Friday, July 31, 2009

Greetings from Marshaltown, Iowa

Yes, folks, Cliff and I drove over two hundred miles to see a tractor show that features Oliver tractors. It isn't even that big a show, and at first Cliff was somewhat disappointed. Then we happened on a man who has a wonderfully restored Oliver 1955 tractor who gave Cliff so many tips he can't remember them all. Tomorrow we're going to hunt him up again, and Cliff is going to write down some stuff so he'll be able to make use of all this guy's knowledge.

The driving time didn't seem so bad; I found a book written in 1979 to read aloud as we traveled. The hero of the story is a burglar named Bernie Rhodenbarr, and it's actually a pretty witty, interesting tale.

I figured the tractor show would have all the motels in town to be full. No problem, given the size of the show. However, many of the motels are booked up because of some stupid Nascar race that takes place tomorrow (sorry, Rachel).

It's a pretty nice little getaway from the garden and the peaches, even though we had to come in the car because our motorcycle is still in the shop.

I feel much better

It's wonderful what a good nights rest will do.

I'm already making plans for next year's garden, can you believe it?

Cliff discovered while surfing the Net (yes, he does that nowadays... a lot!) that there are actually better kinds of sweet corn that our usual peaches-and-cream. Bodacious gets rave reviews, and supposedly doesn't blow down so easily in high winds. I'll be trying it next year, although I will not be planting huge quantities. Just enough in several small plantings so we have some for the table, fresh.

I planted three hills of butternut squash this year, and they've literally taken over half the garden. I'll either just plant one hill next year, or perhaps not even plant any; Rasa Orchard, where we buy our apples in the fall, usually has butternut squash for fifty to seventy-five cents each. Although for some reason, last year they didn't have any.

Next year I must remember to put cages on my sweet pepper plants. Strong winds blow them down, and the peppers are so heavy they cause the plants to break off.

One eggplant isn't enough. Next year I'll put out two.

And I want to get back into herbs.

I'm sure I'll be adding to this list, but that's it for now.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm about pickled out

More than one person has asked me if it isn't a lot of trouble, doing all this gardening and canning. Actually, it's been a joy this year. I hadn't done any real gardening for three or four years, and it brought back a lot of memories. I learned so much about gardening and canning from my mother, and it's put me in touch with her again.

That is, until yesterday and today.

I'm not sure what it was yesterday that made me so tired. Oh, I went and got all the ingredients for our dinner (noon meal) from the garden and then cooked it all. I heated up the syrup for the cucumber curls and poured it back over them. I got some peaches off the tree for our cereal. I mowed the front yard. I milked the cow yesterday morning, but that only takes ten minutes... I timed it. Looking back, it just doesn't seem like so much. Oh yes, and I went out and got some things from the garden and the peach tree to send my sister.

Today was the straw that broke this camel's back. I picked my Kentucky Wonder green beans and got enough for our dinner, and dug some potatoes to put with them, then decided to have fried okra, and cooked some Savoy cabbage. I picked tomatoes, enough to can seven quarts. And today was the day to put the Cucumber Curls into jars. Sticky juice everywhere, but when it's time, it's time. The funny thing is, I used to be able to do twice this much and tend two babies.


No more pickles, except for the batch of fourteen-day pickles I have already started.

We may take a road trip, which will get me away from the peaches. I told Cliff's sister to feel free to freeze them, because they'll probably be done after this weekend.

Honestly, the garden itself is great, and I'm loving it. Canning the tomatoes is no big deal, and I love having meals that are totally home-grown.

But when the pickles come due at the same time as the peaches and tomatoes, I'm a little overwhelmed. I refuse to have my life dictated by vegetables. I admit, though, that nobody put pressure on me to do all this except little old me.

Now that I've vented, I feel much better.

Note to my daughter: I know you are expecting company this weekend. There are some peach
es in the garage refrigerator that you are welcome to take home to make cobbler or something out of. I think they aren't even wormy peaches! Help yourselves to tomatoes, too. There are some in a bucket in the kitchen, already picked. Grab a jar of cucumber curls if you like. Feel free to dig some taters. You'll find the onions dug and put in the back of Cliff's shop.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What's left of my bucket list

1. I want to see Wyoming and Montana.
2. I want to see a human baby born (not on TV, but in person).
3. I want to see Iris Dement live and in person.
4. I want to see John Prine live and in person.

I've fulfilled so many of the things I wanted to do that I'm reduced to these.

