Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Photo Tour

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you all had a great week. The weather has been a bit wonky here for the past few days, so I don't have a ton of photos to share, but I do have some. I took advantage of a quick break in the clouds yesterday to visit the Evergreen Arboretum and snap some photos while I was on my way to see my sister. The park is one of Everett's hidden gems; I highly recommend visiting if you're in the area. 

Here's a lovely pink poppy, from their garden. I have red ones like this, 
but mine are probably still a few days away from opening. 

This interesting yellow flower is called a Phlomis. It's actually a favorite of mine, even though I 
don't have any at home. I used to grow it at our old place; it makes a nice addition to a cut bouquet.

Another late spring/early summer favorite- the peony. I have several planted around our property, but none of them have flowered yet. Ever. I'm hopeful that maybe this will be the year. 

Back home, I was really pleased to see that some more of my seeds have sprouted. 
This is broccoli raab; it's going to replace the purple broccoli starts that the rabbit (and Abby) ate.

While we're talking brassicas- here's a pretty purple/red brussels sprout that I set in earlier this 
week. It's supposed to be really warm here this weekend, so the rain wasn't all bad: 
at least the new plants have been thoroughly watered in!

The tomatoes are loving their new plastic hut. It's not much to look at from the outside (let's just say there's duct tape and binder clips involved) but the plants have finally flowered. It's all good. 

I'm really excited about this one- I had to zoom my camera lens all the way to get it. Their nest is outside our 2nd story bedroom window, in the eaves. I think I'll set up my tripod later, to see if I can get a shot without the noise. Regardless, I'm thrilled that I was able to capture this moment.

And this is where I'll be for the better part of the afternoon! There was a light fog this morning, mixed with the bright early sunlight... so hard for me to capture in a photo. That's one of my goals for this summer- to get better with my camera. I'm looking forward to the challenge. 

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend planned! I'll be going to the Mother Earth News Fair on Sunday (for real, this time!) so follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram for updates. I'll also post to the community page on Facebook, if you're not into the other platforms.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Around the Web

Last Year. Hoping for a repeat!
I spent yesterday afternoon in the garden, so I'm a little behind on getting my link list together. Without further ado, however... here you go!

Washington peeps- The Plant Farm up here in Smokey Point is having a huge sale on veggies now through this weekend. I picked up a bunch of really nice veggies yesterday, and pretty much finished planting out the garden- I still have a few seeds left to plant, though. Even if you don't live nearby, they have a lot of really good info on their website, between their blog and various articles. Check them out!

I am so making this tart as soon as tomato season happens here. And, I totally adore Helene's photography.

As always, Marisa has great info- this time, it's how to store that fresh produce from the farmer's market without plastic bags. Excellent!

It's humming bird time at the house! We counted between 6 and 8 birds flying around the feeders the other evening, and at least 3 different species. I found this poster to help us ID the birds, and I've bookmarked the FeederWatch website for future reference. Pretty cool!

I apparently have tomatoes on the brain. Mine are *finally* starting to take off; I put them in the ground about a month ago and it's just not staying warm enough for them to do much. So, I built a little greenhouse of sorts over them, using some stakes, PVC pipe and plastic sheeting- and voila! they're growing again. This post from Roger over at KGI gives me some ideas to ponder before they get too big.

It looks like I might actually get some quince from our tree this year, so I've bookmarked this recipe from the ever-helpful David Lebovitz, just in case. If you have a quince recipe, do share. Please?

What's caught your eye this week? Let me know!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rain Barrels

I'm really looking forward to the dry season here. Regardless of how I might answer if you were to ask me in January, Washington state actually has really nice weather. There are four distinct seasons, the snow is usually limited to certain locations, and the summer... oh, the summer!... is pretty much dry. Compared with my childhood summers on the East Coast, it's practically heaven to me- low humidity and the temperatures max out around 80 most of the time. (Anything above 80 and I'm a useless, sweaty mess.) In fact, the only thing I can think of to complain about is that we don't get many rip-roaring thunderstorms... one of the few things I miss from back east.

That being said, though, I realize that there are many places in the country these days who are dry as a bone. Climate change arguments aside, I think we can all agree on the fact that drought is a very real problem these days, and it's right in our own backyards. California, I'm looking at you.

