Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Growing Food: Finally Harvesting

Look what I pulled out of the garden today!

One calabacita, four Stupice tomatoes, two Roma tomatoes (including a green one that fell off when I was checking the vines), and exactly six and a half green beans.

Of course, this is what I'm supposed to be harvesting in early July, not late September. But this year, I take what I can get. And I can get a skillet of vegetables for a side dish today. Hooray.


Sunday, September 24, 2023

Snapshots: Must Be Fall

The First Day of Fall was all over the place online yesterday. For many people, that seems to mean pumpkin spice, fall decor, and cozy blankets. For me, it means an excess of tomatoes and apples.

And there they are, right on cue!

Of course, this year, neither of those are from my own property. My parents brought me the tomatoes, which I think they bought in bulk at Whole Foods. The apples came from a lady down the hill who brought us apples last year. She's a friend of our neighbor Miss Amelia's daughter, so I don't even really know her at all, but I sure do appreciate the apples from her trees.

I had a helper to make applesauce, of course:

No child can resist a Foley food mill.

After a couple of rounds of roasting and pureeing for the tomatoes, I was left with this:

Full jars always make me happy.

Let's see what else I have . . .

Sunflowers and the rising sun.

Sunflowers reflecting the rising sun.

And sunflowers on my table. Along with two computers, because I was teaching online when I was home sick on Monday, which requires one computer for my Zoom meeting and one so I can navigate around the texts we're discussing.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Friday Food: Fast Food


Short version: Smoked sausage, rice, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: I went all the way to the grocery store by myself this day, and while I was there, I took a look at the sausage selection. I can never resist looking for sausage, even though it's usually not very good.

This time I got some smoked pork sausage, which was almost exactly like giant hot dogs. The kids liked it, of course. It wasn't bad. It wasn't really good either, but it was okay.


Short version: Pizza, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: Making bread, making pizza. And this time I didn't screw up my dough, so the crust was delicious. Yay, me. I also got pepperoni at the grocery store, and I got the fancier Dietz and Watson pepperoni that was near the deli, instead of the Hormel or whatever we typically get. It was a lot better than the cheaper stuff. I don't like pepperoni, but this I could actually eat.


Short version: Leftover pizza, sausage and rice skillet, chocolate ice cream

Long version: I started feeling a cold coming on this day, so I didn't really want to cook. Unfortunately, some children got into the leftover pizza while I was resting during the day, so there wasn't enough for everyone. There was, however, leftover rice and leftover sausage, and those two things, along with the sauteed diced onions I had stashed in the freezer and frozen peas, became a skillet offering to fill out the pizza.

Fast food, my way.


Short version: Mexican bull casserole, raw cabbage

Long version: I was still not feeling well, and I stayed home from work. I had a period of slight improvement in the late morning that allowed me to put together the casserole--processed bull meat, black beans. corn tortillas, cheese, and a kind of enchilada sauce I made by pureeing a can of whole tomatoes and cooking it down some with chile powder, garlic, onions, cumin, and paprika.

That was a good idea, since by dinner time about all I felt capable of doing was shoving the casserole in the oven and whacking some chunks off a head of cabbage.


Short version: Spaghetti with sheep sauce, raw broccoli with ranch dip

Long version: We had a ewe literally kill herself with greed on Sunday by eating too much alfalfa hay. Since she didn't die of anything nasty and we found her shortly after she died, we could butcher her. So we did.

The meat has to age for at least a couple of days, which much improves its taste and texture. Because it was too warm to hang it outside--flies were an issue as well--A. quartered it and put the pieces in our big cooler with blocks of ice we made by freezing water in gallon ice cream buckets. 

Meat just chillin'.

We did all the cutting up, grinding, and packaging this day.

I used some of the ground sheep meat to make spaghetti sauce. Very good sauce it was, too.


Short version: Leftovers, cucumbers with ranch dip

Long version: Spaghetti with sheep sauce for the kids, Mexican bull casserole for A., salad for me.

So much for the long version, huh?


Short version: Pork, garlic bread, sauerkraut, steamed carrots and broccoli

Long version: I cooked a big pork picnic roast in the morning, which I then pulled apart and broiled in some of its own rendered fat. I flavored it with mustard and maple syrup, which is an excellent combination for pork.

