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The Healing Homesteader


Spring Has Sprung!

Lori DeYoungSpring has finally sprung in Central Illinois! I am sure that across many states, we all certainly experienced the LONGEST winter ever! Even though the calendar marked that spring had arrived, Mother Nature apparently did not agree.

With that strong feminine mind of her own, she played a great number of tricks on those of us counting down the days until we could get our fingers dirty. Not only was the work of tilling gardens, planting seeds, transplanting greenhouse plants, and mowing the yard calling my name, but also the remnants of the fall yard work that didn't get done was looking over my shoulder. Along with having fallen tree branches from winter storms to deal with, we also gave ourselves (my daughter and me) the extra job of raising new chicks and cleaning out an adjacent "get used to me" pen next to the older ladies of my flock.

The work never ends for a homesteader, no matter how big or how small the homestead is. There is always work to get done and being behind schedule, which I usually avoid, makes the work all the harder. However, there is no other work that gives me such joy than the tasks of spring gardening.

lilac flowers

As I sit out on my deck typing this, I am surrounded by the smells of my 30 year old lilac bush that has never failed to fill my senses with a calming aroma. I hear the waterfall of my koi pond that my daughter opened last week and the sounds of frisky toads calling a mate. I look over my shoulder and see the beautiful apple blossoms that shade my chicken run and I can hear the birds call to each other with a symphony of sounds.

I see mama robins sitting on their nests upon the gutter outside my bedroom and I see daddy robins bring a few scraps of what is probably an unfortunate worm whose life was cut short. I feel the warm sun on my shoulders that are still wet from the shower that scrubbed away the dirt from my body after tilling my garden, building a rabbit proof fence around my green bean seeds, and planting my favorite delicata squash. Now the countdown begins until harvest in 60-120 days.

Although I wait for the growth of things just planted, I have been able to enjoy many things from my yard that have yet to fail me. Dandelions blooms have been fried and soaked in almond oil to make a lotion bar for my soon-to-be dried out gardener's hands. Lettuce and spinach from my cold frame, planted back in the fall, have filled my omelets and salad bowls to the brim. Chives and foraged ramps from a neighboring woodsy area have brought taste and smells to home-cooked meals.

asparagus

Asparagus has been popping up every day to be grilled with mozzarella cheese, garlic and olive oil or simply eaten cooked with butter and garlic salt. And last, but not least, my rhubarb has brought me the annual pleasure of a 50-year-old family recipe that reminds me of days gone by when my husband was alive and asking for the rhubarb puff that his Aunt Phyllis used to make. Life is so good in the springtime and the cold, boring winter doldrums are nowhere to be found.

Well, I have rested for long enough and need to return to the tasks of a rural homesteader. I have clothes to bring in from the line, a bed to make, eggs to gather, seeds to plant, weeds to pull, fish to feed, an outdoor fire to build for our supper of burned hotdogs and asparagus, and a newly opened pool to be cleaned. I hear my neighbor mowing for the second time this week, so I might need to rev up the mower, too.

Someday, soon, I might find the time to take a nap in my hammock, but before I go, let me share that wonderful recipe for rhubarb puff so that maybe you might harvest your bounty and make as a treat for your family! Happy Spring to my Capper's Farmer friends!

rhubarb

Rhubarb Puff Recipe

Ingredients:

Filling

  • 3 or 4 cups of chopped rhubarb
  • 1-1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

Topping

  • 1/4 cup of shortening
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg

Sauce

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

Instructions:

Filling

  • Mix thoroughly and cook until sugar is dissolved. Then place in a casserole dish or pie plate.

Topping

  • Mix together and drop in tablespoons over rhubarb. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-35 minutes or until lightly brown.

Sauce

  • Mix thoroughly. Then add 1 tablespoon of butter, 1-1/2 cup of boiling water. Bring to boil, take off stove and let sit as it will thicken. Serve warm over baked rhubarb puff.

You can find more from The Healing Homesteader on her Facebook page or by checking out her YouTube channel.

Photos property of Lori DeYoung.

The Noodle Wagon

Lori DeYoung

The last living memory I have of my mom was the day before my 18th birthday. For more than half of my young life, she had struggled with serious complications from diabetes and passed away at the age of 52. As a result, for the last 39 years, I have found myself meandering through life trying to recollect the vast wisdom she demonstrated each and every day around running a household, raising children, gardening, canning, and cooking from scratch. In spite of her blindness, she was well-known in our neighborhood as an excellent cook and it was only on a rare occasion when people refused an invitation to enjoy her culinary talents.

