Monday, December 17, 2012

Old Age Setting In

I have not posted in over a week.  I am having problems with my eyes, guess when you turn 40 things don't work quite right anymore.  Looking at something up close such as the computer or reading and then trying to focus on something else in the room is giving me major headaches.  I am trying to get an appointment to have my eyes checked, not easy this time of year with everyone's Holiday schedule.  But I promise to try and get back to regular postings as soon as possible.  I hope the few followers and readers I have will bear with me through this.  Thanks everyone.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Greasy Doorknobs Part II

A continuation of our day processing a pig.  After the sausage was made and meat cut up and packaged we set about trying our hand at making livermush and souse meat.  For those outside of the southern region, and probably outside of North Carolina let me explain about livermush.   Other areas of the country have similar products, scrapple and liver pudding for example but, they are not livermush.  To make livermush you have to use the pig's head.  No ears or eyes though.  We were going by Farmer Joe's grandad's general instructions so we were a little nervous about how it would turn out.  The longest part of this process is the boiling of the head to get the meat to fall off the bones, it took about five hours of cooking for us.  You boil the liver in a separate pot, this is due to the fact that you will use the broth from the boiled head, but you don't want to use the broth from the liver.  Once the meat is falling off the bones, you take it out of the pot and strain the broth and put the broth back in the pot.  Pick the meat off the bones, reserving at least a cup of lean meat for Souse Meat (more on this later).  Then run the meat and the liver through a grinder and put it back in the broth.  Next comes a tricky part, add spices to taste.  We used salt, black pepper, sage and cayenne pepper.  Bring the pot to a boil and stir.

As you can see we used a really big pot.  I could stir it standing on the floor, but kept getting close to burning my arm.  So out came the step stool, I am only five foot tall.  This worked perfect but Farmer Joe, Jim and Sharon got a big kick out of it.

Once the pot is back to boiling add in white cornmeal, lots of it!  And stir constantly.  It gets thick so this was Farmer Joe's job.  He was the only one with enough stamina to keep at it.                                      

 It is kind of a crapshoot about knowing when it is thick enough, we judged by the spoon method.  When the spoon did not sink we guessed it was good.   This what it looked like.

Please don't say "Eww!"  I know that it does not look real appetizing, but remember we weren't done with it yet.
Have lot's of lightly greased pans at the ready and ladle it in.

Set them in a refrigerator overnight to cool and set up.  Then unmold and enjoy.  We ended up with about 35 pounds of livermush.  Thirty four of it in molds.  Farmer Joe's favorite way to eat it is right out of the pot warm with a streak of mustard.  So we all indulged, some more than others.  I think Farmer Joe's final count was four and a half sandwiches.  The normal way to eat livermush is slice it and fry it up in a pan til the outside is a little crispy but still soft on the inside.  You can add whatever you want to the sandwich, but eggs (my favorite), mustard, onions, or coleslaw are the most common.

Now the Souse Meat.  This is basically a slightly pickled, gellied mold of meat.  I know that does not sound appealing, you just have to taste it.
Measure out the amount of lean meat (a little fat on it is good, but not too much) you reserved.  However much meat you have you will need that same amount of broth.  I measured and reserved my broth before we made the livermush.  In a pan heat your broth and 4 to 6 tablespoons of vinegar til boiling then add spices to taste.  I used salt, a bay leaf and crushed red pepper.  Boil for five minutes, then add your lean meat and simmer for five more.  Scoop out the meat and place in a small loaf pan and pour over the broth.  Cover in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator with some type of weight on top.   The next day take it out and unmold.

Okay, again many of you will say "Eww!"  But a little bit of that vinegary, spicy meat on a saltine cracker is heaven to me.

We took a couple of pounds of livermush and half the loaf of souse meat to Farmer Joe's grandad.  We are anxiously awaiting his critique.  We hope he likes it and we hope he is proud of us for starting to carry on a family tradition.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Greasing of the Doorknobs

On Friday, friends of ours, Jim and Sharon, had to put down a hog.   She had broken her leg.  So we were asked to come help with the meat.  Jim and Ken had it skinned and cut up and we were supposed to make sausage Friday night.  Remember my jelly fiasco, well the sausage Friday did not turn out much better.
Farmer Joe ended up working late and by the time we got to the hill, Jim was already in bed since he had been up since two o'clock that morning.  So we sat and talked with Sharon for a while, had a cup of coffee and a couple glasses of wine and came home.  After the woodcutting at Farmer Joe's grandad's house Saturday morning we headed back to the hill and went at it.
Jim and Farmer Joe getting the meat cut up and ready.
Once it was all ground the mixing began.
And of course once it was all mixed , we had to taste test to see if the spices were right.
By this time of the evening we were getting hungry and a little tired.  So in the refrigerator the sausage went for the spices to absorb better overnight.  Then supper was cooked.  Yep, you guessed it sausage, eggs, biscuits and gravy.  After clean up and coffee and conversation, we bade each other good night and crashed.

