January 31, 2021

January Blooms

Winter started out really cold. Cold enough to kill off all my broccoli plants. Then came rain and mild days, and that has meant discovering more things blooming in January than I ever recall. They are all small and indiscreet, but welcome color nonetheless. All of these have presented themselves this past week.

Rosemary, always a winter bloomer.

Yarrow, just a few blooming here and there.

I have no idea what these are. Tiny pink buds, white flowers.

Another one I'm not sure of. At first, I thought
it was heartsease, but the leaves say differently.
I think it's germander speedwell! Thanks, Boud!

Here's one I do know. Chickweed
amongst the turnips and garlic.

Speaking of turnips, these are a new variety for me.
 
It's fun to find these little gems of color, while the one I usually expect to be first, hasn't bloomed yet!

Daffodils fixing to bloom.

Does it mean spring is right around the corner? It's tempting to start thinking about early spring planting, but I know better than to count on it! So, rather than second guess it, I just try to appreciate whatever it brings. That's one of the joys of seasonal living. 

January 27, 2021

More on Haybox Cooking: Chili

A couple months ago, I showed you my homemade haybox (thermal) cooker. As with all things, I've had to make a few tweaks to my habits, but otherwise, I'm finding it quite useful. Especially, on days when I won't be in the house to keep my eye on something. In this post, I'll show you how I used it to make chili. Chili was kinda easy because all the ingredients were cooked before it went into the cooker. But the haybox worked perfectly for that long slow simmer that melds the flavors in chili and makes it so tasty. Here's the process start to finish!

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 pound ground beef 
  • small onion, chopped
  • half of a med. bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 qt. canned tomatoes 
  • 1 qt canned chili beans 
  • 1 cup bone broth 
  • 1 tsp chili powder 
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne

Brown the ground beef and chopped veggies in a cast iron skillet.

In a saucepan, mix and heat tomatoes,
broth, beans, and seasoning to a simmer.

Add cooked meat and veggies. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Place in haybox cooker and cover to keep warm. (Two
2-inch pieces of foam board go on top of the pot lid.)

Let sit for 2 hours. No peeking!

Remove from haybox and serve.

The haybox kept it mouth-burning hot. It was really good. We got two meals out of it with enough left over for Fiesta Cornbread.

I have to admit that we rarely eat chili. Having lived in Texas for a number of years, we've come to equate the concept of chili with fire-breathing hot! Chili cook-offs are a crowd-pleaser in Texas, with each entrant trying to out-hot the others! Those of us who prefer mild heat are simply out of luck. My other turn-off for chili has been my growing-up memories of chili mac being a staple on the school lunchroom menu. It wasn't spicy, but the combination of chili and macaroni wasn't appealing, either. 

This recipe has mild heat, although obviously, that can be adjusted. For the topping, we used corn chips. We both agreed it should have a more regular spot on our winter menus. For variety, we can eat it with cornbread, or topped with tortilla chips and grated cheese.

How about you? Spicy or not? Favorite recipe? Favorite toppings?

January 23, 2021

Buck Barn: Roof and Walls

 More progress! (Continued from here.)


Rain was in the forecast, so we were anxious to get the roof on.



The slabs leaning against the back are going to become the exterior walls. 


They are waste slabs from Dan's previous lumber milling projects. 


Because the slabs don't fit together without some gaps, plywood from the torn down buck shelter was used for inner walls. 


And that's where we are at the moment.

Buck Barn: Roof and Walls © January 2021

January 19, 2021

Pizza!

Pizza is a Friday night tradition at our house. It's always something to look forward to and I find that because we're home every day, specific meals on specific days helps mark the days of the week. From time to time, I have someone ask me about my recipe for pizza, so here it is. 

Dough

My pizza dough recipe is basically the same one I use for bread! The only difference is the oil and the flour. For bread, I use butter and half whole wheat flour. For pizza, I use all unbleached white flour, and the oil I use is my secret ingredient! 
  • 1.5 tsp baking yeast
  • 1 cup warm liquid of choice (I use water or whey)
  • 1 tbsp sweetening (I use unbleached sugar or honey)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1.5 tsp. salt
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons *oil or melted fat

Mix yeast in warm liquid and sprinkle with sweetening. Let proof (work until the yeast begins to bubble and rise).

Yeast proofing

*Here's the secret ingredient. It's the herbed olive oil that I store my feta cheese in. (Directions here). The oil takes on a wonderful herby, cheesy flavor that makes delicious pizza crust!

The extra virgin olive oil I store my feta cheese in.

Mix yeast with remaining ingredients and knead well. Allow to rise at least once until double in bulk. Meanwhile. . . 

Toppings

The pizza I'm showing you here is Dan's favorite; pepperoni and black olive. 

Homemade goat mozzarella.

The sauce is made from my garden tomatoes,
but the other ingredients are obviously not!

Baking

Preheating the pizza stone to 425°F (220°C)

Sprinkling the hot stone with homegrown home-ground corn meal

The rolled out dough goes onto the hot stone, then the sauce.

Shredded mozzarella next.

Then toppings.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Enjoy hot!

I do try to mix up the toppings every week. My favorite is sausage and mushroom. 

This one is sausage, black olive, and mushroom. The
mushroom was a foraged puffball from the yard.

