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Archive for the ‘Food and Recipes’ Category

I don’t recall how long ago I found these dishes – probably at least six. They’ve stayed tucked away in my private picture folders, awaiting their chance to be really loved. And I do love them.

Ah…what it would be like to sit down of an afternoon and enjoy tea in the company of this striking pattern. I can only think it would make mundane tasks more enjoyable, and, perhaps, make writing even more fun. Someday…

The morning’s coffee would not be amiss in these mugs:

The strawberries on a black ground have given me several useful ideas about how to integrate various decorating ideas I have for my kitchen, which I haven’t been able to pull together. More on that, later.

Note: I do not know what the name of this pattern is. If you do, won’t you please tell me?

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In the mansion I built in my mind when I was a child, these were the dishes I used at my long dining table:

And for a snack or small meal, enough variety for everyone to choose which scene he liked best:

The whole house had a somewhat genteel, fox-hunty feel, designed to be at once comforting and stimulating, with here and there a satirical twist in a painting or child’s toy or the arrangement of some small corner. I am thinking of a painting I clipped from a magazine while in grade school, depicting an elegant dinner, peopled by foxes. On the wall behind a very proper-looking fox couple, absorbed in conversation, hung a mounted hound’s head. I laughed until I choked.

Then, when as a teen I met my husband, and it quickly became apparent that he was a hunting enthusiast, not limited to a particular species, this china pattern seemed like the only obvious choice. Now, of course, I have broadened my horizons a bit, but I still admire these dishes, and find they satisfy my sense of beauty. Acquiring a set is on my Someday-When-I’m-Prosperous list. Not sure where I’m going to put them, since the mansion isn’t built yet. A glass-fronted case for dust-free storage of said dishes is on that same list.

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My gander, protective of his pretty goose:

photo 3 photo 5 photo 2

Ever since I was a child, I have wanted geese. We never had any growing up, and some acquaintances who did keep a flock assured us they were nasty, biting beasts.

Well, I wasn’t deterred.

So when some friends announced that they wished to thin their gaggle, Will and I jumped at the chance. We drove 45 minutes to our friends’ house to pick up the birds, intending to get some ducks, as well.

These friends own a greenhouse business, and the husband has 10 green thumbs and loves landscaping…so their yard is spectacular.  A haven in this windswept, drought-thirsty land. So, wandering amongst the trees, well-groomed grass, fish ponds, and brick walks were several varieties of poultry. Guineas clucked and hunted – a different variety from our one poor lonely hen, but grayish and mostly similar to ours. Then, I spied an angelic white guinea, seeming so sweet in the middle of the flock. Most of the geese were in their pen, as were most of the chickens. The ducks, on the other hand, scampered, waddling, throughout the stand of wild plum bushes just south of the yard.

The kids marveled at the fish ponds while I talked to our friends about which birds to catch and about how we should do it.

After some comical pursuit, we (the six of us) caught four Chinese geese…and no ducks. We gave up on the ducks. There were a handful of white ones, and one that looked a bit like a mallard drake. I never spent time around domestic ducks, and these were far more agile than I supposed they would be.

We made the geese, gentle and wondering, sit down in cardboard boxes and tucked the flaps together, setting them in the shade as we finished catching the last ones. That made a trunkful.

Our friends offered to try to catch the ducks at night, while they were sleepy, and also proposed trying to get a guinea out of a tree at night, where they roost. We told them we only need one male, but if they wanted to get rid of more, we like guineas.

The geese were mostly cooperative, and none of them tried to seriously nip. At any rate, I’d had far worse bites from my favorite tom turkey of two years ago. One was determined, however, not to sit in his box, but made five efforts to escape. He pushed apart the flaps of the box, kicked open the bottom (it wasn’t a very sturdy box), and required the attention of one of the children to guard him. But at last we were on our way.

We were concerned about the trunk being hot, but couldn’t think of a better way to transport the birds, without borrowing a truck and a cage.

When we got home, I proposed that I would open one box at a time, pick the goose up until it was calm and had got its bearings, then set it down to begin exploring the yard. None of us wanted to shut the geese up in the chicken house, as they had already been shut up and had a frightful journey…but we weren’t sure they would stick around. We decided to risk it, supposing we could catch them toward sundown, if necessary.

