Using up the leftover fruit; more Alaska edibles

Between the rose hips we have in our freezer from a year past, the wild blueberries that were just gifted to us from a wonderful friend, and a bag of rhubarb that was gifted to us from yet another wonderful friend, we have a lot of fruit and vegetables to use up, especially before that birch sap goes into the freezer next month!

For more on that click on my blog Foraging from Nature; Birch Syrup
So this weekend we intend on turning all these bags into the following: Rhubarb Ginger Jam and Blueberry Lime Jam.

Please keep in mind, these are all recipes I get from online, they are not mine.  I have posted a link to the original website with each recipe. Also a side note, I didn't get to the rose hip jam even though I have a picture of it in the bag.  Obviously that will be a task for another weekend!

Rhubarb Ginger Jam
It will make about 3 lbs

2lbs trimmed rhubarb, chopped
2lbs sugar
Juice of 2 small lemons
1.75 tbsp fresh ginger
3.5 oz crystallized ginger, chopped

Preparation tim…

Foraging from nature; Bunchberries

Cornus canadensis.
Cornus canadensis is a slow-growing herbaceous subshrub growing 10–20 cm tall, generally forming a carpet-like mat. The above-ground shoots rise from slender creeping rhizomes that are placed 2.5–7.5 cm deep in the soil, and form clonal colonies under trees. The vertically produced above-ground stems are slender and unbranched. The leaves are oppositely arranged on the stem, but are clustered with six leaves that often seem to be in a whorl because the internodes are compressed. The leafy green leaves are produced near the terminal node and consist of two types: 2 larger and 4 smaller leaves. The smaller leaves develop from the axillary buds of the larger leaves. The shiny dark green leaves have 2 to 3 mm long petioles and leaf blades that are obovate. The blades have entire margins and are 3.5 to 4.8 cm long and 1.5 to 2.5 cm wide, with 2 or 3 veins and cuneate shaped bases and abruptly acuminate apexes. In the fall, the leaves have red tinted veins and turn complet…

Foraging from nature; Birch Syrup

We have been blessed on our property with a large amount of silver birch trees so this Spring time we intend to use some of them.
Some will be used in making birch beer for my husband, which I'll write about later, and some will go into making birch syrup.  In the coming years I might make birch wine as well for use in cooking but for now I've got more than enough other projects to work on and I really do not want to bite off more than I can chew.
We've actually had birch syrup before but it is most definitely an acquired taste.  It is not quite as sweet, and it is much darker than maple syrup is.
Making birch syrup is much more labor intensive then maple syrup is.  Maple syrup typically takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.  Birch on the other hand takes 100 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of birch syrup.
This means we will be cooking down our sap for quite a while.

Our first step, will be within the next month, to walk our property to assess which birch t…

Planning out our 2017 Alaskan garden

I've often told newer gardeners that the best thing to do is watch your yard, really watch it for a full season to get a good idea of where the sun is at any given time of the day, where the water collects and lays stagnant most often, which areas are drier, and so on.   So, following my own advice, last year that is precisely what I did.  Now I found recently that when presented with a large amount of area to deal with you need to break it into manageable pieces, quadrants or areas.  So I've broken this down to the garden area, the side area, our pond area, our rabbit area and our bee area. Our morning sun comes over our house and hits the lilac tree, the raspberries and the raised beds on the left so this year I'll be putting more of the plants that don't do as well with afternoon sun over on the left.  Meanwhile, the plants that love the heat (summer squash, tomatoes, hot peppers) will all be pushed over to the right side where the sun shines from 3p to 6pm.

If yo…

Somethings a'buzz in our backyard Honeybees in Alaska

A long time ago, when we lived in Maryland actually, in military housing, I badly wanted honeybees. I felt like it would be the perfect addition to my backyard garden.  And of course, that was a no go since military housing said "No you may not have domesticated honey bees in your backyard".  So I shelved that idea until we had a house with some land.  Land that we could spread out on some, do what we want with and so on.
Well now we do have land.  1.7 acres of it.  We have a garden that is bigger than any I've ever had the pleasure to work in, we raise meat rabbits and now, it looks like we might be finally getting the honeybees I longed for so long ago.
You know that saying "be careful what you wish for because you might just get it?" Well that applies here.
Out of all my experiences with gardening and with rabbits, never once did I feel truly overwhelmed by my own lack of knowledge.  Not until now.
Since Christmas morning when I opened up my first ever b…

An argument for soil testing

I've been a gardener since in my early twenties.  Yes, I was a novice but we have to start somewhere right? I started by killing mint and basil.  I did try to grow them, but they constantly died.
A couple of years later, I figured out what I was doing wrong, what the heck was the small spidery pest that was attacking (and killing) my bonsai, why was my mint taking over the yard, what were the green small bugs eating my cilantro, and WHY was my cilantro always developing seeds so fast?   I got a bit better at planting herbs in the tiny spaces I had in all the houses we occupied, and upgraded to vegetables and even cherry trees (that the moose thoroughly enjoyed even though I did not).
When we moved to Maryland all that experience was kicked into high gear as my family got hit by many unfortunate personal economic events.
When you only suddenly have money for your house, your car, the repairs for the car and some of your bills and desperation hits in, well then you'll do anyt…

New House, New Garden

We've had a pretty earth shattering winter.  The past two years, since moving back here to Fairbanks, Alaska our goal has been to expand our garden.  To finally have some land to do with what we would like.
Two years ago we looked at a fixer upper, but alas, it was not meant to be.  After much struggling to make it work, to purchase that house, it fell through.  We went into the winter of 2014 dejected and sad.  We knew we had to change some things about our life financially so we buckled down and put quite a bit to the side, paid off some bills so that hopefully, next time we fell in love with a house we could actually buy SAID house.
In January of 2016 we knew we had made some pretty good progress on our financial goals, we knew we had made some progress cleaning up some of the damages from our previous renters on our current home in Fairbanks, so we decided, tentatively, to take a look at a couple of houses during the weekend of the Martin Luther King holiday.
Our goal was t…