Friday, July 31, 2015

Plum Delicious!


Our one surviving plum tree came through with a wonderful harvest of deliciousness. It's a spindly little thing but it really put out this year!
More than enough plums to make plum raspberry jam, our all time favorite and maybe some plum chutney too.
Sweet on the inside but the skin is pucker up tart!
If you have fruit trees you know that the tree comes ripe all at the same time which means one day you have nothing and the next day you have buckets of fruit you need to deal with. I didn't have time to process all that fruit right at the moment so after pitting and slicing it I measured it into freezer bags and popped it into the freezer to save it for some less hectic days.
The plums are ready for me when I'm ready for a canning day. Never fear I saved just enough out for our favorite plum dessert. 

Plum Kucken! Oh my! Can there be anything better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream? I think not. And so simple to make. If you don't have a plum tree of your own go get yourself some plums and let's start baking!
All you do is mix up the easy, buttery batter and spread it in a 9X9 baking pan.
Cut up your plums and spread them over the top. This works with any fruit really - cherries, peaches, apples whatever you have. But then it wouldn't be plum kuchen would it?
See those dark spots? I had a handful of blueberries from the garden so I threw those in too. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit. Into the oven it goes. The aroma in your kitchen while this is baking? Heaven, I'm telling you!
Out of the oven. Golden brown and scrumptious. Serve this warm or room temperature with whipped cream or the way we like it best with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or just eat it out of the pan with a spoon I won't judge you. 
My breakfast slice!

Plum Kuchen

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar (this depends on the sweetness of your plumbs) plus 1 tablespoon for mixing with cinnamon

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 cups sliced fresh plums (about 1-3/4 pounds)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

TOPPING:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold butter, cubed

3 tablespoons chopped nuts, optional

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well.

2. Transfer to a greased 9-in. square baking dish. Top with plums. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar; sprinkle over plums.

3. For topping, in a small bowl, combine flour and sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts if desired. Sprinkle over top.

4. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until topping is golden brown and plums are tender. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 9 servings.


Adapted from several recipes on the web

Until next time,

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What's the Fuss About?

 Why did we go to all the trouble to repair our well if we have access to clean, potable municipal water you might be asking?
The main reason is the vegetable garden. I have scaled back the planting to perhaps a third of what I would normally grow because of our drought conditions but even that small amount requires water. Municipal water is expensive, very expensive! And it's monitored strictly. Because we are not a large scale ranch or farm we do not have access to large scale rates so we pay household rates for our water no matter how we use it.
I have just four tomatoes, three squash, two peppers two potato barrels, the strawberry patch and my rhubarb. I planted green beans twice and they did not even come up! The heat has been brutal this year and none of this is thriving since I have had to be very stingy with the water even if it is from our own well.
The squash is struggling. This is how big it is even though it's the end of July!

The strawberry patch
But of course the main reason to keep the well in order is my girls! Chickens need a lot of water and I can't make them do without.
Every morning they crowd around to see what I brought them from the kitchen. Keeping them cool and healthy is a top priority so they have clean, fresh water at all times and I hose down their yard once or twice a day on hot days to make them comfortable. It's all about the ladies around here, it's not called the EL Palacio de las Galinas (the Chicken Palace) for nothing!
A girl has to have a flower or two or what's it all for?
Until next time,

Thursday, July 23, 2015

There's a Hole In The Bucket



dear Liza, dear Liza. A hole in the bucket dear Liza a hole. Sing along with me.  If you’ve been paying any kind of attention you are well aware that California is in the middle of the fourth year of a record breaking and crippling drought. Keep that in mind when I tell that one morning last week I turned on an outside tap here on Dogwood Lane Farm and No Water Came Out! Panic ensued. Was a pipe broken? We had experienced that before (see post here) but horror of horrors, what if the well had run dry?? We are super lucky because we are the last road in Georgetown able to get municipal water and about 10 years ago we bit the bullet and hooked up to that system so we are not completely dependent on our well but we do use the well daily to water what little vegetable garden I’m trying to maintain and for the chickens. I’m very careful with this well water never taking it for granted and very sparing in its use. We want to keep the well in working order because you just never know when a natural disaster or other calamity might occur so a dry well would not be good news. Not at all!
Enter Dennis the well guy. This is a job for the professionals. Once he determined it wasn’t something simple like a blown motor at the well head it was time to pull the pump and see if there was any water. 
He hooked something to the back of his truck and started driving away down the road. The further away he had to drive meant the deeper our well. He kept yelling to me about did I see any wet line yet! We were praying for wet because that would mean we still had water. He drove further and further away, almost out of sight. It turns out we have a pretty deep well but we spotted water fairly quickly. 
 Yay, still wet! We had water! What a relief. It turned out that our 30 year old pump had failed. The pump is at the bottom of the well and the only way to tell this is to pull it up and test it. 

