Cherries, Cherries, Cherries!

We are lucky to have two producing cherry trees on our new property.  We have been tasting the cherries daily to determine when they are ripe for picking.  One of the trees actually has two different types of cherries: Bing and Alberta (according to our electrician Al).  We picked 15 1/2 pounds of cherries in one day.  They are mostly the darker Bings.

Our child laborer Malcolm
This bowl is about 5 pounds of cherries

Knowing we would have a bountiful cherry harvest, we ordered cherry pitters and an Excalibur 9-tray dehydrator (made in Sacramento, California).  We were skeptical about the 6-cherry pitter, but it works great.  Shawn and Malcolm pitted the cherries while I sliced them and put them on the dehydrator trays.

Cherries are the pits!
Bing cherries ready for 15 hours in the dehydrator

The Bing cherries are very sweet, so a few pounds went into the mouths of the workforce instead of the dehydrator.  The Alberta cherries are more reddish orange and not quite as sweet.  After dehydration, the Albertas have a slight rose aroma and flavor.  We still need to pick the rest of the Albertas because they weren’t all ripe.

Dehydrated Bings
Dehydrated Albertas
Ready for consumption and use in recipes

I also canned some of the cherries in a light syrup.  I added brandy to some and Amaretto to the rest.

These will be tasty over ice cream

This week, we will pick the cherries on the second tree.  They are a bit sour.  Al says the second tree is a Pie tree because you make pies with that type of cherry but you need to add sugar.

The Magpies are not thrilled that we have taken their tasty treats

Funny story about the dehydrator.  We had picked all the cherries knowing the dehydrator would arrive that day.  I had the cherries all sorted and washed and ready to go.  I met the UPS man in the driveway and had the dehydrator unpacked within 5 minutes of delivery.  That’s when I noticed a plastic corner was broken off on the front.  It wasn’t something that would affect the performance of the dehydrator so I contemplated gluing it back together, but that just didn’t sit right with me.  Something that expensive should not be broken.  So I called Amazon to get it replaced.  After the call agent took all my information and promised a new dehydrator would be delivered in 2 days, I asked her how to return the broken one.  She told me to just dispose of it.  What???  That corner is getting glued back on, and I will be running two dehydrators at a time once the tomatoes and zucchini come in!

Camping at Big Hank on the CDA River

Our five-year-old grandson, Malcolm, is visiting from California for a couple weeks.  Entertaining an active five-year-old is a challenge, so we thought a camping trip would be fun.  It was also a good excuse to try out our new fly fishing rods.  We headed to the Big Hank Campground on the Coeur d’Alene River where I went fishing with my brother a few weeks ago.

Catching a few Pokemon in Coeur d’Alene before heading off the grid

One of the many perks of being retired is camping mid-week.  Big Hank has 30 campsites and only about half were occupied.  Our site backed up to the Coeur d’Alene River and was very private.

There’s no wasting water when you have to pump it yourself!

The first day, we explored the river and ended the day with marshmallow roasting by the campfire.

Malcolm got a bit wetter than planned
Malcolm on his new tripod seat

The second day, we woke up to rain, but that didn’t stop us from going out fishing.  Malcolm had been practicing his casting, and Shawn and I were itching to try out our new gear.

Checking out Grandma’s flies
Since Papa was wearing waders, he carried Malcolm out into the middle of the river to fish off a rock

We found a deep spot in the river where the trout were jumping, but we didn’t have any luck that afternoon.  While we chose to camp in an established campground, there is a lot of free camping space available.  We checked out a spot across the road in a meadow.  It involved crossing a creek.  Our camp host shared that it can get a bit wild out in the meadow, but he keeps the riffraff out of his campground.

The “road” to the free camping

The last morning we went back to the spot where the fish had been jumping.  There was already another fly fisherman there, but he invited us to join him.  He had caught the “big one” the night before.  I tried for a while, but still no luck.

Sporting my new ladies’ waders

After the other guy left, Shawn gave it a try.  It didn’t take long before he hooked a cutthroat trout.  It was about 8″.  Malcolm was not thrilled that he didn’t catch a fish, but when you’re grandparents don’t put a hook and bait on your line your chances for success are greatly diminished.

