Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Seed Shopping

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, my mailbox fairly burst from the daily influx of seed catalogs.  Some I recycle immediately, but others, I tucked away for later hours spent browsing, circling, folding pages...and general drooling over high color photos of things that could grow in my own garden, someday, if I was lucky (or wealthy enough to afford so many seeds).

Before I seriously sit down to choose the few seeds I will order for the next growing season, I first go through my seed stash and commence a thorough sort.  After tossing the very old seed (which for some reason, I always seem to hang onto...why?  Why? Who needs old carrot seed from 2002??), I make a list of which seeds are needed, and a few "extra special" seeds I'd like to try.  There are so many "extra specials", but I've learned that I can only try two or three new things every year, otherwise I wind up with too many things I'm trying out to really pay attention to how they do in my garden.

First, I order the seeds that I need: fresh carrot and onion seed, additional pea seed (as my year's stash was burned up in the shed where it was drying out), new salad greens.  And then, I get to go a little wild and do the really hard part: narrowing down my "extra special" experimental trial seeds for this year's garden.

After much debate, hemming and hawing, here's what I chose:
From the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog,  I'm going to give dahlias a go.  I chose Illumination, which is reportedly a dinner plate sized flower in shades of pink.  I also picked out Painted Lady sweet peas, which I think will LOVE growing in the new south garden space--all that extra sun from the box elder falling over is going to help make something beautiful!

From my friends at Fedco I'm giving this old Victorian era perennial plant a try: Sea Kale!  With any luck, it'll be a terrific contribution to my perennial veg corner garden.  Now, to round up some vintage blanching pots...
I'm hopping on the Breadseed Poppy bandwagon, with the help of Seed Savers.  I got a few other items as well (including that pea seed I mentioned previously), but I am excited about these purple-blue poppies.  Edible seeds following pretty purpleyness?  Yes please!

Of course, I haven't yet received the Seed Savers Yearbook or attended the annual Seed Swap, so I'm sure I'll get at least one more "exotic" to try growing.  Maybe lime verbena?  Or...well, who knows. 




Monday, December 29, 2014

Plans for the New Year

Hiya!  Did you miss me?

Sorry for the radio silence...there really hasn't been much going on around here that felt particularly shareable.  Oh, I suppose I could have moaned on about the whole insurance-adjuster-post-fire-insanity, but really, even I find that tiresome.  (Finally we seem to be nearing the end of that particular debacle, with the cutting of checks and hiring of contractor people  on the near horizon...huzzah!)

So, here we are in the post holiday coma of too much booze and sugar...isn't it nice?  I have a whole second week off from work, so I'm puttering about and making plans for various projects to take place before the winter snows vanish.  Thus far, that means I've done a lot of laundry, some sorting of old magazines and catalogs, and watching of YouTube garden programs.

It's been heavenly.

One of my better ideas has been to draw out plans to build what I hope will be Cabbage White Moth-proof cages for my brassicas.  Last year, those pesky critters nibbled away at my cabbages, Tronchuda kale, and even made in-roads on some of my lettuce.  Irritating beasties...anyway, I vowed that this summer, things would be different.  I had some lovely low tunnel row covers that helped the young plants get a head start, but once they grew more than 12 inches high, it was far too small and then my crops were left unprotected and at the mercy of the night-flying moths.  I think they enjoyed the Tronchuda kale even more than I did, as they ate it down to ribbons.

One of my winter projects is to build some four foot by four foot cage panels, with a two by four foot two-piece hinged lid.  I think the plants will have plenty of room to grow, while the screening I attach should keep the flying beasties out (and allow the rain to fall in).  Because they'll be in panels rather than a solid cage, I think it will also work to allow me to do serious weeding if any is needed, by simply pulling a panel out temporarily and clearing out any weeds that pop up and really take hold.  Of course, I'm either planting in my second-year new beds in back, or planting in the soon-to-be renovated front garden beds (they are due for a rebuild and complete overhaul this year)

Anyway, after developing my plan and pricing out materials, I think I should be able to build two cages for about $20 each.  If they provide me with even half-way decent protection from the dang cabbage loopers, I'll be very happy.  Plus, it's a winter time garden project and I really look forward to those!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cookies Martha Would Love.

I don't usually go for fiddly Christmas cookies, but this year, I felt like channeling my inner Martha Stewart and whipped up a batch of gingerbread cut-out cookies.
Gumdrop buttons, homemade icing, fancy colored sugar sprinkles, mini-chocolate chips...I broke out the majority of the candy store and made an afternoon of it.

Of course, all the fancy decorations in the world can't hide a bad cookie.  So I used my patented unique to me gingerbread recipe which never fails:

*Two sticks of butter creamed together with two cups of granulated sugar.
* Add two eggs and at least 1/2 cup of dark molasses.  Go ahead, throw a little extra in...
* Now, add 1/2 tsp each salt, baking powder, ground cardamom, cinnamon.  Add 1/4 tsp ground cloves and allspice.  Add 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, plus 1 teaspoon of ground ginger.
* Slowly mix in three and a half cups of flour. 
* When combined, pop dough into the fridge to chill at least a couple of hours.  It'll keep in there, covered, for a couple days in case you don't have time to roll and cut your cookies straightaway.  Use a little flour on the rolling pin and on your rolling surface to keep the buttery dough from sticking like crazy--it helps to keep the dough on the cool side when you're working with it, so popping it into the fridge between batches is a good plan.

Tah dah.  It makes for a deliciously crisp cookie with a lovely spice flavor. Roll out fairly thick, and bake for about 10 minutes.  Cool completely, and then go nuts decorating.
Ho Ho Ho!  I think Santa would like to find these cookies, don't you?


Friday, December 19, 2014

The Seduction of Seed Catalogs


One of my favorite thing about the approaching winter holiday season is the triumphant arrival of seed catalogs.  My copies of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Fedco and Irish Eyes Seeds have arrived and are waiting for the best time for a serious perusal.  That means, sometime next week when I have nothing more pressing to do than brew a second pot of coffee and adjust my comfortable jammies into an even more comfortable layering under a handy quilt.

The only thing better than pondering seed catalogs is discussing seed catalog options with other people.  Should one of us grow gourds?  And maybe a new color zinnia would be just the thing in the front flower garden...or how about sweet peas this year?  I love making lists, and adding little notes to them as I hear what other gardeners are contemplating.

