Friday, March 31, 2017

Outside Work Has Commenced

We still have piles of snow . . . 

. . . as you can see by these plowed up piles by the beginning of our driveway.

The raised beds aren't totally snow-free yet.  The blueberry bushes are in the upper left side of the picture, and they're still about half buried in snow. 

A good half of the field garden, to the right of the raised beds, is peeking through.

And although we do have dry gravel in spots, there are still many areas like this.

The pond remains frozen except in spots around the edges.  You can see some of the chickens sampling that cold, cold water.

I've got a bit of wood working to do.  I've been working on splitting up the remaining bundles of wood slated for kindling and getting it into the kindling bin.

The bundles needed to be moved out of this section of the wood shed so we can start stacking large pieces of winter wood in there.  These few bundles are all that remain so that task will be done PDQ.

A task that will take me quite a bit longer are these bundles of soft wood that need to be split (not as small as kindling) for setting on top of the kindling to get the fires going well before putting in big pieces that will burn for hours.  They ended up stored in a spot where we'll need to stack more of those large pieces of winter wood.  (Who engineered this?)  The picture shows only half the bundles I need to work up.  Another bunch of the same quantity is across the aisle. 

And speaking of those large pieces, Papa Pea, Mama Pea (yours truly), Chicken Mama and her partner, from now on referred to as Gilligan (not his real name but an inside family joke), are working together to get wood put up for both households.  Above Papa Pea is working on one end of the wood pile . . . 

. . . while Gilligan works on the other end.

We already have a few days of work laid out for the four of us when we attack this pile that next needs to be split and stacked.

Yep, even though it's still wet and kinda muddy out there, it's time to get going on the spring time outside chores.  No more lounging around all day inside in front of the fire!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Makes Ya Wonder . . .

One of our male Pilgrim geese, Skidmore, has become quite aggressive.  His less-than-placid personality has made us start to wonder.

To share some background, we specifically chose the Pilgrim breed because one of their traits is that they are supposed to have a calm, non-aggressive, laid back temperament.

The breed of geese we had previously were Shetlands, which look much like the Pilgrims (the two breeds are often confused), but they tend to be a little cranky.  Papa Pea still has a scar on the back of his leg where one of the Shetland males took a chunk out of his calf.

In our search for Pilgrim geese, we were told by hatcheries all over the country that for some reason the fertility rate of that specific breed was at an all-time low and most hatcheries couldn't guarantee they would even have Pilgrim goslings to sell.  It took a lot of time for us to locate a hatchery that agreed to take our order and ship us some Pilgrim goslings when and if they had them to sell.

Luck was with us and we did end up getting Pilgrim goslings from two different hatcheries this past spring along with two pair of adult Pilgrim geese from another source.

Skidmore is one of the goslings we got and he was virtually hand-raised right along with his other hatch mates.

We realize it is breeding season and that can bring out the protectiveness of male geese, but his increasingly nasty personality doesn't seem related to any setting female he's trying to protect.

He's also taken to beating up on the ducks and some of the other geese.

Skidmore giving me the evil eye.

What we are wondering, and we may be completely off base with the thought, is if in an attempt to increase the fertility of the Pilgrim variety of geese, could it be possible that some breeders are introducing a little of the more prolific Shetland genes into the Pilgrim line?  It's just a thought that has occurred to us, but big, aggressive Skidmore seems to be doing a good imitation in personality of a breed of geese other than a Pilgrim.

We're not dispatching Skidmore to the stew pot yet.  We'll give him until breeding season is over to see if he works through this very bad mood of his.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bigger Than A Bread Box?

No, not hardly.  But quite a bit bigger than your run of the mill chicken egg!

I've had some inquiries as to just how big are the goose eggs we've been getting.

Above we have, left to right, a goose egg, a duck egg and a standard-sized chicken egg.

The chicken egg weighs in at 2 ounces.  The Muscovy duck egg isn't a lot bigger at 3 ounces.  (I suspect the extra ounce is all in the shell.  Boy howdy, those duck eggs are hard to crack open.)  The shape is consistently a bit more rounded than a chicken egg.

Then there's the goose egg which tipped the scales at 7 ounces.  (That's nearly half a pound!)

Our Pilgrim geese are a smaller variety so I'm assuming the bigger geese would produce even larger eggs.

