Monday, July 27, 2009

In and Around the Imperfect Home This Week

Did you read the title of this post carefully? Because it has been a challenging past few days. The heat has soared here in the east, and with our construction season at home in full swing, the air-conditioned luxury so enjoyed by the masses is elusive to us. Oh how I wish for a rusty old water pump outside to stick my head under for a quick cool off! 

Last night, after working in the inferno known as our kitchen, I finished the book I had been reading (The Long Road Home by Pablo Yoder- engrossing, but too gritty for my taste) and fell into a deep sleep. Then, painfully early this morning, I was herded out of bed by hungry dogs and the imminent arrival of my father-in-law who was helping the Mister with a drywall project today. All too soon, I found myself at my desk drinking coffee and listening to my husband and his father discuss the "right way" to do something while I tried to figure out why an item I ordered for church was sent to me twice. (It turned out it was because I placed the order twice.) Well into the second cup of coffee I still was not any more alert, and certainly in no shape to mess around in the garden, as is my usual Monday morning routine. And the increasing heat found me lacking the desire to put some our berries into dessert form, other than adding them to the fruit salad I already made. Finally, I decided to quit pretending that anything productive was going to happen this morning, and decided to pop some pop corn to take with me to the library later on for lunch. After burning the pop corn, feeding it to the birds, and making peace with the fact that I would have to buy lunch later as I was already late, I grabbed some packages to mail and somehow made it out the door. Hungry.

In the car, I heard a funny noise and then remembered that I completely forgot to check the oil in the car, which I knew was low. And then I pulled up to the post office which was closed. For lunch. Sigh. Oh, and did I mention that not only was I exhausted, but also running a low grade fever? Yes, well, this was my morning. But I think it is good to have ocassional disclosures such as these, so that my blog will never be in danger of becoming a candy shop of syrupy confections of perfection. Not that anyone would take that danger seriously. 

In the Kitchen: Canning pickles, and wondering the whole time, who grew all these things?

On the Table: Stuffed green peppers (which we will be eating every week because we have tons of peppers), corn on the cob, cheese and crackers, fruit salad. 

In the Garden: Corn should be ready for harvest any minute, and I can see our tomatoes turning red. Pole beans are staked, and we're getting a lot of strawberries. We are starting to get cherry tomatoes, and this is our favorite way to use them, but you can use grape or teardrop ones too:

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 cup diced red onion
3 T olive oil (extra virgin)
3 T fresh chopped basil
1/2 tsp. minced garlic

Combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Brush bread with a little olive oil, then toast and add topping. Also delicious on crackers.

(Before I go, I'm shamelessly promoting Luci's new website: 
and I think her next book will be out late fall/early winter.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Sunset in Harrison Co., Ohio

Where to start? First of all, we had a lovely trip with few complications. Except for catching a nasty head cold two days before our trip ended (a complete surprise since I never get sick and my husband always does) we found that we were able to cram in most of the visiting, sight-seeing, and shopping that we had hoped to accomplish, and then some. We rolled into Berlin pretty late, so it was hard to get a feel for rediscovering Ohio in the dark. But the next morning when the sun began to rise over a hazy landscape, wow. I had forgotten how beautiful Holmes Co. can be with its scenic patchwork of green rolling hills. My second impression? This place is prosperous beyond any other settlement I have ever visited. Amish living in homes so big that our house would not even fit in their garden shed. And progressive. Young Amish women crossing the street while texting on their iphones or whatever, sparkly rhinestone pins clipped to their coverings, and little sequined bags dangling from their elbows to match their brightly colored dresses. You would not see this in Lancaster. Not out in the open.

"This is the most prosperous settlement I've ever seen!" I blurted out tactlessly to an Amish school teacher. He looked embarrassed and agreed that he found the conditions in other settlements to be somewhat lacking compared to what he is used to, but lamented that perhaps they have raised the standard a little too high there in Holmes.

