Sunday, December 28, 2008

As Usual

Today I let the SB slog away in the yard by himself. The weather was fantastic, but I stayed in to do some cooking and cleaning and rest the weary bones.... did I mention his most recent task is digging the sediment out of our creek? 'Nuff said.

So I started by making this recipe again, though of course I didn't have all the ingredients, so I sub-ed some oatmeal for the wheat bran and switched up the flours some. All in all, it seems to have turned out fine...

Then I had half a stalk full of brussels sprouts from my neighbor and decided to roast them up. I got on line and found this recipe....Hmm, lessee, 1# sprouts (yes, that and then some), 2 oz pancetta (nope), garlic (yep), olive oil (yep), water (no prob). Cut the sprouts, add pancetta that I don't have so I use 4 strips of bacon cut in little pieces but I don't remove the "visible fat" (um, what are they thinking?). I throw the sprouts in the dish and put the bacon chunks on top and then sprinkle with twice the amount of garlic they say. Then I completely forget to add the olive oil, but since there is lots of yummy bacon fat, I figure it didn't matter. Roast at 450 for 35 minutes, add water. Stir. Not quite done. Add more water and wait a little longer. Yum. A close cousin of the recipe I was shooting for, and pretty tasty. Luckily, I won't have to fight the SB for them as he doesn't appreciate the sprout.

It is back to work for me tomorrow. At least for a bit. I am going to plan on several short days so that we can work in the garden in the afternoons. At least I have the time. And being away has been a huge treat.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tentative Good News

So it being a spectacularly gorgeous day (besides being Christmas) the SB and I were spending a good part of the day in the garden. After a half hour or so of working on digging the silt out of the creek, we took a break and I went out to have a look at the bees. There is a magic temperature, which I believe is around 57 degrees, above which bees will fly even in winter. They get out to air themselves out, forage if possible, collect water and poop. I cannot tell you how excited I was to see the bees outside the hive. They were a little disorganized, but out and flying and doing all the things that bees should be doing. I dashed in and whipped up some syrup for them and put it in the hive so they had snacks. Hopefully they will gorge themselves and be a little better for it. I really had very little hope that they were still with us, and I am hoping I still have a chance to get them through the winter.

The next project was to plant the fruit trees that we got earlier in the week. While we were planting, the SB got sort of tired of me remarking repeatedly how excited I was that the bees were still alive. He tolerated my enthusiasm though. He can be a good sport. While we were digging our neighbor (who, by the way of nothing, makes fantastic pizza) stopped by and chatted while we dug and planted. It made the time go more quickly and was a nice visit. We gave the trees the royal treatment. Kind planting, followed by a big drink of water, followed by spraying deer repellent (compliments of Santa Cho), hanging plastic milk/soda water containers on the branches (my neighbor swears by this), sturdy stakes set (to deter deer and help straighten the trees) and finally a dose of Roots, which is like vitamin water for plants. Tomorrow, I will be hanging the tiny bags of milorganite as recommended by Chuck at the apple farm. We're givin' it our all here.

Then the SB continued to work in the garden while I went to pick up our milk at the farm. Apparently, cows give milk on Christmas too. Lucky us! Then I worked in the garden more (this is how it goes when the SB is home, we get LOTS done).

I had to drag him in from the garden on the brink of starvation and on pain of missing a visit with our friends J&J who had open house over the holidays. We take any excuse to go by and ooh and ahh over their renovation, sit in the best potting shed in C'ville, and snarf up the general hospitality.

After that we went to do some cat and fish feeding for a friend out of town and had a visit with my mama and step pa and picked up the rest of the Christmas loot. Now we are tucked in at home, pouring through our new reading materials (the SB received a number of books and I got a subscription to Cooks Illustrated *swoon*).

All in all, I couldn't ask for a better day. It was filled with all the delightful surprised (yeah bees!), family, friends and good solid work with much progress. I hope your holiday was as lovely, but you are going to have to convince me it was better than mine....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


The SB and I returned to the FUF on Sunday. In time to turn around and head toward the south of town for a teepee party to celebrate the longest night of the year. That would be winter solstice. I have celebrated the solstice with friends as often as possible and in my heart when these friends aren't around, but this party was a little different. First of all, as stated, it was in a teepee and it was below freezing outside. There was chili and snacks and a whole lotta booze, including a real live jug of moonshine passed around the fire. There was also a mean wind and a lot of smoke from the fire. We almost made it to midnight before my feet turned into popsicles and I needed to go. It was actually lovely though. Something about celebrating with a fire and only somewhat protected from the elements....

