Sunday, September 21, 2014

Winters A Comin'

The past two days have been breezy and warm.  I'd like to think it was nature's way of apologizing for nights that almost dipped into the 30s, but I'm thinking it's more of a nice exit for summer in front of another cold winter.  Yesterday we spent some time making ready for winter's approach.

We (and I do mean Mr Eclectic) fixed some roof shingles that had blown away.  I worked the "ground crew" position, fetching tools to bring up the ladder and weeding between the raised beds when not needed.  He removed the torn leftovers and nailed in 5 new shingles.

We also got our little Ford 120 tractor moving again.  I participated in the removal of sludge and shavings from inside the tranny casing, he drilled out a broken (by the PO) bolt, tapped in a helicoil and made a gasket.  Then it all went back together, we fetched some transmission fluid and found out the "extra" gas tank we were given had the gas filler cap in a different part and it didn't line up with the hole on the hood (to be dealt with at a later time-the tank from the tractor has 3-4 pin holes in the bottom.  Not good for holding gas).  Ah well, it's over 40 years old, it's bound to have some misaligned parts!  It did crank right up.  Now we'll work on getting the snowblower attachment hooked up and see if it's ready to throw some snow for us and the neighbors this coming winter.

AND there was also the flue and stove to be cleaned.  Yes, this should have been done in May or June, but it's been a busy year!  When we clean our stove, we try to be thorough.  We remove all of the bricks, and wire brush the ash and creosote behind them off as best as possible.  Then the flue gets swept and all the ash shoveled out of the shove.  The bricks get brushed off and reinstalled.  We clean the glass, do any paint touch ups, re-adjust the door and we're ready to go.

Here are some pics of that process.

Fire bricks out (we use a drop cloth to spread them out on, in the same pattern they came out)

If you have a woodstove and clean your own flue, here's a tip (let's not talk about how we came to decide this was a good idea).  Tie a rope to the little loop on the top (bottom, really) of the brush.  If it happens to get stuck or somehow unscrew from the pole, you can pull it out rather than disassembling the flue.

Here's the rope sticking out of the flue into the stove

The brownish pile of ash is what came out of our flue after a while season's burning (remember this is our exclusive heat source).  Not too bad.

This is the flue after a sweeping

The cap is back on and ready to go!

All cleaned up and the bricks are back in

I know it doesn't look "clean", but once you've had a fire in a stove it'll never be "clean" again, in the way a new stove is.

Now if only it takes a few months before we need to get it "dirty" again...yeah, right!  We've already had a few night time fires to take the chill off.  Hopefully it'll at least be a while before it's burning 24/7!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Onions, drying basil and harvest time

We cleaned up our raised beds in preparation for next season for the most part already.  With nights dipping into the 40's production was about over for many thing.  One of the beds will now be for onions and garlic.  We have some really neat onions.  I got our first couple from a wonderful lady on Craigslist, then got some more from a plant swap a few years ago.  Unfortunately they didn't do well in pots over the past winter.  I was happy to find a few more from a random plant sale at a lakeside home in Charlotte (pronounced shar-lot, not like the one down in North Carolina).  Now what are these onions that I speak of?  Walking Onions.  Walking onions?!  What's that you say?  Well...they are onions that reproduce by...walking.  Well, not with legs.  They send up a "stalk" with little bulblets on it, and as the bulblets grow and get heavier the stalk tips over to the ground and "plants" new onions!  They have a very strong flavor.  We do still end up buying cooking onions sometimes-and yes, we know that neat trick to start new ones.  Just need a better place to plant them over the winter.  What's this neat trick you say?  Well, if you cut the end of the onion where the roots were off and put it in shallow water, it will start to regrow new "leaves" (stalks?).  Plant that, and you'll get new onions from it.  Neat, huh?

Here are the walking onions all freshly planted

I've begun to dry our basil.  We have some yummy Italian broadleaf basil that's been growing happily all summer in big pots on our back stairs.  Well, those night time temps will be starting to take their toll I'm sure, so I've taken some cuttings to restart new smaller plants and begun to dry the leaves that are left.  We don't have a dehydrator so I used our toaster oven.  I set it at between 150/200 and pulled out the crumb tray just a little for air circulation.  Once it got warmed up it took about 20 minuted to half an hour for each batch to dry.  Here's a few pics of the process

Our young pear trees are getting ready to give us a few pears soon too!

And our close to the cliff apple tree is loaded again this season.  Now I'm even more sure it's a Northern Spy.

It's almost harvest season for the farm across the road too.  The corn is getting tall!

This is a Goji Berry.  We planted this bush (?) earlier this summer.  We were told it wouldn't fruit this year. did, but I don't think this will ripen before frost.  I'll keep an eye on it though.

I did say I'd post a pic of the living room wall with the drywall. We still haven't decided what to put against it or hang on it yet and we still have a bit of white washing to finish, but here it is.  Oh, the plants, those are pineapple sage.  Too cold for them now outside.