The Last Harvest

Saturday! Since retirement, the days of the week aren’t the focus of my life, as they were when I had to be at a specific spot at a specific time. I like retirement. I was sitting here just minding my own business, and Saturday night snuck up on me!

Yesterday I milled flour, it took me quite a while, the supply was down to two cups of flour. I only mill about eight cups of flour at one time, then I let the equipment cool down before milling again. I ended up with about 44 cups of freshly milled whole-wheat flour.

Today I used the flour I had just milled to bake five loaves of bread. We were completely out of bread. No, wait, there was one partial loaf left in the breadbox, Chocolate Bread. Not really suitable for savory sandwiches.

This evening I made Hamburger Gravy with potatoes in the Instant Pot. I sauteed ground beef in the Pot, then added chopped onion and sauteed it all, adding a few herbs, Rosemary, Pepper, Garlic. Two cups of homemade vegetable broth were then added. A metal steam basket was set over the meat mixture, and the peeled potatoes were placed on top. The potatoes would be removed from the pot, and a gravy made with the meat, broth, and onions. Three minutes of cooking and dinner was prepared. Of course there is the time it took to heat up the Instant Pot, and then the time it took for it to cool down again, so the process was more than three minutes. While I was preparing the meat and potatoes, Attila prepared the very last harvest from the garden, carrots and beets. They were tiny and sweet, only about a cup all told, so good! So that is the garden done for this year.

Attila has been very busy with his insulation project. About a third of our basement is above ground, and that third was bare concrete blocks, outside and inside. When it got cold outside, it got cold inside too. By bedtime tonight he will have built stud walls and installed insulation and vapour barrier over the concrete blocks in that third of the basement. There is a noticeable difference down there already. I used to feel chilled every time I went to the basement during the heating season, and now I don’t. Not really a scientific measurement, but good enough for me.

Attila is moving along on this insulation project at lightning speed. Just dry wall and paint to go in this corner.
It is a no-stress project, compared to all the other renovations that have been undertaken at Mist Cottage. Attila only has to set his equipment and materials up once, in the now wonderfully dry garage. When he is finished for the day, he can just shut the door and walk away, and it will all be waiting for him just as he left it when he returns to take up the task again. This is a real luxury. Also, there is no deadline with this project, it will be completed whenever that happens, no rush, no pressure. Unless of course I get a bit concerned when it gets too close to Christmas and I want the basement things that are stacked in the living room taken back downstairs. But really, the project is far enough along even now, that this could be accomplished.

I’ve just bagged my five loaves of bread, and tucked them into the freezer. Baking bread is a very satisfying activity, I like it a lot. The bread I just put in the freezer is sandwich bread, it is wonderful. It took me ever so long to get a good loaf of 100% whole-wheat bread, but finally the loaves are light and airy and delicious.

I have been experimenting with 100% whole-wheat sweet breads, and am not satisfied with the results thus far. The loaves taste wonderful, but the bread is dense and a bit dry. So far I’ve made Raisin Apple Bread, and Chocolate Bread. I have to keep trying, practice makes perfect!

Worldly

Weather

2°C
Date: 6:00 PM EST Saturday 23 November 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.8 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 2.2°C
Dew point: -1.1°C
Humidity: 79%
Wind: SW 13 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The art of dining well is no slight art, the pleasure not a slight pleasure.”
Michel de Montaigne
1533 – 1592