My mom grew up in the Depression as the youngest child of a widowed mother who fed six additional mouths on a meager income from laundering and ironing for others. My mom's struggles were many throughout her life and her moods were more often blue than happy during my childhood. However, I always knew that she was feeling upbeat when I came home after school and was greeted with the wonderful aromas of custard pies, mayonnaise cakes, saucer sized sugar cookies, or homemade yeast bread. As an adult trying to recreate some of those tasty treats for my own family, I often smile when those happy memories creep into the present.

noodle wagon
Photo by Lori DeYoung

One of my favorite memories is of my mom on Friday afternoons, standing at the kitchen counter that my uncle John built for her. The counter was just high enough for this little girl to watch in amazement as all of her creations were rolled out in front of my very eyes. Thinking that I would be sneaky about it, I often hid under the counter and reached my hand up over the edge to steal raw dough to eat.

Yeah, yeah, I know, raw dough is bad for a person but remember, this was the 1960s and us kids did a whole lot of things back then that now are considered dangerous! Anyway, my mom obviously was on to my tricks and I always found little mounds of goodness sitting on the edge, almost waiting for me. Well, on these Friday afternoons, my mom would bake up a storm — cookies, bread, pies, and her most delectable creation — noodles!

Then, on Saturday mornings, she would load up my little red wagon and let me walk down our street for a few blocks peddling her wares for my weekly allowance. Now mind you, all of my neighbor ladies were stay-at-home moms who were great cooks themselves. However, the minute they saw me dragging that wagon down the street, they rushed out their doors and asked what I had on that particular Saturday.

By the time I got to the end of our street, I would have sold everything and then be holding a bag filled with about $2.00 in change. This fortune then funded my week's worth of candy and a few toys from our shopping trip later that day to Woolworths, Kresge's or Scotts. The memory still makes me smile...

noodle wagon
Photo by Sarah Wilkus Showalter

When my mom died, I was hardly at an age where I had any interest in cooking noodles, or anything for that matter. Instead, I was hanging out with friends at soda shops, hamburger joints and checking out cute boys from other local high schools. When I first became a mom, though, I had to rely on mother figures and books to guide me in the practice of being a homemaker and overall — eventually — a pretty darn good cook. One of the first things I bought after my mom died was my Betty Crocker cookbook, which for a few years, was stored in my hope chest along with a set of Corelle, silverware and towels. I simply picked out this particular cookbook because it shared a name with my mom, Bette.

Even though it was a few years after its initial storage when I finally cracked it open to try my first recipe other than boiling water for eggs, that cookbook became my trusted noodle making guide for over half of my life. In fact, I believe that page has remnants of sticky flour fingers from years of holiday noodles, from both me and my daughters, who evolved from stealing noodle dough from the edge of the counter to good cooks in their own right. So, in case there are any little red wagons that need filling, here is that recipe from the 1979 Betty Crocker Cookbook with a minor improvisation...

noodle wagon
Photo by Lori DeYoung

Egg Noodles

Ingredients

• 2 cups of all-purpose flour

• 3 egg yolks

• 1 whole egg

• 2 teaspoons salt

• 1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Instructions

1) Mix well, roll out on well floured counter, cut thin strips and let dry. Ensure that a few noodles are close to the edge of counter for small, inquisitive fingers.

2) Drop small portions of dried noodles into boiling water or broth to keep from sticking.


You can find more from The Healing Homesteader on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thehealinghomesteader/

The Importance of Soil (and Soul) Mending

Lori DeYoung

When I look back, it's hard to believe that I have been a therapist for over half of my life. It makes sense, though, that my life's calling would end up being a mender of souls. As a young child, I was often found on a porch swing, visiting with my lonely, widowed neighbors. Or, giving neglected dogs a more loving home under my bedroom window with hand fed scraps and scratched ears in the middle of the night. And, in those heartbreaking moments one never forgets, carrying injured pets hit by cars back to their families, often running home in tears when the sound of a gunshot echoed behind me because there was no other option to end the suffering.

As an adult, I have tried to help mend the broken hearts of parents whose children have died. I have tried to comfort the fears of those little ones who were scared on their first night in foster care. I have offered comfort and hope to those who had once made decisions that didn't turn out as they had planned. In many ways, each of us are soul menders and the majority of our healing efforts take place outside of a therapist's office.

Sometimes it is done while sitting on a grandma's lap, or over a cup of coffee with a friend, or simply sitting quietly next to your daddy at your favorite fishing hole. At some point in all of our lives, life presents difficulties that, for at least a while, don't seem like they will ever get better. Having a soul mender in our lives can be one of the most important ingredients in the recipe for personal healing. Although I have had great soul menders to help me through some of life's hurdles, one of the most precious healers has been my garden.

soil

I do a lot of soul mending when I am alone, digging in the dirt. With each crumbling clod, many of the tensions of life have passed through my fingers and back into the soil. The home that my parents built when they adopted me was once pasture land that had decades of good ole livestock gold dumped over it. Even though I could have taken that dark top soil for granted, I knew that eventually, if I didn't give back what I had taken, my garden would weaken and my flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables would not be as plentiful and productive as possible.

