Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Words! Aren't They Fun?

stell 1( verb ) stell to place or fix firmly or permanently; 2( verb ) stell a prop; a support, as for the feet in standing or cilmbing; 3( verb ) stell a partial inclosure made by a wall or trees, to serve as a shelter for sheep or cattle

Finally, I found the definition at definition_of.net.

Thanks, Steve and Holly for finding this for me.  I'm going to remember this dictionary.  Sometimes there are words I know exist that I just can't find anywhere.
Sonnet XXIV
by William Shakespeare

Mine eye hath play'd the painter and hath stell'd
Thy beauty's form in table of my heart;
My body is the frame wherein 'tis held,
And perspective it is the painter's art.
For through the painter must you see his skill,
To find where your true image pictured lies;
Which in my bosom's shop is hanging still,
That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes.
Now see what good turns eyes for eyes have done:
Mine eyes have drawn thy shape, and thine for me
Are windows to my breast, where-through the sun
Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee;
    Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art;
    They draw but what they see, know not the heart.

More Mud

As I was proofreading yesterday's blog post, three little neighborhood urchins were once again having a wonderful time.

Inge came in fussing about being all wet. The photo does not capture the true look, but please note especially the legs.

"Oh, Inge, are you girls playing in that ditch again?!?"

"No, Mama."

On the way out the door to check on the mischief makers, I ran into Stella.

"Mama, Donna pushed me and I got splashed!"

"What were you doing near the ditch anyway?"

"We weren't by the ditch, Mom.  We were just swinging."

"Swinging?  Show me."

I guess that explains everything.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Most Excellent Sunday

I had a great day yesterday.  Most of the day, the sun was shining, the grass was green, the wind was mild.  The day ended with a burst of rain and a vivid reminder of God's promises.

My day started, however, on a more questionable footing.  I was late for church.  But the pastor was late too, due to a baptism and communion at the earlier service at St. Petri.  So I was off the hook on that one.  I didn't have much hope when I was lovingly putting the finishing touches on our dinner before putting it in the oven to bake during church; I was still in my pjs; the little ones were dressed, but no sock/tights or shoes...Louisa says to me, somewhat exasperatedly, "Mo-om, we only have about 2 minutes to get to church."

But alas, I got there before the opening announcements were finished and so got all the important stuff.

We sang one of my favorite hymns in church.  In its entirety!  Luther's Nun Freut Euch (Dear Christians One and All Rejoice).  What awesome lyrics.  My favorite verses are 2 and 5, but really, how could one choose?

Fastbound in Satan's chains I lay;  Death brooded darkly o'er me.
Sin was my torment night and day;  In sin my mother bore me.;
Yea, deep and deeper still I fell;  Life had become a living hell,
So firmly sin possessed me.

He spoke to His beloved Son:  "Tis time to have compassion.
Then, go, bright Jewel of My crown,  And bring to man salvation.
From sin and sorrow set him free,  Slay bitter death for him, that he
May live with Thee forever."

After the kids and I got home from church, because there is no summer Sunday school, we had time to get everyone changed and the dinner on before Joe got home from his third service at about 12:30.

I also had a little free time and couldn't decide what to do. My front porch furniture was calling to me, looking all nice and white in the sunshine.  But I didn't want to just sit there doing nothing.  (Trust me, usually sitting doing nothing is not a problem for me, but yesterday I wanted to do something.)

I grabbed my crochet and headed out to the loveseat.  It had rained quite a bit overnight, so although the sun was warm and bright, there were still puddles on the porch.  I planned to sit in the bigger seat and have room for my ball of yarn off to the side.  As I opened the door to head out, I saw our big mama cat lounging under one of the smaller chairs.  I squinted evilly at her, mentally daring her to come play with my yarn ball.  I sat down, arranged my stuff, took up my yarn and hook... and there was the cat.  Didn't take her 20 seconds to join me.  So back in I went. 

I surveyed the lighting in the living room, weighing my desire to crochet, compared with my desire to be outside.  I put down the crochet stuff and, taking up my current book, I headed back out.  By this time, mama cat was back under the other chair, so I sat down in the loveseat once again to read.  (I just want to say here that somebody should make books printed in negative for those of us who like to read in the sun.  It's getting harder and harder, the older I get, to read in the bright sunlight.  But I always manage to do it a little bit each summer, squinting  to beat the band, trying futily to get the least amount of reflected sunlight as possible into my eyes, while still being able to make out the words.) 

