Winding down

Another month is drawing to an end. As the month has progress, so has my spinning for the monthly Jenkins spindle challenge. The challenge only requires 25 grams, only slightly more than 3/4 ounce to be spun in the month. I have spun along, spinning several samples that I had, they are good to carry in the car with my tiniest spindle; I worked on some Tunis roving that I purchased that is a nice blue with variation from light to darker; and I worked on a 5 ounce braid of Shetland blended with Bombyx in a color blend called Elderberry. That fiber is so smooth and soft and spins very fine.

During the month, you post 4 check in photos of your progress, then a final photo taken on a scale to show how much you spun. I stretched out my check ins this month, posting my 4th and my scale today. I had spun about half of the braid of Elderberry and I wanted to ply it.

My total for the month was 129.54 grams, the ball of Shetland/Bombyx has a small doggie tennis ball wrapped inside that weighs 20.8 grams, so it has to be subtracted from the total on the scale.

After lunch, I started plying that ball on my wheel, figuring it would wait until next month when I finished the braid to fill the bobbin. I was so wrong. I barely got it all on the bobbin, then wound it off on the Niddy Noddy to measure how many yard it made. As I said, it is only about half of the braid. The finished yarn was 24 WPI, very fine, the skein is under 2 ounces and there are 489 yards in the skein.

It is gorgeous and I still have 2 1/2 ounces left to spin. I am going to end up with over 1000 yards of this yarn. And the kicker is, I don’t knit with lace weight yarn. I guess when the rest is spun, the skeins will go in my shop. It will take me all of next month to finish spinning that braid.

The morning harvest had lots of beans, a few peppers, 1 tomato, 2 cucumbers. As I was doing dinner prep, I blanched and froze two more gallon bags of beans, plus cooked some to go with our dinner and set aside a bag to take to daughter tomorrow. The third planting of beans are blooming, but beans aren’t forming quite yet, so we will have beans in the freezer and lots more to enjoy.

The morning began foggy. It is always interesting to look out the back and not see the next ridge and then later, it is visible again.

Stay safe everyone.

Work on the Mountain

When we built our house, we ran our power line 2/10 mile underground from the road to the transformer to the meter. We didn’t want to look at the line coming down our driveway or have poles in our view. But that is not the norm here in rural, rocky, mountainous land. For the past two years, the power company has hired a contractor to cut down trees anywhere near the power lines. They come in, cut a wide path, leaving branches, limbs, and tree trunks where they fell. It may help to reduce power outages, but it has increased wildfire risk. It has been unseasonably wet this year, so hopefully we are not threatened. Since we have lived here, the power goes out periodically, but usually only for a few hours at a time. After a Derocho wind in 2012, it stayed out for 42 hours, and a winter or two after that, it was out for 7 days after an ice storm. We hauled water from the catchment system. Once we could get off the mountain, we hauled ice when we could get it to try to keep the freezer cold enough to not spoil, we grilled, cooked on the top of the wood stove, kept fires burning in the wood stove and the fireplace, wore lots of clothes, and coped. After a week, we booked a hotel room for a day, took all our laundry down, got hot showers, and while hubby tried to watch a Sunday football game on a very poor TV connection, I went to the laundromat. We got a hot meal not cooked on the grill, camp stove, or wood stove, and started home as it was getting dark. To our amazement, as we cleared the gap and could see our mountain, we saw lights scattered up the mountainside, the homes had electricity again.

One of the power line cuts near us.

When our house was being built, before the power line was laid by son and DIL for the power company to hook up, we had a small gas generator they used for power tools. After the week without power, I tried to start it, but it wouldn’t start, so we took it to the repair place and were told it wasn’t repairable, at least not for what a new one would cost us, but we didn’t purchase one then. We should have.

The hurricane that is about to slam Louisiana and Texas tonight will make it’s way here still with wind and rain, certainly not anything like what they will endure. My thoughts are with those folks who have lost or had their homes damaged before as they face this again. I hope it isn’t another Katrina for them. But, we will have wind and rain and possible outages. Maybe the destruction around the power lines will reduce the likelihood.

At any rate, we drove to town yesterday and the grocer did not have canning lids alone, but I was able to purchase a flat of a dozen 4 ounce jars with new lids. I came home, thawed the pints of pasta sauce and reboiled it while the big canner heated up and canned it in quart jars to save lids, so my pasta sauce is safe from an outage. Then I went outside to the garden and picked almost a dozen more tomatoes that are sitting in the kitchen window waiting to see if enough will ripen to make another batch before they have to be frozen. I won’t can green beans or peas as I don’t like the texture of overcooked vegetables, so I will just make sure that the freezer is packed densely toward the bottom, not in the hanging baskets and toss a couple of big bags of ice in there too and hope that if we lose power, it isn’t for long enough to spoil the meats and frozen vegetables in there. The brined and fermented pickles and peppers in the refrigerator will be fine. Hopefully the wind won’t be strong enough to knock down the tomatoes. We had a brief, maybe 90 minutes worth of strong wind and some rain with thunderstorms that dropped south last night. It tipped over a large jade plant on the porch, blew a cushion off a chair, but no other damage.

