Some people may not know what off-the-grid or off-grid means, so here it is --- The term off-the-grid or off-grid refers to living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities.

Off-grid living is no longer a one room log cabin in the woods. It's energy independency. You don't have to rely on utility companies, you create your own power. Today, there are more than 180,000 off-grid homes in the US.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Strawberry Freezer Jam...

8:58 pm - 78 degrees - smoky, windy...

This morning we had a Jam-In!   It’s when several of us (usually my mom and sister) will get together and make a ton of freezer jam – usually around 60-80 pints. 

Today was slightly different.  I had several girls from my Girl Scout troop come up and I showed them how to make freezer jam.  We made 34 pints of delicious homemade strawberry freezer jam.  It was a messy, sticky, fun learning experience!

Girls were cleaning and cutting up the strawberries.
We had four batches going at the same time, all at different stages.

With no-cook freezer jam you get to preserve the bounty of summer without the fuss, heat, equipment, and time that canned cooked jams require.  Uncooked freezer jam is slightly different than the cooked jams.  It doesn’t have that thick, cooked-down texture and flavor.  Instead, it looks and tastes like the ripe fruit.  If you were to compare a jar of strawberry (or any other flavor) freezer jam and strawberry traditional cooked jam, I think you’d be shocked at the difference.  Regular cooked jam becomes quite dull in color as it cooks, where as freezer jam retains the same pretty color as the fresh berries you started with.

Freezer jam does have two drawbacks.  The first drawback is it’s not shelf-stable.  For long-term storage, all freezer jam must go in the freezer – hence the name.  However, if you don’t have a ton of freezer space, freezer jam can be prepared and poured into quart-size Ziploc bags.  Squeeze out the air, seal the bags and stack them flat in the freezer.  When you need more jam, just thaw a bag, empty the contents of the bag into a jar, put it into the fridge and enjoy.

The second drawback (well, not really) is our kids got so used to eating delicious homemade freezer jam that it didn’t take long before they were sticking their noses up at store-bought jam, and every other kind of jam or jelly, except for freezer jam.  I can’t blame them though because honestly we all prefer the fresh, delicious taste of freezer jams.

To make freezer jam, all you need is ripe fruit, sugar, and pectin.  That’s it!  Quick and easy and before you know it, you’ll be proudly scooping up homemade jam for toast, biscuits, scones, waffles, pancakes, crepes, ice cream, smoothies, cake filling, etc!

~Strawberry Freezer Jam~
2 cups crushed fresh strawberries
4 cups sugar
1 pkg Sure Jell Premium Fruit Pectin
3/4 cup water

Mash strawberries with potato masher or in a food processor until slightly chunky (not pureed).  Jam should have bits of fruit.  Once the strawberries are crushed to a size you want, measure out 2 cups and put into a large bowl.

Stir sugar into the strawberries, mixing well.  Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir 1 box of pectin and 3/4 cup water in a 1-quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil for 1 minute, while still stirring constantly. 

Pour hot pectin mixture over strawberry mixture.  Stir constantly for 3 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy; whichever is longer.  (A few sugar crystals may remain).

Immediately spoon jam into washed and prepared containers, leaving 1/2 –inch headspace.  Wipe rims of containers and seal.  Let stand at room temperature for about 24 hours or until set.

Store in the freezer for up to a year, or store in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.  Thaw frozen jam and stir before serving.

{Note:  You must measure carefully, jam making is an exact process and if you don’t measure correctly, you’ll have unsuccessful results.  Measure the exact amount of sugar, reducing the sugar or using a sugar substitutes will result in set failures.  If you want to make more than one batch, do not try to double the recipe, instead make two separate batches.  We usually have several batches, all in their own bowls, going at the same time.}

One batch will fill 3 pint jars with a little left over.

--- Enjoy!

If you are curious, here is the cost breakdown.  We always do a lot of batches at once, so this is the breakdown for 3 dozen jars of freezer jam - 36 pints (cost will depend on sales and qty purchased):
36 jars = $34.47
36 plastic lids = $8.16
12 SureJell Pectin = $46.50
25 lbs sugar = $15
24 lbs whole strawberries = $47.88
TOTAL = $152.01 (breaks down to $4.22 a jar)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mobile Wildland Fire Pump...

10:00 pm - 76 degrees - calm night...

This has been a very unusual year, weather wise.  Due to the low snowfall last winter and now the extreme hot and dry weather we have been getting, we are now faced with an incredibly high fire danger season.

For the past week, Tony has been running around town finding parts to put together a mobile wildland fire pump system... and we finally got to test it out!  Very impressive!

Full power stream shoots about 102 feet.

We would rather be prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best.

{P.S. - I will do a more in depth post with more pictures once he's finished putting it all together.}

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fireworks On The Beach...

9:36 pm - 76 degrees - light scattered cloud layer...

We decided to leave the mountain for the Fourth of July holiday and took a road trip to the Long Beach Peninsula.  Wow!  If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you have not experienced the Fourth of July until you’ve hit the Long Beach Peninsula on the Washington coast.  This is one of those has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed events and WOW! was it ever impressive! 

Just imagine 28 miles of uninterrupted beach where people park 2, 3, 4 rows deep, grilling on their BBQ’s, sitting around bonfires, and letting loose with thousands of dollars worth of good old fireworks – mortars, roman candles, rockets, a 12 foot burning man made out of firecrackers!  It seems they’re all okay to use at the beach! Wow!

We went down to the beach at noon and people were already staking their
claim and getting set-up for the evenings festivities.

This was just one of the huge sections of beach that a group
 had marked off for their own firework display.

This particular display even had a 12 foot tall
burning man made out of firecrackers!

Long Beach Parks & Rec Department estimated around 300,000 people
were there to enjoy the fireworks show on the beach!

As soon as the sun set, the city of Long Beach started the evening off with the their main event, an impressive $15,000 - $20,000 display in front of the Long Beach Boardwalk.  Then the beach turned into a free-for-all - a wild and crazy night where each person was trying to out-do the guy next to him and the results were AMAZING!

We went back down to the beach just after 7pm to find a spot.  Our little guy
was very excited and couldn't wait for the fireworks to start!

Sunset on the beach and then....

...the fireworks began!

The kids finally settled down as the awesome light show continued on!

After the smoke has settled and the last firework has been set off, what’s left is thousands and thousands of dollars worth of paper packaging and cardboard tubes. 

What makes this Fourth of July event special is the huge volunteer beach clean-up that happens the next morning.  Large dumpsters are located at all the beach entrances so people can throw out their own garbage that night.  Then the next morning hundreds of volunteers and community groups organize clean-up schedules to pick up all the remaining debris.  By noon, there’s very little left of what happened just over 12 hours earlier.

This was the first time we have gone to the beach for the Fourth of July holiday and it was definitely worth it!


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