Sunday, October 31, 2010

More Kitchen Progress

Ken got the cupboards back up on the wall above the stove last evening. Here he was around midnight! He'd been asleep on the couch for most of the afternoon and was full of energy by this time.

We even sat and watched a short movie on the computer afterwards. It was a BBC production called End Day, sort of 5 "doomer" movies in one. The last one being about a particle accelerator that blows up. I found reference to this movie after researching strangelets. It was about 2.30 this morning when we crawled into bed. Here's a link if anyone else likes end of the world type stuff:

Anyway, nice to see the kitchen coming together again. But there's still a long way to go.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Dry Stone Walls of Home

After my last post,I went on a web search for drystone walls of Lancashire, England., and found this site filled with the most wonderful photographs of the stone walls I'm used to seeing. This is the landscape I grew up in, in north west England. These are WALLS! Miles and miles of them.

Here's a link to more:

I hope the owner of the site doesn't mind my including one of his pictures here.

And now I have to go grab a tissue, because just looking at all that rugged, wildness makes me SO homesick!

Dry Stacked Stone Wall

It's been raining quite a bit, so I've been putting a bit of time into my dry stacked retaining wall, down near the barn. It's easier to dig the rocks out of the ground after a rain storm. All of these rocks came out of the bank right there where I'm working. I find it really amazing that the right rock just happens to come up at the right time. Very little debating, or hunting around for one that fits. And what's even more amazing, I've manage to build most of this without bending down and lifting the rocks! You can maneuver even large boulders quite easily and precisely with a long-handled pointed hoe. -Sorry, forgot to take a picture of the hoe.

A wall like this is pretty easy, because the rocks are always higher than the top of the wall. Gravity is always on my side, but the next challenge is to build a real, free-standing wall. After my back let go a couple of years ago, I thought I'd never be able to do anything like this again. But now, well, I think I can, I think I can...
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seventeen Years of Married Bliss

We were both in the US Army, and met at Ft. Lewis, in Washington State. He was just an E5 SGT back then. He'd just transferred there from Germany. I was an E4 medical specialist, and had recently transferred from the 43rd MASH at Camp Humphries, Korea. ( yes, the original 4077th of the TV show fame!) Now decommissioned, sadly.

This was our first home! An amazing little cabin on 5 acres, in the woods, about 20 miles from post. We saw it in the paper for rent. It had brick floors and was fully furnished with wonderful antiques. The only heat, however, was the tiniest wood stove you can imagine. We may as well have been living in a tent for what use it was. But we were both well accustomed to living in tents so it didn't much matter. We loved that little house.

Just this for today. We had a nice fried chicken supper and a cake!
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Monday, October 25, 2010

The John Deere M

A few more pictures of "Betsy", the 1948 John Deere M, a friend had for sale. She's been sitting in his barn for ten years! Before that she belonged to a Christmas tree farmer, who used her for mowing between the trees. A belly mower was included.

Ken and Josh set to work on her almost right away. They're going to strip her down completely and clean all the lines out. The engine runs, but with lots of popping and banging due to all the gunk in the valves and lines and carburetor. The noise echoed and reverberated off the mountains! Ken's going to take the gas tank to work and steam it out.

It's going to be an enjoyable project for the two of  them. I can't wait to see the end result.

English Potato Cakes

While the guys were gone to get the tractor, I made some potato cakes. They're very easy. Just add flour to left over mashed potatoes, season with salt, and make patties. Fry in butter

They're good served with sliced ham and Branston pickles! There's a supermarket about 40 miles from here that sells some English food items. Ken happened to be over there last week and bought me the pickles.

The Painted Floor

 Here's a picture of the floor design I started painting. As you can see, we did end up painting the rest of the floor too. The brown stuff is that thick contractors paper. Ken wants to put a sealer over it all when it's done, so, for now we are walking on the paper.


I am going to change things. When I started this we still had the long set of kitchen drawers in the dining room. I stupidly centered the design as if they would always be there. Now they are out, and back in the kitchen ( temporarily, we're going to put a door in that other wall) the design is way too far over to the left. Today I began extending it with another row of diamonds on the right side. It will be rectangular, rather than square. I'm also thinking of making that wide border black, and filling in the narrow, inner border with the reddish/brown color.

What a difference the paint has made! It's much lighter in the dining room now. That was the paint we originally bought to paint the cabinets with. I thought it might be too much green, but it really doesn't feel overpowering at all, and I'm glad we could find a use for it.

