Friday, November 30, 2012

Considering a new direction



Today wraps up another month of posting for National Blog Posting Month. I started strong, but I missed a few posts.  Still, I managed to blog more than two-thirds of the days of November. 

I enjoy blogging, but I’m considering making some changes. I think my range of topics is too broad. I’ve always heard if you aim at nothing (in particular), you’re sure to hit it.

Most advice I’ve read for bloggers says “find a niche,” so I’ve been thinking of narrowing my focus for this blog to food. 

Why? 

I love it! And it’s kind of safe. 

You may (or may not) have noticed that the subtitle of my blog is “Thoughts on family, food, faith and farm.” 

Most of my posts are scratching the surface of my true inner life, but if it’s truly personal, I’m not really comfortable sharing. I’ve always been a very private person, and few people really know who I am. 

The rest of you better be thankful for that.

But I am deeply interested in food—and it’s connections with family, farm and even faith.  Eating is so much more than meeting a physical need.  Preparing food is therapeutic, if you like to cook.  Serving food goes way beyond the desire to fill a belly, at least for me.  It’s a way to heal a hurt, to comfort, to strengthen and just to share the bounty of God’s good earth. 

I’m also interested in how food connects us with culture. 

These are just some of the ideas I’ve been bandying about.  Heck, maybe I’ll change my title!  How does this sound “The Progressive Farm Cook” or better yet, “The Progressive Farm Kook: Lisa’s Vittles from Pigpen to Platter.”

Why progressive, you might (or might not) ask?  Because, after frying my potatoes tonight in that organic lard I spoke of a couple a days ago, I discovered I really do like them better sautéed in olive oil.

And I seriously think I could become a vegetarian sometimes! 

Anyway, I’d like to know what some of you think.  What would you like to read?  Anything in particular?  Nothing?!  Oh, come on, now! 

Seriously, I’d welcome your suggestions, if you care to make them! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The hanging of the greens

I've been inspired to cut lots of greenery and make wreaths, centerpieces and other
arrangements for the house and porches after attending a workshop today at the extension office.

I'm not much of a crafter, but I do love working with natural materials.  Just about anything in our yards or the woods can be used for decorating.. 

There's a cedar tree down in the fence row that is simply full of little blue berries.  I love the look of a bunch of cedar boughs in an old enamel bucket, and I love the smell of them too. 

There are pines at the edge of the woods around the house, and there's a holly up on the hill.  I'm thinking I'll use some dryed heads of sedum, maybe some dried grasses and even some iron weed stems to add some interest to my creations. 

Here's the one I did today--I love all the fresh green stuff! 

 (The candle globe really wasn't that crooked--the pic was taken at an odd angle.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lard rendering over an open fire


At my age I should probably be reducing the amount of fat in my diet, but today I’ve been a pig. 

Well, I’ve been eating a pig.  Bits of pig hide, that is, deep-fried golden brown and sprinkled with salt. 

Cracklins, we call them. The stuff that doesn’t melt when you cook pig fat to render the lard out of it. 

It’s been a while since I’ve watched or helped render lard, but this afternoon my brother Stuart, my dad and my cousin Johnnie cubed a large tub full of fat from a couple of freshly butchered hogs. 

They built a fire under a large cast iron kettle, and once it got hot, we added a few handfuls of pig fat at a time into the bottom of it.  I stirred as it melted.  We added and stirred for hours until we melted down or rendered all the fat.

The cracklins are the solid bits that float on top and don’t melt.  Once they became crispy enough to rattle around a bit when the pot is stirred, we added a couple of teaspoons of baking soda.  This is supposed to help preserve the lard and keep it white. 

The next step was to dip the boiling hog fat out of the cast iron pot and pour it through a lard press. The fat is funneled into a lard can or stainless steel pot with a cloth stretched over it to strain all the bits of hair and whatever other solids remain in the lard. 

Once all the liquid is poured through, the lard press is tightened down to squeeze the last remaining bit of fat from the cracklins.

