Sunday, August 23, 2015

Drying tomatoes...

 Fresh halved tomatoes.

 Roasted, dried tomatoes

Well, hi there!  It's been a while since I've checked in.  I'm so glad to be here and wanting to chat with you for a little bit.  I've not been feeling well.  All of us here got the coughing crud, but mine turned into something else.  Finally, after all my home remedies, and not getting better, I drove in to the walk-in clinic (that sounds funny, doesn't it?) and got myself checked.  After just 2 days on a Z-pak, I'm feeling unusually good.  You know the old saying, "I didn't know how bad I felt until I felt good again."?  Well that's me.  Today I'm making up for some of those under-the-weather days.

The garden is coming into its own and producing some nice tomatoes after a round of blossom end rot on the first ripe tomatoes.  The cherry tomatoes, which have turned out to be orange-y tomatoes never got the rot like the larger ones.  Since I'm the only one in the house that eats tomatoes, and since I planted about 12 tomato plants and 4 more by seed, you can imagine that even I cannot eat ALL the tomatoes that are ripening.  So I decided part of my preserving would be in the form of drying tomatoes.  I've done this before and I must say, it's amazing.  The flavor is rich, deep, sweet, and tangy all at the same time.  I dry mine in the oven, but you could use the sun too.

I slice my tomatoes in half or in thick slices, put them on parchment paper seed-side up, drizzle with a little olive oil (but you don't have to) and salt and pepper them to taste.  Or just salt them.  Slide them into the oven that is set at 450* for about 20-30 minutes, depending on how juicy your tomatoes are.  Just check them and pull them out when they become dry and somewhat leathery.  Some folks do this same process, but they set the oven temperature at 250* and dry them over 3-4 hours, depending on how juicy the tomatoes are.  Either way works.  When you are done, you can eat them right away or allow them to cool and store them in good olive oil in the fridge for up to a month or you can flash freeze them on the trays for about 30 minutes or until firm.  Then take them off the trays and store them in freezer bags in the freezer.  Do taste them!  They are SO DELICIOUS!  You will imagine all kinds of ways to use these beauties in your cooking.  I was thinking of how good they would be blitzed up in a tomato soup or on Martguerita Pizza or using them to make a thick tomato paste or spaghetti sauce.  And my favorite way might be to just eat them as they are, or on a sandwich.  It is said that in Italy they dry tomatoes out in the sun on their flat roofs or on plywood over saw horses and keep them out in the hot sun until they are nice and leathery.  Who cares if a bug lands on them?  Right?  The only thing I think of is birds.  They might love to taste the experiment too.  Next time I dry some tomatoes, I'm going to try it without the olive oil and just use salt.  I think they may dry quicker that way.

I chopped down the basil and made a batch of pesto today too.  Another big YUM-O-LICOUS thing.

Thanks for stopping by.  Are you preserving any garden goodies?

"Sometimes when I am working in my garden, when the day is hot and still, I am transported to another world.  The hum of bees seems like singing wires from Eternity.  It is as though a message were trying to come through and I know what it means but I can't hear the words."

Friday, August 14, 2015

Working cows and calves...

 Can you see the flies swarming above the cows' backs?

 Cows asking, "Where have our babies gone?"
We sorted them away for a short time
so we could give them their booster vaccinations
 and some insecticide.

 Calvies going into the barn to get their shots.

 We sorted the bulls out from the cows. 
 This bunch should be bred by now.

Counting calves out of the barn gate.

 Each morning this week we have been rising early to go get a bunch of cows and calves to work before the heat of the day. By the time we are done with a bunch it's really hot and sticky in the barn.  So many big bodies in one place makes it HOT and HUMID.  Our shirts and jeans are drenched.  This afternoon we hit 99* and the wind started blowing so it feels like a blow dryer out there.  I am so very thankful that I can go inside where it's cool and comfortable.  Since the temperatures are so extreme, it makes our atmosphere more volatile to thunderstorms.  A good shower would be wonderful about now, but dry lightning could be disastrous.  Hoping for rain or nothing.

Hey, did any of you sit out in the dark night and watch the meteor shower?  It was cloudy here on Wednesday, the best night, but last night (or should I say early this morning) at 2:00 I went out to my lawn chair, reclined it back, and star gazed.  I thoroughly enjoyed it. The sky was so clear and the stars were shining so brightly, I felt very small and insignificant.  And to think, The Creator of the stars thinks of you and me.  Amazing!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Shipping lambs....

