Tag Archives: country living

A week of new and old

A typical country road with a little stream, one of many that we saw on our drive.

Well, how has your week been going?  Have you been a dynamo, rushing about getting all those long put off projects done or tackling spring cleaning?  (I hate you.)  Or have you been sitting around in your pajamas all day watching game shows and reruns of golf?

I’ll admit, I’m somewhere in the middle.  Certainly not accomplishing all I had laid out a week ago. (I always make a weekly plan.) Spending way too much time on social media and watching official news conferences.  But I find they just make me anxious and there really isn’t much I can do about the current crisis but what I’m doing already. I have enjoyed, however, the many creative ways that friends are entertaining their children at home.  One guy created a Hogwarts School, complete with costumes and characters, and posted daily videos.  (He was exhausted by the end of the week.)  Others are tackling nature in the backyard or nearby parks.  Wonderfully creative art projects abound with photos to prove all the fun people are having.  Some moms may be hitting the wine bottle a little earlier than normal but, hey, wine is a food, is it not?

St. Patrick’s day was celebrated by my little leprechaun friends going outside to see the spring flowers.

I did get some spring yard work done.  Being outdoors improves my spirits.  And spent some time in the studio but not as much as I should have or usually do.  I’ve talked by phone to my family and friends more than normally.  It just feels right to keep in touch, especially since so many people are isolated right now.

I’ve got several books started but only finished one.  Well, there’s always next week.

We discovered this quaint little foot bridge over a small stream. I am sure I’ll have to go back to paint this scene.

After a few days of rain, my husband and I took a nice drive on country roads to look at spring emerging in little corners here and there.  Then we went over to the lake; he fished and I sketched.  And then picked up take-out dinner at a nearby restaurant.  Nice to eat someone else’s cooking for a change.

A quiet cove at the lake. This was a good place to sit out of the wind while I sketched.

Since the stores in this area seem to be out of bread, I reposted the link to the Crusty Artisan Bread recipe that I posted on my blog a couple of years ago.  Several people have tried it and found it surprisingly easy and yummy.

Anyway, whatever your situation is, I hope you are safe and healthy.  I’d love to hear what you’re doing with your days.  May we all look back on this trying time in years to come and say, “remember when….”

Pine tree. One of several sketches I made while at the lake.

Putting things into perspective – not talking about art

Sunrise, a new day, a new beginning.

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.  Helen Keller

I don’t usually comment on current events or situations, but I thought I’d do a little reflecting on the current situation that is occupying everyone’s minds these days.  With the craziness of people hoarding toilet paper or buying twenty pound bags of rice and beans, I’d like to add a few of my own thoughts on the matter

We live in a 140 year old house.  I often think about how many chicken dinners were cooked in the kitchen.  How many people have passed through the doors over the years.  That the former owners lived without electricity or central heat or running water and some of that wasn’t really that long ago.  They boiled their clothes in a tub outside.  When we first moved here, there was an outhouse in the backyard.  Although we removed it, it sure would have been handy when the kids were little so they didn’t have to come in the house to use the bathroom.

Our place is about twenty-five miles from the nearest real grocery, not counting the local dollar store for bread and milk.  This means we keep the cupboards stocked a little better than most.  But we also grow a pretty good sized garden which helps.

The power goes out once in a while when a storm has knocked a tree onto the lines.  We’re prepared with oil lamps (yes, you can still buy those at farm supply stores), or kerosene heaters, or a camp stove.  We don’t have to use those items often, but they’re handy.  When Hurricane Ike rolled through the Midwest in 2008, the power was out for five days.  Fortunately it was summer so we just opened the windows and “pioneered” it.  Our teenagers took off to stay with friends when the batteries in their devices ran down.  My husband and I enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Although we’re both retired now and don’t have to go anywhere, we’ve got plenty to occupy our time.  Clean up after-winter debris and prepare the garden for planting.  Finally get around to cleaning those attics.  Painting, of course.  Plenty of reading material.  Go fishing or biking or hiking.

We still have electricity and running water.  Really, folks, I don’t think those things are going away during this crisis.  The factories are still making toilet paper and food deliveries will still arrive from the warehouses.  Be patient and put things into perspective.

