As things wind down

The posts including my obsession with canning will end and we will eat fresh until frost and then start digging in to the larder. The Natural Foods store did have pears, and Valencia oranges, so as soon as we got home from hubby’s appointment and the curbside pickup, I pared, cored, and sliced the pears; quartered, seeded, and sliced an orange and cooked the marmalade down to 5 half pints of my favorite jam. It may taste a bit different as these were firm Barletts, not the Asian Pears I usually use, but I will have some on the shelves for winter. As these won’t go anywhere (i.e. to Son 1 or daughter’s homes), I used the reuseable lids. One thing I don’t like about them is you don’t get the satisfying pop to know they are sealed. You have to wait for them to be totally cool, remove the band, and lift them by the lid to see if they successfully sealed. And you don’t want to use the permanent marker used on the metal ones to label the top of the jar. Instead, I will use small pieces of freezer tape to label them.

While we were in town for the appointment and curbside pickup, I was going to get a fermenting book from the library. They have been open inside for a month or 6 weeks with limited number of people at a time and safety precautions so I didn’t bother to check the website. There has been a significant spike in COVID cases on campus and town is in shutting down mode again. The library only has curbside pickup, but I hadn’t pre-arranged to get the book. Fast food restaurants with drive-through service have again closed their dining rooms with service only in the drive up window, which is all we use anyway. Another small business that has a sister business in town has closed and their stock moved to the sister business that is both ice cream shop and gift shop. I suspect we will see more of that and more food places close for good as it gets too cold to eat on their patios and sidewalk tables. The town had closed one street that has several restaurants flanking it and erected canopies with tables to accommodate them and they gave up 5 or 6 parking spaces in the alley near the Farmer’s Market for the same purpose. It will soon be too cold for people to sit out there to eat and the tables with umbrellas on College Ave will be taken in for winter. This is going to hurt these businesses again. The University is fighting to try and stay open until Thanksgiving to close and finish the semester virtually and online exams. Their plan was to reassess the situation if their quarantine room availability dropped below 50%. It is down to 31% and so they are moving students living on campus in one dorm to other dorms, giving them a housing rebate for having to move and freeing up 70 more rooms in an effort to stay open. The problem is the off campus students that go to classes on campus and return into the community and the limits COVID has caused to their dining facilities sending students to local restaurants and fast food locations to get food and the virus is spreading in the town and surrounding communities.

A long time ago, seems like a different lifetime, I worked with a very diverse group of folks, some of whom were excellent cooks, all older than me, many having already raised their families as we were just beginning. Recipes were often shared, even school staff cookbooks made. Several of the recipes became go to recipes for our growing family, a meatloaf recipe, pizza or calzone dough, and a faux lasagna. The meatloaf has evolved slightly, but is still used, now in small amounts or made into several and frozen except for the one cooked. The dough made about once a week. The faux lasagna went into the file after no cook lasagna noodles were introduced, but lasagna makes too much for just the two of us. One of the purchases I make from the Natural Foods store are really good egg noodles, the pasta from the faux lasagna. I had an 8 oz fresh mozzarella from the Farmer’s Market, bought a carton of cottage cheese from the village store, and made a quick pasta sauce from the tomatoes on the kitchen window sill, along with some of our garlic, onions, basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary and without having the recipe in my file anymore, it was recreated as well as I could from memory. I had Parmesan and there are still a few eggs from the molting hens. It doesn’t come off quite like lasagna, but it is rich, cheesy, with good sauce and an under an hour meatless meal. I quite enjoyed it, hubby ate it, but would have preferred real lasagna. He never complains, but I can tell when he thinks it is a repeatable meal. He has left over goulash and rice for lunch today and I have a serving of the casserole. We will both be happy.

As seniors we always get a flu shot, usually in mid to late October. We are wondering if we should get one now, but then worry that it won’t still be effective through the entire flu season. I guess a call to our primary care physician’s office is in order to get their opinion. We have no reason to go anywhere for the next few days until Farmer’s Market preorder pick up so we will hunker down safely here at home. The annual HVAC service is scheduled this afternoon. I am glad we have a walk out basement so the technician can enter and leave through that door and I can deal with the paperwork on the porch. We don’t want people coming into the house unnecessarily as the virus spreads through our rural community as well.

I am thinking and worrying a lot about my online friends and two young cousins on the west coast in the midst of the wildfires. One I know has had to evacuate and others are hoping they won’t, but dealing with thick smoke and ash. The cooler temperatures and predicted rainfall can’t come soon enough for them.

Stay safe everyone. I see more and more cartoons wishing 2020 adieu. It has not been a good year.

