Archive for June, 2012

A Night of Southwest Virginia Culture

We enjoy bluegrass music. This year for our vacation we decided to take a road trip to southwest Virginia and visit the world famous Floyd Country Store.

This store intrigues us. It is a true country store in the middle of a rural town out in the middle of nowhere,  25 miles from  interstate and the fair-size town of Christiansburg.

The store is stocked with interesting and unique gadgets, household giftware, trinkets, old-time natural lotions & ointments, barrels of candy, games, clothes, local artisan walking canes, brooms, and hundreds of bluegrass CD’s of local and world renown artists.

Across the back of the store is a stage.  Every Friday afternoon at 4  they wheel the gondola’s of merchandise into a side room and set up 150 plus chairs in the store.  A thoughtful and warm touch to each metal chair is a pillow, each one a different color and style.

Anticipation builds as the afternoon wanes.  People wander around the store,  sit on chairs on the front porch catching up on the local gossip, lick  ice-cream cones, or fare on local barbecue pork sandwiches available for sale at the cafe within the store.  The staff is friendly and eager to talk about their unique history. They do not start selling tickets until 4:45. Once you get your ticket and a sticker for the front of your shirt,  you may claim a seat with a hat, a napkin with your name scribbled on it or any other object of choice.

Outside informal groups of musicians gather for impromptu jam sessions.  Some evenings there are as many as twelve groups scattered around the area.  Friday evening there were 3 groups braving the heat. People mill around, inside and out, listening to the various groups.

At 6:00 the scheduled program inside begins. The first hour is always a gospel/bluegrass group and the evening is opened with prayer.  Old time favorites such as “I’ll Fly Away”, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Long Black Train” are mixed with lesser known selections.

The Allegheny Strings

The next group plays toe-tapping, foot-stumping, cloggin’ bluegrass dance music intermixed with slower waltzing tunes. More people gather and the crowd comes alive. The dance floor bounces with smiling, bouncing cloggers. I told Gene it makes me want to learn to clog!

The Snow Creek Old Time Band

Short video music clip

The last group, the Round Peak Ramblers, the most professional of the groups, rocked the store with banjo and fiddle playing.  The selection is Bluegrass/Folk/Americana or as the locals say “Mountain” music. Even though the evening was hot and a severe storm brewed outside, the cloggers stumped and danced the evening away.  It was fun to watch a little boy, no more than 6 years old,  pound the floor in perfect beat.  His motto had to be “louder is better”.  We watched a mother teach her adolescence daughter to dance and several regular locals were intensely dedicated southwest Virginia cloggers.

Gene struck up a conversation with one of the managers of the store and gathered lots of interesting tidbits about local culture and history.  He asked the guy what they do with “country music”.  The guy was a loss for words and barely knew how to answer him.  Country and western music just does not exist in the hills of southeast Virginia!

It was a fun evening and almost a step-back in time. We enjoyed talking to various people,  from locals to couples from Louisiana and Toronto, Canada who had come for the experience.  A couple from England won the door prize of coming the furthest.   I had to think of the song from “The Sound of Music”…”the hills are alive with the sound of music“. Southwest Virginia culture is unique and the music stirs the soul. It was an evening we won’t forget.

Note:  This fall (September 9) we will have our 4th annual evening of bluegrass/gospel sponsored by our church on our front lawn.  Visit our church web site www.pmchurch.net  for more information about “Evening on the Lawn”.  Everyone is invited. This year “Mark Templeton and Pocket Change” will be giving the program.

How to Freeze Sweet Corn

Today I froze 22 pints of sweet corn. So here is another “how-to”!

Sweet corn is the one thing Gene helps me with.  He usually pulls it and helps me shuck. Once we get it to the house he disappears fast! But that is ok. I figure at this point I am half done!  Here we are in action….Sweet corn is ready to pick when the tassel on the end of the ear is dark brown and the ear drops slightly away from the stalk.

Practice makes perfect and you will soon master the art. As you are learning you can pull the shuck (leaves) covering the ear back just enough to see. But remember you are opening the ear for bugs and worms.

After the corn is pulled, we find a spot in the shade and shuck the ears.

