Monday, October 25, 2010

Family Pictures

 When I would visit my dad's folks I would often stop in my great-grandmother's kitchen to stare at the wall.  My grandfather had put our family tree on the wall using photographs. 
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Grandma and her uncle
 I could trace my grandfather's side back to his grandparents and great-grandparents.
  My grandmother's side was represented as well.  I could look at pictures of my grandmother when she was six and her thick, naturally wavy, chestnut-red hair went to her shoulders.  Even in a black and white picture it was obvious that her hair was red.  I inherited her red hair, as did my dad, and three of her great-grandsons.  

I loved looking at those photos on Grandpa's wall, it gave me a sense of belonging.  I was a part of something that was bigger than me, something that came before me and would continue after me.  
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My grandfather was the family historian, not just through photography, but with the written word.  He wrote his family's history on an old Smith typewriter, pasting the stories into photo albums.  I would spend hours looking through these books, trying to understand who was connected to whom and how did they connect to me.
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Over the years I have collected copies of my family photographs.  I now have my great-grandmother and her sister, my great-grandparents', and a picture of my great-great-great-grandmother on what was probably her 80th 

I have new photos too.  Photos of Arliss and Travis through the years, photos of my husband and me when we got engaged.  Photos of my husband with his recently found, biological family. 
All of these different pictures, with so many different generations hang on our walls.  I love the history they represent, the rich tapestry that I am a part of; that Arliss and Travis are a part of too.  
Someday, when I am only a photograph on someone's wall, I hope my great-grandchildren will look at my face and see the similarities we have, maybe even the red hair.  But I also hope my great-grandchildren will see his or her history, his or her part in the bigger picture, and that they too will smile and know they belong.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New in Town

We've been here at the farm for about four months but I haven't taken the opportunity to just drive around and get my bearings.  Today while the boys were in school I drove to the Goodwill nearby and found some books on quilting, perennials, bird identification, and a couple other "home/craft" books.  I was excited to find them and only pay between $.50-$1.80 for each book.
On my way home, I went by a quilting store and decided to stop in.  I was immediately welcomed by the staff who gave me some suggestions to try as a beginning quilter.  I found a card for the local quilters' guild and had my name put on the contact list for the quilting class that will start in a few months.  I look forward to learning how to quilt from others who are more advanced than I am.
I finally went to the Village Hall to get some "official" information about our new town.  I was given a village newsletter and directions to the Chamber of Commerce offices where I could get even more information about my town.
Turning onto the road that goes through town I turned right, only to find that I had gone to the Park District offices, not the Chamber of Commerce like I wanted.  A nice gentleman at the Park District gave me directions,  I was less than a quarter mile from where I wanted to go.
After I told the lady at the counter that I was new in town she gave me a "Welcome bag" full of advertisements and coupons for the area businesses.  I now have a bag of goodies that include church brochures, insurance information, coupons for restaurants, hair salons, and the like.
I wish I had thought of going to the Chamber of Commerce when we first arrived, I could have used some of the coupons already.
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A new home brings a new perspective each morning.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Pond

Item ThumbnailI took Arliss and Travis on a walk to the pond on Saturday.   The weather was perfect for a leisurely stroll/hike through the fields.  We brought the dogs along for the adventure and a basket for any unexpected treasures.  

The boys rode their bikes up to the gate which marks the beginning of a field and the lane for the cows.  Leaving their bikes, we began to hike through the recently harvested corn stalks.  The golden shafts stood in silent attention, marking the places for each row.  Occasionally the boys or I would find an ear of corn that the harvester had missed and we would add it to the basket.
Rover, our Brittany, ran ahead, behind, around, anywhere but with us.  Arliss kept trying to call Rover to us but Rover would have none of it.  Rufus, our Lab, stuck close to me, often just on my heels.  Finally the field came to a barbed wire fence which meant we had to climb over or go under.  The dogs found the spot to crawl under and the boys soon followed.
When Travis got on the other side he looked at me and said, "How are you going to get over?"  I smiled and dropped to my knees, crawling under the wire just as they had.  Sometimes it's good to surprise your kids.  After the boys finished laughing with me at the silliness of it all, we continued through the cow pasture toward the woods.
Item ThumbnailThe pond is surrounded by woods and wild rose bushes.  It has been years since the cows were allowed to roam back to the pond, so the grass stands at least four feet high in some places.  Rufus and Rover followed the boys through the woods and were quickly investigating the pond.  I discovered some wild walnuts and put them in my basket for later.
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By the time I got to the pond Rover was black with pond muck from his belly to his feet.  Rufus was wet from trying to swim for sticks.  I had to smile as I watched Rufus learn to swim in the pond.  He did not know what to do when the water was deeper than he could touch, but soon he was paddling around and around like a pro.

