Thursday, October 31, 2013


This is a picture I received the other day as text from K2.  Unfortunatly I'm a cheapskate and don't have a smartphone.  In fact, I carry a flip-phone (cuz it was the sturdiest of the two free upgrade non-smartphones that Verizon had to offer last summer).  Anyway, the screen on my phone is so small I couldn't tell what this picture was until I emailed it to myself and looked at it on the big honking 17" computer screen.


Today K2 called and told me she had just left her Dr.'s office, and that the doctor confirmed it.

I am going to be a grandma again next July!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


That's how many jars of stuff I have down in my cellar.  All put up by me.  Lard, maple syrup, jams, pickles of various kinds, beans, beets, tomatoes (and sauce and paste and juice), applesauce and pear sauce, pears and peaches, salsas galore. . .

And there is more yet to come.  I have yet to do the sauerkraut, which first gets fermented in the big antique crock that DH's grandmother gave me years and years ago.  When it is done fermenting, I can it in quart jars.  Although this year I'm thinking with such an awesome cabbage harvest I will have enough kraut to can and also to experiment with leaving some in the crock to eat "fresh".  I also have yet to make apple juice out of the bushel of apples that never made it into the press last Sunday.  And there is two pigs' worth of fat in my deep freeze, awaiting an opening in my schedule for a lard making day.

It is a lot of work, to be sure, putting up that many jars of foodstuffs.  But the hours of work seem to disappear in a giddy haze when I open my cellar door and gaze upon all those jars.  To grocery shop my own cellar, with it's array of preservative free organic offerings is the most enjoyable kind of grocery shopping there is.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Just One

Just one kitten left now.  The orange one died on Sunday.  So the black and white one is a lonely only.

Good news is that he has gained two ounces, eats very well, and is hitting developmental milestones.  Of the three nearly dead kittens that I brought into the house one week ago this morning, he has always been the strongest.

Last Tuesday morning, he could raise his head and it was his loud crying that caused me to discover that mama barn cat had abandoned her kittens.  Last Tuesday evening, he could scoot around somewhat, but still not strong enough to stand.  He needed help going potty (using a warm wet wash cloth to simulate a mother cat cleaning under the baby's tail was the only way to get any of the kittens to eliminate or urinate.)

Well, today, this Tuesday, he not only stands, he runs. He potties all by himself, sometimes on people, sometimes on my floor.  This morning I saw him try to stand on just hind legs so he could get a better view of my kitchen cabinets.  He is trying to figure out how to jump.  He climbs pant legs.  He climbs right up to your shoulder, puts his little body against your neck and purrs.  He snuggles.  He is starting to wash himself, and lick people too.  Yesterday he attempted to play with me as if I were another cat.  At feeding time, he attacks his food dish with gusto.

All good signs.  All hopeful signs that this one will survive.  I'm almost confident enough in his survival to start looking for a new home for him.  An indoor one, where people want to have a snuggly cat that is going to be very bonded to people.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Something Old, Something New. . .

Several years ago, Mother-in-Law brought us what she called a 'cider press'.  She brought it to us because 1) we have a lot of wild apple trees in the woods and DH had mentioned wanting to try to make cider, 2) she had this old press sitting around somewhere (cellar?  basement?  barn?) gathering dust and she rediscovered it while looking for antiques to sell, 3) she didn't want it sitting around taking up space and gathering dust at her place anymore.

The first fall we had it, DH traveled too much for work and before we knew it, the time for pressing apples had come and gone.  The second fall we had it, there were no apples to be found, due to late frosts and freezing weather in May after the trees had pollinated.

This year, we have an abundance of apples. In fact, one limb of one tree in the woods broke because it was so overloaded with apples.  Off of that one limb, DH and I harvested a bushel and a half of apples.  Those, we designated as our cider apples.

Yesterday we finally got around to pressing apples.  With excitement, I had cleaned and sanitized the cider press.  DH and I had washed off the first half-bushel of apples, our trial batch.  We had talked for years of making cider, and now we were actually doing it!  A new skill to add to our portfolios, a new product off our own land!

We loaded the press about half full--which was maybe 1/6 of that half-bushel of apples we'd washed.  DH started cranking on the wheel of the press, slowly mashing down on the apples.

