Seeing Red

16650273_10203018475378520_631000387_nI was working the phones in the eastern Crawford County Democratic Headquarters on Election Day 2008 making last minute, get-out-the-vote calls and arranging rides to the polls. Around mid-day, I walked down the street to the Quality Market to get some food. I was wandering around the produce section when I overheard two elderly women talking. The first one greeted the other and asked how she was. “Oh, I’m so frightened,” the second woman said. The first one looked concerned and asked her why she was afraid. “I’m afraid of the dark one,” she said. “What will become of us if the dark one wins?” The first woman patted her friend’s arm and reassured her that everything would be fine. I purchased my lunch and walked back to the headquarters, but I was in shock. I couldn’t get my head around someone being afraid of Barack Obama.

Fast forward eight years to Election Day 2016. The people in this area vote in the local township building, a metal structure that is mostly a large garage with a small office attached. In all the previous elections I’ve voted in since moving here in 1989, the experience has consisted of going into the office, signing your name in the book and going to one of three or four voting booths. There is rarely a line at 10 a.m. because most people are at work at this time. This year was different. The line went into the garage and snaked all along the walls before entering the office. There were hundreds of people in line by the time I got there. As you would expect, most of them looked to be, like myself, over fifty. There were probably twenty to thirty people ahead of me who hadn’t even reached the door yet. I pulled out my phone and started reading a book.

Then my attention was caught by a woman two or three people in front of me. She turned to the person next to her and said in a voice quivering with fear, “She’s a Mooslim, you know.” Her companion looked startled.

“What?”

“She’s a Mooslim.”

“I’m pretty sure she’s a Methodist,” the companion said.

“She was raised Methodist, but then she became a witch, and now she’s a Mooslim. Her girlfriend is one, too.”

I looked around to see how the crowd was taking this. A few people snickered quietly and some others looked at her wide-eyed, but there were some who were nodding their heads. This woman looked to be in her mid to late seventies, like my mother, and she was clearly terrified of what this modern-day Medusa would do if she got into office. I went back to my book, again unable to comprehend how our world views could be so completely different.

You know what happened next. Thousands of my fellow Pennsylvanians helped give Donald Trump the electoral votes he needed to win the White House, and we are still dissecting the results. Did these people feel that the government had ignored them for long enough and they decided to get to the polls to voice their displeasure? I’m sure some of them did. Were many of them life-long Republicans who had decided to hold their collective noses and vote for Trump even if they found him personally repugnant? I know many of those. But many of them voted for Trump out of fear.

They were actually afraid of and threatened by Hillary Clinton, and keeping this monster out of the White House became a passion with them. This was not simply a case of a difference of political opinion. In their eyes, Clinton truly was a monster. They had been conditioned to believe outrageous and horrible things about a woman who had made a career out of standing up for the rights of children and people who couldn’t afford medical care, who had worked for equality for women and to improve life for families. They swallowed whole the fake news reports that Clinton had ordered people to be killed, that she was running a child sex ring out of a pizza restaurant in D.C., and that she and some Jewish bankers were using a private e-mail server to plot world domination.

I don’t know what we can do about this societal brainwashing, but I see it happening again. For the last thirty-six hours, my Facebook newsfeed has been full of photos, memes and cartoons with the hashtag #Nevertheless, she persisted. The GOP is demonizing Senator Elizabeth Warren just like they did Barack Obama, but especially Hillary Clinton. They can see that Warren is an intelligent, talented, powerful woman who is not afraid to speak out or to challenge the Republicans and their CEO who thinks he is king. We need to keep our eyes open and remember their actions, so that we may spread the truth and oppose them when we hear their lies. In four years, I hope there will be a crowd of little old ladies in pink pussyhats standing in line to kick out Trump (or possibly Pence, by that time) and finally shatter that glass ceiling.

 

Country Cottage Journal ~Truth and Lies

Storing Seeds

The summer garden is in. Days and weeks of digging beds and barrowing compost are over, and daily tasks shift to weeding and watering. It is time to store seeds.

I often have seeds left over after I plant what I want. If stored properly, most seeds will be viable for three to ten years, depending upon the variety. Sweet corn, beets, carrots and onions are infamous for their refusal to germinate after the first year, but tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, cucumbers, and brassicas are more cooperative if stored in the right conditions.

After I have planted the garden, I tuck the packets with the unused seeds into small, plastic, ziplock bags, and write the name of the seed on the bag. It’s a good idea to add the date, too. I put the bags into a plastic shoe box with a tightly-fitting lid and stash it in a corner of the freezer. Yes, the freezer!

Store seeds in the freezer for future use.

Store seeds in the freezer for future use.

