Kitchen Counter Economics Rotating Header Image

Uncategorized

Oh, my gosh, I’ve been missing

snowyfield Well, ‘missing in action’ does not even begin to describe my lack of posting. We’ve been busy-busy (as have everyone else at this time of the year, but we have birthdays as well as the usual holidays so it’s been a veritable factory here at Chez Siberia.

And the elves are all out on strike so it’s up to us. (more…)

Thankful-ness

Most of the time, when Thanksgiving rolls around, I remember my father’s yearly ‘what I’m thankful for’ speech, which used to be served up between the turkey and the mashed potatoes, as I recall. Every year, it was the same and certainly I never thought about it. My father was not a particularly emotional guy, nor was he prone to fits of psychological analysis. But looking back, what he said was the most important thing.

“We’re all here.”

Now, he didn’t mean ‘here’ in the physical sense, because there were parts of the fam who were hundreds if not thousands of miles away. What he meant was that we’d gotten through another year and we hadn’t lost anyone. No one had died or disappeared; we were all still in touch with one another, in some way, shape or form (and this was before Skype, for goodness sake).

What a blessing it is when you can roll that sentence around in your head – ‘we’re all here.’

In 2002, my dad died and in 2006, my mom died, after a horrible last year battling cardiac disease, dementia, a broken hip and a world spiraling vastly down and out of control. So, we weren’t ‘all here’ again for a while.

And then my two eldest got married and started families of their own. One of them is far, far away and we don’t get to physically see them very often, though Skype is a big part of our lives now. And the others are actually close by and we share them with the in-laws (the way all families must where married kids are concerned). But today, I thought about my dad and smiled because we’re now at that stage where I can say to myself, “things are good; we’re all here.”

For this one moment, everyone is safe. Everyone is in good shape healthwise. Everyone has a place to live and food to eat, jobs, heat in the house, a decent car, time to dream a bit and have a bit of fun. Perfection? Perhaps not but actually extremely good. Feeling lucky – touch wood.

Dad – we’re all good. We’re all here.

Hope you all had a lovely, love-filled Thanksgiving today.

End of the season?

novgarden2 And a good, good day to everyone, wherever you are. This has been a very busy week in the garden for the DH and your Aunty. Not for choice necessarily, but sometimes you have to get things done before the weather gets colder, or rainier or something else (yes, what is on that kale is SNOW – it was 27 degrees F this morning. I think we can safely say that winter is coming).

The big job that had to be taken care of was the arrival of the replacement fruit trees. Yes. Replacement. Not addition. Replacement, as in ‘Dear Sir, the fruit trees x.y.z etc. that I ordered from you did not grow. As a matter of fact, they died. Toes up. Kicked the bucket. Gone to meet their maker. Please send replacements. Respectfully…” It happens, and if you don’t know this first thing in the spring (which most people don’t because you are waiting, hopefully, that the damned things will leaf out and oh, joy!!

Only these ones did not. (more…)

Do this now – get those cracks!

windowframe In the photo, what you are seeing is the light of day, streaming through the crack between one of the windows in the basement at Chez Siberia, and its frame. Then, underneath the frame itself, you see a line – that’s the seam between the frame and the concrete foundation.

As far as energy is concerned, I may as well just open the window this winter and let the let all the cold in. We will not discuss why we are, all of a sudden, paying some attention to the windows in our basement. Like everyone else, it’s ‘down there’ and we don’t think about them much. For anyone who has a furnace in the basement, however, it might be a really good idea to check (and it’s easy enough – just do what I did, go down to the basement during the day, keep the lights in the basement off and check around the edges of the windows – if you see light from outside, then you have a leak going on there.

So. What to do now? It’s October!!!

Well, first thing is that it’s not that cold yet – as a matter of fact, here in the eastern half of the US, next week, it’s going to be positively balmy. Any temperatures over 55 degrees F. and you are good to go to seal up those cracks with silicone caulk, spray foam (the cans with the little pipette tube at the end are great to get the foam EXACTLY where you want it, rope caulk and the like. ‘

The first question you need to ask yourself is this: Do we EVERY open these windows? EVER? OK, so if your basements floods every spring and you need to get fresh air inside to dry things out, you might need to open the windows, but a lot of people do NOT ever open their basement windows. They are merely there to provide some ambient light. If you open the windows (or only certain windows), then use rope caulk like this. You just split the roll into the little ropes and press them, a piece at a time, around the seam around the window frame. Then, in the spring if you need to open that window, you are good to go; just pull out the rope.

