Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fusion = Fancy-Schmancy Leftovers.

I do believe my youngest sister was the first cook to use fusion.  When we were tall enough for our chins to clear the kitchen counters, my mother put us to work.  She made it so much fun, however, that we are still all three very inventive and happy cooks.  To give herself a day off (cleverly disguised as a SPECIAL EVENT), once a month we took turns planning and cooking Sunday dinner.  My middle sister and I were relatively sedate in our selections (although my Lobster Newburg got the kibosh), while the youngest threw herself into Mom's cookbooks with reckless abandon.  Ergo: Swedish Meatballs with Fried Rice.  To Mom's credit (and my father, by default), nothing was ever discouraged (except for the aforementioned lobster dish - too pricey for our limited income).

My lunches are fused to the max with whatever is leftover in the fridge.  Besides my infamous fridge-busting salads, I occasionally break out my tiffin box and make lunch a SPECIAL EVENT.  This means, obviously, that I am bored, bored, bored with salads.

Today's offering is (left to right, clockwise):

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower, Chicken Salad on Lettuce, Kohlrabi Slaw with Avocado Dressing

It's delicious, oddly monochromatic and almost all the ingredients are local to very local.  I am very pleased with my kohlrabi, although it seems to be twice the size recommended for harvest...

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Un-List.

While very little progress has been made on The List, I have been checking off items like mad from the Un-List.

House doors that have been screeching since I moved in 11 years ago?  Check!
Curling veneer on the pseudo-wood bathroom door glued into place?  Check!
Broken handle on the inside of the sliding screen door fixed/MacGyvered?  Check!
Cracked plastic bin full of bits and bobs, sorted into separate tins?  Check!
Brush Slimmie into a state of ecstasy?  Check!

Move pile of llama beans from last winter?  (crickets)
Cleaning of the duck hut?  (see above)
Weeding out the old herb bed?  (more of those noisy insects)
Finish laying the living room floor tiles?  There may be light at the end of that tunnel - it's going on 3 years, so maybe next year....

It seems that all it takes to motivate me is a little aging of the chores - anything that has been broken or neglected for more than four years gets my attention.  What little of that there is.
Large jar of gooseberry jam upper left.
Assorted jam jars of Rhubarb Ginger everywhere

Also not on the list, I managed to squeeze in a little canning - I made some rhubarb ginger jam.  I was also gifted some gooseberry jam!  Since I have amassed enough canned goods to feed a family of six for four years, I am being very judicious with my canning this year - trying to wrestle with that Midwestern 1940 farm wife that I seem to channel every summer.  This year it will be a few select jams (spiced plum, if the local orchard has them), diced tomatoes and pizza sauce.  That is IT.  Well, maybe a few jars of B&B pickles...oh, and apple sauce and mincemeat....
Nice view.

Add caption
I managed to put up the fencing in the back to allow the sheep and llama some fresh grazing.  It's becoming evident that Apria's eyesight is extremely limited.  I need to lead her by voice to new areas.  It's a rather tricky maze of fence and gates, so she is not keen to make the trip too often.  That works fine, as I can feed her hay and grain separately - as long as fathead (aka Norman) does not get wind that grain is in the offing.  The Dirigible (aka Linden) is finally pacing himself.  I was sure he was going to eat until he popped.  I also managed to lose access to my laundry tree in the process, so I dragged my big drying rack out onto the deck and strung a line across the pergola.  We are nothing, if not flexible.

You'll have to bigify to see the little
There has been morning excitement with the meandering herd of wild turkeys.  Bertie and Lovey are glued to the front window.  I managed a breath-takingly boring video of them.

Also checked off the Un-List was my first Cherry Bounce (thanks to Rain...) 
Getting ready to go into hiding
for 40 days.
Up next is homemade cassis with my black currants.  Oh.  Then there's the red currants....guess I had better add them to SOME list!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Feeling Virtuous.

Oh, so virtuous.
I have been trying to pack my lunch every day - I had started down that slippery slope toward, "oh, I so deserve to buy lunch today," but managed to catch myself before too much damage was done.  I don't know about where you all live, but here in Capitaland, lunch easily runs over $8 for something I could definitely make better myself.  It's crazy.

