Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I work here now. I still work for the same family, but they just bought this store and made me the manager of it.  It's good to have a challenge again, and I think I'll really enjoy this little shop.  It's in an old, renovated barn.  The downstairs has been finished, but the loft is still, well, a loft. :)
So...here are some pictures I took today.

It's a work in progress, but I like this place :D

Saturday, June 26, 2010

And now, for something completely different...

Here's a little something to cool us off...brilliant scarlet cardinals in winter-barren branches.

Our friend Ross took this picture from our back window last winter.  We lived on a farm for thirty years, with many barn cats...people see a barn, and think, "Hey, this looks like a great place to dump our unwanted cats!" and they do.  Because we had so many cats, we never had a birdfeeder, fearing it would just turn into a cat-feeder.
It has been a real treat to have birdfeeders here at the 'new' place.  Rich enjoys watching the birds of all sorts fly in to eat, and Robby loves helping Bampa fill the feeders.  We always know if there are no birds at the feeder, all we have to do is search the nearby trees to see which one the resident hawk is lurking in.  
We've had several species of woodpeckers, grosbeaks, chickadees, blue jays, finches, titmouses (titmice?) doves, and so many other kinds of birds.  I've been stalked through my kitchen window and met at my front door by hungry hummingbirds, who also like to buzz around my red-painted toenails when I nap on the front porch swing.
I love this place!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Song of Summertime
A few weeks ago, I showed you this picture:
Now the rasperry bushes look like this:
and this:

We've been picking black raspberries for a week or so now.  The bushes are all over our property.  They pick and scratch my bare legs when I mow, but it's well worth it, come June and July when the berries are ripe.  Our Robby is a very good berry-picker, and I hope he'll be here this weekend to help.

We've had some storms here. Twice in less than a week we lost power. There are branches down in the yard and HUGE old trees down everywhere around us. 

I have always promised myself that I would stop coloring my hair when I had enough silver to make it sparkle.  That time is coming closer and closer.  I thought maybe this time I'd try a gray rinse or some gray highlights when my darker roots grew too long, but had no luck finding those things.
So, I did this, once again:
Maybe next time!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Savory Pie
(with thanks to my friend who named it for me)

I am not one who does a lot of cooking according to recipe.  My mother wasn't, either, and I did learn a little bit by watching her.  I will follow a recipe for some things, but many of my favorites are done in the old way: a bit of this, a pinch of that.

This is one of those things.  I have always liked pot pies...and the first time I served one to my grandson, he was overwhelmed.  "Mmm...mmm...mmmmm....That's my FAVE-WIT, Bamma!"  Not bad for a cheap, frozen Banquet pot pie.  I started learning then to bake my own.  I've gotten pretty good at it, but they turn out differently every time, because they always start with leftovers, 'a la Maison' to quote, once again, my friend.  That's just a fancy way to say, 'with whatever I happen to have on hand'!

Here, then is more of a road map than a recipe, and it's a favorite way of using up leftovers at my house.  You'll need some stuff:
  • Pastry for a two-crust pie, and there's nothing wrong with buying it out of the dairy case at the grocery store!  Years ago my mother, who was well known for her pies, served me a slice and said, "This is a new crust recipe...what do you think of it?" to which I replied, "Mom, I think that's the best piecrust you've ever made!"  "FINE," she said, "It's PILLSBURY!" 
  • Leftover cooked meat: pork, chicken, turkey, beef.  My favorite is pork tenderloin and I always buy a much-larger one than we need, just to make sure there is some left over.
  • Pan drippings and some flour and milk, or leftover gravy. You might need a jar or two of ready-made gravy to be sure you'll have enough. Remember, this is about making something good to eat, and making it as easy as you can.
  • Your choice of vegetables.  My choice is usually fresh-sliced carrots, and frozen broccoli, peas, corn, and pearl onions.
  • Seasonings to taste.
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Place one crust in a pie pan, and prick the bottom a few times with a fork to allow the steam to escape.
Heat gravy in a large pot, or make gravy from drippings (see below).  Stir in cubed meat and vegetables until the mix looks 'right'.  Only you know what proportion of meat to gravy to vegetables will make you happy. 
Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc., and heat until bubbly.
Ladle filling into the pie crust. If you made too much, freeze the extra for a future pie. If too little, add more stuff!
Cover the filling with the second crust, seal and crimp the edges, and cut a few slits in the top.
Bake at 350 for approximately one hour, or until crust is nicely browned.  Oh, and remember to place an old cookie sheet under it to catch the drips, if you filled it too full!
Take the pie out of the oven and let it rest for five minutes or so before serving.