Garlic bread because I was making bread, and I had just made pizza.

Sauerkraut because I love it with pork. I only canned about four pints with the spring cabbages, but my parents were visiting and my father also loves sauerkraut, so I decided the time had come to use one of those precious pints.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Growing Food: The Brave Little Basil

I grow basil every year, and always have. It doesn't do as well here as it did in New York, but I always get enough for tomato sauce, tomato salad, pizza, and to make and freeze pesto for the coming winter.

This year, however, was a rough one for the basil. (And everything else.)

There was a point a month or so ago that I thought the basil was done for. I had originally planted out 13 plants. There had been some attrition, but I still had some. Then the hail came. And then the drought. I lost more and more plants, and the few basil plants looked like they were goners.

I counted it out too soon, though. Three of the plants managed to hang on, and they are finally looking like they're going to give me some usable basil.

I am reminded of a Destiny's Child song . . .

I should have enough to make pesto at least once, which I haven't managed yet this year. I've mostly been hoarding the basil for roasted tomato sauce, assuming the many tomatoes on the plants make it to harvest.

As a bonus inspirational plant story, allow me to show you my dianthus.

This is growing, but it's not food.

One of my children brought that home for me for Mother's Day last year. His teacher is a big flower gardener, so she divided the plants from her own garden. This is the best way to get plants, because it means they are guaranteed to grow in my area. 

I didn't have a place in mind for the plant, so I just put it in a pot. I put the pot on top of the wall dividing my vegetable garden, figuring that way I would remember to water it.

I did, and it bloomed continuously for months. I was so pleased with it. Then it got hot. And it wasn't getting enough water. And I thought maybe I had killed it.

However! We got several days of cool weather with a bit of rain, and there are the flowers again. Yay! I really need to put it in the ground. I think in a pot like that it would have to be watered every day, and that's not something I'm going to be doing.

So there you have it. Plants with a will to survive. Let them be a lesson to all of us as we go forth into our Tuesday. 


Sunday, September 17, 2023

Snapshots: Hair Bows and Sunflowers

I truly wish I could share with you all the photos of the eleven adorable little girls that comprise our elementary cheer squad. Alas for the insane Internet and the inadvisability of posting photos of little girls on it. However! I got a sneak shot of one of them and her giant bow. 

"The bigger the bow, the better," said their cheer coach. I think she's right. But only tiny cheerleaders can pull off a bow this big.

Luckily, I can show you allll the sunflowers on the road right outside our gate.

They're the same color as the giant bows, now that I think about it.

We got a sudden and saturating rain storm that dumped half an inch of rain in about 40 minutes.

Adventure Van bore the downpour stoically, of course.

And last, I took a trip to a Walmart entirely by myself on Saturday. It's been . . . well, I'm not sure, but definitely months, if not actually a year, since I went to a grocery store by myself. It was very exciting. Although staring at this for 180 miles to get there and back sort of puts a damper on the excitement.

At least I don't have to battle traffic. Unless you count the birds that seem intent on kamikaze-ing into the front of the van.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Friday Food: The First Stupice


Short version: Lamb chunks, mashed potatoes, carrot sticks

Long version: Our school has a four-day week (with longer days), so we typically don't have school on Fridays. However, we are required to have the Monday off for Labor Day, so we always have school the Friday after Labor Day to make up for that. That means I was at work.

I wasn't really planning on cooking, but I had the boneless leg of lamb roast I had taken out a few days previously that wasn't getting any younger. To cook that faster, I cut it into chunks, which I fried in bacon grease with salt, garlic powder,and zaatar.

And then one of my children was sick and had a terrible sore throat, so I had to make some mashed potatoes. I peeled six small potatoes before I remembered I had a jar of instant potato flakes in the pantry, so I decided not to bother with more peeling, instead cooking the ones I had already peeled and then adding the potato flakes to bulk them up.

Four out of six family members actually preferred them this way. I am not one of them, but then, I don't usually eat mashed potatoes.

In related news, I ate the first Stupice tomato this day.

Butter knife for scale.

Obviously, that tomato wasn't really enough to do much with, so I just sliced it and put it in the pan with my eggs in the morning. I love eggs and tomatoes.


