Monthly Archives: October 2014

Have Books and Friends that Travel

Chandelier of Louise Bennett Library

Chandelier of Louise Bennett Library

Some of you may know that I am a member of a small book club that started about three years ago. That we have a monthly meeting with a new selection every month to discuss. It is one of things that I look forward to each month. We usually meet at our historic county library that I just love but with the many things that have been going on in my life I was just not able to go a couple of times this year and the book club met at my home. Wonderful that I have book loving friends that will travel.

 

 

front of Louis Bennett Library

front of Louis Bennett Library

a 4 story mansion donated to the city of weston  for use as a llibrary

a 4 story mansion donated to the city of Weston for use as a library

 

Woman who live in the country are sometimes limited in their ability to socialize. Distance and lack of events makes it hard for us to get together in places other than church or school functions. So my little book club is a wonderful place to build relationships and share ideas. Country living just makes our trip to get a good book a little longer. From my house it is about 25 minutes to a book store but for my friend Sandy it is closer to an hour to get to a place that sells real paper books. So when my friends found out about my foot surgery and my lack of ability to walk comfortably they were happy to stop at my house instead. In true county fashion the girls showed up with sweet treats to eat during the meeting and Sandy had even gone out of her way and made our family a pot of warm beef stew for dinner that night. Really aren’t all problems better when some one shares their home cooking with you!

Janice, Sandy and Christopher at our Thanksgiving Book club meeting

Janice, Sandy and Christopher at our Thanksgiving Book club meeting

Our book club reads lots of regional authors and we try to support  West Virginian’s who continue to try to share a positive image of our area. One of those authors Joshua Dyer who has written a novel titled “Finding November” about not only our county ( Lewis county West Virginia)  but about a fascinating time period, the  Great Depression and finding the meaning of family and love. He and other authors from Appalachia like our latest author Lee Smith and her book “Saving  Grace”  explore the hardship of living isolated from the outside world and how the traditions of this region are some times surprising and wonderful all at once. In the future I hope to add some posts about some of these traditions to add  my voice to these authors attempt to share and explore life in the rural mountains.

So with my new book club selection packed safely away in my carry on,I am ready to head to St. Louise for my birthday. I am spending some time with my Mother and Brothers family. I am so glad that I have  some thing to read in the airport that will remind me of my home and the friends that I have made. The trip is a short one, but a much-needed break from the 4 months that Grandma Powers lived with us and the couple of weeks that I have been trapped in this cast. The idea of spending time in the Ozarks with a good book and with family is just what a tired girl needs.

 

 

 

Categories: Birthday, Books, Family, Louis Bennett Library, Ozark mountains, regional authors, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sweet Potato Garden FAIL that Tastes so Good!

So it did finally frost about a week ago and we did finally get a chance before my two-week recovery to get out and dig my beautiful, bountiful, overflowing sweet potatoes. This was the first time either my husband or I  attempted to grow them in our family garden. The slips were a gift from a friend and we started off with about 10 plants and hoped to get 2 to 3 roots per plant. Well as things always go in a garden this one was about the funniest fails I have ever had.

Sweet Potato slips ready to plant

Sweet Potato slips ready to plant

The plants started off well and we did nothing to stop their spread or growth. Eventually they over ran the row they were growing in and just took over. My pumpkin hills became a sea of sweet potato vines and we lost pumpkins and cucumbers to the tangle of root shoots. Cody my oldest son played hide and seek with pumpkins and cucumbers in between their glossy leaves.

Cody picking Pumpkins in the sweet potato patch

Cody picking Pumpkins in the sweet potato patch

So the excitement was so high when my husband said it was time to trim the plants down and dig, dig, dig. It took us a couple of hours to dig the patch of 10 plants. Slowly and careful to not damage to roots we found that almost the enter garden damaged by VOLES. Check out this link for images and information on the difference between Moles and Voles.

I wanted to laugh and cry all at once, the largest and most beautiful potatoes were the most damaged.The beautiful pink skin left with huge holes and pits. We carried two five gallon buckets up on the porch and I  just walked away…… for several days! It was so discouraging I almost tossed all of them out.

