Friday, September 30, 2011

New Addition to our Homestead

With a house that is more than 75 years old, there are lots of places where the darned varmints can easily come in to escape the cold. In a place like this mouse-catching is a very valuable skill. While we've caught a few with traditional traps and even found one of the less-than-intelligent ones in a water jug one morning, it was time to bring in an expert.

Meet Thelma our new "barn" cat. 

When she's accustomed to our rhythm and a little older, she'll spend her days outdoors and her nights in our walk-in basement encouraging the tiny critters to find another residence.

She loves visitors and purrs loudly for a rub and a snuggle. At the ripe old age of four months it's important to spend a lot of time with her and get her accustomed to people and the rules of our home.  Stop by and meet her, we would all love to see you!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Three Amazing Years.


Last week my husband and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary. Complete with a brand new pantry (for me -below the white beam to the right of the stairs), wild grape jelly (post to follow) and whiskey (for him), brunch at O'Rourke's in Middletown and just a grand day together overall.

Thank you to my dear husband for three amazing years and such a wonderful 
addition to our home! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Family Traditions - Franklin County Fair


While there were several yearly fairs within an easy driving distance of most my childhood homes, the Franklin County Fair has always been a favorite. While it has its share of carnival rides and games like the rest, my favorite parts of the Franklin County Fair have always been the produce and craft competitions.

As children, my brother and I entered our own creations into the competitions - from creative scarecrows and flowers to baked goods and hand crafts. Over the years I won first prize for my petunias and my muffin mix (with muffins to prove its worthiness!) and was even robbed of first prize for my knitting as the judges didn't think I could have made something that well by myself.

Each year I look forward to seeing everything on display in the round house and the children's building as well as all the different animals. This tradition would not be complete without a piece of fried dough with maple cream from the local booth. I'm happy to steer clear of any booth with large lettering (like the non-local vendors) and am content to reminisce and even drool over the gorgeous array of home-canned foods on display from the competitions.

It's always interesting to watch things change as the years pass. One delightful addition to this year's fair was compost and recycle bins at the trash stations. I am so thankful to live in a place where even mainstream events are becoming aware of the need for efforts just like this.

 Now I shall look forward to my other favorite fair each year, the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival in October. Especially as we look toward expanding our family, I am so thankful to have these traditions to mark the yearly rhythm of our life.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Modern Foraging and Sumac Lemonade

One of the many things I love about having access to wild land is the ability to forage.  

On a walk the other day, I came home with blackberries, a few raspberries (the last of the season), wild grapes, and a big pile of staghorn sumac drupes 
(not to be confused with poison sumac).

I passed by apples, plums, and crab-apples still thriving from when there used to be houses in what is now flood land. The berries I ate immediately after snapping a quick photo. The sumac and the grapes have been turned into other deliciousnesses.

Sumac Lemonade:

I grew up knowing the staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) as a wild shrub and only knew of using the drupes as perfect material for smoking bees when opening a hive. Recently I came across a brief reference to Sumac Lemonade and had to know more! 

Turns out I had been living near a delicious treasure all these years!


Collect 15 to 20 clean staghorn sumac drupes

 Spread them out and remove any critters.

Soak in water for 24 hours. 

Strain, sweeten to taste, and enjoy!

The final sumac juice is very tart like lemon juice and has a wonderful complex flavor that almost reminds me of a rooibos (red tea) lemonade. A concentrate of the sumac juice freezes well for longer enjoyment.

Stay tuned for wild grapes!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Where I've been these last few weeks:


In the kitchen!

Between the beginning of fall harvest and the abundance of our farm-share, we have been keeping busy putting food by.

We've frozen: collards, kale, italian flat beans, green beans, peach slices, apple slices, raspberries, zucchini and summer squash slices, grated zucchini, loose-frozen thick grated summer squash, carrot tops, lime basil leaves, cilantro chutney and so much more! 

We've canned salsa verde, peach salsa, tomato sauce, sliced peaches and apple butter. And boy! we're not done yet!

We also have seven jars of pickles fermenting and no end of our cucumber bounty in sight!

When there isn't anything left to pick outside we'll have plenty inside for the pickin's. We're still hoping to make apple chutney, at least three times more jars of tomatoes, green tomato relish, and possibly try our hand at fermented ketchup. And that's even before winter squashes ripen. 

We have our first fledgling efforts at root-cellaring with beets packed in sawdust and hope to get carrots, parsnips, turnips/rutabagas and more.

When canning, I'm always thankful when the amounts don't quite match up to the jars and there's a bit that just HAS to be eaten right away.