Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Paths

            Mud Season starts in November and lasts through April in our yard. For the first few years, it wasn't too bad, but the growth of a few trees and the steady pat of feet and movement of bikes  through a narrow alley has totally obliterated the grass near the “Delta” entering the back yard. I put down stepping stones a few years ago, but they barely held the mud at bay this  very rainy November. When the cats  tracked mud all the way onto our clean pillows, I was done. I pulled up the stones and relocated them to the pathway through the arch, ordered two yards of “hog fuel”—basically shredded cedar bark—and spread it out. It’s pretty lovely—rich brown, spongy underfoot, and organically scented.   Eventually we’ll need to run it all the way down the yard to the compost piles and back gate—but, right now, our feet are clean.

Winter Minestrone:

Chop an onion, saute in olive oil

2 large carrots
2 parsnips
1 fennel bulb

1 chopped sweet potato
1-2 cups of cooked beans (dark., beany ones are best)
1 jar of roasted tomatoes-- or a can

Salt, pepper, fennel seed, a bit of crushed red pepper, some red wine, and a parm. cheese end if you have one handy

Cook for about half an hour-- do not overcook or the sweet potato will fall apart!

Eat with new bread for supper.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


.5 lb of cream cheese
.5 c. of butter, room temp
1 egg
cream butter and cream cheese together, then add egg

Mix dry ingredients together, then add:

2.5 c of flour
2t BP
.75 c of sugar
.5 t salt
.5 t mace
.5 t cinnamon

Add chunky stuff later!

.75 c of ground almonds
.5 c  raisins or currants
.5 c craisins
grated rind of one orange.

Divide dough in half. Roll out in a rough circles about half an inch thick, fold in half, and bake-- 350 oven, about 20 minutes.. I like a rougher circle, because I like the textured edge for nibbling without it being really noticeable!

Make a thin frosting with confectioner's sugar and milk-- maybe vanilla or orange juice-- and drizzle over the top.

Freeze leftovers for a Feb. treat....

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lucia Day

Lucia Buns
It's quite grim out there today-- high of 40 degrees and rain blowing against the house. But we went out for the Annual Lucia Day walk at 8 AM this morning; we are Hardy Folk. And, as always, once out, it is lovely. Grey morning, damp air, cocoa and buns in the shelter of an old barn, then the walk up the hill, white tailed dog leading the way....

Happy dog.
Up the hill...
It's snowing at the top!

Garden settled in for the winter


Lucia Buns:


2T yeast, dissolved in 1.5 cups of warm water, with a teaspoon of sugar
Stir in 
1c. ww flour
1c wt flour

Let sit for 45 minutes

Mix in
2c for pureed squash
.25 cup of oil
3T molasses
2 c of wt flour
2c of ww flour
2t salt
1t cinnamon
.5 t cloves

Turn out to knead, adding flour as needed for a soft and happy dough.
Let rise for 1-2 hours, then shape rolls. Place raisins for eyes...

Rise again.

Bake in 350 oven about 35 minutes. Brush with milk while still hot for a soft crust.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Shabbat and Global Warming

Democracy Now has been covering climate change talks all week, live from Qatar. The news has not been good; despite some impassioned pleas for action for the Philippines and the College of the Atlantic, not much happened. I listened before work in the dark early morning and then walked to school, passing huge vehicles—it is a universal opinion in Corvallis the OSU students drive the biggest trucks in the country-- on the way. I was a little freaked out when I hit campus and ran into Julie, our PE and Sustainability teacher. She is always optimistic; if people are given the information, she believes, they will make the right choice. “We need to talk with the staff,” she decided. “What would we—could we—say?” I thought, “that would get them out of their cars on a damp November morning?” I had no answer.

This weekend, my friend Maureen mentioned a similar conversation with her rabbi, who wanted the congregation to take some steps towards climate change. He is an earnest and thoughtful man—but he still flies East several times a year to visit family. She had no answers, either.

So, this is what I’ve come up with, right now. I think we need to reclaim the Sabbath, Shabbat, the Day Off….whatever your faith calls it. On that day, we do no work. We do not drive. We do not shop. We even—gasp—turn off our electronic devises. Instead, we turn inward, however that looks for you. It may mean sleeping late, or staring out the window. Meditate Do yoga for an hour. Walk around the neighborhood and meet your neighbor’s new Senior rescue beagle—the one in our neighborhood is pretty sweet. Talk with your family and have friends over for dinner. Bake bread and maybe some sticky buns. Read. Write. Hang out in the library. Draw. Play football in the field. Do whatever you need to to reconnect with what is really important in your life, rather than driving yourself crazy in the world. It will take some organization and commitment—it won’t be an easy transition to a day of rest. If you are not driving and not shopping, you might run out of milk for lunch.

