Friday, July 30, 2010

Big Ooops!

Dearest Readers,

I'm so sorry to have deserted you, today, but a lightning storm took out my modem last night and I've only--just now-- gotten back online.  Losing it (AGAIN!!) was my fault for unplugging the Uninterrupted Power Supply unit from the wall, allowing the strike to come in.  My faithful computer man, Frank Thompson arrived this afternoon to put everything to right (as he always does....who could want for more??  He makes house calls!!  Thank you, Frank, The Computer Man!  You are the best!).

So, I believe with all this discombobulation I'll close out the week.  Tomorrow we are getting a bull for Marigold, looking toward a calf sometime next April or May.  And, her half-sister, Honeysuckle,  will be moved in with her so she, too, can meet the handsome bull.  And I have tons of Roma beans to can tomorrow.  MM is going to the livestock auction.

Keri--thanks for stopping by!  And thank you so much for the compliment.  Barbara, Ruta, Beth, Julia, Vicki thank you for your sweet comments all week long and for sharing your lovely lives.

Have a relaxing weekend, everyone! 
See you Monday!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dinner Time on the Farm

It's all about eating seasonally and loving every minute!  Below I'm visually posting the dinner menu for dinner last night.  The only "foreign" food was the Ranch Dressing, which I'm too lazy to make from scratch!  

Cottage Cheese from Marigold

Here's that Okra again...!

Lovely, delicious tomatoes of every stripe!

 Cucumbers by the million....(almost!)

Snap peas

Add a couple of ears of corn, and a head of broccoli with that Ranch Dressing it off with freshly picked peaches....and it's a meal and then some.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maybe it was something I said...Celebrating the Ordinary Comments

...but Blogger will not allow me to comment on my own blog!  So, I'll get around that obstructionist approach by posting a separate post just for the comments on that particular topic!

Here they are:

You must be really excited to have your son visit, Barb! We'll keep our fingers crossed for "moderating" elements!

You know, Ruta....that word "siesta" seems to have an underlying implication of "laziness..." when, indeed, in the hotter climes--South America, even Italy and Med countries....taking an after noon nap is part of the culture. It's "respectable" but now, in the last few years, has been found to be important and even helps "productivity" (just to keep the industrialists happy, here)...I favor an afternoon nap! And then, the stores (in Italy, for example) --after a leisurely evening meal around 9:00 p.m., are still open for business, as folks stroll around, in the cool! Makes perfect sense!

Hi, Beth! Great ingredients for a summer sandwich. Have you ever heard the kids' song, Sandwiches?

"Sandwiches are beautiful, sandwiches are fine. I like sandwiches I eat them all the time. I eat them for my supper and I eat them for my lunch. If I had a hundred sandwiches I'd eat them all at once!"

That's me!!

Bitter Butter

Betty Botter bought some butter, but she said "this butter's bitter! But a bit
of better butter will but make my butter better" So she bought some better
butter, better than the bitter butter, and it made her butter better so 'twas
better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter!

It's amazing how many nursery rhymes are derived from the agrarian experience.  Yet much of our understanding of them, has been lost or eclipsed by our now-industrial/information culture.  Who remembers what a serious problem it was when the cow "kicked the bucket;" but compassionate souls took pity on the careless dairy maid and told her not to "cry over spilt milk"; especially when the cow (along with the cat and the fiddle) "jumped over the moon?"

Pulling the wool over one's eyes, a wolf in sheep's clothing...this was everyday LIFE.  Today' the sayings are but most. 

Many of the rhymes were also political satire, based on what happened in the barnyard, the pig pen (huffing and puffing to blow the pig's house down....)(we had a pig house fall down this past fall.  The pigs undermined it  completely until its light structure collapsed and the pigs wound up wearing their house!) 

The agrarian way of life was LIFE ITSELF when these nursery rhymes were conceived.  They were a means of communicating sensitive information or accusations, when people still understood what they meant--the hidden meanings and agendas of the age--based on agriculture.  

When I was a child, and tried to wrap my tongue around the "bitter butter" tongue twister, I always wondered about "bitter butter."  Why, I asked myself, would butter EVER be bitter?  Well, the answer, my friends, is that when you make butter "from scratch" you must "pat it out."  Yes, that means actually patting it and squishing it to remove the "butterMILK" because if the "milk" (whey) is NOT removed, the butter will guessed it:  BITTER!

So, the process of making butter involves getting your hands (or a tool) right into it and schmushing the lovely yellow mass until cold water run over it, is no longer "milky" but instead, runs clear.  Any dairy maid "worth her salt" would be able to tell you that!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Clemson Loses the Okra Game!

