Small Town Living

Oh the joys of living in a small town. Ok so I don’t have the big department stores like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond (cries a little), or even a variety of restaurants. But I have people. People that are not caught up in the hustle and bustle, and work to make a difference. Whether that is by helping others,  animals, or just providing entertainment.

We have, of course, our Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers. These are volunteers who put in hours of their time to help folk with their gardening, orchard, insect, weed issues and how to safely preserve food either by dehydrating or canning.

Then there is the Duchess Sanctuary. They provide sanctuary for horses in need, using “best practices” for equine management while preserving and protecting the environment for the benefit of the native plant and animal species.

And for the smaller pets you must check out Saving Grace Pet Adoption.

The Oakland News Gazette is a great community page. They are constantly giving updates on animals that need help, sister community events and really support the town.

Did I mention that when you live in a small town and drive by someone you might remotely know they wave! They wave like they’re happy to see you and they use ALL their fingers.

There ya have it. A few links, some great folks and peek into the rural life.


I am so very fortunate. I know that some out there do read my blog, for whatever reason. Perhaps a random search that pointed them my way, or a friend of friend who’s curious. Either way I’m grateful. Not because they read it, that’s GREAT, but because I’ve reached some more than others. I won’t mention names but I had one the most fun conversations with a woman who contacted me about my old stove. She had recently purchased one similar and had questions. Then there was the man who contacted me about becoming a Master Gardener, we’ve exchanged several emails. And yet another couple who wanted to get a greenhouse and we also ended up chatting for about 45 minutes. It made me feel happy to know that, maybe, in small way I helped them.

It became a day of reflection for me.  Then I saw a video of people doing acts of kindness towards others, like stopping their car in the middle of the street to help an elderly woman cross, or a lone man pushing his car thru the snow only to have 3 people stop, jump out of their cars in the cold to help, and a woman who just sat down with and elderly man in the park and took his hand, it made me sad. I cried…no I wept.

I was even more sad when I realized why the tears streamed down my face. It was not only because I watched something that touch the heart, but more importantly because I was watching some rare…wait rare? Yes rare! In our fast paced world today of tweets, blogs, Facebook and all the social media we have our faces buried in technology. We would rather not miss the all important text of WYA and BRT, than to look up and perhaps see someone who needs our aid. Whether to cross the street, or help load groceries into the car or just smile at them and tell them they look nice.

While I am all for bringing awareness to specific needs like cancer and ALS, it saddens me when I see people making more of themselves dumping ice water on their heads than the reason they are doing it. Now it’s more about them making their video’s getting all the ‘likes’ and attention on themselves rather than the reason. Narcissism at it’s finest.

I reflected more…then smiled. I, too, am guilty of ‘being in a hurry.’ But for the last few weeks I’ve made more of an effort to be there for my fellow humans. Be there for them, not for my FB page.

And with that I leave you with this challenge – what will you do now?


Preserving Blackberries – Sort Of…

I love blackberries. I even enjoy picking them. Of course when it’s hot and I’m competing with the bugs and the deer maybe not so much.

But there is quiet contemplation in searching for the hidden plump gems. Quiet in between “Ouch!” “Dang IT!” “Are you serious?! You have to wrap AROUND my leg?!” “Oh for the love of Pete! All that to cut a clump to have half of them fall off?!”

Today it was all worth it. Well, actually the ones I picked last week. Today’s harvest is in a pie, freezer and BBQ sauce tomorrow. But last weeks berries, picked while it was warm and sunny became this.

The essence of summer - Sweet Black Berry Liqueur.

The essence of summer – Sweet Black Berry Liqueur.

Note – I did not muddle my berries on this batch and was so happy with the clarity. I also add everything at once and let it sit in my fridge for week, giving a very slight swirl every other day. Enjoy!


2 cups blackberries
3/4 cup brandy
2 cups vodka
zest of one lime without pith – just use long strips, not a grater
1 cup simple syrup – 1 cup sugar/1 cup water heat till sugar dissolves and let cool completely.


1 – Place the blackberries and lime zest in a seal-able glass jar, muddle lightly to release juice, and then add brandy and vodka. Seal and shake. Let mixture steep for 3 days at room temperature away from direct sunlight. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down to extract juice, then filter mixture through a coffee filter or through two layers of cheesecloth. Discard solids.