We dump the cracklins out on clean cardboard, sprinkle a few with salt and eat some as soon as they’re cool enough to put in our mouths—or before, actually, because I burnt my tongue. 

Think homemade pork rinds…

I can’t wait to fry some potatoes in the fresh lard.  Fried chicken sounds good too—it’s been years since I’ve had chicken fried in pork fat, but I remember how good Mom’s was when she used to fix it that way. 

Soooo-weee! 

 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Living a long life can't be easy

Sometimes I think how hard it must be getting old. 

It must stink losing one's independence and having one's body slowly give out, especially when the mind is still clear. 

We went to the nursing home tonight to see Robin's granny.  She's very fortunate to have a large family who takes good care of her so that she doesn't have to be alone very much.

She fell a week ago and had to have surgery to repair a broken arm, and now she's in the nursing home for rehab. One of the family has stayed with her each night, and she's had a steady stream of visitors throughout the daytime hours. 

All the challenges of aging must be a lot easier to deal with when you don't have to face them alone. 

So many older folks are not as fortunate. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christmas crack

Who in the world sits around and thinks of these things? 

Hmmm, I'll boil some brown sugar and butter and pour it over a layer of saltine crackers, which I'll bake for a few minutes.  When I take it out of the oven, I'll sprinkle chocolate chips over it all and let them melt.  When it cools, I'll break a chunk off, and it will be good to eat. 

Seriously?

Seriously. I love toffee, and I like sweet and salty, so I thought this recipe sounded interesting. 

You guessed it.  I had to find out.

And I found that Christmas crack really is addicting. 

Here's the recipe from asoutherngrace.blogspot.com.

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
40 saltine crackers

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 15x10-inch jelly roll pan or a 12x17-inch cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Lay a flat layer of crackers out on the foil. Melt the sugar and butter until a boil is reached. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5-6 minutes or until mixture is thickened and sugar is completely dissolved. Pour this mixture over the crackers and spread to coat evenly. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the toffee becomes bubbly. After removing the pan from the oven, let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle on the chocolate chips, let them soften and melt, and then spread them into an even layer. (You can add nuts, cracker crumbs, or whatever else floats your boat at this point.) Let cool and break into pieces. 


 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Savoring the day...

I'm nesting in my lopsided old recliner, the one that's so worn down it's molded to custom fit my ever-broadening backside. 

The heater hums beside me, and it feels cozy in here. 

My hubby sits across the room on the couch, and his head nods occasionally as he catches up on the latest.  Black Betty stretches her sensuous self out on her back.  She doesn't budge when Robin takes his hat off and places it on her head.  (Black Betty is the cat, lest you think she's another woman or something.) 

Chelsea and Taylor, Kayla and Josh are in the other room watching The Office.  I hear them laughing, talking and having a good time. 

Our bellies are full of home-cooked food, and we aren't worth a dime right now. I'm trying to ignore the siren song of leftover desserts that lure me from the kitchen.

It's been a good day--a great day, actually. Hannah and Eric brought Clay to Thanksgiving dinner, and he entertained us by making faces and smiling continuously.

Last year,  we didn't get to see Hannah on Thanksgiving--or Eric or Clay.  They'd spent another long day at the hospital, but Hannah did get to hold their son for the second time on his one month birthday.

A lot has happened between now and then, but when I think of where we are now compared to where we were then, well, my heart feels full as my belly.

I thank God for it all...my life, my family...right now, it's all good. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Psalm for the season

I love this Psalm any time of the year, but I especially like it in the fall, at harvest time. It seems to me to be especially appropriate at Thanksgiving. 

Psalm 65: 5-13

"By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us,
O God of our salvation. 
You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth,
And of the far-off seas;
Who established the mountains by His strength,
Being clothed with power;
You who still the noise of the seas,
The noise of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples. 
They also who dwell in the farthest parts are afraid of Your signs;
You make the outgoings of the morning and evening rejoice.

