Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cranberry-Pecan Pound Cake

My family's Christmas dinner is tonight. In a couple of hours I will go over to my mother's house and begin to help her with the food. Doing so, is tradition. Right now I'm waiting for the beeps that will let me know that my Cranberry-Pecan Pound Cake is done. This is the third cake of the day. The first and second refused to come out of my highly decorative, fluted, non-stick Bundt pan even though I buttered it liberally. Don't you just love non-stick pans that give you all kinds of false confidence.

No matter, I'm sure this one will be perfect and my children and husband got to snack on the less than perfect first cake and I have another less than perfect cake for the freezer where it will stay until all signs of sugar glut have vanished. Then I will thaw the cake and be a hero.

I love this cake. It is a perfect balance of sweet and tart, creamy and crunchy, and the bright yellow of the cake is offset by the red of the cranberries and the light brown of the crust is a beauty to behold. We have ambrosia every Christmas and this cake, with its hint of orange, creates a lovely backdrop for the once a year food of the Gods. What's more, it reminds me of Ms Gladys who was the librarian when I was in junior high and high school. She made books and the library cool because she talked to us, not as children, but as people. Anyway, in the last years of her life I visited her each Christmas bearing a smaller version of this cake. She loved it and any time I saw her during the year she mentioned the cake. I suppose I should have kept her in constant supply, but I did make sure she had a small cake each Christmas.

Cranberry Pecan Pound Cake

1 cup Pecans -- chopped
1 ½ cups Cranberries -- coarsely chopped
2 cups Sugar
1 cup Butter -- room temperature
5 lg Eggs
¼ cup Sour Cream
¼ cup Orange Juice
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Orange Peel -- grated
1 ¼ cup Flour, All Purpose
1 cup Flour, Cake
½ tsp Salt
Sugar, Powdered

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour 2 1/2 quart tube cake pan. Place pecans on cookie sheet and bake until lightly colored and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Cool. Coarsely chop cranberries.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy, scrapping sides of bowl once. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in sour cream, then juice, vanilla and orange peel. Sift all purpose flour, cake flour and salt together. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients to egg mixture and stop when all flour has been added. Mix by hand until just combined. Fold in pecans and cranberries. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Tap pan on counter to release any air bubbles. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 and up to 3 days. Cake may be frozen up to 1 month. Dust cake lightly with powdered sugar before serving.

*****Instead of the orange juice you can use orange liqueur. I have never used cake flour in this recipe, only my standard King Arthur Unbleached. Don't expect a bright yellow color unless you use yard bird eggs.
Tonight, I'll make a private toast to Ms Gladys and all the other librarians who make it cool to read while tasting her favorite cake.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cats

We've got more than a few cats. In fact, I am embarrassed to tally (2+1 +3 +2 + 3 +1 or Tux + Big Puff (Buchoochus) + Out of Focus + Dinghy + Rocky + McSquizzy + Tar Baby + Stub + Zilla + Dumpling + BarBar + Bumble Bee) the figure because speaking the number would make it real. The other thing that makes it real is the tally of vet bills for spaying and neutering. Ouch.

Rubber Dinghy, the cat pictured at right(photo credit goes to K, my budding photographer son), is one of six cats who has reached his six month birthday. I just called to make the appointments and the receptionist had that voice - you know the one, I've used it myself - that indicates that we don't do our part in the spaying and neutering war. She must be new, because our charts show lots of neutering. We've even neutered cats who don't belong to us if they stuck around more than a few days. Anyway because of the voice, I made sure to mention we were a dumping place for kittens and that all of the kittens weren't produced here by our failure to neuter.

Now, why did I feel compelled to share that information? What difference does it make what that girl thinks? Perhaps, she wasn't even thinking what I thought she was thinking. Perhaps she was already tallying the bill and was rendered speechless. Yet, I didn't want anyone to think I was responsible for all those kittens, so said more than required. Do y'all do that (say more than is required to preserve your image or assuage some deep seated guilt) - not just about cats, but about anything?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Chase

I've written frequently about how much I enjoy keeping chickens. I love to watch them set and maintain their social order. I love to watch the roosters act just like human men so I can make derogatory comments about the less evolved species (Unfortunately there was this article claiming men evolve faster so I'll have to choose my audience carefully. Of course, the article also claimed men are simpler creatures, therefore able to evolve faster so perhaps I can change my angle). And I love to eat eggs and chicken.

But sometimes quirks of nature, timing, and luck create circumstances that stretch that loving relationship to the breaking point. Remember this half breed, orphaned rooster, Sport? Well, he grew. He matured, you know, sexually. Guess what? He still thinks he is a cat, if you know what I mean. When I first looked out the window and saw him attempting the impossible, I laughed. Now, neither the cats nor I find him amusing in the least. You see, he has a few other bad habits.

First and foremost of Sport's bad habits is that he won't roost in the chicken coop. He has decided to roost in the cedar tree right outside my bedroom window. He started roosting there soon after the mama cat rejected him because of, you know, his newly acquired passion. Because he has chosen not to roost in the coop, we have no control over his comings and goings, food, or safety - not to mention, noise level. When roosters get older, they crow. They crow a lot - not just when the sun rises, but when the wind rattles the tin on the house, a car makes too much noise going down the road, when they sense danger, and to get attention. Sport crows incessantly at night, usually starting around 2 a.m. After a few nights of 2 a.m. crowing, Mr. W and I decided Sport had to go.

Each year we eat all the roosters except two who are carefully chosen for genetic traits we wish to accentuate in our flocks. We had a few late summer roosters who were slated for the dinner table, so we decided to go ahead and harvest them, and Sport the Loud. Honestly, I have a difficult time with the actual harvest, but can pluck and clean a bird with amazing efficiency, so I let my husband go out first and take care of the nasty business, then I join him do the rest. On the morning of the scheduled harvest, I waited my typical 15 to 20 minutes inside the house, then tromped outside expecting to get right to work.

Instead I saw a flashlight in the barn. I called out, "Mr. W what are you doing?"

"I'm trying to do what we planned to do," he called out in an annoyed voice.

"But, why are you in the barn?," I asked in a forced cheerful voice.

"One of the roosters got away and I'm trying to catch it." Understatement of the year. If a rooster is loose in the barn the chances of catching it are almost nothing.

He walked back toward the house with one rooster under his arm and a flashlight in the other hand. I mentioned that it would be impossible to catch anything since he didn't have a spare hand. I offered to hold the rooster he had in his arm while he caught the other. He caught sight of the rooster on the cattle gap and since chickens don't see that well (so we thought) in the dark, he thought he would be able to catch it there. The rooster obviously has no dark induced balance or sight problems because he negotiated the bars with aplomb, whereas the humans almost broke their necks. The chase continued for about an hour and a half until the sun arose and the other chickens awoke. We let the other roosters free and vowed to take care of business the following morning.

The following morning was a comical repeat of our chase and failure. We vowed to lure the rooster into the coop, or garden, or the shed, or .... anywhere he could be caught, but to no avail. The rooster was always one step ahead, all day. That night we vowed to capture the rooster as he was climbing to his roost in the cedar tree. Sport would climb the wood pile to reach the lowest branch and Mr. W would be waiting for him. The rooster then would fly to the ground and run around the house. After a while, Sport would try again and again and again. We gave up. That night the rooster mocked us all night with his incessant crowing and we arose early with a newly created plan. Mr. W would shoot the rooster with a rifle. The rooster hopped out of that tree as soon as Mr. W opened the screen door and Mr. W chased the rooster around the house with his rifle. I see visions of Elmer Fudd here. Sport never stayed still enough for Mr. W to get a shot, though he fired twice. We harvested the other roosters that morning, deciding to give Sport a reprieve until a new plan is formed.

