Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Redneck Christmas

You know it's going to be a redneck Christmas when Santa's wrapping up guns to go under the tree.  Seriously-- it's an annual family occurrence.  You see, Ed (my brother the farmer) is also an apprentice gunsmith on the side for kicks (note the pun-- totally unintentional).  He's a hunter, so he has guns to hunt with.  Plus he just likes learning about them, fixing and building them, and giving them as gifts.  I can almost guarantee each Christmas that someone's getting a gun under the family tree.  A few years ago, Joe and I both got guns for Christmas.  I feel like a complete bad ass whenever I say out loud, "I have a Kahr Arms 9 mm semi-automatic pistol" or "Yeah, Joe got a 9 mil Glock".  It seems weird to quote my 3-year olds while talking about gangster guns, but "For Real."  We are gun-owners.  A few days ago I went into a national chain store that sells hunting and fishing equipment.  The place does not sound unlike "Rubella," and right now does not feel much different than illness to me either.  I had to go check out a price on a shot gun my hubby mentioned ever-so-obviously on the top of his Christmas list.  I took a number at the gun counter.  Seriously, you have to take a number.  When the gun guy arrived to help number 411, I asked him to give me a price on the gun.  Well, wouldn't you know there are a zillion different versions of these bad boys.  So, to begin with he showed me the $650 version of the gun.  I said, "Actually, it's the one you had on sale a couple weeks ago for less than $200."  He picks up another one right away, as if he knew all along what I was looking for, but this was was a mere $400ish.  "Um, hold on a second."  And I call Ed right there at the counter.  "Ed, tell me exactly what I'm looking for here."  And he tells me.  And the guy picks up the gun I'm looking for, and while it still costs too much, it was the least expensive version of the gun, and of course the one I wanted a quote on.  I just KNOW the gun guy knew what I wanted, and yet I also know he completely took advantage of my gender and overall lack of knowledge about guns.  What a jerk.  I can't tell you how much at that moment I wished with every ounce of wishing power I had that I could "speak gun" and completely annihilate the man with my superior fire arm expertise, forcing him to seek a supervisor to help me with my most difficult questions.  Still, I was clueless, and I left the place without a gun.  His bad.  Actually, I ended up leaving there with an equally exciting-- well, to my spouse anyway-- object which I will not reveal here on the off chance (it's really totally unlikely actually) he should read this blog.  Sorry, Joe.  You'll have to wait for Christmas.

Oh, and just so you know, I never wanted a gun until my first Mothers Day arrived in Rochester, and Joe gave me a class on firearm safety as a gift.  No, I did not have a fire arm, but we lived in Rochester, and Joe traveled a lot, and we both thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a gun in the house.  I must say, the course, taught by both men and women, was awesome.  I learned so much and now feel much more comfortable around guns, which is good, since I expect to see at least one under the tree this year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pre-holiday 2010

Charlie finishing up a painted pine cone wreath.
Ruby working on one of TWELVE painted hollow egg ornaments.
Toothpick meatballs were among the things I made after 12 eggs were hollowed out.  If you have a favorite metball recipe, use it, grab a bunch of toothpicks, and set out a bunch of "dipping sauces."   The girls love these.   
NOT for kids.  Cranberry cordial in the making.  It should be ready for Christmas Eve.
Addie, Bubba, and Boogie.  Priceless.
Woodpile's usual hang out.  Yes, that's where he got his name.
The friendliest dog in the "whole wide city," Charlie tells me.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Baby Pies

