I'm so thankful for the October sunshine we've been having. It's still Indian Summer here on the plains, and I'm thrilled! It means we have beautiful days to get fall work done, and I have time to spend sunbathing before the cold weather comes upon us. Living so far north, we tend not to have days for soaking up the sun much after September. Some of us get a little more sluggish or bluesy or melancholy when the winter months hit. I think it's called SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and it tends to start and end about the same time each year. I know I feel a little more blah when winter hits so I'm always working on catching some sunshine each day, even if the weather is cold and I can't sit in the sun with shorts and a tank top. Since our bodies need the sun to make vitamin D, and winter doesn't give us much sunbathing weather, I take a vitamin D3 supplement from fall through June or so. Hubs and I also test our vitamin D levels twice a year to make sure we're in the "good" levels. I'd rather not take D3 pills or drops, but we have little choice in the north. There's an excellent article by Mommypotamus about why we should choose sun over supplements. Click here.
Have you also noticed that when the weather turns to cold, dark winter that there are more colds and flu? I think there is a definite link to the sunshine and wellness. So many of us don't spend any time outdoors since much of our work and even our play is indoors. I read an article that mentioned taking a daily sunshine break at noon. Instead of staying in for lunch, eat in the sunshine or choose to sunbathe over your noon hour. I like that idea. It's practical except when it's -20 degrees, the wind's blowing and there's a foot of snow on the ground. Better take some D drops on those days!
On another health note, OnlyDaughter sent me a link to an interesting article on the flu shot. With all the giant signs at every grocery store, pharmacy, and even the car dealerships shouting: FLU SHOTS HERE, it merits some attention this time of year, but a Johns Hopkins scientist says that the shot really is ineffective against the flu, and can be seriously detrimental to small children. Click here for that article.
(CarpenterSon's shop/garage, minus sliding doors)
In other news, the shop that was built for CarpenterSon is complete! The men did it all themselves and it looks great! Today I helped my boy brush on the oil to preserve the raw wood boards and batten that are the exterior of the shop/garage. I am so glad that he bought himself a sprayer so he could do the majority of the work spraying on the oil. I brushed around windows and doors and next to the roof line. Now he's ready to put up workbenches and set everything up the way he wants it. One more job that we were able to complete during this stretch of Indian Summer.
Yesterday the vet and his helper came to fertility test the bulls. I was in charge of fixing a lunch, and since Dad gave me another bucketful of his apples, I decided an apple pie would be nice. I have the very best pie dough recipe that I make. It was given to me by a farmwife many years ago and I still use it for every pie I bake. It makes a big batch of 7 single pie shells so I roll it all out and lay it in pie plates and then bake what I want for the moment and freeze the rest for later. I had a couple of frozen crusts left in the freezer so an apple pie was whacked up fairly fast! MMMMmmmmm good! I didn't get a picture of the finished pie, but trust me, it was good!
In a large bowl mix dry ingredients and Crisco together
until it resembles small peas.
Add egg to a measuring cup, whisk and then add enough water
to make 1 cup of liquid.
Gradually mix in water/egg mixture until dough stick
together.If needed, you may add a
little water or reduce the water, but do so by the tablespoonful.
Divide dough into 6 or 7 pieces.Roll out for pies.
*This dough freezes very well.I usually roll out crusts, put them into pie
plates and freeze with waxed paper between them and cover with 2 layers of
plastic grocery bags.So nice to pull a
crust out of the freezer and have a quick pie.
I hope you're soaking up the sun (in your soul and your body) on these short fall days and save it up for winter. And if you are in need of a cool down and rains where you live, I wish you that! God bless you, friends.
Fall is that special time of year when you start getting baseball bat sized zucchinis stuffed in your mailbox or trash bags full of very ripe fruit delivered to your door. My dad, bless his heart, called me first, at least, and asked me if I could possibly use a trash bag full of ripe plums. Ummmmm. Well. Sure! Yes, I could use an entire trash bag of plums for something, I guess. I thought to myself, if nothing else, I could feed them to the chickens.