My sister spent last Saturday night here. After being awakened at 2 a.m. by Sport's caustic crow, she said she would put the capture and harvest of that crazed rooster on the top of her list.

Sport is still on the lam. We are still in pursuit.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Excuses, Excuses

Forgive me, for I have been negligent. Twenty days have passed since my last blog entry.

I think every member of my family who reads my blog has asked me why I haven't posted. My aunt even called my mother to get the scoop. My mother even suggested that if I have no intention of writing then I should at least tell every one so they will not continue to expect. m~ has emailed, asking what is happening. Zilla's post, though I'm sure she wasn't speaking directly to me, made me feel obligated to entertain since we are not yet in the grips of winter.

Here are my excuses. In the past 20 days:
  1. I have produced and packaged 20 dozen pieces of biscotti.
  2. I have produced dozens of frosted sugar cookie stockings for the Nutcracker soldiers and Chinese, complete with cute personalized gift tags.
  3. I have created and printed Christmas cards for 4 people for a total of 475 cards and mine are not even the cutest, so I won't get the best Christmas card award(a sister competition) this year.
  4. I have dipped candles until my right arm is sore.
  5. I have moved and stacked wood for the fireplaces until my back is sore.
  6. I have made chicken soup for a sick friend. I had to clean the rooster first.
  7. I have eaten so much sugar that I feel lethargic and unable to complete sentences.
  8. I have finished my Christmas shopping, well almost.
  9. My washing machine quit while completely full of water. They had to order a part.
  10. I have produced enough cupcakes and multi-colored royal icing for an entire cub scout pack Christmas party.
  11. I have a job that sometimes takes more time than scheduled.
  12. I cleaned my kitchen and even tossed some four year old food magazines.
  13. My husband decided now would be a good time to finish the bathroom (the only bathroom in the house so far) only three years after we moved here and two weeks from Christmas.
Though I promised an amusing post today, it'll have to wait until tomorrow. Am I forgiven?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Final Stretch

I have 5 more days of Nutcracker madness. We finished staging rehearsal number 2 last night at 7:30, then drove the hour and fifteen minutes home. There was a road block on the country road that leads into my little town which tacked on extra minutes. I was let past without much investigation, but the people in front of me on both sides of the road were checked thoroughly and I was annoyed beyond measure. Why would the MHP need to check licenses at 8:30 p.m. on a small country road whose traffic consists of people coming home from ballet and chicken and feed trucks? I hope there was a good reason because I was sorely inconvenienced.

Sorry, I got side-tracked. Tonight is dress rehearsal for Cast A. Thursday is a morning performance for school children and the Cast B dress rehearsal. Friday brings another performance for school children in the morning and the first paid (honestly I think they make those school children pay, but it is a reduced rate) public performance. Saturday brings a matinee, a tea party, and a night performance. Sunday brings the final matinee and tea party. I love to watch Princess' excitement, but I'm ready for the end. I'm tired of driving.

NaBloPoMo will be over this week too. Though this wasn't the best month for me to reinvigorate my blog after several months of lackadaisical blogging, I'm glad I tried. I needed a jump start.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Question of the day


Is there anything I won't let in the house? I know this looks bad for me, but I have an excuse - a good one. My sister borrowed our incubator so she could hatch some eggs with her three year old. The eggs hatched a few weeks ago. Baby chickens are really nasty pets, if you have to keep them inside. They make a fine dust that gets all over everything. They poop like crazy and turn their food and water over every few minutes. They also get out of the box and keep you up all night.

Once the chicks got out of that cute fuzzy stage and my sister saw the annoying side of chicks, she wanted to bring them back to the farm. Reuniting them with the farm was part of the original agreement, though it is a bit chilly for chicks who aren't fully feathered, so we got a box and a lamp and put them in the dog trot.

Large box in the dog trot worked well for a few days, but last night the chicks were unusually noisy. I think every person was awakened, except Princess who isn't wakened by anything. Every one of us went out into the breezy dog trot to check to see if there had been an unfortunate accident with the light. This morning, they escaped.

K is getting their outside facility ready as I type. We'll install a heat lamp and a warming chamber. They are ready for a bigger and better facility. I'm ready too. I'm liberal with the animals in the dog trot, but I'm not completely insane. They've pooped on my floor. See?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sugaring, Southern Style

In the South, sugar cane is the source of most things sweet. The weather and natural tree selection prevents maple sugaring, so to satisfy the Southern sweet tooth, we grow sugar cane. Just so you know, there are several varieties. Most people here grow two - one for syrup and one for chewing. In the fall, traditionally the weekend after Thanksgiving, the cane is harvested, stripped of its foliage, and then pressed.

In the past the cane press was turned with mules - some still are. Last year my neighbors pressed and cooked the cane the old fashioned way with mules and a wood fire, but this year an old tractor and a huge belt was used to turn the press and a propane fire was used to cook the juice.


I hated to see the change, but training mules and donkeys to walk round and round for hours on end must be a lot of trouble. I also understand that a gas fire is easier to regulate than a wood fire, but you know how I am about the old ways. The second picture is the pulley that is attached to the tractor. Mr. W says they had a lot of technical difficulties early in the morning with the tractor, yet they mostly had it figured out.

Once you get the press turning, you feed the cane through the press without getting your fingers caught. The idea of being pulled into the press just gives me the all-overs. Can you hear my voice of caution warning my children when it was their turn to shove cane through? I'm turning into my mother. Help!!

When the cane comes out the other side it is mashed to pulp. The juice is extracted and is filtered through a burlap bag which will capture all the cane pieces that get left behind. From the bag the juice is stored in a big tub with a spigot. When enough juice is captured, it is released through a pipe into the cooking tray, which unfortunately no one thought to capture in a picture.
The juice is cooked and stirred, stirred and cooked until it is a perfect consistency. Then, it is released into syrup cans and sealed. Yum! Yum! If you continue cooking, you will have cane sugar, though it is a beautiful mocha brown color rather than the white of grocery store sugar. My neighbors buy their sugar, so stop at syrup.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Obviously, I failed

I failed. I didn't write yesterday and I have no intention writing any more than this tonight. Sorry, NaBloPoMo people. I've got some great pictures of a cane syruping that I'll share tomorrow, but I can't do another thing tonight.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cheating


I'm cheating NaBloPoMo. Sorry. Here is another picture of Thanksgiving to make my post quota.

My sister usually makes the salad, but she celebrated Thanksgiving with her in-laws this year, so I made a salad - lettuce, toasted pecans, pears, and clementines - tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Does this count as cooking?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gobble Gobble!!


Happy Thanksgiving!!

Would you please pass the cranberries? Thank you.

Could I get another roll? Thank you.

May I have a little more salad? Thank you.

Is there any more pecan pie? Thank you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Kitchen - after

Let's start with the kitchen since that is where I will be today. There was tremendous water damage in the kitchen from leaky pipes under the sink. The floors were rotten and the floor joists were rotten. So we pulled up the floor, being careful to save as many boards as possible. We wouldn't have enough old flooring to use it all over the house, so we decided to go with new pine flooring in the kitchen and save the kitchen's old wood to use in the dog trot. Once we could walk without falling through the floor and the house was rejoisted and leveled, we got to make a few fun decisions like cabinets, appliance size, and whether to try to get the paint off the walls or paint over it. The kitchen and the bathroom were the only rooms that had ever been painted. Obviously, we decided to paint the kitchen.

We had the cabinets custom made at the house. I wanted them to seem as if they had been there as long as the house and I wanted them to fit our not so square house. We decided on banded pine flooring (which was my mother's design) for the solid cabinet doors and hardware cloth for the upper doors and the pie safe. The pie safe was original, though the doors were gone. For the cabinet tops we went with Formica everywhere except right next to the stove. There we used tile so I could move things off the heat without damaging anything. We went with this arrangement because I wanted a practical kitchen. I didn't want to spend any time worrying about whether I was going to ruin a counter top. Julia Child also recommended a Formica and tile combo.

