Thursday, September 04, 2014

Patience.

Since the north paw* is still on the mend, I'm doing my best to take it easy.  Occasionally I'll whack my hand, or touch something on the keyboard just right to make me cringe.  Happily, though, I'm not being woken up by the pain anymore.

Tried knitting some swatches recently, but that bothered me, so laid off.   The moratorium isn't too bad as it's causing me to look for other things to work on, like messing with watercolors, taking pictures or playing with the sewing machine.  I do miss knitting, though.

* As lefties are called "southpaws," I'm assuming that a rightie is a "northpaw."  I've never heard that term used before, though.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Cicadas.

Birds and bats don't buzz humans like the cicadas do, especially during daylight. It's unnerving, but nothing that one can't get used to.
Tonight, after dinner, had a little one buzz its way behind a screen on the back porch. I worked for a bit to get the poor confused, and probably immature thing dislodged. Finally just left it where it was, with enough room for it to figure out how to exit.
"I'd never be able to do that," housemate marveled.

"Do what?""Touch that insect like you did.""Oh, Pshaw. It's not venomous, so what's there to be afraid of? Besides, you do understand that I have a background in etymology."

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Easy to Overcome Obstacles.

Ooch - had a weird accident that broke my right pinky and sprained the same-hand ring finger. 
As I’m left-handed, generally just pooh-pooh the right hand. This is a humbling experience, in that I’m learning just how useful my right hand is.  The vast majority of piano music favors the right hand.  Knitting's possible, but difficult if one's working on a large project, even for the minor hand.  Opening Jars Kills.  Then, there's typing.  Ooch.   (Hurts to stop sentences, for example. Don’t even get me started on how many words end in P or L or M … gritting teeth.)  As stuff heals, I remember that there are folks who've lost so much more than I have, and permanently.

Since I couldn't knit very well, dyed stuff.  Didn't think that I was too pleased with the results until I started turning the hanks into balls.

Have also found that the new colors (tea dyed natural aran wool over dyed with various food colorings) play incredibly well with navy blue or brown.  
Food wise, it's been tough, as I'm the main shopper / cook.  We've been eating a lot of chops and steaks with broiled onions, as this stuff's low - prep.  
Have you ever tried a whole broiled onion?  Easy to fix:  just cut the ends off, peel the top layer of skin,  place on a piece of foil (or better yet - parchment - ran out of foil tonight, so tried the paper.  Wow.  Stuff caramelizes, as opposed to steams), then give a dollop of butter or bacon grease.  Seal and put in oven to broil.  When it's soft, it's ready.  Wicked good stuff.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Maintenance.

Did a number on my back yesterday while tackling the task of taking care of the grounds of the Spring Hill Grange.  Last night's hot bath helped, as did the Icy Hot treatment.  Sleep was still disturbed, though, since moving wrong in bed would wake me up.

Today, mostly confined myself to Indoors.  Dyed some wool, did a lot of laundry, cleaned.  Stretched.  Did what passes for me as meditation.

Hate feeling so tired.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better.  (Just heard some thunder; thought I saw lightning.  Maybe that will help things.  We really need rain.)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dynamic Stationery.

Am getting back to my old habit of actually writing letters.  Am ashamed to not have responded to a long one (30 pages) from a long-standing friend who I hope to meet one day in real life.  Anyway - letter-writing paper's in short supply and can cost a fortune for a large letter-writer. 

Decided to tinker with some printer paper and an old set of watercolors to start towards getting to speed with my girlfriend from Away.  I think that I have packed away in the boxes down below, both a paper cutter and some better quality than the copier stuff that we run through the printer.

Kind of like my results.


Jams and Jellies, ii

For the inexpensive fruits at market that I just can't resist buying in quantity, I use this basic recipe:

3/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of either fruit or juice.

For each six cups of fruit/sugar mix, I add either two tablespoons of lemon juice, or 1/2 a squeezed lemon, peel and all into the pot (the fruit makes a nice treat after being fished from the recipe and cooled for a bit).

Wash fruit, pit and peel.  Slice up and pack into measuring cups.  Mix with the proper ratio of sugar and lemon juice.

Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil.  Turn heat down.  If foam's a problem, skim it (have found it a huge problem with berries; not so much with stone fruits or apple juice).

When the mixture starts to gel (my best gauge is seeing how it runs off the spoon - if it doesn't drip like water, but rather sits for a couple seconds, then drips slowly from two sides of the spoon. You can feel it.  There are references for this stuff online, too.  Google "Soft Gel Stage," for example.), usually after 25-40 min, turn heat off, fish out lemon peels (if you used a whole lemon), spoon into sterilized jars and seal.

Part of this year's peach batch

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Jams and Jellies, i

This year, despite the cool temperatures, production's been pretty good.  Since Spring, I've put up a dozen or so jars of each of several different kinds of jams and jellies, mainly for gift-giving.  We don't eat a lot of sugary stuff.

Now, I have a whole politic / philosophy around the fruit used for preserving:  it has to be good, but not so good that one would rather eat it raw.  It also has to be cheap.  For this reason, I almost never use local stuff, unless I've foraged it.  We have such a short growing season in New England, that the fruits and veggies that we do have are *precious.*  For example:  I am totally willing to pay $6+ for a quart of local strawberries, but not to boil them for 1/2 an hour or more with sugar.  That stuff gets eaten raw.  However:  when the grocery stores start selling the California or Florida berries at maybe $1.50 - $2 / quart, I'm all over these deals.   Though it isn't my favorite, I like to make a lot of strawberry jam, as my friends seem to like it a lot.

Same goes for the peaches.  Gosh, how I miss my old place on Winter Hill with the weird, bug-bitten peach tree in the neighbor's yard.  Despite our best efforts, the fruit was more or less inedible unless cooked.  We made such good jam, cakes, pies and other pastries from those rock-hard fruits, though.  Maybe New England isn't Peach territory?  I would someday like to visit points further south (like Georgia, for example), to sample the fruit in season.  That not being possible right now, have sort of just resigned myself to the stuff that goes from rock-hard to moldy mush in as little as an afternoon.  At peak transport season, however, those rock-hard peaches for for something like $.70 / lb.  Prime Jam Fodder.

Jam time for me is dependent on the value of the bargain fruit, the price of sugar, whether or not I have enough jam jars / lids, and my energy levels.  When all of this comes together, am happy to spend a good day in the kitchen, even in mid-Summer, to make what becomes my main holiday gifts.

Apple Wine and Strawberry Jam.  My recipe for the jam's pretty well established, now.  The wine one needs tweaking, though.

A very interesting read:  Virginia Postrel's take on how both local food and trucked in stuff can (and should) happily cohabitate.  Please enjoy.