Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Evil Christmas Elves Made An Early Visit

I've talked about the medium-sized artificial (yes, even though I thought I'd never go there) Christmas tree we purchased a few years ago.  It has lights permanently attached so Papa Pea and I no longer suffer those frustrating periods every year of trying to "help" each other string the lights on a tree.
 

 
We're having a little bit of trouble with the lights this year. 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Homemade Wine

Homemade?  Well, hardly.  But it was easy and fun and tasted good.
 
I've had this recipe in my "To Try" file for quite a while.  It's super-simple and definitely cheating when it comes to actually making wine at home.  But last week I decided to give it a go.
 
Here's the recipe:
 
3 cups frozen unsweetened fruit, thawed
(The fruit can be any kind of  berry:
raspberries, strawberries,
blueberries, etc.)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 bottle (720 ml) dry white wine
 
In a large bowl, combine fruit and
sugar, stirring until well coated.
Stir in wine until sugar is dissolved.
Cover and chill 5 days.
Strain wine through a fine sieve.
Store in the refrigerator.
Serve chilled.
 
Now you know why I say it's a "cheater" wine.
 

In hindsight, I realize I should have chosen another wine other than my favorite Middle Sister Sweet & Savvy which is a moscato.  The end product would have been better (I'm thinking) if I had used a dry white wine (well, duh) as suggested in the recipe.  I should have grabbed the vinho verde that was right next to my Sweet & Savvy.
 

I combined my blueberries (they were wild blueberries) and sugar in my two-quart Pyrex pitcher.  Next the bottle of wine was poured in and I stirred until it seemed the sugar was dissolved.  A plastic wrap cover was wrapped over the top and I placed the container on a shelf in my pantry where it would have no problem staying "chilled" these days.
 

After the 5 days were up, I strained the liquid into my one-quart pitcher.
 

The blueberries looked none the worse for wear so I put them in a refrigerator dish to save for some other use.
 

I labeled the cover of the blueberry dish so no one would eat them with their breakfast oatmeal and get an early morning buzz.  (Actually, I did eat them with my oatmeal and they were fine.  So was I.)
 

Then I poured the homemade (ha-ha) blueberry wine back into the wine bottle and put it in the refrigerator.
 
How was the taste?  Probably a smidge sweeter than most people would like.  But, obviously, that was because I used the moscato wine.  Papa Pea said he'll gladly sip a glass of it in the evening while in his reading chair.  Daughter said it tasted exactly like Welch's Grape Juice.  "Exactly," she repeated.  Does it taste like blueberries?  Yes, I think that flavor does come through.  I know I'll have no problem helping to consume the bottle.
 
I'm eager to try the recipe again.  And I'll definitely use the bottle of vinho verde I have because it's a dry wine and I think the light touch of fizziness it has will add greatly to the end product.  Hmmm, will the fizziness dissipate during the 5 day wait period?  Even if it does, I'm sure it'll be drinkable.
 
Cheers! 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving Wishes


Having somewhere to go is home.
Having someone to love is family.
Having both is a blessing.
 
                                         - Author Unknown
 
Sending Thanksgiving wishes to all of you on this holiday weekend.  I feel very thankful for all the blessings in my life.  These include all of you funny, intelligent, thought-provoking, interesting, spirit-lifting people who blog.  I gain so much from "knowing" all of you.  And you readers and bloggers in Canada are included, too even though you celebrate Thanksgiving a month earlier than we do here in the States.
 
Have a lovely Thanksgiving Day! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

First Snow - But Not Impressive

 Sunday morning we had quite the snowstorm for a short period of time.  It was the first snow that stayed on the ground this season.  At least it stayed for a few hours.  By afternoon, the sun came out and melted most of it.


There's something about the first snow that is exciting.  (Above shows the start of the snowing.)


The wind picked up and started to really blow.  (Picture taken before strong winds blew.)  We watched as it literally tore the leaves off the apple trees.  Those trees usually hold on to their leaves almost until the new buds push them off in the spring.


Only a week now until I change the decorations in the window boxes from fall to Christmas/winter.

Our temperature yesterday morning was 16° which is the coldest we've had since last winter.  I wanted to go to town to pick up the last few ingredients I needed for Thanksgiving so bundled up and headed out.


I made it only about half way out our driveway when I came upon the blockage of the second tree in about a week's time that's been blown over by the wind.  You can see the stump where it broke off to the right of the drive.

Although it's hard to see, there's a second bare poplar tree a bit farther down the drive that is also lying across the driveway.

I backed up until I could turn around and gave Papa Pea the news that he had some wood work to do.  This is getting to be a regular thing.

