Winter Lessons

We’ve officially landed in winter weather–in New Mexico that means sunny days, and crisp nights…really crisp, as in below freezing crispy. All this has brought new lessons to the ranch, including dealing with those cold, cold nights.

Blankets and a heater handle the worst of the nights. It’s great soup weather and the perfect time for baking, so its time to perfect the Pan Dulce, and banana nut muffins are great for mornings. I’m also in love with New Mexico Biscochitos (recipes below). But we also have shorter days, and it just takes longer to get work done when you have to wait for the day to warm up, and the night comes early (sundown is around 5PM right now, but the temps start to drop about 4PM).

We’ve had snow on the ground, but it usually doesn’t last under the New Mexico sun, and it’s dry powder–skiers would love this stuff if there were any slopes and runs nearby. Most of the snow from three days ago is already gone, but the real trick is dealing with the chilly weather.

The first thing we’ve learned is it’s time for winter boots. Waterproof and insulated, that’s what you want. If your feet are warm, that’s more than half the battle. Wool socks also help with this, as does layering the socks (cotton next to the feet and wool outside).

Water freezes easily in this weather so we’re using the solar cooker now to keep our water hot and freeze-free. And, like others, we’re going to be using the same ideas to keep the drinker ice free as well.

We’re also using insulating ideas on the airstream, in particular, something called double-bubble. This is a layer of bubbles with foil on either sides–it reflects the heat back to the inside and the cold to the outside, so it does double the work. And it’s really thin and low cost. We’re also using some extra straw bales around the bottom of the Airstream to keep the air warmer underneath. Come springtime, we’ll use these bales to mulch the garden.

The horses, donkeys, and dogs are doing fine in the cold, with thicker coats. And the dogs make great bed warmers (so does a hot water bottle — very low tech, very inexpensive, and way better than an electric blanket).

The other thing we’ve learned is that winter is a great time to stay inside and catch up with computer work. We’re still outside every day–it’s just too beautiful to spend the whole day inside. But we’ve adjusted the pace of work a little–the main thing right now is to get the roof on and the windows and doors on. Then we’ll have a great indoor space to work on.

Banana Muffins

  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c softened butter or margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/2 c soymilk or milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 c flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped nuts

Heat oven to 375, grease muffin tins. Cream sugar and butter. Beat in eggs. Mash and add bananas; add soymilk and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients. Add nuts. Pour into muffin tins. Bake about 15 – 20 minutes or until center is done.

Biscochitos (bis-co-CHEE-toe)
New Mexico’s Official State Cookie.

  • 1 ½ cup lard or shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract/oil
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat lard/shortening and sugar until fluffy, beat in eggs and anise. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Mix in brandy and form a stiff dough. Turn onto long piece of waxed paper, form into a roll and press to about one inch. Chill. You can then cut roll for round cookies, or roll out and cut with cookie cutter. Put more cinnamon and sugar in a shallow bowl and dip cookies into this on one side. Bake sugar side up for about 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are firm.

This entry was posted in building phase, Life in New Mexico and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *