Solar Tracking

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

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.