Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Tart and Tangy Tangerine Juice

While I really like orange juice, tangerine juice is so much better.  It is tart and tangy.  We have five tangerine trees and they are all loaded up with fruit.  Unlike satsumas and oranges, tangerine peels stick to the fruit and is very hard to peel off. Generally, I'll just quarter them and eat them right out of the peels versus peeling them.

But my favorite thing to do is to just make juice with them.  On this dreary, rainy weekend I had Benjamin go snag a bunch of tangerines off the smallest tree.  He brought them in and filled up the vegetable sink with them.  Even though it had been raining and the fruit was wet, I scrubbed some of the fruit that was dirty.
Tangerines
I like using an old fashioned glass citrus juicer to squeeze out the juice.  Tangerines are so juicy.  For being a small fruit, they are loaded with juice.  They have their share of seeds, but we strain those out.


The juice from an average-sized tangerine will almost fill the hand juicer.


I pour the fresh-squeezed tangerine juice through a strainer or sieve to strain out the seeds and some of the pulp.  I'll use a spoon to stir around the seeds and pulp in the strainer so that every last bit of the juice all goes in the quart-sized, wide mouth mason jar.


In addition to tasting SO good, especially when it is chilled, tangerine juice has the most beautiful neon orange color.


While we drink a lot of it fresh, we'll pour it into quart sized Ziploc bags, seal them up tight and lay them flat in the freezer.


That way we'll have plenty to thaw out and drink in the summertime.  Delicious, nutritious - Tangerine juice is my favorite citrus juice.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

What to Eat on a Cold, Soggy Weekend?

Hey wait, it's not supposed to rain on the weekends, is it?  As a cold, drizzly, non-stop, soaking-rainy weekend enveloped us, there were many questions to be asked: When will it end?  Answer: Monday Night.  Will we see the sun again?  Yes, Tuesday morning. How much rain has fallen?  5.1 inches. Will the church Christmas caroling hayride be cancelled Sunday afternoon?  The hayride was, but we still caroled at two nursing homes and the VA home.

And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain? -CCR
But the big question on that Saturday afternoon was: What can we eat that will warm us up both inside and out? Answer: Homemade Chicken Soup.  Good for the body and soul.  Let's get together some fresh ingredients (or fresh frozen: the chopped carrots were blanched and frozen last year.)


The big fat hen was also frozen after we butchered her this past spring.  We had her boiling in the pot for a while, making a nice, rich broth.


I ventured out in the rain to the garden and picked a bunch of Swiss Chard, Kale, Bok Choy, and garlic chives...


The rain washed them down to where I didn't really need to run them under the faucet in the sink to clean them up.


Everything was chopped up and put in the big pot on the stove and allowed to simmer for the better part of the day. Some spiral pasta was added as well. The kitchen warmed up and smelled fantastic.


As a little something extra, Tricia sliced up some homemade corn tortillas, fried them and topped the soup with them.  She also made some cheese toast to eat along with the homemade chicken soup.

A heart-warming and stomach pleasing meal
I'd like to be able to sit here and tell you that I followed the rules of etiquette and ate this soup without slurping, but I wouldn't be being honest with you.  Not only did I slurp, but I tilted the bowl to get the last remaining drops of deliciousness.  It was a good day to eat homemade chicken soup and enjoy a lazy day indoors by the fireplace.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Dollar General in the Country

Hathaway, Louisiana is a very small town where my son goes to school at the only school in "town." We live between Jennings and Hathaway, Louisiana.  Hathaway High School is PK through 12th grade and has 493 students.  I called Hathaway a town, but it would be hard to really call it a town, though. A village, maybe?  A rural outpost?  A clustering of houses in the country?  There is no McDonald's restaurant or any other chain-type store. Apart from a convenience store/gas station across from the school, there's not much.

Well, that's about to change.  The other day while driving down Highway 26, I passed by the following construction going on in the middle of a horse pasture. Whoa, Nellie!


I asked around to see and found out that this is going to be a Dollar General dollar store.  A Dollar General Store in the middle of a pasture.  I checked the distance from this construction to the Walmart Super Center in Jennings and it is 8.3 miles or 11 minutes away.  In a month or so, inhabitants of Hathaway won't have to make a trip into "town."

Dollar Stores have been experiencing astronomical growth.  According to THIS USNEWS Article, Dollar General stores are booming, with an increase in the stock price of over 162% over the past five years.  Even in small towns there are Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree stores practically on top of each other. Whereas the parking lots of Wal Mart stores are packed, the Dollar Stores have their fair share of customers.  While the Dollar Store shoppers' average purchase is between $10-$11 dollars, Dollar Store overhead is low and they are obviously profitable. They have been successful in siphoning people's dollars away from Wal Mart.  People in Hathaway will probably stay nearby and patronize Dollar General for some purchases rather than driving into Jennings.

