Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ohiopyle Hiking Trip

This weekend we took an overnight hiking trip on a whim. We'd bought used packs a few weeks ago and the cheapest tent REI had to offer last week. I was starting to feel the weather crunch, since in another month it will most likely be too chilly to sleep outdoors with the equipment we have.

So down to Ohiopyle we drove. We did about a 2.5 hour hike in the afternoon, then camped at one of the tent sites, and came back the following morning. The whole trip took 24 hours total. We learned some things about our packs, and that the sleep padding we have is not adequate for long term trips where actual sleep will be required. We also learned that yes, the rain fly works well, since it rained the entire night.

I really enjoyed waking in the crisp, autumn air and drinking a hot mug of tea in front of a tiny fire. Next step is to do an actual backpacking trip, but only a short distance. Maybe next Sunday. Finally, before the season ends, I want to do the 19 mile backpacking loop in Racoon Creek State Park.

What is with me? I leave Colorado and all of a sudden I like being outdoors. I suspect it has a lot to do with the deficiency of mountain lions in my current state. That, and all the cool fungus and moss around here. The way to make me interested in something is to cover it with fungus and moss.

Perhaps I should embroider that on a pillow.

Gearing up for Fall

I'm not super happy about the dropping temperatures. The house is getting chilly and I'm certainly not turning on the heat any time soon. The garden seems frozen in place, nothing is ripening the way I'd like and the new fall seedlings are taking forever to grow.

Still, it doesn't take very much for my attitude toward Fall to change. Pumpkins will make me a happy camper pretty quickly.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Harvest Festival 2012: Pt 3


Photo credit: Shannon Dickerson

It was harvest fest for the chickens too. They got so many treats since there were so many visitors. Plums (their fav), squash innards, corn husks, leftovers from dinner, apple skins, etc.

Photo credit: Tom Cruger
They are still getting a little bit each day from their very own leftover bag in the fridge. They've hardly touched their feed in the last few days, and who can blame them? Of course, this does mean they are pooping at an alarming frequency. The coop needs to be cleaned out again this afternoon. Smelly girls!

Harvest Festival 2012: Pt 2


Cider Making

We began with apple cider making. I thought at first that we'd turn it into alcoholic apple cider but a few things changed my mind. First, alcoholic cider has to age for a few months, so we couldn't have consumed it that day. Second, for people who didn't want booze, there wasn't anything interesting to drink unless we used the cider. Third, it was SOOOO GOOD that I questioned whether it'd be improved through fermentation. Blasphemy, I know.

All we did was buy a half bushel of apples (a sweet variety and a tart variety,) core them, and run them through the juicer. We skimmed off a bit of foam and heated the cider. Man, was it delicious! No need to add spices in my opinion.

Usually you don't need to core apples to run them through, but I was planning to make apple butter from the leftover apple mush, so it was necessary.

Lawn Art Contest!

This was perhaps the high point for me. There were three teams, 30 minutes, and very few rules other than don't smash my plants. Action shots below:

These pictures of the final products are courtesy of my dad:
Shannon & Jenni's spiral herb garden

One of Alex & Dave's three patio benches
Mom & Dad's Goldworthy-esque rock sculpture

I couldn't pick a winner, of course, because every entry was awesome. Now there is seating outside, a spiral herb garden for spring planting, and a super cool sculpture for the chickens and me to enjoy. Well done teams!!


We grabbed all the carrots, brussel sprouts, and a few radishes from the garden. Now it's ready for a fall planting of greens sometime this week. Thanks, team!

Mostly we just chatted and laughed like idiots. A pretty good way to spend a day if you ask me. 

Harvest Festival 2012: Pt 1

THE MENU! All dishes included garden produce; some exclusively so.

Apple pie - right out of the oven.

Peach Raspberry pie after it's baked

Everyone lining up - plates in hand

My first plate-load

A close-up of some of the spread. Food gets served in its cooking container in my house - nothing fancy!

Pies - before they go in the oven. Cute little pastry art by Jenni Finch.

Pumpkin Peanut Soup with Chives and Sour Cream

Happy Birthday to Tricie!!


  • Local Cheese Platter with Provolone, Smoky Jack, Garlic & Herb Chevre, and Spicy Honduran Harvest cheeses. I made the whole wheat herb crackers that accompanied.
  • Hummus and pita wedges (pita made by a local bakery)
  • Roasted squash seeds
  • A selection of pickles we canned this season, including Dilly Beans, Mustard Green Peppers, and Cantaloupe Pickles (which were bizarre.)
  • Honey cake (provided by Alex's mother as a Rosh Hashanah treat)
The Dinner:

  • Tomato, Basil, & Balsalmic Salad
  • Cucumber Salad
  • Blue Potato and Rutabagas au Gratin with sage
  • Quinoa-stuffed Guatamalan Blue Banana Squash
  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts smothered in caramelized onions and mushrooms
  • Spicy Szechuan Wax Beans
  • White Sweet Corn (brought by by sister Tricia)
  • Homemade Italian Bread (brought by Mom & Dad)
  • Spicy Pumpkin Peanut Soup (brought by Shannon, and I vote this as MVP.)
The Beverages:

