Oh, snap

I’m not talking about that “you got pwned” sort of snap, but one of a chillier variety: a freak freeze in early April. There we were, minding our own business, starting to take in the peas from the garden…

…getting things transplanted…

…and watching other things sprout and grow from seed.

Even the potatoes were having a fine time of it.

And then, Mother Nature reminds us why she is Mother Nature and we…well, we are not: a freeze warning for us the day after the photos above were taken. Out here in the country, it’s usually several degrees colder than the forecast for the city. Unfortunately, that means covering up everything outside that had already been planted and that would not survive even a light freeze, let alone hours of a hard freeze.

Like all those tomatoes and peppers I had painstakingly babied and then put out.

And the corn. Of course the corn.

Plastic sheets are heavy as hell. Although it did lend a certain wagon train quality to the landscape.

The peas and beans we left uncovered – those sugar snaps are hardy creatures (and besides, The Boy picked seven pounds of pods that day) – and I only lost a few of the bush green bean plants, which are easy to replace. The good news is, everything else sailed right through. The bad news is that I had to remove all the plastic sheeting myself, AFTER my visit to the dentist that morning, since The Boy didn’t emerge from his cave to lend a hand. So, just how cold did it get?

This cold.

I”m not kidding when I say a freak freeze. The days surrounding this freezing night were balmy and in the 70s. Veritable spring-like days, in fact.

Churning away

It’s amazing the tools that are created over time, designed to make peoples’ lives easier. Like this one.

What is it, you ask? Why, a butter churn, of course. Designed for smaller batches than the old upright butter churns people may be used to, this one is small enough to sit on the counter and has wooden paddles in an interlocking fan shape attached to a spindle which in turn is hand cranked.

When we skimmed cream off our milk previously to make butter, we would put it in a quart size canning jar and shake it. This is slow work, and can be painfful if you have smaller hands and the quart jar tests the limits of your grip. With this churn, you simply hold on to a handle in the top fitting and turn the crank. After a bit, the cream gets foamy, like above.

One thing you should not do is overfill the churn and spin too quickly. Well, that’s two things, because the cream expands (as it becomes whipped cream with a lot of air incorporated) and overfilling the churn can result in a bit of overflow, as the streak on the jar shows. Soon enough, though, the cream collapses back onto itself as the fat globules come together and bind with one another and the whey is left to its own devices. It’s quite sudden when it happens, and can be surprising when you’re churning away at what was heavy, whipped cream only to find the handle begin spinning very easily and the jar once again becomes clear.

When that happens, it’s time to pour off the whey from the butter. This churn has a handy spout for that purpose (which also allows air into the jar during the churning process).

It’s only good manners to share a bit of cream with a friend.

Turn the butter out, rinse it a few times, and pack it away.

The best thing about this is that the paddles and the jar are remarkably clean after the churning. A simple wash and you’re ready to go again whenever there’s some cream to be churned.

True love

Nothing says true love like puppy kisses.

And this is Gandalf’s way of showing affection.

Not really.  This was the evening she was helping me go over my garden layout maps.

Mostly her help consists of ensuring the notebook doesn’t suddenly sprint off my desk. And there’s that whole “I’m so cute” thing she has going on.

I’ve taken her request for more catnip under consideration.

Catching up

I know, I have been a tremendous slacker of late, not keeping those near and far up to date on the happenings at the homestead. Three birthdays in the span of three and a half weeks, two of which were major affairs, plus work, plus the onset of spring – well, let’s just say that things have been quite busy here at Lazy Dog Ranch. It’s also tax season here, and we won’t even discuss that at all.

Instead, we’ll go back in time a couple of weeks, to the big birthday bash for my nephew: one year, and he’s changed from an always-screaming, never-smiling, quite silent baby to a happy, talkative baby (who still has quite stinky poo).

Given that this was a rather momentous event, much like my sister’s 30th, of course it had to be a large gathering (this time, comprised mostly of people I myself didn’t know), and of course, there had to be food. We decided on no hot dogs for the party, since we really don’t like feeding hot dogs to other peoples’ kids (has no one seen Field of Dreams?). My sister specifically requested pulled pork, and we also settled on chicken tenders (both with and without barbecue sauce), and hamburgers, to round out the carnivorous side of the menu.

Some things can be made in advance. Like a double batch of sauce.

Other things must be made in advance, since they take about 19 hours to properly cook.

The rest is a matter of prep so the day of the event doesn’t absolutely kill you with all the things that need to be done. That means pulling some carrots fresh out of the ground…

…and cleaning them up to go along with the other vegetables that are prepped for the roasted vegetables to be served along with everything else.

This gathering called for a triple batch of rolls, so the beginnings of that had to be pulled out too.

Don’t forget to vacuum the dog.

Be sure to pull the rolls out of the cold room for their final proof before they go in the oven.

Some homemade hummus – very garlicky, by Mom’s request.

A bit of potato salad and some corn pudding.

The big stuff: pulled pork, chicken tenders (with and without sauce), and burgers:

Virginia Woolf said that everyone needs a room of their own, but sometimes a cake of one’s own will do. Especially if you’re one.

For some reason, I just find this photo incredibly amusing – probably because it looks like he has the candle up his nose.

Marie Antoinette suggested it. Don’t blame me.

Oh, and did I mention the focaccia?

The kid cleaned up in the gift department, of course. We cleaned up the aftermath, and declared the big party season over until Labor Day, at which point we’ll do all this all over again to close out the summer.