A nice chicken/apple salad will cool you off and fill you up

We stripped our little fuji apples ahead of the blue jays. Just a beak ahead.

We stripped our little fuji apples ahead of the blue jays. 

 

We have a weird little tree that puts out three kinds of apples, one ripening after the other – I think it’s Fuji’s, Braeburn’s, and some sort of green apple, but I’m not sure. The fuji’s always come first. The other day I noticed the birds were pestering them so I took my old basket out there and stripped all of them off. They’re sitting on my kitchen counter, I’m trying to get around to doing something with them.

I hate to treat fresh garden produce like a nuisance, I try to  remember how much I’ll miss these fresh apples in a couple of months. I’ll probably take the nicest ones and set them aside in the refrigerator drawer for, well, not too much later. I’ve been juicing the ones with worm or bird damage, but I was telling my husband, it would be too bad if we just juiced them all. 

Apples are great on salad. They’re nice just plain sliced on green salad, but I like to chop them up in tiny chunks and mix them with chicken for a cold salad that makes for a good meal.

This is another one of those recipes you can make in the morning when it’s not so bad to cook, then whip it out at Dinnertime, when it’s 104 outside,  to impress your melted over little family. Let me tell you, a withering old nag like me needs a few tricks up her sleeve.

As usual I start with two boneless chicken breasts, put a little oil in a skillet and set it over a low flame and lay the chicken down under a lid. After 5 minutes I flip it, and I usually flip it once more within the 20 minutes it takes to get it up to a safe 168 degrees. I like to use a meat thermometer, but 20 minutes over a low flame with a lid on is about all it takes. Then I set it out on a plate with a produce bag over it to cool while I cut up the rest of the stuff. 

For two breasts I use about a cup of diced apples and a half cup of diced celery. When the chicken is cool I dice that up and mix it with the apples and celery.

The dressing is something you might want to remember for other stuff – a mixture of mayonnaise (whether you make it yourself or use the store bought), fruit juice, a teaspoon of prepared mustard (your fave) and about a half teaspoon of curry powder (to your taste). You can put crushed garlic in there if you like it. I make about a cup of this, adding the juice until I get a nice pour-able consistency. Then I pour it over the chicken/apples/celery, and mix it together. This I cover and put in the fridge. 

Doesn't look like much in the plastic container.

Doesn’t look like much in the plastic container.

Was my husband ever happy last night when he came in after doing a bunch of sweaty chores and  I told him dinner was already done. Here’s what it looks like with some window dressing.

This chicken salad is the perfect topper for a crunchy cold green salad. There's one of my husband's "mush" melons on the side, with a couple of slices of homemade bread, we got a meal.

This chicken salad is the perfect topper for a crunchy cold green salad. There’s one of my husband’s “mush” melons on the side, with a couple of slices of homemade bread, we got a meal.

 

Today I’m making cold rice salad, I’ll get back to you with that.

Just call me an old goat

These kind of ugly, odd-shaped little melons turned out to be very nice in my smoothie.

These kind of ugly, odd-shaped little melons turned out to be very nice in my smoothie.

My husband planted some weird new stuff in our garden this year. The most practical turned out to be the Prescott Fond Blanc melons. They’re ugly, misshapen and almost rotten looking when ripe, but you cut into this beautiful smooth, incredibly fragrant flesh. They’re not sugar sweet like cantaloupe, but smooth and cool – kind of a cross between a melon and a cucumber.

I’ve been getting one every couple of days, we have plenty to snack on, and I had a section to my frozen banana smoothie. Every now and then I get a nice strawberry off my pots, but it’s so hot and dry, they are just trying to stay alive these days.

Something new I added to my morning smoothie ritual is goat milk yogurt. That’s a long story – started with a trip to the county fair, where I saw and became very enamored of the pygmy goats. I wanted one so bad, I felt guilty. I already have a very loving little dog. But I kept telling myself, “Biscuit is a sheep dog, she would love to have a couple of little goats to nip around the yard.” I’ve had friends with goats, they’re a riot. When I was little, my sister and I walked daily with our neighbor boys who had to take their 4-H goats out for exercise. We pulled them along by ropes around their neck. It was a small town, nothing unusual – and the neighbor ladies would all come out and stand in their front yard with a broom and tell us to keep moving, stay away from my roses/verbena/hollyhocks/thankyouverymuch.

