Saturday, October 12, 2013

ESU Homecoming 2013

Homecoming! I haven't been to Emporia State's homecoming in several years. Maybe I made it in 2006 when we first moved home, but I can't remember. Carol Bishop, my college roommate, and her sister Carla didn't let me forget this year. Far in advance we made plans to meet for Homecoming, take in the Oktoberfest on Friday night and the Homecoming Musical on Saturday.

I took granddaughter Lala with me. She wasn't sure how she would feel about hanging out with Aunts Carol and Carla as well as Grandma. She'd be the only teen there. (horrors!)  However, a promise of Chinese food at her favorite restaurant before the play clinched the deal. She was coming.

The musical was a tribute to the music of the 50s with an Elvis look-alike (I kept thinking about the Fonz) helping and hindering the love lives of a small Texas town. Lala was enchanted!

We four made a pact that we will all get together next year to take in the Homecoming musical together. Lala is all for it. Hanging out with Grandma and her friends is Cool!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Aunt Erma's Dinner Rolls

My Mom was the youngest of three sisters. This is my favorite photo of the three of them. You can feel the love, just looking at it. Aunt Erma (left) and Aunt Myrna (right) each had her specialty. 

When Mom and Dad married the older sisters wanted to share with their baby sister the most important one thing in their kitchens, the one thing each sister could not live without. Myrna, the gardener, who wasn't really interested in cooking, gave Mom the 1944 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook. It was her cooking bible. (The book, by the way is still in print. It's now called the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.) Erma, the cook, gave Mom a cast-iron Dutch skillet (i.e. chicken fryer). Mom said both of those presents stood her in good stead through her 55 years of marriage. (And yes, I still have both the cookbook and the skillet. I hope to pass them along to my daughter and granddaughter someday. Iris)

Aunt Erma’s dinner rolls have been a family favorite for years. I used the recipe recently to make a harvest loaf. It was delicious! I share it here for others to enjoy.

Aunt Erma's Dinner Rolls

Yield: 3 ½ dozen rolls

1 cake (2 ½ tsp.) active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water (not more than 120o F.)
6 Tbs. sugar
1 cup milk
1 ½ tsp. salt
6 Tbs. shortening
1 egg
6 cups unbleached flour (approx.)

Soften yeast in water with sugar. Let work until yeast is bubbly. Set aside.

Scald milk with shortening and salt. Cool to 120F. Add 1 cup flour. Beat thoroughly. Add egg and yeast. Beat well. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough. (I stirred in the rest of the 6 cups of flour, then sprinkled more flour into the bowl, stirring it in, until the dough was not sticky and could be kneaded.)  Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and satiny (about 10 minutes).

Place in oiled bowl and let rise in warm place until doubled. Knead down. Shape rolls and let rise until doubled again. Bake at 425o F. 15-20 minutes.

Harvest Loaf
Divide dough into 1/3s.  Shape first 1/3 into round loaf and place in the center of greased baking pan. (ungreased baking stone). Divide second third into six parts. Roll ropes about ½” thick from each piece. Take three sections about 12” long and braid them. Place around left side of round loaf. Repeat for right side. Roll one section of rope into ¼” thick rope. Divide into three parts and place stems for wheat onto round loaf. Roll another ¼” rope. Divide into threes and braid. Separate three pieces to become wheat heads. Place on stems. Roll a round of dough (about the size of a small dinner roll) into a flat. With sharp knife, cut a grape leaf shape. Place over the join of the two braids at the bottom of the loaf. Shape several small balls of dough. Place over grape leaf in roughly triangular shape to form bunch of grapes. Roll one last thin rope to form grape stem. Place at top of bunch of grapes. Use leftover dough for rolls.

Brush top of loaf with beaten egg white. Place aluminum foil around edges to keep them from browning too fast. Bake at 425o F. 10 minutes. Check darkness. Remove foil if loaf appears about half-way cooked. Bake another 10 minutes. If bread is browned to suit you, knock on the loaf to see if it sounds hollow. If it does, it is done.

This doesn't take as long to bake as a regular loaf of bread but may take longer than rolls. Watch it closely after the 10 minute mark because it will get done quickly.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Give a Woman Power Tools and She'll Take Over the World

I am so proud of my daughter, Jen, and I. Look what we made! A soil amendments bin from pallets may seem pretty basic to you, but for me it was a thrill. We made this by ourselves without any input from Dad, Son, Brother, Husband or Boyfriend.

