Archive for April, 2011

Funny Farm

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

These are some of the chickens’ nest boxes:

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I just don’t have the heart to tell Tanya.

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She’s laid her eggs here every day for the past few weeks.

Sarah and some of the chickens think Tanya is silly to lay in chicken nest boxes.

They lay theirs in the goat barn.

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And there is a chicken or two that thinks all of them are crazy. They lay their eggs in the turkey coop.

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This all makes sense, right?

As much sense as Jake dancing around Bernie while he’s target shooting, right?

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Heaven help me. I think I live on a Funny Farm.

Canning Shad With Daddy and Christian

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

When my parents came to visit last year, Daddy brought several shad with him that he had caught in Georgia. This year he brought more shad with him, and I actually remembered to take pictures of the process.

Naturally, scaling the shad is the first step. My great-nephew, Christian, does a great job at scaling fish.

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Daddy filleted all of the shad for us.

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He has always done an awesome job of filleting fish. You can almost see through the very little bit that he leaves behind.

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Here he is cutting up the meat of the fish that we’ll be canning.

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I really did help with all of this – those are my hands scaling that fish in the left of that picture.

The roe in some of them was huge!

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We ended up with two nice pots of shad.

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And that made 20 pints. We added 1/2 teaspoon salt to each jar. There is no need to add any liquid.

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Shad has a lot of bones, and even after filleting them, there are still several bones left in much of the meat. But, after processing in the pressure canner for two hours on 15 pounds of pressure, the bones dissolve, leaving you with delicious and very nutritious fish.

We use our canned shad as a substitute for tuna when we want tuna fish sandwiches. We also substitute it for salmon in salmon patties. It’s good stuff, and really nice to have on our pantry shelf.

Don’t worry if you don’t have access to shad. Canning fish is not limited to shad and the steps are the same. If we were canning a boneless fish, we would have processed it with 10 pounds of pressure instead of 15, but really that’s about the only difference.

The adults relaxed on the deck after we finished.

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And Christian climbed a maple tree in the front yard.

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Canning shad was fun. Watching Christian was more fun though!

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And, even though it’s a little out of place here, I wanted to include some pictures of the last bee brood box I decorated with buttons that Mary Ann donated.

Here’s the front entrance – don’t you just love those buttons?

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Here’s one of the sides:

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Here’s the other side:

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And here’s the rear:

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The only thing we’re missing now are the bees – and we’re getting a little concerned. It’s getting well into this nectar flow now. I hope we’ll get our bees soon and they will be able to make up for lost time. Please keep your fingers crossed for us.

The Bonds of Love

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

She’s more than 60 years older than him.

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He loves her more than any best friend he’s ever had.

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They make each other smile.

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They go head to head on occasion.

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But nothing is stronger ……….

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than this bond of love.

(Mama and her great-grandson, Christian, during their visit this week)

Getting into Bees and a Bonus

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Remember Mary Ann and Daisy – my and Dolly’s walking buddies? Well, as if having the best walking buddies ever wasn’t enough, Mary Ann’s husband raises bees, and heaven knows Bernie and I need a neighbor that knows a thing or two about bees. We are tickled beyond words that we have an experienced bee keeper within a mile or so from our house. BONUS!

Mary Ann’s husband’s name is Si. Si retired from the Marines. Why is it all Marines are good looking?

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Si invited us up for a bee hive inspection, and we jumped at the chance. He has a weak hive that made it through a tough winter, much to his surprise. Bernie and I suited up to watch him check out this hive. He really wanted to find the queen. And in no time at all, we found her.

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Isn’t she beautiful? And look at that cute little bee butt poking out of that cell while she cleans and works so hard. *sigh* Bee butts are way cuter than bee knees, and I don’t care what anyone says.

The queen is always longer than the other bees. Her wings look tiny compared to her body. Isn’t she a amazing? Can you find her mixed in with the worker bees here?

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The sad news is that Si is disappointed in the brood in this hive. He doesn’t particularly like the laying pattern, or the amount of brood in it. He may have to replace her. So this little lady may be replaced in the near future. It’s a fact of nature when you raise bees, but I prefer not to think about that right now.

Right now, I prefer to look at this girl with bright red pollen in her pollen baskets.

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Wonder where she’s been? Isn’t that some amazing pollen?

When we finished up with the bees, we headed inside to visit for a while. And we met Molly.

