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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day dear friends!  Can you believe that we have already reached the end of May?  It seems that you wait for spring to arrive and it feels like it will never get here, then one day, ta-da! it's Spring!

Tomorrow is Memorial Day here in the States and I want to take this opportunity to thank all who are serving or have served.  On Memorial Day, my thoughts always go to my father, who served in World War II.  He never talked of his time in the war except to jokingly recall of the incident when his ship was torpedoed and he volunteered to don diving equipment and go down in the deep ocean waters to weld a make-do repair back on.  He always joked that he was the only one too stupid (his words, not mine) to know any better.  It wasn't until after he died that I discovered all the heroic things he did in the war.  Lately, I've been pondering what he would think of all the goings-on that have been happening lately.  I have a feeling I'd be bailing him out of jail a lot. Ha!  Makes me sort of glad that he's not here to see what a mess we've made of of the freedoms he fought so valiantly to defend.  But mostly, I think of all the things I'd like to share with him.  I know he'd love our little cottage and would be thrilled to be able to go fishing with Ran.  Whenever he visited I was always sure to bake him something special.  He could eat half  of one of my pies in one sitting!  I learned to bake at an early age and one of my duties was to bake goodies for his lunch pail. So in his honor, I made a strawberry-rhubarb pie.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

1 C. sugar
1/4 C. flour
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
3 eggs, beaten
2 C. strawberries, sliced
2. C. rhubarb, diced
1 9" pie shell 
1/2 C. flour
1/4 C. sugar
1/3 C. butter, softened

Combine first four ingredients.  Fold in the strawberries and rhubarb. Put into the pie shell.
Combine the streusel ingredients until crumbly.  Sprinkle over top.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes then turn down the oven to 350 degrees and bake an additional 40 minutes. 

This year everyone decided that the like rhubarb, so I'm making sure to can some up.  

How to Can Rhubarb

Wash stalks and cut into 1/2" pieces. removing any strings or tough pieces (young springtime stalks are the best) In a large pot add 1/2 C sugar for every quart of rhubarb.  Let stand covered, until juice appears. Heat gently to boiling.  Immediately pack into hot jars. leaving a 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles.  Wipe rims and adjust lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for pints or quarts

We are also beginning to harvest the first of our asparagus.  Here's a quick recipe for a simple  little casserole:

Asparagus Casserole

1 1.2 lb. fresh asparagus, boiled until tender
1/4 C. butter
1C. cracker crumbs (we like our homemade ones made from cauliflower flour)
1/2 C. toasted almonds (optional but good)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (or 1C, of the white sauce, I write frequently about)
4 rashers bacon, fried and crumbled

Combine butter and cracker crumbs.  Pat half into a 8 inch buttered pan. Combine almonds, asparagus, and the soup. Pour over the cracker crust.  Sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top, then sprinkle the bacon over that.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.


Memorial Day weekend is when we plant our garden.  It's slow going this year because the back  plots are very wet.  We are hoping and praying that the potatoes that we planted earlier in the season are not rotting in the ground. Such is the trials of a gardener!  That's why it's important to reserve some of your canned goods for the next season, you just never know when a crop will fail.  It looks like our poor peach tree didn't survive the winter.  It was such a dependable little tree, it certainly lived up to its name "Reliance",  it's going to be sad to cut it down.  I'm glad I  canned so many peach preserves last year!  

While Ran is busy putting in the vegetable garden, I've been busy getting the flowerbeds weeded.  Sometimes I regret the folly of planting so many flowers.  If I had to do it all over again, I think I'd just plant huge banks of tiger lilies, but oh well! I have the flowers now, so weeding will just be part of my life until, I'm too old to do it. On the other hand, one of the most enjoyable garden tasks is planning  the urns plantings.  This year I found some unusual plants called "toothache plant".  Some might think that are rather ugly ducklings but they reminded me of the flowers in crewel embroidery.
And you can see from this picture, I love my crewel embroidery!
Sorry about the dark picture, it's just a foggy, pussy-willow-gray kind of a day today.