The day didn't warm up much at all.  I think our high for the day was 20°.  If we hadn't had that sun on the snow, I think we would have kept it as a first layer of what's to come this winter.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

One More Fall Chore Done

We've had two (maybe three?) nights when the strawberry plants shivered in temps down to the high 20s, and the soil around them, probably because of our mostly sunless, gray days, has become frozen on top.
 
Time to spread a blanket of straw on them for the winter.
 

We had the help of our quasi-grandson to accomplish the task.  Look closely on the top of the bale of straw and you'll see the bobcat he brought out to move the straw with.
 

I guessed it would take two bales of straw (they're big, hefty bales) to cover the whole berry patch, but ended up needing about a third of one more. 
 

Then we laid cattle panels on top of the straw to keep it from blowing away before a few inches of snow fall and are enough to hold it in place.
 
Not a hard task, but it feels good to get it crossed off the list. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

A Good Day, But Glad It's Over

Today was our first chicken butchering day of the season.  Probably two more to go.
 

Seven roosters from the chicks we ordered this past spring were processed.  
 
See the green goblet at the far end of the counter in above picture?  What's that liquid in it, you might inquire.  Alas, it was just water but I did seriously contemplate pouring myself a half glass of my favorite white wine when we had reached that point.  Sensibility won out.
 
We've never butchered such meaty roosters.  The seven together weighed a total of 28 lbs. 4 oz. which averages out to 4 lbs. each after plucking, gutting and cleaning.  It's a goodie-good feeling to know we have that home grown, organically raised and fed chicken meat packaged and in the freezer for this winter.
 
Our dear daughter (and what an integral part she played) jumped in with both feet (plus hands and heart) and worked throughout from beginning to end.
 
I have to admit when we butcher I always acknowledge (usually out loud to anyone within earshot) that I could go back to a vegetarian diet.  (But won't.)
 
All in all, a good day.  And I'm glad it's over. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

And The Rains Came Down

We had heavy rains all day Wednesday night through Thursday.  I don't have an accurate measurement as I'd already taken in my rain gauge a week or so ago as in the past I have seemed to have a tendency to leave it out in the fall just a titch too long and have ended up with a cracked glass tube.  More than once.
 
We've heard estimates of somewhere around 5" of rain has fallen.
 
I didn't think it would happen this fall but our pond filled up to over-flow capacity.
 

This was the picture of the pond in my last post.
 

And this is the way it looks this morning.
 
Many trees in the area went down because of the super-saturated ground.
 

The only one on our property that affected us was this one blocking the end of our driveway.
 
Our temp has stayed above freezing so we've not seen any snow yet.  But because we're nearly to the middle of November, I'm sure it's coming! 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Today and Tomorrow May Be the Last Hurrah

We've hardly been able to believe how long our unusually warm fall weather has hung on this year.  If we can believe the forecast, though, starting this Thursday we may be into real November weather.
 
Heavy rain and dropping temperatures may finally arrive.  (The s-n-o-w word is even being whispered.)  In a way, it will be a relief as this balmy extended weather has allowed us to keep working on just one more outside chore.  And one more, and one more.  Good to get them done, but when does the slow time start?
 

The garden is finally ready for a long winter's nap.  It's no doubt hard to believe we're still in drought-like conditions looking at the green grass you see above.  They say grass is hard to kill, and that's the truth.  Even though most was matted flat and straw-colored in August, and we had only a sprinkling of about three showers, the grass drank up every drop and came back to life.  We've also had about a month of very heavy dew each morning which I'm sure helped all growing things.
 

Here's a shot of one of our flat planting areas cleared and set for winter.
 

We recently shredded three bales of straw which we'll use in the chickens' nest boxes in the next several months.
 

Papa Pea pitchforked it into a spare water tank which we'll cover to keep the shredded straw dry and usable all winter.
 

Evidence of the drought still having an effect is our sad-looking pond.  As shown by the picture of the east end of it, you can tell where the water line normally would be by the dirt around the sides.
 
If we do get a deluge of the rain promised on Thursday of this week, here's hoping a lot of it runs into the pond!  And if it snows?  That might just convince us to come inside and start our hibernation for the winter.
 

Friday, November 5, 2021

Jottings

~  I love the month of November.  For me, it signals the end of a busy summer season and the start of more time to enjoy all those inside things I've wanted to do but have put off since I felt doing those outside things were more important.  
 
~  The grower in our area from whom we were planning to purchase our potatoes this year planted 650 pounds of potato eyes and harvested 400 pounds of potatoes.  Blame the drought.
 
~  After I clean, sort and reorganize, putting items in a more convenient, logical spot, why can't I remember where they are?
 
