Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Storing Vanilla Beans - Apple Jelly and butter

It is much warmer here this morning, 54° compared to 43° yesterday.  The high is supposed to be around 70°.

Yesterday turned out to be a very long day.

First I researched and found that the vanilla beans store the longest in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place.
I realized that the came in a vacuum sealed bag so I did the same thing.  I used the Food Saver and froze 12 beans to a pack.  I bought so many because of the price break and the fact that I had points on my Amazon credit card that paid for the entire order.  I didn't even know I was accumulating points....what fun!

The question now is what on earth was I thinking........way too many beans.

After cooking the cores and peelings until they were soft, I drained all the juice from them using my hands to gently press in the colander.  I ended up with 7 cups of juice, exactly what the jelly recipe calls for.
I did use some old pectin just because I had it, but I don't think I would have needed it.  It sure speeds up the process though.

I pressed the remaining mass through my food mill and got 48 oz. of nice sauce or pulp.  I used an equal amount of sugar and added some cinnamon and cloves and began cooking it down in the much used maslin pan.  I probably reduced it by half. 

I decided to make the jelly  even though it was getting pretty late in the day. 

Here is what I ended up with from the 'waste' of the peels apples:

Right in the middle of the jelly-making, our new neighbor stopped by to see if a stray cat that had wandered to their place and stayed was one of ours.We invited her in and she followed me into the kitchen.  I wish you could have seen the mess!  If you have ever canned or make jelly, you know what I mean.  

She sat down and stayed for two hours....she's a talker and so am I and sometimes DH, so we enjoyed it.
I didn't even care about me mess but it was distracting trying to finish the jelly! I ened up with not sealing a few jars and will store it in the extra fridge.

It was 8 PM when she left.  Her husband actually drove up looking for her!  She is maybe a little younger than our daughter and has the charm of the South.  I didn't notice an accent though.  Maybe not far enough south.
They are from Raleigh, NC. but she grew up in Maryland.

I did a cursory cleanup and quit for the day.

Pinto Beans - Apple cores and Peels - nectar for Bees

Another perfect fall day but I am inside.  The kitchen is a 'beehive' of activity (pun intended)!
  Ever since Sharon told me about feeding the honeybees nectar this time of year and after a very bad summer, I have been in a frenzy putting out containers.....4 up to this point.  Now my back door has become a danger zone!  I must move them away from the house tonight after the sun goes down.  I also upped the nectar to a 1:1 ration.  I hope I have understood the bee sites about that.

I also belatedly have started processing the Jonathon apples.  I have them spread out in standard plant flats in my light stand on the back porch.  I have done one and have three more to go.  I can't stand much longer or my sacroiliac begin complaining loudly.  I hope to do another in the afternoon.

I also put the peelings and cores from this mornings apples plus a bag from the freezer in my maslin pan along with maybe a quart of cider to get them started.  I also added some water.  I will strain and maybe press then for juice for apple jelly.

Since I have to be inside, I added a pot of pintos to the mix.  I am happiest when I get way too many irons in the fire...
From Blog photos

The foil package in front of the oven is a loaf of whole wheat bread thawing for lunch.

Monday, September 26, 2011


We got a little shower during the early morning.  We sleep with the bedroom window partially open and there is a metal awning over it.  We love to listen to rain hitting it.  It reminds me of sleeping upstairs at Grandma's.  There was no insulation or attic over the bedrooms upstairs and you could hear the rain hitting the roof.  I love that sound.
Tonight is supposed to be down to 43°.  Fall is truly here.

Right after breakfast, scrambled eggs and toast and (for me only) salsa, I got my vanilla project going.  I have wanted to do this for a long time but finally ordered the vanilla beans and bought the vodka.  It is so simple.

All you need is:

1 750 ml bottle of good vodka
12-15 vanilla beans (I ordered mine through Amazon)

 You slice through the beans with either a knife or kitchen scissors up to within 1 inch of stem end.  Drop into the bottle, put on lid.  Simple wasn't it?  I will shake it a couple of times a day for a week or so and then store in the cabinet for a couple of months.  You can even replace the used vanilla with either more vodka or rum for a while.  I think rum would add another flavor.

and here is the bottle with all the beans added,

I have enough beans left for more vanilla.  I probably should just buy more vodka and get it started.  I know the beans have to be stored in a particular way, not frozen.  I tried to keep some once and they completely dried out. They are expensive so I don't want to loose any!

The vanilla is already getting a darker color and smells like vanilla.

It is now the next morning, September 26, the weatherman was right.  It will be 43° by sunrise.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Used Buy - Bees

When we were at the local hardware store getting supplies for cutting off the doors (new carpet), I "suggested" we stop in the used furniture store next door. It was mostly very unimpressive stuff but this caught my eye.

