Monday, June 30, 2014

Homegrown Medicine

Although my Cilantro, Basil and Dill plants haven't yet grown big enough to harvest much, there are a few other plants in my Rock'n Herb Garden that have done very, very well.  Namely the Oregano, Chocolate Mint (chocolate...ha, as if) and Yarrow.  So well that a few weeks ago I cut a bunch and had my wonderful husband hang them up in the blast furnace attic to dry.

A few days ago, I finally remembered that there were herbs in the attic and I was afraid what they'd look like.  Paul brought them down and they were perfect!  So Rhiannon and I got to crunching the leaves off the stems (note to self: do this outside next time) and put them into jars:

I'm glad that I did the Yarrow as I'm pretty sure it did some of it's herbal magic on me.  As I was stripping and crunching the leaves off and carefully snipping the dried flowers off, I started sweating.  Didn't think much of it until later when the little light bulb went off; yarrow is used to induce sweating, among other things.  A younger me would have been a little skeptic of the actual ability of herbs to help/heal.  But when you have first hand experiences like that, it's hard to deny that the herbs are "working".  It's the little things like this that make me more inclined to use natural remedies before reaching into the medicine cabinet for a bottle of pills.

When Rhiannon was younger, she had problems with a stuffy nose and then the icky stuff draining into her lungs and she ended up with pneumonia twice, once in the ER.  Of course, the doctor gave us a bunch of medicines to clear her sinuses up, but I started looking into natural ways to help with her congestion in order to avoid the stuff getting into her lungs.  That's when I started making Mullein and Plantain tea.  Of course, I tested it on both Paul and I first before giving it to Rhiannon.  But I swear by that tea now.  Within minutes after both of us drinking the tea, our noses were dripping.  So now when Rhiannon (or us) starts getting congested, she gladly drinks her Mullein & Plantain tea with a hefty spoonful of local honey.

Do you have any "swear by" herbs you use?  I'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

"O" is for....

Oppressive: It is "only" eighty-nine degrees outside at ten minutes to seven (pm) and I just came back from feeding the goats.  I normally feed them before six, but figured I'd let it cool down a little more before I went outside to brave the heat.  Silly me.  It's not the heat, but the humidity.  I had actually thought that I was going to stay out after feeding the ingrates to pull some weeds in the overgrown jungle garden.  Silly me.

Overgrown:  My berry garden.

Olfactory Overload: Did you know if you leave a 200 lb. protein tub out in the rain, it will rot?  And smell like something died - no - like something ate something dead then it died and then something else ate the dead thing that ate the dead thing then threw it up into a bucket of putrid swamp water that had been sitting in the sun for seven days.  Oh.  Did I mention that it still weighs 200 pounds and I have no idea what I'm going to do with it?

Orange: My daughter sporting a bright summer dress:

One more day: Tomorrow is the last day of the June Blog-A-Day.  To all of those that participated; Thank you!  Oh, and I'm terribly, terribly sorry.
Sweet Jeezus, it's almost over!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Yay, Poop!

By now, most of my devoted readers know that we are "Soil Challenged" here. Rocks, we got plenty of.  Clay?  Yep.  Anything remotely resembling what a gardener would describe as "dirt", we are severely lacking in.

So year by year, goat turd by goat turd, rotted weed by rotted weed, we have been amending the - ahem - earth.  The bulk of it comes from the backside of various livestock here on the farm and yesterday Mrs. Melman (and her asshat of a sidekick, Nugget) finally got to help out:

Paul took the tractor up to the mule barn and scraped up their "potty area".  There were three piles of wasted hay & poop and he scooped up the oldest ones and dumped them into the back of the truck.  I was ecstatic.  Every time he dumped another tractor bucket into the bed I got chills up my spine.  I can see the above pile outside my bedroom window and I've been standing there with my elbows on the windowsill and sighing a deep, long sigh.

