Friday, October 31, 2014


Another month has come and gone again. I can't believe how fast the time goes -- especially when I'm busy.

We had our first snow on October 3rd,

but the weather quickly warmed and St. Luke's Summer gave us about 10 great days for working outside. Tom and I made the most of it.  He built and filled the garden boxes, and I worked madly on cutting back the fire zone.  Tom figures we have room for three more boxes and we'll put them on the to-do list for next Spring.

 I added a grand stack of brush to my hugelkultur bed that now needs to be covered with manure and soil, and there is still a bit more cutting back of brush to do. I managed to get the garlic planted and two of the back yard garden boxes cleared and topped off with manure.  I transplanted the mulberry tree and elderberry bushes inside the chicken run where I hope they will do well next year.  Still need to transplant the rest of the trees I have heeled in the garden box from this past Spring. I have amassed a fair number of small tree trunks to use as posts for my forest garden fence, and I am eyeing more trees to thin out, especially in the forest garden where I want to plant five more apple trees next Spring. I sure hope I will have time to get all the work done. Right now it's snowing and blowing outside like a blizzard! A real Halloween trick for sure!

In the house I cleaned the garlic harvested this year for fresh use and dried the onions I planted after I got off crutches in the dehydrator.  It worked very well for that, but my first attempt at making jerky was a disaster. I didn't think I would like dehydrating, but I do.  It's amazing how much food shrinks up when it is dried. This will be a fun skill to learn.

Cousin It came with her boyfriend and stayed a week with us.  I took them to Bayfield with me, and they had a good time.  I wasn't able to get any pears this year, but I did buy two bushels of apples -- one for fresh eating (we have almost finished them already) and one to can for baking. I bought an apple peeler and another bushel for Cousin It to take back home with her as she is learning to can.  Well, what are Moms for . . . .

And so, I did a bit of canning, too.

I finished knitting my elven rune sweater.  Following the legend in the front pages of The Hobbit  I worked out the phrase, "Walk in Starlight". Then I scoured the Internet for free patterns of oak leaves and acorns. The sweater was knitted in solid dark grey and raglan style, and I worked the runes and decorations in duplicate stitch in a silvery grey color.  As usual, I made the sweater big and wear it like a coat. It's nice and warm.



I have to tell you about the latest book I bought.  It is the single best book about farming that I've read since the first edition of Gene Logsdon's Small-Scale Grain Raising.  It's called Farming the Woods by Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel. There is useful information on every single page. If you want ideas about how to utilize and farm your temperate climate woods, this is the book to get. I LOVE chewing on the information presented in this book! It's my opinion and I have no doubt that these young people coming out of Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Science are going to save world agriculture. They get it.

Well, it's late and I need to go to sleep. I'll talk to you later.  In the meantime, Be Well and Safe.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Autumn Work

I received the "All Clear" from the doctor when I went for the last x-rays of my ankle so I happily have no more activity restrictions, and Tom and I have been making up for lost time. The weather has been decent lately so we have been busy trying to get the outside work finished.  I have been cutting back the brush around the house and cleaning up the "fire safety zone".  Let me tell you, that is a job.  I'm pooped! Even after three full days of sawing, pruning, and slashing with my brush sickles, it hardly looks like I've done anything.  The chickens delightedly follow my progress because I haul the cuttings inside the coop area for them to peck. I'm surprised they like eating dogwood leaves; the grasses and brambles I can understand, but dogwood leaves? I hope to finish cutting back the slope by the chicken coop tomorrow.  If I can keep up my steady pace, I should be finished with everything I want to cut back before I need to plant my garlic in mid-October.  I will save cleaning up the garden boxes for last.

Speaking of garden boxes, take a good look at the front yard:

Tom and I are going to be filling this entire area with new garden boxes.  He cut the lumber today, and we have been hauling mink poop from our good neighbor for the last few weeks.  I told Tom I just can't shovel that stuff any more for a while so we are going to take a break from getting any more trailer loads.



