I still have nightmares over last years snow fall.

This morning, I woke up to scattered little clumps of snow on the grass. The air was crisp and cold, even as a hint of warmer air threatened to melt every last crystallized flake.

At the grocery store yesterday, I overheard so many people loudly exclaiming, “They would love for it to snow” Then continuing on with their seasonally induced amnesia.  “It would be so festive, ‘especially’ for the holidays.”

 I still have nightmares over last years snow fall.

 In December it showed almost every other day.  At one point, the snow came down so fast and heavy my snow thrower broke. I didn’t panic…I walked right in the house peeled off layers clothes and called the repairman.  I was told that I would need a specific part they didn’t have, and even if I got it, the repair guy couldn’t come out until the middle of January …maybe.

I didn’t panic. Instead I pulled out a rope with red flags and roped off the driveway.

Five feet of packed snow that was so solid I could stand on it, with three other people and not sink.  Nope, sorry I am not looking forward to snow. If Mother Nature could please hold off until January, I would be grateful.

 It might be too late, but I need to knock on wood fast!

My mail box was hit twice last year. The temporary mailbox, set in a bucket of cement, was also hit-twice. The second time it exploded.

Don’t get me wrong, I love snow.

 But, … last years snows were a little over the top.

If you add in my dog Zeus, ten and half, sweet heart of a dog, was hit by a car during a snow storm. An eighty pound black dog, in a white snow storm…

Please drive carefully this holiday season.

Gratitude, Pies, Blogs and life.

May everyone have a wonderful day! Happy Thanksgiving! 

Yesterday, I made two pies. One blueberry with a homemade crust and store bought pie filling. The second was a pumpkin pie made completely from scratch.  

I grew that pumpkin in my garden this past, 2009 summer. The weather  was cooler and wet, not congruous to growing  pumpkins.  I was surprised to see how well that pumpkin developed. I planted it late. It was the first of July, and out of three plants that grew only one had a pumpkin.

Just before Halloween I brought it in the house and set it near the fireplace. Even though its color was a bright orange it deepened into a darker orange in the house.

I’ve cooked up fresh pumpkin before. I boiled them, like potatoes. This time I decided to bake the pumpkin. I cut it in half.   That in itself was no easy feat. I used a large knife that I couldn’t pull it of out the pumpkin. I ended up using a smaller knife. 

 I didn’t mention the pumpkin was big. It was, very big. Its pulp was three inches thick.

 Once I cut it in half I scooped out the insides. I set the seeds on the side, some were dried in the oven with salt and the rest are waiting, in the garage for spring.

I rinsed off the first half and rubbed melted butter over the edges, placed it skin side up on a baking sheet. The pumpkin didn’t fit on any of my cookie sheets; it hung over the sides by three inches- on all sides. I did say this was a huge pumpkin.

I baked it in a 425 degree oven for two hours until it was soft. After the first hour I poked it to see if it was done.

Once it was soft and cooked. I cut it in four large pieces and scooped the pulp into a bowl to cool. I used my blender and puréed the chunks. I poured three to four cupfuls into freezer bags. I repeated the process with the second half.

I now have ten bags of pumpkin frozen.

Prepare one pie

Using two to four cups cooked pumpkin, your choice.

Mix in one can evaporated canned milk (12oz)

Put in ¾ cup granulated sugar-

Keep going and add ¼ teaspoon salt

Intermingle, Pumpkin pie spice, one tablespoon

Now add two eggs, and mix together until blended.

*Pour into a prepared pie crust….

2 ½ cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

12 tablespoons cold cubed butter

¼ cup cold, or ice water…

I found out years ago, that to make a hard crust I would need to touch it a lot with my hands. Working a pie crust, or touching it will make a bad crust.

Here’s what I do instead.  I used a plastic sandwich baggy. -You can use a sandwich bag, or a freezer bag. Not a grocery bag. – I put in all the ingredients, and then I sat down and watched TV as I kneaded the bag.

Once it was all incorporated, I opened the bag, and used a spatula to scrap the sides of the bag.

I had to take the dough out of the bag for a minute to mush it into a ball. I put it back in the bag and set it in the fridge for about fifteen minutes. 