And they're so trivial, I really don't care much about whether I do them or not. Except #1 and #2.

Oh, I just have to share this

A relative of mine on Facebook who shall remain nameless (she lives in Oklahoma) posted this about her three-year-old son (names kept hidden to protect the innocent):

just put out a fire (small one), set by E in the microwave. The cause? A plastic colander filled with a stuffed bat, tennis ball, 2 foam balls, a car, a metal whistle, and a wooden train car. He used our ottoman to stand tall enough to put it in, and set the time for 99 minutes before pressing start. He ran into the living room screaming, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" and I turned around to see sparks and flame. Nice.

Truth is often stranger than fiction; especially when you have small children.

plants, animals, it's a dog's life

I've had lots of problems with blight on my tomatoes over the years; at times I've even threatened to give up on tomatoes. This year I searched online and found a blight-resistant tomato, and gave them a try.

So far, I'm pleased. They're a little "blighty" on the oldest parts of the plants, but it hasn't affected the tomatoes at all so far. There is no such thing as a blight-free tomato, but this comes close.

Cliff and Rena planted some Early Girl tomatoes and some Celebrity.

The Celebrity tomato plants are in about the same condition as my Legend tomatoes.

The Early-Girls, not so much.

Even the actual tomatoes on the Early Girl plants are spotted with blight.

So, if you have problems with blight, get yourself some Legend or Celebrity tomatoes.

I brought in a ripe butternut squash yesterday evening. I microwaved half of it and made that my supper. I'll do the other half for dinner today, for me and Cliff. We'll also have a couple of roasting-ears and some stir-fried cabbage. Maybe even a baked Yukon Gold potato, and some sliced peaches for dessert. No, I guess I'd better forget about the potato. We'll be overeating if we have all that stuff!

I milked Bonnie this morning, and for the first time she didn't have to be coaxed into the barn, and then into the stanchion. She walked right in. Then when I opened the door for Sir Loin, he knew which side of his mother to go on. When you only milk two or three times a week, it takes them awhile to learn, but they've figured it out now.

I've had lots of problems with my hyper-active dog, Sadie, running away when I turn her loose. A few days ago she disappeared while I was milking, but showed up within five minutes. I got to thinking, our neighborhood is pretty quiet in the early mornings; what if I let her go free for an hour or so? Maybe if she had a little freedom each morning, she wouldn't go so crazy on the occasion that she does get loose.

I realize there's a risk here, but I decided to try it, and it's working well. Most mornings now, she doesn't even leave the yard, but contents herself with sniffing at the flowerbed, smelling where visiting dogs left their calling cards, and chasing toads.

This morning, she did disappear for about twenty minutes. I wasn't too terribly concerned, but I was glad to see her on the porch waiting to be let in the house. I was washing milk things and didn't really pay much attention, but when she passed close by me, I realized she had been rolling in something dead. Why is it that dogs seem to be so proud of themselves when they've done this?

Bath-time for Sadie. She hates it, but she puts up with it fairly well.

Wouldn't you think she'd eventually make the connection? Let's see, I roll in carrion, I go home, I get a bath.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009


When people start telling me that my motorcycle needs new tires, I tend to listen. So today Cliff and I rode our motorcycle into Independence to Hub Cycles, where we'll get new tires and a new windshield installed on our Gold Wing. This isn't going to be cheap, folks.

It was raining, but only lightly. We were able to keep moving, so we didn't get wet.

Right next door to Hub Cycles at US Bank, there were a lot of policemen gathered. We're still wondering if a bank robbery had occurred.

Maybe I should google something up on the local news?

We left our bike at Hub, and the son-in-law, who was nearby getting therapy on his shoulder, picked us up and brought us home.

In case you were wondering how those BIG cucumbers I mentioned are doing, here's how they look tonight.

At last, a night at the cabin

Believe me, the cabin is no place for the faint-of-heart. A tree-frog was hanging on the door as I unlocked it.

The cabin has been deserted awhile, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at the bug casings and actual dead bugs I found. This is a sticky-trap; I put these out for mice, but I've only gotten one mouse with them. I do think, if you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see the remains of a tiny skink, though. That's a shame, because I like skinks. Not in my bed, of course.

Nor should I have been shocked when a fat mouse jumped out of the mouse-bait box atop my books and ran straight up the wall.

I put a new box of mouse-poison out and started sweeping.

Then I cut my lawn which, as you can see, was overgrown.

These are my lawn-mowing tools at the cabin.

I've had "Pillars of the Earth" laying by my chair here at the house for a long time, but the size of it is so daunting I've barely made a dent in it. So I spent a couple of hours reading in my lounge chair behind the cabin.

Getting wood for my campfire, I found this interesting bug, over an inch long; I haven't decided whether those are actually his eyes, or some sort of camouflage to keep people from seeing his real eyes. He really didn't appreciate having his stick of wood thrown onto the fire.

Sadie normally won't go within ten feet of a fire; smoke makes her sneeze. But she spent a half-hour digging around a big rock at my campfire, so I finally lifted it up a little and some tiny creature the size of a mouse (maybe it was a mouse) took off with unbelievable speed. Sadie was in hot pursuit, but of course he got away.

I used to be able to get a good look at the sunset through these trees, but they've gotten so big you have to work at seeing it now. I also used to have a view of the river bottom, but the trees grew up and took that away. I don't mind, because I have a wonderful view of the sunset from my yard, these days.

I enjoyed my fire until 9:30 or so; then Sadie and I went to bed; we heard thunder approaching. I love being at the cabin when it's storming.

I used to go to the cabin to get away from the crowd up here; it seemed as though people were constantly in my face. I couldn't step outside my door without some kid making a comment about where I was going or what I was doing. I also went back for the peace and quiet: the old two-story house sits right on the gravel road. We have kids riding noisy four-wheelers back and forth constantly, stirring up dust; and neighbors who don't believe in having mufflers on their cars.

Since we moved back away from the road, all that is a thing of the past, and I no longer need the cabin. I've thought about having Cliff do away with it, but after last night, I've decided it's a nice thing to have, and it isn't hurting anything back there. If nothing else, it's a nice place for bugs and mice to get out of the weather.

Cliff has always told me, "The mice were there first; you chose to go sleep in their domain."

And of course, he's right. That doesn't keep me from putting out poison, though.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Don't throw away those huge cucumbers!

A couple of days ago, I went out to the garden and gathered up all those big, yellowish cucumbers Rena and I have been tossing to the side, because I remembered a recipe my former neighbor, Barbara, shared with me; she called them cucumber curls. Google takes me to various other names for the same pickle.

They are more like candy that pickles, and I can't wait to taste them once again. This morning my job was to peel the cucumbers and take the seeds out.

Then I cut them into "curls". Now they are soaking in lime water for twenty-four hours.

I learned yesterday evening that you won't find the pickling lime in the grocery section, and that stick cinnamon is almost five dollars for a little jar containing six sticks. I could have passed out from the shock!

It's a beautiful day today, and I think I'm going to try out my lawn mower if the grass dries just a little.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A conversation with my husband

Cliff and I had to go this evening to pick up some things I need to make cucumber curls (or rings, or whatever). Granddaughter Monica rode along.

I was telling Cliff for the thousandth time how much I like living back here away from the road.

"Every morning when I go outside and stroll around the yard looking at the sunrise and the flowers, I say, "Thank You God for letting me live to see this day."

Cliff continued the prayer, saying, "and for the fat man in bed who is going to get up and go to work to earn the money to pay for it pretty soon."

And I said, "Amen."

Monica and Cliff laughed. I guess I made a funny.

Big news for KC area: Never-before-seen pictures of Meesha

We were privileged to have that Kansas City Russian Jew visit today, with his daughter and her friend. They all met my horse, Blue. The girls even got a brief ride later on.

We went for a tractor ride.

I showed Meesha where the blackberries grow, and he ate a few of them.

My two local granddaughters were here, and these four girls took turns churning butter. Then they went inside with me and they all had toast and Bonnie-butter and a glass of Bonnie-milk.

We sat in the shade by Cliff's shop and chewed the fat.

It was a good day indeed.

Oh, and tonight I made Russian Salsa; good stuff.

Lovely weekend

Cliff and I got on the motorcycle yesterday with intentions of riding to Versailles; that's a nice, two-hour ride from here, and Cliff has relatives there we can visit. We like to turn on blacktops that seem to head it the general direction we want to go, and that's how we started. Unfortunately, the blacktop we took at Holden ended up going north and west... the opposite directions in which we needed to go.

On the motorcycle, that doesn't really matter; we bikers often say, "It's all about the ride."

After about forty-five minutes of wandering in the wrong directions, we ended up back in Holden and Cliff took a road that would have taken us to Versailles. However, we decided we'd had a nice ride and there were things we could be doing at home. So home we came. We'd been gone for about three hours, which really is a nice little ride. It was about 1 P.M. when we got back.

My daughter said, "Of course you ate out, didn't you?"

The timing would have been perfect for that, but honestly, there's so much to prepare and eat here at home, I just couldn't bring myself to spend money eating out. I reheated some Harvard beets and some leftover casserole from the fridge, and we were just fine. Then I canned more tomatoes.

There are enough small cucumbers in the garden, I think, to make another batch of fourteen-day pickles; I haven't decided whether I will do that or not, although Cliff thinks it would be a good idea (but only if I want to). I have some very large cucumbers I will probably use to make cucumber curls, a delightful, sweet treat that children love.

I'm loving these cool mornings.

And yes, my house is still a disaster. At my age, I often decide to do what I want, rather than what I should. That reminds me of a song Iris Dement wrote:

Iris Dement

A cold wind against my shoulder woke me up in the middle of the night.
An Autumn leaf was scraping against my window
like it was trying hard to get inside,
and then a ghost that I had met before kept me up 'til dawn
and everything I thought was right was suddenly all wrong.
He said, "Your score is looking pretty bad"
and then he asked me what it was that I had to show.

So I went running down a list of things
some were real, but on some of them I lied.
'cause I felt I had to justify each breath that I'd been breathing in this life,
Then I realized I was playing into someone else's rules,
trying to keep my score up in a game I did not choose.
Then I looked that ghost straight in the eye
and said "You'd better not be coming back by again"

And it's true that I don't work near as hard
as you tell me that I'm supposed to,
I don't run as fast as I could;
but I live just the way I want to
and that's the way I should.

October's leaves were dancing 'round
like angels dressed in robes of Red and Gold;
but November's come and gone now
and they're lying in the gutter out along the road
They're gonna make their way out to the ditch or someday to the sea,
they'll get to where they're going without the help of you or me;
and if each life is just a grain of sand
I'm telling you man, this grain of sand is mine.

And it's true that I don't work near as hard
as you tell me that I'm supposed to,
I don't run as fast as I could.
but I live just the way I want to
and that's the way I should.
but I live just the way I want to
and that's the way I should.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Remembering things my mother taught me

Today I was getting some canning jars ready to be filled with tomatoes. One thing you must do with your old jars is run a finger over the rim of the opening to make sure there are no nicks, because if there's the slightest flaw on that rim, the jar of tomatoes won't seal. I throw away such jars, but my mother didn't.

Oh no, if there was any possible use for an object, Mother wouldn't think of tossing it. She had a collection of old-time zinc lids; with these, you buy some rubber rings and then screw on the lid. The jar seals at the lower rim, instead of at the mouth.

So I went to Google to see if those rubber rings can be found. Indeed, Lehman's has them. I assume you'd have to look on Ebay to find the old-style zinc lids, though.

Just another random memory sparked by my canning adventures.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blessings continue

This is Jimmy-John; he graduated with my son... in 1985, I think it was. Cliff had painted this canopy that goes on the Oliver 1855, but he got some pretty bad runs in it; he called Jimmy-John yesterday for advice, and JJ came over to lend a hand. Today he came again, right from work.

He's painting the little bitty pieces here.

Jimmy John straightens up wrecked vehicles and paints them. He did this all day today at work, then came over here to do an almost-freebie.

"I thought I'd better help Dad," he told me.

Cliff, meanwhile, did some necessary sanding on a fender.

Jimmy-John had some rare sort of cancer that cost him the sight in one eye, a couple of years back. It scared us all, but he seems to be no worse for the wear these days.

Everybody should have somebody like Jimmy-John in their lives.

If your son can't be close at hand, it's nice to have one of your son's old high-school buddies around. Especially if he's a professional painter.

About tomatoes, and more abundance

Pat/Texas (thanks for the nice compliment to my blog, Pat) asked, in a comment: " you put any lemon/lime in your tomatoes when canning? Some recipes call for it and actually say it has to be done, some don't mention it."

I looked at some USDA specifications on the Minnesota Extension Service website and found that, indeed, they recommend the addition of lemon juice. This is because some varieties of tomatoes aren't considered acid enough to be safely canned on their own. The varieties mentioned there are: Ace, Ace 55VF, Beefmaster Hybrid, Big Early Hybrid, Big Girl, Big Set, Burpee VF Hybrid, Cal Ace, Delicious, Fireball, Garden State, Royal Chico, and San Marzano.

