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First things first…it is Husband's birthday today.  I really am blessed to have the husband I do.  He's a wonderful man and makes my live better, in so many ways.  We spent some time alone together, thanks to some Grammy and Grampa time for the girls.   It was a nice.

This morning, and early afternoon was spent constructing Rabbit housing.  I'm working on two separate units that will face each other and create sort of a Pole Barn kind of look.  One half is done enough that 4 of the does are in there tonight.  It needs a roof, but that can't go one until the other unit is done, so for this evening and maybe the next couple, it has a tarp stapled in place, keeping any rain and sun off.   I'm so excited with how it came together, after some discouraging moments.  In the end it is sturdy, stable, functional and doesn't look bad either.  I am hoping to have the second unit done tomorrow.  I'll be using roofing that is repurposed, if the dimensions work out, so I'm going to have to wait a couple days to pick that up.  But it's getting there!

I find that housing is a hard thing to construct until you have worked with the given animal that it will house, for at least a little while.  Inevitably, I have moments with all of the different housing I've built, that things would be better if I had done something differently.  There are tons of plans online, that can give you some ideas, but until you personally work though the process of your husbandry style, the ideas don't guarantee that the structure will work for you. 

The problem with making housing after you have spent time with the animals is how to house them while you are getting to know them.  The rabbits have been in a couple different spots over the past few months, and while none were ideal none of the animals were suffering discomfort or poor husbandry. 

This does tend to add stress to me, however.  The constant pull to get something done that is ideal, and the pull to slow down and really think things through so the ideal comes to fruition and I don't end up wishing I had done a bunch of things differently.

Needless to say, I'm feeling a great sense of relief with the end in sight for this project, and am so thankful to have the feeling that the end product will be lovely for them, and lovely for me as I care for them!

A lovely little side benefit to the housing was that I was able to fashion the scrap lumber into a duck food shelter.  We have a large dish of food for the ducks.  We had a piece of plywood propped on a tree to kind of keep rain and snow out of the food.  Now the ducks have a little building that fits over the food and leaves room for several to be eating at the same time, while keeping the food dry! 

The camera saga continues.  Best Buy took it back, under the service plan, but need to send it out to be analyzed.  They can opt to replace the LCD screen that is cracked and the lens that is jammed.  I get to wait a few more days to 3 more weeks to find out what they are going to do…fix it or have me head to the store for a comparable camera.  Mom said I can borrow her camera to show you the visual things that are taking place around here.

One of the things Husband and I did today was head over to Barnes and Noble.  I fell in love with 2 books.  Microgreens, which is a simply beautiful book, with amazing photography and easy to access information.  I couldn't walk away from it!  Homegrown Whole Grains is chock full of information, growing tips and recipes for whole grains you can grow in your home garden.  I really want to experiment with such things, and have toyed with buying this book several times.  I finally did.  Husband recognized the cover art, as being by the same person, Nikki McClure, who illustrated Mini's Book, All in a Day, by Cynthia Rylant.  It's a very sweet book that is part of Mini's Summer Book Collection that will be coming out of storage very soon!

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My neighbor is an artist.  She does amazing carvings, as well as painting.  She recently designed a line of growth charts that would look fabulous as art in the main living area of your home.  These are not the normal "kid" focused growth charts, and while writing the height on the wall, or on the back of a closet door as a certain charm, they can't go with you if you move, which these charts can.  I really like the Sunflower Wooden Growth Chart, myself, but there are lots to pick from.  She is selling through Amazon, so go check them out.

Growthchart

Husband and I had a chance to work together on house stuff, since Grammy came to play with the girls.  Husband worked on pulling up the overgrown picker bushes in the back, so that we can create a small play yard for the girls.  I worked on finishing the maternity wing!  It's ready for ladies to move in, so tonight I tried to move the Muscovy hen who has been hanging out in the chicken boxes.  She did go right into the new nest box, sat on the eggs and made a hissy protective noise, so that is a hopeful sign.  If she stays on the eggs, in a couple days, I'm going to give her a clutch of Cayuga's to hatch out.  Once I make a couple more nest boxes, I'll start moving chickens over. 

I found a great little lumber yard a few minutes from my house.  It's been there all along, but I didn't know about it.  Through word of mouth, I ended up going on to pick up some Hemlock boards to make raised beds out of!  It's Fernald Lumber in Nothingham.  It's a great little spot with very competitive prices! 

