Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday Night Suppers-- December


Delicata Squash, baked beans, salad, cider
Latkes, Salad, applesauce
Bean and corn tortilla casserole, canned garden beans, peaches

Squash Mash, rice

Pizza with onions and olives, Salad


Squash Mash-- version two, with red peppers and corn

This started out as a casserole with cheese and eggs, more hearty and main course-- but the chickens are not laying right now, so...



One red pepper diced
One medium onion, diced

Saute in oil. Add cumin, chili powder, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is soft and sweet. 

One bag of frozen corn.
Two cups of baked squash, mashed.

Add and heat until bubbly, like lava. Plop, plop, plop.






Friday, December 27, 2013

Eggs!

           
 Who designed the chicken molting process? Really, who thought it was a good idea for the flock to lose feathers in November and December, just when the temperature drops? Henny began molting in late November and the yard was strewn with bright white feathers. As soon as she was done, just when the temperature dropped to ten degrees, Gladys started. Black smoke everywhere and she exposed her scrawny legs and neck to the cold. Why?
            But Henny is glorious in her fresh coating, tail proud and clean against the green grass. On the day after the solstice, she dropped down into egg crouch when I walked by. I gave her a pat and shook my head. No eggs yet, I thought. Not until the light comes back around Candlemas. It’s too dark and she’s no spring chicken. I bought a dozen pale eggs for breakfast and baking.
Then, on Christmas, I wandered out to free the Ladies for the afternoon. They ran out, discussing the dust under the rabbit hutch. I peered into the nest box to see if they needed new straw yet and there—two pure white eggs.

Squash Mash, version one with leeks


It has been a very good year for squash, but several butternuts were bitten by the frost in the larder and needed to be baked. I cut them open, scooped out seeds, and popped them in the oven until soft and squishy. Once cool, I peeled off the skins and pushed them into a quart jar.


Sautee a sliced leek and some garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add two cups of mashed squash, season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cinnamon. Stir until heated through.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holding in the Light

         
              The Quakers have a phrase for difficult times-- We are holding you in The Light—that I really like. As a confirmed catholic atheist, the idea of a bunch of people I do not know praying for me has always struck me as intrusive and nosy, somehow, but being held in the light sounds supportive and positive. And, in this dark time, as the sun slides away from us for another week, we all need the Light and to remember the sun will return.
                        It has been a bad month or so at school. Late fall and early winter, the extended holiday season, is often difficult for many students. There are more fights and arguments, more bad behavior as tensions at home escalate with the season. That’s normal. There has also been a great deal of tension and angst, exhaustion and frustration amongst the staff this year. We are trying to articulate the problems and work for change, but it is difficult. And then, there have been three suicides within ten miles of CHS – two graduates and one student in a neighboring town. And, although it is not as bad a current student death—that is a bomb dropped in the middle of the community that sends shock waves out for months—there are ripples and undercurrents, small explosions and deep sighs from the ones that come too close for comfort as well. It is a dark time, even without looking beyond my own doorframe.
                        In an attempt to find some of The Light, I went to the staff party this year. Despite the rough day, people were glad to come together and eat and laugh, although serious conversations swirled around us. I had to leave early to finish making Lucia Day buns. “Lucia Day?” one woman asked, puzzled. “The holiday where the young girl wears candles in her hair and brings food to her family and farm animals,”  I reminded her and she nodded. Feed my family, I thought, that is what I am doing. The people who gather with Mark and I every Lucia Day are not our blood relatives—as an only child, I have very few and Mark’s are all in Tennessee—but they are family. Who else would climb out of bed before dawn in the middle of December, put on layers of clothes, and head over to the Bald Hill Barn to drink cocoa, eat Lucia buns, and climb to the top of Bald Hill, every year?

                   
     As always, we met in the parking lot and walked out, Juniper the dog leading the way proudly. I lined up the oranges, like miniature suns, on one of the barn’s beams, dug the buns out of the bag, and lit the candle. The morning was quiet and foggy as other celebrants came out of the mist and were joyfully greeted by Juniper. Despite my scattered brain, the buns were excellent. We drank hot sweet cocoa, ate buns, and walked to the top of the hill.  Someone had tied red cranes in the branches of the tree that leans over the viewing bench at the summit and they swayed lightly in the breeze. We stood, waiting for the weak winter sunlight to burn through the clouds, waiting for The Light to return.


Bean and Tortilla Casserole bulked up from Still Life with Menu

This is a substantive layered creation with lots of room for adaption. I'm going to put some squash in tonight.

Tear a dozen corn tortillas and lay half of them in a large casserole pan.

Saute onions, green chilies, garlic, corn, carrots, perhaps some zucchini if you have it, until cooked. Season with cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Pour over the tortillas. Add two to three cups of cooked pinto beans.

Cover with the rest of the tortillas and one and a half or so cups of grated jack cheese.

Make a custard of four eggs and three cups of buttermilk, beaten together. Pour this over all and give the pan a shake or two to settle everything in. Add a little more buttermilk if needed. 