After having lived in the kitchen two years, there are a few things that I would have done differently. I would have moved the island back toward the refrigerator to give us more walking room around the table. I would have made the harvest table a little smaller. I would have added a ceiling fan to this room somewhere. And I would have thought long and hard about the lighting. I don't have enough light over the stove and I don't like the counter lights. With tall wooden ceilings darkened by years of wood stove use, light seems to disappear just when you need it.

Mostly, I still love what we did with the kitchen - practical farm, with touches of modernism.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Our house - before

Some of you have been curious about my house, so I thought I would do a before and after series. The house is a little over a hundred and had been rented for about 30 years, maybe more, before we got our hands on it. During this time not much maintenance was done. At some point a longer term renter tacked up some Sheetrock and Formica to the the walls and lowered the ceiling in the same mish-mash manner in hopes of slowing the flow of the winter winds.

The first picture is not a true before picture because the disgusting mildewy cabinets have been ripped out and the dropped ceiling removed, but the patch worked walls and rotten floor give you the feel for the place.

Which leads me to a short detour. Mr. W and I were planning on building a new house on this same property. We went so far as have the site prepared, but each day we went to the top of the hill we passed this old house. Each day one or the other would say, "I wonder what it looks like inside?" or "I wonder how bad it is?" or "Wouldn't that house be interesting?" Renters were still living there so we couldn't just barge in.

One day, the roof of the house started leaking and the renters were referred to us as being the new owners. Mr. W raced over in an attempt get a look at the house to make a good impression as a landlord. He went in and then did everything in his power to get out as fast as he could. The conditions were that bad, yet there was still the feeling of something special. We gave the tenants notice because we didn't think the house was habitable and they left leaving their dog, a nasty couch, and mounds of stinky clothes.

Once we got all that trash out, we started tearing out the dropped ceilings and mismatched drywall. We found the bead board and heart pine siding, the dog trot, the fireplaces, and the curved heat trap in the hallway and never looked back. We abandoned our plan of building and threw ourselves into another rehab project, our third since we moved to Mississippi. Our goal was to keep as much of the original as possible while updating wiring, plumbing, and insulation and making sure you couldn't fall through the floor. Of course we needed to modernize some things, like the kitchen and bathroom. We also needed to get rid of the sky blue, silver, pink, lavender, and black door facings and replace all the doors that had been kicked-in (which was all of them). If we couldn't refurbish the original, we tried to keep the spirit of the old.

As an added bonus, since this had originally been my Great Grandparents home, we had stories from my father, his sisters, and a great aunt to help us rekindle the spirit of the house. We felt good about the work ahead of us. And we had a lot of work ahead of us. We had no idea of the structural problems( a little termite damage, though they don't really like heart pine). We had no idea we would have to find a salvage house to match the bead board. We had no idea we would have to have wood milled to match the pine siding on the exterior. We had no idea that we would have to remove every piece of wood so we could insulate properly.

We had no idea!

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Winter Preparations

I've been slowly preparing for winter. I cleaned the ceiling fans and switched the blade rotation, yesterday. They were filthy - embarrassingly so. I thought about providing a before and after, but I was too embarrassed. With our humidity and open door policy of the summer, the blades are magnets for dust. Even with the blades spinning almost nonstop in the summer, dust just glues itself to the blades.

Taking care of the fans is no small task. Even with the six foot extender bars, our fans are 11 feet from the floor, so a ladder is required to get close enough to do any good. Needing a ladder guarantees the fans don't get cleaned as often as they should. Take my word for it, they were disgusting.

Anyway, I washed the light globes while dusting the fans. In addition to the expected bugs and dust bunnies, I found three Dum-Dums in the globe of the fan in the children's room. I cannot imagine how or why they were there. The aim necessary to have launched three suckers into the small opening the globe provides from 11 feet below is amazing. I know because when no one was looking, I tried to get the candy back in the globe. I couldn't.

We use the fans in winter because we try to rely only on our cast iron fireplace insert to heat this drafty old house. With these reversible fans we push the warm air around and back down to where the people are. With seventeen foot ceilings every little bit helps!

If I can help it I won't clean them again until spring. Maybe someone will leave more candy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Christmas Gifts

If you are family and expecting gifts from my family, read no further if you like surprises.

I suppose it is alright to talk about Christmas since decorations have been up since Halloween and Frankie has already been to a Christmas parade up in Minnesota. Do you remember when I told you about my husband's family deciding to make presents this year rather than buying and how I was going to make one present per month? Well, I didn't do it. In January, Christmas seemed like ages away. March and April had garden and beekeeping chores that made me forget Christmas presents. May, June, and July were spent knee deep in vegetables. August was too hot to think about Christmas. September and October were spent getting into the rhythms of school and activities. November brought Nutcracker rehearsals, though panic began to creep into the far corners of my mind. I did manage to get a few gifts done, but no where close to my goal of having been finished by now.

Princess is a better gifter than I. She is almost finished. She completed these super cute potted plant bugs just this week. They are made of Sculpey and coated paper clips. Aren't they happy? I was hoping to get one of these, but alas, I was not on the pot bug list. She has other gifts wrapped already. How is it possible that I didn't pass on that procrastination gene?

Now, to make something - anything! Suggestions???????

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nandina

Nandina is another one of those plants like wisteria, privet, and kudzu that was introduced to Mississippi in gardens or for erosion control and liked the situation so well that they decided to go native. A cousin of mine who works in the academics of natural reforestation told me to de-nandina my hill so as not to encourage invasion. I couldn't bear to rip the hundred year old nandina out, but I did dedicate myself to digging all the invading plants outside of my yard, on the fence rows, and woods.


It is difficult to stand firm in my commitment because Nandina is so pretty. In the spring there is new growth and tiny white flowers. In the fall and winter there are red berries and red and green leaves. If my children and the birds leave them alone, the berries are perfect for Christmas decorations. The foliage and leaves will last weeks. If I leave the foliage and berries outside, I get beautiful color in an otherwise bland gardening season. I also provide berries for birds. Of course, they will eat them, then seed a few more plants, which I have promised to uproot.

Why do I like all of the invasive species and find it so difficult to do the right thing?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Favorites

Mrs. G has a round-up of Friday Favorites over at Derfwad Manor. Here is my contribution.

I love my porch swings. Yes, I have two, one on each end of the front porch. One hundred years ago two swings were installed, one on each end. We are using the same hooks. Occasionally someone will look up and say, "I hope those things don't break," but mostly we forget and just relax and swing, swing and relax.

From my porch perch I can see who is driving down the road, the cows in pasture across the road, the bee hives, the orchard, and the horse. The cats like my sun spot, too. In fact, I rarely get to sit by myself. One, two, or more cats usually find me, especially if I am eating or drinking something.

Sometimes I read, but mostly I just sit and remember how lucky I am to have a porch, a view, and a few cats who think I'm wonderful.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pet Peeve

I wanted to write about something positively uplifting tonight - perhaps another of my favorite things, but I was caught in traffic on the way home from Nutcracker rehearsal and have just walked in the door. My delay gave me fodder for this daily madness for which I have dedicated myself, so all is not lost.

There were apparently two accidents on I-20. My husband called at ballet and told me about them (heard about them on the radio) and suggested I go around. I got distracted leaving the Arts Center and got swooshed out onto the interstate going straight for the accidents. Traffic came to a standstill immediately. I started trying to think of another way to go around the accident, but there wasn't really much I could do for a mile or so. It took me about 30 minutes to go the mile. I had a lot of time to watch people in that thirty minutes. What I saw wasn't particularly positive.

