Posted in Plans, Preserving, Successes, The Nature

Staying Cozy and Making Plans

Things are still mostly hunkered down for the winter here at Jugtown. We had a bit of a weather rollercoaster the last week with one day in the 70s and then four inches of snow the next day. The snow is mostly melted, but I’m not holding my breath for warmth anytime soon – the last frost date in these parts is almost the end of May!

So we’ve been drinking our hot chocolate and building fires and making plans. Big plans!

Here is E’s big list of big plans:

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and I have a lot of plans floating around in my head that I have yet to actually put into a concrete list, or at least one coherent list (though a concrete list sounds kind of funny). I do have tons of little lists and ideas and snippets of things I want to look up. E and I are trying to have phone free Saturdays so I have to make a list of all the things I want to look up later instead of immediately grabbing my phone and googling everything. My most recent list consists of everything from how record players work (more on that later) to thermostat wiring and things that are automatic but not electric (a lot more on this later).

Since my big plan list is not ready yet, I did make a list of things I have either learned or accomplished.

  • Wiring up the new bedroom! Yes this happened and was tested and is successful and no one died! I’m really proud of this.
  • The furnace in the other greenhouse is working (I guess this is kind of a spoiler…)
  • The truck has new hubs and a new battery which is properly held in place by a new battery strap and not the piece of crap I picked up at WalMart (yes, I know – but it’s the only place around here we can get prescriptions filled!)
  • In general I’ve learned a lot about electricity and wiring.
  • I almost have a fully functioning plow on the front of the tractor/glorified lawn mower.
  • We got a new stove! (The reason for this is not something that should ever be discussed). I guess it’s not really an accomplishment, but it is exciting!
  • E and I have done a really good job of not drinking alcohol the past month or so. This is more of a self care/mental health thing, but it’s worth mentioning.

And of course – staying cozy.

 

edited to add:

  • I made a pretty excellent list of all our tools and appliances around here. I also downloaded and organized all the manuals for various things (heaters, thermostats, tractors, leaf mulchers) that I have looked up in the past and assume I will need in the future.
  • I successfully sharpened the chainsaw chain and made a cool kindling splitter
Posted in Cooking, Lessons Learned, Preserving

Wherein I cry about tomatoes twice in one week

My tomato plants did terribly this year in the garden. Horribly even. I started a bunch in the greenhouse and then the irrigation failed and all the seedlings died. I planted some store bought (I know- the horror!) in the garden and harvested maybe two tomatoes. The rest either came down with a terrible case of blight and never ripened, or ripened and promptly were eaten by some animal (I will find you) which chewed out the inside of every single tomato. It’s like there’s not enough water around and they just had to get at the juicy insides of all the tomatoes!

So I bought some tomatoes. A whole bushel. And boy did I have grand plans for those tomatoes – BIG plans as it were. They were so pretty!

img_0364But in buying them I made the first mistake of many with those tomatoes – I bought them on a Monday. Mondays are terrible in their own right, but as a day to start big plans which don’t involve your day job, they are really the worst possible choice you can make. The main issue with tomatoes and canning them is that you need to get the peels off them and unless you don’t mind scalding yourself by handling tomatoes that have literally been boiling two seconds beforehand, it is a somewhat long process.

I started off really strong. We had our wood stove going since it was chilly so I used the top to set out tomatoes in my big crock to cook a little overnight with the residual heat. The next morning they had burst open, but not totally disintegrated so I could easily slip off the skins and squeeze out some seeds before tossing them in another pot for sauce. I also used some to make a salsa with some peppers and corn that I had. Of course since I started too late at night I had to move the salsa into the fridge overnight so I could can it the next day. I also cored some and set them in the oven with residual heat to skin the next day. And them promptly forgot about them. For three days. (I’m not entirely sure how I didn’t use the oven for three days, but things happen.) So when I did discover them, they were not pretty. In the spirit of my Bubby and her green sour cream which she swore was still edible, I was tempted to salvage what I could, but, in the end I threw the lot in the compost and cried. The compost was probably a good choice, the crying was maybe a little silly, but I was overwhelmed and feeling like a failure and sad about the wasted tomatoes.

The next day I set out to can the salsa and pasta sauce. I had the pressure canner filled with water, the pasta sauce in the big crock, and my salsa in a big pot. I was trying to do something foolish like half balance the pot off the stove to maneuver the crock in front of the canner and ended up with that picture above. It looks like someone got stabbed! There was salsa everywhere – on the floor, on the stove, under the stove, on the wall, in my shoes, in my hair! It was the worst salsa catastrophe I’ve ever witnessed. Luckily E helped me clean up, because after this second tomato disaster I was feeling incredibly useless and extremely frustrated by my apparent incompetence. And for the second time in a week I cried about tomatoes.

BUT- things I learned!

  • Never buy tomatoes on a Monday! More generally, never start a big, time-sensitive project on a Monday. I had been so impatient to get started with acquiring and canning tomatoes that I didn’t even consider that I had a full work-week ahead and probably wouldn’t have enough time to handle all of them. Friday is a much more reasonable day to buy a bushel of tomatoes.
  • Mistakes happen, tomatoes rot, and sometimes you cry – but in the end it’s not a life or death situation. I am thankful that we’re not totally dependent on our crops to survive, we have good jobs and if I really wanted to, I could buy more tomatoes.
  • The Blight! Apparently growing tomatoes in this area was really easy up until about ten years ago. The lady at the farm where I bought the tomatoes told me that ever since a big hurricane hit ten years ago, tomato blight has been a huge issue in this area. This is definitely going on my list of things to remember.
  • I need a freezer, a big one. Or another fridge. Or both. When in doubt or running low on time, I’m pretty sure the answer is always the same – throw it in the freezer.