Saturday, December 29, 2012

Warm Tummies

 Blustery...No better word to call to mind the sleet and wind swept days of this past week.  Damp, bone-chilling cold with marshmallowy, grey clouds that settle so low on the surrounding hills and mountains it's hard to tell where earth ends and the heavens begin.  Days and nights best spent next to a warm fire and an equally warm drink.
I fully intended to be a slug this week and rest up from the holiday production rush but I honestly didn't mean to carry it this far!  I haven't done crap basically and Jack and I have really been enjoying ourselves.  We actually got a wild hair and went to the Big Town for half a day just to get out.  We had a nice lunch and hit a couple of stores we like.

I have been cooking a little but saving the grand effort for New Years Day.  I took that turkey leftovers and made this wonderful pot pie.  I don't mean to sound like I'm bragging; I mean, it wasn't my recipe, I just copied what somebody else had done.  It was wonderful though and the pastry topping was really nice.  Fresh out of the oven it was the perfect thing for a cold, winter's day and there was enough of it to last for 2 suppers and a couple of lunches.  (Supper in the South is what most people refer to as dinner.)


If any of you would like the recipe I'll be happy to share.  So, every scrap of that ol' turkey got ate up and we certainly appreciated it.

Don't worry though, we don't leave the animals out of it!  Chigger always get a warm meal and I often fix a warm oatmeal and rice breakfast for the girls.  They LOVE oatmeal and they are steadily laying more and larger eggs.  We should be back to selling eggs soon.  That will be good as feed prices have continued to rise.  I'm so thankful we went to the trouble to get these hens and provide a good place for them to live and in return they provide us with a wonderful (and tasty) protein source.  I'm even going to try an authentic eggnog for our New Year's celebration, since we have such a surplus of eggs.


I am going to have to start supplementing their food with a little more greens from the garden though.  Since the cold has really hit, the grass is gone and they really love any greens we can come up with.  I'll tell ya'll a little more about my plans in another post.
All in all it's been a lovely, quiet week and I've been feeling rather blessed.  I hope you all have time to relax also and maybe grab a nap and snuggle here and there. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Silent Night


Well, now that the Consumas season (as I call it) is over with I have really been enjoying my Christmas season.  We had friends over for a nice turkey dinner on Christmas Eve.  It was quite enjoyable and we all ate like pigs!  Or I did anyway.  I really enjoy hanging out with people who you can actually talk to and have enjoyable conversations.  I was not looking too forward to going to my sister's on Christmas Day but Mama really wanted to go and I was her ride.  It was going to be stormy and such and she didn't want to drive that far.  I don't mind taking Mama anywhere she wants to go but didn't know how enjoyable this was going to be since my sister hasn't really been speaking to my brother or me.  Ya'll know my family obligational type things have been wearing thin in recent years and so this didn't look to be too much fun.  Turns out it was okay.  Not great but okay, and with the stormy weather coming in nobody stayed too long so I was able to get back home at a good hour.  Jack and I then had a very nice Christmas evening together.


I don't know if any of ya'll have ever tried brining a turkey, or any other poultry, before cooking but after doing this I am HOOKED!  It was wonderful!  Soaking the turkey in the salt water solution makes it so tender and moist.  Very, very tasty.  EDIT!!  Do NOT use a self-basting or flavored turkey!!  Use only a plain, unadorned bird.  I cleaned a cooler I had that was big enough to fit the turkey but not too big, then dissolved one cup of kosher salt in about 2 quarts of hot water.  I then added about 1 1/2 gallons of cold water to the cooler and poured the salt mixture in.  You want to use about 1/2 cup of salt to every gallon of water.  I also then added about 1 cup of apple cider vinegar.  Some people add various herbs to the water but I left that for the actual cooking.  Then, dump a bunch of ice over the turkey, making sure the turkey is actually submerged in the brine.  I also put it breast down so that area was definitely under the water.


Let the turkey soak in this brine for 12-24 hours.  Make sure to add ice if needed to keep it cold.  Then, on the day of cooking, take the turkey out, rinse it well and pat dry.  I let mine air dry while I was preparing the seasonings etc.  I then coated the turk in melted butter and sprinkled well with powdered garlic, parsley, pepper and stuffed it loosely with onion and whole sage.  I did NOT add any more salt.  I then placed it in my oiled LeCreuset dish and baked it at 350 F. for about 3 1/2- 4 hours, basting occasionally.  Anyway, the meat thermometer registered 180 F.  I also covered the turk loosely with aluminum foil about half way through to keep it from over browning.  YUM_OOO!!