~  Why does the last of a huge pot of applesauce just made fill only three-quarters of the last quart jar going into the canner?
 
~  Remembering Grandma and Grandpa's kitchen table when there were nine of us living there and the old-fashioned toaster with two sides that flipped down for you to insert the slices of bread.  (Anybody old enough to have a memory of that contraption?)  How did we all manage to get toast for breakfast?
 
~  Remembering Grandma and Grandpa's one tiny bathroom in that house.  A toilet, free-standing sink and claw foot bathtub.  And no running hot water unless you ran with it from a big pot on the kitchen stove.
 
~  How do recipes get published that are overly time-consuming, tasteless and just plain awful?
 
~  I'm feeling such empathy for the folks in our area who are experiencing their wells going dry because of the drought conditions we've had over the last many months.
 
~  Many years ago when I was out in the "working world," I enjoyed compliments on my long, manicured fingernails.  These days I grump and groan about how fast same fingernails grow and too often require clipping and filing to keep them manageable for my lifestyle.
 
~  Crawling through an 18" opening into a visiting 3-year old's "cave" which has been constructed over our couch with our king-sized bed comforter isn't as hard as then having to back out of it.
 
~  It's disturbing to know that when my husband and I make a trip over the back roads to a small sawmill to pick up a quantity of lovely sawdust to use in my strawberry bed next spring, we consider it our social outing of the month.
 
~  I play Christmas music from the first of November through New Year's.  (Yes, I do.  And I'll fight anybody who complains.) 

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Public Service Announcement

Here's a little tidbit of info I feel compelled to share.
 
Last summer, I came across information in a couple of sources regarding the making of Stuffed Green Peppers that stated it was not necessary to blanch the pepper halves before stuffing them.
 
Great, I thought, that eliminates one step in the process of making and filling the freezer with our winter's supply of them.
 
The sources I came across for the non-blanched pepper method stated that the peppers might have a little firmer texture, but that was fine with me as I have never been particularly fond of the way the peppers turn (what I consider) too mushy when baked and served.
 
So I didn't blanch the peppers for my usual batch of Stuffed Green Peppers this year.
 
Bad idea.
 
To say the peppers come out "firmer" is an understatement.  To my mind, they don't seem to have been cooked.  At all.  Truly.
 
The more objectionable characteristic, however, is that they are BITTER in flavor.
 
Last night, after consuming our second dinner of Stuffed Green Peppers, we made the decision that we may simply eat the "stuffing" part of the peppers and relegate the crunchy, bitter pepper part to the chicken bucket.
 
And if this morsel of hard-learned wisdom is of any use to any of you, you're welcome. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

If Only . . .

 Yesterday morning after breakfast, I wanted to refill the bottle of maple syrup I keep in the refrigerator in the kitchen from the half-gallon jar of syrup that's stored in our spare refridge.

When I opened the half-gallon jar, I noticed two little spots of mold on the surface of the syrup.  Hmmm, I've never had that happen before.

So I scooped out the bits of mold and poured the rest of the syrup through a strainer into a big saucepan intending to bring it to a boil for a few minutes thinking that would kill any mold spores that might be left.

I put the pan over a low-medium flame to warm up the cold syrup gradually and set the timer to remind me to keep an eye on the process.

Can you see what's coming here?

I continued whatever I was doing in the house, going from room to room, and when the timer dinged, I went to the stove to find the maple syrup had boiled over.  Over the burner, all over the inner workings of the top of the stove, down through the stove where it had formed a good-sized puddle of syrup on the floor.

Either purchasing a new stove . . . or moving . . . came to mind.

My dear husband jumped in to help with the massive clean-up.  I told him he didn't need to as I deserved to do it myself as punishment for being so careless, but he insisted.

Did I take pictures?  No, thanks.  I don't need anything to remind me of the occasion.

If only I had stood right next to the stove washing the dishes and cleaning up other breakfast things as I had planned while boiling the syrup.  If only.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Should I Have Been Outside?

Although today has been cool with a high temp of 46°, it was a sun shiny day.  My time might have been better spent tilling up the six raised beds that Papa Pea spread compost on yesterday.  Instead I was inside all day getting some other things done.
 
Because tomorrow is stacking up to be busy, and Monday is my regular laundry and ironing day, I did those two things today and checked them off the list.
 
Each year at Halloween and Christmas time, Chicken Mama (aka our daughter) gathers together six kiddies she's been a nanny for in the past and at the present time, ages ranging from 3 to 13, and they have a wild and messy fun time decorating sugar cookies. 
 

