Saturday, August 30, 2014

September Work List

September  is the month of balance, as work attempts to take over our lives and the wilderness still calls. Do we stay home, do housework, grade papers, and have an orderly week, or do we flee for one more weekend of deep silence by a mountain lake? Hard choice—the light falls away, the winter clouds move in, and another summer ends.


To Be done:
·       Finish harvest and canning.
·       Distribute the surplus figs.
·       Draw up the garden plans for next year.
·       Sort the potatoes and decide on which varieties  to  replace.
·       Move the chicken coop on the first garden bed.
·       Plan one more backpacking trip—one where you set up camp for two nights and dayhike further in.
·       Balance. Physically and mentally.
·       Watch the full Harvest Moon rise.
·       Go on an Art Retreat.
·       Paint those windows you had on the list in June.
·       Fuss that the Juniors cannot write. Remind your colleague (or be reminded) that it is the beginning of the year and they will improve. After all, look at last year’s crew.
·       Begin letters of rec. for proactive students.
·       Refuse to move dinner inside.

·       Remember to stare into space.


Green Beans and Walnuts with pasta

This is a several step dinner...

First pour a half pint of heavy cream into a mason jar and add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk. Place it on top of the fridge for 24 hours until it turns into Creme Fresh, a thick, yogurt like substance that does not curdle when warmed.

Second, toast a large handful of walnuts.

Third, put it all together. Put a pot of water on for whole wheat pasta. Steam a huge handful of green beans.
     Saute an small onion.
     Mix the cream, green beans, and onion together and warm. Pour over pasta. Add the walnuts and a bit of grated Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Winter Storage

The end of August and beginning of September is harvest time here. The house was not designed to hold a wide variety of winter stores—we do not have a root cellar—so finding good storage places for all of the winter foods can be tricky.  This is where various foods are stashed.

Basement wall, warm and dry:
  • All canned and dried goods, in mason jars
  • Wheat, oatmeal, and barley in large tin containers (there ones that held Christmas popcorn mostly).
  • Beans in mason jars.
  • Bulk pasta and teas in the original containers
  • Honey in mason jars

Basement by the door, cooler and damper:
  • Apple crop, laid on one layer thick in seedling trays

Stairwell of the basement, constant temp:
  • Potatoes, sorted by variety in bags and then resting in milkcrates
  • Next years seed stock is in bags, tucked way back in so we do not eat them by mistake
  • Garlic hangs above the stairs

Larder, which is an insulated space, vented to the outside, accessed in the stairwell:
  • Squash and pumpkins
  • 60 pounds of onions
  • loose garlic
  • longkeeper tomatoes
  • Fruits waiting to be processed
  • Seed tin

As the weather grows colder, the larder also holds:
  • Greens from Sunbow
  • Leftovers
  • Soup for the week
  • Box of oranges over Winter Solstice


Garden Beds:
·        Greens
·        Parsnips
·        Leeks
·        Sprouting Broccoli
·        Not carrots—slugs eat the tops and I can’t find them after early November.

 

Late Summer Pasta


Roasted eggplant (cubed, rolled in olive oil, and roasted in 350 oven for about 45 minutes)
Half pint jar of roasted tomatoes (I use the one that did not seal…)
Sauteed onion and garlic
Can of the Good Tuna from Sweet Creek
Fresh basil


Toss them all together and serve over whole wheat pasta with  lots of Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Three Fingered Jack

       



