Saturday, September 26, 2009

From Tiny Woodpiles . . .

. . . mighty fires grow.

What you see there is the beginning of the woodpile. Welcome to fall! That wood is all from the Kentucky Coffee Bean tree (no, it does not actually produce coffee beans--I don't know why it's called that) that fell over in the hollow during the Gale of '09. A. cut it and split it in July right where it fell, and yesterday we moved it out of the hollow and into pile formation.

When I say "we," I really mean "A." because the location of the tree meant that all the wood had to be carried about 50 feet and then thrown over a fence into the back of the truck. A. wouldn't let me help. He has some old-fashioned notion that pregnant women should not be hauling and hurling large, heavy chunks of wood. And I didn't argue, because truthfully? My back has been kind of hurting lately.

Oh, the shame of weakness.

So I sat on a garden bench with the dogs and watched A. labor for two hours hauling wood. No mere mortal could have done that much work. Luckily, A. is not a mere mortal--he's a beast.

Then he drove the truck around back and we stacked it all on the much-coveted pallets. I did help with the stacking. I refuse to surrender to weakness.

We have a little more of our own wood to stack--the black walnut that tried to crush the sheep barn, in fact--and then the big wood delivery that we purchase will come sometime this weekend. And after that is stacked, we will definitely be ready for the cold weather.

Go on, Old Man Winter--BRING IT.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Yesterday's News

Newsflash #1: I washed and detailed my car yesterday. Because I know how to have a good time, yes. But seriously, it has been AT LEAST six years since my car has been washed. Because, I don't know, I was living in an apartment with nowhere to wash it, and then I moved here, and the outside taps didn't work for a long time, and I'm too cheap to go to a car wash . . . Actually, I guess the real reason is because my car is old and I just don't care that much. Maybe if I drove a new Cadillac I would take more pride in its appearance, but a 12-year-old dented and beginning-to-rust Nissan? A little dirt doesn't hurt its image that much.

However, we finally got the outside taps fixed, I managed to find a very old hose and get A. to somehow clamp a new end on it so I could screw it into the tap, and then I washed my car. I felt so very suburban. I also felt kind of grossed out by whatever the black, sticky substance was that was all over the car and required actual scrubbing to remove. Ew. Then I hauled out the extension cord and the vacuum cleaner and vacuumed it all. Then I got out the Windex and wiped down all the inside and washed the windows.

Then I put everything away and went whining in to A. about how much my back hurt. Because I am 80 years old. Really, though, it took a long time and a lot of work to do all that. Over two hours and a lot of hauling things around. Those people at the car washes should make a lot more.

Newsflash #2: I don't really like prime rib all that much. I KNOW. I feel like I should like it, because it's one of the most expensive and fancy cuts of meat, but it's just too fatty. I made prime rib last night for our little dinner party and was kind of skeeved out by all the fat I had to cut off my piece. I just . . . don't like fatty meat much. Of course, everyone else loves prime rib, so that just means more for them. And I made sure there were plenty of mashed potatoes (butter/milk/sour cream/salt), so it was all alright.

And that concludes our random news program for the day. Have a happy weekend, duckies!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Let's Talk Potatoes

Because it's always a good day to talk about potatoes.

We will be having guests for dinner tonight, and on the menu will be mashed potatoes. Not just mashed potatoes, of course, although I would certainly not object to a 100% potato-based meal personally, but the mashed potatoes are the pertinent item to today's Audience Participation Day topic.

Yes! It's A.P.D. again! YAY! I'm not overusing this particular device, am I? Nah.

So. Mashed potatoes come in many guises. Some people stick to the straight butter and milk. Some add cream cheese, some use garlic, some add cheese, bacon bits, onions, and God knows what else. Personally, I like butter, milk, and sour cream. The sour cream adds a nice tang.

But this is not about me and my potatoes! No! This about YOU and YOUR foolproof, tried and true, absolutely delicious mashed potato method. So tell me, poppets: What goes into your beaten tubers?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You're Going To Tell Me To Shut Up, I Just Know It

I can't believe I didn't tell you I pulled up the last tomato plants on Monday! How could I have thought writing about grape juice was more important than the dying gasps of the tomatoes? WHAT WAS I THINKING?

(Dramatics? Me? Whatever do you mean?)