It started raining before I could get any of that black gold into the garden, but that's ok.  I still have to decide what lucky plants or areas will get this blessing from the back end of a mule.

Ms. Melman says feed me more and I'll
gladly provide you with pre-compost material.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kind'a Homemade Salsa

We're having company over for supper tonight and I needed to make some sort of snacky really quick.

Enter The Almost Homemade Sort'a Fresh Corn & Bean Salsa:

First, the most difficult parts.  Chop up a medium sized onion (I used a Vadalia).  Grab yourself a small handful of fresh Cilantro and chop that up really fine.  Throw those into a big bowl.

Now, the easy part.  Open and drain one can each of diced tomatoes, diced tomatoes & chilies, corn and a can of black beans.  Dump them into the big bowl and mix around.  Season to taste with garlic salt and pepper.


You could use dried cilantro, but honestly, I think the fresh onion & cilantro is what really makes the dish really good.  And of course, if you've got fresh green or hot peppers chop them up and toss 'em in.

Now open that bag o' chips and chow down.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Slothwoman Gardening

I will be the first to admit (and Paul will no doubt agree) that I am a Sloth.

I have tons of ideas and plans and To-Do lists, but once the initial excitement of start-up motivation wears off, I run out of steam very quickly.  I don't know how many unfinished projects we have around the house (yes, Mom, I know) and even some in my head are unfinished.

Yesterday I went out (after the rain storm) to survey the Soon-To-Be or, more realistically, Hopefully-Before-I'm-Dead, Garden.  I had planned on making it our Permaculture Garden.  You know.  Lots of different vegetables, fruits, bushes, flowers, trees, etc. living in symbiotic harmony.  Last year we planted four apple trees, a couple dozen squash plants and cucumbers.  I also started a compost pile over there with all the dead vegetation from last Fall / Winter.  Well, it didn't get squat done to it this year.  Because I'm a total sloth.

Well, we actually did put a few things in there.  Three rows of winter squash, most of which were washed downstream by the constant bombardment of precipitation we've been receiving the past month.  A few weeks ago Paul finally got out the cattle prod and got me to help him plant a bunch of sweet potato slips.

Anyways.  Back to me stomping around in the garden in the mud.  Since it just rained, I figured I'd go out there and rip out some of the larger (like, 4' tall) weeds and toss them into the compost pile so I could tell Paul that I actually worked in the garden that day.  While I was ripping out gigantic mullein plants and wrestling with ragweed big enough to choke an elephant, I spotted something familiar:

There are no less than twelve basil plants.  And to think I couldn't for the life of me start those buggers from seed.  And just a dozen feet away, I found no less that six volunteer squash plants.

They are where I planted summer squash last year, but they are also "downstream" of the compost pile so goodness knows what they will turn out to be.

Next to the apple trees?  Cucumbers climbing the cages:

I've always wanted to have Paul blade up a huge section of ground and just go out there in the spring and toss whatever old / cheap / gifted seeds out there and just see what comes up.  No watering, no weeding, just let Nature take it's course.  I guess this is what kind'a happened here this year.

I pulled some of the weeds from around the desirable plants, but kept some there just because.  I figured that if the bugs had other things to munch on, or climb on, or have to go through in order to get to my good plants, then the better.  I'm only going to pull the really nasty stuff (like morning glory or prickly sida) and the vegetation too close to the plants or those that would compete for sunlight.  I figured that this Slothwoman way of gardening would also deter the chickens from focusing on one particular plant and scratching it into oblivion.  Haven't you noticed that if you plant a seedling in the middle of a perfectly weeded garden, the chickens go right to the seedling and start their assault?  I think it's because it's so obvious a target.

