Monday, November 30, 2009

Recipe: Rich Chicken (or Turkey) Broth

Note 1: We 1st started doing this after eating Thanksgiving or Christmas Turkey probably 20 years ago. We had eaten the Meat which was readily accessible from the Bird. But what to do with the Carcass which still had little pieces of Meat all over it? This Recipe is easy and produces a Rich Broth that is ever so good. Now we use it for almost all of our Chicken or Turkey Carcasses. Just as the Grandmas would say: "Nothing should go to waste."

Note 2: We use only Free Range Chickens which have been organically fed.

Note 3: Carcasses should be as "fresh as possible". This is going to preserve optimal food value and taste. That means doing this as soon as possible or freezing up the Birds until we have a batch to cook.

(1) Place Chicken Carcasses in big Stainless Steel Soup Pot. Carcasses are Bones with major amounts of Meat removed and eaten at another time. This evening, we used what were the remains from 6 Chickens (all were originally in the 3 to 3 1/2 pound range). Four were from Birds which had been oven roasted. Two were from Birds that Richard had removed the Meat (Breast without Bone, Legs, Thighs, Wings) so we could fry it. We accumulated these in the Freezer until we had enough to cook down.

(2) Press Carcasses lightly down in Soup Pot to take as little room as possible. Add enough Filtered Water to cover 90% up the Carcasses.

(3) Add about 2 Tablespoons of Vinegar. From what we have read, Vinegar helps leach out the Calcium into the Broth in the Cooking Process. This makes an excellent "Bone Broth".

(4) Bring to a Boil and gently simmer for 12-24 hours. We usually do this over the course of 2 days. For smaller amounts, this can be done in the Crock Pot.

(5) Cool until easy to handle.

(6) Carefully go through Carcasses and Broth. Separate out small pieces of Meat.

(7) Strain Liquid. Separate out Bones and discard. (Bones will show that they are beginning to disintegrate.)

(8) Freeze Broth and Meat in containers sized according to use. We put some in containers of straight Broth and others in containers which have both Broth and Meat. This evening, we made 7 Quarts from the 6 Carcasses. They will be excellent starters for Chicken Soup, Chicken and Noodles, and who knows what other Culinary Delights. We find the Broth is just what a Person needs when they may be recovering from a Cold.

Post Cards

November 24:

I am trying a little experiment. We have had many experiments on this Little Farm and this is just another one.

I absolutely love to take photos with my Digital Camera. As an Artist, I think some of them are just extraordinary. As a Story Teller, I know they tell a story of our Adventures on our Little Farm.Those images are piling up (albeit mostly electronically). They just seemed to nudge me toward thinking about "Postcards" and "Notecards". I started with the former. It seemed simplest for starters.

So I am using some of them as Postcards to Friends and Family. While in the early stages, I am absolutely enjoying it.

I used to detest writing letters, yet I always enjoyed receiving them. And I especially enjoyed staying in touch with something "handwritten" and "especially for you". A postcard seems just the right amount for now.

Today, I sent cards to Mother and to Aunt Ruthie. I chose the Bittersweet Image because its lovely Orange at this Season has always meant a lot to our Family and especially to these 2 Sisters who live so far away from each other.

I also wrote 3 Families we were close to in North Dakota. We spent a lot of Thanksgivings with them over in the North Woods of Lake Itasca. Connecting at this Season just seemed right. Plus, out of the blue, our neighbor Shirley gave us several pounds of Fresh Cranberries which Melanie worked up. It just seemed like the right thing to do to express gratitude for the Cranberries and for Neighbors too.

I think back to my Great Aunt Della Brenz's Postcard Album from the 1st decade of the 20th Century. While I have seen all these images but have not reviewed all of the sentiments, I can see that those Cards and their Writings were important weavings between Friends and Family Members. Some Family Traditions are just not supposed to change.

By the way, a Post Card needs Stamps worth 28 cents.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Grandma Dora Would Smile

In late September, I attached a Statistical Counter to this Blog. The purpose was to gather information about frequency of use and interests of those who might be attracted to the clattering of my keys. While I cannot nor do I wish to know the addresses of those who check in here, I do know topics to which Folks seem drawn.

By far and away, the greatest interest has been in the posting "Recipe: Povitica". Of 149 recent hits (which is probably over no more than 3 days), 72% were focusing on some content version of Povitica. In the last 24 hours, Folks seeking information on Povitica came from the following locations, if given:

Jackson, Pennsylvania
Wadena, Minnesota
LaCrescent, Minnesota
United States
Blue Springs, Missouri
New York
Elkton, Maryland
Winchester, Kentucky
Phelps, New York
Sacramento, California
Osseo, Minnesota
Richmond, British Columbia
Indianapolis, Indiana
Pocatello, Idaho
Broomfield, Colorado
Clovis, New Mexico
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Wendell, North Carolina
Rockford, Illinois
Raymondville, Texas
Levittown, New York
Encinitas, California
New Orleans, Louisana

I have been following this for the past 3 weeks, ever since it came to my attention. I have noted locations which included: the Balkans which are roughly the area of the World my Grandmother came from; Anaconda, Montana, where some of my Grandfather's Relatives settled at the same time as his immigration; Billings, Montana, where 2 of my Grandmother's Brothers lived; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is where Grandmother's Croatian newspaper which was her Life Line to the Old Country was published. I find that these subtle interweavings after all these years simply amazing.

My Family and I have talked about the broader public interest in this Recipe. It surely has been a surprise. Melanie and I believe the interest in Povitica probably would be greatest around the 3 times when it was traditionally prepared: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. We will soon test that Theory as we head into 2010. On another level, I believe this is an indication of the increasing interest that many are feeling in reclaiming Family Traditions and Roots. I would be curious to find out more.

Regardless, my Grandma Dora would smile. And my Dad with his wit and his capacity for telling Story would be talking about it to anyone in Town who would listen.

Reclaiming Food Traditions

Food is a very essential part of our Lives. Of course, we know that Food nourishes are physical bodies. We need it to survive and thrive. But our Stories and those of our Families are imbedded in Foods.

For years, I felt a pull toward certain Foods. I didn't even think about it. It was just there.

As a Teenager, I loved the Homemade Breads made by my Croatian Grandma Dora and my Aunt Anna. I was so proud of them too. When I was about 14, I remember encouraging Aunt Anna to enter 1 of her loaves of Bread in the County Fair. Surely it would get a Blue Ribbon because it is the best. So she made that Loaf of Bread which was just about as perfect as she could make it. Because she didn't drive, I rode my Bicycle to her apartment early that morning, put the Bread in my Bicycle Basket, and headed to the North End of Town to the County Fair. Unfortunately, I hit a bump in the Road and the Bicycle, the Bread and I went flying. I felt terrible about it.

But during those years, the taste of Grandma and Aunt Anna's Bread planted Seeds of Yearning for me to learn to bake Bread too. And I did. At that time, I wanted to make Bread that would make wonderful French Toast, like Aunt Anna's. And I did.

When Grandma Dora passed in 1966, I wanted to reclaim her Recipe for Povitica in a very serious way. I wanted to do that for my Dad and for me. Of course, she made it from her Head. Nothing was written down. She just knew how to do it. It took me many years of searching and practice, but I did it. I know Grandma would be proud.

Pies have been the center of some of my most endearing Memories of Foods. My Mother was always a wonderful Pie Maker. She was known to take Pies to Church Suppers, to Families with New Babies, to Families who were suffering loss, and to Families who had just moved into the Neighborhood. Other Family Members (like her Sister Louise and their Mother Lottie) had also mastered Pie. I began to see myself as a part of a long line of Pie Makers. That was a tradition that I would choose not to drop.

In the late 1960s, when I was in College to become a Home Economics Teacher, I was thrilled to learn some of the Science behind Pie in my Food Principles class. Yes, considerable Science sits behind each and every Pie. For most of us, that is no surprise.

As a Student Teacher in Edina in 1969, I was assigned to teach a unit on Pies. Yes, I could make Pie, but could I teach Pie? My Skills were in need of development and refinement. That weekend before my Unit began, I made 10 Pies of every variety and sort that I could imagine. By the time I presented those Lessons, I surely was more seasonsed than I had been before.

In all those years and in all those Pies I have made since, I have used Mother's lessons on Pie and those of my Food Principles Class. I smile just thinking about it.

In that same Food Principles class, I asked my teacher, Dr. Dorothy Pearson, if we would learn to make Homemade Noodles. Great Aunt Lu always made Homemade Noodles, which I loved. She was by then in a Nursing Home far away. I could not imagine a Foods Class without Homemade Noodles. The Instructor of my College class apparently could not imagine a College Foods Class with Homemade Noodles. Dr. Pearson kindly said: "No. We won't. But I will find a Recipe for you." And she did.

