Friday, July 31, 2015

Salmon Processing and Garden Vegetables

I'm enjoying another foggy morning. Foggy mornings are not very common here, but do have them more often in August and September, something having to do with the cooler temperatures we get this time of year. Foggy mornings remind me of childhood vacations on the coast of Maine. My mother's family is from Mt. Desert Island in Maine. We would fly all the way from Oregon to Maine every few years to visit my great grandmother, great aunts and my mother's godmother. I remember eating breakfast in my great grandma's kitchen when I was eight, and looking out at the thick fog. And that same week taking walks to the harbor and exploring the coastline in the fog. 

Then on the complete flip side, fog also reminds me of vacationing on the Oregon coast in the winter, of which I also have fond memories; getting away from the snow and cold of Eastern Oregon and camping in the rain on the coast, off season, and having the coast and campgrounds mostly to ourselves.

Well, I am using the foggy morning to catch up with you guys. I have some pictures of salmon processing and some garden veggies that have made it to the kitchen, to share with you while I procrastinate tackling my pantry which is on my morning list of things to do. 

Dustin took his annual trip to the Chitina river a couple weeks ago with his good luck fishing buddy. This year the limit was greater than in past years. Head of household qualifies for 25 salmon and then ten additional fish for each family member. So, we could have gotten 55. He came home with  45, I think. We gave some away that first day to close family and friends which took us down to 36 which is a good number for us. We will eat it all and probably have none left next early summer to have to deal with. 

Dustin leaves the heads in Chitina and brings back just about everything else, including the eggs. We freeze the eggs and feed them to the chickens throughout the year for protein. This year he taught the kids to scrap the back meat off. Most people don't know about back meat and just throw it away. We pack it into jars, press saran wrap on the top, leave clearance for expanding and freeze it. Then we use the jars for salmon cakes and salmon chowder. I believe we had about 8 pint jars of back meat that the kids scraped off.

This year I was dealing with early pregnancy on salmon processing day, so Dustin and the kids did most the work. I even took a two and a half hour nap during the middle. We put about five whole fish in the freezer. They keep the best that way and have the least freezer burn when we pull them out in January to eat. The rest we vacuum sealed with the meat facing together. We will try and eat all those packages before mid winter. We brined and smoked the rest. I froze one large batch of salmon jerky - extra dry smoked salmon - for easy, not too messy snacking. Then canned three flats of smoked salmon for salmon and crackers, salmon goat cheese spread and smoked salmon salad. 

Avery scraping back meat.

 Smoked salmon canning morning.

 This is our second or maybe third year noticing these little worms. I don't know anyone else who has even noticed them. And I wonder if it because most people I know are freezing their salmon and then pulling it out to smoke later. Or when they eat their salmon fresh, they mistake the worms for ligaments or other things. But, these worms gross me out. I looked them up last year and can't remember what they are called, but I think the salmon get them from sea mammals while they are in the ocean. Supposedly these worms need a salt water mammal host, so thankfully, we shouldn't suffice. I have noticed these worms dried out on the top of the smoked salmon. This year was the first time seeing a worm that had survived the smoking process. This worm pictured above, was actually wriggling around for at least an hour while I cut up salmon. It makes me a little concerned about eating the smoke salmon fresh before canning it. Likewise, about eating salmon lightly cooked off the grill. Freezing the fish first, would be the obvious answer for those who are concerned about the worms. I haven't spoken about these worms in front of my kids. I don't want to give them a reason to not want to eat their fresh salmon.

 We had two of our "old" goats back for about three weeks. Denali and Ember came back for a visit while their owners were on summer vacation. I enjoyed having them back. I did not necessarily enjoy milking them twice a day. Man, that's a lot of work. I've never been a big fan of milking twice a day, even if you do get twice as much milk out of your animals. I'm a morning person. I turn into a pumpkin after dinner. While I had these girls, I had my two weeks of nausea and I was super sleepy. I was trying to milk them close to twelve hours apart, but then we had soccer games and practices at various times three nights a week. So, I tried. And they did well for me. Denali gave us about eight pounds of milk a day. She is a two year old second freshener. Ember gave about five to six pounds a day and is a one year old first freshener. I did enjoy the abundance of milk and managed to get a good amount of chevre and milk in the freezer.