Of course, before I order more seeds, I really need to reinventory my seed collection.  There's some seriously old seed tucked in there that needs to be pulled, like onions from 2010 and carrots from 2008.  I'm sure I've forgotten some great goodies in the mix that is my seed drawer.  I also need to track down a couple more locking plastic boxes to store my seeds in, as they've outgrown their current weenie ones.

Huh.  I think I found yet another pleasantly seedy activity to enjoy on my winter break.  Huzzah!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

So Horrible, It's Terrific!

If you haven't seen this prime example of the strange yet wonderful Christmas-themed films from the late 1960s, you really need to watch this one.  Basically, the Martians intercept a newscast talking about a hilarious figure called Santa Claus, and conclude that he is the cure to the serious depression that is impairing their children's otherwise intellectually gifted childhoods.  So they kidnap him, leaving a psychotic robot in charge of the North Poleians.  A brother-sister duo of humans stows away in the space craft, and (after a series of unfortunate events) manage to save Santa, convince the Martians to find humor in their strangely green lives, and overpower the psychotic robot.  Thus, Christmas in the psychedelic age was saved.

It may make more sense if you drink heavily while watching it.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Baking Time






Once the carols start playing and the Christmas tree goes up, I get the urge to make all kinds of cookies and candy.  I've got a few batches of dough stashed in the freezer (chocolate chip and peanut butter, to be made into those awesome Blossom cookies...oh, Blossom cookies, how I love you...)

One of my more fiddly cookies to make is spritz cookies.  They aren't too complicated, really, but they take time and have a few steps.  And then there's the whole loading of the cookie press part...well, they are worth the work, trust me.

It all starts with my patented easy dough.  I put one cup of butter straight from the fridge along with two and a half cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder, and 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, into my trust food processor.  Pulse until it resembles fine crumbs.  Next, add one egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, and a bunch of your favorite red food color of choice (natural or unnatural, pick your poison).  Using the dough setting on the processor, work the dough until it comes together in a soft smushy dough form.  Plonk into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.

After the hour is up, it is a beautiful smooth velvety dough, fantastic for making spritz.  A few years ago, I picked up a cookie press.  Best investment ever, really.  It came with all kinds of discs to make all kinds of shapes of buttery cookies.  My favorite for my Cherry Spritz (a holiday classic) is a star shaped one.  Then, I can add a candied cherry in the center, and bake at 375 degrees for ten minutes.  Allow to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet, and slide over to a cooling rack to finish firming up.

My next step: try not to eat them all myself.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Mice





Fa la la la la....

Oh yes, the holidays are upon us!  I've been working away on little fun projects, making all sorts of gifts and gathering items to wrap up or stuff into stockings.  That's my favorite part of the holiday season: the finding of the perfect gift for each person on my list.  I'm not knitting up a storm this year, although there are a couple of things that have hit the needles.

One of them are for the smaller members of the household.  No, not the rodents hiding in the crawlspaces.  These are for the cats.  While my house cat Miss Vida has sadly declined to catch living mice, she does love these catnip filled knitted versions.  Yes, Vida is a 'nip addict.  She loves these mice...I've had to start hiding them in the closet (and locking the door so she can't break in and steal them.)

They are terrible simple to make:  With scrap sock yarn or DK weight yarn, cast on 20 stitches onto US size 2 needles.  Use the long tail cast on method, leaving a "tail" of at least six inches.  Knit across, and continue in garter stitch (knitting each row) until work measures about one inch.  Start decreasing by K1, K2Together, knit across to last three stitches, K2Together, K1.  Next row, knit across.  Continue in this manner until four stitches remain.  K2Together, leaving two stitches, then K2Together and pull yarn through last stitch ending work.  Cut yarn leaving at least eight inches to sew up work.  Fold in half like a taco, and you'll see the mouse take shape.  Using the "tail", sew up the short square end.  Pull the remaining tail through, and trim to be about three inches or so long (to be the mouse's tail).  Using the yarn left from ending your work, start sewing up the long angled edge at the point of the nose. After you sew up as far as the mouse's forehead (ok, use your imagination...) stop sewing and stuff in the dried up, crumbled up Herb of the Cat Gods: catnip.  If you can track down some nice organic garden grown stuff.  Don't use fresh, as it will mold inside the mouse...and that's just gross.  You'll need a couple tablespoons or so to fill your mouse.  Once stuffed, continue to sew up your mouse closing off the pocket and weave the end back through the stitches to secure it.

Delicious catnip mice.  Who wouldn't want to find that in their stocking?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!


Have a wonderful day, filled with feasting, friends and family.  I'll be spending my time tending the critters on the Farmlette, and heading to a good friend's house for festivities. And as usual, I'll likely eat far too much...my favorite Thanksgiving tradition!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

And the whole smelled like pie.

Well, it will by this evening, anyway.  I have plans to make some kind of berry pie, and maybe a pumpkin pie.  One will stay here (the pumpkin) and the other will travel with me to my friend's house for dessert.  Both should be quite delicious...as pie usually is.

I've got plans to whip up a squash-corn pudding, and a batch of cauliflower cheese using a River Cottage recipe.  And if time allows, maybe a batch of simple rolls will find their way into the oven (and eventually, the table).

In any case, I fear that before the end of the day, my kitchen may look like this:





Ha!  Well, maybe not quite so scorched.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Winter Has Come




Luckily, my days are not quite as bleak as this painting would suggest.

However, it has been dark and blustery and highly suggestive that, while the winter solstice may in fact be a few weeks away, Winter has rolled into town and set up camp.  The nights fall faster, with more finality.  The wind has a cold whine in its throat, growling at the edges of windows and doors and pleading to come in.  We've had a couple blanketings of snow (and one rather sloppy, foggy melt).  The chickens refuse to set foot outside their cozy coop.  The rabbits are reveling in the colder temperatures--finally, their fur coats make sense!  As for the dogs and cats, they alternately want to go play in the fluffy whiteness and come in to sleep by the fire (or on the porch, as is the case for the Outdoor Boys).

For myself, I find my time spent between shoveling paths and digging out doorways, banging out water dishes, and making the daily slog to and from work.  The one significant downside to my job in the winter months is driving on crappy roads, day in and day out.  It certainly makes the days a bit longer on either end, with needing to leave extra time to make the drive and still arrive on time.  And once I'm home, it's the job of tending the hearth and fire, feeding all the hungry animals, and finally--finally--climbing back into my warm slippers and flannel robe.  A giant pot of soup, a hot cup of tea, the sound of snoring dogs: they are the sound track to my evenings, with the rumblings of Winter outside the door and window panes.