You visit the earth and water it,
You greatly enrich it;
The river of God is full of water;
You provide their grain,
For so You have prepared it. 
You water its ridges abundantly,
You settle its furrows;
You make it soft with showers,
You bless its growth. 

You crown the year with Your goodness,
And Your paths drip with abundance. 
They drop on the pastures of the wilderness,
And the little hills rejoice on every side.
The pastures are clothed with flocks;
The valleys also are covered with grain;
They shout for joy, they also sing." 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hale to the Chief: Proclaim a day of Thanksgiving

I just watched "Lincoln," the movie, a few days ago and loved it. Then I read an article in the paper today that gives Lincoln credit for proclaiming a national day of Thanksgiving for all Americans.

I did a bit of research to confirm that it wasn't really Squanto calling for the feasting, and I found instead that a woman was behind the movement.

Sarah Josepha Hale, magazine editor for Godey's Lady's book and a prolific writer, wrote many editorials campaigning for Thanksgiving to become a national holiday.

Who knows if Honest Abe ever read her columns, but in 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November to be a day of Thanksgiving. Congress eventually moved it to the fourth Thursday.

Now we know.

Hurray for Mr. Lincoln, but I thought Ms. Hale ought to get some credit too.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Black Betty says...


                               Cold winter (almost) evenings make me feel like this...
 
                                           ...Languorous. Lazy. Listless. Lethargic. 

                                    Black Betty says we should have skipped dessert...
                                                                                                 ...zzzzzz...
 
 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Bread


So.  I used some of that puree I worked so hard on yesterday to bake pumpkin bread last night.  

This recipe came from the Food Network website, and it was easy to put together.  I have a mini-loaf pan that makes four small loaves, so I added some of the pumpkin seeds I had roasted earlier to half the batter, against my better judgment, I might add.

I didn’t think that roasted pumpkin seeds sounded good in baked goods, but I tried them just because the recipe called for them. 

I’ll know better next time.  The seeds lost their crunch and were tough and aggravating to try to chew. 

The bread did taste very good, but my cute little loaves deflated when I took the pan out of the oven.  I think I added too much baking powder. 

Why did I add too much baking powder?  Because I used self-rising white flour, which already had the leavening agents in it, but the whole-wheat flour was not self-rising, so I guesstimated how much baking powder to use.  Apparently, I guessed wrong. 
Anyway, here’s my recipe. Follow the directions exactly, and you should be fine.  I would advise using pecans or walnuts in place of the pumpkin seeds though. 

Pumpkin Spice Bread



1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, or 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

3/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Have 4 (3 by 5 1/2 by 2-inch) bread pans greased and floured.

Whisk together the flours, sugars, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and set aside. Beat the eggs, then add the milk, butter, pumpkin, and ginger. Whisk to combine well. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and fold in 1/2 the pumpkin seeds. Divide the batter among the 4 pans and top with the remaining pumpkin seeds. Bake about 45 to 50 minutes or until the top is browned and cracked.

 
 
Here's a pic.  Despite their not-so lovely appearance, these loaves tasted great.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chunkin' punkins--there are easier ways



I been chunkin’ punkins all afternoon. 

I helped myself to my brother’s pumpkin patch a few weeks ago and brought home several of the small “Sugar Pie” pumpkins to decorate for Halloween.  I didn’t paint or decorate them (too lazy), just piled them around the base of the small foddershocks I had made. 

With Thanksgiving approaching, I’m thinking I should probably use/puree’ those pumpkins for pies, breads, etc. 

Here’s what I did:  I washed the pumpkins, then cut them into quarters. 

I tried to scrape the seeds and stringy stuff out with a spoon, but they were stubborn so I scraped them out with a short knife. 

I placed the pumpkin chunks on cookie sheets and stuck them in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees.  I poured a little bit of water on the cookie sheets, thinking this would keep the pumpkin flesh nice and moist.  I baked the chunks for about 25 or 30 minutes, until the peeling was easily pierced with a fork. 

