Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Apple Harvest

We held off harvesting our apples as long as possible so they had a chance to ripen as much as possible.  But today was now or never as the forecast is for a temperature in the low 20s overnight tonight.

It was a gray, chilly day so we bundled up for the work.  At least until we got going and warmed up a bit.

Chicken Mama offered to help and her assistance was much appreciated.

Tucker did what he could to help, too.


1)  We got only about two bushels total from our seven semi-dwarf trees.  This wasn't totally unexpected as the blossoms on the trees this spring were very, very sparse.  It's not that the blossoms froze . . . they just. never. appeared.  Few blossoms = few apples.

2)  None of the apples got a chance to mature enough to have good flavor.  Even though we had a long, warm fall which we were hoping would do the trick, all of the varieties were either tasteless . . . or sour and tasteless.  That blasted cold spring and early summer we had did a number on the apples.

I'm planning to make applesauce with most of the apples since they're not much good for eating out-of-hand.  If there's a chance they will make passable applesauce, and maybe be good in apple-ish desserts, I'll be happy.  Can't have a fantastic apple year every year, I guess.

And wouldn't ya know, most of the apples were beautiful in appearance this year.  Unblemished and lookin' good.  No, we don't spray; Mother Nature made these beauties.  

She just forgot to put the flavor in them.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wood Gathering

We have a long-time friend who has a small sawmill about 45 minutes from us.  On a recent visit to our place, he mentioned that he had a big pile of slabwood (outside pieces from a log when cut for lumber) and miscellaneous scrap pieces of wood and wondered if we were interested in taking any of it.

We're always looking for a good source for kindling and knew the slabwood would be good for getting a fire going in our wood stoves before adding the hardwoods (maple and birch) during the cold, upcoming winter months.

So this morning we hitched up our faithful high-sided trailer and headed out.

We had heard there had been a new public boat landing constructed on a nice lake on the way so we stopped there to take a look at it.

It was a windy day, and mighty chilly standing looking out over the lake.

Then it was on to G's place where he greeted us with a load of wood waiting and ready in his fork lift.

He put three loads into our trailer and after a short visit, we were on our way back home.  

We did do a little trimming of a couple of those boards sticking out before heading down the road.

When we got home we had to unload each and every stick of wood by hand.  No other way to get it out of the trailer.

Funny how big the load looked in the trailer.  And how small it looks stacked in our back wood working area.  Some of the pieces of wood were twelve feet long but most were eight . . . along with a good share of scrap pieces.

Talk about getting your bending and upper body workout.  Ooof.  I should sleep soundly tonight.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Year of the Root Crops

I guess that's the only way to explain it.  Yes, root crops usually do well in our area of northern Minnesota.  Maybe we can't grow tomatoes, but our carrots can be the size of baseball bats.  (Slight exaggeration.)

Even with all the frustrating weather this past gardening season threw at us, the root crops in my garden came through with flying colors.

As of yesterday, all of them were harvested except the potatoes, so Papa Pea started digging them while I was . . . I was . . . what the heck was I doing?  Oh, well.  Not important.

Backing up to this spring when I planted the potatoes . . . only red ones this year, because we really do prefer them over whites.  (Supposedly reds have a lower starch content than white varieties, and we like the texture of reds.)  Anywho, I had very poor germination (maybe only 65%, I'm guessing) in the four fourteen foot long rows I planted.  Not too happy with that, but rather than trying to fill in the empty spots, I just went with what sprouted.

So yesterday my dear husband started digging the potatoes and got two of the four rows done before he went on to something else.  Today he and I worked together to get the last two rows harvested.

Although we haven't actually weighed the potatoes, Papa Pea estimates we got between 200-250 pounds!  And that is due to the size of the individual potatoes rather than the number.

These aren't all of them (of course), but just two buckets I grabbed to photograph.  Look at the size of those spuds!  (Hubby's glove is in the picture for size comparison.)  We have never, and I mean never, grown such consistently large potatoes.  Sure wish I knew why they grew so big this year.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining but would love to be able to do it again!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Getting Our Fresh Air and Exercise

My dear Under Gardener and I got great things accomplished in the way of garden clean-up yesterday.

The day in the low 30s was mostly sunny (which helped a lot) but very windy (which helped not at all).  We worked in many layers of clothing, hats, hoods and insulated gloves.

We pulled the cucumber and green pepper beds which had been under cold frames.  All the other raised beds got cleared out, too.

