Espresso

I have longed for an automated espresso machine for years.  Thinking about it often, trying to justify the cost, shopping, investing a lot of time!  But today, I got out my trusted manual espresso pot and made the most delicious cup of cappuccino ever.  It was perfect. Creamy, vibrant, and luxurious.  Every sip was savored and appreciated, slowly, thoughtfully.

Yes, the preparation process took a bit of time and finding the pot behind a coffee press on the top shelf of the “coffee” cabinet was no small feat either.  But, the entire event was a glorious morning coffee ceremony, and I’m scrapping the idea of automation, for now.

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Stink and Beauty

On an almost-fall morning walk, I discovered the most beautiful bug on a road between a field of corn and soybeans. It took some time and consultation with friends to learn it was a Green Shield Bug nymph (immature) Ackrosternum hilare AKA a Stink Bug. She’s a beauty.  There are an estimated 30,000 different insects species in Nebraska should you decide to start a collection.

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Bee

Several years ago I began the journey of beekeeping, and I’m still learning something new every day.  Initially I wanted to help bees repopulate after hearing their numbers had dropped to concerning levels.  The bees help my orchard and, of course, honey is always a sweet thing, I decided!   And so the journey continues; Swarms, angry queen drama and harvesting the honey.

From my perspective, bees are not unlike people in communities, countries or world regions.  If you get a great queen (leader), there is organization, excellent hive wax structures with food storage, healthy offspring and resilience from harsh winters,  beetle, wasp or animal attacks.    But if you have a bad queen (leader), there is chaos, disfunction, confusion and the colony suffers, wages war on others or each other…Things get ugly .

I have learned much by observing my honey bee colony and have so much more to learn.

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Hail to the Kale!

bloomI answered the phone reluctantly knowing it would be more work to stack my pile higher. “Really?  You have too much kale in your garden and I should come pick it?  I’ll be right there!” I love picking, cooking, and eating kale or any garden vegetable.

When I arrived at Olga’s garden, I found the largest squash leaves, tallest green beans and leafiest kale I have ever seen.  The weedless garden had super-sized plants with picture perfect produce.  She assured me that her secret included just a few simple things:

1.  Never plow the soil – just plug your plants or seeds in the ground.

2. Add horse manure to the top soil – just scatter it about.

3. Surround your plants with alfalfa –  it has nutrients, holds moisture and resists weeds.

4. Never, ever, ever use chemicals or insecticides of any type – you’ll poison your food!

dew

I can do this ….

Next time my phone rings, I’ll be a bit more enthusiastic about answering it.

kale

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The Cheese Whiz

 

cheese aging

Aging Cheese


cheese 4

A short drive West of Nebraska City, NE among green pastures spotted with beautiful milking cows, there is a farmer who lives in a 100-year-old home and works in her modern milking barn.  The home is heated with power from a wind turbine and supplementary solar panels. In the new barn and dairy shop,  stainless steel cheese equipment is humming with gauges blinking important numbers. Beautiful cheese is stored for aging in different types and sizes. The cheese is beautiful, fresh and produced with the loving hands of the cheese whiz farmer using organic, grass-fed cow’s milk.  I can’t wait to buy this fresh, local cheese!

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Happy milking cows eating organic grass

In the store area I’m greeted by a  friendly piglet named, “Wilber” who is adorable and yes, very smart. The farmer’s freckle-faced, red-headed daughters anxiously find me the best cheese and other local foods they have to sell like local honey, fresh-picked asparagus and homemade soap. You can also buy milk, cream, yogurt and pudding made fresh daily –  displayed in a glass cooler.

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Pepper Cheese – beautiful!

This trip to the farmer’s barn store might seem like stepping back in time, but for me, it’s definitely the future of our food supply and local economies.  Beyond incredibly wholesome food, there is a high-tech, sophisticated, strong family thriving in a small, dependable community that is quite possibly a perfect model for the future of mankind.

