Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Wind

The winds during last night and today until noon were unpleasant.  Thirty to thirty-five mph sustained, gusts up near 50 mph.

Always seems worse during the night listening to the bumps, thumps, and unidentifiable crashes.

Five ladders were stored "temporarily" leaning against the end of the building.  They toppled over and knocked a drain pipe cattywampus.

Cold frames in storage at the end of the garden (where they've always been safe) got torn apart.

No serious damage.  Tarps blown off lumber piles, snow shovels found skittering their way toward Canada, stuff like that.

Is this March coming in like a lion a bit early?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Mud and Yuck

We had a day of nearly solid rain yesterday.  Lost a lot of snow, found a lot of mud.  Still have ice underneath standing water.  One does not want to slip and fall in the poultry yard because of the mud and the fact that the goose and duck poop is no longer frozen.

The poultry thinks spring has definitely arrived (boy, are they in for a surprise) and certain birds of the male persuasion have become quite .  . . um, uh . . . amorous.

The Muskovy hens have started laying eggs, but we're collecting them because it's way too early for them to sit on a clutch and hatch out little fuzzy ducklings. 

Everyone was rarin' to get out and going this morning.

"Mmmm, fermented grain.  So good!"

The geese are getting a little bossy with the fine weather so we let the ducks and chickens out first to eat and drink their fill of the fresh water.

Then the big, ol' domineering geese are let out.  Don't these guys look like they're looking for trouble?  They are, you can be sure.  If it's not chasing ducks and chickens out of "their territory," they're busy destroying bungie cords.

The pond is far from being open but the rains have softened much of the top ice and snow.  It will undoubtedly be covered with snow and ice again yet this winter before open water appears.

The duck eggs we've been getting (on the top right) aren't that much bigger than the chicken eggs.  They're white but more of a dusky color.  Also, the shells are much tougher than chicken eggs.  I don't know how the little ducklings ever manage to break their way out of them.

Here's a side-by-side look at a hen egg on the left and a duck egg on the right.  The duck egg yolks are bigger while the whites are smaller in comparison to a chicken's egg.  I haven't baked with the duck eggs yet, but when eating them (scrambled, fried, poached) we can't tell the difference from a chicken egg.

Wonder when we'll get the first goose egg?

Monday, February 20, 2017

The First Seeds I Plant in My Garden Are . . .

In the comments section of one of my recent blog posts, one of my readers, Rain, asked me which seeds were the first I planted in the garden each season.  (By the way, Rain has just started her own blog which you should check out.  She's jumping into gardening with both feet this coming season, and I know her posts are going to be very interesting.  You can find her blog here.)

Between my raised beds and field garden, the raised beds are always ready for planting first.  After our long winter, Papa Pea and I are just about literally chomping at the bit for fresh greens from the garden so an assortment of salad greens is always what I plant first.

 Photo(s) from previous years.

It's almost as if I'm standing by a raised bed with the seed packets in my hand waiting for the day when I can plant.  I pop in several kinds of lettuce, mizuna mustard, arugula, spinach, Swiss chard, and any other greens I can fit in.

And, of course, radishes.  I love radishes.

This won't be my main planting of salad greens, but a sampling (and I'll have to put a cold frame over them) to get that first bowl of salad fixings into the kitchen as soon as possible.

Geez, it's still more than two and a half months before I can even get those seeds in the soil, and now I'm already envisioning how good the first home grown salad will taste.

What I'm curious about now is what are the first seeds each of you fellow gardeners plant?  Does it differ a lot if you're in a more tempered, southern location than I am?  Do you have greens ready early on because you can over-winter them?  I'm really interested in hearing about the first seeds you put in.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Could This Be . . . Spring??

Spring time arriving in the north woods on February 18th?  No way.  But gee-willikers, we had such a warm day with full-blown, strong, warm sunshine all day.

I noticed what I think was the high of 58.6° on our thermometer in the shade which means it had to be way up into the 60s in the sun.

The bees were out taking cleansing flights and happily creating thousands of little brown blobs all over.

Areas where we've kept pathways shoveled through the snow are suddenly and unbelievably down to bare ground.  (I took these two pictures after the sun had gone down.)

