This weekend I am busy with odds and ends of Suzy Homemaker type stuff. All of those little things that, when they beg to be done, you respond by putting them of until tomorrow. Well, tomorrow has arrived.
So in lieu of an actual post, I give you the following. I may have posted this earlier. Can't remember. But if I did, it is worth repeating.
"The Wisdom of Tecumseh"
"So live your life so the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their views, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and of service to your people. Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a stranger if in a lonely place. Show respect to all people, but grovel to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself. Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools and robs them of their visions. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home."
Yeah, I know. Unless you are a huge fan of outdoor winter sports, the very last thing a Minnesotan does is pray for snow. Under normal conditions, most of us are praying for it to just please go away.
But.....these are not normal conditions.
In the fall of the year the city street maintenance crews are busy. Over the summer cracks have appeared in the streets. If left unattended, water will get into these cracks, freeze, expand and we will have potholes the size of Connecticut by the time spring arrives. I completely understand why the cracks in the streets can not go unattended.
Before these cracks can be filled in, the crews use a machine to cut the asphalt and enlarge the cracks to about 3 inches across. According to one of the crew I was chatting with yesterday, this process makes it possible to completely fill in each crack, which they couldn't do if they didn't enlarge them.
The machine they use for this job is LOUD. Think chalk dragged across a chalkboard. Times 5. All day. 7 AM to 6 PM. Did I mention it was LOUD?
The sound defies closed windows. It can be clearly heard over my music. I have no ear plugs. Cotton and balled up Kleenex fall out of my ears. There is no escape.
Today is day number three of the work on the street in front of my building. The only thing I know for sure is that the crews never do this kind of work in the winter.
David wanted to know if I could use some celery. Of course I could! He and the kids raised celery in their garden this year. I didn't know you could raise celery in Minnesota, but obviously, you can. They had already used all they wanted. He said he would drop it off at my apartment for me.
Now when he said he had celery from his garden, I was thinking maybe a few stalks. I was wrong.
He said that next year he will thin it out some and with more room to grow, the stalks would probably be larger. There were some pretty big stalks even without the thinning.
I have it all cleaned and cut up. Tomorrow morning I will blanch it and fill my dehydrator trays. I plan to dry the leaves separately. They are really good when crumbled and used like dry parsley.
This past Saturday David and Staci took the kids to an apple orchard near their home. Apple orchards around here are more than just orchards. There was horseback riding for the girls and a farm animal petting zoo for the younger set, along with other kid-related activities.
And then they went apple pickin'. David brought me a big bag of apples. I can't remember what variety they are, but he said they are a good all purpose apple.
I was going to make applesauce, but these are such nice, firm apples that I think I will can apple slices instead. The next time the kids are here, we will open a jar or two so they can see how good they taste. They have already learned how to can tomatoes and salsa and pasta sauce and chili sauce and pickles by helping their Dad. Maybe next year they would like to learn to can apples with their Grandma.
I guess I must be an anomaly among those of my peer group - retired widows. There are a lot of us. But I am finding that very few look any farther ahead than maybe the day after tomorrow, literally.
I needed to add to my food storage, so this morning I rode the bus to the grocery store. I sat near a woman of my vintage that I see often on these trips. During the course of conversation I asked if she ever shopped at Sam's Club. She scoffed at the very idea. She said that she lived alone and that she had no reason to ever buy in bulk. She told me that she went to the grocery a couple of times each week to buy what she needed for a few days. I asked what did she do if a bad storm was in the weather forecast. She said that she would go to the closest convenience store for bread and cereal and milk. I hope that works out for her.
While waiting for the bus for the return trip home, I chatted with another widowed lady. We were talking about the price of groceries and how quickly groceries are becoming more expensive. She remarked that even flour and sugar had gone up in price. I mentioned that both Sam's and Walmart still had good prices on 25 lb. bags of flour. "What on earth would I do with that much flour?" she asked me. "Well, you could bake bread with it," I said. She said that she would eat homemade bread if someone gave her a loaf of it, but why go to all the trouble of making it when she could just buy it at the bakery or the grocery.
Both of these ladies rode the same bus as I did going home, and I caught both glancing at my handy, dandy little old lady shopping cart that was loaded with several sacks of pet food, six large bags of frozen mixed vegetables and a sack full of more canning lids.
It never ceases to amaze me that those like me, who are children of parents who lived through the Depression and the food rationing of WWII, failed to learn anything from those parents about putting food by for either emergencies or the cold winter months. Preserving every bit of food possible was a way of life in my family. If we didn't do the work summer and fall, we would be pretty hungry long about February.
