Monday, July 27, 2009

Hot weather cooking - Dutch oven style

House painting... will it ever end? Actually we are approaching a milestone as J is almost done with the second full coat and we can then concentrate exclusively on the trim. And call for a few gutter estimates... yay!
We wanted to cook a roast this weekend, but Sunday was the start of a week of record high temperatures here. We decided outdoor cooking was the only way to go, but since we hadn't used the dutch oven in forever, we first had to sweeten it.

After a good scrubbing, I filled it with water and a healthy handful of sweet, second cutting hay. From what I'd read, this is a good way to take away any bad tastes from a long idle oven. Boiled with the lid just ajar about 30 minutes, then I put it over medium hot coals open side down to burn out any old residue and finish the job. Another good scrubbing with just water, back to the coals for a heat up, and a good coat of cooking oil. Now that it is cleaned up, next time it'll be a lot easier!
Since it is so hot, having a big fire to cook in was not very appealing, so we opted for the charcoal/grill method this time around.

Some of the recipe idea came from scanning Dutch Oven Cooking and this Dutch Oven Pot Roast.

Our version went something like this... sprinkled the meat with about 1/2 package onion soup mix and black pepper, then set it aside. In a bowl mixed tomato paste with water [beef broth would have been better - lazy].

Placed about 12 coals on bottom of the grill, oiled the oven, and placed it right on the coals. Sauteed home grown onion then garlic in the kettle until starting to brown and added the tomato mix. After that was well stirred, added the meat with more small quartered onions. Placed on the lid with about 11 - 12 coals on top, 9 on bottom and let that simmer 3o minutes. By then it looked like this...

On top of this seasoned meat and sauce, I added a slew of potatoes and carrots right from our garden with a few sprigs of fresh thyme then replace the lid with coals.

About an hour and a half with the lid on the weber and vents full open, and this is what you get.

Roasted fire beef calls for BBQ Bread, so we grabbed the cast iron skillet, and last of the bread dough I'd made that was waiting in the fridge.

I turned this once every 15 minutes and it took about 30 -40 total. A fresh garden salad, glass of wine and bon appetit!

Whenever grilling there are always some eager bystanders.

One never knows if the cook might drop a meat morsel or provide other handouts!

And last, but not least... his nickname isn't "Possum Road-kill" for nothing! No matter how often we catch him laying like this, it still shocks and amuses.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Weekend Harvest

This weekend as well as more house painting, we did some garden harvesting. The vegetables are very happy this year, especially our Uncle David's Dakota Dessert Squash. It's muscling out everything near it as you can see!

Squash blossoms closer up. The plants seem picture perfect this year.

Got beets? We sure do! This week we'll be processing and pickling many beets. Estimate is about 40 pounds worth this particular harvest.

First storage potato crop brought in as well, and curing before going in the back pantry. One of these days we hope to add an old fashioned cold cupboard to better preserve things and for longer storage life.

Pickling onions, cukes and dill as well as some carrots not shown all went into a batch of fridge pickles.

We used this Refridgerator Dill Pickle recipe and in as little as 2 -4 days this jar of goodness will be ready to eat... Mm-mm!

The tomatoes appear to have a new resident... can you spot her/him in the picture?

Here Fergus is trying to figure out if he should be jealous of "Tame Chicken". She's one of our new hens and seems to love people, running over whenever we are in the area. Naturally she gets special privileges, such as hanging out with us in the yard.

Or even better, lap time with hugs.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Strange Ordinance

While on vacation we visited a local gravel pit in order to do some shooting. There we found this strange ordinance... someone's bottle rocket special with a shotgun shell finish. Just hope no one was below if it really went off!

We also ran into this melon bandit...

Guess he tried to rob the wrong bunch of hombres.

Returning to life on the farm... this is the 2nd best of the two barred rock roosters we have from the spring chicks, also known as "Number Two". We placed an ad in the local Craigslist for him [there can be only one], and he went to a new flock elsewhere for the tidy purchase price of $10.00. Who says a farm can't be profitable! We just probably won't be quitting our day jobs anytime soon... sigh.

And the painting project continues. Here J is at the midpoint on the front exterior wall. At this point we now have the house competely washed, calked and nearly the entire first coat on the outside walls... second soon to follow. After that it's just the trim paint. New gutters are also on the horizon, when the budget allows as we'd much prefer a color that matches the darker trim over the current white ones. The old gutters will probably get recycled for use on our run-in, and the remainder are spoken for by a neighbor who'll use them on a shop.

