Friday, October 8, 2010

Let's Go to the Pumpkin Farm!

Can't talk today -- we're all off to the pumpkin farm.  It's an annual family outing -- perhaps my favorite of the year.  Last year, I took y'all along . . . so here's what we did and what we will be doing again!  (We're creatures of habit.)

(From 10/15/09)  Okay, go get yourself a cuppa . . . we're going on a field trip!

Every fall, our family piles in the van and sets off in search of our own great pumpkin.  We go miles.  It takes us all day.  It is an event. It just wouldn't suit our family to head to the nearest grocery store -- or even the nearest pumpkin farm -- to get our Halloween pumpkins and fall decorations.  No.  We must travel far and wide.

We always make it into an adventure -- bringing food and snacks and drinks.  The kids usually bring along a companion of the toy variety, usually a stuffed animal or doll of some sort.  And we try and go on weekday when the other schools are in session, but ours is not.  It makes it much more fun to think of the fun we're having while others are in school, you know.

So we set out early Monday morning for our fall adventure.  We stopped at a local market on our way out of town.  They have an old-fashioned candy section second to none.  There are the old bushel barrels full of individually wrapped candies -- everything from rootbeer barrels to the old-fashioned cough drops in the striped wrappers.  There are also the modern candies and the campy kid candy, etc.  The seasonal candy is the most fun.  Have you seen those seasonal boxes of Dots?  "Blood Orange" flavored Bats.  There are also Candy Corn striped Dots.  And light green Ghost Dots.  Who knew?    We just had to get the gummy chicken feet!  We each also picked our favorites and moved on . . .

(My son chose those little wax bottles with the sweet syrup inside.  Remember those?  I didn't realize, though, until later, that he thought one ate the whole thing.  He was a bit disappointed when we tutored him on biting the "top" off and drinking the liquid and discarding the rest.  Such a waste to him.  Remember that lesson?)

Anyway, we continued on and finally reached our first pumpkin farm and pie stand.  I took several pictures of the place, but somehow missed the camera wrist strap hanging right in front of the lens!

Well, you get the idea.  See the size of those pumpkins?

This is an Amish farm and pie stand.  This year, they had the most incredible pumpkins.  Huge!  And wonderful varieties.  Not one of these would be found in the typical grocery store.  Unfortunately, unlike the pumpkins, the pies have declined.  I suspect they are under new ownership -- more focus on farming, less on baking.  Oh well, that'll be better for my waistline.

We bought two huge pumpkins and one smaller white pumpkin here.  We had to use a wheelbarrow to get them to the van, one at a time.  I couldn't lift one for even a moment.  Hugest pumpkins we've ever bought -- and for the price we usually pay for the typical pumpkins.  Wow!

I had to laugh at this scene in the parking lot:

 Man's Work!  It was all fun and games picking out the behemoth pumpkins; the work came in getting them in the vans!

And we "grin and buy it."  Corn shocks, I mean.

We know, full well, that the farmers must laugh at the city kids that actually pay for these, but I can't help it, I don't have a corn field out my back door and they look pretty by the front door this time of year.

Then off we went to the next destination.  This is a wonderful place that really defies description.  Picture an elderly couple with the energy of kids.  They have a salvage, woodworking, petting farm kind of place.  It is charming, yet a tad curmudgeonly, all at the same time.  We were treated to this sign as we parked:


But then you turn around, and you see this beautiful, wonderful, amazing barn, all painted by the same hands that made that sign:

I wish I could post a larger image of it. (Hey, I just realized you can click on it to see it larger!  If you do, notice the bike in front covered in dried grapevines and lights . . . 'tis one of the things we bought!  And wouldn't that rusty bed make a great garden feature . . . "flowerbed?!")  This barn is at least 30' high and all handpainted.  It is a mural of himself and his wife and their dog.  That is them at the top, childhood sweethearts, sitting under a tree next to a wagon.  There they are at the lower right in modern day, they must be in their 80s.  The window on the top left is real; the window on the top right is painted.  Something, eh?

