Monday, September 27, 2010

Birthday Boys Celebrate in Style

The 1900's are behind us now.  Even my darling Arianna, who was born in 1999 is a century away, it seems,  So how does a father born in 1916 and a son born in 1971 feel about birthdays these days?  Well, apparently they feel pretty darned good!  As a gift to two of the most important men in my life, we had a party of sorts at the Smokehouse restaurant.  Wanting to thank one of the best cooks in the state for preparing this feast, I looked for (owner) Roger Knight, but he was no where to be found.  I had decided that no way could I compete with the spread that Roger lays out on a four day basis, that and the fact that he has a crew to do the clean up.  All we had to do was eat and leave.  Oh, and pay the tab,  No problem,  Son Wallace had spent Saturday at the USMC Mud Run in Columbia, South Carolina with three teammates,  They completed the run, which was all that really interested them.  Apparently 14000 people had shown up for the event and being mowed down by speed was not a problem, either,  The mud took care of that .  Now  Daddy celebrated the day by sleeping in rather than go into the office, mud not being his thing, he elected to stay out of it,    You might find this odd but for the fact that he  turned 95 years old, still practices medicine and attends to patients on a daily basis,  Even Sundays,  While we were in the Smokehouse, at least three patients spied him there and corralling him, congratulated him on his longevity,  To their credit not one of them offered up symptoms for diagnosis while in his presence, 

So naps and mud runs aside, our day yesterday was filled with laughter and memories and I wouldn't trade one second of it for the world,  Somehow, I don't think they would either!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Fear of Canning

Yes, I've been missing in action yet again.  It seems the summer just drags on and even though this is technically the last day of it, we're still in the nineties.  There's been no rain for us in six weeks, but we drag the hose dutifully to the beds and water thoroughly so we get the lovely butter beans, green beans and squash even this late.  The collards are planted and promise to do well if the guineas don't kill them first. 

This morning we picked butter beans and greenbeans and they will be delicious on our plates for supper.  Mac planted six more tomato plants on August 24th in the growtainers and we have tomatoes on them already.  Do you think he'll mind if I say I am heartily sick of canning tomatoes? 
They've gotten so tall that he's having to extend the rings to accommodate their rapid growth. 
Thursday  is the first day of fall.  This Sunday past I came home from church and started canning the peaches (a bushel of them) and finished the pears.  I know that this winter we will be so happy that the pantry if loaded with all the bounty from the garden but I will tell you this: I have yet to use the pressure canner this year. 

Our family grew up with Aunt's and Great Aunt's as well as Grandparents lending a hand in the rearing of myriad children in the family circle.  They had their own methods of correction and reward, instruction and playtime.  One of the Aunt's spent most of the summer canning garden goods, chicken and dumplings, meats and the like.  Her favorite was Spaghetti Sauce.  For most of the garden goods she used the cold pack canner but for anything containing meats or fish she used the pressure canner.  As young as 5 I knew that the sudden screech and the soft explosion meant Aunt Dale was canning Spaghetti Sauce.  And that the pressure gauge had passed into the red line.  The boy cousins would spend half a day cleaning the ceiling at least three times each summer,  Then, one summer Aunt Dale had an idea.  She would pay one of us a nickel if we sat in a chair in front of the range and kept an eye on the pressure gauge.  We were to yell out if it began to rise from the amount of pressure the canner book indicated.  She would run in and turn down the burner the canner was on.  We dared not leave it a second to long, and if we did we ran out the kitchen door onto the screen porch screaming for help as we ran.  We really wanted that nickel, so we were mostly eagle eyed.  Aunt Dale had to many other things going on to watch it herself which is why she had so many catastrophes in the kitchen. 
When I became the proud owner of my very own pressure canner, it was in my possession for 2years before I got up the nerve to use it.  I had read the instruction booklet at least fifty times.  Maybe more.  I would tell myself that the next day would be canning day and then chicken out and use the cold pack canner instead.  But one day, the first day of my vacation, I took the plunge.  I got out the canner, the jars, the book and decided that I would can the bushel of pears that I had been gifted with by a neighbor.  I peeled, I  seeded, I added citric acid to avoid browning, then I prepared the jars.  They had to be hot, so I also had the cold pack canner out to heat them and placed the jar caps and lids in a small pan of boiling water.  I located the jar lifter and set to work.  I used apple juice as the canning solution in the jars to avoid sugar.  I packed the hot jars in the canner, added the water, adjusted the lids and put the top on the canner.  7 jars rested snugly within.  After placing the pressure gauge atop the canner,   I turned on the burner and put my chair in front of the range so I could take up my post. I had offered the requisite nickel to my sons to do this, but had no takers.  They simply laughed and walked away.  Mac came in and seeing me sitting in the chair asked me what on earth I was doing.  "Avoiding disaster, " I replied,  "Our ceiling isn't as high as Aunt Dale's was, I'm afraid the whole affair would go through the roof!"  So, if you should ever walk into the kitchen and see me sitting in a chair in front of the stove, you'll know what I'm doing.  And believe me when I tell you that this winter it will have been worth every worrisome moment of it.  And I'll pay myself a nickel for the privilege.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Now if someone will just move the cat from my face...

