Monthly Archives: September 2009

hump day nuggets: the harvest

hump day nuggets: little bits of the season in photos and (few) words about the last weekIt’s fall. Yes, the equinox was several weeks ago but tonight we will have our first hard freeze with the expected low at 28. Today I am home with bug and it is a good day to be home, pulling up and hanging all those tomato plants heavy with green fruit, making pesto, applesauce. Sipping hot beverages with npr humming in the back ground. Preparing, physically and emotionally, for this next season of stews and hearty bread, dinner at a reasonable hour, thick sweaters and boots, down comforters. Closing up our house, tucking in our garden. Bye dirt! Margot said the other day as we left the garden with arm fulls of food. Yep, one more turn of the shovel for garlic and then bye dirt until March. My garden was a bit neglected this year and my harvest is proof. It’s ok though, I am happy with the choices I made instead of spending those much-loved long, hot days pulling weeds, pruning tomatoes and applying fish emulsion. I have been more tired with this pregnancy and honestly just didn’t have the energy I usually have. I spent my summer walking about the yard, pushing bug in swings, dipping toes in the river and being with pals. There were occasional sprints of weeding and tending but, really, not so much. But, next spring! And so, some harvesty nuggets: :: Pumpkins! Margot is so so proud of her pumpkins. Mama oh boy! She hugs the big one. :: Every year I want to dry herbs and never have. And then the thin, white blanket of frost kills my ambition. But this year, I did it and will be so thankful all winter. Rosemary, parsley, basil, oregano, sage, thyme and tarragon. :: Puny onions and beets. The soil is beautiful so I am not sure what went wrong here. Perhaps inconsistent watering as I don’t have these beds on a timer… :: But a good carrot, cabbage, tomato, squash and pepper year. :: Baskets full of food from my back yard. Really, it makes my heart pound audibly in my ears. I love it so. :: A shared harvest: pickle chips from my friend Finny made the trek from the still-warm northern California. :: Our neighbor gives us free reign on his apple and plum trees. Every summer I try to hide my obnoxious eagerness to get in his fence to harvest, peeking over our fence when I know he isn’t home desperately trying to spy a ripe plum. And this year, I missed the window, or, rather, the squirrels sensed my hot potato feet and beat me to it. Six plums is all we got. We usually get buckets full. But the apples are gorgeous. :: Fresh flowers in the bedroom. :: And in the kitchen. :: The grape harvest earlier this week. :: Bug LOVES strawberries and says strawberries? in the most pleadingly sweet tone. She won’t even have one in her mouth before she says more please? And today, I believe is the end of our strawberries. Chicken ate the last three with such glee. :: Finally planted the perfect amount of basil. I usually have a basil forest. Pesto! :: Bug loves bugs. And, no, this nugget isn’t about harvest. She doesn’t eat the bugs. She just holds them gently. Our box elder colony keeps her entertained for many minutes. :: And, of course, all of this harvest is about what it becomes. A staple in our house: beet carrot soup. Super easy and tastes exactly like fall. 2 tablespoons olive oilone onion, chopped4-5 beets, chopped4-5 carrots, chopped5 cloves garlic, mincedwater or stocksalt and pepperan empty belly *Also fabulous with ginger but Andy isn’t such a fan so I leave it out* Heat olive oil in pot, add onion and cook for a minute, until soft. Add beets and carrots and cook for five minutes. Add a few cups of water or stock. Cover, simmer until *just* soft. The less you cook, the more flavorful the veggies are. Throw in garlic and blend with immersion blender or regular ole blender. Season and eat. Read more on hump day nuggets: the harvest…
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why I can’t wait

I can’t wait to be home with my kids. That is a super loaded sentence. One I sometimes feel like I needed to justify or defend, to follow that sentence with but I plan to also nurture some creative endeavors and write and do development consulting blah blah blah so the receiver of the information doesn’t perhaps conjure up the image of me as a stay-at-home-mom. Even though I will be….but I hate the stereotype of a woman wholly defined by her children. Whose stereotype is that anyway? None of my close friends model it. I am embarrassed to admit that I think it was my own some time long ago and I am not sure where it came from…Perhaps it grew out of my own uncertainty about having kids. Since I had Margot nearly two years ago, I have enjoyed making it work well: the career and the home. I give my kid a lot. I give a lot to my career. I give a lot to my man and my friends and my family. And I save some some for myself. And part of me is afraid of changing that model. Or maybe I am just mourning the loss of that model. It has worked really well for me until now. I am nervous about what the change will mean to my girls, my colleagues, my friends. It is freaky to redefine how you answer the question what do you do? and I find that I have this canned answer explaining how I will still move through the world just as thoughtfully and productively as I do now. But, you know, I have always had a stump speech about this working mom question. What do you