Friday, November 23, 2012

The Leaf Scoop is a Wonderful Composting Tool

The willow tree spread it’s small, knife blade-shaped leaves all over the backyard and driveway.  These will make a wonderful nutrient in compost.  The thing I love about compost is that it is free and perfect soil.

Willow trees grow throughout Carson Valley, Nevada.  I previously wrote about how the green leaves and stems make rooting compound.  But now these leaves make the house look haunted.

Today I used the yellow Gardex Leaf Scoops.  Though I like to buy used or find things free, I paid full price for these and they are so worth it.  At the very least, they halved my time moving piles of leaves to the compost pile.   I would recommend these to anyone who has a deciduous tree.

Though I bought the yellow ones, there are at least two other manufacturers who make the same thing for about the same price.  The yellow ones are the only ones I have felt in my hands but they seem pretty sturdy and will probably last a few years if I don’t leave them out in the sun.

Happy composting!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Farmhouse Apple Pie, a First By Many Accounts

First baked dessert I’ve made at The 1966Farmhouse; first apple pie I’ve made in two decades; first baked dessert I’ve made in a good 5 years; first dessert I’ve ever made with my own apples.  You get it.  Novice time.

I like to think of myself as a purist when it comes to cooking, but (gasp) I am using Marie Callender’s pre-made frozen pie crust.  Important note:  They do not tell you until you open the package that the crust has to be somewhat thawed out before you put the pie filling in it.  Thank goodness I thought of that.

Now for the boring part:  peeling and coring apples without the peeler/corer.  Hello family?  Guess what you should add to my Christmas list.

Mood music of choice:  a custom mix of Carly Simon’s Christmas is Here, James Taylor’s James Taylor at Christmas and Christmas With Willie Nelson.

The recipe --

  • Remove two frozen pie crusts in the aluminum pie pans from freezer and follow instructions for separating and thawing.  (My recipe called for 20+ minutes of thawing).
  • 5 cups of  cored, peeled, and thinly sliced apples (This can take from 6 to 7 apples, I used red ones off of my tree that are similar to a Fuji.  Also after I cored and peeled and halved the apples, I sliced them thinly by running them through the food processor with a slicing blade on.  Per my usual, all of the fruit peelings and cores went into the compost bin under the sink).
  • Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees
  • Stir into apples, and coat them well with,:
    • 1/2 cup white sugar
    • 1/8 tsp. salt
    • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
    • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
    • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
    • 1/2 tsp. of grated lemon rind
  • Spoon apple mixture into bottom pie shell and mound a bit in the center
  • Before you put the top pie crust layer on, dab onto apple mixture in little pieces a total of 1 1/2 tbsp of butter (I used regular butter with salt)
  • Put second pie crust on top following manufacturer’s instructions
  • Cut slits for air to escape
  • Brush top crust with a little milk (optional, for causing sugar and cinnamon sprinkles to adhere only)
  • Sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon on the top crust
  • Place in oven on cookie sheet or with a sheet of aluminum foil underneath to catch drips and/or broken off crust
  • Bake at 450 for 10 minutes
  • Bake then at 350 for 30 to 50 minutes (I had to turn it down lower because my old gas oven was cooking the crust too rapidly).

Voila!  Breathe a sigh of relief that you just made the American classic! Eat pie with or without vanilla ice cream.  We ate it without.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Living in Harmony with the Seasons

City living.  I knew only that way of living before 1966 Farmhouse landed in front of me.  Except for a few years in the 90’s when I lived in rented space in Tahoe, climate rarely caused me to radically alter daily activities.  Harsh winters change all that, as I am learning.

A fine layer of snow blanketed the valley night before last, melted yesterday, and then returned stronger last night and this morning.  Certainly, the apples are now over.  Pears, too.  Frozen lettuce does not endear itself to cold-sensitive molars.   Certainly, cilantro has laid down to die.  But still, the kale carries on.

Being a farmer requires following the writings on a calendar closely.  The plans for taking green cuttings from grapevines and flowering bushes to propagate for next spring have now wilted like the beet greens.  I missed that deadline, or dead vine, as the case may be.  Unheeded instructions to move winter crops out of what is now shade to a sunny area of the yard are now crumpled and water stained on October’s page, folded over onto the back of the stiff calendar backboard.

Where did summer go, with its radiant heat and intense light?  At 6,000 feet in altitude, the light and heat fades in November.  My plans of experimenting with the Ruth Stout method of gardening were only partially implemented.  Regardless of which method one uses in the garden, work is still required.  My energy and attention faded with the heat.

Growing food while also working as a professional consultant requires daily decisions on whether to work outside or get a new retainer agreement written and signed.  Work up a detailed analysis of the pros and cons of taking such and such position?  Or, go outside and set up mini-tents over onions?  Cut down brittle and brown sunflower stalks looming overhead or help a company get incorporated?

While the consulting work remains at less variable constants year-round. each day passing moves the garden closer to a new change in the season.  Why must the climate always be waxing or waning in a certain direction?  I mourn all the applesauce I did not make.  Now the apples sit frozen beneath an inch of snow.

The creativity at 1966 Farmhouse now must turn to the interior -- the unpainted floor, the prior owner’s taste in mint green wall color, and the grocery bags holding dead plant bundles saved for their seeds.  Now that I have to enjoy the outdoors by looking through glass, I realize I never cleaned the windows when I moved in.  One wonders where the Christmas tree will go in this new, old house.

Must I take up doing needlework in the winter to make the transition to country living a perfect caricature?    I will save that for old age.  Renovation will resume, as long as the money holds out.

Au revoir mes peches.  Ciao ciao arugula.  Adios tomatillos.  Hello new life of falling white snow, clear windows and crackling fires.