The goat tenders said you could get a quart of goat milk a day. That’s where my husband pulled me up short – had I ever drank goat milk? It’s pretty gamey. I’d been around goats, but my neighbors were Mexican, they butchered or sold their goats for meat. That’s why we weren’t allowed to give them names. I’d eaten bbq-d goat, and in Tiajuana, we ate goat tacos off a cart. But  I’d never drank goat milk.

Come to find out, goat milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk. I’ve had dairy intolerance issues since I was about 19 or 20 years old. I’ve gone to soy, oat, rice milk – all kind of expensive, and they seem to go bad faster than cow’s milk. So, I had just cut back on cow’s milk and tried to avoid cheese, and got used to the sour stomach and nausea that came along every morning. Of course, I was eating yogurt every day, and even though it was cow’s milk yogurt, it seemed to help.

I have to laugh now – I really wanted a couple of goats, bad. I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to animals. Trying to nudge me to my senses, my husband suggested I buy some goat milk at the store. There’s only one brand, Meyenberg.

I love the happy goat on front.

I love the happy goat on front.

Meyenberg started about 100 years ago, apparently the founder had a child who was dairy intolerant. They started putting condensed milk in cans, but now they offer a variety of products. I bought my first carton of milk at Safeway, for what seemed like an outrageous price – almost $6 a quart. I told my husband, I hope I don’t like it – this is way too expensive.

Unfortunately, I not only liked the weird taste, but after a week I started to notice, my eczema rash was going away. I’ve had eczema breakouts since I was a kid, and this one had been bad, all over my arms, shoulders and neck. I fought it all last winter with salve, and it had abated a little. I’d gotten used to looking like a dried up alligator. And then, all the sudden, my skin started to feel smooth and soft again. I read up on it – yes, some studies have related eczema to dairy intolerance.

So, I started making my yogurt with half goat milk, half cow, because the goat milk was expensive. Then, I found out, WalMart carries it for about $4 a quart. Oh oh, my dreams of pygmy goats started to dry up. My husband kept reminding me how much trouble I go to taking care of the dogs and everything else, what in the hell would I do with a couple of goats. Although, the weed eating argument was starting to gain some ground.

Goat milk yogurt is not as firm as cow milk yogurt. At first I got something more like kefir. I even bought some packaged starter – which is just dried, powdered yogurt in a little pre-measured pack.  That was not any better than starting it with the last couple tablespoons of yogurt left from the last batch. So, I just kept working at it, like I’d worked at making cow milk yogurt. What I finally found is, you have to boil the heck out of the milk to start. You not only want to heat it up to 180F/90C, but you want to really boil it good for at least two minutes. You call that a “rolling boil” – the milk moves,  like there’s something swimming in it. Let it go like that, two minutes, and it seems to firm up better.

This latest batch turned out pretty good.

I don't know if you're a yogurt connoisseur, but notice how nice it stands on the spoon,

I don’t know if you’re a yogurt connoisseur, but notice how nice it stands on the spoon,

 

Sure, it has a goaty aftertaste. In fact, I’ll tell you something gross – the other day I was out working with a dust mask on, and I burped – eeeeuuuu! Goat Breath!  My husband can  smell it every now and then too, and it kind of grosses him out. You know what we all put up with for love, wah da teh.

But, I’m over the pygmy goats. I just held out until the notion passed. In another life maybe.

 

I bet God is a Sunday gardener

I went out early this morning to catch that nice, cool air.  The garden was alive with activity – but neither Hummer nor Bee would pose for a shot. 

The "crazy" or "Indian" corn my husband planted did so well, on very little water - next year we'll try sweet corn again.

The “crazy” or “Indian” corn my husband planted did so well, on very little water – next year we’ll try sweet corn again.

The fence my husband planted with flowers and gourds and loufa and corn was really meant as a shade for the tomatoes and other plants, but it’s turned out very well. We’ve got a few nice shaped gourds, and lots of corn. 

My husband peeled the husk aside to see what was going on.

My husband peeled the husk aside to see what was going on.

My dogs are ready to go as soon as they hear my feet hit the bedroom floor, no matter how early.

Badges is not quite a year old, and he is still really energetic, especially in the morning and evening when the air is nice and cool. In mid day, you could mistake him for a shag rug.

Badges is not quite a year old, and he is still really energetic, especially in the morning and evening when the air is nice and cool. In mid day, you could mistake him for a shag rug.

Right now, he is busy making trouble around the front door, trying to attract my attention by dragging his bed around, knocking stuff over, picking up sticks or old bones and dropping them loudly on the concrete outside the door. I know – why have a dog if you’re just going to leave him outside and ignore him? 

