Thursday, August 23, 2018

The cake dilemma.

I have finally found a good, moist, tasty, fairly long-lasting gluten free cake.  An added plus is that it contains zucchini...

A very technical drawing*
The first time I made this gluten free zucchini breakfast cake (sweetened not by sugar, but maple syrup - the pluses are adding up), it was a rather convoluted affair.  I wanted to make it, but didn't have enough of a consecutive chunk of time to go from A to Baked in one go.  So I divided the process up thusly:  measure out dry ingredients into a bowl.  Three days later, add wet ingredients and put in prepared baking pan.  Realize almost immediately that I had left out the melted coconut oil, pull the pan out of the oven, dump the batter back into the mixing bowl, furiously stir in the melted oil, wash and reline baking pan, put back in oven.  I was greatly relieved to find it nice and risen and moist and delish.  (Exhibit B)

HoHA!  Sez I.  I'm going to make it again and THIS time I'm going to make sure I have a nice, uninterrupted (hahahahaha) chunk of time so that there is no forgetting nuthin.  And, thusly, I did so.
However, upon removing the baked cake from the oven, I discovered Exhibit A.

The leavening agent is baking powder with a catalyst of baking soda.  I have been baking for a fair amount of time and although I am not of a scientific nature, I do know that, if you add your carefully measured ingredients (all in-date, nothing expired or close to being so), you should get similar if not identical results.  Same oven.  Same weather conditions, same Moon moving into the path of Saturn.  I also know that, leaving baking powder/soda to sit within a batter can sometimes enhance the rise - but the trick is BATTER, not a pile of dry ingredients.

So, my dears, you of the high baking skills, what happened?  I am hoping to make many more of these cakes because they freeze well and, you know, zucchini.  But I would much rather freeze the cake kind of cake as opposed to the pancake kind of cake.  Thoughts?  xoxoxo

(Both exhibits were equally tasty.  Ergo the technical drawing.)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Some things got done, some didn't.

After a rather tumultuous start to the weekend - a humongous thunderstorm complete with ear-deafening thunder and lightning and torrential downpours on Friday evening - Saturday was only a half-washout with another inch-plus of rain.   I decided that, weather or not (snort), things must get done.

Tableful of goodness

Next on the agenda

Brick bat?  Baseball bat?  Primitive
vegetable club?
As I heard the rumbling of the oncoming thunderstorm, I dashed out, did evening chores and madly clipped nettles.  I managed a few handfuls (gloved handfuls, need I say) in between shuttling hay to the sheep shed, setting rat traps (they're baaaaack!), collecting eggs and feeding dogs, before the skies opened up and chased me inside.  I love a good storm, but am very respectful of lightning.  I had also managed to haul my garlic from the barn, where it had been aging for two weeks.  I now have a big, packed jar of dried nettles and my garlic is cleaned and stored for use over the year.  That leaves the brick bat.  Or the baseball bat.  Or the giant's vegetable club.  Due to other obligations, Marianne and I did not do our farm work this weekend.  She did leave me a basket of produce with her apology for the zucchini.  I will say, it is the largest one I've had to deal with.  It's a good thing I love the stuff, because I have, over the weekend, made two gluten free zucchini breakfast cakes, a double batch of zucchini feta fritters, vegetable fried rice, featuring - you guessed it - zucchini, three zucchini pizza crusts, many quart bags of shredded get the idea.  It's a nice problem to have, too much zucchini.  I am not complaining.

My arugula and planting of salad greens is coming in and I will be planting one last round of salad greens this week.  I ventured out in Saturday's downpour to visit my friend that raises Randall cattle (and took in Bertie) to get 15 pounds of marrow bones for the pups - we had a nice, albeit damp, visit and Bert looks fat and happy.  Sunday was setting up the electric net on the bank for the sheep - it's getting tricky making changes to their grazing, as Apria the llama is now almost totally blind.  There is a lot of voice leading, "Come on, Pri-Pri, that's a girl - this way, this way..."  She eventually works out the right direction but I have to be sure not to have impediments in her way and to have gates open wide enough that she won't get spooked by banging into one. 

I'm spending an inordinate amount of  time watching hummingbird drama.  It's like Star Wars on a very tiny scale - much zooming and squeaking in high dudgeon.  I was relieved to finally see two hummers on the same feeder, but my hopes for d├ętente were dashed when they took off after each other, each one accusing the other of trespass.  I am also enchanted by the evening ballet performed by the dragonflies.  There must be at least 20 of them, whirling and zooping and looping around each other.  I'm not sure why they do it, but it sure is fun to watch.