I brought them out of the oven to cool, and I popped in some cornbread batter in my cast iron corn stick pan along with another cookie sheet full of pumpkin seeds to roast. 

I peeled the pumpkin chunks, but some pieces were more done than others.  I cut the chunks into cubes and put them in a large pan and added a cuppa’ two of water.  I boiled the chunks until very soft, then I put them through the food processor. 

Then.  I consulted the handy-dandy Google-machine.  I found easier ways to make pumpkin puree that don’t involve chunkin’.  One site said put the whole (washed) pumpkin in the oven on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for an hour or two, depending on the size.  Reportedly, the stringy stuff and seeds come out easier once it’s done, and it’s easy to peel and ready to chunk and puree.

Other sites said to halve the pumpkins and place them face-down on the cookie sheet to roast, then scoop, peel, chunk and puree.  Actually, the chunking step can be skipped altogether. If it’s done, it’s mushy—pureeing makes it smooth. 

Who knew chunkin’ was not necessary? Not I, or I’d have saved myself some time. 

But now we know.

I’ve ended up with several cups of puree; I foresee some nice pumpkin bread in our future.  Stay tuned…

 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I'm not skipping Christmas, but I'm avoiding it



I’m in denial that Christmas is approximately six short weeks away.  My Halloween decorations are still up and shall remain up until after Thanksgiving.

I refuse to tune in to Mixmas, and I haven’t shopped for the first present yet. 

There’s just one problem with being in denial—reality catches up too soon! 

And the reality is, Christmas is about six weeks away…which means there isn’t much time to get ready. 

Maybe I will do some online browsing.  I’d really like to avoid Walmart ALTOGETHER. 

What do you think?  Can I make Christmas happen by shopping local, or, in case of an emergency, online? 

We’ll see I guess.

And here’s more miserly spirit…I’ve about determined that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because there are no expectations except that you give thanks—and eat!!

I can handle that. 

I feel kind of guilty for feeling this way about Christmas.  Oh, I expect the “spirit” will assail me at some point during the season, but I also suspect I’m going to secretly be longing to skip all the fuss at times. 

I feel guilty because Christmas is about Christ’s birth.  I should be excited and filled with wonder about the sacrificial nature of God’s gift to the world.

The trouble is, it’s hard to focus on that for the other stuff society requires of us.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many things about Christmas I love.  Sometimes I just wish it didn’t roll around so fast—once every two or three years would be about right.  J 

 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The big bucks


It’s bow hunting season around here, and deer hunters are out in force.

I shot two big bucks today, right from the comfort of the cab of our truck.  They got away, though…and I didn’t miss. 

I have evidence! 

Alright, alright, I shot ‘em with a camera…see?  

Aren’t they handsome? 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Laid to rest for a season


                                        This was our garden this morning. 

We produced a lot of food from this little patch of earth during summer and fall, but it seems like a long time already since those hottest days of bean picking. 

                                                  This is our garden tonight. 
We worked most of the afternoon picking the last of the green tomatoes and peppers, clearing dried stalks and vines, moving stakes and cages. 

Robin plowed up the last of the potatoes, and we now have another bushel or so stored to eat this winter. 

After everything was harvested and the debris was cleared, my hubby plowed the whole thing under so winter freezes and thaws can work their magic and prepare it for next year’s plantings.
Yep, the garden is ready for a long winter’s nap—and right at the moment, so am I.  I can hardly hold my eyes open.

So rest, little garden. Spring will be here soon!

 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Beautiful things

It's been a beautiful day for a long walk through the countryside...
a day to take note of the extraordinary beauty
in ordinary things. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Making molasses cookies


I put up my summer wardrobe today (if you want to call it that) and pulled out my sweaters—now the forecaster says it’ll be almost 70 all weekend, don’t you know!  But hey, I’m not complaining.   

I desperately need to make a trip to Goodwill or somewhere and buy myself some different clothes. One good thing about working mostly from home is that I can wear yoga pants all day long.  This saves me money, but boy, am I a good candidate for “What Not to Wear.”

