March 13th – I felt better today than I have in a long time with absolutely no reason for that to be true. Go figure. On the other hand I’ve gotten quite a bit accomplished or at least started and that offsets the news we heard on the radio.
When I said yesterday that Atlanta was burning I meant that literally. Some type of major explosion occurred downtown and then spread outwards from there, igniting all that hadn’t already burned before in the previous riots. The Nation of Islam headquarters is rumored to have been the original target and was destroyed in the initial explosion and who knows how many lives have been lost over the last couple of days. They say evidence of the fire can be seen for miles in all directions but since we are five hours away from Atlanta’s location … or should I say where Atlanta used to be … there is no way we are going to see it go up.
Unlike us, Georgia has been dry as a bone and even a small spark floating on the breeze will ignite another fire if it lands on fertile ground, and most ground is ripe for a fire in Georgia right now, the cold, dry winter only dried things out even more than the drought had.
Mr. Henderson and Ram think that the fire may slow the migration out of the north for a while but after that it may actually increase the numbers heading this direction since there will be even less salvageable goods along the main I75 corridor. Ram also expects some retaliation by some militant groups and it looks like the local troops are preparing for the possibility. There have been all types of conjecture on what caused the explosion but due to its size nothing quite sounds right yet. The best one yet was one that I heard Bill and Ram formulate standing by the wagon. They think that a previously planted terrorist bomb was accidentally activated … either through tampering or through some other type of accident.
The men … and a few of the women … could have talked that subject to death for the rest of the day but we all had to head home. We had to listen to it all through lunch and clean up and then I had to listen to Rand’s wonderings off and on through the rest of the day. He listened to the radio late into the night; I had intended on staying up with him but I fell asleep in spite of myself.
We woke to find that Austin and Woofer had snuck into our room during the night and had slept at the foot of the bed. I was worried that he was sick but he said he’d had a dream the house was on fire and then couldn’t go back to sleep. I looked at Rand who nodded his head and he eased up on the talk today. Austin still asked if he could camp out in our room and since it has been storming pretty bad for several hours now we told him one more night then it was back to a real bed so he could get some rest. He’s down there now. We could make him more comfortable but Rand is worried that if we do that we will only give him more reason to want to sleep in our room instead of his. He said that Mick had gone through a stage like that and it had taken him and Brendon forever to get him to go back to his own bed because they kept making it so easy on him to sleep in their room.
This morning I decided it was time to shake off whatever has been holding me down. Rand and I are working on seeing what the other needs and not just assuming we know and while that gets a little silly on occasion we are doing better. That’s a relief and then some. I even managed to make Rand get a little … um, touchy feely … out in the barn when I brought him some cold mint tea as he stacked the wood that he and Austin had been chopping.
After a bit of his silliness – Austin had gone inside to grab some oatmeal cookies from the jar I try to keep filled with snacks and such – Rand said, “You look like you are feeling better.”
“I do feel better.”
“Yes really so stop worrying so much. What do you have planned for the rest of the day?”
“I’m going to have Austin muck the stables and clean out the chicken run while I run the cultivator. I want to get our stuff squared away for a couple of more days and then I have about six people who want to barter for work. I almost hate to do it because it means taking time away from our own projects but …”
“I know, it means getting stuff in trade that we won’t have to grow ourselves. How are the grain fields looking?”
“Better than expected all things considered. We’ve lost some places here and there but now that I know where the low spots are I can avoid putting seed down in those areas. Say a month, give or take a few days, and we should be able to harvest and then turn around and get ready to plant several fields in sorghum. We just need to get some dry weather.”
Austin came out and we all set out to do the work we had set for ourselves this day. Rand and Austin wanted to bring in one more load of wood … I can go through some wood when the canners are going … and I headed into the house to make Hoppin’ John Soup for lunch.
Fix some rice, the thicker you want the soup the more rice you add. Brown up a little sausage, about a quarter pound, and I made that from fresh squirrel sausage that I had mixed up yesterday and put into the cooler. To the drained sausage I added half cup of chopped onion, a half pound of peeled and chopped turnips, two peeled and chopped carrots, a half teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of ground pepper. Brown all of this over medium and then turn it down and simmer it for about seven minutes. Next add three pints of chicken broth, one pint of canned black eyed peas, and a pint of chopped mustard greens. Simmer another ten minutes and add a half teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes right before serving. The soup and a pan of cornbread more than held the three of us over until dinner at which time I planned to have a nice surprise; but first it was on to getting things ready for the swap meet this Saturday where I planned to barter with or without Rand’s help.
