Friday, August 31, 2012

Channeling Aunt Gladys

Ed's Aunt Gladys put up corn. That's what she called it, as in: I put up a dozen ears this morning.  Then all year long she'd bring up corn-filled baggies from her basement freezer and we would be served Gladys' creamed corn. It was buttery and salty and really pretty good.

So this morning, I've been channeling Aunt Gladys and I put up a dozen ears of corn. Unlike Gladys, I skipped the butter and salt. I just blanched the kernels, let them cool, then packed them into freezer bags.

I then made a soup base with the naked corn cobs, some onion, carrot, celery and thyme. This winter I'll whip up a pot of corn chowder – and think of Gladys.

Fare Thee Well Queen Anne

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Ed and I spend a lot of time tromping through our woods – seeking and destroying purple thistles and invasive honeysuckle. With a shortage of rain this summer, most of what we see on the ground is light tan in color – you know, like that of dried grasses or already-fallen leaves. So on Saturday, I was excited to look down and see – popping up from the forest floor – a short green stem ending with a large cluster of the most brilliant red berries. I brought it home to look up in our wildflower book.

Turns out it is the seeds of a jack-in-the-pulpit, which made me exceedingly happy. For you see, hanging in our pantry window is a piece of stained glass that features none other than jack-in-the-pulpit.

Like all the art in our home, it is dear to my heart and has a story behind it.

Through the years, Ed has found most of our art. He has a great eye for art and seems to always be just a step or two ahead of me in terms of art appreciation. Which means that sometimes when he gives me a piece of art, I thank him sincerely and trust that I will grow to love it. And I always do. Some of my favorite pieces took me a while to fully appreciate. I take charge of framing and figuring out where to display the art. And then – sometimes slowly – I come to love it.

Not so with this piece of stained glass. I spotted it at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft and fell in love on the spot with it. I told Ed about it that very night. Going on and on about how much I loved the colors, the type, the etchings of leaves in the background. He just kind of grunted and I wasn't sure he was even listening to me. So I decided to take things into my own hands and go back and purchase it. Two days later, I headed back to the museum's shop on West Main Street only to find that it had already sold...

A year or two went by and from time-to-time I'd think about the piece and how much I loved it. So imagine my delight on Christmas morning three years ago when I opened a gift from Ed. It was my much-loved stained glass. He had listened, and he had quickly acted, and then had stashed it away in his closet to give to me for a later occasion.

It hangs in the window of our pantry and I marvel at it every time I see it. It's like it embodies everything about our new life in the country -- the beauty, the freshness, the colors, the wildness and the hope.

I plan on planting the found red seeds of the jack-in-the-pulpit. I'll find a shady spot in the forest, not too far from the house. And I'll watch in the spring to see if some tiny jack-in-the-pulpits appear.

Note to self: I planted half the seeds behind the round hay bale just inside the forest and the other half just over the dam, uphill from the willow tree.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Their Friends Become Our Friends

Of course, I love my children. I also happen to really like them. And fortunately, without exception, I like their friends too. So, when Maggie told me that her friend Claire and her brother had signed up for the Louisville Ironman competition, we offered for them to stay with us at Farm Dover. It turns out that their parents, two sisters, and a brother-in-law were coming to cheer them on. The more the merrier, is what I say. And so this past weekend was a very merry one.

On Wednesday, Claire and Will arrived from Chicago, and on Friday, the rest of the gang made it, coming from Evanston, Ann Arbor and Charlotte. Our parking "lot" was full and every bed taken. Friday night we hosted a family reunion dinner. Saturday, the family ventured into Louisville to check out the race course, see the town, and have dinner at The Blind Pig.

The competition was yesterday and everyone was up and out early. Claire and Will jumped into the Ohio River around 7:30 a.m., swimming 2.4 miles, then hopped on their bikes and rode 112 miles before starting a 26.2 mile run in the heat of the afternoon. Just before 6 p.m., Will crossed the finish line at Fourth Street Live to cheering crowds; Claire was not far behind. I was worn out just watching them.