If I keep baking sweets—and eating them—like I have been of late, I won’t be fitting into any of this outdated stuff anyway. 

Tonight, just because I finished switching out my wardrobe, and just because I’ve had them on my mind since I bought that sorghum from the roadside, I made soft molasses cookies. 

Ummm, they were so good right out of the oven, I ate three of them. 

Here’s the simply-dimply recipe. 

Molasses Cookies

3/4 c. butter or half butter/half vegetable shortening (I used ½ stick of butter and almost ½ cup of canola oil)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (I also added about ¼ tsp. ground ginger.)
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Drop dough by the tablespoonful onto a greased baking sheet. (If you prefer a rollable dough, add 1/2-1 cup more flour and refrigerate the dough for 2 hours).  I added an extra half-cup of flour and made mine rollable—into little balls, like peanut butter cookies.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
Bake cookies for 12 minutes (watch carefully, they will harden fast).

 

 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pondering a poem


                    "X"

        by Wendell Berry

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we're asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

 

I love this poem by Wendell Berry.

“Whatever is foreseen in joy,” could be any dream or desire, whether it’s planting and harvesting a crop, cultivating a relationship, or writing a book. 

Dreams don’t happen by daydreaming them into existence.  As Berry says, they “must be lived out from day to day.” 

Working toward a goal helps keep the dream alive, but the act of working in itself requires a measure of faith. 

“Harvest will fill the barn; for that / The hand must ache, the face must sweat.” 

We have to initiate the process, put words on paper, scatter the seed, take the leap of faith.  We provide the most ideal conditions for growth that we know how but still can’t do the growing; we trust it will happen. 

“And yet no leaf or grain is filled / By work of ours; the field is tilled/ and left to grace.  That we may reap, / Great work is done while we’re asleep.”

We rest in the fact that when we’ve done all we can, some greater power, or Someone Greater, carries the dream on to fruition. 

Rest is as necessary a part of work as labor.  Not just a physical rest, but a spiritual rest--rest in One who cares for us, who set the laws of sowing and reaping into motion. 

Some rest too much, some work too much.  The secret is to find the balance of will and grace, I think. 

Scattering seeds is in itself an act of faith.  Sometimes we overestimate our roles as gardener, but we cannot, to save our lives, make seeds sprout and grow. 

We can create the good conditions, but growth, change, progress takes a power beyond us, one every gardener relies on, but doesn’t often consider. 

Assured of this, “a Sabbath mood” rests on our day. 

It is good. 

At least, that’s what I got out of the poem. J

 

 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Waiting for a president



I’m sitting here waiting for the first wave of election results to be posted, and I’m pretty excited.  Not that I necessarily expect my candidate to win, but because we the people get to choose. The whole democratic process is pretty amazing, really.   

I heard someone say today that they’d be glad when the election is over, and I’ve said that a few times myself.

Someone replied that we should be glad we’re deciding the election civilly instead of with civil war.

We all know that, but for some reason, the truth of that statement penetrated a little deeper in my mind. 

There’s a lot of talk about a divided nation, and it’s true that politics is a hot topic.  However, I doubt there will be bloodshed and uprisings tonight, and we can all lie down and sleep in peace regardless of who wins the election.  

If our candidate doesn’t win, we can vote for change in four more years.  That’s not far away.  If our candidate wins, the world’s problems aren’t going to vanish like a puff of smoke. 

Whatever happens, there’s more reason to be optimistic than not, I’d say.  When it comes right down to it, the power of change rests more with the individual that with the government anyway.

Instead of grumbling or gloating about the election tomorrow, how about we look to see what we can do as individuals to help others?  How about we start by governing ourselves?  

 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Time change calls for a new soup recipe



“To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you really need is soup.”  -Laurie Colwin

It’s not wet out tonight, but it is cold…and it’s dark.  Dark since about 6:30 with last night’s time change.

