Thursday, August 18, 2022

Recipe for Sweet ‘n Sour Cabbage Salad

Chopped red cabbage salad
I love coleslaw. The sweeter and creamier the better.

I’ve tried lots of different coleslaw/cabbage salad methods, but the recipe here, using some of our newly harvested veggies, is my favorite by far. But first, a little background…

Back in the day, I made a super sweet/super sour coleslaw, with shredded cabbage, carrots, and a few green peppers. The recipe called for equal parts sugar and apple cider vinegar boiled into a near-syrup, so it certainly fit the sweet bill! 

But eating this slaw was sort of like mainlining sugar. The truth is, if I want something sweet, I’ll have cookies/cake/chocolate, etc!

Mayonnaise-y coleslaw, to me, is far tastier. Adding chopped carrots, sweet pickles, sweet onion and halved cherry tomatoes to the cabbage, with some salt and a few tablespoons of sugar in with the mayonnaise, and this combo is a dreamy mix of sweet and creamy.

But almost all mayonnaise is soy-based—I’ve tried all kinds of natural/organic brands, but they all seem to contain some soy. And soy gives me a stomachache.

So I pretty well gave up on mayo-based coleslaw. Last summer, I made a couple of batches of slaw with honey-mustard vinaigrette, and while it was okay, it wasn’t worth writing home about. I find cabbage has a very slight bitterness, and IMO, is not improved by a mustard and vinegar dressing.

My daughter was on a health kick for a while and was actually eating kale. It shouldn’t sound like a big deal, but she’d never before touched greens with a ten-foot pole! She shared a kale salad with us, made with a garlicky balsamic vinaigrette and walnuts, and though I was no huge kale fan, I found this salad’s sweet-sour quality quite tasty.

Even tasty enough to make myself! I started growing kale every summer and would make this salad regularly. I even brought the salad to a few potlucks and folks seemed to like it.

But given the cabbage worm problem (they LOVE kale), kale as a crop is very high maintenance. Schlepping row cover all through the growing season was just one more extra chore I didn't need.

And prepping kale is even more high-maintenance, what with de-stemming the leaves and rolling them up for slicing. Then, since kale doesn’t readily absorb dressing, you have to rub the leaves with a little dressing to soften them, before adding the rest of your dressing.  

Our garden chores at harvest time are non-stop, and a couple of years ago I got to a point where I just didn’t want to spend precious garden time growing, or cooking with kale. Kale and I were done.

This week, I had a head of red cabbage (organic store-bought) I was using for garnishing green salads. However, it would take the rest of the summer to use up the small head! Clearly, I needed to come up with some way to eat it while the cabbage was still fresh.

1st carrots of the summer this week!

I had fresh, crunchy garlic from the garden, a few newly-harvested carrots, and plenty of balsamic vinegar on hand.

Dressing: garlic, equal amounts vinegar and olive oil

Feeling inspired, I reprised my daughter’s recipe, substituting red cabbage for the kale.

Sweet ‘n Sour Chopped Cabbage Salad

Chopped cabbage

A couple of peeled, thinly sliced carrots

Vinaigrette made with a couple of cloves of minced garlic, blended into equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Roasted walnuts, chopped, amount to your taste

Mix it all up, add a couple of handfuls of dried cranberries and mix again, then let the salad mellow in the fridge for a couple of hours. Delish!

And this salad is really good for you too! Besides the vitamins from the cabbage/carrots, you’ve got healthy fats from the olive oil and walnuts, and antioxidants from the garlic and cranberries. If you need to restrict your sodium, this salad is flavorful enough without salt. The dried cranberries contribute plenty of sweetness without added sugars.

It’s a make-ahead recipe too. What I like is that after a busy evening of watering/weeding/harvesting veggies, it’s nice not to come inside all tired and hungry for dinner, and also have to prep a bunch of vegetables. And the cabbage stays crunchy and colorful for days.

The salad recipes in the lifestyle magazines seem to be loaded with fresh, strongly flavored herbs like mint and cilantro. I confess, I like things pretty plain. But you can always add your own favorite touches to this salad. Diced celery, sweet peppers and cherry tomatoes will make it even tastier, and you can always sub in roasted almonds or sunflower nuts for the walnuts. 

