Monday, September 28, 2020

Menu Plan for the week of September 28

Hi friends.  I'm back.  Did you miss me?  Eh.  You didn't even notice, did you?  That's all right.   

I made apple pie filling over the weekend.  If you were paying attention earlier in the year, you'd know that making and canning apple pie filling was on my list of potential 20 for 2020 goals.  So that's 21, now.  Or maybe I'm one up for next year? I don't know if I have the emotional energy to complete goals next year.

Anyway, back to the food.  We're going to eat some.  No links this week, because it's Monday night and I'm tired (but leave a comment if you'd like any recipe links.  I'm sure I'll have more energy tomorrow).  Here's the list:

  • Pizza, salad
  • Sunday night stew with mashed potatoes
  • Leftovers/fend for yourself/waffles
  • Spaghetti with meat sauce, broccoli, garlic toast
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, carrots, jello
  • Grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes, grilled green veggie
  • Hot dogs or brats, buns, chips, carrots

  • Garlic salt (we're out, it's still #shelftember, and it's literally just salt + garlic powder, so...)
  • Sugar cookies
  • Bagels

Monday, September 14, 2020

Menu plan for the week of September 14

 Hello again, friends.  AKD came "home" for a quick visit this weekend, bringing along 3 buddies.  It was so good to see them.  While preparing for their visit, for which I was given about 12 hours notice, I realized that I love feeding people.  I mean, it's not all that surprising, is it?  I love to cook (don't love to clean up), and I think about food almost all the time, but it's not like I can eat all that food.  I miss the days when I could make brownies and send them in to work with Sawblock.  I miss making coffee cake and scones for my Bible study friends.  I miss bringing treats to the elementary school teacher's lounge (I mean, maybe they'd still take homemade treats?  I don't know).

In true #shelftember fashion, I put together meals from things we had on hand.  But it was a challenge.  I don't actually keep a lot of food on hand.  I don't have go-to quick meals that I always have the ingredients for in the house--not ones for eight people, anyway.  I plan meals (as you are well aware, if you've been here for any length of time), and I buy ingredients for those meals, based on the number of people who will be eating each meal.  And then I use the ingredients for the meals.  Which means I don't have a lot of extra food around at any given time.

How do people do that?  How do they always have a snack or hors d'ouevres or meal or drinks or dessert ready for guests?  I would not be a very good 50s housewife, that's for darn sure.

It was a gloomy day, so I went with Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup minus the celery (and now we're out of homemade turkey stock), Taco Bean Soup (and now we're out of beans), and homemade rolls for supper.  Soup is pretty easy, and feeds a crowd, so I think it was a good choice.  But I would really like to have a list of meal ideas for when/if this sudden guest situation happens again.  What's your go-to meal for guests?  

And now, without further ado, here is my carefully planned menu, for which I will purchase just enough groceries for the four of us who are currently living here (the list is probably $25 minimal this week):


Friday, September 11, 2020

Garden update

 Hello again, friends.  It's (past) time for another (perhaps the last of the year) garden update.

True to form, the garden descended into beautiful chaos by the end of August.  It's still pretty chaotic, but I pulled out most of the tomato plants, leaving some calming blank space.

I pulled each of the tomato plants out as soon as they didn't have any green tomatoes on them, and now I have just two roma tomato plants left.  They're both looking pretty straggly, but I decided leave them in to give those poor green tomatoes a chance.

There's one blushing tomato between the two plants, and about 15 green ones.  I did top these plants to give them a better chance at vine ripening those existing green tomatoes.  

It's been a successful tomato year.  I canned two batches of salsa, and I have enough tomatoes, between the freezer, the tomato-ripening-bag-on-the-counter, and the green ones still on the vine, to make about 6-7 pints of sauce (depending, of course, on how many of those green ones ripen).  So exciting.

This is one of our biggest Sakata's sweet melons.  We've got  12-15 of them in various sizes across three plants.  I am crossing my fingers that at least one of them ripens before our first frost.

After I pulled out the rest of the sugar snap peas, the melon plants really took off.  I think next year I'm going to do an entire bed of just melons.

Here's the lone watermelon that's currently on the plant (there were two others that succumbed to slugs earlier in the season).  There are also a couple of female flowers, but there's pretty much no chance that any of those will ripen before frost.  This little guy probably won't make it, either.  But he's so beautiful, and he gives me hope that next year, if I give an entire bed over to melons, I'll be able to harvest at least one.