The Last Big Garden Push

Here it is, the last significant harvest out of our garden!
The quart jar gives you an idea of the volume of the harvest. These ten Brussel Sprout plants were harvested Thursday afternoon, rescued from the snowy garden, and you can see some of the snow still clinging to the leaves on the plant furthest left. The first step in processing these plants was to remove the leaves and the Brussel Sprouts from the stalk of the plant. That was Attila’s job!
Attila handed the leaves off to me, so that I could begin the long process of dehydrating them. While I started on that element of the job, Attila sorted through the Brussel Sprouts, cleaned them, blanched them, and we bagged them for the freezer, in 2 cup portions. As you can see, we ended up with 8 good sized packages for the freezer, a meal’s worth in each one. In additon, we served fresh from the garden Brussel Sprouts for one late night snack, and two meals. So 22 cups of Brussel Sprouts harvested from the ten plants in our garden. That is about two servings per plant.
Because the freezer space is full, we were forced to thaw a frozen turkey to make space for these Brussel Sprouts. This weekend we enjoyed a full course turkey dinner, with leftovers for the week, diced meat in the freezer for casseroles, and a big pot of soup from the bones.
Our winter greens.
You could see how many leaves there were on the ten Brussel Sprout plants. Brussel Sprout leaves are tough and chewy. The taste is good, but the texture is undesirable, at least that is how we feel about them.
For two days the house was filled with the aroma of Brussel Sprout leaves roasting in the oven. It was surprising how these tough, chewy leaves shriveled to almost nothing when roasted at 250F for about forty five minutes. They smelled delicious, and tasted wonderful. After drying, the leaves were crumbled into a bowl, the midribs discarded. Then the crumbled leaves were put into the blender and powdered. That huge tote full of Brussel Sprout leaves yielded this much powder. It doesn’t seem like a big yield for two days work, but a teaspoon of this delicious powder in a soup will be plenty to enhance the flavour.
I ask you, where can you buy powdered organic roasted Brussel Sprout leaves, at any price?

Worldly

Weather

7°C
Date: 1:00 PM EST Sunday 10 November 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 7.1°C
Dew point: 1.6°C
Humidity: 68%
Wind: WSW 28 gust 41 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.”
Emo Phillips

Full House

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Autumn!

Yesterday we were out at the Camp for a few hours. What a beautiful day it was! Attila brought his chain saw and managed to get two of the many dead trees out. But the recent rains brought water back to the swamp, so many dead trees remain to be removed at another time. Grace the trailer was closed up for the winter, and happily there was no sign of mice inside. The mouse trap will be left operational for the winter, using plumber’s anti-freeze. it is hoped that the wildlife will live in the wild, and that the trap will be empty come spring. Hopefully there will be more

Today began with heavy, cold rain. The skies are unbroken and the colour of slate. Attila is shutting down much of the garden, mulching some of the perennials, pulling frost killed plants and cutting them up for the composters.

I made tomato sauce this morning, from the tomatoes that have ripened in the basement. There are still quite a few tomatoes down there, and most of them will ripen nicely, for eating, and for more tomato sauce. I am not going to can any more tomatoes, we have enough for this season, and enough pizza sauce as well in the freezer. So as the green tomatoes ripen, they will be either eaten fresh, or made into a sauce for the refrigerator. Tomato based soups will be on the menu this week.

Attila’s ferments are only two weeks old, but they both developed kahm yeast. Attila removed the kahm yeast, and pronounced the ferments tasted great. They were put in mason jars and refrigerated, and won’t last long. What was learned though, was that the ferments with kahm yeast could have been left the full fermentation time, 20 days minimum, before removing the yeast and bottling for the refrigerator.

Attila’s garden harvest was amazing this year. Not since moving away from the family farm have I seen such home grown bounty. Our house is now full, the bulk of the harvest is in, and there is no more room on the shelves, or in the freezer.

Garden Harvest:

Dandelion Blooms*
Nasturtium Leaves and Blooms
Chamomile*
Lemon Balm*
Cilantro
Cardamon*
Basil*
Oregano*
Dill*
Strawberries
Rhubarb*
Ground Cherries*
Melons
Sweet Peppers
Cayenne Peppers*
Jalapeno Peppers*
Habanero Peppers*
Spinach*
Radishes*
English Cucumbers*
Peas
Carrots
Green Beans
Scarlet Runner Beans*
Swiss Chard
Beets
Cabbage*
Brussel Sprouts*
Tomatoes: Beefsteak, Cherry, Black Russian, Roma, Mountain Spring Hybrid*

* INDICATES harvested in sufficient quantity to surpass immediate consumption needs, so requiring preservation.

Over the last year or so, I have acquired some fantastic food processing equipment. All of it got a good workout this year.

