Cold to the Bones

Sometimes I just feel cold to the very core of my being.   I call that being cold the the bones.    I have been having a lot of that lately with lots of wind and subzero temperatures.  Our new dog has no undercoat and I suspect that he can vouch for the feeling of cold I am talking about.   He has recently taken up sleeping as close to the propane stove as he can get.


All I can think when I see that is lucky dog.  For a little while he has to be totally warm.

Cold Frame – Yes, No, Maybe

Many of you wrote and emailed me about the use of cold frames to extend my short season here in Montana.  I have worked with this idea on and off in my time in Montana.  It is a perfect solution in so many ways, but I have struggled with how to beat the winds that blow here.

My cold frame worked something like this.

We have tried the simple traditional cold frame of a raised bed with a window on the top.   The picture here is  an online picture and not mine, but it was very similar.   It works well early in the season before you need to prop open the window.   Once I needed to prop open the window all bets were off.

I sit up slope on a hillside in a wide valley that funnels wind.   Though you would imagine that the winds always come from a single direction they can come from any direction and change in a nanosecond.   We can be victim to sudden down drafts as well. The wind here is  constant like the surf of an ocean, some times strong and violent like crashing waves  and other times no more than a gentle breeze like the sounds of water lapping at the shoreline.

It is hard to imagine living with this kind of wind constantly until you experience it.  In all the places I live this is one of a kind.   The winds here have created hail and blown shingles off, such that we went through almost a package before we gave up and went metal roof.   The wind has blown tables and even gas grills off of our deck.   Metal lawn chairs have tumbled and blown across the yard until they were stopped by the pasture fencing.   What all this means is the idea of propping open a window on a cold frame doesn’t work.   It is either gone or if tied down when propped open a mangled twisted mess once the wind fights with it.

I am still working with the cold frame idea and my raised beds are still intact, but I need to do some serious out of the box thinking to see if I can come up with something that will work to provide heat in early and late seasons.   I am watching Craig’s list, Free Cycle, the classifieds and even thinking of visiting the Habitat for Humanity recycle store for a couple of windows to try this again.   But I am in high thrifty mode as the windows ended up a broken mess and until I can solve the wind problem I am not too anxious to spend too much.    This time I will take some pictures and share with you some of the options I try.


Cold Weather Cooking

Now that we have had our first snow, there is no denying that fall is in its closing days.  The nights are getting longer and the days are getting cooler.   This is the time I focus on soups, one of my favorite cold weather foods.  There are old family favorites,  tried and true, and then the new ones that scream “give me a try.”

Already I have made Minnesota Wild Rice soup.  Though a soup, it is in the style of the universal Minnesota Lutheran hot dish.    What this means is it is white, a cream based soup, with the wild and crazy  spices of  salt, pepper and onions!  Serve it with applesauce or Jello salad and I am transferred back,  at least in my mind, to Minnesota.

I am ready to cook a pot of  Navy Bean soup  based on the version my mom used to make, jazzed up with a little more seasonings than she used.  When I was a kid my mom would soak beans overnight, and then cook them all day with a ham bone the next day.   At this elevation using dried beans is a challenge that requires not only soaking, but a pressure cooker or they will never fully cook.   Because of this I actually cheat and use canned beans.   I have learned in this case that there is a difference in generic beans and name brand.  Name brand beans are not mushy or damaged, and if you are going to cook them for awhile with your ham bone, you want to start with firm beans.   Since today we are looking for more fiber and more diverse proteins  bean soup is a great option.

Another soup on my to make list to make soon is chicken noodle soup.  Of course my chicken noodle soup is not  only made with veggies, and thick noodles, but also with my own stewing hens.   One of  drags of a stewing hen is that they are older and their muscle tissue fully developed.  Today’s chicken is butchered in about 6-8 weeks and soaked in a water solution before being sent to your grocer’s shelf.   There is no such thing as a stewing hen in today’s commercial food industry, and no real instructions for preparing such. What all this means is that the whole concept of stewing hen requires me to get out my vintage Joy of Cooking, and let that guide me.   The result is a soup that is more intense, and chicken that never turns mushy.

I am keeping  an eye out for recipes in magazines, websites and on TV.  I am sure that there will be a couple of new soups and stews that I will have to try.   Maybe one or two will be a keeper the rest will likely be one time wonders.