Show of hands; who else does Friday night pizza? Any special tips you'd like to share? Recipes? What are your favorite toppings? I'm interested!

January 15, 2021

My First Hopniss Harvest

I'm guessing you're wondering what hopniss (hopnisses?) is (are?)! They are Apios americana, also known as potato bean, Indian potato, or groundnuts. But they're nothing like nuts!


Peanuts are sometimes called groundnuts too, but these are a perennial vine that produces edible beans and edible tubers. I thought, for sure, I took photos of it growing over the summer, but I can't find them, which is too bad, because it's an attractive plant.


The tubers grow in strings, like beads. That made it fun to hunt for them and dig them up. Dan built a raised bed last spring and planted six small tubers. The other day I harvested a nice bowlful of goodly sized groundnuts. They can be harvested any time of year, but are said to be sweeter in the fall after the vines die back. Here's my first harvest.


Of course, we were curious about the taste! For our first sample, I roasted a bunch with carrots, onions, and the last of the garden broccoli.


I read it's best to peel them because the peels tend to be tough, especially on the older ones. I rarely peel veggies before cooking, but I peeled these because I wanted them to make a good impression! I tossed everything in a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Then, I baked them in my toaster oven at 425°F (220°C) for 30 minutes.


How do they taste? Very mild. Dan thought even a little peanutty. Similar to potato, but drier. In fact, I think next time I'll try boiling them like potatoes. The other thing I'd like to try is to dry them and then grind them to use as flour. I read that a number of Native American tribes used them like that. 

I left the smaller tubers in the bed and planted Jerusalem artichokes with them. These are a smooth variety called Gute Gelbe. 


Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes) are said to provide something for the vines to climb on. We like roasted sunchokes, but the wild ones are very knobby and difficult to clean! I'm hoping this variety will be easier.

So that's my "new to me" new vegetable! How about you? Have you tried anything new lately?

January 12, 2021

Mending Gloves

I'm still darning and patching my way through a pile of socks, but I took some time out to mend my work gloves. They badly needed repair!


My winter chore gloves are actually two pairs. The outer gloves are lined cotton work gloves, and the inner gloves are a fleecy fabric glove. If I wear only one or the other, my hands are cold. But when I wear them together, they keep my hands warm. However . . .


I let them get too worn out! But I hated to throw them away, so I thought, well, why not see what I can do to fix them?


I decided to patch the hole in the lining and darn the outer shell holes with embroidery thread. For the patch, I used one of the too-far-gone socks that I cut into rags


I didn't worry about finishing the edges or making it pretty. 


I just did the job, making sure the unfinished edges were sewn down. To darn the other holes, I used two strands of embroidery thread and a paint stirrer as a darning board.


The paint stirrer worked quite well, giving me a firm surface for weaving the threads to make the darn.


It was a lot to do, and it's not perfect, but the variegated blues of the embroidery thread made it fun and the darns sort of match the inner gloves. Plus, I didn't have to throw them away and spend money on new ones. Best of all, my hands are warm again!

If I'd used dark brown embroidery thread, the darning would be almost invisible. But the latest trend is "visible mending," which creates beautiful decorative elements from holes, stains, and tears; very fun. More on that in upcoming posts. For now, I'll close with a link to a page on the Collingwood-Norris website, "Visible Mending: Gloves." Lots of creative ideas there. ❤                                      

January 9, 2021

Mending Socks

Does anyone keep a mending basket? A basket full of clothing items that need a ripped seam sewn, or a patch for a hole? Apparently, mending is the latest cool, sustainable thing to do. Keep old clothes out of the landfill! Of course, I agree. But because I remember a time when mending was looked down on as totally uncool, I feel a little smug that it's something I've always done. 

Winter is a fine time to keep a mending basket handy. Lately, mine has been filled with socks. Of course, hand knit socks must be mended. Too much much time, heart, and soul goes into making them!

The is one of my most frequently worn pairs.

To mend: sock yarn, darning egg, and tapestry needle.

This is just plain darning.

Actually, weaving a patch where the hole used to be.

Done. Inside view.

How it looks on the outside.

The socks I really seem to go through, however, are everyday cotton socks. And because I buy a large pack, they all seem to wear out at the same time. I've never been a fan of the buy&throw-away cycle, so since I was doing socks anyway, I decided to mend some of those cotton socks too. 

Plain darn with matching carpet thread.

Small holes are easier to darn. I used carpet thread in the above photo because I had it. Embroidery thread is a popular option because it comes in all colors (easy to match) and is inexpensive. Sometimes though, the holes in the heels are too large to darn, like the socks in the photo below.

Cutting cotton socks into rags.

These I usually cut into rags, so at least they are still useful. The other day, however, I wondered if it would be possible to patch the holes in the heels. Most of the socks with the heels gone still have good toes.

Sock toe to be used as a patch.

Why wouldn't these make good patches? So, I started cutting off the toes, cutting them in half, and then using them for heel patches.

Patched heel on sock.

I put the sock on my darning egg and pinned the patch in place. A running stitch holds it in place and a whip stitch further secures the edges. A blanket stitch in a colorful embroidery thread might be fun too. I also stitched around the holes to help secure the patch. 

How well will it work? Time will tell! But they're comfortable and I feel really good about getting more wear out of my old socks. 

Do you do much mending?