Arliss and Travis went to work digging in the muck and mud for any treasures they might find.  My basket soon held snail shells and the boys shirts and caps, as they grew too warm with all of their "work."  The old dock was dilapidated and no longer extended out over the pond.  The 2 x 8 planks lay on the shoreline, a worthy future task for the boys to tackle.

Someone had built a duck blind on the edge of the pond.  The floor boards have rotted out, but the 2 x 4s that made the frame of the blind were still solid.  I sat on the corner of the blind and took in all that surrounded me.   The wind was blowing through the trees; sounding like a roaring waterfall.  The warm sunshine gave the rustling grasses a golden glow and the birds that chirped and sang as they perched in the tree branches made the whole moment idyllic.
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Some of the animal prints on the shoreline proved that this was a common watering spot for deer, raccoons, and various birds.  The boys explored further past the pond, discovering areas where animals had bedded down.  Arliss pointed out the red-tailed hawks that circled overhead.  We called excitedly to each other as the hawks screeched and swooped over the fields.    Our necks were strained from trying to keep the hawks in sight as they climbed higher and higher only to dive toward the earth.

Finally, it was time to go.  We called to our dogs, who would be needing a thorough bath, and headed back toward the house.  

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Old Farmer's Advice (author unknown)

* Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight, and bull-strong.

* Keep skunks, bankers, and lawyers at a distance.

* Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.

* A bumble bee is considerable faster than a tractor.

* Words that soak into your ears are whispered ...not yelled.

* Meanness don't jes' happen overnight.

* Forgive your enemies.  It messes with their heads.

* Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.

*  It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge.

* You cannot unsay a cruel word.

* Every path has a few puddles.

* When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.

* The best sermons are lived, not preached.

* Most of the stuff people worry about ain't never gonna happen anyway.

* Don't judge folks by their relatives.

* Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

* Live a good, honorable life.  Then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time.

*Don't interfere with somethin' that ain't botherin' you none.

* Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

* It's a pretty thin piece of paper that only has one side.

* If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'.

* Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.

* The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin'.

*  Too soon old, too late smart.

* Always drink upstream from the herd.

* Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

* Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back in.

* If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.

* Live simply.  Love generously.  Care deeply.  Speak kindly.  Leave the rest to God.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Estate Sales

  I went to an estate sale a couple of weeks ago.  The farm was being sold and the owners were gone, leaving adult children to handle the sale.  Parking the car I approached the house with a silent reverence.  The property was lined with  old chairs that could no longer hold a person, beds that were in pieces waiting for a new home, and empty planters that once held prize flowers.
I entered the house and was greeted by items I could have found in my grandparents home.  The walls were lined with spice drawers, decorative plates, and old stitch-work written in German.  Pie safes, cabinets that preceded refrigerators, were against the wall in the kitchen long since without a pie to keep safe from pests or sneaking fingers.    
The kitchen led into a dining room where the table was laden with dishes that were available for purchase.  I wondered how many meals had been eaten at the table using those dishes.  How many celebrations, Sunday dinners, and Christmas meals were eaten there.    
To the right of the dining room was the entry hall that also served as a front parlor.  The floor was covered in various braided rugs and older hook and eye rugs that would have kept feet warm during the winters.  A music room was off to one side of this room, complete with a square grand piano.  I have only seen one other square grand in my life, at a living history museum in Cimarron, New Mexico.  The square grand in front of me what almost as large as a pool table and equally as heavy.  The walls were decorated with mandolins and sheet music waited on a side board to be used again.
The mistress of the house once had a sewing room on the other side of the house.  There was a table that was filled chest high with yards of fabric, patiently waiting to be made into something useful.  The wall above the peddle sewing machine had various pictures on it.  One portrait was very dear to me.  During the turn of the last century it was common to have a picture hanging in the home that depicted a person clinging to a cross while a storm surged around them.  Two of my great-grandmothers had a picture like this in their home.  I now have them hanging in my home.  It comforted me to see that someone else, unknown to me, had been comforted by the same picture.
As I walked through the rest of the home I found two old hymnals available for purchase.  I love hymnals as much as I love old Bibles, so I picked them up.  The two books cost me $1.50.  I wondered how many evenings were spent around the piano singing hymns from these books.  Radio was often a luxury and families would have to create their own entertainment long ago.

