Sunday, October 30, 2016

Our Week in Words

'Twas a good and profitable week gone by.  Lots accomplished around here, but the most effort by yours truly was put into getting the last produce out of the garden and processed.

All the cabbages were harvested, stripped of their outer leaves and stored snug in the root cellar.

I kept this red cabbage head to start using right away.  (The other red heads are underneath the green ones shown above.)  We both like boiled cabbage (with butter, salt and pepper . . . mmmm, good) as a vegetable, I use cabbage in a few soups, stews and casseroles, coleslaw is a favorite, I'll make some of the cabbage into kimchi and we'll probably make a batch or two of sauerkraut sometime early this winter.

The Brussels sprout "trees" were logged taken down with a saw (no fooling), the roots dug out with a spading fork and a little muscle, the sprouts cut from the monster stems (the denuded stems Papa Pea suggested we use as firewood . . . I think he was half serious), then the gazillion sprouts cleaned (only took me close to three hours . . . ugh) and then processed for the freezer.  I ended up with twenty-two servings (meals) of Brussels sprouts waiting to be consumed over the coming winter months.  (I regret not taking any pictures of this whole operation, but simply failed to do so.)

Oven roasting the pie pumpkins, prepping the pulp into puree, and getting it into the freezer took most of one day.  (Isn't it just amazing how long a "simple" task can take?  When it's jotted down on the To Do List, time allotted for it is guesstimated to be . . . oh, a couple of hours, at the very most.)  I ended up with seven 2-cup packages of pumpkin puree.  Papa Pea said, "Oh, good.  We can have a pumpkin pie each month from now on for seven months!"  I saved all the pumpkin seeds and now need to look up how to roast them for our snacking pleasure (and nutrition).  It's something I've never done before so this will be a new experiment adventure.

This past Wednesday, daughter and her guy (a first-time experience for him) jumped in to help us butcher some old hens and the over-run of roosters from chicks started this past spring.  It's great to have some chicken meat in the freezer once again.  And a good job to have over and done with.  Many thanks to our willing helpers!

As you can see by the smaller eggs in the above basket, our new pullets have been spurred into action.  (Rest assured we did keep the chicken butchering well out of their sight, but I think word may have gotten out, "No eggs produced, no happy home in the hen house.")

Unbelievably, the long-range weather forecast calls for our unseasonably warm weather to continue for the next 10-day period.  Down to only the 40s at night (no frost) and pleasant temps during the day.  Simply . . . wow.  We can't remember a year when our late fall/beginning winter was this mild.  All the better for a myriad of things to do work-wise and recreation-wise.  Hope to experience some of both!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Potatoes Are Harvested, Weighed and Stored

In the past we've dug our potatoes in nasty, cold, snow-spitting weather so in comparison, yesterday's harvest was very pleasant.  True, it could have been a smidge bit warmer (my hands got cold even with gloves on), but the sunshine was nice and the company was good.

This season I planted three 20' rows of taters.  One row was of our "old" reds that were given to us several (many?) years ago by a farmer friend who had no idea what variety they were.  They provided us with nice potatoes up until last year when they seemed to fizzle out on us and produced mostly small and only a few decent sized spuds.  So that's why I ordered some new red potato sets to try, a row of Red Chieftans.  In the third row, I planted some Burbank Russets when my dear husband (who maintains he definitely prefers a red potato over a white one) wasn't looking.  That gave me one row of the not-so-vigorous-anymore nameless reds, one row of Red Chieftans, and (shhhh!) that row of Burbank Russets.

Fairly predictably (and just why did I even plant them?), the old reds did quite poorly.  Once again, they were small to medium weighing in at only 30-1/2 pounds for the 20' row.

The new Red Chieftans did themselves proud producing a whole bunch of medium/large sized spuds, for a total weight of 50-1/2 pounds for their 20' row.

The white Burbank Russets produced some honkin' big potatoes that are so large I think one of the biggies baked would be too much for the two of us to split.  (If I could talk Papa Pea into eating an-oh-no-white! potato.)  They gave a fantastic crop from the 20' row of 82 pounds.

We'll share the potato bounty with our daughter and her guy (hope they like white ones), and I'm sure we'll all have plenty for this winter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Beautiful Fall Day

We've had a good frost the past two nights in a row.  (Is frost good?  Is frost bad?  Depends.)  Time to go for it and get everything out of the garden that needs getting.