Even though we live in a place that isn't known for its lack of rainfall, we do take steps to soften the load that we put on our well. At over 120 feet deep, we should be good to go on water for a long time- but at the rate they're building houses in our area, I can't help but wonder.

As I've mentioned before, I do like to incorporate things that don't take a whole lot of effort... and when it comes to water conservation, rain barrels are as easy as it gets. And, they're effective. But don't take my word for it, let's look at the math. The formula is as follows:

.623 gallons per sq ft, per inch of rain x Your roof sq ft x Total Inches of Rain per year

For us, the numbers look like this:  .623 x 1800 x 43= 48,220

Yes, you read that right- over 48 thousand gallons of water rolls off of our roof, in an average year. That's not even counting when it does snow. Amazing, right? It adds up fast!

We have two 55 gallon rain barrels. Seems small, in context, doesn't it? We're capturing and storing a mere fraction of one percent of the water that falls on our house, and yet it's enough to fill up the chicken and rabbit water bottles as needed, and still have plenty leftover for nearby plants. Get this, though: even if we had a 55 gallon water barrel on every single downspout on our house, we still wouldn't hit a full 1% of the total water that falls on our house. Crazy!!

Our setup is simple; the downspouts empty into an opening in the top of the barrel, which we left mostly intact to keep debris out of the water. There's a spigot near the bottom of the barrel, so the water is gravity-fed out through a hose when we open the valve. I do add a natural mosquito dunk to the water when the weather warms up, just to keep the biters at bay, but other than that, there's nothing to them!

Our rain barrels may not be the prettiest thing here, but the beauty is in their practicality and accessibility. And, they're not just for folks who live in rural areas- in fact, in cities, where water restrictions and metering are a factor, these are an inexpensive option for you to keep your garden going through the dry months. You can find ornamental ones for sale, if you're in an urban area and are worried about the aesthetic.

What about you- do you use rain barrels or other catchment systems? Are you thinking about adding one now?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Grit Post

My latest post for Grit, called "Predators Abound", is live!

Also, I've found out that there are more issues with the comments... specifically, if you use the Safari browser on an iPhone, Blogger won't accept your comments. It works for all other browsers, apparently. The only solution I know of is to download another browser, like Chrome, and use that to view the site. If that's not an option, you can still leave your comments over on Facebook.

Thanks for being a part of my world!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Candles for a Rainy Day

Good morning, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Mine was unexpectedly open; I completely goofed on the dates for the Mother Earth News Fair, so once I figured out that it's next weekend, I had a little free time on my hands. It all worked out just fine, though.

While I was straightening things up around here, I noticed that our candles had all burned down to nothing and I needed to put new ones in. I love candlelight, but I don't love how expensive they can be! Thinking that you might feel the same way, I wanted to share with you a quick(ish) project that I do, that lets me recycle those candle leftovers for a whole lot less than buying new ones.

As I swap candles out around the house, I take the leftover wax and store the bits until I get enough saved up to make a good batch all at once. (The hands-on time is short, but heating up and melting the wax takes a bit of time- some things just can't be hurried.) I separate out my scents and colors as I collect them, and I have a handful of zip-top bags and old spaghetti sauce jars for that purpose.

When I'm ready to make candles, I gather up my supplies: the candle bits, some new wax, small wax-coated paper cups, new wicks, and a couple of wooden chopsticks to stir the wax while it melts.I also like to put some newspaper or paper towels down on the counter where I'm working, to make cleaning up easier.

The first thing I do is chop off some chunks of the new wax, to mix with the old. I put them both together in a jar, and then the jar goes into a pot of water straight from the tap- double boiler style. This all goes on my stove, with the burner set to medium. I like to have the water level in the pot come up about halfway on the jars, so I added more water -very slowly- once everything is in the pot, to adjust. Sometimes, the jars don't have enough weight and will start to float. If that starts to happen, stop pouring and add a bit more wax to the jar, so it doesn't tip over.

Speaking of tipping over- wax doesn't come out of things easily, if at all, so be extra careful if you choose to make candles. There's also a possibility of getting burned. Please use common sense and be safe when undertaking projects like this.

Back to the wax- it took about 20 minutes for everything to melt completely. While it was taking its time, I prepped my paper cups and wicks. You can buy a tacky adhesive to affix the wicks to the bottom of the cup, but I think it's just as easy to dip the metal base of the wick into some wax, and set it in place in the center of the cup. I will occasionally have a wick go out of place if I move the cup before it has cooled, but that's rare.

Once the wax melts completely, I take one of the jars out of the pot and wipe off any excess water. (I'm just using my hands, so I don't want it to be slippery.) Being careful not to splash or bump the wick, I carefully pour the melted wax into my cup, about halfway full.

The wax will contract as it cools, so I make sure to leave about an inch of wax in my jar, so I can top off each candle to level out any low spots once they're mostly cool. The photo below shows the cooled wax after the first pour. It's not the end of the world if you were to leave it like that; I just prefer to level them out with a second pour.

I repeated this process for each of my jars of wax, and I ended up with 12 votive candles for less than I would have spent on buying a couple of new ones. In a few hours, I'll be able to peel off the paper cups and trim the wicks, and my candles will be ready to go in their holders.

I don't worry about using up all of the wax- I just let any leftovers cool in their jars on the counter, and later I'll stick the lids on and put them away with the rest of my candle supplies. I also (clearly) don't worry about exact measurements when I'm making these. It's just a fast and fun way for me to re-use something that I'd otherwise have to throw away.

Do you have any quick recycling projects like this that you do?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Photos

Alex working hard trimming trees.

There's always one who won't cooperate...

I love taking pictures of this bullfrog.

Purple Broccoli!

Caterpillar and damage on iris leaf. Pretty, nonetheless.

Woolly caterpillar on rhubarb. 

Handsome hubby with chainsaw.

Bee on chives. I could watch bees in flowers for days.

This beauty is tucked away by our pond. It's a dark, dark
purple- the photo doesn't do it justice.

Unknown variety of Deutzia. Just starting to bloom.

Flag Iris

Variegated honeysuckle

Hydrangeas on the way!

Kale and baby onions

Dramatic Flo

More bees in flowers. This rhodie had so many bees, we could
hear them all buzzing from a few feet away. Love It!

My next strawberry recipe, in the works.
So that's what my week looked like... not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

Remember to check in over the weekend on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram as I travel down to Puyallup to attend the Mother Earth News Fair. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thursday Links

Hey everyone! Here's a collection of things that caught my eye this week:

  • This new-to-me website for canning supplies! Pantry Paratus has a bunch of interesting and useful kitchen supplies. I like it so much, in fact, that I've signed up to be an affiliate. Check out their ad in the sidebar to the right- if you click through and buy something, I'll get a small commission from them. (It's just like that little Amazon box down below... if you buy anything from Amazon through that widget -whether it's something I've listed or not- then I get a little money as well. It all adds up, so keep an eye out for some new advertisers, coming soon!)
  • I enjoyed reading this article in Mother Earth News about urban homesteading. It reminded me of when we lived in the city, and how it's possible to live simply and be sustainable, even if you don't have a lot of property to work with. 
  • The drought in California is scary stuff, considering how much of our country's food is grown there. Just one more reason to plant your own!
  • Another new-to-me blog that I'm loving is Edible Perspective. The author, Ashley McLaughlin, has a great writing style and I am really impressed with her photography. Check out her Photography 101 collection for some great tips on how to take better photos.
  • Speaking of photography, here are some more fantastic photos. I love visiting National Parks!!
  • I want to make these bread and butter pickles. I have a couple of months to wait, though, I think. Patience, grasshopper. 
  • I'm really excited to go here this weekend. If you happen to be in the area, you should go too! If you're not, follow me on Twitter (@acornandthistle) and Instagram (acornandthistle) for updates as I wander around. 
  • This article about rabbit recipes in my local newspaper has me thinking about dinner already. Hmm, which one to choose?!?! 
What have you been reading about this week? 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Food Preservation- An Overview

There's a lot of information out there about canning, which is a pretty great thing, in my opinion. Often times, though, it can be overwhelming to read a story about how the writer processed and canned a couple hundred pounds of, say, tomatoes- in just two days! I love the idea of doing that, don't get me wrong- but for most people, unless you're planning on taking a day off from work and/or inviting some friends over, it's just not practical. 

