Friday, August 29, 2014

Challenge #31: Can It (or Freeze It, or Dehydrate It, or Ferment It. . . )

This week I have been really busy with canning, freezing, and otherwise preserving food.  So, naturally, when I was contemplating what type of challenge I wanted to post on Friday (that would be today), my thoughts turned to food preservation.

There are so many ways to preserve food and store it for future use.  And, with vegetables being in full swing right now, and orchards starting to get in on the fresh food action too, there won't be a cheaper time this year to acquire many different kinds of food than right now.

Don't tell me "But I don't have a garden, or fruit trees."  That's a poor excuse.  Farmers markets are in practically every town anymore.  Not like ten years ago when they were mostly quaint old memories or something you had to drive a long ways to get to.  Most readers will be able to find one within a not very far drive from where they live or work. There are websites with lists and lists of farmers markets all over the U.S. that can help you locate one.

And even if you can't find a farmers market close enough to shop at, the produce sections of the grocery stores are full to bursting currently.  Prices on abundant in-season food are low.  Buy now.

Don't tell me "But I don't have a canner."  There are other ways to preserve food.  You probably have at least some freezer space, don't you?  Before I even moved out of my parents' home, way, way back in another lifetime, I froze a few veggies in late summer.  It's not difficult, and thanks to the internet, instructions are close at hand.  You don't even have to own a Ball Blue Book anymore to be able to look up how to prep just about anything for the freezer.

In addition to canning and freezing, some foods take well to dehydration (either in an electric dehydrator, your oven, on trays in the sun, or even in your car on a bright sunny day!!) or fermentation.  I don't have a lot of experience with either of those, outside of dried apple rings and sauerkraut, but, again, instructions abound on the 'net.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yarn Along 2: Three at Once

Joining Ginny at Small Things for the Yarn Along again this week.

Currently, I have three projects on the needles: my dishcloth for the MKAL that wraps up this week, the Irish Mesh cowl I cast on for last week, and a pair of socks that will be a Christmas gift to my Mom.

I have to confess, I did have a whole lot more done on the cowl than is shown in the picture (taken this morning).  Twenty-two rows, actually, when I noticed I had made a grievous mistake way back in row 1:  when joining to knit in the round I had allowed a twist to get into my stitches.  Why in the world it took me 22 rows to notice, I'll never know, but I ended up frogging the whole blasted thing yesterday afternoon, rewinding the yarn, and starting over.  So, now I have five rows done correctly.

As far as reading goes, I am trying to read The Happy Wives Club, but to be brutally honest, I'm just not that into the writing style.  So far (56 pages), it reads more like a recounting of someone's vacation--"I traveled here and lunched with so-and-so and this is what we talked about"--than how I thought the information in the book would be presented. It is non-fiction, afterall, so I guess I had thought it would be a bit less chatty.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a book I will struggle through the first 100 pages of, then give up on because if I'm just not into the writer's style, chances are I'm not going to enjoy the remainder of the book or retain much of the information contained in it.  Oh well.  There's always another book waiting for me to open it up!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Not Homegrown, But I'm Preserving It

Last week, the grocery store that I frequent most often had fresh mushrooms on sale.  $1 per 8 ounce package.  That's less than half the regular price.

I like mushrooms.  DH likes mushrooms.  So, I bought six packages!  I worked two of those packages into our menu in the next few days.  The rest of them I decided to freeze.

First, I rinsed them, cut off the ends of the stems, and sliced them into about 1/4" slices.

Then I sauteed them in butter for 3 minutes, stirring often.

Next, I put them on cookie sheets and stuck them in the freezer to cool them quickly without washing off the buttery mushroom juices.

After about half an hour, I removed the cookie sheets from the freezer, scooped the mushrooms into baggies, and then put the baggies back into the freezer.

Mmmm!  Sauteed mushrooms for the future!  I think, next time they go on sale for such a great price I'll get five pounds or maybe more. I'd like to try dehydrating some next time too; for easier storage and use in soups or other saucy things.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bad Turkeys

Did you know that turkeys eat tomatoes?  I didn't.  It makes sense, and I probably should have foreseen problems with free ranging my turkeys. After all, chickens love tomatoes and turkeys aren't a whole lot different from chickens in my experience.

But, I hadn't free ranged turkeys before, and I didn't think about what might happen when the tomatoes started to ripen.  I had welcomed the turkeys, and the ducks, and the geese, into the garden with me when I was weeding.  They were great at eating bugs, especially those pesky Japanese beetles that seem to show up out of thin air in August and then proceed to defoliate my bean plants.

