Friday, October 31, 2014

Our Long, Mild Fall May Be Over

It was snowing like crazy when we went to bed last night, and we wondered if we would wake up to a foot or more of the white stuff.

That didn't happen, but this just may have put an end to the gardening season.

Happy Halloween, everyone!  Have an enjoyable, safe one no matter how you celebrate.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What To Do . . .

. . . when you've just been given a box of delicious apples and you have a couple of geriatric bananas on your kitchen counter?

Why, try a new recipe for Apple Banana Muffins!  I'm here to report that this recipe is a winner and perfect for this time of year.

I adapted the recipe from one I found in an old Taste of Home magazine and will make one more slight change when I make the muffins again.

Apple Banana Muffins

1-1/2 cups quick oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup peeled and grated tart apple
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana

Combine the first seven ingredients in a mixing bowl.
In another bowl, beat the eggs, milk and butter.
Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened.
Fold in the apple and banana.
Fill 12 paper-lined muffin cups with batter.
Sprinkle top of muffins with a cinnamon/sugar mix.
 Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or
'til a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool for 5 minutes before removing muffins
from pan to a wire rack.
 Yield:  One Dozen Muffins

Using quick oats instead of old-fashioned rolled oats is the change I will make next time.  The texture of the muffins was good, but I think using the quick oats will make the ingredients even more moist and able to "hang together" better.

These moist, flavorful muffins made a yummy addition to our breakfast plate.  If you give them a try, I'm pretty sure you'll like them.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Good Weekend . . . But Busy

Yesterday we did one of my most un-favoritest things.  We culled chickens.  There's something about the smell surrounding the butchering, cleaning and preparing the birds for the freezer that bothers me.  But having said that, I sure do appreciate having the packages of organically raised, free-range chickens at my disposal and the resulting yummy chicken meat and healthy bone broth I get from our old hens.  I don't know when was the last time I bought a chicken or used purchased chicken broth.

Today my Under Gardener (that would be Papa Pea . . . and a darn good Under Gardener he is!) and I spent the whole day working in the garden.

I had noticed two green peppers that were rotting on the plants so I decided it was time to harvest all of them.  Having done that, the plants were pulled and went into a compost pile.  Takes care of another raised bed for the year.

I brought in the above pictured cabbage to use in making another batch of fermented veggies.  Isn't it perfect?  Eight pounds, two ounces.  Whadda whopper!  (The green peppers are no peewees either.)

Still have beets, carrots, potatoes and more cabbage in the garden (along with the two beds of salad greens, kale and Swiss chard).  Our weather has remained insanely mild for this time of the year hovering between the high 40s and 50s each day (yes, it really is relative, Carolyn, my friend!) with not much lower temps than the 40s at night so we've not been able to cool our root cellar down enough to be good storage yet for all this produce.  Still no hard frost here.

We worked on getting some lovely compost (looks like black dirt) spread on raised beds and parts of the field garden.  We cut all the pumpkins (still partially green, darn) and Red Kuri squash from the vines and put the vines in the compost.  Removed the downed corn stalks and put them in a pile next to the strawberries and will use them to cover the berry plants for the winter as soon as we have a couple of hard frosts.  Tied up all the new growth raspberry canes that had escaped the trellises so they wouldn't get smashed down by snowfall and broken.

Now I'm 'bout done in and have no idea what to put on the table for dinner.  How about toast?  No.  A couple of pears?  Uh-uh.  Green pepper slices and dip?  Nope.  (Finished the dip at lunch.)  A fried egg?  Nada.  (Had that for breakfast.)  Oh, well.  Wish me luck.

Friday, October 24, 2014

We Are Wood Wealthy

We've had both of our wood sheds full of wood for some time now, but there were still some 8' lengths back in the wood working area that Papa Pea wanted to get cut and under cover.

But where to put the wood when both sheds were full?  Thinker that he is, he came up with the idea of using the metal stakes and high sides we mounted on our flat bed trailer when we had a contract to deliver bundles of firewood to one of the state parks in our area.

Truly-duly, they worked out pretty darn slick as a makeshift wood shed to hold the very last of the wood.  Now we'll cover the top with a tarp, and the wood will be fine there until whenever we need it.

It's been a long time since our back wood working area has not had some wood stacked on it.  We've cleaned it up except for the couple of inches of sawdust still on the ground which we'll rake up and save for use in the garden.

Did I mention we just heard from the logger from whom we ordered more wood?  Yep, he's due to deliver another load sometime within the week.  Guess we'd better get busy gathering that sawdust.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Busy Week, To Say the Least

The beginning of this week started off with having three delightful little munchkins come to visit.

