• smoking

    What with all our beef, I got it into my head that I ought to try smoking some of it. So I messaged the people — all men — in the little corner of my universe who were most likely to mess around with large hunks of meat. They all had smokers and they all said I could borrow them, sweet guys.

    I decided it’d be easiest to borrow from the two guys who lived closest to us, so I messaged the third guy to let him know that I’d found two smokers closer to home and that I’d not be needing his smoker after all. He messaged me right back. “Hmm…but are they good smokers though? I can tell you that my smoker is fantastic.”

    Well, alrighty then! 

    So on Saturday, my husband went to pick up the smoker and now the made-to-order monstrosity sits in the shed.

    For the past two days, I have been obsessively watching youtube videos, reading recipes, and taking notes. Which kind of wood chip for which type of meat? Best dry rubs! Solutions for injecting the meat! (I need to get a meat injector. Wait, will one of my daughter’s hypodermic syringes work?) Glazes! (Do I even need to glaze?) Meat temps and when (if) to wrap and how long to rest, and so on and so on.

    We have the smoker for a couple weeks, so I want to make the most of it. My plan is to smoke a brisket one day this week — it feels extravagant to run the enormous smoker with just one piece of meat in it, but I need to start somewhere, right? — and then, if all goes as planned, this weekend we’ll load up the smoker with stew meat and short ribs and roasts and another brisket or two. (Also, it occurred to me that we still have some piggy stashed in the freezer — smoking might be the perfect solution to large cuts of pork that bake up unbearably dry!) Afterward, I’ll have a whole bunch of ready-to-eat meat to stash in the freezer for future stews and curries and sandwiches. (Don’t worry, Mom. After this week, we’ll limit our carcinogenic intake. Moderation, moderation…)

    I AM SO EXCITED.

    Mildly terrified, too. This foreign world of smoked protein is intimidating!

    Now tell me this: Have any of you ever tried smoking meat? What are your cautionary tales-of-woe, must-make recipes, and crucial how-to tips? I’m all ears!

    PS. Oh, cheese! I COULD SMOKE A CHEESE. And flour! To add to pizza dough! And onions and peppers and, and, and..! FORGET MODERATION.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (10.21.16), listening, watching, reading, stuffed peppers, apples schmapples, light-as-air hamburger buns and sloppy joes, how to roast squash.

  • the quotidian (10.30.17)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace



    Experiment: Almond braid. 
    Verdict: Too much almond paste.

    Lemon and sugar: to counteract the Sunday slump.

    Collaboration.

    Hooded.

    Caution: makeshift riding ring.

    Worn-out toys end up in the oddest places…
    Frosted.

    A dehydrated, malnurished, and motherless calf: ours for free if we could keep her alive.  

    Girls’ night out.
    (Despite around-the-clock feedings, and an all-nighter by my older daughter, 
    the sweet little thing was dead in less than 48 hours.)

    Making jerky.

    (NOT THE CALF.)

    Wind-whipped.

    This same time, years previous: reading-and-ice cream evenings, apple farro salad, the quotidian (10.19.12), quiche soup, under the grape arbor, dichotomies, applesauce cake.

  • the young adult child

    On Sunday, we celebrated (one day early) my son’s eighteenth birthday.

    Also, he got baptized.

    One day he came home from church and said that he’d decided to get baptized and would be taking the catechism classes. Okay, we said.

    Photo credit: Jim Bishop

    And so he did.

    For his birthday breakfast, he requested day-old apple pies (for some reason, they got weirdly saucy). Lunch was waffles with all the fixings, and my parents joined us, as well as my brother’s family. I’d told my son that we wouldn’t be having cake — too much sweet — but then I went and bought an Oreo Blizzard Dairy Queen Ice Cream, I mean Chemical, cake to surprise him (we never buy DQ chems)…though I kind of think he might have preferred a homemade cake? Oh well. And supper, since I’m being all nitty-gritty about the food, was pesto torte and crackers and raw veggies and dip. Then we sat around reading all his birthday surveys, from age 7 to 18, for the very last time.

    On Monday, my son made an appointment with an investment advisor, and then the two of us had an exciting date at the bank where we spent an hour discussing stock and looking at charts and learning about The 30-30 Rule and The Rule of 72 and a lot of other things that boggled our brains.

    We really know how to tear it up.

    My son is pretty tickled about all the privileges that come with turning 18. Now my money is all mine, FOR REAL, and I can get a tattoo! and If I get pulled over for driving a 100 miles an hour, I don’t automatically lose my license. I just get a hefty fine or go to prison.