Biscuit comes to my rescue – she’ll look around and find one of his favorite toys, pick it up and wag it under his nose. That works every time. They make funny noises when they’re out there chewing on each other. 

Time to clean up dead stuff and toss it on the old  rubbish pile. Look how purple the tops of these flowering artichokes still are.

Time to clean up dead stuff and toss it on the old rubbish pile. Look how purple the tops of these flowering artichokes still are. I let a couple of the edibles go to flower, they’re fantastic.

When I went outside, it looked like we might get a sprinkle.

Clouds shielded the early morning sun.

Clouds shielded the early morning sun.

No such luck, the sun is bright and shining now, saying, “Get to work!”

Yes, I’ll say it – Thank Goddess it’s Friday!

I’m just sitting here with a cup of java, thinking about my day. I try to remember what’s on my list without looking at it.

I know ‘tomatoes’ is on there somewhere, that’s a no-brainer. I know I picked a bunch of firm little globes for a batch of salsa, and I still have a little bit of fresh cilantro left. For me, cilantro and cumin really put the cherry on a batch of salsa. And a little squirt of either lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.

We've been getting some nice bell peppers these days - I knocked this one off the bush by accident, and after three days on the counter it turned red. I love the color and flavor they add to a batch of salsa.

We’ve been getting some nice bell peppers these days – I knocked this one off the bush by accident, and after three days on the counter it turned red. I love the color and flavor they add to a batch of salsa.

I also  noticed, the jays have been pecking at the apples, so it’s time to start bringing them in too. They’re small because we don’t feel confident thinning, I’ve got to work on that. But they’re all good. And the bug traps we made with vinegar and molasses must have worked, there are alot more without worms.

These are tiny but sweet and juicy.

These are tiny but sweet and juicy.

 

The Fuji’s are getting ripe but the green apples have got a ways to go. So, it’s back to running out there, waving my arms and whistling, try to keep the jays from ruining too many.  The netting seems to help too, but once they find a way in there, they eat their fill. God’s creatures.

I also got to go and clean all the p-traps at our rental we’re turning over. We’ve taken our leisure there, because we have never been able to turn that boat over very fast in Summer. We don’t get families in that house, we usually get young singles, and most of them revolve around the college schedule. They stay for a couple of years, and then they either move along to other pastures or we scrape them out with a spatula to clean up their mess.  Family renters stay longer, but of course they can leave just as big a mess behind. One thing we never ask them to clean is the p-traps.

No, that’s not a trap for pee – it’s a p-shaped pipe under your sink. Stuff collects in that p, no matter how careful you are – just GUNK. And my lord it will stink like pee after awhile. About once a year I have my husband take them all out of my house and I take them out on the front lawn in a bucket of soapy water and I scrub them out with a toothbrush. Then I hose them out with the spray nozzle just to be on the safe side. If you’ve been wondering what “that smell” is in your house, cleaning your p-traps will answer the question – it’s gone!

Oh sure I run vinegar or lemon juice and baking soda through my sinks about once or twice a month. That is probably better done weekly, but I forget. But, while this method definitely makes them smell better on a daily basis, it won’t clean the gunk out of that p. Drain-o won’t do it either. In fact, we have plastic pipes, I wouldn’t bring Drain-o in my house. 

But, I realize not everybody is comfortable taking pipes apart – so DON’T. Call around, find a plumber or roto-rooter man who will help you – once a year, it’s worth having your drains cleaned out. But get somebody reputable. I haven’t used a rooter service for years, since my husband watched them and figured out how to do it himself. We used to have a guy who’d come over and snake the pipes for less than $100. But we found, you really have to take them apart, clean them out good. A snake will oftentimes just push stuff around.

We had a problem with one bathtub for about a year, and my husband had to tear a wall out to get to the pipe in question, but he did it. There was a shampoo cap that had fallen down the drain – tenant had removed the drain cap because her hair kept plugging it. A simple little rubber cap that set on the drain and you could just pick it up and clear the hair off and put it right back.  Instead of cleaning it, she just took it out. Don’t do that. She didn’t tell us she was missing a shampoo cap, so we just kept snaking that drain. I can see that dam-ned shampoo cap, dancing around the end of that snake, laughing at us every time. Finally my husband tore it all out, got that shampoo cap out of there – problem solved. No, we didn’t charge the tenant, but I gave her a good ration for taking the drain cap out.  I still have a hard time renting to people with a lot of hair. 