During the talk with David and James last night, I heard about K&K Landscaping Supplies.  They sell a mix of loam and compost that is ready to plant as soon as it's spread for $24.00 a yard.  It takes a smidge more than a 1/2 yard to fill a 4'x8' raised bed that is 6" high.  So for about $12-$15 in soil, and $25 in lumber you can put in a 4'x8' raised bed.  I'm making 3 of them, to fill in where the stone beds leave off.  I don't have the time to haul enough stones out of the back woods to make 3 more beds, so the wood will work for now.

Finally, we ended the day with rabbit breeding.  It was time to rebreed Calliope and Clementine.  I bred Clementine to Almanzo again, and Calliope to my friends buck, Silas.  Silas is actually a Champagne D'Argent, which are born black and then lighten to silver with a black undercoat.  Very pretty.  When you cross the two you get some that are black and silver like the father, and some that are brownish gray, also known in rabbit circles as agouti, and look more like a wild rabbit.  It's really pretty.  The crosses are in fact considered mutts because the breeds, though both D'Argent are separately listed in the breed standard.  They have slightly different body shapes, as well as size.  But they both hail from France, just opposite sides of the country.  The reason I bred them is in part because I like the color option for tanning the pelts, and in part I was curious what the cross would do for the size of the babies.  We are also curious about genetics in rabbits, so thought it would be a fun experiment of sorts.  We'll see if it took.  The breeding was of questionable success with Calliope and Silas, but I'm confident that the time Clementine and Almanzo spent together was what it needed to be. 

Hyacinth and Josie are scheduled to Kindle their first litters this week.  Josie has started lining her nest with fur, and Hyacinth looks all big and lazy, so we should have new rabbit news soon!

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I'm in a foul mood today.  I'm not sure why…maybe it's that I have been working on taxes, so spent the day beating myself up over procrastinating with the bookkeeping…there is nothing more annoying than listening to yourself scold you all day long.  The biggest problem with being your own boss…when the boss gets all bossy, you can't leave, not even for a coffee break!

So instead of going into greater detail on the above, as I really don't enjoy reading blog posts when the writer is complaining, I'll spare you the experience and share some fun internet stuff.

I am almost done knitting Mini a February Sweater, in toddler size, and then I found this adorable version, that would fit the doll I made her for Christmas!  Seems I might be making a tiny version this Spring.

I love Etsy, and I think they have some great search options for browsing and getting lost in the site, but if you really know what you want and just want to find and buy it, I find the site a bit annoying.  So when I heard about a new search option that allows you to search more effectively with your keywords, AND see tons of options on one page, I was beside myself giddy!  I used it to quickly find and purchase this little goody.  Perfect for storing my homemade butter!

I signed up for a giveaway on Homestead Revival's Blog.  These storage/lunch box things look fabulous.

Blog Button

Angry Chicken put out a Potions and Concoctions E-Booklet, that comes with fun little labels to print and a very handy recipe/reference sheet for the goodies outlined in the booklet.  I of course ordered it.  Now I'll have the deodorant recipe in a cute little book, along with the other recipes that Amy finds to be tried and true.

An interesting article in the NY Times about rabbits, the raising and eating…with a quote from Michael Pollan.

More Taxes tomorrow, but I'll be taking some breaks for much needed Baby Birthday prep…The Baby is turning 1 on Friday, with the family coming to celebrate on Saturday.  We're having The Baby's favorite, Blueberry Pancakes.  Oh, and I did manage to start my Luffa Seeds today.  More seeds will be started soon, but probably next week, after the celebration of my littlest girl.

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Okay, so the title is probably a bit dramatic…

I did find two very helpful, knowledgeable and kind guys, who were willing to fix my oxygen concentrators.  I use oxygen concentrators to power my oxygen/propane mix torch for bead making.  They are the kind that are used in hospitals and nursing homes, for people who need oxygen.  They take the air and separate the oxygen particles out and filter them through a hose.  I hook that hose to one part of my torch, and a propane tank to another.  The oxygen makes the propane burn cleaner and hotter, to melt the glass more efficiently.  You can use a tank of oxygen, too, but it's a lot more expensive. 