Slowly is the operative word.  It went. . . slowly.  Really, really slowly.  The press didn't seem able to crush the apples.  So, we released the pressure, I fished around in the barrel of the press, pulled out mostly whole apples, and cut them into quarters with a knife.  We put the lid back on, DH started cranking again.

I'll just cut to the chase here instead of dragging you through three hours of trial and error, and figuring out that what we have is not a cider press.  It seems to be a fruit press, more suited for grapes and other easily squish-able things (like, say, tomatoes!!  I have an idea for next year's tomato juice!) than for apples.

We gave up on the idea of pressing all bushel and a half of apples.  We squashed the original half-bushel as much as we could; after I cut them into smallish chunks.  Our result was a bit over 1/2 gallon of cider.

I decided the other bushel of apples I would just cook down into juice and can that. They are tasty apples, made delicious cider, but not for that amount of effort.  DH said he'd rather pay $8 a gallon from the store than get 1/2 gallon for 3 hours of sweat and cranking on that darn press.

Organic, hand-pressed, unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider.

Today the cider looks like cider.  Nice and golden brown.  Yesterday it was rather an off-putting brackish green by the time we got done fooling around with the press.  It tasted delicious right off the bat, but was the kind of thing you'd want to close your eyes before drinking.  Otherwise you might not have been brave enough to drink it.  Today I have to fight people off of it!

We also carved pumpkins this weekend, and made doughnuts to eat after the pumpkin carving was completed.

frying doughnuts, two at a time

your choice of powdered sugar, or cinnamon sugar

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Breaking My Own Rule

When we built the house at this little place here, we made a rule.

No Animals In The House. 

This rule was made because DS2 had many allergies, and cats and dogs were among them. It wouldn't be so bad if those allergies just manifested as sneezing, itchy eyes and runny nose.  But no, he has asthma, and when he was young his asthma attacks could be sudden and extremely severe.  So, with this brand new house we didn't want to introduce any animal dander or allergens to the structure.

We told our children that all animals, pets or otherwise, had to live outdoors.  And, through the years, we've stuck to that rule.  Pretty much.  DH would break it now and then, to bring the dogs into the basement when winter weather turned severely cold.  But only for a night or two.  No animal could live indoors.  And no animals could come on the main floor where us people spent a lot of our time when home.

Until this week.  On Tuesday I discovered that the mama cat out in the barn had, apparently, abandoned her kittens.  We'd seen her near them, but not with them, just about every time we'd been in the barn in the several days prior.  Then Tuesday morning I went to the barn to hear piteous crying, no mama cat in sight, and two kittens all ready dead.  The three living ones were very skinny and weak; one looked in really bad shape (I expected it to die soon), the other two could at least pick their own heads up.

Being tender hearted, I scooped up the three struggling kittens, put them inside my coat (oh my goodness, their little bodies were so cold!), and brought them into the house.  In the house, I fixed them up with a box, some rags, and two hot water bottles.  Then I set to soaking some cat food in hot water until it was mush, and syringe feeding them.  It was all I had, and I just had to try.

By that afternoon, the smallest weakest one could hold his head up.  I nicknamed him "Tiny Tim". The other two could stand on their feet.  Things looked favorable for successful kitten rescue.

I read up on care of three week old orphaned kittens.  Some sites said to give them KMR, kitten milk replacer, but I didn't have any of that.  All sites said not to give cows milk, that it would cause diarrhea and dehydration. So I kept making them warm cat food mush and syringe feeding them.

Wednesday morning, Tiny Tim ate well, and could even stand up.  I began to think he would pull through, even though he'd been much weaker and closer to death than the two larger kittens when I had discovered them 24 hours previous.

On Wednesday evening, Tiny Tim relapsed.  He had been peeing and pooping, as had the other two kittens, when stimulated to do so.  He had been eating, although not much.  His eyes, up until mid-afternoon on Wednesday, had been wide and bright.  By Thursday noon, Tim was gone.  I cried.  It was just so unfair.  Poor little guy.  He had wanted to make it.  He had looked so good, so normal, on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, the other two, which as of yet do not have names, continue to hang in there.  They eat, sometimes heartily, sometimes not so well.  They turned four weeks old on Thursday, and have started to pee and poop on their own.  They meow when they want attention, or food, or need their water bottles refreshed with hot water.  They try to climb out of the box sometimes, and when I take them out, they walk around on legs getting ever stronger.  They started purring yesterday, and seem to like to climb up to my shoulder, burrow under my hair, and sit there, purring.

