Friday, October 30, 2009

Homemade Bread and Curing Onions

Now those are two things that make me very happy. First off, I always get a warm, cozy feeling when looking at a picture of homemade bread. (It doesn't even have to be MY homemade bread.)

I don't even care that these loaves are lumpy and bumpy. It's rye bread, and I'm just so happy they rose as much as they did. (Flavor's pretty darn good, too.)

Next, you've all been with me through my onion trauma. I do now have about a gallon and a half of dehydrated ones put by. When dehydrating the onions, I purposely picked through all of them choosing ones that looked like they didn't have a snowball's chance in h-e-double-hockey-stick of curing and drying on their own. So then I noticed a couple of days ago that darned if the ones remaining didn't look like they were . . . could they be? . . . well, for heaven's sake! They looked like they were doing a good job of curing and drying . . . even stacked up on top of each other in the big cardboard box (that I'd been trying to avoid).

So I smooshed some furniture together and spread a tarp on the floor and laid out the remaining onions to give them every possible chance of further curing so they might turn into real storage onions . . . and last into the winter. Of course, they're now in a spot where we have to step over and around them about a hundred times each day but they're lookin' good, and I'm so thrilled I don't have to go through the dehydrating process with any more of them!

Rye bread that rises and onions that cure . . . life is good.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Meeting Mr. Wolf

The tale I'm going to tell (and it is a true one) took place thirty-some years ago when we were homesteading on the first piece of property we bought here in Minnesota.

It was about this time of year, in the fall, and we had our milk goats housed in an old log barn that had originally been built on the land when it was first homesteaded in the early 1900s.

That particular late afternoon, my husband was about a mile down the road at a friend's who owned and operated a saw mill. Our daughter was three or four years old. As I got ready to do outside chores, I gave her the choice of coming with me or staying inside. She knew that when neither her dad nor I was in the house with her and she chose to stay inside, she had to gather together some books and stay in a designated comfy chair to "read" while we were outside. Fortunately, that day she chose to stay inside.

The barn was a ways away from the mobile home we were then living in, and I always had my hands full when I took the hike down to the barn to do the milking. That day I had the wash bucket, the milk pail, and another bucket of apple peelings to give the goats. The door to the barn was on one of the short ends. It was a dutch door, and I had closed the bottom part of it earlier in the afternoon because it was windy out and all the goats were snuggled down inside the barn. I had to walk along one long side of the barn and then take a left hand turn to get to the end the door was on.

As I turned that corner, I stopped in mid-step when I came within three feet of one very large, beautiful white and gray wolf sitting on his haunches in front of the closed bottom part of the barn door.

Silly me. My first inclination was that he was someone's AWOL sled dog. There was a family living about two miles away that had a small team for mushing, and I immediately thought of them as occasionally one of their dogs would get off his chain and the whole neighborhood would be alerted to be on the lookout for the escapee.

I said out loud, "Well, whose sled dog are you?" Other than to tilt his head and look at me inquisitively, the wolf didn't move a muscle. We looked at each other for a few seconds before it slowly dawned on me that this was no runaway domesticated dog. This was one honking, huge, healthy timber wolf.

Starting to talk to him in a very calm voice, I slowly backed up the way I had just come. "You shouldn't be here so close to the barn. We have big goats and little goats in there and you would really scare them if you were to jump over that door into the barn. You need to go back into the woods now and stay away from our buildings."

I walked backwards about halfway up to the house before I had the nerve to turn around and scurry the rest of the way up to our porch. When I reached the house, I saw the wolf trot up along the same path I had just taken. Gulp. He was a big one. About a third of the way up the path, there was a road going off to the right we had made by driving across one of our hay fields. This road eventually led to the thick woods where it became one of our ski trails.

Mr. Wolf ambled down the road until he disappeared from view. I got on the phone and called the house where Roy was. The nine year old daughter answered the phone and I told her to go outside to find Roy and tell him it was no emergency, but I'd like him to come home as soon as possible which he did.

I related my story to him. He took a gun (not to harm the wolf but rather to scare him away if need be) and went down the road to see if he could spot any evidence of the wolf. He was gone about ten minutes when we heard one shot fired.

Roy had followed the road to where it crossed a small creek before going up into the woods. Near the creek bed he heard some rustling behind a huge boulder and then saw two big, fuzzy, pointed ears slowly showing over the top of the boulder, and then a forehead, and then a pair of healthy, sparkling eyes. (All the better to see you with, my dear. Hee-hee.)

