Saturday, June 26, 2010

Today's bike ride

I can wear shoes again, for longer than a dog walk. Poor Bear would have been better off had I not put shoes on for that walk...but I didn't know what was in store for him, of course.

I parked at a church with a large cemetery. Most churches around here have a cemetery. I went to look while I was eating an apple. Lots of people buried in the mid-late 1800's. More modern ones too, of course.

This fence was around a grave of someone who died in the mid 1800's. That has to be the most ornate fencing I've ever seen.

Lots of green fields right now. I can't tell if they're actually growing something to sell or they're not being used anymore. Probably hay fields.

I came across this wonderful set of blackberry bushes on the side fo the road. Most of them are a little tart but I cautiously ate one and it was one of the best berries I've ever had. So I pigged out on as many black ones that I could reach.

Then I came across this non existent house. All that was left were 2 chimneys, one on each end of the house and the stairway. The oak trees on either side of the entrance made for a nice shade break.

I was riding by a field and happened to see this stripped dragonfly. I passed by but decided that I had to turn around and try to get a picture of it since I'd never seen such a cool looking one before. I couldn't get very close because every time I tried, he would fly away and I had to follow him.

I was desperate after 11 miles to find a restroom somewhere. I hadn't passed a single place with one (at least not a public place). I sat down under a mimosa tree and ate an orange and half of a giant carrot. I spotted a yard sale down the road a stretch so I rode over and asked if I was anywhere near a gas station. She said there was one not a mile from where we were but then she asked if I needed to use the bathroom. She was so nice. She let me into her house and I was so happy! At least in the back roads of Utah it's easy enough to find a place far enough away from houses and between passing cars that if there's an emergency, you can go outside...not here! When I came back out, she asked if I had enough water and food. I did but thanked her profusely for letting me use her bathroom.

Pretty sunflower next to the mimosa tree.

Here's the flower of a mimosa tree. I didn't know until this week what they're called. I always just called them old ladies.

I passed by this house that was the most unique house I saw all day. They had paintings done on the outside and they were done really well! I think the house was least all the other sides were but I couldn't tell about the front. It was kind of falling apart on the other sides. I really liked the front!

The garden was pretty too.
Close up of one corner. Very nicely done.

Kudzu field.

I passed a lot of tree farms today. This section is growing crape myrtles. All the flowering trees were so pretty!

Seeing as how I love barns and farms, this little collection of barns caught my eye. I love being able to ride in the country.

All ride long I was dreaming about those berries so when I passed by them again, I pigged out some more! Yum!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Plantain leaves

So I was doing some research on plantain. The weed, not the banana like fruit. We have a bunch of it growing in our yard. I haven't mowed in about 2 weeks and it needs it...but the chiggers have kept my feet shoe free for a while now so I haven't been able to do. I saw all the plantain and wondered what it was good for because it has to be good for something. Turns out I was right. It is great for all sorts of skin problems like diaper rash, bee stings, bug bites, itchy skin....etc. Someone mentioned that they just take a leaf or two and chew it up then put it on the bug bites. My chigger bites were itching so I ran outside and picked a couple of leaves. Amazing. It almost instantly stopped itching!! This is good stuff! Then I got some hives on my wrist so I ran out and got another leaf for my arm. It took about a full minute to work but it definitely worked. So I looked up a recipe for plantain salve. I will be collecting a bunch of leaves from the plantains this weekend and starting the salve because that is amazing stuff and with all the itching I experience from my hives I will definitely put it to good use! Now I need to find a source of free baby food jars!

Field of plantain...not great pictures since it's dark out, sorry about that. The seed heads are probably familiar to you.

There's a picture of the leaves. You can tell it's plantain because the leaves have several midribs running down the leaf instead of veins forking off the main midrib.

Plantain at work. It does turn the skin slightly green but it's worth it! I just moved it around my foot as needed and it continued to work its magic.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Official torture the dogs night...and an experiment gone wrong

We have our stove plugged in finally! Adam plugged it in last week when we were cooking for 10 people. It's very nice to have back. I've made really good use of it so far. Tonight I canned some pasta sauce, then when I was making the enchiladas, I had a couple skillets going for different things. Plus, I've baked my breakfast granola, the enchiladas, and my sour dough breads.

Tonight was torture the dogs night here at our house. I tortured Bear and Jasmine by giving them their summer shaves. I tortured Jack by pulling off a really big tick that somehow I had missed the last few days (I did actually feel bad about his sentence for the evening) and Tucker's special brand of torture was that he was locked outside (within eye shot of me) while each of the other dogs got to be inside with me while I tortured them. Poor dogs....rough life!