We have a stall shower with a drain cap that pops out for cleaning. It is a white plastic grate, and over the course of a couple of months, it will get plugged with black slime mold – did you know, soap is a perfect culture for mold? I bet you thought it was eating your grout and dap – no, it’s after that soap and body dander that is sprayed all over the inside of your shower every time you use it. This cap pops out with a pair of pliers, but it’s a bitch to clean – I have to take a rag, and shove it through every one of those tynes, every single one. Because once you clean the first one, it’s very noticeable the rest of it is covered with black slime. Gee that’s one of my fave jobs as Landlady!  I consider showing the tenants how to do it, because it makes the drain plug up, but I usually can’t get their attention long enough to show them stuff like that. They never even want to do a walk-thru, they’re always so eager to get in. 

I hate being torn between my household chores and turning over a rental – I’m doing stuff over there I’d sure like to be doing at my own house. My own house starts looking frowzy. So I sit here and think about my strategy. Like Hamlet, I am unable to act, I feel like there’s work in every direction.

Oh-oh! Time for a WEEKEND!

 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Oh oh, that doesn't look good!

Oh oh, that doesn’t look good!

 

I know we’ve been flirting with showers, but if you really want a good dousing you must hang out your laundry.

As soon as I got the last towel on the line I noticed raindrops on my little laundry table.

As soon as I got the last towel on the line I noticed raindrops on my little laundry table.

I’ve done my part to end this drought, now get busy people. We can beat this thing!

Every little bit helps.

Every little bit helps.

 

The girls were all milling around in the garden, looking their best in this little spritzer.

 

I can almost hear them, whispering, "think it's going to rain?"

I can almost hear them, whispering, “think it’s going to rain?” 

 

This last week of pleasantly cool and even moist weather has given the garden a little bounce in it’s step.

This tomato is ripe and red inside. I just love all these colorful varieties. They're meaty too.

This tomato is ripe and red inside. I just love all these colorful varieties. They’re meaty too.

The tomatoes are doing great.

I can't use these yellow cherries fast enough. They're fantastic in salsa, and I also add them to sauce. They are good to eat for a snack too.

I can’t use these yellow cherries fast enough. They’re fantastic in salsa, and I also add them to sauce. They are good to eat for a snack too.

Now, this is a sunflower.

Now, this is a sunflower.

This pumpkin hanging from the fence got so heavy my husband fixed it up with a little sling.

This pumpkin hanging from the fence got so heavy my husband fixed it up with a little sling.

Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face!

Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face!

 

While I love the hot days and the swimming pool, it’s been nice to have a break.

Another day around the old swimming hole.

Another day around the old swimming hole.

Snippets

This old peanut butter jar is just the right size for my hand.

An old peanut butter jar finds new life as a drinking glass – there’s always hope.

Friday again already! Time flies when you’re having fun. 

This week has been a blur for me.  Working on the rentals, getting the big house turned over for new tenants, taking care of the landscaping and the garden, getting the produce onto the table and into the freezer,  and trying to get a letter off to my relatives.  On an average day I get up about 5am, because I want to be able to enjoy some peace and quiet before the rubber hits the road.

I also like to get the bread done before the day gets hot. I make a loaf of bread every other day – if I get the sponge on by 6 am, knead it by 7, I can have it out of the oven by 9. I never get tired of that first piece of bread, and I always save the heel for my husband. I like to put peanut butter and jelly on mine. Usually a loaf will last two days – we know it has to, I don’t think I could make bread every day. 

While I’m doing the bread I try to get any laundry rounded up and in the machine. After I take the bread out, I take out the wash, and then try to spend an hour or so outside, fussing over and watering stuff in and around the garden. This nice break in the heat has allowed my lawns to green up again, in the shady spots. The grass only grows in the shade, which saves mowing, that’s nice. I have to be sure to water my container plants every day, they really suffer if they don’t get some water. Not very much – just every day. 

I have different stuff I do during this time for every day of the week. I have stuff to take care of in my tenant’s yards – today I had to water some stuff I haven’t been able to get on drip, and clean up dead flowers. The flowering artichokes that were so spectacular a couple of weeks ago have turned into ugly dead torches. The flowers of early spring are brown and frowzy, and somebody needs to gather them up and put them in the compost pile. By the time my wheelbarrow is full I have sweated through my clothes and I’m ready to take a dip in the old Intex pool. 

