Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dogs in the Mist

A few days ago, it was a nippy 42 degrees just at sunrise.  The dogs were out for their morning pre-run before our walk, in the north pasture.  As the sun started peeking over the hills to the east, the mist rose and the dawn started painting incredible textures and colours on it.  It was too good to pass up. 

This is our morning.  Always happy to share

A dog appears out of the mists - it's Gem the BC, checking in to see if it's time for the walk

She's joined by Cricket and Sybil.  Hoke, as usual, is still below, head down and butt up in a mouse or vole hole

Can you spot Sybil in this shot?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pickling Peppers

The weather cooled just about perfectly in time to start the canning/preserving routine.  The main reason everyone freezes their berries is that you don't want to be canning in the heat of summer - better to do so when it's cooler out so that you don't heat up the kitchen for no good reason.  This week for me has been roasting tomatoes and pickling peppers.  We started the week on Monday at 87 degrees and by Wednesday we weren't even into the 60's!  So imagine roasting tomatoes when it's so nice and cool out; the smell is enough to make your mouth water with thoughts of thick, rich pasta sauces and chili served in freshly baked sourdough bowls. 

My mom wanted some peppers, but she didn't want any hot ones, so I unloaded the 'Sweet Pickle' and 'Sweet Havana' bushes a few days ago and made some colourful pickled peppers for her that are more to the sweet side of things.  Once they've cured for about a month, I'll pop open a jar and make sure they are just as I hope they are, and then I'll send a load off to Wisconsin.

Dually Dudes

A trip to the local BiMart in Junction City with Really Big Red and the two old red dudes, Ho Dog and Hoke.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bad Baby Daddy

Hoke lazes on the bed on a hot afternoon, in front of the swamp cooler, glad HE'S not the one cleaning up his kids' mess out there.  Bad baby daddy, BAD baby daddy

Empty Nest

It was kinda like moving day, taking down all the puppy stuff today.  Sort of sad, but in a good way.  A bunch of people got furry bundles of joy (for now, anyway), and we spent a hot afternoon remembering all the funny stuff as we took down the pen.

An empty nest, yet still filled with furry bundles of joy - just older ones

The now empty deck, with the Xpens and mats and all loaded into the putt-putt awaiting a ride to the old red barn for storage

Once full of puppy growls and barks (and some howls), now empty except for the damn yellowjackets buzzing around us as we worked

Those of you who spent enough time here knew about the puppy hole by the side of the garage - now filled in, no longer with furry puppy butts but plain ol' dirt and gravel

And Finally, Goodbye Sweep

Yes, it was a sad day Sunday.  The very last of the 2012 Hoke and Cricket kids, little Miss Sweep, was boarding a plane for Lost Wages that very afternoon with her new owner Tim in tow.  She was quite the hit at the Eugene airport, where even the TSA gal had to come get some puppy lovin'.  Gotta love small airports!

So, today Dale and I took down everything and loaded it into the putt-putt to go back into the old red barn.  It was awful quiet around the joint, except of course whenever Ho Dog decided that something needed to be barked at, and when the cows got hungry (they're always hungry) and started yelling for dinner.  Then it was more or less back to normal.

I'm getting a lot of nice reports from the gang, and some pix from Gypsy's flight home to Poway, California that I need to get on the blog, plus Shelly's got a nice set of Rowyn (Hoedad) pix on Flickr and Katrina has started a Shutterfly group for all of the puppies that I'll post as soon as she gives me the address.  It's always interesting now to see how they all grow up, and of course you'll be able to follow along right here as well.

You know what they say about owners and their dogs looking alike....except the whole hair thing, in Tim's case
Great uncle Ho Dog, big sister Sybil, momma Cricket and daddy Hoke (secretly glad the last one's gone)
Now there's a happy duo!
I had to, because of Cricket's tongue

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Goodbye Zoomie

Seems like it's been nothing but goodbyes lately, both for visitors and critters.  Thursday, it was Zoomie's turn.  Christie and her mom Gretchen of Otto's Sausages in Portland drove down to pick up Christie's new heifer.  It was something of a sad goodbye, as Zoomie was such an easy halter subject, very willing and soft to work with.

We'll miss our little miss chunky, and wish Christie the best with her!

Jan and Sweep - A Pair of Sisters

Don and Jan came over to visit with Sweep and new owner Tim from Las Vegas.  They are full sisters, Jan from the 2010 litter, Sweep from the 2012 litter, and we did call Sweep the Jan Clone for quite awhile.  Now, if Sweep can only work cows like big sis Jan....

Jan looks on interestedly as her owner Don cuddles with Sweep while Tim carefully watches to make sure Don doesn't try to sneak off with her

Goodbye to Stella (Spot)

After a somewhat rowdy trip back from her hiking trip down in NorCal, Leslie and Anna came by to claim Princess Stella (Spot), who was more than happy to go somewhere where she would be able to hog all the attention with having to share with some sister of hers.  Stella joins big bro Riley (Lee) from the 2010 litter.  Yes, I strongly suspect some sort of mental issue with Leslie, but I figure she's pretty harmless that way

Great uncle Ho Dog, daddy Hoke, momma Cricket, big sis Sybil, Leslie, Anna with Stella

Tim and Roar

If there's one thing Roar likes almost as much as apples and women, that would be attention, so Tim obliged him two of his three fave things - attention and apples.  Not just any apples, but 'Honeycrisp' apples.  Lucky bull, that Roar

Roar puts in a request for apples, please

You can see the apple headed down the ol' gullet

Bragging to all his women about apples

Rogue to Rogue Two

It was a perfect day to head to Newport on the coast (of Oregon, not CA) and help Tim and I realize a long-standing wish - to visit the Rogue Brewery and do a sample tray.  So with Dale generously playing the part of DD, we did exactly that.  Of course, on the way home we stopped off at Oregon Oyster Farm in Toledo (again, Oregon and not Ohio) and the guys picked up 3 dozen shells full of snail mucous, which they then proceeded to steam, smoke and eat all night long around the fire pit out on the deck.  The Rogue visit was a bit off due to the Duck game, which made for large crowds and a bit of a wait for a spot at the bar, but in the end, it was so totally worth it all.  It was kind of funny to see the difference Tim and I had in beers - my tray was almost totally dark, and his, not so much.  In the end, I went home with a big bottle of Old Crusty Brandywine and another of Double Chocolate Stout.  Don't ask, I'm NOT sharing.

Tim pauses for a moment of silence before entering the brewery

A small portion of Rogue's offerings

Jan and the Tractor

Jan loads up to head home with Don and Little Greenie

And Then There Was One - For A Few Hours

Poor little Sweep, the only one left, at least for a few more hours before her and her new owner Tim boarded a plane for Lost Wages.

It's strangely quiet and calm around the ranch this evening....

Who, Me?

Stella (Spot) practices her innocent face while Sweep just watches and wonders


In memory of the fallen

There is no forgetfulness, only sorrow at the senselessness of innocent murder

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

Yikes!  Attack of the killer grafted heirloom tomatoes is in full swing!  Funny how you don't notice things when you're picking a few here and there for 'little' things - a salad, hamburgers, tacos, things like that - but suddenly you go out one morning to pick some 'Fall Gold' raspberries and WHAM!  There they are, dozens and dozens of ripe and nearly ripe tomatoes all yelling for you to DO SOMETHING!  So, I did.  I picked 16 pounds of 'em and right now, almost all of 'em are roasting away in the oven.  See, it's supposed to get REALLY hot the next coupla days - of course it is, we have out of town guests arriving, just like last week - and I figured if I didn't get 'em picked, roasted and frozen today, the cows were going to be enjoying them.  Luckily, even tho it's gonna be hot, it's plenty cool at night, and right now at 2 pm it might be pushing 80 outside but it's barely 63 inside, and the oven's been going since 11 am.

So all those lovely 'Black Krim' and 'Purple Cherokee' grafted tomatoes, along with a few free range 'Brandywine' heirlooms that popped up all over the place and a kinda odd looker that is probably some sort of hybrid that I don't recognize (and no, it's not the next big thing in hybrid tomatoes, trust me) that occured last year got picked, washed, cored, sliced in half across their equators, sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and my fave pepper blend and bunged into a 250 degree oven on convection roast.  The entire house smells of tangy tomatoes on the roast.  I'll wait until they start to carmelize to maximize sugar, then shut off the oven and let it cool down on its own.  Then, into Ziplock freezer bags and out to the big chest in the garage/shop for use this winter in stews, pastas and soups.

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

Lots of fresh, organic if possible heirloom tomatoes, any variety with some size and meatiness to them
Salt to taste - any salt you like that can hang with big flavoured tomatoes.  I've tried different types of sea salt, my fave is still plain ol' Kosher, and I had a tasty tidbit of roasted 'Pink Brandywine' dusted with Himalayan Pink salt - if you can stomach the price, it's pretty awesome
Pepper - again, your choice.  I have my fave pepper blend
Extra virgin olive oil - no compromise here, use the extra virgin and skip the flavoured varieties
Fresh cilantro - a must if you're going to use the roasted tomatoes fresh from roasting in a sauce or salsa, otherwise skip this step

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Make sure the tomatoes are fresh picked, preferably in the morning a few days after their last watering.  The beauty of the grafted tomatoes I grow is that other than when they were planted, I've watered them twice.  The less water, the more sugar, the earlier picked, the more sugar.  It's all about the sugars, baby.  Give 'em a good washing but don't scrub unless you absolutely must, or you're going to dip 'em in boiling water to remove the skins (I wouldn't, but that's just me).  Coring is also optional, but I do that.  Slice in half across the equator (think globe) and place cut side up in a rimmed pan - cookie sheet, baking pan, baking dish, pie plate, anything that can catch and hold juice, and there's gonna be some.  Drizzle olive oil all over them.  I have an ancient Misto that is more of a Spritzo these days, so it spits a perfect, thin stream that I can play over the pans like a hose and give all of the tomatoes a nice taste.  Sprinkle the salt and pepper to taste over it all.  Ditto the cilantro if using (again, don't use if your going to freeze after roasting).  Stick the pans in the oven - no rush here, the pans can go in as you get them done, they'll be there a while - and don't forget them!  I use the convection setting in my oven to insure even distribution of heat and generally fill three racks completely with pans of tomatoes.  Start your racks at the bottom of the oven.  You can roast until you like what you see (or taste - go ahead, you'll swoon, I promise).  Mine generally roast for about 5-6 hours.  When they are done, leave them in the oven and shut it off.  You can open the door if you want.  When completely cool, portion into freezer bags or containers, label and freeze.  Use for soups, stews, pasta sauces, anywhere you need some tomato zing in the depths of winter.  Enjoy!

The two grafted tomatoes.  This end is 'Purple Cherokee'.  I cannot convey the size as Ho Dog was in the house, but just think HUGE.  Those cages are the big, heavy duty ones and they look pretty puny

This end is the 'Black Krim'.  Both bushes are loaded to the gills and this was after picking 16 pounds of them off the bushes

'Purple Cherokee'.  Some cat facing evident; totally unaffected, taste-wise
I couldn't load the harvest basket anymore or I would have had tomato sauce

Kind of speaks for itself there.  On the counter, the ones that didn't fit including the one in front, an enormous 'Brandywine' of the free range variety
A sinkful of goodies waiting to be processed

The processing station.  Simple but effective.  Two knives, small one for coring, big one for slicing

First pan, naked and waiting for the condiments and then into the oven

Secret Window

A few days ago, early morn, checking my email and weather from the den, I chanced to look over to the library and the bay window.  It was an entrancing sight in real life - the last of the morning mist peeling away, with the green-white light coming thru the windows.

Okay, so it was better in real life than the picture or my description.  I'll go with that

Monday, September 10, 2012

Homestead Crab Feed 2012

Every year about this time, Don and his boys haul a coupla boats to the coast and go crabbing.  They then set up a big crab feed up at the homestead where you can eat yourself into a coma if you wish with fresh crab and steamer oysters.  This year we made it up there on Sunday after spending an hour or so Saturday aimlessly driving the putt-putt up and down the trails on the mountain trying to find the homestead.  See, every time I go up there with Don I'm usually listening to him talk and NOT paying attention to which fork in the trail we take.  And, to add to the confusion, they did a clear cut along the trail which means it totally didn't look right to me, even though that was the right trail.  But, Dale, Ho Dog and I took a nice, leisurely tour on Saturday before finally getting there on Sunday

One of the trails.  Not the right one, but pretty nonetheless

Turns out this was the right trail, we just didn't go far enough up it.  Nice view of Green Peak

Tooling along Dawson Road, headed to the homestead turnoff.  Ho Dog enjoying the ride as always

On Sunday, we finally made it.  Ho tries to get in on a game of beanbag toss

You might not know it, but everyone around the firepit is so stuffed with crab they simply can't move, including Don (furthest left) and Dale (somewhere in the smoke)