Bake in a 350 degree oven until set. Eat with homemade salsa. Heat up leftovers for the rest of the week.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fruitcake Weather

       
    It was Fruitcake Weather last week—dark and cloudy, cool and damp—just right for baking something dark and mysterious, with ancient scents of  spices and brandy. I always remember Truman Capote’s story of baking fruitcakes with his slightly odd aunt when I begin ours, for the process is still complicated and takes at least four days.

 Day One: Procurement.
The first step requires a visit to the liquor store for soaking brandy and orange liquors, which feels a little weird. We’re not big drinkers here—very different childhood issues with alcohol still ripple through our lives—and the store is cold and drafty, and still smells lightly of cigarettes. After I have procured the spirits, I have to buy the fruits. I trek to the co-op with the long list and my trusty tin two-cup measure. No glowing, falsely colored mystery fruits here. Four cups of walnuts, two cups of dates and figs….I measure and Mark writes down the bulk bin numbers. Four cups of brown sugar and a pound of butter later, we leave. All of the ingredients hang in a bag in the back hall, waiting for step two…

Day Two: Chopping

I used to chop everything by hand, but then I experimented with the Cuisinart. If you chop equal proportions of nuts and fruit, with a little flour tossed in (take it away from the recipe), most fruits will chop loudly, but neatly, in the machine. I have to hold it down as it attempts to walk across the counter, but that’s faster than hand chopping. Mark and the cats hide from the noise. Dates and raisins can go into the batter whole. Once the chopping is done, we zest the lemons and oranges with our handy dandy zester, add all of the spices and brandy, and soak the mass overnight in a huge yellow bowl. The marvelous scent has begun. Real Fruitcake smells Medieval, or like Charles Dickens and the Christmas Carol.

Day Three: Baking

The next night, after dinner, I bake the cakes. First I mix the butter and sugar, eggs and vanilla, in the KitchenAide mixer, adding flour after everything is well creamed. Then, I dump the soaked fruit into my biggest container—a commercial sized stockpot that was once used to cook pasta at Anthony’s Restaurant in Portsmouth New Hampshire—and mix the batter in by hand. It’s the only way to do it. I am over wrist, almost to elbow in batter, folding the mixture together, breathing in allspice and lemon, brany and plums, butter and sugar. Heaven. Once mixed, I plop the batter into the nine small loaf pans lined with waxed paper waiting on the table. Batter is everywhere. We taste. The pans rest in the oven and bake.  When they come out, I pour more brandy over them.

Day Four: Wrapping

            On the last day, I knock the loaves out of pans and wrap them up, firmly, in waxed paper and tinfoil. I want them to breathe, but not too much. We nibble on the crumbs. Then, I stack the loaves in the larder to mellow and wait for Christmas time and distribution.



Dark Fruitcake—from Fannie Farmer

3 cups of raisins
1 cup of currants
2 cups of apricots
2 cups of figs
1 cup of prunes
1 cup of dates
4 cups of walnuts
2 cups of pecans
the zest of three oranges and three lemons
.5 cup of candied ginger
2 t cinnamon
1 t allspice
1 t mace
.5 t cloves
1 cup of molasses
1 cup of brandy
.5 cup of orange liqueur

Chop all of the fruits and nuts. Mix everything together in a huge bowl. Rest overnight

1 pound of butter
3 cups of brown sugar
8 eggs
1 T vanilla

Cream together until fluffy.

4 cups of flour
1 T BP
1 t BS
1.5 t salt

Mix together and add to butter and sugar. Mix everything. Place in pans. Bake 275 degree oven until just done.  Soak with brandy and store.

Eat with cream cheese until Twelfth Night.









Friday, December 6, 2013

Sunday Night Suppers-- November


Potato soup, pickled beets, cider
Baked potatoes, broccoli, cider in front of the fire
Roast Delicata squash, baked beans, salad with longkeeper tomatoes, cider



Bold indicates locally sourced food. Local equals within one hundred miles of home.


Roasted Delicata Squash

Turn oven on to 375 degrees.
Slice the squash about a quarter of an inch thick, leaving the skins on.
Spread on a baking sheet.
Cover with two-three tablespoons of olive oil.
Sprinkle with sage, salt, and pepper.
Roast until done. They will be soft and sweet. It takes about 40 minutes.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Corvallis Moments

       
    On Wednesday, I was walking towards downtown. The light on Third Street turned and Kim, on her SoupCycle bike, rode past. SoupCycle is a small local business that delivers handmade organic soup by bike cart. It’s been going for about five years; the soup is tasty and the delivery service is fine. I smiled. Then, another bike and cart rode past. This one was piloted by a homeless man with two huge—six feet in the air and three feet wide-- bags of cans balanced on an old Burley bike cart. I caught up with him on the sidewalk and noticed that he also had a small radio tucked into his belongings and was listening, I swear, to NPR. Only in Corvallis.
            We had another classic Corvallis moment—or hour—on Saturday night. We went for a walk after the Pie Social to settle our stomachs and ran into the Christmas Parade. Corvallis Parades are surreal experiences; I have never seen any others like them and this one was no exception. In the first five minutes we watched: Boy and Girl Scouts, an old fire truck decked in lights, the mayor, the CPD doing figure eights in the street around the police cars, and a belly dance troop. Then I started taking notes. The parade had:
  •  Three rounds of Vintage cars
  • Corgis in leis
  • Veterans for Peace, joined by the Methodist church
  • Blue Sky Power
  • Four evangelical churches waving from the backs of Big Trucks
  • A bad Elvis Impersonator
  • The Healthcare for All group, chanting rally calls and dressed in boxes, like presents
  • Not one, but two kazoo bands, one of which had altered the kazoos with small traffic cones to increase sound
  • Dogs in Hula skirts
  • The Nutcracker dancers
  • The CHS Dance team (well, half) and Mr Spartan contestants
  • Pregnancy Options
  • Log Trucks decked in lights and wearing grass skirts. One also had a hand-made sign on the extra gas tank reading “Americanism.”
  • Bikes of all sorts, including the Soup Cycle riders and some kinetic sculptures, decked out in lights
  • The Rodeo Queen for the Philomath Frolic on horseback
  • Benton County Commissioners and our state rep who is running for the Senate seat
  • Guide Dogs with Reindeer antlers
  • Every police car in town, sirens blaring, followed by Santa riding on a fire truck

