Friday, December 2, 2016

Inside Homesteading

If we mimicking homesteading or living off the land, and I do envision that often from raising some of our own food in garden, orchard and barnyard, there is the inside component, baking, cleaning, preparing food, cooking.  And so is today.

We've cut back on the baking, which is really hard to do because the products are so delicious, breads, sweet breads, rolls, cinnamon or grey rolls, pies, cookies, cakes, but so full of sugars, fats and carbohydrates.  But it's Christmas and we get to bake all these goodies for the special meals, as gifts and for parties when someone else will eat them.  We just get to bake them.

Today is in preparation for tomorrow when we give cinnamon rolls to the volunteers at the clinic.  Almost before my feet hit the floor when getting out of bed, I sprinkle the yeast over warm water and dribble in a bit of honey, honey fresh from the bees near Carson, North Dakota.  After a shower and dressing, and after the yeasty water is frothy, I add the other ingredients: molasses for a old-fashioned homemade delicious flavor, oil, milk (actually I add water and powdered milk), a nip of salt to enhance the flavors, about half the flour as whole wheat, it's healthier and it's adds to the old-fashioned flavor and some of the while flour.  I continue to add white flour until the consistency is right on.

Here's where I gleefully deviate from the "old-fashioned."  I have it all in the Kitchen-Aid mixer bowl and I turn on the mixer watching all the ingredients become one smooth silky batter.  Switching to the dough hook, I slowly add the rest of the flour until it appears to be a bread dough climbing the sides of the now dry walls of the bowls.  Onto the chopping board for kneading and adding flour for that perfect texture, about 100 folds in the kneading.  Into a large bowl so the batter, now called dough, can rest and rise to about double the size.

When it's doubled, the fun begins.  The dough is soft and silky and feels so good to knead.  Once the gases caused by the growing yeast are all kneaded out, it's divided and rolled out on the chopping block, about a quarter to three-eighths thick.  Spread on the soft butter, crumble on the brown sugar and sprinkle a coat of cinnamon.  Roll up, slice into inch and a half pieces, and place on their sides in a oiled pan.  We like the glass pans.

After another 15 or so minutes of resting and rising, it's in the oven, gas not wood, with a thermostat set at 350˚F for about 13 minutes.  Then it's out with an old-fashioned pot holder, dumped upside-down on the chopping block and dig in.  Oh no, these are for gifts and so we only get the one that broke or fell apart or was distorted or was damaged [intentionally] when coming out of the pan.

Did I mention that during the rest periods a cake was mixed and baked?  It's an eggless, marble cake to be served at church as a test for the upcoming wedding cake.  And so the day's routine is gloriously not routine.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Not Much Yard Work

There are parts of the US who yard work now means shoveling or blowing snow; feet of it.  Here in Oregon it means emptying the rain gage and mowing the lawn one more time before Christmas.  I did rake the last of the leaves yesterday and lit the burn pile of yard debris, twigs and branches.  That's because there was no rain accumulating in the gage.

Today might have been more routine for this time of the year.  Mix and heat some water and sugar for the humming birds.  Put seeds in the bird feeder for the jays, chickadees, juncos, and dove.  The quail can share also but they were out back searching through the lawn.  The deer wondered into the yard until I asked it to leave.

There's the route to feed the dog, Sheba, to feed the cats, Dr. Skittles and Toby, to feed the chickens and gather any eggs if there are any.  Actually yesterday there were two, the first ones in about a month and they were pullet sized.  The filter in the fish pond will have to be cleaned tomorrow.

We did pick the two squash and six pumpkins a couple days before Thanksgiving so we had real pumpkin pie and froze the squash for another day.  The forecast talks about snow in the mountains, even down to a thousand feet but we're at less than 500 and the valley floor is somewhat lower than that.  We're safe; maybe some scattered rain showers.  A great time to write, paint and do some woodworking.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Politics

It's hard to avoid these days, politics, that is.  It was suggested in the media, and the media is always right, right?, to avoid the political conversations at the Thanksgiving family gathering.  We did, for the most part, avoid that conversation but it did creep in a bit.  Fortunately it was quite civil, perhaps because it was rather one-sided.  In fact, it was suggested that in a world of division and some hostility that our house was a safe zone.  One could say what they wanted without arguing and fighting.

