Monday, June 29, 2015

I Miss America

I grew up in America.  The country where I now reside goes by the same name, but bears little resemblance to the America I knew and loved.

My America was a place where a person could speak their mind.  A place where opinions could be voiced without fear of being labeled "racist" when those opinions did not toe the government line.  A place where folks could agree to disagree without it becoming a headline.

My America was a place where God was not only worshiped but respected.  A place where prayer was allowed anywhere.  Heck, I probably would never have made it through high school had it not been for prayer.  But now it seems that any reference to God is being eradicated.  Christmas nativity scenes cause some to hyperventilate.  The ten commandments can not appear in any government building.  And churches are expected to go against the teachings of the Bible in order to be "politically correct."  I am expected to bend over backwards to respect others religions or their lack of same, but I don't see much respect for mine.

My America was a place where kids were taught the basics of reading, writing and math.  They were taught so that when they left high school they were either ready for college or a job, depending on what they wanted to do.  Now they leave high  school without being able to read.  They can't even figure out how to make change.  They are being dumbed down under the guise of fairness.  And if they choose college, they wind up with so much debt that chances are pretty good they will be paying for those loans for many years to come.  And most still will not be suited for real work. 

My America was a place where government welfare was considered an absolute last resort.  We now have millions jumping onto that gravy train, encouraged by our leaders in Washington.  In the town where I grew up there were maybe one or two families who had the reputation of being career welfare recipients.  They were scorned by the rest of the population who believed that working for a living was honorable and right.  In my family, if money got tight we did not stand in line for a handout.  We stood in line at the employment office, looking for a second job.

My America had two genders - male and female.  And yes, there were gays and lesbians among our friends and relatives.  But nobody thought anything about it, for we believed that whatever happened within the privacy of one's home was nobodys business.  Now kids are being taught that it is perfectly normal to choose from several different genders.  Bathrooms are for whatever gender they think they are.  I have to wonder what the reaction of my son would be should he discover that hormone driven teenage boys are allowed to use bathrooms or gym showers with his daughters.  Guess I don't have to wonder.  The resulting explosion will be seen for miles.

My America was a place where a kid could just be a kid.  We rode our bikes all over town.  We walked to school without parental supervision.  We climbed trees.  We built forts.  We had snowball and water balloon fights.  And we were not wrapped in bubble wrap topped off with a helmet.  Yes, we had skinned knees and we got dirty playing in the mud.  But we were kids.  That's what kids are supposed to do.  Today we are raising a generation of wimps who are so afraid of anything gun shaped or of getting dirty or of getting a scratch or bump that by the time they reach adulthood, they will be afraid of their own shadows.

How did we get to this point?  Were we so wrapped up in television and video games and cell phone apps that we didn't see it coming?  Or are we so self centered that we just don't care.  The part I don't understand is why so many are content to let the government dictate how they live their lives.  Maybe I have just turned into a grumpy old lady, but I resent the hell out of some joker in Washington telling me what I can say and what I can eat and how I should think.  And if I am offended, so what!  Nobody said life was fair and nobody said that feelings would not be hurt.  Get over it. 

I really do miss my America.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Uncle Kenneth

My last post was about my Dad's devotion to his family and in particular, his love and devotion to his ailing wife. This was not unique to Dad within his family.  His older brother, Kenneth, was cut from the same cloth.

Kenneth was born to my grandparents in 1906.  He and his eight siblings were raised on the small farm his father had carved out of the northern Minnesota woods.  The house he grew up in was built by his father, first a log cabin and then a stucco-covered two story home, built around the cabin.  It is this house I remember from early childhood.  It was not fancy.  There were no carpets, but wooden planks for floors.  The house had electricity in the late 1940's, but no plumbing.  Water was hauled inside from a hand pump near the corner of the house close to the kitchen door.  The outhouse stood a little way off.   The house was heated by an huge wood burning furnace in the cellar, with a single iron grate in the downstairs floor to allow the heat to rise.  I loved that house.

My grandmother was widowed in 1936.  She was 66 years old.  She would live in her farm home for another 19 years.  Thanks to her son, Kenneth.

