Tag Archives: pumpkins

Arctic Zone

Yesterday was cold and wet, rain at our elevation, snow about 800 feet above us.  With the cold was wind, stripping the gold and red leaves from the trees that had not lost their leaves yet.  A good day to stay indoors, but it was Farmers’ Market day and if we were to have meat this week, other than chicken, a trip to town was necessary.  We dallied, not leaving to have breakfast as on most weekends and knowing that there was a home game at the University in town, an attempt to try to miss the traffic seeking to find parking on side streets or failing that, paying $10/car in church lots or people’s yards. Home games are madness in our little town as the university is huge and the alumni dedicated, even in a cold rain.  The market was done, the vendors all thanking us for coming out in such nastiness, but we came home with ground beef, stew meat, onions and radishes, still having greens in the garden and a bit of the last salad in the refrigerator.  Our usual meat vendor wasn’t there, so I was unable to get the ground pork that I wanted to make a stuffed pumpkin this week, unless I can find a package in the chest freezer.   Or perhaps, I will make a pumpkin, chicken curry in a pumpkin shell, there is plenty of coconut milk and red curry in the pantry.

Once home, the winter squash picked over the prior two days were toted down to the root cellar in the basement, two big canvas sacks at a time, many, many trips up and down the stairs.  The shelves look ready to provide well this winter.


Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, garlic and canned goodies.  This is what is left after loads to northern Virginia and what is upstairs in the pantry.  The freezer stocked with green beans, peas, apples, chicken and a bit of pork and beef stockpiled from weekend trips to the Farmers’ Market.  Our favorite meat vendor toughs it out at the market on all but the worst winter Saturday’s throughout the upcoming winter.

As the wind blew last night, and the temperature dropped, our power failed.  Quickly gathering up the battery lanterns and flashlights and tossing a down blanket on the two quilts on the bed, I settled in with my tablet that had a good charge and the ebook that I am currently reading.  Fortunately, the power only stayed out a couple of hours and we were awakened by the TV and lights coming on and the computer printer doing a self start, though it had been powered off before.

The morning dawned an hour earlier, thanks to the time change last night from daylight savings time.  Yes, I know, an extra hour to sleep, hmmmph, I awake with the sun and get up once awake, my body doesn’t just switch gears like the clock.  As I let the pups out, I realized that we were seeing our first snow flurries and the lightest of dusting on the ground and decks.


Mountain snow showers are a common occurrence, rarely amounting to anything, whenever there is moisture in the air and the temperature below freezing.  The freeze last night, the first freeze burned back the pumpkin patch and the bean patch.  The greens look sad this morning but will perk back up as the daytime temperatures rise above freezing.


After feeding the chickens and breaking the ice on their water, a walk through the ruined patch revealed as I suspected, several more pumpkins.  The largest, not damaged ones gathered and brought in, like I really need more in the house.


Happily, several of them were Buttercup squash.  A couple were tossed into the chicken pen and the rest left to be gathered in the garage or thrown immediately to the chickens over this week once the wind dies down and the temperature rises to a more comfortable range.  This was the first morning that I had to don the heavy barn coat to go deal with the birds.


The peppers that were gathered prior to the expected Arctic chill have all been processed, the tiny jalapenos sliced and frozen, some used in last night’s chili with cornbread for dinner.  The small bell peppers, sliced and frozen, the ripe habeneros packed whole in freezer bags, the green ones set in a bowl to ripen as you can see they are doing.  They too will be bagged and frozen.  The tiny hot orange pepper that I still haven’t identified, was pureed with vinegar they had been soaking in for the past few weeks and a Tabasco-like sauce made that a single drop burned my mouth for an hour.  The rest of them are ripening on the upside down plants in the garage.  The tomatillos that we gathered were rid of their husks, washed and packed whole in freezer bags, another 3 pounds to be used in Pozole this winter.  A chicken, some tomatillos, a bag of dried hominy soaked, a handful of Mexican spices and a hearty soup to feed a small army is made.

We are lovin’ life on our mountain farm and now must accept another winter is upon us.  We were lucky this year, we got an extra 2-3 weeks before the first frost.

Pumpkins and Squash, Oh My!

It didn’t quite get to freezing last night, but we did get a light frost. Thinking that 20 something nights wouldn’t do the pumpkins and squash any good, a morning harvest was set in motion.
Last night we brought in 19, most of them seen here.


This morning I harvested 53 more. They were stacked around the perimeter of the garden as I debated how to get them all over to the house and the idea lightbulb flashed.


The two tobagans hanging in the garage awaiting grandkids and snow were put to use. I have no idea how many pounds of goodness are there but each was a challenge to drag them individually across the yard. This isn’t all of the year’s harvest, some were taken to NoVa, some to the neighbor that helped last night, several already cooked for us, a few damaged or small ones tossed to the chickens. Are there more out there? I am certain of it, many tiny baseball to softball sized ones, probably a few larger ones hidden in the jungle of dying leaves. Each time I go out I spot another.
A tiny white tailed denizen of the jungle was perturbed that I dared tromp through his habitat and took off through the garden.
Earlier this fall, I was certain that the Burgess Buttercup squash were the predominant winter squash and the Seminole Pumpkins lost to the overgrowth of leaves as none of the squash were turning the characteristic tan of the pumpkins. The harvest revealed very few Buttercups and predominately Seminole, most tan or tanning on the lower side. Next year they get the orchard to cover. We will enjoy the harvest as will our neighbors, chickens, and family.