Here's what the corn is looking like these days.  What's that?  Looks like beans and zucchini, with a small tomato plant in the background?  Yeah.  That's because something took my corn out.  It's OK because the corn only grew to about 4 feet tall before tasseling, so we weren't going to get any edible corn anyway, but kind of a bummer because now the asparagus beans have nothing to climb up.  They're just sprawling over the ground, and since the mature beans look a lot like the stems, I just kind of gave up on harvesting them.  I'm thinking that in this bed next year I'll have sugar snap peas, plus anything random that I decide on a whim to grow.

I think the zucchini is done.  I pulled one of the plants out, but have left the other three because they all have female flowers on them.  I don't think anything will come of them, but I might as well let them try.  It's not like it costs me anything.

Speaking of zucchini, you may remember that a few weeks ago I had a zucchini issue.  Well, issue resolved.  I made three pints of pineapple zucchini (the texture and taste is just like crushed pineapple, and we do have a couple of recipes that call for crushed pineapple), two half pints of sweet zucchini relish (I don't like sweet relish, but I know at least two people who do), and two pints of zucchini dill pickles (yes, I finally found a recipe that did not call for sugar).  It was a little challenging keeping track of the three different recipes all at the same time so that I could put them all in the canner together, but I figured it out.

I am loving the zinnias again this year.  I planted all of my seeds in the spring, so I decided to save seeds from these for next year.  I also have a couple of marigolds in various spots around the property.  This one was buried under tomato plants until quite recently.

Let's see.  In other garden news, I've got 15 tiny radish plants growing.  Radishes are supposed to take about 4 weeks, but since it's cooler and the days are getting shorter, these will likely take longer.  They can take a light frost, and they're in a container, so I can bring them in if we're going to get a hard frost, so it's likely we'll have a few radishes to eat soon(ish).

The grape and cherry tomatoes are pretty much done, I think, but again, I'm leaving them in place just in case any stragglers want to ripen.  I harvested some basil the other day, but I think that's pretty much done growing, too.

The little green strawberry worms are back.  Ugh.  I'm 90% sure I'm going to just take out that bed in the spring, and either not grow strawberries anymore, or grow them in one of the other beds. We weren't getting a good harvest and those little green worms were so annoying to deal with.

And I think that's it.  How did your garden do this year?

Monday, September 7, 2020

Menu plan for the week of September 7

 Hello, friends.  Yes, after a month long hiatus, I'm back with a new menu plan.

What's that?  You didn't notice I was gone?  Oh, well.  It wasn't the first time and it probably won't be the last...

Have y'all heard of #shelftember?  It's this thing invented (? invented doesn't seem like quite the right word, but I'm not really thinking of a more appropriate word, so...invented) by Jordan Page from and  

Jordan explains all about #shelftember here, but in a nutshell, you're supposed to cook mostly from the food you already have on hand, spending only $25 a week on fresh or fill-in items.  Jordan has 10 people in her family (granted, two of them are infants and one is a toddler, and the oldest kid is 10 or 11, and she keeps way more food on hand than I do, but still.  Whoa.  $25 per week).

This might sound familiar (minus the $25 grocery budget part) if you've been around a while.  Every now and then I get the itch to use up random stuff from my fridge, freezer, and pantry.  And I usually tell you about it.  And I sometimes ask for suggestions (did I ever use up those candy canes?  I can't remember if I used them or finally threw them away.  Or maybe they're still in the cupboard?  I'm kind of reluctant to look).  So I thought, eh, why not.  

This week, most of these meals will use something that we've had on hand for a while, and I have a minimal grocery list.  Not $25 minimal, but less than usual.

By the way, if you click that #shelftember link to read about #shelftember, you can scroll down to the bottom to enter to win a chest freezer.  So next #shelftember, you'll have more food on hand to choose from.  

On to this week's menu.

  • There is one other thing I'm planning to make, but it seems silly to add the "other" category for just one thing, doesn't it?  
  • I know I'm going to make other other things, but I don't know what they are right now, and I don't have the brain power to think them up.  
  • So.  
  • Now that this is a more substantial "other"...
  • Mexican quinoa with grilled chicken

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Chicken update

 I'm thinking we need a chicken update.  

Um, yeah.  My last chicken update was May 8, when our newest batch of chicks was just one week old.  Now, they are 18 weeks old.

I think the main reason that I haven't published more chicken updates this time around is because of this girl.  Guacamole's crossbeak has gotten much worse, and I spend a significant amount of emotional energy worrying about how I'm going to be able to care for her long term.  At this point, she is able to eat mash, which is chicken feed soaked in water, and she seems to be getting enough hydration from her mash.  