Uncle Kenneth served in the Army during WWII.  Whether he joined or was drafted, I do not know.  And I know little about his war experiences for, like so many of that generation, he didn't talk about it.  He left, knowing that his brothers, including my father, would take care of their mother and the farm in his absence.  He came home to the farm at the end of the war.

My Uncle Kenneth scared me, as a small child.  I was used to my clean-shaven father who, other than his work bib overalls, was usually neatly dressed.  Uncle Kenneth was scruffy.  I think he might have shaved his beard maybe once a week.  Maybe.  He usually wore what I call "barn clothes."  This was topped off by a disreputable looking slouch hat.  His voice was somewhat gruff and he had inherited the Matheny family trait of being able to say something totally outrageous with a completely straight face.  Unless you had learned to spot the twinkle of the eye, you never knew if he was joking or serious

Uncle Kenneth, I believe, knew that his appearance scared a little girl of five or six years old.  He never, ever tried to force his attentions on me.  But he won my heart in other ways.

Kenneth knew of my love of animals, so he would ask if I wanted to go to the barn at milking time to play with a new litter of kittens.  Knowing that this was something I could not resist, he would pick up a kerosene lantern in one hand and take my little hand in the other, and off we would go on the path to the barn.  The promised kittens were there, just waiting for a little girl to show up and give them all sorts of love and attention.  Uncle Kenneth would show me how well trained the adult cats were.  When he started hand milking the two or three cows, the cats would line up.  Every now and then he would squirt a stream of milk in their direction and one or the other of them would catch the milk in their mouths.  I was delighted.

When the milking was done, we headed back to the house.  On the screened back porch was a cream separator machine.  The milk was poured into the top.  A crank was turned and the milk flowed down one spout into a bucket, the cream going into another bucket via another spout.  Uncle Kenneth would wait until a goodly amount of rich foam built up in the cream bucket, and then he would, without a word, hand me a spoon.  It was understood that I could spoon off as much foam as I wanted to eat.

Uncle Kenneth made a choice as to how the rest of his life after the war would play out.  He decided to stay home and take care of his mother.  There was no question of her having to leave the home that meant so much to her.  He farmed the sandy, rocky land, raised cows and pigs and chickens on a small scale for food.  He chose a life that was by no means easy, but one that would bring peace and comfort to his mother in her old age.  He continued to do this until her death in 1955.  He was nearly 50 years old.

Eventually he sold the farm.  At age 54 he married the love of his life.  He never once regretted the years spent caring for his mother.

Heroes don't have to be the ones who rescue people from burning buildings.  They often don't leap tall buildings at a single bound.  They don't always come galloping in on the back of a white horse to save the day.

Sometimes heroes are those who care for an ailing wife, day in and day out, without complaint.  Sometimes heroes are those who devote 19 years of their lives to caring for an aging mother.  The mindset today seems to be to stick Grandma into an assisted living facility or nursing home so that we are not inconvenienced by our loved one's illness or old age.  Never mind that Grandma would much rather be home, if at all possible.  My mother could not stay home.  She needed constant medical care.  But my Grandmother could and did stay in the home she loved, where she was comfortable and happy, even without today's modern conveniences we think we can't live without.

Those two brothers are my heroes.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Dad Was Tough

I have always loved this picture of Dad. He is the one sitting in the car and three of his friends are sitting on the running board. I am old enough to remember running boards. A couple of Dad's cars had them. Dad told me that he was in his mid-20's when this picture was taken, but he couldn't remember where they were or why someone took the picture. He told me the names of his friends, but none of those names meant anything to me and I have long since forgotten who they were. All I know is they are not relatives.

Dad looks so tough in the picture. He wasn't. Not in the way we think of as tough. He has sort of a rebel James Dean thing going on there. Kelly and I thought that this group looked like they were auditioning for a Bonnie and Clyde type movie.

Dad was tough in other ways. He was not gangster-type tough. He was kind and giving and caring. His toughness was in living. He was tough when it came to taking care of his family. He worked hard all of his life. I remember that when Mom became more seriously ill and required more medical care, he worked two and sometimes three jobs to pay the bills and keep food on the table. He was not an educated man, completing school through the eighth grade, but he was a well-read man, and knew much about many things. His lack of education meant that he worked at menial jobs, many times back-breaking jobs. He was a janitor at the First Baptist Church in Willmar, where we attended church. He also cleaned other buildings at night in Willmar, and then went to work at 6:30 every morning to his main job, climbing into boxcars loaded with grain and taking samples to be tested. He took a job feeding turkeys and cleaning the turkey barns on a farm near Willmar. He took on other part-time jobs over the years.

