It was another leisurely Sunday, by design, when the mountain of chores goes undone. It’s been a busy two weeks since my last post, and we have switched from a full on (if delayed) summer to hel-looo Fall, in the space of about three days. Today’s clouds and rainshowers were conducive to doing nothing, though I did manage the basics, and ran out to buy a hay feeder I saw on Craigslist too – I think I overpaid…hate when that happens. I had to turn the furnace on Friday evening, though was able to turn it off today. It may have been wet, but it was warmer than the previous couple of days.
Last weekend was delightful in just about every way, from weather to events. My nephew got married on Friday, in a beautiful late afternoon ceremony, to a delightful young woman. Besides the need to get dressed “up” and remember my manners/etiquette (dicey on both counts), it was a wonderful celebration of the two of them, and a great excuse to spend the weekend with three of my four siblings. My younger brother flew in from the Bay Area to attend the wedding. Due to the timing and various logistics, his wife and two children did not accompany him. He stayed at my place, as did my older brother (father of the groom) and my sister ended up spending a night too, as us “old folks” partied like it was 1999. I kid, but we did have a good time reconnecting, laughing and eating and remembering old times even as we made new memories we can giggle about next time. At one point I think I was channeling Bridey Murphy or some Irish ancestor – of course I was three sheets to the wind, as were the sibs, so the Oy-rish accent sounded better than I’m sure it was. The dogs did well with the commotion in their normally quiet household, and the weather cooperated for a hot weekend where we could leave the doors and windows open for more room and free access. And I just realized I didn’t take a single picture all weekend, besides the wedding itself. Weird. And damn.
The garden performed well for our mini-reunion (missing the oldest, my other brother in So. Cal. who didn’t make it up for the wedding), and we ate richly of meals prepared with the garden’s bounty, plus the hens’ daily contribution of fresh eggs. My brother made a delicious pistachio encrusted rockfish for Saturday’s evening meal and it was great to be able to run outside for ingredients as we prepared it and the side dishes, with fresh beets, kale, and culinary herbs as needed.
I’ve been harvesting pumpkins for the past week – there are dozens of them out there it seems. So far I’ve plucked 10, with at least that many still out there. They’re small, and of a variety that’s primarily ornamental. I don’t know what I was thinking – I’m generally not an “ornamental” person and even my flowers must have a secondary use, whether it be scent or herbal (medicinal) or bee/wildlife attraction – but these were the seeds I picked up at the local hardware store. I never did order seeds from any of my seed catalogs last spring due to poor timing and I think this was one of the few to choose from on the Territorial seed rack. They range in size from a baseball to a large Nerf ball; there may be some out there that are larger yet, but I haven’t picked them. They’re bright orange with lighter orange ribbing, and an odd blossom end that looks like an “outie” bellybutton. I see office giveaways in my future.
Actually, I’ve been giving a lot of veggies away. I had the obligatory zucchini offload at work a couple of weeks ago, and have given away kale and beets as well. And I’ve been cooking up a storm. I can’t remember the last time I had a meat meal, with all the veggie recipes I’ve been making. I made a vat of kale/chard salad last Monday night and am still eating it. It’s a delicious recipe, and very savory with red pepper, garlic, fennel, and parsley, tossed with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing. Another recipe that’s been getting a workout is the carrot soup recipe I got from my PCC class last winter. I have been making batch after batch and enjoying the goodness. And the kale/quinoa salad of the same class has been enjoyed multiple times as well. Today I’m going to make a white bean and kale minestrone if the beans ever cook all the way through. I soaked them overnight and they’re still taking forever to cook beyond the crunchy stage. I get a lot of great ideas and recipes on Cookus Interruptus, a fabulous site for healthy eating, not to mention entertaining videos when I have time to watch them. And maybe the Massaged Kale and Gorganzola Salad, too. This week I plan to make several batches of vegetable stock to freeze. I’m always making soup, and buying the aseptic packs of vegetable stock seems so wrong when I’ve got everything I need to make my own. I may end up buying a small freezer to put in the garage to store everything.
I canned some beets and some green beans a couple of weeks ago – both pickled, since I don’t have the right equipment to can non-pickled (i.e., non-acidic) veggies. I’m using a water bath canning pot, so need to use methods that have a secondary (primary?) preservation method – like vinegar, or, in the case of my jams, sugar. And speaking of jam, I’m planning to make a couple of batches of blackberry jam tomorrow night. I’ve been picking a quart or half gallon here and there and popping them in the freezer. Right now I have about three and a half gallons of berries picked, with all but a half gallon picked right on the property. I figured with the thrashing we gave the vines in June, when the pasture mower guy took his tractor in there, that I wouldn’t have many berries. Well, they were late this year (as was just about everything, due to our cool, wet start to summer this year), but there have been TONS of fat, full berries out there. I want to blame it on my bees, but I heard someone else say that blackberries are really good this year, so maybe it’s not just my little plot. It is probably because the region’s honeybees were desperate for decent forage by the time the blackberries flowered, and they covered the blooms. All I know is every time I went out to my paltry little patch with a quart container I invariably had to come back with a half gallon container. And that was WITH the competition from the sheep and the dogs. Daisy is following in the footsteps of the Rottweiler bitches I’ve had before, and is a champion berry forager. She may even turn out to be as good as Hannah, who could have survived in the wild, and Trinah, who was determined and smart and absolutely loved berries. Pal’s pretty good too, with plenty of rustling under the brambles to pick the fallen fruits (secondary to hunting for critters, I think). Farley will pick if they’re obvious, but mostly waits for me to hand feed him the choice berries, as have all my best-boys (Wil and Cutter in years gone by). Which I happily do, as I love feeding my sweet boys.
No sign of the bear in the past week or so. S/he came back about four days after the last visit. I’d gone outside to grab some kale out of the garden – the dogs were inside waiting for dinner so didn’t come out with me – and again heard the cracking underbrush close to the fenceline. I had a kale plant in one hand and my little paring knife in the other as I stalked toward the back of the property. I was near the chicken coop (which is about 10 yards from the back fence) when I realized I couldn’t tell which side of the fence the bear was on. If it had come out of the underbrush behind the chicken coop I think I would have soiled myself. At a certain point I realized it must be on the other side, and I put the kale plant and the knife down as I ran toward the fence line. I was torn with wanting to see the bear and the need to scare it, so it didn’t want to return and check out all the good smells (hunny!) over here. I clapped my hands and heard it crashing away, up the hill. I thought maybe I saw a glimpse as I got up by the back gate, but it was late dusk and it could have been anything, or nothing. Since then it’s been quiet. I had one evening where I heard a large tree limb crash down, somewhere out there, and went out to investigate (check the fence). I didn’t see (or hear) anything, but Farley came with me and got pretty excited in that upper corner of the property. Hmm.
My next post will be a sheep and honeybee update – hopefully soon.