Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dreaming of My Prairie


The Old Picnic Table



   Summer days bring with them memories of long ago. A time of gathering and glowing with the kiss of the Kansas sun. Prairie grasses waved in the sun; children climbed silos; and 'old folks' told tales. Walk with me through the years, back to my growing up days, were I ran free in the summer sun. Walk with me back to the prairie.
 
   You could tell family was coming to the farm; my grandmother would get antsy in the kitchen. Days and days of baking and preparing would yield a tell tale sign of a family gathering. Our standard fair: hamburgers on the grill with all the fixings.
    In the farm kitchen we stood pressing patties (heaven forbid someone suggest pre-made). Cheese slice wrappers lay between each one to keep them from sticking- she had saved and washed those wrappers just for such a need. Treats were made and placed on the old card table: cookies and pies, sometimes a cake, too. With all the work, there was always the concern- might not be enough.
  As the afternoon sun shifted in the sky and chores were finished the grill was pulled to the side of the house where the garage doors open - the same place we would sit and clean garden vegetables- the place where you could see the barn, shop, some of the fields, and most importantly- company driving up the drive.
   Grandpa and Uncle Randy would haul the old picnic table around there for us. I would run from the house to the picnic table setting out all the necessities: ketchup and mustard, pickles and onions, lettuce and tomatoes- my grandfather's favorite chips- bread for the burgers and drinks for everyone (iced tea, of course).
   The grill fired up as family members backed the trucks up near our picnic table; there were never enough places to sit! Some of the used the tail gates for placing the food items, some sat on them to eat. Bread slices were graced with hot hearty burgers- each dressed their own just as they liked it. My grandpa loved to stuff bar-b-que chips in his, naturally, I had to give it a try...yum! Sitting by him, my feet dangled from the bench swinging left and right (at least till someone noticed- sit still, you're shaking the whole table)
   When the sun fell in the sky, the family lingered there at the old picnic table. The chatter of catching up, of reminiscing, of goings-on filled the air. Food was carried in and desserts tasted as my cousins and I chased lightning bugs; giggling and running in the prairie winds. Even as I headed in to bed, they lingered around the table- visions of the day danced in my dreams.

   The old picnic table now makes it's home with me, way down south. Never do I pass it by that I don't see the gathering of family or hear the chatter of loved ones. When we sit at the old table, I share the tales of long ago, when my family gathered on the farm with simple food, simple lives, simple fun.

 

Farmhouse Dill Pickles


4 qts. medium cucumbers
8 sprays of dill
4 garlic cloves
1 qt. vinegar (here I used white)
1 c. salt
3 qts. water



The day before, we wash the cucumbers and cover them with water in a bowl. They stand overnight.

The next way, put a spray or two of dill and one clove of garlic in each jar. Pack your cucumbers (prepared as you like) into your jars (size of jar depends on your preference...I use whatever is available). Combine vinegar, salt and water in a pot and bring to a rolling boil. Fill the jars to overflowing with the vinegar mixture. Now seal them in your water bath or pressure canner.

You can dig in anytime you want, but for best flavor, we let them cure for six weeks in a dark pantry before opening.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

When the Garden Goes South



It started innocent enough; longer strings of cool weather yielded a nice extended harvest of greens and spring crops. Then the wild ride began; heavy rain; flooding; sheer and tornado winds. Now repeat all of that in cycles for a few months and you have the current disaster that is my garden. :0


This shall be the summer of the snail. Continued damp conditions alternating with intense heat and humidity have opened the door to a diabolical army of slimy voracious snails. They are on everything: kale, green beans, tomatoes, and even the squash. I tried picking them, squishing them, feeding them to the ducks.. then there was some herbal chemical application; today we must accept it; the majority of the garden has gone south!


When you can't beat them- heat them. Beds that have become overrun to the point of no return are currently being pulled out, fed to the flocks, and covered for the rest of the season. It's time to solarize the soil and hope for the best next time.


Solarizing the beds offers the garden a chance to fight back as naturally as possible. Beds can be emptied then covered with a black or clear covering allowing the heat of summer to 'cook' the impurities out of the soil. This intense heat can kill out pests, their eggs, and weed seeds that have taken up residence in the bed.


In addition to solarizing, we are considering adding new beds to the area. This will increase our ability to rest and rotate more efficiently next season. The greenhouse is due for some attention as well; the outer cover is split and the doors are bowing from weather and wear. Maybe the decrease in garden needs will lend me time for that task.


Today I take a deep breath, straighten up tall, and remember that fall will be here before I know it. Cooler weather will bring a renewed hope for the beauty of growing things.


Maybe I can get some of my closets cleaned out too?





Monday, June 20, 2016

Falling Off the (Canning) Wagon

Hi, my name is Michele and it has been one year since I last canned fresh produce. Hi, Michele.


Once upon a time my shelves were filled with all shapes and sizes of tasty things grown and processed right here on my little farm. That time is not now, for it seems my little garden and my little kitchen are somewhat bare as I transition from growing family to empty nest. No longer does my table feed many, instead it often finds me with a small plate and a big book.


Looking back over the past years' pictures, my heart longed for the snap and pop of lids- the hiss of a pressure vent- and the colorful stain on my hands. I miss harvesting and chatting- snapping, cutting, and peeling. There are no countertops full of resting jars, bowls of beans, or baskets of peppers. My garden is much smaller... much emptier.. as are the shelves.


My jars sit quietly beside my canners- hidden in the darkness of the pantry.


It seems I have fallen off the canning wagon. What shall it take to get me back on track?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Sometimes....

Sometimes things just break. No matter how hard you feel you have been trying to do the right thing, it just keeps falling apart.
So when do you know it's time to walk away?
What effect will this have on other aspects of your life?
When do you accept it?
We easily see things from our point of view and struggle to see things from another's eyes.
How do we know when they are right?
What is the response to it?

Today.. it all falls.
Sometimes things just aren't okay,
and the right response just isn't obvious.
Sometimes,
you need a revelation.


Friday, June 10, 2016

My Thought on the Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker)


I have always found pressure cookers a bit intimidating- which is funny, since I use a pressure canner. Go figure. Anyway, a recent sale online prompted me to look deeper into the 'Instant Pot' cooker. Many wonderful responses came from all over the web- friends far and near encouraged me to jump on the boat and grab one up... so I did.

Five months of eyeing it warily as it sat in the box in the corner of the kitchen and I just now mustered the courage to use it. The verdict is in- I love it! Simple instructions and a plethora of available recipes on the internet have made this a counter top staple.

What have I used it for?

*whole chicken
*whole roast
*bone broth
*soup
*frozen chicken pieces

How amazing is it to pull something together in half an hour?

This particular pressure cooker can be used as a slow cooker or even a rice cooker- one of the reasons I chose this brand. The preprogramed timers do work nice, however, I often manually adjust to cook a bit longer if the cuts of meat are tougher.

Overall, I love mine- no I am not getting paid for this- just sharing my experience using it to get whole food on the table in reasonable time. Did I mention I made chicken soup for a sick relative in 30 minutes using a frozen chicken? Let me just say- for me, it has been well worth the investment!

Share your experiences!!! and Recipes...:)