Friday, July 2, 2021

Friday Food: Strong Stew for Strong Man


Short version: Leftovers, boiled potatoes, frozen peas

Long version: A. had the last of the leftover steak, plus a couple of fried eggs and yet more beet greens.

For the kids, I simmered the remainder of the pulled pork with barbecue sauce. I amended the Sysco sauce with tomato juice drained from the can of tomatoes when I made pasta sauce, mustard, and vinegar. It was much better. They also had the boiled potatoes--just chunks boiled and tossed with butter, salt, and pepper--and frozen peas. Still frozen.

I had . . . Well. You know. A little lettuce, a diced beet, some leftover cooked peas, a bit of the pork, and some Romano cheese.


Short version: Italian-ish sausage, fried potatoes, frozen green peas

Long version: Loose breakfast sausage cooked with the remainder of the pasta sauce and the last of the cooked beet greens, finely diced. I also threw in the last of the cooked onion that had been sitting in the refrigerator.

I made a lot of boiled potatoes Friday, figuring I would find a way to use them throughout the week. This day, that was in the fried potatoes, which were just fried in olive oil until very crispy.


Short version: Sausage-y meatloaf, leftover curried split peas and potatoes, roasted garlic, roasted carrots, random greens, baked custard

Long version: The last of the sausage log mixed with some ground beef for the meatloaf. Instead of using ketchup--which I put both in the meat mixture and spread on top while baking--I used the amended barbecue sauce. It was really good, actually.

The random greens were from some volunteer collards, as well as the leaves from the sprouting broccoli. I sliced them thinly and cooked them in water and bacon grease until they were soft, then added garlic powder.

I did not have a salad. Because I am out of lettuce until the baby lettuce in the garden gets bigger. I just had the carrots, greens, and meatloaf.

The custard was Calvin's choice for his toilet-cleaning reward. I had just made this the Sunday before as A.'s Father's Day dessert. I overbaked it that time, and I overbaked it this time. Dangit.


Short version: Beef stew meat, garlic bread, collard greens, frozen corn

Long version: Two packages of stew meat, browned and then cooked with onion, garlic, and a quart jar of rooster stock.

And hey! I have real garlic again! A.'s Father's Day harvest of the smaller garlic heads meant that I no longer have to rely on the green garlic puree. I put some of the garlic in the stew meat, and I also used some of the roasted garlic from the night before in the collard greens.

I cooked the meat until it was tender earlier in the day and then fried it in tallow at dinnertime with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.

I wasn't sure there would be enough fried meat--I can only fit so much in one layer in even my biggest skillet--so I made myself a bowl of soup with some of the unfried meat, the cooking liquid, collards, the last of the roasted carrots, and some frozen peas.

When salad isn't an option, soup is a good alternative.

Random photo break!

The consummate guard dog, making sure the laundry is safe.


Short version: Strong stew, leftover meatloaf, fried potatoes, frozen green beans, pots de creme

Long version: I found a bag labeled "ram stew meat" in the freezer, so I made a stew for A. with it. It was just the meat plus a couple of cubes of frozen green chile sauce, a couple of cubes of frozen green garlic puree, a whole onion, and some tomato juice I drained from a can of whole tomatoes. I also threw in a couple of lumps of beef tallow, because that's what A. does when he makes stew.

It was not a stew for the faint of heart. A. enjoyed it, though.

I let Jack choose a dessert mid-week because he thinks it's unfair that his brothers get to choose dessert every Sunday and he never does. I could have told him it's because he doesn't clean the toilet (he and Poppy are in charge of the counter and mirrors), but then I suspect he'd be insisting he could clean it and there would be fights over toilet cleaning. So I just let him choose this night. And he chose pots de creme.


Short version: Leftovers, fried beef, pasta, frozen peas

Long version: A. had more of his stew. I made myself a soup with the leftover beef stew meat and liquid from Monday, plus leftover collard greens, a spoonful of pasta sauce, and frozen peas.

I had made the pasta sauce the day before when I drained the tomatoes, just because I already had the food processor out to make the pots de creme. The sauce was just the tomatoes, olive oil, the last two cloves of roasted garlic from Sunday, and some basil from the garden that was threatening to bolt. 

