Sunday Morning

foggy morningThe sun gloried in the summer morning and couldn’t wait to come sliding over the barn roof at dawn to burn off the fog. It was soon peering in the bedroom windows of boys who stayed out too late last night and it warmed the cool sheets they were sprawled helter-skelter on. They had to rise and shine early this morning because the sun has no pity and we have hay wagons to unload before it gets any hotter later in the day. Soon I was watching bleary-eyed boys, still half asleep, driving slowly up the drive at not quite their usual speed. Dust lies like body powder in the driveway and drifts in my open kitchen window announcing each boy’s arrival.

Many times we have cause for celebration on our farm. When crops are planted, when a cutting of hay is in the mow or silo and again when the crops are harvested. By the end of this day everyone who has strength left will celebrate getting another cutting of hay finished and in the barn.

“As a cure for worrying, work is better than whisky.” –Thomas Edison

Salmon

Last winter we took a trip to Charleston, South Carolina and stayed in a bed and breakfast, The Meeting Street Inn, in the heart of the city. Instead of the sunny southern weather we were looking forward to we ran into snow storms on the way south and cold rain in Charleston. Even with bad weather Charleston was still a charming historic city and we had a good time and great food. The Inn had snacks for the guests every afternoon and the following dish was served to us as a dip for crackers. I asked for the recipe and instead of serving it with crackers on this hot night we had it with a cool and refreshing salad.

salmon in salad

Salmon Salad/Spread

1 can salmon
1 ½ cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 ½ Tbls. liquid smoke flavoring
1 ½ Tbls. grated onion
1/3 cup mayonnaise

Combine first four ingredients. Add mayo and fold gently leaving it chunky. It should not be mushy.

Fish Fry

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.” –Doug Larson

fish copyFor years and years we held a fish fry at Jamie’s once every summer. Once she moved to another town, we stopped the tradition, but this picture was taken at the last one we had.

The guys fish our farm ponds for bass and bluegills all day and clean their catch for the girls to fry. It seems like it’s always been blistering hot but they fished and fried anyway. There was only one year we had to have hot dogs because the fish weren’t biting.

This year we are reviving the fish fry and the family is coming here! The fresh fish are so good and Sonia always brings her “best grits I’ve ever eaten.” I asked her the secret once and she said, “Easy, I just put in a stick of butter.” No wonder they are delicious! We have other picnic staples, of course: baked beans, potato salad and many miscellaneous dishes. The one thing we have to have, and have at most family gatherings, is Jamie’s scandalous BTS cake. Try it just once and I bet it will be one of your family’s favorites. If you want to you can change the name to something more proper like just plain “chocolate cake!”

Jamie’s Better Than Sex Cake

Better Than Sex Cake

Bake a chocolate cake. A mix is just fine. When it is done baking and still a little warm poke holes in it with the end of a wooden spoon. Pour one can sweetened condensed milk over the top and also a jar of caramel topping. Cool. Top with whipped cream and chocolate toffee bits from a broken up candy bar.

Baking it the night before or a few hours ahead of a meal lets the moisture of the milk and caramel seep throughout the cake making each bite more scrumptious than the last.

Marcia

My hardworking friend, Marcia, is a devout Christian, talented organizer, crusader, gardener, cook and huge helper to all. Her husband is an avid gardener and the bounty of his 9000 square foot garden keeps Marcia, her daughter and grandchildren busy canning and freezing throughout the growing season. The whole family work together preserving the gifts his garden gives. Marcia, though, is the one who tends this little herb garden. Here she is surrounded by some of her herbs. The small individual clumps are Greek Basil which I’d not tasted before.

Marcia

She was telling me today that she freezes pesto and I found that hard to believe because I was sure it would turn brown as it thawed. She said that it stays and defrosts the same fresh green that it is when she puts it in glass jars in her freezer. I don’t have near the basil growing that she does but I do like pesto. With Marcia as inspiration I picked some basil today and tried, not only freezing pesto, but this recipe that she shared with me.

“Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade.” Rudyard Kipling

Marcia’s Pesto Pasta

Put 3 cups basil leaves in your food processor and chop coarsely. Add ½ cup pine nuts, ½ cup parmesan cheese, 3 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. While chopping this mixture, add 1 cup olive oil through the small hole in your processor’s food tube and mix until almost smooth or the texture you prefer.

Boil one pound of your favorite pasta and drain. Reserve a little of the cooking water in case you need to thin your final dish. This liquid also contains starch and will thicken pasta dishes. Add 1 cup cottage cheese to the warm pasta and stir. It will almost dissolve and when it is mixed in add pesto and stir.

I would have never dreamed of the cottage cheese trick but it makes the dish creamy and mouth-watering.

Marcia calls this her fast food because she just takes a jar of pesto from the freezer to prepare it. I told you she was hard working – I call fast food a Big Mac!