do? Right now when I talk about my work at the museum it inevitably leads to so you work full-time? I then say yes. But Margot came to work with me for a year and she is only in daycare three days a week and and…because I am afraid of that stereotype too. But I have been slowly discovering a really liberating notion: to not give a shit about what others could think about my choices, particularly my parenting choices. It has been a journey but I am there. Or, closer. How boring would it be if all women made the same choices? And how beautiful is it that we have so many choices? I can’t wait to be home with my kids. And whatever else also comes out of it or doesn’t, I just can’t wait to be home with my kids. I am so fortunate. I can’t wait to not feel like I have to be hyper-productive in every sliver of free time away from my job. That every day will be flexible, defined by what I choose to do with two vibrant girls by my side teaching me humility and patience and a love I never even knew existed. That I can say yes to lunch dates on Tuesdays and hikes on Thursday mornings. That I can be spontaneous because the work I have to get done just needs to get done at some point. When Margot was one I cut one day out of my work week. Mondays it is just my bug and me. It is in quiet moments on Mondays that I know, in a rich and awakening way, how lucky I am to be Margot Bea’s mama. And today I just reveled in my awareness of what my life will be like. This morning bug and I headed up to our dear friend’s farm for the annual grape harvest along with two friends and their daughters. There were dozens of Missoulians buzzing about the vineyard, filling yellow tubs with grapes. A thick breeze snuggled us into a row as we chatted over hearty clumps of organic fruit. The Rattlesnake Valley was twinkling. It was all so simple. Really, it was everything I want in life: community, camaraderie, dirty hands, happy kids, an awareness of myself on the planet. After harvest, we ate good food and after that Margot and Moana got down with a perfectly placed string of mud puddles. I didn’t have any where to be but there. Margot announced she had to pee after watching Moana do so and proudly peed in some knapweed and then I scooped my muddy chicken into the car where she fell asleep and this Ben Harper/Jack Johnson song from one of Margot’s cds came on. I can change the world. With my own two hands. Make it a better place. With my own two hands…I can reach out to you with my own two hands… and I just understood myself, my current path. Jack and Ben helped me have a moment of clarity. There are so many ways I can change the world. And positive change is almost wholly about mindful intention. I am a mama. All else I care about remains and actually has new importance but now, right now, I have the high charge of raising two conscientious, open, engaged, loving and passionate girls. And I just want to give it my everything. Being a mama demands that I exhibit what it is to be a conscientious, open, engaged, loving and passionate person. It demands I nurture myself and my own interests if I want my girls to do the same. I can’t wait to be home with my kids. Because one day, relatively soon, I will send my kids off with more frequency and longer duration until I eventually I say goodbye for months at a time. I don’t know what that will look like but I know what now is and I don’t want to miss any of it. I can’t wait to spend my days, with two girls, baking, learning, sewing, running, resting, gardening, dirtying, cleaning, singing, writing, playing, dancing, problem solving, reading, existing. As a Mama with intention. Living fully. And I get to just figure it out as I go. Read more on why I can’t wait…
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humpedy hump hump

hump day nuggets: little bits of the season in photos and (few) words about the last week :: New bedroom. Ah paint. $30 and one day (with the help of my ma in law) and my whole world is transformed. Our room was a coral color that I liked for a hot second but have not liked for more than a year and when the quilt was finished and I became impregnated last spring, the painting of our room moved to the top of my to-do list. I wanted my walls to be the color of sleep. We will be having our baby in this room or perhaps a tub in the kitchen. In seven weeks, give or take. More on my birth plans later. after. oh.before. blech. :: I really want to get Margot a play kitchen for her birthday. This kitchen to be exact. And after Andy and I had a frank discussion about our finances last week, we developed a thrifty budget which doesn’t allow for such purchases. We made a pledge: all gifts this holiday season will to be made by our hands or bartered for or found. And, really now, my man doesn’t have time to make a kitchen so I let it go and moved onto my other plans of handmade dolls and cars and cookies and such. AND THEN. THEN I got an e mail from a potential dig sponsor who gave me links to her company’s site. And after a few email exchanges, they are sending me this KidKraft kitchen, the VERY kitchen I crave, in trade for a few links and a product review. I can’t believe it. Too perfect. I feel so lucky. Thanks universe for giving my girl a super sweet red kitchen this December. :: Andy’s mom visited last weekend and it was divine. :: A while back, a dig reader wrote to ask if I’d like her sewing machine. Seriously? An older, metal Pfaff. Really, for the