It was a Friday evening, and we were more than excited while waiting for our two grandchildren to come. Katie, 18, just graduated from high school; and Caleb, 16, will be a junior this fall. How brave of them to take a 10-hour trip with our country home as their destination. They were a little late, and we were afraid that if they didn't arrive soon, they might get lost in the dark on these country roads and without cell-phone coverage. How relieved we were when in they drove with smiling faces!
The kids stayed five full days, and it was a lot of fun having young people around. Their parents have trained them to be industrious, and gave them instructions to help us. Caleb loves to work with wood, so he was a great help as he and his grandpa built and repaired doors for the outbuildings.
The first thing they did was to repair one of the loft doors that had fallen off the barn. Later, Katie painted it and got the primer on the other one. We've been wanting to do that since we painted the barn last fall, and now it won't take Larry long to finish.
Then the guys built these dutch doors for the front of the barn. Didn't they do a great job?! They are just what I wished for. The doctor told me I couldn't paint the barn, but he didn't say anything about the barn doors, so I plan to slowly work on them. Shh! Don't scold!
Remember the old granary that we tore down? We had salvaged a lot of the wood to fix up the barn, and especially the old chicken house. It continues to serve us as we saved the large, sliding doors. The guys cut about two inches off the bottom, which was the rotten part, and they fit perfectly on the above building that we call the loft. We've been wanting to do these things for a long time, so we are really feeling happy about it.
Katie helped me as I needed her, but she also primed and painted much of the loft. I felt bad that she worked alone while the guys had each other, but she listened to books on her CD player and didn't mind.
The five days went far too quickly for Larry & me! We won't forget the great time we had working, playing games, telling jokes and bonding. It rained a little during the night before they left, so we led them safely out onto the highway, and then we went on into town. When we came back to the farmhouse a couple hours later, I felt the emptiness and heard my mother's words, "It is so quiet after you leave."
It wasn't quiet for long, though, as our oldest son, Perry, and his new love arrived that very evening! I will tell you about them in our next blog, and I can hardly wait!
We decided to bring our ice cream freezer with us to the farm and invite people over. It seems we have always been too busy or too tired to socialize much, but this past winter, we did some painting and decorating, which was an added incentive. Planning a get-together may be easy for city dwellers, but country folks always have something urgent at the time, such as wheat harvest for our neighbors and sweet-corn time for us. I was determined, though, so I did my inviting at the last minute hoping it would work out. People came at different times and stayed around and chatted. We called it a success and did it again with another family the following week when two of our grandchildren were visiting.
Our ice cream freezer is getting old and we've been saying that it is probably going to quit on us one of these days. Of course, we only use it when company is coming so that will be a last minute disappointment if it happens.
My recipe cards for ice cream and hot fudge sauce are also ancient, dirty, and barely legible. I noticed the date on one is 6/82, so our family has been eating this ice cream and fudge sauce for 32 years! They also have the name of the sweet friend who gave them to me.
These recipes may not be the best for everyone, but our family loves them. Our son, Jason, can't seem to eat enough. I don't know where he puts it! A bonus is that it is not made of heavy cream, but still delicious. I'm going to share the recipes so you can give them a try if you wish.
Homemade Ice Cream
3 cups sugar
1 large and 1 small can Carnation milk
3 quarts whole milk
2 boxes of Junket powder ice cream freezer mix
1 teaspoon vanilla
I made this recipe raw for years, but now I cook it to be safe, requiring it to be made ahead of time so it can thoroughly cool before putting it into the freezer. You can easily convert your recipe, too. I cook the eggs, sugar, and a large portion of the milk (what will fit in my large mixer bowl) in the microwave until it reaches 160 to 165 F. Be sure to stir often. If you don't have a probe or thermometer, do the metal spoon test: Put a couple metal spoons in the freezer. The custard is the proper consistency when it lightly coats a metal spoon, and your finger leaves a path when drawn across the back of the coated spoon. When it is the proper temperature, thoroughly mix with the rest of the ingredients in a large container and cool. My job is then finished, and Larry freezes the ice cream shortly before our company arrives.
