Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween 2015

Our town has a strange annual custom of holding Trick-or-Treat festivities, including a Halloween Parade on the Thursday BEFORE Halloween, beginning at 4 PM.  Having kids all hyped up on candy, and then sending them to school the next day seems pretty much contradictory to me, but it's what we do.

So, we got our Trick-or-Treating out of the way several days ago.  Both of the girls dressed as their favorite characters from their favorite books.


L was Annabeth Chase, from the Percy Jackson series written by Rick Riordan.










 
J was Hermione Granger from JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.

Today they carved pumpkins with their friend, C.  Luckily we had 3 nice pumpkins from our garden saved for carving.  They stuck to their books, with J carving Harry Potters glasses and scar, and L carving Poseidon's Trident.  C was creative, and carved not only a pumpkin, but an unfortunate apple as well.


It is Daylight Savings time tonight, so we will turn the clocks back before bedtime, and get an extra hour of sleep tonight!


Hope you had a Spook-tacular Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Monkey Ball Hunting

On my way home from PT today, I drove a loop over winding country roads looking for the fruit of Osage Orange trees.  I guess they would technically be called Osage Oranges, but some people call them "Hedge Apples", and around here they are affectionately called "Monkey Balls."


There is an old wives' tale that these sticky fruit can help keep insects away.  I figured that it couldn't hurt to put a few around the house this Fall, so I went out on a Monkey Ball hunt this morning.  I put a couple in the tree house, below the deck, and in the window well outside the girls' room.

While I was at it, I put away more of the pool things in the barn, cleaned up piles of leaves in front of the garage and along the chicken fence, put fencing around my evergreens to protect them from deer during the winter, brought all of the pigs in from my flower beds, and pulled the remaining corn and tomatoes from the garden.

Um...I might have overdone it.  My back is hurting this evening.  I think I'll go sit on a heating pad.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Where's the Bear? #49




It looks like the Bear is getting ready to go out in the rain today!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Apples

It has been a strange week.  JP's eye surgery got moved up 2 weeks to Thursday of last week.  I helped in his office in the morning, and then drove him to surgery and home.  He had a short day scheduled on Friday, so I drove the girls to school and him to work, helped out in his office again in the morning, and then drove him to his post op check, then back to the office and finally home.  He was told that he would have gradually increasing vision over the next week to week and a half in that eye, but he seems to be having some complications.  SIGH.  I really hoped that this surgery would be the end of the story about this eye!

Yesterday I drove the country roads out to the apple orchard to buy apples for apple butter.  I have come too late, it seems for the large selection that they usually have.  I was limited to Romes, Granny Smith and a few Pippins, none of which are my favorites.  Nevertheless, I came home with a bag of each, and have had apples simmering in the crock pot ever since.  I may have to run back in a few days to get some more apples for my Secret Ingredient Apple Sauce.

I was hoping that I would get to see lots of colors on the trees during my drive yesterday, but everything was mostly brown.  I nearly got run off the road twice by water trucks, speeding to or from a gas well somewhere.  It was drizzling and chilly.  Oh well, it was quiet, and I actually enjoyed myself!

The leaves are lovely here on Poplar Ridge.

 
JP set fire to the enormous pile of sticks that the girls and I collected over the past 2 or 3 years, and had a massive bon fire raging for most of the morning.  By afternoon, it had settled down to a large pile of coals, so L decided to roast marshmallows in the drizzle.

 
The cool weather and small showers have revived my moss garden.  It is looking good right now!


We have soccer this afternoon, but that, along with Fall is winding down.

Here is my recipe for Apple Butter:

10-12 apples of various varieties, peeled, cored and quartered
1 cup water or apple cider
1 1/2 c sugar
2 t cinnamon
1 t ground cloves

Place all ingredients into the crock pot and cook on Hi for 1-2 hours, then simmer on Lo for at least 12 hours until mahogany in color.  I use the stick blender to blend my smooth before canning in pint jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Makes about 3 pints.



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Where's the Bear? #48



It looks like the bear is about ready to abscond with my Dad's tractor today...probably because it's a CUB cadet!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Farm Fresh Eggs 4 Sale

The hens are doing such an excellent job of laying, that I am quickly being over-run with fresh eggs.  Last week alone, they laid 140 eggs!

This is how many eggs they laid today:


Yep - every single hen laid an egg today!

This is how my refrigerator looks:


There are 15 dozen eggs in there!
 
I have plans for selling or giving away 12 dozen tomorrow.  That should make room for this week's eggs!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Karma

What goes around, comes around...right?  Does it also follow that Epic Fail days can be followed by acts of restitution which even things out, so to speak?  I really hope so!

Thursday was one of those days when I felt liked I failed repeatedly as a parent.  Even though I managed to get everyone out the door on time to school/work, exercised, paid the bills and made chicken salad even before heading out the door to work myself, it still felt overwhelmingly like a Fail Day. 

I picked up L after school, and things looked good for getting to J's last soccer game just in time for the start.  The GPS directions, however, brought us to a road, less than 2 miles from our destination, that was completely closed, without any posted detours.  I drove around for 20 min before finally finding the school, after saying some things that I'd rather not repeat in front of L.  We managed to see the last 5 or 10 minutes before the half.

Did I mention that I also managed to take a snack for the soccer team to the middle school before work - a cooler of bottled water, 2 bags of clementines, and a box of granola bars?  I thought that the girls ate this on the way to the games, so I had Jenna drag the cooler back off the bus before we headed home from the game.  Only after the bus left, was I informed that not only had I deprived the other girls of their drinks, I deprived J of her snack!