In the late 90s, I wanted to reclaim Aunt Lu's Recipe for Spiced Peaches. Mother called relatives who had ties to Aunt Lu and were Mother's Contemporaries. A Patchwork Recipe resulted, which I tried and mailed out to them. Those Relatives concluded the Recipe was true to what they remembered of Aunt Lu's original.

After this little adventure, Mother's Cousin (Aunt Lu's Granddaughter) Eileen gave me Aunt Lu's collection of Recipes. I was just beside myself.

Included were 2 little handwritten Booklets of Recipes that Aunt Lu had collected when she took care of my Little Brother and me. One of the little Booklets has some chicken scratches that were surely written by a young Child, perhaps my Brother. I can just see her offering the little Book and a Pencil to fill some time at a strategic spot. She always seemed to know just what we little Ones needed.

These meanderings, with others, have taught me some very important lessons. First and foremost, Food is Story. Imbedded in those Foods is an open door toward Personal and Family Story, Personal and Family Identity. I can't prepare those Recipes or serve them without the Personal and Family Stories spilling out. It is as if some Relative who is long gone is sitting at my Side nudging me on and filling my Ear with some Stories that I must not forget.

Reclaiming those Recipes has been a catalyst for reclaiming more. As I acquire them 1 by 1, I find myself crafting a tender nest for my Family and Me on this Little Farm. For these essential matters, I choose not to stop.

Earth's Basic Rule

I am in awe at the abundance the Earth gives to support Life. She just won't stop. I look at all the Growing Things we have borne witness to over this past Season and I am just simply stunned. Where we were hopeful of a small amount, the Earth far exceeded our expectations. We Humans are blessed to live on a Planet whose purpose is to give and nurture Life.

With the upcoming Wintry Cold Temperatures predicted by Human Forecasters to arrive this week, Richard dug the remaining Carrots in the Garden today. He had the watchful assistance of some of the Hennies (especially Lacey, Button and Pinchey). These Ladies are no strangers to the Earth's Treasures which may be revealed beneath the Soil. They did not want to miss a thing.

That last batch of Carrots weighed in at 10 pounds. Expecting these fresh Carrots will last another Month, Melanie said we will have eaten Carrots from the Garden for 6 months. I can hardly believe it. At that point, the Canned Carrots, of which there are a considerable number, will pick up the slack. It will be a sad day when we need to start buying Fresh Carrots at the Store. I wonder when that will be. It surely will not be the same.

I asked Richard and Melanie how many Carrots this Patch of Earth gave us this Gardening Season. Both said there was no way to know as we did not keep records. However, Richard noted that for quite a while, we were bringing in Carrots by the 5 Gallon Bucket Fulls.

Richard also dug my Glad Bulbs today. While the Blooms were largely spent, many had Stalks and Leaves which still held onto their Green. He was eager to report that Abundance was also evident beneath the Soil. Many Bulbs had multiplied, like this Gladiola Bulb (at bottom) which became 3 Bulbs and is working on more. This was the 3rd year these Bulbs have been in the ground. They came to the Farm the same year we did.Today, we are processing some of the Deer Meat for our nourishment over the coming months. Again, we have watchful Eyes following the process.I count myself as an Observer of the Natural Systems of this Little Farm and the Great Planet Earth. I largely overlooked these things for most of my Life, but I cannot ignore them any longer. I am learning much but I also have much to learn. I do believe that one of her Basic Rules is that: All actions must support Life. Even Death (like the Death of the 2 Deer), which is part of Life, nourishes Life.

Many Humans of my Culture seem intent upon another direction from this Basic Rule. I find that hard to believe. When we will wake up and take our True Path as Living Creatures of this Planet? Such a Shift is happening in our Time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

2 Deer

Richard went hunting today with 2 Brothers and a Great Niece. He was out the Door by about 5:15 a.m. so it was a long but beautiful Day. Laddie and our 2 Cats who were on the other side of our Door did not quite understand when Richard headed out.

Cassie saw the Deer before anyone else. The Hunters had 3 Deer by Sunrise or shortly thereafter. Cassie got 1, which was her 2nd ever.

Richard got 2 Deer. This is a big deal for him and for us. He has never gotten a Deer ever before in his Life. We try to approach this as a Gift from the Creator and from the Deer. It isn't hard. We just feel it deep. The taking of the Deer almost becomes a Prayer. With other of Nature's Bounty, these beautiful Creatures will sustain us over the coming months.

We have already processed 1 other Deer this season. Tomorrow we will begin processing the 2 Deer from today. Tenderloins will be frozen as well as some Roasts. We will probably can some more Deer Meat. Melanie has plans for grinding some of the Meat and making Jerky too.

Apple Strudel

A recollection of my Croatian Grandmother and Apple Strudel sits in an indistinct corner of my Memory. I have no specific Memories, just feelings. Or perhaps it is rather a kind of gravitational pull.

Grandma Dora lived in Des Moines until I was 11. When we would visit her, she and my 2 Aunts would prepare a table laden Croatian Feast for my Father. I am sure the extravaganza was for my Mother, Brother and me too, but it was not our Heritage in the same way.

That little Bubble at 1111 East Ninth was surely a remnant and sacred haven of the Old Country. My Father, his Mother, and his 2 Sisters were on fire with their own Language and Laughter besides. My Mother, Brother (who was quite small) and I just sat on the sidelines and watched. I remember volumes of Foods and Aromas which were not a part of my experience at home. I do not specifically remember Apple Strudel.

From the time I was 11 until I was 14, Grandma and Aunt Anna lived in California. We only visited them once, albeit brief. I don't remember anything about Croatian Food being served there. My recollections of Disney Land are a bit more distinct.

Grandma and Aunt Anna returned to Kirksville, because Grandma was on decline and Aunt Anna's 2 Siblings (my Father and Aunt Mary) wanted to be more present in her Life during those remaining years. I remember very little of her cooking then; mostly Aunt Ann cooked and she did prepare Croatian fare, but we ate at home. Grandma Dora passed when I was 18; she was in her mid 80s.

I do know Grandma Dora made a variety of Povitica filled with Apples. I have no specific memories of her fixing Apple Strudel, just that fuzzy little pull that draws me to this wonderful pastry.

When Melanie and I were in Fuzine, Croatia, in 2002 on the Family Heritage Tour, we were served Apple Strudel hot from the Oven by one of the Ladies. The Visual Image, Aroma, and Flavor just clicked, as if touching a place where some treasured memories had been carefully stored away.

In cruising the Ethnic Cookbook from Novinger, my fingers danced into the text and landed right on a recipe for Apple Strudel. Melanie and I made it today. I couldn't wait. While we did not have a teacher (other than the book), we approached this noble experiment of reclaiming a family tradition. It wasn't exactly right, but I think it was close.

I got the dough started and Melanie finished it. By this recipe, you slap the dough down, pull up as to stretch, then slap it down again. This is repeated 100 times. Essentially you are kneading and developing the Gluten (stretchiness) of the Dough. This will allow it to be stretched very thin, which is a signature of Apple Strudel.

For the next step, we laid out 2 Tea Towels. An old Sheet would work fine, but we didn't have one. The Towels were dusted with flour. Rolling out begins.
When the dough is of significant size, the Rolling Pin is put away. The stretching begins. We weren't exactly sure what we were doing, but we did learn as we went. We stretched from the middle with a hand over hand motion toward the outer edge. The 2 of us worked on opposite sides. We tried to be careful not to tear the Dough because it will not mend. This was hard, but we did a pretty good job. While not long by any means, my left thumb nail should have been trimmed.Dough should be stretched until it is tissue paper thin. Then it is brushed with melted Butter. Thinly sliced Apples are spread over half of the Dough. Then Sugar is sprinkled across the Apples. We used equal parts of Rapadura and White Sugar. We cut the total amount of Sugar in half.We also scattered chopped Pecans. The Recipe called for Almonds, which would have been a better choice. We did not have Almonds but had Pecans. Then we sprinkled Nutmeg on top. The Nutmeg would have been better mixed with the Sugar as the amount was only a Pinch. Have your ever tried to sprinkle a "Pinch"?Then the Rolling up begins. We started it gently by hand and then used the Fabric to create a roling process. The Recipe suggested it and it worked great.The Roll was laid out in a spiral, similar to Povitica. We were careful to make sure loose ends were secured.Then we brushed the Strudel with melted Butter. The Strudel went into the Oven. About 40 minutes later, we had quite a treat.
While the Strudel was in the Oven, I headed to our collection of Photos from our Trip to Croatia. My Fingers headed right to the Photo of the Woman Serving us Apple Strudel. When our Strudel was done, we did some comparisons between hers and ours.

Melanie and I think we need to tweak the process a bit. We need to stretch the Dough so that it is closer to Tissue Paper thin-ness. We put melted Butter on the Strudel every 10 minutes while it was in the oven. That's what the Recipe suggested. We put on a little too much. The Apple Filling was excellent. We did leave the Peels on, which gave it a rosy Glow. With these Apples (Jonathans from Rolf and Ilse's tree), you could decrease the Sugar further. Melanie would probably brown it a bit more too.

We both conclude that we did a great job for the 1st time. It isn't like it is going to waste. The Chickens aren't going to get any of it, because it is fast disappearing. Maybe next time, we will have some to share with 2 Croatian Ladies of Dad's generation and other Croatian Descendants in town. That's the plan.

Pondering

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I wonder
how Farm Cats
got to be so
small and compact
and I wonder
how City Cats
got to be so
big and so,
well,
squishy.
What is the up side
and down side
of each?
~~~~
Glinda Crawford, 2009
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Friday, November 27, 2009

Seeking

A few months ago, I heard of the "Ethnic Cookbook" (1989) from Novinger, Missouri. I had learned that the Cookbook included several Croatian Recipes, among other Ethnic Groups. I have been trying to get my hands on one ever since. In the last few days, 1 was loaned to me by a Friend. I can hardly put it down.

Novinger is along the Chariton River and about 7 miles west of Kirksville. In the early part of the 1900s, Immigrants from a variety of Nationalities were drawn to Novinger because of the burgeoning Coal Mining Industry, which alternatively must have been a roller coaster going from boom to bust and back again.

The Cookbook lists Heritages present in that small community: Irish, Scottish, German, Polish, Danish, Welch, Yugoslavian, Croatian, Austrian, Italian, French, English, Czechoslovakia, Canadian, Anglo American and others. I am stunned to think of the energy present in those earlier times in Novinger, including the Native Languages, Customs, Cultures, Dress, and Foods.

Many of those Travelers would have only recently "come off the Boat", which means they would have been in the midst of a struggle of leaving a Homeland and acclimating to one so fresh and new. I will never know completely what that struggle must have been about.

As my Grandfather Kazimir Blaskovic' made his living working in the Coal Mines, my Croatian Grandparents lived there a short time around 1910 when Aunt Mary was born. They later moved to Fraker, Iowa, which is now listed as an "Iowa Ghost Town". That's where Aunt Anna and Uncle Joe were born. By the time my Father was born in 1918, the Family had moved to the north end of Kirksville (1019 N. Centennial). However, my Grandfather continued his work as a Timberman in the Mines around Novinger (Billy Creek Mine for 1) throughout his working life.

I have been paging through this Cookbook with glee. There are indeed a number of Croatian Recipes. Some ring a "faint bell" in the deep recesses of my Brain. I really do want to begin making some of them.

Oh, how I wish that Dad was by my side. He would be there with an empty Plate and Fork or Spoon, plus a Cup of Coffee too. He would have been ready and eager to try those savory Foods his Mother would have fixed, give his Daughter and Granddaughter some much needed advice, and tell some Stories too. He likely is there right beside me, perhaps even Grandma Dora too. I must listen to the soft and gentle breezes which are guiding me on my quest.

The Copy of the Cookbook is a loaner. I am definitely seeking one for myself, and for a Croatian Friend of Dad's Vintage. I am wondering: Where will I find them?

This treasure seems a very important addition to our Library and our Skills on this Little Farm as we reclaim traditions (including Food) of Living on the Land. I could surely copy the 1 Dianthe loaned. But I would rather have 1 from the vintage produced in 1989.

As I scan the introduction, I also note reference to a 1974 Thesis at Northeast Missouri State University: The Immigrants and the Novinger Community 1900-1920, by Freedom Kline Capps. Sometime over the Winter Months, I shall have to head to the Truman State Library to browse through this one too. More adventures seem ready to unfold.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pondering

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Education
and City Life
in Modern
"Advanced"
Society
are expressly designed
to sever one's connection
to the Land.
This Land
is the Life Force
that sustains us.
Whether
by accident
or on purpose,
why
on Earth
would
we ever want
to do that?
How do
we return?
~~~~
Glinda Crawford, 2009
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rutie

Our Friend and Colleague Bill Sheridan introduced us to Rutabagas for Thanksgiving in the mid 1970s. Bill's flare for cooking and extending Culinary Boundaries was well known in the North Country. I have loved Rutabagas ever since and I can't think of a Thanksgiving Feast without them.

I had no idea that we would ever be able to grow Rutabagas. Over those years, I remember picking out waxed Roots from who knows where as we would cruise the Produce Aisle of the Grocery Store.

Things are different now. We just cruise our Garden or our Larder which holds most of what we need for our Thanksgiving Feast. We have even more to be grateful for than what we had before.

Yesterday, Richard went out hunting for Rutabagas in the Garden. He came back in with a collection, including this adorable one we named "Rutie". In some ways, she kind of reminded us of E.T. Melanie was so inspired she thought of some special portrait ideas. So I took a number of Photos. Then Rutie joined us for our Thanksgiving Dinner. As Melanie said, "We ate her." And so it goes on Butterfly Hill Farm where we all are seeking to find our Place.

Thanksgiving

We 3 C's mulled over some ideas for our Thanksgiving Feast this year. Our Larder was full. Our Repertoire for cooking Dishes for a Feast was bountiful too. Home always seemed best for Holidays, yet this year's circumstances were different.

Since we moved to Butterfly Hill Farm, Mother had joined us for our Thanksgiving Meal each of the last 2 years. Ever the Cook and always generous, she brought 3-4 dishes to share, spending the preceding days in special preparation.

Her current situation in the Nursing Home rendered obsolete plans from previous years. So we sat with the current situation and let a solution unfold. At the top of our thinking was the deep knowing that it is a miracle she is here and we can savor every morsel of shared time. Plus, we face the reality that the time will come when she is no longer present in our lives in ways we have known and loved. We have much to be Thankful for. So what should we do about Thanksgiving Dinner? What would be special for her and for us?

We decided we would fix the Thanksgiving Feast at home and then take it to share with Mother in the Nursing Home. Mother didn't want us to go to any trouble, but she was clearly excited about the idea. So were we. The Nursing Home set up a table just for us.

Our Thanksgiving Menu consisted of: Roast Chicken with Bread/Wild Rice Dressing, Mashed White Root Veggies (Celeriac, Rutabaga, Parsnips), Gravy, Green Beans, Indian Pudding, Cranberry Sauce, and Pumpkin/Squash Pie. It was fabulous. Everything was homemade, organic, and almost all was from this Little Farm. We kept it pretty simple.

Just before we began the Meal, I asked Mother to offer the Blessing, which she did. Oh, how I have missed her special prayers as we have begun our shared meals.

When I think of this special Meal and the out of the ordinary preparations to bring it to her, I am reminded of all the Picnic Dinners of my Childhood. Mother would prepare special meals and then pack them up to wherever was our destination. The fixin's were sometimes simple, other times elaborate on a scale of today's fast food. This was a Thanksgiving Picnic which was just as special as it gets.

The 3 C's send our best wishes that your Festivities were just what you needed in the Spirit of this Day. We are deeply grateful for the abundance in our Lives: Food, Family, Friends, Creation, Fellow Travelers along the Path.

Aromas

Yesterday, we made up our list of Foods for the Thanksgiving Meal and we divided up who was going to do what. I love those Foods which extend back to the Traditions of my Childhood, while integrating Traditions of our 2 Families and Traditions we 3 C's have added ourselves.

Some of my favorite parts of Holidays are the Aromas of those Foods in their various stages of preparation. The House just seems to be full of those Aromas, getting bigger than itself all the while.

When I was a Child on that Night before the Thanksgiving Feast, I helped my Mother by tearing apart the Bread for Stuffing. My eager little Fingers would tear away at this important task. The Bread Crumbs then went into the Oven to dry. That soft Aroma wafted out of the oven and teased me with its delicate flavor. Melanie cut up her Homemade Bread yesterday afternoon. The Aroma of Bread was a link in a chain of similar experiences throughout my Life which now connected with this Holiday Season.

Yesterday afternoon, Melanie made 2 Pumpkin Pies. While the Aroma of the Bread Crumbs on a low bake was soft, the Pumpkin Pies with their Squash, Pumpkin and Spices just seemed to dance right out of the Oven past my Nose.

Richard put the Giblets with some Onion and Wild Rice on to slow cook. He also chopped up the Onions and Celery. These essential ingredients for Stuffing just seemed to set the stage for the early morning preparations. Meanwhile, the Chickens were thawing, which brings its own flavors to the stage. (Yes, we are having our own Chickens rather than the Traditional Turkey.)

Tomorrow morning, more stages of the operation will be in high gear. The Drama of Aromas will build to crescendo and, right before our Noses, we will find an amazing Feast.

Ignorance

I am sometimes confronted with my own profound ignorance. I am probably confronted by it more times than I know. Instead of paying attention, I just wash over that moment and miss it. It will surely come around again.

In those moments when I am confronted by such things, that "not knowing" arises right in front of my Nose when I least expect it. I cannot walk away. I stand frozen, stunned. I just cannot believe what I see and how I got there.

Gratefully, I am often simultaneously confronted with an ample dose of humor too. The Humor may arise from inside of me, or rather rain down from the Cosmos on innocent me. Regardless of the source, Humor softens the edges.

Last evening, I was confronted by just one of those Instances. Before I get into the details, I should note that I have always valued my Education. And I am highly educated in today's modern day "off the land" standards. While I never was much on pencilling in that Ph.D. behind my name, it was valued in the academic circles where I hung out for 3 decades of my Life. Ph.D. doesn't mean much on this Little Farm. And it disappears quite appropriately in those moments where my Ignorance arises.

So what happened?

For this Thanksgiving, I wanted to make Indian Pudding, which I did. Indian Pudding is a traditional dish reported to have been at that 1st Thanksgiving.

Corn Meal is 1 of the ingredients. For whatever reason, I decided that I wanted to use the Indian Corn that I had raised. The "oh, wow" moment reared its head. It had never occurred to me that Corn Meal came from Corn and that one could actually grind it if the equipment was present. (In this case, it is.)

I just thought that Corn Meal came from a round cardboard carton with that white haired man in a wide brimmed black hat on that container. I had absolutely no clue I could do it myself or that countless generations of people had done that way before little old me. http://www.quakeroats.com/products/more-products-from-quaker/content/specialty-items/cornmeal/yellow-corn-meal.aspx

So, Richard shelled the corn. Melanie got out the grinder. And I ground away at another little piece of "city" ignorance that had wrapped itself around me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Amazed

I continue to be amazed at the reality we Modern Humans with our Superior Brains have created and the purpose that it serves. I grew up in a time when People valued doing things for themselves. Not so today.

Cases in Point: In the early 1950s, my Father built his own House. So did Richard's Father the decade before. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Richard's Dad built beautiful Furniture of Local Woods he had bought decades before just for that purpose. If it was broke, Folks would fix it.

Richard's Mother grew her own Food in the Garden to feed a lively Family of 6. His Mother and Father raised their own Cattle, Chickens and sometimes Hogs. They butchered Meat they ate. My Mother says that she was not too aware of the Depression in growing up because her Dad grew most of their own Food; I am assuming that her Mother preserved it. If you didn't grow it, you didn't eat much. People cooked and preserved their Food and they made do with what they had.

Over time, we Modern Humans began giving up that Knowlege, Skill, and Can-Do Orientation. Of course, sometimes you needed someone to do it, if you don't have the skill yourself. Plus, Products commonly available these days often take a Technician to make it work. Or not. We could bear witness to the difficulties that we have had in getting our 2 Toilets to flush in just the way Toilets are reported to do.

As we Humans have moved up the Socioeconomic and Education ladder from our forebearers, it became more prestigious to get someone else to do the work. We became little Kings and Queens far removed from such drudgery. It somehow became associated with something termed "Progress". I am not so sure that it is.

As a result, we became experts at moving words around on pieces of paper or on computer screens. We became experts in practices which became obsolete overnight. Over time, our Kind has become experts at punching buttons and staring at over sized Screens while munching away on Overly Processed Foods from those ample Couches.

We have introduced for ourselves a kind of Institutionalized Helplessness. Now why would we ever want to do that?

Our return to the Farm is an effort to reclaim some of those Skills. It is not easy. We have been away a long time and we are not the young Pups we were before. But we are committed to finding our way.

Why?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Why is it
we feel
Storebought
is better?
When will
we begin
to learn
the value
and satisfaction
of doing
more things
for ourselves?
~~~~
Glinda Crawford, 2009
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Painting Begins Again

As the outside Chores are closer to completion for the 2009 Gardening Season and temperatures begin to lower into Winter, we are heading into inside Chores. Considering the remodeling efforts of the late Summer and the simple desires of making our new Little House our Home, Painting is high on the list.

I am happy to report that at least for now, we are taking it slow and easy. Sometimes the enormity of a Task ends up defeating a person before s/he gets started. Granted, we surely do have a lot of painting to do. And we will get it done 1 brush stroke at a time. So far, it looks just great.

While we had made progress in late Summer, Richard has gotten us started on this leg. The Dining Room is mostly done and so is the Meditation Space. Yea! Melanie worked on the little Pantry today. Paintwise, it is now complete. We will wait until it is thoroughly dry before we beginning moving the Jars. We are so excited about all those Goodies which will have their own place and be within easy reach of our Kitchen's Culinary Projects.

In all of our remodeling, we do our best to use less Toxic Building Products. They are best for us, best for the Environment, best for those who live near the sites of Plants, and best for all those who handle Products. I could probably write a book about our experiences with these initiatives. They started in 1997. It has not always been easy, but we continue to learn and grow.

While the Public is more and more concerned about such things, Less Toxic Building Products are not always commonly available. Those that are advertised as available have often been "green washed" by Corporations as an easy sell to Consumers with such interests and little skill or desire for their own screening.

Over the years, we have found it is best to have a Guide. Such Guides provide very important screens for filtering Products according to Environmental Criteria. I really do not want to be an expert in all those fields. I am deeply appreciative of those who choose to do so.

We have purchased most of our products from Green Building Supply in Fairfield, Iowa. We have been grateful for their assistance. Our Paints, by the way, are from "Safecoat".

~~~~http://www.greenbuildingsupply.com//Public/Home/index.cfm,http://www.afmsafecoat.com/

Seeds for Garden 2010

We continue to get Seed Catalogs in the Mail. Amazingly, they are taking on a bit of a different flavor than I remember. Three Catalogs have talked about the intensity of orders last year due to dramatic increases in Gardeners and Gardens. For 2010, they expect escalating interest and are doing their best to be prepared.

So far, 2 Catalogs seem to have stepped up their Educational Information to Gardeners. Seed Savers Exchange 2010 Catalog arrived yesterday and added to the mix a Gardener's Chronology which talks about when and how to plant and transplant across a variety of plants. This is an excellent. Such information is surely stuffed away in my files plus being on individual Seed Packs and Catalog Descriptions. But Gardeners need to see how it all comes together. Right there on those introductory pages, the information is all drawn out visually for us. I could jump for Joy.

While we are programmed not to consider Seed Orders until early in the New Year, we are leaning toward an earlier schedule. We 3 C's will be doing a Seed Inventory in the next couple of weeks. We are excited that we already have many Seeds that we have saved in our collection. Over time, we will be saving more.

Melanie is talking about having a Seed and Plant Exchange next Spring. It is too early to talk about details, but it's always a good time getting together Gardeners, Seeds, Plants on a Spring Day. Sharing Seeds and Plants at the local level is a next step in taking the heat off Gardening Catalogs and nourishing Gardening Traditions in the places that we call home.

Blessing of Love

November 20:

Sun rises over Fog this morning. That Pinkish Glow surely is a blessing of Love for this Day.

Seedy Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread

November 23:

Melanie continues to experiment with different varieties of Breads. Today, she made what she calls "Seedy Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread". Ingredients were White and Whole Wheat Flours*, Filtered Water, Oats*, Sunflower Seeds*, Sourdough Starter (White Flour* and Filtered Water), Sesame Seeds*, Grape Seed Oil, Crawford Molasses**, Celtic Sea Salt, Olive Oil*, Cornmeal* and Butter* ("*"=Organic and No Chemicals; "**"=No Pesticides).

The Title of the Bread is her own. I have to chuckle. The sound of it reminds me of one of those Croatian Words that I learned as a young Child in the presence of my Croatian Grandmother and 2 Aunts. Since I never learned to write Croatian for my paltry few words, I do not know the spelling. I suspect that it was "siti". The pronunciation was: "SEE tee", which instructed one to "sit".

Whenever we visited, we were instructed to "SEE tee" (or "sit"). It was almost as if a chain of words followed: "Sit, take the load off your feet, stay, eat hearty, talk." With that simple word, chairs would be pulled away from the Table. Hands would point for one to sit. Good Food and Good Company would follow. Melanie's Wonderful Homemade Breads invite the same.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dark

Days are noticeably shorter and Nights longer. It is as if, after those long Bright Days of Summer, the Night reaches up to gently hold and shelter us. I noted on Weather Underground that today Daylight was 9 Hours and 44 Seconds long, which is 1 minute and 38 Seconds shorter than yesterday.

Amongst traditional Peoples, Winter is the season of resting, going inward, retelling stories which bind us as a People in relationship to all of Creation. In some ways, we are not so different.

After our intense Summer and Fall on Butterfly Hill Farm, Rest is very much welcome. Naps are good. Wool Blankets are within easy reach.

Harvest is now stored on shelves which were almost empty only a short time ago. We 3 C's are having Eggplant Parmesan from the Freezer for Dinner tonight. Its wonderful aroma is wafting past my nose as I clatter away at these keys.

Favorite Books are beginning to appear on horizontal surfaces. Queries which had no time before are beginning to come into focus. Tender spaces of personal growing are making themselves known where there was little time before.

I shall be working on my Book this Winter. Some Craft Projects, especially with the Holidays coming up soon, are waiting in the Wings. Now that we are inside more, we are beginning to make more shifts in settling here into this little House.

Traditional Peoples watched the Sun as He moved toward His Winter Home in the Southern Skies. They were unsure He would return. They deeply knew their Lives depended on Cycles of Nature across the Seasons. They watched with Fear, Fascination, Humility and Awe at the Sacred Cycle of Life which supported their Being. They offered their Praise to the Creator for Creation which supported their Lives. In their protected Winter Homes, they told the Stories of their People and prayed for the Sun's Return.

We Modern Ones with our intense fixation on ourselves take a lot for granted. Too much, it seems. We assume that things will just continue in their Ho Hum Way, regardless of what we do. With changes in Climate and Weather Patterns, we are beginning to note that such is not necessarily the case. As the Season shifts to Dark, we have some pondering we need to do.

Visitor

We noted what appears to be a Northern Walking Stick on the door of the Garage. We peered at it closely and took some pictures. Hopefully, we weren't too much of nuisance.

After we came inside, we headed to the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders (1980). One of the decided perks of being in relationship with a Field Scientist is that we seem to have no shortage on Field Guides. The internet was also at our fingertips. So what did we learn:
  • Males are 3" and Females 3.25".
  • Males are brown; Females are greenish brown.
  • They are wingless.
  • Antennae are about 2/3 the length of the body.
  • They are at home in deciduous woods an forests.
  • They feed on folaige of deciduous treees and shrubs with an especial fondness for Oaks and Hazelnuts.
  • Their resemblance to slender twigs camouflages them from Predators.
  • Predators include: Common Grackle, White Footed Mouse, Blue Jay, Wild Turkey, American Robin.
  • Walking Sticks stay very still in the Day. When attacked, they emit a foul smell.
  • This slender Insect can regenerate a lost Leg.
  • Mating occurs in the Fall.
  • Eggs overwinter with hatch in the Spring.

~~~~http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/northern_walkingstick.htm [Fairfax County Schools (VA), Island Creek Elementary]

Potholes of Promise

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
We Humans came here
to this Planet and
to this Space and Time
to learn and grow.
Those Potholes
on Life's Path
are visibly concealed
Points of Growth.
We could walk
around them,
but they will come up
again,
and again.
Those Potholes
are important steps
of growing
on our Path
toward Coming
into our Fullness,
which is what
we have been
meant to be.
In these times,
Humans,
both collectively
and individually,
have
some important lessons
to learn.
On our Sacred Paths
of Living,
we surely
do not want
to miss a thing.
~~~~
Glinda Crawford, 2009
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chicken House News

During the Day, the Chicken House is usually the Exclusive Domain of Hens laying Eggs. Often, we hear what sounds like quite a racket out there. It's the Hens laying Eggs or waiting in Cue. Sometimes I think I have no clue as to what that is about. But then I chuckle, I had a Kid some time back.

Two days ago, Richard went to the Chicken House and was talking with the Hennies on the Nests. As he went around the Chicken House, he got to the last set of Nest Boxes. There sat our glorious Buff Orpington Rooster Fred.

"Fred what are you doing in there?" At which point, Mr. Fredster got up, turned around and faced backwards. You could almost hear him say: "Do not tell the Hennies that I am here. This is so embarassing."

Maybe he was exploring his Feminine Side. You could almost hear him say: "What is all this cackling about? I don't get it. It doesn't do anything for me." Or, perhaps he was pondering: "How do those Hennies lay those Eggs?" "I have absolutely no clue."

Migration

Richard tells us that all Summer Resident Birds which are migrants have already left. Northern Birds have been arriving. A perky Junco escorted me up the Drive to the Mailbox on Friday.

Hawks are still moving through. They are simply gorgeous, but we watch them very carefully if they are at all close to the Chickens. The Chickens watch them too.

Ducks have arrived yet many are still up North. A few Geese have been sighted, but most are up North too. We have seen Bald Eagles and when we do, we pretty much stop in our tracks to see those magnificent Birds. The Ones who are here now will be our Companion Winter Residents.

I smile when I think about Critters who might be "wintering here". Most of the Human Snowbirds seem to have already left.

While we have stayed at the same address, we 3 C's have been involved in our own Winter Migration. Seed Stashes went to the Basement today. The Red Wing Mug that serves as a Rain Gauge had ice in it this morning. It migrated to the Kitchen Sink and up into the Cupboard. Woolen Blankets now are within Arm's Reach of the Couch. And all that Produce which came in one Bucket at a Time swirled through the Kitchen and now sits on Shelves in the Kitchen, Dining Room, Pantry and Basement.

Gleeful

November 14:

The Chickens take their Role of Garden Clean-up very seriously. They are intent, plus they seem to be positively Gleeful. [From Left to Right: Tawny or Cassie (the Buffy), Mrs. T. (White Rock), and Clovey (White Rock]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tapping at the Pane

We have had Rain these past 3 days. Our Mug on the Deck, which serves as our Rain Gauge, is overflowing. That means we have had over 3 inches of Rain.

To me, this Rain has been a reminder of some noteworthy shifts. A good bit of the Rain came from the North. I could hear the Raindrops hitting the north Windows in our little House. We were far from Snow or Sleet. Yet those little Taps at the Pane advise me of a significant shift. Winter is surely on its way.

Sensory Delights

I continue to be amazed at the sensory experiences on the Farm. They are vibrant and alive. They sparkle with delight. I think surely we Humans would feel more vibrant and alive as a result.

As the Fall has moved closer to Winter, I have noted the "cold" that is found in the Produce. A Raw and Cold Carrot freshly dug from the Garden is a sensory delight. As the Season goes into "Cold", the Carrots (and other produce too) just seems sweeter, more vibrant and alive. Those Coolers in the Conventional Grocery Store are pitiful stand-ins.

We had Greens from the Garden this evening. They were simply alive. Those Greens looked up from the Plate and just sort of said: "We are an 'oh, wow'." That Green was deep and bluish. I should surely need another colored pencil in my Pencil Box to depict them. And again, those Human Efforts to do so are poor substitutes.

Among my favorites of the season are the Apples and the Pears. To eat a Fresh Apple or Pear straight from the Tree and in its Peak of Cold is just an amazing experience.

I am so grateful that our experience on this Little Farm affords all these sensory delights.

Monday, November 16, 2009

1st Garden Catalog

We received our 1st Garden Catalog in the mail today. The 2010 Seed Catalog of Seeds of Change arrived. Tradition has it that Seed Catalogs come right after Christmas. Melanie notes that she isn't looking at Seed Catalogs until after the holidays. I couldn't resist sneaking a peek.

I have enjoyed Seeds of Change catalogs before but this one seems like a standout. Perhaps it has not changed but rather my openness and yearning toward growing things. Or maybe, we both have changed in times which are demanding shifts in us all.

The introduction notes that this year's catalog combines Home Gardener and Market Grower catalogs into one. Seeds of Change notes that Home Gardeners are buying more Seeds and Market Gardeners are expanding biodiversity, looking for unique varieties to fit specific ecological and marketing niches.

I especially liked the sections throughout which focused on growing specific Families of Vegetables. The information was short and to the point, just what the busy Gardener needs. The sections come under titles such as "Brassica Agronomics" (Brassicas include: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chinese Cabbage, Collards, Kale, and Kohlrabi). This catalog (and their accompanying web site) become not just instruments of sales but invaluable teaching tools too. http://www.seedsofchange.com/

Word has it on the Garden Beat that Seeds sold out early last year. I can anticipate that such will be the casethis year, although Gardeners have early means of acquiring Seeds through their own Seed Collection initiatives. I know we have more in our stash.

Gardens Grow

George DeVault, President and Executive Director of Seed Savers Exchange, notes in their 2009 Harvest Edition (page 1): "Nationwide, there has been an explosion in home gardening. The National Gardening Association (http://www.garden.org/) estimates there was a 19 percent increase in food gardens in 2009. That is 7 million new gardens!" (Exclamation point is his own.)

He goes on to say Seed Savers Exchange has seen even greater growth. Membership alone has increased by nearly 60 percent over last year. As you may know, Seed Savers Exchange is "a non-profit organization of gardeners dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds." http://seedsavers.org/

While Gardens are surely up during periods of economic uncertainty, I believe that something deeper is going on. We are surely finding some lessons in these times about what is important. In the face of those lessons, we are beginning to make a different set of choices.

The People are coming home to whom they have been meant to be. Get ready. We are on the edge of the Revolution for which we have deeply yearned. It is the work of our Time.

Observation

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Blog"
sounds
like something
you might leave
in a tissue.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Grandma Says

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Save
for
a Rainy Day.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Grandma Says

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Don't take
more than
you need.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Grandma Says

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Keep it simple.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rules

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you live on a Farm,
you have to fix
Fried Chicken,
from Chickens you raised.
No bones about it.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Recipe: Fried Chicken

1-3 to 3 and 1/2 Pound Free Range Chicken, Local and Farm Raised, cut into Pieces (Legs, Thighs, Breasts, Wings, and so on), preferably with Giblets
1 and 1/2 Cups Organic Flour (3/4 Cup Whole Wheat and 3/4 Cup White)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1/8 tsp. Paprika or Cayenne (this gives it just a bit of zip)
1 and 1/2 Cups Raw Milk
Oil for Frying (I like to use Grape Seed Oil)

(1)Mix together Dry Ingredients until evenly distributed (Flours, Salt, Pepper, Paprika or Cayenne). Set aside in wide mouthed bowl. I have put the Dry Ingredients in a Plastic Bag. That works great too.
(2)Set aside Milk in wide mouthed bowl.
(3)Rinse Chicken in water. Pat dry.
(4)Meanwhile, place about 1/2 inch Oil in the bottom of Cast Iron Skillet. I use either the 8 or 10 inch Skillet, depending on the amount of Chicken. Slowly heat over burner until dough droppings of Dry Ingredients mixed with Milk bubble in Oil.
(5)While Oil is heating, dip 1 or 2 pieces of Chicken at a time in Milk. Then put Chicken Pieces in dry Ingredients (or toss Chicken Pieces in Plastic Bag filled with Dry Ingredients) until Chicken is evenly coated. This should be timed as best as possible so that coated Chicken is ready to go into the Frying Pan at precisely the moment the Oil is hot. It just takes a little practice.
(6)Place coated Chicken Pieces in hot Oil. Again, the Chicken Pieces should bubble all around. If it doesn't, the batter will be soaked with grease. Not good. If it is too hot, the Chicken will burn. Grease fires are nothing to play around with. Slow it down. The Oil should rise up about 1/2 inch on the Chicken. The Chicken will need to be watched closely throughout the cooking process.
(7)Turn pieces when the bottom sides become crispy and brown. Keep turning until completely brown all around. In the early stages, Blood will come up around the joint areas. When done, Blood will be cooked (brown) and the Meat will be White or Dark, not pink.
(8)Remove Chicken Pieces from Skillet when they are done.
(9) Place Chicken pieces which are done between layers of Paper Towels to soak up excess Oil.
(10)Serve and enjoy immediately. Chicken is also good cold (as in an Old Fashioned Picnic).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Greens Galore

While the Garden is largely put to bed and we await Winter's Cold, we are experiencing Greens Galore. We are reminded that these lovely Plants love the Cool Season. While many did well in the Spring and Early Summer, they got weary and bedraggled during Summer's Heat. And we had very little Heat this past Summer.

Now that we are leaving Fall and heading into Winter, they are just stunning. We planted some on purpose. Others have come up from we let go "to Seed".
"Crisp Mint" is Melanie's favorite Lettuce.
"Forellenschuss Lettuce" had to be the work of an Artist. The color Burnt Sienna from the Painter's Palette seems spattered atop a background of Yellow Green.
These lovely little Red Lettuce Seedlings come with a big name: "Merveille Des Quatre Saisons". We have no idea what that means. Our guess is it is "something of the 4 Seasons". Our Language Literacy Skills need some development and this little Lettuce is doing its best to stretch us a bit in that direction.I grew this Lettuce in the Herb Garden. Somewhere, I have its name on record, but that place and its name escape me now. This Lettuce was one of my favorites early in the Summer. You will also note some Dill which is also thriving in the Cool Temperatures.This Swiss Chard is "5 Color Silverbeet". Melanie says "Silverbeet" is what they call Swiss Chard in New Zealand."Romanesco" is a Broccoli. It comes in Yellow rather than the Green we are used to. I love the Spiral Formation which almost looks like a Shell cast from the Sea."Lacinato Kale" is a real beauty. It tastes good but the Bugs hide in all those little Crinkles. Melanie prefers Red or White Russian because they are easier to clean. I think I like this one best.This is "Red Russian Kale".Melanie planted "Rossa di Treviso Precoce Radicchio". It obviously is not heading up. We "win some and lose some" right here on our Little Farm. But always, we learn.We planted several Greens in the Garden off the Dining Room. They became an unexpected treat as they are quick to harvest and very cold hardy. With a Bowl and Scissors in hand, we just dash from the Kitchen through the Dining Room and out the Door to gather these lovely Greens for a Meal."Tatsoi" is an Oriental Green with lovely heads that look like Flowers Blooming. We use it for Stir Fries, Steamed Greens, and whatever Magic the Chef is creating.

When we think about these Late Season Greens, we note they are vibrant and robust. It surely is "their Season". Typically they have fewer bugs. We still have a few Cabbage Worms, however. The Chickens are pretty tickled about that.

We wonder how long these Greens will last. We wonder what will be the precise Temperature that they bid their Human Friends "Adieu". We also are wondering about setting up a modified Cold Frame to keep them a little longer. I am not so sure that we will do that this year because we are weary, but it is a thought.

In the meantime, we are excited and in awe that they are here. It is amazing how precious Life is when we know that they soon will be gone.

Little Bluestem

November 8:

Little Bluestem is among the Prairie Plants we have growing in the Prairie Bed on the Southwest Side of the House. Yes, we planted this little Grass on purpose as it is one of our favorites.

We try to have a balance where we live that includes Plants for Human Use and Plants that Nature finds at Home here. I suppose you could call it "sharing the Land" rather than taking it all for Ourselves. Our Mothers taught us to share a very long time ago. It seems useful and appropriate here.

We find considerable benefits in growing Prairie Plants where we can watch them closely as we go about our daily routine. This permits us to see their Growth Habits through the Seasons. We can see what Butterflies, Insects, Birds seem attracted to them. In the Fall we collect Seeds and distribute them to other places where we would like to see a diversity of Prairie Plants. Plus, when the Seedlings appear around the Mother Plant, we take them to other places on the Farm.

I really smiled at the Little Bluestem this morning. The Sun was shining through it. This lovely Grass was sporting a diversity of colors. While Fall Colors were abundant, we could see a Faint Memory of Summer's Green.

Green Info

Living Green isn't always easy in these times of abundant distractions from the Path. It should be. But we live in a time that seems all tangled up. With the emerging interest in Green Living, more products are available, but they are not on a scale for demand. Products sometimes promoted as Green often do not meet the grade. So who should we call to help guide us through this maze?

For years, one of our favorite sources of Green Info is Green America (formerly Coop America). http://www.greenamericatoday.org/ As described on their web site, "Green America is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1982. ... Our mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. ... We work for a world where all people have enough, where all communities are healthy and safe, and where the bounty of the Earth is preserved for all the generations to come."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Observation: Stars

We are deeply fortunate that Light Pollution is less of an issue in our Country Sky. Those Stars are lovely companions that hold us gently and swirl around us during the Night. I can't believe that Humans would knowingly or not erase the Stars from the Night Sky. And what do we see?

The Constellation Orion, the Hunter, is riding high in the Southern Sky. Orion is our Winter Companion, making his Presence more clearly known at this Season. Melanie and I also noted that the Big Dipper is in a different place in our Sky than it was a few months ago.

For so long and even now, I had no Clue about such things. I didn't think or know to look. My re-education seems in process on this Little Farm. The Stars like that. I like that too.

Observation

This Little Farm has put us in touch with some rhythms about which are City Selves would have had little Clue. The Last Few Months have been intensive in Gardening, which is no surprise. As we look ahead to Winter, I note that this was often the Season that Folks shifted to Meats. Deer Season begins tomorrow.

Odds and Ends

These days, it is difficult to describe a focus of initiatives that we are involved in. We seem to be all over the map.

We continue to harvest from the Garden, which I find surprising. After all, it is mid-November and almost Thanksgiving at that. All those years in North Dakota on the edge between Gardening Zones 3 and 4 etched deeply into my Psyche what to expect. Settling into Zone 5 here in Northeast Missouri is a great surprise and a real gift with the greatly expanded growing season. So what is happening?

The Greens are in abundance. They seem to like the Frosts. They are just about the best ever. I wonder what is going on in those Plants. Their Green is deep and beautiful. Their quality seems quite different from earlier in the Summer.

We still have Lettuce too. Since we let some Plants go to Seed, we have quite a bit of Lettuce. That decision was a Great Call. We are hopeful to have some Lettuces among the early growing season next Spring from those same Seeds. They should be perking right a long, even if the Garden is too wet to plant. That's the Human Plan, anyway.

Melanie is still processing Seeds. I think all my Seeds are now complete with the Coleus and the Snap Dragons that I put in envelopes today. The 2 Bins of Seeds are now positioned at the top of the Stairs. They soon will be heading to their Basement Winter Home.

I am potting House Plants, although Pots and Saucers are in short supply. Most of the Plants seem tightly fitting in their Pots which means they are over grown. They are mostly old varieties.

I potted the cutting from Ilse's Rubber Tree. That Plant could get huge. Maybe we will use it for an inside Tree House. Of course, we live in a Little House. I can just see us setting up some Hammocks between its Branches.

I have repotted the Airplane Plants from Mother. I started to re-pot Shamrocks today. The Mother Plant in 1 Pot became 4 Pots. I have 3 more Pots left to re-pot, but all are smaller. The Shamrocks are from our former neighbor Mary Morken. The Hibiscus from Melanie, Jade Plant from Sarah Cummins and the Plant with no Name (like Aunt Lu's) are all waiting in Cue. Others don't seem to need the attention now.

Next Spring, we will have House Plants in abundance. I hope to be giving some away in the Spring.

We are starting to putter away at the House. We are slowly but surely putting it back in order. During the Frenzy of Fall Activity, it has been patiently awaiting its turn. We look forward to a few days to clean the Kitchen in a good way. We should almost get down on our Knees and thank this Beloved Partner for all her loyal contributions these last few months. Soon, we will begin to finish up painting. That will be a big project, but it will really feel good when it is complete.

A few books outside Gardening are starting to appear on the Coffee Table. For a long time, we were not reading, unless it related to an urgent call from the Garden in the moment.

We are also starting to envision what might happen ahead. Just a few weeks ago, we seldom thought beyond the Fresh Produce of the moment. Now, we are beginning to dream about some things we might be doing ahead.

For me, I want to learn to make Sausage, but won't be doing it this year. That gives me time to read ahead for new initiatives of the coming year. My Ancestors from my Croatian and German Heritages seem to be putting out a call for some Sausage Making Traditions that need to be returned.

Naps and rest periods are more frequent. That feels really good.

Overall, I think you could call this season one of Odds and Ends. We are picking up loose ends that need completion. We knew this season would come, but we just couldn't quite envision what it might feel like. It feels good.

Recipe: Canned Chicken

(For 10 Pints)

Thaw 4 Whole 3 Pound Chickens. Rinse. Put in big Kettle. Add enough Filtered Water to mostly cover. Bring to Boil. Simmer until done but not overcooked. Chickens will be done when Legs and Wings easily separate from Joints. Cool some until easy to handle. Remove Meat from Bones. (Save Bones and unused Broth for making a great Bone Broth.)

Pack Meat loosely in Sterilized, Hot Mason Pint Jars, leaving 1 inch head space. Do not pack tight. Add enough Hot Broth to within an inch of the top of the Jars. Place Sterilized Lids and Rims on Jars.

