Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Lesson Learned

Actually, it was several lessons learned.

Yesterday, I channeled my ancestors and gave canning a try.
Last summer, Lee brought home the most amazing sweet/hot pickled summer squash from a preaching gig in a neighboring town. They were having a fundraiser and he buckled. I was so glad he did.
(Lesson #1: Learn how to make this amazing stuff)

In November, I began volunteering at a CSA, Johnson's Backyard Farm. My 'pay' for volunteering is a box of the veggies they are selling to members. I often had too many veggies to eat in one week. My brain fast forwarded to summer--"Everybody always has too much summer squash, I'll bet the farm will too."
I was right!
Summer arrived and I began hoarding the squash that was in my box. Onions and peppers too. I even started bumming squash off other volunteers. "Are you tired of squash yet? I'll take it off your hands. I'll trade you my tomatoes for your squash." They granted me my wish.
(Lesson #2: Strike while the iron is hot, aka, prey on people's over abundance of summer squash.)

I finally had enough veggies to make it happen! I gathered the proper supplies and now all I needed was the recipe. My emails to the gentleman who had the recipe went unanswered. My squash stash was starting to wither a bit. I was getting desperate! Since I know him personally, I don't think it has been on purpose. Maybe I had the wrong address? I hit the internet and finally located a recipe that I thought might be pretty close to his recipe.
(Lesson #3: If at first you don't succeed, try the internet.)

Yesterday was the big day. I set about washing and sterilizing the jars, all the while trying not to get a 3rd degree burn. Success.
I chopped and chopped and chopped veggies. I soaked veggies in salt water for an hour. I boiled vinegar and sugar. I gently tended to veggies as they swam around in said vinegar/sugar mix. I put veggies and the juices in jars. I wiped jar tops before adding lids. I added the filled treasure chests back into the hot water and they enjoyed a 10 minute stint in their own personal hot tub.
I gently removed them, again avoiding severe burns.
(Lesson #4: Use gloves when seeding/chopping jalapenos.)

(Lesson #5: Buying the extra toys used in canning is a must. The jar funnel was invaluable. So was the lid magnet.)

As I waited to check to see if the lids had sealed, I looked at the clock. I had spent nearly 4 hours of my time and got a puny, 3 jars of pickles. Three beautiful jars, but puny nonetheless.
(Lesson #6: Other canners have long said, "It's such a huge task, make sure to make it worth your while. Settle in for a half day at least, and can as much as possible.")

True, so true.

And my final lesson (number 7 if you're keeping track)---waiting 6 weeks to eat the yumminess that swims in those jars is going to be a long 6 weeks, indeed.

Maybe I'll have you over for dinner in 6 weeks and you can put some of the heavenly squashy-pickley-sweet-hot yumminess on a burger, but don't even think about asking for a jar. Well, unless I begin hoarding squash again. It's a pretty safe bet that I will.
Do you have some squash you want to get off your hands?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Stills

This week's Sunday Stills challenge is "Things with Wings"
This picture is from two summers ago. We had a bumper crop of honey bees, as we'd had a wonderful winter/spring full of much needed rain. I accidently stumbled upon their hive, while walking one day. It was in the hollow of a tree.
Since then, we've had two solid years of "exceptional" drought. That's the weather service's word, not mine. Last summer there were fewer bees and this summer they're virtually gone. I went back to the tree in early spring, and discovered that the hive not active. My hope is that they moved on to greener pastures. My fear is that they died.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Happy Birthday to You

Happy Birthday, Lee!

His birthday was yesterday, but I wasn't able to post until today. We didn't get to the cake until after dinner and so I failed to post it.
He got some funny cards, a beautiful shirt from Thom, a "crappy keychain from Seaworld" from Pearl (her words), a couple giant waterguns from James, and chocolate from me.
We went out to one of our favorite pizza places for dinner and followed up with
the traditional homemade, triple layer German chocolate cake.