One could use a pressure-canner with any tomatoes, and they'd be safe to use with no worries about acidity.

Once again, I live on the edge. I cold-pack tomatoes, and I have never added anything to make them more acid. However, I have not used any of the varieties mentioned above.

Of the ten quarts of tomatoes I put up today, two jars didn't seal. I'll put them in the refrigerator and re-do them tomorrow, after taking off the lids and making sure there are no seeds or chunks preventing a seal. I'll also use new flats on them.

To add to our plentiful food supply around here, the retired neighbor across the highway who often brings us fish showed up once again, with a cooler full of dressed catfish. He always tells me to take what I want, and I don't want to appear to be a glutton. So I tried to get Cliff to do it, but his hands were dirty.

I said, "I never know how many to take," and Cliff said, "Don't be silly; get us some fish."

I showed him. I just kept getting more catfish until he protested. Ha!

Sunday is turnip-planting day, and I went out in the midst of the weeds (I have plenty) and crops in the garden to till up a place to plant my turnips. I mostly plant them in memory of my mom, who loved them so much. Cliff hates them.

Remember the rule:
Plant turnips the twenty-fifth of July, wet of dry
Harvest turnips the twenty-fifth of October,
drunk or sober.

I use that saying in memory of the man who taught it to me, Don Owings. A sweet, sweet man, God rest his soul.


As I sit here exhausted, ten more quarts of tomatoes are on the stove being processed by the cold pack method. There's a peach cobbler in the oven; it's a recipe I found on the Internet that is new to me. I hope it turns out.

I had intended to have B.L.T.'s for lunch, but I just realized I canned all the very ripest tomatoes. Maybe I can find a couple in the garden that I missed.

Most of the peaches on my tree aren't ready yet, but I pick up the ones off the ground, the wormy ones, that are soft and ripe. I get at least half of each peach, by the time I trim out the wormy part.

Now I realize that, to you city folks, it might sound "sick" to eat a fruit that has had worms in it. But the worms leave evidence in the parts of the fruit where they've been living, so it's easy to know what part is bad. When I was working in the apple shed grading apples, if anybody saw me taking a bite out of a wormy apple (one year they changed poisons, and had a few worms) they'd actually gag.

Well folks, I grew up watching my mom, aunts, and grandmother trim the buggy parts off fruits and vegetables. So it's natural to me, and a waste not to use perfectly good food.

I doubt if I can any green beans this year, but if I do, I'll do something the F.D.A says will result in certain death: I'd cold pack them. Now, this is not something I'd advise others to do, because you'd be going against all public opinion. But it's how my family canned green beans. I'd have to talk to my sister to see how long you keep them in the boiling water bath... seems like three or four hours. In fact, I had better be pumping my sister for any of these family traditions while I am able. She and I are not spring chickens.

Yesterday I fixed up some sliced peaches, sprinkled a little sugar over them, dished them up for me, Cliff, and his sister, and put the tiniest bit of cream over them.

With the first bite I was transported to my childhood. Mother served peaches and berries this way often, with a little sugar and some cream.

Unbelievably good.

Oh, I'm freezing okra now so I'll have it for wintertime gumbo.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thanks, Edna!

Cliff's cousin Edna sends me some great stories and jokes in email. I'm sharing this one, because this man's words describe Cliff and me to a "T", right down to the grocery bags and cordless phone. I'm sure my daughter will agree.

Things are spiraling out of control. I think I have become lost in a world of electronic madness.

One of my sons informed me this week that my cell phone has become obsolete and I must head down to the Cell Phone store and get a phone that is contemporary with the time.
I pointed out that the fancy Razor/Slim line phone with camera built in that he made me trade my perfectly good flip-top Motorola cell phone for two years ago still works perfectly fine. Well, except for the camera thing. Never could figure that out.. Even the few times I actually did take pictures I couldn't figure what to do with them and
gave up.

That is except when I would push the wrong button and take a video of the ceiling or my feet.

Seems the issue is that I am unable to text with the tiny little 3 character buttons. "Hi, son," would come out looking like, "Gh Qmo." My grandkids have even spoken to my wife about Poppa's crazy text messages; give me a break.

Whatever happened to actually talking on a phone? Isn't that what they were invented for?

They want me to get one of those phones that you can turn upside down and sideways and has a typewriter keyboard with keys about one-eighth the size of my pinky finger.

One of my four sons is a realtor whose real occupation is fly fishing. "Way to go, son." Or in my text language, "Xbz um Io, rmo."