He fired his gun into the ground, and shouted at the wolf that we'd appreciate it if he'd stay away from our animals. The wolf turned tail and loped off into the woods.

Roy returned and told us what had happened and remarked, "That was one big, beautiful specimen of a wolf!"

When my heart rate finally returned to normal, I realized what a truly unique experience I had just had. The wolf didn't feel threatened by my presence nor was he in the least aggressive toward me. Because he was so calm, and inquisitive, and beautiful, I didn't think to panic when I came upon him.

That was the last time we ever had any problem with wolves being so close to our buildings or animals. Well, except for the time our ninety pound, bear-like Bouvier dog, Max, was lured out into the field by a female wolf in heat and her husband/boyfriend/significant other came charging out of the woods intent on having Max for lunch.

But that's another story.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Construction Project

Okay, here's the straight skinny on the big mess in our back yard. A few years ago we added an addition on to our tiny abode. First floor level was a room that we had originally planned to be our livingroom with a room above as an office for Roy. (If you could see his area, you'd know why I didn't want it on the main level. Sorry, hon, but we do understand you creative geniuses just aren't bothered by untidiness.) Right now our present living room and kitchen are both squeezed into one tiny, inadequate area.

Beyond this "middle room" added, on the south side we put up the framing of what may someday be a good-sized greenhouse, and on the north, my quilting studio. My quilting area is the only part of this addition that is truly finished.

Good thing we waited a while to finish the remodeling because now we've realized it would be much wiser to make the (middle) room we thought would be the livingroom, the kitchen. So when we're done, the kitchen will be out of the area it's in now, with that whole area being made into just livingroom. Totally confused yet?

Back to the huge hole in the back yard. Originally, we though we would use that little area on the north side of the house as a small, shaded deck. It was constructed with the roof attached to the house and posts holding up the outer edge.

It just so happens that this little deck area is on the north wall of what will now be my kitchen. In designing the layout of the kitchen, I couldn't get in as much storage area (cabinets) as I wanted/needed. A pantry. I need a pantry! So we decided to close in the area of the small, shaded deck (didn't really need it), put a doorway on the north wall of the middle room (now kitchen to-be) leading in to the pantry. Wahoo, am I excited. A walk-in pantry right off my kitchen!

The posts that held the roof of the little (now no more) deck up were set on pads. It was evident that every winter with the freezing and thawing, they moved more than was a good thing. So Roy's plan to give me maximum room in my new pantry was to move the posts out closer to the edge of the roof line, and sink them five feet down (yes, that's how far down our winter frost line is).

So we had our neighbor come over last Sunday with his handy-dandy little digger machine and dig the deep trench for us. One slight problem encountered: For good drainage when we put on the addition, we filled five feet down around the perimeter with washed gravel. It spilled into the newly dug trench. Much of the soil we have up here is what the locals call "rotten rock." It has no structure. It fell into the trench from the other side.

Good neighbor had to be called back to clean out the trench before Roy could start working again. And that's where our big hole came from. I'm trying to convince my husband that at least he has ample room to work in now. And actually, when the posts are in place, it will be easy for the gravel and soil to be put back into the hole with the help (once more) of our neighbor and his equipment. Roy says even if he has to shovel it all back in by hand, it will go back in a LOT easier than it would have come out by the shovel full.

So although things don't always go quite as smoothly (and quickly? . . . that's an understatement) as planned, it's coming along and after spending the whole day today down in the depths, Roy assures me the worst is nearly done. Whadda guy. Ya gotta love his optimism. (But, boy, is he dirty!)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Again

Happens every week, doesn't it? I'm still holding on to my fantasy of being free of any obligations except laundry and ironing on Mondays. I was yammering on about this to my dear husband a couple of hours ago. He glanced down at the dog and said, "Well, Zoe, looks like we won't be eating much on Mondays, huh?"

"Oh, don't worry, I'll have all meals for Mondays made ahead of time," I assured him.

"Gosh," he said, "Doesn't that all sound a little bit . . . "

"Impossible?" I supplied.

Well, it's my fantasy, and I'm sticking with it.

What would I do with my Mondays in between switching loads of laundry in washer and dryer? Probably spend the time in my quilt studio. Or sprawled on the couch reading. Nah, most likely quilting, I think.

Tonight, after dinner, I'll get all the ironing done while watching Dancing with the Stars. (Yup, I'm hooked and can't miss a show. I think it's because I can't dance for beans [picture someone taking the step right AFTER the beat . . . that's me] and do so admire anyone that can. The pros are SO in shape and have SUCH body control!)