As I left this farm I was reminded of my grandparents' estate sale in 1986.  People came from all over to walk through their home, pick up their stuff, look in their rooms.  I was greatly bothered by these intruders who had no knowledge of our family's heritage and probably didn't care.  I watched my older cousins help the auctioneer sell off items that had been in the family for almost 100 years.  It pained me then, it pains me now.  

I was raised to respect my family's history and to honor those who had come before me.  When I entered this farm estate sale I gave it the same respect.  I hope that someday if I someone enters my home they will give it the same respect.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Harvesting and Fallow Soil

harvest |ˈhärvist|nounthe process or period of gathering in crops helping with the harvest.• the season's yield or crop a poor harvest.• quantity of animals caught or killed for human use a limited harvest of wild mink.• figurative the product or result of an action in terms of science, Apollo yielded a meager harvest.

Harvesting has begun!  Within four and a half hours, six semi-truck loads were harvested from the corn fields.  Arliss and Travis were doing their best to keep track of the number of times each truck left full and returned empty.  It was impressive to see such efficiency and speed in the whole process.  I was reminded of a picture of my grandfather standing beside a team of horses.  How long did it take him to bring in all of the corn?  I know he was aware of the progress in farming when he retired, but somehow when I compare the size of his Farmall H tractor to the "new" machines, it's a wonder it didn't take "forever" to get the work done.
Once the fields are empty our dogs, Rover and Rufus, are going to have the added room to run.  My dad said, "Just wait until the dogs see the geese in the fields."  Rover has already tried to catch a white-tailed deer, I can only imagine what he would do if he caught a goose.  Or what the goose would do to him for trying.

fallow 1 |ˈfalō| adjective
(of farmland) plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility as part of a crop rotation or to avoid surplusproduction incentives for farmers to let the land lie fallow in order to reduce grain surpluses.• figurative inactive long fallow periods when nothing seems to happen.• (of a sow) not pregnant.
An empty field serves a purpose, just as much as a field in the middle of the growing season.  A field that stands empty is actually replenishing itself.  Farmers have learned the wisdom in letting the soil rest.  That's one of the reasons farmers also rotate crops.  If a farmer only planted soybeans in a field each year, eventually the nutrients the plant needs to grow would be depleted.  Corn is actually a tyrant in this case, notoriously pulling every nutrient from the soil and leaving it empty for the next growing season.   The Bible says in Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything and a season for every purpose under Heaven.  Being still has a season, just as activity has a season.
Winter is a time to rest for the fields, the animals, all of creation.  I am looking forward to the season of rest after a very busy season of activity.  I am ready to curl up with tea and a good book and be still for awhile. Until that season begins, we will be busy counting semi-trucks.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Canning Recipes

I thought I would post some of the recipes I used for our canning marathon last week.

Wash, stem, and core peppers.  Slice them lengthwise into this strips.  Blanch them in steam for 2 minutes, then plunge them into ice water to cool them quickly.  Drain.
Pack the cooled strips into hot, sterilized pint or half-pint jars and cover them with a hot syrup made from 1/2 part honey and 2 parts vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar). Leave 1/4-inch headspace.  Process half-pints and pints for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath.  --From Stocking Up  by the Editors of Organic Gardening and Farming

4 quarts chopped, peeled, cored tomatoes (about 24 large)
1 cup chopped celery (about 1 stalk)
1/2 cup chopped onion (about  1/2 medium)
1/4 cup chopped green pepper (about 1/4 medium)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pot.  Cover; cook 10 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.  Ladle hot vegetables into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace.  Adjust two-piece caps.  Process pints 15 minutes, quarts 20 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure in a steam pressure canner.  Yield about 7 pints or 3 quarts.
From Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing, and Dehydration   Ball Home Canning Products, Alltrista Corporation, Muncie, Indiana

