Wednesday, September 27, 2017

To Beautiful, Nutritious, Pungent Garlic

Oh, that miracle clove!
Not only does garlic taste good,
it cures baldness and tennis elbow, too.
                         - Lauri Burrows Grad
                               Los Angeles Magazine 

Methinks Ms. Grad may have been enjoying a glass or two of a good vino while waxing poetically about garlic! 

Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly agree that garlic tastes good and is also nutritionally super-good for us.  (Haven't seen a vampire around here in ages.)  I grow garlic and it's much enjoyed and used regularly in my cooking.

'Round about the middle of August I took my trusty spade out into the garden and harvested this year's crop.  Sad to say, it was not as plentiful as in years past, but the bulbs that did grow were large.  Cause of less than a bountiful harvest?  Too much moisture?  Not enough heat at the right time?  I don't know.

I hung the bulbs with stalks still attached in our small wood shed to cure.  All our rain and humidity have, no doubt, not provided the best conditions for curing, but I decided today I needed to clean and store the bulbs for winter. 

I don't know how commercial garlic producers get their bulbs to look so white and clean.  Mine certainly never do.

There were 49 bulbs to process, but my original harvest was 60, if I remember correctly.  I must confess to "stealing" several bulbs during the curing process and encouraging Chicken Mama to do the same.  The bulk of the ones I pilfered went into jars of my Minnesota Kimchi I've made and squirreled away in the spare refrigerator for our winter's supply.

The reason I'm thinking curing conditions weren't ideal this year is because I found 13 bulbs that aren't in good storing condition as shown in the basket on the right in the picture above.  (Undesirable growing conditions?  I didn't dig them at the correct time?  Too much humidity during curing time?  The garlic gods have something against me?)  The cloves have separated and they're lacking adequate layers of "skin" to cover the bulbs properly.  These will have to be used first before the other 36 that seem to be of good keeping quality.

I've ordered more garlic to plant this fall as I'm sure the harvest from this year won't be enough to provide us with an adequate supply over winter let alone allow me to use some of the bulbs to plant this fall as a future crop.

The up side is that nearly all the bulbs are a very good size with many lovely cloves, too.  Am I overjoyed with the garlic harvest?  Not so much, but at the same time very grateful for what I did get.  Next year will be better.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Come again another day.  It rained sporadically yesterday morning.  Rained all last night.  Rained this morning until about 11 o'clock.  You can turn off the faucet anytime now, Mother Nature.

Thankfully the temperature has dropped a few degrees so it doesn't feel so oppressively hot and humid.  Just humid right now.

When Papa Pea came in from doing some necessary tasks outside mid-morning, he said even the ducks looked wet.  It's not a problem though because all the poultry have the choice of spending these wet days inside dry pens if they wish.  The geese and ducks would just as soon be out in the elements.  The chickens . . . not so much.

It's nearly noon now and I've got some B-B-Q'd duck meat I've pulled out of the freezer heating up for lunch sandwiches.  Still have oodles of cucumbers and cherry tomatoes so I'll made a cuke/tomato salad as a side dish.

A pan of Apple Slices is cooling on a rack on the counter, but they'll be too hot to slice before dessert for dinner tonight.  Or they may be cut into for "someone's" afternoon coffee break if "someone" has anything to say about it.  I don't drink coffee after my morning latte and find if I eat anything at afternoon coffee break, I'm not hungry come dinner time.  And when the cook isn't hungry, the cook doesn't want to cook.  At least that's the case for this cook.

Made a pot of Cheddar-Cauliflower Soup this morning with some of our cauliflower from this year's garden harvest.  This particular soup is always better the second day so that will be for sometime tomorrow.

The Swiss chard in the garden is abundant enough to make another Green Pie.  As soon as it dries out a bit (maybe by next June) I'll go harvest some.  After putting on hip waders. 

Seems I've been ignoring desk-type tasks lately so I'm bound and determined to work on them this afternoon.  (Somebody hold me to it, please.)

My List (which I keep on an 8-1/2" x 11" tablet) has one side devoted to "Inside" and the other to "Outside" items.  You can tell we've shifted (primarily) out-of-summer-into-fall mode because the "Inside" half of the paper is now longer than the "Outside" half.  Guess that means I won't have any trouble keeping myself busy until the weather changes in such a way that being outside is a smidge bit more desirable.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Great Day of Sunshine

We did have a lovely, warm(ish), sun-filled day all day yesterday but I didn't get as much done in the garden as I wanted.

About 1:30 p.m. Papa Pea banished me from outside as he was tearing apart the whole apiary dividing and combining the various hives to get them in the shape he wanted for the winter.  We had one heckuva lot of angry bees flying around, and he was afraid one (or more) of them would take out their upsetness on me.  I haven't gotten stung once this whole season, I'm happy to say, and didn't want to ruin the record so I abandoned my garden work for the day.