  • Homemade autumn ale
  • Three different ciders from Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville
  • Homemade apple cider (non-alcoholic)
The Dessert:

  • Peach Raspberry Pie (the fruit was brought my my sister Lizzy)
  • Apple Pie
  • Chocolate Hot Fudge Cake (not in keeping with the local theme, but it was my sister's birthday cake so it gets a free pass)
Breakfast the Next Morning:
  • Leftover Pie
  • Honey Cake
  • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread (Tricia)
  • Leftover Italian Bread, toasted with raspberry jam (mine) and blueberry jam (my mother's)
  •  Gluten Free Apricot tea cakes (much better than they sound)
  • Leftover hot apple cider

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Harvest Festival: The Explanation

I love holidays. I particularly love cooking elaborate meals for family and friends. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I have a large family, and all holidays have been taken by other family members. It's been this way forever. How does a young family member with a new house get a chance to entertain?

I ran this past my older sister (who is responsible for more holidays than anyone else, I think, by nature of the fact that she's awesome and a big planner) and she suggested I invent my own!

Enter Harvest Festival: the holiday devoted to eating yummy food directly from the garden, hanging out with family and friends, and welcoming Autumn. This first year we had 11 guests, mostly from out of town. The small number was great, since we could have a sit-down dinner and everyone could still hear one another.

It was a great long weekend, and relatives and friends trickled in beginning Thursday evening. The last visitors left Monday morning.

Hooray! It's probably time to begin planning for Harvest Festival 2013, but first, some pictures...

Monday, September 10, 2012

The house is back to being a mess

After a few weeks of relative livability, the house is back in flux. We had a wonderful contractor come over to patch the mondo cracks in the walls and ceilings upstairs, and patch the walls after we had to move outlets 1/2 inches.
Gah! Then again, this wall has always been a shit show, so it's not a great loss.

It looks FANTASTIC now! And we've learned that the wallpaper in this room practically peels right off

The stairwell is looking a little less apocalyptic now that this crack is out of the picture.

It hurts my heart a little to see plaster all over my painted walls, but I know it means we're that much closer to the end!

However, the wall seems to have stopped sweating water after it rains, so we can paint that one soon too!

We have a house full of guests arriving Thursday and Friday for HARVEST FESTIVAL (!!), but they all know and love is, so hopefully they will be ok with a little plaster dust. They'll have to be.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Little Visitor...

The picture is horrible, but we had a little friend come and hang out the other day. He (or she) sat on the retaining wall eating something for hours. He didn't seem very worried about being photographed, but was a little too wiggly for me to get a good shot.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Laboring on Labor Day

My Faculty Review documents were due that tuesday, soI did a bit of office stuff on Labor day. In fact, I worked all weekend putting up produce, because summer is in its last hurrah and the panic is starting to set in for me. I get weird about veg.

We are getting a bumper crop of lemon cucumbers, which is crazy since we only planted ONE of those things! So I did 9 jars (pints, pint and a half, and one full quart) of dill pickles. I did another 2 pints of experimental cantaloupe pickles, which I'm not too sure about.

In addition, I cooked a half bushel of tomatoes down to 18 cups of tomato puree  and 24 cubes of tomato paste to freeze. We had an extra 10 ear of corn, so those went into the deep freeze as well!

Then on labor day, I charred and froze a quart of habenaros, started on my first ever batch of sour kraut, and dug one barrel of potatoes. That, and work on my portfolio :-(

The peppers, charred and cooling before the skins are removed and they're slipped into their freezer bag

Monday, September 3, 2012

Vacation to Far Off.... Ohio!

Alex and I realized that, other than visiting relatives, we haven't gone away together for a year. Unacceptable! We didn't have more than 24 hours, so 2-ish hours was the max travel time. We found a lodge/B&B on farmland in Ohio that looked fun. They had miniature goats (!!!!!) , mini horses, regular ponies, swans, ducks, parrots, buffalo, longhorn cattle, and deer. We spent the morning hiking in a nearby state park, checked in at 3, explored the property for a few hours, and had a great dinner that was included in the price of the room. It was really nice to get away from the house, where not a lot of progress has been made lately.

I started back at work full time 2 weeks ago, and there is very little time for painting or patching anything.

Did I mention they had miniature goats? They escaped the afternoon we were there, and came to eat out of our hands. I NEED ONE! They are so cute and little. The fully grown goats were the size of a small dog. I could make mini goat cheese from my mini goat milk! They could eat the front yard so we didn't have to weed whack!

You can't see them very well here - they are back from their jaunt and trying to keep cool in their goat house.

Mini Donkey is all up in our business

The view was gorgeous on the 550 acre property!