Sunday morning dawned a beautiful day and we headed back to the hill to finish the pig.

I measured, Joe weighed and Sharon vacuum sealed.  In the end we came out with 33 pounds of sausage for their freezer.   In Farmer Joe's family whenever a hog was killed, they called the sausage making part the annual greasing of the doorknobs.  And this turned out to be true for on the hill as well.  No matter how hot and soapy the water was, it seems that a little grease just has to stick to your palm so that it is extremely hard to open a door.  All we can say is that we are glad no one had to rush outside for any reason.

Jim, aka Hambone, had band practice with The Hamtones Sunday so he missed this part of the fun.  But that was okay, we got to listen to some great music while we worked.

Once the sausage was done we finished cutting and packaging the rest of the meat for their freezer.  Our day was not done by a long shot, but I think I will save that for part two of this post.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Where Farmer Joe Gets It From

In families it is always said, "Oh, they get that trait from great uncle so and do."  Well Farmer Joe gets the majority of his farming traits from his Granpa Miller.  Yesterday Farmer Joe and his youngest brother J and his cousin J went down to his grandad's to help split wood.  I of course took pictures.

Beautiful place he has and he always has some type of farm animal.  The goats were cooperative enough to let me take pictures, but the young steer was no where to be found.

Grandad, youngest brother J and cousin J

Farmer Joe splitting the rounds

Farmer Joe split the big rounds of wood so it would be easier for the boys to handle, while Grandad ran the wood splitter.   It only took them about four hours to get it all done.  Then of course Grandad had to feed everyone lunch.  What is it about grandparents that they can't let you leave without feeding you?  But it does give you warm feelings from knowing they care.  Farmer Joe's Grandad is one special man.  I love sitting and talking with him and hearing him tell stories and then joke and try and get one over on us.  There are tons of memories and love in this gentleman and we cherish any time we get to spend with him.  When Farmer Joe tells a story about growing up, nine times out of ten, they involve his grandad.  And whether they are funny, loving or informational I am so thankful that he has them and was able to spend so much of his younger life with this amazing man.  Farmer Joe is the man he is today due in part to the influence of his grandad.  For this I am grateful, he could not have had a better role model.  If you ask Farmer Joe he will tell you that his grandad is his hero.  A better one he could not have chosen.

Friday, November 30, 2012

How Not To Make Jelly

Last year, Farmer Joe and I gave homemade/home canned goodie baskets for Christmas.  One of the home canned things was an Apple Cider Jelly.  My mom liked it so much she asked if I would help her make it this year so she can give it as presents to her Sunday School class among others.  I told her no problem and we set the date.  Which was today.  I had already purchased the Apple Cider from Apple Hill Orchard, our local apple supplier, earlier this week so I headed down to Momma's about lunchtime.  We got everything set up and ready to go in the kitchen - water bath heating, jars at the ready, seals in a pot heating; then I read my recipe.  Strain through cheesecloth.  Guess what I did not have.  Off to the grocery store I ran, luckily my mom lives close to it.  Grabbed cheesecloth and was back in twenty minutes, thought ok, now we can get down to business.  Had my father break the cinnamon sticks in half, since neither my mother nor I could do it.  My left hand is in a brace and her right hand is in one, she has a bone chip floating around near her thumb, but we figured between us we had one good set of hands so we should be alright.  While I was measuring out the apple cider, momma was putting the spices in a little bowl.  The recipe calls for 6 one inch pieces of cinnamon sticks, 8 whole cloves and 8 whole allspice.  All of a sudden momma turned to me and asked "How do I measure out 8 of this?"  I looked and I had inadvertently picked up ground cloves instead of my  whole allspice.  Turned the burners down on the stove, told momma "Be right back" and off I ran to my house to get the allspice.  I turned my spice cabinet upside down, but could not find any, so another trip to the grocery store.  Grabbed the allspice, through the checkout and back to momma's I went.  She measured out the spices, handed them to me and I dumped them in pot of apple cider.  When she handed them to me, I said. "Are you sure you put the allspice in here?"  "Yes," she said.  "Oh," I said, "I guess I just can't tell the difference" and I dumped them in the pot.  Meanwhile my mother picked up the spice bottle and said "Uh oh."  I looked and I had bought another jar of whole cloves instead of allspice at the grocery store.  We looked at each other and burst out laughing.  By this time it was two hours after we initially tried to start,  I looked at momma and said "Maybe we ought to try this one day next week."  So we cleaned everything up, scooped out the spices, poured the cider back in the jug and checked the calendar.  Hopefully Monday or Tuesday we will try again and get it to work out.  This is my lesson on how not to make jelly.  Normally, I am better prepared and I double and triple check that I have everything.  Don't know where my brain was that this time I did not, but you can bet I will before we try again.