This week is all about ironing and weeding.  Oh, joy.  And finding someway to keep the crows from destroying my yard.  While I'm happy that they seem to be making it their life's work to rid me of grubs, my yard looks like some maniac went at it with a drill.  Make that 10 maniacs.   I pulled the netting off the currants and had to face the fact that there will not be a harvest this year.  And it's all my fault.  While the red ones were gone, the black ones were riddled by earwigs.  Luckily, I found last year's harvest still in the back of the freezer!  Saved.  Although I am nowhere near winning the battle with the weeds, I am not giving up.  I have my wheelbarrow parked in the back and will spend some time every morning yoinking them out by the handful until I make some headway.  I will spend time in the evening working on the front, which is marginally less bad than the back.  Still pressing on the to-do list is skirting two more bags of Norman's fleece.  That will give me a large enough quantity to make it worthwhile to schlep it to the processor.  There's still plenty to go, but I may be processing some of that myself - much sorting is on the horizon...

Friday, August 17, 2018


An architect, I am not.  Nor am I a builder of any renown.  Well, maybe a rather infamous builder - as in when real builders look inside the run-in shed and say, "Wow.  And how long has this been standing?"

That does not stop me.  I drew up the plans for the pergola.  The only reason it collapsed was that I did not consider the relativity of snow load vs. tall leggy structure.  We moved it forward by at least three and a half feet and anchored it to the deck railing.  At least I can get my snow rake on the roof now and it has a fighting chance of staying erect this year.

My next project was born of too little sleep and a long string of extremely early mornings.  While I sit, covered in furry bodies - so much fun in the summer - waiting for my first iced coffee to hit my blood stream, I should, really, not be allowed to surf Instagram.  I was mesmerized by photographs of blue quail eggs and the amazing farmers that developed them.  And their superior photography skills.  Then there is the convenient lack of recall.  You know, of how I was downsizing and how I tried quail and was totally done in by their piercing pre-dawn (24 hour) noise.  Yes, that little bit of memory totally eluded me in the wee hours of the morning, as I cackled and ordered a dozen hatching eggs.  Sheesh.  Instead of harkening back to the teeth-gritting racket outside of my bedroom window, I was leaping ahead to figure out when would be the best time to receive them, given fall, incubation and brooding time, etc.  I never look back.  It will be my downfall.  I figure that, even if the gilding comes off the lily, so to speak, I will be able to recoup any outlay fairly quickly.  The eggs will be sold via the farmers market.  Extra quail can be sold as breeding pairs or egg-layers.

After the early, heady days of imagining my own stash of brown speckled, blue eggs, faded into the bright light of reality (see?  I have been reading books!)  I realized I would need somewhere to keep them.  Somewhere that did not involve close proximity to my bedroom window.  Voila!  I do have a barn structure!  It is in the opposite direction of my bedroom and is enclosed.  It will protect the quail over the winter and insulate my shell-like ears from their strident calls.  The sheep may be cursing me, but I am used to that.  As the weather warms, they can be moved outside to the far side (as in far away from me) of the barn, under the pine tree.

I called upon my usual handyman and provided him with direction (Ed, you can close your eyes now.):
Very hi-tech

The details...

We communicate through texting and by my dropping envelopes and instructions on the passenger seat in his truck.  I figured I would give him plenty of notice and make it so that he could build it at home.  I'm sure his wife will be happy about that, although the upside of having him work on the LLF is that his wife, Sam, and his son, Hank, come to see him.  I am rather taken with Hank - he is one, is a complete towhead, and, when prompted, knows what cows, pigs, tractors, Santa, dogs, cats, and chickens say.  He will also tell you he is one.  Plus, the Butter Pat is much happier when held in the arms of his beloved Billy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Crafted words, true words and knitting. One thing is not like the others.

I have been trying to focus on reading more during my 'down' time - say, 3-5A.   Since I tend to obsess, I am slowly easing off the knitting (one sweater 99.9% done, second sweater 90%, scarf/shawl too boring to spend too much time on, socks on the needles).  I can feel myself being drawn towards my BritBox subscription (curse you, Marianne), so I am tempting myself with a stack of physical and virtual books - the latter of which maintains my sanity during my daily commute.

Right now, I am listening to Rough Beauty by Karen Auvinen, a memoir that was enthusiastically referred by Bestie, Sylvie.  I couldn't find it via Libby, my library's audiobook app that allows you to borrow audiobooks from your library for free, so I got it on Audible.  The nice thing about Audible is that you can test listen - very important because a narrator can make or break a book's enjoyment.  I cringingly remember listening to Jane Eyre, where the male narrator took it upon himself to read Jane's parts in a piercing falsetto, or the recent horror read in HIGH DRAMA.  As I have listened to Rough Beauty, I've been swept up with Auvinen's words - with her, you are facing the mountains in Colorado, seeing the swathe of spring flowers and hearing the birds, or sitting in a cabin while the winter winds roar.  She is what I always wanted to be in my heart of hearts - fierce, independent, brave.  I am bracing myself, as I've reached the part where her companion of many years, a fine dog of the Husky persuasion, is reaching the end of his life.  I will most likely have to pull off to the side of the road to get through that or listen to it at home.

