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theburrowfarm

Live Through Us at The Burrow

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June 2014

My Blog is Getting Back to Basics

So much has changed for me in just a short 10 days.  Seriously, not even two weeks.  Crazy.  For one, I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that all those plans of monetizing this blog and utilizing adsense on my youtube account are no longer applicable.  Which is weird because I didn’t want to do it to begin with, and now I don’t want to see it go.  I feel like I’m backing out on an obligation, breaking my word like a promise.

I hate ads.  No, seriously, with a vengeance hate ads.  I will back out of a site quicker than a cat on a mouse if it has a bunch of ads.  But you do desperate things when you feel the need, so I tried to join the masses and sold out to using ads.  I had to quit work, and then we needed to move.  So, we evaluated several options and rearranged everything. (I went through that here if you’re interested).

So there I was, committing to a schedule of blogging, inspired or not, trying to appease the masses, getting a twitter account, a pinterest account, a tumblr account (now deactivated), using google plus, and who knows what else I had “poo-poohed” in the past.  Now I can admit that I’m only following people on twitter for the same reason they’re following me, they don’t want to lose me as a number in their “followers” list.  I can’t get anything out of it because it’s nothing but people trying to get other people and not actually interacting out of desire, and most certainly not making friendships or meaningful relationships that you can benefit from.  Same for tumblr.  I will admit pinterest isn’t pointless.  I doubt I’ll use it to a great extent, but it’s not horrible.

So then, a few days ago, a sequel arrived in the mail I’d been waiting for.

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I had read the original years ago, when we still lived in Knoxville (or at least those first few months here when I still utilized the Knoxville library religiously.)  I bought the first two, and my husband bought me the third as a present-thank you dear!  After 24 hours, it was read.

I googled something completely off topic.  I don’t even remember what it was now.  And Shelby Bach’s blog came up.  Odd.  I’m still reading it, from the beginning.  I’m up to 2011 as of right now and can’t wait to finish it and move to the new one.  It reminded me so much of my blog in the beginning, only better.  My blog evolved greatly over the first few years.  It still is evolving, I hope.  My writing improved without measure.  This is the third address for my blog that started in 2010.  I hope to eventually have all the old posts move over and delete the old accounts, but I digress.  Bach’s blog reminded me of why people read mine.  They lived through my blog and life the same way I was trying to live through her’s, I just didn’t realize it.  I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to “be me” or live any part of my life.  But now I can.  I also realized how much I like her and would love to be “friends” with her (the fb kind or something-you know).  That’s rare for me.

So, I’m no longer going to post just recipes on every Monday and worry when I don’t, or scrap together a how-to for Wednesdays.  I’m going to write when I’m inspired, when I feel I have a moment to share, about my life in all its boring (to me) glory.  If it’s only once a week or transferred old posts, I’m not going to worry about it anymore!  I will enjoy the blogging more, and I hope those who have followed me from the beginning will enjoy it too and once again use me as a portal instead of just recipes and tidbits.  Thanks readers!  I hope you enjoy!

The Abusua Reunion

When I went to college, I was ecstatic to see a class offered called “West African Drumming” and “West African Dance.”  So I took both.  After taking one class, you are entitled to join the club of West African Drumming and Dancing called Abusua.  Abusua means “family”.  These were all from Ghana.  During this time I learned several things.  I’m a good dancer.  I love a physical challenge.  And, I could drum pretty well until asked about the mechanics of it.

Dancing.  I love dancing.  It’s not about the performance as the learning.  I love learning new things, complex things, challenging yet easy things.  And when you’re having to raise your body up on one arm over and over and swing your hips for 15 minutes straight, you will be challenged…in an easy way, like weight lifting.  So I loved it.  I also loved the freedom allowed.  If you are dancing on stage, chances are, you’re not going to be allowed much freedom.  You’re going to have to stay in pretty strict control.  But with Abusua, we weren’t showing off our skills, we were showing you what Ghanans do when they get together.  It’s a lot like country line dancing.  You have basic steps, but you can flair it up and enjoy yourself with it too.  So it was basically a 3 hour party every time.  This is probably one of the reasons I loved country line dancing even though I hate country music.

Drumming.  I drummed really well, and then one day….  I was taking the drumming class and Razz (the teacher-Joseph Rasmussen, but we called him Razz) used me as an example.  He wanted me to break down how I was able to get it to the other students.  That was it.  I never thought about it.  But ever since then, I did, and I was never able to drum well again.  I over analyzed, but this time, it was NOT my fault-ha ha!  But that’s fine by me.  Although I would love to me able to drum, dancing is a lot more fun for me.