I enjoyed about three squinty-eyed sentences of my book before mama cat joined me again.  She crawled up beside me under my elbow and started headbutting me to pet her.  I'm not a big cat person.  They are cute and all, but I'm allergic.  So I have to enjoy them from afar.  Usually, they don't bother my allergies outside, unless of course I pet them.  Which petting, mama cat was adamantly demanding to receive yesterday forenoon.  After I ignored her head butts, she started pawing me.  When that action failed to yield the desired result, she began scratching me.  Grrr.

After all the rigmarole, Joe was due home soon, so I came in, put down my book and went into the kitchen to finish the last minute dinner preparations.

I had fixed a pork chop and rice hotdish with celery, onion, garlic powder, and parsley, cooked in cream sauce.  We had steamed broccoli and cauliflower with butter and a squeeze of lemon on the side.  It was very good if I do say so myself.

The parsley I used was some we had dried from our garden last summer.  We dry it on cookie sheets in the car or van, with the windows cracked open to allow the air to circulate.  I don't know where we got that tip, but it's really cool to have a giant solar dehydrator sitting in our driveway all summer.  But it's more handy yet when I remember where I put the stuff I dry.  I can't tell you how many times I searched throughout the winter for that jar of parsley that I KNEW we had, and couldn't find it.  But the other day, there it was in the very back of the top shelf of our spice cupboard.

The vegetables I cooked were from fresh.  I haven't often used fresh vegetables for the last several years.  Frozen is just way too easy.  Open the bag and pour it into the pot, right?  But of late, I'm trying to use more fresh.  Each time I shop, I try to get something fresh: green beans, brocolli, cabbage, sugar peas...  There is a specific reason I've made this change.  It doesn't have to do with freshness or nutrition or even taste, although the fresh steamed veggies are ever so much better tasting than the previously frozen steamed vergetables.  It's because all the frozen vegetable companies have gone to those stupid steamer packs that only come in small packages and cost way more.  Now that may be very convenient to most families who routinely cook for two or four people.  But let me tell you, it is a true bummer for some one who is accustomed to buying frozen veggies in the huge bags, two or three bags of each kind at a time. And how hard is it, really, to put a little water in the bottom of a pot and pour the vegetable in.  I suppose it's the clean-up that is saved on, by steaming them in the bag, but really...I wouldn't mind it if they offered those to the people who want to use them.  But do they think everyone will want them that way? (Sorry about the rant.  It' really, really irritates me.  Can you tell?)

I very much enjoyed the fresh steamed broccoli and cauliflower today.  And it's not really that much more work to cut and rinse it before putting in the pot. Totally worth the extra work.  (And this way, I don't give my money to the frozen veggie companies who can't accommodate my spending habits.)

After lunch, I lay down with Inge to get her to sleep.  She's in that stage at which she doesn't think she needs a nap.  But when she doesn't take one, she either 1) falls asleep at supper, before eating of course; or 2) is so beastly come evening that we all suffer.  So I've taken to lying down with her in the hopes I can coax her to sleep.  Yesterday was a successful nap day, both Inge and Mom were coaxed into a refreshing slumber.

After I crawled back to consciousness, I decided to putz around in my flower beds.  It was a good day for it.  After all the rain Saturday, even the dandelions came out easily.

Toward late afternoon I had made my way over to the bed that borders our driveway.  The evening sun was still warm.  The dandelions were still coming out easily.  The light breeze was from the east, from behind me.  But I tell you, sitting right next to Joe's 30 gallon garbage can of some sort of stewing deer head concoction takes a little bit of the joy out of working up the flower beds.  Pee-eew!  As long as I didn't inhale, I could pretend the day was still nice.  I'm sure he's working on some entirely important food preservation or hide tanning method or something.  I'm absolutely certain that when the grid goes down, whatever is brewing in that garbage pail will no doubt save the local economy.  Really, Joe, did you have to do it right in our front yard? 
"My husband, some hotshot.  Here's his ancient Chinese secret." 
But when Joe noticed me sitting with my nose pinched shut while weeding, he was kind enough to drag the sloshing mixture several yards further away.  Thank you, dear.

At another point in my weeding, shortly before it was time to head in, Donna ran up to the house from down alongside the church parking lot where the kids were playing.  Stark naked.  Covered with grass and water.  Yikes!  The kids were swimming in the ditch that separates the parking lot from the hayfield south of us.  Good gracious!  Stella and John at least had shorts on.  But Donna and Inge were stark naked.  And please recall that there are no trees at all between them and the highway.   Our poor members... naked pastor's kids in the church ditch.  I wonder how many phone calls were buzzing the local lines yesterday afternoon. Thankfully it was so beautiful out that maybe, just maybe, nobody was out driving.
The kids' wet clothes hanging on the rail to dry.  Won't work very well during the downpour.
The day was topped off by several beautiful downpours that rolled through the area after supper time.  It went from sunny and blue, to dark, angry and raining sheets in a matter of minutes.  Then the sun peaked through once again to give us a beautiful, bright, entire rainbow before another dark cloud rolled in, and again rained sheets on us.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Finished My Spring Exercise Ticker! A Month Early, Even!

