Return of the Skunks and Spring Pantry Inventory
Chocolate Box Cottage Diary, Volume 2
Week 7: February 19, 2022
Cool, frosty mornings are right around freezing and afternoons in the mid 60’s F (18c). The birds are happy and fill the air with chatter. It is surprisingly loud. Anyone who says they, “crave the quiet of the countryside,” has never been there. Or here.
The skunks have returned. From where, we do not know. We enjoyed being skunk-free these last several months, but when we heard the cat food bowl hit the side of the house on Monday evening Sam and I knew that meant the reprieve had ended.
We haven’t been sprayed (badly) yet, just small puffs of nauseating stink that last only a couple of days so far, and that due to Sam who persists in chasing them off. Sometimes I think he is worse than Toby, our grumpy old Maine coon cat. “Get outta here, go on, get!” says he, gesturing with his arms.
Skunks retaliate by picking up the empty cat food dish and flinging it against the house. And spraying, of course. Then ever so leisurely slipping under the gate to seek vittles and hospitality elsewhere.
Which means re-washing whatever is in the dryer because the scent goes right up the dryer vent and permeates the wash. Gahhhh!!! But as I said it hasn’t been terrible – yet. That day is coming, I am sure, and wouldn’t you love to be here visiting when it does?
Maybe you’d rather play my apprentice as I go through the farm kitchen tasks of the week: cooking, gardening, fermenting, inventorying the pantry, adding herbs to the apothecary, as well as shooting a video and answering at least a few hundred questions on all of the above subjects in online venues! I wish you could, it would be nice to have the help and the company some days!
Simple pleasures: cozy, beautiful socks (handmade by a dear friend, Linda Chandler, in Kentucky who send them to me as a surprise. Thank you, Linda!) a cup of tea, and a homemade cookie.
Valentine’s Day lunch at Mom’s. We packed a basket with a big jar of German Vegetable Soup with Dill, Baked Rice (custard), and Red Velvet Chocolate Tea from Farmhouse Teas.
PNW-Style Bacon and Veggie Fried Rice with garden greens, carrots, leftover chicken, and eggs from our chickens. A great use of leftovers, cool-season garden veggies, and odds-n-ends in the fridge.
Preparing to shoot a Bosch bread making video for Homesteading Family. Carolyn Thomas’ Art of Homemade Bread masterclass teaches you everything your grandmother (or great grandmother) used to know about baking soft, fluffy, and sliceable homemade bread. This is a batch of 5 loaves of 100% whole wheat bread.
One good way to get to know a far-away place is through their food. Get to know Ukrainian food and you will fall in love with the people. My mom’s side of the family is German-from-Russian, which is actually Ukraine. Summer Kitchens is one of my most-cherished cookbooks, it brings me closer to my family roots.
Four bowls of splendid salad greens: buckwheat, sunflower, pea, and radish (from left to right). I find seeds in many places: bulk bins at the locally-owned grocery store, Sprout People, and Johnny’s Seeds. Seed racks at garden centers frequently offer a small selection of seeds expressly for sprouting and eating. (You would not want to use treated seeds for food.)
I’m guessing grumpy Maine coon (Toby) locked the beautiful damsel in the hutch? Your guess is as good as mine.
Musqueé de Provence seed pumpkin, identified by the macramé yard I tied on the stem after hand-pollinating the female flower last summer. A peek inside reveals rich persimmon-colored flesh wish sweet, melon-like aroma and a wealth of sturdy seeds to save and replant.
Early spring pantry check. Your pantry may be spread out in different places like mine is, between kitchen cupboards, baskets on the floor, a closet, under beds, perhaps a shed or garage, and don’t forget your freezer!
A basket of garlic with many options for preserving before it begins to sprout. This time I plan to turn some into garlic salt, roast and freeze some for savory soups, and ferment some as a paste to season marinades and dressings and add flavor to stir fries.
We have been eating from the winter squash heap all winter and still there are plenty. Some will be baked and pureed for future pies, creamy soups, muffins, and other baked goods. Varieties left here include: Waltham butternut squash, porcelain princess pumpkin, and Musuqee de Provence pumpkin.
We are using up the last gallon jar of water glassed (or limed) eggs preserved in lime water. I keep a pair of rubber gloves draped over the top for ease of grabbing eggs. You also see a gallon of coconut oil, a crock of sauerkraut (in back), a lone bottle of huckleberry kombucha, and several jars of fermented garden produce including tomatillos and tomatoes.
A peek in the chest freezer reveals whole stewing hens (also known as spent laying hens) for broth, a turkey purchased at a discount last Thanksgiving, and local beef and fish.
Five gallon buckets with Gamma Seal lids are a convenient way to store whole grains like wheat, rye, barley; beans, popcorn, salt, sugar, and more as the lids easily spin off and on with one hand. No more struggling with a bucket tool to open a lid. I keep quart and half-gallon jars of individual grains in my kitchen cupboard and refill from the buckets as needed. Since I get into the buckets regularly, we do not use oxygen absorber packets. We eat from our food storage and continually replenish it throughout the year.
Happy mail from Starwest Botanicals included astragalus root, licorice root for, more amble glass tincture bottles, and a new set of tiny stainless steel funnels for easy filling of tincture bottles. Three homemade additions to the apothecary this week included diced dried organic tangerine peels, diced dried ginger, and dried hawthorn berries from a local tree. Some of the ginger was made into a fizzy ferment to add spice to stir fries and peanut dipping sauce for summer rolls.
Family-friendly movie recommendation: Support Your Local Sheriff. James Garner stars in this classic Western comedy, aided and abetted by the late Jack Elam, a southern Oregon local. You might just laugh through the entire movie like we did!
Coming soon: a new roof for the greenhouse!
If you have a few more minutes to relax with your cup of tea, feel free to take a peek at last week’s Cottage Diary entry. Thanks for visiting!