Thursday, June 30, 2011

Waves of Wildflowers

I wanted to show you some pictures of the gorgeous lupines that grow wild up here in our area.

They are self-seeding and the area of them we have back by our wood working area is growing each year.

The ones we have around here come in all shades of lavender and purple plus rarely a few that are called red lupine, but I'd label them more of a deep pink or fuchsia color.

These were growing in a field that used to be part of the land used by a big lumber company in the area. I drove past it yesterday when I went to the dairy to get milk.

The lupines are nearing the end of their cycle but still put on quite a show of color.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Inspired to Eat Weeds

Is it just me or do any of you other gardeners notice that each year there seems to be a preponderance of one specific weed that pops up everywhere? And it's not always the same weed each year either. Lamb's Quarters appears to be the weed of choice this season in and around my yard/garden and in noticing it's ample supply nearly everywhere I look, I have been reminded of a very good quiche using Lamb's Quarters that I haven't made for a couple of years.

While this thought was ruminating in my gray matter, a few days ago Jane, at
Hard Work Homestead, did a blog post about cooking with the tasty little weed. I took that as a sign that I needed to take heed, harvest some and make my Lamb's Quarters Quiche. I gathered a big bowlful of the stuff and dug out my recipe.

I clipped this recipe from our local organic food co-op newsletter many, many years ago. It was submitted by an elderly lady who was quite the colorful local character. Among some other very interesting things, she was a good cook, a great wild food forager, and someone who stretched her food budget farther than most anyone else I've ever known. The very best punch I've ever tasted was her Rhubarb Punch. (Wish I had that recipe, but I don't, darn it.)

So here's the tried-and-true, time-tested recipe for a great quiche.


1 unbaked pie shell in a 9" pie plate
1-1/2 cups shredded cheese (any good cooking cheese - I used mild cheddar)
1 cup cooked, well-drained, chopped Lamb's Quarters
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3 eggs
1-1/2 cups milk

Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cheese in the bottom of the pie shell, cover with the Lamb's Quarters.

Then sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup of cheese on top of that.

Beat the remaining ingredients together and pour into the pie shell.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or until firm and starting to brown. Let stand about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serve hot or cold. (A little dab of salsa on the side is yummy.)

Mmmm-mm! This was so good when served last Sunday night that I gathered more Lamb's Quarters this afternoon and plan on making it again tomorrow.

Note: As with all greens, the Lamb's Quarters cooks down quite a bit. To get the one cup of it cooked, I started with a medium mixing bowl full of greens.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Too Pooped to Pop (Or Post)

Busy, busy day on deconstruction/construction while popping back and forth into the kitchen to make a big pot of lentil soup and a pot of spaghetti sauce. (Why I though this was a good idea, I have no idea. I guess I just like to stay busy. And frazzled.)

We got nearly 3" of rain last night. The pond rose considerably but amazingly enough there is no standing water to be seen around the property today. Apparently the ground was dry enough that it's still absorbing it. Rest assured, the berry patches and the few things I have in garden beds are well watered.

We have scallions, radishes, spinach and a bit of lettuce at harvesting stage. We've started our summer tradition of a big tossed salad at least once a day.

I made a really good Lamb's Quarters Quiche a couple of nights ago and was going to share the recipe today, but I really am too tired to write anything but this short post tonight. I'll post it tomorrow, I promise.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dark and Dismal

Nah, nothing is truly dark and dismal around here. I'm just being a little dramatic concerning our weather. Boy-howdy, do we have a heavy, super-gray, humid, buggy, threatening-thunderstorms day in the offing! I think we'd need a flashlight to navigate through the house this morning if it weren't for having lots of lights on.

Kinda puts the kibosh on the few outside tasks I was planning for this morning but there are plenty of other things to put my efforts on inside.

You all know I'm not doing the full-blown garden this year but along with a couple of beds of greens for daily big salads this summer . . . I did plant out a raised bed of slicing cucumbers on the 15th of this month. (We do love our cucumbers. A summer tossed salad is not quite complete without several thick slices of crunchy cucs.) When hubby asked what I was doing with seeds in my hand, I innocently replied, "Oh, nothing." (He's having a little trouble keeping me from planting seeds when he's away from home or when I sneak out under the cover of darkness.)

Seriously, I told him I was putting in a bed of cucs because once they're planted, thinned and mulched, there is no more upkeep before picking and eating them. (I think I got away with that one.)

But immediately after planting the cucs on the 15th, we were hit with a spell of wet, cold weather and I was about convinced the seeds had rotted.

Surprise, surprise. The seeds weren't dead but just hibernating while waiting for some warmth to poke their little heads through the soil. That 90+ degree day we had last Friday evidently did the trick.

My second replanting of lettuce still isn't doing anything. So many gardeners have been having trouble this year with seeds not germinating that it's starting to feel a little spooky. It's downright scary, and I don't like it.