Today’s activity was making rice mixes. They are really easy and I think they’ll make me some good points to use at the Shack. Here are the recipes that I use:
Onion Rice Mix:
4 cups uncooked rice
1 envelope onion soup mix
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1 tablespoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
Lemon-Dill Rice Mix:
4 cups uncooked rice
1/4 cup grated lemon peel
1/4 cup powdered chicken soup base
2 tablespoons dill
1 tablespoon chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
Vegetable Rice Mix:
4 cups uncooked rice
1 envelope vegetable soup mix
2 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 tablespoons dried minced celery
2 tablespoons dried minced bell pepper
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Spanish Rice Mix:
4 cups uncooked rice
1/2 cup Mexican seasoning mix
1/2 cup dried corn
2 tablespoons parsley
1 tablespoon basil
4 cups uncooked rice
1/2 cup instant nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup dried minced celery
2 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons thyme
1 tablespoon marjoram
Combine ingredients specified for each different mix. Store mixes in an airtight container on the shelf for up to 4 months. I bagged the mixes two cups of rice at a time and we have plenty of rice so it isn’t hurting us to barter it.
While I was doing this I fixed a whole wheat soy pizza crust. We’ve got a lot of soy beans thanks to Missy though she told me yesterday when she brought me by a big bag of lace scraps that she’s been trading a whole lot more of them after she hung the directions for making soy milk on the bulletin board. I guess I could give her this recipe too.
You dissolve one tablespoon of yeast in one cup of warm water and let it sit until it starts to get foamy. Then you add one quarter cup of soy flour and one and one quarter cup of whole wheat flour and mix it until well combined. Then you stir in one teaspoon of salt (I used sea salt). I covered the bowl with cheesecloth and let it rise in a warm place for forty-five minutes.
Then you lightly oil a twelve-inch pizza pan and then press your dough out to the edges of the pan. You bake it for fifteen minutes or until the edges are brown and crisp and then take it out and top it with the ingredients you want, put it back in the oven until your toppings are finished and there you have it … whole grain pizza. Next time I may just have to make two the way Rand and Austin inhaled the pizzas. I was queen for the rest of the night and now I’m off to bed, Rand has promised me a foot massage and a few other things besides.
March 14th – Busy, busy, busy. And too sore and tired to write much. I planted another three rows of bush beans. I’ve been planted a few more rows every week. When the seed pods dry we’ll winnow them and bag the beans up. I can’t help but think that eventually this will be a really good food supply for us personally and to barter … maybe even export if we can get enough growing to make it worth our while. Also had to hoe the other rows if things that are coming up. The mulch I have laid down this time is helping considerably but I notice there is more weeding to be done than there was when I was planting more sustainably using the square-foot method. Each method has its pros and cons but it will be harvest that will really determine which method I use in the planting seasons to come.
March 15th – I don’t know how and I don’t know when but Fraidy surprised us by becoming a Momma last night. I had been going under the assumption that she was fixed but apparently not. I haven’t seen any other cat though several months back I know I heard one. Rand found her nest up in the loft first thing this morning. She’s extremely protective but Rand was able to take her some food scraps without her fritzing out too much and in the end she practically inhaled what he left for her. She has seven kittens in her nest and I’m not sure what we are going to do with them all. I’d like to keep one but we’ll have to see.
Today’s mixture to take to the swap meet was instant chai tea. Another one so easy I can’t believe how anyone would think of wanting to trade for it but Missy asked if I had any tea recipes since most people were running out of coffee. In a bowl combine one cup nonfat dry milk powder, one cup powdered non-dairy creamer, one cup French vanilla flavored powdered non-dairy creamer, two and one-half cups granulated sugar, one and one-half cups unsweetened instant tea, two teaspoons ground ginger, two teaspoons ground cinnamon, one teaspoon ground cloves, and one teaspoon ground cardamom. Next I put it in my hand-powered blender and basically pureed the stuff until it was the consistency of a fine powder. That took a while and next time I might cheat again and plug the old blender into the inverter.