most part, people amaze me with their niceness. Yes please! I replied. Cause you know I sew with an ancient Singer feather weight and while I love love its simplicity and nostalgia (inherited the beauty from my grandma and my mom and I both learned to sew on it), it is limiting. And Jacqui just sent me the machine and it has sat for months waiting for me to figure it out. And on Monday I did. What took me so long? I have a zig zag stitch friends! And an automatic needle threader thingie! woot. THANK YOU Jacqui. :: Alice is tired of elmo and thought he deserved a resting place in the back yard but her burying skills couldn’t disguise that neon red fur and bright white eyeball. :: Margot is now speaking sentences which is just totally amazing to me. Hands down, her two favorite songs right now are Feist singing 1234 on sesame street (she calls it chicken four) and twinkle twinkle little star (she calls is tinkle star). At least 18 times a day she says, tinkle star please mama peeeeeeeezzzzze and then I sing and if anyone else in in the room she interrupts me by saying papa star or chelci star or neysa star because she insists everyone sings together. It brings her such overwhelming joy I think sometimes she forgets to breathe. And then she sings and she says tinkle star (really really high) whatcha are (exactly like sarah palin) aaahupahbothe tinkle star (dropping dramatically low). Approximately 18 times a day. And what does this have to do with photos of her helping make pie? Nothing. But they’re cute photos. :: And, the best for last. Four years of marriage with my man (and 12 years together). I love him more than ever. I love that I knew him when we were awkward teenagers. We met when we were 13. I love that I knew him when everything we owned fit in our 1983 rabbit and then our 1987 cutlass supreme, futon coiled on the roof and we hopped from Missoula to Jackson to Red Lodge following seasons. I love that I knew him through college and after when we were different people but happened to have grown beautifully together. I love his brain and his talent. I love his heart. I love him as a papa. To quote one of my favorite bloggers: I just love him to the moon and back. Alice was our flower girl, photo by Ici Schemmphoto by Paige Green Read more on humpedy hump hump…
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hump day nuggets: strawberry pillows

Soaking up every last bit of summer with backyard dining. Ashamedly, we don’t do this enough. Because often in the evenings, at the wind down from a busy day, food has one job: to feed us so we can move on. It appears easier for the family to gather around the kitchen table. But, really now, it isn’t hard at all to go outside. And everything seems slower and more thoughtful when eating outside. Dinner straight from the garden. I devoured this salad: shredded beets and carrots with parsley and chives. Margot loves tomatoes but sungold tomatoes only. And, while she can say tomato, she calls them strawberries or pillows. My little poet. Walks to Benson’s Farm, our neighborhood farm that exists in the middle of houses and businesses and busy traffic on Reserve Street. This family just won’t sell and I love that. And I doubly love their corn. We preserved (froze) six quarts last weekend. And eaten corn like every other night. Read like Forrest Gump talking about shrimp: corn chowder, corn and tomato pasta, just straight up corn, corn on the cob, corn off the cob… And the chickens love the cobs. Bug in the bath. Really now. I love this girl. Me as a saguaro cactus while dining with friends on a Montana river. And I was the one not drinking…drunk on life, friends. photo by bff Anne Hughes. I think I have a new profile picture. Read more on hump day nuggets: strawberry pillows…
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how to can stuff (high acid)

So enough of you have asked that here I am doing a wee canning tutorial. And wow, it took a few weeks get it up…canning is a lot of work but then documenting the process is a beast unto itself. It really is easy I swear and not at all scary. Our country tends to be extra freaky about worst case scenario stuff and while botulism is real, it is rare if you preserve correctly. And it’s not hard to preserve correctly. So weeeeeeeee! here we go. There are two main categories of canning: low acid and high acid. High acid foods (pH of 4.6 or less) include fruits, tomatoes, salsas, pickles, relishes, chutneys, etc. These foods contain enough acid where botulism spores cannot grow and they can be safely canned with the boiling-water canner. Low acid foods (more than 4.6) include unpickled veggies and meats. If you can low acid items, you need a pressure cooker to reach high temperatures and kill those nasty spores. I am only going to talk about the canning of high acid foods in a boiling-water canner, using my peach butter recipe as my example. Things you need:Ball Blue Book of Preservingcanning tongsregular ole tongsboiling-water cannersoup potjars, rings and lids (jars and rings can totally be old. doesn’t matter a lick)canning funnel (I lived without this for years until santa put one in my sock last year. Thanks, santa, for making this girl’s life way easier.)ascorbic acid (vitamin c) to preserve color (optional)clean dish towelhot padteaspoonimmersion blender or blender or food processor 1.Get good produce. The flavor will be much better with good food. I preserve local food either from my garden or a farmer. It’s been recently picked and not refrigerated and I get warm and fuzzy feeling about supporting my neighbors. If you must purchase produce from a non-local source, taste it and get delicious stuff that’s in season! 