Saturday, December 31, 2022

What are your goals for 2023?

Happy New Year, dear readers!

I won't ask about New Year's resolutions, since I think they're kinda dumb. However what I'd like to know is, what are your goals for 2023?

Don and I have been talking about projects we want to accomplish in the upcoming year. The biggest one is getting the garden installed. An advantage of waiting two years (since we moved here) is we have a better understanding of the "traffic patterns" on our land and where we want to put things.

Initially we figured the only place we could put the garden is in the driveway, since it's the widest and flattest spot on our weird pie-wedge-shaped property. In fact, that's where we already put our (nuclear) strawberry beds.

But now we're reconsidering putting the rest of the garden there and instead will be fencing a spot above the yard and putting the garden there. It's on a shallow slope, but it has easy access from the yard and is nearby not just one, but two existing water taps.

We also want to hold a massive yard sale and offload a lot of things we no longer need (another advantage of our two-year moving anniversary; we've sorted what we need vs. what is superfluous).

Once we have the yard sale, that will clear the barn enough that we can construct cattle infrastructure (feed boxes, calf pen, milking stall, etc.) and consider getting a couple of Jerseys.

And of course, there's the chicken coop and yard. So much to do!

So here's where I'd like to open things up for discussion. What are your goals for 2023? What do you hope to accomplish (as the saying goes) "God willing and the creek don't rise"? What ambitions do you have for the new year?

Meanwhile, I wish everything the very happiest New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

What's Christmas without shortbread?

One of my favorite cookies is shortbread. In years past, I've made this treat only at Christmas, usually to hand out to friends and neighbors as gifts.

This year, I saw a different recipe online ("Buttery British shortbread") and decided to give it a go. The difference was semolina flour, something I've never used before.

This version called for the cookies to be baked in one large sheet in baking pans. (I made another batch later and just pressed it into smaller cookie sheets, which worked fine.)

I used a jar dipped in sugar as a small rolling pin to roll everything flat. (In the subsequent batch, I just flattened it with my hands.)

The dough is then sprinkled with coarse demerara sugar.

The result was, indeed, delicious and buttery, a perfect Christmas treat.

I may have a new favorite recipe!

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Newest book now available

I have a bad habit of forgetting to announce whenever a new book is available. This morning a friend reminded me that my latest, "The Mysterious Amish Nanny," is now officially released.

I don't know what it is, but this cover art remains my favorite.

From the back-cover blurb:

When car failure stalls Englischer Ruth Wengerd’s impulsive cross-country trip, she doesn’t expect to be rescued by a horse and buggy—or to suddenly become a nanny for widower Adam Chupp’s son. Helping the sweet family reminds Ruth of her Amish upbringing and the shameful secret she’s hiding. But when the temporary job begins to feel permanent, can she face up to her past…for a future she left once before?



Just for fun, I'll screenshot stats from Amazon throughout the day. Here's the first (6 a.m. Pacific):

2 pm:

7 pm:

Dec. 28, 6:45 am

9:30 am

Thank you all, dear readers, for your enthusiastic support in this new writing career!

Monday, December 26, 2022

Waste not, want not

I came across a recipe the other day for how to make a nifty snack: roasted potato peels. In the spirit of "waste not, want not," I decided to give them a try the next time I used some potatoes.

Rather than peeling the potatoes directly into the sink, I first scrubbed them...

...then peeled them onto a cutting board.

I drizzled the peels with a bit of oil, then tossed them with salt and pepper.

I laid them out on a pan...

...and slid them into the wood cookstove oven (may as well use the heat!).

I baked them until they were crunchy.

Then I tossed them with a bit of Parmesan cheese.

The result was kinda "meh." These aren't the first snacks I'd reach for. That said, they weren't bad.

It's more what they represent: An edible solution to what had previously been a wasted resource. Should the day ever come when every calorie will count, you can bet we'll be using all our potato peels. Waste not, want not!

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Splitting up Christmas

We're not really celebrating Christmas today. Why not? Because Younger Daughter will be coming home in late January (haven't seen her in over three years!) and we'll have our celebration then. In fact, we plan to leave the tree and outside lights up until then because she hasn't seen many Christmas trees in the last three years.

So on this, actual Christmas Day, we're just having a low-key day. In many ways, it's a much more of a religious focus for us. We went to our church's candlelit Christmas Eve service last night, and then attended church again this morning.

We don't even have any livestock at the moment to care for. In years past, we always made sure to feed our livestock extra well on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, because legend has it animals are granted the gift of speech on Christmas Eve, and we never wanted our beasties complaining to the neighbors about how they're treated.

