Apples: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, that describes our apple trees.  We don't treat the trees with any kind of chemical sprays, or even organic sprays; we let nature decide.  The outcome?  Many are Good, meaning no bruises, spots, pest issues.  Some are Bad, meaning those are picked and put in the woods for the many animals that frequent our yard.  And there's the Ugly.  Some are ugly and edible, others are ugly and put out back.  This year, our 3rd year living here, happened to produce mostly Good and we couldn't be happier.

Apples: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

My usual course of action this time of year is to make applesauce and freeze it.  However, since we now have our own apple trees and a bounty of fresh apples, I felt it was high time I learned canning. Off I went to Pinterest and found more than enough recipes to get started, too many actually which is why I wound up making a Pinterest Board dedicated to apples.

I started with's Best Apple Pie Jam recipe.  It seemed simple enough and it was, we turned out about a dozen jars.  For the novice canner like myself, I highly recommend this one.  It also happens to taste delicious. The only change I made was instead of packed brown sugar, I use Sucanat. I've been using it in place of commercial brown sugar for years as a healthier option.


My next day included Canning Apple Pie Filling from Little House Living.  I found it fairly easy to follow and wound up making 5 Quarts plus 8-1/2 pints for holiday gifts.  Win-win!

Apples: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

After the Apple Pie Filling, I decided to try Homemade Pancake Syrup from the apple peelings. Since I'm not one to waste anything, this sounded like a great idea.  Let me just say, this would be better suited to a more experienced canner.  I read the directions carefully, however, one key factor was missing; the proper time for boiling.

After my failed attempt, I decided to read thru ALL the reader comments and found that I was supposed to boil the liquid for just a minute or two.  Since this important fact was left out of the directions, and I didn't know any better, I boiled the liquid for over 30 minutes.  If I had to be honest, I'd say it was probably 45!  Needless to say, it went downhill from there.

To make a long story short, I boiled over the liquid onto my ceramic top electric oven.  Not pretty, and not pretty to clean up either.  The outcome? Candy Apple Topping.  We grabbed a few Good Apples, literally wiped on the topping, and enjoyed a treat for the afternoon.

Apples: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

My last attempt, using additional leftover apple peelings was Apple Scrap Jelly from Fireflies & Mudpies. I'm happy to say, this was a huge success.  We did 9-1/2 pint jars for holiday gifts and will continue to make this throughout the season.  Note:  This recipe calls for 9 cups of sugar, I reduced that to 6 cups and it was wonderful and not too sweet.

Apples: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

All in all, canning has been a good experience and considering we have several more bushels to pick, we'll be in the Kitchen for the next couple of weeks.

Apples: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Need ideas for your apples?  Check out our APPLE HARVEST Pinterest Board.
Over 600 pins for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and (adult) Crafts.

Also, be sure to sign up for email updates and receive our mini-eBook
Canning Made Easy.


Our Pinterest Canning Board here
Our Apple Harvest Board here

Test jars for proper sealing here
Troubleshooting here

Questions about Water Bath Canning here

Questions about Pressure Canning here

Adjust for high altitudes here

National Center for Home Food Prep here

Thoughts from a newbie canner:
  1. It looks like alot in the pot, but it's not.
  2. I ran back to the store 3 times for jars.  Stock up ahead of time.
  3. Get the all the canning supplies recommended.  You'll use them all.  
  4. Always check the reader comments, it typically holds valuable information the writer omitted.
  5. If YOU are posting a recipe, read, read, read and read it again.  Make sure you have ALL necessary and pertinent information included.  Canning really is easy if you have the proper directions. 

It's Official . . . We're parents!

We are Official Chicken Parents

Well, chicken parents that is!  When we moved back home to New Jersey after 9 years in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, we were fortunate to find the perfect home (for us)!  The house had been vacant for about a year and the back yard almost completely overgrown.  Nevertheless, we could see potential for many great things.

