Tuesday, June 26, 2007

living frugally, well & treading lightly

I’m a firm believer in recycling as much as possible. As such, I’ve actually become personally opposed to buying anything new unless necessity demands it of me. Ok, with the exception of food and other essential products (toilet paper for example, but even then I purchase recycled paper products) and underpants.

Each month if possible, Coop and I make a trip out to scour the shelves of our closest Big Lots and the nearby thrift store for deals. Our venture out yesterday netted a few great finds. For instance Muir Glen organic spaghetti sauce for $2 a jar and their tomato soup for $1 a can, (once I have ripe tomatoes these items will no longer be purchased) imported Queen olives and Alaskan salmon for just $2 each and Imagine brand crab bisque for $1.50.

At the thrift store I found a few items that seemed like they’d been waiting for me…6 yards of pink gingham for $6, perfect for my kitchen, a much longed for Italian pasta bowl for $2.50, a good bread pan for .50, a pair of curtains and a like new “hippie” skirt for my daughter for only $2 each.

For the most part we live and eat extremely well for folks on a limited income. We do not miss the days of running out to shop for the sake of shopping and to buy things we thought we needed but in reality didn’t. Our primary purchasing is for food. I have bought one new (and really unnecessary) piece of clothing for myself in the past year, (aside from underpants, lol). I have returned to mending clothes, saving and replacing buttons, and patching the worn places in blue jeans. I recycle old, worn out clothing as much as possible by turning it into useful items and gifts such as mug mats, comfort pads, eye pillows and (someday) quilts. Worn bath towels are cut and sewn into wash cloths and dish cloths or become work rags and dust cloths. Everything old is new again! I realize this lifestyle doesn’t seem attractive to everyone, but I enjoy living innovatively within my means and making the best of life and what I have. And I find peace in knowing that I am treading lightly on Mother Earth by not being a part of mass consumerism.

Yes, I am the person who saves the cottage cheese containers and bread bags to store leftovers in as opposed to purchasing disposable bags and containers. I am the person who refuses to buy a crap in the box cake mix because I can nearly as easily mix up a homemade cake with fresh wholesome ingredients. And yes, I am the person who recycles gift wrap and saves bits of leftover yarn to use as ribbon or work into granny afghans.

At heart I guess I am part economist and part survivalist, with the know how to make do the best I can with what I have. I guess you’d say I’m still an old hippie, too, trying my best to live close to the earth, being pretty much anti-establishment in my views and not caring much what anyone thinks. Life is too short to live any way but authentically.

Monday, June 25, 2007

It’s just Monday, but already the week is and will continue on as a busy one. As Conrad and Coop make last minute preparations for the auction this coming Saturday, Janet and I have been busy making sure we are ready to set up kitchen. Our neighbor Mike came by yesterday with one of his hay wagons for use during the auction. The workers will be here early Friday to sort and arrange items, so that will most definitely come in handy.

We have been getting a lot of drivers passing by since the signs are up and the ads have come out in the local news and farm papers. Despite today’s heat and predicted heat for the next few days, Saturday’s forecast is calling for mid seventies and sunny skies. I am glad for that! With any luck at all the auction should prove a success. Afterwards it will just be a matter of cleaning up and getting rid of the excess people leave behind. Even though I’ll be relieved when the week is done, I must admit I am looking forward to Saturday. Auctions are always fun, very social events.

No ducklings yet! I had predicted about summer solstice, but so far nothing. However, we have been battling raccoons regularly and we assume that is what got into our ducks pen last night. Poor Thelma was probably terrified and by the looks of things, meaning duck feathers, she put up a fight. We’ve yet to tell if any eggs are missing, as we don’t want to disturb her any further as she nests.

I have baby tomatoes! All the tomato plants are blossoming, but the Rutgers Heirloom are producing tomatoes now. We haven’t lost a plant at all. I am so proud of our garden. When we planted, we thought some of them might not make it as they were small plants and somewhat fragile. But to our surprise they all made it and are big, strong, healthy plants. We will have a bumper crop no doubt! The pepper plants are in bloom and again, never lost one! The only things that failed were the row of eggplant and the row of strawflowers. Nothing came up in either row so I must assume the seeds weren’t much good to begin with.

