Monday, December 31, 2007

Snow, and more to come

The total as of 11:51 am from Wunderground was 8.5 inches, and the storm is just now winding down.

The forecast for Tuesday? More snow, although the latest NWS forecast is backing away from earlier heavy snowfall predictions. According to the NWS, it has been the snowiest December in Maine in 10 years.

With our fabulous little electric snowblower, it took us just about 2 hours to do a thorough job of shoveling (deck, driveway, path to oil fill pipe, path to Henbogle Coop) and cleaning off the vehicles. Not bad at all. Time for soup.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Popping out of the oven

Amazingly, given the generosity of the Henbogle girls, I had never made popovers until tonight. They were scrumptious!

I served them with a lovely pan seared steak, cooked with some of our shallots, and roasted pole beans from our garden. It was a yummy dinner.

Makes 6

1 cup sifted bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 xl eggs
1 cup milk
unsalted butter for brushing the custard cups

Preheat oven to 450°F Warm the eggs and milk to room temperature

Stir flour and salt together a medium bowl. Stir together the eggs and the milk, and add to the flour mixture. Stir the batter until it is smooth. In oven, heat six custard cups until hot (5+ minutes). Remove from oven, brush with the butter, and fill them half full with the batter. Bake the popovers in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375°F, and bake the popovers for 20+/- minutes more, or until they are browned and crisp. I had about a tablespoon of leftover asiago cheese all grated, which I stirred in to the flour mixture -- I could taste a hint of it, I'd try that again.

Welcoming the light

Although I love Christmas, when I give free rein to my inner magpie, at this time of year my energy is always at a low point. The short days, too often cloudy, sap my energy and keep me inside for far too much of the time. It seems like my only moments outside are brief forays to other buildings on campus or to and from the car, and weekends never have enough room in them to spend all the time I want outside.

But last Saturday we celebrated the return of the light here at Henbogle, inviting a few friends over for good company, good food and a Solstice fire. Each guest had a spring of evergreen to throw on the fire if so desired, and after the blaze died down we warmed ourselves with some delicious homemade eggnog, courtesy of the Henbogle girls. We certainly enjoyed ourselves immensely, and I hope our friends did, too.

The promise of lengthening days and a fresh new year are energizing, as is having some time off together here at home. Dan and I have spent quite a bit of time clearing the clutter, weeding the bookshelves, reorganizing our files (aka giant piles of paper) and puttering about. We've both had colds, so the desperately-needed cleaning of the barn hasn't happened, but it will, as a February vacation project looms.

We visit the girls daily for bonus midday treats, (frozen pumpkin, breadcrumbs, leftover green beans, yum!) and took advantage of a warm day to clean out Henbogle Coop and put in fresh bedding (that's Pippi checking things out). A recent winter rainstorm had exposed a few blades of grass which the girls greeted with enthusiasm. The snow dome is working out remarkably well, now that the girls have overcome their fear of the snow.

A big pile of gardening catalogs awaits my attention, and with the promise of snow for the next few days, I am sure to have time to start planning for spring as the light increases. And of course, there are a few birthdays ahead to look forward too as well. Happy new year, everyone!

Henbogle Eggnog

12 eggs, separated
2 cups sugar
2 c gold rum
1 c apricot brandy
3 pints milk
1 pint heavy cream

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until thick. Slowly stir in the rum, apricot brandy, milk and cream. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and pour into a punch bowl. Beat the egg whites until stiff and and fold gently into the eggnog. Grate fresh nutmeg on top to taste

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It was a strange kind of day today

On the way in to work, listening to a story on NPR's Morning Edition, I heard Harlan Rodberg, a worker at the Winnebago factory in Forest City, MN, say "You can't take booze, sex and weekends away from the American people, they're not gonna sit back and do nothing...." in reference to a question on the economy affecting Winnebago sales.

I then went to a meeting where we talked about whether or not the English faculty would support a community read (by support, I mean, mention it in classes and to colleagues and neighbors, not vote for it or anything requiring a long term commitment.)

I had lunch with my boss and gave him an ass in the form of a Christmas ornament (the Democratic party symbol.) He loved it, or so he said.

Later in the afternoon, in a classroom on campus, written on the blackboard, was the following, "When you see a finger, it means something."

And I spent a good portion of the afternoon discussing strategies to affect policy changes impacting energy usage in residential zoning and building codes.

It was a strange day. What was your day like?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Winter arrived early this year

Here at Henbogle, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. We had our first big snowstorm last week on Monday, December 3. In a classic nor'easter, we received about 10" of snow, followed by a cold snap and wind. Since then, we've received a couple more inches, 2 of them this morning.

The chickens were NOT happy with the change in weather. Monday they refused to exit Henbogle coop. There was much discussion about the weather, lots of squawking and wing flapping, but NO ONE was going outside. (I'm almost positive I heard Iris say "Oh no, I'm not going, you can't make me go outside.")

Tuesday, ditto. Again on Wednesday they refused to exit. Dan had shoveled an area around the coop, and a nice path from the coop to the snow dome, just a few feet away, but no dice, they were having none of it. Finally, on Thursday, I reached in and grabbed Sophie, then Iris, then Poppy, then Pippi, and deposited them one at a time in the snowdome. With a nice roost, snow free ground (and a dust bath!), straw, some oyster shell, and plenty of scratch, the dome is a big treat for them -- but they had to traverse the scary snow-covered path to get there. It might as well have been the Continental Divide.

Once I put a few of them outside, and gave them some treats, the rest of the girls followed, and now they head out to the 'dome every day as soon as we open the coop in the morning. Silly chickens.

Why are there no photos of the snow-covered snow dome and the girls? I've misplaced the cord to my camera, and cannot download them until I find it. Grrr.

Too late now, but for next year....

Check out these herb wreaths from McFadden Farm in California, made from organically grown culinary herbs!

Not local, but very cool and useful. Unfortunately, the Maine climate and bay laurel are not compatible.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Counting down the days...

until Spring. I added a countdown timer, over there, just above the "About Me" section.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ack! Fedco orders are due tomorrow!

Where does the time go! The deadline for discount orders from Fedco is due tomorrow. Orders placed by this date receive a 10% discount of orders of $200 or more, 15% for $400+.

Last year, my pal Karen and I placed a joint order and managed to meet the $200 needed for the discount. I don't know what Karen is planning, I need to call her tonight and see if she wants to place a joint order.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sod killing cardboard

As I have posted about before, I am a big fan of using cardboard to kill the sod and suppress weeds when developing new garden beds or planting shrubs. We've successfully used that strategy with the blueberry hedge, the holly hedge and the grape arbor bed.

As we are over run with weeds like creeping bellflower, plantain, creeping charlie and more here at Henbogle, we are continuing that strategy as we work our way along the boundaries of the property, removing invasives and planting shrub borders.

Next spring, we'll be working on the east border beyond the freestanding deck, by the neighbors swing set. We have a ancient, gorgeous flowering crab along the west boundary, and now are concentrating on understory shrubs and plants, probably hostas and ferns as it is pretty shady there. Our bottle tree is featured there as well, capturing any evil spirits that venture our way.

The first step in creating the shrub border: kill off the existing plants, a mix of orange daylillies, mildew-ridden phlox, creeping purple bellflower and other assorted weedy growth. In the past few years I've planted a few black- and red chokeberries in there, and on the far side of the crab a serviceberry or two. My next step is to smother everything else and give the shrubs a year or two without competing weeds, and then we'll be able to fill in with the shade-loving perennials.

Over the last few weekends, we cut back all the plants, spread our chopped leaves, then laying down thick layers of brown cardboard over the leaves. Over the winter the cardboard will begin to break down, and in the spring we'll cover it with mulch of some sort, and try and be patient. And of course, we have to weight the cardboard down so it doesn't blow away.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A moveable coop

In addition to all the chores listed below, today we moved Henbogle coop closer to the house. When we built the chicken coop, we imagined our backyard biddies would be relocated every winter, much closer to the house, to make it easier to care for them, heat the water, etc. We added small wheels and had fantasies of blithely trundling the coop hither and yon throughout the seasons, giving the girls fresh grass and a change of scenery.

Well, were we in for a change of tune. Our cadillac of coops weighs a ton. In future, we will be be sure to remember that coop housing doesn't require the same standards as home construction. Those puny little wheels did allow us to get it to the designated location, but it was a challenge. Still, we thought in the fall we'd move it closer, but didn't take into account a soggy fall, with the ground too wet to haul a chicken coop across it. So it stayed at the end of the vegetable garden, until today.

From our old dead lawnmower, Dan salvaged some larger wheels, and this morning attached them, and a 2x4 for a handle, and we moved the coop about 20 feelt closer to the house. Not that much closer, but every little bit counts (in the photos, the coop used to be just behind the back fence post of the vegetable garden). Once we had it in position, we put it up on blocks, and removed the 2x4 handle. She's good to go for the winter.

In addition to the coop we also put away all the deck furniture, brought out our old wooden sleds and skis as Christmas decor, put the riding lawn mower away for the winter, and weighted down our cardboard with branches. More on that later.

Winter preparations, just in time

Saturday we had a cold and very windy day, brr. In light of predictions for a big nor'easter on Monday, we bustled about putting clear plastic over the draftiest windows, and I roasted yet another turkey because I am craving some turkey sandwiches and a pot of turkey soup . Turkey with cranberry sauce, and hot open-faced turkey sandwiches with gravy now await.

This morning the weather service has forecasted even more snow all day on Monday, with accumulations of 2-4 inches Sunday night, and 8-12 more inches on Monday. Today, we need to finish as many more outdoor chores as we can. I started by filling all the birdfeeders this morning, but there's a lot more--
repair the broken barn window
put the lawn mower and riding mowers away
finish putting cardboard down under the flowering crab tree
pick up the cardboard that blew around the yard yesterday
get some more straw for the chickens
and do a final patrol to put overlooked items away, etc

Yikes! time to get moving!