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Turkey Creek Lane · Life

Life

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Abby by the garden. She’s a lab/border collie mix with eyes that radiate love.

“Don’t forget to call the vet to make an appointment for Abby and Buster.”

DH reminds me of the card we  just got in the mail announcing it’s time for our dogs to get their yearly checkups and shots.

“OK.” I wonder how long I’ll have to get Abby’s weight down before I have to face the vet.

Abby officially became a senior dog this month. Because of her advancing age, last year I was told to restrict her diet to take off  her extra weight. I did mean to take Abby on more walks, not to give her treats or to give her leftovers. But, nobody appreciates my cooking more than Abby.

 By default she’s my dog. Prevented by Buster from getting near DH or getting exercise from chasing a ball, (Buster gets to balls first and they are HIS)  Abby stays by me, where she can have bones and toys, without them being stolen. Rawhide twists, pigs ears, old socks with a knot in them, the sound of Abby’s gnawing is constant. She is a chewer. I hear her chewing as I type on my laptop, read, watch tv or drift off to sleep.

I’ve been taking Abby to the garden with me. It is our special time.  All I have to do is put on my old tennis shoes and Abby’s eyes widen, her ears go up.

She is asking.

“You can go,” I say.

Abby’s eyes shine, she smiles, her tail wags and she prances as we go out the door. Once outside she hurries to sniff the groundhog hole by the compost pile. She digs a little. Then she settles down in the shade and watches while I weed. Without her partner in crime, she doesn’t run away.

 But, even more than the garden, Abby likes being with me in the kitchen. Pie dough’s her favorite of favorites. It turns her into a greedy begger–one that barks if pie crusts are rolled out and no trimmings come her way.

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Poor Abby has to go to the vet and be WEIGHED.

However, Abby’s chubbiness pales in comparison to Bigg’s bigness. I don’t know how long it has been since Biggs has had a checkup or vaccinations. So she needs to go to the vet, too.

And she will be weighed.

In all fairness, the cat was not small when my daughter gave her to us. DH and I said, when we first saw her, that Biggs lived up to her name. But, despite my daughter’s instructions to feed Biggs limited amounts of dry cat food only twice a day, Biggs quickly discovered Simba and Kitty only eat Fancy Feast. 

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Biggs is mad because there’s hard cat  food in her bowl.

She was a quick convert.

She not only swats Kitty and Simba away from the Fancy Feast until she polishes off as much as both of them used to eat combined, she meows and rubs against DH when he puts whipped cream on my coffee with cinammon…until DH gives Biggs her own little pile of whipped cream. 

Biggs hasn’t slimmed down under our care.

Pie dough, whipped cream, the cans of Fancy Feast, why are the things which give loved ones the most pleasure so often what you have to deny them?

 I am cringing at having to face those scales. And the vet.

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Whipped cream with cinammon on sweetened coffee.

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Tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden have become part of our kitchen decor.

Horse manure!

DH brags about the power of his horse manure compost as if he invented it and got a nobel prize for the invention. “George Washington swore the secret to good farming was horse manure,” says DH.

“You just wait,” he said last summer, “George Washington knew his stuff, you’ll see.”

We added dried manure to our compost pile of grass clippings and shredded leaves last fall. This spring DH tilled it into our garden. Then we used more grass clippings and shredded leaves for mulch on top.

I was hoping the mulch would prevent unwanted plants from popping up, resulting in a no till, weedless garden. That didn’t happen. We had weeds. But, DH was so right about horse manure producing garden miracles. Our one cucumber plant has produced 60 cucumbers…so far.

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Our onions shortly before they were pulled up and cured.

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The first watermelons we found. There are at least 15 on that plant now.

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An 11 pound zuchini that came from a volunteer plant on our compost pile. We didn’t find it until it had grown to this size.

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A basket full of Yukon Gold potatoes. I had no idea potatoes could be so good.

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Browning the meatballs and simmering the tomato basil sauce.

Dinner tonight featured home grown tomatoes and basil.

MY MEATBALLS

Soak in milk, water or stock;

1 slice of bread, 1 inch thick

 Beat:

2 eggs

Add eggs to:

1 1/2 lb. ground meat/I used ribeye

Saute until golden brown:

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

Add to the meat. Wring the liquid from the bread. Add the bread to the meat and then add:

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/2 chopped clove garlic

3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp. oregano/I’ve used Italian Herbs

Mix and form into balls. Brown lightly in:

2 tablespoons butter

 Cover your frying pan and simmer on low until the meatballs for 1/2 or until the meatballs are firm and no longer pink in the middle.

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Cooking down the sauce.

SPAGHETTI SAUCE WITH FRESH TOMATOES AND BASIL
6 peeled, seeded and cut up tomatoes
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
 garlic, minced to taste or pinch of garlic powder
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons fresh basil (more or less to taste)

DIRECTIONS
In a large skillet or saucepan combine the tomatoes,  tomato
sauce, garlic, sugar and basil. (Other herbs may be added. I really like basil and prefer just that with tomatoes.) Stir all together and simmer over low heat until thickened. More sugar and a tablespoon of butter may be added if the sauce is too acidic. Flour (1 to 2 tablespoons) may be added if you prefer a thicker sauce. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

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Homemade spaghetti sauce with fresh tomatoes and basil over meatballs & spaghetti. It was sooooooo good!

HOW TO PEEL TOMATOES

Put the tomatoes, a few at a time in a large pot of boiling water for no more than 1 minute (30 – 45 seconds is usually enough)

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then….

