Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All-Falls-Eve

Today is one of my most favorite days of the year (excluding the magic of Christmas Eve and my children's birthdays, of course). I absolutely adore Fall. And even though it officially began September 21st, for me, Fall starts October 1. So today is really "All-Falls-Eve". (I know it's not correct to capitalize "Fall" but I can't help it. Sometimes the whimsy of the heart must over rule the regulations of grammar.) The weather is glorious; the sun is bathing everything it touches in color, the southerly breezes are warming my clean clothes on the backyard line, the chickens are taking dust baths in little trenches in the garden space they made just for dust bathing, the turkeys are all spread out in their yard soaking up vitamin D. It's all very peaceful. (Kind of like the calm before the winter storm.)

So to celebrate the glory that is Fall, I'm baking a Jack Apple cake. This is a wonderful recipe that was given to me when we lived in Appalachia way back when. The kids love it. So here's the recipe. It makes two loaves when baked in a bread pan and I already have a couple in the oven as I write this. The house smells amazingly-wonderful. Just the thing for All-Falls-Eve.

Jack Apple Cake

3 large eggs
2 ¾ cup flour
3 large apples
2 cups sugar
¼ cup honey, heated
1 stick butter, melted
a dash cinnamon or more if you like cinnamon
1 ¾ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking powder

Peel and dice apples and place in a large bowl with 1 ½ cups sugar (set aside other half cup for topping), sprinkle the cinnamon over the apples then drizzle the warmed honey and mix into a nice gooey concoction . Allow to cool in the 'fridge for 2 hours. Do not skip this step. After 2 hours, add all wet ingredients (half melted stick of butter, eggs, oil, vanilla) and mix with a gentle hand. Add in tablespoon baking powder. Add flour and gently stir the batter. It will be wet. Pour into greased bread loaf pan. Now melt other half stick of butter, add to it the held back sugar and some cinnamon and mix them into a paste. Use a spoon to drip it over the batter. This step makes a kind of crust that bakes into the cake. Bake at 350 degrees 30-40 minutes. Watch the cake. Sometimes it seems to bake fast and you REALLY don't want to burn this baby. When knife comes out clean it’s done. Serve warm with homemade whipped cream.

Then sit back and smile as your eaters will think they have the most magnificent mother who ever lived.
And they will be right.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Our Sunday drive

Indian summer has begun in earnest. To celebrate, I have included, for your viewing pleasure, a few pictures of our last drive to Glacier National Park . My oldest was not present as he was playing baseball in the foreign country called I-D-A-H-O.





I did not pose these children. They always stand like this.







Saturday, September 25, 2010

More winter food storage ideas .......freezing eggs


We still have a plethora of eggs coming from our sweet, diligent hens, so I thought I'd start getting ready for the production drop off which will surely happen when winter comes on for real. A long time ago I had read in one of my all time favorite books, The Tightwad Gazette, that one could freeze eggs and therefore take advantage of the low price of eggs that occurs in the spring around Easter. I've been freezing eggs since. This is the first year we've been able to freeze eggs from our own hens, however, and I'm ecstatic (My extended family thinks I'm a weirdo, food-loving, cheapskate. They're probably right. But we are well fed for $200 a month so it's OK that everyone thinks I'm weird.)

Anywhoo, This is how one freezes eggs.
Crack two eggs into a one cup measuring cup and fill the cup with water until you actually have one full cup of the mixture. Then shake a bit of salt over the cup and mix with a fork. (You don't actually need the salt but it does help with the flavor when it comes time to use the eggs.) Then place in a small zip lock bag and freeze. I usually label the mix. (You know, I always think I'm going to remember what I have frozen, but sometime many months from now, when I'm peering into the dark frozen cave that is our chest freezer, I won't remember that the pale, yellow glob of frozen stuff is a baggie of eggs. So I try to label what I put in there.)

That's it. That's all you do.
Then in the winter when my chickens are not producing the number of eggs they are now, I can saunter to my freezer and pull out two eggs ready for use in cakes or brownies, or cookies or scrambled eggs.....yum!

Friday, September 24, 2010

I guess fall is really here!

I was out doing animal chores just now: feeding and watering chickens, rabbits and turkeys, when I heard an elk bugle. At first I thought it was my imagination. So I shut off the water, walked several paces away from the bird commotion that comes with feeding, and sure enough, I heard it again. Once more, the red puppy heard it, too. She was standing alert with ears perked into little triangles facing the same direction we both heard the bull elk. So even though I don't have any pumpkins or fresh corn or tomatoes or green beans from my own garden, fall has arrived anyway. And it's is glorious.

These guys just make me smile....




