Well I seen a horse fly
I seen a dragon fly
I seen a house fly
I seen a peanut stand
And heard a rubber band
I seen a needle that winked its eye
But I’ve been, done, seen about everything
When I seen chicken stock fly
Restocking freezers and pantries for the year
Other than our vow renewal , our Harvest Holiday week consisted of of pretty much just that ; Harvest .
Picking , prepping , grinding , cooking , freezing and canning filled out the week in 12 to 14 hour work days for Ma and myself.
Up before dawn.. The norm… then on to anything from cutting and grinding to picking cooking and or prepping fruits veggies and meats . From steaks , chops, burger and sausage. Apple cider apple crisp “mix” and sauce . Egg rolls and wont tons Zuke Pickles. Eggplant Parm to home made Pasta sauce. Tomato juice. Canned turkey, chicken , soups and stocks along with more fun goodies to get us not only through winter but on till next harvest, but more on that later..
Yer wantin’ a story…I can see ya gettin’ twitchy already.
A funny thing happened on the way to the canning station..
Four pressure canners running at the same time outdoors. Two water bath at the same time outdoors. Two roaster ovens , five crock pots , two pots on the stove top and oven running simultaneously for hours on end indoors… Then finish up for the day and make dinner…clean up crash and start over.
The scene of the crime
This is our first year using the outdoor canning station. We had everything , we just weren’t planning on the amount of work to make it needed…This year we’ve had a pretty nice harvest…so far..
The background leading up to…
A roaster oven stuffed with the leftovers of five chickens once I had removed breasts , for chicken strips , wings…because , well duh …legs and thighs for casseroles etc… all tossed in roasted then water filled the roaster to slow cook . Overnight is good, longer is better..
The day…Da Da Duhhhhh
Meat and bones pulled from the carcasses , any scum and fat removed , it was time to set the stage.
We packed pint jars with chicken meat and veggie mix for pie , dumplings etc , covered with stock.
Running the two large pressure canners and two electric canners we started to fill the harvest table with jarred goodies to feed us for the year.
Next item on the agenda was the chicken stock its self. This time around , the stock was in Quart jars. New and old checked for cracks, we preheated the jars , lids as well as stock still in the roaster. We filled both the large stove top canners and let them build pressure . Life is good . Other than keeping an eye on said pressure , this portion of the job is easy …Well until the breezes hit raising or lowering pressure by one to two pounds in a heartbeat…which drives me nuts ….
Canning pressure and time done for the batch , I shut down the burners, closed down the propane tank to let things cool going about all the other business of the Harvest for the now…..
All pretty meh right ?….As it should be…
Pressure down , everything ready , I took the top off the first canner . Stock still boiling , but that is normal , nothing rocking and rolling , it is just the last bit before I pull the jars and bring them in to sit on the counter. I repeat with the second canner.
I turn to face the station which is on the deck , I am in the covered porch some five feet away when I hear a sudden rumble. I take a step forward then think of all the stupid things I have done by getting in a hurry and put my weight back onto my heels when
BOOM! Thar She Blows!
My jaw drops as I watch the lid hit the frame of the pergola, the ring spinning off into space… That fraction of a heartbeat when everything goes into slow motion:
Old Faithful right here on the deck as three quarters of the quart is airborne ..Then proceeds to rain on my parade ……………..
“What The Hellll?!?! “
I stand there thinking:
” Ok… That’s a first. ”
This is not my first rodeo , but that…That was impressive…Thank goodness that we decided to use the outdoor station. The pergola, deck ,furniture , canners , and me all all Brothy …
“Excellent… Oh Goodie…Here come the Yellow Jackets ….Brilliant …”
Because , when things go to crap , it just isn’t finished until the Fat lady sings … Swatting at the swarm of assholes , I stand gaping at the canners , waiting for the next explosion..MA comes out to see what’s the Kabobble ….
(insert the Reign of Swear here )
Once I was sure there wouldn’t be a repeat , I pulled the rest of the happily canned stock , placing them on the table took the offending jar and ring and tossed them after looking to see what had happened… Yup , not a clue .. Everything was filled and tightened by me before they went in all according to spec … Maybe the ring was stretched from use maybe Aliens screwed with me and I just don’t remember… No idea. I just know each can was set up as the can next to it…
On with the show : An Apple a Day
More than four hundred pounds of apples , quite a bit more than I supposed, were picked by Ma and I. Once we got them inside , filling the entry with boxes and boxes, we peeled and cored a few boxes then we ran a pair of juicers and followed up with up to canning 28 jars every five to ten minutes , as fast as we could fill and run the product .
