Saturday, August 30, 2008

seasonal thoughts

It’s about this time of year when I start longing for the less busy days of fall and winter. Not that I actually look forward at this time to the cold months ahead, (brrrrr) but just the slowing down part. In fact, despite being (what feels like) confined to my kitchen daily with canning in progress, I am acutely aware of how quickly summer is coming to an end. It seems to sadden me a little, unlike in the past when I used to be anxious for fall to arrive in all her splendor and crispness and to see summer come to a close. Now I think it just makes me more aware of just how quickly time passes and how soon these blue sky days of songbirds and sunshine, of open windows and sultry breezes will be gone. But soon the panorama of color, of burgundy and amber leaves ushering in the season of slowing down will lighten the loss of summer. Change is inevitable. We appreciate what is, release the old as the seasons pass, welcome the new, adapt and trust all is as it should be. Each cycle of nature, each season of life brings its gifts. How can we not help but appreciate the perfection of it all?

giveaway

Ok, just a quickie here to mention that my friend Carolyn over at The Barber Bunch blog is having a mystery giveaway to celebrate her 6 month blogging anniversary. Git on over there and check it out. Do it. Now. Or at least by Sept. 8th, ya hear?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Frazzled Friday

My day began at 3:30 AM when something woke me up. When I got up Timmy our dog leaped off the sofa and went to the door so I let him out. Unusual behavior for him but obviously he had to go. I went to the bathroom then waited at the door for Timmy’s return. When he didn’t come back immediately I went out into the dark foggy morning and called and whistled. Finally he came. I let him back in and was obviously too tired to notice anything strange. Coop then got up with flashlight in hand as he heard me calling Timmy. He noticed an odor before I did. Timmy had obviously rolled in something nasty. So unfortunately Timmy had to spend the rest of the morning in the garage. We went back to bed to catch a little more shut eye before beginning the day for real, with me knowing that my dad would begin with giving the dog a bath.

When I got up, I noticed a pile of doggie vomit next to the loveseat. I’m guessing the dog vomiting is actually what woke me earlier. I also noticed that my philodendron was chewed up and pieces of leaves lay scattered about. Oh yeah, then the manila folder where I keep my crochet patterns had been gotten into and one was taken out and chewed up…just the one, mind you. I will likely never know which pattern that was until I search specifically for it and find it missing. This behavior is so uncharacteristic of Timmy so I don’t have any idea what prompted it.

Before I cleaned up that mess, it was doggie bath time. After all, the puke had been there all night, what was few more minutes? I got Timmy into the bathroom but then couldn’t shut the door. We have a small bath and one must be to the far left to close the door. Timmy was by the tub to the far right. Ok, move Timmy. No cooperation on his part, so I tried moving him. This confused and intimidated him and he got the hell out of there. I began yelling for Coop to get up and give me a hand, which he did. Between the two of us we managed to get Timmy into the bathroom, the door closed and our furry friend into the tub.

Once the bath was done I cleaned up the mess in the living room and began the day. I had a large pot of spaghetti sauce to can this morning, which I nearly ruined while cooking the night before. I saved the sauce but the pan is scorched and still soaking. After heating the sauce up, sterilizing the jars and beginning the canning process, actually filling a few jars, I found two jars that had slight chips around the rims. I was sure I had checked them prior. So, dump the sauce back into the pan and begin again… after going to the basement to gather several more jars to be sterilized. It was not starting out to be a great morning.

But, the day wore on and things got better. Heck, I even managed to get a shower and trim my hair between phone calls, making egg salad, chopping vegetables, grating zucchini, baking a cake, peeling potatoes, making a meat mixture for dinner, neighbors dropping in, straightening the house, sweeping the kitchen and washing a mob of dishes…twice. Not too bad for a Friday. In fact less busy than most of the week has been except for the doggy incident which got me off to rocky start. Then the sun decided to come out and chase away the clouds, a nice, warm breeze began filtering through the south windows, the makings of a most sensuous afternoon and evening. I am off now to prepare and enjoy dinner and the rest of the evening. Hope your day was a good one.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Before the day is over...

