Saturday, December 31, 2016

Amish, Preparing for Winter

A field planted in the fall with winter rye.
As I travel through Amish country every week, I enjoy watching how the fields change during the seasons. In the fall after the crops are harvested, the land is planted with winter ground covers which are plowed under in the spring.

I think this was alfalfa but could not tell without getting out of the car and climbing over the fence...too much work.

They take their winter preparations seriously; it can get really cold here in lower middle Tennessee.  The white building below has something interesting in the window on the left.

It is piled all the way up with firewood to be burned in the woodstove.  They will stay warm this winter.  One day as I passed by late in the summer, I saw a little boy standing underneath this window throwing logs inside.  It was obviously a chore assigned to him to do, but he was having so much fun I almost stopped to join him.

This house has a huge pile of firewood in the front yard.  

After I passed by I could see someone loading the wood into a truck.  It must have been more than they needed so they were selling it.

They also need to store food for themselves and also for their livestock.   

It is stacked to the ceiling with dried corn on the cob.  I assume this is for the livestock and not for people.  Who knows what has crawled all over it.

They also planted crops in the fall for winter gardens.  These are some of the winter crops.

Turnips are growing in this field.
A huge field of huge cabbages.
Mustard Greens

This family put their pigs out into a field to plow it up and turn it under.  Pigs love to root around in the dirt, hence the saying "dirty as a pig."  They saw me holding the camera and wanted their pictures made.

Here you can see some of the damage they have done to the field and see them running toward me holding the camera (I was holding the camera, not them, just to be clear).  

Camera hogs

The winter is time for construction projects.  Spring, summer, and fall are dedicated to crop production so there is, I am sure, no extra time or energy for other chores.    

Their lifestyle is fascinating and different from anyone I know.  I am cautious when snapping pictures to not catch a person's face, but it is difficult.  There seems to always be someone out in the yard or in the field as I am passing by.  It is never so when I drive through subdivisions.  There you only see people outside when they are mowing or getting into their cars.  Such different worlds.

Additional Links

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Turn Past the Tractor Mailbox

The directions I give to friends visiting my home include, "Turn past the tractor mailbox."   

Country folk nods their heads; city folk look at me puzzled and ask, "What is a tractor mailbox?"

I reply, "You'll see."

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Homemade Butter

Biscuits slathered in fresh butter, jelly from my grapevine, and my coffee is hidden under whipped cream.
I assume you were expecting to see a hand-crank butter churn.  NOT!  I love my work saving tools, especially my antique Kitchen Aid.  Making butter is quite easy and certainly worth all the hard work...done by my electric mixer.  

This pitcher is holding some of the cream from the seven gallons of milk we purchased fresh the previous day from the Amish.  Notice the pitcher has one rubber band around it as a sign to my family it is cream, not milk.

Inside the bowl, I poured three cups of cold cream right from the refrigerator. Normally I don't measure it, just dump, but for accuracy on this post, I am measuring this time.

Next, I turn the mixer up as high as it will go without splattering everything all over the walls.  It will turn into whipped cream before it turns into butter. Whipped cream, yum, so many delicious uses for this.

If you keep the mixer spinning on high, the cream will begin changing from whipped cream to butter.  You will need to be near enough to hear your mixer so you can listen for the change in the sound.  It will begin separating and will start splashing.  At this point, you need to slow the mixer speed down and begin watching as it separates.  If you leave the mixer on high, it will sling cream all over the walls, counter, and floor. Trust me on this.

With the mixer turned down to a slow speed, it will finish "churning" and become chunks of butter. Now it is finished and ready to be removed.  The total churn time was 20 minutes.

I strain it to separate the butter from the whey.  Notice there are two rubber bands on the pitcher as a warning to my family to think twice before drinking this.

Now comes the fun part, smashing it into butter balls. Without refrigeration, it would be necessary to use a butter press to remove any extra whey so the butter could be stored at room temperature.  This is not a concern for me since I can just throw the extra balls into the freezer and use them as needed.

These butter balls weighed 4 ounces altogether, a surprise for me since I thought they would weigh more for their size. Usually, I am in a hurry and don't bother pressing hard, just enough to hold together.   A butter press would push out the extra air bubbles and they would probably be smaller.  Just guessing. When I use the balls in a recipe, I melt them in a measuring cup to be sure get the correct measurement.

As I was searching the internet, I ran across websites which said you should have the cream at room temperature to make butter.  To see if I got a larger amount of butter by churning at room temperature, I did it again using warm cream.  The thermometer registers a temperature of 76 degrees.

It mixed up differently in the mixer and completely skipped the whipped cream stage and went straight to butter.

It was necessary to mix it at a slow speed because the warm cream was splattering out all over the counter. Putting a cloth over the mixer was an absolute necessity.

The cream separated into butter but it took thirty-five minutes to reach this point since the mixer had to go at a slower speed.

The consistency was different because it was warmer and melted.  It was hard to handle and stuck to my hands just like, well just like melted butter.  Sorry, no pictures, my hands were too greasy to touch the camera.

These are both batches sitting side by side.  On the left are the butter balls formed with the warm milk and on the right are the ones formed with the cold milk.  The ones on the left are smaller because so much of the butter stuck to my hands.  In my estimation, both produced the same amount of butter but I can't be exact because I did not weigh it.  I didn't expect the warm butter it to make such a big mess.  Lesson learned.

This pitcher contains all of the leftover whey from both batches. The whey can be used in recipes or drunk as skim milk (my husband calls it scum milk, hates it).  If you leave it out at room temperature overnight it will clabber and become buttermilk.  Really.  Just leave it out overnight, so simple. Who knew?  (Well me for one.  I didn't know until I asked my farm-raised Mom.)