Strictly catch and release on the CDA

A very successful camping/fishing trip.

All that camping wears a guy out

The Pig Farmer’s Wife

Well, it’s official.  I’m the wife of a pig farmer.  This morning we drove to Cheney, Washington to pick up our two piglets.  We borrowed a crate from our neighbor Katie, and then Shawn and Malcolm filled it with straw for the piglets’ comfort.

Malcolm fluffing the straw (we did not cage the boy)

At Adam’s farm (The Backyard Butchery), we selected two females from the drove.  First, the guys lured them to the fence with apples, and then they picked them up by the hind legs and put them in the crate.  There was much squealing.

Back home, the process was reversed with more squealing.

The two sisters, Breakfast and Dinner, share a 16×16 enclosure behind the house with a plastic water tote for their shelter.  After they calmed down from all the activity in their day, they started eating the grass and rooting around in the dirt.

Breakfast
Dinner

Shawn and Malcolm finished off the pen with a gate.

I don’t think the cuteness will last too long as their mom was rather ugly; however, we should have some tasty bacon in November.

Midsummer

Thursday, June 21, was the longest day of the year.  The sun rose at 4:51 AM and set at 8:51 PM giving us 16 hours of light in Worley, Idaho.  As you can see from the chart below, we actually get more light than that because the Civil Twilight is the first and last light.  If I look out the window at 4:00 in the morning, I can clearly see everything in the yard.

Unfortunately, on the summer solstice, we had a storm so it was a bit darker than I was hoping for the longest day of the year.  This was the wildest storm I have experienced here in Worley.  I stood on the deck and watched and heard the storm approach.  I could hear the rain in the trees as it got nearer and the thunder was thunderous, to say the least.  Lightning filled the sky a few times per minute.

The edge of the storm approaches
The downpour (see Instagram for the video)

Shawn had driven to Sacramento to pick up our grandson, Malcolm, so this was my first experience staying by myself in our new house.  The power went off and on three times as I ran around looking for flashlights and wondering how long my phone battery would last.  Without wi-fi, my Grey’s Anatomy binge watch was ruined.

Since Shawn was gone, I also got chicken duty.  The layers are living outside under the walnut tree, but they need to be put to bed at night in case there are any predators out there looking to dine on them.    They are very in tune with the sun and go into the coop on their own at sunset.  I looked out the window and noticed they had gone in early.  I assumed this was due to the storm, so I went out to latch the door on the coop.  As soon as I approached the gate, they all ran out and the little buggers wouldn’t go back in until it was officially sunset.

Roosting in the walnut tree
Large and in charge
In bed for the night

We got a second batch of Frankenchicks a couple weeks ago.  I was asked why we need so many chickens.  We figured we need about 50 chickens for the year.  One chicken gives us 2-3 meals in a week and then we make about 4 quarts of chicken stock from the carcass.

Return of the Frankenchicks

Before Shawn left for Sacramento, we went to a few new places in town.  First, we went to the container store in Athol for food grade buckets, barrels and a tote for the new pig enclosure.  Next, we explored the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  We acquired a stainless steel sink and solid wood door for $30.  Shawn is going to repurpose these as a chicken butchering station.  We also tried out the burgers at Paul Bunyan Famous Burgers.

To amuse myself in Shawn’s absence, I visited a couple of the local quilt shops.  The ladies at Bear Paw Quilting in Coeur d’Alene are very friendly and they have a nice selection of fabrics, patterns, and notions.  In Spokane Valley, Washington, I visited The Quilting Bee.  Aside from Hancock’s in Paducah and Fabric Depot in Portland, I think this is the biggest quilt shop I’ve ever seen.  Between these two shops, I think all my quilting needs will be easily met.  I also picked up their 2018 Row-by-Row kits.

It is huge!

Between storm watch, quilt shops and binge watching Grey’s Anatomy, I pulled out my DSLR camera and took pictures around the yard.  The macro lens improved my flower photos, and the zoom lens allowed me to catch a few birds stealing our cherries.

Woodpecker
Magpie

Chuck Norris
Sophie in her bird watching window

Shawn returned with Malcolm on Saturday, and now we have almost three weeks to view Idaho through the eyes of a five-year-old.

