Friday, September 28, 2012

I'm In the Garden

The fall weather has been glorious so you can find me most days..
I put this sign out by the front door when I'm working in the garden so people know where to find me! It works great.

We are getting beautiful color here this fall. The winds have been calm so we are enjoying the color on the trees unlike most years when the winds blow all the leaves off quickly. I can't imagine why Nebraska doesn't have wind farms dotting the state since we are one of the windiest states in the country! But I digress, here's what I see from my windows...
 The ash trees are some of the most beautiful. Of course, Autumn Joy (perfectly named) sedums which surround our cottage and burgundy mums give depth to the fall colors...
Autumn Joy sedums

I've been in the garden cleaning and getting things ready for the winter. I got the potatoes in very late so I'm just harvesting them, one tank is complete and the other isn't quite ready yet, still a little green. I used the Ruth Stout method of salad gardening where I planted the potato starters on top of the soil and covered with 6" of mulch. They are so easy to harvest and I didn't have any pest problems.

The plants that are 'done' such as the potatoes and tomatoes are going into the compost bins. I use the mower with the catcher to shred the plants so they decompose into compost more quickly. It works beautifully. The greens from the garden, grass clippings and kitchen scraps along with chicken manure make wonderful black compost for my plants. I'm always excited to see how it looks in the spring. The soil in all the beds is getting better every year with the addition of homemade compost.

mowing the tomato plants into shreds
 I made more marinara sauce which is a winter staple.
Garlic is planted now for spring and summer harvest. I had a great crop this year so my confidence is up and  I'm devoting an entire tank-bed for next year. I use alot of garlic in cooking so it is great to raise my own.

I have planted several varieties of hardneck garlic this year, all from Seed Savers Exchange:
Chesnok Red (purple striped paper with red cloves from Russia) - sounds exotic and delicious. Best for roasting and baking;
Samarkand aka Persian Star (good all purpose, pleasant with a spicy zing from Uzbekistan);
Erik's German White (white wrappers with red-purple skinned cloves, easy to peel) which is one of my favorite and 3rd year of growing;
German Red (purple-brown clove wrappers, easy to peel, strong full bodied flavor, excellent keeper).
Birds are starting to bunch up so we know it's fall. My feeders and birdbath are getting lots of action every day. Today I had to fill the birdbath four times due to all the bathing. What a great sight especially when five or six birds are splashing at the same time. It looks and sounds so joyful!

I hope you are enjoying your fall season,

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Another Day In My Kitchen...

Lots going on in the kitchen, friends gave us fresh pears they picked from a neighbors tree so I turned them into pear preserves.
As you can see, the pears became
Ginger Pear Jam and Pear Marmalade!

This years pullets are just beginning
to lay their tiny practice eggs!

The tomatoes are FINALLY ripening so
this is the first batch of anything tomato,
and it's the tasty Jack Daniel's Ketchup.

Late summer lovelies - fragrant pink
roses, Autumn Joy sedum and Limelight
Kitchen Tips:
If you happen to have any tea cups or
coffee cups in your house that look grungy
like this, there is an easy solution to make
them clean and white again.

Add a tablet to clean false teeth!
Follow the directions...

It will fizzle and froth...

And here is the magical end results!
White and clean again!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Annual Summer Visit with Sasha, Nina and Jake

Mark and me with Sasha, Jake & Nina
at the Ashfall Fossil Park
We had a fun week with our young friends who make an annual visit to our little ranch. Sasha, Nina and Jake are now 12, 9, and 7 and have been visiting us for three summers. We look forward to their visit every year and I always try to think of age appropriate fun things to do. This year we visited fossils, 'tanked' the Cedar river, went to the movies and did lots of cooking and baking.

I learned to cook and bake at a young age from my Mother and it gave me such confidence and self esteem. The kids always bake with me and help me in the kitchen so this year I taught each of the kids to make a meal on their own for their family. 
Jake making 'his' meal of Pigs in a Blanket
and fresh fruit salad.

Sasha made fried chicken.
Nina LOVES watermelon as you can see!
She made Breakfast Banana Splits for her
meal made with bananas, berries, Greek
yogurt, honey or jam and nuts,
yum and healthy.
Sasha made her favorite, Raspberry Pie.

Each girl made 'dirty feet' with the left-
over pastry and cinnamon sugar. I have
cookie cutters in theshape of feet and
when the kids were very small I'd bring them
these treats and they loved them. Now they
are making them after making pie. I am
so proud of these girls and their baking skills.
Jake loved to help make pancakes,
especially chocolate chip when I let him
add the chips
Sasha made one batch of oatmeal cookies
and then she coached her siblings so
they can make them at home.

Nina LOVES making bread. She is mixing
up two batches, walnut and rosemary.
Nina kneading the bread and Sasha is
The Wild Bunch at Ashfall Fossil Park
Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park near Royal, NE is designated a National Natural Landmark. "Nearly 12 million years ago, hundreds of rhinos, three-toed horses, camels and other animals died and were buried  by volcanic ash around the edges of a watering hole in what is now northeast Nebraska. Still locked in their death poses. the amazingly well preserved skeletons of these prehistoric beasts lay undisturbed, wrapped in a blanket of jagged glassy particles, until the 1970s when scientific study of the fossilized remains began". An 18,000 square foot 'Rhino Barn' protects part of the deposit, where skeletons are uncovered and displayed exactly where they are found.
This place is worth the trip. It is interesting and the countryside is beautiful.

Nina and Mark reading about the
three toed horses.

A picture of how the waterhole
may have looked before the disaster
along with a few skeletons.

The Fossil Barn
Jake and Nina did some of their own
digging in the new demonstration barn
Tanking is floating down a river in a round stock tank, steered by two long steering poles. 
Nina steering the 'tank'.

Picnic lunch on the river.
The river float was 2 hours for a 4 1/2 mile ride. It was fun. Next time we'll bring the water guns! 
Mark fending off Jake who is determined
to soak him.
Playing on the shallow sand bar where
the tank got beached.
We enjoyed our regular days too. Kids played with the toy box, read, played with Buddy, played on the swings and watched some TV. All these things are more fun at somebody elses house.
Sasha helped fold towels while visiting
with Mark.

Nina was out several times a day with
the animals. She would whinny and the
mares would whinny back. They formed
quite a bond of trust.
Nina with Buddy and the babies saying
Until the next summer visit,