Friday, October 30, 2009

Winter? Already?

Remember how the Bag Lady was bragging about it snowing in town but not at her house? Well..... things can change.
There was no snow on the ground anywhere when the Bag Lady went to work yesterday morning, but it started snowing around noon in town. By the time she finished work at 2 pm, there was quite a lot of snow on the ground (and on her truck). She bravely set off from work and was quickly reminded just how slippery it can be when the temperature is just below freezing!

She stopped and got her hair trimmed, then ran some errands and actually bought a new winter coat - woohoo! (She hasn't had a new winter coat for about 10 years) After running her errands, she set off for home. There were sirens all around town, the snow was falling thickly, traffic was moving slowly. Every intersection was icy and the whole affair was fraught with tension. The Bag Lady has 4-wheel drive in her little truck, and she occasionally turned it on to gain a little traction taking off at the icy intersections. Once out on the highway, she ended up behind a little truck that was proceeding quite cautiously at 80 km/hr. That was fine with her - the road conditions certainly didn't warrant going any faster. Unfortunately, the little truck in front of her was not perhaps as well prepared for winter as he could have been.

The dreaded river hill had been sanded on the side closest to the city, but the other side of the bridge falls under a different municipality and they had not yet sent any trucks out to deal with the road conditions. The little truck in front of the Bag Lady was in trouble almost as soon as they left the bridge. In order to get home, she takes an exit immediately after the bridge, and the exit road swoops around and meets up with another highway. When the little truck started onto the other highway from the stop sign, he started fishtailing. The Bag Lady waited for him to get straightened out, then followed him to the base of the hill. He was not going very fast, but even so, he started fishtailing again as soon as he tried to accelerate up the hill. The Bag Lady put her truck in 4-wheel drive and didn't have any problems, except for the little truck sliding all over the road in front of her. He kept slowing down and speeding up, then sliding around again. He finally came to almost a complete stop, which enabled the Bag Lady to get around him and continue up the hill.
Heartless as it may sound, for all she knows, he's still down there at the bottom of the hill, trying to get enough traction to get home! There was nothing she could do to help. She had to pass a big truck, too, who was having a lot of trouble making his way up the hill. It took her almost 20 minutes longer to get home than it normally would, but she made it safely.
She heard on the radio while she was driving home that the road conditions were terrible (which made her mutter under her breath) and that there were numerous accidents throughout the area.
She is hoping that the weather improves today because she doesn't relish the thought of driving home from town when it's icy AND dark outside! She is a big bit of a coward about driving at night.

The forecast is for warmer weather on the weekend, so she is hoping they are right. She has to work again on Saturday morning.

She's hoping the weather where you are is better than it is here right now and that you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday Woes

The Bag Lady had big plans today. She had to work this morning, and then had a choice between staying in town and trying to find a place where she could get a haircut without an appointment, or coming home to write a blog post and do some sewing. She opted for the second choice.

When she got home, she and the Rancher had a little visit, then she headed for the computer. The Rancher casually mentioned that she wouldn't have much time. The power was scheduled to go off at 3 pm and wouldn't be back on until 6 pm. She had seen a cluster of power trucks on her way home, but had hoped that either they were finished whatever they were doing, or that they were planning on doing some hotline work (which just means they wouldn't turn the electricity off in order to do whatever they were going to do.) Consequently, her hopes for a productive afternoon were quickly dashed.

Should have stayed in town and gotten her hair cut.

Instead, she did a little sewing by hand, then spent some quality time with the Rancher. Talking. (Silly people..... the Bag Lady and the Rancher are too old for that!)

It feels quite wintery here - gloomy and dull, and in fact, it was snowing in town. It is not snowing at the ranch (must be because we're south of town. Seriously. 27 km makes a difference, doesn't it?)

So now that the electricity is back on, the Rancher is happy (he won't miss the opening game of the World Serious) and the Bag Lady is happy because she can post this, then she can go and do some more sewing.
She knows there is at least one person out there who is probably wondering what the HECK happened to the sewing the Bag Lady promised to do for her --- it's almost done, really! In fact, if all goes well, it will be in the mail tomorrow!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Post About Nothing

The Bag Lady is suffering from writer's block. Strangely enough, when she worked from home and only had the cows and assorted domestic critters for inspiration, she found things to blog about. Granted, sometimes those were really mundane and/or boring things, but she usually managed to choke something out, and a lot of you were kind enough to read and comment.

