This recipe was created because I had a package of Canadian bacon and some rather tasteless Swiss cheese in the fridge that needed to be used up. Oh, and an insatiable appetite for pizza! When melted, the Swiss is firm and surprisingly, this combination gives you the texture of “real” pizza in your mouth. This is an original Minnesota Farm Woman copyrighted recipe. You may share it with credit, but do not steal and claim as your own, or you will have to clean the chicken coop for a month!

1 6 oz. package thin sliced Canadian bacon
5-6 slices Swiss cheese
1 tsp. olive oil
10 or more slices turkey pepperoni
2 tbs. chopped green olives
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Optional toppings will add carbs, but you may add 1 tbs. pizza sauce, 1 tbs. chopped green pepper, onion, and/or mushrooms. You could change it up and add pesto, grilled chicken, and artichoke hearts, too!

In a non-stick skillet saute the Canadian bacon in olive oil until browned. (I used an orGreenic pan for this recipe, and nothing ever sticks.) Remove, cool, and wipe pan. Line pan with the cooled bacon, top with Swiss cheese. Broil on low until golden brown, cool. This should form a fairly solid disc. Lift, wipe pan, and flip over. Top with seasonings, pepperoni, and chopped olives, cover with mozzarella. Broil on low until golden brown.
Makes 4 generous slices. Each slice yields 3 carbs, depending on brands used and with no optional ingredients added.

10959391_10205437575566096_1012712571256029305_nEven though she had more chickens than I did, my friend always called me “Chicken Lady.” She had a silly nickname for everyone she liked, and a probably a few that were not-so-silly for those she didn’t. She started my flock nearly seven years ago with a gift of four small banty chickens. I faithfully promised her that they would not be dinner and that I would return them to her if I changed my mind about raising chickens. (We all know how that turned out.) I also promised to sing to them every once in a while, because she told me that singing to chickens makes them happy. Only one chicken remains of that original flock, a nice little hen named Old Mum, widowed many times over. One by one, her rooster husbands have died of old age or disease. Chickens are not known for living long lives. Unfortunately, sometimes people aren’t, either. My beautiful friend, so young and healthy, got sick. The type of cancer that chose her should have never happened, but there it was. She fought it, and fought hard. It might seem strange, but we didn’t talk much about the cancer. Instead, we talked about chickens. Chickens and life and our grandchildren to be. Old Mum lost her last husband last week. Although he was old and nearly blind, he was a loving little rooster who stayed close by and always made sure that she got to eat first. Last week, I found him in a corner of the coop, nearly lifeless. I laid him out in a bed of straw and said my goodbyes, knowing that he would be dead by morning. I was surprised to see him walking around the coop the next day. Old Mum had taken her favorite seat on the windowsill, where she loves to peck at the frost that covers the window when the temperature drops outside. He was looking for her, I could tell. It took him several tries to fly up to the window to join her. They moved together against the frosted window, almost appearing to snuggle like the comfortable old couple they were. For once, I was at the right place and the right time with my camera. I found him the next day in the nesting box, wings spread as if he were flying away. They got what so many of us wish for: Another minute…another hour…another day with someone we love. Although I think of my friend often, I don’t know just why this particular moment brought her to my thoughts. For a moment, I couldn’t even remember how long she had been gone. I felt guilty about that, but then realized that she would more want it to be remembered that she lived rather than that she died. And live she did, before earning her wings. She lived and she cried and she laughed and she held those grandbabies close to her heart. I don’t think Old Mum has that much time left. Not only due to her age, but she is developing a malformation of her beak, making it hard for her to eat and requiring that she be hand-fed more often than not. Somewhere in heaven, my friend is caring for a bevy of colorful roosters, waiting for Old Mum to join them. Here on earth, I mix her food with warm water and sing to her softly as she eats.

