Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pizza! Pizza!

We made pizza the other night. We've made pizza before, but we always bought the pre-made crusts. I've been afraid of pizza dough for some reason. Maybe it's all that tossing. Didn't Lucille Ball get into trouble trying to make pizza? She probably did, and I probably saw it, and I'm probably subconsciously scarred for life.


My cookbook says if I want dough for two twelve inch pizzas I mix
1 package yeast dissolved in 1/3 cup warm water
4 cups flour
2 Tbsp oil
2 tsp salt

Let it rise for a couple of hours, punch down, let rest 5 minutes, then spread with hands or roll out.

The dough looked really small, and we had company. I figured the company (young men) could eat a 12" pizza each, so I made a triple batch. It was HUGE after it rose. It rose again during cooking after being spread out into the cookie sheet pans. Next time I'll make the sides much thinner.


I used home canned marinara for the sauce (one pint per cookie-sheet sized pizza) but you can use 2 cups tomato sauce plus 2 tsp oregano.

The first one was pepperoni and bacon with a bag of mozarella cheese.
The second was pepperoni and frozen italian peppers from the garden with a bag of mozarella cheese.

I had enough dough left over to make a ton of breadsticks and I still fed a little dough to the dogs. And now I'm not afraid of pizza dough any more.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Postal is Getting Big!


Well Miss Postal has grown a LOT in two months!! I was so glad when she started eating dry cat food. No more getting up in the middle of the night to give her a bottle, no more tossing out canned cat food because it had gotten stale and dry.

She "lives" in the pantry right now with the door open and a baby gate between the pantry and the kitchen whenever the dogs are inside. When the dogs are outside she has the run of the house. She has just this week begun to jump up onto the top of the baby gate and perch there, observing the goings-on in the kitchen.

Last night she came over the baby gate and PAST the sleeping dogs in order to climb noisily up on to the bed, attack wiggly feet, and purr loudly into previously sleeping ears.


She looks like a cat, it's true, but she ACTS like a kitten. It was really hard getting a picture of her because she won't be still.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

One Way Rabbit Door

Okay, I wish I could take credit for this idea but I can't. It comes from a person who posts on the Homesteading Today forums under the name of "Thatch". Thatch came up with the idea of making a one-way rabbit door out of PVC pipe. We did modify the door/hinge but the basic concept was Thatch's. The PVC pipe is 4" diameter.

Sorry about the shadow; the flash on my camera is poorly positioned for close up shots. The door is made out of 1/2" hardware cloth cut to fit the opening of the PVC pipe. The "hinge" is made by drilling two holes in the PVC pipe, sticking a length of coat hanger wire through, and bending the hardware cloth stems so they wrap around the coat hanger wire. As with all photos on this blog, you can click the picture for a larger version.

This shows more or less how the door is positioned in the fence. It looks a heck of a lot larger than 4", doesn't it? Anyway, I cut a hole in the fence, fit the door into the fence, drilled a couple more holes in the pipe, and used zip ties to secure it to the fence.

Now when rabbits escape (and THREE of them did, last night!) they can get back into the colony. They are usually surprised to find themselves outside the colony and spend a lot of time and effort circumnavigating the fence looking for a way in.

The three last night got out by digging up from one of the main burrows which extends pretty far beyond the fence. My NEXT colony is going to have the fencing sunk a couple of feet into the ground to prevent dig outs.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Caribbean One-Pot Stew



So, I've got these sweet potatoes that aren't storing well. I canned some, and I went to allrecipes.com to find good ways to use sweet potatoes. Tried this Caribbean stew this weekend and WOW, I loved it!! My husband liked it, said it was interesting, very good. It knocked my socks off. Here's how the recipe looked on allrecipes.com:


INGREDIENTS

* 1 pound sweet potatoes
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 tablespoons minced ginger
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/4 jalapeno, minced
* 2 stalks celery, diced
* 1 green bell pepper, diced
* 1 small onion, diced
* 1 pound pork loin, trimmed and cut in 1/2-inch pieces
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 3 (16 ounce) cans BUSH'S® BEST Dark Red Kidney Beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
* 1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth

DIRECTIONS

1. Prick sweet potatoes with fork and microwave on high for 6-8 minutes until tender. Set aside. When cool, peel and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Heat olive oil in large stockpot. Add ginger, garlic and jalapeno and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. Add celery, green pepper and onion, and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Season pork with cumin, salt and pepper. Push vegetables to one side of stockpot and add pork, browning on all sides. Add BUSH'S BEST Dark Red Kidney Beans, tomatoes, broth and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until pork is tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with a spoonful of relish made from 1 cup chopped pineapple, 2 sliced scallions, and 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro. Serve with hot sauce, if desired.

Here's how it went when I prepared it. I don't have lots of fresh produce on hand. Round trip to the nearest grocery store is 44 miles, 80 minutes, and about $7 in gas. I don't go very often and consequently I rarely have fresh stuff on hand unless it's gardening season.

Put dehydrated celery, onion, and ancho peppers in boiling water to rehydrate. I could have used bell pepper but wanted some mild heat from the anchos. Toss in a whole serrano pepper because I don't have any dried jalapeno peppers and please, one quarter of a jalapeno just sounds TOO wimpy!

Put "some" dried kidney beans in a sauce pan (a third of the one pound bag? maybe more?), cover generously with water, bring to a boil for two minutes, and leave to soak for an hour.

Microwave some sweet potatoes, cut into chunks. Later on when adding to the pot decide you need more and add them uncooked. Works just as well and will leave them all raw next time.

Pull some boneless pork loin chops out of the deep freezer (we buy whole pork loins when they're on sale and slice them into chops). Cut into cubes, toss with cumin, powdered ginger (use 1/3 as much as you would fresh grated), salt, and pepper, and brown in stock pot along with the garlic. Add rehydrated veggies and saute with meat and garlic for a little while.

Dump in a can of diced tomatoes, the kidney beans, the sweet potatoes, and a pint of rabbit broth because I'm out of chicken broth but have plenty of rabbit. Let simmer for a while.

Open a can of chunk pineapple and put a scant half of it in the blender. Add a bunch of chopped up chives out of the garden because we have no scallions, and some dried cilantro. Whir together.



It was exploding with flavor. I absolutely could not get enough of it. My mouth danced.

I think it is way cool that I can have an exotic gourmet tasting dish like this without even having to run to the store.

A+++. Will definitely cook again.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sturdy Garden Trellis

I got nothing. My blog is dusty from neglect, and I got nothing.

I need to dehydrate and can some sweet potatoes, but that doesn't seem photographically interesting. I just made tons of applesauce, and some apple butter and cinnamon apple wedges, but I talked about that last year. So I'm digging up some old pics from June that I didn't use.

Last year, I built string trellises, which I'd used before for cukes and green beans, but I found they weren't strong enough for heavier plants, such as peas. I'd made a trellis for my tomatoes using livestock panels and I was happy with it, so this year I used livestock panels for my peas, too. It's hard for a short person to put a trellis in the center of a four foot wide bed. This is how I do it.


My tools. I use T-posts to hold up the livestock panel, and I use the post pounder thingy to get them into the earth.


I set up a sawhorse on either side of the bed, and put a couple of 2x4 boards across the sawhorses. I stand on the 2x4s and pound the T-posts into place. My husband laughs at me when I do this because... well, I don't know why, but he laughs. Like he laughs when I climb up onto the kitchen counter top so I can reach whatever is on the top shelf in the cabinets.

Measure the length of your cattle panel and put the T-posts closer together than the length of the panel. Four feet or more closer, so that a couple of feet (or more) sticks out past the T-post at each end.