Finding Time

After a very long winter,  it seems that springtime arrives and so do so many chores.  It's easy for all those little things that need to be done fall by the wayside. I've found that if you make a list and just make an effort to cross three of them off each day, things don't pile up.  For me one of the "chores" this week was to defrost and can all the bacon that was in the freezer.  Canning bacon is one of those "guerilla " methods of canning that isn't "Ball Blue Book approved", but something I've been doing for years, so I won't explain how to do it.  When I pulled all the bacon out, I told Ran that now we had room for all the fish he will catch, "so get out there and catch some".  It was less than an hour later that our neighbor, Ed, dropped off several pounds of frozen cod that came from his sister's restaurant. She has been closed down because of you-know-what and needed to get rid of stuff before it goes bad.  The Lord works in mysterious ways! He also gave us several dozen eggs.  What a blessing to have nice neighbors!

I also use the checking-off-the- list method for cleaning up the pantry.  Each week I take five ingredients that are unusual (why did I buy that?) and are reaching their expiration date and challenge myself to use them up.  It results in some strange meals sometimes, but we also discover a lot of new and fun flavors.  Keeps things interesting. Since I had just purchased a couple dozen eggs before Ed gave us several more, I tried pickling them this week.  The guys love them!  Who knew?

This is also the time of the year that we take our remaining onions and dehydrate them.  We never waste anything and I hate buying onions.  We use this dried onions from May until September, when we harvest our next crop.  I also fill in with chives, Egyptian Walking onions,  and spring's green onions.  We also dried all our  remaining garlic and ground it into garlic powder.  What a smelly undertaking that is!

Well, I guess I've rambled on here long enough.  I hope that you all have a lovely weekend ahead and  again, thank you veterans and those serving presently.  So that's it for another week at the old Zempel boarding house!


Thursday, May 21, 2020

But for the Grace of God, Go I

I suppose by now most of you have heard of the dams breaking and the flooding in Midland and Sanford Michigan.  Please keep those folks in your prayers.  All four of my sons were born there, we had our first home there and started out life there.  In 1986 we went through a one-hundred year flood while living there.  I remember that it was such a stressful time.  I was heavily pregnant with my son Jamie and I remember the hospital parking lot at the delivery room being flooded and a guy in a row boat paddling past.   I also remember feeling all alone, as though the rest of the world was out enjoying themselves, not even giving our sufferings a second thought.  So my heart goes out to all that lost homes or have just lost hope. 
 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 43:2

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Anyone Can Learn to be Thrifty

Hello dear friends!  I hope you are enjoying this Mother's Day.  Here's a bouquet of daffodils for you!
Ran is making me a gluten-free pizza in honor of the day.  To be honest, I don't much care for these sort of holidays and would just as soon ignore it completely, but I'll take pizza any day!
I'm not a fan of "special" days designated to honor people. Every day should be a day to honor those you love, just as every day should be a day of thanksgiving, a reminder of the resurrection and His birth.   And that is all I'm going to say on the subject


Many people say to me that I am lucky to have been born with thrifty parents to learn from, this is the furthest thing from the truth.  My parents, having been young during the Great Depression, wanted nothing to do with thrift in their adulthood.  They spent their money as soon as the got it.  My mother bought new furniture for the living room every two years, my dad bought a new car probably every three years.  I remember that  my mother always redecorated her bathroom every season and would throw out all the towels and buy new ones in a seasonal color scheme.  Even as a small child I thought that was a bit wasteful.  When my father died, he was in debt.  So, no, I didn't learn about being thrifty from my parents.  But for some reason, even as a small child, I could see that this way of spending was not the way I wanted to live.  Some day perhaps I will tell you the story of when I was a child (maybe five or six) the Holy Spirit ?, my inner conscience?, my gut?, whatever it was, pulled my ear and said "pay attention"  upon seeing a TV program that was made about serious subjects that would be considered too disturbing for children. Anyway, from that day forward I was fascinated by how people lived through hard times.  When my friends were reading Misty and Flikka and dreaming of ponies and living in castles with a prince, I was reading the Moffats, Little House on the Prairie and other titles I have long forgotten, taking note of the meals (potato pancakes and applesauce) the ways they made do, the ways the entertained themselves without  toys, etc.  I was a weird little kid! I eventually graduated to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Diary of Anne Frank and autobiographies  and biographies of people in poverty,  Then moved on to history books.  

