Friday, November 16, 2018

Snow day

Well, that happened quickly.  It was sleeting with frozen rain last night and we woke up to a world covered in snow.

It was beautifully quiet and still when I went out to open the poultry coops.

It always amuses me that the first-year birds explode out from the coop and into the snow like nothing has changed.  Then they panic because WHAT IS ALL OF THIS WHITE STUFF???  Like the snow is on fire.

While the more seasoned birds (Nigel and his ladies) have learned that if the ground and ramp are covered with snow they can expect full room service; grains, leftover house food and fresh water delivered right to the coop.

Inside the house, the oldest was beside himself with excitement when he saw the snow.  He wanted to play and sled. I promised him that we had some things to do today (like finding his snow pants and his little brother's snow suit) but that I would bring some snow inside for him to play with.  He was thrilled.

He also demanded doughnuts for breakfast.  I am very, very lucky to have a kid that thinks "doughnuts' means toasts with sprinkles and the centers cut out. 

The grey car was being inspected so we took my husband to work today and went to Wal-Mart to buy the oldest snow boots.  It was my first time taking both kiddos into a store by myself: 3 year old and a 4 month old.  Talk about stressful.  It was kind of like walking on a thin layer of ice perched above the gates of hell.  Proceed with extreme caution. But the smallest one slept through most of it and the oldest was intrigued enough by the prospect of new boots to be a polite citizen.

Then we got the call that the CRV was ready.  The cost was a bit staggering (it needed new brakes among other things, along with the inspection and oil change) but we went to the bank to grab some cash and then drove down to the garage.  I feel very blessed that our mechanic is a multi-generation family friend  - he's just such a wonderful and kind gentleman my dad's age who has always given me the best service at a very, very economical price - especially when I was poor and in college - he's always tried to help out.   His father worked on my grandfather's cars.  I know nothing about cars and it's a huge blessing to know that this gentleman will do right by me.  Like having a family member for a mechanic; I kind of shrug my shoulders when he tells me what he needs to do.  I trust his judgement that the work needs done and it will make my ride safe at minimal costs. It's wonderful..

Th eldest is obsessed with all things mechanical so I asked if we could drop off the payment and look around the garage (as opposed to just dropping a check off in a mail slot and picking up the car after hours, honor system style).  It was a really sweet, fun visit.; the oldest went nuts with the excitement of being in a real, actual garage "mama! there are wrenches!! right here!!!"  The owner and I visited for awhile.  It was really nice.

We came home and I brought a couple of trays of snow inside for him to play with.  Then we went upstairs and dug out everyone's winter play clothes; snow suits, winter pants, hats.  Everyone was very excited.

Then we went to pick my husband up from work and both kiddos fell asleep.  The youngest woke up an hour ago but the oldest is out for the count. At 4:30.  We can't wake him up.  Someone is in for a looooong night.  

Still asleep beside me on the couch.  Coat on.  No amount of shaking will rouse him.

Dinner tonight was a homemade cream of chicken soup: carrots, celery, parsnips, onion with chicken, chicken stock, half & half and  pepper and thyme.  Put into the crock pot before we picked my husband up from work.  Homemade pasta on top.  Homemade biscuits.  

This guy.  I feel terrible. It's supposed to warm up the next couple of days.  If he wakes up in the middle of the night demanding to go sledding, I will totally do it.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The difference between men and women

My son brought this project home from pre-school today. They are learning about healthy foods this week.  I looked at it, squinted my eyes and looked closer.  Then I started laughing.  When my husband came home I handed it to him and asked "what's wrong with this picture?"

I had laughed because that picture labeled "grain" is a tray of rice crispy treats.

He immediately pointed out the impending unnatural union between the ham and the chilli pepper.

And now that I've seen it I can't UNsee it and am a little embarrassed to hang it on the refrigerator. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Hank Shaw dinner & the gander

I was sitting in the parking lot of Aldi's on Friday trying to decide what to cook for the weekend. I took a minute to check my e-mail on the phone before I went in the store and found a new recipe from Hank Shaw waiting for me: Basque Cod al Pil Pil.  It looked easy and delicious.  We had it for dinner tonight over some grains with a salad of kale and cabbage as a side.  It was on the table in about 10 minutes.  I adore his recipes, he's never steered me wrong.

We had a wonderful brunch with friends this morning but the day's kind of gone downhill since then.