Today’s walk was a throw back walk. Fifteen years ago, we stayed at Mountain Lake Lodge about 4.5 miles farther up the road off which we live, with Son 1, DIL, and 9 week old Grandson 1. The lake was full, Son 1 and DIL dove off the pier after a canoe ride across the lake and around the huge rocks at the end of the lake. The lake is only a pond now with no swimming, fishing, or boating allowed. We started up in the woods and walked down the mountain to the Lodge parking, down to the pier that is now on dry land with young trees growing up, then down a path through what used to be the lake bottom to a temporary floating dock they installed when the lake started losing water. It too is on dry land now. From there, we did a steep uphill back to the trail that lead to where we parked our car. The walk was about the same length as the walk we do in town, but it was cooler, less foot traffic, and more intense in elevation changes. A very pleasant time.

The original pier.
The temporary no longer floating pier. Above hubby’s head and slightly left across what remains of the lake are the rocks we canoed around on that trip.
A little garter snake by the trail.
A ferny woodland.

And the shelves fill

Yesterday’s tomatoes, became today’s pizza sauce. I still don’t have the lids I ordered, still can’t purchase anything but wide mouth ones locally, but I grabbed the 8 regular mouth ones I found on new jars in the basement and made pizza sauce. I tripled the recipe which says it makes 2 half pint jars, but from experience, I know it makes more than that, so I put 8 half pint jars in the biggest stockpot with the strainer basket, that is all that will fit and all the lids I had. It was set to boil to sterilize the jars and later can them and I poured boiling water over the scored and cored tomatoes in two batches. Once one batch was peeled, cored, and diced, the seasoning was added and it started cooking down as I added the second batch of diced tomatoes. When it is a rough sauce, thick enough for pizza, it is ladled into the jars, sealed, and put in the water bath to can.

The sauce filled the 8 jars and there was a pint left, so it was put in a wide mouth pint with a new lid and it will go in the freezer with the pasta sauce, peas, and beans.

I will make pasta sauce from the remaining tomatoes that are harvested this season, there were several more turning pink that I saw when I went out to let the hens out this morning.

As I write this, I hear the satisfying pop of sealing lids on the counter in the kitchen. There will be 15 half pint jars on the shelves and the pint in the freezer. With the quarter pint that went into the freezer with the last batch, that is more than enough for a pizza a week for the next year.

The Tomatillos from yesterday, though enough for a batch of sauce, were frozen until I get more lids. Son 1 likes the Tomatillo/Jalapeno sauce as green salsa, so I will probably can it for him to use, the first batch will provide enough for my cooking needs. As the Tomatillos are producing prolifically now and will until a frost, I will probably make a batch of Tomatillo Pepper jam which is a good substitute for a barbeque glaze or as a condiment on a Charcuterie plate. Then any more after that will just be frozen for soup or canned halves in quart jars for the same purpose. They can be added to chili or pozole.

Yesterday morning, I took stock of the dry goods in the house, consolidated jars, washed a dishwasher full of dusty jars, and made a list of pastas, soups, rice, and cereals that can be bought in larger quantities and stored so that we will have to make fewer trips to town if Covid increases here or if we have a bad winter. We will make a large grocery run this week and then keep a close eye on the daily reports on both the virus and the weather. I worry a bit that so much has been frozen with the hurricane that is about to slam Texas or Louisiana with current tracking showing it may turn east after landfall and hit us with some wind and rain next week. We don’t have a generator to keep the freezer going. If I were to plan this house again, the water catchment system that was to be used to water livestock we never got, would be exchanged for a whole house generator that would at least keep the freezer, refrigerator, and well pump going during power outages. Though I don’t like canned vegetables, if I could get lids, the pasta sauce in the freezer could be thawed, boiled, and canned. First we couldn’t get toilet paper, flour, and yeast. Now you can’t get canning lids. I have never canned pasta sauce in wide mouth jars, and usually use pints, but I might can it in wide mouth pints, and if I can get my hands on a dozen regular mouth lids, I could do quarts, I have plenty of jars.

The garden continues to provide. Last night I opened a jar of last year’s applesauce and noted it was canned on 9/19/2019, so it is only a few short weeks until the fruit on the trees is ready to harvest and make into fruit sauces and jams.