Here D screws off the last flashing on the renewed back porch roof. We tore off all the aged, badly installed panel roofing that leaked, reinforced then painted the framing, and installed clear polycarbonate "Tuftex" roofing. The rain was just starting to fall, so job was finished not a moment too soon. Eventually, the back porch will be enclosed to be a bit more user friendly in the winter months. You can see more old white guttering here that simply has to go, especially once the fascia has the darker bronze paint.

We took enough time out from house repair to do a garlic harvest. This year we managed almost 60 plants at harvest, so we could nearly go the year if we didn't use too much over a full bulb per week. Not too shabby. Some of these plants were, simply put, huge! We placed them in an area manure was piled during the winter, then left to compost all summer. By last fall when we sowed garlic, the pile had turned into some dark uber-rich soil. We'll definitely have to use this method again.

Of course no post at Seven Trees is complete without some kind of critter pic. Here Crichton demonstrates the proper form of "sleeping in". Thanks, Crichton!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

All kinds of busy!

Ruby chard is one of our go-to veggies here at Seven Trees. It makes a nice salad green when young, and cooks up tasty once it matures. It grows well in cold weather and is slower to bolt than spinach in warm weather. Usually we freeze the surplus for winter after a quick chop & blanch. But those crunchy, juicy red stems are also excellent made into relish. Here's a recipe we found online that is well worth trying if you have a lot of chard in your garden....

2 lbs (4 cups) swiss chard stalks only
1 lb (2 cups) onions
1 lb (2 cups) celery
1/2 lb (1 cup) red peppers
2 cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup salt

Finely chop vegetables, mix together and set aside. Bring to a boil vinegar, sugar, mustard, turmeric and curry powder. Remove ¾ cup of liquid and mix with cornstarch. Set aside. Add salt & vegetables to remaining liquid and simmer until tender stirring often. Add corn starch mixture and stir continually until thick. Place in prepared jars and seal. (We do 10 minutes in a water bath canner.)

And now for the 'busy' part.....
We've gotten a first coat of paint on most of the house now. Funny how painting always takes much longer than you plan for. But it looks great and will do wonders protecting this 89 year-old tiny farmhouse.
The prep work is half the battle...brushing off webs & yellow jacket nests, a soapy scrub down, caulking any gaps or holes... Lots of people pressure wash their houses, but with one this old, and cedar sided, pressure washing can drive water up into the siding and cause rot inside the walls. It's also important to leave the bottom run of siding uncaulked so the walls can breathe. Old houses have their own needs, but when you do it right, they far outlast new construction. The last time this house was inspected, it was said to have an effective age of only 15 years!
Here's rooster, known as #1. We're hoping he outgrows his teenage rowdiness and has some manners with the ladies. Right now he's still a bit uncouth, but so handsome we'd like to use him to breed our next batch of chicks from. If he doesn't turn out to be a gentleman, he'll go in the stockpot and we'll keep trying. He's fairly friendly though, and likes cuddling. You can tell Stew would much rather have him as broth....
Our painting vacation got rained out a couple of days. Almost every house critter is in this photo. Cats, dogs & parrot make for a lively household when they're all in the same room, not to mention the humans!
New visitors to Seven Trees are a pair of cedar waxwings. They aren't rare to the area, but we've never seen them here before. I think they're trying to nest in the apple tree behind this maple, but our painting activity is making them nervous. Hopefully they will stick it out til we're done. It's always nice to know we're making good habitat for native birds. We also have a pair of swallows which are most likely violet-green swallows nesting in a birdhouse on one of the front fir trees. They eat flying insects, so they should help keep the pest population down this summer.

The garden is coming along great. So far we're harvesting carrots, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, chard, onions, garlic, kohlrabi, a cuke and one tasty Stupice tomato. The squash are going gangbusters, with the Uncle David Dakota Dessert squash doing its best to take over the garden. We are also growing our old favorite, Sweet Dumpling Delicata. So tasty, a great keeper, and one squash makes 2 nice serivings. We snuck a few Sugar Pie pumpkins in, and they are starting to ramble all over the garden as well. Looks like a good summer for warm weather crops.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Summer Vacation!

We at Seven Trees are enjoying a very rare and all-too-short summer vacation. Stay tuned for updates, but for now Fergus pretty much sums it all up....