So, although I may have not done squat this Spring in planting, it looks like I got some good things growing around the homestead!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Making the Bed

We just acquired (i.e. were given) a practically new squishy memory foam King sized mattress from our wonderful neighbors.  They bought it, slept on it for two weeks, didn't like it & since there was one of those "If you don't like it, bring it back for a refund" deals on it they wanted to return it for a different one.  But the store didn't want to bother with taking it back so they just put it in the extra bedroom for the past year.  Our neighbors have decided to clean out the extra bedroom and wanted to know if we (meaning "I") wanted it.  Of course!!  (Yeah, I know it sounds creepy to get a second-hand bed, but seriously, I know these people and wasn't squeamish about it)

Our old (probably going on 13 years) mattress is Queen sized and I've actually been bugging Paul for the last few months to get a new one, and a King sized one.  Excessive?  Probably, but I really like being able to have all that wonderful room.  And it really helps when a certain kiddo insists on coming up from her room to read a book in bed with us & then conveniently falls asleep.

Anyways.  The neighbors and I hefted the two-ton mass of squishiness into the house and promptly dropped it onto the living room floor.  Where it stayed for three days (much to Rhiannon's enjoyment), because we didn't have a King size frame or box springs for it.  I went to town looking for a frame and box springs and found out it would cost about $270 for a set.  A crummy set, at that.  And honestly, I couldn't imagine the frame & box springs being able to support such a massive mattress.  So I did some internetting & found a few simple platform bed frame plans that I (meaning Paul) could whip out in a relatively short time and without having to spend a bunch.

We didn't even have to buy a single screw or 2x4 for the bed frame since we already had everything.  The framework was brought into the house, the legs were attached with like eighty-five screws and a plywood top went on.  I found an old sheet and put it on top of the plywood before we placed the mattress on.  The platform bed and mattress weigh a ton.  If we ever move, it's staying right where it's at.

Although our free mattress and sort'a-free (stuff we already had on hand) didn't cost us anything, I still had to go and buy a sheet set.  And now I'm having to decide what to do with the quilt.  It's obviously too small for the King sized mattress, but I haven't been able to justify spending hundreds of dollars on a new quilt.  So this adventure wasn't so much "free".
Black Susan approves. 
I haven't decided what I'm going to do with the frame itself.  If I get an actual bedspread (i.e. a cover / blanket that goes almost to the floor) I'll probably just paint the 2x4 legs a medium brown.  If I get a quilt or blanket that doesn't go far enough down I'll make a bed skirt to hang down leaving a few inches of space before it hits the floor.  Guess I'll be internetting some ideas tonight.

Oh, and another great thing about this bed?  Would you lookie at all that storage space under there?!?

I could land a 747 under there.  And I see double-stacked under-the-bed boxes filling all that empty space.  Oh, the possibilities!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Meet your chicken, I mean, dinner

We had company last weekend:
Cousins zoning out to cartoons before bed.
Paul's brother, his wife and their son made the long, looooong trip to visit us (since we're like, stuck here for all eternity).  The kids ran around like crazy kids.  We went to the beach.  They ate lots of food.  They chased lots of livestock.  Fun was had by all.

But there is one thing that they left with us that I had to share with you.  When the kids were snug in their beds, the grown-ups got to watch Adult movies.  No, not X rated movies, but rather movies that didn't involve Sponge Bob or Care Bears.  We were introduced to "Portlandia".  Paul's brother brought the first season down for us to watch and the first skit was great.

Organic Free Range Hazelnut-Eating Chicken

Go ahead, click on it.  It's not very long (just over 2 minutes).  But I'm telling you, I almost wet my pants.  Especially when the waitress whipped out the "file" on Colin.  And the hypocrisy that they would drive 60 miles round trip (spewing out all those nasty greenhouse gases....wait a second, they probably had a bovine methane powered smart car, never mind) in order to check out the farm that the chicken, I mean, Colin, who's flesh they were about to consume, was raised on.

