It’s Autumn! Bring on the comfort food.

Foliage season is in full swing; mornings are a frosty 40 degrees. It’s time to cook up some comfort food. Finally we can start our day with hot cocoa and oatmeal and end it with a bowl of something warm, filling and delicious. For me, that list of possibilities is prioritized something like this: homemade mac ‘n cheese, clam chowder (potato corn chowder or potato leek soup for the non clam eaters in the family), chicken pot pie, butternut squash or carrot soup, beef stew, minestrone soup, shepard’s pie, chili…you get the idea.

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Umm chili…with some cornbread of course!

For some reason the majority of my family prefers boxed mac ‘n cheese (how can this be?!) so I’ve skipped right to the chowder, stews and chili.  The majority of these recipes are a super simple variation of onion, potato and chicken broth with perhaps some bacon, and some milk for creamed versions. A smattering of vegetables and a few seasonings are mainly what differentiates one dish from another, yet they always satisfy and somehow they don’t feel like the same old thing, well until spring that is.

I love creating from scratch. The closer I can come to producing each ingredient myself the happier I am. So I was especially pleased this year in cooking up a batch of potato leek soup. Homemade chicken broth, fresh from the garden leeks, and a few (for this year) store brought potatoes and we’re nearly there. Here’s basically how I make potato leek soup.

Fresh Off the Homestead Potato Leek Soup

Slice and rinse grit from 3-4 large leeks (more if yours are small). Saute leeks in butter, oil, or bacon drippings until soft. Add 8 peeled and chunked (about 2 inch pieces) potatoes, and 4 cups of chicken broth (homemade will give the most flavor but you can use store brought or water if needed). Simmer until potatoes are soft. Add 1 tsp salt. Mash potatoes with the back of the spoon till the soup is as thick or chunky as you like ( if you prefer a puree feel free to use a blender). Add about 1/2 cup cow, goat or even reconstituted powdered milk. If needed add up to 2 cups of boiled water to reach the right consistency. Serve with black pepper and top with some garden fresh minced chives, scallions or dill.

This is even better reheated, especially on a chilly day!

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KCCO {Weaving A Slatt’s Rescue Belt}

 There aren’t many crafty projects I can make for struggling_along. Sure I knit him the obvious hat. I could knit him a sweater (although I admit I’m a bit intimated by the size and the chance that my gauge might not be just right and the whole thing will turn out wonky). Other than that there’s not much struggling_along wants or would wear.

Then we came across this idea of a belt. Woven out of paracord; it’s nearly indestructible and it also serves as EDC storage for nearly 100 ft of paracord. You can buy one online but they start at around 40 dollars. When I saw that I pretty much said “No way! I can make one” even though I’ve never woven anything but paper placements in grade school and those little hot pads. Doing my research I found basically three common methods of weaving belts (you can find a lot of how to videos on YouTube). I choose the Slatt’s Rescue weave because it’s the only one that you can pull the very end out and have useable cord instantly, without cutting, un-weaving or having only part of the belt useable. Also, there is no premeasured length so I just keep weaving until it’s the right length. Struggling_along can try it on to be sure and it’s not overly thick and bulky.

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At first the weave can seem a bit confusing. You have to make loops and twist them the right way and tighten them down. However, you keep doing the same exact thing over and over so it quickly becomes routine. You can use your fingers only but I find that after a while pliers save the ends of your fingers from getting sore.

If you’re interested in learning the weave I recommend this video by TIAT:

For starting the belt on a buckle (with hidden ends) I like the paracord weaver’s video:

The paracord weaver also has another video on how to calculate just how much cordage your belt will contain.

These (above videos) are just what I used. There are a ton of how-to videos out there and you might find a different one easier to learn from. If you’re looking for paracord military surplus stores often carry loads of it. Our local surplus store has a wall full with just about every color under the rainbow. Of course you can also find it online.

I’m almost done!  Maybe an indestructible doormat next…

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The Garden

This post has been a long time coming! So long in fact, that we’ve already had a touch of frost (so long cucumbers).

Sadly, this year’s garden has been awful, perhaps the worst ever. We got a late start but altogether we put in a lot of work (ugh, double digging) and turned what was just another part of the hay-field into a garden plot.

DSCN2418We found a large clump of chives already growing there and a few other signs (markers etc) that lead me to believe some else once had a garden there in the past. A good sign, yes?

DSCN2413I worked the soil, breaking up all those large clumps of roots, and tucked in my seedlings and seeds. We were off to a good start.

DSCN2482Then the rain came. It rained and it rained. My garden was swamped. For weeks most of it stood under several inches of water. Also not helping was the ever so slight downhill slant of our backyard, draining right into the garden. As you can imagine most of the seeds and plants rotted.

A few things made it. Namely the leeks, tomatoes and cucumbers planted on the slight up slope, a couple purple basil, oregano and one lone potato plant.

Since then a lot of weeds (namely hemp nettle and strawberry less strawberry plants) have moved in. Since I’m moving the garden just a tad “up hill” I’m not bothering with weeding this garden. I did plant a second fall garden (focusing on cold tolerant plants) where the pigs use to be. Already cleared; this one was much easier to plant. It’s been doing fairly well.I planted radishes, peas, lettuce, spinach,sprouting broccoli, parsley, and transplanted a few volunteer tomato plants I found near the old barn site.

Our fall garden even has a little shed my helpers immediately made into a garden club house.

DSCN3068Our new blueberry plants also did phenomenally.

DSCN3076Hopefully next year’s garden will do much better- or at least the goat barn got cleaned out.

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