Friday, July 15, 2011

Arrowhead Hunting and Bean Picking

     You will remember I wrote recently about my unsuccessful arrowhead hunting trip. Also, I shared my green bean canning experiences. Would you believe both of these could come together in a happy coincidence? Sunday evening, Vanita and I decided to tough out the heat and finish picking the green beans. (Actually, she decided she was going to, and I could not let her think she was tougher than me, so I trudged out there with her.)  Stanley and Lance stopped by after a day of putting up hay, and I gave them a tour of Blaine’s garden. I heard Vanita ask, “Who put this here?” I went over to see what she was talking about and found she was holding up an arrowhead that she had found in…my…garden! She thought maybe someone put it there to play a prank on her, but Blaine had obviously tilled it to the surface.
    I admit I did some whooping and hollering!  I have been tramping around in poison ivy and briars and through creeks searching for arrowheads, and here was this gift, in plain sight by the bean plant in my own backyard. It is an almost-perfect, beautiful little pink and cream colored arrow, just about an inch and a half long.  Native Americans (probably members of the Missouri or Illini tribe, according to my research) actually roamed the hills of our farm. 
      Clutching the tiny piece of history in my palm, I graciously told Vanita she could have the arrowhead…after I die, that is. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bountiful Beans

Last night I dreamed I was snapping and canning green beans. That is probably because in the past two weeks, I have processed over 150 jars of beans. All of my children and most of the grandchildren helped in the picking and snapping of these beans.  My husband deserves the credit, though, because he planted, tilled, and fertilized the beans to create this bountiful harvest. 

Our favorite variety is called Jade, because they do not get tough like some varieties.  Here is how they looked in the garden:
In the picture below, my canner has almost reached the correct setting of 10 pounds of pressure to begin processing for 25 minutes. More jars are being prepared to go in next:
We also like to make a few dill beans. They are a family favorite, and go over well at carry-in dinners. We use Mrs. Wage's Dill Pickle mix and add a sprig of fresh dill from my herb garden.

Canning green beans is hot work during the picking, time consuming during the snapping (although I admit I was able to watch House Hunters International and the Anne of Green Gables mini-series guilt-free while working), and it takes nerves of steel to operate the pressure canner. 

The result is a product that I know is high quality. I know these beans were grown in dirt that we own. I know whose hands planted, snapped, and washed the beans and packed them into the jars. I enjoyed the comradeship and sharing with my family that went on during the process.  It was a bountiful harvest in more ways than one.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Arrowhead Hunting

"You are the only adult I know who likes to go exploring," my grandson Logan once told me. I took it as high praise. One of our favorite activities was going on exploring adventures on our farm.  Today I decided to go exploring by myself along our creek to see if I could find arrow heads. While I have never found an arrowhead, nor do I know the first thing about finding one, I would like to, so I trekked through what I am sure was poison ivy to the creek. Round, little coon tracks and sharp, pointy deer tracks lingered there in the soft mud. A green glass bottle and a complete red truck light sparkled in the sand by the creek.  I wondered if someone hundreds of years in the future would be excited to find something like that. I imagined this futuristic person telling a friend, "You'll never believe what I found. It was a light that was made for one of those huge gas guzzling trucks from back when people actually used fossil fuels to operate vehicles!"  I carried the light home and proudly showed it to my husband. "Yeah...I'm guessing it probably doesn't work," he said.  He has no imagination. I think I will set it on a shelf until I find that arrowhead to replace it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Walking East

My last blog was about taking a walk west of my house; in this blog I will walk east. It is a more scenic route, but much harder on the legs, because there are steeper hills to hike. Since I am always thinking of songs that fit the situation, and because my Bane relatives came from Scotland, I kept singing (in my head, of course), "Oh, ye'll take the high road and I'll take the low road, and I'll be in Scotland afore ye...."  This is the low road, because it leads to our low water crossing.  Today I took my camera and looked around to see what I could share with my friends.

