Friday, October 30, 2015

Christmas Cookie Mason Jar Gifts

It's getting close to that time of year again! I used to start buying Christmas gifts in the summer, but I tend to put it off much longer these days. I've always thought the best gifts are the ones you make yourself. Last year I made everyone Christmas Cookie Mason Jar Gifts.

DIY cookie mason jar gifts for Christmas 

I started selling these in my shop last year due to the many requests I had over the years to develop this product. It's costly to buy pre-made cookie jars since the shipping is so high. And while it's more fun to make your own jars, many people aren't able to create the custom labels and hang tags. So I made these DIY cookie jar kits.

Each DIY Kit in my shop includes a cookie recipe and materials to make 12 of your own quart mason jar gifts. You get:
1 - Cookie recipe card with instructions on how to layer ingredients in jar
12 - 6" Christmas cloth toppers
12 - 2.5" round cookie labels for front of jars
12- gift hang tags with baking directions
12 - pre-cut ribbons
1 - shopping list for all the ingredients you need to purchase.

There are 4 cookie recipes to choose from: Candy Chip, Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, and Oatmeal.

Cookie jars are an easy & tasty present
Each set includes decorations for 12 quart mason jars.

Do you want to make mason jar gifts using your own cookie recipe? No problem! I can do custom jar decorations with your baking directions and recipe name on the tags and labels. Custom mason jar gift sets also include cloth toppers and ribbons.

A Double Chocolate Brownie recipe is also available for pint jars.

All of the cookie recipes are fantastic. The peanut butter recipe is probably my favorite because it calls for triple peanuts (peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut butter chips).  The brownie recipe is rich and dense but not overly sweet. These are great gifts for kids to make for grandparents and teachers too!

Friday, October 16, 2015

CanningCrafts in the Press!

There's a short writeup about CanningCrafts in the Modern Farmer Fall 2015 magazine. This is my first press mention, so it's exciting. They did a nice photoshoot showing my Grow What You Eat canning jar label. I have a series of Victory Garden labels inspired by the art from WWII.

Paws off, this issue belongs to Tuna Fish Joe!

I started designing my own canning labels when I couldn't find anything nice to dress up my salsa jar gifts. My husband told me to just write on the lids with a Sharpie, but I just couldn't do that! I just had too many people to impress with my salsa and art skills. I think my husband had ulterior motives too...he loves my salsa and just wanted to keep it all for himself.

My awesome Dad said I should sell my labels since there would be other canners out there in need of them. So I opened up my Etsy shop with a whopping 5 label designs. My product offering has now ballooned to over 300 items since I started in 2010. I'm always refining and adding new mason jar labels to my shop.

If anyone has any specific requests for label designs, shoot me a message or add it in the comments below.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Garden 2015: Trash Can Potatoes FAIL!

Potatoes...we could eat them for every meal. We like them best roasted with rosemary and just a sprinkle of salt. Sometimes I roast the potatoes with carrots and garlic to make this amazing potato soup.

Planting potatoes in my garden began to seem like a necessity considering how many we eat. Last year we got quite a few from our garden. This year, well, not nearly as many. I planted two different varieties: High Mowing Organic Rose Finn Fingerling Potatoes and Organic German Butterball Potato. I decided to grow the Fingerlings in a trash can after I read how you could get 100 pounds of spuds. Supposedly the potatoes grow upwards as you add layers of dirt to plant growth, eventually filling the can with plenty of potatoes.

Supposedly. I'm not sure what went wrong. I filled the can with soil every 6 inches of plant growth, but it was mostly barren of potatoes. The very top of the can had tiny little spuds. They're so small they'll need to be roasted with the skin on, which will be tasty for sure. I just wish there were more of them.

Then there was over 2 feet of empty dirt. It was really compacted dirt, perhaps the result of too much rain this summer. Maybe the potatoes had a rough time growing in the harder dirt???

Several of the potatoes had weird little knobby bits on them. I should photograph them for one of those "Play with your food" style calendars.

The very bottom of the can had a few bigger potatoes. I barely got more potatoes out of the can than what I planted in it. This was disappointing considering how pricey the organic seed potatoes were. I could've purchased 50 pounds of potatoes from the produce aisle compared to what I paid for the seed potatoes.

I started with 6 Fingerling seed potatoes in the bottom of the can. 

And my final yield was pretty skimpy.

I forgot to take photos of the High Mowing potatoes that I planted in the garden. They didn't perform as well as the variety I planted last year, but they did a heck of a lot better than the trash can potatoes. I had one volunteer plant from a potato I missed in last year's garden that performed the best of all of the plants. It yielded eight huge potatoes about the size of my hand. All of the organic potato plants produced much smaller spuds and overall not as many.

So I guess I'll file the Trash Can Potato test under "Possible Fail." I don't know if it failed because of too much rain, the variety of potato, or something else. Maybe I'll try it again next year with a different potato variety.

Friday, September 18, 2015

My Sister's Pigs are HUGE

My sister's pigs look enormous and disgusting. But I'm sure once all the mud gets washed off that they'll be delicious :) They have four hogs that have been ready for a little while except they've had to worm them a few times. I'm not sure on all the specifics, but I guess you can't eat a pig if you've given them worm meds. But according to a few people I know, you can still eat a pig if it has worms. Maybe there's just the ewww factor of eating an animal with worms? 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Kraft Paper Rubber Stamp Canning Jar Labels

I started a new series of rubber stamp kraft paper canning jar labels. They have a really rustic, rough look to them. I'll slowly be adding more fruit and vegetable canning labels to my shop in this style. So far I have a blank and customizable honey label, pickles, apples, strawberry, and a fully customizable label where you can pick your rubber stamp color and add your own custom text.

