Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Pumpernickel Bread

I used the King Arthur Flour classic pumpernickel bread recipe but omitted the caraway seeds. 

Ingredients at the ready
The instructions were straight forward but this is like no dough I’ve ever made. Well, unless you count cookie dough because that’s what this mixed up like.

Spectacularly thick. I couldn’t get my 6-qt 575 watt mixer to knead the dough properly. It just wouldn’t grab on the dough hook. The recipe said to knead it for 10 minutes and I kept having to stop, pull the dough from the bowl’s sides, and start again.

Eventually I was able to dump it in my dough bucket to rise. Good thing they recommended I dust the top with flour as that was the only real proof I had that the dough had risen. It was just as craggy after an hour as when it went in...but the flour had cracked which was one of the hints they gave for success.

Here it is after shaping. Still looks like cookie dough.
So heavy and dense 
 After baking for an hour, it rose slightly in the dish.
Yes, it’s done 
The good news is that they warned that this was a heavy bread so at least I was expecting it. Once cool, I sliced it incredibly thin, toasted it lightly, and made open-face tuna sandwiches. They were great! Rich, slightly sweet, slightly funky flavor. Can’t wait to try it toasted with cream cheese in the morning. Maybe I’ll thaw some lox too. 

Is it my favorite bread? No. Too distinctly flavored for everyday. But as a special occasion bread? Definitely worth the effort.

Monday, April 27, 2020


Three inches of wet, heavy, March-style snow on April 27th. Really?

And it didn’t all melt off today. Oh well, at least it’s a form of moisture. April has been oddly dry this year.

Lots of breads

I bake bread. Lots and lots of bread. Fortunately that means I have plenty of yeast and flour on hand all the time. And thanks to a friend, I also have sourdough starter that I’ve been experimenting with for months. So the shortages haven’t really impacted us. After all, I usually have five or six different types of flour in quantities of 5 to 50 pounds as a matter of course. And my family used to make fun of me...ha!

Here’s some of what we’ve been enjoying:

Sourdough discard popovers 
Sourdough boule with onion, garlic, poppy, and sesame seeds 
New flatbread recipe from my sister-in-law
Grilling it
Excellent improvisation: beans, cheese, salsa, greens  
I didn’t get pictures of the english muffins or cinnamon loaves. Next up is my first attempt at pumpernickel. Gotta go boil some potatoes...

Saturday, April 25, 2020

60 and sunny

What do you do when it’s finally gorgeous out yet everyone is supposed to social distance? Go kayaking! We took the tandem boat to a secluded put-in and launched onto a nearly deserted lake. There were a few other kayakers out there but we never got within 100 yards yet alone 6 feet.

An absolutely gorgeous day and it felt great to get out and do something physical that didn’t involve digging fence post holes.

Sewing pillows

I decided the best way to clean up my studio was to get some projects finished. So I spent a day sewing pillow covers. Fun, quick, and it cleared a surprising amount of space.

I bought this silly fabric at a little shop on Madeira when we cruised there. It’ll be perfect on the day bed out on the bridge.

This is some pretty home-dec fabric I got on super sale at Joann Fabrics. I covered three sizes of pillow form that will go out on the porch. 

I like the yellow and green against the red siding. I’m going to paint or stain the rocking chairs this summer so the cushion colors will pop more soon.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Top soil

I love our property. It’s wonderful. Full of trees, streams, and gently folded hills. What it is not is soil rich. Lots of older trees means loam in the forest. But there is no depth to it. We can’t dig it up and use it elsewhere on the property. So we buy dirt. Lots and lots of dirt.

20 yards, baby!
This makes the third year that we’ve brought in loads of top soil. Usually we just do 10 yards but this year we got the full truckload of 20. 

