Sweetest Day

Happy Sweetest Day! Sweetest Day is kind of like Valentine’s Day, but in October. You’re supposed to do something sweet for your sweetie :)


What better way to celebrate Sweetest Day than by visiting “The Sweetest Place on Earth.” Thanks to air miles, Andy surprised me with a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania, the self -proclaimed sweetest place on earth :)

They make millions of pounds of chocolate every day right there in Hershey, which makes them the sweetest place around :)





This was the bathroom in my hotel room.

Can you see the evil item lurking underneath the sink?







Yes, a scale.

Every time you do something in Hershey, they hand you a full sized chocolate bar. And then they put a scale in the bathroom??? How evil is that?!




My first day in Hershey, I visited the Hershey Story, which is a museum dedicated to Mr. Hershey’s life.






There was a school group visiting at the same time I was there. The kids were having fun trying on aprons and playing with the interactive displays.








I found the secret flow chart to making chocolate!







This is how they used to move their chocolate around. When one of these cast iron tubs was full of chocolate, it weighed about 900 pounds. Wow! That’s a lot of chocolate.





Old fashioned Kiss making machine :)









Vintage Hershey Bar mold. This was a two pieced metal dealywhopper used to make molded chocolate bars.






Overview of the upstairs of the museum.

Definitely worth visiting if you find yourself in Hershey, PA :)





Secrets for making Hershey chocolate :)









I had no idea that Hershey’s made soap at one time.







Nor did I have any idea that Hershey’s made chewing gum.







Mr. Hershey gave several million dollars to Penn State to build their medical facility in Hershey. They developed the first implantable Artificial Heart!





Because Milton Snavely Hershey only had a 4th grade education, he wanted to ensure that other people had the opportunity to obtain a higher education, so offered two years of tuition- free higher education at the local junior college to Derry Township residents.

The township thing is kind of a foreign concept to me – I think it’s comparable to the urban growth boundaries that we have in the west. They have townships, counties and boroughs within the state. Sounds very complicated.



Most people, including myself, don’t know that Mr. Hershey actually started his entrepreneurship as a confectioner making caramel. Chocolate was secondary.








Mr. Hershey’s biggest challenge was securing sugar at a reasonable cost. He went down to Cuba and bought a sugar mill, along with thousands of acres of sugar cane.

While doing this, he built up the surrounding community by implementing child labor laws, improving the standard of living and introducing a school for the children.





Mr. and Mrs. Hershey were supposed to be on the maiden voyage of the Titanic! Here is the cancelled check of the deposit he had put down on a state room. Business called him back early, so he and his wife fortunately missed that cruise!




One of the things which impressed me the most was the school that Mr. and Mrs. Hershey started. Because they couldn’t have children (she had symptoms which doctors have described as very similar to MS), they decided to start a school for orphan boys. The school started in 1910 with four boys. The school continued to flourish as the years went by and more students were added. The boys had to have lost one or both parents in order to attend the school. The driver that picked me up from the airport happened to be one of those boys at one time. He had lost his father. His mother signed the social security checks over to the school to help her son get further in life. The school never touched that money – they just let it accumulate the entire time the driver was in school. The boys had to live in a stable home environment, so no more than 12-14 boys were allowed in a home, usually a dairy farm (where Mr. Hershey got his milk for his milk chocolate), along with house parents. My driver said that he would get up at 5 a.m. to milk the cows, then went to school. After school, he milked the cows again, cleaned the barn and then had an hour of required school work time. Then an hour was for personal time and bedtime was 9 pm. When he turned 21, the school gave him the entire amount of money that had accumulated from the social security checks from his father passing. When the boys graduated from the Hershey school, they had learned one of 11 vocations taught through the school, and were given $100 and a suitcase full of new clothes to start off their life.



