Friday, June 21, 2013

Preserving Apricots

Apricots are in season in much of the country right now. So how can you get these delicious little beauties ready for preserving?

Making Apricot Jam:

Make your own apricot jam.

You will need:
8 cups of apricots, diced
6 cups of sugar
1/4 cup of lemon juice
5 pint jars or 10 half pint jars

Get out your water bath canner and sterilize your canning jars by boiling for 10 minutes.
Get out a stock pot, combine all your ingredients and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Stir occasionally until your sugar is dissolved.
Once the sugar is dissolved bring to a rolling boil and boil for 30 minutes being sure to stir frequently to avoid your mixture from sticking to the stock pot.
Remove pot from the heat and begin filling your jars. Your headspace will be 1/4". (a good canning funnel will help to fill your jars with minimal mess.)
Wipe the jar rims clean and put your canning lids and rings into place. Screw on the rings to finger tightness.
Process jars in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Dried Apricots

Dried apricots make a great snack anytime.

How to Dry your own Apricots:
Using a food dehydrator:
Split each apricot and place them in a single layer onto your dehydrator's trays.
If your dehydrator has a thermostat set it to 135 degrees. Allow the apricots to dry until their skin is leathery. This will typically take about 12 hours.
Check your apricots, they should be pliable and leathery with no juice.
Store your apricots until they are needed.

What is your favorite method for preserving your apricots?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Set your Sundial

The best time and day to set your sundial for most accurate reading for the summer is on June 15th at 12:00. The next date that you will be able to set your sundial for accurate reading will be September 1st at 12:00.

To Set your Sundial
  • Make sure the spot that your sundial is in is level and has full sun.
  • The shadow arm (gnomon) needs to be pointed toward celestial north if you are in the northern hemisphere. This is different than the magnetic north that a compass will show you. To find celestial north you will need to set your sundial at noon. Turn the sundial so the gnomon's shadow falls directly on the sundial's mark that shows where noon is.
  • This is known as SUN TIME.
For the most accurate sundial set it on one of the following days:
April 15, June 15, September 1, December 24.

Keep in mind that to your sundial noon is always going to be when the sun is highest in the sky.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Harvest the Rain

Rainy days remind me of the value of water. I took this photo today as I was walking, thinking about how I wish I could collect these drops of rain and save them for the dryer days of summer to water my plants. When the rain returns to earth, it brings with it the things of the air. The air is clean and sweet in the mountains, so it is not surprising that it makes the fruits of our labor sweeter, too.

Harvesting rainwater is a simple best management practice for gardeners that has the dual purpose of saving money and water resources. At Red Hill, they sit their buckets outside to capture the rain, then use it to water their flowers. Better yet, you can connect a rain barrel to your existing gutter system to store the free, fresh water to keep your gardens, flowers, and lawns fecund all summer long. Here is a lovely picture of Red Hill's dusty miller and geranium flowers glistening with rain today in Hillsville.

Want to learn more? Check out this fact sheet from the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension on the sustainable benefits of harvesting rainwater to treat stormwater runoff.

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