Saturday, October 30, 2010

Howl With The Wind

Well, I have to admit that my first experience with a land hurricane was nerve wracking.  While being without electricity is not fun, at least the lack of it doesn't bother me as much as it does the rest of my family.  My biggest concern is for the food stored in the freezer and whether it will spoil before the power comes back on.  This time, fortunately, our electricity returned in time so that no food was lost.  

The way the wind howled through the leafless trees was downright eerie.  Maybe I'm still spooked from the tornado back in July, I was sure glad when the wind finally died down. 

What was worse than the storm though, was what happened next:  Tom found our Lara on the floor  in the morning -- we figure she had been on the floor most of the night -- and she had broken her leg.  What a nightmare!  And it's a bad fracture.  The doctor said that if she was ambulatory, she would have to have a metal plate, screws, and pins to put that leg back together.  But because she has spina bifida and is not ambulatory, the treatment and risks are different.  So, the short of it is that I am on skin breakdown watch for the next 6-12 weeks while her leg slowly mends wrapped in an immobilizer brace.  I'm so stressed I can hardly stand it.  Transferring her in and out of her wheelchair for catheterization is absolute hell.  I am giving her homeopathic remedies Rhus Tox and Arnica for the swelling, Ledum for the horrible bruising, Hypericum for pain, and Calc Phos for the fracture.  In about a week I'll drop the Arnica and add Symphytom and perhaps Silica.  Already the bruising is easing and the Rhus has really helped bring down the heat and swelling.  She is still running a fever but that may be due to a urinary tract infection -- we are still waiting on the results of that test. 

I tell you, I cannot wait for October to be over -- you could probably hear me howl with the wind!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Finishing Up The Harvest

Well, the rain has moved in and I haven't made it out to the field, but that's ok.  I'll get out there sooner or later.  The good news is that the temperatures are still not that cold so I can still do any digging I need to do, like hauling dirt from my "dirt hole" and adding it to my garden boxes, and transplanting herb plants, or scratching in some perennial flower seeds.  It is supposed to rain off and on the next couple of days so I expect to dodge rain drops this week. 

I got the sauerkraut canned -- 21 quarts and did it ever turn out good! -- and put the last 6 quarts of zucchini in the freezer.  I hope to steam another bushel of pumpkins tomorrow.

 As for Mama Pea's inquiry:  I have a Mehu Lisa steamer/juicer that I bought from Lehman's for a birthday present to myself, and I steam my pumpkins in that. 

Mehu Lisa Steamer/Juicer and Foley Mill
 (A large pot with a canning rack in the bottom to keep the pumpkins up and out of the water works just as well, if not quicker; you just don't get the distilled pumpkin juice using the pot). First, I take a paring knife or meat fork and poke holes all around the pumpkin.  Then, I try to break the top stem off; if it doesn't come off, that's ok.  I put the pumpkin in the microwave for 8 minutes on high power.  That softens the pumpkin enough to allow me to easily cut it into quarters or eighths (depending on how big the pumpkin is), and put the seeds aside for processing later.  I put the pieces in the steamer and steam them till soft.  I then scrape the meat from the shell, run it through the Foley food mill, and I pack the puree in freezer bags, 2 quarts per bag, and freeze it.  The pumpkin seeds are cleaned and placed in a large container of water.  The viable seeds sink to the bottom, and the "floaters" are carefully scooped out.  The floaters are what I soak in salt water overnight and roast for us to snack on.  The pumpkin shells go out to the compost pile.  I like to save only some of the steamed pumpkin juice and make a couple of batches of my version of Harry Potter's Pumpkin Juice for the kids and me.  Just for Halloween.   

I've been working on harvesting seed:  Garden Sorrel, Black Beauty zucchini, Yellow Warted Crookneck squash, New England Pie Pumpkin, and Ebeneezer onion seed.  I still have Wong Bok and French Breakfast Radish seed to harvest.