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cups vinegar (I use cider vinegar)
1 tsp. allspice and cloves  (or mixed pickling spices, put in cheese cloth and tie --take it out when finished cooking)
1 thin slice lemon (optional)

If using fresh beets, Cook until tender-cool and skin.  Slice or quarter your beets, pour pickling juice over beets and simmer for 15 minutes.  Put in sterilized jars and seal.
You may use the 16 oz. canned beets-I use half of the recipe per can.  I use some of that juice and cut down on the water.
From My Grandma's recipe book

2 quarts crushed, peeled, pitted peaches
1/2 cup water
6 cups sugar (I had very sweet peaches so I cut the sugar by a third)

Combine peaches and water in a large saucepot. Cook gently 10 minutes.  Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Bring slowly to a boil.  Cook rapidly to gelling point, about 15 minutes.  As mixture thickens, stir to prevent sticking.  Remove from heat.  Skim foam if necessary.  Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Adjust two-piece caps.  Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.  Yield: about 4 pints.
From Ball Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing, and Dehydration

I used the PEACH JAM recipe and added 2 teaspoons of cloves to the pears as they cooked.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Week in the Life

A sampling of our work
My husband, Andrew, and I have canned from Tuesday through Friday.  It has been a long, tedious, exhausting, and satisfying process.  We have grape jelly, sweet peach jam, spiced pear jam, hot salsa,  sweet pickle relish, dill pickle relish, beet relish, stewed tomatoes, pickled beets, and pickled sweet peppers all put up for the winter.

I cut the grass here on Thursday.  It has been cool enough here that it had been 3 weeks since I last cut it.  I am hoping this will be the last time I cut it this year.  Maybe next year I will have a riding lawn mower that works, we'll have to wait and see.

Our town has a used book store and I finally took in the books in that I wanted to donate.  I get store credit that covers half of the book price so I used it to buy The Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, the author of the Inkheart series, and The Last of the Plainsmen by Zane Grey.
My cousin was kind enough to lend me some running clothes and I found them in a box still unpacked from the move.  I ran into the post office; a two person counter, with sweet ladies who take the time to talk with you, not just process your mail. I mailed off the clothes and a note to give an update on how we are doing.
My next stop was the library to return the farming books I mentioned in a previous post.  I checked out some movies for Arliss and Travis, and classic black and whites for me.  The library has a used book corner that sells books for cheap prices and I walked away with a copy of The Odyssey, by Homer.  It is one I read in college, but would like to give it another look without the stress of a paper to write in the end.
A friend had minor surgery this week so I went to sit with her for a while, taking along my craft bag of crochet and cross stitch.  She showed me her octagon quilt piece and the new paint job in her bedroom.  Her decorating style has evolved over the past 20 years and is presently channeling a Tuscan villa.  I love what she has done.
I went by a farm that was having an estate sale.  I will give it a separate post, but I did buy two old hymnals, one dated 1928, for $1.50.
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Today I cleaned the wood floors, hung laundry out to dry (it's wickedly windy here today), and put away the unused, but clean, canning jars.  The weather is officially getting colder so I took out the screen from the front screen door and put in the storm window.  Just another sign of changing seasons.

Our dear Mr. H. came by this week and shared his crop of pumpkins and gourds.  We now have 6 large pumpkins and over 20 different gourds, including one that looks like a goose neck that can be dried and made into a birdhouse.  Arliss an Travis immediately took it when they heard it could be a birdhouse.   Mr. H. mentioned that he still had hot peppers to be picked.  He asked if we'd be interested so I sent the boys over to pick some today.  They came back with a full bushel basket of peppers; bell, jalapeno, habenero, and others.  Travis said, "We'll be eating mexican food until we die."
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I still have more work today, cutting the grass at our old house and visiting my folks.  Our dogs are sound asleep on the couch, looks inviting, but the sun's still up.  Tomorrow is Sunday, a day of rest I intend to enjoy before a new week begins.