I may be nostalgic, but seeing that former horse pasture cemented over makes me a little sad.  I hate to see sprawl and agricultural land being converted into concrete. But who knows?  Someone probably groaned when the Oleson's broke ground on the building project in the village of Walnut Grove shown below:

Image Credit
Whoa Nellie, indeed.



Sunday, December 4, 2016

Nuts and Bolts, Screws and Nails


This weekend Benjamin and I had a minor project we were working on that required the use of some roofing nails as well as some two inch wood screws.  I knew exactly where to find them.  They were in any number of containers on my work bench.  As I looked for the items, I had to laugh.  I'll bet most people are like me and have old coffee cans on their work bench that contain nuts and bolts, nails and screws.

While I do have some miniature coffee cans labeled with contents, I have other containers as well. The other containers are 'see-through' and don't require labels, for instance a roasted almonds container and some Juice Plus Gummi cannisters.

The older cannister with the green "5" sticker on the top that you see in the photo above had washers and brass fittings in it when I unscrewed it.  That cannister brought back some memories.  It is around 42 years old as best as I can estimate. It originally contained grit from a rock polisher that I got as a Christmas present when I was around 8 years old.  Did you ever have a rock polisher?

Rock polishing was so much fun!  You would put these ugly looking rocks into the tumbling barrel, add a little water and the grit and turn it on.  The little motor would spin for weeks on end, tumbling the rocks over and over.  From time to time, you would turn it off, open the barrel and wash off the rocks.  It was always fun to see the change that the friction caused to the stones from the last time you opened the tumbling barrel.  Then I would put in the next grit and start it tumbling again.

This would go on for weeks, repeating the steps above, until finally, you would open the barrel for the last time and your rocks would look like precious gems.  There would be blue stones, green ones, yellow and shiny black.  With the tumbler unplugged, the house seemed so quiet after listening to the rock polisher tumble for week after week.  It was nice to hold the polished stones in your hand, remembering the rough ugly stones and what they had now become!  They would make a 'clinking' sound as the smooth stones hit against one another in the palm of your hand.  I remember the rock tumbler box contained rings with settings, earrings, necklaces, along with some glue.  I'm sure my mom received some homemade jewelry that my brother and I crafted together.

Rock polishing was a lesson in patience and perseverance - knowing that at the end of the process, a beautiful reward would be found.  As soon as I had kids who were old enough to appreciate it, I bought them a rock polisher, too!  They enjoyed the process as I did when I was a kid and it made memories I still relish today.  One day my kids might even buy their kids a rock polisher after finding an old grinding grit cannister on their work bench that contains roofing nails!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Writing it on Your Barn

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:

5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.

9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

The Shema is a Jewish Prayer and the first part of it is from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. As Christians we see it as a declaration that the LORD is one and that we should love him with all our hearts.  We should keep these words in the forefront of our lives and always on our minds.  It stresses that fact in that we should even write them on our home and gates, so that we are always focusing on them.

On the way to work the other day, I pulled to the side of the road outside of Crowley, Louisiana, to take a picture of a man who took Deuteronomy 4:9 literally:


Almost.  He painted, "GOD IS LOVE" on the side of his barn with the "O" in Love being a heart. While some paint "See Rock City" on their barns, this gentleman made a more meaningful sign on his barn that conveys an encouraging proclamation to the millions that pass by on Interstate 10.

God definitely is Love... and more and more need to experience that love today. Thank you to the barn painter in Crowley that is spreading words of hope.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When One Tree Comes Down...

Plant another in the Ground!  Yesterday we talked about taking down a dead tree in the side pasture. It is time to plant a tree or two to take its place.  The one that died was a water oak tree that has about a 70 year lifespan.  I like planting either fruit trees or live oaks, the former gives you food to eat and the latter provides longevity and plenty of shade.

It just so happens that I have a nice looking live oak tree that I planted from an acorn that has some special meaning to me.  I discussed that tree as well as others in THIS PREVIOUS POST.  This one has sentimental value to me and I call it our "Laura Lee" tree, after our oldest daughter and to me, represents victory and survival.  It was a beautiful Saturday and was a little cool, so we started a nice fire roaring with the remnants of the tree we had taken down. While the coals of the dead tree burn down, we'll put another tree to take its place in the ground.

Burn, baby, burn
The live oak tree we'll put in the ground is one I planted from an acorn seven (?) years ago, maybe.  I keep putting it in larger and larger pots as it grows and it has been in the flower bed in the back yard. Large tap roots grew out of the bottom of the pot and Russ and I had to dig them out and cut a few in order to free it from the ground.  I loaded the tree, some potting soil, some chicken litter and a shovel into the garden wagon and took it into the pasture.