It is solid cedar and has wooden rollers, the top shelf is missing, but I will use it for extra blanket and bedding storage so that is good.

I plan to use  Formby's refinisher to clean it up and will post a picture when I have finished.  I will re-sand the interior to bring the cedar scent back to life.

So, back to the store for the refinisher and some Tung Oil.

The bees are swarming the feeders again.  I need to spray it with Pam and see if that works.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Doors - More Rain - a new plant

The morning started out cool and misty and it then turned into a light rain that dropped 1/4 inch more here. Very nice.

The sun is out now but it is still very cool.

Yesterday I checked out the garden center at Lowes looking for a small tree to plant in the stump bed....no luck there but they did have the most indcredibly blue caryopteris and was simply covered with flying things. I couldn't resist. It is called First Choice and is a much deeper more vibrant blue than the one I used to have.

Can you see the bees and something that looks like a lightening bug but isn't?

I am putting it just to the front and left of the pink rose Aloha by the back door.

We got the three doors shortened so they won't hit the new carpet and now I have to stain and varnish. What I really want to do is to replace them! They are hollow-core doors and really not very attractive.

More Good News! You know our last handyman and helper turned out to be not so dependable....well, we were shopping in our local Ace Hardware which is a small store and lumberyard in a very small town. DH told them what we really needed was someone to hang some new doors. The owner spoke up and said, see that tall man standing behind you? He's the man for the job. Turns out he is a carpenter, jack-of-all-trades. I asked for a card and saw it stated finish carpenter, architectural specialties....I told him my humble work might not be anything he would be interested in, but he said no, he did everything. He is booked up to January. He did say if he couldn't do something he would know someone who could.
The owner's son told us privately that this man had done all the finish work on his home. I am hopeful once again. We would really like to get the Milk Parlor painted before winter. It is really an eyesore right now.

Then I want the porch or porches enclosed; DH wants a different door on the back porch, I need shelving on the back porch for canned goods and odd utensils.
I want a 4-ft wide walk from the door straight out to the drive that would lead people right to the door we use as the front door instead of the back porch. Oh I forgot, I want a new entrance door....and the list does one.

But I can wait on the house things, the milk parlor has first priority for me now.

I bought another small thing...at a used furniture store next to the hardware...
more later about that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blogging begins again.

Up at 3 AM. Nothing to read so I caught up with all my Blog reading.

The last few days have been filled with normal life on the farm.

I milked a couple of times, made peanut butter cookies, ran errands and did the normal things I do each day,

Did I mention we got rain, glorious ran, a total of 4 inches, so I am feeling much more optimistic about gardening and farming. I might even have to mow again. It is funny how the yard can green up almost overnight after a soaking rain.

We have water standing in the lane that runs through the farm again! Haven't seen that in a long time, plus it has been much cooler. The cows are enjoying it as much as we are.

It has been too wet outside to do any work, but I can now begin to clean up the kitchen garden.

I will leave the tomatoes and peppers. Ilene's cheese peppers are hanging full and I have picked several beautiful deep red ones and a few yellow. My other peppers seem to be at a standstill. I am anxious to do a walk-about and check on everything. I did notice another first; the miscanthus grass didn't make the plumes this year, not a single one.

I have a good friend from high school who retired to Panama and she was in this week. Her schedule didn't allow for a visit but we did have a nice phone visit. She was an oceanographer and explained to me our weather as related to La Nina and El Nino. She said her experience over the years led to a simple description of how they affect our weather:

La Nina (last longer) Cause hot weather to be hotter and cold weather to be colder. I have already heard people predicting a bad winter.

El Nino cause the reverse: Colds warmer and hots cooler.

Next year may be another bad one; let's hope not quite so bad.

The other exciting news for me is we finally had new carpet installed in the living room and our bedroom. It is the new shag that they are calling frieze. The fibers are twisted. It is a tweedy carpet in brown tones. It doesn't photograph well. I was so worried that my flowery furniture would be horrible next to it, but I can live with the look for a while. It feels so spongy that I almost loose my balance on it. The other one had been down since 1973 and had flattened just a tad!

I will have to take off about ½ inch from the bottom of three doors this morning so they will not graze the carpet. I am not looking forward to that but I have done it before.

I may even drag my financier out to look at furniture soon... You may hear loud screaming from the farm if I do.

I remind him often that we are raising the cattle for this very reason!

I did do a walk-about this morning. It is just a perfect, cool and sunny day.

When the weather starts cooling off I notice the things that are still blooming get a more vibrant color, the roses perk up again. Here is Yvonne's Salvia and salvia farinacea (self-seeded),

and this is a lavender and an unknown variety of sedum,

I could hear the calves DH has up to wean for sale so I wandered back there to take a look, but the babies caught my eye instead,

They are to the point that we just turn the cow in to her grain and don't have to tie her up for the babies to nurse.

