Archive for the ‘homestead’ Category

First batch of blueberry jam

First batch of blueberry jam

I LOVE blueberry jam! For several years I’ve wanted to try making my own but never tried- until now. 

Every year when fresh blueberries are in season I’ll buy ten pounds of fresh Michigan blueberries.  In past years I’ve either eaten them fresh or froze them for the long-cold winter. 

This year is different.  Not only have I dehydrated them to make blueberry raisins, I made my first batch of blueberry jam. 

There are many great resources and recipes out there, but here’s the process I used. 

My recipe only uses two ingredients, blueberries and sugar (no pectin, no additives) 

The recipe- 

approx 4.5lbs of fresh blueberries (processed in a blender until smooth, it nets nine cups.  Its’ really more like a blueberry jelly when finished) 

6-cups pure cane sugar 


1.) Boil canning jars (my batch netted approx six pints) 

2.) Sterilize lids in hot water (I heard you want them near a boil, but not to actually boil.  Mine were removed from heat when they were just about to start a rolling boil) 

3.) place several large spoons in the freezer to cool (I used three, so I could test and retest without having to wait for the spoon to re-cool)  

note- before I started filling the jars I added the funnel  and jar tongs into the jar pan boiling water- to help ensure they were sterile. 

The process- 

1. ) Sort, wash and blend blueberries until smooth (like a smoothie) 

2.) Combine blueberries and sugar in med/large pan and bring to slow rolling boil, stirring frequently.  Keep boiling and stirring until the mixture thickens and some remains on side of pan when you stop stirring.  I let mine boil for a long time (I’m guessing about 1/2hr to 1hr, but I didn’t time it). 

3.) Test the mixture- scoop a spoonful of mixture and hold over a plate (not over the heat).  Let it cool for a few seconds and turn the spoon vertical.  If the mixture drips off quickly, it’s not ready- if it slowly runs off as a clump, it’s ready. 

4.) Remove jars from hot water and set on towel 

5.) Ladle mixture into jars- leaving 1/2 inch headroom (I tried to fill them to the bottom of the lid threads) 

6.) Wipe top lip of jar and place sterile lid and lid ring (hand tighten) 

7.) Process in a water bath for 15 minutes (starting the timer after the water returns to a boil).  Be sure to have at least 1/2 inch of water above the top of the jars. 

8.) Remove from water and let cool.  The lids should pop on their own as the jars cool. 

9.) After cooled, wipe dry and label jars. 

10.) Enjoy 

11.) Share with friends and family (or not 😉 

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment.


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Here’s the weekly vlog update for 18 July 2010 …

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I finally shot a video update of the container garden and posted it on YouTube.

I’ve been adding new containers almost weekly and plan to continue through the growing season.

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WS-1080 Sensors

WS-1080 as packaged

The Ambient Weather WS-1080 weather station has been operational and gathering data for several days now. So far I’ve been very pleased with the unit.

Living several miles north of Fort Wayne, we often have slightly different temperatures and weather conditions than those reported by the television stations and weather websites like weather.com or wunderground.com.

It’s nice to monitor the live telemetry and review the 24-hour highs/lows and graphs right from my Lazyboy.

Based on my limited use thus far, I’ve already taken a preference to viewing the data on the computer rather than navigating through the receiver’s touch screen display.

The software package that came with the unit is EasyWeather 6.1. This software does a nice job for basic monitoring.

In doing my product pre-purchase research I learned about Sandaysoft’s Cumulus, which has become my primary montoring application.

Cumulus is a free (donationware) application that enables computer based telemetry monitoring of a full range of data (click on the image for a larger view of the dashboard). It also provides a nice assortment of graphs including wind speed, outside temp, inside temp, pressure, rainfall rate (in/hr), wind direction, temp min-max-avg, humidity, rain today, and daily rain totals.

Cumulus Screenshot

Cumulus also provides an option to update a website with realtime data (via FTP). It even includes a template for the site, so you can get it up quickly.

Now that I’ve got the unit up and running it’s time to get it mounted in it’s permanant location- on the old Dish Network bracket mounted on the roof.


Amazon has a newer version, the Ambient Weather WS1090 Weather Station which as an atomic clock and data logging- It’s a great unit for the price!  Check it out HERE…
Sandaysoft- Cumulus Software (good stuff!)

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For the last month the weather here has been unseasonably warm and sunny.  This has given the berries a great running start. 

While watering the containers today, after another fine day in the mid eighties, I had a few exciting surprises waiting for me…

1.) The strawberry blossoms are starting already.  There are only four, so far, but it’s a start.

2.) Both  transplant blueberries are showing signs of life.  I don’t have high expectations for either of them this year, but maybe next year.

3.) Every branch on the cherry tree is budding!  I was wondering if it would make it.  It was in pretty rough shape when I did the spring cleanup a few weeks ago.  This was a pleasant surprise.

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Windy aftermathWhen I got home from work today I was surprised to find the growhouse on its side with all of its contents scattered upon the ground around it.

I thought I paid particular attention when I placed it down wind of the log rack, and even monitored it during some breezy evening earlier this week.  It appeared to hold fast so I didn’t think I needed to tie it to the log rack.

All was going well until I removed the two transplant blueberries from the bottom shelf.   I failed to consider that these were serving as the ballast for the whole growhouse.

Considering the mess, there weren’t too many damaged plants (the photo was taken after I regrouped everything).

Seeing that we have good weather forecast for the near future, I was thinking about transplanting many of these starts into their final containers.   I guess my decision has been made for me.

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Ambient Weather WS-1080

After years of wanting one, today I finally ordered a ‘real’ home weather station.

I’ve had some small wireless La Cross indoor/outdoor thermometers for years, but they only monitor indoor/outdoor temperature and, the most recent one, indoor humidity.  A major disadvantage of these inexpensive transmitters was the inability to get an accurate reading when the sun would shine directly on the outdoor sensors.   They are also a bit limited in their range.

The weather station I just ordered is an Ambient Weather WS-1080 Wireless Home Weather Station w/ Data Logging.

It outputs to a  touch screen panel or to a computer for display and logging of in and outdoor temperature (with highs and lows), in and outdoor humidity (with highs and lows), rainfall  (1hr, 24hr, week, month, etc), windchill, dew point, wind direction (displayed on a compass), weather forecast arrows, alarms (including storm warnings), plus more.

One of the coolest parts is the ability to log the data on a PC.  I can also publish the data to a website or upload to a number of online community weather monitoring sites, if I so choose.

This seems like a pretty complete package for my needs and budget.  I ordered the Ambient Weather WS-1080, which includes the panel and the four sensors for $99US.  I also added an SRS100LX temperature and humidity radiation shield for an extra $39US.

Optional Solar Shield

This should provide me with a good base to learn about weather logging.  I can’t wait for it to arrive.

I ordered it from Ambient Weather.

Related links:

Weather Underground

Ambient Weather

Direct link to the WS-1080

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