Thursday, August 29, 2013

Holy Spud-nik, Batman! and It's Not the Size that Matters.

One of the gardening jobs that I checked off the list was to dig the potatoes.  The plants had long gone brownish and flopped over, so off I went down Potato Row, as it is know on the LLF.  It was an interesting harvest.  I buy all my seed potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm in Maine.  They are organic, small, family-run, fiercely against Monsanto and the other Goliaths, and their products (potatoes) are wonderful.  The only problems I have ever had were entirely my fault, or the fault of Father Nature.  So.  As you all know, I plant potatoes pretty much Hillbilly Style - in tires.  I have been experimenting with the Potato Bag and, other than the fact that I actually have to buy them (as opposed to all the free tires I could possibly want), I prefer them - the harvest is the same, if not slightly better, and all you do is dump them over and pick out your potatoes.

I tried some new varieties this year, one of them being a trial organic Russet.  Imagine my surprise when I dug up this baby from Tire #7!

For extra dramatic effect, I used a
grape tomato as a size reference.  Pretty cool, no?

This year, the reds did not do as well as the Bliss and other yellow skinned/fleshed potatoes.  The    did amazingly well, producing almost 8 lbs from 1 lb of seed.  To be fair to the reds, they were pretty much neglected this year as the weeds overwhelmed during the endless blistering heat, and the yellows were more closely planted, so they maintained moisture.  That is my story and I'm sticking to it.  All in all, the total harvest from 6 lbs of seed potatoes was just under 15 lbs.  Not bad.  That will carry me well into winter.

This morning I managed to get out of the door to start chores earlier than I have of late.  This gave me some time to stand and watch the shenanigans in the poultry yard.  Roquefort continues to blossom into a handsome rooster - he's got his "Elvis" almost down, and continues to show a non-aggressive front.  His crow needs polish.  It seems as if he's auditioning - besides the regular "OffWithHerHead", there is the "OffWithHerHead" followed by a gargle.  Neither is very impressive.  But we have hopes.

Then there is Chadwick.  He's the other resident rooster, the Golden Sebright.  Not only was he a precocious little cockerel, but he is not daunted by the size of the hen.  No siree.  And he doesn't waste a lot of time on the "Elvis", preferring to get down to business.  And he's fast!  He's given me the stink eye a few times, but is smart enough to realize I outweigh him.  While I was standing and admiring the variety of colors and personalities, Roquefort sashayed into the coop to get some breakfast.  The next thing I knew, he shot out of the hen door as if propelled by a cannon!  Right on his heels was Chadwick, who chased him from one end of the yard to another.  Apparently, Roquefort has not figured out that he is four times the size of Chadwick; who, after making his point, stalked back into the coop.  Poor Roquefort.

I just can't wait to see how Chadwick will react when the turkeys (Tiny and Alice and Squeak) are let out to graze.  Should be another interesting day on the LLF.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Now, where was/am I?

I swear these long weekends are going to be the death of me.  It started out with a distress call from a friend on Friday afternoon - I had to zip home, change and zip up to her farm to do her evening chores.  Then I came home and did mine.  Then up to VT for a few quick chores and lunch and check-in with the folks.  Then ... then .... well, I don't remember the rest of Saturday, other than it involved feverish working in the garden and cutting a second door in the goat barn.  Then Sunday.  Shoot.  Don't remember much of that either.  I do recall hauling my dead dryer out, finding that a cattail had poofed to death behind it ~~ that was an interesting pile o' stuff ~~ and then there was some other building of something.  Hmmm.   Scrappy has whiplash, watching me go in and out of the door.

I did try and tackle some of the weeds and ripe produce in the garden.  This led to harvesting the rest of the summer squash (15#) and then ripping the vines out.  Strictly out of self-defense.  Yesterday was a day off and I did some chicken yard work in between rain showers, shredded all of the summer squash and squeezed it dry, took Bernie to the vet, swept the floors, vacuumed, cleaned out the laundry room, and played the Veggie Fairy, leaving my neighbor's mailbox stuffed full of cukes, tomatoes and a couple of squash.  Heehee.  You do have to be careful of your timing whilst using the INMDS (inter-neighborhood-mailbox-delivery-system.)  If you deliver too early, you run the risk of using up all the space and their mail can't be delivered.  Or, in the case of an interim mail person - one who is not accustomed to the INMDS - they think the vegetables (or whatever) is for THEM. 

