All New Things (In Lieu of Weekly Renovation Update)

Hey there friends! This is a short and sweet blurb to let you know I’m thinking about and love you guys. We haven’t done work on the house this week since we’ve been waiting to pick up some materials, and for a friend to be available to help us finish the chim chiminy cheroo. The boys are at that on Friday, but unfortunately I won’t be there to take photos (one of the few projects I really wanted to do a detailed post on, too!). I’ll hopefully have a post up for you this weekend, or on Monday about the chimney and a few other things going on (in general, not house related, or maybe house related, I don’t really know yet).

On a new note, I thought I’d let you all in on a secret: I got a new job! I was unemployed for three weeks. If you know this economy, and you’ve been (or are) unemployed, you’ll know this is absolutely ridiculously amazing. So this week I’m settling into my new position, and re-figuring out my blog schedule, and life schedule who’s kidding. So far it’s great, and I think it will continue to be. For those of you who are still unemployed, keep the faith and try and take a moment to enjoy the unemployment. I did small things like take the dogs on the beach close by (to save on gas money) and lay in the hammock and read. Absorb the little moments. I know the money thing and uncertaintly is stressful. I’ve been unemployed twice before – once for seven months and once for four months. I give you hugs and encouragement.

All for now.

xo,

Heather

Wild Ideas: Autumn Olive

A few weeks ago the dogs and I were out at the apple trees in the back field when I noticed Primrose eating tiny red berries that had spots on them.

I was concerned because normally small round red berries = bad. At least, that’s how I was raised. So I came in the house (oddly calmly, I think at this point I just expect things like this from her sweet little face) and tried to figure out if little miss trouble maker had just poisoned herself. After a bunch of googling around I found out the berries were called Autumn Olives.

Not only are the berries not poisonous to either dogs or humans (or cats and horses apparently), they are actually a superfood secret and they make very good juice, jam and fruit leather. Excuse me?! Say what?! I’ve had a zero effort harvest in my backyard for five years and I never knew about it? Let me clarify that these, despite the name, are not olives. Rather, they are a tart berry filled with lycopene (cancer fighting) and antioxidants. They have pits but I haven’t had a problem just eating them. It turns out Autumn Olives are an invasive species in North America, but as I figure it invasive can simply mean opportunistic. I’m into permaculture and if it’s growing wild, and I can harvest it, why not? It’s the same reason I made dandelion syrup this spring, wild stuffed grape leaves this summer and harvested wild blackberries and raspberries.

According to multiple sources on the internet the berries get ripe best in cool weather, and even when they seem ready they normally aren’t until the end of September to mid-October. I found them around the beginning of September and let me tell you with how much anticipation I’ve been waiting for them to be ready to harvest: a ton. Thursday was the day. I went out, tasted a berry and it was still tart but not painfully so. It was, dare I say, tasty. I knew the birds would be out to get these soon so I got my big tin pail and walked out to gather about 5lbs of berries per a jam recipe I found.

Here’s a few tips on harvesting the berries:

  • Put the pail below each stem and then gently roll the berries off of their stems with your fingers. If they don’t come off easily don’t force them. Ripe berries will easily roll off.  The juice of these comes out easily as well, gentle gentle gentle.
  • You will get spiders and other creatures from the plant in your berries. That’s harvesting for you. I try and pick them out with care because I know they are beneficial to the plant life.
  • About a 1/4 of a five gallon bucket hit about 5lbs for me.
  • Share your harvest. In other words: these are wild. Other animals besides you eat them too. Don’t take them all. I took a very small portion of what was there and left a good amount in each area I did harvest from. I didn’t do the work to grow them, and I don’t think it’s really my right to wipe everything clean and leave the birds and other animals with nothing. Responsible harvesting high fives all around.

On Thursday I came in, rinsed the berries, and plucked all the little stems out of them. My water was pretty dirty only because my bucket had some dried dirt it in before I started. Next time I will definitely use a clean bucket. It will significantly cut the rinsing steps down.

On Friday I knew it was time to turn it into jam, or at least that was my intention. After boiling the berries down for about 20 minutes, in order to make them easier to pit through a food mill, I realized this stuff would be great as a fruit butter.

I boiled berries on the front burner so I could mill them, and then added the puree to the back burner to cook down.

On the other side of the stove I had the jars sterilizing and the tops and lids slightly simmering.

The entire time I was doing this and experimenting with sugar/pectin/lemon, I was video chatting with Lauren over at Filing Jointly. Let me tell you something about Lauren—she’s great. She also thinks she awkward and she’s not. I feel like a lot of people who blog feel like they are awkward in person and more dynamic online. I even feel like this. I know I’m awkward, but I embrace it. Have you seen the video of me making spaghetti sauce? Lauren can probably testify to my a.) talkative nature and b.) awkward movements. I can testify to her awesomeness. Also, you all should encourage her to write about the pig farm story. It’s great.