Plunge them into a waiting bowl of ice water.

 

 

This makes the skins slide right off of the tomatoes!  If you leave the skins in, they become tough and chewy in the sauce…not very pleasant.

 

 

 

 

After you have peeled the skins off the tomatoes, cut the tomatoes in half. 

Now you need to remove the seeds and excess water. Wash your hands then squeeze each tomato and use your finger or a spoon to scoop and shake out most of the seeds. You don’t need to get fanatical about it; removing just most will do.

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Toss the squeezed tomatoes into a colander or drainer, while you work on others. This helps more of the water to drain off. You’ll end up with a thicker spaghetti sauce in less cooking time!

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Handsome Buster loves DH and going after cats, deer, racoons and rabbits.

“Buster doesn’t chase,” says DH, “he’s part Australian Shepherd. He herds.”

DH talks about the time he saw Buster “herd” 23 deer. According to DH, Buster  flat-out ran after them yipping his deer yip and drove them into our woods.

“I wish I had a camera,” DH says. “Buster was so proud.”

Unfortunately, Buster could someday pay a price for his happiest moments.

Neither Buster, or our other dog, Abby always come when called. Deer, rabbits and squirrels are too enticing. Interesting trails are also irresistable.

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Temptation…notice the deer tracks on the trail in our woods.

Sometimes it’s a long time before the dogs come back.  We worry. There are nearby roads and neighbors protecting livestock.  In the fall there is hunting season and hunters.

Oh, and the smell. Our dogs roll in deer poop. They eat horse poop. Smelly marsh muck clings to feet, legs and bellies. Which makes their indiscretion all the better. The dogs practically smile as they pant.

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Buster and Abby run through the willows.

Buster is not only a hunter, he is also a natural herder. Part lab, with a little border collie and a lot of Australian shepherd, Buster often does the snaking neck and goes into a herding crouch. His  “stare down” is intimidating. As jealous as the most suspicious wife Buster guards DH. His “look” effectively keeps rivals out of the same room.

“Buster…noooooo,” I say, gathering up a cowering Abby or cat wanting to be with us.  Buster retreats still sneaking in his glares.

“Mom, why does Buster act so nervous around you?” my daughter asked on her last visit.

“Because, I’m training him. He’s learning to walk on a leash,” I told her. Which didn’t adequately describe the experience of a gagging, gasping and squealing Buster trying to escape.

“Awwwwww, poor Buster, you’re choking him,” said DH.

“Don’t say awwwwww in front of him. We need to act like this is no big deal. Maybe if he can’t see you…”

Miraculously, that worked.

 Soon after DH went into the house Buster  was walking at my side in a way that if it wouldn’t make Cesar proud, was at least respectable. 

Our other dog, Abby, took to the leash as if  she had gone through obedience school as a pup. Even when visiting the vet, she prances and her tail wags. 

Sadly, more often than not, snap on a leash and Buster’s head goes down, along with his ears and tail. His eyes are mournful and sad. He looks at DH pleadingly.

“What have I done to deserve this abuse?”

I have had to compromise on leashes.

The dogs are tethered by our voices during the day on walks. After dusk, when the deer and rabbits are out, DH says we will use leashes. He also agreed to leashes during hunting season.

Admittedly, my insistance that we  use leashes in the veterinary office makes them more horrendous for Buster. He hates the vet. Before leash training, Buster once got away from DH and crawled under our jeep in the veterinary parking lot.

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DH, Abby, Buster, our woods and our trails.

Today, on our walk, temptation again won out over training. We hadn’t gone far before the dogs smelled something and took off.

Fortunately, Abby wasn’t gone long. And DH had an idea.

Instead of calling and calling for Buster, and then going into the woods trying to find him,  DH turned the other way and headed toward the house.

As he walked, he praised Abby, “Good girl, Abby. Good dog, Abby.” he said loudly, ” What a good Abby…I like Abby best.”

Guess who came running?

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“Beautiful Buster”

Other posts including Buster are:

http://jolynna.wordpress.com/2007/07/09/the-cat-ladder/

http://jolynna.wordpress.com/2007/06/10/the-cat-box/

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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.

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Peaches ripening in a sunny window.

After a couple of days in a sunny window the peaches, saved from the beetles, were ripe and ready. I had enough to make a peach cobbler and a peach pie, plus some for the freezer. 

I love peach pies, crisps and cobblers, BUT with freshly ripened organic ones, this dessert is one of my favorites. Especially topped with vanilla ice cream.

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SOUTHERN PEACH COBBLER FOR TWO

(Can be doubled)

FILLING:

2 cups peaches

1/2 tsp. lemon juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tsp. cornstarch

TOPPING:

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour

2 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. baking powder

Pinch of salt

Pinch of cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter cut into pieces

2 tablespoons whipping cream

dsc00227.jpg DIRECTIONS:

Grease small casserole dish with butter. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel & cut up peaches. Mix peaches and lemon juice. Mix cornstarch, brown sugar and cinnamon with peaches and put peaches into greased casserole dish.

 In another bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt. cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add the cream and toss with flour mixture just until the dough is combined.

 Turn the dough out onto a flour surface and knead a few times to smooth it. Then roll it out into the shape of the casserole dish. Place the dough over the filling and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. of sugar. Bake until the top is golden and the juices are bubbling. 25 to 30 minutes.

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 The cobbler is ready to eat.

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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.

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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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