Wednesday, October 31, 2007


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,

Friday, October 19, 2007


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.


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


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. . . . . . "


"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.