The first beauty I noticed was this pink old-fashioned rose blooming on a road bank.

Below is the Middle Fork of Salt River. I always pause here to soak in the sound of the flowing water, and cool off a little.
 A tiny orange butterfly feeds on nectar from the middle of this white morning glory.
Is that a rabbit over there?
I hope you enjoyed our walk in the country this fine Missouri morning!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

You Come, Too

As I was walking on our country road yesterday, I kept thinking of the Robert Frost poem, "The Pasture" and particularly the line, "You come, too." I wanted to share some of the sights I saw with you, so today I brought my camera to illustrate the poem. Here are Frost's words with my pictures of our pasture. Come along with me!

    The Pasture

         by   Robert Frost (1874–1963)

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shan’t be gone long.—You come, too.

 I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shan’t be gone long.—You come, too.

*  I hope you enjoyed the poem and our walk in the pasture. If you did, I may take you on more walks with me this summer.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mushroom Hunting in Missouri

Can you spot the mushrooms in this picture?
“Grandpa, do we have to keep quiet when we are mushroom hunting, too?” our grandson asked when he was about five years old, having already been well-coached on the need for silence when hunting and fishing. Fortunately, silence is not required when hunting for those jewels of the forest - morel mushrooms. Getting outside and tromping through the woods in the spring air is just part of the fun of mushroom hunting.

This morel was easier to see.
A grove of maple trees
Yesterday, I went mushroom hunting with my husband. Morels are not easy to see, camouflaged in the leaves, sticks, and spring greenery, so it is always a thrill to claim the first spongy prize poking out of the dirt. Every time I spotted one, Blaine would insist I leave it until he could see where it was growing, adding it to his mental file to look there next year. Here are the secrets of finding mushrooms from my husband, some handed down to him from his father, who was also a master mushroom spotter. One tip is to look for a grove of maples. For some reason they often pop up there. Pay special attention to rotting logs, which sometimes provide shelter for the mushroom spores to take root. Also check under elm trees, as mushrooms may also be found there. We also search under some favorite old, big trees every year. Basically, just look all over in the woods or small groves of trees, and if you find some mushrooms, remember the spot and look there again next year.
Many people worry about the safety of eating mushrooms, and it is certainly important to know which mushrooms are safe to eat and which are not. Some varieties of the fungi are poisonous. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, edible morel caps are attached directly to the stem, while poisonous mushrooms are not attached at the stem. If you are not familiar with the different varieties, look at pictures online, or take them to your local Conservation Department to help you identify them to be safe.
To prepare the mushrooms, we cut them in half and soak them in salt water to kill the little bugs that live inside. You can soak and rinse them all you want, but you might as well accept the fact that you are going to eat some hidden bugs. One time a tiny snail was hidden in the folds of a large mushroom, and my son bit into it. He did not eat mushrooms again for several years, even though we tried to convince him he had eaten the French delicacy called escargot. We then dip the halves in a beaten egg and roll them in cracker crumbs. I fry them in a skillet in equal parts of butter and olive oil. (The olive oil just makes me feel a little better about the calories in the butter.) The results are a plate piled high with crispy bites of goldenness that are best eaten warm. Morels are a tasty treat that are as much fun to find as they are to eat! What is your favorite way to cook and/or eat mushrooms?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kite Flying

April is National Kite Month. Last week Blaine pulled out our red and yellow airplane kite on a windy day for our grandson to fly.
“This is the first time I ever flew a kite!” 6-year-old Jaron exclaimed in delight, as he mastered the art of letting out the string and watching the kite soar into the blue spring sky.
Flying a kite is somewhat like raising children – a combination of letting them go, but still holding tight to the family bond between parent and child. While you proudly watch them soar high, part of you is aware of the chance they may dip down once in a while, and possibly even crash to the ground.
If that happens, do what you would do with a kite, pick them up, hold on for a little while as you move ahead together to gain momentum, then lift them up and let go, to watch them soar again.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Riding on the Tractor with Dad

