Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Winging it.

Sometimes, even my best intentions go awry in the meal-planning department.  This winter, with all of its trials and tribulations, has taken the stuffing out of me.  As I stood in the kitchen on Sunday, I could not get inspired.  I was thankful that there was not a passel of kids sitting and waiting for dinner - the dogs are easy.  Feeding them is like Groundhog Day - the same thing, morning and night, day after day.  That is, once I found the 'perfect' meal for Bertie.  He is the only picky eater, dog-wise, that I have ever had.  Usually, I am up to my knees in fur and moo-moo eyes while I'm in the kitchen.  Bertie has only a mild interest in what I'm doing and whether it involves him.  He is usually on the couch or sprawled, frog-like on the rug, looking in.  After many fits and starts, we determined that he does not like his food mixed together, does not care for grain-free, organic, all natural canned food, will only occasionally eat an egg and only if it's NOT mixed about in his kibble, and will only eat poached or roasted chicken ON TOP of his kibble.  Some broth is appreciated, but NOT MIXED IN.  I could put wallpaper paste in the other dogs' dishes and they'd inhale it.  They could care less what's in it and how it looks.  The Hoovers go on and it's gone in a nanosecond.  Not so the Spud.  I must call him, get him started with a hand-fed morsel and then leave him.  If I stand there, he expects me to peel grapes for him.

Anyhoo, back to my cooking inertia.  I decided to make a pot of Jasmine rice and go from there.  Then I rummaged through my freezer and came up with a couple of pieces of my favorite kielbasa (as Debra so aptly put it - pronounced KOO-bah-sa) from a Polish butcher shop on Long Island.  I then fast-cooked a pan of adzuki beans.  Let's say that I had to fast-cook the SECOND pan of beans, as the first were left too long on the stove and turned to paste.  I'm not used to cooking such small beans, let alone having to actually pay attention for more than 10 minutes.  The second pan got fast-cooked with a timer.  At least I had the focus to not go outside of earshot of the timer and they turned out fine.  I decided to try adzuki beans because they are supposed to be more 'gut friendly', so to speak.  I may love beans but the feeling isn't exactly mutual, if you catch my drift...

I then sautéed some chopped red onion with some frozen chopped orange peppers I found in the freezer on the kielbasa search, and a great deal of minced garlic.  When everything went limp, I added the diced kielbasa and some chili powder, cumin and black pepper.  A few more minutes and in went the beans, then the rice.  It was good - and there was lots of it!  It held me for days.

I need spring.

I am currently working on finishing a pair of socks that my mother started - she has reached the point where knitting is no longer relaxing.  At 93 with sight only in one eye, I say she can do whatever she wants and I'm glad to help.  However, our knitting styles are very different.  That woman knits so tightly you could carry water in her socks!

I definitely need spring.  Soon.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Well, that was fun.


And those were taken when you could actually see something other than snow blowing horizontally across the window.

I decided to only shovel when there was a foot of snow. I shoveled twice yesterday and then woke up this morning to this.

Yes, another foot.

It was not all shoveling.  There was also therapeutic knitting and dog biscuit baking.

I am now going out to dig out the sheep, chickens and ducks.  See you in the Spring....

Monday, March 13, 2017


That was one of the shortest weekends on record.  Short because it was FUN!

Friday night, I hightailed it home (with a quick stop for a couple bottles of bubbly) to do a rapid round of chores and put the chicken in the oven in anticipation of my youngest sister's arrival.  You will note that I got a picture of my youngest sis (Auntie Baby) but not our dinner. 

We had a fab meal of stuffed chicken breasts with brie and asparagus, with a side of sweet potato fries and bubbly.  Joy!  The dogs were thrilled that their Auntie Baby was there just for them!  In my house, you are escorted everywhere.  Everywhere.  I had to put The Pepperoni in his crate so that he would not throw himself, prostrate, across her doorstep.

The next morning, Cynthia was on her way north to stay with our parents.  That meant that Auntie Connie could come stay with us!  She arrived with treats for the dogs and a Maple Latte for me!  And, before you ask, no.  No, you cannot have either of my sisters.  They are mine, all mine.  Another fab meal (and another bottle of bubbly - I suffer so...) and off we went to hear an English folk musician at a local theater.  You will not that this time I have a picture of the food and not the sister!  Ack!  Next time (and - more joy - there will be a next time, because we are going back to the little local theater for another musical event in April!) 

