Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Canning Tomato Soup

This is the only recipe that my mom kept from all the years of canning she did when I was a girl.  It is a family heirloom recipe that I am willing to share with readers because it is simple to make and very tasty!

When my family decided to quit dairy farming and move to town I was 8 years old.  All of the canning supplies were sold at the farm auction and my mom didn't think twice about giving up that way of life.  We were moving to a small lot that was mostly shaded and growing a garden wasn't feasible.  Besides the lack of growing space in town, I recently asked my mom why she discontinued canning when moving off the farm because last year she decided to begin canning again after a 20 year break.  Her response was quite simply this, "Canning food decades ago was a way of life for families living in the country.  I didn't feel like I had a choice on whether to grow a large garden and preserve food.  At that time it was to our financial advantage to grow and can our own food and there wasn't all of this hype about GMO's, pesticides, fertilizers, and food quality.  Now that health is a concern nowadays, I feel it's important to know where our food comes from and how it's grown.  Today it's not necessarily financially cheaper to grow and preserve food so it's more of a personal choice and lifestyle for most families."  What an interesting perspective about how something like canning is "back in style" but for different reasons.


Tomato Soup:

1 peck tomatoes (12 pounds)
3 large onions
3 green bell peppers
small bunch of celery (~4 stalks)

dry mixture:
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
scant 1/3 cup canning salt

Can and seal: pints 5 pounds for 10 minutes

This is a personal preference, but I don't remove skins and seeds for this recipe because the tomatoes cook down enough where the skins are hardly noticeable and they are pulverized when the mixture is blended together.  My family doesn't complain about the texture from the seeds.  The added advantage of not removing seeds and skins is the amount of time that is saved!

I don't think I need to show every vegetable being chopped so basically chop everything in smallish chunks and place in large stainless soup pot.  

Cook until everything is soft enough to blend.  I use an immersion blender but you can use a food processor or blender.  I definitely recommend the immersion blender because there is no transferring of the soup which means less dishes and a lot less mess.  Believe me...this is one kitchen gadget you have to get.  It's also useful for making applesauce!

Mix all of the dry ingredients together and add slowly to the soup mixture while mixing at the same time to prevent clumps.  Obviously I couldn't take a picture while doing this because one hand is dumping and the other hand is mixing!

Place in sterilized jars: 10 narrow mouth jars per batch in the canner.

Process 5 pounds for 10 minutes. 

I had 16 pounds of tomatoes which made 22 pints.  The one jar in the lower right was a blue anniversary jar.  I don't think the color is very appealing...kind of puke green.

And of course, remember to save your heirloom tomato seeds!  In the small bowl in the picture above I have bleeding heart tomato seeds that I received from a gardener in his mid-80's who has spent decades perfecting the best tomato grown for this West Virginia region that is large, sweet, contains little water, and is disease resistant.  

Here's Dad and me at the farm this past May.  The farm is still in the family but the barn hasn't been used for a dairy operation since we moved 22 years ago.  My Dad even suspects the leftover hay in the haymow was cut by him.  Everything has been neglected and there are plans to have the Amish take it down and salvage the wood so this may be the last chance to see it standing.  It was a bittersweet day visiting the farm: seeing the stanchions and water bowls, climbing the haymow, and envisioning my brother, sister, and I riding our bicycles in the barn while the cows were in pasture.  When we leave a place there are always going to be good and bad memories.  Thankfully I was young enough to remember the good times and think farm life was a lot of fun.  But in actuality it was a lot of hard work for little profit.  Like most small family farms in this country, it's nearly impossible to compete with larger farm operations without a second income.


Nylon Rope Never Breaks

Sunny days have been pretty irregular this month so laundry is done in spurts when the clothesline can be used. There is something satisfying about drying laundry outside and I just love the feel of clean, air-dried sheets on the bed.  Many people complain about the "crunchy" feel of towels dried on the clothesline but we are definitely not going to use fabric softener.  For one thing, we don't need added synthetic perfumes in fabric rubbing against our skin; and second, it's kinda creepy knowing that fabric softener contains a lot of ingredients that make fabric cling-free and wrinkle-free.  I don't want all that stuff embedded in my clothing and towels.

Yesterday I was hanging up the few remaining items in the basket when all of a sudden SNAP!  The freshly washed laundry was now lying on the just mowed grass.  The nylon rope that has held the clothesline up for 18 months has finally broke and according to my father in law, "Nylon rope never breaks!"  Well, it does after 18 months in the sun and rain. How did we remedy the problem?  We grabbed a thicker rope from the barn that the previous owner left behind.


(Hopefully there isn't chicken manure under all of that washed laundry!)

