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Here in Vermont we were very lucky this time around when Hurricane Sandy struck — we were spared the devastation that took all of us by surprise a year ago in August. It is sad to see the destruction that has befallen our home state of New Jersey, especially “down the shore”.

It was however interesting to see as I drove around over this past weekend and on Monday before the storm gained a foothold, the preparations being taken here, although the forecast was not as dire as it was in the New York area and other coastal sections of the eastern seaboard. The gas stations were doing a booming business since everyone was there, filling their vehicles, filling their supply of gas cans (a requirement here in Vermont), and even some folks had their generators on their vehicles, filling those as well. The stores didn’t have the run that the stores closer to the storm did, but clearly you could see that people had some extra water or milk in their shopping carts. As I dropped a child off down in town, I was amazed to see that every single house along the way had their outdoor belongings tucked away or tied down, bare lawns and secured belongings clearly added to the evidence that the folks in Vermont weren’t taking any chances this time around.

One of the good things about living up here is that you feel almost compelled to be “stocked up”. Everyone, or so it seems, puts food by for the winter…or the blizzard….or the hurricane… or even the zombie apocalypse (Happy Halloween, everyone!) if you believe my sons. If you don’t can, pickle, dry or jar you are pretty much a newbie and you feel like a loser. If you haven’t learned how to make at least some of the stuff that you eat yourself … well, you definitely aren’t from around these parts. Everyone that I know does some form of preservation of the fresh summer veggies and has other goodies tucked away to keep them going through the bad weather.

My recent posts on homemade yogurt and homemade granola go hand in hand with my post on homemade jam. The peppers from the garden have been sliced and frozen for winter soups or stir fries. The tomatoes have been slowly boiled down to sauce and tucked away in the freezer. Habanero peppers, cayenne peppers and Thai peppers have been dried, as has the basil that now resides in a mason jar on a shelf in the pantry. I have made pickles and put up Jersey peaches at the height of the season.

Potatoes from the garden will be stored in the basement, along with the canned goods and non-perishables that will help us weather what Mother Nature and zombies may throw our way in the coming months. My sourdough starter is in mason jars (note the plural) in the fridge and can easily be turned into a loaf of bread when the mood strikes.

We have huge stockpots that were hauled out a few days ago to hold water in the event that the power went out, so we wouldn’t need to start the generator right away. The firewood was brought in and stacked by the wood stove. Many a batch of dough has risen by the warmth of that fire as have many bagels, cinnamon buns and dinner rolls. When the power was out before the generator, we even cooked soup and boiled water for pasta on the wood stove.

We are fortunate that the farm down the hill is a dairy farm and we have gotten raw milk there on occasion – especially when the ladies and I made cheese.

 

 

I remember someone that I knew in New Jersey years ago commenting, “why store stuff in our house when we have the supermarket down the street, storing everything for us?” Why? Because you never know when zombies can come out of the wood work or the “storm of the century” decides that you are in its path. Here, we lose the power quite a bit (not as much as we used to, but it happens with some frequency, especially during windy or rainy weather). Sometimes, it happens when you least expect it. For instance, two weeks ago at about 10 p.m. the power went out for about 1/2 hour for no discernable reason. I was critical of Tom’s decision to buy a generator, figuring candles are romantic aren’t they? However, not being able to shower or flush the toilets or have drinking water, isn’t. When we lived in New Jersey a power outage if it occurred usually happened at the height of a heatwave and resulted in no power. We had a gas stove and our water came from the water system. Here, our water comes from a well that guess what? Doesn’t work without power so when our power goes out, so goes our water, and our showers and our toilets. Trust me, generators are a good thing and for the time or two that you might need them for days or a week or more, you will be thanking your stars that you invested in one.

If living in Vermont, and my wonderful neighbors and friends, have taught me anything, it is that we have to be prepared to be self-sufficient — whatever the reason. We could survive here for days (in fact, last year when Irene struck we did) without a store run and weeks if necessary. I have made bread on the gas grill, I have cooked dinner on the wood stove. We have melted snow in pots on the wood stove to flush toilets. It may sound apocalyptic but it’s not. It’s being prepared. We are fortunate to have honey from the bees and fresh eggs from the chickens. If the zombies ever did strike, I am sure that we could have chicken from the chickens as well, but I’m hoping that we don’t have to go that route. The goats, cuties that they are, are off limits.