...I wanted to post a link to Baking Bites. I can't remember how I ended up there, but I have been browsing this site on and off for a day or two in small increments when time permits and have printed off a dozen or more recipes at least. How about a chocolate yogurt loaf cake or cherries and cream pie? I will definitely be trying the chocolate pumpkin pie, oh ya. Had to share. Have fun!

Monday, August 25, 2008

the big and the small of it

This Brandywine weighed in at 1 pound 11 ounces.

Don't these look like miniature watermelons?
They are Mexican Sour Gherkins and appropriately named as they have a real tartness tasting almost as if they were already pickled. When ripened they fall off the vine.
A unique addition to fresh salads and so darn cute!

Recently canned tomatoes here and another 14 quart canned today.
These ones are seasoned with herbs.

Sunday pickins from the garden...

I'll be canning again tomorrow but I'll be posting soon about our day trip this past Saturday to Serpent Mound.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Smallest of Pleasures

Over the years I have learned to recognize more acutely the significance in the small, seemingly inconsequential things. In taking note, I find that much of my love of our simple life is encapsulated in these small pleasures…

The sound of jar lids popping, letting me know my jars of jam and vegetables have sealed successfully.

A seed sprouting, showing signs of life and green, making one aware of the continuous cycle of nature.

The aroma (and anticipation) of whatever may be simmering on the stove top or baking in the oven.

Watching our garden grow.

Moments sitting in the sun with a cat occupying my lap or winding around my legs.

Allowing the jars of newly canned jams to sit on the table for longer than necessary just so I can admire them a little while longer before storing them away.

Watching the antics of birds and insects as if there is nothing better to do, because in that moment there is nothing better to do.

The sight of clean laundry willowing in the breeze on a sunny day and the smell of air and sunshine as I take it down and fold it, drawing the occasional piece to my face to breathe it in.

Our muscovy ducks appearing at my feet when I step out back in case I might have a treat for them and hand tossing them scraps to catch in their beaks like puppy dogs.

Adding to and organizing rows of home canned goods on my cellar shelves.

The myriad of colors in a patch of zinnias.

The evening sounds of life in the woods.

Choosing colors for my next yarn project, next bead project, next sewing project....

Putting the clean dishes in their proper places.

Gathering food fresh from the vine and making a homegrown meal.

Watching storms move in and never ceasing to be in awe of the power of nature.

The truth is, I find pleasure in most aspects of life, not only pleasure but also a great sense of appreciation for our lifestyle, our family and friends and for what we have. And when I say for what we have I mean that in the largest sense, from the love of others to the plants and trees that make oxygen , from the earth in which our food grows to the sun for it's warmth and life sustaining rays, from the food, dishes and utensils that inhabit the cupboards and drawers to the hot running water, from the view out the kitchen window, to the earth’s tokens that decorate our home There is so much that we can inadvertently take for granted, but when we practice slowing down and taking notice we find ourselves surrounded with blessings. I've found that practicing awareness brings appreciation and practicing appreciation brings awareness.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

a grand week

With the exception of a welcome rain the other day, the past week has been utterly beautiful with mild temps and killer blue sky days. Unseasonably cool for August but how nice to be canning in 70 something degree weather as opposed to 90 something.

I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday week with the weather, the cards, the gifts and just plain enjoyable moments. On Tuesday my twin sister came out to spend a day with me. We share the same birthday ya know (grin) and although Wed.was it, Tues. worked out perfectly for us to hang together all day without anyone else. Coop was busy helping my niece’s hubby build his shed, neither one of us twins had any other serious responsibilities, so a real day of girl fun and bonding with my twin took place. It’s been awhile since that has happened! And ya know what we did? We laughed, we talked, we spent time outdoors, even sat crocheting together on the patio. I had made homemade, homegrown spaghetti sauce for a dinner of organic whole wheat pasta and homegrown snow peas. Sue got the urge to make bread, so that she did so at the end of the day we enjoyed a fantastic meal together full of nutrition and good vibes. What more could you want? She also gifted me with a beautiful crystal, a couple of new CDs and a most beautiful and cozy afghan…in PINK! Gosh, what a generous gal she is! I have listened to the Jakob Dylan CD she gave me over and over, it’s that good. I would love to show you a picture of me curled up in my new pink afghan but I accidentally deleted all the photos I just uploaded to picassa. And of course I deleted them from my memory card already, too. Damn! That’s twice I’ve done that! Anyhow trust me; the afghan is big and beautiful. I love it!