Since today was Boxing Day I fixed my usual little gift for our mail lady and took it down to the mailbox.  She's very nice and has made an effort to thank me for remembering her on Christmas.  It's kinda sad more people don't do that for mail carriers and such; not that what I do is all that great but it's something and helps her pay for a little gas.  (In our rural areas many carriers have to pay that themselves and use their own vehicle).  I also gave the chickens and wild birds some treats and extra food today.  We actually got some snow too! so it was nice to piddle around outside for a while and enjoy that.  The snow was very light and it didn't lay but that didn't really matter.  All in all it was a very relaxing day and we enjoyed just goofing off.

 Anywhoo, I hope all of ya'll have had a wonderful holiday if you celebrate Christmas or any of that.  Did any of you try anything new or different this year?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas


I wish you all a joyous day filled with love and kindness.  Thank you all for reading my blog for so long and being kind enough to send a thoughtful and encouraging word my way from time to time.  I truly appreciate our friendships.

"What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.” ~ Agnes M. Pahro

Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday


Yes!!! it's over!!  My holiday rush is over!!  We made the last delivery on Friday and then took the rest of the day to relax and piddle around town some and on Saturday I didn't do much of anything but look for a Christmas tree.  I suppose you could find a lot of things to complain about in my state, and many people do, but I have to say that in this area the Buy Local/ Buy Small Business movement is well supported and I am very grateful for that.


I was telling my Mom that about every time I made a delivery, which was 3 times this past week, almost all that I had previously delivered would already be sold.  That's a great feeling even though it has worn me out!
Now I have time to relax a little though and enjoy the holidays.  I know a lot of people would be saying, "but Christmas is almost here and will be over soon; you missed it!"  Well, ya'll know I don't adhere to convention so the holidays are just starting to me.  I have until January 5th (or 6th) to celebrate!!  The way it's supposed to be!


I'll be doing another Mug Giveaway this year too!  I'm doing one on Facebook too but this will be separate.  However, I would ask that you only participate in one or the other if we are FB friends.  But of course, ya'll would understand that already.


So yesterday, Chigger, Callie and I headed up into the woods in search of the perfect tree.  It has been raining here quite a lot lately but cleared up and gave us a window of opportunity.  We really enjoyed just hiking in the woods and taking our time.  I found 4 trees that were newly blown over from a storm.  It must have been quite a storm because these were fairly large hardwoods and they have just been snapped over.  They would make excellent firewood but getting to them would be an ordeal.
So, I finally made a tree selection and whacked it down.  It was really good exercise getting that thing back to the house even though it was mostly downhill from where I cut it.  They always look smaller outside and then you get them in the house and it's like the Griswold family tree!  Oh well, I have the room for it so what the heck!  Here you can see Chigger and Callie standing guard over the tree against the chickens.  No pooping on the tree!!


Grendal says the hell with all that work, I'm going to take a nap!  She got her new bed a little early for Christmas because she's not been feeling well.  I had to take time last week also to take her to the vet when I noticed she was having a lot of labored breathing.  Turns out Ms. Grendy Cat has asthma.  Really bad asthma.  She got a couple of shots and the vet was real nice and explained her treatment options.  The shots seem to have helped but due to possible bad side effects we don't want her to have to take them a lot if it can be helped.  I'm going to try a homeopathic treatment I found and if that doesn't work she may have to use an inhaler (yes, they actually make such a thing) as they say the inhalers don't have as many side effects.

So, I hope to be back soon with more Christmas and other posts!  I hope all of ya'll are having a nice weekend and maybe even off work for a few days.