I don't know about you, but for me, if something is impractical or inconvenient I find it difficult to fit it into my day- let alone make it a routine. This is where knowing your options comes in handy, and a really great place to start is over at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. There are also a number of excellent bloggers out there who focus on food preservation, but I'm getting ahead of myself already. 

Freezing. Dehydrating. Canning. Fermenting/Pickling. Curing/Smoking. These are all ways to store different foods, and in many cases can be done in small batches so that it's not a huge time commitment. Freezing can be as simple as doubling a recipe, and packaging up the extra half for another time. I do that often when I make soups- I'll freeze up individual portions in jars, so we have them for later. (Yes, you can freeze in glass. You just have to allow space for expansion- I'll go over this in another post.)

Dehydrating is a great way to preserve things- and you can do it with more than just fruit. If you're a hiker or a camper, getting into dehydrating your trail/camp foods can save you a chunk of change. Vegetables (hello, zucchini), herbs, meats and even some soups can all be dried at home. I have a dehydrator that I use, but an oven works just fine, if you're just wanting to try it out. Remember, people have been dehydrating things since long before our modern appliances came around, so you don't need fancy gear to get started. 

Canning... oh, how I love canning! Taking fresh, in-season food and making it shelf stable is practically magic, in my book. Yes, there are safety issues that you need to be aware of - like botulism - but once you know the rules it's easy to play the game. There are TONS of great resources for canning; tried-and-true recipes, that will turn out safe to store as well as delicious, provided you follow the instructions.

Fermenting and Pickling are also great ways to preserve things, and they go way beyond the sandwich pickles that you find in the grocery store. Sauerkraut, kimchi, giardiniera- I think nearly every culture in the world has their own signature fermented/pickled dish. Fermenting takes a little more time, but that's how it was done, before you could go buy gallon jugs of vinegar. Not that there's anything wrong with a quick pickle... they certainly have their place too. 

I haven't done much curing and smoking, for no reason other than I just haven't gotten around to it. I do, however, have plans to build a smoker this year. I love smoked salmon, so when that season comes around, I want to take a stab at it. Of all the methods above, though, curing and smoking do take the most time but a good portion of that is hands-off. 

Of course, these are just broad categories to describe the processes you can use to preserve things. We'll go over each one in more detail over the next few weeks, complete with recipes and links to other great sites to get you started. Until then, check out the basics over at the National Center, and start thinking about your favorite preserved foods so we can talk about them over on Facebook!

What's your favorite method of preserving? 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Portable Pens

If there's one thing I've learned having animals around, it's that there's always going to be a need at one point or another for some temporary housing. Whether it's a sick chicken in the laundry room or a house bunny who needs a little sunshine and fresh air, there comes a time when you end up looking around and thinking "Oh, crap. Now what?"

Yes, you can scoot on out to your local pet store and pick up a folding wire kennel... but they're not cheap. And, in the case of said bunny, I don't really trust anything with "collapsible" in it's name. It seems to me like that should be a warning, not a feature. (Just Saying.)

With a some basic carpentry skills and easily sourced supplies, you can put together a 2'(ish)x4' portable pen that's not only sturdy, but is also easily moved to where ever you need it. It can also be broken down into its component panels for storage, when not in use- say over the winter or what-have-you.

Here's what I used:

6 - 1x2x8 furring strips. ($6 total)
1 roll of fencing wire. (Prices vary on what you buy. I picked up a 50' roll of fencing like this for $30 to use on another project, so since I had it here, that's what I used. You could go with a smaller roll, but you'll want at least 13 feet of wire for this project.)
2.5'' wood screws ($8 for a box of 50; always handy to have around)
heavy duty stapler and staples
drill with a bit slightly smaller than the screw diameter
tape measure
hand saw
wire cutter
gloves/eye protection

A word on fencing, before we get too far in: chicken wire is not terribly sturdy stuff, but it is less expensive. If you are building a pen that doesn't need to be predator-proof, by all means feel free to use that. I need to use something a little more substantial here, so I use a heavier gauge welded wire fencing.  There are plastic fencing options that also work well, and the plastic is a little less fussy when it comes to cutting and attaching. I have plastic on one of the pens we use for the chicks, and I haven't had any issues leaving them in there during the day. I don't think I'd trust it as their sole protection at night, but that was never the intended purpose anyway. Use your best judgement here, based on how you're going to use your pen.

