Thursday, December 31, 2009


I have about 8 posts floating around in my head, all with themes, none of them written. I will abbreviate them with a list (for SHG) so as to get them down and free up some brain space. Heaven knows I need it.

1. Today the SB and I will head to a secret spot to purchase hog jowls for 99 cents a pound. Why secret? Because I don't want everyone and their brother muscling in on "our" cheap hog jowls. What are we going to do with 15# of hog jowls? Make guanciale, of course! We were going to start with pancetta but apparently jowls are cheaper and easier to come by than pork belly. One step at a time. Actually the place we are going is no secret, they are a regular business, just out of town a bit. They pasture raise their meats without genetically modified grain and without antibiotics. Technically, I guess it is "natural" though I expect it is closer to organic than some of the organic stuff from the grocery. I'll tell you where if you want but you have to beg.

2. I have made two small adorable sun dresses which I will post pictures of soon. No. Not for me.

3. I am making 2 loaves of bread a week these days. Time allows because I am on vacation. I yearn to be a housewife.

4. I am making a list of projects for the new year. Inspired by, but not as motived, as some other folks.

5. I just sorted through the seed packets. I am simultaneously pleased and disappointed that I won't have to order too much this year. This of course, won't keep me from ordering too many seeds, but I don't have to.... It is always nice to have choices.

6. The days are getting longer. Whee FREAKIN' ha.

7. Regardless of the weather and the dark, I love duck tending in all weather. I feel fortunate to be up at a time when you can see the sun rise. There is something about the sunrise, brief and indescribable that makes it precious.

8. I made this kick ass pork and beans thing the other night. Soaked dried limas cooked with some bacon and a onion/carrot/celery mix with a couple of pork shanks and a few bay leaves and some black pepper.... Some broth but mostly water. In the dutch oven in the oven at 375 (after heating it all to boiling on the stove). It totally rocks. Been eating it with some fresh corn tortillas from La Michoacana. Dee lish.

9. The SB and I saw the bees out a few days ago doing short flights. It seemed too cold, but I guess they know what they are doing...

OK - that is the current round up. Now I can start over on filling up the brain with loose items.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Who's training whom here?

As of late, that being over the last 4 or 5 days, the ducks have been somewhat vocal in the evenings. Normally, they just quack their fool heads off about mid day, when they have decided that it is time to be out scavenging in the yard. Lately though, they kick it up again around 8. Now the ducks don't normally go to bed until 9 or 9:30. By "to bed" I mean locked in their house. They are in their secure enclosure by dark to prevent evening marauders from taking them as an early supper. I have left them there to eat, drink and be merry until later in the evening, thinking that it is best to let them have access to food and water as late as possible. I have been somewhat at wits end with what to do with them when they fire up in the evening. At first, I thought they were distressed, but there didn't seem to be anything going on when I went out. And if they feel threatened, they usually go toward the quiet side rather than loud. When I hear them all I can think about are the 2 year old twins next door and the 3 year old across the back fence... Lord have mercy on me if the ducks are keeping the kids up .... The quacking can sound like maniacal laughter.

These recent events have nudged me toward the duck confit recipes, but I have not been pushed over the edge yet. Tonight, I decided that they just needed to go to bed early. I put them up at 8. That will show them. Unless of course, that is what they were after all along. Who knows the mind of a duck?

Sunday, December 27, 2009


We got home late-ish last night after a couple drinks at our local watering hole. The SB hadn't eaten much so while he went out to put the ducks up, I whipped up a delicious snack. Which was pretty much ready by the time he got back into the house.

A couple days ago I made some leek confit (from Bon Appetite October 2008) for a leek tart, but hadn't gotten to the tart yet. I had made several batches as I had lots of leeks from the garden that needed to get out of the kitchen. Basically, 4 leeks in 1/4 cup of butter with a couple tablespoons of water and a bit of salt and you cook it for 20-25 minutes on the stove top.