I've been using the duck eggs in recipes interchangeably with chicken eggs, one for one, with good success.  I haven't baked with a goose egg because I'm just not sure how many chicken eggs would be equal to one goose egg.

One of these mornings, I'm going to fry a goose egg and serve it on a dinner plate.  I'm betting it would come close to filling the plate!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

One More Time

When we remodeled this house (tore it down to the studs and started rebuilding from there) and moved in, we purchased a new refrigerator and gas cooking stove.  That was in 1995, twenty-two years ago this next month.

Knock on wood, but we have had absolutely no problem with the refrigerator (it just keeps hummin' along) and no problem with the stove.   Well except for one little thing.

This was the scene in my kitchen today as my dear husband replaced the oven door hinges on the stove.  Again.  For the fourth time.

Something happens to the hinges having to do with wear and tear on them each time the oven door is opened and closed.  The door gets progressively harder and harder to open making an awful creaking sound that gets really loud.  Once, one of the deteriorating hinges snapped and the oven door wouldn't stay closed.  The only way we could get the door to stay closed was by wedging it shut with a 2 x 4.  You can read about that incident and see a picture here.  (This was before we remodeled the kitchen in 2011.) 

So to summarize, we purchased the stove in 1995, we had to replace the hinges in 1999, again in 2002, a third time in 2008 and a fourth time today.

My optimistic husband commented that at least the manufacturer of the hinges is making them better as they're lasting progressively longer.  "Ha," I said.  "They may last longer, but obviously they're still defective!"

On top of everything else, it's a tricky job to replace the hinges.  One has to be careful because the hinges are very strong and if one is not careful during the process, they can snap shut at just the wrong time and . . . 

. . . bite one.  The hinge took a piece out of his finger (his protective gloves were on the floor when this happened -- ahem), but it could have been a lot worse.  A LOT worse.

Any bets on how long this newly installed set will last?  Oy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bread, Rhubarb and Eggs

Two loaves of French bread and a rhubarb pie were baked today.

Hmmm, looks like someone just couldn't help but take a sampling of the bread.  (But who can resist bread fresh out of the oven?)

The pie was cool enough to cut into for afternoon coffee break.  Papa Pea, Chicken Mama and her fella deemed it down right edible (!), but I was still too full from lunch to taste it.

It's a wonder I resisted because, oh, how I do love rhubarb!  Rhubarb anything.  I hold fast to the old wives' tale that rhubarb is a spring tonic and I eat as much of it as I can especially when it's in season.  

I make it a point to stop harvesting anything from my rhubarb plant by July 4th (mid-summer) because I read it needs the last half of the summer to put its energy into the plant itself for the next year's crop.  This seems to work for me (and my rhubarb plant) because I've had the same plant in the same spot for close to twenty years now and it gives me a beautiful crop each year.

I've never had any luck freezing stalks (cut up) of rhubarb over winter.  When defrosted they always come out extremely watery and mushy.  I'd like to have some for use during the winter for making rhubarb muffins, cake and cobbler but have learned to settle for those goodies during the spring and summer when I can use it fresh.  I do, however, make up several packages of rhubarb pie filling (as I used today) and stow them away in the freezer to use to make pies during the winter months.  This works out really well.  I see by my notes that I put by eight packages of pie filling last summer.  This might have been a little overkill 'cause after using the one today, I still have three in the freezer.  Since fresh rhubarb should be available in the garden in a couple of months . . . yep, I might have been a little over exuberant last year.

All the poultry, the chickens, ducks and geese are producing eggs like crazy so I need to concentrate on making meals using our abundant supply.  So far today we've had fried eggs for breakfast, Pancake Fluff (kind of a puff pancake) for lunch (which used six eggs), and now for dinner . . . what?  How 'bout something with eggs?  (We're gonna start cackling soon.)  But this is lots better than a couple of months ago when I was avoiding cooking anything with eggs because of the production lull of all the birds! 

I'm thinking of baking more bread tomorrow. Aha, how about Egg Bread?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

So How's YOUR Broccoli?

Attempting to grow enough vegetables in the garden, then harvest and process them for eating all winter, is always a challenge.  Most years I'm  fairly successful, but it seems I inevitably run out of something before fresh produce from the garden starts coming in.

This year my shortfall is going to be broccoli.  I knew it would happen as the broccoli plants didn't do very well last season.  It could have just been the year or maybe the variety of seed I planted. 

This morning I took stock of all our vegetables and quantities of same left in the freezer, root cellar and basement.  Neither Papa Pea nor I like canned vegetables because of the lack of fresh flavor.  The heat involved in the canning also destroys many of the nutrients we count on our veggies providing for us.  Therefore, other than the potatoes, beets, carrots, onions and garlic kept "raw" in the root cellar and basement, all our veggies are frozen.

I found I had only 4 servings of broccoli left out of 22 servings frozen.  (Waaah.)  I further depleted the supply by putting 2 servings in the big pot of potato soup I just made this morning.

There are always PLENTY of green and yellow beans.  (I like to mix them for appealing color on the plate.)  They're easy to grow in our climate and although I plant only eight feet of each variety, the fruitful plants give us more than we need.  I froze 61 servings and probably have half of that left.

Brussels sprouts servings number only 5 left.  I put by 22 servings and because we love them, the supply has dwindled quickly.

I know many people don't grow (or grow enough to preserve) green shell peas because they are thought to be too labor intensive.  A good portion of my field garden is given over each year to trellises of shell peas because they are almost our favorite vegetable.  I don't mind a bit sitting and shelling them because . . . well, I get to sit down which doesn't happen a lot in the summer time around here.  I froze 28 servings and have 6 left.

We eat tons of sugar snap peas fresh off the vines, but I've given up trying to freeze them.  They always come out limp, a touch tough, and lacking in flavor.

There is usually cauliflower for us to eat over the winter, but my crop was a total bust this past year.  Did not even get any to eat fresh.  Heads formed to about the size of 2" across and then bolted.  Drat.

Right after a first frost, I harvest all remaining kohlrabi and am able to keep them in the refrigerator until we use them up.  This past season I had about 12 of them.  I don't cook them as we prefer them raw in salads or as raw, crispy sticks for munching.

Before frost I harvest all the slicing cucumbers left and keep them in the spare refrigerator until they're gone.  I usually have about 15-20 of them, I give away some of them and the rest will last about a month.

Extra sweet peppers that don't get made into Stuffed Green Peppers are chopped, quick frozen on cookie sheets, and then packed in freezer bags.  I made plenty of them this past season.  Two gallon bags were tucked away in the freezer and I still have 3/4 of the last bag left.  Our pepper crop was abundant and I also still have many, many meals of Stuffed Green Peppers waiting for quick, easy dinners.  I put up a total of 49 servings.  A serving equals a meal for both of us.

The potatoes, beets and carrots in the root cellar are holding out in good shape.

There are plenty of onions left in the basement.  Well, I should say plenty of yellow onions.  I brought these up yesterday and although I still have one full milk crate of the yellow onions, these are the last (sob) of the red ones.  Note to self:  Plant more red onions this year.  After harvest last fall, I had 3 crates of the yellow and 1 of the red.

The bulbs of garlic in the basement are going fast.  I'll run out way before the ones in the garden are ready this coming season.  Fortunately, I did plant more this past fall than previously.

Until we have our hoop house in place in the garden, I can't successfully grow corn (or enough tomatoes for preserving either) so I have to purchase cases of frozen corn from our organic co-op.  This usually amounts to about two cases or 24 bags over the winter.  Fortunately, a bag gives us somewhere around 3 servings.  We like corn.

That's kind of a quick (okay, not so quick) overview of the vegetables we still have on  hand.  I find that as soon as the garden starts producing fresh greens, we lose our hankering for what frozen veggies are left and desire the fresh greens as a vegetable on our plates.

I don't know how interesting this has been for any of you, but taking the time to go through my inventory has been very helpful for me.  I've made some notes for the garden for this coming season and . . . looks as though I'd better start serving meals with beans as the vegetable with more frequency.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Birds of a Feather

Golly wampus, the weather yesterday was gorgeous.  Lots of sunshine and all the birds seemed to enjoy it to the utmost.

This was afternoon feeding time.  The birds gobbled up the chopped cabbage and cut up apples.

I think this was a pan of grain that must have tasted pretty good, too.  Num-num-num!

Wanna-Be Mama Muscovy duck came off her nest to vacuum up some whole grains.  Love that corn!  Funny how disheveled setting hens sometimes look.  When questioned about her untidy appearance, she said, "This incubating eggs is rough on a duck."

While she was off on her quick lunch break, I snapped this picture of her nest.  All the eggs aren't visible, but we think she's setting on about a dozen of them.