Turns out turkeys are also great at poking almost ripe tomatoes full of holes.  They don't even pick them first, they just peck away at that nice juicy orangey red globe hanging from the tomato plant.  You know, the one I've been keeping an eye on all week in anticipation of a sun ripened tomato.  Thick, juicy, deep red tomato slices on a BLT. . . Heck, a warm,freshly picked tomato as a snack while weeding the garden, tomato juice running down my arm as I take a bite. . .

Yeah, neither scenario has happened yet, because my bad turkeys have beat me to every dang tomato before it turned from orange to red.

So much for free ranging my turkeys.  They are now on lock-down until November when they will meet their fate (Thanksgiving dinner for one, freezer camp for the others.)  I didn't plant 100 tomato plants so they could gorge themselves on my tomatoes before I got a chance at them.  No, those tomato plants are supposed to be canned tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and salsa for the next year, plus enjoyable fresh eating from now until frost.

Honestly, I'm tempted to forego the nice plump Thanksgiving turkey and just do them in now.  Then I can cook up the breasts and slice them for sandwich meat.  A nice, juicy, thick red tomato slice on a turkey breast sandwich sounds pretty good right about now.  A little bit of karma, you could say.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Challenge #30 Take a Book, Leave a Book

About two years ago, I noticed a strange looking--well, maybe not strange, it was just a strange thing to appear where it did--cute, a cute looking large wooden box hung on a telephone pole next to the driveway of my neighbor about a mile away.  This box had a door on the front with a window that took up most of the door.  Looking through the window, I could see that in the box were books.  Lots of books.  Two shelves full of books.

Underneath this box was a sign, with letters large and visible enough to be read from the road:

Take A Book, Leave A Book

Hmm, I thought, that's neat.  What a cool idea.  A place where neighbors can swap books at their leisure, and without any worries of someone else seeing (and possibly judging) their reading preferences.  One of these days I'll have to find a book at home that I don't plan to read again, take it over there, and see what title in the box I might want to exchange it for.

But I never got around to it.  In my defense, it is located in a direction I only take about 20% of the time I leave this little place here.  So, not like I'm driving by every day.  And the majority of the times I did drive that way, I had forgotten to bring a book with me to leave in place of the one I might take.

A few months after seeing that strange cute box down at the neighbor's, I noticed a similar one go up a few blocks down from the church I attend.  Slightly different design and paint job, but still a box with a front door, big window on the door, two shelves of books, and the big sign:

Take A Book, Leave A Book

Intrigued, I did what most people these days do, and I Googled the phrase.  Seems this Take a Book, Leave a Book thing is huge.  Like, you can find them in neighborhoods pretty much all over the United States, and even in other countries.  All free, all on the honor system.  You bring a book you wish to swap, and in exchange you may take home a book from the box that interests you.

There is even a website with a map and list of locations where they can be found (apparently if you would like to start one, you can register it with this group.)  Officially they are known as a Little Free Library. If you click on the link, you can read all about how they started, how they work, how to start one in your area, how to build the box (if you desire) or how to order one, and you can access the map to see if there is all ready one (or more!) near you.

So, this week's challenge to myself is to go down the road to my nearest Little Free Library, and then Take A Book, Leave A book.  My challenge for you is to go do the same if you know of one near where you live, work, shop, or worship; or, if you aren't aware of one, go to the website and look at the map to find the location of the one closest to you.

It's a win-win.  You get to swap a book you no longer want for one that you do.  For free!!  No money involved!  Or, if you don't see anything on the shelf today that you are interested it, you can still leave a book or two you wish to be rid of (decluttering, anyone?) and then come back at a later date and see if there is anything new that you would like.

What are you waiting for?  What in the world have I been waiting for?!? Get out there and
Take A Book, Leave A Book

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hot, So Hot, Sticky Sweet. . .

Pardon me for a moment while I go hunt down my Def Leppard CD and pop it into the player. . .

Okay, now I'm ready to write this post!  Well, maybe one more quick distraction; I'm somewhat amused to note, as I retrieved the above mentioned music disc from it's alphabetized location, that it sits on the shelf between Charlie Daniels and John Denver.  Yes, I'm a bit eclectic in my musical tastes. :0)  You can also find Cheap Trick and Mark Chestnut, as well as Alabama and Apocalyptica, Tim McGraw and Steve Miller, Eric Clapton and Patsy Cline, Lorrie Morgan and Motley Crue.

