Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bone Tired And Ready For First Day's Welcome Rest

The title really sums it up, we're bone tired and ready for the rest that tomorrow brings! The 26th and 27th were the last days this month for planting crops that bear above ground so we p-u-s-h-e-d to get everything in the ground. All together the gardens are about an acre to an acre and a half. We planted these bean varieties (all heirloom, open pollinated): Soldier, Mayflower, Jacob's Cattle, Appaloosa, Papa DeRolla, Christmas Pole Lima, Painted Pony, Snowcap, Jackson's Wonder, Marrow, Cranberry, Butterscotch, Dapple Gray, Rattlesnake Pole, Turkey Craw, and Bible Ruth. We also put in a great quantity of corn, Delicata squash, Connecticut Field Pumpkins, Sweet Meat Squash, Boston Marrow Squash, Moon and Stars Watermelon, Giant Fodder Beets and Sunflowers. Whew! I know that I missed some things but you get the idea anyway. :-)
And then began hay cutting. We have several scythes and cut the hay in short order with them, once you get a rhythm going it goes pretty well. The snick, snick of the blade as it cuts the grass down is a relaxing experience. The whole art of scything is dying, maybe it's already dead, I don't know, but it is a skill worth cultivating I believe. There are American snaths and European snaths and both are different (the snath is the wooden handle). The scythe is the blade and there are different blades for each style of snath and for differing jobs, whether you're cutting hay or trimming brush from fencerows. Your snath must be fitted to you so that you can expend the minimum amount of effort to move your blade across.

We also canned more rhubarb today and will begin on strawberries later this week.

For a bountiful harvest we should give nought but thanks!

Saturday, May 22, 2010


After taking a canning hiatus last week I decided that I needed to can rhubarb today! We have several different Amish families that we buy produce from but I decided to check the "spinster sisters" that live down the road from us a few miles. I was pleased to see that they did have rhubarb and the asking price was $.50 a pound! The one sister was scrubbing the floor when I got there so she dispatched the idle sister to begin cutting my order. I told her that I wanted enough to can 7 quarts and she brought back 9 pounds.

We washed the stalks and then cut them into 1" slices. For every quart of rhubarb we added 3/4 cup of sugar, I got my 7 quarts with 2 stalks to spare! I mixed the rhubarb and sugar up evenly and let it set for 3 hours. After that I placed the whole mixture in a stock pot and boiled for 30 seconds.

I then spooned the hot rhubarb into warm quart jars and topped off with the accumulated juice from the stock pot. Due to shrinkage we only ended up with 5 quarts, but that's OK as I want to can more this coming week. Then the jars were water bath canned for 15 minutes.

Aren't they pretty?

The health benefits of rhubarb are quite numerous, here is a brief synopsis:

This tart treat has health benefits that will make anyone want to go out and try a few. Health benefits of rhubarb are many, and offer a great amount of nutritional value. Rhubarb in the past was used for fevers and used as a laxative. With the benefit of Vitamin C and fiber, rhubarb offers many other benefits to the consumer. Health benefits of rhubarb are:

1. Can lower cholesterol - With its sweet taste, rhubarb surely is easy to get down. Along with the bonus of tasting good, rhubarb lowers cholesterol. Because of the vitamins and nutrients, this helps reduce the risk of harmful diseases. Rhubarb is a sure thing to take if you are suffering from high cholesterol.

2. Help prevent deep vein thrombosis - Because of the nutrients and vitamins; rhubarb helps prevent deep vein thrombosis. This is a blood clot in your feet that can spread to your lungs if you are not treating it. There are many ways to prevent deep vein thrombosis, but rhubarb is the simplest.

3. Rhubarb stimulates the metabolic rate - this makes it a good for people who want to lose unwanted pounds. The dietary properties are promoted with the usage of fiber and potassium. With the potassium it is said to speed up your metabolism to help you lose weight.

4. Low in carbohydrates - Everyone is trying to find the latest health benefit for fruits and vegetables. The best health benefit of rhubarb is that it is low in carbohydrates. When you have something that is low in carbohydrates, you can feel alright when you accidentally eat more than you intended to.

We did a canning jar inventory and I only have about 30 dozen jars total. :-/ That is really not enough, I've already used almost 1/3 of those and this is only May! I'm keeping my eyes open for auctions where jars are listed so I can bolster my supply. Canning makes me so happy, I love the sight of the filled jars in my cupboard. :-) I love it so much that when my sister was here I dragged her out to the kitchen to admire them, she very dutifully extolled their beauty, lol. :-)

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Roof Is On Fire

This is another post that you probably don't want to read but you really need to. I'm afraid that for the vast majority of readers my mantra of "prepare, get ready, things are changing fast" has become an irritation. I have become friends with some of my fellow bloggers and there are a few of them that I particularly worry about. Take these posts as an act of love, OK?

