Monday, July 28, 2014

Downpours, dog pee, recipe overload and more chaos.

I had taken Thursday and Friday off - parental doctor appointments and such - so I had a nice, long weekend.  At the conclusion of which I have decided that I am not allowed to have another until I have a good, long talk with myself and actually listen this time. 

I did get to meet a fascinating woman who lives fairly close to me - she generously shared her kefir grains with me (Don't ask me about mine.  Don't.)  She also gave me a tour.  I follow her on FB, as much as I follow anything on FB.  She is a terrific writer - great, dry sense of humor and a clever way with words.  She is an ex-Canadian opera singer who now raises chickens and dairy goats.  It doesn't get better than that.

I also decided that, having all this free time (hahahaha), I would tackle some recipes that I've been dying to try.  Here's the recap:

Homemade corn tortillas - I've been dragging my virginal tortilla press around with me for years.  I found an easy recipe and gave them a shot.  Result:  dough too wet; no fun standing next to a hot stove with a hot griddle in the summer.  This will be a Fall/Winter project.  The tortillas were pretty tasty, though.

Vegan Coconut, Almond, Chocolate Ice Cream - I believe I am going through my coconut phase right now, having discovered no less than six coconut-milk-based recipes in my "must try" file.  Result:  Meh. 

Stuffed Zucchini - Made in honor of Kay on her birthday (Friday), as she was always asking me to "let one go" in my garden so she could stuff it.  Result:  I loved the recipe and then discovered that I had only half of the ingredients.  So, I can't really say if it was good.  The 'recipe' I used was great.

Fresh Corn Quiche with a Tortilla Crust - Hey!  I just happened to have corn tortillas... :)  Result:  I think I overdid it with the corn.  The center seemed to be done, but was too liquid-y.  The rest of it was delish! 

I also made another batch of kombucha and got my new kefir going.  All in all, it was way too much activity - even for me.  I was beating myself with a damp buckwheat noodle all day on Sunday. 

Sunday - it POURED.  And thundered.  And lightninged.  A tiny, dim bulb went off in my head about mid-way through the day that I had not propped up the tarp over the Nuggets' encampment.  I high-stepped out and was just in time to prop my old Fiberglas clothesline pole under the mid-point.  Saved!!  Not.  This morning, after 3+ inches of rain, the pole bent in half, the tarp filled with water and it pulled down the enclosure, snapping boards in half.  I managed to clear it enough to get into the coop to feed and water them.  Another little surprise item to add to my to-do list.  Sigh.

With all this rain, no one of the canine species was much interested in relieving themselves outside.  However, Scrappy and Lovey would rather cross their knees than go inside - especially when they know I could catch them.  Pepper, however, being a doxie, has no qualms.  He peed three times.  He is settling in very nicely and loves to play 'fierce' with Lovey.  Lovey, as her name suggests, is a dear and is very gentle with him.  When he has had enough, he yelps at her and she stops.  I have been trying to get a video of the process - it's a hoot.

I put the electronet up so that the sheep could enjoy the regrowth on the hillside.  This was great for Saturday, but I pulled the plug on them on Sunday - too much lightning.  And rain.  I did managed to scoot out and pick three quarts of beans and discovered a giant cucumber.  How does that happen?? Every year - no matter how often and thoroughly I check the vines - one drops under my radar.  And why are the cukes ripening and the tomatoes not?  What wacky misfire of nature is this?  Get it together, Ma Nature!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Let the canning begin!

I'm now trying to come up with new recipes for preserving the abundaces.  I figure this way I can justify my canning mania every year.  Last year: peaches in light syrup.  This year: spiced pickled peaches.  Every year: no matter how fully packed I make the peaches in the jars, they are always floaters by the end.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Green Report.

This has been a pretty amazing gardening year - other than the usual onslaught of slugs, snails, Japanese beetles, potato bugs, and assorted rodent overruns - everything, except the summer squash, dammit - has been doing well.

When I ran out of room and all my whining couldn't loosen up another spot in my neighbor's garden, I stuck my remaining Hubbard squash plant, along with a couple of butternut seedlings, in my cow manure pile.  I leave this pile where it's delivered, untouched, for two years.  Then I mine it!  I think the squash likes its location.

This close up shows the squash
vining right up the tree!
A first for me this year, fennel, is coming along nicely.  This is the first one to bulb out.  Out of the six I planted, five formed bulbs, while one did it's own thing. 

I should be able to take the garlic off their rope hangers this weekend to make room for the Big Daddys.  Which are harvesting themselves, apparently.  I have green and yellow beans coming on, while all five hundred cukes are plotting to grow to usable size at the same moment.  Time to dust off the canner!

Monday, July 21, 2014

I'll take a small Pepperoni to go, please...

There are two things in this world that I cannot resist - a man in a kilt and a dachshund.  Or any dog, for that matter.  Should a kilted man arrive at my door bearing a dachshund (or any dog), I would be putty in his hands.  While no kilted man figures into my story, my favorite rescue group contacted me last week about a dog that needed placing.  Yes, it was a dachshund.  A 13 year old, 13 pound male, long-haired dachshund to be exact.  (Did I ever mention that 13 is my lucky number?  No?)  His name was --- Pepperoni.  I will admit that very few rescue groups come up with good names for their charges (Lovey is an exception), but his name is a real clinker.  It was NOT created by my rescue group - he was surrendered to a shelter where someone creatively (read: not) laid that moniker on him.