That said, she pretty much just watched this process live. There really isn’t much of recipe but I’ll give a general breakdown. It’s a pretty typical fruit butter recipe I’d say. When it sets up it will look like a jam from the outside, but once you open it give it a quick stir and it quickly becomes butter consistency and nothing like jam.

Autumn Olive Butter Recipe

Remember, this is a “more or less” recipe. I’ve made jam before so I just sort of winged this and knew it would either be butter or jam, with my hope being for a soft butter/spread. Mine became butter because I was stingy on the pectin, and the mash is already very butter like on it’s own. You can easily make a small batch of this by just milling your berries, adding a little sweetner and moving on. The recipe below is for canning it, which requires more sugar and some citrus to be safe. I also realized it takes a TON of sugar to make it sweet once you add more than a tablespoon of lemon juice, I had added two and it was harshly tart. Next time I may just stick with less lemon juice, and plain sugar.

  • 8 to 9 or so cups berry mash (food mill to remove pits)
  • Few teaspoons of lemon juice. Be careful and add slow, the berries are very tart. The more lemon you add, the more sugar you need to add to offset it. You need a certain amount of citrus though, especially if you’re water bathing. A professional will have more advice than me on this, but I always do it as a precaution.
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Few tablespoons powder pectin. I used ball and some new kind. I really recommend sure jell if you want this to be more like a jam. Follow the directions on your own pectin for best results.

Follow proper procedures to making fruit butter and for canning per the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Butter recipes for canning can be found lots of places like Balls Complete Book of Home Preservation. Process according to your altitude. I boiled the fruit until it coated my spoon and came off in a sheet and processed once it reached a rolling boil for about 10-15 minutes. I’m not a professional canner and I don’t want to give you information that may be considered inaccurate because of botulism and other goodies that can grow if not preserved appropriately and will make you very sick, so please please please consult with the National Center if you don’t know how to can, or need more accurate instructions. 

Saving Autumn Olives For Fruit Smoothies

When you mill autumn olives to remove the pits, the mash will look an awful lot like a smoothie in consistency. The next day when it sets it will feel like a firm pudding, or as my childhood memories remind me – Nickelodeons Gak. Given how good these berries are for you, and the natural consistency of their mash, I am going to process more of these and freeze them into ice cube trays. I’ll then vacuum seal the frozen berry mash cubes into bags with about 4-5 in each bag. I’ll use these in place of ice cubes when I make smoothies.

Autumn Olive Frozen Fruit Butter

Given the natural smoothie butter consistency of the mash, it makes perfectly good sense to me that if the mash freezes and thaws well, I could easily thaw one or two cubes of mash and mix it with a little maple syrup to make a really nice spread for toast. I’m interested in testing this method with the cubes vacuum sealed to protect against freezer burn, but I’m glad I preserved a batch too.

Autumn Olive Cake Topping

This sounds ridiculous but it is *so darn good*. I recently made a banana molasses spice cake and man oh man, the butter I made and preserved is ridiculous with it. Not only is it super tasty, it sits and holds really well. This would make a great spread in between layers because it will soak into the cake without totally soaking in. I wouldn’t use it on the sides because it would slip off. I’m sure the fresh mash could be doctored into a stiff frosting, but lets face it that is way out of my jurisdiction as I’m a pantry baker at best.

My final opinion…

Make it. Eat it. Love it. I think I love the mash best on it’s own with just a little sweetner, if I’m being entirely honest. I just don’t like taking something so healthy for you and ruining it with so much sugar. I bet I could make it with a lot less sugar if I upped the pectin. That might be the next trial. That doesn’t mean I won’t lick clean every jar I preserved already though. I will. Oh, I will.

xo,

Heather

P.S. Winnie was eating rearing off the ground and jumping for the berries her nose deemed best. Good God, I love these dogs.

Wednesday Renovation Recap: We Need Two Of Every Animal

Last week I posted from my phone, and admittedly the photos came out tiny and like, uh, I wrote it on my phone. Without access to the actual photos I took for that post, it was a little pieced together. For this weeks post I thought I would delve into a little more detail about the windows and door and show the process. We actually haven’t worked on the house this last week for a few reasons. One, the next step is building the chimney which we’re having a friend help with so that requires coordination. Two, we were waiting to hear whether I got a new job, so we could order more windows and get the insulation. This just in: I got the job and I start Monday (yes!). Third, and finally, we actually left this weekend and we actually do most of the work on the weekends. If you follow me on Instagram (likeacupoftea) you saw photos of us clearing paths and logging on my mother in laws land and snuggling in front of the fireplace. I’ll have another post on that coming up including some videos, but yes – we were actually gone and I loved it. There’s nothing like the mountains to recharge you.

Without further ado, window and door details!

Everything to do with installation of windows is prep work. Actually, that’s probably true about most things in life. Specifically to windows, if the framing and prep work is done right the windows more or less go in quickly.

The first step of actually installing the windows including putting vycor down. We used Grace Vycor, which is a self adhesive flashing. They have no idea who we are, I’m just letting you know what product Andy chose in case you were curious.

With the vycor down, Andy took a step outside.

