Sunday, August 12, 2012

Catching up

Good morning!  Come in and have some coffee or tea.  How have you been?  It's been such a while since we've visited and  it's good to see you.

I always have the best intention to write more often, but then somehow I always end up getting side-tracked with life and failing to follow through.  Ahhhh... just like New Year's resolutions.  (I won't make ANY comment about the treadmill taking up space as its destiny in life)

I can't believe how much time has went by since we last talked.  Let's see... what has happened here on the mountain...

Well, in February my spouse had a heart attack and spent some time in the hospital having a triple bypass.  Of course, nothing is close by and with all the animals to take care of, I was running back and forth but we got through that and he's all better.

Somehow we missed having a Spring this year, and despite my best efforts of planting a garden and adding fruit trees around the yard, high heat hit early and then drought, cooking everything in its wake.  I tried watering, but it still wasn't enough... that hot summer sun just sucked it out of everything.  Next year... mulch, mulch, mulch.

The drought dried up all our pasture land and then the grasshoppers ate what was left, making it necessary to sell off the cows because there's no hay to be found.  One of these days we'll replace them, but it was feasible to keep them if we have to feed year round.

But not all news is bad news here.  The freezer is full of beef and pork, and the pond is furnishing fresh fish anytime we want.  Our year old silver laced wyandottes are prolific layers, and I swear try to outdo each other on laying.  I've had eggs running out of my ears all summer, but we've sold eggs, eaten eggs, and hatched eggs just to try to keep up.  I have some of the cutest bitties in the world at the moment living in a container in my laundry room.

Our Great Pyrenees girls have both had their first litters of puppies this year.  Those are adorable puppies and were spoken for immediately, especially since the word is out what good protectors their mommas and daddy are.  I watched one of the three week old puppies following the ducks around this morning and "protecting" them.  He stopped to growl at a leaf that rolled by and threatened his wards.

I continually try to learn new ways to make life easier here on the farm.  (Easier does not mean I'm lazy... ha!)  I added a rain barrel under the downspout and with one little sprinkle, it filled up the 55 gallon barrel.  The discovery that Fedex will deliver most anything except perishables from Walmart for free if the order is over $45 was an "EUREKA!" moment.  Not having to wrestle those big bags of feed in and out of buggies and truck made it a winner.  Little things, but things accomplished nonetheless.

One of my favorite moments occurred last weekend when my little sister and my niece came to visit.  I don't see her often, and so it was great having them.  Of course you always wonder what to fix folks to eat when they come, and since they were going to be arriving late in the evening, I made snack food for their first night here.  The excess eggs got to take center stage when I used up a couple dozen to make a deviled egg dip to eat with crackers, and bread pudding made from my girls' rich eggs and some hot dog buns I'd been given. 

Since I see that my spouse has awakened and staggered to the living room, I guess I'd better hush for now and go fix him some breakfast.  Hm... eggs....

Talk to you again soon, and keep living country!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Green Living Ain't Nothing New

Going green... living green... green living... green this and green that.

Marketeers are making a fortune with products and books and all sorts of things we can buy to teach us how to "GO GREEN".  Talk shows and news anchors espouse the ways that living greener will improve our planet, make us live longer and any number of things that can be dreamed up to promote this new lifestyle.  Well... I hate to break it to them... but country folks have been doing this for centuries. 

First of all, I live a fifty mile round trip from the nearest store; which means an hour and a half out of my day just to get there and back, not counting the time to actually shop.  So, the first thing I do to "live green" is to limit trips to town and get what I need when I'm there.  I drive in only a couple of times a month, and during this past month only went in to town once. 

No, I don't have this huge pantry or have enough stuff put by that I could survive a nuclear holocaust.  I DO usually know what's in my cabinets, refrigerator and freezer.  And if I don't have something, I make do with something else. 

Let me give you an idea of what I mean.  Last night my youngest came home for his weekly "visit" (meaning he drove here to wash his clothes and get some of Mom's cooking) and I had some chicken breasts taken out for supper.  I wanted to do something a little different and got to poking around to see what I had... and stuffed breasts sounded pretty good.  So... let's see... what to stuff them with?  Well, I have some Laughing Cow cheese wedges left over from Christmas and figured they needed to get eaten.  Out on the counter they went.  Now, what else.  No bread crumbs.  Well, no worries.  I have a box of crackers  and a stack of them will make the perfect amount of crumbs.  Add three eggs from my beautiful silver laced wyandotte ladies and I was ready to cook. First the breasts were pounded out to a 1/4" thick and a wedge of cheese was rolled up into each one.  Each roll was dipped into the beaten eggs and then into the cracker crumbs seasoned with salt mix I make myself.  Let them set for a bit so the crumbs make a nice coating, and then baked at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.  That was it.  And they were wiped out at suppertime.

