Farm Life

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The sun is setting. It’s time to eat!

According to my husband, beef pot pie is one of the best things I make. It is also easy.

The two essentials to making meat pie are first to have enough good & tasty gravy to almost cover the cooked meat, and second to ensure that steam does not produce a soggy crust.

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My dough is rolled out and ready to go over the gravy-covered beef and vegetables.

Here are two sure-fire methods to prevent a soggy pie crust (I use method 2):

  1. Use any unsweetened pie dough and prebake separately on a baking tin cut to cover the casserole. Since pie dough shrinks during baking cut it slightly larger than your baking dish and prick it with a fork. Bake the pastry seperately at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Set your crust aside. Cover your meat and gravy (vegetables too, if desired) with aluminum foil and bake until warm in the casserole dish. When your meat and gravy is hot and bubbly, place the prebaked crust on top and serve at once.
  2. OR… put an unbaked dough over the stew and bake the meat mixture and dough at the same time (I prefer this method):

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Fill baking dish with cooked stew and gravy to one inch from the top. Place over it a generous covering of round of dough, allowing for shrinking. Brush dough with a little milk. Be sure to make slashes and prick your dough with a fork to allow steam to escape. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Cover pie crust edges with foil. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 35 minutes until crust is golden and your filling is bubbly.

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Buster begging for pie trimmings. He’s already had some. See the flour on his face?

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The pot pie is hot and ready. For my filling I used left-over roast beef & gravy, cooked mixed vegetables (frozen mix) and another cup of gravy made from a dried mix.

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Yea! My crust is flakey, not soggy.

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Simba bringing me a present.

Furry little animals are my favorite gifts.

Usually.

Last night, Simba brought me a present. He’d caught his first mouse and was excitedly meowing with every step. Unfortunately I didn’t know what Simba’s calls meant until it was too late.

 Proudly, Simba dropped the mouse at my feet and waited to be praised. Only when the mouse ran toward me, I went the other way.

Undaunted, Simba recaptured the mouse and followed me into the next room. Maybe he thought I needed to learn to hunt. He was calling me the way mother cats call their babies.

Which is how we ended up playing cat and mouse.

Patiently, Simba again dropped his mouse, making encouraging chirps and looking at me hopefully.

Simba was proud of his catch. His eyes gleamed. He looked fierce, like his name. But still, he was giving the mouse to me.

 I swept the mouse outside with a broom.

Simba ran out the dog door.

I like to think the mouse escaped and found his way back to the barn. And that the little mouse had a glorious reunion with his family.  

But, this morning, I didn’t kiss Simba.

More cat stories:

My Big Fat Animals

Two dogs and a cat go to the vet

The Cat Box

Cat Ladder

DH’s Cat Ladder Goes International

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Last night at 10:30 p.m. our Weather/All Hazard’s Alert radio told us to take shelter. It got dark. It got windy. Abby ran through the dog door and out into the back yard to bark at the storm. Buster hid under a chair. Our cats, Simba and Biggs paced nervously, staying close to DH and I.  Kitty was out in the woods somewhere.

We turned our television to our local satellite weather channel. The announcer said a tornado had touched down and was 16 minutes away.  Our Police Scanner reported  a couple calling in on a cell phone phone saying they were trapped under the rubble of their house.

DH watched out the back door and saw nothing in the dark.

It was a long night.

This morning  we found fiberglass insulation from homes in Nappanee in our front yard. According to the news some of Nappanee’s debris was found in Constantine, Michigan…40 away.

Here are some pictures of Nappanee. I may have more this weekend.

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A barn down the road lost its roof.

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Electric poles down…DH and I did not lose our electricity.

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200 Homes and buildings were damaged. It is estimated that 100-150 are damaged beyond repair.

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The south side of Nappanee. Winds reached 165 m.p.h.

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More damage from the powerful F-3 tornado.

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The Dairy Queen.

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A closer view of rubble and metal wrapped around an electrical wire.

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A farm east of Nappanee.

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Here is where I get vegetables in the summer. The Weaver’s lost some of their roof, several trees, and all of their vegetable stand. Notice the right porch post.

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 A picture of Weaver’s vegetable stand sign I took in June.

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Where the sign and vegetable stand used to be.

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Splitting wood.

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More wood splitting.

