Well, almost here. This spot is about 15 miles from my house, along the Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef National Park.
Heaps of friends have blessed us with their time in the last two weeks. Torrey isn’t a natural stopover point for just about any destination, you have to make an effort to get here, and we do appreciate it when our friends make the bother to come see us. They have come from Washington and New York and along the Wasatch front.
Husbandry and gardening: The geese and turkeys are on extra grain rations to fatten them up for the big day. Harvest starts in a week or so. We lost another duck. It’s unclear how, she just didn’t come home. Now that the irrigation canal is empty, she could have wandered out under the fence and been taken by a dog or raccoon.
R rebuilt the goats’ loafing shed to give them and their manger shelter from the snow during the day. I call it a manger, but it’s really a galvanized wash tub; they have destroyed everything else we offered them. I don’t know why we are even giving them hay right now. Fallen cottonwood leaves are a goat’s version of potato chips. The goats won’t make a dent in the leaves before the snow ruins them.
We planted garlic and shallots. As we have been cleaning up the garden, we started a big compost heap with the harvest clippings and duck bedding. I need to build it up to full height and water it some more. It will probably sit until spring unless the weather is highly cooperative.
Food, harvest and preserving: Carrots, beets, rutabegas and turnips are being stored in a cooler outside in the shade until the temperatures drop a little more. I still have to dig potatoes, celeriac and parsnips. I started a lacto-ferment to use the tiny carrots that won’t store, which will be good in salads in a couple weeks. The escabeche turned out hot (five jalapeños is a lot for half gallon) but not too salty.
We are emptying the freezer and it is an embarrassment of riches. I found a boneless goose breast, which we cut into medallions and had with an onion and blue cheese pasta. One night I roasted some chicken parts from the last big slaughter, over a bed of onions and celery drenched in apple cider and dry vermouth, served with garlic mashed potatoes. With most of the restaurants closed, I’ve had a chance to bust out some fancy autumnal recipes for our guests that show off the harvest bounty. I made a beef and root vegetable pot pie with a blue cheese crust (can you guess I am trying to use up some blue cheese). For our friends from Buffalo, we grilled lamb and salmon, plated with lemon rice and roasted tomatoes (still a few more in the garage to use up). I haven’t been making much dessert, but we’ve been finishing off with lemon curd, made and frozen when we were flush with eggs, and gingersnaps or shortbread cookies to dip with.
The ducks are barely laying an egg a day. R just deployed a light on a timer to see if that resets their biological clocks. We’ve been on a run of fried eggs for breakfast until a few days ago. Now we are back to oatmeal and fruit (with plenty of canned peaches, pears and apples or frozen berries to choose from). I might make some granola and yogurt to change it up a little more.
Finances: My goal for November is to eat from the pantry as much as possible. R is making a Costco run for pork (we are out of Canadian bacon and he’s going to be smoking goose anyway), but other than that, we have more than enough to eat like royalty.
Energy and conservation: Does anyone else wonder about things like how much energy we waste on LED idiot lights on every appliance, charger and device in the country? I don’t even need to turn a light on at night in the living room, it’s so bright from the charging dog collars, weather station, computer plugs and clocks that can’t be turned off. It’s got to add up.
One way we save a bit of electricity is by using a mattress pad heater. We built our house with individual electric radiators in each room, so we keep the bedroom unit on very low (we haven’t even turned it on yet this winter), and we can each dial in our preferred sleeping temperature. I invariably turn mine off in the middle of the night, even on the lowest setting. I don’t know why I find the mattress pad heater more comfortable than an electric blanket, but it’s been a huge comfort, especially on very cold nights if I remember to turn it on early to warm up the sheets before bedtime.
Other projects: Wyatt is learning to heel. Carson has learned to push shut a door on command. I want to rig up a rope on the opposite side of the door and see if I can teach him to close it that way too. Carson mastered most of his tricks as a puppy during the winter, when it was just the two of us cooped up inside together. Some weeks, I scoured the internet for stupid dog tricks in a desperate attempt to keep him busy. Wyatt is more motivated by food rewards and has learned almost everything Carson knows. These days, I make them alternate tricks, just to make them practice the “wait” command when it is the other dog’s turn for attention and treats. For this winter’s project, I want to teach them a trick to do together, if I can think one up, and to heel side-by-side to my left. Carson knows “other side” means to switch from my right to left side, but hasn’t generalized it to move to the other side of Wyatt. This could take a while; both of them want to be next to me if they can’t be off leash.
Community: I attended the annual board meeting and end of year party for the Entrada Institute. I’m excited about the ideas we had for next year’s program.
Creativity and recreation: We hiked the Grand Wash trail in Capitol Reef NP with our friends from Buffalo. We have hiked most of it, but never with an organized car shuttle. We are looking for new hikes we can take with the dogs. Once trapping season starts, our most convenient off-leash hike is off limits until spring.
Next week: It’s going to be a quiet week of catch-up. I want to make some soup stock from a bunch of duck, goose and pork bones I’ve collected.
Seasonal observations: What I notice most is the change in the afternoon shadows. The sun skirts above Boulder Mountain during the afternoon, low and slow across the southern quarter. Canada geese have been flying in noisy vees and a lone Sandhill crane issued some cranky complaints as it blew by.
