Tuesday, September 17, 2019

tomato tip

I haven’t grown tomatoes for several years, but this Spring there were lots of organic heritage-type tomato plants for sale at the library fundraiser, so I brought a selection home and stuck them in the gardens. Five of the six have produced tomatoes on huge plants - I have never had such jungle-like growth from tomato plants! Perhaps my soil improvements have really made a difference, or maybe it was all the rain.

So far, only a couple of tomatoes have ripened, and I used them in a stew.
Without taking pictures of them first, darn it.
Which is why every picture in this post is of a green tomato.

But peeling those two ripe tomatoes before chopping them up to add to the stew made me think of a fun kitchen tip to share.

Yes! A cooking tip! Oh, this is a Special Event on the Comptonia blog!

Of course, it’s possible you all know this tip already...but we’ll see.


"The Easiest Way to Peel a Tomato"

Cut a small “x” in the bottom of a whole tomato.
Gently lower the tomato into a pot of boiling water.
Wait one minute.
Lift the tomato out and lower into a bowl of very cold water.
The peel will slip right off in your fingers.

This works even with wildly-shaped tomatoes, not just the perfectly globular ones.

In the interest of experimentation, or possibly because I forgot, I didn’t make the “x” on one tomato. It still worked, but I had to make a little cut after the cold water bath to get the peel started. If you make the “x” the tomato sort of begins peeling itself before you even take it out of the cold water.

That’s the tip! Did you already know it? If not, I hope you’ll try it. It’s magic.

Right now there are several very large green tomatoes and a few gradually ripening tomatoes on the plants. The weather will determine if I’ll be freezing any "extra" ripe tomatoes (if so, I will probably peel them and freeze them whole) or if I’ll be hastily harvesting lots of green tomatoes just before a hard frost. I don't really have a place to store green tomatoes for ripening, although I've had fairly good results doing that in the past. But I have another idea.

When I lived in Colorado, I once made a batch of green tomato chutney. I had never eaten chutney of any kind, and had no idea of how to use it, but back then I was fearless and had a lot of energy and a strong desire to raise and make all my own food. So even though the jars of chutney had to “cure” for 6 months before opening, I was game. And even though it took a few disappointing taste-tests before I hit upon the right “serve with,” when I finally tried it on ham, it was simply fantastic.

(And by the way, I had also raised the pigs that made the ham. And baked the bread that was served with the ham. And so on.)

So...if I end up with a lot of green tomatoes this year, I may try to find that chutney recipe and make another batch. I still remember how good the kitchen smelled when it was simmering on the stove. It would be worth doing it just for that!

Bonus tip:
Today I tried the same peeling method with some large plums.
It worked exactly the same way.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

sunday garden snaps

Rooting Old North Sea strawberry runners.

The Chelona has begun to shine.

I don't think I can post garden pictures without including the zinnias.

And here's a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) on a zinnia.
(You should probably click to embiggen this one.)

Goats happily soaking up the sun after yesterday's rain and gloom.

The Supervisor.

Are we all ready for the new week?
Let's hope it brings only good things.


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

tutankhamun tuesday

In one of those internet experiences where you start out looking for instructions on releasing the blade lock on a second-hand compound miter saw and an hour later find yourself engrossed in reading about medieval pastry-making, I came upon the digital archive of Howard Carter's excavation of Tutankhamun's tomb. This includes the documentary photographs taken by Howard Burton - hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of photographs.

I'm using some of them as models.
Here is last night's Daily Markmaking effort:
"Two-handled alabaster vase (of amphora type)"

Carter No.: 128.  Burton photograph: p0474

I'll provide this link to the Griffith Institute at the University of Oxford because it is a fabulous treasure trove of primary sources. Worth bookmarking for a day when one needs a little distraction while waiting for the supper to cook, the train to arrive, or democracy to rise, strengthened, from its own ashes. 

I cannot post today without expressing my heartfelt sympathy to readers in the UK.
We are all in it together, my friends.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Friday, August 30, 2019

beyond the zone

In choosing subjects for daily markmaking,
I sometimes deliberately stretch beyond my comfort zone.

By the way...
who knew there would ever be a markmaking comfort zone?
Life is full of surprises!


Last night was my first attempt at a bear.

With thanks to KB for sharing the video this youngster appeared in.

Readers, if you click the link, you'll see the bear climbing the tree
and "posing" for me within the first 10 seconds of the video.
But you'll want to watch the whole two minutes!


Wednesday, August 28, 2019


I am enjoying the zinnias.

If you left-click the pictures you can see them in a larger format.

This is recommended.

 It would be difficult to get too close to a zinnia, I think.

 Every time I go down to the big vegetable garden,

 I spend ages visiting the zinnias.

And I am not the only one.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

sunday snaps

We've had two days of genuinely pleasant weather.

Not too hot.
Not too steamy.
Not as many mosquitoes and biting flies.

I turned off the fans in the barns!

For the first time in months I was able to enjoy staying outside after chores,
instead of heading inside to peel off soaking wet clothes and dry my hair with a towel.

Today, Della helped me photograph the bees in the perennial gardens:

"There's one!"

And Moxie helped me work in the big vegetable garden:

"That's enough work for a while. Let's sit in the shade."

But Piper said,
"Honestly? Gardening has never really been my thing.
And Those Goats are EVERYWHERE!
I'm going back inside for a nap now."