So it’s been 14 years since I last did that.  14 years.  Crazy.  And we had a reunion.  The group is, unfortunately, not going anymore.  Godwin Agbali (who would come from Africa every year to teach and show) passed on, as well as Razz.

They look so empty and lonely this way.  Surprisingly, I was able to remember a great deal of their names, but there’s no way I’m spelling them right.  This big one on the left-the momma drum-is the ahtzimaybu.  The inside-out maracas (big gourds with shells sown on) are ahatzays.  The metal bell which is like a little cow bell and a big cow bell welded together is a gonkogi.  I remember the two twin drums, second and third from the left, as totogee.  And that’s it for the names I remember.  There was also a talking drum and a wooden xylophone, but they weren’t there.

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THAT’s more like it!

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And then came the dancing.  I was so optimistic.  I just knew I knew all the moves, right?  I mean, I could still hear the calls in my head like I was at practice last night.  But, I couldn’t.  It was even more difficult because things had changed.  When I first started, we did dances by calls.  You heard a certain drum beat, and you knew what to do next, like square dancing only far easier, and less puffy, and with better music.  Then, we started choreographing the dances.  I started to forget the calls and just do what was next.  We also had a bunch of songs.  We sang this song at the beginning, this one during this move, etc.  Then that quit.  Then some of the moves changed, and more were added.  This is an evolving “art” as it naturally evolves from the tribes of Ghana (hence why Godwin came by and updated up from time to time).  By the time it had gone on for years without me, I was lost.

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But it was all good.  We had food, awesome music, and each other to laugh at.

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No, there are no pictures of me.  I remembered my camera, but decided not to take it because I wanted to enjoy the experience, not be a journalist.  It was worth it.  And thanks to all those who shared their pictures to make this post possible!!

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Maybe the next generation will start it again!

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These are horse tails (I think.  It varies).  They are used during the war dance Adjiadbakor.  It was always my favorite.  I brought my own gonkogi and ahatzay, but alas, I never owned my own tail.

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I’m really looking forward to next year, and I think the others are too!

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Now for the anecdote.  When I did this in college, I’m sure it hurt the first time, but I don’t remember that.  I just remember dancing like my rear was on fire for 3 hours straight.  This was inside a building.  This reunion was not during the school year inside a building.  It was outside after an hour drive without an air conditioner (our car doesn’t have one-that’s its own story) in the hot hot summer.  So, after my favorite, Adjiadbakor, I not only had to come to the realization that I had forgotten too many moves, but that my body was NOT what it once was.  I was dying, and I thought I was alone.  Imaging my relief when we exited back stage only to find everyone doubled over, leaning against the wall gasping for breath “What is up with this leg?!”  “I don’t remember hurting like this!”.  The rest of us couldn’t speak for breathing too hard.  Comradery at its best!

How to Make Butter Easily

How to make butter from raw milk in a blender, without a churn.

1-Place milk in very wide mouth container

2-Let sit for a few days or at least 24 hours in the fridge

3-Skim cream from top with ladle into blender.  We’ve tried various ways of removing cream.  One of the easiest was to hold back the cream and pour the milk out.  Since then, we have bought a cream separator and use it.

Below you can see how much cream I pulled off.  The cream originally went all the way to the top line there.

raw milk

4-Blend on high/semi-high speed for several minutes.  It will change pitch when it’s whipped cream.  This is when air forms (see hints and tips below if you run into trouble here).  Then it will do a sloshing frum, frum.  That’s when you have the fat globules.

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5-And you get what you see below.  It does change color from white to yellow, but just barely.

butter in a blender

6-Now, pour this into a strainer lined with cheesecloth and squeeze the liquid out carefully.  If you squeeze too hard, the solid can come out as well, but you’ll notice, so don’t worry.  Scrape the solid into a bowl.  Add cold water and stir with a spoon.  Dump out the water.  Continue to do this until the water starts to clear up.  The clearer the water, the longer the butter will last, and the less liquid will seep out of it while in storage.  If you are going to eat it all soon, don’t worry too much about this part.  Make sure as much liquid is out as possible and add salt as desired (salt is not needed unless you wish it to keep longer).

homemade butter

It tastes absolutely marvelous.

Hints and Tips:

-dad said to let the milk sour about 12 hours before making the butter with it.  We don’t like it this way.

-If air forms at the bottom of the blending and you unable to continue blending, add some milk.  The milk will come out later anyway.