So, anyway, I have 3 used concentrators, that while still very viable, are no longer eligible for medical use.  They have powered my torch for a number of years, until recently.  I called and called and found no one who could fix them, as most places that sell them just send them in for credit when they don't work, because people rely on these things to breath, so you can't have them breaking down.

Finally, I found a place in the Manchester area.  Brought them over, the guys pulled them apart, showed me what needed to be cleaned, how to clean them, attached a couple things that had come loose, found an old owners manual for the one that is still giving me trouble, explained to me how to fix it myself, to avoid a costly repair bill…all that and they wouldn't take any payment!  They were such nice people, and for no other reason, than to be nice.  They didn't need to take any time with me, but I'm extremely thankful they did!  I'm so excited to fire these up and make more beads!

After getting the units fixed I was able to connect with a friend, who lives nearby, and who I haven't seen in far too long.  We had lunch, caught up, and I got to see her new dog and bead making studio.  It was a very lovely day in the Southern part of the state.

Finally, a quick stop at the Fabric Fix, where I found a VERY cool patchwork fabric.  I picked that up with a couple other pieces, a bunch of fold over elastic (my new love), and headed home.

Patchwork 

Fabric

I'm still felting away on the girl's Spring play set.  I worked on her tonight…more on that when the set is done.

Felteddoll 

Tomorrow is the Farmer's Market in Exeter!  I'll be going with Husband.  Hope to see you there!

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This is my first post in March.  Boy have I been neglectful of this little spot, not good when the title is what did she do TODAY.  Well, after that power outage life has just not been normal.  Not bad, just not normal.  For those who know me well, this will be a big shock, but I've been going to bed between 11 and midnight, no late night crafting antics.  But it's been a good week, and I have things I should have shared, and I'll try to do so over the next couple days, to catch you up, and some of it might even be empowering or informative.

One of the things I've accomplished, at long last, is tanning the rabbit hides.  I'm here to tell you not only is the process pretty basic, it's also VERY forgiving.  I have 2 pretty well tanned hides, and I did not treat the hides immediately upon removing them from the animal and I did not take them out of the solution in a timely manner.  But I'm not experiencing greats amount of hair loss…a little shedding but from what I've been told that's normal.  I might have a little more than normal, but I'm not losing clumps like you would if it wasn't tanned correctly.

RabbitPelts 

I followed instructions from a 1983 article in Mother Earth News.  It was great.  Perfect for a homesteader.  I would want a tool to remove the membrane if I was going to do a lot of them, as I did get a blister/callous on my finger where my thumb kept rubbing.  I'm going to look into what the "professionals" use for that piece.  Otherwise, all I needed was table salt (no iodine added), alum (bought online in a 1 quart container, so I have enough to do more pelts in June when I have more), a 5 gallon bucket, a long stirrer that reaches the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket, and mink oil.

I'm looking into other options for the oiling.  I don't know what the benefit is of mink, and I don't know alternatives, so I did use it, but I got mine from a local shoe store and it contained lanolin and silicone, which wasn't ideal for how it made the fur feel. The feeling did go away and the fur is now very soft.  I'm going to research the whole matter before June.

I had a great mail week.  I received my new Atlas Pasta Machine, so now I can make my own, at home!  I also received my new vitamix.  That think is intimidating.  I'm going to overcome that, as it's not more intimidating than butchering a chicken, but wow, that is a serious machine.  I got the red, and it's very cool.  Now I'll be all set for the rest of the Nourishing Traditions inspired E-course that I've been enjoying.  The class is well worth the investment.  The videos are clear and well done, and the information is helpful.  Wardeh, the instructor, clearly knows what she's doing and has a nice way about telling you how, too.  I think those are the last big purchase I need to make for my kitchen…at least I know they are the last I'll be making for a while.