The very stinky stuff
The leaves are changing very rapidly now.  I actually think we have reached peak color already. I always love being outside enjoying the trees at this time of  year.

Of course, being inside can be fun, too. A day in my kitchen makes everyone smile.

Enjoy Autumn! Be Safe and Well, Everybody!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Change of the Season

I think Summer left a few days ago in the last rain we had.  The air is much cooler; the leaves are starting to change color; the light of day is different.  We are busy getting ready for winter. Tom and Ed cut, split, and stacked our wood.

They filled the firewood frames in the garage and all the kindling bins. The wood he didn't want to burn was put in a stack by my maple sugar rig. Then they went by Dad's and stacked his wood for him that my sister and her husband had cut and split. We bought tarps and covered all the wood piles and my syrup rig.

I cleared a nice spot next to the chicken run where Tom can park the truck after we put the snow plow on it. And I am working on clearing back the fire zone around the house.  There is more to do, but the yard is already looking much better.

 My ankle is better though it gives me painful twinges most days.  I go for x-rays again next week and hopefully will get the all clear on activities. I just have to admit that I cannot work at the pace I was used to working at any longer.  Well, "slow and steady goes long into the day" is one of my favorite aphorisms and now it has a slightly different import for me!

After I got off crutches I managed to gimp out to my garden boxes and plant three of them with collards, mustard greens, and kale in one; Provider green beans in another; and lettuce, beets, radishes, patty pan squash, and onions in the third.  The lettuce and beets just didn't grow, and the squash will not be able to mature before frost comes, but the rest are looking good.  I figure I will have to put on hoops and row cover for them all soon because we may get frost and possibly even snow next week.  We already had one night down to 38°F. Tom had planted one pole bean trellis and a handful of cucumber plants, and even with just a few plants I have been able to make several batches of sweet pickles, East India and cucumber relish, and several quarts of green beans. I would love to get another bushel of beans and a bushel of beets from somewhere. I am all out of beets. Fortune also shined on me this year with a bumper crop of black currants and raspberries from the forest garden, and Tom's black chokeberries in back of the house. I may yet get enough elderberries to make some cough syrup.  I made lots of jam and a fine supply of brandy cordials to soothe away any winter blahs.  I haven't tasted the black chokeberry jam yet, and as it is something I have not made before, I'm wondering if I should have made jelly instead of jam because when I tasted a raw berry it was awfully mealy. We'll find out soon enough! I read that chokeberries are very popular in Europe.

Titania Black Currants

I worked on filling in and strengthening the brush fence, and I must say I like the way everything looks.  I think it's rather picturesque.

With all the rain we had this year, everything grew spectacularly. (Too bad I didn't have my big garden!) The forest garden is a veritable jungle and I wonder if digging those swales last year was a factor.  And I am glad to report that the red currants are coming back and looking great. I only lost two apples trees to last winter's wrath; a Paula Red and one Smokehouse.  One of my remaining tasks is to cut paths through the forest garden.  In another week I will check the hazelnut bushes and see if I have any nuts this year.  Last winter was so long that I never even saw any blossoms on the apple, pear, or plum trees. And speaking of winter, our last snow came on May 15th.  We had a visiting Chinese priest speak at our church earlier this year, and he commented that our area really reminded him of Siberia!!! I guess our little rural towns, marshes and woods are similar to what is over there in Russia.  Maybe Dmitri Orlov ought to visit out here and give us his opinion. LOL.

The rose bushes in the chicken run are still blooming and they are heavy with hips.  I think I will try to make some rose hip jelly this year and dry some hips for tea. I just love the rose scent on the air when I let the chickens out in the morning.

Speaking of chickens, one of my projects for this year was to build up my flock of Dominiques.  I bought an incubator and gave it a try --

Fourteen of twenty eggs hatched and I have nine pullets! A man on one of the gardening/homesteading forums I frequent said that if you want pullets, put eggs that are more rounded at the small end to hatch.  Rooster eggs will be more pointed at the small end.  Some people say that is folklore and has no basis in fact, but the advice worked pretty well for me.  I'll give it a shot again next Spring. I plan to cull the flock next month and these replacements should work out well.