In the middle of the day, I’m in the house, maybe watching some pots of sauce on the stove, or making a batch of pasta dough. I like to take in a movie if there’s anything good on broadcast tv. Today  I’m watching an old fave – Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn in “Foul Play.” I like to watch movies I’ve already seen at least 20 times when I’m working, I know when to watch. Right now is the chase scene – “Kojak!” I also try to catch the scene where Burgess Meredith and Rachel Roberts have a karate fight and destroy all this expensive furniture. Love it. And, there’s just not enough Dudley Moore in that movie, am I right? 

I also like to watch the international news on PBS – Newsline from Asia and Journal from Germany. You hear a lot of stories that don’t show up on the American news. Like the story about Australia dumping their carbon tax. I can only dream that California will dump this onerous tax, but when will Sacramento ever have enough money? This is the kind of issue that makes me feel frustrated, ready to listen to advocates of state separation. Like Tony Abbott said, these laws hurt people without fixing the problem. It’s just a revenue grab. 

Mark argues that people cause climate change. I don’t know if he is ignorant or just stubborn. He seems to ignore millions of years of continuous climate change previous to human habitation of the Earth. He seems to believe that the Earth would continue unchanged if people were not present. I think this is a completely ludicrous assertion. People pollute their own environment, sure, but it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the course of Earth’s evolution. 

Mark, get some sunscreen and a good pair of UV specs – you are being sucked into the sun as we speak, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.  Oh, well, maybe there is – move to Mars. 

I, meanwhile, will do my part – hey, I repurposed that peanut butter jar didn’t I? How much Earth do you figure I saved there? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who opened a can of Monday?

Went to sleep too early, didn’t eat enough – woke up at 4:30 with a grinding stomach ache. So, I got up, make a cup of java, and sat arguing with TJ over on Chico Politics. I think I gave TJ my stomach ache, it’s gone!

I don’t know why, but coffee is the only thing that kicks one of those stomach aches. Gets my system boiling up, makes me feel awake enough to go for a walk-and-fart. Let me tell you, I’ve kind of woke up in my back yard, in the wee light, having stepped into a gopher hole or stubbed my toe on a rock, or there’s a little dog stuck to the back of my pant-leg (I had to dig those baby teeth out of my sweat pants). I try to get a little caffeine before I ambulate, I live upstairs you know.

My eyes still feel funny, as though they did not get enough darkness. My stove alarm says I still  have a half hour in the sack. I’ll tell you another thing – I hate that alarm so much, my body sets it’s own alarm, so I can get up and turn the alarm off before I have to hear it. Neat-O!

Something I’ve noticed lately – and I warned you about this! – the sun comes up just that much later these days. Already! Well, we are halfway through July. But, I think Summer has set itself in, and  it’s not going away for another few months. It seems as though our tomato plants are just now kicking in.

Are you getting sick of tomatoes? I'm not getting sick of tomatoes.

Are you getting sick of tomatoes? I’m not getting sick of tomatoes.

 

We have a lot of interesting varieties, the yellow cherries being the most prolific. There’s even one that ripens green – I just realized, they stay green even when they’re juicy ripe and red inside. They’re all great saucers – the yellows are watery and tart, but the reds are all very fleshy and smooth tasting. It works out in the mix. 

I saved these last beautiful peaches to eat fresh, but you can only eat so many peaches (I know, just not fair). These will go into the freezer today.

I saved these last beautiful peaches to eat fresh, but you can only eat so many peaches (I know, just not fair). These will go into the freezer today, before they get too soft and start turning brown.

I’ve been saucing the tomatoes, and freezing the peaches. Of course we eat them too, but you better watch that. I remember many a late-night, sitting on the kitchen counter while my grandpa mixed me up a glass of water and baking soda after a day of standing under my grandma’s peach  trees, helping myself. 

A good afternoon's work. I set them in my little freezer overnight and then store them in my little chest freezer.

A good afternoon’s work. I set them in my little freezer overnight and then store them in my little chest freezer.

 

Our chest freezer was looking a little down in the mouth – I’ve only got about 6 pints of lemon juice left, and then there’s what’s left of my father-in-law’s pig – a roast, which is Winter meat.  Over the past week or so, Mr. Pig has been buried in peaches and tomato sauce. In fact, I’ll have to do some re-arranging if I’m going to get anymore sauce in there. 

Nothing makes me feel as wealthy as having a lot of food put up from my own garden.