"Commentary from the Countryside"
Thoughts on current events,
history, homesteading, preparedness, real food, and anything else I find interesting, from a cranky, middle-aged woman's common-sense perspective.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Random Thoughts

The ups and downs of having a teenager with a driver's license:

Constant worry over deer and large farm equipment trying to occupy the same road space as my child.

Freedom from endless running and fetching for lessons, games, and after school activities.

Insurance costs!!!  Talk about legalized theft!

But best of all, I haven't had to do the grocery shopping in months! 

A ray of hope and sanity in Middle America during the overwhelming discouragement of living through a presidential election year:

The sudden hush that fell over the stadium at the beginning of the Great Lakes Loons ballgame, when the national anthem began and everyone stopped talking, and stood facing the flag with their hands over their hearts.

How is it that the gasoline currently in storage in large tanks under gas stations here in Michigan suddenly becomes more expensive when the hurricane a thousand miles away hasn't even hit anything yet?

I've decided the best smells of late summer are tomatoes cooking in a huge pot on the stove mixed with the sharp scent of peppers and onions in the dehydrator.

I'm waiting for something fantastical to happen on Friday during the blue moon. At least I've read some good stories based on that premise.

*Just in case you were wondering, the moon won't really turn blue.  It's just the name for the second full moon within one calendar month.  The last blue moon was during November 2010.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Time to Fill the Jars!

It's so wonderful to have a circle of good people about; not only do I have a great family but my church family is something special too.  One of my church family arranged for me to trade a bunch of my seedlings I grew this spring for some farm fresh chickens.  I'm pretty sure I came out the winner on this one!  The chickens were raised without chemicals, drugs, or hormones, and their home was only a dozen miles from my homestead.  Eat local, right?

Well these chickens met their end a couple of weeks ago; by the time I got over after church to lend a hand the bloody bit was over, so I got to help a little with the bagging and weighing part.  There were chicken carcasses all over the kitchen, and a lot of gabbing and laughing as the work was done, sort of like an old-time work bee.

Ideally, I would have brought all twenty chickens home and stayed up all night stuffing them into jars and wrassling with the Creature to get them all processed.  However the combination of having to work, and the imminent visit of the small humans known as nephews had me frantically making room in the freezer.

So I pulled out several chickens this weekend, chopped them up, filled my jars, and processed them.  Eight pints done so far, and all sealed.  It seems the Creature and I have called a truce; pressure canning isn't nearly the frightening, nerve-wracking thing that it was.  I did learn a few lessons:  a sharp knife is essential (I'll have to learn to keep them sharp!), it is much easier to cut the raw meat when it is still partially frozen, and working with partially frozen meat can really freeze your hands!

The garden is very sad, mostly overcome by the relentless weeds.  I will have to purchase beans and corn from my Amish neighbors to have enough to can up this season, which troubles my frugal heart, as I should be able to get enough from my garden, rather than using money for vegetables, but you do what you have to do, right?  I do have a few spaghetti squash, peppers, and some tomatoes are finally turning red.  I like to do most of the tomato prep work outside, just because it makes such a big mess.  I do the work at my picnic table, and can simply hose everything down.

I start with the best tomatoes I can pick, and wash them before dropping them into boiling water, using the blancher.  My grill opens up enough to accommodate the blancher and does a good job of keepng the water boiling.  After the tomatoes have been in the boiling water for just a few minutes, I pull them out and plunge them into a bowl of cold water.  this makes the skins loosen, and cools them enough for handling.  I pull the skins off, and then put the tomatoes through my Victorio strainer.  This great little kitchen gadget will crush the tomatoes, pushing all the seeds and tough bits out the end, while allowing the puree to pour into a bowl.  This whole process makes a huge mess, especially when the plunger makes a tomato squirt all over - usually getting the walls, ceiling, and my face, while completely missing the newspapers put down to catch the drips.  The bowls of puree are dumped into my heavy duty stock pot, cooked down to the desired consistency, and then jarred and processed.  This method is great because the puree lends itself to so many recipes - everything from ketchup to soup to dried tomato leather.  Quarts are water-bathed for forty minutes, pints for thirty-five.  While I grow heirloom tomatoes that weren't bred for sweetness, there's no way to be sure how acid they are, so I add about a tablespoon of lemon juice to each jar, just to be sure.
The Outside Kitchen!
There's nothing so lovely as jar after jar of bright red tomato puree lined up on the counter!

