Sunday, August 31, 2008

New Girls in Town.

I have decided that scratched into the wall of the feed store restroom is the following message-- "For a good home for your feathery friends, call Clink."

Saturday morning -- around 11:30 -- Sheepie Neighbor called from the farmers market. "Karen from the feed store called. She's got two Buff Orpingtons hens to give away. If you want them, you need to pick them up by noon." First of all, Karen knows that Sheepie Neighbor is a sucker for poultry. But then, Sheepie Neighbor knew that I wanted more Orpingtons. We are women that spend our time talking about poultry! I should be concerned but Ravelry has a knitting group for "Women that like Chickens." So it must be perfectly normal!!

Orpingtons are large birds that are great layers, have nice dispositions and the most important aspect -- they are pretty and lay pretty eggs! So I sent Honey up to the feed store with a large Rubbermaid container to pick up the birds. Poor Honey. The guy is busy on a project, has a lot of stuff to do -- and I interrupt him and tell him to run to the feed store -- NOW!

Ok -- he was given a choice. 1) He could peel tomatoes, watch the catsup, take care of the customers that were picking flowers and make sure he got the green beans out of the canner. He doesn't multi-task any better than I do -- he went to the feed store!

When he told me 6 years ago that I could have chickens -- I'm pretty certain he didn't expect to get into the poultry rescue business! But the new girls have settled in nicely and have even delivered some large light brown eggs. Yes -- they are good girls.

The rest of the weekend has been spent "putting" up for winter. The other night we did 5 doz ears of corn --- we got 16 bags for the freezer.

This is a local favorite -- Peaches and Cream -- its a yellow and white corn with a supersweet taste. There are as many ways to put up corn as there are varieties of corn. I start by blanching the ears for 3 minutes, cool them down in ice water and then scrape the kernels off the cob. I use an archaic corn cutter called the Keen corn cutter. It is at least 40 years old -- my folks used it till my Dad ruined the corn by slicing his finger -- they never used it again.

See! Five fingers ..... no band-aids. This, as Martha would say, is a good thing!

The 70 tomatoes I planted have finally kicked into gear. So I have spent my holiday weekend making 8 - 1/2 pint jars of catsup (yes, Honey is spoiled -- I know!!!) 11 quarts of tomatoes, 3 pints of tomato juice, 10 pints of green beans and wax beans and 18 pints of zesty salsa. The zesty salsa took almost 6 hours and one nutroll to do......... and Honey wants more. It is delicious.

The pantries are quickly filling up and I'm searching for space to store more jars. But that leads me to Honey's project. If you haven't picked up the drift yet, I have a hobby or two. Or twenty! The house is over-flowing with fabric, fleece, yarn, embroidery floss and reed. So we decided that I need a fiber studio and I am taking over part of the barn/garage for my creative activities.

Honey has started the project by running electricity from the shop to the barn ......... the corn-zebo and potting shed will follow. Then he can spend the winter -- remodeling the garage into a wonderful area for me! The plans have been fun to work on --- I like the creative challenges of using recycled materials to create a unique, practical and useful environment. As time goes by, I'll post pictures. But to celebrate the first step ........... I bought a new sewing machine!!

We'll talk more about that later.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Nine years and one day!

You know, I was going to do this post on our anniversary dinner. We went to the Woodfire Grill to have a quiet, intimate dinner -- the two of us. We haven't been to dinner in several years as we have a motto ............... "make memories, not reservations".

And I was going to do the "foodie-thing" and discuss the andouille stuffed mushrooms (excellent!) and the cajun chicken tortellini with the creamy Alfredo sauce.

But something happened on the way to the "foodie"blog. Cliff and I became "cute".

Now Cliff and I have been a lot of things ----- funny, goofy, too-loud (that would be me!), smart, drunk, broke and just plain crazy. But we have never been "cute".

Once upon a time -- before we were married -- we were at a party at Eldest Daughter's home in Iowa City. This was a house full of college girls and since we were at a party, there was a house full of college boys! It was a fun party with great people and lots of wonderful music -- The Who, Creedance Clearwater Revival and Bruce Springsteen. We popped in for a few minutes -- to make an appearance and then leave so Eldest Daughter could have fun .......... without Dad and Step-Mom. We were about ready to leave when we hear a young man ask, "Who were those people?" Eldest Daughter said that those were her parents. He replied, "They are f-in' cool!"

