Thursday, October 29, 2015

This Day

Because we've had a couple of hard freezes, we felt we couldn't leave the apples on our trees any longer . . . although they always benefit from every day in the fall that they can get to mature and ripen.  So out we went today with buckets and pails.

As we expected, our harvest was small.  You may notice some of the apples are in plastic bags.  We did this as an experiment to see if it might help them ripen faster.  Kinda like creating a mini greenhouse around them.  Tomorrow we'll sort the apples, take off the bags and see if we can tell if it made a difference when compared with the ones that weren't in the bags.  Because of the season we've had, we're expecting a lot of the apples to be on the unripe side.  Dang.  If so, we'll take them out to some of the trails in our woods and let the deer enjoy them. ( Hope they don't get bellyaches.)

Our organic co-op had a good deal on turkeys recently so I bought a couple.  One is waiting in the freezer for a Thanksgiving debut, but since we no longer have any of our chickens left in the freezer, I roasted this turkey today, de-boned it and packaged up the meat in serving sizes for the freezer and later use.  We did also treat ourselves to a turkey dinner tonight.  Yum!

The turkey skin, bones, and other carnage (!) after the de-boning went into a big pot to simmer for a couple of days to give us some nutritious turkey bone broth.  Admittedly it doesn't look like much right now, but the broth will be delish! 

Yes, we have been burning a little bit of wood already, so filled the wood box on the porch.  (Over-filled it a bit, I'd say.)

Since I'm getting geared up to do some big time bread baking, I ground some spelt, rye and einkorn flour to have ready.

Along with a few other miscellaneous little tasks, I also cleaned the bathroom today, but didn't take any pictures.  (You're welcome.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Goodbye 2015 Garden

We spent yesterday afternoon getting the last vegetables out of the garden.

As usual, our carrots are beautiful.  (We may struggle getting some things to grow and mature because of our short growing season, but root crops generally do really well.)

Because I still have way too many quite a few jars of pickled beets canned and sliced beets ready to be eaten in the freezer from last year, I think I may have planted too many beets this year.  

I'm pretty confident the amount of carrots we have will be just about right for a year's supply.  Other than the beets we can foist off on other people eat fresh from storage, the remainder may prove to be overkill.  (Not a bad problem to have though.  Maybe I'll finally learn how to make a good Borsht.)

Something strange happened to our potato crop this year.  Each and every eye I planted germinated.  No bare spots in the rows.  I don't think I've ever seen healthier potato vines.  They had no insect damage, no blight, lots of blossoms.  I hilled them up twice and kept them weed free.  But as we dug the potatoes yesterday, plant after plant yielded not one single potato.  There simply was nothing under many of the plants.  Why?  What happened?  I don't know.  Bottom line, we got about 100 pounds from the 60 feet of potatoes I planted.  Only about half the yield we usually get.  (Oh, well.  When the potatoes are gone, we'll eat rice.  We like rice.  We have a good supply of brown and wild rice in the pantry.  Yup, rice is nice.)

The cabbage had outer leaves riddled to one extent or the other with insect damage, but once I peeled them off, the heads looked pretty good.  We'll eat it fresh from storage and make sauerkraut.

Today is a gray, drizzly day and the garden now looks very bare and forlorn.  I commented to Papa Pea how small the area of both the field garden and raised beds looks with nothing growing in them.

To everything there is a season.  And it's the season for the garden to be bare and rest.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

This Is A Repeat But It's All I Got!

We've been working like crazed bumblebees trying to finish up tasks and batten down all the hatches before winter makes an appearance here in the north woods.  You'd think being so busy I'd have plenty of fodder for blog posts, but my mind seems so full of the mundane that my creativity and ability to write interesting blog posts is completely lacking.

So as I was looking at this cross-stitched sampler I made decades ago, and which I periodically hang on the wall over the kitchen stove, it prompted me to search out an old post I wrote which was inspired by it.  Even though I'm repeating the blog post, it will be new to all of you current readers as I originally wrote it when I had a grand total of perhaps two readers, one of whom was my daughter.