With Winter comes strings of holiday lights and Christmas music and all sorts of delightful things.  I have plans to make a couple more delicious potable concoctions before the great festivus of the holidays hit.  I'm thinking an apple pie flavored brandy drink would go down very well...and I really should finish off my spiced cranberry vodka.  And then there's all the baking and the candy making and the wrapping of the presents to park under the tree...all things to look forward to.  And of course, I'm really really looking forward to a few weeks off with nothing more to do that sit in warm clothes, drink too much coffee, and page through all the lovely seed catalogs that are winging their way to me.

Ahh, Winter.  You may be grim and horrible, but You do have your perks.



Monday, November 17, 2014

Last Week in Review

Ah, last week...where did it go?

Speedily, as they always do.

Monday saw the first snow of the season.  It was kind of gross, a lot of sleet mixed into a wet snow.  There were dire warnings of heavy accumulation, but they didn't come to pass, thankfully.  There was still a fair amount of shoveling to be done, but I bought myself a new push-shovel thingie that is quite great.  Oh, you're still out there shoveling, but it's lightweight with a set of hand grips low on the handle, perfect for heaving various sized shovelfuls to the side.

The rest of the week was cold, and long, and grey.  The Ladies of the Coop never set foot outside, as they hate snow.  They will likely spend their days inside from now on.  I don't know why they dislike the snow so much, but there you have it.  My quirky girls are not pleased by the white stuff that has appeared.

Friday was errand running after work, followed by a weekend of dealing with wood.  Lots and lots of wood. So much wood...anyway, the stacks are reappearing which is such a comfortable feeling.  In two weeks time, I went from feeling secure in my heat source to having pretty much nothing and back to comfortable again.  I must say, I really like feeling heat-secure.  Of course, my version of heat-secure means a lot of stacking of wood.  When it is good, dry seasoned stuff, it's not heavy by any means, but it sure is repetitive and wearying.  My back has certainly been talking to me for the past couple of days, not to mention my healing foot.  The continued cold certainly is helping that particular body part.

I have a feeling that this winter is going to be a long one.  Hopefully, we won't get too many more polar vortex episodes and we'll have less snow this year.  I've got my pile of wood, and my new shovel, so I'm feeling fairly ready.  Bring on the snowflakes!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Funny Story...

So, yesterday I spent the day cleaning up burned things in the yard.  I raked up bits, filled buckets, dumped trash into barrels, and filled the back of the truck twice to overflowing with charred remains of the useful things I had stored in and around my little shed-in-a-box.  After my second run to the local "waste to energy plant" (aka incinerator), I headed up to Rice Lake to fetch a tarp, some tie-downs, and a roll of snow fencing with a host of t-posts.  I didn't bother changing out of my filthy clothes, because I was just going to the hardware store and after that, well, I was going to race daylight and work in the yard some more.

There I was, dressed in my finest: a dirty knitted woolen cap, filthy work gloves, old baggy leggings and neon sneakers, and, topping it all, what I lovingly call my homeless coat.  It's a $3 thrift store find, a giant baggy army green mens coat with a zillion useful pockets and thinsulate lining.  After the day's work, it was covered with layers of dirt, grease and wide swathes of charcoal.  My face and hands were dirty, my hair scraped back and wadded up under my dirty cap.  Usually, I would've at least washed before heading to town, but I figured whatever, it's a quick run and then I'm back to the dirty work.

Oh yeah, I was so stylish.

As I walked into the store, I saw the lady at the customer service desk give me a funny look.  But I grabbed my cart, and wheeled off to find things.  I was on a mission, dang it, and the day was growing short.

While looking at plastic zip-ties, an employee sidled up to me and asked in an odd tone, "Can I help you??"

I said no thanks, and moved along to the tarps and tie downs.  As I picked out a nice big heavy duty tarp to cover the remaining outdoor stuff, a different employee sidled up and asked again, "Can I help you???"

Man, what helpful people...but no, I'm good.

Off I went to the t-post and snow fence section.  This time, two employees came over to ask if I needed help.  That's when it dawned on me.

I was being tracked.

Holy crap.  Because I was dressed like a derelict, they actually thought I was a homeless person.

Because you know, all homeless people raid their local giant hardware store before they erect a homeless person village in the woods.

Of course they do.

And you know, homeless people are all criminals.  So of course I was planning to steal the contents of my cart, wheeling it madly away cackling, dirt flying off my filthy clothes.

Of course that could happen.

So I smiled sweetly, and said nope, I was doing just fine.  I wheeled off, with my entourage following lamely behind, and wandered through Christmas Land for a little while.  I kind of lost them in there, whether because of the blinking lights throwing them off, or because all the people in there shopping for holiday inflatables before snow arrives on Monday caused them to lose sight of me temporarily.  They picked me up again when I browsed the bow and wreath aisle, but when I made for the checkouts, they seemed to realize...

Oh.  She's just a dirty slob, not a weirdo bent on stealing tarps and t-posts and LED lights to decorate a New Age Hooverville in the scrub woods behind the store.

Usually, when I'm in the shop and NEED to find someone, they all vanish, leaving me to ponder the merits of various odd shaped fasteners with my pathetic building skills all alone.  I'm going to remember to dress in my rattiest clothes next time--you sure get a lot of people offering to help that way!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Happy Things

Things are still pretty crispy around here, although progress is being made wading through the insurance claim process...it's such a delightful thing, I tell you.  Overall, the insurance folks are playing nice thus far, so I have hopes of a quick resolution, repairs happening smoothly, and the process of replacing my charcoaled lawn & garden gear starting soon.  While I wait, to distract myself, I've been watching silly things on YouTube.  Check out this gem:


Eww. LOL.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Unpleasantness

Last night, I got a text in the middle of dinner out with friends.  Apparently, someone saw a picture on Facebook that my house was on fire.

Needless to say, I didn't get dinner.  I drove home at 90 MPH, praying that my house was NOT on fire, that my dogs were NOT dead.  About three blocks from the house, I could smell smoke.  Disgusting thick smoke smell...my heart just sank into my shoes.

When I pulled up in a screech of brakes, it was to discover...no fire.  Evidence of a rather impressive one in the yard, but the house seemed ok.  The lights were on.  The yard was crispy.  Oh, and no one was here.  No note on the door.  Nothing.