Taking care of a spouse who is chronically ill is not an easy task. It requires an inner toughness. It means putting that person first and your own wants and needs second. Dad had that kind of toughness. He spent many hours at Mom's hospital bedside over the years when she had to be hospitalized for one problem or another related to her arthritis. He got up an hour earlier each morning to see that her needs were taken care of before leaving for work. He brushed her hair, he bathed her, he helped her use the bathroom. When she couldn't get her hands to work, he fed her. He did many things for her that most of us never dream we could do or would have to do. And he did them without ever complaining. When it finally became too much for any one person to handle and when she required constant medical attention, she went to live in the nursing home. Many people would have been grateful not to have to spend so much time on their ailing spouse, but not Dad. He spent every hour that he could at the home with Mom. They talked. They listed to music. They played Scrabble. When I would call, knowing that Dad was always with Mom in the evenings, I would ask what they were doing. He nearly always answered that they were playing Scrabble, that Mom was winning. And then he would add, "But she cheats!" He always maintained his sense of humor, and I think that was one of the things that helped him keep going as long as he did. I asked him once how he did he could devote his entire married life to taking care of her. His answer was simple logic to him.

"I love your Mother."

Yeah.....Dad was tough.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


This posted by my son:

"I just heard the President on the radio saying how great the affordable care act is. He said that the average American family has seen their healthcare costs go down $1800 per year.
I would like to know why my family's health care costs just increased over $2200 for the next year.
Really, Mr. President, really! Please stop blowing smoke up my behind and tell the truth."

And this by my daughter:

"I just picked up a prescription that was $27 last year....$144."

I think that if our president looked me square in the eye and told me that the sky is blue and the leaves are green, I would have to go check for myself.  I once had a friend who was a cop tell me that when talking with someone under suspicion for a crime, he automatically presumed that person was lying.  Isn't it sad that the same presumption can be said about the leader of our nation. 

... and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
John 8:32

Saturday, June 20, 2015

I've Been Playing

When my grandchildren graduate from High School, one of their gifts from Grandma is a photo album.  I enjoy scrapbooking so that is the style I use.  But buying all of the physical supplies has become a bit too expensive for my budget, so I decided to do the scrapbooking on my computer.

Over the years I have collected a vast amount of graphics for this hobby.  So it was just a matter of putting them together with the photos I have of Nicki.  When the pages were complete I printed them out in an 8 in. x 8 in. size, put them into page protectors and then into a nice album.  There is still the expense of photo paper and ink, but that cost me less than the regular scrapbooking supplies.

Although this particular album cost me a bit more than I was planning for.  Earlier this week I started printing pages.  After seven or eight pages, my old printer decided it really didn't like the photo paper.  And although it still works with regular computer paper, it refused to run any more of the thicker photo paper through.  I fiddled with it and couldn't find the problem.  So finally I gave up and called the closest store that carries printers.  Got lucky and talked with a nice young man who sold me a printer that I didn't need a bank loan for.  He also got together the ink I needed as well as more paper and had it all ready for Son to pick up the next evening on his way home from work.

Here are a few of the pages.

I had so much fun working on this.  I wound up with 58 pages.  And Nicki loved the finished album.  And that is what is important.

I think I will keep on scrapbooking my pictures this way.  I have lots of pictures on my computer and on a backup drive, but I like having a regular album to sit and look through now and then. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

What If You Can't Garden - Part 3

There are circumstances where canning and dehydrating don't work for some.  There may be physical limitations or financial ones.  The initial costs of canning equipment and a dehydrator can be prohibitive.  And not everyone has access to Farmers Markets.  And there are some who just plain dislike this sort of activity.  I know if I didn't like to do the physical work involved in the processes, it would be hard for me to be as enthusiastic about it as I am.

That being said, I don't think I can stress strongly enough the necessity of having some sort of backup plan for feeding our families.  We have all read the articles that talk about grocery stores having only three days worth of food in their storerooms.  They count on regular deliveries.  How long do you suppose it would take to clean out a grocery store if those deliveries were interrupted?  I know that if a winter blizzard is forecast for my area, it doesn't take any time at all to wipe out the bread and milk isles.