Anyway. . . Today is one of the most hot and humid days we've had so far this summer.  And, of course, on such a hot and humid day I have spent most of my time in the kitchen, canning.

Today's canning chore is peaches. I bought a whole bushel of them last weekend when I was over to the west side of the state, helping DD1 move into her new apartment. The west coast of Michigan is lush with orchards, in case you didn't know.  Because of Lake Michigan running up the entire west coast, it is a little bit warmer in the winter and early spring than the rest of Michigan, and that micro climate is awesome for growing fruit.

Case in point: my peach trees did not even blossom this year.  In fact, I totally lost one to the frigid winter we had, and a second tree only leafed out on half it's branches.  Locally, the peach crop is nil.  On the west side, however, peach harvest is underway and appears to be a good year.

So, being the peach lover that I am (and remembering my dismal experience with peaches bought at the grocery store summer of 2012 when we also did not have a peach crop at this little place here--or anywhere else in my area of Michigan's lower middle), when I realized I would be heading west--WEST!-- with a Suburban load of DD1's furniture and other belongings, I decided I must bring back peaches. Cuz if I'm going there anyways, I may as well take advantage of the abundance of fruit over there.

I also bought a quart box of red plums, because my little plum tree isn't bearing yet and I can't seem to find an orchard with plums in the vicinity of this little place here.  I love red plums too, but only fresh from an orchard.  The ones from the store are pretty blah.

I had intended to can up the entire bushel of peaches today.  Until I started getting out supplies this morning and found that

  1. I'm low on wide mouth pint jars (my preferred jar size and style for peaches) and 
  2. I'm almost out of sugar.  
I altered my plans somewhat, and canned up what I had supplies for, which turned out to be 6 quarts and 20 pints.  I'll do the rest in a day or two, after I make a run for more jars and more sugar.

Meanwhile, my kitchen feels as hot as a blast furnace, I'm soaked with sweat, and the floor is sticky from peach juice dripping on it. But it smells so good, so peachy and sweet, that I can't help singing along with Def Leppard "I'm hot, so hot, sticky sweet. . ."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Yarn Along

Today I'm joining in with Ginny for the yarn along.  I've been following her for a while, but have not been brave enough to join in.  Until now.

Last night I finished these socks, for myself.   The pattern can be found here.  They were a fairly quick knit and made a lovely simply cable pattern across the top of the foot and the leg of the sock.  I liked knitting them so much that I plan to start a pair for my Mom soon, to give her at Christmas.

Here are my current projects:

Last night I cast on for an Irish Mesh cowl to give a sister in law for Christmas (she loves blues, and accessorizing).  The other project, on the straight needles, is a MKAL (Mystery Knit A Long) dishcloth/washcloth that I have been participating in.  Directions for that can be found here.

This is my first time doing an MKAL, and it has been very enjoyable.  Apparently there is a new dishcloth MKAL each month, so if you want to join in, but think August is too far gone to catch up with the group, bookmark the site and come join the fun on September first when the next one begins.  The directions are easy to follow along with, and all 'new' stitches (anything not a knit or purl) is clearly explained.

Part of Ginny's yarn along is also talking about what you are reading.  I am about 3/4 of the way through Cecelia Ahern's One Hundred Names.  I really enjoy her writing, and am finding this to be another pleasurable novel.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Work. . . or Privilege?

Today I spent eight hours taking care of green beans.  8. EIGHT.  Hours.  Yes, that's right, eight hours.

Now, at the end of the day, I have the equivalent of three and a half gallons of beans canned. That's a lot of beans.  Three batches ran through my pressure canner.

Plus, a few more pounds in the fridge that I didn't get to, that will become frozen beans (for in soups and stews) tomorrow.

You are probably asking yourself who in their right mind would spend eight hours of their day working on green beans (yeah, on a Sunday, so much for my keeping Sundays open for resting. . .)

Honestly, I was asking myself the same thing about halfway through.  You know, after I'd been to the garden and picked them (first hour).  After I'd brought them to the house and sorted out the ones for freezing (half hour).  After I'd topped and tailed and snapped the ones I intended to can (two more hours). After I had rinsed them off, all those little pieces of green beans (fifteen minutes?).  I said to myself "who would do this?"

And I answered myself "someone privileged enough to grow their own food."

How many people don't have access to fresh vegetables? Can't even buy them in a store because the stores in their neighborhood don't carry fresh veggies?