I glance out the window and see my 34-year-old son riding on the tractor with his dad, after helping him grind feed and sort the cattle. The image blurs for an instant as unexpected tears flood my eyes. I blink them away as I flash back to when we bought this farm. Our son was so excited to move to the country, where he could hunt, fish, and explore the hills and woods. He loved learning how to drive the tractor and was so proud the first time he raked hay for his dad. Our little boy grew up so quickly. Now he lives just down the road from us in his own home in the country. We are fortunate to be able to see him often. He still enjoys hunting, fishing, and exploring the hills and woods on our farm.
By the time they come back by the house and I snap this picture, the tears are gone, and I smile back as he grins and waves at me. I am happy my adult son still likes to ride on the tractor with Dad.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Brother

My only brother's birthday is today. Many times I have been proud of him over the years, but I am more proud of him than ever for his positive attitude as he awaits a double lung transplant. For his birthday, I tried to remember a few of the highlights of our relationship.

Happy Birthday to My Brother

You have been there for me since the day I was born,
Even though you said, “I told Mom I wanted a boy!”
I remember the first time driving the tractor, while you picked up hay,
Daddy explained how to give it gas and put it in gear,
When he yelled, “Whoa” was the moment I realized he neglected to tell me how.
You ran alongside, jumped on the tractor, pulled back the clutch and demonstrated how to stop.
I remember driving home with you in your Chevy, taking the bridge too fast so we could jump a little on the end. (Our little secret, of course.)
I remember you carrying me to the car when my I had appendicitis, because it hurt too much for me to walk,
And feeling honored when you and Freda chose me to light the candles at your wedding.
I remember being scared, but so proud of you for fighting in service of our country,
And the joy the day you brought home that little red-haired baby.
Although they were sad times, I treasure the closeness we all felt as we were together to say goodbye to our parents for the last time.
You are my big brother, and I will love you and treasure the memories we share forever.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter in the Country

Today the six inches of snow on the ground mirrors that of the snow and ice in my china hutch – on my plates, that is. They are blue and white Currier and Ives plates, first manufactured in the 1950s by the Royal China Company (according to the Currier and Ives “official” website). Currier and Ives were lithographers in the 19th century, who manufactured many prints depicting life in America. The prints on the plates are mostly from the series “Winter in the Country”. When setting the table for any company Sunday dinner when I was growing up, I asked my mother if I could use these plates. As a wedding gift, my parents bought me my own set of the beautiful blue dishes. I have used them for years, and yet my research today taught me new information about them. For example, the 7-inch salad plate is called “Washington’s Birthplace” with George Washington’s two-story home on the banks of Pope’s Creek. I wonder if my mother knew that, since her father’s name was George Washington Downey. The dinner plate is called “Old Gristmill”, and includes a horse and wagon, as well as a pair of oxen in front of the snow-covered mill. A creek and bare trees are in the foreground. I discovered the cereal bowls are called “Old Schoolhouse – Winter”, with a man driving a horse-drawn sleigh passing by a school where the children are obviously enjoying recess. The younger children are sledding and running while the older ones huddle in small groups, talking. The meat platter shows men “Getting Ice”. I also have a pie plate that I could not find the official name of, but I would call it “Hauling Hay”. Three head of oxen or cattle are sheltered in a lean-to, and a man hauls a bundle of hay on a pitchfork on his back. The message of these images to me is that life in the country was a mixture of work and play, but it was good.

My husband is outside doing his chores in the biting cold right now. If I could do a lithograph of our “Winter in the Country”, it would show him carrying buckets of grain to the black cattle, puffs of air from their corn dusted nostrils clouding around their heads as they nudge each other for position at the trough. That chore has not changed much over the years. What has changed is that he will then crawl into his John Deere Tractor with the heated cab to haul the hay to cattle in the pasture. That is the image of our own 21st century “Winter in the Country,” and life is good here, too.