But the real show stoppers were the scenery and the people. Every where you looked was a picture perfect postcard of tidy homes and gardens, corn fields, children playing, and women tending their vegetable patches. How do they even keep their lawns so short? I would have to mow mine every day to get my property that neat, and only twice in our time there did we see anyone mowing the grass. Flowers filled every available planting spot at every home we visited. I'm old enough to know that free child labor and weed repellant play a part in taming nature, but the complete uniformity of how everyone does it is something to behold. And the people- never did we feel more at home than being in Holmes. Everywhere we went we found people to be warm and friendly, and were able to find connections to mutual friends or acquaintances. On Sunday we visited a large church (Sharon CM) and were taken in like old friends, with one dear woman pointing out that there are many homes in the area for sale that we might be interested in buying. Of course, we were not there scouting for a new community, we were just there to relax. I hope you mid-west folks appreciate just how warm and friendly you are, because it is not that way out here in the east at all. Even, and especially, amongst the different Anabaptist churches.

I will say, there have been some recent sad events out in Holmes, and it was encouraging to see people reaching out to the hurting to provide support and necessities. They were reaching out tearfully, with sincerity and humility. And hope.

Anyway, this is a trip best told in here we go:

The view from where we stayed. And yes, sometimes I would just go stand outside and look at it! It was my inspiration that led me to stop calling it "Ohio" and start calling it "The Promised Land."

One thing we noticed out here very fast is that everything shuts down at five o'clock sharp. It was tough to get used to that, but nice because it forces you to slow down. If businesses here in the east did that, they would all be going out of business. I guess you could say, we've set our own standard too high.

We loved the Care-n-Share shop, where all of the items are made by plain people with physical challenges:

I love black raspberries and they are impossible to get where we live, so I kept an eye out for them. By the end of our stay, all I could get that was left unsold was a large frozen bag at Troyer's. I was so grateful! Of course, I came right home and made pie.

This is the home of the Andy Rabers, who had us for supper. We sat on the front porch and bird-watched for a bit, as they had lots of feeders and houses on their property.

My husband (on right) with friend Andy J. Miller, in Andy's shop.

Fun in Farmerstown.

Quilt shop in Charm.

Me- relaxing for once!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sisterhood Award and Au Revoir

Linda has given me the lovely gift of the Sisterhood Award. Thanks, Linda! This award makes me smile.

The rules:
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate up to 10 blogs which show great attitude and/or gratitude!
3. Be sure to link your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Remember to link the person from whom you received your award.

  1. Brenda at The CFarm
  2. A Joyful Chaos
  3. Mindless Jibber-Jabber
  4. Simple Folk
  5. Coveredwithjoy at I Take Photos
  6. Amy at In Modest Apparel
  7. Beth at The ImPerfect Housewife
  8. Sister Lori at Be Ye Separate
  9. Tracy at Sunny Corner Farm
  10. Garden Gal

As we are getting ready to leave tomorrow for our trip to Ohio, I will not be able to post until our return on the week of the 19th. I'll look forward to sharing with you about our trip and whatever else is new in and around the home. See you then!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Of Freedom

The e-mail was brief, yet its message mighty. "Twenty years ago, we graduated from High School."

Wow. Only twenty? It felt like a lifetime. I was sentimental about the message not because I am sentimental about high school. I am not. It was awful. How many times did I beg my parents to let me drop out at yearly intervals? "I could get my GED!" I told them. No go. High school was an enormous waste of time. I know not everyone feels that way, but in general, I didn't care for public schooling. What was meaningful about the e-mail was the messenger- an old friend, practically an adopted brother, who on his best day can barely remember a planned lunch together or what seven digits make up my my phone number. But he remembered the twenty year anniversary of the day we were set free. The day we were uncaged. The big plans we made and ideas we had would finally be allowed to become tried and true, or tried and failed. But at least we could try. We parted ways shortly after graduation, retreating into our separate worlds. We did not to see each other again for another fourteen years.

