31 August 2009

Monday's harvest

The bounty of the garden continues. The little cantaloupe melons are at last ripe, the Alcalde chile plants are producing chiles pintadas and chiles rojas in plenitude. The Iraqi Al-Kufa tomatoes are about gone but they were far and away the first to ripen. The Amish Paste and Long Keepers are now coming ripe.

We will begin picking the mutsu apples tomorrow if the weather is welcoming. Mrs. Fuzzy made and canned pesto today with the harvest of basil and is at this very moment slaving over a hot canning pot creating and canning more delectables for our winter and spring pleasures.

Moon and cloud

Faithful reader, I present here, for your visual pleasure, the view we experienced on Saturday night. The cloud types and the late day light are both changing with the progress of the season. Click to enlarge, should you so desire.

22 August 2009

Native Arts at the CLA Show

As far back as he can remember, Mr. Fuzzy had been fascinated with all thing Native American. He might have misspent his life as an anthropologist where it not for the intervention of one truly horrible professor at the University of Louisville in 1968 who caused him to reconsider said field and spared him from such a fate.

The CLA show just gleams and sparkles with eye-candy consisting of superior Native American art objects. One category that is always engaging is quill-work and moose hair embroidery. Before the white man traded glass beads to the original inhabitants of this land, the North Eastern tribes (and some others) decorated their moccasins, bags, garters, straps, etc., with the dyed quills from porcupines and dyed moose hair. Although a number of artisans in the CLA practice these forms, several would be considered pre-eminent. Lally House of Kentucky has practiced this form for several decades and has managed the nearly impossible - to develop a style of her own but remain true to the historical examples. From Utah, Shawn and Amanda Webster are masters of both the quill and hair, on many forms. To really appreciate these images, click on them to obtain a larger version... Amanda and Shawn are shown above; Lally's work is shown below.

It is fairly rare that these artists are Native Americans themselves; one exception is Michael Galban, although he lives and works in New York state, his place of origin is Nevada. Michael works at a major historical site, a Seneca village in the 18th century. Michael works in many media, one of those renaissance artists, from pipestone to brain tanned leather. Here are two pictures of his display, with all sorts of items: cradle boards, quilled leather bags, twined bags, shell gorgets, calumets, garters, etc., all of fine quality.

A long-time artist in this field is Jan Zender and his partner in life and art, Rochelle Dale. More than anyone I know, they walk their talk. They live in a truly remote area of northern Michigan without running water or electricity (although they now have a solar-charges cell phone). They have, for decades, lived the lifestyle of those whose arts they re-create. They make trade silver, moose hair objects, especially wonderful burl bowls, etc. The photograph at left shows Jan and his booth at the show. Jan and his longtime friend. master cordwainer, Steven Lalioff, sometimes share artistic efforts and work in tandem on objects.

All of the artists shown above create their art in almost exactly the same manor as their antecedents centuries ago. They have spent years of time studying originals in museums throughout America and Europe; this is a constant duty as new artifacts and papers describing them become available. The objects are all within the period of white contact. One artist, Lisa Crews (now of Arkansas but soon to reside in Kentucky) creates masterful reproductions of archaeologically recovered ceramic wares that were the mainstay of the middle and Caddoan Mississippian culture of 900 to 1500 A.D. She has very cleverly adapted some modern methods to producing pieces which are visually indistinguishable from their antecedents. Her prices are very realistic and the Fuzzies happily carried home two bowls, one a turkey effigy and the other a beaver (with an integral rattle). We'll use them with appreciation and zeal!

21 August 2009

A Little Break

The Fuzzies had not been away from the farm since we moved here. Our very favorite annual meeting is the Contemporary Longrifle Association held in Lexington, Kentucky, in August. It was a 1,500 mile drive from New Mexico but now an easy 7 hour drive from our little mountain in Virginia. So we loaded up Rufus for his first road trip and took mostly two land back roads to Lexington.

The name of the organization is very misleading. Originally founded by those interested in modern muzzleloading, the group has long outgrown that restrictive moniker. The show has grown to several hundred makers of objects relating to the early American frontier, ranging from clothing to paintings. There are, of course, hundreds of superb flintlock rifles about to be seen and fondled, but at least an equal number of tables are devoted to other objects d'arte. To the right and above are some of the knives of Joe Scott. from West Virginia, who makes no-nonsense, plain and serviceable knives that are very affordable. Mrs. Fuzzy has two as paring knives in her kitchen.

To the left are 18th century English style ladies riding habits by Turkey Roost Traders.
Mrs. Fuzzy gave them serious patronage with more conservative clothing.

Below is a high art shooting bag shown on a beautifully ornamented chip carved mount made for the purpose.

There are an increasing number of furniture makers present at the show. Ken Gahagan, who also makes historically accurate knives, created a superb high-boy this year; alas, I do not have a photograph. Illustrated below is part of a large display of furniture, from tea-caddies to corner cabinets.

