Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jar Box (TM) Review (part one)

Today I am loading up my first batch of Jar Boxes. First, let me say when I first heard of Jar Boxes, I saw some outrageous price and I said "no way". Well, that was hundreds of jars ago and before I needed to prepare to move all my jars, to an house that is half the size I am in now and is in an area that has had multiple earthquakes in recent years.

Before I get started, I want to address the price. Even as wonderful as I think these boxes are, I personally will only buy them at a certain price point. For me what equated to less than a dollar a jar.
With that being said, here is what I think so far. 
1) STACKABILITY: Note: I would not stack jars normally for any reason. The difference with using the Jar Box is that the actually jars have space that is created in the box to protect the top of the jar lid. Look at the picture below and you are able to actually see the space on top. Store with the rings off.

2) PORTABILITY:This is a biggie currently. I will report more in a month or two when we have finished moving all the canning jars. The cases have four locking clips, which are easy to engage. plus for added stability they have 8 holes around the edges where you are able to further secure the pieces together.

4) COST: I addressed that some what above. I researched several places in my area and found the best cost value was at the Tractor Supply Store. They were $1 off (August 2014), so my cost was $7.99 for a pint Jar Box and $9.99 for a quart Jar Box. That is about what I pay for a new box of Ball Canning Jars locally. 
5) LABELING: So far this is one feature that I would like to see added; there isn't a convenient way to label the boxes. In the video I see that the have simply written on the boxes. I hesitate to do that, since I am sure I will reuse the boxes.  

6) UNIFORMITY: This will just be an added bonus. Soon all/most of my canning jars will be stored in the same storage systems. That isn't a requirement, but really is a bonus for my eyes.

These are my thoughts for my first time use. I will update more when I load them up and move them. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

5 Tips & How to Use Elderberries for Winter...

I have always been fascinated by homemade homeopathic remedies, so early on I decided to start learning how to make these remedies at home. I've been making elderberry syrup now since 2013. 
Mr. Perky stayed home from work today, which is a really rare occurrence. He was experiencing cold/flu like symptoms. So I went full scale making elderberry juice. I actually made four batches total. 
Today I am sharing various tips I have learned, plus how to dehydrate elderberries (sambucus nigra) and how to make elderberry juice.
Ripe berries The berries ripen varies from late summer to early fall. Mostly you can tell by the birds and the berries. If the birds aren't eating them, they are not ripe. When they are ripe they are soft, turn a deep purple color and are full of red juice.

How To Dehydrate Elderberries

First you need to identify your elderberry bushes, in Virginia they grow wild.
My DH and friends went elderberry picking a couple of weeks ago. Initially I just popped the bag in the freezer. Some of the seeds I am saving to plant this spring in my new home. 
TIPBefore or after dehydrating you need to clean/process the berries. They have short shelf life, so if you are not freezing them immediately they will need to be process within a few days. If you float the berries in a bowl of water after you have removed them, you can easily scoop up any floating debris. You need to remove berries that are not ripe, leaves, stems, old flowers blooms etc. It is time consuming, but leaving these other parts in the mix will leave a bitter taste to your elderberry juice. 
While we tried transplanting some elderberry bushes on our new farmette, I will probably order some elderberry bushes to insure I am getting sambucus nigra elderberries. I will keep you posted.
I find I am able to see a difference between the elderberries that we picked & the ones I purchased from Amazon (associate link). But, they both are really good. 
OLD FARMER TIP: Freeze the clusters, then shake the bag.
Left is before putting the berries in the freezer and the picture on the right is what was in the bottom of the bag after shaking. I did still need to pluck some berries, but shaking them certainly saved time. You may also do this when picking.


Next, remove the remaining berries from the umbrels & my results.
TIP: Melissa Barnes Blake suggested using a fork to pick the berries off of the umbrels. Definitely going to do that next time.


I wasn't sure, but I spread the elderberries out in the 
Excalibur dehydrator tray. (associate link)  I was concerned they were going to fall through, but they didn't. I dehydrated the berries at 135 degrees until they were no longer soft. Probably about 4-5 hours. Honestly, I think that my dehydrator was one of the very best purchases I have made. I use it continually. 

Afterwords I set the trays on a towel (glad I did) and gentle rubbed the berries to remove them from the screen. Next time I will use dark towels.

Put the elderberries into a canning jar.

Then what was left of the towel was added to a canning jar and vacuum seal them.