First of all, why do people insist on rushing at full speed down a lane that is obviously closed, just so they can get in line ahead of all the others who are waiting, just so they can wait? Do they not know that merge lanes in accidents are to help ease traffic flow? Can they not understand the concept of the time wasted when they have to needle their way back into the slow moving traffic, especially when those people they need to let them in are annoyed because they went around? Do they not realize that they have gained only a few seconds of drive time?

Secondly, when eighteen wheelers need to get over they need more room than a VW Beetle. Wouldn't traffic flow better if that eighteen wheeler was allowed some space to make a safe transition? When a truck and trailer turn on a blinker they are asking for a kindness. Why is everyone in such a hurry to wait that they can't help someone?

Lastly, why do so many people insist on using the shoulder to try to speed ahead of all the patient souls who are trying to help by maintaining discipline during a frustrating situation? Don't you realize that the shoulders are used by the emergency vehicles and that if you and your 100 friends are in the way the tow trucks behind you won't be able to get to the accident to clear it quickly? Don't you realize that the added time for ambulances to get to the scene could be someone's life?

Maybe driving a happy, yellow bug car is responsible for my positive attitude, but gracious sakes alive I can just visualize a happy roadway in which everyone works together so bad situations are less stressful for everyone. I honestly think everyone would get home sooner.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Second Chance

I have been playing catch-up all day. My time spent away from work is showing in the piles on my desk and a to-do list that seems never ending. I started on one project - my least favorite- and while I was steadily working my way through a mail campaign list, a representative from a magazine starts emailing and calling asking for an ad that is obviously due, though when I bought the ad on Friday the art due date wasn't mentioned. I didn't answer the phone. I didn't respond to his email. He just kept emailing - over and over. Then he emailed and asked if I needed help with the ad.

I'm not sure why, but the last email struck a nerve. I clicked the respond button and tapped out a pert and somewhat snarky retort in which I may have mentioned the insignificance of his publication. Then, I clicked send.

For some unknown reason the email system had a momentary glitch and I got a warning asking if I'd like to send the mail later or use one of my other servers. REPRIEVE! I immediately deleted the email and started working on the ad because I knew he was just doing his job and though there was an obvious miscommunication about the art deadline, it was probably not his fault. I have since emailed the ad with a short note thanking him for his patience.

I'm glad I got a second chance. But isn't that weird?? What are the chances that an email doesn't go through right at the moment you said something totally unprofessional and completely inappropriate?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Less than two weeks

Angela reminded me in her comment for the last post that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. Honestly, it doesn't seem possible for the year to have gone by so quickly. It seems like yesterday that I was doing the Am I My Best Self? questionnaire. I haven't made as much progress as I would have liked on that agenda. I have made some progress, though. I no longer drink one Tab a day. I am down to one a week - alright sometimes two.

Even without Tab, I truly love Thanksgiving - the holiday without all the commercialism unless you count the official starting day of Christmas shopping on the day after. I would love to plan everything and have everyone come to my house. For those hosting this year, I know that sounds crazy. I do get to bring a few dishes. I just love to think about the possibilities, but I also like the tradition.

What about you? What's your favorite Thanksgiving food? Do you like to prepare or attend?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rituals

My mother just left. We completed one of our seasonal rituals - the production of the Thanksgiving invitation (We also do Christmas and Easter creations). You would think that getting a few words onto a card would take just a few minutes. We always schedule minutes, but never have we been able to get those few words printed on the cards in the allotted minutes.

We are both obsessed with the perfect card even though we both pretend that it doesn't matter. In fact, today, Mother said, "It doesn't matter. It's going to be super casual this year. I don't even know why I'm sending an invitation." Though it didn't matter, the card selection was not exactly perfect for the occasion, and the attitude was more casual than in years past, we spent much time scrutinizing fonts for size and style, phrasing the invite to create the perfect tone, and creating a ginkgo leaf that had the perfect weight and size for the font and the invitation.

The invitation is printed. Our obsessive-compulsive behaviors noted. Tradition is preserved.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Another favorite thing!

I'm continuing my round-up of favorite things. I was going to wait to combine this favorite with a post on how I run my kitchen, answering questions from past posts like: Do you serve your family enough iodine when you use coarse salt; how many cookbooks do you have; and how do you keep up with your recipes? But desperation and Mrs. G called, and I will post one of my kitchen secrets now.

I love my recipe software, A Cooks Book. I have worked my way through many programs and though all have some similar features, none make me as happy as this work in progress program which I have used about 8 years (just guessing). The individual, Tony Cate, his 3 cats, and his Mac who wrote and upgrade this program listen to the users. He fixes, adds, and improves all the time. But, what I love about this program is that it doesn't need to be fixed that often. It is a small program that doesn't hog up your whole computer. It is as flexible as each individual user. You can import recipes from almost any format and can drag and drop recipes from emails and the web. You can plan meals and print grocery lists. You can search recipes by ingredients, categories, quick lists, publications . . . . And for the health conscious there is nutritional tracking of meals and recipes. Check out the website for all the features. You can even download a demo and try it (Mac users only!).

Combined with another kitchen secret that I will divulge within the week, planning and cooking is a snap.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I know everyone thought I was going to miss a day

I wasn't sure about it myself. I probably need to miss a day to restore a sense of balance, but my sense of competitive spirit and obligation has me lashed to the keyboard. Speaking of obligation . . . Having a daughter who is dancing both casts and both acts of the Nutcracker is more of an obligation than I ever imagined. Not only is there more driving time and more waiting time (I took my pecans for today's four hour session. She was embarrassed.), but there is more time for you to be accosted by The Guild. If I go to any more practices, I will need to get a cot and move in to the studio to fulfill all the tasks they feel I need to complete before performance. Of course, I will have to bring my kitchen with me.

This volunteering thing starts innocuously enough. A friend needs some help making a few favors. Because some other chair person sees me helping, they ask about another small task. Since I stayed backstage last year, it is assumed that I will do backstage duty this year. Then, before you know it I am producing cheese straws for The Nutcracker Tea and The Sugar Plum Tea which have 200 guests each. All this while spending 6 hours away from my home today, 4 hours next Tuesday, 6 hours next Thursday, and 6 hours next Saturday.

I really must learn to say, NO!!!

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Orange Kitten has a Name

After a week or so of trying on names, I have decided to name my kitten after my blogging buddy Zilla. Though I felt a bit forward and a little hesitant crossing the barrier between internet world and physical world, the name fit, and even the children thought Zilla was a sizzily enough name for this handful of sproinky fur. I liked all the other suggested names including blogger Zilla's second suggestion, Sassafras, but saying Zilla makes everyone smile, so Zilla it is.

With this bold move perhaps the bunny episode can be put into the past. Perhaps the kitten will continue to exhibit the traits which make her most Zillaish - stunning intellect, curiosity, and a kind heart. And perhaps saying Zilla every single day will make us all smile.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Unsolicited and Unpaid Advertising

Sometimes I think it sounds like I never buy food and that I make every single thing from scratch. This is a long way from the truth. I am careful, though. I read every single label of every single product that is placed in the cart. I'm not a stickler for organic products, but I find that with organic packaged food the ingredient lists are sometimes shorter, which is what I'm seeking.

Take Suzie's Salted Crackers for example. The ingredient list reads Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt, Water. Do I care that the package says No Hydrogenated Fats, No Cholesterol, Non GMO, All Natural, Low Fat, 100% Organic? Not really. The ingredient list says it all. Of course it doesn't have all that bad stuff because Suzie uses quality, unadulterated ingredients and made crackers the way they should be made - with four ingredients. This isn't true with all organic foods with healthy claims.