It looks as though my chickens are going through their moult very early this year - as a matter of fact, it's over a month earlier than last year's moult.  Which was earlier than the year before.  I spent a great deal of time wondering if this augers something vis a vis the oncoming winter.  You know, like the pattern of stripes on caterpillars.  I wonder about such deep subjects while I am sweeping and vacuuming up the nonending piles and drifts of cat/dog hair that appear with alarming frequency on my floors.  Hmmm.  I wonder if the alarming piles of cat/dog hair auger an early winter?  A short summer?  World peace?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

You know you live in Booneyville when...

potential house guests offer to nip you out to dinner at your best local restaurant as a reward for you letting them stay in the country.  When you get off the floor (having collapsed from laughter) you give them the options:  Biker Bar Restaurant/Pizza Place/Pizza Place/Soft Serve Stand.

the people you refer to as "neighbors" live more than a mile away.

you are late to work because your neighbor's calf got separated from his mama and was in the middle of the road, where you had to come to a full stop, then pull over and put your blinkers on, then shoo the little dogie in a zig-zag pattern a quarter mile down the road and up their driveway, where his frantic mother is bellowing.  You then retrace your steps (without the zig-zag) and call your neighbor about his loose calf.  This is the same neighbor who will NEVER answer their phone even though you know they are home.  So you leave a nice message and drive to work.

90% of the highway (using the term loosely) crew are related to each other.  And none of them know what they're doing.

you stop for a deer; a porcupine, a hen turkey and her poults, another deer, another deer, a groundhog (yes, I stopped), and another turkey within two miles of home.

you don't bother getting the local newspaper because you can find out the REAL news by going to the dairy farm down the road when the older members of the farm have gathered to "help" the farmer (meaning opening the door of their respective pickups - all red Fords - and jawing for hours).

you open your mailbox to find:  your mail; a pint of maple syrup made by a neighbor with a thank you note for the vegetables you left in HIS mailbox; your t-shirt borrowed by another neighbor, washed and dried, with a thank you note as well.

I L.O.V.E. Booneyville.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fast slow food.

There are many reasons that preserving, canning, freezing, drying food for future use will come in handy.  There could be an power outage.  (Check)  There could be a major snow storm (Check)  The Martians could invade (er...)  Zombies could take over (eek....)  Or, you could just be too lazy and disorganized to actually pre-plan a meal (CHECK). 

Okay, granted it's not a pretty picture.  But if you
squint (alot), it looks almost edible!

My dinner last night was an interesting mix of frozen and canned - zucchini fritters (frozen) over rice (left over refrigerated) topped with salsa (home canned).  It was good and fast - 'cause I had the oven going anyway and was able to fast-thaw the fritters.

Lunch today is vege burger* (frozen - homemade) over mashed spuds (frozen - homemade).  This works because they are tossed in my lunch bag frozen, and are pretty much thawed by lunch time at the office.  Plus, there is a micro at the office, so it is the only time I use one.  Usually, I am more together on the organizational front, and heat it on the stove at home, transfer it to my metal lunch box, and it is still warm by the time I eat it.  I figure, I do the best that I can.  And if the Twinkies and fast food I scarfed down in my misspent youth haven't killed me by now, I will chance the occasional zapped foodstuffs.

I rest my case.

*Another one of those - "Gee, that looks good!  I think I'll make it!"  Over two days later, it was done.  Never to be replicated in my kitchen.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Bantys step up to the plate.

I have a sneaking suspicion that moulting season will be early this year.  Why?  Could it be the ankle deep piles of feathers in the coop?  The piles of feathers in the chicken yard that have me frantically re-counting my flock members every afternoon?  The fact that, with a pin-head count of 26, I only got ONE lousy egg yesterday?  Could be....

Thank goodness for my precocious bantams.  Not only did Chadwick start crowing and 'doing the Elvis' at a very early age (much to the shock and horror of the banty hens, I might add), but it looks like the little darlings are also precocious layers! 

Regular size on top.
Come to think of it, given the ratio of egg
size : banty hen size...

Now, all I need are eight more and I can make an omelet!

Monday, August 19, 2013

My dryer died. HURRAY! And the rest of my weekend.

The mere fact that I was happy to go back to work should tell you how the weekend went.  Friday was supposed to be a day where I got lots and lots done, and had plenty of time to prepare the meal for Girls' Night Dinner.  The best laid plans....

I did get to pick peaches early that morning with Melanie, who is going through a very rough patch getting her husband through the morass of the medical institution.  What an eye-opener.  I tell you what - if I ever face hospitalization or any medical emergency, I want Melanie in my corner.  She is fierce.  She is relentless.  She is an amazing force for the care of those she loves.