This is the second ticker in a row I've finished ahead of time.  It must be some kind of record for me.  Thanks to Connie, Lana, and Jan for my nice long morning "walks and talks" the last few weeks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Like Butler from Artemis Fowl: I've been doing the pilates, so I'm feeling a bit more limber lately.

I love pilates.

I spent the middle part of my childbearing years feeling like I was old and decrepit.  It kind of snuck up on me.  There came a point at which raising a raft of kids and keeping a home just didn't cut it for physical activity.  I stalked into Wal-Mart, to the fitness aisle, with all the mats and exercise equipment, the weights and exercise balls, with one thing in mind.  A pilates DVD.  I was on a mission.

About ten years ago, when we lived in Madison, WI, I generally spent Saturday mornings with my friend, Beth; during spring, summer and fall months, we walked around the Capitol Square for the Dane County Farmer's Market.  (See my post here.)

During these walks, Beth and I spoke of many things, only one of which was her wish to take another pilates class.  I had never heard of pilates at that time.  Beth explained to me that it is mostly mat exercises that focus on strengthening the core muscles, those muscles that form a band from about the armpits to the mid-thigh and all around the body.  She talked about concentration and thinking about which muscles were being used.  And that form was more important than speed or strength or repetition.  I was intrigued enough to want to give it a try.

At that time, however, I had no opportunity.  We were living on a very fixed income, my husband was going to school full time and working half time.  We had five small children and owned a home.  An exercise class would have been an unimaginable luxury.

Fast forward about four years and two more babies.  It was a little before my fortieth birthday, but probably not much.  I had carried and delivered seven babies.  Even though I still had plenty of housework to keep me active and I still had little ones to chase around, I had reached a point at which the older kids did a good share of the household chores.  I was also homeschooling them, so I spent a fairly large number of hours each day sitting.  I was definitely feeling the effects of it all. I was stiff and achy and feeling old.

That's what brought me to the fitness aisle of Wal-Mart.  That and a gift card that came with explicit instructions to spend it on something for myself.  (As any mothers out there know, it's hard to do that when money is tight.  It takes a direct order.  And even with a direct order, the gift money sometimes disappears into the pit of the family budget.)

I came home with Ana Caban's Beginning Mat Workout DVD.  This DVD includes an introduction to the Pilates Method, the featured 25 minute Beginning Mat workout, A 12 minute Pilates Power Boost workout, and an interview with Ms Caban wherein she explains how she got involved with pilates, trained to be an instructor, and a bit of her experience as an instructor.

The exercises in this mat workout include modified versions so that those of us who are, shall we say, pre-beginners, can still participate.  It is a very gentle beginning.  In the opening explanation, Ms Caban quotes Joseph Pilates, "You will feel better in ten sessions, look batter in twenty sessions, and have a whole new body in thirty sessions."

I'm not sure about the whole new body thing, but I certainly felt better and looked better.  My posture was better and I was more flexible.  I had fewer aches and pains and more energy.  I appreciate that Ms Caban explains each exercise fully.  She reminds the user to relax tense areas and to concentrate on breathing.  She encourages them to concentrate on the particular area the exercise is intended to work.  The phrase mind-body workout is often used with pilates, because it involves so much thinking and mental awareness of the body's state.

About a year ago, I progressed to the Intermediate Mat Workout.  I figured, after about three years, I was ready.  (There had been another two kids during that time, so I wasn't using the workout continually during those years.)  In this workout, Ms Caban builds on the routine she introduced in the first DVD.  The workout is the same number of minutes, all the exercises in the first are included, but there are also additional more difficult exercises.  She spends less time explaining and reminding.  Whereas the first DVD is somewhat relaxing, once a person learns the exercises, the second DVD is truly an intense workout.  It keeps  moving.  Also a user will notice that even some of the "regular" exercises included in the first DVD (regular as opposed to modified) were themselves actually modified.  So that in the second DVD, the familiar move may be one step more difficult.