They are still little skeletons, weighing just five ounces and six ounces, but I think they will make it.  I hope they make it. They are starting to figure out how to bite and eat the soft, squishy food instead of having to be fed slowly by a syringe. We are all putting in a lot of effort (and a grocery trip for special kitten food) to tip the scales in their favor.

And in two weeks, when they are solidly into the whole eating and pooping and self-care thing that six week old kittens normally are, they will need a new home.  Because I definitely can't put them back out into the barn to be barn cats.  Not in November, not in the cold with no mother to make sure they stay warm at night.  And I can't let them become house cats here.  Because we have a rule about animals in the house.  Even though DS2 no longer lives here, I still don't want animal dander becoming a fixture in the furniture and nooks and crannies of the house.  It will still affect him on the occasion that he does come for a visit.


they found me!

how could I not break the rule for a 5 ounce cat?

learning how to eat is a full contact sport

Friday, October 25, 2013

Going Into the Dark Season

Come September, we are all a little bit sleepier.  Perhaps it is the hectic late summer pace we keep here, with the gardening and canning and putting up of summer's bounty.  Perhaps it is a subconscious reaction to school starting--oh, school, how it sucks a person's energy!  Most likely, and what I do believe, is that it has a lot to do with the noticeable lessening of daylight hours.

The amount of daylight has been decreasing steadily since the summer solstice in June.  But it seems that it doesn't really hit you (actually, me, and DH too although he poo-poos the idea) until closer to the autumnal equinox.  After that it's light's out, literally, until the brighter sunnier days of mid-January.

Right now, we are nearly to the end of daylight savings time in Michigan.  Which means that when the alarm goes off at 6 a.m., it is pitch black dark outside and nobody really wants to get up.  Not at all like 6 a.m. in early June, when the sun is up, shining cheerfully, and the birds are singing along.

Nope, 6 a.m. in late October is groan, punch the alarm clock, pull the covers up a little higher, will yourself to deep sleep in the nine minutes until the alarm goes off again. Repeat scenario a few more times, giving the snooze button a workout, until getting out of bed is inevitable.  Because if you don't get up right now, you will be late for work, or miss the school bus.

It also means that horses are fed in the dark, out in the last stands of summer pasturage.  The tractor headlights light up the fence line, and the waiting forms of horses anxious for their morning hay to supplement the dwindling grass.

After daylight savings time ends, mornings will be briefly brighter, dusky for a few weeks, then they will return to darkness.  By then horses will be moved into the barns, into stalls each night where they can rest out of the wind and cold.  But dinner time will then become the dark time.  Deer hunting will end at six (or even five-thirty!) instead of seven thirty.

Work will slowly move into more of an indoor nature, and less of an outdoor one.  The garden will be put to bed.  The only "food" needing to be "harvested" will be of the cervid variety (aka deer). The lawn will sleep, needing no more maintenance until April. The hay field too will slumber. There will be no weeding to do in the flowerbeds.

Indoors, we will work on projects, perhaps making Christmas presents, perhaps tackling a home improvement that was put off until there was less daylight hours keeping us busy outdoors.  And I will plan next year's garden, of course, browsing through the seed catalogs that will appear in the mailbox around Christmas time.  Catalogs that will be received with much more excitement than the ones that showcase clothing, or purses, or doo-dads for the home.

Amid this descent into the dark season, the sewing machine gets used a bit more frequently than it did during the season of long daylight.  Currently I've been working on some blocks for a quilt swap I'm participating in.  The theme of this one is "blacks, brights and batiks".  It is perfect for cheering me up on a gloomy, chill, rainy (or sleety!) fall day.  This morning I managed to snatch a little time at the sewing machine between chores, and finished my required number of blocks.

They are bright and cheerful.  Bright enough that I am thinking I might want to keep making more blocks of the same theme colors, and make a table runner or lap quilt to brighten up the coming winter days and nights.