Pumpkin Soup

I thought the pressure canner had been stored away for the year, but then the winter squash started appearing through the jungle of leaves and I realized that I had so much more winter squash than the two of us will ever eat.  Mountaingdad likes pumpkin pie at holidays and will tolerate about two small baked pumpkins stuffed with rice, sausage, etc. each winter, but that will hardly put a dent in the harvest.  Last night I texted Son#1 and asked for suggestions and he was quick to suggest pumpkin soup, and if I canned it, he would eat a couple quarts a week as he takes his lunch to work with him.  This seemed like a splendid idea as soup is my favorite food, if it is not commercially canned soup.  We have a local restaurant that always has chili and two soups made fresh at the restaurant and they are unique and rarely duplicated on the menu.  In the years we have lived here, I have only gotten one soup there that I did not like so I set out to make a creative pumpkin soup. Here is the recipe, I hope to soon be able to insert my recipes in a printable card, but not yet.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

  • 5 c cubed, pared raw winter squash or 3 c cooked winter squash
  • 2 1/2 c vegetable stock
  • 1/4 c onion
  • 1 Tbs. oil
  • 1 Tbs. minced ginger
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 Habanero (may be omitted or use a less pungent pepper for a milder soup)
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole cumin
  • 1 tsp whole coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c dried milk

If you use raw squash, cook it in the broth until soft.  Blend or puree the cooked squash and put it back in the soup pot.  Retain 1 cup in the blender and blend in the milk powder until smooth and creamy.

Toast the cumin and coriander until fragrant and then grind.  Saute the onion in the oil until soft but not browned, add the garlic and ginger until softened. (You may use garlic paste and ginger paste as a substitute, but just add it with the ground spices) Add the ground spices and the sauteed onion and stir to blend in.  Add the puree with the milk into the soup and bring back to a simmer.  It will stick if you let it boil. Yields about 8 cups

I doubled the recipe and the result is slightly spicy and delicious.  With two cantaloupe sized pumpkins, I made the 4 quarts of the soup for canning and had just enough left over to savor myself.


I guess it would be a bisque as it is blended smooth and contains milk.  My plan is to alter the seasonings with each batch for variety, make and can until I run out of jars again.  Son#1 said we could bring down another load from his house when I go pick the up for Thanksgiving and they would help me peel and seed the squash and pumpkins to make more while they are here.  It is rather time consuming, peeling and seeding 2 pumpkins, but it occurred to me after I was done that I could have just as easily split and baked them and used the baked flesh instead of boiling it soft, but I do like the flavor the broth added to the soup.

NOTE:  canning failure.  You can’t can pumpkin puree or soup, just chunks of pumpkin.  The soup is in the freezer and will be enjoyed after thawing the jars.  Lesson learned, I guess we just can the pumpkin chunks and make our soup later.


It keeps on giving

that wonderous garden of ours.  I asked my favorite farmer friends at the Market this morning when our average first frost date was, because my memory told me it was around October 10 and they confirmed that we were past it, so far without a frost on their farm in our county or ours.  They still have tomatoes and flowers growing!  Of course I had to buy a tomato and a bunch of flowers.  Don’t they look great on the fall table cover?


We are getting mid 30’s nights, but no frost and the garden keeps giving of bush beans, broccoli, peppers, tomatillos, turnips and greens.  The big crop of harvest now are the winter squash.


Seminole pumpkins and Burgess Buttercup squash.  There are so many out there that I still cannot get to and though the plants are beginning to die back, there are still flowers on some of the plants.  There will be many softball size squash and pumpkins to feed the chickens over the next couple of months and many more larger ones that we will never be able to eat them all.


Though it was getting dark when I went out last night to lock up the laying hens, the sun setting behind the west hill and casting it’s last glow on the gold of these trees stopped me for a few moments of time to enjoy the chilling night and the beautiful color.  By the time I walked back, the sun had set and the side yard was dark.  It is indeed a beautiful time of the year, though it is short and soon the trees will be skeletons in the woods and we will be able to see lights from our nearest neighbor’s houses through the woods.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Olio – October 24, 2014

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

Our internet issues seem to be finally resolved, many months and many mistakes later, we are back with our original cell provider and our original internet/phone provider.  The lines have been repaired, the speed boosted as much as it can be boosted given our physical distance from the nearest booster from our small community cooperative telephone/internet provider.  They also provide cable TV service, but their HD is not HD, so we opt to receive cable elsewhere.  Life was so much simpler with an antenna, a house phone line, no internet and no cell phones; cheaper too.

The sweater was ripped out and restarted using a yoke pattern instead of a raglan pattern, the sleeves have been put on waste yarn and the body is being worked slowly.  This pattern is from one of Ann Budd’s formula books, so it should fit.


