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Friday, September 28, 2012

Cousins Visit The Nickel and Dime

Fall is a great time to visit Northern New Mexico because the air is fresher, it still rains, but not as much, and the leaves are turning colors, especially the aspens at the higher elevations. The altitude at The Nickel and Dime is a little too low for aspens, but as we drove north toward Taos, the aspen leaves shimmered like gold against the green pines. Wouldn't these colors make a gorgeous quilt?

Last week was fun because Tom's Wisconsin cousins, Donna, Richard and Tanya, came for a visit.

At Taos, we saw assorted folk wandering about in interesting outfits and made a visit to Taos Pueblo where people have lived for at least 1000 years. The pueblo is  the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States, according to their website. Donna, Tanya and I explored the pueblo's shops and galleries while Tom and Richard sat by the incredibly clear river and eavesdropped on the extremely knowledgeable tour guide.

The ladies and I also made a short visit to Las Vegas and its plaza.

Santa Fe's Plaza was the place for some power shopping while the guys chilled on some benches listening to electronic harp music while watching a tweaker make balloon animals. That's why Santa Fe is called The City Different.

At home we ate too much, laughed a lot, and talked about family history.

Here are Tanya and Richard, ready for our Santa Fe visit.

Miss Bonnie came from her royal room upstairs to say hello to the guests. Richard even had a lap cat for awhile.

The guys got in a little hunting, but be assured that no animals were harmed. There was more sitting and looking at the view than anything else.

It was a golden time, visiting with the family, and the house feels empty without them.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy First Day of Fall!

We spent the last days of summer in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, shopping, doing errands, and generally just bustling about town. It takes a little getting used to, the traffic, noise and people, but we adapt and I try to remember to drive with purpose while in town so no one honks at me to get the heck going.

Here's a shot of Albuquerque in October during the balloon festival.

Coming back home is a relief, though. This is how it looks on our way home. Breathing is easier and my face loses that squinchiness it gets when I am stressed.

That's not our home, but it's pretty, isn't it?

At our place fall is making its presence known. The maple tree is losing its leaves.

The three loaded apple trees are An Event, since we only get apples every three or four years around here. Late frosts kill the blossoms.

 I am trying to wrap my head around preserving them all. Drying, making apple pie filling, applesauce, and storing the very best ones seem like the way to go.

The grapes surprised me. I did what I thought was a klutz job pruning the vines and wondered if they'd even live. Here are the grapes from just one third of a grapevine.

Two baskets full of grapes made three and a half quarts of concord grape juice. I did the whole canning thing, crushing the grapes, extracting the juice in a big pot, and bottling and canning the juice. I wondered if it was worth all that work for three and a half quarts of juice. Then I looked at how much a quart of organic grape juice was at the supermarket. Dang! I made $24 worth of grape juice! 

This winter I will climb the stairs to our bedroom closet, the coolest place in the house, and select a jar of grape juice. In the the kitchen I will open the jar and pour the summer of 2012 into my glass. Then I will inhale its essence and say, "Yep, it was worth it."

Happy First Day of Autumn!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Blue Corn Raspberry Coffee Cake

Up here in Northern New Mexico it's raspberry season and a couple weeks ago M and I went raspberry picking at Salman Ranch. It was fun and we ended up with enough raspberries to snack on, freeze, and bake into coffee cake and muffins.

It's hard to bake at an altitude this high, especially if I want to put stuff in the batter. Stuff in the batter, I have learned from my friend Betsy the high altitude baking expert, causes the batter not to rise correctly. Betsy worked in the high altitude test kitchen of General Foods several years ago, so she knows what's up.

Nonetheless, I decided to bake a not too sweet cake with raspberries and blue cornmeal. And what the heck, I tossed in some toasted pinon nuts, too.

And you know what? The cake came out fine with no high altitude changes at all.