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Neighbors and relatives work together.

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Stocking up for winter.

Media Links:
Powerful Tornado in Nappanee, Residents clean up/Includes Video Coverage,
Fort Wayne WPTA-TV

MORE TORNADO DAMAGE PICTURES, PLUS NEWS UPDATES

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My dried rose is still bright and yellow. It looks fresh and alive.

When I opened my garage refrigerator door, the forgotten rose was the first thing I saw. It was as bright a yellow and as beautiful as the day I left it.

That was September 8, the day my father was buried.

At the gravesite, my mother and I each took a yellow rose from the spray on my father’s casket. When I got home, I put the rose in a small vase in our spare refrigerator and forgot about it.

Until now.

It was exquisite, delicately tinted…deserving of care and preservation.

Which is what DH and I did. It came out perfect.

Besides roses, chrysanthemums (which are at their peak now) also are easily preserved.

dsc00759.JPG This is the gel I used. I got it at Michael’s.

HOW TO PRESERVE FLOWERS WITH SILICA GEL

Conventional Drying Method (This is what I did)

  1. Choose plastic or metal container with tight-fitting lid.
  2. Pour silica gel into container to a depth o 1 1/2 inches to cover the bottom. Cut flower stems to about 1 1/2 “. Space flowers so they do not touch each other. Original stems may be dried and reattached with floral wire and tape after drying.
  3. dsc00722.JPG The stem is cut to 1 1/2″.

  4. Slowly sprinkle silica get around base of flowers, adding it to the top and sides of the flowers. Be careful to support fragile petals with the silica gel before covering the top of the blossom. Make sure all parts of the flowers are covered with a generous layer of silica gel.
  5. dsc00723.JPG The flower is in the gel. See how yellow and fresh it is.

  6. Cover container with airtight lid and put away in a dry place. Drying times vary from 2 to 7 days, depending on the number of flowers in a container and the moisture content of the flowers. Thin petals will dry faster than heavier flower centers.
  7. To remove the flowers, slowly pour off silica gel until blossoms are uncovered. Gently brush away silica gel that may be on the petals using a soft artist’s brush. A few grains of silica gel may be left in the center of heavy flowers to aid in preserving them from room humidity.

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Carefully pouring off the silica gel.

Microwave Directions

Prepare flowers as above but DO NOT COVER the container. Place in the microwave (in a microwave-safe dish) with a glass of water and heat on medium power until dry.

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Fresh-cut snapdragons.

 Suggested Flowers to Preserve

Pansies, violas, baby’s breath, buttercup, feverfew, heather, ferns, azalea, calendula, daisy, aster, bachelor button, larkspur, delphinium, foxglove, roses, carnations, gardenia, marigold, hydangea, hyacinth, chrysanthemum, orchid, snapdragon, stock, peony

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My dried snapdragon flowers and their foilage kept their color and are ready to be added to an arrangement.

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Tonight we had baked spaghetti with garlic bread.

DH wanted baked spaghetti.

I’d never heard of it. It sounded kind of dry. I thought the pasta underneath might end up mushy and overcooked.

“No,” said DH, “it’s wonderful. The pasta absorbs the sauce and makes it really flavorful. I really like it.”

So, when I found Imagineannie’s meatloaf and baked spaghetti “planned over” dinners I thought I would give both recipes a try. I am glad I did. DH was right. It WAS wonderful. Plus I not only used up the meatloaf from the night before, DH and I were thrilled to be eating leftovers. 

I will definitely be making both the meatloaf and baked spaghetti again.

Here is the link to Imagineannie’s “planned over” recipes:
http://imagineannie.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/planned-overs-the-transformers-of-the-kitchen/

 You can use any spaghetti sauce for baked spaghetti. I used homemade sauce from my freezer. Here’s my recipe and method for sauce from garden tomatoes:

http://jolynna.wordpress.com/2007/08/12/homemade-spaghetti-sauce-with-garden-tomatoes-herbs-homemade-meatballs-how-to-peel-tomatoes-dhs-gardening-secret/ 

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Kitty is trying to kill himself.

It’s a dangerous situation.

Kitty is so happy when he thinks his people are coming home he runs under the front wheels of every vehicle pulling into our drive. If you look for him, when it gets dark he’s hard to see.