My neighbor showed up the Mon. with a pretty card and gift, some new kitchen towels (pink of course) and a pink can opener to go in my pink kitchen. Cards arrived in the mail from sister in laws, my son and his wife and another from the grandboys. My girlfriend Vicki sent me a book I had wanted (A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle) and two cards! She liked them both so she sent me two, lol. You have to know Vicki, she is one in a million and quirky that way…it’s one of the many things I love about her. On wed. my wonderful kids called to wish their mom a happy birthday, then on Thurs. my dear, sweet niece came over with a card and a plate full of homemade macaroons (she knows I LOVE coconut) plus the promise of a soon to arrive book I have been coveting on Amazon. I am one lucky girl! Ok, woman. But I gotta tell ya that even at fifty three I still have the heart and mind of a girl at times. Now if my body would just keep up!

All in all a grand week has left me with a full heart and a heightened appreciation for all the people and goodness in my life. And although greatly appreciated, it is not the gifts or cards given that mean so much but the spirit of love and connection I share with these special people in my life.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I’ve lived long enough to understand that…

On Wednesday I celebrated my 53rd birthday. So, I got to thinking about what I have gained from my years of life experience. Actually quite a few things, so I began writing them down and have decided to share a few of them with my readers. All are subject to my personal experience of course or reflect the philosophy I've developed as a result.

I have lived long enough to understand that…

Everyday holds certain responsibilities as well as moments of wonder and pleasure. Don’t take life so seriously you might miss them.

Contentment comes from within and understanding who the authentic you really is.

Happiness is a temporary feeling. Contentment is what we really seek.

The ability to be filled with utter joy and appreciation comes from knowing suffering somewhere along the line.

To withhold love is to harm oneself and other beings.

Life has grown simpler and my needs have lessened since becoming mature enough to feel a sense of my own mortality.

I am a universe unto myself.

Nothing is perfect yet everything is.

No matter what everything will be ok.

Life isn’t about what we have or what we do but who we really are.

Sorrow comes to all of us and we must learn to grieve, let go and move on.

Blaming others for how your life turned out is allowing others to define you, makes you a victim and prevents you from living fully. We have to heal and forgive (ourselves as well as others) let the past be the past and live in the present.

Hope is powerful medicine.

The best way to get through things is to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and do something.

I am who I am and that’s all that I am, take me or leave me.

Women really do rule.

Everything is energy.

Forcing a smile when I don’t feel like it really does lift the spirit and laughter is the best medicine.

A helping hand, a kind word, a hug or “I love you” are priceless gifts.

Truth is subjective.

Having grandchildren is redemptive.

Everything has a ripple effect.

We can make a choice whether to respond or react. There’s a big difference between the two.

Our lives are a consequence of the choices we make.

All anyone really wants is acknowledgment…to be seen and heard.

And despite how it may seem, I believe we all end up exactly where we’re meant to be even if it takes a lot of detours to get there.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Breaking Free of the Cave May Save Your Life

(NaturalNews) The ancient philosopher Plato (circa 427 - 347 BC), wrote many astounding works. One of his largest, The Republic, contains the oft-referred to Allegory of the Cave. If you are unfamiliar with the work, here is a good artist's rendition of the Cave: ((http://www.meditationsight.com/Document...) .

Explanation of The Cave

Prisoners are chained deep down in a cave, from very early childhood. Their arms, legs, and head are all chained so that they cannot move, only stare at the wall before them.

Behind them is a huge fire. Between them and the fire is a raised path, on which shapes of animals, plants, and other items are carried. This casts shadows on the wall, which transfixes the prisoners; and when one of the carriers speaks, the sound echoes throughout the cave so the prisoners believe that it is coming from the shadows themselves. The captives play a sort of "name game" with one another, giving names to the shadows, which are the only reality they know.