We don't eat dessert when it's just the two of us here, but when my youngin' comes home, I like to have something made for him.  Again, I don't have a big selection of things, so what could I find...  Hmm... I found a box of vanilla pudding.  Some bananas I'd frozen when I'd found a huge bag of them in the markdown buggy a couple months ago.  And a graham cracker crust that again had been a Christmas leftover ingredient that had gotten lost in all the shuffle.  In short order I had whipped up (pun intended) a banana pudding pie. 

Now how in the world is this living green, you may ask?  First off... I didn't have to drive to the store to pick up anything.  I used what I had, and it was eaten without wasting anything.  And that is just one example from one meal. 

The "going green" movement also sings the praises of saving energy and finding ways to lower our consumption.  I reckon that we do a few things toward that end.  To begin with, when we built our house with our own hands as money came available, we put in the best energy efficient windows and doors that we could afford.  Ditto for insulation.  Our tankless water heater that we  bought on clearance works perfectly and uses very little gas. We turn off lights and keep the heat low, and our electric bill reflects our efforts, which amounts to between $35.00 and $50.00 year-round.

More words that you hear bandied about are recycle, reuse and repurpose.  Again... I guess it may be new to some people, but to most of us that live at in the boonies, it's just another way of getting by.  If you need some kind of fastener for something, rather than driving into town for a whatzit, you go to the shop, barn or shed to see if you have a coffee can that might contain just such a whatzit that you saved from another item you took apart and saved the parts from.  Spending $10.00 in gas to go pick up 50 cent whatzit just doesn't make sense, so you make do with what you have.

I always have projects going... and they normally have a connection to the kitchen or garden... my two favorite places in the world.  One such project I have in the process at the moment is collecting milk jugs that I will use to make mini-greenhouses to start my garden seedlings in.  When I get those started, I'll take photos and make a post of what I'm actually doing. 

A second project is to convert a Directv dish that was given to me into a bird bath.  It came with the pole and the bracket that just a few modifications will allow it to be perfect to mount the "repurposed" dish back on in its new form.  I'll also pass photos of that as it progresses.

Once more things that are simple and are a lifestyle for many, and for generations before them, are being repackaged and sold back to us as something new and improved. 

So, my friends, as you endeavor to "live green"... you can smile and know that you are in fact Living Country.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Investing forward...

Oh, I'm certain that most of you have heard the phrase "paying forward".  It's the topic of talk shows and news broadcasts.  Even a song a few years back dealt with the subject.  It's really nothing new... a random act of kindness that the recipient will then in turn pass on in another kind act to another... and on and on.  A very sweet and thoughtful way to live, and one that we should all try to accomplish.

However, today I'm focusing on "investing forward".  Doing those little things today that will one day pay off dividends in the future.  It may not necessary be a monetary pay-off, but it will be rewarding.  For example... just this morning I faced a pot of pinto beans that I had cooked days ago that I have eaten on all week.  Yes, it most likely would be wiser to cook a smaller batch; but because I raised a houseful of boys and have always cooked enough for Napolean's army, that's easier said than done. 

Now considering I'm the only one left in the house  that eats them... because my husband won't touch beans (insert eye roll here)... eating a whole slow cooker full of pintos would be quite the feat.  So finally, today I squared off with them and after mashing and mixing, I fixed off a plate full of bean patties that will be divided up into single serving portions and make quick, easy meals for me to have in the freezer.  Investing in the future.  By preparing them ahead, I'll be able to enjoy them for some time to come and most of all, I'm not wasting them.

See... that's simple.  Nothing fancy. 

Another way that I invest forward will be showing up at the house here in a couple of hours.  My youngest will arrive with his weekly load of laundry.  But this week, he will also have in tow a beef roast that he called me about yesterday to inform me that he had bought.  I will be showing him how to prepare it in the slow cooker and then divide it into several various meals that  he can eat on during the week rather than relying on fast food for sustenance. 

