Monday, October 25, 2021

Black Walnuts


While we do not have a black walnut tree on our property we do forage black walnuts every year from a nearby neighbors property. The tree is in their yard and they do not wish to collect or go to the effort of cracking the walnuts and picking them out. So every year we go over several times a week and pick them up out of their yard. Then they come home and we put them on the slab out back and run over them with the lawn mower. This breaks up the outer husk without breaking the actual nut. 

Then O Wise One takes a wire brush to the nuts getting most of the black remnants of the husk off the shell. Some people pressure wash them. Once clean the nuts are dried in the sun and then cracked on a heavy duty nut cracker made for cracking walnuts.

Then I sit and pick the nut meats out.

Then I place them on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven to get out any excess moisture. I put mine on 100 for about an hour. You could probably do this in the dehydrator or even in the sun if you would like,

Once the nuts are toasted I simply put them in ziploc bags until I have enough and then place them in vacuum sealed bags and freeze for later use. I bake with these. Add them to my morning oats and we make trail mixes with them adding toasted oats like a granola and our home grown dried figs, blueberries, apples or even raisin and cranberries from the store. I also use them for pesto. 

While that is lots of work chopped walnuts right now are $6.98 a pound at the local Walmart. I have 25 gallons of walnuts that are ready to be cracked and another 25 gallon to be cleaned yet. I should have lots of walnuts to last for a year or two frozen. I like to freeze mine in vacuum sealed bags to prevent freezer burn. 

Foraging at it's best from something someone else would throw away. 

Blessings from The Holler


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Friday, October 22, 2021

The Last Of The Flowers

The morning was really cool as I went out to pick figs this morning. We have a small fire burning in the fireplace and I hated to leave it but needed to get them picked and in the dehydrator. As I was picking figs I spotted my first flock of geese flying south on their migration path. There are still a few flowers remaining and I will miss them when they are gone but will leave them for the bees till frost. I picked some lemon balm for hot tea and added some dried elderberry to that along with a spoon of local honey. Our days have been so busy raking leaves and pignuts(very small hickory nut). The leaves we chop for the compost and the pignuts we burn to keep the mower from breaking a window with them. 

Got the figs in the dehydrator and threw some frozen blueberries in there as well to dehydrate. Will put them in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers to store in my larder. Both the dehydrated figs and dehydrated blueberry bags will go into a food grade bucket with a screw lid to protect them from bugs or rodents. Such an efficient way to store fruit without electricity and free up some freezer space. The dried fruit can be used like raisins in baking or go into oatmeal as well. Many times we just eat ours out of hand as snacks or make trail mixes with our roasted walnuts and dried fruit together or maybe throw in some toasted oatmeal for a granola type mix. the dehydrated figs can be ground to make filling for cookies. My children's Italian great grandmother used to make a fig cookie that was to die for made with ground figs. Wish I had gotten the recipe. 

I threw a vegetable soup in the crockpot. Just 2 quarts of canned beef in broth along with a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, some of my dehydrated onions and garlic, a few spices and I have some cabbage from the garden in the bottom of the fridge I will put in there at the end. We love cabbage in our vegetable soup. I should have thrown some barley in there but forgot. 

I think I will put up some more mustard greens today and take a day off from working in the garden. After my run in with the freaky little venomous worms and a week of hard work I need a break from the rake and wheelbarrow. 

Mr DD is still trying to get over his illness and has been working on gathering walnuts and cleaning and drying them to start cracking after they dry out a bit. 


It has been an eventful month so far and as gas prices rise we discovered last week that someone has been siphoning the gas out of our SUV sitting in the driveway. I imagine it will get worse if prices continue to climb and the economy worsens. Then this week someone hit our big mailbox out front with a bat or board or something so it will have to be replaced. We have had no problems with anyone in the area so think it is just random mischief and in our 6 years of being in the area our first real problems. I did call and ask the local police to add some patrols but we shall see if that makes a difference . I doubt it. 

Well that brings you up to date on the happenings here in Hickery Holler. We are just fighting hickory nuts, leaves and staying warm. As we continue to hear of shortages and rising prices we remain thankful for our choice of lifestyles and simple living practices. 

We hope you have a safe and enjoyable weekend.

Blessings from The Holler


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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Halloween Bugs?


Tis the season to clean out the flower beds and cut back the plants. Ran across creepy caterpillar here while cutting back the peonies. This is a saddle back moth caterpillar caution they sting. The little hairs are venomous. Ask me how I know! After lots of Benadryl the swelling on my arm is going down but still hurts like the dickens. Do not be fooled by that cute face these things are evil !!!

Blessings from The Holler


Saturday, October 16, 2021

Figs and Nuts

Fall is definitely here. This weekend is calling for night time lows in the upper 30's for the first time this season. We are still waiting for first frost. 