We used it to fill in the kitchen garden.
My new rock-walled kitchen garden
I added some mini rock walls to the front flower beds. This helped smooth the curves to make it easier for Chris to mow. Of course those needed to be filled and the flower bed itself was too low. So more soil was added there.
Bed #1
Bed #2, already planted pansies
Bed #3, maybe for bachelor buttons?
I had planned to hit the nursery this year for a bunch of perennial plants to would fill these beds with recurring color. They’re already pretty full of hostas but I’d like some color in there too. But the nursery I like is closed for COVID reasons and I’ll just have to wait. I’ve got some annual flower seeds so at least I’ll be able to get those in there.

The rest of the soil will be used on various gardens and to level the yard around the greenhouse. Anything left over will get spread in the chicken pasture in hopes of renewing that area. I’ve already spread it with mulching hay and the leaves I raked up while cleaning up the yard this spring. If I get soil in there too I should be able to get grass to regrow.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sunday April 19,2020 Statistics

From The Times Union website:

Total COVID-19 cases:
• 242,570 in New York state, including 18,921 deaths. 596,532 total tested.
• 742,442 in the U.S., including 40,585 deaths. 67,052 recovered. 3,723,634 total tested.
• 2,375,443 worldwide, including 164,716 deaths. 611,430 recovered.
PAUSE was extended to May 15. They say relaxing restrictions will depend on testing (at least in NY anyway) but tests are still in short supply. So we’ll see how that plays out.
In the meantime, we’re working on putting up the big garden fence. This will not only keep out deer, it’ll give the chickens another secure place to range. It’s nearly time to start limiting their free ranging as it’s almost fox time. The kits should be learning to hunt soon and this is when I seem to lose birds. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Silly birds

The chicks are growing like weeds. We moved them into the utility room when we realized it was too cold in the greenhouse at night despite having the heat lamp. This works fine and I’m quite surprised that the cats have completely ignored them.

They have taken to getting on top of the food and water containers. They perch up there like Snoopy on his dog house. I think it’s time to add a mini roost in there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Greenhouse

Last fall Chris finished the greenhouse just in time to plant some greens and see just how much it would extend the growing season. I’m happy to say that we had fresh kale, arugula, and parsley all the way through Thanksgiving. Then it got bitter cold and everything went dormant.

Now that spring is here the beds are warming up in there and I’m starting to get some sprouts. I went ahead a re-seeded the lettuce bed but the arugula and kale beds look like they’ll come back with no extra seeding.

Here are some shots of the greenhouse...I don’t think I ever posted any.

It’s a pit greenhouse so much of it is below grade. The walls are field stone scavenged from the old camp foundation.
The north side
The green glass is old metal reinforced safety glass from the mill where I worked. They were replacing it and offered it to me. I enthusiastically said “yes, please!”.

Repositioned rain barrel 
The rain barrel used to be on the garden shed but I didn’t have enough drop to get decent water pressure. So we moved it here. I’ll be able to hook up a drip irrigation system straight from here into the greenhouse beds.
The south side
The left window broke in the wind storm yesterday. Chris stapled up a bag until he could make a replacement. I love that he found a clear feed sack.
Looking out toward the East
Kale, arugula, and lettuce beds
A table for relaxing 
Starting seeds
 From south to north: garden, greenhouse, chicken coop and pasture.

I can’t wait for everything to be green and growing. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Continuous Bias Tape

I’ve made good use of a variety of videos showing how to make continuous bias tape but really wanted a quick and simple photo series to serve as a reminder. Our internet is frustratingly slow and unreliable so I didn’t want to have to wait for videos to load when I just needed a quick visual. 

So here we go with my own. I strongly recommend you look at videos if you’ve never done this before. I doubt this will be sufficient to actually teach the technique.

Cut a square of fabric. Line up with warp running away from you. Be sure the darn picture you take is actually oriented properly, not sideways like this one.

I’m standing with stripes running away
Take top right corner and fold down and left to form 45 degree angle.
Now it’s oriented correctly!
Cut on the folded edge.

Two triangles 
Flip the bottom triangle up and match right sides together to form this shape.

Pin edge and sew with a quarter inch seam.

Darn orientation changed again 
Once sewn, press open seam and lay out as a parallelogram.

Seam is vertical away from you 
Draw lines on the wrong side of fabric the width you need for whatever bias tape you’re making. I wanted 1/2 inch double fold so marked 2-inch strips.
Draw all the way down the fabric
You’ll likely have a bit left at the edge that’s less than your 2-inch requirement. Just trim that off.

Match the lines but offset to one side (see how the tails stick out?). That’s so you can cut a continuous strip rather than disconnected ones.
Line up drawn lines
Now the weird bit. Put a pin on the line a quarter inch from the edge. Then pin through to the matching line on the other side, also a quarter inch down. Straighten the pin and the very edge of the drawn lines will slide off each other but the edge of the fabric will match. Do that to the next one too and you’ll see the edges meet up across the fabric without wrinkles or gaps.

Ready to sew
Sew with a quarter inch seam allowance then press seam open. This is what it looks like and you’re now ready to cut the continuous strip. I’ve already started cutting to demo.

Strip started in upper right.
That’s it. Like I said, you probably should check out some videos, but this will be enough of a reminder now that I’ve done it a few times.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Meals on PAUSE

It’s been a bit weird cooking the last few weeks. Digging deep into the pantry and freezer to use all those things you felt were worth keeping on hand. Turns out I’d done a decent job of stocking stuff that we use a lot.

Last week I roasted a turkey bought on sale at Thanksgiving. Did my typical Julia Child treatment of dismemberment with a touch of Cook’s Illustrated overnight fridge desiccation (doesn’t that sound lovely). However it helps to both season the meat and dry the outside so you get wonderfully crisp skin. Since it’s not Thanksgiving and I didn’t want traditional flavoring to get in the way, I mainly seasoned with marjoram. Then the fun began, because there is nothing so flexible as leftover turkey.

We had turkey, mashed potato, corn frozen from the garden, and the best gravy I’ve ever made. Then it morphed into pot pie, nachos with black beans and shredded cabbage, turkey snacks with cheddar and crudités, General Tso with lots of rice, and I still managed to freeze some for future use. Unfortunately I’m also now out of celery, rice, and potatoes.

I’m starting to run low on some basics but have a long way to go before we’re eating Ramen noodles with no add-ins. A treat today was homemade strawberry ice cream with double chocolate cookies to make ice cream sandwiches (and there goes the rest of my heavy cream). That’s also the last of the frozen strawberries and who knows if I’ll get to go picking this year. I sure hope restrictions don’t last through June.

My freezer is nearly a foot lower than normal and I’m starting to really regret passing on that quarter cow last year. On the plus side I’ve got plenty of room for baking: english muffins, sourdough boules, bagels, cookie dough, etc.

For those reading this who aren’t in NY state, PAUSE is what our governor has called our Stay At Home order. Whatever it’s called we’re doing our part to stop the spread. Hope you are as well. And I hope you’re managing to eat well while doing it.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Sunday April 12, 2020 Statistics

From The Times Union website:

Total COVID-19 cases:
• 189,020 in New York state, including 9,385 deaths
• 547,681 in the U.S., including 21,692 deaths
• 1,835,373 worldwide, including 113,672 deaths. 402,110 recovered
Some talk in the world news of other countries slowly coming out of this. Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and the UK are still under lockdown but starting to see a flattening of the infection curve. 
The whole world has been hard hit. No real answer as to treatment or vaccines yet but it’s still early days despite how upside-down everything is. 
We are doing well and still know no one who has been infected. Our friends and family are staying home and we’re all just waiting for this to be over.
In not so depressing news, Spring is here. Plants are coming up, the chickens are laying, the gardens have been prepped for planting, the chicks are growing, and I’ve got all of my seed pods planted. Actually, that all sounds pretty good.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Greenhouse News

My bachelor buttons have germinated! Itty bitty sprouts are poking their heads up. I’m going to plant a bunch more this week. I also need to plant more radishes and peas, but as it’s snowing I think I’ll wait a day or so. In the meantime, I think I’ll just go stare at my sprouts again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020


Impossible to see chicks

My chicks arrived on the homestead yesterday. 5 Black Sex-Linked females and 1 mystery sex Barred Rock. I’ve had great success with the two BSL that are part of my current flock. They are hardy and consistent layers of extra-large brown eggs.