I have people from all over the world who follow this blog.  Many are not so fortunate as we are regarding supplies and medical resources.  Let us be grateful for what we do have.  Many of you are working from home or have restricted activities.  Why not take this time to enjoy your families?  Try a new recipe or two or ten.  Pretend you’re on Chopped and see what you can concoct just from your cupboards.  Spend some time with your kids or significant other.  Write your memoirs or plant some seeds.  Call your parents.  When was the last time you talked to an old friend?  Now might be a good time to catch up.  Try a new hobby, particularly if you already have the equipment sitting in the closet or basement.

Maybe we can all view this time of uncertainty and turmoil as an opportunity to reset.  Turn your faces towards the sun and feel the warmth.

Signs of spring

We’ve had an unusually warm winter down here in Southern Indiana.  The warmest recorded in 140 years!  Very little snow but plenty of rain.  The past week saw temperatures in the 50s and 60s.  All of this warm weather has given a real push to spring.  Today I took a little walk around the yard and this is what I saw.

Crocuses all over the yard, appearing in the most unusual places, courtesy of children planting them where they wish.

First, several different kinds of crocuses.  Over the years I’ve purchased bags of these in the fall and let the kids and now grand kids plant them.  It is always a surprise to see where they come up.  And some of them seem to travel from where I planted them many years ago.  I really don’t know how they do that.

Daffodils emerging with day lilies in the background.

The early daffodils are always a welcome harbinger of spring.  It seems the singles come out earliest, especially the ones that were already naturalized in this old homestead.  We have doubles and other colors but they come out a bit later.  Another “walking” plant as they seem to come up in the strangest places, not where I have planted them at all.

Forsythia jungle. This will be a golden mountain in another week or two.

The forsythia jungle has grown from the three small plants that I bought end of season at the tractor supply center many years ago.  About fifteen years ago, I had one of my sons dig up the resets and plant them along the road.  The past few years they have made quite a showing.  I hope the travelers enjoy them.  He replanted some lilac starts, too, but they’re a bit slower.

Flowering quince, ready to pop.

This is a flowering quince bush ready to pop.  I’m sure the sun and 60 degree temps will lead to an explosion of blooms real soon.  The start came from my mother’s garden so I always think of her when I pass by.

Twenty tons of rock delivered this week to repair the winter damage.

After all the rain and mud this winter, we just had twenty tons of rock delivered for the drive.  It seems that we’re always trying to keep up here on the farm, man against nature…and nature is winning.

Down at the creek. The peepers are creating a cacophony of noise!

The peepers are going to town down at the creek.  I love this early sound of spring.  Sometimes the beaver have dammed the stream so I can see a one acre pond through the trees.  Fortunately, not this year.

Hazelnut bushes with catkins.

I also spotted a lot of hazelnut bushes coming into bloom.  They’re not real showy but they make a nice addition to a spring bouquet.  I cut some forsythia branches last week and forced them into bloom.  It only took about three days for them to come out and brings a needed touch of spring indoors.  Check out this previous post for how to do this.

Runaway daffodils. I really don’t know how they got here.

Some call this vinca an invasive species but I really like their periwinkle flowers. Yes, I have to pull out tons of vines in the spring, but I think they’re worth it.

Tulips and flowering trees will be out soon as will the spring beauties and violets. And my husband prepped the cold frame for sowing some lettuce soon.  Can’t wait.

Anyway, that’s the spring update from this part of my world.  I hope you are seeing signs of spring in your neck of the woods, too.

Grateful for small things

A few years’ worth of thankful journals. These are not expensive but they mean a lot to me.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  The holiday of gluttony and naps.  I love it!  Can’t wait for people to show up, to entertain them, hoping they’ll enjoy the company of friends and family, and leave with full bellies and happy thoughts.

For those of you who follow my blog and who are not from the United States, this is a national holiday of giving thanks.  Celebrated the fourth Thursday of November, the myth is that the Indians (native Americans) welcomed the Pilgrims to the land with a bounty of food and company.  However much of that story may or may not be true, it is still a holiday of celebration.  I like it because I can invite anyone I choose, feed them to exhaustion, and then send them on their way with containers of turkey and gravy, stuffing and cranberry relish, and maybe a piece of pie, too!

But giving thanks and being grateful should be every day, not just on a special holiday.

I’ve kept a journal for years and years, some hand-written and some digital, but these often end up a litany of worries or complaints or what I did that day. But I do manage to take the time to reflect at the end of each day on something special that happened that day.  I try to find at least three things but sometimes it’s more…and sometimes it’s less.

These are not big things.  They probably wouldn’t even register with most people.  Maybe it’s a sunrise or the strike of the sunlight on a hill.  Maybe it’s spotting a red-tailed hawk on a wire.  Or hugging a grandchild.

Sometimes I draw a little sketch to help me remember what I actually saw.

I find throughout my day that I actually look for things to write down.  The bird’s nest that  I spot outside my hotel window.  A phone call from a friend.  Even just a yummy supper.  Sometimes it’s just the tiniest thing but it’s special to me.

Another small sketch. Just a memory jog.

I urge you that at this time of giving thanks, that you reflect not only the big things but each small thing that might make you happy, that makes others happy.  Let us take the time to reflect on the small blessings of every day.  Hope you all have a wonderful day of Thanksgiving this week and enjoy spending time with friends and family.

A walk through the yard

After weeks of oppressive heat and no rain, we finally had a few storms blow through here earlier this week.  Not only did the yard and garden receive a beneficial watering, but the temperatures have dropped to actually pleasant for late August.  The windows are flung open and I can’t help but want to play outside.

Chicken in the Woods fungi. Such a beautiful color and shape. This is supposed to be edible but I’m not too fond of wild mushrooms.

This evening the dog and I took a walk around the yard to see what was going on.  The first thing to catch my eye was a spectacular Chicken of the Woods mushroom.  It grows in about the same place every year.  It’s supposed to be edible and is highly sought after, but I’m not much for wild fungi.

Garden sunflowers about a week ago. Some of these beauties were over twelve feet tall!

Sunflowers down after the big storm blew through here earlier this week.

This sunflower seed head is already being harvested by the little critters.

And here are two photos of my giant sunflowers.  One from a week ago.  And the other from a few days ago, after the storm knocked them down. Well, all is not wasted.  Apparently the critters are already feasting on the seeds.  Enough flowers are still standing for the hummingbirds and finches, too.

Wild Joe Pye weed is a perennial which grows throughout the Midwest. The butterflies love it and it’s supposed to have been valued for its medicinal properties by the pioneers.

Our yard is surrounded by fields and woods.  There are banks of Joe Pye weed and Jewel-weed.  So pretty for summer bouquets.

We planted this peach tree over thirty years ago. It blew over many years ago but has managed to survive and even provide some of the sweetest peaches I’ve ever eaten….if I can get to them before the animals do.

And here is an old survivor, a thirty year old peach tree which still produces.

Damage to cedar bench from wood bees (Carpenter bees), and the wood peckers who went after their larvae.

As a little sidebar, I am showing you the damage to the cedar benches we refinished a couple of years ago.  The wood bees (Carpenter bee), digs a hole into the wood and lays her eggs.  This only causes a little round hole but the inside is eaten out like a honeycomb which weakens the wood.  The real damage you see are from the pileated woodpeckers who are going after the larvae.  Gggggggggggrrrrrr.

The last lily of the season. I’ve drawn and painted this one many times.

Here is a photo of the last lily of the summer.  It is a beautiful peach color with a yellow interior.  I’m not sure what variety this is but I have painted it several times over the years.

Beautiful large hosta blooming in late August. Variety Plantaginea Aphrodite.

Finally, these large white hostas (Plantaginea Aphrodite) are just coming out.  They’re the last of my hostas to bloom in the garden.  They have large white bell-shaped flowers and a heavenly perfume.  I especially like the whorls of flowers.  They’re very hardy and need little care.

So, this is just a walk though my little corner of the world.  I hope that you have someplace where you can enjoy a bit of the outdoors, to reflect and just admire.

In every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

  John Muir

Thick Kale Soup with Smoked Sausage

Thick Kale Soup served with crusty multi-grain bread. Great any time of year.

We often think of soup as being a cold weather food but actually soup is great any time of year.  You can just go “shopping” in your fridge or garden and come up with a variety of tasty and healthy options.  After my recent post of my Corn Chowder recipe, I had a request for the Kale soup recipe.  So here goes.

This soup has been a family favorite for years and we’re likely to make it any time of year.  It is often a little thicker than soup (stewp?) but it is hardy any way you make it.

Ingredients:

·         3 tablespoons olive oil ·         1 large bunch of kale, deveined, chopped
·         1 pound smoked sausage, cut up ·         2 quarts chicken broth
·         1 large onion, chopped ·         2 cans white beans (northern, cannelloni )
·         4-8 cloves of garlic,diced ·         Cracked pepper
·         4 large potatoes, cubed ·         Salt to taste

 

Heat the olive oil in a 6 – 8 quart soup pot.  Add the chopped smoked sausage.  You can use any kind of smoked sausage – regular, light, turkey, or even Polish kielbasa. Stir and brown.