I guess I really shouldn't be complaining.  I think it's great that people are once again becoming more familiar with exactly where their food comes from and want to know it was raised in a humane manner.  But seriously, I KNOW stuff like this happens (well, maybe not exactly, but probably darn close) and it almost makes me want to NOT be one of those "Organic Hippy Homegrown Homebutchering" kind of gals.  Maybe I don't like it because it has become more "mainstream" and the yuppies are getting organic-orgasms every time they walk into Trader Joe's.  I don't anyone to look at me like I'm a total snob because we raise our own eggs or meat or vegetables or compost or rocks.  We raise what we can, when we can.  We try to buy local.  We try to barter with friends for things we don't have.  But don't be shocked if you come over and find a bag of Cheezy Poofs next to the raw sunflower seeds or a store bought package of tilapia fillets next to the venison liver in the freezer.  My daughter ate a bucket of popcorn smothered in fake butter at the movies yesterday afternoon and washed it down with a handful of M&M's.

Anyways.  Where was I going with this one?  Probably nowhere.  Because I have basically run out of ideas for blog posts.  I have a feeling that it's going to be a very, very quiet July for some of us on the blogosphere.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I'm not afraid of Chicken Salad

Strange title, but it's true.  I was, just until fairly recently, afraid of Chicken Salad.

Not afraid like, it's going to mutate into some creature and come running after me or anything, but I was afraid to make it.  I absolutely loved it when Mom made chicken salad.  There's a little cafe a few towns over that make a great chicken salad sandwich served on a fresh croissant.

And it seems that no two chicken salads are the same.  Maybe that's why I was afraid to make it.  Could I - little ol' me - make some of this delectable poultry goodness?

Then one day, I did.  We had just finished a baked chicken and there were leftovers (a rarity around here).  Paul normally picks the bird clean and I make him chicken and gravy for his lunch the next day.  But for some reason, I decided to brave the unknown.  Instead of smothering the chicken meat in gravy, I smothered it in mayonnaise.

After chunking up the chicken meat into small pieces, I went to the fridge and cupboards to see what other muchie things I could throw into the bowl.  I found sunflower seeds, raisins, celery, apples, onions, chopped 'em all up and threw them into the bowl.  A few cranks of the pepper grinder, a few shakes of the seasoning salt, a dash of sugar and plopped a big ol' spoonful of homemade mayonnaise in there and stirred it around.  After adjusting the seasoning a bit, I had myself a wonderful Chicken Salad!

It was amazing.  And truth be told, as I'm typing this, I am chewing on a fork-full of it.  Wonderful.

And the best part of it is, that there really is no recipe!  I mean, seriously.  I just rummage through the fridge and chop up crunchy, savory and sweet stuff, toss it in the bowl o' chicken.  Add mayonnaise and a few simple seasonings and D.O.N.E.  You can eat it just as is.  You can wrap it up in a huge leaf of lettuce.  You can put it on top of chopped salad greens.  You can wrap it up in a soft tortilla.

So.  Are YOU afraid of the Chicken Salad Monster?  Don't be.  He's actually very tame.  And very yummy to boot.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fifty Shades of Compost

Getting really, really desperate for blogging fodder when the only thing I can think to post about is decomposing matter. Although, it's hard not to think about compost as I'm continually walking around, through, on or over it.  

There's the green compost heap in the corner of the garden where I toss all recently-yanked weeds not fit for caprine consumption:

The golden brown of new wasted hay next to the black of semi-composted hay about to go into one of the larger piles or onto the recently planted sweet potatoes:

And two of the goats waiting to add "material" to the area right in front of the barn:

I usually clean out this spot four times a year and add it directly to the garden beds.  I think I may just fill a few 5-gallon buckets up with the stuff and plant something right in it.  I'm pretty sure Susan said that she was going to plant (or already has) directly into her bucket o' llama beans and I'm wondering if I can do the same.  I know you can't plant right into horse or chicken manure because it's too hot, but has anyone else planted directly into somewhat fresh rabbit, llama or goat "compost"?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Happy Summer Solstice

Today marks the longest period of sunlight of the year.  It also means that it's really, really starting to get hot.  Granted, it's not yet "The Month of Sweaty" (i.e. July to Mid-August), but the heat has been creeping up on us.