Short version: Tuna salad sandwiches, raw cabbage

Long version: This was not my plan for this meal, but then the one child was still sick and A. was in Santa Fe running errands, so I made a very easy meal for the three children eating.


Short version: Pork, American potato salad, steamed carrots and broccoli, chocolate ice cream

Long version: The pork was a giant package of two sirloin roasts I had taken out the day before. It was much too much meat for one meal, so I did some prep work to make my life easier in the future. Some of the pork I cut into chunks and put back in the freezer. Some more I cut into thin pieces for stir-fry and put back in the freezer. The meat that was too awkward to cut off the bones was what I cooked this day.

I stuck them in my Dutch oven with salt and water while we were at church and cooked them in the oven until they were tender. Then I pulled off the meat at dinnertime and spread it on a pan with some of the rendered fat, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and maple syrup and broiled that until it was crispy.

While the pork was in the oven, I also baked several potatoes. Those were for the potato salad. I make American potato salad about once a year, because only about half the family likes mayonnaise-based potato salad. I decided to make it now because I had dill pickles in the refrigerator (thanks, MiL!), and a proper potato salad must have dill pickles in it.

It was very good.


Short version: Leftover pork, starch variety, raw cabbage, peaches and cream

Long version: I thought there was more potato salad than there was. It ended up being only enough for one child. I had two baked potatoes I hadn't used in the potato salad. I quickly microwaved one more and sliced two potatoes to fry in the pan while I re-heated the pork. The fried potatoes covered two more people.

The other baked potato was scooped out and mashed with butter for the still-sick child.

And the last child got the last bit of macaroni and cheese from a weekend lunch.

A. had bought the peaches at a roadside stand on his way home from Santa Fe. They weren't quite ripe enough to use for dessert on Sunday, so we had them this night instead. Peeled, diced, covered in sugar and cream. 

These were the first--and likely, the last--good peaches we'd had this year. Covered in sugar and cream is an excellent way to enjoy them.


Short version: Spanish tortilla

Long version: Another nuts Tuesday after school meant a make-ahead meal saves the day. Spanish tortilla--this one had potatoes, eggs, bacon, onions, and cheese-- is a very good option for that.

I did not serve a vegetable. The salsa everyone puts on it will have to count.


Short version: Bull 'n' bean chili

Long version: I made this the day before when I was in the kitchen anyway. I used some of the ground bull meat, which I think is STILL too chewy for burgers or whatever. It's fine in a long-simmered chili like this, though, which also had black and pinto beans in it, as well as frozen calabaza from last year's garden.

The calabaza and tomatoes in the chili were our vegetables for the night. Ahem.

But hey! I did manage to dice onion and grate cheese for toppings! So inspiring, I know.


Short version: Pork stir-fry, rice

Long version: Another nuts day after school. I was at school with Poppy, who was cheering at her first volleyball game. A. took the judo run. Another kid was off doing FFA stuff all day and didn't get home until after 9 p.m.

Since I wasn't there when the judo crew were home for dinner, I made the pork stir-fry and rice ahead of time and left them on the stove for them to eat when they got home. 

Most of my food photos are noticeably less colorful and aesthetically pleasing.

I wasn't there because I was with the cheerleader at the first volleyball game she cheered at.

At home, of course.

The cheerleader had a tuna melt sandwich when we got home.

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Will We Make It?

This has been, to state the obvious, a highly unusual year in my garden. According to my previous posts--which is the only way I ever remember anything anymore--this is the time of year I would have quantities of tomatoes, green beans, and calabacitas.

However, thanks to the hail, grasshoppers and other insects, excess rain, and then drought, all of those are quite a bit behind.

I have a couple of green bean plants that are producing a few green beans, but not enough for a side dish.

The remaining tomato plants actually have a lot of flowers on them right now:

Floral arrangement.

And even quite a few actual tomatoes:

These are Stupice, which are typically my First Tomato.

We had two winter squash plants that survived the storm and cucumber beetles. They have half a dozen little squash on them.

This is the biggest one. It's about the size of a soup bowl.

The calabazas I replanted have a few tiny calabacitas on them, too. This is the biggest one of those:

It's about four inches long.

The random watermelon plants A. put in also have some watermelons of the vines.

Two of which decided to grow right next to each other.