My hard-and-fast nearly-foolproof method for making gravies and white or cheese sauces:
Heat your drippings, butter, juices, etc., in a large pot.  Add the same amount of flour as you have liquid, that is, if you have three tablespoons of liquid, add three tablespoons of flour, stirring constantly with a wisk or perforated spoon until the mixture is thickened and smooth.  Add milk or water a little at a time, continuing to stir until your sauce/gravy is the desired consistency.  Add cheese if you're making au gratin, stir until cheese is melted, and remove from heat.
Shhhhhh....a little secret of mine: if I'm making a cheese sauce I like to saute a little fresh garlic or garlic powder in the butter before adding the flour.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

For Shelly...and on behalf of fireflies

I don't know how it happens that in all of my years growing up and sleeping in an upstairs bedroom I never looked out at night to see the fireflies.  I look forward to seeing them every year, and count their appearance as assurance that summer is really here to stay awhile.  I have caught them and put them in jars, made them into 'jewelry' (I know, it's cruel to do that, but it's a rite of childhood, isn't it), shared them with my grandson...but I never looked out from a second-story window to see them lighting up the world below.

Late last night I got out of bed to turn the window fan down a notch, and saw strange lights in the yard.  I checked out the road to see if there was some sort of odd traffic, but the road was empty, quiet.  I grabbed my eyeglasses from the nightstand so I could see better, and that was when I realized that what I was seeing was fireflies...lightning bugs...hundreds, maybe thousands, of them.  They were in the grass, in the air, in the highest branches of the trees. There were so many of them, twinkling, flashing, it looked like a faery dance in the darkness.  I was transfixed, enchanted, in awe of their beauty.  There were so many! far more than one would see standing on the ground.

My friend, Shelly, is in Germany, mobilized by the Navy Reserves to work with a medical unit on an Army base there.  She left last August, was back briefly this May and June for her daughter's high school graduation, and has returned to Europe for another eighteen months.  They don't have fireflies in Europe.  She hasn't seen any since she left Indiana last summer.  How sad it is that such a simple and beautiful part of our summer landscape is missing from the European continent in its entirety...and how odd and perhaps even frightening it must seem for visiting Europeans to see them here for the first time.

What a wonderful world this is.
Firefly images were downloaded here .

Monday, June 14, 2010

Not Enough Sense...
...to come in out of the rain.  How many times have I heard that over the years?  I grew up on a farm, and in farming the right amount of rain at the right time is like money in the bank, and so I have always enjoyed a good rain.  You can drive the woman off the farm, but you can't drive the farm out of the woman...or something like that.
I mowed today, and it was hot. Not unbearably hot, but hot enough for a Yankee woman like me to raise a sweat.  So after mowing for several hours, when it started raining, I checked the sky for lightning, and when I didn't see any sign of that, I decided to stay out and enjoy a nice summer rain.  I turned my face to the sky and felt the soft, cooling drops.
I had some things to plant, a lilac bush and some strawberry plants.  I planted the lilac next to the new back porch and the strawberries around the well head. After I finished my 'farming' chores, I strolled down to the stream to rinse my muddy hands and feet, and then just sat on the bridge for a little while to enjoy the shower. 
There is something calming about rain. 

In other news, I've finished some more socks.  These are in Kroy Socks in "Cascade Colors".  I like working with Kroy. It has a nice hand, is affordable, and is not too splitty.  Its one drawback is that the yardage seems a bit short. Do you see the darker blue toe in the picture on the right? That's how close I came to having enough yarn to finish the pair.  There's a tiny spot of blue from my scrap yarn basket on the toe of each sock.
The pattern is one of my own devising, and I'm afraid it doesn't show well in these pictures.  I like the long color repeats, and I just wanted something to add a little texture without taking away from the stripes.  I call the design "Stumbling Blocks" for the little trip-ups that life always seems to throw in my way. 
I have also finished Ms. Nina's socks from the Hailey's Roses pattern.  I need to get them in the mail soon...I'd have been in a bigger hurry to do that, but I'm pretty sure there's not a big need for wool socks in Alabama in the summer.  These are from my "Haley's Roses" pattern in Red Heart "Heart and Sole" Ivory, and Opal Uni-Color Pink.  This is the first time I've used the Red Heart sock yarn. It's inexpensive and nice to work with, but it looks as though the yarn is going to pill rather badly.  I may be replacing these for Ms. Nina fairly soon. :(
Have a wonderful day, and if it's raining, have sense enough to go out and enjoy it! :D

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Life Continues...