I've  always tried to teach my sons how to cook and clean.  I know that some of the more macho type might scowl at this news.  But I personally know that when young men leave home, an automatic chef and Merry Maid do not accompany them.  Therefore, it is important to know how to fend for themselves.  I am proud to say that my oldest is a wonderful dabbler... he experiments constantly with recipes and even writes his own.  My middle son can make some killer spaghetti.  And the youngest did most of the cooking for he and my husband when I was overseas.  So was the time worth the effort... absolutely!

Now you might read this and say "well I don't have children".  Children are not required for investing forward.  You can do so for just yourself... such as the bean patties.  But if you want to do something to invest in others, to see how it comes to fruition in another individual, look around for someone you can mentor.  Those persons aren't always younger than you.  It could be an older person that would like to learn to play a guitar, or someone that would enjoy learning to read.

Also, with our great technological advances, our communities have expanded.  So someone doesn't have to live next door; in fact, they may live on the other side of the world.  Exchanging thoughts and ideas, teaching another generation of how to do those things you may take for granted; all of these things are ways for us to invest forward.

Money-wise, we may be poor as church mice and the only thing occupying our pockets may be bits of lint.  But we all possess knowledge and experience that we can share with those around us.

Until next time... live happy and live country.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Resolutions... sort of...


Firm determination.

It's evident in the full parking lots of gyms in any town with a building big enough to hold a treadmill and weight bench.  Store shelves cleared of weight loss products and home storage filled with items that are absolutely, positively going to give you that svelte body by June.

There's also signs of it in conversation... people vowing that they will save more money this year.  While at the same time filling baskets with more weight loss products that will be forgotten or given away by February.  And those stationary bikes and home gyms become exchange hanging storage.

Oh, don't misunderstand me.  I'm not teasing anyone.  I know all about  these resolutions.  I've made them over and over again... year after year.  "This year I'm going to..." forget what I resolved to do by the time the calendar flips over to the next scenic photograph.

So, in order to head off failure and the complimentary guilt that goes along with it, I've decided to not decide to do what I know I won't do anyway.  This year I've made a list of things I know I'll do and therefore set myself up to succeed.

#1  I plan on having a garden.  Now you might think this isn't any type of a resolution.  But if you had to battle the drought, japanese beetles and grasshoppers that I did last year, you would know it takes a strong resolve to repeat this again.  However... this year me and the ducks will be ready for the bugs.  As far  as the drought... that takes me to resolution #2.

#2  I will watch my water usage more.  Now that is a vague phrase, believe you me.  But each month we receive a water bill that reminds me just why I should be watching how we use the precious commodity and forces us to be more considerate in our ways.

#3  I will be spending more time turning my yard into a aesthetic landscape with flowers, trees and edibles while at the same time spending little or no money doing it.  Sound impossible?  Nope... not at all.  I have great neighbors that I trade back and forth with that are always digging up a bit of this and that for me to transplant, and I'm always ways to get more for less. 

And between all the gardening, lawn work and  toting water... the weight loss part takes care of itself.  Minus me looking like a duck on roller skates trying to figure out all the buttons on the treadmill and learning that a body in motion really does stay in motion.  In particular when it fires off the backend of a treadmill at 75mph.

Well... all this resolving has made me hungry.  So I figure I'll say good afternoon from here on the mountain and go have myself another piece of homemade chocolate pecan pie. 

Have fun living country!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking past the trees...

I reckon it eventually happens to all of us.  You know... getting in the middle of a project, and no matter how convinced you are that you have everything you need to complete it, you suddenly find that you're short one item. 

Normally I would just wait until the next time I'm going to town and pick up the blasted thing then.  But since I was already smack dab in the middle I figured I'd better load up and make a trip to the hardware store.  For many folks, the trip would be no big deal... jump in the vehicle and head around the block.  Well, for me it's a little more intensive. 

I  had two choices once I was behind the wheel.  I could drive 20+ miles to the larger town of 13,000 people and fight the traffic... or I could drive the same distance to the smaller town of 494 folks.  Now many would think that the bigger place would offer a better selection, but I happen to know that in the littler (yes, that's a word in my personal dictionary) town that the grocery/hardware/lumber store has pretty much anything that a person could want... and more.

