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Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota Farm Woman’

Today I decided to have breakfast in bed.  It is not that I am particularly lazy or consider myself the Queen Bee or anything, (admittedly, I am a little bit of both),  but the morning view from my bedroom of a bright pink flowering crabapple  tree against a backdrop of blue sky and green grass is what drew me back in. That, and fact that the mornings are just a little bit too chilly to be dining outside. “Dining” is not exactly the term that I would use for my simple country breakfast of coffee and juusto.  Juusto, also known as  juustoleipa is a warm Finnish cheese, but when I was growing up in my strongly Scandinavian household, we called it “squeaky cheese”, for the way it squeaked against our teeth when we chewed.  Made from cow, goat, sheep or  even reindeer milk if you happen to own a reindeer,  juusto  is a fairly easy cheese to make, so they say.  It keeps well, and Finnish Farm Women in the old days would even dry it to store in their larders to eat when fresh milk wasn’t available for cheesemaking. (I hope they didn’t store it next to their dried stinky lutefisk.) It is traditionally served with coffee, bread, and jam, and to me, tastes like a buttery grilled cheese sandwich without the bread.  I remember my mother making it only once or twice, and since I recently discovered it in the grocery store, I haven’t bothered with trying it myself, so I won’t infringe on any copyright laws by sharing a recipe that is not my own. There are plenty of recipes available on the internet, if you are so inclined.  I usually warm mine in a pan or on the grill, but the package even gives microwave instructions. (My Finnish Farm Woman ancestors, who even warmed theirs by putting it in a cup and pouring hot coffee over it, are probably rolling over in their graves right about now.)  Barney the Chihuahua was hoping for a bite and was following closely behind me with every step I took, but then again, he would follow closely behind me if I was preparing warmed-over  Finnish shoe leather for breakfast.  I have served juusto as an appetiser, with coffee (on the side,  not in the cup),  or diced in a salad with mixed greens and vinaigrette dressing,  but my favorite way to eat it is just the way I did this morning:  Warmed in a pan and eaten while in bed on a Sunday morning, with the beautiful flowers of late spring right outside the windows,  a cup of coffee and a cute but begging little dog within my reach. I would like to think that my Finnish Farm Woman ancestors would be proud that I am keeping with tradition. Maybe not, though…by this time of the morning, they would have already milked the reindeer, stoked the kitchen fire, gathered the eggs, and scrubbed the
kitchen floor. Never, ever would they have crawled back into the bed unless they were either in active labor during childbirth or dying, but they most certainly would have  had the  limppu bread baked for the company that was sure to come for either.  I like to think that I am making new traditions, however,  so right now I’m going to go and pour myself another cup of coffee before I crawl back into bed.

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The Recipes

My dear friend Sharon has moved more times than I can count. Luckily for me, she lived in the same town as I did for several years in a row. We took morning walks together, chatted on the phone, exchanged work stories, and shared recipes. Since we both love to cook, we have done that many times over the years. She once showed me her favorite cookbook, filled to the brim with handwritten recipes from the friends she shared meals with wherever she lived. It is her memory book, of sorts. Some of the best recipes I’ve tried have been those found in long-forgotten cookbooks or novels picked up at garage sales or even from the back of my own bookshelf. Some are written neatly on cute little recipe cards, some are torn or cut out from newspapers or magazines, and some are written on the back of receipts or envelopes. I never throw these scraps away when I find an old cookbook at an estate sale because somebody, somewhere took the time to save it because they thought it sounded good. One of the things on my bucket list is to someday have enough time to make all these orphan recipes, even the ones that sound a little strange. Times are changing. Recipes can be looked up in seconds on the hundreds of cooking sites on the internet. Pictures of mouth-watering dinners and desserts can be shared on social media and be seen instantly by all your friends. Despite all this technology, folks don’t cook as much as they used to. People eat out, pick up, or have their meals delivered by the pizza person more often than not. A small tablet computer takes up a lot less room than a shelf full of cookbooks or a drawer full of magazine clippings. I couldn’t help but notice, though, that when Sharon pulled that cookbook out of the cupboard, she handled it with care to the point of reverence and she smiled when she told me about the friends she had met over the years. My friend and I live many miles apart now, but good friendships don’t change that much. She now calls me on occasion while she takes her afternoon walk. We still exchange recipes, although I readily admit the current ones are a little healthier than those we shared 25 years ago. I hope at least one of my recipes has made it into her special cookbook, and if not, I’d better sort through that pile and make something good enough to become a memory.