You could wander around in this and another barn for hours, but then there are the grounds which hold any and everything.  He has salvaged vintage windows stacked up side by side, like books on a shelf, by the hundreds.  Clawfoot bathtubs leaning in a row, probably 15 or so.  I didn't think to get a picture of these things as they really become part of the landscape after you become accustomed to this place.

If you wander around long enough, you'll come upon this fella:

He's friendly enough as long as you don't come inside his gate.  He turns all around so you can see how fancy he is.  He really is beautiful.  He has a missus, but she's quite shy.  He says not a word until you turn your back to walk away.  

So we wandered and wandered and ended up buying a couple of things for which we already had no room in the van.  We'll have to make another trip back either this weekend or next.  I'm sure you can imagine, I'm not too sad about that!

Up the road a couple of miles, we finally come to our pumpkin farm.  It is a little family farm that has been in the current owner's family for generations.  She and her husband and children grow so many varieties of pumpkins and gourds, it boggles the mind. 

That's her on the right, in the apron:  the maiden of the gourd.

There were pumpkins, literally, everywhere!

We spent a lot of time choosing the pumpkins we bought.  Everyone got one plain-ish pumpkin to make a jack-o-lantern and then we branched out into the decorative and useful ones as well.

I sought the maiden's advice on which variety would be best for pumpkin butter.  I plan to try my hand at that this fall.  The kids love it in their oatmeal and it is oh-so nutritious.  Stay tuned for that wild ride.

As they day came to an end, we packed everything in and headed home.


Now, to get them arranged and, later, carved -- it's been raining since just about the moment we arrived back home!

P.S.  Anyone who has read this far deserves a treat.  Go here  to carve your own virtual pumpkin -- and you can make and print the stencil so you can bring it to life.  (Those of you in lands devoid of Halloween festivities . . . you know you've always wanted to make a jack-o-lantern.  G'won!)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Carrot Cake Jam

I heard from a dear old friend of mine today.

She said she'd been thinking of me, because she has pears, ripe pears . . . lots of ripe pears.

See, a few years ago, I gave her a recipe for Carrot Cake Jam . . . and it's that good.

Give it a try:

(By the way . . . as to the music . . . sorry, I couldn't resist!  Who remembers this little gem?  Oh, the good ole days!  I remember rollerskating to this -- strobe light, disco ball, the whole thing . . . :)

Carrot Cake Jam

1 ½ c. finely grated peeled carrots
1 ½ c. chopped cored peeled pears
1 ¾ c. canned pineapple, including juice
3 TB lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
1 pkg (1.75 oz) regular powdered fruit pectin
6 ½ c. sugar

Prepare canner jars and lids.

In large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine carrots, pears, pineapple, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  Bring to boil over high heat, stirring frequently. 

Reduce heat, cover, and boil gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Remove from heat and whisk in pectin until dissolved.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. 

Add sugar all at once and return to full rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. 

Remove from heat and skim off foam.

Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot jam. 

Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. 

Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store. 

(Makes approx. 4 cups.)

This, slathered on a warm bagel along with a bit of cream cheese . . . yum!


Hi C!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday Wit

I myself have 12 hats, 

and each one represents a different personality.
Why just be yourself? 

(Margaret Atwood)  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Warm Chicken

It particularly touches my heart when people find it in their own hearts to care for the very least of us:  the animals.

Some of the animals most in need of help are the battery hens. The ones who have probably made your breakfast a time or two . . . or twenty.  

A battery hen is a hen that has been kept in a large egg-production factory farm all her life.  Their quarters are so tight and the conditions are so poor for these poor dears, they are often deprived of darkness (and therefore valuable rest) and even room to move.  And once these hens fail to produce eggs at their maximum rate, they are typically destroyed.  Quite a sad little life. 

The good news is, there are incredible human beings out there who rescue and rehome these hens.