Find The Cheese Wiz (Laura Chisholm) at:

1875 D Road
Unadilla, NE 68454
laura@chisholmfamilyfarm.com
www.chisholmfamilyfarm.com/ https://www.nebraskafood.org (if you can’t get to the farm-order online)

cheese whiz

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The Old Goat

goat

 

At the office today, a technical problem with data causes bad information on the Web which then creates human emotional despair involving at least two humans.  Unable to fix the problem after several hours, I grab a cappuccino and take a drive for 10 minutes to find myself driving towards my “farm” which is really just a few acres with a barn where I dream or reprieve .  On my way there, I find that the neighbors goat has escaped again this week!  She or he, not sure…is out near the road looking toward my place.  Every time on my trip to the barn, I see the old goat trying to escape and about once a week she or he, actually does!  The determination and pure defiance in the eyes of this old goat convinces me that my technical problems at work exist in a completely different dimensional plane of reality.

 

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Woman

womanSitting in the park today, I contemplate the struggles of women.

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Quiet Pear Tree

cherries pears walnuts

QUIET PEAR TREE

We leave for work early most mornings, feeling rushed and late.  Work is hard, especially on Mondays with backups from the weekend business.  We get home later to find household and lawn chores, homework to help with, the news, dinner, laundry and a million other tasks, only to start the whole process over again the next morning.

But outside there is a pear tree, quiet, green and beautiful, who has been growing beautiful green fruit all summer that we have not noticed.  The fruit is bursting with juice and limbs droop heavy, leaving luscious droppings on shaded ground. Still unnoticed, the gift slowly breaks down and disappears into the cool fall soil.

This same sad story can be told of walnut, apple and cherry trees everywhere! Stop and notice the riches all around you.  Take time to harvest and preserve the wholesome gift of nature and thank that beautifully quiet pear tree.

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Coming Clean

soap

 

Friday evening’s return home from a long day brightened considerably when I found a Fed Ex package on my front porch.  It was a heavy, odd sized envelope from a friend in Alabama.  Hey, I never get packages from her! It was then I remembered a Facebook post begging her to send me some of her homemade soap.  Could it be? I tore the package open wildly to find out.  YES!!! I screamed happily smelling the herbs, flowers, Shea and other fragrances billowing out from the package.   See my treasures in the photo above!

Shea Butter (for men) – Oats and Rosemary – Rose Pedals – Cucumber & Melon – Lilly & Lilac – Goats Milk with Rose – Chamomile – Lavender and Caribbean

In my childhood years, Grandmother and I made soap on the cool fall days.  She would use the fresh cut and grated soap for laundry and bar soap for hands then change recipes for bath soap.  I loved the smell of Grandmas line-dried laundry and have the recipes ready to go but have failed to carve out time.  I’ve promised my family for years that I would make them Grandma’s soap, but now it’s time to come clean!

This special delivery from a very special friend is exactly what I needed to nudge me toward a batch of Grandma’s fresh smelling laundry soap.   If you wouldn’t mind,  I’d love to have your soap recipe too.  Please post to this blog.   I have the book below for hand soap recipes but will post Grandmas secret recipe next week for you (have to retrieve it from my basement storage).  Let’s share soap recipes!

soap book

 

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Gooseberries BLUE GOOSE CHUTNEY

gooseberriesA dear friend of mine delivered to me today a container of “Gooseberries!”  I know….you are wondering..What are gooseberries?  They are the smallest, most beautiful, tart, little stripy beads of wonder you can imagine.  Grandma used to make gooseberry/mulberry jelly and I’ve ordered duck with gooseberry chutney in past dining expeditions mixed with some other fruit that I cannot recall at this moment.  But there is a mystery about the gooseberry that we need to expose.

I decided to make a gooseberry chutney for pork, duck or fish (Why not chicken or turkey too?).  Cooking down the gooseberries and onion with a bit of clear water after topping and tailing the berries, was a joyous time-passing exercise. Later, I added vinegar, sugar, dried blueberries, raw sugar, spice and lemon.  I cooked it all down, then canned it with a wax capping to insure freshness while the flavors emulsified further for several weeks in the cupboard.

What a lovely treat to enjoy the organically grown berries as accouterments to any light meat or cheese.  It took more than a few hours to make, but what a luxury!  Blue-Goose it up folks!

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Changing houses

kitchen

 

After nearly 24 years of living in my house, I decided it was time for a change.  Perhaps I needed a new challenge.  Or maybe it was a desire to live among fruit trees and berries in solitude far from other humans that drove me to it.  Whatever force caused it,  I moved to an interum  cottage one-fourth the size to ponder more before leaping toward a 15 minute drive daily.