Food Preservation Equipment Used:

Canning Jars: 1 liter, 500-ml, 250-ml, wide mouth and regular mouth
Metal Canning Lids and Rings
Pickle Pipes (silicone)
Pickle Pebbles (glass)
Fermenting Jar Rings
All American Pressure Canner
Victorio Steam Canner
Victorio Steam Juicer
Two 8 Quart Stock Pots
One 16 Quart Stock Pot
Long Handled Wooden Spoon
Sieves
Ladle
Funnel
Jar Tongs
Clean cotton rags
Onion Chopper
Apple Whacker
Paring Knives
Food Mill
Apple Whacker
Food Processor
Dehydrator
Onion Chopper
Stove Oven
Vacuum Sealer
Vacuum Sealer Bags

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

It is bright and sunny this morning! My load of laundry is almost finished washing, so that I can hang it on the line. The laundry will be hung on the line under the porch until the temperature drops so low that it will freeze out there. So far, the weather has been bonny for hanging out the wash.

Time slipped away on me again. A few busy days, checking things off my list. Actually, yesterday afternoon I checked the last thing off my list! But of course, it is time to start a new list. I love lists, they keep my mind free of clutter, and my days focused on the things that matter to me.

Attila and I decided that it would be best to apply window film to the lower portion of all of the living room windows. Up until Sunday evening, the possibility of coming out of the bathroom after a shower, to go to the bedroom to get dressed required closing the living room curtains, before dawn and after dusk. Open curtains opened up the possibility that anyone down the street, from the street, from a vehicle, from a house window, could look into our house if the lights were on, and observe us in the hallway and bedrooms. It was a niggling concern, which we have dealt with diligently over the last ten years, but now seemed a good time to address the issue.

The project of applying window film has been put off for weeks. All other projects seemed appealing, compared to it. The materials had been waiting. Our grocery bill has been lower this autumn, with our garden bounty providing so much of what we have been eating, so the surplus was used to purchase window film. All other projects seemed appealing, compared to this project. But at last, Monday morning, I had run out of excuses, the only project left on my list was applying window film. So it began.

Measuring and cutting such a large and cumbersome roll of plastic is difficult to do in a small, almost tiny, house. It took a half an hour to clear a space on the floor, large enough to spread out the film, in order to measure and cut it. And I can honestly say that the older I get, the more difficult it gets to work on projects using the floor as my workspace. Getting down there, and back up again, over and over and over again, well, it isn’t any fun. I am grateful I can still do it, but this is one of the rare instances where I find living in such a small space constraining.

The project took all day. Attila said he was glad he wasn’t here for it, and well he might! Some curmudgeony endeavors are best tackled solo, this was that sort of endeavor. At completion, the constant tension of the “fish bowl” effect evaporated. Why didn’t I make this happen earlier!!

Another project was to start two more ferments, green Ground Cherries, and Jalapeno Peppers. The Ground Cherries are experimental, they may be tasty, but they may not. All a failure will cost is a few teaspoons of wasted salt, so it is worth a try.

My crock of apple scraps are fermenting nicely. The crock is covered with a cotton cloth held in place with an elastic band, and is stirred daily to prevent mold from forming. It smells grand, very hard cidery. In about a week I will strain the fruit from the liquid, jar the liquid and compost the fruit scraps. Then the mixture will sit in a dark cupboard for weeks, until it it transforms itself into Apple Cider Vinegar. The last of the 2018 Apple Cider Vinegar, that was made with our own Crabapples, was used last night.

One of the projects being undertaken here at Mist Cottage is to reduce the recyclables. That was the starting point. Most of the recyclables here are beverage containers, coffee, milk, juice, and plain soda. In an effort to minimize packaging from beverages, a customized recipe of Switchel was prepared, and stored in a clean, empty two liter juice container that would have ended up in the recycling bin. Attila loves this stuff! So, some of the juice containers will no longer be coming into the house. Switchel, as per the recipe, is a sugary drink, and sugary drinks are a treat and not a beverage. The plan it so play with the sweetening agent, substituting some of the honey for Stevia. It will be an experiment to alter the proportions of honey to stevia until a delicious yet healthy balance is achieved.