Add the chopped onion and stir until clear.  Add the minced garlic.  Keep stirring so they don’t burn.

Kale soup – Step 1. Brown the cut up sausage, add the onions and garlic.

Meanwhile, wash and strip the tough veins out of the kale.  Rough chop and add to the mixture, stirring until wilted.  Add the chicken broth and cover. Bring to simmer.

Step 2. Add the chopped kale and wilt in pan.

Wash and dice the potatoes.  Sometimes I leave the peel on just for added texture. Add to the pot after it comes to a slow boil.  Cover and bring back to simmer.

Step 3. Add the chicken broth, bring to simmer. Add the cubed potatoes and cover. Cook for 20 minutes.

When the potatoes are cooked (about 15-20 minutes), use an old fashioned potato masher and rough mash them in the pot.  This just helps the soup to thicken.

Then add the two cans of beans (drained).  Frankly, I just use whatever white beans I have available.  I’ve even added butter beans and it works fine.

Add the cracked pepper to taste.  You probably won’t need any salt as the sausage is pretty salty, but suit yourself.

Serve with crusty bread for a filling lunch or dinner.

Corn chowder

Sweet corn, bi-color. Peaches and cream variety.

It’s that time of year for those of us who grow gardens.  The produce is coming in and we have to scurry like squirrels to put it all away.  Fresh green beans and new potatoes.  Juicy sliced tomatoes or sweet cherry tomatoes popping in your mouth.  With the vagaries of the weather this summer – buckets of rain in June and the beginnings of a drought now – I feel lucky to be able to pluck anything at all from the garden.  But we always say that.  Some years it’s too many zucchinis.  This year, none.  I even had to replant the green beans. We can never quite predict what the bounty will be.

With all of these fresh veggies, we’re making soups -vegetable, minestrone, and fresh tomato.  Sometimes Thick Kale soup with smoked sausage. But this morning I picked the first batch of sweet corn.  I think this variety is peaches and cream and it’s so so good.  We’ll put most in the freezer but I made a triple batch of one of our favorite soups, Corn Chowder. I thought I’d share this family favorite recipe with you.  You can use canned corn but fresh is better.

Ingredients

·         ½ pound bacon cut up fine ·         2 cups milk
·         1 small onion, cut fine ·         3 tablespoons cornstarch
·         1 – 2 potatoes, cubed ·         1 ½ teaspoons salt
·         1 cup water or chicken broth (or both) ·         ¼ teaspoon fresh grated black pepper
·         1 ½ cups corn cut fresh off the cob (or canned) ·         Couple of dashes of garlic powder

In a large soup pot (6 -8 quarts or larger if you increase the recipe), saute bacon until soft and half cooked.  Drain the fat. Add chopped onion and stir. Cook until soft.  Add cubed potatoes and stir.  Partially cook (about 5 minutes).  Add water or broth, corn, spices and bring to low boil. Stir in milk.  Bring back to simmer.  Make a slurry of the cornstarch (mix it with a little water), then slowly pour in while stirring.  This will thicken the soup.  Simmer until potatoes are done, adding additional milk or broth to thin. Serves 6 -8.

That’s pretty much it.  You will want to double or triple this recipe because it is sooooo good.  Serve with fresh hearty bread or cornbread.

Mangia!

Summer garden

Giant tomato, Park Whopper My husband ate the entire tomato for lunch. Yummmm.

 

You haven’t heard me bragging about the garden this summer because, well, in a word, it’s been awful.  We usually plant a big garden (25 x 40) and a small spring garden which holds spring crops, such as, lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, etc.

Tomatoes ready for canning.

Everything was looking good before we went out west last month on vacation.  Although we enjoyed wonderful weather on our trip, apparently the Midwest received buckets of rain the entire time.  We returned to a garden full of weeds, at least, that which was not drowned.  I could watch them grow on the deer cam.

Multi-stemmed sunflowers just came out this week. They’re already being eyed by the goldfinches.

Red sunflower being strangled with a morning glory. The bees are loving this.

Then with a couple of weeks of extreme heat, there were some crops that we just gave up on.  The peas blew past, the kale, lettuce and spinach bolted.  The beans, corn, and squash in the big garden looked anemic.