Today he flew to Kansas City to attend a memorial service for one of his aunts. She was 89. He comes from a long line of long-lived people. I'm hoping to share 46 more birthdays with him. I kind of like him a little bit. :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thanks for Thinking of Me

How wonderful to receive an award and gain a new blogging friend at the same time. I was awarded the Honest Scrap award from a lovely blogger with the moniker of In the Shadow of Juniper Hill.

The Honest Scrap award only has a couple guidelines. 1.) you have to list 10 things about you that many people don't know about, but are true. 2.) you have to tag 10 people with the award. 3.) you have to let the people you've given the award to, know that they've received this award from you. Lastly, make sure you link back to the person who awarded you.

Ten Things About Me

1. I went through a punk stage in the early 80's and got a mohawk when my parents were away on vacation. They weren't pleased.

2. I have eaten opossum, raccoon, squirrel, and rattlesnake--on purpose.

3. I killed previously listed rattlesnake and his brother with large rocks. When I was 13. I wasn't the brightest crayon in the box I guess.

4. I knew, and was actually friends with George Brett when I was a little girl. He's now a Facebook buddy and claims to remember me after all these years. I'm such a name dropper. :)

5. I want to live smack dab in the middle of 100 acres. Not gonna happen, as I can't take care of the four acres I already have. I guess that means I can't have all the hoofed (hooved??) animals I could ever want? Spellcheck says 'hoofed' is correct.

6. My best childhood friend and I once caught 20+ crawfish and put them in a 10 gallon aquarium in her basement with about an inch of water in it. They died. Her mom didn't get nearly as mad as mine would have. Twenty dead crawfish stink---bad!

7. Speaking of childhood friends--The worst spanking I ever got was for cutting a neighbor girl's waist length hair. I didn't know why I was in trouble--she asked me to cut it!

8. I was into cross-stitching before I had kids. Not so much after they were born. Not enough time or patience for it.

9. I initiated the first kiss with my dear hubby. He was getting out of my car, slowly as though he wanted to kiss me but wasn't sure if I wanted to kiss him. I hit the electric lock on the door and the rest is history.

10. One of my dearest and bestest friends is an Aggie and a Republican, but I "love her more than my luggage" anyway.
Her revenge for me telling this, is that my first born has A&M at the top of his college list right now.
Bonus points to anyone that can name the movie that last quote comes from.

And now, the winners of this award are:

Please visit these bright, thoughtful, funny and smart women on their different walks in this life.

Monday, June 22, 2009

And Then There Were Six

My chicks arrived on October 14th, 2004. I'd never had chickens before, but studied up on them before making the leap.
I ordered 2 Black Australorps, 2 Light Brahmas, and 2 Buff Orpingtons from Ideal Hatchery here in Texas. Luckily, they don't have a 25 chick minimum, as I was pushing my luck with Lee getting chickens at all. The hatchery added "cockerels for warmth" which means, we're dumping a bunch of extra roos in your box, what you do with them is your business.
One of those "roos" ended up being a hen. I was now a chicken mom of 7 chickens.
This is James with Audrey (Hepburn) chick and Sunny chick. How do I know which ones they are? I just do.
My seven hens grew by leaps and bounds and thrived on much love and lots of free ranging. The free range idea came back to bite me one evening when my neighbor's Jack Russell terrier made the 2 acre trip to my place. The hens had already gone to roost, but I hadn't closed the coop door yet. The terrier made a terrible mess of Audrey's sister, Blackie. I wasn't aware of the attack until the next day. It was clear that she needed to be put out of her misery. I wasn't up to the job. I paid the vet $6 to put her down----I'm quite sure they just wrung her neck and gave her back to me. No sense wasting medication on a job that can be done quite quickly with bare hands. Thereafter, the girls only got to free range for 2 hours in the evening, just before dusk. The neighbor also put up a fence that was terrier proof.
Not long after Blackie was killed, one of my hens decided to go broody. I put some fertile eggs under her and ended up keeping one of the roos that was produced. I was back up to 7 chickens.