Alright... so, with the exception of the furring strips, I had all of this stuff lying around. If you needed to buy all of the supplies (not the tools) outright, you'd be looking at under $50- still cheaper than a folding wire pen. I'd be willing to bet you have most of these things stashed around, too.

I chose the size of the pen based on a combination of my height and the size of the animal(s) who would be using it. There's nothing worse than having a pen that's of a size where you can't easily reach the animal inside. I also factored in the fencing I was using- I wanted to use the grid of the fencing itself as my cutting guide, so that had a secure edge for my staples to attach to. All told, I wanted the finished pen to be 28" tall- low enough for me to step over, but still nice and roomy.

Once I had my measurements more or less in mind, I got to work. I knew I was making four panels; the sides being about 4 feet long and the ends about 2 feet. Since the furring strips are 2" on edge, that meant my first cuts were going to be 24" for the uprights. I'd need 2 uprights for each of the four panels... so that's 8 total. You can cut them all at once, or just work on 2 panels at a time like I did.

I clamped the furring strip to the tailgate of our truck so that it didn't move around when I was sawing. If you have a helper, have them hold it. I was flying solo that day so this is what worked for me. If you have a chop saw, by all means, use that. Those things are perfect for making small work of jobs like this.

I like working with hand tools, though, so that's what I used. If that's not your thing, feel free to use a circular saw or whatever your wood-cutting tool of choice is.

I cut four 24'' uprights; two for each of the two end panels. Next, I lined them up so they all look like they're different sizes before taking a picture. Sigh. (They're not. They're all 24 inches... I promise.)

Then, I cut the four top and bottom pieces for the end panels. They're each 28 inches long, due to the layout of my wire fencing. It's not surgery, so there's room to be flexible. Just keep it consistent.

From here, I took my cut pieces and assembled the ends. Laying the two tops and bottoms out on a flat surface, I put the shorter uprights on the insides. This will make a square that is 28" on each side. I attached the pieces at each corner using the wood screws, screwing down into the uprights from the long pieces.
I find it best to pre-drill the holes for my screws, so that I don't split the wood. I also just used one screw at each corner, which left the panels a little floppy at first. Once I attached the wire, it was more solid. You could use two screws at each corner, if you prefer.

Here comes the fussy part. Working with rolled wire is a bit of a pain, in my opinion. I think it has more to do with me than the wire, though- I can never seem to get it as flat and neat as I would like it to be. It doesn't have to be perfect, though- just get it mostly straightened out and put the square underneath to be sure that you're cutting in the right spot. I ended up with a strip about 8 inches tall, after clipping each panel to size. Don't throw these away- you can use them to make short cages for your plants by bending them back into a circle and folding in the long ends.

I stapled the wire to the frame, keeping things square but pulling the wire as tight as possible so it would lay flat. I used one staple on every other wire, for the most part, except at the corners. There, I wanted one staple on each side of the wire where the wood joined.

Once the two end panels were done, I repeated the process from the beginning for the long sides; this time cutting four 24'' uprights and four 4' top and bottom lengths. (Alternatively, you could just cut everything at once... totally up to you.) I joined these pieces into rectangles, again keeping the uprights inside so that I'd have a 28" tall frame.

Then I fussed with the wire again, so that I had four complete panels.

To finish, I took a side and an end, lined up the pieces, then screwed the panels together at the top and the bottom making sure to keep the screw in the center of the wood. Pre-drilling here helps as well. It's also easier if you have someone to hold these steady for you while you drill and then put the screws in, but it's not impossible to do it by yourself. Once you get the first corner done, it starts to stabilize itself.

I repeated this at the top and bottom of all four corners. I also added a third screw in the middle of each, thinking it would add stability, but that didn't seem to make much of a difference.

One thing that I didn't do originally, that I should have, was add corner braces. I felt it needed just a little more stability in the corners, for our needs. I put them on about 2 weeks later, with the odd bits I had leftover from the original build. I attached them to the corners and used a saw to cut them flush. There was no measuring here; it was just an on-the-fly adjustment- but it took the last little wiggle out of it, so I'm happy.