For home reading, I am savoring Inland Island, by Josephine Johnson.  This book is out of print - Amazon refers to it as a Story Press endangered classic.  I found my copy through Thriftbooks.  This is also about a woman's observations of nature, but in a totally different voice.  Her language is fierce, amazing and true.  It is not the carefully, albeit lovingly, crafted prose of Auvinen's, but a language that is so completely pure that it's breathtaking.  Descriptions that make your mind take a sudden seat - BAM!  There are whole paragraphs that I have marked with the ever-handy Post-It notes that I want to memorize so that I can summon them up when I want to be reminded how really beautiful words can be.  I will never dismiss the miracle of a lady beetle again.

I still have to face my knitting - my summer-weight green cardigan needs to have its ends woven in and be blocked.  I am quite happy with it.  My worsted weight steel-grey sweater is continuing to challenge me, which I am enjoying immensely.  I had made the mistake of starting an easy knit for waiting rooms, etc., instead of my usual sock project.  Mistake.  It is so mind-numbing that I am loathe to pick it up.  It may be mouldering in its project bag for years.  I have a big list of sock gift-giving so I had better get cracking.  No matter how hard I try to ignore it, the days are getting shorter.  Summer is sprinting by - or should I say flowing by.  We have had over six inches of rain since the beginning of August - the opposite end of the spectrum to our friends on the left coast.

Thanks to friends with gardens, I have had zucchini crust pizza, zucchini fritters, zucchini and sweet corn pie, zucchini breakfast cake.  I am planning on an eggplant Parmesan this weekend, along with more fritter-making, as these freeze well and are a nice, quick dinner when you are mired in February.  Another batch of gazpacho is on the near horizon.  It's nice to be awash in vege - although I do miss growing it myself.  Next year.  Next year.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

My Muse Hath Forsaken Me

While I have been thoroughly enjoying everyone else's blog posts, my muse seems to have taken the summer off.  The Yap has gone out of my Giddyap.  The light's on, but no one has been home.

I blame it on the weeds.  No matter how many times I have groveled around in my raised beds and flower beds, yoinking great heaps of the offending greenery out by the wheelbarrow-ful, they have come back with a vengeance.  I have not seen the likes of this since I have cultivated this plot.  It doesn't help that my energy level has been running on low - I come from cold weather people - and as soon as the temperatures rise over 80, with matching levels of humidity, I'm a goner.  Even my whining has gone damp.

We have also been blessed/cursed with non-ending monsoon-like rains with accompanying thunder and lightning.  This, coupled with the unending heat and humidity, has created a steroidal effect on my weeds.  Quite perversely, while being banished to the inside by the weather, I have started plans for next year's garden.  I mean, we have to have hope, right?

Slimmie wants summer to stop.  Please
note small fang.

My morning sausage.  Or is that ham?
The only upside of this godforsaken weather is that the tomatoes are ripening!  Marianne has been keeping me in Black Krim tomatoes
This summer's fav
and my next favorite, Green Zebras.  I would show you a photo of them, but I have eaten every single one as soon as they appear.  I eat them like an apple.  OMG.

Having a countertop full of ripe produce means that I can indulge in one of my favorite seasonal foods - gazpacho!
Best served in my bee mug and inhaled within
I have been combing my Moosewood Collective Collection and have a flurry of Post-it notes on all of the recipes I want to try. 

My sister and I made our annual pilgrimage to the League of NH Craftsmen's Fair in Sunapee, NH, and it was as wonderful as ever.  It was a rather hectic trip - I ran a little late because I picked up birthday Iced Maple Lattes for us.  Apparently, there are three shots of espresso in each one, so we really didn't need the car.  We could have rocketed there on caffeine power.   It was oppressively hot and humid and I really felt for the vendors.  At least the tents were white, but there was little breeze, so the heat and humidity stayed trapped under the canopies.  We didn't have a lot of time - which was a blessing, given the weather - as Connie had to get back to pick up her other client (other than our parents).  I made a beeline for the one artist I always buy from and picked up a couple of lovely items from a new one.  Ann Eldridge's etchings are very popular, so I usually email her prior to our trip, to see what she still has.  Lucky for me I did, as the cat print below, "Repose", was her only one. 

I love this turkey - my favorite

Sorry for the blurry photo - it's behind
I've already started to save towards next year.  She focuses on nature and animals and I love her work.  Last year I got a small print of a porcupine and I bought a raven print for my sister.

New this year were some stained glass pieces:

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the craftsman's name.  Both are exquisitely made and now I have to figure out where to hang them.  My sister bought a beautiful print of a New England wood in fall.  As is always the case, we had occasion to laugh so hard we cried.  This time, the impetus was a pickup topped with a homemade, poorly balanced camper top that was proportionately wrong for the vehicle.  BUT, as he was apparently doing his part in Making America Great Again, we just kept a safe distance, squealing in terror every time he tried to negotiate a curve in the road - which was constantly.  I don't think we took a breath from Brattleboro to Bennington.  It was such a relief to part company with this disaster on wheels.

Meanwhile, work has been unseasonably busy, which makes me cranky.  We are used to and proud of being the outpost office - never visited by the nobs in HQ.  So far this summer, we've had three partners camp out.  Fortunately, this last one is a gem.