Exciting news on the homestead! 

Yesterday, we placed an order with Hoover’s Hatcheries for 15, day old chicks to be shipped to us the week of March 13th!  We are very excited, because CHICKENS and FREE SHIPPING! Our entire order of 15 female chicks, with Mareks vaccinations for all, was 65 bucks and change!

And free shipping! Like, we really cannot get over that… Other hatcheries that sell to Maine charge upwards of $60 for just shipping. And the prices for the chicks are only a bit more. Totally worth it (though, on a side note, the other hatcheries I looked at, Meyer’s  and Murray McMurray, have excellent prices on meat birds, and even with the shipping,so we’ll probably be going with one of those places… I mean check out this Fry Pan Bargain .)

This gives us two weeks to get a brooder set up, and supplies regathered.

So the lowdown on our new chicken breeds-

We are getting a speckled Sussex, a couple Polish, a couple new Amercuanas, an Asian blue, an Amberlink, a golden laced Wyandotte, a Welsummer, a Favorelle, and 4 hatchery choice rare breeds, which could be Silkies or Cochins or Buckeyes, anything considered a rare breed, really… depends on the hatch yield for that day. I couldn’t really make up my mind so I figured hopefully they’ll send me different breeds then what I ordered, and make sure they are cold hardy…. seeing as how they know they are shipping to Maine.

AND the other super exciting news for now, we ordered our seeds from Johnny’s Select Seeds, a Maine company that we really love and feel good supporting with our hard earned dollars. Included in that order, but not limited to- popcorn seed, beets, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, peas, carrots, peppers and STRAWBERRIES. We got one hundred bare root Honeoye plants, one hundred bare root Sparkle plants and 1000 Alexandria seeds. We’ll be receiving the seeds this month, but the Roots won’t be here until may 17th or so. But that just gives us time to amend the soil to their needs! This is going to be an amazing spring.

Otherwise, its off to the daily rigamarole of housework and making pizza for supper.

Until next time, have a wicked good night!

Garden update 09.14.15 

So I know I promised a post about apple picking, but they aren’t as ripe as we thought they were. So for now I’m going to brag about our wonderful no hands garden.

 It’s been a bountiful year here at Gillis Gardens. So far we have pounds of green beans, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and zucchini in the freezer. We’ve canned tons of jam, pickles, relish and had a fantastic run at maple syrup. We enjoyed fresh salads and are looking forward to canning tomatoes, making sauce and salsa. We’ve had the best pepper season ever, and have dozens of assorted hot peppers drying. I’m making jalapeño poppers today- from peppers we grew!

We’ve had a long summer considering what a rough start we had this year. Winters are long and cold in Maine, but this last one seemed to hit us with a vengeance. As we turn the corner into autumn, we are reminding ourselves to enjoy the craziness of harvest- it’s already getting dark by 7:30… It really is only a hop skip and a jump til thanksgiving. 

Our zucchinis are coming in strong for now


Future poppers – recipe to follow sometime this winter I promise


These peppers are called Chocolate Bell Peppers, available thru Johnny’s Select Seeds


Another shot of our Chocolate Peppers- they turn brown as they ripen


This is one of our hot peppers- I think they look like little red lipsticks


Just one of our Serrano Pepper plants.


Oops! We really don’t like letting our zucchinis get this big, but what can you do?


A few onions- we only planted a small bed of yellows this year.


We only got the one watermelon to make it this year, but for no effort we’re happy.


One of our three cantalopes


A record year for our delicata honey boat squash.


We use marigolds to deter pests like potato beetles. Plus they’re a pretty addition to the garden.


Our days haul- peppers, squash, cucumbers, onions


The tomatoes we’ve picked over the last couple days.


These beauties will be the subject of a later post


Well I’ve got zucchini to shred and freeze, cucumbers to cut for more pickles, and a baby, house, chickens and kitty to care for. 


Izzybug and Pepperkitty

My next post is all about apples! We’ll probably my next 4 posts, actually. Apples are a big deal in this house. 

So until that time, have a wicked good day.

Putting the Dill in DillyBean!

The beans are in! This is a REALLY happy time of year for us, because it means DILLY BEANS! And we like them spicy. And dilly. It took me about a hour to pick our beautiful bag of beans. We planted two huge rows this year, mostly a bush bean called the provider. They certainly live up to their name as long as you keep picking them. 


Green Bean Jungle


Baby Beans!


We also planted a burgundy bean for the first time this year. These are officially my favorite things to photograph right now. Even though there aren’t any burgundy beans in with the dilly beans, I couldn’t resist putting these up. They are about a week behind the providers. 


Burgundy String Bean


I’ve always thought bean blossoms were so pretty


The beans will turn purple as they mature. they are supposed to keep their color even after cooked.


Ok, so enough of the garden. It’s time to make some Dilly Beans!

Now, making dilly beans, or any pickle really, is about ratios. We start our recipe based on 2 pounds of prepped beans. When we made them last night, we actually had 3 pounds, so we adjusted for that. 

You will need 

  • quart jars, bands and lids- we prefer wide mouth jars for pickling
  • your water bath canner
  • A big pot for the pickling mixture
  • Jar grabber

For the pickling liquid, based on the two pounds of beans, you’ll have to go go get yourself the following:

  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons canning/pickling salt

So this is your pickling mixture. Get your big pot out, and mix these all together. Since we had three pounds of prepped beans we used 6 cups each water and vinegar, and 4.5 tablespoons canning salt.  