We are pretty darned lucky when it comes to dealing with the heat and humidity here in the Ozarks because we have air conditioning in the house.  Granted, I tend not to turn it on until either Paul gets home from work (he works outside) or it reaches 83 degrees in the house.  I don't mind it hot, and if Rhiannon or I want to cool off during the day, we can run through the sprinkler or go downstairs where it is significantly cooler.

The animals, however, are pretty much stuck outside so they have to search out the coolest spots they can find.  The goats invariably end up underneath the shed / barn.  Thankfully, Pickles has finally figured out that I'll just let her rot under there before I start hauling her sorry ass out from getting stuck.  

The area under the barn is also one of two favorite chicken hang outs, the other being under the overgrown Forsythia bush:

Outside Kitty (when he hasn't snuck INside) will find himself a little spot under the front porch or in the shade under one of the vehicles:

Charlie somehow manages to jam himself under the porch, although I wonder how much longer he'll be able to do it.  Since I felt a little sorry for him today (and since I had to clean out the freeze), I let him have a frozen hunk of scrap meat:
Nothing like a MeatSicle to cool you off!
Whether you decided to "Beat" or "Enjoy" the heat, enjoy the longest day of the year!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Squash Surprise

I had planted three rows of various squash seeds a few weeks ago....just hours before an onslaught of days long torrential downpours.  I figured that they all washed down to the river.  But to my surprise, lookie what I've got:

Not nearly as many as I had planted, but at this point I'll take anything I can get.  At this point, gawd only knows what kind they are, but I really don't care.  They are alive and my planting efforts weren't totally in vain.

We also planted the sweet potato slips a week ago and they are doing relatively well given that the area is not fenced in to protect them from the marauding scratching claws of the local poultry population.  I think we only lost two out of sixteen plants.

So, there is hope for a late summer garden.  And in a week or so, I'll work on getting the Fall garden going.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Leave No Bucket Unturned

Yesterday evening while being a slave to my goats starting barn chores, I noticed that one of the black buckets that I just used yesterday for feeding the goat kids had overturned.  So after I had clipped everyone up I went to doling out grain and flipped over the black bucket to pour in the kids' feed.  And out popped a chicken.
Looks harmless enough, but for a certain chicken it was almost
"The Bucket of Death"
Scared me enough that I almost pee'd myself.  There was also an egg under the feed bucket.  While this would normally be just another funny moment on the farm, it was over 90 degrees yesterday.  And when I thought about it, I'm pretty sure that the bucket was flipped over hours ago when I went to feed Studly his bottle.

That hen had been under that black bucket, in the 90+ degree heat for at least four hours.  I'm surprised that she was alive.  And really, I should know better.  I should have flipped that bucket over the moment I saw it.  Or, better yet, just put it away with the other buckets.  I had a similar thing happen a few years ago with a feed bowl in the brooding pen with the baby chicks.  Bowl flipped over sometime during the day and when I went to feed them, flipped the bowl back over and out popped a very sweaty, very lethargic chick.

So, see any upside down buckets, bowls, trays?  Flip them over or put them away.  Learn from my mistake(s).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sausage Everywhere

I had pulled out a couple of bags of ground pork a few days ago in anticipation of making some sausage and today was Day One of The Great Sausage Afternoon.  Last Fall we made our first sausages using venison, but since we have a freezer full of piggy goodness it made sense that we should try using pork this time.

We made an Italian, Bratwurst and (kind'a) Spicy Breakfast Sausage.  I used the Italian sausage recipe from Mike over at Living Prepared with a few minor adjustments (didn't use the bacon....just couldn't make myself "waste" bacon like that, and I added basil).   It turned out wonderfully yummy and it was difficult not to fry up the entire six pounds and just eat it right there.