I remember coming in the other day and sitting down at the computer and posting on my blog for the first time in a long time.  I was taking a break from food preservation chores and enjoying every second of my time away from the stove/freezer/ know, the tools of the trade for Little Susie Homemaker.  I went to bed after catching up with about half my friends on-line.  I was so upset to hear about their losses and tragedies, but then there were those who had triumphs and victories in life and that cheered me back up again.  So, that was on Saturday.  I had canned 7 quarts of pears and knew that I would do no more until the coming weekend.  I remember going to Church on Sunday and greeting friends, adding Anya and Wilfred to our prayer list because her situation is so desperate at this time. (I urge you all to go read up on her situation and pray for them.)

But then came Sunday night.  I had a slight cough and my head began to feel as though it were stuffed with jello.  I've heard people say it is like cotton wool, but no, Jello is definitely what it seems to be.  I stretched out on the sofa and put a pillow beneath my head and under my knees while waiting for the person who might bring me a cold compress for my head and a warm drink for my hands.   When no such creature appeared to take care of my aches and snuffles, I got up and got the damned cold compress and made myself a cup of hot tea with honey and cinnamon. Grouchy was going to be the theme of the day. I also fetched a roll of paper towels, this was no job for Kleenex.   I sat, legs pulled beneath me, holding the cup gripped in two aching hands and sipped.  I placed the cold compress on my neck and immediately took it off while I developed a chill.   I remembered my little cross stitch sign I had done from an old Erma Bombeck quote:  Why do my family get to have flu in bed while I have it at the kitchen sink?   I dimly wondered what had ever happened to my lovely little cross stitch piece.   I cursed the garden that robbed me of Mac's tender care...damn garden.

So, I am not sure exactly how sick I should tell you I am.  I do know that I came to at least once  with one cat on my stomach and another wrapped around my neck.  I sort of whimpered and Mac came and moved JJ off my throat and went to move Hound, the cat from hell,  where she now lay possessively across my chest.  That was a mistake.  He quickly pulled his hand back while it was still attached to his arm and left me to my misery, Hound my only guardian.  Someone, the hot tea fairy maybe, brought me a cup of tea and wanted to know what was for supper.  The glare in their direction sent them scuttling backward.  That was Monday.  Tuesday I was up at the stove trying to fix Mac a hamburger when older son asked if I wanted him to do it.  "You sort of look like you might dive head first into that frying pan, " he warned me.  Turning over burning dinner duties to him I stumbled back to the sofa and the remote control.

Then  came Wednesday.  Still with a hacking cough, head more like warm tapioca  than Jello, I'm not making the mistake of taking my temperature .  I took it on Tuesday to find it was 101 and immediately felt 101% worse.  Won't do that again.  I tell Mac and older son if anyone calls to check on me to tell them I'm sitting up and taking a bit of broth. While I really don't feel much like phone talking,  oddly enough blogging relaxes me.  But I see that I've probably been up long enough, when everything I've just posted suddenly disappears from the screen.  Damn Windows 7.  Damn garden.  Damn Tea  Fairy.  But I hear that somewhere there is a Toddy Fairy.  So I'm wishing for a Toddy Fairy, and hoping she'll make it a double.