The nearly five year old and her nearly year old twin brother and sister who Chicken Mama cares for spent the day with us on Monday.

I now know for sure that I'm not smart enough to stay ahead of Little Big Sister.  She's sweet and funny besides being very bright, and loves to help Papa Pea do chores.  When she found out he was going to feed the bees, she asked if she could go with.

Getting into her "bee suit."  Note the new "work" gloves very recently purchased for her by her mom and dad.

Off they go to the bee yard.

Getting her first up close and personal look at honey bees.  This was a very brave thing to do for a little gal who used to be afraid of house flies on the window sill.

Back in the house and doing a little artistic creating with colored pencils.  This child has the most beautiful, naturally streaked hair I've ever seen . . . hair coloring that most of us gals would pay big bucks to obtain!

Lunch time for the twins.  Little Man being his usual eager eater.

Little Lady is no slouch in the eating department either.  They both have healthy appetites.

Baby girl demonstrating it's important to stay hydrated!

Little Man loves to play with our French door between the kitchen and living room.  He also thinks it's fun to smoosh his little face up against the glass panes.

Unfortunately, this is what happens when you put your little foot under the same French door and then pull it toward you.

But in less than 60 seconds and some lovin' from Chicken Mama, it's all better! 

I think I've recovered from the activities on Monday, but Tuesday and Wednesday remained jam-packed also.  Busy, busy, busy but not nearly as much fun as Monday!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Still Enough Growing for a Garden Tour

Believe it or not (I can't), we've yet to have a hard frost.  Here's what's still growing in my raised beds.  (Tour of the field garden in the upcoming week.)

I have a cold frame over three of the raised beds.  Two of them are salad greens that I started in late summer hoping to stretch out our salad meals as far into the fall as I could.

This is the first one and has four kinds of lettuce and Swiss chard in it.

The next has some salad greens in it starting with baby kale closest in the picture, then arugula, Scarlett Frill and more Swiss chard.

My green pepper plants have lived under a cold frame all this cool, cool summer and are still there going strong.  I've harvested most of the peppers and made Stuffed Green Peppers that are in the freezer, but there are still many huge peppers on the plants.  This time of year they are sooo sweet that we've been crunching up a whole one raw every day.  They're almost addictive.

Isn't this kale beautiful?  I have another half bed of it in another raised bed, too.  The cool fall weather really does improve its flavor.  Past the kale in this bed are beets I'll harvest and store "fresh" in the root cellar.

Last but not least (or maybe it is least depending on how you look at it) is my one cherry tomato plant that survived this year.  Standing out in the open with no protection even now.  Sure!  Here it is past the middle of October and I'm FINALLY getting tomatoes that really do want to ripen . . . but don't stand much of a chance this time of year.  I've been picking the ones that have started to turn color, setting them on the counter inside where they do become a lovely red and . . . surprise, surprise, even have a nice flavor.

That's the raised bed garden report, folks.  Green tomatoes or not, I'm very, very grateful to still have the luscious salad greens we do.

Scarecrow Winner - Take Two!

I misinterpreted Mollie's comment on the scarecrow giveaway, and then didn't get (!) an e-mail she sent me (before the drawing) saying she didn't mean to be included in the drawing.  (Dang computer glitches.)

So, despite the fact that I announced Mollie as the winner last night, I needed to draw a new name this morning.  (Still with me?)

The name I drew as the really, truly, bona fide winner of the scarecrow giveaway is:

ANGELA (a8383)

So, Ms. Angela, if you would send me your mailing address, I will get a package off in the mail to you first of this coming week.

My, my.  Hope I have this all straight and goin' down the right road now.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Scarecrow Giveaway Winner!

I just now came in here to my desk and drew the winning name of the person who has volunteered to invite the smiley scarecrow doll into her home.

Here he is sitting on my messy desk and ready to go on to new adventures.

Mollie, your name was drawn so if you will send me your mailing address, I'll bundle Mr. Scarecrow up into a box and ship him off to you.

Thanks, everyone, for entering this giveaway . . . and helping me purge (!) our household of one more item.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Time Is Running Out . . .

Hey, all you readers!  The time for entering the drawing for Mr. Scarecrow (see post below) is running out.  You have only until about 9 p.m. tonight to place your name in the hat for a chance to win him.

He would make a chirky decoration in your house (or barn . . . maybe he'd like to keep the animals company!) this autumnal season.