My Monday laundry routine is started but I'll not be hanging anything out today because of the weather. Much as I like drying clothes on the line, it does speed up the whole process by just throwing the wet clothes in the dryer. Lazy, maybe, but to some extent more efficient. Except if you consider electricity and/or gas used by the dryer. Oh, heck. Alright, I'll go drag out my drying racks.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I Can't Help It

I can't help but be pleased. Remember my new spare refrigerator we bought last year?

The super-sized commercial unit I'd been lusting after ever since I experienced LARGE, efficient-to-operate commercial cooling units when we owned and operated the restaurant?

I'm down to the very last of my potatoes I grew in the garden last year. These pretty little spuds have been kept in the bottom of my roomy, spare refrigerator since they were harvested. Are they not still beautiful? And they're still crisp and firm.

Granted, the reds have not fared nearly as well, but I sure am pleased with the way the whites kept.

So who needs a root cellar? Just invest in several spare refrigerators to store all of your root crops in. (Don't take me seriously, 'cause I would LOVE to have an old-fashioned root cellar dug into a hill here on the property! Maybe someday?)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

You've Heard of Homing Pigeons?

Add ImageI think we have a pair of homing ducks.

Each spring this Mallard duck couple is the first to arrive back on our pond and stay for the summer. We believe they are the same pair that has been coming back for twelve years now.

When Papa Pea was teaching, every spring in his third grade classroom he would hatch out a batch of Mallard duck eggs and a batch of chicken eggs. Children who had their parents' permission could take home two chicks or two ducklings at the end of the school year.

One year a boy chose to take home two of the Mallard ducks. The first part of that summer we were invited to his family's home and G proudly showed us his ducks in their fenced in enclosure which included a child's wading pool for the ducks to swim in.

Later that summer, we got a call from G's mother. She said the family was going on a three-week vacation and G was worried about who would take care of his ducks. The mother asked if they could bring the two ducks to our pond so we could duck-sit them while the family was gone. She said they would pick G's ducks up as soon as they got home.

We agreed to take care of the ducks but our only fear was that being wild Mallard ducks, they might possibly take off and fly away. Fortunately, the ducks apparently didn't know they were wild Mallard ducks and COULD fly away. They stayed on the pond happily paddling around and eating the grain we tossed to them morning and night for three weeks.

Then one day we got a call from G's Mother saying the family had decided that the ducks had a much better life on our pond than in the small enclosure at their house so would we like to keep them. We agreed to this so the pair stayed with us until the pond started to freeze that fall. One day the Mallards were gone and we didn't expect to see them again. We only hoped that they had enough inborn instinct to know where to go for the winter.

That winter passed and early the next spring, a pair of Mallards showed up on the pond. When Papa Pea went out to open up the chicken house and throw scratch out on the ground that first morning, the two ducks came waddling up from the pond just like they knew the routine. They acted very tame and weren't the least bit skittish about coming right up to our feet. We became convinced they were G's ducks.

Even though they would be twelve years old now, I've read that Mallards can live in the wild for up to fifteen years so I'm still convinced these two are our homing ducks who return each year for the summer. If they can manage to avoid becoming a meal for a duck hunter somewhere during their travels, who knows how many more years they'll keep coming back.

Friday, June 24, 2011

I'm Giving Up On The Weather!

Was it just yesterday I made a small fire in the wood stove because the house was chilly? Yup, I do believe it was.

Wanna know what our high temperature today was? Ninety-three degrees. I kid you not. (Gosh, I wonder if this was our one day of summer?) Luckily for us, there was little or no humidity to go with the heat. It still felt darn hot out there though.

Funny thing was we were expecting it to be a warm day because the forecast prepped us for temperatures to go way up to . . . 75 degrees. Well. I suppose it would have been more disconcerting if we had been told to expect 75 degrees and it turned out to be 45. Or 35.

We let our chicks (teenagers now) out of their own private little enclosure today so they could explore the big girls' pasture. They were slow in leaving familiar surroundings but once a few brave ones ventured out, the rest followed and they've been running everywhere like wind-up toys hepped up on too much caffeine.

I'm thinking we see a rooster and a hen in the above picture of the Black Australorps.

And these Light Sussex look to me to be two roosters and one hen. Hmmm, the ratio is not looking good.

I wondered if the older chickens would bother the little chicks, but from what I've seen the old bunch has chosen to ignore the little whippersnappers. The geese, on the other hand, feel it's their duty to stick out their necks and hiss whenever a little chick comes into "their" territory. This causes the chick to run pell-mell in the opposite direction.

It may be very interesting tonight to see if the chicks go back into their house by themselves or if Papa Pea and I will be chasing down individual chicks with the butterfly net.

Early this morning we could smell and see smoke from a forest fire in Ontario that has thus far burned 74,000 acres and which has not yet been contained. There are 14 other reported fires burning in the province. I don't know if this nearest part of Canada with the big fire got our recent heavy rain or not, but I surely hope they are able to get all their fires under control soon. Forest fires are such a scary thing.