Many of the birds just stood in the sunshine and preened themselves.  Must have felt good.

That was yesterday.

This was when the birds were let out of their enclosures this morning.  You'll notice there's not a chicken in sight.  Our chickens have always been real pansies and are never eager to place their delicate little feet on cold, wet white stuff.

We had but a mere dusting of snow when we first got up, but by the time we went out for morning chores there was a smidge over an inch.  It continued to come down (although lightly) most of the day but total accumulation was under 3".  Now at nearly dusk, it's raining/misting.  Temp is 34 degrees so I'm imagining it will freeze over night.  Very typical for the month of March in the north woods.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Quiltin', Quiltin', Quiltin'

Yes, I've been taking time to quilt.  Hooray!

I posted about the three coordinated winter-themed runners I was making back on March 3rd.  I was 1) not particularly happy with them, and 2) disappointed in that I hadn't gotten them finished to use this (almost over now) winter season.

They very nearly got stuffed away in a "Works in Progress" box for me to finish for next winter.  But I knew if I did that I would never get the urge to work on them again.  Ever.  Probably.  Most likely.

So for the last couple of days I've been putting in spare time machine quilting them and putting on the bindings.  Now that they're done, I'm glad I did it.  Yep, I like them a lot better now that they are finished (maybe simply because they are finished!).  Since I won't pack away the snow/winter type decorations until the end of this month when the Easter/spring decorations come out, I put them in place today.

This is by the back door that we go in and out of all the time.  (The woven tray/basket holds mail to go to the Post Office and books to return to the library.)

One went on a storage cabinet that holds our (land line --- dinosaurs that we are) phone and answering machine on top.

The third is on a middle shelf of another storage unit that has a small kitchen TV and bookshelves above it.

Well, golldurn, why did I agonize over the looks of these three runners?  By the time I get them in place, they're mostly covered with things placed on top of them!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ya Can't Win Fer Losin'

We needed a place to keep my (new-to-me) little car this winter so it wouldn't be covered with ice and snow whenever I wanted to use it.

Papa Pea had purchased this "temporary" pole framed/heavy plastic walled shelter second-hand a couple of years ago, but we'd never set it up.  What better time to try it out than to provide some protection for my car this winter?

You'll notice it has a roof, but no sides.  That's because the four sides have been taken down after about the fourth onslaught of our frustratingly high winds this winter.  I'm sure the sides would have ended up in shreds if we hadn't removed them.  The grommets holding the sides to the framing ripped out.  The heavy Velcro strapping tore off.  The bottom-to-top zipper on the front "door" piece was constantly being unzipped by the wind. 

Well, it seemed like a good idea.

You may also notice the car is no longer under what's left of the shelter.  See the ice on the ground where the car should be?  A small lake formed there after the heavy rains we had in January.  (Rain?  In January in northern Minnesota?  Yup.)

Then cold weather came.  All four of the car's tires froze in the lake water before we realized what was happening.  The car would not move.  I won't go into all we had to do to extricate my little vehicle,  but we did it without harm to the tires or anything else.

Can you believe that ice?  Perfect for ice skating.

Here's another icy-dicey situation.  These are some of my raised garden beds that are peeking through the melting snow.  Notice the second one on the right?  And the third one on the left?  They are filled with water which has frozen.  I've never had this happen.  The soil (and drainage) in the beds should all be the same.  So what's going on with these two beds?

Do you suppose there are any fish under there?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Colorful Rug and a Colorful Sock

Actually, one rug and two socks.  (Two socks are almost always better than one, don't cha think?)

The rug first.

A few days ago I finished another crocheted rug made with fabric strips.  Finished size is 20" x 30".

Love the vibrant colors of this rug.  I think it says "summer" but my daughter thinks it looks like St. Patrick's Day.  (We may both be right.)

A couple of the fabrics I used were from two voluminous muu-muu type dresses that had belonged to a woman who passed away a couple of years ago.  The person in charge of sorting out her household belongings thought I might be able to use the fabric from the dresses and passed them on to me.  I was glad to have the fabric and immediately knew I'd use them in a rug.

And the socks.

Slow as I am at knitting socks (it seems so anyway), I finished this pair last night.  Colorful enough for you?  I love the colors.  The yarn is Berroco Sox, 75% Superwash Wool, 25% Nylon.  Good stuff.