Now that she is working, she should, theoretically, have lots to write about, but she finds that she doesn't. She could write hysterically scathing descriptions of the people at work, except that they are all so nice, there's nothing to deride! Unfortunately, nice is boring. She could make something up, but that wouldn't be fair. Neither is she the type to bare her soul to the world, even if she had something deep and dark to bare. Sadly, she's far too shallow and transparent. She is not a deep thinker, nor a grand intellectual, so she doesn't have anything profound to pontificate about. (Does one pontificate about something or does one pontificate on something? See? We are not dealing with a great intellect here. Hell, we probably aren't even dealing with a full deck!!)

And nothing has happened lately to piss her off, so she can't even write a decent rant. Sheesh. So, with apologies, she hopes you have a great day, and that something happens soon (or that her brain comes back from the extended vacation it is apparently enjoying) so that she'll have something she can share with you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Crab-stuffed Mushrooms

The Bag Lady doesn't have much for you today. She had a busy weekend, full of sewing and housework and ranch work and entertaining!

She did make an experimental batch of stuffed mushrooms on Saturday that turned out surprisingly well, so she will share her recipe with you!

Crab-stuffed Mushrooms

16 large mushroom caps, stems removed
6 portions Laughing Cow Cheese
1/4 C butter
1 Tbsp horseradish
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
onion salt to taste
garlic powder to taste
1 can crab meat

Soften the cheese and butter in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds. Beat together, then add the remaining ingredients, mixing well.

Spoon into mushroom caps, piling the filling on top. Bake at 350F for approx. 15 minutes, then broil for a couple of minutes to brown the tops.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chicken, Not Blackbirds!

As promised, here is a little tutorial on making pastry.

The Bag Lady had a half pound of lard left after she portioned out the lard she made, so she decided to make pastry. This meant she had to cut her recipe in half, which took ages (math is NOT her strong suit) -- How do you cut an egg in half? What do you do with the other half?

Anyway, this is 2 3/4 Cups of flour, mixed with1 tsp salt. Oh, and a big lump of home-made lard in the middle.
Cut the lard into the flour and salt mixture, using a pastry blender or two knives, until it resembles coarse oatmeal.

Mix your half an egg (the Bag Lady broke it into a measuring cup, mixed it up with a fork, then took a little bit out - she's a bit anal, can you tell?) with half a tablespoon of vinegar in a measuring cup, then add very cold water until you have half a cup. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients a little at a time until it clings together (the Bag Lady used a little more than a quarter of a cup of liquid):

Gather it into a ball:

Cut it into three equal portions:

On a lightly floured surface:

With a floured rolling pin:

Roll out the dough into a circle:

To transfer it to the pie plate, roll it loosely around the rolling pin:

Then unroll it onto the pie plate:

Trim to fit:

This is where the Bag Lady ran into trouble ... err... forgot to take more pictures.... fill the pie crust with filling of choice (this pie has chicken and veggies with a little sauce), then follow the same procedure for rolling out the top crust and transferring it to the pie. Seal the edges with a little reserved egg/water mixture, then pinch it or use a fork to make a design around the edge. (The Bag Lady is a pincher, in case you can't tell!)

Bake according to your recipe.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! Now go... go forth and bake a pie!

(Edited to add - forgot to mention, the bowl and the rolling pin belonged to the Bag Lady's mother - the Bag Lady was trying to "channel" her, because her pastry was always the best!!)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Bag Lady SurRenders

Are you as tired of hearing about the Bag Lady's lard rendering as she is of doing it?

She finally got the second batch of fat cut up and into the oven to render overnight. Here are a couple more pictures of what she's been dealing with. (She promises these will be the last pictures of raw pork fat - honest!)

This is leaf fat from one pig. Leaf fat is internal fat that is found around organs like the kidneys:

Leaf fat makes the best lard.

The Bag Lady cut it up and put it into her roaster, which went into the oven at a low temperature (200F) overnight.

In the morning (in a little while, in fact, just as soon as she's had coffee!), she will take it out, strain it and put it into loaf pans to solidify. Then she will cut it into one-pound blocks, wrap it, label it and freeze it.