We started with scrap lumber salvaged from the remodel of the front porch and pallets from the local farmer's co-op. I grabbed Dad's old camping hatchet and sharpened points on some of the planks. We pounded them into the ground to help support the first pallets until the first U-shaped section was completed. As soon as we had two pallets touching, we anchored them together with six-inch screws, then moved to the next section. 

The hardest part of the entire operation was probably swinging the hatchet and the 3-pound mini-sledge. We used some muscles that will be talking to us tomorrow! (Maybe if I built more bins, I'd have my arms in shape for summer. :) )  

We developed a rhythm in our work. I'd sharpen stakes; Jen would pound them in. When my hatchet arm gave out, I switched to screwing sections together with my brand-new cordless drill. (I'm such a Tool-Time Mama!)  Jen announced, "Give a woman power tools and she'll take over the world!"

Before you knew it, the four section bin was done. Lonesome dropped in to give us his seal of approval.  The four sections will be used to house working compost, finished compost, sand and topsoil. By bedtime, I had two of the sections filling.

After finishing this project, I weeded the circle bed. The bin on the left now has two wheel-barrow loads of henbit composting away. Feeling tidy, I grabbed a spade and moved the finished compost pile into the right bin. Three wheel-barrow loads of nice compost! That's probably the most compost I've made yet! (Maybe I've finally figured this thing out...) 

I've had a wire-framed compost bin that I brought with us from Texas. I usually fill it with kitchen waste and garden waste. It took most of 2012 to fill it last year, but I finally declared it ready to rest last fall and moved the wire frame to a new location.  Thanks to all the henbit, the second location is now ready to "close" as I start spot #3 in the pallet bin. I don't know if it was time or all the snow, but the oldest bed composted beautifully over the winter. I can't wait for location #2 to finish and add to the mix. 

It's so exciting to have all this lovely soil improvement stuff -- and free, too! I can already see my clay soil breaking up as it gets more plant matter worked into it. Look how self-sufficient we are becoming. Look how independent we were today making that bin ourselves. After this, what can hold us back??

I agree with Jen: Give a Woman Power Tools and She'll Take Over the World!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Gardening is Better Than a Gym Membership

 I have been working in the yard daily for the past four or five days. Reaching, lifting, stretching, bending, digging. I'm out there four to seven hours each day, never working hard but always in motion. (Okay, digging holes can reach "working hard.")

I've noticed that I feel better. There is a new spring in my step and greater flexibility. I go to bed tired and I sleep well. There must be something to this fresh air and sunshine thing! :)

I know my boys enjoy having me outside. Randall, the gray tuxedo cat, is always with me. If I'm not careful, he will wrap himself around my feet and trip me. His favorite thing, however, is to lay down right where I'm pulling weeds, roll on his back and then to demand a belly rub. Who can resist that?

Loki, the black tuxedo kitten, is far too busy to do more than pass by as I weed raised beds. He bounces by, does a nose-nose with Randall, and is off again.  Lonesome, my orange and white boy, likes to be around, but not too close to Randall. Whenever they get within hissing distance, they start jockeying for Top Cat.

Sigh. I do hope they get it out of their system.

Today's project was to finish the strawberry bed and start the allium bed. I shredded four brown paper sacks of paper and newsprint last night to make this much mulch. A fifth bag could have been put to good use, but I need to shred more first. Cyprus mulch is prettier. I might buy some bags of it later on, but the good thing about paper is it is biodegradable and doing this keeps it out of a landfill.

Viola! The allium bed. The yellow onions and elephant garlic wintered over nicely. I've cleared the rest of the squares. My daughter Jen loves red onions, so I planted three squares of onions for her. After that I moved the chives from another bed to their new home. I broke up the root mass and turned one big clump into six smaller clusters. I hope they like having toe room!

There are 12 squares available in this bed, so the chives and green onions from the house now live here, too. Next I want to find some leeks to grow. If there is room, I may start a square of Egyptian bunching onions. (Not sure about that one.)

Over the winter I've has a small pot of chives inside. I also did the recycled garden trick with green onions. What is the recycled garden trick? That's where you save the roots from a plant -- in this case green onions -- and replant them as soon as you have used the plant for cooking. I had lettuce, regular onions, and green onions growing. Only the green onions made it. I think the cats were helping me water the lettuce. (I wonder why it didn't survive?)

There was something about that lettuce tub on the floor that attracted all the animals. Brooklyn hid her bone in that bucket, too!


 My yard has been taken over by henbit!  