On a floured surface I used lots of flour to prevent sticking. I rolled out the dough to about three inches wider than the pie pan. Using a spatula I folded it, as I lifted it off the board. Then I unfolded it into the pie pan.

 I baked the crust for about four minutes, just to start the baking process.

I filled the pie crust with the pumpkin mixture. I didn’t pour it all in the pie crust at once. I put the pie on a cookie sheet in the oven. Then I finished filling it.

* It’s very hard to lift a filled pie plate off the counter, and then carefully set it in the oven. 

I baked it, on the center rack, in a 425 degree oven for twenty minutes. Then I lowered the temperature to 350, and checked it in forty five minutes.

 To check if the pie was done, I stuck a knife in the center and it came out clean.

My pie cooked forty minutes longer than I anticipated, and I checked it every ten minutes. I also lowered the oven temperature to 325 for that extra time.  I didn’t want the crust to burn.

 I am very grateful that I was able to grow this beautiful pumpkin!

I am very grateful I was able to cook it up, and freeze more for the months ahead!  

I am very grateful for the help I had making the pie!  

I am very grateful I can cook!  I love pie.

I took pictures of the pumpkin, and at a later date I will post them on this Blog.

The picture shown is from ars photo library

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/oct05/d260-1.htm

The Moon, Jupiter & Night Sounds

Two nights ago at five o’clock at night, I was standing outside looking up into the nearly dark sky. A faint line of light trailed along the horizon. Hazy lavender touched the earth and a line of pink topped it off. That mix of colors and mist slipped upward into the dark night sky.

As I faced the west, the waxing crescent moon was to my right with planet Jupiter sitting brightly on its left.

The air was cooler, close to freezing cold. My hands and nose were cold. I could see my breath as I stood in the deepening darkness. I looked up into the trees; the branches took on a silvery cast.

I called to Uriah. His hackles were raised and he was barking towards the path. I called him back, time to head into the house.

 Two hours later, I was back outside. I had to keep telling the dog to stay close. I could hear the coyotes they sounded like they were to the east and south of us. They were coming closer.

Why is it, when you want a dog to do his business instead he decides to sniff around and waste time.  I was getting nervous.   Different sounds were coming out of the darkness. Sticks snapping, a faint growl, the dried grass was rustling as if something were walking through.

I did not want an altercation between a younger animal and Uriah. He is eleven and a half, just because he thinks he’s big stuff, doesn’t make it true.  

Uriah watched me, and then turned to the trees. I had him walk with me towards the front of the house. I kept talking, he continued to growl, and mutter. He sounded a lot like my grandfather; complaining about noise, kids, and pigeons.

It was dark, and a foggy haze settled in around the trees. The air felt electrically charged. I’ve lived out here long enough to pay attention to my inner warning system. We headed to the house.  Uriah came inside,… reluctantly.

I had just enough time to wash my hands and sit down at the computer. When my old cat PJ, sat up from a sound sleep and hid in the hall closet.

When I first moved out here, fourteen years ago, PJ was chased by a coyote.  PJ outran the coyote. My closest neighbor at that time said, “They never saw a cat run so fast.”  I hadn’t realized that a coyote can reach speeds up to 43 mph. That had happened in the middle of a day with bright sunshine.

I cracked open the window and shut it right away. There was a pack of coyotes in my yard. No more than twenty feet from the window I opened. The high pitch ‘yapping’ and ‘yipping’ flowed into the room. One of the animals howled, his was a deeper sound. Not the high pitch ‘yip’ I normally heard.

I wasn’t afraid of them. I respect them enough to say out of their way. But I did open a window upstairs and tell them to leave. Of course they didn’t listen. My voice is too shrill, I had to deepen it, and then tell them to leave. Finally they stopped making noise and left.  That silence lasted until ten o’clock, after that they returned every hour – all- night- long.

Last night was quiet. The rain and fog moved in blocking the moon, Jupiter should be on the right side of the first quarter moon tonight.

So far nothing is moving out there tonight.

That not true!  I can hear that irritating rat, shuffling around the dog kennel…

Picture from Hubble site.org

http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/entire/pr2006019c/

Crabgrass~ Loved By Birds

I had an over growth of crabgrass this year.