Our weather continues to be colder than normal for this time of year, very gray and wet. We have no snow cover (currently) but seems if it's not raining, it's fogging, or sleeting, or just being generally bone-chilling damp and gray.

Perfect weather for a pumpkin pie! Even though over the weekend Roy requested an apple pie, I went the pumpkin route this morning. (Don't feel sorry for him. He'll get his this week, I'm sure.)

This spring I planned to grow pumpkins for which to supply us with our own pumpkin for winter pies, cookies, bars, cake, etc. "The best laid plans of mice and men . . . " strikes again. Lost all of our started pumpkin plants and then the seeds I (foolishly) put in after that. Next year. That's the ever and always motto of all gardeners.

Even though I love making, baking and eating pies, I'm not overly fond of actually making the pie crust. That's why I spend a couple of hours now and then making up a big batch of them and plopping them in the freezer. Then it's just a matter of pulling out one or two balls, letting them defrost on the counter and rolling out. So simple as compared to starting from scratch with crust making every time a pie is desired.

Well, I could post a picture of our clean underwear all folded and put away to prove that the laundry is done for another week, but somehow that just doesn't seem proper for a blog post. You'll have to take my word for it, I guess.

Oh. Our construction project? It's been raining since the ditch was dug. Isn't that what always happens when you make a big hole in the ground?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Oh, Applesass!

I dove into my big box of apples this morning and just now (nearly 4 PM) took the last batch of applesauce out of the canner. I can now say we have a nice supply of applesauce . . . and I'm pooped. You wouldn't think sitting, peeling, and prepping apples would be so exhausting!

I could have frozen the applesauce, which is less work, but then it's not very convenient when I spontaneously decide I want it as a side dish to a meal or to use in making applesauce cake or applesauce muffins or such. A frozen solid block of applesauce just doesn't cut it on the spur of the moment. I much prefer having it canned and a little more readily available.

When I started I had no intention of working up all the apples today but I had a good audio book on tape to listen to, Roy was working outside the whole time and before I knew it, I was more than halfway through so decided to go for it. I saved out a dozen apples as the man doing hard physical labor around here today has requested a pie, but the rest made 16 pints of sauce with a small tester dish left over. (And, no, sorry hon, but I'm not going to get the pie made today. Keep your fingers crossed for tomorrow. Maybe.)

Good feeling to have them lined up on the counter cooling now and know they'll be on the pantry shelves for use this winter. I haven't canned applesauce for a few years and even though I kinda pushed on the project today, I'm glad I did it.

Now if I can summon up enough energy, I'm gonna stagger into my quilt studio . . . and pretend I've forgotten we'll be needing something to eat for dinner tonight.

"Applesauce, anyone?"

Friday, October 23, 2009

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jog

Wednesday and Thursday of this week found Roy and me logging about 4,539 miles on the highway. Okay, it wasn't quite that many miles, but don't try to convince my still-numb butt of that.

We drove to the mid-part of our great state on Wednesday for a couple of appointments in the hustle and bustle of too much concentrated population, vehicle snarls, noise, and assault on all of our senses. Not to say there is anything wrong with that metropolitan life. It's just that we've been in the woods way too long to remember how to function in such surroundings and still maintain our equilibrium.

While my husband drove, in order to keep from stressing over-much on the heavy traffic, I knit. Not very successfully. I've torn the crown of this little hat out three times now. Can't get the pattern to work. I think it's the knitting gods getting back at me for not knitting much anymore.

Wednesday night we stayed in a not very nice motel room where I seriously doubt I got more than two hours of sleep. (Yes, I have issues about not sleeping my own bed. So then why didn't I sleep more than two hours IN MY OWN BED on Tuesday night prior to taking off on our little sojourn Wednesday morning?)

Due to circumstances beyond our control, Thursday's planned agenda was fouled up and had to be rearranged. This got us down to the southwestern part of the state on our appointed rounds much later in the day than we had expected. There we met with good farmer friends where we loaded up about 1,000 pounds of open-pollinated corn, organic barley and wheat for part of our winter's livestock feed. We had a great three hour visit and although they wanted us to stay overnight and make the eight hour drive home today, we had obligations to fulfill this morning that we needed to be here for.

But before we left, D and I picked two big boxes of apples from their lovely, old Haralson tree. I gave one box to our daughter today and the other I'll make into applesauce.