Those two ladies seem like very nice ladies. But I think I will make sure that they and those like them never find out where I live.
life before television when kids played outside? I don't know why I started thinking about this lately. Perhaps it was the other day when I watched a kid about 10 years old come close to being run over by a truck because she was watching the screen on her phone instead of the traffic.
I remember when a store bought jump rope was the cause for happiness. It was so much better than the length of clothesline I used before that. It had wooden handles. The rope was thicker. It didn't get all twisted around like clothesline rope did. It was fun.
There were those who could jump rope where two people swung a long length of rope between them and another one or two jumped the rope in the middle. I never got the hang of it. I got tired of being tripped up by the rope, so I stuck to a single jump rope.
It has been years since I saw a set of jacks.
For the youngsters who don't know what jacks are, 10 small metal star shaped pieces and a small rubber ball made up a set of jacks. The object of the game was to toss the ball in the air and scoop up jacks before the ball bounced twice, starting with one jack at a time, progressing to two at a time until all ten were picked up at once. My hands were small. I don't think I ever made it beyond the eight-jack mark. But many a lazy summer afternoon was spent sitting on the sidewalk with a friend, playing jacks.
Nearly every neighbor kid I knew growing up wore a skate key on a piece of string around their neck. And what is a skate key for, you might ask. It is for turning the clamps that attached roller skates to your shoes. We didn't have boots with wheels set into the soles. We didn't have roller blades. We had these.
A strap around the ankle area held the heel of the skate onto your shoes. The clamps tightened near the toes of your shoes. This arrangement kept the skates in place. Until the clamps worked loose. And then if you didn't notice it right away, the toe part would fall off to one side and down you would go. I spent the better part of my childhood with big scabs on my knees. I loved to roller skate.
Even though we didn't have a television or a cell phone or any other electronic gadget, and even though there were always chores to do, especially on Saturdays, I think I grew up in the best of times for a child. There was a freedom in the life of a child that my grandchildren will never see. A kid could fly down the sidewalk on roller skates or ride a bike as fast as the wind without having to be helmeted and padded to within an inch of their lives. A kid could leave home on a summer morning and not return until evening without anyone calling the police. Our police were all the Moms up and down the street who watched out for us. They were there if we needed help or a sandwich or a band aid, but they let us play and just be kids.
I find it somewhat sad that the freedom to be a kid is gone.
While sharing ice cream and conversation with my son yesterday, he was telling me about an interesting trend in the real estate market. He and his wife have been thinking of selling their home and buying another with more room for their family. He said that some of the newer houses they had looked at came with a ground floor "Mother-In-Law" apartment, specifically designed for use by aging parents who, like many elderly, have trouble negotiating the stairs in a traditional second floor or basement apartment.
We hear quite often about the trend of adult children moving in with their parents during a financial crisis such as job loss or the inability of college graduates to secure employment in their chosen field. But I have to admit I had not thought about the reverse situation - of aging parents living with their adult children. I had forgotten about occurrences within my own family.
Years ago it was unthinkable for a family to shuttle Mom or Dad off to a home for the aged. My Great-Grandfather, after the death of his wife, spent half the year with my Grandfather's family and the other half with his daughter's family. One of my Dad's brothers stayed on the farm and cared for his widowed mother until her death. He was over 50 years old before he married and left the farm. He did this by choice, out of love for his mother and a sense of family duty.
My other Grandmother lived for a time in an apartment in my parent's home. I remember how I loved to be able to see her whenever I wanted and to be able to bring my young children to to spend time with her. My brother, who was a young boy at the time, recalls hours spent with our Grandmother, many of them over games of checkers. Some of his best memories are of time with Grandma.
I understand the need for nursing homes. Both of my parents lived in a nursing home in their last years due to medical issues that could not be taken care of in a home environment. But for those older folks who are still able to care for themselves, this ground floor apartment trend is a good one, I think. It offers privacy for both generations. And it offers access to family and the opportunity to spend precious time with grandchildren - something that is becoming a rare thing in our too busy world. It is reminiscent of the old values, where family cared for family and that is a good thing. And I am all for reviving some of the old values and traditions.
That being said, do not panic, my children. I have no intention of moving in with any of you - yet.
Those unfortunate enough to have been born without the love of animals in their souls would wonder how a person could have their heart broken by a 12 pound bit of fluff that was Jessie Jane, the Yorkie. I'll tell you how.
She came into my life just before Thanksgiving six years ago. The first eight years of her life had been spent as a breeder at a kennel that sold Yorkies. Her owner was one who took good care of her dogs, seeing to it that they had regular vet visits, good food, a clean kennel and run. This was not a puppy mill operation, but a reputable dog breeder.
