Thursday, March 26, 2015

That's What Muck Boots'll Getcha

Spring is finally springing around here!  AND!  I'm able to post a picture finally!  Yesterday we had a fox visit and today we had 8 turkeys strolling through the yard leaving their bounty of fertilizer in their wake.  You can see, we actually have some grass showing on the windswept parts of the yard.  It was a long and very cold winter here and so much snow.  We ended up with over 7 feet of snowfall in the span of about 4 weeks and I for one am not sad to see it go.  Be gone, ye cold, white curse!

As I walked through my side entry way the other day, this is the site that greeted me.  I chuckled because wearing anything else in our yard right now is a fool's folly.  The mud is copious.  I have basically given up trying to get the boots to land in the boot trays and having the boys "be careful!" of my clean floors.  I don't mop my floors anyways, mostly because it's pretty impossible with the finish mostly removed from them, so I scrub a bit and vacuum them when the need arises.  It's a futile task this time of year, anyways. I'm considering myself mostly lucky if I can get them to take the boots off at the door rather then tracking through the house in them.  So, in a way, this unsightly pile of boots is a victory for me.  Everyone remembered to remove them, yay, Peacemom!

While I'm awaiting all the wonderful flowers that will be peeking through the snow soon, like the ones above and all the different types of daffodils we have here, I've been plucking away at the to do list.  For the past three months, I've not really felt like doing much, been in a serious winter funk.  Outside of keeping the house remotely clean, stocking the wood box, keeping the wood stove going all day, I've not accomplished all that much.  Well, I did make and can lots of bone broth, canned my first meat (pork and chicken) and canned lots of dry beans.  I use beans in a lot of things, I kind of sneak them into things like tacos, soups, and casseroles.  We've been on a meat reduction of sorts around here, and using beans stretches the meat factor a lot and provides us with healthy fiber and protein.  I try to can what I'm able to do in the off season, like beans and meat so that when the garden is overflowing I don't have to worry about the staples.  I've got what I need, already canned, and that's a relief. I've been enjoying canning the meat and beans and having them ready to serve.  If I have a night where I run out of time to do something, I can open up a can of black beans and pork and have tacos in minutes...or chili, or some of the soup I also canned.  It's like having my own fast food restaurant, only much, much better.
The list of "to do" right now is very long.  I spent a good portion of the day today pruning back a very large forsythia bush outside our screen porch.  It has been a good many years since it's seen some pruners, and it proved a formidable opponent.  It provides almost the only privacy from our neighbors house, so I don't want to over-trim it, but it's gotten so that it's spreading almost into the only flat spot for us to put a table outside, so it needed to be done.  Forsythia can get CRAZY if it's not kept in check.  I also need to get to all of the lilac bushes here, there are many, that have also not been maintained in many years.  I have decided to do all of these while the bugs are not out and there is still snow on the ground.  I can't get to the vegetable garden yet, which is currently under about 2 1/2 feet of snow still, so I'll occupy myself with the pruning duties.  The flower beds here are wonderful, but take a lot of maintenance in the spring and fall.  This is the first time we'll be here for both fall and spring and so I did what I could on the clean up for the fall, but didn't get to all of the beds, so will still need to do plenty of raking and such to get them looking good for the summer. 

In honor or spring, these young ladies have finally begun laying in earnest again.  We did have one or two that continued to lay over the winter, but now that the daylight is longer, they all are back on track.  I have been making quiches quite a bit because nothing uses up eggs like a quiche.  One spinach and cheese will use up 9 eggs at once, so that's always good.  Also another nice quick meal idea as well.  Takes time to bake it, but I can throw one together in about 10 minutes and in another 40 have a delicious hot meal on the table with little effort.  I have one white egg layer named Essex.  She was my free "mystery" bird from Murray McMurray last year, and we were finally able to deduce that she is a Golden Penciled Hamburg.  She is my only egg layer that lays white eggs. Our Egyptian Fayoumi used to lay white eggs, but she stopped laying after the illness that swept the coop a couple of years ago and she's now just our cranky old alarm clock.  She likes to roost in the rafters of the pen rather then joining the others in the coop at night.  And she's a very vocal greeting in the morning, sounding loudly something like ggrrrrrrrrraaaaacckkkkkk!!!!  We affectionately call her Grumpy Old Bitch even though her name is actually Wilma.  So, I have been saving the white eggs from Essex to color for Easter.  I've reserved enough for my friend Diane to color as well, since she kept me in eggs when hers continued to lay during the winter and mine didn't.  Her layers all lay brown eggs, so I thought she would enjoy getting a dozen little white ones.  Even though Essex is a panicked, slightly feral chicken, I'm glad she's in the mix so that we can have white eggs for the kids for Easter.  One more of those homestead joys...not having to go to the store for factory farmed white Easter eggs. 