We were floating the Yakima River in his guide quality drift boat south of Ellensburg, Washington. We were miles from anything remotely resembling civilization. Rock
canyon walls were on either side of us. Bear with me as I try to explain this strange thing.

His "Blackberry" rang. It was blue and I asked him why it wasn't called a Blueberry. He shook his head with that "dealing with an elder" despair look I get a lot these days. It was another realtor who called to say that the sellers he represented had agreed to my son's client's changes and he had the signed documents in hand.

My son told him to FAX the papers to his office and he would get them signed and Faxed back, to close the deal that morning. A minute later the phone rang and he hit a few buttons and looked over the FAX, now on theYakima River with us.

He then called his clients and told them he was Faxing the papers to them to sign and asked them to FAX them back to his office. While he was waiting, he hooked into a fat
rainbow and was just releasing this 22 inch beauty as his phone rang again with the signed FAX from his clients.

He called the other realtor and told him he was sending the signed papers back by FAX. The deal was closed. He smiled and just said, "You are a little behind the times,

I guess I am.

I thought about the sixty million dollar a year business I ran with 1800 employees, all without a Blackberry that played music, took videos, pictures and communicated with
Facebook and Twitter.

I signed up under duress for Twitter and Facebook, so my seven kids, their spouse, 13 grandkids and 2 great grandkids could communicate with me in the modern way. I figured I could handle something as simple as Twitter with only 140 characters of space.

That was before one of my grandkids hooked me up for Tweeter, Tweetree, Twhirl, Twitterfon, Tweetie and Twittererific Tweetdeck, Twitpix and something that sends
every message to my cell phone and every other program within the texting world.

My phone was beeping every three minutes with the details of everything except the bowel movements of the entire next generation. I am not ready to live like this. I keep my
cell phone in the garage in my golf bag.

The kids bought me a GPS for my last birthday because they say I get lost every now and then going over to the grocery store or library. I keep that in a box under my tool bench with the Blue tooth [it's red] phone I am supposed touse when I drive. I wore it once and was standing in line at Barnes and Nobles talking to my wife as everyone in the nearest 50 yards was glaring at me. Seems I have to take my hearing aid out to use it and got a little loud.

I mean the GPS looked pretty smart on my dash board, but the lady inside was the most annoying, rudest person I had run into in a long time. Every 10 minutes, she would sarcastically say, "Re-calc-ul-ating" You would think that she could be nicer. It was like she could barely tolerate me. She would let go with a deep sigh and then tell me to make a U-turn at the next light. Then when I would make a right turn instead; it was not good.

When I get really lost now, I call my wife and tell her the name of the cross streets and while she is starting to develop the same tone as Gypsy, the GSP lady, at least she
loves me.

To be perfectly frank, I am still trying to learn how to use the cordless phones in our house. We have had them for 4 years, but I still haven't figured out how I can lose three phones all at once and have run around digging under chair cushions and checking bathrooms and the dirty laundry baskets when the phone rings.

The world is just getting too complex for me. They even mess me up every time I go to the grocery store. You would think they could settle on something themselves but this sudden "Paper or Plastic?" every time I check out
just knocks me for a loop.

I bought some of those cloth re-usable bags to avoid looking confused, but never remember to take them in with me.

Now I toss it back to them. When they ask me, "Paper or Plastic?" I just say, "Doesn't matter to me. I am bi-sacksual." Then it's their turn to stare at me with a blank look.

Whatever happened to Whippoorwills?

That guy in Oregon got me thinking about whippoorwills this morning.

When I'd spend nights at my grandma's farm in north Missouri in summer as a child, the last thing I'd hear before I went to sleep on the feather bed in Grandma's extra bedroom was the sound of whippoorwills, coming from the woods across the road. They created quite a racket.

The last whippoorwill I've heard was back at my cabin three or four years ago, and that was an isolated incident.

And there used to be so many of them; where have they gone? Dr. Google led me to a (noisy) article, complete with the bird's call, that gives some reasons for the bird's demise. It seems too many people and too many cats are the reasons the whippoorwill is disappearing.

On to other things. Just as Cliff and I were really enjoying the stir-fried zucchini, the squash bugs killed the plant. So we stopped at a nearby roadside market where I intended to buy a couple zucchinis. Or four, because my eggplant is coming along, and I'd love to have some ratatouille.

They had some, all right. But they were larger than I like, and obviously had been picked too late, because there was no gloss to the skin. I want my zucchini about the size of a large cucumber, and I want them to be shiny. Those big, misshapen ones are only good for zucchini bread or cake. I'd have better luck in a grocery store than at that roadside market.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The pickles are pickled.

Yes, Mother's 14-day pickles are done. Cliff ate two with dinner and said, "Your time was not wasted!"

Actually, this batch should be called 15-day, cream-of-tartar pickles. Last weekend during the time I was supposed to be putting alum-water on them each day, we went to the lake. I was going to have my daughter babysit my pickles for me, the one day we were gone. Then I said to Cliff, more or less thinking out loud, "How much difference could it make to let them soak for two days in the same alum-water?"

He agreed.

When I got home, I did the final boiling-water-and-alum thing... I thought. Next morning I realized I had put cream of tartar on them instead of alum. They're both white powder, and look identical.

I believe I should have used smaller cucumbers, but all in all, they are crisp and good. I'll be doing this again next year, if the good Lord and I are both willing.

Yesterday I dug out my old pressure canner to can some beets... not pickled beets, these are to use in Harvard beets. Who knows, they might even work in borscht.

Ah, the memories brought back by that big canner. We bought it back around 1970, when it was the sort of expense that put a dent in our budget for weeks. I was so proud to have it.

My canning jars evoke the same feelings. Many of them were passed down by my mom. Some of them are plain old Miracle Whip jars, which supposedly were unsafe. They worked fine for my mother and me, and will still work for me; the old ones, that is. Nowadays they're made of plastic. I also have jars I bought in the '70's, made by manufacturers that sprung up overnight when there was a canning jar shortage.

This was when I had two small children, and I still managed to have huge gardens and can the produce and milk cows. "Mother Earth News" was my bible, and "Organic Gardening" was my catechism. And I thought the "Whole Earth Catalog" was the most wonderful thing I was ever privileged to read. At that time, I wished I had the nerve to be a hippie and join a commune. I'm not sure what I would have done with Cliff had this dream come true. But you know, when you're daydreaming, who cares about the particulars.

I know, I know. Pathetic. I imagine had I been dropped in the middle of a commune, I'd have run screaming for the outside, shocked by the behavior of the inhabitants.

But I digress.

I didn't sleep well last night, and then I did all this canning stuff. My kitchen is a mess; there's sticky sweet-pickle-juice residue all over the counters, the stove, and even the floor. I hope I get it cleaned up this evening, but don't bet on it.

From here on out, the only thing I intend to can is tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes.

As I was typing this entry, a crop dusting airplane circled the house several times.

A new blog discovery

I received a comment from a new reader today. I clicked on her profile and went to her blog.

For you who like country things, check out "A Joyful Chaos". This lady grew up Amish, and she tells a lot about her childhood. I think many of us have a fascination with the Amish way of life, and here we get it from "the horse's mouth".

When she shares a recipe, you want to go immediately to the kitchen and try it. Even if you aren't hungry. Because we all know how well the Amish cook.

I've only read her most recent entry, but I will be going back and catching up.

Milking day

I'm milking Bonnie two or three times a week. Not that I need that much milk, but I want her to get used to how the routine goes... if that's possible, when done only twice a week.

Remember when I blogged about how easy it was to milk Bonnie? So easy that I could just go out there in the pasture and do it?

She got wise, and realized I was stealing some of her baby's milk. Oh, she didn't get mean or anything; she just walked away every time I started to milk. So now I give her some feed and milk her in the stanchion, where she can't get away.

Last night I noticed the cows were nearby, so I called them into the little lot and gave them all a bite of feed. While they were occupied with that, I drove Bonnie's calf, Sir Loin, into the horse stall and closed the door. This way I know there will be plenty of milk in the morning.

Today when I stepped outside, all the cows, including Bonnie, were in the big lot relaxing and chewing their cuds.

And then I called to her: "Here Bonnie, sook-calf."

Don't ask me why people call cows that way; I learned it from my daddy.

Watch the video and see her reaction for yourself. Be sure you have your sound on.

She knows where her baby is; not behind that silver door; that's where I will be milking. But behind the sliding door to the right. She has her nose right in the crack where it opens.

I go in the barn and coax her into the stanchion with some feed. This morning it took awhile to convince her. Once she's in, though, she is quite well behaved. No kicking, no struggling.

Once she's trapped, I step out and turn Sir Loin loose. He always wants to hurry to my side of the cow, but I push him over there where he belongs. Bonnie lets her milk down, and I get a gallon out of my side.

