Thursday, October 30, 2008
I love how the afternoon sun comes in my window this time of year.
My "Greenhouse" which is my Laundry Room. Thyme has come in from the garden and I think I need to fetch the rosemary in too. See that long grassy stuff in the back pot? I planted a few garlic cloves in it and will snip those greens to add to my cooking for a mild garlic flavor. The more you snip, the more it grows.
The "Christmas" Cactus is about to blossom again. I 'm renaming her "Thanksgiving-Easter Cactus" because she generally blooms for both holidays.
I just potted up some rootlings from my parents' coleus plants. My Grandma used to grow lots of colors of coleus. How is it that little girls remember things like that about their grandmothers?
Pizza dough, ready to roll out and bake.
I like to make several crusts at a time, pre-bake them for about 8-10 minutes, and then cool and freeze the ones we don't eat. It sure makes for a quick 'n' easy supper.
All-Meat Man Pizza
Girl Pizza (all veg)
Monday, October 27, 2008
Since writing my post yesterday about the virtues of simple cooking, simple foods, and simple heating, I got to thinking about ways that I am preparing for hard times. It seems that every day I look at the headlines and see that another major company has laid off thousands of laborers from their jobs. White collar or blue collar, there is no distinction when it comes to the cuts. It sobers me. It reminds me that as a homemaker, I must find ways to cut costs and prepare for the possibility of doing without or "making do." Therefore, I am planning to "spend a little to save a little" in restocking my pantry. Sometimes buying in bulk or buying an extra jar of jam instead of one, when the price is right, is smart pantry planning. Below, I have found a good list of items that would stock a pantry nicely.
What To Put In A Pantry (from Pioneer Thinking)
A room or cupboard for storing food, usually dry goods. Most foods to be stored will be dried, packaged, bottled, canned, foods that do not require refrigeration.
Stocking The Shelves
- Polyunsaturated oil, Olive oil
- Flour: Enriched, All Purpose, Cake Sifted Pancake, Cornmeal
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
- Cream of Tartar
- Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
- Chocolate: bitter, unsweetened, semi-sweet
- Flavoring: Vanilla, Almond, Lemon, Orange
- Food Coloring: Assorted colors
- Sugar :white, brown, confectioners, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup
- Gelatin: plain, flavored
- Herbs : Basil, Bay Leaf, Capers, Dill Seed, Dried Rosemary, Dried Parsley, Garlic (powder-salt), Marjoram, Dried Tarragon, Dried Thyme
- Spices :All Spice, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Celery Seed, Chili Powder, Cloves, Ground Ginger, Dry Mustard, Nutmeg, Oregano, Paprika, Poppy seed, Poultry Seasoning, Salt, Sesame Seeds, Soy Sauce, Pepper: black and white, Tabasco
- Bread Crumbs
- Rice: white, long grain, brown
- Split Peas
- Dried Lima beans, Navy Beans
- Prepared Mustard
- Salad Dressing
- Vinegar-Cider, White Distilled
- Olives-Green Stuffed, Black
- Coffee:Regular, Decaf, Instant (whichever one you use)
- Tea: Regular, Decaf, Herbal (whichever one you use)
- Jelly, Jam
- Juices, Assorted of choice
- Cereal, Oatmeal, Dry of choice
- Milk-Evaporated, Condensed, Dry
- Non-Dairy Creamer
- Sugar Substitute
- Gravy Mix
- Peanut Butter
- Canned Fish-Tuna, Salmon, Anchovies, Sardines
- Canned Vegetables
- Green Beans, Corn, Baked Beans, Tomatoes, Tomato Paste, Tomato Puree, Spaghetti Sauce, Canned Soups, Chicken Broth, Beef broth or Dried Broth Bases
- Grated Parmesan
Being a Country Girl for the last 27 years of my life has taught me a lot of things, and one of those things is to keep my home well-stocked. We live 55 miles away--part of it on gravel roads -- from a decent grocery store and so there is no such thing as a quick trip to the grocery store for a missing ingredient. I either have it or I make do without it. The same goes for soap and toilet paper and other necessities. I learned early on to keep a well-stocked pantry. My mother-in-law, who I lived next door to for many years, was a child of the Great Depression. She taught me many things about country living -- about canning meats, stocking shelves with a wide variety of canned goods, re-purposing things like coffee cans and mayo jars, and keeping extra sewing supplies on hand for repairing clothing or mending. This lady even had little tins with tiny screws and screwdrivers to fix eye glasses and watch pins to repair your wrist watch. And now, I do too!