We arrived home a few minutes past midnight last night and I was in bed shortly after 1 AM after we unpacked what couldn't wait until this morning. Roy took a little longer to wind down before coming to bed because he was pretty zinged up on the coffee he had consumed to keep him alert for the drive home. The deer were heavy along the highway the last two hours of the drive and with a thousand pound-plus load in the back of the Suburban, you know you're not going to be able to stop very fast should the need arise.

This morning started waaaay too early with our good neighbor calling to say he was ready to bring his equipment over and get the five foot deep trench dug for a new addition we're putting on the house . . . but he needed to get it done before 10:30 when he had to be at another job.

This little area in the back of the house was originally going to be a shaded deck for the hot summer time but now it's going to be something else. More details on this to follow.

The ground where we dug the trench didn't have much structure and started to cave in, moving the soil under the poles that were holding up the roof over the area. "Uh-oh," is what it looks like Roy is saying as he's quickly realizing what is happening.

Temporary supports had to be put up so we didn't damage or completely lose the roof.

Unfortunately, this is what can happen when one does physical labor early in the morning after two previously grueling days on the road, inadequate sleep, and a rather large hammer coming into contact with one's finger rather than the nail one is aiming for.

I just stepped out the back door and took this shot of the old support posts dangling in thin air over the newly dug ditch. And, yes, those little white specks you can see are snowflakes coming down. Hope it doesn't fill the ditch by morning.

More on this exciting situation tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Can't Beat Those Beets

Add ImageAdmittedly, I am a beet lover. Pickled beets, cooked beets with butter, raw beet salad . . . I like'em all.

This year I blanched and froze the bulk of our beet crop. Now I wish I had made more of them into Pickled Beets because I finally found a recipe everyone seems to like. More of those will have to wait for another year. The ones I froze I am super-happy with. They are just as flavorful as ones taken straight out of the garden and cooked. (Good thing, too, as I squirreled away a LOT of them in the freezer.)

I saved just a very few (wish I could have a do-over on that also) to use in my oh-so-good Baked Veggie Casserole.


Peel and cut up beets, carrots, and onions. Scrub potatoes (small ones are perfect) and cut into serving size pieces. Peel several cloves (enough for your taste) of garlic and halve each clove . . . unless they're really big honkers and then you might want to slice them again.

Spread all veggies in a shallow layer in a buttered baking pan, dot with butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add about 3 tablespoons water.

This is what mine looks like when ready for the oven. (The beets don't really show up against the blue speckled pan.)

Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until veggies are fork tender.

This is the pan right out of the oven.

The amounts of your veggies depend on what you personally like. I go heavy on the beets because I love them. And potatoes because that pleases my husband. The onions and garlic add lots of flavor.

The veggies look very reddish on the plate here because there is lots of buttery juice in the bottom of the baking pan (red from the beets) that I like to spoon over each serving.

I heat any leftovers in a saucepan to serve with our breakfast eggs the next morning.

Tarnation. Why DIDN'T I save more beets unfrozen to use in this recipe? What was I thinking? (Not thinking, obviously.) I wonder if the frozen beet slices would work?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mr. Moose Has A Narrow Escape

Recently my blogger friend, Jordan, over at Blueberry Hills Homestead, wrote about and included pictures of her dog's new favorite outside perch: on top of her car. She commented that hers is now the only vehicle in her work's parking lot with large dog foot prints all over the hood and roof.

Her post reminded me of a very distinct moose hoof print we once had on the black rubber-coated bumper of above pictured car right above the license plate.

The beginning of this tale goes back many years. (Many, many years.) When my mom was pregnant with me and living with her parents while my dad was overseas during World War II, my grandfather insisted that my mom get her driver's license . . . something she had never done.

A few months of driving lessons from Grandpa and Mom was ready to take the test. She went in to take the written part and passed with flying colors. But when she met the man who was to give her the driving test, things came to an abrupt halt. You see, by that time she was nine months pregnant. The gentleman took one look at her, told her to go home, have her baby and then come back to see him. (Coward.)

The upshot was that Mom never did go back to get her driver's license and through all the years of her marriage and raising a family, she couldn't drive.

Fast forward now to just about fourteen years ago. My dad had recently passed away, Mom was left with a very nice car, but no driver's license and sad to say but true, had lost her chauffeur.

She spent a bit of time visiting with us after Dad's death and one day we were discussing the situation, and everyone agreed that it sure would be nice if she could drive. She said she would still be willing to learn, and my husband volunteered to teach her.

One day shortly after the decision had been made, they returned from a driving lesson and Roy announced that he now knew there was nothing wrong with Mom's reflexes.

