Canning Mandarin Oranges and Re-Thinking Mulch

Yesterday I had a long list of “things to make” and classes I still need to prep for – thank goodness there was nothing else on the schedule and Dave was home.

My list included:

  • Make butter and buttermilk bread
  • Make lotion
  • Make mayo
  • Finish sewing pads
  • Review and adjust the GOSO class
  • Get cracking on putting together the Edible Landscaping class

Busy, busy day!

Mandarin Oranges

Earlier this week I canned some mandarin oranges. I don’t know how they will turn out, but hopefully Emily will like them. She’s crazy for mandarin oranges – the citrus combined with a touch of sweet satisfies the massive sweet tooth that girl has developed. I’ll pick mandarin oranges over candy any day.

However, I am doing my best to move away from as many processed and canned foods as possible. Now, I could buy the mandarin oranges in glass jars to avoid the PCB issue, but I thought I would at least try to make my own first.

Three pounds of mandarin oranges takes about 45 minutes to peel. Just sayin’ – this isn’t as quick as some of my other projects!

You need to remove as much of the pith as possible, since it lends a bitter aspect to the fruit. I read somewhere, but have not verified, that mandarin orange processors soak the sections in lye to help remove the lining of skin.

Different sites have different water/sugar ratios. I ended up going with a 4:1 ratio. Four cups of hot water and one cup of sugar – which I mixed until the sugar had completely dissolved. I then poured it over the two quart jars and closed them up and sealed them.

I didn’t opt for the full canning bath option – so these two jars are strictly for the refrigerator. I figure I’ll give them a week and then open them up for a test slice.

Enzyme Cleaner

I also put the mandarin orange peels to good use. I had about 2 1/2 cups of them (give or take) and I added 7 tablespoons of brown sugar and four cups of water and put the whole concoction in an old juice container.

Every day for the first month I will give it a shake, then loosen the cap to release any built-up gas (very important, unless you want a citrus explosion!). I’m keeping it in the bathroom, which is mainly dark and cool and that way I’ll remember to shake it each day!

This citrus enzyme cleaner should be ready for use in three months. I’ll just strain out the liquid and store it for use for many different cleaning needs.

Here are some good uses for it:

  • Floor wash (2 Tbsp cleaner to 3 quarts water)
  • Windows (2 Tbsp cleaner to 2 quarts water)
  • Dishes (a squirt of it)
  • Clearing blockages from drains
  • Fertilizer for vegetables, flowering and non-flowering plants
  • Cleaning fruits and veggies
  • Pet stains/pet urine
  • Insect repellent (ants and cockroaches)

If you regularly consume oranges, lemons, limes or grapefruit – save the peels and make this. It’s cheap, easy, and makes a powerful cleaner.

Re-Thinking All This Mulch

We moved no less than FOUR mountains of mulch last year. At first, it looked fabulous. But three things happened to make it look less than fabulous…

  • The storm right before Father’s Day
  • Our removal of some of the steel edging holding the mulch in certain areas
  • Chicken run wild

The tree in half of our backyard – and our struggle to remove it with zero help from the neighbor who had ‘donated’ it to us from his backyard – created a bad situation. After a week or so of dealing with the tree, a little at a time, we were tired. So we cut a bunch of ‘stepping stumps’ (which I still like) and filled in the rest of the wiped out area with mulch. It ended up being too much mulch.

Then we made the mistake of pulling up a few key metal edging strips and using them in the front yard for an enlarged mulched and planted section out there – removing the divides needed to keep the mulch only in walkways.

Between the dogs and worse, chickens gone wild, the mulch has migrated and spread…everywhere.

We’ve bought two metal edging strips, and probably need about a dozen more to get the yard back in line. I’ll be starting on that little project sooner rather than later. When we reclaim the various sections designated to be ‘green’, I’m planning on planting red clover.

I’ve also ordered 100 ‘whopper’ strawberry plants to use on the mulch side of the edging. Eventually the plants will grow over the metal edging providing a nice edge to mow right up to and removing the need to weed whack along most of the mulch/green line.

Stay tuned for developments on that.

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