New bean crop. The red line gives you an indication of location.

This past month we have spent hoeing and weeding, feeding and trimming.  Some things we’ve just given up on.  I planted new beans a couple of weeks ago and they’re up now, doing nicely.  The sweet corn has recovered but we’re trying to keep the varmints out of it until we can pick it.  The raccoons have already cleaned out the apple trees and devastated my seckle pear.

Swallowtail on some volunteer flowers.

Butterfly and zinnias

A bouquet of zinnias just for me. I love cut flowers in the garden.

The sunflowers are out, the butterflies are loving the zinnias, and we’ll still probably end up with way too many tomatoes.

Anyway, that’s life in the country.

Do plants move?

This is a follow-up to my post last Wednesday about some spring flowers.  As you can see, more flowers are blooming.

Red Trillium. This lovely wildflower just popped up next to my studio this year. This is the first time in three decades that we have seen this plant here and have no idea how it got there.

Today I had a surprise. As I was doing some mushroom hunting – right next to the house is the best place actually – I discovered this beautiful red trillium.  This is the first time that I’ve ever seen this trillium in this place.  Yes, up in the big woods which is half mile away, but never close to the house.

So my question is this, how did the flower get here?  Were the roots in the ground for decades?  Did some animal move it there?  Sometimes it’s easy to see how plants move from one place to another. (I’ll rant about the Russian Olives that the DNR planted over at the lake which is two miles away and which are now establishing themselves here, but that’s a story for another day.)

From one little patch of flowers, these delicate Virginia Bluebells have now established themselves all over. And I plan to move them into the woods very soon. They die back after blooming to totally disappear until next year.

Here are the Virginia bluebells.  When we moved here, there was only one small patch in front of the house, over fifty yards away. Now they spring up in the most unusual places.  This patch is behind the dog house.  However, they’re so beautiful with their pinky turning to sky blue flowers.  And they totally disappear after blooming until next year.

Columbine is a beautiful, delicate flower which self-propagates through prolific seed production.

These columbine are very prolific.  I planted one plant fifteen years ago.  They have now established in many areas.  Their seed pods practically explode but I really don’t mind these flowers as they are so pretty and delicate.

These beautiful old-stock lilacs were here when we arrived. They were probably shared from someone else’s garden, as we have since shared them with others. That is how old plants moved.

Finally, this is a beautiful old lilac.  I have a few bushes around the yard but have often dug up starts to replant elsewhere.  Today, I noticed one that I had my son plant along the road ten years ago is now blooming next to the mailbox. My son has some starts from the same bush at his home.

Not in bloom now is some golden sedum which has popped up in the most unusual places.  Or the jungle of forsythia bushes which are now also planted along the road. They’ll get a hard pruning when they finish blooming.

So, how do plants move?  Well, obviously humans have some influence, and birds dropping seeds.  But otherwise, I’d like to believe that it’s magic, maybe faeries or garden elves who are just having fun with us.  Hey, it could be true.

Spring has finally arrived

I haven’t always had luck with tulips. They’re like candy to the deer. I planted these last fall right next to my studio. Mikey the dog will keep the critters at bay.

Spring has finally arrived in this part of Southern Indiana.  It’s so beautiful that it takes my breath away.  Remember that crayon you used to have in your box called Spring Green?  Well, it’s all over the place now. At this old homestead (over 130 years), there are many established flowers and trees.  Plus we’ve added many more in the three decades that we’ve lived here.

So I thought you’d just enjoy a walk in the country.  Some of these flowers and trees are already on the wain while others have yet to bloom, the redbuds and dogwoods are just coming out now.  Maybe another post about them later.

An in and out day with the scudding clouds chasing the sunshine. I love the spring greens.

Little pansies are so cheerful. These came from an early foray to the local garden center about a week ago. I couldn’t help myself.

A cheerful crab apple next to the garden. This is a start from the original which was a Mother’s Day present to me many years ago.

More tulips basking in the sunshine.

A friendly little toady emerging from the leftover leaves. He looks a little ragged. I expect he’d like a nice breakfast of some juicy bugs.

The east fields, still soggy from the night’s rain. More clouds and sun shadows.

Bluebells and narcissus. These have become naturalized in several spots of the yard and I have more plans to move some starts elsewhere this spring.

I love violets. They come in so many variations but these deep purple ones seem to be dominant.