I harvested our pie pumpkins a couple of days ago.  Nine of the nearly perfect orange orbs grew in my small patch.  We had a visit over the past weekend of some little urchins who were taken with the miniature size so three of the pumpkins disappeared when the small people did. 

When I get the time in the kitchen, I'll roast these remaining six and squirrel the pulp away for winter pumpkin pies, bars and bread.

Today we're planning on digging potatoes, getting all of the cabbage in, and harvesting the Brussels sprouts.  Out of the 18 plants I started, we ended up with only ten.  Two didn't survive the transplant and six developed what I think was some kind of a fungus which formed a large bulb at the base of the plant while no Brussels sprouts formed on the stem.

We'll probably be harvesting the apples within a couple of days, too.  We've been slightly amazed at the quantity and size of the apples on our dwarf trees planted only last year.

It's been a great year for our big apple trees, too.  The large clump in the foreground of the picture above is a branch that we had to stake up because of the weight of the apples on it.  And this was after thinning all the apples at the beginning of the season.  Apple pie, anyone?

Lots to do today so I'd better get on with it.

Friday, October 21, 2016

My Day

Stayed up a little late last night with good company, conversation and laughter along with a bit of sipping of lovely liquid libation.  (Dare I say more than a bit of sipping of said libation?)

'Twas a slow start this morning, but I did manage to get our first batch of my mom's holiday fruitcake baked.

After lunch, Papa Pea begged and begged and begged (he's so pathetic) for a slice, so I cut into one loaf even though I knew it would be crumbly.  The fruitcake needs to be wrapped in foil and stowed in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before it "firms up" enough to slice easily.

Then it was out into the garden for the continued clean-up operation.  Because of our warmer-than-usual weather (no killing frost yet even), I've let things out there go much longer than I should have.  Of a normal year at this time, the garden would already be put to bed for the winter, and I would no longer have to give it a thought.

My experimental fall plantings were mostly a bust.  The edible podded peas and shell peas put forth lovely green vines, but not much else.  The edible podded peas blossomed scantily but formed only one or two (that I could find) pods that failed to grow any longer than about 1".  The shell peas made pods but very few plumped up.  I taste tested the few that did and although the peas inside looked normal, they had an old, stale flavor.  Yuck.

The cauliflower started from seed in a raised bed in July never even came close to forming heads.  I gave up on it and threw it to the poultry.  They said thank you very much and gobbled it right up.

 A lovely head of lettuce

A "bouquet" of arugula

The fall planted bed of salad greens did do well, I'm happy to report.

We had an end of the season plethora of fresh, crispy Swiss chard, spinach, mizuna mustard, arugula and several kinds of lettuce.

So today I picked one last big bowlful of the assorted greens then yoinked out all the plants and spread them out in the poultry pasture.  The ducks, geese and chickens came as a group for lunch, they all dined at the salad bar (hold the dressing, please) and said it was yummy.

Then I started pulling the sad looking pumpkin vines (all stronger, longer and tougher than one would think), but had to quit to make a run to town for a few errands.  One errand was to drop off at our second hand furniture store a lamp we no longer wanted or needed.  While there, I spotted a lovely swivel desk chair they had recently gotten in.  Since I've been kinda sorta looking for another chair to replace this one . . . 

. . . that I've had for so long I have no memory of where or when I got it, I decided to bring this new one home with me.

It has an adjustable height feature, and I think I'm going to like it very much.

I got a little more done in the garden after returning home from my other errands at the hardware store, recycling center, and library.  Popped some chicken turnovers in the oven which were waiting in the freezer for just such an occasion, heated up some left over gravy and served them with frozen (cooked, of course) green beans from the garden.

That was my day.  Just another slow one on ye ol' homestead.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Carrot Harvest

The carrots had to come out.  I plant my carrots in a raised bed each year and after having made my garden plan for next season, I realized the bed in which the carrots were this year is the designated garlic bed for next year.  And, of course, up here in the north land, garlic needs to be planted in the fall.

I try to get the garlic in by October 15th (how'm I doin'?), so the carrots had to come out, out, out.

Apparently growing conditions weren't perfect for our root crops this year.  I knew this about the carrots because of a few I'd already snitched and because very few crowns were showing above the soil.  Same with our beets which are still in the ground.  I've never grown beets with such small tops or beets so down right puny.