Now, about the experiment... I don't know how I came across the recipe but when I saw it, it struck me as something I would have to try. I love making things from scratch. I usually find the flavor to be better of their store bought counterparts. So the recipe I found was for nixtamal. It's the stuff they use to make masa harina which is used to make corn tortillas. It comes in dried form. But this is fresh stuff so it's still wet. Sounded easy enough. First, you boil dried field or dent corn (not sweet corn) in pickling lime water. Then you let it sit there for two weeks in a sealed container. I resisted the urge to see if it was growing all sorts of disgusting things because I didn't want to let any germs in. Finally, two weeks passed and I was eager to give it a try.

It wasn't as scary looking as this picture makes it look. It was white corn (no pink tints). The coloring came from the reflection off the container. No mold, no bugs, no scary looking things.

Next step is to grind them in the food processor, a cup at a time. It warned about adding too much water or else it would be sticky and wouldn't form into a ball. I added only 2 Tbsp of water to the whole thing and it wouldn't form into a ball so I ended up adding some corn meal in to make it drier and more ballable...if that's a word. But to no avail. As a last resort, I plopped it all on the griddle and spread it out as thin as I could. I was hoping for some sort of a sheet of corn tortilla. I was going to make enchilada pie instead of enchiladas.

My lovely sheet of weirdness. It wasn't cooking through so I put it on a cookie sheet and slid it into the oven. The outside got hard and crunchy while the inside was a toffee like texture that stuck to our teeth. Very strange. I will try making tortilla soup with it to see if it makes it edible. Though it didn't work out, it was actually pretty tasty stuff. I ended up having to go buy corn tortillas to finish up the enchiladas. They didn't taste as good as mine though. I will figure it out though...and they will be good. I love a good challenge.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chiggers and sourdough

The blueberries I picked had a little surprise for me. They were being protected by chiggers. I didn't know I had gotten biten by chiggers though. When I was ready for bed, I took my socks off and my ankles instantly started to itch like crazy. I ran downstairs and slathered them with a baking soda paste. It helped somewhat. In the morning, they were still really itchy. They looked like hives though. I was curious why I still had hives. They never stay that long. But as the day went on, they started itching worse and they were getting bigger. My ankles swelled up with water retention as well. I was miserable all day. The next day, the bites had gotten so big that I decided I would either have to kill myself to put myself out of my misery or pop all the bites to get some relief. Well, seeing as how I love life, I decided to pop them. It did offer some instead of being horribly painful and itchy, now they were only slightly painful and itchy. Mike lent me his flip flops so that I could wear something that didn't touch the bites and also wouldn't have to wear socks which were sticking to the sores and causing a lot of irritation. They were huge on me though and really hurting me. Lanette had a pair that were mostly big enough for me so I traded Mike's for her's. I don't know how anyone can wear those things out of more than absolute necessity?!? It is so uncomfortable to have something smashed between your toes! And they offer no support of any kind. Not my cup of tea, for sure. I will celebrate when I get to wear real shoes again!

This is today, day 4. They are looking a lot better than they were and are oozing a lot less as well but haven't stopped yet. Lovely, huh? I get to show them off at church tomorrow.

A couple of weeks ago, I had started some sourdough starter. Every morning, I have to stir it, then discard a certain amount, then feed it so it can continue to grow and mature. About a week ago, I started taking the cast off and making things with it. I made sourdough pancakes, then sourdough brownies, sourdough cornbread and sourdough blueberry pancakes. I decided that it seemed ready to make bread with so I finally did that today. It is so good!
sourdough blueberry pancakes

sourdough cornbread soaked in milk and drizzled with honey. Adam really likes his cornbread this way. I stuck my nose up to it for a long time but I really like it and love having it for breakfast when we have some leftover.

Rustic Country Sourdough Bread. It was really good. I'll have to post the recipe another time since my computer doesn't let me paste and copy anything. The rest of the stuff I didn't get any pictures of.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dinner and the old blueberry farm

A few minutes from the house is an old blueberry farm. It was once a large blueberry farm. The county bought it for a power station. But he told them that they could only buy it if the left up a portion of the bushes so that everyone who wanted could enjoy them. True to their word, they have left the bushes and haven't fenced any of it off. No one takes care of it though so it's becoming overgrown with wild berry brambles, and trees. The bushes are so large that they are starting to grow together and you have to shove your way through them. I didn't think any would be ready but I just wanted to stop in on my way home to get a feel for how they are coming along.

