Fairy Forest Cottage with a Side of Jam

Fairy Forest signsWow!  So it’s been almost 2 months since I’ve posted anything here – which is definitely a sign of the season.  With the onset of spring gardening and the end of Mighty O’s school year, needless to say, we have been MIGHTY busy!!!

When we moved in last year, I declared that 2016 would be the year of OUTSIDE – since there was so much work INSIDE  to deal with for 2015… and so it’s been off to the races since the sun came out here.

Top projects over the last several weeks have included handmade teacher gifts (lavender sugar and lavender lemongrass body scrub), tending to the Great Northern Gardening Experiment sprouts and getting them into the ground, clearing and re-envisioning long-neglected beds, planting in over 250 bulbs and roots, and over 30 fruit shrubs and flowering bushes (with a few trees still to go!), turning our “mud pit” off the deck into a huge pebble patio, and – of course – keeping the Elf entertained with plenty of books, hikes, creative projects, and even a few camp days and play dates here and there.

Shew!! So now that I’ve exhausted myself just thinking about all of that… I decided it’s time for a new hobby (of course).  

Really, though… something I’ve wanted to try FOREVER and never really got around to is canning.  You know… jam, jelly, deliciously fruity syrups and sweet concoctions, and perhaps even some salsas and sauces – just like grandma used to make. Plus, I figured it would be a nice break from hauling wheelbarrows full of landscaping stone or digging 2-foot deep holes for a bit.  These dogs are a’barkin’!

Over the last couple of years, I’ve really been trying hard to measure my efforts and expenditures against the principles of simplicity and self-sufficiency, so all of this ultimately works together.  Most of what I’ve been planting is edible and/or medicinal, with a nice mix of cutting-worthy perennials as well as bee and butterfly attractors  to add a measure of beauty to function.  The aesthetic I’m going for in my outdoors overhaul is what I like to call fairy forest cottage, with an abundance of color and life surrounded by serenity.

Many things are still in progress, with plants in the garden only just starting to come up and than landscaping projects still evolving, so thought I’d at least share a few “Before” photos in the meantime to get things back into the groove here:

Landscaping 12 Tons of Stone

Here’s what a 12-ton pile of pea gravel looks like, with a 4-foot Elf on top.


Landscaping Garden and Shed Before

The “Before” Garden Expansion and Shed/Mini-Barn Landscaping Shot, featuring my new moveable drying rack in the background. Ahhh… fresh sun-dried linens! :-D

Landscaping Pebble Patio Before

Side of the House “Before” Reclaiming Beds and Stone Landscaping… Otherwise known as the Mud Pit. Little orange flags to mark out my vision.




Another "Before" shot of the Mini Barn (peacocks once lived there!) - and garden Mighty O's garden. He outlined the perimeter himself with wood and stones - we later added organic soil and seedlings.

Another pre-landscaping shot of the Mini Barn (peacocks once lived there!) – and Mighty O’s garden “Before.” He outlined the perimeter himself with wood and stones, and where we later added organic soil and seedlings.  Stay tuned!


So, lots of progress so far on these projects – and I’ll share the “After” photos soon!

Anyway, back to the jam.  I finally got the motivation to learn how to can when I ran across the Ball Freshtech Auto Canner in Tuesday Morning recently at a severe discount.  I’ve had my eye on this item since it first came out a few years ago, though it seemed like such an indulgence for a task that could be done with much less.  However, at a quarter of the regular price and a huge amount of added convenience (which for me translates into actually doing versus just thinking about it…), how could I walk away?  So I grabbed that baby and ran!  (After paying for it.  I’m not runnin’ from the law… today. ;)

Let me tell you, making jam is so much easier than I thought!  The hardest part, especially with the Auto Canner, is preparing the fruit… which is very simple.  I’ve already made 3 varieties – cherry, strawberry, and apricot.  Once I got comfortable with the basic process and theories of high-acid (fruit) canning, I tried the traditional water bath method.  It is a bit more effort in the cooking part… and very hot.  So I think we will save that style of jam-making for the chilly winters, when I can appreciate it more.Jam first batch

All in all, I’m very excited to have finally taken the plunge to make jam – and just over the moon about the Auto Canner for how easy it is.  We are kind of jam junkies and connoisseurs around here, so this is going to save us a ton of money in the end, at usually $4-7 a pop… and making it is actually fun!  I love giving homemade gifts, too, so if you’re on my list… be expecting some jam. ;)

What Spring and Summer projects are you up to right now?  Any tips for making great jam?

Love and light,

Samadhi ✷


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