At home, already feeling pretty crappy, things got worse.  L still had homework that I was unaware of, and I completely lost it with her - like screaming insanely lost it - before she FINALLY got in bed 20 minutes past her bedtime.

Thank goodness for Fridays!  I got the truck inspected (passed.)  And started on the mountain of mending that had nearly buried my desk.  I replaced the zipper in a pair of JP's shorts (HATE zippers), and altered 2 new pairs of jeans for him (tedious), besides letting down the hem of pants for J, and putting fasteners in her Halloween costume.

Yesterday I picked everything in the garden, brought in my potted plants, and covered a select few things in the garden that I hoped to save from the frost last night.  I covered the air conditioner and the outdoor table, and brought in the hammock. 

This afternoon, I took L to her soccer game, while JP stayed home with J and made dinner.  He did a tenderloin of pork, baked bread, and made a salad.  I baked sweet potato fries (not a hit) and had made Chocolate Pots de Crème (in my on-going attempt to use eggs, since we are getting at least 20 eggs/day from our remaining 24 hens = a LOT of eggs!)  It was delicious!

Chocolate Pots de Crème
-Recipe from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
 
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
7 large egg yolks
1/3 c sugar
1/8 t salt
1 1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
 
Place chocolate in a large bowl and set aside.
 
Whisk eggs yolks, sugar and salt together in a bowl until smooth.
 
Bring cream and mild to a simmer in a med saucepan over med heat, stirring occasionally.  Slowly whisk about half of the cream mixture into the egg yolks.  Slowly whisk the yolk mixture back into the remaining cream.  Return to low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly, and coats the back of a spoon (175-180*), about 7-9 min.
 
Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl of chocolate, and let sit for 2 minutes.  Slowly whisk until thoroughly combined, then add vanilla.  Pour into 6-6 oz ramekins, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.
-------------------------------------------------
Even if all of this productiveness does not cancel out the poor parenting of earlier in the week, I FEEL better about myself and my family.  I'm going to call things even.

Egg use total today - 17.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Finishing Up

There are weather reports calling for freezing temps overnight this weekend, so Mom and I took some time this morning to work on putting more of the garden "to bed" for the winter.

We dug the sweet potatoes...got a nice mess of them this year!


Some of them are HUGE!

We got really dirty in the process..
 
I also got all of these hybrid pumpkins from a single volunteer vine that grew down amongst the asparagus this year!


There are still a few tomatoes hanging on down there, and some more Fall peas...and lots of weeds.  Besides that, we are really finishing up with the garden for 2015.

Where's the Bear? #47



Looks like J left the bear to do her Algebra homework while she was at Soccer practice this evening!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cleaning House

JP and I have been off work this week.  By that I mean that we are not going in to the office, but JP has been spending about 3 or 4 hours/day on charts, and the rest of the time we have been working our butts off outside.

On Monday morning, I cleaned the house, while he started cutting up the first of 2 timber piles for use in the outdoor wood burner.  After that, I raked/shoveled gravel in the chicken yard, that the hens had managed to scratch about 15 feet out from under the concrete slab that the chicken house is built on.  By that time, JP had enough wood cut for me to start hauling it and stacking it under the barn lean-to.

On Tuesday, JP finished cutting the first timber pile, and moved to the second.  I finished hauling and stacking that, and then cleaned up the bark and sawdust.  It made these nice stacks of wood under the lean-to.


You can see the split wood stacked along the back - that
is for the woodstoves indoors.

We were side-lined for a couple of hours on Tuesday when the tractor got a flat tire.  JP & Dad were able to fix it, so we could get back to work.


Yesterday morning, Mom & Dad helped us butcher and clean the old hens.  We are now down to an even 2 dozen young hens, and we got 18 small eggs yesterday.  That afternoon, JP continued cutting wood, while I canned chicken (8 quarts) and cooked the backs for broth (4 quarts), and hauled 2 loads of water for the cistern.  He also "stacked" what he had cut, and now says he is done for the season.


My piles are prettier than his!
We all went out for dinner to celebrate JP's birthday last night.  It was lovely to not have dinner to cook and dishes to wash!

Dad has been busy too.  He built a permanent compost bin down where our temporary packing crate bins have been.  He will rebuild the other side next year after we use the compost out of it.


This morning, JP had an appointment with his Ophthalmologist, who gave him the bad news that he will need surgery.  It is tentatively scheduled for the end of October.  I had a Parent/Teacher conference with L's teacher, who was SO impressed with her reading!  I stopped for an oil change for the Subaru on the way home.

Once we were changed, we masked up and cleared a year's worth of litter from the chicken house, then cleaned and closed down the other side where the peeps grew up.  It smells fresh and clean out there now, since we used shavings from Dad's wood shop.  The young hens seem to enjoy it too.


Now I am headed out to clean all of the minions (aka stink bugs) out of the tree house, so that the girls and I can have a tea party out there this afternoon.


It will be clean houses all around on Poplar Ridge!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Where's the Bear #46


Looks like Stella is spending some time with the bear this week!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

4 and 20 Blackbirds

I have been asked about the object in the middle of my pie.  It is a pie bird, a hollow, ceramic device used to support and vent a pie with a top crust.

 
I think he's rather cute!

Friday, October 2, 2015

The End of the Season

Today I brought in a basket full of tomatoes and some basil that was past its prime. 

 
They simmered together all day on the stove, and this evening we had a lovely tomato sauce for our pasta.  There were 4 containers to stick in the freezer for another day as well.

 
I also baked an apple pie.  Possibly one of the prettiest pies I've ever baked.

 
There is cheese in the crust, so it baked up a perfect golden brown.  I can't wait to cut into it.

 
It smells like Fall in the house!