The Roof Is On Fire

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Dream Fulfilled

A dream of mine to own a wood burning cook stove was fulfilled yesterday as I am now the proud owner of the most beautiful stove ever manufactured!
I have been searching eBay and Craig's list for months in the hopes of finding a suitable stove. I found several that fit the bill but they were in Michigan or Texas or Tennessee and without a truck it just wasn't feasible. Last friday I found this one on eBay for a really nice price but it was in Albany, so I called my travelin' sister to see if she had business up that way. And she did!!! She had to pass within 20 miles of where the stove was in order to pick up her son from college, can you believe it? :-)

So it was hastily arranged for her and a sweet friend with a truck to pick it up for me on Saturday and then they turned around and delivered it to my door yesterday.
They also brought a load of goodies from my folks: a double bed with mattress, box spring, head and foot board, lots of books and magazines, sheer curtains for my livingroom, some shirts for Katie..... :-)

The stove needs the fire bricks replaced and it needs an over rack, but it's pretty well ready to go other than that. I am now in search of a couple of cast iron waffle irons, even the thought pleases me, just thinking of waffles, lol. I am so blessed and happy, I can hardly believe it!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Canning Dry Beans

Since the girls and I have been canning dry beans this week I thought I would post a step by step tutorial for anyone who would like to give it a go.

  1. Buy 1 pound bags of these 5 dry beans: great northern, navy, black, pinto and black eyed peas.
  2. Cover beans with water and soak overnight.
  3. Next morning rinse beans under running water.
  4. Put 2-2.25 cups beans in each quart jar (this recipe makes 10 quarts).
  5. Add salt or not, I don't FWIW.
  6. Fill jar with hot water leaving 1" head space.
  7. Pressure can for 90 minutes at 10 lbs pressure.

Voila'! If I want baked beans I open a jar, rinse, add 1 cup ketchup and 1 cup brown sugar, salt & pepper and there you go, homemade baked beans! If I want bean soup I open a jar but don't rinse them and add the rest of my soup ingredients. If I want Minestrone or Vegetable soup..... this is probably the #1 best thing I can for versatility. Most recipes have you cook the beans before canning but that makes for mushy beans and I don't care for that.

We also canned some with the barbeque sauce and bacon in the jar. To do that you put your beans in the jar with 1.5 cups of sauce and fill the rest of the way with water. Can the same time and pressure as above.

We have beefy mushroom soup going now for the last canner load of the week, we're taking this weekend off, I think. I'm t-i-r-e-d!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

panem et circenses

It is hard NOT to write satire. ~Juvenal , Roman satirist, writing about the Rome of his time.

Every time I turn on the television these days, I cannot help but think of Juvenal. Yes, that's right, Decimus Junius Juvenalis, better known as Juvenal, an ancient Roman writer who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, he wrote some of the most biting, bitter satires of ancient or modern times.

I cannot help but wonder what he would make of the "lamest medium;" television is full of distracting programs that must have the great Roman satirist turning in his grave.

In Juvenal's time (55-127 A.D.), the Roman Republic was but a distant memory as the power of the emperors grew stronger and stronger. The once proud Senate that had witnessed the splendid orations of Cato and Cicero—dominated and weakened year after year by the succession of dictators—atrophied into a figurehead of an institution. However, Juvenal felt that the populace took the duties of citizenship far more seriously during the days of the Republic than in the virtual dictatorships of the Caesars.

He lamented that "the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now meddle no more and longs eagerly for just two things — bread and circuses."

Those scornful words "bread and circuses," panem et circenses in Latin, become more meaningful when you understand that Roman citizens became increasingly addicted to free distributions of food and the violent gladiatorial and other contests held in the Coliseum and the chariot races of the Circus Maximus. He felt that Romans had lost the capacity to govern themselves so distracted by mindless self-gratification had they become.

Thus, bread and circuses, is a phrase now used to deplore a population so distracted with entertainment and personal pleasures (sometimes by design of those in power) that they no longer value the civic virtues and bow to civil authority with unquestioned obedience. Bread and Circuses has also become a general term for government policies that seek short-term solutions to public unrest.

Unfortunately, Juvenal's words apply quite strikingly to the United States, certainly a people who at the turn of the 3rd millennium are almost wholly distracted by cheap fast food (relative to other countries) and by the decadence of an entertainment industry that that deals so much in sex, violence and propaganda.

I wonder how our own mass distractions compare with those of Juvenal's era:

~In ancient Rome, muscular men called gladiators (actually slaves from all parts of the empire) fought each other in front of thousands with swords and axes to the death. If they fought savagely and well, the emperor du jour might save the loser with a "thumbs up." Hmm, muscular young men and women (many of whom are the descendants of slaves) contest for our allegiance in a complicated "box" while fighting desperately to overcome opponents and sell beer.

~While the Romans threw Christians to the lions, we watch reality TV and watch young men and women devouring such appetizing concoctions as Pureed Centipede a la Mode or Black Pepper Grilled Scorpion with Grubs and Live Ants on the side.

~Related to the prior bullet: Please note that for Romans who had eaten too much but who still wished to indulge themselves, there were "Vomitariums" available, rooms, where those feasting on delicacies superior than the ones mentioned above I am sure, lightly waved a feather against the back of their throats. . . Well, you get the picture.

~Also playing on reality TV, more young men and women attempting to survive canoe trips on the Amazon without Off or other insect repellents while fending off hungry piranha and avoiding deadly snakes. Great fun! I sure do enjoy watching all that suffering.

~We watch "electrons deify" dubious politicians into hero status while the economy worsens and matters of real nation security (such as our poorly guarded borders and mediocre safeguards for nuclear power stations) are ignored. I seem to recall that while Nero fiddled (actually more of a symbolic legend), no one paid much attention until the capital of the Empire started burning.

~Viewed with a little distance, almost all television commercials are really satires of a low (certainly not high) order. I mean, really, who can watch those clips advertising prescription drugs without snickering. All those "feel good" scenes of couples playing on the beach or rolling around in grass without peeing or collapsing due to allergies are pure comic opera.

~Now don't get me started on the television news! Ok, if you insist I will say just a few words. . .actually maybe only one: Condit. . .Now I know the man is not particularly likable maybe even somewhat reprehesible, but the media news--all of them but especially the "fair and balanced" one-- crucified the poor man in the court of public opinion. I seem to remember reading that in the United States we are innocent until proven guilty. For those of you not familiar with the "Roman Spectacle" that sometimes passes for TV news in this country, Gary Condit was a Democratic congressman from California who was investigated for the death of a politcal aide.
Disgracefully, the corporate news media gave the U.S. populace saturation coverage of this "non-event." Do you think it was a conspiracy to distract the people from various corporate accounting scandals and downright felonious actions of Enron et al? Who knows? Nevertheless, we were distracted!

Eventually the media feeding frenzy calmed down. Gary Condit was never charged with a in the death of Chandra Levy. Talk about the distraction of "bread and circuses!"

~Which brings us to Jerry Springer. I am not sure there is a Roman correspondence here; the times being what they were, full of danger and intrigue, they probably did their best not to air dirty laundry in public (not always successfully, I fear). I just cannot see the Empress, Agrippina, getting up in the Forum and telling all about her adulterous escapades while her husband, the Emperor Claudius, waits offstage to be ushered into her presence where she confronts him and the assembled Patricians with her latest lover from the Praetorian Guard. (Though she did come close!)

Well, enough of this foolishness already! I do fear that Juvenal would probably be out of a job in the 21st century, since in our modern times we do not really need a literary genius of his calibre, only a humble scribe to write down the events of the day--epic or inconsequential--gleaned from the mass media, especially those on the small screen.

Yes, Decimus Junius, it is indeed hard NOT to write [down] satire in these times, in the midst of a civilization, whose people and (seemingly) its government are so consumed with panem et circenses, that it continually satirizes itself.

Thomas James Martin
The original article can be found here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cheer Up! Smile! Nertz!

Cheer Up! Smile! Nertz! is a catchy Depression era song sung by Eddie Cantor. Don't the lyrics hit a little close to home? :-)
Sure, business is bunk,
And Wall Street is sunk,
We're all of us broke, and ready to croak.
We've nothing to dunk,
Can't even get drunk,
And all the while, they tell us to smile:

Cheer up, gentle citizens, though you have no shirts,
Happy days are here again. Cheer up, smile, nertz!
All aboard prosperity, giggle 'till it hurts!
No more bread-line charity. Cheer up, smile, nertz!

Cheer up, cheer up, cheer up, cheer up, cheer,
Up, cheer up, cheer up, cheer, better times are here.
Sunny smilers we must be, the optimist asserts,
Let's hang the fat-head to a tree! Cheer up, smile, nertz!

The world's in the red,
We're better off dead,
Depression, they say's in session to stay.
Our judges are queer,
Our banks disappear,
And all the while, they tell us to smile:

Cheer up, gentle citizens, though you have no shirts,
Happy days are here again. Cheer up, smile, nertz!
All aboard prosperity, giggle 'till it hurts,
No more bread-line charity. Cheer up, smile, nertz!

Cheer up, cheer up, cheer up, cheer up, cheer,
Up, cheer up, cheer up, cheer, better times are here.
Sunny smilers we must be, the optimist asserts,
Let's hang the fat-head to a tree! Cheer up, smile, nertz!