Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Day for Cinnamon Rolls

It was extremely cold here in west-central Minnesota last night and throughout today. I decided to stay home from church, because I just didn't think it was worth venturing out that early in the morning. Maybe there was a little selfishness in my decision too. Appreciated the extra hour in bed. I did catch the Catholic mass later on TV, and although I'm not well-versed in it, I appreciated the sermon (homily?) and the music from a small choir in the St Cloud area. It made my day feel a little fuller, as I usually feel I'm missing something in the week when I don't attend.


Along with my bottomless cup of coffee throughout a cold day, I wanted to make something good to go along with it. I decided on cinnamon rolls. I'm out of raisins, so tried a mixture of dried apricots from the freezer and cherries. I mixed in a little bit of ground cloves with the cinnamon, and I think it was a good result.


It was so chilly in the house this morning, so both raises were very slow.


For the glaze, I used powdered sugar, juice from the cherries, and a bit of vanilla. It was worth the wait, and will be good heated up again tomorrow morning. 


Yesterday, one of my friends who visit often, stopped by and had a good snack of Scotch pine. I didn't have the heart to shoo him away (I'm pretty sure this is a male by the wider shape of the head), and I need to trim this tree up anyway soon. I get whacked in the face every time I try mowing past this tree. At least he hasn't touched the bark.


A few of the geraniums I overwinter in the house are budding and blooming. This is my favorite red one. It is a true red, not orange-red or burgundy, although I like them all. 


This blue jay was a part of the entertainment this afternoon as he pecked out the raisins and citron out of a stale chunk of the Christmas cake. The squirrels will have the rest.


Have a good week, and stay warm.
Phil










Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Return to Everyday Life

Christmas has passed once again, and with the arrival of Epiphany, all the decorations and tree are down. Now I am back to the rural northerner's life of winter...quiet nights, observing nature, planning for the Spring to come, working on small projects, and enjoying the preparation and flavors of plain food. No more endless varieties of cookies, cakes, snacks, dips, and appetizers. Now it's time for some old-fashioned farm meals. Yesterday I made one of Mom's recipes, a hamburger pie.


It's basically everything you like in a pie crust. I'm sure you've all made one, and it is a meal in itself. Hamburger, peas, carrots, allspice, sage and some marjoram and oregano. I modified it a little bit by adding mushrooms and dried cranberries. I find something like dried cranberries or raisins enhance the hamburger or whatever meat you use in a pie. 


I made the crust from scratch that I usually do, it makes two double crusts. If you're lacking in time, get a Pillsbury two-crust pack from your local dairy section. I've learned never to let your lack of ingredients or time stop you from making something nice. So if you don't do crust, buy one of these. I find them to be pretty good quality. I'm retired now, so I figure I have the time to make my own from scratch. 


Try one of these or something else you really like now that the pressure is off and we can enjoy some plain food.


Enjoy your winter wherever you live, even in the sunny south.


Peace be with you. Phil





Sunday, December 30, 2018

Quiet Christmas Here in the Country

   Good Evening. I've been enjoying a good Advent and Christmas season here on the farm. I had some family here Christmas Eve, and they stayed until the afternoon of Christmas Day. Christmas Eve was quite the same as has been the tradition for most of my life. I ushered in church at the candlelight service, then we all had a later dinner and opened some gifts, as well as playing rummykub and a dice game for dollar gag gifts later. Christmas Day we had homemade cinnamon rolls and julekage (Norwegian Christmas cardamom bread) with our usual rolled oats with dried cranberries for breakfast. I made a non-traditional dinner, lasagna and salad, because none of my family except me and my sister enjoy Norwegian lutefisk anymore. They don't even eat pickled herring! For shame! It all worked out, but I miss the old days of lutefisk, lefse, and the whole Norwegian atmosphere when my parents and grandparents were all living. 

   Here are a few pictures of Christmas at home.








This was my third attempt at making lefse. It turned out good. I think what made the difference was my change from whole milk to heavy cream. It turned out a little more tender and softer to the taste.




A good amount of snow fell this past week, not quite on time for Christmas, but still it's good to have a little snow cover for those of us who worry about sewer lines and drainfields freezing up.



Yesterday was COLD.


But it warmed quite a bit today. New Year's Eve should prove to be very cold though. This is a good time to catch up on reading and some tv. For me that would be old-time favorites on ME-TV.




An important time for me to give some special attention to animals who depend on me and remembering those who have left.



My Christmas lasts until Epiphany, so I'll be moving slow through the holiday. I hope you all enjoy a Blessed and Happy Christmas!
Phil



















Thursday, October 11, 2018

Looking Forward to the Slow Season

Good evening from my home in Wykeham Township, Minnesota. Fall is seriously upon us, and it has a good measure of winter mixed in. I've been getting the garden produce ready for the freezer, also canning, and drying. Since I live alone out here in the sticks, you'll notice I don't grow or preserve nearly as much as some of you might. I try to keep enough for myself and the family visitors I have throughout the "Slow Season." Notice I mix Fall and Winter together, because in Minnesota they're really so interconnected. One day can be the classic autumn day, but the next can be bitterly cold with snow.

I like to dry peppers, but I don't have a dehydrator, so I just use my variation of an oven method, not scientific, but it gets the job done. I don't dry huge volumes of peppers, so a few jars will last me a long time.


One thing I gathered, is that it doesn't pay to try drying green or even yellow peppers. Wait until they turn orange or red. Seems the moisture content is too high otherwise. So if you grow the Hungarian yellow peppers, don't pick them so early, let them turn orange/red. They are my favorite. Another is the red cherry-bomb pepper. Don't rush the ripening that comes with sunny weather. Just my observation. I put the peppers in the oven at 200-250 for 15 minutes, then turn the oven off until it cools. Then I just let them cool, crumble them and put in a clean jar with a few rice kernels on the bottom. You'll notice I have some greener ones on the cookie sheet. I just threw them into the mashed potatoes that night.