The peeling went relatively quickly …as quickly as peeling goes anyway. The apples were small enough this year that only one of the two peelers worked. A couple cases later we figured that we had enough for sauce for the year. That being enough to have apple sauce a couple times a week..Every week.
Ma worked on the sauce kettles while I worked on other Harvest thangs . When the time came , yup , 28 jars at a whack , just as fast as I could prep they went into the water bath and off the water bath as I filled them right back up again.
Just one of the table top full of cider in a procession of table top full of goodes.
We make a great mulled cider… Ceptin’ we don’t need brown sugar as our apples are plenty sweet enough for us . With the time crunch of only a week to do everything , we had to cut our cook time down to hours instead of the normal overnight. The down side to this is it just isn’t as clear .
The day was waning as we started loading pints. Yup we used pints. Easier to open another than to find a spot for a quart jar in the fridge if it comes to that…It is just the two of us.
The skies darken as I run the last of the many runs of cider for the day…And not a single explosion….
Closing down for the day..another 14 hour plus.. Not that it is a whiny poor pity me thing..Just a long day, one of many for us on our Holiday , we cleaned up the water bath canners to get ready for ” tomorrow’s” pressure canning.
What a Turkey
Though things are not in order as I can only write about one thing at a time, this is another fun but short ” What the hell ? ” moments of the week…
Having three turkeys to break down , roast , and make into canned meats , soup and stock , we would be running two Roaster ovens.. No room in the oven as we need it for the rest of the canning activities .
We had picked up a second roaster last year when one obviously wasn’t enough to do everything we had to in That Harvest Holiday .. Since then , the roaster has been happily sitting , still sealed in its box… The Tramp…
I opened said box , pulled the new and shiny roaster oven out
” Ooooh Ahh Shiny clean “
I plugged it into the wall after we cleaned it up. Started to turn away when it burst into flames…..So…we have that going for us..
( insert creative swearing here ) Because your run of the day swearing just isn’t enough for this situation …..
We have three , count’em..Three , mostly defrosted turkeys glaring at me from the cooler and no where to put two of them….We have little to no time to scour the Mart of the hinterlands of Zen … and pretty sure burying the brand new one wont raise a crop of non-flambe versions ..
Ma , use to my ever creative explosive verbal diarrhea when shiitee goes South , gets on the computer and finds not only a replacement but a better version…and orders two…because what are the chances of two reigning terror in the kitchen at the same time ? Right?..We only had to wait two days…
I walked out to the shop where the cooler-o-gobble lay..Made my apologies and heaped ice onto their grousing faces ..
Fortunately , we had LOTS of other Harvest thangs to do in the mean time…
( added time warp insert : Squiggly Wiggly Squiggly kaleidoscope of images and colors )
Ma had run to town for more jars…………We had run out of the Wall-o-Quarts and Pints , half pints and only a few jelly jars left….Still Mid week and barely a dent in the canning crusade. We knew the new roaster ovens were on the truck for delivery at most any time now.
I opened the Cooler de Cluck , ignoring the looks from the Blue Beards .. I grabbed the first Tom , taking it in to be broken down. I can break down a chicken in moments as we do that so often but a turkey , I hadn’t tried as we normally roast have dinner then can the rest in soups and stocks. This time around we decided to do Raw Packs on the breasts and thighs.
Holy Igloos Batman !
I had done a great job on keeping the birds cool over the last few days.. Friggin bird was still ice ridden in the cavity .. and this was the thawed one…Jolly..
Tugging at a partially frozen twelve pound bird in the sink to get it to release its skin was entertaining ..and fortunately for all around..I was alone…. I mean , I get it.. I wouldn’t want to get any more undressed that I was with as cold as the Gobbler was just on my hands.. I’d a been hangin on with both hands if someone was tryin to strip me down …Yup..
Finally winning the battle .. I tugged at the remaining edge of the skin that wouldn’t quite give up…If you ever had someone pull the covers off you to get you out of bed , you can remember that final hold even though it is already too late…The bird having one final laugh at my expense , let the skin go with a snap, wrapping the whole dang thing around my face like a balaclava..
( Yes…Yes.. there was a stream of cursing here ..wasted on a bird without ears..)
Awesome….Only two more to go…
The skin off , wings removed ,legs removed , now I just had to pull the breast , thighs and oysters ….Back into chicken mode with only a couple changes in tactics , the bird was done and tossed into the single roaster.