Packing and purging for several weeks made me realize how much unnecessary stuff was in my house.  I removed bags of clothes and shoes, boxes of finances from  over 20 years ago, greeting cards and media from decades ago that no modern gadget could operate not to mention hordes of trinkets, do-dads and ancient cosmetics.

In the cottage, there is only room for bare essentials.  The tub is old and shower curtain circles above it.  The bedroom closets are small but have room for a few pairs of shoes, three or four suits and a few shirts.  There is no dishwasher, disposal nor microwave.  Happily there is a front porch as well as a small enclosed back porch, where my cat naps.  The basement is a bit scary so I’m glad laundry day is only once a week.

Simple is beautiful and the process of managing with less is magnificent, for the moment, anyway.

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Cow Talk

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Five O’clock on Thursday, a friend summons me to her farm.  Excited, I rush from my day to find her 12 miles away at the back of her house on a plank that overlooks green rolling hills dotted with cheerful … Continue reading

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Peonies bloom in May

peony2

Every May I am distracted from life by the most fragrant, plump, blooms of peony bushes in parks, allies and yards of others.  The peony has always been my favorite flower, pink, white & reds,a silky soft and fluffy with peddles.  And if you pick them early enough, you can avoid the ants who cannot resist such extravagance.

Why have I not planted my favorite flower before?  Is it because after the May bloom, they are cut down, not to be remembered again until the next spring sprouts nudge me?  Or is it because having such luxury on my own parcel of the earth would fulfill me too completely?

Pondering the Peony, I enjoy dinner tonight with a vase centered on my dining table overflowing with beautiful puffy peddles, fragrant and pink swiped from a neighbors supply.

peony 1

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Yes, it’s simple

kitchenThis year, 2013 I moved into a home with no dishwasher, no disposal and laundry in a questionable basement.  The bedrooms (2) are small with lighted but limited closet space.  The floors are hardwood but damaged from leaking radiators of years gone by.   I place my cookware on open shelves near the stove.  In this place, I have found profound beauty.  Meditation in the act of washing dishes and flatware; joy in cleaning antique windows.  Sounds of imagined bats, children playing nearby and morning birds have awakened me to other dimensions.  This place, any place different, arouses learning and enlightenment.   When Jesus, Buda, and Rumi explored and ridded themselves of “stuff”, surely they felt the joy of nothingness I have the vague idea of now.  Elimination of worldly distraction yields true knowledge, I think.

door handls

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Stepping back

 

IMG_0913Disposing of mind-cluttering stuff; unnecessary gadgets and excessive life accouterments.  Eliminating processed consumables, modernities and multiplicities.  Breathing slowly, deeply and with purpose.

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Pottery Shop Chapel

Several years ago, a special friend and I ventured out to find a pottery shop in a small town several hours from our own.  Upon reaching our destination, we learned via a note on the door, that the potter had left for vacation not to return for several weeks.  The shop was closed.  Distraught, we googled from our iPhones other pottery opportunities finding one in the most obscure location, deep in the country side, far off beaten paths. We wondered if it was mapping error, but had time and pottery money in our pockets, so proceeded as the GPS directed.

When we arrived, we found an old, country church with a surprising sign, “Cedar Creek Pottery”.   St. Francis would have been appropriate.

Cedar Creek Pottery - Ervin Dixon, artist

Cedar Creek Pottery – Ervin Dixon, artist

Inside was an older man who quickly switched on the lights and what illuminated before our eyes was astonishing!  Shelves and rows of pottery stacked high and displayed with dried flowers, old wooden relics, ancient agricultural tools and tractor parts and items we couldn’t quite make out, but somehow perfectly accentuated the displayed pottery into the masterpieces they were.

photo-5 Each dish or cup set was only kind-of the same size, with color variation and design just enough different to make each piece of a set unique to the user, making lunch, dinner or tea a ceremony and celebration of individuality.

photo50 photo-53 photo-52 Cedar Creek Pottery can be found scattered about in my home today in nearly every room.  There is a depth of connection, understanding and comfort I feel just being near this beautiful art. To be able to have creativity and beauty with you; in you, in the daily circle of living, changes who you are.

