Monday, January 31, 2011

Wishing for Warmth

Turning on the television this morning resulted in the latest news of an incoming winter storm system headed our way.  Predicted is 6 to 12 inches of snow with the possibility of freezing rain arriving first.  So... there's only one thing to do.

Pull out my stack of seed catalogs.

I'm not certain how the rest of the world handles news of cold weather, but for me there is only one cure for the winter blues.  Okay, maybe there's two... because a cup of hot tea, coffee or cocoa is also not bad in the way of lifting my blahs.  But compared to my masses of seed catalogs, those steaming cups are amateurs.

Those rays of glossy paged sunshine begin arriving around November and I think I get every publication from every nursery that exists in North America.  My spouse shakes his head at my fasicination with the pretty pictures and the detailed descriptions of each variety.  I can curl up and pore over them with the intensity that I also give another favorite read of mine... cookbooks.

I find my most favorite spot on the couch and gather the stack of shiny magazines around me.  The rest of the day will be lost to juicy tomatoes, sugary sweet watermelons and bright blossoms.  There will be grand dreams of what could... should... would... be come warmer weather.  I'll make lists and check them twice... change them umpteen times... then in the end they will be lost or thrown away or new lists will replace those.

Regardless, I will while away the hours... smiling, hoping and planning for the future... which is what it's all about anyway.  Because now that I think about it... I don't think I've ever actually ordered anything out of the catalogs. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's in Your... Cabinets?

Most of us have seen the television commercial with the catch-phrase "What's in your wallet?".  Looking in mine, I find three pennies, a gum wrapper, a piece of lint and some seeds I found in a large pod that I think I've identified as belonging to a Honey Locust tree.

However, it's not my wallet that I am looking at this morning; it is my kitchen cabinets.  I have decided to get an early start on Spring and begin my cleaning early.  Thinking that the kitchen cabinets would be a logical place to start, I stand before them and take stock of what's in them.  I've made the determination that I will not have to worry about any major magazine coming  to take glamor shots of the contents unless they are doing a piece on how not to decorate if you like fancily matched glasses and tableware. 

Staring at my eclectic blend of mason jars used for summer tea glasses, plastic cups and mugs, a mixture of pottery plates alongside outdoor picnic plates, and storage bowls that are a mixture of reused sour cream containers and "disposable" containers, I take a deep breath and wonder if everyone's cabinets look like mine.  I'm pretty sure they don't, because I know they don't look like any of the glossy photographs I see in the magazines.

I make a resolution that I'm going to change this, and begin by emptying the cabinets to the kitchen table.  Now, I've accomplished uncluttering the cabinets and making my table look like the free table at a yard sale.  Where to begin?  I think I'll toss out everything that doesn't look like those in the photographs.  After several moments thought of which things go first, I again reach a determination...

If I toss out everything that doesn't look like the photographs, we'll be eating out of our hands and storing leftovers in ziplock bags.  Insert heavy sigh here...

There's only one thing left to do. 

Replace items back into the cabinet, but trying to fool myself into thinking that by making it appear more organized would somehow magically change the items and make them look more... presentable.

Ah well, maybe next Spring...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Farmer's Almanac and Persimmon Seeds

The news comes on and the headlines drone past.  Bits of interest are made note of while supper is prepared, but when the weather comes on... all activity ceases.  The prediction of how Mother Nature will affect our lives are read off by well-educated meteorologists and highlighted by fan-dangled high tech gadgets meant to impress and emphasize the message being delivered.  Despite all this, most of the time the forecasts are still wrong as nature loves to pull pranks.

Growing up, I was taught the art of weather predicting by my daddy.  No... no state-of-the-art equipment was needed; only the signs from Nature itself and the use of a simple paperback book found in any feed store... "The Old Farmer's Almanac".  He swore by it and used it for the weather as well as when was the best times for planting, fishing, hog killing and even cutting hair.  Obtained in December, by the following December it would be stained and well-worn from the use it would endure.