They had been on a deserted gravel road and Mom was behind the wheel in the very same Toyota Tercel pictured above. There were heavy woods on each side of the road and, wouldn't ya know it, a moose trotted out onto the road immediately in front of them. Mom hit the brakes, the moose did an about-turn in mid air right in front of the car and dashed back into the woods.

Mom and Roy sat there slightly stunned while their heart beats returned to normal. They realized they had heard a substantial "thunk" and Mom said, "I think I hit him."

They got out of the car and there smack in the middle of the bumper was a dusty, perfect imprint of a moose hoof. No other damage whatsoever . . . and they assumed the moose wasn't any the worse for wear either.

Mom took pictures to take home as proof of her driving adventures in the Northwoods and her very close encounter with a moose.

So, see Jordan, the prints on your car could be worse. Especially since your four-legged creature insists on tromping all over the hood and roof!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fox In October Sun

I left home shortly after noon today to make a run up to the farm to pick up milk products and some pork sausage that I use in making our Stuffed Peppers for the freezer.

On my way out of our driveway as I rounded a curve, I came upon Mama Deer and one of her twin fawns from this year. But do you think I could get my camera out fast enough to get a shot of them posing for me? Nope. Off they skittered into the heavy woods. So I continued on my way.

About two or three miles from home, out of the corner of my eye I saw something moving in the brush on the right hand side of the road. All of a sudden, there stood a big, beautiful, healthy-looking red fox. It's not uncommon to see foxes around here (preferably NOT near poultry yards), but usually we only get a glimpse of one dashing across the road . . . and then they're gone.

This guy wandered to the top of the gravel bank by the side of the road (as I did a U-turn while trying to watch him in my rear view mirror), and proceeded to snuggle down and make a little bed for himself in the sunshine.

I parked right across the road from him and started snapping pictures.

"You lookin' at me?"

"Oooo, I've got an itch!"

Then he settled in for a little grooming in the sunshine. He didn't seem the least bit phased by me and my camera.

"There's one flea here that's really bugging me . . . "

Reluctantly, after a short while, I decided I had to get going on my way. I drove up to the farm, made my purchases, stopped to drop some books off at the library in town on my way back and then did a little shopping at our whole foods co-op.

When leaving town I wondered if he might just possibly still be where I had first seen him. So instead of taking the shortest route from town to home, I made a detour back up north of town to the road I had taken toward the farm.

Lo and behold, I'll be darned if he wasn't still there . . . and looked to be sound asleep in the sunshine.

Totally oblivious of anyone that might be going by on the road or noticing him. Talk about knowing how to enjoy life! And what a thrill for me to be able to capture him in pictures.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm A Lonely Little Petunia In An Onion Patch . . .

My house smells like onions. Our bed smells like onions. Our clothes and my hair smell like onions. According to our daughter, halfway up our (quarter mile long) driveway it smells like onions.

I told you previously that because of the less-than-adequate growing season just passed, my yellow storage onions didn't have quite enough time to mature in the garden. When I had to harvest them because of extreme drop in temperatures (and snow, sleet, wind, rain and hail), the tops weren't dried up much. I lopped off the green tops and have them stored in our heat-tempered garage. I've been sorting through them about every other day and am very surprised to see some (very few) of them looking fairly good . . . like I might be able to store them (for a little while at least) as they are.

But the majority are just going to mold rather than keep for any length of time so I've been concentrating on dehydrating those.

When I work in the kitchen taking off the outer skins and slicing them up to lay out on the dehydrator trays, the fumes are so strong I can hardly tolerate the burning in my eyes . . . let alone the fact that I can't see for the tears streaming out of my eyes and am in fear of cutting off a finger or two.

When starting this morning's batch I knew I had to do something different so I enlisted my husband's help and we set up a small fan on the counter blowing right over the cutting board and another window fan directly across the room blowing air out of the room. This did help a lot and I was able to get the eight trays of the dehydrator filled without nearly as much agony (and grumping and grousing) on my part.

We've got the dehydrator set up out in our attached garage but somehow, the aroma still wafts its way into and through the whole house. Not the worst smell in the world certainly, but very noticeable.

I guesstimate I've got at least three more fillings of the dehydrator yet to do. Roy has suggested I dump the whole batch of onions in the compost heap, but I can't see wasting all those (blasted slow-growing, non-maturing) onions I nurtured all summer.

Penny-wise and pound-foolish? Could be. Wouldn't be the first time I've made a not-very-bright decision.