Every spring, the old garden is full of henbit. It creeps in from the vacant house next door and takes over. Seen from a distance as you whiz down a country road, those perky little pinkish-purple flowers covering a farmer's fallow field can be enchanting. Having them in your raised beds and walks is a different story.

My landscape architect friend was telling me that the real time to fight henbit is in the fall when it's seeding. Too late for that right now, so I have to do it manually.  Plan A is to do a raised bed a day until I have it under control. Plan B is to try to curb it's growth with wheat straw mulch in my walkways. I've never seen anyone mulch walkways with straw. You see photos of cypress mulch or other bark, even gravel walks. Why not straw? The worst that can happen is I'll seed a bit of wheat to fight for growing room with the henbit. Wheat is a grass. I can mow it.

Today was the day. I grabbed gloves, wheelbarrow, a bucket and some tools and tackled the first bed. It was pretty bad. The henbit was so thick there was no clue what rested in that bed -- or if it had survived the winter.

The good thing about henbit is it has shallow roots and pulls easily. The ground is still moist and works easily, too, so I could grab handsful of the stuff and dump it into the tub. When the tub got full, I could empty it into the wheelbarrow and keep on going. I just had to watch out for the plants that belonged in the bed and not disturb them in my righteous frenzy to get rid of the hateful henbit.

Surprise! This is the strawberry bed!

It was a full afternoon project clearing this 4-12' bed. I completely filled the wheelbarrow with my gleanings. Ah! compost!!

I love strawberries. I've worked hard to keep this bed alive. A few years ago I had three 4' square beds of strawberries that were going crazy. I had strawberries to give away and my brother was happy to come pick his own. (He loves them as much as I do.) Then the first drought hit. I salvaged five plants. Last spring, I made this new bed. I added close to 40 more plants and trenched and watered and babied them through another drought. It wasn't enough. Only 1/3 of those survived. I haven't decided if I will add new plants to the bed this year, or encourage these plants to make daughters. 

These are Ozark Beauties. I can usually find plants locally to fill in the bed, but none of the places I've been have offered them yet. They have other strawberry varieties, but no Ozark Beauties. It may be mail order time again...

Saturday, April 06, 2013


When I started this blog, it was to document the remodeling we were doing as we made our mark on the home I inherited from my parents. That started in 2006. It is now 2013 and a lot of the work has been done. Not all. I still have three or four rooms that need to have cosmetic work (mostly tape, bed, texture and paint.) After all that has been done, that seems pretty minor. 

I will be documenting those changes as they occur. I hope to have most of them finished by this time next year as long as money and child labor holds out. (Hm... is it still child labor when the baby is 34 years old? She's my child...)

In the mean time, the content of this blog has changed to be more of a record of small town living. I tell you about my gardening and canning. I mention the critters or things the family has done. 

So -- I'm changing the name from Bungalow Blues to Bungalow Blues and Country Delights. That should cover just about everything I talk about here. 

Friday, April 05, 2013

Spring! Time to Play in the Dirt!

I can't wait for the snow to melt and the ground to warm so I can get outside to play! I couch potato all winter, but the minute it is warm enough to be outside, I go out in the morning and find things to do all day. This time of the year, it isn't hard to diet. I'm active and not thinking of food... and not near the kitchen! :)

It is hard to remember that we has snow for Palm Sunday. The weather is beautiful now. Jen has been doing Spring Cleaning on the lean-to of the garage. (You go, Girl! I'm getting out of your way!) and I have been digging holes and planting/moving trees and bushes all over the yard. Last fall I purchased a lot of tired arbor vitae trees at Home Depot when they went on clearance. I didn't expect all of them to survive, but the price was low enough, I could give it a go. About half of them made it. One of the first things I did was "police the line" moving out dead trees and shifting live ones to fill gaps.  

This is the year for grapevines. I like Concord grape jelly and Thompson seedless raisins. Lala just likes grapes. With that sort of encouragement, I have planted five Concord and five Thompson seedless vines on the west side of the old garden. They are two-year vines. I don't know how long it will be before they will be producing, but I'm ready! (Hm... where was that book on raising grapes?)  

For the last two or three years I have been working toward planting a living fence along the north and west property lines. The arbor vitae that I mentioned earlier have filled a large part of that need along the northern line. I was suffering from the need to make all my plantings the same. In my head I was remembering the 100 ft. long spirea hedge that stood there when I was a kid. It had been my job to trim that hedge every summer that I lived at home. As soon as I went to college, Dad pulled out the hedge... Grr. I liked that hedge.