We don’t know how to break Kitty of his new habit. Some of the visitors to our house are older and have enough trouble negotiating around our trees, shrubs or the barn to consider watching out for our little cat.

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Kitty’s about to throw himself beneath a jeep wheel. Notice the tire tracks where he’s walking.

This week our horses kicked holes in the barn. We don’t keep them locked inside stalls. They can go inside or out at will. They’ve got free access to a big round bale of hay. They have a fan inside the barn. They have bug zappers. They have a drinking fountain.

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The kicked out side of our barn.

I think the horses and Kitty are missing DH.

DH loves having a farm and spends his days as if he were a paid hand. He mows, works in the barn, trims trees, cleans up trails, fixes fences and as he does chores, the horse’s noses are right up his back or over his shoulder. When DH is outside their pasture, the horses watch his every move from the closest fence corner.

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The not very remorseful barn kickers beg for treats.

Kitty lived wild and feral in DH’s woods for an entire year before DH was able to get close to him. He still spends most days outside. Only instead of being the cat that walked and lived alone, Kitty now follows DH like a dog. He is up and down ladders, running ahead of DH on paths in the woods and springing out from behind weeds to grab DH’s legs.

Lately though, DH has had obligations that have prevented him from being as available outside for our animals.

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Simba’s found a sack and total bliss.

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Biggs enjoys her favorite chair.

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The newest member of our family, Scooter, the hummingbird, sips nectar and entices Biggs who is watching out the window.

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Buster and DH greet Mr. Miller, the repairman who will be fixing our barn. The children soon are petting our horses although Mr. Miller said their horse is a new one. According to Mr. Miller, the new horse isn’t very well trained and behaved badly on the drive to look over our barn.

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It’s that time of year and animal hair is everywhere. Abby watches me sweep.

It is shedding season and over the past week with my daughter visiting, every day was a reminder that I really need to check out the animal Dyson vacuum cleaner. Dog and cat hair were everywhere and clinging to our clothes everytime we left the house.

 Our pets are a lot of work and a responsibility. They aren’t cheap with vet visits, expensive and endless desires for Fancy Feast, hay, treats, toys and barn destroying. But, their joy, when we come home, is so overwhelming you cannot help but know it’s love in its  purest and most unselfish  form.

Simba may mostly be DH’s cat, but this week it was my face he snuggled up to every night. And in the mornings  DH made coffee and Abby came and nuzzled my arm so I’d wake up right before it was ready. Somehow, someway, those pets instinctively became nurturing and extra affectionate.

Are our pets worth the inconvenience and expense?

Absolutely. We don’t miss or think about their cost in time or money.

But, we’d sure miss them.

More dog stories:

Two dogs and a cat go to the vet

My Big Fat Animals

“Bad Boy Buster” and Dog Whispering

More cat stories:

Two dogs and a cat go to the vet

The Cat Box

Cat Ladder

DH’s Cat Ladder Goes International

More Horse Stories:

Give me a kiss

Horses , Skipper Rears

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Many of my friends and neighbors hitch up their horses to go shopping.

In my neighborhood, women aren’t judged by the size of their diamonds. That would be prideful.

Nor are they judged by designer labels or gowns. Most wear calico dresses they make themselves. Veiled buns are the hairstyle of choice. A luxury car is rarer than a hen’s tooth. Ladies around here hitch up and head for town in buggies.

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Wildflowers in a field.

But, those same women whose manner of dress and way of living is known as plain…in their gardens create artistic masterpieces worthy of display in any museum. Beds of lavender phlox spring up through silvery rocks in contrast to pink spring tulips. Clumps of blue salva alternate with red geraniums. Tubs and old wagons overflow with colorful pansies. Red petunias then white petunias then purple ones line long, winding drives. Wildflowers abound in uncultivated fields.

drive-through-the-country-025.jpg A Mennonite Buggy takes the family to town.

A ride to town through the country is one of my greatest pleasures. It’s also the source of intimidation and pressure. Because I want to fit in. And before I met DH, the only flower I ever planted was a marigold.

It died.

To avoid failure, I bought expensive already done-up hanging baskets. And the prettiest flowers the greenhouse had. Mission accomplished. A piece of cake.

