Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Tuesday Postscript - Having the Summer Off

Good morning.  It's overcast and looks like rain today.  I thought I'd give you a little look at what having the summer off has looked like for me.  I haven't had a summer off since high school and that was 20+ years ago.  I've had a few people make off-handed remarks about how nice it must be to "relax" all summer.  While I have done some relaxing my summer has looked more like this...

I get up usually around 5:30 am, grab a cup of coffee and my glass of water, then head downstairs to the computer in my studio.  Contrary to how that sounds, I'm not a morning person and I prefer to have a bit of quiet time before I have to engage in conversation.  I read a few headlines, catch up on the blogs I follow, and then generally write a blog post.  If I've already written the blog posts for the week I will work on scheduling posts for my handmade card business - Inked Inspirations.


Breakfast during the week is had around 6:30 am.  I start breakfast while hubby gets ready for work.  Weekday breakfasts are usually simple cereal and toast or a breakfast sandwich.  We eat together and then he packs his lunch at leaves about 7 am.  I head back downstairs to finish my coffee and whatever I'm working on.  After that things vary depending on the day.  Here's a look at yesterday...

I started my morning by baking a loaf of no-knead bread that has been resting overnight on the counter.  It takes an hour and a half from resting to folding, through baking and cooling.  I spaced on the photos, but you can learn more about my obsession with this bread here and here.


I got my morning cardio push mowing about 3 miles worth of our yard according to the step tracker on my phone.  I'm nowhere near done, there are two more chunks that need to be done, but those will have to be for another day.  


Everything always looks so nice when it's freshly mowed.  You can't tell that our yard is mostly wild strawberries, weeds, sucker trees, and wildflowers once it's been mowed.  We're not lawn people and we don't care that there's barely a stitch of grass growing here.  


While I ran the mower the washing machine was hard at work on the first load of laundry for the line.  Yes, I still hang laundry on the line.  It's a choice, not a necessity and I enjoy it.  When summer hits most of our laundry is line-dried.  I find the ability to hang laundry and listen to the birds and bugs in my yard very enjoyable.  


After all the mowing I made myself some lunch.  This is a bit of grilled chicken, sprouts, tomato, pesto, and arugula on the last of the soft warp bread with a side of Doritos.  


While I was enjoying lunch there were eggs boiling on the stove.  Had one little guy crack, but he turned out ok in spite of the egg you can see cooked to the side of the shell.


Four of those eggs went into some tuna salad.  Not pictured is the apple cider vinegar and the salt and pepper.  I know, someone is going to tell me it needs onion and someone will question the mustard.  We all make tuna a different way.  This isn't even the way my mom makes it.


There was some much-needed watering.  This little bed is under the eve of the roof, so unfortunately doesn't get the benefit of the rain unless it comes in sideways.  While the water did its job on the bed, with me moving it every 15 minutes or so, I folded laundry and watch a Trent & Allie Video on YouTube.  


Once the bed was watered, I added some fertilizer to the rhubarb section.  All the small ones were transplanted from the other end of the bed early in the spring and they need a little boost to get them re-established.  

 
The herbs were growing a little out of control so there was some much-needed harvesting.  I cut back the mint, dill, sage, and rosemary.  Basil will probably be cut back later in the week.  


The harvested herbs went into the dehydrator and I'll be putting them into jars sometime later today.  These will be great for later in the year when the greenhouse is dormant for the winter.  I do plan to keep the mint, some basil, and the rosemary through the winter as house plants.  


After doing a few more things in the greenhouse, transporting a couple of things, and pruning the squash and tomato plant, I took a shower and put my feet up for a while.  I did a bit of reading on the computer, answered some comments and questions on my Facebook pages, and enjoyed a glass of iced tea.  


You probably thought I was done in the greenhouse after all the herb harvesting, but I had to go back for the lettuce and broccoli for dinner.  Both of these lovely things went into the salad that went with our amazing dinner.


While I waited for Hubby to get home I started the grill and sat down on the porch with a nice glass of Shiraz.  


We enjoyed the surf and turf dinner we'd originally planned for last Friday.  I'm not a but steak eater so I get a small piece of Hubby's Ribeye.  I also get more shrimp than he does.  We shared a baked potato and had a lovely salad that was half from our garden. 

After dinner, the "egg lady" stopped by with an egg delivery and we visited in the front yard for a bit.  The weather was so beautiful all day yesterday.

So, while I don't have to go into a "real" job I'm not laying around the house all summer eating bonbons and watching soaps.  Today I'll be working on some custom card orders that need to be finished up and there will be some baking since it's cool outside.  I'll also be putting apples in the dehydrator and making taco and spaghetti seasoning mixes. 

Let me know if you'd like to see more posts like this.  Have a beautiful Tuesday.  

Monday, July 20, 2020

Monday Postscript - Berry Picking

Good Morning.  It's a beautiful morning here in Alaska.  I have a bit of a busy day ahead of me today, but I'm taking a minute to talk about part of our weekend.  Sunday we went out to do some berry picking.  It's blueberry and raspberry picking season.  

