Sunday, November 28, 2010


After three days of cooking and cleaning, friends and family, today was my "free" day, which means I was free to do laundry, pick up dog poop, and otherwise prepare for the coming work week.  But I also made time for baking bread.  Some people might not consider that a fun thing to do, but I find hand kneading yeasty dough to be very relaxing.  And then there is the end result - a delicious accompaniment to the last of the Caramelized Cabbage soup.

I have had visitors to the window feeder, mostly chickadees (as below) but also nuthatches and sparrows.  I may replace the oil seed with something like millet, because the larger seed doesn't fall into the feeding cups very well.

Now I am going to enjoy a blaze in the fireplace on this chilly night.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The memory goes first

Tonight I decided to make Caramelized Cabbage Soup, from Love Soup. I pulled two pints of broth (recipe also in Love Soup) from the freezer, plus what I thought was a mixture of cooking water from potatoes and green beans that I had frozen. The jar was unlabeled, and, after it started to thaw, was unrecognizable by look or smell. I have no idea what it was, and decided not to use it in my soup (which turned out delish, BTW).

The reason I was making soup was, in part, to clean out the refrigerator in anticipation of T-day leftovers. In the back of said fridge, I found a few apples left over from last year. They were in a bag labeled "Cameo". Yes, the same variety that in another post I claimed to have never heard of before this fall.

I had a third example of my poor memory, but I forget what it was.

New topic:

Seed catalogs! In a way, it makes sense that these arrive in time for xmas shopping because gardeners need gifts, too. And as every year, I am overwhelmed with all the varieties available. They all sound good. In the past, I have bought "sampler" collections of tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes, and have found some new favorites that way, but I'm going to be more selective going forward. I plan to rely on some old standbys and maybe try one or two new things at a time. Or, as I am doing with garlic, select several varieties with different attributes, and use them accordingly.

Any recommendations?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Old news

Do you reread your blog posts?  Occasionally I take a peek at what I was doing a year (or two or three) ago. One thing I was doing about a year ago was perusing the Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog.  Guess what?  I'm doing the same this year.  Once again, it was the first seed catalog to arrive.  The garden is barely put to bed for the winter and I'm already dreaming of spring.

One of my dreams is to figure out a way to protect my potatoes from voles.  I think they don't tunnel like moles or climb like mice, so all I need to do is block them at or near ground level.  I'm contemplating wrapping the potato bed in hardware cloth, sinking it an inch or two below ground level.  Unless you have a better idea?

Today I spent a little time in the yard, adding and filling bird feeders, cleaning out and organizing the garden shed and then packing it with all the crap that I'd left laying about the yard, retriggering the rabbit trap (I caught another opossum the other night), etc.  Now I can gaze upon the backyard without feeling guilty.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Itsy bitsy spider, and apples

While I was cleaning out gutters the other day, I came across this fellow:

Not anything like his cousin who snuck into the house in a ceramic birdhouse I planned on cleaning in the kitchen sink.  He was HUGE with a high squish factor, so when he climbed out and perched on the edge of said birdhouse, he got a fast ride out the patio door.  Spiders in the yard and garden are okay, but not in the house.  (Which reminds me - a week or so ago, I saw another BIG one in the main bathroom; he scuttled under the baseboard behind the cat box when he saw me coming.  As far as I know, he is still there.  Ugh.)

* * * * *

I spent a good portion of last Sunday processing apples in one form or another.  I started with some hard cider I "made" (no real effort involved, other than finding unadulterated fresh cider and then leaving it on the kitchen counter with the cap off the bottle).  I bought the cider on Tuesday, tasted it on Saturday, and deemed it good.  Unfortunately, I had some kind of allergic reaction to it - I assume from the yeasts.  Undaunted, I used some in this recipe (figuring the cooking would kill off the yeasts).  That was relatively successful, so I decided to freeze the rest of the cider for later use.  I tried to filter it through a coffee filter, which was not successful, and managed to spill quite a bit on the floor.

My previous attempt to use my peeler-corer-slicer was not successful, primarily because the apples I used (IdaRed) were too soft.  After some encouragement from Jessie, I decided to try again, this time with Fuji apples.  Ah.  Much better.

There is a bit of waste, but since I was planning on making sauce with the rest of the IdaReds, the cores, peels, and ends of the Fujis went into the pot as well.

The peeler-corer-slicer actually cuts the apple into a spiral...

which was kind of handy.  The naked apples were kept pretty by a solution of Fruit Fresh, which I also managed to spill.

Anyway, after several hours of work, I wound up with five quarts of sliced apples, six pints of sauce, three pints of cider, and one sticky kitchen.

For fresh eating, I favor a crisp, tart apple.  When Granny Smith first appeared on the scene (30+ years ago?), it was love at first bite.  Last year I tried Gold Rush for apple sauce and as keepers, and they were so tart, they made my stomach hurt.  They kept well in my unheated garage, and sweetened up a bit over the winter, but still very tart.  My new favorite is Cameo, which I had never heard of before this year.  They are just perfect.  I'm not fickle, am I?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Tuesday must be bath day

I have some video as well, but to upload it to blogger requires agreeing to something that is too long to read.  But you can view it here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Secrets revealed

Once the leaves fall from the trees and shrubs, one can see where birds have built their nests. Some nests I know of, like the ones in the juniper and the clematis. This summer I noticed a pair of cardinals frequenting the honeysuckle vine - sure enough, a nest, complete with plastic lining.

The Black Haw viburnum dropped its leaves to reveal another nest.

Sunday I cleaned out bird houses, shaking the usual twigs and fluff from the wren houses, but I was surprised to find no nest in the bluebird box. Midsummer I had removed a sparrow nest because it looked like a wren wanted to use the box, but nothing more was built.
This spring I was puzzled by rabbit damage on the cotoneaster - highly unusual - until I realized a rabbit must have been trapped under the living room  window overhang when it snowed. I didn't think anymore about it, until I found a little skull under there this summer.

This winter, if we get snow, I will try to remember to stomp an exit, to protect my bushes and prevent another bunny tragedy.

The weather was gorgeous on Sunday, and I spent about three hours in the yard, piddling around. I planted garlic in the raised bed by the patio. I suspect the voles have been tunneling under there and hope they don't like garlic. I also set up some of the bird feeders and plugged in the bird bath.  From my perch on the love seat in the West Wing, I can see four feeders and the bird bath.  Each feeder has a different kind of seed.  I tried mixing seeds one time, but birds that are looking for one type will scatter the other on the ground.  Enough of it falls there as it is. 

I did not think too many birds favored safflower seed, but since I saw a cardinal eating it last year, I bought it again this year.  Today I see the nuthatches and titmice also like it.  The chickadees have been using the clematis trellis by the West Wing as a launching pad.  I may stick a window feeder near there, to see who comes to call.

And Sunday I watered, watered, watered. We received about a quarter inch of rain last week, with none in the immediate forecast. I will continue to water until the ground freezes. If the weather continues to be as dry as it has been the past several years, I will have to set up an irrigation system for the vegetable garden. I'm glad I have not spent any money on rain barrels - without rain, they are rather useless.