Everything we need in the wagon
We picked out a spot to plant this live oak about 15 feet south of where the other tree had grown. Since it is by the garden, it will give nice shade from the morning sun, still leaving enough sunshine for the garden from about 11 am until it sets in the western sky.  We did some quick ciphering and calculated that by the time this tree grows to completely shade out the garden, we'll be about 125 years old and by then, we probably won't have the energy to garden at that age.  Maybe we'll downsize the garden at that age and just grow a small patio garden.  (Ha ha!)

We cut the plastic pot away from the "Laura Lee" live oak tree and then cut off a fork in the tree so it would grow straight and not have a weak spot.


We dug a nice hole a little bit deeper and wider than the circumference of the root ball.


One other sentimental thing about this tree is that it contains some Spanish moss that I borrowed off of a live oak on the LSU campus.  A couple of years ago, I draped it around the tree, but over the course of time, wind and rain blew it away.  I was pleased to see that at least a little bit of the Spanish moss attached itself to the little trunk of the tree and is flourishing.  Pretty cool, I think.
Spanish Moss in a live oak tree
Benjamin and Tricia pose by the newly planted live oak tree.  We'll keep it watered and take good care of it.

In addition to digging the hole for the tree, I'm diggin' Tricia's cowboy hat.
One other thing we had to do is position cattle panels around it to separate it from hungry goats and cows that would aim to eat every single green leaf off of the fledgling live oak.


As the dead, cut up oak tree sits in the foreground with its life over, a new beginning takes place as a live oak is ready to fill the void.

I think that I shall never see,

A poem as lovely as a tree...  -Joyce Kilmer

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rock A Bye, Baby

Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all

Remember that crazy song?  Why would you rock your baby up in a treetop?  That is reckless endangerment, child abuse, and infanticide.  Furthermore, why would you sing this to your baby in a soothing voice when you are singing about a baby likely plummeting to the earth where the baby would either receive a fatal would or serious injuries?  What does it mean?  I haven't a clue.

Anyway, we had some boughs breaking this past week, but fortunately there were no infants up in our trees.  One of the trees that succumbed to the red oak borer beetle was leaning over the garden and was threatening to fall on our fall vegetables. You can see the precarious lean.

Leaning over the Garden
We awoke to find that a number of branches from high up in the tree had fallen into the garden.  It messed up a few sugar snap peas and kale, but really, I can't complain.  It could have been a lot worse.

Is this why they call November, Fall?
I picked up the broken limbs and tossed them over the fence.  They will serve as fuel for our next bonfire.  Fortunately, most of the falling branches missed the veggies as they fell between rows.


The trellis for the sugar snap peas kind of broke the fall and deflected the force of gravity.


Our neighbor happened to be outside when all the limbs fell.  He heard the ruckus and came to check on us to make sure no one was injured.  A little while later he came back over with a long rope, a chainsaw and his four-wheeler.  I leaned a tall ladder against the dead tree (not smart, I know) and climbed up as high as I dared and secured a rope around the highest point I could reach.

Climbing Jacob's Ladder...
To the other end, we attached the rope to his four wheeler and pulled the rope taut. Our goal was to pull the tree to make it fall not where it wanted to (the garden) but where we wanted it to (the barnyard).

The anchor point
Benjamin revved the engine of the four-wheeler, keeping the rope tight while our neighbor cut a big notch in the side that we wanted it to fall.


We had a nice big notch cut in the tree, begging it to fall in this direction.  Would we be successful? Or would our fall tomatoes be chopped and diced by a falling tree instead of in our kitchen?  Stay tuned, we'll show you further down below.


Then my neighbor began cutting through the tree on the back side, motioning to Benjamin to pull and pull harder.  The wheels began to spin.  I jumped on the back to give the four wheeler some weight. Not good.  The four wheeler didn't have the weight or the power to pull the tree.  Oh no!  We went and put the cows and goats in the corral.


A lightbulb flickered in my head and I raced off to get a "come-along" (cable puller) and a chain.  We anchored the cable around a large oak tree, tied the chain to the end of the rope and attached the come-along and began using the lever to pull the tree over.  Slowly the tree began to stand erect and then began to lean in the direction we wanted it to.


Then with a crack, the tree fell right where we wanted it to.  It bounced right after we said, "TIMBER!" It missed hitting us, the hay ring, the animals, and the trunk almost fell on one of our burning piles.


The tree top fell squarely on another burning pile.  Bulls-eye!

Right in the burn pile.
So we cut up the tree for firewood.  Benjamin and I had fun throwing big fat white worms that burrowed in the fallen tree to the chickens and watched them gobble them up.  We threw what remained of the branches on the burning pile.  Then we breathed a sigh of relief that no more branches would fall into the garden and also relieved that we removed the temptation for those that might want to rock their babies in dangerous treetops.
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