What Jessie Jane did not have then was the attention she craved. Nor was she around people other than her owner. She lived in her kennel and had puppies. And when she was too old to breed any more, I received a call asking me to please give her a home. She was the third Yorkie that this same kennel owner had entrusted to my care.
She was shy. She scared easily. She didn't trust people because she had never seen more than one in her entire life. So we went to work.
We sat on the stoop outside my building so she could become accustomed to the sights and sounds of her new neighborhood. Then we went for walks. Short ones at first and then longer ones, to the park and along the river. It didn't take long before she was greeting everyone she met. She considered everyone her friend.
We sat on the couch and snuggled. She helped me in the kitchen, making sure that no piece of food dropped ever stayed on the floor for more than three seconds. She discovered treats and developed a bouncing up and down, turning in circles dance to get one. And she smiled. She looked like a demented chipmunk when she smiled, but she smiled.
She grumbled when I would not share my spaghetti with her. If I made the mistake of setting a bag of kitchen trash next to my apartment door while I went to put on my shoes, it was a given that I would find her buried up to her back legs in the bag when I returned, her little stump of a tail wagging madly as she joyously explored the contents. She was smart and naughty and willful and funny. She made me laugh. She was affectionate, pestering me until I picked her up and gave her some pets and belly rubs.
Some would say that I did a good thing by taking her in and giving her a good life. But truth be known, I believe she gave to me more happiness than I could have possibly given to her.
When I was about 8 years old, my family lived on the west side of Willmar, Minnesota. My father rented a small house in that typically blue collar neighborhood that was full of families with lots of kids and dogs. It seemed, to my 8 year old way of thinking, that everybody in the neighborhood had a dog - except us. My mother wasn't fond of animals. They were too messy, she said. She didn't want muddy paw prints on her kitchen floor. Or dog hair on her rugs. And because Mother's word was law, we didn't have a dog.
Until I brought one home.
This was in the 1950's. Kids didn't have "play dates." We just played outside all summer long. We roamed the neighborhood with the other neighbor kids, sometimes several blocks away. We built forts in the trees on a vacant lot. We played on the swings at the elementary school five blocks away. We clamped roller skates to our shoes and went flying over the sidewalks. We rode our bikes everywhere.
Nobody got into trouble. We couldn't. If we even thought about doing something bad, somebody's mother would yell at us to get out of whatever it was we were about to get into. We knew that if we were bad, the phone would ring at our house and somebody's mother would tell mine what I had done. We just had fun.
My travels through the neighborhood often took me past a house in the next block. The house was surrounded by a wooden picket fence. Behind the fence a very large Collie dog often played. I loved dogs, so I would stop and pet him and talk to him. But it wasn't as good as having my very own dog. So I did something about that.
Mother told me many years later that she had watched me come up the street, struggling to drag an unwilling Collie dog on a rope behind me. It took a long time, for the dog would sit back on his haunches and refuse to move, at which time I had to get behind him and push to get him moving again. I think it was lucky for me that he had a mellow personality and he adored kids, for he never once tried to nip at me. He probably should have, between the rope and the dragging and the pushing.
I finally arrived at my front door. Hot and sweaty and dirty and out of breath. Mother was waiting there for me. After the typical "He followed me home. Can I keep him?", Mother informed me that she had watched me drag the poor dog for a block and a half, that the dog had not followed but I had stolen him from his own yard, and I would take him back this very minute.
The Collie trotted back home much easier than he had travelled to my house. Mother followed us. I untied the dog back in his own yard. I knocked on the door. The lady of the house answered. I told her I was sorry I had stolen her dog. I promised never to steal him again. I wondered why she was smiling all the while and why she gave my mother a wink.
It wasn't until we moved to the farm that my Dad was able to sneak a small dog into our household. I still don't know how he got the dog past Mother.
My biggest Yorkie, Jessie Jane has some major problems. She doesn't seem to have control over her back legs and therefore can not stand. I have spent a considerable amount of time with her today, mostly trying to get her to eat and drink, but to no avail. I have two choices.
I can take her to my vet whose office is about three blocks away. He is a good vet and he will check her out, keep her there at his clinic, and run more tests than I can count. And if he can't find what is causing the problem, he will send her off to the University Vet Clinic and charge me a lot of money. The last dog I took to him with problems cost me nearly a thousand dollars before he gave up and let the dog die. I don't think I want to put Jessie Jane through that.
