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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Winter squash routines begin

Snow on the hills again, a little lower.

I've been processing squash for the poultry -- about one fruit every two to three days. There's plenty of winter squash as well as pumpkins this year, unlike last year -- our worst garden summer ever here -- but also we have a lot of zuke-kins.

These are crossbred seeds saved from 2010 or 2011 that resulted in large green or yellow blimps a la zucchini, on zucchini-type vines, but yellow fleshed and hard like pumpkin. Some weigh over twenty pounds. They don't store very well, so we are using them up first.

Here you can see the zuke-kins peeping out from under the winter collection.

There is a stock pot dedicated to life atop our wood heat stove, which resides in the dining area. Sometimes it's heating dishwashing water; sometimes it's processing squash or pumpkin. I cut up a squash and put the pieces in the hot water overnight, and the next day I drain the rich water into the "wet" compost, cool the squash, and toss it over the poultry fence.

Yes, it makes a mess, but that's why we live a little ways out past the suburbs. In this picture a piece of new squash is at center, the peeling left over from the last one is at lower left, and the stripped greens are the remnants of whole kale and chard tossed over last month.

The birds appreciate this menu. The chickens quickly clean up the seeds and the ducks and goose go for the softened flesh. Then the chickens entertain themselves with the rind until it's cleaned to the "bone."

Sometimes the squash is so big the pieces don't all fit in the pot. I could wait and do half now and half later, but sometimes you want to make a pie or a squash soup. Around here, one doesn't try to do that too often, especially the pies. This family maxes out on "pumpkin" quickly, even if you throw a lot of nutmeg and sugar at them. The soup seems a little more sophisticated, and I for one can eat it quite often.

When I'm doing this I like to set aside some seed from our share of the squash for salting and roasting. We have a veggie processing sink in the laundry room with a short bit of hose and a brass nozzle, and the seeds can sit in a colander and have their pulp blasted away. Drain, bring into the kitchen, add some grapeseed oil and salt (I also add veggie seasoning [dehydrated leaf vegs, crumbled] as I do to everything), move the seeds to a small iron skillet, and set that on the stove along with everything else. Below, at left, you see the soup sections of the squash simmering, the stockpot of poultry feed is simmering in the middle, and a light lunch of salted "pumpkin" seeds is roasting at right.

Yes, the stovetop is a bit stained. If you're going to do this kind of thing, it's going to get that "lived-in" (in this case, "lived-on") look. But the heat's radiating to the house anyway -- so why not use it?


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