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Last Night's Low Was 11 Degrees

I just wanted to record the lowest temperature we've seen here, which was last night at about 8 p.m., when the weather station in our yard recorded 11 degrees F. That is mighty cold for this coastal area! We survived the overnight chill, thanks to keeping the water dripping in three sinks in the house and fires going in both fireplaces. The chickens and ducks also fared well enough. I'm not sure yet about our honey bees. I'm not too hopeful that they will survive the winter, as it's been cold so many nights in a row. They are California bees, used to mild winters where they can keep foraging all year. Hope you are all keeping warm.
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First Big Snow This Winter

The first big snowstorm to hit our area arrived overnight. When we moved here five years ago, everyone we talked with in town said it never snows here. They said we're too coastal for snow. Well, Mother Nature decided to prove them wrong, giving us an astounding 6-18 inches of snow each and every year since then. Today, the snow has accumulated to 8 inches. The sky still looks dark, leading us to think we may see more. Then, the temperatures will dip into the teens over the next couple of days, something we haven't had here before. There are a few measures we take when it snows or when the temperatures dip below freezing after learning some lessons the hard way. For example, we leave the water dripping in the downstairs sinks at night to avoid frozen pipes. Everything's also insulated way more than in the past; leaving a slow trickle of water dripping is just added protection. We also put a bucket over the water shut-off valve in the yard, so we can find it later on if nece

A Few Updates & Figgy Buckwheat Orange Scones Recipe

It's been a busy December so far, especially with our daughter in a local theatre performance, with every evening filled with practices and performances. We attended her first public performance last night, and it was fantastic! They will continue for the rest of the month. We also had a farm-related issue to take care of a couple days ago, which I have added to our Bee Journal . Most honeybee hives around here don't overwinter well, and in fact, I just talked to someone last night whose friend lost 5 out of 7 of their hives due to the cold weather we've been having. We still have two hives left. I'm hoping our remaining little bee friends can hang in there. Today, I made figgy buckwheat orange scones that I will be taking to a special "craft day" a friend is hosting. The scones came out very nice, especially considering how significantly I altered the recipe. I have been craving the figgy buckwheat scones that Kim Boyce of The Bake Shop in Portland makes. Her

We Found Hidden Secret Messages From Former Owners of the 1960s or 70s

While working on remodeling our downstairs bathroom, we removed a giant mirror that had covered the entire upper half of the wall over the sink and countertop. After setting the mirror down in another room of the house, we went back into the bathroom and discovered several old messages taped to the wall where the mirror had been. The tape around the messages had yellowed with age. Cobwebs and dust drooped over the surface of the wall. What are the messages about, we wondered, and why are they here? The first one appears to be of a political nature. It says, "Vote for Tricky Dicky [Tricky Dicky is crossed out], Crafty Richard, and Zorba the Veep!" Who is Zorba the Veep? We had to look them up. Apparently, this was the nickname given by Democrats to Spiro T. Agnew, who was the 39th Vice President of the United States. The second sign says, "Attencion por favor, Odoriferous material is deposited within these catacombous hollows." I guess we can all figure out what that

Baked Apples

Last Christmas, my sister gave us three of these ceramic "The Original Apple Baker" dishes, one for each of us. I've been using the Basic Apple Recipe that's on the company's website. This is my favorite treat right now! The apples are so good baked this way. We bought two boxes of apples from Sunny Farms for pressing cider. I then hid about a dozen of the apples for making baked apples. The baked apples are really good with a scoop of ice cream. The ice cream begins to melt right away because the dish is still warm from the oven. In the middle of each Apple Baker dish is a post that you slide through the cored apple. The ceramic post's presence in the middle of the apple helps the apple bake evenly and keeps it warm as you enjoy eating your baked treat. Anyway, these dishes are so wonderful that I just had to share a note here about them. 

My First Cast Iron Pan (Isn't It Cute?)

There is a wood stove in our family room (The Corral) that has just enough space on top for a small cast iron pan. I've been thinking about trying to cook on the wood stove for five years now, ever since we installed the wood stove, and finally, this year we bought a small cast iron pan just for this purpose. Isn't it adorable? I didn't realize they made such tiny cast iron pans. We also bought the two hot pads that go around the handle of the pan.  There isn't much space on top of our wood stove for cooking. The vent pipe comes out the middle of the stove. Also, the wood stove is partially recessed into the fireplace, which doesn't give much room above the stove for a tall pan. This short pan is about the size of a slice of bread. In fact, it's intended for making paninis. But, we can also cook eggs and other things in it. There's room on the other side of the vent pipe for another small cast iron pan. I think I will have to go back to Swain's and buy t

Apple Scrap Pepper Jelly

We made apple scrap pepper jelly the other day. I was going to post a recipe here, but this was one of those science experiments where I kept adjusting it as it cooked. Have you ever made jelly that way? I wasn't sure it would turn out, but amazingly, it came out perfectly. Just the right thickness, sweetness, and heat. Sadly, I have no idea as to the exact ratios of ingredients used, so I'll probably never replicate it again.  We used the apples we harvested from our winter apple tree, along with serrano and Asian five-spice hot peppers we grew in the garden. The "apple scrap" part of this jelly is made by boiling the apple peels and cores for a few hours until you have apple juice. This is then the juice that is used in the jelly recipe. Except, I didn't realize how important the cores are for adding pectin to the recipe, and I gave the cores and yucky bits of apple to the deer. So, I only had apple peels. This meant I needed to use pectin in the recipe. I sort