Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Happy Little Girl!

Here is the picture of a happy little girl!She is a happy little girl because her mommy made a giraffe Jumper for her to wear!
She is extra happy since it is made out of polar fleece and adds a little extra warmth during this season of extreme cold!


She thinks her mommy is pretty clever to use the thrifted, sweet little vintage giraffe applique pattern and give it a modern adaptation!


Newest Farm Life!

This is the newest of living things around the farm! Meet my sourdough starter! I've started sourdough starts several times and their simple but useful lives were quite short lived. Last apple season, my hired house help and dear friend Emma and I tried a couple of starts together. I printed off a copy of instructions for both Emma and me from Sourdough Home, a wonderful site in general on the science of breads and yeasts. Once again we both met failure. After apple season, however, Emma tried the instructions again and had success, and just yesterday she gave me some of her lovely starter and a piece of sourdough bread to go with it! Wonderful bread made solely with a sourdough start (no added yeast)!
So now I'm gonna love it, and feed it and keep it nice and warm! And pretty soon, I'm gonna make some bread with it!!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I Caved and Bought Myself Some Dirt!

Can anyone blame me? We are just a few days shy of March and we woke up again to sub zero temperatures! Minus 11 to be exact! So while I was out driving my neighbors around I stopped at my favorite family run greenhouse! After my over-indulgence on homemade chocolate chip cookies that our home teachers from church brought by, I figured why not indulge some more? I've been craving dirt and sunshine for months now and since today was already turning out to be of caving to cravings I was justified and I caved big time! 40 pounds big time! 40 pounds of rich, thick and oh so lovely potting soil!
So after getting it home (and letting it defrost for a little while) and diverting everyone else's attention so I could enjoy without interruption, I set up shop on my stove top. I'm sorry if that if that is offensive to any of my readers, but as far as I'm concerned, its the only thing a ceramic cooktop is good for! One of these days I will have a lovely gas range, but in the meantime, if it takes up space in this little old house, its gonna have to serve a valuable purpose! Here is my soil, all ready to plant in. I'm starting artichoke seeds. I don't know how they will do, but I've spent the last couple of years researching how these things grow so I might try to have a successful crop here. The plants typically don't produce chokes in their first year of production, but this particular variety might bear this year if you can give the plants enough of a chill while they are still young. Its called vernalization. This will be a fun challenge. It will be even more fun if I can actually harvest something off of them!
In case you were trying to figure out what the red box under the clear lid to my seed flat was, its the antique Hopalong Cassidy lunch box my friend gave me. I store my seed packets in here. Isn't it a fun antique? Don't I have a nice friend?

Looks Like Snow in the Near Future...

Earlier this afternoon, one of our young and newly wed Amish neighbors came over to ask if there was a chance that I could drive him and his wife to the midwife. He was quite concerned and wondered if we could leave as soon as possible. They are not very far along, but she has had a rough time of morning sickness (which I learned when she threw up while I was driving her to the midwife last time), and so I became pretty concerned as well. We had gotten the majority of what we wanted done today, and the Apple Farmer was home, so I told my neighbor I'd be down in 30 minutes to pick them up. Of course, this time I put his sweet wife in the front seat and kept the cabin temperature much cooler than last time... poor girl - she isn't used to riding in a car, and top that off with riding in the back seat on windy roads and the joy of morning sickness, she didn't have a chance last time!

All went well today as far as the trip went, and she was very relieved that her abdominal pain was related to a bladder infection and not a threat to miscarry. I was very relieved for her! I'm sure the sad tragedy is as fresh in her memory as it is mine. It was only a few months ago, almost at the end of apple season that I drove her sister-in-law and her new groom to a midwife up north of us because her pregnancy took an unexpected twist. What everyone had expected as twins crumbled as we learned from the ultrasound that, in fact, the baby had died due to birth defects. We all anticipated talking about the miracle on the way home, and of course I intended to tease her husband that they would need so many diapers that he would have to set up a treadle sewing machine for himself to help sew all of the diapers. I still remember feeling the joy melt away to grief. How full my heart was for these two newly weds, as I drove them home with their sweet little angel wrapped carefully in a blanket. They buried her the next morning in the family's cemetery.