It's like this.  You have no plan for the kids, you need a nap more than they do, the tv's been on all morning, and they want something cool and fun to do.  And they're hungry.  So get out the leftover single pie crust you saved from making that pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving-- you got a problem with me using Pillsbury crust?  Yeah, I know how to make crust from scratch, and a pretty darned good one too, but sometimes it's just nice to unroll a couldn't-be-easier-or-tastier dough boy and pop it in the dish just like that.  How many of you really make your own crust every time you bake a pie?  Wait-- how many of you ever really bake a pie?  Ha!  Got you there, didn't I?  So, where was I?  Oh, take out the leftover single crust and cut it into 6 equal pieces.  Squares, triangles, whatever.  Give each child their own flat piece.  Then give them whatever leftover jar of jam or jelly you have kicking around-- you can imagine there are a lot of choices in my house, so this part is rather fun.  Have them splat on a couple spoonfuls right in the middle of each crust, cut little slits in the non-jammed part of the crust, then fold those parts over to create a sort of pocket of jam.  Seal all the edges together.  Beat an egg, then let your kids "paint" the egg onto each baby pie such that all the crust is covered with egg.  Then let them sprinkle sugar on top too.  Bake it in the oven at 350 until the jam starts oozing out the little slits and the crust looks a lovely golden color-- about 15 minutes or so.  Take it out and let it sit for at least 15 more minutes.  The kids will want to eat their baby pies right away, but they'll be ridiculously hot for a while, so distract them with some less awesome unplanned activity while you wait.  While this is not the most nutritious snack in the world, it is a very special treat, and the girls were rather proud of themselves for making their own little pies with their own little hands.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Sunchoke Dilemma

Holly dropped off a beautiful sample of her winter CSA supply this weekend, including her recent post subject:  The Sunchoke.  Ah, the sunchoke.  As if I know what the heck to do with the little ugly root, also known as a "Jerusalem Artichoke."  No, it's nothing like an artichoke by looks or taste.  It is, however, high in iron and fiber, and it's flowers are lovely and belong to the daisy family.  Oh, and it's also known as an earth apple, which is weird, since in french a potato is called "pomme de terre," meaning "apple of the earth."  Anyway, I sensed a challenge when Holly said that neither she nor Jess (csa partner, blogger, and creator of the lovely items at Barefoot by the Sea) knew what to do with their sunchokes.  So what did I do?  I made pea soup, of course!

1 lb package of dry peas
12 cups water
1 small onion
2 carrots, chopped
4 Tbs butter
1.5 tsp salt
.5 tsp pepper
1 or 2 ham hocks
3 peeled sunchokes

Rinse peas, then combine them with water, onion, carrots, butter, and hocks.  Cover and heat to boiling for 30 minutes.  Then add salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 20 more minutes.  Add grated sunchokes (I used a small cheese grater) to the soup and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  This leaves the sunchokes tender but not soft and adds texture to your soup.  Hocks can be removed and boned, the ham placed back into the soup.  Cook it up until it's at the consistency you desire.  We love pea soup at our house.  Well, Joe and I love it, and the girls are in training.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

...and the weekend's not even over!

We called around to make sure everyone's chickens were still living before we realized that Boogie had gotten into some red stain.  Oh, puppy.  

The girls' tunnel will never get old.  They've loved it since they were a year old!
Here's the set-up at my first-ever try at selling jam at a local fair.  I had a great time!
Good friends taking a break from tree-hunting at Boiling Springs tree farm in Dayton.
Ruby really takes after her father...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Today I mastered the quadruple batch.  That is to say that I successfully made 32 jars of  jam in one pot, then processed the jars in two baths.  "Success" means that the jam jelled properly, the lids sealed as they should, and it tasted so yummy that I talked to myself at length about how good it was while scooping spoonful after spoonful from the bottom of the leftover jar straight into my mouth.  What are you doing making jam in November, you ask?  Your raspberries don't live through the late fall frost?  Neither do mine.  These are local frozen berries, of course.  Enough to make a bunch of jars for holiday gifts and this weekend's upcoming holiday fair at the Dayton School.  Yep, I'm actually participating in a local fair.  Oooo-eeee!  I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Photo 2010

I originally had visions of dressing our three girls in cute white cable knit sweaters, kahki pants, and little girly hiking boots-- oh, and matching pig-tails. I'd bring them to the beach, a peaceful drive of course, and I'd set up something formal-- they'd be smiling as if totally restful, looking longingly toward the horizon, thinking deep 3 and 4 year old thoughts all the while.  Needless to say, I didn't even get as far as "Go get your sweaters on."  It was a dress-yourself free-for-all in the house this morning, after which Erin and I toted the girls, including Althea, Erin's cutest-ever 1-year-old, out to Devin's camp site for some Christmas card hopefuls.  Here are the results.  Let me know which one you like the best, if any.

And here are lovely Erin and Thea-Thea, which sounds like "FiFi" when my girls say her name.  It was a beautiful day for a walk, and Thea's a good little tree-climber!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Winter Project 1

You know that winter's pretty much here when I start a series of unnecessary projects around the house.  Here's the first.

I never ended up liking the light fixtures I picked out for the kitchen in our house 2 years ago when the place was built.  Specifically, I hated the one above our dining room table.  So, when the kids were in their most wild mid-afternoon craze, I upped and turned off the power in the whole house, not really knowing which individual breaker to switch for the one light.  I took apart the fixture, removed the light bulb and the socket in its entirety, and waited for Joe to get home.  Poor guy.  He gets in and I say, "Ok, honey.  I have this great idea about replacing our kitchen light fixtures with big old ball jars.  What do you think?"  He took one look at what I had done and promptly replaced the light bulb part of the fixture, then turned the power back on.  Oh, he also drilled a whole in a wide-mouth ball jar cover and added a screw top lid to the fixture in case I decided to randomly decide on a jar while he wasn't looking.  I know it's hard to believe, but this already looks better than what was there before:

Next, I hopped in the van on a cold and rainy Monday, kids in tow, and ran up to Peter Snell's antique place on route 202 in Hollis Center.  Now, if you've ever driven by the place, you might not guess it to be the kind of spot where you'd find fine art or other beautiful vintage items.  On the contrary, however, (I always wanted to say that!), the acreage of beat-up trailers, broken-down dump trucks, and other modes of ugly storage is jam-packed (note use of "jam") with tons and tons of old and perfect items.  From old windows to ladders, tools to toys, furniture to jars, it is a picker's dream.  Yeah, I stole that term right off my favorite tv show, American Pickers.  So I drove the van around the dirt roads that wind about the place and right up to the little trailer I know to be filled with antique jars.  Ball jars, clear, green, blue, you name it.  Malted milk jugs, mustard jars, liniment jars, all kinds of funky old glass stuff.  It was awesome.  I bribed the girls with their own individual sticks of gum while they waited for me on the steps of the trailer.  Oh, and by the way, Peter Snell mentioned that American Pickers will be featuring his place in August next year!  How cool is that?  That practically makes me famous!  Enough about my fame.  This is what I brought home:

And this is what I did before Joe arrived home from work on the same afternoon.  The photo's not great, but I'm telling you, I love it!  I can't wait to use a couple more of the jars to do the island lights in the kitchen.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Rubys

Well, I wasn't sure just how to spell that since the Rubys I'm talking about are two little girls' names.  So is it Rubies?  I don't think so.  I'm going to make up my own rule on this one and go with "Rubys."  Anyway, before I get to the two Rubys, here's the back story.  A couple weeks after Charlie and Ruby were born, we learned that Ruby's aorta was too narrow in one spot for blood to get through the way it is supposed to.  Without getting into too much detail here, the aorta is the big important artery that runs from the heart to other important parts of the body.  The doc decided that Ruby ought to have this narrow piece of her aorta removed, and the wide parts sewn back together.  Thus, when Ruby was 4 weeks old, she had heart surgery to repair a coarctation of the aorta.

