Routines at the end of the season

We had monkey boy and the soul-eating baby at the ranch today while my sister got some shopping done. It was a gorgeous day for it, and we were in and out, playing, watching frogs, eating, and generally just hanging out enjoying the day. Yours truly has been fitting in work all day through that, but the balance of the two is incredibly important. I also wandered out to the beeyard to see if any of the hives needed more feed, but they have also been enjoying this incredibly extended warm fall, so I got to just hunker down for a few minutes in the quiet and watch the girls leave to seek and fly back to their homes for their usual awkward landings. They are really amazing little creatures, albeit apparently not terribly graceful when landing at the hive entrance.

In other news, as some of you know, I make my own vanilla extract here at the ranch. The imitation stuff at the store is just mixed and bottled; the real extract from outfits like McCormick are aged for a couple of months. On a side note about that last: I recall reading something somewhere claiming that McCormick listed corn syrup as one of the ingredients in their extract, but I’ve never seen that. For ours, we use vodka – it’s a good neutral carrier – and fresh vanilla beans. Slice open the beans, stuff them into a bottle or jug, label the bottles, and mark them with the date. Like this.

Vanilla May 2015

I store ours in the cold room and pop in every few days to just give it a little shake.  It isn’t complicated to make: vodka, beans, time. The longer it ages, the more fuller expression of taste it has, I think. It’s about time to start a new batch so it, too, can start aging.

I also make homemade kahlua for the peeps who can drink.

Kahlua May 2015

I usually do the same with these as the vanilla: at least once a week, give them a gentle shake, and other than that, they sit, waiting for their turn to make someone happy.

Speaking of aging, I’ve also thought about how cool it would be to make my own balsamic vinegar. That is an even longer process than these two things, at least if you want any that are five years or older when they’re bottled. Setting that up would require some casks, from large to small as the vinegar is shifted into ever smaller barrels as it ages and the volume reduces.  Quite a lot of cooking, farming, tech work, and writing takes waiting and patience.

In the next day or two, I’ll be pulling up the remaining tabasco and jalapeno plants, taking the ripe fruits and sending the rest to the compost pile as we continue to wind down for winter and start planning days to begin flats under the lights in the barn as we start all over again for next  season. After all the remaining tabascos are picked, it will also be time to schedule a day to make the tabasco sauce – something best done on a coolish day as all the windows have to be open because of the process. A mask is also a necessity, because cook day can be just a tad overwhelming.

And so it goes, our little routines at the ranch as we settle in for whatever winter Mother Nature would like to grant us.