Maybe it's just trying to grow above the dill. A forlorn hope. Nothing can overcome dill.

I added some butter and Parmesan to the sauce when I added it to the pasta.

I cooked a few beef ribs in the oven during the day and stripped the meat off. That was the meat I fried, in beef tallow, with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried oregano.

I thought I was going to have to render the last package of beef fat in the freezer, but then I found a loaf of already-rendered tallow in the freezer when I was digging around. A happy discovery.


Short version: Barbecue beef sandwiches, leftovers, still-frozen peas, fruit

Long version: I went to the dentist this day, which is an all-day affair here. I was lacking in energy and motivation when it came time to make dinner, so I made the most low-effort dinner possible: A jar of pressure-canned bull meat heated with some of the amended barbecue sauce, then served on bread with a side of peas. Still frozen.

That's what the kids had, anyway. A. had the remainder of his strong stew and I had the last of the ad hoc soup I had made the night before.

Everyone had fruit. Because the fruit truck was parked on the side of the road in the city the dentist is in, so I came home with cherries, nectarines, apricots, and plums. I think the plums and the cherries were the most popular options.

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

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Remote Living, Part 7: Misconceptions

Still no actual questions to answer today, but will that stop me from typing many words anyway?

You should know the answer to that by now.

So! Today I thought I would address some common misconceptions people seem to have about remote living. I think many of these might apply to more-common rural living as well.

Geographic isolation=social isolation.

By this I mean that people seem to have this idea that living in a place like this means a hermit lifestyle. Like you'll move to the middle of nowhere and live an isolated, anonymous lifestyle.

This is very far from the truth. In fact, it's actually the opposite.

There is no anonymity here. None. And the smaller the community you move to, the less anonymity there is. Everyone knows us, even if we don't necessarily know them. Everyone knows our vehicles, and therefore knows when we've gone somewhere. People drive by slowly to case our gardens and animals and then ask about the tomatoes next time they see us.

If you want to be anonymous, live in a city. DEFINITELY don't move to a place with very few people.

Also, you will never be left alone to just tend those tomatoes. As I mentioned before, there aren't enough people to do everything that needs to be done, so you will eventually have to choose in what way you will be involved in your community. Not being involved and just sitting at home watching TV is not an option. 

Again, if you want to do that, live in a city.

Don't live here if you want to be left alone.

Everyone here butchers their own meat, cans their own food, makes their own bread, etc.

Nope. I mean, we do those things, but not everyone does. I wouldn't even say most people do all those things. We're still the weirdos that people bring mean roosters to for disposal.

That said, there is certainly a much higher level of self-sufficiency here than elsewhere. There has to be, because of the level of DIY necessary to live here. So even if everyone doesn't do everything like some kind of latter-day pioneers, everyone knows how to do something. Many people do have some kind of garden, or keep chickens, or sew, or hunt, or weld, or whatever. 

But it's not exactly like "Little House on the Prairie" with Pa making bullets by the fire. Everyone has TVs and tablets and buys their bread from a store.

Well, except us, of course. But like I said, we're the weird exception, not the rule.

On the up side, it's just accepted that I'm the weirdo who dries her own dill. There are worse reputations to have.

Remote people=uneducated people.

Obviously, I can't speak for every remote community, but this is certainly not true here. At least among people around our age or younger, almost without exception, they are college graduates. The cowboys who are working on the big ranches have degrees in Range Management. Their wives have degrees in education or Agricultural Science (or Agricultural Education).

The older people--say, 70 years old and up--mostly didn't go to college, but they made dang sure their children did. As are their grandchildren.

And, thanks to the modern miracle of the Internet, the high school students can (and often do) complete several college courses while they're still in high school.

Okay, I think I'm going to wrap up this Remote Living series here. I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into Unknown Remote America. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

T.T.: Just Stop Walking

Lately, I've been taking the dogs for a walk every morning just as the sun is coming up. I started doing it during our last heat wave because it was the only time of day I was assured of cool air, and I wanted to get at least a little bit of freshness before the rest of the day descended into a constant sheen of sweat.