When you have a baby who stays at the Barbara Bush wing at Maine Medical Center in Portland, at least where Ruby was located, you share a room with at least one other baby and her family, if not a few other babies and families.  We happened to share our hospital room with another Ruby and her parents.  Two Rubys?  Ruby R. is 4 months older than Charlie and our Ruby, yet when we met she was just a tiny thing.  She had an esophageal condition which prevented her from being able to keep food down in any way.  She was hungry all the time, and her parents couldn't do anything to help her.  Everything she ate would come back up.  I mean everything.  So, the two Ruby's were repaired, and our families have stayed in touch ever since.  We get together at least once a year, as we truly believe our friendship was meant to be.  This year, Meghan, Ruby, and baby Ramona (a year old!) came down for our annual play date, and the kids acted as if they see each other every day.  The Ruby's always end up in cahoots, as if they understand at the age of 3 that they have a common bond.  I'm telling you-- meant to be.  And yes, both girls are super-healthy now.

Can you pick out the twins in this photo?  It's getting harder and harder to tell!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Selling Jam

It turns out selling jam online isn't such a tough thing to do after all.  Well, the process of getting your product online for the purpose of selling to the general public isn't such a big deal.  Getting customers and marketing yourself is another thing.  I was killing myself trying to figure out how to put a stupid shopping cart on my (very basic) web site.  It turns out, if you go through a big name web-building company, they make everything to the super-under-educated web builder extremely easy.  However, it costs way more money than you want it to.  So, I went for linking my page (and this blog) to a little Etsy site where I can give a shot at selling some stuff without putting up (excuse the pun) a lot of cashola.  Besides, we really need any Dam Jam money to buy jars and sugar right now.  The holidays are coming after all!  Anyway, Etsy was super-easy to set up, and I'm also rather into sitting around and looking at everyone's little Etsy shops.  It's like when I was first introduced to Facebook.  Oh. My. God.  It was incredible how many people I could be in touch with so suddenly.  I'm still amazed by it really, but I'm more in the maintenance phase of Facebooking now.  It's our second stage of the relationship.  Etsy-- I'm in love.  I want to buy all my Christmas presents there, and I selfishly want all my gifts to come from Etsy as well. Wait, maybe not the kick-ass produce scale I hope my husband will try to surprise me with.  I know, it's a weird thing to get excited about, but that's my world now.  So, if you haven't already, check out my try at selling jam on the World Wide Web.  I love calling it that.

Oh, and so you don't think that ALL I do is sit around and surf Etsy for jewelry, art, and funky vintage stuff while the girls are locked in the basement all day, here is proof that we have left the house recently.

3 girls SO happy to be finished planting bulbs

Ruby showing off her new $2 church fair hat.  Seriously.  2 bucks.

Leaf woman playing her leaf guitar, or maybe it's a violin


Monday, November 1, 2010

Cranberries, 2010

Last year I froze 20 pounds of local cranberries and ran out of them in April.  Cranberry bread, cranberry jam, cranberry sauce, more cranberry bread.  Mostly cranberry bread.  This year I'm making loads of sauce for the holidays, so I opted to freeze 50 pounds of the little gems.  Old Grey Beaver Farm  is a beautiful old place in Kennebunk on route 35.  Bob Nest and his wife sell the berries from their garage by the pound, as well as in the form of cran-apple juice-- they team up with Giles Orchard for the juice.  They also sell at other local farmstands, including Anderson Farms of course.  These berries are large, and red, and beautiful.  The girls and I occasionally try to eat them raw, but I admit we usually opt for cooking them with honey or sugar in some way.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bird dogs, Bird Eggs, and Bird Guts (you've been warned)

Bubba truly believes he can climb this tree to follow the nut hatch.  With his whole being  he believes it. 

Joe worked so hard making sure there was enough room for all the chickens to lay eggs.  Still, each day we find all the eggs in one box.  Maybe we need more chickens...