Vitamix 

Soakedmuffins

I made some yummy muffins tonight.  Husband takes the girls to swim lessons on Fridays so Mini eats in the car to expedite the "getting out of the house" portion of the morning.  That is usually a nice big piece of french toast, sans butter and syrup.  She's cool with that, but tomorrow she'll have maple, raising, almond muffins, that were soaked to allow her body to enjoy all the great nutrients they contain.  Very exciting.  They weren't entirely local, but here is the roll call:

My yard: Eggs

Local: Buttermilk from my butter making adventures (Brookford), Maple Syrup (Sugar Momma), Salt (Maine Salt)

Not Local: Spelt Flour, Baking Soda, Vanilla, raisins, almonds

Rabbit update: Still no bunnies but Clementine and Calliope are pulling fur, a lot of it, so I'm thinking tomorrow morning there will be babies.  Hyacinth is not pulling fur, but she is also 2 days behind them, so I'm hoping to see her start pulling tomorrow.   She's not doing a lot to make her nest yet, so she might not be pregnant (it's hard to tell), or she might be a procrastinator, not all rabbits do things in the same timing, just like the rest of us.  So I'm still assuming the nesting is going to kick in soon.

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Today is part two of my Dark Days meal from last week.  I decided, instead of making ravioli, I would make ricotta gnocci.  I made gnocci with friends before, but it was potato gnocci, and when I saw mention of Riccotta gnocci on another blog, I thought that would be a prefect use for my homemade ricotta from yesterday!

I searched online for a recipe and found a very basic one: 2 Cups Riccotta, 2 Cups Flour and 2 Eggs.  Perfect!  I beat the eggs, added the ricotta and flour, stirred, then a little kneading, and on to the fun, shaping.  I used a fork to put the little indents.  It worked well, dropped into boiling water, and they cooked up perfectly.

I shredded some cabbage, steamed it, and then heated the sauce from yesterday.

Roll Call:

My yard: Eggs

Local: Ricotta made by me with Brookford Milk, Cabbage (Brookford Farm)

Not Local: Flour

Roll Call reminder from yesterday's components:

Pasta Sauce Roll Call:

My yard: Peppers (frozen from summer)

Local:
Carrots, onions and tomatoes (Nippo brook farm all dried or canned by
me to preserve), Goat sausage (Jenness farm), butter (made by me from
Brookford Milk), Kale (Black Kettle farm (frozen in the fall), Oregano,
basil and parsley (a friends garden), Salt (Maine Salt)

Not local: Pepper

Ricotta Roll Call:

Local: Milk (Brookford Farm)

Not Local: citric acid to make the curds for the ricotta

I'm not in a photographic mood lately.  I didn't take a picture of today's meal, even though it was beautiful, and I whipped up a little night gown, and there are no pics of that either.  I love Angry Chicken…the blog.  It's the first one I read if there is an update, when I check in on my Google Reader.  She was on a streak of making underthings for a while and I was jealous.  I loved all the things she was making, (like this, this, and especially this!) but had no pattern to work with and was intimidated to wing it. 

Well, necessity being the mother of many things, she became the mother of "taking a leap", today.  My night ware is so lame.  I never see what I want in stores, and I really wanted something new, comfy, cute, that fit nice, and would be easy access for breastfeeding.  I grabbed a piece of inexpensive cotton knit jersey, one of the few nightgowns I have that fits well, and some fold over elastic.  Perfect!!  This nightie fits, is comfy, worked great when breast feeding, and despite it's inexpensive origins and slapping together construction, it's quite cute.

I'm now going to need a nice shopping spree!  Pretty knits, new fold over tape in coordinating colors.  I'm just giddy at the prospect of a new night wardrobe.  Oh, and the whole project, including "drafting the pattern", a term I use loosely, took less than one hour.  

Why do I procrastinate?  Seriously, when I finally jump in, it usually does work out, so I don't know why I put some things off for so long.  Maybe I'll feel more photographically inspired when I make the other nightgowns.

The other thing I did today, was sign up for an E-Course.  The subject is Nourishing Traditions Style cooking, and I'm excited.  I've been wanting to make sprouted breads and figure out some of the lacto fermentation stuff, and this seems like a fun and clever way to learn about it.  I also bit the bullet and ordered a Vitamix. 

I've put this purchase off for a VERY long time.  Mom bought one a year ago and she tells me CONSTANTLY of all the things she makes in it.  I've actually asked her to either crush/grind or let me borrow the thing several times, and finally decided I have enough uses for it.  It's recommended for the E-course, though is in no way necessary for the course, but it was the last little nudge I needed, along with getting a check in the mail from my insurance company for an overpayment…that's as close as I'm going to get to unexpected money, as I never get a tax refund.  Now I'm anxiously awaiting the UPS trucks arrival…in 7-10 days.