There are tons of websites and videos out there telling us what we should store and how much of each item.  They have lots of good advice.  However, I have found that I need to pick what works for me and toss the rest.  For instance, many say that a person should store wheat.  And for many, that is good advice.  But if I store wheat, I need a way to grind it into flour.  And common sense tells me that if it is necessary for me to grind wheat to make a loaf of bread, chances are pretty good that the electricity is gone.  Which leaves me having to grind wheat with a hand crank grinder.  That is just not going to be possible for me.  So I store flour. 

I tend to store the basics - flour, yeast, sugar, salt, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, etc.  I know what my family likes to eat, so I store the ingredients. 

Just because people like me enjoy the process of preserving foods, doesn't mean that you need to do things that way.  There is absolutely nothing wrong building up your food storage with commercially canned and dried foods.  The "prepper police" aren't going to show up in your kitchen and slap your hands for not doing home canning.  There is no right way or wrong way to build up food storage.  It is all about the personal preferences of your family.  If nobody likes beans, then storing a couple of buckets of pinto beans is just silly and a waste of space and money.

There are those who say they can't afford food storage.  Where is it written that you have to buy all of it at once?  Even tossing one extra can of tuna or one extra small bag of flour into your shopping cart each time you do your grocery shopping, will help.  It will add up.   It has taken me several years to reach a point where I am comfortable that my family will survive on what I have stored. And who says that you have to have tons of freeze dried food or buckets of whatever.  You don't.  If your family likes pork and beans, then buy a few extra cans when they are on sale.  If spaghetti is a favorite, just put back cans of spaghetti sauce and boxes of noodles.  You just need to keep adding to your storage so that when the time comes where you can't get food, you will have some put back for emergencies.

There are those who go all crazy over foods that are not organically grown or are genetically modified.  I understand this.  I agree with much of what they say.  But the simple truth of the matter is that this granny who lives on a fixed income can not afford to buy all organic or non-GMO.  And at the end of the day, I think what really matters is that there is food to fill a growling stomach.  I seriously doubt that those people world-wide who have suffered famine would question whether the morsel of food they had to eat was organic.  If you look back into history, I think you will find that starving people ate things much worse than genetically modified corn.

I guess what it boils down to is that there is no right or wrong way to build up food storage.  What is important is that we have food put back for emergency times.  There are lots of other things to consider like water and medicines, but those discussions are for another time.

I was talking with someone in my neighborhood a while back.  The conversation came around to the question of what would we do if the grid went down and we no longer had electricity.  Her statement was that the government would bring food to feed her and water to drink.  I asked if she actually believed that an agent of the government would come knocking on her door with food and water for her.  She said, in all seriousness, that she believed that would happen because the government has to take care of us.  I just quietly walked away.

I understand that my food storage methods are not sustainable.  There will come a time when I will run out of food.  There is nothing, given my particular circumstances, that I can do about that.  But the bright side is that we won't starve right away.  We will have a cushion of perhaps a year to see how things shake out.  That gives us time to work out the next step, while others will be busy just trying to stay alive.  Although far from ideal, that's worth something.

For me, the bottom line is this.  I do not ever want to hear my grandchildren cry because they are hungry and I have nothing to give them ease their pain.  I don't know what the future holds.  But more and more I hear rumblings about bad times coming in the fall.  Maybe so...maybe not.  But whatever happens, I sure don't want to be standing in my kitchen amongst empty cupboards, waiting for someone from the government to knock on my door with food and water that I should have had enough sense to store myself.

What If You Can't Garden - Part 2

I have two dehydrators.  Neither are top of the line.  Both came from Fleet Farm where prices seem to be reasonable.  I bought the first one to replace my first dehydrator that did not have a temperature control.  The old one also had the fan in the bottom.  That didn't work out very well as some peas I was drying fell into the hole in the bottom for the fan, effectively stopping the fan blades and basically burning up the unit.  The new dehydrator has the heating and fan in the top.  Much better design.