Claire at about mile 80 of the bike ride, still smiling.

I can't tell you how much I admire Claire and Will -- and all the nearly 3000 athletes that competed. Just to finish is such a victory -- and Claire and Will both finished in the top tier of their age groups. The grueling length and the harsh race conditions didn't stop them from smiling every time we caught a glimpse of them. Yes Claire and Will, you are Ironmen!

I snapped this photo just minutes after Claire crossed the finish line. They don't even look tired.

The whole family, after the race.  From left to right: Maggie, Beth, Claire, Bill, Will, Laura and Chad
Back row: people who wish they were part of this great (and talented) family.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sundays in the Country

Sundays in the country feel different to me than Sundays in the city. Like any day, there are more chores than can fit in a day, but folks are perhaps a bit more judicious in figuring out what chores to tackle on the Sabbath and at what pace they tackle them.

Yesterday was the perfect day. It was quite chilly when we woke up to the sun coming up over the horizon and slanting into our open french doors. It felt like a Canada morning -- or perhaps one in late September. Ed brought me coffee in bed and a Sunday New York Times, dated May 20.

Later, much later, we headed out to mulch some bushes, harvest some corn, okra and tomatoes, and check on all the tree seedlings in the back and upper fields. It was noon before we knew it, time to head back in for peak-season BLTs. 

Our neighbor called to say that she and her husband had borrowed an old-fashioned apple press and would be making cider later in the afternoon. Did we want to come down? You bet! Ed was meeting another neighbor who was coming down with his bush hog in the afternoon to cut our fields, so I grabbed a paring knife and headed to the cider-making scene without him.

Jon and Sandy have a half dozen apple trees in their far back yard, heavily laden with apples. Only one variety is currently ripe and they had harvested a bushel of them earlier in the morning. We sat around two common buckets – coring the apples, slicing them into big chunks and chucking them into one bucket, the cores into the second one. The rhythm was nice, as was the conversation. When the apple bucket was full, we'd feed the apples into the cider press and Jon would crank them through the grinder.

Once we had all the apples pulverized, Jon fitted a heavy pressing disc with a steel plate into the top of the open-ended bucket of processed apples and then began to screw it down, causing it to press harder and harder on the apples. Seconds later, beautiful golden apple cider started to flow into the wooden tray holding the bucket and then into the sterilized quart mason jar that Sandy had placed under the spigot.

The bushel of apples yielded only three quarts of apple cider. I brought a quart home to share with Ed and Jack who declared it as good as – or maybe even better – than the gallons we buy from Reid's Orchard in Owensboro. It was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon. Yes, Sundays in the country are different.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I Was Wrong

Just yesterday I predicted that it was going to get very quiet around Farm Dover. I was wrong. Our neighbor cut his corn last week for silage and the Canada geese somehow got the message. They have been coming from far and wide to feed on the remains in the field.

Then as they take off, flying in their perfect V formation, they begin to honk – very, very loudly. Every few minutes another flock can be heard coming from the west field. Honk. Honk. Honk. We can hear them long before we see them.

Why do they cause such a ruckus? With a little googling, I found out that their honking allows the geese to locate each other, in order to avoid hitting one another. Makes sense. Secondly, their honking is a way of encouraging one another, in order to keep up flock morale. Supposedly by honking, geese are able to communicate their mutual success. If that is the case, the geese flying overhead are quite the cheerleaders.

My Bucket Runneth Over

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's About to Get Quiet Around Here

Up early this morning to bake loaves of zucchini bread to send on the road with Mary, who heads back to her life in Baltimore this afternoon, and for Jack, who is headed out for a camping weekend at the Peabody Wildlife Area. It's been fun having them both home these last ten days. I always have a hard time sending them on their way – but Thanksgiving will be here before I know it.

I'm sure I could find a healthier recipe for zucchini bread, but this is the one I've been making for years and the kids really love it. I've heard it freezes nicely, but it always gets gobbled up before that can happen around here. It is especially good broiled, with a little butter. 

