Just One

Four years ago next month I met my husband-to-be.  I didn’t know that at the time of course.  In fact, a friend of mine pointed him out to me.  She had a crush on him, but instead of acting on it, she asked me to go talk to him for her.  The end result of that being that he and I hit it off and started dating.  We started seeing each other almost every day; before work, after work, and a lot of time in between.  After a couple of months of this, he came home with me one day and just never left.  This is fairly significant because at the time I was staying with my parents while I was finishing up nursing school.  I realized somewhere in my last year that I couldn’t work enough hours to pay rent and also keep up in school.  At least with my sanity intact.  So I went home.  And my future hubby joined me there.  He lived with my parents and I for pretty much a year straight.  Then, when we decided to buy a house, we moved back in with them to save money.  Total he lived with my folks and I for around 2 years, off and on.  Just imagine that: your significant other living with your parents, or you with theirs.  For two years.  It didn’t end in any fighting or anything like that.  Honestly, he has always been the more selfless one in our relationship.  He wanted to be near me, and the only way to make that happen at that time was live with my parents.  He did house and farm chores for them.  He worked on construction projects around the property with my dad.  He made everyone dinner.  A lot.  He made sure I was well fed and rested.  He gave me space to study and brain breaks when I needed them.  Now, in our own home, he has picked up even more of the chores and work on the homestead so I can pursue a new job 2.5 hours away.  He is the one who gives up what he may want to support me and what I want.  He always encourages and supports me.  Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not a completely self-centered, selfish beast.  When he said he had some interest in crafting custom knives and selling them, I encouraged, supported and even, at times, pushed him.  He now has a small shop and is selling his gorgeous custom knives.  I try to tell him how much I appreciate everything he does.  I try to make sure he has everything he needs to build his business.  But in truth, I am still the more selfish partner.  Last night I was pondering what to do with the gift card to the rural store his mother gave us for Christmas and I got a little annoyed at the thought that he may want to use it to buy supplies for his shop.  I want to spend it on garden stuff.  And it occurred to me for the millionth time- this is our life, our shop, our homestead, our garden.  I rarely think about what it will be like to be an older person.  There are no warm fuzzy visions of afternoons spent in rocking chairs on a front porch.  So sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine us as an old couple.  And sometimes I forget that it’s not “him” and “me’, it’s we.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions; not that I don’t need improvement, because of course I do.  I just never stick with my vaguely worded plans to be “healthier”, to “eat better” or whatever.  This year, however, I am making one New Year’s resolution.  Just one.  For my selfless, hardworking husband I resolve to be more.  More attentive, more patient, more forgiving, more supportive and more selfless.  A small thing reminded me that all too often, when he gives I am more than happy to take.  This year, I will strive to give to him the way he has given to me the last four years.  And what, if anything, does all this have to do with homesteading?  Neither one of us can do it on our own, we have to work together.  And it has to be ours if it is going to succeed.

Christmas Dinner

Ah the holidays.  When you’re a kid, it’s pretty easy; sit back and eat the delicious food, open presents, pass out and take a nap.  At least, that was always my M.O.  This year, Hubby and I decided to try our hand at hosting Christmas dinner.  My mother has always cooked Thanksgiving dinner, and this year was no different, so we decided to cook for Christmas and have them over.  We had our little half sized Christmas tree up with our quirky ornaments; things like a dalek and the Tardis from Doctor Who, a storm trooper from Star Wars and the Wicked Witch of the West.  This year my sweet hubby surprised me with Dorothy and the guys, so I almost have a complete Wizard of Oz set of ornaments.  The tree had to be put up on a shelf because of the rabbit, who would have happily eaten just about everything on that tree.  The stockings were hung on a coat rack we put up temporarily for just that purpose right under the tree.  The cats shared a fish shaped one, and the rabbit had a crocheted carrot we bought this year.  So the tree was ready with presents, the stockings were hung with care, and these two folks had to get up early to start on food.  Which almost went as planned.  Except we didn’t really plan.  And it didn’t go according to any plan that might have existed.  Ok we totally winged it, and it almost didn’t go well.  But in the end, we pulled it off.  I started the cheesecake early so it had time to sit and set up.  As soon as I pulled the cheesecake out of the oven, the ham went in.  I started my fruit topping for the cheesecake on the stovetop and also started the homemade mustard that was going to sit on the table as a complement to the ham.  Or just to eat with a spoon from the jar.  The cheesecake cracked, but it tasted really good, so nobody minded.  The fruit topping I left on the side for the folks that don’t like it covering their cheesecake.  We whipped up mashed potatoes, made corn, peas and glazed carrots, and of course, rolls.  Dinner was a success!!  Which, as I have alluded to, was a bit of a miracle since Hubs thought I was cooking, and I thought Hubs was cooking.  We both just kind of circled the kitchen and kept asking each other what we could do to help until finally we realized somebody had to actually cook.  It all came together pretty nicely though.  For a first time hosting Christmas dinner, we did alright.  And next year will be even better.  Mostly because we will plan.  The only complaint I had about this meal was that not nearly enough of it was ours.  The peas, carrots and corn were all store bought.  In the garden plans I’m drawing up, we will have all of that planted.  But this year we had to settle for store bought produce.  And that’s ok.