All day today I thought it was Saturday so I'm not sure what kind of a day tomorrow will feel like. At any rate, I hope you all have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

An Inside Day

We ended up getting just a hair under 2" of rain in this last deluge. We truly did need the moisture, but it can stop now. Some mist has been falling on and off all day, the skies have been very heavy and gray and our high temp reading was somewhere in the upper 50s. Not exactly tomato growing weather. ( Not that I'm growing tomatoes this year.)

It was an inside day on this little homestead because everything outside is so very, very wet. A little after noon I gave up and made a small fire in the wood stove. It was feeling so cool and damp in the house that I figured why fight it.

It's coming up on dinner time right now and I have the oven lit with a meat pie baking. Oh, right. I also started stewing a goose and an old rooster today.

I managed to fit both of them in my biggest pot. (The pot that is just about impossible to wash in my kitchen sink. Where's a nice, big utility sink in the garage when you need one? Coming in the remodel, I just have to be patient.) This will give me cooked chicken/goose meat to use for a good part of the rest of the summer. Plus I'll end up with a vat of good, rich chicken broth besides.

In the one step forward, two steps back category, we decided to tear the covering on two walls of the pantry off. The way the pantry room was added on to the existing house, two inside walls ended up being lapped house siding.

At first we were going to leave it and work with it, but today we made the decision to tear it off for an easier time building shelves and cabinets on those walls. I guess you have to do some deconstruction in your construction efforts.

The weather forecast is for 40% chance of showers again tonight, but then mostly clear for Friday and Saturday. If we get the chance, we're gonna have to jump on the parts of the lawn that remain uncut and also get the weed whipping done. Hope we can still get the lawn mower through the tall, thick grass out there.

I have a feeling if we get some sunshine and half way warm weather, my strawberries are gonna be a'poppin'!

And The Winner Is . . .

Okay, Folks, the suspense is just about over. Last night at 8 p.m. was the cut-off time for entering the drawing for the cook book, "The New Laurel's Kitchen."

I put all of your names on slips of paper and mixed and mixed and mixed them up in my little patriotic-themed box.

Into the box I dipped with my left hand (not easy because I am right-handed), mixed up the slips one more time and pulled out one name.

Oh, I can't stand it! Drum roll, please . . .

The winner is . . . APG! That would be The Apple Pie Gal! Congratulations to you. You're already a good cooker but I hope you'll enjoy some of the recipes in the book as much as I have over the years. The book will go in the mail today.

Thanks to all of you who so enthusiastically entered into the fun.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mid-Week Meanderings

Here I am, bedraggled and water logged, reporting in from the Northland.

Yesterday hubby and I made a concerted effort to get the lawn cut and the weed whipping done but we only got about half the job completed. We had terrific winds all day with several periods of spitting rain making us wonder if we should grab all tools and equipment and head inside before getting drenched. We toughed it out until about 3-3:30 when hubby who was clad in shorts decided he was getting too cold as the temp was dropping by then. I had jeans on because I was mulching (some of it on hands and knees) with the grass clippings so I said I was going to finish using up the clippings already in the garden cart.

Of course, 'bout then the rain started pelting down. I (foolishly) parked the garden cart under the big birch tree thinking the rain would blow by because of all the wind and I would finish up the mulching this morning. Now I have about two feet of clippings smashed down to a very soggy six inches to deal with.

It blew and rained all night and it blew and rained all day today. We got a little over an inch and a half according to our rain gauge. The wind is still buffeting the trees but I do think the precipitation has stopped now at 6 p.m.

No segue here . . . that's what happens when you're bedraggled and water logged, I guess.

There seem to frequently be years when I don't manage to get my 4th of July decorations out and placed around the house. Methinks it has something to do with busy summer time. But this year, I am on top of it. Matter of fact, I put up my red, white and blue decorations over a week ago. Better late than never? How about better a little early than never??

Don't know if this wall hanging qualifies as particularly 4th of July-ish but it is the right color scheme so I usually hang it up on this blank wall.

Little flags get stuck in plants throughout the house.

We have an enclosed porch at the back of the house and this quilted flag hangs to the left of the door coming into the house proper. I should incorporate some kind of a "Welcome" sign with it, doncha think?

I hang this banner of little flags on a high book shelf. Somebody needs to get up there and straighten those books. (And while you're at it, would you give them a good dusting, too, please?)

Mr. Bear is holding a holiday greeting sign and another flag.

I think I like being ready (even a little early) with my decorations. Adds a bit of festive color to the place if nothing else.

Has everyone who's interested entered their name for the drawing tonight for my extra copy of "The New Laurel's Kitchen" cook book? I'll draw a name at 8 o'clock tonight and post the winner first thing tomorrow morning.

That's all, Folks. Signing off . . .

