Monday, October 31, 2011

The Ghosts of Halloween Past and Present

Charissa, Adryon and I- 198
Kimberlee and Adryon were here for a visit yesterday to cut firewood to help keep their home warm this winter.  It was a full circle moment for me as Kim had brought sweet boy Aydon dressed in his Halloween finery so I could see him.  After seeing this picture of Adryon as a bunny on his first Halloween at 10 months old, she thought he was so cute that she wanted to do something similar for Aydon.  It brought back so many memories of Halloween's past, of trick or treating in driving rain storms, or weather so cold plastic costumes were cracking.  Back to my own Halloweens as a child spent at the parade in Carson City as it is Nevada's admissions day and we would always go down for the Parade.  Or of the time my best friend Sue and I decided to layer lavender paint on our skin which cracked so we would add another layer until we looked like we were decomposing....not too many little kids wanted to come and win a gold fish at our booth at the community carnival - parents would try to convince their progeny that we were just a couple of teenagers not the ghoulies we appeared to be....ah the joys of outrageous teenagerhood!

Adding just the right touches 1988

Of course the first stop was just up the road - to Grampie and Grammy's house to show off the new look.  Such good times.  We didn't know this would be my Dad's last Halloween with us.  So many yearly traditions that mark the passage of time and markers to view the onward procession of our lives.

Adryon 10 months old
Aydon 5 months old

Happy Halloween everyone - the circle just continues to spiral upwards and out - so many people to love in our family of the heart.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Birthday Blessings

Yesterday was my birthday and I am one of the luckiest ladies on earth.  I have so many who love and honor me on my special day.  I just had to post a few of my many birthday blessings.

I want to give a special thank you to my friend Grace from Larkspur Funny farm for the glorious fiber from her sweet 4 legged family, and the lovely hand dyed yarns.  She also sent me a beautiful necklace with the mountains by her home captured by a fantastic glass artist friend of hers.  Thank you so much for being such a good friend.
I wish you all could reach into the screen and feel how wonderful the fiber and yarn is.  Grace is truly a master with fiber and dye.

My son Adryon and his lovely wife Kimberlee and grandson Aydon came for a visit and brought me some lovely flowers, a DVD of one of my favorite films, and a stock tank heater.  They also brought me a luscious chocolate cake - yum.

Daughter Charissa called from NY and we had a nice chat.  She sent me some birthday money so I could pick my own goodies.

Daughter Sarah came for a lovely visit and brought grandson Mateo and grandaughter Adrianna for a short visit - it's always so nice to get a chance to visit.  Everyone is always so busy anymore that we tend to visit on the phone on the run. She and Charissa still have something waiting in the wings....hmmm

Son Brian was here for the weekend and was a big help to me.  It was so much fun to visit with him and see his daughter, Grandaughter, Abby.

My second Mom, sister Nan, and Papa sent me a lovely basket containing some new pot holders and an oven mitt, a really nice stoneware divided cassarole dish and some wonderful bath goodies.

I also received several cards and many phone calls and facebook wishes.  Thank you all - you are all family of the heart.

Four Legged Family

I have been following a thread on the Mary Jane's Farm, Farm Connection about Livestock Guardian Dogs.  It got me thinking about the pooches I have been owned by and loved, every bit as much as my children.  I can't remember a time when I haven't had a dog in my life.  I started out young with a Shepherd/Lab cross named Tahoe (how original, since we lived in Tahoe but we were kids after all....) and have had many different 4 legged children over the years.  Right now I have a very spoiled and pampered German Shepherd who sleeps on the foot of my bed at night and will talk your ear off.

Shadow aka Barky the Wonder Pooch
First Day on the homestead
But the dogs I loved the most were my Anatolian Shepherds.  Sadly, I no longer have one but that was the only dog I had for more than 18 years.  Of the Anatolians I had the pleasure to be owned by, (5 altogether)  Turk was by far my favorite.  The first time I met him, we had gone up to the Greenbluff area to a family that owned a U-Pick berry place to look at him.  There he sat on the front step, draped in a baby blanket and with a bonnet on his head.  He looked mortified.  Poor dude.  After we chatted awhile and came up with a purchase price, I looked at him and asked him if he wanted to go bye-bye.  He shook off the blanket and bonnet and jumped in my van.  When we got home, he looked around the room, raised his leg on my easy chair and owned me forever after.