Good thing I got a lot done before then.

All the onions are harvested and laid out to begin the curing process.  Although the picture doesn't look like it, I planted an equal number of yellow and red onions.  I know the word is red onions usually don't keep as well as yellow ones, but I've always had good luck with them.

The slicing cukes in the cold frame are still producing like mad.  Even the trellis of pickling cucumbers (Papa Pea was going to make some fermented pickles, but changed his mind) which have no protection from the less than good pickle growing temps are doing well.  I've found that we like them chunked up in our kimchi mix and that's what I'm using them for.

What a haul of green peppers I found.  If you want to find me later today, I'll be in the kitchen making another double batch of stuffed green peppers for the freezer.

Lastly . . . Kowabunga, Chief!!  I found an eggplant!

Have you ever seen a more grotesquely formed eggplant?  Maybe it looks better from the other side.

No, I guess not.  The slugs apparently liked it though as there are all kinds of ugly-bugly slug nibbles all over it.  This was the only fruit that formed on any of my four plants.  Sigh.

Methinks the forecast for today's rain was accurate.  We've had rolling thunder all morning and now this.  The above picture, looking out our living room windows, was taken a couple of minutes ago at 8:58 a.m.  Is that spooky, or what?  It was actually that dark outside.  Aaaannd . . . the torrential rains just started along with really blowsy winds.  Batten down the hatches, men!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Waiting for Paint to Dry

That's just an expression.  In reality, I'm waiting for the dew to dry.

We've had wet, rainy days for the past several and more are forecast to begin tomorrow.  But today (promises, promises) is going to be full sunshine.  At least that's what they're telling us.

I have a bit of harvesting and LOTS of clean-up to do in the garden so while I wait for the paint the heavy dew to dry, I'm trying to accomplish some things inside here.

The geese are all fat and happy.  (Good thing for the healthiness of the gaggle because several of them are destined for the freezer this fall.)  They are nearly always together in a bunch, roaming the poultry pasture, gobbling green grass, swimming in the pond, making noise and sometimes looking for trouble.

This is Little Annie who arrived from the hatchery last year with her right foot folded completely under.

We splinted it and although it will always be a bit deformed, she walks without a limp and gets along just fine.

The white and gray duck in the center of the picture is Miss Friendly.  She's always eager to come "talk" with you.  And when you enter the pen with a feed bucket in your hand, she keeps pulling on your pant legs until a pan of feed is on the ground.  (Maybe she's not so much friendly as a little piggy.)

Despite the wet, cool weather some of our tomatoes are actually ripening.  (I can hardly believe it.)  This is an old heirloom, Oregon Spring, sometimes misshapen tomato, but delicious . . . if it can manage to ripen up here near the tundra.

I've got thirteen large pumpkins that are starting to turn color.  Yippee!

Just look at these apples on one of our dwarf trees! This shot is straight out of the camera with no color enhancing.

Can't say enough about these "Ring of Fire" sunflowers.  They're only about 4' tall, but are very prolific and last a long, long time as cut flowers.  Love 'em.

Here's my mint bed I've been coaxing along for a couple of years.  (Yeah, I know, most people find mint spreads like wildfire and can take over the acreage, but [sigh] not mine.)  It's finally (almost) filled the bed.  I've been cutting and drying it all summer to squirrel away for Papa Pea's daily cup o' mint tea.  Matter of fact, I have some in the dehydrator as we speak . . . and I'd better sign off and go check it!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Quilting Book Winner and Some Quilting of My Own

The winner of the three quilting books I offered as a giveaway in my last post is:

Susan of Susan's Blog

Thanks to all of you who entered the drawing.  Susan, if you will send me your mailing address, I'll get the books off to you pronto.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I've been able to spend a little time in my quilt room these last couple of weeks since gardening/harvesting season is winding down.

I just finished a set of four holiday place mats to replace the old, old, worn ones I made years ago.  (These old ones are so sad I didn't even use them last year.) 

These new ones are nothing complicated and didn't take long to do as they were a panel from Keepsake Quilting.  I cut them out, sandwiched and quilted them adding a binding of left over backing fabric . . . 

. . . rather than constructing them in pillowcase fashion as suggested.  

Each of the four is a little different, and I really liked the backing fabric, too.  I like these place mats so much I'm considering placing another order so I have more than four of them.

Can you believe it?  It's still September and I have holiday place mats made already.  Maybe I have more pep and energy (I've been complaining of the lack thereof) than I think.  At least for some things!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Time for a New Post (and a Giveaway!)

Ugh, I think I may be getting moldy.  (In both mind and body.  Now there's an ishy thought.)  We've been in another stretch of very damp, humid weather and nothing of what's left in the garden seems to ever dry out.  The slugs are happy as . . . well, as happy as slugs can be, and it's a race to see if I can harvest what's left to harvest before everything shows signs of slug nibbling.