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Cook Book Give-A-Way

As a Christmas gift in 1978, I received a copy of "Laurel's Kitchen, A Handbook for Vegetarian Cookery and Nutrition."

I have used this cook book more than any other one I've ever owned. There were years when I'm betting I opened it nearly every single day to check a nutritional fact or to try yet another recipe from it.

It's true that you can tell a cook book has been used by the splatters and splotches on the pages. Much of this book looks like the above page with my scribblings jotted on the recipes.

There was a period of about fifteen years when we followed a vegetarian diet. Because those were years when our daughter was growing up, I made a concentrated effort to be sure our diet was adequate not only for Papa Pea and me, but I was super-concerned our young child received proper nutrition. I consider this book to contain the best, most well-balanced vegetarian recipes I've ever come across.

But it is definitely not a cook book strictly for vegetarians. It contains lots of common sense, highly readable, easy-to-understand information for the dedicated whole foods advocate. The part of the book devoted to (what I believe is) sound nutritional information is large and impressive.

The basic philosophy of "Laurel's Kitchen" is explained in the section entitled, "The Keeper of the Keys." That's you. That's me. As the chief cook and selector of food that is put in front of our families, we have a uniquely important role. The foods we choose, prepare and serve to our families determine, to a large extent, how their bodies will be nourished.

The recipes will give you highly nutritious, appealing vegetarian meals using only basic, economical, easily available foods. Even though we do eat a certain amount of meat these days, I still regularly use these recipes because of their good nutritional balance and value along with their eye and taste appeal.

But back to the original intent of this post.

In 1991, again at Christmas time, I was given a paperback copy of the updated edition called "The New Laurel's Kitchen." ( Gak, even this "newer" edition might well be considered a relic now.)

The funny thing was, although "The New Laurel's Kitchen" has been on my cook book shelf all this time, I found I was so attached to my original 1978 edition that I haven't used the newer book. I'm not even sure exactly how it was updated but I have perused it enough to know it still contains the majority of my favorite recipes and other useful information.

So what all this rambling is leading up to is that I'm offering the "new" book pictured above (all 510 pages of it) as a give-a-way here on my blog.

If you would like to receive it, just tell me so in my comments section.

I'll draw a name out of the hat this coming Wednesday night at 8 p.m. and send it on to the winner.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

There'll Be No Yard Work Today

Guess we can scratch weed whipping and grass cutting off the list for today.

You can't see the rain coming down in the picture but it's been falling since I got up at 4:45. (No, not intentionally but rather because of a mosquito in the bedroom intent on draining all the blood from my body. Grrr.)

We need the rain, and this will certainly keep us from having to put the sprinkler in the strawberry patch today as planned. I've been worried about those little berries being able to grow properly and plump up without enough moisture.

It was a stroke of genius that I went outside late last night to cut rhubarb for a pie today. If I had waited until this morning, I would either have had to suit up in full rain gear . . . or wimp out and make a blueberry or raspberry pie from frozen berries.

As it turned out, I had my rhubarb pie in the over at 5:20 a.m.

It burbled over only a little bit in the oven. (Remind me to clean that off before I light the oven again.)

The wild lupines are in full bloom right now. They frequently grow near the ditches on the sides of the roads up here and create huge waves of gorgeous color as you drive along. It's almost breath-taking when you come upon a stand of them that seems to go on forever. We have a nice bunch of them getting bigger each year back by our wood cutting area. I love to pick them for bouquets in the house. Only problem is they don't last very long and drop their little petals all over the place if I forget to throw them out soon enough.

I had a day of outside work planned for today, but obviously with the rain I now have to switch horses. If I had planned an inside day for today, I'd be just fine. But because I now have to restructure my day, I'm thrown for a loop and can't seem to get my body in gear. You guessed it; I don't like or adapt well to change. Does this make me like an old plow horse who is told where to go and unquestioningly plods along with blinders on? Nay, I say. Nay. (Get it? Nay? Neigh? Oh, well.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Just The Usual . . .

We had the second hawk attack in our poultry yard early this morning. The chickens seem to have an inborn sense of fear of large birds flying overhead because they immediately run for cover in such instances. This includes setting up a terrible squawk and scurrying for the bushes when even a sea gull does a fly-by.

But Mother and Father Goose don't have this same good sense and are gonna learn the hard way one of these days. I think it was within the last two weeks that Father Goose lost a few feathers when a hawk (or possibly an owl) swooped down and tried to pick him up. Mr. Goose escaped with only the loss of a few feathers.

Something tried to take Mother Goose (on the right in the above picture) home this morning for their breakfast. Once again, other than quite a few feathers being dislodged and mussed up on her back, she escaped. If the hawk got a good hold, I wonder if s/he could actually fly away with a goose. Somehow I kinda doubt it. (The impossibility of it hasn't kept s/he from trying though, has it?)

Yesterday Papa Pea pulled this out of one of our vehicles. It's an air cleaner that was taken over by a whole herd of mice . . . or at least one very industrious one. Sunflower seeds are stuffed between the fins and several attempts were made to burrow into the thing to make a cozy nest.

