Saturday, October 30, 2010

Change of Plans

A. was planning on building me a gate for the garden this morning. I was planning on making some more yogurt. We were both planning on spreading a heavy layer of sheep-shit straw on the garden for the winter. Then Bill the Butcher informed us this morning that he was ready for our lambs. At two o'clock this afternoon.

So much for our plans.

A. is off to the feed store to get salt for the hides. When he returns, he'll build a gate for the back of Big Red to block off where the tailgate would be if it hadn't rusted and fallen off several months ago. I've been pulling out our processing instructions from last year and figuring out what to do with the additional lambs we're selling this year. Later, both of us plus the MiL will be out there for the rodeo that is separating the lambs from the rest of the sheep.

It's going to be a good time. There will certainly be chaos, most likely cussing, probably some sheep dung will end up on all of us at some point. But the end result will be a hundred (or so) pounds of free-range, grass-fed lamb in the freezer. Our reward for a year's worth of tending and rounding up and shearing and birthing and heartbreak and rescuing sheep from the road.

Is it worth it? We think so.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Forging Ahead

I've been waiting for weeks now for the weather to be right for planting garlic. "Right" meaning it would maybe not rain for a few days so that the soil would dry out enough to dig up. That doesn't sound so unreasonable, does it? Sure it doesn't. Unless you're Mama N. Who has seen fit to send us rain EVERY TIME the ground starts to dry out.

She's a difficult woman, that Mama N.

So I've been sitting around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for a dry spell. And then, yesterday, I decided enough with the twiddling already, and I dug up the garlic bed.

The ground was not as dry as I would have liked, which meant I got these clumps of wet, clay-y soil that stuck to my shovel and made it weigh like 50 pounds. This significantly enhances the great enjoyment of digging. But it wasn't totally wet, so I decided I'd better go for it while there was even a reasonable chance of working the soil up into something plantable.

It was nice and sunny out, so Cubby hung out in his chariot while I dug my garlic bed. Then he got tired of the leaf he was playing with and announced he was ready to go inside and have a nap. By the time I got him changed, fed, and in his crib, the wind had picked up and it looked like rain.

NICE TRY with the sabotage, Mama N.

My bed was already mostly dug up and just needed to be smoothed out with the hoe and the rake. And then planted, of course. So while the wind blew and the clouds glowered, I hoed and raked and planted my garlic. And shallots, because I'm sure you all remember our little shallot experiment last year with which we concluded fall-planted shallots kick spring-planted shallots' pathetically stunted asses right out of the garden.

Sometimes I imagine my vegetables engage in brawls reminiscent of Westside Story.

Sometimes I think I should get out more.


So I have my ass-kicking shallots and much-delayed garlic in. Now all I have to do is kill all the weeds that have taken over the garden this summer. And resolve to do better next year.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Resisting the Obvious Title

Because "A Boy and His Dog" is just so trite, don't you think?

Sure is cute, though.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's All in the Name

I made up a new thing. It's called melted apple butter. And it's called that because that sounds better than apple I-was-too-impatient-to-wait-for-it-to-reduce-all-the-way butter.

Yeah. I had the best of intentions to make apple butter yesterday, forgetting my complete lack of patience in the kitchen. By the time I had peeled, cored, and quartered six pounds of apples, then cooked them until soft, mashed them with a potato masher, added honey* and cinnamon, and let them simmer for over two hours, running into the kitchen every twenty minutes or so to stir so it wouldn't scorch, I was SO OVER the apple-not-quite-butter. So I gave up.

Yes, I am a lesson in persistence to all.

It's pretty much a sweetened, thickened applesauce, which is actually delicious and which I put in my oatmeal this morning to good effect. So we'll just use this . . . stuff for oatmeal and yogurt. And I will never again fool myself into thinking that I possess the patience to reduce anything for longer than an hour.

It's good to know your limitations.

* The Ball Blue Book recipe for apple butter calls for four pounds of apples and TWO CUPS of sugar. Phoo-D's recipe for apple butter calls for five pounds of apples and 1/4-1/2 cups of honey. I used six pounds of apples and a half cup of honey and it was PLENTY sweet. So go with Phoo-D on this one. Unless you have insulin handy for the diabetic shock that will probably occur if you actually ingest the Ball version.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Back before there were all these ridiculous (in my own, English-geek opinion) acronyms and abbreviations that these kids these days use for their "texting" and whatnot*, there was J.K. It stands for "just kidding" and was what my friends and I used in the many notes we wrote to each other when we were supposed to be working on our research papers in Writing Lab.