Seeds germinate when they encounter moisture and warmth, and the freezer is dry and cold. When you are ready to plant again in the spring, take the seeds out of the plastic bags and let them come up to room temperature. Condensation is not a good thing!

If you go to all the trouble to grow heirloom, open-pollinated varieties so that you can save your own seeds, make sure to store them properly so that you can enjoy a good harvest for many years.
 

Time to Make the Sausage

When the weather forecasts started to predict snow and below freezing temperatures for last week, I knew I would be spending some quality time with the grinder. We raise a couple of hogs for the freezer every year and butcher them when the weather turns cold. The first day is taken up with killing, dragging, gutting and hanging, and the second with cutting and wrapping the chops, roasts and ribs. Then I get to play with spices and make sausage.

I love my electric grinder!

I love my electric grinder!

I start with chunks of pork, making sure to include some fat for flavor, and send it through the grinder for the first go.

Chunks of pork ready to grind

Chunks of pork ready to grind

After I’ve ground everything once, I add the spices to the mixture and send it through again. This year I made three batches: breakfast, sweet Italian and smoked. For the breakfast sausage, I added sage, onion powder, garlic powder, mace (which is the outer covering of nutmeg), salt and black pepper. For the sweet Italian, I used oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, a bit of crushed red pepper flakes, garlic and onion powder, fennel seeds and salt. For the sausages I plan to smoke, I used half pork and half venison with onion and garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Yum!

Ground pork with seasonings added

Ground pork with seasonings added

After the mixture goes through a second time, it is ready to stuff into casings. I prefer natural hog casings, which are pig intestines that have been washed and salted. I buy them from the butcher at my local grocery store, H & H Super Duper in Saegertown, Pennsylvania. I am so thankful to have a local grocery store that still cuts their own meat and sells locally-grown produce. They are right next door to an actual hardware store, too. Makes my shopping trips very convenient!

Back to sausage! The casings come on a strip of plastic and are easy to load onto the stuffing attachment to the grinder.

Sleeve of sausage casings

Sleeve of sausage casings

This amount of casing is supposed to make 25 lbs. of sausage. I think that’s about right, although I didn’t weight the finished sausages. I just know there were a lot.

Sausage casing on the stuffing attachment

Sausage casing on the stuffing attachment

This part gets a little tricky, but once you’ve done it a few times, it gets smoother. Being somewhat uncoordinated, my first few tubes of sausage are a bit wonky, but by the end they look much better. You have to feed the spiced, ground meat into the machine with one hand and slip the casings off the tube with the other.

Sausage awaiting twisting

Sausage awaiting twisting

One thing NOT to do: do not tie a knot in the end of the casing, or it will blow up like a balloon and you don’t want that! Leave about three inches at the end and the casing will fill nicely with no trapped air. Also leave a couple of inches at the other end. Now it is time to twist the sausages.

Twist each sausage in the opposite direction

Twist each sausage in the opposite direction

Unless you want a long coil of sausage, you will probably want to make it into smaller potions. You can do this by twisting the tube. I like my breakfast sausages about four inches long and my Italian and smoked sausages six. To maintain the twist, alternate directions with each sausage. So if you start with a clock-wise twist, do the next one counter-clockwise. You only need a couple of twists to separate the sausages.

Twisted sausages ready for the freezer

Twisted sausages ready for the freezer

I froze the Italian and breakfast sausages, after sampling, of course, but I plan to smoke the others, so they went into the refrigerator to set up over night. Actually, some of them ended up on the back porch out of reach of the dogs and cats. In this weather they will stay plenty cold. I love my natural fridge!

In the next post, I will show you how to smoke the sausages. Here are the recipes that I used. I pretty much cook by sight and smell, but I have attempted to figure out amounts.

BREAKFAST SAUSAGE

To 10 lbs. of ground pork, add half a cup of dried, crushed sage leaves, one tablespoon of onion powder, one teaspoon of garlic powder, one teaspoon of ground mace, two tablespoons of salt and a teaspoon of cracked, black pepper.

SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE

To 10 lbs. of ground pork, add two tablespoons of oregano, one tablespoon of basil, half a tablespoon each of rosemary and thyme. I used dried herbs, but you could use fresh and adjust the amounts. You could also add a couple tablespoons of parsley, but I didn’t have any. Add one tablespoon each of onion and garlic powder, salt and fennel seeds. I added half a tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes, but you could add more to make it hotter.

SMOKED SAUSAGE

To 5 lbs. ground pork and 5 pounds ground venison, add a tablespoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, salt and cracked black pepper.

 

 

 

Chick Update

Chick Update

When Emily came home from school on Tuesday, we went out to the barn to collect the remaining chicks. It had started to rain, and chickens HATE to get wet, so they were hanging out inside and pretty easy to catch. We found three of them, and then we found what was left of Mom. I now have six little fluff balls under a heat lamp in my studio.

