Air Conditioning… Finally!

Having gone through a very cold winter and a hot last few weeks, central air conditioning is finally being installed! (Thanks to Tim and the team at Total Comfort.) This is the second historic home that they have worked on with me and have been great each time. Although the system won’t be routed across all floors, it will cover all of the bedrooms on the second floor and will be set up for a second zone once the attic is built out. This means that overnight guests will be closer to possible!

The east side of the attic after all of the old insulation was removed and before ductwork.

Although people survived here for almost 300 years without air conditioning, the ability to remove most of the humidity from the air will be a big plus toward preserving the house’s wood framework. Most of the rot that we found seems to be from condensation around plumbing and the drastic temperature fluctuations across many years.

Our first step was to remove all of the deteriorating fiberglass insulation from the attic, installed in 1940s. After several days of removal in terrible heat, it was ready for the installers. We would be done with the installation by now, but realized how incredibly huge the air compressor was when it was sat next to the house. So, we’ve opted to have the unit installed on the west side of the smokehouse instead, avoiding any obstruction to the main house. Hopefully the trenching and line drops will be complete next week, just in time for late July heat waves! SO CLOSE!


Blackberry Cobbler!

The blackberries have arrived! And while there are a million of them, only a small percentage are currently ripe. Most will stay red for the next couple of weeks and then they will all ripen around the same time. That’s when friends come over and help pick for hours on end – and yes, there are that many spread across the property, back in the woods, and along the field lines. The entire field would be covered in them also except that I mowed the fields just before spring, only producing new blackberry bush growth that won’t produce fruit until next year if allowed to stay (not likely as we start to cultivate the fields).

Blackberry bushes

Yesterday evening, we came home and started picking just a few, here and there, and then found an entire grove with ripe berries. We ended up picking over two pounds! Tonight they were happily turned into a blackberry cobbler using my favorite cobbler recipe – complete with a sweet buttermilk biscuit crust. Perfetto! (Recipe below.)

Blackberry Cobbler

Blackberry Cobbler
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

For filling:
6 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

For topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

To prepare filling: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Gently mix berries, cornstarch, sugar and vanilla. Place in 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Place pie plate on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet; bake until fruit begins to release liquid, 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare topping: Whisk together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, and vanilla. In a small bowl, stir together cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Once fruit has begun to release its liquid, gently stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula. Mix just until dough is combined and no dry pockets remain.

Remove filling from oven. Divide the dough into 8 biscuits and arrange them over the filling. Sprinkle dough with cinnamon-sugar.

Return to oven. Bake until filling is bubbling and topping is golden brown on top and cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes before serving.

(If making ahead, let cool, wrap tightly in plastic, and hold at room temperature up to 8 hours. Reheat in a 350-degree oven until warm, 10-15 minutes.)

Recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.