That was ok ............. I could be "f-ing cool". But tonight ------- we became cute.

We had a friendly young waitress -- she patiently described the tilapia glazed with the chili-garlic sauce with tomatillos and a relish of black beans and corn. Not once! But twice! Do you have any idea how long it takes me to make up my mind?????

And when I ask her to take our picture because it was our anniversary -- she gladly did. And when we (OK OK ...... it was ME!!!) ordered the peanut butter brownie sundae for dessert, she went to the owner and it was on the house!!!

It was a wonderful meal --- we were ready to leave and she ruined it all by saying "It was a pleasure to wait on you tonight. Have a wonderful evening. You are such a cute couple".

We were stabbed ........ right through the heart!! We all know that couples are only cute twice in lifetime. A couple that is dating at age 15 ...... is cute. A couple that is 80 and holding hands ...... is cute. And we are a hell of alot closer to 80 than 15!!!!!

I thought we were right on the fulcrum of life ............. perfectly balanced between youth and old age. WRONG!! We have teetered right over to "cute".

But those couples are cute because they radiate a love that is just there. No one can question it -- it shows to everyone. It is a glow when he opens the door for her and it is a warmth when they hold hands. I have that kind of love ................... There is no Clink without Honey.

And I know we are that little old couple that live for each other ............... and I'll be happy being cute.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Addie ..............

Today, my grand-daughter was born. She was due October 25th so she came much earlier than expected. This is a letter to her...........

Dear Addie --

Hello! Let me introduce myself ..... I am your grandmother. I have no idea how to be a grandmother, so I am hoping you will teach me. We will have to talk later and you can decide what you would like to call me.

You are entering a world that is scarier than the world I came into and the world your Mother grew up in. Hopefully, we can help you feel safe and secure and at the same time, explore and learn and grow.

There are a lot of things that I will never be able to give you. But hopefully, you may enjoy the things that I can give you. We can sit under the willow tree and have tea parties with the kittens and Annabelle. We will make dolls out of hollyhocks and I can teach you about snapdragons and how they roar. You can come to the post office with me when they deliver baby chicks and you can hear them peep, peep, peep. And you can feel the warmth of a fresh egg and we will take in to the kitchen for lunch or bake a batch of cookies ............. without nuts! 'Cuz your Mom doesn't like nuts!

You can see the barn swallows feed their babies. And watch the tiger swallowtail butterflies flit from zinnia to zinnia. We will swing on the wooden swing and sit on the hill and watch the fireworks in Grand Mound.

We will sew doll clothes and knit caps. You can sit on my lap and feel the softness of the fleece as it goes through our hands. And you can fall asleep to the clack, clack, clack of the wheel going round. We will read books like your Great-Great-Grandmother's book --Pussy Meow. And we will sing every camp song I know ------ off key!

But most of all, I hope we will be friends. I don't know much about being a grandmother but I do know about being a friend. And I am hoping you will be my friend.

I love you and your Mom and your Dad.
Happy Birthday, Addie.

Your Grandmother

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lessons learned at the wringer's edge

Or wash day blues ... revisited.

Yesterday was definitely a red-letter day at our house. After one month of being out of commission, the Bosch under-counter washer is working again. The 1946 Voss wringer wash machine (manufactured in Davenport Iowa) has been relegated back to the future-home of the fiber studio to wait for a fleece to soak.

I have learned a lot using that machine!

Lesson #1 -- We always heard about Monday's being wash day and Tuesday was ironing day. There was a reason. You can not multi-task while using a wringer wash machine. It might have been easier had I had the laundry stove heated up or the rinse tubs on the stand. But wash was an all day affair!!!! And ironing!!!! I have spent more time over an ironing board than I have in years! Not just an easy swish, swish over the collar and front placket of a shirt. But starch and misting and pressing everything.

I did not have a refrigerator full of dampened laundry. I remember that. But I now am looking for one of those cute sprinkler bottles to mist the laundry. Something with a chicken on it!

Lesson #2 -- when the book tells you to close all slide-closures, do it! I hate putting in zippers. I absolutely detest replacing zippers. I need a new pair of jeans. 'Nuff said.

Lesson #3 -- Have needle and thread handy. So far, I broke one button and popped 4 more. That was why Wednesday was mending day!

Lesson #4 -- There is no helpful-smile-in-every-aisle when you ask "Where is your Rinso?" On a brighter note, I now know that Mrs. Stewart's bluing can be purchased at Stringtown grocery.

Lesson #5 -- Since 1946, I am certain that laundry detergent has been concentrated 15 billion times. The instruction manual said to use 1 cup of Lux or Rinso. I cut it to 1/2 cup of Tide. And I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed ................. well, you get the idea!!!! In the end-- I used 1 tablespoon of Tide and 1 tablespoon of Borax.

Lesson #6 -- I hear women swear that a wringer wash machine cleans clothes better than anything else. I need a lesson. I washed jeans on the "overall"setting -- still have grease and grass stains on them. I'm hoping they will look good today.

And finally..........

Lesson #7 -- For women over the age of 40. Secure all body parts that were formerly perky and now sag down to our knees, with well-constructed, highly wired under-garments. 'Nuff said on that one!!!

Its been an experience. For the most part, a good one. But I have a lot more respect for my grandmothers. The wringer is not a machine for the wimpy! (I like my Bosch! I need to speak nicely to it!)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Family comes in all different ways....................

We had a sad day at the farm yesterday. We woke up to find that What-the-Duck must have been killed by a coyote or fox. Poor little Whosit was peeping and peeping, trying to find mom. Even though Whosit might not have known it, What-the-Duck died protecting her duckling.

And so in all the peeping and searching for mom, a new family was born. Walter came to the rescue -- giving his advice and protecting little Whosit. Walter (as many of you know) is spoiled and sleeps in a kennel on our porch. We were certain that Whosit would be difficult to catch and put in the kennel and that we would be conducting a Duck Rodeo, trying to wrangle our feathery friends.

Honey and I came home from supper to find Walter and Whosit, standing by the porch, ready to go to bed. Walter knew that Whosit needed protection to make it -- and his people could do it.
Walter is there --- with his bedhead and little Whosit behind him.

This whole weekend was filled with moments of "family".

Saturday afternoon, a wonderful family came out for eggs and flowers. Their two daughters were interesting, fun girls that cared about what they ate, the environment around them and their place in the world. They snapped pictures of garden spiders, cuddled kittens, discussed the nutritional superiority of locally grown veggies.

When they left, they gave me their CD. What talent!! The songs were reminiscent of coffee-house music of the sixties but with a fresh new sound. Deeply personal, the music shows a generation that cares about the world around them -- not just themselves. A generation of hope and change. I'll be playing the cd ......... a lot!
After a day of great and thoughtful customers, we had a fun evening with friends. Dave and Marcia recently moved from Rockford to the east coast of Iowa. A year ago, while visiting Rockford friends, they told them about "Miss Effie's". "Miss Effie's??" their friend Kathy said. "I've heard of Miss Effie's." Their friend Kathy was a 4-H House alum. Sisterhood!!!

Kathy and Mike visited Dave and Marcia this weekend. Saturday evening, we all had supper in the corn-zebo. Kathy and I have not seen each other since 1976. (So now you know my secret! I am not "29" ........ but 32!) We chatted and chatted and chatted and realized that we have so much in common. The bonds of sisterhood that were formed at 4-H House are strong, even decades later. We hoped to get together soon again. It was such a fun evening!

And the neighborhood family grows stronger. Sheepie Neighbor is friendly and fun and waves to all that go by -- a true country neighbor in a world that seems to encourage "strangers". Yesterday, Sheepie Neighbor and hubby, stopped by to return a canner that I had loaned her.

Now that Sheepie Neighbor has discovered her inner-food-hoarding tendencies, she has purchased her own canner. There are now two nutball survivalists in the neighborhood! I like having the company!! So she returned the canner with a large bag of green beans!! I picked a few beans from my garden (Very few!) and got 12 pints of green beans! If you are keeping track, that means there are 35 more pints to go! I just might make it!!

Well.............. I might with the help of my friends!

The weekend reminded me of one of my favorite lines from a favorite book. In the book Illusions, Richard Bach says "The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Maybe just a little obsessed........

Ya know, this blog was suppose to be about the flower farm. Maybe a little knitting and spinning. An occasional nod about canning. OMG! Its a bloomin' foodie blog!!

Some women shop the malls weekly. They read the latest issue of Elle magazine. They never have been a Glamour Don't. They know the latest colors, the hottest trends and they care. They watch Project Runway. I am not that woman!!!!

I am obsessed with food. Good food --- no fast food, no pre-packaged meals, no ingredient lists that look like chemistry experiments. Delicious things like artichokes and capers and wild rice and anything with mushrooms. Personally, I think the obsession began with the guy that gave me 5 pounds of American cheese for Valentine's Day. Or maybe it was the tomato farmer that brought me a bushel of tomatoes when he picked me up for the drive-in movie. Or maybe it was when Honey bought me a bushel of green beans for my birthday.

So when sheepie neighbor suggested going to the Stringtown Grocery in Kalona, IA......... I was ready with cash in hand!

The Stringtown Grocery is an Amish bulk food store. I would have loved to have taken a picture but it would have been disrespectful. The store is filled with the most wonderful things.

Sheepie neighbor and I were walking down the aisle ......... "Look, they have filberts" "Can you believe the large pearl tapioca?" "Have you ever seen whole wheat spinach spaghetti?" We were amazed ........... in awe ........ mouths hanging open. OK -- my mouth was hanging open because I didn't have breakfast and there was some good lookin' junk food!!!!

I bought a lot of stuff and can't show you everything but here are some of the goodies..............

Ok -- do a Google search on Stringtown and you will read alot about the Raspberry chocolate chips. I haven't tasted them ........ yet. These are going to make awesome brownies. They are not found anywhere else -- getting these alone was worth the trip! Heck -- the drive home with the smell of raspberry-chocolate wafting through the car --- that was worth the trip!!!! Yummm.

Seriously, could there possibly be anything better than artichoke spaghetti? Spaghetti..... artichokes................. unless you put a creamy parmesan cheese sauce on it. That should pretty much describe heaven!

I love hominy. Unfortunately, the moment it goes into a can -- it suddenly has its sodium content go through the roof. With dried hominy, I can soak it and then add it to tacos. You just have to keep me from frying it with pork chops!

I know this isn't a big deal to most of you --- but I live in the boondocks. Finding pastry flour is a big deal. Whole wheat pastry flour is impossible to find. But I did and I have almost 5 pounds to use in muffins and pie crusts. I think this will gets its first work-out this weekend with a blueberry cobbler.

There was more -- a lot more. Lots of great goodies for granola, some wonderful seasonings that are more difficult for us to find and treats like dried dates and filberts.

Now you know my dirty little secret ............ don't give me Park Avenue. Just take me to Stringtown!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I might as well embrace it.............

Last night ... I get a call from Matt Hammill, our news anchor on the local ABC affiliate. He is finishing up the editing for the story they did on "Miss Effie's". As he is checking spelling and other information -- he is trying to figure out a title for me. "How about nutball survivalist?"

I just laughed and laughed. As long as Janet Reno doesn't think this is Ruby Ridge, I am fine with that!!!

So if you missed the story and want to see what nutball survivalists do on 2 acres in Iowa and check out the video.

And in the spirit of embracing my inner self, I canned peaches last night. I am done. Maybe. I think so. Unless my produce buddy John comes up with a deal that I just can't pass up!! 125 lbs of peaches in the pantry.
There are all the pint jars --44 of them.
And there are 28 quarts. Plus some jam. I really should have made some peach butter ---- so maybe I'm not done yet?

In more "Nutball Survivalist" activities -- I baked a loaf of bread last night. I used my usual "no-knead" recipe. But I used 1 cup of whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup of Hodgson Mill Multi-Grain with milled flaxseed and soy hot cereal, and a handful of sunflower seeds. I increased the yeast by 1/4 tsp. and added 1 tsp of wheat gluten. And this is what it looks like..........
So the "nuball survivalist" will continue her ways by canning carrots and tomatoes today. Do a little laundry with the Voss wringer, spin a little yarn and work on a sweater.

It feels good to be a nutball.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Making hay.............

I often envy those people who talk about the lazy-hazy days of summer. On a farm, regardless of its size, there are no lazy days. And Sundays, the day of rest, is no different. Which is why we say to "make hay while the sun shines."

Every day, there is the "to-do" list. A list that will never be totally accomplished in one day. But you nibble away at it, knowing as the day goes on, the list will get longer. Yesterday, was such a day.

Honey's main job was to mow yesterday. Our mower is a vintage 1980 John Deere 210 that insists on new points and plugs two or three times a year. Mind you, never on a Wednesday, when I can run to the implement dealer and pick them up. But always on the weekend.

Like a toddler that wants a new toy, the mower stops in place and throws a tantrum! Well -- it sputters and spits and says "No more!" With absolutely no warning. It mows along happily and then it turns its ugly head and says.......... "That's it! I want new plugs and I want them now". So Honey spent the majority of his day, cleaning, massaging and trying to convince the mower it wanted to finish the job.

I, on the other hand, tackled the kitchen. No -- I didn't clean it. I destroyed it! I harvested 20 pounds of beautiful tomatoes and a hat full of green beans. Yea -- that is one fabulous bean crop I have!

I spent the day making pizza sauce -- the smell of the oregano and garlic and peppers filled the kitchen. I should have enough pizza sauce done for the year and will move on to other tomato products. Pizza sauce and catsup are great products to start early when I have such a mix of tomatoes ripening. The heirloom tomatoes give such flavor to the sauces. Their large size can make canning them whole or chunked difficult. But the flavor they add to the sauces and juices, is amazing.

While doing the pizza sauce, I was multi-tasking. Yes, I was. And as Honey says, I don't multi-task the way I used to! But yesterday was a good day and I baked peanut butter cookies for Youngest Daughter, started a sweater, finished re-fashioning a jacket and canned 2 whoppin' pints of green beans! Only 47 more to go ......... if you are keeping track. Did a little ironing from doing laundry the day before and my day was almost finished.

Yummy homemade pizza finished off the evening ......... fresh basil, roasted garlic and lots of mushrooms and kalamata olives.

And this sunset -- that said it was time to put away the list, forget what didn't get done and start again tomorrow. Cuz as Scarlett said ....... "Tomorrow is another day".

Sunday, August 17, 2008

THIS is why I can..........

Tomatoes ....... glorious tomatoes. And they have the nerve to call those pale hard red things in the supermarkets --tomatoes.

These are tomatoes!!! Ripe, juicy, delicious and they smell like the ground they were grown in. Earthy and sweet.

So every year, I do the tomato debate. How many plants to I plant? Is 5 enough -- 7 too many???

Now -- I want to have 100-150 quarts of plain old canned tomatoes. Then salsa, catsup, tomato juice, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, maybe some stewed tomatoes. Maybe some roasted garlic and tomato soup. Yea -- you get the idea. The list goes on.

How many to plant? Hmmm. Maybe I'll plant as many as I am years. Ok .... that's only "29" -- not nearly enough. Then -- how old am I in "dog years". Oooh -- that's waaay too many. So I settle on 70. Yep......... you heard me .........70 tomato plants.

Was I crazy or what?????? Please don't answer that ...... my therapist has already talked to me about it. They haven't created a med for "tomato envy syndrome".

I want some of everything ...... Black Krim, Chocolate Cherry, Yellow Pear, German Johnson, Mr. Stripey and then I want La Romas, and Brandywine and Jet Star and Cascade. They are all too delicious.

So I can .... and I can .... and I can. And I delight in having the sparkling jars of tomatoes in the pantry. I drool over salsa with big chunks of peppers and onions and I know its flavor came from wonderful vine-ripened tomatoes, not corn syrup. And I know a great homemade pizza is just moments away ...... and I don't mean Pizza Hut.

But there are days --- canning isn't necessary. Like yesterday. All it calls for is some wonderful bacon and some leaf lettuce. And a tomato or two. And this isn't heaven, its Iowa!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I didn't know I was a survivalist!

Ok -- I get a phone call from Matt Hammill, the 6 and 10 anchor for our local ABC-affiliate.

I had heard through the grapevine (more like the Radish patch!) that he was interested in doing a segment on the "girls". I am so getting used to the "girls" getting the interview that it was no big deal. But he didn't want to talk about "just" the girls. The flowers? Not "just" the flowers. "Do I understand that you are running your own mini-survivalist camp?" Uhhhh?

Now -- I thought I was a frustrated Martha Stewart ......... an aspiring Mary Jane Butters. Not a survivalist! But I quickly learned the "outside world" considers 700 jars of home-canned food Survivalist tactics. And I thought it was the start of supper!!!

First, we took a tour of the pantry ...... the peaches and tomatoes and glazed carrots and pickled beets. Then on to the corn-zebo for spinning. Since when did spinning your own yarn and knitting your own socks become ......... Don't answer that!! I love to knit socks!

And then on to the coop. Now all this "self-sufficiency" stuff meant cleaning the kitchen, the pantry, of course, the bath, the corn-zebo and the chicken coop and runs. I had the cleanest coop and runs in the state of Iowa yesterday. Its all over with now. The poop has returned and the chickens are doing their best to mess things up. But I did document it. So here is the cleanest coop in Iowa.
Yep. There it is. Isn't that pretty? Hey!! Its a chicken coop, not Martha's Palais de Poulet!
And there are the very happy girls, enjoying nice fresh grass in the run. It will make great compost later. But one good rain and it will be a mucky mess.

And there is the last shot outside the runs....... discussing the joys of having hens. And green eggs and ham.

So if you want to see me -- the Survivor(!!) -- tune in to WQAD on August 19th at 10pm. Please DVR it for me. Cleaning the house, the corn-zebo and the coops has pooped me out!!! I will be asleep by then!

And just so everyone knows --- Digital tv puts 47 lbs on a person! I'm really quite tiny! Its amazing how fat a person will look on tv. Has nothing to do with the 20 nutrolls that are in my freezer. Make that 17!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Morning Musings............

Why do Mondays all feel so hectic? I walk away from Mondays exhausted! They must be the longest day in the week -- but even then, I never get everything done!

There is always laundry on Monday. (Heck! There is always laundry!) Yea .... the wringer still lives. The "newness" of it is wearing off................ but it will be awesome for processing wool. But right now, I just want clean undies!

Gathered eggs today ........ the girls really out did themselves. As you have heard (over and over and over again!!) we sell "Pretty eggs from Pretty Chickens". Just to prove the point, here are today's offerings from the girls.

I've been canning today --- I went out in the garden to finish the last of the beets. I planted just a few golden beets and by the time I thinned them, there were very few. But I did get two jars of pickled beets.......... granted, there are a lot of onions in there. So I checked out the green beans. Now this is not an award winning crop here! But I did get three pints canned and on the shelf. Only 49 more to go! I'll be heading down the road for some more.

Gardening in the country is really a community effort. Today, I shared some of my tomatoes with a neighbor down the road. Yesterday, next door neighbor brought some banana peppers, sweet corn and a couple of beautiful onions in exchange for some dill for pickles. And my sheepie neighbor traded salted nutrolls (that I will sell on the black market if I don't eat them all first!) for some of blueberries I bought. Its a great feeling...... the sharing of food. Even if we don't break bread together.

I've been consumed with gardening and canning so the creative part of my life has been neglected. I miss spinning and knitting......... that peaceful zen part of my life. So this morning -- for a few minutes -- I sat at the wheel and became one with the yarn. OK -- I got tangled up in the mess!!! But that doesn't sound as cool!!

So here is a little up-date on what I am attempting to create.
Ok -- this is cloud made from Coopworth and Wensleydale lamb's wool, yearling mohair, Tussah silk, silk noils and Angelica. The angelica adds sparkle to the yarn. The color is Barn Swallow. It is a wonderful mix of blues, purples and a little yellow. Janette from Fae Ridge Farm in Iowa City does this wonderful color. So there is the cloud and a bobbin with a single strand of yarn. Two strands are twisted together to form a two-ply yarn .... which looks like this -----------
And when I am done spinning, I will start to knit the sit-com sweater from The sweater has a single button. Wouldn't a barn swallow button look great? Yea ....... I'm searching. If anyone finds one ........... drop me a line.

And one final note................... Today is dear daughter's 30th birthday. Which is an absolute miracle since I am certain I am only 29!!!!! AGAIN! But to my DD, Happy Birthday!!! You have given me 30 years of joy, love and happiness and I am so very proud of the woman you have become. You are smart, strong, funny, talented and beautiful and I am proud to say you are my daughter.

I love you.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

The hostage crisis continues....................

As you can tell, the hostage situation with my washer continues. We had some freedom for the clothes ............ three whole days! But today, it decided to raise its ugly terrorist head again! Is there a Gitmo for terrorist washers? Its foreign ......... wasn't its drum checked for objects of mass destruction??? And how did it get into the country with a large bottle of Tide???

This time, it chose to grab a rug and a towel -- they weren't even wet yet! The weakest items it could find! The towel is the towel of last resorts and the rug was replaced this morning at the farmer's market. It was being washed and relegated for the cats. The washer must be desperate!

I know how to run that 62 year old Voss with the floating agitator ----- Buster Bosch, you can be replaced!

OK -- lets talk about the rug that was seized. It was replaced for this!
Made locally by R & B Weavers, I bought it at the Northpark Farmers Market in Davenport. I bought two for the kitchen -- now, I wished I had bought a third. They look so nice against the old painted wood floor. These are hand woven from old pants so they are very durable. I love the browns, grays, rusty reds and creams. Bert and Ron have been family friends for decades -- if you need a wonderful locally made rug, call them at 309-667-2218.

My goal is to buy only quality local products. I am tired of the high transportation costs and the fact that so many of our nation's jobs have left for overseas. I am committed to supporting my neighbors and friends by purchasing their products ..... not those from Wal-Mart.

And in the name of self-sufficiency, these were some of yesterday's accomplishments.
A loaf of bread, 3 jars of pickled beets, and 2-1/2 quarts of dill pickles. Plus I froze 16 lbs of blueberries for muffins and cobblers and pies. Today the canning continues with glazed carrots, blueberry jam and if I get to it -- the first tomato product --pizza sauce.

And for my sheepie friend down the road --- I love the nutrolls!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Some days, you just have to stop and smell the roses.

Except for the fact that any roses I have are a culinary delight for the Japanese beetles! So how about some flower farm things that just make you smile??


Echo Lisianthus

Cinderella Lisianthus

Monday, August 4, 2008

Easy as ............. bread???

My best friend said I should share my bread baking with you. So here we go.

First of all, I have been baking bread for 40 years and this is the easiest recipe I have ever used. No mixer, no bread machine, no kneading, one bowl and one spoon. Four ingredients! Four! That is all.

I wish I could take credit for the recipe -- I did do some variations and I will share some of those with you. I also did some changes in the technique. But the original recipe is by Mark Bitterman of the New York Times. And he adapted it from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery.

So for those four ingredients ---

3 cups of bread flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1-1/2 to 1-5/8 cup water.

I have added two more ingredients to this bread --
2 tbsp dried herbs
1/4 cup cheese

When it comes to cheese -- I have used Asiago, Romano, Swiss -- almost anything I have had on hand. Today, I used Prairie Breeze from Milton Creamery in Milton, Iowa. It is a cheddar that has a wonderful taste and its local. I buy it at the Davenport Freight House Farmers Market.

For herbs -- I use an all-purpose herb blend from Frontier Cooperative. We like the flavor of 2 tbsps. but you can use less.

Stir all your dried ingredients together. Hey! That was easy.

Now add your water and mix with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. It is going to be sticky and shaggy ....... Like this!

Ok -------- Now its time for the hard part. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and wait. And wait. And wait. Ok -- in my case, weed, cook supper, read the paper, do a load of laundry, weed some more, spin some yarn and sleep 8 hours! Seriously, let it rise for 12-18 hours. The dough is ready when it's surface is covered in bubbles.

Put the dough on a lightly floured board. Sprinkle some flour on the dough and go "flap" "flap" "flap" a couple of times -- folding the dough in on itself. Then its more of the "waiting" game....... this time for 15 minutes. Be sure to cover the dough with the plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

Still more waiting, you are going to put the dough into a bowl that has been sprinkled lightly with flour, bran or cornmeal. Then sprinkle just a bit of the same on the top. What I use depends on any variation that I have done. If I have used some oat flour in the mixture -- I may use some oatmeal. If I use cheese or herbs, I almost always use cornmeal. And if I use whole wheat flour, I will use that.

Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and there is one more rise. This is much quicker ......... 2 hours.

Before we bake the bread, I will go over some variations and some techniques that have worked for me. This is a great bread to experiment with. Its very forgiving and you don't have a fortune in ingredients.

