Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Once And Future King

Done!  All 29 discs (minus a little skipping of a few tracks on the last disc) have been listened to.  33 hours.

If I had been smart, I would have tried the books one by one, as the 5 books are broken out separately in some versions, though in all honesty I would never have made it through the fifth one, The Book of Merlin.  It seems to have been published posthumously and is often (and in my book, wisely) not included in The Once and Future King.

I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would.  Having been forced, while in college, to read bits of Le Morte d'Arthur by Mallory, I have given all Arthurian works a very wide birth in self-defense, I was delightfully surprised by the humor of T.H. White's version.  The first book, The Sword in the Stone, was fun and actually not too distorted by the Disney version.  Parts dragged a bit, but the first 4 books are certainly worth reading--though a reasonable library might give someone an extended period of time to listen to a 29-disc book compared to a 5-disc book, or break the books up into smaller segments so the listener can listen at leisure rather than in a maniacal bent, but borrowers can't be choosers...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Are You Sitting Down?

This year I planted yellow zucchini and got,
 Yellow zucchini!!!!   I planted patty pan squash, and this morning saw the tiny start of a spaceship squash:
I planted sugar pumpkins, and it looks like I'm getting:
 sugar pumpkins!!!!  I planted red Hubbard, and am getting:
Fair enough, it's yellow right now, but I think it's going to turn red.  It's at least a Hubbard.  Granted, I did plant some that didn't  come up, but I actually seem to be getting squash I planted!!!!!!!!!!

My garden believes in equilibrium, so  
I can't decide if this was supposed to be a striped zinnia or a Whirligig, but I didn't even have seeds for a yellow zinnia.  It's bright and cheerful--but it's not what I planted.  Nor, actually, is this:
which really was supposed to be striped.  These fared a bit better on the striping front,
 though this one seems to have not seen the picture of how the stripes were actually supposed to look:
 It's interesting, and still a flower, so in MY garden I'd better count this as a "win."  At least it didn't come up as a potato or something.  I think I can live with "close enough."


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Good News And the Bad News

The good news is, we now have 17 pints of home made beef stew canned and ready for winter:
The bad news is, it was supposed to be 14 pints, and when the dreadfully unhelpful recipe said to "add enough boiling water to cover" the other ingredients, I covered them too much so we have more of a soup than a stew.  Not to mention leftovers that didn't fit into the canner, and what better way to round off a 91-degree day of canning when one has forgotten to close the windows and turn the air conditioning on than with a nice hot bowl of stew? 

I need this no-processed-foods thing to extend my life--I need the extra time to can.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Thyme for Andy

Yesterday some of our more optimistic friends gave Andy two thyme plants--one for the garden and one
for inside.  Now Andy normally just does the heavy gardening stuff, and has never been allowed to be in charge of houseplants, but this time we have made an exception.   Last year I planted thyme and TWO different friends gave me thyme--and I killed it all.  I couldn't have killed them faster if I had some sort of herb vendetta impulse.  So, in the interests of these poor plants having any chance AT ALL, they belong to Andy.  We figured if these poor plants knew they had been assigned to my "death zone" care they would give up the will to live immediately, so we'll see how this works out.  We have nowhere to go but up!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Where There's A Will...........

I think I've mentioned before that I grew up on a cattle ranch, which my family still operates.  This means that I grew up eating beef.  LOTS of it.  I don't think many people made a really decent living at it, but one does eat well, and there's a lot to be said for knowing where one's food is coming from.

However, there are things that are very, very different living this way.  For one thing, one doesn't just "order up" food as one would like it.  One deals with things as they come.  For instance, if a cow gets hit by a car, one calls out the mobile butcher and gets 700+ pounds of very lean ground beef.  It's either that or take a $1000 loss, which would be silly.  However, it's a rather big adjustment to suddenly have a whole bunch of meat one didn't expect and wasn't planning on.  As you can imagine, my family owns some REALLY big freezers.