Only I didn’t know you were supposed to deadhead blooms once they’d wilted. I had no idea how much water impatiens drink. Or that they don’t do well in direct sun. Or that they should be fertilized.

blog-pictures-007.jpg Birdseeds fall from the feeder and grow into flowers that attract bees, butterflies and lots and lots of goldfinches.

I put my geraniums on my porch in the shade because I thought they were the nicest looking of my flowers and I wanted the people driving by our house to see them.

“Your flowers are looking wilted,” DH would say. But, I’d watered them the day before. They didn’t need water every day.

It is amazing how long and stringy and dried out toward the bottom petunias can get if they are never deadheaded. Or how soon geraniums quit flowering. And then there were the weeds in the front flower bed.

I didn’t take pictures of my flowers the first year.

blog-pictures-073.jpg My favorite lilies. There is only one bloom now, but more are budding and on the way.

The next summer I did better. Because I didn’t want to take chances, I still bought expensive already-done hanging baskets. But, I read the directions on the flower tabs. (Before buying, even.) My mother explained deadheading and gave me starts. On one happy day a lady at the greenhouse complimented me on my flowers after I told her where I lived.

That was two years ago.

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“Meet me at my garden gate.”

This spring, I did my own hanging basket arrangements. Some were even from $5 flats of “not such good looking” flowers and $1.25 geraniums purchased from kids raising funds for their 4-H club.

There were mistakes.

I accidently pulled out a bunch of what I thought were weeds. Except, the one weed I missed grew into a tall, lovely and out of place looking, lone flower, right in the middle of the bed. I didn’t have the heart to pull it.

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Another flower picture.

My beds are kind of haphazard because I forgot what I planted where last year and perennials have popped up unexpectedly between annuals on sale I couldn’t resist. But, my new flower hobby is colorful, challenging and outdoors. Digging in dirt, strangely enough, gives me the same feeling I used to have when I painted on canvas.

I am an artist living among many great masters. As religiously as any apprentice, I study their technique. And, I dream and aspire…

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The cat’s favorite napping place is under the bench. Wonder why?

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Touching up my Thyme sign in anticipation of spring and summer.

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Our trumpet vine will soon be blooming. Two years ago, before we rearranged our fencing, the horses ate it.

blog-pictures-005.jpg The trumpet vine eaters.

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Our peach tree is heavy with fruit. DH planted it 7 years ago.

We had peaches!

Bad frosts and windstorms had taken our peaches before they reached marble size in previous years.  But, this year we had peaches turning golden, pink and red.  I dreamed of peach jams, cobblers, pies and crisps.  

I started checking the fruit daily, feeling peaches to see if they had softened. As the summer days lengthened, our tree, heavily laden with fruit, became as gorgeous and fragrant as any flower. 

I swear, I could smell the peaches ripening. Evidently so can Japanese Beetles.

 Yesterday disaster struck.

dsc00209.jpg Japanese Beetles devouring a “ripe” peach. 

Some peaches were ripe

BUT, every “ripe” peach was swarming with  and being devoured by Japanese beetles. Only the ripe peaches, mind you. The hard peaches, they left alone

DH and I grabbed ladders and sacks and began picking. We picked every peach we could. After soaking them to get rid of any insects I set them out on my counter as recommended here: http://tonytantillo.com/fruits/peaches.html

Some food experts recommend putting peaches into a paper bag to ripen. Others swear that the only way to have good ripe peaches is to only pick them at the moment of peak ripeness.

Mine were ready to eat after only a couple of days on the counter.

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Soaking the peaches to get rid of any remaining insects.

How to tell if peaches are ripe:

Attached to the tree: Peaches are best picked when the fruit separates easily from the twigs. If it is hard to pull off the tree, it isn’t ripe!

Color: Green is definitely unripe, but you can’t use red color as an indicator of how ripe a peach is. Different peach varieties have differing amounts of red blush in their natural coloring. Pick them when the ground color changes from green to yellow, orange, red (or a combination). The skin of yellow-fleshed varieties ripens to an orange tint, while the skin of white-fleshed varieties changes from greenish- to yellow-white.

Softness: Unless you like your peaches very firm, pick your peaches with just a little “give” when gently pressed. Peaches at this stage are great for eating, freezing, and baking. Peaches won’t ripen very much after picking!  

Odor: The peaches should smell sweet and ripe

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