Little Hen Rescue in the U.K. is one such collection of awesome human beings.

They take these hens from the battery farms and organize to find new, happy homes for them.

If you have it in your heart, you might consider adopting a few ex-battery hens.  How rewarding it must be to watch them roam free in the sunshine for the very first time. 

Perhaps you would like to help in another way, .  The way I have chosen to help in the past is to knit up some little hen jumpers.  That's right, chicken sweaters!  It's not as silly as it sounds.  Most ex-battery hens suffer from some degree of featherlessness.  When they are removed from their tight conditions, they are bald and cold -- having become accustomed to sharing the body heat of their neighboring hens.  While they regrow their feathers, they are helped by wearing a little sweater to help keep warm and secure.

Now how cute is that . . . 

If you're interested, you can find patterns for knitters and seamstresses here.  Just whip one up and send it to the address they have listed on their page.  I bet you can't make just one!

Decency and good deeds abound . . . if you only look for them.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Scattered Smiles

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity.

These are but trifles, to be sure;

But scattered about along life's pathway, 

the good they do is inconceivable.  ~ Joseph Addison

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I Re-Dedicate This Blog

Okay, so I'm back.

I've been gone.

I've been hurting.

My family has gone through some changes, and my daughter is not living with us.

It is what is best for her.

As for us, it has been a time of heartbreak as well as a time of relief.

I have a few dear friends -- and you know who you are -- who have been so loving and so supportive.  I truly do not know where I would be at this moment without them.

And there have been some disappointments.

Many people are unhappy with this change.

Many people have judged us harshly.

My son has lost not only a sister, but he has lost some of his extended family.

This hurts me beyond words.

So it has been a time of primal sadness,

and of deepest gratitude.

I see more clearly than ever whom I can count on, who loves me, and what love truly feels like.

I am here to testify to the importance of small gestures.

A note, a smile, a tender word, an understanding pause when there is nothing to say.

More valuable than gold.

It can save a life.

So as I find my way through this dark time in my life, I re-purpose this blog.

I now dedicate this blog to help soothe the souls of the walking wounded.

This will be a place, hopefully, of uplift, of reassurance, of kindness, of tenderness, a refuge.

I dedicate myself to finding, noticing, and sharing the kindnesses in life, the tender mercies, the light.

It seems to me, we could all use more of that just now.

So please bear with me as I find my new way.  I will not be talking so much about myself as I process and heal.  It is not for any other reason other than that where I am right now defies words, mine anyway.

I will be working to make this blog a provocation for more kindness and more tenderness and support in the world.

I want you to leave this blog happier than you came.  If not happier, perhaps more reassured or perhaps more content or perhaps just a bit more soothed and loved.

I have heard it said that you receive what you give . . . I know not where, perhaps in my own heart . . . so I send this blog out . . . setting such notion, sentiment, and intent in motion, free to find its way to those who need and, admittedly, in hopes of lifting up myself as well. 

I bid you peace, comfort, and friendship.


The fact that I can plant a seed 
and it becomes a flower,

share a bit of knowledge 
and it becomes another's,

smile at someone 
and receive a smile in return . . .

those, to me, are continual spiritual exercises.

~ Leo Buscaglia

Friday, October 1, 2010


The very best thing about blogging is the opportunity it provides to meet new people, people you would never ever have the opportunity to meet otherwise.

It never stops being a thrill to me to think that I have had conversations with people on the other side of this planet as well as people just down the road, all of whom I would have never otherwise met.

One of the most intense, concentrated, focused, and fun ways to meet new bloggers is to participate in Blogtoberfest.  Anyone can join in.  All you have to do is go to TinnieGirl's blog and add your link.  By submitting your link, you agree to post a new post each and every day in October (or the days that remain in October -- you can join late).  Then, you also do your best to visit as many participant's as possible.

It's like a world-wide block party!

Pull up a lawn chair!
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