Oh yeah, to Hayley:  thanks for the tip on your aunt's store.  I will certainly check it out.  I had been wanting to find a place in Gadsden and have been up there a few times over the past year or so but hadn't come up with anything.  They've really fixed downtown up nice and I figured there had to be some galleries or something there that would be a possible market.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Old-Fashioned Garden



Since I've started gardening what I would call "seriously", I've been astounded at the fact I never really thought about gardening throughout the cold months until a couple of years ago.  This is compounded by the fact I live in the South, where winter gardening is relatively easy, but the sad truth is I had never thought about it because I had never really seen it done, even here.  Oh, you might see some people grow a few cabbage in the fall but by Thanksgiving everybody had rolled up the garden until warm weather.


Of course, I didn't grow up eating a lot of broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus and other "exotic" veggies, so it didn't occur to anybody around me that you would want to grow those things.  We just ate summer veggies that had been canned for the winter, but no thought of veggies that would actually grow in those cold months, or "seasonal eating" as we say now.  I enjoy seasonal eating and gardening and my winter garden has improved quite a lot over the past few years.  Constant amendment of the soil is paying off!  Of course, we do put up a good bit of summer fruits and veggies for winter consumption but I really think seasonal gardening is an important part of a healthy diet and self-sufficiency.  Cool weather crops are really nutritious and fresh is always better than frozen or canned.  You can't beat going grocery shopping in your yard either. 

This year I may have planted enough broccoli, I'm not sure yet!  It was kinda just sitting there for some time but after a few rains we just recently got it has really taken off!  I should be able to harvest a head or two soon. Good thing, I just cooked the last frozen bag I had put up in anticipation of eating fresh next.  I should have lots of fresh broccoli for various Christmas dinners and lunches. 
Even after cutting the heads the plant continues to put out side clusters, so these can be gathered for quite some time to make easy side dishes or quick snacks.  The big leaves also get harvested a few at a time after most of the broccoli has been picked.  These leaves go to the chickens to supplement their winter diet and make up for lack of green grass.  They really love broccoli greens and cabbage.  In fact, they were SO enthusiastic about the cabbage leaves that, in the spring when my hostas started coming up, they thought, hey, these look like cabbage, and mowed every one of them down to the ground.  They had walked all around the hostas for weeks without bothering them until one day I gave them cabbage leaves and I guess they thought the leaves looked similar.  Oh well.


The Bok Choy I planted from seed has done really well.  I haven't actually eaten this yet though.  I love it in a stir fry but just haven't had the meat I wanted or the gumption to make one yet.  Fortunately, since it's cool, it can just kinda sit in the garden without bolting or spoiling until I get ready for it.


 The new girls, and the old ones that were molting, have mostly began their laying and we are getting 8-10 eggs a day.  Of course, some of them are still small eggs but they are getting bigger.  It won't be long we'll be needing to start selling eggs again.  We finally sold 5 of the new hens and 2 older ones.  I got $12 each for the young ones and we sold Pretty Hen and Prissy for $5 each.  I kinda hated to sell them but we just had way too many chickens for that coop house.  So, that paid for a bit of feed and the cost of ordering those chicks to begin with. 
 So, finally we are starting to see a bit of return on some things instead of constantly putting out.  Of course, it's all a cycle and sometimes you have to wait a little but hopefully I'll get better about planning for these things so there is much less time between cycles.


I believe I told ya'll I finally finished all the corporate pottery orders I had, so now is just making general stock.  These are the honey pots I had to make for the last order.  I thought most of them came out well. 


Christmas is drawing near however, and my time to produce a tremendous amount of stock is getting much shorter.  After about the 18th or 19th I won't be throwing much, just firing the last bit of stuff to take in.  That's well and good however because then I can wind down and take time to enjoy my holiday decorating, cooking and just relaxing. 

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Treat

  Although I truly enjoy being able to work at a home-based studio and supply the rest of our living through gardening and animals, I can get severe cabin fever at times.  You long time readers know of my occasional wanderlust, something my old job used to satisfy to some extent but no more and since being so hard pressed these past few weeks to get those orders out I had really, really started to gnaw at the straps, so to speak.  I became so desperate one evening that it was actually liberating to go down to our local McD's (a place I fairly despise) for a salad and then a short shopping trip to CVS and the new Tractor Supply.  I know, I know.....the excitement of it is vividly tangible, no?  Of course, I had to be home within a hour or so to check the kiln but at least I did get some "fun" time.
So, what's a homesteading/ earth hippie type to do when you start clawing at the walls??  I think it's something most of us in this category deal with.  I like to think of myself as a fairly gung-ho recluse but I do like to get out on occasion.  Usually, my once a week or so trip into Birmingham is enough but I had to get Jack to make my last couple of deliveries so I would not lose working time.  Well, with the last of the major orders completed and ready to deliver, we decided a Fun Day was in order.  And it just happened to be our 2 month Anniversary, so we splurged a little.