And look at that!  There are even a couple corners of raised beds poking up out of the blanket of snow.  Maybe I can plant some early cold weather crops in one of them tomorrow.  Or not.  (Still looks pretty bleak, doesn't it?)

This whole next week is forecast to be of these higher than normal temperatures so I'm wondering how much of our snow will do a disappearing act.  Of course, as so often happens this time of year, next weekend is supposed to be freezing rain, sleet, hail and snow-filled.  (Yes, Virginia, it is still winter.)

So, no, this can't be spring for us yet.  But it sure did feel good out there today.  (Just ask any of our honey bees.)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Getting My Driver's License

No, this isn't about me just now getting my driver's license, but I did receive a notice in the mail yesterday that it is time to renew it.  Again?  Already?  Didn't I just do that?  (Yup, four years ago.  My, how time does fly.)

The renewal notice reminded me of a post I wrote many years ago when I first started blogging and had only one or two readers.  I thought I'd repeat the post again for those of you who are now readers (and I appreciate all of you!).

* * * * * * * * * *

Learning to Drive

I vividly remember I simply could not wait to get my learner's permit, which could be obtained at fifteen years of age (good gawd, that seems like such a baby now), and start learning to drive so that the day, the very day, I turned sixteen, I could take my driver's test and be able to drive a car.  Wahoo!

Back in those prehistoric times there was no such thing as a driver's ed class in my high school.  Oh, sure, you could take lessons at a bona fide driving school but that cost money and no one but the "rich kids" went that route.  Usually your mom or dad, other relative or some family friend volunteered to do the teaching.

Finally, the day came when I got my learner's permit, and my dad said he would take me out in the family car for short sessions.  The very first time I got behind the wheel, the fact that I had this massive amount of power in my hands (or it definitely seemed that way) scared the bejeezuz out of me.  

Never had a car looked or felt so big.  Our '56 black and white chevy sedan was a stick shift, my dad was a little short on patience (I'm being nice here), and I was not a very adept learner.  Right then and there, I decided, nuh-uh, nope, I didn't want to learn to drive after all.  What?!  I had been literally counting the days off until I could begin driving, and here I was chucking it all . . . just like that.

In all my life, I can never remember my dear old grandpa talking to me in less than a kind or playful manner . . . except when he heard that I had decided not to learn to drive.  He got right in my face and shaking his big ol' gnarled finger at me said something to the effect of, "If you put off learning to drive until later, you'll never do it.  Before you know it, you'll be a young mother with two little kids stuck way out in the suburbs somewhere and you won't have any independence.  You'll have to rely on others to take you places and do errands for you.  I want you to learn to drive now!"  

Well.  Alrighty then.

Back at it Dad and I went.  We spent many frustrating hours (for both of us) in a huge, empty Sears parking lot, but I simply could not learn to work the clutch without killing the blankety-blank engine every blankety-blank time.  No matter what, I just couldn't get the feel of it.

One day my dad was telling my uncle what a terrible time we were having.  Dear Uncle Jack volunteered to take me out that afternoon and what an instantaneous difference.  Just by using different language in describing how to manipulate the clutch and the gas, something clicked, and I got it!  Hallelujah!

All went smoothly after that and when my sixteenth birthday rolled around, Uncle Jack (I think my dad was working, but he was probably just as glad) took me to take the test to get my for-real license.  I passed with flying colors, probably surprising everyone.  Whew.

And I've gotta say, I've always been glad that I learned on a stick shift (difficult as it was) because that has enabled me to drive any and all cars and several other vehicles that have a stick shift. 

* * * * * * * * * * 

So now, I'm curious.  What's your learning to drive story?  Everybody's got one.  How did you learn to drive?  How old were you?  Who taught you?  Was it a good experience?  Where did you practice?  Did you pass your test the first time?  C'mon, fess up, let's hear all the interesting details!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What Not To Do With A Purple Carrot

 Yesterday I pulled out my recipe and started making a batch of one of our favorite soups . . . Chicken Soup with Dumplings.

Everybody loves it so I thought I'd make a double batch. 

Chopped up the onions, celery, and carrots to get them ready to saute in the melted butter.