Customizable Honey Bottle label 
Personalized Honey Bottle and jar labels can have your name, beehive, location or more!
Blank rubber stamp bee kraft paper canning label 

The blank apple rubber stamp label can have your contents handwritten.
Applesauce and Apple Butter canning labels are also available.

Fully personalized canning jar labels. Choose your color, choose your text! 
You can have the date pre-printed or leave it blank for handwriting.

Pickle kraft paper canning labels can be printed for many varieties!

The pickle label can be purchased blank so you can handwrite your contents and date. 

Blank Strawberry kraft paper canning jar labels. 

Strawberry Jam kraft paper jar labels.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Garden 2015: WooHoo! Tomatoes & Spinach

This has definitely been the worst garden I've ever had. My green beans were torn apart by rodents, and I only harvested about 1.5 gallon bags of beans compared to probably 10 gallons in past years. We set traps out and caught 3 RATS! I never thought I'd have rats in the garden. I'm guessing they must've gotten relocated during our 2 week rain spell when the storm sewers were overflowing. The traps haven't been set off in nearly a week, so I'm hopeful they're all gone.

Something, probably a raccoon, started to eat my tomatoes. I was hesitant to hook up my electric fence because I didn't want my new dog to get zapped. I know it's a small static electricity shock, but still, I didn't want to freak him out. BUT once I had 4 of my Black Krim tomatoes gnawed on, I decided to give my electric fence another go and hope for the best.

I had poor results with the electric fence in the past. In all fairness, the problem could be that the location of my garden is next to trees and fences where critters can just hop on down into it. One thing I know that the fence works on is poor little doggies. Tuna Fish Joe got shocked twice and freaked out, so I decided to switch it off again because he seemed afraid to even go out into the back yard.

The good news is that I'm at least getting a few tomatoes. Some of the plants are browning, so I don't know that I'll get many more. The Black Krim tomatoes that I've picked are perfect and beautiful. I've always had good success with this variety and also the Amish Paste.

Black Krim Tomato 
Black Krim Tomato looks interesting when sliced.

Black Krim and Amish Paste Tomatoes 

The ornamental spinach is called Malabar Spinach. I believe it's supposed to flower at some point. Since the leaves get thicker, it's best to eat them raw when they're small and young. I've been tearing up the larger leaves and sautéing them in bacon grease and frying them with eggs most mornings. I'm kinda healthy like that.

Ornamental & edible climbing spinach. 

Tuna Fish Joe was a fan of the green beans and carrots in my garden,
but not the electric fence!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Garden 2015: Rotten green beans and... RATS! oh my

I've been facing a major dilemma in my garden for the past few weeks. RATS. I'm not sure how or why a family of rats (yes, rats, not field mice) has decided to make a home in my raised garden bed. I've seen tiny field mice from time to time, but not rats. I saw a few holes dug in the garden and initially thought they were from squirrels digging around. But then I noticed that they weren't holes, they were actually tunnels. Then my husband saw what he swore was a rat in the garden.

So we set our trap. Not a kill trap, but a cage trap for live animals. I had no plans to catch and release a rat, but it's all I had at the time, and I was in a panic to get rid of a rodent. We tried and failed to catch a groundhog in this cage years ago. I would've release Hermie the groundhog had I caught him, but alas, he was not meant to be caught.

So the next morning I discovered that we had caught a rat! Now what? My dad scolded me and said you should only set kill traps for rats. Releasing one was out of the question, although he was so CUTE, all 8 disgusting inches of him.  Getting bitten by one was to be avoided, naturally. My sister is relentless about killing rodents, and she told me to smash it with a shovel or hammer, or stab it with a knife through the cage... these are all ways she's terminated rodents. Just this morning I received an email from her titled "Death by Flashlight" where she went into detail about the latest way she killed a tiny innocent mouse.

I didn't want to release and smash him or stab him through the cage. So I threw the cage in my rain barrel and drowned him. I'm not sure if that was a cowardly thing to do or not. All I know is that I cried and apologized to him the whole time. Yes, I know it's a rat...they are ichorrible killing it. My husband comforted me when I sent him to his liquid demise. I asked him why he didn't "man up" and do the deed for me. He replied, "Because you're the cold-blooded one." How nice.

But now that I got rid of one, I'm ready to move on to more. So yes, I guess I am cold blooded. I saw a FAMILY of rats running around the garden this morning. I yanked up all the green beans since they were rotting, either because of all the rain we've had or because of rats digging around the roots. Now I need to permanently evict them because I think there's time to plant a second batch of beans.

As cute as the rat was, I opted to not take a photo of him in the cage. I guess that was because I knew what I was about to do to him and would feel guilty about it. But maybe if I catch the rest of the family, I'll be cold blooded enough to take a few snapshots. We'll see.

Black Krim Tomato plants are loaded, but they are starting to yellow some.
I've been saving eggshells to add around the plants for a while.
Kale has been pecked by birds or bugs.
Beans were rotting, maybe from too much rain, or maybe because of the rats.

I've planted spinach in my garden many times and it's always been a failure. Most of the time it didn't germinate. The one time it did germinate, it only grew an inch or so before it died. I usually plant morning glory vine in my trellis pot, but I read that it was dangerous for dogs. So since we got a new pup, that was out of the question. I saw a pack of Climbing Spinach which is ornamental AND edible. So I thought I would give it a go. And it's growing pretty darn well right now. We've eaten it raw a few times, but the leaves are a bit thick. Steaming and sauteing them seems to work much better.

Climbing Spinach... it's a little tougher to eat raw, but still tastes good.
I found many half eaten green beans. 
Yanked all the beans... there are a lot of tunnels & holes.
Now I have a poison trap and a cage.