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Summer’s bounty has arrived, and I, like many others who have a garden, am trying to figure out what to do with some of the veggies that I have oodles of.
As I have mentioned before, this is a bumper cucumber year. I have already tried my hand at refrigerator pickles. Now, I have decided on Dill Relish — that way I can also put to use a lot of that dill that has gone to seed. I have made Sweet Veggie Relish in the past, but never dill. So here are some pics of my experiment.
After a 15 minute boiling-water canner — I had about 14 pints of dill relish. I think that should last us a while. A long while.
I started the relish and salsa canning around 10 AM. I finished around 4 PM.
We went out to dinner.
A few mornings ago, as I sipped my coffee and jumped around online, I was annoyed by a car pulling in to our driveway. As I have mentioned before, when you live on a farm, you are never really alone. The reasons for this are many, but one of the major reasons is that people just seem to stop by whenever they feel like it. I have learned that no time is too early for this, as old farmers have knocked on the door at 7 A.M. looking for my husband. I try to put on a bra early. Mostly.
This particular morning was not quite that early. It was more like 9 A.M. when the large white sedan pulled in. I remember thinking that the women in the car must be enamored by our quaint space and must be stopping to enquire about what we sold. I sighed and opened the door, cognizant of my attire and frizzy hair.
I put on my best welcome to the farm smile and opened the door.
“I think you have cows out.” The woman said, standing at her car door and pointing to the edge of our pasture. “It looks like the fence is down over there.”
“Thought you’d probably want to know.” She smiled, waved, and drove away.
Normally, as long-time readers know, Xandy is around to deal with this problem, but this time I was alone. I left Kitt in the house and ventured to the edge of the pasture to see what my morning visitor was talking about. As I walked, I called Xandy at work to let him know the situation. He promised to be right there. Right there, however, meant 35 minutes. I was on my own.
Sure enough, a piece of red fence panel had fallen over and a steer was on the other side of it munching away. I walked slowly toward the critter and asked him what the hell he was doing on this side of the fence. He looked at me, turned, and proceeded to jump through the barbed wire fence beside the panel and then galloped back towards the rest of the herd.
I called Xandy back, “You don’t have to come home. It was only one. I got him. He jumped through the barbed wire, though.”
“He’s fine.” Of course he is. We chatted about throwing hay to the others while I fixed the fence and ended our conversation.
Fix the fence. That made me laugh. If you know me, you know that I have ABSOLUTELY NO talent when it comes to fixing or building anything. I can’t even hammer a nail in straight. But, I’d rather have crooked nails than forty cows in the street, so I set off to my duty.
My sister-in-law stopped by at that moment, and helped me toss a few bales to the herd. She waved and smiled as I went back to the fence to fix the damage. “You can do it!” She yelled, as I went back towards the fence. I think I can. I think I can.
I wrapped baling twine around the panel, and hammered in a few nails to the barbed wire. Later I learned that staples are used for this job — but hey, the nails work. After I stood to admire my work. The barbed wire remained loose, but would work until later. I knew I could. I knew I could.
About ten minutes after my return to the house, my father-in-law showed up to do some haying. I sent him to fix the embarrassment of a fence.
“You know those movies where the farmer’s wife takes over the farm after the husband dies and she’s all tough and can do it all?” I asked my husband later.
“That will never be me.”
Did I mention I looked like this and that I was fixing the fence right beside our highly traveled road?
A bit ago we had friends for dinner. I apologized in advance to all of them for my lack of housekeeping skills, as we are in an old house and I can never seem to keep anything clean. One of my friends told me not to worry at all.
“I grew up on a farm,” he said. “We had cobwebs in our soup.”
Oh how true that is. No matter where I look or how many times I clean them up — in some corner of my house you will always find this:
And then — in the garage, we have a Charlotte’s Web scenario right now. I was looking for terms about how wondrous our pigs are, but instead only found this little guy eating his lunch:
But the ultimate bane of my existence is this godforsaken creature:
The house fly, I think, is the WORST thing about living on a livestock farm. By August, instead of playing Sudoku on my IPad, I play how many goddamn flies can I swat at once. I am up to three. I am thinking about learning that chopstick trick from “The Karate Kid.”
“It’s a healthy ecosystem,” my husband tells me.
Yum, yeah. Flies landing on everything, laying eggs that form maggots. Healthy.
One just landed on my arm as I am writing this. I want the thing to die a painful death. I guess I can never be a Buddhist now.
“There’s a bat flying around upstairs,” my husband said to me as he went to bed last night.
“A bat. You really need to get your hearing checked.”
“I heard you. I was just processing. What the hell are we going to do?”
He stared at me blankly.
“Can you close Kitt’s door, so the dang thing doesn’t go into her room?” I called after him as he ascended the stairs to do battle. Or so I thought.
About fifteen minutes later (I had to finish the episode of “Suits” that I was watching, a new guilty pleasure –Xandy can handle the flying rodent, I rationalized), I turned on the hallway light and went upstairs to bed. With each step I took, I glanced around for any creatures of the night. The hallway was silent and clear. Even though Kitt’s door was wide open, I didn’t worry as I assumed my husband had taken care of the problem.
Something still nagged at me, however, and I turned on our bedroom light. My husband looked at me amorously from beneath the covers.
“So you must have gotten rid of the bat.” I said as I approached the bed.
“Nope. I have no idea where that thing is.”
“SERIOUSLY? Only you would think of…” I turned to see the small, black critter clinging to the wall opposite the bed staring at us. “It’s right there!”
“Would you look at that.”
“So now what do we do?”
The bat didn’t even flinch. It just remained in the same position like a miniature gargoyle standing watch.
“We could go to bed,” he said, and it took everything I had not to scream back at him. The last thing we needed was to wake Kitt up.
“We have to get this thing out of here. They carry rabies for God sake.”
Xandy grabbed a dirty work T-Shirt from the floor and walked towards the bat.
“No. Not that. Grab that garbage can. You can trap it and then we’ll cover the can.”
I glanced around the room. Thankfully, a few days ago I had gone on a TJ Maxx shopping spree and had purchased a new set of sheets. This night I was happy about the wasteful use of cardboard in the sheet packaging.
Xandy dropped the T-Shirt, not entirely convinced that my method would work. He grabbed the small bedroom wastebasket and walked slowly towards the bat, which still hadn’t made any sort of movement. I hoped it were dead. That thought only lasted seconds, however, as the moment the can covered the thing, it started to fly around inside of it. Xandy carefully slid the piece of cardboard between the wall and the can, and moved the can from the wall.
I wondered if bats could chew through cardboard as we descended the stairs. Seconds later our visitor was set free to fly the night sky.
“Hey it worked!” I was thrilled that a plan I hatched actually came to fruition.
“Yeah, well, the shirt would have worked fine.”
I just shook my head. Sure it would have. I thought about changing my profession to animal wrangler, but thought better of it when I actually considered keeping the light on for bed.
“This is totally going in the blog tomorrow,” I told him as we finally climbed in bed for the night.
“Only you would document our sex life.”
As I mentioned earlier, we have a ton of cukes. This year I grew slicing cucumbers, although I honestly prefer pickling. Beggars can’t be…well, you know the rest.
So I decided with all of our new harvest goodies that I would make pickles, and delicious pickles I did make.
Here are the ingredients:
First I simmered the following together until the sugar dissolved:
1 C White Vinegar
1/2 C Cider Vinegar
3 cloves garlic (picked fresh from our garden and cut in half)
1/3 C sugar
1 T mustard seed
1 T sea salt
I then poured the hot mixture over a bowl of thinly sliced cukes (1/2″ or so) and mixed in
1/3 C chopped fresh dill (also picked from my garden — how spoiled am I?)
1 Bay leaf
I didn’t measure the cucumbers, but I used about 1 and 1/2 large slicing cucumbers. I then covered the mixture and stuck it in the refrigerator until cold.
