Saturday, June 19, 2010

Beating the Heat

Why, hello there! Fancy seeing you here at 11 a.m.! I KNOW. SO LATE. I've been up since 4:30 this morning, so you'd think I would have posted earlier, right?


See, there was this baby that needed to be fed and changed. Several times. And dogs to be fed and chickens to be let out and laundry to be washed and hung outside and and mulberries to be juiced and peas, beets, lettuce, and spinach to be harvested.

It's supposed to get to around 90 degrees today, with high humidity, so I tried to get as much done this morning as possible before it got too hot. My afternoon plans involve sitting around in the shade on a blanket with a naked baby and some iced tea.

Summer has arrived.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Two Hours

At seven o'clock last night, after Cubby had gone to sleep, I headed outside with A. to help him fix the water pipe in the cistern that had come loose at the intake, leaving us with no water in the house. And by "help" I mean I stood there and passed the flashlight and screwdriver to A. after he had dropped down into two feet of fifty-degree water wearing nothing but tennis shoes and shorts.

I think we all know who got the better end of this deal.


As soon as we ("we"-HAHA) were finished, I announced my intention of doing just a little work. I actually said that. "I'm just going to do a little work. Not much."

I think we can all see where this is headed.

So I went out to harvest peas. And found that there were a lot more English peas (the "regular" kind that need to be shelled) that needed to be picked, and the sugar snap peas needed to be harvested too. Harvesting peas takes a long time. And I was weeding as I went, so that slowed me down some.

Then I noticed a few potato plants that needed to be hilled. And the newly-sprouted squash plants needed to be weeded. And then I hoed around the tomatoes and eggplants and pinched off the tops of the basil so it would get bushier.

Then I saw how weedy the carrots looked. So I started weeding them. And while I was at it, I did a second round of thinning, pulling out many nice-sized baby carrots.

Then I went up to the mulberry tree to shake out the tarp and rid it of all the water that accumulated during the rains in the last couple of days, and the mushy, water-logged berries. While I was up there, I pulled off a few roses from the bushes in the ram pasture to put in a vase in the house where we could enjoy them.

Then I went in to put the vegetables away and remembered that I needed to strain and bottle the elderflower champagne. So I did that.

And then it was nine o'clock and time for bed. Two hours gone, just like that.

And now! It has come to my attention that the last time I posted a picture of the resident baby was three weeks ago. Can my title of Mother be taken away for that? I think so. I'd better remedy that situation RIGHT NOW.

Seriously, lady. How could you NOT post pictures of me? Look at the sunhat! Look at the crab shirt! LOOK AT THE CHEEKS!

Okay, all better now. I can call myself a mother once more. Have a wondrous weekend, poppets!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sometimes I Really Love My Life

Last night was one of those times. Because of this:


What you are looking at there are the first peas from the garden, a butter paddle, and butter that I made with the butter paddle.

What? Doesn't EVERYONE make butter for the first garden peas of the season?

Well, if they don't, they should. I mean, there's a lot of effort involved in growing and, God knows, shelling those peas. Why sully them with inferior butter? Especially when it's so easy to make butter.

We're lucky enough to have a local dairy that sells pasteurized heavy cream. NOT ultrapasteurized, and NOT whipping cream. I use this method that I first read about in The New York Times. The hardest part of it is keeping the plastic wrap from getting wrapped all around the beaters while you're beating the cream. I use a really big bowl, so it contains the cream pretty well as it's getting whipped. Then I just stop after a minute or so of beating, when the cream is pretty well beaten, and add the plastic wrap then, because the flying buttermilk isn't an issue until the very end.

It's pretty awesome to dump a bunch of cream in a bowl, beat the crap out of it with a mixer, and then . . . hey! Look! There's BUTTER in there!

And then I pour it all into a strainer, to strain out the buttermilk. And THEN, I get to squish the remaining liquid out of the butter with a butter paddle that's older'n dirt.

Okay, not that old. But at least 125 years old. The MiL told me it was used by A.'s great-grandmother, Nana, but might have pre-dated her even.

That's just cool.


Then I added salt, and there it was. Butter. For the peas. And there was happiness in the land.

The end.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Tutorial

How To Harvest Mulberries--A Tutorial in Many Steps

1) Dress in old clothes. I am SO not joking about this. If you think, "Oh, I'll just roll my pants up and be careful not to touch this shirt that I love so much," you will later find yourself with purple pant cuffs and inexplicable mulberry stains on the shoulder of that beloved shirt. (NOT THAT I HAVE DONE THIS.) Of course, the stains can be removed, but it's easier just to avoid having to do so. And don't forget old shoes. Because you will be stepping on many, many mulberries, and the stain-removal trick does not work on leather or rubber.

2) Grab your containers for holding the mulberries once they've been picked, preferably something either large and shallow or small, because if there are too many mulberries in a deeper container, the weight of the mulberries on top will crush the berries on the bottom, resulting in mush on the bottom. Save the juicing of the mulberries for later, when you actually mean to make juice and aren't just inadvertently creating mulberry mush.

3) Next, find a very large tarp, preferably one that is not encrusted in mud from laying out potatoes in the garden or in sheep shit from sheep shearing. This is somewhat difficult. If you're me.