Uh-oh. Roy just came in for a few minutes from working outside and announced we had to figure out some sort of a new system before I do yet another batch. I've been in the house all day and have apparently become slightly desensitized to the smell but he says it's overwhelming and becoming more than a little unpleasant. (Maybe that's why I have such a headache? Can onion fumes be noxious? Gosh, it's dangerous trying to be self-sufficient.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Are Tuesdays Supposed to be So Busy?

Ooof. Yesterday was one of those wild, hectic days with people coming and going, a two and a half hour phone consultation, someone here for a service call, a small logging operation going on, and . . . and . . . and undoubtedly several other things my brain is too muddled to recall this morning.

Today I had all kinds of plans to get great things accomplished . . . but this morning started with a long, confusing, tedious battle via computer concerning my PayPal account which I couldn't have made it through without my husband's help . . . all the while trying to maintain our sense of humor and not take out our frustrations on one another. Now that that is resolved (geesh, I hope), I'm concentrating on getting rid of my tension headache and Roy has just suited up to go out into the cold, damp, gray, great out-of-doors to clean up the three trees in our back yard parking area that we took down yesterday.

He's been really, really nervous about these three poplars ever since the big wind storm. If they ever blew over, they most likely would have landed smack-dab on the garage so after witnessing perfectly healthy looking trees go down in the storm, he wasn't going to rest until we removed these.

He did the cutting and I did the pulling with the Suburban truck via a cable attached to the tree to make sure it fell in the direction we wanted it to go. All three went slick as a whistle and now only the clean up is left. (I tell ya, our chainsaws have been working over-time in the last couple of weeks.)

Our daughter, Chicken Mama, had a long day of nannying in town yesterday which included a mid-day trip back out (one hour one way) to their homestead to meet a service man for their current satellite problems. She and her adorable little charge made it back into our place just in time for a soup dinner with son-in-law on his way home from his work.

This was right after dinner when son-in-law and the nearly two-year old cuddled in the recliner for a short snooze.

Then it was off to town and the Community Center parking lot where Chicken Mama handed off the little pumpkin to her own parents and the four of us went on to a meeting inside.

The days just continue to zoom by leaving us wondering when we will ever possibly manage to get all the necessary things done, let alone find time to relax, recharge and recreate. (That would be "recreate" as in "recreation." Re-creating is long over for us!)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Entry Inspiration from Ruthie

Ruthie over at Nature Knitter had a post today that reminded me of a framed poster that I have hanging in our bathroom. It always gets a comment from everyone availing themselves of our facilities for the first time. I found it in a gift shop years ago and would give credit to the original author but have no idea who that might be, so here it is:

Minnesota - Closed for glacier repairs.

Land of many cultures . . . mostly throat.

Minnesota . . . come fall in love with a loon.

I came, I froze, I transferred.

Save a Minnesotan. Eat a mosquito.

One day it's warm, the rest of the year it's cold.

Minnesota. . . home of blond hair and blue ears.

Where the elite meet the sleet.

Minnesota . . . have you jump started your kid today?

Many are cold, but few are frozen.

You are entering Minnesota. Use alternate route.

Minnesota Theater of Sneezes.

Land of 10,000 Petersons, Andersons, Johnsons and Nelsons.

Survive Minnesota, and the rest of the world is easy.

In Minnesota, ducks don't fly south. People do.

Minnesota . . . glove it or leave it.

Land of two seasons. Winter is coming and winter is here.

Jack frost likes Minnesota. He spends half his life here.

Minnesota . . . mosquito supplier to the free world.

Minnesota . . . where visitors turn blue with envy.

There are only two things you can grow in Minnesota . . . colder and older.

If you love Minnesota, raise your right ski.

The way this winter is starting out, the above may become all the more meaningful this year. (And yes, it is snowing as I speak.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Plenty Peppers, Paltry Potatoes

This past Friday before the predicted snow, we decided we'd better dig our potatoes and harvest the sweet peppers we had under a cold frame. It was gonna get colder than any protection the cold frame could provide for the peppers I was babying along, trying to encourage to all turn red.

Although not all of them made it to the vitamin-rich, tastier red stage, I sure do have a passel of peppers with which to make Stuffed Peppers! I haven't made an actual count but the two pails in the back are both 5-gallon ones. I've got them in cold storage right now and the way my week is shaping up, it's gonna be a struggle to get them done and in the freezer. But do it I will, because they make such an easy, convenient meal that we both like a lot and have missed the last couple of months since we ran out of last year's supply.

