Monday, September 21, 2009

Cider anyone?

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I spotted this guy on the trail to Porcupine creek this afternoon.

It's evening... my favorite time of day. It's cooled off outside, the animals are all tucked away in the barn for the night with lots of hay, and the house smells of apple cider. And chowder. What more could anyone ask for?

I've got a big pot of vegetable chowder that has been simmering away.... lots of thyme, asparagus, sweet potatoes, zucchini, onions, carrot, peas, corn... it smells heavenly. But not as heavenly as the apples, cinnamon, and cloves. I've been making homemade apple cider this afternoon/evening. We picked some apples this afternoon and they have been cooking away on the stove with the spices and sugar for hours.... 3 to be exact. It's a lenghtly process, but oh so worth it. I want to smell this aroma in the house every night... the smell of what will be cider cooking along with the smell of the woodstove - I can hardly wait. We had a fire two nights ago, but it's not been cool enough again for one... yet. The cider is actually not hard to make and so worth the effort. I picked about 15 apples and lost about two to worms. You quarter them and put them all in a big (BIG) pot and put enough water to cover and no more. Add about 1 cup sugar and then put your whole cloves (4-5 tablespoons) and cinnamon sticks (about 6) in some cheesecloth (double it up) and tie it up, then pop it in the pot. Then you boil it for an hour uncovered. Then let it simmer covered for at least 2 more hours. Then cool - then strain and you have cider! I add a little more sugar to taste and only strain it once. You could strain it twice to get a clearer liquid but I like it this way. Also no need to peel the apples or take the seeds out since you'll be straining it in the end.

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I'm looking forward to this on a cold winters night! I'll be making more to save. You can store it in the fridge for up to a week, but you can freeze it too. I got five quarts.

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Today is an important day on the farm. It is Norman, our Chihuahua's third Birthday! Hard to believe, I know. But he's an entire three years old now. And he's doing awesome, he's gained weight, he's very active, and the medication for his heart seems to be keeping that in check along with his diet. He'll get a little nibble of chowder tonight, at least a bite of sweet potato. The Prairie dogs love chowder time, sweet potatoes are their all time favorite food.

I love these cooler evenings and sitting out in the barnyard with my big wool sweaters on and reading my half chewed up books. I can hardly wait to start getting pumpkins. My two volunteer pumpkins in the barnyard got eaten... by Chance. I expected as much. I'm going to fence a little area up there to plant pumpkins in the spring though - since they seem to like growing up there. We had great pumpkins two years ago. I can't wait until spring to plant a good garden since this year with our trip, we didn't. I hope we have a long wonderful fall like we did last year - as many of these cool, colorful days I get, I'll take.

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As you can see Max & Flav are getting along very well - they love playing together. From Max's first reaction I never would have expected this soon but everyone is quite happy. Except for Hilda the Pygmy who still wants to kill Flavious. But she wants to kill pretty much everyone. Except me - she's over that now but it's taken about three years.
It's a well known fact that Max is a thief. He steals everything and anything he can get his paws on, and if he doesn't shred it, he buries it in the manure pile for later. He can do this in seconds and right in front of your eyes without you noticing. He's that good. Thus why the book I am reading, looks like this:
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I have big news folks.... Maggie is sitting on some eggs! Maggie is our 3 + year old turkey (she was an adult when we got her and we've had her 3 years) and she has never, ever sat on an egg. Until now. I don't know if anything will hatch, but who knows. Gobbles is on guard duty, but then again, he's always on guard duty. I love sitting in the pasture and very quietly hearing feathers brushing the ground as he stalks you... he's bumped into me more than once. He is completely harmless, not mean at all, but it's hilarious how he follows everyone around, all puffed out, ready to take anyone on if he needs to. Max loves turkey eggs, but he hasn't been in the turkey shed to steal any, so they must be keeping him out.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

So this afternoon I gave up cleaning to go out in the bush with Kevin and mark trees for harvesting. We haven't even started that yet. It was cool this evening, about 55 degrees F. We spent a couple hours out in the bush and then I put the kids to bed and sat out in the barnyard having a glass of wine while Flavious and Max played. When we got home it was after 7PM and getting dark. I put the goats in and when I went to put Bucket and Bulrush in their stall remembered I had cleaned out the stall today but not put new shavings in. Normally this would be awful - I still had animals to put to bed and it was almost dark... so I'd be rushing and having trouble seeing. No trouble tonight, I just turned on the lights! I cannot express what a great feeling that was to turn on those lights and know that there was no rush, I'd be able to do all my chores and be able to see doing them. I sat out in the dark in the barnyard with the light of the stars and the barn lights. The dogs played and the horses and Llama ate their grain.

