Friday, September 25, 2020

Annie & Froggie: The Farm Report 09-26-2020

 Annie & Froggie
The Farm Report

Wow! Where has the time gone? So before September is gone, I thought I should do a blog post and check in. To say I've been busy would be right. And the summer heat! Goodbye and good riddance. One Sunday a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting sweating at 103F (39.5C), then the next day it was 67F (19.5C). Today, it is 90F (32C) and next week we're supposed to be in the 60's F (15's C)for highs. Iowa, and the seasons are changing. 

Well, enough grousing from me; back to the headlines. 

All summer long, I've been entertained just about every late afternoon by Annie playing with her toad pal, whom I've named, Froggie. Froggie lives in the marigold planter boxes in front of my shop. When she has decided it is play time, Annie will noodle around to find Froggie, then bring him out in her mouth. If you look closely, that is Froggie in Annie's mouth! They do this every afternoon. Usually, when a dog gets a toad in its mouth, the toad 'pees' a nasty poison that makes the dog foam and gag and vomit. Froggie seems to enjoy the game, and trusts Annie to be gentle, so he doesn't give Annie the Dread Piss. Annie hauls him out onto the grass and sets him down. Then, as Froggie tries to make his way back to the 'safe base' of the flower boxes, Annie enjoys practicing her herding skills on him trying to keep him out. E V E R Y   A F T E R N O O N. Strange behavior, for sure, but entertaining - for all of us apparently.

Here is a long shot of the flower boxes where Froggie lives.

Here is a little video so you can watch this dance for yourself. It is unedited, sorry. When you see Annie stick her head into the marigolds and hold, she has found him. When she lurches forward, she isn't trying to catch Froggie; she is pushing him out to the other side. Then she runs around and grabs him. Fun.

There is a little late broccoli still trying to produce. Small, but extra sweet!

The 'maters has all but given up. I have so much tomato juice in the larder I'll drown in it. Plus, I have tomato sauce galore for pizzas and anything else I want.

But there's always 'one more' batch before fall closes in. These little Akers Plums just couldn't be let go to the birds.

These ones are being cooked up for a batch of my world famous Campbell's Knock Off Tomato Soup. I like mine a little 'tangy' so I put in a couple of young jalapeno's.

As Chef Emeril says, "You can always put in, but you can't take out." I thought maybe a little more wouldn't hurt after a cooked batch taste test. This time a red sweet jalapeno.

I've promised you I'd show you how we make homemade tomato paste and sauce, etc. So here's the tutorial on my dehydrator pans. I actually did the construction, but somebody else I lived with had the idea about how to do this. We were both 'foodies' but she had actual degrees and licenses. I'm just sorta handy with a saw.

All the cookbooks say to 'reduce by half' by cooking down the juice into the sauce. Hard to do because you inevitably end up with scorched sauce. Yuk! Then one day Joyce said, "Why can't we use the dehydrators to just evaporate off half the water?" "No reason I know of," I said. So I set about making some pans for our Circle Drier. To do it, I cut one bottom out of one dryer tray, glued it together with another one, and made a Formica sheet for the bottom. I set it all in food grade silicone to seal it. Then I added a rim piece to seal the sides, and a PVC drain pipe coupler to extend the center chimney. Presto! Each tray holds 3 quarts. I made 5.

After cooking the 'maters and running the through the Victorio squeezer, I pour in the 3 quarts per pan. My one big stainless pot makes 15 quarts; get it? 5 Pans, 3 quarts per, one full batch. Fifteen quarts to start with.

This dryer is great for juices because the heat and motor unit sits on top and blows down. Our old one was reversed. The juices fell into the works and made a mess. We bought the first one in 1981 and it still works, but it is a bear to clean. Not so with this one.

Plug it in and hit the 'Go' button for overnight at 145F (63C). Next morning you'll have a pretty nice sauce - and NO SCORCHING!

Let her rip for the rest of the day, and by evening you'll have a nice tomato paste in the making. Stop when you're happy. This all started for us when we read in a Sunday Chicago Tribune article about a guy who said his Italian grandma dried her juice in pans under window screens on her porch. She dried it, he said, until it would make a ball that would hold together like a snowball. Then she submerged that paste ball in olive oil to store for the winter. She would take off a spoonful as she needed it, he said. So we started making our own just to say we did it. 

But, like everything else you grow in your own garden and make yourself, the flavor is absolutely spectacular. Yes, I know: A tin of sauce or paste is 50 cents at the store. This isn't about money; it is about flavor! These little jars of sauce are for pizza. The Campbell's Soup will be in these same sized jars. Again, the flavor is 10 times better - and I know what is (and isn't) in there!

So don't call me and ask where to buy the pans for your dryer. They don't make 'em. I have tried and tried to get the mfr to see the light. I even took a pan to the Mother Earth News Convention one time to show the factory rep who was there demonstrating. She was enthused and took the idea back to 'Headquarters.' They promptly pooped on the idea and there it lays. I even told them I wasn't trying to make any money off the idea. Still.....crickets.  You'll have to make your own I guess, but do try this!

Up in the greenhouse I'm getting ready for some fall/winter fun. This is a Kratke Hydroponic Sweater pan ready for a plug flat full of radish seeds.

72 radishes in the making. Stay tuned.

Maybe some Zucchini squash in a Dutch Bucket system will make it.

Ah, the seasons they are a changin' though. I'm ready to go cut firewood any time now. The plywood sidewalls on my antique hauler rotted out, so it was time to add new lumber. First you have to take the old stuff off, and that is really the hard part.

Need I say more? Well no, but I will. A guy has to find sympathy where he can. That hole held a splinter the size of a bamboo kebab skewer! Son Jon had just sent me a pic of his exact same stab wound. A hazard area for woodworkers everywhere!

All new! And I'm healed up, too. Old 'Emmie' and I have fun in the woods with this contraption. I call it the 'Bumble Bee' because it doesn't look like it could fly - but it does. I load this to the top with oak firewood and it loves it.

"Hey Tim," Annie said. "Can you use water with this thing?" No. That is an antique potato digger my neighbor Ron brought over for me to try. We'll be digging the 'taters' soon.

I haven't been doing monthly calendar pictures this year. This is what I'm seeing out over the farm while I mow though. It is beautiful if you're into country rural. If you're not, it probably looks pretty desolate to you. I like it. That's Henry Ford's nose you're seeing. 1952 Ford 8N.

Fall is coming. The field mice are getting bolder about coming to the buildings from the corn field. They're looking for a winter apartment. O.J. thinks they should stay out; or learn to play better. I just about stepped on this headless meese one morning as I came to the shop to start the day. Yuk!

Having done his duty for the morning, O.J. proceeded to find the nicest spot he could for his daily siesta. An old tomcat napping in a cardboard box. What could be better for a farm report?

I haven't started napping in cardboard boxes yet, but sometimes I get comfortable too. All is well at Oakdale Farm. Stay safe: It ain't over til it's over.