When I was talking about my vision for my yard with a friend who is a landscape designer, he said I am going for a "cottage garden". These are by definition eclectic and random in their placement. I can -- and should! -- mix plants. He helped me plant the Washington Hawthorne, Crepe Myrtle, Flowering Dogwoods, and more that I got from the National Arbor Day Foundation  They are in the line where I had started my lilac bushes. (Okay, he did say these one-foot high plants would take forever to grow and I should always buy the largest tree or bush I could afford so I could see my efforts sooner...) 

Thanks to his work and all the new plants, my western property line is also complete. I just have to wait how many years to see the bushes/ trees big enough to bloom? :) I think I see his point. If you look very closely at the photo of the grapevines, you will see metal stakes along the line of the ditch. They mark the lilacs and other plantings in the "fence row". There is also an arbor vitae showing at the end of a grape row. It's now been moved to one of those gaps I mentioned.

When Joe rebuilt the front porch last fall, I was afraid the Blaze Climber that has always been on the west side would get damaged. To save it, we shifted it to the east yard. It stands now in the company of the two rosa rugosa that I purchased at Arnold's Nursery last fall.  One of the first things I did when the weather improved was to haul the trellis that used to support the rose bush  and stand it up as a wall behind the climber. Now I have to decide if I want to add two more trellis panels to make a fence, or if putting something tall, like Pampas grass, on either side would give it a finished look. Hm... both ideas have merit.  But if I made a fence, I could have an arbor crossing the rock walk. That would really get into the cottage feel... Hm... (wheels turning...)

In the mean time, the trellis and rose bushes have acquired company. I finally ran the wheels off Joe's little red wagon. My folks gave him that wagon for his first Christmas in 1976. I don't know why the attach points would rust out and let the back wheels collapse. It's only been 37 years!  I just couldn't trash that red wagon, so I filled it with dirt and a few of those durable daffodils from the compost pile, and then parked it near the Blaze Climber. Jen found one of their old Tonka trucks in the lean-to, so I've put dirt and more daffodils in the dump truck bed and added it to the display. They look pretty chipper out there.  One of the neighbor kids was riding down the street today and he hollered at me to say he liked the toys in my yard. 

You Can't Keep a Good Bulb Down

Last spring my big push was to move the bulbs from Mom's old flower beds. They were root bound and I didn't want so many in that location. I dug and dug, and moved and moved, and scratched my head and found more places to plant things. Eventually, that last wheelbarrow of bulbs dried out and appeared dead because I had no places left to put them. I threw them in the compost pile.

Surprise! Guess what is coming up in the compost pile?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Can't Wait to Get Outside

 That was a fast snow! We had about 8-10 inches of snow for Palm Sunday, and here it is Easter Sunday and it has nearly all melted. Because we have had so much melt water from all the recent snow, the ditch on the west side of the place is backing up and threatening to flood the garden. As usual.

The  problem with that area is the land is too flat and the neighbor's culvert is a bit crushed. The two problems don't let water flow through the culvert very well, hence it backs up in my yard. Jen got the wild hare that we should muck it out. 

Lala found Dad's old hip waders in the garage. She  pulled them on and I handed her a shovel. As soon as Jen showed her the water, she was a bit cowed. What do I do now? It didn't take our Pisces long to figure it out. She started movingthe dirt out of the culvert as far in as her shovel could go. Jen, being a Virgo, chose the dry side, but she mucked her culvert as well. I'm a Virgo, too, but I got my feet a bit wet channeling the water below Jen's spot. 

We did get the water flowing a bit faster. I don't think it makes a big lot of difference, but it was a good excuse to be outside. Lala didn't even mind that the water was cold and the waders leaked.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Our First Quilt

 Lala's 14th birthday is March 16. Jen found a pattern for a quilt that she knew Lala would love, but the question was how could we make it without Lala knowing it would be hers? (Never mind that none of us had ever made quilt before. We can read, can't we?) Jen acquired a mysterious buyer for a quilt on her Etsy Store. This buyer had a teen-aged daughter who would get the quilt, so, of course, Lala was our expert on what a teen would like.

Jen had her help select the fabric. When it was cut, Lala (who has a great eye for color) was the one to place the strips before I pieced them for the top. She was also intimately involved in every stage of the quilt making, from cutting of the fabric to putting the final quilt together. All along, she thought she was helping Mom prepare the quilt for a sale.