The parade runs for over an hour. Everyone tosses candy into the crowd and kids scramble to find it, often running into the street while huge trucks head their way. In the end, the families at the beginning of the route have been known to join in and walk through downtown. It feels like you have moved back in time to the 1950s, when everyone got along and was happy, despite the tensions roiling below the surface.



Winter Fruit and Walnut Pie—slightly altered from the November Sunset Magazine

1 c of craisins
1 c of raisins
2 c of chopped apples
2 T of cornstarch
2 T of butter
Juice of one orange
.5 t cinnamon
.25 t of nutmeg and allspice
.5 c of sugar
1 c of toasted walnut pieces

Put fruit and .75 c of water in a pan and bring to a boil. Turn off and add .25 c of water with the cornstarch mixed in and stir. It will thicken. Add sugar, spices, butter, juice and stir.

Place toasted walnuts in the bottom of the pie and then pour the fruit mix over it. Attach the top crust. Maybe sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top. Bake. 425 degrees for the first ten minutes, then drop down to 350 degrees to finish it off.

This is also fine for breakfast….



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Corvallis Radicals

   
        One of the best things about living in Corvallis is the number of people who are working for change. We have Mr. Eager (yup, Eager), a retired OSU professor whose wife remembers pre-war Germany, who is interested in solar energy. So, they set up a two different systems of the roof of the passive solar house they built in the early nineteen seventies, to test which was more efficient on rainy days. If you visit, you can climb up to a rickety viewing platform to examine the panels closely, then drop down to the garage and see his records. And he’s considered fairly normal around here. Last Sunday, Mark and I hung out with two Corvallis radicals, each working on the local level for global change.

            First, we rode over to Jonathan’s house to see his new rainwater catchment system. Jonathan is so far ahead of the curve, he gives early adopters inspiration. A born tinkerer and engineer, he built a solar bike light a few years back because he could. His house is a model of sustainable living. First, it’s pretty darn small—about seven hundred square feet, with a garden in the back yard. Jonathan was one of the first in town to install light tubes and LEDs, to build a solar electric system to sell energy back to the company, to turn off his answering machine when he came home. He has solar hot water, runs his truck off of solar panels on the garage roof, and just decided to store some rainwater. It’s a cool system. One thousand gallon tank in the front of the house and two one hundred and fifty gallon tanks on the side. The plumbing is fairly straightforward—gutters direct the rain into the tanks-- but he has a leaf catcher and a first flush system so that what lands in the tanks is fairly clean. Then he assembled an aerator to keep the water from growing stagnant. It runs off of a solar panel on the roof and has all of it’s parts in a hand-made wooden box he found at Goodwill. All of the tanks are interconnected, so, as the big one fills, they all fill. And he just added a “leveler”, which is a weight hanging outside of the tanks to indicate water level. They were about a quarter full when we visited. We left feeling both very impressed and way behind the curve.

            The same day, we went out to Sunbow Farm for dinner. Harry, who was one of the founding members of Oregon Tilth and just ended a stint on the Board, is working on GMOs in the Willamette Valley, as well as The Bean and Grain Project, experimenting with what beans and grains will grow here as the climate changes. The talk at dinner was the GMO fight. They are putting forth a ballot measure for Benton County that gives rights to nature and takes way the rights of agricultural corporations. (Check out Benton County for Community Rights  for more info!)   Biologists, and farmers, and writers were all thinking about how and why to ban GMOs locally. Interesting work and dinner conversation.

            At the end of the day, I felt pretty thankful to be living here and now, in the Willamette Valley, in Interesting, and challenging, Times. There is a great deal fundamentally awry in the world, but I am surrounded by people who, rather than despairing, are leading the way in working for change. AND I get to eat dinner with them.

 

 

Deeply Rooted Split Pea Soup


Cook three cups of split peas in eight cups of water for several hours. The crockpot works really well for this!

Coarsely chop and add:
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 parsnips
  • 1 onion
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • half pint jar of roasted tomatoes

Season with: cumin, allspice, salt, pepper, and thyme.

Cook for another hour or so. You could puree it, but I don’t. Eat with sturdy bread and salad. For Days.



            

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Oregon Winter Begins

Oregon Winter has begun.