Cold and dark seem like a good enough reason to make soup to me.  I found this recipe (and the quote above) in the latest issue of MaryJanesFarm magazine.

I can’t wait to try it.  Doesn’t this sound good? 

Chicken and Corn Chili 

2 T. olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 lb. ground chicken (I think I’ll substitute cooked shredded chicken here.)

2 green peppers, seeded and finely diced

2 banana peppers, seeded and finely diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

3 cups chicken broth

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

1 tsp. chili powder

½ tsp. cumin

½ tsp. salt

3 cups corn

1 cup cilantro, finely diced

Juice of 1 lime

1)      In a 5-qt Dutch oven or soup pot, heat olive oil over medium low heat.  Add onion and garlic; cook until onion has softened (about 4 minutes).  Add ground chicken and continue to cook until chicken is no longer pink. 

2)      Stir in all the peppers.  Add chicken broth, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, salt, and corn. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. 

3)      Just before serving, stir in cilantro and lime juice. 

This would be great served with tortilla chips or even a cornbread stick or muffin. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A different kind of shopping experience



We decided to get up early and head toward Crab Orchard to the farm auction run by the Amish community there in Lincoln County. 

The auction was interesting with a separate parking lot for horses and the iconic black buggies they pull along one-lane roads. 

We saw bearded, hat-wearing men and women in dresses and white bonnets.  We saw their children peering bashfully at us, probably amazed at the number of people who’d invaded their rural communities to see what was for sale at the fall farm auction. 

There was plenty—five simultaneous auctions with hay, livestock, produce, antique farm machinery, yard-sale type junk—and food--going to the highest bidder.   

Like Court Days or any of the other area fall festivals, that’s the one thing most people buy.  Soup and chili lines were long, as well as the coffee and hot cocoa lines, because the weather forecaster flat-out called it wrong.  We were supposed to get sunshine and 60 degree temperatures, but skies were overcast and the air chilly. 

The only thing I bought was a loaf-sized black-walnut cake, and I was a bit disappointed when I sampled it.  The cake tasted like it was made from a mix, and there wasn’t much of a black walnut flavor. 

On the way home, I spotted an old farmer and his wife selling sorghum molasses from a small stand by the road. They said they raised their own cane—no syrup or artificial flavorings added. 

Best of all, I got to sample before I bought, and they sure tasted like the real thing.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A few tips for living long from a 95-year old WWII vet



I was honored to interviewing a 95-year old veteran of World War II this evening.  I tagged along with him and his ¨boy¨, who is 68, as they walked to the barn to feed and water their cattle.

“If I’ve made these steps once, I’ve made them ten-thousand times down through the years,” said Mr. Cox, who was born on the same farm where he lives today. “I sleep about a hundred feet from where I was born.”  

The only significant time he spent away home was the years he was away in service to the Army. 

He was drafted when he was 24 and eventually served in the Philippine Islands as a combat medi-vac.  His duty was to retrieve the wounded and dead. 

Mr. Cox talked openly about his experiences.  “Some people don´t want to talk about it,” he said.  ´I don´t know why.  We just went over there and did what we had to do.”

His prescription for living a long life: “Work hard, and eat all you can get a hold of,” he chuckles.  Mr. Cox slight figure doesn’t appear to be carrying a spare ounce.

He says it´s important to keep moving, adding, “You´ll die out if you don´t.”

He smoked for a little while, but says he’s proud he was able to quit.  “I never could chew,” he said. “It always made me sick.”

Breakfast is his main meal of the day, usually a biscuit, sausage and eggs, with “a little strawberry preserves.” He snacks throughout the day, and his favorite treat is a Reese´s cup and a pop before bedtime. 

His sugar sometimes runs a bit high, but he takes a sugar pill and a high blood pressure pill and goes for a check-up once every three months.   

He says the doctor tells him to keep on doing whatever it is he’s been doing.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaBloPoMo, simple as that


 
Last year I committed to posting a blog every day in the month of November on the Blog Her Publishing Network.   

