Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Solstice Salad

Friday was the winter solstice, which is my favorite day of the year. We burned a Yule log and ate a lovely meal.

The Yule log was decorated with offerings for prosperity and health in the new year, including a pepper for a good garden, an egg shell for our poultry, and part of an envelope from a holiday card with wishes for the health and happiness of our friends and family.

We soaked that envelope bit in scotch, because it's nice to have whiskey around too.

Tradition (according to the internet) says to light this year's Yule log with bits of last year's. So, we threw in the charred remains of the last log.

And, once it caught, added our new log - part of a peach tree that blew down in a storm this summer.

For dinner we had a mostly homegrown meal. This made us feel especially powerful and mighty to be able to eat food we grew even on the darkest day of the year. Sausage from our chickens, potatoes from our garden and a salad of lettuce and two types of radishes harvested that day from our cold frame.

I hope you all had a lovely solstice and are enjoying the returning light!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Socks and Sausage

Or "Blurry photos of cats."

This post really has very little to do with sausage and nothing at all to do with socks. It's just an odd title for a blog post that is funny to exactly three people. Here is some sausage, however, so the title can be somewhat relevant.

A few weeks ago, Bill made 4 types of sausage - three pork sausages (2 links and 1 patty) and a chicken, apple, Riesling sausage from our own birds which is the stuff of dreams. Nom. The pork was mostly from a local farm market, but now that it's winter it is harder to get so it was subsidized with some Whole Foods pork.

In other news of local meat, Bill made rabbit cacciatore this weekend. We have a very sustainable population of bunnies on our property (though, when they become dinner we apparently refer to them as "rabbits" and not "bunnies"). I was rather afraid of this - my first rabbit - dinner, but it was pretty yum. I was surprised that rabbit meat is practically white and the caccitore recipe is mostly veggies (including some kitchen-ripened tomatoes I canned in late October). It was eaten on homemade pasta.

Coop and Corrie have achieved a milestone in living with us - their first lunch of eggs!

It makes me feel irrationally happy to give our Humane Society / Animal Care and Control animals freshly scrambled eggs near a warm fire. (Sugar Pie got some too - don't worry! She had her own bowl and the leftovers from the kittens.) Just a few weeks ago (or a few years in Sugar's case), these animals lived in cages and had an uncertain future. Spoiling them a little just feels right.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Year in Beer

There was an event in Indianapolis this weekend called Brew Bracket. 400 beer lovers head to the Fairgrounds to do blind tastings of local beers and vote for a winner in a March Madness style bracket. We learned about it a few days before the event and considered going. But then we realized it would be 30 minutes of beer tasting sprinkled among 3.5 hours of Bill and I staring at each other, and decided not to go. (We're hoping to learn about the next one with enough advance warning to get a gang of people to go with us, so I only have to spend 30 minutes or so staring at Bill and the rest of the time chatting with friends.)

Instead, we decided to have our own brew bracket at home with the 10 beers we brewed and bottled this year.

We collected a bottle of each type and a fancy jam jar to pour it in. I also made a spread sheet of each beer, listing the grains and hops (and their proportions) used in making it. It was Very Geeky.

They looked like this, lined up from lightest to darkest.

Bill was very excited to get started.

We tasted them from lightest to darkest and talked about what we liked and didn't, and tried to understand the characteristics of the grains and the hops we used. Then, we set up a bracket and picked our favorites. (We also played Stump The Beer-o [an amended version of Stump the Wine-o] where one of us closed our eyes and tried to guess the two beers that were handed to us by smell and taste alone.)

We determined we really like the unusual beers the best - a grapefruit hefeweizen, a spruce lager, our pumpkin ale with homegrown pumpkins, and a brown - the only beer we've brewed so far from all grains and no extracts.

We thought about the suppliers of the kits and ingredients we have brewed. Three of our favorites were recipes from books and the pumpkin ale was a kit from Northern Brewer. (We bottled a Winter Spice Ale from a NB kit yesterday and preliminary tastings say "YUM!" We also re-racked a Peat-Smoked Porter from them yesterday. That one needs a little time to age, but has promise.)

We did NOT drink the full bottles of each of the ten beers. Much alcohol was sacrificed for our experiment, but we found it to be a fun and enlightening exercise...maybe an annual event??

Bottle Cap Key: The numbers are the month and year it was bottled.