The second dehydrator came to me via Oldest Son.  He heard me complaining loud and long about my frustration in trying to dry a large number of tomatoes before they turned bad.  Dehydrating takes time.  So he hot-footed it over to Fleet Farm and presented me with a second unit.  I showed my appreciation, as mothers are want to do, by mildly cussing him out for spending his money on something for me.  He promptly told me that this second dehydrator wasn't mine - it was his.  He just chose to store it at my house.  Sneaky kid!

I don't dehydrate meat, other than jerky.  I have seen articles and videos showing others drying hamburger and chicken.  But I am not brave enough to try it.  I know that fats in meat will cause the dried product to go rancid.  I guess I am too cheap frugal to risk spending money on meat only to take the chance of having to toss it.

I do dry a large variety of vegetables.  Because I have no garden, some of these come from the Farmers Market.  They include sliced potatoes, diced potatoes, green peppers and cabbage.  Others come from the frozen food section of the grocery.  When on sale, I stock up and dry sweet corn, peas, peas and carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans and mixed vegetables.  All dry easily, with no blanching beforehand, as they are already blanched before freezing.

Sams Club has a 50 lb. sack of onions for a little over $25.  That's far less than I would pay in a regular grocery.  I either slice them on my mandolin slicer or run them through my Vidalia Chop Wizard, for diced onions.  And yes, drying onions will smell up the living space.  The only room that I can shut off from the rest of the apartment is the bedroom, so I set the onion-filled dehydrators next to the two open windows and shut the door.  It sort of works.  At least nobody in the building has complained, yet. 

My local grocery often runs sales on fresh carrots, making them less expensive than at the Farmers Market.  I dry those either sliced or diced.

I have experimented with dehydrating a variety of fruit, and have had success with canned pineapple, apples and chopped cranberries.  I need to try a few more kinds of fruit as that is one hole in my food storage that should be filled.

I like to dry frozen hash browned potatoes.  They rehydrate in a matter of a few minutes and the taste and texture is identical to the frozen when taken from the freezer and cooked. 

So why mess with dehydrating?  Two reasons.  The first is that dehydrated foods will last for years.  And second, because when most food dries, the volume is significantly reduced, making it possible to store more food in less space.

Some talk about storing dehydrated vegetables in sealed Food Saver bags and then in mylar bags.  I can't afford to do all of that.  So I store my dehydrated foods in heavy duty plastic freezer bags, using double thickness on those vegetables that have sharp edges that can puncture plastic.  Then they go into cardboard banker boxes with lids.  Those fit onto the shelves of a standing shelf unit.  Moisture and light are the enemy of dehydrated foods.  I don't have a basement for storage, so the shelves for both home canned and dehydrated foods are kept in my bedroom, which seems to stay cooler than the rest of my apartment.  So far, after several years, this seems to be working well.  My bedroom will never, ever be featured in a fancy home decorating publication.  I don't care.  I'm not trying to impress anyone.  I'm trying to insure that my family and I stay alive for a while should the time come when this is all we have to eat.

So now you have all this dried food.  What are you going to do with it?

There is a website called "Dehydrate 2 Store."  There you will find videos of how to dehydrate various foods and how to use many of them.   There are also a ton of videos on YouTube about dehydrating and using what you dry.

I have found that some vegetables rehydrate better than others.  Corn will come back to its original form.  So will carrots.  Green beans - not so much.  So my canned vegetables are used for meals and my dehydrated vegetables are used mostly in soups.  I make a lot of soup using my crock pot.  I can eat off a pot of soup for a couple of days and then thicken the rest and have it over biscuits or dumplings.  If I make too much, I just freeze the leftovers for another day.

I have one of those little grinders that looks like a mini food processor.  I use it to grind dried corn into coarse cornmeal.  Mixed half and half with store bought cornmeal, it makes the best cornbread or corn muffins.

I use a lot of onions in cooking.  As I have no cold storage place, dried onions are the best solution for me.  Sometimes I will soak them in water to soften them up a bit and other times I will just toss a handful into whatever I'm cooking.  If I want just the onion flavor, I will run some dried onion through my little grinder until it becomes a coarse powder.  I do the same with dried sweet green peppers. 

