Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stayin Alive

No time to write much, no pictures either.  Just stopping in to say in a stream-of-conscious-way that 'we are alive' and well and funky dory.  Most of November has been wasted in illness, one sick person after another.  Being sick stinks the big stinky stink.  Went away for Turkey Day and had good many times with family and friends.  Made lots of pies, including a banana cream that was a big hit with the boys.  Busy busy weeks ahead, whose idea was it to make everyone's Christmas present this year?  Argh.  Muzzleloader hunt at the park this weekend, first ever, should be interesting.  Boys' swimming lessons start tomorrow in Milbank, thought it would be better to have them in the winter when my work/garden schedule was less crazy.  Wrong.  Taking roos to the abattoir next week, chickened (ha) out on the home butcher, too lazy and crazy and cold this month.  Bad me.  Thinking about raising a few turkeys next year, advice welcome.  Like the look of the royal palms.  Blowing howling wind outside, a bit of snow and a lot of coooold.  Wool blankets make all the difference.

For your funky dory enjoyment.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November 16, 2010

November 16, 2010.  The first snowfall of the season, just enough to whet our appetites and send us scrambling for our snowboots.  I had the day off today, and after sleeping in fashionably late I decided to have a nice, quiet, putz-around-the-house kind of day.  So, I did.

Hubby made me a cup of tea and I set down to finish sorting the pumpkin seeds.  These are from my Jarrahdale pumpkins.  Hubby baked the two largest yesterday and saved the innards for me.  He put the baked flesh into freezer bags and into the freezer, for future pies, breads and muffins.

My middlest boy was home sick with an ear infection and cough.  With one hand in the pumpkin goop and the other firing torpedos, I played a game of Battleship with him.  Don't worry, this photo was taken after the game -- I didn't use the camera as a pretense to get him to show me his board.  Besides, he won anyway.

I had started two large pots of stock simmering the day before yesterday, so today was the day to strain the bones and meat and other bits from the lovely liquid.  I made both chicken stock and beef stock.

I make stock every other month or so, when I've saved up enough chicken or beef bits in the freezer.  I use my Joy of Cooking recipes for the stock, but I simmer it for much longer than the three hours they recommend.  Gotta get all the goodness out of those bones.

These are pint containers, showing five pints of beef stock on the lower left, and fourteen pints of chicken stock in the remaining cartons.  The beef stock ended up fairly light.  If I had planned ahead, I would have thawed the beef bits first, then roasted them in the oven for a few minutes to brown.  That would have given me a darker broth.  The cartons of stock were put into the freezer for future use.

When I finished putting away the stock, I sat down to separate the meat from the bones.  I put a good amount of meat scraps on a plate and fed it to the outdoor cats.  They devoured it in mere seconds, growling at eachother the whole time.  They remind me more of piranhas than of cats.  They have developed the nasty habit of swarming us whenever we open the deck door, hoping for food.  In the hopes of discouraging this, I have started feeding them from our unused front door.  Yes, I know I could solve the problem by just stopping the gravy train, but I don't want to do that.  Not yet.  They do a great job keeping the mice and gopher numbers down.  That, plus they are furry and cute.

After feeding the stock scraps to the cats, I brought the pumpkin guts out to the chickens.  The cats followed me out to the chicken pen and when I dumped the pumpkin over the fence, they dove in after it.  Who knew that cats liked raw pumpkin? 

But the chickens managed to get their share.  The hen in the center of this photo is one of my blue-laced red Wyandottes.  She has beautiful markings.

And here is one of my three silkies.  I have a white silkie hen, a white silkie roo, and a black silkie roo.  Benjamin has given all of them names.  It is the same name -- they are all 'Mr. Hairy.'  Benjamin says hello to all the Mr. Hairy's whenever we visit the chickens.

After watching the chickens for much longer than necessary (people who own chickens will understand how this happens), I went out to the garden and pulled up a few barrow loads of broccoli plants.  Would you believe they were still alive?  Barely, maybe, but still green and frost-free.  And still bearing a few small florets.

I hauled the broccoli over to the goat pen, and threw them over the fence.  The goats were in goaty heaven.

Five eggs from the hens today.  Not all of the young birds are laying yet, obviously.  I've got twenty-five hens and ten roosters.  Four of the hens are a few years old, and probably aren't laying much anymore.  Come December, when all of the hens are laying and the molt is finished, I should be getting about twice this many eggs.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on other small things: putting together my UNFI food club order, playing Old Maid and Crazy Eights with the boys, doing dishes, putzing about on the computer for a bit.  Before I knew it, it was six o'clock and I hadn't even started supper.  So we ended up with a quick (and very non-local) supper of spaghetti, meat sauce and peas.  Not very glamorous, but you can't be good all the time.

To assuage my cooking guilt, after supper we made cookies.  The boys helped.  Graham is getting very good at cracking eggs and measuring dry ingredients.  Benjamin's favorite job is to stir.  Owen's favorite job is to taste-test the results.

Pan cookies are much easier and quicker to make than drop cookies, so that's what we usually make.  I have already eaten three of them (three cookies, not three pans).  Self-control is not one of my stronger attributes.

