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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

As the seasons change......

Seasons come and go so fast it seems. It is important to capture moments as much as you can. This is one of my favorite photos of summer! The boys throwing dirt clumps off back of grain truck while we were irrigating the sweet corn. This photo was from the summer of 2013 actually, but I always look back on it and love it. It reminds me of the blessings I have in the life we live and love. It reminds me of my childhood and how my boys are having fun in the atmosphere they're in, the same that my brother and I also did. 

Although summer has came to an end and we are now into fall we often look back at past seasons and think about all the fun times we've had. Like the photo above, being from a previous year, but I still remember how much fun the boys were having, all while we were accomplishing something important in the garden. As the seasons change, I find myself looking forward to things to come. I love summer, but I really love the fall season. 

Cozy sweaters. Favorite hoodies.
 Pumpkin drinks from our favorite places.
 Fall decorating. Pumpkin patches. 
Riding in the buddy seat. Bountiful harvest.

 As the seasons change, a sense of gratification comes with the season that passed. Look back and see those images and memories you've captured. They'll remind you of some of your funnest moments. 

We are winding down the farmers market season. 
Summer produce in the garden is about done. 
Fall produce is taking off. 
We can look back at all the fun memories we made during the season before.
We can look back and see what we all we have accomplished.

As we enter into fall, it brings pumpkins and harvest. For my family, this is what fall is all about. Much of our September and October is centered around pumpkins.

Pumpkins at the farmers market. 
Pumpkins for wholesale to local businesses.  
Pumpkin sales at our event Fall Harvest Days. 


We love fall and pumpkins. We are sure to capture photos of these days to help remember our favorite times. As the seasons change, we reminisce about the past seasons, but look forward to the good times the new season brings.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Canning Tomato Juice

Having fresh tomatoes in the garden is one of my favorite things about having a garden! Although our summer garden is winding down, we have had a great amount of tomatoes this year. What better way to use up some of the tomatoes than canning them into a variety of different things like sauces, salsa, and juice.
We use tomato juice a lot during the winter months.
Well in other months too.
But we make a lot of chili, Spanish rice, stuffed peppers, goulash, etc in the winter that the canned tomato juice is nice to have.
This season, I canned several quarts, a few pints as well, of tomato juice and this last weekend, I did my last batch for this year.

Canning tomato juice takes a bit of effort and work, but once you are done and enjoying it in the winter, you will be glad you did!

* I can tomato juice by processing my tomatoes using a food strainer so that is how I will explain my process in this post. Here is one similar to what I use.*

How to can tomato juice

-Pick tomatoes that fresh, ripe, and firm.
-Have your clean and sterilized jars ready to fill. Be sure to check your canning equipment. Remember canning safety during your canning process.
-Prepare your tomatoes by washing them, coring them, and removing any bad spots if they have any.

-Cut your tomatoes into quarters and place in a stock pot on the stove.

-Set the burners on high and start to cook down your tomatoes. I smash some of the tomatoes at the beginning to create some juices at the bottom of the pot to prevent burning.

- Once the tomato skins start to peel off and the tomatoes become tender, remove them from the heat.

Here is where the food strainer is so handy to use.
I simply use a ladle and put several scoops into the hopper part of the food strainer, turn the crank, and this separates the tomato juice from the skins and seed. The juice flows out one spout, while the skins and seeds goes out the other.
I continue to do this until my pots are empty of the quartered tomatoes.

 -I run my bowl of peels and seeds back through twice to be sure to get as much juice from them that I can.

- As I fill up my bowl with juice, I dump it back into a stock pot on the stove. This will be the finished product of juice that will go in the jar.

-Once the pot is full of freshly squeezed juice, bring the pot to a rolling boil. As it boils, the juice will bubble up and form frothy areas. I simply remove that with a spoon.

-I use a ladle and funnel to pour the juice into my jars. Be sure to leave 1/2 inch headspace at the top of the jar. While filling the jars, I have my lids in boiling water on the stove to sterilize them before putting on my jars.

-Use a towel to wipe around the rim of the jar. This removes any tomato debris that would prevent the lid from sealing. Place the lids on the jars and screw the ring on tightly.

-Next, place the jars in the canner. I have a Presto canner that I use. Be sure to read your canner manual to see what it says for cook time and at how many pounds. For example, my canner says process at 11 pounds pressure for 15 minutes for quart jars.

-At the end of processing time, turn the burner off and remove canner from heat. Let the canner sit and cool and the pressure drop to zero on it's own. This may take a while. Do not take the lid off the pressure cooker and do not quick cool. 

When the pressure of the canner has been completely reduced, you can take off the pressure regulator from the vent pipe and let canner set for 10 more minutes. Then remove the canner lid. Remove jars from canner with a jar lifter and place on a towel to cool and dry. 

When jars are cool, check seals by making sure the lids are not popped up, wipe jars down, label and store in a cool dry place. You can also remove the rings to use for more canning. 

After three full tomato juice canning days, one pictured here, we are ready for winter. Happy canning to you!!

If you don't have a food strainer, you can also use a food mill and remove tomato peels before juicing them.

This post is part of The Backroad Life Freezing & Canning series.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Local Dine & Discuss Event

With a great amount of the population being off the farm, it is important to share what happens on the farm, modern day farm practices, and how farming is an important part of everyone's lives. On Thursday evening, Scott and I had an opportunity to attend the Dine & Discuss Event at Culp Family Farms, a farm in our community. Kendell and Tammy Culp welcomed many from the community to their farm. We were among several others in attendance ranging from local community leaders, board members, farmers, and bloggers. The event was sponsored by Indiana Soybean Alliance.