Next year, I will know to pull out the young growth of green grass when it starts to appear.  Letting it sit, because I wasn’t up to weeding, caused a large problem for the tomatoes and me all summer long.

I talked to other home gardeners living in my area. They complained about the crabgrass and for once, I wasn’t jealous when they said, they used their gas powered tillers in a futile attempt to rip out the crabgrass.

Crabgrass has an evasive toot system. If you chop one root into a million pieces, like an unwanted creature in a horror movie, you will end up with a million new little creatures Or rather, a redundant amount of crabgrass. 

This past summer, I made a half hearted attempt to pull one plant at a time. Crabgrass pulls back, as it sticks its heels in and sneers at you.

By fall the crabgrass had gone to seed. Millions of little black seeds, I panicked!  I sat on the deck and wondered how I will get rid of this mess in a non chemical fashion?

Mother Nature came through to remove part of the crabgrass problem in the form of birds, Finches, Wrens, Sparrows, and Cardinals, all converged on the garden.  They landed in the grass, on the dirt, the rocks and on the dog kennel. Grabbing at the plants, and eating the little seeds. 

My stress level lowered, naturally.

After I had cleaning out the old tomato plants, zucchini and pumpkins plants I made a half-hearted attempt at raking up the dried crabgrass.

I used tree leaves to cover the ground. Over the leaves I set a piece of wood fencing to hold everything down. The grass and weeds that are still growing will die over the winter, making it a lot easier to break up the root system in spring.

Well, that’s the plan..

 

 

Picture found at;

http://www.aragriculture.org/horticulture/ornamentals/weed_id/crabgrass.htm

Uriah and I stopped sneezing long enough to watch the harvester turn around.

Beautiful day!  Skies are clear, very little wind; temperatures are mild, in the mid fifties.

 Uriah was the first to notice the farm equipment pull into the field next door. He freaked! He climbed on the deck and cowered on the north side, farthest way from the equipment. 

The corn in the southern field was finally being  harvested. I stood outside and watched as the large tractor moved slowly into place. I could see the farmer in the cab and a child.

Farmer’s children will help them with the harvesting.  They watch for problems as their parent harvests the crops.The cab they sat in was sealed, heated and air-conditioned.

The winds were blowing away from me, so as the tractor passed by most of the dust spread out to the south.

Just as I thought, “Wow,  I am lucky the wind isn’t blowing in this direction.” The wind changed!  I started coughing, and blinking rapidly as the dust settled in over my head.

I choked out Uriah’s name and we headed towards the path to take a walk. The trees in that area blocked some of the harvesting dust. Well, sort of..

I crossed my fingers that the farmer would only be working on the lower part of the field at this time. I smiled, when I saw him hit the half way point near the drainage tiles and turn around.

 Uriah and I stopped sneezing long enough to watch the harvester.

With all the bare fields, the animals have been congregating in our trees. Last night, every hour, I was yelling out the doors for the coyotes to leave. There must have been close to a dozen howling and yelping very close to the house.

Coyotes don’t understand windows.  So, I had to insure the indoor cats stayed away from the glass. I really didn’t have to worry; they hid under the bed when the howling started.

Uriah, on the other hand, was whining and barking wanting to chase them. A dog barking won’t keep coyotes away from the house. It has the opposite effect. So, between trying to calm down Uriah, petting the cats and yelling at the coyotes, it was a fun night.

Halfway through the walk, Uriah disappeared with hackles raised, into the trees. Stupidly I walked in after him, calling and getting tangled in leafless under brush. After a short time, I headed back to the house. When Uriah reappeared  his tongue was trailing on the ground.  

The farmer took a lunch break and finished the back half of the field; I stood out on the deck and enjoyed the view.

This scene has to be a little boy’s dream.  A large tractor harvesting corn slowly chopping, crunching, and roaring through a field, as an equally large dump truck waits to be filled with the corn; such an impressive, unobstructed view of a real mid-western farm life.  

I love it out here.

