Midnight last night: pork butts on the smoker. At 0630 this morning, chicken breasts on the smoker, and preparing for the day, anticipating the arrival of our hired labor at 0900.
Since no one showed up, my sisters and got started hauling and spreading load after load of topsoil and manure. Around 1030, one guy showed up, then had to go back to the shop for some tools. So while we waited, we continued on, using girl power to Get Shit Done. At noon, the first guy showed up again, with two more guys in tow. My cousin Cayne Morris also joined in on the fun, and with all the labor (and with me hustling in the front to weed out the last two rows) all of the reframed rows are filled! Phase one: complete. There are still a couple of original areas to reframe and fill, but the major part of the project is complete, and I still have quite a bit of topsoil and manure in piles at the front and rear of the property to use when we (rent a backhoe to) dig out large areas of clay to place some trees: a mix of good soil will allow the trees to do what they can’t currently do in the clay/sand areas. Next up: rescuing the seedlings from the flats and getting them out into the frames, and direct sowing the things that need to be started – or needed to be started two weeks ago if the weather had cooperated.
The swarm we captured yesterday and hived left the hive and returned to their tree, so I climbed back up there and grabbed them again, then dumped them back into the hive. Checking on them later, they had once again left the hive, but they’d also left the tree, leaving me to wonder where they’d gone. Answer: they returned to the original hives! Checking the other two, there were tons of bees in both, which could only have come from the swarms going back home. So it appears the queen was not in the hive from the bees we captured, and at some point in all those trips to the tree and the new hive body, she either left or was killed/lost, so the bees went home. Tomorrow, I’m going to try to find a queen in one of the two hives, and do a split, taking her and some workers on their frames to the new hive, to try to keep them from swarming again. We’ll see how that works out.
All in all: mighty fine labor by the family this week, and I’m incredibly appreciative and awestricken by your efforts. Thanks, fam!
Something fun I got for mom for xmas: a coffee roaster and an assortment of green beans (two guatemalan, one mexican, two colombian). When it first starts roasting it smells quite a bit like roasting corn. As the coffee rests and degasses, the aroma starts to change, and often deepen – it reminds me a lot of tasting wines, except only with the nose: periodically giving the beans a shake in the jar and then sticking your nose in as far as it will go, you can track how the beans progress. This particular roaster is a middling type, not the cheapest, not the most expensive, but I can see the time coming when we’ll be upgrading to one of the larger models. Thus far, all the roasts have degassed and then been used in a drip coffee machine. My next task is to figure out a roast suitable for my moka pot. The pictures: green beans first in the roaster, toward the end of the roast when they’ve changed colors (this was at the first crack stage), in the jar to breathe and degas, and the upper chamber, where the chaff ends up.
People coming to the ranch for the holiday: xmas day dinner will be around noonish, and we’re having mexican this year: taco night (even though it won’t be night), enchiladas and quesadillas if you like. That also means no huge xmas morning breakfast as we usually do, since we’ll be eating earlier than usual. If you have a menu request for the x number of days you’ll be staying before xmas day, let me know.
We went to the market today, my mom, my sister, my nephew, and I, walking amongst the vendors set up under the Fuller Warren bridge, the shade from which, combined with the stiff breeze from the river, making it much cooler than it was in the direct sun. Wandering up and down the lanes, we – or, rather, they – sampled wares from some of the vendors, pored over photos and paintings, and marveled at (and petted!) the large numbers of dogs people had brought to mingle with the crowd. The aromas from the food stalls, closest to the river, wafted over everything, a tumbling mixture of pizza and fish and sausage and various meats on a stick. Music floated in from different corners of the market, growing louder or softer depending on which direction you moved next. As we walked about, picking up some veggies and cheese here, some milk and meat there, what was I thinking?
Not the work that awaited me on my return, not the horrendous events in Connecticut yesterday, not my uncle’s sudden death, not bills or health or cleaning out the fridge or any of the million other mundane tasks that consume our lives at some point.
And it was one of the better outings I’ve ever had.
That’s always the thing after a holiday: what to do with the leftovers beyond eating plate after plate of the same thing you just ate. Solution for today: risotto with leftover turkey, mushrooms, and grated parm-reg.
Thanksgiving at the ranch: smoked chicken, roasted turkey, pulled pork, ham, freshly made rolls, dressing, corn, mashed potatoes, the requisite sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, roasted veggies, various desserts. Not in the picture: the cranberry-apple-orange compote I made earlier.
It’s been a beautiful weekend at the ranch, although I could do without the time change. Can we just please pick a time – and preferably the one that gives us more daylight at the end of the day – and stick with it? The reasons we do this twice a year are archaic and need to be jettisoned.