The title of the post was:

Tell Me I'm Beautiful

An acquaintance of ours, who was a talented and well-respected 
physician (the last I knew he was running an AIDS hospice in the middle of New York City), stopped in briefly one day to pick up a part for his wood stove that we had ordered for him.  (We were dealers for Jotul wood stoves at the time.)

As he was standing in the doorway, I could see he was looking across the kitchen and reading my sampler.  He got a little, half-smile on his face, nodded his head slowly and said, "Ain't that the truth." 

This was not a vain man who needed constant reassurance in regard to his physical attractiveness, but a well-established, highly intelligent, professional person who one would assume had all the confidence in the world.  And yet, the basic need for appreciation and reassurance of one's "beauty," be it of physical body or soul, was there just as strongly as in any of us.

Much of the time we are all too willing to loudly and frequently make fun of imperfection in body shape, grouse about personality short-falls, voice our irritation regarding the habits of those around us.  But how often do we take the time to pay someone a compliment?  

"You have the most attractive smile."  
"You're such a truly kind person." 
 "Your delightful laugh is so uplifting." 
 "You have the ability to make people feel loved." 

 When wouldn't it make any of us feel wonderful to be given a compliment?  If we would all make a conscientious effort to give a compliment to one person each day for one week, I have a sneaky suspicion it would not only make a lot of people feel a momentary warm glow . . . but more likely make them feel pretty darn chirky for the whole day.

So go ahead now, and tell me I'm beautiful.  

(Oh, wait.  I don't think it works very well if one asks for the compliment.  Darn.)


Friday, October 16, 2015

Processing the Mint

Did you know peppermint tea will almost always soothe a tummyache?  I can vouch for that fact.  I also know peppermint tea gives me a headache (how strange is that?), but I don't hesitate to sip a cup of it on the rare occasions when I have an upset tum-tum.

Papa Pea, on the other hand, thrives on his mug of peppermint tea which he consumes every morning.  First he has a cup of good strong coffee, then follows that with a big mug of tea.  (No, his cup of coffee doesn't give him a tummyache!)

So you can imagine, in a year, we go through a lot of the stuff.  I've been ordering a pound of it at a time (organically grown, of course, and a pound lasts us a year) through our co-op, but it's been getting so expensive that this spring I decided it was time to grow our own.  I should have done so long ago, but some things take longer than others to penetrate the cobwebs of my mind.

I didn't start the plants from seed (should have) and could find only two plants in our local nurseries so that's what I planted.

I harvested and dried the first batch as soon as the plants were big enough.  Hubby did a taste test and pronounced it, "Good!"

Just this week I took a last cutting and dried a total of 12 trays full in our very old, but wonderful, Bee Beyer dehydrator.

How much did I get from those 12 full trays?  Two cups.  One pint.  No wonder the darn stuff is so expensive when purchased.

I know mint plants spread and these two plants I set in at the end of one 4' x 8' raised bed are already covering about one-fourth of the bed.  I think I'll let it spread as much as it wants within the bed because I'm going to need a lot of it to get enough for our year's supply.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


It seems as though the busy-ness just won't end.  (Good thing there's a long, slow winter coming on.  Ha!)  Always enough to do to keep us from being bored.  (Understatement of the century.)

Friends from southern Minnesota were spending a few days in the area recently and, among other things, brought us these two big boxes of gorgeous Haralson apples.  They're from a big, old tree in front of their barn and make the very best applesauce we've ever tasted.  (So get thee busy, Mama Pea, and can up a whole buncha quarts of that goodness.)

For the past few (many?) days, I've been thinking about getting out my Halloween decorations.  Gotta get with it or it will be time to put out the Thanksgiving ones, and I will have missed the "BOO" season all together.

We've had no cookies (much to Papa Pea's chagrin) in the freezer or anywhere else for quite a while so I baked a batch of Oatmeal Cookies a day or so ago.  But I know I need to get a small assortment stashed away for "emergencies" soon so I'm not caught without a goodie to put out for possible drop-ins.  Also helps keep my better half happy when he knows there are cookies to be had.