So, there you have it, the total run-down of my day.  Pretty exciting, aye?  Nope, not at all.  Which is just the way I like it.  A nice, quiet, putz-around-the-house kind of day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The last of the red hot harvest

The chard was cut and trimmed, washed and drained.

Blanched, cooled and drained again.

Then it was packed into freezer bags and tucked into the already-bursting-at-the-seams freezer.  All that lovely chard only made about 2 cups' worth at the end.  Better than nothing, I suppose.

I also harvested the carrots.  I planted Chantenay carrots, which are supposed to be short, and orange.  But as you can see, they are neither short nor orange.  They are long and yellow.  I bought the seed from the local nursery, in a bulk bag.  So now I am suspicious of all their bulk seeds.  But the carrots are tasty, so it is not a big problem.  

Some of the  carrots snapped in half in my efforts to tug them out of the cold clay soil.  After each audible 'snap' I would curse a blue streak, and resolve to be more careful.  I couldn't just yank them out -- I had to dig deep with my trowel, excavating each root near to the bottom, before pulling them from the ground. 

I had given half a thought to leaving them in the ground longer, piling on tons of mulch, and harvesting on an 'as needed' basis.  But I chickened out, and pulled them all.  Besides, there aren't that many of them.  We will probably go through all of these by Christmas.

I still have rutabagas in the ground.   I haven't bothered with them in awhile, because the few I pulled out and cooked this summer tasted bitter.  I'm not sure why.  They weren't overly large, or woody.  Any ideas?  But the goats really like them, sliced thin.  I think I will pretend that I grew them as a forage crop all along, and congratulate myself on a job well done.  There, that feels better!

With my blight-ridden potatoes, unidentified carrots and bitter rutabagas, my root crop harvest hasn't been the best this year.  The beets did well, though.  But what was lost to roots was won by leaves -- lovely lettuce, chard, broccoli, cabbage and sprouts.  And great garlic, peppers, squash and tomatoes.  You win some, you lose some.  Gardening goes on ...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I love lettuce in November,

how about yooooou?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Swiss chard is the energizer bunny

of the garden.  It just keeps going, and going, and going, and going....

Tomorrow I'm gonna cut and freeze what's left, since temps will dip into the mid-twenties Saturday morning. Anybody want to share a good chard recipe?  I just love this plant.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Belated Boo

Fireman, Jedi knight, wizard.  The fireman and Jedi costumes are reused from years past, and the wizard's costume is home-made.  I stuck true to my guns this year and didn't buy any store-bought costumes.  Nevermind that the fabric I bought for the wizard's robe cost more than any costume I've ever bought.  It's the thought that counts.

That robe was a bear to make.  Did I mention I haven't sewn any clothing since a poorly-made sweatshirt in junior high home-ec class?  The McCalls pattern claimed it could be made in two hours.  I took six.  Much of the time was spent trying to read directions in foreign sewing lingo, ripping out my mistakes, and fighting with that silver cuff/hem edging that was as stiff as cardboard.  At one point my (very old) sewing machine started bunching up tons of thread on the underside of the fabric.  A few panicked moments of rethreading, cleaning, sweating and praying and it began working again.  Disaster averted.

I finally finished at 2 am Friday morning, the day of the school Halloween party.  It turned out well, all things considered, and Owen was very happy with it.  I've gotten a taste of sewing success now, and I'm looking at other projects with tentative interest. Hesitant, almost fearful interest.  This sewing thing can't really be all that difficult, can it? 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sprouts and Company, Inc.

Yesterday was the Brussels sprouts harvest.  The two eldest monkeys pitched in, offering their Herculean strength to help carry the green DNA-esque trees up to the house.  I whacked the sprout plants down, Graham loaded them onto the wheel barrow, and Owen pushed the barrow and unloaded the logs onto the porch. 

I planted two different varieties of sprouts this year.  The stalks shown above are an heirloom variety, Roodnerf, from seeds I purchased from Fedco.

These stalks are Jade Cross hybrid, from seedlings I bought at the local nursery.  Obviously, a much better yield.

A little bit of worm damage, but not too bad.

I sat on the steps of the porch to snap the sprouts from their stalks.  It was a cold job on a cold day, but I had some company.

Benjamin came outside and hopped from bare foot to bare foot, until he quickly decided it was just too cold and ran back inside.

The cats feigned interest in the sprouts, but I think it was just a ruse to get closer to my mug of hot cocoa.

One of our Steve McQueen roosters came over for a visit.  (Steve McQueen because several of the more brazen roos have managed to escape the fenced stalag of the chicken pasture.  They fly over the fence, to and fro, with blatant ease.)  I threw him a few stunted sprout bits, but he wasn't interested.

After all the sprouts were picked, the chaff went to the goats.  They were most pleased, and stuffed themselves silly.

From our 4' x 10' garden bed, we harvested roughly five gallons of sprouts.  Next steps:  clean, sort, blanch and freeze.  And look forward to savoring them with melted butter on a cold winters eve.