Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Happy Winter Solstice

 Today is my favorite date of the holiday season.  We have had a very mild early winter enabling me to poke around outside and take sunny walks most days.    Yesterday my husband brought his father's sled out of storage and I made a wreath from the landscape.  Now I am headed out to have lunch with two of my former co-workers.

A Happy Winter Solstice and a Good Yule to all of you.

Woodland Fox by JunkyDotCom
This was my Christmas card back in 2018.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Checking Dahlia Tubers and Waiting for Spring

 What do gardeners do all winter?  Think about gardening.  Wow, did that wind blow last night!  It flipped one of our heavy Amish patio chairs again.  No major trees down though, just a few branches.  The sun is peaking through today so I had to go and have a little garden walkabout.  Everything was too frozen to dig in though so I just wandered around.

So much potential there.

I still have lettuce growing under this heavy frost cloth!  Its a record!!!  We have eaten lettuce on Midwinter before, but it was picked weeks before.  Usually we lose the lettuce around the third week of November.  Yes, it has been mild, (when it isn't snowing) but we've had at least one night at 24 degrees F and that would usually do it in.  I think the difference is that the frost cloth is close to the plants rather than being up on the frame.  The bricks were frozen down this morning but...

A quick peak underneath shows happy green leaves.

I found some stray packets of tomato seeds in the basement with my seed starting gear.  I brought them out to the garden shed where my seed collection spends each winter going through its cold stratification.  The packets in the pocket on the left came in the mail this week.  They are celosia, snapdragons and marigolds.  Rather than scouring nurseries all over the countryside for the exact varieties I want I am going to try starting them myself this year.  

Today I checked on the dahlia tubers I have stored in the bulkhead.  I opened up each box and felt for moisture.  The vermiculite felt just right.

I uncovered some of the tubers and gave them a pinch.  They are not drying out at all and there are no signs of mold or other yuck.  I am really looking forward to dahlia season this year.

Yup, feels healthy and springy

So what am I doing to keep myself occupied in my first year of retirement?  Some days I am very busy and some days I sit in front of the computer.  My husband says he doesn't know how someone can sit at a computer that long... years of practice my friend,  Years!  only now its not forced.

Well, as far as what else has been going on, we got our vacuum cleaner fixed.  Its a Rainbow and its 32 years old.  The motor died, but we were lucky to get a new motor for it for about a third of the cost of a reconditioned unit.  We still have all the accessories and didn't need an upgrade.  We still have a vacuum repair place here in town.  While waiting for the vac to return, I used the carpet shampooer and also scrubbed  the grout lines in the kitchen.  I tried the new motor out yesterday and Wow!  Does it clean!  I think the old one was fairly worn out for awhile before it quit.

See, retirement isn't all fun and games

I remember one year when we were first dating my now husband got me jewelry for Christmas but initially thought he would get me a vacuum cleaner. We joked about that for years. Now, after 22 years I am super excited to get a new vacuum motor for Christmas!

Also, during my computer time - I ordered a bunch of seeds - natch.  I've only received one seed catalog in the mail so far. (!)  Last year they started arriving right after Thanksgiving.  But that didn't slow me down.  I am waiting for Longfield Gardens spring bulb ordering to open on the 15th. I want to get some Non-Stop Begonias for the whiskey barrel that doesn't get enough sun.  I have my Etsy cart full of Ranunculus corms.  That will be a new planting endeavor for me.

I spend a lot of time learning on Youtube and such.  Here are my favorite channels:
Not gardening, but also super interesting if you like historical living:  Townsends
Their latest video is about Gardening in the 18th Century

My favorite Podcast:  The Joe Gardener Show

Bill Alexander (he of the $64 Tomato) has a new book coming out in June.  I have it preordered and am counting the days.

So that's about it.  Its a beautiful sunny day out.  Still a bit windy.  If only the wind would quit I'd light a campfire and go sit outside with some hot cocoa.  When I came in from my walkabout, the sun was shining in the porch...

Monday, November 29, 2021

Lake Effect Snow

 It's a marshmallow world in the winter

When the snow comes to cover the ground

It's time for play, it's a whipped cream day

I wait for it the whole year 'round....

The good thing about Lake Effect Snow is that usually, the weather is otherwise pretty decent.  So you just put on some warm socks and tall boots and grab a shovel. 

 Its 32* and calm today.  And I am so happy that I did not have to get up in the dark and drive 9 miles before the plows came through.  In the past few years I can remember at least two drives into work where you did not linger for stoplights if you wanted to keep moving at all.  Usually the county roads were better so I had an "inclement weather route" which involved more county roads, and fewer hills.

Plowing happens before breakfast begins.  First you have to find the steps and move that snow to the driveway in reach of the loader.  Then it gets pushed back towards the woods.

I always admire all of the creative ideas for decorating entryways for Christmas, wheelbarrows full of greens, and life sized toy soldiers.   Around here we just use snow, snow and more snow.

I'm sure there are places even here in Western NY where the entry is sheltered enough to allow for some seasonal cheer.  But up here on the hill where the winds whip from every direction, they always deposit the most snow right between the side door and the two car garage.

If you choose not to find joy in snow, you will have a lot less joy in your life 
but still the same amount of snow.

This is the sort of magical Christmas snow that Frosty the Snowman is made of.
But I'm not quite that ambitious

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.