342: How now brown cow

As  promised, I’ve brought you a few photos from the Portage County Randolph Fair.  Next year I might go on my own during the week so I can spend more time looking at and photographing the animals.  I’m not sure which are my favorites.  It’s a toss up between the cows and the goats.

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Seredipity Saturday

(This afternoon’s view of the pond from above the wildflower meadow.)

In between making salsa and chopping up sweet peppers for freezing, I took a short stroll out by the pond to see what’s happening out there lately.  We had a cold front move through last night, bringing a little of the rain we so badly need.  A couple of days of gentle showers would be nice but we’ll take what we can get.

The temperature has cooled down considerably.  We had to break out the blankets last night.  It’s not yet cold enough to turn the heat on, thank goodness.  But too cold to sleep with the windows open.

It has been breezy and downright blustery at times.  The wind did its usual howling, moaning, groaning song throughout the night.

Some of the leaves on the trees have turned yellow and red.  Some of the leaves have been falling.  I think that is due, in part, to the lack of rain.  Driving around the area earlier today, we noticed that the corn and soybean fields are looking pretty dry and brown.

Some of the flowers are going or have gone to seed.  Others — the goldenrod and asters, for instance — are just starting to bloom.

And the bees are still out and about, doing their dance around and on the flowers.  No sign of any butterflies today, and I still have not seen so much as one monarch this year.  That puzzles me greatly.

I’d better get back upstairs and continue my work on the salsa.  It’s looking and tasting pretty good so far.  Although I am grateful for the abundant harvest this year, I will be happy to be finished with all the prepping, canning, and freezing.

Which reminds me…

Joanne asked me why we call it “canning” here in the U.S.  I found a discussion of the subject here.  Since there were a couple of different explanations (meaning no one really knows?), I decided it was best just to give you the link so you can read all about it.  One of these days — perhaps when the weather is cold and gray and there are no more vegetables to preserve — I am going to see what I can find about the history of preserving food.  I think it would be a fascinating subject to study for a little while.

Green and brown

One of the saddest sights (to me) during our trip was the increase in the number of trees affected by the mountain pine beetle.  I know the beetles are considered a natural condition but to see so many trees dying, dead, and cut down was disheartening.  Quite a few of the campgrounds within Rocky Mountain National Park are almost devoid of trees.  What used to be wooded, shady campsites are now wide open sunny spots dotted by numerous tree stumps.

Even so, the dead trees didn’t detract from the beauty of the area.  The browns and grays mixed in with the greens reminded me more of autumn than of summer.

Some of the hillsides near Shadow Mountain Lake (which is near Grand Lake, where we stayed Tuesday through Friday during the first week of our trip) are dotted with piles of wood from the cut down trees.

(Near Shadow Mountain Lake.)

The western portion of Rocky Mountain National Park has been affected more than the eastern side.  There are still patches of green among the trees but you can see in the photos above and below that there are large swaths of brown and gray.

A harsh, cold winter would kill the beetle eggs and larvae.  Temperatures in the Rocky Mountains have been warmer than usual over the past ten years, said to be due to general climate change.  Precipitation levels have been down as well and the combination of the two (climate change and lack of precipitation) has caused the infestation to worsen.

Meanwhile, back at Breezy Acres…

I paid a visit to Hilgert’s Farm Market today.  The roma tomatoes and peppers are now coming in like gangbusters.  I came home with two pecks of peppers (green bell peppers and “Italian roasters”).  They are gorgeous.  I’ll be freezing most of them.  I do want to roast some of the Italian roasters to put in a salad tonight and save some the bell peppers to make stuffed peppers tomorrow tonight.

I’ll be going back later in the week to pick up a bushel of the roma tomatoes for canning and a peck of the Hungarian sweet peppers for freezing.

Back in the Bogs

(Saturday’s sunset view of the pond.)

M and I are back in the Bogs where the ice and snow are melting, the sun has been shining, and the pussy willows and forsythia bushes are budding.  Spring may not be here yet, but it seems to be on its way.

We arrived home on Saturday evening after smooth and uneventful flights.  Being a woman with a fear of flying, I am always grateful for a smooth and uneventful flight.

I’ve been slowly going through all the photos I took and the first three are of the scene at the airport on the day we left for Florida.

What a difference a week makes!  I have to admit that although I wasn’t thrilled we’d have to fly through that snow storm, it was interesting (and kind of neat) watching them clear the runways at the airport that morning.

The last photo in the series is my favorite.  Up until you see the airplane, there’s no way to really know where the photos were taken.  It could have been a huge parking lot.

As lovely as Florida is, I’m glad to be home and sleeping in my own bed once again.  “Sleeping” is the key word in that sentence.  I had trouble sleeping while we were on vacation.  I’m not sure why.  The bed seemed ok.  I think I need another day/night or two and I’ll be recovered from the sleep deprivation.

I brought back more than some souveneirs from our trip.  Having sampled a little too much food and drink, I carried home some extra weight.  I gained back five of the pounds I lost before we left.  I was going to write “only” five pounds, but that’s a third of what I shed pre-trip.  Still, I’m going to think of it as a small setback and get myself back on track beginning today.

With the feeling that spring is on its way if not in the air, I’m thinking about spring cleaning and gardening.  The high temperatures this week are going to get up into the 50’s, almost warm enough to open a few windows and let in some fresh air.  Certainly warm enough for me to do a little work in the garden.  It’s time to cut down the asparagus ferns, before the new spears shoot up out of the ground.  This is year three for the asparagus, the year to harvest.  I’m looking forward to six weeks or so of fresh-from-my-garden asparagus.

I also need to give some thought to what I want to plant this year.  It’s time to get the seeds started.  I’m thinking peppers would be good.  Orange, yellow, and purple bell peppers are  expensive (especially this time of year).  The local farms grow green and red peppers so I can buy them cheaply enough once they are in season.  But nobody local grows the orange, yellow or purple peppers.  Or if they do, I haven’t found them yet.

Some kind of greens would be good, too.  Perhaps swiss chard.  I wasn’t entirely happy with the bok choy last year.  It had a bitterness to it I wasn’t expecting.  Of course I’ll grow mixed salad greens of some kind, too.  I love being able to walk out to the garden and pick the makings of a good salad.

Well, that’s about it from the Bogs for now.  Time for me to get started on the mountains of laundry we accumulated during our trip.

(Saturday’s sunrise — our last morning in Florida.)

Pickled Peppers Revisited

I recently had a request for the recipe for my pickled peppers. I don’t mind sharing it, but I do have a problem with quantities as I really didn’t measure some things (the peppers) the way I probably should have.

This recipe is good for a peck of jalapenos or cherry peppers.

  • A peck of peppers
  • 3/4 cup of coarse salt (I use Morton’s Kosher salt)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 3 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 5 cups water

Wash peppers thoroughly. Slice them or cut them in half. Place in a large bowl. Dissolve the salt in the 2 quarts of water; pour over the peppers. Cover, let stand 24 hours. Drain. In a large pot, combine vinegar and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil.

Pack the peppers in jars. Pour hot liquid over the peppers to within 1/2 inch from tops of jars. Close jars as directed by manufacturer. Process for 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

I think this makes about 3-4 pints. You’ll probably have leftover vinegar-water solution.

I’ve seen some recipes where they use straight vinegar, omitting the water. I haven’t tried it that way.