Saturday, June 10, 2023

Everyone, Meet Cora

Cora, meet everyone.

Yes, we have welcomed yet another animal onto our little sheep ranch, and it's another free horse.

Cora came from the same place as Bill the pony. She was a working ranch horse that was deemed too lazy for regular ranch work, but her placid disposition meant she would be a good kid horse. The kids she was kept for didn't end up riding her, though, so we got a call from the boys' former teacher--from whom we got Bill--asking if we would like to take her.

This was very good timing, as all the children were lamenting the fact that we no longer have a full-size horse to ride.

Her name had been Dottie, which none of us cared for much. When I was talking to the lady about her, it was mentioned that she has a white mark on her rump that looks like a heart. "Corazon" is Spanish for heart, so I suggested calling her Cora. This was met with unanimous approval--something of a miracle in our household of rampant individualists--and so she is now Cora.

You can kind of see the mark there if you look closely.

She hasn't been ridden in about a year, so she'll need some re-training. She does seem quite calm, though, which I appreciate. She didn't even flinch at the dogs barking a foot from her face when she was drinking from the water trough right next to the fence.

The dogs remain alert for any misbehavior.

I went out this morning to find her and Bill just standing there in the corral staring at each other, and she came right over for her hay.

Tucking in.

She's a bit plump, so she'll be on reduced rations and an exercise regimen for awhile until she gets a little more svelte. Luckily, we have four young equestrians who are more than happy to make sure she gets all the exercise she needs. 

No horse on earth will be as safe around children as good old Samson, but I think Cora will do nicely. We're happy to have her, and I hope she'll be happy to be here.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Friday Food: We Made Bullburger


Short version: Spaghetti and meatballs, raw kohlrabi, peach/blueberry crisp

Long version: To make the sauce for the meatballs and spaghetti, I used the last quart jar of roasted, pureed tomatoes from last year's garden, a few cubes of frozen green garlic puree from last year, and a few cubes of frozen pesto from last year. That's all. And it was SO GOOD.

The ingredients really do make the difference. Alas for grocery store food. Always so disappointing.


I have never managed to make a crisp with peaches and blueberries that is actually crisp. The topping is inevitably submerged in the juices from the fruits. Also, the filling needed more sugar in it. Not that anyone refused to eat it.

Also, both the peaches (Nick's) and the blueberries (Sysco) came from the freezer as well. I often say I shop my freezers rather than stores. This meal was a good example of that.


Short version: T-bone steaks with caramelized onions and herb butter, mashed potatoes, green salad with herby ranch dressing

Long version: Steaks and caramelized onions from the freezer, too. Herbs--parsley and green garlic--from the garden. The salad dressing had the same parsley and green garlic, with the addition of dill.

I love garden season. And my freezers.


Short version: Thanksgiving in June

Long version: It all started with a request from one child that I roast the whole chicken A. had bought. While I was getting the chicken out of the freezer, I found the last two bags of pureed squash from the garden last year. I decided to use these to make pumpkin pie for our Sunday dessert. This reminded Poppy of Thanksgiving, and so we decided to make a sort of pared-down Thanksgiving dinner.

So! Roasted chicken and gravy, mashed potatoes, dressing (bread cubes, lots of butter, onion, celery, chicken stock, sage), green salad with herby ranch dressing, and not one, but two pumpkin pies.

I made two because I had enough squash for two, and the pie dough recipe makes two crusts. However, I only have one pie pan, so I used a  cake pan. This is when I discovered why pie pans are shaped the way they are: On a straight-sided pan, the pie dough slips right down to the bottom, leaving nothing on the sides.

Except for that tiny little bit poking out on the side there.

I used a different recipe for the filling this time, which A. declared the best ever in terms of texture. I think next time I'll add more spices to it, though. And of course, I whipped cream to go with it.

The children's favorite part of holiday meals is that I set the food up in a buffet on top of the liquor cabinet, so they can serve themselves. So that is what I did for our Thanksgiving in June, and they were happy.


Short version: Chicken rice soup, leftover spaghetti, leftover pie

Long version: I used the chicken carcass to make a stock, then pulled about a cup of meat off the carcass after it simmered a few hours. That is what I used--along with rice, mushrooms, onions, carrots, peas, and some finely chopped kohlrabi greens--to make the soup. Those who had soup also had rye crisps and cheese.

Others had leftover spaghetti with diced chicken, and leftover peas.

This worked out well, as there wasn't enough spaghetti for everyone anyway, and not everyone likes soup.


Short version: Shepherd's pie

Long version: I had quite a lot of mashed potatoes leftover from the two nights we had them previously, so I took out a package of ground beef and made some shepherd's pie. I have one child who dislikes cooked carrots, so this time I only used green peas and pureed calabaza for the vegetables in the meat.

The same child dislikes calabaza, but it's indetectable when it's pureed and used in something like this. Sneaky.