I had picked a handful of kale the night before and decided to make a massaged kale salad with dried cranberries, pepitas, sunflower seeds. and feta cheese.  I discovered a couple pieces of pre-cooked bacon in the freezer and added those - feeling extra virtuous because I had taken a (baby) step towards cleaning out the pantry.  I dressed it with a variation on Sylvie's Dressing, using some strawberry balsamic that my sister had found in the bargain bin.  Delish!

While I was flying high on virtuosity, I decided to tackle two new knitting procedures (to me).  I must have been suffering from temporary insanity.  I managed Judy's Magic Cast On, thanks to painstakingly slow progress to the stop/start of YouTube.  Then on to..knitting a pattern in two colors.  Lawsymercy.  I thought I had chosen a good, useful and easy-ish pattern with which to launch my new challenge.  Frankly, I doubt if there is a pattern created on this Earth that would have been easy enough.

I dutifully shut my office door and turned on some music, so as not to offend tender ears that might pass by during the process.  Well.  Progress was made, but it was, as Bette D. said, a bumpy ride.

I'm looking forward to Friday (for many reasons) but, specifically, because we are going to try to have another go at The Sister Reunion without the power outage.  As I type this, there are severe thunderstorm warnings popping up on my phone.  Let's hope that Ma Nature gets it out of her system before Friday.  Hear that, girlfriend????

Monday, July 10, 2017

Road Trip, Sister Time, Xtreme Weeding and a Lesson in Illogic

(Picture heavy - aren't you shocked???)

Saturday morning, bright and early, I headed to Vermont to meet up with my sister.  We took a road trip to Nashua, NH.  It is a lovely drive, it was a lovely day, and my sister is a lovely traveling companion.  The 3+ hours went by in a flash.  Especially because I wasn't driving...

We stopped in to have brunch with my favorite young family...
Beautiful mother.  Beautiful son.
My nephew was busy cooking and I took the opportunity to snap the beautiful view.  Then my sister took me to some of the hot spots - Marshall's and  her favorite Trader Joe's.  We did some serious damage, but not, surprisingly, to our bank rolls.  I was able to find the elusive TJ's cauliflower GF pizza crusts, so I stocked up.  Then it was a lovely ride back, during which we solved most of the world's problems and laughed hysterically.  I will show you some of my loot in another post - as soon as I figure out what has to go.  You know, the one thing in/one thing out mantra.

I managed to keep forward motion going, so that I was able to drive another 40 minutes home and do evening chores, unload the car, put everything away, pour an adult beverage and collapse in front of a DVD about the Life of Yogananda.  I have been on a documentary binge of late - having watched The Tibetan Book of the Dead (narrated by Leonard Cohen - le sigh - with the worst music ever paired with a movie) and Lawrence of Arabia (documentary) next up.


Sunday morning was glorious, so I skipped the barn baking, fed the farm cats, came home and snapped on my gloves, grabbed my knee pad (sissypants that I am) and headed out to the garden.  Five and a half hours later (with a couple of water breaks), the garden was about 95% weeded and that was good enough for me.  I also picked the last quart of strawberries, cut my garlic scapes and cut the last harvest of rhubarb - more rhubarb juice is needed and rhubarb/ginger jam is on the docket.  As late afternoon arrived, I dragged my weary self in and made a mushroom/onion/cheese/bacon quiche because, you know, eggs.  I find that, if I keep moving, I can carry on a good hour or so after I have decided I cannot take one more step.

While out in the garden, scootching around each bed on my trusty knee pad, I finally had to face the fact that I had kohlrabi and not collards.  I had planted collard seeds, which did not germinate (a problem with many of the seeds this year), so had to buy collard seedlings.  I had, in fact, bought kohlrabi seedlings.  Yet, I persevered in the collard vein, even having stuck the little plant marker (clearly marked KOHLRABI) next to the seedlings as I planted them.  It has now reached the point where I cannot kid myself.  While I had my heart set on collards, I am not adverse to kohlrabi.  Good thing.

Here is a pictorial tour of the garden ala LLF.  Warts and all:

Squash plants are doing well.
Chipmunkanator to the right...

Cukes starting up their trellis.
They've started to flower already.

Poor bean germination

Anyone know what causes the
yellowing of the leaves?  Waxed beans
are more affected than green.

Onions to the left.  Third planting of
beets - such as they are - to the right.
A fourth planting is in order.