NOTE: You can usually find the Junket Mix on the top shelf just above the gelatin. Walmart does not carry it.
Hot Fudge Sauce
(Even if you have your own favorite ice cream recipe, you'll want to give this hot fudge sauce a try.)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 tablespoons flour
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix together the butter, cocoa, flour, and sugar, adding a little milk at a time. Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly and starts to thicken. (It will thicken more as it cools.) Add vanilla.
I hope you enjoy our family recipes. Invite some people over and have some fun!
There is always something out there that we don't know about, and now I'm going to tell you one of those probably useless pieces of information: Did you know that gravel roads are full of nails and other objects that can puncture your tires? We had been to our farm numerous weekends and never gotten a flat tire. However, in the almost three years that our son and family lived here, they got over 50. FIFTY! Todd bought a special tire kit and fixed them himself. He once showed us a spike he pulled out! He thought it happened mostly after the road grader had passed and dug up all the junk that had fallen off the trucks, etc.
I like to fix problems so here is my solution: I think the road graders should drag a heavy magnet across the back that would pick up all the metal immediately! Sure would save everyone a lot of time and money.
This is OUR dirt road. We don't understand why we like it. We just do!
Now, getting to country people. If you've become disheartened about the human race in general, you should come out to visit us and meet some of these nice country people who are always ready to give a helping hand. We've experienced it before, but I want to tell you about our latest since it is a flat tire adventure!
We were off the dirt road and on the highway going to town, when we heard the telltale sounds. Larry pulled off and put on that little spare from the trunk. It had been in there since we bought the car (16 years) so it was not a huge surprise when it was also low on air. Two kind men stopped and used their tiny compressor gadget to blow it up, but alas, it had pulled away from the rim. Then they gave us a ride into town, dropped me off at Subway, and dropped Larry and the tire off at a tire store.
I was at Subway for a long time before Larry came walking in. After eating, he called about the tire and discovered it couldn't be fixed. Leaving out a lot of details, the manager noticed us talking about our problem, and inquired if we needed help. Larry walked back to the tire place and bought a used tire, the manager's fiancé picked him and the tire up, picked me up, and drove us to our car. What would we have done without them?!
Later, when we were in the grocery store, a man who worked there asked if we had gotten everything worked out. He had heard some of the conversation at Subway. He was very friendly and gave Larry a lot of information about where he could buy tires if needed.
When we were in bed that night, Larry and I named one person after another who had been kind and helpful to us during our dilemma and while running errands. It lifted our spirits and made our hearts feel good. Doesn't this story just make you want to smile at the next stranger you meet?!
Country roads? Not so good. Country people? The best!
Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Even the richest soil, if left uncultivated will produce the rankest weeds.” Well, my back surgery was unplanned, so after leaving my kitchen garden at the farm a few weeks before surgery, I could only imagine how the weeds had taken over by three weeks after. I tried not to think about the hard work I had put into it; how I planted the green beans during a chilly drizzle one weekend because of a time pinch. I told Larry that our latest experiment would be to see what could survive without a gardener's help.
Upon arrival, we passed what looked more like a bed of tall weeds rather than my garden. Sad.
Larry opened the wooden gate, and we waded through the weeds. Zucchini had survived! And maybe a puny cucumber plant might still make it if the weeds were pulled around it. What the bugs left of the spinach looked more like Swiss cheese, but we managed to salvage some for our Vitamix. Then there was the kale and chard I had planted for the first time. Such beautiful leaves! Exciting! A few beets could be found, and Larry asked me to use them to make a delicious chocolate beet cake. Four tomato and three green pepper plants were searching for sunlight, and, oh! There behind the tall weeds, the green beans were trying to climb up the fence. All was not lost, and I was thankful for every edible thing!
I felt sorry for Larry as the whole place desperately needed mowing again, but down in the field garden, there was good news: Sweet corn tassels were poking out above the red root, the potatoes were thriving, and the pumpkins and squash were alive and growing up the tall weeds! It was far better than we had anticipated.
