Sunday, November 6, 2011

In the photo, lime marmalade. I started with 9 limes, a grapefruit and a lemon. Sliced it all very, very thin – 1/16 inch strips are ideal, but most of them were a shade thicker. Put it all in a 6 quart pot with about 2 cups of water and started to cook it. After about 15 minutes, I checked the recipe on the Sure-Jell light box – nothing like doing things in the right order. However, as luck would have it, I did begin with the 6 cups of prepared fruit (they suggested 5 ½) but because I was doing a Seville-style marmalade, I hadn’t done the fancy stuff about separating fruit and rind, peeling off the pith and boiling it separately and so forth. I just went ahead with the directions. As soon as the Sure-Jell entered the mix, it began jelling beautifully. I added the sugar, brought it back up to boil as directed, and it was done. The jars are mostly olive jars- one held jam, about 12 years ago; another once held maraschino cherries, which we couldn't quite bring ourselves to eat. I washed them in the dishwasher, then sterilized jars and tops in boiling water. They all sealed… though I had my doubts about one of them, so I suppose I’ll make the ultimate sacrifice and keep it. It’s very, very good.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Grandpa Bill is back after a whirlwind trip to Indiana to visit his friend Gerry. With my car. (I did NOT enjoy driving his truck!) We compromised, because it’s a long trip, on having him break his journey with Meg on the way there and the way back. Probably a good thing to do. While he was gone I did some canning and a lot of cleaning. I made apple butter that came out really, really good, much better than my grape jelly which came out as a dandy sauce to put on ice cream. They do say to watch proportions, and I clearly hadn’t been paying close enough attention on that one.

I was surprised Friday morning, to come back from a trip to the post office, after hanging out the wash, to see it actually steaming in the air! It did eventually dry, but it hadn’t gone on the line hot – the rinse cycle on the washer always is cold. It looked magical.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We’re not yet ready to say goodbye to the garden. It was a terrible gardening season – too much water in May and June, none in July and part of August, then way, way too much in late August and September…. and by the way, from the squelch of our shoes in the garden, in October also.

By August, the garden was far more “field of weeds” than “field of dreams.” So after I stacked the wood, I began digging weeds. There were enough to fill the second compost bin to way over the top! Then I dug a garden bed three times. Bill decided to dig it a few times, too. I planted a row of lettuce, a row of beets and a row of swiss chard and kale. The lettuce did not do well, but the others did beautifully…

What if we could keep the garden going just a little longer? My friend Sarah and her husband Chris brought their hoop-bender down and helped us – or rather, we helped them – bend ten 10’ lengths of ½ inch electrical conduit. we stuck these in the soil, and we’ll be putting “remay” row covers over it – probably this week, because it’s getting a bit chilly out there. With luck, we’ll have greens into December, maybe longer.

There are videos on the web that show hoop bending and make it look really instant and easy. They’re missing the sound effects, especially the grunts and groans and “oops!” that had Sarah and myself doing a sort of stumbling dance around Chris who kept yelling, “Is it level? I TOLD you to hold it level! Oh… okay.” It wasn’t instant, but it didn’t take a huge amount of time either. As you can tell from the variety of hoop formats, none of us are experts, though Chris is definitely more expert than the rest of us.

I learned a lot. I thought maybe four hoops would be enough for that row, though we had to buy a bundle of 10. We used almost all of them for the row, and then decided to extend it a little to cover some of our arugula… and use as a sort of greenhouse for early planting next spring.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Here’s a news flash – work is NOT interesting, at least, not always. And I’ve been doing a lot of it lately, so I haven’t always had interesting things to write. or at least, not the most interesting to write about here… But today, work took me to one of the most gorgeous spots in the area. I was asked to write about the National Forest. When I talked to one of the foresters I know and like, he mentioned the former Caywood Point Boy Scout camp, which has been taken over by the National Forest. This summer they improved the roads and sort of created a new one. I hadn’t been down there for about 20 years, and Bill said he’d go with me. It was like walking through a piece of heaven.