One thing you learn when you harvest berries in Alaska, you have to find your own spot and you don't disclose where that spot is.  Our spot this year was perfect and full of lovely little plump berries.  

Berry season is very unpredictable, some seasons are bountiful and others not so much.  We didn't get a chance to harvest last year, timing and weather were never on our side.  The year before the berries were smaller and not as juicy.  

Wild berry harvesting was never something I did until we moved to Alaska, but they are so easy to find and harvest here.  We have strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries in our yard.  We have our spot for blueberries and we found another great place to get raspberries this weekend as well.

We harvested eight pints of wild blueberries.  Four cups of the blueberries have gone to making blueberry liqueur.  I'll use some of these fresh, but a majority of the remainder of the blueberries will be frozen for the winter.  I'll use them for baking muffins, cobblers, etc. 

I will spend some time today cleaning berries and preparing them to freeze.  I'll flash freeze them, meaning once they are cleaned I will lay them on a tray and place the tray in the freezer.  After the berries are frozen they'll go into containers for use later.  This keeps the berries from becoming one big clump while they wait to be used this winter.  

In our harvesting this weekend we also got a pint of raspberries.  While they are coming into ripeness they're not abundantly ripe...yet.  

The plan is to go back out next weekend to check the raspberries and maybe pick a few more blueberries.

The raspberries that we gathered yesterday went into a bottle to brew and become raspberry liqueur.  

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Thursday Postscript - 16 June, 2020

The rain is back.  I was just starting to really enjoy the sunshine and the rain is back.  I spent some time yesterday working in the yard.  I weeded and mulched the rose bed.  This task was long overdue and I'm glad it's completed.  


I picked another two cups of wild berries.  There is something very enjoyable and peaceful about sitting in the yard picking berries listening to the birds and watching the bees and butterflies travel around our yard.


This batch of strawberries was turned into a puree and went into the dehydrator to become fruit leather, along with a couple of trays of rhubarb leather.  I haven't done much in the way of making fruit leather.  I took them out this morning and both are delicious.  I could have made them a little thicker, but the flavor is fresh and yummy!


There's a lone zucchini growing in the greenhouse, a couple more days, and I can pick it for eating.  We haven't grown zucchini since living in Missouri and I have to admit I'm a little excited to see the fruits on the plant.  


We have plans to travel to town this weekend.  I have finally caved on the discussion about installing a pellet stove.  We've only been talking about it for like seven years.  The plan is for it to serve as supplemental heat to help lower the fuel bill costs this winter.  Some years we've paid upwards of $600 a month to heat our house.  Fuel oil isn't cheap, usually runs about the same per gallon as diesel.  This will also give us an alternate heat source if our boiler goes down.  

Weekend plans also include more berry picking, this time for blueberries.  It's been a couple years since we went blueberry picking, last year just never worked out timing-wise.  There really just isn't enough weekend to get everything done in. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Wednesday Postscript - Schnapps and Liqueur

Good Morning.  Do you have your coffee?  Good, let's chat.  The summer is running away with us.  How is it mid-July already?  I have no idea where the summer has gone.  Living in Alaska, the summer always seems to slide by quickly.  

This year we're trying a little something new for us, we're making schnapps and liqueurs.  The process is really simple.  You'll need a jar, sugar, fruit, and vodka.  There are scads of recipes out there, I started a board on Pinterest for the ones that interest me.  

I started with a small quart jar of rhubarb schnapps.  I started with this recipe and scale it down based on what I had on hand.  I also used vanilla vodka because I had a bottle in the cupboard.  

Rhubarb Schnapps - Day 1 ( 12 June 2020)

Rhubarb Schnapps - Day 11 (22 June 2020)

According to the recipe, this little jar of goodness will be read on Juen 24th, which is a week from Friday.  We'll crack it open and learn the results then.  

Our second jar is Strawberry Liqueur.  This past weekend I picked three cups of wild strawberries and while discussing what to make with them Hubby brought up the chokecherry liqueur my mom makes.  I dug out the recipes I'd sent her several years ago to see if there was a strawberry option.  Bingo!  

Strawberry Liqueur - Day 1 (14 July 2020)

No recipe goes untouched in this house.  Adjustments were made base on the amount of fruit I had.  I also picked up some larger jars at the local hardware store.  This batch is in a half-gallon jar and I used unflavored vodka for this batch.  Now we wait three months before we can drink it.  

Blueberry picking season is just around the corner and we're eagerly awaiting the ripening of our raspberries.  We can't forget cranberry picking season in the late summer, early fall.  I also wonder about rosehips, that might need a bit of research.  I see more liqueur making in the future.  Have you made liqueurs, schnapps, wine, or other homebrew?  

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Tuesday Postscript - June 14, 2020

I've been dehydrating for several years.  I love using our Excalibur dehydrator.  We have the five tray middle from about 10+ years ago.  I also have the sheets for drying fruit leathers.  The companion to our Excalibur dehydrator is our Food Saver food sealer.  We store our dried foods in canning jars and the Food Saver has a jar attachment for both regular and wide-mouth jars.

