Sunday, December 14, 2008

Slip Sliding Away

In October this year we acknowledged the 20th anniversary of moving into our home after seven months of living in Rhinelander while waiting for this home to be built. The house has been wonderful for these two swiftly moving and incredibly happenstancical decades. But we were contemplating a new roof for the house because we had heard such nice things about metal roofs - ie - 1. The snow slides off them instead of piling up and forming ice dams under the shingles. Each winter Bing has had to shovel heavy snow off the roof to avoid the dreaded ice dams that cause leaks in the ceilings of homes. Since we're already midway through our sixties, we're thinking it might be good to eliminate that yearly chore. 2. They last for over fifty years instead of the twenty or thirty that shingles last.

3. Bing goes up on the roof a couple of times per winter to clean the chimney of our woodburner and we thought it might be safer for him to walk on a snow free roof. 4. We have a couple of sons who goodheartedly agreed to help put the new roof on the house and Tony has a brother-in-law, Rick, who happens to have owned and operated his own roofing company for the last several years and he also agreed to work with Bing and the sons. So, in October, it all came together. For about four twelve hour days, the four strong and brave workers worked like the devil under Rick's able supervision. Rick and Tony did the "up on the roof " work and Bing and Bernie did the ground work. The weather coooperated beautifully. I helped watch Eli so that Carmen wouldn't have too many kids at the day care and I fed the workers. Everything went really well and they came out with exactly the right amount of metal ordered and a price for the completed job that was only half of what it would have cost for a hired company to do it. We've had quite a bit of snow and cold already this winter and Bing and I have been waiting for the snow to slide off. It just seemed to be staying up there and accumulating. Then today the temperature got up to 38 and the avalanches began. The temp is supposed to go down to -11 tonight so I hope all the snow comes down and we can begin again with a clean slate, that really isn't slate. The pictures show the snow free roof and the roof today as part of the snow has descended. Maybe Santa's preliminary workers are in charge of cleaning roofs before the old guy gets going and they'll just keep enough snow up there for the landing of the sleigh.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Change Happens

Change is happening here in our niche of this world. The golds and bronzes and oranges are covered with a light dusting of sparkly white. The water of the lake is now smooth hard ice. Thanks to Bing's morning bird feedings, we have daily visitors - Chickadees, Blue Jays, Cardinals and even a huge Pileated Woodpecker. The Deer gun season is in full swing and the deer are winning - not so many killed yet. I made myself a blaze orange vest this year and I can safely walk our property. I take a broom along to sweep the fluff of snow off the stepping stones and stairs of my meandering paths. If there were onlookers, they probably would try to get a peek of whether or not I take off on the broom. If brooms could fly, wouldn't that be fun. Every morning I love to walk and think and pray. I wish everyone would have the luxury of connecting with nature on a regular basis. What a difference that would make in our nation's health. Not so much need for medicines and tranquilizers and a decrease in anger and rage.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Some Forgotten Crops

The 2008 gardening is over and I thought of four more crops that I forgot to count. Here they are, numbers 36, 37, 38 and 39. Acorn squash - dark green and shaped like an acorn - Bing makes his own because I've never liked the texture of winter squash or sweet potatoes. He cuts it in half, pokes holes in the skin and microwaves it cut side down. When fork tender, he adds butter and maple syrup and says it's great. Zucchini - dark green and shaped like a club - you probably know its reputation as a most prolific producer but we usually only have one or two plants so we're not overwhelmed with them. I usually grate it and freeze it in cup sized portions for use in zucchini bread. Leeks - first time crop and they're still out in the front garden - hope we'll get to them before they're iced Leeks. Grapes - just as with our other fruit crops this summer, the grape harvest was pretty sparse - there will be enough for a couple of batches of grape jelly. They're in the freezer now and waiting for a jam session. All in all, the garden was awesome and so deserving of our attention. It keeps us healthy with its need for attention - we crawl and weed and hoe and till, we pick and freeze and can and store. It keeps us healthy with its vitamin rich greens and roots and bulbs and fruits. Thanks God for creating this symbiotic relationship of man with nature. We applaud your creativity and marvel at the amazing process of seed turning to food. Every year, Bing and I think we're getting better and better at keeping a fine garden - just think how good we'll be when we're in our nineties!.