After running inside, calling the dogs and finding them smoke-stinky but ok, and then becoming a complete hyperventilating mess for a bit, it took a call to 911 to track down the fire chief.  And then, I had to make a call to the power folks because no one had called them, even though the meter box was scorched.  And then, there was a lot of wandering in the dark, crying and peering at things with a flashlight.

The lookie-loos started very early this morning.  One in particular (a truck of guys with a deer lamp at 1 AM) really stands out in my mind.

When it finally got light, I was able to take some pictures.  It still stinks of smoke outside.  My wood pile is gone.  My bike melted.  My little shed in a box is all warped, burned, and melted.  The side of my house melted.  A window cracked.  My neighbor's siding on a corner of his monsterous garage got warped.  But the sun still shines, the cats are happily wandering around, and everyone is ok.  The rest of it?  It's just a hot mess of burned crap.  I know it'll be ok...once I stop shaking.




It could have been so, so much worse.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Space Jellyfish!





Happy Halloween!

Today, I am spending the day setting up for my annual Halloween Installation.  This year's theme?

Invasion of the Space Jellyfish!!!

I'm attempting to channel the spirit of classic 1950s B-Grade Sci Fi movies, with large plastic "jellyfish" with glowstick eyes, a few spot lights, and some thematic sound effects.  I'll have my usual bonfire, booze and nosh for the grown-ups, and "real" candy bars and bags of chips for the kiddies.  Hopefully, the skies will stay clear and we'll all have a great evening, defending the world from...

Space Jellyfish!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

War Continues

Yeah, so the mice saga continues.

I opened another drawer, and out jumped this:





A rodent creature from the depths of hell.

Well, ok.  I exaggerate a little.  But, dang it, when you open a drawer and this thing leaps up out at you and then shoots at warp speed into the back of the cupboard, you too would scream like the first teenage slut to die in a horror movie.

You know you would.

I know I did.

I've reset the mouse traps and put all delicious things into hard containers or the fridge.  If any little monsterous mouse decides to come out from their secret passageways, I've told Miss Vida the House Cat to seek and destroy.  I've also told her to either eat what she catches or leave it for the dogs, but under no circumstances is she to bring it upstairs to my bed.  That is just unpleasant.

The last one, she left dead in my slipper.  A cold squishy mouse in your shoe is not a nice thing for your bare foot to find in the dark of early morning.

You know you'd scream about that, too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fiber Bunnies Update

You may remember, if you've read this little blog for a time, that I have two "fiber bunnies" in my Bunny Barn.  Mohair and Cashmere, the producers of large wads of pretty angora rabbit fiber.  Every year, they shed (or devolve into a hopping hair mat) and I gather up their fiber.  And I put that fiber into a bag, and put the bag away to be spun, in theory by me.

I do like them, but they are not really adding much to the Bunny Barn aside from wafting drifts of shed hair and quiet personalities.  They eat quite a lot, and poo (which makes the gardens happy) but they don't really contribute much.  So I'm starting to ponder: what is the future of fiber rabbits on this particular Farmlette?  I certainly don't maintain them the way that devotees of the fiber would.  Half the time, they hop about with dismal little clods hanging off of them.  (Please, don't think I'm abusing them.  I just don't comb them daily, which is what they really need, and hence, they hairball-up like mad.  And then I wrestle with them once a week or so to pull of the worst of the clods, and experience that everyone just loves.)  I have been wondering if perhaps, someone out there might want them for either wooly fiberliicousness or for a furry garden pet, producing piles of poo for a small backyard garden.  I suppose I should put an ad on Craigslist or the swap facebook page I belong to, and gauge interest.  They aren't show quality, by any means, but for someone who wants a couple little fiber animals or a backyard rabbit, they would be a great fit.  I've certainly gone more into the "meat rabbit" end of the rabbit keeping spectrum, and it just doesn't really seem to make sense to keep a fiber animal around just to have a fiber animal around.  With any luck, perhaps I'll find them the perfect home where they will continue to be spoiled and need to do nothing more than produce wads of glorious angora fiber and poo.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Time for Bulbs

With the mild weather, I thought I'd take advantage of the last weeks of growing weather and pop in a few bulbs into the Fairy Garden in the front yard.  It's starting to fill in nicely, and I am looking forward to larger hostas, pulmonaria, and foxgloves with plumes of candy-colored flowers next summer.

To me, the daffodil just sings "fairies" to me.  I already have a lot of Lily of the Valley, which should bloom in late spring, and I have swaths of violets in various purples and magentas which will also be beautiful spring color.  But it seemed like a few cheerful yellow daffodils might be a nice addition...so I picked up a couple bags and planted a few clumps of three-to-five bulbs in a grouping around the fairy garden.

Of course, planting the bulbs reminded me that I need to go through the garden with a leaf rake and take off the layer of fallen pine needles.  And once that job is done, I need to pull out the random clumps of grass that appeared in August and September, sneaking in after I had to head back to work with the end of summer.  Naughty grass.  Well, it shouldn't take long to yank it out.  The only remaining thing to do will be to trim back all the herbacious plants once they die back.  The front garden typically survives frost a little longer than the back garden, I think because of the protection from the house and large pines that create a little buffer zone, but soon enough, the temperatures will dip and the ground will freeze, and my little herby plants will be done for this year.  With any luck, they'll survive the winter and return in the spring.  I can already see that the borage had a great time seeding itself around and about.  Won't the bees be delighted with that!  Between the hyssop and the borage, they were happy little pollinators....and with a little luck, the crown vetch will also bloom next summer and boy howdy, it'll be a veritable pollen feast!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Captain Underplants!


My strawberry plants have decided, since the box elder tree fell, that they now would like to live, thank you very much.  Sadly, I have plans for where they have been and needed to move them.  After moving a dozen to one of the back garden raised beds, I still had some plants hanging out.  It was either smother them, dig them up and toss them, or dig them up and plant them somewhere.

Yesterday, while cleaning up in the back garden, I had a brainwave.  Why not put those spare strawberry plants in the perennial fruit & veg corner, underneath the espalier pear tree?  All that seems to want to grow under there is creeping nastiness (like ground mint, quack grass, and some rampant flowery thing with tentacles of doom).  So if I plant something that creeps, fills in nicely and provides me with fruit I want, wouldn't that be better?

A quick dig and replant later, and I now have happy strawberry plants under my happy little pear tree.  They should mix nicely with the expanding patch of Good King Henry (a spinach-like perennial herb), jerusalem artichokes, Egyptian Walking onions, and horseradish.  For a little insight on why underplanting with strawberries might be a good idea for your garden, watch this video:



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hee Haw!


