Friday, May 22, 2015

Garden 2015: Tomatoes and Potatoes, oh my

I have a few green things in my garden, yea! I got a really late start on lettuce this year, but I was surprised to see some green onions coming up in the lettuce patch already. I forgot that I put a few in last fall. Two of my Swiss Chard plants came back up, but they were pretty beaten up looking, so all that's left now are the stems which could still be used for stir fry or soup.

Lettuce & surprise green onions
I setup a trash can to plant potatoes in as I discussed previously in this post. I'm not sure how many seasons this plastic can will last since it's got to be the cheapest plastic can ever made. It's pretty thin plastic, but at least it's holding up so far. I drilled drainage holes all over the bottom and about 6" up on the bottom sides. Since I don't really have patio space for the can, I dug out a big hole in my raised garden bed to set the can in. Then I used the soil mixed with compost, vermiculite, and peat moss to fill the can. I have extra soil in my wheelbarrow that will get added to the can with every 6" of plant growth. In theory the potatoes will grow upwards and fill the can with produce. We'll see about that.

High Mowing Organic Rose Finn Fingerling Potato
Organic German Butterball Potato
The trash can has High Mowing Organic Rose Finn Fingerling Potatoes growing in it now. I also planted Organic German Butterball Potato outside in the raised bed just in case the trash can potato thing doesn't pan out.

Organic German Butterball Potatoes... looking good so far! 
High Mowing Organic Rose Finn Fingerling Potato
and what looks like a ton of volunteer tomatoes.

The tomatoes that I started indoors are about 7" tall now. They've been outside hardening this week, so I'll be transplanting them in the garden very soon. I planted Amish Paste and Black Krim Tomatoes. I had a few extra plants, so I gave a Krim to my sister-in-law to try out. Some folks seem skeptical of black tomatoes, but I feel like I've raved about this variety a ton. It's one of my favorite tomatoes for eating. The paste tomatoes are typically what I use for my salsa.

Our new doggie Tuna Fish Joe loves to smell the tomato plants!

A few other things are coming up now too: Kale, Swiss Chard, Lettuce, & Carrots. I don't think my parsnips germinated again this year which is a shame because I LOVE parsnips.
Kale, my husband's arch nemesis... that & sweet potatoes.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Rustic kraft paper mason canning jar labels

I'm slowly adding some of my most popular vintage canning jar labels onto Kraft paper. Here are a few new mason canning jar labels.

Some families like to preserve together!
So you can choose either "I put up" or "WE put up" for this label.
Choose from fruit or vegetable!
Rustic cottage chic Enjoy kraft paper canning jar label
Custom honey jar and bottle stickers can be customized
with your name, contact info, & more!

Honey Bee Kraft paper bottle and jar labels
Eat your Veggies! Eat your fruit!
BTW, this cool chic is an illustration of yours truly :)
Can it dammit! Hey hey,  potty mouth.
My sister thought this was funny. And who am I to say it isn't?
What's in your jar? Label it in style with these custom kraft paper stickers.
You can add a pre-printed date or leave it blank to handwrite it in.
I stopped counting how many moonshine labels I've done for folks.
It's on the list of things I never thought I'd be doing.
I will never eat these beets. This is my go to jar for canning label photos.
It looks great with kraft paper labels :)
Chevron kraft paper mason jar labels.
Burst kraft paper canning jar stickers.
These Blank kraft paper jar labels have plenty of room for handwriting!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Oink Oink

They were small...
and now they are large!

My sister is becoming a real homesteader, and I couldn't be more jealous. She planned to get 2 pigs, but that quickly turned into 4 pigs. While I don't think I'd ever want to raise pigs, I certainly LOVE bacon enough that I'll gladly take some from her fridge once they meet their maker.

And I make sure to tell her that I'm coming for a visit a month early so she has time to start hoarding eggs for me too. I'm not sure how many chickens they have, but they often get 10 eggs a day (not all lay at the same time apparently). Farm Fresh brown eggs are so much richer in color and taste than what you can get in the store. And I save ALL of my bacon grease, so my dark yellow goddess yolks are fried in the tasty stuff. I hope eggs are considered good for you these days, because I eat 2-5 every day. And yes, my cholesterol is great.