I must confess... I am my daddy's girl.  All these years later I still buy my Almanac and read it over and over, referring to it for much of what affects my daily life.

So armed with the knowledge in this helpful resource as well as the warning from harvested persimmon seeds back in Autumn, I haven't been surprised by wintry weather yet.

"Persimmons?" you may ask.  Why, yes... persimmons... or rather, their seeds.  It's a process that was used by my ancestors and still used by me as one indicator of the type of winter we'll have in the coming months.  Seeds are carefully halved on the sides and within you'll see one of three shapes in the center... a spoon, a fork or a knife.  A spoon means a heavy winter with lots of shoveling, a knife means bitter cold and the fork indicates a light winter.  Every seed I opened this past Fall had a tiny shovel inside and so far, we've had three snows in the South, which is plentiful for those of us down this far.  Between the persimmons and the Almanac I know we may get another snow or two before the weather takes a turn and we can look forward to a promise of Spring.

With the book in hand, my decisions are made with confidence that the best of the wisdom of our predecessors will keep me on the right track.  Oh... and according to the good ol' "Farmer's", the day the hogs are to be put in the freezer are the perfect day.  Thanks, Daddy...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sharing in the Country Way

Sharing.  It's a simple concept.  One that we were encouraged to follow from early childhood.  However, if it is so simple, why does it come so difficult for some? 

It is a concept that wasn't only taught to me in words, but deeds by parents who readily shared excess with neighbors, family and friends.  It is also an act that continues on here on our mountaintop among my neighbors.

Several days ago, one of them showed up at my door with a milk glass candy dish, her sugar cookie recipe and a good sized pumpkin.  A relative of hers had shared a pumpkin windfall from overproductive vines and after she had baked up 44 loaves of pumpkin bread, decided that she would share the wealth.

Not one to turn away good food, I eagerly accepted the pumpkin and waited for a cold day.  Yesterday was just such a day, and early in the morning I began.  While the oven heated up to 275F, I halved the pumpkin and scooped out the insides.

Because of the size, I was only able to fit one half at a time.  Onto a baking pan and into the oven they went; each half cooking 50 minutes until soft.  Removing and cooling, the baked flesh was easily scooped from the rind and filled my colander.  Within a short time, I had 8 cups of fresh pumpkin packaged and nestled into the freezer for recipes to come.

While the pumpkin was baking, I removed the seeds and cleaned them thoroughly.  Several were put back to dry and will be planted come Spring.  The rest were put into a mixing bowl with a couple tablespoons of oil, salt, red pepper, paprika, chili powder and cumin.  When the pumpkin had finished, I raised the oven temperature to 375F for the gingersnap cookies I was going to bake.  The seeds were spread into an iron skillet and roasted for 15 minutes; stirring once during the process.  A nice crunchy treat and nothing was wasted out of the pumpkin because the rinds and scrapings then took a trip to the compost pile.

With a single gift from the generosity of a neighbor comes a stock of fresh pumpkin, a snack, an addition to the compost and seeds to continue the process again come harvest.

Now I will be taking my neighbor gingersnaps to express my gratitude... and the cycle of sharing goes on.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What "living country" Means

Living country... the  meaning is as varied as those who do it or dream of it.  For me, it is not just an activity I dabble in, but a lifestyle and tradition ingrained in me by centuries of a culture passed down by those that have gone before.

Born in the Southern US, in Western NC, and then from my teens growing up in the pineywoods of East Texas, I come from a long line of "country folk" who first arrived on this continent in the 1640s.  These ancestors learned to use the resources around them and rely on their ingenuity to carve out not only an existence in this new world, but to create lives and ways that would be carried forth by their descendants proudly.

With this blog I hope to pass along some of those things to others; to share those things handed down to me before they are lost. 

It is my wish that this blog bring you smiles and a desire to "live country".