We harvested only 106 pounds of taters from approximately 90 feet of plantings. Boo-hiss. Thumbs down. Not good. But considering all four rows of the reds were hit by the blight, maybe we should be thankful we got what we did. You can see that we have lots and lots of small ones. If they had all sized up, we'd have enough to share . . . and some to spare!

This is the second year in a row that our potatoes haven't amounted to much. No blight last year to blame it on. Usually, root crops are easy for us to grow in our climate, so I don't know quite what's going on with the spuds.

When we were digging the potatoes, we commented that if we were one of the early homesteading families up here with six growing kids to feed, it would be a disasterous harvest. But as it is, we'll just eat more rice this winter. That's okay. Rice is good.

Plus, we'll have lots of Stuffed Peppers to consume!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Good-Bye Summer, Hello Winter

This is the sight that greeted us at dawn this morning.

Hmmm, methinks it's time we mulched the strawberries.

And (sigh) put the deck furniture away.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Milk Run

Lots of errands and miscellaneous things to do today. The kind of day that leaves you feeling like you didn't accomplish diddly squat. But if truth were told, I did get a lot done; it just wasn't necessarily the "fun" stuff I wanted to get to!

I was grumping earlier this morning about our fall color season this year not being as nice (or long) as it usually is. This, I'm thinking, is in part due to the wind storm we had a week and a half ago. And we've been lacking in moisture also (lots of gray days but no significant rainfall), if that has any bearing on coloration.

You can see the water is low in this stream bed. Even though peak colors are past, this sure is still a purdy scene.

One of my errands today was to go up to the farm to replenish our supply of milk and cream. These are random shots taken on the way . . . through the windshield as I was driving. (Don't worry, I was going slowly and there was no other traffic around.)

It was a very, heavy , gray day.

The leaves they are a'comin' down.

Getting close to the farm.

I am so grateful for and appreciative of the area we live in. I love it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

How 'Bout Some Meat Pie?

Meat Pie? Criminy, that could be just about anything! I gotta come up with a better name for this dish. Somebody with more creative juices flowing than I have right now will have to suggest something more attractive . . . and catchy.

Let's just get into it and see where it leads. Okay?


1 lb. ground beef
5 oz. 1/2 & 1/2
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/3 cup diced onions
1/2-3/4 cup pizza sauce
1 cup shredded cheese (half cheddar, half mozzarella)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Put ground beef in a medium mixing bowl and add 1/2 & 1/2, bread crumbs, garlic salt and onions. Mix well.

Press meat mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie pan.

Bake uncovered for 20 minutes in a 350° oven.

Drain off excess fat. (Our dog loves when I make this because she gets the drippings over her dog food.)

Spread pizza sauce evenly over meat.

Sprinkle with shredded cheeses, Parmesan and oregano.

Bake another 10 minutes until cheese is melted.

Cut into desired slices and serve.

Notes about recipe:

Once I didn't have any bread crumbs, so added about 1/2 cup of diced parboiled potatoes. It was good.

In place of the pizza sauce, you could use ketchup or tomato sauce. I just like the little extra zing the pizza sauce gives.

I've always used a mixture of shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Today I used all cheddar because I bought a new brand of mozzarella (bad choice) and do not care for the flavor of it . . . at all. Didn't want to chance ruining the meat pie so didn't use it. But now I know I definitely like the mixture of the two cheeses rather than all cheddar.

My husband who LOVES regular, old meat loaf doesn't like this meat pie as much as regular, old meat loaf. On the other hand, I'm not crazy about meat loaf, but really, really like this meat pie. What does this prove? Darned if I know.

If you try it, I hope it turns your crank.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Fun Fill-In

Yesterday Donna over at Quiet Life included in her post a little six line fill-in quiz. She asked her readers to leave their answers in her comments section at the end of the post. It struck me as a fun thing to do, and I enjoyed reading all the comments she got in response.

So call me a big, ol' copy cat, but I'm offering the challenge to all of you to fill in the blanks today under my comments.

1. My car ________________________.
2. ______________________ is coming up next.
3. Lately, things seem ________________________.
4. ____________________ is one of my favorite "hiding" places.
5. What happened _________________________?
6. _________________ is not impossible!

I'll start the ball rolling by being the first one to list what I filled in.

Have fun!

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Most Un-Christmas Cookie

Our cookie jar is empty, it's a rainy day and our daughter is stopping over this afternoon . . . perfect reasons to bake her favorite cookies.