This is Little Brown Hen. She likes to sit in her flower pot.

Little Brown Hen is not camera shy. What a diva.
ooooh, double yolk eggs. I always feel like I hit the lottery when this happens :D

Oh, and they also have honey bees! Jealous.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Robbing the Bees and Jury Duty

Well, this may be the oddest blog post title ever!

I recently was honored to be chosen for Jury Duty. Say what? Honored? Yep. Believe it or not, it was probably the coolest 2 weeks of my life. So I either live a pretty boring life, or I'm crazy, or maybe a tad of both. At any rate, I kept referring to my 2 weeks as "Jury Duty Vacation."

Overall, it was a great learning experience. We had the option to sit and watch movies all day for sure, but we could also speak with judges and magistrates, observe court rooms and cases, take tours of the Ohio Supreme Court and Statehouse as well as our maximum security jail downtown (the latter was a slightly unnerving experience). It was an eye-opening experience to see the courts in action (it was NOT like Law & Order) and get a re-education on the legal system.

I also got to walk around downtown Columbus after jury duty ended for the day, so I felt like a tourist in my own city. I'm quite fond of the Avocado, Bacon And Tomato Hash at First Watch Cafe, Pistachia Vera's  Raspberry Passion Fruit Truffle Torte, and the mini cupcakes at Kitty's Cakes. I ate like a tourist for 2 weeks, but I did so much walking that I didn't gain any weight.

When I wasn't being "educated" by the municipal court, I was reading an awesome book called Robbing the Bees by Holly Bishop. It's been on my reading list for some time, but I'll be adding it back to my list because it's worth multiple readings. The book is a narrative of the author's experiences in beekeeping, another commercial beekeeper's business, and the history of honey and beekeeping throughout the ages. It has so many fascinating bits of information, so I'm sharing a few things that I found to be the most riveting.
  • 99% of the average beehive is female. Male bees are pretty useless except for mating (they can't fly well, gather food, sting, or take care of the young bees). They're freeloaders who gorge themselves on honey all day long, so they're not needed after the queen is fertilized. Those that don't get to mate with the queen bee are forced out of the hive and die within a few days (their wings are often bitten off and food is usually withheld). Those that do mate with the queen die soon thereafter too as their male "part" gets broken off in the queen.
  • The queen mates once and produces thousands of eggs a day for a lifetime because she has a built in "sperm" bank sac that is filled on the day she mates. A properly fertilized queen can decide if she wants to lay male or female eggs.
  • Each bee contributes a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. The colony can collectively fly 55,000 miles and visit more than 2,000 flowers to produce 1 pound of honey. 
  • Honey has been used in many cultures as part of marriage ceremonies, funerals, and other traditions. In Ethiopia, a prospective husband is chosen by how much honey he can offer the bride.
  • Bee venom used to be extracted by putting bees in jars and shaking them. Nowadays an electrified plate is put at a hive entrance to mildly shock a bee so it excretes a drop of venom. The venom is then collected for use in medical creams to treat multiple sclerosis, arthritis, lupus, and chronic fatigue syndrome. 
  • Pollen is loaded with protein calcium, vitamins A & C, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. One pound of pollen has 100g of protein, the same as a sirloin steak. While you shouldn't eat a pound of pollen all at once, it's great to sprinkle on cereal, smoothies, and salads. I also put our favorite local beekeeper's pollen on ice cream to make it seem "healthier", heehee.
  • Beehives were often used as hiding places for valuables. After all, what thief would willingly put his hand into a hive?