And turkey season begins.  I love the unintentional Deliverance thing going on here.  I have to admit, and sorry to all you veggies out there, our family ate this bird the very day Joe took its life. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saving Seeds

I've been attempting to dry sunflower seeds in order to eat them.  Some people leave the flowers right up on the stems to dry, then cut them off when the seeds are dry enough to fall off on their own.  Others cut the flowers from the stems when they are still, well, flowers, then let them dry in the sun or inside in a dry place.  I've split up half the flowers to try both methods.  However, I already understand that unless you live in a land where no birds, rodents, or other wildlife live, which would really then also be a place where sunflowers probably wouldn't grow, you just can't let the suckers dry outside on their own.  The zillion birds picking off every last seed of those helpless flowers are set for several winters as far as I'm concerned.  So, I'm going with the indoor-drying method for sure.  We don't have the bird issue inside of course, but I must say the seeds have been tough for Boogie to avoid.  The new pup eats everything.  I loved this when it meant I could throw Joe's ridiculously old Teva's out in the front yard and know they would be shredded in a matter of minutes.  However, I did not enjoy coming home to the total destruction of every couch pillow, along with the actual couch arm itself.  Ugh.  Anyway, back to the seeds.  I rinsed off the first batch of seeds, put them in a pint jar filled with water and half a cup of salt, then let it set overnight.  Then I roasted them on a cookie sheet, not unlike pumpkin seeds, for 4 hours at 250 degrees.  They came out just fine, like you'd expect home grown seeds to taste.  A little less salty than when you get them in the store, and a bit smaller too.  But do they look gorgeous in a jar!  Matt and I prepared some more tonight during happy hour (aka unplanned-opportunity-to-get-together-for-a-beverage).  I'll add more salt during the roasting process, then put them in jars to eat later on or give away.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Monarch Release '10

Well, we finally felt like the poor lonesome monarch ought to have a chance to fly free into the cruel world of birds, bats, and our own butterfly-chasing dogs.   So we opened the jar and let her go.  What she did next was stick to Addie for about an hour, then crawl back into the jar, before bravely creeping out again and flying away while we were off at the grocery store.  At least that's what I hope happened.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Butterfly Life Cycle: Article with Lots of Pictures
We actually got to see this happen this morning in our make-shift, temporary butterfly home.  Charlie wanted to name her Charlotte, Addie chose Alice, and Ruby liked Henrietta.  I am a fan of Henrietta myself, but we're pretty much calling her Monarch.  The photo above is courtesy of thebutterflysite.com.  Here's the "live" version of our new little one.




Sunday, October 3, 2010

Jar Swap, 2010

We had a terrific turn out for our first ever Jar Swap--  yes, I capitalized it.  I should probably come up with a different name for the actual event though.  Jar Jam?  Jar Bar?  Extravajarza?  Jar Swap will suffice for now.  Fifteen of my favorite local ladies showed up with 15 of whatever they had processed in jars to share with the masses.  Everyone was so proud of their accomplishments-- especially our first-time canners-- and with good reason!  Check out the results:

What we have here is a batch each of stewed tomatoes (grown and made by the farmer herself), apple pie filling, hot pickles, zucchini relish, cinnamon apple jelly, cranberry-apple jam, raspberry jam, chunky apple sauce, peach salsa, cinnamon apple butter, pesto, caramel sauce, hot plum-pepper jam, marinara sauce (thanks, Mom!), and caramel corn (in a jar, gone in moments).  A nice variety of seasonal local fruits and veggies.  The whole process was truly a highlight of my year.  Who knows what next year's swap will bring?  Regulars at the farm-stand have been jealous hearing about the event.  No, really, they have.  I even had one lady tell me on Friday that she was going to show up to my house with 15 jars of canned stew and hope she could snag a few jars of everyone else's stuff on the spot.  I told her I'd trade with her instead.  Besides, she doesn't know where I live. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Plum Crazy

Erin thought I ought to name this stuff "Plum Crazy," but I decided to go with "Hot Plum Pepper Jam" instead.  That way people know what it is.  Inspired by Under the High Chair's 2009 Jam Swap, I invited 15 of my favorite locals to a jar swap, to be held this Friday.  Rather than do my recent favorite, Peach Habanero, I decided to make up this new little plum ditty just for the ladies at the swap.  Actually, I do like that name:  "Plum Ditty."  Maybe I'll go with that instead.  Who cares if they know what it is.  They'll figure out it's hot when they spread a big spoonful onto their toast some early morning.  Here's the process: