Handcrafted Pasta Sauce

I found this recipe via a package of Sweet Roma Pasta Sauce Mix from Ball/McCormick, which is highly overpriced at $2.49 a card. You get the dried spices and a recipe card, that is it, for that price. You can easily replicate this at home, however, I don’t process the tomatoes like the card calls for. I like the sauce to have some texture!

Handcrafted Pasta Sauce


  • 8 pounds tomatoes*
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp dried garlic
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried onion
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp fennel seed
  • Sugar to taste


Finely chop or run the tomatoes through a food processor gently to break up. We use a manual food processor which doesn’t destroy the produce.

*If you are using small, delicate tomatoes leave the skins on. If your tomatoes are huge with thick skins you might want to peel them first (Make an “x” on the bottom, dip tomatoes into boiling water for a minute, drop into a bowl of ice water and then peel and proceed). I like the texture with the smaller tomatoes and don’t peel them.

As well, if using huge tomatoes, core the tops also. Small tomatoes don’t need this.

Add the tomatoes to a large non-reactive stock pot along with the remaining ingredients (wait till cooked to add sugar if needed). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often.

Meanwhile add pint canning jars to canner. Fill jars with water and about half way up the canner. Bring to a boil.

Add the rings and lids to a small sauce pan, cover with water, bring to a simmer over medium.

Taste the sauce, and if needed add in a pinch or two of sugar.

Pull out the jars, draining back into the canner. Place on a clean kitchen towel. Dip your funnel, air bubble popper and ladle into the hot water.

Fill each jar, leaving a ½” headspace. Run bubble popper through jar, add more sauce if needed. Wipe down the rimes with a damp paper towel. Place lids and rings on, finger tightening on.

Place into the canner, lower in. Jars should be covered with at least an inch of water, if not add in the water from the ring pot. Bring to a boil, let process for 35 minutes.

Take out, let cool on a clean kitchen towel. Remove rings, note date on lid. Use within a year for best results. If any lids do not seal, place in refrigerator, use up within a few days.

Makes 4 to 6 pint jars (depends on how much you cook it down and how juicy your tomatoes are).

As always, if you ever go to use a canned item and the lid is not sealed anymore, or bulging, discard it immediately!

Spicy Salsa

I adapted the recipe for this salsa out of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, on page 203 (Fresh Vegetable Salsa). I don’t like cumin or fresh cilantro, but otherwise I followed the recipe. The recipe doesn’t call for salt, so you may want to taste it before canning and adjust as needed.

Spicy Salsa


  • 7 cups chopped tomatoes*
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 8 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 5.5 ounce can tomato paste
  • ¾ cup white vinegar (5% acidity)
  • ½ cup dried cilantro
  • Sea salt to taste


Add 5 pint canning jars to a canning pot. Fill jars with water, and the pot about halfway with water, bring to a near boil, then let simmer.

Add lids and rings to a small pot filled with water, bring to a simmer.

Add all ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat, simmer for 30 minutes. Taste for salt, adding if needed.

Drain jars into canning pot, place on a clean kitchen towel. Ladle the hot salsa into the bars, using a sterilized canning funnel. Leave a ½” headspace. Run a chopstick or canning bubble popper in each jar, add more salsa if there is room.

Dip a clean paper towel in hot water, then run around the top of each jar. Place a lid on each jar, then a band, screw on finger tight.

Turn canner up to high, place jars in water bath rack, lower rack into water. Water should cover by 1 – 2″, if not add a bit more from the other pot that held the rings. Bring to a rolling boil, covered, process for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, let sit for 5 minutes with lid off. Carefully remove jars, placing on a clean dry kitchen towel to cool.

Once cooled, check again that seals are down (you should hear the Ping! as each one seals). Gently remove bands (wash, dry and store for your next project. While they look nicer on, if they have water inside from processing, they can rust. If you are giving away your canned items, you can always slip one back on), note on jar or lid what is in jar with a date. Store in a dry/cool/dark area and use within a year.

As always, if you ever go to use a canned item and the lid is not sealed anymore, or bulging, discard it immediately! (I have only ever lost one jar in all my canning, so don’t fret) If you are using a different brand of salsa mix, be sure to read their directions and to follow them.

Makes 4 to 5 pint jars.

*I use a variety of tomatoes. Salsa is a great way to use up lots of cherry tomatoes. I don’t peel my tomatoes. If I am using large ones, I do core. Small ones I do not.

Spicy canned salsa

July On The Farm

July was a mixed bag this year, really a common theme this entire year so far. It started chilly, and many days were overcast till at least mid-afternoon, before it warmed up. The evening temperatures were rarely above mid 50’s. This stunted crops but everything kept plodding along, trying its best to grow. If anything, it let us have peas until the 3rd week in July, which doesn’t usually happen for me. And it kept crops from bolting quickly in the heat.

I’ve been happy with the crops this year, though I have made many notes mentally and on paper of things to do different. Our garlic crop I was happy with, I followed a local book on it, and that reading paid off.

Shelling peas while the boys were at swim lessons.

Walker picking strawberries.

Morning harvest in summer.

The first blueberries of the year.

Sunflower. Only one plant made it this year.

Garlic, tiny onions and potatoes.

Thimbleberry coming into season.

Walker found a huge paper wasp nest in the woods. I have let it be as it isn’t near anything.


Red Robin tomatoes and green beans.

Tomatoes growing.

Bumblebee on lavender.

Alistaire helping me process the garlic harvest. He is quite good at it!

Yellow Wonder strawberry.


Worked on the lonely herbal bed, adding in more plants. It has doubled in size in a month.

Purple Zinnia, a flower I had not grown before. It’s gorgeous, tall and produces so many bloom, that bees love.

Strawberry Calendula.

First of the Oregon Spring tomatoes, a shorter season tomato.

Tresca strawberry plant in bloom. These have produced some of my favorite berries this year.

Walla Walla onions getting ready to be harvested for a couple early season treats.

Tarragon in bloom.

Marshmallow flowers.

Thistles: The bane of farmers, yet in bloom are for a second beautiful flowers.

Munstead Lavender in its first bloom (grown from seed).


Building My Dream Strawberry Bed

When we lived in a suburban setting I long fantasized about having the space to have my dream alpine strawberry bed. This year it occurred to me it was the perfect thing to put in near the fruit orchard, where it wasn’t feasible to put in “normal” crops due to being so near the well head. I needed a crop that didn’t need fertilizers on  a regular basis, if ever. Strawberries and herbs? Perfect.

And while we have a bunch of plants near the blueberry bed, they barely produce enough to satisfy the boys!

Walker happily picking berries.

(Side note: Sitting in the middle of that large bed had been 4 wooden pallets with 150+ alpine strawberry plants, growing just for the project)

Some of the other bed near the blueberry bushes. The robins love to get in there.

Kirk plowed up the land with the tractor.

Once done it was time to start rocking, and we pulled out many big rocks and as always a ton of small ones.

Using landscaping fabric, we laid out the bed. While pinned lengthwise, we used rocks to ensure no tripping on the edges, and to keep any fabric flying down.

The boys working on rock picking, from all the ones tossed to the side.

The first things to go in were Victoria and Rhaptonic Rhubarb plants on two sides. These did not need to be behind a fence.

Based on how the deer treat the strawberries (they seem to ignore them mostly), to save money I put in a 3 foot high fence, with stakes going up to 7 feet high, zip tied on. We then strung garden twine along the stakes, which gives the illusion of a higher fence. Your mileage may vary of course, and if you have larger deer that are aggressive just use full fencing!

The first plants going in.

The first five rows nearly completion.

First five rows done. On the left we put in a row of four varieties of lavender we grew from seed. Second row in is two types of basil, sage, and more. In the front are six Helichrysm plants.

A lot of hard work, but worth it.

We added two more rows, bringing it up to seven rows. There is room for two more rows to go in. I will be adding in more herbs on the right side as I have time.

There is 17 varieties of alpine strawberry plants (all are random, for a fun berry picking experience).

  • 217 strawberry plants
  • 20 lavender plants
  • 14 basil plants (cinnamon and blue spice)
  • 6 helichrysum plants
  • 5 sage plants
  • 6 oregano plants
  • 2 thyme plants
  • 21 rhubarb plants


Spring On The Farm

I won’t lie….I have been very, very busy the past month. Not much time to sit down and actually write blog posts. Some weeks I don’t turn on my computer more than every 3 days! But that isn’t a bad thing, it just means I am busy on the farm, growing plants and produce like crazy.

We finally got over 50° at night, which is the key part in everything waking up and coming to life. You can see it in the greens especially. One week they are tiny, then suddenly it’s all 4x the size.

My days are spent working on the farm (since we don’t have irrigation in still, I move 400 to 500 feet of rubber hose most days. It’s a good workout however!) and prepping for market time/farm sales. You go from do nothing winter to overwhelmed spring. Lol.

The first radishes being harvested.

First Chamomile flowers forming. These will be this years for drying.

Rosemary in flower. This is my favorite Rosemary, that I take all the cuttings from, to air dry.

Chives getting ready to open.

Tom Thumb Peas.

The first alpine strawberries forming. The first year plants are growing quickly the past two weeks. We brought our first plants last week to market.

We are selling at the South Whidbey Tilth Farmer’s Market this year. It’s a small market, compared to some, but has so much to offer. The location is child friendly, and vibe is very relaxed.

And they make the best pizza for lunch!

We have been bringing our many herb plants to market – and they are all growing quickly in the heat/daylight. $5 for a gallon plant.

This Sunday we will have with us:

Rhaptonic Rhubarb
Soap Wort
Red Dock
White Horehound
Cinnamon Basil
Blue Spice Basil
Munstead Lavender

We will have tomato plants (numbers are VERY limited):

Red robin (these are 1 ft tall dwarf plants, a cherry): 12

Oregon spring (Bred to produce earlier for the colder pnw): 24

Bush beefsteak: 1

Black Versaniage: 2

Italian: 1

Wa Cherry: 1

Stupice: 3

Graham’s: 5

Sweetie: 2

At market we have our hand salve, two of our newest soaps, lip balm and a few other items.

As well, many of our gently air-dried herbs and flowers.

We’d love to see you at market on Sundays, or drop us a line to come out to the farm for plants 🙂