Now picture one of the prisoners is freed from his bonds, and is beckoned to stand and turn around. He would sense pain in his body, and would be blinded by the glare of light. The shapes passing before him would seem less real than the shadows that they cast.

Upon leaving the cave, he is once again blinded by the increase in light. At first he only sees dark silhouettes of things, then he begins to see objects more and more clearly as his eyes adjust.

The last thing he would see is the sun itself, which he learns creates all of the seasons, and shapes and touches all that surrounds him.

Returning to the cave so that he may free his fellow prisoners, his eyes do not adjust well to the darkness. He cannot play their name game as quick, and they believe him to be blinded from his venture away. They think that this will happen to them, and so do not want to be freed, and out of this fear become murderous to anyone intending to do so.

Current Version

A present day version of The Cave could be likened to a movie many of you will remember -- "The Matrix", and Neo's path to enlightenment. In the movie, Neo knows that there is more truth out there than what he sees, and chooses to swallow the pill that will allow him to progress further and learn. He soon awakens to find himself bound in a liquid filled container. Breaking free, he begins a journey, learning about the realities of present life, negating all that he knew before. He begins to see the world for what it really is; learning that his former world was merely created by a computer program, known as "The Matrix". Neo goes on to realize that while he has this knowledge and can accept it and live in what is truly reality, most people are not ready. They are too fragile for the truth, and would resist or even die from the knowledge. Even some of those that learned the truth failed to thrive in the real environment, choosing instead to be placed back within the false reality.

Applying This to the Present Day

This can be applied to each and every one of us. Every day we choose what we believe to be true. Plato referred to this as "eikasia" which he used to refer to a human's way of dealing with appearances. It is the ability to perceive whether a perception is an image of something else; allowing us to see that a dream or memory, or even a reflection in a mirror, is not reality. We all have puppeteers in our lives influencing what we believe to be true, such as Plato's object carriers and Neo's Matrix. Our parents, teachers, governments and media all influence what we think. It is our job to "awaken", and sort through things diligently to see the truth for what it really is. This is our own personal "Path to Enlightenment", our own journeys out of the cave and in search of the sun.

How This Relates to Our Health

Some of us today are seeing the truth of our situation, and luckily our numbers are growing. We are sick, we are suffering, and we are dying. Why? Our meat comes from factories. Our vegetables and fruits are contaminated with pesticides and herbicides. Our seeds are being genetically engineered, and can now be patented.

Our grocery carts are filled with the latest boxes and packages of low-fat, low-carb, eat healthy, lose weight Garbage, yet we scoff at the prices of organic foods. Where once was a bowl of dough rising on the counter to be baked fresh from whole grains for the family dinner table, now sits a box of Bisquick.

Our milk contains pus and antibiotics, our meats contain nitrates, our drinks and many foods are laden with high fructose corn syrup. In an effort to minimize our waist-lines we consume the poisonous wood alcohol methanol, an ingredient in aspartame.

We have stolen from the earth, taken what was natural and healthy for us and made it unnatural and inherently detrimental. Our children are growing up on sugar and refined foods and we stare blankly when someone tells us that we are clogging their arteries even before they hit puberty.

Our doctors prescribe us pharmaceuticals to address our health concerns, which in turn cause us more problems that lead to more prescriptions. We complacently believe that cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome are just the side effects of growing old, and that the pharmaceutical companies will keep coming out with more products to "save" us.

Our waists are expanding, our hearts and livers and kidneys are failing. Our arteries are clogging at alarming rates and yet still, what do we do? Supersize that, please.

We must get back to reality. We must get back to nature.

I urge you all, break free of your bonds and walk out of the cave!

References:

"Plato: The Allegory of the Cave". Washington State University. July 14, 2007 ((http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~wldciv/world_c...) .

Possehl, Melissa. "Explanation of the Cave". Critical Thinking March, 2006.

About the author

Mel Possehl is a Holistic Wellness Consultant working towards dual diplomas in Herbalism & Holistic Health, and is studying for the Registered Aromatherapist certification.