First cherry harvest
The birds left us a few cherries
Driving the tractor with Papa

World’s biggest dandelion

Fly-fishing the CDA River

My dad and my brother, Craig, came to visit us this last week.  They made the two-day drive from Fresno, California to Worley, Idaho.  We had fun showing them our beautiful new state, but the highlight was fly-fishing the Coeur d’Alene River.

Craig, Dad, Me and Peeve on the deck

Many, many years ago, I read A River Runs Through It and I have been enamored of fly-fishing since.  Mostly, I like the idea of standing in a beautiful river in waterproof clothing.  What could be better than that?  Little did I know that I live an hour away from a highly acclaimed fly-fishing destination, the Coeur d’Alene River.

Craig has been fly-fishing since he was a kid, so he had all the gear and my nephew loaned me his rod and reel.  I got some inexpensive and highly effective waders and felt-soled boots.  Let me tell you, fly-fishing is one sexy sport if big, baggy, and drab-colored is your thing.

On Tuesday morning, we headed to the CDA River.  We stopped at the fly shop near Cataldo on the way to get the lowdown on river conditions and which flies to use.  The two gentleman in the shop were very friendly and informative.  When I mentioned I lived in Worley, one of them asked me if I knew Tom.  Granted, Worley only has a population of 247, but I have yet to meet Tom.

We were given instructions to turn on Old River Road at the metal bridge, go past Hippie Rock (named for the kids that sunbathe naked and jump off the rock), then go down aways past the No Trespassing signs to find good fishing.  Since there is no cell signal on the river, we relied on these old-fashioned points-of-interest to guide us.

We fished a couple spots on the CDA on Tuesday, but we didn’t catch anything.  In the afternoon, two women upriver from us caught three or four cutthroat trout while we watched.  I took a lot of pictures, but my phone died shortly after and the photos were lost.  Craig took a few pictures of me.

I look just like Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It

So after my first day of fly-fishing, I was pretty satisfied.  I got to walk around in a beautiful river all day without getting cold and wet.  The water is clear without sediment and the surrounding scenery is gorgeous.  My shoulder was a little sore from casting, but all-in-all a great day.

We had a few unseasonably cold and windy days, so we didn’t go out fishing again until Friday.  We went to the local fly shop in Coeur d’Alene the night before to find out what we were doing wrong.  Joe, the owner of Castaway Outfitters, gave us some tips, suggested some smaller flies, and sent us higher up on the river.

We found a nice section of the river with some deeper pools and spent the morning fishing up the river.  We spotted a few trout.  After lunch, we went back out and Craig caught one.  I had a few strikes and even had one on the line momentarily, but no luck for me.

Peeve is intent on making sure Craig doesn’t drown

I was surprised at how fast the time passed while fishing.  We didn’t cover a lot of ground (only about 2,000 steps according to my fitness tracker), but walking upriver in the current puts all your muscles to the test while trying to keep balanced (I’m happy to say I did not fall once in two days).  Once the fish started striking, the concentration on landing the fly in right spot was intense.  Before I knew it, 6 hours had passed.

The scenery was beautiful, and I found a few new flowers too.  There are large grassy meadows along the banks of the river and these tall white flowers are everywhere.  According to my plant identification app, they are California false hellebore.  They are about 4 feet tall.

Some type of thistle. I’d like to see it in full bloom because it was huge.

So, let me know if you’re in the area and want to go fishing…

You Can Make English Muffins?

Why yes, you can make English muffins.  I thought they came in a stack of six from Thompson’s, but then I saw a recipe for homemade sourdough English muffins and had to give it a try.  I used Shawn’s wholewheat sourdough starter.  I was a little concerned at first because it is super stinky, but the muffins came out with a nice subtle sourdough tang.

I made the dough last night and rolled and cut the muffins today
I learned that English muffins are cooked on the stove, not in the oven
They look like real English muffins!
Some are a little wonky, but you know they’re homemade
Tastes great warm off the skillet with a bit of butter

I’m learning to use my new pressure canner.  I canned a batch of pinto beans to practice.  I need to be ready when the garden explodes with more goodness than we can consume daily.  I’m counting on an overabundance of tomatoes.