Depending on your family's tastes and location, this pantry list could look very different for you. You might be one who wants a cache of spices and herbs. If you are a rancher, you likely have a freezer full of beef, or if your family hunts, your freezer may be stocked with deer and elk. I have an Alaskan friend who stocks her freezer with salmon and halibut. You might be a gardener who cans and freezes veggies from a large plot. Perhaps you have access to wild berries, apples or nuts that you can gather for free. Stocking-up looks different in every part of this vast country we live in. The important thing is to do the best you can with what you have available and fill in the gaps for the best value -- which doesn't always mean whatever's cheapest. If mac & cheese is cheap, but your family doesn't like it, it's not a good value for your family.
I've read a few articles today on stocking-up that I will post below. Please know that I am not an alarmist nor am I one who stockpiles for the "end of the world." I feel that a deep pantry makes good common sense, and especially during hard times. You'll notice these articles and pantry lists all look very different. Different strokes for different folks!
Nine Meals from Anarchy, Mail Online (UK) June 7th, 2008
Load Up the Pantry, Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2008
The Well-Stocked Pantry, Mother Earth News
Simple Pantry Dos and Don'ts, Coffee Tea Books and Me
Help! I Need a Grocery Budget (6 parts), Storybook Woods
Gourmet Toolbox downloadable pantry list, Angela Tunner
Sunday, October 26, 2008
For Sunday Dinner....
Roasted potatoes, onion, garlic and German sausages (bratwurst). The sizzle and the aroma make our mouths water in anticipation. I'm planning to make this an Apple Day and so into the oven I'll slide in a pan of some locally-picked apples, sprinkled with some brown sugar, dotted with butter, and splashed with a bit of brandy to bake. Of course, either ice cream or whipped cream goes over the top with some fresh-grated nutmeg for dessert!
While we were eating our dinner, my youngest (now 16) asked, "Mom, what kind of food is this?" I said, "Well, it's homestyle food, probably German." He replied that it was just "Good Food." Yup. Simple and good. Cooking it is simple to do. I just chopped my potatoes approximately the same size, chopped the onions in chunks and left the garlic cloves mostly whole or bruised. I figured on one bratwurst per person or so, chopped. I drizzled about 2-3 T. olive oil over it, added my Montreal Steak seasoning, some fresh thyme, rosemary and tossed. I baked this on a cookie sheet, nicely spread out so the veggies and sausages roasted and crisped up at 350 degrees for about an hour. At the very end, I turned on my broiler to add just a little more crispiness to it. I served this simple meal with a tossed salad and apple sauce on the side.
Another thing we like to eat roasted this time of year is pumpkin seeds. The kids had a pumpkin carving at A J & H's house the other night and they shared the innards with us. I suppose there is a right way way to roast pumpkin seeds, but this is how we do it.
Pull off as much of the pumpkin strings and goop as possible from the seeds. Pour onto a cookie sheet. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the seeds and toss. Spread seeds evenly and sprinkle over top with course kosher salt. Bake for about 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until seeds are lightly golden. Allow seeds to completely dry out and cool on the baking sheet. I also like to pour them onto a paper towel to absorb the extra olive oil. Then eat whole.
While I'm thinking about foods, Kathie at Island Sparrow directed me to an interesting video called Depression Cooking With Clara. I'm adding one of the episodes below for you watch, but there are several more over at YouTube. I just love how 92-year-old Clara shows us that just a few ingredients can make for a simple, filling, and even nutritious meal, and during these economic times, we can surely take a few hints from her. What I noticed about Clara's cooking is that even though she uses very ordinary ingredients, she gets a little extra flavor by sauteing her veggies in a little olive oil or she add a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan or a bit of tomato sauce to her recipes. I suppose that comes from her Italian culture because the German and Norwegian ccooking I know of would not have added those steps or ingredients.
