Friday, October 31, 2014

spider-webby Halloween

These pictures were taken by A.  He did an amazing job of capturing the goat field loaded with cobwebs.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

carving time

 Big J.'s and A's

Little J.'s and mine

the cast is ready for the big night!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween candy

photo by A.

One might expect to find a scene like this after Halloween trick or treating.

Here, we got the ball rolling early!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

lima beans

"Beans!  ARGH!! "

shelling the haul

A's favorite!

Are you guys sick of hearing about beans yet?  Luckily, I saved the best for last (according to A).  These are wonderful calico lima beans.  When young you can hardly see the markings.  As they get bigger the beans start showing pretty pink markings.  Pretty and delicious - what a great combination!

Monday, October 27, 2014

lobster mushrooming

It rained pretty well these past few weeks, and Big J. was chomping at the bit to get out and go mushrooming. We decided to join him in his quest.

In the area we chose, we were looking for chanterelle, red cracked bolete, and lobster.  We did find the first two, but the lobsters stole the show.  They were everywhere, much to our excitement.

emerging from the duff

bagging the harvest

the hunt is on

size perspective on a stump

We gathered plenty, and will be eating some now, and drying the rest to use later.  The dry ones won't be as amazing as when fresh, but they will add lots of flavor and a nice splash of color to our winter meals.

Now we just need to figure out how to eat all these delicious mushrooms.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

layered pear soap

Here's a batch inspired by the soap sample idea found here.  I loved the multiple layer look, and am pleased with how this turned out.  Especially as I was experimenting with in the pot coloring of another batch and it completely flopped (will report on this later).   The rigid cylindrical shape is in contrast to the soft Easter-like colors.  And the scent of ripe pears these cuties have is divine.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

bean counting

A. decided he wanted to know exactly how many dried beans were in one of our canning jars.  He poured out all the beans and started counting one by one.

This started to get tedious, so A. decided to come up with a bean counting invention.  The materials came from his Lego stash.

Tinkering took awhile but appeared to be the most fun part of the bean counting process.  He did get a gadget that you manually operated to push out a single bean.  Sometimes it worked smoothly, other times the beans would jam up.

Eventually, A. got tired of fine tuning his invention, and bean counting.  We still don't know how many beans are in the jar, but fun was had in the process.

Friday, October 24, 2014

bath bomb, photo bomb

The kids and I decided to make bath bombs. We've tried out some great scents: orange sherbet, lemon drop, and watermelon-lime. Although they turned out pretty nice, I need to work on the recipe some as I leave the bath feeling greasy instead of lightly moisturized like I want.

added some glitter for a bit of fun

While attempting to capture some shots of the bath bombs to share, I had a fella who repeatedly popped in front of the camera.  He was quite amused with himself.

"Are you trying to take a picture, Mom?"

Thursday, October 23, 2014

avocado soap

I can't wait to try this avocado soap.  The avocado is supposed to make the bars luxuriously creamy.   I've been having fun playing around with color in my cold processed soaps.

The house smells crazy good right now!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

scarlet runner bean

Aren't these so pretty?!  I've picked a box full of these guys and have been busy shucking them for drying.  I'm not sure how I'll cook with them yet - none of my cook books talk about what to make with dried scarlet runner beans.  Guess I'll just throw them in some of my favorite bean dishes and see how they are.

Mmmm, experimenting with even more beans!  Won't Little J. be thrilled?!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

the butter licker

As our kitty Flower is getting older, she has the privilege of spending more time in the living room with us.  The kids and I are thrilled to hang out with her, and she seems somewhat pleased with our company as well.  In order to help with allergies and the one of us who isn't quite as thrilled with the arrangement, we lay a blanket down for her that we can wash once she heads back to her designated room.

She knows this is her spot and that the blanket is the only place she's allowed to be inside besides the laundry room.  She stays on it when we are looking.  Trouble happens when we aren't looking.  You see, Flower likes butter.  The butter is kept on the dining table and is well into the no cats allowed area of the house.  Flower is good about forgetting rules when no one is around to stop her. 

I came back in from my outside putterings to find her sleeping peacefully on her blankie completely innocent of all possible wrong doings.  Somehow though, when I sat down to have my toast, I found very strange markings on the butter.  Nice, raspy grooves in it.

I threw Flower a suspicious glance- she appeared to be sound asleep.  Slowly, one eye opened to peer at me.  Then with some purring and an unbearable amount of self satisfaction, she closed her eye again to fall into butter-induced dreams.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sweet Annie

I love Sweet Annie and it's a good thing too, since it has spread to all my flower beds around the house.  Big J. cut a swath of it and handed it over to me.  Now the scent of the plant has gently permeated the house as it sits on the coffee table.  Such a nice treat.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

funny cucumber

I was picking veggies from the garden when I spotted this yellow cucumber. All summer, I've only gotten the green slicing cucumbers.