Hope you give it a try and enjoy this taste of summer!

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Vertical Tomatoes and Other New Gardening Techniques

This summer, John and I are aiming to kick our efficiency and productivity up a notch in our food garden. He first saw vertical tomato growing on Pinterest this past winter, and we were both intrigued. 

Most tomatoes require staking of some kind. You might use commercial cages, or build some kind of support for each plant. All the years we’ve been raising tomatoes, John had created quite an elaborate structure for every plant with poles/small tree boughs going every which way, tying the poles and boughs together with string. Then tying the tomato plant to the structure as it grew. 

It works great, but efficient it is not! Tomato structure building and maintenance has been one of the more time-consuming chores in our food garden. Plus, when you keep all the side growth, you’ve got a large portion of the plant close to the ground. 

First of all, you end up with lots of tomatoes sitting on the soil. Second, all that growth near the ground encourages blight.

Vertical tomato structure
Vertical tomatoes have proved to be a vast improvement! You cut off the low and side growth, and train the plant upward. 

According to Brett L. Markam, author of “Mini-Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre,” this vertical growth has what he calls a “3-D” effect on the plant: it can then grow in 3 dimensions, with increased access to sunlight and nutrients. 

It’s also very labor saving, compared to our previous structures. Once you’ve got your vertical pole and string in place, you just nip the side growth every once in a while and you’re good to go.

Another new-to-us method: raising onion sets. 

I’m not trying this on purpose—it’s more an unhappy accident: the onion seedlings I planted back in April were thriving…I’d kept them well-watered and mulched. Then in mid-July, I weeded them thoroughly. All good, right? But my fatal error: I didn’t water the bed immediately afterward.

Then we had a heat wave.

Well, those poor onions went straight downhill. I think I’d disturbed the roots too much—for onions you’re growing from seedlings, the roots are still really delicate even months after planting. Yesterday, I saw the tops of many onions were dying back—there was no chance for the bulbs to grow to a harvestable size.

So I decided to make lemonade out of lemons! I’ve harvested a few of the dead-top onions, which have very small bulbs. I’ll store them in a cool, well-ventilated spot, and plant them in early spring. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Strawberries…well, our crop this year was minuscule. The strawberries in the bed right under a solar panel didn’t like rainwater pouring down on them all winter and just gave up the ghost. The other 3 beds simply weren’t that productive—but I didn’t realize that until harvesting this June.

We should have replaced those beds back in early spring—August is definitely not the right time to put in new strawberry crowns for next year.

In our climate, you plant new strawberry crowns around March, for a June harvest the following year.  Since we dropped the ball this past spring (urgent family matters took us away from our place), we’ll be out of luck next June.

But wait! I (think) I’ve found an easy solution. One strawberry volunteer from the dead strawberry bed took up residence in the bed next to it and absolutely thrived. Then I noticed the plant put out lots of really strong runners this summer!

Those runners have rooted, creating new crowns! Here’s a pic of what will be my 2023 strawberries.

Plant in center sent out several strong runners

And happily, we’ve got strawberry volunteer plants all over the yard. Like I said, it’s not practical to try and transplant them. But, you can check for runners, clear a little spot for them to take root. Or, set the end of the runner in a pot of mixed soil and compost, and keep it watered. 

One of my chores today will be to locate more runners on my existing strawberry plants, and get those ends in pots. I’ll share a photo once they get going!

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

No-Bake Summer Dessert—Only 5 Ingredients!

If you're a cherry fan, Time Travel Kitchen, a delightful cooking newsletter, recently featured a sour cherry crumble, made with fresh cherries from Michigan. www.timetravelkitchen.substack.com

Jolene's beautiful photos of the glossy, ruby red fruit brought back memories of our backyard fruit trees of my Michigan late girlhood. But even better, the pics reminded me of my Michigander grandma-in-law’s epic dinners. 