    Also on the list: drive an ambulance, go skydiving, begin paramedic training, vote, be the accompanying adult when his sister drives, see R-rated movies at the theater, join dating websites, take out a loan from the bank, get a motorcycle license, walk into Verizon and set up an account, legally kiss a girl who is over eighteen, get married, buy a lottery ticket, donate blood, go into bars, watch explicit content on youtube, sue someone.

    But make no mistake — in many ways he’s still a child. Also, my husband and I are still king and queen of this roost. It’s just that now that my son is getting older and wiser, he both knows and appreciates this.

    And that, if you ask me, is one of the very best parts of having a (somewhat) mature, young adult child.

    This same time, years previous: cilantro lime ricethe quotidian (10.26.15), the quotidian (10.27.14), the quotidian (10.28.13), the details, sweet potato pie, the morning kitchen, 2009 garden stats and notes.

  • letting go

    For the past couple months, my younger son diligently tended to Chomper. He fixed him up with a variety of homes, researched turtles (sometimes obsessively), and plied him with raw liver and oatmeal and lettuce. Although Chomper seemed to be doing just fine — burrowing in the sand, swimming in the water, scampering about and exploring — never once did we see him eat. And then I noticed that he seemed to be getting smaller.

    “You should probably set him free,” I said.

    My son did not like that idea, not one little bit. So we did more research, learning about special lights and water filtration. He begged to be allowed to buy the necessary equipment, but I said no. “If you want a pet turtle, you need to get set up first and then get a turtle.” Because I wasn’t about to let him spend lots of money on a pet that probably wouldn’t make it.

    When my son persisted in digging in his heels — but I wanted a pet turtle! — I turned blunt. “He’s going to die,” I said. “The kind thing to do is to set him free. That’s the only way he’ll stand a chance.”

    For several days, my younger son was tearful and sullen, and then, one day last week, he finally agreed to set Chomper free.

    We drove over to my parents’ place, my son holding the wriggly (a good sign!) Chomper in his hands the whole way there, and parked the van by the little creek at the foot of their drive.

    When my son set Chomper down, the little guy immediately made a beeline for the water. Of course, the current tossed him upside down and carried him off, but my son scooped him back up, found a nice muddy spot along the shore, and set him on a sunny leaf.

    While Chomper sunned himself, my son fixed a little shelter out of leaves and twigs. The house finished, Chomper crawled right into it.

    We stood there for a bit, watching. My son cried. He agreed that he knew he was doing the right thing, but still, he was so sad.

    And then, after a few minutes more, my brave little boy waved good-bye to his pet, and we scrambled back up the creek bank and drove home.

    This same time, years previous: growing it out, the quotidian (10.25.11), tales of terror and woe, buttermilk pancakes, apple tart with cider rosemary glaze.

  • 2017 garden stats and notes

    This year, I had every intention of doing a better-than-normal gardento save on money! to reduce our carbon footprint! to cut down on our pesticide consumption!but it didn’t go so great. We planted green beans not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times, and even then, only bits and pieces of a few rows made it. We plodded along, picking a little here and a little there. It wasn’t nothing, but it wasn’t great, either.

    And then we didn’t pick the sweet corn in time. (Alice was decimating the corn patch, but we thought she was just picking it young because she didn’t know what corn was supposed to taste like. Turns out, the corn was ripe.) Also, the peppers, basil, and tomatoes got frost-bitten (I planted too early, my bad), the kale got eaten, the tomatoes got a fungus, and the strawberries drowned in weeds.

    So, all in all, it was a fairly ordinary year.

    Sigh.

    Stats:
    Rhubarb, chopped and frozen: 1½ gallons
    Strawberries, sliced with sugar: 19 quarts and 2 pints
    Strawberry freezer jam (4 batches): 9 pints and 4 half-pints
    Sour cherries from our trees, frozen: 20 one-cup bags and 8 quarts
    Sweet cherries (picked 33 pounds for a total of $61): 7 quarts canned with sugar, and 9 quarts frozen with sugar
    Zucchini relish: 7 pints
    Swiss Chard, steamed: 7 eight-ounce bags
    Green beans, frozen: 36 quarts and 1 pint
    Sweet pickles: 6 quarts and 2 pints
    Corn (overripe), frozen: 28 quarts
    Roasted Tomato and Garlic Pizza sauce: 25 pints, 1 half-pint
    Blueberries (ordered from afar, 4 scant gallons for a total $80), frozen: 27 pints
    Nectarines (4 bushels at $32/bushel): 41 quarts canned, 5 quarts frozen, 12 pint bags dried
    Tomatoes: 31 quarts, 5 pints
    Peaches, Glohaven (2 bushels at $32/bushel): 23 quarts
    Salsa: 49 quarts, 6 pints, 1 half-pint
    Roasted tomato sauce: 33 pints
    Grape jelly: 9 pints (weak), 7 pints and 17 quarts (good)
    Grape juice with (⅓ cup per quart) sugar: 6 quarts
    Grape puree: 7 three-cup freezer boxes
    Applesauce: 2 bushels Lodi for 40 quarts, maybe (I forgot to record this) and 2 bushels of Super Gold, Golden Delicious, and Stayman for 39 quarts

    Oh yeah, and TWO BEEF.

