How To Freeze Your Broccoli Harvest

  • Broccoli is high in Potassium, Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-6, & it has more Vitamin C than an Orange!!  As if you needed another reason to eat tons of this yummy veggie!

Broccoli harvest happens all at once rather than sporadically throughout the season like, say, green beans for instance. If you can’t eat it all fresh straight out of the garden, freezing is the best method to preserve it for another meal and it’s really easy too!  Select firm, tight broccoli heads to preserve!

You Will Need:

  • Large Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Large Pot
  • Cookie Sheets Lined With Freezer Paper/ Food Saver
  • Colander
  • Salt
  • Ice

The Method:

First, give your broccoli a good rinse to remove any dirt. Then cut away the leaves. (I like to save them for the chickens.) Then fill a large pot with enough water to cover the broccoli and let it come to a boil and begin to prepare the broccoli for blanching.

Broccoli with the leaves gone.

Now run a sink full of cold water. For every gallon of water in the sink add 1 tablespoon salt and dissolve it to create a brine. Cut the broccoli florets off the stalk and put them in the brine bath and allow them to soak for at least five minutes. – This actually has nothing to do with adding flavor, nor does it aid in preserving the broccoli. It’s to get rid of any worms (caterpillars) or bugs that may be inside that pretty stalk of broccoli you brought in from your garden. Even the most perfect looking broccoli will have bugs hiding in it, so don’t freak out it’s just a fact of life! The brine kills them and they fall out of the broccoli florets. Typically they sink to the bottom of the brine bath, but when fishing the broccoli out of the sink for the final rinse in the colander you will need to look to make sure none got stuck to the florets.

This is why we brine folks! I’ll take my broccoli without the added protein THANKS
Broccoli In The Brine

 

After the brine, rinse the broccoli in the colander and give them a good swishing around. Cut up the stalks into bite sized pieces and toss them in the pot of boiling water. Add the florets. Allow the broccoli to cook for 3-5 min or until it is bright green.

Chopped stalks

Drain the broccoli into a colander and fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the broccoli, gently stir it around to cool it. This stops the cooking process and prevents the enzymes in the vegetable from breaking down the food any further. Drain once more. From here you can pack the broccoli cuts into food saver bags and freeze them OR you can spread the cuts out on freezer paper lined cookie sheets and pop them in the freezer for about 4 hours or overnight. Once frozen, grab a corner of the freezer paper and pull it towards you. The broccoli should free from the paper in perfect loose pieces, then bag the broccoli in portion sized bags and store them in the freezer.

Blanched Broccoli Ready For Freezing


Have fun broccoli-ing!

Options For Old Laying Hens

Chopping Block_1
The Chopping Block…

Cornflake the chicken was not harmed in the shooting of this photograph.

A chicken has a potential lifespan of 10+ years when given proper care, and that should be considered before you add a laying flock to your home, as should what you plan to do with them when they stop laying. It’s hard to justify keeping an animal around that only consumes on a homestead where everything must earn it keep. After 2-3 years of laying, a hen is past her prime in egg production. In most cases she will be processed in a canning jar; even though we’d all love to provide a rent-free home for the remainder of their lives, it isn’t always in the cards or the budget to do so. But there are some jobs that a veteran flock member can do — even if she isn’t producing eggs — that makes keeping her around worthwhile.

Like adolescents in every other species on the planet (humans included), young flock members can be a total pain in the rear end. They sleep in nest boxes and cause poopy eggs; they fight over food and manage to sit inside the feeders to eat and then get stuck; they find new and exciting ways to get out of the run; basically they have no idea how things work in the coop. Having older flock members present who know the routine can help the teenagers figure out when to return to the coop at night, and that they sleep on roosts not in nest boxes. The teachers show them where to take dust baths, where to scratch and peck, and how to eat at the feeder like a decent member of the flock. Flock matriarchs can kick a little butt, too, to teach newbies their place in the world and knock out some of their cockiness. Before long, they will behave and follow the routine just like everyone else in the coop.

Oatmeal with her adopted chicks

Surrogate Moms:

There comes a time when flock expansion is needed, and sometimes heat lamps and brooders aren’t ideal. Sometimes hens don’t sit on their eggs for the full 21 days. Sometimes hens are murderers and they kill all their babies as soon as they hatch. Enter the broody hen surrogate mom. They go broody at the mere sight of two eggs nestled in a nesting box and try to hatch them, and they happily adopt any abandoned chicks. Being a momma is their calling, and that’s why broody inclined hens will always have a home in my flock whether or not they lay eggs.

Broodiness however, can at times be unwanted or become dangerous to the hen if her need to be a mother isn’t satisfied. Check out this article from the Chicken Chick that tells you how to safely break a hen of broodiness if the situation calls for it. I love her method, and I have used it many times to break my regular broody mommas if I can’t find hatching eggs or  day old chicks for them.

