For The Love of Mom and Garden Dirt

Hello, old friends and welcome new subscribers. For those of you in Australia, your growing season just finished, but we’re just starting here.

And so is a family ritual.: GIVING UP ON GARDENING.

In Grandma’s era, they hitched the horse to the plow, tilling a quarter acre for the garden. Mom’s era used a tractor. Like the women who came before her, it was simply how they fed the family through the winter.

So like my foremothers, each spring, I USED TO nag Dallas Cowboy Fan until he tilled my patch of dirt. Growing season is short in Oregon. For 4 months I  planted weeded, watered, debugged, harvested, and canned.

That garden exhausted me for over 20 years. When I lay down on summer nights, it felt as though my bones were sinking to the backside of my body.

About six years ago, I planted half the garden. And then, I graduated to planting only a quarter of the garden.

For the last three years, I’ve kept the plot weeded and composted, but haven’t stuck a seed in the ground. I’m full of excuses.

And now the earth is tilting again. The soil is waking  in the northern hemisphere. The garden is calling.

I remember the day Grandma said she wasn’t able to work in the garden anymore. We were shocked. She was giving in to old age. And twenty years later, when Mom started planting tomatoes in buckets from Home Depot, we knew the end of her era was coming.

So a couple of weeks ago, I stood, surveying my dirt. It made me tired to look at it. I decided to let the ground go back to the wild again. No more work for me.

But then, the memories invaded.

  • The giddy thrill of leaf-tips breaking through the soil.
  • Wars on rabbits and deer.
  • Cats keeping me company, watching from under the zucchini plants.
  • Missing green beans, strawberries, and melons because Scout and his friends had been in the garden snacking.
  • Kids digging taters and squealing like it was buried treasure.
  • Trudging to the house in the past-dusk, arms full of corn and tomatoes.
  • Night dew making the smell of  earth rise.
  • Moonlight on cornstalks, as we waited to chase raccoons away.

How many hours had I spent on hands and knees, working this dirt? I wasn’t ready to plant in Home Depot buckets yet. So I visited our Master Gardener’s Association.

It seems gardening has changed since the way Grandma and Mom did it.

Gone are the days of tilling a big rectangle of dirt each fall and spring.

Weed-Less is the “thing” now.

So, I put down a weedbarrier where I DIDN”T want to grow anything. And topped it with cedar chips.

I added  drip irrigation (instead of my spitting sprayer). (conserving water)

Floating row covers, give a head start on the season, and protect from critters and air-borne weeds.

In winter, spent plants will be removed, disturbing the soil as little as possible. Soil is covered…and awaits the call of Spring.

Folks say, they haven’t tilled their garden in 20 years, using this method. This isn’t weed-free. But weeding and watering take very little time each week. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s working out.

Floating row cover

I know there’ll come a day when I won’t put in a garden

anymore.  It’s coming.

But until then, I’m tethered to the women in my family, who for some reason sensed a calling each spring to put seeds in the dirt and wait.

And so it begins…

Here’s more about Weed-Less Gardening if you’re interested.

For new subscribers..

You might like to know that I also write another blog, Before Morning Breaks, under a different name. It’s a different post than this one. My apologies to those of you who didn’t like the same post in both places last time. I understand and don’t mean to disappoint, and will strive to keep the topics different. Thanks for letting me know what you like (and what you don’t).

Do You Garden?  How do you make it easier?

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How to Take A Viking Tour…Part 1

Don’t use the back door when the blades are on that side.

It’s been a while since my last post. We have a bit of catching up to do.

Last Christmas, we decided we didn’t need any “stuff,” instead, we said we’d save our bucks spent on  anniversary, birthdays, and  Christmas and give ourselves an international experience in the upcoming year instead.

Okay, we were probably watching too much Public Broadcasting. The beguiling violins and cellos of the Viking Cruise song lured us like sirens … and shoot, darn, heck, who doesn’t want to travel to foreign places to learn to knead bread, make pancakes, and run between the blades of the windmills. (Okay, maybe not that last one.) We signed up.

The Grand European Tour: Amsterdam to Budapest

1.  PACK RIGHT:  I’m a small packer. I feel righteous about only traveling with a carry-on

Smart packing techniques.

and a backpack. Of course, I look like a charwoman most of the time, but when I’m traveling, I figure I’ll never see these folks again, so why risk a dislocated spine?

But on a river cruise, you DO see these folks. Everyday. Every night. Almost  every meal. Almost every tour. So I had to bring a slightly bigger suitcase and more clothes. Now here’s a travel-secret: Use the JEANS-TECHNIQUE: No one is sure if you’ve previously worn your jeans, OR if you’ve got on a fresh pair…so you could probably do a 15-day trip with 2 pair of jeans.  Except all my jeans look like they should be made into Raggedy Ann dolls, so instead I simply packed black clothes. I looked like Johnny Cash with a scarf. The good news is that no one cares what you wear (unless you’re naked). These trips are pretty laid-back.

2. ARRIVE AT YOUR DESTINATION EARLY: I have a lot of talents. Most of them are useless (like counting backward in Pig-Latin or juggling sponges), but my favorite skill is being able to sleep on airplanes. I snap on noise-canceling headphones, a blindfold, warm socks, blanket, air pillows, nearby snacks, water, and Chapstick, and I’m snoozin’ by the time we reach mid-Atlantic ocean. I arrive only slightly less jet-lagged than Dallas Cowboy Fan, who has watched four movies through the overseas flight. We try to arrive early and soak up some sunshine in our new locale; it’s supposed to help the body reset. I don’t know if it works because every time I sit in the sun, I fall asleep like a cat in a warm spot.

3. PREP BEFORE YOU GO:

Yeah, sure, the cruise folks provide local lectures and tours in every town.  But these are

IMG_2332

Welcome back to the boat. You were only gone two hours. That’s okay. Welcome back and have a drink.

the usual touristy stuff. If you want to mix it up with the locals, you’ll have to find your own adventures.  And honest-to-Pete, our unplanned forays were some of the best parts of the trip. (See Part 2-coming)

4. TAKE SOMETHING TO DO:

Why?  Because you’ll be spending A LOT of time sitting around, watching the scenery go by.  Yes, most of it is lovely and interspersed with the groans and squeaks of going through 67 locks, but it’s sort of like being at a party for 2 weeks with strangers. People start hauling out cards, board games, dominoes, or telling you about relatives that you may (or may not)  care about.  One experienced traveler brought his taxes to work on; others brought knitting, puzzles, Kindle readers stuffed with books, journals, and several brought work from their offices. (There’s a lot of down-time).

5. SETTLE-IN:

Unpack in your cleverly engineered room. You’ll be pulling up to the food tanks about every 4 hours During this cruise-time, Viking will treat you like a queen or king. So IF your ideal vacation is eating and visiting OR not having to cook, do housework, or laundry, then you’re going to be very very happy. IF you need to be a bit more activity… you’ll need to come up with a plan.

Of course, not all of our plans turned out like we expected. We’re in 4 different countries, don’t speak the languages, and can’t read the signs. What could go wrong? And that’s the joy of travel. Stay tuned…but in the meantime…

Merry Christmas…may you have a few surprises among your presents.

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” 
― Anita Desai

COMING NEXT: PART 2:

TOURIST OR TRIP WARRIOR?…or

IF IT’S TUESDAY, IT MUST BE—HEY! WHERE ARE WE NOW?

in HOW TO TAKE A VIKING CRUISE

 

 

The WWII Ration Diet

From the National Archives

From the National Archives

In honor of Veteran’s Day this week, I have several acquaintances who are cooking only from the WW II Ration Plan.

Now, let me say that they live in Australia and England, and as I look at their food allotments, it has to be a real challenge to make meals.

WW2 Rations : Each person: Per Week United Kingdom

Butter: 1/4 Cup
Bacon or ham:  about 4 pieces
Margarine: 1/4 Cup
Cooking fat/lard: 1/2 Cup
Sugar: 1 Cup
Meat: 3/4 pound      <—THIS IS PER PERSON PER WEEK
Cheese: 1/4 cup
Eggs: one per week; supplement with dried eggs
Tea: A couple ounces of leaves per week.
Jam: two ounces a week…think in terms of a DAB on your toast
Sweets & Chocolate: 3 ounces a week.  (HINT:  A Hershey bar is 1.5 oz)

UNITED STATES

So let’s see what we could buy in the U.S for canned goods:

From Ames History Organization

From Ames History Organization

We have 48 points per month.I’d be tempted to blow it on 2 cans of pineapple, but that’s it for the month. I couldn’t buy any other canned food, but other family members could use their points.

As you can see, it would be better to have 3 cans of corn than 2 cans of grapefruit juice to live on for the month.

Some years ago, when I interviewed my grandmother about rationing, she was quick to point out that folks who lived on a farm …even a poor one…were used to doing without.

(Keep in mind they were just getting over the starvation of the Dust Bowl.)

“ANd we  grew our  own vegetables, skinny hogs and cattle. It was fuel and sugar that had us worried.”

With the problem of obesity so rampant, perhaps we should go back to this stricter food choice. We’d have:

  • No Starbucks
    No Fast Burgers or Pizza
    More Meatless Meals
    No food wasted. Instead we’d throw it in a pot and cook it as stew each week

I was admiring and  thinking about copying the WarTime Woman for just a week and eating according to

From the Wartime Woman: Beetroot Sandwiches

her rationing plans, but she lost me at BEETROOT sandwiches.

Hip hop on over and checkout her experiment.

http://thewartimewoman.com/

You’ll look at food differently.

In the meantime, Let us count our blessings. Thanks to both the veterans and civilians who help ensure that we eat in a time of peace.

 

A Burger for Church

Woman in ApronUsed to be, any mention of fast food caused nose wrinkles among Lutheran Ladies. We’re talking about women who were taught how to cook  as soon as they could waggle a spoon in a bowl without slopping the ingredients in a two foot radius.

Of course, they were wore aprons. (Old aprons for everyday use and nice frilly aprons for fancy-dress events)

Of course they learned from older women who threw handfuls of flour into bowls. When asked how many cups a recipe needed, the white-haired ladies would shrug and tell you “Until it looks right.”

These teaching-women didn’t know if the recipe was correct until they felt the dough, or tasted it, or watched it drip off a spoon (or bounced it on the counter—which Grandma liked to do when making noodles—I’m not sure why, but it was fun. Wa-hoo!)

So you can see why the mention of a fast food burger would make one of these ladies say: “I think we can do better than that.”

And then things changed…

Barbie_McDonaldsYou can blame it on:

  • More women working
  • Families loving hamburgers more than spinach
  • Being worn ragged by figuring out what to have for dinner, going to the store, prepping it, cooking it, serving it, listening to kids complain about it, and cleaning up the whole mess, hoping to fall on the couch by 8pm.
  • Doing the whole thing again the next day
  • And the next
  • Burgers were available AND cheap!!!

Note: (the original McDonalds was a burger shack in 1940 where two brothers cooked. It went corporate in 1955 with a franchised opening by Ray Kroc who later bought the McDonald brothers out).

Every bitty town had a burger place. And you were really a big city if you had a couple of burger joints AND one was a McDonalds.

BURGERS WERE TAKING OVER THE WORLD!!!hamburger

And then…Lord bless the Roman Catholics.

(Yes, I know this is a Lutheran Blog, but if it weren’t for our Catholic buddies, we’d be buried in burgers).

They obeyed Vatican II mandates and didn’t eat meat on Friday.

So McDonalds came out with a HULA BURGER for those worshipful Friday folks. It was

  • A slice of pineapple.Hula-type burger
  • A slice of cheese.
  • On a cold bun.

YummY!

 

Soon, everybody was going to the Catholic church for the Friday Fish Fry instead of the local burger barn. At McD’s the Hula burger was discontinued in less than a year’s time and morphed into Filet-O-Fish burger.

If you’re like me, after the holidays, the remains of burgers and fish patties are still hanging around (on hip, belly, and bottom).

So…it’s time to turn to the famous Lutheran specialty….

SALADS

Jello saladOkay. Okay, we’re most famous for gelatin salads…not green, healthy salads….but that’s still a diet plan, isn’t it?

  • Just leave out the marshmallows.
  • And add pineapple. (In honor of the deceased Hula Burger)
  • Stir “Until it looks right,”
  • And be sure to wear your pretty apron.

 

 

(photos: litlnemo,Thomas, The Bees Knees)

The Candy Diet

candymakesmuscleI KNEW IT!!!

I’ve known it since I was five-years-old, but those adults in my life tried to tell me a different story about candy.

So while I was researching WWII era recipes for the next Lutheran Ladies book, I discovered what had already been proven during the 40s: Chocolate really is “Fightin’ Food.” It’s full of protein, makes muscles, and probably cures cowlick, too. (I don’t know….I can’t read the small text on the ad.)

One of the great concerns on the home front was raising STRONG kiddos since meat, eggs, and dairy products were rationed.

This explains: Vitamin donuts, and that gummmy white-bread to build bodies 12 ways. (which we mostly rolled around on the kitchen table and made dough-marbles out of.Food_vitaminDonuts

Food_Bread

And , as any “Boomer” kid knows. You had to clean your plate. I always thought it was a “Lutheran thing.”  But now I know I can blame WWII for our parents teaching us to eat everything on our plates. Now, let me add, the war was over and done with, but the “rules” remained. I quickly learned how to work the system, even at such a young age, and didn’t put icky, always-overcooked vegetables on my plate, but somehow they  appeared there anyway, and I had to force them down with lots of whining and complaining.

If Mom, would’ve read a few magazines and served us chocolate or these souped-up donuts, there would’ve been ZERO arguments at dinnertime.  But we’re Lutheran. We don’t change. So…to this day, ox-tail soup and home-grown veggies from Victory gardens that we never stopped planting, still appear on our dinner menus. We still say grace over it and count it as a blessing. (And if you look at us, you’ll see…we’ve learned to eat it all.) 

rationing-food-is-a-weaponNow…bring on the chocolate. It’s time for a change.