Some of you may remember me mentioning I grew two new (to me) varieties of heirloom purple carrots this past gardening season.  I've served them chopped and grated in salads and they've inevitably been mistaken for raw beets.  This should have been a warning to me.  Shoulda', but wasn't.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.

I put a couple of regular Scarlet Nantes carrots in my soup fixings and a couple of the purple ones.

Can you guess what happened?  Yep, the purple carrots "bled" just the same as beets do when cooked.  This did baaaad things to my should-have-been beautiful chicken soup made with rich, golden turkey broth and deep yellow dumplings.

The chunks of chicken in the soup turned an unappetizing gray along with the dumplings and . . . well, virtually everything else.

The eager eaters around my table were very kind.  They said the soup tasted just as good as always.  Bah.

Lesson learned:  The appearance of food plays a big part in its perceived flavor.  Also, don't cook with purple carrots unless you're striving for an unusual, and perhaps startling, appearance.

Hey, don't fault me for this.  I've only been cooking for 50+ years.  I evidently have a lot to learn yet.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

OMG! I've Been Hacked!

Hacked by my very own daughter!  (Please see blog post below this one.)

The little darling has always been good about making her own unique, creative greeting cards for special occasions for her ol' mom and pop, but this one will stand out as a real winner for some time to come.

The pictures, all but the one in the bottom middle row of her and her sweetie, were taken long ago and where she dredged them up is a wonder.  I feel compelled to write a bit explaining each one.  (Click to biggify the pictures, if you wish.)

Going across the top row from left to right, the first one is of Papa Pea plowing up the very first garden we had back in Illinois.  He was still going to school and working part time while I was working full time off the homestead.  We'd already starting keeping chickens, ducks, geese and dairy goats.  And a tiny fawn who's mother had been hit by a car.

Next is an even earlier picture taken of me pretending to smoke a pipe figuring if Papa Pea could do it, so could I.  We were living in my grandma's house at the time.  Grandpa had died and Grandma didn't want to live alone so she packed her suitcase and took to living with one or the other of her seven kids, all of whom welcomed her.  We rented her house until we moved to the thirty acres Papa Pea's folks owned out in the country.

Fast forward 10-12 years, we had made the move to our first piece of land here in Minnesota, little Chicken Mama was three years old and we were working off our tushes clearing about 20 acres of the long since abandoned  eighty acre homestead so we could grow hay to feed our horses and goats.  And Coco, our donkey.  Oh my, the days Chicken Mama and I spent on that tractor while Papa Pea was teaching.

Next row first picture, I'm getting in wood in an effort to heat (futility personified) the tin can of a trailer we first lived in on the eighty acres.

Middle is a present day picture of Chicken Mama and her partner still smiling (silly kids) after a day's work of hard labor.

Last but not least, Papa Pea and a pre-teen Chicken Mama ready to go off on an afternoon ride on one of his (many over the years) motorcycles.  I suspect it was a reward for her after a day of (enforced child labor) helping us cut wood for one of the side businesses we had which helped us stave off starvation when we were getting established up here.

There's nothing like pictures to bring back memories, is there?  Thanks for the Valentine memories, dear daughter of ours!

Hacked! And on Valentine's Day!

Chicken Mama here.  Mama Pea's one and only offspring.  You'll notice that it's after 1:00 AM on Valentine's Day when I post this.  Because I've been fighting my printer for hours trying to get Mama & Papa Pea's valentine to print.  To no avail.  But it finally dawned on me that I could give it to them this way.  (Insert slightly devious, overly-tired mwah-ha-ha-ha chuckling.)

So, here it is:
On the inside, I would write - which seems to be so repetitive but also so true:

Mom & Dad (aka Perc & Drip),

Thank you for your unending support and encouragement through all things!  No matter that I'm 45 and you're 7? and 7?, respectively, your wise words and life lessons continue to help and teach me - even if I sometimes seem to (still!) rebel against them.  P.S.  I've really enjoyed working with you over this past year and SO appreciate the opportunity you've given me/us.*

Love, Sunshine

* They'll understand this - it's an inside thing.  😚

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

~  Woo-ee!  I think we are into some winter time weather.  Today the sun is shining brightly, not a cloud in the sky, there is no wind, it's 11 a.m. and our temperature is 6.8°

~  Although that lovely sun is streaming in all possible windows, we have both wood stoves corking away to make it cozy in here.

