Our life living off the land in our log cabin, breathing fresh mountain air, and getting back to basics.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spiders and Jack-O-Lanterns

I found this one inch spider when I was getting into the shower this morning...one inch doesn't sound very big except for being the one standing in the shower with it...this arachnid must have known it was a good day to scare someone.  I won't go into all the details but I will share this...I need my glasses to see, which of course were sitting on the bathroom counter because I was getting into the shower...I thought this arachnid was actually a cricket (we've had them hopping about the cabin...I guess the cooler weather is driving them indoors) and we usually catch the crickets and throw them outdoors.  I was about to pick this guy up when I realized he didn't look quite like a cricket and I better put my glasses on...you can imagine the scene when I realized it was a not so tiny spider (Johny was at a neighbors, so shouts of help would have served no purpose).  What a way to start the day...Happy Halloween!

Did you know that Halloween was started by the ancient Celts, who thought the souls of the dead returned to earth to hang out with the living during the Samhain festival, which celebrated the end of summer.  It was not supposed to be spooky, rather a celebration of the departed spirits and a time for reflection.  Many years later, candlelit turnips carved with mean faces were used to frighten away the spirits...eventually, immigrants in US used the more plentiful pumpkins.
Eventually these carved pumpkins became known as "jack-o-lanterns" because pranksters would run about the streets frightening travelers along the roads with them.  Today, it's common practice to carve jack-o-lanterns and display them on Halloween...it's become quite an art form!  We don't carve a pumpkin, mostly because I want to use the pumpkin meat for cooking and pies, and no one comes up the mountain to our neck of the woods for trick-or-treating.  Do you carve a pumpkin?

Last year, snow covered the ground for Halloween,  This year we have a lovely wall of color as we look at the mountains and the skies are grey and beginning to look ominous.  Gusty winds are beginning to build, perhaps giving us good howling sounds to take us through the evening. Otherwise, it's going to be quiet around here.

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Putting Food By

I've learned a lot living our Log Cabin Life...but I have to say that learning how to preserve the foods we have grown in our garden and the wild edibles we've found (purchased produce as well) has been one of the more rewarding things I've done here.  Old timers called it putting food by...long ago folks grew and raised almost everything they ate (traded some too)...nothing was wasted, and they put food by to ensure they could eat throughout the winter months.    

My most recent attempts have been Pear Preserves (from the vintage Ball Blue Book, a perfect book for beginners)...
 ...and Dilled Beans (from the Preserving book by Pat Crocker I mentioned a few days ago)...

...we haven't tried either yet, but they look good...can't wait to try them.

I canned so many things that I asked Johny to build me a shelf we could put in the basement (they need to be stored in a cool dark place)...it's great and I can store all the empty jars still to be filled with goodness, and my canning pots...pretty nice, huh?  When we talked about how big I wanted it to be, I thought this would be big enough...perhaps I should have thought further ahead, I might need another one!
I've made pickled beets, canned carrots, French beans with tomato sauce (click the link to learn more about them...they are quite good but I don't think I'll be canning those again, too much work, I could just make the recipe when we want to eat them and skip the canning...I'd also skip the French cut, LOL!), my cinnamon applesauce, canned green beans, Dilled green beans. 

I've also blanched and frozen more green beans, strawberries, blueberries and roasted green peppers.  I'll be freezing fresh tomatoes from now on too as an alternate to canned...too easy not to!

And I've made lots of jams and leather britches....you can see the beans hanging and how they've begun drying since I made them, click on the link to see them when I started...

What do I appreciate most about putting food by?  So much to share with family and friends...so much to enjoy as the winter months make us yearn for freshness...so much satisfaction when eating things with no preservatives...so much fun sweating in the kitchen (well, that's sort of true...I don't like the sweating, but I really enjoy the process)...

Do you put food by?  Do you enjoy it? 

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Visit ABCWednesday for more "P" posts...you may find something that pleases you!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Oops, Wish I Hadn'a Done That

It was a beautiful foggy morning...must have fogged up my brain.

Do you have a favorite piece of clothing?  I'm sure you know what I'm talkin' about...you wear all the time...it fits so perfectly, you hardly know you have it on...it makes you feel cozy and comfortable...it's not the prettiest item you own...but it's your favorite.  Well, I do.  I mean, we live in the woods in the mountains...we work outside...we get dirty...so what if my favorite attire is a pair of yoga pants, a sports tank and my very favorite sweatshirt! 

Part 2 of this story...the summer's humidity (and our lack of AC) did a number on my cast iron pans hanging on the wall (even the most perfectly seasoned ones)...so I'm trying to get them back into good working order.  Since we've had a fire burning in the wood stove every morning, and often all day long (it's been cold), I thought taking advantage of that heat would be smart.  I brushed a little shortening into one of my skillets and put it on a trivet on the stove top.  I'd pick up the skillet and roll the small amount of fat around to make sure there was even coverage...OK, you might already know what happened...yes, I did, I bundled up my favorite sweatshirt into my hands to pick the skillet up, which worked without a problem until the stove had been burnin' hot for several hours...
...yes indeedy, the heat of the skillet melted my sweatshirt (I now know using a shirt sleeve as a pot holder is a very bad idea)!  I'm happy to say the heat didn't go through the shirt and burn me...makes me love it even more...and though the edges of the arms were well worn, it now has a serious burn mark.
Oh, of course I'm still wearing it!  But every time I look at it, I think "foggy brained girl".  So as my dad would say, "as the Berenstain Papa Bear would say, let this be a lesson to you"! 

