Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Making Winter Ice Lanterns

Now that we are in winter weather, I thought about how much fun it would be to make some of those gorgeous ice lanterns I've seen in photos.  There are kits available for purchase, but I am on a budget and decided to try to make something similar for free, so today I'm sharing my DIY ice lanterns.

A Glowing Ice Lantern on a Winter Night
We had numerous clean empty 5 gallon paint buckets available, so I decided to make my ice lanterns with those, but really any clean plastic container of any size will work.

Filling a 5 gallon bucket with water
I  filled two buckets about half-way up  because  I didn't know how long it would take for the water to freeze and figured it would take less time if it wasn't full.    Food coloring can be added to the water, but I decided to use just plain water.

Waiting for water to freeze in 5 gallon buckets

I placed my buckets outside and checked each day for a week, but there was still water in the middle. The daytime temperatures were hovering right around freezing with the night temperatures in the mid to upper 20s. Then the temperature dropped about 10 degrees both day and night and after 2 more days at the colder temperatures, the ice inside the buckets seemed solidly frozen.  When I tried to dump the ice out of the bucket, it was frozen to the sides, so I brought them inside the house for a few minutes to thaw the sides.

Ice emptied from a 5 gallon bucket

I was then able to turn the buckets upside down to dump the ice out.  There was still a little water in the very bottom where it wasn't frozen solid, making a perfect depression to place a candle inside.

Votive candle in an ice lantern

I placed a votive candle in a glass holder in the top.  It was easy to make it level by using a little snow under the votive holder.

Votive candle lighting an ice lantern

I waited until dark and then lit the candle.

I also experimented with placing a larger jar candle inside.

A jar candle inside an ice lantern

I liked the way the color from the larger candle showed through the ice.  A red candle at Christmas time would be very festive!

Ice lanterns lighting a walkway on a winter night

Although I liked the way the jar candle looked, too, here is a photo of my homemade ice lanterns with votive candles inside.  For anyone who prefers the look of the ice globes, kits are available for purchase.

We're linked up to the Homestead Blog Hop!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Freezing Corn on the Cob

This year we planted a big patch of corn and even after giving some away and serving some at a picnic, we still had a lot left over.  I did some research to try to determine the best way to freeze it to be able to eat it as corn on the cob.

Field of corn
 A super easy method that several people recommended was to just freeze it leaving on a little of the inner husk to keep it from getting freezer burned.

Fresh corn on the cob

.  Since this sounded so easy I decided to try it.  Here are the steps:

1.  Slice off the corn tassel end.

Slicing off the tassel of the corn cob

2.  Cut off the stem end just a little longer than where the kernels begin on the cob.

Slicing off the stem end  of the corn cob

3.  Peel off the outer layers of the husk leaving only a couple of inner leaves.

Corn with outer layers of husks removed

5.  Place the ears in a vacuum pack or ziplock bag and put it in the freezer.

Corn on the cob in freezer bag

What could be an easier way to freeze corn on the cob?  Of course the test will be when we pull it out of the freezer and eat it.  Stay tuned...

I am thinking of purchasing a FoodSaver Vacuum sealing system like the one below:
FoodSaver FM2000-000 Vacuum Sealing System with Starter Bag/Roll Set

Please feel free to share your experience and recommendations with vacuum sealers.

Do you have a favorite way to freeze corn on the cob?

We are linked up with the Homestead Blog Hop


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

My Sunflower Seed Disaster

Last summer I grew some sunflowers to provide our pollinating insects with one of their favorite nectar and pollen sources and then to harvest the seeds to help feed the wild birds over the winter.  I knew I didn't plant enough to feed the birds for the entire winter, but thought the seeds might last at least a few weeks.

Fading Sunflower

I watched with happiness as my sunflowers grew, flowered and formed seed heads.

Drying sunflower

The little flowers on the heads dried and began to fall off.

Ripening sunflower seeds

The warm sunshine of August and September ripened the seeds.

Sunflower seeds

The striped seeds could be seen drying in the sun.  We started to have some cooler temperatures and some rain one morning followed by a sunny, warm afternoon, so I harvested most of the seed heads and brought them inside to continue drying.  I have them a couple of hours in a warm oven to try to make sure they were dry,  I let them cool overnight and to prevent any rodents from getting into them, I put the seeds, heads and all into some empty metal coffee cans with plastic lids.  A couple of months passed and we had our first few inches of snow that stuck and an extended cold spell with temperatures staying below freezing for several days.  Certain by now all of the bears would be in hibernation, I pulled out my bird feeders and pulled out the containers with my home-grown sunflower seeds.

Mold growing on a sunflower seed head
They obviously hadn't been dried enough or I should have removed all of the seeds from the seed heads or maybe both because they were covered with ugly grey mold and totally unusable.  Into the compost pile they went and I bought sunflower seed to fill my bird feeders.  Any tips on harvesting and preparing sunflower seeds for storage would be appreciated!