Three disoriented, sleepy-looking geese came out of their boxes, and began looking for their former friends. The fourth was dead in the box, its neck cocked at an interesting angle, bill jammed in a corner. It had not been dead above five minutes, I judged, and had probably experienced heart-failure, as its eyes were wide open, suggesting a very sudden death – not heat stroke or despair or a variety of other things.

With a heavy heart, I decided to do an “autopsy”, just to be sure there were no organ abnormalities, broken bones, or anything suspicious. Everything checked out fine. On the “up” side, we did get to experience what domestic goose meat tastes like. It is much better than wild goose flesh. I found this a relief, after hearing all my life of Victorian families devouring goose meat at Christmas. (Really? Ugh! I had decided, and hadn’t really cared that Will no longer hunts much. Beyond sandwiches with nothing but mayonnaise, there doesn’t seem to be a lot to do with wild goose meat. And I’ve been through a stack of suggestions.)

The three remaining geese wandered widely throughout the afternoon, and toward dark, we herded them a half-mile back to the house. But we could not catch them. At last, they dashed through a break in the tree row and headed out into the pasture. I gave up, tired, sore, and feeling they would probably make it alright until daylight if they’d just have the sense to bed down and stay put. But we decided to take one more peek at them before leaving them alone. Lo and behold, only one goose had materialized on the other side of the trees. The poor gander marched and honked and peered about for his gaggle-mates until we went to the house, praying for their survival.

What had happened to the other two geese? We’re not sure. Perhaps they bedded down in the trees and called it quits for the night, when the third one wasn’t looking. At any rate, the next morning, there were no honks resounding throughout the yard. Will went for a drive, to see if he could locate the gaggle…if there was one. He found two geese, over a mile away, in a field. He came back for the kids and I, and, together, we set out to catch them. Billy had rigged a leg-catcher out of stiff wire, and I felt this was our best chance…though I used it cautiously, you can be sure, realizing that these geese had nothing like the strength and resilience of Canada geese. Well, we had a stroke of luck. One of the pair jumped right in the open car door, as we chased her up the ditch.  Will dove in and grabbed her. We boxed her and put her in the trunk. Between the four of us, we corralled the gander, and boxed him, too.

They are currently lodging in the lamb’s kennel, where they can see out, but not wander, and where we can make friends before they get set free again.

We still have not heard from the third goose. But we still are hoping. Will alerted all the road-grader drivers to please keep on the lookout for our roaming pet goose. 🙂

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Regarding the yard areas, I fell in love with the feeling of seclusion, wildwood beauty, and bittersweet memories lingering in the air. The day lilies were like a promise that everything could be glorious…

Homestead West Yard, Orange Daylilies, Bushes, Weeds, Hot Looking - August 2009

…the moss that things could indeed grow – water! –

…the periwinkle that beauty was not just for part of the time.

Back Porch Steps, Farm House, Homestead - Belle Honeysuckle, Nightshade, Weeds - August 2009

The back porch spoke of long summer evenings, and attendance on flower boxes (one was collapsed in a heap at the south end).

…the butterflies, though only cabbage butterflies, that there were blooming plants, and no insecticides to interfere with the good forms of life (as well as the not-so-desirable).

In short, there were many things that gave me hope – of productiveness, fun, and loveliness.
The buckeye tree fascinated me –

 

 

I’d never seen one before. We learned that the nuts, if properly boiled and prepared, can be a useful arthritis remedy, and the kids had fun making necklaces out of cured nuts. The tree is not doing so very well now, so we are trying to get a few little trees started, in case it succumbs.

Also, discovering mushrooms and slime molds:

http://highplainsgardening.blogspot.com/2009/08/homestead-mushroom-paradise-including.html?zx=dc00c6c523a2986f

 

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Here is an interesting article I ran across while exploring the possibility of making mincemeat for my family (something I’ve often thought about but never actually done). I have read of women of the past making over 60 mincemeat pies over the holidays, which they stored in an unused bedroom or other cool room in the house, to be used over the winter. I have seen recipes for mincemeat cookies, and all sorts of tasty treats beyond pies. So here goes! Wish me luck! (Though I’m not going to make 60 mincemeat pies this holiday season. One or two will be a good start.)