Let’s just get this out of the way: #cancersucks. It’s been over three weeks since I’ve blogged. In that time I’ve been to California via Phoenix twice to visit my sister. R has been holding the homestead together, but we are stronger and more effective together. Nevertheless, stuff must get done.
Husbandry and gardening: The turkey poults got their wings clipped when they started flying over the 8′ fence. That stopped their gob. We have started the geese and turkeys on extra grain rations to fatten them up for next month’s date with destiny. If you want to add fat onto an animal, give them grain. Think about that…how many low fat diet fads have followed a low fat/high carb model? The ducks aren’t laying much; maybe 2 out of 6 per day. They will get a light in their pen shortly Deicers have been deployed into two of the four waterers.
We are slowly putting the garden to bed for the winter, taking the time to get all the grass runners out of the raised beds as we go. Event if we don’t finish it all, we will be much further ahead next year than ever before. We’ve ripped out the four year old strawberries and are going to try an overbearing variety next year.
We are still holding off on bringing in the root vegetables. It’s cooling off, but not cool enough in the garage just yet when they are doing fine in the dirt. We have been sampling though: our first year growing rutabegas and they are much nicer than turnips. Who knew. The celeriac was interesting, but mild. The beets were a bust—next year I will add rock phosphate and bonemeal to my root beds, although the carrots and potatoes did just fine. One thing I have left to try is the salsify. It’s buried between carrot rows somewhere.
We brought in the corn and squash. The corn never dried out properly, some sprouted and some started to ferment, not sure what’s up with that or what we’ll do about it. And after three years of trialing a bunch of different squash, I have narrowed down what works to Burgess Buttercup and Burpee Bush Butternut. NO MATTER WHAT, I will not be tempted by any more seed catalogs.
Food, harvest and preserving: Tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and salsa all run through the canner. Since the NCHFP says not to can tomatoes from frosted vines, we have been roasting those and freezing them. There are only about a dozen left on the counter to ripen now. In a good year, I get tomatoes to last until Thanksgiving.
I have been experimenting more with lacto-fermenting to preserve foods. We have almost finished off a half gallon of salsa and I am doing a carrot/cauliflower/jalapeno escabeche right now. When we harvest the carrots, I plan to do a load of the little ones that won’t store well. And after everything else is done, I want to try some more sauerkraut. My previous attempts have been way too salty, but I am trying a new book of recipes that cut the salt way back.
Finances: I’m still not sure whether going to Costco once every 4-6 weeks is saving us money or not. In between, the weekly grocery trip runs about $30, and the freezer and pantry are still full of nice things to eat. We have a stash of goodies in a separate closet for entertaining, otherwise we’d eat all the cookies the first week. I still want to buy a half pig this fall.
Energy and conservation: Waterers outside and one electric radiator inside -we’ve seen the lowest power bill of the year. At least the water consumption has dropped to near our winter rates.
Other projects: We installed the hoophouse film again, with the very nice replacement that the vendor sent in exchange for the damaged roll we got last time. Luckily, the exchange meant returning only the damaged samples, not the entire 40×50′ roll. This time, we timed it right and were able to do it ourselves without rounding up any helpers. It wasn’t ideal, but the wind conditions weren’t going to last. In fact, we had terrible wind the next day, when a 25mph gust blew over our new barbecue grill. We figured out a new way to batten down the roll-up sides for winter and the ducks are going to be cozy warm this winter.
Community: I have been overwhelmed by the support my friends and community have offered these last few weeks, as I have had very little to contribute on my end. We went to the Heritage Starfest and looked through the fancy telescopes brought by volunteers near and far. I forget now that the Milky Way is something most people don’t see every day. Somewhere in the interval, some friends trailer camped in our yard and I made an impromptu pasta that turned out pretty well, but is the kind of dish that won’t ever be made again because the intersection of garden and refrigerator ingredients was a one-time coincidence of goodness.
Creativity and recreation: I bought new boots. The intention is to get out hiking more. A friend from Australia visited and we took him (and the dogs) to Lower Calf Creek Falls. The dogs did great on their longest ever hike, even though they had to be on a leash the whole way. My footwear-not so great. Money can solve that, and after a couple rounds with Zappos, it did. I have asked for a new daypack for my birthday. My old one is 20+ years old and was about all that fit my narrow shoulders at the time. Now there are heaps of packs designed for women with convenient features that my lose-everything-at-the-bottom-no-matter-how-it’s-loaded pack lacks.
Next week: more friends will set up their camper in our yard, then R leaves for his high school reunion. The Entrada Institute has its annual board meeting and we have the last round of irrigation to do before the water gets turned out of the canal. Plant garlic and shallots!
Seasonal observations: The aspens were still lovely on Boulder Mountain when we took our Aussie over toward Escalante. It’s been a blue sky autumn, showing off the yellow cottonwoods to perfection. I hear big flocks of sparrows every morning in the currant hedge outside our bathroom. Venus is up in the mornings now, easy to see since sun comes up around 7:30. I’m not looking forward to daylight savings time ending next month, not while we are still racing to use up the good weather in the garden and orchard. Everything in its time: longer nights will mean more time for stargazing and reading by the wood stove. After we get the garlic planted.