And it's done! It's light enough to be moved, small enough to easily reach into it or step over the rails (that's how I move it- I step inside, lift it by the long sides, and just walk) and still pretty darn sturdy. All in all, it's a pretty handy little pen.

Time for one more test, though:

Works Great!

Once you get the hang of the basic box construction - that's really the jumping off point - you can customize these any way you need. I don't leave Bentley outside without shade, so I have a little piece of corrugated plastic roofing that I put on there when he's in. You could also attach some more fencing to the bottom, if you have a digger or if you need additional predator-proofing. The possibilities are endless.

If you have any questions about how this went together, please let me know. I'd be happy to provide more details and/or pictures to help you make yours. I think it took me about 3 hours to put together, and that was including taking the photos as I went.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Too Good to Wait

So... that Rhubarb and Orange Jam? Unbelievable. So good, in fact, that on the off-chance that you have rhubarb to use this weekend, I wanted you to have this recipe. The brightness of the citrus, along with the sweet-tart rhubarb, combine to make a lively marmalade-like jam. (I happen to love marmalade, so that's a huge compliment.)

All told, it took me 2 hours from start to finish to make this, including stopping to take pictures. I bet you could do it in an hour and a half, just working straight through it.

Rhubarb and Orange Jam
recipe from Canning for a New Generation, by Liana Krissoff
yields approx. 6 half-pint jars

2 navel oranges
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (reserve the squeezed hulls and seeds)
3 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups sugar

Prepare your water bath canner and sterilize the jars. Put a small plate in the freezer, and put the flat lids in a heatproof bowl. (You'll heat them just before canning.)

Use a vegetable peeler to cut the zest from the oranges, then stack the slices and cut them into thin julienne strips. Segment the oranges, working over a bowl to catch the juice and reserve the membranes. Put the membranes, along with the reserved lemon hulls and seeds, in a cheesecloth bag and tie the bag closed. 

Put the zest, orange, rhubarb and sugar in a wide 6-8 quart preserving pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the juices just cover the fruit, 10-15 minutes. Nestle the jelly bag (the cheesecloth bag) in the fruit. Boil over high heat, stirring frequently, until a small dab of jam spooned onto the chilled plate and returned to the freezer for about a minute becomes somewhat firm (it will not gel), about 15 minutes. Skim off foam, then remove from heat and stir gently for a few seconds to distribute the fruit in the liquid. 

Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel. drain the water from the jar lids. 

Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put the flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it's just finger-tight. Return the jars to the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process. Remove jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn't sealed, and that jar should be refrigerated immediately. Label sealed jars and store.

When it comes to canning, I always follow the ingredients to the letter, the first time around. I did stray a little bit from the technique, but how you proceed is up to you. Please follow all food safety guidelines when you're canning things.

First I julienned the orange zest, then I added it and the sugar to my pot.

The pot was on low; I just wanted to lightly warm up the orange and sugar to get the oils coming out of the zest while I worked on the next step: segmenting the orange. I added the segments to the pot as I went, but I did work over a bowl to catch the juice and to have a place to put the membranes. I also added the lemon juice at this point. 

Finally, I cut the rhubarb into 1/2 inch slices and tossed it in the pot. Next time, I might go a little thicker, as it did break almost completely down during the cooking process.

I cooked and stirred as directed until the juice was just covering the fruit (and veg; rhubarb is actually a vegetable) and then I put the jelly bag in like so:

This is the interesting part of the recipe- she uses the naturally occurring pectin in the membranes and lemon hulls to thicken the jam. After it boiled on high for 15 minutes, I took out the jelly bag and carefully squished it, in order to extract as much of that pectin as possible. The recipe doesn't call for doing that, but it seemed to be holding a lot of liquid that I didn't want to lose. 

I followed the rest of the instructions with regards to canning the finished product. I ended up with 6 half pint jars, one pint jar and a little bit leftover. I waterbath canned the half pints, and I'm planning on using the pint jar right away... I've got a batch of yogurt to make later on, and this will be an excellent topping. I also think that it could be used to make a crazy good marinade for chicken, with the addition of a little chili paste for some zip and maybe a couple other ingredients. I'll report back as I try things out. 

I hope you try this out. Small batch canning is a great way to get in the swing of preserving things, without making a huge production out of it. If you do give it a shot, post some pics over on my FB page and let me know! Until then... happy canning!