After I left momma's I headed back to the grocery store (by this time I figure they think I am either casing the joint, or peddling spices) since Farmer Joe had called and said we were going over to a friends tonight to help make sausage.  I got what he asked for, I hope.  Please cross your fingers that tonight's endeavor turns out better than the jelly making.  I will post recipes and pictures for both later, that is if we can actually get them accomplished.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My New Nemesis

Here it is, my new nemesis.

Looks harmless enough.  Yeah right.  This little ball of putty is what they gave me when I went for my hand therapy yesterday.  The instructions stated to squeeze it with my left hand for eight minutes at a time five times a day.  Then after that I have to roll it out on the table and pinch it with each of my fingers.  For eight minutes at a time five times a day.

The first time was not so bad.  Trying to find time for the other seven is harder than I thought.  I sit down at the kitchen table get the putty out, look around see something that needs to be done and off I go.  Not that I am truly complaining mind you, I am enjoying my time at home.  The best thing is being able to have supper ready when Farmer Joe gets home from work, instead of having to cook when I would get home and eat at 8:00 at night.

But back to the putty.  Squeezing and pinching are easy things.  How many times a day to we do this and not realize it.  However, when it is all you can do to curl your fingers into a fist this task becomes monumental.  But I am conquering it, eight minutes at a time.  I know there are millions out there who have had carpal tunnel surgery and have gone through this before me.  To them I say Congratulations!!!  Each new task I am given and master, or each time I find a way to do one of the many ordinary things we all do each day,  makes me do a little victory dance inside.  Never ever take for granted all that you are able to do.  And for those with a disability who conquer their life I am truly amazed at your ingenuity and courage.

Don't take things for granted.  We never know what the future holds.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Skittles & Bits

On May 5th this year in the middle of a Cinco De Mayo party Miss Violet decided to go into labor.  I had just laid down (can't stay up late like I used to) when Farmer Joe comes running in and says "Get dressed, we have a baby!"  I hurriedly dressed and ran down to the barn.  There sat Farmer Joe and a friend Ken right beside Violet as she gave birth.  Having never experienced anything like this I was more excited than a child on Christmas morning.  Within one hour we had eight squirming babies.

We named this litter Bacon Bits.

Then a little over two weeks later Miss Petunia decided it was time.  And within two hours we had ten more cute little piggies.

We named this litter Skittles since they were every color of the rainbow.

All babies remained healthy and grew and grew and grew.

Farmer Joe as a teething toy.

Piggy Pile.

Then came they day they left us.  But that was okay, they were going to a great place.  Bluebird Farm bought 13 babies.  Six Bacon Bits and seven Skittles.  They are a local organic farm and we were so thrilled that our babies were just what they were looking for.  We had purchased pork products and veggies from them for a couple of years and knew that they sale only the best.

This past Sunday Marie and William invited us to come to their farm to help move the Skittles & Bits to the lower corral.  They would be taking them to the abattoir on Monday.  We were more than glad to lend a hand and take a few pictures of how they look now.

Oh my word, did they turn out to be beautiful hogs.  It is so nice to know that we are helping to support the local farming movement.  Marie and William will sell the pork products from these pigs to their CSA members, at our local farmer's market and to a local restaurant.  Knowing that Farmer Joe and I started with the babies and the end result will be delicious pork that people in our community will enjoy gives us a feeling that can't be described.

A Cold Spell

When we got home from visiting friends last night I asked Farmer Joe if he would bring in some firewood since it was supposed to get down in the teens last night and be quite cold today also.  This is what he brought me.