Originally I was going to get all Barred Rock for my replacement flock but since I liked the BSL so much and since the Barred Rocks being offered were straight run (meaning they weren’t sexed) I figured why take the chance I’d end up with roosters. BSL it was.

I did get 1 Barred Rock though and I’m about 50/50 as to whether I hope it’s a rooster. They can be wonderfully helpful in protecting the flock by keeping an eye out for predators. They can also be anti-social shits. Only time will tell which we get.

In case you’re wondering why I need a replacement flock, these are aging out. They were barely productive over the winter and I basically fed them with no return. The two BSL were my only consistent layers and even they were only laying a couple eggs per week each. So I’ll cull the Orpingtons this fall as they are the least productive and the most fragile health-wise. I’m getting excellent production right now and that should continue until they go into molt. Based on last year that will be just in time for an Autumn harvest. And the new flock should be laying by then, so I’ll have plenty of eggs over the winter.

I know many people keep their chickens even as laying slows or even stops altogether, but these are livestock to me, not pets. I care for their physical needs, give them plenty of fresh air, sunshine, and free-ranges, then make the best use of their bodies when I deem it appropriate. These 3 will become nourishing and tasty stock that will help feed us all winter long. I’m comfortable with that.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Sunday April 5, 2020 Statistics

From The Times Union website:

Total COVID-19 cases:
• 113,833 in New York state, including 3,565 deaths
• 311,301 in the U.S., including 8,476 deaths
• 1,201,591 worldwide,. including 64,606 deaths. 246,152 have recovered
Well those are some sobering numbers. We are so lucky to be healthy, safe, and minimally impacted. Yes, we’re staying home and all our normal outside activities have been cancelled. But we ourselves and those closest to us are okay. 
I’m just going to be grateful for that.

Friday, April 3, 2020


Went out this morning to do chores and discovered that a mouse had stolen my freshly planted sunflower and zucchini seeds. Can’t tell if they attacked the other seeds as they are simply too small to see amongst the soil. And the tiny holes left by the mice are too small to reliably tell if they raided a seed pod. So.

Chris is building me some seedling boxes that will shelter the seed pods. I’ll use metal screening to make a mesh top that should block mice yet allow light and easy watering.

It’s always something, isn’t it?

Thursday, April 2, 2020


I spent yesterday afternoon in the greenhouse planting seeds. It was glorious. The sun was warm coming through the roof, there was a light cool breeze blowing through the eaves, and it was just so peaceful. Also, productive; I got a lot done. 

All my 8-week plants
These were mostly peppers, sweet and hot, and tomatoes. They should be ready to transplant by Memorial Day which is when it’s warm enough to put tender plants in the ground up here. These are way more plants than I typically grow but since I’m starting from seed this year I wanted safety stock in case I don’t get good germination. And if they all do grow? That just means I can share with friends.

I’ll be planting my 6-week seeds today so that I can get those in around Mother’s Day. I also have hardy ground crops to plant in the main garden, radishes and peas, but need to figure out my layout first. That’s planned for this morning while I wait for the day to heat up a bit.

Inspecting the fall greenhouse beds revealed not only some lettuce sprouts, but this little guy.
It’s alive!
That is a kale plant. Couldn’t believe it. Maybe some of the others will resurrect as well.

Peer to peer veterans

We have a very active peer to peer veterans group in our area. Chris got involved this year and I got to go along on one of the project days.

It was a painting and pizza party. A bunch of veterans and family getting together to goof off, talk, and support each other. It’s amazing what gets shared when you’re relaxed and having fun.

This took place in February before all the social distancing went into effect. And I’m glad it did; now that people are self-isolating, having a group of folks that you can call up and chat with is incredibly helpful.

Plus it was just fun. Here is what I painted.

Cute, huh? It’s hanging by the front door. Chris (who is a much better artist than I) painted a more Autumnal scene so you’ll just have to wait for September to see his.