All the block instructions came from  Top is Amish Star; I made 3 blocks of this pattern. There are 4 Pinwheel blocks; 3 corners and 3rd row 2nd from left (bottom right corner I did a variation, making my points a different color). 2nd row 2nd from left is Double Aster, which looks hard to make, but is actually very easy and cool to piece. 2nd row right corner, 3rd row 2nd from right and 4th row 2nd from left are Monkey Wrench.  The final pattern I made is called Woven Ribbons and appears in the 3rd row right side and 4th row 2nd from right.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


DH took a buck with his crossbow yesterday evening.
8 pt, dressed out at 170 pounds.
We have red meat!

Just one basket of the approximate bushel I harvested off our Granny Smith apple tree yesterday.

Many of the Granny Smiths were quite large, like this one.
They will go in the cellar to store as fresh eating apples this winter.
My Cortlands became apple sauce, 
and my McIntoshes were sliced for pies and put into the freezer.

Yesterday was also the harvesting of all that cabbage that was left in the garden.
These are just four of several dozen heads.
Sauerkraut and cabbage rolls,
here we come!

Copra onions cleaned, and ready for storage.

It is often easy to get overwhelmed in the day to day work of growing and providing your own food.  But boy, what a blessing it is to have naturally grown, nutritious, and sustaining fare for my family.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Just Passing Through

The soybeans have been off the field for over a week now.  Our field looks somehow bigger, and yet, smaller at the same time, without it's cover of vegetation.  We can once more look out across it and see that it rolls, it isn't truly flat like it looks during the growing season.

The sound of combines is in the air.  Beans are done, but all around the neighborhood, the farmers are starting on their corn--the grain corn, as silage corn was all chopped in September.  That's how you know which corn a farmer is working on, silage or grain.  If he says "Yeah, we're chopping corn," he's doing silage.  If he says "Yeah, we're cutting corn," it's grain, either to sell by whatever the going rate per bushel is or to store for feeding his own stock this winter.  

Most of the birds have migrated by now.  The song birds, long since moved on to warmer climes. Geese fly over in big V's, sometimes stopping in the field for the night.  They like to eat up whatever soybeans the harvester dropped. 

Sandhill cranes, too, pause here briefly on their snowbird journey.  I was able to get some decent pictures of the most recent group to drop by.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Speaking of Peppers. . .

A few weeks back I made a very passing mention of having peppers to take care of.  I did get those put up, and, figuring that it was nearly October, and cooler weather, and the fact that peppers like it hot, I assumed that would be the end of harvesting peppers for this year.

Not so.  Apparently my pepper plants are hardier than I thought.  They aren't growing peppers at a high rate of speed, and the bell peppers aren't getting very big, but my garden is still producing peppers.  Enough that I harvested another grocery bag full last weekend, and have been busy again with canning hot peppers, and with freezing the sweet ones.

Today, they are all done, (at least, the ones I picked over the weekend; I really should go out and check the plants again!) so I thought perhaps I would write a post on what to do with the peppers you grow.  Not recipes, but how to stretch them from the garden into the off season.

Through the years, I have had success with bell peppers, jalapenos, hot banana peppers, cayenne peppers, and paprika peppers (yes, the spice paprika is just dried, ground pepper.)  This year I gave pepperoncini a try, since both DH and DS1 like to eat the canned ones.

My first pepper tip is storage.  Sometimes we have an abundance of peppers ready at one time, and we can't eat them all as fresh peppers (or maybe, like this week, I don't have time to can the hot ones right away).  I've found that at times like this, I can store them quite well for a week or so in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.  If you think about it, cold storage is how those peppers get from the farm fields to the grocery store anyway, so why not stick your garden fresh peppers into your fridge to extend their shelf life?

For bell peppers (green bells, red bells, yellow, orange. . . even those that are sweet but not bell shaped like Carmen, which is a red bull's horn variety), I like to take my extras, dice them up, spread the pieces on a cookie sheet (or two or three. . .) and stick them in the freezer overnight.  The next day, they are easily scooped up and poured into a ziploc freezer bag.  Then they go back into the freezer and are used throughout the winter and spring months whenever I have a recipe that calls for diced bell peppers.  Like omelets.  Mmmm.  Or pizza.  Mmmm.  Occasionally I also cut my sweet peppers into strips and freeze those for use in fajitas.