She made pastry with some of her home-rendered lard and she is happy to report that it is absolutely delicious! Even the Rancher commented on it, and he is not a huge pastry fan (he is one of those crazy types who prefers the filling to the crust!) She was going to post a tutorial of making pastry, but thought she would save that for another day. Like, umm, tomorrow. 'Cause otherwise, she won't have much else to post about. 'Cause, umm, her life has been consumed with really boring stuff laundry and housework lately.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Harvest Completed

The Bag Lady has had a busy few days. She spoke to her mother-in-law on the phone the other day, and her MIL asked how much lard she ended up with. When the Bag Lady told her that she got a little over a pound, she told the Bag Lady that once she tasted pastry made with home-made lard, she would wish she had more.

From her lips to God's ear. A couple hours later, the phone rang. It was the fellow who had supplied the pork, telling her that he had saved her the leaf fat from not one but TWO pigs! The Bag Lady was pleased to hear that. (Especially after she Googled "leaf fat" to discover that it is the fat surrounding the internal organs, and is the preferred rendering fat.)

The Bag Lady rendered one batch of lard over the weekend, and still has another batch to do. She is now swimming in lard! She will have a life-time supply. Pies, tarts, quiche, pigs-in-a-blanket. Apple pie, cherry pie, pumpkin pie, banana cream pie. Meat pie, tourtierre, chicken pot pie. OY!

The Rancher dug the potatoes on the weekend, too. And the Bag Lady dug the rutabagas. So the harvest is complete. There are potatoes for the winter, and enough rutabagas to feed a small nation.

The Bag Lady also used some of the suggestions y'all came up with and made a pot of beans using some of the cracklins. She also used some pork hocks, which she had never tried before. The beans were excellent. THEN she found a recipe on the internet for Cracklin Corn Bread, and made that, too! It was delicious.

The Bag Lady needs a new challenge. Any suggestions for what she should do now?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Friday!

The Bag Lady doesn't really have much to post about today. She's attending a course today (it started yesterday) and hasn't had time to think about much else.

She just wanted to stop in and wish everyone a good weekend!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Luv Me Render?

As promised, here are some pictures of the Bag Lady's attempts at rendering pork fat into lard.
She researched the matter extensively (*ahem* - she asked her sister-in-law's mom how to do it) and went about it in a very scientific manner.

First, she chopped the pork fat into small pieces:

And placed them in a deep, heavy pot:

She cooked them over a low heat for awhile (until she got bored with that - then she put them in the oven at 200F)

After a time (during which she went to town, ran some errands, cleaned her house and did a multitude of other things) she took them out of the oven and put them back on the burner:

She strained off the liquid fat, then returned the remaining fat to the burner on medium heat. She did this a couple of times.

And she was rewarded with this (in case it's difficult to tell from the picture, this is a foil loaf pan, lined with parchment paper into which she poured the liquid fat)

She carefully placed her loaf pan into the fridge and in the morning, she had lard:

In all, she cooked the pork fat for roughly 10 or 11 hours, and ended up with 22 ounces (600 gr) of pure white lard. Oh, and a little pot of this:

Which would, theoretically, be cracklin's, if it had any rind on it. As it is, she isn't sure it's worth doing anything with. Anyone have any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

WARNING: This post contains pictures that may not be suitable for all viewers.

But not this - this is just what the Bag Lady saw the other day when she got to the highway. Yes, that IS a snowplow.

The Bag Lady and the Rancher have been busy with a variety of things, not least of which is the laying in of supplies for the winter ahead. (Sounds industrious, doesn't it?)

Actually, they decided to supplement their meat supply with some pork, so the Rancher contacted a friend of his who raises pigs, and arranged to buy a pig from him. The friend agreed to sell him a pig on the understanding that the Rancher and the Bag Lady would assist in the butchering of said pig! The Rancher and the Bag Lady (especially the Bag Lady) have never really been involved in butchering animals, so it was with some trepidation that they approached the task. They needn't have worried, because there were several people there who were much more experienced and willing to teach.

The Rancher did some trimming, and the Bag Lady did some wrapping (and actually spent most of her time trying to improve her taping techniques and penmanship.... it is not easy to write legibly on butcher paper wrapped around an uneven surface!)

The Bag Lady managed to take a few pictures of the process. If you are squeamish, or have a weak stomach................... fear not! The Bag Lady did not take any pictures of anything that you wouldn't see in your local grocery store! Well, except that some of the pieces are much larger than you would see in the grocery store....

