Archive for May, 2011


Those of you who are not on a social networking site may not understand what folks are talking about when someone says, “I’ll friend you later today!”.  Some of you may think it is a waste of time. Some of you may think that those of us who are fans spend too much time clicking away at the computer. (A certain “some of you” could be married to a Farm Woman).  I am admittedly, hopelessly addicted to Facebook. Not for reasons that you might think, however.  I love being able to communicate with my nine nieces and nephews, all of whom are on Facebook. The cousins can keep up with each other, too, even though they are spread from Florida to California and everywhere in between. I enjoy being able to catch up with old classmates, coworkers and relatives, even those from overseas. If they don’t write in English, I add a translator and it magically comes across my screen, sometimes translating hilariously wrong, such as a Swedish-speaking relative’s recent blog about a garden plant that somehow translated  into something about coffee and an ass.  Recently, I added “The Minnesota Farm Woman” to Facebook and found a network of cooks, gardeners, bloggers and chicken lovers who are a wealth of information and friendship, something like cyber pen pals.   We are from different cultures, religions, states and countries.  Questions are asked and answered, recipes, photographs and thoughts are shared.  Yes, I probably spend too much time there, but it is much more interesting than watching reruns of “House Hunters International”.  I can see how a real person in France or New Zealand lives, and believe me, they don’t all have stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, and three bathrooms.  I don’t have stainless steel or granite here, either, but I do have  plenty of dust bunnies, which is why I will probably never show pictures of the inside of my house.  It is  not clean enough for the world to see.  I spend too much of my free time in my garden, with my chickens or on the computer.  I do have three bathrooms, though, two inside plus an outhouse in the back yard.  You can find “The Minnesota Farm Woman” on Facebook, along with pictures of the garden, chickens and an occasional recipe. There are links to my favorite sites, but I’m sure you will find plenty of your own. If you enjoy it, click “like”. If you’d rather not, I think “House Hunters” is having a marathon next week.

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My daughter is a City Girl. Born and raised in southern cities, she knows how to drive on the interstate in rush-hour traffic and where to get the best sushi.  What most people don’t know is that it was her idea that we all move to northern Minnesota, a place where most folks would consider sushi to be the bait one would use to catch larger fish.  I’m sure there have been a few times that she has regretted her idea, but for the most part has adapted very well.  She learned how to drive in the snow. During the spring thaws, she wears a very stylish pair of  rubber boots. Last summer, she innocently planted a whole package of zucchini seeds and ended up with enough to feed a small army. She and her husband live WAY out in the woods, and  have no children yet. Their “kids” are  two slobbering yellow labs the size of large ponies, ten chickens and one small old crabby chihuahua. Quite a combination. Despite my warnings, they put in a doggy door so “the boys” can get in and out during the day…..and the night, so it seems. Last week, while they were asleep, the more curious, least  intelligent, and largest of the menagerie decided to check out a skunk then came back in through the doggy door and laid down beside the bed like nothing had happened.  Not being familiar with the smell of fresh skunk, the City Girl shook her husband awake: “Get up! Gas leak! We need to get the HELL out of the house!”  Yup, it was “gas” all right. Poor naive City Girl.  What she didn’t know it that in washing the stinky slobbery dog, she herself would smell like a skunk. She just started a new job a month ago. “Nobody even noticed,” she said a couple of days later.  “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” Right. I think they were just being nice.  Minnesota nice. We eat our fish fried,  have lots of zucchini recipes and we don’t tell people they smell like skunk. Not to their faces, anyway.

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I have had so many requests for this dip recipe that I thought I would pass it along. It is a favorite at my church, where we always have coffee and a snack after services.  Thanks to my friend Teresa Norris for the original recipe, which I embellished on. The first time I tried it, I didn’t move from that spot at the potluck table for a good five minutes.

1 cup pickles (I use Gedney’s Hot and Sweet Babies)

1 or 2 of the chili peppers that come packed in with the pickles (don’t worry, it won’t be too hot)

A few grinds of pepper

Dash of hot sauce if you like it spicier

2 8 oz. blocks cream cheese, softened (regular or fat free)

1 T. milk, buttermilk, or pickle juice

Toss the pickles and peppers in the food processor and chop coarsly. Add softened cream cheese and other ingredients. Pulse a couple of times. Don’t overmix, as you want it slightly chunky.

Line a bowl with plastic wrap and pack in the mixture. It best when made several hours ahead and chilled. Unmold and serve with crackers or celery.

You may make it with dill pickles,  pickled jalapenos, cauliflower, mixed pickles, etc. I don’t know which is my favorite, because they’re all delicious.  Change the recipe according to what you have in your fridge.