Sometimes I have even sliced jalapenos and froze those, but usually only at the end of the season if I don't have enough to make a big enough batch to justify using the canner, and it's too big of a batch to just use up in recipes over a week's time.

For the hot peppers, or even mild ones I want to pickle (OK, let's face it, DH likes his pickled peppers hot, not mild.  So I guess 'mild' would be the pepperoncini that were this year's successful experiment), they have to be soaked overnight in either salt brine (pepperoncini) or lime water (hot bananas, jalapenos), then rinsed several times and soaked in fresh water before putting in jars, topping with a boiling vinegar and water solution (with salt and garlic), then processed in the canner.

For cayenne and paprika peppers, I slice those thin, and put them in the dehydrator until nice and dry.  Depending on how thinly sliced, it takes (I think, didn't dry any this year), anywhere from 6-12 hours to get them all the way dried.  Once dry, I powder them in the blender.

A word of caution on powdering hot peppers:  wait until all the 'dust' has settled before taking the lid off of the blender.  Even then, don't inhale!  Trust me on this.  Also, do not touch the powder with the tip of your finger, then lick your finger to see if the powder is actually hot.  Yes!  It will actually be hot.  Unless you want to blister your tongue (and possibly the roof of your mouth when your tongue hits it!) do not give in to the temptation to see if you really did create cayenne pepper.  You did.  And it is hot.  Trust me.  This is the voice of experience talking.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The New Fragrance For Men

The weather has turned cold and wet at this little place here.  Cold enough that last night, DH broke down and lit a fire in the wood boiler.  We have heat!!  It had only gotten down to about 64 degrees in the house, but the temperature outside was falling into the 40's, the wind was picking up, and the extended forecast doesn't call for any type of weather that would give us passive solar heating to keep the indoor temps comfortable.  From past experience, I knew that waiting another 24 to 36 hours would bring the temperature in the house down to somewhere around the mid- to upper-50s.  And that's just not warm enough.  Especially when it takes a good 12-18 hours from the time we light a fire, therefore turning on our hydronic radiant heat system, for the house to reach target temperature.

So, at the pleading of the females in the home (OK, I told him we were just about out of bread and if we didn't light a fire that today the house would be too cold for bread dough to rise), DH went out and lit the fire for the first time this season.  A whole ten days later than last year.  Ten days is a big deal when you're talking heating bills.  Not that we have a heating bill, per se, since all our wood comes free from our property or that of people we know, but ten days of being warm without effort or cash output is pretty cool.

A funny thing happened when DH returned to the house once the boiler was stoked and burning well.  He walked into the kitchen, past where I was cooking dinner.  I caught the scent of wood smoke as he walked by.

"You smell good," I purred, moving closer.  Had he not been bent over the kitchen sink, washing his hands, I would have given him a kiss.

Seconds later, DD2 popped her head into the kitchen.  "Do I smell smoke?" she asked, with a smile on her face.

From the living room you could hear DD1, who was in the midst of taking an essay test online for one of her college courses, say "Mmmmm."

I looked at DH and laughed.  "You ought to bottle that, and sell it as cologne."  I told him.  "You'd be rich."

Wood Smoke.  The fragrance for the rugged man.  Guaranteed to attract women.  Well, guaranteed to attract country women, anyway.  I can't speak for the effectiveness on them city-types.  ;0)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Sound of Silence

I haven't posted much lately.  Combination of reasons, and I hope to be back to regular posts soon.  It's not as if I don't have anything to post about, or any opinions on current politics. (I do, boy, I do!) But for now, I shall remain pretty silent.

First, though, I'll say something about why I don't post on current events in this country, or around the world for that matter.

I don't need to.  I don't post on school shootings, or terrorist activities overseas, or our own government shut down because I don't need to.  If you want to read about those things, there are plenty of other people giving their opinions on them.  You can't turn on your TV, listen to music on your radio, check your email on the computer, or even go to church!!! without being exposed to multiple opinions on those sorts of events.  There are lots of blogs buzzing right now about whether the Democrats or the Republicans or the Tea Partyists are to blame.

This little place here, as in the land I live on, is my haven.  As much as we can, DH and I have tried to make and keep it our own small dominion, our own tiny nation, where we control what happens, what comes in, what goes out.  I don't read the political sites.  I don't care to watch the news on TV.  If the radio is on, it's because I want to hear singing, not someone mouthing off.   This is my home, my place to relax and be secure, not to be inundated with the world.  When I want to be exposed to the world, I know multiple places to find that exposure.