Sometimes the organic varieties of common foods, like crackers have ingredient lists just as long as the standard, commercial brands. The lists are healthier, but still comprise way too much of the package space, and even then the product tastes bland - too healthy.

Give me simplicity. Give me great taste. Give me more products like Suzie's Salted Crackers.

Give me some more thin, crisp, lightly salted crackers. This package is empty.

* You can blame Mrs. G for this one. She did a list yesterday and it seemed fun to share so I will, but I'm not organized enough to do all of my favorites in one day.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More Bottles to Wash

On Sunday, a farmer brought us another bottle calf. We aren't 100% sure of her story, but I do know she got off to a rough start about a week ago and the mama cow, who is now suffering mastitis bent both sides of one truck and one side of the other when the farm workers were trying to help her. Of course, she was aiming at the workers. I guess they decided it was too dangerous to continue to intercede and gave us the calf. Now, the cow will be able heal without worrying about the calf.


The calf didn't know how to use the bottle because I think they had been tubing her and she had an eye injury. We have had the worse time trying to teach her to drink because calf number one is completely healthy now and tries to take both portions. The first day, I came back from the barn completely wet with dripping milk and calf slobber. Calf number one, affectionately called Big Foot because he is the biggest calf any of us has ever seen - no wonder he killed his mama, nursed my hand, my sweatshirt tail, and my knee. He butted me trying to get more milk until I fell. He pushed in on the new calf, attempting to knock the bottle away so he could get a chance, which wasn't difficult since the new calf hadn't a clue and I had to work her mouth to get anything down her throat

After the second attempt at feeding, we decided we needed to work as a family to feed the calves and get the medicine in the new calf's eye. Keeping Big Foot away from the ears of the other calf, from the bottle, and from upending the feeders was just too much job for one person, especially the children.

Last night we had a breakthrough. The little calf nursed. Sure, Mr. W had to pry her mouth open, but once the bottle was there she sucked. This morning the calves finished their bottles at almost the same time. Hopefully this cold weather won't sneak in and disrupt our progress with these delicate calves.

By the way, the person in the picture is not me. My arms aren't that hairy!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Voted

I just got back from the polls. Mississippi had some state contests and there were many county races. When I go to the polls I have a feel good, patriotic spirit. I took the children and I felt good about that too. Yet, when I walked away from my polling station, I felt let down. I've felt this way for the last few elections. Though I made choices, they didn't feel like real choices. Actually, in many of the races there was no choice - one candidate only, but that's not what I mean. Will choosing one candidate over the other really bring about change or even make a difference? Is there enough difference (besides sex, hair color, weight, height and what not) between our local candidates to even notice?

Maybe next year.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Preparations for the Possible Cold

Even though it was 80° F today we have been slowly preparing for the predicted cold that will supposedly come on Wednesday. Last week I installed a new dryer vent that stifles air and rodent flow. That was one of those laughable projects that should have taken 15 to 20 minutes but took all afternoon and three trips to the hardware store because our 100+ year old house is not square, straight, even, or adaptable. You would have loved to see me squirming around in the mud after I accidentally disconnected the 4" drain pipe that carries the warm, moist air from the dryer to almost the edge of the house. I suppose the house was rejecting attempts at further modernization. That sounds silly, but I do sense that this old house has life. The old wood shrinks and expands with heat and humidity almost like breathing, the breeze running through the dog trot creates energy, and the past is captured like a memory in the hand prints on the 17 foot tall ceiling that have a story of their own. Have I lost my handful of readers yet?

Anyway, I'll get back to the point -maybe. Today, the children moved the lightard, which is a Southern country word, which means the aged stump of a pine tree that is a natural one match fire starter, that I've been using forever, but that I find, just today, is not a standard word and is in no dictionary, (This is when I really crave a set of the OED, not just the miniature set, but the full encyclopedic, book case crushing set.) and small pieces of wood to the front porch. Like that sentence? Very Faulknernesque, don't you think? Since I know about lightard, which is not a dictionary word does that make me a Snopes?

Are you still with me? Tomorrow, we will close the vents to keep the cold air from underneath the house. We'll start seasoning the wood heater with small fires tomorrow, still getting ready for Wednesday night when the temperatures are supposed to dip to fire weather.

Once the temperatures dip Wednesday night they will rise to our normal once again - maybe even to shorts and tee-shirt weather until after Thanksgiving. While some of the work we have done is for winter in general, there is much work involved in preparing for a possible one night frost and I haven't even told you about garden preparations. Sometimes, I think about how easy it would be to walk to a central air and heat panel and and push a button. Yet, I think this house would have felt violated if we had cut into her old, milled on the property, heart pine, tongue and groove, bead-board walls to install vents and intakes, closed the center hall, and lived modernly in this old house. Working with the rhythms of the house and seasons and living off the dead wood on the property seems better - more difficult, but more natural and more fitting.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Pecans

We had 63 pounds of pecans cracked at the Co-op last week and there are at least that many on the ground. Sounds like a lot of pecans, doesn't it? But it is only the beginning. The 63 lbs are only the first batch off the first two trees. We have another variety (four trees) that harvest a little later, and the two trees we collected are still throwing pecans at us when we walk outside.

This is a good pecan year. Why, I can't tell you since the early season drought almost killed the mature trees and did kill our 10 baby pecan trees. The two trees in the yard that produce the bigger, earlier pecans get water from the garden and from my children when they choose to do water experiments thereby flooding the yard. I cannot imagine how the others got enough moisture. Perhaps they thought the end was near and gave their last energy to reproduction and will kill over as soon as we get all the wood chopped from the last dead tree.

Anyway, every spare minute is spent picking out pecans. The Co-op didn't have the machine adjusted as well as they did last year and the picking is sloooow. The 63 lbs will be reduced to less than half that amount of pecan meats which is truly depressing, but there will be plenty for some pecan pies made with honey for Thanksgiving and lots for the freezer.

Do you think ballet moms would think I was crazy if brought pecans and picked them while I waited? I don't want to embarrass Princess.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Yellow Dog is Getting Jealous

I'm not kidding. When we have babies - chicks, kittens, or calves- the Yellow Dog needs extra attention so he doesn't do menacing things to the new arrivals. My son took all these pictures in one short span of time and they show a range of Yellow Dog behaviors - watchful protector, curious nurturer, and finally mischievous maniac. When we fully appreciate the Yellow Dog as we should and make him our first priority he stands guard and seems to watch over his realm.


After we've been away for a couple of hours and drive into the driveway he will emerge from wherever he has been sleeping and bark furiously at some imaginary predator. At first, we didn't realize that the protecting he was doing was of his reputation. Then, I left K at home while I ran a local errand and he reported that the Yellow Dog slept the entire time until my front wheel touched the first piece of gravel in the driveway. At this point, the Yellow Dog rushed across the cattle gap and protected the livestock from nothing.

I honestly believe he intends to be the protector of the farm, but he is really a scaredy-cat who is too curious to be a true watch dog. He approaches every car and animal that travels onto or across the property. He barks at the animals, but from afar, maybe even from the front porch, yet he never pursues them. Every car is a potential carrier of new friends. As soon as they emerge, he smells them and wags his tail. He's never met a stranger he didn't like.

He investigates every new farm arrival by sniffing, licking, and then tormenting. He wants to find out just how far he can push the new animals before they attack him. In the second picture he is kissing the new calf, but in the third he is trying to enter the calf's pen so he can chase and nip which is completely prohibited since the calf is having such a tough beginning. But, he still tries, especially when we are watching.