The gander died, I found him mid-afternoon, with rigor already setting in.  I have no idea what happened.  It's so depressing.  I'm going to call around to some taxidermists tomorrow morning and see if anyone has a bug box I can toss his skull into for a month or so to have it cleaned for my curiosity cabinet.  Usually I do this work myself letting nature take care of 90% of it before whitening and sterilizing the bones but with the cold weather it would take forever to finish.  I started cleaning it tonight by hand but stopped for fear of damaging any of the small bones.

Our oldest still has a really icky cold and now my throat hurts too.  

Getting the poultry ready for winter

Well, snow happened.  It's been very unseasonably cold this week; 27 degrees today with flurries today and yesterday.  It seems early for this.  But, like anything miserable and unavoidable, it's also entirely possible that if it's this cold this early every year I've just somehow managed to repress it.  


The chickens and geese needed to get ready for the winter.  I went out there today and spent half an hour with a staple gun and a cheap plastic drop cloth.  The drop cloth was $4, had already been used and was headed for the trash can so let's just consider it free at that point.  Everyone got a deep bed of straw as well.  I want to remember that it only took one bale to bed everyone, I bought 2 and the other one is in the shed.

I just stapled the plastic up to create some wind breaks.  There still plenty of ventilation.  I used woven feed sacks for this last year and the plastic choice was two-fold; the feed sacks looked ugly as sin and I am hoping that the clear plastic lets more light in as well as warmth from the sun. 

Here's the main coop.  There is a big window on the backside that is is open to the air (chicken wire)  but the sill rotted out of the front one this summer and it never got replaced.  With a new baby in July it just didn't make the priority list.  This is the side that catches the most wind so it got covered.

Underneath the coop is the night quarters for the geese.  I put plastic around three sides for half of it.  They have tons of fat and love sitting out in the snow so the other half is dry but open to the weather.  I'm also hoping that they choose to nest in the sheltered spot - this is where the door is on the backside - so I can mark the eggs come spring. 

It may say something about my standards that I'm thrilled with how this looks from the kitchen window.  They're pretty low.

Here's the pre-fab coop that we bought this spring.  You can see that the roof line has warped a bit but overall I'm pretty happy with how it worked out.  It was inexpensive and I have no building skills or free time to make something like this so it works well for what I'm doing.  Extra chickens went to the butcher this week and this coop is for a little breeding group of mille fleur bantams.

This guy has a bit of an attitude.  Good thing he's really pretty.

I was at Wal-mart the day before tackling this project and decided to spend the $5 on an extremely cheap staple gun instead of tearing apart the basement trying to find one of ours.  Best choice ever.  The guns that we have are big, heavy metal tools.  I have normal sized hands and they're really hard for me to use.  This thing is small, lightweight, cut my work time in half and my hands didn't hurt when I was done.  Time for my own toolbox.

27 degrees. Ugh.

So my favorite gander is injured, again.  I found him like this; fluffed out and not wanting to move.  When forced to move he hops.  I left the geese out last night and yes, we have been having raccoons again, but when I picked him up and checked him over there are no visible injuries.  I put food and water directly in front of him and he ate and drank.  He spent the entire day sitting here and I carried him to the goose shelter at dusk.  The only clue is a tuft of  goose feathers at the end of the chicken ramp near the water barrel   I am honestly wondering if, with the cold snap, he just slipped on ice.  That sounds ridiculous but the geese regularly trip over things like grass and sticks.

When I finally came inside to thaw our oldest presented me with this, a new chicken coop.  He had made it for me while I was outside.  Here he is pointing out where the chickens go in. Oh, be still, my heart.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Blackberry cake for everyone

Yesterday I went to the State store to buy a bottle of wine. When I walked in I was feeling nostalgic so in addition to the bottle of dark red to be opened after the kiddos went to bed I also bought this:

Mogen David Blackberry "wine" with a side of Bee.

My grandparents used to take a glass of this on the odd nights. When I twisted the top off and poured a glass I couldn't quite place the flavor... sort of grapey but not really... mostly it just tasted like "purple".  Purple popsicles,  purple cough syrup, purple "grape" soda. Which made sense. After my mother got sick I used to help by doing my grandparents' shopping once a week. A typical grocery list would be something like:

1 lb grapes
2 bags barbecue potato chips
2 packages frozen toaster strudels
1 case grape soda

I remember once piling all of the above onto the grocery lane at Aldi and having the cashier ask me if I was throwing a kid's birthday party. Um, no, just shopping for my elderly grandparents.

Don't get me wrong, all of their children brought dinners over every night. The fridge was overflowing.   I was tasked with buying their snack food for watching Judge Judy and Bonanza.