There is an added benefit to Switchel, it is a lot less expensive than juice. Since a whopping third of our food budget is spent on beverages, this is a step towards reducing the food bills.

So far I’ve tackles a few small tasks. In 2017 I harvested some lovely lavender flowers, dried them, then stuck them in a glass jar with a lid. Today I removed the little blossoms from the stems, placed the blossoms in a labelled jar, and set the stems aside pending research into possible uses for them.

The edge of the forest at the Camp.
Where my day was spent, breaking up the dead branches, that were collected from all over the cleared area. The walk to collect dead branches is getting longer every season. When we started small trees and deadwood were dense into the cleared area, right up to the frontof the lawn chairs. It is much different now.
In the next few years the dead wood under the hydro lines will be gathered and burned, and that is a very long walk indeed!
Note the ring of sand around the fire pit, it was refreshed this year with three 7 gallon bucketfuls of sand, that had been shoveled up from our driveway. The sand in the driveway is the runoff from the road, and is a result of all the heavy construction equipment traveling past us daily. It is ours now!
Deadwood burning in the fire pit. The fire was allowed to burn down at lunch time, and hot dogs were roasted over the coals. They were served on homemade bread, with home grown chopped tomato, home grown Zucchini Relish, some mayonnaise and some chopped onions. Lip smacking good!
This little fellow was busy investigating me! He showed up at my elbow, as I was sitting in my chair. Eventually he moved, and disappeared from sight, although he was probably in plain sight, so well camouflaged was he.
The ingredients for Switchel, all lined up and waiting. On the left is the last of 2018 homemade Apple Cider Vinegar, made from our own Crabapples.

Worldly

Weather

13°C
Date: 10:00 AM EDT Wednesday 30 October 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 12.9°C
Dew point: 8.9°C
Humidity: 76%
Wind: N 18 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.”
Aristotle
384 BC – 322 BC

I have found this to be true, in my experience. I will say though, that picking fruit, and other menial labour jobs I have had, allowed a certain freedom of thought. It was only the “professional” jobs, where the mind was confined to set parameters, that cut into mental health. With manual labour, I could read a book in the evenings, and think about it all day doing repetitive manual tasks. I had a pretty good time actually, working on the farms.

You Gotta Laugh

Five more jars of Organic Green Tomato Salsa, canned Friday, October 18, 2019. They are made with our very own garden Jalapeno Peppers. That makes 15 jars of Salsa in total. I use a China Marker to label my jars, with content and date processed.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Early last week I ran into a problem with a piece of software on one of my older Macs. It was a result of an incompatible update, which had auto-updated. I began interacting with tech support for the software company, the issue was escalated to more technical support team. I interacted with them for days, tried all their suggestions, and nothing worked. The old Mac just would not connect to the internet. I feared its functional life was over.

Frustrated with the software tech support, this morning I got out of bed, immediately setup the computer, and started to play around. I kept playing around for over an hour, then I found the issue and fixed it. It was a setting buried deep in the software, which needed only to be toggled off, which let me connect to the internet, which let me update the software to get rid of the issue. It is a wonder the tech support didn’t start with that setting when they were troubleshooting with me! I feel very satisfied that I fixed the problem, despite, and not because of, technical support.

Today is an apple day. I am finally sitting down, after being on my feet since 9:00 a.m., it is just after noon now. One half bushel of apples has been peeled, cored, diced, and is now sitting in pots on the stove, on a low heat, turning itself into applesauce. Attila peeled, I cored, sectioned, and diced. I hope we get to the other half bushel today, but I don’t hold out much hope. Sixteen quarts of apples are going to take some time to cook into applesauce, and can.

These Northern Spy apples are very dense. Water needs to be added at regular intervals when it is being cooked and made into applesauce. Stirring it is hard work, and it cooks very slowly, so there is a lot of stirring. My arm and wrist are very sore.

The peels and cores are being saved to make apple cider vinegar. Our first batch, made last fall with crab apples, is fantastic. So we are in high hopes that these apple scraps will give us some wonderfully flavoured apple cider vinegar.