In my own defense, I did hesitate.  Then I agreed to meet him and, well, my heart lurched this way and that, a large, pink cloud of maternal warmth rose up around me, my melatonin levels elevated and it was over in a second.

It is a foster doomed to failure.

I'm going to call him Schatzie (roughly translated from the German for "Little Treasure" or "Little Sweetheart"). 

Ain't he cute?
Seeing as my life seems to be open to continual chaos (so my friend, Jane says, and it's true), I brought him home Friday, after a brief but busy stay at the vet's - raging UTI, neuter, 11 teeth extracted - to meet the crew.  As is always my custom, we first introduced everyone by taking a nice, long, smell-infused walk down my road.  It went well.  Then we came inside and Schatzie began his introductions by humping both dogs whenever and wherever he could.  He apparently was brought up in a monastery.  Scrappy was not amused, Lovey thought he was kidding.  No one got much sleep that night.  Things calmed down exponentially the next day, and we are gradually working into our slightly revised routine.  Did I also mention that I had to move the Nuggets from my laundry room (hallelujah!) to the small coop, and get ready for overnight guests?  Chaos is my middle name.

It was a very fun-filled weekend, chaos or not.  Friends from Central NY, who I have not seen in ages, were wonderful.  They were the breeders of my original Icelandic sheep, and are dog whisperers.  That turned out to be very helpful.  We had a ball - non-stop talking, dinner out, more talking.  Then Schatzie met my parents (giving Scrappy and Lovey a rest), my two tweenie chicks learned to put themselves to bed at night (hallelujah again!), Lovey was left out of her crate multiple times when I drove off and nothing got shredded (hallelujah yet again!), I got my currants picked, grape vines covered in netting, chicks all sorted, laundry done, and harvested my first broccoli from my plants in my garden extension (a corner of my neighbor's garden).  It was a very satisfying weekend.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


I have had the good fortune to fall into (not literally, as they have thorns and it would make me cry) about 8 cups of gooseberries!  I have never worked with them before, but I would like to make something (or things) with them - jam?  jelly?  pie?

Do you have any gooseberry advice for me?  Recipes?  I will invite you all over for dessert!

(She says, confident in the fact that no one will show up and she will not have to share....)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Those pesky problem areas...

And I am not talking about cottage cheese thighs.   Although I could. 

These are areas in the house that never stay organized.  I have - ahem - more than one, but there are a few that are chronic problems.

Case in point:

The biggest cause of the endless clutter is that I have no between-space (between the outside and inside), no garage, and very little storage space.  When I need to grab my stirrup hoe, I tend to leave it where I can get my hands on it quickly - because I will, unfailingly, forget that I need it within a nanosecond.  So it goes just inside the deck door.  Ditto with the deck broom, the pellet gun, bits of lumber, the string trimmer, towels for the dog, clothespin holder, halters, leads, rain jacket, egg basket, binoculars, pellets, empty pots, Yaktraks (eek) from winter, etc.

I'll get a bee in my bonnet and put everything back where it's supposed to be, leaving only my pellet gun, pellets, egg basket and binoculars.  Within a couple of days, it's all back.

Do you have a system that works?  Will you share?

Monday, July 14, 2014

New Obsessions.

Just what I need, right?  I have been listening to Jacques Pepin's autobiography, "The Apprentice", on cds for a week.  I end up ravenous at each end of the journey - and last Friday, I landed at home with an overwhelming urge to go foraging in the woods, take a net and catch fish, make the ultimate consume', honestly, I would have chewed rocks...

Fortunately, there are immediate chores to be done and I was able to divert my mind to letting the dogs out.  Then I changed into barn clothes, sorted the mail, gathered eggs, fed the dogs, gave the cats treats, fed the sheep.  By then I had calmed down.  I mean to say, however, Jacques SPOKE TO ME. 

So I made red lentil baked falafels.  And discovered a new obsession.  Since these particular falafels take two days (an overnight soaking of the red lentils), I didn't discover this obsession until breakfast Saturday morning.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  I had six for breakfast and forced myself to package the rest and freeze them.  (Updated to include the link to BOTH recipes!)

Finally!  A falafel that is not deep-fried!
Holey Cast Iron Goodness, Batman!
Sunday morning I stumbled across another soon-to-be-obsession - Blueberry Cornbread.  As a friend recently noted, I tend to put blueberries in the strangest things (remember blueberry sauerkraut?  which was delicious, by the way)  I am sure that the stick of butter contained in this cornbread had nothing whatsoever to do with how amazingly, completely, overwhelmingly spectacular this was.  When I find myself going, "ooooh, num, num, num," every time I take a bite of something, I know I will make it many times again.  The cornbread is very healthy (except for the butter and a scant quarter cup of brown sugar) so I was easily coerced into eating three pieces.  Then I quickly trotted off to the dairy barn with most of the rest of it - while some when into the freezer as well.  It was met with raves at the barn - always a plus.