Friday, November 26, 2021

Low Key Black Friday

After a couple of snow free days, it is again dropping snowballs out there to the point where we may actually have to plow the driveway.  Its very peaceful and cozy.  The kind of day to light some scented candles, put on some wool socks and bum around the house with a warm drink.  

For Thanksgiving yesterday, I just put a turkey breast in the slow cooker and we had quiet meal for two with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy and carrots freshly pulled from the garden.  And pumpkin pie. Today we are having hot dogs and beans LOL!  And pumpkin pie.  We're tired of eating.  And with Korv Day and Turkey Day pretty much back to back, my kitchen staff is tired of doing dishes.

Traditionally, Black Friday is the day I haul twenty Christmas tubs down from the attic and spend seven hours redecorating the house.  For the second year in a row I am cutting back on decorating.  Maybe next year I will get back to two trees and even some garlands.  Since it started snowing fairly early this year, I have already been slowly changing over from fall to winter.  A table runner here, some pinecones there. 

Years past I have had a few orange slice ornaments.  I might sacrifice an orange or two, but this year my husband bought oranges that he was dissatisfied with so all of a sudden I had a whole bag of oranges that nobody wanted!  I sliced them all up and put them in the dehydrator.  Lots of orange slices!

The star anise, cinnamon sticks and raffia I already had on hand.  I am just waiting for my Amazon Day delivery for some more red and natural jute twine to make the hangers.

I already had a little of the correct twine on hand so some of the oranges are already finding their way into my decorating.

This little cedar welcomes people to the side porch.

Some of my decorating still has a fall and winter mix.  
The crows and a pumpkin are still out

 but now we also have pine cones, rose hips and orange slices.

At this point I am still just rounding up elements that I want to enjoy this season and putting away collectibles that I'm not going to use.  The actual construction of each arrangement is yet to come.  This is where I realize that I am one tin grater short for what I want to do and have to shop for one on Etsy.
Plus, I don't have enough fairy lights which should be here with the red striped twine.

I recently found this fun, local, candy striped malted milk can from the 1930s while out antiquing.  I still have to pry the lid off, then I think it would make a fun base for a little Christmas tree.

For now some of my other fall decor can stay while I get my ideas together.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Potatis Korv

 Potatiskorv: (more commonly known as värmlandskorv in Sweden) is a regional Swedish sausage from Värmland, made with ground pork, beef, onions and potatoes. Potatiskorv is traditionally served hot at Christmas in Värmland but often served hot or cold throughout the year. "Potatiskorv" is what this sausage is called in parts of Värmland. In most parts of Sweden, the word "potatiskorv" is unknown, while "värmlandskorv" is well known and sold commercially around Christmas throughout the country, for the benefit of people from Värmland. In the United States, "potatiskorv" (usually written "potatis korv") is the name that has stuck among people with Swedish roots. (SourceWikipedia)

In our area, it is not difficult to find Korv in the grocery stores, but like any traditional dish there are enough variations that you really have to make your own if you want to capture that taste as you remember it. Making Korv is something we only do once a year.  That means there is still a little trepidation and dread before you get started because it is a big project and you don't want to mess it up.  We wisely kept good notes which extend beyond the tweaked recipe to sensible instructions like which bowls to use for what and what to prep first.  In fact steps one and two are:

  • Do any dishes
  • Take up the carpet

And then continues on to getting the casings prepped and how many cranks of the lever on the sausage stuffer gives the right amount of sausage for a quart freezer bag.

When we started out we would even grind our own meat, starting with pork shoulder and chuck roast.  We got the best prices that way.  Now we just keep an eye out for ground beef and ground pork to be on sale, and stock it away in the freezer.  The recipe calls for 5# beef, 5# pork, 5# white potatoes and 3# yellow onions.  When all is peeled and prepared you end up with about 15# of Korv.

The meat is seasoned with salt, pepper and Allspice.  About half way through mixing, we make a sample patty which we cook in the microwave so we can sample how the seasoning is going.  It doesn't have the true taste of Korv in the microwave but it lets you know if you have enough salt and pepper going in.

Inevitably, there will be about half a pound of meat left in the stuffer pipeline that has to be removed and then hand stuffed.  I get out the cow horn for this last link.  The big stuffer works so slick that stuffing the sausage is a lot of fun.  Having a cow horn on hand to deal with the problem is fun, but after that moment it turns into a lot of work!  I would HATE to have to stuff fifteen pounds through a cow horn!

We have batch #4 of Glögg on the stove, and Korv is what's for dinner.  Each link is just shy of a pound.  I lay it in a baking dish and cover it with foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.  Then remove the foil and turn the broiler on low for about 10 minutes keeping an eye on it until the casing browns up nicely.  I serve it with pork gravy, mashed potatoes (or scalloped potatoes) and peas.  Leftovers make good sandwiches.