Till next time, Be Safe and Well!

P.S. It sure feels good to sit down and blog again :)

Crafts and Such

I wanted to post a picture of the gansey style sweater I made.  I think it turned out pretty good for a first try.  It fits great and I almost can't wait for the colder weather to come so I can wear it.

I am almost finished with second pair of socks for Lara, and my latest project is an everyday sweater for me (I'm always cold) that is a darker grey color and embroidered in duplicate stitch with a lighter, more silvery grey color.  I dug out my Tolkien books and wrote out a phrase in Elven runes, then searched for a couple of patterns for oak leaves and acorns that I will use for the embroidery.  So far I love the way it is turning out.  Stay tuned for a picture when I'm finished. If I have enough yarn left over I'll make a matching hat or cowl and fingerless gloves.

My grandnieces and nephews came by the other day and I promised we would do some crafting together when they come by again around Thanksgiving.  I think I will make some homemade soap and let them each remill a bar to take home.  Maybe we can make some lip balm or hand cream, too. Even boys can use lip protector and skin cream, especially in winter! That should be a fun get together. They brought me a grocery bag full of apples they picked from one of the trees on my sister and brother-in-law's farm.  I made Tom a couple of no sugar pies with some of them and boy did he like them! The apples are not quite ripe yet, but they sure made good pies. They were snarfed up so quick I didn't get a picture of them.

Cousin It is planning to visit at the end of this month.  If the weather is nice, perhaps together we can run up to Bayfield to get my yearly apples and apple wine.  Since she is starting to can food, she might like to take a bushel back home.  That would be fun.

While I was off my feet, I enjoyed bird watching through the window.  We had blue indigo buntings, our feisty hummingbirds, Northern Orioles -- a new bird for us, and lots of finches.  We even had some pine siskins and rosebreasted grosbeaks.

There was a gun show up at Butternut Park yesterday so Tom and I decided to go.  We have been to archery shows, car shows, and fishing shows, but never a gun show.  We did not know what to expect.  It wasn't much.  We thought the prices were way too high on most things.  I did buy a bag of shell casings to use as pegs when I make a cap rack for Tom and Ed.  I got the idea from a craft booth I saw at the Mercer Loon Day festival where the crafter used shotgun shell casings as pegs.  Nifty idea. There were some people selling household items at different booths and I picked up a beautiful stainless steel pan with handles for only $15.  It had a smashed snake petrified on it that needed to removed, but otherwise it was fine.  The first image that came into my mind when I saw the pan was of someone making cheese in it.  I don't know what the original use of the pan was, but I'm sure it was connected somehow with dairy.  I also picked up a nice old galvanized steel pail.  I like the old steel items because they simply last longer than the plastic garbage you find in most places today. All in all, it was a nice outing.

Well, chores call me, so I'll talk to you later.  Be well and Be safe!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

So Long April

Since I last posted we had another foot of snow on the 17th.

 Then for a few days the temperatures warmed!

And on the 24th and again yesterday, we had more of this:

I'm not very good at taking movies and my camera isn't the best so it is difficult to see the snow falling.  That's ok because you really don't want to see snow this time of year anyway, right?  Besides, today it is raining and all the snow is now gone except for patches here and there in the woods. The finches still have their winter colors though, and the frogs in the marshes are not peeping yet, so I know that winter is not over for us. No buds on the trees either, and the evidence of winter kill on lots of evergreens can be easily seen.

Saw the doc yesterday.  It will be another two weeks before I can start putting 50% weight on my ankle with crutches and the boot cast, then two weeks after that I can start putting my full weight without the crutches but still in the boot cast on it.  You tell me, does this make me a Bionic Woman or a Borg?