(My favorite poem by Harry Kemp)
Each day we die a little more;
Stale custom takes its toll:
It is the Unexpected Thing
That brings life to the soul.
Yes, the unexpected thing happened. It looks like we'll have most of our organic produce again this year, and I'm thinking I'll be strong enough to help with the canning and freezing. It may seem unnecessary work to some, but once you've tasted homegrown food, it is hard to stop.
I hope your garden is thriving under your tender loving watch. Be happy and thankful you can take care of it! Now to make some of those delicious kale chips!
Around a year or two after we bought our little farm, I figured out how to write about it on a place called Yolasite, and eventually recorded the first four years on the site. Luckily, my photo app kept my photographs chronologically, and I was able to recall the events in order. Writing seemed to satisfy some creative need I had, but I did it mostly for a diary, and Larry and our son Todd were thrilled to have everything documented. As I wrote the short stories, I sent them to a few friends and, much to my surprise, had positive feedback. Our friends were interested in what we were doing, and told me they liked my style of writing.
Along with the farm, came an interest in reading most everything we could find about our new life. I'm not sure how I started receiving the Capper's Farmer newsletter by email, but I probably had seen it advertised on the Mother Earth News or GRIT site. One day I answered their request for a blogger, thinking I might have something to offer. Capper's Farmer was a new site and so it took a while after I was accepted to get started, but my first blog appeared on Sept. 5, 2013. My first embarrassing mistake was not knowing I needed to write fresh material, and luckily I wasn't the only one. The other problem was that I had to have so much help posting my blog, although I'm not sure that it was all my fault since the new site was still getting the kinks out. My editor, Sarah, was so sweet and patient with me, or I would have just quit. Later, Jean became my editor and sometimes I have to laugh at her little quirks – like she doesn't allow me to say pictures, but I need to say photos or photographs! OK, so she is right! Jean has several of us bloggers now, so she has her hands full.
Sometime in there, I discovered that a day or so after posting my blog on the Capper's Farmer page, Sarah posted it on Capper's Facebook page. You may want to go there and "like" the page up at the top, so you can receive all their wonderful posts.
I don't know how it happened so quickly, but this is my 50th blog post! I have said to Larry, more than once, something similar to, "My blog only got a few 'likes'" and sometimes I wonder if anyone reads them. He'll say, "Remember that you do it mostly for us." Well, I'll keep on blogging because it has gotten in my blood, but I know that I hope people read them! I imagine people out there reading them, and I often look up the name of someone who "liked" my blog on FB. I read their FB timeline to see which part of the country they are from and other things they share. I feel a little kinship to them. Also, some of us Capper's bloggers have come to know one another from reading each other's posts.
I hope, dear friends, that you enjoy reading my blog, and have possibly been entertained, learned something, or been encouraged along the way. Blessings to you and let's meet again on Blog Post No. 51!
After celebrating the Fourth with family, we left our house in good hands, and packed the car to go to the farm for July and August. We took so many extra things that it was difficult for us to get it all together, and nearly impossible for Larry to pack it into the car. It was one of those times when he needed to roll the back windows down in order to stuff more in! We were concerned how I would endure the ride since it was only three weeks past back surgery, but we stopped six times for me to get out and walk a few steps to stretch. Thankfully, although the ride took longer, it went smoothly.
I want to tell you about my healing process because we have amazing bodies. The first few days after surgery, I needed to be helped doing most everything, from getting up or down from any sitting or laying position, and even being turned over in bed. Believe me when I say that back surgery isn't for sissies! Larry watched the nurses caring for me, and then was able to help me at home. I better add here that he was also a wonderful and patient caregiver! But here is what I thought miraculous: By the end of the week I could do all those things myself!
Being severely limited at first may seem like fun: No cooking, no doing dishes, no cleaning. Actually, no doing anything but watching TV, reading a little, or on the computer. A call or visit from the kids, grandkids, or friends helped immensely, but I had a short attention span. I became a big baby. A real whiner butt. I am used to being active, and I couldn't stand the boredom. It was worse than the pain.