Monday, November 15, 2021

It Seems Winter Has Set In

 This is the third afternoon in a row in which it has snowed chunks.

Sort of pretty and peaceful...

I spent Saturday making Gramma's Molasses Cookies.  These go really well with Glögg and since we are into our third batch of Glögg already it was high time I got going on these.  It was also high time I got going on converting all these ingredients we have stockpiled into something edible

I spent yesterday making lasagna at a leisurely pace.  First I make the meat sauce and let that simmer for awhile, and after that mess is cleaned up and the sauce is ready, I assemble the lasagnas.  I always do two big pans at a time and now we have six months worth of lasagna in the freezer.

And today we ran errands and came home with a whole carload of new ingredients.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Another Bonus Day

 The gloominess that built up yesterday afternoon passed north of us and this morning dawned bright and clear.  Again. I'm not complaining.  It was ten degrees cooler than yesterday, but at 58 degrees and no breeze it was still shirt sleeve weather.  No problem.  I can find something to do.  Even if it is just sitting outside looking at the bare trees.

One more pass at the leaves.  
Tomorrow we will wash the lawn mower and put it away.

At least it dried up enough that we could get onto about 80% of the lawns.
You have to be careful turning.  In the backyard you can just go forward and back not round and round.  We got the mower stuck yesterday in the neighbor's lawn.
Had to pull it out with a tractor.

I remembered that I needed to cover the primroses with wire cloches.
They are evergreen so very attractive to both deer and bunnies during a thaw.
I took a quick inventory of my cloches and grow thru grids and updated my autumn To Do list for next year.

Yesterday I went through and weeded all of the landscape beds.  Anything growing now will be there in March when the snow melts and will need to be pulled before mulching.  That's one step ahead.
The grow thru grids can be left until spring.  They keep the deer from tasting and keep us from tromping when we are blowing leaves or laying down mulch.

The dahlia tubers are store in the basement bulkhead with a digital hi/lo thermometer and humidity gauge.  I will check them in a few weeks to make sure they are moist enough but not rotting.

For supper tonight, hamburgers and fresh cole slaw.

Monday, November 8, 2021


 Does anyone even know what time it is this week?  I don't.  And I don't care either.  Last week I had a few morning appointments and actually had to make sure I was up and out of bed early.  I don't have to be anywhere for at least the next six weeks.  We record all of our favorite TV shows so we can watch them at anytime without commercials.  We have no pets or livestock to complain about feeding times. So time is of little importance to me.  Note to Self:  Make sure never to schedule anything two or three weeks after a time change.

We have continued to enjoy nice weather most days.  It is starting to feel like November in general but we have not been rushed with autumn chores.  Yesterday and today were near 70 degrees so I puttered about and finished some winterization chores.  I think I finally have everything done.

I don't usually do anything for my strawberry bed but since I had so much nice leaf mulch collected up, I gave it one final cleaning and laid down a good layer of mulch.

Anything I have hanging around in pots gets tucked into this sheltered corner against the RR ties.  There are divisions that don't have a home yet.  Nine daylilies in shades of pink, three Caesar's Brother blue Siberian irises and one lone Black Eyed Susan.  I almost always have something hanging about.  If I really care about it I find a place for it.  But if I don't care either way it stays in the pot.  They almost always survive.  Some things end up hanging about for a couple of years and still do great when they finally find a spot.

I put a tree tube around the pear tree.  Any small saplings need to be protected through the deer rut because they are the perfect size for antler scrapes.  In this case I am more worried about hungry bunnies girdling it if we have happen to have a bad winter.  

This Alberta Spruce gets morning sun from the south east and the past three years it has sunburned and recovered.  Its getting too mature to mess around with.  It can't be replaced in this size and losing it would make the front landscape unbalanced.  The bare spot filled in nice this year.  I think shading it with the burlap should be enough but I'm going to try some Wilt Stop on it too.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

In The Mood to Make Sauerkraut

 This morning was bright and sunny so I went out for awhile to rake beds, pull Nasturtium, sweep the garden shed etc.  Even if it isn't an outside kind of day I can usually find something to work at.  I still have some dahlias in the ground.  In the end it began to plop snow and rain interchangeably.  I came back inside but couldn't sit still.  I had checked on my Violaceo di Verona cabbages and was suddenly, and inexplicably in the mood to make sauerkraut.

I made a batch this summer from the Golden Acre cabbage.  It was a fun project and turned out well but I gave all of it away to the neighbors.   I seasoned it with caraway seeds and they loved it, even the wife who is also not a huge fan of sauerkraut.  She said mine was very mild and she really liked it.  What she probably like about it is that it was fresh not canned from the store. I will be interested to find if the different variety makes a noticeably different taste.