Bees as weapons of war

I found this to be one of the most fascinating sections of the book because I had to idea bees were used as weapons.
  • Beehives were often used as weapons in war. They were thrown at enemies or put into tunnels along with other wild animals by Roman generals. During naval battles, Romans constructed catapults to hurl the beehives onto enemy ships which would often cause sailors to jump overboard.
  • Some plants produce powerful toxins, so honey made from those plants are also toxic and can cause delirium, vomiting, dizziness, etc. Fighters would collect this "crazing honey" and slip it to their enemies to daze them or make them unconscious. 
  • The use of bees faded once modern weapons were created. Most recently, they were used in the Vietnam War. Guerilla fighters detailed how they "trained" bees to attack American troops. The fighters studied the beehives and realized that if one of the four sentry bees was attacked, they would send an alert to the whole beehive to attack. So beehives were "booby trapped" with string, and once tripped, bees would attack American troops causing them to retreat.
  • The American military has been testing bees to use them on the war on drugs. Bees have great smell and can zone in on drugs and weapons. In about 2 hours, a hive can be conditioned to reject flowers (they are rewarded with sugar). So the thought is that they could reject poppies. A world without heroin would be great, right? Bees can also detect explosive chemicals 99% of the time which is better than dogs (and also cheaper).
The book is filled with so many wonderful and often funny beekeeping stories as well. It's worth a read by any beekeeper, those who have ambitions of becoming a beekeeper, or anyone with a fascination for honey and bees.

I was compelled to design a new batch of honey labels after reading the book which are in my Etsy shop now.

Yellow Honey Bee Canning jar stickers 
Customizable Yellow Honey Bee Canning jar stickers
Black Dot Honey Bee Canning jar stickers
Beehive Canning jar and bottle labels 
Custom Beehive Canning jar and bottle stickers

Friday, April 24, 2015

My first batch of salsa for the year!

We were running drastically low on salsa! I canned about 45 pints and several quarts back in 2013, but my husband is a voracious Salsasorus. He would've run out of stock within a year if he hadn't periodically interspersed store bought salsa throughout this past year.

My sister supplied me with a bunch of hothouse tomatoes and peppers, so I whipped out my salsa recipe and got to work. Of course my preference would be to use homegrown tomatoes from my garden, most likely Romas or Amish Paste tomatoes, but free tomatoes are hard to pass up for salsa. If I was only going to eat the tomatoes and not make salsa, I would've passed on the hothouse variety because they're hard, too perfect looking (which weirds me out), and often flavorless. But once you mix enough tomato paste and seasonings to the salsa, it's not that bad!

So did my salsa actually win an award? No, but that's what the label says, so people will believe it. But it is actually the best salsa recipe I ever tried, and I've tried many recipes. This recipe came from my husband's relative and is made by many people in his family now.
Award Winning Canning Jar Labels can be customized with your own text 
28 pints, 1 quarts, and 1 very happy husband. Yippie!
The Custom Kraft Paper Canning jar labels look good on salsa :)

Download this chart to keep track of the produce that you can this year!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Weddings and Babies, oh my!

When I first started CanningCrafts, I was primarily focused on designing canning jar labels for those who preserved their own food. I couldn't find any nice jar labels for my salsa that I wanted to give away for gifts, so I ended up making my own.

I never once thought about labels for wedding favors! I've actually only been to a couple of weddings and didn't even realize people gave canned jams or honey away as favors. So once I started getting a handful of requests for wedding labels, I knew it should be something that I should expand into.

So now I have plenty of wedding labels available in rustic kraft paper and vintage style designs. I'll also slowly be adding a few more baby shower favors to the mix.

Can be customized with your initials, wedding date, and saying.
Love is Sweet, Spread the Love, Jam Packed With Love, Happily Ever After,
Love Sweet Love, Forever Begins Today, Thank You, Save The Date,
Custom Jam Name (whatever is in your jar, or other custom text)

Oval labels fit perfectly on the Quilted Ball canning jars.

These baby shower canning jar favor labels come in pink, blue, green, or vintage colors.

I found some great new polka dot pastel fabrics and ribbons great for baby shower favors.

I also have a handful of new cottage shabby chic designs. These would work well for baby showers or jams and jellies.
Cottage Chic Flower Canning Jar labels 

Cottage Chic Burlap Canning Jar labels 
Cottage Chic Plaid Canning jar labels 
Cottage Chic Red & Blue Canning jar labels