It was so peaceful. It was a gift I cannot ever be grateful enough for. Before I was even with Kevin I was doing the same thing, hauling water to animals in the dark without enough light. Nearly 10 years of my life I've dreamed of having water and electricity in a barn. It really is a huge blessing for me, and for the animals. Now they can listen to music and Christmas carols!

We had a wonderful time out in the bush. Kevin marked trees... I took pictures and tasted apples from various trees. The thing about living where we do and how we do is - you must go with the seasons. I wasn't going to go with Kevin since I had been cleaning and really had a ton of dishes, laundry, etc to do. But I decided going with him was more important and I am so glad I did. Our marshes are full of life and color, and I saw things that tomorrow might not be the same. The seasons come and go and I'm so glad I realized that cleaning will always be there, it will wait for me to come back and finish.... the colors in the marsh will not always be there. Soon the marsh will be blanketed with snow and frozen over, and everything will change. See it now, or you won't have a chance.

However the one downside of the entire evening is, it's not almost 9PM and I'm running around trying to get something made for us to eat. I did not put my crockpot on as I would usually do since I planned on cleaning and being near the house all day. I had made some dough for garlic fingers which I'm cooking now and I've got some mac and cheese (from scratch of course not a box) cooking. It's quick enough but yummy enough to be a good enough ending for the day. It's hard to run around trying to get things cooking in the kitchen while dodging a Chihuahua hell bent on getting any crumbs that may even come close to hitting the floor.

Kevin said the funniest thing to me this morning. He said that something had bothered him last night (his allergy) and I tried thinking of what it could have been. He said he thinks it was the snack he had at 3 AM. He said he had some eggs out of the fridge. There was a bowl of hard boiled eggs in the fridge for the birds and he stole their eggs! It was too funny. It bothered him just a little, he's fine and didn't react too badly too it. And thankfully the birds still had a couple eggs left!

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This is good!

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leaves changing color

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One of the three apples I ate

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Blackberries

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Black eyed Susan

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One pink flower poking through the leaves

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a horrible looking spider

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a couple of our trails meeting

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Caterpillar of some kind

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One of our marshes in all her glory!

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It's breathtaking

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me resting

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The dam is above water which means tomorrow we try and cross it!

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The sun setting on another marsh

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Will share the Mac & cheese recipe tomorrow - it's good comfort food. I must admit I have not used this recipe in um... five years. But that's how long it's been since I've thought of Mac & cheese until today!

Off to eat dinner and watch Les Stroud eat bugs on Surviorman.
This is a VERY exciting day for us..... after all of the hard work, and expense, we finally got to try the lights out at the barn and they work! The water is all hooked up and working too - will try it out tomorrow morning :) It's so awesome to go into the barn and turn a light on.... I cannot wait for dark so I can go to the barn and turn them on for the first time!

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I am a very, very lucky girl!

We are trying to pick a color to pain the kitchen.... we have dark green countertops and the kitchen and livingroom are almost one room, so the color has to go with the wood walls. It's not an easy choice. There isn't a whole lot of painting to do though. I love green but all the greens we both like just blend into the counter. It has to be an earth tone, warm, but not dark.

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It won't be blue - those are there for another project. I don't want yellow - I refuse in the kitchen. I have a love/hate relationship with yellows and we have it in the bathroom anyway. I love the blue's but of course that is not going to work with the green counter.... so it's a brown/beige/ or green.

a few pictures from this afternoon and then back to cleaning....

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Recipes

It's been hot during the day, but the evenings have been cool, which I love. I love fall as I've said before, and I love the cooler weather that calls for light fleece sweaters, a warm cup of tea, and a hot bowl of soup. Fall and winter are my favorite times of year to cook. When we are out in the bush logging it makes the work a lot easier knowing something delicious and warm is waiting for me at home!

We've been busy working on finishing the electrical work for the barn, and the waterline. Most of the electrical work was left to us but Kevin has done this stuff a million times before... so it's just a matter of getting it done.

Last night we had Broccoli soup - I just tossed it together and it turned out really good. I made homemade crescent rolls to go with it and both of us ate way too much. The crescent rolls are just a simple biscuit recipe. I mixed the dough in my bread machine, then rolled it out and made all the crescents. Let the crescents rise for a couple hours and then cooked them up. Nothing better than fresh bread or biscuits. I think these are Kevin's favorite thing ever.

