Monday, February 10, 2014

Another Helpful Hint: Don't hurt yourself

My posts about retail life and small acre farming are my most popular subjects, so today I thought I'd treat you all to one of the more important safety tips when working in a farm environment.

Don't clamp the gate's Y latch on your finger.

I know, I know, everyone does it, but it's not safe. Not safe at all. We're all especially prone to do it when the wind is blowing and our fingers are numb and the gate doesn't want to shut because there's a ton of snow in the way. I pulled hard on the top part of the gate while I braced against the pole on which the Y latch would clamp onto. My finger was in the way. And in the thoughtless way that all folks do these things, I pushed the latch down first chance I got anyway.

It took off a chunk of skin, which hurts, as these things tend to do, but the thing I seemed to have forgotten about (as one does when working around a farm) is that when metal and metal are forced together by extreme external pressure, any bone and flesh that gets in the way squishes.

Fortunately it only bent the joint backward rather than breaking bone or snapping tendon. I talked to the gate for a little while, and then I squeezed my finger nicely for a while, and I admired the blood dripping onto the snow. That's always pretty. And then I went home, talking to no one in particular because I'm quite the Chatty Cathy when the mood strikes me.

So, the point is, no matter how tempting it might be to go the easy route, remember, don't close Y latches (or any other sorts of latches) onto one's own fingers even when you're in a rush or you don't want to be bothered with doing it right. I got off easy. Next time, I might cry.

And that would be bad. That's, like embarrassing. Way worse than pain.

Just don't do it. Be safe. And stay warm!

Friday, February 07, 2014

Brownie Love

While the wind mutters and the snow continues to drift into amazing sculptures ...

I bake.

Here's the thing about brownies. You mustn't overcook them. They're not cake. They're meant to be gooey. Also, although it's possible to add too many chocolate chips, I've yet to see it happen in my kitchen. Lastly, to bake in cast iron is divine.

Assuming you're cooking with real ingredients and/or have a high-quality mix, they shouldn't stick to cast iron. The directions on the extremely yummy Dassant chocolate chip brownies (they taste like homemade because they have awesome ingredients–for real, read the label!) call for parchment paper and greasing the pan. Ha! I lift my chin in disdain at your parchment paper!

Preheat the oven with your super-awesome 8" round cast iron pan in the oven. Mix the brownies according to the recipe. Add chocolate chips, or butterscotch chips, or white chocolate chips, if desired. When the oven is preheated, remove the cast iron pan and carefully pour (or rather scrape and shovel) the brownie mix into the hot pan. The sides will rise much more than the center. Don't be alarmed. It will still tasted good. Check the brownies earlier than the directions say, as the hot pan may cook them faster than the directions state. When the center no longer wiggles like jello and a toothpick inserted comes out only slightly goopy with mix (most likely it's melted chocolate chips anyway), remove from the oven and allow to cool for as long as you can stand it.

Ice cream is not amiss in such situations.

This is how your pan should look when you remove the still-warm brownies:

Notice the lack of brownie stuck to the pan
You may notice that the brownie in the bottom of the frame has some crust peeled off. It had risen to a height too great to abide, so I ate it.

Should the brownies for some reason stick a bit to the pan, run the pan under hot water. The residue should slough right off.

Cast iron is amazing. Love your cast iron pans, and they'll love you right back.

Thursday, February 06, 2014


Like a lot of people, we're in the teens (F) with snow coming down. It's a good day for hot brandy and writing with a dog curled up close by. Not so good for going out and covering roses that should have been covered all along (oops) but my DH and I did that too.

This is how mean I am. I make my DH smoke outside, even in this weather.

I hope everyone is warm and safe and well-fed. Keep your pets close, and don't forget ... in about ten days you can start some veggies from seed, provided that you have a plant light combined with a sunny window or sliding door area (the combination really helps) and that you're willing to pot your plants up at least twice. Herbs, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are all worthwhile starting right now. And if you like hanging baskets, if you start them in March they should be huge by the time it's warm enough to put them outside! Just remember about that light requirement. They need a lot of light, and a good spectrum. I like using 4' aquarium lights in a shop fixture next to a window. I have my lights on a timer. Right now they're over my orange trees. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when I start my veggies, aside from make my annual mess when I rearrange everything.

Also next month, if you took your fuschias and geraniums into the garage, find a spot to hang them in the house where they'll get some light, start watering them, and prune them. The warmth, moisture and light will stimulate growth, and they should be in peak form by Mother's Day.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Weird things Kamis do

Kamis are notorious for doing weird things.

This morning, this Kami got up at 6am so she could take down the hummingbird feeder (which she forgot to take in last night), thaw it, and fill it with fresh, warm nectar. She was very happy when the hummingbird showed up about an hour later to tank up.

Then she decided to take a look at her African violet seed pod. It was ripe! She danced a little happy dance, picked it, and then took a picture of it. This is what they look like:

African violet seed pod
 She's really looking forward to planting the seeds and raising them up to be new african violets. She has a bunch. This one was probably fertilized by a fly. Since then, she's hand-fertilized several other blooms, and once again her plants are pregnant. It takes months for the pods to develop and ripen.

This may not seem all that weird until you realize that this Kami already has lots and lots of African violets. Yet she wants to make more. She will probably have to start giving some away.

Kamis have also been known to go out in their robe and slippers into the snow to take pictures of their cats:

Wizard in the snow with cute paw prints

Kamis also take delight when their chickens do weird things, like lay miniature eggs:

Tiny chicken egg, laid 2/2/2014
They'll even take pictures of said weird eggs early in the morning for a blog post. It's a good thing when Kamis have others, especially Rorys, take care of them because they may be too silly and weird to survive on their own.