Short version: Leftovers

Long version: Shepherd's pie for the children, steak and pureed calabaza for A., and a salad with diced chicken for me.


Short version: Bull and bean tacos with homemade corn tortillas

Long version: When I organized the chest freezers, I found we only have around a month of meat in there. But that wasn't counting the bull meat that I still-still!--haven't cooked, even though we've had it for over two years now.

The problem with the bull meat is that it's just soooo tough. Even after being pressure-cooked and food-processed, it's still dry. Fine in casseroles, I've found, but still difficult to use.


I actually bought a manual meat grinder five months ago, thinking we would use it to make sausage, since we can't get good sausage here. I hadn't used it yet, though. But now it's summer! I have so much time! I can grind things!

So I took out some bull steaks and the extra fat from the cow we got last year, and enlisted A. to turn the handle.


The grinder part worked pretty well, although we couldn't get it to suction to the counter, so it was all wobbly. 

It definitely ground the meat, though, and that's what I used to make taco meat, along with some pressure-canned beans.

I figured since we had gone to all that work to make the ground beef, I might as well make the tortillas, too. So I did.

The meat was good. It definitely had more texture to it than most ground beef, but it wasn't chewy or anything. Which means we're going to be doing a lot more grinding in the near future.

Oh! And we had the first garden lettuce of the year for the tacos, too.

I also harvested a cabbage and a single asparagus spear, but I didn't use those for the tacos.

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

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Growing Food: Adjusting

This has been a highly unusual spring. In the past three weeks, we've gotten at least four inches of rain, which is almost unheard of here on the high plains. As I mentioned in my last post, the older people say it hasn't rained like this in 80 years.

See that line on my bedroom window? That's a worm. It is five feet in the air. When the worms are literally starting to climb the walls, you know that soil is totally saturated. I have never seen such a thing.

This means some adjustments are in order in my garden.

See, our garden is set up above all to maximize water retention. This is necessary because we are typically watering with a hose. That's why we plant everything in trenches or cells. That's why I mulch as much as I can. That's why I tend to space my plants closer than the recommended spacing.

But now these things are starting to be a detriment rather than a benefit.

The semi-permanent lake in the lane on the other side of my garden fence is a good gauge of the wet conditions lately.

It's a good thing I don't have a lot of old hay to mulch with this year, because I definitely don't need it. The only bed that I had mulched--the cabbages--is so wet it has colonies of grubs all around the plants. These are the nasty ones that someone told me turn into june bugs. I do not want them in my garden. And yet, there are literally dozens of them, hiding under the mulch and flourishing in the saturated soil. I even found a little slug in there. A slug! 

I pulled all the mulch off that bed and have spent hours digging around the plants in there, unearthing nests of grubs and squishing them between my fingers*. It's totally disgusting, but the easiest way to get rid of them.

I am certainly not going to be mulching my tomatoes. Even if the volunteer lettuce wasn't in there, it wouldn't do the tomato plants any good. They're in half an inch of standing water every time we get a downpour. Which is almost every day lately. Mulch would just encourage more of the grubs, I'm sure.

Thankfully, our soil is generally pretty loose and seems able to absorb an astonishing quantity of water. Although we could definitely use some sun and heat now, the plants seem to be doing pretty well with all the water getting dumped on them, but it's been a strange year in our High Plains garden for sure. It's a good reminder that gardening requires constant experimentation and adjustment. 

So tell me, my fellow gardeners: How's the garden weather where you are?

*Or, more preferably, getting my sons to do it for me. They relish this task, and will actually aim the grub so that when they pop it with their fingers, goo shoots out at their target. As long as their target isn't me, I don't care.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Snapshots: Me vs. Mud

We have had so much rain. SO much rain. Inches a week. Given that our yearly average is 17 inches, this is really unexpected. The older people say it hasn't rained like this since the 1960s.

We are grateful, of course, because we've had years of drought and all the cattle ranchers here--which is most of the county--have been selling off their cattle and tightening their belts to hold on. Now they can start rebuilding.

I am happy for them, and I am happy for my garden, which prefers rainwater to hose water. But I am not so pleased about the mud.

My new job is mud eradication.

This is what the pasture next door looks like after it dumps half an inch in less than an hour.

And this is the gate we drive out of. (Look at all the green, though! Yay!)

These giant puddles act as a magnet to my children, who love nothing more than grabbing an old feed tub and sailing in these new little lakes. This only ends one way. And that way involves the hose pre-rinse.

The A-frame cover of the mechanic's pit works perfectly for spraying down clothing, I have found.

The other main battlefront is, of course, my house. No photos of that, but I'll just say I've never vacuumed so much in my life. Once a week used to be sufficient. Now it's more like every other day, with sweeping in between.

I am reminded of some things I do not miss about New York. I assume it will dry out again sometime, since this is not actually New York, but maybe this is just my life now.

And now, just to end on a fun note . . .

A sweet potato shaped like a heart. I was delighted by this, and so was Poppy.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.