Do you have some frugal, one-pot meals that are inherent in your family culture?
We had such a calm, warm day a few days ago and took advantage of it by going out to the shelter belt to cut a little firewood. With the past years of drought, we lost a lot of elm trees and so we've decided to start working through the tree rows and cutting down the dead ones for firewood. The wonderful thing about elm wood is that it is a very hard wood and burns long and slow. So when the cold days of deep fall and winter are upon us, it will be so nice to stick a big log in the wood burning stove and know that it'll generate heat for a long while.
We also like to cut up old fence posts and pitch posts which are fast burning woods. The pitch posts have a sticky resin within that is quite flammable. Pitch posts are made from conifers like pine or cedar. It makes terrific starting wood in the stove. The boys take a hatchet to cut sawed posts and sliver off thin sticks that we use over crumpled newspaper to start the fires. It immediately lights and burns hot and fast. I often imagine pioneer women who rekindled their morning fires with thinly cut wood or dried sticks that might have a little pitch in them so that they could start the fire roaring and get the water boiling for coffee and breakfast. Then perhaps later on, they'd add the hardwoods for a steady, even temperature for baking or roasting. However, out here on the prairie, it is more likely that they used buffalo chips to start their fires. Too few trees to rely upon for firewood and no fence posts either. Lucky me to live in the Here and Now with both a furnace and firewood.
I'm thinking it will be a good thing to have a large stack of firewood this winter. With the promise of higher prices for heating fuels, I'll be glad to maintain a fire in the stove and only click on the furnace when we need a little extra heat. I'd never want to be without our furnace, but I'm glad to have the option of supplement our heating with free wood from our land.
Today, I have a nice steady fire going in the stove -- elm wood. The wind is fierce and paired with 35 degrees, it's chilly-to-the-bone outside. The clear skies and sunshine don't fool me. I'm figuring by my handy-dandy Wind Chill Chart, it would feel like 19 or 20 degrees outside today. Brrr. I'm staying by the fire this afternoon.
I've really not been doing a whole lot of reading lately, but every now and then I sit down with Gladys Taber's Stillmeadow Daybook and read from the October chapter. There's just something about an author who can write about simple things like hanging out the blankets for an airing for the last time on a fall day, that makes me want to read more. Perhaps it's because I can identify with her. I don't lead a glamorous life whatsoever. It's quite ordinary. I really do take joy in simple things like hanging out the clothes, taking walks, cutting firewood and cooking simple, satisfying foods that my family thinks are The Best. If you enjoy country living or if you long for a taste of country living, check out a Gladys Taber book from your library, sit down with a cuppa, and enjoy it a month at a time.
I love reading a page a day from My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers. His entry on October 25th really struck a cord with me. A few quotes to share here....
"All God's men are ordinary men made extraordinary by the matter He has given them."
"'I have chosen you.' Keep that note of greatness in your creed. It is not that you have got God but that He has got you."
Monday, October 20, 2008
I was out walking this afternoon. I had to get out of the house for a little break. I had spent the morning proof-reading the sale catalog, answering the phone, calling the vet about importing and exporting bulls, washing the laundry (which takes no brain power, but it sounds busy!) and answering a few questions from my students. I needed to walk away and soak in a little sunshine. I decided to take the road to the Old Shearing Pens. I thought it might not be quite so windy walking down that way since it's a little bit "downhill." There are no trees, just prairie, but somehow, it seems the easier road to walk. My usual walking path is to the mailbox and more "uphill" in nature. As I was walking downhill with a strong wind to my side, instead of head-on, I was thinking about so many things. First of all, we're right in the middle of planning for our Annual Bull Sale. It's something like planning a wedding, year after year. I never thought of it like that before until I actually helped plan my daughter's wedding this spring.
The bull sale is an EVENT that has many of the same elements:
~Reserving the time and place
~The "guest" list -- we call it the mailing list
~The invitations --catalogs and ads
~Photos --for the catalog and advertising and video too!
~Attendants --the bulls
~The preacher -- the auctioneer
~The noon meal
~Getting a head count of guests who will attend
~The vows -- "I DO...take this bull to be mine. I will love him and take care of him for as long as he lives. And I promise to pay for him in full."