So I took some of this, added some of the smoked salmon my Dad brought back from his fishing trip to Alaska and a dollop of the cream from the top of the milk jar and brought that to a simmer and then tossed in the pasta and warmed it up. I added a little fresh black pepper. Nice to have some good stuff on hand for a midnight snack!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Season

The SB and I enjoyed our nice quiet holiday with the family on Christmas Eve. My family has a way of overlapping gifts. It is nice to all be on the same page. There was much exchange of food and food related items. Many donations to our local causes. Many of those also food related.

Christmas Day, the SB installed our dishwasher. We have always had a dishwasher in this house (except during the first 18 months we were living here and working on the house and we didn't have water in the "kitchen" at all, which made a dishwasher somewhat obsolete). He INSTALLED it yesterday, meaning the bottom panel was attached and the thing got screwed to the floor. Which now means that when you pull out the slides, the whole thing no longer tips forward. It really is amazing what small changes like that do to make you feel just a teeny bit more civilized. Mostly, it made me realize that I haven't cleaned around the edges of the dishwasher in a really long time, so that has to be on the list for the holiday week. This was one of my Christmas presents from the SB. The other, a book called Charcuterie. This is definitely going to have to contribute to the goals list.

I was inspired to do a list of goals by Kate's list. More on that soon. I have been compiling a list. Starting a fig is on my list too. I am still looking for a place to grow it, but I think it can safely be started in a pot.

I am hoping over the next day or so to get out and dig out the garden. I am hoping there are some delightful green greens in there, just waiting for a big pot of beans and bacon (one of the SB's gifts from the Cho fam, and totally spot on. I mean, how can you go wrong with bacon?)

The duck egg production has gone WAY down. 3-4 eggs a day, and today, only one, though I may fine another one or two if I go out later. Slackers. We have been letting them out for long periods despite the snow. They have found the waterways in the yard and spend lots of time making mud pies and eating anything green or that may have at one time in the past been green. They are very happy to get out. When it started raining yesterday, I had the irrational urge to put them back in their pen. But, of course, they LOVE the rain. It was just me that would have been miserable with the 38 degree downpour. More power to 'em....

And to ward off the cold and damp of winter, I started a tiny sun dress for one of my tiny friends. It rocks.

Monday, December 21, 2009


The U was closed today. The roads a total mess. I stayed home and did business from here. The SB and I lit out to our local neighborhood bar for lunch and tried to shop at our local vegetable store, but they were closed. I had the grand idea of asking them for their wilted and unsellable greens for the ducks.

The ducks are getting restless. They have been in for days now, and the two small spots of grass that were showing through the snow just outside their cage thanks to the SB's shoveling, have been reduced to mud patties. They are going to be in need of some greens before they get scurvy or something. I think I read that you can give them alfalfa pellets for some variety. But I will have to do some research... I would hate to screw that up and have their gizzards impacted or something. Yeesh.

They seem unmoved by the cold and continue to stand in their water bowls with ice chunks floating around their feet.

I started a recipe from Cooks Illustrated - cajun beans and rice. Of course, I didn't have much of the specific ingredients (small red beans, sub black) or andouille sausage (sub italian) but I am using the method and it smells pretty good. Though I reduced the liquid by several cups. It didn't look like it was going to fit in the dutch oven otherwise, and I am glad I did. It is about right with 7 cups of liquid instead of 9 (!). They simmer for a long time but it was super easy to put together.

The cat is slowly driving me insane. He hasn't been out in days. He is cranky. I am cranky. But I am not currently as cranky as I will be as I walk to the mall before the crack of dawn to catch a trolly to the university. City still isn't running all the buses tomorrow. Bastards.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


We seem to have weathered the storm despite having lost power for several hours and losing several ducks in the creek. We left the pen door open for them yesterday and when they got up enough nerve to leave the cage they went straight for the creek and jumped in. No small feat as it was 2 feet of additional drop from the top of the snow banks. Of course, they didn't plan on how they would get out... ducks being notoriously poor climbers given their lack of arms. Some of them did manage to get out. The others we had to dig an exit for... After that adventure they decided to stay in the pen for the rest of they day.