Cortney

Cortney on a swing

If you’ve read my old blog or book, you know all about my sweet granddaughter Cortney. One thing you might not know is that all but one of her cousins on her mother’s side of the family were boys, and most of the cousins on her dad’s side were also boys. As if that weren’t enough for one girl to cope with, she was the only girl in a neighborhood full of even more of them!

Growing up roughhousing with all those boys turned her into a tough and durable girl. Whether it was on a volleyball court or dragging 1000-pound cattle around at the fair, she knew she could do it. After all, hadn’t she been showing the “stronger” sex all of her life that she could keep up with them and even, often, better them. She was as apt to be covered with mud, from four-wheeling with her brother, as painting her fingernails, and she spent as much time wrestling as dancing. Her first serious boyfriend was just one of the guys who suddenly looked up one day and found that the tomboy he competed with had been slowly blossoming when he wasn’t looking and turned into the girl he wanted for his Homecoming date.

Cortney married her Homecoming date last summer. She is now doing her student nursing and will soon be a registered nurse.

Jack

Jack

You can tell Jack was pretty thrilled to pose for me!

Jack is the “city” cousin of my grandsons, but he and his sisters Maggie and Erin still spent many hours at our house while they were growing up. One time when his family was spending the weekend at our farm, Jack decided he would just like to be there a little longer and asked if he could spend the week. His parents said, “yes,” and he promptly asked his grandpa what time he left for the barn in the morning and set an alarm for that time. He got up that morning at 5:00 and went out with Gerald all dressed up in some borrowed tall rubber boots and an old shirt. He said he liked helping with chores, but he may have been being polite because that was the end of his farming days. He spent the rest of the week playing with his cousins and swimming in our pond.

He isn’t a hunter or rider like his male cousins but is especially strong in many different ways. He has great discipline and is a gifted musician, playing in many bands throughout his adolescent years. He went through a grueling ordeal, which has been likened to army boot camp, to become a member of The Ohio State Marching Band (best band in the land!) The honor of becoming a member of this band belongs to an elite few OSU students. This still of Jack playing his bass horn was taken when the OSU halftime was on television as he played for the first time on the field. Can you imagine our excitement? He had not only made the band and was playing but was captured on TV!

Jack on TV

Pea Salad for an Easy Summer Dish

This pea salad is a tradition in our family, and we have it often at family gatherings. Whenever I would fix this salad, Jack’s Dad, Brian, who was always so well-mannered and polite, never failed to crack us up when he would dryly say that it had been a long time since he’d “had a good pea.” We’re obviously an easily amused bunch!

My daughter and her husband enjoying

My daughter and her husband enjoying “a good pea”

It doesn’t take very long to throw these ingredients into a plastic bowl and cover until lunch time the next day.  Anything I can make ahead of time so that it’s easier to put a meal on the table is usually a hit with me.  If you leave the bacon off, it’s still good and is a nutritious side dish.

Combine one bag of frozen peas that have thawed, two chopped hardboiled eggs, one-half cup chopped green pepper, one-half cup chopped onion, one cup shredded cheddar cheese, three tablespoons mayonnaise, one-half teaspoon salt and one-quarter teaspoon pepper.  Top with three slices crumbled bacon.  Let the salad set overnight before serving.  Stir and serve.

Zach & the Hat

Every year our town celebrates the 4th of July with a Fireman’s Festival.  As it approaches, I find myself thinking a lot about our family and our grandson Zach, in particular, who we lost two years ago over this weekend.  My daughter Kate, who teaches college English, meets often with a group of friends who share ideas and creative writing prompts.  A few weeks ago their prompt was to write a piece entitled “The Hat.”  That assignment inspired Kate to write this poem that captures some of the qualities we loved about Zach and tells some of what he meant to all of us. We know how much he treasured time with his family. He never missed a family event, and we’re grateful for every moment and memory we had with him.

Zach and Jamie

The Hat

Zach made the hat. He didn’t braid its straw bands
or bend its pre-scuffed cowboy brim, but he gave
the hat personality with his blue eyes
and sudden grin. His strong shoulders made
the hat seem plausible to us, a family
of Ohioans gathered at the beach.

The next to buy the hat was Payton, who’d spent
the first seventeen years of his life doing much
of what Zach was doing, and he looked
at home in it too. Soon, like locusts, our family
had scoured the shops and almost every hour,
a new hat was passed around and tried
experimentally on a new blonde head.

I purchased mine at the peak of the run. I reckoned—
because “reckoning” became something you could do
in the hat—there was enough vacation left
to justify the investment. It wasn’t the type
of hat that I would wear ever again,
but once I donned its shady depths I felt
at peace, peering out with a two-drink start
on the world.

At one point, some truth-teller
in the family ventured, you know these hats are actually
kind of ugly, and no one disagreed.
But that didn’t stop us from wearing them
for the family picture of twenty-some
half-tanned Midwesterners, sun drunk
in white sand, cheap hats looking almost
gold against the sea.

family picture