Then I dropped something off with Kay's husband and the half-hour visit morphed to two hours.  It has been, is and will be rough for him.  And all of us.

Then I had to get home and whip my dirty house into shape, along with putting together the complex meal I had planned.  That's what I get for being a show-off.  Many moons ago, in one of my earlier former lives, I was quite the gourmet cook.  If the process was French and complicated - I was all over it!  I discovered Ballotine of Chicken and there was no looking back.  Of course, I was younger and had more time and energy back then.  Fast forward to now, and I have less energy and if my time was any tighter it would be a girdle.  Luckily, I still have my special little poultry knife and the original diagrams.  So I (none too) quickly boned a whole roasting chicken (9+lbs) into one whole fillet, which was then stuffed with ricotta, chard, onions, fresh sage, and an egg for binding.  This is then rolled up, tied and roasted, basted with butter.  My original recipe calls for a 'mousse' made with pureed chicken breast, seasonings and an egg for binding; then pistachios and strips of ham are placed in it, it's rolled, tied and roasted - creating a lovely geometric pattern when sliced.  I opted for the fast, slow food option.

Dinner was great - then I was up and at 'em to get dinner ingredients together to tote up for my dad's 91st birthday celebration with a few close friends and family.  Then back home.  Then up and at 'em Sunday to reclean the house and get dinner together for my parents and aunt, who were coming down to see the farm.  Then I collapsed.

There were a few high points this weekend:  my dryer died.  Hallelujah!  The Ameracauna chicks went into their coop by themselves!  Halle-hotdamn-lujah!!!

As for the dead dryer celebration, I have had this dryer since I moved in.  I got it on freecycle and it has run without a hitch for almost 8 years.  I can't complain.  But I don't WANT a dryer.  I hang my clothes out three out of four seasons, with an occasional hang-out during winter if I can.  The rest of the time I use my drying racks.  And I happen to like crunchy towels.  So there.  This means I can pull the dryer out and give it to a neighbor for scrap, then put shelves up in its place.  A much better use of the space.

And, as any true homesteader can tell you, having even one step taken out of your evening chores is cause for celebration.  For over two weeks, I have had to go out every night and catch the four Ameracaunas and toss them into their coop.  Every stinkin night.  Last night, I sighed and grabbed my butterfly net and trudged out.  They were in!  Woot!  Now, if the turkeys would just take the hint.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

His Sheepiness.

Here is Norman in his new coat.  Fascinating stuff, no?  Had to take these with my phone camera, since I managed to leave my precious REAL camera in Melanie's car. 

I thought he looked kind of thin in the first picture, but not so, when viewed from the back(side).  This coat is large enough to last him through most of the winter, I think.  Just in case, I have the next size up.  Don't want him walking around in a girdle.

Don't threaten me with that apple, lady...

Trimming the fence line.

Monday, August 12, 2013


This was the weekend of the Fruit.  Friday was planned to be our annual blueberry pickathon, but a steady downpour ( bumped it to Saturday morning.  Marianne couldn't join us, so Melanie and I drove off at the crap of dawn on the hour-long drive up to the blueberry farm.  It was a perfect day for blueberry picking - clear skies, gentle breeze, low humidity. 

I managed to break my all-time record in 2011 of 12 lbs of berries.  I picked 15.2# of blueberries off of five bushes!  We then drove down to Marianne's to relieve her poor, over-burdened plum tree of plums - another 8# joined the blues.  Then there were the pears.  Another 8#.  Then there were the three 5-gallon buckets of apple falls from my neighbor, Nancy's tree.

I suppose it's rather obvious what I did all weekend, right?  I managed to freeze all the blueberries and dry a good portion of the plums.  I also discovered zucchini fritters, which had me in the kitchen most of the weekend.  Poor me.  :)

I am in the process of going through the apple falls.  The gnarly ones are going to the sheep, llama, goats and chickens.  Norman is afraid of apples so far.

And speaking of the lad, we (I) had a regular sheep rodeo yesterday.  Normie's coat was chafing - they outgrow them as their fleece grows in volume - so it was time to put him in a larger size.  It wasn't pretty.  I thought that getting the old one off would be more difficult than putting the new one on.  Not so.  It also was very clear that Norman is no Icelandic sheep, those nice, short, 'fluffy' sheep.  No, Norman is all legs and bucking bronco.  Thank god for tree cover so that no one was subjected to the spectacle we created.  I did, however, prevail in both cases and he is sporting a new, clean, sage-green coat with ample growth room.  His previous owner has entered his fleece in the county fair, so I am excited to see how it does.  It looks wonderful!