 Now, let me emphasis, this was a splurge.  I mean, it didn't cost majorly really; but it was a bit more than our normal lunch out.  But it was very nice and we had a great time.  First, we got the delivery out of the way!  Once that was done with we made our way to the Southside of Birmingham and to one of it's more well-known restaurants; Bottega's!!  Here, is a nice article on the place and it's founding chef.  Unknown to most of the country, Birmingham has quite a few culinary treasures.  Jack and I were discussing how that we had both been to a number of very nice restaurants between us and sometimes, after the meal, you would think, hhhmmm, I'm not sure that was worth it's reputation.  Bottega's is not like that.  It was a delightful meal and experience.


I had a Bibb lettuce/ Apple salad with Gorgonzola and walnuts.  YUM.  I believe I'll make these at home now.


 This was the Chicken and Tortellini with Pine Nuts.  There was a bunch of other stuff in there too.  Very yummy also.  The waiters were also very friendly and personable.  None of this looking down their nose at you while impersonating a French maitre' d.
My only complaint is that you could have hung meat in the ladies restroom but...at least it made you appreciate the warm sunlight in the dining area.


The Creme Brulee' was divine.  Exquisite.  I long for it now even.



So, we had a wonderful meal and some nice time together before embarking on the rest of our journey and mostly errands of grocery shopping and such.  This is a fairly crappy picture of the interior of the place but I thought Jack looked sweet.  Yes, he is growing a beard for me! 


The restaurant is located in a semi-historic, hip part of Birmingham just outside of downtown and in warm weather it's a great place to walk the short distance to a couple of parks and cool, local bars.  In my much younger days I used to live not far from here in an older, "quaint" apartment but, I was far too poor to be able to do more than peer over this fence at the world on the other side.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Trying


 I've really been trying to come up with a decipherable post but it just seems my brain has atrophied over the past few weeks.  I know it's mostly because I'm tired and basically, I just can't think that abstractly when I get that tired.  I can ramble, sure!  but just not put together something with much merit.  The pots you see above are just a few of the many in one last corporate order that I just unloaded from the kiln.  This is good.  This means the hard deadline pressing stuff is over.  Of course, I do still have to keep producing at a pretty good clip to keep up with holiday demand but it's not stuff somebody has already paid for basically.  I get done what I get done, ya know?.


 The ol' harvest pumpkin was getting a little aged so I spilled his guts all over the yard for the chickens to rummage through.  They seemed to like it okay but didn't really go bonkers for it.  They still peck at it on and off.
Much has been going on around here besides pottery.  I'll try to bring ya'll up to current on the next post.  Just some house stuff Jack could do on his own and new chicken stuff also.


I've been mulling over my continued writing here and think I may have found a solution.  I have thought about many things, including just to stop blogging, but I don't think I really want to.  I think I just need to kind of refresh my technique or style.  You know, when you're single you can write pretty much anything you want, in any way you want.  But if you are married you often must consider whether the other person even wants to be written about or how to include such things.  Ya'll know I've always been pretty frank about things here, raw even at times, but that kinda hasn't felt right lately.  On the other hand, you don't want to bore the hell out of everybody either..
Just as an artist (me!) might explore an artistic concept through a series of related sculpture, and then move onto another series when they have exhausted that concept, I feel maybe it's time to move into another concept on this blog.  The problem is...I'm just not sure what that concept is!  I'll keep working on it though.


So, here's one last gratuitous chicken picture for you, for now.  Several of the chickens love to come into my studio while I'm working and just piddle around.  They seem to especially be interested if I'm playing music.  Little Willie here found the atmosphere so enjoyable the other day she decided to rest a spell with me.  I think maybe she's kinda low in the pecking order and seeks some peace away from the other hens.  Or maybe she just enjoys watching me.  At any rate, she chatters very cheerfully when I speak to her and really seems to enjoy getting to come inside the human's room.