Being prepared is something that I have learned not to take for granted. You never know when the weather or the zombies may take a turn for the worse and after these last few storms we have all learned that you can never, ever be too prepared. In addition, knowing that you can take care of yourself and be self reliant and self sufficient, even if it is only for a few days, is a really good feeling.

The winds have kicked up here suddenly over the past half hour. Here’s some Sandy snacks to munch on while we watch the trees blow out of our yard.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

 

Pumpkin Butterscotch Granola Bars

 

 

Here’s a legal tidbit that you might find interesting. Surprise, surprise but lap dances aren’t “dramatical or musical art performances” that qualify as an exemption from New York State sales tax.

In a pretty close (4-3) ruling the New York State Court of Appeals decided that despite its entertainment value (uh-hum) exotic dancing does not qualify as “dramatic or musical arts performances” sufficient to permit it to be exempt from sales tax. The petitioner sought to have the court overturn a tax court ruling that was affirmed by the appellate court. The petitioner, owner of an adult “juice bar” in the Albany, New York area was trying to assert that lap dancing should be part of the exemption that the Legislature intended when it stated that “dramatic or musical arts performances” were not subject to sales tax. Now the purpose of the exemption as stated by the Legislature was to promote cultural and artistic performances, and while there are those that might disagree with me, I don’t think that lap dancing was what was going through their minds when they crafted that language. I could however be very wrong — you never know.

Perhaps the problem with the argument is that the law being what the law is, the petitioner was required to demonstrate (or bears the burden to show) that the fees constituted admission charges “for performances that were dance routines qualifying as choreographed performance”. The Court of Appeals determined that the petitioner and its expert witness (there really is an expert witness out there for everything I have learned over my years as an attorney) failed to present any evidence depicting such performances and the expert didn’t have any personal knowledge  or observation of the “private” or lap dances that occurred at the club. That leads one to believe that had the court been provided with demonstrative evidence (and I will leave that to your imagination) perhaps the petitioner might be in a different position right now.

The dissent (those members of the court that disagreed with the majority opinion) plainly stated in their opinion that “those people that paid the admission charge paid to see women dancing. It does not matter if the dance was artistic or crude, boring or erotic.” As the dissenting judge put it plainly put it “Under New York Tax law, a dance is a dance.”

Just thought that you would find it interesting that not all law is exactly that boring.

So, for anyone who’s tried the yogurt recipe I posted the other day, here is something to go along with that yogurt. Pumpkin granola.

While Tom was away and the house was relatively empty, I went on a bit of a baking spree. I mixed up a batch of pumpkin granola from a recipe I found here on Stumbleupon and then I made these pumpkin granola bars which are also quite nice with a cup of tea.Eatingwell…livingthin posted a great pumpkin granola recipe. Such a simple thing, yet I have never tackled granola, despite my desire to do so. There has always been just one excuse after another….I don’t have the right ingredients, it will take too much time….yada, yada, yada. So, with nothing else of any moment to do, and the necessary ingredients in the cupboard I set out to make this granola.

I must digress for just a moment and say that if you haven’t been on Stumbleupon, I would definitely give it a try. You can create an account, pick your areas of interest and randomly “stumble” across websites on those topics. I have found a decent number of recipes using it and it’s also a nice way to come across websites that you might have otherwise ever found.

So…. back to the granola. Here is the recipe that I adapted from Eatingwell….living thin:

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup plus 2T maple syrup

1 egg yolk

2 t. pumpkin pie spice or a combination of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg as you would use for pie totaling 2 teaspoons)

1 t. vanilla extract

1/4 t. salt

3 cups old fashioned oats — I used Bob’s Red Mill Steel cut but as long as you don’t use Quick cooking oats you should be fine

1 cup slivered almonds (you can use your nut of preference)

Preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Use parchment paper that you spray with cooking spray in a baking pan. Mine is 11 x 17.

Combine everything but the oats and nuts. Mix well. Then add oats and nuts, coating completely with the mixture.

Spread the mixture evenly in the pan and place in the oven. Stir every 15 minutes (honestly I forgot about this for the first 1/2 hour or so) and cook for about 1 hour.  The granola should be brown when you take it out of the oven. Let it cool completely in the pan and then place in your favorite air-tight granola container.

Use it with your homemade yogurt or simply as a snack.

 

 

 

 

I came upon this homemade yogurt recipe over at Food in Jars and I love it! It is so easy, so simple and so delicious. I have made dozens of batches of yogurt this way and have yet to have one turn out disappointing, even when I forgot the jars overnight. Disillusioned with my yogurt maker which did great at first and then gave me a version of yogurt soup despite my attempts to try everything to get yogurt like the first few batches I was searching out another way to make yogurt. I wanted the convenience of the yogurt maker — the fix-it and forget-it attitude – I didn’t have time  or the inclination to wrap crock pots in towels or tinker with the oven.