There are a couple dozen tomatoes still sitting on the kitchen counter, but for all practical purposes, the tomato season is done for. Of course, last year at this time, I was still drowning in tomatoes, canning like a crazy woman and literally seeing red all the time. But this was not a normal year. This was the year of The Blight. The year when I made dire predictions about no canning, about having to buy tomatoes at the store. OH THE HORROR.

There are those dramatics again.

And in the end, what actually happened? Uh, I ended up canning 23 quarts of plain tomatoes, 9 pints of salsa, and 10 pints of spaghetti sauce with meat.

I KNOW, I KNOW. You're all staring at that tally and thinking to yourselves, "Just what the hell is this twit complaining about, exactly? Twenty-three quarts? That's, like, gallons of spaghetti sauce. Pots and pots of chili! OH MY GOD, SHUT UP, WHINY."

See? I knew you'd tell me to shut up. That's okay. I'm properly ashamed of my greed and dissatisfaction. Me and my 23 quarts of tomatoes will go sit in the corner now. But first . . .


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grape Is a Funny Word

Hi! Did you know we have grape vines? And do you like how I just jumped right into random grape discussion with no lead-in? I'm not feeling very subtle today.


Yes, we have grapes. Many grapes. A total of I think five vines that were planted a long time ago, and so are pretty big at this point. All except one are Concord grapes. I don't know what the different one is--I'd have to ask the MiL. But Concord grapes are the variety grown most often around here, because they were developed in Massachusetts from the wild grapes that flourish in the woods, twining around trees and choking the life out of any plant too weak to stand up to their onslaught.



Now, some people like to just eat them, but I am not a fan of eating Concord grapes on their own. They have tiny seeds in them that have to just be swallowed with the rest of the grape, and an oddly slimy texture that I find unappealing. Also, they're fairly tart. Not at all like the red globe grapes you might buy at the store, is what I'm getting at. Despite my reluctance to eat them plain, however, I do love the grapes for another use: juice. I LOVE the juice.

This was surprising to me, because I never used to like commercial grape juice. I don't know what kind of grape Welch's uses to make their regular grape juice, but I guess it isn't Concord. Unless they've just hit on a clever marketing campaign for an old product. See, last summer I started seeing commercials for a grape juice labeled as 100% Concord grape juice. The commercial made much of the health benefits of Concord grape juice, harping on poly phenols and other science-y sounding things that were meant to impress people into buying it. To save their health. No mention was made of the sugar content in that juice, but I bet it was incredibly high. Healthy, indeed.

Commercial grape juice is insipidly sweet. It tastes, to me, like liquid Jolly Ranchers*. Gross. But the juice I make from our grapes is way less sweet, because of course I control the amount of sugar that I add to it. For a quart of juice (that's the straight juice cut with some water, I mean), I add maybe 4 tablespoons of sugar. It's sweet enough to drink, but with a tart aftertaste that I, personally, find addicting.

And to end on a completely random note . . . the sheep LOVE to eat grape leaves.

Okay, bye! (See, still not subtle.)

* Wikipedia explanation of Jolly Ranchers here, for those of you who may not be familiar with this particular candy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

How Dry I Am

Happy Monday, duckies! How are you this fine morning? You know, it occurs to me that I don't actually know many of you that well (or, you know, AT ALL), and therefore I should confine myself to neutral, impersonal topics. Online small talk, if you will. Like the weather. A. agrees.

So! The last couple of days have been pretty unusual, weather-wise, for upstate New York: they have been dry. And not only dry in the sense that it wasn't actively raining, snowing, sleeting, or hailing, but the air was dry. Bliss.

Dry air is something I took for granted in Arizona, which is, of course, a desert (I KNOW--the things you learn here), and the air is therefore dry enough that nothing rots--it just mummifies. I don't miss living in Arizona, but I do miss that dry air. We generally have pretty high humidity here. It's that humidity that results in perpetually damp towels and mildewed closets. Gross. But you can also see the humidity in the air. At least, you can see the difference when it's not in the air. Everything looks all bright and sparkly, like it's a movie instead of real, dreary life.

Sadly, whatever weather system it was that brought us this has now moved away, and we're back to cloudy with a chance of showers. But it was nice while it lasted.

How's the weather where you are?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Gotta Run

No time to chat now, duckies. I have to get laundry in the machine so I can hang it out early enough that it has a chance to get dry. The days, they are getting shorter.

Here comes winter . . . dun dun DUN.