My other choice is to have my daughter take Jessie Jane to her vet, who is an equally good animal doctor, but who has a more practical approach. If the problem is clearly not treatable and if the dog is obviously in distress as Jessie Jane is, she will not hesitate to gently and humanely put her down if that is called for.
I have talked with my daughter and if Jessie Jane isn't better by the time Jeri gets off from her job tomorrow afternoon, Jeri will come get her and take her to her vet for me.
I thought maybe one of her nails had grown into the pad of her paw. She has wonky nails that can't be trimmed short, so I keep trimming them often so that doesn't happen. Then I thought maybe it was arthritis as she was moving so slowly, but she doesn't seem to be in pain, so I don't think that is it either. She has gone from moving slowly to falling down to not being able to stand at all within two days. I don't see any sign of a miracle happening between now and tomorrow.
Sometimes I wish that I were a little bit more hard hearted and a little less caring about my animals. Because Damn, it hurts.
for a few minutes. For anyone who is interested, 50 lbs. of onions, when chopped into about half inch pieces, dehydrates down to 12 quarts. I should be good for a while on onions!
This morning I thawed out 8 lbs. of blueberries. I would rather have fresh wild blueberries, but that's not going to happen, so I will settle for frozen. They are packed into 32 half pint jars and are sitting on my kitchen table for a couple more hours, just to make sure they are completely thawed. I'll cover them with a thin sugar-water syrup and run them through my water bath canner this evening. This is an experiment, so I'll open a jar in a couple of days and see how they turned out. I have canned blueberries that I picked and froze myself, but have never used store-bought berries like this before. I have another 8 lbs. in the freezer and I'm thinking maybe a couple batches of blueberry jam.
Another 6 lbs. of frozen hash browns are in the dehydrators now and should be dry by late evening. They dry quicker than do the onions. By tomorrow evening all 24 lbs. of potatoes will be dehydrated, in jars and on my shelves.
I wouldn't blame Youngest Son if he didn't volunteer to take me shopping any time soon. My Sam's Club haul included 100 lbs. flour, 50 lbs. sugar, 50 lbs. rice, 50 lbs onions, several flats of canned goods and a bunch of other stuff. When we got back home I said that I would get my cart and help him haul the groceries up the stairs. He handed me something small and light in weight. He told me to take that up, unlock my apartment door, sit down in a chair and wait for him to bring my purchases up. Because I know better than to argue with him, I did and he did. Bless his heart.
It was too late in the day to start canning, so I put away everything that I could. Then I opened one of the 6 lb. bags of frozen hash browns, filled my dehydrator trays and got them to drying. Six pounds of hash browns dehydrates down to two quarts of potatoes. One bag done - three to go.
Sunday morning I started on the 20 lbs. of sausage. I browned it, drained it and packed it into jars. Into the pressure canner it went. I got 24 half pints and 9 pints of sausage crumbles plus 40 sausage patties in the freezer.
There are a whole lot of onions in a 50 lb. bag! The second batch of chopped onions is drying now, and it will probably take me until the end of the week or longer to finish drying the whole bag. But I sure am glad to have them.
I needed a break so I checked Facebook to see what my kids were up to. The first photo I found was of my oldest daughter. She is on a business trip to Florida. I'm not sure exactly where she is, but the photo had the caption, "Should I take this baby alligator home?"
Youngest daughter had posted a picture of my granddaughter Nicki's first day of school - both first grade and Senior year. When Jeri called this afternoon I told her I thought Nicki wouldn't let her take a first day of school picture. Jeri said she didn't give Nicki a choice. It is her last school year. Mom was getting a picture. I wonder where the time went. Seems like only yesterday that first picture was taken.
Oldest son in Phoenix posted this picture taken this morning. This is a freeway.
He called me earlier today to see if I had seen the picture. I told him I thought Arizona had "dry heat." He laughed and said that the storm in California was sending rain to Phoenix and there was widespread flooding. He said he was OK where he was, but there were people stranded everywhere. They either got caught in the water or didn't realize it was as deep as it is and just drove in only to get stuck there. He told me about a police SUV driving out of the water with people clinging to the top of the vehicle after they were rescued. I said I supposed I had better not tell him what nice weather we are having here in Minnesota. He said come February, we'll talk.
So I've goofed off enough. Time to get back to chopping more onions for the next dehydrator batch. Will post as time permits. It is a lot of work right now, but I surely am glad to be able to restock and will be even more glad to have all of this on the shelves come winter.