So, for the last 25 years, I have nurtured my soil like a hurting friend, spending time with it, paying attention to what it needed, and trying to give it the ingredients to develop back into its fullest potential. The fall gathered leaves placed in bags around my chicken coop in winter which serve as a wind break are faithfully opened each spring, becoming the main ingredient of my compost pile. Summer companions of grass clippings, kitchen scraps and waste from my chicken coop are added weekly and with my loyal pitchfork, we toss that pile like a garden salad, adding a sprinkle of water as needed. To the stranger's eye, the pile looks just like a bunch of decaying garbage. However, for me, when that pile becomes filled with comforting heat, ashy steam and bugs munching away in the cooler layers, I know that the life within this gardener's gold will soon be mending the soil, and soul, of my garden.

soil

Years of composting have topped my gardens, or filled an old recycled fish pond and feed bags soon to become home to carrots, Swiss chard, potatoes and green beans. And in the fall, when I take the last of the compost to fill my cold frames for a late planting of spinach, I know that again in the spring, out will peek small leaves of a new generation of salad to feed me and my daughter in the months ahead. By mending the soul of my garden, as well as the soul of those around me, life kindly reciprocates by healing and nurturing me, as well.

I would venture a guess that most of you reading this are not only soil menders, but soul menders. By sharing wisdom, from both successes and failures from our simple, country life adventure, we offer others a glimpse of a lifestyle that can offer healing, growth, and hope. Although a gardener would be remiss to not reflect back on errors from past seasons, the emphasis of our efforts is always on the future. So here's to another season of sharing ideas, sharing our bounty, sharing seeds, and sharing encouragement to others. Let us never fail to appreciate the beautiful gift that our gardens, and our friends, have also given to us.

soil

You can find more from The Healing Homesteader on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thehealinghomesteader/

All photos property of Lori DeYoung

Sharing the Tradition

Lori DeYoungHave you ever asked someone for a recipe when your taste buds have exploded with joy after that first bite? And then their sly-smiled response is: "It's a family secret!"

Wow, what a letdown! I mean, would it be reasonable to expect an invitation to every meal with this person and then ask them to make that same dish each and every time? Wouldn't it just be easier to share the recipe so folks aren't knocking at your back door whenever wonderful aromas are wafting throughout the neighborhood? For me, the answer is easy. Sharing is caring, right?

One of my most treasured possessions from my depression-era mom, who died nearly 40 years ago, is her hand-written recipe book. The worn red fabric cover is filled with yellowing pages that are home to smudges of shortening, flour, and some dark substance that looks to be (or, should I say, hope it to be) vanilla extract. Although some 100 or so carefully constructed in cursive recipes are bound in this small three-ringed binder, there is one page that is loose because of overuse. Her pie crust recipe.

That recipe was passed down from my Grandma Iva, who lived with us half of the year and with my first cousins, Tim and Tom, who lived over a ways in Indiana, the other half of the year. She was my guardian angel and sadly, I last felt one of her hugs when I was seven years old. She gracefully departed this life in her sleep following a very happy Mother's Day party in 1969 when all of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren came to our Illinois home to celebrate with our beloved matriarch.

I think of her, and my mom, every time I pull out that recipe book to follow one of their three cardinal rules planted inside my brain at a very early age: 1) Always make bread from scratch; 2) Always make noodles from scratch — and by far the one I have followed most religiously; and 3) Always make your pie crust from scratch. To my mom and grandma, I may have let you down on the first rule, but I have never let you down on the last two.

Recipes

Baking pies is a source of comfort for me. When the weather is dreary, when I am feeling sad, when I am missing my best friend who died four years ago... Sometimes, there is nothing more calming than the feel of soft dough in your hands as you bind together the five ingredients that, when put together, never fails to heal what might be ailing. While standing and rolling dough in the same kitchen where my mom and grandma once worked their culinary magic, I have wistful thoughts that somewhere they are looking down on me proudly as I turn out a pie crust which is hopefully as good as theirs.

Depending on the season, I might fill that flaky crust with the awesome yumminess of my homemade canned apple pie filling, fresh cherries from my tree or sweet peaches that I have bartered for with a neighbor. To share a piece of this pie with a friend while we laugh, cry, or reminisce reminds me that everything good about living a simple life can be found in these five simple ingredients when mixed together with love and kindness.

To share their recipe with you is the greatest tribute I can give to these two fine women who filled my young life with so many good memories. It also makes it easier for you to enjoy rather than having you drive all around rural central Illinois trying to find my back door. I hope you love it as much as I do!


Grandma Iva's Pie Crust Recipe

Ingredients

• 3 cups of flour
• 1 cup of lard
• Dash of salt
• 3 T sugar (If I want it sweeter, I add 1/3 - 1/2 cup of sugar)
• 2/3 cup of water

Instructions

1. Blend flour, salt, sugar and lard. Add water. This dough is soft.

2. Use little flour on board to roll.

pies

Photos by Lori DeYoung