Did you catch that last bit because it is important? All his mischief occurs when we are near and watching. He has never killed a chicken when we were away. He has never run weanling calves through a fence when we weren't watching. He has never tormented a new calf or kitten when we weren't watching. All these clues lead me to believe he is either a very stupid dog or a very smart one. Is he communicating his dominance over all on the farm, including us? Is he asking for attention? Is he completely devoid of the sense that would lead him to the conclusion that we would like him better if he didn't pick up cats by the head, kill chickens, chase cows through the fence, or torment sick calves? Is he jealous?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Play Name that Kitten

I am completely smitten with this little powder puff of a kitten. Her blue eyes set in orange sproinky (Z's word, I'm borrowing) fur are alluring. Her curiosity and self sufficiency are winning. Though her eyes, especially the left one, are still a little runny and her nose scraped, the rest of her seems healthy.

She is finding her place in the animal hierarchy here at Twice Bloomed Farms and has even won the heart of The Yellow Dog and our spit-fire of a cat, McSquizzy. My heart has definitely been won, too. The only hold-outs are Tux, my other favorite, and Buchoochus, the elusive sister of Tux.

According to Z, this heart breaker will like me better once she has found her place. I'm impatient and find myself stalking this kitten, in order to get a chance to scratch behind her ears or tickle her belly. When I'm not stalking her, I'm trying to think of the perfect name.

I need your help. We need a name and I've talked my children in to letting me name this one, since I don't want this kitten stuck with a strange name like McSquizzy, Buchoochus, Rubber Dinghy, Out of Focus, or any of the truly bizarre names my children have bestowed on these unsuspecting victims. So, help me think of a name. Will you?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'm Completely Insane

But at least you'll know I'll be writing! I was overcome by good intentions and now the reality of being required to write something even when I don't really feel like it, or when I've spent most of the day in the city, or when payroll for 50 people is not yet done, or when my computer wouldn't start this morning when I touched the power button (It was a minor but scary problem since I had no recent backups) has become a blazing truth.

Why don't you join me so I will have more than one friend over there in NaBloPoMo Land. I suspect they are still taking the gullible, the idealistic, and the good intentioned.

Please!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Boo!!

Yesterday, while nursing a couple of facial stings incurred when I walked outside because I thought I had something important to say while Mr. W was trimming around the hives, removing honey supers, and doing the fall bee check (Funny, after I ran a few laps around the house with bees chasing me I forgot the very pressing news. I still don't remember what it was.), I sat in front of the computer and started reading blogs and news feeds. The first blog I read was Julie Zickefoose's and she was lamenting the invention of non-Halloween trick-or-treating (Hers was the Saturday before). Instead of soothing my frenzied adrenal glands I was issued another jolt. I panicked. Did we miss Halloween?

I called the hardware store, because technically they are the information clearing house for the town, and spoke to a mother who wouldn't judge me too harshly if I had, indeed, missed Halloween. I didn't miss it! But, Halloween was scheduled for that very night and you could only trick-or-treat from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Panic truly arose because we had not carved the pumpkins, made the popcorn balls and ghost cookies, or gotten the costumes ready and 5:30 was only four hours away. How can a town change a holiday and not tell the general public? At first I thought we didn't know because the children don't go to the school, but my mother didn't know until I told her so she wouldn't be embarrassed by not having candy when the hordes arrived, and we trick-or-treated at someone's house who didn't have any candy. So, I wonder how were we supposed to find out that trick-or-treating on a Wednesday interferes with church, so it can't be done. In spite of my confusion, I knew I had to get my side show into gear so the one trick-or-treater who usually comes to our house would not be disappointed because I chose not to buy store-bought, chemical laden candy this year.


First thing I did was tell the children that tonight was the night. Next, I asked K to start popping corn while I started boiling honey and sugar for the candy. Once all twenty four cups of popcorn were coated and formed, and we had eaten all the scraps we moved on to the Gingerbread Ghost Cookies. Miracle of miracles I had already made the dough and had it chilling in the fridge, so all we had to do was roll, cut, and bake. Of course, we had to decorate too, but all the icing was white, so was easier.


At 5:30 our first and only trick-or-treaters arrived while we were still in frenzied, slinging mode. The cookies weren't dry. OK, they weren't all decorated either. We were still cutting the pumpkins and Princess' hair was still in rollers because she was going for that curly-haired fairy look. I told the mom, the same one I called at the hardware earlier in the day, that I would bring the cookies tomorrow. I will, if I don't eat them before I get downtown. These cookies are soooo good. I got the recipe got from Williams Sonoma when I bought a copper, snowflake cookie cutter when I had the bright idea to decorate our seven foot Christmas tree exclusively with iced, gingerbread snowflakes. That is a story for a different time, but here is the recipe. Of course, I changed it a little.
Ginger Molasses Cookies
2 cups Flour
2 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Ginger, Ground
1 ½ tsp Cinnamon, Ground
1 tsp Cloves, Ground
1 tsp Salt
¾ cup Butter
1 cup Sugar, Brown
1 Egg
¼ cup Molasses, Dark
1 recipe Royal Icing

Sift together dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and molasses and beat. Add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Shape dough into a ball, wrap with wax paper, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F. Cover baking sheets with parchment, silpat liners, or butter them profusely. Roll out dough to 1/4" thickness. Cut cookies. Bake until golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely if you are going to ice them.


Royal Icing
3 ea Egg Whites -- room temperature
4 ½ cups Sugar, Powdered
½ tsp Cream Of Tartar
1 pinch Salt

In an electric mixer combine all ingredients. Beat on medium high until stiff peaks form and mixture is nearly triple in volume. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.
Additional tips:
  • You really need to double the recipe for the cookies, but not for the frosting if you want everything to work out evenly.
  • For cookies exclusively for eating I use only butter, but if you use this recipe for a gingerbread house or for decorating a Christmas tree you really do need to use use some margarine or shortening to produce sturdier cookies.
  • Honey is a great substitute for the molasses, especially stronger flavored, fall honey, but can you really have gingerbread without molasses.
  • The Royal Icing recipe gives you basic icing which is for details and to outline the designs before filling in. To create the run out, just add a touch of water to create a less stiff consistency. Practice is the only teacher here. You don't want too much water because the more liquid icing will make the cookies less sturdy and will take oh so long to dry. You don't want too little water because then you won't get that smooth, puffy consistency that truly makes the cookie.
I realize these are inadequate instructions, so if y'all are interested I will do another post with pictures in time for Christmas cookies.

Isn't the packaging shown in the last picture winsome. My sister-in-law in Memphis always thinks of the cutest things. My goody bags will look like this next year!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Truth about Cooler Weather

We've had unseasonal, for us, cooler weather lately and I love it, but not for the reasons you might think. Yes, the lower temperatures allow us in the deep South to move freely during the midday hours. Yes, the lower temperatures produce lush forage for our cows. Yes, the moderate temperatures are better for the environment since we don't need air conditioning to remain comfortable. Yes, the cool brisk air makes fall seem like fall. But the reason I love the cool weather is because I get to wear my favorite sweatshirt.

I have one favorite sweatshirt and two that aren't quite perfect, but are close. I've always been passionate about the perfect sweatshirt and when I find one that fits the criteria I wear it until nothing remains but stained, shredded tatters.

To attain favorite sweatshirt status, the shirt must be 100% cotton or at least 90% cotton, be over-sized, have a loose or non-existent bottom band, and be worn to a softness that can only be achieved by a year or more of wear. My favorite this year is the burnt orange, XL, pullover with a zippered neck and a collar that I got at the Stratford Festival in Canada a couple of years ago. I snuggled into it a few weeks ago and have done my best not to remove it since. If I have to make a more public than our small town appearance I will shed the shirt for however long it takes to do the errand, then change back into the shirt within 5 minutes of my arrival home. When the shirt is dirty, I make sure to push it to the top of my oppressive mound of laundry, then don it still warm from the dryer.