MM LOVES okra.  For years, we have grown the traditional "Clemson Spineless" variety, never questioning its superiority.  Well.....move over CS--we've found a replacement, and after reading this post, all you Southern okra-philes, arise!  I believe you, too, will be capitvated to the extent you will abandon that old-timey favorite and lose your heart to....Beck's Big Buck Okra!  Ta-daaaaaaa and drumroll:

Clemson Spineless on the far right--3 inches

Here, directly from Fedco's seed catalog Fedco Seeds

"No, this is not a good hunting story or one of those sure-fire get-rich schemes, nor did Beck make his buck by getting a bail-out funded by tax-payer dollars.  When Malcolm and Delphine Beck bought their farm in 1968 in Cormal County, TX they found in the abandoned garden giant okra stalks with the fattest pods they'd ever seen.  When they saved and replanted the seed it grew big fluted remarkably tender delicious green pods in abundance on sturdy plants.  They called it the snapping okra because it snaps so easily off the plants when it is ready to harvest.  They couldn't find anything like it in seed catalogs. 

At one point they even saved and cleaned 74 POUNDS of seed for a repacker only to have the company go belly-up before paying them a cent.  Undeterred they've continued giving seeds away the last 33 years at their Garden Ville store.  It turns out that the original seeds were smuggled from Germany (GERMANY???  Too far north for okra???)(maybe via the Dalmatian Coast??)by one of their neighbors.  We are fortunate to have a limited quantity grown by our friends at Southern Exposure.  Though not adapted to our climate (Maine for Fedco) Beck's will produce even in Central Maine in an average growing season.  Of course it will do much better further south."

So, if you like okra, and you want to grow it, check out the seed from Fedco Seeds!  We can vouch for its size, tenderness and taste out here JOTOLR! 

Sorry, Clemson!  Back to the drawing board for you!

And a closing sunset for today--it was spectacular last night!  This is our peach tree in silhouette.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Celebrating the Ordinary!

Sometimes we find ourselves rushing through the hours, hitting only the high spots of the day, falling into bed at night, only to awaken again feeling overwhelmed with tasks we face.  That even happens out here, JOTOLR, believe it or not!  So, every once in awhile we have to stop in our tracks, take a look around, and celebrate the every-day, the ordinary, that which crosses our vision, but which we don't take time to see...

Here are only a few of mine this past weekend:

MM called me out as he was watering the Glossy Abelia with the command to "bring your camera" as there were at least 15 butterflies flitting about gathering moisture and whatever else butterflies gather!  Capturing an image of one butterfly is a lot easier than capturing an image of LOTS of butterflies.  I noticed in this case, that not all Swallowtails have tails.....

The Black Swallowtail has an extra set of "wings" at the top margins of the main ones. See them?  They're time as I watch them fly, I'm going to look to see if those wings work independently....And though it's difficult to see, in this photo at this resolution, on my computer version I can see the tiny hairs on either side of the body. 

And, of course, I never seem to be able to ignore those cabbages when the sun comes up behind them.  The delicate veining seems to draw my eye every time!

And finally, the "Last Shot on the Card..."  I was, indeed, tired last night.  The heat throughout yesterday had been heavy.  I felt as though I'd been carrying it.  My camera goes with me everywhere, but I'd set it down on the bedroom dresser and was in the midst of fixing dinner at around 8:30 p.m.  It was a celebration!  The First BLT of the Season!  (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato sandwiches--our favorite!)  There was one image left on the card without returning to my office to replace it.  Celebrating the event, I had planned to shoot a photo of the BLT with MM's homemade bread, and homegrown lettuce, and tomato (bacon is purchased!) But then I chanced to look out the screen door toward the northwest and what I saw took my breath away.  Without a lot of fuss, the choice was between a photo of a homegrown BLT or a gorgeous sunset....see what I chose!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fashionable Farm Footgear

Good Morning, Everyone!

It was a busy day out here yesterday JOTOLR.  It started at 6:00 a.m. with milking Marigold who has increased her milk supply by one quart, plus a little at each milking...She's turned into a SUPERB family milk cow.  She's easy to milk, calm, contented, and we are, too! 

After milking came time to clean out the cucumber patch of those ugly yellow BIG cukes (anyone have a recipe for outsized, over-ripe ones?)(if so, send it along to me!)  I had a cartful of  "overdones' and the pigs were a happy lot as a result. 