Until next time, may God bless you and keep you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Thunderstorms and Anti-Truth

It's a true summer evening in Michigan.  A little rubber duck, left behind after the nephew's visit, floats in lazy circles in the swimming pool.  The smell and sizzle of brats on the grill is punctuated by rumbles of thunder as a small thunderstorm slides in from the north.  The scent of rain is in the heavy, wet air, and a rising breeze makes the cornstalks in the garden rustle uneasily.  I'm sitting in my patio swing watching it all, pleased to be home and lazily thinking I should perhaps get up and close the truck windows.

The truck taken care of, the brats almost done, I wander barefooted through my garden, searching for a ripe tomato to have with dinner.  The garden is very poor this year; weed infested and drought stricken despite my efforts at watering and weeding.  So far the corn harvest has been a total of six ears with only a few kernels on them.  The peppers are coming on, and there's some blossoms on the beans, so perhaps all is not yet lost.  My search finally yields two red tomatoes, and the brats and I make it into the house just ahead of the rains.  That wonderful soft, fresh, clean smell of cool rain hitting warm soil is cause for rejoicing, it's been sorely missed this summer.

I've been doing some reading and thinking; and now that I have the laptop back online I'm monitoring the news and following some stories.  I'm reminded over and over again of the "Stages of Error" described by Lutheran theologian Charles Porterfield Krauth:

“When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of the others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions. Indulged in this for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the church. Truth and error are two co-ordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and then only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their recommendation is that they repudiate the faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skillful in combating it.”

Krauth was writing during the 19th century.  As our language has been dumbed-down during the intervening years, his logic may be a little difficult to follow, so here it is in modern terms:  Error, or Wrong, or Anti-Truth starts small, with requests for toleration.  (Don't hate me because I'm different, different is good, and Truth isn't so much fun anyways).  It then moves to demands for equality.  (I'm just as good and valid as anything you claim to be Truth and I deserve equal treatment and equal rights).  And finally when everyone who had believed whole-heartedly in Truth has become inured to the presence of Error, or anti-Truth, and doesn't care so much anymore, it moves aggressively to impose itself as better than Truth, more worthy, more friendly, and of higher importance. 

Our culture is caught dead-on in the third stage, and like the matter/anti-matter reactions described in my favorite tv series, the Truth/anti-Truth reaction seems likely to tear us apart in utter annihilation. 

The leftist media continues to promote anti-Truth, to willfully distort reports of events, to use emotion-laden, misleading words to foment more grief, more anguish, and more controversy.  Take for example, the recent kerfluffle over comments made by the owner of the Chik-Fil-A restaurants.  He said he did not believe that homosexuals should get married.  He has a right to that opinion.  He never said his business would refuse service to those who identify themselves as homosexuals; he never said anything hateful or demeaning, he simply expressed an opinion.

Well, anti-Truth jumped all over that, didn't it?  The hateful, disgusting, vitriolic response was just stupid.  Prominent politicians decided it gave them the right to attempt to shut down his business, and they decided to deny him the right to build new restaurants.  I bet it was a real surprise to these morons when so many thousands of people showed up for Chik-Fil-A appreciation day!  And the media just kept getting it so wrong - the large turnout wasn't to express hatred of homosexuals.  The large turnout was the result of ordinary, hard-working, tax-paying Americans supporting the man's right to Free Speech!  You know, one of those rights that makes this American republic so great?

Then there's the horrible mass shooting in Colorado.  Instead of realizing the trauma of the event, the media instead jumped to conclusions and claimed the shooter was a member of the Tea Party, so of course he must be evil and all guns must be locked up immediately.  Again, irresponsible reporting seeking only sensationalism.  A mild, muttered apology was issued the next day, but the damage was already done, wasn't it?

And let's not even discuss the presidential race.  The current Pretender in the White House has already sunk to new lows in his effort to remain king. 

What can we do?  Well, step one is to always remember Who is in control.  Tonight's storm passed quickly, with a golden, liquid sunlight breaking through, flashing from west to east and striking silver linings on the retreating clouds.  This was the view from my front porch:

God has set the rainbow as a reminder of His promise in Genesis 9:17: "So God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth."   He is always there, He always remembers, and He has fulfilled His covenant with the Sacrifice of His Son.  Anti-Truth has already lost the war, despite the battles he fights here on earth.

Step Two:  vote!  Vote with your money.  Vote with your voice.  Vote with your actions.  And this fall, vote with your ballot.

Until next time, God bless you my friends.