Then we toss  the shucks over the fence to the curious cows to eat. They love it and it doesn’t take them long to figure out that they are getting a special treat.

They always say “run to the house” with the corn. The point of this statement is that you want to do sweet corn as fast as you can to retain optimum flavor and freshness.

I wash the corn under running water at the laundry sink, rubbing each ear to remove the remaining silk and trim off any wormy spots. I stack the corn on trays and it is ready to begin the last step of the process. When I get to this point I figure I am half done.

Freezing sweet corn is easy and does not require many utensils. I use a sharp knife, tongs for removing the corn from the hot water, a large spoon for filling my freezer boxes and a corn cutter.

I put corn into a pot of boiling water and bring it back to a boil for about 1 minute.  My pot holds 10-15 ears, depending on the size of the ears.

I remove the corn with the tongs and put into a dishpan of water in the sink.

After cooling in this water a few minutes, I transfer the ears to the other side of the sink into ice water.  The reason I use tap water is simply to cool the corn some before putting into the ice water. It helps to save the ice.

After the corn has cooled several minutes I put it on a tray and it is ready to cut off the cob.

My large roasting pan is perfect for my corn cutter. I quickly run the corn over the blade, removing the corn from the cob.  This handy tool makes cutting corn sooooooooooooo easy!

You can set the blade to “cream” the corn, cut it off  “whole” kernel or my preference a mix of the two.

Then I spoon it into freezer boxes or freezer ziplock bags. I write the year on the top of the lids and it is ready for the freezer.

Today I picked  three 5-gallon buckets of  corn and it yielded 22 pints plus we had corn on the cob for supper.

If you prefer you can freeze the ears whole after it is blanched and cooled. I do not like to do this as it takes up unnecessary space in the freezer.

The cobs I toss into a 5-gallon bucket and take back to the garden where I will till them back into the soil, returning nutrients  and natural humus back to the soil.

As you can see the bucket is sitting on a chair to make it an easier height. I also put a towels over the chair and table as it makes clean up so much easier. Corn does splatter and it is sticky. One helpful hint for those of you who do not wash dirty dishes immediately. Do your dishes as soon as you are done or you will have twice the work on your hands.

*****

We sell corn cutters in our store -Hertzler Farm and Feed.  You may order a cutter by calling Hertzlers at 804-598-4021

Wood is $9.99 (plus shipping)

Stainless Steel is $12.99 (plus shipping) -This is my favorite and you can put it in the dishwasher.

*****

For more information on planting and growing corn check out my website Corn.htm

How to Can Snaps – Green Beans

The other day someone asked me again… how do you can? Is it hard? What equipment do I have to have? What vegetables do I can versus freeze?

Canning is very satisfying. It makes me feel like the Proverbs woman…”She gets up while it is still dark and provides food for her family…” (Proverbs 31:15a). The end result is food… quality, good food is put away and preserved for eating during the winter months and I did it!!!

I like to can snaps, tomatoes, peaches, jelly, pickles, tomato juice, meat (chicken and turkey) and applesauce. I prefer to freeze peas, okra, corn, broccoli, berries, edamame (soys), and limas.

I decided to picture document the process so even the novice can understand.

There are two kinds of pressure canners. One uses a gauge (my favorite) and the other jingles.  I will show you both.  Both are easy and safe to use.  You do not need to be afraid of a pressure canner.  If you follow directions, they are very safe. The one thing you DO NOT want to do is walk away from your canner and forget it or you may end up with a hole in your ceiling.  Always set a timer and if you need to leave the kitchen for a few minutes, take the timer with you. Even you go to the office to check fb-take the timer. It will remind you that you need to check your canner every few minutes.  It is too easy to let time slip away or to forget.

My main canner uses a gauge. It has a gauge with the pounds of pressure and you adjust the temperature to keep the gauge at the setting you need.  The kind that jingles has a weight with difference holes for the pounds of pressure.  When the pressure in the canner gets to the desired pressure, it jingles, releasing some pressure from the canner to keep it at the proper setting.

First, pick your beans. It is best to do it early in the morning before the sun is hot. The beans will be fresher, crisper, and of better quality. Then find yourself a cool place to sit and break the stem end and bottom pointed end off your beans. If there are any bug spots take a knife and remove them. Snap them into 2-3 pieces or you may leave them whole.