We ate too much food, ate too much cheesecake, and played some card and board games.  We laughed until mom almost had an asthma attack.  And nobody flipped the table during any of the games we played, so all in all I would say this day was a success.  We got to spend it the way we prefer, which is with family, eating great food and laughing.  Quite frankly, that’s a perfect day whether or not it’s a holiday.

I’m going to leave a recipe here, and as soon as this posts, I’m kicking my feet up and probably falling asleep.  No matter your age, there’s always time for a nap.

Fruity Cheesecake topping:

(or pie filling, it does both)

4 cups fruit- I used 2 cups mixed cherries (tart and sweet) and 2 cups mixed berries

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup corn starch

  1. Whisk the corn starch and sugar together in a bowl, and set aside.
  2. Heat the fruit up on the stove on medium heat until the juices are released and it simmers for a few minutes, about 10-15.
  3. Once the fruit has simmered a bit, add the sugar/starch mix.  Bring this back up to a simmer, and turn the heat to low, stirring frequently.
  4. Let this simmer for about 2 minutes, it will thicken up.  Remove from heat and let cool.  It’s ready to serve!

This is perfect for topping a cheesecake, or as it was originally intended, makes pie filling for a pie.  If you have fresh berries, all the better.

Enjoy!

 

Green Jelly

BreadandPlums

Homemade bread never lasts very long in this house.  Well, in general baked goods don’t make it very long.  Cookies, bread, pie…… what was I talking about?  Really, they don’t last long; we say that ever popular phrase “just one more…”.  Just one more slice of bread, just one more cookie, just one more piece of pie.  And we have just one more until it’s all gone.  In two days usually.  This is a big part of the reason we don’t keep many baked goods in the house; we eat what we made and then don’t make anymore for a while.  Because we have no self control.  Not when it comes to baked goods.  But I had to go and talk about how much I love stew and bread on a cold day yesterday and well, that put those thoughts in my head so here we are.  I baked two loaves of dense, hearty homemade bread, the kind you dip in stew, the kind that makes you sleepy afterward because it is so heavy.  And I put beef stew in the crock pot.  My husband asked if we needed to pick up diced tomatoes and I am sure that the look I gave him was pure bewilderment.  Tomatoes?  Fruit in a beef stew??  A soft, tender, fragile little wannabe vegetable in my stew?  That’s a negative.  I just have a very specific idea about beef stew; it’s carrots, taters, celery, onion and beef.  Broth of course, but that’s it.  Don’t go adding extra things to it, it is perfect in its simplicity.  Basic spices, garlic, salt and pepper and I sear the outside of the beef first, so I throw some of our spicy smoky paprika on it then, but not much else by way of seasoning.  And that’s the way I like it.  There are a couple of things I don’t want messed with when it comes to recipes; this is one of them.  Otherwise I can be pretty adventurous with food.

Until recently I had never heard of pepper jelly.  And when I did, I was dubious.  Peppers into jelly?  Interesting.  We like peppers.  The Hubby loves peppers.  A coworker who had infinitely better luck with peppers this year gave us a ton of jalapenos.  Ok not a literal ton, more like 20-30 peppers, but it was a lot.  While I was working on the bread last night, Hubby told me his peppers needed to be used up, they were starting to go bad.  I had mentioned casually in the past that I could make pepper jelly for him; just because I had never done it doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it.  So I looked around for recipes that matched what we had on hand, and had to tweak one that I found.  But we got jalapeno-banana pepper jelly out of it.  One of the agreements when I’m canning between the Hubby and I is that I will put the skimmed foam into a jar so he can refrigerate and eat it as he pleases.  This time was no different.  He did prep work for me so I wouldn’t have to handle the jalapenos and I made him jelly.  He had heard of pepper jelly but had never had any, so this was his first as well.  It turned out so different than what either of our minds could imagine!  Sweet and earthy, the Hubs said it tasted green.  It’s not overly peppery and not way too spicy, but it has a little heat in its finish.  It was a success.  I feel like I often talk a lot and share quirky stories about our little homestead here but never share enough.  So I am going to put up my improvised jelly recipe.  Please keep in mind, if you have never canned, you really need to get a book, find a website, take a class, etc.  I’m not going to cover canning safety here.  Maybe one day I will become a certified canning instructor, but for now I am just a girl with a blog.  I am not guaranteeing the safety or efficacy of any of my methods.  And I also must stress that altering a canning recipe is possibly dangerous.  That being said, here is my improvised jelly recipe:

Jalapeno-Banana Pepper Jelly

20 jalapeno peppers, with pith and seeds removed

2 large banana peppers, with pith and seeds removed

1 small green apple, peeled and cored

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup lemon juice

3 cups sugar

1 package powdered pectin

  1. Dice peppers and apple.  Place in food processor and chop until consistency desired.  We took them down to a very fine chop, with almost no chunks left.  This is a preference thing.
  2. Put the 3 cups sugar in a bowl and set aside, but have it ready to use.
  3. Place the pepper-apple chop, water, lemon juice and salt in a pot.  Warm to before a boil and add pectin.  Stirring frequently, bring this to a rolling boil.  A rolling boil refers to a boil that cannot be stirred down.
  4. Add the sugar all at once.  Bring the entire concoction back to a boil, stirring constantly.
  5. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Do not overcook at this point, the pectin doesn’t like to be overcooked.
  6. Remove from heat and skim the foam off the top.  Into a bowl works, or if your significant other likes to nosh on it, into a small jar with a lid for refrigeration.  The foam is jelly, it just has too much air in it to can effectively.
  7. Pour the remaining jelly into previously sterilized jars to 1/4 inch headspace, wipe the rims, place your prepped lids on top and screw the bands into place.  The bands should only be hand tight; don’t over tighten them or air will not be able to escape the jars.
  8. Process in a boiling water bath canner with at least 1-2 inches of water covering the jars for 10 minutes.
  9. When time is up, take the lid off the canner and let cool for a few minutes, then remove jars to a dry, clean towel, cutting board or cooling rack, just as long as whatever you put them on is dry and clean.  Then await that delightful plinking sound as your lids seal.

This recipe made 4 1/2 jelly jars for me, but again I improvised.  The original made 8, so I have a feeling that I ended up using a lot less pepper than they did.  The apple added some tartness and we used fresh squeezed lemon juice.  The only reason we did this is because we had lemons that needed to be used.  I am sensing a theme here.

If you have any questions about canning methods, tools, etc., please find a book; one that we like is Stocking Up by Carol Hupping and Rodale Food Center.  The USDA also has extensive information on their website dedicated solely to canning.  Please can safe!

BreadandJalapenos

Winter Blues

On the last day of my small stretch of days off, I of course reverted to a day shift schedule.  I’m wide awake at 8:00 a.m., which will be bad news when it’s time to sleep in tomorrow to get ready for working night shift.  But I couldn’t help myself.  So what does a night shift nurse do at 8:00 in the morning?  Today she gets up and makes coffee, lets the house rabbit out of his crate and gets on the interwebs.  Always looking for new gardening and homesteading ideas, I find this is the best way to jump start any day that I want to be productive.  A new recipe, a new vegetable variety we haven’t tried to grow, a new technique for composting or using up more of the produce we get, I’m all for it.  I look at, read and (too often) share it all.  So today it’s a little windy, and a tiny bit chilly and we are trying to find the right time to sit down and plan for next spring.  The rabbit is all over the house, kicking, running and in general being crazy.  He does come get head scratches from his momma though, a brief intermission in the insane energy start.

Coffee in hand, rabbit in lap for a brief moment, I am making my mental list for what to do today.  I should really write it down.  My brain will never retain that information.  But here’s what’s on tap for today:  The Hubs is getting a hair cut.  He is fed up with his long hair.  We have been married for 6 months and I have only just changed my name with the social security office (night shift!), so today I will attempt to get my DL changed.  And we need straw!!  The strawberry and garlic patches will not make it through to next spring without some kind of insulation, and today is the day to buy straw!!  I have been putting it off.  We don’t have a truck or very good way to bring it home.  Today I will throw a tarp in my trunk and we will be off to the races.  So some running around today, but when we get all of that done, I am sitting down and planning my garden.  I got out yesterday and dug my garlic cloves and moved them to a bigger, nicer spot and the dirt under my fingernails reminds me I need to do some gardening, if for no other reason than it is good for my mood and my soul.  Winter can be a dreary time.  In Norway, they celebrate winter for all of its positives, and as a result, they have fewer cases of seasonal depression as a whole.  I can get on board with being excited about holidays because we get together with family and eat, I can get excited about snow, because, well, I like snow.  I can get excited about spending dark, cold days wrapped up in the house reading a book while stew is on the stovetop and homemade bread is in the oven.  That is actually one of my favorite things about this time of year.  But I am a little bummed out about no soil under my fingernails for a few months.  Gardening barefoot and running my fingers through the soil just makes me happy.  I don’t like hot weather, I am not a summertime gal, but I do love my garden.

So for now, I will scour seed catalogs for new additions, and take some joy in their bright photos.  And the hubby and I will plan a garden, and talk about where to plant our new trees, and that will be good too.  But I have a feeling that at least once or twice this winter, I will look out over my garden site and be a little sad that I can’t go dig my toes in the soil.  Well, at least not without getting a little frostbite.

HomemadeBread