Do you remember this show?  Man, I LOVED Hee Haw!  I'm working on details for my Birthday Bash coming up in January, and I think I'm going to encourage silliness and jokes, corny of course, a la the show.  People popping up in a cornfield to tell some terrible joke that still makes you laugh...imagine how funny it'll be after they have a beer or two!

Folk music, good friends, good beer...man, I can hardly wait to turn 40!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sweet Treats


Thanks to a generous friend with a lot of apples, my chickens and rabbits have been enjoying the "wormy" ones.  They adore them!  Every afternoon, I toss a few into the chicken run and they shriek and race after them like tiny pterodactyls flying in for the kill.  And then, the eerie sound of peck-peck-peckity-peck-peck starts up like rapid fire pops.  It doesn't take them long to devour it, core and all....

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Freezers...

Just when all is going happily along with putting food up for the season, the freezer died.

Yep, kaput. 

Luckily, I had a nearly cleaned out freezer in the house fridge and things had not entirely defrosted, so I was able to save the majority of the fruit and vegetables.  Some things had sadly defrosted, so it was quick decision time.  I drained the sopping cherries and put them in the dehydrator.  The remaining bag of frozen tomatoes I cooked down, ran through the sieve, and popped into the dehydrator as well to dry down into tomato powder.  And a few things, sadly, had warmed too much and went to the chickens: bacon jam, apple butter, lime pulp, frozen soup...well, they were happy.

And then more scariness.  The dang OTHER freezer, chock full of meat, decided to go on the fritz.  It warmed up to 25 degrees, and wouldn't turn on, until I called friends in a panic.  And then, of course, it clicked on and decided to run.  Augh.  Tentatively, all seems to be doing well with it, although it sounds a little odd.  Keep your fingers crossed that things stay cold and frozen in there.  I may have the freezer repair guy come out and take a look at it, should it still sound funny on Monday.

How much longer is Mercury in retrograde, anyway?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Holiday Plans

I just love this picture of my two dogs, taken last Christmas.

But perhaps, too soon?

I know.  It's not even Halloween yet.  But, to be honest, I've started thinking about the holidays.  Part of it is, I make a lot of presents, so I've got to start that early.  Otherwise, things get a little stressful.  Another part of it is, I rather like having a holiday break--one of my perks of my day job.  And it's been a bit of stressful fall thus far, but that's ok.  It makes the breaks something to anticipate.

Along the present making lines, I've been working on making wool dryer balls.  I'm thinking of packing them in little boxes, with a tiny bottle of essential oil.  And I have a stash of crafts I've made, that I recently rediscovered.  I love finds like that.  So far, I've found a couple of china cup bird feeders, and chalkboard pots, and gardeners hand scrub, and even a rather fun peanut feeder made from a slinky.  I may just pull some stuff out of the stash for myself...

I've also got a few knitting projects on tap, as always.  I was going to knit a whole bunch of hats, but I kind of lost my mojo for that particular idea.  I'll likely knit a couple, but not a whole slew.  Last year, I knitted so many presents, it was wonderful but wow, a lot of work.  I'm thinking a bit fewer knitting projects this holiday is a good present for myself.

But the wool dryer balls, those are easy peasy.  I simply made balls of wool yarn, popped them in old socks, and ran them through the hot water and a hot dryer three or four times.  And then I wound up with these lovely felted balls, perfect for tossing in with a load of laundry and taking away static naturally.  It's a great use for some very pretty but rather scratchy Nantucket wool I was gifted!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Plants, Indoors.

With the arrival of fall weather, I decided to try and save my many pots of herbs.  This winter, they will be residing in style under full-spectrum lighting (one warm bulb + one cool bulb = full spectrum on a budget), warm and cosy.

I am very fond of using fresh herbs, both in cooking and "fresh" tea.  There is nothing better in the depths of February than a mug of lemon tea brewed from lemon verbena and lemon balm leaves.  I also have ginger mint and peppermint in pots.  There's Thai basil, parsley, sage and rosemary, plus my teeny Bay tree.  With luck, they will all survive the winter and head back outside come spring to grow outdoors for another season.

Having the lights set up in the living room has a fringe benefit--not only do the plants thrive, but I get the additional bright light added to my winter days.  I'm not severely affected by the lack of light in the winter months, but I do find it helps me feel a bit less like a grumpy bear on the darkest days.  Plus, I get fresh parsley!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

You Can Never Have Too Much Ketchup

One of my favorite condiments to make is tomato ketchup.  I don't slather it on everything, but the homemade stuff tastes so much better than any of the commercial brands I've tried (even the fancy pants organic ones) that I can't help but use it up.  Not only is it great for dabbing on burgers or dipping fries into, it's also great to add to other things to make Thousand Island Dressing or fancy dipping sauces for homemade chicken fingers, fish cakes, or fried up shrimp.

Not that I would ever eat those things, oh no, not me.  I do eat the occasional fried stuff, but mostly, it's ketchup on burgers or in other stuff (like my favorite hamburger soup) for me.

Basically, I follow the recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for ingredients and processing time, but what actually goes into my homemade ketchup varies a bit.  I start with homegrown tomatoes, which were frozen whole, then boiled down in a bit of water and cranked through my food mill to remove the skins and seeds.  I put all that watery pulpy liquid into my crockpot, add 3 to 4 cups of cider vinegar (it depends on how much pulp I wind up with), add about a cup of sugar and a tablespoon or two of salt, and then comes the spices.  This last batch, I used my mortar & pestle and ground up onions and garlic that I had dehydrated earlier in the year, and then added the powder to the crock pot.  I use a vintage large tea ball to hold my spices of choice: a broken-up cinnamon stick, three whole allspice berries, four whole cloves, and a large whole star anise.  That gets plonked into the crock pot, and then they simmer down on low-to-warm for hours and hours and hours.

This last batch took 42 hours to cook down.  It was very watery, but smells and tastes incredibly fresh and robust now that it has thickened up to the perfect consistency.

Once everything is ready, I heat up my sterilized jars, pop on a lid, and process the finished ketchup for 15 minutes in a hot water bath.  I usually put my ketchup in half-pint jars, as I tend to use ketchup slowly and if I put it in a bigger jar, sometimes it goes moldy on me before I can finish it up.

If you have a stash of homegrown tomatoes, I recommend using some to make your own ketchup.  It's worth the effort, trust me!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tiny


This past weekend, I finally watched Tiny: A Story About Living Small, a documentary film about one man and his journey building his small house on a trailer. I'm so glad that I did.  Of course, now I want to build one...I already live in a small house, but the idea of having a smaller, tiny house on wheels wakes up my inner little girl who never had a "real" dollhouse.  The concept of having a small house that could be packed up and moved away is so cool to me.  Having a small space to either go and read in, take a nap in, or put up weekend guests in...now THAT would be delightful as well.  They are extremely charming as well, with a whole lot of craftsman charm and miniature porches and sleeping lofts and reading lights fueled by solar panels.

Yeah.  I think, someday, I'm building one of them for myself.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Two Days...

In two days, I'm starting a 100 Mile Local Food Challenge.  For ten days, I've committed to eating only what is produced within 100 miles of my home.  I can include ten exotics (coffee, thankfully, is on my list) but other than that, it's all local all the time, baby.

I've done a bit of homework for the past month or so to prepare for this challenge.  Namely, I tracked down a source for flour, so I don't need to use that as one of my exotics.  And I have, of course, been stashing food per usual over the summer months so I have a lot of homegrown canned goods and frozen veg in the freezer.  I've been hunting down recipes, too, for things like homemade pasta, bagels, different breads and things to do with eggs (I have lots of eggs).  I also have some barter connections, for things like apples, and a good idea of what to eat that is in season, and therefore should be easy to find.  I'm planning on hitting the local co-ops for things like local milk, winter greens (arugula, I'm looking at you, kid), and maybe some yummy yogurt.

I am a little concerned about increased food costs, what with purchasing a different milk and whatnot than I usually do, but mostly, I think I'm going to be eating what I've stocked away.  I don't eat out much, so packing lunches for work won't be any more an issue than it is any other week.  And as far as I know, no one is throwing a party or planning a girls' night out, but if that did happen, I'm opting to join in on the social eating joyousness and say to heck with the local food issue for an evening.  Like any other food mantra, being a local food purist could become very off-putting to other folks, and I certainly don't want to be one of those people

Mostly, I'm excited to try this.  The larger group that is participating across the nation during this month of October are exploring issues ranging from lack of local foods to food justice to improved health/weight loss from eating "healthier" local options to converting their neighbors to the joys of local food.  For myself, I'm curious to see if, within ten days, is it possible to avoid all foods not produced within 100 miles.  I'm thinking it will be, which is as good a hypothesis to work from as any. 

Time shall tell, right?  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bread Rhapsody

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard

I am not afraid of bread.
I do not fear bread as the root of all evil.
Bread is the stuff of life, not the food of lies.
Bread does not make one sluggish, fat, or prone to muffin tops.
Bread is freakin' good, man, and you should eat it.

Good bread, that is, should be eaten as often as you can find it.  Balance it with some protein, vegetables and fruit, and you have yourself one heck of a powerhouse in your belly.  A good slice of bread with some cheese and an apple makes for a terrific mid-day lunch, on which you can power through reports, gardening, or pretty much anything else your afternoon might throw at you.

I am in love with the flour I bought last weekend.  It wouldn't be too much to say that it is life changing, although life affirming might be more apt.  You can taste that this flour, it's alive, like drinking shrub or eating fermented pickles tastes alive.  It's chewy, and nutty, dense and rich, almost unbelievably good.  I've made several loaves of bread a la the Bread in Five method.  They were wonderful.  I made a batch of bagels, my first ever attempt, and they far surpass anything you can find in the grocery store.  I would say that they are even better than the area bagel companies that everyone raves about.  (Granted, I think it is impossible to find a good bagel in the Upper Midwest, but then again, I did live in New York for a bit where bagels are the stuff of life...)  I'm glad I got 25 pound bags of the flours, because I can't stop baking with it.  I even used the All Purpose whole wheat flour in my favorite pie recipe (Cranberry Nut Pie, sooooo gooooooood) and while I admit, I love this pie nearly obscenely, it made it even. better.  I didn't think that was even possible...

Don't fear bread.
If you must fear anything about bread, fear the crap that lines the grocery aisle.
Fear the conventionally grown wheat that is sprayed with glyphosate and then harvested, processed, and made into conventional flours.
But don't fear bread.  
Bread is your friend.  You should eat some.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

There's an App for That

As you may have noticed from reading this blog over time, I have a definite love for all things Mother Earth News.  I'm still enjoying reading the back issues on the DVD I received last Christmas, and I have dreams of attending another MEN Fair in the near future...if only I can convince them to hold one in Minneapolis, that would be awesome.

In any case, I recently discovered that they have a free app, working on both iPad type devices and Android devices, with basic and advanced canning techniques and recipes.  It is, from first swipe, very easy to use, and seems to contain the same basic information contained in the Ball series of canning resources. There's even information on how to can meat, seafood, and other food items that need to be pressure canned.

Since you can't beat free, and sometimes, it's nice to have a resource that can provide quick links to vital canning safety information at the tap of a fingertip, it's not a bad app to have on your smartphone of choice.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Grape Juice Made Simple

You may remember that a few weeks ago, I picked up a half-bushel box of Concord grapes.  After making a whopping 14 pints of grape jelly, I still had more grapes...so I made 12 quarts of grape juice.  Instead of investing in a steam juicer (which would be nice to have someday, but not now...), I opted for a really simple way to make grape juice.

Into each sterilized quart jar, I placed about a cup of washed and stemmed grapes.  Then I put in two large spoonfuls of sugar--you can use less or more, but I recommend tasting a grape first to decide how sweet you want it.  You could also use honey instead of the sugar, but I decided on sugar since it was there on the counter looking at me.  I added about a tablespoon of lemon juice into each jar as well, and then topped it with boiling water, leaving one inch of headspace.  After putting on a lid and tightening the bands, I processed the quarts in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

After letting the juice jars sit for a couple weeks, this is what I have:
Jars of delicious, refreshing, not-too-sweet grape juice.  It is really really good, as well as being really really easy to make.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Use for Lint

While this may look like so many fuzzy hairballs in a tube, it's actually something rather helpful.  Over the past several months, I've collected empty toilet paper rolls and clods of dryer lint.  Once I had enough, I stuffed the lint into the tubes, added the melted wax of three candle stubs to each, and tah-dah.

You have yourself some dandy, raging-inferno-inducing, homemade firestarters.

