We have some raspberry plants shooting up in the orchard. And the blueberry plants are getting so big! Look at all those tiny berries! Apple tree. Strawberries in raised boxes, transplanted last fall and mulched with pine straw.
Gardening in April! A little rain shower brings on a happy dance. Little green shoots pushing up through the wood chips! Planting vines and pops of color in the containers! Here’s some pics of what’s happening in the garden in Mid-April.
Do you love introducing your children to things that are special to you? I certainly do! I have very few vivid memories from my childhood, but what I do remember I love to share with my kids. Whether it’s stories of my late grandma hoarding spices in the pantry and always having a “wrinkled, but clean” kleenex in her purse or taking them to the campground in South Haven, Mi where I camped every summer as a child and picked blueberries and met their father, I delight in sharing these experiences with my kids. So I was beyond excited when Jeremie surprised me and the girls with tickets to see the Phantom of the Opera! I have seen this twice in Chicago. Once, as a girl, and once, with him. We couldn’t orchestrate a trip up north, but it was being put on at a concert hall in Birmingham, Al. The girls had never been to Alabama before, either, so that was a fun adventure as well. I tell you, the sky is just bigger and more gorgeous in Alabama! So this performance of the “Phantom” was awesome! The music, the scenery, the music, the costumes, the music!!! We belted out the show tunes on the way home and have been singing them ever since. It’s really fun that I have the piano music so we can play and sing at the same time. I used to do that for hours with my cousins and friends when I was young. It was a long day, but it was filled with great music, lots of loud laughter, sister stories, mom memories, good food and lots of love!
We’ve had the pleasure of attending another horse show at the Briar Creek McCoy Farm. Spring 2017. Charlotte rode Buddy again and the poor old boy had to complete four jump courses of eight jumps each. Charlotte walked away today with a first place ribbon, a second place and two thirds. Wow! This girl has not even been taking lessons for a year! She competed against riders who’ve been taking lessons at the farm for years and who own much higher quality horses. Our beloved Buddy is just an old quarter horse, who’s seen the prime of life pass him by. The judge commented that she seems like a natural. Charlotte is gifted, that’s for sure. But I know she puts a lot of effort and hard work into her riding. We don’t keep the horses here at the farm. They are pastured at an elderly neighbor’s farm because those pastures are retired anyway. And this lets us use our land for animals that actually produce something, other than a good time, that is. So Charlotte has to walk a ways to go get the horses when she rides, she is the sole feeder and groomer, and she tacks up her own horse. That may not sound challenging, but when you see our little pint size rider heave a heavy saddle up on Buddy’s back, well, it’s pretty impressive. I remember years ago, tacking up three horses and walking around and around the yard with little riders hanging on for dear life, wondering if they would ever be big enough to tack up independently. What a difference a few years make. And she is so kind to always offer to lead the littler siblings around the yard on her horse. We are so proud of Charlotte. Not for her ribbons, but for her hard work and determination. And we are pretty proud of Buddy, too!
The boys got busy over a hot fire while mama was away out of state. They knew this was a treat I would voluntarily forgo. But, oh, how delicious they were! Or so I’m told. Remember all that back fat that we cut into cubes? Well, the boys popped them into a cast iron kettle and heated them up over an outdoor fire so the skins could fry in the fat. Cracklin’s. Piping hot, crunchy fried skins. Eeew!
Preserving meat. This is something I’ve been reading voraciously about lately. I love this book called The River Cottage Curing and Smoking Handbook. It makes the mysterious process of turning a hog leg into something delicious like prosciutto seem easy. I can relate to the way the author likes to use what’s at hand. Keeping it simple. Bacon is first on the list. Oh my, I don’t think my family could ever have too much bacon. We’d eat it on eggs, on potatoes, in soup, with chicken, on salad. Is there anything in this world that in not made better by adding a sizzling, dripping piece of preserved pork belly? I think not. So the process is relatively simple. I followed a recipe for a salt/sugar rub and I rub a dub dubbed that stuff all over both pork bellies, making extra sure to get it in all the nook and crannies. Then, into the fridge it goes. Right now the meat is soft and wiggly. At the end of this process it will be quite firm and rigid. Some recipes call for simply leaving the belly in the fridge for 5 days and then draining and rinsing it. Other recipes instruct to drain the liquid off daily and re-applying the salt mixture. This is the method that I went with. After 4 days, though, I didn’t have any more curing mix left. So, I just drained off the little liquid from the bottom of the container and put the container back in the fridge. The majority of the liquid will be expelled from the meat during the first day or two, anyway. After 5-7 days, rinse all the salt off the belly really well. Pat dry. Now, if it is fall or winter, you can hang that beautiful belly on hooks out of doors to finish curing for 5-7 more days. However, it is quite warm here, so I had to just put it back in the fridge for the remainder of the curing time. After 5-7 days, now is the time to smoke it. I do not have a cold smoker, so I sliced up the belly and cooked some up right away and froze the rest for future use. It’s good. But I’m after Jeremie to build me a cold smoker because I think that will make it great!