Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…. August 10, 2018

Let’s consolidate the weekly recaps for the weeks of August 3 and August 10, because the month of August is melting into one hot, buggy haze.

I used to say that November is my least favorite month of the year here in Montana. It’s a cold, wet, muddy transition between fall and winter.  Not any more, though; August, you have earned the “least favorite month” award because you are consistently full of heat and smoke from wildfires. We have a wildfire south of us in Plains, and the smoke from it, as well as smoke from the fires in California, Oregon, and Washington, are beginning to fill our big sky.

So far this month we’ve had a number of days in the nineties, with more to come, and we even hit 100 on the tenth. Whew! I realize that these temps are not blistering hot compared to other parts of our nation, but when our temps get this hot humidity levels drop to the low teens, then our dry lighting strikes begin, and boom! You have wildfires.

We installed our window air conditioner this week.  I much prefer fresh air to artificially cooled air, but when the outside air is neither cool nor fresh, we resort to desperate tactics. And I am thankful we have it! As I type this on Friday, August 10, it is 100 degrees outside, and a comfortable 78 inside.

We also called in the big guns to deal with the yellow jackets, as it has reached the point that we can hardly go outside to take care of the animals without being swarmed. John saw a clever yellow jacket trap on YouTube, and since we had the materials on hand to make a few, he set up five, and in two days he caught a gallon bucket full of yellow jackets.

So, Bug Hunters showed up at 8:15 Friday morning and hosed down two nests that they could reach, the ones in the waterfall and the duck coop, as we mentioned previously. John is hopeful that we will see a reduction of at least 50% in our yellow jacket infestation. Austin, the technician, also sprayed a hornet nest John found near the driveway.

If you’re local, we recommend Bug Hunters!

On a brighter note, we are at the height of the Flathead cherry season!  I was in Bigfork August 4 and stopped to buy a large box of cherries.  We have plenty of cherries to eat, as well as cherries to freeze and can.

I pressure canned 4 pints of pickled sweet cherries earlier this week, and I eagerly opened a jar this morning. The recipe proclaims that they taste like cherry pie, but this batch, not so much.  Perhaps they need to sit on the shelf longer.  Hopefully the taste will improve with age.  Right now they just taste like cherries soaked in vinegar. Bleck.

That’s a bay leaf with the cherries.

By the way,  those white plastic lids are from Amazon, and they are terrific!  I use them once I have opened a home canned item, and I also use them for storing every day food- staples in the pantry and leftovers or scratchmade salad dressings in the fridge. You can order wide mouth lids here and regular mouth lids here. Or a box of each here.

I consumed one afternoon in John’s shop pitting cherries for pies.  He has a great set-up for processing meat, and the stainless steel counters are also a perfect workspace for the tedious task of cherry pitting. I take my phone and enjoy listening to podcasts and music.  Here’s a video snippet of a corner of John’s shop that I use as part of my egg cleaning process and also to pit cherries.

 

I am trying a recipe for freezer pie filling.  It’s a mixture of cherries, sugar, lemon juice, tapioca, cornstarch, and vanilla extract.  You line a pie plate, pour in the filling, freeze it, then pop it out and store it in the freezer in a zip lock or vacuum sealed bag.

John asked if I could make small pies, so I had the idea to make the pie using our six inch cast iron skillet. (It’s a size 5, if the bottom of your skillet is marked.) The first batch of pie filling is in the freezer now. Tonight I will make the crust in the small skillet, insert the filling, and bake for an hour at 350 degrees.  My hope is that by freezing the cherry filling rather than pressure canning it, the cherries will stay fairly firm. (Update: here’s the pie!  The crust baked beautifully in the skillet.)

Skillet pie!

One blessing from all of this heat is that the tomatoes and cucumbers are taking off! The cukes are full of yellow flowers and are vining all over their box.

 

Happy cucumber plants. The corn continues to grow, too.

 

Dozens of beautiful blossoms on the cukes!

And a happy surprise.  A few days before we left on our river kayaking trip, I planted more kale in hopes that the seeds would germinate in the now warm soil.  It worked!  I have rows of tiny kale plants! They seem to be holding their own in this heat and are even growing.  My hope is that by the time the leaves are ready to harvest, the temps will have dropped and thus the leaves won’t be bitter.

Baby kale, on the grow!

Harvesting started this week.  Here’s the first of our kale, cherry tomatoes, and sugar snap peas!

 

 

 

The first of our sweet cherry tomatoes!

And to close on a funny note: Every now and then, a chicken or duck will lay an odd egg.  Gargantuan with double yolks, teeny, or pointed.  This one from a duck, however, wins the prize for wierdest egg EVER. It looks like some sort of alien pod to me!

2 Replies to “Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…. August 10, 2018”

  1. Amber L Pearce says: Reply

    I have a healthy respect for the pain inflicted by yellow jackets after being stung 8 times yesterday evening, with 13 more swarming around me and into the house. They got in my hair and inside my clothes, stinging repeatedly everywhere. Thank you ice and Benedryl. I admire your bravery to go outside with them around.

    1. It hurts just thinking about how many times you were stung!! So glad you are ok, my friend!

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