Friday, October 13, 2017

Still Here, Still Movin'

I've heard from a couple of blogland friends lately wondering if all is well here since I've not posted for a while.  All is well, very well, but I haven't felt as though I had much of interest to share.  So here goes with some of what's been happening, interesting or not.

Garden clean-up continues.  And continues.  Grumpy-dumpy me has declared I'm never planting a garden again.  (Yeah, right.)  Doesn't seem fair that de-structing a garden should take almost as much time as planting it does. 

We have tomatoes coming out of our ears.  Well, the cherry variety any way.  We've had one light frost, but not a killing frost so remarkably enough the tomatoes are still ripening.  We'll take 'em as long as we can get 'em.

Still have potatoes and carrots to dig and the pepper plants under the cold frames continue to produce.  Slicing cucumbers in their cold frame are not looking so great.  I'm thinking the vines may be relocated to the compost heap soon.  Maybe today.

I baked two batches of bread yesterday.  Haven't made any homemade bread in I don't know how long.  Felt good.  Tasted good, too.

We have a bunch of poultry that is mad at us right now.

Integrating the mature hens and the youngun's from this spring has begun.  They've all been captured and are in lock down in the chicken house and attached solarium for a number of days until the young birds find their place in the flock and realize that's their home now.  No more bedding down in either a chicken tractor . . . or a tree!

The ducks that are headed for Freezer Camp (date coming up soon) are corralled in one big pen.  Catching them has not been fun.

They have learned that it's a real kick to flap their little wings and fly.  Some were even taking to roosting on the solar panels.  Yes, on the top of the solar panels.  Way up there.  We've been lucky (and amazed) that none of them have flown the coop, so to speak, and gone over their pasture fence into territories unknown.

These are three of the four ducks we've been unable to catch thus far.  But we shall prevail.

The nine geese are soon to be reduced to a gaggle of six.

"Yikes, that's not news we wanted to hear," say the geese.

Fall is such a gorgeous season in the north woods.  Wish it would last until December 1st when it could start snowing.

Thursday, October 5, 2017


It's hard to believe but I think my lists, both those labeled Inside and Outside, are getting shorter.  (How can that be?  Who cares!  I'm just enjoying looking at the shortened versions.)

Fall has truly come to the north woods.  The leaves are littering lawn and driveway and colors are nearing their peak.  The two days in a row that we've now had with no rain have been most welcome.

We go out to do night time chores now at 6:30 and it's almost dark when we come in.  Because it's dark from about 7 p.m. on, it seems our nights are longer and there's an hour or so more for down time at night before bedtime.  I like it.

Speaking of bedtime, Papa Pea and I were in bed and I think fast asleep at 8:45 last night and slept until 6:30 this morning.  The reason?  We butchered 19 chickens yesterday.  And we couldn't have done it without help from Chicken Mama and Gilligan.  Well, maybe we could have but it would have done kilt us.  Whadda job. The best thing about it was when it was done.  And, of course, all the good chickie meat in the freezer.

I went out into the garden before dinner tonight and pilfered the first potatoes from this year's crop.

I took some from the Burbank Russet planting because I've been so hungry for a baked potato.  But I didn't get it.  Upon scrubbing the potato when inside, all the skin came off so I decided not to bake it.  I unearthed it from under one plant and was very happy to find these other good sized ones along with the big first one.  If the reds turn out to be as prolific, we'll have a good harvest of taters.

The onions that have been curing are just about ready for their final cleaning and storing for the winter.  I use a lot of onions in cooking so it's a great feeling to have a big bunch cached away.

I picked up a book off the "new" rack at the library earlier this week.  Believe it or not, I've never used a slow cooker or crock pot, but now plan to do so and hopefully learn to turn out some good meals.  I've only glanced through this book so far, but am already impressed and think I'll find several recipes to get me started in the right direction.

I got this 4-quart crock pot a couple of weeks ago for $4 at our second-hand resale store.  From what I can tell, it seems to work so . . . wish me luck!  

Monday, October 2, 2017

Garden Going Into Fall

The growth rate of what's left in the garden has s-l-o-w-e-d way down which is only natural this time of year.

The raised beds with cold frames of peppers and cucumbers are still giving us fruit but at a much slower rate than a couple of weeks ago.

I harvested the mangels and turnips (destined as supplemental poultry feed this winter) on Saturday.

Honkin' big things these mangels are.  But considering they can get much bigger, these probably wouldn't be classified as prize winners.

The turnips are most likely bigger than desirable for human consumption, and would be "woody", but I'm thinking the poultry will be happy of a cold, wintry morning to have some warm cooked chunks of either turnips or mangels for breakfast.

Our blueberry bushes are starting to turn their lovely crimson color.  Last week we picked what was the last (a whopping cup and a half full) of the berries.  It was a bountiful year for the berries and we have a huge stash in the freezer.