Every time I make Molasses Apple Cookies, I'm reminded of when she was in kindergarten and came home one day shortly before Christmas Vacation and announced excitedly that they were having a party and she needed to bake cookies.

She then produced a note from her teacher asking if we would be able to supply some Christmas cookies for their party in a couple of days.

I asked Chicken Mama (was she Chicken Baby then?) what kind of cookie she would like to make thinking she would pick one of our traditional holiday cookies.

"Mowasses Appo!" she gleefully exclaimed.

"Uh . . . well, Sweetie . . . how about if we make some Sugar Cookies with red and green sprinkles? Or Thumbprints with a little piece of marachino cherry on top?"

She didn't throw a fit (fits were frowned on in our house) but she was terribly disappointed that she wasn't going to get to take her very favorite cookies for the party.

Oh, what the heck, I thought. It's her party. So what if Molasses Apple Cookies don't look very festive.

And so in a few days time off to school she went (pleased as punch) with her little box of very un-Christmas looking cookies.

End of story . . . beginning of recipe.


1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup finely chopped apples

Cream butter, sugar and molasses. Beat in egg. Add lemon juice and blend well. Mix in dry ingredients. Add raisins and chopped apples and mix until well blended.

Drop onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for about 10 minutes. (Don't overbake, these are moist cookies.) Cool on racks and store in an air-tight container.

Mmmm, very moist and very delicious. Especially with a glass of cold milk!

A couple of other notes about these cookies:

I cut the recipe out of a newspaper many years ago and the first time I made them, halfway through the mixing up process, I discovered . . . whoopsie . . . there was NO FLOUR listed in the ingredients! So I just kept adding flour until it looked right. Happily, they worked the first time around.

The original recipe didn't call for raisins but I think they're a super-yummy addition. Of course, if you have a strange abhorrence of raisins like my son-in-law does, you may leave them out. (Before adding raisins to any cookie recipe, I always soak them in boiling water first to plump 'em up a bit.)

Now through winter is a great time to make Molasses Apple Cookies because they are so moist that in the humid summertime, they tend to gum-up and stick together. They still taste fine but you end up pulling one big glop of a cookie chunk out of the jar rather than an individual one.

My daughter's tastes have become more sophisticated now and I'm sure she'd never dream of making these cookies to serve at holiday time, but they still rank right up there with her most favorites taste-wise!

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Or maybe the title of this post should be "Mumblings." I don't seem to be operating on all four cylinders these past few days. Don't know if it's the radical change in weather that has finally arrived or the after effects of Monday's wind storm or just generally too much to do that has thrown me off. I've been feeling really tired and could probably blame it on a couple of little physical things or a couple of little emotional things. Take your pick.

Daughter and son-in-law had an impromptu dinner with us last night which was really nice. Sat for a short time afterwards, talked and got caught up with each other. It was early when they headed home so I managed to get into bed at a decent time. Tried to read but kept falling asleep. ("Clunk." Sound of book hitting me in the face.) Fine, I said, I'll zonk out, get a good night's sleep and get up at five to steal some time in my quilt studio. I slept so soundly that I didn't even hear the 6 o'clock alarm Roy had set. Even though the sandman was trying valiantly to keep me from escaping, I dragged myself out around 6:20 when I heard Roy making coffee. Bright-eyed, busy-tailed and ready to go I was. Not.

As of this morning, there were still 150-200 residences without power from the wind storm this past Monday. The biggest hang-up in restoring service is the fact that so many electrical poles snapped.

Roy's been spending his week cutting all the trees that blew down in the storm, piling the brush on our flat-bed trailer and hauling it to the open field where we can eventually burn it.

All that is left in my garden are onions and potatoes in the ground and cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers under cold frames.

Some of the peppers have turned red, some are halfway there, and some are stubbornly refusing to let go of their green color. I want to use them to make a winter's worth of Stuffed Peppers for the freezer, but I don't know how much longer I should hold out waiting for them all to turn color. We both much prefer the flavor of the peppers when they're red.

The tops of the onions haven't dried off as much as I'd like to see. Monday's winds knocked everything flat and now with the cool weather, I don't know what more progress we'll see with them.

The end of the garden . . . where did this summer go?

I am loving this "it's truly fall" feeling weather. Tuesday night was our first killing frost. All week we've had a small fire in the wood stove each morning and then another one at night before bed. Cozy, cozy, cozy. It will be good to get to bed early again tonight. If I can wait that long. (Ya-a-a-w-w-n.)