How many people would like to grow a small garden, but can't, either because they don't have a yard to do so on, or because their health doesn't allow them to do the physical labor gardening requires, or because their homeowner association forbids it?

How lucky am I, how privileged, that I can grow, and harvest, and can my own green beans.  If the world as we know it ended tomorrow, if DH lost his job--our only income--my family could survive quite a while on green beans. There's probably another few gallons worth in jars down in the cellar all ready.  Not to mention the fact that the bean plants will keep pumping out new beans for another month, at least, before frost kills them.

Work?  Yeah.  But more than that.  Privilege. And security.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Challenge #29: Help Someone

Some people call this concept "Pay it Forward".  I guess that is supposed to have a warm fuzzy ring to it.  To me, when I hear 'pay it forward', it makes me think of owing something. Like I have to do something good for someone else in order to settle some debt I'm not even aware I have.

I like the phrase "Help Someone" much better.  I don't owe anything.  A good deed isn't something I do because I'm trying to make up for something bad I did (or might do in the future).  A good deed is something I do because, well, I want to.  Because I desire to be of aid to someone else.  Not because I have to, or someone told me I should.

When I am grocery shopping, and I help another shopper find an item on the shelves, I'm doing it because I see that person having a need I can fulfill.  Same thing when I'm shopping and I ask if I can reach for something on a shelf that is above the height of a little old lady (or sometimes a little old man), or a person in one of those motorized shopping carts.  Or when I see a frazzled mama with tired kids in tow heading to the same checkout lane as myself and I tell her to please go in front of me, even though her cart is much fuller than mine.  She obviously would appreciate getting out of the store all that much sooner than if I were to race in front of her so I didn't have to wait for her to empty her cart and pay for her groceries.  I do it because I would want someone to extend the same kindness to me if I were in the same predicament (searching but not finding, trying to reach but just can't, trying to get home with my shopping-weary offspring, etc).

It's the old golden rule:  Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

There are many ways we can be of help to others, not just the few grocery store examples above.  I'm not going to list more, because I'm sure you can think of plenty on your own.  Just look around you, think of people you know, places you go, and ideas will come to you.

Call it 'pay it forward' if you must, but for this week, I challenge you to help someone in some way.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

DD1 Leaves Home For College. . . Take Two!

DD1 graduated high school in 2012.  That August, we drove her all the way out to Minnesota to start college.  It was a time of joyous exhilaration:  she was grown up, she was leaving home, she was attending the college of her choice, and DH and I had merely one child of our brood of four left at this little place here.  Hooray, DD1!  Hooray DH and I!

Well, that didn't last long.  DD1 experienced severe homesickness.  She called every day!!  Every day!  When my sons had left home, I rarely heard from them, and I missed them.  With DD1 I heard from her every day (mostly complaints), and I honestly didn't get the opportunity to miss her.

Within a month, she was making noises about transferring colleges and coming back to Michigan.  I encouraged her to stick it out, saying transitions like this (from being a child at home to on your own/in college) take several months to work themselves out.

Within two months, she was calling DH and asking him to come get her when the semester was over.  She called DH with this, because every time she would start on the subject with me, I'd tell her she needed to keep with it, to finish the entire year, that she hadn't been away long enough to truly be transitioned yet.

By the third month, she'd called the community college near this little place here, registered herself, and signed up for winter semester classes to start in January.  Then she called her father and told him which day her semester in Minnesota ended. Then DH told me she was moving back home, and just before Christmas we would be making the long trek (12 hours!!) to Minnesota to bring back her and all the stuff we'd just taken out there in August.

Hmmmm.  I'll be honest.  I wasn't happy.  I felt DD1 was taking the easy way out, and DH was letting her.  One semester of college away from home.  That was it.  Really?!?  And she was moving back in free of charge. Despite the fact that we had always told our teens that after high school they could go to college or in the service or work full time, but they could not live at home rent-free, DH was now against charging her rent.  Really?!?  What happened to guiding them on the path of adulthood?

I'll spare my readers the details of the past twenty months.  It hasn't been smooth, having DD1 move back home.  In some ways, it's like she wants to be a kid again, yet she does less chores than she did when she was a kid in high school.  Granted, she has gone to community college full time since she's moved back home, as well as taken 1-3 classes each summer semester (transferring messed up her credits and she's had to take some classes very similar to the ones she took in MN that didn't transfer after all), and she's worked part time too.  But she's been living here rent free, doing the bare minimum of chores--is washing the dishes two nights a week too much to ask???--and her belongings have been spreading to take up way more space than they did when she was a child at home.  Not to mention the attitudes she pulls with me, which DH lets slide.

