Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jul - Aug - Sept Photo Dump

The garden just...didn't this year. Tomatoes, squash, beans all did poorly -- I think a combination of a cool June and July delayed the plants from growing (thus putting down roots) combined with a very dry beginning of August. The tomatoes didn't reach 2/3rds of the height of last year (comparing the photos against the fence posts), and probably had a lot less mass than 2/3rds.

Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the most enjoyable movies I've ever watched in a theater!

I bought a 39" Samsung TV...first movie, of course, was Star Wars.

For VJ Day (a holiday in RI, so I had the day off) I did a trip to Maine for a Lobster Roll and stops and Kittery Trading Post and L.L.Bean. I want to try these shoes for work.

Washington County Fair -- I liked Richmond-Carolina's squirrel tail:

This was the peak of my 'mater harvest:

A great birthday gift from Karen & Cindy:

That came out really well -- Hawaiin Pork Chops:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A busy Saturday

Beaver Brook in Scotland for a shackle and grab hook to use on my Hi-Lift jack to finish this pond pipe project.

Then to Preston Trading Post to buy the 4-3/4" x 6" adapter for $48(!) so I could hook up my stove.

Lyons & Billard Lumber for some 4x4s for the pond project.

Campbell's in Griswold for a pot roast that is crock potting right now.

Pakulis' in Brooklyn then Lapsley's in Pomfret for my fruit for the week.

Then up to Woodstock for Celebrating Agriculture.

There is a tiny Forestry Fair held along with it. (That event descends from a Forestry Fair originally put on by the Eastern Connecticut Forest Landowners Ass'n, and I remember going to the first one with my dad who died in '88). Did pickup a Logrite hookaroon from the owner of the company.

Some of the bigger tractors around...

Fendt belonging to Valleyside Farm (Young's)

Stihl PPE kit-in-a-bag (chaps & helmet) on a rescue truck. Didn't used to see that, then you started seeing it with the state forest guys, to forestry trucks, now to the big trucks.

This tree started growing when my dad was 2.

Without the following pictures, saying I spent an hour watching men play with their wood and compare it to each other would give the wrong impression.

Miller's Fairvue Farm is putting up another cow shed. This is his main farm, he put up a heifer barn in Pomfret that size about five years ago too.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Matt's Herbary

I need to do a post soon documenting the giant flop my garden did this year -- well, some stuff did really well like onions and peppers, taters were normal, kale was great till a deer jumped the fence and ate that and the cabbage. But there's no canning 'maters and beans this year, and the squash all did poorly.

But my herbs did well!

Sunday I had some Thyme, Tarragon, & Oregano that was ready to bottle up:

Then I picked Basil, Tarragon, Thyme, Spearmint:

Tonight was some more Tarragon, Parsley, Lavender, and another mint.

I put up two new strings this year, and I used a turnbuckle on one side so I can keep the string taught after experiencing serious string sagging last year.

(And after these herbs are dried and put away, it'll be time to paint the kitchen ceiling and finally trim that window!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Out with the Vogelzang, in with the Jotul

I stopped at Preston Trading Post on Saturday. I had been considering a Jotul F118 CB Black Bear...which go for about $1800 new. Now they are EPA stoves, with secondary burn system and glass stoves, and a nice stove plate on top (aluminium I think).

Found this one on Craigslist for $400, and the guy called me back Sunday late afternoon so I drove up after work on Monday. It was surprisingly easy for the two of us to put it into the trunk it was so well balanced.

It's probably a 1976. It's not an EPA, and doesn't have a romantic glass door...but it should cut my wood usage in half.

Erik came over on Wednesday after I drove around for two days with junk in my trunk and helped me bring it inside.

I'll have to go get pipes on Saturday (probably at Preston Trading Post, this might be metric). Already decided the brickwork will wait till next year -- looking like $400 worth of cultured stone or brick, plus the supplies and I didn't want to spend that this month.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sous Vide Steak

I kept trying to figure out how restaurants would get the outside so nicely seared, with the inside so pink...they use something called "sous vide."

Googling around, I cam up with using a cooler filled with hot water (135 degrees) and the top round ("London Broil") steak in a ziplock with all the air removed. I left it in for two hours, then grilled it 30 seconds, flip, 30, flip, 30, flip, 30. I don't think my grill gets as hot as a good restaurant one would :( But still not bad at all!

I had left the steak marinating on the counter all day.

Steak was from Hunter's Brookside Farm bought up at Lapsley's, while the veggies came from Pakulis' -- so everything was grown within a couple miles as the crow flies from my house.

Monday, September 15, 2014

How to keep out of mischief...

From the September 14th edition of The Day:

This is a match made not in heaven but in a Mystic garden, where tomatoes, peppers and squash have just gone by, and in the orchard, where peach and apple trees are loaded with luscious bounty.

Carl Willis, who will turn 100 on Valentine's Day, and 90-year-old neighbor and companion Marjorie Brooks have worked in tandem since 2000 tending to Willis' backyard garden and orchard on the Noank-Ledyard Road in Mystic where they raise vegetables, fruit and flowers, and sell some of it from a small roadside stand not far from Whittle's Willow Spring Farm.

"I couldn't do it without her," Willis said of Brooks, on a recent weekday while taking a break from farm chores on the 2.5-acre spread.

"I tell him not to go up on the ladder, but he goes up on the ladder," Brooks said, explaining that despite several years of threats of slowing down, she and Willis planted another garden this season and have worked it every day from sunup to sundown since early spring.

"He always says, 'I'm not going to be sitting in a chair like other people my age,'" she said. "It's a hobby for him, a hobby farm. He doesn't want to be sitting around in a chair and then pushing up daisies."

Willis has been a widower since 1980, the same year he retired from his career in highway construction. He lost a son but has a 70-year-old daughter. Seventeen years ago, after Brooks lost her husband, Willis invited his neighbor to dinner. At first she declined, but in 2000, while she was being treated for cancer, Willis pitched in to help her.

"He was so supportive," said Brooks, who lost her only child, a son, to a drunken driver. "He would just be waiting there for me when I came out of radiation. And that was so comforting."

When doctors told her she needed to eat better, Brooks began cooking again and started sharing her meals with Willis. Soon, she was also helping with his garden.

Every day during the growing season, Brooks drives her car from her home a few doors away to get an early start in the garden. Most days, she's there as the sun comes up, last week harvesting peaches, apples, zinnias and sunflowers.

A short while later, after Willis has risen, he joins her.

In the spring, they planted 180 tomato and 100 pepper plants, as well as long rows of squash, cucumbers and other vegetables. They also have asparagus and strawberries. This year, when they planted 1,000 zinnia seeds, Willis used a hoe to measure the distance between plants, poked a hole in the soil with his finger, and Brooks used tweezers to drop three tiny seeds in every indentation.

As the seedlings sprouted, Willis went back and thinned the zinnias to allow them ample room to grow.

Today, the zinnias are a haven for bumblebees and, like all the rest of the couple's produce, they're protected by an electric fence that keeps out deer and rabbits.

Hard work comes naturally to Willis, who was the fifth of nine children born just down the street from where he now lives to Carlton and Mary Jane Chesbro Willis. Although the family no longer owns the 250-acre property and home, the homestead is still there, and Willis can tell you that Timothy Morgan built it in 1763.

"I've been working since the age of 3," he said. "I helped out around the farm. It was my job to keep the woodbox full."

"His mother would tell him, 'If you want biscuits for breakfast, go get wood,'" Brooks added.

Runs sawmill, too

Willis can recall when the Noank-Ledyard Road was a narrow gravel lane and a team of horses pulling a V-plow would clear the snow that accumulated there.

These days, when the couple is out in the car, Willis is a source of information about what farms used to be where, where people used to live, and where he and his friends would go to buy penny candy when they were boys.

He is worried that so much development has occurred in the area, that "eventually we'll all starve" when there's no land left to farm anymore.

In addition to his garden and orchards, Willis operates a small sawmill, where he still labors to make native oak grade and surveyor's stakes for customers who appreciate his custom work.

But it's the garden and orchards that occupy him now.

"I think it's best to do the kind of work you like," he said, when asked about his good health and longevity. "I've always liked gardening - and farming in general - because I was born and raised at that. It's always been in my blood, I guess."

He still has his driver's license but said he tends to depend more on Brooks to get where he needs to go, although he's perfectly comfortable on top of his big farm tractor and can back it into the tight space in his shed without any guidance.

While Willis helped to build highways all over the Eastern Seaboard during his career, Brooks worked in retail, at the former Reid & Hughes department store in Norwich and at the old Seaport Pharmacy in Mystic, as well as other places, until five years ago. Today, she still works one early morning a week at Peppergrass & Tulip, a downtown Mystic gift store, where Brooks orders the greeting cards.

'Always a day's work'

Both Willis and Brooks enjoy the company of customers who patronize their farm stand.

"They're just so happy to get vegetables that we picked that day," said Brooks, adding, "And they are just tickled to death that we don't go out of business."

Customers have brought back pickle relish and zucchini bread that they've made using the couple's vegetables, and even gift certificates, as a way of saying thank you.

"I always worked retail, but there's just something special about these shoppers," Brooks said. "They're so appreciative."

This has been a dry summer and, without irrigation, their vegetables have not been as bountiful as they sometimes are. But the weather hasn't slowed them down at all.

"There's always plenty to do here," Willis said. "I fix whatever breaks down; there's always a day's work."

Until two years ago, he cut his own wood for the wood-fired furnace, backed up by an oil system, that he still uses to heat his home.

Willis and Brooks enjoy their fruits and vegetables and took a break from farming on a recent day to put up 18 jars of peach jam and slice up and freeze bags of peaches. They grow McIntosh and Courtland apples and Alberta peaches.

"Alberta is an old variety," Willis said. "I remember when I was a boy, my mother used to can Alberta peaches."

As for apples, he said, "I enjoy them anyway you fix them."

After he backed the tractor into the shed, Willis took a walk across his property, pointing out chores he needed to get to.

Maybe he'll slow down next year, he said, but then added, the garden and orchard are something "to keep you out of mischief."

"I'm lucky to be able to do it," he said, as he pulled a peach from one of his trees and handed it to a visitor. "But there's got to be an end somewhere; you gotta pull it in someplace."

Walking up the gravel path toward his home, he added: "As soon as I get done with the fruit, I will focus on the sawmill."

Is that a Jotul in your trunk?

Yes, yes it does. Jotul 118, probably from 1976. Should be a significant upgrade from my Vogelzang Boxwood I've been using for the better part of a decade. Found it on Craigslist, and zipped up to Merrimac, MA after work to pick it up today.

And a random thing I read today:
Because you put a premium on spending time alone, you are more present and attentive when you do spend time with people.