Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Mid-Winter Check of Supplies Put By

It's hard to believe our winter is halfway over already.  I know it's strange behavior, but each year after the garden harvest and all the preserving and canning is done, I'm hesitant to actually use the bounty stored for fear it will all be gone by mid-winter!

Happily, that's not the case this year, nor is it any other year despite my (unfounded) apprehension.

I just made an inventory of pantry shelves and freezers and found we're not close to running out of anything at this point.

Onions, both yellow and red, are holding out well even though I use A LOT of them in everyday cooking.

The bulbs of garlic are still plentiful, too.  They may not be purdy, but they are firm, keeping well and full of flavor.  Plus, they do their job of keeping vampires away.

Not only do we still a few eating apples left, but also plenty of the less flavorful varieties for cooking and baking.  This corner of the root cellar shows just some of the boxes.  Jars of applesauce will last until a new batch is made at the end of this coming season.

In recent years, the only jams I've been making are blueberry, my fave, and strawberry which is Papa Pea's choice.  I thought I might have to make another canner load of blueberry jam from berries in the freezer, but at this point I think not.

There are probably more containers of smooshed strawberries in the freezer than we need.  We use them primarily in fruit smoothies, but in the cold weather fruit smoothies aren't appreciated as much as other times of the year.

All veggies, both in the root cellar and freezer are still in good supply.  Who knew I'd get such a good harvest of cauliflower when I struggled so much with the plants last season.  The green shell peas will probably disappear first as they always do.  We love 'em, but I'd never be able to grow enough for a family larger than the two of us.

I didn't grow any squash this past season because of lack of space and because dear husband isn't crazy about it.  However, I do have an ample supply of pureed pumpkin (which is technically a squash) available which Papa Pea will gladly eat when made into a pie or baked goodie.

After making my mid-winter check, I feel confident I can delve into the supply of all things yummy (eat with abandon, we will!) and we'll not starve in any way shape or form before another gardening season starts presenting us with more good food.

How're your pantry shelves looking?  Anything you wish you had more of?  An over-abundance of anything the poultry or other animals are going to be happy to see come their way?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Good Smells in the Kitchen Today

One day last week I felt a twinge of panic when I realized I was down to my last quart of chicken broth, and had NO beef broth.

I wanted some beef broth stock to use in a couple double batches of soup I planned to make (Winter Barley Soup with Beef and Vegetable Soup with Beef) so I cooked four beef soup bones until the meat was tender, cut it off the bones (actually most of it fell off), and then simmered the bones for another day.  The broth was unbelievably gelatinous (holy nutrition!) and so flavorful. 

We get these economical beef soup bones from friends who are (not certified organic but as close as could be) beef farmers several miles west of the Big City.  The cuts are about 5" in diameter and I value the bones nearly as much as the meat as they make such good bone broth.  I call these soup bones miniature beef roasts.  And I gotta admit the meat from them tastes as good as any roast I've ever made.

I'm rectifying the paltry back-up of chicken broth by stewing three of our old hens I pulled from the freezer last night.  Into two big stewing pots they've gone this morning.  I add chunks of celery, carrot and onion along with salt, pepper and some herbs.  Today I sprinkled in sage, rosemary, parsley and thyme.  Both pots are currently simmering away sending the lovely aroma wafting through the house.  (Waft, waft, waft.)

As with the beef soup bones, I'll strip the chicken meat from the bones, then put everything but the meat back into the broth in the pots and simmer that for another day or two to get the nutritional value from the bones. 

Do you make your own bone broth?  It's really quite easy and the nutrition and flavor your broths will have is like nothing you can purchase.  Plus, there will be a night-and-day difference you can taste.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Written on Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

Since not much has been happening around here lately, I'm posting another piece I wrote during my December break from blogging.

* * * * * * * *

We had our first real snow of the season which started sometime during the night and continued on until nearly noon today.  I think the total was only around 4" but the coverage was sufficient to make the landscape finally look like winter.

The snow formation on our front deck was something like I've never seen before.  You would think the space between the deck boards was about two inches.  Not so.

The raised garden beds aren't totally under cover, but at least they have a good blanket on them now.

Papa Pea even fired up the Gravely garden tractor with the snowblower attachment to do some clearing.

My head and hands have been happy and busy turning out some projects.

I finished the crocheted rugs using colors I don't think I'd ever have used for myself.  They are a smidge smaller than the ones I usually make being only 30" x 20" and they've already been delivered to our second-hand resale shop.  I'm hoping they end up in some little girl's bedroom.

