Friday, June 11, 2021

Friday Food: Arizona Bound


Short version: A melange of leftover meats, bread and butter, raw cabbage, sauteed beet greens

Long version: A. had the leftover steak, and the rest of the leftover rabbit, plus the beet greens. They were the greens from just one beet that I pulled because it was starting to go to seed. I sauteed the greens in butter with a bit of vinegar and garlic powder, and there was just enough for him.

The rest of us had the remainder of the accidental sauerbraten-like stew meat. I had mine in a salad with the singular beet, some sprouting broccoli, a bit of cheese, and some leftover peas. The kids had theirs heated up, with the raw cabbage and the bread and butter.

Random, but it worked.


Short version: Sausage-y meatloaf, tater tots, Holy's cabbage, cucumber and dill salad

Long version: I thought I was out of ground beef, but then I discovered a few packages hiding at the bottom of what I thought was a box full of stew meat.

The excitement was real.

So I stretched the ground beef with some of the Sysco breakfast sausage, which actually makes for a better meatloaf, anyway.

And why are we having tater tots again? Because of the GIANT BAG I bought.

When I bought the tater tots, I of course looked for the store brand, as I almost always do for things like that. I mean, it's junk food. Does it matter if it's Ore-Ida brand junk food? No.


The only generic tater tots came in this huge bag. "Yikes," I said. "That's a huge bag." To which A. responded with confusion, "So?" And I thought, Oh yeah. There is no such thing as too much anymore in our house when it comes to food.

So. Tater tots.

Cubby was thrilled to be having not only tater tots, but also meatloaf. And not only meatloaf, but meatloaf with sausage in it. Three of his favorite things, all at once.

The cucumber salad was just sliced cucumbers with a tiny bit of onion, sour cream, vinegar, and a TON of fresh dill from the garden. I actually thought ahead and salted the cucumber slices to release some water. But I actually don't like the result, which is soft instead of crunchy. No more thinking ahead for me.


Short version: Green chili stew meat tacos, sauteed scapes and snow peas, pots de creme

Long version: How lazy have I gotten with the stew meat? So lazy that literally all I do is brown some of the meat (it takes too long to brown every single piece of the four pounds or so that I cook at once), then dump things in. No chopping, thank you. In this case, four cubes of green garlic puree, two cubes of green chili sauce, and half a jar of rooster stock that was in the refrigerator. I put some sour cream in there, too, when the meat was tender.

I think this was the last really big skillet of scapes and snow peas I'm going to have this year, which is sad. Because not only is it so delicious, but look how pretty:

Nothing is more vibrantly green than this. It's spring in a skillet.

Pots de creme was Calvin's toilet-cleaning-reward choice. I couldn't help but note how much easier it was than those Floating Islands. More universally appreciated, too.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, bread and butter, snow peas with ranch dip

Long version: I also discovered in the freezer a bag of hamburger patties I had made and frozen some time ago. That was like striking gold.

We hadn't had hamburgers in awhile, and everyone was very happy to see them again. All the children had seconds. Good thing I had fried a couple of eggs for A., too, which meant the eight hamburger patties went a little farther among the six of us. 

A. likes to stack his cheeseburger patties with the fried eggs and then top them with mayonnaise and ketchup. He calls this "The Tower of Power." I still don't see the appeal, but it makes him happy.


Short version: Leftover green chili stew meat, fresh bread, beets, beet greens

Long version: I actually got beets of a usable size this year! Hooray! Last year's beet planting in the back pasture just got fried, I think, but this year's smaller cell* of beets in the propane-yard garden grew well and I pulled a few out for dinner.

I love beets. LOVE them. I keep trying to grow enough to pickle some so I can have them in the winter, too, but I haven't managed that yet. Next year, I'm planting twice as many.

Poppy, apparently, does not love beets. And Calvin doesn't mind beets, but does not appreciate how they stain the rest of the food on his plate bright pink. 

It is a little unappealing when your meat looks like it's bleeding, I must admit.


Short version: Scrambled eggs, chicken patties, fake baked beans, green salad with ranch dressing, leftover crepes

Long version: This is the sort of meal I make the night before we leave for a trip. Scrounged food to use up stuff in the refrigerator. The crepes the kids had for dessert fall into that category.

I made some baked beans with a pint jar of the canned pinto beans, plus ketchup, mustard, vinegar, dehydrated onion flakes, and maple syrup. They weren't bad. The three kids that like baked beans liked them, anyway.


Short version: Camping food

Long version: And we're off! To Tucson, that is, for my brother-in-law's celebration of life. Although the trip can be done in one long day, we're splitting it up over two days. Which means camping. And because we're bringing our semi-feral dogs with us, that means wilderness camping.