I got five more servings of Brussels sprouts for the freezer.  Lots of teeny-tiny heads left that went to the chickens.

There were more usable green peppers than I thought there would be.  Here's a 5-gallon bucket full, full, full.  I'll have enough to make more stuffed green peppers (than I really need) and plenty to chop and freeze for cooking.

One 5-gallon bucket of carrots.  I didn't plant as many this year (finally wised up) because we just don't go through that many any more.  I don't process and preserve carrots, just store them for fresh snacking and tossing in soups, etc.

I do process and freeze beets and I have two buckets of them waiting for my attention.  Like the carrots, the beets are beautiful this year.

We pulled the last of the turnips.  Some got too big for human consumption, but I think I'll try cooking them for the poultry.  ('m going to have to check to see if that's okay.)  Maybe the big ones would be suitable for fermenting for us.  I'll have to see how woody they seem inside.

The bed of mangels planted for winter chicken goodies yielded three 5-gallon buckets.  The above picture has no color enhancement.  Aren't they attractive roots?

Today has dawned in the upper 20s with only the low 30s forecast as a high.  There's frost all over everything, and Papa Pea reports there's a hard crust on the top of the garden's soil so I think we're going to be wusses and wait until about 10 o'clock to venture out for another day of seeing what we can get done out there.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

You Can See It, Feel It, Smell It

The change in the weather.  

We are definitely leaving our lovely, long fall behind and heading into the wild ways of winter.  We had a solid quarter-inch thick coating of ice on the bird bath this morning.

It snowed most of the day yesterday.  But with the temperature hovering in the mid-thirties, it melted as it hit the ground.

I've been working inside for the last several days because it's been generally nasty outside.  What have I been doing?  Cleaning and organizing like a mad woman.  A MAD woman, I tell you.

Using psychology on myself (is that dangerous?), I've decided that if I use the remaining days of October to get some of the jobs done that have been hanging fire for way too long (ones that until now I've found all kinds of excuses for cleverly avoiding), I will reward myself by taking laid-back, do-what-I-wanna-do, fluff-off time in November.  Having this goal to work toward has infused me with all kinds of energy for tackling big, ugly-bugly jobs.  ('Bout time.)

One really big cleaning job I have to get done in these last remaining days of October is the garden.  The weather has been so wet that recent forays out there have felt frustrating and futile.  The most I seem to accomplish is collecting about ten pounds of mud adhered to each foot.

If we get the next couple of days of sunshine which is currently being forecast, I simply MUST spend it in the garden (regardless of Frankenstein-like boots).  Not having the garden ready for winter by this time of year is very unusual for me.  Still seems so strange to have things growing and producing out there the next to the last week in October.  Mother Nature is definitely fooling with us here in the northwoods this year.

It's not supposed to be any warmer today than the low thirties so it won't be the most pleasant time for harvesting all that is still in the garden, but it must be done.   We've luxuriated in our warm, extremely pleasant, long fall . . . and now the piper must be paid.  

Now where are my insulated mud boots and long johns?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Our Long Fall May Be Over

It was bound to happen.  Our night time temps have finally been falling into the low 30s.

Yesterday morning we had frost on roof tops and skim ice on the chickens' waterer . . . 

. . . but nothing in the garden was touched as you can see by this bed of Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes gone wild.  This morning (Friday) was a titch warmer with no sign of frost anywhere.

Here's a shot of a bit of loveliness adding color to the last days of the garden.  I picked up this Pineapple Sage plant this spring on a whim.  It was just a little bit of a thing when I put it in the herb bed.  As you can tell, it grew and grew and GREW.  Within the last two weeks it's put out these striking red blossoms.  So pretty.

I don't have a lot of clean-up done in the garden because so much is still green and growing, but I have emptied five garden beds (only twenty-one more to go).  In preparation for winter, yesterday Papa Pea spread some near-dirt-like compost on them.  Although I do the bulk of the actual gardening throughout the season, I could never accomplish all I do without his help at crucial times.  Several years ago, an acquaintance of ours from England gave us two tea mugs.  One was labeled "Head Gardener" and the other "Under Gardener."  (I'm assuming that's like Gardening Assistant.)  Since then, my dear husband has carried the title of Under Gardener.

With the next three days after today with a snow/rain mix forecast, the end of the garden can't be far off.

Don't tell anyone, but I'm ready.  Yep, I'm really ready.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Looking for Joy

Joy, happiness, delight . . . good feelings for anyone to pursue.  But that's not what I'm talking about in this case.