Have you every damaged your favorite piece of clothing?  Do you still wear it?

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Monday, October 28, 2013

That's What Friends Are For

I spent today driving our good friend Bertie to see her husband Ron in the hospital a couple hours east of us.  It was a great day for many reasons that I won't go into, but the Universe has a way of making everything happen just as it should. 

Here they are, seeing each other for the first time in two days...
...Bertie said I could post both pictures, so I am.  They both have their individual charm and the love of 56 years together shining through.  More importantly, things are moving in a forward direction.  It was a really great day...did I say this already?
There are times when life throws you curves that are hard to handle, hard to manage, hard to accept...but we find a way, often through our faith of choice...and through the love of our friends. That's what friends are for!  

One of our stops was for lunch, and Bertie said she just had to have a picture of this poster...
...here you go my dear friend.  May the Sandman be gracious to you tonight!

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Kitchen Prep...Sometimes Easy, Sometimes Hard

Cooking from scratch is the best way to go...no two ways about it.  Except when it comes to some of the prep work. 

I wanted to make French Beans with Tomato Sauce that I found in the Preserving book by Pat Crocker...a tasty sounding recipe that would give me a different and interesting way to can some of our beans.  While the recipe seemed simple enough, it involved a lot of preparation...including skinning tomatoes and cutting green beans french style.  Simple enough...I thought.

Skinning the tomatoes was easy...cut a "X" in the bottom of the tomatoes...
 ...drop them into a pot of boiling water until they start to crinkle (2 - 3 minutes)...
 ...drop them into a bowl of ice water...
...remove them from the water...
...and pull the skin away...
...the whole process taking about 15 minutes.  It's easy to do and maintains every single bit of tomato nutrition and flavor.

The process of slicing green beans French style is another story entirely.  There are tools that are sold to accomplish this, but I don't have one, and my "back to basics" mentality led me to believe I could do this, no problem.  Fact is, it isn't that it's hard to do...you place the bean on it's side and using a paring knife...
 ...cut the bean in half, lengthwise, giving a lovely cross sectional view...French green beans.
The recipe called for 3 pounds of beans...doesn't sound like a lot until you start slicing!  Half way through the pile of beans, I'm asking myself "what were you thinking?" and "is this really necessary?" and "who says store purchased tools to make things easier is not a reasonable 'back to basics' approach?".  Then I'd look at how pretty the beans looked, and pat myself on the back for taking the time to learn this skill, and keep on slicing...for 2 hours...all 3 pounds...for me, this task falls into the sometimes hard category. 
When I looked at that beautiful bowl of beans, and the job was done, I decided it was worth it...but I think purchasing the tool is a good idea! 

Another sometimes hard kitchen activity is processing the jars in a pressure canner...I'm still challenged with having too much of the liquid in my jars either evaporating or being pushed out of the jars while they are processing in the canner.  I asked one of my friends, who thinks I need more water in the pot (even though I am following the manufacturers instructions)...so I'm going to try her approach and see if it makes a difference (she says have the water in the pot come half way up the jars)Good news is I'm feeling experienced when processing jars in a water bath!
This jar of French Beans in Tomato Sauce looks good though, and I saved a little of the sauce that remained in the cooking pot in the freezer...tonight I'm going to add a little of the saved sauce and we are going to try these beans with our dinner, I'll let you know how they taste!

Please share any advice or suggestions you may have for my pressure canner issue...I'd love to know what you think!

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Crunchy Crispy Leaves

One of my favorite things to do during the fall is crunch my way through the crispy leaves that blanket the ground. 
As I walked up the driveway today, listening to the crispy song my feet made with every step, splashes of color were dancing through the air, randomly landing around me.
The sun's rays would shine between the tree trunks and make them light up for just a moment, making even the brown rolled up leaves look magical. 
Here and there a perfect leaf would seem to jump out at me, with the granite as it's bedding and a quilt of colors dressing it. 
Then I spotted it, the golden hairs of this wild flower stalk was being kissed by the sun while it swayed in the breeze...beautiful with the blanket of leaves behind it.  

I crunched my way back to the cabin, feeling grateful for all that I'd seen.  You see, it's been a bit of a tough day because our good friend Ron is in the hospital....healing thoughts for you my dear friend...may the song of the crispy crunchy leaves touch your heart.  