Not sure how long this will hold up. Hopefully, after it's sealed it will at least see us through to next year. The plank floor will be just painted pine boards. This has given us a good idea of how a painted floor will look in there.

Oh, and Ken's brother and his wife had to cancel their visit after all, so I'm no longer feeling so pressured to rush things.

Need to put all that food that's stacked on the wood stove, back in the pantry tomorrow.

And here's Betsy the tractor!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kitchen re-do progress

The only progress noticable here is that we painted the wall. But a lot has gone on in the background. I have all the cupboard doors painted now. Ken decided it would be easier to take down the wall cabinets, in order to paint their frames. They're almost done. I'm hoping we can start putting them back up later today, but, Ken and Josh have gone to pick up an old, antique tractor that a friend was selling, and I have a feeling they'll be working on it for a while when they get it home.

It's a beautiful day out there, except for the clouds of Japanese Ladybugs! They're late this year.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When guys decide to hem their own pants...

This is what you get!

The sewing machine is put up, due to the kitchen/diningroom dismantlization and all.

Me:: "What on earth are you doing?!"

Him: "Girl, it's called 'Redneck Hemming!"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Our Old House

While there's a lot going on here on the old farmstead, the camera batteries are dead and horror of horrors, we don't have one good battery in the whole house! The last picture I managed to squeeze out, was this one, two days ago. All the fall colors were at their brightest. Since the sun was temporarily covered by a cloud, the picture isn't as colorful as I'd hoped, but still nice. Some day I'll have to upload a video taken from this spot, down on the dirt road we live on. Three creeks converge there, and the sound of all the water is just wonderful! Especially after a good storm. I'm ready for a good storm!
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Friday, October 15, 2010

What was I thinking!

Brother and sister-in-law are coming up to visit next week and I was bemoaning the fact that the house is in such a state of upheaval, and, not only that, the dining room floor is just awfull! The other day I was looking at a website featuring beautiful hand painted floor cloths. I love floor cloths, and thought one would look nice under the dining room table, but can't afford to buy one. I bought some cotton canvas a while ago, with the intention of making my own, but never got around to it. "Well!" I thought, "why not just paint the design right onto the floor!" I also thought: " I can have it done before Ken gets home from work."

The linoleum in the dining room is so beat up, and horrible, it couldn't possibly look any worse, and, we are going to put down a plank floor in there anyway, as soon as we're done with the kitchen cabinets... This would be a quick fix for just while the in-laws are here. So I dragged out all the cans of paint from out of the workshop and under the stairs, and set to work. ( I can't walk past the discounted paint shelf at the hardware store, which means we have more paint than you can shake a stick at!)

It most definately wasn't finished when Ken got home! I had to collar him as he got out of the truck and break it to him gently, that there was "a little project going on" and "don't worry, it'll look nice when it's finished" He groaned his usual "Giiirl!" But much to my surprise, after looking at the mess, his only comment was "how come you didn't just paint the whole floor?"

It's going to have black diamonds on a cream background, with a design in the center of each cream diamond. At the moment, it's still looking lake a big cream splodge in the middle of the grungy kitchen floor! In fact, it makes the rest of the floor look even more ugly, I may do as Ken suggested and roll a solid color over the rest of the floor to tie it all together. All I know, is that it's evolving into something way more complicated than originally planned. Well, it wasn't exactly planned, but I have a week to make it look like it was!
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Venison Pie with Roasted Garden Vegetables

Mmmm... Our dinner today was venison pie. Almost everything was home grown, except for the onions and pastry ingredients. I thought I'd post pictures of it in the making. It's loosely based on the meat pies my ex French Canadian inlaws used to make for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It can be made with regular ground beef; We just happen to have a lot of venison that needs to be eaten. It's already hunting season again!

Today's Garden Finds

Wandering around the garden this afternoon I found that we still had lots of things still growing and ready to pick. Tomatoes, green and orange peppers and carrots. These are the first carrots I've ever been able to grow! However, they are all freakish looking, because I dropped the packet of seeds as I was planting them. Thousands of minuscule carrot seeds landed in one big pile! I spread them out as best I could but the result was that the carrots all grew and melded together. Weird looking but still edible.

I put a mixture of the veggies in a bowl, drizzled them with olive oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and popped them in a 450 degree oven to roast until they were good and browned.

Then I washed some of our little baby potatoes and put them on the stove to boil.

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Next, I opened a jar of venison. This is from last year. We don't usually can the meat, but a friend was pressure canning hers and she offered to can some of ours for us.
It doesn't look very appetizing in the jar but it's really good, and so easy to heat up in a sauce pan.

