Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Little History

At the top of one of our pastures, just along the edge of the woods, sits an old piece of farm equipment.
 You could almost miss it walking by; it's almost sunk completely down into the earth.
I'm always pleased to see it, like an old friend, on occasions where I walk by.  I can't help but wonder about the farmer that used to perch on that metal seat, steering his horses.  What did he plant?  And where?  If only rusty farm equipment could talk!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cushaw Squash Bread Recipe

Cushaw squash makes an excellent pumpkin style bread.  My boys adore it.  And since Cort recently came up with an intolerance to pumpkin, it is a good alternative. 

2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups pureed cushaw squash
3 cups flour
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350*.  Mix together sugar and oil.  Add eggs and squash and mix well.  Add dry ingredients, mix.  Pour into greased and floured bread pans.  Bake 80 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Cool slightly before turning out.

Don't have a cushaw squash handy?  Try substituting pumpkin.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Why You Should Have an Emergency Car Kit

One of the things I worked on this summer was putting together an emergency car kit.  You may remember that time we got stranded on a mountain with no cell phone reception this past spring.  There have been other incidents too.  Like the time I had to drive home from Northern Virginia in a snowstorm (a drive that would normally take 4 hours and ended up taking 8) only to have to have a neighbor come pick me up by four wheeler to get me over the mountain.  And of course there have been times where the kids have needed spare clothes (from getting carsick or from jumping in a creek somewhere).  To be honest, I should've put together an emergency kit ages ago.

My car has a handy dandy secret compartment that can store all sorts of things.  I've filled it up with supplies. 
I have changes of clothes, rain ponchos, emergency blankets, flashlights with extra batteries, basic tools, paper towels and towels, water purifiers, snacks (look for shelf stable snacks like meal replacement survival bars and Vienna sausages that are well packaged - you don't want mice getting into your car - I have been there and done that, too).  I have firestarter and contact lenses and a spare pair of glasses.  I also keep a collapsible backpack in case we have to hike somewhere and carry supplies.  And then I have a lot of medical supplies.  Last summer Paul had a huge wipeout on his mountain bike.  He was bleeding all over the place and didn't have a single bandaid or bandage in his car.  So guess what he got for our wedding anniversary?  His own emergency car kit - next time he'll be able to bandage himself up (although I hope there isn't a next time, for his sake!).

When you put this together, consider the needs of your family.  If you're active, like us, you'll want things like sunscreen and bug spray and moleskin for blisters.  These are practical items you may use regularly (just remember to replace them for next time).  I also keep a six pack of bottled water.  I know that you aren't supposed to keep bottled water in a car because of BPA concerns, but in a situation where your car broke down and it was 90 degrees and you had to hike down a mountain, that bottled water will be very useful. 

Readers, do you keep some emergency supplies in your car? 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Spiced Pumpkin Hummus

I love to make my own hummus.  It's a healthy snack, and I have fun creating different flavors. The boys enjoy it, and it is lunchbox friendly. It also makes wonderful wraps!  Recently I whipped up a batch of spiced pumpkin hummus.  This came from a recipe in Cooking Light magazine.

1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 tbsp. tahini
2 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. salt
1 15 oz. can cannellini or other white beans (I used chickpeas), rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves

Place ingredients in food processor, process until smooth.  Serve with crackers, chips, or baby carrots.

Next time I want to try this using some blue hubbard squash!  Readers, do you have a favorite brand or flavor of hummus?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Growing Cushaw Squash

Last Spring I was listening to an organic gardening podcast and heard that the cushaw squash makes wonderful pumpkin pies, and, even better, is resistant to squash bugs.  You all know all about my squash bug woes by now.  I immediately ordered some seeds.  I planted just one.  Turns out, that was enough.  True to form, the 5 million squash bugs in my garden left it alone.

Here is one of my five cushaw squashes:
The cushaw squash wasn't as difficult to prep as the blue hubbard or a pumpkin would be.  It is much softer skinned.  I chopped it into big pieces and roasted it at 375 for 40 minutes.  Then I scooped out the flesh and any seeds I didn't get the first go round. 

From this one squash, I made a soup in the crockpot (we all concluded that butternut makes a better soup - the cushaw squash had a slightly tart taste in soup format).  I also made a couple of loaves of 'pumpkin' bread (recipe coming soon) and a really delicious pumpkin/apple hybrid pie, using apples from our tree.
The podcast I listened to said that all gardens in Appalachia used to grow cushaw, but for some reason people aren't growing them anymore, except as an ornamental gourd.  Which is a shame, as they have a wonderful flavor for sweets.  Readers, have you ever had a cushaw squash? 

Friday, September 18, 2015

What did Bo Find?