Okay, Pip. I'll open the door for you, and put a treat on your pillow.

Then it's time to check on Those Goats.

Moxie spends a lot of time in the goat paddocks.
It looks like she's outside the fence here, but not really - 
she's in another paddock with other goats.

It must have been a huge relief for the goats to have fewer biting bugs.
This Spring and Summer has been, in a word, terrible.

This weekend all the goats have been quietly browsing or resting in the sun.
Not kicking at flies or flapping their ears to get rid of mosquitoes every few seconds.

I hope these gentler conditions will continue...
right into Winter would be nice!

Everyone relaxed.
Not a squabble, not a row.

Just the way I like it!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

thankful thursday

The rain we've been having.

Some of the vegetables in the garden are struggling with all the moisture. Of course the not-vegetable-plants are having a grand time, as demonstrated by this between-rows photograph:

Despite the weather, and the jungle growing up around them, the pole beans are producing abundantly. And the beans themselves are beautiful - almost all completely flawless, rarely a nibble or a spot, which is not always the case with organic gardening. I am amazed and very grateful.

More bean salad, coming up!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

salad days

Bean flowers:

Bean fruit:

Bean salad!

I picked the first French filet beans a few days ago,
immediately made a huge bowl of three-bean salad,
and have been eating it twice daily ever since.

You'd think I'd be getting tired of it by now, but no.
I'm just trying not to run out before I can make the next batch.

Last night I had intended to go down to the garden after chores
and fill another basket with beans:
one bean for each goat, all the rest for me.
But just as I was collecting empty grain pans and distributing peanuts,
thunder began to roll and lightening flashed quite nearby.
So I hastened to cover the hay and get Piper, Moxie and Della into the house.
No bean-picking last night.

Maybe tonight though.
Oh I think so.

Three-bean salad: breakfast of champions!

Friday, August 16, 2019

a fluff piece

Captain Hastings lost his only companion a few weeks ago. For a couple of years there were two elderly, retired hens for him to look after: The Dark Golden Hen and The Little Brown Hen. But early last Winter, The Little Brown Hen, who had never been "right" from Day One but always seemed happy enough, began to go downhill quickly and I had to put her down. I am a big "quality of life" person. I'll go a long way to try to keep everyone happy and comfortable, but I also think there are worse things than dying and sometimes the unpleasant decision is the right decision. The error that I have sometimes made has been waiting longer than I should have, and I'll try not to make that mistake again.

The Dark Golden Hen was on an Assisted Living program all through the Winter, which involved a cooked breakfast served each morning, and a Staffperson (that would be me) going out to the paddocks at dusk every evening to call her - she would answer - so I could pick her up and carry her up the stairs into the stilt barn, where she had a cozy box of hay and a heat lamp on every night. (That's right. I kept a heat lamp on every night all Winter for the comfort of one hen. Is this a good time to point out that I never refer to myself as "a farmer"?)

Spring rolled around at last, and The Dark Golden Hen was active and happy and tottering around followed everywhere by Captain Hastings...until she wasn't. She gradually became so incapacitated that her quality of life was seriously affected.

Suddenly, Captain Hastings was the sole chicken on the place.

I kept a close eye on him, worried that he would become lethargic. And I took steps. I did two things: I asked people if they needed a rooster to take over a flock, and I asked people if they knew where I might find a couple of healthy young hens. It was a question of which would happen first.

Captain Hastings has been toughing it out the past several weeks: still crowing at 4:20 every morning, still making routine visits to barns and paddocks, still coming to the porch door in late afternoon to ask for sunflower seeds. But he also began to get within ten feet of me when I went out to do chores - something he has never, ever been willing to do. I took this as a sign of desperation for companionship, not a sudden appreciation of my finer qualities.

Well, good news!

Yesterday, these two 4-month-old Lavender Orpingtons
joined our merry barnyard band.

Aren't they pretty?!

I didn't have to drive far to get them, and the woman who raised them was very nice and even insisted that I choose the two I wanted from her flock instead of just "the first two you can catch," which was my suggestion.

I chose two that have noticeably different shading right now, so I will be able to tell them apart by appearance until I get to know them. At the moment, they are living in a huge dog crate (it was my Irish Wolfhound puppy crate of years gone by) in the big barn, where Captain Hastings can visit them and the goats can look over the stall door at them but NOT visit unless I am there. Not that the goats would hurt the hens - they are a bit fascinated by them, really. But they might jump on the crate to try to get to the little dish of chicken feed, and that could be catastrophic for all concerned.

Mallow says, "I'm just LOOKING!"

And how is Captain Hastings reacting to all this?
Well, yesterday he spent most of the afternoon visiting the girls - walking back and forth outside the crate, settling down to chat, snacking, being quietly sociable - before heading off to his bedtime perch in the stilt barn.

This morning, he waited outside the big barn - at a safe distance, of course - for me to open the stall door so he could go in and visit again. The girls are staying in the crate, but there is plenty of room in the stall for visitors, and Captain Hastings can fly over the half-door if he wants to get in or out.

Unlike Bud. 

Bud knows this door is the only thing standing between him
and a bowl of chicken feed.
Which could make him very sick indeed.
Give it up, Bud.

 And here is the first portrait of one of the new girls:

So...what's new in your barnyard?