Anyway, the carrots grown were mainly my old favorites Scarlet Nantes.  For fun and experimentation this year, I planted one row of Deep Purple and one row of Dragon.  These are two "richly pigmented" carrots which supposedly contain more health benefits than other, regular carrots.

The four foot row of Dragon yielded only 3-3/4 pounds.  The outer skin is dark as noted in the picture, but the main part looks orange like any other carrot.  We have tasted them.  The flavor?  Meh.  Not sweet at all, but that may change in storage.

Wow, now here's a dark colored carrot!  Plus, they are dark all the way through.  We haven't taste tested them yet, but they produced the nicest looking (biggest, anyway) carrot I grew.  Got 6 pounds from the one four foot long row.

Then there is our main crop of Scarlet Nantes.  (Don't they look like a bunch of misshapen hot dogs?)  Very disappoint in size this year.  Most of them are of a good length, but very thin.  Why?  Dunno.

We're used to regularly getting carrots that are at least the size of the three with the pencil over them.  Haven't tasted these yet either.  I got 17 pounds from 24 feet of them.

I guesstimate we consume one pound of carrots a week so my total poundage of approximately 26 pounds should last about six months.  Six months of very skinny carrots.  And we'll be glad to have them!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Would You Wear Pink Socks?

I sat on the couch last night and managed to stay awake long enough to finish a pair of socks I've been knitting for myself.

When my daughter saw the first sock on my needles she said, "But Mom, you never wear pink."

"I will now," I replied.

I have to admit that when I purchased the yarn, I thought the red would be the predominant color rather than the pink tone.  Oh, well.

As I held them up last night to show them off to my husband, he said, "Wow, you knitted those up fast."

Uhmm . . . no.  I've been working on them (albeit sporadically) for somewhere around four to six months.  But time flies when you're having fun.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

This 'n That

My brother and sister-in-law were here for a (short) visit this past week.  It had been a (long) while since we'd all been together.  We managed to squeeze in lots of visiting, catching up on each others' lives that can't be done via e-mail or phone calls, some breaking bread (and a few other things) together, some time getting out in our gorgeous fall weather.  'Twas good to see each other and confirm that fact that we're all enjoying life, doing what we want to be doing . . . and haven't aged one bit!

On the home front, our two-year old hens have been molting and egg production has gone right down the tubes.  (Unfortunately, not the egg tubes.)  I don't remember when I've had such a pitifully small back log of eggs in the refridge.  But, joy-oh-joy (and surprise), our new chicks who we hadn't counted on starting to lay until December, presented us with our first two pullet eggs last Thursday.  (Precocious little birds, they be.)  Only one more pullet egg since then, but I'm hoping they will really kick into production soon.

I can hardly believe it, but I'm still harvesting green peppers from the garden.  About half of the bell peppers look great on the outside, but when cut open they have a great deal of mold in the center.  I haven't found this to be true in any of the Sweet Italian Pepper variety.

I don't have my Halloween decorations out and in place yet.  (Call the Seasonal Decoration Police!)  Running a little behind schedule this year, it seems.  If all goes well, I think I can get it done today yet.

Our day time temperatures are remaining warmer than usual, and we've yet to have a killing frost.  Every extra day we can get for this year's apple crop to mature is a very good thing and much appreciated.

We have two chickens that have been put on my Black List.  They've been escaping nearly every single day from the poultry pasture to scratch around in the garden.  This time of year it didn't initially seem like a terrible, awful, bad thing, and I kind of ignored them . . . until we discovered they were scratching in the potato hills enough to uncover potatoes and leave them lying exposed to the sun.  Nope, can't tolerate that.  I'm hoping we've got the escapees contained now.

We're still putting off harvesting our root crops because the temp in the root cellar, which we checked this morning, is only down to 52°-55°.  We need to find a way to incorporate more thermal mass in there which will hold the cold better.  (Another little item added to The List.)

This has been a catch-up, organizational day for both me and Papa Pea.  

Remember that every day is a fresh start, a new beginning.  So gather all your vim and vigor and hit tomorrow running with a smile and determination to do what needs to be done!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Morning Scenes

A flotilla of waterfowl.

The nosy geese are always the first to come investigate.

No food, no interest.  Back to the 
morning paddling around.

I love the way our driveway looks this time of year.
 Soon it will be looking bare.
But snow will come and make it lovely again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Miscellaneous Chatter

I guess I need a good night's sleep for more than my beauty.  (Snort.)  Last night I tossed and turned, was up and out of bed for a couple of hours, then wasn't even feeling sleepy when I finally got back into bed.  Of course, I've paid for it all day today.  My body doesn't want to do what it should be doing, but would rather collapse on the couch and slip into oblivion.  I had a lot to do today and did manage to stumble through most of it, but I certainly wasn't operating on all cylinders.  But we all have days like that, right?  I do plan on getting into bed early tonight.  The way I continue to feel, I should have no trouble sleeping this night.

We had our first frost this past Monday morning.  Our thermometer in the sheltered area on the north side of the house by the back door registered 32°, but there was a solid layer of ice on poultry waterers.  Strange thing in the garden though.  The only area that seemed touched, despite a white coating on roofs and vehicles sitting out, were the pumpkin vines.  Neither the cherry tomatoes nor pepper plants had any damage.  Last year our first no-doubt-about-it killing frost was on the 17th of the month.

My fall planted shell peas, the edible podded peas and cauliflower plants don't look as though they'll produce much.  The pods on the shell peas are only about 1/3 plumped up (and have been that way for about a week now with no further growth), the edible podded peas developed very few blossoms (no pods at all yet), and although the cauliflower plants look healthy, there's nary a trace of any heads forming.  Oh well, it was worth a try.

Our fall colors have peaked although there are still lots of golds and yellows to be seen.  I think I like all the leaves on the ground as much as anything.  Our driveway is lovely with its covering of leaves.

Our Virginia Creeper is looking a little wilty, but is still very colorful.

Rain is called for starting tonight and continuing through tomorrow, but Thursday is supposed to be sunny again.  Our day time temps are well into the 50s which, to me, is beautiful fall weather.

We've gotten all the slabwood off the flatbed trailer, cut and stacked under cover in our smaller wood shed.  Funny thing, when all is said and done, it doesn't look like as much wood as we had expected.  That's okay as we have plenty more maple logs still waiting to be worked up in our back wood working area.

Stuffed Green Peppers for dinner tonight.  What's on the menu at your house?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Because this past week was my grandpa's birthday (October 6th), I've been thinking about him.  No, he's no longer with us, and hasn't been for a long time.  He was born way back in 1884 and died in 1963.

He was my maternal grandfather (the only one I ever knew), and I was close to both him and my grandma.

I wrote a post about Grandpa when I first started blogging and thought I'd share it again today.  Here it is.

Grandpa Stops By

First of all, let me state that I do not believe in the super-natural, the occult, apparitions or ghosts.  But I saw my grandpa as clear as day a year after he died.

My first real job in the working world was as what used to be known as a secretary.  I was employed by a large company that supplied natural gas to the whole northern half of the state of Illinois.  No computers then.  I even took dictation with a pencil and steno pad.

One day at work I had such bad menstrual cramps I thought I would have to go home but decided to try to lie down for a while to see if that helped.  The door to the women's rest room on the floor on which I worked opened into a short hallway.  Immediately to the left inside the hallway, and before the door to the rest room proper which was straight ahead , there was a door that opened into a small room which was set up as kind of a lounge area.  It contained a couch and a few comfortable chairs.  I went into that room to stretch out on the couch.  When I entered I turned off the lights but left the door open in case someone else came in wanting to use the area for a work break.

I had been lying on the couch on my stomach for about ten minutes when I heard the outer door open and footsteps come into the hall and stop in the doorway.  Fully expecting to see some other woman wanting to use the lounge area, I raised myself up intending to tell her to turn on the lights and come in.  But the person standing there wasn't another woman.  It was my great, big, old, dear grandpa.  In his bib overalls, long-sleeved undershirt and high-top tennies.  He WAS there.  I know he was there.  He didn't say a thing, he just stood there for perhaps ten seconds as we looked at each other . . . and then he was gone.  I sat up, pinched myself a couple of times to make sure I wasn't dreaming, and tried to figure out what had just happened.  I wasn't frightened or upset because . . . well, it was just Grandpa. 