I'm the official cookie baker, providing the naked sugar cookies, Chicken Mama makes the frostings and provides other decorations.  This year the event will take place this coming Thursday after school.  Not wanting to be up until midnight (I'd never make it) on Wednesday night, I got the double batch of cookies made and baked today.  Now they're stashed in the freezer until they're needed on Thursday.
 
I've had a hankering for a grilled cheese sandwich on Poppy Seed Bread.  For a couple of weeks now this has been calling to my taste buds so today I baked a loaf of the bread.
 

The end piece I gobbled up forced myself to sample was good.  You'd have to be a fan of poppy seeds though because it's loaded with them.  Grilled cheese sandwiches, toast with jam for breakfast . . . mmm, yum.
 
Oh!  And one other thing (that was no accomplishment of mine), one of the new chickens just presented us with our first pullet egg!  Normally, if we have to order chicks from a hatchery, we specify their arrival late in the spring/early summer because of lack of our warm weather before then.  However, our first batch of chicks arrived (unexpectedly) earlier than we really wanted this spring.  Papa Pea set them up in a snug little brooder house with heat lamp and they all made it just fine.  It was one of those chicks (now nearly grown) that gave us the egg.  All in all, we're very happy to know we won't have to wait until the first of the year to have a good quantity of fresh eggs again.
 
If all goes well tomorrow, I may be able to get at those newly composted beds I avoided today.  Funny thing.  When I'm inside, none of my list of outside tasks gets done.  And when I'm outside . . . well, you know.   

Saturday, October 23, 2021

An Unpleasant Job


I give my hard-working husband one whole lot of credit for doing this ugly-bugly, uncomfortable job of undercoating our old vehicles to protect them from all the winter slush and salt we drive in several months of the year.  It enables us to keep our vehicles usable and safe for much longer than they would otherwise.  Thanks, hon.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Garlic and Mint and . . . Frost?

We've had an unusually warm and long fall season (not complaining) without any threat of Jack Frost making his first appearance.  Up until now.
 
The forecast for the next several nights shows temperatures hovering just at or barely above freezing so the end of our Indian Summer may be close at hand.
 

I finally got my garlic planted yesterday.  Each lovely, little clove is now snuggled down under 2-3" of soil, covered with a thick blanket of straw mulch which is held in place with a cattle panel to prevent our fall/early winter winds from dislodging it.  Sleep tight, garlic.  See you in the spring.
 

My raised bed of mint finally filled in to a really nice degree this summer.  The two bare-ish spots you see at the far end of this picture are probably where I made the last cutting a little too close to the ground.  (Bad, Mama Pea.)  Also, some of the greenery you may be able to see is dandelion greens or other hardy little weeds, but if you've ever tried to weed a mint bed you know how much of a tangled torture that can be.  I'll be more diligent come spring. 
 
Both Papa Pea and I spent our early morning hours today suffling around with hands clutching warm coffee cups and an extra layer or two on our bodies before we decided it would be much more sensible if we made a fire in the wood stove here in the kitchen.  It's that shoulder time of year when one forgets how and when to fire the stoves to maintain a comfort level.  We wouldn't yet want a fire all day, but one first thing in the morning sure does help get these two bodies up and moving quicker.  And with more cheerfulness.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

How Do Ya Like Them Apples?

Just about any way at all!  And I've been keeping close company with apples for the past couple of days.
 
We harvested all of Zestar apples, which are usually the first ones ready.
 

This year's harvest wasn't the best.  We got only 42 apples off of our two trees in the "cage."  But most of them are quite large in size and are making wonderful eating apples.
 

We planted another Chestnut Crabapple this spring to add to our existing one, so we had apples from just the original tree this year.  They're the largest crabapples I've ever seen and also the sweetest tasting.  We save them for eating-out-of-hand, too. 
 

This shows the size of both the Zestars and Chestnut Crabapples.  About three inches across for the Zestars and two inches across for the crabapples.
 
This past Thursday we went to friends' house to pick apples they had offered to us.  These will be for our supply of applesauce.
 

We came home with four 5-gallon pails (three pictured above) of wonderful apples from their big, 35+ year old tree.  It was planted by the previous generation that owned the house, so they weren't sure of the variety all these years later.
 

Papa Pea, who worked in an orchard during his high school years, thinks they are most likely Baldwins.
 

I've made two batches of applesauce with the first two pails in the past two days.  More on the schedule for today.  Above shows one batch of the half cooked down sauce in my biggest stock pot.  And, oh!  The aroma that has been permeating the house!
 