Next came hanging my cottage cheese which I had slightly overheated due to other pressing concerns, but I got it up on the cupboard door handle, where it hung and dripped the rest of the day. 

Next, something I had not planned on doing, but a welcome task nontheless--MM brought in a bucket of snap peas to string, blanch, and freeze.  Along the way, he asked me if I had dried any more ZUCCHINI...and you all know how I feel about that mild suggestion on his part on a day like yesterday.

After we got that discussion out of the way, I segued into washing the premium cukes, slicing them, washing jars, loading jars, heating the brine/pickling spice, and generally speaking, readying the whole canning panoply and ultimately canning fourteen quarts of dill pickles.  Thanks to my friend, Debbi at Knit Run Reap Eat for having dill since mine pooped out except for three small plants which haven't matured as yet, but will in time for pickled okra later on.

By the time I finished the pickles just before evening milking...I was finished.  Any blog time I thought I could manage yesterday flew out the window as the pillow beckoned.  I'll have to get organized as some of you obviously are, with posts that seem to happen magically regardless of your busy schedules.  It's so apparent I could some organizational training in blog management!

So, we had the cottage cheese, plus tomatoes, plus first corn, plus snap peas, plus salad (loaded with ZUCCHINI, lettuce, radishes and....guess what?  CUCUMBERS...and some new OKRA which I will share with you the next time we pick.  I am not an okra-lover!  But this was incredible!!  HUGE pods and oh-so-tender!   I can't wait to share photos with you (MM ate all of it except for two pods I ate.  We now have to wait for the next wave, but I promise I'll show you and tell you all about the story that goes with it.

Also, I haven't put aside Milk 101.  Things have simply been too busy to go back to the topic.  I'll try to put more into that this coming week.

I thought today I'd end the week with a photo of the "farm fashion footgear" I wear.  It needs no explanation except to say that depending on the day's tasks, each of these is a solid part of my oh-so-fancy wardrobe!  The "wellies" are my favorite...or maybe the funny Chinese shoes that are so comfy....OTOH, I do love my "fencing-and-firewood" boots...then again, the "running shoes" give me maximum flexibility when I'm chasing cows or training dogs!  Which simply goes to show they each occupy an important part of nearly every day, out here JOTOLR.  

Finally, a HOT, HOT, HOT sunset to end your week.  Thank you all so much for visiting and for sharing YOUR stories with me!  I so enjoy every word! 
 Have a delightful COOOOOOOL weekend!
See you Monday.  

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Triple H Weather

Sounds a bit like a dude ranch, doesn't it!  Triple H weather is what I call it and I really do not like it.  High Heat and Humidity.  I have to admit I am hiding out in the house.  And we have several of these plugged up throughout both floors. 

Muggy.  Soggy.  Barely able to breath!  It's almost like drowning.  I've always said during weather like this, we have to cut a hole in order to breathe.  Mostly, the plants in the garden are happy with this tropical invasion.  The plums, however, are not.  They quickly develop mold in Triple H times.  One tree has already ripened and I've canned the fruit.  But we're still waiting on the second tree.

Later this afternoon, it's supposed to look like this:

Forecast is calling for "up to" three inches of rain.....(per hour!)  We may have to start on the ark, and begin loading two of everything aboard!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Daddy Long Legs

They're so common.  So...unnoticed.  They're everywhere.  When I brush them off of a surface I need, they tumble silently, seemingly unhurt, to another locale, and go about their business...whatever that business is.  In this case, it is scavenging for food over the dessicated remains of apricot seeds we saved for replanting.  Daddy Long Legs spiders don't "prey" as their webs are not sticky, but sloppily made to simply entangle accidentally.  Because their web-making skills are underdeveloped, they rely on all manner of decaying matter for their food---from vegetable to carrion.  They aren't fussy.  They have a varied diet, which seemingly depends more upon that fact that they found it, rather than any planned menu.

We've all heard that "urban legend" that says that Daddy Long Legs spiders are THE most poisonous spider on earth.  Surprise, suprise!  It's not true.  And the name, "Daddy Long Legs" is widely distributed over several different species the world over.  For a quick, but rather comprehensive, picture of the name and related species, go to: Daddy Long Legs Spiders

There are many varieties, many misnomers and many misconceptions.  Hop over to the website and have an educated look at this ubiquitous arachnid which seems to find its way into almost everything this time of year out here JOTOLR.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Unmitigated Exuberance

I am wondering how I could have been sucked in.  I can only attribute my indescretion to the seductive names in the seed catalog.  I mean, who could resist "Black Beauty" or "Guatemalan Blue Banana" or "Golden Zucchini?"  But that was back in the winter and I had grandiose dreams as I longed for "fresh" and "green" and "succulent..."