Yesterday was cold too, but we drove south of town again to pick up the fruit trees I had ordered from Vintage Virginia Apples. An Arkansas Black apple, an Elberta peach, Green Gage plum and Seckel and Jim Pile pears. We got a brief pruning lesson and I signed up for one of the pruning courses they offer in February. Chuck (the apple guy) told us that they hang bags of Melorganite near the trees to keep the deer away. We are all for giving that a try. Then Chuck gave us a tour of the cidery, which should be serving its first hard cider in April or so.....

I had planned on working for a few hours today, but my car wouldn't start. And the key froze in the ignition. I think it unwise to ignore those sorts of signs from the universe. Very. Unwise.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Eat your heart out.

This is a shot of the garden. Today. That would be DECEMBER people. Spinach in December. Outside. Without a greenhouse. Just row covers.... BooYA. I am almost too astonished to harvest. Almost. I may wait to share it with the SB upon his return next weekend. It is supposed to be warm-ish until then so I think we will be ok.
This is the garlic coming up through the straw. You can see the hard frosts nipped the tops off. But they seem to be fine. These are the Broadleaf Czech. The parsley are still struggling along and there is arugula and some other greens still happening. I must say using this stuff gets tricky when it is dark. Sorting out what is baby greens and what are weeds is tough. I'll have to fire up the battery recharger and find the headlamps.

The headlamp came to the SB for the holidays one year. My family is often stumped by the prospect of purchasing gifts for the SB. He is quite particular about the things he likes. And the things he doesn't care about he doesn't want anyway. The headlamp was given after hearing me tell the story of him being in the yard until well past dark. Often still mowing. In the dark. He is a multi-talented person that SB. Anywhoo, it will come in handy for winter gardening and duck/chicken raising and goat milking.

This afternoon I stopped by my across the street neighbors to borrow my ladder back temporarily. They are building a chicken house. I spied on it. It looks REALLY nice. Still needs the exterior put on, but boy howdy, that is a good lookin' chicken house. I'll take the SB over there while he is home to give him some ideas...

I have a lot of projects for the SB during his winter break. I suspect they will not all be accomplished, but I will hold out hope for some.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I slept in this morning. It was all toasty in bed with the cat draped across my neck. I couldn't breath, but I was warm.

I then went out to take Cho a coffee since she is workin' the market and consequently freezing her butt off. I then stopped by my favorite local wineshop, missing the LB, but meeting up with a few bottles of wine for the coming evenings. I then tootled off to the local butcher for a hunk of beef to pot roast. Then the hippie food store and then the pasta place where my neighbor whips up some fantastic pizza by the slice. We made a tentative plan for him to stop by for pot roast tonight.

Once home I started the pot roast by flouring the outside and browning it in a pan then putting it in the crock pot with some turkey stock. Then did a quick tour of the garden - I stopped by to look at the bees.... There are quite a few dead bees on the bottom of the hive. It is the kind of number that isn't an entire hive's worth, so I don't know if they are leftover from the late summer battles to protect the hive or more recent corpses of frozen bees. Either way, I expect that this means the bees aren't making it. I hate that it is so, but I really don't expect to find them there in the spring. Heartbreaking, but I really do feel like I have learned something and I am most definitely willing to give it another go.

I took a nap (per SHG instructions) and made some granola (oats and puffed rice with almonds, dried apricots and apples with a few pumpkin seeds for color). And I did a little knitting. I have been trying to keep at the knitting. I don't do much in the summer, so if I am ever going to get through the absurd pile of yarn I have stashed in my craft room, I have to knit in the winter. So far I made the SB a hat from the walnut dyed wool. It was going to be for Christmas but I am terrible about keeping gifts - so I will have to take a picture and post it when he gets home. Now I am working on another project that may or may not show up under the Christmas tree. We shall see.

The rest of the day has been spent trying to balance a 15 pound cat on a lap that can realistically only accommodate about 12. 3 pounds. Believe me, 2.7 pounds of overflow is enough to inflict significant damage. Speaking of Kitty.... he left me a very sizable rat on the porch this morning. I guess the fantastic light of the full moon last night was just too good to pass up hunting by. I can't complain, it was intact and it was a rodent. I much prefer that to amphibians/reptiles/birds or half of anything.