I walked around and right when I was getting ready to turn back, I spotted a bush with some large ripe berries. There weren't a lot but I eagerly gleaned what I could. I passed a few more bushes with several berries ready to be picked and some not quite ready but ready enough for me to take anyway. I managed to pick about 1 pound. I was hot and sweaty (it had gotten over 100 degrees with very high humidity)and my arms were scratched up. I didn't have a basket to collect them in so I was carrying them in my shirt, in a little pocket I made by folding it over and holding it with one hand. It made picking a little harder one-handed but I managed ok. When I got to the car, the only thing I had to put them in was Adam's hat so that's where they went. They are so good! The best part of berry picking is that you can eat as many as you want. ;o)

Then after I got back, I got busy making dinner. I have an electric skillet and a little toaster oven so cooking takes longer these days. I can only bake one thing at a time and I had two things to bake and 2 things I needed the skillet I was in the kitchen most of the evening.

I had some things in my fridge that HAD to be used up: the last cucumber given to me by Anne, some potatoes given to me by Lanette when she realized she couldn't use them all before they went bad, most of a bag of spinach, a red bell pepper and a couple tomatoes. I had enough leftover roast chicken and gravy that I didn't have to cook but I hate to throw food away so I froze most of the chicken. This is what I came up with.

Cheesy Veggie & Chicken Bake

I sauteed chicken and some garlic in oil, then added some spices. Then I put that in the baking dish. I then sauteed the bell pepper and spinach together. After that was done, they went i the baking dish too. While the potatoes were boiling in the skillet, I melted some cream cheese in a small bowl, using the water as a double boiler. I poured the melted cheese over the chicken &veggie mixture and mixed them up. When the potatoes were done boiling, I poured them into a colander and used the skillet again to quickly heat up the chopped tomatoes. I poured them over the other mixture and topped with the last of my parmesan and baked it for about 20 minutes.

Then, to use up the rest of my produce, I decided on a cucumber & potato soup.

Gurken Und Kartoffelsuppe

1 medium cucumber
4 medium potatoes, Peel And Dice
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 green onion, Grated
1 teaspoon dried dill weed or 1 tablespoon fresh dill, Chopped

1 Peel the cucumber and slice it lengthwise.
2 Scoop out seeds with a spoon and discard.
3 Dice cucumber.
4 In a heavy 2 1/2-quart saucepan boil potatoes in salted water until the potatoes are very soft.
5 Pour potatoes and cooking liquid into a sieve or food mill set over a large bowl.
6 Force potatoes through.
7 Return to the saucepan.
8 Stir in pepper, cream, milk, grated onion and the cucumber.
9 Simmer gently about 5 minutes or until the cucumber is tender.
10 Add dill and season to taste.
11 Serve hot.

I just mashed the potatoes with a potato masher. I omitted the green onion and added some crushed red pepper flakes.

The whole house smelled so good while the cheesy bake thing was cooking and it tasted even better than it smelled. And the soup was really good as well.

I also made some sourdough cornbread but that was baking while I was eating so I only had a taste of it. I think it will be delicious in a bowl with honey and milk for breakfast...and maybe some blueberries thrown on top. ;o)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Using my anniversary flowers

Remember all those flowers Adam gave me for our anniversary? Well, I hung the roses and a few other flowers to dry. The rest of the flowers wre not good drying flowers so I kept them as long as I could but ended up having to throw them out. I found this silver vase(?) at the thrift store. Not really sure what it is. And I also found a silver plant pot stand at a thrift store. They don't belong together but I like them together. They are completely tarnished and Adam jokes about cleaning them up for me but I love patina! So I cut down all the rose bunches (I can't even begin to remember how many dozen there are) and filled the vase with them. It's on my dining room table. The table cloth is also from a thrift store. I really LOVE thrift stores! Great prices for some quality stuff...of course you can get junk there too but it's amazing what some people decide they no longer want. I like giving new life to things.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My stump puller

I came home from work one day to find this. Adam had chainsawed all the branches off our bushes. He had pulled one of the 8 stumps out with his Yukon. He had also done the same to two of our crape myrtles. The ayrd has to be regraded so it doesn't flood the basement every time it rains and these were all in the way. There's still one more tree that has to go but we hae to pay someone to do that since it's the tall pine tree in front of the house and next to the power lines.

Branches from 3 of the 8 bushes. That white wood was there from when Barry redid the bay window. The branches had grown in around them and we couldn't get them out so we had to look at them in the living room.

