Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Working Hands

     These days it's all about the germs.  Germs are bad.  Germs will make you sick.  It's like some sort of anti-gem rebellion.  Children aren't allowed to get dirty let alone work, but are instructed to wash their hands relentlessly. We didn't have germs back then.  Seldom has anyone even heard the quip, "A peck o' dirt before you die."  It's an old adage meaning that each of us will have eaten a peck of dirt (4 pecks = 1 bushel) by the end of our life.
     Way back when, we worked outside - in the fields, in the barn, in the garden, in the woods.  We worked and we got dirty.  Dirty with dirt.  Our muscles were the tools used to do that work.  We swung hammers, axes, and hoes.  We dug holes, furrows and roots.  And we pulled weeds, ropes, and levers.  We were the machines that technology has replaced.  Able hands and a strong back were valued assets.   
     A noontime dinner was the norm back then.  The "hands" would make their way to the house and wash up before dinner.  But it wasn't for fear of germs. No, it was because it is rude not to before sitting at the table and offending the cook(s) could be a recipe for going hungry.  Come noontime, the men would make thier way towards the back porch.  A few would light up a cigarette and pull up a bucket to sit on if the old wooden bench was occupied.  One by one, they had their turn at the laundry sink or the garden hose with a bar of soap sitting on the rail of the picket fence.  Those who used the hose for washing were careful to point it out toward the pasture next to the house while washing and when finished, either handed it off directly or set it in Mama's petunias.  Every man here has a wife or mother who has trained him to do just that, and it's no different at someone else's house.  It was usually pretty quiet at first - nobody in a real hurry to talk.  It might start with "Here ya go Pete."  Then after a few minutes, there might be a comment like, "Those birds don't seem to care at all about us imposters coming in," to which a couple of the fellas might respond with a nod or single syllable.  
      Pretty soon, Mama would poke her head out the screen door and announce, "Hope you brought your appetites.  It'll be ready in about five more minutes."  One by one, the cigarettes are snubbed.  A remark about it smelling good enough to eat is heard, and though not new or even very funny, earns a chuckle and a reply in agreement.  Within moments, Mama's back at the door cryin', "Come 'n get it," as she props the screen open with a brick that sits at the ready for that sole purpose.
     "Go ahead Morris.  Find you a seat," Pa invites.  Morris being the eldest garners a certain amount of respect.  The others file in after him in order of age and rank, Pa bringing up the tail being his own home.  Nothing needs to be said.  Each man knows his place.  One of the young men wouldn't dare try to enter before Morris.  Showing respect is a respectable act in itself.  They all politely mill around until Pa finds his way to one end of the table, then the others take their seats.  Morris is at the other end, is asked to say the blessing and obliges with honor.
     "Amen.  Now don't be bashful.  Dig in."  At the very words hands begin reaching for dishes of hearty nourishment.  
     "It smells delicious Margaret," Wendle comments.
     "Strawberry jam is my favorite, Mrs. Arnold," Porter pipes up.  These and other such compliments are made in Mama's direction.  After a few minutes of the only sounds being that of the utensils connecting with plates, words become audible.  
     "You did a nice job on that fence where the elk broke through.  Looks like new."
     "Most of it is, the buggers.  They tore up that lower section pretty good, but the grass sure came on nice where they made their highway through."
     "Yea, I always thought it was too bad you can't teach 'em how to use a gate."
     "Can you pass the green beans please?" Porter requests of Wendle who's on his left.
     Pa directing him, "Now only eat what you're worth," with a grin on his face.
     Porter being quick, "What's for desert?"  
Laughs come from all around and Wendle in his slow and easy manner says, "Grady over there's gotta few years on ya and still bucks more bales."
     Porter in defense responds, "Yea but he's built like an angus bull an's as stubborn as a mule."  At which Grady looks up smiling, "Hey, how'd I  get into this?  I'm just over here eating what I'm worth.  I'd take another biscuit please."
     The mood being light and words in jest, Morris recollects, "I remember when I could eat like I had a hollow leg.  My momma would put extra spuds in my soup sometimes just tryin' to fill me up."  Such talk continues until the plates begin to empty and Pa says, "Well, you fellas keep eatin'.  I'm savin' room for peach cobbler."
     Mama having cleared a few of the empty dishes brings a stack of smaller plates and spoons.  "Pete brought these peaches by yesterday so I thought what better way to use them."  Porter and Grady by now are the only two still eating and hurry to finish so they can share in their part of the cobbler.  
     "Are they the ones from that tree in your side yard Pete?" Wendle asks.
     "Yep."
     "That's a pretty good tree.  Seems like every year it's got a bumper crop hangin' on it."
     "Yea, Judy dumps her wash water out there.  She claims it likes the flavor of dirty laundry.  It always does better than the one down by the barn."
     The plates of cobbler are passed and the spoon for the fresh whipped cream is passed from hand to hand.
     "Margaret if you keep feeding me, I'm gonna have to borrow that shade tree out front and take a nap.  Then Ed here 'll fire me."
     "Thank you Wendle."
Easy conversation flows as the cobbler disappears and dishes are stacked and cleared.
     "Well, I s'pose we should get back at 'er."  Pa and the others rise with another round of gratitude payed to Mama.  And they file back out to get their hands dirty once more.  The young trying to prove they are worth their salt, and the old trying to prove they are still productive.  Being a good hand was a source of pride.  It was a healthy and honest way.  I can't for the life of me understand why the young people today seem to abhor such a life.  The way I see it, they would be far better off to seek it out.  Maybe I'm just gaining ground on Morris's end of the line in reflecting years past.  Who's to say.   





Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Mother of Invention

Since moving to our "new" place, 
I have had a bit of a learning curve.

I am used to having healthy soil that has been tended to and
added to on a semi regular basis.
I am used to having the freedom of envisioning a project
and not having to ask permission to procede.
I am used to just planting things in the ground knowing we will be here
long term and knowing I'm not good with potted plants.
As a result of healthy soil, I am also used to being able to water and
having the ground stay damp for a while.
I am used to...... you're catching on right?
Weeeell, things are a little different when one is renting.
This is not our property.
I get it.
The thing is, we are living here.
It needs to work for us and our way of living.
Truth be told, we would take better care of it than what it is reflecting.
As a result, I have had to get a little "creative" in how I go about things.
We spend most of our waking hours at work or outside.
In the evenings, we like to sit outside
or meander around checking the progress of our favorite food plants.
It's been hot this past week or so.
In order to sit outside, we have been using our spare chairs and following the shade out front of the summer kitchen.
Then when I go to mow, I have to move things.  Erg!

Our outdoor patio/dining set has been stashed around the side of the house
where weeds have grown under and around it. Another Erg!
There wasn't a good spot for it.

There is this odd corner behind the summer kitchen 
where they dumped the extra asphalt (without leveling it, :-/) 
a pile of river rock, and misc. garbage items.
(I can't believe I'm showing you this.)
This spot gets direct afternoon sun making it like an oven.
Yes, Ripster's dog house is back here, but he seldom is.
We just needed a place to park it and 
a spot where he knows there will be food and water.
A while back I saw an idea on Grandma Donna's blog using cattle panels
so that she could grow beans vertically due to limited space.
(gdonna.com March 9th post)
I loved the design and the idea of a green wall 
but wasn't sure how or where I could use one.
About a week or so I got sick of looking at the mess of weeds and rocks.
I pulled weeds like a crazy woman and began the slow hot process of moving river rocks with a bucket.

I might have ended up a little sun-burned,
but I did get enough of the rocks moved to bring the table and chairs over.
We had 3 birthday's and Father's Day to celebrate at our house Sunday.
We got the panels up Sunday morning.
That wasn't exactly enough time to grow a quick wall of greenery,
so I hung sheets over them.
It worked wonderfully.
Instead of cattle panels, I used a panel called "high-five."
It was 5' X 16' and is a consistant 4"X4" grid 
rather than the graduated grid of cattle panels.
It did require the trailer to haul as opposed to a pick-up bed,
but worked out price-wise and look wise.
I think I've just seen too many panels used for critters 
to get used to seeing them on end.
(Or my OCD, pickiness, non-conformation, and..... kicked in.)
The plan back here is to get a few fruit trees and
keep them in large pots.
I will amend the soil at the base of the panels 
and plant spaghetti squash to vine up since I have 
a couple started in pots.
I have been working on getting better at growing things in contaniers.
So far, I'm still subpar, but improving.
If I can turn this space into a little outdoor oasis, I would love it.
I don't mind amending the soil and leaving it better than we found it,
but plantings and structures can be expensive.
We can easily pull this up and take it with us.
Our plan (big wish, hope for the future) is
if we have fruit trees in pots even if they are small now,
they can add greenery for now and be ready for a perminant place
by the time we figure out where we want our forever house.
It looks pretty Shanty-town-ish at the moment.
(I love making up my own words :-)
You wouldn't believe how much garbage I've already picked up,
and there's still more there.
Do people not know there's a place for garbage besides the yard?
Anyhoo, I am hoping to be able to show you considerable progress
by late summer - we'll see.
For now, the project at hand is moving the rest of those rocks and
picking up and disposing of the remainder of the garbage.

PS~ We can't do anything about the wheelline 
until Farmer Ted decides to move it to a new location.





Tuesday, June 11, 2019

It's all about the Food!

Recently, I popped over to a blog I enjoy but hadn't heard from in a while.
I left a quick message hoping all was well and wishing her a fine day.
She responded via email and her words were almost heartbreaking.
She had scaled down and felt it might not be very interesting, but what was really pressing
 on her mind was the criminal dealings of doctors and Big Pharma.
I would like to avoid political discussion here on the blog (please and thank you) 
as it seems folks can't discuss it without deep emotional involvement.
I believe it was Mother Theresa who said she wouldn't participate in an anti-war rally, 
but if they held a pro-peace rally, she might attend. 
I guess that's what I try to do (all this time you were wondering, I know:-)

Hubby and I both work full time.
I would call our income average, though it's actually less than the national median
it is above poverty level.
I tell you those things so you know we aren't "special."
We are both away from home a lot and are not rolling in riches.
What we've done is quit taking mainstream as the correct path.
We walk our own path which just happens to look a whole lot like 
how things were done for generations - that is up until about 40-50 years ago.

What we do:
We eat at home, at the dinner table, together.  
It's just hubby and I now, but when the kids were home, it was the same. 
If we want breakfast, we fix it.
We pack our lunch which is usually left-overs from the previous night's dinner.
Then dinner which is made to have enough left over for the following day's lunch.
Just what do we eat?
Well, that depends.  A few years ago, we had lots of peas so we had peas with many of our meals.
I actually kinda got tired of them.  
But then last year, we didn't get any peas.  So this past winter has been pea poor,
 and we have only had them sparingly.
We buy a grass-fed beef each fall which is our main source of meet.
When we talk to the butcher, we ask for the soup bones, oxtail, and heart.
We usually get the liver too, but have tried it sooo many ways and just can't seem to make ourselves like it no matter how we try so end up giving it away.
It's so good for us, we know.
We do hunt but aren't generally very successful.
This past year was an exception, and we did well.
That just saves us elsewhere.
When we do get something, we get any bit of meat we can from the critter.
Then we make broth from the bones.
We aren't about to take a life and waste half of it.
With bear, we also render the fat that makes the best lard on earth!
When something is in season, we eat it and preserve enough
 to hopefully carry us through to the next harvest.
So what's on the grocery list?
Milk, eggs, butter, cheese and misc. fresh veggies.
Oh, and coffee, mustn't forget coffee :-)
I generally place a bulk order for olives and some spices through Azure Standard.
I use quite a few herbs in cooking.
This does two things.  It gets us more greens and it makes food delicious.