There are a couple of issues with this situation.  First, the big girls looooove mash, and if they have access to it, they will eat it.  All of it.  And second, pretty soon it's going to be cold here, and mash is going to freeze within a matter of minutes.  I have potential solutions in mind for both of these issues, but the truth is, I don't know if they're going to work, or if Guac is going to continue to be able to eat on her own. The third issue, for which I don't have a potential solution, is that Guac wears her food.  That's not going to be a good situation in the winter (frozen food caked in her feathers seems like a recipe for disaster), and we're not going to be able to continue giving her baths in the winter to clean her up. 

Guacamole's crossbeak is just about as bad as it can get at this point*, with the bottom beak pointing about 100° to her right.  She's such a sweet little girl, and she follows me around--probably because I usually have the food.  Guac doesn't realize she's any different from her sisters, and she attempts to do all the chicken things.  

Here's Buttercup.  She's such a pretty chicken, and she loves to roost on me and on my chair--Buttercup is the next generation of lap chicken.  She's kind of a follower, always concerned with where Charlotte and Guacamole are.  I feel like that's a good quality, because if I am carrying Charlotte, Buttercup will follow me.

And this is Charlotte.  She's smaller than Buttercup, but closer to laying, as her bigger and redder comb and wattles attest.  Maybe in a couple more weeks, we'll have white eggs in our egg basket.  Charlotte looks so much like a little dinosaur, and in fact, there have been a few times when the three chicks have been running in formation that they've reminded me of velociraptors running together, a la Jurassic World.  Charlotte is a flyer.  She likes to fly up into the branches of our pine trees, and once ended up about 20 feet off the ground.  Luckily, she came down without my intervention, because, while we do have a ladder that reaches that high, no way could I have maneuvered it into place by myself to get her down.

Indigo hasn't been feeling well, but she's still kicking.  I'm not sure what's wrong, but she's moving slower these days, and she hasn't laid an egg in several months.  She's kind of a loner--has been ever since we lost Hazel.

Koko is one of three chickens who are laying right now.  She's a superstar.  I love her temperament and her iridescent feathers.  I think I will always have a Black Australorp in my flock.

Rocky appears to be going through a partial molt.  She's lost her tail feathers, and some feathers on her neck.  In spite of that, she may have laid an egg yesterday.  The egg was approximately the right shape and color, and it definitely didn't look like anyone else's egg, but if she did lay, it would be surprising, since it's been about a month since Rocky has laid an egg.

Isn't this a fun picture?  I love that it has 6 of the 8 chickens in it, all lined up on the path heading toward the chicken coop--we're only missing Indigo, who was already on the roost, and Guac, who had her face stuck in a bowl of food at the time.  Toasty Crunch is still the matriarch of the group, and at the top of the pecking order.  She's another star layer, one of the three who is laying right now.

Esther went through a molt earlier in the summer, which was sensible of her, because it was super hot at that time.  Her beautiful beard has not returned, but she is the third chicken who is laying right now.

The chick grow out pen worked out really well for us.  I was glad to be able to let the minis grow to be about the size of the big girls before we needed to integrate them, but we needed to move them*, so Tuesday night was their first night in the hen house.  I put the minis to bed in the grow out pen, as usual, while the big girls put themselves to bed in the hen house.  Then Bubby and I went out when it was fully dark, and with the assistance of a red light, moved the minis onto the roost in the hen house.

In the morning, I heard a loud squawk, followed by emphatic clucking.  When I made it out to the coop, the minis were stuck in a corner, and Toasty was clucking at them.  I got them unstuck and put them in their exclusion pen (a safe spot, where the opening is too small for any of the bigger chickens to get in.  Except the minis are about the same size as Esther, so...) with some food and water.

I only heard one other loud squawk during the day, and every time I went out to check, everyone seemed to be getting along fine.  The minis seemed to be dividing their time between the top of the exclusion pen and inside the hen house.  Last night, I hung out in the hen house as everyone was getting settled so that I could referee any squabbles, but everybody behaved.  And at the time this post was published, everybody was still sleeping, so I can't tell you how the second morning went (will go). But so far, so good.

I hate this part of chicken keeping.  I hate that chickens can be so mean to each other.  I just want the integration to be over, but in the meantime, I remain vigilant and ready to intervene if necessary. 

And that's all for now.  I hope you've enjoyed this chicken update.

*Maybe I shouldn't say that, considering how the universe loves to be spiteful, but I honestly don't see how it could get any more out of alignment than it already is.  I have heard that crossbeaks can continue to get worse until the chicken is 5-6 months of age, so we're almost there.

