We are getting rain and things are turning GREEN! White Christmas, no, but I’ll merrily take a soggy & green one over the mid-70’s & still-tan one of last year. I want to get out there and try broadcasting some pasture seed, now that conditions are right for growing such stuff, but I haven’t been able to do so yet.
Last Sunday the occasional propane whiff under the stove had become a full-blown leak and my husband and Isaiah tracked it down and fixed it. I kept thinking that I should have one of them go check the tank level, but it was dark by the time they finished and I’d forgotten about it by morning. Monday was busy. Elijah and I still weren’t feeling too great that afternoon, but I had cranapple butter that had to be canned, so I asked him to heft the canner full of water onto the stove and get it heating while I put Joseph down. Then I remembered and sent Isaiah out to check on the propane. He came in waving his arms and miming big zeroes with his hands. I mimed back “call Daddy!” and finished putting the baby down. When I came out, the kids told me that we were out of both propane and telephone—due to a miscommunication neither my husband nor I had paid the bill last month.
And what a glorious moment that was.
I got online to try to figure out how to contact the propane company (nope), or how to reactivate an expired GoPhone we have (nope, again) and then I decided to check the phone to see if perhaps my husband had noticed his phone was dead and had paid the bill. The call didn’t go through, but I got a recorded message from the phone company giving me the option to pay my bill over the phone. I completed the transaction at 5:03, called the propane company immediately and was informed that everyone had just gone home. And so…. I had Isaiah light the wood stove and we canned Cranapple Butter I (The Spicy Version) that way. I don’t know if there are techniques I am not aware of, or if a stove for heating a room is simply a different beast from a stove for cooking, but I have not been very successful cooking anything on a wood stove. It took four hours to get half a canning kettle of water up to a boil, and by the time we go there it was 78F upstairs! My husband asked me whether we could cook on the thing in a pinch. I answered that, yes, we could, but we would need to live somewhere else. And so I continue to dream of a summer kitchen outfitted with a real wood cookstove.
Tuesday we dealt with another crisis while canning Cranapple Butter II (The Tangy Version). I put the jars into the canner to process and asked Isaiah to come out with me to do a little freezer reorganization to make room for the chickens. Sigh. We dug down into the meat freezer and I discovered all of the milk that the boys had frozen in gallon-sized bags underneath the poorly wrapped salmon that my husband bought. Many of the bags had been damaged when they were moved and the fish were visibly drippy. We pulled all the milk out, marked those with visible damage, threw out a couple with large cracks, and put all but five into a different freezer. Those five went into the house where they were rinsed in the bags, cut out of the bags, rinsed again and then cooked thoroughly into rice pudding and evaporated milk. Cranapple Butter II processed the whole time we were dealing with the freezer—far in excess of the 15 I had planned. Following this excitement I got to run out in the dark and rain to buy hay as ours had gotten wet and molded. We need a better hay storage set-up.
All I want for Christmas is to be caught up enough that I don’t feel like I’m going from crisis to crisis. I don’t think I will get it. Ok, whine over.
Notes on Cranapple Butter: The Spicy Version (Cranapple Butter I) is not very spicy, but tasty. I added one pound of cranberries, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground star anise, a couple dashes of salt and a little vanilla to about 1 gallon of butter. The cranberries tasted fruity in it, but not distinctive, and if I’m putting cranberries in something, I want to taste them. The Tangy version (Cranapple Butter II) was fresher tasting and more like what I want in a cranberry butter. I added the zest from one orange and the juice from half to the same quantity. The orange flavor battles a little with the cranberries, so I plan to use lime next time. I think I will also add all the cranberries near the end of cooking for better color and flavor retention and hope to achieve cranberry butter perfection.
We’ve kept the dehydrator going pretty well this week. Mangoes were on sale, so we dehydrated a batch of those and then did a batch of apples when they were done. I’ve told the kids that we can’t start using it until Christmas (I want it still to be exciting and not all gone at that point) and so we are getting a good shelf-full. I recently read about a family in Canada who spent November eating entirely off their stores. The kids snacked through all their dried fruit in one month. I believe it. In other exciting dehydrator news (where else will you read that phrase?) we finally used some of the mixed vegetables I dehydrated before our last move. They were great! Knowing that makes me less excited about paying an arm and a leg for the freeze-dried stuff. In fact, I even let a Black Friday sale go past without adding to our stash. It’s probably a good sign when I can’t come up with a bunch of things that we still need.
I’m still trying to get the jars boxed up so they can be moved out of the kitchen. The new boxes that canning jars come in are lousy—no dividers and no lids—and so I end up making my own out of the steady stream of boxes we always have coming into the house. The new disposable metal lids are also noticeably thinner and they recommend only storing them for “up to one year”. It makes me glad to have reusable lids available. Just as long as they don’t make the jars cheap and awful I can live with cost-cutting on the rest.
The boys got through another batch of chickens yesterday afternoon. One more session should do it. They want to save a big, even-tempered Delaware rooster for our flock sire and retire our rumpless Red. This is probably a good idea, although I’ll need to do some research into crosses involving Delaware roos. I was excited about the possibility of getting Red Sex-links from a Rhode Island roo and Delaware hen. Oh well, we’re probably still a bit away from hatching anyhow. We still need to figure out how to keep a broody hen broody when we decide she ought to be!
And to conclude the post with more weather… they are expecting a massive storm to roll in Wednesday night with a lot of rain and 60 mph gusts of wind. We need to make sure we have everything we need in case of a power outage, make sure the laundry is done early, that everyone is bathed and we should probably practice lighting the stove manually. Another systems test!