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Molly is a miniature parrot. I was smitten with her. She’s so cute! And she’s so tiny. But don’t let her size fool you. She’s got a huge personality. And while Mary Ann and I visited at the kitchen table, Molly settled in for a visit too.

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Not only is Mary Ann as cute as a button, she’s very talented too. She hook latches rugs. She even has a group of ladies that hook latch rugs that meet every so often and call their group The Hookers. How cute is that??? Look at these hook latch rugs she made for her rocking chair.
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I just love those. She did one of Daisy too, but I didn’t get a picture. Darnit.

Not only does Mary Ann hook latch rugs, she paints. Boy, oh boy, does she ever paint. Just look at these:

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Oh, and this:

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How pretty is this?

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But this one may have been my favorite:

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The detail is amazing.

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I stopped taking pictures at this point. I was worried I was gushing too much.

Mary Ann and Si are wonderful people. Plus they are talented. And better yet, they are friends and neighbors.

I call that a bonus for sure.

Frugal, Fast, and Tasty

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Several years ago I began collecting “Meal in a Jar” recipes, and at Christmas I made several of these mixtures and gave them as gifts. They were largely well received, and it was a lot of fun putting them all together.

My niece was working full time back then, raising three small children, and shuttling them to all sorts of after school activities. There was very little time to spare in her days, and I decided to make her an extra large batch of a Meal in a Jar called Almost Hamburger Helper. I hoped it might help her make a frugal, fast, and tasty meal with very little effort. She absolutely loved it, and I would make her a large jar of it each time she came to visit.

The Almost Hamburger Helper mix came with four recipes and, while I’ve only made the Chili Mac, my niece has made most, if not all, of them and gives them each high marks. The Chili Mac is quite good, and the best part? It only took me about 5 minutes to brown the meat, add the few ingredients, and bring to a simmer. When I came back to the stove 20 minutes later, our meal was finished. And it was really good!

So, for those busy days when finding 5 minutes to cook a meal is the most you can muster, or for those not so busy days when you don’t want to spent more than 5 minutes cooking a meal, or for those days when you just feel like eating a nice, hot bowl of chili mac, here’s the recipe for the mix and four frugal, fast, and tasty meals:

Almost Hamburger Helper

(makes about 1 quart)

2 cups nonfat dry milk
1cup cornstarch
1/4 cup beef bouillon powder
2 tablespoons onion flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder

Mix the ingredients together and store in an air-tight container.

Use mix as a base for the following meals.

Chili Mac:
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1 c water
1/2 c macaroni noodles (uncooked)
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 T chili powder
1/2 cup mix

Combine all and simmer 20 minutes or until macaroni is cooked

Stroganoff:
1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
2 c water
1/2 c mix
2 c uncooked egg noodles
1/2 cup sour cream

Combine all except sour cream. Simmer 20 minutes or until noodles are tender. Stir in sour cream and serve.

Potato Beef Casserole:
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
3/4 c water
6 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 c frozen mixed veggies
1/2 cup mix

Combine all and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and cook until excess water is evaporated.

Quick Lasagna:
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1/2 c mix
1 onion, chopped
2 c water
16 oz tomato sauce
3 c lasagna noodles, uncooked, broken in bits
1/4 c parmesan cheese
2 c mozzarella cheese, shredded

Combine all except mozzarella in large skillet. Bring to a boil, let simmer for 15 minutes or until noodles are cooked. Top with mozzarella. Turn off heat and let cheese melt.

Cutting Apron Strings

Monday, April 4th, 2011

“It’s almost midnight. You better get to bed. You’ve got a big day ahead of you.”

I was on leave between basic training, and my first duty assignment. San Vito, Italy. Clear on the other side of the world from my safe, secure life. I didn’t want to go.

“I’m scared, mama.”

“Scared? What are you scared of?”

I tried desperately to hold back the tears.

“What if I don’t make it? What if it’s too hard? What if I get over there and I just want to come home?”

She pulled up a chair and sat down across from me at the kitchen table.

“Well, I expect it will be hard. And I expect you’re going to want to come home. But you will make it. And you’re going to be just fine.”

“But how do you know that mama? How do you know?”

She smoothed out the table cloth and looked me square in the eyes.

“Because you are strong. Stronger than you know right now. It’s not going to be easy. But you are going to do it. And you are going to be just fine.”

And with that, she clipped the apron strings.

I didn’t think I was ready.

She knew I was.

And with wings never used before, I learned to fly.

It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done.

It was one of the hardest things she’d ever done.

Cutting apron strings is never easy.