Once we arrived and parked our vehicle, we were offered a ride on a Gator up to the event area. The event started with reception where attendees checked in, received name tags, and mingled. There were cheeses from Fair Oaks Farms and wine from Carpenter Creek Cellars for sampling. There were also farm equipment parked around the area for viewing. They had a combine and a tractor out with a price tag on them. This gave attendees an idea of some of the costs of farming. Kendell Culp welcomed everyone to the event and introduced his family. He mentioned the point of this event was to share with our community the importance of agriculture, what modern day agriculture is all about, and Jasper County's role in agriculture. Guests were then divided up into three groups according to the color on their name tag. Each of these groups was a short presentation station about different aspects of modern farming.

Our first station was about technology in agriculture. Brian, with North Central Coop, talked about modern day agriculture and the use of auto steer, the ability of modern farm equipment to steer by itself. They can be programmed to stay on the same path, resulting in less compaction in the field. He then shared with us about soil sampling and farm mapping and how it is used to determine how to take care of the land. Taking samples from the field allows the farmer to see what fertilizers need to be applied and in what amounts to improve their soil. Combines can also show field yield data as they combine showing the farmer the yields overall and how they vary within the field. By doing this, farmers can see what kind of improvements they need to do to their land to increase their crop yield. He demonstrated how a quadcopter is used for scouting. A quadcopter, also known as a drone, can be remote controlled or have a path programmed into it and uses a camera to scout the field.

Our next station was livestock. Culp family farms raise pigs and beef cattle. Dr. Kenneth Culp III, a professor at the University of Kentucky, shared with us their operation. The family buys the young pigs when they are just over a few weeks old from a farrowing operation. They feed them out for five months, then they are taken to market for meat. He explained the differences in the feed the pigs and cattle eat. Pigs need their feed ground up finely, while cattle can eat more course food. Cattle have 4 stomachs that the food travels through and the food breaks down, while pig's are not as complex. Ken explained how his cows are brought into heat on Memorial Day weekend and artificially inseminated. Some of the cattle are surrogate mothers and have embryos implanted. He passed out a flyer with a variety of interesting farm facts of American agriculture and some specific to Indiana. Even more specific to our county, Jasper County is #1 in agriculture sales among Indiana counties.

Our last station was about corn and soybeans, which are the two major crops produced in Jasper County, presented by Stuart and Kayla with Vision Ag. Kayla, who is Kendell's daughter, explained that the break even point for a corn farmer is $3.60 a bushel, which is just higher than the current market price. Adam, from IBEC, the ethanol producer at Pleasant Ridge, shared with us how much corn the plant uses each year. This corn is turned into alcohol from the starch and the rest is a by-product called DDG, dried distillers grain. These DDG's are mixed with other ingredients for livestock feed. We also talked about GMO crops. Round up ready corn and soybeans have improved agriculture practices and are produced this way. These are created by agriculture scientists, inserting genes from species into the DNA of another. By improving our crops and planting GMO crops, the need for herbicides and pesticides are decreased. American farmers are feeding an ever growing population and feeding more on less ground to produce. Kayla shared that today's American farmer feeds about 155 people worldwide, while in 1960, that number was 25.8 people. Jasper County currently has 615 farms and is first for corn production in Indiana, among other things. A flyer was also handed out at this station listing some of the numerous uses of corn and soybeans.

After the 3 presentations, was the dine portion of the evening. The dinner consisted of food produced in Jasper County. We enjoyed pork from Culp Family Farms, sweet corn and melon from Gilmore Green Acres, green beans from our farm Walker Farms, tomato slices from Luttrell's, and homemade blueberry pie with blueberries from Van Kley Blueberry Farms. The dinner was under a tented area in the Culp's beautiful yard.

Kendell shared some closing statements after the dinner. Science is the root and has an important role in modern day agriculture. Agriculture today is different that it was generations ago and is always changing and improving. People are becoming more interested in where their food comes from and how what is happening in agriculture affects will affect them. He shared with us that in the drought of 2012, four television crews, including 2 from over seas, interviewed him as a typical American farmer as they were interested in what was going on in Midwest agriculture and how it was affecting their food prices. Kendell also shared that they are partnering with IBEC to use the DDG to feed their pigs and have for the local food pantry. He also talked some of property taxes and although they have decreased for most people, they are on the rise for farmers as the value of land has increased greatly over the last decade. He shared that there are 3 generations of Culps farming the land and that they work with 160 different businesses through the farm, most of Jasper County.

As the sun was setting, the event was coming to an end. The FFA members were thanked for helping with the event. The attendees were thanked for coming out and "dine & discuss" agriculture overall and in our community. Every couple left with a cooler bag of pork burgers from Culp Farms, dozen eggs and garden fertilizer from Rose Acres, mint oil from Kanne Farms, mint candy from Dobson Farms, and popcorn from Con Agra, all items also produced in Jasper County.

This was a great event to learn about modern day farming and the importance of agriculture in Jasper County, which was the reason for the event. It was very informative for promoting agriculture in our area. Thank you Culp Family Farms and Indiana Soybean Alliance for putting on this event, we had a great time!

This post was sponsored by Indiana Family of Farmers. 
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