The Teaser
Take for instance, the exercise known as the Teaser.  For me, that was the most difficult move to master on the beginner DVD.  The modified version was too simple, but I couldn't bump up to what I assumed was the real Teaser.  In the teaser, the way it's presented in the beginner mat workout, one must work pull up into that position from flat on one's back with one's arms above one's head, and then be able to hold the position for a few seconds.

That was hard enough.  It took me probably most of the three years to be able to do it.  Finally, in order to work up to it, I had to put my feet up on the couch and pull into position from there.  Then I used a short stool.  Then finally I could do it from the floor.  But in the Intermediate Mat Workout, there was the extra complication of keeping ones legs in the air at the correct angle while raising and lowering the upper body.  And then there was some funky arm thing to add once the user mastered that.  Well, I knew right away I was not up for the new and improved Teaser.

At this point in my life, because I'm busy with the Couch to 5K thing, I've not done pilates very faithfully.  And I can tell.  I'm achier, less flexible, and my posture is not as good.  I slouch more.  I have more headaches.   So I've been trying to keep up with the Beginner Mat Workout now and then.  It's not hard work for me at this point.  But it's 25 minutes out of my day.  I need to do it though.  It's maintenance on my abs.  It's concentrating on breathing and relaxing my shoulders and neck.  I'd like to do it at least a couple of times a week.  But right now, it's probably not more than once every couple of weeks.

I did do pilates yesterday and by the time I was done, I could say with Eoin Colfer's, Butler, "I'm feeling a bit more limber lately."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Dane County Farmer's Market

This did not really start out to be a post about the Dane County Farmer's Market.

This started out to be a post about pilates.  But I had one of my ADD moments.  I couldn't write about pilates without getting sidetracked into a brief description of the Dane County Farmer's Market. Which turned into a lengthy description.  Which then turned into a lengthy description with photos. And finally it's turned into a lengthy description with photos, and ads for recommended reading through my Amazon associates links.

And yes, pilates and the Dane County Farmer's Market are related, but you'll have to wait until I do the pilates post later to get the segue.

Memories of walking around the Capitol Square in Madison during the Dane County Farmer's Market is one of the most sensory rich experiences of my adult life.  I realize that probably sounds extreme.  It sounds extreme even to me.  But the colors, textures, sights, smells and tastes are truly amazing.

The Wisconsin State Capitol is located at nearly the center of an isthmus of land (is that redundant?  ought I to say, simply, isthmus?) between two of Madison's four lakes.  The isthmus runs from the northeast to the southwest and is at narrowest about ten blocks wide.  The streets that compose most of these blocks are oriented to coincide with the diagonal direction of the isthmus.  But (probably because of the high percentage of German immigrants who settled Wisconsin and who have a somewhat compulsive sense of orderliness) the original planners of the city could not quite give up the idea of East-West and North-South streets.  So radiating from the Capitol Square are streets in eight directions.

The capitol building itself is symmetrical in four directions.  Each of the North, South, East and West entrances looks pretty much identical and each of the diagonal entrances are also mostly identical.  So a person walking around the square can easily become disoriented if he or she is not familiar with the subtle differences.  But all the streets are named and marked, and there are seldom strangers walking around lost at the end of a day.

(But I could tell a story about a group of four silly girls new to the Madison area, who were out for an evening on the town; and who forgot on which of the eight streets was the parking ramp at which they had parked their vehicle.  And they were, indeed, wandering around at the end of the evening, from street to street, checking out all the various city parking ramps, hoping at each one to see the familiar compact green auto.)

 Getting back to the Farmer's Market.

The backdrop of the Farmer's Market is the beautiful white stonework of the Capitol against the vivid green of the capitol lawns.  The market vendors set up their colorful awnings at the edge of the first ring of concentric one-way roads surrounding the square.  This first ring of roadway is often closed for such events, so motorized vehicle traffic is limited to an occasional vendor coming or going.  But bicycles and strollers and wagons and rollerblades abound, alongside the merry, jostling crowds of pedestrian market goers.

The goods being offered for sale vary widely.  You can expect to see fruits and vegetables in every shape and color under the sun.  You will find honey and cured meats and baked goods.  Jams and jellies; pickles; artisan cheeses.

The flower vendors are many.  You might get yourself a bouquet of sunflowers in  numerous shades and sizes; a cluster of dalias or gladiolas or canna lilies; dephiniums and echinacea; daisies, lupines, bachelor buttons.

You can buy annual bedding plants in the spring; and perennials shrubbery and even seedling trees in spring and fall.

It's not unusual to see, at one or another of the intersections, a street entertainer of some sort; singers, jugglers, magicians...