Rinse and repeat two more times…
Ma got home as I finished up the third bird….The roasters came in shortly after that.
I carefully opened the first box…So far so good.. It didn’t spontaneously combust so I was calling that a win.
The first roaster out and on the counter I gingerly plugged it into the wall, jumping back before I caught myself..Ok..Good I turned it on and waited….It warmed up , no smoke , no flames.. Ok ..Good Good… I did the same with the second..all was well…
Ma had washed the inner pan for the first while I was checking things out..Time to hit the canners again …
While we were out watching pressure , I remembered:
” Oh Crap! The turkeys !” I had gotten so excited that nothing burst into flame , I had forgotten to transfer birds….
I ran in , slid one of the roasters over to the original and transferred legs wings thighs and more to the new roaster and ran back outside.
Ma had to go back into the kitchen to check on yet another project. She came back out:
“You forgot to put in the inner pan. “
Being as clever and quick as I am :
“Huh? “…I am one Witty kinda guy I am….
” The inner pan..In the new roaster…You forgot it. “
and in an amazing show of intelligence :
” Wha? “
Ma groaned quietly to herself…In a stage voice…
” You put the turkey and water into the roaster without the inner pan.”
Things finally sinking in…
“(@&*(#&^#$^%@(__)+!_+*#&^##&^#HUJHBDI*#^&!@BMDDPOO(@&J<D:”! Right Friggin Side! Stupid Turkey! Stupid Stock! P*@(*o@joiejihJT@GBM<ND HNL?D>L “@*&^!%^ “……………………” FINE ! Whatever! !”
I skipped back into the house waving pixie dust over the roasting area………….Oh wait…No… It went a little differently….
I ran into the house. The roaster was fine, the thing is sealed but still..CRAP!…
I had the roaster full of bird and water for stock and EVERYWHERE was full of Harvest one damn thing or another. Every flat surface was covered. Every pan was in use………..
I , of course , managed to move things around in a creative , and vocal manner , refilling the inner pan with stock stuff and cleaning the oven while Ma watched over the pressure canners outside.
Skip ahead Skip ahead…..Looloolooloolooloo
The rest of the canning…
No more explosions. No more flames..where they didn’t belong….
Only fighting breezes to mark the Harvest journey….
Ma’s Pasta Sauce ,
went so smoothly that other than having a freezer full of roasted tomatoes , crocks lining the walls one it was time to cook it down, one could almost forget about all of the work it takes to make the best sauce I have ever tasted ….Well, the process anyway.. Pots and Pots, crocks and crocks . Quarts..and Quarts, pints upon cases of pints of the sauce that is the life’s blood of so much of what we make.
It took the best part of the week but we managed to fill the entry with cases of all the above .
We covered the Harvest Table once to twice a day with canned goods. Freaking me out a bit when I had to move things freshly canned to make room for more though no more problems occurred.
It has been a ton of work and we are definitely feeling it but looking at all we have done, we know that there will be plenty for the year…. though we still have more to do as it comes through.
One of the mornings , we had to rotate canning wares… Out with the army of slow cookers and make room for the roasters…
Ma and I were at the entrance to Innie ( the container for foods and clothes ) when a cropduster flew between the house and the berm ….As in Between , not above. His wings just above the Buck Brush before he let a cloud out to hit the fields .
So here is the problem..I mean other than having a plane fly by some 50 yards away at little over head level….. The breeze was coming out of the South East..pushing the chemicals right onto us , our house ,our crops…our canning process.
Now , I know from past experience that that is not a good thing. Herbicides … I had Ma get on the phone starting with the airport working her way through to the pilot and the neighboring owners.
They said it was smoke and oils though shortly after was herbicides …We will still have to wait to see what happens from all of this though it fried my sinuses and Ma’s.
All went fine..as it was Ma and not me in my evering Bubbly attitude.
Break was getting short with no end to the Harvest .
We had to make cuts..LOTS.. into what we had planned to get done.. Not because we are lazy or slow…There was just too many things to do let alone what was still on the plants…
Saturday found us with Burger , well more a fresh sausage for Won Tons and Me mixing and cooking the stuff for egg roles … While the filling cooled , and Ma being ever thinking , tossed the innards into large bowls to sit in the sinks with a cold water bath so that we could get them going sooner…
We began wrapping Won Tons while oil heated in the shop and egg roll fillings cooled .. Five packages of wraps later…We ran out of wraps , not filling….