30 year old pump
 Dennis switched out the new pump and dropped it in. 
Brand new shiny pump
The bottom is so deep I couldn’t hear it hit water. All is well and we have irrigation for the hens and vegetable garden. Everything else around here is brown and dry as a bone. I hand carry buckets of shower water to the roses just to keep them alive. I’ve lost two peach trees and one plum tree this year, four years of drought was just too much for them.
I’ve received quite an education since moving to the country about things I never gave a thought to when I lived in the city. Mainly where my water, heat and food really come from. I’m grateful that we’re not trying to subsist on what I could grow here because we truly would starve to death. When my crops fail I can always go to the grocery store. I have a new and deeper appreciation for those who grow and harvest our food I can tell you. While we cut and burn our own wood for heat if we ever get tired of that we can turn on a heater. I’m so grateful for that and think a lot about those who cannot get warm with the flip of a switch. I’m really grateful that we had a enough money set by to repair that well because that kind of water insurance does not come cheap.

Until next time,

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bannishing Cobwebs

Have no fear I won't be talking about house cleaning in this post so you can read on without trepidation. The cobwebs I'm talking about are the ones which have been residing in my brain due to lack of sleep and a whole lot of discomfort. 
You have probably noticed that I haven't been posting much and there's a good reason for that but before I get into the details let's have some eye candy shall we?
I have spent some time in the sewing room and so the design wall is sporting some cuteness. The Farm Girl Vintage Blocks continue to fascinate me but I have to tell you that that block on the left kicked my butt.
 See these little canning jars? Super cute, right? Not one of them came out the same as any other and all of them are wonky in the extreme! I barely got out alive! I'll be doing this one over but for now I'm walking away while I still can.
Embroidery continues to claim my attention with these adorable designs. Delicious strawberry cake.
A delightful vanilla confection.
Devilish, dark chocolate! Don't they all look good enough to eat?

Now, as for that lack of sleep and discomfort. For the past six months I have been dealing with a shoulder injury acquired while clearing brush on our property. I've mentioned before the brush clearing and burning we do in the winter months and in January I thought I pulled a shoulder muscle while working outside. Nothing a week or two of rest and ice and heat wouldn't fix. Fast forward to six months later and not only has my shoulder NOT improved but it has gotten progressively worse to the point of constant pain. I have been unable to sleep except for snatches sitting upright in a chair for at least the last two months and that alone has been wearing me down. 
Finally, I decided to go to the doctor. I know what you're thinking, what a dim wit, right? But in my own defense I will tell you that I've been down this road before. I felt I could handle it on my own. 20 years ago I underwent shoulder reconstructive surgery on my opposite arm so I knew what I was dealing with and do not relish the possibility of a repeat performance. I also hate to take pain meds because of the dopey way they make me feel so what could a doctor really do? The end of this tale is that I probably have a torn rotator cuff just as I suspected after it did not heal in a few weeks. And just as I suspected there isn't much to be done but let nature take it's course. It will either heal on it's own if it's a small enough tear or it will have to be surgically repaired. I should have gone to the doctor sooner because he did inject the joint with cortisone which supplied almost instant relief and the first good nights sleep I've had in months. 
I tell you all this as a cautionary tale. If something is hurting don't be an idiot like me and wait months to seek treatment even if you're sure you know what's wrong. I could have had pain relief sooner if I weren't so stubborn. Cortisone didn't work for me 20 years ago but apparently they've improved it since then - go figure! 

Back to happier subjects. I'm feeling well enough to return to the sewing room and there certainly is plenty to do on Dogwood Lane in the summer time to keep me jumping. Thank goodness I still have both legs!

Linking up to Design Wall Monday for the first time in a long while. Hope you'll follow the link and see what other creative folks are doing.

Until next time,

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Making Yogurt At Home Even Easier

As I told you in this post, Making Yogurt from 2012 I've been making my own yogurt for more than 30 years.  I've always been something of a whole foods/back to nature kinda gal and when I had a family of three growing boys to feed we went through a lot of yogurt. It would be nothing to make two or three quarts a week using a rather laborious method involving the pilot light of my gas oven and overnight incubation in a water bath. With just Chris and me at home we probably eat about one quart a week and about half a quart of keifer per week in our smoothies.
 Here's my new toy. A Yogourmet electric yogurt maker. Instead of the seven small jars my old yogurt maker used it comes with a two quart plastic container. That's it on the left. That would probably be too much for us to make at one time but it would be ideal for a larger family. Instead of the two quart container I use a one quart mason jar - perfect for us.
The Yogourmet holds the yogurt at the perfect incubation temperature in a water bath until it's the thickness you like. The longer you incubate the thicker and tangier the yogurt will be. There's a recipe booklet that comes with it that explains the whole process and tons of web pages too for you to reference as well as my page. I got mine on Amazon for about $50, at that price it will pay for itself in no time. (I have no financial interest in this product. I'm just telling you what works for me.) 

The best yogurt making tip I ever got was not to use too much starter. One or two tablespoons of starter yogurt per batch is all you need. If you use too much you probably won't have enough milk for the good stuff to eat up and your yogurt will be runny/soupy instead of thick. Let me know if you make yogurt at home and what works for you.

Until next time,