     Mark and I just came back from hiking around Three Fingered Jack, one of the Central Cascades more craggy peaks. It does not have the serenity of Mount Jefferson or the majesty of the Three Sisters, but, for a backpacking loop of simple pleasures and deep silences, it cannot be beat.  Much of the area was burned over eleven years ago, so examining the regeneration process is also quite interesting.
            We entered the wilderness Friday morning from the Marion Lake trailhead, which leads steadily but gently upwards through Doug Fir forest, along a small lake, and to several fine campsites on the lakeshore. The trail crosses the stream outlet on a rock bed while the water chuckles below, out of sight, which is pretty darn cool. After passing the lake and some excellent large streams, we climbed to Minto Pass, pausing to eat huckleberries and low bush blueberries which were lush throughout the burned over pass. I quickly understood why Native Americans set fire to the berry fields to keep them clear; I have never seen so many fat, juicy berries on a mountainside in my life!  We crossed the PCT and dropped down into Eastern Oregon, the dry side of the range, with a pretty quick shift in trees from hemlock and true fir to lodgepole pine and an occasional ponderosa. Eight miles in, we had lunch at Wasco Lake, which is where we should have stopped for the night. Three Fingered Jack loomed over us; while we ate we considered what it would be like climbing the crumbly core of the ancient volcano. Along the trail we encountered a crew of trail workers, some students doing soil studies, and several through-hikers.
            After lunch, we walked over to Jack Lake, moving in and out of the burned areas. The lakes and moist areas had protected some of the forest; the fire did not rage through and kill every tree on the mountainside. Beargrass and other wildflowers dominated the fields here. We did not turn left and head into Canyon Creek Meadows, where many day hikers were headed to check out the wild blooms, but stayed on the main trail down to the campsites. By three thirty, we were soaking our feet in the warm waters of Jack Lake. A good day—about ten miles.
            The next morning, we headed off, first to Square Lake and then to Berley. Mark was a little tired from a less-than-restful night; he had heard rustling and heavy footfalls in the dark, and was convinced a bear was eating our food. The next morning the only evidence of our nocturnal visitor was deer tracks. The trail was totally in the burn all morning, but it was still beautiful. The dead trees have weathered silvery gray and the views were amazing. Mount Jefferson protected our backs, while the Three Sisters lured us on. Before the burn, you could not see the mountains. We looked out over Eastern Oregon as we walked through snowbrush, lodgepole pines, and fireweed. This part of the trail follows the contours of the mountain, swinging around canyons more than dropping down into them and then out. A nice walk. We passed four guys heading in the opposite direction; at ten thirty, they were the first hikers we had each seen that day. By early lunch, we were at Square Lake, hot and ready for a swim before eating. Most of the lake was open because of the burn, but the campsites were still shaded by trees that had survived. There was no one around. The world was silent, except for a soft breeze. We spent two hours cooling off and enjoying the world before moving on; in retrospect, this would make an excellent stop for a second night, if we had camped at Wasco the night before.
            The afternoon over to Berley was hot. The entire south slope of Three Fingered Jack was covered in sweet smelling snowbrush, about shoulder height, which blocked the breezes but not the sun. We could see the highway below. For two miles, we trudged along until a cloud of dust kicked up by horses announced the trail junctions, and we turned onto the PCT. I do not like hot afternoon sun; it can make me ill. Mark trickled water over my head; I tied a wet facecloth around his neck. The trail was better as we turned north, away from the sun and into a few trees that provided occasional dappled shade. We both agreed that this would be a better morning walk. Berley Lakes are, for me, always elusive. The first turn in is marked by a small cairn, often knocked over and the second is always about fifteen steps further than I expect. We were thrilled to finally find this small mountain lake, totally surrounded by mature trees, in the late afternoon. We were the only campers that night. It was so quiet that we could hear the bugs buzzing on the other side of the lake. Amazingly peaceful. A hot day—about eleven miles.
            Sunday morning, we decided to poke around camp before heading out. There is a requisite amount of time that must be devoted to fiddling around camp on any backpacking trip. If it does not happen at night, it usually happens in the morning. I sorted the foodstuffs while Mark backflushed the water filter. We watched a hummingbird divebomb the pink cloth bag that was hanging on the line while another examined the reddish orange tent poles. We finished off the dried figs and peaches that had been snacks for Friday and Saturday. We knew that we were hiking through the Eight Lakes Basin for the day, looking at about seven miles total, through trees and burn, so why rush on?
            Sunday peace continued all day. We chatted with one woman horseback riding  who was astounded by the emptiness of the countryside. We ate second breakfast about two miles in at Santiam Lake, staring once again at Three Fingered Jack. Lunch was a long pause at Duffy Lake, considering the butte that frames one side of the pond.  Three guys walked along the trail heading out while we ate. Climbing out of Mowich Lake, we met the local backcountry ranger. He had been posting no campfire signs all along our route and felt that they were effective in shifting behavior, for the most part. “Some people, though, you just have to fine,” he grumbled. “They were all at Marion Lake last night. Overall, though, I have the best job in the world.”  He’d walked 14,000 miles in the wilderness in the last four years. Before we parted, he told us about a site at Blue Lake, a couple of miles further on.
            Blue Lake was incredible. The trail is more rugged. There are some steep climbs through the burn and along exposed rocks. Blue Lake perches on the ridgeline between the Eight Lakes Basin and Marion Lake basin, at about 5000 feet. From the trail, we saw Three Fingered Jack to our left, all craggy and broken with huge puffy clouds behind it and Mount Jefferson, serene and bulky to our right. Below were a series of small lakes and ponds. Huckleberry and blueberry bushes lined the trails into our night’s site. Fireweed flashed magenta at us. Pearly everlasting provided a creamy white accent. Mountain breezes ruffled the surface of the lake. Silence surrounded us. The sunset turned the puffy clouds pink and red and just after we climbed into the tent, deer walked through, heading for a drink. After that, silence.
            The last morning was a seven-mile drop down into Marion Lake. Once again, berries distracted us. Some clearings were full of beargrass, some of fireweed and pearly everlasting, others berries. Why? And why were lodgepole pines coming back were hemlocks had once grown?  How do the berry bushes survive?  How long will it take for the forest to return? When can we come back to these trails?