The pictures attached show some Fall pictures here at our home - but they're already outdated because now the earth is covered with light snow. Ice is on the channel and the boats are in the shed - can winter be far off? Oops! The rutabaga picture slipped in there by mistake and I don't know how to delete it! But I do love rutabagas and this Fall we found out it's an Irish veggie so I like it even more.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Crops 33,34, & 34 Some Root Crops

We put the garden to bed already but I never mentioned these three yummy and dependable foods. The pictures show carrots and rutabagas in our garage root closet and some pickled beets in a jar. Bing built the root closet several years ago and it extends the life of our roots, cabbages, potatoes, onions, apples and dahlia bulbs. There is a thermometer in there and when the temp gets near 32, we plug in a light bulb that was installed in there. The heat from the bulb keeps the closet from freezing and the food at a good cool storage temp.

Monday, October 27, 2008

"Weep No More, Milady"

Our massive Weeping Willow met its demise two weeks ago. It's fronds, (nice word, eh?), were hanging over the electric power line and causing power outages and burnt fronds. The men from Asplundh, a tree cutting firm that contracts with the local power company, came to the rescue and quickly and efficiently put the tree down - something like putting an animal down but not quite as sad. Those fellows really know their work and have excellent tools to get the job done. Their occupation would probably provide lots of chills and thrills on a reality show and it was fun to watch how they felled the mighty wooden weeper. The willow was on the edge of the yard and hillside and they had two very flexible cranes with buckets where the lumberjacks wielded their electric saws. Two men on the ground deftly gathered the fallen branches and fed them into two chippers that then fed a dump truck with the willow chips. The cutters of course had to watch out for the power lines and the grounded men. Everything went well and even though that tree was beautiful, it really did make a mess with late falling leaves in the Fall and loads of broken branches littering the yard and hillside. So, we salute the life of that faithful tree but kind of hail its loss. Is that a conundrum?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Well, Hello Dahlia

A few years ago our neighbor, Jim Hoha, offered us some Dahlia bulbs. He said he was overloaded with them. We took several and planted them. Wow, the flowers they produced were a beautiful dark red and the way their petals came together was so perfectly engineered. They took extra care because you had to dig up the bulbs after a freeze and store them in a cool dark place for the winter, then replant them in the spring. But they are definitely worth the work and they seem to perfectly represent the old biblical saying that there is a season for every purpose under Heaven. Their season is summer and their purpose is to bring joy and delight to all who behold them. The pictures show The living Dahlia, the bulbs dug up from just 15 plants and the carting away of the exhausted plants. Long live the Dahlia!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crop # 32 Apples

Fall brings one of the tastiest and dependable harvests. Bing picked the apples from only one of our apple trees - the one behind the garage - You'll see in the picture that he got four huge sacks of apples from that one tree. They are medium size, tasty and juicy. We used to call them Cortland but now we think they are McIntosh. He'll pick from the other trees pretty soon. Yum, yum.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Double Digits for Jamie

Another happy day in September was the day we helped commemorate the tenth birthday of grandson, Jamie. Jamie is and has been a wonderful blessing in our lives. We've known him well from the day of his birth and have seen him advance in wisdom and knowledge. He's a ready participant in any activity we have to offer and always looking for fun. In the picture is his dad, Bernie and Jamie's 3 year old cousin, Eli. Jamie is always kind and protective of Eli and Eli in turn is real happy to have a big cousin to idolize.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Von Krautmaster

