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Fourteen Years

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Time flies when you’re having fun. This week it’s been 14 years of living here. I actually find that hard to believe. Nine of those years I have been retired.  Looking back I wonder where the time went and what did we do during those years.

I was a city girl. Now, I just can’t imagine living someplace not surrounded by nature. I don’t miss the smog, the congestion, the hurried pace, the light and the noise. I really like the peace and quiet, and the darkness. Sitting on the porch on balmy evenings watching the sun set. Getting up early and watching the animals at the feeders and the bird bath. Battling the squirrels as they try to destroy my feeders. Moving the occasional snake.

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The first time I saw the sun turn the trees to “fire” I was hooked.

We have been lucky out here. The chance to put up the radio towers for my husband’s hobby. The garden, for about eight years. Then I did have to move to the community space which keeps me involved with others in a social gardening setting. And giving me protection from the deer who tried constantly to defeat my fencing in the yard. I still put certain things in the small enclosed space in my yard, like potatoes, garlic and herbs.

I have become a homebody. Not wanting to leave for extended periods of time. Letting the passport lapse for the near term.

While decluttering, I found a box of old government papers that included many travel forms. I estimate I spent years of my career on the road. Easily five years, maybe more. I don’t miss it at all. We still take overnight or weekend trips but being cramped in an airplane isn’t my idea of a fun time. Give me a B&B in the country and good restaurants and I am happy.

The outdoors and the weather drive our activities these days. There’s garden season. And the prime time amateur radio season. Let’s not forget mowing season. We fill our days with activities and projects, and keep relatively fit taking care of things.

I also don’t think I would have gotten into cooking and baking if we lived in an urban environment. Certainly the way we eat has been influenced by the farms and family businesses in our area.

Fourteen years have flown by. We are happy we took the plunge and moved out here, and look forward to many more years in our peaceful place.

Zero Point Seven

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Degrees. Fahrenheit. The lowest temperature here in the boonies, measured just south of us in Dayton at the RIMPO weather station. This was Thursday morning at 4:52 am while we were still all bundled up and warm, sleeping.

I am so glad I don’t have to commute in this weather. At that hour, before retirement, my husband would have been leaving to catch the commuter bus.

We haven’t ventured out much and we have been taking care of the birds and squirrels that live in our pine trees. I did find out that my bird bath heater doesn’t do ZERO degrees. The water was frozen Thursday. It was OK this morning so it hasn’t bit the dust.

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This is what it should look like. It was a solid sheet of ice and I did not try to take pictures in that temperature.

It does pretty well in snow, like during Snowmageddon a few years back.

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Having fresh water is the most important service I can provide them.

Since I have been stuck at home, I have been following social media using the neighborhood pages. Many requests for plumbers, or HVAC people. I have to say that periods of bad weather are not the time to go looking for immediate help if you haven’t already established a relationship,  A plumber who knows you and your property will fit you in. Ken Griffin did a same day service call when we had a bathroom pipe freeze and break five years ago. Environmental Systems Associates has come in less than 24 hours when our heat pumps have failed. We use both of these local businesses for work when it isn’t an emergency so we aren’t looking for recommendations on line during a crisis.

Right now it is still snowing. There’s at least three inches out on the benches. This wasn’t predicted to happen. Looks like tomorrow we will be clearing the driveway and the cars. I have to go pick up my monthly meat share delivery at the Wegmans parking lot at noon. Evermore Farm has about 20 of us on their delivery route throughout the area and I am fresh out of eggs. Looking forward to the chicken too. I pick up three dozen eggs, a chicken, and 7-8 pounds of Angus beef and Berkshire pork. I could have home delivery but this gives me an excuse to shop once a month at Wegmans.

I think I will stop by Mother Natures in Snowden for bird seed. My supplies are dwindling. They are right down the road from Wegmans.  Might as well make this an efficient trip.

Stay warm everyone.

Eating Seasonally

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It’s the dead of winter. Headed off this afternoon to pick up my farm share at my friend’s house, delivered by Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. While snow flurries fluttered down on me.

There are just a dozen of us participating in the winter 15 week CSA. Those winter vegetables aren’t fan favorites. Root vegetables mainly. Still, eating seasonally is something I committed to do eight years ago.

