Thursday, August 21, 2008

Riding horses

For years my oldest daughter, Natalie, has wanted to ride horses, but the timing or the money never seemed to work out. Well, last fall, at age 11 she finally got her wish. Good friends of our had a daughter riding at a stable about 7 minutes up the street from us. I got the instructor's phone number from my friend and put in a call. A couple day later we stopped by the stable for a visit. The instructor's mom owns the property, and she took us on a little tour. So, we agreed to start riding the week after Thanksgiving. I know, who starts riding lessons at the start of winter. I don't know, but we did. Natalie and Carolyn both ride. It is now nine months later, and I have finally taken some decent pictures of them riding.

First, they had to learn to tack up. The first step in tacking up is grooming your horse. If you are lucky you can rope your twin sister into helping you. Note Brianna behind Carolyn. Carolyn is riding Sugar

Natalie is all tacked up and ready to ride Laura.

In the summer, the girls ride in the round pen. There is a ton of mud in the round pen due to all the rain we have had, so for the past two weeks they have been riding in the training area outside the round pen. The lady in the sunglasses is their instructor, Maureen.

Natalie on Laura, and Carolyn on Sugar

Natalie on Laura.

The lesson is ended, and it is time to dismount. In the background you can see Maureen working on some bit training with another horse.

Laura is done working and ready to go back to her stall.

Natalie and Carolyn can both walk, trot and canter, but it is hard to get that with a still camera. I did take a video last week. If I can figure out how to put it on You Tube I will have it on here soon.

Have a great day...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Making bagels...

In my attempt to keep grocery expenses down this month, I am making my own bagels each week. I was a little leery of doing this because my first attempt at homemade bagels a few years back was less than satisfactory. The first week I made plain bagels and last week I made cinnamon raisin. We have decided that we prefer the cinnamon raisin bagels the best. I will show you how I did it and then give the recipe.

After the dough sat in a bowl and doubled in size for about an hour. I divided the dough into 8 balls of dough. Then I rested the balls of dough for about 5 minutes. After resting for 5 minutes, I stuck my thumb in the middle of the dough ball, and then I spun the dough around my thumb to make the hole. The hole really does need to be about 2 inches across otherwise you will have bagels with no middle hole. This happened to me the first week that I made bagels.

Once the bagels all have their center holes they need to rest 10 minutes. Before I started making holes in the middle of the dough balls, I set a pot of water to boil on the stove. I do add some honey to the water. After the water is boiling, I start dropping bagels into the water 2 at a time and poach them for 1 minute turning over once or twice during the poaching.

After poaching the bagels, I drain them on a rack set over a jelly roll pan.

Then I move the poached bagels to a cookie sheet with parchment paper. I would have liked to put an egg white wash on my bagels, but I was tight on eggs and didn't want to give up one to the bagels. I think they would look better with the egg white wash.

Here are the baked bagels.

Some are nearly perfect looking.

Others...not so much.

Here is the recipe I used.

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp. dry yeast
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp salt (yes, you really need this much)
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
8 cups of water for boiling
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp water

Add ins...1+ Tbsp cinnamon and 1/2 + cup raisins or whatever you think you might want.

1. In stand mixer, mix water, honey and yeast. Let stand 3 minutes.

2. Add half of the flour to the yeast mixture and combine. Add salt and then remaining flour. Add the remaining flour a little at a time until the dough pulls away cleanly from the sides of the mixer.

3. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes in a Bosch mixer, you may need a little more time to make a smooth, firm dough ball. I added the cinnamon and raisins toward the end of the kneading time. Place dough in bowl, cover and let rise to double.

4. Punch down dough. Divide and shape in 8-12 balls. We make 8 because we like larger bagels. Allow to rest 5 minutes.

5. Bring water to boil. Make a hole in each ball of dough and pull open about 2 inches, amking a bagel shape. Placethe shape dough on a cookie sheet (I use a greased flexible cutting board) for 10 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drop 2-3 bagels at a time into boiling water for about 45 second to 1 minute.

7. Drain poached bagels on a wire rack. Mix egg white and water; brush tops with egg white mixture and top with optional toppings, if using (seseame seeds, poppy seeds, etc.). Place bagels on greased (or parchment papered) baking sheet.

8. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. You can flip them over once if you are not putting additional topping on them or you can turn them on the sheet if you are using topping. I, however, did neither of these. The original recipe said to bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Tips: Making the dough balls as round as possible seems to help shape the bagels. Keeping the bagels round also keeps the water from sitting in nooks and crannies on the bagels.



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Kitchen Garden

Last year I was inspired to create a kitchen garden out the back door of my house. It seems that these might be the plants that do the best this year. The house is higher on the property than the large garden. These plants are getting good moisture but are not standing in water like those poor plants down on the south side of the property.
I planted cabbage for the first time this year. I did get some holes from the cabbage white butterflies larvae, but they have disappeared.

I also plant my herbs up here. The previous owners of the house had some perennials around the house, but there were no basic herbs. Now I have dill, chives, curly leaf parsley, flat-leaf parsley, sage, thyme, spearmint, peppermint, catnip, rosemary, and oregano. This picture is only one half of my flat-leaf parley.

I have about 10 sweet pepper plants planted near the house. These are the biggest pepper plants I have ever grown. They were so sad looking when I put them out in May, but they are just flourishing now. I have never had good success with growing large peppers. I hope that I get some larger sized peppers this year.

Finally, we have my most delightful surprise. I have butternut squash growing. They are the best looking squash that I did not plant. I have never had great luck with vine type plants, but I have the potential for at least 2 good looking butternut squash. When I saw these guys volunteering this past spring I asked David to leave them alone. I am so glad we did.

Hopefully the deer will leave them alone. They are nestled in among the flat-leaf parsley and behind the pepper plants.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

County Fair

Just those words...County Fair bring to mind Almanzo Wilder's milk pumpkin from one of my favorite books, Farmer Boy. The children and I headed out this morning under beautiful sunny skies to get in during the early admission time. The street traffic and people traffic was heavier than I anticipated, and we cut it right down to the wire. In the process of getting in and getting the tickets two of the children went missing. Never in my life has this happened before. All is well that ends well, and I don't desire to rehash the whole thing. So, suffice it to say that after a 20 minute panic attack we were all together and off to enjoy the fair.

Natalie and Carolyn were very excited to see the hunter/jumper competitions. We walked through the horse barns and saw some very impressive draft mules and Percheron. I wouldn't want one of those Percheron to step on my foot. They have some mighty hooves.

We took a walk through the grange building, the historical building and the 4-H building. I picked up some information about getting the girls involved in 4-H. I was not in it as a child, but all the things that they do (sewing, canning, cooking, etc.) is right up my alley. I am going to call tomorrow about clubs in my area.

We also went through the livestock buildings. The children and I toured the Moo-terity ward and saw the little calves with their moms and the piglets nursing on their mommas. It was so sweet. I enjoyed the rabbits. Some of those rabbits were bigger than my cat.

The last event we attended was the pig races. It is a cute little 15 minute show consisting of 3 races. The last race, if you want to call it that, was the pot bellied pig race. These guys were funny. We ended the day by sharing two pieces of fried dough. They cost $5.00 a piece. I couldn't believe how expensive the food was. I know fair food is always expensive, but this seemed quite a bit. In all I spent $35 for our day at the fair. We stuck to traditional county fair activities.

Wouldn't you know that I forgot to bring my camera. I love a blog post with pictures. I wish I could give them to you, but alas, I can't. You will just have to imagine with your mind's eye all the fun things we did and saw.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Rain!!!!!!!!!!

Here are the rain gauge totals. It might be a little hard to see, but that is 2.5 inches in 24 hours.

Here is what it did to my garden.

The peppers and corn are under water.

Hopefully we won't have anymore rain for a long time and this will dry up very soon. We had flooding in the garden about 6 weeks ago, but this is worse. My corn and peppers had their growth stunted back in June. I don't know what we will harvest from the garden. Next year we will be able to build up the beds more, and they won't be as susptible to this. At least when it is too dry, I can irrigate. I can't do anything about this.

Busy Monday

I woke up early this morning with the intent of getting done will all my work by 10:30 AM, so I could take the children to the county fair. It was raining. I don't think it had stopped raining since yesterday. Hard rain poured down on us yesterday from around 9 AM until well after dark. I don't know how much rain we received, but I am about to go check the rain gauge. I'll report back later. By 10:30 AM it was still in the mid 50's and raining, so we decided to postpone our outing until tomorrow. Wouldn't you know that by 11 AM it was sunny, and it has stayed that way ever since? I needed to get to the fairgrounds before 11 AM to get the discount on our admission tickets. County fairs aren't cheap anymore.

