Prairie fire

Jason and I spent most of the day planting trees and weeding around the ones that were already there. There are apples, pecans, walnuts, elms, Osage orange, and dogwoods. Most of what we planted today were catalpas, apples, elms, and rose of Sharon. I did learn how to ride the lawnmower today but no pictures because that seemed reckless.

Planting trees 2 Planting trees 1

We were outside just after lunch and saw smoke on the south horizon. I was kind of worried that our south boundary might get burned but Jason said the fire was probably about a mile south of us. I asked if we could go look at it so that I would have a better idea about what the prairie fires are like, because in the spring it is normal for ranchers to burn pasture and I want to be ready for this experience.

Prairie fire 1

The fire was much farther than it looked initially. There was a small house for some type of wildlife area that was close by but no other houses within range. Fortunately the wind was not blowing  from south to north in our direction as the grass is dry and tall right now for miles. You can see the flames in the last picture here.

Prairie fire 2 Prairie fire 3 Prairie fire 4

There was one of the local Reading people at the scene in his truck and also the fire truck on the road. No one there knew how the fire had got started. In the few minutes that we were there, the sheriff and another couple fire trucks showed up. It looked like the plan was just to try to keep the fire from jumping the road. The flames were starting to get higher as they got closer toward the roadside.

Prairie fire 2b

We left to go back to the house to continue planting trees. I mentioned to Jason getting goats to mow the perimeter of the property for a firebreak but was dissuaded. In about an hour, the smoke had cleared.

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Possum

I have seen a light-colored opossum here previously but the other day Jason thought he saw a black one. I guess black is an unusual color for a possum because at first he thought it might be a cat. On Tuesday night when I got home there was a lot of rustling on the front porch. If it’s the outdoor orange cat rustling around she will squeak at me, so I knew it wasn’t here because this thing was silent. I got my headlamp and looked down the stairs by the root cellar.

Possum 1

I tried multiple times to get better pictures of him but it was pretty dark out there. He was really calm even though the flash on my cell phone was going off. I have the feeling we will run into each other again.

Possum 2

He w

Winter foods

I like summertime fresh produce but winter comfort foods are wonderful too. We have a lot of winter squash, sweet potatoes, beans, and grains in the winter. These are from Jason’s dad’s garden, since we had trouble with our own this year.

butternut squash sweet potatoes

One of the big “finds” for this past year was tatume squash. When this is growing in the summer it is almost indistinguishable from zucchini in flavor and texture (and about as productive). But if it is left to mature, it will turn orange and harden on the outside so it can be kept and used as a winter squash. The seeds from it can be roasted and used as a snack.

tatoum squash

From the sweet potatoes, I made a version of Rockin’ Moroccan stew, which I was first introduced to by my friend Erica. I used dry pantry supplies and frozen peppers and tomatoes for this, which turned out great.

moroccan stew

We also made butternut squash pancakes. This was an experiment–I just had the idea that they might be like potato pancakes. We cooked the squash first in the oven to get the pulp. Then we mixed the pulp about 1:1 with fresh whole wheat flour. I added some ground flax meal as an egg substitute to get the mixture to hang together. I also added savory spices like parsley, cumin, and Indian red pepper.

butternut cake batter

We fried these in the cast iron skillet, then broiled them in the oven to brown the tops. I used a blend of vegetable oil with a little sesame oil to cook these. These will probably be a staple from now on.

butternut cakes

We also have been making a lot of bread and eating it with miso butter. Jason has experimented with the bread and we noticed that the texture varies depending on the container we use for baking. This is a denser bread that was just mounded onto a cookie sheet rather than baked in a loaf pan. The miso butter is blended shiro miso and coconut oil that we warm and cool to get a spreadable consistency. It is also a good condiment for other warm foods.

miso butter c bread

Splitting wood

It has gotten cold here, with highs in the teens and twenties. We were also down with colds so ran through a lot of wood quickly. This afternoon we went out to split more logs that we had.

Jason used to use a maul to cut the logs but we’ve borrowed the Jackson’s wood splitter and are doing it the easy way. Fortunately, I’m not the hardiest type of woman who can swing a maul effectively.

Hillbilly

Here’s the tractor set up with the splitter:

wood splitter tractor gears

Jason is the wood loader and I work the gears. It’s pretty efficient so we don’t use that much gas on the tractor.

jason loading wood 1 jason loading wood 2

splitting wood 1

It does feel like a while being out there in the cold though. Nice to think we have wood taken care of for a bit.

Me on tractor 1