Wash them at least twice. I put water in the sink and briskly stir them around. You want your water to be clean when you are done.

Take your finger and feel the top edge of the jar.  It should be smooth.  Make sure there are not rough spots or chips on the glass. If it is, the jar will not seal properly.

I fill clean jars with beans.  You can heat the beans first but they are harder to work with and the only thing you gain is a few more beans in the jar.

You do not want to overfill the jar. The bottom lip at the neck of the jar is your fill line.

Add 1 tsp. of salt per quart (1/2 tsp. per pint) and fill to the bottom lip with boiling water. Do not overfill or the jars will not seal.

Heat the lids in boiling water and put on top of the jar, making sure the top of the jar is clean and free of any salt or food.

Add the ring and tighten.

Put 2 quarts of water in the pressure canner.

Add 1 tsp. cream of tarter to the water. This keeps the aluminium inside of the canner looking bright instead of dull and off color.

Set the jars into the canner.  My canner holds 7 quarts or 10 pints.

Put on the lid.

As you can see my yellow canner dates me to the early 70’s when yellow stoves and refrigerators were popular!  It is now an antique!!!

Heat on high until you see steam coming out of the vent hole of the lid.

Put the weight on the vent hole.

Heat on high until the gauge reaches the desired pounds of pressure.  It takes approx. 1 minute to go up one pound of pressure.  For a quart of snaps,  you want 10 lbs. for 25 minutes.  Start timing when it reaches 10 lbs. I lower my heat to medium-high and that keeps the guage at 10 lbs.

After 25 minutes turn off the heat.  When the gauge drops back to zero, take a potholder and remove the weight from the vent.  Open the lid and remove the jars.  I put them on a towel on the counter to cool.

I have a small pressure cooker that jingles that I use for pints.

I had 1 extra pint of beans  so I used this canner for it.  It will hold 4 pints total.

Since I only had 1 pint I set it in the middle and put the lid on. I put 1 pint of water and 1/2 tsp. cream of tarter in this canner.

When it started to release steam out of the center value I put the weight on the vent at 10 lbs. pressure.

Pints are processed at 10 lbs. pressure for 20 minutes.

There is a little vent hole on the lid that seals automatically and then when the proper pressure is achieved the value jingles. I turn the heat to medium-high. You want it to jingle several times a minute. Not constantly and not never.

When 20 minutes is up, turn off the heat and let the canner cool.  After  15-20 minutes take a potholder and gently lift the weight off the value. If steam starts to come out, wait  a little longer until the pressure is totally gone.  Open the canner and remove the jars. I set them on a towel to cool.

Within minutes you will hear the lids “pop” as they seal. This is good and music to the ears!  The center of the lid will go go down slightly. Let cool on the counter overnight.   Remove the rings-the jars will stay sealed and put away in your basement or pantry.

If you have a jar that does not seal for some reason, you can either recan it or eat it.  When you press your finger on the center of the lid and it buckles-has a bubble in it- you will know it did not seal.  There can be several reasons for this: the jar was underfilled, overfilled, the lid not tighten properly, food on the lip of the jar or the lip of the jar has a rough edge. And sometimes you just don’t know!

There, I showed you how to do it!  Now it is your turn and you can do it  too.

For information on planting and growing snaps visit the “gardening” section on my web page http://www.hffinc.com/Beans.htm

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Note: I do sell pressure canners. Call me for pricing at 804-598-4021 or email hffinc@i-c.net

Prices listed below are for the 2012 season only.

*****

Pressure Gauge Style

Presto Pressure Cooker-Canner

National Presto Industries Inc
23 qt. ( $139.95) and 16 qt. ($128.95)  size available.

  • Preserve vegetables, fruits, meats and fish wit confidence in Presto pressure canners.
  • Easy to read dial gauge ensures accurate pressure control.
  • Air vent/cover lock allows pressure to build only when the cover is closed properly.
  • Also double as water bath canners for preserving fruits, jams, jellies, pickles and salsas.