A - Altbier (Brewer's Best Kit)
BAG - Brown all-grain (Monkey Paw Brown Ale recipe from "The Complete Joy of Home Brewing" by Charlie Papazian)
CR - Cream Ale (Great Fermentations kit)
GH - Grapefruit Hefe (an alteration of this recipe)
P - Porter (Dred Brown Porter from Great Fermentations)
PMP - Pumpkin Ale (Northern Brewer Smashing Pumpkin Kit with added 6-row and pumpkin mash)
SP - Spruce Lager (Black Honey Spruce Lager from the Papazian book)
T - Tripple End kit from Great Fermentations
W - Witbier (Brewer's Best Kit)
W2 - Witless in Indiana (GF kit)

Monday, December 3, 2012

But how does Sugar feel about the kittens?

She seems to be doing just fine...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I blog because I have kittens

Tiny Black Kitten On Red Floor Against White Wall (Corrie)

Tiny Black Kitten that Wants to Eat Your Camera Cord (Coop)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Things which are new...

We have some freshly fallen snow.

We also have white and blue eggs, which means our dorking hens (white) and our  Araucana / Easter Egg chickens have started to lay.

  And... we have two new balls of black fur.

We went to the Humane Society last evening and found this 3-month old cuddly pair. They are brother and sister and they were dumped at the back door of Indianapolis Animal Care and Control. According to their medical history, they were sick little kitties for a while, but the Humane Society gave them some TLC until they were all bouncy and ready for a forever home.

This is Lt. Col. Coopworth of the First Mouser Brigade. He is demonstrating that kittens are really fast.

This is Lady Corriedale. She is demonstrating that kittens believe everything is a toy. She was previously playing with Bill's shoe (which she fits inside of), the zipper on my hoodie, and a leaf that was tracked into our kitchen. Her favorite toy seems to be the Woodpile Jungle Jim.

Sugar Pie is both glad to have Coop and Corrie in the house (she enjoys romping with them), and a little confused about why we are being so snuggly with squirrels. They are all getting along surprisingly well. There is much running and tumbling so it is good that kittens are made of rubber and bounce back from falling down stairs or rolling off a couch.

We think they like it here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pumpkin Soda

Recipe. Make it. Yum.

Radishes, recently harvested from our little cold frame greenhouse. In November.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Autumn Dinner

Leek Potato soup, crusty bread and pumpkin ale. All made right here. Yum.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A whole month!!

Here's what we've been up to since I last posted (in September! Sorry...)

We tore down the bookshelf/door between our living room and the front room. I did most of the crowbar work and then Bill kicked a hole in the sheet rock.

I've been painting the room purple with some random stenciling throughout. It will be my craft room very soon!

We picked a wheel-barrel full of pumpkins.

And stuccoed the top portion of Bill's oven. The bottom will get a brick facade some day.

We've also been canning ripe tomatoes. What?? Wasn't there a frost in Indiana weeks ago? Aren't all your tomato plants dead? Yes, they are. But we picked 10 gallons of green tomatoes just before the frost and have been ripening them in a basket (previously two baskets) in our kitchen.

Last week we canned 6 quarts of tomatoes in their own juices and will likely do so again in a few days. Every 5 days or so, I go through the basket and pull out the tomatoes that are turning red (or yellow or purple as the case may be) and put them in a bowl where we can keep a closer eye on them. When they are ripe, they go into a pot of progressive tomato sauce (that is, we start it when it needs to be started and add tomatoes as they get ripe. It's usually 2-3 sessions of cutting and boiling over the course of one week). When we fill up the pot, we can them up.

We've only lost a 5-6 tomatoes to mold or fruit flies and it only affects individual fruits, not their neighbors in the basket. We read about this "method" on a favorite blog (How To Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors the Really Easy Way) and highly endorse it. The cans we get from these 10 gallons will represent about 20-25% of the tomatoes we preserve this year, so it's well worth it.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday is for Homebrew

Here's what it looks like around here today.

We're brewing our first all grain beer.

And, you can't make home brew unless you are also drinking home brew. We're tasting our latest batches....the dark is a spruce ale, which I think is DELICIOUS (Bill says "meh") and the light is a Tripple which Bill quite likes and I think could use a few more weeks of bottle conditioning. There is also popcorn and cards.

Sugar Pie is here too. Moving too quickly to be caught on digital film, but still adorable.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

If you give a girl a crowbar...

I'm starting work on our front room / former nighttime kitty jail / future crafty room of awesome. Much of the work has been really boring...cleaning, organizing, floor scrubbing.

But today, I started attacking with a crowbar! There is a bookshelf in our living room that was previously a door between the living room and the front room. We're reopening it!

The first step is to attack it with a crowbar. Bill hopes we're going to find some buried gold. So far, I've found a mirror.

I hope to report more exciting finds soon.

Monday, September 24, 2012


The 90% first frost date in our area is early October. But, of course, this is an exceptional year and our first frost was on September 22.