The rag rug in front of the kitchen sink is one I just finished.  Green and red in honor of the season.  It doesn't really match the other kitchen colors, but it does add a little Christmas cheer.

I haven't done any X-stitch work in an age, but had an urge to make some X-stitched ornaments for the tree.  Got this far and had to think for a day or two as how to finish them.

Decided to back them with red bough fabric with a thin batting inside.  I used the same fabric for the trim.  Two of them above still need to have hangers attached.  I have just enough matching Aida cloth to make one more ornament . . . which I think I will do.

* * * * * * * *

Back to the present day, Papa Pea's recuperation is going slowly.  Some days his ouchiness and achiness is more pronounced than others.  Neither of us has been sleeping well lately and he's trying to nap on the couch in the living room as I type this.  (You never realize how much noise you make doing simple tasks around the house until you're trying not to make any noise.)

Both of us are so ready for all of his aches and pains to disappear.  He's doing such a good job of remaining optimistic and cheerful which I know has to be hard when all his energy is going into the healing process . . . which seems to be taking so long.  We're considering removing all the mirrors in the house as both of us look about 102 years old.  And that's on good days.

Friday, January 19, 2018


Our vegetables (and fruits) in the root cellar are staying in good shape.

We're going to run out of orange carrots (still have way more than enough of the purple ones) so I may skip planting any of the purple ones this coming gardening season and stick with the old tried and true orange ones.  The purple carrots are super-colorful and look great on a raw vegetable platter, but as I've mentioned before, I don't like to cook with them (in soups or stews) because they "bleed" and turn everything else in the near vicinity a purplish-gray.  Ugh.

This is the first year we've left the roots attached to the heads of cabbages and hung the whole works by heavy string from the ceiling of the root cellar.  (But kept the heads low, about 18-24" from the gravel covered ground.  The heads show a little shrinkage (loss of moisture, I'm sure) but have been fine and tasty for eating, even when made into coleslaw.  At any rate, they're keeping better this way than with any other method we've tried.

Chicken Mama regularly prints up return address labels for me to use on envelopes sent via snail mail.  This year for Christmas she made this one with "Mama Pea" instead of my given name over the address lines to the right.  (Cut off for this picture.)  She took a caricature of Grant Wood's "American Gothic," turned it into Papa Pea (added the beard) and me, duplicating the profile pic of me with the pot over my head.

My dear still slightly lame duck husband has been giving a good go at doing poultry chores.  Here he is going out for morning chores.  Thanks to caring friend Karen in Wisconsin (who has dealt with like injuries for too long a time) for sending us all kinds of tricks of the trade that she uses that enable her to do farm work alongside her husband and take care of her flock of sheep while suffering sciatica pain.  Today was the first day he did ALL of the poultry chores by himself.  No help from me whatsoever.  We'll be starting our fifth week of recuperation tomorrow and he's frustrated as all heck that he's not back to 100% yet.  At the same time, I have to give him daily gold stars for being very sensible and not pushing himself too fast, too far.  It's been a fine line he's had to gahlump walk between keeping all the muscles (injured and not) in workable order and yet not stress anything.  It's hard, but slow and steady wins the race.  So they say.  Sigh.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Dear readers who comment on my blog posts, I am so frustrated.  When I hit the Reply button to try to reply to your comments, Blogger makes me wait, and wait, and wait an inordinate amount of time before the box in which to reply appears.  This happens each and every time!

THEN, after I do finally get the Reply box, type in my words and hit the Publish button, you can guess what happens.  It's another wait before my reply is published.

At this particular period in our one-man-down household, I've got limited time to spend on the computer so these frustrating delays are driving me bonkers.

So I'm asking for your understanding at my lack of replies to your appreciated comments on my posts.  This irritating situation has been going on for several weeks now, but I'm still hoping it will disappear soon and things will get back to normal.

I'm ready for that to happen for Gahlumpy (aka Papa Pea), too.  He'd like to get "back to normal" maybe even more than I!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Written on Saturday, December 9, 2017

Here's another one of my "posts" written during my month of December break from blogging . . . fingers clicking on the keys as my mind rambled with random thoughts.

* * * * * * * * * *

It's be-ginning to look a lot like Christmas!  (Feel free to hum along with me.)

As I'm writing this 'round about 5 p.m. in the afternoon, it's snowing lightly.  I'm reminded I truly love this time of year when darkness descends by 4:30.  (Ducking as I imagine some of you throwing a heavy object at me.)  Especially during the pre- (and post) holiday period when the house is full of sparkling lights and other colorful decorations.  What could create a cozier atmosphere?  Besides that, it reminds me we have a lovely, long evening of relaxing ahead of us.  And we do, most nights.  If only the jaw-cracking yawns and drooping eyelids wouldn't attack both of us by 8 o'clock!