I have been studying diligently.  I took and passed FEMA classes IS-100, -200, -700, -800, -802, and -230 through the Emergency Management Institute.  I am having a hard time getting through IS-250 (ESF#15).  Haven't figured out yet what I am getting wrong, but later today I will study all the class material again and see if I can finally pass the class.  Also, I've worked my way through half of of Gordon West's Extra Class ham radio license study guide, and so far, I am not having a hard time understanding the material. I actually dreaded opening that book because I thought I would be hopelessly lost, but I am moving through the book fairly easily.  I used the ARRL books to study for my Technician and General class licenses, but Gordon's book is much easier to study with.  I think it may be the way he organizes the material.  Whatever it is, I like his book. It would be really nice to take the Amateur Extra exam this June down in Wisconsin Rapids instead of December!

I am about knitted out.  The last big project I have is almost finished.  Last Fall I had an idea that I would like to experiment knitting a sweater designed on body measurements instead of following a standard pattern.  I took my measurements and decided to try making a traditional gansey style sweater using worsted weight yarn. I decided to incorporate the seed stitch, basketweave, 6 stitch cable, and honeycomb stitches because I thought those stitches would make a nice "beekeeper" sweater.  (I read that the occupation/status of a person wearing a gansey could be told from "reading" the patterns in the sweater worn.) I worked up separate swatches of each stitch to figure what needle size I needed to use so the stitches looked nice AND met the gauge requirement to equal my measurements.  Once that was done, I started knitting the sweater, periodically checking my work to be sure it matched my measurements. (It was not easy!) It was interesting working a gusset into the underarm and then picking up and knitting in the round all the sleeve stitches after the shoulder "saddle" was sewn in and working from the top of the arm down to the wrist. This was something I have never done, but I can understand why the old knitters knitted the sleeves this way. As sleeve cuffs naturally saw a lot of wear, being able to remove only the cuff stitching to replace it instead of having to take the entire sleeve off the sweater and completely re-knit it was very practical. And it would have been easy to take a quick "fitting"  to be sure everything was coming right.  Very left-handed thinking and it makes me wonder if the knitter of the first gansey sweater was a "southpaw"! It is hard to describe a project without pictures so I will post a picture of the sweater for you when it is completed. Right now, I would like to tell you how I work the honeycomb stitch because the way I do it is not the way I have found it done on the Internet.

Honeycomb Stitch

Multiple of 4, plus one stitch each side for edge

K2R (knit two right):  Insert right hand needle in front of second stitch on left hand needle and knit, then insert tip of right hand needle in front of first stitch of left hand needle and knit.  Slide both stitches off left hand needle together.

K2L (knit two left): Insert right hand needle in back of second stitch on left hand needle and knit, then insert tip of right hand needle in back of first stitch of left hand needle and knit.  Slide both stitches off left hand needle together.

Row 1:  K1, *K2R, K2L, repeat from * to last stitch, K1
Row 2:  K1, Purl across to last stitch, K1
Row 3:  K1, *K2L, K2R, repeat from * to last stitch, K1
Row 4:  K1, Purl across to last stitch, K1
Repeat rows 1-4 for pattern.

Note:  If you work this stitch in the round, rows 2 and 4 are knit across instead of purled.

Well, it's starting to get late so I'll let you go.  Wish I had some gardening to talk about!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That

We've had 14" of new snow since I last wrote here:  3" one day, 3" another day, and an 8" dump.  Fortunately, the temperatures have risen considerably and the snow is noticeably vanishing.  Tom says the deer are out all over.  He even saw a big snow hare crossing the road on his way home from doing the grocery shopping. I know that Spring is here because the County has enacted the road weight limits and it is officially "mud season".

I have been knitting up a storm.  Here is another doll I made, this time, for my niece, Grace. I gave this doll corn yellow hair with nice thick side braids and matching stockings.  Her petticoat and apron are raspberry; skirt and body are lavender; and her shawl and bonnet are lilac.  I also gave her blue eyes.

Yesterday I decided to take a break and spend some time working my way through some of the free FEMA classes I need to take as prerequisite to taking the ARRL emergency communications class.  I managed to work through both IS-700.a and ICS100.b and pass them, but it took me all day.  I used to be able to race through classes like these; I had a near photographic memory at one time, but now I have to read and re-read before the information sinks in.  Drives me crazy. 