This is simple all you need is milk (I use skim) and about 2 T. of yogurt to use as starter the first time around – after that you can just save 2 T. from the previous batch.  That’s the ingredients, here’s what else you require.

1. A small cooler (mine fits 2 or 3 quart mason jars)

 

 

 

2. Two quart size mason jars

 

 

 

3. One half gallon of milk (I use skim to make non-fat yogurt)

4. A whisk and a sauce pan to hold the half gallon of milk.

 

 

Then, it’s easy. Pour the milk into the sauce pan and heat until it is about 190 degrees. Remove from the stovetop and let it cool to 120 degrees. Then whisk in the 2 T of yogurt starter. Pour the milk into the quart jars — it should fill both of them to the tippy top perfectly. Cover the jars.

 

Put the jars into your cooler. Fill your cooler with hot tap water high enough to submerge the jars.

 

 

Put the lid on your cooler and I put mine right on the floor out of the way. Six hours later — YOGURT! You can leave it for up to 8 hours. I also left mine once overnight which was about 12 hours and it was tangy, but delicious.

Remove the jars from the cooler and put in the fridge. The finished product is 2 quarts of non-fat plain yogurt for the price of a half-gallon of skim milk and about 1/2 hour worth of my time. Not too shabby.

 

Happy Saturday! It has been a LONG week here. Not too much sun, too much rain and a lot to do.

This morning is foggy but promises at least in part to have some sun before…. guess what? It rains again. Yup, that’s right more rain. Not that I am complaining or anything (okay well I am complaining) but a few days of sunshine in a row would be nice…. and good for the soul.

 

Just for my hubby — the chickens and Creme say hello. In addition to myself, they miss you — they told me so. (yes, you can also tell it has been a long week without much adult interaction — leading me to talk to the dog, the chickens, the goats — whichever creatures would listen)

 

 

Independence day Fireworks over the Navasink R...

Independence day Fireworks over the Navasink River in Red Bank, NJ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been a busy week. Tom and TJ are away and in addition to the house feeling a little off when one or more of us is gone, it is also considerably busier for me. I am the chauffeur, cook, laundry person and animal care giver. The days have been long but very busy and that is why this morning when I looked at the blog statistics, I realized that I crossed a big threshold. My blog has had over 100,000 views on it since its inception. Wow. Thank you!

English: Red heart clip art

English: Red heart clip art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To think that when I started it, it was just a way to vent and keep our families back in New Jersey aware of what was happening here. Now, it is so much more than that and I have had the true pleasure of meeting and conversing with so many people because of it. It is such a big part of my own life and I am very grateful that so many of you have made a regular part of yours.

From the bottom of my heart….thank you!

I really hate waking up in the dark. Soon, when the clocks go back, it will be even darker (if that is possible) in the morning when I have to get up. There really is something more difficult about prying yourself out of bed when it is something akin to the middle of the night.

But, since I am trying to not complain these days and look to the bright side, here it is.

When you are up while it is still pitch black out, you do have the opportunity–each and every day- to watch the sun rise over the mountains. Now, that in and of itself, is a good reason to pry yourself out of bed in the darkness, don’t you think ?

It was a beautiful sunset tonight. The sky was briefly lit up with a gorgeous shade of pink. This pictures doesn’t do it justice. A good way to end the week.

Happy Weekend!

 

Homemade apple turnovers…..cup of tea…..enough said.

It’s been two years since we last harvested honey. Tom pulled off the supers last week and then this past weekend, the potting shed was converted into the honey extraction chamber. The portable electric heaters were placed out there to bring the potting shed and the honey up to a warmer temperature. Much like syrup, cold honey does not flow. Since Friday night, (off and on) Tom has been uncapping the frames and then placing them in the extractor and spinning them out. We have been very fortunate to have about 11 1/2 gallons of honey from this harvest. There is one five gallon bucket that will sit in the basement and another that was siphoned off into smaller jars (about two cases worth), plus another five half-gallon mason jars of honey. That is a lot of honey.

The thing about honey, is it is great to put up. It’s filtered several times and then jarred — that’s it!

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Night– New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Yup, that’s the forecast for tomorrow night. Snow showers on those leaves and those pumpkins.

 

Winter…. bring it on. 🙂

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