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“I’m Gonna Pop Some Cans – Only Got 20 Lbs of Strawberries”

“Whatchu know about making jam? Whatchu know about doing some can-nin’?”

This guy gets it...

This guy gets it…

OK. I’m done with the Macklemore references.

It all started when…..
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We got invited to a blueberry farm with some friends last year & we froze most of our bounty. It far from lasted us through the winter, but it was a start. It doesn’t SEEM like freezing really counts, but I think it does. If you deliberately stock up on produce for the purpose of freezing it, I write that as a self-preserving win. Freezing has its drawbacks, but this is true for all forms of stockpiling.

Later in the summer, Mr. Ender’s boss swung by a roadside stand & snuck a box of apples & pears into the back of our car. Did I say box? I meant a banana-shipment size box, half full. It was probably the end of that summer (before we even started blogging or fully committed actually), I decided that I needed to learn to can because all I could think to do with this huge box was make applesauce & pear butter — but had no means of keeping it from going bad quickly.

Canning!? Isn’t that… like… what Grandmas do so they can gift you jelly for Christmas?
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Well, yeah. But canning is actually SUPER cool. If you are going to be self reliant & don’t want to eat hearty crops of kale & broccoli ALL winter long, canning is totally the way to go.

So, how DID our first venture into canning go?

I present: Danny & Brian’s Adventure into Midnight Canning

Mash ALL THE BERRIES!

Mash ALL THE BERRIES!

Boil & add nearly a friggin bag of sugar & whatever the hell 'pectin' is

Boil & add nearly a friggin bag of sugar & whatever the hell ‘pectin’ is

Sanitize for safety!

Sanitize for safety!

Learn how to eyeball 1/4 inch of head space

Learn how to eyeball 1/4 inch of head space

Scald your face on steam trying to dump the things back into the bath canner

Scald your face on steam trying to dump the things back into the bath canner

Attempt not to burn one self, thy spouse & give plenty of room in case you drop it & it kersplodes all over the floor

Attempt not to burn one self, thy spouse & give plenty of room in case you drop it & it kersplodes all over the floor

Listen to the POPs & admire your handy work

Listen to the POPs & admire your handy work

Wake up & cringe the next morning at insane amount of dishes

Wake up & cringe the next morning at insane amount of dishes

All in all, I’d call this a success. I was told by veteran canners that I was going to have a love-hate relationship with canning. I find this to be true. I love the end results. Seriously. Best damn jam I’ve ever had in my LIFE. I love feeling like I accomplished something awesome. I love that my husband took interest in doing this. Much like myself, he enjoys learning. The nerd in him says, “This is chemistry! I f*ing love chemistry!” The future farmer in him says, “This is smart, economic & necessary”. I hate how hot it made the apartment. I cannot believe you crazy heads down south where it’s like 80,000 degrees actually do this in the dead of summer! We were dripping buckets of sweat & the house was so disgustingly humid after we were done, we both had issues getting to sleep. I hate that my kids aren’t the type to listen when I say “GET OUT OF THE WAY! Boiling strawberry jam crossing! Unless you want to look like that Rocky kid from Mask, get the hell out of the way!”, so if I want to can…. I get to can at midnight. And dishes… they suck! Among other things I hate: the inability to reuse lids, not knowing what people used instead of pectin back in the day, pressure canning scaring the hell out of me &… the fact I waited so long to try this!

It really was a lot of fun & I’m excited to share with my friends & fam bam.

I seriously walked out of the kitchen & strutted into the bedroom like this…

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Yeahhhh, boyyyy!

PS: I’d also like to give a super big shout out to the following people who helped me BIG on this one….