I think this may be the beginning of the answer. It disconnects us, at least for one day a week, from consumption, which is directly related to greenhouse gasses. It brings us back to ourselves, our families, our immediate neighborhoods. And I know, after several years of neighborhood activism, that people make changes when the problem, whatever it is, hits home. We need to come home, at least once a week.

Winter Lasagna-- a good dinner if you're home all day

Note-- you do not have to precook the noodles. Nor do you precook or peal the squash.

 There are several steps to the process.

Step one:

1 delicate squash, chopped
1 bunch of kale or chard, chopped

Step two:
Mix together:
1/2 lb of mozzarella, shredded
1 cup of ricotta
pepper, maybe a little nutmeg

Step three:
saute an onion and some garlic
add two large cans of choppedtomatoes
basil and parsley

Step four-- assemble, in a large baking pan:

two scoops of sauce
one layer of noodles-- I like the whole wheat ones
half of the cheese, spread out
the squash and chard
half of sauce that is left
another  layer of noodles
the rest of the cheese
the rest of the sauce

Bake in the oven about an hour and a half, 350 degrees
Let set of a few minutes before cutting

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Consider the Harvest

It’s Short Winter—the pause between Harvest and Yule— and time to evaluate the growing season. (Long Winter comes after New Year’s, when it feels like the clouds will never lift again). It has been raining steadily for days; there is thirteen inches of rainwater in the barrel I left by the leaf pile in the driveway several weeks ago. The clouds have moved in again for another bout this evening.

We have food stashed away all over the house—40 pounds of various squashes, 60 pounds of onions, several varieties of apples, some beeswax, ten fruitcakes, and a couple of cabbage are tucked into the larder. There are about one hundred pounds of potatoes in milkcrates under the cellar stairs. In the cellar, on the shelves, are rows of canned and dried fruits—peaches, plums, apples, cherries, blueberries, figs, all picked within a bike ride of the house—as well as roast tomatoes in convenient half pint jars, jars of grape and cherry juice, pickles, and honey. The other side of the shelf holds dried beans, oatmeal, and whaet purchased from local farmers, and bulk goods, like tea, tuna fish, and Annie’s Mac and Cheese, that we order from the co-op. Even though our garden is buried under leaves and the CSA has ended, it is easy to eat locally right now. We just walk downstairs. It was a good year in the valley.

Here, it was a really good year for potatoes. Moving the extra beds into our backyard and bringing the potato beds home made a huge difference in production. I was able to monitor and water just enough to produce our largest crop ever. Some people may be able to pull off an allotment garden by visiting twice a week, but I can’t. We had a bumper apple crop as well. I dried several quart sized bags for Christmas presents and made extra applesauce. Next year, I’m going to juice them and can the surplus. Jean next door had an exceptional cherry year and we both benefited. We also had good luck, although some weird moments, with the bees. In the valley, it was a good year for squashes and carrots.

We had a few problems, as always. Stringy green beans have been an issue for two years now, but this year, the green beans just did not grow. They sprouted, came up about six inches, and stopped. Weird. Wax beans, in the same bed, were fine. It was also not a good squash year; I planted them in the furthest bed, which has always been a problem area. The same plants that took over the year before just sat there.  I moved the blueberry bushes out of that bed and into barrels, which wandered all over the backyard, looking for a final home.

I learned a few things. First, there should be more than one spring bed. One for leafy plants that we chow down on and empty by mid-July, like mustard, broccoli, radishes, and peas.  Another needs to hold the early in, but long lasting crops, like celery and cabbage. I still have celery plants in the spring bed, which I trimmed last week for soup. There’s still a small cabbage or two out there as well, fenced off from the chickens. With three more beds, the contents have to be managed tightly so that all are chicken tractors before planting time. I need to study the furthest bed, to see why it does not do well. And, I have to manage the beehives so that we do not have the very weird stack of boxes that is balanced in the back yard right now.

All in all, it was a good year. Not great, but good. Now is the time to eat from the root cellars, read books, and visit with friends. Next year begins on New Year’s Day, when I break out the seed catalogs.

Winter Squash Bread

1.5 T of yeast, proofed in--
3 cups of water, warm
1.5 T salt

1 cup of cooked, mashed squash
.5 t cloves or cinnamon
6.5 cuips of flour—half whole wheat, half white

Mix, cover, let rise on the counter for two hours. Place in the fridge overnight to cool and firm up a bit. The next morning, divide in half, form into balls, and bake on a baking stone until done—about 40 minutes. 450 degree oven

You can bake both loaves at once, save half of the dough for a few days, or form some into Lucia Buns or Thanksgiving rolls.