Remember notes? Ah, the good old days.


So what am I about? Canning. Here I made this big deal about being done with canning! And tallying up the finalfinal total! And look at MEEE! DONEDONEDONEDONEDONE!!!

Ummm . . . J.K.!

See, my friend Alyssa (who you're probably thinking must be my ONLY friend, since she's the only one I ever mention, and . . . well, that's pretty much right) told me that there were several huge crates of apples on her dad's property that were drops donated by the local orchard for cider-making. Except all the cider-making that's going to happen has happened and there are STILL hundreds and hundreds--I would go so far as to say thousands--of pounds of apples in those crates, just there for the taking.

WELL. Am I the woman to pass up free fruit? No. Except I maybe didn't need to take quite as many as I did, because now I am faced with about 75 pounds (possibly more--I am terrible at estimating weight) of apples to use in the next few days before they go bad.

Last night I made a large batch of applesauce, apple juice for jelly-making, and some sauteed apples for dessert. Today I will make another large batch of applesauce which will be combined with the batch I made last night to form a full canner-load of seven quarts, and I'll use the juice to make jelly. At which time I will have disposed of MAYBE a tenth of what I brought home.

Check back with me this weekend and maybe I'll have an updated, NO REALLY I MEAN IT THIS TIME, final tally for you. Or maybe I'll have my hand in a brace because of the damage incurred by peeling and coring a thousand apples. Probably that.

* If I'm not careful, you'll all guess that I'm not REALLY a 30-year-old mother living in a big old house in the country, but a bitter 80-year-old woman holed up in an apartment with 15 cats and my computer, at which I sit for 12 hours a day trolling message boards and spewing vitriol about the degeneracy of today's youth and the general lack of moral fiber these days. Or something.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tallied Up

Okay! I have descended into the Pit of Despair, dodging cobwebs and other assorted gross things to count up the total jars of food canned this season. And to take the photos, of course, because otherwise how could you believe me?

Other than the fact that I'm completely trustworthy and have never lied to you before, but WHATEVER.

Moving on.

Okay, so the very first time I did this tallying was actually two years ago. It appears I didn't do it at all last year, which is unsurprising given the sad state of the canning last year. But this year I got it all counted up and duly photographed. So! On with the lists!

Caveat: Some of these things I've already started using, so I had to guess a little. And I didn't actually open the freezer and count the stuff in there, so those are estimates as well.


6 quarts plain corn
5 quarts maquechoux
10 quarts green beans (thanks, Aunt Barb!)
3 quarts chard
6 quarts strawberries? Maybe? The MiL did these, so I'm not real sure.


6 quarts mulberry juice
10 pints sauerkraut
4 pints blackberry/currant jelly
3.5 pints blackberry jelly
7.5 pints strawberry/rhubarb jam
4 pints strawberry jam
19 quarts peaches
9 pints German red cabbage
5.5 pints pickled jalapenos
5.5 pints green tomato chutney
10 quarts tomato juice
28 pints salsa
39 quarts tomatoes

The MiL also made about a dozen pints of apricot jam, 5 pints of peach jam, 5 pints of bread and butter pickles, and about 6 pints of bitter orange marmalade.

And now, what you've all been waiting for . . .

Jams and jellies on the top shelf; pickles, sauerkraut, mulberry juice, and more jelly on the second shelf; peaches, red cabbage, and some old spiced pears on the third shelf. Know what should be on the bottom shelves? Pears. Damned wind. And sheep.

Plain tomatoes on top; salsa, pickled jalapenos, chutney, and tomato juice on the bottom.

No bonus potato shot this time, because I, um, forgot.

So! That's it! Let the eating commence.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Being Happy with Your Lot

A. and the MiL went to a party last night. Cubby and I did not. We were invited, of course, but the party started at 6:30 p.m., which just happens to be the time a certain small person collapses into a puddle of his own drool in his crib. 6:30 is NOT party time for Cubby. So I stayed home with Cubby and A. and the MiL went off to party.

I was okay with this, however, as the MiL left me some of the beef she had prepared for her food contribution, so I didn't have to cook. Plus, there was ice cream in the freezer**.

This is how I ended up sitting by the woodstove by myself on a Saturday night eating a very large bowl of ice cream and reading about biomass fuel and goats in Grit magazine.

It may not be glamorous, but it works for me.

** PLUS plus, they brought home a piece of carrot cake for me, and the remains of the apple pie the MiL also brought. Who needs to go to a party when the food is all at home?