I keep telling myself to enjoy my down time.  My surgery on the 19th went well and at my post op appointment, Doc gave me a different cast and said no weight bearing on my seven screws and metal plate ankle/leg until he re-evaluates it at the end of the month.  And no driving till the end of May.

Ugh! I miss my chickens and it's positively killing me not to be able to get outside and into my greenhouse. Still, there is a reason for everything and I just have to figure out what I'm supposed learn from the situation.  Maybe Universe felt I needed this extra time to rest because (as the line from Shakespeare's MacBeth runs) "something wicked this way comes" and I need to be ready for it. I don't know. So, I prop my leg up, look through the living room windows, watch the snow disappear, and keep myself busy as best I can.

I'm sure I can find something interesting here.

Talk to you later!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Universe Slam

Well, I am in the middle of my second Saturn Return so I suppose I should have expected this year to get off to a rocky start. I didn't expect to be constantly hammered though, and I sure don't have to be philosophical about it.  In fact, I don't like it at all!

My Universe slam continues with the bad weather.  After the last big snow, Tom went to check the propane tank, and it was a good thing he did.  The tank was down below 30% and with the cold temperatures persisting, we didn't want to start having problems with the plumbing so he called our propane supplier to get a refill.  That was when we found out there was a propane shortage.  After a week of waiting, we got a call from the propane company telling us that they couldn't deliver our propane because of the snow pack on our driveway.  They said the weight of the propane truck would break up the snow pack and get stuck.  I was suspicious of that because they have delivered to us in winter before, but DH said he knew what they were talking about.  So, we decided to use the propane we had left only for the heating system while we figured out what to do.  I would set up a clothes drying rack in the utility room for drying the wash, and we would use the crock pot and wood stove for cooking. Tom went to our neighbor who has a snow plow to see if he could help, but he told us his plow couldn't do anything about the snow pack.  Then, with this being a very small community, we got a call from another neighbor who heard about our difficulty.  He knew a guy with a big cat who was shortly going to be in the neighborhood to clear snow from a new building site down the road from us and he could break up the snow pack for us.  So, for a couple dozen eggs and some cash, we got the driveway cleared to suit the propane company, and we got our tank filled. 

And the day after this, Tom's new plow was ready for pick up, and the snow blower that was in the repair shop for a new belt -- after Tom had already replaced the starter in it -- was also ready to get picked up.

When the next sunny days appeared I was ready to start tapping maple trees.  I dug out the path to the maple syrup rig again and this time took the cover off it.  Then I picked out four trees that were fairly close together that I could reach by digging only one path through the snow.  I discovered I needed to use a pickaxe to break through the ice pack on the side of the driveway in order to start digging my path, so I headed back down the driveway to the house when BAM! I heard something snap and found myself looking at the sky.  Everything was spinning and I thought I was going to barf.  I must have laid on the ground a good five minutes.  Sandy the Swamp Creek Dog was going nuts.  She was jumping back and forth over me and then laid down beside me.  Slowly I tried to get up and realized quickly that something was very wrong with my ankle.  Boy, did that driveway to the house suddenly look very long.  Tom had gone to my dad's to fill up his wood box for him, so I just started dragging myself toward the house.  I was sure glad we had the wheelchair ramp in the garage instead of stairs.  I dragged myself into the house and managed to pull myself up to stand on one foot using the back of a kitchen chair.  I slowly pushed the chair in front of me and made my way into the bathroom where I managed to get my boot off to look at my ankle and reach the homeopathic kit.  Not good. That's where Tom found me.  He hauled me to the emergency room and sure enough, my ankle is broken.  This week I'll have surgery to put in a plate and screw everything back together.  I'll be off my feet for another two months and it's for sure I won't be able to put in the big garden I was hoping to plant.  If I'm lucky, I can hope for planting a Fall garden in July, but I surely will not have enough produce to go to market with.  I'm trying to figure out what to do with all the trees and bushes I've ordered until I can get them properly in the ground.  And to top it all off, my accident caused Tom to have his surgery rescheduled.  His surgery is tentatively re-set for late June or early July after I should be able to drive again.  What a state of affairs!