The daunting pressure canner

Speaking of the garden, we are starting to see fruit on our trees.  We’ve identified the two cherry trees, but we’re still not positive what some of our other trees are.  Happily, the grapevines are alive and they are showing signs of grapes.

The green row in the center is wheat
Cherries of unknown variety
We think these are Asian pears
Grapes! I hope the deer leave a few for me.
The ever-expanding potted herb garden. All but one of the pots was left by the previous owner.

Shawn plowed a new plot for black oil sunflowers and oats.  He was busy all day discing with the tractor and raking and pulling out rocks by hand.  The chickens supervised from their current home under the pine trees.

They’re getting bigger…time to start laying some eggs!

Shawn left most of the dirt outside, but a bit made it in on his face

A busy day on the homestead.  I was also excited to learn that when my big brother comes to visit in a few days that he will be bringing my dad with him.  Time to get cracking on a few indoor projects to make our guests comfortable!

Time for a Hike

Shawn was looking like he had a bit of farming fatigue, so I decided he needed to go on a hike.  I did a quick search for day hikes near Coeur d’Alene and came up with Settler’s Grove Interpretive Trail #162 in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.  I was intrigued by the promise of walking through a grove of ancient cedar trees, so I figured it was worth a two-hour drive for a 3-mile hike.  We drove to CDA and then headed east into the Panhandle National Forest.  Much of the drive was very scenic along the CDA River.  There were lots of little RV parks on the grassy shores of the river.  We also saw a couple of flyfisherman in the river.

The last six miles of the drive was on a dirt/gravel road, and it was slow going.  Houses were few and far between.

We saw a herd of elk grazing in someone’s pasture.

Elk are ugly up close and a bit raggedy

We did not see any other cars on the road, and the parking lot at the trailhead was empty.  This is a perk of being retired and hiking mid-week.  It was also overcast with a chance of rain, so that may have kept people away too.

We have the parking lot to ourselves. Maybe it really is our own private Idaho.
Trailhead

It was an easy hike on a well-marked trail; however, it was designated as handicapped accessible.  Maybe wheelchairs in Idaho are all-wheel drive because I don’t know how they were getting over a few of these obstacles.

I grew up with giant redwoods in California, so cedars are new to me.  OK, enough chit-chat and on to the magnificent ancient cedars.

A bit of perspective

There was a fire in 2015, so you can still see a lot of the fire damage to the trees.

Massive rootball on a fallen cedar

Some of the fallen trees on the trail have been cut and you can see the rich cedar color in the logs.

Of course, I found new flowers and plants to photograph.  No clue what they are but interesting enough to deserve a photo.

Fernheads unfurling
Mushrooms of unknown type

Most of the trail ran along Eagle Creek so there was always the sound of running water while we walked (good thing there is a bathroom at the trailhead).

At the end of the trail, we had the option to continue on another trail so we did that for a bit.  We also found a letterbox in a tree stump.  I assume this is similar to a geocache.  There were notes, pens, and paper in the box.

Just as we were coming back to the parking lot, the rain started coming down so we had our picnic lunch in the truck.  Back in CDA, we stopped for a beer at Tricksters Brewing.  Their Juice Box IPA is excellent.

Then it was off to Twin Lakes Farm & Ranch to pick up 1,000 pounds of feed for the chickens and soon to arrive piglets.  We also threw in 12 compressed straw bales.

Our truck with a reasonable load
What is this guy thinking?

It was a full and enjoyable day.  I’m looking forward to exploring more of our new state.

Planting Herbs with a Chainsaw

Friday, while at Lowe’s to pickup rebar for the new garden fence, I noticed they had herbs on sale: 5 for $15.  I grabbed some rosemary, chives, peppermint, and lemon balm.  The previous homeowner left some pots, so I thought I’d use them for the herbs so I can keep them close to the kitchen door.

Next thing you know, we have the chainsaw out and trees are coming down.  Then the weedeater comes out and grasses are felled at an alarming rate.  All this for five little 3″ pots of herbs.  We have a corkscrew willow and a mystery tree/bush that were planted too close to the house.  I leveled the mystery bush with the chainsaw, and Shawn thinned the willow.  We had to be careful with the willow because a pair of robins have built a nest in it, and we did not want to disturb that.  They stayed away while we were working, but they came back so I assume they are OK with their new open-plan housing.