The day arrived when OnlyDaughter delivered them as she picked up her children from a two day stay. Now it was time to figure out what I'd do. The first thing I thought of was jam. I had never made plum jam, but I figured I had the ingredients for at least one batch so I'd give it a try, not knowing whether or not Hubs or I would actually eat the stuff, or if we'd just leave it to age on the shelves of the canning cupboard for years and years and then let our children throw it away once we passed on. I'll write the year on the top of the jar just for conversation. I could hear them saying, "Geez! Mom made this stuff in 2014 and here it is 2044 and the seal is still good!"
First, there was the washing and then the sorting and pitting of hundreds of little cherry-sized plums. This was the time consuming-est part of the process, but I pressed on, hoping for the best. I always make jam to taste, not following a recipe exactly when it comes to measuring out the sugar. You never know if the fruit is going to be very sweet or very tart so I add the sugar a bit at a time and taste. One lick of the spoon and I knew this jam was going to be the bomb diggity. And it was! I had a glob on some fresh-baked bread and it was to die for! Then I had JJo try it that evening. She was floored by the flavor and took a pint home for herself. I took a jar to JLo's too figuring they might like to try it. Since the experiment turned out so well, I bought another case of jelly jars and a little more sugar and pectin and made another big batch of jam, and froze the rest of the pitted plums in the freezer for more jam later. Or perhaps Dad might want some plums for wine making.
The dreaded trash bag of plums turned out to be nectar of the fruit gods. So far we've had that plum jam on toast and on ice cream, and next I plan to use it as a layer in coffee cake. Can't you just taste that tangy sweetness and see that beautiful red swirl in the middle layer of morning coffee cake? Oh yesssssss!
Remember that cold week I told you about? The one where the low temperatures were hovering around 22 degrees? Yeah, that one. Well, it's long past and now it's on to Indian Summer, just what I wanted. Cool mornings, warm, sunny afternoons, and cool, crisp nights. It's good weather for me, and it's good weather for leaf-turning. The poplar tree in the yard is releasing its golden leaves while most of the other trees are just beginning to turn. Gold is the prominent color here except for some rich red Halogeton which grows in the alkali flats in some of our pastures. It's pretty to look at, but poisonous to livestock.
I've been doing lots of things lately. I took a hike with my son, GentleSasquatch, in Spearfish Canyon where we went to Community Caves and then to 420 Cave. (Here's a linkto his blog.) Both were steep climbs with high look-outs amidst sandstone rock caves. It was great fun. I so loved the varied mountain plants and awe-full views from rock cliffs. I kept wanting Sasquatch to take pictures, but we both knew they would never turn out just like we saw them with our own two eyes. S. made the comment: "The best cameras in the world cannot see like the human eye. They only wish they could capture what we see." True. He does have some nifty fotos on his blog of the views from 420 Cave if you care to take a look. Here's us (duo-selfie).
I finished up two batches of Zucchini Salsa. O man! It was good stuff! The only tweak I made to the first batch was to add five jalapenos to the recipe for a little extra heat. The second batch I added more jalapenos for more heat. The recipe was one of the very best canned recipes I've made. The taste and texture is a lot like Pace Picante sauce. Click here for the dandy recipe.
Our local sweet corn grower is calling it quits for the season today. JJo and I went a couple days ago to fetch several dozen ears of that delicious sweet corn to freeze. She processed six dozen and I did ten. By the end of the day, I had 44 pints of delicious corn-off-the-cob for my freezer stash, much more than Hubs and I need, but we can always share it with our kids and guests.
I think I'm done canning except for applesauce. My dad's apple trees are bursting with beautiful apples so I intend to get some homegrown sauce made and maybe a little apple butter too. Dad has an apple press; I'm hoping to help him press some fresh apple juice. Yum!