Back in business!

The old man on the tree is speechless about the whole endeavor but I think he likes the whole bandanna look from the rope (hint: the mouth is missing...)


Honeybee Behavior in Summer Heat

I had intended on posting this back in July but it seems this post got buried among everything else.

During the hot and humid spell in early July I noticed 2 things:
1. One hive bearded significantly more than the other.
2. Honeybees were seen motionless on flowers in the evening.







I'm not sure if this behavior can be contributed to the heat or if the flowers they were visiting were poisonous? I tried identifying the flower but couldn't find an exact match.  These were the only flowers I noticed they were visiting.  Both hives have a large population of bees and I didn't notice any nosema so I don't suspect disease but it's hard to be sure of that.






The blue hive definitely drew more beards than the other hive in the evenings. The bees form a beard to help cool down the hive. What's interesting is when I took a picture underneath each hive, the blue hive had more bees outside the screen; perhaps this has something to do with the bearding?  The white (Warrior) hive only has a few bees outside the screen.  The white hive also has an extra super which could also contribute to the lack of bearding because they have more space.



White (Warrior) Hive

Blue Hive


What's left of the beard in the morning.


Honey Harvest 2013

We are super excited to finally harvest honey from our honeybees!  Jon and I have been beekeeping for four years and this is the first year we have collected honey.  It's kind of embarrassing to relay this information to others but here is a quick overview to explain why.  The first year I was over-zealous in the hive inspections and went in the hive at least one time each week and I think that stressed the colony which made them fail early winter not to mention it was Oregon and moisture was an issue.  They also put off two swarms immediately after introducing them in the spring which reduced their numbers so the chances of excess honey were small.  The second year I had 3 swarms off one hive and the few frames that contained honey were kept for a spring feeding the next year (colonies survived the winter).  The third year we moved across the country and sold the hives (they survived the winter) so we had to start with new hives that contained bare foundation and the queen failed the first week of June.  It's been a bit unnerving to not receive gallons upon gallons of honey like other beekeepers do, but we also manage our hives a bit differently than others which has affected the amount of excess honey our bees make.  For one thing, we don't feed our colonies gallons of sugar water in the fall and spring to bulk up their food stores.  There are many reasons for this, one being we don't think processed table sugar is a healthy diet for the bees.  We want to raise honeybees with strong immune systems.  We also don't treat our bees for diseases because we want strong, hygienic, healthy genetics in our apiary.  Harvesting honey is a secondary reason for us keeping bees, increased pollination is the first.

All together we removed 9 frames with capped foundation from the colony that survived the winter.  The second colony was a package of bees introduced this spring.

Most frames were completely covered.

We used an electric carving knife at first to remove the cappings but we found the honey gummed up the blades and almost over-heated the motor so we used a regular bread knife and that did the trick!

Cappings removed.

Our apiary is going to expand so Jon decided to get the large 9 frame extractor.  We spent many hours researching homemade extractors and were hoping to make one ourselves, but we don't know how to weld and don't know of anyone who does food-grade welding (for a reasonable price) and we really wanted to keep everything in stainless steel so we just bought one in the end.  We did save $50.00 by making our own stand completely out of reused pallets.

We couldn't wait to see the honey flow out the gate!  A fine mesh colander was used to filter out the wax.

The next morning we opened the garage door and let the honeybees clean out the extractor for us.  It was quite the feeding frenzy and we had mixed feelings about doing this.  We did notice honeybees wrestling on the ground trying to sting each other and there were several dozen bees dead on the ground and in the wax.  We're thinking the 2 hives were fighting over the food.  Laying the extractor and bucket on it's side did decrease the number of dead bees because it was easier for the bees to fly out.  We left all of the cappings on a cookie sheet and they cleaned up that too in addition to the honey bucket and tools.

Jon counted 129 honeybees in this picture and highlighted them with yellow dots. 

Here's the colander that filtered out the wax as it left the extractor.  The bees cleaned it up so well that it was just a bunch of wax sprinkles in the end.

Jon found this itty bitty worm during the bottling process.  I'm pretty sure it's a wax worm.  I've only had them in my apiary once and that was the first year of beekeeping.  I found the web-like material on one frame while putting away the dead hive in the middle of winter.

I forgot to take a picture when the wax was added to the solar wax melter so this is showing the left over sediment and dead bees left behind after the wax melted.


And the total count was...20.25 pounds!  Honey jars are officially on the canning shelf with the rest of our harvest.  For a family of three, this would be more than enough for one year, but for us, we don't think we'd have too much.  With all of our canning, mead making, and baking, we would need a lot of honey if we decided to no longer use processed sugar. 


About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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