**The minis are almost full size, and the grow out pen is only 12 square feet, so it was getting crowded in there.  In addition, almost always when I opened the top (which I had to do several times a day so that I could stir more water into Guacamole's food as it dried out), one or more of the girls would jump out.  Not a huge issue when Bubby was around to help, but with him starting school and being gone during the day, it was a lot to manage.  Those chicks are fast, and are pretty good at not letting themselves get cornered.  In any case, the minis needed to move and get comfortable with their new space before anyone started laying eggs, and like I said, Charlotte is getting close.  I'm not sure if we'll wait as long next time.  Truthfully, one major reason I waited so long this time is because of Guac and her food situation.  Anyway, integration needed to happen, and it did, and it seems to be ok.

Bonus (and blurry) pics of my curious minis:

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Radish update

 Remember when I told you that I was letting the radishes go to seed?  Or, more accurately, that the radishes were going to seed whether I gave them permission or not?  And then remember when I said I had tasted one of the seed pods, and I didn't think they were quite ready yet?

Yeah.  They went from not quite ready yet to too fibrous to (be pleasant to) eat, seemingly overnight. FYI, the ones I tasted too early tasted like not-quite-ripe sugar snap peas.  The ones I tasted too late did taste like radishes.  So that was pretty cool.  

So.  We're going to have radish seeds.  Yay!  Based on what I've been hearing, radishes might be the only thing we plant next year, because there is likely to be a seed shortage next summer.  But I'll worry about that later.  I'd be ok with planting only radishes*.

To harvest the seeds, what you're supposed to do is cut the pods from the plants, once the pods are dry, then gather them together and hang them in a paper bag.  The paper bag is just to catch the seeds as the pods pop open, so you could probably collect the seeds some other way.

I know the seeds are viable, because a couple of weeks ago, I popped one of the pods open to see what the seeds looked like (they looked like radish seeds, by the way), then, having no other convenient place to put them, I put them in the empty carrot planter (which is not so empty, evidently, because that's a carrot growing in the lower right corner), and they sprouted.  Yes!  They did!  I made seeds!

OK.  I didn't actually make seeds, I allowed the seeds to happen through neglect.  That's pretty much the same thing, right?

* I do have more seeds leftover from previous years, so even if we can't get any new seeds, we'd probably be able to plant more than radishes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Happy New Year!

 Hello, friends, and happy new year!  As all mamas of school-aged children know, the new year actually begins with the beginning of the new school year.  Even if you don't have kids in school or a job that coincides with the school year, September feels like a new start, doesn't it?  Summer is different, a departure, in some ways, from real life, and with summer coming to a close, it feels like it's time to get back to the business of regular, every day life.

About a week ago, someone asked me if I was "ready to send the kids back"* [to school].  I didn't answer, because it's complicated. 

Physically, yes.  All of the school supplies were labeled and in all of the backpacks, masks hanging on hooks, lunch money accounts funded.  All of the forms had been completed and (electronically) returned.  The kiddos had clean clothes that (mostly) fit (that Bubby--just keeps growing.  And doesn't seem to mind wearing too-short pants).  We had their class schedules and bus schedules.  They, and I, were, and are, ready.

Emotionally, not even close.  This school year.  I dunno, man.  It's all so strange, and it seems like it could go poof, and be gone, in an instant.  I don't do well with that kind of uncertainty.  I don't know what to think, or feel, or do.  It's so ephemeral, and I just can't let myself believe that the school year will continue to unfold according to plan.

In reality, this school year is no different than any other.  The future is always uncertain.  I send my kiddos off into the world, and I don't know how it's going to turn out.  I have hopes and assumptions, and sometimes those hopes and assumptions happen.  And sometimes what happens is better than I had imagined.  And sometimes it's worse than I had hoped.  The future is always uncertain, it's just that we're (I'm) more aware of it this year.

It has a been a long, hot summer.  Way longer than anticipated.  Hotter, too.  I welcome fall and its cooler weather.  I welcome the return to routine.  But no, I don't think I am ready to send my kids back.  I don't think I'll ever be truly ready for any of their forages into the unknown**.


My new year has started somewhat inauspiciously, with my alarm failing to go off.  Or, more accurately, my alarm went off silently.  Ten minutes later I got a notification that I had missed my alarm.  Dude.  If you had made more of an effort to sound the alarm, like, actually out loud, I wouldn't have missed it.  Good thing my kiddos are responsible.  And/or have alarms that actually make the effort to wake them.

On this cool, crisp morning, I did something I haven't in a long time: I put on a sweatshirt and yoga pants.  I slipped into my chicken boots, and I walked with my 7th and 12th graders in the gray early morning light to the end of our driveway.  The bus pulled up, and I sent my kiddos off to school, into the world, with an I love you and a prayer.

Happy new year.

* Let's give the questioner the benefit of the doubt, and believe that she didn't mean to imply that I wanted to get rid of by kids by sending them away.  

** Anyone else have that song in their head now?

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