            By noon, we were in the world again, sitting on a creekside patio, ordering burgers (meat or salmon), fries, and coleslaw.  The food was excellent. Our feet were dusty and tired. Our hair needed washing. But the sounds of deep silence echoes in my mind as we began the long drive home, and will follow me well into fall.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lucy and the Apple Harvest

     
      Lucy the Cat enjoys her role as supervisor. She loves to climb ladders, to sit in the driver’s seat of vehicles, to poke at eggs and other fragile objects resting on the table, and to demand attention whenever we have company. This week, she was totally engaged in  apple harvest and pressing.

Apple Harvest is a two part project. First, we took our ancient, wobbly wheelbarrow two blocks down the street to an old apple tree in the front yard of a shabby vacant rental that had dropped its fruit all over the yard and sidewalk. Dropped apples are excellent additions to the very dry summer compost pile—the moisture aids in decomposition and the scent makes the yard smell better. We gathered three loads worth and then studied the tree itself. There were still quite a few apples on the branches, so I spent half an hour with the apple picker and cleared the tree of excellent fruit. I had half of a large laundry basket full when I was finished.

       
     The next day, I took on our own Macintosh apple tree. I’d been picking for about a week, but I used the tall orchard ladder to really clean things up. When I was done, I had three piles—one eating, one compost, and one juicing. The eating apples went into the basement and the juicers filled the laundry basket in the back yard. Lucy was very interested in the sorting process.

            I borrowed a press from my friend Rich—Lucy had to bond with the box for several hours while I organized the day. It was a cool and sunny morning, perfect for outdoor food processing. Once everything was set up, she sat on the chair watching me chop up the apples in the masher, poking the fruit as it emerged until her paw was sticky. There is a real rhythm to the process of grabbing the apple, whacking it in half, checking for really nasty spots, tossing into the bin, and then cranking the masher, which is truly enhanced by old bluegrass music. A few bees wandered by to investigate the project as well. While I mashed fruit, the pulp began draining in the press.



            Once the press was full, I wrestled with the ratchet—I do not have a brain for ratchets—and began cranking down on the press. Juice flowed out. Lucy, of course, sensed the change in the center of action and wandered over to investigate. Steadily, the press bore down on the pulp, juice flowed out, and I used my feet to stabilize the entire operation. Sun, breeze, apples, cat, making tasty food from free fruit—life was pretty fine.  After two rounds of pressing, I had 14 quarts of  free  apple juice, which I pasteurized and canned for the winter (10 minutes in the steam canner, hot pack). It was a good day’s work. Lucy approved.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Yorkshire Dales-- History in rocks

       
Shapp Abbey with chicken
    Although much of the Yorkshire Dales is agricultural—full of sheep and cows grazing in pastures and fields of wheat, potatoes and barley growing in the Eden Valley—it is also layered with history that is, for the most apart, unlabeled and often unexplored. Our guidebooks often mentioned important archaeological sites that had not been unearthed yet. “We do not know why…” was a common refrain. We crossed Roman roads, examined standing stone circles and waystones, saw an abbey in ruins, brought down by Henry the Eighth, where a chicken was hunting for dinner in the late afternoon sunlight, and a priory where small houses, one per monk, surrounded an open space. Each monk had his own workroom, bedroom, living space, private garden, and outhouse with running water. One afternoon, we walked down an old tram bed—a nasty, shaley surface. The churches were built slowly, with Anglo-Saxon and Viking carvings.
         All Creatures Great and Small was filmed,  lead mining destroyed the countryside. Smelters were tucked into each valley. Flumes climbed the hillsides; long buildings stored peat and coal, which were mixed together to melt the lead; streams tumbled through the mining sites. The top of the hill where the rocks were gathered was still decimated  and bare a hundred years later. We wondered about the impact of all of the smelting on the local population. Clearly, it was not a clean operation. Lead dust must have floated out of the chimney, gathered in the grass, been eaten by sheep grazing the fields lower down, breathed in by children. What was the impact of this pollution? We searched the local history museum in Reeth, looking for a hint of this issue, but nothing turned up. Not a peep. What the lead still around, in the soil, being eaten by sheep? No idea.
Mine Ruins
   The most distinctive day, however, was our walk from Keld to Reeth, through the nineteenth century mining country. In the late nineteenth century, lead mining dominated the high hills of the Yorkshire Dales. The population exploded with the possibility of mining jobs and many families farmed and mined lead. Between Keld—an idyllic green valley full of walled in fields and scattered outbuildings—and Reeth, the market town where

Mine tailings
When the mines were depleted, they closed down. The population declined, both because of the mines and also because of changing work patterns, as young people moved off of the farms.  Now, the farms are consolidated and several are run by one family. The outbuildings are empty (and eyed by city folk as summer homes) and some of the farmhouses in the valley are clearly empty and declining as well. Sheep wander through the old furnace rooms and the building become yet another layer of British history to be puzzled out by walkers.