However, if you only need to open one or perhaps two windows in your basement, I’d advise a) using rope caulk on those and then sealing up the rest with caulk or spray foam. First, examine the windows themselves. Are there loose panes of glass and so on? Well, the best method is to take out the window and repair the caulking around the glass panes. That will require you to chip or scrape out the old caulking (and you may break a pane, which is…a pain), and then putting in NEW caulking. Or, you could take the lazy person’s route and get a couple of pieces of plexiglass sized to cover the window, screw those in and the window panes are sealed. Then shut the window firmly (you might need a shim or some other stuffing to get it to hold tightly in the frame) and seal around where the window meets the frame with spray foam or silicone caulk.

And what about that seam between the frame of the window and the foundation – Ditto. Seal that baby up with caulk or foam. Remember: even if you do everything upstairs from first floor to the roof to keep the warm air in and the cold air out, if you have not sealed up the seam between the foundation and the sill in the basement, you may as well just leave those windows open all winter long. Wastes a lot of energy AND it makes the floors on the first floor feel very cold.

Until next time…

How to make an apple pie

pie11 Your dear old Aunty realizes that this might sound a bit silly, but there are people in the world who have never made an apple pie and who dearly would like the experience of making one. And at this time of the year (at least in cooler parts of the world), the availability of apples is pretty much at its height. (more…)

How to get the most out of taking workshops

tabledone It’s not a secret to anyone, I think, that I love taking workshops. Learning new stuff is something that I dearly love to do. But over the years, I’ve come to realize that there are really several different sorts of workshops and of course people have all different sorts of reasons why they are taking them. Here are a few important things to remember when researching workshops to learn something specific. My most recent workshop was in woodworking but I think these are worthwhile when you are looking for any sort of workshop.

1. Be honest with yourself. (more…)

Oh, save me! Save me!

tomatoscoverd2So, here we are, chugging into prime tomato ripening season (a little behind here at Chez Siberia, but the total numbers of tomatoes are excellent) and the National Weather Service is predicting temperatures in the 40s.

Which means that at our house, depending on the wind, if any, fog…if any and so forth, it could actually be in the low 40s or even (shudder) the 30s.

Not that I’m concerned about a frost or a freeze. Not yet (even though everyone out there in weather land is predicting a Polar Vortex(tm) to hit in the last half of September). But even in the low 40s, that would shock the tomatoes. Perish the thought that we should ever have stressed tomatoes at Chez Siberia.

What to do…oh, what to do?

Well, as we have discussed several times before here, there is this stuff called ‘row cover’ which I positively dote on in terms of plant protection. Most people think of using this in the early spring as a piece of insurance, but with the heavier types, you can add up to 5 degrees of frost protection to plants, so even at this time of the year, if things are looking a bit dicey, this is something you can use, especially if you use the method we did this year, which was to put up woven wire fencing, reinforced with fence posts (we used metal ones that we used to use in the pasture, but your mileage may vary depending on how permanent an infrastructure you want to get involved in), with the tomatoes planted close to the fencing and tied up to the fencing as the plants took off.

tomatoscoveredAs you can see, with this sort of arrangement, you can run the row cover on the long edge (it comes in various widths so frankly, as long as you don’t have a whole row of corn to protect or sunflowers, this will work) down the row, wrap it around one end and as long as your piece is long enough, you can take it down the other side of the fencing – in our case, we had tomato plants on both sides of the fencing. This is a huge improvement over trying to cover up tomato plants on stakes or cages. I’ve been debating with the DH over the benefits of growing the tomatoes like this and even he admits that there are no ‘cons’ in this arrangement other than what we’ll have to do at the end of the season in terms of cutting off the string, taking down the plants and ripping them up and moving the fencing and fence posts (we will be moving the entire affair down to the other end of the garden to the last bed before the rhubarb as a rotation.

tomatoscovered3So, we ran the row cover around both sides of the row of tomato plants. So far, so good. But you do want to seal it up, somehow. Check this out – laundry (pegs) clothespins over the row cover, folded over the fencing and neatening up the ends of the row cover so that not a speck of chilly air can hit those green tomatoes overnight Tomorrow morning, depending on the temperature, we’ll just unclip the pegs, pull off the row cover and let the tomatoes soak up as much sunlight and warmth as they can.

Why thank you; I knew you’d like the idea, too.
Bon appetit!!

Please note: I would not use plastic or old sheets to do this – we find plastic lays right on top of the plants and can stick with a frost, so we don’t use plastic. If you don’t have row cover – the best place to get it (and they ship super-fast) is Gardener Supply

OK, so you’ve got a garden – what are you going to do with it?

tomatopasta1OK, so here we are, at what, for us here at Chez Siberia, is well on the way to the prime production time out there in the garden. And frankly, even though we’ve been doing this for (ahem) 35 years, we, too get the shakes when we look out there (and our garden is not that big, truly, folks) and see all that stuff that has somehow been produced through seeds, sun, and water.

It’s humbling, truly. (more…)

Pickling time

Now, I would not necessarily say that you can make pickles out of anything, but considering the fact that you can make pickles out of watermelon rind and zucchini, I think it’s not a real stretch to say so. At this point in the gardening season, the veggies out there are pumping out amazing amounts of stuff and there is no way for us to keep up with eating it fresh, so here at Chez Siberia, we tend to freeze and can (or, more technically speaking, jar) things when they are at their best. Today’s been busy – the DH and I have already done up zucchini bread and butter pickles
zucchini pickles
and were left with a dutch oven full of the pickling liquid.

The DH, not one to allow good pickling liquid to go wanting a use, ran out to the garden, and came back thirty minutes later with a huge bag of green beans with the suggestion that we pickle those too.

oooookay. Far be it from me to argue about this because although I LOVE fresh green beans from the garden, we have never had good luck with freezing them (I think they have the texture and taste of paper towels, frankly) and I think I have at least a dozen big jars of beans that we canned a very long time ago (and they are fine – the seals are intact, no bulges, leaking, etc. No discoloration and the cloves of garlic in the jars look perfect) which sit, lonely, in the dark of the pickle cellar downstairs. So, it’s obvious to ME that no one is going crazy for canned green beans.

But green bean pickles? Hmmmmm, that might be a winner and I’m certainly willing to try.

This is as much of an experiment as anything else but here is what we did and we’ll see how they come out.

For a big bowl of beans, washed, tops and tails trimmed and sliced on the diagonal (because I dote on diagonals):
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of canning or coarse salt and mix thoroughly, cover with ice and cover the bowl and allow to sit for three hours. Then rinse thoroughly three times.

Meanwhile, wash several canning jars and put into an oven preheated to 200 degrees F until hot. Put matching sized lids and rings into water in a saucepan and heat until simmering. Turn the heat off.

Put into a big pot (like, dutch oven sized):
3 cups of white vinegar
3 cups of white sugar
2 tsp. celery seed
2 tsp. mustard seed
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. dried ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Once you’ve rinsed the beans, bring the pickling liquid to a boil, throw in the beans and reduce heat. When it comes back to a simmer, keep it at a simmer for 2 minutes. While it’s simmering, get your funnel, spoon etc. ready.

Ladle the beans into the hot jars to within 1/4 inch of the top edge. Clean off the edge with a clean, wet paper towel, and then put on a lid and band and tighten down. Process the way you do all other pickles (water bath for 5 min. or whatever is your favorite method).

We’ll report back on how these turn out.
Bon appetit!!

Cue the scary music

I am sure a lot of readers here have seen a photo that is out there on the ‘net’ showing a huge boulder with a tree growing right up through the center of it as an illustration of ‘paper beats rock’ or something like that.

But in the garden (or at least the gardens that most of us have), we are not dealing with a tree growing up through a rock. We are dealing with vegetables that, pound for pound are probably stronger than we are. I point out the photo at the top. That, my friends, is a tendril from a vine of (deh-duh) a spaghetti squash. I love spaghetti squash; I truly do. But the vines all by themselves are aggressive and voracious, running all over the place in a garden, climbing out, hitting the streets. so far, the only way we’ve been able to keep them under control is with a lawn mower.

Truly.

This year, because we put out electro-net fencing to keep out the bunnies (and we’ll see how well this works; I’m thinking the openings are too big for bunnies. They might work with a rather rotund woodchuck, but I’m thinking a bunny is going to have no issues with it, frankly), the spaghetti squash vines have made a break for it by attaching themselves to the electro-netting. And wrapping themselves around it with those tendrils. Look closely; those thing don’t just snag on the netting; they are wrapped around in corkscrew fashion. A few more of those and I anticipate seeing that fencing laying flat on the ground and waving a white flag. (more…)

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

Bad Behavior has blocked 3007 access attempts in the last 7 days.