We won't be at a campground or anything, just somewhere random in the mountains, so there is every possiblity that we won't be able to have a fire due to the drought conditions in our state. But we also might be able to have a fire!

So I planned for food that can be either heated in a campfire, or eaten cold. And that food is meatloaf. 

Meatloaf is greatly underrated, in my opinion.

Also, I had the remainder of a bag of potatoes to use, so I made a potato salad with an oil-and-vinegar (and mustard and lots of dill) dressing. There's some bacon in there, too. 

I used this recipe and actually added the sugar, against my better judgement. It's not inedibly sweet, but I don't think it needed the sugar. Certainly not that much, anyway. It's good otherwise, though, so if I ever make it again, I'll keep that in mind.

I made extra of the dressing so I can also tear up some lettuce and add it right to the potato salad. Two salads in one, a green vegetable with the starch, and it uses up some lettuce. I harvested most of the lettuce before we left. It's going to be hot, and I didn't want it to bolt (send up flower stalks--it gets bitter then) and become unusable while we're gone. 

I don't worry overly much about extra vegetables at meals while we're on a roadtrip, because we always have raw fruits and vegetables in the car with us that the kids snack on while we're driving.

For this trip, that's carrot and celery sticks, and a LOT of snow peas from the garden. (This is a gallon-size bag.)

I have some marshmallows, too, although if we can't have a fire, the kids can't roast them. In which case, I'm sure they'll have no problem eating the marshmallows cold.

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

* One of the most important things we have learned about gardening here is that every plant needs to be in a depressed area so it can be flooded with several inches of water. So things are either in trenches, or in cells, which have walls of soil all around to hold the water.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Here, Have Some Randomness

This post brought to you by Poppy needing to be covered up at 3 a.m., and the mouse scurrying around who kept me awake thereafter.

And speaking of mice . . .

I very much dislike mice in my home. Not that they're dangerous or anything, but I really do not enjoy being startled by a mouse running out from under my chair in the living room. 

And now, I will interrupt this random with a random photo of Poppy after Calvin's First Communion.

The lighting in this is really weird and creepy, somehow.

We're leaving for Arizona and my brother-in-law's celebration of life soon, and my neighbor, who is a teacher, very nicely offered me some audiobooks for the car.

There then followed a very funny exchange in which I said that our CD player in the van was broken and she was very confused because, of course, audiobooks are played via smartphones now. And I had to confess that we do not have that sort of phone. 

She persevered and told me we could use our iPad.

Nope. None of those here, either.

I forget how weird we are about electronics until I have these sorts of interactions.


I bought the complete set of James Herriot books for Cubby and Calvin to read in the car. That should keep them entertained for awhile. 

This was not without some investment, however. Those books are apparently hot commodities now. I have a couple of old ones and wanted to just get a used copy of the remaining ones. Yeah, no. Even used copies are like fifty dollars.

Although I bet if I were patient and could go to thrift stores, I would find the ones I needed eventually. But I'm not patient and don't have access to thrift stores, so the new set it is.

We'll end here, I think, with a random, abrupt ending to a random and abrupt stream of consciousness.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Remote Living, Part 4: Work, College, and Predators

Let's jump right back into the questions, shall we?

How is A. able to make his job arrangement work from your rural location?

In short, high-speed Internet and the postal service. 

A. is self-employed, and all he needs to do his work is fast Internet and the ability to mail things. We're close enough to the main road here that we have fiber-optic Internet, and there is actually a (teeeeny tiny) post office half a mile up the road from us.

That said, even if he weren't self-employed, there is far from a shortage of jobs here. The challenge here is not finding a job, but not having several. Since we've moved here, he's been offered three different jobs. And, of course, I took the one at the school and he took the one driving the bus. 

But the perception that there's no paid work to be had in rural places is false (at least, here). There is a LOT of work. The school is always hiring. The highway department is always hiring. The various offices in the county courthouse are always hiring. There just aren't enough people to do all the jobs.

Is Poppy in pre-preschool or playing with the older kids during school time?

Neither. When her brothers are in school, she's home either with me on the days I don't work, or with A. on the days I do work. But of course, that's only four days of the week. The rest of the time, she has her brothers. And she will start preschool this coming school year, two full days a week. 

She's very excited.

Do the kids at the schools in your area plan to go on to college or do they plan to remain on their family ranches?

Most of the ranches here are not family ranches anymore. They're huge ranches with very wealthy absentee owners who employ multiple cowboys to run their ranches. So most of the kids, while they live on ranches, are not living on their own family's ranch. 

Some kids go on to college, usually in New Mexico or our neighboring states. Most of the others choose to do some sort of technical training: welding, wind turbine maintenance, etc. 

Do you plan to push your kids to go away to college?

Pushing doesn't work real well with kids. At least, not mine. They will certainly know that college elsewhere is an option, but it's going to be their decision in the end. 