Loki Stone, Kirby Steven Church
Giant's  Pillows-- who knows....
Smelting site
Priory Church
Sheep in old mine

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August Work List

August Work List


August is a balancing act—between high summer and the long autumn, between growing and preserving, between staying home and heading for the mountains. And, some morning, we will wake up and realize that another summer has passed, that the air and light have changed, and winter is coming.


To Be Done:
  • Dry apples, peaches, pears, zucchini, and any other possible fruit or vegetable that appears.
  • Can peaches, pears, applesauce, and juices.
  • Make pickles.
  • Roast and can fifty pounds of tomatoes for winter soup, pizza, and sauces.
  • House projects—scrape and paint inside and out. Repair items.
  • Work on the compost. Spread sifted compost on early beds.
  • Water seedlings that have been planted out for fall.
  • Backpacking!
  • Pull the potato crop and store in the basement. Clean the basement.
  • Water the garden, slowly tapering off as beds empty out.
  • Do your summer reading!
  • Host the pie social.

Blueberry Pie

Pie crust—2 eight inch crusts. Make the top a lattice!

2c flour
.5 t salt
2/3 cup butter or margarine or a blend
5-6 T cold water

Filling

6 c of blueberries
4T flour
¾ c sugar
.5 t salt
zest of one lemon
2T butter in little pieces

Bake in 350 oven until bubbly.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Homestead Style Canning

      
    There was a bit of grumbling at the Sunbow planting table this morning. Apparently, a woman had ordered seven pounds of pickling cucumbers. Harry packed them up, put them in a wooden box, and set them out for her. When she came, she dug through the box, turned down half of the fruits, and took the rest in the wooden box. It was not clear, to begin with, which was the more nervy action—the rejection of perfectly healthy food, that was not the exact shape she wanted, or taking the box. The question swirled around the table—why does it matter what the shape of the fruit is? Isn’t canning about putting food by for the winter, taking the surplus—whatever it is—and preserving it in a tasty fashion to liven up that month of cabbage and potatoes that seasonal eaters are staring down in mid-March? If the cucumbers are larger, then why not pickle them in another way?   The Joy of Pickling has all sorts of recipes. I know. Sunbow had a surplus of cucumbers last year and I made five different types of pickles, working with the fruits in all stages of development from delicate to tough.

            There are, we decided, two types of food preservers. There are the artisanal cooks, who choose recipes that look tasty then collect the ingredients needed to create that particular recipe. They use the pretty green glass jars and labels and their preserves are always tasty and tastfully done. And then there are the homesteading, farming types, who take whatever is bursting from the gardens, whatever is falling from the neighbor’s trees, whatever is left over at the end of the market, bring it home, pile it in the basement and think “Now what?” while rummaging through the old canning books.  They can be tempted by phrases like “it’s going to be thrown on the compost pile if you don’t take it,” and “I found that putting them up in simple syrup worked pretty well last year,” or “Have you tried roasting these yet?”

   
         This year, I’ve preserved plums, beets, cabbage, and cucumbers so far, as well as red currant juice—and the season has only just begun. Apples, blueberries, and tomatoes are all waiting in the larder. There are three things that have made this work much easier. The first is my steam canner that I purchased from Territorial Seeds five years ago. Now, rather than putting on the huge canning pot of water that took forever to heat and weighed a ton to dump out when I was finished, I bring out the steam canner, add a quart of water to the bottom, and off we go. I can put up a small batch of something in an hour or so. Canning is a daily occurrence, rather than a weekly production in August. Saves water, time, and energy—and works on everything that the boiling water bath canner does. Second is the huge collection of jars, gathered from friends (Bicentennial canning jars!), Goodwill, and the grocery store over the years. Supplies are in the basement all the time. Third are two books— The Joy of Pickling and The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. Between the two, whatever I bring home is covered, and Linda Ziedrich’s  discussions of technique and theory are clear and detailed as well. 

            I rode home today loaded with twenty pounds of very ripe tomatoes—the box that no one would buy because they were so ripe and no one at the farm had time to process in the next twenty four hours. I resisted the tiny plums, but did my best to sell them to another woman who was picking up some peppers. Right now, the first round is steaming cheerfully in the canner, the second round is roasting in the oven, and the third round is de-stemmed and waiting to be sliced and arranged on trays. This winter, we will eat them is soups and on pizza and pasta, bringing back hot summer days. Now I just need to find something to do with the zucchini.

Roasting Tomatoes

Gather a bag of paste tomatoes. Slice each in half and lay on a cookie sheet face down. Cover the tray. Place in a 350 degree oven. Roast until wilted and perhaps a bit charred. Slide into half pint jars, cap, and process for twenty five minutes in the steam canner.