Second Saturn Return, indeed!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Outdoor Exercise

What a week!  Tom and I barely finished digging out from the last 10" of snow when the weather news warned of a second whammy from winter storm Seneca.  We decided to dig out the last two wood piles of this year's firewood and stack the wood inside the garage before the storm hit.  Good thing we did, because no sooner did we finish the task that the wind upticked and it started snowing.  It snowed all night and all the next day, and by the time it stopped snowing we had another foot and a half to two feet of snow.  You should have seen the monster drift at the end of our driveway! Our big snowblower got stuck trying to go through it and we had to dig it out by hand. Then we had to dig a path through the drift so the blower could get a good start throwing the snow.  We started digging out at 8:00 a.m. and it took us till 4:00 p.m. to get the driveway and most of the paths dug out.
Path to the maple syrup rig
Enough room to put in a chair and tend the fire
Maple syrup rig

Path to the chicken coop
Dominiques doing well in spite of the bitter cold
 In the picture below you can still discern the path I previously dug down to the tree line where Tom takes his daily walk to check his deer cam.  After I took this picture Tom walked through this snow and it was still chest deep on him.   

Unfortunately the pictures don't give you a sense of just how deep the snow really is. The snow here in the "back yard" around the greenhouse is just incredible.
Greenhouse path
Needless to say, we have decided to buy a snow plow for the truck with this year's income tax return.  Tom has already been on the phone and is going to go see a guy that sells plows next week. 

Today the wind is bitter even though the sun is shining.  We are supposed to get another blast of artic air by mid-week so I am glad we got everything dug out before it all freezes solid.  Still, as I was digging out the path to the compost bin I noticed depressions forming around the maple trees so I know that the sap is going to start running soon.  I think that I will dig out paths to a couple of trees and be ready to tap them just after the next new moon.

Path to the compost bin
The chickadees have found my bird feeder and are chirping down in the balsams around the big marsh so Spring cannot be far away.

Stay warm and be careful when out in this weather!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mercury Retrograde

Well, I can tell that Mercury is retrograde! The starter died on the snow blower, a sensor on the Dodge Caravan started acting up, the computer wound up going into the shop where I discovered it somehow had contracted a Trojan despite just upgrading (with some difficulty) to a more enhanced antivirus program with encryption capability, and Lara's wheelchair belt buckle broke again -- the third time in six months.  After I got the computer home from the shop, the keyboard stopped making upper key characters.  And, I got some kind of stomach bug that laid me low for a week.  Thank God, it was just me that got sick. I was not happy.

All is better now, however. The car, snow blower, computer and keyboard are all fixed.  And Tom came up with the idea of installing a car's lap seat belt on Lara's wheelchair instead of continuing to buy inferiorly constructed and overpriced belts from medical equipment vendors.  The GM lap seat belt fit perfectly and without any alteration on Lara's wheelchair, and everybody is very happy. If you are running into the same problem we were with crappy wheelchair seat belts supposedly made expressly for your specific wheelchair model, do look into using a car seat belt instead. The difference in quality construction is marked.  Now we are wondering if we are going to get another 4" of snow tonight on top of the 4" we got a couple of days ago.  I'm telling you, it has been really difficult keeping the driveway open so the home nurse aides and the postal delivery services can get in and out.  Not to mention all my pathways around the house. Maple Syrup season is right around the corner and on my mind.

Fortunately (as we all know) work is never done and I have plenty to keep me busy.  Here are a few of the items I knitted to sell at the end of the farmers market this year. 