There you have it. The elderberries on the left are the ones we picked. The ones I got from amazon are on the right. Look good don't they?

TIP: I write the recipe for elderberry juice on the lid of my stored elderberries. I also vacuum seal the jars between usages. Now my berries are ready to make elderberry juice.

How To Make 
Elderberry Juice

Originally I was using a recipe I found online, but I have edited it so much now. Many recipes I have found use 1 cup of honey, which is far too much for my taste.

Ingredients: (personally I now double the batch, since I use it so often)
1 Cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried elderberries.
3 Cups water
1/3 Cup honey (not really needed)

EDITED: Now I add a couple of slices of dehydrated ginger to my recipe. You may also add other medicinal plants.

First, add 1 cup fresh or 1/2 dried elderberries to a pot and add 3 cups of water.
Bring to a boil & then reduce the heat and simmer for 1/2 hour.

Strain everything through a strainer. Then smash the berries to get all the juice out. Previously I used a regular strainer and a spoon, but I have to tell you I just got an Oxo Food Mill.  It's one of those tools that I really wished i had gotten a lot earlier. I love this thing. Particularly, it makes the work so much easier and it is a breeze to clean.

CAUTION: Don't eat the seeds. There is some chance of toxicity. I just googled it & read about it. A couple won't hurt. just use caution.

Lastly, add 1/3 cup of honey. Since the juice is still hot, I pour it back and forth to melt & get all the honey out of the measuring cup. 

Don't you just love this bottle? I like them so much, I got them at Ikea. I just went back and bought some more swing-top bottles. Then I used a funnel and pour into a bottle of jar. You store the syrup in the fridge. It will last for several months.

DOSING: You may take it every 2-3 hours. Personally I have been just drinking an ounce or two at  time. 

REMINDER: Don't use raw honey with young children you are able to use other sweeteners like raw sugar. 

TIP: Since I made 4 batches, I also freeze my elderberry/ginger juice. Recently I have been utilizing the frozen elderberry/ginger. The cubes are super convenient. Which leads us to...

Perky's Go-Go Juice

One of my gramma names is Go-Go, long before Honey Boo Boo's go-go juice came into being. Once I started making the very best blueberry juice ever, I started mixing my elderberry/ginger juice which  I now have frozen and blueberry juice. This is an absolute fantastic afternoon pick me up. While I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on t.v., I am only able to share that this works extremely well for me. 

Items I used in this post and this week.


Just so you know I participate in the Amazon associate program. What that means is when you click on a link I post & purchase items; I receive a small percentage from Amazon. your cost is exactly the same. I try to make sure these are products I have used and recommend.

From "Used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system, improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995.
Elderberries (Sambucus) have been a folk remedy for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, hence the medicinal benefits of elderberries are being investigated and rediscovered. Elderberry is used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. People with the flu who took elderberry juice reported less severe symptoms and felt better much faster than those who did not."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Depression is real...

Many people are shocked that Robin Williams death was a suicide by hanging; for me it has pushed me to be open and to encourage all of you of the need to have thoughtful conversations about depression. First, if you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or are thinking about attempting suicide, please get your phone and call 911 right now. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
Personally, I feel the more people are willing to talk about depression, the less stigma will be attached to the disease. Generally I only discuss my depression, when I see the need in a one on on situation...
Each story is different
For me personally if TEOTWAWKI should happen, my life and many others will change. If there comes a time that medications are not available, I will have alternative plants available but they will only help a tiny bit for me.
Generally, I will be in a position of being a LOT more emotional, crying a lot more (no control) and the part I don't like the the inability to actually get up and move from a location.
It is like being frozen almost or having many wet blankets dropped over my body. 
All of this is currently handled through modern medicine.
I have been dealing with depression since I was a teenager.
While medications help a lot, there are still times that are really tough. Actually now is one of those times I am struggling.
But, I have told the three people whom I trust, exactly what is going on right now, the symptoms that are manifesting currently and they are watching me carefully. I find this open communication helps me a lot. I am not suicidal.
Depression isn't the only medical condition that will a huge issue if the grid goes down. My hope is that you will be honest with your loved ones & do what you are realistically able to do in your preparations. These conversations are important. 
Just so you know, I will not tolerate ANY bullying, nasty or cruel comments towards me or anyone on this topic today. This is your only warning, you will automatically be banned.
Depression manifests itself in many ways.
Links to learn more about depression: