Sunday, March 28, 2010

Love is pickled fish

I do not like fish. I may force down some extra fresh hoisin salmon, eat fried halibut if it has soaked in milk and then dredged in some nice chickpea powder and has tons of tartar sauce, but otherwise I would happily eat a piece of chicken any day. My husband loves his seafood. When we visit our dear friends Dennis and Shirley, Dennis gets a twinkle in his eye and sets out the home pickled northern pike and Ben and he sit and chow down on a few pieces, grossing me out completely. Raw fish with bones in - "but it doesn't taste like fish" (right), "it isn't raw, it's pickled) (right), and "the bones dissolve so you don't feel them crunch". Ben talks about making his own pickled fish, but he doesn't fish himself and it isn't often he is offered fish from somebody else. Until a couple of months ago when dear friends sent us home with about 10 large ziplock bags full of walleye. It is mandatory to enjoy fish if you live in North Dakota because it is THE winter sport. Where I come from hockey is the winter sport, but here it is icefishing and come about the end of November, all of the check out boys at the grocery stores are talking about ice depth and why they wish it would get down to -30 because it will freeze ice about 3 new inches by the following weekend so they can go icefishing.
Back to the 10 bags of walleye. Well I wanted to unplug one of our 4 freezers (admittedly one is full of an older boar for dog food and the other is a clinic freezer), and the bags of fish seemed like the perfect thing to get rid of. So I thought, "I will make pickled fish for Ben and get it out of the freezer." It seemed like a gallon would keep him in pickled fish for a couple of months, so I got the ingredients, set the fish in salt and then went to visit Dennis and Shirley. When we got there, out came the quart jar of pickled fish and Dennis said to Shirley, "Mother, I think this is the same quart isn't it?" My eyebrows raised because the last time we got served pickled fish was about a year ago, and I was sure he would have eaten through a couple more quarts by then. I mentioned that I had done over a gallon and he burst out laughing and said, "That is a lot of pickled fish!" I made my second mistake and mentioned it was walleye and he said it was a shame to use such good fish in pickled fish. I consoled him by saying I had quite a few more bags left for him to eat. Then my third mistake was in telling him I'd left the fish in salt for 5 days, although I did put forth the argument that the internet told me I could leave fish in salt for months at a time if they were refrigerated. He gave me his recipe (I was waiting for that since we knew Ben liked it), and I went home to rinse the salt off the fish and get it into vinegar. When I rinsed the fish, they were rubbery and about as unappetizing as . . a piece of rubbery fish. I called Ben over because I didn't want to waste a gallon of vinegar and $4.00 worth of pickling spice if he thought they were no good. He said he was sure it would be okay, so I rinsed it some more and then covered it in vinegar for 24 hours. Ben cut the fish into small pieces and then I boiled the sugar (substituted sucanat), pickling spices (I was short 1/2 cup so made my own with bay, mustard seed, clove, cinnamon etc minus the anise which I did not have) and vinegar and covered the 1.5 gallons of rubbery white pieces with a pretty brownish substance (due to the sucanat) that actually smelled pretty good. I would definitely cut back on the sugar as it used an ungodly amount in my opinion. By the next evening, Ben was asking if it was done yet, and I reminded him that Dennis said it should sit for 7 days for best flavor. He made it three nights before cracking open it and gnawing on a rubbery piece of fish. I waited for the verdict (while he tried to convince me and Debra to eat some), and he said it was very good, even though it was not the same as Dennis' because of the cinnamon. But Emily ate a handful of it also and I have done my duty by the fish and the pickled fish loving husband. Definitely not high on my list of "good eats", but it prompted me to dig some of my chicken out and can some chicken for myself for salads.
Now I'm off to plant some glorious tomatoes since I have patiently waited for the end of March so they do not get root bound by the time I need to plant them outside.
If anybody would like to tell me how to post a picture, I would happily do so
Heather for the clan as well as the happy rooting pigs in their electric net

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Boring blog

Hmmm, I just took a look at the blog, and I agree without pictures it is boring- I wouldn't read it if I wasn't me!
I will have to figure out how to post pictures,

anonymous comments

I had the oddest anonymous comment about adding more pictures for visual effect - anonymous, in every post I mention I have never learned how to post pictures and now my computer will not recognize my camera sd card, so I couldn't post pictures even if I wanted to. :( In fact, just separating my post with paragraphs would be an improvement and I can't even remember how to do that. Maybe there is an online blogger tutorial somewhere that I will never have time to read. :)
     The girls are in heaven playing with the marshmallow fondant I whipped up last night - whipped is very descriptive as I had to beat the melted marshmallows into the sifted Icing sugar, knead it forever (what a glorious feeling substance, all soft, pliable and shiney!), and then looked at the mess from sifting icing sugar with a huge sifter and went to bed. BUT my kitchen was dirty and the rest of my house was clean, so that was all right.  I have always enjoyed cake decorating but haven't done it in forever, since we don't need the sweet stuff around here. Emily has been making paper towel roses - she has an obsession with wedding bouquets- so I decided to let her have an outlet for her creativity. I got her 4 books on making sugar flowers (hmm, I'm thinking unedible clay might have been wiser as her younger sibling spends the majority of her time eating the fondant!), and she has been working on lovely fondant roses - when I can get the computer to recognize the camera, I will learn how to post a picture. Our vet tech and I made some carnations and . . . . poetic license roses (in other words, they looked like SOME type of flower, but not necessarily a rose). We tried some pulled techniques and daisies, but I was waiting for the books to come before I invested money in cutters as I don't want to spend too much. I was tickled to find the decorating books second hand for $3.00 and they are simple enough for a poor book keeper to understand (if they used Quick Books I would be doing great!). I read online reviews about a great many decorating books and often people said the decorating book was "over their head" and I wondered how could it be over MY head, but now I have one book that makes it sound so simple and yet he doesn't explain half of what he does because he assumes you have basic training in pastry techniques and therefore pretty much tells you to grab a blob of dough and pull it this way and that and he ends up with a gorgeous Iris worth about $40.  I can definitely tell the difference between the professional you tube roses and mine - plus the veiners make a huge difference in the realistic look of the sugar flowers. I also think I would like gum paste better because I am anal about things looking real and can't get my leaves and petals as thin as I feel they could be with fondant. I'm a copycat at heart so don't like fantasy flowers or things that look like wannabe flowers, but want them to look like perfect flowers. This also means when I learn a song, I sing or play it exactly the way the performer did it without any personal interpretation - which drives Ben nuts as I'm always saying, "That doesn't sound right." :) I was mentioning to our vet tech that the reason I enjoy making fake flowers, is that I don't have a creative bone in my body, and the fondant makes me feel like I am artsy without requiring me to be artsy.
It has been foggy for over a week now. The weather people say it is rare and unexplainable (how can fog be unexplainable??), but it does make for a depressing gray look like the west coast. Today the sun is out and it is glorious, although I did not mind the fog so much because with it came weather in the 30's and 40's. We spent yesterday afternoon grinding grain, hauling feed, cleaning pig feeders, riding the horse, checking eggs, feeding cows and doing all sorts of farmish things that make my farming heart sing. Eliana was napping the whole time, so Emily and Elise helped me out by stomping in the puddles and screeching when the cows got too close. I haven't figured out how to teach them to use caution around large animals (especially because cows have a tendency to charge kids), so instead have imparted a deathly fear of them in Elise, and not enough fear in Emily. She just zerbers (listen to an old Bill Cosby for the definition of that), and the cows back away, although I'm going to give her a whip to carry around in case Dottie the galloway doesn't back off.
Sweet little Emily was riding behind Elise on the horse and Elise kept falling to the side (is there anything Elise is natural at?). Thankful she fell towards me and then I would push her back up and every time she would shriek, Emily would say, "It's okay Elise, I'm holding onto you." Which translated into both of them sliding off every time, but at least Emily was hanging on. :) They are such treasures, and have such a love/hate relationship that they are either upset at each other and trying to tell their Mother their woes (who is not sympathetic to tattlers), or adoring each other and doing everything together. I was re-reading my once a year blog and when Elise was 1 year old I had said she loved Emily to pieces and was either laughing or screaming at what Emily was doing and that there was no in between. I have to smile because it is still that way and Elise is certainly a . . trying soul. I am not sympathetic to wussy natures, so she definitely gets pushed this way and that and should have learned by now that if you are scared and screaming unnecessarily, then you will have to do it and maybe twice over.

The little dollies were having fun playing at the window the other day. I had opened it to yell a goodbye to Hunsky, and then they hung their heads over the sill and waved at nobody in particular, teaching their little sister how to wave. This is the window that has no screen because we hoist Emily through it every time we accidentally lock the doors and don't take keys. Anyway, Emily dropped her flower ring out the window into the 3 foot deep snow drift. It landed on a piece of siding that was lying on  top of the snow, which was miraculous because I never would have found it otherwise. Emily toddled along outside through the puddles to try to get it, but kept sinking up to her hips in the snow and yelled at me to see if I couldn't get it. I peeked out the window and thought I really didn't want to drag on bunny boots and get soaked retrieving an ugly little ring. So I looked at the distance to the snow and asked Elise if she could reach it if I lowered her through the window. Elise nodded very sincerely and I smiled inwardly, because I knew she had no idea I meant I was going to hang onto her ankles and lower her that way - she has little dexterity in her fingers let alone her toes, so would need to be upside down to grab the ring. I grabbed her and hung her upside down while she screamed at the top of her lungs that she was going to die and I told her, "Grab the ring while you are crying." She easily grabbed it, I pulled a shrieking child inside and when I put her down, she instantly stopped, popped her head out the window, held the ring up victoriously and said, "Emily, I got it." as though it was the easiest thing in the world to do. :)
Doris Day and Gordon Macrae - is there any couple so lighthearted? Amazon had a fantastic deal on a Doris Day set with some of the old ones we watched when we were young, so we got it and Emily watched "By the Light of the Silvery Moon". I kept cracking up at the end where they are out skating and the spinster cook is trying to find somebody to skate with her. (sorry, I won't go into it here - watch the  movie).  They are trying to pick which one they want to watch now while we think about what to make for supper - Ben is off on his hmmm 5th emergency of today I think.
I can not type and brush my teeth at the same time so I'll have to quit before the toothpaste burns a permanent hole in my mouth! Emily just shoved a toothbrush in my mouth and now there is a quartet of tooth brushing gals sitting by the computer - I told Emily she has to brush her teeth lots so she doesn't loose her teeth to sugar and she is taking her job seriously! Even the little baby has a toothbrush and is jerking her arm back and forth as though it will take the fondant off her two little teeth up front. Elise is stubbornly keeping her mouth closed and Emily keeps asking, "Do you want the dentist to pull your teeth out?" and Elise says, "Yes, he will pull every tooth out!" Contrary little girl! I can only imagine how a dentist trip would go with her extreme sensitivity to life and perceived pain.
Izzy is back with us and making the cow's lives unbearable by guarding the water. Why she thinks they need to keep away from it I do not know and all day long I yell at her to leave the cows alone. Otherwise she is a splendid guard dog who is impressively scary although gentle as a lion with us. She is either patrolling or exhausted and flat out on the trailer she sleeps on, so I am reminded that I may lose chickens during the day when she is too tired to keep on guard. The last year on the farm, our Great Pyrenees was tiring herself out at night keeping the coyotes away and during the day she would sleep by the barn. I kept losing chickens to a fox living at the far edge of our property and the one day I looked out and there was a fox yanking chickens out of their pen and Rachel (the Pyrenees) lay only 20 feet away sleeping. I yelled to wake her up and she took off after the fox who left 6 dead chickens around the pen. That was aggravating! The fox had a den and 3 babies in the far pasture, and I suppose she figured it was cheap plump eating.
It is getting late, so I must put the baby down and get some work done.
Heather for Benski, Lisey (who is not Dewey!), Emskers, Mochachino, Franklet and a pen of muddy pigs, muddy cows and muddy chickens (not to mention muddy dogs!)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Oh my! I bet nobody even checks this anymore

