Saturday, September 26, 2015

A different idea of date night

 Both of the girls were gone today.  So Chris and I took the time to spend together.

In the garden.

The weather is changing, so we need to get the garden to bed and prepped for spring.  We are determined to have an amazing garden next year.

Before we started weeding.  The front row next to my shadow has strawberries, I swear.
We did not get to this side though.

We have hauled all but one large piece of white carpet (Yea! Freecycle) to the garden.  All the paths are done and there will be enough to cover the beds until we need each one.  We are leaving the soaker hoses in the cornfield (one less thing to measure and lay in spring) figuring the carpet will protect them.
After on the North side.  
The Brandywine vines gave up and turned brown as soon as the first cooler overnight happened, but the various bell and chili peppers + the Hungarian Heart (two arches on the right) and San Marzano tomatoes are still giving it a valiant (and ultimately doomed) fight to ripen.
The strawberries and weed infested cornfield (with irrigation) after.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Finally, they may earn their keep

Found by child guest at our BBQ who HAD to see the chickens.

Hens usually start laying at 20 weeks.  Which would have been mid to late July for us.  But this year we started them on organic, non gmo, no corn, no soy feed that we purchased from a similarly minded friend.  Their hens started laying at 8 months they said. so at least we beat that.

Our friend ran out of feed early last month, so we introduced feed pellets to them.  The ladies didn't know what to do with them at first.  They were used to fermented whole grains.  So I soak these.  In water, leftover beef soup, almond milk (and hemp milk) that I found appalling, whatever.  So now they eat like we do - organic when possible, local when possible but we don't stress about it.

Party Prep

Starting coals @ 2am
Cleaning the grates @ 3am

Today is our annual last BBQ of Summer.  The invitations said 3pm, so we are already late getting the two 7 pound pork shoulders on the charcoal grill to smoke.  And there is another 9 pounds of beef brisket oven "smoking" since our grill is not large enough for all three hunks of meat.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

an unexpected intruder

In all my years as a neophyte gardener, I had never seen a tomato hornworm before.  It feels like a soft grub, it's skin dry.  We looked it up and it's moth is kinda cool looking.  Too bad.

Chris found this one, by our tomatoes. (go figure, right?)  It is only odd because the weather has changed, it is getting colder at night and the season in almost over.

I hope that it was not laying eggs. . .

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Girls in the garden

Adventures in stock making

Morning sun and nearly transparent chicken stock
 I am showing you the end product first.

This is the most beautiful stock I have made yet.

I learned to make stock while working as a sous chef (read glorified line/prep cook really) at a small French restaurant just north of downtown in Seattle.

However that was nearly 25 years ago and up until this particular batch I had forgotten some of the details of a good stock.

This is what I did.

I save chicken bones and parts I don't feel like using (turkey wings for example) along with onion and garlic skins, carrot skin, bell pepper and apple cores, celery tops and parsley stems in various gallon sized freezer bags in the freezers.  Usually when I need room in said freezers I will pull out all the bags and dump them into our 5 gallon stockpot.

I fill the pot with water, toss in some peppercorns or white wine if I feel like it and cook it long and low on the back burner.  I never let it boil as that leads to cloudy stock as the fat from the meat and the water glom together.  (Thank you internet)

I leave it covered overnight on the lowest setting (if you have a gas and a pilot light that will do).

In the morning I strain the stock and refrigerate it in a food grade bucket (or two) until the next day (or 2)  This is when I am especially glad to have an extra fridge downstairs.

Stock after 1st skimming
Day 3 (for those of you that are counting)  I remove the fat that has solidified on the surface and pour it back into the cleaned stockpot to cook slowly again for a few hours.  Again, no boiling.

This was the 2nd thing I had forgot until a Google search.  Skim the foam that has accumulated on the surface of the stock.  Riley likes it on his food.  I repeated this 3 or 4 times.

Jars staying warm
Meanwhile I washed quart jars along with lids and rings in hot soapy water and rinsed well.  I kept the jars warm in the oven set at its lowest temperature.  The lids and rings were in a saucepan of hot water.

A pressure canner is needed to can the stock safely.  The pressure and time needed is in the helpful manual that came with it.

Now they sit in the pantry along side some not so pretty rabbit stock.

And I don't need to buy any stock at the store and all it cost was unwanted odds and ends.

Yeah, I'm grinning.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Gold Medal tomatoes waiting for their turn in the water

Romas, Hungarian Hearts & Rutgers cooling in the sink.

Today we made prepped salsa.  The red salsa was made of 1/2 roasted and half raw tomatoes.  six 5 pints (one died in the pressure cooker) were mild and had cilantro.  The remainder was cilantro free and had extra chilis (mushroom, bishop's crown) from last year.  I expect there will be 6 - 8 half pints, but for now it is in the freezer until it cools down more before I fire up the pressure canner again.  Likewise the yellow tomatoes along with the alma paprika (white non bell peppers) have been diced and frozen for later although they may become soup.