The leftovers

This was one of the easiest and most delish things I've made in a while.  The beans were from my garden (frozen) and were slightly blanched.  The lemon zest made all the difference.  We had a wonderful visit and Bertie was entirely smitten.  If she was sitting, he was leaning against her.  If she was standing, more leaning.  Walking?  Two steps behind.  The Pepperoni was miffed.

Not much was done outside, as the temperatures were in the single digits and the wind made the wind chill brutal.  I was forced to make custard.  Snort.

And wind another skein of yarn so that I can finish my tree trunk gaiters.  This was done using the lazy-woman method of ball winding.

We were pretty sad to see everyone go, though, as there was so much great conversation, laughter and music.  I had a late breakfast Sunday and caught up on a little reading and knitting before forcing myself to go out and feed the farm cats.

Breakfast reading

The dogs enjoyed the sun (on the inside) and I got caught up with laundry, thought about ironing, made my week's menu plan, vacuumed and swept, did more knitting, did a little straightening of the back room (before running out of it in terror), and contemplated my fig tree.  And wondered whether I will be able to get it out of the door in the spring.

Lovey guards Bertie's head.

Holey Moley

Too bad I didn't finish those gaiters.  We are forecast to get over a foot and a half of snow tomorrow and Wednesday.  I made sure I could get my hands on the roof rake and have 150# of poultry feed to unload when I get home.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Look out! Momma's been in the kitchen, cookin'!

It's amazing how much you can get done when you are up at 3A.  And it doesn't always involve knitting...

The third rendition of What-We're-Having-For-Dinner-Friday:

This is a special weekend - I am being tag-teamed by both my sisters!  Tonight my youngest sis arrives from NYC on her way up to Vermont for Parent Duty.  As is always the case, she rented a car and the forecast is for 5-6" of snow.  It is mostly south of us, so she will have the advantage of driving in daylight, but that's about all the advantage she will have.  I had originally decided on spinach quiche for dinner, because I could make it ahead of time and then just put it in the oven when I got home.  Then that was swapped fjor salmon patties, spinach and sweet potato fries, when I discovered four salmon patties in the freezer.  THEN, this came across my email and there was no looking back.  That was why I was to be found at 3:30A, blanching asparagus and pounding chicken breasts.  I did not have red pepper and completely forgot to brown one side of the chicken (it was the crap of dawn, after all and I only had half a cup of coffee down my gullet, to boot), but I will quickly brown the rolls in butter/OO in a cast iron frying pan with some frozen chopped peppers when I get home, then throw the whole shooting match in the oven.

If that wasn't enough, I happened to glance down at the previous offering on the Proud Italian Cook site and ZOWIE!  Dinner on Saturday night with my younger sister!  Oh, baby.  I did have to pick up the prosciutto, but had everything else.  My sis is bringing the cod.  It was a tough morning for the dogs, who are chow hounds anyway and not used to all this activity so early.  I was wading through churning, furry forms until I started to pound the chicken.  I then had the kitchen to myself.

Notice how I did NOT spend my extra time cleaning the house....priorities, you know.  If I have my wits (and camera) about me, I will take some pics of the finished products and of my lovely, wonderful sisters.  And dogs, of course.  Maybe a cat or two.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Needs Work vs. Work in Progress

As I was writing this post, the first headline I came up with was "Needs Work".  As in, Cordelia's egg-laying skills need work.

Maybe she sneezed...

That got me thinking about how what I say can have either a negative or positive spin to it.  "Needs Work" makes me think that I am belittling C's new egg-laying efforts.  If I said her egg-laying is a Work in Progress, that connotes she will be doing much better in no time.  She's working towards greater (bigger) things. 

I have had people tell me that they like to be around me because I am so positive.  Let me tell you, I am not, naturally, a positive person.  Far from it.  I have struggled with depression and low self-esteem most of my life.  I am cynical.  I am sarcastic.  BUT, somewhere along the zig-zaggy line of my trajectory through life, I realized that being positive was much better for me.  If I took a positive view of everything that I could, I would be happier.  I would be healthier.  I would be much better company.  As the years progressed, it did become easier to be positive (although it has been a major slog since last November) and it is one of the few good habits I have stuck to.  There are times when the cynicism and sarcasm bubbles to the top but, then, who wants to be stuck in positive all the time?  I'd rather be an onion than a daisy.