~The bills at the end of the Big Day.
~The sigh of relief when it's over.
~But wait!!!! We need to get them to their new homes. U-HAUL? Penske? Cattle Drive?
See what I mean? I guess these life-experiences really do cause us to see things in a whole different light, don't they? Which brings me to another thought. Change. Now you're gonna think I'm Way Out There, but do you remember coffee cans? You know, Folgers in a 3 lb. can? What's it in now? Plastic container jug thingy? You can't even get a plain old coffee can anymore. My parents used coffee cans for everything -- freezing cookies, storing pesticides, as protection for young tomato plants, as nail storage, toilet paper containers for the outdoor toilet, and on and on the list goes. Now, when you need a coffee can, what do you say? "Go out to the garage and get me a coffee ca___, container, thingy....?" Coffee has changed.
I'm probably just like you, I buy my coffee in bean-form and grind them fresh for my morning pot of java. We've changed, haven't we? What used to be commonplace is now A Thing of the Past. Could you even imagine your grandparents driving into Starbucks and ordering a grande' latte or cappuccino for $3? Back then, it was coffee -- black with sugar or cream. But again, once upon a time, folks had to used those old crank grinders to grind their coffee and percolator pots on the stove to boil it in, and they were more than thrilled when Ground Coffee came into existence and they could do away with that little time consuming job of grinding. Now we've come full circle, back to grinding our own beans, but I'll keep my electric grinder.
Oh, and remember mayonnaise jars? (the one pictured is a 1984 antique model) We don't have those anymore either. I used to save mayo jars for canning tomatoes and peaches and for other odds 'n' ends around the house. Would you even save a mayonnaise....um....container...plastic jar nowadays? I don't.
Could it be that I'm getting old? Don't old people talk about the way things used to be? I don't feel very old. I'm 46. But I remember when I used to think "All Grown Up" was 21. I had my first baby when I was 21! It's a pretty grown-up-thing-to-do to be married at 19 and have a baby at 21. Sheesh, that seems like a long time ago.
I was thinking about change as it applies to the US Election. Both candidates are proclaiming that they are all about "Change" and yet, I wonder if we will be able to see anything different when it's all said and done. One thing is certain, we're in for a change. Economically, change is upon us -- drastic stock market dips, global market drops, failed mortgages, failed financial institutions, plummeting home prices, banks being bailed out by government, Rescue Plans, Stimulus Packages, and now gas prices falling (now, that's a good change!). The other day my UPS man told me he's not going to retire as he had planned. When consulting his financial adviser recently, she told him to keep his job. So it's likely we're going to see less folks retiring and more of them holding onto their current jobs in hopes that their retirement plans will recover and that they can continue to work a little longer. But what about young people and their need for good jobs? How will a young graduate be accepted into the workforce?
Do you ever think about why you live in the place and time that you are? I've often wondered why I am so blessed to live in America, in a nice warm house, electricity, clean water, working on a ranch with my family, having plenty to eat and then some. Why me? Then I start thinking about how God made people to withstand the troubled times they've lived through. I think about people who have been persecuted for their faith or who live in conditions where they don't know whether they'll have food to eat tomorrow, or about people who lived through the Great Depression, seeing their livelihoods swept away in the dust. How did they do it? And then I wonder... am I made of the same metal that those people were? Only God knows, and only God can give me the strength and wisdom to live out His purposes here and now. But I wonder about these things.
Lastly, I am always thinking about my kids. I'm getting close to being all done raising them. Three of five are on their own. I wonder how they are going to do in this life and in these unstable times. What will their relationships will be like? How will they make a living? How are their relationship with God? Today, a friend shared these tidbits of wisdom from Ruth Bell Graham:
We mothers must take care of the possible and trust God for the impossible. We are to love, affirm, encourage, teach, listen and care for the physical needs of the family. We cannot convict of sin, create hunger and thirst after God, or convert. These are miracles, and miracles are not in our department. My Part (the possible): love -- love expressed to pray intelligently, logically, urgently without ceasing, and in faith. To enjoy being a mother, provide a warm, happy home, and minister to their physical and emotional needs as I am able. God's Part (the impossible): conviction of sin, creating a hunger and thirst for righteousness, conversion, bringing to the place of total commitment, showing us ourselves as we really are (without discouraging us!), and continually filling us with His Holy Spirit for our sanctification and His service.