When the corn bit the dust 3 weeks ago. I cried. I don't really like the taste of corn (bleck), but everyone I know, especially my family, LOVES corn. Plus, farmers grow corn. It's part of the "farmers oath" I signed when I began a garden 15 years ago (just kidding, in case you weren't sure). Farmers grow corn. So when my corn stalks froze, I cried. When the green beans froze, I sobbed out loud (I like green beans). When the pumpkins froze, I thought I was going to commit Harry Carry (I don't think that's how you spell "Harry Carry", but the spell check said it was OK). I really like pumpkins. (Big squash just says "fall" to me.) Though I have no control over the weather, I feel like a farmer failure.

So as these big, beautiful flowers continue to thrive even in the freezing cold, well, it just makes me smile. (These sun flowers are way taller than me and I'm pretty tall as far as girls go.)



So I think that I'm going to petition the "farmers oath" people. I think I'm going to propose that farming success should include sunflowers. Maybe the very definition of success should include "sunflowers". Hmmmm. I think I'll write the Websters Dictionary people, too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No one is watching

These are one of the many nights I just love living in the country.
It's too late to go to bed "early" but too early for temperatures to be in the upper 30's (and dropping fast). It seemed awfully chilly when I let the red puppy out for one last time around the yard before retiring to her kennel cave for the night. But I was surprised to note that it is 38 degrees.... already. The moon is completely full and so clear it surely sings. I can hear the coyotes voicing their mournful songs way off in the distance and my breath shows itself in little puffs around my face when I sigh. It's going to be a cold one and I once again wish that my mountain boy were home to keep me warm on the first real night of fall.

Because anything left outside will certainly freeze, I quickly shift six pots of important plants that-I-just-couldn't-bear-to-loose, one at a time, into the warm kitchen. If we lived in the city, I'd have to explain my actions to the neighbors the next time I bumped into them. I'd have to tell them how I had several important plants that-I-just-couldn't-bear-to-loose on the porch that wouldn't make the night and they all had to come into the house at almost midnight. Because I didn't know it was going to freeze, again. So soon in the fall.

But since we live in the country, no one is watching and I can tippy-toe out onto the almost freezing cold porch in my bathrobe and wool socks to rescue a few scraggly plants that mean nothing to anyone......but me. And since we live in the country, I don't need to explain anything to anyone because no one is watching. And if my mountain boy were home, I wouldn't have to explain to him either. Not because he doesn't care but because he'd already know.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Who done it?

Remember this picture I shared a couple of days ago- sweet semi-orange pumpkins, plump acorn squash, hardy fall mums- all sitting on our front porch ready to greet any guest who might be strolling toward the door of our home sometime this Autumn....... too pretty for words, kind of.




Well, this morning as the kids and I made our daily break-neck, crazy-mad-dash out the door for school, I happened to notice a sight that made me stop so fast my coffee sloshed out of my mug.





AHHHHH!

WHO DID THIS TO MY PUMPKIN?
MY SWEET, ADORABLE PUMPKIN THAT SOMEONE ELSE HAD TO GIVE ME BECAUSE MY OWN PUMPKINS FROZE ON A STINKING COLD MONTANA MORNING....... IN AUGUST!!!!!
Grumble. Snort. Grouch.

Well, guess what! They don't call this season HARVEST SEASON for nothin'! I'm goin'a track down the culprit and hog tie 'em! Or better yet, EAT 'EM!!!
Grrrrr.
Dang pumpkin eating varmint!

All you squash eaters out there better look out!

I'll be watching...... waiting......




Monday, September 20, 2010

Eating turkeys.

These turkeys are self harvesting the rest of the garden. Though the plot looks like it has no food to be had, the turkeys are finding a smorgasbord feast. This is really good. Any time I can figure out a way for the animals to feed themselves, leaves less work for me to do! Yea!



video

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Pied Piper


video

Here's my oldest doing his "turkey chores".

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I saw a pick up load of pumpkins today!
I was waiting in the usual after school pick up spot and the whole truck load just drove by! The sight made the entire neighborhood of walking kids stop in their tracks to gawk as the truck rolled down the street. The mounded up squash looked like a pile of giant orange marbles. Cat eyes rolling around in a blue bed. The sight kind of changed the mood for me.

Suddenly, it is Fall! (Though some would argue that we never actually had a summer.)

I love Autumn. When the mountain boy and I were first married and living in Texas, we came up with a tradition of having a big, elaborate thanksgiving type meal complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, green beans.....the works...... when the day time high temperatures dropped below 80 degrees. We almost always enjoyed the festivities by ourselves because the temps sometimes didn't cool into the 80's until late fall so we had 2 full thanksgiving meals just a few weeks apart. Most of our loved friends and family thought we were crazy. What they didn't know is how my mountain boy suffered in the Texas heat. And the cooling temperatures were a true reason to celebrate. I can vividly remember sitting in a comfortable room chatting with family only to glance at my beloved and notice that he was beet red in the face and was intensely damp around the collar and forehead. He was sweating like a pig. Being from the North West, he just never got used to the humid heat of Texas. He didn't complain about his uncomfortable-ness too much. But his beacon red and perspiration slick face pretty much gave him away. So we thankfully ate turkey in the coolness that was late October/ November (I even think I remember eating our "thanksgiving-summer-is-over" meal in December one year)..... very happy indeed.

