Monday, March 24, 2014

Hugs (and food) for Soldiers

As mentioned last month, our youngest is training for a deployment. This past weekend, members of the FRG (Family Readiness Group) trekked to the training site to serve them lunch. Sadly, John and I came late to the game, all the volunteer spaces were filled, and we were not able to attend. I talked to the leader of the FRG, and asked her to give him a hug for me. She did, and even had another volunteer take a picture.


Thank you Janelle!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Saturday Farm Report

Today's report reports that we are off the farm!

Regular readers may remember that this blog began as a way to chronicle/discuss/share news about our middle son's deployment to Iraq in 2008. I continued it afterward, mostly because it was fun.

Well, with some trepidation, I report that its back to its original purpose. Soon our youngest son will be taking an all-expenses paid vacation to southwest Asia, courtesy of Commander-in-Chief Obama and the United States Army. We are headed into our fourth deployment, and I hope you'll follow along, in this space.

This weekend we are at a pre-deployment briefing weekend. The Guard has ensconced us in a cute hotel, and, in the morning, we'll start a round of incredibly fascinating (I'm sure!) and informative meetings about what to expect during the next year-ish. We'll drink coffee and ask questions and, in the end, head home, ready for the next phase.

We can't share any details beyond these. We'll let you know what we know when we know it, you know?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Wonder of Wonders!

Two posts in three days! Wonder of wonders! Which reminds me of this...

Yeah.
We have an interesting school body; only about 80 kids. This week we're celebrating National Lutheran Schools Week. Which, as you can see, was last week. But last week we had two snow days, which were actually extreme cold days. So we're celebrating this week. The kids set a list of "dress up days," which seems kind of odd for high school students, but we have fun doing it. Today was Hipster Day. Which is counter, really, because, if you say, "I'm dressed 'Hipster,'" you are, by default, NOT. Again, we have fun doing it. Here I am with a colleague, being tragically hip. Emphasis on Tragically.
You can tell we're hipsters best in this shot, because we are NOT looking at the camera and definitely NOT smiling. We. Just. Don't. Care.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Saturday Farm Report

Hey! Its been a while! I would blame that on life; my job has been keeping me busy, and its hard to blog through exhaustion. Also, my camera gave up the ghost, and its hard to blog without the pictures. It just is. So now that I have another, I am back in the saddle...at least today! Lets be glad for that, hope for the best, and see what happens in the future.

Today we're being hit with snow. There are those who are all moan and groan about that; I say its January in northern Illinois. You were expecting maybe heatstroke? Seriously, we have been having a winter, lets make that a WINTER, as has most of the country. Fortunately, we have a savior, in the form of a neighbor who has a Bobcat and loves to run it. He's over here at the drop of a flake. In fact, he just pulled in.

Its great having a neighbor like that!

What I like best about winter is HAVING to hunker down and stay inside sometimes. We've had 4 snow days so far, called because of extreme cold and wind chills. I spent a couple of those reading; I've finished Jo Baker's Longbourne, (I expected to love it, and I did) Leon Leyson's The Boy on the Wooden Box, (I expected to cry, and I did) Maeve Binchy's Tara Road (I expected it to have a post-modern, ambiguous-leaning-sad ending, and it did NOT) and Joyce Maynard's Labor Day (ditto Tara Road, add that I cried when I finished it.) I also worked out some fun lessons for my students, and am surprising them by changing up some teaching methods for the new year. And I spent a great deal of time cleaning and purging, donating an entire pickup load of stuff to local thrift stores. They got unused clothes, games, decor, c&^p, you know. The store room looks fabulous. Add to that the redecorating of the three bedrooms here, and this house is beginning to look like someone likes it, and in fact, might even love it someday!

All righty then, like when beginning an exercise routine, one mustn't push one's blogging muscles too far on the first try back. I hope to be back soon...If not, you'll know I'm thinking of you!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday Farm Report

Another lovely Saturday. Really, although its predicted to be only in the high 60s today (a record is expected; lowest high ever!) and mostly cloudy, it means that we've had some good rain this week, and we'll have a break from the heat. In general, our weather has been good this summer. Warm enough to grow things, cool enough to be comfortable, wet enough so things are really, really green, dry enough to enjoy the outdoors. Yes, we have mosquitoes, and flies, but we have Cutters, so alls good!

We've been eating green beans, basil and tomatoes from the garden. Potatoes are almost ready to be dug, at least some small, new ones. Flowers look nice, horse is grazing well, and poultry is growing plump and sassy. Speaking of sassy, a Jersey heifer of that name should be gracing our pasture soon! I am a little reluctant to mention it until its a done deal, because I want it to happen, but it looks pretty likely that, within two weeks or so, we will once again own a cow. A cow, no less, who will calf in the next year. -squee!-

Today I will be painting. We're moving bedrooms around, and that involves changing of colors and fabrics. It's a girl thing; you might not understand! This time around, because of our age and family situation, it seems like it may be "permanent." I'm choosing colors wisely, because I think I'll have to live with them until we can sell this place.