I wanted a bowl of chicken soup with carrots for lunch

I wanted a bowl of chicken soup with carrots for lunch. So, I took an old colander out to the garden. Kneeled, and carefully pulled up the small carrots. Their tops were still green and healthy looking. The Taproot, a tasty dark orange

This past spring, I had planted a six foot long line of carrots. They grew slowly and perfect, except I planted them a little to close together. Next springs carrots will be spaced apart more evenly.

Carefully I wiggled them loose like a child’s tooth. I have only half a foot remaining in the row.

It was easier than I thought to grow carrots.

Water a little,  weed a little, and then leave them alone.

This year, I have sliced them thinly and cook them into canned soups, homemade soups, and packaged dry soups. I have made beef stews and ‘any vegetable on hand’ soup.

I added the vegetables,  the garlic along with the onions and tomatoes, parsley and potatoes. All were grown in my garden.

The potatoes were a surprise. I had mixed in assorted vegetable peels and egg shells from the kitchen.  I was amazed to see potatoes growing with a dozen strawberry plants. I didn’t plant those either! They came from a couple of fresh, rotting strawberries thrown in around July.

Using  tree leaves  I  covered a large part of the garden in preparation of winter. I planned on moving the strawberries to a different section this coming spring. That idea may change; I have all winter to mull it over.

I pulled out two dozen finger sized carrots; they were growing in a massive clump. I broke off the tops and tossed the them in the mulch pile.  I tried and failed to remove all the dirt. I scrapped off as much as I could. I really don’t need to clog my kitchen drains with mud.

We have had a few frosts already. I was surprised we haven’t had a foot of snow. Some of the carrots have some frost damage; they are a reddish orange color. I set those on the side to be mulched.

I creaked and groaned as I got to my feet, looked up at the blue sky and walked into the house to make myself some soup.

Uriah decided to stay behind and started  hunting  the rat that lives around his kennel.

Clean up and sliced carrots

A quarter of an onion chopped

Rive one clove of garlic from bulb

Relish with a Pinch of salt, and pepper

Olive oil to sauté, Swanson chicken broth

Two skinless chicken breasts simmer till done

Carrot picture

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrots

Peace with nature

Its mid-morning, pale baby blue sky, painted with wisps of white clouds, the air is no longer cold, just cool. On the path the grass is about three inches tall and it shimmered in the morning light. Drew drops were everywhere, glinting along the gnarled fence post, to slipping slowly off bare branches.

If I had to describe this morning with one word, it would be ‘peaceful.’

I watched a family of Blue Jays glide noiselessly through the trees to the North. When I was spotted, a single long whistle announced me as trouble. Very similar to the whistle I use to call for Uriah. I whistled back at the bird, smiled and moved on.

I snapped my fingers at Uriah, and we headed for the path. Uriah ran in circles and headed into up the incline to the south, the scent he caught was over powering to him. He had to find it! He didn’t… I could smell a faint a faint musky order it lingered over the damp ground. I knew the animal was no longer here. Finally, Uriah figured that out and came back to me; immediately he pushed off in the opposite direction when a new smell caught his attention.

 A Red-tailed Hawk screeched in the trees to the north. His call reverberated in the morning air. Blue Jays answered with their danger whistle and the Hawk screeched back at them.

Both are extremely beautiful birds. The bright blue of the  Jays and the intense pride of the hawk, for me, their voices carried the soul of the land.

That may sound corny. Yes! But standing here listening, takes me back to my grandmother’s house, and brought me peaceful feel to the day, to this moment.

Peace is more than a word, a thought, or a phrase. It is a way of living. In nature, animals come together to drink from the same pond without killing each other. Just for the sake of replenishing their thirst…?  Or, is it more than that?

Nature is calling out today! With the same whistles, growls, screeches and yelps as yesterday. A peaceful coexistence, caught in a split second where I can connect with the land.

Tomorrow may rage a storm so severe the trees could be ripped up from their roots. This moment of peace, this moment is all I have right now. I am enjoying it immensely.

I have been playing with acrostic poetry.

 Peace

Place yourself within nature

Embrace your creative arc

Actualize your personal Mecca

Confidence regained in solitude

Enliven a past friendship

 

 

 

Picture from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-tailed_hawk

Peanut Butter Sandwich

Rain has coated every blade of dried grass, bare tree limb, and still standing stalk of corn.