Potato row

Peppers, eggplant and volunteer kale

L-R Shallots, garlic and a very
healthy lemon verbena

Basil to the left front; the rest are tomatoes

Kale to the right, collards/kohlrabi
on the left
Zero germination of chard on the far left

Bigify to see the large bulge
at the base of my "collards". 
Herb bed

Three types of sage:
top left: purple
center: pineapple
bottom: regular

Enjoying the tidiness while I can.

Next up:  blueberries and
You will notice a preponderance of purslane in the beds.  I am up to my elbows in purslane and cannot bring myself to pull it out.  Instead, I put it in my salads.  Speaking of which - well, sort of - I had jabbed my hand with a piece of wire fencing and it was bleeding like a son-of-a-gun.  I did not want to stop what I was doing and go all the way into the house for first aid, so I stood outside and looked around, thinking, "What would Kristina do?"  I found some plantain and muddled it up and stuck it on the wound.  The bleeding stopped and I carried on until I was able to get inside to wash and bandage it (using some of my calendula ointment).  Bring on the apocalypse!  I am ready!

Flowers are also gracing the homestead:
I love my bee balm - it looks like the
color was painted on in watercolors

Enjoying the lilies until the deer
discover them

More lilies
The focal point of the pergola, thanks to Joyce of Octoberfarm, is a beautiful mirror chain.  It sends bright spots of sunlight dancing all over the deck, through the door, into the house.  It fascinates the puss, the dogs, and makes me happier every time I see it.  The picture doesn't do it justice, but it is a work of art.
Hummingbird mirror chain
And last, but not least, I leave you with The Yam in his favorite position:
No matter where he is lying, a leg is propped up.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


How on Earth did it morph into Wednesday?!  I swear I was awake most of the last four days, so I couldn't have missed this holiday weekend, could I?

Snort.  Friday started the whole downhill motion with an overnight guest that arrived over three hours early.  I thought I was so smart and had sidled out of the office at four - plenty of time to get home (picking up a few groceries and cat food) and put the finishing touches on my housecleaning.  Oh, I just slay myself sometimes.  As if two hours would put even the smallest of beginnings of barely touching it touches on my housecleaning...  Just as I toddled out of the store to my car, I got a text that my friend was, in fact, three hours early and sitting outside of the house.  Cheese and Crackers!

Luckily, the dogs were so overjoyed to see not only me, but COMPANY, that they herded him right out the back door and I was able to run a quick eye over everything.  It was good enough.  This friend has retired (lucky him) and has ramped up his photography hobby into something special.  He had just been on a wildlife adventure on an island off the coast of Maine, photographing puffins and other sea birds.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), the next morning - bright and early - I was due to take the Nuggets to Freezer Camp.  Oddly enough, he declined to join me and was packed and in his car, backing quickly down the driveway before 7A.

That same morning, I was out doing morning chores like a mad person as soon as it was light enough to see what I was doing.  As luck would have it, the building super at my office, had mentioned offhandedly that his wife would like to learn how to process chickens.  Not getting that request every day (or ever), I was on it like white on rice.  They are both dog rescuers, have numerous dogs - many with special needs.  S&C showed up right on the dot and helped me load the Nuggets into their travel crates.  While we were getting things set up, S asked if there was anything that needed done, as he had put his tools in the car.  I tried to be nonchalant, but I believe I was radiating excitement.  He replaced the light outside my front door in about 10 minutes.  The ice had almost sheared it off this past winter and I, as all country bumpkins do, had tied it up with baling twine.  We headed over to my neighbor's house, aka Freezer Camp, and proceeded to process all 16 birds in under an hour and a half.  Even with the fast pace, the heat and humidity and threatening skies took its toll.  I was dragging at the end.  However, I had to go home, change and head north.  By the time all my errands were over, I was very Life of The Living Dead and looking forward to an early night.

Unfortunately, at the LLC, no one gets to go to bed until the ducks are ready to call it a night.  And Saturday night, they were downright inconsiderate.  I finally gave up at 10P, when the skies opened up and it poured.  I wasn't too worried, as they were contained in their enclosure, within the chicken yard.  At 1:31AM, I was blasted out of sleep by frantic quacking - I shot out of bed, turned on the light, jumped into my shoes and grabbed the flashlight and the .22 as I catapulted out of the back door.  There was nothing.  Nothing at all, except for four waddling ducks looking annoyed by the wavering beam of my flashlight.  Needless to say, I was unable to return to sleep.  On Sunday, an alarmingly small number of items got checked off The List.  It was all I could do to keep my eyes open.  I was extremely happy when the ducks cooperated and were in their hut by 9:30.  I got a blissful seven hours of sleep.