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I read somewhere that you see only a small percentage of the spiders that are actually around. This week, I’ve been painting the exterior of the house, and in doing so, needed to clean the siding first. I quickly learned that using a pressure washer only helps a little, and I don’t particularly care for equipment that has water on one end and electricity one the other, with me in the middle to complete the circuit. The dead insects and spider webs must have some sort of super glue capabilities, because even a direct spray didn’t get rid of all of them. Plan B: I let it dry, then used my handy-dandy duster with a handle. This allowed me to dust under the edges of the siding so the gook didn’t stick to my paintbrush. With no extra pockets, and being up on a tall ladder, I just stuck it in the back of my pants, making me look like some sort of giant paint-spattered rabbit with a fluffy tail. I cannot even begin to tell you the number of spiders who are now homeless. From dozens of Daddy Long Legs to tiny little red spiders and every color in between, the colors of the spider rainbow probably even included Black Widows, Brown Recluses and others that are not so friendly. Conspicuously missing because they were inconspicuously hidden in dens far from my eyesight were the big hairy Wolf Spiders. Just thinking about them makes my skin feel all creepy and crawly. If I only saw a small percentage of the spiders who live here, then I must have 12,428 spiders in and around my house. Eek. With that thought in mind, I got busy with my handy-dandy duster with a handle and got rid of all the spider webs inside the house, too. All was right with the world, at least I thought so. But where do spiders go after their homes get destroyed? Think about it. They have to go somewhere, and although I certainly don’t claim to think like a spider, I believe they planned a little payback. After cleaning, I found spiders and their webs on my clothesline and in and around my wooden clothespins. Every time I reached for one, I felt the slight stickiness of the webs on my fingers. I don’t know how they managed to build the webs so quickly, but they did. The next web I found accidentally, and it was a large one, built across the back door to the chicken coop. I took a break from dusting and painting to let the chickens out for some free-ranging. As I opened the door I walked face first into it and found myself covered with web, along with few dead flies and moths. Eek. With that duster stuck in the back of my pants and a spider web stuck to my front, I began jumping around trying to GET IT OFF. Thinking back on the horror of it all, I probably looked like I was doing the Farm Woman version of the old dance called The Bunny Hop. Last night, before I climbed under the covers, I pulled them back quickly to make sure there were no hidden revengeful spiders lurking between the sheets. Call me crazy, but I know they are around here somewhere. All 12,427 of them. If you noticed that the number is down by one, it is because I accidentally stomped one during the Bunny Hop. Now it will rain on my wet paint for sure.

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Some people have the impression that chickens are dumb. I disagree. Not only are they smart, they know exactly what they are doing. They know that someone carrying a bucket means they will be given food or water. They know when an eagle soars overhead they need to take cover. They know when the sun starts going down and a tired old Farm Woman is ready for her bath, it is time to go into the coop for the night. At least most of them know that. The naughty girls like to stay out past their bedtime. At first it was just one, then two, and now THREE girls have gone bad. I don’t know if the problem is caused by peer pressure or if it is that sweet-talking rooster from the neighboring farm and all of his cockadoodledooing. The chickens need to be safely cooped up because around here, there are plenty of nighttime predators such as foxes, wolves, and coyotes. Last night I made plans to go out with friends. I showered. I fluffed my hair. I hunted for, found, and dusted off my eye shadow. Heck, I even changed my earrings! The chickens were outside for the entire afternoon for some free ranging. Thirty minutes before my ride arrived, I whistled for them, carrying a bucket of leftover popcorn, and they all followed me like I was the Pied Piper or something. Popcorn is their favorite. One by one, in all shapes, sizes, and colors, they jumped up on the single step and into the coop. All except one, that is. She looked me straight in the eye, turned, and ran off into the woods. The woodticks-are-everywhere woods. The fox-wolf-coyote woods. Yes, those woods. Two of her cohorts followed. I cajoled them out of the woods and they ran around and around the coop. I was not far behind, and was using all the forms of bribery I knew. I shook the bucket of popcorn. I called out “Here, chicky chicky”. I whistled. The other chickens all came out of the coop, thinking I had more goodies. I shooed them back in. My ride was due in 15 minutes, my face was beet-red, and I was dripping sweat from all the running around and calling those chickens everything but a son of a rooster. If it weren’t 85 degrees outside with 100% humidity, I would have seriously considered cancelling my night out and making a nice pot of chicken and dumplings. If I could catch a chicken, that is. Instead, I locked the coop and opened the door to the shed, hoping they would find their way inside before dark. I brushed a couple of crawly things off my shirt and checked for ticks. I had just enough time to wash my face with a cool washcloth. Ready or not, my ride was at the door. Later that night, I tiptoed through the dewy grass with my flashlight and checked the shed, finding two of the naughty girls sound asleep inside. Figuring the third one was either roosting up in a tree somewhere or a coyote’s midnight snack, I’m ashamed to admit that I felt only a tiny bit sad about the latter. I repented early the next morning, and went outside to look for her. There she was, eating worms for breakfast and not looking the least bit guilty. As I opened the door to let her into the coop, she looked me straight in the eye, turned, and ran off into the woods.