The big pumpkins are all coloring up nicely.  I've counted about 13 of them.  The pie pumpkins on the arbor trellis are coming along, too, albeit a bit more slowly.  I didn't get as many of them (only eight) as I had hoped for.  There will be plenty for pies but I wanted some for decoration in my window boxes, too.

The sunflowers continue to bloom much to the delight of our honey bees.

The butterflies seem to be enjoying them, too.

The zinnias are hanging in there except for the big, overgrown ones that are keeling over from their own weight.  I especially like the orange ones this time of year.

The mass of nasturtiums got relocated to the compost pile this weekend.  We enjoyed them up until then, but I need to find another location for them next year.  They were planted in a raised bed and since nasturtiums actually prefer a poor soil, they developed way too much greenery (it was kinda scary) and not many blossoms.  A less fertile soil will produce more blossoms and less greenery.

The rains continue to fall upon us and because the temps have been cooler, nothing seems to ever dry out.  Now we've been issued a flash flood warning for tonight so we'll be checking to see everything is battened down outside as we close up for the night.  

The fall rains have really impacted what one can accomplish outside this time of year.  Still, better than the threat of a dry fall and possible forest fires.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

To Beautiful, Nutritious, Pungent Garlic

Oh, that miracle clove!
Not only does garlic taste good,
it cures baldness and tennis elbow, too.
                         - Lauri Burrows Grad
                               Los Angeles Magazine 

Methinks Ms. Grad may have been enjoying a glass or two of a good vino while waxing poetically about garlic! 

Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly agree that garlic tastes good and is also nutritionally super-good for us.  (Haven't seen a vampire around here in ages.)  I grow garlic and it's much enjoyed and used regularly in my cooking.

'Round about the middle of August I took my trusty spade out into the garden and harvested this year's crop.  Sad to say, it was not as plentiful as in years past, but the bulbs that did grow were large.  Cause of less than a bountiful harvest?  Too much moisture?  Not enough heat at the right time?  I don't know.

I hung the bulbs with stalks still attached in our small wood shed to cure.  All our rain and humidity have, no doubt, not provided the best conditions for curing, but I decided today I needed to clean and store the bulbs for winter. 

I don't know how commercial garlic producers get their bulbs to look so white and clean.  Mine certainly never do.

There were 49 bulbs to process, but my original harvest was 60, if I remember correctly.  I must confess to "stealing" several bulbs during the curing process and encouraging Chicken Mama to do the same.  The bulk of the ones I pilfered went into jars of my Minnesota Kimchi I've made and squirreled away in the spare refrigerator for our winter's supply.

The reason I'm thinking curing conditions weren't ideal this year is because I found 13 bulbs that aren't in good storing condition as shown in the basket on the right in the picture above.  (Undesirable growing conditions?  I didn't dig them at the correct time?  Too much humidity during curing time?  The garlic gods have something against me?)  The cloves have separated and they're lacking adequate layers of "skin" to cover the bulbs properly.  These will have to be used first before the other 36 that seem to be of good keeping quality.

I've ordered more garlic to plant this fall as I'm sure the harvest from this year won't be enough to provide us with an adequate supply over winter let alone allow me to use some of the bulbs to plant this fall as a future crop.

The up side is that nearly all the bulbs are a very good size with many lovely cloves, too.  Am I overjoyed with the garlic harvest?  Not so much, but at the same time very grateful for what I did get.  Next year will be better.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Come again another day.  It rained sporadically yesterday morning.  Rained all last night.  Rained this morning until about 11 o'clock.  You can turn off the faucet anytime now, Mother Nature.

Thankfully the temperature has dropped a few degrees so it doesn't feel so oppressively hot and humid.  Just humid right now.

When Papa Pea came in from doing some necessary tasks outside mid-morning, he said even the ducks looked wet.  It's not a problem though because all the poultry have the choice of spending these wet days inside dry pens if they wish.  The geese and ducks would just as soon be out in the elements.  The chickens . . . not so much.

It's nearly noon now and I've got some B-B-Q'd duck meat I've pulled out of the freezer heating up for lunch sandwiches.  Still have oodles of cucumbers and cherry tomatoes so I'll made a cuke/tomato salad as a side dish.

A pan of Apple Slices is cooling on a rack on the counter, but they'll be too hot to slice before dessert for dinner tonight.  Or they may be cut into for "someone's" afternoon coffee break if "someone" has anything to say about it.  I don't drink coffee after my morning latte and find if I eat anything at afternoon coffee break, I'm not hungry come dinner time.  And when the cook isn't hungry, the cook doesn't want to cook.  At least that's the case for this cook.