When changing the flour around -- don't use any more than 1/3 of the flour in something other than white bread flour. For example -- whole wheat bread -- I use 2 c white bread flour and 1 c whole wheat flour. I have added some hot cereals to the bread to add more flavor -- about 1/3 -1/2 cup. When I do that -- I increase the yeast by another 1/4 tsp. (making 1/2 tsp) and maybe adding 1 tsp of wheat gluten. Watch the amount of water you use, start out using 1-1/2 cup. This summer with our high humidity, I find I am using less water.

I have added chopped sun-dried tomatoes, chopped black olives, sunflower seeds, oatmeal and different herbs and garlic. The only thing I haven't gotten to work was a rye bread. And after 3 tries --- I've given up! Send me your success story on that one!

Final step-- preheat your oven to 450 degrees. YEP! 450! Its a hot one! Then you need a 6 to 8 quart heavy covered pot. If you were given a Le Crueset or a Dansk pan for a wedding gift -- this is the perfect use. Otherwise, a covered cast iron skillet or a small Dutch oven can work.

You need to preheat the pan and the lid. Yea -- when you take it out of the oven, it will be hot. The lid will also be hot. Hmmmmm? Wonder how I knew that one???

Ok -- put the dough into the hot pan -- it may lose its shape --don't worry about it. Give it a shake or two and it will recover while baking. Don't forget the potholders!! Put in the oven with the lid on for 30 minutes.

Now -- take off the lid and bake another 15-30 minutes (yea, you are still at 450 degrees!) I bake mine for approximately 20 minutes more. The smell is incredible! The crust is crunchy and good and the inside is moist and tender and yeasty and earthy. It is a wonderful artisan bread ......... and it is waaay too easy for that label.

So this is what it looks like when its done. It will pop right out of the pan -- remember, we used no fat in the recipe. Let it cool and enjoy. You will need a sharp serrated knife. This bread is great to just pull part and use with seasoned olive oil or for sandwiches.

Hope you enjoy it.......... now its back to the garden and weeding.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Wash day blues......................

This is a Bosch under the counter washer. It is three months old. It doesn't work. Notice the clothes in the washer. That is because the door is locked and won't open.

Bosch corporation doesn't understand how important laundry is to a farm woman during the summer. We don't have a laundermat down the street, nor do the dry cleaners pick up and deliver freshly pressed shirts.

So when this $1100 machine went ka-pootz, they informed me it would be 7-10 business days to get the part. In all fairness, the dealership has been wonderful!!!!!!! This posting is for Bosch corporate only.

This, mind you, is a 1946 Voss wringer wash machine. It was manufactured in Davenport Iowa. How do I know it is a 1946 model?? It says so on the manual and hang tag that came with the machine!! Oh, and its cost to me?? Nothing!!! But today..... priceless!!! Thank you, David and Carole!!

Ok --- so it is time to learn how to use this baby! First you have to be appropriately attired. Don't you love my apron??? Courtesy of my dear college roommate's mother's auction! I sooo needed the aprons!!! But why weren't there any kerchiefs?? I really need a kerchief!! I'd look good in a kerchief!

First step ..... fill the tub with water. Grandma probably heated the water in kettles on the laundry stove. Unfortunately, my laundry stove heats the corn-zebo. (See post number 2!) And my kettles have flowers planted in them. As do my 7 laundry tubs! So we will fill it the easy way ............ the garden hose. Nice use for the Dramm watering wand.

Notice the floating agitator. Actually, this is kind of nice feature. It will be great for the purpose that I wanted the machine for ............ washing fleece.

Look at the timer................ it has an overall setting! I wear overalls!!! Some woman on Oprah said that no one over the age of 4 should ever wear overalls. She does not live on a farm. I like my overalls. And now that I know there is a "wash setting" for them .........I will continue to wear them!

Now it is time for the dreaded wringer. We all have heard stories about grandma running her hand thru the wringer. OMG!! That is waaay too easy to do. My washer came with a stick. A nicely rounded stick. It has gone through the wringer at least 6 times and I'm on load number 3! Ooops! There it goes now!

Ya know how men are about mechanical stuff?? Here is Honey, using the wringer. I took this picture as proof --- he does know how to do laundry.

As far as the dryer goes -- when my washer is fixed, I will use their dryer. Until then, my undies are flappin' in the breeze!

Its too bad you can't read my tee-shirt today. It says ........... Farm wife ....... a better breed of women! I certainly think so.