So grumbling as I drove out of our gate and the next mile and a half of dirt road, I turned on to the pavement and headed toward the smaller of the two.  As I went only a short distance I noticed how crystal clear the sky was and such a deep blue.  The sun was shining with that glow that we only see in the winter.  Looking off to my left I saw that there was no haze across the mountaintops and down through the valleys.  Rock bluffs jumped out in stark contrast in the distance, lit up by the sunlight. 

I took a deep breath... then smiled.  I was reminded of why we had moved to this area in the first place... the beauty is awesome in all seasons.  The drive carried me on for the next 45 minutes along the winding roads.  Around each turn I saw one thing after another that made me smile even more... turkeys in one field, a cabin nestled far down in the valley that goes unseen all other times of the years and hidden by foliage, and the couple of vehicles that I passed during the entire trip were occupied by people smiling like me and waving back.  After buying what I needed and heading back... once again being awed by the scenery around me... I returned to my project and finished it up with a lighter heart than when I began. 

Some people might look at this as a wasted trip that a little pre-planning on my part would have prevented.  You're correct... I should have prepared a bit better.

But a wasted trip?  No, it wasn't wasted.  It was a free mood enhancer that was 100% organic and good for me.  In fact, the effects have carried over to this morning... 'cause I'm still grinning.

So from here on the mountain, I wish you a Happy New Year, and that you have time to look past the trees to live country.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas on the Mountain

The gifts have been opened and the oven is going non-stop.  The air is filled with smells of ham, cinnamon and spruce.  It is Christmas Day on the mountain.

And from our family to yours, we want to wish you a beautiful Christmas filled with the ones you love and a glorious New Year.  No matter if you live in a crowded urban area or deep in the rural backroads, may you find joy and seek out ways to live country.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let it snow... let it snow... nooooooo!

Yes, I'm aware that it's December.  I'm also cognizant of the fact that some folks have been buried in much deeper snow for some time now.  Which makes me pretty certain that those same persons will have little sympathy for me concerning the snow that arrived last week here on the mountain. 

It all started with the weather man hinting that we might possibly see some flakes of the white stuff.  Of course that resulted in me sending the poor fellow evil thoughts and wishes that all those flakes land in his boots rather than in my yard.

I remember a time long long ago when I was excited to see the merest sign of snow, for it meant time out of school and days spent playing in the pitiful excuse of southern snow that usually wasn't deep enough to even cover the shortest grass.  That was, of course, the days before I became an adult and had to work outside in ice storms or other bitterly cold weather.  After that, snow days lost their appeal... meaning only frozen toes and nose and everything else attached.

Anyway... back to the weather man and the curses placed on him.  They didn't work.  Right on cue it started... and boy, did it start.  I slogged my way to the mailbox, muttering unmentionable things about the forecaster, notwithstanding that he truly had no control over it.  Looking back toward the house from the front gate, I was met with this sight...

Now yes... I'll admit that it looks quiet and peaceful.  It was.  And yes, it's pretty.  Ok, so maybe it's not all bad.   But I still didn't tarry getting back to the house because it was also cold; which is reasonable considering it is snow.

Before you think I'm the only one on the mountain that is a winter wimp... this is the greeting that I received when I got back to the porch...

The little one was soon distracted with playing with her siblings and I completed outside chores.  Once inside, it would take an explosion to get me back out in the white stuff... at least until it was time to do chores again.

So how to spend my time indoors... hmm.  Well, it is close to the holidays; and I do have the ingredients for some of my recipes.  I also have a jar of juice in the icebox that needs turning into jelly.  It sounds all very creative and is at least warm, and in short order I had everything in the kitchen dirtied up.  The stove heated the house and gave the furnace a rest.

And just like magic, before long I had a table of offerings.  Dark chocolate fudge... tender, flaky shortbread cookies... and jars of sparkling elderberry jelly.  I had even worked in time to sing and dance (praise be that there were no witnesses to either) to Christmas tunes while pulling cookies out of the oven.  I'm not sure how impressed Chubby Checker would have been to my rendition of the "Twist" while singing "Run Run Rudolph", but I was warm, happy and able to prepare items of love for family and friends. 

So though the snow has melted here on the mountain now, the image of the soft flakes and the joy of the season brightens the heart and lifts the spirits.  And sharing that joy is part of what it is to live country.