To say it's been less than a bed of roses would be an understatement.

Now, however, DD1 is ready (in her mind) to leave home for college again. She has enrolled in a college on the west side of the state, secured a roommate and an apartment, and is moving an hour and a half away.  Far enough that apparently she feels some 'freedom', yet close enough that she can come home every weekend if she wishes.

Am I sad to see her go?  Heck no!!  I'm so glad she's going!  My goodness, she's twenty years old!  It's time for her to fly!  Past time, if I'm going to be brutally honest.  I moved 500 miles away from home at nineteen and never looked back.  In my opinion, this girl is behind schedule on the maturity/responsibility scale; both her brothers left home right after high school and have been flying solo ever since.  When they do come home, it's to visit, and they have manners and respect for their parents.

Not to mention that having two women both trying to influence how a household runs just does not work.  This house is mine.  If DD1 wants to have furniture a certain way, or a particular menu, or leave clothes in the washing machine all day, or have hair and make-up items scattered all over the bathroom and dirty clothes piled on the end of the couch and bowls and cups and plates stacked on end tables, she can do it at her own house, not here.  If she wants a particular thing to eat, she can go to the grocery store and buy it, then bring it home and cook it.  I won't miss her pretty much daily complaints over our food supply and menus.

So I am not a bit sad to have DD1 leaving home (again). I'm looking forward to things running smoother around this little place here.  I'm hoping that she will stay gone this time; finish off college, start a career, and never need to move back in with her parents again.

Because that, in my mind, is what every parent's goal should be:  to raise up their children so that when those children become adults (ahem, the age of eighteen; a legal adult), they are ready to leave home, succeed at taking care of themselves, and not live forever (or a decade, or whatever) in their childhood home with their parents.

Not that I don't love her.  I do. Very much.  And because I love her so much, I know that continuing to live at her childhood home (with DH still wanting to let her be a child) is not good for her in the long run.  It's time for her to go, to fly, to be the head of her own home.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

a poem

Not to alarm anyone (warning: dark poetry ahead); it's just a difficult time right now, and sometimes I can't capture all my thoughts the way I want.  But here is a poem that found  it's way out of my head, through my fingers, to the keyboard today.  So, here it is.  Maybe someone needs to read it just as much as I apparently needed to write it.

My Brain Screams
and no one hears.
No one hears what my mind says,
only me.
Only me.

No one can tell,
no one looks and knows.
Only me.

I am not all that I seem.
I am not what I look.
My clothes are clean and nice,
my hair is fixed, like my smile.

It is not a real smile;
it is something I put on in the morning when I get out of bed,
like the clothes,
like the combed and arranged hair.
Because that is what I am supposed to do.

The smile is part of my wardrobe,
it is not part of my spirit.
If you look close, you will see.
It does not come from my eyes.
It is not me.

I hurt.
I ache.
I want.
I am discontent.

I should be grateful,
I have so much more than many.
Yet I have not joy,
I have not a real smile.

I have pain,
or numbness,
but rarely joy.
I want the joy.

I want the real smile.
I want my brain to quiet down,
to stop screaming.


Will it ever come to me?

I cannot quit,
I cannot give in.
I cannot stop.
Because if I stop,
if I quit,
if I give up,
I know for certain
that joy will never come.

So I go on.
I get up.
I get dressed.
I fix my hair.
I fix my smile.

I try again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fowl Weather

Today is a bit rainy.  Off and on thunderstorms, each with it's own short deluge of rain.   Not very conducive to enjoying outdoor activities.  Unless, of course, you are waterfowl.

Dancin' in the rain.

Great weather for ducks (and geese).

Getting a drink, or playing in the water?

When you bathe in a mud puddle you get, well, muddy.

Monday, August 11, 2014

First Corn

It's finally ready!  I picked the first ears of sweet corn of the season just a few minutes ago.  Ain't no corn in the world like fresh picked home grown sweet corn!   I confess, I've been known to devour an entire ear, raw, right there in the garden.  It's that good.

Today, I restrained myself--didn't peel and eat any in the corn rows.  Nope, picked just enough for dinner tonight, and brought it up to the house.

I tell you, dinner time can't get here fast enough now.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Challenge #28: Do a Puzzle

August is well known for sweltering hot days.  Around this little place here, we get sweltering hot usually interspersed with pop-up thunderstorms.  Both of which make getting outdoor work done kind of difficult from time to time.

