Rest … today was a much needed and much appreciated day of rest.

Yesterday we finished the last 2 Zakuska … the last of the big cooking efforts.

We were extremely happy to not-cook today.

We’ve been having a hard time finding a steel barrel … so we’ve decided to build our rocket stove from almost all firebricks. I spent some time at the computer redesigning the rocket stove … and it’s looking good. We now need to get ~60 more firebricks, two steel pipes and a steel top plate … and we are good to go.

I hope the wood we ordered arrives soon … I’d like to get back to working on the things we need. It’s already October, fall is in the air … then November gets cooler and December is freezing. It feels like there isn’t much time left and still plenty of work to do.

 

Goodies from Bacau

So, the purpose of our road trip was to visit Andreea’s aunt in a village called Bacau, an hour+ drive south from her home town of Piatra Neamt. Her aunt had prepared some things to get us started in our new village life and though we weren’t crazy about the long trip involved we decided to go ahead and make it. We spent a first night in Piatra Neamt and the next night in Bacau and then headed back home.

There were sacks of flour, corn (full seeds + roughly ground + thinly ground into corn-flour):

We had some plants including mint and garlic:

 

We had ten week-old chicks:

We had 7 ducklings and a mother duck:

… and more (there was a small gas tank …). When we got home we found one of the sacks had punctured. In the past I would have been infuriated at this … now I just scratched my head and moved on (over coming weeks we would add cement and dog hairs to the mix):

When we got home we had to improvise a temporary shelter for the chicks and ducks:

Which soon after led to my first wood-working project – a mostly improvised cage to keep them together and safe.

which included a small bowl of water with a ramp leading into … that one of the ducks was quick to use:

At nights we moved the chicks into an cold coop that we had used until recently and in the days we moved them out into the cage. The ducklings were comfortable to usher in and out because they stayed close to their mother – so wherever she went they did too. The chicks were more unruly (and still are) because they were hatched in and incubator and did not have a mother hen to guide them – making things more difficult for us.

On the way back from Bacau through Piatra Neamt we made a stop to freshen up and see Andreea’s father again shortly. As I was waiting for Andreea in the parking lot I looked in wonder at the contents of our car. 18 months before I was standing at the same place (during my first visit to Romania) and I could not have imagined then that I would be back and in this situation. Yet there I was … crumbling bread and pouring water into a small plastic container to feed chicks and ducks!

 

All these past days we’ve been very busy still making food preservations … we’ve finished with the tomato sauce (~40 liters of it), made another batch of the miraculous winter salad, a failed Zakuska which will hopefully keep is a nice complementary dish to cooked rice, prune compote and jam, more pickles (this time of cauliflower, carrot and peppers).

Today we decided to start the day with a bit of movement before sitting down for more cooking … so we went and harvested walnuts from three trees on our property – one tree nice and and large nuts, a second young tree with a little medium sizes nuts and a third large tree with many but small nuts. We hope to have time to do some pruning and coppicing of many trees this autumn and to see if/how they come to life. We’ll probably be using a lot of the wood for constructing our first large raised beds.

I spent the better part of the day splitting open the green shells of the walnuts – my hands are well stained (though we have quite a few experiments planned t actually use the stain for numerous applications!) and the shells accounted for about half the volume and weight … but still have a very nice crop of nuts for the winter. At some point I also started taking care of more eggplants and peppers that were roasting on the rocket stove. Andreea was busy expanding our next-year-seed-reservoir by adding eggplant, garlic and thyme seeds … we already have tomato, peppers and basil set aside (all from fresh crops).

We’re starting to see the end of the winter food preservation process … still planning to make another batch of prune jam, pear compote and jam, two more Zakuska (both of which we started preparing for today) … oh and we finally got a 120 liter plastic barrel we are going to fill with pickled cabbages.

It has been called attention that we have some kind of wood-infestation in the house … mostly in the older furniture we haven’t tossed out (though we will soon) and (unfortunately?) a bit in some of the visible beams. It seems to be slow acting … but we do need to look into it. We finally ordered a large batch of wood for furniture and construction (long story I will tell in detail) … should be delivered in the coming days … so I am looking forward to picking up with more carpentry … there are quite a few more things we need to get done for winter.

