Friday, May 21, 2021

Friday Food: Schoool's Out for Summer

"Schoooool's out forever. School's been blown. To. Pieces."

Name that song!*

Anyway. Food . . .


Short version: Pretzels, ice cream sandwiches, pork with green chili, garlic bread, raw radishes

Long version: I was outside weeding my asparagus at 3:30 p.m. when the phone rang. It was the mechanic, telling us the van was ready to pick up.

The mechanic is an hour away, and they would be closing for the weekend at 5 p.m. Our next opportunity to get the van wouldn't be until the following Friday. 

Road trip, kids!

Luckily, everyone was already outside, so all I had to do was pile them into the Honda. I quickly filled a few water bottles and grabbed a bag of pretzel sticks from the pantry to placate the hungry children. We also promised them ice cream after we got the van.

It was really hot on the ride down--the Honda doesn't have any air conditioning--but it started to rain right before we got the mechanic. There was no thunder, so while we were waiting for A. to pay and get the keys, I let them all get out to run around in the (light) rain.

Because we know how to have a good time.

We got them ice cream sandwiches at the gas station before we headed home. Very luckily, I had already made garlic bread and cooked some pork country ribs, so when we got home all I had to do was pull the meat off the ribs and mix it with some of the green chili sauce. I also threw some green beans right in with the pork to up the vegetable content.


Short version: Leftover pork, chicken patty sandwiches, carrot sticks with curry dip

Long version: I had a plan involving some of the pressure-canned bull meat, but then I punked out with those frozen chicken patties and leftovers. A. and Cubby were helping Rafael fix his windmill and they didn't get home until 8 p.m., so it was just me and the other three kids anyway. They were happy with the sandwiches.


Short version: Roast beef, roasted potatoes, sauteed sprouting broccoli, blueberry/apricot dessert oatmeal

Long version: Sprouting broccoli is a new thing for me. I bought the seeds at Baker's Creek Seeds when we stopped there a couple of summers ago on our way home from Blackrock. They're a fall-planted plant that's supposed to overwinter and produce the broccoli florets in early spring.

The first fall I planted them, they didn't even germinate. Too dry, I suspect.

Last fall they germinated and grew pretty well, but the only ones I got through the winter were the ones that were in one of the sunken box beds. They survived because I could cover them to protect them from both the voracious rabbits and the cold. They're supposed to be winter-hardy, but I don't think they're hardy enough to withstand zero degrees without some protection.

Anyway. They grew nicely in the spring and I finally harvested enough for a side dish.

Sprouting broccoli doesn't form heads, just individual florets on a kind of bushy plant. It looks sort of weedy, but it tasted really good.

This is a purple variety, although they turn green when cooked.

This was the sleeper hit of this meal. Every single person said how good it was. Even A., who doesn't even like broccoli, told me I should grow it again. 


The dessert was supposed to be a crisp to use some apricots I bought on Thursday that were not as flavorful as I would have liked. However, the frozen blueberries once again released so many juices that they overwhelmed the topping. Also, the topping was mostly oats--trying to use up the crazy quantities of quick oats I keep getting from our neighbors--so it actually ended up tasting sort of like very fruity oatmeal. It was good with whipped cream, though.


Short version: Cheater's pizza, pizza omelets, green salad from MY LETTUCE, HOORAY!

Long version: I did back-to-back bread bakings this weekend so I could make bread for end-of-year teacher gifts, which means I made garlic bread two nights. Rather than give the kids garlic bread on Sunday, though, I saved that loaf and cut it in half to serve as pizza crust. A bag of Finny's sauce from the freezer, grated asadero cheese, and there's an exciting workday dinner for the children.

A. and I ate the omelets. I've never made these before, or heard of them, but I'm sure there are recipes for them somewhere. All I did was season the eggs with dried basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, then fill the omelet with asadero cheese, and top the finished omelets with the tomato sauce. They were quite good.

The salad, though, was what made me very happy. It was my lettuce (hooray!), as well as some of my arugula, green garlic, and the flowers from some wild chives Cubby found when he was herding sheep and brought home for me.

I was so proud and touched when he showed up with plants he had foraged and brought to me, for several reasons: 1) He identified them on his own. 2) He knew I would be happy to get them. 3) He was excited to eat some himself. 

That's my boy.


Short version: Beef stew meat with vegetables, pasta, steamed broccoli

Long version: I cooked the package of stew meat I took out with four cubes of green garlic puree from the freezer, a quart of pressure-canned beef stock, and the remaining half cup or so of Finny's sauce from the pizza. It was very good. I just love it when all the flavor comes from things I prepared in the past, so I can just dump stuff in.

In the same pot as the meat, I put in the last half of a bag of chopped calabacita (like zucchini) from last summer, and a few carrots cut into chunks.

The pasta had two cubes of basil pesto from last summer, plus butter and cream cheese.


Short version: Steaks, leftover rice or roasted potatoes, frozen green peas

Long version: I only cooked four steaks ("only," ha), but the boys had been eating treats in their classrooms all day because it was the last full day of school, so they didn't eat as much as they normally would.


Short version: Hot dogs, tater tots, baked beans, leftover peas

Long version: Last day of school! When I was actually in the grocery store myself last week, I was able to buy such indulgences as hot dogs (with buns!) and tater tots. Which I saved for the last day of school.