Adding to the morning's action, we had our second swarm of bees in three days. The first one a couple of days ago Papa Pea just happened to notice as it was heading northeast over our property. He spent a bit of time looking for it in the woods up behind our nearest neighbor's property but couldn't locate it. Lost that bunch of bees, we did.

Today we saw (and heard!) another swarm forming over the poultry yard. Lucky for us, they landed about twenty feet up in a pine tree right in the yard and hubby was able to capture most of them and sweet talk the buzzy little bunch into this deep super.

Other than that, not much is going on. Well, not totally true. We've also become privy to a couple of bits of not-so-welcome information (into every life a little ???? must fall) needing to be processed. Not suitable information to share here so I won't get into any of it. Besides, I would have to change names to protect the innocent . . . except there ain't no "innocents" involved in these particular situations!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What Have I Learned Today?

This was one of those days that made me kick myself in the butt (no easy feat) for ever being the least bit unappreciative when it comes to acknowledging how very fortunate I am and what a blessed life I have.

I spent time the first half of the day with a very, very good friend who is facing cancer surgery. She's such a wonderful person and I always feel uplifted after spending time with her. Yes, even right now when she's working through this rough and tough period. Lordy, lordy, if I could only cultivate the positive, fun-loving attitude she always has. Even on the rare occasions when she shares something about someone or something that is less than pleasant, she has a way of putting a positive or humorous spin on it and never comes across as mad or grumpy or negative. I firmly believe a good attitude can take you through a whole lot of deep doo-doo, and there's no doubt my friend has what it takes. She's going to get over this nasty bump in the road with flying colors.

This afternoon was filled with cooking and baking to help feed a family in distress. Sure, it's only food but along with a couple other basics in life we all need it to keep going and sometimes there's nothing else you can do when you can't wave your magic wand full of pixie dust and make it all better.

It was a good day. In a small way I helped people I care about, but I also got a shake-up/wake-up call in the form of renewed gratitude for the peace and prosperity of my home and relationships, and much appreciation for the health and well-being I possess.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lookin' Like A Berry Good Season

It's a smidge too early to predict what kind of a raspberry crop we'll get this year.

Blossom buds are still tightly closed on the raspberries, but I have a feeling if we could get a good, soaking rain they would start to pop. Right now the ground is super-dry and we need moisture.

The raspberry plants are filling out much more than I expected them to this year. Earlier this spring when we pruned out the dead canes, it was looking pretty sparse and I was wondering if we would have enough plants to bear more than a handful of berries. I know a lot of the greenery in the above picture is made up of new canes that have just sprouted so even if our crop isn't overwhelming this year, it looks as though next year will be a whopper-doo. (Raspberry canes grow one year and bear the next.)

Three years ago I was close to pulling out our blueberry bushes. They were about ten years old at that time and were very poor producers. I must have put the fear of the compost heap in them because all of a sudden they started giving us oodles of berries. Right now there are more blossoms on the bushes than I've ever seen.

It's hard to imagine having a better strawberry harvest than we did last year. But we sure do have a lot of blossoms out there. The yellow centers you can see in the flowers are actually tiny berries already forming. Because we are in such a dry spell and the berries need moisture to grow properly, we set up the sprinkler in the strawberry patch early this morning and gave them a good soaking. If we don't get adequate rain soon that may be a routine task for a while. Any effort we put into watering will be worth it in berries we get.

It's been gray and overcast for a couple of hours now (nearly 8 p.m.), but no rain so far. Supposedly we have a fifty percent chance of scattered showers tonight and then nothing in the forecast until Saturday night. Maybe I should go out and do my rain dance?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If It Ain't Three Things, It's Four More

How's the remodeling going? Well, believe it or not, it is going . . . I just don't have pictures that show much of anything interesting yet. (Wanna see a couple of new electrical outlets? Nah, I didn't think so.) But, hang in here, pictures will appear . . . sometime.

In the meantime, life has a habit of getting in the way and hampering forward moving progress.

It's either an emergency repair or an opportunity we have to jump on while it's available or simply the "must dos" of day-to-day living. With our short "good weather" season (read: less harsh, nasty, frigid, rainy, snowy, icy, etc.) in which it's soooo much easier (and less harmful to the human body) to do soooo many things, it's really hard to choose where we put our time.

What's hubby doing in the above picture?

Don't even ask. It either falls under emergency repair or an opportunity to jump on something while it's available or a "must do" of daily living. All I know is that it doesn't strictly qualify as "remodeling," but that's okay. All things come in good time.

However, I have come to realize that the living of daily life certainly does get in the way when you're trying to get from here to there in a straight line.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Trials and Tribulations of Cake Making

We had company for dinner tonight and for some reason, I picked a menu that probably sounds more appropriate for a cold winter's evening.

