Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In a BIG nutshell

So I have really neglected posting here on the blog since I've gotten back...which is ok since it's not like people are dying to see what wonderful nugget I will write next. I've felt so busy in the month since I've been back. Mostly, it's been self induced. Here's a snippet of what I've been up to in the last month. Beware, it's kind of long for a nutshell. If things slow down, I'll probably go back and touch on some of the things more but for now, this post will have to do.

I was supposed to go for a weekend backpacking trip with a friend of mine. Neither one of us ended up wanting to camp out though so we made it a day hike. We hiked to a waterfall and went for a very cold but fun swim.

The dogs were all very excited to see me again. Tucker still tears apart all cardboard he can manage to round up. Often, while I'm working in the evening, he comes into the kitchen and tries to get me to play. Sometimes I will and sometimes I don't...but he never gives up.

Bear is behaving much better with Tucker nowadays. There hasn't been a fight between them in a couple of months. It's been rainy this week though so he's been sad and hiding a lot.

Jasmine had to go back to the vet. I didn't feel like she was making the progress she should be making after her surgery. She was resisting the vet when she was trying to move her knee to get a feel for it so they had to sedate her. She's on a new medicine that is really helping a lot. It's supposed to be a "use as needed" medicine but I am using it for 10 days to get the inflammation down first, then I can use it as needed. She has full blown arthritis now and her knee has healed well from the surgery. That's why she's been limping.

Jack is Jack. He lays around all day until it's time to go for a walk or to eat. He's getting a lot of white fur on his legs and neck. He loves to be cuddled on the couch for a couple minutes in the evening and gets very cranky if he doesn't get it.

I decorated for fall. I go all out, huh?

Adam, Lanette and I went to the apple orchard and I got a bushel of gala apples to make some apple butter with, and some to eat of course. I ate some of them but most were made into yummy apple butter. Then I bough another bushel of Fuji's for apple sauce and apple juice and a 1/2 bushel of granny smiths for fried apples and apple pie filling. I am almost done with them!

Later, I went to another apple orchard with Aaron, Katie and Issac. There, I got to milk a cow. Here she is, Buttercup. :o)

Each Thanksgiving, we make the turkey and we brine it overnight. In the brine is a small bottle of crystallized ginger. That little 2 oz. bottle costs $8-9. I had a bright idea that I could make it for a lot less. I bought just over a pound of ginger at the Asian market for $1.29/lb. I crystallized the ginger and the leftover liquid is called ginger syrup. You can use it on ice cream or brownies, or quick bread as a glaze. But the thing it will probably be used the most for is homemade ginger ale. Ginger is really good for soothing upset stomachs but I refuse to drink carbonation so I can mix this with plain water, instead of the carbonated water I would use for Adam and I can benefit from the ginger too. I got a quart jar full of crystallized ginger. Now I can use it for when I roast chicken since it's so cost effective this way.

At the same Asian market, I picked up some pig's ears for the dogs. I started cooking them on the stove but the smell was literally making me sick so I put it in the crock pot and plugged that in in the basement. The resulting gelatin was pretty fun to play with. The dogs LOVED it.

Someone on freecycle was giving their fallen walnuts away so I asked for some. They gave me a 5 gallon bucket's worth. After taking off the outer husk that's much less...and it will be even less once I actually get into the meat.

This piece of floor is where the fireplace used to be. It was missing the top layer of wood to bring it up to the same level as the rest of the floor. It was all filled in with another layer at one time but Adam and Barry ended up using some of the wood for something else so you would take one step at one level and the next step would be higher or lower depending... I finally filled in all the missing pieces. Now when I vacuum the rug on top of it it's able to get all the dirt, not just the parts of the rugs on the upper level.

With all the apples I have around here, I decided to try my hand at making apple cider vinegar. Actually, I used the cores from a couple batches of apple butter.

Here's the vinegar after about a week and a half. The apples have been removed. Now it just sits, with an occasional stir, for a couple of months. Then it's supposed to be vinegar...but it could take longer in cold weather...which it will be soon.

I found my costume at Goodwill. Here's a sneak peek of it. Mom should love the color. ;o)

More about the apples (since they have been part of my everyday life all month now). I made apple sauce for the first time ever. But we're not big apple sauce eaters here. We are doing an experiment. We'll be using apple sauce in place of oil in the baking. I've done it before...just don't add it to brownies unless you like cake brownies. It really fluffs it up. The food mill came from a thrift store a few years back. I finally used it.

Cooked apples hanging to let the juice separate.

On the house front, the mast that holds all the electrical wires coming from the street into the house was being pulled toward the street. It was ripping the roof as it got pulled further and further. We had water coming in every time it rained...and it rained a lot in the last year. Also, we had squirrels getting in and living in the attic. One day, the electric company came out and took the electric lines off our house. Adam and Barry spent the whole day fixing the problem so it wouldn't happen again and repairing the roof and putting on new shingles. Adam also cleaned out the gutters (on that side of the house) and put gutter guards on them. As you can see, they are not low enough to get to easily, so hopefully the gutter guards work. The electric company guys came back at about 11:30 PM to put the lines back on the house. The freezers stayed frozen and the fridge stayed cold since we didn't open any of them until after the power came back on. There's still the soffit to replace so the squirrels can't get in the bottom hole but that will wait until another time.