This doll is knitted from Red Heart Super Saver yarn and stuffed with 100% hypoallergenic polyester fiberfill.  All of her clothes are removable.  Her "hair" under the bonnet includes two coiled braids, one on each side of her head that are sewn in place.  There are no buttons, just ties as fasteners.  She is machine wash warm, no bleach, and tumble dry on low or air dry.  I do pre-wash all my knit items to ensure colorfastness and workmanship. These big dolls are a hit with little girls -- just ask my nieces.  I love to make this doll and like to change the hair and clothing colors.  Sometimes I put a coiled braid on top of the head.  I am making one now for another niece who wants her doll to have long braids, so I have to figure out just how to do that.  Her doll will have lavender, lilac, and light raspberry clothes and corn blonde hair with blue eyes.  I have a boy doll knitted and am working out the patterns for his clothes. Instead of bloomers he has long johns.

The Christmas stockings on either end are tall.  The smaller one in the middle gave me a surprise when I reached the end of the "turn heel" work -- there was no more pattern! As I am not used to knitting socks I was not sure what to do, but fortunately, when I bought the yarn for this work I also bought a book on knitting socks, so I looked through the book, found a sock pattern that was similar to what I was knitting, and finished the sock with those directions but using my pattern stitches.  This is a really nice sock because it has a turn down cuff and the pattern makes it double thick and very warm.  I am going to play around with this pattern and see if I can come up with a pair of winter boots for Lara.

Just before Christmas a woman asked me to make her puppy a doggy sweater.  She specifically wanted pink camouflage yarn and otherwise was not picky about the pattern.  Well, I told her I would do it.  I wound up having to order the yarn, which didn't arrive till almost New Year's, and then I spent several days knitting feverishly in between guests and holiday doings.  Ultimately, she stiffed me, so I am now going to sell these for $45 each.  They all fit a puppy or small dog.  The one on the left is a simple rib knit; the next is a small all-over cable pattern (both in pink camouflage); the third one is done in stockinette stitch in green camouflage with beige trim; and the last one is my favorite because it is a little "hoodie" sweater in pink camouflage.

I have two more quilt blocks to sew.  I think I will put the quilt together in a barn raising pattern.  Whew!

It feels good to have the computer back to have something to vent on though I am sure you readers don't appreciate my poor humor. (Thanks for listening!) Some fair weather and time outside can cure that in short order, I think. 

Here's to wishing you are all safe, warm, and not hungry!  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Fermented Foods Bug

Yeah, I have it.  I found the Nourished Kitchen web site and that was it.  I'm hooked.  Now, for us, sauerkraut is just one of the fermented foods with all of their attendant probiotics that we will be eating in this house. 

In an earlier post you will recall I tried my hand at making fermented lemons.  Well, I wasn't sure quite what to do with them, so I experimented with one lemon by making a loaf of lemon bread.  Oh, yeah, that was good. (No pictures because it is already eaten!) I have the lemons in the refrigerator now to slow down the fermentation process.  They are supposed to keep a long time.  Tomorrow I will add a slice or two chopped finely to some quinoa for lunch, and I look forward to experimenting with them in other recipes. 

I then bought a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeasts) from Kombucha America and tried making my first batch of kombucha.  I was originally afraid that the cultures had died from being in the mail over the last really cold days we had, but I was not to fear.  I think if I had not had previous fermentation experience I would have freaked seeing the kombucha "mushroom" develop in the tea, but as it was, I was cool, and the tea turned out just fine.  My first batch was of fermented green tea and my second batch, now fermenting, is of Irish Breakfast black tea.  It will be interesting to compare the difference in taste between the green and black teas.  This is really fun!

For my birthday back in November, my sister, Mary, gave me a little fermentation kit -- a plastic lid with an airlock that fits a large mouth canning jar -- so now I will put it to use and pick a recipe from my Mastering Fermentation book and see what happens. It is going to be interesting to observe any health improvements we may obtain over time from eating an increased amount of these probiotic foods.  Fortunately for me, our in-house gourmand, Lara, is all for my experimenting.  She loves drinking the kombucha green tea.

Another fermented drink I had been making regularly for several years now is milk kefir.  I originally bought my authentic kefir grains from Marilyn the Kefir Lady.  I make a quart of kefir every other day, and a glass of kefir with a little orange juice stirred in is my alternate breakfast when I don't have eggs. Milk kefir is easy to make.