2 – Combine blackberry infusion and simple syrup in a seal-able bottle or jar, then shake to mix. Let rest for a minimum of one day. Store in the refrigerator for up to two months.

I hope this inspires you to find other ways of enjoying the fruits of summer. If you’d like to join the conversation come over to the Facebook page and chime in!

Ripen on the Vine or the Table!

Denise Fennell:

For those who have lots of tomatoes, but the heat that is not letting them ripen, or they are splitting, here is some excellent advice! This works!

Originally posted on Debbie's Back Porch:

If you asked most home gardeners why they started gardening, they will tell you, for a good tomato.

Truth is, you just about cannot buy a good tomato, unless you have a good farmers’ market close by.  Many people believe that is because a tomato must be vine ripened to have that home grown taste.  Not so, my gardening friends.  Grocery store tomatoes taste like liquid cardboard because they were bred for appearance, not flavor.  Commercial growers supply what they can sell, and most people won’t buy an irregularly shaped tomato, with streaks of color and thin fragile skin.  You know, like the ones we tomato snobs demand.

So, you plant some tomato seedlings with great hope and expectation.  They grow and get beautiful as Spring turns into Summer. Your first green tomatoes appear and every morning you go outside and check for growth, counting the days for that first…

View original 628 more words

Garden Destroyed by Deer

Well I must allow others to learn from my experience. This is my second year for growing a garden. I knew I had so much learn so took the Master Gardener’s class this past winter and knewI had even MORE to learn. I fully realize now, that to keep deer out you need a mega fence! Some say 6 feet, others 7 feet. I’m going for 8+. Either that, or you must rotate your ‘repellents’ weekly. They are very persistent pests. They broke thru my fence tonight and decimated my garden.  This is the damage from 2 adult females in 20 minutes. My apple trees stripped, my broccoli totaled, my beans destroyed, egg plants chewed from 2 feet to 2 inches and tomatoes nibbled like a tasty appetizer. My canning season is officially over.

Total damage -

12 Broccoli Plants
40 Bush Beans Plants
9 Eggplants Plants
5 Grafted Apple Trees
10 Tomato Plants
8 Jalapeno Plants peppers and all
8 Anaheim Chili Plants chilies and all
6 Basil Plants and they were 2′ tall
2 Winter Squash plants, I was shocked because those leaves are sharp and feel sticky.

Don’t let this happen to you. If you have home remedy deer repellents be sure to change them out every couple of weeks. Either that or you can do what I am starting this weekend. Installing a mega fence. 8+ feet tall, incredibly sturdy so they can’t knock it down, kick it in or crawl under. Yes crawl.

1 of 5 Apple Trees Destroyed by Deer

1 of 5 Apple Trees Destroyed by Deer

Bush Beans destroyed by deer.

Bush Beans destroyed by deer.

Broccoli Plants Eaten

Broccoli Plants Eaten

I will not let this get the better of me. I will learn from this…I will learn to love venison. Time to buy ammo. Hubby wanted to grab his gun, but based on is caliber didn’t want “deer confetti”.  They are now vermin.

Blackberries are here!

Blackberry season is once again upon us. So right out of the gate hubby and I went out and picked, and picked and picked. Last year I made the mistake of only making about 14 jars of jam. I figured that’d be plenty! But when you share the love and give some away you end up with a lot less than you thought you would. That being said my first batch was 28 jars! I a couple of days I will pick a smaller batch for a Blackberry Ginger Jam with Orange Zest.

Picking blackberries means donning ‘the gear’. For me this is jeans, long sleeve t-shirt, thick apron, gloves, clippers, a hook made out of a coat hanger to pull those out of reach clusters to me, a big hat (which has almost made me lose an eye on several occasions. You can’t see what’s coming above you as you’re walking along and BAM a branch whacks you on the head, or a rampant berry vine slithers up under the brim of you hat and sticks you in the eye. Hats can be very dangerous), boots and an assortment of profanity. Because no matter how careful one is, you will be ‘bit’ by the thorns numerous times. Even with long sleeves my arms look like I have the pox. You will sweat profusely, be investigated by lots of bugs and for me a curious doe wanted to know what I was doing, that is until momma ‘huffed’ and he took off. The more you pick, the sweeter you smell as sugars are released and this time of year the wasps just love you. I have learned not to swat at them just let them hover around. We don’t want a repeat of the 2012 incident. You may wonder if it’s all really worth it? You bet it is! There is nothing more tasty than opening a jar of ‘summer’ when it’s cold and snowing outside.