Over the 4th of July weekend our local grocery always had a big produce sale.  I'll admit, this year I wasn't as impressed with the quality of the produce as I have been in years past.  We did however, make a few purchases for drying to use through the fall and winter seasons.  I dried 16 red and yellow bell peppers, which got me nearly a full quart jar.  We also dried eight pounds of strawberries, getting us roughly two quart jars.  I'm always amazed at how much fresh produce reduces when dehydrated. 


Once my jars were full I added the canning seal and use the jar vac sealing options on our Food Saver.  After the jars have been vac sealed I add the ring and a label.  Then onto the shelf for future use. 

The number one way my dried bell peppers are used is in homemade taco and spaghetti seasoning mixes.  I often use them in soups and stews throughout the winter months as well.  They can be re-hydrated and used in things like scrambled eggs, quiche, or baked goods. 

Strawberries on the other hand will mostly be eaten as they are, although they are delicious in oatmeal and yogurt too.  They can also be baked with, but they never last long enough in our house for me to try that.  


Over the past weekend, I added more dried apples to our stash as well as a bit of pineapple.  Hubby loves the apples and he takes them in his lunch frequently.  The pineapple, once dried, is like candy.  The dehydration brings out the sweetness of the natural sugars and let me tell you it won't last long. 

Dehydrating is an easy way to add food security to your pantry.  Much like canning, dehydration is a form of preservation that results in lining your larder shelves with good food for later use.  All of the things I have dehydrated can go a long way in adding flavor to food if they are used in cooking or baking, but they can also serve as a great way to add extra servings of fruit to your daily snacking routine.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Monday Postscript - June 13, 2020

Overcast this morning, our summer has turned out to be the rainy and chilly version.  I can honestly say I prefer the hotter, smoky summers.  Yes, that does mean dry conditions with more forest fires, but our summers are long on daylight and short on time.  The fireweed is starting to bloom and Alaskan lore states that once the blooms reach the top tip summer has run out.  


I'm eagerly awaiting the ripening of the tomatoes that are hanging on the vines of our many tomato plants.  We have several varieties, all with blossoms and fruit on them.  I'm ready for ripe juicy fruit to make Caprese salad and maybe some gazpacho before the season shifts back into hearty meals and colder weather.  


Our corn is growing well, even with the rainy weather.  Our goal this year is to get a few ears for drying and seed saving.  This is a dent variety from Colorado that is cold hardy.  Dent corn varieties are used for drying and grinding into cornmeal.  No corn on the cob from this patch.


I'm hoping to get seeds from the sunflower and some romaine lettuce that bolted, that I have drying in the greenhouse.  The sunflower came to an early demise a few weeks ago, but it had seeds in the head so we're drying it to see if we can plant the seeds next year.  The romaine is from a growing experiment of rooting the end of a grocery store head and planting.  


The microclimate in our greenhouse is such that we have a fungus population growing in and around our raised bed.  I discovered this crazy ruffled one growing at the base of the garden box on Sunday while watering.  


Down a little further, we also have these vivid purple ones growing.  I've never seen purple mushrooms before.  They're quite interesting with a smooth almost gummy looking top and ruffled gills that peek out from the curled edges.  


Last week's basil harvest was turned into the Besto Pesto recipe from Homestead & Chill.  This was the first time I've ever added lemon juice to a pesto recipe and I'm gonna have to say that Deanna is right this is the Besto Pesto.  We used it on pasta the first night, but have been using the leftovers as a sandwich spread.  


Our garden is growing and I am pondering food stability more and more.  I learned a while back that Alaska only supplies 5% of its own food, the remaining food that we consume in this start is shipped in by truck or barge.  Yes, I realize a big part of this can be attributed to the short growing season and the long cold, sometimes harsh, winters.  It has also become cheaper and easier to ship food in, but what happens if food shipping and transport become less stable?  

We saw what happened with flour and yeast at the start of the pandemic.  Then the purchasing limits put on meat as packing plants were closed because of outbreaks.  What if that would have happened to a lot more things?  How stable is your food culture where you live?  Do you buy locally grown?  Do you grow your own?  

We saw restaurants close and an uptick in people learning to cook, but many people were still dependent on prepared heat and eat options.  What happens if those options are no longer available?  I've thought about what could have happened to the food supply chain to Alaska had the rioters in Seattle elected to take over the shipping docks rather than a police station and six-block.  

This isn't a doomsday speech, just food for thought, to stimulate hard conversations.  I'm merely sharing the questions that are running wild in my head.  I think these are conversations that every household should be having.    

Monday, July 6, 2020

Shots from Our Alaskan Life

I think I'm one of the few women in my age bracket that hangs clothes on the line, not out of necessity, but because I like it.  I love fresh line-dried laundry, especially towels and sheets.


This is very much a morning ritual.  I drink coffee and read things on the internet, while Lemon sits on my desk for some loves and to get a better view of the birds out my window.  


The dragonflies in Alaska are big.  I'd never seen dragonflies this big until we moved here.  This one was easily three inches long.  


The strawberries in the fairy garden are finally ripe for the picking.  The berries are tiny but the flavor is big and sweet.  I enjoy snagging them and eating them right out of the patch.  What's better than berry picking and coffee.