Here is half a pig being carried into the butcher shop:
(yes, that is snow on the ground)

The first cuts are made by hand:

And the fat is trimmed with a very sharp knife:

Smaller pieces are cut with an electric meat saw:

Cutting roasts:

Wrapping pork chops:

The Bag Lady also brought some of the fat home and is rendering it into lard for use in pie crusts. When she mentioned that fact to a friend of hers, her friend immediately made a comment regarding the fact that lard is supposed to be bad for you. In actual fact, there is evidence to the contrary. The Bag Lady found an interesting article about the comparison between animal fat and vegetable fat, and the misconceptions about animal fats. If anyone is interested in learning more about the connections between fats and heart disease, here is an interesting article.

The Bag Lady is still in the process of rendering the fat into lard (it takes a really long time!), and will hopefully have pictures to post for you later, if you are interested. If you are interested in seeing the rendering process, please let the Bag Lady know in the comment section!

She apologizes to anyone who may have been offended by the pictures of butchering contained in this post, but for those of us who eat meat, this is all part of life.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Holy moly, Bag Lady's Blather is two today!

It's been so much fun, and the time has gone by so fast, it's hard to believe it's been two years.

The Bag Lady has learned an awful lot, and has met so many nice people through blogging, she is very glad she started on this journey!

Her Thanksgiving weekend was very nice, even though she had to work part of the time. The weather was the only bad part about the weekend - it was cold! There is snow on the ground and it feels like December rather than October! According to the weather forecasters, it is supposed to warm up by the end of the week, and the Bag Lady really hopes they are right. It is much too early to be this cold. But she had two lovely Thanksgiving dinners and the wonderful company made up for the cold weather.

How was your weekend?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Bag Lady had yesterday off from both her jobs, and decided to take a day off from blogging, too! She needed some time to get caught up on all her duties at home - laundry, bill-paying, organizing her new cabinets in her back porch. She didn't get everything done (is housework ever really finished?) but she did make some progress.

The weather was another factor in her decision to get some much-needed work done inside her house. It snowed all day yesterday! The temperature never rose above freezing, and it was depressing to look outside. It's much too early for it to be this cold - the normal average temperature here for this time of year is around +11C. Yesterday's high temperature was only -3C. And the cold snap is expected to continue for the next five days. Sigh. She really hopes that it does warm up before winter actually sets in - she still has to dig the potatoes and turnips in her garden!

The Bag Lady is looking forward to the Thanksgiving weekend, though. She does have to work the evening shift tonight, then the day shift Saturday and Sunday, but has invitations for two different Thanksgiving meals - one on Sunday and another on Monday! She will resemble a stuffed turkey herself after eating two meals prepared by two such fabulous cooks.

The weather is also forcing the Rancher to think seriously about bringing the cows home. If it remains this cold and the water supply where they are freezes, the cows will start wandering, looking for water. So there may also be cattle chasing and moving in the Bag Lady's immediate future!

She hopes all her Canadian blog-buddies have great Thanksgiving weekends, and everyone else has a great regular weekend!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Drivel Dribble

The Bag Lady is a slacker today - she only has to go to one of her jobs! Which means she had the opportunity to sleep in today. Unfortunately, the last time the Bag Lady slept past 7:30 in the morning (except for that one time she was up until 4 am the night before *ahem*) was sometime in the late 1980's! She is an affirmed early bird. She just isn't sure what she should be doing with all these freakin' worms......

She will spend some time this morning trying to get caught up with blog buddies... err... housework and laundry, and maybe even get around to actually opening some of the bills that have been piling up on her desk. (Why do they insist on sending those, anyway? Although, if it wasn't for bills and junk mail, the Bag Lady would never have any postal-type mail at all!)

Have you figured out yet that she doesn't really have a lot to say today? She has a bunch of half-formed ideas for posts - most of which have popped into her head while she's been at work without access to a computer - but nothing that is worthy of your time. So she won't waste anymore of that for you right now!

Have a great day, and hopefully she'll come up with something really entertaining for you sometime soon. (Or she'll just continue to post her regular drivel that y'all are kind enough to read!)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Autumn Pictures

Here are a few pictures the Bag Lady has taken over the past few days. She was trying to capture the beauty of the autumn colours along the river valley, but she's afraid the pictures just don't do it justice! Of course, the best place to take the pictures would be in the middle of the bridge, but although she is slightly crazy, she is not suicidal.... there's no possible way to stop in the middle of the bridge to take pictures!