What the hell, I say with a shrug. When I'm that age I'll probably demand gin, Vienna sausages and Velveeta. With age comes certain privalages.

But back to the wine: it was horrid. Nope. Just, no.

 Good thing I have my Great Aunt Faye's Blackberry wine cake recipe in my back pocket.  My grandma's younger sister, a proper southern lady, she got this recipe from a church picnic. Of course.

Aunt Faye was as gentle and gracious a woman as my grandmother.  She lived in North Carolina but only a few miles off the interstate so we tried to visit whenever we went south for vacation.  I copied this recipe sitting at her kitchen table.  She excelled at cross stitch, weaving baskets and cooking.

It does not taste like blackberries.

The batter is baked in a bundt cake pan and then glazed.  If you close your eyes and forget about nutritional value it tastes like heaven. With lots of purple clouds resembling cotton candy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Voting & a Fall day

Dressed for sucess. I learned today that our polling place (the local firehall) has not only candy for voters but also a really nice Little Free Public Library outside. These are the best and I'm sooo happy to see more of them springing up. They're adorably small, shelved boxes outside in community areas where you can take a book or leave a book.  Best idea ever.

As far as voting goes, can anyone tell me why I have been blessed with these texts? One allegedly from President Trump? I'm not registered as a Republican, so... ?

I was listing to Moody Bible radio in the car last night after the baby and I had dinner with a friend. Moody Bible had a little PSA about the importance of voting as a way to show love towards your neighbor. That a person should vote in a way that extends love and respect towards others.  I thought it was a really nice way to frame it.

Further along the lines of "who gives a crap about my opinion anyway" this came in the mail last week. It's the third time we've gotten picked for Nielson Surveys. They're actually quite fun.

It's very, very windy today with a front coming through.  It's Fall alright. A beautiful Fall day.  There is beef stew cooking and I just pulled bread out of the oven.

When the baby and I were picking up the little man from preschool a huge gust of wind came across the parking lot and filled the babies carseat with leaves. He was amazed. I'm pressing them in a phonebook to laminate and maybe the oldest and I will make a mobile? The sassafrass is from our place.

We hit a milestone here - our oldest brought home his first book order forms! Oh how I remember getting all sweaty palmed from excitement when these were passed out at school. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree hopefully.

Edit: holy crap I just got ANOTHER text from the GOP. Did one of my friends do this to me?

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Pass it along

What a beauty.

My sister sent me this picture tonight.  She made the cookies from the viewing recipe.  That is my Grandma's cookie jar she and I remember from the first farmhouse. Our Grandpa built a second, newer home on the property and Grandma had our uncles demolish the first one while she and Grandpa were on vacation (suprise!) but that's a story for another time.

Doing poultry chores wearing my mom's gardening boots, my grandpa's old jacket and an opal ring he bought my Grandma while courting her. She gave it to me when I was 16. One of the small stones has a chip in it from when she worked as a secretary.

Life moves on quickly, doesn't it?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In memory of my Grandma

My grandma passed away on Monday, less than a year after my grandfather died.  The day after his birthday.  This is my favorite picture of her; she was an absolutely beautiful woman both inside and out.  The hallmark of what a Grandma should be; unfailing in her kindness, dignity, grace and love for her family.

My mother's mother.  They were both shining examples of love and fierce loyalty to family.

She met my Grandpa at a social dance when he was stationed down south during the Korean War and moved North with him as a young bride to a new family and place totally foreign to her.

She, along with my mother, taught me to love the kitchen.  That cooking and care could be an expression of both creativity and love for family. 

In her kitchen she taught me to bake and can.

Before the farmhouse was auctioned I cleared out her recipe drawer next to the stove. Sifting through it I wondered how much the creativity of the kitchen may have been a comfort to the isolation of living on a farm in a small town.

For the viewing tonight I made a collage of my favorite photo and one of her handwritten recipies, then ran off photocopies for everyone in attendance.

Peanut Blossoms. Because she was the kind of Grandma to let the kids pick all of the Hershey Kisses off and leave the cookies behind in the tray.

Rest in peace and know you were loved.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Pasta, pasta, pasta

Our oldest son has been on a Play-Doh kick lately that borders on obsession; if he's not playing with his Play-Doh he's demanding to either make more of it from scratch or to watch You-tube videos of other people playing with Play-Doh (yep, that's a thing).  It's fun, creative play and it's inspired me too.  I've been practicing making pasta shapes while we're playing together and secretly, at night, I have been doing my own shaping with pasta.  