Kefir Grains
These are kefir grains.  You place them in a jar, cover them with milk (I have even used powdered milk successfully),

then cover the jar with a permeable cloth or paper towel, and set it somewhere fairly warm but out of direct light for at least 24 hours.  Kefir is similar to yogurt but doesn't firm up the way yogurt does.  It tastes much like buttermilk and can be used in recipes that call for buttermilk. I love drinking buttermilk, but I haven't had to buy it since I've been making kefir.

When the kefir is fermented to your taste, strain it into another clean jar and put it in the frig.  The kefir will continue to ferment, but refrigeration slows the process. Then put the kefir grains into another clean jar, cover with milk, and begin the process all over again. Just remember to keep your fermenting projects separated by a couple of feet so the cultures don't cross.

Try fermenting.  It's easier to do than you might think and opens up a whole new world of taste.

The Weather -- Really?

I'm sorry it's been a while since I've posted, but between my computer giving me fits after IE 11 automatically downloaded and persevering through the brutally cold weather we've been having, I have to admit my mood has been rather foul.  Still, I have learned a lot with the experience and am trying to see things on the bright side.

For instance, when the polar vortex descended last week and we had several near -50°F nights, I has very concerned for the chickens in their unheated coop so before the cold rolled in I turned the 12" deep bedding over inside the coop to get it "cooking" and release some heat.  Then I shoveled snow around the outside of the coop as high as I could.  Great insulation protection from the wind! I gave the chickens extra oats and corn, and lastly, in the mornings I made sure I gave them slightly warm fresh water and some fresh cooked hot rice to warm their insides up.  I stapled plastic sheeting over the air vents on the north side of the coop to stop the wind, but made sure the door is open during the day so fresh air can circulate and moisture can escape because I know that chickens are very susceptible to respiratory illness in damp conditions.  The vents on the south side of the coop I left open.  The chickens have all done amazingly well and there has been no bad frost bite.  I am even starting to get eggs! This weather has been a perfect example of why Dominique chickens are an excellent breed for northern climes.

Another good thing I was reminded of is that shoveling snow is good exercise . . . .

Inside time, of course, allows me to get other tasks done.  Besides cleaning the house from top to bottom, I now have only six more quilt blocks to sew before I can start putting my first log cabin quilt together.  I am also making a lot of knitted items to sell on the last day of the Phillips farmers market during the town Harvest Festival, and I am catching up on my reading (and re-reading in some cases).  If you are stuck inside, take a look at some of these books and DVDs -- you might like them as much as I do:  Earthbag Building, Little Heathens, Mastering Fermentation, Gaia's Garden and Three Bags Full

I sat down and planned out this year's garden.  I am sure going to be planting a lot of trees.  I have ordered through the annual County tree sale 25 each of red and sugar maples to plant along the hay road.  From Woodstock Nursery I ordered several more grape vines to plant along the forest garden fence and 15 butternut trees (planting location undecided yet).  From St. Lawrence Nursery I ordered three apple trees (one each of Chestnut Crab, Northwest Greening, and Original McIntosh) to plant in the clearing by Tom's hunting shack, two Homestead Hawthorns for the Forest Garden, one Northrup mulberry to plant in the chicken yard, two American Chestnuts to plant as markers for the path I'm making around the back of the (west side of our house) marsh that will connect our place to Dad's, and 8 blueberry plants (four each of Northcountry and Friendship) to put in the new garden box next to the greenhouse.

Out in the field I expect to plant Fisher's Earliest corn from Horizon Herbs, Red Cloud and Early Ohio potatoes from Potato Garden, and Blue Hubbard winter squash from my own saved seed.  Out in the field where the old high tunnel was, I'm going to fence that area and make that a dedicated market garden section.  Together with the herbs and veggies I'll plant in the garden boxes, greenhouse, and forest garden, there should be plenty for Lara and I to sell at the farmers markets in Phillips and Park Falls.  I'm counting on my sister's bees to find my gardens this year.

Boy, I am sure looking forward to Spring!