 When the clocks are set back, I walk to school at sunrise and home at sunset. On a good day, the sky glows with fading sunlight; one a bad day, it is cold and rainy, but the air always smells of the ocean forty miles away. Someone has already hung colored Christmas Lights along the eves of the house; they balance out the pumpkins rotting on doorsteps. Seasonal transitions.

I read “Oregon Winter” to the class last week. Heads all nodded at the line “There will be months of rain.” Freshmen dream out the window during Thursday afternoon study hall, remembering warm sunshine on bare legs and long summer dusks. I know, because I am thinking of the same thing. At lunch, a junior puts down his physics homework to ask me if I have ever been to Ollallie Lake and we indulge in half an hour of trail and road talk.  When an absolute downpour passed through last week, we all stopped to watch the rain blowing sideways. The Christmas Cactus is in full bloom and the Swedish Ivy is dropping spent white flower petals on unsuspecting heads. The small white lights that I strung under the plant shelf warm the space—and make it possible to read near the windows on a dark morning. The scent of someone’s poptart lingers in the air. The room feels safe and colorful, if not warm (I have the coldest classroom in the building.).

At home, the house glows against the darkness. I’ve trimmed away the front plant hedge and raked up the fig tree leaves, which opens up the front of the house. The new fence is bright in the fleeting sun; it’s color reflected in the dying asparagus ferns and the hazelnut leaves. As the leaves fall, the catkins are revealed. Chickens and rabbit dash around the backyard when we come home before their bedtime. Pumpkins and squashes are stashed all over the house; the tablecloth has fall leaves and green grapes printed on it; my mother’s orange candleholders grace the mantle. We have a fire in the evening.
The sun is leaving; we bring the light inside and snug down for the winter.


Corn Chowder—total comfort food


Chop and sauté a medium onion in butter and olive oil. A leek is also nice.

Chop and boil until almost done a couple of cups of potatoes.

Add potatoes and potato water to the onions. Add a bag of frozen corn, some salt, pepper, and thyme. Cover with milk. Some days, I add some dried milk to thicken.


Eat with muffins.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sunday Night Suppers-- October

Broccoli, tomato and potato casserole

Applecake, pickled beets and cucumbers--Potluck Fare

Potato and black bean burrito with salsa verde
Autumn Minstrone and muffins

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pumpkin Spirits

     
      Pumpkin Spirits guard our house on the thinnest nights of the year. 

            The first two spirit guards are the big pumpkins, carved with faces. We light them in the house and carry them out  the  front door. We walk around the house—North, East, South, West, through two gates, asking the spirits to protect the space for the winter. Mark places his in front of the dining room door; it is a face made from leaves this year. I carry mine to the front steps; a huge smile and a third eye watch the night.  Gaurdian Spirits.
            The second  two  are carved gourds from Sunbow farm, with thick skins. The designs are simpler—triangles and slits let the light through. These leave via the back door and  round the house as well. As I walk, I remember all of the fruits of the gardens—grapes, raspberries, flowers, figs, tomatoes, greens—and we place these in the back veg garden. Mark’s is on the bridge, mine under the collard patch where the rabbit likes to hide. Garden Spirits.
            The third spirit gourds are actually two votive holders of pumpkin faces that have been in the family for years. I gave my mother one for her birthday when I was twenty years old; I just liked the smile. We carry these small figures out of the dining room and around the house, still heading clockwise. One sits on the potting bench; the other watches from the thick wooden plank in front of the fireplace. They look towards the house, leading spirits in. I tuck my mother’s glass pumpkin into the strawberry plants at the feet of Saint Francis. Guiding Spirits.
            At night, before we climb into bed, I look outside. Small golden lights gleam in the darkness.

Cornbread—the ideal potluck food


We had a potluck last weekend and I am always paranoid that there will not be enough food, so I make cornbread. This doubles nicely.

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup white flour
.25 c of white sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t salt

1 egg
.25 c of oil
.75 cup of milk

handful of berries

Mix dry together. Mix wet together. Mix the two and throw the berries in. Bake in a 350 0ven until done using the toothpick test.



            

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fall Rituals

The storm windows went up this weekend.

Years ago, when we bought our house, it had aluminum storm windows—the sort with screens built in that warp slightly and are tricky, over the years, to open. Although I have fond memories of following my father through empty houses while he installed such windows, they are ugly. After we painted, I did not want to re-hang them. It was like putting blinders on our house. However, after a year of serious drafts, something had to be done. Our friend Mark is a woodworker and he took the glass from the old storms and built wooden ones, sized to fit each window’s quirks. We painted them deep red, hung them, and never looked back. Every autumn, around Halloween, we wash all of the windows—house and storm—wax the wooden edges with a chunk of candle like waxing old wooden cross country skis, and pop them on. Well, sometimes there’s a bit of pounding involved, if something has shifted over the summer. They add a layer of detail to the house, rather than subtracting. The house turns inward and quiet, focused for the long winter nights. Fires, beans in the crockpot, potlucks, sweater knitting, and reading  become the focus of our lives, rather than hiking and gardening.