Follow Canner's Directions. Process at 11 Pounds Pressure for 75 Minutes.
~~~~
The Original Version of these directions came from the Cookbook provided by the Manufacturer of our Canner: Presto Pressure Canner and Cooker: Instructions and Recipes (2002). Gee, our Canner is now 7 years old. She has been a loyal and trusted part of the Team these last few years.

Canned Meat

We have made many discoveries on this Little Farm. One of them has been the many virtues and culinary pleasures of Canned Meat.

O.K.: I grew up in Town. I am not so sure how I came to believe this, but I did. Perhaps, you could call it the "City Taint", or "Urban Blight". Whatever it was, it narrowed my openness to some delicacies that just were outside my closed and high and mighty Urban Frame.

In those years, I thought Canned Meat was gross. Furthermore, I thought that if you canned Meat, you surely were Poor. I have no clue as to how the Little One that was Me came to those conclusions. But after 61 years, I have thankfully entered a different Realm.

Canned Meat is absolutely delicious. I canned Chicken yesterday. Four of our Frozen Cockerels equals 10 Pints of Meat with some Broth besides. Not only do we have Broth in the Jars, but I am cooking the rest of it down and will freeze that up soon. We will use the Canned Chicken as starters for Soup, and Chicken and Noodles, too. Who knows how many dishes we will come up with?

I learned about Canned Beef Cubes from my sister-in-law Diane some years back. When our Freezer needs space or just before the Beef has been frozen a little long, we pull out the Canner and lay in a supply of Canned Beef. It too is delicious. We like it best so far for Beef Stew. The flavor is marvelous and it is tender beyond belief. We call it "Fast Food" around here, as it is all set to go for the next Culinary Pleasure.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Deer Season. This year, I am going to can some Venison. That will again be a new experience. I am excited.

Those People who canned Meat all those years before were none of the things I remember. They were just plain Smart in ways I was at that time ill equipped to understand. Change is good.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Gift of Soil

Rolf brought his Grain Truck Loaded with Aged Cow Compost today. That equals Soil. That is the 3rd Truck Load he has brought these last 2 years. He even added more to this Load. We were gleeful, grateful, and reverent to this Gift of Creation.

Every step we take to replenish our Soil brings us to a level of Satisfaction and Outcome that cannot be described. When we arrived here, we found the Soil "tired". Can you even imagine working since the mid 1800s (which the Soil in these parts has done), and not having anything you have given added back? That's 160 years. What are we Humans with our Supposedly Superior Brains thinking?

If we were to use a Trusty and Powerful Work Horse without nourishing it, the Poor Old Horse would not last long. Folks in these parts would call that abuse. Many would be outraged. If we ran our Cars or Trucks without putting Fuel in their Tanks or attending to routine Maintenance, we wouldn't be going anywhere. We surely wouldn't be getting a very good return on our investment. Folks around here wouldn't think that was very smart.

If we don't take care of ourselves, we may have a fine and super-charged day today, but we will not last for the Long Haul. One can see parallels in the way we Humans in this Culture treat ourselves and the Land that sustains us. It is time for a Change. Yet, one could ask: Do we still have time? Never mind, we need to do what we can.

With Rolf's Gift of Soil today, we just stood there, looked at it, and talked about what we saw and how we felt about it. The Stuff was alive. We found all kinds of Living Organisms, including a Tiger Salamander which had surely settled into its Winter Home over on Rolf's Farm. Most Salamanders don't get picked up by a big Shovel, migrate 44 miles in an hour, and get dumped by a Grain Truck.

We reflected on the changes we have seen in the Soil here and its Food Production since Rolf's initial gift in the Spring of 2008. The addition of the Compost has made us Believers in such things.

As per our experience, the Compost also yields some unexpected Treasures. We found 2 parts of a Fishing Pole in this batch. That Pole seems a metaphor for the Fishing we have been doing to learn and grow on this Little Farm. Fishing surely must be an act of Faith.

Restoring the Soil is perhaps the single most important activity that we will do while we are here. Thank you, Rolf. Thank you, Cows. Thank you, Soil. Thank you, Creator, for these Sacred Gifts.

Cookbook Friend

The 3 C's are learning how to bake with straight Whole Wheat Flour. After many decades between us of baking exclusively with the white stuff, reaching for Whole Wheat instead is quite a switch. Providing the Lead, Melanie has found a guide which seems to be giving our Family a good and solid start. When embarking on new endeavors, a trusted Guide is important:

The Cooperative Whole Grain Educational Association. (1990). Uprisings: The Whole Grain Bakers' Book. Summertown, TN: The Book Publishing Company.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grandma Knew All Along

The headline read: "Vegetable Gardens Help Morale" (Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2009). Growing our own Food feels good. Picking that Tomato we raised brings a smile to one's face and satisfaction that goes deep. Store Bought Produce isn't even in the same league.

Grandma knew all along. Why have we taken so long to return?
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Headline Source: Seed Savers Exchange: 2009 Harvest Edition, which just arrived in the mailbox today.

Heard on the Street

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
We live
in a time
when
Old
is becoming
New.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Our Own Way

Every once in a while, we get a startling experience showing the stark reality of a place that we lived before but we live no longer. And so it was Saturday when Melanie and I made an excursion to Town.

We stopped at a local Card Store to purchase a Sympathy Card. We were intent upon the seriousness of our mission and were not thinking about much of anything else. Upon arrival, we were surprised that the Store was a virtual beehive of activity. We bypassed the activity and headed straight to the Sympathy section.

While seeking the right card, we were occasionally distracted by the bustling activity, the opening and closing of what seemed like a multitude of distinctly different Musical Cards, and the Music overhead which included occasional upbeat Holiday Tunes. All these things were clearly outside the boundaries of our Quest.

After finding the right card, we headed straight to the Cashier. We were late for that next very important engagement so we had clearly in mind a speedy exit. With the 2 Cashiers in view, we discovered that a whole line of people stood in front of us. Each was laden with Holiday Shopping Purchases and Coupons. All had to pass by the counter of Chocolates, which meant still more purchases. With the overall amount over a given value, the Kindly Clerk offered the eager Customer a lovely discount on yet another Gift. It seems we had made our way into the Store during a festive Annual Open House.

So we stood in line for 20-25 minutes with time to ponder what was going on. We used to stand in those lines laden with many similar purchases, but we do so no longer. We were faced with the stark reality of our shift in Life Styles and the fact that many in that line were not on that page. Nevermind, both of us were dressed in Overalls. That was a standout difference too.

I was really quite proud of us. We just stood in line with our eyes wide open. For us, Christmas is not a commercial event. Relationships are more than an exchange of the material. If Money is available for Gifts which are neither endurable or needed, perhaps the Money should go to someone who needs Food or Heat.

When I got home, I thought about some of the things we could have done while we stood in line. I could have offered a "Kiosk", sharing what I now know. I would kindly ask the Holiday Shopper the product's origin. From there, I could show pictures of where the product was from, the living conditions of the People who produced the product, the small Children who produced it, the costs to the Earth in its production, the belching fumes of the Factories, the use of Energy and the Contribution to Global Warming of its transportation. We could have "fast forwarded" to the lifespan of the product, how long it would last, and where it would go from there.

We also could have "fast forwarded" to show what will happen to all that wrapping paper after it is removed from the Gift. As an alternative, we could have a craft table where the Shoppers could have produced reusable gift wrap from recyclable products. Folks could have gotten their Gift Wrap done while they were waiting in line.

But of course, those things are important to me. And I did none of those things on that memorable day. Instead we just smiled and kept focused on our mission.

We are deeply grateful that we do not live in those spaces any more. We need not force our beliefs on another. We are each finding our own way in our own time.

Sunshine, Seeds, Moon Beams Too

November 4:

The 3 of us head for a walkabout on the Loop around the Farm. Wherever we walk, we find Nature laden with Sunshine and Seeds on this glorious day.

The "puffs" in Nature in the above photo are mostly Goldenrod and Asters. They were splendid Flowers of Yellow, White, Blue, Purple not so long ago. The Flowers became Seeds. When those Seeds mature, they will catch a ride on their little "puffs" which dance in the Wind and carry them to their next Home.

That Evening, I looked outside and noted that the Moon, which was just past Full, was lighting up the Meadow. Moonbeams had touched those Little Puffs and they became a radiant White.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Bit of a Break

The Words still keep coming, but the Eyes are saying they need a break. I have been doing a lot more close work than normal the last 10 days and some Eye Strain has developed. So a Break it is and that feels good. I should be back soon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Richard's Bucket

This morning, Richard headed to the Garden to pick a Bucket of Fresh Vegetables for a Breakfast Stir Fry. What did he find? He came back with Turnips, Yellow and Orange Carrots, Celeriac, Dinosaur Kale, Red Kale, Green Kale, Rainbow Chard, Herbs (Rosemary, Marjoram, Thyme, Parsley), a Leek, plus he added Onions and Garlic which had already been harvested.

Those Veggies were sensory pleasures. They were beautiful to the Eyes. The aroma was exquisite. I wish somehow I could incorporate "scratch and sniff" into the Screen.

Overall, the Veggies were filled with Vibrant Living Energy. They went right from the Garden into the Cast Iron Skillet, then into our Bowls and from there right down that Tube into our Bellies. They have been stoking the Fire for our Body's Replenishment and Energy for this Day. How cool is that?

We told Mother about Richard's early morning adventure to the Garden. She said anytime Richard goes to the Garden with a Bucket, that is a good thing.

We are amazed at all the Veggies that we still have in the Garden. Melanie says that we have "heaps". It is true that the Warm Season Veggies have been long since harvested. This latter group of produce which he harvest would be called "Cool Season". They will hang until that Hard Freeze, the Ground Freezes, or some other event jeopardizes the Crop. Speaking of which, Richard is going to harvest Carrots tomorrow because the Rabbits have found them.

We are deeply grateful for the Bounty Nature shares.

Eating Seasonally

November 3:

On our Little Farm, we eat Seasonally, which seems right and generally is easy. Eating Seasonally means we eat Foods in Season, including Foods we have preserved. We also eat more Raw Foods in Summer or Foods Cooked Long and Slow in late Fall and Winter. Intuitively, eating Seasonally just makes sense. Our Bodies seem to want these Foods and find them most satisfying.

These days, Soups are a draw. I have begun to cruise through our Favorites and through Cookbooks to find starters for Soup Recipes. Yes, we find ideas (starters) for Recipes and then put our own Spin on them.

Today I made Bean Soup, which has been a Family Favorite since the early 1980s. I am also looking for a Recipe for Minestrone, which will probably find its way onto our Table in the next few days.

As late Fall moves into Winter, Soups warm us from the inside out. They are almost like a Fire in the Fireplace. Plus, their aromas while Cooking provide nourishment and appetizer too.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Biodynamic Calendar

For Garden 2009, we discovered the Biodynamic Calendar from Stella Natura through our Friends at Wren Song Farm down the Lane. We found the Calendar absolutely superb. The Calendar incorporates data from Astronomy which gives guidance on planting, cultivating, and harvesting plants whose main use is intended to be "leaf", "root", "flower", "fruit". The Guide takes planting "in the Sign" up a notch.

I feel tongue tied to explain this. My training in such things is minimal to none. But my gut says that this is "spot on". Melanie and I tried to incorporate information on planting from the Calendar throughout the season. As time went on, Richard came on board too.

The Calendar specifies days and times which are optimal, as well as those times when one should not. The cycles for planting seem to be roughly repeated about every 7 to 10 days. Since we planted such a large array of plants, it gave us an excellent format for planting.

We will be using this in more depth for Garden 2010. Some Folks might say this is pretty far out. However, when you go to all the effort to grow your own food like we do, why not take advantage of all the help you can get?

We will be ordering soon.
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http://www.stellanatura.com/index.html

Rocks

We plan to order some Gravel to rock our Drive. Earlier in October, I phoned our Neighbor to ask about the best time "in the Sign". In that tradition which we respect, the best time is in the Light of the Moon (when the Moon is waxing). That's the 1st 2 weeks up until and including "Full Moon". This time is optimal for "above ground". To put down Rock in the Dark of the Moon basically just gives the Rock back to the Earth and it sinks in.

The County gravelled our Road today. They customarily do this every 2 years as a part of our Taxes. On this day, the Moon began the "Dark of the Moon" time.

Recipe: Bean Soup


(Serves 6-8)

Assortment of 2-3 Cups of Dry Edible Beans (I used 8 different Heirloom Varieties: Cherokee Trail of Tears, Cherokee Wax, Hidatsa Shield Figure, Vermont Cranberry, Yin and Yang, Horticulture, Missouri Wonder Pole, and Arikara Yellow.)*
4 to 6 Cups Filtered Water
1/4 Cup Cooking Oil (we use Olive or Grape Seed)
2 Quarts Canned Tomatoes*
1 Medium Onion, Chopped*
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced*
1 Pint Carrots (I used Yellow Carrots)*
1 1/2 Cups Celery (Chopped)*
1 Green Pepper (Chopped)*
2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley*

(1) Ideally I start the Beans the night before, or early the morning I plan to serve the Soup. This little step actually reduces the time the Soup takes to cook. Rinse Dry Edible Beans. Place in Pan. Add filtered Water about double the volume of Beans. Add 2 Tablespoons Oil. (The Oil will reduce the likelihood that the Beans will boil over.) Cover, but with lid somewhat ajar. (Again, this decreases likelihood that Beans will boil over.) Bring to Boil. Boil over medium heat about 10 minutes. Turn off Burner and let Beans sit overnight. (This allows the Beans to partially cook prior to making the Soup.)
(2) Drain liquid.
(3) Add all remaining ingredients (including remaining 2 Tablespoons of Oil). Bring to boil. Allow to cook at a slow gentle Boil (just above a Simmer) until Beans are soft but not smush. I cooked this batch of Bean Soup about 1 1/2 hours.
(4) Serve with Cornbread or other Homemade Bread.
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"*" refers to ingredients that we grew. On this day, that Green Pepper was our last of the Season from the Garden. All ingredients are chemical free.