Saturday, October 21, 2017

Photos/what's been going on around here

There were so many pictures clogging up my cell phone that the poor thing was barely working.  I moved them all over to the laptop today so it's a good chance to share some of the things that have been going on.


We are STILL getting alpine strawberries! 


It was really hot last weekend, around 80 degrees.  We went to a corn maze/farm park with friends. It was a lot of fun, though a bit pricey; $14 admission for a 2 year old, seriously. You had to admire the ingenuity of the people that owned the place though.  There were so many things for kids to do.


The maze.


The weather turned colder for a couple of days. We had our first frost, a light one, during that time. Now it's warmed up again.


Elyse has been doing this to both the refrigerator and the dish washer.  Bless her adorable soul, she is useful for exactly one around here but it's a very important one: telling me about mice/bugs/snakes in the house. (Yes, snakes.  That actually happened once, no idea how it got in.) Elyse was afraid of everything when we got her from the shelter including her own reflection so this is a huge show of bravery. She must have been some kind of pointer in a previous life but I've learned never to ignore her when she's "telling" me about something. Traps were set and one mouse has been killed so far. A massively pregnant one. I felt terrible. 


There was one day this week when I went into the chicken yard and almost stepped on a duck egg.  We haven't had duck eggs since most of them got killed in the spring (possibly a fox) so my female Pekin must have started laying.  Spent the day making fresh pasta with that egg and a chicken egg.  Just flour, the eggs and a bit of olive oil.  We had some leftover roast potatoes and winter squash from the night before so I pureed those and made tortellini.


They looked clumsy but tasted delicious and I learned a lot about filling and shaping them.


After I ran out of filling I made some noodles with lemon zest and thyme and put them in the dehydrator.


These little plain squares were cut out of scraps.  They're the size of postage stamps and they'll be used in soup this winter.

What else went on.... we sent 12 Cornish Cross chickens to the butcher and I butchered 4 chickens myself along with 10 quail.   Been doing a little bit of crafting, not much but trying to get back into things.  There are some projects I've started that it would be nice to finish this winter.  Thinking about reading. Looking forward to slower days as it gets cooler.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Best Friends

Photographs of two best friends taken over the last 24 hours.





Bee has adored the little man since we brought him home from the hospital.  I think in a way she considers him to be her baby too. The two times he's had a major boo-boo (a terrible splinter and stepping on a piece of glass), oh, the crying.  From both of them.  Little man would cry. Bee would cry and pace back and forth, eventually crawling up to swat my arm as I held him "someone, do something!"

She spends most of the day outside, killing small critters and making mischief, but when she's in the house they're inseparable.  He feeds her his snacks and leftover cereal. She lets him pat her too hard and try to pick her up by the tail.

Love.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

These days


The other night I made dinner as usual; sweet potato fries, quinoa with corn and tomato and shrimp. The little guy has been on a hummus and hard boiled egg kick so he got some of those too. Everyone was hungry by the time the fries came out and we sat down to eat as a family.

The little guy had some sweet potato fries and checked out all the other stuff on his plate with suspicion.  He had brought his toy dinosaur to the table with him so I dramatically fed a piece of shrimp to the dinosaur hoping it would convince him to eat one.

I had just picked up my fork when I heard a "GRRROOOOOWWL!" and the dinosaur when flying past me into the quinoa where it bounced and ended up in the kitchen.

It had been a long day.
I was tired. I couldn't help it.
Wasn't I supposed to act like an adult?
I put my head in my hands. My shoulders started shaking.
I was biting back my laughter so hard the that the tears started flowing.

I heard my husband gently correcting our son as he yelled "AHAHAHAHA!" and I couldn't do it any longer. I totally lost it. My husband started laughing too.  "Pumpkin, are you done with eating? " I asked the little man. "TRUCK!" he replied. "OK then, go play."

My mother died way too early from cancer. With my family history if I make it to old age I'll be staring down the barrel of dementia.   If that happens to me, when I am old, I hope these are the days I remember.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The garden in October


Dinner in a bucket.