Many people would turn up their noses at meals featuring basic root vegetables but I consider it a challenge to make creative dishes from them. I also like having fresh vegetables just harvested. Our CSA does a great job of mixing things up even when there isn’t a huge selection available.

Here’s our first week’s basket. And what I did with it. With winter vegetables you may have them hanging around a while. Mine are stored mostly in cloth bags hanging in my garage or mud room. I can keep potatoes, turnips, onions, etc. for weeks as long as it is cool and dark.

Carrots are always in the basket. There were one dozen red onions there. Little baby popcorn. Mixed winter radishes. Japanese sweet potatoes. Red beets.

A treat – mizuna. An Asian green reminding me of mustard greens.

Another special item. Scallions. It seems they are thinning them out as these were quite thin and delicate.

I “omnivored” my basket this winter, which added a cheese, a meat and a pantry item every week. The SOOM tahini is the best I have ever tasted. There was gouda. And a bone in chicken breast.

I made Ina Garten’s herb roasted onions and added a few radishes to the sheet pan. I like her mustard based vinaigrette used in the recipe.

Once I discovered roasted radishes, it is the way I use them most of the time. Mixing the onions and radishes resulted in a great side dish for the chicken.

I put the chicken on top of the mizuna and baked it. Dusted with my homemade chicken dry rub. Mizuna was tossed with vinegar, oil and cayenne before putting it in the pan.

Carrots and scallions are staples in my fridge. Those little orange carrots were split and roasted. Bigger carrots are sliced and boiled. Served with a butter sauce, or maybe a honey glaze. Carrots and onions also appear in soups and stews.

I roasted the beets, peeled them and pickled them. As for the sweet potatoes, they are still in the mud room waiting for me to bake them and make hummus with that awesome tahini. Take your basic hummus recipe, add puréed potato and sriracha.

Here it is now, week three of the CSA and there are a couple of items left from previous weeks. Mostly potatoes and onions.

We have been getting mushrooms so I made beef mushroom soup today. Snowy weather always has me craving a warm bowl of soup. I had a soup bone from my meat farm share left which was just enough to make a quart of soup. Flavorful shiitake and cremini mushrooms. Spinach. Onion. Herbs. Simmered stove top for four hours. No wonder my electric bill is awful. All that roasting and cooking this month.

I can’t wait for the first greens to show up but right now I have to dig around for some inspiration using purple top turnips and rutabaga. Sounds like another sheet pan dinner this week.

Resolved

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The obligatory resolution list. Don’t we all make them? Do we keep them?

I now tend to keep mine simple. Like continuance of my buy local, support small, buying strategy.

And my continuing to rid our house of things we no longer need.

That’s enough for us to handle.

I looked at my dinner on New Year’s Day. Other than the mustard, everything was from local or small family businesses. Without trying very hard. It has been something we believed in. We use two local food sources for most of our food. Add to that, purchases from farms, country stores and local wineries.

Dinner was: Evermore Farms pork, Pappardelle’s orzo from Secolari at Mary’s Land Farm, Trickling Springs butter, Lancaster Farm Fresh roasted red onions, and Gabriele Rausse Viognier bought at the Wine Bin.

We believe in supporting our small businesses. Including local hardware stores, like Kendall and Clark’s.

As for the decluttering. We keep looking for places to give our excess stuff. Does anyone want some Christmas decorations?

A Quiet Christmas

As I noted last month with our 40th Thanksgiving, this is also the 40th time we have celebrated Christmas together. Now, retired, and free of the shopping angst of the season, we are enjoying the peace this year. No big commitments. Just a few cookies baked. A completely different approach in decorating. We are spending today at home, after a Christmas Eve dinner with some of our longtime friends.

This year, I did the massive grouping of poinsettias again. I also decided to pull out my favorite decorations from my mom and my MIL. They grace the stairs in the foyer, along with a ribbon wrap, a wreath and tiny white lights. Flowers in the kitchen and dining room. A few candles. That’s it. No tree. No outdoor lights. I have embraced the concept of minimalizing. No stress.

I had a good time a few weeks back, when I answered a request from an old friend to help them decorate their new place. I was happy to see some of my old decorations getting a new lease on life and get used, instead of being stored away. Large wreaths. Folksy hanging items. Ribbons. Wrappings. All those things that we no longer use.