Garden Tending:

Garden tending is the perfect job for your old hens. They eat weeds, scratch up the roots, eliminate pests, and fertilize and aerate the soil as they go! You will have to come up with a way to keep your fowl away from your veggies, though. There are some great, garden-row-sized chicken tractor plans on Pinterest, or you can come up with your own. I am working on plans for my own row tractor to use this gardening season and I have two perfect hens in mind…maybe this will fix those stinkin Isa Browns from eating my brussels sprouts for good.

And, every now and then, a chicken comes along that has a very special personality that saves her drumsticks. When I was a kid I had this lovely, huge, barred rock hen named Roxy. I wouldn’t let her get chopped, and I even painted her toenails red so I could keep her apart from everyone else. Now its my white Cochin, Oatmeal, who has hatched lots of new babies and survived being mauled by a Chihuahua, and of course Kahrl, a blue Cochin who is extraordinarily fluffy and who has raised new babies when other hens abandoned them. My husband’s buff Orpington, Cornflake, probably won’t be found on the dinner table either, since she is abnormally friendly.

An old hen’s working days aren’t always over after her laying days are over. She pays her rent in new ways that might even be more productive than before.

Happy clucking!

Prune Your Blackberries To Maximize Yield

While all bramble fruit seem pretty no muss no fuss, they actually do require some tender loving twice a year. They will continue to fruit and reproduce without pruning of course, but they won’t be nearly as vibrant from season to season if you don’t devote just a little time to them. These pruning methods can be applied to raspberries, too, since the plants’ growing habits are the same.

There are several kinds of blackberry plants that behave in all sorts of different ways. The three main types are Erect, Trailing, and Thorn-less. It helps to know what type you have when it comes to trellising the canes. I happen to have erect blackberries, they have tall arching canes and I do not trellis them. I find that they do just fine without it for our circumstances, though perhaps in the future it would be nice to do an upgrade. No matter the type you have, they all like to be pruned in the same manner. Pruning has many benefits including helping ward off diseases, larger berries, and higher yield.

 

Blackberry Primocane, This primocane is ready to be tip pruned!

Blackberry canes are “biennial” meaning that the canes live for two years. In nearly all varieties first year canes will not bear fruit and are called “primocanes”; they are easy to spot because they are bright green. In the spring you will want to tip prune the first few inches from the primocanes when they are still shorter than 3 feet tall. This makes the primocane grow a thicker stem that will support a larger fruit load next year, and send off more lateral branches where more berries will grow. You will notice in the fall that the primocanes will have grown their thin brown bark in preparation for the winter and next year

Blackberry runners or “suckers” Suckers will pop up 2-3 feet away from your blackberry patch, we like to dig them up and plant them back in the row!

Some varieties of blackberries send runners or “suckers” off a few feet away from the patch. If the suckers look nice, we like to dig them up and plant them back in the row. Its a nice free way to expand our patch. -Suckers are primocanes.

The current year’s fruiting canes are called “floricanes”. Besides blossoming and bearing fruit these canes can be identified by their thin brown bark. After their fruit ripens the leaves on these canes start to fizzle out. In the winter trim the spent floricanes back to the crown. In winter when there are no leaves and the brand new floricanes for the coming season look the same at first glance as last year’s dead floricanes, pruning can be a little tricky if it’s your first time. Last year’s spent floricanes will look brown while new floricanes (last years primocanes) will have a purplish tint when compared with each other. Another way to tell them apart is to look for the remnants of last years fruiting blooms. And if that isn’t quite enough to make you certain you are about to chop the right cane, you can take your clippers and scrape a teeny bit of bark off. If it is green underneath the bark you have a new cane, if its brown you have a dead cane that needs to be pruned. Getting rid of the spent canes in the winter before fruiting helps the plant to focus nutrients on the new floricanes.

Blackberry floricane
Floricanes Bearing Fruit

 

Dead Floricane
A Spent Floricane, This guy needs to be pruned. Notice last years blossom ends where the fruit formed.

When pruning there are a few tools you will need:

* A good pair of hand clippers
* Leather gloves and or kevlar sleeves
* Alchohol wipes
* Wagon, to haul away the debris

In between cuts wipe your clippers off with an alcohol wipe to prevent spreading diseases from one plant to another, especially if you are moving between species (raspberries, black raspberries etc.) sure it takes a little more time but this one simple bio-security measure can protect your berry investment for years to come.  All bramble fruit is susceptible to a wide array of fungal diseases and other icky stuff so it is always a good practice to burn the pruned canes after the job is done to prevent spreading disease.  Wild black raspberries are notorious for giving diseases to domesticated bramble fruit so do your best to keep your blackberry patch well and away from wild varieties.  But please folks, don’t rip them out as they are an important food for our beloved wildlife.