Bread baking as a regular thing has been started now that summer is over.  When Susan was here, I made my French bread recipe using all einkorn flour, and we all though it was quite good.  Garlic bread was on the menu one night with spaghetti so I made the recipe into four small loaves.  Susan and I split one and Papa Pea and Chicken Mama had the other.  I still have two of the loaves in the freezer, but other than that I'm down to the half loaf of rye bread that we're working on right now.  Time to get out the ingredients and make up more homemade bread.

This time of year also signals mixing up my first batch of fruitcake.  Don't worry, it's not the kind that's good only for a doorstop.  My recipe is actually healthy, and we love it.

We've been forecast a low temp tonight of down into the 20s so we may have our first killing frost.  That means the impatiens in my window boxes will get zapped, and I can dress the boxes for fall with leaves and small pumpkins tomorrow.  (Right after I get out the Halloween decorations.  Yep.  Uh-huh.  Right-o.)

An hour or so ago I tilled up the bed I'll use for garlic next year.  Hope to get that planted yet today.  'Tis time, as I aim for Columbus Day, October 12th, to get the garlic in.  Just a tad behind this year.

I ran out into the garden to grab a couple of carrots for the pot of stew I have on the stove.  We haven't harvested the carrots yet but all of them I've pulled so far have been like these.  Solid, big, crunchy and a good, sweet flavor.

Also just picked another batch of peppermint to get prepped for the dehydrator.  There's a little more out there, but I thought I'd see how many of the trays these two big bowls full filled before snipping the rest of it.

Time to move away from the computer and get going on a few of these things, so that's all for now, folks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Guess Who Came To Dinner?

Well, more than dinner, of course, because she came all the way from New York State.  None other than our own e-i-e-i-omg gal blogger, Susan!  And ya know what?  What you read on her blog is what you get!

Our time together was short and crammed full.  Lots of talking (can you imagine that?), seeing our area, eating, spending time in my quilt room (so much fun!), getting to know each other (this included Chicken Mama, of course) and just generally hanging out.

Of course, Susan being Susan eagerly jumped in with both feet and helped with a couple/few chores around the homestead.

She and I got big and brave enough to go into the jungle that is our raspberry patch.  The canes grew about 3 feet above their normal height this summer, somehow made an escape from their baling twine trellises and flopped down close to the ground.  What a mess!  I knew many of them would be broken off by snowfall this winter if I didn't temporarily tie them back up before spring pruning time.  Susan and I risked life and limb (okay, maybe a few scratches) and got them wrestled into place without too much trouble.  Unfortunately, there was no one down in the brambles with us to document the occasion.

Here she's being the (wo)man on the ground handing lumber up to Papa Pea which was a much appreciated help to him.

Susan had mentioned she'd thought about learning to quilt some day so one afternoon I asked her if she'd like to have a quilting lesson, and I was pleased as punch she was eager to do so.

We picked out fabric (she has a very good eye), had a short lesson on using the rotary cutter without producing blood and/or a trip to the emergency room, got comfy at the sewing machine and she was off.  Here she's putting the binding on her first quilted piece, a table mat.

I can honestly say that of all the beginning quilters I've taught, Susan caught on the fastest plus her work was near perfect.  Yes, I'm serious; she is that good.

Chicken Mama joined us that same afternoon to catch up on some of her own craft work.  She was constructing colorful handmade boxes for a friend of hers who fills them with homemade soaps for sale.  Guess who learned how to make boxes with no trouble at all?  Yep, our very own Susan mastered that with hardly the blink of an eye. No doubt about it, she is one very talented, crafty lady.

We had Family Reading Night on Saturday.  (No pictures.  What was I thinking?  Too much wino?)  We had so much fun with Susan's presence in joining in the reading that Chicken Mama commented it felt like a holiday.

My daughter stole Susan away for several hours on Sunday when they went for an extended tour of the still colorful countryside, with Chicken Mama being tour guide and stopping at or driving by points of interest.  I have a feeling there was a lot of good girl talk going on also.  (And I wasn't invited!  Waaah.)  Just kidding.  (I think.)