One day I heard Bo barking on the porch.  He is a bird dog through and through. The only time he isn't obsessing about birds, he's obsessing about ways to get on the school bus. But he doesn't usually bark on the porch.

I looked out the kitchen window.  It took me a second to see why he was barking.  I was so surprised!

She or he has a band.  So I guess this pigeon's homing instinct got a little derailed.  Eventually, it safely moved on to bigger and better places. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Foraging for Paw Paws

My only association with paw paws before now was the song about the paw paw patch my mom sang to me when I was little.  I didn't know what they looked like, or how they tasted.

But Paul and I have always been kind of interested in foraging, and lately we stepped up our game by watching some videos and reading some books on the subject (I may do a post on these resources in the future - some of them were excellent). 

Around our land, we have foraged things like wineberries, walnuts, acorns, persimmons, and morel mushrooms.  I have plans to try a few things with dandelion roots this fall, when they are prime for digging.

But Paul found out about a place where they have paw paws.  These are Virginia's largest native fruit.  You pick them once they fall off and start turning brown.  They taste kind of similar to a papaya. 

I was a little wary, since resources online said that some people are allergic.  So we each just tried a small amount.  Turns out no one had any issues.  And all of us liked the paw paws, except for Cort. 

Paul saved a bunch of the seeds to try to plant some on our property, down by the stream.  Apparently they like those sorts of areas, but can be a little hard to get the seeds started.  We will see - maybe we'll have some growing in the future.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Growing Blue Hubbard Squash

Last spring when I was browsing a garden center, I came across a blue hubbard squash start.  I wasn't sure what blue hubbard squash was, but seeing on the tag it was an heirloom, I decided to give it a shot.

The plant I brought home was kind of spindly looking, but as summer progressed it slowly started to take off.  Eventually, it had a bulbous green squash growing.  I had to google the plant to find out more.  Turns out you harvest when the vines start to die.  Well, I had no idea that this squash was going to be BIG by the time the vines died back.  It didn't turn blue until a few weeks before harvest time.

So you use the blue hubbard squash just like you would a pumpkin.  I weighed this squash (I actually got a couple from the plant I put in) and it was 20 lbs. 12 ounces.  It was a proud gardening moment. 

So what we did was hack into the squash with a butcher knife.  Inside, it is similar to pumpkin.  It smelled wonderful.  I scooped out the seeds, saving some for next year.  You can roast the seeds too, but we did not do this.  I cut a bunch of large 6 inch sized chunks, put them on a baking sheet, and baked them for an hour at 375*.

I let them cool and then scooped out the flesh into a mixer and pureed it.  It made a wonderfully smooth puree.  I put it into freezer bags in 2 cup portions, and immediately made a delicious pumpkin bread using blue hubbard squash puree instead of the pumpkin.  In all, I got 14 cups of squash puree for the freezer.  And an extra large helping of squash rind for my compost bin.  And I still have to harvest the other blue hubbards!  Win win!

I'll be planting this in the garden again for next year.

Readers, have you ever seen a blue hubbard?

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Little Stray

A few weeks ago I left early to head into town for a class I was teaching, and Paul got the boys on the bus.  While waiting for the bus, Cort found a little kitten in the brush.  A little orange kitten with no tail.  You know orange kittens are my FAVORITE.

When I got home and went out to wait for the bus to drop the boys off, the kitten was still there.  He was friendly, and covered in fleas.  I treated him for the fleas and gave him some dewormer.  Then I put him in quarantine from our other cats until I could get him to the vet.

Bobby checked out all clear at the vet, received his vaccines, and is scheduled to be neutered in a few days.  He is about 13 weeks old.  He is a good natured little kitten, which is excellent since when my boys are home, he has no time to himself.  He is toted about and involved in various complicated games like cat ball and how high can you leap to catch the stuffed frog.  He is also very accomplished at giving kisses (see below).
It's good to have a kitten in the house again.  It sure has a way of lifting spirits. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Nine Psychology Documentaries I Love

Since 2008, I've been teaching psychology classes as an adjunct off and on at a local university.  It's a job that I adore.  I love everything about psychology.  I enjoy reading psych, listening to psych podcasts, and of course, watching psych movies. 

I know I've had some readers over the years who also enjoy psychology, so I thought I'd share some documentaries that have relevance in the field of psychology, but also teach great information.
1.  Babies - this film follows four babies in four completely different cultures.  It's cute and charming and funny.  Bottom line:  regardless of what privileges a kid has their first year, they all develop in the same way.

2.  Crazy, Sexy Cancer - Kris Carr is one of the most inspiring health gurus I know.  She has such a dynamic personality that you will be completely wrapped up in watching this documentary about her fight with cancer.

