8 cups blended tomatoes
1 large red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup minced onion
4 stalks of celery, diced
1 tsp. salt
1 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons real butter
¼ cup water
¼ cup flour

Combine tomato, pepper, onion, celery and salt in large pot.  Bring to boil and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisply tender – about 30 minutes.  In a 5 cup blender container, blend 2 cups of mixture at a time (no more), until smooth; return to pan.  Combine water and flour, slowly add to soup.  Add sugar and butter, cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, boil 1 minute.  Milk or cream may be added right before serving, if desired.

For canning:  once soup is completely done and simmering, fill clean jars with hot soup and attach clean lids.  Process in boiling water bath:  35 minutes for quarts, 30 minutes for pints.  Time is counted when water is at a full boiling roll.  Do not add milk before canning.

Makes 8-9 cups of soup

I spied these four beautiful china plates at a garage sale, and knew I could find a use for them somewhere; they were just too pretty to leave behind.  Here they are in the garden, and I love the idea that I am using my china everyday, not just for company.

It couldn’t have been easier putting these in; dig a trench, then ‘plant’ the plates, and fill in the trench.

What other fun garden borders have you seen or put in?

Little Red Hen Home Comforts Shop Occasional Sale in Dassel, MN, is March 25th through 27th – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.  Find quality refurbished furniture, linens, home decor, vintage ware, hand crafted gifts, homemade jam, bread and cinnamon rolls at our Farmers Market, and more!  A kid friendly, pocket book friendly shop!

This month featuring unique pieces by textile artist Jane Powell such as these:

The shop is all decked for Spring and full of other treasures –

I thought I was done adding trees to our apple orchard until Winter hung around too long, leaving me too much time to research and dream about heirloom apples and home pressed cider.  Well really, I should have known I wasn’t done – with gardening and growing are we ever really done?

Last Spring we added four new apple trees to our small orchard, and I had anticipated adding just one or two more this year.  That is, until Winter hung around forever, and until, I saw a video about saddle grafting your own apple trees.  Suddenly the possibilities were endless – any apple variety of my choice on any rootstock of my choice; goodness gracious, talk about exciting!

I found a very helpful list of heirloom apple varieties to choose from which helped me to narrow down my choices of scion wood to purchase.  Scion wood is a dormant young branch of the variety of apple that you want your tree to produce.  Another helpful list I used was all about apple rootstock, explaining the pros and cons of the various rootstock available.

I ended up choosing Geneva 30 rootstock from Cummins Nursery. For scion wood I choose Oriole, Golden Russet, Cortland, Roxbury Russet, and MN 1734, available from Maple Valley Orchards and Nursery.  The cost per tree comes out to $12.00, about a third or less of the price for purchasing them bareroot.  What remains to be seen is if I have saved ANY money at all; perhaps I’m overly optimistic about the success of grafting my own apple trees – it could end up to be money down the drain or in the compost heap.  Until my hopes are completely dashed, I will be dreaming about apple cider, apple dumplings, and apple tart in just a few short years …….

Is anyone else planting heirloom or cider apples, and what varieties did you plant?

Read previous post:  Planting apple trees for fresh apple cider

Get rid of your cabin fever or winter blues – visit Little Red Hen Home Comforts for their February sale!  Stop in to see the fantastic assortment of quality refurbished furniture, linens, home decor, dishes, vintage ware, gift ware, and more!  Grab a cup of coffee and visit for awhile – Little Red Hen is a pocketbook and kid-friendly shop!

Open February 25 through February 27th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

Thursday and Saturday morning – Complimentary hand or shoulder massage by certified massage therapist Shari Seifert.

This is just a sneak peek, there is tons more!  Come check it out and bring a friend!

Last week we cut our own Christmas tree on the back 40.  We’ll call it a Christmas tree, but technically, it’s a scrubby brown swamp cypress tree that was growing wild in the lane.  But the price was right, and we had fun traipsing through the woods to find the prettiest scrubby tree.  It looks kind of a sorry sight at first, but as the tree comes out of dormancy in the warm house, it will start to turn color – and magically turn into a green Christmas tree!

We stopped to check out the spruce trees we’ve planted way on the back 40 that will be our REAL Christmas trees in a few years – love that green!

I didn’t need a red gun rack any more than I needed a hole in the head, but when I spied it at a thrift sale, I purchased it with the intent to give it a new purpose in life.  My husband cut a board for me on which I sprayed a few coats of chalkboard paint, then he screwed the board to the back of the gun rack – and PRESTO!  I now have a message center and an apron/hat/bag/you.name.it holder.

What have you turned into a chalkboard?

Fall cleaning time is here again, and here’s a nifty recipe for washing the outside of your windows, and the kids can help! We’ve used this recipe for years, and it works just slick!  First, wet down a window with the garden hose, then wash with the window cleaner solution, follow with another blast from the hose for a final rinse.

OUTDOOR WINDOW CLEANER SOLUTION

1/2 gallon warm water

1 Tablespoon liquid ‘Jet Dry’

2-3 Tablespoons laundry or dishwasher detergent (liquid dissolves easier)

Mix above ingredients. Brush or sponge onto window, then immediately hose off window; water will sheet off, no drying necessary.

You could be saving money with every flush if you were using Scott 1000 toilet tissue.  Twenty five years ago a frugal friend pointed out to me that Scott toilet tissue had 1000 squares on every roll, and ever since we have been saving money that otherwise would have gone down the drain.  1000 squares per roll means that Scott toilet tissue outlasts most competitors brands by up to five times!  And don’t forget to clip those coupons commonly found in magazines and Sunday ads to save $1 or $2 more on mega packs.

Mr. Whipple might love to squeeze his Charmin, but I’d rather squeeze the cash I’m saving with Scott 1000 tissue!

After being featured in the Customer Spotlight with OnlineLabels.com for our product labeling, we have been contacted by many small businesses asking us to share how we have achieved the look of ‘professional’ labels.

When I was researching printers, I found the Canon Pixma iP4300 to be highly rated and reasonably priced, less than $100.00. It prints in resolutions of up to 9600 x 2400 dpi, printing in microscopic picoliters for exceptional detail.  It also has five ink tanks, which helps keep the cost down as you only have to replace individual ink tanks when they run out, and offers borderless printing, which allows me to print labels right to the edge.

It took me some time experimenting with the settings to get my labels crisp and sharp, and this is what I have found works the best for the white glossy labels, and the clear matte labels that we get from OnlineLabels. These settings will NOT work for clear glossy labels, and I do not know about the plain white non-gloss labels.

When printing labels with the Canon Pixma iP4300 printer:

Under Main Setting Tab, for Media Type choose Photo Paper Pro

For Printer Quality choose Custom, then click Set, in the box that opens up click Diffusion and slide the number bar to #1, then click Okay to save setting.

For Color Intensity I choose Manual, then click Set, under Brightness I choose Dark in the drop down box, then Okay to save the setting.  Normal or Manual setting will work also, I prefer to have the most colorful label I can print.

On Effects Setting Tab, I check Image Optimizer for sharpest printing results.

For borderless printing, click the Page Set Up Tab, in Page Layout check the Borderless Printing box, then under Amount of Extension, slide the bar all the way to the right.