Although my father wasn't thrifty by a long shot, he did love history and I spent many an hour listening to him discuss world events with his friends, relating them to past history.  One of the subjects that made my ears prick up was when he discussed the inflation in Germany after the first world war.  I also had an amazing history teacher in high school, Mrs. Peck, who has lived through many of the major historical events in history, including both world wars, the depression and  the dust bowl.  She didn't  teach the class from our textbooks, she would just get up in front of the class and start telling us stories of her life.  For her, it wasn't important to memorize dates and facts, it was important to learn the causes of events.  That is why I am so passionate (some say too passionate) about what is happening in the world today.  I've seen this cycle in history before and the outcome is not good. Bless Mrs. Peck!  

I'd say I have a PHD in thrift, having studied it  for over half a century. And you can too.  I once heard an interview of a president (I think it was Truman) say that the best way to learn history is by reading the biographies and journals of those that have lived it.  And the best way to learn thrift is by reading and listening to those that have lived through difficult times. We live in a wonderful age, when you can go to YouTube and find old interviews of depression era people. There's wonderful programs like BBC's The War Farm and Tales of the Green Valley.  Watch them and take notes.  Use YouTube for some good instead of for entertainment. You can even learn how to sew and can from some of the videos. Talk to the old folks,  in these days of not valuing our elderly,  which is shameful, you will find a font of wisdom. One of my biggest regrets is that I hadn't paid more attention to the stories an old family friend, Jack Ransom, told of his life at the turn of the last century in Cross Village Michigan.  He lived among  Native Americans and learned many of their herbal remedies. How I wish I had written them down! 

And never stop learning.  We've been watching old episodes of The Amazing Race, and I garnered some tidbits from the Babushkas in Russia this week about how they plant their potatoes that I might implement this week, depending upon our horrible weather.  Just like a magpie, gather a bit of knowledge there and bit here, discard the useless and build up your own treasure of wisdom.


With so much to be done, and so much of it had to be done manually, you'd think people were scurrying around like squirrels in a peanut field back in the pre-industrialization , but no, people took time to enjoy what they had, a lesson I have discovered recently.  I'm sewing a vest, but not being able to avail myself of a fabric store,  I'm learning to make-do and many ways.  I'll write more about it when the project is finished, but the entire time I've been working on the vest, I keep thinking about how the pioneer women didn't have a lot of things and sewing a dress or a blouse was an exciting event for them.  They didn't rush through the project to get it over with but took time to enjoy the process as it was a rare occasion. How they lovingly cut the pieces of their patchwork quilts from the fabric scraps, thinking of the warmth it would give a loved one in the cold, taking their time to construct them as material became available. So many of the hobbies we do are done in a hurry; quilt in a day, weekend knits, no-rise bread, etc. .  I love to knit and people are always asking me "aren't you finished yet? ".  But I only like to knit when I want to knit, seldom am I happy with a project that must be finished on a deadline.  Taking time to do a proper job, something you will be proud to put your name to, may be an old-fashioned conceit, but what joy it is to make something well-crafted. We have too many things. We have too many cheaply made things.  Enjoying  fine craftsmanship is one of the lessons from the past.