It used to be embarrassing to admit that I went to public school. Unlike the Amish, Mennonites are much less accepting of public education. When you tell someone that you didn't go to the church school, or that your mother did not lovingly homeschool you, it's met with some surprise. A couple of my cousins also did public high school, and one has turned out to be a staunch supporter of public education. "Is it really such a good thing that we pull all the Christians out of public school?" he asks. Food for thought. But I digress.

The day that you leave school, leave a job, leave an unhappy life, or leave grief may feel like "Independence Day", but it's a temporal liberation. And those are my thoughts on freedom.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1

By the way, when I left school I said that I would never go back. But I did. Three times. So, never say that you will never go back to school. It's a sure way to end up with an advanced degree.

In the Garden: The gladiola up top is from my front flower bed, and some more flowers are starting to come into bloom...

The white phlox next to some canna lillies which show no signs of blooming yet.

Viola- always a personal favorite. Don't their little flower faces look like they are smiling?

And look what I found in the vegetable garden...

It may sound silly, but just seeing those cucumbers hanging on the vines made me immediately crave pickles. And so these became garlic dill spears, though they won't be ready for a couple weeks. The jalapenos will go in the freezer.

On the Table: Stuffed Poblano Peppers (These were delicious, if you like Mexican food.)

The less adventurous might like my cousin Elizabeth's tomato-zucchini bake...

Alternate layers of zucchini, then onions then tomatoes. Sprinkle Italian bread crumbs between each layer with bits of butter. End with the last layer of zucchini with bread crumbs on top. I cover and bake at 350 degrees until done. The amount you make will bake down to half the size, so use a large dish. Wonderful !!

I haven't tried it, but I trust her cooking and it's a good use of the early hothouse tomatoes that are everywhere.

Around the Home: A hilarious episode involving these storage bags where you suck the air out of them with a vacuum cleaner so as to minimize the space they take up. Not. Worth. The trouble. (Unless you are really, really desperate for space, like we are!)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

This Year's Vegetable Garden 2009

Someone asked about pictures of my garden. I guess I have not had many up since there is nothing close to harvest yet, now that peas and spinach are done. Also, it rained just about every day in June, so it was not easy to find a dry moment for pictures. A few stalks of corn are just now coming in to tassel, and peppers are growing. We've been getting hot peppers for a while, but most of the leafy greens, including lettuce, are done.

I took these photos just a few days ago. The lettuce (on the right) has since gone to seed. Oh, and that giant irrigation hose reel does not belong to us! It's for the farm field.

Front and center in this picture is an enormous winter squash plant, which I have to manage a bit as its tendrils want to cling on to hot pepper plants and adjacent cucumber vines. To the right of that is a row of tomatoes. For tomatoes, we're growing:

  • Roma
  • Celebrity
  • German Stripe
  • Brandywine (Yellow and Red)
  • Amish Paste
  • Ramapo
  • Kentucky Beefsteak
  • Supersweet 100 cherry
In addition, we have:

  • Stowell's Evergreen Sweet corn and bicolor.
  • California Wonder sweet peppers
  • Jalapenos and Serranos
  • Boston Pickling cucumbers
  • Dr. Martin's pole limas (heirloom)
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Cilantro, basil, and a host of other herbs, mostly in pots.
  • Strawberries, and a pitiful black raspberry vine with four berries. Don't ask me about pie.
Things are starting to take off in the flower garden, so hopefully soon I can have those photos up. After a few weeks of day lilies, it was nice to see a gladiola start to bloom.

With all of the rain we have had, it has been a blessing not to have had any fungus problems.

In the Kitchen: Someone from church called and said they had a quantity of peaches and apples which I was welcome to, if I wanted to come over and have a look. Perhaps I can get some peaches canned before leaving on our trip next week. Now wouldn't that feel good?

On the Table: Crock pot lasagna and raspberry cream pie. The recipe for the lasagna is from the new Big Book of Fix it and Forget it, and while the recipe is very easy, I feel it could use some tweaking. The cream pie was an easy no-bake pie in a graham cracker crust.

On the Nightstand: Getting Along with People God's Way by John Coblentz.


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