You may have guessed that the conversation was not in support of our president-elect.  If you guessed that corrected you can probably also presume that we receive emails with similar leanings, as we did this morning.  Now it would be wonderful to fight everything that our president-elect has suggested as a part of his plans for governing our country.  This may be where we're making mistakes, regardless of who you voted for or what your perference for governing this country may be.  It's what the Congress has done for the past eight years, block everything that the president proposes, and that didn't get the country anywhere except frustration and our current political atmosphere.

Let's assume that everything we propose is not perfect and that everything the other side proposes is totally wrong, because in the real world that's probably true.  So when someone suggests that we should block everything the president-elect proposes, perhaps we should step back a step and see what it is that we are blocking and consider a compromise.  Perhaps all of us should consider what is best for our nation as a society and work with each other in that direction.

I would also think that we could work together trying to understand each other and continue in our small ways at home to care for and support each other and in particular those in greatest need and those feeling marginalized.

One might hope that the words politics and polite would have some common grounds, such as politics is a process of being polite in community decision making.  That's not true.  Politics has a Greek origin meaning "affairs of the state," while polite has Latin roots for being "refined, organized."  Perhaps by common use we can make politics polite.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bread, Pies and Cookies

Days don't get much better than ones like today; we're preparing food, lots of it, with some variety, for dear ones both friends and family, young and not-as-young.  The day is special as we go beyond the routine making tasty foods that are more seasonal and special.  The day started long before today with planning, making lists, gathering supplies and doing preliminary tasks.  Last evening I baked the traditional and sought after Gramma cookies.  While Gail is a grandmother and the cookies could be named after her, if she actually did the baking, or they could be named after my mother who was a grandmother and did bake these cookies later in life, but actually the name was coined when I was a youngster and my grandmother Marie [Saxowsky] baked them.  She probably did them more than just at Christmas but I remember them particularly at Christmas.  This batch turned out really well; some of the best I've ever done, lightly brown on the bottom as well as the top, plump and soft but didn't sag from being under-baked.

So today started by running hot water over the metal mixer bowl so it would be warm when I put water, yeast and honey in it to proof.  Then sift the powdered sugar and cocoa together for frosting the cookies.  Actually Gramma cookies are pepper nuts or as they were called in German, Pfeffernuss.  As I was putting some ingredients back into the cupboards I wondered what ingredients my grandmother had to work with back in her day, especially when she was young.  Thinking first about chocolate chip cookies, when were chocolate chips first available.  The answer is that the first chocolate chip (Toll House cookies named after the Toll House Inn where they were first made) cookies were made with chopped up Nestle's chocolate bars in the mid 1930's.  The "chip" was made starting in 1941.

The ingredients in Gramma cookies were all available throughout her life; flour, lard, coffee, eggs, spices, sugar, molasses, honey, cocoa, powdered sugar, vanilla.  She probably made chocolate chip cookies after the word about their goodness got around.

Gramma made her frosting thin enough to dip the entire cookie in the frosting, dip them out with her hand and place them on wax paper.  I vary a bit from that in that my frosting is a bit thicker, I dip only the top into the frosting and spoon off the excess before putting them on wax paper, or newspapers.

By now the yeast is proofed and we mix up the batter in a nice mixer, knead it on a wooden chopping block and place in a bowl with a towel over the top to rise.  That aside, we combine shortening (lard would have been used decades ago) and flour, blending them until they are uniformly combined.  I use the wire wisp attachment on the mixer.  Then I switch to the regular blade and slowly add the water, letting it mix only a short time until the water is integrated throughout the mixture.  Then it's squeezed together into a uniform ball before I cut it in half and roll it out as a pie crust.  Gail makes the pumpkin mix from pumpkins from the garden that we cleaned and cooked last evening.  Soon the pies are in the oven and setting up.