Our basement, which had the sewer backup problem, is now fixed. It feels like a totally new place, even though all that was done was drywall repair, texture, and paint, and a new carpet laid in the bedroom and living room, hall, and stairs. Oh, it's so nice. All I have left is to finish painting the closet doors and set up the bedroom again. I'm so blessed to have CarpetnerSon here to fix things up for me.
Now the men are on to a new project -- building a shop that looks like an old barn. I'm so excited. CarpenterSon really needed his own space to do his thing and so the men decided to go ahead and build it while we've still got the good weather to get it up. So far they have the cement poured and the rafters built. Next the walls will go up and the rafters too. They'll try to enclose it before wet weather comes our way.
I think that's all that is on my mind for now. One more thing that I've been thinking about, actually. From My Utmost for His Highest today, excerpts:
Show to the other man what God has shown to you; and God will give you ample opportunities in actual life. To be a disciple means that we deliberately identify ourselves with God's interests in other people. "That you love one another as I have loved you." God's life in us expresses itself as God's life, not as human life trying to be godly.
What are you up to these days?
The cold air descended upon us and thus the garden had to be harvested in a hurry. I plucked nearly all the herbs: flat leaf parsley and curly parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and the caldendula flowers that I use in my salves. I picked all the lettuces and a few tomatoes that had turned orange, the pumpkins were brought into the garage and part of the garden I covered with a tarp, hoping to selvage what I could after the freezing temps of the night. The root veggies would be safe underground.
This morning we awoke to just 22* so I was quite sure the garden would be totaled. Even the covered tomatoes and peppers were wilted from frost. Some of the herbs took it well though. Probably because they were clipped short. I'm not sure.
I'm thankful that I always have those lovely root veggies to keep my gardening going even if it frosts a few times. The carrots and spuds can take it and I like to keep them underground until the earth starts getting cold and freezing. I feel like I'm still gardening, but not doing a whole lot.
I began drying my herbs. I start by trimming off all the stems and letting the leaves dry on newspapers and towels. I prefer this method to hanging little bunches all over. It always seems so messy to me to strip dried leaves off stems and have everything in a crumbly heap. I prefer the whole leaves in tact. The process of drying herbs got me to thinking more about herb teas, herbal oil infusions and all that good stuff, which reminds me that I still have some lovely peppermint and spearmint to gather in. I forgot about them, but they seemed to fare the frost just fine. One of the good, herby things that I decided to try for the first time is Fire Cider. It's a concoction of everything hot: onions, garlic, peppers, horseradish, peppercorns (among other additions) all covered up with apple cider vinegar. It is left in a quart jar for 4-6 weeks with a daily shake to help move the good things around to infuse the vinegar. The concoction is then strained and honey is added to taste. It can be used as a tonic for the immune system or as a warmer-upper or as a tonic for colds and flu. I'm thinking it would make a good hot toddy for cold nights. If you're interested in Fire Cider, click here for a recipe and for a good video by Rosemary Gladstarwho is an herbalist who I think is so interesting to listen to. She explains the goodness behind Fire Cider.
Along with the cold temperature, rain, sleet, and snow came huge flocks of birds into our front yard. This is not the prettiest picture of our yard, but I wanted you to see how very many birds we had. These were mainly yellow-headed blackbirds and their young. Incredible gaggle of noisy ornithological specimens!
There are other birds that I've been noticing these past couple days especially. I've seen catbirds, several vireos, and warblers which do stay for the summer, but seem especially prevalent now. The Sandhill Cranes are flying over and sometimes roost in the big cottonwoods by our pond. When we moved cows the other day, there were swarms of swallows swooping, diving, and catching the little white moths that the cows were kicking up as they walked. All manner of birds are flocking up, and that usually means their migration is at hand. I'm just enjoying the days as they come and trying not to be sad about their leaving us again. Instead, I'm looking for the chickadees which sometimes come and stay through the winter months, and there are always the nuthatches and woodpeckers that keep my spirits high. I am also anticipating the hoo-hoo-hooing of the owls soon and look forward to taking the littles out owling!
