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Garden Harvest, July 20

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We dug a lot of potatoes, but not as many as Husband had expected.  We think maybe it was too wet this year.  And when we dug them up, we found that quite a few of them had already rotted.  I accused Husband of planting mashed potatoes in the hopes of harvesting mashed potatoes.  Instead, they were just mushy, stinky potatoes.  Still, we got a lot of good ones.

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We’ve had a few tomatoes over the last month or so, but not a ton.  The little yellow sunsugars have been coming at the rate of a couple a week for a while.  This is the first red one we’ve gotten, but it was small.  Still, it was enough to add to our lunch today which was…

rabbit tacosRABBIT TACOS!

That is a new one.  We’ve never had rabbit tacos before.  They were darn good.

Anyhoo, back to the garden.

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We got a couple of squash, too.  There are a lot more yellow squash growing out there.  The zucchini are not growing as fast, it seems (this one being an exception.)  And we had a volunteer squash plant come up and it’s been terribly exciting to try to figure out what kind it is.  We think maybe acorn.  I was hoping for butternut, but I’m okay with acorn.  Or whatever it is.

Oh, and we got a handful of green beans today, too, after I took the photos.

One of the cherry trees is not looking good; its leaves turned yellow.  So that’s sad.  And I accidentally mowed down a blueberry bush, and that’s sad, too.  And the pumpkins don’t seem to be doing much.

But the corn looks okay.  Maybe we’ll have ears in August.

And it is, after all, just a first year garden, planted in newly tilled sod.  Even Pa Ingalls said a first year garden in tough sod can’t be expected to do much.  At least we’ll have enough food to get us through the winter and it’s very unlikely we’ll have to live on potatoes and brown bread and convince Almanzo Wilder to give us a milk pail full of his seed wheat so we can live until the train comes through in the spring!  (Can you tell I’m reading The Long Winter right now?)

And this fall, Husband will till up the ground again, plus maybe a bit more for next year.  And next summer’s garden will be even better.

First Day of Fall Break

Fall Break began Friday afternoon, and I have a week away from my students’ faces. Today, though, I spend a couple of hours grading papers, planning lessons, entering grades, responding to students’ emails, and editing and uploading articles for the middle school newspaper.

Stephan is incredibly busy trying to get his business moved from the small warehouse he has been renting for six years to the pole barn on our property. It has taken more time and money than he anticipated. I’ve been wanting to help, but there is so much I don’t know how to do. I try to remind myself that I can help by making sure his laundry is done, by cooking dinner and cleaning up, by taking care of the dogs. I can help by making sure that he doesn’t have to worry about those things.

He always wants me to relax, though. “It’s your fall break,” he said. “You should take it easy.”

It’s hard for me to take it easy when he’s working so hard and feeling stressed out.

So I volunteer to make Monday Night Dinner. That doesn’t seem like much, but it is something.

I finish my schoolwork for the day, and I plan to go out on the porch to write. And then I remember that months ago, I planned to mend something that belongs in Stephan’s shop. I put down my notebook and my pen and I go to put an iron-on patch on the item.

And then I find out that the item is not safe for ironing, and I melt a big hole in the fabric.

Plan B quickly forms, and I patch the item by sewing a piece of cloth on the holes. Then I have to clean blue goo from my iron, then iron the rest of the clothes that have been waiting for a month to be ironed. Next, I assemble the item that I had repaired (for a few moments, I am sure the cover has shrunk in the wash, but I finally get it on the frame.)

I return to the house, realize that I might not have enough beans soaking for the bean soup, and so add more. Will mung beans taste okay in navy bean soup? I don’t think more navy beans would have time to soak enough to be soft for dinner, so mung beans it is. I really should have planned this out better. Just like I really should have tested the iron on a small part of that fabric instead of just plopping the whole hot metal appliance on top of the melty fabric.

Back to the barn to see if Stephan needs more help. I have only an hour to spare before I need to start cooking, but he gives me one small job to accomplish. I am on the verge of another, but then the ice delivery arrives, so I am dismissed back to the house. (I likely would be in the way of the four or five guys unloading three-hundred-pound blocks of ice.)

Toss the rest of the bag of mung beans into the bowl of soaking beans, and now I have no idea how much is actually in there and whether I will need to add more of everything else. Chop up the carrots and onions, and since I don’t have celery, dig in the cupboard for celery seed (will it taste the same? Who cares? With the mung beans added, it won’t be the same anyway), add the garlic. Unload the dishwasher.