The other lesson from the past I've been thinking about this week is " eat what you grow, grow what you eat". It's been a cold spring so far, we had snow on Friday and Saturday, so we are taking our good old time about getting our plants started.  We are expanding our garden so we've had many discussions about what should be planted.  One of the main lessons you  must learn when you garden is to only grow things that you eat.  No use taking up valuable garden space to grow  radishes or eggplant if you only care to eat those once a year. (I'm talking to myself here).  And the other part is to use what you grow.  One of the first things I planted when we bought Sweet Briar Cottage  was two rhubarb plants.  I love rhubarb, not for the flavor, but because it makes you feel like a "real" gardener to see those big beautiful plants pushing themselves up through the snow in March.  But to be honest, two bushes of rhubarb is a lot of rhubarb.  I hate wasting it, but most of my neighbors do not know what  to do with it and it makes me shudder, every time I see it going to waste.  So this year I'm making a concerted effort to use as much of it as I can.  So far I've made stewed rhubarb (now there's something old-fashioned) that we stir into yogurt and oatmeal, canned eight pints of strawberry-rhubarb pie filling (from last year's frozen strawberries)
This will be used to make jam tarts throughout the winter.  I don't really need to make any jams or jellies this year, but perhaps I'll make some and just push eggs and toast for meals.  I also made this Rhubarb Custard Pie:
It's not the prettiest, because I don't have  red stalked rhubarb, but pale greenish ones.  I've often thought of digging up those plants and planting the prettier, redder  plants, however, these plants have been faithful throughout droughts and bitter cold, so I feel they should be rewarded by allowing them to have a long life.  Here's the recipe if you want it (trust me it's tastier than it looks)

Rhubarb Custard Pie

3 C. diced rhubarb
1/2 C. sugar 
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 egg
1/2 C, cane or corn syrup
1 tbsp. butter, softened
1 pie crust

Put the rhubarb into the pie crust.  Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl.  Add the egg and beat well.  stir in the cane syrup and the egg.  Beat well.  Pour over the rhubarb.  Bake at 450  degrees for 15 minutes.  Turn down the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 40m  minutes or until the rhubarb is tender.

A note on recipes:

I keep a binder with all of my garden recipes.  I start with the first fruits of the season. rhubarb and asparagus. and  continue on as things ripen in the garden, ending with squash and pumpkin recipes.  This makes it easy for me to come up with ideas for whatever is being harvested.  I just merely have to turn to that section and I have an entire collection of ideas for uses for the said fruit or vegetable. Keeping your own recipe books are so important.  Can't tell you how many times I have turned to an old "receipt" book that I made during our lean years.  As a matter of fact, one of our sayings around here when the budget is tight is to say "time to return to the old receipt book". 

Well, that's all for this week at the old Zempel boarding house!  I hope you all have the loveliest week ahead! Oh!  Before I go, I wanted to tell you that I've been enjoying this blog, A Word Fitly Spoken ... Proverbs  25:1.  It is filled with lovely words of encouragement.  Thought you might enjoy it.


Monday, May 4, 2020

Foraging and Weekly Happenings

Hello dear friends!  How are you this lovely Spring day?  We had a few days of warm(er) weather so I've been enjoying some outdoor activities.  It was so nice to go outside without having to put on my big bulky, my name for my down-filled winter coat.  Rejoice in the little things! It was warm enough for the dandelions to pop out.


Dandelions must be the easiest to recognize and most abundant food to forage that ever existed.  When foraging, make sure to pick only in areas you know that haven't been sprayed with herbicides or fertilizers or where pets like to do their business.  This year we tried something different, dandelion fritters:

They were quite good, although a little piddley to make"

Dandelion Fritters

1/2 C, flour
1/2 C. cornmeal
1 tsp. your favorite seasoning (we used Cajun)
1 egg
2 tbsp. milk
the heads of clean dandelions

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl.  Whip together the egg and milk. dip the heads in the egg mixture then into the flour/cornmeal mixture.  Fry in hot oil until the coating is browned.  Salt and pepper to taste.

We also had dandelion salad with this using some of the dandelion leaves and some of our lettuce that we are growing in our cold frames:

This recipe is just your basic wilted lettuce salad but with dandelion leaves in lieu of lettuce, you can use spinach too.