In the process of cleaning, freezing and packaging all those blueberries, a few broke free of their bonds and ended up on the kitchen floor.  Where I stepped on them and dragged them around.  All over my nice, clean kitchen rug.  Sigh.  BUT WAIT!!!  I had forgotten about UFO #46 -- yes, it's still an UFO, but it's finished state is now within view. 

It works out to 3 squares down, by 5 squares across

Should be colorful! (And easier to hide
smooshed blueberries...)
I had forgotten all about #46 until I stumbled across the squares I had finished.  I decided to finish one a night until I had enough (15) and then Melanie came over on a Sunday night and we worked out the pattern.  Now all I have left to do is to steam each square and lash them together.  Piece of cake.  It should only take me until 2015...

Friday, August 9, 2013

It was like Christmas morning!

A little while ago, I was fortunate enough to win Little Homestead in Boise's giveaway, celebrating a blogging milestone.  I am SURE it had nothing to do with the mind meld that went on in the wee hours between Anya and me....

Yesterday, I came home to a box, dryly wedged between storm door and front door - my mail guy is the only one who is not afraid of my dogs.  I quickly opened it up and GOOD GOLLY!  What a bonanza of goodies!  It really was like Christmas morning:

Excuse the lack of focus - I forgot to charge the
battery in my camera, so this was done by phone.

There are two beautiful French-motif printed tote bags, one of my favorite kinds of tea, ginger crisps, some delicious salty, nutty snacks, journals, notebooks, and a very hand little Post-It note holder that has already made its way into my purse!  Wow!

Thank you SO much, Nancy!

(and Anya....good, good kittty)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I spent the day with Nonagenerians...

and I had a ball!  (Please hold your snorts.)  Yesterday, I drove my parents (the above-mentioned nonagenarians) up to Dorset, VT to see Barefoot in the Park at the Dorset Theatre Festival.  It was fun!!  And I made some pithy observations about spending the day with elderly people:

One.  They may move slowly, but they are endlessly courteous, attentive to those even older than they, and are wonderfully polite.

Two.  They open doors for everyone.  There is no pushing or cutting in line.

Three.  In the ladies room, they even wiped down the sink tops when they finished washing their hands!!!

Four.  They appreciated the humor and talent, laughed out loud, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Five.  They whistled at the cast (especially the nubile leading lady) and stomped their canes on the floor in pure enthusiastic enjoyment.

Six.  The lady sitting next to my mother helped her on with her jacket and patted her hand in comradeship.

It just made me feel all rosy.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Dear Diary,

I bet you can't guess what I had for breakfast this morning.  Go on - try!  Nope, not yogurt and granola.  Not a nice cool smoothie, either.  I oatmeal and raisins!  Why?  Because it was 46-freakin degrees!

Yes, Dear Diary, we are, apparently, in a state of troughiness, according to the weather gurus.  While it was downright invigorating, I doubt it will do much for my plentiful, green tomatoes.  Bernisima loves this weather.  Does it mean that summer is over?  It was just a fast and furious, hot flash in the pan of the year?

Saturday was a tough day, Dear Diary.  It was Kay's Memorial Service and, although it was meant to bring closure through the celebration of her life (and what a life!), it didn't close things for me.  I know that these sharp, raw memories will soften with age, but Holy Crap (as Kay would say), it hurts like hell.  And it hurts LOTS of people like hell.  The celebration was perfect - a capella songs sung by her daughter and *daughters* - such beautiful voices in a beautiful, vaulted church.  Her son sang her a song, and her granddaughter played guitar and sang in an equally beautiful voice.  Kay's life was much about song and music, so it was perfect.  Her husband had written a poem to her that was so crammed full of pain and passion that it completely pushed me over the edge and did me in.  I missed the bonfire that night, as I fell into a deep, silent sleep that kept the phone from waking me.  Just as well.