* * * * * * * *

In poultry yard news, a couple of days ago we decided to let one determined Muscovy hen sit on some eggs she was diligently amassing in a nest in a secluded corner of one of the poultry buildings.  However, the past few days have been so very cold (it's -2 as I write this morning) that we're wondering if the eggs won't be harmed even in the short periods she leaves the nest a couple of times a day for a quick waddle in the fresh air and food and water.  Depending on what the temperature does in the next few days and how often we see her off the nest (or not), we'll have to make a decision as to whether it's too early to let her try to hatch out the eggs.  It may be coming up on the middle of March, but it's not spring yet up here near the tundra.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Potholder Winners!

Thanks very much to all of you who entered your name for one of the two sets of potholders I offered this week as a giveaway.

I wrote your names down as your comments came in and then numbered them in the same order.

The numbers were written on tabs of paper and put into a bowl.  When my daughter popped in, I asked her to pick two tabs out of the bowl.  (You can see this was a very scientifically engineering project.)

The lucky numbers were 2 and 12.

I checked my list and found the corresponding names to be VICKI and JD.  Congratulations to both of you.

It worked out slick as could be as Vicki said she'd be happy with either set and JD indicated she'd prefer Set #2.  That made it easy for me, ladies.  Thank you! 

If both of you would send me your snail mail address, I'll get the potholders off to you asap.  

Thanks again to all of you who showed interest in these little quilted projects of mine.  It was fun!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Rooting Around in the Root Cellar

Coleslaw has been appearing on our table quite frequently lately because 1) we like coleslaw, 2) it's a tasty "raw" vegetable, and 3) we still had a few heads of cabbage left in the root cellar.

However, the last time I brought a head up, it had quite a bit of mold on the outer leaves which didn't make me happy.  I have an irrational fear of mold (((shudder))), and I felt required to dress in a hazmat suit to "clean up" the head before using it.  I will admit that once the outer leaves were removed, the head of cabbage was fine.  Looked fine, tasted fine, was fine.

Yesterday Papa Pea and I went into the root cellar to check on how the remaining cabbages, potatoes, carrots, beets and apples were keeping.  Although dwindling in quantity, the potatoes, carrots, beets and (most of) the apples look great.  But I took one look at the deteriorating state of the cabbages and asked him to remove them posthaste.  I didn't want those mold spores in the root cellar.  Period.  Nope.  Nuh-uh.  Get 'em out!

Because the dear man always does what I say (choke-cough-cough-choke), he promptly did so.  Then he "cleaned" the heads up before portioning them out as feed to the poultry.

But just take a gander at how good they look after he worked his magic on them.  To heck with feeding them to the poultry.  I'm going to use them in the kitchen!

The apples, I'm happy to say, are still keeping very well.  Except for this one box that, curiously, started splitting and getting bad spots almost from the get go.  Why just this one box?  The apples were sorted by variety and we checked them all regularly so I don't think it could have been the proverbial "one bad apple" that caused the whole batch to go bad.  The problem seems to be isolated to this one variety.  One of those great mysteries . . . 

* * * * * * * *

We woke to sunlight streaming in the windows this morning.  Hooray!  It's still chilly (barely into the 20s), but no wind and the sunshine and blue sky make everything better.  Makes me want to go outside and frolic.  That is if one could do much frolicking crawling around on all fours.  The ice, the ice!!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

"Garden" Potholder Giveaway

Everybody got your seeds ordered and ready to go for this coming gardening season?  I'm betting some of you have even started the early seeds indoors already.  Still a wee bit too early for that for me, but I have been thinking about the garden and, because of that, I'm offering two sets of quilted, garden themed potholders as a giveaway.

Above you can see the fronts of the two sets.

These are the reverse sides.

Set #1 is on the top of both pictures.  Set #2 is on the bottom.

Set #1 fabric is primarily a plethora of peas with a "kitchen-y" red gingham check.

Set #2 shows the podded peas again along with multi-colored sweet peppers.

The back of Set #1 displays colorful seed packets.  Set #2 backing fabric is a hillside farm scene with lots of happy moo-cows grazing on green grass.

If you'd like me to put your name in the hat for a chance to win one of these two sets of potholders, please let me know by commenting on this post and also indicate which set you would prefer.

I'll close entries this coming Thursday night, March 9th, at 9 p.m. and announce the two winners on Friday.

Good luck to you and . . .  think spring!