Made a pot of Cheddar-Cauliflower Soup this morning with some of our cauliflower from this year's garden harvest.  This particular soup is always better the second day so that will be for sometime tomorrow.

The Swiss chard in the garden is abundant enough to make another Green Pie.  As soon as it dries out a bit (maybe by next June) I'll go harvest some.  After putting on hip waders. 

Seems I've been ignoring desk-type tasks lately so I'm bound and determined to work on them this afternoon.  (Somebody hold me to it, please.)

My List (which I keep on an 8-1/2" x 11" tablet) has one side devoted to "Inside" and the other to "Outside" items.  You can tell we've shifted (primarily) out-of-summer-into-fall mode because the "Inside" half of the paper is now longer than the "Outside" half.  Guess that means I won't have any trouble keeping myself busy until the weather changes in such a way that being outside is a smidge bit more desirable.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Great Day of Sunshine

We did have a lovely, warm(ish), sun-filled day all day yesterday but I didn't get as much done in the garden as I wanted.

About 1:30 p.m. Papa Pea banished me from outside as he was tearing apart the whole apiary dividing and combining the various hives to get them in the shape he wanted for the winter.  We had one heckuva lot of angry bees flying around, and he was afraid one (or more) of them would take out their upsetness on me.  I haven't gotten stung once this whole season, I'm happy to say, and didn't want to ruin the record so I abandoned my garden work for the day.

Good thing I got a lot done before then.

All the onions are harvested and laid out to begin the curing process.  Although the picture doesn't look like it, I planted an equal number of yellow and red onions.  I know the word is red onions usually don't keep as well as yellow ones, but I've always had good luck with them.

The slicing cukes in the cold frame are still producing like mad.  Even the trellis of pickling cucumbers (Papa Pea was going to make some fermented pickles, but changed his mind) which have no protection from the less than good pickle growing temps are doing well.  I've found that we like them chunked up in our kimchi mix and that's what I'm using them for.

What a haul of green peppers I found.  If you want to find me later today, I'll be in the kitchen making another double batch of stuffed green peppers for the freezer.

Lastly . . . Kowabunga, Chief!!  I found an eggplant!

Have you ever seen a more grotesquely formed eggplant?  Maybe it looks better from the other side.

No, I guess not.  The slugs apparently liked it though as there are all kinds of ugly-bugly slug nibbles all over it.  This was the only fruit that formed on any of my four plants.  Sigh.

Methinks the forecast for today's rain was accurate.  We've had rolling thunder all morning and now this.  The above picture, looking out our living room windows, was taken a couple of minutes ago at 8:58 a.m.  Is that spooky, or what?  It was actually that dark outside.  Aaaannd . . . the torrential rains just started along with really blowsy winds.  Batten down the hatches, men!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Waiting for Paint to Dry

That's just an expression.  In reality, I'm waiting for the dew to dry.

We've had wet, rainy days for the past several and more are forecast to begin tomorrow.  But today (promises, promises) is going to be full sunshine.  At least that's what they're telling us.

I have a bit of harvesting and LOTS of clean-up to do in the garden so while I wait for the paint the heavy dew to dry, I'm trying to accomplish some things inside here.

The geese are all fat and happy.  (Good thing for the healthiness of the gaggle because several of them are destined for the freezer this fall.)  They are nearly always together in a bunch, roaming the poultry pasture, gobbling green grass, swimming in the pond, making noise and sometimes looking for trouble.

This is Little Annie who arrived from the hatchery last year with her right foot folded completely under.

We splinted it and although it will always be a bit deformed, she walks without a limp and gets along just fine.

The white and gray duck in the center of the picture is Miss Friendly.  She's always eager to come "talk" with you.  And when you enter the pen with a feed bucket in your hand, she keeps pulling on your pant legs until a pan of feed is on the ground.  (Maybe she's not so much friendly as a little piggy.)

Despite the wet, cool weather some of our tomatoes are actually ripening.  (I can hardly believe it.)  This is an old heirloom, Oregon Spring, sometimes misshapen tomato, but delicious . . . if it can manage to ripen up here near the tundra.

I've got thirteen large pumpkins that are starting to turn color.  Yippee!

Just look at these apples on one of our dwarf trees! This shot is straight out of the camera with no color enhancing.

Can't say enough about these "Ring of Fire" sunflowers.  They're only about 4' tall, but are very prolific and last a long, long time as cut flowers.  Love 'em.

Here's my mint bed I've been coaxing along for a couple of years.  (Yeah, I know, most people find mint spreads like wildfire and can take over the acreage, but [sigh] not mine.)  It's finally (almost) filled the bed.  I've been cutting and drying it all summer to squirrel away for Papa Pea's daily cup o' mint tea.  Matter of fact, I have some in the dehydrator as we speak . . . and I'd better sign off and go check it!