After dinner last night I couldn't resist making some of the apples into our first apple pie of the season.  It's sitting on a plate because it burbled all over in the oven (sigh) and the bottom of the pie plate is a sticky, gooey mess.  I'm gonna take that as a sign that the pie will be wonderful! 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Feeding Time

Just a couple of shots of the birds and chow time in the chicken pasture.
 

All the different varieties of birds, big and small, seem to get along together.  Here the Silkies are in the foreground (silly looking birds that they are) with some Black Australorps and a Speckled Sussex in the background.
 

These are more of the big birds with the shady growth of trees where all the birds spend time in the hot weather or when they see a bird of prey flying overhead and head for cover.  There's a glimpse of the pond beyond the trees.
 

A characteristic of the Silkies seems to be that when they rest, they like to gather together in a bunch, often in a corner as they are here.  (With a photo bombing by a big Australorp.)
 
Our egg production has slowed down quite a bit recently, but that's natural for the time of year.  It will probably be December before the "new girls" start laying.  

Saturday, October 9, 2021

You're All Smart and I Am Not

Okay, all you clever, astute people who correctly identified the patch of asparagus ferns pictured in my previous post.  I had no luck pulling this one over on you.
 
Plus, as my daughter reminded me, I've probably posted almost identical pictures of the asparagus ferns a couple of times in the past.  And, of course, identified them as to what they were.  I guess I can't stop myself.  Aren't they lovely when covered with droplets of rain?
 
If you, Anonymous who was the first one to comment, will send me your name and mailing address, I'll get the set of potholders in the mail to you.
 
And I promise not to post any more pictures of asparagus ferns again within the next couple of years.  Maybe. 

Friday, October 8, 2021

What's Your Guess?

Do you know what the greenery in the foreground of this picture is?
 

First person to correctly identify it will receive . . . 
 

. . . this pair of quilted potholders.
 
And if you have no idea, feel free to make up something! 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Beware of Ghosts and Ghoulies (and other things) Coming in the Door


We've got a lovely Virginia Creeper vine growing up the south side of our house.  It's especially striking in the fall when it turns from green to a gorgeous red.
 
Many years, it completely covers our bathroom window which Papa Pea doesn't like since it can almost totally darken that little room.
 
This year it hasn't been nearly as luxurious, and I think it is because of lack of moisture.  To reach the spot where it grows, I have to drag the watering hose waaaay over to it, and I'll admit I was negligent in doing so very often this very dry summer.  So that's probably why it didn't grow as much.
 

However, it sent out tendrils across the deck heading for the door.  Papa Pea says it's trying to get inside for the winter and warns we have to be very careful it doesn't succeed in entering as it will then take over the house and possibly strangle us in our sleep. 

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Colors Are Still Lovely, Garden Work Is Not Done

Despite warnings that our autumnal colors would be muted and drab this year because of the summer's drought, I think they're gorgeous.  And they seem to be holding at their peak longer than usual.  But that could just be my wishing it were so.  I know one of these days we'll get a wind storm that will strip most of the leaves off their branches and our scenery will be much different.  In the meantime, I'm very appreciative of nature's fall display.
 

We're still receiving loads of cut and split wood, enough to fill the last tier or so in our make-shift wood shed and then the front half of our small wood shed.
 

Yes, that will block in the back half that still contains wood from a couple of years ago, but we won't have to touch this "new" wood we'll put in front until (at least) the heating season after this coming one.
 

The majority of my time seems to still being spent getting the gardens ready for winter.  I've been cleaning out the raised beds, then Papa Pea hauls wheelbarrows of our lovely, black compost to spread on them.  Next I till it in, rake it smooth and the bed will be in good shape for planting come spring. 
 

This past week I finished weeding the strawberries for the last time (one would hope).  Now all they need is the winter blanket of mulch I'll put on after a couple of hard freezes.
 

I harvested the last cabbage, some green peppers and cucumbers.  
 

I've made all the Stuffed Green Peppers we need so I'll use a couple of these last ones for fresh eating along with chopping the rest of them to freeze and use when a green pepper is called for in a recipe this winter.  Yes, there are a few insect holes in some of them, but I guess those critters have to eat, too.  I'll miss my cukes after these are gone.  Give me a salt shaker and a cucumber and I'll gobble up the whole thing.
 

Our apples (these that are protected in their cage) are looking good, but are not fully matured.  The ones we've sampled still show a tinge of green in the middle, are a bit on the sour side and don't have much "apple" flavor.  Here's hoping we still have enough time for them to make it.
 

I made this apple coffee cake yesterday with windfalls gathered from the ground and, as you can see, it turned out good enough to be deemed edible.
 
That's all from this little homestead for the present.  Hope all of you are staying healthy and happy during this exhilarating time of year.