March 2014: The Children Are Tender

Caregiving, teaching little kids to read, and riding in the pickup with Farmer John; I tweet, pin, and blog, from my home in rural Kansas. If you've landed here looking for information about my books, visit my author's page by clicking this link: A. Born. Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Busy Days

This has been such a busy past few weeks for Farmer John.  He has finished baling hay and hauled most of his big bales home.  With our son's help, he has begun harvesting corn.  And he has been working hard to bring our 300 head or so of cattle home for the winter, as pasture season ends October 15.  Today was cattle moving day.  I woke up at 4:45 and did devotions, then prepared a noon meal for our son's birthday.  The menu included meatloaf, roasted golden potatoes, Italian garlic bread, fruit, and steamed broccoli.  Dessert was Jon's favorite lemon bars.  At the end of this post I'll include an approximation of the way I made the meatloaf today.  I don't think my family is just being polite when they say they like this meat loaf--hope not because I make it pretty often!

I wasn't able to ride along on the cattle drive this year because of a rosacea breakout--I have to avoid the sun and wind when this happens.  But daughter Melinda sent photos so I could share in the day anyhow--and the troops will all gather here tonight for pizza!

Rebekah surveys the pasture of cattle from the sunroof of the parked  truck.  

We call Farmer John "the cow whisperer."  He casually strolls out and calls them a couple of times, and they follow.  

These three were eating popcorn on the ride to the pasture.  

When the truck stopped Rebekah and Isaac peered out the back window to see how Poppy gets all those cattle to cooperate with him.  Our "twins" will soon be 4 years old.  

Rebekah had Logan pinned here "I was squishing him!"  

Son-in-law, Brian, grandson, Daniel, and nephew John Lee encourage the cattle along.  

Logan read the littles a book to keep them entertained.  

Grandson Daniel, 11,  walked the entire 3 miles and was a real help this year.  
And here is a collage of photos from day before yesterday, when Melinda and her boys and I climbed the hill across the road from our house and played on the hay bales stacked there.  Loved this time together.


Grammy's Meatloaf
(All ingredients approximate!)

For the loaf:

2 lbs lean ground beef
Ketchup (about a cup)
Italian seasoned bread crumbs (about 1.5 cups)
1/4 cup applesauce instead of an egg (for allergic kids)
2 Tablespoons dehydrated minced onion
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper

For the topping:
Ketchup (about 2 cups)
Low sodium soy sauce (2 or 3 tablespoons)
Brown sugar (about a half cup...or so...)
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice, skip it if you only have the bottled stuff
1 or 2 cloves minced garlic

Form into a loaf, pour topping over, bake at 350 until safe internal temperature for beef, about an hour.  Watch to be sure the sweet topping doesn't start to scorch around the edges, add a little hot water if this happens (if your beef is very lean this is more likely).  Best to use a smallish pan so the topping pools around the loaf.   

I made the Pioneer Woman's lemon bars.  They are tart and delicious.  Be sure to refrigerate them for several hours before serving and don't forget to butter the pan really well, or use plenty of nonstick cooking spray.  Here's a link to this recipe:  

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Two Weeks Into September

I've often said I don't understand how anyone can survive building a new house.  I've recently painted the kitchen cupboards, chairs, and walls, and the decisions about paint color and which pulls to choose for the drawers were hard for me!  This is not to speak of the agony I went through choosing new laminate for the countertops and island.  "It's just stuff" I kept telling myself.  But I waffled more during this remodel than at any other point in our 45 years of marriage because there is the overwhelming feeling that I won't be doing it again.  We remodel on the average of every 15 years or so, and next time around I'll be 80.  I don't see going through all this at that point in time, but who knows!

At my caregiving blog I've written about some of the struggles we are facing now, but this is my "Count Your Blessings" blog!  The Lord is gracious to provide us respite in these little things that bring joy.

Here are before and after photos of the countertops:

I like my new light fixture.  I couldn't find anything I liked and finally realized I was looking for a cross between farmhouse style and Rivendell -- which definitely does not exist in any lighting catalog.  I think I probably ended up with shabby chic--but I love it.  
And here are some fall decorations that I've put out piecemeal this week.  I am wishing for fall temperatures to go with the decor!