So, if you find yourself in either a day so hot that it makes you pour sweat while you are buck naked sitting still, or a day that is raining so hard working outdoors would be like trying to garden or do yard work in your bathroom shower, take advantage of the situation.  Take a break.  Do a puzzle.

I love puzzles.  I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn't do puzzles. Picture puzzles.  Word puzzles.  Number puzzles.  Even those puzzles that are sentences or quotes that have been put into a code.

I just love puzzles.  My kids, too, like to do a variety of puzzles.

As a result, we have jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, word-searches, Sudoku, logic puzzles, etc at our house.  Perfect for grabbing on a day that is too hot, or too rainy, to get anything done outside.  Better for your brain than watching TV or a DVD.

This week I challenge you to choose some sort of puzzle, take advantage of a day (or evening) with sticky, oven-like temperatures, or a deluge of rain, and sit down for a while.  Do a puzzle.  Exercise your brain instead of breaking a sweat.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Camping and Boating--No Kids, No Relatives, No Friends. Is That Allowed?

Yes.  Apparently, it is.  Because I just returned home from a wonderful, fun, quick little camping and boating trip with DH.  Just DH.  And, as we figured out while we sat by the river on Tuesday evening, enjoying the solitude of a pretty much empty campground and nobody sharing our campsite, it is the first camping trip he and I have gone on in our entire 21 years of marriage that did not include at least one of our children, some relative, or a friend.

Wow.  Gotta love that!  Not lovin' that it has been so long since he and I claimed a tent site all to our selves, but lovin' that we finally were able to do so again.

It was kind of a snap decision, on Tuesday morning, that when he got home from work he and I would throw the camping and boating gear into the Suburban and take off for points northwest.  We would find a campsite at one of the National Forest Campgrounds when we got where we were going (hopefully before dark), then take his canoe and my kayak down the Little Manistee River on Wednesday.  On Thursday, I would get up and drive home (so, yeah, this little trip did require two vehicles), while he met up with a few friends for more canoeing and camping on another Northern Michigan river, then he and an increasingly larger group would move to yet another river and another campground for a big canoe/camp this weekend.  Two of our four kids (plus a few of their friends) are planning to head up Friday after work to meet DH and however many friends or relatives are there by then.  Saturday will be a big group float.

For a few weeks now, I have wavered back and forth over whether or not I was going on this Thursday throughSunday camping and canoeing trip.  Honestly, I'm still "peopled out", as I call it*, from hosting the family reunion, and the thought of being part of a group of 12-20 campers and boaters just didn't sound fun and relaxing.  Yet, I hadn't been in my kayak this year, and I hadn't been camping this year either.  Both of which I wanted to do. However, the whole group thing, with it's sheer body count and attendant noise and motion, and it's increasing lack of communication/order as the days got closer just was totally unappealing.

So, when DH called me from work on Tuesday and said he was thinking of heading out early for this trip, before anyone else from the group was able to go along, and did I want to join him for just a day or two, I jumped at it.  Taking a spur of the moment mini-vacation is one of the perks of not working this summer (I've only been working an hour or so a week at the horse farm since mid-June), and having kids old enough to stay home alone and take care of the homestead and animals in my absence.

We had a great time.  We found a beautiful campsite right on the Pine River.  There really were no other campers down in that 'rustic' part of the national forest campground on a Tuesday night, so it was like we had our very own wilderness and our very own river.  The sound of water gurgling over some rocks in the river lulled us to sleep.

our portable home

the beach/landing adjacent to our campsite

On Wednesday, we woke when we had had enough sleep (versus when the alarm clock went off to go to work, or when other campers woke us up with talking or activity--since there were no other campers!!).  We had a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola bars, loaded the small "river cooler" with beverages, venison hunter sticks, and cheese for lunch on the river, tossed a box of crackers in the dry bag, and off we went to the put in on the Little Manistee.

Many hours later, we arrived back at camp, relaxed, happy, and in my case, a little sunburnt (I forgot to pack sunscreen) from a day on the water.  We'd seen king salmon in the river, as well as a turtle, multiple types of dragon- and damselflies, several ducks, a muskrat, and a heron that just about kicked DH in the head because it took off out of the water so close to his canoe as he rounded a bend in the river.  We did not encounter a single other boat out on the water; so nobody to steer around or try to avoid being hit by, and without other boaters we saw more wildlife than when in a group.