Grandma Rahl was a stupendous cook, and would put on a country-style spread each and every Sunday afternoon—her big dining room table groaned under the weight of the pot roast, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade biscuits, two vegetables, relishes, and salad.

But Grandma Rahl was most famous for her made-from-scratch desserts. Each Sunday, after I—and all the family—was stuffed to the gills, she would bring out the sweets: pies, cakes, Jello, cookies, you name it. There would be at least three. The pies especially stand out in my memory, but the one I loved best, and still make from time to time is a wonderfully quick recipe, perfect for summer: Cream Cheese Pie.

It’s one of those recipes passed down the generations: Grandma R.’s daughter, my beloved mother-in-law, made the pie regularly too, as did her older daughter. I made the pie frequently while my two daughters were growing up, and now it’s their go-to special occasion dessert.

Grandma R. and my MIL always topped hers with canned cherry pie filling—in fact, for many years the recipe was featured on pie filling label. But any kind of fresh, well-sweetened fruit sauce works nicely. The recipe is so simple you can make it from memory. And if you like the pie as is, unadorned (I do), it’s even easier!

Cream Cheese Pie

1 9-inch graham cracker crust

(I make mine from scratch, with 7 crushed organic graham crackers, two heaping tablespoons organic sugar, and ¼ cup melted butter. Combine well, then bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. This of course means the recipe is no longer “No-Bake,” but the scratch crust makes it extra special.)  

8 oz. cream cheese, softened (organic is nice)

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk (organic is also nice)

1/3 cup lemon juice (RealLemon is easy; I use fresh lemons)

2 generous teaspoons vanilla extract

This dessert couldn’t be simpler:

My trusty old Sunbeam!
Cream the cream cheese until it’s soft and kind of fluffy, then mix in the condensed milk. If you’re doing it by hand, it can be pretty labor intensive to get out all the lumps.

I do most of my mixing by hand, but for cream cheese pie, I bring out the ancient Sunbeam hand mixer I’ve had since the 80s. My mom-in-law found it for me at a rummage sale, and it’s still going strong!

Anyway, once the cream cheese and condensed milk mixture is smooth, you add the lemon juice. Fold it in carefully—it’s used to set up the cheese and milk—and don’t overmix or the pie will be runny. While you’re finishing up your careful stirring, add the vanilla and combine.

Pour into the graham cracker crust—if you’re using a crust made from scratch, make sure it’s cool first. Then chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

The homemade crust has a tendency to stick in the pie pan. So getting the first piece out can be tricky, but even if it falls apart on the way to your dessert plate, it’s still super yummy.

I think of my lovely Michigan in-laws every time I make it—Grandma R. and my dear mother-in-law taught me everything I know about cooking! 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Learning to Run a Generator in a Heat Wave

Push-button generator
The forecast was for 97 degrees F.

I know for a lot of folks, 97 degrees isn’t a big deal—might even be a cooling trend. And around here, 97 isn’t completely awful, compared to the triple-digit heat dome we experienced 13 months ago.

Still, in our climate, people, animals and plants just aren’t acclimated to the high 90s.

The other evening, facing the next day’s predicted 97-degrees, I popped into the house to bring in the blueberries I’d just picked, when I saw the power was out.

John was away until the following evening. So he wasn’t around to start the generator—a really nice push-button, gasoline-powered model we’d bought about five years ago. Despite being modestly strong for someone my size and age, we got it because I didn’t have the upper-body strength to deal with our existing pull-start machine.

No pull-cord starter!

And John and I both figured there would eventually come a day when he wouldn’t have the necessary get-up-and-go either.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but for all my preparedness in other areas, I was completely unprepared now. In those five years, I never learned how to operate our generator.

Anyway, there I was, with no power and no John. Of course I know how to push an “On” button. And I was familiar with our in-house circuit box. But I didn’t have a clue about the right way to connect our Gen-Tran system and power up the generator, without blowing out our whole electrical system!

Still, I wasn’t too worried about the outage. I mean, it’s summer! There was no wind, so the problem couldn’t be weather-related, like our wintertime outages. I figured it was just one of those momentary blips in the grid.

But being in the middle of watering the garden and all the berries before the real heat arrived, I had one major, immediate concern. Right away, I strode down the driveway and waded through all the tall bracken fern to the pumphouse.

We’d had a small solar array installed 18 months ago, with battery backup. This design meant the batteries could power the well pump—and the solar panels would feed continually power to the batteries. Unlike the 11 years of power outages John and I had dealt with previously, we now would have water, come what may.

That is, fingers-crossed, if everything was working as it should.

I unlocked the pumphouse door, flipped the light switch and Whew! Lights, plus the lighting display on the inverter was on. Clearly, we were set, waterwise.

But not for our home’s electricity. Besides the pumphouse solar panels, we have a big solar array for our home and shop, but it’s a net-metering system. Which means, the system is connected to the grid. So when the power goes out, you’re out of luck.

While I waited for the power to return, I tried to stay busy. In preparation for the hot day, I was getting as much of the garden and berry patches watered as I could, before the plant-wilting temps the next day.

But the power stayed out. Since we don’t have a cell signal in our corner of the Foothills, we couldn’t call the power company. And I didn’t know if the outage was only at our place, or if the whole neighborhood was out.

A couple of hours went by. Now I was getting worried. Inside the house, it was 82 degrees, and I anxious about the fresh groceries in our filled-to-the-brim fridge—how long could they stay at safe temperatures?

The meat in the deep-freeze concerned me too. And it would be dark in another hour and 20 minutes. I sure didn’t want to be fumbling around with unfamiliar equipment without good lighting. If I had to run the generator, I would have to get up to speed on how to do it.

And fast.

I jumped into the car and made the two minute drive to our closest neighbors—the generous and big-hearted Alan and Gretchen.  Why drive such a short distance, you may ask? Well, they have three dogs at their place, and the pups treat people arriving by car as welcome visitors. People visiting on foot are not.

Come to find out, they were out of power too. We all concluded this was a bigger outage. But our treasured neighbors had one very precious commodity: a landline with an analog phone.

John and I had switched over to Internet phone service months ago, so we no longer had a landline. And you actually need a touch-tone phone to reach the power company’s phone system. But thanks to Alan and Gretchen, I could call John.

He was at his daughter’s house, two states away. I called her number (John didn’t always keep his cell phone on him). Happily, she picked up, and I explained my dilemma. John was out walking the dogs, but he’d be back in 45 minutes.

I thanked her and hung up. The light was fading, but I had our neighbors’ open invitation to come back and try him later.

I stayed busy with more watering and slapping mosquitoes, and returned to Alan and Gretchen’s to phone him again. And he was home! I’d brought pencil and paper, and as he reviewed the steps, I carefully jotted down the directions and details involved.

Gretchen held a little lantern and a headlamp over my shoulder so I could see enough to write. And John, working from memory, had to backtrack a couple of times to retool his directions. But at last, I had things clear in my mind, and after profuse thanks to Alan and Gretchen, I headed home.

From their driveway, I saw our neighborhood bear. But he was across their field, and ambled into the woods as soon as he saw the car.

Once home, I was super-nervous about messing with the main electrical panels. But I had no choice. Almost all our outages generally last anywhere from 12 – 48 hours or longer. And our fridge and freezer food would never go the distance.

I had the rechargeable lantern for light, so it was now or never.

The steps for our generator system are below—your system or the one in your future may be different.

We keep our generator in our shop/garage. Open the garage door for the generator exhaust. John already had the generator positioned right next to the door for easy access and ventilation.

Grab the specialized, super-heavy duty cable that connects the generator with the Gen-Tran system and have it at the ready.

Now the house. Night was falling, but I had my trusty lantern, and the house circuit panel was the easy step. Shut off all the big energy consumers: Hot water heater, heat pump, range, and so forth. I could keep the light circuits on.

Now for the nerve-wracking part. Dealing with the Gen-Tran. Back outside.

Gen-Tran with Warning in Red!

Even opening the panel door was a little tricky, but John had explained how. Nervously, I switched the house circuits off. Luckily, the circuits are designed so you can’t have both the house and the generator circuits on at the same time.

Then I saw the sign on the door. A Very Important Sign. In all caps, so you wouldn’t miss it.

“TURN OFF SOLAR BEFORE TURNING ON GENERATOR”

Well, shoot.

John hadn’t mentioned the solar system. I knew the solar circuit box was just around the corner of the shop, no problem. But it really looked complicated. And I did NOT want to risk doing something wrong and blowing out our inverter!

Solar circuit box

(After all, John and I were in hock for the next 19 years to pay for the whole thing!)

In the car again, this time with my own lantern, and over to Alan and Gretchen’s. I could only hope the third time would be the charm.

By now it was getting quite dark. “I’m so sorry,” I said when they answered the door, and I explained my dilemma. Gretchen took me back to their shop where they kept their landline.

“I can take it from here,” I told her—wanting her and Alan to enjoy the rest of the evening inside. So she returned to their house.

Fortunately, John picked up. He felt a little sheepish about forgetting to mention the solar circuits, but I said, “Well, you haven’t started the generator that many times since we got the system.”

Still really nervous about messing with not one, but two unfamiliar circuit boxes, I was saying my goodbyes—when Gretchen rushed in.

“The power’s back on!” she said joyfully. So John was able to get the good news, and not worry all night.

She and I met Alan out in the driveway, and we shared our elation. They'd heard from another neighbor that a tree had come down on some power lines. The little town about 15 miles away had been completely out of power. 

"No wonder PSE got things back on-line so fast," I said. Not having to rush home, I told them about the bear. Alan asked, “Were you scared?”

“Oh, no,” I said. “I was safe in the car!”

He couldn’t resist teasing me about bears being able to break windshields, and after some relieved laughter all around, it was back home for me, for a very late dinner.

But I had lights. I could take a hot, instead of lukewarm shower. I could even re-watch another episode of Downton Abbey, then go to bed, knowing John would be home the next day—and all would be well at Berryridge Farm.

And you can bet that John is giving me a hands-on tutorial on starting that generator today!

P.S. Here are the rest of the steps to starting a generator with a Gen-Tran system like ours:

Go to solar circuit box and turn off the solar circuits.

Once you’ve got the correct Gen-Tran house circuits off, time to connect the special cable from the generator and plug it in to the Gen-Tran. 

You can check your own connections, but for our system, the “male” end plugs into the generator. The “female” end goes into the Gen-Tran box outlet, which have the “male” prongs.”

Here’s a photo. At left of the outlet is the Gen-Tran circuit box.

Gen-Tran outlet outside

When you’ve got your cable connected, then return to the generator and turn the generator key to “on” and press the ON button.

When the generator starts up, let it run for four or five minutes. This way, you’re letting the generator engine warm up before you put an electric load on it. 

Then, and only then, you go back to the Gen-Tran circuit box, and switch the breakers that connect to generator to “On.”  

Personally, (because I can’t always rely on my memory!) I have typed up the directions and have them handy in a kitchen drawer! 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Netting Blueberries is for the Birds

New cage around blueberry patch #2
Home gardeners raising blueberries face a built-in problem: unless you protect your shrubs from the birds in bearing season, there’s just no point to growing them!

Blueberries have been my favorite crop since our “olden days,” back in our city garden. With a few bushes here and there, John and I would circle each one with 1-inch poultry fencing, then toss a net on top and call it good.

Unfortunately, we discovered that simple strategy would never cut it at our rural acreage! Not when you’re surrounded by woodlands teeming with hungry, country-smart songbirds. 

And if you’re trying to produce enough berries to freeze for winter eating—with maybe 10 or 15 shrubs—the casual approach to fencing, in my experience, especially doesn’t work.

John and I have two blueberry patches, one with nine shrubs and a second with eight. And the Foothills birds have proved to be relentless about getting at the berries. 

The thing is, netting is a royal pain. It’s time consuming—it takes John and me at least a couple of hours to net one cage, and at least two more hours to take it down after bearing season. With two blueberry areas, that’s over eight hours. And it’s painstaking work to tie down the nets, making sure there are NO gaps or openings.

After many years of experimenting with various fencing/netting designs, trying to protect far larger swathes of ground than we ever had to in the city, John and I were growing more frustrated.

Now robins love blueberries—but it’s actually pretty easy to protect the berries from this bird. They’re one of the larger songbirds, and can’t worm their way into small openings. Finches are another matter—they're fond of berries too, and they will zoom right through 1-inch poultry fencing. So you have to cover the fencing with nets.

Towhees are still another matter: they’re the most inventive and ingenious berry thieves. They are fearless about working their way into netted spaces via the tiniest opening or loose netting.

And there’s another excellent reason to do the best job you can with netting. Sadly, we’ve had more birds caught in loose nets than we care to count. Towhees, those mischievous and full-of-personality birds, are the ones that most often get caught in the nets and die. 

It’s the most forlorn summertime task, to cut precious birds out of a tangled net and bury them.

While birds are one thing, rodents are another. They can easily get through the poultry fencing or under it. We’ve had season after season dealing with chipmunks eating or damaging hundreds of berries. Mice too—and worse, they chew at the roots at the shrub’s crown.

And after trying to get by with poultry fencing and nets, John and I finally realized our higgledy-piggledy fencing/netting would have to go.

About five years ago, John came up with a new plan: a “cage” for blueberries made from ½-inch hardware cloth. Because blueberries can reach up to six to eight feet in height or more, you wouldn’t want to cover the top with any fencing materials. Instead, before the berries begin to ripen, drape netting over the top, making it as taut as possible. 

1st cage John built with netting in place

After he constructed a hardware cloth cage for our older and more productive shrubs, we discovered this method topped with netting has proved to be the most failsafe protection—and also keeps chipmunk incursions down to a minimum.

We always meant to get around to creating a cage for our second patch. Especially after some critter—a raccoon? (Though we’ve never seen one around here.) Or a baby bear? Whatever it was, one night this animal just climbed right on top of our sagging, wobbly netting and tore a gigantic hole in it.

Judging from the damage, it looked the animal just fell smack on top of the shrub. It broke several of the main boughs, and hundreds of smashed berries littered the ground.

Well, no one, and I mean no one messes with my favorite Chandler shrub!

Although a full plate of pressing chores, family commitments and out-and-out procrastination kept us from this project for two or three years, John—with a little help from yours truly—started construction this summer.

We hit a couple of snags—John tried to remove a stump in the patch. It turned out to be cedar, and was as solid as a rock. Then, when we were all set to hand the top row of fence, we discovered we did not have that extra roll of hardware cloth that I thought we had. John had to make a trip to the city and buy more. But we finally finished this second cage yesterday. 

Costs:

Caging your berries is not a cheap date: at 14’ x 24’, and 6’ in height, our second berry patch required a quantity of 3-foot hardware cloth. Which in this inflationary summer cost $250 for 50’. Plus tax.

Doing the math: a 76’ rectangle, with a top and bottom row = 152 feet to enclose the patch. 

Another view of the 2nd patch

We didn’t have to buy all new hardware cloth; this second patch was already partially fenced with this material. In prior years, the cost of hardware cloth was about $140/50 feet. So we sure would have saved money if we’d done this project sooner.

But when you think about it, this fencing will (eventually) pay for itself. Last summer, even with the June heat dome that fried about 25% of our berries, John and I were still able to feast on our homegrown, organic berries all through the bearing season—about 6 weeks. And I ended up freezing about 50 lbs.

If you’re buying local organic blueberries at the store, at around $5/lb, well, there’s $250 right there!

Besides, as I like to say, you can’t put a price on good health. Or succulent blueberries straight from your garden! 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Great Movie for Preppers… (What not to do!)

If you’re a fan of modern homesteading stories or wilderness films set in the American West, do not miss “Land,” a 2021 production starring Robin Wright! Set in the Wyoming Rocky Mountains, it’s the story of a woman, Edee, who has retreated to the wilderness after an unbearable tragedy. 