Blackberry Jam

Blackberry Jam

Now it’s game on! This year will hopefully bring a new level to my blackberries. I’ve done martini’s, jams, BBQ sauces, pies and cobblers. It’s now time for something new. I shall attempt Blackberry Wine! And this is where patience in both harvesting and fermentation will test my limits. I need almost 30 pounds of blackberries for 5 bottles of wine. And since there is no way to pick 30 pounds on my property in one day, I shall be picking every few days and freezing them till I get what I need. Thank goodness we’ve really gone thru that side of beef we bought over a year ago or I’d be in the market for a second freezer! Summer brings so many wonderful things. If you don’t have room for a garden do check out local Farmer’s Market’s. You will be treated to some of the best produce you’ve ever eaten!

Grilled Meat Leftover’s – Make Pizza!

I am a huge of fan of reinventing leftovers. Having made a good dinner I will not let leftovers go to waste. Sometimes it’s a repeat of dinner the night before. Other times it takes on the guise of a frittata or a new tasty pasta dish.

But tonight…ah tonight we had the optimum conditions. See we have had windy days and nights for the last 8 days. Last night I was able to smoke a turkey which was a succulent dish all on it’s own. I prepared the breast meat in small packages for lunch meat at a later date. The leg meat however…oh my but they became a pizza worthy of my dear friend Jean Denham – A Chef’s Journey

Pause – While many of you don’t know Jean, I do and must say I have her Pizza, Pizza, Pizza book and love it! She has inspired me to experiment and branch out.

Tonight’s morsel -

Grilled Smoked Turkey Pizza

Grilled Smoked Turkey Pizza

One round of pizza dough (recipe to follow)
1/2 red onion sliced very thin
Your favorite BBQ Sauce – Big fan of Mr. Stubbs
1/2 lb of smoked turkey meat
1/2 cup of shredded cheese – I did Manchego such a wonderful flavor that went very well with the smokiness of the turkey and BBQ sauce
1 avocado sliced

Pizza Dough -

Note – We like our pizza’s very thin and with a slight crunch. We want authentic Italian dough, and this recipe I got from a great pizza maker in Rome Italy. I think we ate our weight in pizza while there. His name was Marco and he’s been cooking pizza’s for 30 years in his brick oven. The dough recipe below will give you enough for 4 pizza’s. While we only ate one pizza, I freeze the other 3 for use later. Just take them out of the freezer the night before and let them thaw. 2-3 hours before cooking take them out of the freezer and let them come to room temp and rise. Also I do recommend using bottled water, or filtered water IF you live in an area where you water has a lot chlorine.

1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups Semolina flour, plus extra as needed
1/2 tsp kosher salt (if using table salt use 1/4 tsp)
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

To make the dough, in a small bowl stir the yeast with about 2 Tbs lukewarm water and let it stand about 5 minutes. It will get creamy and a bit foamy.

The next part is doable on a work surface, or in a kitchen aid mixer. If doing in a mixer sift flours into the bowl and then put all ingredients into mixer and slowly add 1/4 cup lukewarm water. With a dough hook keep mixer on low and add another 1 cup of water, slowly. You may not need to add the whole cup depending on the humidity where you are. Once it’s all incorporated mix on a medium speed for about 10 minutes. Dough will be smooth and springy. You’ll know it’s ready when you cut off a small piece with kitchen scissors and it’s riddled with small air holes. If doing this on a work surface sift the flours on the work surface, add salt, make a well and add yeast mixture, oil and 1/4 cup of lukewarm water, incorporate with your hands while adding the additional cup. Again slowly as you may not need all the water. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes and test for air holes.

Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes, cover with slightly damp towel. Then divide dough into 4 equal pieces. I use a kitchen scale to make sure they all the same size. Form into small balls, cover and allow to rise for about 2 hours or double in size. This may take longer if your house is cool. After one hour of rising preheat your oven to 500 degrees and put your pizza stone on the very bottom rack.

Time to make pizza’s!