Turk and his flock
Turk was a social bug.  He hated being alone and would break down doors if he thought he was alone in sheer panic.  He went everywhere with us.  He sat in the back seat of the van like a person.  When I bought my new van, I wanted one with AC in the back.  The salesman asked if it was for the kids.  I said heck no, they can open a window.  It's for my dog.  He was a great guardian of the family, kids and animals alike.  He insisted on counting the chicks every morning when they were fed.  A gentle giant with a wonderful sense of humor.  He loved to give the girls a hard time when they were teenagers.  That dog could jump in a car of girl scouts and pick out  "his girls" stuff and wipe his face on it and then in his droll manner just wait for them to complain.  He would ride in my friends Subaru with his head sticking out the sun roof, just taking in the view.  I could buy a van load of groceries and he would never touch anything in the bags.

Turk aka" Daisy May" due to his hot spot flea issue

Turk lived a long life for such a big boy - he weighed 200 lbs.  It was one of the saddest days of my life to have to have him put down to end his suffering.  But I still think of him often and he is a favorite in family stories so his spirit lives on.  Hopefully one day I will be owned by another Anatolian but there will never be another Turk. 

Cakur and Turk with meatball pursuasion

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Being Sheepish

Velvet - Roddy's mom
Like all kids - reluctant to line up for family photos

Now that is getting cooler and fall is definitely in the air, I have taken to wearing my down work parka to the barn to do my chores.  I don't know what it is about that jacket, but the sheep will not let me pet them with the exception of Velvet when I am wearing it.  Perhaps it's the rustling sound it makes, who knows.  Personally, my theory is that they think I have morphed into the StaPuft Marshmallow man and I am coming to get them!  In that vein and with great excitement, I found that I captured an energy orb in my photo of Barrick while he was eating in the barn.  Way cool.  This is only the second time I have ever captured one in a photo.  Now that's a great early Birthday gift!

Barrick and "Friend"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Legacy of Making Bread

I was baking bread yesterday as a gift for a friend who was visiting from Ohio.  As I was kneading the dough, it came to me how much making this particular loaf was a part of my life and how I got started making bread in the first place.

I grew up in South Lake Tahoe in the 1960's in a small house nestled in the forest by Fallen Leaf Lake.  My Father was caretaker for summer homes there.  He ran away from home and the farm life at 16 once he had visited his Aunt who was running the Bay View Resort at Emerald Bay.  After the war, (WWII) he was working at the Baldwin Estate on Fallen Leaf Lake (Lucky Baldwin, Anita Baldwin ie Santa Anita racetrack).  The caretakers of the estate, Max and Kizzie Gorden, introduced him to my mother who was working there as a baby nurse for the summer.  As the family story goes, they met on the 23rd of June and Married in the Carson City Court House on the 3rd of July.  My mother had no idea of how drastically her life would change.  She was a city girl - grew up in Minneapolis and was living in Arcadia in Southern California.  All of a sudden, she was married to a dyed in the wool mountain man who didn't talk very much and loved living in isolation.  She had never been on a pair of skis in her life and now it was the main mode of transportation 5 1/2 months a year!

Check out Mom, skiing in a dress - 1947
Kizzy Gorden - Baldwin Estate Caretaker Cabin 1947
They lived in a one room cabin with a wood cook stove.  My Dad had been a bachelor for a long time and could cook pretty well but this was 1947 and of course it's a wife's duty to do the cooking.  To the rescue came Kizzie Gorden and her wonderful lessons on how to bake bread in a wood cook stove.  My mother told me stories while I was growing up about how hard it was to adjust to living in that tiny cabin.  For some reason the story of baking bread in a wood fired cook stove resonated with me.

I started learning how to bake bread when I was about 10 years old.  My mom had gone to work at the Post Office so I had a lot of unsupervised time after school.  I pulled the recipe card out of the box - Kizzy's White Bread.  It had a list of how to make the recipe large enough to do six loaves at a time.  I jumped right in and made my first bread and haven't quit since.  We lived in town by then, and had an electric stove but I used to dream about that wood cook stove while I was kneading that bread.  I still have the original recipe card that I copied out so many years ago.  You can always tell the good recipes by the splatters on the card!  I've tweaked the recipe somewhat over the years but it still goes back to Kizzy - that lovely lady who took a city bride and taught her how to "speak wood stove".  Thanks, Kizzy!  I think it's because of you that I ended up living the homesteader lifestyle.  I never got to meet you but you will always live in my heart.