Dehydrated potato slices work well for scalloped potatoes.  When I dry them, I slice them uniformly using my mandolin slicer.  I suppose you could use a food processor for this step.  As they are sliced, I toss them into a bucket of cold water to which I have added a little lemon juice.  This keeps them from turning brown.  Then the slices are blanched for 3 minutes and spread in a single layer on the dehydrator trays.  I usually let them run overnight and most times they are crispy dry by morning.

The big food storage companies sell #10 cans of freeze dried fruits and vegetables.  These are not the same as home dehydrated.  Freeze drying is a whole different process.  I have never tried the freeze dried food.  I understand that in some respects, it is superior to home dried.  But I just can't justify the cost.  So unless I find that pot of gold at the end of that rainbow, I guess I will continue on with drying my own foods.

There will be one more post in this series within the next day or two. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What If You Can't Garden - Part 1

There is a blog called "Thoughts From Frank and Fern" that I regularly read.  If you don't, you should.  They are a wealth of information on homestead related subjects as well as communications.  Fern just posted a question to her readers concerning sustainable gardening.  She wanted to know what folks would do with their gardens if they knew that a catastrophic event was just around the corner.  You can read the article here.  I'll wait.

Now Fern's article got me to thinking.  There are many of us who, for a myriad of reasons, can not garden.  In my case, health issues prevent that activity.  And I live in a small apartment in the burbs, surrounded by concrete and asphalt.  The very best I can do to grow food are buckets of tomatoes on the communal deck of my building and herbs in pots on my windowsills.  That's not going to go very far to keep me alive for a year.  So I have come up with a few solutions to the problem that might give others in the same circumstances an idea or two.

If you can afford to invest in a pressure canner, jars and lids, do so.  I realize that the initial cost can stretch a fixed income budget, but it is well worth it in the long run.  Also look into the price of a dehydrator.  It should have the ability to set the temperature for various foods.  There are blogs and videos out there that tout the wonders of the top of the line canners and dehydrators.  They would be nice to own, but not necessary.  I have a pressure canner that cost around $60 at Walmart and another that cost a bit more that was a gift from one of my sons.  Together they cost less than the top of the line canner, and both work just fine.  My two dehydrators are from Fleet Farm and together cost less than half of the top of the line dehydrator, even with the addition of extra trays and plastic mesh liners.  

So if you don't have a garden, what do you can, you ask.  I'll tell you.

I can meat - hamburger, meatballs, beef roast, beef cubes, pork roast, pork cubes, ham cubes, chicken breast chunks, chicken breast cubes, whole chicken thighs, turkey shreds (cooked, removed from the bones and cut into about one-inch pieces), broth from cooking the turkey, bacon, sausage, pepperoni.  And if I am lucky enough to have a hunter in the family who gets a deer, I can venison.  All but the venison are purchased on sale at the grocery.  I freeze enough sale meat for about two weeks of meals and can the rest.  Should I lose electricity for a length of time, I still am able to can up the meat in the freezer before it goes bad.  Home canned meat will keep for years if stored in a relatively cool, dark place.  And it tastes good.  And doesn't get freezer burn.

I can vegetables.  The Farmer's Market is my favorite place to find these.  I have canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato sauce with green peppers and onions, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, cabbage, sauerkraut, Amish slaw, potato cubes, potato chunks with carrots, potato cubes with peas and carrots, and butternut squash, all from the Farmer's Market.  Except the peas.

My local grocery runs an occasional sale on frozen vegetables - usually 10 for $10.  When this sale occurs, I stock up as much as possible.  Then I can the frozen vegetables.  And why would anybody in their right mind can frozen vegetables, you ask?  Because they keep longer in jars than in a freezer.  Because I can most of them in half-pint jars that are just right for one or two people, and some in pint jars for meals and other uses.  And because I can't grow them myself, but I still want jars of canned vegetables on my shelves.  And because most of the time it is cheaper to can the frozen vegetables than it is to buy individual cans at the store.  At present I have on my shelves from frozen:
Sweet corn, peas, peas and carrots, mixed vegetables and green beans.  All taste just like the canned vegetables sold in stores with the exception of the green beans.  Those are just a bit softer, but that doesn't bother me although some might not like them.