In order to always have the perfect sweatshirt, I must find and purchase a candidate each fall or winter so it will be properly broken in. I'm in the market for next year's and the following year's favorite.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Another New Farm Baby

Another farm baby has arrived. This one arrived in the back of a farmer's truck. His mama died during labor and the calf was dehydrated, weak, and feverish on arrival. In fact, he couldn't stand and wouldn't eat. I was a fool to let him on my farm, but I couldn't say no. I wanted him to have a chance and he is Charolais (see his pink nose) which matches our pasture color scheme. After a couple of force feedings of fake colostrum, a shot of vitamins, and a dose of antibiotic, his fever broke and he got the hang of the bottle.

Though his back leg is still swollen from his traumatic birth, he is standing and appears to be thriving one week after his arrival last Sunday. With calves like this condition can change hourly, but we are hopeful since he stands at the fence and yells at us every time we leave the house through the kitchen door.

Letter to the Kitty Dumper

Dear Person Who Left the Orange Kittens,

Thank you so much for the gift of two orange kittens. I have always wanted an orange cat, but would never have chosen to adopt one when I have 9 other feline mouths to feed, vaccinate, neuter, and love. Nevertheless, she looks beautiful with our four black, two black and white, one gray and white, and one gray and black.

I do have one tiny problem. Next time you feel the need for someone else to take responsibility for your failure to neuter your cat, please pull a little farther into the driveway to make your deposit. Scraping this little kitten's brother or sister off the highway is not something I want to repeat any time soon.

Best regards,
Wisteria

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bruises

The clover and rye grass have been planted and I have the bruises to prove it.

The day before Mr. W came home those in the weather know predicted 100% chance of rain in our very parched state. Though the seeds had been scheduled to be sown earlier, we never got any rain and I didn't want to cast them to hope as many in our area did. Seeds are expensive and I wanted at least some assurance that they would have a chance to germinate.

The morning of the 100% chance of precipitation, I dragged K and Princess out of bed when I opened the chicken hutch. It looked and felt like rain, so I decided to plant. I had borrowed my dad's four-wheeler, just in case, the day before. We attached the seeder, which was a test in and of itself plus two trips to the hardware (thank goodness they open before seven).

Once attached and loaded we started spreading seeds. K drove. Princess rode in the middle and I sat on the metal cargo bars. I know, I know. This is not recommended usage of a four-wheeler. Even though I adjusted the spreader to the smallest seed setting, I felt we were using too many seeds per acre. I told K to go faster. He did. We got better coverage, but my 45 year old derrière was not designed for that speed on that rough terrain and hills.

Yesterday morning, when my feet touched the floor I had a difficult time finding the will to pull myself into an erect position. I learned an important farming lesson - eleven year old male drivers, over 100 acres to seed, and forty-five year old derrières don't mix.

Ouch!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Reward

To reward all those who are still checking to see if I'm going to write something, I will give you a recipe that falls into the category of Recipes That Make You Appear to be June Cleaver Even When You Aren't. I have lots of these. I treasure them because image is everything.

I originally harvested this recipe from Southern Living magazine about 20 years ago. After I captured it I noticed that it was in Southern Sideboards, another wonderful Junior League of Jackson cookbook, and a few other southern Junior League and Junior Auxiliary cookbooks. The name is changed, the quantities are changed, and the nut varieties are changed but the recipe is essentially the same. I don't know who published first.

This particular recipe makes a lot and that is what makes it a June Cleaver Wanna Be Recipe. Once you get these in the freezer, no one has to see the messy bowl or the effort. Just slice and bake when you or the children have friends over and everyone can smell the wonderful aroma of freshly baked cookies while wondering how it is possible for you to do all that you do and still have time to whip out cookies.

There is one caveat!!! Watch your dough closely. Since we grow our own eggs, we're not afraid of salmonella. No one is scared to eat dough, so I can't keep my self husband and children out of the dough.
Memory Book Cookies

1 ½ cup Butter -- softened
1 cup Sugar
2 cup Sugar, Brown
3 ea Egg
½ lbs Pecans -- chopped
4 ½ cup Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Cinnamon, Ground

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs. Add flour mixed with salt, soda, and cinnamon. Add nuts. Shape dough into long, thin rolls (about 1" in diameter). Wrap in wax paper. Store in the freezer. When needed, slice and bake at 350° F for 8 to 10 minutes.

Things to know about all my recipes. I always use unbleached flour and prefer King Arthur organic. I use only coarse salt so if you don't you may need to use a little less.

Things to know about this recipe. You may use any nut, but since I am a true Southerner I think pecans are best. You may substitute some whole wheat, especially the white whole wheat, for the plain flour, but they will notice if you go over half. That grainy texture is tough to overcome. You may use raw sugar instead of the white. I always use butter for baking because it tastes better, if you don't agree you could use some of those other products just don't say it's my recipe.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Add Obsessive Compulsive Behavior to my Right Brain Thinking

After mulling over the spinning lady and reading the comments I decided to do a bit of research - not on left brain and right brain thinking, that would be too predictable. What I did do was to copy the gif image onto my desktop and then open it in Adobe Image Ready. Then, I looked at all 34 frames to see if the test was, you know, on the up and up. My family won't be surprised that I did this.

The individual frames do follow a normal progression of a circle. There is no random switching, which brings us to the scary part of this knowledge. Our brains do determine what we see, not by the reality of what is on the screen or page, but through interpretation.

What this really means is that when I have been frustrated because others don't see things my way, they may not be seeing the same thing that I see even if it is in black and white. Perhaps having this knowledge will help me be more understanding. You know, nicer.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I Never Do These Things. Really

I never do those blog test things. I'm always scared of what they will say about me. This isn't one of those blog things, but a test none the less. Are you right or left brained? Take a peek. I'm curious what you see. I'll tell if you will.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Donuts

Right before my husband returned from his last trip, our tenant's child came hawking Krispy Kremes for school. We don't normally eat Krispy Kremes. I have admitted here that I am a food snob of sorts and Krispy Kremes fall into that bottomless pit of artificially flavored and preserved food that gets snubbed. An easier explanation is that in order to get a Krispy Kreme we would have to drive 150 miles round trip. Trips like that make being a food snob easier.

Anyway, this nice young girl wanted me to support her school group. Since her family supports us by renting one of our bungalows, I felt obligated to take a $5 box of refined sugar, preservatives, and artificial flavors.

A couple of days later this nice young girl tried to deliver said donuts to my husband. He told her that she must have made a mistake. "My wife would never buy those." She pushed the donuts into his hands, then jumped into the waiting car. He retreated into the house with the contraband and pushed his head into the office and said, "I don't understand shy, young girl language very well, but I think this is your box of Krispy Kremes. Do you eat this stuff while I am away, then pretend when I am home?"

"Of course not! Where would I get it?"

The children ran for the box, read the ingredients list (The apple doesn't fall far from the tree), decided they weren't so bad, then indulged. I did too. I couldn't resist. The next morning, we all decided to have a donut or two for breakfast. Can you say nauseous? I felt sick and poofy all day. The children were a bit more resilient, but we won't be repeating this spree. I'll just donate cash next time. Not feeling sick is worth at least five dollars.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Updates

My husband is home. He pulled in at about 1 am, maybe later. Though I was ecstatic for him to be home, his first three or four days back are always difficult for us. We forget our rhythms so frequently invade each other's space. While he is away, farm, school, work, family are handled differently. When he returns he expects things to be as he left them and they aren't. Or maybe his hotel time changes his expectations. Maybe while missing him we raise our expectations of him to unattainable levels. He will leave, again, in a few days. Before he leaves, maybe we will have time to settle back into our routines. Maybe he will have a chance to plant the clover and rye grass, so I won't have to! Maybe he can harvest the chickens, especially the young roosters who roost in a cedar tree outside my bedroom window. Maybe he can . . .