She has two blogs on natural health:
http://your-holistic-life.blogspot.com/
http://just-womens-issues.blogspot.com/

Saturday, August 9, 2008

around the house

Finally I managed to get some housework caught up! The kitchen has been a motley mess of canning kettles, vegetables, jars, pots and pans. It's August that's why! Today I actually swept the floors and let me tell ya, they needed it in a bad way. Tomorrow I'll do some laundry because when your canning and cooking, well, you use up a whole lot of kitchen towels. Well, at least I do.

When I get some free time, (hahaha!) I have been working on this afghan. The colors and the pattern give it a southwestern look don't you think?


The herb bed is in its August glory. I love when it's full and lush in late summer.

From the front porch...one of the things I love about living in the country...except when they visit my garden.

Hungarian hots and (mostly) Cherokee Purples...

21 jars of hot sauce, 7 pints of pickles and two pints of dried tomatoes.
Not a bad days work!

Uno heard me coming to the door and hurries away from the cat's food.
Bad duck!

a little garden tour

The Brandywines are coming along and just now a few are beginning to ripen. The plant to the right is taller than me. I'm 5'3".

The Amish paste have been coming on gradually and as they are I have been drying them. They are growing in clusters like grapes. Lots coming on for canning!

The Cherokee Purple were the first to ripen so we have been enjoying those a lot. There will most definitely be no shortage of tomatoes around here!

The Hungarian peppers are doing great as usual. However this year my other peppers (sweet and hot) have had problems with the blossoms and leaves falling off and little if any fruit production. Others I have spoken with have had similar problems, so the weather may factor in a lot.

The Marglobe tomatoes are coming along nicely, also.

Bush Queen Acorn squash.
I usually plant Butternut, but Coop likes acorn the best so this year we decided to go with that variety as well as a few unique varieties such as Guatemalan Blue and Potimaron. These Bush Queen really do grow in nice bush like formation.


The volunteer polyheaded sunflowers grew to over 10" this year!

There's definitely a lot more going on than what I've shown here, but wanted to share with you some features from the main garden.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

it's a boy!



Actually Timmy is not a boy, but a middle aged gentlemanly fellow. It just so happens he needed a forever home and we had been looking for the right dog. When my daughter called from the humane society last Thursday to tell me they'd found the perfect dog for us, I had to make a decision. You see they had just adopted a rescue dog and while finishing up the paperwork, Timmy's foster mom brought him in to get acquainted with a couple who were considering adopting him. The couple declined the adoption because Timmy was too docile for them. They wanted a dog that was a little more spirited. When Kandice found out Timmy was still available she called me and gave me his details. He sounded like the perfect dog for us; mature, calm, sweet and gets along well with cats. So, the kids adopted him for us and on Friday we went to pick him up.

Timmy is very quiet and unexcitable, somewhat timid but quite friendly. According to the shelter he is a viszla, (pronounced VEEZH-la) which I had never heard of, also known as Hungarian Pointing Dog.
I find him to be an irresistible companion. He is so very well behaved that I sometimes forget he's here. But then he will come to me and nudge my hand (quite persistently) for some attention; a pat on the head or a chin rub. He just needs to feel secure. He will now that he's found a forever home.
two tired boys

being silly after a brushing

I was just thinking...when we moved here we had two cats. Now after being here two years we have somehow expanded our care taking to four cats and a dog, not to mention the ducks. Does anyone see a trend here?

Yum! Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

This recipe came from an old and worn favorite recipe book I bought new when Coop and I first got together. You know the kind. One in which the pages have come loose from the binding and many are stained and worn from repetitive use. It’s been my best loved recipe source for the past twenty eight years.

These pickles are easy to make and require few ingredients. They work wonderfully as a side dish and taste great on a burger as well. They are similar to a bread and butter style pickle. The following recipe will make about 3 pints of pickles. I normally double it and make 3 quarts or put them into a gallon size jar.

Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

7 cup unpeeled cucumbers or young zucchini or a mix of both sliced thin ( Actually usually I make them with young zucchini.)

1 large onion sliced thin

A green or red pepper chopped is optional

1/8 cup salt

Place veggies in large pan or bowl. (I use a dishpan when making a double batch.) Sprinkle salt over sliced veggies and cover with ice water. Let stand 2 hours. Drain.