I´m not sure why I decided to attempt this during that particular time in my life, with our family  in the midst of a crisis, but I´m glad I did it, because now I have a better record of those eventful days.

I just reread my very first NaBloPoMo post a few minutes ago, where I wrote about how simple lives can get complicated in a hurry. 

Last year on this very date, our first grandson was hooked to an ECMO machine, one that basically does the work of the heart and lungs.  He´d had surgery a few days before to repair the severe congenital diaphragmatic hernia that he was born with.

There were times during that first tense week of his life when it looked doubtful that he´d even make it.

Fast forward a year.  That little boy has overcome a lifetime of challenges, and he´s the joy of our lives.  He´s survived several surgeries and other medical crises, but he´s still with us. 

He´s the cutest thing ever.

So, I think I´ll try this NaBloPoMo thing again.  I tried posting daily in April, but I fell off the wagon.  I blamed it on the strawberries coming in. 

November is a good time for writing, though.  Days are shorter, and it´s a time for reflection as we near Thanksgiving.

Since last year at this time, I´ve changed the name of my blog too.  I no longer call it My simple life in Appalachia, but simply My life in Appalachia. 

My lifestyle is simple, but seriously, when is life ever simple?

 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's Woman-Cave Time

So many books, so little time...

I've learned how incredibly easy it is to download books to Chelsea's Kindle from Amazon.  Uh-oh. (Yeah, I know. Everybody else on the planet already heard this late-breaking news.) 

So in the past few days I've downloaded 3 books and read 1 and 1/2 of them.  Superstorm Sandy has provided some great weather for these sorts of activities here in middle Kentucky--even more so in eastern Kentucky where the snow is piled a foot high. 

Can you imagine?  Before Halloween?

I just read a book by a gal from Tennessee called "Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions" or something like that. 

I highly recommend it, for those who are brave enough to admit you have doubts and questions about your faith. 

Rachel Held Evans is the author of the book, and her second book went on sale today. It's called "A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master." 

Is that a catchy title or what? I can't wait to read it...maybe I'll give a report.




Saturday, September 29, 2012

A hard nut to crack

 
These boogers are hard nuts to crack, but they're so good they're worth the trouble. 
Now, black walnuts are not something you sit around and munch on out of hand like peanuts, at least I don't, but they make a batch of chocolate fudge taste divine and they're also mighty tasty in chocolate cake. 
Black walnut trees are plentiful out in the countryside, and the nuts drop off in September and October, so now's a good time to gather some up for the winter.  Just pretend you're a squirrel.
 
Once you gather a few bucketsful, you can spread the nuts behind wherever you park your car. Whenever you back over them, the tough green outer hulls will get smashed off. 
Once the hulls are off, it's a good idea to spread the nuts out on screens or newspapers to cure for a few weeks before attempting to crack them. 
I read somewhere that the easiest way to crack black walnuts is to use a vise to crack the shell then use wire cutters to clip the tough inner membrane that holds the nutmeats in place. 
In the past, we've always cracked them with a hammer and picked the nutmeats out, but walnuts are hard and stubborn and contrary and pieces of shell generally fly everywhere.
 
It's hard to imagine that squirrels can crack black walnuts with their teeth, but they obviously know a treat when they see one. 
Oh!  Don't forget to wear gloves when you gather, hull or crack these nuts. There are brown juices in that hull that will stain your hands for days. People will think you are a  mechanic. Trust me, I know. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Wild little beauties


September is the time of year when weeds have pretty much taken over our garden, and their blooms rival the beauty of anything I planted deliberately.
I just love sweet autumn clematis, and this is covering the picket fence in the back yard.  I see it growing in the wild a lot too, especially around old abandoned homesteads.

 
Morning glories are EVERYWHERE right now, but I kind of like how they cover the shriveled bean vines.


Golden rod and iron weed are two of my favorites for making fall bouquets. 
 

All this beauty from a bunch of “weeds"...
 
...we'll let them grow for now. 
 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A special day

My dad owns a piece of property way up in a "holler" where we often gather for birthday dinners and holidays.

