Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Early Fall

Everyone is off to work and school and I'm home all day, Yeah! I love being home! 

Fall is here in the Northwest, and the rain has begun again.  I'm sitting here writing and procrastinating on the morning milking, waiting for a little reprieve from the downpour.  The milk stand is under the eaves of the goat and chicken barn and we all get wet during rain.  A priority before the heavy Fall rains will be a cover for my milking area.  Early this morning I fed everyone, so now we're all just sitting under cover watching it come down.

The rain also gets me to thinking about my pickling cucumbers in the garden,  I need to harvest them and will make crock pickles with the large ones, and jars of pickles in vinegar and herbs with the smaller ones.  The basil is not liking this rain either, I need to go pick it right away, and make pesto.  *Note to self, pick basil before the end of September next year.

There are apples, plums, and asian pears hanging on the trees, we've been eating from them everyday, and will be harvesting them over the next couple of weeks.  This year our bumper crop will be plums, we have 4 mature blue gage trees that have hundreds of plums per tree, about every 3 or 4 years these trees decide to give a haul.  I'll be making plum preserves, dried plums. and plum juice. 

In the garden I still have potatoes, carrots and beets to dig, and am hoping the delicata squash will ripen before the first frost, I'll leave them on until the end of the month.  I also have tomatillos to harvest, we've never had to plant them, they just come up year after year, and we make the most delicious salsa verde with them. 

Fall brings the sounds of the Douglas Squirrels dropping fir cones everywhere, these industrious little guys scurry up and down the trunks of the large Douglas Fir trees in the forests, you can hear the cones drop and watch them race through the tree tops. Watch out if you walk under a tree where they are, they have a good aim, and must have fun with their cone bombs trying to hit us.  Fall is also the smell of the Katsura trees, the smell is undescribable, cotton candy-like, it comes when the leaves turn yellow and fall.  Vine maples are beginning to turn red, orange, and yellow, and the sedum autumn joy and purple cone flowers are still blooming.

This morning I got a fresh batch of sourdough started, my old batch I had left too long and it went bad, this can happen if you don't watch it close enough. Possibly it failed because I didn't have it stored in the refrigerator, which helps slow it down and last longer.  I decided to experiment  this time and try the yogurt maker to start it in.  The consistent warmth might help speed up the process of making a good strong sourdough in less time than the typical 2 weeks, which is about how long I have found it takes to get a really good flavor.  You can begin to use a starter after 3 days, but it's much better to let it work a little longer.  I'm hoping this will speed up that time.  The main thing I'll do is check on it regularly, and  feed it when it get's thin or too sour. 

To make the sourdough, I use fresh dark rye flour (Bob's Red Mill), mix a little warm water into it and make it a little thicker than cake batter. I start with about 3/4 of a cup of flour, it needs warmth to get going, so usually I just set it in a jar by the wood stove, and add flour every day or two.  You know it needs to be fed (flour added) because it will bubble and then fizzle out, then you need to feed it with flour, if it gets too full you will need to take some out, also allow half the room in the jar for expansion.  I only use the rye flour to get it going and feed it for a couple days, then I switch to whole wheat flour.  This Fall I'm looking forward to baking with my sourdough, we love pancakes, bread, and muffins made from it. 

On the stove I have pheasant stock going.  How in the world did I get a pheasant?  Well, A couple days ago J came and told how a pheasant had flown under his truck while on the way home, it was on our hill so not a lot of traffic.  He knew the tires didn't run over it, but when he looked back it was dying.  He felt really bad and went back to look, it was almost dead and must  have tried to fly up as it went under the truck.  A lady went by in a car and said "Oh how sad for that beautiful bird" he felt the same, picked it up by the feet to bring home, and as he was walking back to the truck another car came by, this time with a guy, he gave the thumbs up sign and said "Good for you!" 

While we all felt bad about this most beautiful bird dying, we gave it honor by saving some of  it's gorgeous feathers for craft projects, we had a wonderful meal, and now I'm making soup.  The girls and I had never eaten pheasant before, and let me tell you, it was so good!  I stuffed it with cooked rice, fresh sage and garlic.  I baked it and as a side dish we had steamed kale from the garden.  Yum, here's to Fall, the harvest and good eating, and thanks for the many small blessings that come our way.  Well the rain has slowed, I'm off to go milk. 

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