We had meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, buttered beets and a fruit salad. The potatoes and beets are still from last year's garden. It's remarkable how good they still look and taste. They won't last for a two year's supply (isn't that what we're all shooting for?) but we're getting close to a full year out of them.

What was for dessert? Well, the fella is a chocolate lover of the utmost kind so I had to do something chocolate for him.

I've said before I'm not a good cake baker. Never have been and probably never will be.

So using my typically poor judgement, I decided on chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. A recipe I've had since, I think, the 1980s. Layer cakes, especially, are not my thing. Pour the batter in a 9" x 13" pan and I'm good to go. But . . . my 9" x 13" pan is currently being used for the grain we're still grinding for our chicks.

Okay, okay, I'll bake the cake in two round layer pans.

I've been a cooker, homemaker and baker for nearly 48 years now and I'll bet I haven't made six layer cakes in that whole time. Does the above picture give you an inkling of the reason why?

Yup, that's about a third of one layer clinging tenaciously to the bottom of the pan after I tried to remove it. Fortunately, I was able to use a wide spatula to scrape it out of the pan and flip it onto the rest of the cake without losing the whole thing onto the floor or some other such tragedy.

It's really remarkable the multitude of sins lots of frosting can cover up.

Fortunately, (and I'm not sure how this came to pass) it tasted pretty yummy. Maybe I should do layer cakes more often. Or not.

A Confession

I was a teenage slob. Yes, I was.

My bedroom in my parents' home was a disaster. Well, maybe not as bad as some teenagers' rooms I've seen. No moldy food on the floor at least. My problem was that I couldn't seem to put anything away when I was done with it.

A big part of the mess was my clothing. This was way back in the (ancient) days when we females weren't allowed to wear slacks (let alone jeans) to school. It was dresses or skirts and sweaters or blouses. Many of my school outfits were wool and had to be dry cleaned when they became soiled so these items were definitely worn more than once.

For some reason I just hated to rehang clothing. (A basic unfounded fear of closets?) Items weren't thrown on the floor (I would have probably been tarred and feathered if I had done that) but draped over any available surface such as a chair or desk or bed or door knob.

Whenever I wanted to have a girlfriend stay over night with me, my mom wouldn't say yes until . . . you guessed it . . . I cleaned my room. On these occasions when I was forced to put away all my clothes, I would get out the ironing board and steam iron and carefully press each and every item before rehanging it. Other items were put neatly away in drawers or chests or bookshelves or desk wherever they belonged. I probably filled an entire large garbage bag with general debris also.

My bad habit continued when I went away to college. Bless my forgiving roommates who never complained (to me anyway) about my aversion to putting things away. Everything was where I could find it. Just not as neat and well-kept as it should have been. (Understatement.) At least I did always keep my mess on my side of the room. (Such consideration!)

For a period I lived in a sorority house. Within the large house was an apartment for a married couple. The woman had been hired as a "house mother" and unbeknownst to us made periodic checks of all our rooms when we were gone.

Guess who got called on the carpet for having the most despicably messy room our house mother had ever seen?

Am I still a slob? Nope. All those unrefined habits instantly changed when I got married. And it's not as if I married a neat-freak who told me to shape up or ship out. He has always done a pretty darn good job of picking up after himself . . . well, he takes care of his clothing and other personal items but we do have words now and then about the piles of books, magazines, and various other articles of reading/research material he likes to let accumulate to monumental proportions scattered hither and yon around the house.

So you see, my own magical transformation from slob to pretty good housekeeper wasn't brought on by outside forces. Suddenly making and keeping a home that I was proud of and that was neat and tidy was very important to me and has remained so to this day.

I still wonder why, when I entered those teenage years and became interested in clothes and concerned about my appearance, I also became so disorganized and sloppy. Why I hated hanging up clothing or returning anything to its proper place and why I studiously avoided doing it. And why did all that change when I had a home of my own?

Dunno. But I'm sure glad I got over it. I'd hate to have to confess I'm an adult slob.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What the . . . ?

It seems the computer bugaboo has hit me today. I can't comment on anyone's blog for some reason. Frustrating when I write out a witty (yeah, right) comment but it won't go through. It's been this way all day today so maybe I'll just shut down and hope all will be better tomorrow.

Beautiful day here today with lots of sunshine, temp in the high 60s and NO BUGS! At least not until the sun started to go down tonight.

Hope you all had a nice Saturday.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Bad Mother

This is a tale of long ago that seems appropriate to relate at this time of year. Actually, I don't like to talk about it at all, but my dear daughter has been bugging me (pun intended) to write the incident down for posterity . . . and probably so she can garner some sympathy and illustrate what a hard childhood she had to endure. (Ahem.)

Up in our neck of the woods we have a particularly vicious biting insect called the black fly. Picture a regular, little ol' gnat about twice the size of normal, pitch black and very sturdy looking. On steroids.