****

Jingle Style

Mirro 16Qt Aluminum Pressure Cooker Canner

T-Fal WearEver
 ($109.95)

  • Quick even heating.
  • Rust proof and dishwasher safe.
  • Polished heavy gauge aluminum construction.
*****
T-Fal WearEver
Two sizes available:

  • ($119.95) 22 qt size will hold 30 1/2 pint, 16 reg pint, 14 wide mouth, and 5 quart jars.
  • ($79.95) 8 qt size will hold 4 pints

  • Exclusive threaded escape valve, impossible to misplace.
  • Adjustable pressure – 5, 10 or 15 lbs.
  • Lower cooking time.
  • Fully detailed instruction manual provided.
  • Does not open while there is pressure inside.
  • UL approved.

June on the Farm

I love June and especially this year. It has been absolutely gorgeous and the weather has been so refreshing and …well perfect.

I thought I would share some pictures I have taken around the farm this month. Some people call it the “dog-days of summer”.  I call it the “flower days”.  Come July-I may change my mind!!!  Enjoy!

Welcome to Hertzlers!

Bumblebees and honeybees love this tree.

Farm work…planting corn, making hay.

And well….maybe there is a dog!

Wildflowers abound…love thistle flowers-but not the thistle!

Hertzlers at the Powhatan Farmers Market.

My garden is doing so well this year.

Onions going to seed…as pretty as any flower.

Better Boy tomatoes.

Blue Lake Bush Beans (on left) and Fordhook Limas (on right)

Incredible sweet corn will soon be ready.

Corn Beans and Blue Lake Pole.

Asparagus is over and going to seed.

Farm critters!

Mama Cow and calf.

A mama and her twins.

Some of the beef herd.

The big bull-a contented sire!

Ducks

A tree full of nasty buzzards-there were several dozen!

Baby chicks hatching in the incubator.  I crossed Salmon Faverolles with a Delaware Rooster. Can’t wait to see what they are like. I love the Salmon Faverolles except that they lay a small egg. I want a big egg!! I am trying to see if I can keep their stunning appearance (muffs, feathers on feet and buff coloring) and improve the egg size.

These are the parents.

The horses at the stable.

June flowers.

Daylillies

Roses…. a blaze of glory and a touch of heaven.

Daisys

A summer faithful-Geraniums. They love the heat and dry weather.

I forget what these are called. (Someone can help me)

 Elegant, graceful Hostas.

Rose of Sharon Shrub. We used to make dolls out of these flowers.

And my absolute-top of the list-favorite….the stunning Evening Primrose.

Each evening at 8:30-8:45 they open before your amazed eyes. Yes, you can actually watch them unfold. The hummingbird moths love them. I have two kinds that come. One has a short beak and looks like a moth. The other looks like a moth but has a long dangling beak. He helicopters over the bud and inserts his beak deep into the flower. Never misses.

The moths with the short beak nuzzle their noses deep into the flower.

Supper

Barbecue chicken on the grill.

And recreation..Gene pitches for the church softball team.

Stunning sky and clouds.

Oh, Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?[c]

You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e]
and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their[g] feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalms 8 (NIV)

The Parable of the Lost Lamb

Based on Luke 15:1-7.

There was a shepherd who had 100 sheep. He was a good shepherd as he loved his flock, knew each one by name and got great satisfaction in taking care of their needs. Each day as he led his flock out to pasture he would talk to them and whistle a merry tune.

There was one little lamb that captured the shepherd’s heart in a special way. He was different from the rest of the flock. He had brown spots on his wool and was an adventuresome little fellow, full of spunk. One moment he would snuggle against the shepherd’s leg and the next he’d be scampering off by himself to the far-reaches of the flock. The shepherd would scold and fuss at the little lamb for venturing from his fretting mother and warn him of the unseen dangers that lurked in the shadows, but the lure of adventure seemed too strong to resist. Often he would have to send his constant companion, the herd dog, off to bring the lamb back to the flock.

But the little lamb did not seem to heed the shepherd’s warnings or notice the danger. Blissfully he frolicked in the meadow and kicked his heels in the breeze. Each day he would venture further and further and sometimes strayed out of the protective eye of the shepherd. Often he’d limp back with his wool full of briars, a scratch on his nose and a bruise on his leg. Tenderly the shepherd nurtured and bandaged each wound while lovingly pleading with the little lamb to be more careful and stay with the flock.