The school is now co-ed with approximately 50-50 boy-girl ratio. There are currently 1854 students enrolled. They still live in ‘stable home environments’ as dictated by Mr. Hershey in his will. They don’t all live on dairy farms anymore, but still have chores around the house to do. When they graduate from high school, they are still given $100 and a suitcase full of clothes. If they have maintained a C average or better in their schoolwork, along with showing good character, and if they want to go on to a higher education, they are given a laptop computer and $80,000 in scholarship funds. When Mr. Hershey passed away in 1945, he put his entire estate into a trust for the school, about $60 million. That trust is now worth about $12 billion and is controlled by a Board of Trustees. So every time you purchase a Hershey product, you are directly contributing to improving the lives of orphan children. Guilt-free chocolate with a good cause :)



This is Founder’s Hall in the school. There are flags representing each of the states that the children come from. I was told that if you are interested in applying to be house parents or teachers at the school, you can go on their website and fill out an application :) If you know a student who qualifies for the opportunity to attend this school, you can help them apply online as well.

This dome is the second largest of it’s type in the world. Only the Basilica is larger.




After being totally overwhelmed by the philanthropy of Mr. Hershey, I walked around downtown for a bit.

On Chocolate Avenue, brownstone was added to the asphalt so the street is brown :) The street lights are Hershey kisses :) Every other one is wrapped/unwrapped.



I found ZooAmerica :)









I had no idea that there are TWO pink birds in North America. This is a Rosa Spoonbill. Their food floats around inside of a food bowl that is floating around in the water.





Cute little turtle hiding out.

Give me chocolate!






Ginormous alligator snapping turtle. I would hate to run into this thing in a river – he was 3-4 foot long.






Lizard by the window begging for chocolate :)

Okay, maybe a chocolate covered cricket :)





Roadrunners. The one on the left was killing a mouse. He would pick it up and whap it on the ground to make sure it was dead. Reminded me of how the chickens kill their mice.





Vampire bat

There were bowls of blood on the ground for them to drink out of. One of those ‘kind of gross, kind of cool’ things in life.







Because it happens. And kids (and adults) want to know what the different plops look like :)






The Snowy Owl was quietly sitting on his perch, taking in everything in his surroundings.






After ZooAmerica, I wandered around a bit more and found Hershey Park, which is an amusement park. They reportedly have a roller coaster that uses hydraulics to propel you from 0-70 mph in 2 seconds. Right now they are only open on the weekends, though. They are having “Hershey Park in the Dark” for Halloween.



Then I found Hershey’s Chocolate World.






Too yummy!!

Probably one of the only places where you walk in the doors and inhale calories from the smell of chocolate wafting around :)





They offer a free tour of how chocolate is made.






To get onto the ride, you step onto a rotating platform and then get into a car, which is rotating with the moving platform.






The cows tell the story :)







100,000 lbs of cacao beans is a whole lot of cocoa!








The process was very interesting: from the grinding, roasting, and breaking to the conching, frothing and molding.








The numbers just kept running up as we went through the tunnel. That’s a whole lot of chocolate!








The largest chocolate bar, at a whopping 5 pounds!







I enjoyed their 4D mystery movie, where someone was breaking into the chocolate factory, but not stealing anything. It was pretty impressive how the narrator (Hershey) could interact with the audience.





Kiss and Reese were part of the mystery solving team, too.







Trolley rides around Hershey and Derry Township are available. I learned a great deal about the history of the town and Mr. Hershey from the conductor.

He handed out Hershey kisses of different flavors throughout the trip :) You have to try the Pumpkin Spice kisses :)



Conductor addressing those “chronologically mature” enough to remember Jack Parr, who found his wife in Hershey at a dance :) I think Jack Parr had something to do with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, but I’m not sure. I’m not chronologically mature enough, I guess :)




After the trolley ride, I was able to attend Hershey University :)







They offer a class on chocolate tasting, not eating.