Lots of kitchen work this weekend, although this morning in the fog I did get out and pull up the cuke plants, spent from their second late-season round. The stragglers I picked and tossed into a brine to begin their journey to sweet relish, a multi-day affair. In other deeds…
Making jerky for the dogs.
Making habanero-peach hot sauce.
Some broccoli – cheddar soup.
Currently, I’m waiting on the croissant dough to thaw a bit since I left it in the freezer a bit too long. Next step: laying on the block of butter and folding the dough over it, then rolling it out a bit and back in the freezer for a short stay.
Morning thus far: retrieved the trash can and two days’ worth of mail, made another batch of syrup for the bees, checked the transplanted tomatoes (a few knocked out by the storm yesterday, but overall, not bad), checked the cuke progress (flowering!), watched a super league rugby playoff match from Sunday, fed and watered the dogs, and sliced a bunch of chicken into thin strips to make jerky. For the dogs – because I keep reading bad stories about chicken jerky treats from China, and the jerky at Costco? From China. We’ve not noticed any ill effects on our dogs from that, but making our own is easy enough (plus we know exactly what’s in it: chicken, no glycerin). Now eating and waiting for two new servers to show up so I can build those out and hustle them to the NOC. The day is young!
So I let the daily blogging thing go by the wayside. Winters – or, more accurately, waiting for spring to really get rolling – are a bit boring on the ranch. I probably should have been painting more, or working more on the neverending to-do list, but the fatigue factor really got to me. Now that I’m on some supplements to get my B levels back up, I feel a whole lot better, and more like my old self. Still not taking iron supps, though, and I’m definitely not eating any liver, so that’s still a work in progress.
But progress there is: all of the first round of flats, except two, have been transplanted: tomatoes and peppers, mostly. The other two flats have onions (plus one lonely little datil pepper that isn’t going to make it, like the other dozen that never bothered to germinate) and herbs (plus artichokes to replace the ones zapped by the severe freeze we had). I’ve also sown shelling peas, snap (green) beans, peanuts, three kinds of cucumbers, okra, carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes, along with various herbs and flowers for the bees. Out back in the chicken yard, where we had composted some things over the past year and where the chickens had scratched around, I put in lima beans (ugh), sunflowers, and corn. Yes, corn. It is my personal windmill here on the ranch, and I have another variety I’d like to put in somewhere, too.
Yesterday we got over an inch and a half of rain, as measured by our very own weather station. Before the rains started, I had transplanted out a flat, and gave it up when the big thunder started rolling across the sky. It was only around 10 AM that it started storming, but it lasted almost all day. Much needed rain, although we’re still very short of normal.
Today, more sweet potatoes put in, the other flats put out, as much newspaper and hay put down as my back could stand, and two more flats started and put under the lights in the barn: paisano tomatoes for sauce, sweet basil, purple basil, and two types of tobacco for mom. Got another canvas started, added to one of the earlier ones that is now dry, dealt with an asshole who thinks we should have known to remove his account when he never bothered to let us know, bitching about the invoice the system generated – hey, my superpower of ESP still has not kicked in from the radiation, and no others have appeared either. That’s a bummer.
Several trees my mom swore were dead were just a little dead, and are now upgraded to alive, leafing and budding out. The peas, cukes, and okra have all started to poke their heads up. The snap beans are probably a week or so away from beginning to flower. We’ve had asparagus spears popping up for the past couple of weeks. It’s time to start prepping the spots the beehives will be in: two in the rear, one up front.
Tonight: seafood feast by request, as my sister is visiting from Illinois. Another attempt to view Jupiter and its moons before it slips away beyond our viewing period as the days get longer. Starting another canvas while the others dry a bit. Starting the reworking of our tutorials for our users, since our control panel has changed since the first round. Doing end of quarter stuff for the business. Relaxing. Maybe.
Lately I’ve been feeling pretty tired, all the time. With some B12 supplementing and some working outside in the sun once more, I’m now feeling a lot more like myself. Today I replaced three (of four) boards on various frames that needed to be repaired, fertilized some frames and worked that in to prep them for planting, replaced all my watering timers as the current set froze over the winter and then cracked (didn’t toss them, though – they still work, they just leak like hell which will be fine in areas like the orchard), planted the first round of sweet potatoes, reran some irrigation lines, and cooked some steaks, sauteed squash, and baked some potatoes for our dinner. I even managed to get some steak down, a major accomplishment.
Oh, and I got the first sunburn of the season. Luckily with my heritage, by tomorrow it will be faded and I’ll be back to getting my farmer’s tan on.
Tomorrow: beginning the tomato transplants, as they’re ready to come out of the flats, sunflower sowing, thinning some onion and leeks that were started in the front garden late last year for replanting to give them all some more room, and washing/sanitizing wine bottles and the fill bucket so I can bottle the rissling for storage, then beginning the honey weizen. Always something to be done at the ranch.