This would all be very appropriate and hopeful if it were the beginning of August. But it's not. It's the middle of September. Our nights are already getting cooler. Our days are getting shorter. We can have a frost anytime in October, and none of these plants are cold hardy in the least.

So will we make it? I'm gonna say, barring a reeeeally long and warm Indian summer this fall . . . probably not.

I will certainly get some calabacitas, but I doubt we'll get a fully mature calabaza to store for winter. That one biggest squash might have time to mature, but I don't think any of the others on the plants will. We've already passed the really hot weather that the watermelons need to grow well.

That leaves the tomatoes. I will get some tomatoes this year. I will probably not get as many as the plants would produce, because I think it will get too cool, if not downright cold, for them to grow quickly and ripen well.

We'll see, though. All I can do is wait, because in this situation, as in so many others in gardening, it's all down to nature.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Snapshots: Plants and Chickens

I was bringing the sheep some hay when I noticed a very odd plant flowering in the back pasture.

It had very pretty flowers and a particularly striking seed pod.

Curioser and curioser.

When I went back inside to get my phone to take a photo, a child followed me back outside, and when I showed him the plant, he said, "It looks like the devil's claw we picked up in Arizona."

Ah ha. A quick online search confirmed that identification. I expect one of the children dropped their seed pod and it opportunistically grew in our pasture.

I haven't decided yet whether it's something I want to allow to continue growing on my property. The mature seed head is pretty frightening looking, although apparently parts of the plant are edible.

Anyway. Lookit the flowers!

Lots of roadside sunflowers to choose from. Although most are damaged by cucumber beetles.

And the ornamental sage is staging a comeback. Hooray! That means I can have . . .

Sunflowers 'n' sage on the table.

And last, some free-ranging chickens at sunrise.

The early chicken gets the bugs. Or something.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Friday Food: Redemption Bread


Short version: Unfortunate pizzas, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: I was making bread, so I used some of the dough to make pizza. Unfortunately, I had left the sourdough out on the counter the night before, figuring it would be cool enough. It was not cool enough, and the dough rose and then fell again.

When this happens, the texture is weird, like biscuit dough, and the resulting bread is very dense.

So was the pizza crust. Boo.


Short version: Experimental chicken and bread, carrot sticks with ranch dressing

Long version: I had a vague idea to make croutons with some of the dense bread, but then I happened across this recipe for chicken slow-roasted on bread slices. I mostly followed the recipe, except I had chicken pieces--drumsticks and thighs--instead of a whole chicken, and I didn't have fresh lemon or thyme.

The chicken came out well, although the skin could have been crispier. The bread underneath tasted really good, although it was not beloved by all the children. A. really liked it, though.


Short version: Leftovers at home, leftovers at camp

Long version: A. took three of the children fishing and camping at a lake about an hour away. For them, I made foil packets of potatoes--baked the day before while the chicken was in--and leftover barbecue meatballs.

For me and the one sick child who had to remain at home, there was leftover chicken, rice, and green peas. And chocolate ice cream.


Short version: Fried carp, garlic bread, raw cabbage, chocolate ice cream

Long version: A. went to a lake with children, where they apparently caught many carp. Four of those carp came home this morning. A. filleted them and fried them with a masa coating.

Carp taste pretty good (except the dark meat on big carp--that's gross), but they do have a LOT of bones. Luckily, our kids are pretty used to fish with lots of bones and know how to pick around the bones.

The one child who does not like fish much had cheese instead. I typically do not provide substitutes for an unappealing dinner, but to be honest, I don't like fish much, either. Which is why I had a hardboiled egg for my protein. And why I had some sympathy with the fish-denier.

I have a photo of the carp before filleting, but it is undeniably unappetizing. This one of the bread I baked and didn't mess up this time is definitely better.

No rising problems with this batch. Because I kept in the refrigerator overnight.


Short version: Pork'n'beans Mexican casserole, broccoli

Long version: My plan for dinner changed more than once throughout the day. I had a leg of lamb roast that I had taken out the day before, but that got superseded by the fish. I had thought I would make it this day, but it was a Tuesday. Tuesdays have gotten somewhat complicated by the fact that Poppy stays after school for cheer practice* and her brothers are gone for judo between 5:30 and 8 p.m. 