See the German twinkle in Bing's eye. He has been the saurkraut maker here for the last several years. I used to try but it would always turn moldy on me. I think it's definitely in his German genes and not my Irish ones. But I love eating kraut in spite of my heritage. Here's how he did it during this last month. He used our Kitchen Aid grater attachment to grate eighty pounds of cabbage. For every five pounds of cabbage, he sprinkled not quite three tablespoons of canning salt. He packed it tightly in two big crocks and very sanitarily tightly covered it. We keep the crocks in the kitchen and let them ferment. Very soon it will be done and I'll help him heat it up and water bath it. It's really good - light colored and not too salty or too sour. MMMMMM! Also, if the Bird Flu epidemic comes around, we're going to eat lots of it because it's supposed to ward off the flu.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Catchup Time

Wow, September 8th was my last posting. I think I'm going to turn over a new leaf and just post short entries with one or two pictures so that keeping up with the blog doesn't seem like a burden. That way people don't have to keep checking to see if there is an entry and then getting nothing new for a month. I'll try to give you an idea of this past month. The two pictures for today will just let you know that the 2008 garden is mostly history now. A killing frost came on October 2nd. The root crops are still in ground and broccoli, bok choy and kale keep going through the first few freezes. This frost was two weeks later than normal up here so we're grateful for the extra tomatoes, peppers, beans and cukes. The pix show the frost on the pumpkins and the main garden. There is a season for every purpose under Heaven and this seems to be the season for garden stopping.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Crops 28, 29, 30 and #31 and Musings

I've got lots of pictures attached so I won't need many words - One easy crop and crop 28, is Dill. We use it in our crunchy dill pickles and my friend and sister-in-law, Marianne, taught me that the furry little green things on the stalk are dill weed so I quickly cut some off, put it in the dehydrator and bottled the lovely green herb for use in our dill dip recipe. Crop 29 is cauliflower. I love it raw or steamed. The heads came along a little late this year but they are pudgy and beautiful. It's a member of the cabbage family and so very good for you. Crop 30 is one of our most prolific - pickling cucumbers. A lot of them go to our local food pantry because we can't use them all. We eat a lot of deli style dill pickles and what we call "cukes". Crop 31 is one of my very favorite foods - the tomato. We aren't too good at growing tomatoes but the ones that make it are delicious. We try every way we can to combat the disease in our ground that wilts our tomato plants. We try all different varieties but never have gotten a true abundance of the lovely orbs. The picture with the tomato plants shows how the plant turns brown and dies after yielding some nice tomatoes. We'll try again next year. And speaking of next year, we got a grim reminder yesterday that winter is not too far off up here in the land of the snowball. We were watching my favorite new team, The New York Jets, and it started to pour and then hail. Bing took a picture that nicely juxtaposes the summer swing and the winter foreboding. The other two pictures show our latest bonanza - an unlimited amount of wood chips - wow - I've always coveted wood chips for spreading between flowers and impeding the dastardly weeds that poke their noses wherever they please. I've never considered buying them because one would just need too many to make it fiscally feasible. But, hooray and halleluia for my enterprising and sociable husband. Our neighbor down the hill who hails from Rockford, Illinois whenever he can make it up here, had a professional tree cutter remove some trees that were threatening his house and they left the wood and a humongous pile of wood chips down next to his driveway. Bing offered the use of our wood splitter so that Ron could split some of the wood for campfires and then Ron offered wood and chips to us. Oh Boy, I took our handy ATV and our faitful hauling wagon and started "chipping" away at the pile today. It'll take me several more days to gather and spread them all but I love it and foresee so much less weeding in the future.

The flower picture shows where the chips have been spread and how nice they look.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Birthday Eve