Just shy of a half bushel of Northern Spy Apples, peeled, cored, and sectioned. It was the first time I’ve used this coring/slicing device (two red handles), and it is very handy. The apples are first peeled, the stem and calyx ends are removed. Then the corer is placed on top of the apple, and pushed down to core and slice it.

Here are the cores, and the bits of apple that surround the seeds, which were removed from the slices with a paring knife, where needed. We froze these scraps from the first bushel of apples. The peels went into the compost pile. It is my dream to find affordable organic apples to use for applesauce. So far so bad on that score. We do not use the peels of these commercially grown apples.
OK, here is where my best laid plans failed. And a spectacular failure it was!
I was sitting in the living room, taking a little break while the apples began to heat on the stove. I was pretty tired, and more than a little tetchy at the time, the break was needed. Time out for Maggie.
Anyway, I heard a noise in the kitchen.
I thought Attila was in there, so I called out his name.
No answer, the noise continued.
So I sighed, dragged myself up out of my chair, and headed into the kitchen.
And this is what I saw.
Now the picture does not show it, but this body of apples was steadily rising, like a volcano, and apple segments were falling all over the place, the floor, the stove, everywhere.
Laugh.
I couldn’t stop laughing.
I laughed so hard it was difficult to deal with the issue. Every time I touched the tower of apples, they launched off the precipice.
What a mess!
And the bottom apples were burning, that much I could tell from the smell.
Eventually I managed to get enough of the apples off the top of the pile, so that I could put the spoon handle down into the pot.
A huge rush of air came out of the pot, spewing apple segments, then what remained of the pile collapsed into the pot.
I spent the next hour or so collecting and rinsing apple segments from all over the kitchen. Then I washed the floor and other surfaces, because apples are sticky.
After removing all of the apples from the pot to other pots, except the bottom layer, which was burnt, I cleaned out the pot, and prepared to start again.
I used three stock pots, with an extra liter of water in each pot, to cook these apples into applesauce.
It took over five hours of stirring frequently to make the applesauce.
After having such a hearty laugh, I wasn’t feeling tetchy anymore.

Monday, October 21, 2019

This morning the fog was thick and the air was chill.

It got busy around here after I wrote Saturday’s entry. I added the photographs and wrote the captions today.

Sunday Attila peeled all but a dozen or so apples from the second half bushel. I cored, and processed them in the food processor. They took about four hours to cook, using two large stock pots, even though the apple pieces were pea size. And I had to add a little more than 4 litres of water to keep them from becoming too thick to stir. Wow, I don’t remember Northern Spys being so difficult to cook. Attila thinks it is due to the very dry summer we have had this year, so there is not much moisture in them, and they are very dense.

I ended up with 5 more quarts of applesauce for the shelf, which were washed, labelled and put away on the basement shelf this morning.

The apple cores, and bits that didn’t make into the applesauce pot, were placed in a 5 liter fermenting crock. After covering them with a water/sugar mixture, I added a few tablespoons of active apple cider vinegar. A clean cotton cloth was placed over the crock, which was secured against fruit flies, and other interested parties, with an elastic band. This will be stirred every morning for two weeks. Then the liquid will be strained from the fruit and returned to the crock to turn itself into cider, then vinegar.

My next canning project presented itself to me yesterday. I was about to make dinner, an Instant Pot rice dish with turkey and hot chili, very tasty. But I suddenly realized that all of my vegetable broth was frozen! Oh dear, I had to thaw it slowly in the microwave, adding quite a bit of bother to the meal preparation.

I started making vegetable broth from vegetable scraps in August, when our garden started to deliver a lot of fresh produce. A total of about 10 quarts have been made since then, five of them I have used already for cooking. The other 5 are still in quart jars in the freezer. I was so busy with canning and roasting and drying and fermenting, and the broth was being produced only a quart at a time, that it just seemed more practical to freeze the small quantities vegetable broth.

But frozen vegetable broth does not work well for my style of cooking!

So today I have five quarts of frozen vegetable broth thawing on the counter. Once I can get it out of the jars, I will put it into the 16 quart soup pot, boil it for 10 minutes, then can it in 500-ml jars. Then it will be sitting ready to use on the shelf when I need it, no forethought required. These will be pressure canned.

