the sewing machine, just waiting for my attention!
DiningroomEndOfRenoVac2014

And there ends our two weeks of renovation vacation, our fifth year of spending our entire vacation time renovating our little house in the city. I guess that would be a total of about ten weeks of renovating, not a lot of time, as renovations go. We usually have a good time and are happy in our work, just not every day, ahem, and the results are so very satisfying!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

10°C
Date: 8:00 PM EDT Saturday 13 September 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 9.6°C
Dewpoint: 7.1°C
Humidity: 84%
Wind: WNW 13 km/h

Quote

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.”
John Wilmot

I found this quote very amusing! I raised my girls as a single mother, and had to deal with childless authority figures in the academy while studying for my Honours BA, MA and PhD. I have to say, those childless, intellectual “experts” on childrearing were a baneful bunch! It is little wonder that I have theories about theories!