And, Dear Diary, I am reading a book entitled:  The Seasons on Henry's Farm: a Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm (how's that for a title?)  It is a wonderful book.  One of those books you never want to end.  I think I would have preferred "5 Years of Food and Life..."  Terra Brockman is an amazing writer.  (And a BIG thank you to Jenyfer for introducing this book into my life.)  It charged me right up and yesterday I decided to tackle the growing mound of Ronde Nice squash that was growing in my fridge and garden.  When I'm not quite sure what to do with some food item, I wander over to my Italian neighbor, Linda's and drop innocent hints.  Such as...."I've got these lovely round zucchinis and I am going to stuff them.  Hmmm.  With what, I wonder?"  My luck held, as her sister and mother are visiting - so the ensuing conversation went something like this:

L:  "Ricotta, spinach and onions"
AM:  "Nutmeg would be nice"
L:  "Garlic - don't forget the garlic"
Moma:  "Some nice breadcrumbs and a little Romano, too, sweetie."
L:  "A little EVO and tomato on top, I think."

By the time I left, I had a recipe zipping about in my noggin and I proceeded to adapt it (since I almost never have all the ingredients suggested.) and came up with this:

Into a food processor, put 3 large garlic cloves and a bunch of young, tender Swiss Chard (spinach would be wonderful, too.)  Process it quickly, dump in a bowl and mix a container of ricotta, one whole egg, lots of nutmeg, some Parmesan (didn't have Romano) cheese and blend well.  Cut four Ronde Nice squash in half and scoop out seeds and some of the flesh to make a bowl.  Spoon filling in squash bowls.  Combine bread crumbs (I use GF Panko crumbs) and more cheese (Parm) and sprinkle liberally on top.  Whiz together a large chopped tomato, a few sprigs of fresh basil and about 2T of EVO in the processor and drizzle across the top of the bowls. 

Bake in a 375 degree oven until crumbs are golden and squash is tender.  I baked mine about 30-35 mins.

And maybe you would know this, Dear Diary - are chocolate covered gummie bears considered part of your 5-a-day fruit requirement?  Would you get back to me on this?


Saturday, August 3, 2013

A labor of love? Meh.

You know how you see some recipe in a magazine and you just HAVE to make it?  Even though the directions seem too easy to be true?  And you just ignore that niggling little voice in your mind because your eyes are glued to the glossy food photo?

Welcome to my world.  Someone at work gave me their copy of Woman's Day Magazine and there - glowing up at me - was the Frozen Yogurt Banana Split.  Did I say that it was on one of those 98+ degree days that I first set eyes on it?  No?  Well, maybe I can blame it all on the weather ...

Top to bottom:  Pineapple yogurt/strawberry yogurt/
banana/chocolate yogurt
I was dazzled by the "40 minutes Active" "40 minutes Total".  I completely disregarded the (plus freezing) line that was not in bold print.  I have very little time to cook during the week.  If it wasn't for the fact that I get up every morning around 4:30A, I wouldn't get much done other than the homesteady stuff I have to do.  When I finally buckled down last night to tackle this delectable morsel, I knew I was in trouble within 10 minutes.  So I broke it into parts.  I made the first two layers and put them in the fridge.  I lined my pan with parchment paper.  I double-checked all my ingredients.  I washed countless appliance parts and bowls.  I fell into bed at 10:30P.

The shine was fading off the Frozen Yogurt Banana Split.

Last night, interspersed with two glasses of wine, I finally finished putting it together - once again at 10:30P.  Into the freezer it went (me saying, "good riddance" - not a good sign).  This morning, I haul it out and, although it did, indeed, look like the photograph (mine is a lot less sexy), it took 20 minutes to 'gently lift' it out of the pan.  There was nothing gentle about its removal, let me tell you.  However, I did control my urge to hack it out of the pan with tools, and I did manage to get it mostly out in one piece.

The taste?  Meh.

This reminds me, in hindsight, painfully (Isn't that redundant?  Pain/hindsight?), of my venture into fine French cooking in my mid-20s.  I had labored mightily (with expensive ingredients) over "Roasted Duck Potage" for three days, only to have my then (and now ex) husband say, "Gee, this is pretty good.  What is it?  Duck soup?"  Sacrebleu!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Norman update - and a baby goat.

Norman has found his BFF and it ain't Juno.  Or Linden.  He is just smitten with aPria.  They eat together.  They take naps in the run-in shed together.  They are frequently found lying in the shade of the same tree.  As long as Norman doesn't get all galloping on her, aPria is just fine with him.  But he is the racehorse of the LFF sheepies and that boy can move!  He can out-run and out-maneuver the fluffy diva, Juno, and manages to dodge Linden at food time.  He doesn't walk, he trots.  It's like having a pony.

And just because I can't say it enough ...  OMG, do I LOVE this little goat.  I would like to carry her around in a sling and call her baby.  (Please see previous post - Nut reference.)

My Apple.