When I later told my mom of the experience, she reminded me that that was the way he always made an appearance when he was alive.  You would turn, and he would unexpectedly be there.  Several of his married children had nearly suffered coronaries on more than one occasion as they would walk into their kitchen and there would be Grandpa unloading some of his homegrown tomatoes onto the counter, or they'd go into the basement with a load of laundry and Grandpa would be stacking wood in a corner for their fireplace.

I might not believe in the super-natural, the occult, apparitions or ghosts, but I do believe in the spirit.  My grandpa had a quiet, strong, caring spirit, and I think that day at work he was just stopping by to check on me.  No other explanation for it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Mid-Week (Already?)

Today I gave my onion crop a final inspection and cleaning, weighed them, put them in crates and stored them in the basement.

The red onions were a little disappointing this year.  I got only eleven and a half pounds of them, and they're kind of runty in size to boot.  Mother Nature didn't choose to give me a bumper crop of nice big ones as she did last year.  So it goes.  I'm grateful for what we got.

The yellow ones came in at fifty-one pounds, and most of them are large to medium in size.  A very nice crop.  (I did plant twice as many yellow onions as red.)

Starting early this summer I pulled some of both varieties as they were growing to use as scallions or, as they got bigger, for all my needs so I've really been using part of what I grew for three months already.  I'm sure the yellow onions will get us through the winter, but I have a feeling the red ones aren't going to last very long.

* * * * * * * * * *

A couple of our roof lines have been existing (not very efficiently) without gutters.  We have taken total advantage of our daughter and her man and (coerced begged bribed forced pressured tricked strong-armed persuaded) asked if they would help with the project.

We had rain most of the morning but this afternoon turned into a lovely fall day.  Just the kind of day to get the scaffolding up and in place to start the project tomorrow.   Another set of boards will go almost on the tippy-top of the scaffolding to make hanging the gutters as easy as possible.

Good thing one of us (and it isn't me or Papa Pea or our daughter) was a professional window washer in a previous life.  You just never know what a particular talent is going to get you into!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What We Did for Fun and Recreation Today

Our daughter has a friend who has a small sawmill.  Said friend had a pile of slabwood he wanted to get rid of for a nominal fee.

This sounded like a very good way for us to get some small wood for starting our fires during the wood heating season.  

We start fires by placing kindling over a few pieces of crumpled paper, then adding some pieces of small soft wood (the slabwood will fill this bill) before adding a log or two of hard wood which holds a fire for a long time.

The kindling we have . . . 

. . . and the big wood shed full of hard wood.

But we were lacking small soft wood that would catch fire easily and burn quickly to make a bed of hot coals for the hard wood.

Now we have it!

We took our truck and flatbed trailer which measures 8' wide x 14' long to the sawmill and piled it high with the available slabwood.

Now if the Magic Firewood Fairy would just come tonight, unload the slabs, cut them up and stack them neatly in our small wood shed, life would be good.

What am I saying?  Life is good.  Hubby and I took a lovely drive through the fall colors to the sawmill, spent the couple of hours it took us to load (yes, every single piece by hand) in the beautiful, fresh, cool air while at the same time chatting away and getting some really good exercise.  Not a bad way to spend a few hours on a gorgeous autumn day.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Misc. Monday

Beautiful fall day coming on.  A high of 60° forecast with sun.  Overnight we had our lowest temp so far this fall . . . 43° . . . cool enough to start bringing cold air into the root cellar.

Our good neighbor's pepper plants, for some reason, didn't produce much this year while ours have been abundant so we've been sending bags full over to them.  Don't know how long ours will keep producing.  I'm not going to cover them with a cold frame because 1) the plants are taller than any cold frame we have, and 2) I have already processed as many as we need.   I'm thinking the plants will be slowing way down now because of lack of heat during the day and the cool, cool air at night.

I had all but one last load of laundry out on the line early this morning.  Gotta admit my fingers got a little nippy, but that comes with the territory this time of year.

Papa Pea and I are meeting in the back wood working area this morning at 10 to do some chain sawing, splitting and stacking of wood.  We started on that task this past Saturday and even though one thinks one is in good shape, muscles that apparently haven't been recently used were felt.

The time just hasn't been available for me to keep up with all the blogs you good people write, and I feel badly about that.  Catching up and having the time to comment is always my intention and may well happen . . . most likely after this last month of outside work comes to an end.

Here's hoping you all have a good, good week!