Don’t worry, there was staging.

With shims waiting in case they were needed to level or plumb the windows, the boys lifted the first one into place and crossed fingers.

With only a little adjusting and a couple shims, the window fit perfectly, and the boys secured the window into place. Once everything was secured, they put more vycor around the outside to weatherize it. This same method was used for each window, and before I knew it the windows we had ordered were in. We still need to order and replace the two original windows on the first floor, and special order the smaller windows, but those should be ordered pretty soon here.

Just to be clear, the reason we didn’t order all of them at once was because of money. Just like everyone else we have to budget, so we ordered the most important windows first. There were certain ones we had to have done and the end windows and the windows into the livingroom of the new addition were absolutely the most important. So now that we know I have another job starting we’ll go ahead and order the other ones.

I always show photos from the front and back of the house, but here’s a good view of the house facing the broad side of the addition. This gives a good view of what windows we still need to complete, and a better idea of where the porch floor will be in relation to the door. This photo just proves how much nicer the new windows are. It also shows that building around an existing structure isn’t always symmetrical. Sometimes you have to work with what’s there. I’ve mentioned it before, but the staircase to the second floor is to the right of the door meaning the window placement is a little wonky from the outside. We’re storing firewood on the right side of the porch though so I’m not sure it really matters.

Finally, let’s discuss the fact this photo shows how huge the addition is. Excuse me while I go get the animals two by two, my Grammy may have been right that this is the ark. At least in the event of a pending flood I know my husband could build something of appropriate size. Waterworld? No problem.

Hey, speaking of doors, here are the shots I promised you last week of the installed door.

Here’s a couple more photos of the interior of the new livingroom with all of the windows and door in.

The one thing about this room that has really surprised us is how warm it is. There is minimal insulation in this room currently but the windows and door have made an amazing difference. This room now gets a ton of sunlight which keeps it roasty toasty throughout the day. We can only imagine how wonderful it will be in the dead of winter between the sun, full insulation and the wood stove roaring. Pretty much we can’t wait.

But we will.

We may not have much more we’ll be updating on in the next week or two as we wait for materials, but I’ll keep you updated with other things going on. It will be nice to be able to share a few other non-renovation things with you!

xo,

Heather

Wednesday Renovation Recap: Window You Let Me In?

I hope this comes through okay, as this is the first post I’m writing on my phone. We’re up in the mountains this weekend and I didn’t bring my laptop, but I just can’t wait any longer to post this weekly update so phone photos it is!

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I am happy to announce we finally have our large windows in, and our solid Douglas Fir door!

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I’ll show more photos on my next regular post, but let me explain the windows a minute. On this back side of the house, facing the hayfield, we did very large side by side windows to take full advantage of the field. On the street side we did a single window on each floor which is slightly smaller. We didn’t want them overpowering the front, and to also fit the front rooms of the original house. Unfortunately the large windows would be far too large for an original room, so we went slightly smaller overall to keep it cohesive on each side. Even though its an older photo you can kind of see what I mean below about the original house here. The windows look slightly small in the addition now, but they look great inside and will look better on the outside once trimmed and siding goes up. Oh, and for anyone interested, these are two over one Anderson windows.

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Here are a few more installation shots.

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Moving on to the door, this really made the room. Every year Hammond Lumber has a big sale up in Belgrade so. As I mentioned last week, Andy went up and ended up getting the door for a significantly discounted price. We’ve seen this door installed before, and it often has floor to top of the door side windows to it. This one didn’t come with them but I was truly okay with it. It’s a personal preference but it just seems like asking for someone to easily break in. I just prefer higher windows and a solid wood door.

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Glitch! I just lost everything I wrote past that photo. Darn you futuristic typing machine! What I had said was Andy took the door and not only changed it so it would swing towards the wall, but added a beautiful oil to it as a finish. Some people prefer a painted door, but painting gorgeous solid wood in our house is the 8th deadly sin. That’s dramatic, but you will almost never see it happen. I say “almost never” in case a weird 180 of the world happens. Our style is a “new traditional” style. That title alone makes me laugh, because it’s ridiculous. Essentially you can expect to see us doing clean, simple, lines with shaker style influences and farmhouse touches-and not painting douglas for doors lime green or something.

The best part of the door being installed (I’ll have a photo soon) in the living room is how it finally feels like a room. I’ve already changed the furniture positions, removed pieces, added others-all in my head of course. It’s cozy, it’s comfortable and I’m looking forward to that next step.

If I had told myself months ago I would enjoy this renovation process, I would have given you the eye. I’ve once again proven myself wrong.

Xo,
Heather

Wednesday Weekly Reno…Hold On A Minute

Yeah, I know, I haven’t put up the weekly update with the pretty exciting things I talked about on twitter and showed sneak peeks of on instagram. Bad blogger. This week became a bit of a whirlwind between interviewing for a new position, and making some soap. I’ll be back to the regularly scheduled program soon, but in the mean time enjoy this post I put up Tuesday night!

xo,

Heather