Even though it's October, there's still a lot happening out in the garden. Let's take a tour!
I've always called the this part of the garden the "spring side" but I'm working to make it the perennial vegetable/fruit bed.  Some of these plants are and some of them aren't but we're getting there. 


That tall, feathery mass on the right hand side is the asparagus bed.



Between these bottles, I've planted lots and lots of garlic.  It got planted in waves so some of it has already sprouted. This is where the potatoes were planted this year so if we missed digging some and they grow in the spring, no big deal.  Garlic is tall and potatoes are short-ish.


We still have a nice bit of greens.  Had salads for dinner tonight and maybe BLTs later in the week.


I finally did this!  All of the perennial herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary & sage) are now in one spot! Why did this take years to do? Will have to remember to cover the rosemary because it's not always cold-hardy here. The oregano is planted in a sunken pot to keep the growth under control.  This was a lesson learned the hard way as I was into growing herbs as a teenager and the oregano I planted took over every single one of my mother's flower beds.  Whoops. Sorry. But the bees love it!


The parsley is on the other side of the swiss chard.  I think parsley is a biennial, I know it's come up again in the past.


Plenty of these beauties.  Not a perennial but delicious.


I'm going to do a post on this soon.  All of the Alpine strawberries that spent the summer growing in pots have been transplanted into a dedicated spot.  I think I ended up with 35 plants.  We are thrilled with these plants and I don't know how we lived without them before.  They started fruiting in July, it's October and we are still eating berries when we are outside.  Just a couple here and there, sure, but they are DELICIOUS.  And growing in our very own back yard!  In October!


Some rhubarb.  The one plant is twice the size of the other one, no idea why.  

We're not eating much from the garden these days but it's still providing.  For dinner tonight we had big salads with lettuce, tomato and hard boiled eggs, along with roasted Brussels sprouts and potatoes.  Kinda odd combination but it was good.

What other kinds of perennial vegetables and herbs are out there?  It will be fun to research before the seed catalogs get here.  I think the plan will be to fill it in as well as I can, and then plant edible flowers, herbs and greens in between the permanent areas.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Thoughts on flowers


I'm really sad to find that I didn't take that many pictures of flowers this year, or bring a lot of them into the house.  Not like last year when I was bringing in vases of them.  I wanted to get some things in my notes to remember next spring.


Dedicating a portion of the garden to flowers was a wonderful idea.  It looked so beautiful and brought in a ton of pollinators.  Next year, I would like more sunflowers; both the branching kind and those big mammoth ones that have flowers a foot across.   They did well on the north side of the garden.  



Cannas lined the east and west sides of the garden and there were some on the north side and also in the poultry section. I didn't buy any this year just planted what came out of storage.  Even so, I'll probably lift a hundred tubers this fall.  They did better on the west side of the garden and the poultry section where they weren't competing with the tomatoes for sun.  These would look fantastic in the chicken yard next year. I don't *think* they'll eat them.


I loved the blue morning glories.  They grew so quickly up the sides of the garden tepee.  


None of the nasturtiums got very tall.  Next year I'd like to use these as ground cover both in the kidney shaped flower bed and the one by the garden shed.


The shed area got no attention at all this year after my husband "helpfully" weed wacked it. 


The anise hyssop I grew from seed grew nicely.  Planted in the kidney shaped garden. It's a perennial so we can enjoy it next year too.  It would be worth growing more of these from seed and I should remember to plant them in those biodegradable pots because the seedlings were delicate.


These are the dahlias that were grown. I was trying to be frugal this spring at just plant what I had but should round out the colors next year. The two big ones are dinner-plate sized and the smaller ones about the size of an orange.


Possibly my favorite flower.

Also to remember for next year: any annuals I buy should be limited to white.  I love a riot of colors in the garden but didn't have anything white and that would help to calm it down a bit.  I remember baby's breath did well here one year.  Maybe white zinnias, white marigolds. white dahlias.  Will have to get out the seed catalogs and start dreaming.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Flat breads, venison & thrift store tractors


We had a really good dinner tonight of venison tacos: onions, peppers, cilantro & tomato grown by me. Venison shot by my dad and dry aged for 30 days - amazing - thanks, dad! The venison was cooked medium-rare and seasoned with paprika, cumin and garlic.  Homemade flat breads.

I LOVE this recipe for flat bread and it occurred to me that the recipe card will probably get lost at some point, so here it is:


Of course all of those are just suggestions - today I chucked in some wheat flour and a bunch of quail eggs. Didn't measure the milk, sugar, salt etc.  The recipe as it is written makes about 12 flat breads about the size of a dessert plate; I usually half it when I make it.  These are SO delicious and make the most decadent PB&J's you can imagine. 

Put everything into the mixer with the dough hook attachment, went to get the mail, came back and adjusted the dough as needed.  In about 2 hours they are ready.  Pull off golf ball sized portions of dough, roll out on a floured surface.  While you are rolling the dough, put your cast iron skillet on the burner on medium.  Grease with butter or not - it works either way - less of a problem with smoking if you cook/fry them on a dry pan.


Flip when they are firm on the bottom and may have tiny bubbles - one minute each side?  You'll know.  If they start to really puff like a pita pocket, prick the air bubble with a knife and continue.

It was a really good dinner and we have some left for sandwiches tomorrow.

What else... something the little man and I have been doing each week is to go to the thrift store.  It's a little local place in our town and all of the proceeds fund the food pantry.  

He knows exactly where the toy section is and makes a bee-line for it when we go there.  He'll play with about half a dozen toys before he finds the one he wants to take home.  We discuss it, "You can pick one - do you want to take that one home?" but I let him get whatever he wants.  Today he was playing with some toys when an elderly volunteer came up pushing a shopping cart containing a bunch of dozers and dump trucks - he went nuts and tried to climb into the cart.  

It's fun when he's made up his mind because he'll be playing quietly then turn on his heels and make a break for the cash register while holding the toy.  Then slam it on the counter, which is about a foot over his head.


We pay for it and take it home.  Then the next week we quietly bring in a box of stuff to donate back.  

I think he's learning a lot from this.  The toys are super cheap, the dozer cost us $2.50, and he loves it.  Plus, when he gets a toy home that he's chosen by himself he will play with it for literally hours, or days on end.  Today when we picked up my husband from work he insisted on bringing along in the car both the "truck" that he found today along with the "track track" (tractor) he found last week.

Everyday life,  what fun.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Taking down the garden, more preserving


Oh my goodness, what a last couple of days. I've gotten more done than I dared hope for. First of all, the goose is 100% back to normal. Wound looks great and the bird is stomping around like nobody's   business. The garden: wow. I am SO happy with how much work has gotten done out there. Even more has been accomplished since these pictures were taken because my tot was happy to dig a hole in the dirt out there for two hours this morning while I worked. He would dig it, than fill it back in and dig it out again. TWO HOURS. It was like that Paul Newman movie where he's in jail and has to dig a hole and fill it back up again and again, what was that movie? It was the one with the scene where he wins a bet by eating like 30 hard boiled eggs? Ugh. 

Anyway. After that morning of work we came inside and had cookies.


I can't lift all of the dahlias and cannas for storage until we get a hard frost. So we get to enjoy them a bit longer.


This the pepper harvest for the year, minus the jalapeƱos that I already froze. The plants were eaten by deer a couple of times and we weren't sure if there would be any peppers.  I'm delighted with this and will be happy to have them come winter when organic peppers cost $3.99. That's $3.99 PER PEPPER.  Yep. Probably tonight I will get out a needle and thread (and disposable gloves) and string all of the Thai chillies to dry. The rest are Bananas, Cubanelles and Pimentos. We didn't have the heat we needed and they're all green. That's ok. 

The dehydrator is running drying herbs: parsley, rosemary and sage along with some extra mushrooms I bought the other night.