 Something is digging up my garlic so I ned to put a heavier mulch over the garlic bed.  Out in the garden boxes, the collards love the cooler weather, and the Italian Flat Leaf Parsley is holding up well.  The Scarlet Nantes carrots are just beautiful.  It was a bumper year for carrots, I think, for everybody I know.  All three of my plantings did great this year.

Talk to you later!

P.S.:  I just realized that I'm missing the base to my Mehu Lisa steamer/juicer in the picture above, so here is another older picture of the whole pot (on the left):

Monday, October 18, 2010

Feast of St. Luke

October 18th has been an important date in my life.  I always feel its approach with a good deal of wariness.  It is the Feast Day of St. Luke in the Calendar of the Saints.  I had the misfortune of attending St. Luke Grammar School from kindergarten through eighth grade.  The experience was very emotionally scarring.  It was my mother's birthday; she would have been 74 -- she died from complications of diabetes back in 1998.  It was the day our Lara lost her sight due to a series of ventriculo-peritoneal (VP) shunt failures when she was 18 months old, immeasurably complicating her congenital spina bifida/hydrocephalus birth defect.  I was 5 month pregnant at the time with our second child (Soldier Girl).  It was also the day I went to be at the hospital with my sister who was having surgery and was told by the doctor that my dear sister had ovarian cancer.  I still remember my words to the doctor:  "But, she's only 29 years old."  I still remember the look on the doctor's face.  October 18th really sucks for me. 

So, to take my mind off all the bad memories, I steamed pumpkins all day.  I thought I would have finished with more than 10 quarts, but that was all I managed to freeze.  I made my version of Pumpkin Juice:  1 quart orange juice + 2 quarts steamed pumpkin juice + 1/2 cup sugar.  Then, I have a large amount of seeds drying for planting next year, and I have a good amount soaking in salt water overnight -- I'll roast them in the morning.  Roasted pumpkin seeds is a favorite Fall snack around here. 

Tomorrow we'll finish splitting wood for Dad.  He should now have plenty of firewood to last him for the winter. 

I guess there is really something to that saying, "Busy hands make for a happy heart."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Plugging Away

Let's see now:

1.  Garlic planted -- yup

2.  Blackberry trellis repaired -- yup

3.  Proper fence around the Honeycrisp apple tree -- yup

4.  Two handkerchiefs hemmed -- yup

It was a gorgeous October day and a productive one!  No rain is expected for almost another week, so I hope I can finish up the work out in the field.  I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Good Day's Work

We had another busy day trying to get as much done as we can before the cold weather sets in for good.  Tom and my brother-in-law split wood for my Dad, and I worked in the back yard cleaning up the garden boxes.  I picked out a spot behind the blackberry trellis and a couple of balsam trees to start the new compost pile.  I couldn't believe all the garden trash I hauled to start the new pile, but the boxes look very nice and tomorrow I'll plant the garlic.  I found a new pole to repair the broken end on the blackberry trellis so I'll fix that tomorrow, too. 

I had planned to keep the apple and pear trees over winter in the garden boxes and transplant them to a permanent location next spring, but wouldn't you know it, around sunset two nice sized young bucks meandered into the yard and headed straight for one of the Honeycrisp apple trees. (Tom was ecstatic).  We have about 80 acres of fresh deer browse, a quarter acre deer plot, and three gardens, and they go straight to the one fruit tree I've managed to get to grow in six years! I couldn't believe it.  I ran out the back door and yelled at the one buck.  (For some reason he has only one antler.)  He just looked at me and grabbed a branch so I snatched up my hoe and charged at him.  Of course, the two culprits took off, and I immediately went and got my shovel, some fence posts, and a roll of wire, and in the dwindling dusk set up a poor fence around the tree that I'll put up properly tomorrow.  Sheesh!  No rest for the wicked, I guess. 

With seeds to harvest, sauerkraut to check, handkerchiefs to hem, and weaving books to study on top of everything else, my day's work is surely full.  I have to tell you though that I feel a strange difference in my mental focus.  I am much more, well, focused.  It seems to be easier for me to zero in on whatever task I choose to accomplish and get it done.  It's certainly a welcome new ability.  I find that if I use self discipline to put aside negative thoughts and direct myself to the task at hand that I am far more successful in completing that task.  I can't explain it, but being positive and alert to what transpires around me seems to bring beneficial opportunities to the fore.  The work is not easy and the responsibilities are actually greater, but I am getting things done, and done well.  Must be a Saturn aspect pinging me. 