Below is one of my favorite platters whose reflection casts and old potter man throwing daily his clay in the basement of an extraordinary pottery shop chapel.  I hope you can visit the pottery shop chapel someday.  South of Beatrice, Nebraska 8 miles on Highway 136 then a scant mile south on Road 80. JJ

photo-4

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Fresh, Healthy Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

So it’s January 1, 2013.  Once again we start the “Let’s Get Healthy” plan for the year.   I found some organic black Quinoa in the cabinet and began to assemble a healthy salad.  After cooking the quinoa, a product of Peru, I added some chopped raw red peppers, carrots, cilantro, walnuts and dried cranberries.  Then, I dressed it with an emulsified mixture of fresh lemon juice, minced garlic, flaxseed oil and salt & pepper.  It was delicious and even better after being refrigerated for the day.

So, day “one” of the Healthy new year is off to a good start!

Wishing you all a healthy, Happy New Year.   JJ

 

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Duck Soup!

Yesterday morning  was filled with disagreeable tasks including tax documentation preparation, accounting entries, checkbook balancing and other tedious chores.  I headed home for lunch late, hungry and crabby to find nothing to eat. In the freezer sat a frozen duck that had been waiting for a dashing chef for nearly a year, then without a thought I pulled the rock-hard foul from the self and searched for a pot.

On the bottom shelf peaking from behind the Tupperware sat a crock pot and I said, “sure I’ll let you cook the duck”.    So into the covered crock pot, set on high, went the frozen boulder with a half quart of water.

Five and one-half hours later, my long, painful day ended. I came home to the aroma of duck soup.  The skin and fat layer easily slid off, leaving the most tender, delicious duck I have ever had. The flavor and moistness was so luxurious that I could not make soup of it.  Instead, by layering the warm duck over fresh  field greens, dried cranberries, pecans, and a bit of blue cheese, than drenched with a warm bacon vinaigrette, I had a duck salad fit for a king!  The leftover duck fat and broth will contribute to some other wonderful dish tomorrow.

Funny how the simplest, easy path can turn out so remarkably some days.  Today was a beautiful day after all.  No beautiful photos unfortunately – we ate the duck too quickly.

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Bean Truth

Limas, lentils and chickpeas

Ok folks… For most of us, beans are not a luxury.  But, you must rethink this untruth! Legumes and beans of every sort, are high in protein, available year-round and can be purchased and stored dried.  Therefore, they are a green, protein source (no power/electricity used to store them).  But more than that, you can prepare them in many extravagant ways – Truthfully.  First, consider legumes.  Boiled with chicken broth and onion is a perfect side dish or entree  for vegetarians.  Lentils come in beautiful varieties and colors dressing up  your plated food. Garbanzo beans or chickpeas are fantastic for hummus (cooked chickpeas, garlic, sesame seed paste, lemon juice, and sun-dried tomato or olives food-processed to perfection).  Or best of all, try Grandma Vi’s lima beans.  Please open your mind- I know what you are thinking!  Lima bean are not great in their just harvested form, but boil dried limas for about an hour after soaking in water overnight, drain, add cream, ketchup and brown sugar, place in the oven for about 30-45 minutes and you will have the most creamy, delicious, bean dish imaginable. Serve them with ham or turkey dishes or just straight up. Grandma Vi was a culinary genius.   You just have to trust me on this one.  Healthy, sinfully delicious and luxurious.

Grandma Vi’s LImas

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Fish food

One of my dearest  friends is a physicist and also a geographer.  He has mastered both fields of study and is a life-long learner.  He has been writing a paper, which he hopes to have published soon on the correlation of human intellectual development after a diet of fish from migration to the sea.  I have been compelled to consume fish over other proteins resulting from our conversations and his study (hoping).

Tonight I made Mahi-Mahi with wild rice and caraway baby carrots.   If any of you out there remember a restaurant call “The Neon Goose” in Omaha, Nebraska (no longer in existence, to the misfortune of us all), they served Orange Roughy using a similar method.

Deep fry your fish in peanut oil using a coating of flour, baking powder, salt (a spot of sugar for the southerner) and ice cold water whisked in a bowl before dipping your fish and dropping it into the hot oil.  I cook my fish outside on a burner all year round.  If you deep-fry fish indoor, you could enjoy it’s aroma for months after the feast!  When it is golden brown, it is ready – done.

I serve my fish with a mix of long-grain wild, basmati and brown rice, steamed in chicken broth and baby carrots steamed with butter and caraway seeds.   It is an honest meal that is pure and truly a joy to prepare.

I hope that you are all more intelligent from eating  fish and steamed vegetables as my friend Lowell’s study professes.   It will be crazy delicious and beautiful if intellect fails.

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