When we lived in Madison briefly while my husband was doing some graduate work, I spent most Saturday mornings during Farmer's Market season with my friend Beth. It was a trying time at home, with five small children, on such a limited budget, and with Joe so busy.  Those Saturday mornings were a real get-away for me.

After Beth and I met up each week, we'd head first to Starbuck's for our morning infusion of warmth and energy.  Then we'd walk around the square, sometimes just walking, making a couple of circuits and talking about everything under the sun.  Other times we'd stop and look at the wares of nearly every vendor.  Occasionally, we'd splurge and share a sweet roll, or a cream cheese, tomato and cilantro omelette.

As the morning wore on, we'd both feel the pull of adult responsibility.  Eventually we'd have to make our way back to our vehicle or bus stop or bike and head back to life on the outside.  Life outside of the magical world of the Dane County Farmer's Market.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Just a Couple of Turkeys

Our three littlest ones looking at the turkeys
I have been contemplating for some time now, the idea of raising Heritage Turkeys.  We don't have extensive property, so it would be on a very limited basis.  But when I've thought of home based businesses, that is one idea that has flitted though my head. 

Some considerations are space.  How much space does it take to raise, say, a dozen turkeys?  Feed type.  Would we want to do organic, or free range, or standard, or what?  Market.  These birds, when finished, bring in potentially $80 each.  At that price, is there any market for them in this corner of the world?  If not, how far owuld we have to go to sell them?  Regulations.  There are always government regulations, but I assume, from the little I know about it, that we'd have to use an FDA approved locker.  If we do that, rather than butchering them ourselves, there is another added cost.

So at this point we are not raising Heritage turkeys.  But we've thought about it. 

I thought that perhaps we could get a couple, just to raise for practice, then if we ever decided to pursue the idea further, we'd have that experience under our belts. 

With that in mind, when Joe called the Fleet Supply in Bemidji to find out about chickens, he asked about turkeys, too.  He found out that they can special order the Eastern Wild, so we'd need to get a full dozen.

Inge is very curious
The other variety the sell is the Bronze.  Now, from my previous reading on Heritage breeds, I know that there is the Standard Bronze, which is a Heritage breed, and the Broad Breasted Bronze, which is a commercial breed.  When we asked, the Fleet Supply people did not know which they had, as the order forms specify only Bronze.  I asked which hatchery they used. 


When I got home, I checked the website and the Bronze birds they sell are the Broad Breasted Bronze.  So we still do not have Heritage Turkeys. But  we have turkeys and we will have fun with them and learn as we go along.

Inge letting a poult eat from her hand

Exercise Summary (OK, maybe, considering the length of this post, "summary," is the wrong word.)

I thought sure I posted last Monday, but I can't find it.  Maybe I put it on a different blog.  That would be about my speed some days.  I'll have to check.  Maybe the computer crashed in the middle of it and I never got back to it.  That would be about our computers' speed.

But for any who care, I kind of did week five for the third time last week.  With the nicer spring weather, my exercise partner and I walk outside and it's nicer to walk together than to worry about some arbitrary exercise plan.

On Monday, I did a Week 5, Couch to 5K workout.  I don't remember any details.  Except that I think I was maybe kind of wimpy. Maybe I should rename this blog The Diary of a Wimpy Mom.
On Wednesday and Friday, we walked outside for about an hour each day. I think Connie and I walked about four miles on Wednesday.

Connie's neighbor, Jan, joined us on Friday.  The two driveways are only about 200 or 300 yards apart, so they truly are near neighbors for this area.  Of course if you factor in the driveway lengths, it's really not so near after all.  It's probably about 1/2 mile between the two homes.

That day we walked a little less than four miles.  We turned around to head for home sooner that day.  Both walks were with excellent company, as we visited and enjoyed the spring weather.

When we got to a certain spot in the road, Connie said, "This is about where we saw the bear."  And then both ladies told the story about a walk last summer which was suddenly interrupted by aggressive barking from Jan's younger, more rambunctious dog.  If I have the story correct, a cub had crossed the road and the dog taken a few steps toward it.  By this time the ladies had turned and realized what was up.  All they could do was hope the dog wouldn't take off after the cub.  A few minutes later, the mama and another cub came out of the woods and lumbered across the road.  The mama stood and looked at them once in the center of the road, and then a second time after they had all gotten across.  Thankfully, the dog did nothing more than bark and all ended well.

That story led to another, this one starring Jan's husband, Rickie.  Rickie was fishing on the river just a mile or so north of where we were walking.  He looked up and there was a bear floating on its back down the middle of the river.  The bear and Rickie saw each other at the same time.  The bear slooshed toward the far bank and off he went.  The story reminded me of Baloo in Disney's version of The Jungle Book.