 First straw flower picking. I really need to learn how to make wreaths with them while they are fresh and pliable.

A fraction of my third and final carrot thinning :) 

 Hullo lovelies. Gosh, I really just want to eat all our broccoli fresh. But when I let the heads get this big and then pick them at once, that isn't really an option. So, I blanched and vacuum sealed some for winter soup. I like frozen broccoli pureed in soup form and that is about it.

 I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but these cabbages are approaching basketball size.

 And this would be at least a three meal cauliflower head - for our family anyways. Yesterday I made a white bean, kale, parmesan soup with about a quarter of this head. Next, I think I'll make a Aloo Gobi with Indian spices and potatoes. Then maybe steamed with cheddar cheese sauce. 

And now, I must motivate and get on with my morning duties.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Our summer in pictures and a surprise!

 Avery with her cousins at the Botanical Gardens. And with our friend's daughter Juniper, above.

 We have had a wonderful summer. And if I sound past tense at all, it is because the end of July does mark the end of our hot days and the beginning of our cooler days and dark growing nights. I have not been making the time to download pictures let alone take the time to write anything cohesive. Instead we have been on the go catching up on doctor and dentist appointments, spending time with friends and family, scrambling to catch up on house chores on the rainy days and occasionally I manage to eek out a fee precious hours in the garden.

Most of these pictures are from June. Avery had a wonderful first week at Wild Rose Summer camp.

 In June my brother and his wife had their third child, a daughter named Petra Rose. Below the kids are holding her for the first time. Above is a little sweater vest I made for her. It is a free pattern on ravelry called "Louise". I had some issues with the pattern, so if anyone tries making and runs into trouble you can email me :) 

Avery and I made it out one day shortly after summer solstice to "bark" our Birch trees. I hope I got enough bark for all the winter crafts I am hoping to make. I meant to get out one more time and find a few bigger trees but I'm pretty sure I've missed the window by now.

 We were invited to pick Honey Berries with friends. That is Avery's haul. She made a pie, mixing them with some peaches and cherries. I picked maybe a gallon and a half. Put most in the freezer. In case you've never heard of Honey Berries, they grow on a hardy shrub that is cold tolerant. They produce fruit early. I think we picked at the end of June or early July. Right about when the strawberries first came on. They look like an oblong blueberry but have a different and distinct flavor. The Botanical gardens here in town has several varieties growing. The bushes we were picking off of were probably four or five feet in diameter and about six feet tall. I was impressed with their yield and earliness.

 Avery picking Arnica flowers to make a fresh infused oil.
This perennial spot is one of my favorite areas in my garden. The bees love it so much I have a hard time working in it. I have to watch before I grab and be careful where I step.

And yes, that is my pee stick! We are expecting our third child! 

I am guessing that this won't come as a surprise to some of my long time readers. We have been making gradual steps towards this outcome for a couple years now; everything from teeth mineralizing diets and cleanses to downsizing on our animal diversity and numbers. We wanted to be in a better financial position so that we would not be overwhelmed by financial stresses. We also wanted to simplify our life so that we can really just savor each day with our children and the one to come. We had hopes to sell this home and move before having another child but the house that we want to buy isn't available until next summer, and we just couldn't wait any longer. As you can imagine the kids are very excited - especially Avery. She says things like, "I can't believe you are building a baby for me! and Noah and Dad and you." I myself am so excited I have trouble falling asleep at night sometimes despite how tired I am all day. And there have been some nights I wake up and remember and then can't fall back to sleep, because of how thrilled I am.

So, we will be having an early March baby. I am about eight weeks along and thankfully have already wrapped up a couple weeks of queasiness (during which we butchered chickens and processed salmon) and am just tired now and don't feel like cooking with all the amazing produce we should be enjoying. 

We've had a few rainy days. This morning was foggy. I made gluten free zucchini bread and my first batch of feta in a couple years. But the sun has just come out and is calling to me. I will share pictures of my beautiful garden soon. 
Best wishes to you!