Monday, November 17, 2008

Scratch that

So no risotto for me this weekend. I am still prepared, but my motivation began to flag Sunday after spending a big chunk of the afternoon outside. Examining the deer damage. Our lilac now appears to be only slightly healthier than a the favorite chew toy of a St. Bernard. The hemlock that had finally begun to rebound from the last deer attack 3 years ago now looks like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. Though with potentially fewer needles. I will say that I am a bit tired of changing around the shrubbery. I am beginning to feel the rage that some bird lovers feel against squirrels who eat the bird food. I am trying not to let it get out of hand though. And I am finding that my very expensive tomato ladders which do me no good because I can't grow tomatoes, do a fine job of deterring deer when you remember to put them out. Though I would rather deter some of those deer right into my (non-existent) freezer. And I found all this after placing an order with Vintage Virginia Apples for some new fruit trees to plant this winter. Hope/stupidity springs eternal though I suspect I have just purchased an additional $150 worth of antler scrapers.

Instead of risotto yesterday I made white bean and sausage soup with some chard using home made chicken stock. I must admit it was pretty satisfying. Simple and one of the 15 dishes that I can make with my eyes closed. I really MUST expand. Like her. I think her blog idea is brilliant. And her situation, um, somewhat familiar. I DO NOT have 100 cookbooks though. Really. Unless magazines count. You can't really count those though. They are slim. And if you rip the pages out, you can get rid of MANY of the pages. So they don't count. Right?

In other news, my first seed catalog arrived today (note to self, when this counts as news, you need to get out more). Can you believe it? Really, someone must be trying to capitalize on this economic downturn stuff. I read an article which said that 21% of Americans were going to be planting a garden this year. If that happens, I expect more people are going to think that ground hogs are not so cute and that deer, despite being beautiful, really need to be eaten - at least some of them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


It all started last Friday when my friend's husband made risotto for us, it was simply flavored with parsley and Parmesan and homemade stock. It was soulful comfort food and perfect for winter-y times when I am looking for reasons to stand next to the stove and stay warm.

Fast forward to Tuesday when I was chatting with my neighbor via cellphone despite the fact that she lives, literally, around the corner. We were both extolling the virtues of homemade stock. I happen to have a lot of stock in my fridge and coming off the Friday risotto event, I was inspired. So I suggested a risotto dinner over the weekend. I don't remember ever having made it before, but I am going to give it a try. I am thinking essentially the same thing that was made for me, but with, some teeny chunks of winter squash stirred in, and possibly some crunchy bacon on top. Plus a fresh green salad from the garden.

I have a remarkable number of greens still. Chard, spinach, arugula, and some other lettuce-y sorts of things plus parsley out the whazoo and about 40 leeks. The greens are covered with floating row cover, very haphazardly though effectively. It looks like someone left a sheet out in the garden. This is the kind of thing that drives the SB nuts.

I wish I knew how to harvest and store these greens well. My guess is freezing is the best way, but I am out of freezer space. My future holds a chest freezer, I am sure, but maybe not until the basement bathroom construction is finished. I actually priced them out a couple weekends ago. If we really get the garden and the orchard rolling $200 will really be money well spent.

This winter gardening thing really has me hooked. There is no weeding, no watering, few pests and delightful and nutritious greens leaping from the ground. Unbelievable. I almost feel like I am cheating. The big drawback is that one will need a headlamp to harvest because it is dark by the time I get home. In spring and summer I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at my plants. I mean, really, I just wander around and LOOK at them. So per hour spent, winter gardening is considerably more time effective. We are expecting extended cold temps next week, so we'll see how the greens fare in the weather. I now have dreams of tiny little hoop houses for my beds. I think it would be easy to do and relatively inexpensive. But honestly, there is a limit to the greens one or two people can eat. I am going to have to figure out who I can barter with.

I currently have more stock on the stove. My mama was at Whole Foods. She often picks up a pack or two of organic chicken backs and necks for me when she is there. The other grocery stores no longer carry backs and necks (organic or otherwise). Unless it is at the holiday season - I guess people make stock for gravy or something. I had a lot of veggie ends that needed a home and stock is a rewarding way to use up the carrot and celery ends and long leek leaves and the papery covers of garlic. It makes the house smell fantastic.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


What she said. What she shows. A good time was had by all.

UPDATED: Her too!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Not Lucky but Fortunate

I have no chance at games of chance. Even when I feel sure that I am going to win. I don't usually play the lottery, but there have been a few times where I was absolutely SURE if I bought a ticket I would win. Nope.

I babysit a lot. And I play a lot of games for 3-6 year olds. Most of them are games of chance that build skills by counting, recognizing colors, etc. They are not games of skill. If my charges were a little older, they might believe that I was letting them win. I am not. If it is a game that relies on the roll of dice or spin of spinner, I will lose. EVERY time. Seriously. I am not a big enough person to let a five year old beat me at Chutes and Ladders because I want to improve his self esteem. I console myself with the fact that at least I don't cheat.