Get someone to help you hang the panel on the T-posts. It is REALLY hard for me to lift the panel into place while leaning over the bed, but with help I can get it in place. I use the little metal thingies that are used for attaching welded wire fencing to T-posts. I could use any kind of wire, but the feed store gave me some of these thingies when I got the T-posts so I use them.

I don't put the panel on the ground, I elevate it somewhat. This gives my trellis another foot or so of extra height, and *maybe* it will allow me to lightly cultivate beneath the panels in the Spring, which will save me having to take down the panels and put them back up. I'm all about saving work.

I'd be happy to let the livestock panel trellises become a permanent garden fixture. If I rotate broccoli or potatoes into the bed, they won't mind the trellis being there, and it will be ready for me the next year when I rotate peas, tomatoes, or cukes in.

We'll see how the cultivation effort goes in the spring with a couple of these things in place. On the one hand, I use no-till methods, but on the other hand, I do like some space to swing my hoe or cultivator.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Vacuum Sealing Jars

We have a vacuum sealer. We use it to vacuum seal our chicken and rabbit into bags before freezing them. We also buy boneless pork loins on sale, cut them into thick boneless chops, vacuum seal in meal-sized portions, and freeze for later. It's real nice having stuff in the freezer and not having to worry about going to the store (40 minute drive one way), especially in bad weather.


Another thing I like to use the vacuum sealer for is bulk purchased dry goods like chocolate chips, nuts, and dried fruit. Vacuum sealing is NOT a substitute for canning. It doesn't kill any germs. Vacuum sealing in a mason jar is only a substitute for vacuum sealing in a bag. Mason jars fit on a shelf better, though, so for non-frozen items I use jars.

In the photo, the jar on the left was sealed in December 2006, almost a year ago. The jar on the right was sealed November 5 2007, the same day the photo was taken. The older chips have whitened ever so slightly, but you'd never notice it once you put them into some cookies.

I bought two huge bags of chocolate chips at Sam's wholesale this weekend, so I'm set for another year. Cookies, anyone?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Three Sisters in Review


We're well into autumn and I thought I'd recap how the three sisters experiment went. The main garden took up all my free time so I just planted the three sisters garden and left it to struggle against the weeds and drought all by itself.

The corn on the left is Hickory King, a field corn, and the others are Country Gentleman (shoepeg) and Stowell's Evergreen, both sweet corn. The sweet corn varieties are very tall for sweet corn so I thought I'd see if they could support pole beans. I think in a good year they could, though the field corn is obviously taller and more sturdy.



My sweet corn didn't produce much due to the drought. The field corn did surprisingly well but got eaten by pack rats and chipmunks. I saw the rats in the corn stalks twice (yes, UP in the stalks, munching away!) and there are chipmunk holes all in the garden. They didn't mess with the sweet corn, I suppose because I harvested it while it was still green. They ate the heck out of the field corn though. I think if I grow field corn again I should pick it earlier and let it dry somewhere protected. Or get a Jack Russell Terrier and let him work his magic in the garden.

I didn't get a lot of beans but I got more than enough to save seed from. I did eat one mess of Ruth Bible beans and oh, my gosh! Those were the most flavorful beans I've ever had!! The Genuine Cornfield beans were easily the most productive.

Next year I will do the three sisters again but instead of mounds I'm going to do raised beds like I do in my main garden. Really just wide rows with the dirt moved out of the paths and into the plant rows. I'll plant the corn four plants wide. I'll grow bean vines on the corn stalks and grow the squash down the rows between the corn stalks. I did this in one bed in my main garden last year and it's very easy to redirect the squash into the row or bed. With the mounds, the squash were going crazy everywhere and it was impossible to walk in there during the summer.

I selected the varieties of corn and beans specifically so they would do well in this configuration. I selected corn that is tall and sturdy, and pole beans that are known to do well in a corn field, with poor lighting.

I think this would be a fantastic way to grow field corn, winter squash, and dry beans. You could wait until autumn and harvest everything right after the first frost (if you could keep the little mammal critters out of the corn that long).

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