Mole damaged sweet potatoes 2014

Mole damaged sweet potatoes 2014

As I walked past the buckets twice a day for a week my heart just did not have strength to dump the darn things out. “What should I do with them” was my thought every time I looked down at the muddy pink flesh. Finally on a spur of the moment idea I just started cleaning, sorting and tossing out my harvest. Finally it came to me… “What would your grandma do? She would use them any way.” The roots were mostly corked over where the damage had happened, so no rot was found. I was left with 8 to 10 pounds of sweet potatoes that needed saved in some way. So I cleaned, paired and salvaged what I could from the buckets.

trimmed,washed and sorted sweet potatoes ready to parboil

trimmed,washed and sorted sweet potatoes ready to parboil

I boiled the potatoes for twenty minutes, drained them and cooled them for several hours. Still sad, I removed the skins by hand under warm running water. Finally, they started to look like the yams that we normally see brightly colored, clean and blemish free. I cut them into large chunks and measured their amount. Discovering that I really did not have enough to make a full canner full of candied sweet potatoes I froze the remaining pieces.

4 Cups frozen Sweet potato chunks

4 Cups frozen Sweet potato chunks

Then as I reached the end of my pile of chucks I finally realized that I had plenty of time to make a Sweet Potato Pie ( canning sweet potatoes is at least a 90 minute process that I did not want to do). So just on chance I took the remaining pile of potatoes and cooked them for another 20 minutes until fork tender and braved the internet for a pie recipe. So to make this story shorter I made 2 wonderful sweet potato pies that I shared with my friends and family.

Maple Pecan Sweet Potato Pie.

Maple Pecan Sweet Potato Pie.

At the end of the day I felt satisfied, I had learned a lot about Voles/Moles, Sweet Potatoes and Pie. This gardening FAIL ended up tasting great!  Lucky for me every one seemed to like a pie made from what retail stores call trash. I think my Grandmother who raised 6 living kids and farmed for a living would have been proud that I didn’t give up on those chewed up roots.

Categories: cakes and family deserts, canning, gardening, mole/ vole damage, Pie, Preserving, regional food, Sweet Potato | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Moving Forward to Health and Healing: Foot Surgery

I have been comfortably recovering from my foot surgery. I am so glad that it is over and I am finally going to get my life back to normal. I have been so lucky in my life time, I have never needed much medication. So at 46 to have my pre-operation nurse bragging to everyone that she had a patent that was on NO medications at all was a surprise. I have been very healthy most of my life, only having to a few broken bones over the last 20 years. So I feel lucky that it was nothing more serious that sent my to the hospital.

Again who would have thought that a bone the size of a nickel or dime would cost so much of my time and energy. Now it is just getting my body healed and back in shape for my active life style. The surgery to remove the bone was about an hour and everything went as planed. My foot is in a splint and ace bandages, not the hard cast that I wanted. This limits my ability to go out side( can’t get the bandages wet) and it is a typical rainy fall here in WV. No sitting on the porch for now!

me in my bandages after surgery

me in my bandages after surgery

I have low-level pain from the surgery and have not needed to take anything more than a couple of Tylenol to keep the pain at bay, which is wonderful. But, I will tell you this much, I am out of shape, over weight and crutches are not easy on the shoulders. So my current challenge really is not the pain from my foot but the soreness from my shoulders. I do have an office chair with wheels so I can scoot around my kitchen and dinning area and play on the computer with out much effort but the rest is on my shoulders and arms. It is not as easy as I thought it would be. So another lesson learned and that is really what life is all about. I head back to see the Orthopedic Surgeon on Halloween ( Oct 31st)  to have the stitches removed and get a new walking cast. At that time I can walk but should use caution on how much standing and walking I do. That cast will be with me 5 weeks and then freedom is some time in the first week in Dec.

As you can see all is well and I am going to write about some older topics for a while and fill you in on some other things that are happening around here…. like buying a house, another fixer upper, how grandma Powers is faring with her battle with Cancer and  more fresh from the garden recipes. I finally have some extra time to write more and will be share allot over the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for stopping and I will be writing more soon, Jolynn

Categories: About me, foot pain, foot surgery, Healing, health | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Preparations Begin: Surgery is less then a week away

It is finally going to happen…. a year and 30 days later, I will finally have the bone removed from my foot. I had my pre-operation appointment and everything is looking fine for my foot surgery on the 20th Oct. I will be in a cast for another 5 to 6 weeks but the future is looking so nice and I really don’t mind it at all. Because this photo shows what I had to deal with all last winter.