If so, do you plan for them to get grants or would they be able to get summer jobs in the area?

I have no doubt they can get some sort of scholarship. New Mexico actually has one for residents that covers 100% of the tuition at any in-state school.

As for summer jobs, I'm not really sure. I know the boys around here generally find work on the ranches, but as for the typical teenager summer jobs of working at an ice cream stand or something . . . that's obviously not an option. I suspect it wouldn't be very hard to find something, though. Because again, not a lot of people to do all the jobs.

What sorts of predators do you have to contend with? What sort of wildlife is out there with you?

We have the most problems with the coyotes here, which are somewhat small, but quite aggressive. We also lost a sheep to a bear right by the house awhile ago, although they usually stay in the canyons. In addition, there are bobcats, foxes, ringtails, and, most concerning to me, mountain lions. They don't generally come up on the mesa where we are--they also prefer the canyons, where there's more cover for their style of hunting--but they do occasionally travel through here.

We also have elk, whitetail deer, mule deer, and a LOT of antelope. And far too many rabbits, hares, and gophers. Oh, and prairie dogs.

Are utilities (in ghost villages) available as long as villages are inhabited? Is power generally available if there are lines up? 

Our county is served by an electrical co-op that is astonishingly good at providing electricity in places you wouldn't think there would be any. If the infrastructure is there, then the power is there. Although there are people who live down in canyons on the really old ranches where there is no electricity and never has been.

We don't have a lot of problems with the lines and losing power for the very good reason that there isn't much to fall on the lines during storms. We lost power a lot more in upstate New York, when trees were constantly taking lines down.

Okay! I think I answered everything now. Unless there are more. Are there more questions? Hit me.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

T.T.: The All-Important Salad Bowl

I eat a lot of salads. That's why I get so excited at the advent of lettuce season.

I don't eat them as a side dish, though. Generally, I put whatever protein and vegetables we have in with my lettuce and have that as my meal. So there's usually a lot of stuff in my salads: cheese, meat, nuts, lots of different vegetables.

And it is with this kind of salad that it's most important to choose the right bowl.

First, it has to be the right size. The salad shouldn't fill it more than 2/3 of the way. You need room to both mix the salad around in the bowl and maneuver your fork to choose what to put on it as you eat.

Equally important is the shape of the bowl. What you most definitely do not want is a really deep bowl. Because then all the add-ins end up at the bottom, and that means you spend the first few minutes eating nothing but lettuce. Bummer.

To find all that good stuff as you eat, you want a relatively wide and shallow bowl. 

Also, it should have sloping sides, not straight ones. You want it wider at the top than at the bottom.

I don't even remember how I got my preferred salad bowl. I think it might have been part of a incredibly cheap set of Corelle dishes from the thrift store.

Unknown origins, but no less important for all that.

Sometimes I use the bowl part of my salad spinner, just so I don't dirty another dish, but it's not as good as my real salad bowl. Because it's just a bit too deep.

In case you were thinking we were only going to cover topics of great import here for Tuesday Tips, I think this post will prove otherwise. Unless you're as into salad as I am. In which case you probably already have a favorite salad bowl of your own.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Snapshots: So Much Rain!

2.5 inches! Yay!

As excited about the rain as I--and my garden--was, I was definitely less enthused by the constant mud tracked into the house for days. Including into Calvin and Jack's bedroom.

To be fair, white carpet is a stupid thing to have in a room near the front door. 

A couple of years ago, A. transplanted some cuttings from a rose bush growing at an abandoned house in the village. They've been growing well, and last year, there was one bloom on one of them. This year? One bloom again.

Maybe next year, we'll get one on each plant. What a bounty that would be.

We've been working on cleaning out the very large barn/shed that's next to our house. It's split into two parts. One part was mostly cleared out when we moved in. The other part definitely wasn't. It was full of boards, metal, fencing, screens, windows, plywood, stovepipe . . . sooooo much stuff.

We've finally cleared all that out so we could put the chicks in there, and in the process sort out all of the materials that were piled up in there.

We've done a LOT of cleaning out of different barns/sheds/attics in our marriage, and it's just terrible. Like cleaning out a garage, but about 100 times more filthy and exhausting.

It always looks worse before it looks better.

But! It's mostly done now, and A. has a pretty good stockpile of materials for future projects.

I bet some of this will end up in the casita in some way. (This is the "after" of the bigger side. We can walk in there now!)

And lastly, I finally got fed up with my pathetic mixing bowl situation--one very old plastic bowl from a dollar store that's starting to crack, one excessively heavy large ceramic bowl, and two ceramic bowls that are too small for almost everything I need mixing bowls for. 

So I bought a whole set of different-sized stainless steel mixing bowls. With lids.

The lids were supposed to be red, but they're actually pink. Poppy approves.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.