The baked beans were some from the last batch I had made and frozen.

The children were very excited about this meal. I was not excited by the actual hole that was kicked in my living room wall while they were wrestling as I was preparing this meal.

Welcome, summer! Ugh.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

* School's Out by Alice Cooper. And here it is! You're welcome.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

T.T.: Remote Living, Part 1

Some time ago, a reader named Lauren mentioned in the comments that she always has so many questions about what it's like to live in "such a rural area."

This made me think that I should clarify the distinction between "rural" and "remote." 

A "rural" area is anyplace that isn't urban or suburban. You can live in a rural place--like Blackrock--that's only a twenty-minute drive from a city. Or even closer. Rural is a place you can have chickens and some land around you, but you're not in a city. But rural areas are not generally what I would consider especially incovenient. They may require a bit of driving, but they are a reasonable distance to an urban center.

"Remote," on the other hand, is inconvenient. At least, in our modern understanding. Where I live now would definitely be considered remote by most people's standards. It's 100 miles to even a small city, and that small city might not even have something like a Walmart.

To get to Walmart from our house involves a lot of miles of this.

There are people who live more remotely than we do--say, the Alaskan bush--but not many.


I think it's really common for people to have a LOT of questions about what it's like to live remotely, so I'm going to do a series of Tuesday Tips post about that. Starting today with Lauren's questions.

How do you get your groceries home intact? Do you have to take a cooler any time you do a grocery run?

Short answers: In the back of the car with all the animal feed, and yes. Usually two coolers. 

Longer answer: Luckily for Lauren, I did a whole post about this once, and here it is! Since I wrote that a couple of years ago, the very small store sadly closed, so now it's just the micro store where we can usually get milk and eggs, and then a lot of open road between us and the nearest bananas. 

Are there different/special supplies you keep on-hand is case of (God forbid) a medical emergency?

No. I'm pretty careful about keeping any over-the-counter stuff we may need in stock--children's Tylenol, bandages, etc.--since I can't just run out to a store to get some. But I don't keep, like, a tourniquet or something on hand. We have volunteer fire departments in both villages that are ten miles away from us, plus there's an ambulance company about 25 miles away that responds to emergencies. And, in more serious emergencies, our county has a contract with a medical helicopter company for transport to a hospital. So if anything really bad were to happen, I would call 911 and one of those agencies would respond.

You can still get Amazon deliveries . . . right?

Right. The UPS driver is a local celebrity because he is our provider of All Things Ordered Online. Anything you can get online, I can, too. Maybe not with the two-day shipping guaranteed, but it will get here eventually. This is, honestly, probably the biggest game-changer for remote living ever. Well, that and the Internet access itself. I order a lot of things online that I have in the past purchased at stores--clothing, canned tuna, paper and ink for A.'s office printer--and I feel very lucky that I can. 

There! Those were Lauren's questions. If there are any more specific questions you have, go ahead and leave them in the comments and I'll answer them next week. Otherwise, I'll do a more generalized overview of the things I think are helpful for living where I live.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Snapshots: Split Peas and Chicks

Thanks to the regular boxes of excess commodities food our neighbors give us, I have seriously alarming quantities of split peas. The bags were flopping all over the upper cabinets in the kids' bathroom where I store overflow pantry things, so I decided to use some of those handy half-gallon mason jars A. gave me for Christmas to corral them.

I was not expecting to need so many jars, but here we are.

I need to start cooking split peas approximately once a week for the rest of the year to get through all of these. BUT THEN THERE WILL BE MORE.

That plastic container on the end has brown rice in it. Also an excess commodities item.

I ran out of big jars before I could consolidate the five bags of powdered milk also in those cabinets. And we shan't even speak of the twenty-five pounds of quick oats that are currently in my freezer.

Apparently, the commodities program is supplying preppers? I don't know.

Anyway. Other things . . .

I planted out my single, solitary surviving pepper plant. I did put some more seeds in wet paper towels to sprout and then I'll just plant the sprouts right outside. But those haven't sprouted yet, and if they never do, this is my only shot for bell peppers.

No pressure, pepper.

Since we actually got some rain, A. decided it would be safe to burn all the various bits of wood that littered  the property.

For additional safety, he contained the fire in this pit the kids helpfully dug many months ago.

I LOVE burning all the nasty, splintery bits of wood that accumulate all over the place. I spent quite some time happily gathering up disintegrating pieces of particle board and random sticks all over the place and chucking them into the fire.

Now if I could manage to collect all the rocks and bits of broken concrete I trip over all the time, I'll really feel like I'm getting somewhere.

And last but not least, we have chicks again.

Hi, chickies!

That one black one under the lamp was the one the boys brought home from school. They always put some eggs in an incubator (many of the eggs this year came from us) at school in the spring and then send the chicks home with the kids. There were only six surviving chicks this year, so we just got that one.

It was so sad listening to the solitary chick cheeping for its friends that we went the very next day to buy six more chicks to keep him company. We were planning on getting some more laying hens anyway.

We went to Tractor Supply to get the chicks--A. chose Buff Orpingtons--and the lady put the chicks in this carrier box that looked disturbingly like a large Happy Meal box.

Would it be in poor taste to make a joke about chicken nuggets here? (Get it? Poor taste?) (Okay, I'll stop.)

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.