    Notes:
    *The children are at the age where they can be counted on to do much of the picking. My older daughter, especially, picked a huge portion of the sour cherries, green beans, and strawberries.
    *Skip the fancy heirloom cucumbers and get one basic kind. Plant a lot of them, in a row (as opposed to mounds). And then do at least 14 quarts of sweet pickles. Because potato salad is so much better when loaded with tons of chopped sweet pickles.
    *Hopefully we’ll have enough salsa! (My husband thinks we should reduce the garlic a little. I don’t agree.)
    *Finally, we like our grape juice, because I’m adding plenty of sugar (in the form of a simple sugar syrup) to the jars before topping them off with juice.
    *Next year, buy four bushels of Lodi apples to turn into sauce. It’s our favorite, now and forever, amen.
    *The strawberries are slowly killing us. We can’t seem to stay on top of the weeds. It feels like a losing battle. Are we doing something wrong?
    *I didn’t do any pesto because I had a bunch left from last year. Even had about a whole pesto torte left over!
    *Our tomatoes, especially the juice ones, get hard white spots. A fungus, yes? They are still edible, and perfectly fine for canning, but they’re not the most attractive. Maybe we should plant in a different part of the garden next year?
    *Peppers got nipped by a frost. Totally underwhelming.
    *On recommendation from a friend, I planted Red Russian kale. It was deliciousso sweet!but then it got utterly destroyed by some super-aggressive bugs. Oh well, the chard, at least, never wavered.
    *Next year, watch the dogswhen they start stealing the corn, it’s time to pick.
    *I LOVE BEEF.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (10.24.17), our cracking whip, aging, boy in a blue dress, brown sugar syrup, love, the Tooth Fairy.

  • the quotidian (10.23.17)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace



    The last piece.

    Mystery photo: can you guess?

    My older son gave this to me for my birthday. 
    And then my younger son quipped,
    You should drink your coffee from that mug, Mama. It will help you focus.
    She doesn’t always glower.

    Just most of the time.

    Blue (the color, not the mood). 
    “Reasons why I love you” birthday sign, from the youngest to the oldest.

    Look at me! I’m on the cover of Time!
    Sunday morning.

    Hot air, directed.

    This same time, years previous: impressing us, three feet, winter squash soup with corn relish, field work, the reading week, random, the quotidian (10.22.12), breaking news, a silly supper, how to have a donut party, part III, moments of silence.

  • another farm, another job

    Recently, my older daughter picked up a gig at a neighboring farm, caring for all the animals, morning and evening. This means she gets up early (dark early) to get to work, coming back home just as the rest of us are finishing up breakfast, and then going back up again at the end of the day.

    It’s so odd, this business of raising people who came from my body and yet aren’t anything like me. A job that would require me to haul my butt out of my warm bed and go shovel manure and swing hay bales and fill water buckets would shrivel my soul, but my daughter acted like she had won the lottery.

    Ever since she got the job, she’s thrown herself headlong into taking charge. She organized the medicine cabinet, and sorted all the blankets, putting the damaged ones in a separate pile. She wormed the horses and donkeys, but only after re-calibrating the dosages — based on what she’d learned from the two vets who run the other farm she works at, the doses seemed high — and then she sent an email to the owner, notifying her of the changes. I showed her how to use Google Docs, and she’s written up her own chore schedule, as well as medication charts, etc.

    Anyway, the other morning after my run (because I do haul my butt out of bed to go running in the dark, #inconsistencies) I trekked over to the farm to see where it is she’s been running off to every day.

    My daughter was down at the chicken coop when I arrived. She held up a broken plastic scoop. “I threw them some grain and the cup went flying.”

    She introduced me to Tulip, the lame lamb. “She has trouble stopping once she starts running, so she crashes into things,” she said.

    She filled water buckets, and then headed into the barn to feed the horses, donkeys, and rabbits. The first time she cleaned out the male rabbit’s cage, he came running at her, stamped his feet, and next thing she knew, she was drenched with rabbit urine.

    Finally, still in my sweaty running clothes and now thoroughly chilled, I headed back to the house.

    shadow selfie 

    This same time, years previous: back in business, a dell-ish ordeal, the quotidian (10.20.14), autumn walk, a pie party!, how to have a donut party, part II, classic cheesecake, rhubarb cake.