Pre-chainsaw
Post-chainsaw. Look at that nice bench of herbs!
This butterfly had no concerns and stayed throughout the demolition

Since there is no end of projects to be done around the homestead, it has become common for us to start a simple task and have it morph into a project that requires power tools.

Other Happenings Around the Homestead

The fence for the new garden plot is almost complete. Just needs a gate.
WTH? There’s a hole in our house that wasn’t there before. This requires further exploration…stay tuned.
We almost bought a peony at the farmers’ market last week. It turns out we already had some!
Waiting for the red peonies to bloom.
I had to let this weed flower before I pulled it out
Another surprise in the bulb patch
This little bird has built a nest in Tito the t-rex’s mouth and is anxiously awaiting a love match
Hey, we have a cherry tree!

 

Online Recipes…How’d She Do That?

I’ve been looking up recipes on the internet a lot lately, and I’ve noticed a few things.  They all look very similar with their multi-font graphic for Pinterest, the recipe format within the blog, the nutrition label, and the print recipe function.  A lot of these bloggers don’t strike me as super technical, so I figured there must be easy-to-use tools.  It turns out there is a WordPress plugin for nearly everything.

I did a quick search on “WordPress recipe plugins” and came up with quite a few to choose from.  My needs are simple: easy to use, recently updated, nice recipe output, and free.  I narrowed my choices down to WP Recipe Maker and Zip Recipes.  My Honey Nut Granola recipe is created with WP Recipe Maker.  I will install Zip Recipes and compare at some point.  I just went with WP Recipe Maker because it had more installs, was recently updated (that day), and had good documentation and support.  I think the free version did a decent job with my recipe.

To get nutrition information included in my recipe, I need to upgrade to the premium version of WP Recipe Maker.  Instead, I opted to find a nutrition label generator.  I used the VeryWellFit Recipe Nutrition Calculator.  You just paste in your recipe ingredients and it generates a nutrition label graphic.  I think I will do some more research in this area, but it was a good start.

And finally, we come to those pretty multi-font graphics.  Another quick search and I discover everyone ( everyone that’s not a graphic artist) is using a free site called Canva to create their stunning graphics.  They too have a premium version, but I got what I needed for free.

Now I just need to work on artsy food photography.  I don’t think there’s an app or plugin for that.

Honey-Nut Granola

I’ve made a few batches of granola now.  I read an article on Epicurious, How to Make Granola Without a Recipe, and I have experimented with ingredients.   For sweeteners, I’ve used maple syrup, agave, and honey.  I like the honey best because of the flavor, and it seems to make the granola clump more.  We went to the farmers’ market and we bought a bottle of Camelina oil.  It is made from camelina seeds.  I tried that instead of canola oil, and it left a bitter taste so I won’t be using that again.  In my first couple batches, I used pecans which are good but more prone to burning.  The sliced almonds go well with the honey.  (The pecans were good with the maple syrup.)

Honey Nut Granola
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

Granola is quick and easy to make at home.  Take control of your ingredients and make it your own!

Course: Breakfast
Keyword: granola
Servings: 12 1/2 cup servings
Calories: 313 kcal
Author: Kristin Echols
Ingredients
Dry ingredients (6 cups total)
  • 4 cups rolled oats (do not use quick oats)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 T flax seeds
  • 2 T chia seeds
  • pinch salt (optional)
Wet ingredients (1 cup total)
  • 1/3 cup safflower oil
  • 2/3 cup raw honey
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F

  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.

  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.

  5. Line two large baking pans with parchment paper and spread half the mixture on each pan in a thin layer.

  6. Place the pans in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

  7. After 15 minutes, stir the granola and re-spread in a thin layer.  Bake for another 15 minutes.

  8. Stir again and swap the pans on the oven racks.  Bake for another 15 minutes.

  9. Take pans out of the oven and let cool.

  10. Once cool, transfer the granola to an air-tight container.

Recipe Notes

You can swap ingredients as desired, as long as you keep the ratio of 6:1 dry ingredients to wet ingredients.   For my dry ingredients, I like using 4 cups oats, 1 cup nuts, and 1 cup seeds.  For my wet ingredients, I use 2/3 cup sweetener and 1/3 cup oil.