The color yesterday, was a faded beige, yellowish green and dark browns, today with all the dampness  the colors have changed into a deeper, darker browns, reddish and wet.

Without the over cast sky everything would be shimmering, at least until the sun dried them off.

I could see my breath, the air was nearly cold enough to snow, but just not there, yet.

When I breathed through my nose, I could smell, cool rain, dampness, and trees. I started huffing and puffing, breathing through my mouth and the scents changed. I could taste dried hay, grass, and mold mixed in with the cool, calm air.

Stillness formed around me, anticipation of the next second. I looked up to the sky. The clouds were pretty high, and smooth; those clouds, were there for their aesthetic appeal and to keep the ground air cool.

No! It wasn’t going to rain on me, at least not in the next half hour. The horizon was clear. Right now I could see a line of clouds, very slowly moving in this direction.

I had taken this afternoons walk with my lunch, a peanut butter sandwich. I was driving Uriah crazy; he stayed at my feet drooling. His dog biscuits weren’t appeasing him; he kept crying and wiggling around on the ground every time I stopped. I had a third of my sandwich left when I gave in to him.  

“Uriah, sit!”

Silly thing to tell him he was already seated. I should have told him to stop drooling. I knelt down and handed him the sandwich. He carefully took it out of my fingers and stood there. He didn’t eat it, just rolled his eyes around.

“Well, that’s yours now.”

I patted him on the head and stood up and he promptly turned back down the path and trotted away. He was either going to bury it, or give it away. I wasn’t going to follow him and find out.

At that moment, a small bird decided I was interrupting his day and started peeping at me, over and over. I tried to see where he was at,  but I had left my glasses on the shelf next to the coat rack. Great place for them…

I reached in my pocket. Notepad and pen was also  back at the house.

 After two minutes of yelling at me the little bird flew out of the leafless mulberry tree. Then down onto a corn husk, where he kept watching me, watching him, while he picked at the corn and looked very upset.

 He was nearly vertical on the corn husk. Long and narrow, with light soft grey under belly and a black streak from his head down his back to his tail.

Uriah started a deep throat barking, somewhere in the trees.

 I started to shiver, dampness and cold temperatures, I craved a hot coffee and my wool socks. It was time to go home.

 I turned back to the little bird, and said goodbye. Then I whistled for Uriah, who was racing around the trees and grass, growling and complaining. He more than likely gave away his sandwich and like a child wanted it back.

“Come on Uriah! Leave your friends out here.” I whistled again, and kept walking home.

 

 

With the aid of Google search, I pulled up different bird sites, as I tried to find that bird.

I got lost in, “The Cornell lab of Ornithology-All About Birds” site and forgot what I was doing.

The sound of the Violet-green Swallow was very similar to that small birds sound

 http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Violet-green_Swallow/id http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/search.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violet-green_Swallow

I looked up. It wasn’t Uriah, but a coyote!

The winds had picked up from this morning’s slight breeze, into a dust blowing, eye tearing, corn leaves whirling mess of a wind.   Instead of coming in from the west, the winds are whipping around from the east blowing into the west.

For me, that means everything is being blown down the driveway out onto the road, and then sprinting across the miles of open farm fields.

With this type of wind I can’t think when I’m outside. My hair is going every which way, and sound is indistinguishable.

I called to Uriah, who was running in a circle with his hackles up. I pointed towards the path. He looked up. Then he looked down, and headed into the trees.

I shook my head at him, and started to walk on the muddy path.  The night before Raccoons must have stayed up all night pooping. They had deposited load, after load on the path for me to step in. Slipping on the mud, I maneuvered carefully forward.

I could hear Uriah  as he crashed through the underbrush to my left. He came running out in front of me and stopped.

I looked up. It wasn’t Uriah, but a coyote, bigger than  Uriah, longer and taller, not fatter. This guy was slender.  His coat was gold, beige, and light brown. His fur stuck out at odd angles and he blended in perfectly with the tall dried grass around me.