Wilted Lettuce

a few rashers of bacon
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tsp. sugar

Fry the bacon until crisp. Drain off all but a tablespoon of the bacon grease.  Add the vinegar and sugar to the frying pan along with the bacon grease.  Stir until  the sugar is dissolved.  Put the lettuce into the hot frying pan and spoon the grease over the top, until the lettuce begins to wilt,  Sprinkle the bacon over top.  Serve immediately.

This was a doubly foraged meal for us as the vinegar I used was made from some foraged crab  apples.  Spring is a wonderful time to forage.  We went out morel mushroom hunting Sunday afternoon, or as we call it "a nice stroll in the woods". We rarely find any.  And when I think of the grocery bags full that we used to pick as children. Ah! The good old days!

There's also lambs quarters and purslane to be found at this time of the year. And our friend Jason told us his young son made dandelion chips (like kale chips).  Pretty clever!  Caleb is parsimonious person in training. You're never going to hear me complain about free food.  It's like money  in the bank!


Ran and Jamie swept our chimney.  That saves us about $150 and a lot of frustration, because dealing with independent small business people around here, particularly in anything that is home-related is like banging your head against the wall a lot of  the time.  Anyway,  somehow, the chimney brush came off  midway up the chimney.  Thoughts of how embarrassing it was going to be to call the chimney sweep  to have him retrieve the brush quickly popped into my head.  So I was standing there fretting , when Ran turned to me and said "You standing there worrying isn't helping anything." Ha!  So true!  How many times have I stayed up all night worrying about things, only to have nothing come of the problem?  How many times has what I worried about came to fruition only to discover that I could handle it and it wasn't nearly as bad as I had imagined?  And yes, it is true, worrying never helped anything. So whatever situation you are going through right now, don't worry, instead put on your thinking cap and come up with a solution.

I've had many discussion with family and friends over the past few weeks about what may or may not happen to the economy.  Some experts say we'll be in the next depression soon, others say we'll bounce back. Some say there will be food shortages, some say not.  I don't know and I'm through trying to make any predictions.  But I do know that putting aside some things has never hurt anyone.  Remember when everyone was predicting a major catastrophe for Y2K?  I didn't really believe the hype, but I bought a big bag of pinto beans, just in case.  Nothing ever happened, but we used the beans anyway.  It certainly didn't hurt.  And that's the beauty of prepping, if nothing comes of whatever the headlines of the day are, you still can use the food.  So to that end, when I went grocery shopping this week, I took notice that there was very little meat on stock at Aldis and what they had they were limiting to two packages a person., so I went to a smaller independent grocer and purchased some pork and canned it up.  I also noticed that  our Mennonite butcher's (he raises, butchers, and sell his own meat) parking lot was full.  Usually, we are the only people in his store. Let's just say he doesn't normally do such high volume business. All this to say in my long-winded way, "what would it hurt?" to stock up a little?

We order our firewood this past week.  Our local supplier is a very nice  man and always quickly fills our order and is very generous.  We order 10 cords but he always brings between 13-15 cords.  And never charges extra! As a matter of fact, he gave us a discount because we are loyal customers.  Makes a person happy to support a small businessman like that.  If only they all could be so dependable!   So Ran and Jamie spent the week splitting and stacking wood.  Ran splits wood, with an axe ( no log splitter for him), like he was thirty years old.  All this fresh garden produce must be doing his body good, because he'll turn 63 in a couple of weeks.  My thirty-something year old son, says Ran can run circles around him. Just goes to show you, that yes, good organic produce and plenty of it, plus regular exercise keeps you young.  We never think about our age, occasionally we will overhear someone state theirs and we'll look at each other and say, "That old person over there, is younger than us!" Ha!  We never realized that we had gotten old, been too busy I guess.  So anyway, we are ready for winter, although spring has barely arrived.  Up here we only have two seasons, winter and getting ready for winter.  Tonight it is supposed to snow. Ugh! But I guess it just makes the warm days sweeter. And I hope that you have a sweet days ahead of you!