Cooking · Lazer Creek Apiary · Relaxing

Sachertorte – second attempt

20191126_SachertorteIt’s that time of year ago — time to open up the cookbooks and use family members as guinea pigs for new holiday recipes!   Last night’s Sachertorte was more like a Sacher-pancake.  It had the chewy consistency of a cake-like Brownie, but Hubby enjoyed it.    At least the second attempt rose in the oven and looks pretty good except for some overly brown bits on the bottom and sides.  I guess I should have adjusted the oven temperature to accommodate the switch from too-big cake pan to smaller glass dish.   Regardless, it is done, and covered in chocolate, and I know my family will eat it even if it would evoke negative-but-friendly comments on The Great British Baking Show.   The final step is to write “Sachertorte” on top with melted milk chocolate, but I’m going to quit while I’m ahead!   It’s not like my handwriting is overly legible when I’m writing with a pen, never mind with a piping bag.  This is a recipe that is better sliced a day or two after baking, so it was a good one to start with.

20191126_SRollsThis morning’s sausage rolls (BBC Food recipe) were more successful than either version of Sachertorte.   The rolls that survive the first hour actually taste better cold, but we usually can’t resist them when they come out of the oven.    I was going to make a second batch, but Hubby just called to say the frozen puff pastry is sold out, and I have no desire to make my own today.   I actually don’t think I’ve made my own since high school cookery class!    I stopped making my own pastry after moving to the U.S. because it was just awful.  Now I know that European butter contains less water and more fat,  so I can blame my made-in-American dry and crumbly pastry on American butter — at least until I give it another try with European butter that is now available here.  But that’s not happening this week….

As we only like turkey in small doses and have no desire to have a lot of it hanging around after Thursday, we’re having beef for Thanksgiving.   And not just any beef — Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto) from The Joy of Cooking.    We love this recipe, but it involves reducing red wine and beef stock down a couple of times which takes time and has in the past made a huge mess on and around the stove.   It’s hard to boil 2 cups of liquid down to half a cup without some splatter, and red wine stains so very badly.  It may be worth getting my deep pressure cooker from storage to use for that stage — or to be more patient simmering away at the sauce over a lower temperature.   You also have to be careful to keep your face away from the pot as inhaling the fumes from a total of 2 1/2 cups of wine can make one quite light-headed.  Maybe that’s why I made such a mess the first time I cooked it!

Another favorite beef recipe of ours is Coastal Bend Texas Beef Tenderloin from Better Home and Gardens.   The downside to that one is that the whole refrigerator will reek of garlic for the 24 hours I allow it to marinate, but it sure does taste good.  The salsa is the perfect complement to the beef as well as to other recipes.

I am going to try one more new recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible tomorrow:  Austrian Curd Cheesecake.   European desserts are generally less sweet than their American counterparts, and I always enjoyed German cheesecake recipes.  Well, there was one that didn’t set and just burst out of the shell and flooded the table….  that was not the best birthday cake I ever made for my daughter!    I hope that the Mary Berry recipe will be a good substitute for my favorite recipes until I find my German cookery books which will probably stayed boxed up in storage until after we build the house.

I always like to think that I’d enjoy cooking this much if I just had more time, but summers prove me wrong.  I enjoy cooking for family get-togethers, but on a day-to-day basis, I’m much rather be outside working with the bees or gardening.  I guess I need to be excited about seeing friends and family to voluntarily slave away at a stove.

Bees · Construction · Lazer Creek Apiary · Nature

Missed (photo) opportunities

I have the most amazing commute and wanted to take a picture of the fall colors, but on the perfect days to take a picture, I was running late.  When I was on time, the light just wasn’t quite right.  Then we had that night with below freezing temperatures….

A couple of blocks before my school, there were two brilliant yellow trees with a scarlet tree between them.  One night of cold, windy weather dealt with that pretty picture.  Still, there’s a permanently beautiful view across the valley from the crest of a hill by a cattle ranch.  Clouds roll across the creeks and the sky is often a brilliant blue, even right after sunrise.   Even though I don’t have pictures to share with you, I see the views clearly in my mind and they bring me great joy.   Those views also inspired me to buy a 2020 calendar featuring the Cotswolds in England — one of my favorite places that has similar terrain to where we now live.   (Talking to high school friends on Facebook has been making me homesick!)

The commute home is almost as beautiful, but the long-range views are missing.  Then I pull into our driveway and see our land.   Between the two commutes, I spend the day enjoying teaching and being with my students and all the wonderful people with whom I work.   True, I get overwhelmed with grading and lesson planning sometimes, but 90% of the time, I’m smiling (on the inside at least)!

20191110 Spring
View of the spring

When I get home, I’m often surprised at the changes that have taken place while I was gone.  Our neighbor’s son is clearing undergrowth for us when he has time.   As our views open up, we’ve changed our minds about where to build the house, and then changed them back again, only to change again a day later.