On Saturday, Joe got up early and went for his morning run and came in looking all refreshed.  He's going about it a bit differently than am I.  I'm working like nuts trying to take off this extra weight and get in shape.  I'm following a "plan," some days feeling like I'm killing myself doing it.

Joe goes out and runs a couple of power poles.  That's how we measure distance around here.  The power poles are alleged to be 100 yards apart.  So Joe goes out one day and runs a couple power poles.  He goes out the next day and runs a few more.  I'm not jealous or anything, but he really makes it seem way too easy.

Anyway, another friend also mentioned on facebook having gone for a run that morning, so I got to thinking to myself that since I hadn't done my Couch to 5K workout much last week I better do it.  And I'd get a taste of the nice fresh air if I did it outside.

Some highlights
  • I made it.  I was able to do the workout.
  • I ran on the minimum maintenence road 1/2 mile north of us.  I love running there.  Although we haven't been there much, since Joe sprained his ankle last summer in one of its many gopher holes.
  • A grouse crossed the road in front of me.
  • I saw several pairs of geese.
  • The frogs were singing merrily in the ditch toward the west end.
  • A gopher stood up in the lane ahead of me and although I know he digs holes that can sprain ankles, he was still cute silhouetted against the morning sky.
Some lowlights
  • The roadway has apparently been sprayed, so that where most years is green and growing things, along the ditches, and between the ruts in the roadway, all is dried and brown for the first 1/2 mile.  After that, it is like somebody flipped the switch and it's all green again.
  • A chunk of the already limited woods has been bulldozed, and the stumps and tree remains heaped up into a few unsightly piles.  I understand the farmers need to make a living, too; and I understand these are hard economic times.  So perhaps he needed the additional land.  But it does make for a less pleasant walk.
  • I was not nearly as streamlined and svelte a runner as I had dreamed of being after all my hard work on the tread mill all winter.
When I returned home, I engaged in one of my spring pleasures. I like to walk around the property and look at all the bushes and trees and watch the progress from time to time to see which are budding out and how they are doing.  At each visit, I hope to see that new growth which signifies I won't have to replace anything after the hard winter.  This year was long and cold, but with a thick snow cover, so hopefully all will be well.

So far, so good, but I have a couple of apple trees in the back that I think ought to be showing more progress than they do.  I'll have to go check them again today.

Today, I walked outside with Connie again. We again went about four miles.  We didn't see any bears, but we did see a sand hill crane on the outward leg of our trip. And on the way back, we watched a pair of bluebirds frolicking in the trees bordering Andy and Karen's place.   Was that male ever a bright blue!  He almost didn't look real, he was so brightly colored.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Meandering to Town on a Minnesota Spring Day

I had a great drive into Bemidji last Tuesday.  The alleged reason for spending the gas to get to Bemidji for the second time in a week was to pick up our turkey poults.

But the exciting part of the trip was the beautiful spring weather we had that day, and the scenic route I decided to pursue.  Bemidji is about 70 miles SE of our house.  Generally we either head almost straight south to Fosston and catch US Hwy 2 into Bemidji.  Occasionally, we will turn to the east before Fosston and take MN 92 into Bagley where we catch US Hwy 2.  But today, ... today I wandered.  I figured if I kept a general southern and easterly turn of roads, I would get to Bemidji eventually.

My adventure started  8 miles south of our house.  The tar road heading south ends there, and drivers who want to avoid gravel driving must turn either east or west.  I chose today to stay on the gravel and continue south.  I soon crossed the Lost River and continued following the slightly wending road for a few miles until it hit the tar heading south again.  It's not really very adventurous so far, but it's about as exciting as one can get on that first leg of the journey.  And it suited my mood.

When I got to MN 92, I headed east, as I would, were I going to Bagley.  But I turned off before getting to Bagley and headed toward Leonard.  I really don't know where I went or how I got there, but I ran into US Hwy 2, just west of Solway.  I was a bit disappointed that I found the main road so soon, but the backroad drive was very nice while it lasted.  I had the radio turned to the station playing classic hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

When I got to Bemidji, the first thing I did, since it was past lunch time, was head into Leukens Deli for a salad, some fruit, and a yogurt.  I took it "to go" and tried to find a scenic place to park.

After several minutes of wandering the city streets, I ended up at Diamond Point Park.  We had picnicked there two summers ago with the Larsons from Iowa.  It is a very pretty park and many people were out that day, enjoying the spring weather.