I have to pick Poppy up at 4:45 p.m. at the school (A. is still driving the bus at that time), get her home, feed everyone, and make sure the boys are ready for judo by 5:30 p.m. This means that whatever we eat has to be ready when I get home at 5 p.m. with Poppy. So I have to make it ahead.

Lamb roasts are not good make-ahead candidates.

So then I decided to fry a can of commodities ground pork with a can of black beans and some tomato juice drained off whole tomatoes, along with spices and onions from the freezer, to make taco meat. My plan was to put the meat and shredded cheese in corn tortillas and fry those to make crispy tacos, which could stay in the oven on warm while I went to get Poppy.

But THEN, I decided it would be even better to make all those things into a casserole that could just sit in the oven. So that's what I did.


Short version: Gianelli Italian sausage, fried bread, carrot sticks

Long version: Two more packages of the sausage A. brought home from New York. A very fast, and very popular, after-work dinner option. 

I fried the bread slices in the pan after the sausages were done. I figured I might as well soak up all that tasty grease.


Short version: Bunless bull burgers, rice or bread and butter, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: More of the ground bull meat, made into burgers. Rice for the adults, bread for the children. And I finally used up the last of some quite old store lettuce. I still haven't returned to good-enough digestive health to eat a lot of salads, so it's been languishing for some time. All gone now, though!

Unfortunately, the seeds I planted after the hail storm didn't germinate. But the volunteer lettuces are seeding for all thet're worth, so maybe I'll still get some lettuce before the end of the growing season.

An old photo of the flowers on one plant that are now all little white fluffy seeds. Yay.

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

* Yes, we have a very junior cheer squad at our school. All girls older than sixth grade actually play the sports, but the girls younger than sixth grade don't. So pretty much every girl from kindergarten through fifth grade cheers. I never thought I would be a cheer mom, yet here we are.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

A Woman of My Word

I said I would paint the children's bathroom yesterday. I did it.

I am very proud of myself, yes. And I'm going to post lots of photos to revel in my accomplishment.

Although I may most kindly be described as a slapdash painter, I did actually take the time to tape the electrical outlets, towel racks, and so on before I started.

Using some very colorful masking tape that I think my mother gave us.

I also put down the most redneck drop cloth ever.

It's made from a cut-up chicken-feed bag. 

Even with the drop cloth there, I still managed to get drips of paint all over the floor while I was painting. Slapdash, like I said. This is why I always keep paper towels on hand when I'm painting.


One of the things I was happy to paint over was this little wall drawing done by an unidentified child some years ago.

No one ever confessed, but I have my suspicions.

Another thing I was very happy to paint over was the border of flowers all around by the ceiling that was put up by some previous occupant of the house.

I love my sunflowers, but this is not to my taste.

Because I just didn't care that much, I didn't bother scraping off all of this floral paper. Instead I just painted over it. This is what that same area looks like now.

Much better.

I had a gallon of bright white indoor paint, and a quart of "sunshine yellow." So I painted everything white except the cabinet doors. For those, I put some of the yellow in with the white, to tone down the sunshine a bit.

This is the wall with the nails that started the whole thing.

You can't even tell the mess that was there before.

I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. 

Next on my painting agenda is the adults' bathroom. It has a ceiling border of giant magnolias with a maroon background. I can't wait to cover that up.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Seeking Accountability

Today is supposed to be all about the food I'm growing in my garden, and in fact, I have many tomatoes on the remaining tomato plants, hooray! I do not, however, have many ripe tomatoes in my kitchen yet, and if this year has a theme of any kind, it's one of not counting my tomatoes before they're ripened.

So. No gardening today. Instead, I am here to ask for help.

I need to paint a bathroom today. It is the children's bathroom. It has needed to be painted since . . . well, since before we moved in five years ago. Although I did do a lot (A LOT) of painting before we moved in, I did not get to the bathrooms. 

I really dislike painting, so it's one of those things that I could always find an excuse not to do.

But then I got free paint from the school maintenance guy who was trying to clear space in the school shop. And then a certain child who shall remain nameless put up something on the wall of his room using four, four-inch nails. His room shares a wall with the children's bathroom. The shared wall is not four inches thick.

The nails went straight through the wall and stuck out into the bathroom, right over the toilet, about two inches.