~  Just went down into the basement to get some onions and garlic.  Onions are holding out very well, but I see now I didn't plant enough garlic and we'll run out in a month or so.  Skippy-dippy good thing I increased this year's planting.

~  I have a huge pot of will-be broth simmering on the stove using yesterday's turkey carcass and leavings.  I'm finding I really prefer turkey broth over chicken broth as it seems richer and has more flavor.

~  I should zip into town today to pick up a special order at the Co-op, materials in at the Library, and make a stop at the hardware store.  When it's possible, I prefer going into town first thing in the morning and being able to check it off my day's list pronto.  Today I'm playing my Wimp's Card and waiting to see if the temp has warmed up a bit after lunch.

~  Retrieved some baking apples and potatoes from the root cellar this morning.  We're so pleased with the way things are keeping.  Maybe we could wish for the carrots to look better.  They're growing "hairs" . . . but are staying firm and crunchy.  I'm still perplexed about my carrot harvest this past season.  The two new-to-me varieties of "purple" carrots I tried grew big and fat and long.  A success.  My main crop of Scarlet Nantes which normally do the same came out of the ground nearly pencil thin.  Long but skinny.  And they were all planted in the same raised bed.  Very strange.

~  I can hardly believe how fast this winter is going by.  Oh, sadness and woe, I had plans for spending so much time in my quilt room, but day after day goes by filled to the brim with daily chores and a bit of move-ahead progress, and I don't seem to get in there much at all.  Never mind, my little sanctuary filled with beautiful fabric (and tons of ideas) will be there whenever I can sneak in.  Life is good.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Gorgeous Winter's Day

After snow falling intermittently for the past two days, we have bright, lovely sunshine today.

We started the day with snow removal both with snowplow and shovel.  When I finished clearing an almost 2' high drift off this walkway this morning it was still covered with patches of ice here and there.  A couple of hours of sunshine (even in 14° weather) and it's as clear as in summer time.  (Almost.)

Other areas won't show bare ground for months.  But, hey, it's winter time in the north woods.  And all the new snow is really pretty.

The wind with the snow the last couple of days made for some very creative drifting that we spent some time rearranging.  All is well now and we can move around easily until the next snow.  Move around easily, that is, if we remember there is a solid layer of ice under most of the snow.

The Bread Fairy (aka Chicken Mama) came yesterday and spent about five concentrated hours industriously working my kitchen.  The result?  Two loaves each of rye bread, oatmeal bread, plain old white bread (I wanted those for French Toast, my most favorite breakfast) and an orange/raisin rye bread.  We are now wealthy in bread.

Our co-op grocery store recently had a special on organically raised turkeys and I picked up this 18-1/2 pounder.  He went into the oven this morning shortly after eight bells and just now came out looking and smelling wonderful.  I'll bone the meat as soon as it cools a little and then reheat some of it with all the fixings for dinner tonight.  We're hoping Chicken Mama and her fella can arrange their schedule to come and enjoy it with us.

A good day.  I feel so very appreciative of my life here on our little piece of ground.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Minnesota Kimchi Recipe Request

After my post last week talking of our daughter making up some more kimchi for us, I had a couple of requests for the recipe.  You can find a detailed post I wrote on making kimchi last summer by clicking here.

This summer I used our bountiful harvest of slicing cukes from the garden which I don't have currently available obviously, so I decided to have her give the recipe a try substituting the cukes with chopped cabbage that we still have in the root cellar.

The same recipe (which has since been dubbed Minnesota Kimchi) in the post of August 16, 2016, was used with the substitution of cabbage for cucumbers.  (We used less than the whole medium sized head of the cabbage for two quart jars of kimchi.)

A suggestion I would have if you are using sea salt (recommended) is that before you start the process of preparing the veggies, etc., you should start soaking the sea salt in the 1/4 cup of whey and stir it frequently while chopping the other ingredients because sea salt doesn't want to dissolve as readily as other salts.