Oh, well.  I'm too tired to start thinking about where Saturn is right now in my horoscope chart.  I know that when I go to bed I'll fall asleep praying and I'll wake up finishing the prayer.  That's just the way it goes sometimes.

Be safe, and I'll talk to you soon.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Time is Flying

Special Olympics Bowling yesterday was great fun.  We met a new boy who wants to join our group.  He uses the bowling ramp like Lara though he is not in a wheelchair because he is very slight in build and walking is difficult for him.  The bowling ramp is very suitable for him.  It was his first time bowling and I think he enjoyed himself.  Like our Ed, he does not talk.  I gave his grandmother the necessary forms to fill out and send to the Madison office of Special Olympics.  There were seven of the young people bowling and I admit I was a bit overwhelmed with all the noise.  Everyone wanted to talk to me and I was trying to keep an eye on the young people at the same time. 

This morning I finished freezing the carrots, and then I canned the Haralson apples for pies.  I put 24 of them in the refrigerator for fresh eating -- I really like this variety.  Yesterday I canned the bushel of McIntosh as applesauce.  The apple slices I put in the dehydrator are just about dry.  I slipped a few that were done to Lara without her knowing it.  She calls them "Elf Apples" and thinks the fairies leave them for her.  It makes her very happy knowing that fairies come and leave her little presents.  I told her the apples are more likely from the gnome that lives in the chicken coop and she agreed.  That gnome must have sneaked inside the house when I went to gather eggs this afternoon. . . .

I took a stroll after supper out into the front yard and imagined how to landscape it now that the loggers are finished.  I think I could easily put a two-tiered ring of about 10 fruit trees out there and interplant them with flowers and herbs.  It's kind of hard to describe the lay of the land there now because the knoll where my forest garden was is completely different from what it was.  Instead of a rounded knoll, there is more of an incline that slants toward the house, crests, then slopes down somewhat sharply as it faces the house.  I think that slope would be perfect for herbs and flowers while the top rim and south facing back side of the slope could hold the trees.  There would be much work to do to prepare the soil.  Just some more to think about.

The "check engine" light is back on in the van again so tomorrow Tom is taking it back in to the auto shop.  I still think we should just trade it in for a smaller, more energy efficient car that we can use for grocery shopping and doctor visits.  Oh, well.  I don't think anyone will be doing much driving pretty soon anyway so I suppose it doesn't matter whether or not we get rid of "Big Green". 

Gotta go.  Say, did you remember to make your monthly wish list?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Apple Orchard Time

Today was a beautiful Fall day, and after an early lunch Ed and I drove up to Bayfield in search of the year's supply of apples and pears.  Today was the last day of the annual Bayfield Apple Festival and I learned that if you want to buy apples in bulk and get the varieties you want, you need to visit Bayfield's great orchards before the Apple Festival starts.  One of the orchards was already closed; another was completely out of apples; and, I was unable to find Honeycrisp or Northwest Greening apples anywhere.  I wound up buying one bushel of Haralson apples (a variety I have been considering buying to grow in our orchard and was wondering how it tasted) at Bayfield Apple Company, and a bushel of McIntosh apples from Hauser's. Of course, I couldn't forget our usual gallon of apple cider from Erickson's and Lara's yearly bottle of Sweet Apple Wine from Hauser's.  There were no pears to be had anywhere either.  One of the vendors told me that a late Spring frost hit a lot of the orchards very hard and no one that she knew of had any pears this year.  Guess I'll have to buy a peck or two from the grocery store.  Our house is going to smell so good tomorrow.

Speaking of good food, here's a link to download the new non-GMO shopping guide for you. 

Have a great day!