For the soup, I took a couple tablespoons of butter and melted that in a big soup pot. I threw in 1 leek I had sliced up and washed well, using the white and pale green parts. I let that wilt for about 15 minutes. Then I added 4 small potatoes diced, and a head of broccoli. I added enough water to cover and two organic vegetable stock cubes (great when you are in a hurry!) and let that cook for about 1 hour or more, until everything was very tender. Then I used my hand blender to blend it up leaving it a little chunky. I added about a cup of milk, although I didn't measure, it may have been a tad more. I added a little bit of cheese, not a lot, about 1/2 cup of cheddar and salt and pepper to taste. I let that cook up for a little bit (while I went outside and put the animals to bed for the night.) Then I just added a couple tablespoons of milk which I mixed up with a cup of water so there were no chunks. This thickens it - you do not need to do that if you don't want a thicker soup, it's fine as is, but I wanted to dunk biscuits into it so I wanted it a little thicker. It was really comforting and we have leftovers for today.

This morning I did up a really quick, yummy, strawberry coffee cake. This recipe is worth sharing:

Ingredients:
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cups strawberries, sliced
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Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter

Preparation:Sift together the 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk, egg, and melted butter; beat 2 minutes. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square baking pan. Top with sliced strawberries. Combine 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle crumb topping over the strawberries. Bake at 375° for 30 to 35 minutes.

Here is how it turned out:

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Good way to start the morning with your coffee I think!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I have a bunch of photos to share! Last night was wonderful - after all the animals had been put in the barn and to bed for the night and all the work was done except for dinner, Kevin and I sat on the porch had a drink and just talked about the day. And the Smithsonian which we'll hopefully get to visit the week of the 27th when we are in Washington D.C. again.

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Goofy

Afterwards, we went for a ride in the mule to check apples. In the field we call the "tree field" since it's where the first planting of baby Pine trees went several years ago, we saw a Doe. She let us get up very close to her - and I snapped my first picture. I looked into the camera viewer and then back up at her, she was looking directly at me..... and I let out a little scream which thankfully didn't scare her away. It was GOOFY! My big, broad backed, old, skinny doe. She has been hanging around here for five years - and last winter she looked so awful I thought she'd die for sure. She never had a fawn last year either, but she does this year! I cannot explain how excited I was and how good my heart feels today knowing she is well and still here. She let me get a bunch of pictures of her and then just slowly walked off, her little fawn bouncing behind her. There is no mistaking Goofy, she has a ton of features that make her stick out from the crowd, and when you know an animal, even a wild one, and even a deer, you absolutely just "know" when it's the one you think it is. I know it was her, and I'm so grateful for her to stand there and let me see her, know she is well, and get pictures of her.

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A few of the apple trees are ready, but our best ones are not. I made jelly/butter/sauce last year the last week of September, so it's still early. One tree is pretty good, so I might pick some to make a pie as a treat. I brought Wramber (Haflinger) and Chance (Llama) home yesterday afternoon. They were of course not gone, but out on pasture which isn't close to the house or in sight of it. They were pretty happy to come back with the other animals. Chance broke his halter off so I just hoped for the best. He followed slowly behind us and then ran off into a field, but it was easy to get him in the barnyard with grain. I put both of them in our new goat pasture, since everyone gets along just fine. They love being able to come almost up to the house now... so like the goats and everyone else, they stand at the gate and stare at the house whenever we are in it. Max loves Wrambler and Chance and I wouldn't say they "love" him but they tolerate him quite well, especially Chance. When Max was a puppy and we brought him home we never thought Chance would be able to live anywhere near the dog, but then we caught them sleeping together and it's been that way ever since.
Our security system

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It clouded up in the afternoon and looked like we were going to get a storm, but it passed quickly with only a couple rain drops. I got 31 jars of pickles made up, so far. Of course, we don't plan on eating ALL of those pickles by ourselves, we share with friends and that's why I make extra. But we do eat a lot of them ourselves.... it's hard not to!

Storm moving in

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Buttermilk AKA Baby

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My favorite picture of ALL time! Flavious kissing Braveheart, our blind ram

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Lavender

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Oh the carefree days of puppyhood

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Yes, this is my bone

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Max wondering why the puppy has his bone

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Max giving up... what's a guy to do

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That was pretty tasty....

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This chicken left the barn a week ago. I've seen it twice since, but not for a few days. Well it showed up today just fine! Hard to believe....

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Kevin getting the power hooked up in the barn!

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r.
and no I am not rushing into winter or hoping it comes any quicker than usual, but I did finish three scarves! Have to look on the bright side of winter.... I can't wait to wear them!
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