Different flavors associated with chocolate :)

The four steps: Look at the chocolate, inspect the coloration and grain. Then snap a piece to help determine the milk/dark cacao content. Then smell the chocolate to see what scents you may pick up. Then allow the chocolate to melt on your tongue. Roll your tongue around to get all different parts of your tongue covered so that you can pick up the different flavors. Enjoy :)




I earned a Master’s Degree in Chocolate Tasting :) I’m going to put it next to my Post Hole Digging, PhD :)






Then I got to create my own candy bar :) You can choose from a milk, dark or white chocolate base. Then you choose up to 3 different ingredients to add in: almonds, crisp rice, chocolate cookie crumbs, butterscotch chips, etc. As the chocolate base goes down the conveyor belt, whichever ingredients you chose to add, are automatically dispensed into the base. Then it goes under a milk chocolate waterfall which covers the base and added ingredients. You can add sprinkles if you like :)




Then your specially made chocolate bar is boxed and labeled with your personal label :)






The second day I was there, I visited Hershey Gardens.

I imagine in the summer months that it would be spectacular.





Mrs. Hershey loved roses, so Mr. Hershey had this garden planted in honor of her memory.






Some of the rose bushes are supposedly the same plants that she had in her personal garden. Mr. Hershey had them transplanted into the Hershey Garden.





There is a Children’s section. You can see the caterpillar tunnel :)








The Caterpillar Tunnel takes you back to the Butterfly House, which during warm months houses 300-500 butterflies that fly around and will come and land on you :)






During the cooler months, it has bonsai trees.








These are Hershey Kiss misters :) They occasionally spray up a mist of water for kids to play in :)






Chocolate Lane is a sweet way to learn some math :)







See the fractions and Hershey bars?









This weekend and next, the Garden is hosting the Pumpkin Glow, where 150 pumpkins are lit and placed around the walkway :)






There were Halloween figures all around the garden. This was kind of a fun way to recycle a milk jug :)








It was a rainy day, but this is still a beautiful bridge :)







In the arborial area…









In the Japanese garden area…









The people at the hotel recommended going down to Lancaster area, which has a large Amish population.






So I rented a car, got some directions and headed out.

Okay, so I drive a stick shift that has L-1-2-3 and R for gears. I also drive an automatic that has P-R-N-D-3-2-1 for gears.

What the heck do S and B stand for??? I checked the book and it said the S will rev up the engine for going up an incline, and the B will drag an engine down for going down a hill. But what do the letters stand for???




I found the Visitor’s Center in Lancaster, who recommended going to Bird in the Hand. I thought Bird in the Hand was a little shop, but it’s actually the name of the town.





And the Amish horse and buggies go up and down the streets just like cars.






There were different styles of buggies. This one had a flat bed on the back. Should have a rear dually, too :)





Sharing the road with a horse and buggy :)







Notice anything odd? There are turn signals on some of the buggies. Turn signals are usually powered by a 12 volt DC system. So if the Amish don’t use electricity, how do they charge the batteries to power the turn signals??? I need Hershey, Kiss, and Reese to help solve this mystery, too :)





There were lots of dairy farms and silos in the area :)

The old architecture was impressive to look at :)





I have heard of Shoofly Pie, but not actually seen it before :)






Just after the town of Bird in the Hand came the town of er, um, Intercourse. I don’t even want to know where the name came from.






Their food selection was a bit odd, too :)









There’s the zip code if you don’t believe me :)







Team of mules going up, or maybe down, the road. I don’t know how the rivers flow around there :)






I ventured a little bit north of there and finally found some Fall foliage :) Very pretty :)






I made it down to Strasborg to check out the train situation, but was too late in the day to catch a train ride :(






I made it back last night.

This hydroponic garden is in the Chicago O’Hare airport. They even have a Farmer’s Market right in the airport where you can purchase fresh fruits and veggies :)





For any other chocoholics out there, this is a great place to visit :) Just shove the bathroom scale underneath the sink so you can’t see it :)









Kiss, Hershey and Reese welcome you to visit and help solve their mystery :)




You’ll never find a better sparring partner than adversity. Golda Meir

Cast Iron


Can you believe it’s October already??? wow! Today begins National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Save the Ta-Ta’s!

