Sunday, October 30, 2011


Gingerbread cookies, cut with Halloween cutters.  We'll decorate them after school tomorrow, before trick-or-treating.  Graham asked me to make extra red frosting--it's going to be a blood bath in the kitchen, I'm afraid.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fervent ferment

Ten weeks since we put the cabbage in the crock.  My Ball's Blue Book, the holy bible of canning, says this fermentation thing should only take three to six weeks.  Moose muffins.

At three weeks, I tasted the kraut, and it tasted like soggy cabbage.  At six weeks, it tasted like slightly tangy soggy cabbage.  At eight weeks I could taste the sauer, modestly strong, but the cabbage flavor was still green and crisp.

Finally this morning I said, 'enough is enough.'  The five-gallon crock had been sitting on my counter for ten weeks.  My large canning pot had been hulking in my kitchen, sitting idle on the stove since my batch of plum jelly in late September.  Ready or not, it was time to can the kraut.

I emptied the contents of the crock into a large stock pot, and brought it to simmer.

I filled hot jars with hot kraut, and gave it a boiling 15-minute bath.  Nine pints and six half-pints, about 1-1/2 gallons total.  Now I know that one medium-sized cabbage will make 1-1/2 pints of sauerkraut, when all is said and done.

Hubby tasted the results, and gave it a thumbs-up.  I was too afraid to try it, myself.  I don't know what I would have done if it had been awful.  Much better to have the hubby be the guinea pig.

My first ever batch of sauerkraut!  I feel my German heritage beaming at me, clinking large steins of frothy bier in my honor.  It's Oktoberfest in western Minnesota, loud and strong.  Maybe I'll make Bavarian pork hocks for supper tomorrow.  Served with a heaping pile of mashed kartoffeln and home-made kraut.

Another sign

that autumn's days are numbered.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Garden goodbyes

 The chard is so beautiful at this time of year.  So vibrant, so rich.  If the weather holds, I might get another cutting from them before the first hard freeze.

I harvested the sunchokes, separating out the smaller tubers and replanting them into a new bed.  I think I got all of them out of the ground, but we'll see if I get resprouts in this area next spring.

The potatoes were dug, pulled against their will from the dark clay soil.  Next time I am definitely using the straw-trench method.  I'm tired of dealing with clay.  The pitchfork speared through about 1/4 of our tater harvest.

The last of the zukes and tomatoes.  I will miss them.

The only thing left to harvest (besides the chard) are the sprouts.  I can't wait to roast a mess of these, picked fresh off the stalk.  So soooo yummy.

The garlic has been planted and covered with rotting straw.  I still have to do the fall garden cleaning--pulling cages and trellises, tugging sunflower and corn stalks, mulching raspberries.  The season is almost at an end, and I can't say that I'm too disappointed.  It was a busy year, a good year with all things considered, but I could do with a bit of a rest.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Saucy wench

And I would not be offended.  In fact, I would wear the moniker with pride.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fall foraging

We've done a bit of foraging recently.  I like foraging--you get the rewards of good food without all the hard work that goes into a garden.  If I had more time and more skill, I would learn more about wild mushrooms, another fall (and spring!) foraging treat.  But for now I will stick with walnuts and apples.

Most of the black walnuts have fallen now.  So it is a race to see who can get them first -- the squirrels or I.

I only picked about a third of what had fallen from one tree, about half a grocery bag's worth.  Plenty left for the squirrels.

We also went apple picking.  A friend of mine has a large yard with several trees, and graciously allows us to gather as much as we want.  The apples were big and ripe, dripping from the branches.  The older boys took turns using the elongated picker.  Graham got to use it until he accidentally bonked Owen on the head.  Then Owen got to use it.

We quickly harvested a good supply of apples, of unknown varieties.  We can always go back for more if we like.  Hubby is washing them today and will put some in our stock pot to begin simmering for sauce.  I can't wait to come home and smell the autumn appley goodness filling the house.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Missing month, part five

Fall colors have arrived in a blaze of glory.  Lovely yellow cottonwood, orange maple and red sumac.  We've had warm dry weather over the last two weeks, drawing out the color changes and ensuring a beautiful autumn.

The farmers are in the fields, bringing in the soybeans.  From all accounts it will be a good harvest.

The corn harvest has a few more weeks to go.  The dry stalks are standing tall and brittle, losing leaves with every gust of wind.

On a breezy day the corn leaves can travel for miles.  They are carried across fields and roads, swirling in eddies of wind and pelting unsuspecting travelers.  A drive down a gravel road becomes a scene from Hitchcock.  Fitting, given that Halloween is right around the corner.

And that is the last of it, the last of the missing month.  I hope to be more diligent with my updates.  There should be lots to share, with potato digging, chicken butchering, costume creating, craft showing, apple picking and garlic planting coming up.  Not to mention the visiting starlings, migrating geese and the first flakes of falling snow.  So much to look forward to before Thanksgiving.

