Sunday, October 31, 2010

Charleston Trip 2010

FabHub had a two day Algebra conference on a Friday and Saturday in Charleston in October. I happened to have the Friday off, so I went along for the adventure.The conference was held in the Embassy Suites, which is also were we staying.
Our room was on the top - 9th floor. It is a long way down from the top of this building.
On the Pioneer Woman blog, when she goes on book tours, Ree always shows pictures of her hotel rooms. So I thought I would do that too. Mostly because of the humorous comparison. 

This was a suite, which is the only thing we had in common. Her rooms are always beyond huge. Like apartment size huge. Like such a huge waste of money for one night on a business trip huge.
Our room was adequate. We were there for two days and other than the sinking middle on the couch it was a nice place to stay.
Funniest thing is the art hanging behind the television in the front room.

On Friday, after FabHub went to this conference I headed down the street. First stop was Taylor's Books. An awesome bookshop in the historic district. I picked up a couple of books on back to nature, homesteading types of subjects. Books and subjects that are very likely to never be on any audio book listing. I also picked out a magazine and after making my purchases went to the coffee shop section of the store and tried to have a snack in a really nice atmosphere. Unfortunately, the staff was failing for the people in front of me, I gave up and headed off to my next destination.

The Clay Center. 
The Clay Center is an arts and science center that according to their website is a place for creativity, learning, and wonder. I happened to arrive just before the press conference supporting the opening of the new Exploratory. The governor's wife was there. Oooh.
There were also a whole bunch of third graders and pre-ks. That was okay until they tried to play with the stuff I was.... okay never mind. :) 
The Clay Center has a lot of fun activities and art on display that everyone can enjoy and might even learn something. 
I was actually there to see the domed theater movie Fighter Pilot - Operation Red Flag. When I was in the Air Force I knew all about Red Flag, a military exercise at Nellis in Vegas. It was a great show. I enjoyed it. The third graders seemed to also like the show.

Out in front of the Center there is a sculpture called Festival of the Performing Arts. It is a bronze sculpture that has a character depicting each of the different arts. 
I thought they were kind of cool and freaky at the same time, but then this done by a famous artist so what do I know.
After that I went back to the hotel and then over to the mall to do some shopping. Nice day in the big city.
On Saturday I walked down to the Capitol Market. It is the nicest farmers market I have seen. Not saying much really, since the only ones I have seen are Princeton and Hinton - mostly anyway. That would be not counting the open markets in Europe of course. Now they know how to sell to their neighbors.
Capitol Market is a year round market that sells whatever is seasonal outside under the old railroad shelter.
This time of year there are lots of pumpkins and marigolds. There were also plenty of late season vegetables and things that store well. I was walking again so didn't have space to carry much or I might have left with a bunch of stuff.

There was a pumpkin decorating contest going on at the market on the day I visited. Can you tell who was sponsoring it?
Of the two that were on display while I was there, these are the two that I really liked.

On my way back to the hotel I stopped and picked up some fresh baked sour dough bread from the Charleston Bakery. I would be in so much trouble if there was a bakery like that around me. I love fresh baked bread. I can do it myself, but the variety from a bakery would be very nice.
Well that is all I have to post this time. We had a nice weekend. Did some shopping. Enjoyed a couple days out in the big city, but ended up coming home appreciating what we have because we are just a couple of small town people who love to travel and enjoy coming home to the farm in the end.
Take Care Everyone!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fall Flowers

FabHub wanted me to take pictures of the flowers since they looked so nice this year. It was so wet this spring and then hot this summer that some of my regular bloomers didn't do anything at all. So these fall flowers are kind of a surprise.
I started over by the garden and all of its beautiful marigolds.
My tomatoes and beans... well nothing did really good this year, but the garden provided us some nice fresh vegetables and kept me out of other trouble so it was worth planting.
Poochy even got in on the photo fun.
Click on the picture for a closer look at all those marigolds.
I like having marigolds in the garden. Whether or not they help with bugs is a good question, but I just like them. This year I got some plants and had some seeds. 
Obviously lots of seeds germinated and all on top of each other too. 
I planted a whole bunch of basil too. You can see it in the pictures above and below, it is the tall spikey looking stuff. That is what you get when you ignore it.Weedy looking stuff that smells good.
The marigolds and basil did help with weeds in nothing else. Nothing short could get any light to grow.
 The flowers FabHub really meant in his photo request are the mums in the background, but they didn't photograph very well and I wasn't really happy with the whole adventure.