He said maybe that will be enough to get me through the day tomorrow.  Well I would certainly hope so!!  Then I got to looking at the baskets and got tickled.  You see many years ago (35+) my great uncle brought my grandmother a load of wood.  That wood was actually arm pieces from a local furniture factory that had been cut incorrectly, they were destined for the dump, but my great uncle talked the driver into bringing them here where they would be put to good use.  Apparently my grandmother did not use too many of them since we have one part of the woodshed still stacked over half full with arm parts.  What got me tickled was that when you look at them you can tell they are furniture parts and I told Farmer Joe that if someone saw these baskets they would think we had fallen on really hard times and had busted up the furniture to burn to keep warm.  But that's okay if someone thinks us odd, we know where they came from and fully appreciate them. Plus a warm fire accompanied by laughter is always a good thing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Uncle Hamish And The Hooligans

This past Friday one of our favorite local bands came to town to help celebrate two lovely ladies birthdays.  It is always a blast when these guys show up and having a party for Mrs. P and Mrs. S made it doubly wonderful.  The guys in the band work so hard that we try and either have a meal beforehand or go eat after the show.  The following are a few pictures from that day.

Farmer Joe morphed into Smokey Joe and fixed some Boston butts and turkey legs.

I made a couple of Buttermilk Pies.

Smoky Joe has to do a taste test.

Mr R approves of the turkey legs, and Joe got a bear hug for a thank you.

Mrs. G made an outstanding cake, complete with bagpipe decorations.

Our emcee of the night Mr. Epley, with John Barden of the band.

The band, from left to right. On keyboard, Chip Smith.  Connell Sanderson on the bagpipes. Shawn Dunham on bass.  Brett Maney on drums. John Barden on lead guitar.

If you can't tell from the picture, they are a celtic band.  And they are awesome!!  For a taste of how they sound check out their website Uncle Hamish And The Hooligans.  They play all around, check out their schedule and if you find them at a venue near you, go see them.  You will hear a wide variety from traditional celtic to originals they have written and if you are really lucky some ACDC thrown in for good measure!

A wonderful time was had by all!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Nerve Of A 70 Year Old Woman

That's what the doctor told me yesterday.  I had carpal tunnel surgery on my left wrist the 2nd of this month. Yesterday I went back to have my stitches taken out.  After he sat down the doctor asked me how old I was.  I informed him that I had just turned 40.  He then proceeds to tell me that the wear and tear on the main nerve in my left wrist/hand equaled out to that of a 70 year old woman.  I was stunned!  He does feel that with having had the surgery and now going through intensive rehab, that nerve should heal.  Probably not to where it should be, but hopefully back to a point that I don't have problems with it.  I have often thought about the wear and tear that I put my body though especially in my joints and when muscles I don't regularly use become sore, but had never really contemplated the effects on other parts of me, such as nerves.  Gives me something to ponder on for the next little while.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Introducing.....Flashlight Girl

In the superhero comic called our life, I have finally found my sidekick name.
I am Flashlight Girl!!

The name finally dawned on me after late evening/night household projects yesterday and today.  Last night Farmer Joe morphed into Plumber Joe (this is his real job by the way) to fix a leak in the trap under the bathroom sink.  That was the easy part, only took a few minutes and voila, no more leak.  In the trap that is, somehow while twisting parts together something slipped and hit the shut off valve on the hot water side and the pipe broke.  Instant old faithful.  Joe comes running through the house out the door into the crawlspace to shut all the water off.  Meanwhile we developed a small lake in the bathroom and computer/craft room.  Thank God for shop vacs.  Joe got parts to fix the new leak and was in the process when I heard "Honey can you hand me my flashlight?"  So Flashlight Girl to the rescue.  I donned my cape, grabbed the light and off to the bathroom I went.  Flashlight in hand Joe assessed the situation and with some elbow grease got the new pipe in and connected.

Tonight after work the metamorphosis was into Mechanic Joe.  Neither switch would work to roll the passenger window up or down.  He took the door panel apart and took the motor out and went to have it checked out, worked fine, so he got a new switch, came home and put it in.  Did not work.  Went back to the parts store got another new switch, this one for the driver's side, came back and put that one in.  Still did not work.  So it is a problem for someone else to look at.  It was starting to get get late so Joe went and fed up real quick and then started putting both door panels back on.  By this time it was full dark.  In the house he came.  "Hey Roz, can you get my flashlight and come hold it for so I can get this finished?"  Dun, dun, dun..Flashlight Girl to the rescue!  Donned my cape, grabbed the light and off I went.  Ten minutes later both door panels were reassembled and switches were working.  Well all switches except the passenger window.

So now I know my comic book super hero alter ego.  Just glad I can do something useful.

By the way I showed this post to Farmer Joe before publishing it.  His comment, "Can't wait to see the costume."  my mind instantly jumped into overdrive and I told him, "Just you wait til next Halloween!"