One particularly enjoyable aspects of the meeting is the conviviality enjoyed. We only see each other once a year, all are on good behavior, and jolly faces in all directions - what you wish your high school reunion had been... there is never enough time to visit with all on your list and every meal is spent with friends. Guns and knives all around, smiles, jokes and warm greetings abound. If we could only get away from the farm once a year, this would be our choice of destination.

In the next post, more creations from the show but only Native American objects.

20 August 2009

This is a wee test of a new way to post via Mrs. Fuzzy's mobile... Mr. Snakey here is a seven foot long black rat snake. We've disturbed three or four this summer. Not agressive... unless you're a mole or mouse!

19 August 2009

Kentucky Manna

For our British friends, this is what I call "American Ethnic Food." In this instance, it's a genteel Southern delight best experienced at the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Theirs is a twelve on a ten-point scale and also where I got the recipe. If you ask for it today they'll tell you it's a closely guarded secret but... Ha! Ha!... I have an old recipe book of theirs from the 1950's. So here it is... Kentucky manna:

2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
8 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons sugar (rounded)
4 tablespoons butter (melted)
1 quart (4 cups) whole milk*
4 whole eggs (beaten)

Here's the recipe as written:

"Stir into the corn the flour, salt, sugar, and butter. beat eggs well, put them in the milk. Then stir into the corn and put into a pan or pyrex. Bake inside of oven slowly -- about 40 or 45 minutes. Stir from bottom 3 times while baking."

I mixed everything in my big roasting pan, then added the liquids and stirred really well. You want to get the flour well distributed. I call a "slow" oven about 250 degrees, maybe 300. I baked at the lower temp because milk isn't edible if it burns. My pudding took about an hours this way and was utterly perfect in consistency. You absolutely must stir several times, bringing the goop up from the bottom, to get it all to cook evenly. What you end up with is a tender custard with corn nicely distributed throughout.

* Use the best quality eggs and milk you can get! This is a supremely simple dish and what goes in definitely determines what comes out. As you know, I'm a fan of low-temp pasteurized milk from organic, pastured cows. It has more flavor!!! I'm also a great believer in using eggs from pastured poultry. Not only do they have more nutrients than caged or "floor raised" hens, they have beautiful yellow yolks and tons of flavor. (I can also drop an egg on the counter at six inches and not have it go splat.) Yes they are more expensive but you'll probably be buying them from a real person who will immediately spend that money in your community. Oh, and eggs last at least a month in the fridge whether they've been washed or not so it's a good buy even if you don't eat them all the time.

18 August 2009

While Looking Up a Local Radio Station...

Yep, that's right: 1,248 job listings in MY city! One for nearly every person living in my county.

16 August 2009

Sour Bramble Jam

For all you fans of Crafting With Cats here's a recipe to make up for all the ones you've been missing since I abandoned that blog. This recipe makes 6 to 8 cups of jam.

Mr. Fuzzy likes his blackberries sour so I came up with this recipe when he said my "very low sugar" recipe was way too sweet. (As in a 3:16 ratio instead of 1:1!) You'll need a large surface area pan to make this in less than 12 hours so I use our largest roasting pan set over two burners. Even then, plan to spend the day at home... it's worth it! Here's a good video tutorial series if you've never done any caning before. If you're impatient at least watch parts three and four.

1 gallon blackberries
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice*

a little water

1 1/2 cups 100% white grape juice concentrate

1 package "No Sugar Needed" dry pectin

Special Equipment
A pan with a large surface area
gallon stock pot
large pot of water for water canning
sauce pan
canning jars & lids (lids must be new!)
canning tools (funnel, lifter..)

Santa Cruz Organic, not the stuff in the plastic lemon!

You can use fresh or frozen berries for this recipe. Picking your own and not being too particular about needing the most perfect, deep black, fat berries is a real help to getting this to be puckerlicious.

Measure berries, lemon juice and a little water ("more or less" is OK) and put into your stock pot. Heat until the berries produce juice... it won't take long. Now transfer to the big open pan. Turn up the heat to medium-high and stir occasionally to keep fruit from sticking. Add the grape juice concentrate, turn the heat down to a slow boil / simmer. Cook until the berries reduce by at least half but preferably until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Stir regularly while this is cooking down and don't be afraid to use the spoon to scrape up what's sticking to the bottom.... it'll incorporate nicely! If you have to walk away for a few minutes just turn the stove off and let the steam rise then turn the heat back on when you can watch the pot (while folding laundry or teaching your dog to roll over.)

Once the berries have cooked down nearly as far as you can stand to watch the pot... a few hours... start the water canner. You've got a couple gallons in there so it takes a while. I like to wash & put my jars in there as they need to be hot and should boil for 10-15 minutes to sterilize before filling anyway. Make sure the water comes 1" over the tops. Put the lids into the small sauce pan and add hot water. Simmer a couple minutes just before you're ready to fill the cans. This softens the sealing stuff and prevents shock.

Ok, now you're all set with your jars. You might have decided that this took WAY longer than expected and turned the heat off under your fruit goop for 15 minutes, which is perfectly OK. Bring it back up to a boil that doesn't fully abate when stirred and sprinkle the pectin over the entire surface of the fruit. Mix in quickly and let it come back to a boil for at least 1 minute. Turn off the heat.