If he had stayed quietly off the path, hidden in the trees and grass, I would never have noticed him. Except this beautiful guy had been hunting, and even now had his paw on a rodent. He stood frozen. 

Simultaneously we both noticed that there was only about a twelve inches between us. He turned his head slowly, with a look of, “Duh!”  He let his prey go!  Turned slowly away from me and raced up the path with his tail between his legs.

I just stood there, one foot still held in mid-stride. I had been taking a step when he ran out of the grass; I finished the movement, and stepped down.

Right on a pile of raccoon scat! You can guess what I said…

 When I continued walking the coyote was already out of sight.

At that moment Uriah came charging up behind me, fur upright, growling, sniffing the ground then headed off in the same direction the coyote had ran, north. I decided to walk to the south.  I could hear Uriah, as he huffed and puffed in the trees.

I headed back to the house. Uriah came up behind me, he looked very tired with his tongue dragging and a defeated look on his furry face. 

Coyotes have never bothered me on my walks and I have seen many of them. I’m not worried, I am not coyote food. They eat rodents, and small animals. Uriah is too big to be eaten, and too slow to catch them.

Raccoons on the other hand are dangerous, they will attack a human. They are also irritating buggers.

I grabbed a stick and started  to  clean my shoes!

 “Vernon Hills police” site –“Coyote Information”

“The name “coyote” (Latin name Canis Iatrans) comes from the Aztec word coyotl, which is loosely translated as “trickster”. Other names for the animal are brush wolf, swift wolf, prairie wolf and burrowing dog. The animal is in close relation to the wolf, fox and domesticated dog.”

http://www.vernonhills.org/thingsyoushouldknow/TheCoyote.asp#Description

Picture of coyote

http://www.weforanimals.com/free-pictures/wild-animals/coyotes/coyote-1.htm

My little mossy friend in hand

moss prettyThis day started out with bright sunshine, and warm breezes. By mid-afternoon the sky was a haze of grey clouds that stretched across the sky and touched the horizon.

I watched the mist, as it rolled across the choppy fields, and felt the air pressure settle in behind my eyes.

With my blurry eyes to the ground I headed back home. Stepping carefully around holes and dried leaves; I noticed the moss growing in the bald areas on the path. The same type of moss grew prevalently in the low areas. It was the only thing that made and attempt to grow while ignoring the on coming winter. It stood out nice, bright Easter grass green.

I stopped and stooped down to get a better look. Uriah wasn’t watching were he was going and ran into me. Then, quickly he caught himself and put his nose to the ground. He looked up at me, when I didn’t respond, then he stood directly over the moss I was examining.

“Hey, Uriah! A rabbit!” I pointed to the tall grass. He didn’t believe me until the grass shook a little. “Thank you chipmunk!” I muttered, as he took off happily. Which gave me a chance to take a good look at the moss.

It resembled fine, green string with evergreen type of leave. I used the end of my ski pole/walking stick and got underneath the patch, I lifted up a piece that fit in my hand. It was a lot easier to look at the moss with Uriah’s nose further away.

I headed into the house with my little mossy friend in hand, and I checked my books. Then I looked on line. I thought my moss might be a “common feather liverwort -Plagiochila porelloides

I may be wrong. There are over 16,000 Different types. Not all in Illinois and where they grow depends on the soils pH, how acidic or alkaline. Do they like sun or shade?

This section is from a nice PDF, “Illinois Bryophytes” (1)

“Bryophytes, numbering about 16,000 species in three phyla of the Kingdom Plantae, are second only to flowering plants (about 250,000 species) in the number of plant species known to exist on earth.”

I pulled out my trusty notebook and made a notation- to crawl around and list all moss and ferns on my property in the spring. I will check out areas, before the snow hits, that may be inaccessible to me later on.

But for now, that name- ‘The Kingdom Plantae’ sounds like a great start to a story…

 

 

This site shows pictures of different types of moss.. http://www.andrewspink.nl/mosses/thumbnails.htm#l

(1) Illinois Bryophytes
http://bryophytes.plant.siu.edu/PDFiles/Bryo-poster%201.pdf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Haeckel_Muscinae.jpg

My Walking Path