I'll leave you with one last daffodil dream.  We'll be seeing them in the next month or so, I'm sure.  I have many things I'm still wanting to do this spring before gardening season sets in and I'm really busy producing our food.  I want to make fermented ginger ale using a ginger bug "mother".  Wanting to get more fermented stuff into my kids and they aren't crazy about my saurkraut, though I think its delicious!  Waiting on the cow at the farm where we get milk to calf so we can start getting the good stuff again, and then I will be adding yogurt back to the kids fermentation food list.  Lots of things to look forward to, in the meantime, wishing for you all spring dreams, scents, sun and your own happy "to do" list.

Daffodil smiles to you,


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Luke, Get the Tauntaun!

Hi Everyone!

Did you miss me?  I've been having technical difficulties with Blogger, and I may be moving this blog to another service because not being able to upload photos makes my blog, well, not my blog.  I find the photography at least as fun if not more so then the writing.  Right now, it just won't let me upload photos and I'm having not much luck figuring it out.  Grrrr....computers are your best friend or your worst enemy, honestly!

Winter has been very hard here at Grace Note.  We're ready to fetch the tauntauns!  If I could post the pictures for those of you not able to look out the window at the frozen world that is New England, you would see why.  The snow is now half way up the bottom floor windows, which is about 5 1/2 feet up.  Most of that fell in the span of 2 weeks and we've also been dipped into subzero weather for far too long.  It's becoming a problem with the morale around here.  I'm usually knee deep in gardening and chicken catalogs.  Not this year.  I can't even see the end of the snow tunnel here.  We wanted to wait to get the chickens until we'd be able to put them out in the outdoor pen after a few weeks in the house.  We could do that if the temps stay up high enough at night for us to have them outside.  Since the little chicks coop is currently full of over five feet of snow, and we're predicted 5-8" more inches tonight and another 12" possible on Wed...well, not feeling too optimistic about the chances of chicks arriving before June.  Planning this early for that is a bit tough since it's a bunch of time between now and then, a really, really long time.  And I would usually be putting some seeds in to have some seedlings ready to go when the ground warmed, but I'm looking at snow almost half way up the sliding glass door windows in our dining room.  We usually put the flats of seeds on the floor as it's the best sun.  Right now, the sun doesn't reach the floor because of the snow level.

Cabin fever has set in badly, feeling a bit hopeless, but that comes with the tough winter territory.  On the up side, we've been warmer this year with the new stove, that has been a blessing.  That along with the three cord of wood I got last summer, dry and wonderfully full of blessed BTU's.  Some days, I need a diversion to keep spirits up, not just for me but for the guys in the house as well.  Today's diversion included a yummy banana cake right from the Bob's Red Mill Baking Book.  Thought I'd share that with you in case you were needing a diversion of your own.

Banana Cake

makes1-8"x8" cake

1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c soy flour (I used all purpose since I have soy issues)
1/2 c ground flax seed meal
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c soy milk (I used almond milk, but any kind of milk will work)
1/3 c honey or maple syrup (or you could use cane sugar as well)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
3 med ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 c brown sugar, packed
3 T unsalted butter
1/2 c walnuts, chopped

Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8"x8" baking pan or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, flax seed meal, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a medium bowl, mix together the milk, honey, egg, vanilla and bananas.  Combine milk mixture with the flour mixture until combined.  Spread the batter in the prepared pan.  Combine the topping ingredients and mix until crumbly, then sprinkle evenly over the batter.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool in pan on wire rack.

Hope everyone out there is doing okay in this long and cold winter.  Our dog is the only one that seems to still be excited about new snowfall these days.  Keep on keepin' on! We'll get through it!

Enjoy a little comfort cake,