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Friday, October 25, 2013

Kitchen Humor

My friend Bertie was having a moving sale today and I offered to go help her load Ron's truck with all her goodies (the sale was taking place off our mountain...no one would drive all the way up here for a moving sale...along the main road).  While piling boxes into the truck, I came upon this beautiful cast iron snowman pan...knowing how I love winter, you must also know I had to have this item...I asked her if I could buy it but both she and Ron insisted I take it.  Woo hoo, made me very happy...I will treasure this little pan that will require many repeat trips into the oven with luscious fillings since there are only 6 little baking areas...but I feel like a little girl who came across a much longed after special item!
But kitchen humor comes now (no pun intended, you'll get it in a minute...I hope I'm not offending anyone).  After the truck was loaded, we went inside to warm up a bit...it was only 29F...and Bertie emerges from the back room with a grin on her face and something behind her back.  She pulls out two pot holders, giggles, and says "wait, how do I do this" and hands them to me.  She says "lift that" meaning the apron on the right...lo and behold it appears to be a naked woman (nature's protection of a woman's personal parts was present)...I laughed out loud, a little stunned that Bertie possessed this item...and then she said, "OK, put your finger in there and see what you find", speaking of the fly of the pants...now I'm a little hesitant, knowing darn well what I would find...sure enough, it feels (and looks if you look closely at the right side of the fly) like this little pot holder is happy to see me!  Most surprising?  It's not got the same 'nature's protection' as the female one, but the unit has some colored cloth that makes it's identification absolute. 

Some days, it's a good sense of humor that gets you through.  I will treasure these pot holders for the rest of my life...Bertie, I love you girl!  You do make me laugh!!!  Two unexpected treasures in one day...life is good!

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Mica Mine and A Gravestone

Johny enjoys rock hounding...that is searching for gems and minerals...he's got a collection of many and searches through dirt and rubble every chance he gets.  Fortunately for us, we have several Mica mines on our mountain and many that surround us.  This is the mine nearest to our cabin, about 2 miles as the crow flies.   Looks pretty cool from a distance...
 ...but as you get closer...
 ...it becomes more daunting...
...and even terrifying...this is as close as I will get, which is standing just at the opening of the mine...I've never been able to build up the courage to venture inside...just thinking about it is getting my heart racing.
For us, the adventure is in rock hounding around the area.  Though this big quartz stone (about 24"x24") was in the woods not too far from the mine's entrance...it was quite beautiful as the sun shone on it.
Mica (Muscovite) was initially mined to make windows in stoves and furnaces, and then as an insulator for electronics until the development of solid state electronics at which time Mica became obsolete.  It's quite pretty...
...see the leaf under the transparent layer?
 This stone has a chunk of Mica in it...
...it's not flaky because it's still embedded in the stone...
 ...this is a side view of the same piece above.

This is Biotite (to the best of our knowledge), or black Mica...you can read more about the differences here...Muscovite vs Biotite.  Johny plans on trying to release the Biotite from the rock so we can look at it more closely.

Johny found this neat stone, but we don't know what it is..do you?

Our second adventure of the day was coming across this gravestone leaning on a tree that was near that large quartz stone above...HW Snider, Mar 4, 1877 - Apr 9, 1905...with "I have found the shore of everlasting rest" engraved on it...makes me wonder about HW Snider's life and ultimate demise, having died at the young age of 28 (the average age at death was 47 at that time).
There were several other stones that appeared to have been part of the burial monument as one time.  Later, after an internet search, I discovered that there is a gravestone at the Parris Cemetery with the same name, DOB and DOD....I suppose the family moved the deceased to a different resting place...the replacement stone didn't have the above quote on it, hopefully HW Snider's found everlasting rest now.
I will admit that while I was standing in this spot to take my pictures, I felt it was important to step gently and carefully...even though I later discovered it appears the remains have been moved, I'm glad I tread softly!

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Folks round here say "oryng" or something close to that for orange...the color that, for me, defines fall.  I love the yellow's (yellr's) and red's...but oryng is my favorite.
 I've always loved the color oryng, but I think living at the end of Punkin'town (we don't pronounce the "mpki" in Pumpkintown here) road makes me love oryng all the more.  The same way folks here chuckle at us when we say we're harvesting our potatoes...they'd say taters...

This is my newly acquired punkin...it will be used for Thanksgiving and filled with a delectable meat stuffing spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg...a family tradition.  I'll tell you more about that when the magic happens.

Last night, we celebrated oryng with a meal of fresh mountain trout sprinkled with minced carrot greens for herbs, wild rice, our lovely fresh harvested oryng carrots roasted to perfection and a lovely squash bloom for garnish (we both ate it, delish!).

Outside our living room window, these lovely oryng leaves are preparing to drop...you could say they are red, but for today's purposes...oryng.

Visit ABCWednesday for more "O" posts!  In the meantime, I remember a family favorite joke...My brother would hold up a banana...he'd ask 'what's this' and the poor soul at the end of the joke would say banana....this went on for about 5 rounds.  Finally, he'd hold up an orange and say "oryng you glad I didn't say banana"?  Ha ha ha, we always cracked up with this silly joke (I think I got it right...close enough anyway)...it still makes me laugh out loud!

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,