The first one was taken from under the bridge.

This next one is the result of the Bag Lady holding the camera out the window and hoping for the best..... unfortunately, the result is a rather dark, uninspiring shot.

She took this picture in her yard yesterday morning - it was rather cold (-9C) and frosty:

This was taken on her way to work yesterday - the clouds were hanging low over the river valley:

And when she got to the top of the hill on the other side of the river, the clouds were still hanging around:

She is afraid that the window of opportunity for taking pictures of the lovely leaves has pretty much slammed shut now - the wind picked up last night and was blowing leaves with much abandon all over the place!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Burgundy Bush

The days are getting shorter and cooler, and the nights are feeling downright cold around these parts. The Bag Lady wants to crawl into bed and pull the covers over her head until spring. But she can't. She has too much to do.

She still feels as though she does not quite have a handle on this working and trying to maintain her house! She was running a little late the other day and it was raining, which would have made her hair go frizzy because she has to stand there and hold the nozzle in order to fill her tank, so she decided she would gas up her truck on her way home from work.... except that she didn't remember to do that until she was several miles past the last open gas station. *Sigh*. The warning light came on in her truck when she was about a mile from home. She can drive roughly another 20 km once the warning light is on.

She mentioned it to the Rancher when she got home, and was prepared to leave a little earlier yesterday so she could fill up on her way to work. When she got out of the shower, she noticed that both the Rancher and her truck were missing! He had taken it to the little convenience store close to the ranch and put enough gas in it for her to get to town. How nice was that?! She's starting to wonder if there has been an alien visitation while her back was turned!

She has taken several pictures of the river valley in it's autumnal splendor, but she hasn't had time to download them from her camera. Hopefully she'll get to that sometime this week. In the meantime, here's a picture she took the other day. She turned off the highway onto the gravel road that leads to her house, and was startled to see this burgundy-red bush. The picture doesn't quite have the same impact as the sight did in reality, but it's the best she has to offer today!
Clicking on it to enlarge it helps give you a better impression of how pretty it is.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Livestrong Day

Today is Livestrong Day in the United States - the 10th anniversary of Lance Armstrong's cancer diagnosis. One of the Bag Lady's dear friends is participating in the online event to raise awareness of cancer-related issues, and she has asked that we help spread the word.

She is having a giveaway of amazing proportions, so please go check out her blog at the link below.

All of us have been affected by cancer, if not personally, then by knowing someone who has been diagnosed. My mother and two of her sisters died of colon cancer; two more of her sisters died from lung cancer. My own sister has battled breast cancer.

Let's all do something today to honor those people we know who have fought this battle. Whether it is making a donation to a cancer society, or donating your time at a clinic, offering support to someone who has been diagnosed, or wearing a yellow shirt in honor of Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Day.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sentinel Down

The Bag Lady spent the day dealing with beets. Her hands are now a lovely shade of brown. (Who knew orange and red made brown?)

She goes back to work today, then goes to the store for a little training session on running the cash register. It's been a few years since she ran one, and although she's pretty sure the principal is the same, every till operates in a slightly different way, so she thought she had better get acquainted with it before she starts working at the store next week.

The weather has been decidedly autumnal, and she is glad that she and the Rancher decided to pick the tomatoes. They are all in a box in a cool part of her house, starting to ripen. She is looking forward to her first taste of homegrown tomato. Soon.

There was a nasty wind blowing in her neighbourhood last week, and she went for a walk with the Princess the other night to discover that, along with a few trees in the yard, the wind had also taken down one of the sentinels out in the pasture.

It looks rather sad lying there, doesn't it?

It had been used for many years as a scratching post by numerous cows, as well as a perch and resting spot for many a raven and even the occasional bald eagle. It will end it's life by providing warmth for the Bag Lady and the Rancher this winter in their wood stove.

It's twin still stands in the next pasture over, but it too will one day succumb to a strong wind. For now, though, it will still provide a convenient scratch for an inconvenient itch, and a spot for a raven or hawk, or even an eagle to rest and survey their surroundings, searching for their next meal.

Rest easy, old friend, your job here is almost done.