2.Set aside a three hour chunk where you will have a clean kitchen and time to concentrate. You can multi-task later, when you are a canning expert. It’s not like it requires so much attention that you need to wait until your kids are napping (although, especially for the first time, it might be nice) but just don’t go starting this process while you are preparing dinner for 12 or you are tired or have a strict time line for when you must be done. Lots of swears is what you will likely wind up with. You may also divide into two days with day one involving fruit preparation and day two involving the canning. This is nice. You could do steps 3-4 one afternoon, enjoy a martini and 5-8 the following morning. 3.Prepare your fruit. Look at the Ball Book for what to do, the instructions in there are super simple and easy. For example, with peaches, they need to be blanched, peeled and pitted. My set up for this involves: a soup pot on the stove with about three-four inches of boiling water; a big bowl half-full of ice water; another big bowl 3/4 full of cold water with a teaspoon of ascorbic acid mixed in. I place about six peaches in the boiling water for about 45 seconds and then remove with kitchen tongs and place in ice water bowl. The goal here is to cook just the skin do it is loosened over the still-firm peach flesh and then it just flies off the fruit. Using a sharp little knife, I peel the fruit. It comes off in a snap, often just using my thumb. Then, halve the peaches, pitch the pit and place perfect peach halves in the ascorbic acid water. Keep it up until you are all done! left to right: cool water with ascorbic acid, ice water, bowls for pits and skins (chickens love the skins!), boiling water peaches boiled for a minute (blanched) and then removed with tongsand then placed in ice water bath and then peeled, halved and pits removed and then placed in ascorbic acid-water mixture 4.Strain the prepared fruit and place in soup pot and cook on low, stirring pretty regularly. For the peach butter, I cook until the peaches have softened a bit and then I puree with an immersion blender. Add sugar, spices etc. One large soup pot will hold 20 pounds of peaches and I add two cups of sugar. I cook until thick and mounds up on a teaspoon. It takes about a two hours. Remember, when your food cools, it will be less runny than when hot. One way to test the mounding-ness on a spoon is to place a spoonful in the freezer for a minute. the water seen in this photo is the peach juice that we will cook off, not the water the peach halves were soaking in (that was strained off before placing in pot) I find it easiest to have the jars on the right burner and the fruit on the left burner. My counter is on the left as well. 5.About 15 minutes before the fruit is finished, fill the boiling-water canner with jars, lids and rings and enough water to cover your jars with one-two inches of water. Bring to a boil. When boiling, turn heat off and gather both sets of tongs, ladle, funnel, towel and hot pad. jars, lids and rings in boiling-water canner 6.Remove a jar from hot water with canning tongs and place on counter next to pot of fruit with the funnel in place. Ladle out the hot fruit into the hot jar leaving appropriate head space. For my butter, it is 1/4 inch which is pretty standard for jams, butters, jellies and whatnot. The recipe you use will tell you how much space to leave. remove jar from hot water, place funnel and ladle in hot butter 1/4″ head space remove a lid and ring with tongs and tighten on jar Be sure the rim of jar is squeaky clean. Wipe with damp towel if necessary. Remove a ring and lid with regular tongs, place on jar and tighten. This is when you will need to hot pad cause the jar will be too hot to grab onto. Set aside and repeat. 7.When finished filling jars, return boiling-water canner water to a boil. Carefully add jars full of bounty to pot using the canning tongs. I don’t use a rack even though I think you are supposed to. I just put my jars into the boiling-water canner and have never had a problem. Don’t stack your jars. You might have to do a few batches. I usually take all the photos myself, often balancing my camera on a pile of corn or something and then running into place. But many of these were taken by my lovely husband. Boil for the amount of time the recipe calls for. For my peach butter, it is 10 minutes but I have to increase the cook time because of the elevation in Montana. I cook for 20 minutes. Here is a guide for cook time using a boiling-water canner: 1001-3000 ft, increase cook time 5 mins3001-6000 ft, increase cook time 10 mins6001-8000 ft, increase cook time 15 mins8001-10000ft, increase cook time 20 mins 8.Remove from boiling-water canner and set somewhere that can handle a very hot object. Leave undisturbed overnight. You will hear the pingy pops of the jars sealing and grin with giddiness. 9.Label and date. I always think I’ll remember and I never do. Canned food is best when used in one year but it is a myth that it ‘goes bad’ at that time. The quality just weakens. Some tips for storage and consumption from this site: Read more on how to can stuff (high acid)…
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