Thursday, July 28, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

So, back in May my friend Shanna told me about a Christmas in July show she was doing at the Micro VFD to help raise money for the ladies auxiliary. At first I thought it really wasn't something I could participate in. We wouldn't have anything in season then and what was I going to do, stand around and hand out corn maze stuff? Who was going to be thinking about October in July (other than myself)? But then I got to thinking...why not sell some jam?

Many of you ask what we do with the strawberries/blueberries we don't sell. Well, I'll tell you. About 99% of them go to our favorite dairy in the whole world Maple View Farm so they can make ice cream. If you've never had any of their ice cream you are missing a treat. Any time you are on 40 going west and come across exit 263 (New Hope Road exit) take it (turn left, go straight through the 4 way stop, then straight until you come to Rocky Ridge Rd and turn left, the shops at the end of the road). It's totally worth it, trust me, anyone who knows me knows I know good food. I can't even eat normal ice cream anymore I'm so spoiled. They have umpteen flavors but I always get the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (creature of habit) much to Chris's chagrin 'cause he's always got these great new flavors but I never try them. But this blog isn't about ice cream perfection, it's about jam.

Moving on. The other 1% or so I freeze and make jam out of to sell at The Stand. So I thought, hey, I have plenty of frozen berries, why not make some jam and sell it. I can give out flyers and coupons and promote the farm and maybe, just maybe someone will remember us and come out this fall to the maze. Can't hurt right?

Saturday I decided was Jam Day. Now, I've never made jam before. Last spring my mama made it, but this year I decided to tackle it myself. I got a late start (not a morning person remember) due to lack of motivation and the Wal-mart trip. I bought jars upon jars, like 10 boxes of Sure Jell and a 25 lb bag of sugar. I decided since the strawberries were still rock hard to start with the blueberries. I opened the package of pectin and skimmed the directions. Then I mashed up my berries and put them in a pot. Well, the pot wasn't big enough for berries and sugar so I poured the sugar in a larger pot and poured the mashed berries on top. Then I read the directions more thoroughly. Yeah, I was supposed to cook the fruit and pectin, and then add sugar. Luckily the fruit was so thick, it never mixed with the sugar so I was able to scrape it off and put it back in the smaller pot to cook. As mentioned before the fruit was thick and the pot was small. When it started cooking it didn't boil like liquid, it was like when you make cooked grits. the bubbles came up through the thick mixture and popped, sending blueberry places I never had blueberry before. I have a burn on my hand from molten blueberry lava and there is a spot on my ceiling. Yes. My ceiling. Oh yeah, and did I mention that I don't even like blueberries or strawberries or jam/jelly of any kind.
See, I'm not kidding

Anyway, so I cooked it and put it in the jars and got them canned, four jars at a time (it took forever). Luckily, they all set and sealed. So all in all, other than the burn it wasn't so bad. The next batches were a lot easier too, since I knew better what I was doing. I'm one of those people who try to find the most efficient way to do something. I try to eliminate as many steps as possible. So once I had my process down pat it was really a piece of cake.

So come by Micro VFD this Saturday for the Christmas in July show. There are a lot of vendors going to be there as well as food. I'll be there with my jams and the honey left from this spring and coupons and flyers. Come support a good cause and have a good time with us!

Jam Deliciousness

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

IT Department

Normally when you see super heroes or spies or these hip organized theft rings there's always someone on the crew who is a computer genius. I mean the things they can do are so awesome! Even when people go on epic quests there's usually someone who makes them super cool weapons or high tech gadgets that allow them to defeat the enemy.

Well, I don't have anyone like that on my team. The only person I have is me, I am my own IT department, and let's face it I'm no computer expert. I can't hack into anything. I can't make nifty gadgets. So, when it was time to create a website to help market the farm...I was feeling pretty inadequate to the task. Now I'm not computer illiterate. I'm on it a good part of the day either working or goofing off. I've taken several computer courses through high school and college and I really enjoy designing spreadsheets and flyers (yes remember, I am a dork) so I kind of know my way around. (The Husband can't do anything but get on the computer, search for tractors for fun or videos of tractors on you tube [then he says hey come look at this and it's some dude in the Midwest getting a tractor unstuck from the mud, as if I have any interest in that at all] and get off). However, when it comes to creating a website, I was clueless.

We needed a website though. When we started this agritourism gig I knew we needed a way to get our name out there, to show people what we were offering. When I go places like that, I like to look at the site, find ou the hours, check out the prices, look at pictures, get directions. People of my generation are way more likely to check it out online vs. calling me (at least I am, because I hate calling places. I always feel like I sound so stupid). However, I had no idea about getting a domain name, setting up the site, it always sounded so confusing and technical to me. With the help of my friend Lindsey, my expert on call, I figured out that once I had the domain name I could use some software to help me build the site. I don't like paying someone to do something I could do myself (if that's an option) and since this business is my job I felt like I needed to at least try. Well, the first day I did it it literally took me all afternoon, probably five hours, just getting it set up (I know someone's laughing at me real hard right now).

Now it's easier to update, when the software is working properly. I go on, change the landing page, move on. I really try to keep it current because I hate it when you go on these sites and it hasn't been updated since '06 or something. You have no idea if the information is current or if they're even open. The other day I completely updated ours with Corn Maze information and it took a while and every time I published it to the internet something wouldn't publish and I'd have to do it again. That was annoying.

So, if you get a chance, check out our website, It's a simple site, I don't have neat animations or anything. Just pictures of the place and information about the corn maze. If you have a small business and like what you see let me know and I'll help you as much as I can. It might be the blind leading the blind but hey...if I can do it anyone can.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Daily Commute

Yesterday we had a rather interesting afternoon on the farm. I took The Husband and my father-in-law to move some equipment home from the field and when we were in the home stretch, on the road our farm is on, maybe two miles from home, it happened. The road curves by the Little River and there is a guard rail there (another completely unnecessary and worthless use of taxpayer funds but...hey who needs more teachers when we can put up a guard rail?  Oh right, we'll just raise taxes!) The curve is also at an angle, it's not flat road, therefore sometimes it can be hard to judge the distance in a regular vehicle. Well, (you can already see where I'm going with this can't you?) The Husband is rounding the curve on the tractor hauling the transplanter. He couldn't remain in his lane due to said useless guard rail, therefore he had to straddle the lanes. A man in a silver Lincoln approached and decided to play chicken. It was a case of steel beam vs. plastic mirror on Lincoln. You can guess which one won.

Yes, yes, everyone is okay. The Husband slowed to a stop once we saw the man in the Lincoln was not. I'm not even being bias I swear the dude never slowed up. He had at least a foot if not more of shoulder on his side he could have swerved into, however he chose not too. I really think he just wasn't paying attention. All that changed though when his car was hit. I just keep thinking, wow, if he'd have been just an inch closer he would have been injured and had it been six inches, that steel beam would have smashed his face in.

Moral of the story, please pay attention. I know you get all annoyed when you get stuck behind a tractor and I know they shouldn't make the equipment that big and I know some farmers are probably very inconsiderate. But please take into account that they didn't design the equipment, they have to travel the roads too, and if not for them you wouldn't have anything to eat. We hate it just as much as you do, but we all have to share the roads. Had that guy just scooted over a little or waited the thirty seconds it would have taken for The Husband to get around the guard rail and get on his side of the road, none of this would have happened. When people whip around and blow horns and make rude gestures it doesn't help, and I know it's easy to forget, but people die in cars every day. Is going around that tractor in a hurry worth your life?
Luckily it just got the mirror and the plastic between the windows.  Could have been a lot worse!