Besides my obsession with Pasta Grannies  I've found this video to be ridiculously addicting helpful.  
I couldn't do it without my handy Kitchen-Aid mixer with the pasta attachments..  With the main rollers I've made batches of  egg-noodle dough during the day and then pulled them out to play with after the kids have gone to bed.  It's mindless fun.  I've learned a ton and we get the eat the delicious results.   

A tray of fun ready for the freezer.

I've learned so far that: 1) I miss my ducks.  Ok, chickens eggs are great and all but duck egg pasta has a wonderful color and just feels special.  2)  I really should get some sort of large wooden cutting board to work on like the Pasta Grannies have - I've been working on the kitchen table (an old 30's thing) and it doesn't seem to work as a cutting surface - the pasta sheets slide around too much when they're being cut.  3) Play-doh is not pasta.  It's fun to practice with but pasta is thinner and dries very quickly.

These were run through the pasta rollers many, many times with fresh thyme folded into the dough.  Then I hand-cut them into strips, my attempt at fettucine.

Here we had it with chicken.  It's this recipe for creamy lemon chicken thighs.  Her version looks amazing and it was a really yummy dish.

Bow ties, or butterflies.  Wow, what fun to make.  I've used these as tiny accents to vegetables, a nice bit of bite and texture.

Salmon cakes and peas with the butterflies.

When I asked my oldest what he wanted for dinner yesterday he said "chicken and broccoli".  He doesn't eat chicken and broccoli, Daniel Tiger does.  But it sounded good to me so I made it for dinner with mushrooms - kind of a white wine "chicken Marsala" thing.  

I haven't used these little cavatelli yet.

And here's the sauce I made from all of the tomatoes in the freezer:

It's from Cooks Illustrated magazine.  You can't can it, it needs to be frozen but it couldn't be simpler.  It's very thin and as a result does not take much to coat the noodles - I put three containers of it in the freezer.

This fresh pasta is so wonderful in that I can make a batch of different shapes, throw them in the freezer and have them when we want them.  Frozen, they cook up in seconds.  It's been a really relaxing way to pass the time and something fun to learn about.

Friday, October 19, 2018

First frost, cheap seeds, squash dinner

I want to remember that we had our first hard frost last night.   The grass was all silver and sparkly when we woke up and the windshields were frosted over on the cars.  The kids were scheduled to go visit my in-laws for the morning so I took this time to dig the canna and dahlia tubers from the garden for storage.  I didn't go crazy like I did last year, I only dug up maybe 1/20th of the cannas in the garden. Picked the tallest and nicest, dug them and they're curing and waiting to be stored in the basement for the winter.

That's enough.  I'm not trying to repopulate the whole county with cannas, just next year's garden.

The garden is a disaster.  It is so bad that there is a tree growing in it, about 5 foot high, that I did not plant.  Nature did, and it was only noticed a month ago.   The whole thing is a mess that will require a weed wacker.  Something needs to change next season. This massive garden made sense when I had a farmer's market booth but at this point in my life I cannot keep up with it.

  I thought to move the geese into it since it is fenced, thinking that they could help clear it and get some free feed but they were absolutely uncooperative.  I did find these nice surprises: some more birdhouse gourds (the only things resistant to the squash bugs apparently), some tiny fingerling potatoes and a mess of beans that had gotten old.  

My oldest and I sat on the porch today in the sun and shelled the beans for fun. The gourds I'll cure and this winter we'll decorate them and turn them into birdhouses. 

This baby swiss chard was a bonus find, tucked under a canna plant.  

This little goji bush I bought in February did well in the pot and needs to be planted somewhere permanent

Our property has some kind of horrible weed, 5 feet high,  each with hundreds of these little prickers.  I was covered in them after a morning of work.  My pants, my shirt, in my hair.  I don't know what they are but they're the bane of the yard.

The local Dollar General store puts their seeds on clearance every fall and I was happy to luck upon them on sale today.  They're inexpensive to begin with but were discounted 70% and then another % on top of that  - tons of seed packets for next year - at a cost of 8 to 13 cents each.

Tonight we had acorn squash for dinner, it's so easy and the second time we've had it this fall.  Cut an acorn squash in half, scoop out the seeds and put face-down in an oiled cast iron skillet.  Into the oven at 400 until fork tender (half an hour).  While it's baking, cook some onion, Italian sausage, apple and greens in a skillet.  Add some pre-cooked rice to the mix  Really easy and good.