Tomorrow will be a warmer day and I hope to continue clearing the old, frozen vines off the garden and pull up the dead bean plants and such. It'll be good to clean things up and put a few things away into the garage for next year. The three neighbor-grands will be over for the day and we will surely enjoy a fall-ish day together outdoors. There are already a few golden leaves falling from the trees. We might make a chai tea in the afternoon and have a cookie. Sounds good, doesn't it? I hope all is well with you. Thanks for stopping by.
It has turned cool here the past week so I decided to make soup for supper -- Zuppa Toscana and paired it with a fresh artisan loaf of bread. I thought I had potatoes in my pantry, but didn't. But wait! I did have potatoes... in the potato patch! I slipped on my clogs and went out to check underneath the straw to see if perhaps there were a few nice spuds I could harvest for my soup. I pulled back the straw from one of the withered plants and there were four softball sized Yukon Gold spuds waiting for me. Oh joy!
As you may recall, I did a version of the No-Dig Method of Potato Planting again this year with a small change. I dug in the seed potatoes just about 3" under the soil and then covered them heavily with straw mulch. When the potato plants came up and shot up a foot or so, I added another thick layer of straw. I only watered my potato patch 3 times this summer, and it was wet enough to grow potatoes along with some slugs (ew!). I only needed one of these large potatoes to make a small pot of Zuppa for Hubs and me. And oh, did it taste good. The Yukon Golds have such a thin skin that there is really no need to peel them for the soup. I've only dug up a few more spuds so far to share with my dad who is always so generous with me sharing his abundance of garden produce.
Dad and I were talking about our gardens, the ups and downs of each of them. He has fabulous tomatoes, beef steaks, that are bigger than the palm of his hand, while mine are pathetic and few. He has gobs of apples, and I have two. He has peppers galore, and I have a few small ones. My garden, however, has wonderful carrots and potatoes, pumpkins and squash, cucumbers and lettuces. Dad started telling me about his father's garden in eastern South Dakota. I was just a girl, and I remember walking through rows of tall, tall corn, and getting lost in the rows. Grandpa's garden was huge! His garden grew long rows of sweet corn, taller than Grandpa's head, and there were rows of spuds and tomatoes and carrots and beans and all manner of garden vegetables. Dad told me that Grandpa never watered his garden, that there was always just enough rain to keep the garden growing through the summer. That amazes me because I could not grow a thing here if I didn't have water. I cannot ever count on there being summer rains to keep a garden moist enough to grow and produce anything. After growing row gardens in the past and now raised bed gardens, I do think that row gardens retain moisture better than the raised beds. Do you think so? Mulch sure helps too, but I don't remember there being any mulch on Grandpa's garden.
I took old Tom Jefferson's advice this summer and planted a teaspoon of lettuce seed every other week or so and I have lovely greens at various stages of maturity. I haven't bought a head of lettuce all summer, and we eat a LOT of lettuce here. Salads daily. It's going to be hard to go back to grocery store lettuce when summer's over.
Are you hearing murmurings of an early fall and a hard winter coming up? I have, but I'm ignoring it all. I love summer so much that I refuse to listen to it, but instead I will live in the day and live summer to the hilt until it has passed into fall. Most people think summer is over when school begins, but I disagree. Summer is summer until it is gone (Sept. 22nd) and even then we might get a nice little extension of Indian Summer. I'm hopeful. I want more gardening, more homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers, more barefoot days, more sunshine on my skin, more flowers blooming and green grass growing, and more warm rains falling on pastures. I want more days with short-sleeved shirts and shorts, more sandal days, more days pushing the grands in the swings, and more birdsong and duckquacks. A pair of Sandhill Cranes are roosting in the big cottonwoods near our house at night. I see them fly up from the trees when I walk by in the evening. I want more of that too. Do you think I want too much? Enjoy summer. I am will be!
I've thought about stopping in here to say hello and tell you about all the things that are going on, but the days just keep on dashing by and I haven't taken the time to stop and blog. I took this picture for you on August 10th and here it is now August 18th!