And adding insult to injury, I--and it was I, no doubt about it, no shirking responsibility for the current state of affairs--decided to plant half a row of each!!!  That's 25 FEET of ZUCCHINI ---EACH.  Twenty-five feet of Black Beauty, and 25 feet of Golden Zucchini. (the Guatemalan is actually a winter squash and I'll have to deal with that later!)

Need I say, we are buried in ZUCCHINI!  I put a flag on the roof so someone will eventually be able to find us and perhaps dig us out. 

Even the pigs have said they are TIRED OF ZUCCHINI!  Imagine that!  The old sow didn't even get up to come look this morning, MM said.  And, yes, I know you've all heard Paul Harvey's mention of the guy standing on his porch with a shotgun, threatening anyone bringing zucchini,  with mayhem!  We haven't quite reached THAT stage out here JOTOLR.

Actually, I admit during winter, a little zucchini is a delightful addition to soups and stews. The trouble usually is getting it from summer to winter. Most methods of preserving tend to leave it a soggy's impossible to can it, yes, it can be pickled, freezing it hasn't worked for me.  What has worked, though,  is drying it.  In fact, I do a lot of drying: corn, onions, asparagus, apples, herbs, and zucchini. 

A dehydrator has found a home here. I went for the big one--nine trays at a time with temperature control.

1/4-inch slices before drying...

1/4-inch slices after drying

One slice....

A whole GARDEN of zucchini! In one tiny package.
Even so, a little zucchini goes a long, l-o-n-g way! And I never seem to learn! 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday, already..!

Well, everyone....I don't know where it went, but it's Friday.  Here's a quick view of what's been keeping us busy out here JOTOLR:

Each successive row is 50 long.  And now we've made the turn (mostly) from planting to picking and, you'll know what we'll be doing this weekend. Other pictures would show MM's millet, and buckwheat and Potimarron Squash in the outer gardens, but I'll save that for later as we harvest, and same with tomatoes.  Today, we're picking two rows of Provider Green beans and canning them.

Here's wishing everyone a lovely weekend! 
See you Monday!

The Old Fashioned Way

Remember that sanctimonious E. F. Hutton ad from several years back that went something like..."We make money the old-fashioned way:  we EARN it1"  Well....despite the fact that I've shown you hay being made before, that was with new-fangled equipment.  Rachet down a couple of notches and you have a Model 37 International baler....(is that 1937????), an OLD International tractor and two OLD people, doing hay the old-fashioned way, EARNING it.  All 50 bales!

Here's the rig:

Here's my rig:

A short bale throws a monkey wrench into things so MM re-ties and...

Spreads it out to be re-baled...

Thankfully, there weren't too many of those...
Here's the Old Grey Mare.....(and she ain't what she used to be!)

At the end of the day, though, we have 50 beautiful perfectly, dry, light-green colored bales in the barn and with the hay we put up at the beginning of the season, the barn is full.  We have enough to take care of the meager complement of stock we anticipate holding over this winter--including Marigold, of course!

Dinner last night was at 10:30 p.m.  And, I'm a little slower-moving this morning!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Foggy Revelations

I love foggy mornings.  I see things in the fog that I otherwise would miss.  Spiderwebs, for example. 

These little architectural wonders festoon the dried stalks of weeds and grasses and only come to light in the fog. 

They are captivating with their various designs, each one a food web crafted with utmost attention to detail.  I particularly like and marvel at the tent-shaped, hanging basket webs. 

Curiously, though, I've never seen a spider in one of these tent webs.  They must lurk below in the weeds and strike at the first wiggle of the net.  In fact, as I was photographing one of these webs, a moth did fly out from below, but missed being captured.  Still no spider, though. 

And this shot?  Just a pretty Morning Glory along the garden fence against a rusty post!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Taking Time....

I believe it's time to TAKE time.  It's time to take my own advice and heed the implied warning by Mohandas Gandhi in my sub-head on this blog:

There is more to life than increasing its speed.

Whew!  It's summer out here JOTOLR.  Summer at full throttle.  We're living at warp can only do things so fast on a farm!  Picking, canning, drying, cheesemaking, milking, weeding, fall planting--it's a huff 'n puff whirlwind out here.  No time for slackers!  Yesterday began like this:

The brief downpour was welcome.  And we milked Marigold under the new metal roof and stall, staying dry, enjoying the musical drumbeat of droplets overhead.