Youngest Son called me this morning. He wanted to know if I would be home tomorrow afternoon. I said I would. He said that he and his oldest daughter would be here to take me to Sams Club. I warned him that my list was fairly long with some heavy stuff included. He said he didn't care. He would drive his truck to haul however much I wanted to buy and they would get it all up the stairs for me.
So if all goes well I will be up to my neck in canning hamburger, meatballs, sausage and butter and dehydrating hash browns and onions. And busy repackaging some of the dry food to fit on my closet pantry shelves and transferring others to buckets.
I've been a bit concerned that I wouldn't be able to get restocked before winter sets in. This will take care of a major share of that. I feel so very blessed to have kids and grandkids who are willing to spend a Saturday afternoon to give me the peace of mind that comes with having a well stocked pantry.
Let me say right off the bat that I am not telling anyone they should home can butter. I'm just telling you what I do. Use your own judgement.
I have been putting off the home canning of butter. Some time back I made the mistake of following the instructions of someone on YouTube who didn't know what they were talking about. The experiment was a disaster. I was a bit reluctant to try again, especially with the price of butter these days.
Then I remembered that Jackie Clay, who writes a column for Backwoods Home Magazine, had posted about how she cans butter. I trust her judgement as she has been doing this for many years. She has a question and answer part to her column, and if someone asks about a canning method or recipe that is questionable, Jackie will tell that person if it is safe or not to home can, and why.
Here is the method that Jackie uses to can her butter, in her words:
"To can butter, melt it in a saucepan over low heat. Heat it enough to simmer out any remaining buttermilk. Sterilize your wide mouth half pint jars in boiling water, holding them in simmering water until just before you will fill them so they are sterile and very hot. Simmer your butter for 10 minutes, very gently, to drive off any remaining moisture. Stir often to prevent solids from scorching. Remove jars from heat and invert to drain thoroughly. Then turn them over and carefully ladle the hot butter into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar, place a hot, previously-simmered lid on the jar and screw the ring down firmly tight. Process the jars in a boiling water bath canner for 60 minutes.
You can keep the moisture from settling to the bottom of the jars by waiting until the jars have cooled some after processing, then shaking them gently to redistribute the moisture. Repeat this every 5 minutes or so as the jars cool completely. Carefully check your seals as the shaking could cause a seal to fail. Refrigerate any jar that doesn’t seal and use soon or reprocess the butter from the melting, onward, all over again with a new lid. -Jackie"
I followed her instructions to the letter. I started with 6 lbs. of butter that yielded 14 half-pint jars. The butter tends to separate in the jars, but the gentle shaking of the jars while cooling fixed that problem.
This butter will not be exactly like the butter was before canning. It will be a little bit grainy the way butter is when it melts and hardens again. But there is no difference in taste and it melts on toast or vegetables beautifully. Some may not like the texture, but it doesn't bother me at all. I would not hesitate to use this butter on a slice of bread, or anywhere else that calls for butter.
I have another 6 lbs of butter in the fridge to can and then I may have to make a run to Sam's Club. Butter at Sams is $2.75 a pound. Butter at the grocery is getting close to $4.00 a pound.
This is my obligatory grandkids start school post. I do this every year because they get a kick out of seeing themselves on Grandma's blog. And because I know that if I post the pictures here, I won't lose them. And because I'm a Grandma and that's what we do. It's our job.
Zach is in 9th grade this year.
Boston started 7th grade.
Maddie is in 5th grade.
And Jacob starts 1st grade.
My granddaughter Nicki is a senior this year as well as working at a Subway. She won't let anyone take first day of school pictures any more. My oldest grandson, Chris, has graduated and is among the gainfully employed working for a landscaping company.
So I was going through the check-out at the grocery the other day. My purchases included boxes of canning lids...about a dozen of each size. The sweet young thing behind the counter asked me what they were. I told her they were canning lids. She said, "Oh, cool. I didn't know there were lids for closing an open soup can."
I have to wonder how many folks have no earthly idea about home canning.
Or how to sew on a button.
Or how to patch a pair of jeans.
Or how to darn a sock.
Or how to dehydrate food.
Or how to wash clothes without a washer and dryer.
Or own clothespins.
Or how to wash dishes by hand.
Or how to plant a garden.
Or how to forage for wild berries.
Or how to knit a pair of mittens.
Or how to crochet a warm scarf or hat.
Or how to cook from scratch.
Or how to bake a loaf of bread.
Or how to write a letter using paper and a pen.
Or how to do much of anything that doesn't involve electronics.
Mom of four and Grandma of six, who writes about family events both past and present as well as anything else that happens to come to mind, shares new photos as well as old and who enjoys life in general.