Crafting while Enjoying Nature

It was a beautiful day out, up here in the mountains of northern Idaho. I love nature. I am very fortunate to live in a land with incredible national forests and lakes in every direction. My sister and I decided to squeeze in one more camping trip for the season. When we got to the park we found out they had a couple cabins available so it turned into a lovely cabin retreat.

My checklist while camping tends to go a bit like this: clothes, toiletries, tent, tarp, food, water, sleeping bag, map, crafting supplies, book, and a deck of cards.

Pack weight is a serious concern for any hiker or camper. One of my favorite crafting projects to take when I know I am going hiking is chainmail. My main chainmail bracelet material is anodized aluminum. This is perfect as it is light-weight, vibrantly colored, and water resistant. The bright colors of the rings make them easy to spot amidst the tall grass where I sometimes work. There are roughly 850 anodized aluminum rings in an ounce. A bracelet takes 100-400 rings. So a single bracelet project takes less than half an ounce of material. The only tools I need to bring are two pairs of pliers, which weigh in at 4 ounces each. This means I can pack a fantastic craft kit for less than a pound. Plus, the rings are easily dividable among multiple plastic bags. This makes them far less cumbersome to carry compared to art media that involves bulky sketchpads or weighty glass beads.

As we were going cabining, and not just out for a trail hike, I decided to bring a far more elaborate kit than the bare minimum. This gave me plenty of options regarding colors to calmly sort through at the cabin in the morning and selectively bring only the ones I was truly interested on working with on the trails.

The sky was a spectacular blue. The mountain lakes were refreshing after hiking all day. We were able to lay out on a quiet pier and spend some time soaking up the still mountain air... and of course make art happen! I didn’t get a chance to finish this silver and black dragonscale but it sure is off to a solid start.

Meanwhile, Halloween is just around the corner so I felt very inspired to make some seasonal bracelets. I managed to complete an entire pseudo-mobius in purple, orange, and black while resting in a meadow.

My sister and I had a wonderful time. I highly suggest bringing along a creative craft to relax with while enjoying the soothing world of nature.

Dill Pickles Recipe - A Delicious Taste of Summer

There’s nothing quite like the taste of home canned pickles. I love harvesting cucumbers from my plants all season long and then turning them into pickles we can enjoy all winter. It’s rather magical to me. Pickles are a delicious taste of summer’s bounty when the snow is thick on the ground.

Sometimes my cucumber plants do not yield as well as I would like. Nature can be fickle and, while a gardener tries their best, it just doesn’t always work out. That’s what happened this year. Fortunately, this is the perfect time of the year to buy vegetables by the case at the local fruit sellers. A case of cucumbers weighs 20-25 pounds (depending on the seller). Every quart jar of pickles takes roughly one pound of cucumbers. So a single case of cucumbers will make 20 quarts! That’s 5 gallons of pickles! I bought two cases this year: one case to make into sweet pickles and one case to experiment with creating new delicacies.

Sweet pickles are typically my go to use for cucumbers; I love them, my family loves them, and my friends love them. However, last week my grandmother asked me to try making dill pickles. She has to be careful of her sugar and sweet pickles are a bit too sweet for her.

I’ve never made dill pickles before so I decided to give it a try! I am so glad I did because I absolutely love how they turned out. They are bursting with flavor and have a delightful texture. Feel free to try your hand at making some delicious dill pickles using my Zero Sugar Dill Pickle Recipe.

First, I wash and sterilize 5 quart jars. My dishwasher has a hot temperature wash that steams the jars for 30 minutes so I pop those suckers in while I prep the rest of my station. Any method that is USDA approved will work to clean canning jars.

Next, the cucumbers get washed. I use a diluted vinegar solution to rinse (1/3 cup vinegar to 6 cups water) if I am concerned about any residue from store bought cucumbers.

I slice each cucumber into 1/4 inch thick rounds. This makes for nice pickles perfect for sandwiches or as a side dish. I discard each end piece of the cucumber as well as any discolored or suspicious spots. Since I keep quail, all the vegetable waste goes into a scrap bucket for my happy birds.

With a canning funnel I fill the quart jars with sliced cucumbers. It's important to leave 1/2 an inch of headspace for quart jars so they will seal well after the hot water bath.

I pop a pot on the stove and add the water and vinegar. This gets turned on high until the mix boils. Hurray for pasteurization!

I dice the garlic cloves and turn the mix down to low-medium.

Now it's time to add the salt, garlic, peppercorns, dill seed, and dill weed. I give it a good stir, making sure the salt is fully dissolved.

This will simmer for 10 minutes. I stir occasionally; no-one wants scorched pickle sauce.

I pour the hot syrup directly in to the loaded quart jars using a canning funnel. Again, I make sure to leave 1/2 an inch of headspace. Proper sealing is important for home canned goods!

I use a chopstick to poke around the jar and release any air bubbles. Air bubbles are a canner's nemesis. Chopsticks make the perfect removal tool that won't disturb the flavor of the sauce like a metal tool might.

I wipe the rims of the jars with straight vinegar to clean off any spillage. I seal the jars with clean lids and rings. It's getting so close to finished pickles I can almost taste it!

I load the jars into a hot water bath that is simmering. It's critical that the bath is only simmering. Loading cool jars into a boiling bath is a recipe for shattered jars and sadness. I make sure the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Then I bring the hot water bath up to a boil. Quart jars of pickles need to be hot water bathed for 15 minutes + 1 minute per thousand feet of elevation above sea level. I live at 2,600 ft so I hot water bath for 18 minutes. It's important to remember, the clock starts when the water is boiling - not before.

Lastly, I cool carefully on a cooling rack. It's important to make sure there are no open windows near the cooling rack if it is cold outside. Sudden temperature shocks are bad for hot glass.

Dill Pickles are now ready.

Get the recipe by clicking the image below and saving it to your computer. Then print and create for delicious Dill Pickles!