Well, I'm awful chatty when pictures don't need to be involved! 

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This post was updated, and the updates can be found in bold type.

We ate well tonight!  I grabbed two of the Roosters we raised and harvested, out of the freezer yesterday, defrosted them, then today, I roasted them in a covered roaster, with a bit of water, a little wine, salt, pepper and rosemary powder.  The oven was 350 degrees for about 2 hours, and they were perfect.  I have never enjoyed a chicken, even our own, as much as I enjoyed this one.  It was so moist and flavorful.  I cooked two just so I could serve one, and pull the leftover meat, along with the meat from the second one for making other things*.  This lovely bird was served with Sweet potato crisps and Green beans.  The crisps were just thinly sliced rings of Sweet Potato fried in duck fat, then sprinkled with a little salt and pepper.  The green beans were simply steamed.

Roll Call:

My Yard: Chicken, Duck Fat

Local: Salt (Maine Salt Company), Sweet Potatoes (Ramsbottham Farm), Green Beans (A friends garden, frozen by me last summer), Cayuga White Wine (Jewel House Winery).

Not Local: Pepper and Rosemary Powder

Sorry, no picture, though I wanted to take one of the sweet potatoes with the duck fat bubbling around the lovely orange disks, but both camera batteries are dead, and I've misplaced the chargers…oops.

*When talking with Deb and Joe yesterday we discussed the fact that some things are meant to be made with leftovers.  If you want to make a pot pie, for example, it's a lot of work to start with a whole, raw bird, cook it, cool it, pull the meat, then make the pot pie…talk about slow food!  Many would say, just go to the store, pick up a package of boneless breast, it takes only a few minutes to cook, then cut it up and you can start your pie…not going to work for a locavore…so the answer is to make pot pie AFTER you have made a roasted chicken meal.  Same with soups, so much easier to have meat for soup after you have roasted the meat for another meal.

On another topic…

It's so tiring.  This world is so full of stuff that is so counter to the way I want to live, that sometimes I find it exhausting to keep up with the nonsense.  I just found out that canning jar lids contain BPA… yes all of the companies, Kerr, Ball, and other lesser knowns.

How aggravating.  Most people are revisiting the art of putting food by, at least in part, to avoid chemicals in their foods.  While the lid may not actually touch the food, it is probably less of an issue that buying canned goods that are surrounded by the BPA lining, it's still just so frustrating that even there you can't escape this hormone disrupting chemical.

I decided these companies need to know what their customers want.  Surely they are, during this time of renewed desire to hearken back to a more self sufficient, sustainable way of life, reaping an improved profit.  People are buying canning jars, and new lids for what is their first foray into the craft.  These companies have to know that their customers value a lower chemical effected life.  But maybe they don't, maybe they need to know.  So I started looking for information to start writing letters to voice my opinion.  Well it turns out ALL the name (Kerr, Ball, Mason) brands are actually owned by one conglomerate, Jarden Home Brands. 

Jarden Home Brands
Consumer Affairs
14611 West Commerce Road
P.O. Box 529
Daleville, IN 47334

1-800-240-3340

I tried calling them and it's a series of buttons that lead to a busy signal, where you can't leave a message, but are routed back to the operator, which is a busy signal, and this cycle of busy back to a menu that brings you to a busy signal happens 4 times then it hangs up on you.  I contacted their publicity company who was going to have a customer service rep call me.  I'll let you know about that when it happens.  UPDATE: One month later and a couple messages, and still no reply…hmmm.

I had the Leifheit jars listed as BPA free, after a phone conversation from Leifheit USA.  A blog reader's comment prompted me to look into the matter again, and in fact the rep I talked to had poor information.  He apologized profusely and told me he had no intention of giving me misinformation, but he had been told they were BPA free.  Evidently, in the past 2 weeks the Headquarters has contacted him to let him know that there are "negligable traces of BPA in the lining".  He said that with that news, he was also told that the company is working on a BPA free product that is not quite ready for market at this time.  He will contact me when they are.  In the mean time Leifheit lids are not BPA Free.