I strive to keep my blog the same way.  This blog is not about what the Congress is doing.  It's not about gun rights (if I tallied up how many firearms we own, you'd definitely know what side of that issue we stand on).  It's not about what antics celebrities are up to now.  Celebrities don't have a thing to do with getting my laundry done or my garden planted and I could really give a rip about how they behave in public.

This blog is about real life.  Real, every day, life of the little man.  I don't presume to make an impact on the country with what I have to say.  I'm just here, doing my thing, living my life, trying to be of no harm.

Which sometimes means this blog will be silent.  Either by choice (biting my tongue), or by necessity (still harvesting and putting up food we've grown this year).

Monday, October 7, 2013

And Now. . .

Some more pictures, taken over the past few days.

First, a very large leaf I found on the ground behind the house.  It was as big as my face.  

Rather a large leaf, considering that every tree in my yard is less than 10 years old, and the one closest to where I found the leaf is only about five years old.  Apparently it can grow really big leaves up at the top, and the ones closer to the ground are more normal in size.

DD2 turned sixteen over the weekend.  No big blow-out birthday bashes here.  Some close friends, hot dogs and brats, and a bonfire.  Oh, and cupcakes.  Sixteen of them, each with a candle.

That was for her party, which was Saturday.  On Sunday, her actual birthday, she requested cheesecake.  Which she did not want me to poke holes in with candles.  So I looked in the kitchen for something I could put candles on.  I mean, how can you not blow out birthday candles on your birthday?  Even if you did blow them out the day before, at the official party.

So anyway, I came up with a wedge of watermelon.

Again, I notice how we at this little place here differ from the conventional American life in this century.   Let's ignore our lack of huge Sweet Sixteen catered party at a reception hall (yes, my children have been invited to more than one of these by their peers--people who live in a low-to-middle class little farm town).  Let's ignore the fact that she did not receive (as did none of my older children) her own vehicle for a present--as do a surprising number of sixteen year olds in the area.  Let's ignore the fact that the cupcakes and the cheesecake were made from scratch by me, her mother, and that the watermelon came from our garden.

Instead, let's focus on this bit of strangeness:  Who in the world would put birthday candles in a hunk of watermelon?  (Us, apparently, and after she blew out the candles, DD2 ate the watermelon! before having a slice of her cheesecake.)

Speaking of cheesecake, it took me quite a while to find my cheesecake recipe.  Mainly because I don't make it very often and therefore it is neither memorized nor can I remember exactly which of my cookbooks the recipe is in.  What I ended up doing was looking through pretty much all of them and not finding exactly what I wanted.

#1 I did not want anything that starts with "1 no-bake cheesecake mix" as the first ingredient.
#2 I did not want a recipe that called for "1 container non-dairy whipped topping".
#3 I didn't want a recipe that included "1 graham cracker crumb crust".  As in the premade kind, from the store where you'd get either the no-bake cheesecake mix or the container of non-dairy whipped topping.
#4 I wasn't looking to use 5 boxes of cream cheese!  After all, this was a cake to serve just four people, not a large party.

Why oh why is it so darn hard to find a from scratch recipe for stuff?  After perusing over a dozen cookbooks and looking up recipes online, I cobbled together my own.  It turned out pretty darn good. (even if the picture is a bit blurry)

So, in the interest of helping others who find themselves in the same plight, here is what I ended up trying, in order to make a cheesecake in a 9" pie plate:

Graham Cracker Crust
about 8 whole graham crackers, crushed to make 1 1/3 cups of crumbs
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup sugar

Mix all together with a fork or pastry blender until crumbly, press in bottom and sides of pie plate, then bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes, until lightly browned.  Cool completely.