After much relief of the simple diagnosis we picked up the needed items that the midwife recommended to remedy her infection and headed home. As we visited, my neighbor mentioned that it looked like more snow in the near future. Of course my ears perked up because I was really curious to know what he saw! He explained that there was a bright reflection through the clouds on each side of the sun as well as one right below it. I had a hard time seeing what he was describing on the sides, and everyone thought it was quite humerous as I described the polka-dots before my eyes that resulted from looking at the sun.... But I did defintely see what he was talking about below the sun. He further explained that it is not always a reliable predictor, but that it is accurate enough that it is worth mentioning. He explained also, that snow wasn't immediate either, but that it was probably a couple or few days out when you see this type of pattern. So there we have it! Sun predicted through the weekend by the professionals. A chance of snow predicted by my neighbor. It will be very interesting if the forcast changes!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Frosty!

This morning at around 7:15 AM, and exactly 0 degrees F outside. Everything is coated with 'winter dew'!










Sunday, February 21, 2010

Too Good for Words

Tonight at the dinner table, two of my monkeys sit directly across from each other. One is eating her dessert, and the other is still eating his pot roast and vegetables. Here is what we witness:




Ahhhh! The power of example!!

A Taste of India

Yummm! I love Indian Curry. This is a recipe that we enjoy with basmati rice (and if we don't have basmati when the craving strikes, jasmine or plain jane regular rice works just as well), naan and a cucumber salad. These recipes I got from my sister-in-law who had her own modifications. We have added ours, so I will list what the recipe originally says and then explain how I modify. The recipe is very flexible so you can add your own twists according to your own tastes and still come up with something delicious!

Indian Curry
Vegetables: The vegetables that you plan to put into your curry need to be steamed, stir-fried or cooked to your desired doneness. You will add these to your curry sauce and let them simmer toward the end of this process for just a bit. If you are adding peas, wait until the very last minute to put them in. I feel like they are better if they haven't been cooked for very long. Usually I use whatever vegies I have on hand and what sounds good. Typically, I don't use cauliflower or mushrooms, but the curry is ruined for the Apple Farmer if the potatoes are missing. Please note that amounts are not listed. My recipe only suggests a quantity for the carrot, which is one, and the potato, which is one. I usually put in more potatoes than that. Bottom line is you can add what and however much you like to your recipe.

sliced carrot
potato, chopped
mushrooms, sliced
green beans
peas
cauliflower

Sweet add-ins:
If you want to add these to your curry, they will go in at the same time you put your vegies into the curry. I think I've added the pineapple once, but have never put in the raisins. I imagine that the white raisins are really good in here.

Pineapple
Raisins

Meat:
I've made this curry meatless before. It was one of those times that I was sure I had a boneless, skinless chicken breasticle in my freezer and I didn't. Still turned out yummy. Maybe I added some lentils in its place (lentils and your basmati rice make a complete protien)? Can't remember, but even lentils would be yummy! Again, no quantity specified, I use two breasticles, but I have used only one in the past and my curry has been very full of goodness.

Chicken, chopped and stir-fried


Now for the Curry!
1 onion, chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can chopped tomatoes with hot peppers (rotel or similar)
1 TA fresh ginger, grated
1 TA fresh garlic, minced
1 TA cashew nuts, ground (I've never used this, I just top with chopped cashews when serving)
1 TA Garam Masala (spice section)
1 TA Cumin
1 TA poppy seeds (I've used rarely, doesn't make a huge difference in flavor so why bother buying it?)
1 TA Curry powder (I used madras curry powder)
Couple TA sugar (to taste-takes out a bit of the acid)
1 tsp salt
2 TA canola oil (recipe just lists butter, but this is my preference)
1 cup of heavy cream

Saute onion in oil until soft. Add cans of tomatoes and spices. Taste and see if you need to add more of something else. My SIL always adds more! Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to allow flavors and spices to soften and blend.

Now you have a couple of choices at this point. You can puree your simmering sauce with a stick blender or a regular blender to make it smooth or you can keep it chunky if you prefer. I prefer to blend it.

Bring your sauce back to a simmer and add all of your veggies, sweet add-ins and meat. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
Just before serving, turn off the heat and stir in your cream.

Serve on rice and pass around a dish of coursely chopped cashews to sprinkle on top!