I just got a book for Christmas (last Christmas)...with the Amazon gift card from Tom. In it it talks about the importance of broth so I've been trying to use it a little more often. I made some from smoked turkey neck. Then I threw in some beans and cooked it. It took the meat off the neck (a surprising amount) and made a pan of cornbread. Yum!

I got a gift card from Valerie's blog. Thanks again Valerie. :o) With it, I bought a food dehydrator. That's the gray rectangular thing. While I've been canning, I've also been drying some things. In this picture, I was drying apples ad the crystallized ginger.

Katie and I are in charge of Maria's bridal shower which is a couple of weeks. We'll be using our gold flatware we got for our wedding. We have only used them a couple of times. I looked through every box that still has stuff in it. It took me about 2 1/2 hours. Then when there were no more boxes to look in, I remembered unpacking them and putting them in the dining room cabinet. Sure enough, there they were. Frustrating! I need to get this house organized and all the boxes unpacked!

I mowed the lawn last week (for the last time this year, I hope). I noticed a few patches of wild onions. I carefully mowed around them and went back a few days later and pulled a couple of the patches out. I'll be cleaning them and drying or freezing them for later use. I figure it might actually be enough to last me for 6 months. They are little onions though!

Making apple juice from scraps.

In that same book that talked about broth, it also talks about lacto-fermentation. Fermentation of fruits and vegetables (such as sauerkraut) activates all these cultures that help digestion and makes your body able to absorb nutrients that it would otherwise have trouble with. I made sauerkraut before and it took a couple of months. But following their directions, it only take 3 days...and you can then let it age in the fridge for a stronger taste if you want but you don't have to. So I thought I'd give it a try. It's in the fridge aging now...I'll report back on the flavor. Very cool book, thanks, Tom!

One of the first things I did when I got home was to pull my sourdough starter out of the fridge and feed it. I thought it might have gone too long and was dead. I fed it and it bubbled up over night so I made some yummy bread with it.

Tucker likes to cuddle but the other dogs don't so he has taken to sleeping with one of his toys. How cute!

Here's apple butter ready to be canned. That stuff makes the house smell so good while cooking! Thank goodness for crock pots!

I found this little end table at Goodwill for $7. It's much smaller than the bookcase that I had there so I was able to push the couch over as well as the recliner. Now the recliner isn't in the walkway so much. Much better. It still allows the vent to breath and Jasmine still has the space she needs. That's where she lays most often.

I've started doing some foraging. One of the first things I found were these puffball mushrooms. They are edible and supposed to be the easiest for beginners to identify. The other little mushroom I wasn't able to identify so I didn't eat it. The largest one was almost 1 lb.

I got these mushrooms the day after my dehydrator came in the mail so I chopped them all up and threw them in. :o) We've already eaten some. They're pretty good.

This is a bucket of yogurt draining. I was seperating the whey from the yogurt. The whey is what is used in lacto fermenting. The leftover yogurt is pretty thick and can be used as cream cheese. I reluctantly gave it a taste. I eat plain yogurt mixed with frozen fruit but I can't stand it with no sweetner. I was surprised by how much it actually tasted like cream cheese though! It was good!

I finally figure out a way to keep the sugar from settling in the jug of lemonade...make a simple syrup then add the lemon juice. Worked perfectly!

More foraging. These are sumac berries. Red sumacs are edible, white ones are poisonous. These are used in Indian and Middle eastern cooking a lot. They have a lemony flavor to them. I was initially interesd in them because of a recipe I got from a Native American museum I visited while out in Utah. It calls for the berries. So now I can make it...whenever I find that recipe card.

More broth, chicken this time. This one turned out very gelatious too, but not as thick as the pig ears one. It's supposed to be better for you the thicker it is. I guess I made a good one. I used some of it in a soup but most of it is in the freezer now.

A pic of the new kitchen floor, from the laundry room. We really like it. And I never thought I would enjoy being to sweep so much but I love how easy it is to clean. Plywood is not easy to sweep or mop. It's very nice and Adam did a really good job.

I found a really good oak tree on one of walks. So I went back on Saturday and gathered about 4 gallons. The two other things in there is a hickory nut (still in its husk) and a sweet gum ball. I brought them home to check them out. The hickory nuts aren't ready yet but they will be soon! The sweet gums, I read have edible seeds if they're roasted but I couldn't get into the ball so I gave up on that idea.

And here's a picture of some of my work all together. 2 quarts of dried, foraged mushrooms, 2 jars of ginger syrup, 16 pints of apple butter, 2 jars of dried apples, 1 quart of crystallized giner, a jar of marinating plaintain leaves for a salve (I forgot about the last ones and they were rotten when I remembered about them), a jar of sumac berries, not sure how many pints of apple sauce or juice though. The larger basket has the walnuts, the smaller ones is holding hickory nuts I got while on the hike with my friend. The jar next to the baskets is holding the pecans I have been picking up off the sidewalk on our walks. One of the neighbors has a pecan tree. The two baggies are dried plantain leaves and the other is dried mint leaves to add to my baking soda tooth paste. I need some mint in my toothpaste. It's just not the same without it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Too little time...(and almost no pics)

I enjoyed my time with my famiy but it wasn't very long...and I was busy spending time with people that I forgot to get my camera out until the last day...and I didn't even hardly use it. Most of my pictures turned out blurry so this is pretty much all I have. Sorry if you don't the picture of yourself...and even sorrier if I didn't manage to get a good one of you.