  • a hairy situation

    Let’s talk about hair, shall we? Specifically (and, obviously, because I rule this space), let’s talk about my hair.

    Here’s the deal: the texture of my hair — lots of body with one part (uneven) wave, one part curl, and one gigantic part frizz — has been giving me (minor) fits.

    Maybe you can help?

    First, here’s what my hair looks like when I let it completely air dry:

    Also, after washing my hair, I usually spritz in some Pureology Colour Fanatic, the first step in battling the wiry-frizz problem. It makes my hair a couple degrees softer. And it smells good, too.

    Currently, I utilize two different styling treatments, which sounds complicated, but really, it only takes five to ten minutes.

    Straight(ish):
    When my hair is halfway dry, I use a large wooden brush and a monster hairdryer to blow it out and give it some shape. Then I follow up with some heavy-duty hair-straightening to quiet the persistent frizz. (To protect my hair from the heat, I spritz a little Fructis Style Flat Iron Perfector Straightening Mist prior to ironing my locks.)

    Here are the results, back in July, when it was super hot outside and my hair was a bit shorter than it is now:

    Curly (ish):
    When my hair is halfway dry, I spritz in a little Aveda’s Be Curly Curl Enchancer to draw out the natural curl. Then once the hair is completely dry, I do a quick pass with the curling iron, focusing on the extra-frizzy and/or straight clumps. When utilizing this method, I have to avoid all combs and brushes which would, immediately and irrevocably, obliterate my hard-won curls.

    To tame the poof and keep it out of my eyes, I often twist back the sides:

    By the end of the day, the curl has relaxed considerably but so has the frizz, so it sort of evens out:

    And on Day Two (I wash my hair every other day), my hair is lankier, the curl even softer.

    So here’s my question: Is there any way to get my hair soft and smooth from the very beginning, without all this spraying and straightening and curling?

    I’m envisioning some sort of serum — just a couple drops of something (that’s not terribly expensive, pretty please) — that I massage into my still-wet hair that magically turns my hair silky-smooth.

    Does something like this even exist?

    (I have my doubts, but one can always dream…)

    This same time, years previous: hair loss (ha! apparently October is Jennifer’s “let’s talk about hair” month), where the furry things are, the quotidian (10.19.15), would you come?, pumpkin sausage cream sauce.

  • practical and beautiful

    Years ago, one of my friends went on a trip and brought me back a gift: a hot pad for my cast iron skillet handle. I’d never seen anything like it before and was completely smitten. Ever since, it’s been in heavy use.

    But then, o woe, I partially burned it up while making “steek” on the outdoor cookstove the other week. The hot pad was mangy before, but now bits of charred fabric were flaking into the food. It was time for it to go.

    And then a few days later when I was making my birthday list, it occurred to me that I could request a new skillet sock. I already had a pair of my cousin Zoe’s handmade hot pads on my wishlist, so it’d be pretty easy to just add a skillet sock, too. But oh no, Zoe didn’t have any skillet socks on her site! I poked around Etsy, and then around Amazon, too, but, nothing looked right. All the skillet socks were either too flimsy or too tacky. Besides, how could I know if they were properly made, durable and thick enough to keep my hand from burning?

    On the verge of giving up all together, I decided I could at least ask Zoe if she’d made them before. Maybe she had a secret stash somewhere? Zoe replied that she had tried to make them, but wasn’t pleased with the results. “But I’d be willing to try again for you if you can wait…” 

    “Only if you WANT to,” I wrote back.

    A couple hours — HOURS! — later, an email from Zoe popped up on my screen: she had two hot pads finished and ready. (WHAT?? ALREADY?!?!)

    Even though Zoe sent me photos so I knew what the hot pads looked like, and even though I ordered the hot pads myself (since my husband said it’d be easier), I didn’t open the package until my actual birthday, be impressed. 

    Turns out, the hot pads couldn’t have been more perfect: thick and sturdy, practical and beautiful. I get a kick out of the subtle humor, too: the chili peppers on the one, the coffee on the other — HOT!

    They belong in my kitchen, these hot pads do.

    Thank you, Zoe!

    P.S. I just checked out her site this morning, and now she has a whole selection of skillet socks for sale, lucky you!

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (10.17.16), rich, that thing we do, deprivation.

  • the quotidian (10.16.17)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace



    Asparagus beans, from a friend.

    Tied into wreaths and then lightly steamed.

    Sauce.

    Sometimes my husband complains there isn’t enough granola. For his birthday, I shut him up.

    Marking time.

    Fallen ones.

    All day long, dark and dreary.

    My people. 

    This same time, years previous: a list, the adjustment, the quotidian (10.15.12), grab and go: help wanted, three vignettes: my husband, how to have a donut party, part one, apple cake, 2008 garden stats and notes.