Each night as the shepherd guided his flock home he would sing beloved hymns of praise to the One True Shepherd to whose care he belonged. And each night as the sheep went into the protection of the fold, he stood at the door counting each one…95-96-97-98-99. But this night, one was missing. The shepherd noticed the restless, bleating mother and instinctively knew who was missing. Kneeling beside the bleating mother’s head the shepherd whispered, “I will go and find your boy.”

With a heavy heart the shepherd gathered his staff, search light, blanket, knife, and bottle of oil. Summoning his companion dog with a quick whistle, he locked the door to secure the fold and started off into the dark, foreboding night knowing that a helpless lamb is no match for stalking creatures of prey. The shepherd knew it was going to be a long night for they had traveled many miles that day looking for green pasture and fresh water. He racked his brain to no avail trying to remember when he last saw the little lamb.

The dog knew the routine and immediately set off on a run as he sniffed the ground. For many miles the shepherd and his dog searched and called for the little lamb. In the distance they heard the cry of a howling wolf and overhead a screech owl searching for his evening meal. Often they paused in silence, listening for any sound of a lamb in distress or victorious creatures fighting over their prized catch. At night the terrain seemed more rocky, rough and dangerous. The shepherd had a keen sense for the ways of the wild and his search led him away from the lush meadow grass into the valleys and ravines.

Suddenly the scream of a bobcat in a nearby tree pierced the stillness of the night and froze them in their tracks. Chills ran up and down the shepherd’s spine and the hair on his arms stood on end as the dog yelped and pointed his nose to the wind. The sudden rustle of leaves and snapping of twigs alerted the shepherd that a cat had just fled into the emptiness of the dark night. Suddenly the dog and shepherd heard the weak, pitiful bleat of a lamb in distress. The shepherd followed the dog’s leading and soon found the lamb tangled in a vine at the bottom of a steep cliff. Carefully the shepherd worked his way down the slippery cliff, holding on to small bushes until he reached the trembling, cold lamb. The shepherd talked softly as he reached into the thicket and freed the lamb from his bondage. Tenderly he wrapped him in a blanket sling and secured him to his shoulder for the long trek back home. The exhausted shepherd’s heart was light as he walked home. He had found his lost lamb.

Written December 10, 2008

One of those days

Yesterday and the day before were not fun. They were what you call “one of those days”! We hoped tomorrow would be better and it wasn’t. Let’s see, how many things can go wrong in one day.

Before 8 AM Tuesday everything was lovely!!!! But then we discovered the forklift would not start. The forklift has to run, it does the job of 10 men! We had trucks to load, deliveries to make and feed that we needed to get out of the warehouse. After working on it for several hours Gene finally called the forklift repair man who came out and got it fixed. In the meantime they limped by using the forks on the front of the tractor. We were able to scrap by but weren’t able to get into the warehouse as the tractor is too big.

In the midst of that problem I notice the water pressure in the house was tremendous and then a little later it was very low. This is not a good thing. After going on a search and checking all the water lines we discovered a blown out pipe by the mobile home. Water was running down the hill and bubbling out of the ground. Fixing a water pipe underneath a trailer is not Gene’s idea of fun but finally after several hours he had it fixed. During the day several water lines popped apart in my chicken houses from the pressure. Hopefully I now have them all fixed.

At supper time I went to my freezer room and discovered lots of water on the floor. Apparently the high pressure on the lines caused water to come out of the bottom of the hot water heater. At least I now have a clean floor!

On Wednesday our main delivery truck broke down. Leon was out on a delivery but was able to make it back home. We ended up having to get a tow truck to take it to the repair shop. They found a wire loose to a pump and later called for us to come get the truck but when we got there, the truck would not start. Now they think there is a stuck value. We finally were able to catch up on deliveries using the pickup and gooseneck trailer.

Later in the day I noticed the water pressure was low again. After searching, we found that the repair job that Gene had done yesterday had broken apart again! Gene also replace the pressure value on the tank as it appears it is sticking and allowing too much pressure on the lines.

Today-it was much better. Except for a flat tire that had to be fixed twice and a dear friend who was 90 years old dying, it was a good day. Sometimes, you just have “one of those days!”

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