                                                            *****

Sunbow Farm had a Harvest Home potluck this evening. We pulled in through the tall pampas grasses right before sunset and parked by the chip and mulch pile. The cob house was warm and welcoming; they had cleaned and lit a fire in the big wood stove. The world smelled of earth and dinner. Kent had carved a series of compost pile gourds and lined them down the path to the back field, ending with a large pumpkin. At twilight, we all stepped out into the breezy fields. The sun was setting south of Mary’s Peak, casting gold and peach light into the clouds and lighting up the mountain. The trees were dark against the sky. Kent lit the furthest pumpkin, and we walked back to the house, lighting gourds as we went. “We’re inviting the field spirits into the house for the winter,” he and Harry explained, “so that we can all live in peace. Then, in the spring, all of the spirits head back out into the fields.”  Fifteen people walked the field track, back to the houses, as we had so often, summer after summer, hauling beans, water bottles, armloads of greens. “Now,” he announced, “we can eat!” And we did—fava and Indian Woman beans, stuffed red peppers, applesauce and apple cake, pickles from abundant crops of beets and cucumbers, all from our local farms.

On the way home, we passed three churches having Sunday evening services, their stained glass windows glowing in the leafy darkness.



Mabon Quiche


Turn the oven on to 350 degrees.

Make a quiche crust with half whole wheat flour.

Sautee a leek in olive oil salt and pepper until limp.
Chop a crisp apple.
Cut smoked gouda into small cubes.
Beat four eggs into about 2/3 of a cup of milk.

Layer the quiche: cheese, apple and leek, then beaten eggs. Support the crust edge if it starts to bend with a shim of folded paper.

Bake until set.
Eat for dinner with a fresh green salad and cider.





Friday, October 11, 2013

Salvaged Wood

No wood heads for the landfill from our backyard: It is all salvaged on site. For years, this has not been an issue, but, after a major tree pruning winter and two fence replacements, we have piles. Several Large piles.  I’ve been working through them, now that the food processing season has slowed down. 

            The first step is sorting. There are three categories:

  1. Reusable: Dry and not rotting.  All nails pulled, piled in the wood loft of the shed. Used for garden beds, fencing, art, signs, trellises, shower stalls, boxes, shelves, repairs to the coop, stakes, crib slats….etc.
  2. Firewood:  Dry, with some rot or small pieces. All nails pulled, cut to size, piled in the basement, preferably in size and dampness piles.
  3. Compost: Clearly rotting, breakable by hand. All nails pulled, broken down to compost fast, and piled in the back corner to be eaten by pillbugs. Later, it moves into the pompost pile.


Nail pulling is a key step for all wood recycling. I don’t like tetanus shots so we have to be sure that no nails turn up in the firewood ash or the compost piles years later. It’s a peaceful task, once I have the station set up. I bring a picnic bench back under the hazelnut trees, find the large and small crowbars, the paint can half full of nails, and a hammer, and set to work. There’s something satisfying about wrestling pieces of old fencing apart, reducing them to their original boards, and sending them over to Mark to be cut down with power tools.  Bunzilla and Lucy look on while the chickens root through the old boards for new bugs. I’m about done with the nail pulling project, so we just need to saw and sort before the rains begin.


Spicy Slaw:

Several people were dismayed to find a large cabbage in their CSA box this Tuesday evening and the trade box was overflowing with rejected heads. So sad...we were thrilled. Mark immediately lobbied for this slaw, best eaten with local Indian Woman beans, wrapped in large tortillas. Fastest dinner ever, if the the beans are cooked.

Slice the cabbage very thinly.  Perhaps slice a carrot or two as well, for color. Mix some mayo, a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, sour cream or yogurt, salt, pepper, and a little cider vinegar together in the bottom of the salad bowl. Toss the cabbage in. Taste and adjust. 

Eat dinner. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Harvest is in!

Homestead Harvest is in…and the tally is:

Pickled Beets:6 pints
Blueberries: 2 quarts dried
Plums: 8 pints canned
            6 quarts dried
Pears: 5 quarts dried
Apples: 7 quarts dried
            4 pints of sauce
            3 quarts of juice—already gone…
Grape juice: 23 quart
Figs: 5 quarts dried
Tomatoes: roasted 70 half pints roasted
7        pints of salsa
4 quarts dried
Green Beans: 7 pints canned
Honey: 5.5 quarts, so far
Jam: 3 gooseberry
            6 rhurbarb red currant
            6 peach
            7 grape
Pickles: senfgurten—5
            Olive oil—2
            Dill spears—8
Dried beans—1 quart of Indian Woman
                        1 quart of Scarlet Runner

We also have two trays of apples left, three dozen longkeeper tomatoes, jujubes hanging on the tree, squashes and pumpkins in the larder.

Pumpkin Bread:

You can use canned pumpkin and it is tidy-- or you can bake your own, store in in pint jars in the freezer, and haul it out when you need it. This makes two loaves: one for now and one for the freezer.

3 1/3 c flour-- half whole wheat
2 t BS
1/2 t BP
1 1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg and cloves

2/3 c oil
2 c pumpkin
4 eggs
2 c sugar
2/3 c milk

raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, apples...whatever is around

Mix dry together. Mix wet together. Mix the two. Bake in a 350 degree oven.



        

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sunday Night Suppers-- September

Polenta with tomatoes and zuchinni

Pasta with green beans, mushrooms, and sliced tomato

Pasta with the tail end of the tomatoes and olives
Green beans, new potatoes baked  with tomatoes

Bold type is locally grown...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sliding Towards Fall...