The week has been filled with pruning as I have started cutting back gooseberry bushes and burning the prunings. They do not go into compost because many have thorns. 

The asparagus has been cut to the ground and a layer of compost about 2 inches deep layered over the top.  Leaves have begun to fall and will be chopped up to become yet more compost additions to piles. This time of year compost piles pop up anywhere I can squeeze them in and turning them becomes quite a morning chore. 

I continue to dig and move blackberry sprouts and transplanting them down the back fence now. 

Added to my chores I have spent all week picking up hickory nuts out of the yard and off decks from the 4 mature hickory nut trees on the property. With the storms last night I have a whole new layer this morning. I prefer to pick them up because they become missiles when picked up by the mower to go through windows and dent vehicles. I also do not want them in my compost piles to have to fight baby hickory nut trees for life in the beds. Walking on them on decks and sidewalks is like walking on ball bearings so I choose to pick them up and burn them every year. Some years are worse than others. This year they were over achievers with a massive harvest. I guess there is an appropriate reason the property is called Hickery Holler. 

The figs are also ripening and the dehydrator has been running regularly keeping up with the fig harvest. Since I still have fig preserves from last year I decided to just slice and dehydrate this years and are they good. Just sliced or quartered and dehydrated with no prep of any kind they are super simple. They make a great treat out of hand and are addictive but would also be good thrown into oatmeal. 

O Wise One has been picking up walnuts to crack for the freezer also. We love walnuts added to the top of our oatmeal and we also make a trail mix with toasted oats, walnuts and raisins for a snack food. Walnuts are super good for your heart in moderation although they can be high in fat. I also add them to baked goods. Expensive to buy they are plentiful in the area and ours come from a neighbors yard that does not eat them. We pick them up and crack and shell them and usually share them with the neighbor when done. With the prices going up in the supermarket and shortages becoming more common we are especially thankful for our foraged items. 

O Wise One continues to recover from Covid. He is improving though it is taking time. Even with the vaccine it tends to want to linger. I have been giving him elderberry tea everyday to help boost his immune system. I managed to not get it. How I will never know. Too ornery maybe! I won't lie though that it was tough there for a bit doing both our chores and I am wore out. 

All of you out there stay safe. 

Blessings from The Holler



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Thursday, October 14, 2021

Fruit Liqueurs

Fruit was in abundance this year. We had bumper crops of plums, blackberries, elderberries, gooseberries, blueberries, rhubarb and now figs. As the year goes along I harvest the fruit and usually freeze most of it till the end of the gardening year and then take stock and decide what I want to make with it. In years past with kids and grandkids plentiful a great deal of it was made into pies and jams. With just a couple old people around we don't eat as much jam and pies are not as plentiful on my table as we strive to maintain healthier weights and avoid diabetes in our twilight years. As a result a great deal of our fruit goes into making our oatmeal more appetizing and as healthy snacks of dried fruit and even as additions into protein smoothies. The last couple of years I have started making fruit liqueurs with some of the fruit. We enjoy a small nip at night sometimes together and we give away a great deal of it in decorative bottles to friends and family. Thus far everyone seems to love it. 

My first step was to make a trip to the liquor store down the mountain and I bought 2 half gallons of gin. Then when I got home I sterilized 4 half gallon mason jars. To each jar I added about 3 cups of sugar and then thawed out some frozen plums and blackberries. Then once the fruit was thawed out I added the fruit to the sugar and covered with the gin. I added mason jar lids and shook several times a day for about 2 weeks to make sure all the sugar was dissolved. As the sugar melts you may have to top up the gin from time to time. Next I wiped down the jars and tightened the lids and placed them under the kitchen counter into a dark cabinet to sit for a couple months. About February I will take it out and strain the fruit out through first bleached muslin and then coffee filters to remove as much of the fruit as possible. Or you can simply syphon off the top liquid through clear plastic hose like used in winemaking and discard the dregs at the bottom. If done that way I would still run it through coffee filters. 

Then I simply put it into liquor bottles that I have saved or you can buy decanters online from Amazon to move your mixture into. I have large gallon jugs that I store mine in and then move it into decanters when I am ready to give it away. Makes great house warming gifts and I always like to tuck some into gift baskets along with a couple decorative snifters that I pick up lots of times at Goodwill or thrift stores. 

There are lots of different recipes for this online and on Pinterest using less sugar and such and many different fruits. I think next time I go down the mountain I want to go back to the liquor store and get some vodka and experiment with flavored vodkas a bit. I can't wait till my Nanking cherries grow a bit and make a harvest. I saw where you can do this with bourbon and cherries and think that would make a wonderful tasting liqueur. 

Just one more way to use up those fruits when they are plentiful and not get stuck in the jelly and jam rut. And even though O Wise One and I are definitely light weights when it comes to drinking we have yet to give a person our homemade liqueurs as a gift who has not loved and appreciated it. 

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter


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