WARNING:  DO NOT DO THIS WITH STORE BOUGHT MILK!  If you leave it out overnight, you will get sick.

Making butter from cream at room temperature is not something I will ever do again.  My plan is to continue using cold cream.  Not being able to scoop out some of the whipped cream for a cup of hot coffee is a tragedy. This is my special treat whenever I make butter:  to sit and drink coffee piled high with whipped cream while my mixer does all the work.

Just wondering, am I the only person on the internet who has trouble getting my family to wait patiently while I take pictures of their food?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Keep On Truckin'

Reese told me last week he was having problems with his truck.  A breakdown? A flat tire? A blown gasket? Leaking oil? Check Engine light on (post-it-notes over the light works)?

"What is the problem? I quickly asked.

"It is the handle on my windows.  I have to turn it to raise or lower the windows."  Reese replied.

"It is a MANUAL window.  That is how it is supposed to work."  I retorted.

"I don't like it.  I want power windows like your car." Reese said.

"I am not giving you my car. This is YOUR truck, YOUR problem. What are YOU going to do about it?  Do YOU have a plan to fix this 'problem'?"

"Yes, I do have a plan.  I was watching Youtube and they said...."

At this point, I stopped listening.  He kept talking but I did not hear a word he said until Bill and I arrived home later, and saw his truck torn apart like this in the backyard:

And this:

And this:

Oh dear. I decided to stop and really listen. So I asked, "What was your plan again?"

"I am playing epic music for entertainment while removing my manual windows and replacing them with electric.  Everyone on Youtube says the conversion will be easy,"  Reese assured me as he rolled his eyes.

"But those people are professional mechanics who have done this type of work before and know what they are doing.  You have never seen the inside of a truck door." I argued.

I know what I am doing. Don't doubt me.
"Oh yes, I have.  I found a truck like mine at a junkyard and took it apart into smaller pieces.  Now I know what to do."

"I bet those people at the junkyard were mad at you for breaking their truck,"  I chided.

"MOM.  It is a junkyard.  I did them a favor.  Now they won't have to take it apart."

Since I have never been to a junkyard, I could not argue.  I changed my tactics and asked, "How are you supposed to do this?"

"Well, first you are supposed to unplug the gizmo that is attached to the what-cha-ma-call-it...then you ...

...or do you unplug the doohickey under the thingamabob... then the door panel falls off...

Door panel. easy...."

Right door panel.
"I drafted Dustin to help with this project (college senior working on an Electrical Engineer Degree with a minor in math).  Surely he would be good for something,"  Reese mused.

If there was the possibility of an explosion or the chance I would get irritated, Dustin would instantly jump in.

Reese and Dustin unsuccessfully smiling at me.
About that time Bill decided to see what was blocking the driveway and why we could not park our car in the garage.

He walked up, look at the mayhem and all he said was, "Do you think you can ever get it back together?"

I did not hear the reply because I walked away pretending I did not see the chaos.

Bill inspecting the damage.
Reese showing me the "problem" window crank.
I guess you are wondering the outcome of my story.  Did my grease-monkey manage to assemble and repair everything?  Yes, except for the "nut" behind the wheel.

The nut behind the wheel.

Newly installed power window switch in the door panel.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The boys claim this is not how it really happened. I agree, my testimony would not hold up in court. However, they are welcome to provide a rebuttal and until they do, my fiction stands. This is my story and I am stickin' to it.

An Additional Truck Escapade:

Monday, December 26, 2016

Santa Brought Me an Armadillo!

Mrs. Monster in her armored vehicle.
And I bet you thought I was on Santa's naughty list.  Nope.  Mrs. Monster was on his list because of all the holes she has dug in my garden.  She arrived in her armored vehicle to seize the garden on Christmas Eve and was finally caught!  This is a little of what she did!  Shame. Shame. Shame.

We have been at war for months which began with this message Something Pretty, Something Putrid, and Something Pretty Putrid.  She did not learn from her husband's mistakes.  Oh, no, no.   MRS. MONSTER HAS RETURNED!!!!!!!  and kept misbehaving.

I knew she would be watching me in the mornings in the garden while I was hoeing dirt back into the holes she had dug during the night.  She was laughing at me while she perched on the fence post planning where to dig next.  

Sometimes she would hide in a tree thinking I did not know she was there, but I did.  I was not the only one to which she was mean. 

She would also sneak up into the deer stand and make fun of the deer while they were brushing their fur getting ready for their blog photo shoots and yell out - Shoot Me! I Dare You!

And when they least expected it, she would bound from her perch toward the deer startling them and mess up their fur so they would have to brush it all over again.  Mrs. Monster really was a monster.

She would be mean to Scooter, calling him names and making him cry.  He can't help it if he is scaredy-cat dog. He stuck out his tongue at her to show he was not afraid of her!  Now he is being naughty because of her!  My, my, my.  What are we to do?

"I promise to be good," Mrs. Monster lied.  "I will change and be more like the deer, grow antlers and everything."

No, Mrs. Monster.  You do not fool us with your lies.  We have sent you to the North Pole to stay!

LEGAL DISCLAIMER:  An armadillo was harmed severely in the making of this post.  Setting up a dead animal carcass all over the yard and taking pictures must be on the crazy list;  although, blogging about it might be even crazier.  I suppose city folk just don't understand country folk.  Can't say as I blame you.

Joking aside, it was a quick, humane kill.  Bill walked out to the far area of the yard in the middle of the night to make sure she died quickly.  No creature of God should suffer needlessly.