Monday, September 18, 2017

Farm Aid

I went to Farm Aid with a great friend on Saturday.  I didn't even know it was scheduled but she told me about it and I bought our tickets in the first hour before it totally sold out.  It was an amazing concert.  The lineup included Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and Sheryl Crow among others. 

We saw a performer I had never heard of until earlier this week, Nathaniel Rateliff, who was awesome.  Here he is playing the song Son of a Bitch on Austin City Limits.  It's bizarre that people treat it as a drinking anthem when really it's a a sad, hard look at addiction and withdrawal. 

We also sat through the John Mellencamp set.  I can now say that I have heard most nauseating phrase ever written in the English language performed live: "suckin' on chilli dog outside the Tastee Freez".  Just, ew.

I had it in my head that this would be what the old-school Farm Aid concerts were: a celebration of rural agriculture with some great music.  Sort of part concert/part Mother Earth News Fair hybrid.  To a small extent it was.  But it also felt like 90% commercialism, 10% agriculture.  It was mostly due to the venue and when you have a sold-out crowd of 23,000 I don't think you can do much to avoid it.  An example - I paid $42 for 2 draft beers and a plate of mediocre nachos - which is the fault of the venue.  And although by the food court there were cutesy compost/recycle/landfill bins, we had lawn seats and there were no garbage cans on the lawn.  By the end of the show we were standing in a sea of thousands of beer cans, dozens of passed out drunks and the occasional puddle of vomit.  It was like being in a dumpster.  There were some agricultural tents; one out past an exit but they were kind of uninspired and not staffed as well as they could be.  There was a fun seed swap and I took some things to trade.  Came home with parsnips, ground cherries and a mystery gourd mix.

The music redeemed it.  There was a point where I was dancing to the Dave Matthews set that was just magical.  It may have been the haze from all of the joints being smoked around me, but for a second I didn't feel like a wife or a mother but like that like girl with dreadlocks dancing to jam bands a million years ago.

I was not a big Neil Young fan before I got there but even I was stopped short at the start of the set. It was an experience that commanded attention.   Rolling Stone magazine said that he "came roaring onto the stage like a feral beast finally let out of his cage" and it was true.

Seeing Willie Nelson on stage first with Sheryl Crow, in his own set and then in a big group set, was a treat of a lifetime.  At 84 years old, he looks great and the music was fantastic.  I was thrilled to see his beloved guitar he's played since 1969, the one that he's worn a hole through.  The best part of the night was seeing everyone on stage together playing "Will the circle be unbroken" that transitioned into "I'll fly away" that was just beyond words.  No one has uploaded it yet, but I'll keep checking.

And there was a point where Sheryl Crow talked about a local farmer who stated that he got into farming because he wanted to know that he was doing something every day that he would never be ashamed of.  Yep, that.

It was a glorious night out. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Garden, cooking, life & Farm-Aid

So proud of the garden this year. It's the nicest it's ever looked, with the least amount of work ever put into it. I have the time to go out there about once a week and it's rewarding total neglect at this point.  We're getting a ton of tomatoes and it's time to start closing up shop: start making pesto, drying herbs, freezing peppers, those kinds of things. 

Probably Sunday I am going to move the geese into this part of the garden to assist with cleanup:

The garden poultry pasture.  At the end of July it looked like a barren moonscape.  It really recovered and there's some butternut squash in there, turnips, buckwheat and weeds.  I'm going to chuck the geese into it so they can take advantage of the free feed and I can take advantage of the help.

It's been cooler this week which has motivated me to get into the kitchen more.  It's been fun.

The little man's favorite thing to say right now is "Stir it up!"  So we did.  We made banana bread together.  He had a great time pouring, spooning and stirring. For like a solid hour.  Success was questionable going into the oven but they were delicious. 

This week also saw a venison loin with mixed grains, winter squash and pears.

Always a favorite: breakfast for dinner.  Potatoes from the garden, our eggs, tomatoes cooked in butter and herbs until they collapsed.

Homegrown rooster basted with pumpkin beer.  The sugars in the beer really helped get a nice crisp to the skin.

Canned a few jars of pears.

While they were processing we learned how to use the jar lifters.

What else.... The meat chicks are three weeks old and needed to get out of the wading pool brooder in my garage.  Actually they WERE getting out if it, that was the problem.  Running around and pooping all over the garage.  The chicken tractor still needs predator-proofed and it hasn't gotten done.   My dad, God bless him, heroically offered to grow them out for me at his place for the next couple weeks to take some weight off of my shoulders.

Meatballs on the cross-town move.  If you ever get the urge to cram 16 chickens into the back of a Honda CRV, don't.  The smell is horrifying.  The white ones are Cornish Cross, there are three Dark Cornish in there and an Easter Egger the company threw in for shipping box for free.  Really hoping that little Easter Egger is a hen.  It has grey legs and a pea comb; both signs for carrying a blue egg-laying gene.