Monday was for pies and housecleaning, as I was having the gang over on the Fourth and had to make two pies for the local library's big fundraiser.  Thinking I would save myself from slaving over a hot oven all day, I decided to make strawberry chiffon pies for the library, and a coconut cream pie for the 'do'.  What the heck was I thinking?  Between the stirring, chilling, more stirring, more chilling, I lost the entire day!  The coconut cream pie didn't even make it into the fridge until 9:15PM.  I have come to realize that I am not big on entertaining anymore.  I don't mind a small get-together, but this was 10 people and it did nothing but stress me out.  (Don't laugh, Joyce....)  By the time everyone left, it was time for evening chores, loading the dishwasher, washing, sorting, putting away extra chairs.

And then it was Wednesday.  I am in need of some time off from my time off.

Slimbo has the right idea

I love his white chin

He has a white bulls-eye on his chest.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Snap Crackle Creak

We're on a roll.

Saturday, my DS and I went on the next of our 'adventures'.  This one involved a whole lotta driving with swag at the end.  She had never seen one of my lists, so was quite taken aback to see the size of it.  I did have to confess that Everything was included on that list - sort of a stream of unconsciousness listing.  In order, we:

Hit my local Trader Joe's (local in less than two hours away).
Hit Marshalls, where we did some damage.
Hit JoAnn Fabrics, where I did some damage.
Hit the Asian Supermarket, where we spent way too much time, wandering the aisles, oohing and aahing.

L-R oyster mushrooms, fresh rice vermicelli, GF soy
sauce, toasted sesame oil, baby bok choi, Asian sweet potato
It was dangerous, going into that market - we hadn't had time for lunch.  They have a wide a dazzling array of fresh produce, a lot of which I have never heard.  I couldn't resist a pound of fresh oyster mushrooms for 4.49/lb and a pound of baby bok choi for 2.29!  We vowed to make a separate trip back.

By the time I had dropped her off and driven home from VT, I was bushed!  I managed to do chores and make dinner, and pick two more gallons of strawberries!

Up to 4.5 gallons picked
I was too tired to do much with them, other than wash them.  On Sunday moring, springing (snap, crackle, creak) out of bed at the crack of dawn, I made a grain-free fruit crisp with fresh strawberries and frozen blueberries.  I then hard-boiled a dozen duck eggs because, well, because.  I'm going to have to get more creative with eggs.  The ducks had been off laying in another hidden nest - which I can't find, for the life of me! - so I have been putting them under lock and key in their own yard.  They are not happy about it, but it beats stumbling upon a nest with six dozen eggs at some point at the end of summer!

I made some sun tea and put it in my new dispenser (part of my Marshall's haul)!  Which turned out to be a piece of junk - at least the spout is.  I wondered why it was so cheap.... Luckily, I found a replacement tap online, so I am hoping that it works and that I can actually use it.

The only thing I like right now,
is that it is a good size - 1 gal.
I also fed the farm cats and visited with my Jasmine, dropped of baked goods and shared gossip with the farmer.  And trotted home with a milk can of fresh milk!  This is a perfect size - it holds exactly one gallon and one quart.  That was enough for two batches of Mama Pea's cottage cheese and a quart of yogurt.

While the cheese was 'cheesing', I went outside and tackled a few of the items on The List.  Laundry was washed and hung on the line.  I started to re-sink the posts on the ducks' enclosure, but I kept hitting rock.  I am going to have to reconfigure the fencing.  I also 'hilled' the potatoes, meaning I added another tire and filled it with compost.  I was one tire short, so I had to improvise on the last one with a length of plastic fencing.  We'll see how it does.  I moved my small, short bird bath into the front garden, and exchanged it for a larger, graceful one that I got for an outrageously low price from my friend, Nancy.  She had a vintage/antique business for years and is now in the process of drastic downsizing so they can sell their house and move to Cape Cod. 

 I did some weeding, but there is so much still to do.  Before I collapsed, I took a few shots of the garden - weeds and all.  There's much more to do, but we are making progress. 

Red currants are coming!

Beans - note spotty germination.  But, really,
how many bean plants does one
person need?

Onions.  I planted them closer than
usual, because I use every other one for

Two-tier-tire potato plants in foreground,
with jerry-rigged extension in
background.  Bintjas.