I was standing in the yard this morning, trying to find a good signal for my cell phone...yes, our coverage IS that bad out here...when I spotted this female turtle preparing to lay her eggs.  I think she is a snapping turtle, or 'snapper' as we call them, but I'm not fully conversant on the many types and species of turtles.   Her shell measures maybe nine or ten inches from front to back.  When I went back out a few minutes ago to get an accurate measurement, she was nowhere to be seen, so I suspect she has buried herself in the sandy soil, and is laying her eggs right now.  There is nothing visible out there right now except for a hole in the ground measuring about an inch and a half.
How cool is this? :D

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Bridge
I have always loved this bridge. It crosses the St. Joseph River in the little town of Mottville, Michigan, not far from where I grew up.  It's narrow and old, the longest surviving three-hump camel back bridge in Michigan, and until twenty years ago it was THE only bridge to get from one side of the river to the other on U.S. 12, also known as the Pulaski Memorial Highway.  I crossed it countless times when I was growing up, and it gave a real sense of adventure if you met a semi while on it! 
The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in 1990 and a new, wider bridge was built.  Local groups fought to keep the old bridge from being razed.  It was preserved and is now open to foot and bicycle travel only.  For those like me who are passionately in love with all things watery, it is a place of great beauty and peace, even with the rumble of traffic traversing the new bridge just feet away.  It's not uncommon to see people fishing from it in the summer.
In the river to the east of the bridge there are the remains of a piling from a much-older bridge that was torn down when the camel-back bridge was built.  My father told me that the hand-hewn beams that were salvaged from the destruction of that bridge were used to frame up the barn where we raised sheep and stored hay and farm equipment at my childhood home.  When I was a little girl, the owner of a restaurant beside the bridge on the banks of the St. Joe would go out just before Christmas and moor a rowboat with a Santa Claus mannikin sitting in it to the old piling, We always looked forward to seeing the Santa Boat when we'd drive past, for we knew that its appearance meant that Christmas would be here soon.
There is a set of wooden stairs leading down to the water from the bridge.  Last fall we stopped at the bridge with friends visiting us from Texas.  We walked down to the water and crossed below the old bridge on the huge boulders that lie beneath it.  This past winter, I stopped one snowy day and got some wonderful pictures.

Here is the same view, photographed yesterday afternoon on my way home from work.

 We've had a great deal of rain lately, and the river is just about as high as I've ever seen it.  I walked down the steps to the water yesterday and found that the rock-strewn pathway we used last September to cross under the bridge is completely submerged.  If you look very closely, you can see the boulders under the water in the picture above.

This is a wonderful place...come visit it with me one day!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

I love to mow...
I know that sounds odd, but I really do enjoy mowing the lawn.  It's good thinking time.  I have long conversations in my head with friends and family who have passed on and with loved ones who are far away.  I remember and re-live special moments in my life and dream of special times that I hope will come to pass in the future.  I hear my mother's voice and feel her touch.
 I love the repetition of making passes around the yard, and the clean swaths of fresh-cut grass.  I love the smell of mint that rises into the air when I mow the low ground near the little stream, and the scent of wild onions that grow beneath the cottonwood tree when I mow out near the barn.
I love seeing the red and white clover blossoms and the tiny yellow wildflowers that grow just shorter than the lawnmower blades cut.

It's a good time to take stock of how things are growing around the yard and in the woods.  Right now the wild roses are blooming, and the wild irises, too.

And if I am to judge by the number of buds on these bushes, we'll have a bumper crop of raspberries in a few weeks.
One of the best things about mowing is that when you're all done, it looks like this:

And this:
Then it's nice to take a few minutes and cool my toes in the stream...
... and to take a look around and enjoy the beauty that surrounds me...
We had a tremendous thunderstorm yesterday, bringing us buckets of rain and pea-sized hail.  Our little stream nearly overflowed its banks, and the low-lying land at the bottom of the yard is still squishy wet today. Some new bits of broken crockery washed downstream from the old dumping place, and I fished them out of the water.

We were so lucky to find this beautiful place.