They work really well, and provide a steady hot flame for long enough to start a nice toasty fire.  It's also a nice way to use up lint and TP rolls, somethings that are kinda hard to find a use for, in general.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Flour Storage

When you acquire large bags of flour, it can be a challenge deciding how to best store it to keep it fresh and bug- and critter-free.  If you are blessed with a large basement or temperature-regulated unused room or garage, you can round up some clean, new garbage cans and plonk your bags in there, and they should keep nicely for a year or so.  If you want to go all fancy and seal things, you can do that too...but if you don't have space for garbage cans for storing stuff in nor do you have the budget for large, bulky sealable storage units, you go low tech and low budget (as I do).

Basically, I started with freezer bags with the zipper seals and filled each gallon size bag with approximately eight cups of flour.
Then, you round up a bunch of those holiday popcorn tins, either free or found at a thrift store (mine cost 50 cents each from the Barn in New Richmond, WI).
Then, simply pack the tins with the plastic bags of flour.  You may need to squeeze out more air from each bag, but several should fit in there.
I found that I could fit three bags in each of the smaller tins, but the larger tins could hold four or five bags.  Then, it's simply a matter of stacking the tins in the cool, dark pantry to store until I need the flour, one bag at a time.  Fifty pounds of flour tucked away in five reused holiday tins.  I call that a bargain.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

Traveling the Great River Road

It started off a bit foggy, a little drizzle, and in spots there was even some snow, but it was a great day for a little road trip.  I picked up my friend Gretchen (you can see her feet peeking out underneath the truck) and off we headed, following the Great River Road to Alma, WI and then hiking up over the ridge to find a really lovely valley, home to Great River Organic Milling.

Imagine: a flour mill, producing organic stone ground flours, a mere 83 miles from my home!  Why have I not discovered this until now?

Well, I wasn't looking, but still.  Who knew?!?

Anyway, it was a very happy discovery.  Not only did I get to email back and forth with some very nice people who work there, but I got to go on a road trip and get some lovely flour, too. I was even allowed a brief tour of the mill.
The smaller of two storage rooms, each bag holds 2000 pounds of grain.

This room is where the grinding happens...well, it's above the stones anyway.

The newer warehouse, very large and full of lovely organic grain!
A long drive back and a good lunch at the Creamery in Nelson, WI (home of my favorite Ham & Brie on Baguette sandwich) later, I was left delivering bags of flour and grain to friends who had ordered in our group order, and with two lovely bags of spelt and all-purpose flour to call my own.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

October Chill


It's the first weekend in October, but it feels more like the last weekend of November.  Last night, the wind started blowing in from the northwest corner of the world, bringing with it falling temperatures and gusty rain.  Luckily, I have a good stash of dry firewood started--a warm fire in the evening hours keeps the house comfortable (and makes the resident house cat very pleased with herself, curled as close to the hearth as she can be).  If I turn on the oven to bake a loaf of bread or roast a fat chicken, the house stays cozy far into the next day.  And if that isn't an inducement to cook a little more often, I don't know what is!

Today, I'm heading south to Fountain City to visit a local organic flour mill to pick up a load of flours and grains.  I'm rather excited about this--I love a good adventure, plus I'm keen on trying out some locally stone-ground flours.  Tomorrow, I'll post some pictures.  Hopefully, the foggy start will give way to a beautiful fall day!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Bit of Vinegar





After making an insanely good batch of chunky applesauce, laden with brown sugar and cinnamon, I was left with a giant pile of apple cores and peelings.  I love my apple-peeler-corer-slicer, by the way.  One of the best kitchen gizmos I have ever invested in, hands down, no argument.  But, after you work through a bucket of apples, you have a bunch of sticky things to deal with.

Usually, I chuck them in to the chickens, but they were gluttons already with a bunch of weeds and pears tossed in by my neighbors.  So this time, I decided to try an experiment: I'm going to make my own vinegar.

I go through so much vinegar in a year, between canning, cooking and cleaning, that it is an appealing (heh heh, a-peeling) idea to make my own out of stuff I'd usually compost or feed to the hens. If it works, I will be one happy Chicken Lady.  If it doesn't, well, it goes on the compost heap anyway.  No big loss, and I am liking the idea of an experiment happening in my dark cupboard.  Stay tuned for updates.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Just a Little Heat


The other day, I made a batch of chutney that was turning out to be rather ho-hum.  Oh, it had lovely fruity flavors, since it involved apples, rhubarb, dried cranberries, and fresh lemon zest.  But, it was lacking heat...the only spice it had was a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. 

Chutney needs a little oomph to it, a little fire on the tounge and a hint of clear out those sinuses, for it to be really, really good.  Plus, I think that the heat helps set off the sweetness, which can get a bit insipid after it sits in the jar for a while. 

Here comes the humble jalepeno to the rescue!

By finely chopping a single jalepeno pepper, it completely transformed the chutney.  Instead of being full of fall flavors, it packed a little kick that knocked it out of the park.  I've made a note in the pages of my cookbook, and I think I'll be making it this way from now on.

Slightly Hotter Apple Rhubarb Chutney
(taken from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

You'll need: four cups peeled, cored & diced apples; 4 cups granulated sugar; 2 cups diced rhubarb; 1/2 cup water; zest and juice of one lemon; 1/2 cup dried cranberries; 1 jalepeno pepper, finely diced*; 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon; 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg.

* this is my personal modification, and I think makes all the difference between ho-hum and oh-wow

Combine the apples, sugar, rhubarb, water, lemon juice and zest in a large stainless steel pot.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce and allow to simmer 15 minutes.

Add the pepper, dried cranberries and spices, stir to combine.  Simmer another 15 minutes until the chutney is thick enough to mound on a spoon.  Ladle chutney into half-pint jars (I got about six) leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Pop on a hot lid, tighten bands, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I'm planning on serving up this chutney with a nice cheese, or smearing it onto bread to make a decadent roast turkey (or chicken) sandwich.  Either way, it's going to have the perfect amount of sweet-hot decadence.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

First Class


Yesterday was the first of many Master Gardener Level 1 classes.  I set out in LuLa early in the morning to reach the Spooner Agricultural Research Station by 9 AM.  It was a diverse group that came along to class: a good half-dozen retirees looking for a new project or volunteer opportunity, a couple of middle aged folks looking to add a bit of gardening knowledge to their repertoire of skills; and a couple of younger twenty-somethings who are looking to gather skills for small farming (or joining a commune, as one proudly reported to the group).  Based on what people had to share, I think I may have the edge on actual gardening experience, in that I grow a lot to eat.  There were a lot of people there who prefer beautification projects (flowers in formation, apparently) or working with youth to encourage them to plant school garden plots.  I'm looking forward to getting to know them all...and perhaps encourage them to look beyond pretty flowers in gardening!