Arrrgh, mowing equipment

After I posted yesterday, I went down and put the new belt on the mower deck being very careful not to get it twisted and to follow the installation diagram. The engine started right up, I pulled out of the garage, engaged the mower, got about halfway around the front yard once and it ate the new belt. Something must be misaligned, a pulley, unlevel deck, something. So I pulled out the gas push mower to finish the front and mow a path to the chicken coop, yard hydrant, and garden. It hasn’t been started since April and it wouldn’t start. I thought I was going to dislocate my shoulder trying to get it running. Finally, I pulled the new line trimmer down, weed whacked the paths to the coop, hydrant, and garden and came in totally frustrated. A call to the local reliable repair shop to see if they worked on that brand of riding mower and they do, so the trailer was hooked up, the mower loaded and since we were headed there anyway, put the push mower on the trailer too and delivered them to be checked out, adjusted, and hopefully repaired without costing us a month’s retirement installment. Until they are returned, I will just keep paths whacked to the cars, the coop, and the garden.

We are due more rain today and tomorrow, but since the weather is cooling off, hopefully the grass won’t grow so much it can’t easily be mowed.

The reuseable lids arrived yesterday. I have placed an order at the Natural foods store and put pears on the list. If they have any, I will make my marmalade. If not, I will check the Farmer’s Market again on Saturday when I go to pick up my pre-ordered goods. I am still hopeful that since pears are a fall fruit that I will find some variety to use. I have moved some dry goods to old salsa jars and empty tins to free up a few more of the half pint size jars and with the ones still in the basement and a handful of quarter pint sized ones, I have enough for a couple batches of jam or marmalade, and enough pints for another batch of diced tomatoes or pasta sauce. I have combined some quarts of brined jalapenos to half gallons, so I can use quarts for tomatoes too. There are still a dozen wide mouth pints on the shelves as well, so there are enough jars and lids to finish the season’s canning. The beans from the other night added 3 more gallon bags loosely filled so they don’t become an unusable block of blanched beans in the freezer. I wish there was a more environmentally friendly way to store the frozen peas, beans, and corn. A sandwich size container is just about the right size for the two of us for a meal, maybe I should buy a stock of that size container that can be put in the dishwasher and reused year after year. I tried glass jars a couple of years ago, but you have to pack the beans or peas in water and risk jar breakage in the freezer.

Signs of summer fading away.

Wish we could share this out west.
Autumn Joy in bloom.
One Stella amidst the the faded Calendula which has generously self seeded there.
Enough Zinnias for a tiny bathroom vase.
Zinnias with ragged leaves and fading blossoms.

The garden is winding down, the flowers are fading, the leaves on the trees are dull and on our walk last night we could see the beginnings of color change and thistles blown.

Blown thistles and cockleburrs against the reflection on the pond.

Soon walks will require layers and starts before, not after dinner as the days shorten, the nights lengthen. And the seasons move on as we continue to distance from family and friends. Stay safe everyone.

Midnight Marauders?

With all of the pears and most of the apples gone, and now the grape vine totally stripped of leaves, I think I must have midnight marauders. I have run deer out of the orchard dozens of times, but nothing has ever bothered the grape vine before. Two days ago, one end was stripped of leaves, yesterday about half, this morning, it is bare.

There is still plenty of wild vegetation and grass so I’m not sure why they are coming this close to the house and eating the grape leaves. I guess as soon as the weather chills, it will get a pruning job. I’m glad I got the grapes before this occurred because the few that were left to ripen are also gone. Perhaps, I need to run the electric fence strands around the orchard as well as the garden.

A couple of years ago, I was looking for a waste free chicken feeder to put inside the coop and found the plans for this using a 5 gallon bucket, a hole saw, 3 PVC elbows, and it is perfect. It holds an entire 25 lb bag of feed pellets, three hens can feed at a time, and because they have to stick their head in and down to get to the food they don’t toss it everywhere or scratch it out like they do in an open or tray edged container. The only drawback is the lid provides a great perch to look out the windows toward the house, so I have to add a flower pot on top to keep the lid from getting fouled by the fowl. That designer was genius and the plans were easy to follow. If I hung it, it would become a moving target, bet it would be fun to watch them trying to feed, but it sits on an old galvanized feeder tray to raise it off the floor a few inches.

I finished the mittens yesterday and returned to spinning the ruby and purple Shetland/Bombyx braid, using my new ring distaff and the Finch spindle. I can’t model the mittens as they are for someone with small hands like a tiny woman or larger child. I had someone look at mittens in my booth two years in a row and say they wanted mittens when walking their dog, but their hands were too small for the ones I had. I will put then in the shop with the dimensions posted, maybe they will fit someone’s idea for mittens. There is enough of the blue Tunis left to spin for a matching hat. The mittens need to be washed and blocked still.

It is a slow day. No canning. I still need to mow before we start getting rain again.

Take care and enjoy the pending fall weather.