Spent a good deal of time sewing and mending, especially socks. I got so irritated that I threw a pair of balled up socks at Rand and demanded that he trim his toenails because I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life trying to darn the same pair of socks over and over again only to have his shovel sharp nails undo the work or make a new hole after the first wear. Austin wears his out in the heel and I think it is because the socks he has are short and he is constantly pulling them up. I ought to know, I’ve got the same bad habit.
I also finished all of the preorders that Missy gave me last time. If it remains at a dozen orders each time then I’ll be able to keep up, any more than that and I’ll be in trouble, especially as soon as the garden really starts taking off which shouldn’t be too much longer from now. I’ve been planting enough stuff that if we go hungry any time in the near future it won’t be because we didn’t put enough work into it.
March 16th – Harvested English peas, cauliflower, and collard greens today in quantity so while I cleaned the house I canned up what I didn’t put in the dehydrator. It used to be that I would dry what I didn’t can but now it is the other way around. The more drying I can do the better. I haven’t broken any jars yet, knock on wood, and my rings are still good but I will eventually run out of lids … not this year, maybe not even next year if I start rationing them, but eventually all things like that will run out unless they start manufacturing them again.
Rand and Austin laughed at me until they both nearly shot milk out of their noses. I don’t care. Fraidy is way up in the loft taking care of seven kittens all on her own. How is she supposed to feed them and stay healthy herself? So I made her a kitty salad. I know it sounds stupid but Ms. Belle had this ancient cat that she would bring to work every once in a while and hide in her office … because of the health department you know. Anyway she swore that the reason her “Tum tum” was still healthy and frisky at nineteen was because she prepared all of his food from scratch and one of the things he really enjoyed was Grass Salad.
You start with a small carrot that you peel and grate, then add one-half cup of chopped fresh sprouts, two teaspoons of freshly chopped parsley, one-half teaspoon fresh chopped catnip, mix that all together just like you would a human salad. Then you sprinkle two tablespoons of vegetable broth over it and toss again. Of course a normal cat won’t eat all of that in one sitting so you give them a little and refrigerate the rest. Rand wasn’t laughing after he saw how eager Fraidy was for it after she figured out what it was.
Poor Woofer just looks up at the loft some times and whines because he knows his friend is up there and doesn’t understand why she won’t come down and go hunting with him. I have a feeling it is going to be interesting to see whether Fraidy tolerates Woofer around the kittens and whether Woofer really understands what the kittens are. We’ll have to be careful. Rand says we have about two months before they are totally weaned but in about a month we should see Fraidy out and about more as she starts the weaning process.
Thinking about Fraidy has made me think about Laurabeth and Stevie. I need to pray for her more. She’s going through something that would surely break me I think. I’ve lived through a lot but I view Rand and this baby as some type of reward for surviving. I really don’t think I could handle them being taken from me. Maybe I shouldn’t think that way. Maybe that makes me weak. I don’t know, and frankly I’m not sure I care. I just don’t want it to happen.
Rand got a couple of braces of quail today with some birdshot. I haven’t had that much to do with cooking quail but Rand said that it can be done basically like chicken only with less cooking time because it is smaller. Well, I have been dying for BBQ chicken. I mean it woke me up in the middle of the night and I basically had to wipe my mouth because it was watering so much. Having cravings is so strange.
But then when it came right down to it every time I tried to clean those birds I couldn’t, my stomach kept heaving. I was getting so mad and do you know what? Austin came to my rescue. I tell you that boy has a cast iron stomach just like Rand; nothing bothers him it seems. He cleaned them and then I split them into halves and grilled them, painting them with some homemade BBQ that I had canned last tomato season. I pan fried some whole kernel corn with plenty of butter, baked some white beans Boston style, and made biscuits. Oh my gosh! We all made pigs of ourselves and it was so good. I know that is bragging on my own cooking but I don’t care. Rand and Austin even helped me clean the dishes up afterward and that just topped it off like a good dessert.
March 17th – Happy St. Patty’s Day. Yeah, I know it’s a little silly but it sure was fun freaking Rand and Austin out at the breakfast table with green scrambled eggs, green biscuits, and green cream for the coffee. I wish I could have gotten a picture of their faces; it was worth using up one of my bottles of green food coloring to do it.