  1. The dining room is the frying room—figs, nuts, laundry, tomato seeds…
  2. Wild western winds.
  3. All 90 pounds of potatoes are in.
  4. The zucchini vines have succumbed to powdery mildew.
  5. Trail grass is golden.
  6. The fields at Finely are burned for weed control.
  7. The grass in the yard is turning green.
  8. The chicken coop is on the garden beds.
  9. The cats are looking for laps.
  10. We’ve had our first morning fire on Sunday.
  11. OSU students are back and bellowing.
  12. The asters are blooming.
  13. The wool blanket is on the bed.
  14. Cider!
  15. Dinner from the oven sounds good.
  16. The Harvest moon has risen over Chip Ross park.




Tomato and Potato casserole


This is one of those very simple recipes where the sum total is outstanding and you wonder—why is this soooo good?

New potatoes, sliced in rounds and boiled until just done.
A handful or two of ripe cherry tomatoes.
Basil leaves, chopped coarsely.
Mozzarella cheese, sliced.
Salt and pepper.

Layer in a casserole dish—potatoes, tomatoes, basil, cheese, salt and pepper. Repeat. Bake in 350 oven until bubbly. Eat with steamed green beans on the side. Repeat.



Sunday, September 8, 2013

Voluntary Complexity

     
      Anyone who believes that we live lives of Voluntary Simplicity because we have a couple of hens in the backyard, some locally grown tomatoes on the shelf and one car in the driveway has not seen my schedule book lately. I am beginning to feel like an Honors Junior angling towards Stanford. They have colored coded planners, fifteen things happening in a day, and no time for the common cold, never mind a weekend off. Me, too. We are all  practicing Voluntary Complexity, not Voluntary Simplicity.

            I once lived a very simple life. My last year in college, I had a two room apartment with the bathroom down the hall. I shared the second floor of an old house with three dirty old men, literally. The front room held my bed, a bookshelf, rocking chair, chest of drawers, and record collection. There was a small open space where I could sit on the floor and spread out my notecards before beginning to write a paper. The kitchen held my other bookshelf, which functioned as the prep counter, a small table, tiny fridge, and my big desk with manual typewriter. I went to the Laundromat and grocery store every Saturday morning, baked my own bread, learned how to make soup, and decided meat was, really, too expensive for what you got. I spent my evenings reading eighteenth century fiction and New England history, my days working in the archives, attending classes, and hanging out with friends at lunch. I did not have a car, a cat, or a boyfriend. I agreed with May Sarton, who said that one could live well alone at twenty and again at fifty, and with Adrienne Rich, who talked about the need to choose how to live, alone or with a partner.  It was a good time in my life.

            Life now is far more complicated. As all teachers know—and the people who make decisions at least pretend to deny—any time you add a life to your own, it adds complication. Seeing 163 students every other day (and all of them on Friday) requires more tracking and more effort than seeing 81 of them every day for one semester, followed by 82 every day for the next. Just look at the pile of summer reading projects on my counter, waiting for Monday morning.  Over the fifteen years we have lived in this little house, I have added many lives to my own, starting with a “housebound” partner and two cats and moving outward from there. Every relationship adds complexity. Every volunteer action, every group, every meeting I attend, every student I stay in touch with years later, adds complexity. Sometimes, like at the beginning of the school year when everything converges at once, it is not a good thing. Sometimes I remember that little apartment fondly.

            But Voluntary Complexity has a positive side, beyond stress. Every connection we make strengthens our lives as well. We are tangled in a web and it provides a springboard and a safety net. Before school began, my friend Julia—the high school art teacher-- and I organized an Art Retreat for our colleagues and summer hiking partners. It was simple. Bring art supplies and picnic food, gather at my house for carpooling, and head to Alsea Falls. We found a spot with two tables, spread the excellent food on one, art supplies on the other, listened to Julia explain a little bit about watercolors, and dispersed.   Some people went for walks in the woods. Some settled in with a plate of food and notebook at the table. Some headed for the river to draw. I sat by the water, wrestling, as always, with perspective, then stopped. Amy sat in front of me, her feet in the stream, staring into space. I could hear seven year old Layne telling someone a story behind me, her voice mingling with the river. Another friend settled in nearby. Other families came and went. The breeze rustled in the dry August leaves. Back at the picnic table, I knew, were other members of my web, talking, patting the dog, and strengthening ties for the coming school year. As the day began to fade, we came together once more, ate, and packed up to leave. The evening was pale pink as we pulled out of the park. Doug firs sketched against the sky. The road a dark tunnel through the trees until we broke into the valley and headed north, towards home. Mary’s Peak, our home mountain, on the left, the Willamette River beyond the fields on the right. 


Drying Fruit for Winter Eating


One of the actions that lends complexity to my life in September is the desire to be Fruit Independent all winter. Over the years, we’ve learned that local, often scavenged, totally ripe fruit is infinitely better than fruit picked green and shipped across the world. I have a small food drier that I bought for thirty dollars at Bi-Mart and it works just fine. No need for fancy equipment.

drying plums
Keys to successful drying:
  • Thin slices—apples, pears, peaches
  • Spread it out a bit to expose more surface—plums, cherries, figs.
  • Dry it whole—blueberries and raisins.
  • Have patience—all of it. It takes longer than I once thought.
  • Go for really dry. If the fruit is dry, you can put it in a quart jar, seal it with last year’s canning lid, and store it on the shelf with the canned tomatoes and pickles.  If you want fleshy fruit, make a compote.