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Another Greenhouse

Another Greenhouse

I have started another greenhouse. I think this is my fifth or sixth one. Some have been more successful than others, but I have learned something from every project. Most of them have been made out of found or recycled materials, too.

My first greenhouse was made out of something called Starplate connectors. You can use them with boards to make a dome-style shelter. This worked pretty well for a while, although the long, slim green houses seem to have more usable space. We bought them from the Stromberg’s Chicks and Game Birds Unlimited and they still sell them.

The next version of a greenhouse was a frame made from aspen saplings and straw bales covered with plastic. This was also pretty successful and I used it for three years before we took off the plastic and let it compost itself. The patch of blackberries that grew up where that greenhouse was produces berries that are an inch long or bigger.

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Then I began to experiment with hoop houses with varying amounts of success. None of them seemed to stand up to snow load very well. I thought I had it licked a couple of years ago when I used cattle panels with plastic over them, but two feet of wet snow one night flattened it to the ground.

Cattle panel hoop house

Cattle panel hoop house

After that I began making small hoop houses to protect plantings of greens, carrots and beets for the winter. These worked very well for that purpose, but I didn’t have anywhere to store my plants when it was too cold to put them in the garden yet. I hope I have finally solved the problem.

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Today I began to put together a hoop house using PVC pipe that began life as color guard flag poles from the high school marching band. I have to wait until my next pay day to buy the connectors I will need, but I think this one will be strong enough, or at least I hope it will! It will have interior bracing along the hoops on both sides, so that should do the trick.

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Surprise!

Yep, it’s one of those days. A surprise day. When people invite me to things, I always say, “I’ll be there if I can.”  People who haven’t known me long look at me kind of funny and I know they are thinking, “What? You think you’ll get a better offer?” It’s not that. My life is subject to change without warning. Actually, all of our lives are, but for anyone who lives with critters, life is especially spontaneous.

Thankfully my friend rescheduled the doctor’s appointment for which I am taking her into town, because when I went out to the barn to feed the chickens this morning, I found five, fluffy, little chicks running around peeping. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any sign of a mom. I scooped two up right away and put them in a plastic bin that was sitting nearby. I found another one trying to get out through a crack in the wall and put it in with its siblings. There were two more, but they found cracks they could fit through, so I wasn’t able to catch them.

The three chicks I've been able to capture so far.

The three chicks I’ve been able to capture so far.

I asked Mini, my former husband and current neighbor, to help me catch the other two. He seemed reluctant and said that he had seen the chicks a few days ago and had been putting food and water down for them. At that point their mom was around, but I haven’t seen her today, and that is not a good sign in a mother hen. He said I should leave them alone and let nature take its course.

I am all for leaving wild animals where you find them, and have always discouraged my children from keeping things in cages or jars, but that doesn’t work for week-old chickens. The three I caught are in the bin in my studio with a heat lamp, food and water. I will try to get the other two tonight. If someone had told me about them earlier, I could have put Momma in a pen with her babies where they would all be safe. There is “letting nature take its course,” and then there is laziness.

No More Wasted Garlic

I just made my first batch of garlic powder and it was really easy. I know I’m ridiculously proud of myself, but I hate wasting things and in years past that’s what happened to the garlic. Garlic is a bulb and like onions, daffodils and tulips, it begins to sprout in the spring. These little green shoots start to grow out of the top of the cloves.

 

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Photo by Diane Sloan

 

Those don’t bother me, but as they grow, the clove begins to dry up and turn brown. One year I just tossed the garlic I hadn’t used on the compost pile. I STILL have garlic coming up in that spot years later!

One of my favorite YouTubers is Mrs. Wolfie from Our Half Acre Homestead. She dries and grinds up all kinds of things. She even makes her own chicken bouillon! I figured I could do the same with garlic, and it worked!

I pull my garlic in July and hang it in the barn for a week or so. When the heads are dry, I brush off the dirt, trim the roots and sort the heads. I keep the largest ones for planting in October, and I put the rest into a mesh bag and hang it in the kitchen where I use the garlic fresh from July through April or May. This year when I noticed the little green shoots coming, I decided to take the rest of the garlic and chop it up. I filled a half-pint jelly jar with chopped garlic and poured olive oil over it. Some people keep garlic in olive oil on the shelf, but I am putting it in the fridge just in case.

I spread the rest of the chopped garlic on two of my dehydrator trays and dried it until it felt hard and crispy–about 12 hours. Then I used my spice grinder–also known as the extra coffee grinder–to grind them up into powder. It took seconds and now I have a jar full of homemade garlic powder and no decomposing garlic bulbs to deal with. This makes me so happy.

 

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