Speaking of conundrums (were we?), why is it that I can come up with a clever way to keep my torn tea bag from leaking leaf debris in my tea cup, but I can't remember why I was in the laundry room?

Monday, March 6, 2017

A New Shade of Gray.

Who would have thought that I'd be so excited about gray, this time of year?  Everything is drabs-ville outside and I'm fearing for the spring blossoms.  We had abnormally warm temperatures off and on for a while, which was then followed by plummeting (as in -0) temps.  Nothing seems to happen gradually and gently anymore.  Every time we transition from cold-warm, warm-cold, it includes a violent storm.

I digress.

Two days ago, when I went in to collect the two duck eggs so generously donated by my Anconas, Dimples and Gertie, I found this:

It seems Cordelia has decided to join in!  The photographs lend a rather taupe-ish hue to the egg, when, in reality, it is very gray.  It is rather lovely and she seems very proud of herself.  For the past week or so, she has been flapping around with something on her mind.  Or so it seemed.  I figured it was the lead-up to egg-laying, but she didn't seem to get the whole "lay your egg in the duck hut" thing.  Just in case, I blocked off all access to the nether regions under the duck huts and opened the door on Hut Two.  She seems to have figured it out, though, as she has laid one with the other two every morning since.  Woot!  Now we just have to get Dolley into the groove.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Handy Little Gadgets

Last Sunday, my dinner guests brought me:  firewood, homemade goat cheese, kombucha and the most amazing little gadget.  I may need to have people over for dinner more often...

I am absolutely smitten with this little gadget

Not only is it ingenious, but it is so useful!  I immediately went out and got a second one - and my other dinner guest ordered two as well!

The packaging is refreshingly simple and completely recyclable.

You inflate it by blowing into the valve at the bottom/top, and charge up the solar cell on the top (actually bottom).  Then, when you need it, you turn it on by pressing a little button on the top/bottom, flip it over and Bob's yer uncle!  My friend has worked out a solution on the one sticking point - the 'on' button is flush with the surface and - in a power outage where, not surprisingly, it is dark, it's difficult to find the button.  She put a tiny piece of cellophane tape on it.  Brilliant!  Of course, I want to be able to have the light both shine up and down, depending on my mood.  And the level of calm I have reached using wine for medicinal I am still trying to find a way of getting the valve to push up into the cylinder so it will sit flat.

Valve thingy to the left.  Little lights on top/bottom.
In techspeak, of course.
I got to use it the next day when, inexplicably, the power went out.  Thank goodness it was only for a short time.  I have yet to put it to the test of a sizable outage.  However, they remind me of little fairy lights and I might use them out on the deck this summer.  When I'm in a fairy-like mood.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

And I meant it!

Last year was the last straw with raising Cornish X Broilers.  It was just too creepy wading into the seething pool of over-genetically-modified poultry twice a day.  I said I wouldn't raise them again and I meant it!  But what to raise in their stead?  The only redeeming quality (and also, frankly, the creepiest thing about them) was that you could go from chick to freezer in 8 weeks.  But they go through high protein (read: $$$) feed like nobody's business and can barely lumber around after six weeks.

I had raised Red Rangers before and I did like them.  They took almost another month to reach table weight, but were much better at foraging and did not require as much high protein feed.  But, now that I process them myself, removing all those dark red feathers was not something in their favor.  Then the solution presented itself in my inbox:

Photograph from Meyer Hatchery
I just ordered Gray Ranger Broiler chicks.  I order my chicks from Meyer Hatchery (see website here) because they are a) cheaper than Murray McMurray, as healthy as MMcM, and their customer service is terrific.  I know they will take a bit more time to mature, but look at those feathers!  I will have to be diligent about clipping wings, as these guys (and gals) are a lot more active than the Frankenchickens.  That is another plus.  I can set up my electronet and give them some ground to cover as well.  Another thing I did this year, was to limit my order to my needs and my neighbor's (he who helps me process them).  Raising almost 30 chickens last year was too much.

They arrive the week of April 18, so I have to add another few things to my list - besides re-covering the hoop house, I need to clean it out and set up the electronet.  I will let you know how they stand up to the FrankHens.