 My serger was a Godsend for this project. I was the seamstress while Jen engineered the pattern and the cutting. I sat up in my living room and serged like crazy!

This became quite a project.  Even though Jen and Lala live across town with her boyfriend, they spent several overnights here while we had marathon quilting days. We roped the boyfriend into figuring out how to put together the quilting frame that my folks had stashed in the garage loft. None of us had any clue how the thing should look when finished. There were no pictures or boxes, just a bunch of boards with no screws. Neither Jen nor I could help Steve because we were doing our parts of quilt making. He surfed the Internet for photos of quilt frames, scratched his head a lot, and stood the the challenge. I salute you, Steve Barnes! You did a great job reconstructing the quilting frame.

The last week was planned to be leisurely. Put the border around the top, add the applique and tie the quilt as a comforter. Yeah. Right. You know how that goes. Life is what happens after you make other plans. I wasn't available much of the week at all. My car died and was cooling it's wheels in a parking lot in Burlington. I was scrambling to either fix it or replace it. Jen and Lala were on their own with the quilt and Jen had never run my serger.

It came down to Lala's birthday. The quilt was together, but not tied. Lala's friends came at noon for a birthday party. Jen gathered the girls in a back room and told them our secret and our problem. Abby, Sabrina and Angela were troopers! The girls put a DVD in the player, turned the TV toward the quilting frame and had at it. By the time the movie was over, the comforter was tied!

The official birthday supper was at HuHot in Topeka. Sabrina and Angela were able to go with us. You can't believe Lala's face when Jen handed her the quilt! "No, this isn't mine. It's for that chick on Etsy..." was the first thing she said.

Her mother had to assure her it was hers and made with love by family and friends. Lala just grabbed it and hugged it.

Plant Potatoes by St. Patrick's Day

Dad always said you should have your potatoes in the ground by St. Patrick's Day. Mine aren't quite "in the ground", but I did put them out today.  I planted three cages of Yukon Gold potatoes. The ground under the cages was dug to one-shovel deep, raked to remove clods, then the cage was set down and the soil leveled a bit. (The cages sit on the break of a slope.)  I probably planted more potatoes per cage than I should have, but I've had trouble getting potatoes to grow. It will be lovely if I have to thin them! 

The potatoes are spaced in a ring around the outside of the cage, then straw was placed on top of them. When they grow up through the straw, I'll layer more dirt on top and another round of straw. If this goes like the places I've been reading on Pinterest, I'll be able to reach under the straw and pick potatoes the way I pick tomatoes. 

Wow! I'm, excited. I hope it works! (And I have enough tomato cages left for at least some of the  plants that are growing under the grow light.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

It Takes So Little To Make Mom Happy

When March got here, I was stuffing seeds into potting mix. I have three kinds of tomatoes, watermelon, luffa gourds, birdhouse gourds, mugwort, motherwort, lavender, catnip, Thunbergia vine (in the dishpan), summer savory, broccoli, basil, parsley, and more in the little seeding trays. I am keeping a running list of what I plant on the "blackboard" that I painted on the doors of an old metal cupboard.

The red tub on the floor is our "reclaimed" lettuce. Jen bought three "living lettuce" that still had the roots attached. After we cut off the leaves for eating, I stuck the roots in dirt. The first one planted is already putting out tiny new leaves. The next two will be added as they are eaten.

I had been getting by with two small 2-foot grow lights, but they didn't really reach all the plants. Today my son came by and rigged the four-foot light you can see in the top of the photo. It lights the top shelves beautifully. The 2-foot units have been suspended via twine from the center shelves of the little book cases. They are lighting the bottom shelves. I plugged everything into a surge protector. One switch at night, and all the plants go to bed.

And yes, the bare insulation showing tells the tale that my remodeling project is still in (slow) progress. I want to finish the sheet rock in this room after the grow lights come down.

It doesn't matter. I'm having fun with my plants. The house will get done when the house gets done.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Gardening Season Has Officially Begun

 It's February. We have close to three feet of snow outside. Snow! Lovely snow! It has been unseasonably warm most of the winter. I'm so glad to see the moisture!! Granddaughter Lala was too busy working on her home schooling to get out in the weather, but three of the neighbor kids borrowed my sled and had a good time dragging it and falling down in the snow.

Inside, I've got the urge to garden. I've been reading Month by Month Gardening in Kansas. Mid-February was the time to plant broccoli. Mine was dutifully started on February 13th, under a grow light.  I will be adding more plants around the first of March.