4) Make sure to bring the pruners to whack down that evil thistle plant growing underneath the mulberry tree. Also make sure they're the long-handled kind, because thistles are the botanical equivalent of Satan and that huge one under the mulberry tree will rip your arms all to shit with its Satanic thorns. Bastard.

5) Annihilate the thistle (get thee back, Satan!) and spread your tarp under the tree. Try not to trip over the numerous bamboo shoots that have sprung up in the area. Or the bamboo branches that were cut down by A. many months ago and left strewn all about. Also, don't slip on the mulberries or on any of the sheep shit left behind by those adorable sheep.

6) Grab one of those convenient bamboo branches left on the ground for you to trip over and start whacking the branches of the mulberry tree with it. Try your best to avoid smacking a branch directly above you, unless you want to be caught in a hailstorm of mushy mulberries.

7) Now begins the stoop labor. Except for the obviously red and under ripe mulberries, you must grab each berry with your fingers to test its texture. If it's all gooey and mushy, it's too ripe and you don't want it. So go along the tarp testing all the berries with your fingers, putting the acceptable ones in your not-too-deep receptacle. And staining your fingers an indelible and very attractive blackish purple while you're at it.

8) Try not to fall down the slope while you're doing this.

9) Straighten your aching back, put your containers of mulberries somewhere safe, and shake out the tarp so the rejected berries are flung off of it. Then spread the tarp back out to catch any berries that will fall from the tree on their own before you get back out there to repeat the tree smacking.

10) Stash your berries in the refrigerator until you have enough to make juice, and try futilely to scrub the purple stains from your cuticles.

We won't go into how to make the juice right now. That's a separate tutorial.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


So. The other day I spied Belle the Devil Cat reclining nonchalantly on the top of Big Red. And I was all, "HA! Cat on a hot tin roof! Is funny!"

It was funny in my head, anyway.

The camera just happened to be sitting conveniently downstairs on the dining room table, so, uncharacteristically, I actually got a picture. But it came out like this:

Say huh?

I have no idea why there appears to be a misty green film overlaying everything. Maybe it was humid enough that day that the camera fogged up when I went outside with it. That happens sometimes. Or maybe it's the Devil Cat's evil aura visible only through the camera.

I'm going with option B.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Early Bird Special

I like to eat dinner early. Unsophisticated though it may be, I absolutely can't stand eating dinner any later than 7 p.m. At the latest. Six is better. Five is actually preferable. When I was in college and eating in the dining hall, I ate dinner at 4:30, when the dinner service started.

You can imagine how well I dealt with the local dinner times in Spain when we spent two weeks there, where restaurants don't even START serving dinner until 9 p.m. Yeah. I didn't. Deal with it, I mean. We ended up just eating the huge lunch that was served at 2:30 p.m. and calling that good for the rest of the day.

I suspect a big reason for this preference of mine is that I go to bed so early. If I were going to bed at 10 or 11 p.m., dinner at five wouldn't keep me full until bed and I would have to eat again anyway. But I go to bed at 9 p.m., so I can eat early.

Our normal practice when the MiL was working and getting home at 6 or 6:30 was just to eat whenever she got home. But now there's a new time-setter in the house, and he goes to bed at 7 p.m. (Cubby, not A. In case there was any confusion.) Which means he's NO FUN AT ALL starting about 5:30 p.m. He does, however, conveniently sleep around 4 p.m. (usually), which means I have time then to make dinner for serving at 5 p.m. Then we can eat before he starts with the pre-bed meltdown. Better for the digestion of all concerned that way.

And so we are now a 5 p.m. dinner family. Which of course makes me happy. Because, apparently, I belong in a retirement community in Florida.

So, duckies, tell me: Are you an early eater or a late-night diner?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cubby Goes to Sea

Okay, so it wasn't so much the sea as the lake, but sea sounds better. "Cubby Goes to Lake" just doesn't work, you know?


Yesterday was hot and hazy and generally nasty. A. had been working all day at various sweat-inducing tasks and was ready to be done and cleaned up by 4 p.m. So he decided the time had come for the First Swim of 2010. Cubby and I accompanied him to the beach, though we did not go in. I would have, except I had to stay with the baby. And I don't really like to swim in the lake all that much. Especially since A. told me about the water snakes.



Before A. jumped in the water, we took a little spin in his boat. This was Cubby's first nautical adventure. He seemed . . . perplexed. He didn't cry, but I didn't see any smiles either. Just the tiny furrowing of the brow and a lot of fixed staring at the oars moving.

I'll call that a success.

Then, while A. was swimming, Cubby and I stood on the water's edge and let the waves tickle our toes. Okay, so actually I kept him right at the edge where only the most vigorous waves could reach his tiny toes, and whenever they did, he would actually gasp and his legs would shoot up like a little frog. He didn't scream, though. So I kept letting it happen. It was hilarious. For me, anyway.

I suspect we'll be spending a lot more time down at our beach now that we have a kid. Especially once he's big enough to get in water that's cooler than his bath. Which, judging by his evident displeasure at the temperature of the water yesterday, won't be for awhile yet.