Kids these days are technological geniuses, and our grandson Max is no exception. Like the rest of you doting grandparents out there, we are certain that Max is not only the cutest kid ever, but exceptionally bright. He’s not quite two, and although he understands many words, his vocabulary consists of about ten. He must take after his grandfather in that respect, because that’s about one evening’s conversation at our house. After I purchased a new smart phone, I think that perhaps little Max looks all the brighter because I am so dim. The cost of this fancy phone, by the way, is more than my parents paid for my first car. (That sporty 1967 Mustang was bought used and was really theirs but to this day I say it was mine, and to this day I wish I still had it.) I am not so technically challenged that I can’t add my favorite apps, take pictures, and text or call people, but it took me a little while to figure it all out. I managed to take a new video of little Max jumping in his crib while I chanted his favorite nursery rhyme of “Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”, which I have repeated so many times that the lilting cadence even disturbs my dreams. If you have never heard that rhyme, let me just say that it is the toddler version of “One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” Max usually commandeers my tablet computer the minute he sees it and plays several games and puzzles, which I have installed just for him. Last week, he noticed the new phone and quickly figured out how to play the monkey video, and he laughed and laughed every time. Mind you, it takes at least four buttons to push to even get to the video application, and it even takes me a little while to find it, but he figured it out within seconds. I was happy, because watching the video over and over kept Max sitting quietly on my lap, allowing me to watch reruns of Dr. Phil. When babysitting a very active toddler, only another grandparent will understand that it is not so much the watching of the Dr. Phil show but the sitting and the resting that’s important. When I tried to make a call later that day, I realized that my entire phone list was gone. More than a hundred names and numbers were missing. Deleted. In place of the phone list were names and numbers of people, many of them from Pennsylvania, who were not known to me. I brought the phone in to that very expensive phone store, and the phone wizard who helped me couldn’t figure out how to get the numbers back, either. Apparently, The Boy Wonder not only deleted my list, but he synced my phone with someone else’s. Whatever “sync” means. I’m sure many of you are as dependent on your phone list as I am mine. I can’t even tell you my husband’s cell phone number. I just point to the word HIM on the list and click. With my usual luck, my old phone was 30 miles away, so we couldn’t reprogram the numbers from the old to the new. It was one long night of homework for me, entering each number by hand. It’s kind of crazy, but something totally amazing happens when you have grandchildren. You don’t get mad at them. Instead, your heart fills with pride and joy and love. In this case, there was a tiny bit of insanity thrown in, too. I say that because although my heart was filled with pride and joy and love, inside my head that night the words kept repeating themselves over and over, “Mama called the doctor and the doctor said, ‘no more monkeys jumping on the bed!'” Now that you’ve read this, I’ll bet you’ll be hearing it over and over in your head, too. You’re welcome.

You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say. ~Martin Luther

There are three stones at the bottom of the tote bag that I carry with me almost every day. There’s nothing special about the stones, they are typical Minnesota rocks probably picked from the church parking lot by my pastor a couple of years ago. He is the kind of pastor that likes to use visuals when he speaks every Sunday, and be it stones, water, or footballs, we’re often surprised but never bored. He gave each of us the stones and asked us to think about three places where we saw God that week. The stones stayed in the console of my car for a long time, and I can’t explain why I tossed them in the tote bag instead of out the door, but they are there to this day. My pastor probably never dreamed how important those rocks would become someday. It is easy to see God in life’s beautiful things such as sunsets and gardens and newborn babies. It is not so easy to see Him during the difficult times and sometimes it feels like there is more ugliness in today’s world than good. I pull a stone out of my bag if I am having a stressful day at work, or if I worry about the world’s latest crisis. Sometimes I reach in for something else and grab one by mistake. Except God doesn’t make mistakes. On a couple of occasions, I carried one in my pocket all day. Touching the rough edges with my fingers always reminds me that God is here with me and with each and every one of us, in all situations. I have never been particularly religious, and over the years did my Christian duty and attended church every Christmas and Easter. Moving back to my home town, going to church on Sunday became as comfortable as slipping into an old pair of shoes. Not that I would call the pastor an old shoe, but he gets it. He gets us. He gets me. Recently, I added responsibility to the collection plate and became a church council member. In our church and our community, everyone must do their part. If you live in a small town like I do, you will understand the impact of losing cheerful and motivated community members like Pastor Dwight and his wife Lisa. Yes, he has taken another call in another town, and although they are happy and excited with anticipation, they are sad to be leaving a community that has been their home for 20 years. In their honor, I ask all of you to do the following: Pick up a stone (any old stone will do) and keep it in your pocket or purse. Use it as a reminder that you are not alone. You may think it will be too heavy for you to carry around, but take it from someone who knows. Your burdens will be a lot lighter and your days a lot brighter. Godspeed, Dwight and Lisa. Godspeed, and thank you.

Barney the Chihuahua doesn’t like winter. Not one bit. His gene pool is from warm and sunny Mexico, while mine is from the almost endless winters of Scandinavia. Funny about those gene pools, though. I don’t much care for winter, either. We really don’t need a thermometer around here. If it is 80 degrees, Barney digs in his heels and doesn’t want to come in the house. At 65 degrees, he’ll still want to walk around sniffing every bush and tree and marking his territory. Barney thinks the entire county is his territory, by the way. At 50 degrees, a few quick sniffs and a brief er…whizz… will do, and he prefers to guard his territory from the window seat in the warmth of the house. At 30 degrees, a quick in and out is it. When it is below zero he doesn’t even make it off the porch. No way, no how. Ten steps and he becomes a cowering shivering bundle of misery, lifting each paw off the ground and looking so pitiful that he needs to be picked up and taken inside or stuffed inside your parka. Barney’s antics make me think of my Minnesota ancestors, and how they answered the call of nature. If you are wondering why in the HECK I am even discussing this subject, just know that I have a writer’s brain that often takes off in all kinds of strange directions, and believe me, it can be a curse as well as a blessing. My own grandparents probably didn’t have indoor plumbing in their youth, but how about going back even more years? How did people “go” in Victorian times in the middle of winter? I can’t imagine walking to an outhouse at 10 below zero in a January wind and actually shudder at the thought of sitting down on that freezing cold seat. There were also the indoor chamber pots, which would be a bit warmer, but the women had to deal with petticoats, pantaloons, or for the Farm Women, scratchy woolen long underwear. Chamber pots are actually quite small, too, and if you look at the pictures of my ancestors, you will understand just why I am wondering and why I am not a size three. Our biffy, as my dad always called them, is located not far from the house, between the back door and the chicken coop. Whoever put it in decided that it should have a place of honor, smack dab in the middle of the back yard. We don’t use the outhouse, but it is there just in case our septic should ever freeze over some winter or if we should ever decide to throw a big, wild, outdoor party. I can only hope that neither of these would happen. In the meantime, it’s time to take the dog out.

