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.
Epic Storm Update
- At least 12" of snow here.
- The swales captured a bunch of windblown snow.
- We got the bunkhouse up to 79 degrees with the new woodstove, just trying to keep the fire hot enough to burn cleanly. Seriously, I had to open a window one night. I am anticipating a happy dance when the power bill arrives.
- The goats yelled and complained but ate and ate to regulate body temperature. R set up a plywood sheet to shield them some more from the wind and declared the shed warm enough that he’d sleep there, if they didn’t smell like goat.
- The chooks have declined since Thursday to come out of the coop. They are just hanging out on their roost. No eggs. Going to move them into the hoophouse soon. They probably still won’t lay until after the solstice. Freeloaders.
- The hoophouse stood up fine under the snow. R used a push broom to encourage some to slide off each morning, solar gain did the rest. There is a 3′ pile on the north side that has essentially sealed the roll up door better than all my shovel work. Yesterday, with full sun, we had a 42°F differential (74 inside/32 outside) yesterday. In the worst of the storm, we were still getting 10 degrees at noon under cloud cover.
- I carried Slate out to the hoophouse when I couldn’t stand his cabin fever whinging antics any longer. He got into the redneck root cellar and spent some happy hours in his lair. Now he begs to go out there–I don’t need to worry about mice in the feed if he’s on the job.
Wholesome mindfood clickables for your consideration.
Several friends have sent me links to this Mother Jones article, “Why your supermarket only sells 5 kinds of apples,” about one man’s efforts to preserve heritage apples in Maine. John Bunker is a legendary fruit exploer, someone who hunts down old and abandoned apple trees and propagates them for future generations. Because apples don’t come true from seed, they must be cloned from existing trees. When a variety falls out of fashion for whatever reason, we risk losing that unique genetic material forever. Bunker, who founded Fedco Trees (one of our favorite nurseries), has spent decades trying to save our culinary heritage.
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I remember learning about the six simple machines that convert force into useful work when I was in elementary school; I would have loved the GoldieBlox toys back then. Today I love their video, and their homage to another Rube Goldberg video by Ok Go. And forget the hater comment that the video only teaches girls to make a mess. If only my nieces hadn’t grown up already, I know what they’d be getting for Christmas.
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Alternative power, both at the homestead and neighborhood-to-town level, is as critical to local economic resiliency as food production. It may even be a solution to closing the environmental loops to convert waste to utility. Cooperatively owned biodiesel plants, for example, could run in most counties off of local waste streams, which makes far more sense than trying to build huge petro-refineries. If for whatever reason, one plant goes down, the disruption to the national supply is minimal. There’s plenty of white space for action at the local and individual level for fuel independence.
But as I study the numbers in a run-up to another reading week this winter, the economics of electric generation make no sense today in our local economy. Our rural electric cooperative sells residential electricity at only 5.9 cents a kilowatt/hour and buying it back through net metering at only 2.6 cents/kWh! We must have the cheapest electricity in the U.S., which yo’d think would be a boon for economic development. But there’s no guarantee that the coop can sustain that rate, and there may be other reasons, like our dependence on the Bonanza Power Plant, a coal-fired operation in eastern Utah, or the frailty of the national electric grid in a natural disaster, to gear up. After looking at NPR’s Interactive Electrical Grid Map, the system looks pretty brittle to me. With our woodstove, we can manage an extended power outage, but I’d rather have the computers, lights and frig running too.
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In the category of “why haven’t I heard this story before?” is the Women’s Land Army, a World War II program to recruit middle-class town and city women to replace labor lost by the millions of men leaving the fields to serve in the armed forces. The Victory Garden is small potatoes compared to the real story of thousands of women leaving their homes to grow food for their country.
“We’re working for Victory, too; growing food for ourselves and our countrymen. While other women work at machines and in factories—we’re soldiers in overalls.”
The 1993 story from Prologue, http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1993/winter/landarmy.html the magazine of the National Archives, describes how voluntary women’s organizations led to a federal program to get women on tractors and in the fields as part of an all-out war mobilization effort.
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Oatmeal, toast, eggs? You can partly blame me for Kellogg’s plummeting sales of breakfast cereal, since I have stopped buying marshmallow-laced oatish kibbles for humans. I’m really slacking off on my part as an American consumer of convenience foods. Apparently, I’m no the only one. Campbell’s red and white cans of flavored salt in water aren’t flying off the grocery shelves like they used to either, according to this Bloomberg report.
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If this storm is headed your way, be safe out there. Hopefully you aren’t shopping with the hoards for last minute Thanksgiving supplies. Have you read anything lately that has changed the way you grocery shop? Are you saving for a solar panel? Do you remember anything at all from sixth grade science class? Do share!