What we don't eat:
Grains, sugars, and chemicals.
Not never, but in general.
Based on our research, the food pyramid is up-side=down.
Humans can live on animal fat alone.  
I'm right there with ya, doesn't sound very tasty and is opposite of what I was taught in school.
I've really had to work at making myself like "real fats."
The other big thing that has happened in the past 40-50 years is that
chemicals have inundated the food system.
The FDA approves them based on skewed statistics and/or labeling.
8 of the 11 food colorants are toxic and/or carcinogens.
That's just the colorants, not to mention the preservatives, fortifiers, emulsifiers, anti-caking agents, 
and the list goes on and on.
 Along with these chemicals has come an onslaught of health issues
 from neurological (Alzheimer's, dementia, ADHD, autism, etc.) 
to issues associated with obesity (diabetes, heart congestion/failure, cancer, etc.)
None of these appeal to us.
The typical argument is  "I can't afford to buy meat."
There are three things about this statement that don't jive with me.
1) Where and how do you buy it?  Individually wrapped by your local supermarket?
I can't afford that either.  Even if you don't have a large freezer, you can buy a quarter of a beef and save a tremendous amount over grocery store prices.
2) If you quit buying grains, sugars, and processed foods, you'll have lots of extra money - not to mention, you will feel full and more satisfied longer so won't eat as much.
3) Consider your medical expenses.  If you are healthy (or become healthy) how much would you save on medical expenses?
The other argument is that people have been eating grain for thousands of years.
My response to that is ~ it's not the same grain.
Modern wheat is poison, addictive poison at that.
There are other grains as well, but wheat is by far the most common.
I don't wish the farmers any ill will.  I know several, nice folks.
I just wish they would grow in a way that is healthier and more sustainable.
We are still human and prone to the temptations of certain foods.
A piece of fruit usually satisfies the craving, but every so often, we "cheat."
We say "cheat" only because we don't really know another word for it.
We have eaten a low-carb diet for about 6-7??? years now.
In that 7ish years, we have had 1 "cold" each.
(Mine was my own doing:-/)
Hubby has severe reactions in his joints if he eats wheat.
We went on a quick trip a couple weeks ago and stopped in for a cup of coffee.
There was a sign that said "local non-sprayed wheat" near some artisan breads.
He said he wanted to try some so we bought a loaf.
I can't imagine the look I gave him.
He usually runs and hides from wheat knowing how it hurts him.
So, that evening he had a slice of bread with his supper.
Next day~ no reaction so he had a piece of toast with his breakfast.
Over the course of a few days, we made it through the loaf (shared w/ friends.)
That pretty much confirmed what we already strongly suspected.
They spray wheat 10 days prior to harvest
 so the plant will put its dying energy into the seed head increasing the yield.
Wheat is not washed prior to grinding so we are eating that freshly applied chemical.
Since it's labeled as an herbicide, no testing for human consumption is required.
I have contacted the maker of the bread and have arranged to purchase a small amount of the flour.
We won't go wild, grains are still sugars, but hubby is totally looking forward
to having some biscuits and gravy (one of his favorite meals.)

I know I don't have one of those non-abrasive, ever kind writing styles.
I probably come across as a crotchety ol' bitty.
I don't mean to sound unfeeling.
I know food tastes good (and that they add addictive chemicals to it.)
But if I can help even one person or family question their food choice,
I think it's worth it.
That is what I told my blogging friend and encouraged her to continue writing.
We are trained as a society to flow with the stream, no questions asked.
The more real information that is shared, real life stories
(like Mr. LB ate a piece of garlic bread for the first time in 7 yrs.!)
the more people might be willing to ask a question
and make a change in what is acceptable.

There is a film coming out (maybe out by now.)
 Secret Ingredients, a film by Jeffrey Smith and Amy Hart
You can do a search and see the trailer.
It rather moving, especially as it relates to our children.
I've not yet seen it, and have no affiliation with it, but I'm interested in it.

This is a long post so thank you for sticking with me to the end.
I wish for each and every one of you superb health.
If you don't have that now, know there are ways.












Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Summer Kitchen

 One of the unexpected perks we discovered once I finally got to see our “new” home was the way the original garage and the newer garage were joined.  The wall between the two structures was not removed.  The newer larger garage would obviously be used for its intended purpose, and will house Vern, our 1948 Ford 8N tractor (more on him another time.) 
The small original garage then became an easy choice for the summer kitchen.  I had a makeshift set-up in the shop at the old place, but did a lot of going back and forth between the house and shop.  This gets to be the real deal!  I do a tremendous amount of food preservation, soap making, and candle dipping, as well as daily cooking.  The old saying (since we are in the vintage era here) “Make hay while the sun shines,” holds true for people food as well as hay for stock. Canning season is typically during the hottest months of the year.  It is so nice to be able to have the stove going and not heat up the house.  Or dehydrators going.  Or the mess corn makes.  Or…
(The "before" shot)
In case you aren’t picking up on it, I am over the moon excited!
Here, let me show you~

It has two windows both of which are broken.  The one over the sink was missing a large shard and had a scrap of cardboard propped over it, not even secured, just kinda sitting there - Classy I know.  MrLB was walking out behind the building to check the roof (which leaked but is now fixed) and noticed the shard on the ground.  Without saying anything, he got gasket maker and applied it to the edges of the shard and put it back in place.  I was cleaning inside when he came in and took the cardboard from the window and said, “There.”  I was amazed.  He’s just so sweet.

I still have my old pantry shelves which now house canning pots and empty jars.  I might change things up a bit as I use it and get the space figured out, but am just smitten with it all at the moment.  
I have the igloo set up by the sink for water since there’s no water to the building.  There is a large bucket under the drain of the old concrete sink to catch the water which will work well so I can water plants with it.  
Next is the hutch I recently acquired and cleaned up.  It will house pretty much what it did in the mountain house other than my herbs and spices.  My bowls aren’t out here yet as there was a bit of a mouse problem so we had to get that under control before I store things like that out here.
I haven't seen any "evidence" of the little rascals for nearly a month now.
I'm sure it will be on-going, but at least now maybe we can have a bit better control over the situation. 
Next is the harvest table.  I had this at the old place too, but honestly, it was usually covered with junk.  It’s an old library table about 7 feet long, and I love it!  It is a perfect height for me.  I am rather vertically challenged :-)  Standard kitchen counters are high for me and when working at them all day, my neck and shoulders get tired/sore.  It’s right next to the stove so I can move heavy canning pots to and from or have a handy work surface when dipping candles, etc. The cauldron fits under it which makes use of that space as well.
A couple other tidbits are the old yellow table and chairs so we can sit to shell peas or string beans or whatever the task at hand is (a cup of tea?)  The cushions actually go to our outdoor furniture, but rather than figuring out just where to store them for winter, I just put them on the chairs. 

And at the moment, I have the clothes line set up in here though it's easy to move outside if I want to.  We get more wind here which sounds like it would be great for drying clothes, but it's often dusty as well so this works out well.
  I've just brought the clothes trees out and will cover them, but
that would be unsightly for the photo.
The shelves will go in the house eventually, but for now they are just sitting there reminding me that I have more to do.
And in this corner which is actually a bit embarrassing at the moment, is where I will put my potting/gardening bench - against the same wall as the freezers.
The fabric on the hutch.
Last but not least, is the guard bunny.  Hucklebunny Hideaway is right out the door so she can be sure to help “recycle” any veggie leaves or goodies that become available.
The funny thing about all this is that when we figured out this space would be the summer kitchen, I hopped online for ideas on how to set it up.  If you do a search for “Summer Kitchen,” you will either see the Hollywood pool-party version or a fireplace in a historical cabin - no happy in between for practical use.  I do realize we are not exactly main stream in our ways, but I would have thought there would be a few.  I realize it looks rather rudimentary, but I assure you it all gets scrubbed before food is processed.  I would love to know if any of you have a summer kitchen or if you set up a temporary one for canning 
(or other specific tasks.)  
I've been busy amending soil that doesn't appear to have seen a spade
 for a decade or more.
Nearly everything is planted.  There are a few more things to get in the ground tomorrow then it will just be whatever progressive planting I decide upon.
I pulled out first radishes today so it won't be long, and I will be putting this space through a real workout.

Hope you are enjoying spring.