The Leifheit jars are also very pretty.  There are to options for
their lids, some jars can use a 1 part lid, and other jars use a two
part metal lid with a metal ring, like the typical US brand canning
jars.  I spoke with a representative at Leifhiet USA, and was told the
lids are, in fact BPA free.
  They are made in Germany.  I am not sure
if they fit on standard US canning jars.  I have seen sites that state
that they do, but the Leifheit company was not sure.  They offered to
send me a sample so I can try them to see if they will seal on a US
canning jar, so I will mention that in a separate post, as well as updating this post when I find out. 
They sent a whole dozen lids, so cool!  I used them and they worked great on the large mouth jars. 

What are the current alternatives?

Weck:  If you are new to canning and have to buy jars anyway, the Weck is a very popular option in the canning world.  They are pricey, but they are beautiful.  If I did my conversion correctly the 1L jars are pretty close in size to the Quart, and the 1/2L would work for a Pint.  These are all glass with a glass cover sealed with a rubber ring.  They have BPA Free plastic covers to put on for storing after opening.  They are made in Germany.  You can order them via phone or by mailing an order form into the company.  You can not order directly online from the Weck site, though several other companies, online, do offer many of the jar options.  This option is very popular in the blogging world, due to how pretty and unique they are.

Tattler Reusable Canning Jar Lids:  This is a very interesting option.  The pros to these lids are amazing.  Made in the USA!  Reusable, they can be used for years, instead of having to be replaced after each use, like the Jarden brands.  BPA Free!  One hitch, they are plastic.  Tattler has been around since the 1970's, they have a longstanding product, that has proven itself over decades, and because they are reusable, they don't have the same level of ecological concern that most plastic items do.  They are BPA free, so they certainly look like a viable option.  The fact they work with standard US canning jars, helps too, as it keeps from having to buy all new glass jars, just to avoid the BPA containing lids.  Tattler also seems to be a small company, and being a small business owner, I do like the idea of helping out another.

Bormioli Rocco:

Another European option, this time from Italy.  They have two style options for lids, one is the metal screw lid, the other is the glass lid that is secured to the jar on a metal hinge and is sealed with a rubber gasket. 

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=wwwzooziiscom-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&m=amazon&f=ifr&md=10FE9736YVPPT7A0FBG2&asins=B001BUFTAY

Then there is the Quattro Stagioni style which has a metal lid that is one piece, instead of the typical 2 piece.  I ordered some of their jars and canned some jam.  They lids worked great on their jars, and on standard US jars, with a very serious seal, resulting in a very loud pop when the jar was opened.  That seemed like a good sign.

Note: After finding out the Leifheit company made a mistake with communication I recontacted Bormioli and was again assured their jars are BPA free, as are all their food storage items. 

Germany, Italy, and now France…I find it interesting all these European countries use a similar style jar, the glass jar, and glass lid with the rubber ring. 

Le Parfait Glass Jars: The French version, is priced similarly to the others.

All that brings me to the most potentially controversial option.  If you have access to the old bail style jars, you could buy fresh rings for them, and use those.  The USDA does not endorse this method, they only endorse using the Kerr/Ball/Mason jars with the Jarden Company lids.  However, another blogger pointed out that these old fashioned jars work on the same principle as the widely popular Weck jars (and the other Italian and French options I mentioned) that are used extensively in Europe.  The same blogger has a post about her canning experiences with the Vintage Jars.  You can even still buy the Jar Rubbers online.

Vintagejars

All that canning jar research did cause me to find something I just must have…

Check out this canner, it's HUGE!  What a great thing for canning with friends.  It holds 15 quarts, or 27 pints, which is more than twice what a standard water bath canner holds, and it's made by the Amish, how cool is that!?  That would make quick work of my tomatoes and peaches…oh and all that apple sauce. 

The other option, and one that helps the food retain more nutrients, is dehydration.  I purchased a dehydrator from Excalibur and have loved using it.  I find it less time consuming and easier to use than canning, in many instances.  Several foods don't even need to be blanched, just dice and dry.  It's a great option.  I have found that the foods rehydrate quite well, and most often don't have a loss in flavor or texture.  The most negative comment I would have is that the zucchini I re-hydrated did have a slightly chewy texture, but very slight and not unpleasant.  I fully intend to can my tomatoes and apple sauce this year, but will be experimenting with drying more foods for winter enjoyment.

Excalibur


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