Today is also Name Your Car Day. ummm…. I don’t know. The only time I have a name for my car is when it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do. I suppose I should have a name for it when it’s behaving itself :)


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I found a couple of cast iron kettles at a second hand shop.






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There was some pitting and rust on each one.






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This web site gives some great ideas on cleaning cast iron. I went with the oven cleaner and vinegar soak methods. The electrolysis method was intriguing, but there’s something about mixing electricity and water that deterred me :)



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The straight sided kettle is a Griswold. Good score :)






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The other kettle has a clear maker’s mark, but I wasn’t able to find out anything about it.

Anybody have a cast iron identity book?




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I have always seasoned my cast iron with just vegetable oil and medium heat.

But according to Cook’s Illustrated the best oil to use for seasoning your cast iron is flax seed oil. It is the food grade equivalent of linseed oil.

Step 1: warm the cast iron slightly to help open the pores. Wipe it down with flax seed oil.




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Turn the pan upside down in a cool oven. I put down aluminum foil to catch the extra oil.





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Step 2: Turn the oven up as high as it will go and set the timer for an hour.

Turn off oven and let pan set in oven for a couple of hours, until it has cooled a bit.




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This is after the first layer of flax seed oil.






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The oil seasoning process is to be repeated 5 times.

I found it’s a good idea to do it on a day when it’s cool enough you don’t mind the oven being on, but warm enough that you can open the windows.



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After the final layer.

Nice, shiny and ready to use :)

I did wash mine after all the layering to help reduce the burnt, acrid smell.




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Not to worry about washing – Cook’s Illustrated said they ran their cast iron pans through a commercial dishwasher with degreaser and it didn’t faze the seasoning :)

As you can see, a lot of the pitting was reduced, too. Hope that helps you with your cast iron :)



Don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions. They’re easier to handle than dumb mistakes.







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Trixie Belle

Betcha I can make you smile :)





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Kovu on the platform







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Who, me?






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Gloria and Aura playing tag :)






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Madeleine and Olivia


Aura, Gloria and Gadget





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Just sunning themselves and enjoying the day :)





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A pile of ears, legs and cute :)






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I’m the cute one around here, get that straight right now!




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Told you I could make you smile :)








Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree. Marian Edelman



Can you believe today is the first day of Fall?

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I guess the garden can……it got hit with a touch of frost :(





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The scarlet runner beans fared better than the squash, but they did get a touch of frost, too.





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I just love walking through the tunnel of beans :) The peas on the other side of the tunnel are done for the year :(

The bumble bees and hummingbirds love the scarlet runner bean flowers :) For some reason, though, the honey bees don’t care for the blossoms.




Fall brings harvest time, which is a wonderful thing :)


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Heather and I peeled and peeled and peeled pears for hours.

There has got to be a better way.

After peeling and coring the pears, they were put into a solution of Fruit Fresh.



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When we were almost done with peeling, I got the water going in the water bath canner.

I put in a splash of white vinegar to help prevent water spots. Someday I’m going to try putting in some herbs and do a facial steam at the same time as canning the fruit :)



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Make up a light or medium sugar syrup. I understand that since pears are naturally sweet, you can also use grape juice or apple juice, but I personally haven’t tried it.

My syrup looks dark because I use evaporated cane juice crystals rather than white sugar.



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Chart of syrups

Taken from Ball Blue Book






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I thought I would use Tattler lids :) I love the idea of re-usable lids :) I’m not filling the dump station with disposable lids and I don’t have to buy new lids every year :)




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Make sure to wash lids and rings. Then put into hot, but not quite boiling, water.





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Get clean jars warming in hot water.








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Drain ascorbic acid solution off of pears.