My toddler grandson slept until 10:00 a.m. yesterday. On a Saturday. That is not fair at all. For generations, has been every mother’s fervent wish that her children will have children who turn out to be just like them. Most mornings, my daughter got up around 5:00 a.m. Even as a teen, when most of her friends were sleeping until noon, she barely slept past 8:00. I remember a sweet little sing-song voice whispering in my ear one weekend morning at 4:45: “Kriiiispies……Rice Kriiiiispies….” Shortly after that, I moved the milk down to a lower shelf in the refrigerator where she could reach it. Don’t judge. There was no mother of the year award for me that year, nor the year I accidentally sloshed her out of the water-bed. HE tried to explain to her that weekends were made for sleeping in. Her answer? “Daddy, I just don’t want to waste the day!”. When I was a kid, I didn’t sleep late, either, but would stay in bed and read, hiding my book under the covers and pretending to be asleep if Mom came in to ask me to do my Saturday chore of cleaning my room. I had the messiest room in town, too. Unfortunately, our daughter took after me in the worst way, and her open bedroom door, with clothes and toys oozing out into the hallway, was a constant source of consternation for me while she was growing up. When my mom would visit, she would sometimes open that bedroom door and smile, making comments about her prayers finally being answered. Very funny, that mother of mine. I ignored the smarty-pants remarks, since when she visited, she did the laundry and cooked us a wonderful meal every evening, and I didn’t want to put a stop to THAT gravy train. These days, I would love to sleep late, but be it from the snap and crackle of my creaky joints or Pop’s snoring, I just can’t. I still can’t seem to keep my room spotlessly clean, but it certainly is a lot neater than when I was a teenager. (The rest of the house isn’t too bad, either, as long as you give me a few minutes notice before you stop over.) My daughter’s bedroom? I don’t know, because when I go to visit, the door is always shut. I like to think that she took after her father’s side of the family and it is sparkling clean in there. Whether your house is neat as a pin or has that “lived-in” look; if you’re a late sleeper or up at the crack of dawn, take some advice from the little girl with a messy room who turned into a successful woman anyway: Don’t waste the day!

You are probably wondering why I always write about gardening in the winter, when everything, including my feet, are a solid block of ice. Truthfully, it is to keep myself from going stark-raving mad when I am surrounded by this never-ending season of Frozen, which in real life is NOT a cute little Disney movie. There is nothing cute about a temperature of six below zero, which is supposed to be the high today. I don’t even want to tell you the low. Days like this take me to my own personal happy place, a Disney Fantasyland of sorts. When we moved back to Minnesota from Florida a few years ago, I carried my vegetable seeds and seed potatoes in the car with us, and thanks to the help of an old friend who tilled a medium-sized garden spot before we even got here, I started planting before the moving boxes were unpacked. The next year, HE asked me how big of a garden I wanted, and I paced out the area for him to till. It was big. Bigger than big. He also erected a lovely high fence around it to keep the deer out. For the first time in my life, I had a garden as big as I wanted, and then some. Truthfully, it is way too big, and the weeds get away from me every year. The next spring, he tilled and fenced a garden in the back field. “I want to plant a few strawberries and pumpkins”, he said, and made a garden nearly the size of a football field. I tend to exaggerate, but should have been suspicious at the time, because nobody hates gardening more than HE does. In fact, I think there is something in our marriage vows “in sickness or in health but not in the garden”, or something like that. What he really wanted was to purchase the strawberry and pumpkin plants, then eat lots of strawberry shortcake and pumpkin pie. The stuff that came in between needed to be done by either waving a magic wand or waiting for me to do it. It is my own fault because after all, I do kind of promote myself as a Farm Woman. A sow it, plant it, hoe it, weed it, harvest it, cook it, and preserve it kind of Farm Woman. A tired and “What do you mean those weeds grew back? I just pulled them last week!” kind of Farm Woman. When I dreamed of this northern beauty of a garden, I was knee-deep in my Florida plot in 90 degree heat, trying to conjure black loam out of white sand, dodging snakes, (I don’t care if it was a “good” snake, any snake that is two feet long and meets me while I am on my hands and knees, nearly causing me to have a heart attack cannot possibly be “good”!) and slapping vicious mosquitoes. Here, the season is shorter and cooler. I am knee-deep in good black dirt, dodging snakes (they are a little smaller, but can still potentially cause a heart attack), and slapping mosquitoes which are even more vicious. Things don’t change much, do they? Except that it is probably going to be 75 degrees at my former home today. That’s ABOVE zero. I think I’ll just grab my seed catalogs and a hot cup of coffee and crawl under the electric blanket to dream of summer gardens to come. Weedless, snakeless, mosquitoless gardens. My Fantasyland. It is truly a happy place.


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