I have cut the last bunch of swiss chard to clean and freeze tonight or in the morning, depending on how ambitious I feel yet tonight. We still have loads of romaine lettuce at our disposal and so I have included another recipe that is a nice change of pace from a traditional tossed salad. The men went crazy for it when I served it the other day, so it’s a keeper.

We have been seeing deer daily, a few bucks but more often doe with their young spotted babes nearby. I just love seeing the babies! We got a wonderful surprise yesterday (and again today) when we saw one of the wild turkey cross the road and lead her seven babies into the field. That was a new sight for me!

So, to end this, here is that recipe I mentioned. Enjoy!

Romaine Strawberry Salad

2 bunches romaine lettuce (or enough to fill a large bowl
1 large sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings
½ lb. strawberries (or more if you prefer) washed and quartered or halved

Dressing:

¾ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sugar
¼ cup milk
2 T. vinegar (cider or white)
1 T. celery seed (poppy seed would be fine, also)

Mix ingredients for dressing well, then pour over salad. Toss and serve.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Heaven on Earth

Watching the deer, unimpressed with our presence tonight as we sat just yards away on the patio gave me pause to once again appreciate my life and surroundings. It is good, very good. The sky the past few days, so intensely blue makes me take moments each day to just stop and absorb the wonder. To quote another, “one can never get too much of June.” Our days have been moderate and sun drenched, our nights cool. We have been able to view the space station two nights in a row now because of the clear skies. I imagine we’ll be able to view it again tonight in the western sky.

These days I try my best to savor the moments of sunshine and blue skies and warm summer breezes. Summer is fleeting. Remember when you were a kid and the days seemed endless? We discover as we grow older how much more quickly time passes. If we are mindful we savor it, even if in small increments where we pause in the midst of a days work to just sit a few moments in the sun or step outdoors in the dark before bed to ponder the heavens. If we are mindful we realize that heaven is here on Earth.

I hear others speak of vacations; travel and destinations. I am surprised at times by my lack of desire (or perhaps need) to travel or leave or do anything other than what I am doing. I am content to do my days work and take my vacation daily on the front porch or patio. Those who’ve always known me might be surprised to know I no longer fret if dishes lay waiting in the sink or the floor needs swept. Thankfully, I have learned to relax and know these things will wait on me. I am mindful that the days slip by quickly and if I am always focused on the chores and completion, I miss the beauty. The chores are never caught up anyhow. There are always more dishes to wash, a load of laundry to be done, a floor to sweep, something to mend. I have learned that it’s ok to let things go for a moment or two or even three so as not to deprive my senses of a moment of higher quality. Perhaps an afternoon spent with a friend or sister to laugh and talk, a moment of intimacy with nature, an hour or two of creativity. The work always gets tended to in the in between moments. Yes, if we are mindful life becomes more relaxed, ones awareness of ones surroundings are contemplated and appreciated more. And when one is in that place of appreciation, life is beautiful and sweet, balanced and sacred. Who could want for more?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Touching Base & Slowing Down

Thankfully there’s nothing much newsworthy or terribly exciting, but I wanted to touch base. As of today things seem to be on a much more even keel. Last week and the past weekend was a flurry of activity and obligations. This week has been spent primarily on catching up at home on routine housework and gardening. Since our granddaughter Destiny has been with us since Sunday evening, we even managed to fit in an afternoon at the reservoir to go swimming and enjoy a picnic supper.

Yesterday Destiny helped me quite a bit with the house work which had been let go in the flurry of last weeks activities. Coop brought in the side board I was given.



I put it in the kitchen on the east wall (above) and moved the side table that was there, into the living room.

Previously our tv set had been on my dads old blanket chest. I didn’t want to hide my nice side table upstairs, so I moved the blanket chest to the bedroom. That worked ideally because I needed extra storage for my winter clothing anyhow. We put the side table on the south wall of the living room and I decided to let the focal point be something other than the tv for a change. Truth is, we seldom watch tv in the summer. because our days are busy and spent primarily outdoors. Supper time usually doesn’t arrive until after 7PM, sometimes not until 8 or 9PM. So anyhow, I chose a little different set up, but still an efficient and effective change.

The swiss chard in our garden is beautiful! I cut a good portion of one row and got that blanched and frozen this morning. It will be a nice addition to soups come winter or good just eaten on its own with a splash of vinegar. (I like all my greens with vinegar!)