Back to the bread dough which has doubled, it's kneaded and separated into a small ball to be rolled out, spread with butter, cut into small pieces and rolled up into crescent rolls.  The last ball became cinnamon rolls.  Yummy.

It's time to move on.  The cookies are frosted and the frosting is setting up.  The pies are out of the oven and cooling.  The bread rolls are on the cooling rack waiting to serve their purpose tomorrow along with the turkey, all the trimmings and the side dishes.  Okay, maybe tomorrow with be a better day than today.  Two great days in rows is quite grand.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Time for Healing

Last week we were among the leaders in a project of housing and feeding families who temporarily are without homes.  During the course of the seven days about 90 different persons from more than a dozen churches plus community members and university students participated in this project.  No one asked about or talked about religion or governance leadership.  We just joined together in a common cause.

On the last day of that same week we worked with another two dozen volunteers including doctors and nurses to serve the uninsured and underinsured with loving medical care.  We don't ask if documented or citizens; we don't care if they need an interpreter or speak English; we don't look at their skin color.

This is where the unity and love of people come together.  It's not only a county or a nation, it's humanity.

During the last months this nation has displayed division.  Like has been said before, "A house divided cannot stand."  So we must let the national leaders do what national leaders do and locally join with others to help each and every one of us.

OPB airs a feature yesterday that I heard bits and pieces of in the background of my day that showed small groups discussing international issues.  They were asked to speak something negative about their country and then as a group turn that negative into a positive.  That's our focus today, to turn our loss into a positive step forward.

Hug your family, take the hand of a neighbor and walk with a friend to make this a better place for ALL.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

God

After reading a blog about "the lake of fire" I feel compelled to write my version.

"If your son or daughter asks for some bread, do you give them a stone? If you do good things, doesn't God do even better things."  "Don't even the dogs lick up the crumbles that the children drop to the floor?"  God is good, God is better than good.  God is the best, beyond our imagination.

Do you really think that after all the years that Mother Theresa helped the children, the poor and the hungry in India that God would send them to the "lake of fire" just because they grew up not knowing Jesus?  There are millions in the world who believe that the understanding of God came through Moses, or Muhammed, or Buddha, or the Great Spirit.  What makes Christians more correct then them?  What if they are correct?  I believe God loves us all more than we can imagine and will do everything God can to keep us from pain and suffering, and God is all powerful.  God hates evil but not people.

Since we're on the topic which we don't understand let me throw in a simple thought about heaven.  How do I envision heaven?  It's hardly a place and there are no bodies that need food and doctors.  As God is "I am," we are "we are."  Heaven will be spiritual interactions among all of us, after all without our bodies we are but spirits and we don't know the parameters of spirits, they just "are."

Now off to do the work of today's callings.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Boredom

It's never to late to learn something new, or to approach something from another point of view.

I often thought I would would like to be bored, just once.  It seems like there is always something waiting for me, something that I could do, something that I should do.  If only there was a time when everything was done and there was nothing more to do.  Time when I couldn't find anything to do.  Time when I was truly bored.

It's never happened, and never will.  Well, maybe when I can't do anything anymore.  Or I lose my mind.  It's my nature, it's built into me, to find something to do.  Even now that I no longer work for an income or am employed, I have a long list of things that I would like to do either for the next day or the next year.  I have accepted this as who I am, and it's just fine.

Today, however, I heard scientist on the radio talk about mindfulness and spoke also of boredom.  He discussed boredom or being bored in a very different way, a way to which I can truly relate.  He said that when he was doing a routine task, after a while he would become bored before finishing the task, such as mowing the lawn.  As he mowed the lawn his mind would wander to other times he could be doing and would rather be doing; he referred to this as being bored with mowing, with the task at hand.

If that's boredom, especially if it's the part where the mind wanders to another task, I am almost always bored.  I would have referred to this feeling as being distracted from the task at hand.  Now I have a new word for that distraction; I have a new definition for boredom or being bored.  And I am even bored now, or at least distracted to move on.  In fact, I have done several other tasks while writing this.