I'm looking for Joy, the person who won the drawing for the cookbook . . . 

. . . I offered as a giveaway here on my blog last week.  I drew the name of the lucky winner last Friday night (that was you, Joy!) and posted about it on Saturday morning.  Joy, I need your mailing address to send to Jane so she can get the book on its way to you.  Please use the Contact Me box over on my right hand side bar to send me an e-mail with your mailing address.  Hoping to hear from you soon!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mostly to Make Myself Feel Better

Proof that I DID accomplish something today . . . some of the stuffed green peppers I made chillin' out in the freezer until firm enough to package.

Ever have one of those days when you keep moving all day but it seems you don't have much to show for it?  'Course you have.  We all have.

I made a double batch of stuffed green peppers which will be tasty (I can hope), quick, easy dinners this winter.  But by the time you cut and clean the peppers, blanch them, cook the rice, brown the ground beef with the cut up onions and garlic, and gather all the seasonings to throw in, then do the actual stuffing of the peppers . . . that all takes a chunk of time.

So, okay.  I can feel like I had a productive day.  And I will, just as soon as I get my ironing done.  (Geesh, I'm such a slave driver!)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Beautiful Fall

Although most would say the fall color season is past its peak in our neck o' the woods, there is still gorgeous scenery to be seen. 

Fall colors may be a little muted now, but still enough to make me stop and stare no matter where I look.  Some of it without ever stepping off our deck.

The day time temperatures haven't been rising much above 60° and the overnight lows are only in the low 50s and high 40s.  Can you believe this is northern Minnesota in the middle of October?

Jack Frost has yet to visit us.  He must have gotten waylaid in the awful snowstorm in South Dakota.  The devastating livestock losses for the farmers there are terrible.  You just can't expect or plan for happenings such as that.

The time of year tells me I should have my garden stripped bare and be tucking it in for the winter.  But, unbelievably, it's still green and growing and keeps bearing.  Above is my harvest of late yesterday afternoon.  Thirteen green peppers . . . a double batch of Stuffed Green Peppers for the freezer coming up.  Enough Brussels sprouts for three or four meals.  (We do love our Brussels sprouts!)  And a bowl of cherry tomatoes that will be more than we can eat in a couple of days.

Nope, there's hardly been a way to figure out this year's gardening season . . . or our extended, lovely fall weather.  I'm just happy as a lark to be getting so much from the garden and having the beautiful fall weather.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Winner of Jane Bryan's Cookbook

This is the part of a giveaway I just plumb don't like.  The part where I draw a name.  Just ONE name.

Okay, I feel happy and excited for the one person whose name is drawn, but disappointed for all the rest of you who so kindly showed interest and commented saying you'd like to receive a copy of the cookbook, Thy Hand Hath Provided - Recipes ~ Preserving by Jane Bryan.

It was nice to see so many of you with a keen interest, and I'm sure that has made Jane feel good.

Without further delay, the winner (chosen by random drawing from the over forty entries received) is . . . 

~ ~ ~ ~ Joy ~ ~ ~ ~

Joy, if you will go over to the Contact box on my right hand side bar and send me your mailing address, I'll pass it on to Jane who will get your copy of her cookbook in the mail to you first of this coming week.

For those of you whose name wasn't drawn but might be interested in purchasing a copy, an easy way to do so is to go HERE.

Thanks again to all who participated.  Giveaways are fun and with one like this, many of you heard of a really good cookbook that might have slipped by you otherwise.  I can promise you, it's worth adding to your collection.

Now if Agnes (my pretend maid/cook) would be so kind as to prepare a big pot of Jane's White Chili (on this blowsy, blustery day) while I'm outside working on wood . . . 

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Bruin Came A'Callin'

The front of our house and the whole garden area is enclosed in a 7' high deer fence, a necessity here in the northwoods if you don't want to cater to the culinary tastes of the deer population.  This fence does a good job of keeping out a lot of other smaller animals that could wreak havoc on our garden, orchard or berry patches.

So, we were very surprised to wake up this morning and find two bird feeders within the fencing completely destroyed and one knocked apart but still salvageable.

This tube feeder sporting two big holes and puncture marks most likely made by some animal's teeth was still hanging on its hook on the deck. 

This larger feeder we had fastened from a really, really high branch in a big birch tree hung in the air about 10-15 feet away from the tree or any other structure.  It's constructed of very heavy plastic, and we were surprised any animal could get access to it let alone break it this way.