Bing is at his last league golfing of the year and that tells me that the summer is on the wane. It got down to 34 degrees last night too and that's a real good sign that the summer days have to now be cherished and hugged and enjoyed to the max because there are few of them left in this year of 2008. Tomorrow is Bing's sixty sixth birthday and I am so happy to have known him for forty four of those years. A song we sing in church comes to mind when I think of the wonder of our love that has blossomed and grown over those years. I don't know the title of it but it says: "I have loved him with an everlasting love, I have loved him and he is mine. I have loved him with an everlasting love, I have loved him and he is mine." When I think back to my early days, I can hardly believe that such a handsome prince came into my life. I really thought I was called by God to be a nun so I entered the convent . But in the convent, I heard, as clear as a bell, nope, this is not for you. so out I slipped just as the Mother Superior instructed me. Tell none of the other candidates and leave while they were busy. But, holy cow, now what? In my naivete, I supposed that I must then be made for marriage. I acquired a holy card somehow that had a prayer on the back and it was a prayer for a good husband. I was a daily Mass goer in those years and I would always recite that prayer at Mass.. Our fire of '88 destroyed all our old artifacts so I don't know exactly what it said but it was asking God to send me a husband who had the traits of Jesus. For seven years I said that prayer and what a fine answer to a prayer - my Bing! Happy happy birthday, Bing and now I've been asking God for many many more decades of happy healthy years together.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Crop 27 - Peppers

The pepper crop is doing well. Bing planted the seeds last February so they got a good start in the sun filled living room. After the last frost they were moved outside. Most of them are five or six inches long and we have enough to let some stay on the vine and turn red. We only grow the mild sweet Bell peppers. They are so nice and crunchy right off the vine.

I'm just throwing in a picture of some of the flowers on the hillside. Flowers are such a nice gift from our God - they sing flower songs of praise as they sway with the Earth's vibrations. If you stand amid a flower patch, close your eyes and listen very carefully and you'll hear the tiny chorus.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Crops 24, 25 and 26 - Fruits that Failed

Three of our favorite foods failed to produce this summer. The cherries, raspberries and blueberries just provided a few fruits each. We think it's just a bad season for the cherry trees and the blueberry bushes because their new and old growth looks lush and healthy but the raspberry bushes have to go. They are spindly and tiny and just a shadow of their former selves. We started them about twenty five years ago and at their peak I was picking five quarts per day. This year we didn't even get a pint so we're going to rip them out, try to remove the quackgrass in the area, and we'll plant some new bushes. We've read that wild raspberry bushes in the area of domestic ones can overtake the domestic and we think that may have happened. There are many wild raspberry bushes up here. I used to get kind of tired of making jam and removing seeds and freezing the oodles of berries but now I miss them. They are so delicious with a little milk and sugar and the nutritionists now know what a healthy treat they are.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crops 21, 22, and 23 - Bok Choy, Broccoli and Cabbage

I'm quite a bit late with the Bok Choy. That's the beautiful celery shaped plant that adds so much to a stir fry meal. We like the white stalk and the dark green leaves for the taste, texture and nutrients. It was one of our earliest crops that came in and I forgot to mention it. It lasts nicely in the garden and I've learned to just take some outer leaves off it instead of picking the whole plant.

Two other great performers from the Cole family - green cabbage and broccoli. They're ready for picking and they will produce till after the light frosts. Life is good!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Neglected Rosemary

Whoops, another mistake - in the last blog, I placed two lavender pictures and none of beautiful Rosemary, so here is Rosie!

Crops 15,16,17,18,19 & 20 Herbal Delights

Garlic is such an important and beneficial ingredient in so many different ethnic cuisines. It also contains remarkable medicinal properties. Bing planted some last August and just harvested it last week. This is a first time crop for us so we don't really know if this is a good harvest or not but it's interesting that you can just plant the individual cloves from a garlic bulb and you get a new plant from each clove. We'll try it in our refrigerator dill pickles as soon as the cukes start pouring in. The other five crops mentioned here grow in our special narrow little garden set aside for herbs. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme - now where have I heard that before?! And don't forget lovely lavender, historically and presently prized for its beauty and soothing scent.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Crop #14, Kohlrabi - Continued from Crop #13

Well, well, well. The picture of Kohlrabi is back with the green bean posting. Somehow, when I went back to edit that last blog, I cut off the paragraph about kohlrabi and it just disappeared into cyberspace - so here goes again. Kohlrabi is a strange looking member of the cabbage family and ergo, an excellent fighter of cancer. It looks like a sattelite growing out of the ground. It comes in green and purple variety but both are white on the inside. Its texture is crunchy like a radish and we like it raw. We peel it and slice it into chunks . It's a short timer in the garden and not too many people know about it but whomever tries it, likes it. It's one of those summer treats, like corn on the cob or a tasty tomato. Yum yum!

