moveable feasts

New Year’s at the Hayes house.  It’s a new year and a new moon (a super moon, in fact!), which makes it perfect timing to sow new seeds and set new intentions.  The word “super moon” just means that the moon is new or full at perigee (the point in its orbit that is closest to Earth).   A new, super moon, just at the beginning of its waxing phase- what a perfect time to set things in motion.  My husband Jeremy and I were both off work for a few days, so that meant we got to tackle some big projects together (or as he likes to call it “Team Jeremy”).  During a normal work week, we’re like two passing ships, so when we are both home together, we try to make the most of it.  We are forging ever forward.

Last fall, after the gardens simmered down, Jeremy decided that it was time to build the greenhouse we had been dreaming of for years (forging ahead, remember?).  He met an older gentleman who was retiring from the business, and offered to buy his hoop houses.  Not wanting his to see his livelihood fall into ruin, he reluctantly accepted our offer.  For weeks, Jeremy spent every free moment deconstructing and relocating the pieces of 100 feet worth of hoop house.  Pipes, plastic, pallets, and cinder blocks.   Truckload after truckload, it came home in pieces.  He got it done just before the first hard frost, and we are still tweaking it to be more efficient.  Right now, the greenhouse is full of our porch and patio plants, some hardier house plants, our big elephant ears, several banana trees, and various other large potted tropicals that we are overwintering for a neighbor.  With the threat of a major snow in a couple of days, we were considering buying more space heaters to keep our precious plants from freezing.  Just on the other side of Christmas, I wasn’t entirely excited at the prospect of buying more stuff.  Fortunately for us, a friend of ours just happened to have a dozen or so insulated black tarps that he was trying to get rid of.  Like, for free.  As in zero dollars.  SOLD!  When a truckload of black insulated tarps falls in your lap three days before a snowstorm and you have a greenhouse full of tender plants to protect from subzero temps, something in the cosmos has aligned in your favor.  I don’t know what I did to deserve this bit of perfectly-timed good karma, but clearly this is proof that I must be on the right path.  I’ll take it.

we finally got to use all those trash-picked windows we'd been saving!
we finally got to use all those trash-picked windows we’d been saving!
the plastic is being stretched over the frame
the plastic is being stretched over the frame
Jeremy fastening the insulated tarps (what else do you do on New Years Eve?!)
Jeremy fastening the insulated tarps (what else do you do on New Years Eve?!)
all buttoned up and cozy warm inside!
all buttoned up and cozy warm inside!
inside "the cave"
inside “the cave”.  it’s so peaceful, warm, and thick with oxygen.  can you spot the Jeremy?

Warm greenhouse.  Check.

The firewood situation in the basement was looking a little sparse, and I’d been putting it off for about a week, so off to the woodpile we go.  A couple hours of wood-chucking, three truckloads, and one coffee break later, our wood room is fully stocked with about a cord and a half.  Now that low of 1degree on Friday doesn’t look so scary.

filled to the brim.  you can barely see the top of the door on the other side.
filled to the brim. you can barely see the top of the door on the other side.
the view from below decks.  this, my friend, is a beautiful sight.
the view from below decks. this, my friend, is a beautiful sight.

Well, that was a lot of work for 2 days.  Now bring on the pork and kraut!  Being New Years and all, I decided that it was high time we break into that crock of cabbage that’s been fermenting on our countertop since November 10th.  In this batch, we used green and purple cabbage, and kind of layered it in the crock.  It tastes great, but isn’t as squeaky on my teeth as I normally like it, so maybe I won’t use the purple cabbage again.

ombre kraut

There are so many variations on this recipe, but this is the simplest.  Here’s how I do my sauerkraut (the rule of thumb is 2 Tbsp of sea salt per head of cabbage):

Shred cabbage and add a few handfuls to the crock.  Sprinkle a little of the salt over it and start pounding until the cabbage has released enough of its juices to cover itself.

Keep adding handfuls of cabbage, a little salt, and continue pounding until the crock is about 3/4 full.  The juices should cover the cabbage.  I have a plate that is slightly smaller than the opening of the crock, and I push it down on the cabbage so there are are no air bubbles under it and the cabbage is completely submerged.  (If you don’t have the perfect plate for this, you can use one of the large outer leaves of the cabbage head.)  Then I put a water weight on top of the plate.  This can be either a mason jar full of water or a gallon ziploc with enough water in it to hold the plate down.  The key is to not let any air touch the cabbage because it’s an anaerobic fermentation.  Then I put the date on the crock and forget about it for a few weeks.  If any scum forms on the top, just spoon it out.  It can either be “done” at a few weeks or a few months, depending on how sour you like it.  Once it is to your liking, jar it up and put it in the fridge to slow the fermentation process.  It’s good to have this probiotic-rich food on hand especially in winter.  A small dose of it here and there can help to digest the heavier foods we eat in colder months.  Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t pleased with your first batch.  I had to toss my first one in the compost because I was a little heavy-handed with the salt.  I feel sorry for the poor unsuspecting raccoon that raided my compost that night and got a mouthful of that briny mess!

On this day in 1942… “Rainy day.  I did some morning cleaning, when Vane, Miriam, Will and I went on a little anniversary jaunt.  Went up to Wenger’s greenhouses and stopped in New Holland for dinner.  We had a very nice time.  Home early, and spent evening at home.  A very nice 39th anniversary!”

On this day in 1898, J.H. Keim writes… “Clear and cold.  Hervy and I cut fodder and tended to stock till noon then Thomas Brewer and I went down to their meeting house to a business meeting of the official members.  Hervy cleaned stables and tended to the stock.  Sow had 11 pigs, 1 died.”

On this day in 1884, J.H. Keim writes… “Cloudy with rain, snow soft.  We worked up a hog for Chas. Squibb.  Weight 281 1/2 lbs at 8 ct per lb.”

a page spread from the front of the oldest journal i have (1884).  i love how they used words like "moveable feasts".
a page spread from the front of the oldest journal i have (1884). i love how they used words like “moveable feasts”.

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