 Me, Chicken Mama and Susan

 The time flew by so quickly.  It was a wonderful opportunity to actually meet, face-to-face, someone we all know through the blog world.  Her writing has such a whacky sense of humor and seems so full of life, energy, kindness and sensitivity.  No doubt about it, that's exactly who came to visit.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I've Done Lost My Touch!

. . . which may not come as much of a surprise to some people.

Finally finished the new autumnal toned rug I've been crocheting for in front of the kitchen sink.

I can't get the durn thing to lie as flat as I want it on the floor.

This is my second try at the rug.  I had it about two-thirds of the way done when I realized there was just too much ripple-dipple in it so tore it completely out and started again.

Yep, I've lost my touch apparently because as hard as I tried to add the increases where I thought they were needed, the rug is still not flat as a rug should be.

I'll leave it for a time while we walk and stand on it, maybe wash it to see if that pulls it together in the right places.  If it doesn't shape up by then . . . well, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

However, I fully realize if this is the biggest problem I have, there's no reason to complain or be upset.  For sure!  Geesh.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Best Rye Bread Recipe I've Found

A little over a week ago, one of my posts included a picture of a flop of a huge loaf of rye bread.  The bread itself was of good texture and taste, and we managed to gobble it up without any trouble.  But I said I should have baked the bread as two loaves in regular sized loaf pans instead of as one big loaf which went splat on a cookie sheet.

In the comment section of this post, Carolyn over at Krazo Acres asked if I would post the recipe for the rye bread.  It's taken me until this morning to bake it again, but here's the recipe, Carolyn Renee, m'dear.

Papa Pea's Favorite Rye Bread

1/4  cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cup boiling water
2 (rounded) tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2-1/2 cups rye flour
2 to 3 tablespoons caraway seeds
3-1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

Combine first four ingredients in large bowl.  Pour in boiling water and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Cool to lukewarm.

Sprinkle yeast on warm water.  Stir to dissolve.  (I feel it's critical to have the correct temp water so you might want to use a thermometer to check it.)

Stir rye flour into brown sugar mixture, beating well.  Stir in yeast and caraway seeds and beat until smooth.

Mix in enough of the all-purpose flour, a little at a time, to make a soft dough you can knead.

Turn onto lightly floured board or counter.  Knead until satiny and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Place dough in lightly greased bowl turning dough over to grease top.

Cover and let rise in warm place until dough is doubled, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Punch dough down.  Turn out and divide in half.  Form into two balls.  Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

Shape into loaves and place in 2 greased loaf pans.  (My pans are glass and measure 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2".)

Cover and let rise in warm place until almost doubled, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Bake in pre-heated 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  Turn out onto wire racks to cool.  Makes 2 loaves.

These are my loaves from today.  Pepper mill (it's a big one) included in picture for comparison of loaf size.  Not huge loaves, but big enough for  good-sized sandwiches . . . and nice sized for rye bread.

I freshly grind my rye flour which I do believe gives more "height" to the dough.  Rye flour doesn't contain a lot of gluten so is generally more difficult to rise.  Also, my recipe doubles the amount of yeast called for in the original recipe.

A heavy, moist sourdough rye would be better, but until I master the technique of making (and keeping) a good sourdough (don't hold your breath), this bread is pretty good. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Never A Dull (Or Even Close To It) Moment

Our TV reception went flooey the middle of last week, and we ended up having to get a serviceman (from da big city, 130 miles away) out to analyze the problem.

He was a very nice, accommodating fella and a big help since after much fiddling around, it was suggested a couple of limbs from our twin birch tree might be causing the glitch by blocking the satellite signal to the dish.  (So what moved?  The satellite or the tree?)

Mr. Repairman helpfully held the ladder steady while Papa Pea climbed nearly to the tippy-top of our extension ladder to do the surgery.

Limbs came down off the tree with no mishap, husband came down off the ladder with no mishap and the repairman went on the rest of his rounds for the day.