Next was a Bratwurst recipe which I got somewhere online.  Paul wasn't crazy about it and although I did enjoy it (two patties worth, to be exact), it didn't really scream "Bratwurst" to me.  Not sure if we'll even bother stuffing them into the hog cases or if I'll just leave it in packages to fry up like breakfast patties.

We had 3 1/2 pounds of ground pork left so I just made a spicy breakfast sausage for Paul.  Don't ask me what the recipe was, it was just something Paul read off the computer & I didn't bother writing down.

The Bratwurst went right into the freezer, the breakfast and Italian sausage is setting in the refrigerator.  Tomorrow I'll package up the breakfast sausages to put in the freezer and we'll stuff the Italian sausages into links.  And then stuff them into our maws.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A little inspirational help

Some of my fellow nutjob bloggers have been suckered into joining the Blog-A-Day for the month of June.  And although there are times when you just cannot get me to shut my howling screamer, there are times when I cannot think of anything profound to share with you.

We're now Day Seventeen into the Blog-A-Day and the number of posts in my "Draft" section of Blogger is getting mighty thin.  Pretty soon I'll just be posting pictures like this just to say I met my post for that day:

So, dear readers, what shall we post about?  Are there any burning questions you've been dying to ask me?  Are there any interesting topics that we could come up with and then make that our official post for a certain day?  Like, "How many ticks do you think I picked off my dog this weekend?" or, "The things my chickens crapped on today", or even "People of FarmArt" (parody of People of Walmart), showing how completely unkempt and disheveled we look after spending the day weeding in the sweltering heat and swatting no-see'ums and mosquitoes?

Any ideas?


Monday, June 16, 2014

Born 1928, Felled 2014

Remember that big ol' dead oak tree in the goat pen that was threatening to drop huge limbs and impale human, goat or chicken?

It is now future firewood.

It was sad to see it go.  It died last summer from some sort of fungus that is attacking the oaks in our area.  But I suppose it had a decent life.  By my count, there were at least eighty-six growth rings on it, and about thirty five years ago, someone drove a huge nail into it.  Which Paul's chainsaw eventually found (and we'll now probably have to buy a new chain).

I wondered what was happening at the time that lucky acorn sprouted so I did a bit of internet searching:

  • English bacteriologist Frederick Griffith indirectly proves the existence of DNA.
  • Soviet Union orders exile of Leon Trotsky
  • Scotch tape 1st marketed by 3-M Company
  • Charles Lindbergh is presented the Medal of Honor for his first Transatlantic flight.
  • 1st transatlantic TV image received, Hartsdale, NY
  • "Amos & Andy" debuts on radio
  • Buddy, a German Shepherd, becomes 1st guide dog for a US citizen Morris Frank
  • Mickey Mouse made his 1st appearance in "Plane Crazy"
  •  Velveeta Cheese created by Kraft
  •  Alfred Hitchcock's 1st film, "Case Of Jonathan Drew," is released
  • Amelia Earhart becomes 1st female to fly across Atlantic Ocean
  • 1st all-talking motion picture shown in NY
  • Sliced bread is sold for the first time by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri. It is described as the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped". 
  • Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin
  • An iron lung respirator is used for the first time at Children's Hospital, Boston.
  • Herbert Hoover wins the US presidential election.
  • The first recliner, electric razor and clip-on tie was invented.

If you were going out on the town (and were a woman.....or a male cross-dresser) this is what you might be wearing:

And this was the new model John Deere tractor:
Somehow, I don't think the woman in the previous
picture would be modeling on this.  Sorry, PP.
And if you were really lucky, you'd be driving around town to show off your new Chevy pick up:
So, there's your little history lesson for today.  Don't you feel smarter now?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

For all kinds of Dads

Happy Father's Day.....

To my Dad.  I looked around for some sentimental pictures to share with you, but these seemed most fitting as my Dad isn't quite, well, normal:

To Wally, Stepfather to me, "Papa" to Rhiannon:

And to my husband, Father to our daughter:

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Great Aunt Memories

Mama Pea shared some memories about her Aunt for one of her Blog-A-Day posts and I thought I'd steal her idea that made me remember some stories about my own Aunt.