Besides the downside of the clingy, wet weather, I think I'm probably suffering from end-of-a-busy season tiredness.  Not sleeping well at night which doesn't help at all.  Grump, grump, grump.  

Autumn is my favorite season and usually invigorates me in the same way spring does for many people.  I might have to buy a bottle of Geritol (do they even make that stuff any more?) to get me revved up again.

The wet weather has given me some time inside, and I've actually been doing a little quilting (more on that next post) and sorting in my quilt room.  Which brings me to the giveaway part of this post.  

I have three soft-covered (8-1/2" x 11") quilting books I'm offering to anyone who may be interested.

They are 9 Patch Reunion, Quilts from Squier Lane and Miss Rosie's Autumn Quilts.  All are listed on Amazon if you would like more information on them.

They go as a trio, all three books to the one name drawn.  Anyone interested?  (Because of economic reasons, entries are limited to the contiguous United States.)  If you'd like your name thrown in the hat, let me know in the comments section of this post.  Entries will be closed at 9 p.m. on Tuesday night, September 19th, and I'll draw a name and post the winner on Wednesday, the 20th.  It's time to start thinking of new projects to do this winter when the snow is falling, the wind is blowing and we've all got more time for some new projects.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Escaping From The Kitchen For A Short Rest Period

At this moment, I have two big stock pots full of stewed chickens cooling on the kitchen table and waiting to be boned.  In the last week or so I've been working on using up the last of the birds in the freezer to make room for a new bunch which we'll be butchering shortly.

I have two different batches of cookies mixed up and wanting to be baked.  We've been cookie-less around here for a while now and the Cookie Monster (aka Papa Pea) has been dropping strong hints that he sure would like some to be made.

I went out first thing this morning to gather the first big harvest of green peppers.  I've already made a big pot of brown rice and defrosted enough ground beef to cook up with the other ingredients to make a whopping big double batch of Stuffed Green Peppers.  The peppers are late this year.  On August 27th last year, I put the last of our yearly quota in the freezer.

Another two quarts of kimchi are patiently sitting on the kitchen counter while the fermentation process revs up before refrigeration.  I have all the ingredients for two more quarts as soon as a couple more cucumbers size up enough to use.

Papa Pea is outside cutting the lawn for the last time this season.  It hasn't rained in nearly 24 hours now so he had to jump on the chance to cut down the (nearly) dry grass.  This continually wet weather has been a challenge lately for several outside projects.

Okay, rest period over.  Someone needs to make me go back into the kitchen and face that lovely mess which, hopefully, I can finish working through before dinner time tonight.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Planning Ahead

I'm thinking Thanksgiving.  (Too early?  Nah, never too early to be prepared for a holiday.)

Each year as I plan my Thanksgiving menu, a feeling of boredom and weariness settles over me when I contemplate preparing and serving the same old dishes, year after year.  This creates no enthusiasm for the dinner at all.  Each year I imagine creating some new offerings that will add a bit of interest and inspiration to the meal.

This year, I'm going to do it!  Of course, I realize (and have to take into account) there are those people who will be present who would balk at not having their particular "favorites" on the table.  So even if I do manage to add new dishes, I'll have to do what needs to be done to satisfy certain cranky expectations.  (Hrumpf.)

Aaaanyway, I've gone through some of my cook books that have specific Thanksgiving recipes, and made a list of those I'd like to try out before Turkey Day arrives.

I seriously doubt I'll be able to work my way through all these possibilities, but I do want to try as many of them as I can without spending six hours a day in the kitchen.  (I do have a couple [oh, ya] of end-of-the-season tasks to accomplish before late fall/winter time arrives.)

To this end, I got busy yesterday and chose a recipe for cornmeal muffins which I made and served with our large tossed salad at noon time.

Papa Pea and I have never been overly fond of cornbread or cornmeal muffins.  Myself, I think it has to do with the "dry" texture usually found when using cornmeal.  This recipe is different and we both liked it a lot.

I thought I'd share it with you as the muffins would be excellent with any meal including simple soups, stews or salads.  I found the recipe in a Taste of Home cook book and adapted it to our tastes.

Cornmeal Muffins with Corn

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup cooked and mashed pumpkin
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed

In a large bowl, combine the first six dry ingredients.

Combine the egg, pumpkin, buttermilk and 
butter in a small bowl.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry
ingredients just until blended.
Fold in corn.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups about
two-thirds full and bake in a 400 degree
oven for 12-15 minutes or until a
toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to 
a wire rack.  Makes 1 dozen.

These are all that were left at the end of the day yesterday.  Chicken Mama and Gilligan gave their seal of approval also.