I can fruit in various forms.  The city stores don't seem to carry lugs of fruit for canning, but the outlying farming community stores sometimes do.  I have canned both peaches and pears from those stores.  We have a number of apple orchards in my area.  Most are tourist trap places where there are pony rides and camel rides and those inflated bouncy things for the kids and restaurants and gift shops that sell everything apple related and oh, yeah, you can pick your own apples at highly inflated prices.  I no longer go to those places.  There are a few smaller orchards that sell bushels of apples for cheap, if you don't care that each apple isn't the perfect size or the perfect color or it has a blemish on the skin.  I don't care.  I'm going to peel them and cut them up and make something from them.  As long as the quality of the apples are good inside the skin, I don't worry about appearances.  I'm kind of that way with people, too.  Anyway I make and can applesauce and apple pie filling, mostly.  If have made apple jam and may try some apple butter this fall.  I also make jam and jelly out of whatever fruit I can find.  And I get cases of cranberries from the Farmers Market that are used for cranberry juice and cranberry sauce.

I think we all like homemade soup.  This can be successfully canned as well.  I make turkey vegetable, ham and bean, split pea and ham, vegetable soup and chili.  All are great when you just want a quick meal.  Just open a jar, add a pint of meat if you want, heat it up and dinner is served.  I also keep canned Great Northern beans on my shelves.  That is sort of like a convenience food because I don't need to soak the beans overnight or wait a length of time for them to cook.  They are cooked and ready to use right from the jar.  I may can a few other varieties of beans just to have on hand for quick meals.

This post is already too long, so I will talk about dehydrating tomorrow.  There are many other foods that people home can, according to their own families' likes and dislikes.  What I have listed are the basics that are on my shelves.  I tend to can ingredients except for the soups and then put dishes together at the cooking stage of things.  Works better for me that way.  And this post is not intended to be a brag fest about my canning abilities.  It is all about putting an idea or two out there with the hope that someone else in my position - retired, living on a fixed income and being an apartment dweller - may find this helpful.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Time Flies

It seems like just yesterday she was a baby, all sweet and cuddly.

And the next day she was a little girl, charming whoever she met.  Especially her Grandma.

And time seemed to move even faster...

and faster.

Until last evening when my firstborn granddaughter graduated from High School.  Here she is with her mother and brother right after the ceremony.

Congratulations, Nicki.  I love you with all of my heart.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Chicken Drumsticks

So my grocery order was delivered today.  The store had family packs of either chicken drumsticks or thighs on sale for 99 cents per pound.  I had ordered four packages of drumsticks.  Neither Son nor I are particularly fond of chicken thighs.  The idea was to repackage the drumsticks in meal sized portions and freeze.

When I took the packages out of the grocery bags I found that whoever did the shopping had given me four packages of chicken thighs.  Aarrgh!

The delivery guy was long gone.  I suppose I could have called the office and complained.  But when I thought about it, I decided that I'm pretty lucky to be able to have groceries delivered at all.  And the people who do the shopping are volunteers.  They don't get paid.  And people make mistakes.  And it's not like we are going to starve if we don't have those drumsticks.  So I let it go.

Now I have to decide what to do with about 20 lbs. of chicken thighs that I didn't want in the first place.

I dug through my empty canning jars and set out some wide mouth quarts, washed them and stuffed them full of chicken thighs.  Some of the pieces were so big that it only took three to fill a jar.  I added water to about an inch below the rim, wiped the rim with a paper towel soaked in vinegar to get rid of any meat bits and fat, put on the lids and rings and ran them through my pressure canner for an hour and a half.

And now I have eleven quarts of chicken cooling on my kitchen table.  This meat will be really good in chicken and dumplings or chicken salad or chicken pot pie or chicken and rice.  The canning process cooks it so it is falling off the bone tender.

And now I am on my way to the kitchen for a bowl of ice cream.  With chocolate sauce.  And sprinkles.  Which is my reward for spending a good share of the day canning when it wasn't in the plan.  It almost always seems to work out anyway, though.  :)

Friday, June 5, 2015

I'll Be Away...

for a time.  Maybe a month...maybe more.  I have several irons in the fire at the moment that need my attention and quite frankly, I am stalled as far as blog posts go.  So it is time to refresh and renew.  I'll still be reading your posts and occasionally leaving a comment.  And hopefully coming back with some fresh ideas for posts.  Take care.