Wednesday night's dinner was a cook-your-own affair involving brats, hot dogs, a hot dog fork and a campfire.  Slow, relaxed, no prep, no clean-up later, enough to eat for everyone, and no one fussing over not liking the menu. (Another benefit of not being part of a group, LOL.)

After dinner we sat by the campfire, enjoying the darkness, the quiet, the stars, until we felt sleepy enough; then retired to our tent for a great night's sleep accompanied by the sound of the river just a few yards outside the tent.

Ahhhh.  Definitely need to do that more often.

*"peopled out"  is a phrase I use with my immediate family when my introverted self has been through too much exposure to a number of people and I need to have some time that doesn't involve anyone I didn't marry (as in, DH) or give birth to directly or indirectly (my kids and grandkids).  A way of saying "hey, it's just us, or else I'm going to do my lone wolf disappearing act because I have reached the end of my ability to make polite conversation or otherwise deal nicely with people".

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Beans and Beans and Beans and Beans!

I have beans.  Lots of beans.  Perhaps I planted too many.  LOL

I didn't think, at the time, it was too many.  One packet of Annie's Rainbow Beans from here, plus two poles' worth of Kentucky Wonder pole beans (also ordered from Annie's).  It didn't seem like too many in the garden:  the equivalent of two rows in the southwest quadrant.

But, man, have I got beans!!  And the pole beans have only started having ripe beans on the vines today!

Which is a way of saying, I guess, that Annie's has great seeds that germinate and grow well, and mature into prolific plants.

Here is a picture of what I picked on Thursday; which is pretty representative of what I've been harvesting every other (or sometimes, every third) day for the past two weeks.

At first, I was canning the beans in quart and pint jars.  But my cellar is rapidly filling, and my old standby favorite Kentucky Wonder beans are barely getting started.  I want to leave some jars and shelf space for those too. So this weekend, I switched to blanching and freezing the rainbow blend beans whole.

We've been experimenting with new recipes for fresh green beans (hence my decision to freeze a quantity as whole beans). So far, two recipes really stand out as winners that we will make again and again.

They are  this and this other one .  We've tried both recipes with 'normal' green beans, with the purple beans, the wax beans, the dragon's tongue beans, and with a mix of all four.  Doesn't seem to matter which variety of bean I use, they all come out tasty with either recipe, and it's a break from the typical steamed-or-boiled-green-beans-with-butter-on-top.

This is our first year ever growing, or eating, the dragon's tongue bean.  It is a wider, flatter podded type of bean than your typical green or wax bean, but just as tasty.  Don't be afraid of the name, there is nothing hot or spicy about this bean (unless you add seasonings to make it that way.)

We had guests the first day I cooked these beans up, and upon hearing the name 'dragon's tongue', one young guest asked "they aren't hot--like fire--are they?"  :0)

Not hot, just pretty, and pretty tasty too.  The purple streaks do turn to the same color as the cream/white background when the beans are heated.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Recapturing Sundays

Once upon a time, Sundays were a day of rest.  Now, I'm not talking way back when, when folks were more religious and no work--not even cooking--was allowed to be done on Sunday.  No, I'm talking more personally, as in, a time when DH and the kids and I just kind of relaxed after church on Sundays.  Games were played.  Walks were taken.  Books were read.  And, if it were football season, football watched all afternoon.

Then came buying the land at this little place here, and building our house.  Since we did not hire a construction company, but rather built the house with our own hands, the only times we had to work on it were the evenings and weekends when DH wasn't at work. So Sundays were a day of building, not resting.

Even after the house was completed enough to move into, Sundays continued to be work days; project days. I stained the entire staircase to the second floor on a Sunday.  We put down the laminate wood flooring in the dining room on a Sunday.  We split and stacked wood on a Sunday.  Weeded and watered the garden.  Harvested and canned vegetables.  Did a week's worth of baking.  Worked on building the rock wall longer, higher. Built hunting blinds and cut shooting lanes.  Cut up downed and storm damaged trees in the woods.  Built the barn. Stacked hay in the barn.  All on Sundays, because the weekends are when DH is (usually) home and has time.  (Many of his work trips do encompass the weekend, so sometimes he is not home on Sunday and I tend to work doubly hard in his absence instead of rest).

Once in a while, we do take some time off on a Sunday.  Deer hunting, for instance.  It's work, sort of, in that we are out there hoping to harvest some red meat for meals to come.  But it is also restful, sitting in the woods, observing nature for hours on end.  Or boating.  Canoeing/kayaking is physical work, but it is mentally relaxing.  Again with the nature thing.