Great Aunt, to be exact.  Aunt Harriet, or as we started calling her in her "older" years, Crazy Aunt Harriet.  Christine and I were her only nieces, so to say that she spoiled us would be an understatement.  We would spend the night over there and she'd take us to the movies, treat us to Winchell's Donuts, buy us silly trinkets at the Five & Dime.  We's walk down the alley to the little corner diner, Super Cup, and we'd have lunch.  She also always, ALWAYS had Leonard's bagels in the fridge and she'd let us watch movies ALL night long on the front porch until the station went "off".

Some of our holiday dinners were spent there and Aunt Harriet would have the fine china (those old sets where there's a stinking plate especially for asparagus and twenty million types of forks depending on what you were shoving into your maw at the moment) spread out on the dining room table blanketed with the white linen tablecloth.

We had fancy foods like cocktail shrimp and fun candies like Swedish Fish (when they only sold the multi-colored ones and you eventually had to eat even the yellow ones).  Ethnic foods like globaki (polish cabbage rolls) and kabanosy (smokes sausage sticks) and that white, smelly, burn-your-tongue-hot horseradish sauce that I abhorred as a child but now crave as an adult (and cannot for the life of me find around here).  Oh, and Makeowiec (poppy seed cake roll) and Polish rye bread to die for.

Aunt Harriet wasn't always knows as "Crazy Aunt Harriet" though.  She was normally very prim and proper, and only nearer her final years started wearing those Moo-moo's and walk around with her hair cap on all day.  Unfortunately, the last ten years of her life we saw her gradually lose her short term memory and with it, all the history that goes with you when you leave this plane of existence.  But, as horrible as that seems, I believe she did have a much "easier" bout with Alzheimer's than some do.  She wasn't one of those mean, angry crazy old ladies, and she actually seemed to lighten up because of her condition.

Of course, we would hear the same stories over and over (and over, and over, and over) again and again.  How she worked as an accountant for Ziegler Coal Company and that she once got to tour an actual coal mine.  How that same company provided her with a pension check amounting to $242.11 every month, even after thirty years of being retired.  How in her earlier years she worked for the local Benjamin Franklin and earned enough money to buy herself a fur stole for a social outing.  How the mortgage holders (who were Jewish) on her parent's house let them pay what they could on the house during the Great Depression so they wouldn't lose the home; up to her last breath she would never, ever speak badly about anyone Jewish.

And although I may be going to hell for this (and if I do, you're right behind me Christine), there was one thing that kept us ALL sane from having to listen to and answer Aunt Harriet's repetitive set of approximately seven questions.  For example, she would ask if we got any snow down here.  Like, ten times in the span of a half hour.  At first was a bit maddening, but we all took it in stride.  Then one of us (I'm not sure who, nor will I point fingers as it may well have been me) started giving her outrageous answers to her questions.  Because she wouldn't remember what we said anyhow.  So when questioned how much snow we got here, we would give wacky answers like, "About sixteen feet each winter" or, "We only get acid rain".  When she found out that we had armadillos here, she would say, "You have armadillos here?!  Are they vicious?!".  To which I would occasionally say, "Yes!  And they'll tear your face right off!"

Nothing like having fun with the mentally disabled, hugh?!  But seriously, she was having fun.  Well, at least it seemed like she was.  There was plenty of giggling out of both parties.

With help from her Nephew, my Dad, Great Aunt Harriet was able to stay in the same home she grew up in for eighty-seven years.  She fell and broke her hip at the age of ninety-two and had to go into assisted living.  A few short weeks later she passed.