This is the old “Queen’s Castle” – it was a small, private summer camp for a group of women who came here every year to live in tents in the woods and talk about voting rights for women and other intellectual stuff of interest to ladies… Camping here is currently free, because they haven’t gotten around to “formulating policy” yet – in other words, they were thinking about building the roads and haven’t yet made rules.

If the roof line of the building - and it's really a very, very tiny cottage to be called anything so grand as a castle - looks familiar, it's because one of the small wineries, Shalestone (that's not the one Uncle Andrew worked for but a different one closer to Lodi) copied it for their building.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

You’re never too old to have kid-style fun. I’ve gotten an extra summer job – in a play. I’m the judge’s assistant/stage manager/sign carrier/ sound effects – and also sometimes the ticket-seller and usher for a new theatre in Montour Falls. You can find information on it if you look up the Old Havana Courthouse Theatre on Google – it’s a summer theatre for melodrama.

The plays are short and silly. Here we are in the “Old Cookie Shop” where the heroine, Nellie (Sara Eisman, in the long yellow skirt) is valiantly baking because she “kneads the dough .” Her evil landlord, Mortimer Whiplash (Joe, on the far right in the picture) is about to foreclose on the cookie shop’s mortgage (or rent, it’s not completely clear). Nellie’s mother, in the aqua apron (Jane, who’s a health inspector by day and sometimes a professional clown after hours – she taught a clowning class I took several years ago) is told throughout the play that she’s ill because the heroine’s mother in any melodrama is always ailing. The tall guy on the right, in back of the villain, is playing all the bit parts and at one point comes out on stage to say he can’t come out on stage because he hasn’t changed his costume yet. The tall girl in the back row was carrying signs last night – these are the ones that remind the audience to cheer or boo. And all the way on the left, the old guy in the hat is supposed to be the love interest. No photos of the villain getting “pied” – because when this photo was taken, it hadn’t happened yet. Not seen is the singing and dancing cockroach, in a brown polyester outfit with waving tentacles which is so very hot, he only wears it when he has to.

Okay, so here’s how the play ends… there’s a last-minute story about a dark and stormy night when two babies were born – and then accidentally switched by an absent-minded nurse. It turns out that sweet Nellie actually owns the cookie shop and a nice bank account and it’s her evil landlord who has nothing (except the pie, which is actually made of shaving cream).

The theatre is very basic, and the backstage areas are very small. Everyone has to change in a room the size of my bathroom, so everyone wears body suits under their costumes – or arrives dressed. We’re not only actors but support staff and stage crew. Last night I sold tickets; other actors ushered or took tickets; two operated the chair lift. During the play, I do sound effects too. Last night the villain wanted to create his own shaving-cream “pie” because he said I put too much shaving cream in the previous one. When he came off-stage last night after getting pied with his own concoction, he complained that this time he’d inhaled shaving cream. (He also ate some). I guess villains will always be villains!

But it really is fun! Our audiences are fairly good, and they always leave smiling. We do too.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Grandpa Bill had a heart incident a few weeks ago - first his heart was beating really fast, then it slowed down so much he felt dizzy. So we spent two days in the hospital getting tests, doing fun stuff like having various things attached to his chest, and afterwards pulled off taking lots of fuzz with it. He lost more hair from that experience than the cat has been shedding, and that's saying a lot.

But the garden has been suffering, which made him feel even worse. so last week, David and great grand-dog Ausable came over to help. Sable blew out her other knee, making her as gimpy as the rest of us; what you see here is Grandpa trying to wrestle a tennis ball out of her mouth. She really likes to have the ball thrown to her, but because of her knee, you can't throw it so she's got to chase it. She's basically got to chase it sitting still.

Midway through the afternoon, David and Grandpa disappeared in the truck, coming back with wood for the compost pile of Grandpa's dreams. David did all the hammering while Bill supervised. I helped hold boards, but David did the heavy work. Now, thanks to David, the fence is up, tomatoes and corn are planted, the compost pile is the prettiest one in all of Hector. Also the planter at the front of the house is finally draining water - we had six inches of rain fermenting in it until we dumped it over, drilled holes and refilled it. Actually David refilled it -he took about 5 minutes to do what would have taken me an hour.

The next day, David came and took Grandpa fishing.
Thanks, Dave - you really are one of the greatest!