Valerie wasn't mad, even thogh she does look a little mad, she was just listening to someone.

I am always worried that the youngest neices and/or nephews (starting all the way with Alex when he was 2) would forget me between visits since they weren't all that often. So it's always fun when one of them remembers me and loves me. Thanks Avi. :o)

It was so good to see everyone. Next time I'll have more time to spend with you all.

Day 8 Moab - Green River

I woke up early enough, before the sun was all the way up but everyone else was already packing up. Some had already left. Everyone but me went to a restaurant for breakfast. I left about 30 minutes after the last person. I had made biscuits the night before and in the morning, I made gravy to pour over the biscuits. That and hot chocolate was my breakfast.

We passed through a beautiful red rock canyon for the first part of the day. We passed the entrance to Arches but that was as close as we got to it. This is on the road going into Arches...I was on the main road going past it.

Past that, the rocks got even more red.

The day before, at the bike shop, the bike tech gave me a handy hint that I forgot to use on the first 15 miles of the day. He taught me how to turn the knob on my brake cables to loosen the brakes and tighten them back up. He said to loosen them up while I go uphill and tighten them back up while I go downhill so I would have brakes. The cracks had gotten so bad that my wheels were always rubbing the brakes even when they were loose but it did make a difference. By about mile 30, I saw a biker, it was Cheryl. I actually caught up to her! I wish I had known that trick earlier in the ride since I had been fighting that brake with each pedal stroke for about 4 days.

Here was my one view of Arches NP, from a distance of course. You can see the 2 window arches.

Here's a closer up picture of the window arches. About the middle of the rocks you can see 2 holes in the rock, that's them.

I spotted this root cellar or dugout, not sure, next to a train track. I went in and explored. I couldn't figure out what it was meant to be...maybe a home for the guy who worked on the rails, hanging mail for the cars to take or something...?

When I made it to the gas station at the intersection of the interstate there were 5-6 people there from my group as well as a solo cyclists heading the way we just came. After a break there for chocolate milk and carmel creams, it was time for a short 5 mile jaunt on the interstate. It wasn't too busy and the shoulder was wide and clean in most areas. And the scenery was still nice.

I was supposed to get off at the first exit and take a side road into Green River. Everyone else got off but I felt like I needed to stay put so I took the interstate all the way to Green River.

In the end, I found out that the side road was AWFUL and everyone hated it. It was so bumpy. I think my rim would have fallen apart if I had taken that road.

Here's one side of the worst crack.

Here's the other side. Compare it to the spoke beneath it...that's what it's supposed to look like. The spoke was pulling the rim out and it was cracked on either side of it. I had 4 of those and 2 of the crocks in the above picture when I got to the car.

Green River was having a melon festival so I stopped there. They were giving out free slices of watermelons and the whole park was covered in booths selling various things. I bought a Navajo taco for lunch/dinner, ate it while listening to a live band, then got on the road. The canyon was very pretty on the drive home.

It was a tiring, exhausting, painful trip. I was glad I was able to do it and glad that it was over. There are so many beautiful things in this world and I feel very privileged to be able to see some of them myself. There are so many awe-inspiring views out there. Who else but God could make something so beautiful? No one.

Back when I was 13-16 and I was in pain all time because of my knees I was given doctors orders that for the next year I wouldn't be allowed to do any walking that wasn't absolutely necessary. I spent lots of time in bed, reading or watching tv that year. During the summer especially. Summer was the worst time because at least during the school year I was allowed to walk to the bus stop and from class to class during the day. But summer was a special kind of torture. I could hear everyone outside playing, running around and having fun. I would stand and look out the window at them and wish with all my heart that I could join them. Even if I had been allowed though, I wouldn't have been able to do much because it hurt to move much. Finally, the year was up and I was so excited to go running and playing (because some of the pain had finally left) that I was crushed when the doctor informed me that for another year I wouldn't be allowed to run. But I was out almost everyday mowing the lawn with that old reel mower just because I COULD. I guess I was always an active type of person, even before that but it was through that experience that I learned how blessed I am to have a body that works, that heals itself, that allows me to do ANYTHING I want it to do (with work and practice). I cannot squander that blessing because I know what it feels like to be without it. Someday I will be old and feeble and won't have the complete use of it that I have today and I don't want to regret not taking advantage of it. Maybe I am wrong but it feels like using my body is a way to show Heavenly Father I am grateful for it, for the chance to do these things again and that I am not taking this opportunity and sweeping it under the rug. So maybe you can't understand why I would enjoy this form of torture...but I tell you, it's the best thing in the world to have the ability to do. :o)
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