Making Simple Bread

Basic White Bread

2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tablespoon yeast (not quick rise)
1/3 cup sugar or honey
1/4 cup oil (canola)
5 to 6 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 egg, slightly beaten for glaze
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)

Step one:  Place your yeast, sugar, salt, and oil in a large bowl.  Add the warm water and stir until yeast and sugar are dissolved.  Add 4 cups of flour and mix until well blended.  Add flour, a little at a time (you will have to mix with your hands when it becomes too stiff to stir with your spoon) until you have a soft but not wet dough.  Knead until dough is smooth.  If dough is sticky, add a small amount of flour.  Place dough in a greased stoneware or glass (heatproof) bowl.  Preheat your oven to it's lowest setting.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap (the kind that clings to the bowl - I use stretch tight) and place in the warm oven.  Turn the oven Off.  Let dough rise until double. This takes about 45 min. to 1 hour.

dough double

Now that your dough is double, remove it from the oven and you are ready for the next step.

gently press into an oblong
Step 2:  Lightly spray your work surface with cooking spray, like Pam (I use the counter top or a slab of marble) and gently dump the dough from the bowl.  Gently press the dough out into an oblong shape being careful not to deflate the dough.

Fold the long sides of the dough toward the center and fold the ends in.
Bring the folded edges to the center, and then pinch the full length of the loaf to make a long loaf.

Place loaf on a greased cookie sheet
seam side down.  Slash loaf with a serrated knife diagonally.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds.  Place loaf in oven (do not pre-heat) and turn oven to 375 degrees.  Set timer for 30 minutes.  Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped.

Let cool at least 20 to 30 min. before slicing.  I always cover it with a tea towel while it cools.  If you cut bread when it is too hot, it just compresses and makes the texture rather dough like.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Making Christmas Ornaments

Glass and Polymer Clay Ornaments with Decoupage      

I know, it's only October and kind of early to be thinking Christmas already but it will be here before we know it.  I'm trying to get a jump on it this year so I have started by making these ornaments.  I start with a clear glass ornament ball and remove the top hanger.  Using Super Sculpey polymer clay, I make strips about 3/4" wide.  I use a large rubber stamp with a lace pattern on it and press the texture into the clay before applying the strips to the glass ball.  I cut two circles for the top and make a wire hanger and poke it through the textured circle and put a plain circle on the bottom to hold the wire loop and place it on top of the neck of the glass ornament.  To bake the ornaments, I lay a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil on top of a muffin pan and gently make indentations with the foil in the muffin openings for the ornaments to sit while they are baking.
Ornaments are baked at 275 degrees for 15 min.

Once the ornaments are cool, I paint all of the clay with an undercoat of black acrylic paint, working it well into all the textured areas.  Once the black is dry, I dry brush with either silver or gold acrylic paint to highlight all the raised areas of the lace pattern in the clay.

Once the metallic paint is dry, I fill in the clear areas of the ornament with Gallery Glass paint doing half at a time and letting it sit until it is dry.  It can take several hours for the glass paint to dry thoroughly.  Once it is dry, carefully turn it over and fill in the clear area on the other side.

Blue gallery glass paint with silver

Green gallery glass paint partially dry with gold

Once all the paint is dry and cured over night to prevent denting, I decoupage old time images on the circles.  Once the images are dry, I give them a light clear coat with decoupage medium to seal.  These ornaments make great gifts.  Sometimes I substitute photos printed on plain paper to personalize.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tomatoes Under Pressure

Thank heavens for my hoop greenhouse to save my tomatoes!

I finally got some tomatoes last night.  I picked about 20 lbs.  Better late than never.  Hard to believe it's the first of October already.  Normally my tomatoes have all been canned and the season over.  So today I canned my first tomatoes of the season.

First I wash the tomatoes and then scald them in boiling water and then plunge them into ice cold well water to help the skins loosen so that they are easy to peel.  I like to hot pack my jars because I like more tomato in the jar than juice so I cut the tomatoes up into a large stock pot to heat to boiling.  Once they are just about to boil, I add canning salt, a small amount of sugar, coarse ground black pepper and granulated garlic.  Once they come to a full boil, I remove them from the stove and start filling my jars.

I pressure can my jars as I feel it is safer when dealing with a potentially low acid vegetable or fruit.  (tomatoes are actually a fruit, not a veggie)  Pressure canning is a lot easier than people think as long as you use proper safety precautions.  The important part is to pay attention.  I never leave my pressure canner unsupervised.  Follow the directions that come with the canner.  If you buy one used, you can find many of the original books available on line.  You must let the canner cool on it's own - never run it under cold water to cool down the pressure.  Once the pressure is down, the lock lever that drops into the handle will be in the up position and the weight will not hiss when you move it.  I leave at least 20 min. for cool down for pints and 40 min. for quarts.  If you open it too soon, some of the liquid may be forced out of your jars which may keep them from sealing.

Once the jars are cold, I remove the rings and check the lid to make sure it is sealed.  I store my jars without the rings.  I'm ready for a pot of tomato rice or spaghetti....yum!