– Sherry Brooks Vinton, whom I saw at Mother Earth Newsfair first thing, first day & it was like a sign. I said I was gonna do it & I needed to get on it.
– “Pammykins”, my heterosexual life mate & probably the greenest Mama I know. Thank-you for rolling your eyes at my bazillion questions behind the computer screen rather than in my face ;D You said, “JUST DO IT ALREADY!” & I DID IT!!
– Auntie Amy: Couldn’t of done this without you…. rather, I couldn’t of done this without your potato masher & ladle after I got started & realized I didn’t own these particularly handy kitchen utensils.
– The Dickinsons for helping us pick 17 lbs worth of strawberries at Biringer Farms.
& of course, Mr. Enders… Always willing to get his hands dirty with all my crazy ideas. You? Me? Pineapple chunks in quart jars? Tonight? ;D

Mother Earth News Fair Day One

Just add super workshops, awesome food & all the organic, sustainability you can stomach & you too can be this crazy

Just add super workshops, awesome food & all the organic, sustainability you can stomach & you too can be this crazy at 9AM without caffeine

Mr. Enders & I had the immense privilege of spending this ENTIRE weekend  in Puyallup attending the third Mother Earth News Fair to take place in the Greater Seattle area. Happy Birthday to me. I bought the tickets back in March for my birthday & by the time the event rolled around, I was reluctant to make the drive back & forth TWICE. If I could time travel, I’d smack myself in past because I seriously had more fun this past weekend than anytime in the immediate past I can recall. I met so many amazing people, learned about so many amazing products & got a little star struck when I ran into some folks who inspired my journey into self-sustainable living & keep me going strong when I feel like just eating a Big Mac whole & picking up the free stick of Lady’s Speedstick instead of whipping up a batch of my own…

So, what exactly is Mother Earth News Fair? Umm… In one word? AMAZING! In many more words, Mother Earth News is a publication. You can guess by the name (& my interest in it) that it has to do with all things Earth-lovin’… Bees,  farming equipment, soap making, solar panels, goats ya know — the usual. They got this crazy little idea to hold a fair out in Pennsylvania. Things worked out so well, a West Coast fair was started & Washington is so fortunate to be allowed to host the event. This year, they’ve grown to include a Kansas fair sight as well. According to the magazine’s editor, Puyallup saw some 6,00-8,000 visitors…. PER DAY this year. That’s a whole lotta Earth love!

Without further ado… take a little walk with us through our first day at the fair & join me tomorrow as I explorer the second day (which includes meeting the brilliant, Joel Salatin  & answer the question, “Did Dani manage to hold her cookies during the live chicken processing demo?”)…

Sherri Brooks Vinton on canning & preservation methods

Sherri Brooks Vinton on canning & preservation methods

First up, we started our day with a little canning knowledge. I fully plan on taking my first trip into boiling water canning this summer once Biringer Farms announced the strawberries are getting out of control & start letting in the U-Pickers. Sherri Brooks Vinton has written some brilliant books on the subject & brought preservation down to its base elements: What do you have time to do & what is the best method for what you got on hand? You can pick up her books: here & here.

We decided to skip the next hour worth of workshops (though I did swing by the bookstore to catch a glimpse of Bob Moore, founder of Bob’s RedMill products!) I kind of wanted to check out this “What Happened to Our Health?” presentation but something was a wee bit more important… LUNCH!

On our venture to finding some grub (& boy, let me tell you! Those Mother Earth News folks did not spare any detail! They made sure every avenue was covered: local beef, organic French fries, gluten free crepes, gyros, organic ice cream! They had it all & I attempted to eat it all!), I saw the ginormous Botanical Interest banner. I got all giddy & excited because I had already pre-planned stopping by their booth to pick up some seeds for the season but what I didn’t expect was who I was going to run into….

A gnome for every garden & a garden for every gnome!

A gnome for every garden & a garden for every gnome!

I literally stood in the aisle way with people pushing past me for like 10 minutes (fine… 2!) with my mouth just hung open. I’m surprised I didn’t catch any flies. I went for seeds & ran into Mavis Butterfield of One Hundred Dollars a Month. Remember how I was talking about those people who inspire me & keep me going even when I want to take the easy way out & just live a NORMAL (see: wasteful, unsustainable, don’t-get-looks-from-strangers-for-digging-in-dumpsters) existence… Mavis is one of those people for me. She shows you can save money and eat real food, garden and raise chickens on limited space, bring back the lost art of bartering & cook from scratch.