These terrible creatures travel in marauding bands (well, it seems like that anyway) and can drive both humans and animals stark raving bonkers by flying directly into eyes, ears and up noses. But the worst thing about them is their bite. If you could look at one through a microscope, you would see they have mandibles with serrated teeth. They don't bite like a mosquito by sticking a tubular proboscis into your skin and sucking out blood but rather they actually cut or saw a hole in your skin and drink the blood. (Feeling creeped out yet?) This results in a painful sting (yup, sorta like you've been cut) which often produces blood running in a little rivulet down your skin.

Okay, on with the story.

We moved up here to Minnesota from Illinois the year our daughter was two years old. The following early summer, we were eager to get our fruit tree orchard started. Our order of trees arrived during the week so the next Saturday found us outside digging holes and planting trees.

It was in the middle of bug season so Papa Pea, a not quite three year old Chicken Mama and I were dressed to cover as much skin as possible including wearing head nets.

The future orchard spot was in an open field a ways from the house so we had to take Chicken Mama with us to do the planting. She was too young to stay in the house alone. I had taken special precaution to protect her from the black flies by dressing her in slacks tucked into her little rubber boots, a zipped up hooded sweatshirt tucked into her pants, gloves and a wide brimmed straw hat over the sweatshirt hood with head net on top of that and tied securely around her waist.

The black flies were thick but we had a job that needed to be done and our clothing and head nets were doing a good job of protecting us.

We hadn't been at work long before Chicken Mama started whining. I had brought a blanket for her to sit on and toys for her to play with so I didn't know why she seemed cranky. This was a child who was used to entertaining herself and she was very good-natured and rarely whiny. I talked to her but couldn't figure out why she was unhappy. She wanted to go back in the house. I explained why we all had to be outside.

I don't know how long it was before I finally took her inside but I know she was a very, very sad little girl by the time I did. This wasn't usual behavior for her and even though Papa Pea and I were trying so hard to get those darn trees planted, I had to leave him to the chore and take my little bambino indoors to find out what was the matter with her.

Once we got in the house I started to undress her by taking off her head net. The first thing I saw were trickles of blood running down her forehead. Then it got worse.

Somehow, some way a bunch of black flies had gotten up inside the head net, inside the hood of her sweatshirt and into her hair. Her whole little blonde head was nearly covered with blood and angry, red welts with lines of blood oozing down her little neck.

Do ya think I felt guilty? Do ya think I felt horrible? Do ya think I felt like Bad Mother of the Year? I started crying realizing how much agony she had been in for so long while I admonished her for being cranky and uncooperative while mom and pop worked at getting the orchard planted.

Well, I'm glad to say that Chicken Mama survived without seeming to suffer any serious harm. It took me a LOT longer to get over the incident than it did her, I know that for certain.

Just getting this story set down on paper is making my scalp itch like crazy. It's something I wish had never happened but for many years has proved to be good fodder for Chicken Mama to get attention and illustrate how difficult a childhood she had while growing up in the rough and tough wilderness of northeastern Minnesota. (Big grin!)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Scattered Thoughts

Ya know, I almost feel guilty writing that we had such gorgeous weather here today what with all the strange, extreme and even destructive weather so many of you have been having.

It's so upsetting to be reading blog after blog relating the trials and tribulations so many of you are going through. To have so much difficulty right at the beginning of the gardening season hits especially hard. I've been hearing for months that the cost of food is going to go up come fall, but I thought at least personal gardens would help soften the blow.

As bad as the bugs have been recently, I was able to take advantage of a couple of hours this morning of bug-free-ness and do some work outside. It wasn't particularly windy or cold so I don't have an explanation as to why the bugs weren't chewing on me but I was very grateful for the respite.

Despite warnings of our temps dropping to 38 degrees last night, it was 44 when we got up at 5:30 this morning. Can you guess what kind of weather warning is currently posted for our area? Yup, possible frost by tomorrow morning. Sigh.

Along with some other town errands this afternoon, I stopped at a favorite nursery and got some herbs to replace ones that didn't make it over winter. Despite the fact that Jane at Hard Work Homestead said you can't kill lemon balm, I apparently managed to do so. I related the demise of my lemon balm to Jane and she said I had such a long, hard winter the herb probably committed suicide. That made me feel better.

Last Monday in my blog post, I asked for input on what kind of pressure canner anyone would recommend I get as I've been pondering this purchase for a while now. I very much appreciated the feedback I got. I admit I was leaning toward the All American brand canner but kept waffling a bit on the final decision. It so happens that Erin at Garden Now - Think Later has had her brain cells on the same path (great minds . . . ?) of wanting to purchase a pressure canner and if anyone knows how to research out a topic, it's Erin. After all her detailed delving into the subject, she blogged today that she's choosing the same size and All American brand I thought I wanted. Well, that did it for me. Decision made. Phew, glad to be able to put all that information in a storage bin of my gray matter. Now the big question is should I order it right away even though I know I won't be using it until sometime this fall or wait a couple/few months to part with the required $$$?