Naan
I've not had loads of experience with Naan. I discovered the wonderfulness of Indian food shortly before we moved out here. Since it takes us almost 2 hours to get to the city, Indian food isn't something that we go out for. So you can imagine how happy I am to have such a yummy recipe to make at home when I get the hankering for it!! Back to Naan. I use a recipe that I got from my sister-in-law. It is pretty low fat and cooked a lot like a tortilla with no oil. I've done some internet researching and have found many different variations that are somewhat different from this. Therefore, authenticity I can't vouch for, but it is what my family loves and so this is what we do!!

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
3 TA melted butter
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt

Mix these ingredients with a mixer or in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon.

Stir in

3 cups of flour (I used to make this with white flour, but love the nutty flavor of the wheat flour)

Cover with plastic wrap and let set for three hours. (I've never let it rest for the full three hours, in fact, I usually mix it up just before I get my curry, rice and salad made and after I've made them, then I start cooking the naan).

To Cook:
Pinch off a piece of dough about the size of a ping pong ball - golf ball size is probably too big! Roll out on a floured surface (I'm generous with flour - probably because I like to make messes when I cook!) Roll it out as thin as you can get it. I can never get a nice circle, they are usually pretty catty-wampus in shape! Heat up a pan over medium heat (you'll need to adust as needed. Usually I use two little pans so I have two burners going at the same time - gets them done more quickly). Throw your rolled out ball of dough into the pan - no non-stick and no oil - just a bare naked and very hot pan. Turn when the first side has some dark spots on it and repeat the cooking process on the second side. Put on a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm. My family likes butter on their bread, so after I pull the naan off the pan I will quickly butter it while it's still really hot.




Cucumber Salad

Again, this recipe doesn't have specific measurements but hopefully I can explain it well enough that you can make it and love it too!

Chop up a bunch of tomatoes and cucumbers. I especially love this salad when we are getting the cukes and maters from the garden! Two big maters and 1 or 2 cukes will do. Put these in your salad bowl. You might also enjoy a shredded carrot in the mix. The recipe didn't call for it, but I think its pretty. Slice 2 green onions and chop up around 3 or 4 tablespoons of fresh cilantro ( you might like more... is there really such thing as too much cilantro?)

To dress this salad, you need some good plain yogurt. Make sure its a really good quality yogurt - there is a difference! I would start with about 1/2 a cup. Stir that into your salad, along with about 1 tsp on cumin, 1 tsp sugar and maybe about 1/2 tsp salt (to taste). If it looks like you need a little more yogurt, add more. This is another really flexible recipe. You will have enough yogurt when your veggies look nicely coated. You might be on the heavy side if you are having a hard time seeing what color your veggies are! Now taste your salad. Do you need a little more cumin or salt? Add more of whatever you want. I might add a little bit of pepper or some ground red pepper flakes...
And because every good post deserves a good picture...
A much younger President, eating a sweet watermelon. In fact, slice some melon slices for dessert! This dish deserves some fresh sweet melons as a grand finale!


The Snowy Winter

Its snowing yet again. With all of the snow we've been receiving this winter, and with the word 'snow' being a as common a household name as the word 'milk', one would think that her Royal highness would have nailed down the proper pronunciation for the word. Instead, she is still calling it "hoe," and happily announces when it is "hoeing", and is excited to build a "hoeman".

My 'quick' trip into town on Friday afternoon, at the beginning of this most recent dumping of snow, didn't end up quite as 'quick' as I had planned. The lengthiness wasn't attributed to the slow drive home due to quick accumulation on our little windy highway home. The lengthiness of the trip had a lot more to do with how long it took to drop off library books and pick up a few necessary groceries. The wonderful thing about "small town" is that people like to talk with each other - even if you may not know them very well!! Even when I am in a hurry, I still really enjoy this chatter.

As you may have already guessed, I had many, many conversations about the weather with just about everyone I smiled at - the produce manager at our local grocery, a complete stranger in the dairy aisle, the cashier, several librarians and of course, the conversation on the cell phone with the Apple Farmer! From what I've gathered from the locals, this is an extremely unusual winter. LOTS more snow than normal. However, an old timer said that this type of winter snow accumulation is more typical to what they used to get here during the good ol' days - snow would be piled high above the tops of cars each winter.

video

We will be celebrating five years on our farm on the 18th of march! This year the snowmobile has gotten the most use out of all of these past winters! This video clip was taken a few days ago when we were figuring that it was likely one of the last rides we would be taking this winter! Now I have four happy boys and a happy little girl who know that we will be getting the snowmobile out tomorrow for some more fun. I'm pretty happy too!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Something for Everyone at the Springfield, MO Discovery Museum!