I think the best part of class was heading out to the demonstration gardens, and having some hands on discussion of classification of plants.  If it wasn't for the crabby Asian beetles, it would've been a perfect afternoon: sunny, warm, a light playful breeze.  The instructors were very nice, too.  I got some good advice on my persistent strawberry problems, and will be moving them to a better location in the garden.
The next class gathering is in October, and before then, I have to do a bit of homework.  Mostly, it's brushing up on my Botany knowledge, which I actually rather enjoy.  It's like a whole other language, with syntax and semantics and flowing syllables tripping off the tounge...well, at least I hope it will be after I study a bit!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Put It Up!


I have no idea what I would do if I didn't have my canner.  Both my pressure canner and water-bath canner see constant action this time of year.  Between tomatoes, pumpkins, apples, various meats, and other fruits of the season, there's always something to put away for future meals.

This weekend, I've got one more pie pumpkin to process.  The most challenge part of dealing with pumpkins is removing the thick peel and chopping them into cubes.  It doesn't take too long to do this, generally, but it takes a lot of oomph to break the squashes apart.  I have some Cool Old Squash to deal with as well, but that can wait for another weekend or two.  They are enormous squashes...I can hardly wait to try them and see how they taste!

I need to make some room in the fruit & veg freezer, so I plan to take out the last of last season's cranberries and make a batch of homemade cranberry sauce.  If you've never made your own whole berry cranberry sauce, you haven't lived.  Well, that's a little dramatic, but its true.  Homemade cranberry sauce is a million times better than any store-bought gloop in a can.  It's worth taking a little time to make a batch, whether you decide to can it or freeze it.

There's other stuff that needs to be put up for the season, but I'll tackle that as I can.  I think the potatoes and beets can hang out for a little while longer, thankfully, so I'll just deal with the plentiful produce gazing at me from the kitchen table.  It's going to be a weekend full of preparing for the colder months, in any case!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Safety PSA

Well, apparently, my back has revolted.  I did a bunch of stuff this past weekend: moving straw, moving feed bags, heaving a heavy canner across the kitchen from sink to stove, a bit of cleaning and shoving around of furniture...and then, I mowed the lawn yesterday.  After that, my back was complaining a bit, and then yesterday, I bent over to pick up a pencil and POP, there she went.  Luckily, it's nothing more than a badly pulled muscle that is now spasming, complaining, and generally carrying on like a primadona.

I guess my plans for moving easily this week are going to have to be rethought.

Sigh.  Isn't it amazing how much stuff is all influenced by the state of your spine?

Anyhoo...let's take this moment to remind ourselves how we are supposed to be moving heavy things:


Oh wait.  Not that way.  Bend at the knees, people.  Bend. At. The. Knees.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On My Table

It seems like my kitchen table is always covered with some harvest or another these days.  Between grapes (for jelly and juice), tomatoes, peppers, jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, citrus (for adding to various recipes) and the last of the greens, its an impressive assortment of food.  Bit by bit, I can, freeze or dehydrate it into submission and store it away for later use.  I'm also eating a fair bit of delicious fresh stuff, picked just outside the door. 

I've got one last pie pumpkin to process, and some bison to can up for quick ready meals.  And then there's cranberry sauce to make, and green tomatoes to evaluate and use up.  Between batches of salsa and assorted jams, the canner is in constant use in the evening.  It's good thing I picked up those new lids and have a collection of spare jars, because they are getting filled steadily.  I've started contemplating freezing some of the many eggs the generous Ladies are providing every day, so I have  a stash of those, too.  Although, the freezer is getting fairly filled, so maybe I'll attempt the mineral oil coating trick instead...the worst thing that can happen is that they go bad, right?  That would be sad and unpleasant, but could make for a cool experiment.  Hmmm...why don't they still have science fairs for grown ups?

Oh wait.  They do...the Nobel Prize.  Well, I won't win that for storing eggs, but it could be entertaining at the very least!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Happy Fall!

It's here, the First Day of Autumn!

Bring on the pumpkin lattes.  Oh wait, they showed up in early August...

Anyhoo...it's fall!  Wheee!  Around here, that means cascading orange pine needles, hordes of ill-tempered Asian beetles, and an influx of persistent field mice who want to take up residence in my kitchen walls.  Luckily, I can use the pine needles as mulch, my bug man will spray for the beetles, and the cats (and a few traps) will take care of the mice.  I was hoping to have more of a fall garden, but I suppose as I'm still waiting on carrots and beets and a few slow-to-mature second crops of herbs, I've got enough going on.  I do love to watch what folks in other climate zones are getting up to in their fall gardens, though:


Or here:
Ahh.  It's always nice to take a little break to catch up in the garden.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekending






Whew--what a full weekend!  I got lots done, and of course, there's more yet to BE done. 

Saturday was spent doing some chores in the morning, then going with a friend to pick up some fresh bales of straw for chicken bedding.  Then, of course, came the putting away of the straw before a round of thunderstorms rolled through.  What hot prickly work.  It's great to have it, though, and I devised a way to stack it in bale form in the chicken coop so that, until it's needed for bedding, it can act as a bit of an insulation layer to combat the cold that is coming.  The girls were so happy they laid a whole bunch of fresh eggs.  I was so happy to get the coop cleaned and stocked with fresh straw, before it rained again.

Sunday, I spent the morning doing a bit of tidying up, cake baking, and re-sealing a few quarts of grape juice before my lovely friends came for an afternoon of knitting.  That was so much fun!  A bit more about the canning issue:  If you happen to be shopping Wal-Mart, and see that they carry a 'house brand' of canning jar lids (under the Mainstay produce line), don't even give them a second glance.  I tried them, and out of the box of 12 lids, four completely failed--it looked like they had melted and twisted during processing--and the remaining ones are holding but are very odd looking.  They are very thin and tinny, not at all solid and hearty like the tried-and-true Ball or Kerr canning jar lids.  I brought the remaining case back to the store (yes, I buy my canning lids in bulk!) and promptly bought a case of Ball lids from a local hardware store to add to my stash.  Incidentally, we have entered the time of year when canning supplies go on clearance, so look at your local hardware store (Ace, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) and scope out the clearance deals.  I always buy them out of canning lids, if I can afford it.  I tend to go through a case or so per year, so I love those clearance sales!

And here we are, back at the start of another week.  It's going to be a great one, I think!