The 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
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.
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.
Someday when Jeff retires, the legacy of our farm will belong to Payton. What a bundle of energy he has been since he came out of the womb! Of course, keeping up with his older cousins added to any incentive he had to excel, though he would have regardless. He was a standout in high school and gave us one of the most exciting moments of our lives when he won first place in the state wrestling competition in the Schottenstein Center at OSU.
Payton has excelled in everything he has put his mind to and is now learning the ropes of our operation from the ground up. Jeff is not playing favorites and has him in the milking parlor six days a week for many hours and is teaching him aspects of the record-keeping we do on cattle. Payton has also spent many hours fence walking. We have well over ten miles of electric fence on our farms. In summertime tall grass and weeds can short out fences and cattle learn quickly that they can escape. Somebody has to walk those fences with a weed whip and cut down the offending grass and weeds. Of course, it’s always a hot summer day when the job needs done, but when it is done we can keep our cattle captured in the paradise of luscious legumes where they live.
“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.” –Doug Larson
For 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
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.
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.
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!