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While the potatoes and venison were cooking I started on the pastry.
People over here seem to make a big deal about pastry and most people I know, buy the ready made pie crusts from the store. I don't know why it's thought to be such a feat. My grandma and Mum could throw together a pie in no time so I just never got to thinking of it as anything especially difficult.

For this one I measured a cup and a half of all purpose flour into a bowl, ( prefer self raising, but this was all I had) cut up about 3/4 of a stick of unsalted butter, then chopped it all up with that little metal gadget you can see in the picture. I think it's a cabbage chopper, but I find it works great for pastry. You don't have to get your hands in it and do all the rubbing of the flour and butter. And because the butter isn't chopped really fine, it makes what I call a "rustic crust". Kind of rough and imperfect.

After chopping up the butter and mixing it all up a bit, I added about a 1/4 of a cup of cold water. I just add a little bit at a time and mix up the whole mess with a fork until it resembles shredded rags. That's the only way I can describe it. It looks too dry to stick together, but it will stick together. If I add any more water it always ends up too wet, meaning I have to add more flour, and then the crust comes out heavy and lifeless. So, I always stop while it still looks a bit too dry.

Here it is rolled out. Actually, I didn't roll it, I just formed a bun and then kept pushing it out with the heel of my hand, turning it over every so often and flouring each side, to make sure it didn't stick to the pastry board. But I usually use a rolling pin.
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By the time the pastry was finished, potatoes and meat were ready to be mixed together. I also added some of the onions and carrots that were almost done roasting. I seasoned the mixture with salt, and then, the most important ingrediant, alspice! This gives the pie it's unique flavor. I think I put in a little over a teaspoon, but I always keep tasting it until it's just right.

After that, I put the mixture in a pie pan and put on the pastry top, poked a hole in it and decorated it with a few leaves, made from the pastry that was cut of around the edges. Didn't spend much time on these because Ken was getting hungry, so they don't look real great.

You could make a bottom crust too, but with so much butter in it we prefer to have just a top.

I took out the roasted vegetables and put a lid on them to keep them warm, then put the pie in the 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

It came out great, and there's some left over for lunch tomorrow!

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

A detangled Mane

Shady's mane was an absolute mess; a big ball of tangles and dread locks. She's half Percheron, and while she didn't inherit the size of a draft horse she did inherit the thick heavy mane. Yesterday morning was still breezy, but warm, so I went out there and worked on it for an hour. Thought I'd never get it straightened out, but little by little with the help of some spray detangler, it slowly loosened up and I was able to get the comb through it. Now she looks so nice!

Crystal had her mane detangled too, but her's is kind if thin and limp. Not such a dramatic improvement as Shady's.
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Autumn Olive

A neighbor asked if we had Autumn Olive on our land. I had no clue. He described it and went on to tell me how it's been found to contain very high levels of Lycopene. Very good for you.! I remembered this bush we have growing by the creek right outside the kitchen door, almost. When we arrived home I went to look more closely at it. Sure enough it's Autumn Olive! As you can see, it's loaded with berries. Think I'm going to harvest them and make them into jelly.

You can read more about Autumn Olive here

Boy, has it turned COLD here! Today was chilly, chilly with a blustery wind. Had to put on a sweatshirt and jacket to go out and do chores.
I took a look in the garden and found a whole slew of green peppers hiding under the foliage, and some nice big carrots. Still a lot of tomatoes ripening too. I took pictures of all this wonderful bounty and then accidentally wiped the card clean  before they got loaded onto the computer. :(

It's been one of those days today. Nothing much was accomplished.  My Dad called and let me know Mum is pretty sick and in the hospital. I hate not being able to be there (England) to help out. At least they have fantastic next door neighbors.

Ken's allergies are in full swing, ( maybe due to the kitten in the house, but he was ok over the weekend) Poor guy, his eyes are running and his nose is all stuffed up. I'm having to sleep on the couch because he makes so restless and noisy all night.

The good news is Joshua has started correspondence high school courses with Keystone National High school and is doing really well! He just got the results of his first test in Life Science and scored a 96! I'm so proud of him. There's an awful lot of writing involved. He's never had to write so much. I've been letting him off lightly because he's always had such a hard time putting his thoughts down on paper. When I saw how much writing was in store for him this year I really expected him to panic and feel overwhelmed, but he just took a deep breath and buckled right down to it. He loves the textbooks and the actual subject matter though. And now, with the high test score and the nice note the instructor wrote to him, he's over the moon. I think we're going to like Keystone.

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