Saturday, July 26, 2008

Jammin' Time

So far this summer: 7 half-pints strawberry jam, 14 half-pints strawberry rhubarb jam, 2 gallons frozen strawberries, 2 gallons frozen rhubarb, 7 half-pints mulberry jam, 12 pints frozen cream of broccili soup, 14 pints frozen cream of cauliflower soup, 3 gallon bags frozen broccili, 1 gallon bag frozen snap peapods, 1 bag frozen basil, 1 bag frozen cilantro, 1 bag frozen onions, 1 bag frozen pesto, 7 pints dill pickle slices, and 7 quarts dill pickles whole.

Tonight after work, if I'm not half asleep (I work the late shift), I'll do another 7 quarts of pickle spears. Next week is the garlic harvest, and the week following I may have some ripe tomatoes from the 27 tomato plants in my garden. And this year I cut back - heck, last year I had 28 tomato plants.

G is for Goat!

Introducing our two new angora goats, Dawn and Eve. As I've mentioned before, my ultimate goal is to someday get a dairy cow. I thought I would ease into the cow thing by getting goats first. Not milking goats, not meat goats, but angora goats -- the kind that get sheared twice a year to produce mohair. Does the word 'mohair' bring horrible flashbacks of groovy 1970's clothing? If it does, take a pill and look at the calendar -- it's 2008, ya man, and G is for Goat!

Dawn and Eve are colored angora goats. 99% of angora goats are white, but occasionally a bit of their kurdish blood comes through and a colored baby is born. Up until recently, these colored babies would be culled, as the mohair market was exclusively white, since white can be dyed to any color. Now, however, folks realize that naturally colored mohair appeals to natural minded buyers. So the effort is on to get finer and finer quality colored mohair.

Aside from the cow thing, the reason we got goats is for weed control in our old garden bed. Goats are fantastic browsers. They will eat just about any plant out there, and actually prefer stemmy weeds to lush grass. I'm counting on this, because right now we have lots and lots of weeds, just waiting to get et.

Chestnuts and Charmers

During our recent vacation, my father, husband and I drove down to Knoxville, Iowa. My family lived in Knoxville in the 70's, when I was just a youngster. I wanted to go back and verify some of the bits and pieces of memory that I have from that time. Pieces like my kindergarten school, our old house, the big chestnut tree in the backyard, etc. We found my kindergarten, found our old house, and the big chestnut tree is still standing. Oftentimes I wished I could climb that tree, but I was much too small, and too scared. I settled for sitting on the red swingset underneath it, and trying to crack open the large chestnuts that would rain down from its branches.

Another one of the bits and pieces that we found was the house that belonged to my daycare lady, Mrs. Zoutte. She was our daycare person before 'daycare' became commonplace. My younger sister and I would go there during the day while my older siblings were in school, and while my mother was doing errands and community stuff. Maxine Zoutte lived in a small white house with her husband, Louie, on a corner lot in Knoxville.

I remember their circular dial phone hanging on the kitchen wall. It had a small red plastic stick-thing for dialing. Apparently she didn't like using her fingers. I also remember her three-wheeled bicycle that she would use for going downtown for shopping. I remember their davenport in their front room, only because she called it a davenport when I could plainly see that it was a sofa.

Mrs. Zoutte also had a huge collection of 'Charmers'. These were one-paneled newspaper cartoons that tried to relay inspirational and feel-good messages. For years she had cut them out from the daily newspaper and kept them in shoeboxes in one of her dresser drawers.

I remember their claw-foot bathtub, their porch swing, and sitting at their kitchen table eating lunch. I remember wetting the bed when I was having a nap, and how angry Mrs. Zoutte was. I remember when my sister Kathy had a seizure and they had to rush her to the hospital.

Mr. and Mrs. Zoutte never had any kids. They were probably in their late fifties when we knew them, and they have long since passed away. When we found their old house during our trip in June, it was a very strange feeling. First of all, the house looked much much smaller than I remembered it. I was expecting that would happen, but it still surprised me. Secondly, the house was much the worse for wear. I'm not sure that anyone was living in it anymore, but the grass
was unmown, garbage was piled up, and the roof, doors and windows were in disrepair.

This house, that the Zouttes lived in and cared for, and that I visited, is not the same. I know that things don't stay the same. But when they don't, and when I'm face to face with that fact, it makes me feel very, very old. Seeing Mrs. Zoutte's house now, overgrown and forgotten ... I don't know. It all seems so long ago, and somehow not even real. All that's left is my memory, just a few bits and pieces jumbled together.

Is this how it will be for my children and grandchildren? Will their memory of me fade after my passing, seem somehow less real, become overgrown and forgotten?

Day at the Zoo

I only managed to take a few pictures at our recent (okay, it was in June) trip to the Watertown Zoo. I was far too busy herding children to take photos. By the time I had pulled out the camera, turned it on, aimed and focused, my kids would have climbed into the monkey cages and been swinging from trees. A friend of mine has a framed picture in her kitchen that says, "There's a special place in heaven for mothers of three boys." Apparently, I am not alone in my noodle kingdom.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A brief respite

Sorry for the delay in writing; we just got back from a vacation. My husband, father and I took a road trip through Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. We stayed at B&B's, ate good food and visited every garden and farm museum I could find. That's what they get for having me plan the vacation!

In Des Moines we visited Living History Gardens, packed with school kids at summer day camp. Pretty neat, although a little too polished for my tastes. I liked seeing their Milking Shorthorn cow and calf and seeing how the 1900's farmsite stored their hay and grain in the barn and corn crib. In one of the town homes a 'housewife' had just taken some corn bread and a peach pie out of the wood stove. Man, did that smell good. I wish I had a wood stove, or an open hearth for cooking. My husband (who would be the official wood chopper) is very glad we don't.

I really enjoyed Conner Prairie, another living history museum near Indianapolis. They had 1st person interpreters (the ones that actually pretend that it's the year 1880), and that added a nice touch. My Dad got a kick out of the town doctor advising him to vote for Benjamin Harrison for president. Again, I most enjoyed the kitchens in the homes, looking through the pantries and seeing how they prepared and stored food.

I didn't take many pictures. I forgot about my camera until the last day, when we were visiting a Japanese garden in Rockford, Illinois. Here's my Dad and me at Anderson Gardens. Don't we look like tourists!

Speaking of preparing and storing food, yesterday I bought four gallons of strawberries from a local farm. Last night was spent washing and coring berries, with pink-stained fingers afterward. It's jammin' time!

Canvas sky

Barn Raising

Two weeks ago we had a 'barn-raising' weekend. My husband's uncle & family, brother & family and father came out, all intent on working on our new barn and getting as much done as possible. Turns out this barn-building-thing is more time and work than originally estimated. But it is slowly coming together. I pick up our first goat in two weeks. She might have to shack up with the chickens for awhile.

The best part of the weekend was the cookout on Saturday. A hearty bonfire, beautiful sunset, lots of yummy food, no bugs, and the boys sleeping out in a tent with my husband. Good time was had by all.

Above is a picture of my husband's brother Nate and his one-year-old son. My husband's other brother, Caleb, was also celebrating that weekend elsewhere in Minnesota -- his first son, Malakai Ezekiel, was born at their home on Friday. Congrats Caleb and Hope! Let the sleepless nights begin!