3 days have flown past … the 20kg of roasted peppers have finished their journey and become a large load of delicious Zakuska. Another large batch of Zakuska with onions, eggplant and peppers is also ready and slowly cooling down.

We also created a wonderful thing called a winter salad which includes finely chopped parsley roots & leaves, celery roots and leaves, carrots, green peppers, red peppers and dill … all mixed with a lot of salt to keep it preserved. It’s a ready to use cooking mix … we’ve tested it already and it is amazing. Chop an onion add some of the mix and you are good to go (it’s already salted too!).

Today we had guests over (a lovely couple who are preparing for a home-birth and have asked Andreea to be there with them as a doula) … so we didn’t get as much done as we had planned. We did managed to prepare another large batch of tomato sauce.

After tasting everything its getting harder to avoid eating it daily.

The rocket stove continues to rock day after day … amazing productivity with very little wood!

oh … and the dogs (the big ones) practically tried to kill each other the other night … not a nice ending for a long day of work.

Today we focused on peppers … from the big load we got yesterday evening.

Andreea chopped some up for freezing and preparation for other dishes.

I stood at the rocket stove all day and roasted 27.5kg of red peppers … a whole lot. I continue to be in awe of the efficiency of the rocket stove. At the end of the day it was really burning hot (got a blister when I pulled out one of the rear bricks to clean it out) … I had boiling water for a bath in minutes.

We got another batch (28kg) of tomatoes – the last from our next door neighbors … waiting their turn at the Squeezo.

I am dead tired again … now going to sit down together with Andreea to eat, watch a movie and peel all those peppers.

phew … long day … again … thank god the days are getting shorter … otherwise we would probably be working even more hours.

food preservation is an intense and focused effort … much produce is needed simultaneously … so there is a sudden wave of work that can’t be put off … otherwise the produce will spoil. We are so looking forward to repeating this next year with food from our own garden!

this morning we started off slowly and agreed to keep it a light and easy day … yeah right!!!

We focused on apples … started with fresh picking … which was the easiest part. If you count all the apples I’ve eaten in my life … it doesn’t come close to the number that I peeled today.  The skin on my index finger is literally warn off from pressing against the peeler … but anyways we ended up with almost 20 liters of lovely sweet apple compote and 7+ jars of apple jam. I think tomorrow we will round the apple theme off by making some apple juice concentrate (we don’t have the tools yet to crush and press apples for cider … maybe next year).

The ducks and chickens were great help in collecting and eating the apple remainders … though they couldn’t put a dent in the quantity we had … so three buckets of leftovers went to the neighbors for their pigs.

We ended the day by hopping over to another neighbor where we loaded the car again with much goods (freshly picked for us today!) mostly carrots and peppers. Tomorrow we expect to pick up from our next door neighbor onions and another big load of tomatoes for more tomato sauce!

We are learning the ins-and-outs of cooking-based preservation … many subtle details to improve on … hope to collect them in an orderly way and publish them soon … many little things that nobody told us and I wish they had!

Went out early this morning to do the second layer of finishing on the kitchen sink cabinet.

Then most of the day went to more food preservations. More peppers were roasted (~3.5kg) and then cooking. Andreea’s intentions were to make our first Zakuska (a generic Romanian name for a diverse range of cooked vegetable mash like things … really tasty … and a substitute for vegetables during the cold winter months) – which we have are. A large pot is on the stove in its last cooking stage and the jars are outside in the rocket stove. Soon we will bring the jars in, sterilize them in the over, fill them and cook them some more … then the day will be over.

But I also suggested we start making apple compote … to which Andreea agreed … but later we realized we took on too much … didn’t have enough large pots … etc. But we did make two  jars which came out really tasty … the leftovers are awaiting us after dinner. The compote project will be resumed … hopefully tomorrow.

… and in the midst of it all I did some light sanding and polishing of the kitchen cabinet … the sink _and faucet are installed and the cabinet is now functional … looks great. It doesn’t have doors for now … we’ll see what to do about that later. It also doesn’t have a back … I’ll take care of that once we finish the plumbing.

Andreea is calling me … time to bring the jars in and bring this day one step closer to a close.