You could watch this spare, lovely movie for the scenery alone—awe-inspiring snow-capped peaks, sparkling river, and dense forests teeming with wildlife. (It’s filmed on location on Moose Mountain, Alberta, Canada, standing in for Wyoming.) But you might pick up a few survival skills too!

What struck John and me right away was the Edee’s stunning lack of preparedness for a life in the wilderness—providing lots of “woman versus nature” conflict. At the beginning of the story, she actually didn’t have the first clue about what she was getting herself into. 

When John and I started our new life on our Foothills acreage, we figured out two things really fast. 

First, protect your food supply.

I cringed when I saw our gal Edee open a can of tuna on her front porch and casually pour the liquid onto the ground. I said to John, “What is she doing? Inviting every bear in the vicinity to visit?” Clearly “being bear safe” was not in her wheelhouse!

Second, preparing for winter is a year-round project. 

Edee learned both the hard way. When a bear broke into her cabin and devoured all her food (had it smelled the tuna earlier??) she discovered bears really can bite canned goods open. 

Also, keeping two fires going every day in an uninsulated cabin—one in the wood stove, and one in the fireplace—is pretty much a full time job. 

She did not have any firewood laid by, or a place to dry any. And as it turned out, fetching wood outside in the middle of a blizzard proved to be her undoing.

One other element might be even more important: before embarking on a life of isolation, extreme weather and unrelenting work simply to survive, it’s my experience that you should aim to be in good physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Grief-stricken, Edee’s mind and spirit was nearly broken by what had happened. She simply didn’t have the energy and focus for the life she had chosen. 

Magnificent Canadian Rockies

What Edee did discover is something else John and I learned our first, tumultuous year on our homestead: you can’t go it alone. Even the narrator of the wilderness memoir “One Man’s Wilderness” relied on a circle of friends to bring in food supplies and keep up his spirits.

(He also fed himself very well, with hearty balanced meals…not a steady diet of canned chili like Edee.) 

Complete isolation might work for a short time, but oftentimes it’s the kindness of strangers that gets you through.

Kindness and resilience is the heart of Edee’s journey in “Land.” I hope you’ll give this inspiring movie a try!




Thursday, July 7, 2022

Bobcat in Residence

Bobcat (from Pixabay) so you can see the coloring
Bibbity, bobbity, boo!

So says the Fairy Godmother in Disney’s Cinderella. At our place, the magic spell goes bibbity, bobcattiby—boo…

Because the bobcat that menaced our hens is getting conjured up on a regular basis. In fact, evidence suggests the cat has gotten awfully comfortable around here. 

Just last week, he lounged in a patch of bare ground just outside our fence. John ran to get his camera, opened the back door and shot all kinds of pics.

The bobcat just stared at us and lazily switched his short tail.

What’s funny is, our one hen seems to have gotten accustomed to the bobcat too. She’ll cackle when it comes around, but doesn’t even run into the coop anymore.

She doesn’t seem to be anxious either, because she’s also laying like a champ—in 2 ½ weeks, she’s produced 16 eggs!

I’m certainly more relaxed now that we keep her penned up pretty much 24/7. If John is running the weed-whacker close by, we’ll let her into her yard to free-range, but that’s it.

With just one chicken scratching the ground of her caged pen, a few weeds are actually growing in there. I imagine before summer’s over, she’ll have all kinds of greens to peck at in the comfort of her safe spot.

Five minutes ago, I saw the cat on top of our back fence. A bobcat, against the rich green of midsummer, is not hard to see—their distinctive coat is a variegated mix of tawny browns with a bit of black, and a white flash on his tail.

Today, as he jumped off the fence, I grabbed my iPad for a shot, and caught the bobcat sauntering across the open spot where we’d seen him last week.

When I opened the back door, he saw me, paused, then just went on his merry way. (See cat on the grass, just above the bare strip of ground.) 

He must have figured out John and I are no threat to him—but hopefully he’s also got the idea that partaking at our chicken buffet is over.

So it seems that all four of us—John, me, the former Miss Broody, which we now call “Missy,” and the bobcat seem to have found equilibrium.

And if the bobcat is hanging around to feed on Berryridge mice and voles, more power to him!