Missing month, part four

Toward the end of September we packed our suitcases and took a trip to the Cities to visit family and celebrate birthdays.  My middlest boy is now eight years old.  Sigh.  Time seems to be speeding up as my kids get older.  Or rather, as I get older.  My Dad warned me this would happen.

We invited most of the family along on a trip to Valleyfair.  It was a beautiful day.  At this time of year only half the rides are open, but because of school only half the crowds are there. 

Also, at this time of year Valleyfair (or ValleyScare as it is called) is decorated for Halloween.

While the little kiddies rode the little kiddie rides, my brother entertained the older folk with his mesmerizing dance technique.

We packed lunches to cut down on the cost.  My sister was able to get tickets through her credit union for 2/3 price.  We all had a great time.

My sister brought along her first born babe, my niece Camryn, now five months old.  She is a big big sweetie pie.  And never fussed for a moment that whole afternoon.  Should I warn my sister about them growing too fast?  And time speeding up?  In no time at all Camryn will be eight years old herself, and my boys will be in their teens.  Aaah!  I'm not ready for teenagers!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Missing month, part three

Sally Cat had her kits at the end of August.  We knew because one day she was very pregnant, and the next day she was very thin.  We didn't find her den until mid-September, when the boys went to help hubby clear burdock out of the chicken pasture.  Five mewing kittens were nestled into a pile of cut logs, but came out when they heard our voices.

We kept tabs on the kittens each day.  One day, about a week after we found the den, I noticed that only three kittens remained.  Hubby and I were shearing the sheep, so it was easy for us to keep an eye on Sally's comings and goings.  All that day, she never went near her kittens.  The day was cold and windy, in the 50's.  It was forecast to head into the low 40's that night, with drizzly rain.  All that evening I went outside to check on the kitties, hoping to find Sally Cat snuggled up with them in the grass.

Finally at 11 pm, my softie heart got the better of me.  We brought the remaining three kittens inside.  Next morning I went to the vet for milk replacer.  We fed them with glass eye droppers, four times a day.

Three days later we headed to the Cities for Graham's birthday celebration.  We took the kittens to the Animal Humane Society in Woodbury, where they will be cared for in a foster home until they are old enough to be adopted.

We still don't know what happened to the two other kittens.  Either Sally moved them to an unknown location and abandoned the remaining three, or a wild animal got them.  In either case, I'm glad I grabbed the kitties when I did, even with the headache and cost.  I don't think they would have survived that night on their own.

Missing month, part two

The garden has been generous in her bounty.  A good year for cucumbers, beans, zucchini, cabbage, raspberries, garlic, chard, onions, basil, peppers and ...

melon.  We had so many cantaloupe and watermelon that my kids would run screaming whenever I would come from the garden, arms laden with fruit.  The chickens (and a few friends and coworkers) have been the happy benefactors of our over-abundance.  

I've dried lots of cayennes in the dehydrator, but decided to try and hang-dry the most recent pickings.  Hope they don't get moldy.

I also tried roasting a bunch of summer veges.  Here is one of two pans of eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers.  They will be added to pasta sauces and casseroles for winter fare.

I've ground down some of my alma paprika peppers into paprika.  It smells nothing like store-bought paprika.  I haven't used it in a recipe yet.  I'm too afraid to try.

A good bit of canning and freezing was done this month as well.

The latest effort was a large batch of plum jelly.  The plums came from my brother's boss.  I was glad of them, seeing as there were no fruit to be found in my usual picking spot.  Four gallons of plums yielding a multi-year supply of sweetness.

Missing month, part one

Yet again, I have been absent without leave.  It seems that when you let this blog-thing go a week or two, it gets harder and harder to jump back in again.  Especially with my procrastinating, lazy nature.  But I am feeling courageous this afternoon (at least for the next hour or so), so we'll give it a shot.

The very last week of August we took a two-day trip down to Sioux Falls.  We hadn't had any fun trips this summer, and my parental guilt was kicking in fiercely, so when the opportunity presented itself, we took it and ran.  While there, we visited:

The falls themselves.  Much changed since my husband lived here when he was a boy.

The zoo.  I had to take a picture of this cool goat habitrail.  Wish I had something like this for my four-legged beasties.  I also got to scratch the back of a beautiful milking Devon cow, rekindling my long-lived-yet-completely-unrealistic desire to own a dairy cow.

The USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial park, another place my hubby used to play when he was younger.

The Phillips Avenue Diner.  I tried a southern favorite, Chicken and Waffles.  An interesting meal, but not one I would have again. 

The science museum.  Kids had a good time, but only about 2/3 of the exhibits were operational.  Lots of repairs and maintenance needed.  Also, they had an agricultural display that really got my blood a-boilin'.  More on that later.

And a hotel with a small waterpark.  The kids had a blast.

Altogether, a good time.  And we even got a few hours of sleep at night, which was more than I expected.