The darkness of the winter mornings doesn't bother me either since it's the start of my most productive time of the day.  Papa Pea and I are both up and dressed quickly, then building up the fires in the kitchen and living room wood stoves.  'Tis the season so I slide a Christmas CD into the kitchen player while we make our individual morning cups of caffeine.

Sometimes I sit at the computer with my latte, but lately I've been trying to avoid that sedentary act as I don't think it enables me to get my brain in gear nor my body functioning as quickly as when I stay upright and move around physically.  Deciding what to make for breakfast and getting that started, I like to do a quick tidying up of the house, picking up and putting away whatever has been left scattered from the night before.  Wood boxes might get filled, the kitchen floor swept, notations made on the list of what I hope to accomplish during the day.

Yep, I wouldn't mind if this time of year lasted longer than it does.  (Sincere apologies to those of you who have to leave home in the dark and return again in darkness.  I remember very well how that really made the days seem unbelievably short in length and caused a permanent red crease on the forehead from wearing a head lamp so much.)

Recently I came across this reminder I made to myself a few years ago on an index card, clipped to the month of December in my yearly planner.  It reads:

Written on August 8th - 85 degrees and humid!

It's 4:30 in the afternoon, I'm tired, hot, sweaty,
bug-bitten and pooped from working
outside on a million different projects --
AND there are still a couple hours
to work before dinner
(smoothies 'cause I don't have time or energy
for anything else) and then we'll probably
be out for an hour or two after dinner to finish
a time-sensitive project -- grass seeding, this time.

So in December, savor 4:30 in the afternoon
(dark yet?), savor the day spent indoors,
savor the good dinner, savor the "long" evening
ahead spent reading, knitting, quilting, relaxing.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Still Recovering/Still Christmas

We're a full three weeks-plus into Papa Pea's recovering mode after his fall from sixteen feet up while working on our solar panel tracker pole.

He's to the point now where he's not in such bad pain that each morning when he wakes, he expects to be fully recovered . . . but isn't.  He seems to have hit a plateau where he can't tell much improvement each day.  So goes it after being slammed and smashed, battered and bruised as much as he was.

He hasn't used the walker in a few days, but rather gets around quite well with one cane, but doesn't feel strong enough to solo without any support.

We tried to have him sleep in our bed a couple of nights ago, but that was a no-go so he's still on the couch in the living room where he's most comfortable.

I have recurring thoughts of never getting my living room back.  That's okay, though, as long as I have my husband.

Yes, all our Christmas decorations are still up and making the house look cheery.  (But it's January 14th, for Pete's sake!)

Dear husband says the lights, especially, help him feel comfy and cozy.

But never have I let packing away Christmas go for so long.  Doing all the outside (and inside) chores the two of us have always shared has kept me busier than the proverbial one-armed paper hanger.  Changing from the Christmas decorations to the After Christmas/Winter ones throughout the house takes me a whole day when I can concentrate on that exclusively.

Here's a really good note on which to end this post.  As a Christmas present to both of us, dear daughter took all the (sour, terrible tasting, what-the-heck-are-we-going-to-ever-do-with-these) haskap berries I had in my freezer and made a simply delish sipping cordial from them!  I know you can't make out the label in this picture but it reads:

Organic Haskap

(Made with organic vodka, no less.)  At last, a good use for our haskap berries!  Next year, I'll try to talk her into making some wine with them.  I have a feeling it will be reeeally good!

P.S.  It's presently -9 degrees (that' nine below zero, folks) and snowing to beat the band.  Doesn't Mother Nature know it's too cold to snow at this temperature?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Written on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Confusing?  I hope not.  During my month of December's hiatus from blogging, I did write a couple of posts as a continuing record of what was going on in our little homestead.  I'll post them within the next several days to give an idea of some happenings during last month.

* * * * * * * *

Got the first ground cover of snow in almost a month.  With the snow came strong winds and a drop in temp.  A reading of 14 degrees now at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, December 5th.

Up until last night, (well, outside of a nasty ice build-up on side roads and our driveway) driving has been easy and we've taken advantage of it by gathering another bunch of wood we've been given.  (It's good to know folks with harvested trees they've no use for!)  We didn't have to move this last batch until this coming spring, but given the mild day time temps and the lack of snow, it seemed the prudent thing to do.

Papa Pea and Gilligan were the main workers on this project cutting and hauling as Chicken Mama has been getting in more (paying) work hours than usual lately, and I was delegated to keeping home and hearth in good shape and running smoothly.  (I think that meant, mainly, making sure there's good food on the table three times a day!)