For packing the jars, you’ll need 

  • Lots of fresh dill, about 6 good size sprigs per jar
  • Garlic cloves, cut in halves, 2 per jar
  • Dried hot peppers of your choice, 2 per jar
  • 1 tsp of crushed red peppers per jar
  • Your beans, ends trimmed off


My bean cutting setup consists of my beans, a bowl for trimmed dilly beans, a bowl for beans to small or irregular for pickling, and my compost bucket.


The larger beans are perfect for pickling, the smaller ones are great for blanching and freezing for winter meals


Beans, ends trimmed and then cut to size. The beans cut into thirds on the other side of the board are for blanching and freezing as regular beans


We trim the stems off our dill, so it takes up less room in the jar.


Everything gathered, prepped and ready to go. We use two types of chili peppers, that’s why they are seperate from eachother. We put one of each in each jar.


Now that you have gathered everything and gotten it all prepped, it’s time to make sure your jars, bands and lids are cleaned and ready to go. Also, it is time to get your vinegar mixture boiling. It really won’t take long, so make sure you have everything else pretty well set up and ready. 

Once your pickling mixture is close to a rolling boil, it’s time to start packing your jars. First goes in a pepper, one tsp of crushed red peppers, 4 sprigs of dill, and two pieces of your cut up garlic.  

There is something wonderful about a ball jar getting ready to be filled with the fruits of your labor

Now, pack that jar full of your cut green beans. The more beans you can fit, the less liquid you need. You want them packed in there pretty tightly so they don’t float around. Once your beans are in, throw in another chili pepper and another 2 sprigs of dill. After your jar is full of all the goodies, it’s time to fill it with your boiling pickling mixture. Make sure to tap the side of the jar to encourage any air pockets to float up to the top and burst. 

Beans packed in, ready to be transformed

Clean the rim of the jar and wipe the rim and the lid dry. Put on the lid, secure with a band and move onto the next jar. Once all your beans are gone, put your jars in your waiting canner and process for 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner and place somewhere undisturbed for 12 hours. Check to see if the lids sealed and if any of them didn’t seal, put the jar in your fridge immediately. 

Three pounds of beans equaled out to 8 wide mouth quarts of dilly beans and a nice sized bag of beans for the freezer as well. 

So that’s it- our highly coveted dilly bean recipe. We’ve been making these for years, and boy do they go well with a nice cold beer. We let them sit for at least a month before cracking open the jar. You can wait longer, but I wouldn’t open them any sooner.

Now that that’s covered, I will let you know, the next blog is special to my heart. Otherwise, I am leaving it a surprise. But I will hint that you’ll need blueberries again…

Until that time, have a wicked good day. 

    Oh, the possibilities. 

    When you have an over abundance of a harvest, do you make the same thing in excess, because you know it works, it tastes good and you’ll probably use it all, and even if you don’t, you can give some away…. Or do you branch out… Try something new, odd.. Maybe even a little weird?

    In my personal opinion- When in doubt, always choose new, odd and maybe even a little weird. It’s a regretless desicion when you have 25 lbs of blueberries to do something with, and you can only eat so much blueberry pie. 

    It is with this mindset, that we approach these recipes. We have two different types of spiced blueberry jam we are making this year. The first is going to be a Blueberry Serrano Pepper Jam. This is a new and exciting recipe for us- exciting because we are using peppers from our own garden.  

    Our very own serrano peppers- and a chocolate sweet pepper

    The second is a standard blueberry jam infused with a blend of warm holiday spices. This is one we discovered almost by accident last year, while trying to make blueberry chutney. The jam was a keeper, the chutney, not so much. It’s kinda like blueberry pie in a jar, sans crust.

    For the Blueberry Serrano Pepper Jam you will need

    • 4 cups of crushed berries
    • 7 cups of sugar
    • 1/4 cup diced hot pepper – discard the seeds if you like a milder spice. We left ours in, and Mr. Gillis swears he barely tastes the heat. 
    • 1/4 cup diced sweet pepper
    • 1 full box of Certo(2 pouches)
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice

    The essentials

      Also, grab all your canning supplies. 

      Now, in your jamming pot, mix together your berries, peppers, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Once at a boil, add in your Certo. Bring that back to another rolling boil. Put your kitchen timer on for 1 minute. 


      Looks just like regular blueberry jam, except with little green bombs of fire.

      Once that goes off, it’s time to boogey and get it into your jars. Process in your canner for 10 minutes. Enjoy on anything.

      Now, the second jam, the blueberry pie jam, is… Well, it’s sweet, a little tangy, aromatic and spiced with the holy trio- cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Time to gather your ingredients. 

      • 4 cups crushed blueberries
      • 6 cups white sugar
      • 1 cup brown sugar
      • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
      • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
      • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon 
      • 1/2 tbsp ground nutmeg
      • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger root
      • 1 whole box Certo (2 pouches)

      In your jamming pot, add everything but the Certo. While stirring constantly, let it get to that all important rolling boil. Add in the Certo, get it back to boil. Set your timer for one minute, keep stirring the entire time. 

      Once the timer goes off, get the jam into your jars, get the jars into your canner and process for 10 minutes. 

      We didn’t get any pictures of this batch because we had a very fussy 11 week old that didn’t care that we had already gotten started. It happens. 

      Well we are just about done with our blueberry harvest. It’s all frozen at least. I’m trying to talk Mr. Gillis into a blueberry sauce or maybe a blueberry moxie jam. But, for now, our green beans are coming in. Which leads  me to the topic of my next post- Spicy Dilly Beans! 

      Until that time- have a wicked good evening.