I love the moon and so do all my grandkids. They can always spot her in the night sky as well as in the daytime sky. I think that's cool. The moon connects us all, in a way, since we all see the same one even though we are in different places and in different situations and in different time zones. I don't worship the moon, I worship the Creator of the moon, but I do appreciate the moon's beauty which gives me a sense of smallness in the universe. I think that feeling small is a good thing for me.
Speaking of my grandkids, I'm on Grammy Duty this week for several days. M&G brought Bee and Rootie Toot here to stay with us while they take a work-vacation. They arrived Saturday night and will stay with us until Thursday sometime. The cousins have been joining us for fun and playing too. By the end of the day, we've had lots of romping & roping, climbing rocks & picking flowers, making mud cupcakes and birthday cakes. They've pulled carrots from the garden to eat fresh with their fringed carrot tops on, and they've picked green tomatoes for their potions (which Grammy was not happy about!). I'm glad we've had nice, warm days so we can play outdoors for the majority of the time. Sleep is sweet at the end of each day.
At bedtime we read at least two books and then sing a couple songs. One night I started to sing Jesus Loves Me and Bee said, "Gram, sing one of YOUR songs." It' tickled me that she has now assigned certain songs to me because I introduced them to her and Rootie. Some of MY songs are: Home on the Range, I've Been Workin' on the Railroad, Get Along Little Dogies, Hickory Dickory Dock, Hey Didddle Diddle the Cat and the Fiddle, and more. All the grandkids are singers. That makes me happy.
OnlyDaughter and I spent a day canning Colorado Peaches a few days ago. We canned 24 quarts of peaches and split them between us. We also saved enough peaches out of our boxes to eat some fresh. I baked a peach pie yesterday and boy, was it delicious! I love those juicy globes of sweet nectar!
Well, my time is now up. The wee ones will be up from their naps in just minutes so I'm going to wrap this up and say good bye, and thank you for stopping by. I hope you are enjoying each summer day. Soon the days will turn cool and summer will pass. Look up and see the moon!
I see the Moon and the Moon sees me,
And the moon sees Somebody I can't see.
God Bless the Moon and God Bless me,
And God Bless the one that I can't see.
God looked down on me from above,
And He picked you out for me to love,
He picked you out from all the rest,
Because He knew that I'd love you the best.
A pop-up afternoon thunderstorm brought us a good rain, a half inch.
There was a lightning strike and another fire north of us,
but it was short lived and rained out.
Just before the storm, I ran out and picked a big head of lettuce.
This is a Butterhead.
My new Birkenstocks.
Playing in the kiddie pool with the grands.
Sunflowers blooming inside and outside the fence.
The subtitle of this blog post was going to be "Oh Poop!" Can you guess why? The septic backed up. Joe Dirt (that's his business name) came and pumped the septic tank but there was digging that needed to be done to fix the problem. Thanks be to God for good men who know how to do this kind of work. Our men rented a backhoe from town and had the problem fixed in an afternoon. Gotta love 'em! The backyard's a little messy for now, the bathroom still stinks, but I can flush and wash up the dishes! You know what Erma Bombeck said, "The grass is always greener over the septic tank." It was, and it will be again!
We had a nice family gathering yesterday with twenty of us here. I made Indian Tacos and all the womenfolk brought things to help out with the meal. The littles had fun in the spa (pool) while the grown-ups talked and while observing all the splashing and screaming. I made that really delicious Basil Lemonade, and everyone enjoyed it. JJo wondered if we could do something with all the lemon &
lime leftovers, and I remembered citrus-infused vinegar. I had an extra
gallon so we scooped all that goodness into a mason jar and poured white
vinegar over it. It already smells good and will be nice for homemade cleaning products. Ever tried it?
Addendum on Lemonade:
If you don't have sweetened condensed milk, you can add another 1/4 cup of sugar (or to your taste) to the simple syrup and proceed with the instructions. I have also used a combination of lemons & limes for a different twist. The limes definitely give it a really fun flavor.