I thought it might be yellow because it's old.  But when I sliced it, it was crisp and tasty.

Where did this cucumber plant come from?  Why is it only producing now when we are days away from a frost?  What the heck is the name of this type?

This may remain a mystery - particularly since I ate the evidence.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

witch stockings bath salts

In honor of Halloween, we made up some cute bath salts.  We thought they looked like stockings a witch might wear and so that's what we named it.

These are really easy and fast.

You need:
1 cup Epsom salts
4-8 drops fragrance or essential oil (we used tangerine)
Yellow, Blue, Red food coloring
8 oz jar
2 bowls
2 spoons
funnel helps

1) Split the salt between two bowls
2) For the orange salt - depending on your preference, add 4-8 drops red food coloring, and double the amount of yellow food coloring.  Stir well until salt looks orange
3) For the grey salt - add 8 drops blue and 4 drops red food color.  Stir well until salt looks grey
4) In both bowls, add 4 drops essential oil - again depending on preference
5) Pour the salts into a jar alternating between the grey and orange to get the stocking strips
6) Put a lid on, and decorate the jar however you like

That's it!

Friday, October 17, 2014


See those three guys in the back?  Those are my pumpcchinis.  I had a volunteer squash plant grow in the garden and it grew this crazy combination of half zucchini, half pumpkin.  The flesh is white with a slight hint of orange.  I picked them green and the outer flesh looked just like a zucchini. As they sat waiting for me to get to them, they started to turn orange like a pumpkin.

This pumpcchini plant sprouted up right next to all sorts of wonderful squashes: zucchini, pumpkin, butternut, spaghetti, crookneck and patty pan.  Chances are it got pollinated with one of these guys.  I'm going to save some of the seeds from this fruit and see what I get next year.  Maybe a pumpcchinighetti?  So exciting!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kat and Big Momma's family picnic

Most days I leave the coop door open so the ladies can all dine wherever they want on the property. Until now, Kat has kept the chicks in the coop's fenced field.  Today, she decided it was time to join the others and took her little family outside the enclosure.

Kat's chicks out and about

Big Momma inserting herself into the picnic (Kat on far right)

The reckless explorer

While most the group happily dined together, this little chick was too excited about all the new places to explore, and went everywhere.

It appeared to be a fun outing for the family, and I'm sure many more will follow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

peanut butter chocolate chip butterscotch cookies

Oh man - these are good!  Huge, chewy and so yummy!  Wanna make some?  I found the recipe right here.  Only change I made - substituted one of the 2 cups choc. chips for 1 cup butterscotch chips.

Had them the original way - they're great.  This way - also great.  I doubled the batch thinking I could freeze some for busy days.  None made it to the freezer, which wasn't too surprising.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

clamming around

This past weekend, we went to the beach for some clamming, and to hang out with the relatives.

I don't have any pictures of clamming.  We did it at night in the dark with head lamps and flashlights. It was a ton of fun - although we all got soaked (those waves are hard to see at night - especially when you are intent on clam hunting!).

We caught lots of clams, and I even caught a crab!  With my hands!!  Although this was unintentional.

I saw what looked like a clam hole. As I aligned the clam gun, I felt the hardness of the shell.  It was so close to the surface I decided to discard the gun and dig by hand to avoid breaking the clam's shell.  It was oddly shaped and I couldn't quite figure out what my clam was under.  Then, to my astonishment, I pulled a crab out of the sand!  It wasn't happy with me.  I may have screamed.  I dropped it very quickly and the crab equally quickly buried itself back into the sand.

After telling the others what I was fussing about, my mom was intrigued and came over and dug up the crab again.  We all got a good look, and the crab got even grumpier.  So, we let it be and once again, it was quickly buried and completely hidden to the eye.  I wouldn't believe there was a crab there if I hadn't seen it myself, and I wonder how many more might be under the sand.

Plenty of goofing went on.  Here some of the fellas are anxiously awaiting fresh clam chowder.

And here is what the younger fellas are up to while they wait for dinner.

While the clams were safe under the high-tide, we kept busy by going to the kite festival, and the cranberry festival.  I picked up 2 gallons of cranberries and some pure, unsweetened cranberry juice.

Before we left Astoria, we stopped for a decadent meal at the Rogue Ale House. A fittingly rich finish for a classic beach weekend.

Monday, October 13, 2014

yin yang faces

These yin yang beans have been a lot of fun to grow, and even more fun to shell and look at.