I think I waited a day or two too long to process these guys. They were still firm, but had turned yellow. Seems like they almost have to be canned when they’re mostly green or they get mushy. But if they’re too green, they turn out hard. If you wait until they are completely ripe, they kind of fall apart and look really messy after canning.



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I have always canned pears as a raw pack and they have done fine. But the Purdue University book said they do better if canned as a hot pack. So I thought I would try the hot pack this time. I think they have more discriminating taste buds than I do.



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After the syrup is hot, add peeled and cored pears. One book I have says to add one layer of pears and when they are hot all the way through, put them in jars. The other book I have says to add pears and boil for 5 min. Be it right or wrong, I added a colander full of pears to the syrup and when they were hot all the way through, put them into jars.





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Run a plastic knife down the sides to eliminate air bubbles.

Do you wonder what they did in the old days? The books say not to use a metal knife, so what did the old-timers do? I don’t think plastic cutlery has been around that long, has it?





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Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp napkin. This helps ensure a good seal.







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Affix two piece lids. If using disposable lids, tighten rings down.

If using Tattler lids, screw the rings down finger tight. I always get myself into trouble with this part, as I’m sure any milker does. My finger tight is tighter than other people’s finger tight. So I turn the ring back 1/4 inch.




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Place jars into elevated rack of canner as you fill them.






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When the rack is full, lower it down into the water. At this point, I usually panic a bit because the water level isn’t where it should be, which is 1-2 inches above the tops of the jars.

Often I add the hot water from the hot lid kettle to help make up the difference.



001Bring water to a boil and start timing. The chart at the left will tell you how long for which sizes and which altitudes. Since we’re at 2,000 feet in elevation, I processed quarts for 30 min and pints for 25 min.

Chart taken from Purdue University book


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After processing for proper time, remove canner from heat. Remove lid of canner. Allow jars to set for 5 min before removing from canner.

Remove jars one at a time from canner. If using disposable lids, don’t tighten the rings. If using Tattler lids, be sure to tighten rings as you remove jars.


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Allow jars to cool. If using disposable lids, you will hear an audible ‘pop’ as the lids suck down. If using Tattler lids, allow jars to cool completely. I usually let mine set overnight. Then remove rings and check seals.

Should make some very nummy pear crisp this winter :)


Out of a 5 gallon bucket of pears, I wound up with 7 quarts and 11 pints of pears.



Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance. -Kurt Vonnegut


Puff 1

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Puff 1 and her adopted baby…

…yep, s/he’s in the picture, too :)






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See the little feet? How cute is that?






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But…Puff 1 needed another baby fix this summer. So she went back to setting.





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And look at the cutiepie puff she hatched out :)






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Mama Turkey also went back to setting.

She hatched out a very adorable little black chick. She jumped off the nest, so I set the baby on the floor for her to take care of. But she was too busy with the feeder to take notice of her little black puff peeping away.



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Puff 1 was very agitated with the way Mama Turkey was ignoring her baby.

So she adopted Mama Turkey’s little puff :)




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The little puff didn’t seem to notice that it was a different white mama keeping him warm. He was just happy to be warm :)





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How cute is that??? :)






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This penedesenca/maran mama hen managed to hatch out 7 little puffs :)

I’m not sure what to think with all the new little puffs running around. It’s like we’re in for a second spring or something :)




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Rechenka inspecting how well I’m filling the water bucket :)






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A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.

Blueberry Spice Jam


Today is Citizenship Day!  I had no idea what that meant, so I looked it up. It’s one of the newest Federal holidays, just initiated in 2004. No wonder I didn’t know what it was – it’s not a Hallmark holiday! Anyway, it marks the ratification of the US Constitution and is considered to be the actual birth date of this great nation. So today we are supposed to honor the US Constitution :)


Tomorrow is National Play-Doh day :) So get ready with the Play-Doh!

This jam is a step above plain blueberry jam with just a few added spices, but I really like the added depth of flavor :)

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Start water heating up in water bath canner. Put lids in hot, almost boiling water. Put clean jars in hot water.