 I butchered a couple of young roosters and we had "chicken paprika " from The Joy of Cooking. It was delicious. The roosters were TINY but if you look at the old recipes birds were back then (before the invention of the Cornish Cross). The recipe I used called for a 2 & 1/2 lb. bird for example. I had some misgivings about getting rid of those roos that little but we are awash in young roosters right now. 

Still to do: pull and preserve the leeks, move the perennial herbs to the other side of the garden. Trim asparagus bed. Cover crop. Butcher more birds. Maybe make and freeze pasta with all of the quail eggs piling up. 

Whew.

Read, relax, enjoy my family and friends. Maybe do some sewing. Anyone else looking forward to winter? Just a little?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Great seed company, great cause - Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

I had to share this notice I received via e-mail because it's absolutely wonderful.  Baker Creek is a company that I've been ordering from every year for about 8 years now and everything about it is great: heirloom non-GMO seeds from around the world, customer service is excellent, $3.50 flat rate shipping AND they include at least one FREE seed packet with every order.  Sometimes I'll end up with 2 or 3 orders from this place a season - the selection is that fantastic.  I have no connection to this company apart from being a very loyal customer and advocate.

They ship year-round and internationally.  Not only are they donating proceeds from orders but they are also donating garden kits to people who lost their garden in the storms. Who does something like that? Baker Creek, that's who.  Thinking of something you want to grow next year?  Now is a good time to order it.

I just drafted up my seed inventory for 2018; you can see the previous one here, and will post it soon.

Everyone who was worried about my goose - thank you!  It's doing just fine and you would never know anything happened.  And I learned a lot, but that's for another day. 

UPDATE - I just put in a $25 order and it looks like they're sending me TWO free seed packets - about a $6 value.

This was the e-mail I received today:

ORDER NOW ALL PROCEEDS FROM SEED PURCHASES WILL BE DONATED TO SUPPORT URGENT HURRICANE RELIEF EFFORTS IN PUERTO RICO AND BEYOND


Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company may be located on a small farm near a small town in rural Missouri, but we are neither uninformed nor complacent about the devastation caused by the recent hurricanes in other parts of the world.  Our hearts go out to those who have lost everything except their lives, and our hearts go out to the families of those who actually did lose their lives.

We want to do more and we want you to help us do more.  Many of these people need IMMEDIATE assistance of food, water, and medicine.  It takes MONEY to get those things to them.  In an effort to get that immediate aid to those who need it, Baker Creek is running a special for an entire week in which we will donate 100% of the seed sales to World Help, who will distribute supplies to Puerto Rico and other areas damaged by these horrific hurricanes.  All sales proceeds from all orders placed today, September 29, through next Friday, October 6, will be donated to World Help to help them move in food, water, medicine, and other needed supplies.   

We also are donating home garden restart kits to any individual or family who has lost their gardens to these horrific storms.  If you or someone you know has lost a garden in the hurricane and could use a start up seed kit, please send your story and contact information to seeds@rareseeds.com and to the attention of “donation” so that we can send you a starter kit.

Our friend Rick Young of World Help says, “The destruction is unfathomable in Puerto Rico!!”  He elaborates, “The electric grid will need to be completely replaced, no cell towers, no electricity, no power lines. This will be a major problem for over 3 million people, almost 2 million Americans. This is not for a few days or weeks but for months and years. It will take up to 2 years under normal conditions to completely fix the infrastructure.”  He further explains what many of us see on the news:  Barbuda had to be evacuated and remains uninhabitable.  Ninety percent of the buildings were damaged in Dutch St. Martin.

Please place your seed order online at www.rareseeds.com.  All proceeds will go to assist hurricane victims from online seed orders only.  Email us your story and contact information at seeds@rareseeds.com for a starter kit if you lost your garden in the hurricane or you know someone who did.  
Thanks so much for helping reach people in the greater Caribbean, both financially and with seeds. Your order today will help get families back on track.

Please share on social media and with your friends and family.