Last, I made one of our favorite 'down-home' meals, Mom's goulash, salad and cornbread (the sweet kind).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rain! and Cream Cheese Danish

Those aren't blobs on the camera lens; that is rain! We finally got nearly 1/2 inch yesterday afternoon. What a delightful treat. The temperatures never got past 70° and this morning it is 46°! Wonderful; wonderful!

I took advantage of the cooler temperatures to make our favorite Cream Cheese Danish. I got the recipe from Thibault's Table blog. I have quite a few of her posted recipes that have now become regulars for me. I think I have already posted the recipe. This one is so easy. I never remember to make the dough the night before so I do the wait a few hours method.

We have thoroughly tested one of them....

While the rain was coming down, we watched True Grit from Netflix. We both loved the movie. Of course, we like all westerns and hope this one is setting a new trend for movies. We opened the back door so we could enjoy seeing the rain coming off the awning.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Inside and Outside

We missed a good opportunity for rain yesterday morning; the breeze got up and it was pretty dark south...alas, it missed us again.


I just puttered yesterday. I re-varnished the trim above the sink where the water splashes. I used the new miracle re-finisher recommended by the cabinet maker (a local shop). It is called Good Stuff and it is. It is in jelly form and you apply with a soft cloth. I put on two coats, buffing between both. We also refinished DH's step dad's old cane. He did the sanding, I put on two coats of Good Stuff. While I was on a run, I put another coat on the top of the kitchen table. I scrub this so often, the finish begins to wash away.


I walked out into the kitchen garden, the first time in a few days, and was delighted to find a cherry-type self-seeded tomato hanging full of ripe ones. I had given up on any more tomatoes this year. I remembered when it first began ripening I practically ignored the lowly thing waiting for a 'real' tomato. Funny how time changes things (words to a song?). They are very sweet this time of year and taste wonderful. I picked a small bowl full and now will be watching it closely.

I see some green tomatoes on the regular vines, but I doubt they will have time to ripen.

I need to plant some garlic this week. I hope to do it after a rain...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Orchard

This is supposed to be our last hot day; then down cooler than normal and with a tantalizing promise of rain. I only get excited when I hear it hitting the awnings!

I hope I have mowed and watered the orchard/garden area for the last time. I do hope to till it before the ground freezes.

We have 8 fruit trees back there: Liberty apple, Gloria Peach, Madison Peach, Shiro plum, a Santa Rosa type plum, Stanley plum, a nectarine, and another apricot. If the weather permits, we could get a few peaches next year. I may order three more trees, dwarf this time. These are semi-dwarf. I want an Arkansas Black apple, a crabapple (they can be great pollinators), and another sour cherry tree.

and this is our winter supply of hay. It is just south of the orchard.

and this is the gate between the two area that opens into the whole 20-acre field.
We have these two areas fenced off with hot wire.

This is taken looking west to the barn with the new doors, the holding pen where the babies are and Willow who now has access to the hay storage area that has lots of grass, dried I might add, for her to graze....or she can attack the hay. We keep a stock tank of water inside the barn lot to the left of the picture.

I have plans to do some mowing around the house where the grass has been growing because of the water it gets when I water the foundation beds.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Farm Time

I have taken a little break from blogging for a few days.

It is still nice weather here, high's in the 80's; lows, 50's. Still no rain.

Since I blogged last, I visited my Sis in the Nursing Home which is enough to make you want to go into a dark room and shut the door for several days. Nothing to be done about the situation though.

Farm Life

I took a break from some spot mowing a couple of days ago to snap a few pictures of the cows in the West Lot who had come to the fence to watch me.

The first is Annabelle, Willow's (the milk cow) calf that we bought when we bought her. She has already calved and the calf has been sold.

This is the young bull we bought a year or so ago.

The sun caused some flare out but I like how it shows his muscling so I kept it.


I milk in a unique way; I stand up and bend over. Our old dairy barn is the platform style where the cows walk up an outside ramp and the milker stands on the floor where you attach the milking unit. Since I don't use the milker I am not in a good position to milk by hand standing up because I have to hold my arms up....which is very tiring after about 15 minutes. I stand on a stool and bend over her, works very well and also puts my head way out of danger range. It works for me.

DH was taking my camera to the field to take pics of the cows and snapped this on his way.

and this is how Grandma fed her chickens corn.

Note: Grandma never had a double chin and she never ever wore jeans! She did wear an apron daily and so do I! We would go out behind the barn to her corn crib, she would gather up the corners of her apron and fill it with 3-4 ears of corn and then we would go to the chicken yard which was her entire yard, but there was some bare ground near the chicken house door. Then she would take an ear at a time and shell the whole kernels onto the ground and they would come running.