Doesn't matter if you've never left me a comment before.  Don't be shy . . . go ahead and enter the giveaway!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Finding Buried "Treasures"

We've just ended our second (long) day of sorting, cleaning and reorganizing our big storage shed.  In some ways, it's like finding treasures that have been long forgotten, but we're also finding a lot of junk items that make us wonder why we've saved them for all these years.  (I don't suppose any of you can relate?)  In many ways, we're both feeling that having material possessions we aren't using is like an albatross around our necks; they all take up storage space and weigh us down mentally knowing they are there . . . perhaps feeling badly we aren't using them, while maybe someone else could.  So we are being ruthless (well, we're taking turns being ruthless while the other one waffles) in our sorting and deciding what we should keep and what would better be relocated . . . either to the junk pile, recycling or to someone we know who could use it.

Did we finish up the job today?  Nope.  Golly-gosh, I hope at the end of our third day at the task we will be done.

One big box that I sorted through today held decorations that my now-retired teacher husband used in his third grade classroom.

So how 'bout it?  Wouldn't one of you like to give this smiley scarecrow guy (he measures about 20" from tip to toe when seated) a new home?  I'm offering him as a giveaway on this post.  If you'd like him to travel from northern Minnesota to anywhere (Your home?  Your classroom?  Your child's room?) in the U.S., just say so in the comments section of this blog post and I'll enter your name in the hat for "adopting" him.  I'll end the entries when I shut off my computer this coming Friday night, October 17th, and post the name of the winner sometime Saturday.

I found some decorations for Valentine's Day and also for Easter, but I'll wait to post those as a giveaway closer to those holidays.

If I can find them in the storage shed then.

(Heck, no worry.  Everything will be so organized when we finish this undertaking that I'll know just exactly where everything is!  Uh-huh, sure.)

Friday, October 10, 2014

This Post Is Brought To You By Procrastination

I'll readily admit it.  I'm here at my computer writing this blog post in an effort to put off cleaning the bathroom.  However, I have just finished vacuuming and dusting so I deserve a short break, right?

We had our first touch of frost a couple of nights ago.  'Twasn't a true, hard, killing frost to put a stop to all green and growing things out there, but it did do a number on the pumpkin vines.

Sadness and woe, it looks as though I'll have two-tone pumpkins this year.  The south-facing sides of the big, ol' gourds have turned a bright orange, but the north and/or undersides are still very green.

I have been so craving some good apples this fall to make into applesauce, apple pie, apple cake, apple slices, caramel apples . . . well you get the idea.  I think I've been especially eager to obtain a supply of apples because we aren't going to get any from our trees this year.  I know apples must be plentiful somewhere, but I haven't heard of trees being bountiful anywhere in our huge county.

We've even been trying to line up some from an apple growing area in the next state over but nothing has been firmed up yet.  So imagine my delight when I found a friend had left half a box of lovely apples on our back porch a couple of afternoons ago.  Her sister had come for a visit from "down south" in our state and brought apples which she so kindly shared with us.

I made an apple pie as soon as I could and knew it was going to fulfill my immediate apple yearnings because I sampled a slice when preparing the pie and found the apples were firm and crisp, but juicy with a really, really good flavor.  I told hubby I am going to keep using them every day until the box is empty.  I shan't waste a one of them!

Our experiment drying/curing our onion crop in the cold frames over raised beds in the garden was a bust.  We left them there for a couple/few days but found they weren't drying one bit.  Of course, those days were overcast and cool . . . which didn't help matters.

So we trucked them into the garage where we set up the ping pong table, covered it with a couple layers of newspapers and laid the onions out there.  We've left the door open from the heated workshop to the main part of the garage where the onions are so there is some heat to help the curing process.  Also, we've put a rotating fan blowing over the onions to help with good air circulation.  It looks as though they are going to cure just fine.  (Makes for real challenges when playing ping pong right now though.)

Okay, now I'm feeling a tad bit guilty about fluffing off and not getting the bathroom spiffed up.  I need to get up and do what needs to be done.

Procrastination, get thee behind me . . . and push.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Power. We are Gaining Power!

The tracker that our solar panels are on is designed to hold 20 panels.  Up until now, we've only had 10 panels installed.  It's been a long time coming, but we now have 10 more panels to add to the original 10 for a full load of 20.  Along with a new inverter, designed and built by our friend and alternative energy guru who is staying with us for a couple of days to get the new system up and going, these additional panels will really beef up our solar power.

Today has been intermittently sunny and cloudy, highs in the 40s with a very stiff wind blowing.  Not the best weather for this job, but at least it's not raining . . . or (gulp) snowing.