While I was eating my salad, a pick-up pulled in next to me.  Out of it, eventually, managed to come an elderly couple and a younger man perhaps in his 50s or early 60s, who I took to be a son of the couple.  The older man had to shuffle quite a bit even to walk, and the others helped him along.  He was dressed against the slightly nippy spring breeze with a winter coat and hat.  It soon became clear that this elderly man was not up to much of a walk, but that he planned to enjoy the nice day by waiting for the other two near one of the picnic shelters.  The son walked him to a bench under the shelter, and appeared to encourage him to sit down.  But this man was having none of that sitting business on such a nice day.  As the other two continued on their walk, he stood near the bench, or wandered here and there never getting too far from the bench near which he had been delivered. 

The older lady was in a pair of brightly colored jade green sweat pants, a kelly green sweatshirt, and a quilted red vest.  She seemed so vivacious and excited for her walk.  She kept spreading wide her arms and letting the wind ruffle the sleeves of her green sweatshirt. She reminded me of a brightly colored bird, strutting around in the spring.

After I ate my lunch, I joined all the other park goers who were out to take the air.  I had enough time for a half hour walk, and since there was so much to see, I kept up a brisk pace.  I went first to the north-western most corner of the park and cut back along the shoreline toward the university.

It was during this part in my walk, when I met my erstwhile friends, the elderly mother and her son who had left the older gentleman to enjoy his sunshine in a less athletic fashion.  The mother was still spreading wide her arms, turning this way and that, just beaming with the pleasure that only someone coming off eight months of winter can fully appreciate.  We exchanged pleasantries regarding the glorious day and I continued on my way.

The Little Mermaid  Copenhagen
I continued past the swimming beach where a few mothers with young children were vainly attempting to keep the kids from wading in the ice cold water.  One youngster had hopped across some open water and was sitting on a rock, looking very like the Copenhagen statue of Hans Christian Andersen's, The Little Mermaid.

Once a walker passes the point, the shoreline turns toward the south.  Along the walking path, there are clusters of Adirondack chairs, positioned facing the lake.  In one such cluster, a brave Northern Minnesota girl was huddled against the breeze coming off the lake.  She was in a skirt with tights, plus a oversized sweatshirt with a winter hat.  She was reading her book, all nestled into the Adirondack chair.

I continued on my way, leaving the park and following the bike path that snakes between Minnesota State University, Bemidji, and Lake Bemidji.  I have always thought the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has one of the nicest university campuses there is.  And I still do.  But the university in Bemidji is also very happily situated.  Along the walkway, benches are placed every so often, to enable those seated thereon to view the lake.  There are picnic tables here and there, and fireplace with a stone chimney on a little patio beside the lake, outside of the building I believe to be Hobson Memorial Union.

The area had a very distinctly campusy feel to it.  The students walking about were of a wide variety of ethnicities; clusters of students were involved in serious discussions; students were dressed in a wide variety of clothing styles.  It was all very reminiscent of any number of college campuses I've been to.  

But there was one point of variance that reminded me of the Minnesota Gurls spoof of Katy Perry's song, California Gurls.

Someone walking on the campus in Madison, WI, might expect to see any number of water based contrivances on Madison's Lake Mendota.  The students there rent or own canoes, kayaks, or row boats, among other water craft.  But here in Bemidji, I saw a group of students sitting and relaxing, passing the time, in...yes...a fishing boat.  I don't recall ever having seen, among the students at any other college campus I've been on, a group of young people socializing on a fishing boat, complete with a Johnson motor, and pivoting fishing seats.  I thought it an excellent tribute to the Minnesota spirit of those youth and of Minnesota in general.

After I finished my walk, I continued on to L and M Fleet Supply to pick up our turkeys and a few more fleetish odds and ends.  And then I headed home.

And ah, the glory of the return trip.  I can't even begin to tell you where I went, but I headed north just after I got out of town.  And again, I meandered in a zigging and zagging pattern, this time reversing to make my way north and west.  The sun was shining, the radio was playing, the birds were flying (or floating on one of our many lakes), the cattle were out and about, and it was all so very pleasant.

I came upon MN 92 just south of Clearbrook, and went straight across 92, to continue my backroads excursion.  Soon after crossing 92, I met an Amish carriage.  It seemed symbolic, somehow, of the mood I was in, but it juxtaposed strangely with REO Speedwagon on the radio.