The past two Sundays, a little work has been done (for instance, cleaning up from the family reunion the day before), but we have also spent more time than usual just sitting and relaxing.  On the front porch.  On the back deck.  On the patio.  Laying in the grass of the front yard.

The Sunday after the family reunion, some big storms rolled through the area in the mid-afternoon.  We started on the front porch, talking, but were driven into the house by the wind-driven rain that came in even under the overhang that makes up the porch roof.  Later, however, we were able to move back outside again.  We also got to see a beautiful double rainbow, both ends of which were visible.

This past Sunday, the weather was much fairer.  In the evening, a hot air balloon was put up in a field just down the road, at one of the dairy farm's parcels.  DH spotted it first, and drew my attention to it.  We watched, from our front porch, as it began to ascend. Then we moved out into the front yard to get a better view while it flew overhead, and finally, past this little place here.

Even after it had gone out of sight, several miles down the road, DH and I continued to lay out in the grass, relaxing.

We need to incorporate more of that into our schedule:  Sunday rests.  Time to just relax, to notice and enjoy the things that briefly pass our way.  Like life in general.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Goodbye, Animal

Animal was my rooster.  Until this morning, when I found him on the floor of the coop, deceased.  I believe it was age that did him in, as he showed no signs of disease, strutting around with the hens as usual right up until I closed them in the coop yesterday evening.

 My main rooster, Animal had survived several cullings of roos because of his

  1. beauty
  2. friendliness toward people
  3. work ethic
He was a handsome sucker.   He arrived in a straight run shipment of Aracauna (the blue/green egg layers) chicks in 2007.  I don't remember how many cockerels I ended up with from that batch, but he is the only one who didn't end up in the soup pot.  I confess, I was taken by his profusion of red hackles, the same hackles that got him named Animal after the Muppets character. Being an Aracauna, he also had a beard, making his red 'hair' stand out against his black whiskers. Much like the muppet Animal's bushy black eyebrows stand out against his shaggy red mane.

He had superb manners with people.  Another trait which gained him favor and allowed him to continue living long after his age mates became chicken dinners.  He never once showed aggression toward a human being, proving himself trustworthy even around young children.  

He was a great leader and protector of his harem of hens.  While he was docile with people, he didn't give four legged animals the opportunity to get close to his ladies.  I never lost a hen on his watch (rather, all my coon and possum related poultry losses were from the portable pen dwelling meat birds or young pullets not yet moved into Animal's flock).  He was also very good at calling his ladies over to some treasure he'd found (such as a juicy worm or tasty bug, or even the corn cobs or watermelon rinds I gave them in season) and then let all his girls get their fill before taking any for himself.

I wish I'd put some eggs in the incubator this year, so that now I would have a son of his to carry on as protector of my flock.  Unfortunately, his last son, a golden haired roo I'd nicknamed Hot Stuff, went to the auction in a flock culling several years ago.  At the time I'd sent Hot Stuff off to the auction, I didn't know he would be from the last batch of eggs fertilized by Animal that I would ever hatch.

Goodbye, Animal, you were a good roo.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Challenge #27: Get Your Butt in a Boat

Mostly, this is a challenge from myself, to myself.  I have not yet been in my kayak this year, and here it is the beginning of August all ready.  Here in Michigan, August is pretty much the end of canoeing and kayaking season, because the water (and the weather) tend to take a turn to the cold side in September.  And for me, personally, September is looking pretty booked; too booked to head out with at least one other person (never canoe/kayak alone, just in case something bad happens out on the water), for a float. So, it's now or never, as far as me and my kayak spending some quality time together goes.

How about you? Do you have a boat (canoe, kayak, rowboat, motorboat, etc) that has been neglected this season?  Or, do you happen to be one of those lucky people who has a friend with a boat that they keep inviting you to go on, and you keep turning them down because, well, honestly, you don't really have a good reason for turning them down?  Or, is there a boat (canoe, kayak, etc) rental place in your general vicinity--within an hour or so--that you could acquire the use of a boat from?

Honestly, we've never rented boats, so I have no idea what they cost per hour, or day, or however that goes. But I'm guessing it wouldn't be a whole lot more than what a fast food dinner for the family costs. Or a few hours at the movie theater.  And what would create more long last memories of a good time:  renting a canoe for an afternoon, or taking the family out to a burger joint or the latest cinematic release (that you could watch, for free or nearly so, once it comes out on video)?

Get your butt in a boat.