Impressive display! It looks soooo realistic! And then after looking at it through the giant magnifying glass, I saw its heart beating! This is a 9 day old chicken embryo. Pick me! Pick me!

The coolest globe ever!

Super magnets!

Static Electricity!

The giant bubble blower, and a docent that looks and talks like Einstien! Except he is from a different part of Germany than Einstien was.


Brusha, Brusha, Brusha!

I'm not so sure about a future in show business!


video

DNA Extraction and Precipitation at the Springfield, MO Discovery Museum

Here we got to swish water in our mouths for 30 seconds. The water and whatever we managed to collect in it while swishing became the focus of our study. The swishy liquid was poured into a test tube. A detergent was then used to disolve the cell walls and nucleus envelope so that the DNA strands would be released. Alcohol was then added to the whole process, which caused the DNA to precipitate together. Here you can see the collection of little white dots near the top of the contents of the tube. Before it looked like this, the little white dots aligned in a way that they looked like spiderweb strands. And he wants to be a scientist!

Cellular Biology at the Springfield, MO Discovery Museum


Really cool hands-on model of an animal cell! See the endoplasmic reticulum?
Really cool hands on model of a plant cell. I'm loving the purple and blue polka-dotted nucleus!
The the CEO asks me, "What is a cell?"
I think to myself, "Wow! After many long winter months of trying all kinds of 'bait' to lure the crew into a terrific adventure in learning, it appears that I may have just gotten a nibble!" Excitedly, I begin reeling!
"Well, everything around us is made up of cells! Cells are teeny building blocks! They are so small that you can not see them unless you look at them through a microscope! But when whole bunches of them are stacked together, they make the things that you can see, like leaves, flowers, and even our bodies!"
"Huh?"
Oh dear! I was reeling too fast!
Slowing down...
"See my skin? It is made up of little particles. They are called cells. And because they make my skin, they are called skin cells...
"I don't get it!"
I begin to realize I need some professional help or my fish... oops, I mean this opportunity to feed my little student's curiosity was going to get away! I scanned the room quickly and honed in on a docent!
"You stay right here and I will be right back... And DON'T lose that thought!"
She was a professional! She knew what she was doing! And before I knew it, all of the kids were donning lab gear!
The crew followed her directions to a 'T' and without any hesitation. I wish I knew how she got them to do that because whenever I tell them to do something it requires super-human strength to get these guys to even make their beds... I'm getting off topic... but I'm still really impressed... How'd she do that?
She is really cute. Hmmm... is 'cuteness' a factor in whether or not one chooses to follow directions?

After they followed her directions, they each ended up with a prepared slide that had their very own cheek cells on it!
After putting it into the microscope and magnifying three different times, here is what they saw! Amazingly, the CEO 'got it.' Now, he not only knows what a cell is, but he managed to hit every microscope display in that museum after this lab experience and identified every last nucleus he managed to see!Then, with all of the enthusiasm he could muster he declared
he wants to be a scientist!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

This is a lonely soldier looking across the ocean..


... that separates him from home...

Leo Howard Oswald. My Grandfather, and so significant in the hearts of all those who also belong to him such as Mother, Father, Wife, Brothers, Sisters, Sons, Daughters, Grand Children and Great Grand Children.

I never had the opportunity to know my grandfather while in mortality. I was born on March 20th, 1972, and he died on March 20th, 1970. Mom says that he loved his children dearly and looked forward to his own grand children.


Mom is working on a wonderful project! She has asked me to help with the formatting and design of a keepsake book about my Grandfather Leo for our Oswald family! She has spent an enormous amount of time scanning WWII photographs that Leo took and collected during his service to his country.
I've had a chance to play a little bit this evening with some of the photos and have come up with two pages. These are trials since I am using an uncalibrated screen. I'll upload these to the company that I use to create my photography related keepsake books and and request prints so I can calibrate my screen and then I'll go from there!
The handwritten notes are scanned from the back of his photographs and have been used as overlays. I'm so excited to see how this book evolves! It's incredible to see these photographs and especially to see notes written to home in his own hand!