Here is the finished product before I covered and refrigerated them:
Perhaps those slicing cukes aren’t so bad after all.
Finally — we are starting to see some of the “fruits” of our labor. Here are just a few of the things we have begun to harvest:
Stay tuned for the rest. Tomatoes are coming, and I think that it may be time for coleslaw. Hooray for summer!
My husband loves to dig holes. “I can see my progress,” he says when I ask him just what it is about hole digging that he so likes.
I think about this often as I mow our unending lawns. We have about an acre of them and during the summer the things never stop growing. Xandy HATES mowing the lawn (yes, I get the irony), which I fortunately do not. I, too, like to see the progress as I go from lush jungle to finely trimmed golf green. OK, if you have been by the house you know that our lawn looks more like the hay-field across the street than a golf green, but you get the picture.
Anyway, back to the holes. There are many holes to be dug on the farm. Most of them are due to fallen fencing from our barbed wire fence that is probably as old as our 100-year-old farm. Sometimes, though, the holes are for different purposes.
One such purpose happened a few weeks ago when I noticed a horrendous stench and volcanic-like gurgling emanating from our upstairs bathroom. Both could only mean one thing: full septic tank.
“When’s the last time it was emptied?” I asked my father-in-law when he arrived later.
“Emptied? We never emptied that thing. My father’s theory was stir in a box of RidX every now and again and you’ll be fine.” He chuckled as he mimed stirring the pot like some sort of noxious witches brew.
“UGH! Have you ever stirred it then?”
“Well, no, that would just be silly. But don’t worry, that tank is not that old.”
I knew “not that old” was all a matter of perception in this family, as our “not that old” tractor is a circa 1982. “How old is it?”
“Oh, I suppose about fifteen or twenty years old.”
FIFTEEN OR TWENTY YEARS??? For any of you non-septic tank owners, tanks are supposed to be emptied every three to five. If not, let’s just say you might end up with a wonderfully soupy manure pond in your back yard.
He then went on to tell me that there were actually three septic tanks in our back yard.
So first Mark and then Xandy set to digging — because not only has the tank never been emptied, Mark was not quite sure where the damn thing was. He chose an area dug for a while, and when he couldn’t find the tank moved a few inches and dug some more.
“It’s around here somewhere,” he told his son, and left him to dig.
Xandy was finally able to find the tank about four feet or so down. We both commented on what “six-feet-under” must look like and were pretty happy that we weren’t grave-diggers. Xandy did tell Kitt that he was looking for dinosaur bones when she asked, but all he found was an old toy matchbox from his childhood, which made me doubt my father-in-law’s twenty year timeline.
After even more digging, Xandy finally found one of the two tank covers. We learned when the tank was emptied (don’t worry I won’t talk about that God-awful stench) that he had uncovered the wrong tank cover, so that night he set off to digging again.
Here is the hole:
At least that is one less chunk of lawn that I have to mow for a while.
Ah, the wonders of home ownership.
So my father-in-law Mark has been quite anxious to get into my blog more. I think that he is jealous of all the attention that I have been paying to his son. I have tried to tell him that I am not sure that the type of attention that Xandy is getting is positive, but I don’t think he believes me. Anyway, this is the story he told me today.
I was out fixing fence up the road when this wicked vicious bee attacked. To hear him tell it, there was a swarm, but to go on…the thing wouldn’t leave me alone.
“So what did you do?” I asked.
Well, I started swatting at the damn thing with both my hands. I forgot that I was still holding the hammer, and I smashed myself in the head with it!
“Then what happened?”
That stupid bee still got me in the corner of my eye. Then it flew away! You should tell that story.
This is for you, Mark, and for that damn killer bee, too.
Mark deserves much more than this lame-ass bee story, considering the fact that it has been in the 90s for the last week, and his 70-year-old self has been in the hay fields every single day working his ass off. But I can give him at least this.