I spent some time this evening looking for weaving books and found some I liked here.  I can't wait to try weaving on my loom.  Right now I'm reading a book called Warping All By Yourself by Cay Garrett.  I like the book; it's easy to understand and the illustrations help alot.  

Cold weather always gets me thinking about crafting.  I got out my pile of handkerchiefs and hand hemmed two of them while I watched the pressure canners.  I really like the fabrics -- bought them from Hancocks of Paducah.  Hancocks has some really beautiful prints. 

Today when I was looking for weaving info, I came across a web site that sells refurbished sock knitting machines.  What an interesting antique tool!  (Tsk, tsk.  There is NO place in this house for me to put one LOL.)  I never saw anything like that before.  It really is a fascinating piece of machinery. 

Saturday, October 02, 2010

That North Wind is Blowing

Brrr!  I've been walking around draped in thermal knits and sweaters all day; you'd think it was the dead of winter.  I don't know why I feel so cold, but I do.  Even with the kitchen warm from all the canning I've been doing, I still feel cold.  Maybe I miss all the trees and psychologically think that the house will be colder now that it is less sheltered (it shouldn't be since the effects of a shelter belt extend approximately 150' depending on the height of the shelter planting and we still have plenty of tall trees around the house that are within that distance).  Still, I do miss the trees and it's going to take me a while to get used to the new views around the property.

The loggers are still working here.  They are in back of the house, nearer to the hay road, and working their way toward the worst of the storm damaged area by the snowmobile trail.  The woods are so open now: there are some nice viewpoints opened down into the big marsh by the little lake that I really like.  I took a stroll to check things out and am very pleased.  Everything looks just like the woodlot management articles I've read says it should.  Tom and I have been discussing what we want to do to the landing areas and skid trails.  We've decided to plant herbs and grasses in the pathways, and plant shrubs or small trees like native plums and juneberries along the edges of the paths.  In the areas that had to be clear cut because of the storm damage, we will plant sugar maples.  Peppermint birch is my second favorite to plant though I know it is harder to grow, but we'll try planting some of those, too.  I'm going to spend a lot of time thinking about landscaping right around the house.  Right now I'm considering moving all of the fruit trees from the field that are still alive and bringing them to be planted around the house.  In between the trees I would have a series of raised bed garden boxes.  We'll see.  I have all winter to graph it all on paper.

I have my two crocks of new sauerkraut bubbling away, and I canned the last of the tomatoes.  Yesterday I worked ALL day canning and freezing carrots, and I still have another big bowl of them to can -- think I'll grate them and can them in pint jars to use for carrot cake.  I put away the dried peppermint and cranberries, and refilled the dehydrator with curly leaf parsley. It sure smells good; I love parsley tea in the winter. 

Tom and I made cheese pirogi this morning.  We had half the batch for supper tonight and they were pretty good.  I think we're finally getting the hang of making them.  I mix the dough and roll it out while he handles the pirogi mold, filling and sealing the dough pieces. 

After supper I went out to the field to get the sunflower heads because tonight is supposed to be so cold I expect just about anything still out in the garden to bit the dust.  Lo and behold, the deer had most everything chomped to bits.  I was able to salvage a couple of the heads though, and I brought them back to dry in the garage. 

While in the garage, I sorted through all of the potato baskets.  I have a half bushel of Red Cloud for seed potatoes, and four full bushels of Red Norlands and Kennebecs left.  With the pie pumpkins and squashes, that should be enough to take to the Grouse Festival on the 9th in Park Falls.  On Monday I will find out about securing a vendor space.  I hope the weather is nice that day. 

Speaking about the weather again, if it is nice tomorrow, I plan to go up to Bayfield and get my apples for the year.  I hope to get a bushel of Macintosh for sauce, a bushel of Honeycrisp for fresh eating, and maybe some Northwest Greening apples for pies.  I always stop at Hauser's to get a bottle of apple wine for Lara and a peck of pears to can.  I like to can my pears in medium syrup and add a piece of candied ginger and a whole clove to the jar -- tastes SO good.

Well, I better stop gabbing.  Take care!