-Salt definitely makes it taste better

-(If your butter smells sour, you probably have milk still in it.)  Once refrigerated, stirring the butter with a spoon can release more milk if needed.  The milk can be poured off, eliminating some of the sour smell.

Raspberry Cup Pies

Raspberries are in season and I wound up with a bunch in one day.

raspberries

Recently indulging in watching Pushing Daisies, we remembered Chuck’s creation of pies made in a muffin tin.  I don’t remember what she called them, but we call them “cup pies.”  So, I made raspberry cup pies.

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 1/3c whole wheat flour
  • 3 T water
  • raspberries
  • sugar
  • muffin tin

Crumble the butter and flour together until completely mixed, tiny crumbs form.  Add enough water to make a dough that you can handle.  Sprinkle sugar on the table and roll the dough on the sugar like you would flour.  Roll out and place thin dough in the muffin pan.  I use paper cups.  Fill with raspberries and pour a spoonful of sugar on top of each one.   Bear in mind the berries will shrink down, and the sugar will mix in on its own.  (also bear in mind how old and used my pan is-sorry)

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Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.  Enjoy!

mini raspberry pie

Accepting that stupid people really do exist

Remember how I mentioned that I would discuss my experiences at walmart that changed me forever?  I decided to start with a light story.  When I was there but a few months, I encountered a great deal of stupid people.  And while I do post these true stories to bring humor to your lives, I am proud to say that I grew patience in dealing with the inept.  So please, enjoy the stupid.

These stories took place while I was working at the photo lab, electronics, and toys department.  Yes, often one person covered three departments.  That bit of stupid can’t be enjoyed.

A decent looking woman with short curly hair and a handbag on her arm says, “Your machine printed my photos upside down!”  I turn the photos 180 degrees for her.  “Oh.”  A glazed look of bewilderment strikes her face, and later mine.

An older lady of adequate income is browsing the cordless phone section.  You know, the phones for you house.  I offer to help her and she replies with, “My phone needs a new battery”  She starts to open the phone.  I inform her that she can’t open the package without buying it first.  She responds quite politely and innocently, “Then how do I know if it works?”  I inform her that she will have to buy it and try it.  I help her purchase that phone at which point she immediately takes it out of the box.  She asks me to install the battery for her because she is unable to.  Bewildered, but helping the customer, I install the battery for her.  She turns it on and holds it up to her ear, “There’s no dial tone.  It doesn’t work.”  Too shocked to respond appropriately, I simply ask if she realizes that she is too far from home for it to work.  She exclaims, “Oh.  It won’t work here?”  At that point I regained a little composure and explained, to the best of my ability, that home phone work in the home.

A man in all sincerity asks me, “How big is the screen on that 42″ inch TV?”

A man around the age of 30 in browsing the OS (operating system) software.  I walk by and he asks, “Will this Windows 7 work on a Dell?”  I was able to hide my shock this time (I was getting better used to them), and asked what OS he had.  He replied,”Windows 2000.”   I informed him that no, this package is to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, not from Windows 2000.  Without missing a beat, he says, “Oh.  Well will it work on a Sony?”   Again, I ask what his OS on the Sony is.  He responds as though there were no other answer, “Sony”.  At this point I lost my composure and looked at him with great stupor while saying that no, it would not.

A random male customer asking for my help at the computer section says to me, “I need a new computer.  My hard drive’s full.  I need at least a topabite.”

A customer with complete sincerity asks (in 2012), “Do you sell 58k modem cards?”

A very irate man was bringing back and buying new GPS’s.  He slings them on the counter and gushed, “This GPS don’t work!  I don’t speak Spanish.”  He brought back three GPS that hour because they “Don’t work”.  FYI, you choose in the setup screens what language you speak.  There was no explaining this to him as “I knowed how to use a GPS!”

A man called and lamented,”I bought a new TV there, and now I can’t get channel 8!”  I asked him if he had an antennae.  He paused, dazed, and asked, “You mean I have to get an antennae too?!”

A lady brings in a camera and asks, “Do you have the battery for this?”  This is a specialized battery for this camera, so I tell her that no, we do not carry those.  She digs around her bag, producing a battery and says, “It looks like this.”  Again, I notify her that we do not carry those batteries.  At which point she enquires, “What if it’s blue?”

How to water bath can anything

I have the absolute awfullest times trying to find water bath canning times for canning things.  Every time I try to find a time chart, all I get is some fight about how it’s going to kill me.  I will say this.  I have gotten food poisoning from Ruby Tuesdays.  It almost killed me, and several thousand dollars later, the local hospital tried to finish the job.  I finally got better with a $45 visit to a walk in clinic the next town over.  I have never once gotten even an upset tummy from anything I have grown here.  Raw eggs never refrigerated, raw milk, water bath canned, home fermented items, veggies stored in a “root cellar” for over 2 years, everything included.