Today we celebrated my mom's, son-in-law's and twin nieces' birthdays, all born either today or tomorrow, with a big potluck dinner. 

Hannah and Eric brought our big boy Clay out for his first outdoor picnic. He handled it very well and seemed to enjoy all the new sights and sounds even though it was pretty hot.

What a special, special day it was to have Clay with us! 
I think his momma thought so too.  :) 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Contemplating some of life's greatest mysteries


The little ones have arrived!  I checked beneath the expectant mother this morning, and at least a half-dozen baby tomatoes have hatched. 

Both Mom and babies appear to be doing well. The father, alas, was nowhere to be seen. 
 

Aren’t they adorable? 
 

 OK, OK, I’ll admit I’m pulling your leg with these last two photos. 

However, the one I posted on facebook yesterday…
 

….was real. 

 These tomato plants were set in the ground in early May, and staked a few weeks later.  The plant must have been pretty good sized for a bird to risk building a nest sin it. 
I wonder if it had time to raise hatchlings before Big Bully tomato took over its nest?

Or did the bird grow wary of the growing green orb and decide to abandon her nest before even bothering to lay eggs? Poor bird.  She must have been so confused. 
Ahhh, the mysteries of life.  Some things we’ll just never know, will we?  ;)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Second cutting


Few things smell sweeter than freshly mown hay drying in the sun.
I love hay-cutting seasons, which kind of remind me of canning for cattle, except the preservation doesn’t go into jars but into gigantic rolls of dried grasses. 

There’s satisfaction in providing for the needs of critters as well as our families, and in knowing they’ll be well fed when the snow flies.
 
 
 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sweet summer, departing


Summer isn’t officially over, but I guess it may as well be.  Chelsea stuffed her little Escape with clothes and dorm furnishings until it was bulging at the seams, and now she’s off to college for another semester. 

I can’t think of a thing I’d rather she be doing, but I’m sure going to miss having her around the house. Before she left, she swung by Hannah’s—where I was baby-sitting Clay while his momma ran some errands—just to say “see ya, later.”  I snapped this cute pic of Clay and Aunt C-sea.

It’s pleasant, almost cool, here on the porch this evening—great hay-drying weather.  I think August and September made some kind of deal and switched places. We may pay up next month, but the break from heat and humidity is nice for now.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

An evening stroll through the countryside


These nice fall-like evenings are great for evening strolls past mown meadows, corn fields and the only tobacco patch on Station Camp Creek that I know of.


I like this picture of Clay getting pushed in the stroller by his daddy with Pappy walking alongside.  Clay is one fortunate little fellow to have such a tender, patient and loving dad, and he’s doubly fortunate to have an ol’ grandpappy who’s the same. 


They are so cute they way the hover over him and dote on him. Two old women couldn’t do it any better. 

I can just imagine the fun these guys are going to have as Clay progresses from stroller to little red wagon to big wheel to tricycle to pony to bicycle to 4-wheeler to pick-up…

 Shhhhhhh...don't tell Mommy. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ready for a new project



With the garden winding down and the end of the tomatoes and green beans in sight, my mind is roving for a new fall project to take on. 

Several rooms of the house could use a fresh coat of paint or some redecorating or rejuvenating of some sort. 

I picked up the latest issue of Country Living magazine today and scanned a few pages, which was just enough to stir some creative urges--some that don’t involve food. 

Few things inspire me like parking myself in the front porch swing with a glass of sweet tea in one hand and a magazine in the other.  Pinterest is great, but there’s something about turning real pages that gets me motivated. 

 I see ways of displaying flea market finds and wonder “now why didn’t I think of that?”  I see new paint colors and want to try them all.

I make lists of new projects I want to start—and finish—by the time our family reunion rolls around in early October, then I get side-tracked and have to do something mundane like pick beans or wash dishes.
Oh, well.  Dreaming is the fun part of any new project, and I’m pretty good at that.