If you look closely at this picture, you'll see Papa Pea's legs sticking out of the truck as he's sitting sideways on the front seat.  I had to give him a hard time about not being right up there on the scaffolding (and in the wind) with C.  He informed me his job was very important; he was "on call" in case C needed anything brought up to him.  Actually, all that was left to be done was the wiring and it was a one-man job for which, obviously, C was more qualified.

This is a shot from underneath.  I cannot believe how much BIGGER the whole array looks now.

It's going to be very interesting to see how much more electrical power we're going to be able to generate this winter with our exciting, new set-up.

Progress, folks.  It's progress!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Night and Why Am I Not in Bed?

I am showered and have my jammies on.  I just finished my second half glass of wine and my eyesight has gone a little blurry.  Why am I not in bed?

I finished up my quota of Stuffed Green Peppers for the freezer (and "convenience" meals this winter) today.  I made a mistake this year.  It was such a slow growing season because of the cold, late spring and pretty much sunless summer that I didn't pick any peppers until early this month.  Big surprise!  How did they grow SO BIG?  The result is that I had these over-sized peppers with which to make my Stuffed Green Peppers.  I should have kept a better eye on them and harvested them when they were of a more manageable size.  Live and learn, as they say.  (And, yes, I did make a note in my garden journal to be wiser about this next year.)

Our weather has turned quite cool and blowsy.  Still no killing frost, or frost of any kind for that matter.  Up over the ridge north of us they have had a light snow covering already.  Is this the forerunner of another heavy snow winter like last year?  I wouldn't mind that at all if it didn't entail snow plowing and shoveling nearly every day.  Papa Pea and I have made a pact to get back into our cross-country skiing groove this winter (great exercise for my hips that seem to spread when I'm not looking) and good snowfall is a must for that.

It is said bad news comes in threes.  Within the last week our community has lost three members.  One a twenty-five year old who swerved to avoid a moose on the road and smashed into a tree.  She was dead upon impact.  Another fellow quilter lost her six year battle with cancer.  Today we said good-bye to a lovely lady who had been a delight to all who knew her to . . . well, old age.  I so admired her for her many talents.  So musically gifted, her creative artistry, her beautiful, kind and caring nature.  She was a fantastic horticulturalist and darn good cook along with being a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother.

It's a thrill to notice that the remaining salad greens in the garden have suddenly been rejuvenated by this crisp, fall weather.  They look revitalized and taste crunchier so once again we're enjoying big salads.  I feel kind of like a big old bear storing up vitamins for the winter!

I have a list of foods that seem to taste especially good in this autumnal time of year.  One of them is Alsatian Sauerkraut Soup which I plan on making tomorrow.  And, yes, it has sauerkraut as one of the main ingredients.  When we had the restaurant even professed sauerkraut haters liked it.  I haven't made it in a coon's age so doing so tomorrow seems like a good idea.

Our plans for tomorrow have changed and it looks like it will be a "home" day.  We had thought of spending one last day in the canoe on one of the inland lakes, but the forecast is for 40% chance of rain during the day (with a high temp of 49° -- brrr!) and a 50% chance of a rain/snow mix for tomorrow night.  We may have just missed the last of the canoeing weather for this year.  Oh, well.  Staying home, making soup and doing the laundry tomorrow sounds like a better idea anyway, don't cha think?  Ya sure, you betcha.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

No More Scruffy Charwoman

I confess.  I have looked awful all summer.  My typical outfit is dull, drab and stained with years of ground-in dirt that no washing soap will remove.  I spend so much time outside in the garden or doing other tasks that tend to make me sweaty and dirty that I see no sense in donning a nice looking, colorful outfit each day.

But enough is enough.  Even I'm disgusted with the way I've been looking and vow to find some clothes that look spiffier for next summer season.

In the meantime, I'm determined to improve my everyday appearance while spending most of my time in and around the house this winter.  I just finished ordering three new pairs of pants and three new (colorful!) turtleneck tops.  (Love those turtlenecks.  Couldn't make it through the winter without them.)  Now until the packages arrive in the mail, I'll be sending forth pleas to the Clothing Gods that the items actually might fit me.  Especially the pants.  (Every time I order pants through the mail, I swear I will never, ever do it again.  I did it again.  Sigh.)

* * * * * * * * * *

I harvested this good-sized basket of green peppers (only one was showing signs of turning red) yesterday and making some Stuffed Green Peppers for the freezer is on the agenda for today.  Hubby loves them and they are an oh-so-easy "convenience" food for me to pop in the oven for an evening meal.

* * * * * * * * * *

We don't have any chickens that lay green or blue "Easter eggs" but one of our new pullets seems to be experimenting with laying pre-decorated eggs.  Or maybe it was that she got this one three-quarters of the way out and just ran out of "coloring?"