When I got the intersection south of Gully and north of Cross Lake, when I'd have had to turn north or south to stay on the paved roads, I hit pay dirt.  Metaphorical pay dirt.  I chose the unpaved roads and continued meandering.  I took the next road to the north and after a few miles it wended its way between several small, serene Minnesota lakes and farm sites.  It was wonderfully refreshing.  Just driving and gazing and breathing in the beauty of this earth God has given us.  Another silly juxtaposition, but I think it was here that Cyndi Lauper's, Girls Just Wanna Have, fun came on the radio.

I have a friend who never listens to anything on the radio.  On all the long country drives he has to get anywhere, and throughout all his long days sitting in the tractor in his fields...he never listens to anything.  He enjoys the peace and quiet of his own mind and heart, looking out at the world and thinking his thoughts.  I felt a bit as though I ought to have had that attitude with all the beautiful things to look at that day, but I didn't.  I really enjoy my music.  But I was humored the other day by the interesting ways in which the music interacted with what I was experiencing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Long Road to Cherry Pie, Part II

As it turned out, I didn't make apple pies for Easter, since I was out of apples.  Great job planning, Mare!  

But I did make the cherry pies, and they were wonderful.  Not as good as with cherries frozen fresh off the tree, but still awfully tasty.  

Even following the detailed directions given in the following recipe, the crust still did not transfer well to the pie plate.  I think I may have forgotten the xanthan gum, however.  In the future, I will continue as I have in the past, and roll it on parchment or plastic wrap and use that to transfer it.  Or I will pat the bottom crust into the pie plate and only have to roll the top crust.  Without the gluten, one doesn't have the problem of the overworking the crust and making it tough. 

I did, however, like the idea of using cookie cut outs instead of attempting to transfer an entire top crust.  That pretty much eliminates the trouble of having the top crust fall apart and look messy.  If a bottom crust needs patching up, nobody sees it, but not so a top crust.  

As I stated in the first part of the Cherry Pie Saga, The recipes are from the Art of Gluten Free Baking.  The cherry pie recipe is here and the more detailed crust details are here.

Gluten Free Cherry Pie
For Filling
2 cans tart cherries, drained
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs GF flour blend
Place the pitted cherries in a large bowl. Add sugar and salt and mix to combine. Add the flour and mix just to combine. Set aside at room temperature while you make your crust.
For Crust
2 1/3 c GF flour blend (if your mix does not contain xanthan gum, add 1/4 tsp /cup of flour
1 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 c unsalted butter or lard, cold and cut into pieces
1 tbs vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
5-7 tbs cold water
extra tapioca flour for rolling out dough
Place flour, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. Mix together with a spoon until combined.  Add butter pieces to the dry ingredients mixture. With fingers, start rubbing together the butter and the dry ingredients. Do this until the resulting mixture looks like wet sand mixed with pebbles.

Add the vinegar and rub into the mixture.  Add water a tablespoon at a time, rubbing into the mixture. You want to add enough to create a dough that holds together well, but isn’t wet.  

Divide the dough into two fairly equal pieces, shape into disks, and wrap each disk separately in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate the disks for 20-30 minutes (or until the disks are cool and firm but not hard).

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Generously sprinkle work surface with tapioca flour.  Slowly roll disk to a  12“ circle.  If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, add more tapioca flour.
NOTE (from the original blog): the dough should be cool but not too cold. It should roll fairly easily and should not break while you’re rolling it.  Don’t worry if it breaks a bit–just smooth the dough over the break point.  If it seems too cold and you’re really having to work hard to roll it, step back and let it warm up a little bit before you continue. Alternately, if the dough is floppy and seems to be “sweating,” it is too warm and should be refrigerated for awhile longer.

Prepare to move your dough by sprinkling tapioca flour over the entire surface of the pie crust dough.  Put the rolling pin on top of one side of the dough. Wrap the other side around the rolling pin until you’ve gotten all of the dough onto the pin.  Work slowly and carefully, but, if a little bit breaks, you will be able to easily fix it by pressing the dough together once the crust is settled in the pie plate.

Lift the pin with the dough rolled around it and hold it so as you unwrap the crust it will be centered.  Gently unwrap the dough into the pie pan so the pan.  And again, working gently, press your dough into the bottom of the pie plate. Work slowly, starting in the middle and then work to the edges.

Pour filling into dough-lined pan and place the filled pie pan into the refrigerator while you’re working on your top dough. 

Here's the recipe I had hoped to use for the apple pies and still may sometime.  The original is here.

Apple Pie filling
6 large, firm but ripe apples of your choice, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 c sweetener of choice (I use evaporated cane juice crystals)
3 tbs GF flour blend
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated or finely slivered lemon peel
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbs unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
Place all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly, so that all apples are coated with other ingredients.  Dot with butter