Out in the yard off the front deck, we had this feeder mounted on a pole.  Everything was knocked off the pole but nothing was irreparably broken.  (Papa Pea had started to put it back together before I took the picture.)  

In the garden, many corn stalks were broken by being pulled down and the ears of corn eaten.

We made two trips around the perimeter of the deer fencing looking for a spot where something could have gotten in . . . and then out.  We could find nothing.  Because we felt a bear would have done a bit of damage getting through or up and over the fencing, we had almost decided that our marauder must have been a large racoon.

Another reason for ruling out an invasion by a bear was our apple trees.  Unfortunately, apples are a favorite food for bears and each year we hear of lovely apple trees being (literally) torn apart limb by limb by bears seeking the fruit.  If a bear had been in our orchard area, why wouldn't it have gone after these nearly ripe apples hanging in plain sight?

Well, my dear hubby wouldn't give up trying to figure out exactly what had happened and upon continuing his walking over the whole area, he found this.

That, folks, is one HUGE pile of bear scat found down near our raspberry bushes.  Papa Pea's size 12 boot in in the picture for comparison.  That left no doubt that our destructive visitor last night had been a bear.

We've been really lucky.  This is the first time in the nearly 18 years we've been in this location that we've had anything get into the fenced in area and do damage.

But the question remains, how did a bear get in and out of the the 7' high fencing without damaging it?  And why didn't it go after the apples?  And . . . how in the world are we going to keep it from coming back??

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Have We Got A Giveaway For You!

We.  That would be me . . . and Jane of Thy Hand Hath Provided.  Jane has graciously offered to give away a copy of her cookbook to a reader of my blog.  Just leave a comment to this post (by Friday night at 9 p.m., October 11th) saying you'd be interested in receiving a copy of her book, Thy Hand Hath Provided ~ Recipes and Preserving.  I'll draw a name Friday night, give it to Jane and she'll send a copy of her cookbook to you lickety-split.  Couldn't be easier.

* * * * * * * *

In the preface of her book, Jane writes, "My hope is that this book will prove to be very useful as you harvest, preserve, plan and make delicious homemade and homegrown meals for your family."  To this end, besides the actual recipes, Jane includes easy-to-understand, very helpful chapters on preserving food whether you be a newbie or pro and whether the produce is from your own garden or a local farmer's market.

There is a page in the food preservation section entitled, "Canning Overload Disorder."  If you've ever done any canning, it's easy to relate and get a chuckle from her sense of humor surrounding days (and nights!) spent up-close and personal with a canner and a kitchen overflowing with fresh produce.

In reading Jane's blog, you'll realize she places a high priority on providing her family with appetizing meals filled with good nutrition often using the fruits and vegetables grown in her own garden.  She's a whirling dervish when it comes to filling her freezer and lining her pantry shelves.  (I'm sure she's listed in Ripley's Believe It or Not for the number of jars of applesauce she puts up each year!)

However, I don't wish to undersell the main part of this well-done cookbook which is the recipes that typify down-home cookin' that is truly real food for real people.

Upon sitting down with my copy of the book the day I received it, I marked (by actual count) twenty-one recipes I wanted to try . . . immediately.  Even though I haven't make it through all twenty-one yet, each one I have tried has been a winner.  Here's a sampling of some I have made to date.

 Corn Fritters
These Corn Fritters are so much better than the corn fritter recipe I've had and been using for a hundred years.  They have a very rich flavor and are much easier to make than my old recipe . . . which was unceremoniously jettisoned as soon as I tried these.

 Chocolate Scones

Oh, my.  These Chocolate Scones disappeared so fast I almost didn't get a second one.  A unique flavor . . . deep, moist chocolate combined with ginger and cinnamon.

Basic Vinaigrette Dressing
Drizzled over this tossed salad is my now new favorite vinaigrette dressing.  If we don't have a tossed salad every day, I try to serve whatever fresh, raw veggie is available from the garden in the growing season.  I chop the veggies in a small bowl and drizzle this dressing on top.  So good!

Our Favorite Quiche
This is Jane's family's favorite quiche as you can tell by the name.  I thought my favorite quiche recipe was a really good one, but after eating this one of Jane's, my dear husband said I should never make any other one again.  Should I be offended?  Nope, can't be because this one was, indeed, fantastic.  (And, okay, maybe just a teensy bit better than mine.)