The addition of the pumpkin makes for a moist texture although the flavor of same doesn't come through.  (I used some home-canned pumpkin of my own, so I don't know if there would be a difference if using commercially canned pumpkin.)  Next time around, I'll add even more corn kernels as the unexpected pop and burst of flavor they added was great.

I guess planning ahead does work out sometimes.  One new possible Thanksgiving recipe tried, and one success!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Archery Fun

We took out the bows, arrows and set up a target on hay bales yesterday.  Papa Pea and I, Chicken Mama and Gilligan had a grand ol' time using muscles (and hand/eye coordination!) we hadn't used in a while.

Our skill levels are all pretty evenly matched and we had lots of fun taking turns shooting six arrows apiece.

Chicken Mama says this is a shot of my arrows, but as I say, we all had fairly tight groupings, and there were a couple of shots that we joked nearly split arrows!

Papa Pea taking aim, getting ready . . . 

A friend of Gilligan's recently was thinning out his bow collection and gave Gilligan one of his hunting bows.  More gizmos on that bow than I could ever figure out.

I'm a little surprised I don't feel any complaining from slightly stressed muscles this morning.  (However, I wouldn't be surprised if Gilligan might as a result of trying out his new bow.  A hefty thing, that is.)

I think Chicken Mama had the best form of us all.

Here's a lesson to learn.  Don't always listen to what your mother tells you to do.

I made the suggestion that she place her right foot a little farther back to improve her (already good) stance.  She did so which threw off her whole body which in turn caused her to thwack her bare arm above the protective arm guard with the bow string.

Oh, ouch!  That really hurt.  I felt so bad I had interfered with her already good form.

This was her owie a couple of hours later.  (Oh, bad mother!)  Hoping she won't hold it against me forever!

And then another shot taken this morning.  She's been using arnica gel on it and says it's not painful, although she should be able to garner much sympathy just from the way it looks.

Even though it's officially the Monday Labor Day Holiday today, Chicken Mama and Gilligan are working, and Papa Pea and I will find something to do to occupy our time.  (Haha.)

Maybe we'll sneak back to the archery area and practice so we're better than the "youngsters" next time we pull out the bows and arrows. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Back to Work Today

Yep, it was back to the usual routine of "gettin' things done" today after taking the day off yesterday for our anniversary.

On August 31st, many years ago, Papa Pea and I joined hearts and hands and embarked on this journey together.

How many years ago, you may ask?  Well, although neither of us can believe it, it is our 54th anniversary.  The time has flown by so very quickly that that many years having passed seems impossible.

As I said, we took the day off in celebration (of making it this long) and ended with a dinner out at a lodge on an inland lake.  This particular lodge and rental cabins were built in the 1920s (hey, longer than we've been married!) and although a bit of modernization has taken place in the form of running water, bathrooms and kitchens, the log lodge and cabins look much the same as they did when first built.  Back in those days, you could build structures almost right on the edge of the lake and our table at the window gave us a wonderful view of the water complete with two loons swimming and diving a stone's throw away.

It was a delightful evening, good food, good drink and, since we were the last table to leave, we had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with the young couple who became the new owners a year ago.  What enjoyable, nice people!

But back to the ol' grindstone today.

First thing this morning, we split and stacked some firewood.  The great thing is that this is wood that shouldn't be touched until the 2018-19 heating season.  What a good feeling that is.

Next I got a stock pot with two chickens starting to slowly cook.  I defrosted and cleaned our freezers a couple of weeks ago and was a bit surprised to see I still had two ducks and several chickens I hadn't used in the last year.  Here it is getting close to butchering time again when new birds will need space in the freezer.  It's not a bad problem to have, but I'll concentrate on cooking up a bird or two each week now.

I needed some veggies to put in with the stewing chickens so went out to the garden to get these.  Looks like we're going to have a great crop of both onions and carrots this year.  The onions were okay last year but all the carrots were about as big around as a pencil!  (Or nearly so.)  Looking much better this year.

What?  Didn't everyone have a semi truck in their backyard today?  No, we didn't order a semi load of poultry feed, but we did get a pallet of bags of feed which should last us well into winter.  The poultry all cheered when the truck pulled in.

Speaking of poultry, a group of Canadian geese landed on the pond again this morning.  This afternoon when I looked up from my continuing work on the strawberry patch (didn't quite finish yet), I found the wild geese contently intermingled with our poultry.  I went in to get my camera to capture the scene and, of course, as soon as I got close enough to the fence to snap a picture, the wild geese waddled quickly away down toward the pond.  If you look closely, you can see them in the upper back of the picture.

Papa Pea and I made another picking of our blueberries.  The grand total for the season so far is just under six gallons.  There are a few more to ripen on the bushes but the season is definitely winding down.

Hooray, hooray, my mini-sunflowers finally started blooming about a week ago.  I just adore them and keep vases of them all around the house.  Such vibrantly cheerful faces they have.  Makes me feel happy just to look at them.