The super exciting news is that even with the frigid temps of the last few weeks and the nasty chill and carpets of frost, beneath the floating row covers in the garden right now, I have.... Spinach! yup. I really can't believe it. I thought I was going to pull up the row covers this afternoon and find lots of wilty mush. Really, it is remarkably lovely. I will take a picture tomorrow. I love this winter gardening.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


So you have all been letting me get away with being remarkably dull. No pictures. No links. In fact, nothing interesting here on the blog lately. So I will try to beef up the content here and get things rolling. I have been reading this book called the Four Season Harvest, which is excellent. They refer to this time of the year as the Persephone months and describe it as the time when things really aren't doing much in the way of growing, at least in the garden. I think I am definitely there. Nothing going on, especially with the long cold spells we have been having. I certainly have hopes that some of my plants will rebound when this is over, sometime in mid Feb. The last of the leeks were harvested over Thanksgiving and are now languishing in the produce drawer of the fridge.

In direct response to the lack of garden stuff happening, I purchased two additional books. Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning and Root Cellaring. The first is a collection of "recipes" from old time French gardeners who have learned the art of low impact preservation from their families and mentors - I think Amazon has it as an electronic file for cheap. The second is how to store veggies in root cellar like conditions even if you don't have a cellar. It goes through what you can store and how and what varieties you should plant if you want to store for the colder months. All good reading for the many MANY dark hours of the current days.

I also made a new bread recipe from a website called A Year in Bread.

I can't wait to try more. I have been making the NYT No Knead Recipe (also known in my house as Magic Bread) so kneading was something I had to recall from many years past. It was good though. I love the feel of the bread when it is near done and it is smooth and elastic and quits sticking to everything in site. Little bit of a work out too, since the recipe makes three large loaves and in all it requires quite a bit of stirring and kneading. I have also been interested in this phenomenon... I have heard about it in a couple of places and really wanted to give it a try... Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Basically, you make a big batch of wet dough and keep it in the fridge and whack of a hunk and let it rise whenever you want. My papa bought the book and I was waiting for the review before proceeding, then Bang!, my issue of Mother Earth News shows up on the doorstep with the basic recipe and instructions in it. Lucky me! When I get through the loaves of sandwich bread, I'll give it a try. (I think they have even posted it on the website so go check it out.)

Also on the doorstep this week was Backyard Poultry. From there and from here, I found this website on homesteading. I can't wait to spend more time with it. They have some great info on chickens.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Overly Social?

Wow, what a whirl wind holiday! I took last Wed off work to clean the house. I got the entry hall and kitchen/dining area in presentable condition. The SB came home Wed. night with long time good friend from Maryland in tow. We went to our favorite bar to meet our friend V. Frenchstone. Whooped it up - drank too much and stayed out too late. I spent all of Thursday cooking.... Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, grapefruit salad, root veggies with ginger butter, and spoon bread. And apple cranberry pie. And other things. My friends brought fried rice, oriental veggies and roasted bruessel sprouts. All were stuffed.

We had 9 or 10 for dinner and a fabulous time was had by all (I think). We ate maybe a quarter of the turkey.

Friday we played around in the garden and ran about 6 loads of dishes. I had plans to make fresh bread for turkey sandwiches. No dice.

In the evening, a friend of the SB came to C'ville. She was retrieved from the station, welcomed with local lamb sausage, wine and Virginia ham and home made bread then whisked to aforementioned favorite bar. Where we met another friend who was in from Alabama of all places. We love her anyway. We stayed out too late and drank too much.

Saturday everyone woke up and had too much coffee then went to a friend's for brunch with her husband and family and where they plied us unmercifully with mimosas and champagne along with wild boar sausage, fresh ABC baked goods and scrambled eggs. Five hours later we were stupefied with excellent food, wine and vibrant and intelligent conversation and still managed to get out to see the exhibit at the local art museum. After that we toured Mr. Jefferson's University, shopped for books downtown and had a coffee. Then we ate leftovers. That evening we met even more friends at the Tea House. Where we drank too much and stayed up too late.

In the morning we just hung out. Guest #2 is French and made up crepes which we stuffed with fruit, meats, syrup and whatever else was around. Guests and the SB left around 3. I did laundry and then went to have dinner with my friend J, cuz I love her and cuz I was tired of leftovers. And cuz it seemed more like a break from the intensely social weekend somehow.

Although I was exhausted by socializing, I went to my neighbor G.'s tonight and had a lovely visit, which somehow didn't count toward the overwhelming surplus of socialization. Funny how spending time with really good friends is like that.