Taking Life One Step At A Time

Taking Life One Step At  A Time

Monday, July 27, 2015

How To Can Peaches

Summertime is the time for peaches! And if you are like many of the people in my family, you wish you could enjoy their fresh taste all year. Canning peaches is incredibly easy and allows you to get that delicious Georgia peach taste even in the dead of winter.

We typically buy a 25lb box of peaches (half a bushel) and get about 13 quarts of peaches out of it. Not a lot, but still enough for at least one jar a month.

To begin, make sure your peaches are soft, but not overripe. If the peaches are too tough, they'll be difficult to peel. If too soft, you'll run into the same problem. And instead of leaving them in the box to ripen, spread them out on a table. This will separate any that have small bruises from the rest of the bunch and will keep the good peaches from rotting.

Once your peaches are ready, simply peel the skins from the outside of your peaches. I typically use a sharp, small knife for this job. If the skins don't come off easily, you can dip the peaches in boiling water for 10-30 seconds and then immediately submerge them in ice water. The point is not to cook the peaches, but to loosen the skin.

After peeling your peaches, slice them in half and take out the pit. The easiest way to get the pit out is with a spoon. Gently loosen around the pit and it'll pop right out.

Place your peach halves pit side down in WIDE mouth jars. Using wide mouths allows you to fit peach halves in your jars. You may think that cutting the peaches into smaller slices will allow you to fit more, but after experimentation, we've found that you can fit the same amount whether you use quarters or halves.

Fill the jar with your peach halves.

Make a syrup of sugar and water. You'll want 1 cup sugar to every 3 cups water. It takes about a cup and half to fill each jar, so make plenty of this. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is melted. Do not boil this as you don't want your good syrup to boil down.

Pour the syrup into the jars over the peaches leaving 1/2" of headspace. Remove bubbles and place the lid and ring on the jar.

Process the jars at 5lb pressure for 10 minutes and then allow to cool completely.

Note: For reasons I can't explain, some jars do lose liquid during the pressure canning stage. These jars are still fine to store so long as the seal is good. If you store the jars for several years, you may find some browning on the top peaches. Just remove those peaches and eat the ones underneath. But really, these peaches aren't going to last several years! You'll have eaten them long before that!!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Easy Gardening Hack to Deter Pests

We have gardens. And we have an entire clan of rabbits living in our yard. For years we've lost the battle of the bunnies. But this year we finally got smart and discovered a great way to keep them out of our plants.

Last year we put in several garden boxes. These helped by raising our beds of beans, broccoli, and carrots, but they just aren't quite high enough to fully keep the rabbits out. We've put up fencing - even RABBIT fencing - and still those little stinkers get into our garden.

This year we tried a new method born of desperation. My husband purchased a roll of shrink wrap - the kind used to wrap dressers and such when you are moving. It can be found pretty cheaply at most hardware stores. He then placed regular garden fencing posts at each corner of our raised beds. He then carefully wrapped the box in several layers of shrink wrap. By bringing the wrap all the way to the ground it prevents little pests from getting into the box underneath the wraps. And because of the posts at each corner, the wrap can go as high as you need it to. Ours ended up a little over knee high.

You know what? It works!! We'll now do this every year. Not only have we kept the bunnies out but also the chipmunks, neighbor dogs, and stray kittens that we've previously found in our gardens. The sun and rain still get into the box from above. And given that we live in a colder climate, the wraps keep just enough moisture and warmth in the boxes to provide a perfect growing environment for young plants.

It's midsummer now and our garden boxes are flourishing. We still have our wraps on. Wind and rain have not torn them off. And we're discovering the extra bonus that it keeps our plants from spilling over the sides of the boxes where they get trampled by the busy feet of children helping with garden chores.

Go ahead and give it a try! I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, July 17, 2015

DIY Laundry Detergent

For over a year now we've been making our own laundry detergent. With such a huge family the cost of detergent was eating huge chunks out of our monthly grocery budget. This recipe works great in both cold and hot water and does an excellent job of cleaning clothes well - even little boy clothes! It's super economical - only about $25 or less and lasts our family of 8 for six months. So if you've got a family smaller than that and don't have to do two loads of laundry a day, it'll last even longer!

I have found all of the supplies at WalMart in the laundry aisle. You'd likely be able to find them at your local grocery store or possibly even the hardware store. Once you've got your ingredients it only takes about a half hour to put together and then you're set!


1 4lb 12oz box of Borax
1 4lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
1 55oz box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
3 bars of Fels-Naptha Soap
2 small containers of Oxy Clean (3 lbs each)
Optional: laundry crystals for scent (I don't use these)

Grate the bars of Fels-Naptha soap. I use my food processor for this and it works quickly and efficiently.

Combine all ingredients in a large bucket and mix well. I use my hands to mix it. It does take some arm strength. You could also use a large spoon.

Use one of the scoops that comes with the oxy clean (usually about 1-2 Tbs - depending on the size and soil amount in your laundry) per load.

Tip: I have eliminated dryer sheets and fabric softener by making my own wool dryer balls. Simply get some washed wool and use a felting tool to make a large ball. Two or three of these balls used together in the dryer will remove static, eliminate the need for fabric softener, and will noticeably cut your drying time.