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Eagle Eyed

I have been nearsighted most of my life. In the fourth grade, my best friend Terri and I got our  glasses on the same day. My mother has  a picture of the two of us, big grins on our faces and shiny new glasses perched on our noses.  I switched to contact lenses in high school and have worn them ever since.  Contacts can distort the finer details, however,  especially details in the great outdoors, which can be a kaleidoscope of greens, blues, and browns.  Or maybe it’s just me. It can be frustrating when I am with Terri who can spot a morel mushroom fifty feet away when I probably step on more than I pick every year.  She can also spot an eagle from any distance  and has many beautiful photographs to prove it. Last week, as I was drinking my morning coffee and looking out the window I finally spotted an eagle, high atop a utility pole near the creek. The suckers were running, and I thought perhaps the eagle was looking for fish to feed her nestlings.  Not wanting to miss out on a great photo-op I grabbed my camera and ever so quietly crept out the back door, hair uncombed, wearing baggy sweat pants, a red  t-shirt,  and on my feet,  a pair of bright blue plastic Crocs .  The Crocs were a gift from my daughter, who thinks for some reason that I need  little more style and color in my life. The eagle chose her fishing spot close to the busy road rather than back in the more private spots along the creek, but I wanted this picture so badly I would have climbed a tree to get it.  There were, of course, people driving down the road.  Slowly. They were probably looking at the eagle themselves, and since almost everybody has camera phones, I thought their pictures would show up on the internet somewhere, perhaps with the caption “Land of the Free”.  Thinking about how lucky I was to be living in this beautiful country, I quietly moved closer and closer, using the viewfinder of the camera.  Where was the eagle? Did it fly away? I squinted, looking to the top of the pole. There she was, sitting majestically atop the pole, nature at its absolute finest. Until I rubbed my eyes and saw an electrical transformer.  Wider at the top, narrow at the bottom, and  a small puff of white cloud in just the right spot that from a distance, these nearsighted eyes easily mistook for an eagle’s white head.  But the drivers were still slowing down as they go past.  What are they looking at? Oh. Oops. I hope they didn’t all have camera phones. I hope that somebody doesn’t post a picture on the internet with the caption “A Minnesota Farm Woman”, or worse yet, send it to “What Not to Wear”.  I think I’ll give up on photography. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll happily write more than a thousand. Writing is so much easier. It can be done inside, wearing baggy sweatpants and bright blue shoes and nobody will ever know the difference.

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One of my old hens is getting ready to pass into that great field in the sky. She is part of a larger group of chickens that were given to me a couple of years ago. Because it was hard to name a group of hens that all looked alike and all came at the same time, I refer to all of them as “Mama”.  All are still alive except for one, who was tragically killed by a neighboring dog.  This group lives a rather charmed life. They joined my little chicken family when they were old and beyond their prime egg-laying years. I feed them, clean their coop, keep them warm in the winter, let them roam in the grass in the summer, and they reward me with an occasional egg. Occasional being the key word. Most of them are crabby and peevish, squawking and pecking at the younger hens who dare get near the food. They make sure that they get first choice of all the vegetable scraps brought in, jostling and pushing the others out of the way. I was cleaning out the coop the other day on a warm and sunny afternoon. I opened the run so they could get a little freedom.  All of the chickens rushed outside except Mama. She poked around, listless, tail down, watching the others look for worms in the lawn. A funny thing happened, though. After the initial rush outside, one of the young hens came back into the run. She had carried in a worm and laid it at Mama’s feet. Mama quickly gobbled it up and for a moment, moved around a little more quickly.  As the sun warmed the straw in the run, the chickens came in to catch some rays. Mama got the prime spot, and the others gathered around her, occasionally lightly pecking her as if to say “Come on, Mama….snap out of it!”   I don’t know how long she’ll last, but Mama seems comfortable and well-loved.  It seems that in many ways, chickens are a lot like humans. As we get older, we want nothing more than a warm home with food delivered every day, even though we are not able to work as much as we used to.   We may get peevish and peckish on occasion, but who can blame us when there always seems to be some young chick hanging around, just waiting to replace us?  We like to sit out in the sunshine with our friends. We sometimes don’t play well with others.  When we are tired, lonely, or not feeling well, it gives us a lift when  someone comes in to give us a treat.  It is even more wonderful when that someone is perhaps one that we haven’t always gotten along with, and at the end of our days, lets us know that all is forgiven.

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Read My Lips

The marriage of Kate to her handsome prince William has been all over the news lately.  I read that some news and gossip magazines actually hired lip readers to find out what the royal couple were saying when there were no microphones around.  They weren’t the least bit interested in what the old married royal couples had to say to each other. That’s because it is probably way too boring.  My own handsome prince is a man of few words married to a woman who is never at a loss for them.  I have been told by more than one person that the reason he doesn’t talk much is because I never give him the chance.  Opposites attract, I always say.   It made me think about what exciting tidbits those lip readers would find out in a conversation between us on a usual day:

Me: “Boy, what a busy day I’ve had! What do you want for supper? Is meat loaf OK?”

H.P.: “Yup.”

Me:  “No, really. What do you want? Chicken or meat loaf?”

H.P. “Whatever.”

Me:  “I bought some dowels for the chickens to roost on. Do you think you could hang them for me?”

H.P.: “Hmmm…” (Notice that this could be taken as an affirmative, but in no way, shape or form means “I’ll get to it right after dinner, Dear.”)

Me: “It is raining frogs outside and I hear that Rumpelstiltskin is running for the presidency. That’s exciting, isn’t it?”

H.P.: “Yup”

Me: ” Did you hear anything I said?”

H.P.: “Hmmmm…”

Me: (Sigh)

I wish for the newlyweds many years of happiness. I’ll bet when they are married for 34 years,  there won’t be a need for any lip readers anymore,  and I’ll guess that he won’t jump up and hang her dowels right after dinner, either.

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