2 8 oz blocks of cream cheese, at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract

With a mixer, beat cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and almond extract together until smooth.  Pour into the cooled graham cracker crust.  Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 minutes, until center is set.  Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

As an end-note to this post's weirdness, may I draw your attention to the platter holding the sixteen cupcakes.  It was purchased to hold hors d'oeuvers  (otherwise known as cheese cubes and crackers) at DH and my wedding reception.  In 1993.  Yes, I have kept it for a little over twenty years.  It has proved to be a useful investment, used time and time again for serving things at various functions through the years.  And despite it's large circumference, it stores neatly and out of sight, upside-down, on top of the cabinet that holds my double ovens.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Day of Pears

That is what it feels like, any way.  Back in September, I picked my pear tree when they started falling off more than one or two in a several day period.  With pears, you don't wait until they are ripe-ready-to-eat to pick them, because by then you can not possibly put them in a basket or anything that stacks them on top of each other.  They are just too delicate, too easily bruised.  And they don't keep at that point.

Instead, you pick them when they are still hard, but starting to turn yellow, and more than a few have fallen off the tree.  At that stage you can still layer them in bags or baskets, and put them into cold storage to gradually come to a ripe state.

So, the Beer Fridge has been pretty full of pears for almost two weeks now.  DH has not been too thrilled with having to wade through pears to reach his beer.  I've been hearing lots of muttered comments about it being a beer fridge, not a pear fridge.

Today, with the farmers market no longer being in session, I found myself with a Thursday that was totally open. Well, open until about 6:30 p.m., as choir practice has begun again at church and will be Thursday nights from now until about May.  But not having anything scheduled from 8 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. gave me a whole lot of time to work on projects.  Ten and a half hours.  What could I knock off my to-do list with ten and a half hours?

I decided that today would be the day for putting up pears.  I began with my first ever batch of pear jam.

I have vague memories of eating pb & j sandwiches on a summer afternoon in the neighbor's backyard in the metro Detroit area when I was about seven or maybe eight years old.  This neighbor lived across the street from us, and like us, had a corner lot.  Not only did she have a corner lot, she had a double lot, and several pear trees.  Pear trees that she harvested and canned, and made jam out of.  I had never heard of pear jam before, until she served me a pb & j sandwich made with her very own homemade pear jam.  It was pretty good.  Unfortunately, it was the last time I ate pear jam until 2012, when DD2 saw some for sale at the farmers market and begged me to buy her a jar to try.  You just don't see pear jam on too many grocery store shelves.

So, this morning, I went down to the basement and pulled a bag of pears from the Beer Fridge.  I looked up a recipe for pear jam, weighed out the amount of pears I needed (4 pounds), and got to work.

Once the pear jam was done, I turned my attention to making a batch of pear sauce.  Another bag of pears out of the Beer Fridge.  More cutting and peeling and cooking down.  If you've never tried pear sauce, you should.  It's very good.  It's also very easy to make.  Just like applesauce, only using pears.

After the pear sauce, came the main event: canned pears.

This marathon day of canning used up all my pears.

Yesterday I had pulled out about two pounds worth of larger ones and made those into last night's dessert:  Brown Sugar Pear Tart.  This is all that was left this morning:

The recipe comes from Betty Crocker's 40th Anniversary Cookbook, my go-to book for the majority of my best recipes (I really recommend getting your hands on a copy).

With all those pears, why didn't I save some out for eating just as pears?  Truth be told, none of us at this little place here is very fond of fresh pears.  Not for eating the way you'd eat an apple, or a peach.  We like ours cooked.  But at least we like them, and we eat them.  More variety in our diet than a lot of other people have.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Some Random Photos

At this little place here, we're still pretty busy.  Not canning every day any more, but still harvesting veggies and fruits.  Plus, bow hunting season arrived at sunrise this morning, so hopefully soon there will be more butchering to do.

Meanwhile, here are some random photos of things on my small piece of the earth.

Diamond lace patterned shawl I'm working on.  About 1/3 done.
Done on size 9 circular needles, it's my 'need a break' project when I want to knit but am weary of the tiny dpns socks are worked on (DD2 will be getting a handknit pair of socks for her birthday this weekend).

A late September sunrise,
 on one of our rare not-foggy mornings this time of year.

Bluebird in the top of one of our smallest maple trees; 
the maples are just starting to turn color.

A handful of pear,
one of about a half bushel off one of my trees.  
We've picked the pear tree and two of the apple trees in the orchard recently.  

That's all for now, I have three different varieties of peppers to can this afternoon (pickled hot peppers, jalapenoes, and pepperoncini), and hopefully tonight will have the first knitting lesson I've had since spring!