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Put 2-3 cups sugar in bowl along with 2 tsp Pomonas Pectin.





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Add 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp cardamom into sugar-pectin mixture





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Put 6-7 cups of blueberries into a saucepan. Mash berries and add 1/4 c. lemon juice and 2 tsp Pomona’s calcium water.

Bring to a boil.




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Add in sugar-pectin mixture.

Add in 2 tsp vanilla.

Return to a boil.






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Ladle hot jam into hot jars.

Wipe jar rim with clean, damp napkin.







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Affix 2 piece lids.


Place filled jars into elevated rack of water bath canner.





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When rack is full, submerge into hot water.

Bring to a boil and process 10 minutes (maintain boil), adding 1 minute for every 1,000 feet above sea level. We’re at 2,000 feet in elevation, so I process mine for 12 minutes.



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Remove canner from heat. Remove canner lid. Allow to set for 5 minutes.






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Remove jars to a towel to cool.

Enjoy :)





Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
Brian Littrell






Hope you all have a fabulous weekend scheduled :) It’s starting to feel like Fall around here. The garden frosted last night, which tells me it’s cooler outside than I want to admit :(

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The plum tree is loaded with yummy fruit, sweeter than candy :)

So I thought I would preserve some of this yumminess to savor later this winter.




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Get water in water bath canner to heating up. Add 1 Tbsp white vinegar to help prevent spotting on jars.





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Get lids to warming up in hot, but not boiling water. The idea is to soften the gasket material, but not so soft that when you put it on the jar and tighten the ring, the jar rim cuts through the gasket. This can lead to problems with sealing.



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Make up a light or extra light sugar syrup and get it hot.

I use organic, minimally processed cane sugar, which is why it has a brownish tinge to it. If you use white sugar, it will be more clear.



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Taken from Ball Blue Book of Preserving

This will give you the correct ratio of sugar to water for your sugar syrup





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Wash plums

I understand that the white coating on plums and grapes is the same type of yeast as what you can use to make bread. I admit, I’ve never tried it because I have no idea how to get the yeast off of the plums and into my bread dough :)



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Prick each side of the plum with a fork. This is supposed to help reduce the risk of the plums exploding while they’re in the canner. I dunno…exploding plums…explosive diarrhea…sounds too close to me! :)




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Get sterilized jars into hot water to start warming up. This helps reduce the risk of jars cracking when they hit the hot water of the canner.





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Fill jar with plums.

I’m using pint jars because one only needs so much fiber in one day :) And a quart of plums is a lot of fiber :) But you use whichever jars suits your needs best. That’s the great part about preserving your own food – you can tailor it to suit your individual needs.





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Fill jar with hot sugar syrup.

Run a plastic knife down the side in a couple of places to help eliminate air bubbles.






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Wipe rim of jar with clean, damp napkin. This helps ensure a good seal.







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Affix two piece lid.

Tighten ring securely so as to not lose sugar syrup during canning.







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Place jar into elevated rack of water bath canner.

When rack is full, lower rack into hot water. When water comes to a boil, start timing.




plum 001Process jars for indicated length of time. Since we live at 2,000 feet elevation, and I used pints, I processed mine for 25 minutes.

Chart taken from USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning



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After the specified amount of time, remove canner from heat. Remove lid and allow jars to sit for 5 minutes before removing them from the canner.




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Remove jars and place on a towel to cool.

They turned out a pretty color, didn’t they?




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I had some leftover sugar syrup, so I took it out to feed the bees.

They were happy campers :)




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With the cooler weather, there’s not much available for them to forage on right now. It’s not the right ratio of sugar-water for them, but they seemed to appreciate it :)




Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.




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Mama Duck gave up on setting in the garden. I think the crows got all of her eggs :(

So she moved into the chicken coop, where I have two large doghouses set up for nesting hens.