Once I won a door prize. I got to spend a couple hours at a local spa with SHG. I think that is the only thing I have ever won by chance. Don't get me wrong. It was a nice prize, it was a fun time. But if you look at all the chances over all the years, some might call me unlucky.

I might agree. But there is no question in my mind that I am fortunate. Fortunate that I was brought up by people who knew how to do things and taught me. (I remember being in my Dad's kitchen at one point and him saying "I am going to teach you how to de-bone a chicken and it is going to save you a lot of money in the future." And it did. We made stock from the bones afterwards.) I am fortunate to have my friends and family in a beautiful place that is vibrant and supportive. And I am honored to be associated with people who are dedicated to creating things instead of simply consuming them.

Tuesday's election made me proud to be an American again after a very very long time. I know that there are many hard days ahead, but I feel grounded now and prepared to move forward. And in all the ways that matter I feel richer than ever before.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Remember that wool I was dying? Me neither, until I went on the back porch and remembered it has been out there. It is definitely getting darker, but not the deep chocolate brown I was looking for. I exchanged the walnuts for some new ones in hopes of deepening the color. Luckily I had put a whole bunch aside in the event that my friend wanted them, but since she didn't, I just popped the lid on the crate and dug in. The squirrels have been making pretty short work of the ones out there. I was watching them today scrabbling around for them. Then getting distracted and chasing each other all over the place. I couldn't blame them. It is pretty much what I did all day - eat and run around in circles....

No quiche made. Went to the local bagel shop with the family, went to work for a while to get set up for the impending interview season, came home and shuffled around a lot, shopped for small jars for honey and other jars for dry goods for the pantry. Selected frames of honey to process, processed one frame. Went to a friends for snacks and chatter. Came home and read about bees. It is way too early for bed, so I feel obligated to stay up even though my eyelids are drooping...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Apples, Greens and Honey

I have a temporary renter right now. He is staying for about 2 weeks. This in addition to my long term renter. My temporary renter (TR) paid me for his rent today. In cash. It is EXTREMELY dangerous to have large wads of cash in hand while there is a food festival in the plans....

The day started by having breakfast with the TR. We had lots of coffee and chatted about C'ville and Austin where he is currently living and thinking of fleeing due to the heat. Then I did a little sewing for the LB (finally, JFC) and baked some bread and visited the bees. I took them some syrup, though it didn't look like they needed any more. They still had a lot, though there were bees bellied up to the sugar bar. I replaced it anyway so that it wouldn't get old and moldy. Things were looking pretty grim. It appeared that some of the honey in the super was disappearing. There were bees flying in and out, but they didn't seem to be greeted by guard bees. I was pretty convinced that the hive had already gone down and the bees coming and going were just robbers taking the rest of the honey.

I went to the Vintage Virginia Apple Festival with a heavy heart. I bought a lot of apples and some cider and skeedattled- which was good cuz I coulda spent a lot of money there. I wasn't in any mood for having fun. On the way home I decided to go back out to the bee hive and take the super off. If it was just robber bees getting the honey, I might as well have it. So I fired up the smoker and put on the suit and headed out while it was still warm and sunny. I took off the super and poked around in the hive boxes. It actually was looking better than I though. There was a mass of bees, though not huge, it existed, which I wasn't expecting, and there was honey above them, which is what they need. It didn't look like any of that had disappeared. There was even some pollen on one side of one of the frames. So I tucked everything back in but brought the super in with me. I am going to save some frames to put back out in an emergency, but I will process some more as well.

I went back in the house encouraged though still skeptical of their survival. I opened the box that came from Brushy Mountain Bee Catalog earlier this week and unpacked my division board feeder, bee brush, and pollen substitute. The pollen substitute is something like TVP, though I expect it tastes better. I have to mix it up with syrup and make it into patties. But the stupid recipe calls for weights of pollen sub.... It goes something like 1 part pollen sub to 1.7 parts syrup by weight. I have never been a math whiz and this taxes my mental abilities as well as equipment availability.....Why can't they just put it in 100 calorie packs like they do everything else. Sheesh.

After that I went out and picked greens from the garden. I know it was a warm day and all, but this is NOVEMBER. I think I am going to be addicted to this winter gardening thing. I will get an earlier start next year though. I have things covered with floating row covers right now to keep the worst of the frost off. Check out what I got.

Some of the very bright colored chard is from the VERY early spring. I am not kidding. I started this stuff called Five Color Silverbeet by seed inside in like February. I put it out in March or April and I have been getting Silverbeet (same as Chard) from these plants since. AMAZING. The leaves are a little smaller, but dang. It is pretty rewarding. Plus there are newer chard plants in the garden now along with some spinach.

I made up a mess o greens like last week. With bacon, a leek from the garden and the greens. And a white wine and chicken stock to get the wilting going. I plan to put this into a quiche maybe tomorrow. If I am motivated enough to make a pie crust. It has been a while. I also cooked up a mess o apples that had been sitting around sauteed them in butter and a little brown sugar and some cinnamon so that I can mix them in with my breakfast yogurt and granola.

Now I am going to babysit. Don't forget to fall back.