I will also say that this site from the university of Florida states that botulism TOXIN is indeed destroyed at 176F for 10 minutes.  Therefore, logic dictates to boil your food for 10 minutes to prevent botulism poisoning.  This site, and most others on the topic, command (and I mean command) you to boil all home canned products, even pressure canned, for 10 minutes before using.  In fact, my aunt said she was always taught to do the same with store bought, and given the high incidence of poisoning from the stores nowadays, that sounds good to me.

Now, this site is from the CDC, and indicates that “Heating to an internal temperature of 85°C [185F] for at least 5 minutes will decontaminate affected food or drink.”

(Botulism can apparently occur even with pressure cookers.  You have to boil your food after using a pressure cooker anyway.  Boiling destroys the toxin.  The spores are harmless….logic dictates….)

So, I found a water bath time table in a cookbook from 1940.  This book has been a literal God-send and I wish I could get a newer copy as this one is falling apart.  It was my grandmother’s.  It says the following:
(For all those like me who have searched in vain, I’m posting it for you.)

1-Obviously, if it looks or smells funny, throw it out without tasting.
2-Boil all canned items for (this book says 5, newer sources say 10, and now they’re trying to raise it to 20) minutes before consuming.
3-No mold, food should be firm, lid should not be bulging (bulging lids indicated gas formation which is a sign of spoilage).  Throw it out immediately without tasting if any of this occurs.

I am only including rare hot water times.  If you want a specific time for something, please ask and I will post it if I have it.

No acid added, water bath method, time in minutes, increase 10% for every 500 feet of elevation:

Asparagus, beans (string and lima), squash, vegetable combinations, peas, and greens, corn-180
Beets, carrots, cauliflower, okra-120
pumpkin-240
meat-300

Now how to do it.

This is how I did beets:

Pick a beet…that’s a big beet

how to water bath can anything

Boil all your jars, lids, and rings for 15 minutes

water bath canning

Cut the greens off your beets and boil them for a good 30-40 minutes, depending on their size.

canning beets

After they get soft, the peels just slip right off.  Then you can cut them into bites and fill the jars.  Leave a good inch and pour boiled/boiling water over them to the inch mark.  I use the water I boiled the jars in.  Now, seal them up and SLIGHTLY turn the rings back to allow escape of air if needed during the canning process so your jars don’t explode.  I have found the kit with the jar lifter thingies and magnetic wand and such is wonderfully practical.  Be SURE the water covers the jars completely and boil the appropriate time with the lid on.  Due to our elevation, we had to for 3 hours.  Add water if needed.  Pull out and let cool on own.  Completely loosen rings to keep from rusting shut and label the jars with the date they were canned.  If any of the lids didn’t pop down after cooling completely, they did not process correctly and should not be stored in that condition.  You can refrigerate or use them immediately.  Some people re-process them.  I never have.

Crème Brulee Recipe

My husband took up cooking for a short while.  One of his creations was crème brulee.  this is how he made it, and it is very popular!

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Main dish:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2c sugar
  • 1 1/3c heavy cream
  • 1 1/3c milk
  • 1t vanilla
  • ramekins

Fluff together the eggs and yolks.  Mix the sugar, cream and milk together in a sauce pan.  Stir while it heats up until fully dissolved.  Add vanilla and let cool for 5 minutes.

Add this mixture to the eggs a slow, small amount at first, tempering the eggs as needed.  Whisk together and pour into the ramekins.

Put the ramekins in a dish and fill the dish with water up to halfway or so up the ramekins.  Bake at 275 for 1 hour.  Carefully remove and refrigerate for 2 hours or more, preferably overnight.

Caramel topping:

  • 1c sugar
  • 1/c water
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2/3c heavy cream
  • 1/4c milk

Using medium heat, mix all the ingredients together, stirring often.  As it starts to darken, be careful, removing from the heat as necessary and being careful to not let it stick too much on the bottom.  Once it’s brown to your satisfaction, remove completely from the heat and mix well.  Can be reheated once stored in the fridge.

I But for the Grace…

At first, the meth heads with their open sores on their hands, their torn clothing stained with blood and vomit dragging their trailing children behind them disgusted me.  They angered me.  Then I head their stories.  And that is when I realized, that could be me, but for the grace of God.