When I'm done, I turn them out together; they won't be separated again until I decide I want some milk.

Here's a note of interest, at least to me. I got this entry ready to post and decided to Google "sook calf". I found the definition of that was "a hand-reared calf". Not exactly my own definition.

Then I searched for "sook cow" and got what I was looking for. On a discussion board about Irish and English accents, I found this paragraph buried deep in the discussion:

"Sook, sookie or sook cow is the local cry farmers use to summon the herd and comes from the Old English sucan meaning "to suck"."

Do you suppose my daddy had some Irish in his background?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Good eats

Cliff and I have been eating like royalty lately. Yesterday, for instance:

we had cooked Savoy cabbage...


and potatoes boiled, and then browned in Bonnie-butter.

Today we'll have Kentucky Wonder beans cooked with a healthier version of Kielbasa

with small potatoes thrown in. I may have to quarter a larger potato, because the potato crop is mostly made up of huge potatoes, now.

If some of you were my neighbors, I'd share a few.

Of course, there are tomatoes in abundance; I canned seven quarts yesterday, and there's a bowl of grape tomatoes on the table at all times. The bugs killed the zucchini, but the butternut squash is still doing well (knock wood). None of them are ready to eat, though.

I've discovered something this year: Almost any vegetable is good stir-fried with a little soy sauce. I've done this with grated cabbage, snow peas, and zucchini. I'm sure it would work great with green beans, too. I always put some sliced onions in, and some chunks of sweet pepper. My grocery list is considerably shorter, these days.

I'm waiting for some eggplants to get just a wee bit larger, and then I'm going to try another Russian recipe from Meesha. He says it's almost impossible to screw it up. I like that in a recipe; that, and the fact that it doesn't have a lot of exotic ingredients. And I wasn't disappointed in the borscht.

M.V., if you and your daughter come out this weekend, you are welcome to take home some garden goodies.

I really want some more fried green tomatoes, but two people can only eat so much.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Using a butter mold

With the help of Google, I found a website that explains the proper use of a butter mold. Maybe I'll try it sometime. I didn't realize you are supposed to leave the butter in the mold in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

"It is as rare to find modern butter molds as it is to find someone who knows how to use them. Instructions for use of a modern butter mold: 1 - Soak the mold in ice water for 30 minuutes and -if convenient - refrigerate the mold for 30 minutes more. This helps to keep the butter from sticking in the mold. 2 - Rinse the mold with cold water and fill it with softened butter. 3 - Smooth the surface with a spatula and cover with plastic wrap. 4- Chill for 2 hours or more.
5 - To unmold the butter, run the tip of a knife around the outside edge to loosen it.
Cleaning wooden molds: Use hot water, mild soap, and a brush to loosen residue - but do not soak the mold in water."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Churning butter

For most of my milking life, I did not use a churn; I preferred to put the cream in a gallon jug and shake it until the butter showed up. I liked this method because I could carry the gallon jar with me and do other things, like watch my kids or talk on the telephone. Yes, there was a time I didn't mind talking on the phone.

Five or so years ago, I decided I wanted a Dazey churn, and I started watching on Ebay. There must be a lot of them still around, because they aren't so terribly high-priced. I don't recall exactly, but I think mine cost under $80, shipping and all. I didn't have a cow at the time, but I wanted it for memory's sake. And I thought maybe some day I'd get another Jersey cow.

It's a red-top Dazey churn, which means it was manufactured between 1930 and 1945. I was born in 1944, so it's safe to say this churn is likely as old as I am. It works perfectly. However, I had never tried it out until today.

Granddaughter Monica turned the crank until she had to go home, and then I took over. I wish I'd thought to take Monica's picture churning. Maybe another time.

This is what it looks like when the cream turns to butter.

Next the butter is taken out of the buttermilk (nothing like what they call "buttermilk" in the store), and it's kneaded in cold water, or "washed". You pour off the water when it looks milky and add more cold water; keep doing this until the water is fairly clear when you pour it off.

I seldom use a butter mold, but I did tonight just to remember the dear old neighbor lady who gave me this one. I don't know what I do wrong, but I can never get the fancy imprint that's supposed to be on top of the butter.

So, we've made our first "Bonnie-butter".

I was spreading some on a cracker, and Cliff said from the living room, "What are you doing?"

"I'm sampling some real butter; do you want to taste it?"

We've both put our stamp of approval on it. Maybe we'll have waffles tomorrow.

It was exciting to do all this, after so many years. Memories.