Seven chickens until a couple weeks ago. Audrey began behaving strangely. She would wander off from the group. I'd find her just standing by herself. She quit taking dust baths and only picked at her food and snacks. She also decided that sitting in my lap was a good idea---something she never really liked before. Unfortunately, my roo decided that she could no longer be a part of the group. He began attacking her, as did the other hens.
I was preparing to go to a week long camp, and leave the chickens in my family's care. I spent the whole week prior to leaving, trying to decide what to do about Audrey. I couldn't leave a sick/failing chicken for them to deal with. I really knew what to do, but was reticent. I knew I couldn't cut her head off, as the kids would want to help bury her. I had to break her neck.

It was a simple procedure, but a hard one nonetheless. The movements that come from the nervous system as it shuts down were a little disconcerting, but I knew she was dead. I held her the entire time.

Yes, she was just a chicken. A friendly chicken that had personality plus and always wanted to gossip about the other hens.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Stills

This week's Sunday Still is "Tri-Color"
This is a picture of one weeks worth of goodies from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm where I volunteer. It was harvested in January. That is the glory of living in the Southwest--nearly year round gardening. The owner purchased the citrus from another organic farmer in southern Texas to supplement the box, as he likes his boxes to be nice and full.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I'm Headed Out

(Chocolate flower, I kid you not. Smells just like cocoa. Look closely and you can see a tiny crab spider. She must like chocolate, too.)

A week ahead without computer, television or newspaper. It may frighten some, but not me. I am headed to be a counselor at our church's camp. This week will be kids that are in high school. I really can't wait! I've always gone for the elementary school camp and it's a lot of really hard work. A 24/7 job, literally. The high schoolers can take care of themselves, I just have to make sure they don't bleed or sneak off for naughtiness. I've known most of the girls in my cabin since they were toddlers. Now, two of them will be headed to college next fall! ((sniff, sniff, sigh)).
I will get to see my own son, Thom, in all his camping glory. He evidently opens up quite a bit at camp. I'll just have to make sure not to be seen or heard by him. I don't want to cramp his style. I've missed him this week. He's been away in Florida with a friend. I don't think I'd have missed him so much, if I wasn't keenly aware of the fact that he'll be a Senior next year and then off to college. I kind of like him.

Anyway, that's all for now. I'm off to pack up my camping (in cabins with air conditioning) stuff. I'll be back a week from today. Take care.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Music Man

As I sit typing this, Lucky (our cat) is hollering up the stairs for Pearl to get out of bed and come feed him. It's not even 8 am. She's still sleeping. He also already has food. He just likes having her around and he's too lazy to climb the steps to get in bed with her. This story is totally irrelevant to this picture, but I love their interaction. Each one thinks they have the other one trained just perfectly. She is a cat person. He is a Pearl person (cat).

This picture is of my young beauty in costume for Music Man----Her spring show at school. For some reason, they didn't begin production of this very difficult show until after Spring Break. They had 6 short weeks to learn everything. The week before opening night she came home from practice exhausted and frustrated. "It's going to be awful. No one can remember anything!" I kept telling her if the show was awful, that it was the director's fault. Who picks such an intricate production to do with middle schoolers, with only 6 weeks to pull it off? The average age of the kids in this show was 12.5 years old (Pearl is 14). Goodness, I wouldn't ask a 12 year old to do more than 3 jobs at one time, for fear that they'd forget 2 of them. Having them put on a show that lasts 1.5 hours, no intermission, remember scene piece changes, 5 or 6 very large dance numbers, a boat load of songs, and stay in character is just unimaginable. Impossible.

I was wrong in a very big way. So was Pearl. The show was amazing. Fabulous. Funny. Wonderful. Stunning. It made me grin from ear to ear, the entire time. How 12-14 year olds, two teachers, and a few theater students from the High School did it is beyond me. The dance numbers were mind numbing. The singing was on pitch. The soloist could actually sing. The acting was great. The costumes were so much fun. I am so proud of Pearl and her theater friends for sticking it out. I can't wait for her to see it-----they had it taped so we can watch it at home on DVD.

You rocked, Pearl! So did your show! Love, Mom.