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Laundry is my favorite household chore. In fact, it is the only household chore that I enjoy doing. Still, I don’t complain when HE does the laundry and would gladly give up any and all forms of housework to anyone that will take them. When I do the laundry, clothes are sorted into three piles: 1) Dark tee shirts, jeans, and my 20 pair of black ankle socks, 2) Medium to light-colored things which are mostly my clothes such as pastel tee shirts and lighter pants or shorts. 3) Whites. This load always contains our white sheets, white towels and HIS 120 pair of white athletic socks. Bleach can be added if necessary. When HE does the laundry, it is two loads only, no matter how large or small, and those loads are either white or dark. White is self-explanatory. Dark is everything that is not pure white stuffed into one load, mixing my pastel colored shirts with the black socks and dirty jeans. We hang our clothes outside most of the time, and I could probably get my own hour on Dr. Phil for the hanging rituals that I have which are admittedly close to OCD. Pants are hung by the waistbands using two clothespins, three if it is windy. Tee shirts are hung by the hems and in order according to owner. Towels are hung on a separate line, end to end and sharing clothespins, sized large to small with wash cloths on the end. The white sheets are on the outside line to be bleached naturally by the sun and never turn yellow, even with my country water that leaves rusty stains in all the sinks. Socks are hung in pairs by the cuffs, and unmentionables are hung on the inside lines and out of sight, just as my mother taught me to do. Him? HE hangs everything upside down and in no particular order. Socks and jeans are hung by the cuffs, his tee shirts are mixed up with mine, and I hate to mention it, but the unmentionables are actually hung on the outside line for the entire world to see! Yesterday, after he did the laundry, I had to run some clothes through the rinse cycle a second time, since they had some soapy-looking spots on them that I was certain came from HIM stuffing the washer too full. I’ll admit that I inwardly rolled my eyes and had thoughts of him leaning on the pile to squeeze in a few more things, then adding enough soap to swab down the deck of the USS Teddy Roosevelt before pushing the start button. I folded the clothes HE had done and hung the load I did the proper way. My way. I noticed that there were still a few soapy-looking spots and decided that they weren’t HIS fault after all but caused by the new high-efficiency-low-water-usage washer that doesn’t have an agitator and spins the clothes practically dry but tightly wrinkled. Not good for the few of us left in the world who still hang their clothes outside. Still, it was a good day. The chickens were pecking in the yard, the laundry was blowing in the breeze, and all was right with the world. Bring it on, Dr. Phil.

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I am about as far from a fashionista as they come. Anything beyond jeans and a t-shirt is way too dressed up for me. Still, I like the current women’s fashion of wearing a brightly colored scarf around the neck. I like it both for the statement it makes and to cover up an unfortunate hereditary condition that runs in our family called “caruncle”, also known as “turkey wattle neck”. I have only had one scarf the past year, a simple infinity type that looks decent without me having to fuss over it. Getting it to look right is the hard part, and I don’t know why, but some people just have the knack for it. I have even watched YouTube instructional videos, and although I have tried knotting and draping the scarf every which way but loose, I always end up looking like a Farm Woman who is trying to disguise a turkey wattle neck. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new scarf. This one can double as a vest, neck scarf, and even perhaps a sari, if one is slender and young enough to pull it off. Who thinks of this stuff, anyway? On Sunday morning, I draped and knotted the darn thing around my neck, fussing and mussing with it until it looked fairly decent. Then I remembered that I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet, so I gave up and tucked the whole mess into my collar so I wouldn’t spit toothpaste on it. When I finished brushing and looked in the mirror, the scarf was perfect! I looked like a YouTube video model. Well, almost like a YouTube video model. I went to church feeling like a million bucks, but knowing that it would be unlikely that I could ever get it just right again.

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“You’d better watch what you wish for!” That’s what they say. I like it when wishes come true…most of the time. I have often wished that my chickens would get broody and hatch a few baby chicks. That has happened only on a rare occasion, up until now. At the moment I have two or three broody hens, but unfortunately, the middle of winter is not the time to raise baby chicks. (Those of you in other parts of the country have just had the official first day of winter, which was December 21. In northern Minnesota, we call this time of year “the middle of winter” just to keep ourselves sane. We all know that if we are lucky, winter will end in April, so we’re nowhere near the middle.) Collecting eggs in the coop has become a defensive maneuver for me, since when chickens are broody, they’re mean. One of hens starts making visceral noises like some sort of caged wild animal whenever I enter the coop and pecks at me if I am within a foot of the nesting box. I guess I might do the same if a Farm Woman wearing heavy winter boots and her husband’s large protective leather gloves came stomping in every day and took my babies. HE may call it nagging rather than wishing, but over the years, I have wished for there to be a little more light around my chicken coop. He wired the inside a long time ago, but especially at this time of year when it is pitch black outside, I don’t like that long lonely trek to the coop when I am probably surrounded by hungry wolves and coyotes. Even though I have a bright flashlight and an off-key but cheerful whistle, I know I am being watched from the shadows. These days, if you look far to the north towards my house, it is not the northern lights that you see, but my new outdoor lamp. It has a glow bright enough to light up the whole township and on a timer so we can afford the electric bill. It’s funny how a little bit of light can scare away the wolves, whether they are real or imagined. Since these two wishes came true, I thought I would wish for something else, just in case: Whether you read the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, or “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” before you go to bed tonight, I wish you peace. May the light of this peace illuminate the paths you take every day, bring you comfort, and scare away the wolves. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Peace on earth.

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