Fall is creeping up on us.  It was a beautiful misty morning today.

I think my son's "pet" garden spider died.  She was huge and laid two massive egg cases, now she's disappeared.  One of the cases has hatched.  There are tiny spiders.  Isn't this pretty much what happened in Charlotte's Web?  He's going to be so sad when he notices she's gone.

Exciting news: I'M GOING TO FARM-AID TOMORROW!  Can I shout that from the coop-top? FARM-AID! Willie Nelson! Seed Swaps! Workshops! Local food! WILLIE NELSON!!!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Canning fail?

Isn't this old ad fantastic? It's getting framed for the kitchen.

Been canning for about 10 years now and just had my first "fail", sorta.  There were a bunch of "really gotta use 'em" ripe tomatoes on the counter and I had no free time so decided to split up the work by peeling them and filling the jars at night and processing them first thing in the morning. They were left out on the counter because I had added the citric acid already and why not. The next morning I put them in the canner and brought the whole thing up to a boil together. I thought I was really smart.

Can you see the problem? Hello, headspace?

When I filled the jars they had the proper 1/4 inch of "head space" at the top. What happened? The Ball Blue Book tells me that they are totally fine to eat (thank God because we're talking 7 jars total) and it probably happened because the fruit wasn't hot when I packed it. Somehow this caused a loss of liquid.

But I still don't understand "why". They weren't put into a hot canner cold. Where did the liquid go? Everything sealed and the jars aren't cracked. It is, as we say here "A mysterious mystery ".

What a show-off. 

Anyone have a good canning fail? At least it's not like my pressure canner exploded or anything. Would you still use these?

Monday, September 11, 2017

The great Jamestown Fair

Jamestown Fair was held last week; my favorite end of summer holiday.  Or as I told my son, "The Farm Party".  The fair is dearly important to me and like I said last year, sadly, it seems to get smaller with each passing season.  I try to enter everything possible for displays because, frankly, if no one enters the fair there IS no fair. It is also my understanding that the fair is funded in part by the State budget so competing for the premiums is a good way to justify that line item when funds are dived up in future years.  

The fair may be small, but it's important.  And it sure as hell ain't going down on my watch.

So. Here's how it went.  This is what I rounded up to enter this year:

Eggs, veg, canned goods, flowers, herbs.  The day I gathered up things I was so disheartened.  Digging up potatoes to enter, it seems that I actually ended up with LESS than I planted ( due to mice?) and was also really unhappy with the quality of my flower and herb entries.  Was actually so pissed as to scrap the whole things but had told a friend I would take up his peppers to enter so....

Oh, my goodness.  Remember how I strapped this little guy to my chest in a carrier last year?  This year he insisted on pulling the wagon of entries.  Note to self: after parking waaaay down the block and pulling this to the school and nice security man on a golf cart saw us, gestured to the pavement right in front of the damn door and said "You know you can park here to unload, right?" Sigh.  

For the first time, I tried my hand at one of the baking contests and made a lemon pound cake from the King Arthur website (the suggested recipe).  It made two loaves but they were a bit too lemony for our tastes. 

Here's how I did:

Ribbons won this year. Wait, what's that big yellow one?

Third place in the King Arthur pound cake contest won this lovely tote bag. My first time entering a baked good contest, learned a bunch and will shoot for better next year.  Don't let it fool you, only 4 people entered.  It's a small fair.

Quail eggs. Sometimes there are so few entries in a category there is no competition.  I almost wish for withheld judging in that case.  My father summed it up best when he saw my ribbon and said: "Hey, your quail eggs won first place! Against... (Pause to gaze around, slight furrowing of the brow) yourself?" 

But maybe someone else at the fair sees those eggs and goes home and starts to look onto keeping quail. Who knows.

First place brussel sprouts.

Plum Lemon tomato, entered under "Named Heirloom". A mild, paste type that is a very easy grower. And look how pretty!

Anise Hyssop, entered under Herbs. A perennial that smells like black licorice.  I've read that it's good in baked goods like scones and coffee cakes, but it's kept here because the pollinators love it.

Part of the veg display.

My dad and our friend, discussing prize winning peppers.

The goats. My little man LOVES goats. These might be in our future come 4-H age. Meat goats, not dairy.  As usual, it rained the nights we went up. The first night the husband and the little guy and I stayed just long enough to leave ahead of the rain.  

A tri-color Mini Rex rabbit doe. This is the first tri-color I've seen since my beloved house rabbit Basil, who was obese and loved pancakes and Law and Order and would run to greet me at the door when I came home. He was my best friend. I should have checked the owner's name; there's a chance this doe could have been related to him.  Wow, do I miss him. And his buddies Henry and Pipkin.