A friend with a lot of old timer knowledge came over a couple of days ago. He took one look at the Spider Lilies and said, "You'll see a frost within six weeks of the first bloom." He then asked if I planted the lilies like that. I wonder if he really thought I would plant them dotted all over the yard. I think I'll have to move them if the old timers think I'm insane. I don't care about the rest of the population, but I really want to impress the old-timers. Anyway, I love sayings like this from the old-timer population. Sometimes they seem a bit far-fetched, but the knowledge of the rhythms of the seasons was garnered not from television meteorologists, but through watching and recording nature. I like that. I also like knowing I need to get the winter blankets and comforters aired, the garden covers ready, the wood and fireplaces situated before a cold, rainy front unexpectedly blasts us. For the record, even if we have a hard frost, we won't see consistently cool temperatures until December. Thanksgiving here is a short-sleeved holiday most years. I think it was 74°F last year.

Book cataloging is moving along. Honestly, it is going slowly - oh so slowly. But I found an easier way. I decided to use LibraryThing - a small miracle of technology - then export my LibraryThing library to an Excel file, then import it into my library database program that my mother gave me. The wonderful advantage of LibraryThing is that I only have to type the ISBN number and all the details just appear rather than type everything. As an added advantage, they have a blog widget that I can use to add a book shelf to my blog. Just think, you can browse my library - or at least the parts I want you to see. Cool. The system my mother gave me lets me check-out books to friends. It also reminds me to get them back after a reasonable time. This system also has fields for whether the book is signed and for library location. By exporting and importing I can have the best of both worlds. Does anyone use LibraryThing? Is there anything I should know before I get too far into it? Does anyone hate it? Love it?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The best laid schemes

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley
Robert Burns
Today I was going to spend time on a self project - one of the ones I promised myself the other night. This isn't a sexy project, or anything as luxurious as a spa day, or even anything for my health (maybe mental health), but something I have been wanting to do for a couple of years. For a few hours today, I was going to put aside my work, my guilt over having undone things in the house, and work on my library - organizing, dusting, cataloging, loving. My mom gave me a library database system a few years ago and I have been fixin' to work on the project for years. I think I have one book in the database.

Well today was the day. I was going to start as soon as I finished the dishes for dinner. I did! Then, I called for K to close the chicken coop door. He walked outside and squawked, "Mom!!, Come help! Hurry!" The first thing I saw was a baby calf walking around in the yard. I looked at the gate and sure enough it was open and the horse was running for the opening. And I do mean running.

We have a problem keeping the cows fenced when my husband is away. In fact, he usually doesn't even make it out of the county before one or another will jump a cattle gap or pull a fence down, a tree will fall on a fence or someone will have a car accident thereby collapsing the fence. Perhaps they are scared of my cattle skills or maybe they just want a vacation, but Mr. W's first question when he calls is "Are the cows out?" He has been gone for a while and we have not had one cattle related incident. I was feeling a bit smug until tonight.

I quickly stepped in front of the horse and pushed him back inside the fence, carefully keeping my bare toes out of hoof's way. I closed the gate, called for Princess to get some feed for Dusty to lure him away from the action while K was tackling the Yellow Dog because he was not helping. Unfortunately, the calf called for his mother and she rushed the gate and poinged me back a bit. Now I had no way to get the calf back in the pasture because if I opened the gate the momma would get out too.

That's when we noticed the cows strolling around in the garden. Though my wooden garden fence is cute, it is not designed for restraining heifers or even baby calves. Once the dog was restrained, the bovine population breathed a collective sigh of relief and settled, except for the crazed momma of a few posts ago. Motherhood did not benefit her overall demeanor. She is a bit too high strung for her own good. Doesn't she realize that we are the ones who plant all that nice clover for her to munch, provide cool, clean drinking water even during the drought, and treat her to some corn every now and again?

K lured Dusty away from the gate and swooshed the crazed momma giving me time to encourage the baby, who has grown exponentially by the way, to step back inside. After that we just slipped behind the garden to open a metal gap to let the garden cows back into the pasture. Unfortunately, we weren't quick enough. One of the heifers launched herself through my fence taking down all the chicken wire and a strand of barbed wire.

As so often happens after an incident, we started trying to decide who was responsible for the chaos. Knowing that my children rarely open a gate, preferring to go over it, I knew that I had left that gate unlatched. Perhaps I was too excited over the chain swinging.

Needless to say, I haven't logged or dusted many books.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Farm Life Today

The Yellow Dog and his question mark tail roam the premises, even the rafters of the barn. Hmmm, what mischief can I get into today???? Should I eat the girl child's hand (It's not really in his mouth. He's not that kind of dog.)? Should I chase the cows? Bark all night? Dig holes in the yard? Torment the cats? Capture a chicken?

We noticed the question mark tail soon after we claimed The Yellow Dog. Then his mischievousness grew. Somehow the tail came to symbolize the devilry of the dog. It makes me smile.

The dog is not the only one with mischief on his mind. A few things disappeared from the shed this week - a card table and chairs, a chain, the top to the garbage can . . .

I found them. I walked to the barn to throw a scoop of feed in the horse's bucket. I saw a big fat hen leaving a nest, so decided to collect those eggs. We have a few (five, it appears) rogue hens who refuse to nest in the hen house. I suppose this hay bale is more comfy. Anyhow, I was getting the eggs and saw my card table set up in the barn. The metal garbage can top was hanging on a post gong style with a stick attached. There was a chain hanging from the rafters atop the triple stacked hay bales that create the wall for the "fort," and a gang plank that leads from the ground to the tops of the first layer of bales. I clanged the gong to see what would happen. Children came running. Suppressing a smile and trying to sound stern I asked, "Why is my card table out here?"

"It's my fort!" Princess proudly exclaimed.

"That's my garbage can top."

"It's my alarm."

"Why do you need an alarm?"

" In case of an attack."

" Who do you think will attack?"

"K. . . . . . "

"Ooooh."

"Watch what I can do!!" She then proceeds up the plank to to the chain and swings across a chasm in the stacked hay, thereby explaining the missing chain.

"Your turn."

I think I will.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Spider Lilies

Spider lilies are popping up all over the place. They are stunningly red, have an interesting feathery appearance, and provide autumn color. I should say autumn color that is not in a pot. There is just one tiny problem with the whole Spider Lily show - location. Location is of utmost importance in landscaping. A splash of color here, a little texture there makes all the difference in a well hewn landscape.

Notice that the Spider Lily has no leaves at this stage of the game. In other words, we had no idea that this specimen or any of the other 2o or so Spider Lilies blooming at this time existed until a bloom emerged. For the most part, once a bulb has been planted the flower reproduces in a close circle. Not the case here!

I suppose the flowers were originally planted in some centralized location, but we bulldozed the entire yard when we starting working on the place because we needed a tractor to get up the driveway when it rained. There was also the small problem of the driveway running two feet from the side of the house - fine in the city or town, but a bit out of place here. Anyway, we had a dozer person come and move the driveway, level the hill top a bit, and do other hard scape molding. A lot of dirt was moved. Apparently, a lot of Spider Lilies were moved, too!

Our yard is dotted with bright red this year. I don't know what happened last year because they didn't bloom, but this year we have single stems of Spider Lily every ten to fifteen feet. Sure, the children picked the first few, then we realized how interesting the yard could look if we left them randomly dabbing color over the place. I suppose I should go out and dig and move them while I know what and where they are, but then I would lose the color and the fun of seeing the yard with polka-dots!!!

Dots are in, right? I bet you're glad you aren't my neighbor.