Lift jars, fill to about 1/4" of the rim, cap them, and process 10 minutes (plus your altitude adjustment) in boiling water. Count the processing time from when the bubbles are steady, large, and burst at the surface. Carefully lift out and don't move those suckers until they are stone cold. Down here, the seal 'pops' closed in less than a minute but my recollection in Santa Fe was it could take hours.

13 August 2009

Thanks for Putting Up with Us!

If you look over at the sidebar you'll see I've updated the tally on what we've "put up" off the farm so far in this, our first, year. Next year I hope to have more in the "dried" category but that nasty little moisture problem needs to be dealt with first. Thankfully, I've now got a handle on my every-time-the-barometer-moves-my energy-hibernates problem so I'll be better prepared for quickly dealing with the bounty NEXT year!!!! At least one stone has been cleared from that path!

Or, I guess, later this year if those beautiful tomatoes ever color up! We've not had enough sun in the last month to make the tomatoes turn red in any numbers. Well..... ANY number until yesterday. I can always make my Grammie Starbird's vegetable relish and lots of fried green tomatoes if I get impatient. What I really want is to make jars and jars of tomato sauce because we eat a lot of it in the winter.

So far we have a year's worth of jams, jellies, sauces, and pickles.... not too bad for a first try!

10 August 2009

Dog Days

The summer doldrums have struck us at last. The temperature consistently rises to the mid-80s and the nights are barely cooling off (67F last night, 69F the night before, but the air is still and so thick you could eat it with a spoon). Mr. Fuzzy went to harvest blackberries yesterday and even the ticks and chiggers were in a torpor, only one or two rising to the tender flesh presented before them. Until now, the summer here had been unusually mild but now the dog days of summer have come on with a vengeance. The sun and heat are bringing the garden to its maturity; the tomatoes are finally ripening, the melons and pumpkins swelling daily, the zucchinis have nearly worked themselves to death and are fading away. The melon bloom shown is more than eight inches from tip-to-tip.

Last night we finally felt compelled to turn on the air conditioner to cool the bedroom down to a decent sleeping temperature... It must have worked because by 1:00 a.m., there were four cats sleeping with us.

The four kittens (Buster, Fred Tweedle, Ann Tweedle and Beatrice) born in April are now deporting themselves as 'real cats' not kittens; they have remained, and we trust, will remain, extremely affectionate. Buster is very orange, with orange eyes, the Tweedles are more ginger, Bea (as she is known more familiarly) is a color combination that even the professionally-cat-experienced Mrs. Fuzzy has never encountered. She is more or less a red-head under her other more neutral colours, and becomes more red with each passing day (her photo appears below).

The young-uns go charging out the door in the morning, interspersed with the adults. When they are outside, either Jack (most often) or Lily will still keep watch to assure their safety. Perhaps because of their age they are more curious about the Rufus beast than the adults and when Rufus is in his crate, they sometimes tease him mercilessly.

Yet another unfortunate cat has appeared at Stratheden Farm. We have now heard a rumor that one of the neighbors about half a mile away is a cat horder and perhaps this explains the number of cats who come here, nearly all are completely starved. "Hodge" (named in honour of Dr. Sam'l Johnson's favourite feline) appeared yesterday morning; he must be at least eight months old (and in fact, could be one of Jack Tar's siblings) but is one of the scrawniest cats we have ever seen, as if he has been deprived of food. We cannot have another indoor cat, ten is beyond the capacity of both the house and the Fuzzies, but he is in a terrible, critical state... so we are feeding him on the veranda, which he seems to now think of (already) as home. The other cats do not attempt to run him off, as they do other un-neutered males - I believe that they too recognize his dreadful plight and have mercy. His future is uncertain but we will not take him to the county animal pound - that is as good as a death warrant. Hodge has intensely green eyes and when he cries, he can hold a C-sharp longer than any Italian diva...

05 August 2009

Sit! Stay! Read!

No, Rufus is not reading (quite) yet... he's only 15 or 16 weeks old, after all! But.... he might just be smart enough to do so before he's two.

Life with mister border collie is sometimes pretty maddening... like the other day when he broke Mr. Fuzzy's grandmother's huge crystal vase... or when he stole the peach I was about to eat... or when he goes whacko nipping my heels... but it's not half as maddening as Nutmeg because this dog has All His Wiring Connected! He can learn, wants to learn, and does so at lightening speed. Best of all, he wants to please us and does whatever it takes to stay near us. He loves riding in the back of the Honda...

In only three weeks he's potty trained, learned the commands 'sit', 'down', 'off'', 'no', and 'cool it', and gotten himself pretty well crate trained once he learned he could either chill in there or in the garden. (And that chicken jerky only appears in the crate.) He chose the crate where he can watch the cats. What all this REALLY means is that he has managed to learn enough to not have his little paws nailed to the floor in utter frustration. Perhaps I should bake our vet a cake to say "thanks for teaching me how to teach him to be polite." Yep, he's even figured out that leaping on me is not the way I want to be greeted!

Good boy, Rufus!