I picked the two nicest heads and ended up with a little over two pounds shredded.  I still have a good sized head out there and two small ones.  One plant is not making a head at all.  I will probably use one of the small heads for fresh cole slaw when I pull the last of the carrots.

Again, I sliced by hand.  One noticeable thing is that these heads made a lot of brine right away.  That is probably the difference between summer cabbage and fall cabbage with plenty of rain.  These plants would naturally have a high moisture content.  As I worked the salt in I pulled out the coarse stems you can see in that cross section.  The VdV cabbage is very crinkly and made an interesting texture.

It looks good already!
I'm looking forward to tasting it.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

The By Products of Gardening - Venison Jerky

 The closer you are to your gardening roots, the more you see things in the natural world which you can harvest.  There are leaves to harvest for compost.  Wild apples to harvest.  Rosehips to harvest. Deer to harvest...

We live in the country less than half a mile from the city line.  This situation creates a comfortable haven for whitetail deer.  No one hunts them because the houses are too close. Natural predators like coyotes are discouraged.  Food is plentiful because of all of the nice landscaping.  I grew up in the country, surrounded by dairy farms and we never saw deer.  They were out there.  My grandfather hunted.  They just didn't come up on the porch and peer into the windows.

The deer are bold.  They have no fear of humans.  Almost every night they come through and taste something.  Anything new, like fresh soil, must be examined and tracked up.  They will walk right up our steps and across the deck.  Because, obviously, it would take too much effort to, you know, go around....

So we hunt them. Vigorously.  My husband and I do not hunt personally and we don't particularly care for venison, but we have a friend who hunts with a bow so he can safely shoot here near the house.  He installs and monitors many cameras beforehand and has four tree stands and one raised "cabin" set up. There are plenty of people who will take venison but do not have the patience or skill to go out and get it themselves.  Over the past few years he has made a nice dent in our deer population.  Any meat he does not use himself or give away to friends gets donated to the soup kitchen.

The big 14" McCoy bowl is excellent for mixing meat.
It stays put!  We use it for mixing Swedish Korv (sausage) too.
It is an absolute beast to wash though.

This is our second year for the food dehydrator.  We bought it to deal with the bushels of apples, but this year have decided to try our hand at jerky.  So we finally asked for some venison.  We bought a LEM Jerky Canon which works pretty neat.  We can make slim jims with it too.

It has been fun having the game cameras set up so we can see more of what is coming and going around here when we're not looking.  We see a lot of deer, of course, and also turkey and more rarely a red fox or the fisher cat.  This year I took things a bit further and set up two game cameras around the garden.  That way I would know if and when the racoons and such were casing the joint.  Throughout the year there was surprisingly little activity immediately around the garden.  The deer visited the apple tree a few times until one of them discovered the electric fence.  After she zapped her nose she stayed away from the garden.

There were a few other visitors of note

Kitty Cat

Wascally Wabbit scoping out the strawberries

The one and only raccoon

Wile E. Coyote

The woods cameras set out by our hunter friend yielded a lot more interesting specimens.  

Fisher Cat

Foxy Loxy

Wile E. Coyote in color
And then just last week

Teddy Bear Parade

We know there are bear that come through a few times a year.  Last year there was a nice set of prints across the dahlia bed.  I will sometimes see footprints in the gravel drive or find saplings broken down.  But we don't feed the birds or have garbage cans outdoors so the bear doesn't often come close to the house.  I waited a long time to get them on camera.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Cold Rainy Days - Glögg and Dahlias

What better way to spend a cold, rainy autumn day than sorting spices?  I measured out bulk spices and bagged up enough for this year's Glögg.

We used to wait anxiously every year for the spices to appear in the local Swedish bakeries.  A few years ago my husband decided that we go through enough of them that we should just buy in bulk.  Decades ago, his parents and their friends had worried that some day they wouldn't be able to get the old spice recipe (are worries inheritable?) and sat down and counted out each individual ingredient.  12 cardamon pods, 6 whole allspice berries, 6 whole cloves, a teaspoon of slivered almonds, a quarter cup of raisens, 5 cinnamon sticks, orange peel...  So we had the recipe.

I order enough bulk spices through Amazon to get us through a few years.  I bag them up each year and pop them in the freezer to keep.  The store bought orange peel leaves something to be desired so I buy a bag of oranges to eat and set the peals out to dry.  Free orange peels! This little enterprise drops our per batch price for the spices from fourteen dollars and change down to a little over four bucks a batch.  Now that's what I call economy of scale!