Woe is me. I'm in sad shape. I ordered a pizza for us for dinner last night and bought bread at our organic co-op in town today. What's happening to me? Somebody womp me upside the head before I get stripped of my healthy homemaker's button. Next thing you know I'll be trying to feed my husband some commercially canned soup and Hostess cupcakes for dessert.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stick A Fork In Me, I Think I'm Done

Apologies first to those of you that I've not gotten back to in a timely manner in regard to one thing or another. We were without electricity for much of the day today due to the on-going remodeling and so, of course, I had no computer availability even if I could have squeaked in here once or twice during the day. Then we got caught up in a lively debate (argument?) of the pros and cons as to whether or not we should add to our time, trouble and expense this summer to remove the part of the roof that has a slight visual sag in it. It's in a spot where I doubt anyone notices it but us and hours after the discussion I still shudder to think of the agony that little job would have added to the work load this summer. So now I'm scrambling to catch up while falling asleep in my chair.

'Twas a go-go kinda day without much let up. But that's okay 'cause it's all in the name of progress.

I did have time this afternoon to slip out for about an hour to get some annual flowers stuck in the flower beds and thin my radishes.

This is a shot taken before I thinned them. Not bad germination for seeds purchased in 2006, huh? I never throw away seeds unless I can't get any more germination from them. The above are three different varieties: Easter Egg, French Breakfast and Cherry Belle, all five year old seeds.

After having a couple of days of extraordinarily high temps and humidity, today was down right . . . chilly. I worked outside in a zipped up sweatshirt over my t-shirt. The main reason I dashed outside and did what I could when I had a few spare minutes was because the wind was blowing with gusto and I though it would keep the bugs away. And it did for the most part. I only got one mosquito bite, right in the center of the palm of my right hand. How does one get bit on their palm? Beats me, but I saw the bugger do it. However, he did not live to tell about it. Muuwahahaha!

Minneapolis/St. Paul is about 350 miles south of us and they are in the midst of a recording breaking June heat wave. Their temps have been over 100 degrees for several days running. Ridiculous. I'll take my hooded sweatshirt and leaded boots to keep me from being blown away any day.

Our temperature is 52 right now at almost 8:30 p.m. and Papa Pea just told me he heard we're supposed to go down to 38 degrees over night. This is why we don't have a heckuva lot of luck growing tomatoes and corn but root crops thrive up here.

Here's to a good day comin' up tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hawk Attack

We heard a ruckus in the poultry yard tonight just before dusk. Hubby went out to see what was going on.

Seems like a hungry hawk (Papa Pea saw its silhouette fly away) with eyes bigger than its stomach tried for one of our geese. Everyone else was in for the night but the geese always stay out until Papa Pea goes out to tell them it's time to go in for the night. (Really. He's always had to make them go to bed, just like little kids who want to stay up later than they should.)

Anyway, he found lots of white feathers scattered around and two geese hunkered down next to the wall of their shelter trying to make themselves look as small as possible. They are okay, just had the bajeebers scared out of 'em.

I guess maybe it's true that more white feathered fowl get taken by hawks than dark feathered ones. They must just show up better when you're up in the sky on a dinner scouting mission.

There'll Be No Goslings This Year

Papa Pea made the executive decision yesterday morning to take Mother Goose's eggs away from her so she'd stop sitting on her nest.

As soon as she left the goose shelter for her morning run (literally) down to the pond, he shut the door so she couldn't get back in to the nest. I thought she would be really upset and throw a fit . . . and that I'd probably be squawking and crying in sympathy right along with her. But after she realized she couldn't get back in, it was almost as if her attitude was, "Phew, am I glad to be done with that!"

The poor girl had been sitting faithfully on her nest day and night for almost three weeks past the time we calculated her eggs should have hatched. I wonder how long she would have kept up the vigil had we not intervened?

In checking her five eggs (there was also one broken in the nest which would have made a total of six) we found that none of them were fertilized. Nor had we noticed her and Father Goose mating at any time this year prior to her starting to sit on the eggs.

Humpf. Wonder what happened? She hatched out seven healthy goslings last year on Mother's Day. This year all the eggs were no-shows.

Apparently being freed of her expectant motherly duties felt . . . well, freeing because it wasn't long before Mother Goose decided to go for a good stretch and took off into the air making a low flying tour of the pond, poultry yard and gardens.

Unfortunately, she landed on the wrong side of the fence surrounding the poultry yard. That's her in the foreground above with Father Goose in the poultry yard on the other side of the fence both of them looking quizzically at the other one and saying, "Wha . . . huh?" She needed the assistance of Papa Pea to get back with her mate and seemed very content to stay there for the rest of the day.

I'm betting she's going to spend the next couple of days refueling her body with green grass and enjoying hours splashing in the pond. I know Father Goose looks happier to have his lady love back out in circulation again.