And then...
... and then I found these little guys hiding in the flowers.
What a bunch of flirts. Very cute though don't you think?

The volunteer petunias are still hiding under the cart.

 And the mums do have a ton of color to share.

So it wasn't a bad idea at all.
 In the backyard the windmill waits for spring with a new crop of tulip bulbs under fresh dirt.
The dogs are supposed to be on mole and squirrel alert back there.
I can't keep tulips for more than a couple of years once those things smell them and manage to dig them out. 
I guess I could do something about it, but the dogs enjoy the game and don't get much enjoyment out of the flowers, so why not share the fun.
Well, that is it for now.
Come back for new adventures soon. We have holes to dig and fence to build.
Might even do a bit more in the home improvement department. 
You never know with us.
Take care!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Tomatoes and Chicken

October finally cooled things off around here, which means it is time to clean out the gardens. I went out to the vegetable garden and found about 15 pounds of red tomatoes waiting to get off the vine. Only about 10 pounds were good for the kitchen, the rest went to the pigs.

I also found about 5 pounds of green tomatoes that needed to have something done to them. So I hauled everything up to the house and put the red tomatoes in the steam juicer. They would make some nice juice and I had an idea about using them with some beef or pork when we process them later this year.
The green tomatoes were kind of small for just about anything, but I decided they would fit nice in some pint jars for some fried or baked green tomatoes over the winter. That sounds so good!
So I sliced them up. 

By the way I love my Borner V mandoline slicer that I got in Germany almost 20 years ago. It gets regular use and is still very sharp. Though with all this slicing I have been doing this summer, the plastic parts are starting to show their age.

This is the bowl about half full. I ended up filling the bowl before I was done. There were three pinkish tomatoes in the pile, I used one because there was room in the boiling water bath pot, but the other two made it some chicken wraps this week. Fresh tomatoes are so good on a sandwich.

So I was getting my jars ready and had everything sliced up when I realized I didn't heat the water to put in with the green tomatoes.

Then a light bulb turned on in my head.

I had hot tomatoes juice steaming away in a pot right there on the stove!

Just because the recipe called for hot water doesn't mean the hot juice wouldn't work just as well.!

So that is what I did, put the jars under the drain tube and filled them up with beautiful clear hot juice.

Then I put them all in the stock pot and let them get to boiling.

And in the end I got 7 pints of green tomatoes and 7 pints of tomato juice.

It all worked out great and everything sealed so we haven't tried any of them yet.

The next project that I worked on this week was to can some chicken meat and broth. We have never tried it before, but this steam juicer makes things so easy I keep trying new things.

We went out to Sam's to do some shopping and I found some very nice platters of thighs and legs, not quarters like in the borrowed picture. I should try harder to find these things on sale, but I am experimenting and don't have patience to wait for sales.
Picture borrowed through Google images from
Monday I ran the thighs through the juicer and then Tuesday I did the legs. 

When the steam juicer was done I put the broth into a bowl and put it in the refrigerator so that the fat would separate. This bowl is chilled chicken broth and fat from the legs. The fat was a thin layer that rolled up making it easy to remove. The thigh fat was a different story, that layer was about a half inch thick. I am so glad I chilled it first!
After putting the broth in the fridge to cool I started working on the meat. The skin and meat literally fell off of the bones. It was very easy to sort the three parts! The skin went to the outside dogs, the meat went into a container to be refrigerated until I was read to process it all, and the bones in the trash.

Then on Wednesday I processed everything.

The broth went into a pot to heat up and boil. There was a little bit of fat in it yet, but nothing like what I had removed!
I put the meat in a couple of casserole dishes in the oven to roast a little bit and get heated up before putting everything into jars.
Then everything went into the pressure canner, separately of course, and came out looking terrific. I got 8 pints of chicken with broth and 6 pints of regular broth. 
After this success I am pretty sure there will be some beef going into jars too this year. Especially some of the meat that is hard to get off of the bones. Just put them in the steam juicer and wait.
My goal is to have plenty of quick and easy meals to fill the gaps on busy days. I think I am on a pretty good track for having that done.