It was not a good look.

Said child cut off the ends of the nails with an angle grinder, which did eliminate the sticking-out nails, but also resulted in large gouges in the wall.

Also not a good look.

So I'm pretty much forced into painting now, because I may not have really high standards for our very well-used home, but that was a bit much even for me. 

I managed to get all the various holes and gouges spackled, and the spackle sanded.

So many holes. Such a bad photo.

Today is the day. Today, as you are my witness, I will put the first coat of paint on those walls. I'm telling you this to hold myself accountable. Because if I tell all of you I'm doing it, and promise to post the after photo, then I will actually do it.

Otherwise, I can quite easily convince myself that I have more important things to do. Like bake cookies. Or clean under the bench in the living room*.

But today is a Painting Day. Wish me luck. I'm going in.

*Although that really does need to be done. It can wait, however.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Snapshots: A Select Few

I really didn't take many photos this week. And what I did get is . . .unimpressive. 

Oh well! That's reality! Here's what I do have.

The window guys put on the windows, but A. spent a full day repairing screens so we can actually open the windows without letting in every fly and grasshopper in the county.

It's very hard to take a photo of screens, but you see where the window just looks really dirty at the bottom there? That's the screen reflecting the light. Yay, A.!

I don't know why I took a terrible photo of the bull in the pasture across the road, but apparently, I did.

Black bulls do not photograph well. Especially when they're far away.

And last, I went with a simple profusion of sunflowers for the table bouquet this week.


There you have it! My (minimal) life, snapshotted.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Friday Food: Definitely Not Vegetarian

I was very sick for the first about half of the week, so it was a bit of an unusual food week in our house.


Short version: Hofmann's hot dogs, bread, rooster rice

Long version: This is what I heard being eaten at the table right outside my bedroom door while I was in a feverish haze in bed. Needless to say, I did not have any.


Short version: T-bone steaks, rooster rice, strawberry jell-o

Long version: I didn't eat any of this but the jell-o, which I made. Not from a box, though. I used frozen strawberries, cooked with sugar and water and then strained, to make the jell-o with my gelatin powder. It was very good, although too stiff. Most recipes for homemade jell-o are by people who into it for the health benefits of the gelatin, so they call for a lot of gelatin in proportion to the other ingredients. I think this had about 7 cups of fruit juice and 3 tablespoons gelatin. Too much.

All the photos in the post are courtesy of Poppy, who was thrilled I let her take exactly four photos with my phone.

First up, a very blue outside shot.


Short version: Fried pork shoulder, mashed potatoes, fried mushrooms, carrot sticks with ranch dip, gingersnaps, blueberry jell-o

Long version: I did make this dinner! I even ate a few bites of meat! Although I mostly ate the jell-o. I did the same thing to make this as I did with the strawberry, except I used slightly less gelatin. I liked the texture a lot better, but blueberry jell-o just tastes weird. 

Not a fan. 

The gingersnaps were for a school event that required cookies. We made extra, of course.


Short version: Pork chimichangas, frozen fruit or canned peaches

Long version: Just the leftover pork, shredded and heated with salsa and then put in flour tortillas with cheese. I didn't manage a vegetable, so I gave everyone their choice of frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries, or canned peaches.

A very bright window in the living room.


Short version: Cube steaks, mashed potatoes, green salad with vinaigrette, granola

Long version: Let's see . . . I cooked the cube steaks with the liquid left from the pork shoulder and five Roma tomatoes from the village store owner's garden. 

And I managed an actual vegetable. We were pretty light on vegetables this week.

A fan action shot.


Short version: Fried eggs, leftover mashed potatoes and cheese, carrot sticks with curry dip

Long verison: I had been planning to make barbecue pulled pork sandwiches for dinner with the rest of the leftover pork, but when I pulled out the big container with the pork in it, I found it had been steadily disappearing over the past few days and there wasn't enough left for everyone.

Plan B: Eggs. Not too exciting, but the leftover mashed potatoes re-heated with cheddar cheese filled it in a little.

And an unusually clear desk.