I think this is good advice for anyone, in any situation, in any time, in any place. When everything around me changes, I am glad that with God, there is no variation or shifting shadow. He never changes. When the talking heads speak despair and trouble, He says to me, "Be still and know that I am God."
For Top Kitchen Tips for Austere Times, go see Dulce Domum at Bread and Roses.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I've been thinking and thinking about how I might make a little pumpkin hat for my Grandbaby's First Halloween and at last, I have found it! I purchased some pumpkin-orange polar fleece on sale yesterday, still unsure about how I was going to make this hat, but confident I would figure it out. I saw some adorable knitted hats, one of them at the Tri-State Bakery, and resisted buying it, but cataloged it's cuteness in my mind for later reference.
So this is it! I found the EASY-PEASY directions for making fleece hats at Martha Stewart's site. These are some really cute hats for all ages. Did I say how easy they are? Oh, so easy! I just made the Solid Color Hat and added the embellishments on the top. I drew the leaves onto heat-and-bond and then cut leaves, fronts and backs, out of a green fabric I had. I also found the cute rick-rack in Aunt Betty's stash. It represents the curlicues vines. When I finished the hat and tried it on the baby, the crown was a little tall, but cuffing the bottom solved that simply enough. Now to find an orange Onsie and stitch some of these on it! For more fun, Stitchy Halloween ideas, click Feeling Stitchy.
Oh, while on the search for the perfect pumpkin hat, I found this adorable Bat in the Hat at Craftzine. Is this sweet or what? (the cute baby definitely makes it oh-so-cute!)
I found wool jacket at the second hand shop that fit me to a Tee! So I bought it for $4. I brought it home and decided to clean it and of course, the label said "dry clean only," but upon consulting my Better Basics for the Home book (simple solutions for less toxic living), I found instructions on washing wool safely. Basically what I learned is that it's the agitation of "wet" cleaning that causes the wool fabric to shrink. So I did some gentle swirling around of the jacket in mild dish washing liquid and approximately 100 degree water. I rinsed in clean water and then laid the jacket flat on bath towels and pressed much of the water out. I replaced dry towels under the jacket, stretched it to the correct shape and size and then allowed it to air dry. When it was nearly dry, I put it on a coat hanger to finish drying. Then I pressed it with a steam iron. It still fits me perfectly and it's CLEAN to boot! No dealing with dry cleaning smells and toxins.
It's supposed to be a beautifully warm day here today, so I need to finish up my house cleaning chores and move my way outdoors. I hope to clear off the veggie garden and the drooping flowers from the flower beds today. Happy Weekend!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I know you'll think I'm a bit "off" but I finally, finally learned how to make a French knot! I've been embroidering for years and just could never get my fingers around to making the French knot. I might, on occasion, do one by mere luck, but most of the time, I improvised. As of a few days ago, I can do the REAL thing! And as you can see by my little embroidery patch, I did several!
My plan is to make this sweet Feedsack Quilt (from an old Quilting magazine) with approximately 48 six inch blocks of feedsack look-alike or vintage flavored fabrics. However, I want to also incorporate a few embroidered blocks to add a little bit 'o me into the quilt. I'm riding along with Hubby to town today sporting the pick-up and horse trailer -- first and foremost, we're having a bull checked at the vet. I won't go into the details here, but Sweetie Pie will drop me off at the stoplight downtown and I'll hoof my way to the local Tri-State Bakery -- no longer a bakery, but a wonderful cache of fabrics and trims and some local handmade things. I love going. Here is where I'll choose a few vintage-y fabrics to make my blocks. I hope I can contain myself!
(I might even get a Dairy Queen dip cone out of the deal!)
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I had another wonderful, quiet, snowy walk this morning. Oh, I enjoyed it so much. The snow was much deeper than yesterday and sometimes I wished for my snow shoes. The snow was so wet, though, that they may not have helped much anyway. I walked the shelter belts near our house and spied the young buck mule deer you see here. There was another young buck, standing right beside me. Sue (my dog) was barking at him and so he didn't notice me at all. I quickly snapped a couple pics before he loped away. The picture in my banner was the nearby buck. Do you see how the velvet is coming off his little antlers? I didn't notice it until I opened my pictures on the computer.