This is what our back wood working area looks like now.  We sure didn't expect to have so much wood to be worked up at this point in time.  Not that we're complaining. 

Last Sunday Chicken Mama and I spent the day together baking Christmas cookies.

This was the last batch of dishes done (I think we did about four loads like this during the day).  The goodies we turned out have been much appreciated by any and all cookie eaters in the near vicinity, so I can only assume the whole project was a success. 

I got a little fancier than usual (very unusual for me) spending some extra time when frosting my sugar cookies.  (And, yes, sad to say, that IS fancy for me!)

This morning and the high winds brought another challenge for Papa Pea in dealing with our solar panels on the tracker pole out in the field.  I won't go into the details but after having one problem after another with wind damage, we're beginning to be sorry we didn't install them on a stationery platform on the ground.  (Current aside:  Oh, if only we had know what would happen on December 23rd!!)  Back some twenty years ago when we first put in our system, we were advised that to gain maximum solar energy, a rotating system (that would follow the sun from sunrise to sunset) was the wisest way to go.  But if we had it to do over again . . .

What have I been doing with my "time off?"  So far, I've not had as much "free" time as I'd like.  (Greedy bugger, aren't I?)  However, I do currently have three projects spread out in my quilt room.

I'm making a holiday (dark green and red) crocheted rag rug to go on the floor in front of the kitchen sink,

I finally decided on the fabrics for a "summer" couch quilt,

and am using up not-my-favorite colors of heavy rug yarn in making two rugs I'll donate to our second-hand resale store.  (Their profits are distributed among non-profit organizations in our county.)  I thought they might make nice rugs for a little girl's room, maybe as a Christmas present?

Besides these projects, the second sock of the pair I've been knitting for Papa Pea (just call him Big Foot) has been started,

as well as the first sock of a pair for myself which is getting close to the heel turning time.

That's the update for December 5, 2017.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Poultry and Who's in Charge of This Winter Weather?

I think we've had our January thaw the last two days.  Temps have been up in the 30s and we're experiencing a bit of melting.

All day yesterday we were warned of the misty drizzle changing to rain, then dropping temperatures last night, freezing rain and subsequent snow starting around midnight.

Well, it's 4 a.m. now and I'm awake because the house is too warm.  (We fired the wood stoves for the predicted dropping temps which have not, as of yet, happened.)  The thermometer still shows a reading of 32 degrees and it's raining.  Who is in charge of this winter weather?

As documented by these pictures I took yesterday, the poultry are enjoying the (temporarily) mild weather.

The geese would love to take a cleansing bath in the pond (albeit still very much ice and snow covered), but in lieu of that chose to take the equivalent of a sponge bath around one of their water pans.

Everyone was out and about in their "courtyard" area enjoying the break in the frigid weather.

This shows part of the layout of the different shelters that form a rough circle around the courtyard.

The big pen in the background looks to be open on the side facing, but it actually has a small door in the middle and hardware cloth covers the right and left sides.  The rest of the pen is protected by either plastic sheeting or plastic over hardware cloth.  It's curious that when the birds bed down in a selected pen, they station themselves by the open-air panels rather than snuggled in a protected corner where you would think they'd be more comfortable.  Supposedly, ducks and geese do quite nicely in nothing more than a three-sided shelter, but ours are locked up each night in one pen or another to keep wild critters from getting to them.  The chickens prefer to spend their nights in the chicken house on their roosts without as much fresh air, thank you very much.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Little Update on Gahlumpy

I'm hoping not to bore you with all this (ZZZzzzzzz), but since it's our life right now, most anything else has taken a backseat.

Papa Pea negotiated the stairs up to his office yesterday.  Very slowly and carefully with a death grip on the railing . . . and without any pain.  We worked up there for 45 minutes or so rearranging a bit to make sure his pathway to and from desk and work area was free of obstacles that might reach out and trip him.  (Not an easy task in that absent-minded-professor-mess he cultivates up there.)  I am regularly thankful his lair is up and away, out of sight of anyone in our house.  Especially me (!) since having to look at that organized (or so he maintains) jumbled clutter-mess would drive me right over the edge.

He managed coming back down the stairs by backing down as his mean old wife wouldn't let him try ascending in the normal manner.  All went well and, praise be, dear daughter moved his computer set-up from the kitchen table and reinstalled it up in his office when she stopped on her way home from work.  Wa-hoo, I have my kitchen back to (nearly) normal.