Painting by my mom, Anna Ruth.  She loved this little owl.  Don't you love the little vintage pumpkins?  They are handmade by my cousin's daughter.  Find her Etsy store at MyVintageNestbyApril

I don't think I've ever used this coffeepot that I received as a wedding gift for its intended purpose.   It matches the pottery pattern I chose back then and still love.  

And, of course I have to include photos of the grandkids.
These two were making play pizzas and graciously offered me a bowl of black olives.  

We didn't realize how much our oldest grandson resembles his grandfather until I found this photo of Farmer John at the same age Daniel is now.  The meme that Daniel found online suits him to a tee--it says, "Since I didn't get my Hogwarts letter,  I'm going to the Shire, and making a shield, unless I feel The Force, or find a wardrobe.

And here's the girl with the golden curls...

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

August, Late in the Afternoon...

I went for a walk about 5 or so this evening, and shadows were lengthening.  I tried in vain to capture the beauty with photos, but the digitized version provided just a dim copy of what my eyes could see.  

Sunlight glittered from cottonwood leaves as though they were mirrored liquid.  Dragonflies swooped and soared across the road in front of me, catching motes of light and reflecting sunbeam-filtered prisms from their wings.  The light itself seemed living and moving, ahead of me, around me.  The air was heavy with a scent of lush green from an August during which heavy rain and leaf-crushing hail have fallen.  Yes, I found joy in this walk.  

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Sand Hill Plum Jelly

My grandmother canned food from necessity rather than for pleasure, and to my knowledge she never in her lifetime took a photo of anything she canned.  She just fed it to us, with love, and we were humbled by the knowledge of the sheer hard work behind every stockpot full of bacon seasoned green beans, bowl of stewed apples, or cut glass dish of pickled beets.  

 I have a confession.

I don't generally believe that canning one's own produce is worth the trouble.  As a Kansas farm wife of 45 years, that's quite a dark reveal.

Home canning doesn't work well with my personality; I am germ-phobic on one hand but carefree on the other, as I seldom measure ingredients when I cook.  I am intimidated by the dire warnings of disastrous outcomes if I should fail to follow every direction perfectly.

Also, I'm sorry, but home canning makes a horrific mess.  Again, I have a personality conflict with the whole procedure.  I like fresh produce as much as the next person, but when it comes to "laying it by," a little voice in my head whispers that I can buy a can of green beans in the store for 89 cents, so why would I spend an entire day picking, stemming, boiling, and worrying about whether I have done things safely...or not?

I like to freeze things.  I even freeze tomatoes, if you can believe that.  Heath officials and extension agents do not generally issue frightening warnings about home frozen food.  But that's another blog post.

An exception to all the angst I've just described is jelly, specifically Sand Hill (or wild) plum jelly.  For the reward of a shelf full of jewel-toned, tart and sweet deliciousness made from fruit that grows wild across the country road from my house, I will wash, boil, strain, juice, read, reread, and read again the tiny print of the directions on the Sure Jell box.  I will gladly dirty most of the pots and pans I own, and deal with sugar spills and sticky countertops.  It's worth it, even though I treat the whole process more as an art project than as a way of laying by food for the winter.  And although I do my very best to process the jelly exactly according to direction, I am comforted that it would be a foolish bacterium that would even attempt to survive in something that is at once highly acidic and yet sweet as jelly made with the very sour juice of a wild plum.

At Thanksgiving this year I will fill crystal jelly dishes with this jelly and in response to my mother-in-law's query will reply modestly and matter of factly, "Oh yes, of course this is homemade. I put it up last summer.  Filled the pantry. The Sand Hill plums were beautiful this year."

Note:  These plums may be wild plums rather than Sand Hill plums--a Google search tells me that in our area of Kansas wild plum dominates, while the Sand Hill plum predominates in Western Kansas.  But we have always called them Sand Hill plums!