            

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sunday Night Suppers-- August


Steamed Veg, herbed cottage cheese

Annie's Mac and Cheese, green beans-- car camping food!



Baked potato (just dug), caponata
Bread and cheese with peacevine tomatoes, MacIntosh apples


Bold indicates locally raised.

Caponata-- serve with a creamy pasta for heavenly comfort food.

1 large eggplant
1 medium zucchini
1 large onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
a handful of olives
several tablespoons of capers
2 half pint jars of roasted tomatoes
salt, pepper, crushed red pepper

Chop all of the veg and saute in olive oil. Add olives, capers and tomatoes. Cook until lovely and stewy.

Serve with pasta or  flatbread and perhaps a salad. Peach pie is nice, too.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fall Arrived Monday

     
      Fall arrived on Monday, around noon.

            We were driving to the coast to hike Cascade Head. The sky was cloudy, the air cool and damp. As we rounded the corner to Otis, and the Otis Café, alder leaves skittered across the road, soft gold against black. “Looks like fall,” the driver observed and we all agreed. But it was still August, so not yet!

            After lunch in the café, we headed up the hill. Cascade Head is one of the most beautiful hikes on the coast. It begins in coastal forest, deep with ferns, foxglove, fir trees. It climbs steadily up the headland, passes a misty grey alder grove, and breaks out onto the headland. On a clear day, you can see for miles down the coast and into the estuary at the base of the hill. Each step, from there on, brings on more breathtaking views. The panorama lures you on; the hill is steep. In the spring, wildflowers cover the grasslands and we have seen elk grazing on the point. On Monday, as we broke through, clouds moved in. “It smells like it could rain,” we observed. A few steps further on, we felt raindrops and the clouds looked more serious. Rain. We headed back under cover. Half an hour later, back at the car, rain  settled in.

 And with that, the summer ended. 


Cabbage and Apples: We ate cabbage and apples for dinner Monday night. I wasn’t quite ready to admit that it was cabbage season yet—I still want tomatoes and eggplants!—but that’s what there was. And, with some barley on the side, it was pretty darn tasty.

1 medium cabbage, cut finely
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium apple, chopped


Sautee the cabbage and onion with salt and pepper until almost done. Add the apple and cook for a few more moments. Add two or three tablespoons on good apple cider vinegar and stir. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gardener? Or Urban Farmer?

   

  1. You find dried bean seeds in your pockets in December.
  2. There is hay in the car.
  3. You turn to binder twine and five gallon buckets rather than organic hemp twine and a trug.
  4. You talk compost with strangers.
  5. You indulge in “one more season” hose repair.
  6. You spend more time thinking about fencing than the White Flower Farm flower catalog.
  7. You realize, half way through a professional meeting, that you have dirt somewhere. Fingernails? Hand cracks? Knees?  No, not all three!
  8. You worry more about the crop of leeks and not one plant.
  9. Your crops come in pounds.
  10. You use your van as a ladder.
  11. You realize that it is, really, all about the soil, not the new, cool varieties in the front of the seed catalogs.



Old School Canned Grape Juice


We use the seedy, dark grapes that run up into the backyard trees for this juice. The darker, the better. This is an old recipe from my partner’s mom. It is best chilled and poured from an old glass pitcher, preferably pink.

Per Quart—endlessly flexible


1 cup of grapes pulled off the vine
¼ to 1/3 cup of sugar
Boiling water to half an inch of the top


Cap and process in steam canner for ten minutes. Allow to age for a month or so before drinking.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Planning for Preserving