The drying of anything from the garden increases the flavor, sweetness and  richness of any fruit or veg. Of course a dehydrator is the best, but I don't have the storage room for all these appliances, so just accept the best from what I have. These are good on pizza, salads, potato salad, any kind of gravy, and I like to knead it into the dough for dinner rolls. Try drying peppers.

Here are some photos of maples in two of our churchyards in Eagle Bend this October.






One of the signs of Fall is the tiger salamander looking for a place to burrow in and get cozy. I usually see one or two of these every year.

Here are some pickles I've made. I was disappointed in the cuke variety I picked this year, called "Munchers." They had an excess of seeds, even in the smaller ones. But my brother-in-law likes them, so not a failure.

Today I spent my time getting all the geraniums I keep into the house. I keep them all from year to year. I realize that it is a lot of work, but I do save a lot by keeping them in the basement, and I don't especially like spending $4.99 or $5.99 for a pathetic little geranium in the Spring. I'll do it my way. These will go downstairs in the morning.


I hope you have a blessed Fall. I hope you will leave a comment. Now it is time for this.


















Saturday, September 8, 2018

St. Francis Under the Pole Beans

Hello. I hope you are all having a good, quiet weekend. The weather has been really nice these past three days. Cool and dry. What a change! Green beans are really producing well, maybe too well for me.

I always liked the imagery of St. Francis. He was known as a friend of animals and nature. Here he stands under the pole bean arbor I made this spring. I wanted to make more room for onions and potatoes, so decided on pole beans rather than bush beans.


Here's another view. As a non-Catholic, I always thought my own religion was a little too severe when it came to saints. Of course that was years ago in Lutheran confirmation class, so I have decided for myself that Francis was a good guy. How could you not respect a guy who invited birds to rest on his shoulders?


Today, there was a nice clear view of my farm's hayfield looking to the southwest. The neighbor that has been harvesting the hay has decided to plow up the field and disk it. He still has to seed it with alfalfa and red clover. I'm hoping that it gets done this fall. I don't have the farm equipment to get it done, as it's very expensive. 


As I worked in the kitchen getting green beans ready for the freezer I took this picture of the view to the north. My house is surrounded by a lot of trees, maybe too many, but it has kept the house cool this summer. I don't have air-conditioning.

I don't follow the traditional freezing procedure. I don't blanch the beans. I also don't "flash-freeze" them on cookie sheets. For me, it's a waste of time and anyway not really possible in a conventional freezer. I just lay enough beans flat in one layer in gallon freezer bags to feed maybe 2 or 3 people at a meal. They come out just fine and a lot more flavor remains than if you blanch them. I make sure to wash and re-use the bags always.

Baby Boy (Byron) wanted me to show him off by the ripening plum tomatoes and goldenrod. He likes the attention. Some folks say the plum tomatoes don't have much flavor, but I think it comes out when they are cooked. I really like them.


I've been trying to cook out of the freezer to make more space. Chicken soup was on the menu tonight. I make enough for 5 more meals later on. It's especially good to have them ready for the winter, when I like to enjoy the luxury of the "hibernating season." So I'll be making more soup this coming week, chili, chicken, ham and navy bean etc. Today I used up carrots that were slightly past their prime, a few small onions and more green beans. I try to make do with what there is here. 


I hope you take time to make use of what we've been given. Simple food is the best. Have a good weekend.









Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Walk Around This Old Farm

Greetings from Wykeham Township, Minnesota. I haven't posted for several months, and the time has gotten away from me. I make excuses. Some might be just excuses like "I was too busy,"  and others might be real reasons like "is any of this even worth doing?" Anyway I have missed doing the posts and sharing some of my life here, so I'll make another attempt. I hope you are all doing well, and if you are having any misfortunes, I hope they can be managed as best you can, and hopefully go away completely.

Man, this has been one wet, weedy, hot, summer until now. In the last two weeks, I feel the weather has given us a respite to feel somewhat civilized for once. I must say, the summer has been good for flowers and the veg. It isn't the best, because I planted the veg very late, but at least things look healthy. Some of these photos are from the whole range of July. I am a fan of day lilies and hostas, so these pictures might be a little heavy on those. I like the coolness of hostas and arborvitae evergreen trees. These are in front of the house.


Here are some hostas and day lilies in a shade garden in front of the house. There is also a dark red Asiatic lily that I planted after bringing it to church a few Easters ago in memory of my Dad.


In the same garden are a lot of these "alba marginata" hostas, green with white edges. I like them and think they give a cool "northern" look to a shady area.


As the spruce trees get older, I find it necessary to trim them up from the bottom. I've been planting a lot of native ferns around them and here I put all-green hostas in front.


Here is another place by the garage where I've done this.



Over the last few years I've put in a lot of spirea shrubs and "Stella D'Oro" day lilies down by the meadow which was once the pasture for dairy cattle. These spirea are a Japanese spirea and I like the reddish-pink flowers. The more you trim them, the more they flower. The same with these small day lilies.


Here are a couple new hostas. They're next to a garlic-related plant that smells really good when you touch it. I guess that's a personal preference, because I like the smell of onion and garlic on my hands. 


Here are some more day lilies that I've been growing. Many are very old ones that my parents had at least 35 years ago.







The veg garden is coming along but much slower than others I've seen.



I keep geraniums year to year in the basement during the winter. They are still doing pretty well. Here they are on the porch and around the house.





Finally, here are a couple more photos of some of the work in the yard and by the old dairy barn.






So that's what I've been up to the past few months. Hope you are all o.k and enjoying the summer. All the best to you. 

Phil