This summer I used whey leftover after making cottage cheese, but since we don't eat nearly as much cottage cheese in the winter time, I obtained my whey last week by putting a quart container of organic plain yogurt into a cheesecloth bag and hanging it to drip into a bowl overnight.  That gives you a nice amount of good whey (what you don't use immediately can be frozen) and also a nice substitute for cream cheese left in the cheesecloth bag.

As the quart jar of ingredients is being filled, we keep tamping it down which releases some of the juices in the vegetables.  Something I didn't mention in the August post was that once the jar is filled with veggies, I dump the ingredients into a medium sized bowl and mix it all up, then refill the jar.

Would it work by just leaving the pretty layers in the jar without mixing?  I don't know, but probably.  It just seems to me everything has a better chance of "working" by being mixed up.

How was the kimchi made with the cabbage last week?  Zingy, tasty, and good!  No problem consuming our 1/4 cup a day to keep us healthy, wealthy and wise.  (Well, healthy anyway.)

I can't think of anything else to add, but if you find the time or have the inclination to give making kimchi a try and have questions, just ask.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

He Was Such A Good Boy

We lost sweet Tucker, our granddog, yesterday.  All of us will miss him so much, but knowing he was in terrible pain was too much to bear.  He suffered from Lumbosacral Stenosis.

I can honestly say we never knew a dog with a better personality than Tucker.  He was so happy, easy-going, mild-mannered, friendly, kind and patient with toddlers, older kids and adults alike.

I think this, taken on January 10th, was the last picture I took of him.  It was snowing lightly that day, our daughter and her partner were here helping Papa Pea and me with some project or another.  We were all making trips going back and forth outside, from wood shed to storage building to poultry yard to garage, and back again.

Tucker, always wanting to know what was going on, couldn't decide who he should follow or where he should be so he stationed himself in the very middle of the traffic area so he could keep an eye on everyone coming and going.  I tried to put him inside a couple of times, but he didn't want to budge from his watch spot.

Even though Tucker was happy being a bit of a couch potato, or "floor potato," he was ever eager for an adventure.  He never said no to a walk with us, often out to the mailbox and back in snow deeper than his stubby, little legs.  This spot by our stove in the kitchen was a favorite of his as he could observe everyone as we moved around in the house.

When he was with us over the dinner hour, he would station himself by his dish and patiently wait while we ate.  Then when the table started being cleared, he would stand up and "talk" to us so we didn't forget it was his turn to be fed.

We always got a kick out of this splayed-out posture of his.  I would tell him he looked like a pelt someone would hang on a wall.

Happy pup.  He even smiled when he was sleeping.

If you're ever fortunate enough to have a dog like Tucker, you'll be very lucky.  He was such a good boy.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Apple Jelly Report -- And More

Yesterday as our daughter was completing the apple jelly project, I put her "to work" multi-tasking making up a couple quarts of kimchi.

All summer I made kimchi using cucumbers as the bulk of the ingredients.  We loved the flavor, but obviously there are currently no cucumbers available from the garden.  However, we do still have heads of cabbage in the root cellar so I suggested she make the kimchi substituting chopped cabbage for the cukes.  Now we have only to wait a couple more days while it ferments on the counter before taste testing it.

In the last two days, we (mostly through Chicken Mama's efforts) have produced 11-1/2 quarts of applesauce, the 2 quarts of (hopefully yummy) kimchi, and 16 half-pint jars of apple jelly syrup.

Yep, sad to say, the jelly did not jell.  After thinking it over, I'm sure it happened because we used only 1/3 the amount of sugar the recipe called for.

I always cut the amount of sugar in any jams I make and, granted, they never come out very thick, and sometimes rather on the thin side.  But I rationalize saying less sugar ingested is healthier for us and if the jam stays on the slice of bread, I call it good.

In deciding how much sugar to add to the apple juice yesterday, she added the third of what was called for, we tasted it and declared it quite sweet so stopped there.  But, alas and alack, it just wasn't enough sugar in ratio to the juice to get the mixture to jell properly.  So we have a good quantity of . . . apple syrup.

Pancakes shall appear on our menu soon so we can start using the apple syrup.  And I have a feeling it's gonna be goooood!