Anywhoo, it is fall.

And we don't live in Texas anymore.

And we are happy.

(We are happy not because we don't live in Texas anymore. We are happy because it is fall! Least anyone misunderstand.......sorry Nana.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

With the beginnings of the wild winter food preservation finished for now (only for now.....haven't gotten pickles, Borscht or sauerkraut finished up yet), I spent yesterday outside CLEANING UP THE YARD. Even with such few animals, this is a big project. Cleaning out bunny cages and the chicken coop and the turkey yard took ALL day yesterday. However, it's a job well done. (I'm not saying I did a good job. I'm saying when the job is done.....it's good. I guess the saying should be: "it's a job good to be done"!) It definitely looks better.

Our animal count will be adjusted down by at least 2/3 in a couple of weeks. The turkeys are all pre-sold, the meat rabbits are bartered to a friend for the use of her chicken/ turkey plucker and all of the young roosters are going into the freezer. I'm scouring the local fruit stands for give-away soft fruit and veggies to feed the birds to finish out their plump-ness before harvest. Every thing seems to be so hungry right now. It's good to be able to let the turkeys and chickens into the all-but-dead garden so they can clean up the leavings.

Tomorrow I might be able to actually, maybe, possibly............... go huckleberry picking with friends! Shhhh. If the words gets out it'll rain or the car will break or it will snow or my friends won't be able to go......

More later!!!!!

In the mean time, here's a word from our sponsor-







Saturday, September 11, 2010



This is how the tomatoes started out: two boxes of red, globes of juice.



And this is what they became: 1 1/2 dozen jars of canned tomatoes that will keep in the down stairs pantry until they are required for chili, or soup, or pizza sauce.
Not bad for 1/2 a days work.








(This is the way my kitchen looks right now- 12 loaves of discount bread that needs to go into the chest freezer, dehydrating Swiss chard, a bowl of yet unused tomatoes- 6 of which will be turned into tomorrow nights supper: stuffed peppers.)


Lots of fun stuff going on around here!~

Friday, September 10, 2010

And so it begins....


14 quarts of green beans and another 3-4 to go.


I'm on my way to pick up several boxes of ripe tomatoes, onions and peppers at the fruit stand now. These veggies will be processed into salsa, tomato sauce and a chunky zucchini, onion and tomato combination over the week end. Yum. My back seems to have turned the corner so I'm going to start the canning in earnest tonight. If I can still find cucumbers, I might make up some dill pickles too. (I'm a little late on the cucs......we'll see.)


I love fall.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

PS...

I guess I should mention that in the midst of all the wonderful activities that farm life can bring to our lives: watering, feeding chickens and rabbits and turkeys (responsibilities); collecting eggs; mucking out coops; harvesting the garden and putting all that great food up for the winter.......we went camping for the Labor Day week end!

We didn't see as many wild animals as we did last year, but we ate over the open fire, slept on the ground in a tent (Hmmm. Maybe that's why my back is sore? ?? Nah.), fished, watched a black bear look for huckleberries on the side of a mountain and REALLY enjoyed each other's company.












We were being a family.

Outside.

Away from the phone.

No ball practice.

No laundry.

No homework.

No patients.
It was glorious.



I'll right. I'll admit it....

I can't keep up.
It's the height of harvest season, there are TONS of things going on here at the farm, and I can't seem to get to the computer to chatter about any of it!

Plus I recently hurt my back.
The hurt back is nothing new. Being a tall person (5'11" on a good day) and a long time ER nurse (who preaches more on back safety than she has practiced) has put my lower back at risk for muscle injury. And so it goes.....when I really need to be at my peak so I can pick mountains of green beans (that my good friend has offered from her garden since mine froze out a couple of weeks ago) or grate leg-long zucchini (which another good friend has offered since mine froze out a couple of weeks ago) or begin canning 3 sinks full of juice-running-down-your-arm-ripe tomatoes, I have to "take it easy" and "don't stress until your back feels better". Plus the kids went back to school and I have no one to boss around, I mean to help me get the harvest in.
Dang it!
Hopefully I'll only have to "rest" until the week end. I have too much to do!

So I've resigned myself to just post pictures of the farm "goings-on" (is that a word?) with small amounts of commentary as I can get to them. Then as Fall comes full on, and the rabid food preservation for the winter has slowed, and my back it completely better (this time) I'll be able to actually share what has been happening. It'll be mostly retro but maybe nobody will notice?

Gotta go for now.....
Gotta lay on that dang hot pad. My back hurts.....