As I walked through the trees, there were gobs of robins flocked together eating the olives from the Russian Olive trees. If you click this picture, you'll see the greeny-gray olives on the branches. Isn't this robin so sweet? The robins will soon be leaving, but the Sharptail grouse and gray partridge and the raccoons will eat the olives all winter long, and these trees are really loaded with them.
This is our house. I snapped it as I was walking out of the shelter belt. The snow was falling in big, fluffy tufts, and I felt as though I was walking in a picture storybook. I really wanted to continue walking, but I realized as I snapped this photo, that I had Sunday Dinner to make. All the kids were home! Yay! So back home I went. Back to my warm fire and all my loved ones inside.
Come now, and let us reason together,
says the Lord. Though your sins are as scarlet,
they will be as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
A road well-traveled......by a few.
I've been wanting to take a drive for several days to photograph this old Norwegian church that my Hubby was raised in. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to get here, depending on the road conditions which, today, were muddy but not too muddy to drive. Services are still held at the Little Missouri Lutheran Church with a pastor who travels about 60 miles to this church and other country churches a couple times a month. Many of the same families whose ancestors established this church in 1889 are still attending.
Back when Hubby and I attended church here, we could pack 50 people inside comfortably. But when there is a wedding or a funeral, you might squeeze 75 (several standing) and the rest must stand outside the door and listen closely. It really is a charming little church.
There's a cemetery alongside and to the back of the church. There was recently a death in the community so if you look closely, you can see the backhoe off to the left. You'll also notice the green outdoor toilets to the right.
It's been a soppy-wet and chilly day here today. The wind is blowing and the thermometer won't reach 40 degrees. We're expecting more rain and snow in the coming days. We've been blessed with such warm Indian Summer days and now, I suppose, all good things must come to an end. Goodbye Autumn.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Outside my window...
...a big blue jay flies in and out of view. The only blue we see in nature is our Big Sky and an occasional visit by a blue jay, lazuli bunting or blue bird. We are in a migration flyway which makes bird watching fun.
I am thinking...
When will our first freeze come? What day should I pick an armful of flowers in case they freeze?
I am thankful for...
...this day working with my hubby and sons on such a pretty autumn day.
From the kitchen....
...I baked an apple pie. I have 4 crusts in the freezer and lots of frozen apples in quart bags. It sure makes pie-making a snap.
I am wearing...
...jeans, a blue hoodie, stocking feet.
I am creating...
I am going...
...to make the beds. It's Monday, sheet washing day, and yes, I even hung them out on the line again today! Breezy day for fast-drying!
I am reading...
...the Impatient Gardener by Jerry Baker. I needed some advice for planting our new orchard down below the yard. This weekend we planted 3 varieties of apple, 1 sour cherry and 2 plum trees. Hubby seeded grass and we've been watering it daily.
I am hoping...
...that the trees grow and the grass comes up before it gets very cold. Fall is an excellent time for us to plant trees and grass here in the North Country.
I am hearing....
...Grandpa visiting with the boys at the table.
Around the house...
...the sheets are off the clothesline and ready for bed-making, 3:00 lunch dishes are done, gusts of wind are blowing off bunches of leaves from the trees.
One of my favorite things...
....apple pie and REAL whipped cream and hot coffee.
A few plans for the rest of the week...
~Guests tomorrow, looking at bulls
~Web page building for the Bull Sale (need a bull?)
~Kids coming home this weekend. We're repairing the shed roofs (remember the hail?)
~Peeling, slicing, and freezing more apples this weekend too.
~Reading Montana, an Uncommon Land
~Hoping to receive a new books this week:
Country Child by Allison Uttley
Beatrix Potter, A Life in Nature
Doodle Stitching: Fresh and Fun Embroidery for Beginners
Colorful Stitchery: 65 Hot Embroidery Projects to Personalize Your Home
Here's a picture thought I'm sharing....
This is the blue jay who's been darting in and out of my feeder.