Every so often, I'll have a dream of Aunt Harriet, or see one of those horrid Hummel figurines or a Mors Dag plate in an antique store and get a little teary eyed.  I hope she's in a better place, looking down on us (or up....she swore she did enough to warrant at least a little stint in the hot plate) and be able to smile knowing that even though she's gone from our lives, she isn't gone from our hearts.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Another Favorite Recipe - Cornbread

Smoked pork chops were on the menu last night.  And since it is almost impossible to eat a pork chop without corn bread, I was basically obligated to whip up a batch:

Pan o' Cornbread (next to my favorite green beans!)
Grease a brownie pan or muffin tin.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In large bowl mix together 1 1/4 cups cornmeal, 1 cup whole wheat flour (you could also use white), 1/2 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt.  In an smaller bowl, whisk together 1 egg, 1 cup milk and 1/4 oil (or liquid lard or bacon grease).  Pour liquid into cornmeal mixture & combine.  Add anywhere from 3/4 - one whole can of corn & mix all together (you can also toss the whole corn in the blender for a second if you don't like whole kernels in the bread).  Pour into brownie pan (or muffin tins) and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How many hillbillies does it take to fell a tree?

We have some sort of fungus going around (no, not in my shoes) that is taking out the big old oaks around here.  Which is sad.  I hate to see a big, majestic tree go from green and full to brown crispy leaves to dead in a matter of weeks.  We've taken two huge oaks out in the last few years, and just last summer we lost one to the same stuff.  Double-bummer is that I saw the fungus-in-question on the base of another of the two remaining big, shady oaks by the house, which means I suspect that one will be dead by summer this year or next latest.

Being good stewards of the forest, we tend to keep snags out in the woods for the wildlife.  But these oaks are too close to the house or the barn to let stand.  About a week ago, the oak that died last year dropped a HUGE limb onto the goat fence in the middle of the night.  Luckily the windows were open and I was still awake so I heard the crash.  Paul went out to see what the noise was and it had taken down a cattle panel, which he went out to fix in the middle of the night in his PJ's.  What a guy!  If I hadn't heard that crash, I'm sure I would have been woken up by the sound of dozens of goat hooves on the porch and Pickles screaming through the front window to be fed.

Since we can't have a tree dropping limbs on livestock or human, it was time to take it down before it took one of us or the barn down.  Of course, it's not like you can just "take down the tree".  And like any other project around here, there are usually fifty million little things that have to happen before the main event.  You know, like how hard can it be to pick up some hay?  Nothing is ever simple around here.

First, you (and when I say "you", I mean Paul) have to find the chainsaw and gas.  Once you find them, you have to get rid of the limbs already on the ground.  With the "help" of annoyingly curious goats:
Chop Suey will soon BE chop suey if he doesn't move his butt.
Then you have to construct another pen just to keep those annoyingly curious goats out of the way before you go all "Leatherface" on them.  After spending an hour constructing a temporary pen to contain the goats, you can go back to felling the tree.  Except you can't do that quite yet because there are two rows of fence between the dead tree and the area you want it to land.  And other, smaller trees that need to be felled in order to get to the fence.

Then it starts to rain.  For days weeks.  So for now we just give the area around the tree a wide berth and hope that it doesn't impale any of the critters (well, except for maybe Pickles).

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Early Bird....

....gets the dog food.

We have a pair of Red-Bellied Woodpeckers in our immediate area.  And they have taken to eating Charlie's dog food.  They are very flighty and it was difficult to get pictures of them.  If they saw me through the bathroom window (where I took the pictures from), they would fly off.  After a few minutes they would return, slowly hopping down the tree trunk, then over to an old stump near the dog food bowl.  After making looking around for a bit, s/he would finally flit over to the bowl and take a nugget of dog food and fly off.

I've also noticed that when I'm a little late on feeding Charlie, the woodpeckers will yell for their breakfast.  They make a loud chir-chirping kind'a sound and will continue it until I fill up the bowl.

I haven't been able to figure out where their nest is, or where they're cramming the dog food pieces.  We'll probably end up having to take down one of the dead oaks one day, fell it and find fifty pounds worth of dog food crammed in the hollow trunk.