Raspberry Blue Corn Coffee Cake

Just a note: This is not a very sweet cake. Most of the sweetness comes from the raspberries.
Makes 1 single layer cake, 8 inch square or round pan


1/2 cup piñon nuts
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup stone-ground blue cornmeal
1/2  tsp. salt
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 1/4  cups buttermilk
1/2  tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs, or reconstituted egg substitute to equal 2 eggs
1/2  cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup mild vegetable oil such as corn, canola or peanut
1 cup fresh raspberries
Extra sugar for sprinkling on top

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a 8 or 9 inch round or square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Toast piñon nuts by heating in a skillet over medium heat, stirring or shaking pan almost constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes. When nuts become aromatic and golden, remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Combine flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder in a large bowl, stirring well. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk and baking soda. Whisk in eggs, sugar and oil.
  4. Stir combined wet ingredients into dry until mixture is not quite blended. Be gentle when blending. Add piñon nuts and raspberries with a couple of strokes so the mixture is just barely combined. Pour into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the top with some sugar, about a tablespoon or so.
  5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. 
Refrigerate leftovers. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tomatoes, Flowers, Apples and a Recipe

Yesterday I took a mosey around to see how stuff was growing. This summer had a pretty good monsoon season and the plants have been extremely grateful. I am grateful for the former lady of the house who, although only here on vacations, thoughtfully planned out the garden so that there is always something blooming during the growing season.

But I don't know what all these plants are, so if you can identify anything, please leave me a comment, okay?

Here's a closeup of one of the flowers:

Because we have no beef cattle around this summer, they didn't eat this vine and I discovered that it actually blooms!

Let me know if you know what this one is.

I admired the apples. I never had an apple tree before, so this is a treat.

I checked out the bee hives. Bears are out and about and the white fence is electrified. Yogi and Boo-Boo do not get this honey!

Inside the Growing Dome I said hello to Manny, Moe and Jack, the resident Wal-Mart goldfish who live in the large water tank.

This is The Tomato Thicket. It's a wall of tomatoes and I have to hunt around to find all the ripe ones.

The Roma tomatoes are sneaky and hide deep within the thicket. But I found them because I am a relentless seeker of errant tomatoes.

And I made this excellent tomato sauce from Smitten Kitchen.

Then I went to Thread Bear, the local Las Vegas, NM quilt store, to buy fabric for a class I am taking in Albuquerque this weekend taught by Jacquie Gering, one of my quilt heroes.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Beekeeping at the Nickel and Dime Ranch

A year ago I finished a beekeeping class taught by Meg, our local master beekeeper. The bees at Meg's place make honey so well that she has a booth at the Mora Farmers' Market where she sits with jars of honey labeled with each purchaser's name. Each week folks give Meg their names which she writes down in her little notebook. The following week they pick up their freshly harvested honey. Meg spends much of her time at the market explaining why there are names on the honey jars. "I never heard of Rosalita honey," someone said a couple weeks ago.

Meg, teaching her class last year.
A little over a month ago a gift of two colonies of bees came home. Paul, a local beekeeper, shepherd and carpenter, made two snug top bar hives to hold them and we moved the bees into their new homes. So far, they love their new digs and are busy making more bees and more honey to fill up the space inside the hives.

This morning I wanted to check the hives to see how the ladies are doing and to bring them some "bee tea," a combination of sugar water, mint and herbs that helps to build up their colony to a good size before cold weather hits.

It was a cloudy day, but the ladies needed their tea, so I soldiered on.

I fired up the smoker, used to calm the bees. The smoke masks the alarm pheromones bees send out when they are feeling defensive or if a bee is injured. That way no one knows what the heck is going on and they can go about their business. At least that's how it works in theory. Every beekeeping day is different, I am learning. Well, even each hive is different, too.

 Below is the smoker, opened, with the fuel beginning to smolder. And yep, that's a pile of dried manure next to the smoker. That's the fuel. I really smell great after beekeeping, just so you know.

The hives are trapezoidal, with bars across the top for the bees to build their combs. Paul adds a roof to further keep out the elements.

Here the roof is ajar so you can see the ends of the bars. There are about 24 bars in this hive and 15 are filled so far. On the bottom right of the hive is the entrance where the bees go in and out. It's a small entrance designed for easy guarding. There are guard bees stationed inside to repel intruders.

I was excited to see that the bees are building new comb, laying eggs and making honey.

Here is a shot of the new comb being built, but decided I wasn't brave enough to continue taking photos as we got closer inside. New beekeepers probably shouldn't multitask.

I also finally found the queen, who was busily laying eggs, her attendants faithfully following.

Then the weather got close, the atmospheric pressure changed, and the bees in the second hive were cranky. So I switched out their empty bee tea jars for some full ones and got the heck out of Dodge. I learn a little something every day. Today it was get out while the gettin's good.