Short version: Barbecue meatballs, cornbread, frozen peas

Long version: A. and I spent a couple of hours in the morning grinding the last of the bull meat from the freezer. Or rather, I did all the trimming and cutting, and A. did all the actual grinding. The grinder is much easier to clean if a couple of slices of bread are run through it at the end to get all the meat and fat out. So I used that bread, plus the meat, to make meatballs.

I actually got the meatballs all made and realized shortly before dinner that I forgot to put the eggs in them. Whoops. So I squished them all back up again, with the eggs this time, and formed the meatballs again.

That was a close one.

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Growing Food: The New Mexico Wrap

Many moons ago, when the gardening season was still a time for starry-eyed visions of big boxes of tomatoes and crisper drawers full of cucumbers*, someone in the comments recommended I try the Florida weave to support my tomatoes.

I had never heard of it, so I looked it up. There are, of course, many videos showing it. I watched this one. Which is actually from the LSU Ag. Center, so maybe that's a Louisiana weave?


I tried it this year. 

A. split some cedar posts for me and pounded them into the ground about three feet apart. For the twine, I used the innumerable pieces of baling twine that are always hanging around after we cut them off of hay bales. I had to tie them together, of course, but it pleased me to use something that is otherwise just a nuisance to be thrown away. It's not going to win any design awards, but I enjoy such re-use.

Tomato post with very aesthetic baling twine.

The video shows the man just going on alternate sides of each post as he goes down the row until he gets to the end. This is presumably the "weave" part. I tried that the first pass, but then realized there is absolutely no point in that when it works much better to wrap the twine around each post a couple of times, ending up on the alternate side from the previous post and then continuing. 

This makes for a much tighter length of twine, and the tighter the twine, the better it holds the tomato plants upright. I have no idea why the video I saw didn't show this. Maybe everyone does it like that? Dunno.

This is why I'm re-naming my method The New Mexico Wrap. Catchy, no?


As the plant grows, more courses of woven twine are added above the existing ones to support the plants. The plants themselves can just be gently pulled inside the twine to hold them up. No tying.

This very sickly tomato plant allows us to see the plant inside the twine. The other plants are thankfully so robust that the twine has pretty much disappeared inside the foliage.

This has not been a year of really exuberant growth for my tomato plants (or, well, anything), but the tomatoes I have left are actually fairly big now, and the twine is holding them up. So I will do this again next year.

A couple of things I learned for next year, however.

As previously mentioned, do not just weave the twine in and out. Wrap it around each post as they come before continuing.

Smaller posts are better. The smaller the diameter of the posts (within reason), the closer together the two lengths of twine, and the better they hold the plants upright. 

This old stick where one plant died is about the right diameter. You can see the wrapping here, too.

I thought it would be great to have bamboo posts like I had at Blackrock, but then I remembered how slippery those bamboo posts were. I think the twine would probably slide down on them. Small diameter rough wood, either large sticks or small split wood, is better.

More posts are better. No more than two plants between each post seems to work pretty well.

So! To whoever recommended the Florida version to me, thank you. And to anyone else who wants to try it, feel free to make your own modifications and name it after your own location. It's fun.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Snapshots: I Live

I felt in some doubt of that in the past three days. I haven't been that sick in yeeears, and it was Very Not Fun.

However! I do think I may finally be recovering. I slept through the night last night; I might actually be able to eat some solid food today; and I even have some photos for you. Because life goes on, even when I'm mired in misery.

First, because this is truly the most exciting thing to happen all month:


The window company called Tuesday asking if they could come that day to install our windows, but they didn't actually show up until Friday. Kind of annoying, but hey, at least they came! And now I can see my dead asparagus from the kitchen again. 

The second most exciting thing this month:

I HAVE A TOMATO! (And a green bean.)

Because I am me, the first thing I did when I became even slightly ambulatory again yesterday afternoon was go check on the garden. And there I found a red tomato. It's a Roma, which is slightly less exciting than a really good eating tomato like a Stupice, but it's a tomato! And I found that one green bean, too, so the grasshoppers haven't eaten everything.

And last we have two table bouquets: One from before the Great Pestilence.

I changed it up a little by using the Topo Chico bottle and removing the dried purple flowers.

And one from after:

Poppy actually made this one for me, at my request. She did a good job. Takes after her mother. And the lighting is weird because I didn't get a picture until this morning, when the sun wasn't up yet.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.