  1. Survey what you already eat. Sounds obvious, but it is essential. If you can, save grocery receipts for six months to a year so that you have a real strong feel what you do—and do not—eat. This eliminates the 60 jars of jam on the shelf phenomena. Yeah, jam is easy and tasty and yeah, those blackberries are free for the picking—and may  be you are even saving the Pacific Northwest from being totally overrun by their vines by harvesting, but still, if you eat four jars of jam a year now, you are not going to suddenly eat thirty just because you made them yourself. I know—I had to stop making jam for four years to eat down the surplus. And no, you shouldn’t bring them to the potluck on Saturday night, either, as three other people are already bringing blackberry crisps. You know it’s true. 
  2. Don’t Horde.  This is the opposite problem of making too many jars of jam. You make just three pints of pickled plums because it is the first year, and, because you are waiting for a special occasion, you never eat them all winter. A more extreme case—I went camping with a friend. We both brought along our half pint jars of tomato chutney that had been a Christmas present from a co-worker. We laughed. At the end of the two week trip, we both still had the chutney. Seriously, after all that work, EAT!
  3. Preserve the surplus. If there is a lot of something, save it for winter, even if it was not on your list. Many fruit trees, especially the wild ones in alley, produce heavily every other year. Take advantage of the surplus on a good year, just in case the source is gone the next. I’ve made three types of cucumber pickles this year because Sunbow had a surplus of big cucumbers. (It is the year of gigantism, after all.)  If I do not horde—see above—we should discover some new favorite snacks this winter.  The corollary of this rule is: Distribute the surplus. If you have too much, pass it on. It is good garden karma.
  4. Invest in two good preserving books.  You need one book for basic, don’t try and can in the compost pile, information. I really like Putting Food By. It feels like it was written by women from the mid-west, simple, practical, and solid. It is not fancy, but it is clear. The Ball Canning jar people have also put out a basic canning book. My other favorites are The Joy of Pickling and The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. Maybe it is because the author lives about thirty miles from here, but she has recipes for all of the produce that appears on my table. Too many plums…let’s see what the Joy has to say about that….jam? leather? pickled? all three?
  5. Buy basic equipment—keep it simple.  I use my tongs and funnel all the time, even when not preserving. I have a couple of solid potholders and cutting boards, which also double as trivets under hot pans. The most important piece of equipment I own is my steam canner.  I spotted it in the Territorial seed catalog one day over lunch.  I called Cottage Grove. The women who answer the phones at Territorial are great;  one assured me that she had been using one all season and it cut way down on processing time. Imagine no longer waiting for the big pot of water to boil! Or dumping out said hot pot when you are done or when a jar breaks during processing!  Electricity savings! Small batch canning! Rather than making pickles, grape juice, and 12 quarts of peaches in one day, I can run one batch of salsa and call it good.  The steam canner works for anything you would put through a water bath, but not for low-acid foods that need a pressure canning (ie. green beans). Best investment ever.

Remember—now it the time to plan to eat locally all year.

Roasted Tomatoes. We eat sixty half pints of these every year!

Slice sauce tomatoes in half or in thirds, aiming for about a half inch thick slices. Lay face down on a sheet pan—no oil needed. Place in 350 degree oven for about forty minutes, until  seriously relaxed. A little charring is ok. Scoop into half pint jars and process in steam canner for 30 minutes. Use on pizzas, as pasta sauce, in soups, etc. all winter long. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Master Gardeners are coming...oh, dear.

            The Oregon Master Gardeners are coming to our homestead on Thursday evening. It is a fund-raiser for the Sustainability Collation, requested by the gardeners, who come to Corvallis every year for a grand three-day pow-wow of workshops, discussions, and info sharing.  I agreed to the tour back in June, when everything was lovely and lush…and now, in the last week, the grass went dormant and beige and the potatoes turned yellow, dropped down, and began dying back for the season. AND I cleared out the comfrey, lemon balm, and other wild herbs from under the hazelnut tree so that the fence could be rebuilt. Now there’s bare dirt, looking like concrete, in what should be the bee yard. All of this would be fine—except that the Master Gardeners are coming on Thursday. That, as a friend said, puts a little pressure on. So, I took a survey:

Yard Disasters:
·        Dormant grass.
·        Potato beds (this is mixed. I believe it’s a good crop under there…).
·        Large gaps in the beds, especially where we ate that 10 inch broccoli a few weeks ago.
·        Bare earth in the back, giving chickens a bad name.
·        Out of control compost piles. Yes, there are several.
·        Blue bed flowers have gone by.
·        Sidewalk flower bed is dry.
·        Tools of the trade are everywhere!
·        We seriously need to recycle a pile of junk.
·        Buckwheat mulch never came up in the garlic bed. The space has been taken over by amaranth, which is a vibrant deep red and quite stunning.

Yard Benefits:
·        The new fence is gorgeous.
·        Nice tomatoes!
·        Huge collards. And the Coeur de Beof Cabbage is quite striking.
·        Boston Marrow is very cool.
·        There are berries and apples everywhere.
·        The design of the beds and trellis is quite nice.
·        Quality mulch.
·        The shed is tidy.
·        There are fall crops in one bed.
·        We’ve begun putting food by for the season.
·        The round brick bed out front looks good for the first time in years.

I think we’re about even. So, I’ll rake the dormant grass, put away the hoses for the evening, and talk about the changing seasons, how, after Lammastide, the Earth shifts toward Harvest and away from growth. And, maybe, Mark can get the compost area under control for the night.


Rapid Applesauce, with food mill

Usually, when I am processing apples, they sort into three piles—fresh eaters, sliced for drying, and applesauce. Applesauce apples are the bruised and slightly insect eaten fruit, the ones that need to be seriously trimmed and cubed before they are edible. I work through then three piles at once on the outdoor table, slicing some for the dryer while tossing chunks of others into the big pot. The food mill makes a huge difference in this process; I no longer peel and core the apples before cooking!

Start with a large pot of apples, just cut into chunks. Don’t peal or core. Add an inch or so of water and cook down into a bubbly mush. Cool. Push through the food mill using the largest sieve and return to the pot. Add sugar and spices—I usually add about ¾ cup of sugar for five to six pints of sauce, as well as a tablespoon on cinnamon and maybe a bit of allspice—and cook for another ten minutes or so. Ladle hot applesauce into pint jars, leaving half inch of space at the top and process in steam canner for thirty minutes.

The combination of food mill and steam canner has turned an all afternoon task into something that can be easily completed in an hour.