Sunday, September 6, 2009

Late Summer

Sunny, 70

Summer is telling us to prepare for her departure. While we are still enjoying delightfully warm and sunny days, the nights are cooling down to the 40's, blanketing the dark in thick mists and fog characteristic of this time of year. The first few black walnut leaves have started to turn yellow and drift to the lawn, and our field is hosting larger and more raucous flocks of Sandhill Cranes and Canada Geese these days.

The pigs are doing wonderfully. They clearly are having a ball in their 'Piggy Palace'. Between their frequent naps, they get up to eat, drink, forage, root, and race around playing with anything that seems amusing to a pig. That includes us, the dogs, tree branches, and even a rubber feed tub. Yesterday I watched as one of the shoats took an interest in the large rubber tub we use to give them liquid treats such as milk and yogurt, etc. Due to previous piggy activity, the tub was lying upside down. It is soft and collapsible when pushed on. He was nuzzling and nibbling the edge of the tub. Next thing I know, he is posessed by the same internal buzzer that makes puppies attack socks and kittens race up curtains, and he has managed to throw himself onto the tub, causing the tub to roll. Piggie did a full rollover off the tub, with the tub following right behind and rolling over the top of him. All the while, he had a sort of grin on his face, and seemed to think it was as funny as I did. I think he really did mean to do that! He seemed disappointed to look up and find that none of his mates had noticed his great stunt. Now you know why I don't need to watch much tv.

The hoop house we built for them is working out great, even better than I had hoped. First, I was concerned about how hard they might be on it, chewing it, rubbing on it, and generally beating it up, but they have so far respected it. Perhaps they have better things to do. They actually have used it when they need it, such as when it rains. But we have had a string of very dry weather, and even though it is getting down in the 40's at night, they prefer to sleep under their favorite tree. Pigs are much like puppies in the way they all pile together when they sleep. I'm curious to watch them and see at what temps they will finally begin to use the nest under cover we have provided for them.

The pumpkins are growing, and we have enjoyed our first honeydew melon, which was an absolute delight. We only got one this year, I am sure it was due to crowding from other squash plants and too much weed competition. Next year, we will have more melons! The watermelons have faired slightly better, and hearing that rind just pop open when touched by a knife makes my mouth water.

We have pulled up all the garlic and onions, and harvested most of the carrots. Dry beans are out, and mostly shelled. They are a project that can be put aside, and gotten to in little bits as time allows. It's one of those nice things to do on the porch in nice weather such as this, and it is fun for our guests to participate in and pop those pearly little white beans out of the husk and drop them satisfyingly into the big bowl. We often talk about bean and ham soup during this activity :-)

I also have a charcuterie update. Last weekend I smoked two more slabs of bacon. The first was a remake of my first effort in home made bacon, a maple cured recipie. The last one came out okay, but needed improvement in my opinion. So this time I rinsed the salt cure off longer (the first was too salty for my tastes), and I smoked it for a shorter time. By golly, I think I got it right. Wow. That was the best tasting bacon I've ever had! We have some sliced and saved up in the freezer.

The next day, I smoked a bacon that I had flavored and cured in a very different mix - this one was imbued with garlic and cracked pepper in addition to the salt. This one also came out very, very good! This more savory flavor is perfect for eating on BLT's, in salads, or just all by itself. This one is Karen's favorite. Good thing we can produce our own bacon, since we will soon run out. Maybe that just means I need to focus on making sausage and smoking hams!

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