Weedy pepper bed with volunteer


Three kinds of squash
Things are coming along.  The trouble is, everything needs weeding and I don't have the focus to stay with one bed until it's finished.  This results is the chicken-without-a-head approach that doesn't do much good.  I have been working on the two beds in the front of the house, as it dawned on me that my entryway looks like crap, to be blunt.  I had pulled out the barberry bushes, covered it with weed cloth, and put just enough wood mulch on it to hold it down.  Then promptly forgot it existed.  Which is no easy task, as I have to walk by it at least twice a day.  I started to develop the raised bed on the parallel side of the front walk.  It is about half done.  You can see where this is heading - then there is the flower bed in the back, which is about one-third done, and the old herb bed which is completely taken over by mint.  I'd clone myself, if it wouldn't be unfair to the world to have two of me in it.  There always seems to be some interruption...

Last night, as I was taking down my laundry and heading in to make dinner, there was a big barney in the hoop house.  As I glanced over, I saw the big, bully rooster chasing a slightly smaller rooster out of the door and into the fence.  Which zapped the poor guy.  Who then lost his pea-sized mind and started racing from corner to corner, bully in close pursuit, getting zapped at every turn.  I high-tailed it down, rescued the reeling roo and then turned the stink eye on the bully.  He shot out of the fence and I managed to corral him and get him by one leg.  I then heaved him over the fence, where he landed with a splat on the ground.  That knocked the starch out of him for quite a while.  By the time I was ready to close them up for the night, he had recovered and was sidling back inside.  Hah, I thought.

This morning, he was at it again, so I grabbed him by two legs and hauled him into the duck yard and into the isolation unit.  Where he will stay until he goes off to Freezer Camp next Saturday.  Honestly.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Acting my age. That would be my imagined age.

It's so interesting to look in the mirror.  I am often taken by surprise and left wondering who is staring back at me!  In my mind, I am in my 30s - maybe early 40s (my favorite years).  Someone forgot to let the old broad in the mirror in on the secret.

Along with age comes all sorts of 'benefits'.  You get to fill your weeks with appointments for 'preventative' check-ups and procedures.  One of my favorites is the colonoscopy.  It's right up there with major dental surgery without the benefit of Novocain.  After putting it off for 11+ years (it took that long to almost forget my first one), I was brow-beaten into having another yesterday.  By far, the worst part is the prep.  You also lose two days of your young life.  I suffered through Wednesday and then was driven to the medical center early yesterday with a caffeine-withdrawal headache and a bad attitude.  I will spare you the details because, you know, TMI.

The colonoscopist (or whatever they're called) was a rather charming older man with a well-practiced bedside manner.  The nurses were adorable and we got into a lively discussion on all things poultry (one grew up on a dairy farm and the other has always had ducks).  During the follow-up session, my true, adolescent colors shone true.

Doctor M.  - "Because of the polyp (I had one small, lousy polyp) and your sister's polyps, you need to have this done every five years."

Me - "And who's going to make me?  I won't be able to forget how much I hate it in five years.  I can't take it.  Who's idea was the prep work, anyway?  The Marquis de Sade?"

Doctor M. - "See you in five years."

Me - "Don't forget to take a good picture, 'cause you ain't seeing it again..."

Doctor M.  Eye roll.

I had a giant cup of coffee on the way home - which did have some calming effect on my nerves.  Then I laid about the house and whined for a while.  All under the watchful eyes of Nurse Lovey and Nurse Bert.

Nurse Lovey keeping a safe distance
until Mom's coffee kicks in.
Mr. Knows Something is Up.
Trying to do my best to guarantee that there would be nothing but healthy pink colon in my future (TMI????), I eased my way back into the land of the nourished with a broccoli quiche.  My neighbor had given me a nice, smallish head of broccoli from his garden and, you know, I have a few eggs lying around.  My new, better self also had a green smoothie for breakfast this morning - frozen chopped pineapple, fresh strawberries, a frozen banana, half a small frozen avocado, a good fistful of kale from the garden and water.  I felt absolutely virtuous.

In my ready-made GF pie crust
because I was recovering and faint and...
Thanks to the plentiful rain (although too much rain does take its toll on flavor) and the mid-summer like temps, the strawberry bed is over-producing.  It could also have something to do with the fact that I squeezed 50 plants into a 4x8 bed.  If nothing else, there are so many strawberries that the chipmunks can't keep up with them - I actually have two gallons of berries in the fridge!