The bean plants are looking good and the tomatoes are beginning to blossom, promising some luscious red fruits in the near future. Oh yes, and the zinnias are just beginning to blossom and coincidentally I saw our first Monarch butterfly this afternoon!

My work is now caught up and I have nothing too pressing on todays agenda so I think I’m heading out to the chaise lounge with my basket of crochet and the most recent copy of “Mother Earth News” until it’s time to fire up the grill for supper.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

memories for my family

This afternoon I was telling my granddaughter about some of the phrases my mother used regularly. I thought I’d just share these for the fun of it…

Every spring when the teenagers came out in their hotrods or in convertible with the tops down and the temperatures not yet warm enough for that “foolish” behavior, Mom would comment, “Well, you can tell it’s spring because all the bloomin’ idiots are out.”

Another one she imbued into my memory was when someone did or said something she thought foolish or acted as if they knew more than they actually did, she’d remark that the person in question, “wouldn’t know beans if their head was in the bag.”

And then there was the remark made when someone talked too much about what they did. My mother was not fond of braggarts and would comment, “Them that do, do. Them that don’t, talk about it.”

And last of all, my mother’s domain was the kitchen. (Wonder where I get that!) She rarely if ever cursed, but had a trivet that she hung proudly in her kitchen. It read, “This is my kitchen and I’ll do as I damn well please.”

When I was young I was used to being around musicians. My maternal grandfather raised a family of music lovers. He himself was a songwriter and poet and even had several of his songs recorded. None made it to the charts, but all were lovely. They may not have been big hits over the air waves, but they were in our home.

My mother could strum a tune on the guitar or play the piano as did her sister Diane. My Aunt Sallie was a gifted pianist. Aunt Ruthie played her beautiful guitar inlaid with mother of pearl. Well, that is until my brother borrowed it and it burned up when his car caught fire.

I recall gathering on occasion when I was very young, my mother would be on guitar or piano, my brother on guitar, my sisters singing and my dad playing his fiddle. One of the songs I recall my mother playing on piano and singing often when I was not much more than a toddler was called “This Ole House”. I looked it up online to find the lyrics. I can still remember the tune…

This ole house once knew his children
This ole house once knew his wife
This ole house was home and comfort
As they fought the storms of life
This old house once rang with laughter
This old house heard many shouts
Now he trembles in the darkness
When the lightnin' walks about

CHORUS:
Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer
Ain't a-gonna need this house no more
Ain't got time to fix the shingles
Ain't got time to fix the floor
Ain't got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend the windowpane
Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer
He's a-gettin' ready to meet the saints

This ole house is a-gettin' shaky
This ole house is a-gettin' old
This ole house lets in the rain
This ole house lets in the cold
On his knees I'm gettin' chilly
But he feel no fear nor pain
'Cause he see an angel peekin'
Through a broken windowpane
CHORUS

This ole house is afraid of thunder
This ole house is afraid of storms
This ole house just groans and trembles
When the night wind flings its arms
This ole house is gettin' feeble
This old house is needin' paint
Just like him it's tuckered out
But he's a-gettin' ready to meet the saints
CHORUS

This ole house dog lies a-sleepin'
He don't know I'm gonna leave
Else he'd wake up by the fireplace
And he'd sit there and howl and grieve
But my huntin' days are over
Ain't gonna hunt the coon no more
Gabriel done brought in my chariot
When the wind blew down the door
CHORUS

Let the sunshine in! Curing Cancer with Vitamin D

From my hero, Mike Adams...

Canada has done what the U.S. refuses to do: Protect the health of its people through a national program of encouraging vitamin D supplementation. While U.S. cancer groups like the American Cancer Society stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the benefits of vitamin D supplements in cancer prevention, the Canadian Cancer Society is launching a program to make sure every Canadian citizen receives a level of vitamin D sufficient to prevent most cancers, including breast cancer.

The U.S., in contrast, has no interest in preventing cancer... even when a simple, virtually free substance like vitamin D could drop national cancer rates by more than 75 percent.