That’s all fine & dandy, but WHY IS SHE DRESSED LIKE THAT? Operation Send in the Gnomes. Check it out. I know I have gnomes to send in (& hope to snag some more garage saling this summer before she hits the road to St. Judes headquarters in August) This fundraiser is even further proof how down to earth (despite uber goofy!) & kind-hearted she is. Super approachable & really eager to share her knowledge & meet her fans. I should know. I was shocked she could identify who little ole I was just based on my name. Out of all her fans, she KNEW who Danielle O. was. I also met her “Boyfriend Ryan” from Botanical Interest & scored free radishes seeds by reaffirming he is definitely in fact one gardening hottie!

After sharing some lunch & grabbing a couple scones, Mr. Enders & I split up. He went to check out “DIY Solar Panels” & I sat in “Adapting Food Production to Climate Change” which was actually way more fascinating than I originally thought it was going to be. Reuniting, we checked out some of the truly awesome exhibitors & the beautiful animals!

Just park it in my front yard, Jeeves.

Just park it in my front yard, Jeeves.

The electric cars were pretty legit. A couple Telsas, some converted VWs, but my DEFINITE favorite was the Ford F250. I usually love old farmin’ Chevys, but I do have to pay much due respect to this one. I think pretty soon we’ll see some post of Brian tinkering with the idea of converting my ideal truck into an electric truck. That’d be interesting to see all the blinkie lights & computer boards in a 1960s body.

Do not adjust your computer monitor. Ducklings are as fuzzy as they appear.

Do not adjust your computer monitor. Ducklings are as fuzzy as they appear.

One of the curses of being a woman: Everything fluffy & cute. I want to smuggle it out in my coat. The cutestness overload gets worse….

I warned you! Didn't I!? CUTE! CUTE! & more CUTE!

I warned you! Didn’t I!? CUTE! CUTE! & more CUTE!

Davie Bowie called. He wants his Labyrinth hair back.

Davie Bowie called. He wants his Labyrinth hair back.

Alright, the photo explosion is over for Day 1. Afterall the oogling of the animals, we decided to cut out early because we KNEW the next day was going to be even more intense & needed some time to digest everything we had experienced & everything we were going to encounter the next day.

Oh wait. SWAG!

See those radishes. I got those seeds for embarrassing myself & hitting on Ryan from Botanical Interest. Totally worth it.

See those radishes. I got those seeds for embarrassing myself & hitting on Ryan from Botanical Interest. Totally worth it.

I was *SUPER* excited to see Happy Family brands passing out free pouches. The Spawns *LOVE* those things. (Personally, I hate how wasteful the packaging is — but I do reuse the tops for toys. Seriously, why buy your kids toys? They could make anything into a toy with enough imagination). Those are also my beautiful Bontanical Interest seed packets I bought: spinach, microgreens for winter under the grow lights, tomatos, chard (my current obsession) & romaine because I’ve been eating my weight in salads lately. $1 for seeds or $3.29 a head at the store…. Do the math 😉 Also, shout outs to Theo Chocolates from Seattle! If everyone spent that kind of cash on (good quality!) chocolate, we wouldn’t eat so much of it. Totally recommend any & everything on their menu! Can’t wait for winter to indulge in some of the Chipotle Drinking Chocolate.

Other tasty stuff I really enjoyed but didn’t purchase that day but most likely will in the future: Mama Chia drinks & Mary’s Gone Crackers snacks.

Disclaimer: I was not paid for any of these opinions. They’re my own. I don’t do cue cards. I tried the products. I liked the products, so I give it the Save Just Three thumbs up for being tasty & more green than some of the products on grocery store shelves. I watched the presenters & liked what they had to say & think it’s a good fit for anyone who is into sustainable living who want more information from more professional people than myself. I’m a peddler of knowledge & I like sharing that knowledge & I didn’t make a penny in writing or sharing this knowledge. None of these are affiliate links. Just regular old links to the products or products website where you can learn more if you are interested.

Make sure to come back tomorrow to see how Day 2 went!!