The twisty rib pattern at the top is interesting.  Hopefully it will block into a nice yoke for the sweater that is otherwise very plain.

As the sweater has already gotten too bulky to want to tote around with me when I am the car passenger, I finally started the mitts that are made of Unplanned Peacock Superwash Merino in a colorway named for me as it was dyed especially for me to match a skein I purchased from her several years ago and from which I designed and made Ruby Hat (http://goo.gl/yAfQV) and later Ruby Scarf (http://goo.gl/uzjTFo), both free patterns on Ravelry.  Ruby Hat is my favorite hat and has its own story, but that is for another day.  The mitts are also being made from one of Ann Budd’s formula books to wear with the hat and scarf or just around the house at night when my hands get cold.  They are the perfect portable pocket project for the car.


I am frequently amused at questions I get from folks that I know have grown up their entire lives in this rural county.  Today, the phone/internet installer saw my chickens wandering about the yard and ask me very innocently if my hens were laying now that the weather is cooling down.  My response was yes, except for the one who was molting.  I could tell from his expression that he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about and he said his egg production from 10 hens was down to only a couple each day.  I asked him how old his hens were and most of them are only about a year and a half old, so experiencing their first molt this season, thus his lack of eggs.  He also wasn’t feeding them any calcium, not even giving them back their own shells.  He left educated by the city girl with a ziplock sack of crushed oyster shell to free feed his hens and a promise that once their feathers were back in that he would start seeing eggs again.  He also was surprised that Son#1 and I could kill and process our culls and meat birds.  He said though he could shoot and dress a deer, he wasn’t sure he could do a chicken.  Our flock is enjoying their daily freedom to dig in the gardens, to look for bugs and tender blades of grass.  When we need them safely away from the dogs or driveway, I just go out like the Pied Piper with my little cup of scratch that I shake and they come running and follow me back to the safety of the electric fence.

The pumpkin vines are dying back more each day and revealing more of the winter squash.  I thought that only the Burgess Buttercup survived and that I didn’t get any Seminole pumpkins, but realize that it is a half and half mix, except the pumpkins for the most part haven’t turned tan.  The ones that I picked and put on the picnic table are beginning to turn.  The wormy ones get split with a hatchet and thrown into the chicken run for them to enjoy.  A side benefit is that the seeds are a natural anti parasitic for the chickens.  The peppers and tomatillos survived the cold nights predicted in the last post.  I am letting the remaining fruits mature until we are threatened again and I will do another harvest.  The last batch was made into another 4 pints of Tomatillo/Habanero sauce, the hottest batch yet.  Maybe I should change it’s name from XXX to Insanity.  I sure can’t eat it, but Son#1 will love it.  The Farmers’ Market last week had many vendors of apples.  I came home with another peck of mixed crisp red apples and realizing that they would not stay crisp until we finished them all, I used about a third to make another batch of Apple Cranberry Chutney (http://wp.me/p3JVVn-Ja), using 1 cup of honey instead of brown sugar this time.  The shelves are full of goodies even after having taken two crates of canned goodness to Northern Virginia on the last two trips to return son and grandson.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm and continuing to gather knowledge to fight the pipeline.


Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

As the canning season is nearly over, may be over if it really went down to 30ºf last night as predicted, I haven’t checked yet.  Yesterday was a day to harvest everything that was ready, do a small canning as I wanted to try two of Marisa McClellan’s recipes for canning small quantities.

Before we had freezers, refrigerators, and pressure canners, food was preserved by smoking, salting or fermenting.  The Germans preserved cabbage, the Koreans made Kimchi both using salt and the anaerobic process known as Lacto-fermentation.  These products are available, but the raw, unpasteurized products made at home are so much tastier and have more health benefits.

Fermentation on the counter.
A basket of tomatillos, assorted peppers, bush beans, too many radishes and lots of greens were brought in, a 2 pint batch of Chunky Tomatillo Salsa made.  Quite uncharacteristic for me, I purchased a quart of out of season Strawberries as one of her books has a recipe for strawberry jam made with honey and Thyme that I wanted to try and I made a small batch of that as well.  I rarely grow radishes as they all are ready at the same time and you go from famine to feast.  I took the surplus and made a quart jar of radish Kimchi then shredded cabbage to start a half gallon of Sauerkraut.  The Cider started as vinegar a few days ago is beginning to smell, well like vinegar.  Maybe another half gallon of Sauerkraut will be made later.  Pickles and sauerkraut used to be made in quantity in large crocks or barrels in the farmhouse basements, the farm cook going down and drawing off what was needed for a meal and the crock re-covered until needed again, lasting until spring vegetables were growing.  We usually go through about a gallon each year. The eveningwas finished blanching and freezing the beans and hoping the plants survive the night to give us a few more meals before the real frosts and freezes of autumn arrive.

The tarp on the meat chicken pen was anchored more securely, the peppers and tomatillos covered with light tarps and row cover.


A photo of the pumpkin patch was made to document the wild growth they did in the rich soil of the compost bins.


I’m afraid to venture down to check the thermometer for the low or to peek out to see what survived the night.  I am hopeful that we are high enough to avoid the frost pockets that should have formed last night.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.