3.  The Lobotomist - this is a little gory, so viewer be wary.  However, it shows how far we've come in mental health treatments.

4.  Secrets of the Wild Child - this is a great documentary for both human development and the development of language.  A tragic story of Jeanie, who was unsocialized for years due to child abuse.  Once discovered, she fell into the hands of science, and continued to deal with adversity.  This film will remind you of why ethics are so important in research.

5.  Thin.  This film goes into a therapeutic eating disorder community in Florida, and follows several women throughout their treatment.  You will see how difficult it is for those with eating disorders to embrace a healthier life.

6.  Brain Games - this is a fun one.  It will make you ponder the way your brain works with new appreciation.

7.  Coma - follow four individuals as they struggle to recover from comas.  This will show you more about how the brain works, how fragile it is, and also how it can regenerate and recover.

8.  Happy Valley - A look at addiction to over the counter drugs in the state of Utah, with human interest stories along the way.

9.  Sunset Story - this documentary falls under the category of the human lifespan.  Follow two spunky political activists in their 90s as they deal with the last stages of life. 

There you have it!  Have you seen any of these?  If so, what did you think?  Do you have any recommendations for documentaries not on my list?

Maybe in the future, I'll do another one of these with some of my favorite fictional films that deal with psychology.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Sorghum Cookies and Apples Apples Apples

You may remember me blogging about the loss of our apple tree from a storm.  We have lost two now.  It makes me sad, because they were planted many years ago - long before our time.  However, we still have one lone tree left.  And it had a fantastic apple crop this year.

We decided to use every apple we could, while we had them.  Over the weekend, the boys helped Paul pick.  I canned 30+ pints of applesauce and 12 half pints of apple butter (plus earlier in the week I had canned a batch of applesauce and some apple pie filling).  Then the remainder of the apples we put through the dehydrator (the boys just love dehydrated apples as a snack).

Practically free food, but it certainly is a lot of work!  My back was all cramped up after a long day of peeling, mushing, stirring.  I have to say, though, applesauce from the store is all watery and lame.  But the home-canned applesauce is excellent in flavor, and I make mine chunky with lots of cinnamon rather than pureed.

Over the same weekend, in between batches of applesauce, I made some sorghum cookies.  I had read an article in the newspaper about old school Appalachian recipes (like cushaw pie - which I will be making later this season when I harvest my cushaw squash).  Included in the article were sorghum cookies.  I had never had one.

Luckily, my blogging friend Harry Flashman was kind enough to send me a jar of sorghum syrup to try.  I decided I could just modify a recipe I had already tried and enjoyed.  So I modified this recipe for molasses cookies and substituted in sorghum for the molasses.

Let me tell you something - these are so good!  They are really flavorful, and chewy and soft.  I will certainly be making more. 

Readers, have you been canning anything lately?  If not, ever tried sorghum cookies?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Little Creatures

When we were up on the huge battleship in North Carolina back in June, we could see all these little white dots moving around in the mud (we also saw an alligator down there!).  If you look at them here, they kind of look like little white stones.
I couldn't figure out what the little white dots were.  So I used my camera to zoom on in.
What I was seeing in white were the claws of these little crabs.  The brown blended in with the mud from a distance.

Who says cameras are just for taking pictures?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

TMNT in the Grocery Store, and a Question for Other Rural Living Bloggers

I remember when Pierce used to go out all the time in costume.  I can recall writing a blog post about a trip to the zoo, where he was dressed as Buzz Lightyear.  Now he's embarrassed by his brothers, who are only too happy to head out in public dressed in costume.
It's kind of sad how fast they grow up.  I wish they'd always be small enough to be excited to go out in costume.  But it seems they outgrow that tendency.

The twins had so much fun that day with all the attention they received from customers and the grocery store employees.  They boys are funny, regardless.

Recently Cort came up to me and said, "Mom!  I figured out why boys don't have long hair!".  I said, "Why, Cort?"  He replied, "Their body is saving it up to make mustaches when they grow up!"

The other day Pierce was looking something up in the dictionary/thesaurus.  Reid was walking by and exclaimed, "Thesaurus!!  What kind of dinosaur is that?!  I want to read about it!"

On a side note, I have a question for other bloggers, particularly bloggers who write about farming, sustainability, homesteading, or related topics.  Would any of you be interested in a closed community on FB for open discussion?  I have searched for something similar, but the only one I found was by a blogger who just posted her own posts all the time, and didn't involve much interaction with members.  I wanted more of a community feel.  If there are others who are interested, I thought I might start one.

Okay, just one more thing today.  I have a guest post about boys in dance that you can read on The Soccer Moms Blog.