In the absence of livestock, I've been keeping the bird feeder extra full.

Our "livestock" has consisted of Cassin's finches, Oregon juncos, lesser goldfinches, ring-necked doves, quail, and the occasional black-headed grosbeak.

(The red light on the quail's breast is a reflection of a Christmas light through the window.)

Below the deck, the snow is a mess, covered with cracked and uncracked seeds. This attracts turkey and even deer in droves (you can see some turkeys dashing away on the left.)

Here Mr. Darcy is ON ALERT just after scaring the turkeys off. He lives for moments like that.

Oh, and red-shafted flickers. They're not here for sunflower seeds; they're here to winkle bugs and grubs from tight spaces.

We've had our share of snow and cold. Here snow is falling in front of the woodpile... 

...and across the fields.

We have high-spirited neighbors who drive a pickup pulling young people on sleds, skiis, and anything else that slides.

Last night we were leaving (in the dark) for church and heard shrieks and laughter as they pulled this stunt in the dark. Ah, to be young and stupid again. It's cute, actually. We enjoy watching them.

Tonight we plan to settle down to watch the 1947 version of "Miracle on 34th Street" and drink Irish cream. Our annual tradition is to watch George C. Scott's "A Christmas Carol," but we'll wait for Younger Daughter to be home to do that.

I hope and pray, dear readers, that no one got caught up in the ugly weather slamming so much of the nation. Be safe and warm out there. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Those old books

Recently a reader left a comment about the photo below as follows: "You teased me with the beautiful, sunlit photo of what looks like two sets of books. What are the two sets? You had previously mentioned collecting the Harvard Classics. I have been seeing some of them, various editions, periodically, in my local (Florida) library’s used books-for-sale section, usually for 50 cents each. If you’re still looking for any volumes, and have a post office box (I’m sure you don’t want to give out your address) I can keep an eye out for them."

Yes, one of those sets is my beloved Harvard Classics, purchased for $1/each when our old library was upgrading. (Thank you for the very sweet offer, but I have the complete set.)

The other (more colorful) set of books is the collection of "Britannica Great Books," purchased many years ago at a different library sale for – are you ready for this? – $3. Not $3 for each book, but $3 for the complete set. Score!

Then the other day, a shaft of sunlight hit the books and I just thought they were so pretty. Heavens, I do love our books.

But apparently I'm not the only one. I stumbled across an article recently called  "We’re drowning in old books. But getting rid of them is heartbreaking" that discusses the sorrow older people feel when it comes to downsizing their personal home libraries (an act of love so their heirs won't be forced to deal with them). One woman said, "The idea of getting rid of these books made me nauseous." Another said, "Constitutionally, I am unable to throw a book away. To me, it’s like seeing a baby thrown in a trash can. I am a glutton for print. I love books in every way."

I'm afraid these are sentiments I entirely understand.

The article explains, "What to do with old books is a quandary that collectors, no matter what age, eventually face – or leave to their heirs who, truly, do not want the bulk of them. Old volumes are a problem for older Americans downsizing or facing mortality, with their reading life coming to a close. ... Book lovers are known to practice semi-hoardish and anthropomorphic tendencies. They keep too many books for too long, despite dust, dirt, mold, cracked spines, torn dust jackets, warped pages, coffee stains and the daunting reality that most will never be reread. Age rarely enriches a book."

(Speak for yourself. I re-read my books all the time.)

The article adds, "Most people haven’t a clue as to how many books they own. Possibly, they don’t want to know. Roberts [the owner of a used bookstore] routinely make house calls to owners claiming to own 2,000 books only to discover a quarter of that."

Well, in our heyday we had about 5,000 books in our home, including the libraries of both our kids. Two thousand books? Pfft. That's nothing.

"With the exception of rare and antiquarian collectors, few owners know the monetary value of their holdings. Invariably, they overvalue them," remarks the article.

Um, none of our books have any value whatsoever ... except to us. My copy of Jane Goodall's "In the Shadow of Man," signed by her in 1980? Absolutely stinkin' priceless.

While both our daughters have become avid readers, they both have their own tastes in literature, as they should. When the time comes to disperse our library, it's doubtful either kid will want the vast majority of the volumes on our shelves.

But that's okay. They can have a great big bonfire with our books if they want to, then use our shelves to house their own collection. But in the meantime, I'm not getting rid of 40+ years' worth of books just because we're getting older.

As the article concludes, "[One booklover] makes no excuses. She says: 'There are millions of books in the world. Twelve thousand is nothing. It's like having a pound of salt from the ocean.' So she will hold on to each and every one of them."

Preach it, sister.