Larry got so he smiled and said, "Here we go again," when I started telling him how bored I was. The days were so long! In the evening we would watch a recorded Hallmark movie or one Larry rented. Then about 8:30 or 9:00, I would start to tire and fall apart emotionally from a long day of struggle. That is when he would have to hear me complain with tears, "It is only 9:00! What am I going to do for an hour before it is time to go to bed?!" Our son, Jason, said that he can't remember having 10 minutes to be bored. It is something to be thankful for!
Eventually, I became a little stronger and the fog started clearing from my brain. Off pain meds and onto Tylenol. Without much help, I made breakfast or lunch! With every new accomplishment, I was excited like a kid. I had noticed in the mirror that my face was set in a permanent expression of determination. Then one day I felt somewhat relaxed and happy! Life was slowly getting back to normal.
Of course, there was some humor now and then. Like when Larry brought me home one of those reacher/grabber thingies late one afternoon because I'm not allowed to bend to the floor and he was having to pick up after me. The next morning, I dropped something on the bathroom floor and I thought, "I'll not bother Larry and go get my grabber." It was on the floor! When I told him, we both had one of those long belly laughs!
Getting back to the farm, the very first day Larry brought me in some zucchini and I was able to process them in the Vitamix and freeze a few containers for the future. Then, the next morning, I made zucchini pancakes for breakfast. The following two days, he picked gooseberries and set out the large kettles for me, and I made 23 jars of gooseberry syrup! Life was getting good again!
Do you feel overworked? Too much to do and not enough time to do it? I can't remember the exact words, but I know that the Bible tells us that work is a good thing. How true. I know it will be quite some time before I'll complain about it again!
Thanks for listening, friends, and let's meet here soon. In the meantime, enjoy being able to do whatever is before you. Yes, work is a good thing!
Why would you want to go out to eat when you are able to fix dinner yourself?!
A couple years ago, we took a wonderful trip to Ireland, and of course, we needed to kiss the Blarney Stone like everyone else even though it is a ridiculous moneymaking tradition. The grounds were beautiful, and we enjoyed our walk to the castle. Like others we’ve toured, it was missing its roof and it had just rained. Wouldn’t you think it would be roped off until the steps dried? No, and no one seemed to worry about that except me. Young and old climbed the slippery spiral staircase made of uneven, rough slabs of granite, while clinging to a large rope for a handrail. At least I was clinging. Every now and then we needed to turn loose of that rope and grab another. It was scary for me. I clutched my new iPad tightly so as not to drop it, with hopes of taking Larry’s picture as he kissed the stone.
Well, we finally made it to the top along with a lot of other people, and I got a good photograph of Larry. When it was my turn, I had to use mind control as I don’t like to lean over anything, let alone backwards. I also noticed that the two men who lowered me over were old. I couldn’t help but think it would be a fine time for one of them to have a heart attack! When they brought me back up, they said I could turn loose of the bar now and take their hands – more than once. I told my fingers to turn loose, but they just wouldn’t get the message. I thought someone was going to have to peel them off. All this while others were waiting their turn.
Then it was time to go down. I turned to the much younger couple behind me and apologized for being so slow. The nice lady said not to worry. She said that while coming up, she kept telling herself that if I could do it, so could she!
I hadn’t realized how much the climbing and wet uneven steps had played on my nerves. When we got to the bottom, Larry said, “I wonder if that couple behind us had every heard those words before.” Thinking of my father’s train of expletives that were stuck in my subconscious, I said, “Oh no, what did I say?” It seems that in my stressed-out condition I had said, “Oh my goodness gracious sakes alive!”
Now what does this blog have to do with gardening or farming? Not a single thing. It has to do with existing. I’m a week and a half into back surgery recovery, and I’m often hurting, bored, emotional, or all three. Besides, I’m addicted to blogging and need a fix! So, thanks for letting me share a memory of better times while I wait to be well enough to go to the farm. I’m certainly missing it and can’t wait to see our corn, potatoes, and gardens even though they will be full of weeds. Oh, and I’ll understand if you think this blog is full of blarney!
The people of Ireland keep their land clean and beautiful. Makes me proud to be mostly Irish!