This year when selling the steers, 11 of them got turned back for improper marking.  That was a bit of a surprise.  The ranch has started keeping a few steers to sell directly to consumers, but 2-3 is a lot different than 11.  Since there are 4 kids from the ranch (my sister and I and two cousins), the ranch very generously gave us each a side of beef (one half an animal) and we just had to pay for the cutting and wrapping.  This is a fantastic deal, but the ranch didn't have adequate feed set aside for 11 1000-pound animals which it wasn't expecting, so there was a time crunch involved.  I had been diligently cleaning out space in our freezers and had waited as long as we could before picking up our meat, but when I picked it up on Monday and brought it home, we discovered it was MUCH more than we expected.  I spent the rest of Monday cleaning out the freezers, digging out things we could use immediately, and improvising a "frozen vegetable du jour" crock pot soup (which turned out REALLY well, I might add), and rearranging everything.  I found room for everything except 4 big 4-pound packages of soup bones, so:
 it was time to learn to can beef broth.  Thank heavens for this big stock pot, and I have some great canning books which walked me through the whole process, but I do wish they might have found a nicer way to walk me through a key step than "skim the scum off the top."  I realize I need to be much tougher for this lifestyle, but who wants "scum" on something they're going to consume?  Of course, it turns out that was the good part, because the next step after letting the stock chill overnight was to "defat" it:
Now that term I like, and if given the chance I would "defat" my thighs in a nanosecond.  It took a while to figure out a good way to do this, but finally I found a way to work it:
The huge stock pot is really great, but it would be even better if my kitchen utensils were long enough to straddle the thing.  Oh well--this worked, and I was really pretty shocked that this:
is all I ended up with from a quadruple stock recipe.  Not all of that is fat--most of it is actually sediment.  I guess the whole point of a soup bone (which I'm thinking is actually leg) is that is really from a tough, well-exercised part of the steer so it wouldn't have much fat, but I was thankful all the same.  I'm not quite tough enough to face an entire block of just chilled fat--not even if it's butter, no matter WHAT Julia Child says

After a two day process (one to make the broth, overnight to cool, then canning the next day), we have beef broth!
I think the final count was 6 quarts, 9 pints, and some that needs to be frozen into ice cubes.  I have six more packages of soup bones to deal with, but I think that sounds like a project to start tomorrow..............

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hm............

Do squash bugs normally mate in broad daylight and on top of plant stakes, or are mine just getting cheeky?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Not Yet

There may be a day when I can use the pressure canner without fear of blowing up my kitchen, but I'm not there yet.  I do, however, no longer yearn for protective gear while canning.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Whatever

Some years I have really enjoyed gardening..........but this isn't one of them.
The extreme heat here (combined with my delay in planting) has stopped the tomatoes in their tracks.  Usually, we get huge plants, but this year I think this might be as tall as they get.  Obviously, I'm not being overly zealous about weeding--though I do some--and this year I'm not using cages because I've read that shading the roots helps retain water, and I think they'll need all the help they can get.

Luckily, the "godetia monarch dwarf" flower seems to not mind the heat AND continues flowering,  
so we have a new "keeper."   The cool new Starlight Zinnia is pretty uneventful in person:
 The "stars" are pretty hard to see on some of the flowers, but at least they're bushy and prolific and can survive the heat.  I was getting a bit concerned about my cool striped zinnias from last year, as the first flowers from the seeds were not striped at all:
and I was worried that the striping was a hybrid sort of thing, but the striped one are kicking in now--you can see one poking out of the leaves there.  No sign of a Whirligig Zinnia yet, but I'm sure I planted some somewhere. 

The zucchini are finally getting going......and I found squash bug eggs on them this morning.  So much for nasturtium repelling the darn things.  I've bombed all the squash with pesticide.  Organic be damned--this is war!
 I think we can finally say we're growing pumpkins:
 and "red" hubbards, which seem to be yellow. 
The seed packed doesn't say if these get as big as the green ones, and it seems inconceivable as this plant is just COVERED in squash.  I don't really see how one (or maybe two--always possible) plant could grow 10 or more 35-pound squash, but if they do.........I'll have to ask Andy how he feels about consuming 350 pounds of squash in one year.......

And our more elusive kitty, Calisto, was in her element this morning:
She is our garden girl, and while she doesn't actually like to have her tummy rubbed like Theo does, she has noticed how much attention he gets with the cute tummy trick, so she has thoroughly adopted it--and even chirps and mews at you until you see her.  The ham..........

Monday, July 9, 2012

Good Heavens!

It's 106 degrees outside!!!!! 

106 should NOT be a temperature--it's depressing enough when it's my bowling score.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What Are We Getting For Our Money?

I'm taking an on-line class on Health Policy and the Affordable Care Act through Coursera and the University of Pennsylvania, and it's been fascinating.  The Right Wing here in the US likes to claim that A) we have the best health care in the nation and that B) Socialized medicine would cause the end of the world--okay, not in those terms, but that is the general level of extremism in their discourse.  So, I was amazed to see this graph:


The chart is from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Economic Development, based on 2010 data.  It's an international organization, and though there are elements in American who would still claim that somehow an international organization is spreading lies put about by Obama to bring socialized medicine (like the rest of the "first world" countries), but for the non-paranoid delusionals, it's a real eye-opener.  The United States spends more than 50% more than any other country on health care, and we have one of the LOWER life expectancies.  Of course, there a few things that sort of skew this--America has more violent deaths than most of these nations, which lowers life expectancy--but NOTHING changes the amount we spend on health care.  Nothing.

The Look

Anyone who thinks cats can't learn things hasn't lived with one. It took Theo maybe a month into his diet to figure out that I can...