Yesterday I picked up two of those "pronged" canes for him to try using instead of the walker.  Although he doesn't look quite as steady on them yet, he used them a bit until I (mean old wife again) insisted he go back to the walker so he didn't over-tax different muscles right off the bat.

The best news of all is that he had his most restful night's sleep last night.  He still can't turn into any position but on his back when lying down, but we may have figured out the right combination of pain meds and sleep aids to enable him to get some longer periods of shut-eye which is so necessary for healing.  Even prior to this good night's sleep, he said he felt better yesterday than since his swan dive off the ladder.  Things are looking up!

Friday, January 5, 2018


This is the current state of my kitchen.

And this is a view of my living room.  Papa Pea is still sleeping on the couch as it's way more comfortable for him than our bed right now.  

The recliner chair was brought down from the attic and was the one place he could (kinda sorta) sleep in for a couple of days right after his swan dive off the ladder.  We're waiting to haul it back up into storage until we're positive we won't need it again.

He's improving a bit each day but is going a trifle bit stir crazy because he's never been this inactive in his whole life.  How desperate is he?  

He's volunteered to do all the dishes just to have something to do besides sit at the computer and/or read.  (He's not a movie or TV watcher, unfortunately.)  Plus, standing at the sink gives him a good period of standing up straight and stretching out presently under-used muscles.  (Am I reveling in my good fortune at being relieved of dish duty?  Oh, yeah.)

He's been putting a lot of miles on his walker.  My new name for him is Gahlumpy because that's the sound he makes when traveling through the house.  (Gah-lump, gah-lump, gah-lump.)  We've got a wood burning stove in the living room, the kitchen and attached garage and he insists on making the rounds several times a day (and even at night if he's up for anything) to check and/or fill them.  

I'm not the perfect housekeeper and you'd rarely find us living in a totally dirt and dust-free environment, but I do keep things picked up, in their proper place and looking (on the surface anyway) pretty good.  So is the current state of disarray hard for me to handle?  You betcha.  There's quite a bit of disruption to our lives and home.  But would I trade it for not having my husband around to cause all this during his healing?  No way.  Not a chance.  I'll put up with this inconvenient messy living situation as long as it takes.

Monday, January 1, 2018

I'd Like a Do-Over, Please

First of all, I'd like to send each and every one of you the best wishes for a most wonderful New Year.  And I sincerely hope your holidays were spent in a way most meaningful for you and filled with love.

Here's the first of the news to share with you.  We all know things don't always work out the way we expect or would like them to.  My December month off from blogging and/or reading and commenting on all your blogs, plus giving myself the freedom to do a little self-introspection and possibly make some changes in my life (big, small, whatever seemed appropriate) didn't go as I'd expected.  More about that later.

Most especially, the last week of the month was an unexpected and not good one.  On the 23rd, Papa Pea fell from a ladder landing on the frozen ground while trying to, once again (sigh), make repairs to our solar panels mounted on the tracker pole out in our field.

He was working at about 16', the ladder shifted and he fell like Humpty Dumpty.  He landed on his left elbow, buttock and hip, the ladder fell on him, but the only damage from that was a red mark on his right temple.  He didn't even break his glasses.   However, two black eyes did show up later.

We are so very, very fortunate (can I say that again?) he has no broken bones or internal bleeding.  Can you believe he didn't break a single gone?  That he wasn't injured severely in some way?  Seventy-six years old and he still bounces.  (He is, however, VERY sore.)

Today was the first time he walked with the help of a walker.  Slowly. Using baby steps.  He can stand pain-free by himself but most of his navigation around the house has been on a "rollie" (rolly?  rollee?) chair.

So we've not had our Christmas yet, and the presents under the tree may be dusty by the time we all are ready to celebrate the holiday and our extreme good fortune of having Papa Pea healing, all in one piece (albeit bruised and battered) and not in a state of having to be put back together again.

Chicken Mama and Gilligan have been so much help.  We could not have made it in this -20 degree weather with winds clocked at up to 35-40 mph without them.  Period.  I would not have been able to do it all.  (I'm still not.)  Only one problem related to the weather so far; the pipe drain from the utility sink in the garage froze yesterday.  (But many others in our area have had worse problems because of this cold snap.)  It was extreme frustration for Papa Pea in that he could only offer suggestions and directions to Chicken Mama and me while he was trapped and immobile in his chair inside.  Good thing he married a strong woman and raised a stronger daughter.  We did what needed to be done, and all was free-flowing in short order.

I'll blog again when I can.  My days are not normal just now.  To say the least.  But we'll get back there soon.  Or as quickly as we can.  Sensibly.