Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Last Week of Spring!


What a busy time it’s been this month!

Basically, the gardens are done, though there are some more tomato plants that still need to go in, a row of peas or two, strawflowers to plant, I’d like to get in more sunflowers and some broom corn. Pumpkins still need to go in, but it was cold, really hot, and now cold again! So no use rushing those! Same with the melons which are doing fine in the green house for now. But most of the tomatoes, the green peppers, beans, cukes, carrots, cabbages, onions, lettuces, and corn (sweet and pop) are all in the grounds and growing along with some gourds and most of the sunflowers plus annuals and herbs and all good things like that. The birds and critters did not eat the corn seeds out of the ground, and it looks like the sunflower seeds will remain undisturbed, as well.

I have also been up in Erie almost every week day baby sitting my niece and nephew. I also made a trip to Buffalo to hear the finals concert in the guitar concerto competition they have up there every other year. I’ve gone up twice, and both times I’ve been rooting for the soloist who played the Castelnuovo-Tadesco concerto to win, and it never happens! I love that piece. But that’s neither here nor there. I only had to worry about using up too much gas, since the weather was so bad, there was no way that I could work outside. I love going to hear the Buffalo Philharmonic play. If I ever get rich, I’m going to have a little apartment in Buffalo so I can go and hear concerts and go to hockey whenever I want and not have to worry about weather! But I’d still spend most of my time here. Or the south of France. With French cooking utensils.

We have been having our usual Sunday afternoon get togethers. Sometimes in winter, we get snowed in and have only my grandmother and sometimes an aunt, but in summer, we get swamped every Sunday. Last weekend, we had my grandmother, my aunt, my dad, my sister and her husband and their kids plus my mom and I. My mom has been on a strange mashed potatoes and fish kick. That’s all she ever wants to eat, and my sister brought cedar planks and a giant salmon steak. My sister hates fish. I find this hilarious because her husband is a fisherman and works in law enforcement for fish and boating. She was really brave and tried to wrestle this almost four pound piece of salmon out of the bag and prepare it, but she just couldn’t do it. I handle stuff I don’t plan on eating all the time, since I’m veg-veg but I’ll cook anything, so she yelled instructions from out of fish-smell distance, and we got it done.

I guess it was good, because everyone but my dad liked it, and he only likes plain and mostly canned things. So that’s where I get it from. Basically, you can get short little cedar boards, about ten inches long, six inches wide, and maybe three quarters of an inch thick. My sister got hers at Linens and Things, but you can get them at grocery stores with good seafood departments, too. You soak the planks in water for about an hour, and get the grill heated up to about 375. (You can also do this in the oven, but I would guess the taste is not as smoky.) While this was going on, we put olive oil on the fish and used one of those spice rubs. Then you put the fish on the wood, skin side down, and put the whole thing right on the hot grill for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Keep a water bottle handy to put out the plank if it catches fire! The fish is done when it starts to flake.

Theoretically, you can reuse the plank, but I found that hard to believe after seeing how charred it got.

The planked salmon went over really well, even though our family is pretty spoiled because we have smoked steelhead in the fall and fresh perch that is just breaded and fried in a pan. That works on the grill, too. All you need is a deep cast iron pan. Junk shops and estate sales and yard sales are great places to find cast iron cook ware. You don’t have to buy the new stuff which generally comes from China and isn’t of the greatest quality. If you get a really gunky old cast iron pan, just toss it in a campfire or the fireplace and let it burn clean. Wait for the fire to get cool, scrub off the pan, rub it with cooking oil or fat and call it good. You can use a heavy cast iron pan to fry things in oil on top of the grill and keep the house from getting too stinky and smoky. Afterwards, though, I always play a little game called “Where can I dump the fish fry oil where Sally Ann is not going to roll in it and then jump in my bed?” I usually lose, and the dog ends up in my bed with greasy cornmeal stuck all over her.

This year is just going to be a crazy bumper crop year of all things berry. Something really drastic is going to have to happen to mess this up. The strawberries are ready to ripen, there are more currants than I have ever seen. The black raspberries are loaded, and even the troublesome blackberries are having their best year at least since the first year I had them. Even with all the pruning, there are going to be just mounds of grapes. I have been struggling to keep bird netting on the currants. We get a mighty amount of wind up here, and the netting just doesn’t want to stay at all. With the strawberries, I just tack the netting down with poultry fence staples and reach under to pick. When the netting is on the strawberries, it is better to go barefoot in the garden, because the netting catches on any kind of shoe tread, and button up shirts also present a problem. My strawberries are also about a week and a half behind the ones closer to the lake. The lower temperatures up here really make a difference. And I probably just jinxed myself and my berries since it is getting pretty chilly out there. I don’t think it’s going to frost or anything, but it will be in the forties the next three nights or so.

Speaking of weather, the National Weather Service finally released the snow total map for the season. We were right on the line between the color for 120-140 inches and that for 140-160. I thought we had a little less snow this year than last, when we had 180 inches. We ran out of wood bad this spring, though. I need to get on the ball with that, since our backup propane tank is almost empty, and with everything going up, filling it is falling farther down the list of priorities, especially since we have a nice new wood stove. Though, we did stretch the tank through three winters just with what was in it when we moved here. Little did I know that was going to be like getting a thousand dollars free with the house! We had our 36th coldest spring on record, and I’d like to think that if we’d had a little closer to normal temperatures and not so much rain that I could have either not run out of firewood as quickly or been able to get another load, but it never happened. I have a little bit of a jump on it this year, though, since my uncle brought a partial load as a Mother’s Day present, and I got another partial load from my aunt’s yard where a big piece of her cottonwood tree fell down.

That’s all I can think of which I’m just sitting around waiting for it to quit raining.

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