New research published this month shows that vitamin D supplementation produces an astonishing 77 percent reduction in all cancers in women, making it the single most effective medicine for preventing cancer that has ever been discovered by modern medical science. The American Cancer Society, however, seems stuck in the nutritional dogma of the 1950's and continues to claim that only drugs, radiation and surgery can treat cancer, and that nutritional supplements have no role to play whatsoever in cancer prevention. This view is so out of date that it belongs in a museum of medicine, not on the agenda of an advanced nation. (Stating that vitamin D has no useful role in preventing cancer is as hopelessly outdated as claiming the Earth is flat.)...To read the revealing News Target article in full click on the post title.

To read a 2005 USA Today article on some of the scientific research done, go here.

Monday, June 11, 2007

such is life & death

What an eventful time this past week has been, some goodness, some sadness, but such is life…and death. Our neighbor Patty Hiller was killed last week. She was only fifty seven. Coop had spoken to her just moments before. As usual on nice days, she was driving down the road in her horse drawn cart with her cousin as passenger. She stopped by to say hello since Coop was outside shooting the breeze with her brother in law who had stopped by prior. Less than twenty minutes later her BIL came back by to tell us a semi truck had hit her cart on the highway and it didn’t look as if she was going to make it. Sadly, she didn’t. We hope that her cousin, who remains in critical but stable condition does. We also hope that Patty’s sister in law can come to terms with what she witnessed. Our understanding is that the accident happened as Patty was turning into her SIL’s driveway and the SIL was sitting on the porch and saw it happen.

Patty was our neighbor during all the years we lived here prior. When we came back here to settle again last August it was good to know she and her husband Mike were still here as the good neighbors they’d always been. Today when paying our respects, her husband Mike said he was so glad we were his neighbors. We sure feel the same way. For the most part, the people who live here on this country road have been here most if not all of their lives. Though kids have grown and married, they have chosen to stay in this neighborhood. That’s how it is here. Everyone knows their neighbor and knows they can count on one another.

For now we will continue to see Mike as he drives by and waves each day, or when he is farming the fields or driving the tractor up the road. And each time, we’ll send out a kind thought or small prayer for his comfort as he adjusts to life as a widower. We all knew and cared for this gentle woman who loved her family, her many animals and her job as head cook at the high school. But no longer will we here the clip clop of hooves and see Patty passing by, her beautiful horse proudly pulling the cart down the road past our house.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Busyness & Butterflies

What a busy day it's been, not to mention week! The garden is completely planted now, thank goodness! Blossoms are coming on to the tomatoes, the swiss chard is growing tall and the eggplant is coming up. Lots going on out there and the plants are doing well with the recent rains.

I've been busy around the house, catching up and trying to keep decent meals on the table while tending to things outdoors and helping friends accomplish their necessary tasks. I even managed to upload some eBay listings in the past day or three to create a little extra cash flow. If interested, check the items out using the link on the right hand side of my blog.

We've really been enjoying our fresh garden greens. Last night I made a large bowl of wilted greens as an accompaniment to dinner. They were delicious. I used a combination of spinach and romaine lettuce. I'm including the easy recipe below in case you've never tickled your taste buds with this nice change of pace from a regular salad.

Wilted Lettuce Salad

Large bunch of cleaned leaf lettuce or young spinach or a combination
6 slices bacon
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 c. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. water
2-4 hard cooked eggs, quartered or chopped (optional)
2 green onions, sliced (optional)



Tear lettuce into large bowl.
Fry bacon until crisp, set aside and crumble when cool. Add vinegar, sugar and water to bacon drippings, heat to boiling point. Pour over lettuce. Toss until wilted. Garnish with onion, crumbled bacon and eggs.

***

Monarch Butterflies

Somehow, as I was browsing the internet this morning I got fixated on Monarch Butterflies. It didn’t take long to learn that the loss of farmland and use of herbicides is a major threat to the lives and future of these beautiful creatures. It relieves me to know that these 80 acres surrounding me are no longer farmed and that the milkweed grows freely.

Here are two organizations I came across that offer ways to help attract and preserve the Monarch and keep our skies and yards filled with nature’s beauty.

http://www.monarchwatch.org/waystations/ explains how we can offset habitat loss by creating a Monarch waystation for the butterflies on their yearly migration route. Certified Monarch Waystations then become part of the International Monarch and Waystation Registry and can display the Waystation sign. However, submission for certification is voluntary.

http://www.livemonarch.com has as their goal to keep the skies filled with color by educating everyone about habitat loss and what each of us can do. They promote habitat reclamation projects across North America and sponsor a free seed program and free “adopt a butterfly” program. These programs are great for getting children involved in butterfly conservation!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Have a soda & a little DNA damage, too!