Sadly, this is my mulberry tree. It even had ripening berries on it. It was hanging over the dog pen and dogs and mulberries are not a good mixture. Plus, it was hanging over the area where I want my clothes line to go.

The branches from the other bushes.

Adam with his favorite new toy. It's a stump puller that you attach to the back of the Yukon. The more pressure that's put on it, the tighter it gets. He had great fun using it.

The first stump he pulled out with it. It was the largest of all of them. He was quite proud of his truck!

Barry and Mike came the next day and helped get the rest of the stumps out as well as chip the branches.

Unhooking the last stump.
Turns out our house was really dirty behind the bushes and will have to be pressure washed but not until the hole that was causing the flooding is closed up.
Adam wasn't planning on doing this all already but he gave me a portion of the front yard for my garden and it's a long process of getting it ready to plant in so he got started right away and figured that if he had the tools out, he needed to just do it all.
So now I have my hole garden area to work with. But it also means that we have no bushes as our natural curtains anymore. We've never been able to see out the front window before since the bushes were so tall so we never worried about curtains. But now that the windows are wide open I have to figure out something for curtains. One of my many projects to work on now.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lost in Arcade

Ok, back to the same day that I went to the farm park and found the abandoned house. After I was done trapsing around the house, I got back in my car and made my way back to where I was trying to get to. I stopped in a gas station and washed off my arms, legs and face to get as much poison ivy residue as possible. Then I parked at the church and set off on my bike ride.

View from the church parking lot.

After a few miles I passed a sign for Booth Memorial Park. I like reading about history, and since this was a memorial, I figured I would find out a bit of history, I pulled in. Turns out it was an old family cemetery that was donated to the city. It' still kept up as a cemetery for that family. This headstone was the oldest. I couldn't quite make out the birth date of the two people on this headstone but they were both born in 1790 something!

This was a different headstone with beautiful, relief carvings on it.

Prime farming land...anything will grow in this fertile soil out here.

Passed by Bear Creek Reservoir. I road up to the parking lot and the attendant let me in free. I was unclipping my pedals and I gashed up my right calf pretty good on the pedal that got scrapped along the ground in the accident a couple of years ago. I think it's the 5th time it's gashed me. I think it's time to take a dremel to it.

This is Middle Ocoone River. I took a wrong turn not too long after this and ended up in Arcade. Then Adam called and said they were going to be wrapping up the game soon so I turned back and I was riding with a nice tailwind this time so I got back to the car much faster than I had gotten out to the furthest point. I got home in time to take a shower while theyw ere putting things away so I was right on time.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cinnamon rolls and double blessings

It all started last Sunday. I wasn't home from church long when Barry called and asked me to bring over the keys to Adam's car so he could move the Yukon which was parked over there. He told me that he had something for me from Anne, some one in the ward. So I walked over and handed him the keys and he told me that the thing he had for me was a big pickle crock. Anne's aunt had it and no longer wanted it. She was going to throw it away but since Anne had recently (3 months ago) been to my house and saw my butter churn crock in the dining room. She asked if she could take it to give to someone...that someone being me! I've never shared a picture of my butter churn either so here they are, my new crock collection. They're actually made by the same company and both in perfect condition, with lids. I have seen plenty of crocks in flea markets/antique stores but never with the original lid and even then, they are SUPER expensive. I paid $15 for the churn at a thrift store. Without the original lid, or often no lid at all, they go for anywhere from $60-100. $60 would be for one with a big crack that makes it unuseable. So, to thank Anne for the cool crock, I made some peanut butter buddy bars. I put some on a plate to take over and the rain started pouring down so I stayed home. The next day they were kind of hard and dry so I didn't take them over. I wanted to make cinnamon rolls anyway for her. I don't know why...but I just realy wanted it to be cinnamon rolls. So I tried each evening but other things got in the way. So today I decided I was doing it no matter what. Adam asked me to make a bunch since I don't make them very often at all so I did a double batch. It wouldn't have been so bad but I was making them in the little toaster oven so only one pan at a time could cook so I staggered the batches. As a result, I spent way too long in the kitchen today! Getting ready to go in... well, 2 were ready, 2 still required 30 minutes of rising. I used the recipe from the Better Homes and Garden cookbook. I've used it before. I wanted to use a different recipe but it would have taken even longer so I am SOOOOOO glad that I didn't. I used the icing recipe from that book too but it was disgusting. Luckily I tasted it before I put it on. So I used the icing recipe from my Amish cookbook. Nothing from that book has ever been bad. Yummy. Cinnamon rolls anyone??? I've got way too many and too sick from eating them all day to even want to think about them being here. I think I'll be freezing most of the rest. I took the rolls over to Anne's...just in time for desert, it turned out. I found out that her favorite foods are sweet bread and cinammon rolls. Her husband was just bringing in a few things from the garden and she offered me a tour of the garden so I took it. Her husband loaded me down with romaine lettuce, a couple cucumbers, a couple yellow squash and a handful of green beans. She said she'd call me when her tomatoes start turning ripe so I can come get some. She has a bunch of tomato plants but doesn't can any so she has to give what they don't eat away. I am a lucky girl, being so blessed. :o)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The house that time forgot