We have gobs of green tomatoes and lots of Thai hot peppers that aren't ripe yet, so we covered most of important stuff in plastic.

Bill also built me a cold frame for the top of a couple of raised beds. I started broccoli and beets in here a few weeks ago and recently added some lettuce and radishes. We'll see how it works! Hopefully we'll have some homegrown lettuce for tacos throughout the winter.

Friday, September 14, 2012

New blog...philosphy and stuff

This blog, with its knitting and chickens, doesn't really feel like a place when I can write paragraphs at a time on philosophical issues or share nuanced or not completely formed opinions about...stuff. Whenever I do, I feel guilty. I imagine you all coming here looking for Sugar Pie and finding a rant about eggs.

So, today I give you some knitting and chickens and a link to a new blog. JoAnna's Walden (I'm not entirely sure about the title, but it's the URL now, so we're going to have to get used to it together). Right now, you'll find summaries of the prologue of the book Collapse, which I am reading publicly as promised. I intend to update it at least weekly with similar posts, along with some ramblings about why Bill and I live the weirdo life that we do.

I might remind you on occasion that it exists, but will leave the soapbox over there.

Here, it will remain chickens and fiber. Promise.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Raindrops and Chickens

The rain droplets on our locust leaves this morning inspired me to dig out the macro and telephoto lenses we have for our camera. Please to enjoy some country life up close...

Elvis has been enjoying the grass seed this morning.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My head exploded

Warning - this post is overtly political...something I don't typically do here, but I am feeling a particularly overwhelming rage at the moment and want to speak up.

When we moved to DC in 2002, I went as a believer in the system. I moved there to "change the world, man," and thought the political process was the way do to it. Five years working with advocacy organizations changed my mind and I left DC thinking most people involved with the national system were worthless and just playing a game to amuse themselves and gain individual power.

As a result, I haven't voted for a major party candidate for a national office in many years. I have consistently made use of the write-in option - even when I knew my vote could actually count. Both Virginia and Indiana have been battleground states in years that I've lived in them and cast votes for Gandalf and The Doctor. I believed that the "lesser of two evils" was still evil and I didn't want to endorse it.

In two sentences, Mitt Romney guaranteed my vote this year for Barack Obama. Sorry, Atticus Finch, you don't get my vote this time.

President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise...is to help you and your family.

This sentiment is so blatantly stupid, I can't even stand it. When I heard Romney utter it, I couldn't do anything but scream. Loudly. For two full minutes. I believe I now understand how people feel when they say their heads have exploded. 

And he said it in a year when vast sections of the midwest are experiencing record drought, costing states, farmers AND FAMILIES billions of dollars.

To not understand that environmental issues are economic issues displays a serious, willful misunderstanding of how life works.

I know that drought is not always caused by climate change. I know that the dust bowls of nearly 100 years ago can't be blamed on our current use of oil. Sometimes drought is just a naturally occuring event that is not influenced by human action. And, THIS is exactly why we should be addressing environmental concerns within our control. There are going to be times that Mother Nature screws us over. We can recover and thrive in those years if we aren't screwing ourselves over in all the other years.

I've been meaning to reread Jared Diamond's Collapse and Romney's ignorance (and the ignorance of the people who would believe him) has prompted me to do it publicly. For the next few weeks, I'll share summaries of the chapters as I read them. Despite its title, Collapse is a very hopeful book. Jared Diamond - winner of a MacArthur genius award - describes why advanced societies have failed throughout history (spoiler alert: it's usually an environmental reason) and how we can learn from them to avoid their fates. He also shares examples of how good environmental policy enhances economic conditions and the health and stability of "you and your family."

Environmental issues have nothing - NOTHING - to do with saving whales and pandas. It's about saving people. It always has been.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Billbasco Sauce

We have a bunch of cayenne peppers turing red in the garden, so Bill picked them and made tabasco...I mean Billbasco sauce.

The process went like this: chop 10-12 peppers, sprinkle with salt, heat in vinegar, blend. The end. 

In prudent kitchens, the blending would have been done in a blender. A covered blender. 

We don't have one of those. We have a stick blender, so all the aerosoled bits of burning hot pepper escaped into our kitchen. Bill made Billbasco sauce...and pepper spray.

I will recreate the scene for you.

Setting: old house. Late afternoon. Bill is in the kitchen over a steaming pot. JoAnna is in the next room over - the living room. An open doorway separates them. 

Bill: cough hack cough cough Arrrg! hack

JoAnna: Are you ok?

Bill: Don't come in here.

JoAnna: Do you need help?

Bill: cough gag Don't cough cough come in here!

The resulting sauce is actually quite mild. 
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