While working for Wal-Mart, I witnessed some of the most horrible things I have ever seen.  These things changed my life so much, that I had the desire to share them with others.  I wanted others to learn what I learned, to see what I saw, and to feel what I felt.

This summer, I planned to go to the local jail and interview inmates.  I wanted to know their lives, their stories.  Their reasons for their crimes are obvious and understood, once their histories are known.  But God inspired my heart for other matters.  Instead of spending my summer writing my books, I will be spending it homeschooling, yes, homeschooling.  I’m going back to school this fall, and will be unable to teach a full 5 days a week, therefore, I have to teach as much as possible this summer, but I digress.

I remember listening to a conversation about how much the people talking hate Mexicans.  I asked them why.  Their only reason was because they lived 15 to a house and had bugs.  Really?  I told them that compared to what they came from, that is luxurious.  They practically spat at me.  They were simply full of hate and wanted to be.  I realized last year, those Mexicans and others like them could have been me.  I could have been the drug addict and the drunk stealing clothes.  Would I have been strong enough to make better choices if my past were the same as theirs?  Now, I wanted to write that book to make others see the world through others’ lives, but maybe I don’t have to.

I’ve been reading the Call the Midwife series by Jennifer Worth.  She has done as I have.  I have cried, woken up with nightmares, and prayed for the dead within her book.  She has seen worse than I, and I ask others to read her works.

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Over these weeks and posts, I hope to share with others the people I have met.  The drug users, the crazy people, the thieves, the dangerous, the sloven, and the downright stupid.  Through revulsion, humor, and disbelief, I hope to give others the opportunity to understand others too.

For a brief note on my employment at Walmart, you can visit this post.

My Walk Around the Country

I live in farmland.  I jog/walk down my street to the stop sign and back.  All the neighbors know me by now.  Several have cheered me on, encouraging what they know to be difficult from personal experience, I’m sure.  The farm boys ogled for a while, until one day one of their father’s chatted with me a while, and they found out I was twice their age and married to the crazy gun man with the miniature cows at the end of the road.  (FYI, that father is well known by my husband and I, so it was all good.)  In fact, I clearly remember one day that several of the boys were on 4 wheelers pointing (Hey-she’s what I was talking about) and getting other boys out of their houses or to come by with their trucks.  Although very flattering, I can’t help but think there must have been something else going on then my jiggly butt wheezing down the road, and therefore I felt foolish for thinking it was me.

On one of the walks, I took my camera.  This is what I saw:

I pass my little “mooers”, mowing my driveway, as I leave my property.

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I pass one neighbor’s spot that he’s been working on.

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Looks like he pulled a stump.

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He’s also dammed up his draining area to try and form a pond.  The property down our drive, and therefore across from him, was 1000 acres of woods.  As soon as we closed, they cleared it…completely.  This overran our property with wildlife and started an erosion problem.  Our driveway washes out every year, we have ditches in our upper field now, and this guy has a creek in his yard.  (I’m a tree hugger, imagine the comments I’m biting back now)

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Looks like he’s doing really well with his “pond”.  Now if he can just get water to stay in it….

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I finally leave our drive and chat with another neighbor’s cows.  That’s the bull on the left, the momma in the middle, and the cutest calf you have ever seen in your life.

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You can see from the coloration that these are of the Jersey persuasion.  I have no idea what they’re mixed with, or what breed/mix the bull is, probably mutts of whatever he’s had over the years.  TOO PRETTY!!

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Jersey’s are the prettiest in the face and real sweet.  Except their bulls.  I’ve heard Jersey bulls are one of the most dangerous.  That could be why he has what he has, avoiding the Jersey bulls.

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I take a pretty picture of their mare.

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And zoom in…

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I could have sworn I took a picture of the caterpillar grave yards along the road.  These vast groups of run over and overheated fuzzies that appear to have dropped from the branches overhead.  I took one to safety, across the road to a new grassy home.

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See two green snakes recently run over-yup, it’s snake season:

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We turn and walk back, noting the gorgeous ponds of another neighbor.

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However, the most memorable moment was when we found the “blue snake”.  We’ve had a recent problem with black rat snakes.  Such at this smaller one I saw down the road:

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These are 4-6 feet long, big, snakes.  I didn’t even see them until I almost stepped on them, only to be stopped by my husband screaming at me.  So, walking back on the drive (remember how it was recently populated by the cows?) I stop my husband from going further.  I thought I saw a big blue snake.

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Look closer.  Yup, that’s a rope halter.  At least it’s not the poisonous kind! Smile

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