Monday is laundry day. It has been that way for almost 2 years now, since I developed my weekly routines. I wash all the family clothing except for my oldest two children who wash their own on their assigned day. Typically I do 3-5 loads depending on what is dirty. I gave myself a little head start last night by throwing in two loads of towels. I have a river (well, small stream) running through my basement near my drier because of all this rain. There was a basket of towels that had gotten wet because some of them were hanging over the edge.

Since we weren't going to the fair, I decided to can more pickles. I did dill pickles today. I got 7 quarts canned, but I am a little disappointed that one of the jars didn't seal. I have never not had a pickle jar seal in 3 years of making pickles. Anyway, I guess I will have to put this one in the fridge and wait for it to pickle. I am not sure as this has not happened before. If anyone has any advice on this, please feel free to let me know.

I also boiled up eggs for egg salad for tomorrow. I even got it mixed up. I make a fluff salad to go with dinner. I love having this menu. There is some strange sense of freedom in being well planned. I think it is freedom from stress. I got all my meat and one frozen dinner out of the freezer for this week's dinners. Without a weekly meal plan I could not do this. Then I would be stuck 60 minutes until dinner with no idea what we are eating and all the meat is frozen. Not anymore.

Well, I am off to check that rain gauge. I will report my findings when I return.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pickle Day

Saturday morning is farmer's market day for me. There is a great city market about 10 minutes from my house. The prices are great. I have been shopping there for so many years that I have made friendly acquaintances with a few of the farmers.

I thought I was getting an early start by leaving my house at 9 AM, but alas I should have remembered that in August everyone remembers that there is a farmer's market. It was very crowded, but not as crowded as it will be in a month. I need to start going before breakfast to beat the crowds and to get the produce I want. This morning I was looking for pickling cucumbers. I was finding them to be hard picking. Many farmers had the really small 2 inch cucumbers, but I wanted bigger pickles. I went to my favorite farmer, Becken Farms, from Sanborn, NY. I was disappointed to find that they had already sold out of all they had. I little further searching yielded me two pecks of pickles. Isn't that a nursery rhyme? I digress. I think I bought the last two this fine lady had because after I walked away I didn't see her replace what I bought. In addition I bought sweet corn, 2 quarts of peaches, a quart of green beans and a quart of red potatoes.

I love making pickles. They are easy. There is not much prep work. No blanching or peeling. Just remove those blossom and stem ends and slice. Sometimes you have to soak them in a solution or hot water for a while. I gathered all of my canning supplies after I returned from the market. I also had to make a macaroni salad for dinner. After lunch I began in earnest. It took me all of four hours, but I canned 14 jars of pickles. I have 7 quarts of sweet pickle spears and 7 pints of hamburger dills. I still have pickling cucumbers left. I took a poll, and my family wants me to make more dill spears with them. So, the cucumbers are relaxing in the basement. I will make dill pickles on Tuesday. That will give me 21 jars of pickles plus the ones I have left over from last year. Oh, I also make watermelon pickles, but that will happen next month after the watermelon are ripe.


Friday, August 8, 2008


The month of August has put us in a tight place money wise. We have annual bills due this month, and I need to save us every possible penny.

I have planned out each meal for the month. Yes, that is for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have also decided for ease of planning to make one breakfast and lunch plan and rotate it each week of the month. This has made things much easier for me who tends to over think everything.

Part of this plan includes me making English muffins and bagels each week. Buying them is out of the question. That would add $10 to my bill, and I already own all the staples necessary to make these items. I have a tried and true English muffin recipe thanks to Alton Brown of Good Eats fame. I was a little leery of making bagels. I did attempt making bagels once. It was several years ago, and my results were less than spectacular. Well, after searching and searching I was able to come up with a usable recipe. I actually combined a few recipes that I found on line and one that a friend sent me. I made a couple of errors, but they turned out great. One of my errors was not making the whole big enough, so I ended up with holeless bagels. It was a little strange, but it did not affect the taste. I also thought they could have been a little sweeter. So, I will adjust that next time. I told the children that next week I would try making them cinnamon raisin bagels.

Since this is only the end of week 1, my motivation is strong. I hope this continues to be the case. Only time will tell.