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Both doghouses were occupied by Mama Ducks :)

Little webbed puffs on the way :)






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A second mama duck started setting with one mama duck in one doghouse. Together they hatched out two very cute little puffs :)





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But the mama duck hens kept running all over like crazy, and the babies couldn’t keep up. I tried to pen the mamas and babies off to themselves, but the mamas just trampled one of the babies. So I absconded the one remaining baby and brought Timmy inside. Timmy was lonely, so I put a mirror in with him/her.


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Two days after the ducklings hatched, mama turkey hen hatched out two chicks. She jumped off the nest and left both chicks sitting in the nest. They were cold and bewildered when I found them.

So I took the two chicks and put them in with Timmy.



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Timmy seems pretty happy to have company, even if they don’t look like the fuzzy black thing in the mirror.

The two chicks don’t know quite what to think. The big white thing that was keeping them warm disappeared and now here’s this little black puffy thing.



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But they seem to be getting along okay and are pretty happy :)

Heather is enjoying having them around to read to :)

If we could all only get along like that :)


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Arnica in bloom :)



Charity begins at home, but should not end there

Crystal Park


Tomorrow is Grandparent’s Day :) Happy Grandparents Day to all you grandparents out there :)


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Heather and I ventured into Montana’s Pioneer Mountains to dig for quartz crystals at Crystal Park. I thought we could start off the school year with a geological field trip :)

I was told that September is the best time to go because it’s not too hot and you don’t have to deal with mosquitoes.



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The person who told us about the park said that water is available there. I just wasn’t expecting to have to pump it :) It was kind of an off-color, too, so I’m glad we brought drinking water :)

The park is at 7800 feet in elevation. One of the locals told us that they have 6 weeks of summer and one month of that is mosquitoes :)




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My mom met us there to dig around, too :)

She’s getting around pretty well after having a broken hip at the end of March.




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Heather got pretty serious right away about examining every rock to see if it was a crystal :)





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That’s what the bucket of water is for: washing your rocks to see if you have something special :)

After a while, she got the hang of what shape of rock to look for.




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There is a paved path going in a circle around a hillside. There’s a honey bucket at the bottom and a honey bucket at the top. Heather refuses to use a honey bucket :)

There are big holes where people have been digging, and you just get in and started digging :)



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Heather found a caterpillar :)






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And some pretty six sided crystals :)

She is pretty excited about what she found and is all ready to go back next year :)




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We also ventured back to the ghost town of Coolidge.






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I think this was the mine, since it was a gold town at one point.






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We met some people coming out of the walkway, who told us it was about half a mile back. No worries.





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A ways in, we met another guy walking out, who said it was about half a mile back.

We discovered that Montana has really, really long half-miles.




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About a Washington mile in, we finally found the ghost town :) My mom was sure that it was an Oregon mile and a half :)

This structure was situated right in the creek.




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This was a really well-built house :)






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The kitchen area…






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The living room area…






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Going upstairs…








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There is a row of houses right along the walkway.






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Behind each of the houses was an outhouse, or at least the remains of one :)





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Some outhouses have been claimed :)








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Maybe this is one of those $100 toilet seats they talk about :)





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This was interesting to me how the house had fallen down, but the interior stairs were still standing.





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I’m not really sure what this used to be – it was sitting right in the creek.






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It’s a beautiful walk if you don’t mind walking a Montana ‘half-mile’ :)







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You do have to share the road with the locals :)






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After digging around like little moles, and then walking a Montana ‘half-mile,’ we stopped at the hot springs, which was 3 miles from where we were staying.




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I had some trouble convincing Heather that the water was going to be warm, even though it was chilly outside :) She held on to her jacket for a long time before I finally got her to at least stick her toes in :)




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But after I finally convinced her to try it, I didn’t think I was going to get her out :)

Grecian style sauna with 3 little areas and a fountain :) Yummy warm on a chilly day :)



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The next day, we ventured to Gem Mountain to mine for sapphires.