The very back of the yard was so completely overgrown that we had no idea there was another shed hidden in the weeds (yes, the weeds were THAT high!) and two very large enclosures just below it. Picture 4' high chain link fence doubled up (making it 8' high), black fabric covering that 8 feet and supports against the outside perimeter of the fence.  There were two enclosures like this.  After more investigation, and talking with the neighbors, we discovered the previous owner's had raised animals on the property for over a decade.  We could then see why such extreme measures were taken to protect the animals from bear, coyote, turkey and fox which freely roam the area.  Unfortunately, it had been several years between their eliminating animals from the property, the year the property spent vacant and our coming along.  To say the fencing and shed were in disrepair would be an understatement, but again, there was potential!

Building the chicken coop
This is a recent picture of the 'hidden' shed, before renovation began.

The second fenced area couldn't be saved so that was removed, the remaining area will be used for a large garden that we hope to have next season.  For now, we put in a small garden near the house.

Expanding the garden
10x20 Garden
All that said, we immediately wanted to raise our own chickens now that we had the room.  That was 3 years ago.  You know the feeling, you have a great idea and basically know how to implement it. Then life sets in.  New job, new schools, family, chores. That left basically half of Saturday and all day Sunday for Barry and I to work around the property together.  Not to mention, we were so happy to be back home with family, we spent most of the first year visiting as much as possible.

Little by little we hacked away the weeds and scrap trees to reveal a large shed with 4 rooms. This would be great storage AND provide a place for chickens.  I really do wish there were pictures, you wouldn't believe the growth!

We were able to salvage the existing shed by reinforcing some walls and installing new flooring, all done with leftover wood.  The room on the end is small, about 4x12, perfect for nesting boxes and perches.  The boxes extend into the adjoining room for easy access without entering the coop.

Chicken Nesting Boxes
Nesting Boxes
Barry's next plan was to build an enclosed outdoor area where they would be protected from predators. This took nearly 3 months to complete. Remember, we only have a day and a half available each week to work on the project.  Figure in rainy days and other obligations and the time just flies.

Building a Chicken Coop
Teaching Colin how to use the drill
Building a Chicken Coop
That doorway leads to the nesting boxes
Building a Chicken Coop
He's got it!

Next came the walls, roof and floor.  The flooring is thick bluestone tiles left here by the previous owners. We purchased metal sheet roofing from Lowe's.

Building a Chicken Coop
Nearing the finish line

It's Official, We're Parents
Building a Chicken Coop
Left behind Bluestone tiles make the perfect floor

Building a Chicken Coop
Installing a metal roof - this was the easiest project

Building a Chicken Coop
Construction Complete!
All that was left to do was painting, a 2-day project that Tyler, our youngest, and I completed. Even Macy kept us company.

Building a Chicken Coop
Painting complete!

Building a Chicken Coop
Macy learned quickly not to step in the paint (again!)

We're fortunate to have quite a number of farms in the surrounding area, so finding chickens was easy.  Off we went, about 30 minutes down the road, to meet our new family members, it was pick up day at Brodhecker's Farm!

Picking Out Chickens for our Coop
The boys deciding which ones they wanted

Picking out chickens for our coop
Okay, that's ALOT of chickens!

Bringing the Chickens Home
Yep, he's carrying all 6 in one hand.

The Chickens are home
Oscar and Macy were also quite excited

Getting a closer look

It's been about a month now since that day.  The girls, now approaching 20 weeks, should start laying within the next month or so.  Or at least that's what we're hoping.

Chickens checking out the nesting boxes
Happy Girls

Morning in the Chicken Coop
We put an old fence inside the coop.  This allows the girls to
look outside whenever they want - usually there's at least 4 at a time on it

A few side notes to our story...

We read and read as much as we could about birds, care, coops, food.  You name it, we researched, read and pinned it all! You might also enjoy our Pinterest Board, All Things Chickens.

Our next project on the coop will be to give the girls a fenced area outside to forage.  We learned through reading and friends the best course of action would be to wait until they are regularly laying in their nesting boxes before expanding their territory.  This should ensure all eggs are laid in the boxes and not in random places outside.  Sounds good to me.

Building a Chicken Coop
There will be a 10x20 fenced outdoor area for the girls.
A small door will be put in the side wall here for access.
Now we anxiously await fresh eggs!

UPDATE!!  Just 2 days after posting, we got our first egg!!  Gee, perhaps I should have posted this sooner!

Our First Egg