Zucchini Bread

2/3 cup butter, softened
1-2/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups shredded zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat in eggs well, then stir in zucchini. Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Then add to first mixture mixing well. Add vanilla.

Grease bottom only of two 9x5-inch loaf pans (or four smaller ones). Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 60-70 minutes (slightly less for smaller pans) or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Loosen sides and remove bread from pans. Cool completely on racks before slicing.

Monday, August 13, 2012


The craziest things are growing in my garden these days.

My neighbor, Sandy, gave me a very small bean plant this spring. She said it came from a bean that was given to her by a chinese-restaurant owner. Sandy had started a half dozen in her sunny back room.

Here's what they look like harvested.

I think I'll use them to make this this afternoon.

I took a bucketful of roma tomatoes to Sandy yesterday and returned home with five chicken-stuffed green peppers. I'm finding that seems to be the norm in the country: You take something to a neighbor and immediately they give you back something even nicer. So tonight: stuffed peppers and green bean salad. Thank you Sandy.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Having to get creative to use up an excess of tomatoes and peppers...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

They Like My Cucumbers. How About Ewe?

I loaded up my less-than-perfect cucumbers and delivered them this morning to my neighbor's sheep and goats. They thought they were absolutely delicious!

Friday, August 10, 2012

WWOOFers and Loafers

Jack spent part of his last month abroad in Scotland working at Lea Gardens, a sheep and nursery farm in the Shetland Islands. He found the placement through WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). We have joked about offering a WWOOF placement here at Farm Dover. We could certainly use some help tackling the weeds in our little garden.

I thought I had two good workers this morning. Mary grabbed a basket to harvest the tomatoes while Jack weeded the asparagus bed...until I turned my back and he decided he needed a little rest.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Life is Good

Jack made it home from his teaching year in Germany last Wednesday and this morning, I picked Mary up from the airport for a 10-day visit. On Friday night, Maggie is coming for dinner; the first time we've had the whole family together in more than a year.

One of the first things Jack did when he got home was to dust the cobwebs off the ping pong table and set it up on the back porch. Today, he and Mary moved the outdoor dining table to the small screened porch, just off our bedroom. In honor of Mary's first night home we celebrated with a Thai Chicken Salad dinner on the porch. While I assembled the salad, Mary and Jack engaged in an Olympic-inspired ping pong match.

I've been making this salad for more than 20 years, ever since I spotted it in an '80s edition of Gourmet. It is perfect for a hot summer night. For tonight's version, I just picked up a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods, grabbed a package of cellophane noodles from the pantry, and made a trip out to the garden for cucumbers, okra, red and green-stripped tomatoes, little cherry tomatoes, and carrots. The dressing whips up in just a couple of minutes and voila! Dinner is served.


Thai Chicken Salad

1 package cellophane noodles (bean threads)
cooked chicken, cut or torn into thin shreds (sometimes I use a roasted chicken from the grocery)
1 cup finely grated carrots
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
grape tomatoes
1/3 cup coarsely crushed roasted peanuts

For the Dressing
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup soy sauce (I use low sodium)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup vegetable oil

In a large heatproof bowl, pour boiling water to cover the noodles and let them stand for 10 minutes. Drain the noodles and arrange them on a large platter. Top with chicken, cucumbers and carrot (sometimes I add grape tomatoes, green beans, edamame or other fresh vegetables). Top with roasted peanuts.

Make the dressing: mince and mash the garlic to a paste with the salt. Blend together the soy sauce, the lime juice, the sugar, peanut butter and red pepper flakes. Add oil in a drizzle, blend well. Top salad with dressing or pass it separately.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's My Job...

...and I take it seriously.

We found this nest just as we were getting ready to take down the tree it was built in.
 I'm guessing it is a song sparrow's egg.

Ed and I have been working to clear our woods of invasive honeysuckle and a few osage orange trees. Before we start to take down a tree or large shrub, I check to see that there are no bird nests in jeopardy. If we find one, we simply move on. Would hate to make a mamma bird mad or be a homewrecker.