But then, I went to pick plums and had an argument with a wasp that protested my intrusion and quibbled about parting with some of the succulent orbs on the tree .  It stung me on the nose.  Painful as it was, I was more indignant about its attitude than I was disturbed by the ouch!  

On the way back to the house with a dishpan full of beautiful plums destined immediately for jars, I found this lovely butterfly, albeit no longer living.  I don't usually photograph dead insects, but in this case, it gave me an opportunity to explore its glistening splendor.

Finally, another shower visited us right before sundown, followed by the goodnight kiss of a rainbow!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Yesterday, I was standing on the porch watching Jessie.  We depend on her so much, and over the years (she's ten) she has stored all manner of information that allows us to practically talk to her in plain English.  If you were to follow either MM or me around for a day out here on our farm,  JOTOLR, you would simply be amazed at her knowledge and abilities.  It's more than incredible. 

If the chickens are out, we holler, "Jessie!  Chickens! and she comes a-running.  If the cows need to be moved, we holler "Jessie! Cows!" and by golly the cows MOVE.   If there's a rabbit in the garden, we holler "Jessie!  Rabbit!" and she flies to the rescue, hunts down the critter and dispatches it.  She's always there for us, no matter what the need.

But one of the needs a Pet.  Something to love and "pet."  She is MM's constant companion.  And so many aspects of this Border Collie are unique, including her fur which invites us to riffle our fingers in its depth; her nose which faithfully tracks MM down regardless of where he goes; her eyes that gather all manner of clues--whether it's our hand signals as to where to find something when she's 3/4 of a mile away, or the crow making a racket overhead; her all important tail which telegraphs her joy and reflects ours as it wags when we laugh and talk to her. 

She's an all around dog that over many years has become the go-to force on this farm.  As I've said before, when we want something done, on this farm we call Mighty Dog!

Monday, July 12, 2010


Today began like this... 

but wound up like this...

 so it's been a lovely inside day...doing inside things.....such as
pickled beets....

and Sweet Gherkins. 
In the case of the gherkins, I am not much of a recipe poster, but these are simply the best pickles and I'll share the recipe below.  They take a little extra work, but they are soooo good! Also, I apologize for typos in my posts lately.  To be honest, I never was much of a copy editor, so I find all kinds of typos in everything I type, but worse nowadays it seems!  The older I get, the more I get.  So, if you find a few (as usual) skip over them...or if you find you have a question, post it in the comments.  I am still playing "catch-up" from my days without the Internet and am waging a lobbying campaign with Frontier Communications, (who just took over West Virginia from Verizon) for high speed internet.  It seems there is a possibility that we could have it sooner rather than later here. 
Wish me luck!

Sweet Gerkins

Yield 7 to 8 pints

Cucumbers, 1 1/2 to 3 inches in length............... 5 quarts (about 7 pounds)
Salt, pure granulated............................1/2 cup
Sugar........................... 8 cups (2 quarts)
Vinegar....................6 cups (1 1/2 quarts)
Turmeric....................3/4 tsp
Celery Seed.............................2 teaspoons
Whole mixed pickling spice..............................2 teaspoons
Stick Cinnamon...................8 1-inch pieces
Fennel (if desired)....................1/2 teaspoon
Vanilla (if desired)...........................2 teaspoons

First day

Morning: Washing cucumbers thoroughly; scrub with vegetable brush; stem ends may be left on if desires. Drain cucumbers; place in large container and cover with boiling water.

Afternoon (6-8 hours later) Drain; cover with fresh, boiling water.

Second day

Morning: Drain; cover with fresh boiling water.

Third day

Morning: Drain; prick cucumbers in several places with table fork. Make a sirup of 3 cups of the sugar and 3 cups of the vinegar; add turmeric and spices (marked in red to include fennel). Heat to boiling and pour over cucumbers. (Cucumbers will be partially covered at this point.)

Afternoon: Drain sirup into pan; add 2 cups of the sugar and 2 cups of the vinegar to sirup. Heat to boiling and pour over pickles.

Fourth day

Morning: Drain sirup into pan; add 2 cups of the sugar and 1 cup of the vinegar to sirup. Heat to boiling and pour over pickles.
Afteroon: Drain sirup into pan; add remaining 1 cup sugar and the vanilla to sirup; heat to boiling. Pack pickles into clean hot pint jars and cover with boiling sirup to 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Adjust jar lids.
Process for 5 minutes in boiling water (start to count processing time as soon as water returns to boiling.) Remove jars and set jars upright, several inches apart, on a wire rack to cool.