After placing pickles in jars, make the following syrup and bringing it to a boil. Ladle or pour over the pickles.

1 cup vinegar

2 cup sugar

1 tsp. celery seed

Store in fridge. The recipe says they will keep indefinitely but they won’t really last that long! : )

I have also canned these pickles (shown in photo). The only difference in doing so is that I make the syrup up, bring to a boil and then add the drained pickles to the syrup and return to a boil before putting in jars. If you do can them follow basic canning instructions, (hot jars, hot lids, wipe rims well, etc) be sure to run a small spatula around the inside of jar before sealing to remove air bubbles. Hot water bath them for about 10-15 minutes.

July 2008 Independence Summery

A tad bit late but here's our July Independence summery...


Planting, Harvesting &
Preserving – Harvested cherries, raspberries, blackberries. Harvesting garden produce on regular basis for fresh eating.

Preserved 37 jars (1/2 pt) jam (lots of gift giving here!) , 8 pints pie filling, 7 pints pickles, 3 quarts juice, 8 pints beets. Froze 5 quarts cherries, 2 quart blackberries and 9 ½ quarts raspberries. Made 3 quarts refrigerator pickles.

Preparedness & Planning – Added purchased canned goods to reserves.

Managing household & reserves – cleaned freezer of remaining produce from last year to make room for this year’s harvest. Used up the last of 2007’s canned tomatoes by making spaghetti sauce.

Purchased jelly jars on sale, received additional canning jars from friend’s garage sale find, purchased more at auction. I have a surplus of jars at least for now.

Found a good cotton blanket at a garage sale for $1.

Received a supply of candles from our daughter, another garage sale find.

Received an entire wardrobe of clothing from a generous neighbor whose wife had passed away last year. As a result I kept what I could use for myself and gave away the remainder to others who could make good use of them. Sizes were varied so several people benefited nicely.

Keeping it Local – eating from our garden daily, eggs and milk from local Amish. Sharing garden produce with neighbors and family.

Learned New Skill or Tried Something New – made homemade castile soap successfully. Learned to use a pressure canner. Made calendula infused body oil. Now making my own butter. Tried a new zucchini cake recipe.

Misc. & Handcrafting -

Sold a jar of relish and a jar of jam as well as a beaded necklace.

Finished a crocheted shawl and it’s already reserved for purchase!

Crocheted cotton wash cloths.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Tale of Two Tanks conclusion

After learning of the brine spill at the tanks and speaking with the landowner that Saturday, I called the EPA and detailed what I had been made aware of and seen.

I was asked a lot of questions such as dates in question, the name of the company who owned the mineral rights, the tank numbers, etc., which I answered to the best of my ability. I was informed the information would be turned over to the EPA for investigation and f necessary, they would contact me.

Since I am still on dial up I remained off line as much as possible for a couple of days in case they called, but heard nothing from them. On the following Wednesday I noticed the coming and going of several dump truck loads of dirt on our little road as well as a county truck or two. Throughout the day I heard equipment running just up the road in the vicinity of the oil tanks.

That evening when I had time enough I took a stroll up the road to the site again with camera in hand.

This is a "before" photo of the drain off at the back of the tanks and pit.

And below is after.

This is the trench that had been dug for the run off.

And this is after.

Overall the place looked a lot better than how it had the days prior.

It appears everyone did their job and made things right. Let's hope this proves to be the case.

Aside from the actual desecration created by their negligence, the thing that upsets me most is that this company (and how many others?) have done whatever they can get away with to control costs because they are too cheap and/or greedy to do things responsibly. I hope it cost this particular company a lot of money to right their wrongs. I know it did last year when they polluted the well water of a nearby family and had to replace the well. Maybe they'll realize that it would have been cheaper to do things responsibly to begin with.

On my way back to the house I took this photo of the fields to the south and the intensely beautiful sky, thankful that things appeared to have been made right and hoping that this company will realize that environmental responsibility is more cost effective in the long run. In the very least maybe they'll realize that others are watching.


We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap. ~Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. ~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before. ~Robert Lynd, The Blue Lion and Other Essays

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