Here’s the article, with recipe variations. Tell me what you think, and you can tell Patty (the author), too. She’d appreciate it.

To me, mincemet belongs in that somewhat mystical place along with headcheese and homemade cider, shelves full of sewn-up, buttered cheeses and barrels of homemade beer. It comes from a place I’d love to visit, and see how everything is done, and taste and touch and smell, then go home and duplicate the most pleasing parts for my family.

If you wish to share your thoughts about mincemeat, or your favorite recipe for mincemeat, my comments section is open.

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On New Year’s Eve, we borrowed a few sleeping bags, and stayed overnight in the farm house.

It was a very good experience. We got there just at dusk, and ran the generator a few minutes while we set up our supplies and made sleeping arrangements. Three of us camped in the kitchen, with Billy migrating around on the dining room floor. (He’s a restless sleeper.) We had recently installed a 30-gallon barrel stove in the kitchen, to provide warmth while we were working to clean things up, and it kept us cozy all night.

This was quite a big deal, as we are rarely very warm in our present house, even with the cookstove and a second large wood stove running to capacity. (I’ve had my dish soap freeze on the counter when we leave for more than a few hours. It looks very pretty with all those little crystal-stars in it.) But here, at the farm house, we kept warm and comfortable. Oh, did I mention that we have a windowpane out upstairs, which had just fallen out? Yeah, even with a window out, and us sleeping on the floor, we managed to keep warmer than normal.

The next morning, I knew I wanted to move in permanently ASAP.

The morning dawned sweet and wintry-clear, shining golden through the tree row, and making the kitchen cabinets glow. While I tidied up the sleeping bags and stacked them in the pantry, Will built a cooking fire in a trash barrel outside. (There is not enough contact area to use a frying pan on a barrel stove.) I grated potatoes for hash browns, and Will cooked them, and fried eggs and leftover Christmas ham.

We dined in the kitchen, which had risen to a very comfortable 60* F. (We’re pretty sure it stayed above 40* F. all night, though the outside temperatures dipped to 14* F.)

I can’t describe for you how nice it was to stand at a truly sunlit sink to wash dishes, and how easy it was to sing and be cheerful with the children! I never thought doing dishes could prove so sweet a task. It was pleasant to picture working here each day, teaching and mothering the children, making goat cheeses, and tending to meals, projects, and hobbies.

I should mention that we’ve not yet gotten any plumbing put in. I had to dump the dish pan outside, and heat the water in a stock pot over the cooking fire. But that’s a small price to pay for a sense of peace and being surrounded by such beauty.

We spent part of the morning working at the house, then took off to a birthday party for my dad. I’m not sure he likes sharing his birthday with the new year, but all the same,  it was very good day indeed.

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I was hoping I had managed to get a picture of Christmas Dinner…but I didn’t, so Christmas breakfast will have to do.  Will took charge of much of the food for the day, and really outdid himself. It helped that we had a food box from a local church given to us on Christmas Eve, so we had something besides venison to work with. 🙂

Not that I dislike deer meat…it’s just it gets old in a hurry when it’s the only meat on the table. Thank the Lord for last year’s garden harvest! – at least we have had vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains to enjoy with the venison.

For Christmas dinner, we made dinner rolls, and whole berry cranberry sauce with sweet spices, and lentils with carrots, garlic and herbs, besides the loaf ham and desserts.

I also unwaxed a hard cheese I made last spring. It was supposed to be a Colby, but I accidentally over-aged it. It is therefore a very strong Colby, and a little goes a long way. (My pressing method does not allow for a very smooth cheese, so this appears quite lumpy.)

The cheese was supposed to be aged for two to three months. Well, I got mixed up on just what I’d made, combined information from two varieties of cheese, and aged this for eight months. Oops.

But it is wonderful. I think I’ll make this mistake again.

This partial wheel lasted a week, and the initial hunk I broke off for our Christmas Day dinner lasted but a few hours, once Tyger discovered it.

I’ll let you know how the original recipe turns out, aged correctly, when I know – but I’m pretty sure I’ll be over-aging a few more cheeses.

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