We may be completely saturated with rain.  We may not be able to walk across the lawn without getting a boot stuck.  But they haven't all been gloomy days.  We have not had a hard frost yet, but I've been working through my dahlias lifting the tubers to store.   In the past I have just knocked off the worst of the dirt and plopped them into cardboard boxes of compost or potting mix and stuck them in the basement bulkhead.  This year I am trying to be a little more precise about the process.  After all, I have the time.  I've found a lot of information online about the best way to store the tubers and there are several methods and variations of storing.  My old method is fine.  But in the spring you end up with a stack of collapsed boxes of dirty, mystery tubers and they aren't any fun to unbox and plant.

Even though we've had too much rain and the dahlia bed was wet and sort of muddy, they rinsed off really nicely.  I dug up and processed one variety at a time.  None of them showed any sign of disease.  I hosed them off and each day set them outside to dry for the afternoon.  At the end of the day I bring them in and set them on newspaper over night.

The next day I trim off the hair roots and cut the stem back to the solid part (the rest of the stem is hollow and can hold moisture or debris).  After they have dried for 24 hours they can be handled without scraping them up.  The hair roots cut cleanly and you can write the varieties on them with a marker.  You can let them dry 48 hours or so before you pack them up but after that you will start to notice that they are beginning to shrivel a little and you don't want that.

It is important to cut out any damaged or rotted tubers because you don't want them continuing to rot in storage and spoiling the whole batch.  You can divide the clumps at this point but I am going to wait until spring.  Some of them separated out on their own for me which was nice.  But the rest will have to be cut up and that will be easier in the spring when their growth eyes start.

I ordered a twenty pound bag of coarse vermiculite from Farmtek. This will keep them clean and should maintain the right amount of moisture without being "damp".

I still have some of them in boxes, but I picked up a couple of these plastic milk crates and now I want more!  They have handles on all four sides, are light weight, and won't crush when I stack them.  I had shopping bags the right size and they packed up really nice and tidy.

They need to be kept cool but unfrozen.  They can stay in the garden shed for now but will have to come in to the basement bulkhead for the winter where they will have the right amount of humidity and will not freeze.

Tomorrow's cold rainy day project is venison jerky.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Harvesting Leaves

 Leaf season has begun!  And it could last until Christmas.  Seriously.  It will snow in November/December but we will get a thaw and then we will get back out there and work on the oak leaves knocked down by the winter weather.  And then next March we will have one last round of cleanup.  But right now its not a huge chore.  The lightweight Poplar, Maple and London Plane leaves are the first to come down.  This used to be Ash leaf season but all of our many ash trees have died and most have been removed.

Cleanup phases in slowly with the battery powered blower, spending twenty minutes blowing a few leaves out of the landscape onto the lawn to be mulched by the lawn mower and it will end with twice a week sessions with the neighbor and three abreast gas powered back pack blowers blowing knee deep, thick, leathery red oak leaves back towards the woods whichever direction the prevailing winds will allow that day, then getting the lawnmower out and mulching them into the woods.

Shredded leaves keep the cabbage patch tidy and weed free.
I have a good use for shredded leaves and I consider this a resource to be harvested.   I use the leaves as mulch for my raised beds and containers and find they make a big difference in weed suppression and moisture retention.  

Not only does mulch keep the soil cool and moist it
prevents rain water from splashing up onto plants.
These early, light and easily shredded species are the ones I want.  I string out the extension cord and get out the old Craftsman leaf sucker/blower. 

I can get about eight blower bags into a large leaf bag if I take the time to compact it a little.  My husband watched this process and suggested I run the leaves through the shredder a few more times.  That way they will be smaller pieces and less likely to blow around in the garden when I spread them as mulch next year.  I'd been thinking about trying that....

Eight blower bags of Maple leaves compacted and ready to tie up.

Another four blower bags of London Plane leaves.
It sure would be nice to get it all into one bag.
Four bags become two bags
Two bags become one bag
The first full garbage bag gets run through twice more and 
now all twelve are stored in one garbage bag!

There are plenty more where these came from.  The Maple tree by the firepit and three London Plane trees have just started turning and dropping.  I know there are a few other ways to do this.  Some people use the lawn mower to round them up and them put them in the compost pile.  Some people put them in a barrel and use a string trimmer to chop them.  

I like the leaf sucker.  For one thing with the amount of leaves pictured in the first photo, it only takes about two to three minutes to fill a blower bag.  Honestly the only real hassle is getting the extension cord strung out and then wrapped back up.  The actual chopping is really fun.  And then if I just dump the bags into the big wheelbarrow to accumulate the processing and bagging doesn't take much time either.  Then I have bags of nice dry leaves to work with next summer.

I stack the bags in the compost area until spring and then as needed dump them back out into the wheel barrow to fluff out a bit before filling a TubTrug with them to neatly apply them to a bed or container.

Last year sixteen blower bags got me through the season.  When I cleared a bed to plant a cover crop I used the shredder to pick up all of the leaves and move them to another bed for reuse.  I hope to get one or two more garbage bags stored then I will have a wealth of leaf mulch.