If high fructose corn syrup isn't reason enough to give up soda, maybe sodium benzoate is? I'll stick with my coffee and tea, thank you very much!

The Organic Consumers Associations says "The problem of cancer causing benzene turning up in sodas seems to pop up in the U.S. with alarming regularity. Last week, the FDA reported that it tested 100 sodas and found unacceptable levels of the known carcinogen in five of the drinks. Some of these drinks had benzene levels nearly 100 times that which is considered safe by the EPA for drinking water. The toxin is formed when a soda manufacturer uses two ingredients that can react to form benzene: ascorbic acid and sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate. Soda companies found to have dangerous levels of benzene have vowed to reformulate their drinks. In the meantime, boycott the following beverages and consider avoiding any soda with the "toxic two" ingredients, found in an astoundingly high number of popular drinks. (As a note, beverages labeled as "organic" cannot contain these ingredients.)"

These Come From Trees-real simple activism

These folks sure make it easy to be environmentally active and get the message out there. I like that! :)

June in Ohio & Gratitude

It may be June in Ohio but it certainly feels like August! Thank the goddess for the cooling rain this afternoon. Coop got the pepper plants in the ground just in the nick of time! If he’d have listened to me they wouldn’t have been planted. as I was going to wait until this evening. Fortunately he followed his intuition!

My green beans are up and growing like weeds! The tomato plants look to be doing well despite most of them being smallish. I’m sure they will do just fine and give me lots of juicy red fruits later this summer. Last night we enjoyed our first salad of the season made with fresh young romaine and radishes from our garden. The homemade croutons were great in it, too!

Yesterday my niece Jenni and I went to Quailcrest Farms not too far from here near Wooster, Ohio to do some herb shopping. I came home with a few and today added Melissa (lemon balm), Greek oregano, pineapple sage and Cuban basil to my little herb bed. This fall when the pre-existing garlic is harvested, we will double the size of the herb bed and I’ll replant garlic after it’s all cleaned out and turned under. I also came home with a small sized black eyed susan to plant, something I’ve always wanted and don’t know why I never grew them before.

Nearing home on our return yesterday we passed by an Amish farm and produce stand with fresh picked strawberries for sale. I prompted my niece to turn around and go back, which she did. When we got back another customer had just stopped and was purchasing all the berries left. As we were parked across the road, I hollered as to whether there were any left. The Amish lady shook her head no and asked how many I wanted. I said I’d like 5-6 quart but would take less, four, three, even one or two if she had ‘em. The lady purchasing the berries said she could spare four quart so I accepted those four and paid for them with much appreciation and many than yous. The baskets which cost $1.50 each were full to the brim with luscious bright red homegrown berries. Minutes later at home, I was rinsing a few off and popping them in my mouth to savor their goodness. So much better than those big hard ones shipped in! Maybe next year we’ll get a patch started again ourselves. When Jenni left my house she was armed with a bag of spinach and romaine plus a few tomato and pepper plants for her to plant in her own little garden. Oh, and a quart of fresh strawberries, too!

***

As I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes this afternoon I again was overcome with a sense of gratitude and wonder. In a million years I never would have dreamed I’d be back in this old farm house I have loved so well for so many years. To be here now fills me with happiness and wonder.

For those unaware, we moved in originally in 1984 and then had to leave in 1993 due to circumstances beyond our control. Time passed, things changed and all circumstances came together serendipitously for us to be given the opportunity to return. My love for this home and this land never wavered and many times through the years I would think about this place and reminisce. I always said if I could return to any place I wanted to live, this was the place. I do, with utmost humbleness, realize how very fortunate I am. I do not ask for a fancy home, a fine car or more money than I can spend. Instead I choose simplicity, a country life surrounded by trees, quiet (and as my granddaddy would say), the wild things, a garden and at the kitchen sink a window with a view. The universe has seen fit to give me my hearts desire and for this I am grateful each and every day.

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