Wow, I was just reading my old blog and realizing the last time I wrote, Terrence was 8 months old. . . Terrence has been in the freezer for 6 months now and weighed over 700lbs. Unfortunately that was not human edible meat, but I'm sure the dogs will enjoy it when I get around to cutting him up to free my freezer that is absolutely full of boar meat. So much has happened including 5 moves, Ben quitting his job and starting a veterinary clinic of his own, us living in the vet clinic for just over a year (commuting and hauling water 14 miles every day to do chores), spending innumerable hours looking for land, putting bids in on land that were accepted and then 2-3 months later the sellers backed out (talk about frustrating), and then finally finding 15 acres only 4 miles away from the vet clinic. Our poor house was moved from it's original town to the property 7 miles from Ben's job, then sat empty for a year (which did NOT do it any good), we then moved again this November onto our 15 acres. I am loving having our own place as we have been renting or living in other people's places since we moved back to North Dakota and I don't think there is such a thing as a good landlord around here. I told Ben the most wonderful thing about owning is that nobody can tell me I have to mow the lawn before it gets longer than 2 inches, I can put a cow in the front yard to mow it if I feel like it, I can eliminate a lawn and put a garden and chicken tractors in if I want and nobody can say nay. Nobody can do spontaneous checks and look in the garage to comment on it's tidiness (or lack thereof), nobody has a key to my house and will walk in on my while I'm coming out of the shower and then tell my husband 3 days after we moved in that his wife is a horrid housekeeper and has boxes everywhere (how many people have tidy houses 3 days after moving??). . . I don't think the list of benefits to owning will ever stop. LOL Even though we owned the trailer in Iowa, we had to pay lot rent and had to agree to mow so often, never have a garden, never let our animals out etc. Enough of my rant on why I do not like renting and I will run and get to work as we have another winter storm coming which means I need to get hopping. We moved our house in November which meant we were scrambling to get the skirting insulated, sewer in only a couple days after the sewer and well were in!), fences up and we built our animal housing in the snow because we simply ran out of time to do everything even with my family coming down to, help. I didn't get the skirting all up before the heavy snowfall and with the warm weather last week I am finding odds and ends of wood and things that got buried the first snowfall and now I am running around cleaning them all up. We only have one of the original 3 Berkshire sows left as one was braindead (okay maybe she was just too smart which equalled irritating and her babies were all the same way), and another had major problems farrowing and we had to get rid of her. And our last one is headed to the butcher February 2nd because she is simply too big for our setup and is becoming horribly destructive. She has wrecked 2 buildings eating and smashing them (she weighs over 600lbs), killed one of her 6 month old gilts by smashing her into a feeder when she was protective about her food and just been a general nuisance compared to a 200lb gilt. We will have 6 of her babies to butcher in a month or two and then I'm hoping for a year free of pigs as they are so much work compared to chickens and cows - their inputs are all purchased off the farm and it becomes costly and a lot of work. We have a belted galloway cow and her Jersey x galloway calf, 2 Dexter heifers (one due to calve this year and another hopefully bred this last week), one little dexter bull and a dexter steer. They are not actually that much work as it is just water and hay and I love looking out and seeing cows out there. My old horse is still eating 365 days a year, and the chickens are drastically reduced in numbers as where we had them, the neighbors dog enjoyed chicken for dinner. They don't seem to have started back into laying this year so I think it is time for some new blood before I'm eaten out of house and home with nothing in return. I am going to have a small garden this year as there is already an acre dug up that was a wildlife feeding area. If nothing else I can grow scads of tomatoes for salsa and sauces. I would like some strawberries, but I'll have to figure out if the price is worth it. I was tickled to find Menards had Burpee seeds for some of the heirloom tomatoes I wanted to purchase for half the cost of buying them from Johnny's seeds. I have a list of 5 tomatoes I wanted, and I think I have 2 left and will hope for a trade online somewhere. My day is disappearing and I had thought to share some tidbits of a book Ben was reading outloud to me last night while I fussed, but I think that will wait. I got him a book called "Life Together" by Bonhoeffer and it is so full of wonderful treasures and truths on the exploration of Christian Community that I will have to read it myself. I am enjoying re-reading Discipline the GLad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot, and have a little booklet of Helen 9 steiner Rice poems a friend gave me for Christmas that I flip over and contemplate every day. We have been reading a chapter of Genesis, Matthew and Psalms to the girls every day and it makes me realize how complicated it can be to explain some things to little girls LOL. Especially little girls who snatch the most obscure things out of what you are reading - "There's Mary, Joseph and JEsus who is lying in a manger" Says Ben "AND some sheep" says 2 year old Elise every single night they read from their Advent book. OHHHH by the way, I don't remember how many children we had back then, but we have 3 little girls now, oldest 4 and youngest 8 months. All adorable treasures! My signature is missing one as all the dogs are not with us - just before we moved last November my 9+ year old Great Dane died. She was a big stupid Scooby Doo who I miss a lot, but life is drastically easier also without a 100lb dog who has IBD and stress colitus any time anything happens. Heather for Ben, Emily, Elise, Eliana, Becky dog (who is now a big fuzzy indoor shedding annoying beast), Izzy (who still lives with the inlaws), Frank and Mocha (who have endured a lot this last year, including Frank trying to die and me tube feeding him 3-6x a day for 6 weeks!), and a gazillion animals hither and yon outside.