Soon, I will head off to pan fry a couple flat iron steaks. Roast some root veggies. Try out my latest fermentation goodies. I pickled beets last week, and spicy rutabaga relish. Using the last CSA veggies.

Doesn’t everyone have spicy, Korean style pickled vegetables with Christmas dinner?

I am in the process of making a list of things I want to do in 2019, including writing more than I did this year. I may actually get another one or two posts written this month.

In the meantime  —

The Accidental Vegan

That would be me. By whatever means, I have become the cook that brings the vegetarian/vegan contribution to the parties. Whether it is the amateur radio Field Day, or the contribution to my brother’s dinners (for my vegetarian in-law’s in-laws), or the potluck volunteer luncheon, I bring the veggie-centric dish that is satisfying and different.

We feed the volunteers, the garden clubs and the vendors at our Holiday Craft Fair every December at the Conservancy.

I share cooking with my friend who also coordinates and cooks for our Amateur Radio Field Day. We have become quite skilled at meeting the needs of those who partake. We have all sort of dietary restrictions and preferences. I get large amounts of vegetables in my farm share (aka Community Supported Agriculture)

Add to that, my lactose intolerance, which has me modifying recipes to take out the dairy.

Last week I made two dishes for the holiday event. They were vegan. Easy for those with restrictions. One was a vegan cole slaw. The other? One awesome butternut squash and black bean chili. Recipes were requested. Here is the response.

I began cooking many dishes using squash once we started seeing behemoths like this in our box. I do hummus, I do lasagna, and now I do chili using them.

This chili was easy. Two large cans of black beans. One diced, roasted butternut squash – large. Two large onions. One can of roasted red peppers, sliced. One can of Rotel tomatoes and chilis. One can crushed tomatoes. Those pumpkin spices. Choose those you like. I am partial to cinnamon, cumin, and coriander. Some garlic powder. Salt and pepper. Crock pot all of it. Kick it up with more heat, or more garlic.

As for my cole slaw. I used Savoy cabbage, carrots and Granny Smith apples. All chopped. I made a vegan dressing for it. It was mustard, vegan sour cream, white wine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. That vegan sour cream makes this dressing a great alternative for those who are avoiding dairy.

You don’t miss the meat when you add tons of flavor using herbs and spices. We certainly didn’t.

 

Home for the Holidays

The holiday weekend is over. Now to get ready for Christmas.

I realized this was our 40th Thanksgiving together. Our first, we headed to PA so I could meet my future in-laws. After that, we regularly spent the day with one of our families.

Usually we went to PA. Then, for the past 12 years we headed to Annapolis to visit my mom and my brother’s family. All of that changed this year. With mom’s passing, and my brother in the midst of a move to eastern VA, we found ourselves without plans for the weekend.

It was weird but also quite peaceful. No last minute crises. No traffic woes. We spent the last five days doing what we wanted when we wanted.

It was heavy with local influences, in a series of meals. We spread it out. I did oyster stew one night with oysters from Boarman’s. We had our Maple Lawn turkey on Thanksgiving.

I made sides and seasonings that we like. My dressing used chorizo and fresh bread cubes made from my CSA ancient grain bread. My homemade cranberry sauce was tangy from the lemon and orange in it. I made creamed spinach instead of green beans.

My husband went up to Dandelion Bistro Wednesday night to pick out a dessert for Thursday. Smith Island cake. Not traditional at all. So, so good though.

Tonight we used more of that leftover turkey along with some of the stock I made from the turkey bones. Pappardelle’s orzo bought from Secolari at Mary’s Land Farm.

We have enough turkey left for sandwiches, and enough soup for another dinner.

As for other things we did, we had a wonderful meal to celebrate my husband’s birthday at Hudson Coastal. We went Saturday night during our latest deluge. The restaurant was busy but not overwhelmed, and the food was excellent.

Today I watched the traffic backups and was thankful our days of nail-biting drives are over. But, we miss our parents. We are thankful we had so many years to share holidays. We just need to adjust to new routines and make new memories.

Tomorrow? Baking for the Conservancy holiday sale, where we make a potluck lunch for volunteers and vendors. The sale is Saturday and is a highlight of the start of many activities leading up to Christmas.