Monday, November 12, 2012

Farmer Joe got a permit to harvest fallen trees from the federal game land near us.  Here he is splitting the first eight foot log we found.  It is dry enough for us to go ahead and burn this year.  We have a wood cookstove in the kitchen that we are using for our main source of heat.  There is a monitor heater in the house, but after seeing my grandmother's four hundred dollar a month fuel bill last winter, we decided wood was the way to go.  Don't get me wrong, we did have them fill up the oil tank in the summer so there is another source of heat if we need it.  However, since I am home on medical leave for two months there we figured there is no reason to light the monitor heater till absolutely necessary.  Farmer Joe starts a fire in the morning and I keep it burning.  Plus there is the added bonus of being able to cook on it.  To me a woodstove seems to just make everything taste better.


Thanks to a neighbor Mr. M who had a tree down on his property and did not want it.  Farmer Joe hauled most of it home and spent park of the weekend splitting it as well.  There is still about a ten foot section that he will get and bring home later this week.  We are starting a new wood stack with this tree since it will need to dry out til next year.
You can see a small pile in the front left that Farmer Joe will use when he transforms into Smoky Joe and fires up the cooker.

Peppers Are Hung On The Back Porch To Dry

After a bumper crop of peppers this year, we are finally seeing the last of them.  I got the last of the Cayenne and Thai Chili's strung over the weekend and hung on the back porch to dry.  We picked a little over 13 bushels of peppers off of six rows of plants this year.  We have ate fresh peppers, canned peppers, pickled peppers, froze peppers, dried peppers and gave peppers away!  And as crazy as it sounds, I am already planning what peppers to plant for next year.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Roofing Rant

They dropped off the roofing materials for the new tin roof on Tuesday.  We were told they would be back on Wednesday to start the job, it was raining so we understood waiting until the weather was more suitable.  Wednesday morning dawned sunny, but cold.  No roofers.  Called them and they said we will be there Thursday morning at 7:30.  Thursday dawned bright and sunny and still cold.  Low and behold, 7:00 and trucks started showing up.  Yay, roofers!  Old shingles off the back, new tin on.  Old shingles off the front new tin on.  Old shingles off the kitchen porch, new tin on.  Old shingles off the front porch, part of the new tin on.  Ridge cap going on, wait, last 3 foot not covered.  One piece of trim on. Quit for the day, "We'll be back at 7:30 in the morning."  Friday dawned bright, sunny and cold with frost.  Guy comes to pick up the trailer and says "We'll be back as soon as the frost burns off."  No problem.  I somewhat understand physics.  Frost makes a roof slick, and you can't walk on a slick roof.  9:00 gutter guy shows up.  Tells us the roofer won't be here today but will be here at 10 on Saturday.  Farmer Joe calls roofer and has a few words to say.  It is now 9:32 on Saturday morning, and we have already tried to call the roofer to make sure he will be here today, no answer.  So, we don't have a good feeling that he is gonna show.  Guess what the weather forecast is for Monday, yep cloudy and rainy.
Well Farmer just came in and said the roofers are here.  So now plans for the day have to be revised due to the fact I am not leaving them here to work on their own, because they have broken my trust.
A little back story on why we are getting a roof when we did not really want one right now.  Two words, my grandmother.  She had a major health scare last year and has decided that before she leaves this world, she is going to make sure that Joe and I do not have to worry about anything to do with our houses.  We greatly appreciate this, and love her for it, but she has certain people she wants to do the work. Unfortunately, the guys she chose were last on our list.  However, you don't argue with an 86 strong willed woman.  So it has only taken 3 months to get to this point in the roofing, meetings scheduled and canceled (not by us).
Farmer Joe and I have had many discussions over this and it all boils down to one thing.  She loves us.  You can't argue with that.  So we will bite our tongues and hopefully they will finish today.  But, I can guarantee if anyone ever asks us about roofers the first words out of our mouths will be "Don't use so and so!"

Friday, November 9, 2012

So how did I come up with the name for my blog, well..... It came to me while I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking my coffee thinking back over what we had done in the past months.  One of the first things was to look in all the old outbuildings to see what could be salvaged.  Farmer Joe came across my Grandfather's wheel hoe and my Great Grandfather's mule pulled plow.  Now we don't have a mule (yet), but Joe decides he wants to see what it would take to pull the plow.  So he hooked it to the truck.  Guess who got to be the mule?  Yep, me! I put it in four wheel drive and away we went.  We made one pass and it put a slight strain on that truck to do it.  Then we got to thinking, just how much is one horsepower anyway.  Joe did research and finally came up with an answer to satisfy his curiosity.  I would try and explain it, but to be honest, I did not really understand it (never have been good at math) and I would probably get it wrong or just confuse you something awful.  As to my skills as a mule stand in, Farmer Joe says I need to work on distinguishing my gee from my haw.