Monday, January 31, 2022

It slices! It dices!

We were getting low on canned carrots. I only had a few quarts left in the pantry. Since fresh home-grown carrots are at least nine months away, last time I was in the city I picked up a 25-lb. bag to can up.

The bag had been sitting outside on the porch, through temperature changes, for the last couple weeks (fortunately carrots are very forgiving). I finally had a free day when I could get them processed.

First step: peeling. Takes hardly any time.

In the process, I discovered something: Darcy loves carrots. I didn't give him too many (didn't want a "clogged" dog), but goodness he sat and watched me the whole time just in case, y'know, something fell on the floor.

Then I started the tedious process of dicing the carrots. With 25 pounds to get through, I figured this process would take me through at least the next day.

After I'd diced the first few carrots, Don passed through the kitchen and asked the obvious question: Why didn't I use the food processor to slice the carrots?

To be honest, I'd forgotten about the food processor. We bought it a couple summers ago (before moving) to handle some garden surplus. I've used it once or twice, but it's not normally on my "radar" of kitchen appliances.

My first inclination was not to bother, since I'm a Luddite at heart. But then I changed my mind. We'd spent good money on this gadget. Why not use it?

I finished peeling the carrots...

...and trimmed the ends.

Then I cut each carrot in half and fed it into the food processor. Hey, yowza! It slices! It dices! It took literally two seconds to handle what might take me three minutes by hand.

Seriously, I finished slicing all 25 pounds of carrots within minutes. It would have taken me hours by hand. Why am I such a stubborn Luddite about using modern conveniences? (I can hear my mother chuckling from here. She loves her food processor.)

Since I wasn't expecting to be able to get things canned so soon (figuring it would be a two-day process just to dice things up), I was able to fetch jars from the barn...

...remove the peelings from the sink...

...get some jars washed...

...and get the first batch in the canner.

I even got the batch processed before it was time to take Mr. Darcy for his evening walk.

A food processor. Who'da thunk.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

How did you weather the nor'easter?

I have a cyber-friend who lives in Maine. I emailed her ahead of the massive nor'easter bearing down on them and asked if they were prepared. She replied, "It was -26 this morning and warmed up to a whopping 13 degrees! Heat wave!! My basic storm prep includes a batch of cookies to be made as the storm starts because we will be hanging out drinking coffee and eating cookies waiting til the storm ends to clean up. In this case the storm is two days and we will need energy from the cookies to clean up."

Before the storm hit, she wrote: "We decided to pick up a few last-minute items from the store and were there as they opened at 7am. The place was picked over and more delivery trucks won't be arriving until Monday if the east coast can dig itself out. We got what we needed and headed out to bake cookies."

After the blizzard passed, she wrote:  "The snow started at 9:45 pm, winds were kicking up at 3am so we knew it was going to be bad. We had extra wood piled in the living room, a batch of fresh butterscotch and heath bar cookies and now we wait. And wait. The wind really got bad late morning into late afternoon. Power never even flickered, but we do have a generator if needed. It snowed until about 3am this morning. Our back and side doors are blocked by drifts."

"It's is beautiful out though. Now we begin the cleanup. Raking the north side of the roofs, shoveling out the generator and dog pen, and cleaning up the driveway with the tractor and snow blower attachment on it. This will take a few hours, but it gets us outside in the fresh air and sun (although it's -12 wind chill factor)."

"A nap is definitely going to be in our future after lunch. This was not the worse nor'easter we have had, but it was a good solid 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. We will not be able to get out to church, but plan on enjoying the beauty of the Lord's work while we are shoveling it." 

"My dogs aren't leaving the house. They might have the right idea."

So that was my friend's experience. How did everyone else weather the storm?

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Abandoned mega mansion

I stumbled across an interesting video recently. Apparently an enormous mega-mansion – named the Peter Grant Mansion after its intended owner – was in the process of being built, then abandoned midway through construction after the financial crash of 2008. At 65,000 square feet, the structure is Canada's largest home (or largest ruin).

The person making this video walked through the falling-down building, filming and documenting as he went. Here's the description below the video: "Today, I'm taking a look at one of the world's largest abandoned mansions. It currently stands as Canada's largest mansion at 65,000 square feet and also happens to be completely left to the elements. I'm taking a look at what's left after a devastating financial crash from its former owner and also thoughtfully analyzing the true cost of this staggering, huge home. Last listed for sale at $25 million, there is nothing on the planet like this ultra modern, abandoned mansion."

The house, predictably, was stuffed with every luxurious amenity normally found in mega-mansions: two swimming pools, waterfall, observation lighthouse, small golf course, indoor boat garage, squash court, curved walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, etc.

Since the house is just standing there in a field, open to any miscreants eager to explore the structure and remove anything of value, it's a mess inside. Broken glass, graffiti, damage, destruction ... seeing this kind of vandalism on such a massive scale is crazy.

Walking through the interior is a study in desolation.

Not only is everything vandalized and crumbling, but apparently no efforts were even made to salvage the structure for its component parts. One claim says it would take $1 million to upgrade the structure and make it livable.

To be honest, I had mixed feelings about this video. On one hand, I'm not a fan of conspicuous consumption, and mega-mansions are the epitome of this wasteful trend. On the other hand, there's something extraordinarily sad about the situation. After spending so much time, money, and resources on construction, the building was abandoned when it was 70% complete, so the guy never even had a chance to live in it.

Don and I discussed the video, and he says it reminds him of a poem entitled "Ozymandias":

I met a traveler from an antique land,
Who said – "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert ... Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
The gist of this poem is no matter how mighty the structures built by the most powerful of kings, with time even these turn to dust. I can certainly see how this verse applies to an abandoned mega-mansion. "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

Watch the video and tell me your thoughts.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Kitchen humor

Don saw this meme and thought of me right away.

I'm well known for my ability to absolutely trash a kitchen when engaged in a cooking project. What can I say.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Three a.m. wake-up call

Ah, there's nothing like lying awake in bed, knowing you have unfinished work.

Article deadlines caught up with me this week. Normally I hit my deadlines well ahead of the mark, but of the four columns and five articles I had due in January, I got behind on the last two articles. I finished one yesterday, but the other remained ... undone. And today (Thursday) is the start of my workweek for my online job, which means my focus and concentration will be elsewhere.

So I got up. At 3 o'clock a.m. Lit a fire in the cookstove. Made tea. Got to work. Plunged into the gory subject of sudden deaths in chickens (an assignment for Backyard Poultry Magazine). Got it finished and submitted by the time my job started (my start time is flexible, but I usually get going around 6:30 a.m.).

I'm not a night person – my brain shuts down in the evening – so it's easier for me to get up at some ungodly hour in the morning than to try and force any coherent thought late into the night.

Still, a three a.m. wake-up call is a little excessive, even for me (yawn). I'm a bit gritty-eyed already. Gonna be a long day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The question of ambition

We've been super-busy lately. On my end, I've had writing deadlines, work obligations, and an overnight business trip. On Don's end, he's working on an order of tankards that he really doesn't want to work on. (In the next year, Older Daughter will be moving closer and taking over the woodcraft business. Don can't wait for that day to arrive!)

All this busyness has put homestead projects on hold, both big and small. We have so many plans for our new property, and yet those durned work obligations keep getting in the way. The nerve.

While it's sometimes frustrating to be delayed on home projects by the immediate needs of work obligations, it must be logically pointed out that without the income provided by the work obligations, a lot of home projects simply would never get done. Duh.

Which led me to thinking, in a convoluted sort of way, about the subject of ambition, and how it means different things for different people.

A few years ago, someone I like and respect asked me where I saw myself in ten years. What, he wanted to know, is our (my husband’s and my) goal over the next decade?  This question was asked because the gentleman is a go-getter, a business whiz, an operational genius whose ambition drove him to strive for greater and better things.

I replied that we were very satisfied with our present conditions. We were happy with our marriage, our children, our employment, our farm.

But my questioner persisted. Surely we had some lofty goals we wanted to achieve? Didn't we want to find a corporate ladder to climb? Didn’t we want financial wealth or societal acclaim? Didn’t we want to change the world in some way? As politely as I could, I said no.

This line of questioning happened years ago, and I’ve always remembered it.  Until questioned, I never realized I had such an utter lack of ambition. Or at least, what I lack is ambition as measured by those who are eager to make a huge and impressive mark in the world.

Is it such a bad thing to be content with one's lot? When did a lack of ambition become a bad thing?

I've never wanted a fast-lane sort of life, and while I understand some people thrive under those conditions, it would beat me down. I prefer a low-key lifestyle, where stress is minimized and contentment high.

As a trivial example: As I started working on this blog post, dawn was edging over the land. I glanced out the window and noticed how some early clouds had a lovely palette of pastel colors. It was nothing earth-shattering or dramatic, just peaceful and nice. Do ambitious people notice such things?

A couple of my favorite Bible verses underscore the downside to ambition. 1 Timothy 6:6-9 says, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. "

And the verse that has become my motto, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12: "...and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."

Ain't that great?

As one wise reader once put it, "One man's stagnant pond is another man's Walden."

My ambition today is to finish an article I'm working, sort through some piled-up paperwork and get things filed, and clean the bathroom. Or is that too "stagnant"?

Time to get busy.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Pizza-making tutorial

I was making pizza for dinner the other night, and it occurred to me I should photograph the steps for anyone interested in a pizza-making tutorial. 

Pizza delivery is absolutely unheard of out here, and we seldom go out for it either, because it's SO much cheaper to make it at home. There are zillions of ways to make pizza; this is how I do it.

I start with my much-faded recipe for the crust:

It says:

• 1 1/2 cups flour

• 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

• Garlic/salt/basil (to taste)

• 1 1/4 cups warm water

• 2 tablespoons oil

Mix until blended. Add 2 to 4 cups additional flour to make a stuff dough.


Mixing pizza dough takes just a few minutes.

Adding all the ingredients to the bowl:

Adding enough additional flour to make a stiff dough:

Getting ready to knead.

Kneading before:

Kneading after. I don't knead for very long, just a couple minutes:

I drizzle a bit of oil into the mixing bowl...

...then plop the dough back into the bowl, flipping it once to make sure it's coated with oil.

Then I cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise in the oven (where it's warm) for, I dunno, about an hour or so.

Meanwhile the mozzarella cheese and pepperoni has been defrosting. I buy both in bulk at Chef's Store (a restaurant supply store), though I look forward to the day when I can make my own mozzarella cheese again.

When it's time to make the pizzas, I drizzle a little olive oil on the pizza pans...

...and spread it out. Then I sprinkle some cornmeal on the pan, which helps prevent the crust from sticking (and gives the crust kind of a nice crunch too).

Here's the risen dough.

I cut it in half unevenly. That's because I like a thinner pizza crust, and Don likes it a bit thicker.

Spreading the dough takes mere seconds per pizza. It's at this point I have to keep track of which pizza is which.

To Don's pizza, I add standard pizza sauce.

To my pizza, I add pesto sauce. This stuff makes Don gag, but I love it.

Ready for cheese.


For homemade pizzas, we tend to be lazy and just use pepperoni, but of course they can be dolled up in an infinite number of ways.

Into the oven, about 425F for 25 minutes (at which point we start monitoring). I like my pizza a bit darker, so I always put mine on the bottom rack and keep it baking longer.

Don's pizza, finished.

In my opinion, homemade pizza is every bit as good (if not better) than restaurant pizza, and hand's down better than frozen pizza. And it literally costs pennies on the dollar, especially if the ingredients are purchased in bulk.

This is a long post with lots of photos for a process that actually takes very little time. So there you go, a modest pizza-making tutorial.