But I'd best get at it. I leave you with a view from my kitchen window.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's Time For Pickles!!

Yes! It's been AGES!! When someone makes your blog a writing assignment, you avoid it. That's what I learned.

Anyway, a couple of friends were looking for some certain recipes, and this is the easiest way I know to share them. So, without further ado...

REFRIGERATOR DILL PICKLES
I make gobs of these. I use a Red Wing 2 gallon crock that I have, or some 1/2 gallon Mason jars. I usually have a jar of these steeping in my frig. One recipe brines one gallon of cukes.

Boil 8c water. Stir in 1/4c pickling salt and 1c white vinegar. (I use Heinz. It's more expensive, but it tastes better. Remember, I've been making these for at least 20 years and have used LOTS of white vinegar. Heinz tastes better.)
Let the brine cool to room temperature; you're trying to make refrigerator pickles, and you don't want them to "cook."

Wash the cukes and put them in your container. I have cut them up or just left them whole; either way makes scrumptious pickles. In my 2-gallon crock, I put 2 fresh dill heads, 3 whole but cleaned cloves of garlic, 2T mixed pickling spices and 2 bay leaves. Depending on the size of your container(s), divide up the seasonings accordingly. Pour the brine over. I put them in the frig with a plate pushing the pickles into the brine, and plastic wrap over the top of the crock. In 2-3 days, they become half sours. As they sit longer, the flavor intensifies. Pickles put in the brine in September and eaten on Christmas Day are awesome!
(Caveat: I have been told by the professional pickle gurus at the Extension Office that I will die if I eat those September pickles in December. I have not, nor have any of the many people to whom I have served them. Your mileage may vary, and I just wanted you to know.)


BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES
Again, I usually have a jar of these in my frig.
Heat 6c vinegar (again with the Heinz!) to simmer. Dissolve sugar and salt in vinegar. Let cool slightly. Add 2T celery seed and 2T turmeric.
Layer 1/2 gallon thinly sliced cukes with thinly sliced onion in jar. Cover with brine and refrigerate. These are best after sitting at least 2 weeks, but don't last as long as the Refrigerator Dills, hence the smaller quantity.

And, because everyone should eat these, and so everyone needs a recipe, I share mine. It came from my Lithuanian grandmother. You KNOW those ladies know their beets!

PICKLED BEETS
Makes about a quart jar.

1 bunch of beets; cooked until crisp-tender, peeled and sliced.
1 large onion, sliced
1c white vinegar (You already know!)
2c water
1/3c sugar
2 whole allspice
1 bay leaf
Heat vinegar and water to simmer. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve. Let cool slightly; add allspice and bay leaf. Layer beets and onion in jar. Pour brine over and place in frig. Eat the next day, and every day thereafter!

There ya go! Pickle Nirvana! Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rain!

You know that spring has sprung when the rains begin. You know the old rhyme; "April showers bring May flowers." But, these past two years or so, our spring rains have been sparse. Thunderstorms rolled in this morning, and now we're getting a good soaking. We had some rains over the weekend, too. We are cautiously optimistic that this drought we've been having is breaking.

Too late for my little shrubs, though. I bought three last summer that purported to bloom throughout the season. I bought them late, when they were on sale, planted them, and then the rains stopped. I mean STOPPED. We got no measurable moisture until some snow in January. I didn't expect them to survive, especially since, after the school year started, I was a horrible gardener and didn't water regularly. I will pay for it this spring, when I buy more of these shrubs at full price. (Which, at our local garden store, was higher than that price quoted on the link page!)

I also plan to plant some new trees this spring. Our tree-cutting work of a few weeks ago left us with the realization that we've cut far more than we've planted. I'm looking at blue spruce, white pine and sugar maples. And maybe a plum or two. I have seriously considered replacing ALL our apple trees with peach trees. Our little orchard is sadly neglected, with those apples getting very little pruning, and almost no spraying. It always seems that, when I have time to spray, it's predicted to rain the next day or so, so I hold off. Of course, with the drought I mentioned, I should probably spray; that would ensure rain! But I don't. And our apple harvest shows it. Granted, peach trees only make it 3-5 years here, but, if I replace an apple a year with a peach, we'll have a steady supply and less pruning/spraying. (No, I don't spray peaches, either. But the fruit harvested in much better than unsprayed apples) This is the peach variety I buy. It grows well in our yard, and the fruits are the large, running-down-your-arm-with-juice type that make the taste buds celebrate.

So I started talking about rain and ended up with juicy peaches. See the connection?