I sit down for a few minutes and try to write. It’s not the best writing, for sure. I’m feeling nervous about the bean soup, even though I know our guests won’t complain even if it’s a weird soup. I’m noticing the temperature fall as the clouds cover the sky and my wind chime continually sings in the constant breeze. I’m wondering if the noise of it bothers my neighbors. I’m realizing I should probably take a shower before I get dinner started.

I turn and glance out the window to see the bright golden maple tree in the back yard, the leaves fluttering to the ground in the wind.

I think that perhaps I should have mowed today.

People come for dinner, and the soup is fine.  We talk, we clean up, and they leave.  I sit in the living room, listening to the sound of hammering and the whine of the circular saw from the barn.  The breeze blows through the house, ruffling the papers on the bulletin board and fluttering the leaves of the houseplants.

The first day of fall break is nearly over.

Life on the Farm

July sunriseI guess technically, it’s not a farm yet.  We have no garden, and our only livestock is our rabbits.  (We may have chickens by spring.  We are at odds concerning goats.  One of us wants them.  One of us decidedly does not.  The one who does not is planning to keep it a secret from the other that there is a raffle for a goat at Rural King right now.  Who ever heard of a raffle for a goat, anyway?  That is totally something that would happen only at Rural King.)  Still, there’s a lot of work to do, and we’ve been pretty darn busy.  And now that school is back in session, it’s hard for me to get much done.  Even so, there is much happening, so I’ll tell you about it.

SONY DSCThe first thing you should know is that this little kitty thinks she needs a huge dog bed to nap in.  The dogs sniff her, give her a puzzled look, and then go lie on the bare floor somewhere.

Gryffon, Gracie, and Nova get along famously, by the way.  They play together all the time.  The dogs lick her until she is almost dripping; she meows at them, but doesn’t seem to mind it.  Other times, she jumps at them, attacking their legs, and then she runs away.  Sometimes this results in a cat and dog chase all through the house.  Once in a while, Gracie and Nova actually share the dog bed and almost cuddle together… except that Nova has most of the bed and Gracie is half on, half off the comfy spot. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, the rabbits now live in a colony instead of in separate cages.

SONY DSCHere’s one angle.  You can see three of the four does.  There is a nest box because we’re hoping one of them is pregnant, but she doesn’t seem to be pulling fur or anything, so I’m doubtful.  There is also a five-gallon bucket just in case one rabbit wants a cozy space.  (I’ve never seen any rabbit use it.)

SONY DSCIn this photo, you can see the poultry feeder that we use to feed the does.  You can see the fourth doe, as well as the cage we keep the buck in.  I wish the buck didn’t have to be in a cage, but if we left him with the does, they might fight with him.  And if they didn’t, we’d probably end up with a lot more baby bunnies than we wanted.  So far, this new method seems to be going okay.  The rabbits are inside our small barn.  The colony’s boundaries are made up of hardware cloth and scrap lumber on two sides, and the walls of the barn on the other two sides.  There is a concrete floor covered in long grass clippings from our yard.  (My amazing husband made the enclosure entirely with supplies we already had.  We spent no money on it at all!)  We keep the rabbits watered with water bottles attached to the hardware cloth, but also a one-gallon poultry waterer.

In July, Stephan and a friend put a new roof on the pole barn, in preparation for it becoming the new place of business.  Here you can see the old and new roof, plus a pretty sweet view of the front two acres of our place.

barn roof

Weekdays are now filled with school for me, but Saturdays are becoming busy with work on the property.  Today I did two loads of laundry (and hung them on the clothesline), cleaned the bathroom (I cleaned the rest of the house last night — in one easy evening after school!  That’s one great thing about a small house!), did some shopping (trips to Rural King are becoming a part of life), mowed the grass, worked on some Christmas gifts (made with things found right here on our property, but about which I cannot tell you because it is only August and the presents are still a secret), and made a very farm-like dinner of smoked pork chops, German potato salad, sauteed squash & onions, and bruschetta.  It was a feast, and we needed it because we worked hard today and we were hungry!

The Husband spent today at the old house removing peeling paint and touching up.  He came home and rescued me after I got the mower stuck in a ditch.  Later in the evening, he got the mower stuck in a different ditch.

This is a huge mower, by the way.  It doesn’t get stuck easily, but when it does, it’s very difficult to get out.

Here’s a photo of me in July, with The Beast.

mowingStill, despite our misadventures of getting it stuck, I’m thankful for it.  It was out of commission for about a week (it was leaking hydraulic fluid and would run but would not move forward) so our grass was getting really long.  At least it’s working again.  I mean, working except for being stuck in a ditch.

Country life.  I’m enjoying it.

Venison Roast Success!