We worked the sheep yesterday.  The ewes were de-wormed and the lambs were sorted away from their mothers.  The wether lambs, 170 head of them, were trucked to the sale barn to be sold.  They sure did look good.  They've gained well on the range and were good and fat.  Hubby always says, "Weight sells."  And I think he's right. They brought an excellent and honest price today.

We also sorted the ewe lambs off and weaned them.  They will sell in September at the Special Ewe Lamb Sale.  Prime ewe lambs will draw plenty of buyers.  We will choose the ewe lambs we want to add into the herd to replace the old, cull ewes, and then we'll sell all the rest.  We have 170 head of ewe lambs so we had a 50-50 mix of males and females.  Pretty cool.

This week we are busy in the early mornings working cows and calves.  It has been in the high 90s and tomorrow the weatherman is predicting 100s, so we have to get our cattle worked before the heat of the day.  I'll try to take some photos tomorrow to share.

Happy Dog Days of Summer!  (would that be a Hot Dog?)

Friday, August 07, 2015

Old Trunk Renovation...

 I've had this old metal trunk for several years.  It's not a family heirloom or anything, but I liked it and bought it from an antique shop basement.  I've used it for a coffee table and for a luggage table for guests, but I've never stored anything in it because it STINKS!  It has that musty, old, stink that just doesn't want to go away no matter what I do.  I've tried kitty litter, baking soda, ground coffee, and although the stink might wane, it never has completely gone away.

Well, for some reason, TODAY I decided this musty, old trunk was going out in the hot prairie sun for a de-stinkafication session.  I read lots of things to deodorize old trunks, some of which I've already tried, but I tried the new-to-me remedy of spraying vodka with clove oil all over in the trunk and then letting it sit in the sun.  Perhaps a week of sunshine would get it there, but just one day didn't.  Frustrated, I decided to do something drastic!

 See the inside of this trunk?  It's wallpapered.  The entire inside has glued-on wallpaper.  Of course, much of it was coming loose, but a LOT of it was well-stuck-down.  I decided one of the best ways to de-stinkify this baby was to take off the wallpaper.  This tray comes out and it's so warped that I may discard it or ask CarpenterSon to make me a something similar.  The rest of the trunk was wallpapered too and so I began.  I thought I could maybe sand it off with my disc sander.  I started with the lid and it went fairly well, but OH my GOODNESS there was a lot of dust -- glue, paper, and wood.  OOoooof!  I didn't think I could do the whole trunk this way so I used a spray bottle and dampened the wallpaper with some water.  Then DIL told me that I should add laundry softener to the water and see if it helped.  I'm not sure if it did or not, but I sprayed a whole lotta water on that paper before it started to loosen.  My trusty 5-in-one paint tool worked great to scrape off the paper.  Still, it was a big job.  Bigger than I anticipated, but that's how these things go, don't you think?

I got the majority of the wallpaper off the interior and figured I'd sand the rest off.  I want to smooth the wood surface down anyway, but for today, this was my stopping point.  I sprayed some Simple Green onto the wood and gave it a wipe with a terry towel just for good measure.  I thought it would be helpful to further de-stink it.  This evening the smell is MUCH better.  I'll let the trunk dry thoroughly.  I moved it into the garage for the night, but I'll set it out in the sun again tomorrow for a deep dry before I sand it down.

The plan is to stain the interior wood with a Danish Oil stain.  No poly finish.  They say that you ought to leave the wood to breathe without sealing it, and for some reason, that makes sense to me.   I may give it a linseed oil rub down too. I'll rub some steel wool over the rusty metal parts and then clean the exterior and oil the wood and leather straps.  I have no intention of changing it or adding new parts.  I like the well-worn, well-used look, but I do want the interior to be stink free so I can store some things in it.

I don't know yet what I'm going to stash in it.  Maybe board games on the bottom and card games on the top tray.  Or maybe some quilts and blankets (depending on the smell).  It would be a fun dress-up trunk too. The Grandies think it's a treasure chest so maybe I should hide some treasure in it!

What kind of treasure would you hide in a trunk?
If you have renovated a smelly, old trunk, do you have any tips?
More to come as the project progresses!

Sunday, August 02, 2015

For the benefit...

