Monday, July 31, 2017

More fruit. More labor.

Black currants on their way to a vodka
bath.  Almost looks like caviar, doesn't it?
I spent a vacation day on Friday, diddling around, waiting for the delivery of my new fridge.  I did get some items checked off The List and The Un-List.  I was so successful at diddling, that I forgot why I was home on a Friday (could it have been the thought of homemade Cassis in December...?) and was taken off-guard when the delivery guys called me, warning of imminent arrival.  Of course, in delivery terms, "imminent" is very elastic.  I hauled out any number of packages (identifiable and ... not) from the freezer, forming two piles - "Chickens" and "Cooler".  Then there were the unending jars of condiments that have languished in the fridge for years.  How is it I need two jars of fish sauce?  I can't bring myself to throw out food that is still useable, so I will have to work on using some of these rather exotic (to me) additives.

I watched as the panel van whizzed by my house - a common occurrence, as GPS always overshoots my house.  I counted three minutes and there they were again.  They were very efficient and polite, even when they entered the house and encountered Godzilla, the old fridge.  I was standing by with the shop vac because I had never, ever vacuumed around, under or behind it in the 11 years I lived there.  I couldn't get it to budge.  With a lot of careful maneuvering, they got it out and hustled it out the door and down the driveway.  I wonder what the conversation was like, as moving the fridge uncovered three hypodermics - needleless (veterinary use) as well as a large volume of assorted fur and a pile of peanuts.  I vacuumed my little heart out and looked at the filthy floor.  I did the best I could under the time constraints and they moved the new fridge into the slot, all shiny and white.  I love it.

Later, when I was going down the front path to my driveway, I encountered three hair balls the size of small rabbits, spaced about four feet apart, a decorative ribbon on a florists stick and my toast tongs.  I have no idea....


Saturday was a mixed bag - chores, cooking, cleaning, gardening.  I got my garlic pulled and put in the barn to dry before getting hung up to cure.  I horked out my giant kohlrabis.  I made Sea Salt & Dark Chocolate Granola for my aunt and sister.  I mashed and hung the red currants in my jelly bag.  I rearranged my new fridge interior for the umpteenth time.  I picked a few green beans.  I dosey-doed around making my pie crust until I couldn't stand it and threw it together in the food processor.  I used to love making pie crust and, if I say so myself, I made a good one.  There is no good GF pie crust recipe.  It is a frustrating process of whizzing dry crumbs around until you can squeeze it together in a shaggy lump.  (Appetizing, ain't it?)  Then you wrap it in plastic and let it 'mellow' in the fridge for an hour or more.  Rolling it out is a whole nuther trip to hell that I won't even describe, but it always involves bad language.

I was making said pie crust for a Smoked Salmon Quiche.  Which I didn't pull out of the oven until 9PM Sunday, way too late to have for dinner.  Why so late?  Because I had a very full Sunday and I am not as young as I used to be.  I was out the door at 8:00A to feed the barn cats and head to VT to pick up my sister for our annual blueberry pilgrimage.  The blueberry farm is almost two hours north of me, but it is our tradition, the blueberries are divine and the prices are fair.  After being confronted with a gallon and a half of frozen blueberries from last year during my recent freezer purge, I reined in my usual over-the-top picking to about 8 lbs.  From there we took a leisurely drive to a great little tavern for lunch, then some errands and then I toted her home.  I still had two more stops to make and pulled my droopy self into the house at 4:30P.  It's hard to stay droopy when confronted with a total of 100# of yipping, celebratory pups with full bladders.  We goose-stepped out the back door and back inside.  Where I collapsed into full droop mode. 

The sheep have forgiven me for running out of fresh grassy patches because some good soul (my dairy farmer) dropped six fresh bales of hay at the barn door.  It is very popular in the run-in shed.  With everyone well-fed, I dropped into my favorite chair (complete with cat) and watched a documentary about Peggy Guggenheim while my quiche baked.  I then took it out, slapped a piece of foil loosely on the top and went to bed.

Then it was Monday.

Luscious lunch!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Reaping the fruits of my labor.

I think that there should be a category added to the description of any fruit tree, bush, shrub, or combination of same.   Pick-ability.  One star means "easy-peasy, a monkey could do it".  Two stars would be "you'll need a little concentration and some dexterity".  Three star - "Requires adult beverages and the patience of Job".  Four star - "Adult beverages before AND after, grow an additional hand, and don't even consider it if  you don't have all day."

I would say that currants fall under the Four Star rating.

That said, this year was the most abundant harvest of all the five years I've had my red and black currant bushes.  The currants were as large as gooseberries (another Four Star rating).

That is NOT a gooseberry on the right.
This was from two bushes of each, red and black.  I always get twice as many reds as blacks, although this year it is almost four times more on the red side!  You may notice that the black currants (as in the smallest amount) have been de-stemmed.  I am working my way through the reds - a perfect exercise whilst watching Midsomer Murders DVDs.

Thursday evening I came home and, in the midst of evening chores (as in wading through the dogs and cat while preparing evening chow), I stepped in a puddle of water that had pooled from the bottom of the fridge.  It was the first time ever that I actually hoped it was dog pee.  Alas and alack, the old fridge is on its way out.  Instead of tackling The List first thing Saturday, I was out the door and in the appliance section of Home Depot early in the morning.  It's rather shocking, how expensive these things are.   I inherited a side-by-side, which I dislike intensely.  I had really hoped for a fridge up, freezer drawer down, but since I will be leaving the fridge when I eventually move, I opted to scale down to the basics.

Speaking of refrigerators, mine is struggling with the seasonal load:

Sorry for the dark photo - I have
two bins on the bottom and the last
shelf is dedicated to duck eggs.
Besides all of the fresh vege in there, there are seven dozen chicken eggs (this was after I sold three dozen to a summer resident of a vacation home...), six dozen duck eggs, my large container of GF baking mix, a quart of raw milk, various leftovers, a pile o' cheese, too many condiments, and a partial jar of bio-dynamic turmeric cinnamon iced tea.  Yowser! 

The new fridge will be delivered at some point Friday - I await my four hour designated window of time.  This drives the office crazy, as I don't know if I'll be in the office in the morning, afternoon or at all.  This also means that I will be working my way through the flotsam and jetsam that has accumulated over the year(s) and making some interesting meals.  Such as Sunday's:

Frozen mashed potatoes.

Ahi tuna steaks

First handful of beans from the garden!
The tuna steaks were fairly small, so I opted to cook both and use one for my lunch salad.  While I didn't take a picture of it, it was my lettuce, my cucumber, my neighbor's radishes, my handful of blueberries, Cabot's cheddar, and homemade vinaigrette.  Next on the menu is a smoked salmon quiche.  Oh, how I suffer....

Speaking of blueberries, in my effort to sort out and find room for the fridge freezer contents, I discovered a gallon bag of last year's blueberries!  Yikes!  I am due to do my annual picking soon, so the Barn Crew got Blueberry Cake for breakfast.

It was a hit!
There is nothing like an archeological dig through your fridge.  I discovered a bottle of sake that dates from....?  Then there are the three fish sauce containers, three kinds of mustard, lone bottle of root beer, gin-soaked golden raisins that were supposed to prevent some illness or condition if eaten daily, etc.  I see an interesting trip to both the compost pile and the recycling station in my very near future.

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.