A. was carefully sorting and looking at them when he found some with faces.

Well, hello!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

new dahlias

I was so excited to receive some new dahlia tubers this spring.  I've was rapidly running out of garden area and so I decided to stick them in the raised kitchen bed temporarily.

Note - I did this the previous year by putting lavender and oregano in the same bed - again, temporarily.  Yet, they are still there.  This bed is a conglomeration of Arthur's gardening on one side, and the herbs, flowers and basil on my side, and lots of volunteer Sweet Annie & poppies throughout it all.  It's a mess, and yet such a pretty one.

I like seeing the flowers out my kitchen door.  I also like collecting them for inside bouquets.  I'm daydreaming about having a cutting garden next year.  I bet it would be so pretty, and maybe my kitchen bed can have a touch of order restored to it.  Or maybe not.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

drying cherry tomatoes

I'm not sure how many more days we have left until the frost hits, but in the meantime I'm trying to keep up with the tomatoes.  I've made salsa and sauce.  I've also canned crushed and diced tomatoes.

Now, I'm on to drying the cherry sized tomatoes.  All I do is cut them in half, lay them on the dehydrator tray, and sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt.

Once dry and cool, I store them away to be used this winter when I'm missing my tomatoes.  I love plumping them up in a bit of oil and throwing them on my pasta, or in my pesto sandwiches.

Little J. likes to sit down with a jar and munch them straight.  In fact, he's already been tucking in the dry ones.  Good thing there's plenty!

Friday, October 10, 2014

part of the family

I did mention that the goats are spending more time out than in, didn't I?  Well, here they are again, keeping me company while I work outside.

When we discussed goats before ever having them, I told Big J. that I didn't want any.  Then when the neighbor offered them for free and Big J. said yes, I told him that I wouldn't have anything to do with them.  They were his pets, and he had to do all the caring for them.

But they continued getting loose while he was at work - much to my irritation - and I did have to deal with them.  I may have mentioned turning them into goat kabobs a time or two.

As time went on with them getting out of their field and into mischief, the boys and I having to put them away,  crazily enough, I started getting attached.  They are sweet, playful, and very very curious.  They follow me all around the property as I do chores, just like Snow Bear (although he doesn't try to eat my trees).

The goats still drive me bonkers.  Two weeks ago, I found Cromwell (I kid you not) in the duck pond with an empty duck bag feed over his head and horns.  By the time A. and I got to him, he had managed to get out of the pond, and was standing there dripping with the bag stuck firmly on.  We pulled it off, and A. led him out of the duck field.  Do you think he learned his lesson?  Nope.  Not too many days later, both he and Elizabeth were back in the duck field trying to eat out of the feed bag again.

So yes, they are trouble.  Doesn't matter, I am smitten.  I love scratching them behind their horns, and how they lean against me for more petting.  I like how they keep me company when I'm outside.  I was even amused (and also alarmed, and irritated, and surprised), when Elizabeth came in through the open kitchen door to join me inside for a visit.

Guess these guys are here to stay.  I may threaten kabobs a time or two more, but I think Cromwell & Elizabeth are wise to me & my grumblings.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

cider making - take two

This past weekend, we loaded up our apples and Asian pears and headed over to my uncle's for a cider making party.

setting up press and grinder

old fashioned farmers

I love this machine! 

some of the fruit

grinding apples into mash

pressing mash, straining, collecting cider

Boy, did we have a lot of fruit!  Between all of us, we made about 18 gallons of cider.  It was a fun day visiting, and with so many people, the work went pretty quick.  After we got home, Big J. took some of our share to turn into hard cider.  As I write, the yeast is doing its work and the mixture is bubbling!  I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Monday, October 6, 2014

harvesting Merlot beans

This June we picked up a packet of Merlot beans at the Walla Walla Onion Festival.  At the time, I thought it was a clever way to dress up the name of kidney beans. Merlot sounds so much nicer kidney, doesn't it.  Upon further research, I found the Merlot is a considered a variety on its own.  Pretty neat!

We didn't have many in the bag we bought, so I decided to plant them instead of eating the beans.

They grew like gangbusters and I was trying to decide if it was time to harvest the beans.

Then I saw these pods - already popped and beans on the ground.  Definitely time to pull the plants.

Elizabeth came over while I was pulling the plants to see what I was up to, and maybe to see if the beans tasted good.  I didn't give her a chance to try them out.

I love all the shades the beans are right now.  The lighter ones will turn dark as they dry and they will all end up close to the same size as well.

For the 2015 growing season, I am saving some to plant again.  I am thinking of tilling the original garden area and putting the beans there, along with pumpkins and potatoes.