White Chili
We are great soup/stew lovers in this household and I always have a good variety put by as my "convenience" foods.  This recipe for Jane's white chili has joined the ranks of the best of the best.  I know I will be making this again and again and again.

Strawberry Pie

The recipe for this luscious pie is included in the cookbook, but I first made it a year or so ago when our strawberries were in season and Jane featured it in one of her blog posts.  Doesn't the picture say it all?

* * * * * * * *

Well, I could ramble on and on (as I usually do), but I'll stop here by saying that not only is this book one I'd recommend you have on your cookbook shelf, but wouldn't it make a wonderful Christmas gift for one of the special cooks in your life?  

Remember, this coming Friday night, I'll draw a name from all of you who may be interested in receiving your own copy.  Just leave a comment saying so.  It's a good giveaway for a good book! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday, Monday

I took the whole day off yesterday and spent it in my quilt room.  Started on a new project, enjoyed every minute of it and am sad I can't (in good conscience) do the same thing again today.

Here's a peek at what I accomplished.  It's the start of an appliqued piece of work (four squares, same design in each but I'm using different fabrics in each square).  What you see are some of the pieces I have ready to be appliqued, but I haven't started that yet.  The pieces are just stuck on my small flannel boards to make sure I like the colors and fabrics I've chosen.  I don't do a lot of applique, but every now and then I get an urge to do it.  Yup, it's putzy and time-consuming, but as my mom used to say, it keeps me off the streets.  (During my childhood, it was a long time before I realized it wasn't a bad thing to walk "on the street.")

This morning I went into town to do a couple of errands, specifically stopping at the small department store where Chicken Mama works.  They have a 50% off sale going in their little fabric section.  Too good to pass up, so even though I've been trying hard not to purchase any new fabric (I have ten times as much fabric in my stash as they do in their store), I caved and bought a yard of some Christmas fabric and a half yard of four other pieces.

Came home and fixed a late breakfast/early lunch for us and then we went out for a couple/few hours of wood working.  We're having a gorgeous fall day with on and off sunshine and a brisk breeze which makes it perfect for a little physical exertion.

Now just came in from the garden after harvesting some cukes and carrots and cherry tomatoes.  Checked the green peppers to see if any were big enough to pick for making more stuffed green peppers.  Lots of almost big enough ones, but I'll wait until later in the week to check them again.

Have gotten the laundry done and put away today, but still have ironing to do probably tonight while watching Dancing with the Stars.  Yes, I confess, it is my guilty pleasure . . . but it helps me get my ironing done every Monday night while I watch it.  (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)  

I must get up and move now or I will fall into unconsciousness, tip off my chair and end up sprawled on the floor under my desk.  I'm operating on not nearly enough sleep today.  Last night when I got in bed at 10:30 (which is a little late for this sleeping beauty who REALLY needs her beauty sleep), my mind was going a mile a minute and I could not fall asleep.

So I got up and put a DVD I'd gotten from our library in the machine . . . and ended up watching the whole darn movie before staggering back into bed at half past midnight.  Believe me, the alarm ringing this morning was not a welcome sound.

It's a little after 4 p.m. now and I know it's the low point of the day for me, so as I said, I need to get up and find something non-sedentary to do or my husband will come inside and fine me curled up in a corner snoring.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Have You Ever Heard the Expression . . .

. . . yer gettin' too big fer yer britches?

See?  Takin' steroids really can hurt ya!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Glorious (But Windy) Weather

Since rain is forecast for the next couple of days and today was a fantastically beautiful fall day, Papa Pea and I took off this afternoon for a hike.

He was hoping to get in some grouse hunting, and I wanted to gather some fall foliage for decorating our window boxes.

My goal was attained quite successfully.  Hubby's . . . not so much.

We did flush out four grouse.  Three immediately took flight while one stayed on the ground . . . and apparently disappeared down a magic rabbit hole because we couldn't locate him for love nor money.

Even though there was a stiff breeze while we were tromping in the woods, we commented on how good it felt.  That was, at least, until around about 4:00 when the temp dropped, and it seemed the breeze went from balmy to a bit on the nippy side in a matter of minutes.

We drove down to the landing at one of our favorite lakes, and the breeze was so strong and downright uncomfortable standing on the dock that we decided that was the signal to head for home.

Once here Papa Pea did some mowing while I made a quiche for dinner . . . a new recipe that turned out scrumpdillyishous!  (More to come on that soon.)  A great way to end an enjoyable afternoon.

Even if the meal didn't include some tender grouse breast meat.