Morning Visitors


A strange sound greeted us this morning, the honking of a goose standing in our yard.  I headed onto the porch with my camera to get a better look, and this is what I found.

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A goose was hanging out, looking around.  Geese usually travel in pairs or groups, so a single goose is unusually.  This particular goose had quite a bit to say, especially when I showed up on the porch to take its photo.  It began to meander across the backyards of the neighborhood, squawking away.  Its squawks echoed back, creating the illusion of a flock getting ready to land.

About this time one of the neighbors called over from his front porch.  Apparently this goose was not alone and the echoes were actually another goose answering the first.

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The second goose was on the peak of a house farther up the road.  My goose was working its way across the lawns toward this house, but not joining its rooftop companion.  Instead my goose continued to call out, while the rooftop goose stopped answering and turned its back.

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What was going on here?  Were the geese a couple who were having a spat?  The one on the ground a mom-to-be who wanted to find a place to nest and lay some eggs, while the roof sitter was surveying the landscape for the perfect piece of grass?  Or maybe it was the other way around and the guy was on the ground apologizing for some affront to his wife, who stood with her back to him, ignoring his feeble efforts at making up?

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Either way, it was an incredible way to start my morning, standing on the porch watching these two, one waddling across the grass and the other keeping watch on the rooftop.

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Sometimes I’m a Halloween curmudgeon, then I eat a Milky Way.

Halloween, the holiday that excuses our need to become someone we aren’t or let our true selves shine through, just for a little while.  I don’t dress up or go to big kid parties anymore and have to admit, I am harassed unmercifully for it.  Lucky for me I am past the age where peer pressure works on me, or I would end up impersonating a miserable human being with a ludicrous smiley face mask on at them all.  Maybe it’s because there really is no one else I would like to be right now.  I am finally comfortable in my own skin, and as crazy and complicated as my life has become, I don’t want to change it.  And that’s the curmudgeon’s side.

I do like the carving of pumpkins, even pulling the guts out.  I am a seed sorter and roaster, so before the insides are tossed on the vegetable garden, I grab the seeds and set them aside.  When it comes to carving, we are pretty basic.  We have tried the kits and I know some people who end up with incredible pumpkins from them, (check out Pink Peppermint’s pumpkins), but with kids waiting impatiently to attack the pumpkins with their carving tools, basic works best.  The frenzy of Halloween is a good prep course for the next two months and the Christmas build-up, with a healthy dose of sticking pumpkins and gooey slop for fun.

Notice JMumbo hard at work as I finish gutting his pumpkin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last night we had a crew at our house.

Living on a short cul-de-sac, we know all the neighbors and don’t have to check the candy they give out to our kids.  We also never get too many trick-or-treaters and can count on filling our plastic pumpkins within these houses because it’s just the neighborhood kids and a few others who have discovered Bountiful Lane.  The kids can tear up and down the street, zig-zagging from house to house without fear of cars.  I have to admit, it sounds a little bit like Mayfair and it probably is, but we like it that way.

After Dinner in a Pumpkin (click on the name for the recipe), Coach started popping popcorn and I made some fizzy worm juice for the kids.  They’ll drink anything with gummy worms in it served in a fancy glass.  The moms walked the neighborhood and the kids ran it.  Everyone smiled and had fun even the disgruntled teenager, and I felt like I had eaten 10 Milky Way bars.  It’s that mom joy that is so hard to describe, but beats any adrenaline rush out there.  I almost lost the rush when Coach mentioned JMumbo would outgrow this soon, and maybe we should have another, but I ate 5 more candy bars and passed it off as a hallucination.

I grew up with homemade costumes.  I don’t remember ever buying one, even when I was at college.  Of course back then it was a choice of costume cost vs libations and libations always won.  My kids don’t enjoy the bought costumes as much either.  I made JMumbo an entire Peter Pan costume out of fleece one year.  And the prodigal daughter talked her grandma into sewing a kimono for her Mulan costume another year.  I’m teaching them to be resourceful so when they go to college and have to make the costume vs. libation choice, they spend the money on costume supplies.  (A mom can only hope.)

JMumbo is currently fascinated with Lord of the Rings,  (Thank you Wii games) and we were teasing him that he could be Joedo the Hobbit for Halloween.  He latched right on to the idea and Mom spent an afternoon scouring Goodwill for a vest, cape, and some sort of fur for his feet.  Thank goodness I had my friend Lynne along, she found the perfect velour type, brown, three button coat.  I pulled the sleeves inside the lining, sewed up the armholes and cut off two buttons.  Voila!  A hobbit cape.  Some fake fur glued on a pair of old slide on shoes, and we had furry feet.

I was pretty impressed with the final product.

Some of the other critters that visited us:

Even the prodigal daughter seemed to have a good time.

Food Network won’t be calling

This is not a food blog.  It never will be.  I am not that dedicated to remembering what I do to food and by the time I get around to writing it down, I have forgotten half of what I did. When you don’t measure ingredients, well it messes it up for anyone trying to duplicate it.  I wrote down what I did when making chili once.  It was good chili.  I can’t remember where I wrote the recipe down and wouldn’t look for it to use anyway.  Once or twice I have been asked for my salsa recipe.  I shrug and tell them I can send them the initial ingredients, but from there it’s anyone’s guess.  I start with the basics and wing it from there.