Attila loved the Fermented Jalapeno Peppers I made for him. They are all gone now. We have a few ferments on the go, green tomatoes, and Brussels Sprout leaves. Attila also has a ferment of his own on the go, hot peppers. Yesterday he started yet another ferment, green cherry tomatoes, with fresh coriander seeds and garlic. Fermenting is easy. But we did have a failure, the second batch of sauerkraut. We will try another batch of Sauerkraut when the fermenting crock is free again, as it is now being used to make Apple Cider Vinegar.

And still there are things to preserve! There are about 20 pounds of tomatoes ripening in the basement. Thankfully all of the tomatoes have been harvested now, no more coming in from the garden. The Swiss Chard was harvested as well, and it will be processed tonight, probably blanched and frozen. BUT Attila says the Swish Chard has not given up, and it is growing like crazy right now, so there might be another harvest. There are some small cabbages that grew from the roots of the earlier harvested cabbage plants. And there are six more Brussels Sprout plants to harvest, Brussels Sprouts and leaves. And beets, lets not forget the beets that are still to be harvested.

Three months of steady food preservation activity. And I have so many conveniences, choppers, shredders, pickle pipes and pucks, a fermenting crock…

I do this because I choose to do it, because it is a hobby with benefits, lots and lots of benefits.

But can you imagine having to do this for a family with many children, on a wood stove… before all this modern technology, because someone HAD to do it, to be on the home front making sure the food supply didn’t spoil. This work was a respected part of the art of survival.

Worldly

Weather

11°C
Date: 11:37 AM EDT Monday 21 October 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 10.5°C
Dew point: 10.5°C
Humidity: 100%
Wind: NE 13 km/h
Visibility: 16 km

Quote

“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
1929 – 1968

Fine Wine

The garden just keeps on giving us a little of this, and a little of that. Today a rogue zucchini will provide a lovely stir fry for our lunch. It was ready to be picked days ago, but was missed and just discovered, and is larger than would be ideal. It was delicious.

Attila picked 4 cups of Basil for Pesto, which is already made, spooned into a muffin tin, and is in the freezer. Later today there will be the last of green string beans, the bugs are decimating the plants, so this will be the last harvest from these plants. Two of the Cabbages are ready, so hopefully one of them will be made into Sauerkraut, which I’ve not attempted before, and can’t eat anyway because of the high sodium content, but Attila loves it, and if it turns out, then yay!

The big canning jobs at Mist Cottage are tomatoes and apples. Their season is yet to come. A few of the tomatoes in the garden are light red, not quite there yet, but there are many more to come, barring disaster, weather, rodents, insects, birds, or humans.

It is hot and humid today. I enjoyed the open windows so much yesterday, that I have left them open again today. It is warm in Mist Cottage, but I am staying comfortable by sitting in the breeze of a fan, and wearing my neck scarf cooler. It is a thin cotton bandana type scarf, which is a tube with silica gel in it. It swells with soaking and once adorned, the water in the silica gel slowly evaporates, creating a circle of coolness around my neck. This works very well in keeping my core temperature down, which is really important during a heat wave.

The open windows are allowing the bird song and breeze in, but they also allow in the rat-a-tat-tat of the roofer’s hammers, they are just at the end of the street. Three young men in shorts, work boots, shirtless, are working hard in this heat, and under the relentless sun. I could do things like that in my youth, and did, I have worked to shingle several roofs. Not now though, those days are long gone. Roofers work hard! And I am busy these days doing my fine wine thing… aging.

Worldly

Weather

27°C
Date: 4:00 PM EDT Saturday 3 August 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 27.3°C
Dew point: 19.0°C
Humidity: 60%
Wind: SSW 23 gust 34 km/h
Humidex: 34
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”
Mark Twain
1835 – 1910

This quote leads me to wonder, do animals have a sense of humour? Some say yes, some say know. I could find no scientific studies on the subject, so it is all anecdotal. And how would we humans know, if an animal had a sense of humour?