This morning I pulled some of the old straw out of the house and spread it around the duck run, but I think they prefer to sit in the snow. No accounting for tastes.

I have been working on some projects. Going through the bales of recipe clippings I have stowed away. I figure if I eat something new every meal for the next 18 or 20 years, I should be able to get through them.

I was making some new years resolutions (more on that later) and sorting out some of my unfinished projects both knitted and sewn.

I was trying to clean up the sewing room. Oi. Pick something up, put it down in another pile. Clear one pile into three other piles. Repeat for several house, throw up your hands and have a drink.

I watched our neighbor bring one of his twin sons down to see the ducks. That is about 100 yards in 2 feet of snow, carrying a toddler. It must be getting a little crazy over there with everyone snowed in. The snow is about shoulder level on the children. They seem to be enjoying being toted and pulled around in it though. It is pretty cute.

The SB spent the big part of his day shoveling snow. He did our front walk, a path to the duck yard, the creek escape route, then the front walks of two neighbors. When his is good, he is very, very good. Etc.

We walked up to Beer Run last night which was open. Lots of folks hanging out and drinking beer. Just sorry we missed the nachos, but they were low on supplies with the snow. Except beer. They had plenty of that. This may be a new hang out for us. So walkable.

I am currently scanning seed sources and dreaming of planting. The fall garden is under 2 feet of snow and I have no idea what that means for the fate of our produce. I guess we find out after then next warm snap.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

16 hours and counting

It has been snowing hard for 16 hours and if anything it is snowing harder than before with no signs of letting up. In a rare show of common sense, the ducks decided to go back into their house this morning. Only after I had shoveled 20 inches of snow out of their entire pen though. Shoveling out ducks made me very glad that I wasn't shoveling out a cow.

Friday, December 18, 2009

White stuff

The snow is coming down in droves and piling up like icing on a grocery store cake. It started around 4PM and by 5:30 on the way home my bus was spinning out at the stop sign down the road. That was hours ago, and there are fools still out there driving around. We have over 5 inches now for sure, maybe more, and the weather says the heavy snow hasn't hit yet. The SB and I went out earlier and put up the ducks. They will be snug in their little house for the night with lots of straw and each other to stay warm. So far there isn't a wind at all, so they should even be relatively draft-less. It'll be interesting to see how it goes tomorrow. I am going to have to dig out the entire pen to give them someplace to stand. What do you do when your are 24 inches tall and there is 18 (or more) inches of snow? My guess is that you head for the creek, but I don't know how well ducks can tunnel... I suspect it will be a long day for ducks tomorrow and Sunday...

I am planning on sledding tomorrow. Maybe just in a box down a hill, but I am going. It has been far far too long.

The garden is tucked under straw and Remay, and I have high hopes for some greens when things thaw off a bit. Surely there will be more carrots. I need a weekend that is relatively free of frost to dive in and see what we have out there under all those blankets....

Hopefully adorable pictures of ducks in the snow tomorrow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Growing up, one of my favorite things was my Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak. Although it is jumping the gun a bit, this verse fits the day very well....

In January
it's so nice
while slipping
on the sliding ice
to sip hot chicken soup
with rice.
Sipping once
sipping twice
sipping chicken soup
with rice.

Chicken stock with leeks, celery, carrots, potato, bay and parsley with some chicken and white beans. And of course, rice. If I am feeling really fancy, we'll top it with a mixture of very finely chopped lemon zest, garlic and parsley. Maybe some drop biscuits as an excuse to keep the oven on all day....

Thursday, December 10, 2009


All the things I am not doing....

Not getting ready for Christmas
Not keeping the house even remotely clean-ish (my pre New Year's resolution)
Not sewing
Not cooking
Not gardening
Not blogging.

If things change, you'll be the first to know.