Today is baking day and while my normal bread items were baking or rising I went through more of Momma’s recipe files. It seems that no matter how much time I spend doing this I’m always finding something new and interesting that I want to try.
Actually what I was looking for today was a sourdough starter that you can make out of whole wheat flour. I’m running pretty low on store-bought flour; it is amazing how quickly it goes when you make everything from scratch. That leaves the whole wheat flour that is made from the bags of grain we have in storage. The recipe I finally found even used honey instead of processed sugar.
You take one-half teaspoon of honey, one-half cup of whole wheat flour, and one-half cup of non-chlorinated water. The well isn’t chlorinated so there isn’t any problem there but I did leave it to sit in the window to bring it up to room temperature before using it to mix with. You mix all of that together in a glass jar using a wooden spoon; you can’t use any metal with this recipe. You want a good lid on the jar and then sit it in a warm place where you will stir it twice a day for five days. On the sixth day mix in another half-cup of water and a half-cup of whole wheat flour and mix together well, cover it and let it sit in a warm place for one day to ferment. When it gets lots of bubbles and foam on top the yeast is ready to use.
The sourdough starter will separate when it sits; you just need to mix it back together before using. Momma recommended covering it with waxed paper secured with a rubber band and putting it in the frig where you only need to feed it weekly. You take half of the starter out to use in you baking and then add half a cup of water and half a cup of flour to keep it going. Sounds simple, let’s see if it actually works.
I hope tomorrow is a good day. I haven’t had too much luck at the swap meets as far as them being good days for me. Some of that is my fault, I won’t hide from the truth. But on the other hand not all of it has been my fault. I would like to prove to myself that the swap meets aren’t a bad place for me to go, that I can function normally in such a crowded setting. Yes, I do much better in small groups but I have to be able to be at least semi-normal around large groups of people.
It is raining again tonight, not as badly was the other night but enough that it will be muddy in the morning. We’ve got a bad place forming up at the gully for the higher than average rainfall. Rand has already laid the rock on the slope so it isn’t from erosion. It’s like the water is trying to bubble up through the road. The water isn’t that high in the gully though it is higher than normal. I think, from looking at it, that it might actually be from the other side. The people on that side used to go mud bogging right there and it caused deep ruts and pits in the ground that nothing wants to grow in. The ground might be compacted and not letting the water perk down, especially if there is clay under the sand. You walk over there and it is like walking on a sponge, the water just squishes up out of the ground.
Rand has tried digging a ditch on the side of the road opposite side from the gully but it just fills with water and doesn’t really do much to help. We’ve dumped some more lime rock on it that Rand hauled in from the old concrete plant but it is still like pudding in a couple of places.
The last thing we’ve done seems to have helped the most but make cause the most grief in the long haul. There were some small pines that he took out recently when opening up the new orchard area. He was going to chop it up for fat wood and fire starters but instead he cut the top and bottom off of them and laid them down across the road right there. It is kind of like a corduroy road but at least it keeps the wagon from sinking every time it is driven over that bad place.
Hopefully it will last long enough that we can get things a little better dried out so we don’t have the pudding effect anymore. I walked up there with Rand and we were getting close to the bad spot when Rand suddenly went down to his knee in mud … that’s the pudding effect. Actually it is the consistency of a thick cake batter but pudding sounds better when you are describing it to other people. We aren’t the only ones having ground problems. Uncle George had to go pull a cow out of the mud a couple of days ago and Mr. Henderson had a section of wall cave in where water undercut the fence and the weight of the fence section pulled it over. Good thing no one was on the palisade there at the time.
In the past you could just pick up a phone and place an order for some gravel or lime rock to be hauled in, not anymore. It was an all day job when Rand went to the concrete plant that time to get a wagon load for us. He said there were people there with burlap bags strapped to donkeys and mules hauling it back to where ever they were from. Even met a couple of farmers from Gilchrist and Columbia counties. Gilchrist has lots of flooding. Columbia not so much but they’ve got problems with transients coming out of the south. Looks like we are going to be seeing people from both directions. I just hope they have their good manners on and that they’ll leave us alone.