With more time left after my visit to the farm park, I decided to head out to Winder to ride my bike. I had strapped it to the top of my car for this purpose. I drove too far and passed my turn. So I turned onto the next available road.

Trying to get my bearings, I pulled into this driveway. A teeny, tiny little house with the owner's clothes hanging out to dry. Very cute little place. Then, when I figured out where I was, I continued on my way.

When I saw this abandoned house, I was drawn to it. It was falling apart, literally. The back half had already fallen over and was crumpled in a heap with the other half threatening to fall at any moment. I parked the car and walked around the outside, peering into the windows. The smell of must and male cat hit me strongly. The mold was thick on the walls and clothes and furniture were strewn all over. I wish I could have gone in to explore all the things left behind but I didn't dare. I walked through thick patches of poison ivy as I made my way to the back of the house.

When I got to the back and saw what laid before me, I began to put together a story about what happened. I have two scenerios. One day, when an older couple was out working in their garden, or fixing something in the barn, they heard a thunderous sound and they ran out to see that their house crumbling before their eyes. Distruaght, they never returned to salvage what they could. But I think my other story is more likely. An old man's wife had died and he was living alone. One day, he didn't wake up either. His family wasn't interested in the house, barn or any of the belongings found in either. They left everything as is and never returned to it. Eventually, the house fell into complete disrepair until it fell apart. Now, it has been sold and a subdivision is being built on the land so the house (and all the stories) will disappear with it.

There is nothing this house didn't have in it, except for hopefully the body of the man mentioned in the above story. Empty suitcases, furniture, clothes, a meat grinder, medicine, glass jars, kitchen equipment, papers, books.

Sifting through everything, I found a briefcase that contained a scrapbook of newspaper articles. The first article mentioned two children with the last name of Smith who died in a house fire. I think that they were Robert's sons. Robert P. Smith is who I believe owned this house. His name was on the papers I found as well as every book. The other articles in the scrapbook were all of people who died in fires. Was I looking at the papers of a man whose sons died in a fire he set? Or did the freak accident that caused his sons' deaths cause him to be obbsessed about others who had met the same fate? I think he sold fire alarms for a living from some of the other papers I saw so I am more inclined to think that his sons' deaths were a complete accident and it spurred him in to action to save the lives of others. He was also good at short hand. I felt guilty for peering into this man's life but it was fascinating that I could find so much information in a heap of rubble from more than 30 years ago. Looking at the evidence, I think Robert met his demise on December 30, 1973, possibly Jan. 1, 1973. He was the guy that had all the papers delivered to his house and he stuffed all the papers and handed them out to the deliverers. That would explain the stacks of newspapers tucked inside the barn. They were delivered but he never woke up to get them ready and so there they have stayed for 3 decades, preserved as if they were sealed in a time capsule.

The clothes also tell me it was in the 70's. This jacket was by itself but there were a LOT of them.

A neat stack of moth and bug eaten clothes laid in a huge pile. How curious, I thought, for them to be stacked so nicely on the ground. But upon further inspection, this pile was the closet. When the house fell apart, the clothes hanging on the rod landed on each other.

They were even still on their hangers.

Seeing these 2 quilts killed me that I had to leave them behind.
A woman, preparing her family for the cold winter ahead, spent hours, bent over the fabric, painstakingly hand piecing and quilting these beauitful quilts, works of art even. I could see the dresses, shirts and aprons that the family members had worn before the clothes were too worn to wear and the fabric was salveged to make these quilts. It kept generations warm, it provided color to a drab, humble dwelling. They were something the maker was proud of. I could feel the love put into them as I touched the fabrics and admired the skilled work of the needle.

Robert and his wife are gone now but they have touched my life. Not because they did anything profound (at least not that I know of) but because they simply were. I wish I could have met them and heard their stories. But I only have speculations and some pictures of some old things that soon no one will ever have the opportunity to see again. Progress pushes the world further ahead and leaves less in its wake then in past times. It's sad.
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