Crop #13 Green Beans Galore

Today Bing picked five more quarts of those pea pods and about four gallons of green beans. That was only one row of two and a half rows of beans. He'll get the rest tomorrow. It's so nice to work as a team now that he's retired. It was a lot harder all those years where I had to do the picking and preserving. I pressure canned ten pints of the tasty legumes and washed and stored the rest in the refrigerator in a closed plastic bag. Years ago, we gleaned a bean field and came home with bushels of beans and that is when I found out that beans will wait in the refrigerator a couple of weeks without losing freshness if they have humidity and cold. That was a nice revelation because if there is an MVP of the vegetable producers, beans may be it. Whatever strain Bing plants, it keeps on producing till frost sets in. But this year I'm going to try to keep up with the beans and get as many as we need and then offer them to others when we have enough. By the way, Happy Birthday to our neice, Annemarie, there isn't a nicer forty year old around!

Crop #14 is Kohlrabi. It comes in purple and green but we like the purple skinned. This is

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Crop # 12 Firewood for the Future

Not a garden crop but a very important crop since we've lived here in the Northwoods. Every summer Bing has provided us with enough hardwood firewood to warm the house for the following year. Actually, he always stays a year ahead so that the wood can dry for a year since burning moist wood can be dangerous. Since we don't own forested acreage, he's always on the lookout to scavenge downed trees or prune someone's woods. He has offten placed ads in the newspaper saying that he'll cut trees for people if he can have the firewood. We've never lacked for enough wood to keep the house toasty warm through the thirty six winters that we've been here. It's a lot of hard work to down the trees, cut and split the logs into firebox size, load the truck and then unload the truck when he gets back home but I'm pretty sure it's one of the main reasons that he is still a powerfully strong and healthy man. Our three boys were an integral part of the wood gathering process throughout their youth too and all have the muscles and work ethic that reflect it. I'll put it in this record right now to thank all four of these loving men for all the hard work they put in to keep the home fires burning. May everyone have the comfort of warmth when the winds are blowing cold.

Crop # 11, Tasty Pea Pods

What a treat from the early garden. These sugary pea pods are delicious raw right from the row or stir fried tender crisp. If you get them before they are too big, there is no string with which to contend. But even if there is a string, it's easy to peel it away and eat everything else. If we get an overabundance, they can be blanched and frozen for future use.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Here's my latest addition to our lake newsletter. They call it, "Message from Eileen".

Hi Neighbors,

The Northwoods is in its glory - the summer days are here and the lake is receiving visitors. It took quite a while for the temperatures to get summer-like this year. But they did, as they always do. Moods lifted. The sunshine warms us and the breezes cool us. The air temps are in the eighties and the lake temps in the mid seventies. We lucky Crescent Lakers sit outside on our decks and docks. All around the lake there is a collage of summer delights - hammocks and swings, canoes and kayaks, tubes and skis and grills - and of course, that wonderful invention, the pontoon boat. The dark of night is filled with the smell of campfires and the canopy of stars seems close and wondrous. Be sure to stop your busy swirling lives long enough to bask in this short season and take in the beauty surrounding us.

The Dave and Joanne Hibbard family of Green Bass Road put on another fantastic fireworks display on the fourth. Our thanks to them, the association and all the donors who help purchase the amazing pyrotechnics. It is such a treat to be among the boats on the lake as the bombs burst in the air. It seems almost magical as suddenly and silently so many boats assemble and then disappear - no snarls or traffic jams or road rage involved.

The boat parade the next day was fun as well. It's a chance to share the joy of the holidays and keep our children and grandchildren knowing that our country's freedom is special and wonderful.

Enjoy the rest of the summer and join us at the July 19th meeting!

(P.S. The pictures are of our decorating the boat for the boat parade contest and three of the kids dressed for the parade. They look extra chesty because they had to have their life jackets on under the costumes.)