Sprinkle work surface with some semolina flour and roll out one of the dough balls. You may need to add semolina to the top of the dough to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin. Roll it out thin, your pizza will be about 14″ in diameter. Take a couple of forks and stab little holes all over the dough. Take about 1/4 of the BBQ sauce and smear it all over the dough. Now slide the dough onto the hot pizza stone. Wait don’t panic I didn’t forget the toppings. Let the dough cook for about 5 minutes. This really lets the dough get crispy. If you add everything at once the dough, especially towards the middle, steams and stays soft. Once you remove the dough add your cheese, meat and onions. If you do other pizza’s and add fresh basil you want to put the cheese on top to keep the basil from burning. Now slide the pizza back into the oven for 5 more minutes top with fresh avocado slices. Let it cool about 1 minute before slicing. Time to enjoy!


The Harvest

My green beans are producing, and pretty good too. I was able to harvest almost a full pound them.

Fresh Picked Green Beans

Fresh Picked Green Beans

So dinner tonight simply had to feature the harvest. Along with a couple of other things I grew like the tomatoes and fresh herbs.

Green Beans, Quinoa and Chicken

Green Beans, Quinoa and Chicken

Ingredients -

1 lb green beans, trimmed
2 Tbl olive oil
1/2 med red onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 skinless chicken breasts, diced (I used the ones from a rotisserie chicken from Costco. If you want to cook your own you can roast them, boil them or however is your favorite method)
2 large fresh tomatoes, diced (if none available one can of organic diced tomatoes, drained)
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken stock
Fresh Herbs – I used 1 Tbl oregano, 2 tsp thyme leaves, 2 Tbl basil
Red Pepper Flakes – Optional and to Taste (I did about 1/8 of a tsp)

Directions -

Cook the green beans till tender, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

In 2 quart pan, bring chicken stock to boil, add add quinoa, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, fluff with fork when ready to use.

While quinoa is cooking, in a large pan, add oil, sliced onions and garlic some S&P and sauté till just getting tender, do not brown. Add tomatoes, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes (if using) and cook till tomatoes are cooked down and tender. If using canned tomatoes cook until residual liquid is just starting to evaporate. (Even when drained they still have some liquid). Add cooked diced chicken and heat thru. Fluff the quinoa with fork and add to chicken mixture, add green beans and toss well. Add basil and toss again and serve. S&P to taste.

Tri Tip Debacle

So…just so you all learn from my mistake. When one buys a 15 pound whole, and I quote WHOLE, bottom sirloin tri -tip, do not assume it’s one hunk of meat. Had I known when I bought it, that it was 4 individual tri-tips, I would have removed them and packaged them separately and cooked them one at a time over the summer. Why they said “whole” I will never know. I like to buy primal cuts and fabricate them myself. Now that I have thawed this “whole 15 lb. bottom sirloin tri-tip” I have to cooked up 4 tri-tips tomorrow. One is in a liquid marinade and will be done directly on the grill and the other 3 will each have different rubs and grilled. And that is how you make the most out of a beef mistake. At least when we go camping I’ll have some great beef already ready to go.

Well the reviews are in and the recipes below. Derek and I had different opinions.

Tri-Trips ready for the grill!

Tri-Tips ready for the grill!

Beef Tri-tips look FaBu!

Beef Tri-tips look FaBu!

Here is what I did. Three were covered with a dry rub and one was marinated. All four were done on the grill, seared and then cooked at 300 degrees for about 40 minutes, rested for 10 minutes to medium/medium rare in the thicker areas.

Rub # 1

1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Rub # 2

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Rub # 3

1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp finely ground black pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 teaspoon dry rosemary (or fresh, finely minced)
1/2 teaspoon dry sage

The marinaded tri tip was -

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups apple juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 ½ tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup
3 tablespoons seasoned salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Prior to cooking, removed from marinade and 2 bullion cubes were crushed and rubbed all over the outside.

Reviews – In order of what we liked best. Rub #3 won hands down as the favorite over the other 3 flavor profiles. It was well balanced and the char had such great flavor. You couldn’t pick out one distinct flavor over the others which is exactly as I like a rub to be.

Now for # 2 Derek like the marinated one next. I preferred rub # 2. Derek like the flavor of that the soy and lime  juice imparted. I loved the simplicity of flavors of rub #2. I think I might add a skosh more of the mustard.

For our 3rd favorite Derek liked Rub #2 and I liked the marinaded one. I find soy can be over powering in some dishes, but was very happy with the balance of flavors. I think next time I would add maybe 1-2 TBS of brown sugar to help with the caramelization of the apple juice.

For out 4th favorite both of us picked rub # 1. While it has potential it just was lacking in flavor.

And there you have what to do when you have far too many tri tips to grill :D