While I started frying , Ma finished the last of the Won Tons.. The Tons of Won Tons laying on counters to cool before Ma could put them into the now emptied baby freezer to freeze individually before packaging..We began in on the egg rolls.
Egg rolls go much faster than won tons , both due to the amount of filling per piece as well as the easier wrapping technique …. We found out in record time that I screwed up yet again not picking up enough packages of these wrappers either.. I had thought we had more at home. Some Four packages later left us with a substantial pot filled filling of no egg roll rolling..errrmmm ..?? stuff….
Once again frying going quickly , we now had every surface covered..once again , in food for the next several months….
The day already getting dark , we were wiped…and still had dinner to make…Awesome..
We put up several months worth of burger we ground.
Several months worth of egg rolls and won tons .
A year’s supply of apple sauce. Months worth of Cider
A year’s supply of Pasta sauce.
Months worth of chops and steaks cut .
All the Zuke Pickles we had zucchini for.
Stock to get us into Spring using it weekly .
Pot pie fillings to also get us into Spring.
Canned Turkey meats for the best part of the Winter .
Apple filling for crisps for at least the year.
Yeah.. some other stuff that my fried brain can’t remember.
We are hoping that out of the nine days of vacation that we can pull off relaxing today, our final day…We just aren’t built that way..but it’s a goal.
We had a few silly things happen , more than I have written down.
Most importantly though;
Ma and I had time together , which is rare with different days off and my recent, as in since June, schedule has put us on opposite shifts as well.
We celebrated our Anniversary , if even harried , at least we renewed our vows in our own way , not in a churchy all for looks way .
This has easily been one of the top holidays so far together . What went wrong was small in view of all that went right. The weather was beautiful up here on Zen for the whole week , finishing off with a cloudy chill day to keep us by the fire.
We can only hope for many more to go.
Ma and I walked out to sit on the deck. The still black skies above lit by a waning moon and hand full of stars fighting to outshine their closer cousin .
The morning still , Sun not awake yet to breath out the breeze that would soon come with the warming rays.
The hum of the far off freeway , miles away and far below us in the valley that is the home of Gotham is even subdued with lonely travelers , the first of many to head to the big city from our quiet world in the middle of nowhere .
Crickets near and far chat to each other as Ma and I sit listening to Zen’s own party line .
Owls to the south chat back and forth singing their last verses of the night before they head to bed. A single voice to the East tells us of yet a different owl as he answers the chorus to the South.
A lone Bull Elk bugles far to the North as their day begins , the beginnings of the Rut getting into their noses . A second from far to the East answers.
I sit with my back to the North with the canning gear taking up a fair portion of the deck , I hear something right behind me while Ma listens to the owls. It takes my brain a moment to filter through sounds and pick out what it must be. I had tossed mouse chewed tomatoes over the fence and into the yard the day before and our doe was munching on them, having snuck up on us with soft steps. I could finally turn enough to see the darker spot in the black of night between the dark of the junipers as she came in.
The elk sound again making Ma and I smile at each other. Our coyote kids , not to be outdone, begin their song .
The coyotes have had a great break as well with bones skin fat and more from everything we cut down.
The deer enjoying apple remains , tomato remains and more.
In the still dark morning , colors just now forming at the base of a cloud cover int the next state , we hear more deer coming in. One and another until the yard is full , and more to the south. Ma and I whisper to each other , not so that the deer wont hear , because they , of course can , but in the same way you talk in hushed voices in your place of worship… This is ours….
Does and fawn come and go as the skies begin to color , The dark rich orange of the coming dawn deepens as the Sun yawns , and peaks over his covers in the first moments of wakefulness .
The deer are walking next to us and filling the open gardens , weeding them for Ma yet only sniffing at Ma’s plants having had their ears filled with ” Noooooo!” through out their generations.
More than one doe is close enough to me that all I need to do is simply stretch and I could pat her back…Which , she would then go apeshit crazy ruining the moment….
One fawn stands , looking at Ma and I , still not completely sure about us , being yet a baby… She watches me as I look to her and away smiling talking in whispers . With a leap and a bound ; she is off ! The does look to us then at the fawn, then to us in a seeming shrug , going back to browsing ….. The fawn looking back , seeing she is being ignored , finally stomps back , glaring at me , as she sees it , me making her look foolish..
The colors filling the morning skies in reds browns orange and greys , I can’t help but tell Ma one more time
“I love it up here . Thank you so much for being here with me .”
Ma replies ;
” I wouldn’t have it any other way .”
As we watch the morning dawn , I sink back into my chair and thank the gods for
Just another day on Zen Mountain