I raised some Reid's Yellow Dent corn two years ago and never stored it properly and this spring I saw it was filled with weevils. So I decided to try Grandma's method and it works like a charm. DH had fed chops the night before so they weren't quite as thrilled with corn this morning.

I thought it might be hard to shell, but it was not.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Coffe Cake for Sunday

Yesterday was our first cooler day in a very long time. We had just a few drops of rain.

I milked. Willow is way down in production. I think it is due to the extreme heat and dry conditions. Most cows will not graze out in the sun and I don't buy alfalfa to feed her when we have grass even though it isn't the best forage right now. The name of this game, is to have good,raw milk without it costing us more than store milk.

I made one of our favorite coffee cakes. This recipe is found on King Arthur's website and I have made it several times. I don't use a tube pan but I do use my spring-form pan. That means you have to increase the baking time by about 10 minutes. I always test with a toothpick first.

1/2 cup shortening*
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Cream shortening, sugar and eggs. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream.

Grease and flour a regular-sized tube pan**. Spread half the batter in the pan, and sprinkle with half the topping mixture. Repeat with remaining batter and topping.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake tests done. Cool 10 to 15 minutes, and remove cake from pan. Place cake right-side-up (topping up) on a plate to serve.

*I usually use a butter-flavored shortening, or margarine.

**I make this in a 9 x13-inch pan if it's for family, and just serve it right from the pan in squares.

Note: This coffeecake is also delicious made with plain or vanilla yogurt, or buttermilk. If you bake it early in the morning, you can carry it outside for an al fresco breakfast before work!

If you make this in a 9 x 13-inch pan -- a handy, stable size for transporting to picnics or potlucks -- be aware that you'll have to spread the batter quite thinly to cover the bottom of the pan. Spoon half into the pan, using a rubber spatula to spread batter out evenly; sprinkle on half the topping; then drop the remaining batter, in spoonfuls, on top. Don't bother to try to spread it around; just sprinkle with the rest of the topping. Cake will puff up and look fine by the time it's done.
Nutrition information per serving (1/20 of recipe, 51 g): 188 cal, 9 g fat, 2 g protein, 10 g complex carbohydrates, 14 g sugar, 1 g dietary fiber, 31 mg cholesterol, 137 mg sodium, 45 mg potassium, 1 mg iron, 52 mg calcium, 41 mg phosphorus. Note: using lowfat yogurt or lowfat buttermilk in place of sour cream will lower fat to 7 g.

My Note: I always use butter when it calls for shortening.

We have decided this is the year to replace our l970's era carpet in the living room and bedroom. DH wants the new shag which will always be the 'old' shag to me.
We had it in our first house! Nothing is new under the sun.......
We are going for a darker, blended color tweedy thing so DH's coffee dribbles won't drive me insane. It is hard for me to make decisions so I will probably just let him select it. It will make our old living room furniture look so bad....I am hoping to replace most of it next year. "Lord willing and the creek don't rise" as Mom used to say.

We have nothing planned for the holiday. I really should do some real housecleaning for a change.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

My kudzu - Plants good for hot and dry weather

When I took the trash out this morning I looked across the road at the front ditch.....this is my kudzu! Grandpa Otts and a blue morning glory run amok! This is why I never plant them anymore. I did this deliberately in the ditch and I hope it runs willy nilly along it.

Did you ever see anything so lush....ditch with no additional anything.

And this is why I never plant a morning glory anywhere on the farm anymore.

I planted my leftover lavender vinca by the back porch door. Then some of my favorite petunias came up beside it. I love the colors together. There is also a self-seeded Jewel of Opar on the left. This is where I planted lettuce seeds a week or so ago. The only one that came up was the old standby Black Seeded Simpson.

I wish more of the darkest petunias had been open this morning. They are the ones that look so good with the lavender color of the vinca.

These three annuals are very good ones for hot and dry weather. I grow the vinca from seeds and the others reseed them selves annually so, in essence, are considered perennials by me. I wouldn't be without either.

I originally wrote this August 30...it is still hot and dry but is supposed to be out last really hot day for a while. I hope it is true. Still no rain.

Note: I knew this would happen. The country road crew came by and mowed right up to the mailbox! Oh well.................

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hot Days

We have had some very hot days this week and today and tomorrow are supposed to be the same, near or past l00°. I have practically been housebound for the last three of them.....only going out in the early morning to either milk or take care of the calves and Willow.

I milked yesterday morning and once again, she was slow to let down her milk but I persevered! I think it was already 80° by the time I went out. Even our nights are not cooling down. Still no rain here.

I did nothing significant in the house.

I am posting some random picture taken by our 16-year old granddaughter on her last visit. She loves taking pictures and has a real talent for it.

Everywhere you look outside, you can find a cat!

or part of one,
or the dog. He follows the grands every step they take,

Note: she is wearing my new Muck boots!