Today there's a benefit-auction and supper planned for our postmistress who has been receiving cancer treatment this past month.  Our community is small, but it is broad, encompassing about a 50 mile radius, and the folks that live here have big hearts as wide-open as the prairie we live on.  The community of folks and the nearby small towns where we buy our feed and groceries, tires and boots  are all supporting the effort too.  It'll be a big gathering at our community hall with all the ladies bringing their best pot luck dishes and most will bring an item or two to donate to the silent auction and the live auction.  There will be handshakes and hugs, talk of making hay and grazing livestock, while we eat lots of good homemade food and spread lots of good will.  My little contribution will be a set of embroidered tea towels, just perfect for the cowgirl or ranchwife, or for anyone who has a little inner-cowgirl spirit. 

I found these vintage cowgirls on Pinterest and then traced them with my Sulky iron-on transfer pen.  Now I'm getting lots of ideas about embroidering pictures or photos in black and white, and I'm also thinking about tinting some.  For now, these black & white, retro ranch-hands are sporting red lipstick to give them a little spunk. 

Prayers and thoughts for Rita today and in the days to come.

"God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble." ~Psalm 46:1

Saturday, August 01, 2015

In the Garden, August 1...

As you can see by the photo journal above, the zucchini are taking over my life!  The ones I missed are as large as baseball bats, and they've only just begun.  I did experiment with a new recipe --  a Blueberry Zucchini Cake with Lemon Buttercream and boy-o-boy was it spectacular!  It was deemed a "do again" by the Hubby and all the neighborly relatives.  The recipe is here, from I Am Baker.  The only tweak I made to the recipe was to add a little lemon zest and juice to the cake batter.  Oh, and because I'm a lazy homemaker, I made the cake in a 9x13" pan and only made half the frosting. I stowed it in the fridge which gave it a nice chill for a summer dessert.  I received a box of bing cherries from my FIL so I'm thinking of making the same cake recipe with them.  I can't wait!

There is another zucchini recipe that my daughter shared with me that we LOVE to eat.  Baked Parmesan Zucchini Rounds.  Oh, these are scrumpch!  and EASY.  Just spray a cookie sheet with pan spray, lay out a single layer of 1/4" sliced zucchini rounds.  Salt and pepper them, then spoon on a little dab of parmesan cheese on each round.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.  I could eat a whole cookie sheet by myself!  My grandkids love them too.

Now onto the tomatoes......
They are coming along fine, but the only tomatoes I have eaten out of the garden have been a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes.  For some reason these are orange tomatoes which is just all right by me.  There are plenty of green tomatoes on the vines so I'll just have to wait a little longer for my favorite sliced-tomato-with-mayo-on-toast sandwich.

I planted a few heirloom tomato seeds in my side bank garden and wouldn't you know it, they are going to produce little baby pear tomatoes right at the same time as the other tomatoes that were started in pots.  I'm definitely going to direct-sow tomato seeds again next year.  Think of the variety!

We still have lettuce galore and eat a salad every single day.  I like garden lettuce.

The pumpkin vines are sprawling out at the bottom of the side bank garden.  They are happy, happy and producing plenty o' pumpkins.  The grandies are going to love them for Halloween carving.

I went to the potato patch the other day and decided to harvest a few new potatoes.  Those are the delicate little spuds that aren't yet full grown.  So perfectly round, small, and delicious sliced into a sizzling pan of butter and fried up.  I just pulled back the straw below the potato plant and pinched off those that were laying on the surface.  The others will be left to continue growing.  I feel like I robbed a secret treasure stash.

Lastly I'm going to share a simple recipe of Refrigerator Pickles.  These are so easy and crispy and delicious. When you get an overflow of cucumbers, you can make a gallon or so and keep munching on them all through the summer days.  I save the brine when I finish all the veggies and slice in more fresh cucumbers.

Refrigerator Pickles

1 gallon of sliced cucumbers
(you may add other veggies like green beans, carrots, peppers)
1 onion, sliced
1 or 2 cloves garlic
1 jalepeno pepper (if you like it hot)
6 whole peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp. mustard seed (or powdered mustard)
1 1/2 tsp. tumeric 
1 1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 heads of dill (opt.)

4 cups of white vinegar
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup salt
Warm vinegar and stir in sugar and salt.  Mix until dissolved.  Cool and pour over veggies and spices.  Let sit overnight and start eating.  Store in fridge all summer long.
You may adjust the veggies and spices and heat of your pickles to your liking.

Hey, did you see the full Blue Moon Friday night?  
Our's was pink!
Happy August!  
Stay cool.


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