My big strong huntin’ man goes hunting every year for deer.  We usually get it processed in steaks, loin, ground meat, and roasts.  The trouble is, I have never cooked the roasts without them being incredibly tough.

Well, this time I did it!

SONY DSCFirst, I removed the bone from the roast.  Someone had told me that the meat is more tender if you cook it without the bone.

Then I seared it in a rippin’ hot pan, with a little salt and pepper sprinkled on the meat.

I put the meat in the crockpot and added Chardonnay, horseradish sauce, brown mustard, three jalapeno peppers, and some dried rosemary.  The meat cooked in the crockpot on low all day (about eight hours.)  It maybe wasn’t as tender as a beef roast, but it was the tenderest venison roast I’ve ever cooked, and the flavor was good.

Now I won’t be so intimidated by those roasts in my freezer.

Homemade Yogurt

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A friend recently gave me her recipe for homemade yogurt.

SONY DSCIt’s quite good, if you like plain yogurt.  (I’m sure you could sweeten it as it cooks, but we just eat it with honey (as shown in the photo) or maple syrup or raspberry sauce, so I don’t need to sweeten it ahead of time.  Plus, we like the tangy flavor of the plain yogurt.)

Heat 4 cups of milk until almost boiling (about 175 – 180 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Remove from heat and cool until milk is about 115 – 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk in two teaspoons of yogurt.  (Yes, you must have some yogurt to begin with in order to make yogurt.)  You may also need to skim off some of the skin that formed while the milk cooled.  At this point, I pour the mixture from the saucepan I heated it in to a glass bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap, wrap the bowl in a towel, and place it all in the oven with the light on.  (The oven does not need to be on — just the light.)  Leave the yogurt there for 8 to 12 hours.

Stephan thinks this is a little less firm than store-bought yogurt.  One person suggested adding more yogurt when making it, and another said she adds dry milk to make it more firm.

 

A Very Busy Wednesday

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Stephan’s out of town this week, which always puts me a little out of sorts.  I was just getting used to him being gone in the winter (what with being swamped with work at Christmas and New Year’s, and then traveling for competitions), but being on my own in the summer is new since he’s usually not very busy this time of year.  But he’s been doing a lot of sand sculpture, mostly in Ohio, so here I go again on my own. (Going down the only road I’ve ever known!  Like a drifter I was born to walk alone… So I’ve made up my mind.  I ain’t wastin’ no more time!  Thank you very much, Whitesnake.)

(In case you weren’t aware, Stephan and I live a musical life.  We often break into song — often they are songs from the ’80’s.  Fear not, though — we don’t recreate the hairstyles from the same time period.)

Anyway, after kind of wandering around all day yesterday, unsure what to do with myself, I got busy today!

I put a load of laundry in the washer and hung it on the line.

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(It still needs to be folded and put away.)

I baked two loaves of banana bread (now in the freezer) and four loaves of honey whole wheat bread.  (Three for us, and one to give away.)

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While I waited for the bread to rise, I cleaned out the freezer.  What a mess!  I can’t recall the last time it was cleaned out.  I moved several things to the deep freeze in the garage to make more space, threw out a few things I could not recognize, wiped out some gross frozen goo from the bottom of the freezer, and organized what was left.

While the bread baked, I tried to make a “work-out top” based on this blog post, but I didn’t have much luck.  I think the shirt I was trying to use was too big.  So, since I had fourteen old tee-shirts to use up (most of them Stephan’s but a couple of them mine), I tried another craft I had found on Pinterest:  tee-shirt yarn.  This craft worked much better.  And I didn’t have to worry about the size of the shirt or the fact that many of them were stained.  I made five balls of yarn and have gotten a start on the other nine shirts.  (I’m thinking of making a rug with the yarn.)

SONY DSCMy hand gets tired cutting through all that material though (and I think I’m dulling my scissors a bit), so I needed to take a break.  So I made myself a sandwich for lunch (with fresh homemade bread, a fried egg, fresh basil, avocado, horseradish, and spinach) and watched the last episode of the first season of Call the Midwife.

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Now it’s time to think about what I’m taking to the carry-in supper at church tonight, and maybe make some more tee-shirt yarn.

Bananas are yummy

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When I was a kid, I didn’t like bananas.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe I always waited until they were too ripe to eat them.  (I still dislike dry, mushy bananas.  I like them still slightly green.)  But I keep finding delicious ways to eat them.  I already told you about the banana ice cream.  I found another lovely recipe on Pinterest:  Fried Honey Bananas.  These are so easy and so yummy.  Stephan and I had them for breakfast earlier this week.

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Simple and sweet.  We ate them plain, but I think they would also be good on top of ice cream or pancakes.