Old Dog, New Trick – 10/26/2019

Depending on the trick, this old dog can be taught a new one. About 2 years ago, ads for the Instant Pot or it’s other brand variations were prevalent. I suggested to hubby that it would be a good birthday or Christmas gift (those events are only a month apart). He didn’t know what one was and I had a coupon for Bed, Bath, and Beyond that was about to expire, so we went looking. They had a different brand that I didn’t like all the features on it, and we had to go over to Target for something else and they did have two sizes of Instant Pot brand on sale. I didn’t get it for my birthday or Christmas, he told me to go on and get it right then as it wasn’t very expensive. It has totally changed the way I cook. To be able to cook dry beans in 40 minutes, stew, or brown rice in about the same amount of time was luxury. I have used it for making yogurt, but that is as easy in a cooler. I cooked a dozen eggs for deviled eggs, but a steamer works just as well. The Instant Pot gets used about 5 times each week. Now that I know it’s features and how long it takes to make a recipe, I have begun to experiment with other recipes.

One that I used to make for the family is Greek Stew. It takes hours to prepare, but is delicious and even better as left overs. The farmers market had green bell peppers and the last of the season’s eggplants today, both are ingredients necessary for the stew.

Because I needed the kitchen for one last soap session, but because I wanted to prepare the stew while the ingredients were fresh, I set about altering the recipe for the Instant Pot. The recipe starts by sauteing onion quarters until golden. It has a feature for that. Once the onions are spooned out, stew beef dredged in flour and cinnamon is browned, again the saute feature. The browned beef and onions are added back together with tomato sauce and beef broth and simmered for several hours to tenderize and cook the meat. Instead of hours, 40 minutes on the pressure setting will handle it. Then you add raw rice and cook til the rice is tender, the Instant Pot has a rice setting. Then you add cubed eggplant and cook for 20-30 minutes which can be done on the low saute setting and finally 10 minutes with large chunks of green bell peppers. Instead of more than 4-5 hours, this stew will be ready in just a little over an hour.

The beautiful pottery bowls are from a local pottery and friend, Dashing Dog Studio, the wooden ladle is from Chester P. Basil’s Wood, purchased at a craft fair at least a dozen years ago.

Sometimes, I don’t know how I cooked without it, but if necessary, I can still cook on the stove top, the top of the woodstove, or the gas grill when Mother Nature takes out our power.

Jack Frost’s visit – 10/25/2019

Jack Frost made his arrival 14 days after the average frost date for our area in the mountains. And he returned the next night too. Though neither frost was a “killing” frost, it did burn the leaves on the pumpkin vines, revealing the 4 dozen fruits hidden in their midst. Most are still green, but Google says they can be set on a sunny patio and will ripen. There are no more frost dates in the forecast for about 10 days (of course that can change in a blink), so they will sit and cure or ripen until it looks like the weather requires they be brought in to the root cellar.

These are Seminole pumpkins. They remain small and turn tan when ripe. Being a moschata variety, they are resistant to vine borers. I feared there wouldn’t be any as the vines took so long to take hold and grow, but in spite of the frost, there are still a few flowers blooming.

The frost wasn’t enough to totally kill off the remaining peppers, but to make sure they weren’t wasted, the last of them were picked, along with a handful of sheltered Calendula flowers.

The Calendula still has many buds and because of it’s sheltered position along a south facing stone wall, I may be able to continue harvesting them to dry for salves for another month or so. The peppers were all cut in half lengthwise and for the next couple of days, the house will be piquant with the scent of capsaicin as the oven is used as a dehydrator to reduce the moisture in them for storage.

My longterm to do list includes an arbor for the grape vine and a solar dehydrator. Short term, I need to clean up the mess that was my garden this summer. A few handfuls of weeds and spent beans were tossed to the chickens to pick through.

The asparagus tops need to be cut back and their bed mulched with hay. The spent sunflowers need to be cut or pulled and the bed nearest the compost turned and fed with shovels of compost in preparation for the garlic and onions in about a month. The beds that had the tomatoes and the overgrown mint bed are full of mint and weeds and need serious clean up and mulching. The bed that was peas last spring, that I planted oats, field peas, and vetch in as cover crop and then the chickens scratched up has a few of the cover crop plants in it, but is mostly weeds, so it too needs to be pulled up and covered with hay. I tried to control the mint with a tarp which failed miserably. Maybe the weed wacker will bring it down and I can cover it with a thick layer of newspaper and cardboard, a thicker layer of hay and let it sit dormant for a year. The mint that has escaped the bed is growing over the top of cardboard in the aisles and is fairly easy to pull up.

Each year in April, the University has a Saturday where you can sign up to have students come help you with projects. I am going to try to catch that date and see if some students can help me rebuild my boxes and reset my fence so that it doesn’t look like a drunk erected it. If I can get the posts set where I want them prior to the student’s arrival, perhaps we can get a tight run of 4 foot welded wire around the garden, the gate hanging hardware put in the wooden post that has the solar charger on it, and the gate moved. Both of my solar chargers need new batteries, perhaps that can get done this winter so it will fully charge and once the fence is repaired, new electric can be strung along the top to discourage the deer. There is a lot to be done, but the weather is cool now and not so onerous to be outside working. A couple hours a day over a few days should get the garden put to bed for the winter.

Preparedness- 10/22/2019

One Fingerless Mitt was finished and the second is well underway. The decision to make them mitts not mittens was made.

Last night, a new label was created for the soaps, generic so that I can write in the variety on the front, and the ingredients printed on the back. White Glassine bags were purchased for use when doing historical events. Clear cello bags are used at Holiday Markets.

Today it was too wet to be outdoors, so a new yarn band was designed and printed on craft brown cardstock and the skeins were banded and priced for the first vending event.

All of the knits and woven goods were checked and retagged if the tags were worn or folded and the prices checked to make sure they agree on my payment site. The knits and skeins then sealed in container to get them to the event.

More knitting needs to be done, to finish the mitts and make at least a couple more pair in different sizes and colors.

The weather is cooling into real autumn like weather and we have gotten some much needed rain. Still no frost has occurred and none is the forecast that I can see. The first historical event on my schedule is the Spirit Trail at Wilderness Road Regional Museum on Sunday, October 27, from 4 to 8 p.m. This is a fun event with a wagon ride through Newbern history. The next is the following Saturday, November 2, and I go from Revolutionary War to around Civil War era at the Harvest Time event at Booker T. Washington National Monument. This is a vending event as well as historical demonstration as a spinner and will be with a friend. It is supposed to be chilly that day and so I’m hoping to sell some of the hats, mitts, and scarves in my inventory. The weekend after that I return to Revolutionary War and will demonstrate fiber prep and spinning at the History Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke, November 9 and 10.

After that I have a weekend off before the winter craft events begin. On November 23, I will be at the Catawba Farmers Market at their annual Holiday Craft show, and the first 3 Saturdays of December, at the Blacksburg Farmers Market Holiday Markets. A busy time ahead.