20191110 Woods
Possible view from the back of the future house

We know that we want the back of the house to look out toward the woods and possibly with a view of the creek, which is to the right of the above scene.   We’ll be right at the transition from planted pines to hardwoods within hearing of the creek, regardless of quite where the house ends up.

Just like the ever-changing location, we’ve changed our minds about the house more times than we can count.  However, we keep coming back to Whisper Creek from Southern Homes.  We’ve talked about changes to all of the house plans we’ve looked at, including that one, but now that we’ve decided to replace the second bathroom with a tornado shelter, we’re content to leave everything else alone!   The kitchen provides all the room I need to can veggies and make jam, and the porches are just the right size.   We don’t like the mixed siding on the outside, but using the same siding everywhere is not a structural change.   I found myself mentally planning paint colors and countertops this morning, and that hasn’t happened with any other plan in the four years we’ve owned the land!

Yes, it’s been four years.  I’m glad I have old blogs to look back as we thought it had been five years.   We have so much to be thankful for going into another wonderful Thanksgiving.  The move here has done wonders for our mental and physical health, and we are overall healthy.  We have friends and family who are worth their weight in gold, and may start building our forever home before Thanksgiving 2020 rolls around.  We are going into winter with more hives than before, and I have an “Early Bird” chicken catalog to peruse.   Life is good!

Apiary · Bees · Gardening · Hive equipment · Lazer Creek Apiary · Supplemental Feeding

The Colors (and tasks) of Fall

20191109_Grass
New grass and clover planting with expanded blueberry patch behind – Fall 2019

Plants

The weekend before the drought ended, I turned the soil in the remaining compacted section of the timber company’s loading deck and we sowed a mixture of annual rye, fescue, and White Dutch Clover.  The rains came, and we have lush green grass with an under-story of clover over a few acres of recently cleared land as well as on the deck.  More importantly,  we have eliminated the erosion problem that has plagued us for almost 5 years now.    Oh – and by cleared land, I mean Hubby pushed back some more of the undergrowth between trees so that we could have more room for clover and fewer thorny plants.

We lost one of the magnolia trees planted by the gate in the drought, so when I’ve finished my coffee and this blog, we’re going to plant some camellias and gardenias on that side of the gate so that we have evergreen plants of a manageable size that are beautiful in spring and summer.   I was able to bring some gardenia cuttings from South Carolina, but was unable to get any cuttings from the camellia plants to take root.   By the time we finish that, it will be warm enough to continue getting the bees ready for next week’s cold snap.

20191110 FeedersBees

We constantly had problems with leaky lids (mainly when I put the lids on) when we used bucket feeders, so we’re trying open feeding with our internal feeders right now.  The hives I checked yesterday have a good deal of nectar, but very little bee bread.   We put the pollen feeder back out a few days ago and the bees are hitting it almost as hard as the syrup feeders.   The pollen feeder was a great success during the summer dearth and it was easy to clean up once the fall blooms started.

I went out to refill the syrup while it was still cold enough for the bees to be indoors this morning, but it was not cold enough to intimidate the yellow jackets, so we had to add yellow jacket traps around the feeders.   Those guys irritated me non-stop last weekend while I was applying a  non-skid paint to our ice-rink of a deck!

Hubby was at work yesterday, and the small syrup tank was empty, so I rustled up some bravery and started the gas-operated pump to cycle the syrup in the large tank and then fill the small tank.   Well, it didn’t look like anything was happening once I got the motor started, so I pulled the exit hose out to take a look.  It’s a pretty powerful motor, so once the hose was out (and, yes, the syrup was moving), it wouldn’t go back in.  One sugary shower and a change of clothes later, I got syrup transferred over and had to evacuate the area because every yellow jacket and bee from a  5-mile radius appeared to show up for a free lunch!  I suspect I still have syrup in my hair.

A couple of week ago, I read a blog by Ron Misha about winterizing hives.   He mentioned that his father used to hang a piece of burlap out of the hive lid to wick moisture out of the hives in winter.  We have a roll of burlap, so I am trying that.   We’re going from a record-breaking warm October to lows in the 20s this week, and the hives have more nectar than honey in them.   We’ll add candy boards going into December, but this weekend is all about getting the bees through the coming week.   I combined the weakest hives I came across yesterday and shook bees into others that will struggle to stay warm.   I’m still rebuilding strength in my arms and hands after this summer’s neck problems, so I did not get as far yesterday as I would have liked.   However, the good news is that I stopped when I noticed that I was getting clumsy because my hands were tired.   Sometimes it’s good to be stubborn and push through, and other times it’s better to apply common sense.

I was going to write about some great changes to our landscape and our renewed indecision regarding where to place the house, but I think that needs to wait for another time.   It’s way to pretty outside to sit at a computer for hours, especially when bad weather is going to keep us inside for the next few days.  Stay happy.  Stay warm.  And remember that life is good on the farm!