The dogs are fans. They spend the whole time racing out over the range, sometimes to chase the occasional antelope, but mostly just to run.

And I have found myself a fan of more than just the cool air. It's the only time of day that I'm awake and not within earshot of four children. A rare luxury.

I don't go far--only about a quarter mile down the road and back. So it's maybe only fifteen minutes that I'm gone. There are never any children awake when I go at about 5:45 a.m., but Poppy is sometimes awake when I get back. Sometimes I get home to find her standing at the door, looking for me. Sometimes she doesn't bother standing passively at the door and instead decides to be proactive.

Proof that she's lying when she says she "too little" to put her shoes on by herself.

I never know when she's going to be awake and waiting for me to get home, though, which means that I spend much of the walk looking behind me to see if she's coming. 

I also spend at least half of the walk planning what I need to get done that day, starting when I get home. 

Neither of these two things contributes to the relaxation of a solo walk, however. In fact, they cause me to speed up, to just get home and get to my tasks. Which of course is not at all the point of the walk.

So. There is a point in the walk, just at the gate to my neighbor's pasture, where I always stop. I need the reminder to stop walking and just stand in the stillness for a minute.

This is a really good place to stop. The rising sun is perfectly framed between an apricot tree and the windmill in my neighbor's pasture.

Morning has broken on the range.

There are no roses to stop and smell, but there is the sun, on a quiet and empty stretch of range. It's there every day. I just need to remember to stop walking and look.

Monday, June 28, 2021

An Outsourced Monday Bouquet

Our forecast is calling for rain all week (hooray!), so I figured I'd better refresh the wildflower bouquet on the table before the flowers all get soggy. I assigned this task to Poppy when she went on a horse ride with A. 

This is what she brought home for me:

I might have skipped the floppy buffalo gourd flowers, but otherwise, thumbs up.

The first bouquet earlier this week had the same flowers as last week's, just in a slightly different arrangement.

Those silver nightshade flowers are always front and center, though.

Who knows what wildflowers might appear after the rains? Stay tuned to find out!

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Snapshots: The Poppy Show

I seem to have an unusual number of photos of Poppy this week. Probably because she is three years old, and is therefore everywhere, all the time.

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's . . . Super Dancer!

Saving the day and dancing all the way. (A sparkly tutu paired with a Batman cape seems to me the perfect representation of a little girl who is innately feminine and yet unquestionably influenced by having three older brothers.)

We harvested cabbages last week. Thus, we started sauerkraut last week. Kneading salt into cabbage is one of life's small pleasures.

A. celebrated Father's Day by digging up the bed of smaller garlic heads. Then he sorted them into two sizes, trimming off the stems and roots as he went.

Poppy, who is clearly at the stage of wanting to help with everything, all the time (a stage that passes all too quickly, as I have learned from the other children), insisted on helping with this.

She dressed for the occasion, of course. Real farmers wear pink gingham, right?

And here she is in pink yet again. 

She does have other colors to choose from when she gets dressed. She just doesn't choose them with any regularity.

Ah! Here's one that doesn't feature The Girl In Pink!

I don't keep my sauerkraut crock in the kitchen in the summer, because it's too hot. The coolest place in the house is actually my bathroom, but I can't say I'm all that comfortable having sauerkraut fermenting two feet from my toilet. 

The next-coolest place is my bedroom. And the only place in my bedroom that is out of reach of the children is my dresser. So . . .

This pretty much sums up my aesthetic, actually. Inasmuch as I could be said to even have one.

For those who were wondering . . . The sauerkraut crock was a gift from the MiL. She bought it from a potter at the farmer's market. 

The mirror was also a gift from the MiL. It belonged to A.'s great-grandmother, and the MiL had it re-silvered and re-backed (probably not the word--the velvet behind the silver was replaced) several years ago and presented it to me.

The chunk of cinderblock was a gift from Calvin. He and Cubby went through a chiseling phase, and he chiseled my initials on this chunk of cinderblock and presented it to me. So now it's on my dresser. Because that's the sort of thing that ends up on your dresser when you have kids.

Also, my dad made the dresser.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.