Thursday, December 27, 2012

dawn to dark

today started early with mike up and out of the house before the sun broke...but that is his story and i will allow him to tell of it. 
my chores were of the domestic type:
-admiring the creaminess and sweetness of the homemade yogurt i had put up last night
-brewing a strong pot of coffee and fixing cups for both myself and mike
-kvetching about the brand new couch and how it wasn't at all like i imagined
-contemplating why they don't sell coffee cake strudel yogurt at trader joes (it is darn tasty, let me tell you)
-more kvetching
-dish washing
-refrigerator cleaning
-net surfing
-polling my friends and complete strangers about my couch issue
-et cetera, et cetera, et cetera

and then it was already 9
so i could start making phone calls about the couch
only joking
sort of
i did call the furniture store and tell them i was coming in with the cushions
and back up
mr. larsen
who, unbeknownst to him (mr. larsen), was just as terribly unhappy as i

check that off my list
then i went to work trying to find barley seed
mike has a plan, and it is his plan, so i will let him tell you that story too
i was just looking for the stuff, because i like to chat on the phone and ask important questions like

"where exactly does this seed come from?"
"is it organic"
"will monsanto own me after i plant an acre or two?"
it isn't obvious i am a bit of a farm rube at all--wink, wink, nod, nod
it is a wonder they would sell it to me at all
again, i brought back up

last thing before heading out
made a list

when you live 30 minutes from a major...and when i say major, i really mean minor, but bigger than nothing, which is what our town make a list.  otherwise, you are just makin' due
list done
mike came in from his morning chores a little worn and slightly muddy, whilst i was just as fresh as a daisy with a bit of rouge. off we went to town with purpose.
after shopping for essentials like seed, socks, gas cans and an onion, we stopped at a nice little restaurant for a quick lunch. while enjoying our kobe beef burgers we perused the local ag source catalog, discussed the grading of olive oil, and naturally, what i was making for dinner.
which is really the purpose of this post
and i am getting to it
i promise

by the time we made it back home, daylight was on the down-swing and  mike figured he had about 3 hours left to do 6 hours of work.
me too
because one of the things i had to do
was chat up our caretaker

just last week--yes right before christmas---i had written her to tell her we wouldn't be needing her services any longer.  it is all good.  she is a good person whom has done a fine job, but we have plans...and it just wasn't the right fit.
we had picked up a gift certificate to a local restaurant as a year-end thank you for her work, and i wanted to hand deliver it to her. 

but first
i had to get dinner started

several weeks ago, the last time we were at the ranch, i realized, upon pulling into our tiny little town, that i didn't have a pot to cook in. i had a car full of things like langostino, linguine, crusty bread, ripe tomatoes, wine. my menu was planned, grilled cheese and creamy tomato soup for night 1 and pasta with langostino, white wine, butter for night 2.  all very good and well, but no pot.
i stopped at the local thrift shop and found the only pot in the place...a wok... joyce chen standard issue.  it would have to do...and it did
but this time i thought ahead
i had packed a few things from our fridge at home
and grabbed one of my le cruset dutch ovens along with them

i love a wok for stir fry, but not so much for a slow braise on a cold december eve--which is why i needed that onion
so before setting off to visit with our caretaker, i put a bit of olive oil (just a little) in the dutch oven, with a rasher of thick cut bacon sliced into batons, 2 cloves of garlic, i crushed but kept whole, and a roughly chopped medium-ish onion.  i let it go until the onions just started to brown a bit, then i added about a cup of white wine, a pinot grigio, i think.  
it was meant to just stop the browning, but it smelled so good, i just kept ended up being a cup or a bit more...maybe a cup and a half.
i dropped in a bunch of kale, that i had washed--not dried, but chopped and removed the stem from the end.  a small..14 oz or so can of diced tomatoes with the juice, a 14oz (or thereabouts) can of great northern beans (drained and rinsed), and about a cup and a half of chicken stock.  
i turned the whole thing down to as low as the gas burner would go
popped the top on it
put on the muck boots
grabbed the walking stick
whistled the dog
and began the hearty walk from our upper ranch homestead, to the lower ranch domicile of the caretaker

we stopped only once to assess the evidence of furious foraging, left by wild hogs in search of acorns.  it is astounding--  they arrive just after dark and stay the night--eating their fill of the fallen acorns.  which as the adage proclaims, really don't fall far from the tree. in an otherwise green field, what from  distance looks to be shadow, is tusselled earth, effort-fully tilled.  with all those acorn in their bellies, i imagine those swine are a tasty eat. 
what in the city would be a quick, i know you are busy, just want to hand you this, 5 minute stop and drop...took an hour...maybe a bit more, perhaps a smidge less.  we talked about her plans, our plans, the lay of the land, water lines, sewage valves, well pumps, storage tanks--you know, the usual.  
as the weather was beginning to turn, and dark looming, i made my excuses and began the uphill walk back to our place.  as part of our conversation, it was revealed that the path i would be walking, with scout at my side, was a sometime favorite for coyotes.  with the sun setting, i was a bit nervous, as the dog by my side is yet a puppy, and easy bait for a hungry coyote.  so, as we began to walk the sheltered bit of the uphill path, i scooped her up and readied the walking stick on my strong side. just in case.  little scout either sensed my fear, or feared my heavy breathing, as she went from a squirm to a calm that made her easy to carry.
i just love that little dog

back home and dinner was smelling great.  we were just in time, as the greens were soft, and most of the liquid had evaporated. ready for the next step.  
i turned the burner off and lifted the top off the pot. i had a pork tenderloin in the fridge and i pulled it out when we got back from our visit. i dried it with paper towels, then nestled it right in the pot. covered again, and popped into a 350 oven. after about 35 minutes, i turned the pork, and buried it in the kale, beans and sauce and popped it back in for about an additional 30.
by now it was dark
dark, dark
without light pollution to haze the sky
it seems black
and even the most industrious husband
can't do planting chores in that light

which is how it came to be
that mike came in for dinner
with a full ranch man's day under his belt
after dark
for a hot and hearty supper


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