Fall Harvest- a view from the combine

About a month ago, this thing called “Fall Harvest” started around here.  On our farm, we grow wheat, milo, soybeans, cotton, hay and have cow/calf pairs.  I grew up on a farm in the neighboring county and we had a similar operation, but without the cows and hay.  Since we are in southern Kansas, we plant our wheat in the fall and harvest it in June.  But the milo, soybeans and cotton all get planted in the spring and get harvested in the fall.  Hence, “Fall Harvest!”

Unlike wheat harvest, which is a fast paced, adrenaline pumping week or two with late nights, fall harvest is somewhat slower paced and drags on for a LONG time!!  Generally though, we love it 🙂

Off and on I have had the privilege of doing this:

combine

I absolutely ADORE getting combine time!!  I grew up operating all the farm equipment (tractors, trucks, the combine).  In fact, when I was little I idolized my dad and wanted to be just like him when I grew up.  I was the biggest tomboy!  As a teenager, I worked all summer long on the farm and whenever I could during the school year.  After going to college in the city, I realized I missed the farm and for my own sanity, NEEDED to live on a working farm for the rest of my life.

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My 9 year old took this picture while riding with me one day.  Yes, those are my arms 🙂

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When your in the combine cab, here’s the view to my left.  This is called a header and it literally combs the crop into what’s called the sickle bar, which cuts the crop off, then a round auger (its the green thing in this picture) pushes the cut plants into the combine.  As a kid, the reel (the black thing with fingers on it) was mesmerizing.  It will literally hypnotize a child and put them to sleep!

We have since finished cutting our beans and have moved back to milo.  If it dries down enough today, my 13 year old daughter and I will get to run the combine some.  I’m suppose to give her lessons so she can run in it, too.  We start ’em young here on the farm 🙂

Oh, and for proper pronunciation everyone says you’re cuttin’ beans or cuttin’ milo.  We ag people are sticklers for proper English 😉

 

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How to Water Bath Can on a Glass Top Stove

water bath canning

So last week, I FINALLY started and finished my canning!  Hip-hip-hooray!  On one hand, I actually enjoy the process and the feeling I get as I gaze at all my lovely jars filled with garden goodness, but on the other hand, the canning itself takes so much equipment and set up.  I’ve been putting tomatoes in the freezer as they’ve been ripe, plus I had tomatoes left over from last year still in the freezer, so I spent four days and got them all done.

This year, I tried something different.  I have had a glass top stove for the past thirteen years and I’ve always read that you can NOT use a regular water bath canner on the glass top because of the concave bottom.  I’ve read that it can trap heat under the pot because of the uneven surface and possibly cause your stove top to crack.  Years ago, when I first started dabbling in canning (jellies, primarily), my handy machinist/farmer husband made me a custom rack to go in the bottom of my large stock pot.  I could can 7 pints in it, but no quarts (it wasn’t tall enough to cover them with enough water).  Using my stock pot has served me well, as long as I was only canning jellies and pints of applesauce.

A couple years ago, I expanded my canning repertoire to add my grandma’s tomato soup.  We use this as our base for chili.  But, canning it in pints meant that it would take three pints for a crock pot of chili, plus if I was also making applesauce that year, I just didn’t have enough jars to accommodate this!  I really wanted to be able to can quarts.  An option is using a pressure canner (since they have a heavy flat bottom), but I didn’t want to invest in one just for quarts of tomato sauce and, honestly, pressure canning kinda of scares me 🙂  I know, I know, it’s only lack of experience, but still.

After much research and bouncing ideas off of my sister, I arrived at a workable, non expensive, non scary solution for water bath canning on a glass top stove- canning outside!  We have a propane camp stove, so I set up a table in my carport right outside my back door, set the stove on that, and voila! I can can quarts 🙂

water bath canner

Was it wonderfully convenient?  Yes and no.  Yes, because canning outside frees up a burner on my stove inside for preparing meals during the day and no, because, well, I had to carry the full jars outside!  But, it was worth it.  I canned 21 quarts of tomato soup, so we are set for the winter on that!  I still used my trusty stock pot canner for pints (I did 32 pints of salsa, 12 pints of soup, and 15 pints of thick sauce), mostly because I ran out of propane and didn’t have time to travel the 13 miles to the nearest store while I was in the middle of canning.

Before I leave you, I have one more fabulous, life changing canning tip-  use a roaster for cooking your tomato concoctions down!

roaster with soup

My sister and mom learned this from a neighbor lady and it has revolutionized their canning!  You free up your burner, it cooks down FASTER (because its being heated on all sides, not just the bottom) and you can turn it way down and walk a way for awhile if something comes up and you need to leave the house.  I made all of my salsa, soup and sauce this way and I will never go back to using my stove for that again!  I borrowed my mother-in-law’s and my sister borrows my mom’s, so if you don’t want to invest in one (or like me, don’t have storage space for it!), ask around and I bet you can find one.

What have you canned this fall? 

Feel free to share with your friends!