One thing I do love is canning what I make.  I can everything.  Soups, sauces, fruits, vegetables.  The only thing I never canned was meat.  I can things with meat in them, but not meat alone.  The rest is fair game.  Any conversation about food preservation follows the same format.  People describe how they freeze tomato sauce and basil/pesto, I talk about canning it.  Then they look at me like I have a few extra heads.  Why can when you can freeze?  It is so much easier to freeze!  No boiling water or pressure cooker clanking away on your stove, no jars to sterilize, no lids to buy every year.  What am I thinking?  I’ll tell you.  I’m thinking about a February afternoon when the novelty of winter has worn off, I am ready to stop watching Modified Cheerleading and Elementary basketball, I forgot to get something out to defrost for dinner, and I want sunshine and warmth.  I don’t have the energy to create one more meal.  So I walk down to my pantry shelves and pick out a few jars.  I can open them right then and use the contents.  Dinner is served!

This time of year is canning time.  It starts mid-July usually and runs through October.  I started a bit later this year because we had no rain in July and everything is late coming in. 

I did these three weeks ago.  A full bushel by myself.  They turned out great and Coach managed to survive the 6 hours it took.  He was antsy for the last half hour or so, mostly because I commandeered the TV for the afternoon.  No baseball for a whole afternoon nearly did him in.  I ended up with 24 quarts of peaches and an infected thumb from prying pits.  The salt water in Rhode Island cleared up the infection and the peaches will taste as good as they look.

Imagine having these for dinner midwinter.  It is like a taste of summer.

I just finished the pickles.  Last year I used a store mix for the pickling juice.  It had a good flavor, but seemed to pickle the cucumbers too much.  They were mushy and fell apart.  This year I went back to my recipe, which I believe was in my grandmother’s recipes.  I bought fresh dill to add and garlic because we love garlic dills.

In a few weeks these will be tangy and sharp, perfect for a burger.  I know Bread and Butter pickles are often the pickle of choice, but not for my kids.  JMumbo especially enjoys a good dill with just about any meal.

Just looking at them makes me happy.  That’s the best part of canning.  You have a tangible product at the end.  One you can gaze at while doing laundry (because that’s where my pantry is, in the laundry room), and feel accomplished looking at the shining glass jars of food you created.  Coach tends to voice doubts concerning my devotion to canning, especially when he ends up suffering through it with me because I end up with tunnel vision and forget my family expects to be presented with regular meals.  But when we open a jar of applesauce or peaches when sub-zero winds are blowing, he smiles and extolls the virtues of canning.

Chatting with farmers

One of the bonuses to living in a rural area is that you live near farmers.  I love having conversations with farmers.  You never know what you will learn and it is always interesting.  Standing on the side of the road, next to a table full of sweet corn, you can chat about the weather, how things are growing, and tidbits about the people in town.

Last night I stopped to get some of the last sweet corn of the year.  Many grow it in the area and I have already frozen about seven dozen for this winter.  The type I froze was called Bodacious.  Who wouldn’t want to eat corn called Bodacious?  And it was.  Big, yummy kernels full of sweet milk.  I can’t wait to have some at Thanksgiving this year.  The type I bought last night was called John’s Special.  Living in a small town, you can name your corn for yourself.  It made me smile when John proceeded to tell me about his corn.  Every farmers corn is the best, and they don’t have trouble telling you why.  John’s Special were smaller ears, but firm kernels.  White with just a hint of buttery yellow.  The kind you don’t need butter or salt for, it was tender enough on its own.  He helped me pick fourteen ears for my $3.00 because of the size and corn worms.  He wanted to make sure I got my money’s worth.  We chatted about this being the last weekend for corn and how the dry weather in July and the raccoons had affected the crop.  John is about my height and has the weathered face of a man who spends most of his time outdoors, regardless of the weather.  He has a big grin and blue eyes that light up when talking farming.  He’s the kind of guy you believe because he is so forthright.  He told me to call the farm after eating the corn and let him know what I thought.  And I will.  Because farmers need to hear how important they are.  They may not be making big business deals or creating policy, but they are feeding the people who do.

My uncle’s farm on the bank of Lake Erie.  The farm has been around for over one hundred years.  It has changed a bit in that time, moved from horses to tractors (ask them about the big, GREEN one in the barn-on an Allis-Chambers only farm), and no longer deliver eggs to the greater Erie area.  Now they have pigs and beef cattle, with only one coop of chickens.  They are raising some turkey pullets, which are apparently the dumbest birds on earth.  I remember a conversation in the chicken coop with my uncle and husband as our kids gathered eggs.  Chickens molt.  And it is not pretty when they do.  Quite a few were molting at the time and they looked pretty ragged.  Coach asked why they looked like that and was treated to a short anatomy lesson including an up close and personal look at a chicken’s rear end.  We learned that they lay less when molting and how to tell when this was going to happen.  It was great.

You never know what you will learn talking to a farmer.  You have to be willing to take some time and listen.  You can’t be rushed.  I guarentee you won’t be disappointed.