Simple Pleasures: Porch Happiness

screened in porch 1 Life can be hectic, as we all know.  Even family life at home can be hectic.  Sometimes finding a place to be alone or to be quiet when everyone is home can be a challenge.  One of my favorite things about this time of year is being able to set up my screened-in porch for the season. Once the weather is even remotely warm, I sweep away the layer of dust and wood chips from a winter of stacked logs and get the porch ready for spring.  Today, after a busy day of teaching and yard work, I am relaxing on my porch, soaking in the sounds of birds chirping and leaves rustling softly in the breeze.

screened in porch 3Our screened-in porch has a whole lot of country built into it. When we put an addition on our house in 2003, this porch was included in the plans. But I wanted to give it a distinct look and feel. So we drove about an hour away to a place in the country that repurposes barnwood and barnstone. Upon arriving and inspecting the supply, we found the perfect match: stacks of tongue-in-groove barn siding from an old Ohio barn, still in tact and displaying remains of its traditional red paint. Soon we were on our way home with this treasure. My dad came over and helped us cut and install the siding on our porch.  It is still beautiful today.

screened in porch 2

Oops – the dog isn’t supposed to be there…shhh, don’t tell!

Since that year, I have been looking for just the right piece of furniture for my porch. I  had some wicker chairs for a time. I tried a few other pieces. But nothing quite fit my dream, which was to be able to take a nap on my porch. Nothing, that is, until this spring. Just a few weeks ago I was looking online and came across the perfect piece of furniture for my porch – this indoor/outdoor settee from Walmart.  I ordered it online, got free shipping, assembled it in about 30 minutes, and have been enjoying it ever since.

As I sit on my porch now and write, I am looking at a peony bush with pink blossoms  soon to burst open. I am enjoying the lilac bush now gracing the outside corner, and I admire a growing clematis vine that will soon reach the top of the screen panel and cover it with purple blossoms. Though my porch is only 12 years old, it feels like it has been here for a lifetime. Even the screened door squeaks like it hangs on an old farmhouse. No place else in my house gives me such a sense of peace and joy. That’s porch life. And I think we all need a little porch life once in a while.

screened in porch 4On this Memorial Day weekend, I hope you can find time to do some porch-sitting. It does a body good. As I celebrate this holiday with my family, I am thankful for a free country where I can enjoy these simple pleasures, and I am grateful for all who have sacrificed so much to make this freedom possible.  God bless America!

Beans and The Beast: Pressure Canning 101

About 8 weeks ago, as spring was first beginning to open her eyes to 2015,  my newest gadget arrived on my doorstep – my All American Pressure Canner, now affectionately named by the family as The Beast. Excited to learn something new, I began perusing Pinterest for pressure canning tips and recipes, all while keeping this large canning monster in my dining room. As fate would have it, I ended up having several rounds of both dinner guests and overnight guests during this time and, having not yet found a permanent home for The Beast, I continued to transfer it from living room to dining room, depending on what space was needed for company. At one desperate point I even tossed a placemat on top of The Beast’s box and topped it with a few books, hoping it would look like an end table. Fail.

But with the passing of time my curiosity increased and my bravery settled in. It was time to conquer The Beast. I decided my first attempt needed to be a relatively inexpensive experiment so that, if not successful, at least I did not break the bank. Thus, canning dried beans became my first pressure canning project.

I had acquired some beautiful organic pinto beans from Fresh Fork Market, directly sourced from the Shagbark Seed & Mill in Athens, Ohio.  Being assured by several Pinterest authors that canning dried beans was fool-proof, I spent a cool-weather May day canning pints of pinto beans that will later become the refried beans my family enjoys often. Yes, this was not as hard as I thought it would be…and no, the pressure canner did not explode (insert sigh of relief here!)

Here are a few pictures of the pinto bean canning process:

The Beast and the beans!

The Beast and the beans!

Don't these organic pinto beans look gorgeous?

Don’t these organic pinto beans look gorgeous?

After sorting and rinsing the beans, I placed 1/2 cup beans in each pint jar, followed by 1/2 tsp. salt.  Then I added hot water to the jars, filling up to the neck of the jar.  Once I added the prepared lids (following the typical canning instructions), the jars were ready to be placed in The Beast.

 

The beans in jars before canning

The beans in jars before canning

After placing the jars in the pressure canner (following the canner instructions carefully), I secured the lid, heated it up, allowed the steam to vent for 10 minutes as instructed, and then maintained an 11 lb pressure for 75 minutes.  Once this time had been completed and the canner was completely cooled down, I lifted the canned pints of pinto beans out of The Beast.

Looking delicious already!

After canning – looking delicious already!

Several recipes I looked at said the beans will continue to puff up as they settle.  These have a shelf life of one year without losing nutritional value.  Organic refried beans are now ready and waiting in my cupboard for our next Mexican Night!

With Round One finished,  I am even more excited to attempt pressure canning some additional recipes.  Stay tuned for updates on future projects with The Beast – I am hoping to can fresh peas soon!