(For anyone who knows me in real life that just read that last sentence twice - oh yes I did. Yep.)

The second night my dad came, it poured and we waited out a storm in the horse barn.  We got some fries and I wrapped a sweatshirt around the little guy's head as a makeshift hat.  My dad ran for the car carrying the little guy.  I carried the fries.  Not sure what that says about me as a mother.  Put the little one in dry clothes and we sat in the heated car eating greasy fair food.  These are things memories are made of.

We had a great time, won some ribbons, met some nice people, ate some fries and got rained on.  A good time all around.  See you next year, fair!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Pizzas, the fair, chickens and toddlers

My dear husband had a birthday last weekend and we did pizzas on the grill to celebrate. I want to make note of the dough we used because I lost the recipe we had been using and this one made a good crust.

For the dough:
1 pkt yeast
1 cup water
pinch sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
3.5 C flour

Into the Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook attachment for about 5 minutes. 

Rising time about an hour.  All rolled out before company came; cornmeal and wax paper between layers.

Toppings: whatever is in the garden, chicken breasts, quail eggs, mozzarella, olive oil, marinara, garlic.  I love it when we make these grilled pizzas but, honest to God, it takes me nearly three hours to prep for this.

Made 6 large individual-sized pizzas.

It was cold and raining so the guys ended up setting up the pop-up canopy to grill under while I finished the pizzas under the broiler.  They were delicious.  

In other news: 
  • It's Fair Week for me so the week has been dominated by getting ready, entering and enjoying the fun. Eating fries, etc. Lots of ribbons won and then some but that's for another day.  Actually because I have a 2 year old with me I'm not even sure what I ended up winning.  Guess I'll find out Saturday when I collect my ribbons. 
  • It's fall.  We've had a huge cold snap and the leaves are starting to turn colors. Not just one or two here and there but... yeah, a lot of leaves.  This combined with the Fair means it's officially The End of Summer.  I won't miss sweating but, damn. :(
  • The little hennie who adopted those babies like a boss has moved the family out of the old duck coop and is teaching them to roost in a tree.  The chicks are the size of potatoes and watching the little family settle into the pine tree for the night is nothing short of adorable.
  • Last but not least, my little man is starting to form sentences.  "Bye-bye cat!" "Not done!" "Mama, juice!"  and kissing both his beloved Bee and his little turtle puppet.  Be still, my heart.  I bought him a copy of the book Nursies When the Sun Shines because I haven't had a full nights sleep in over two years and am up three times a night.  Every single night.  We've been reading it but he's been less than impressed.

It's hard being two.

He seems to think the plot is part tragedy, part horror with some science fiction sprinkled in.  Thanks a bunch Dr. Sears.

Well, that's it for tonight.  Time to get some sleep before my 2 a.m. toddler wake up call.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Week in pictures

Just a few of the many beautiful things that happened this week.

A lovely goose.

Yellow tomatoes are ripening; Pineapple and Plum Lemon.

The poultry pasture was expanded and the gate replaced. Thank you!

Late summer sunflowers.

Beautiful painting on canvas.

Baking our daily bread.

Getting interested in insect collecting.

A beautiful teepee to hide in.

And a million other things to be grateful for.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Amazing apple custard pie

This recipe was given to me by a friend whom I worked with at a long term care facility (nursing home) years ago. He being a bit older than me (sorry, K, it's true) we may have seemed an unlikely pair to strike up a friendship but we had a lot of shared interests in common along with a high stress work environment and a not-so-happy-working-department.

We would pick the apples from the trees outside of the therapy room and he would take them home to make into these amazing pies, which he would share with favorite residents ( the elderly farmers who loved it when we talked their ears off). I, for my part, would "sneak" these old timers mason jars of strong homemade wine after secretly clearing it with the nurses. I think those older guys felt valued when I asked them for practical gardening and homesteading advice although more than one marveled that someone my age and gender even cared about those topics. And I learned a ton from their experience.

Let it be known to anyone who actually cares: I hate fruit pies.  They taste like flavored sugar and make my teeth hurt.  The "fruit" component is usually so lost that it makes a person wonder what the hell the point was, really.

But this.

Oh, this pie is different.

It tastes simply like warmed apples and spiced pudding.  Good hot or cold, with coffee or ice cream. Or call it breakfast.  My friend always cut his slices into neat rings to fill the pie but really, anything will do.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Geese pictures

I can't get over how much I love having the geese around. That being said, the big white Embden is going to the processor tonight along with some roosters. He weighs a ton when I pick him up and has been a little too interested in my toddler lately. Never eaten goose before. He'll be saved for the holidays and parted up for many Hank Shaw inspired meals.

 I think we're in for a real treat.