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They don’t actually let you into the mine, but they bring the dirt out to you to sift through.

You give it a good wash in the sluice area and start looking.



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Heather found 25.4 carats of sapphires, including a couple of nice sized ones.

In the gift shop, they will weigh your sapphires for you.




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I was surprised to learn that sapphires are heavier than the other rocks, kind of like gold.

So after a good wash and shake, you flip your screen over and the sapphires are on top. They come in different colors, including green, blue and pink.



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The buckets of dirt cost $20, and there are several screenings in each bucket.

My mom was thrilled with her bucket :) She found 3 nice sapphires and had them evaluated, which they do right there. One was 1.4 carats :) I guess sapphires have to be heat treated before they can be cut.



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I did better at the World’s Greatest Candy Store in Phillipsburg :)






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They have rows and rows of buckets of candy :)






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They make their own taffy, fudge and chocolates there in the store.






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The Guilt Free Zone was not very yummy, I’m afraid.






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Loved the look of the buckets :) One does NOT discuss calories here.

My favorites were the dinosaurs and bear paws in the middle of the store: chocolate, caramels and nuts :)




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Outside of Anaconda, close to Phillipsburg, was a huge stack. One of the locals said at one time it was the largest copper smelter in the world. I can believe it – it was huge!




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Also outside of Anaconda was a great rest stop :)

Outside was a windmill :)





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Inside they had individual rest rooms – not a mass stall area. Wonderful :)

They also had minerals and gems on display.






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Heather was upset that someone had taken the malachite out of this one.







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While we were there, we stayed at the Grasshopper Inn :)

The locals are friendly and laid-back :)





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On our way back, we stopped to read about how they discovered gold in Montana :)





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We also stopped at the 50,000 Silver Dollar gift shop and cafe. They really do have 50,000 silver dollars on the wall in back of the bar area :)




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All in all, we had a really great trip and if you like to dig around for rocks and gems, it’s a great place to go :)





Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
Douglas Adams

Murid Snack


Hope you all have a fun Labor Day weekend! I guess that means school is starting up… sigh. I’m dragging my feet as bad as Heather :)

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Almost invariably, every time I clean the coop, I find a mouse or two.

Gross. I hate mice.

This last time I cleaned the coop was no exception. I found mice.

Gross. I hate mice.



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So I got Toffee, my main mouser cat, and put her on the situation.

She was all over the adult mice. But she didn’t think much of the little squirming nest of mice.

Gross. I hate mice.



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So after Toffee had cleared out the big mice, you know, the ones that jump on you or run up your pant leg? I shoveled out the pile of squirming little mice.






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Gross. I hate mice.





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Some feed formulations contain animal based proteins, but most contain vegetable based proteins.





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Chickens don’t seem to notice the feed formulations too much. They still like bugs, worms, grubs, and (gulp!) mice.

Gross. I hate mice.




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It took a couple of minutes for the chickens to notice the pile of squirming grey fuzzies.





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But then the chase was on!

I don’t know why they couldn’t all just come get one out of the pile. It was much more fun for one chicken to grab a mouse and then run all over with the other chickens chasing them.



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I guess they thought one tasted better than the other or something.

Gross. I hate mice.




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And then there was a dog pile, errr…chicken pile.

Gross. I hate mice.





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I was NOT sad when the last disgusting little rodentia muridae was gone.

ick. yuck. gross.




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Tasty little afternoon snack, I guess.

Gross. I hate mice.






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This chicken has her treasure on the ground right now, making sure it isn’t moving anymore :(





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Now she’s running off into the trees with her prize.






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Giving it a good shake – make sure it’s really dead.






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She kept running away from me when I was trying to take her picture. She was worried I was going to steal her prize. So she downed the whole thing. Just the tail sticking out now.

ugh! bleah! aack! My stomach is churning even now.

Gross. I hate mice.


A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. -Winston Churchill