God Bless,

Jere Gettle and The Baker Creek Family

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A goose accident, or not a good day for wussies

It's always something. Yesterday around lunch time I looked outside to see one of the geese sticking its head through the fence to sass the neighbor's cat. Totally normal around here. But then I looked out an hour later and it will still in the corner, just sitting there. Then it stood up and thrashed around and I understood why; it had its head stuck in the fence. I was home alone with a cranky, tired tot and had to call in backup before I could go outside and deal with it.

It wasn't good. Somehow the goose had gotten its head wedged very badly in ordinary 2x4 wire fencing.  There was a large cut to the neck where the fencing was embedded and it was standing in a puddle of blood. It had also cut the top if its bill. I ended up cutting the fence apart to free it.


I washed the wounds, refilled the kiddie pool with clean water and put Blukote on everything. That's the extent of my first aid kit.  It slept most of the day and when I checked on it to make sure the bleeding had stopped I had to ease its head out from under the wing. There was no protesting and I took that as a bad sign.


This morning though it seems to be fine. Eating, honking quietly and even stretching its neck to watch a flock of geese go overhead.

I was so upset when this happened because it seems like such a freak accident that I couldn't prevent.


This is where I cut the fence apart - how on earth did it get stuck so badly? It should have been able to just slip its head right back out of the fence.

If we had been gone for the day that goose would have suffered badly and died from dehydration and blood loss.  This purebred goose is part of a trio that I have some time and money in. And although I have at least one pair out there if I had lost my only male/female it would have been a disaster.

It made me realize how woefully unprepared I am if this situation goes south. In none of my poultry books is there a first aid or "when the shit hits the fan" chapter. I have no idea what antibiotics are safe for geese or the dosage. I did post to an on-line forum asking for advice and was told to "take it to the vet". This isn't a diapered house goose and I'm pretty sure that no one around here would touch poultry anyway.  Worse case senario while I'm competent to kill chickens and ducks all day I have no idea how to put down a goose. I'm not physically strong enough to do it humanely and suppose it would have to be shot.

 Everyday is an adventure and what a way to learn.

Also not for wussies; when I came in from treating the goose I looked out the window.  Whereupon I witnessed a goose getting it on with a duck and the chickens eating all of the bloody grass.  I may have gone blind a little and  immediately texted my husband and asked him to pick up wine on the way home.

This life, I'm telling you. Not for the faint of heart.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Squash harvest 2017



This year's winter squash. I think there are 25 total.

I rummaged through the garden yesterday and harvested all of the winter squash I could find. It really seemed like with as many plants as I set and how thick the vines were there would have been more out there but it doesn't look that way. There might be one or two still hiding in the asparagus patch but that's probably it.  As it is, since the garden was near totally neglected I think we did ok. Plus, look how pretty the porch looks!  I probably should have held off another couple of weeks to pick these but you do what you can with the time you have, right?


These are my favorites. I *think* that they are (on the right) either an immature Long Island Cheese or immature Musquee De Provence, the center one - no idea, the far left grew from seeds saved from that mystery squash bought last fall. 


Very excited about all the Spaghetti Squash, it's delicious with just butter, parmesan and pepper.  The Butternuts are beautiful too.  Am I the only one that finds it impossible to say "Butternuts" with a straight face? Butternuts. Ha!

So I was going through all of my seed packets trying to ID the squashes (since nothing was labeled out there) and found something that made me smack my head. Ugh!


These were growing on a bush plant all summer and since they were right next to the Patty Pans I assumed that they were summer squash and I had planted some fluke seed that didn't breed true.  They had a weird airy texture and so I kept picking them off and feeding them to the chickens.

Apparently those were my Delicata squash and I fed about 20 of them to the chickens.  Makes me want to weep a little.

All in all I think we did ok and I'm grateful to have these to cook with.  This Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Swirl Bread is just amazing and a favorite around here.  I also like to make a soup with winter squash, coconut milk and shrimp.

How does everyone else cook it?