Air cast in the snow

Air cast in the snow

Under the freshly fallen snow is my Air Cast and under that are two thermal socks and two plastic bags to keep my toes and feet from freezing. This is what I had to do to take Christopher to the bus stop every morning. I slipped on the ice, I had ice balls under my toes, waded through parking lots full of slush and only fell one time last winter. I worked through all of it, during one of the worst West Virginia winters in 20 years. With my foot hurting, limping along with a 5 pound cast. I somehow made light of my situation by just laughing at it.

Christopher was the only one who found my broken bone a good thing. He knew I had more time to snuggle and play with him up close. I was never going to chase him through the yard so he could torment me until we both just giggled. He never minded that his mom was in a cast and took full advantage of my time out of it the cast to play “broken bone man”

Christopher playing with my cast spring 2014

Christopher playing with my cast spring 2014

I have done all the things that I would normally done without the cast. So finally around July of this year I went back to the Orthopedic Dr’s office and asked for a new cast. Yea….. they looked at me funny when I explained that I had walked all the rubber of the bottom of the cast and it was flopping around like an old shoe.  I needed a second cast to finish out the year. “Wow” the nurse said “We never have to give out new ones”. Well I needed a new one and it was free because the warranty was for one year and I had gotten about 6 months out of mine. So does that tell  you that I just can’t sit still most of the time.

Mushroom hunting in my cast...#2.

Mushroom hunting in my cast 2014.

In this photo I can really begin to see where the weight of inactivity was creeping up. I actually gained almost 35 pounds over the course of this year and I have heard that up to 50 is not unheard of. You are just so limited in everything you do. Over the year my foot did cause me to go from working 35 hours a week to 10 and then none. So I am hopeful that when this is over I will be able to work 30 to 40 hours a week on my feet again.

Now the preparations for not walking for 11 days begin. I have been working on getting grandma moved back to her house for the remainder of her recovery ( see Cancer sucks post). I have been cleaning like a mad woman and getting some one set up to come help me for the second day after surgery and a few days after that. We still have lots of shopping for frozen food to do. I am not cooking for several weeks so forgive me for not doing any new food posts for a month or so. I am planing to do lots of reading and writing though. I will be doing some traveling two weeks after surgery and will be posting about all the effects of traveling in a walking cast with a small child… That will make for a funny post. So if I  did not say  it before, I will say it now, Thank You for your support. I will be posting again next week after the surgery and let you all know how it went . So until then take care. I am on the road to recovery and will be able to do more and write more about how wonderful living in the Mountain State  is and my life as a homesteading woman.

Categories: About me, family health, foot pain, foot surgery, Healing, health | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Pablano Chili Peppers Roasted Straight from the Garden

Our family loves chilies and peppers of all kinds. We always plant sweet and hot peppers but this is the first time I tried to grow chilies at home. The most prized are always the Pablano chili peppers. They are a mild heat chili and make  the base for many of the traditional Tex-Mex dishes and some to the true Mexican classics like Chili Rellenos. My family loves them and we roast hundreds every year in my little kitchen making the house smell spicy and sweet at the same time.

Pablano chili in the garden

Pablano chili in the garden

Roasting a pepper of any kind takes time and  I usually do the roasting in the morning while the house still cool. I actually roast my chilies in my ovens broiler. Some use the open flame of a gas stove top and others do it out side on the grill but in any case it is a job that you must keep an eye on. On one wants to burn the peppers they just want to char the skins and then remove them. I use an old metal roasting pan and set my broiler on low. On low it takes about 8 minutes to roast the peppers turning the peppers as the skin slowly turns black and brown and the skin withers.

 

Roasted Pablano chili peppers

Roasted Pablano chili peppers

 

There are endless ways to uses the peppers when they are free from the though skin. My husband I  love to make traditional Chili Rellneos but the process is a long one and some nights we just don’t have time to bread and fry and then bake them. So I have shortened the steps and in the process and lightened the fat content up. I just bake mine and I buy a pre-made sauce to bake them in. We also stuff the peppers with meats like ground venison, chicken or pork sausage mixed with bread crumbs and cheese. These peppers spicy but with the seeds and veins removed they are not a HOT burn. Well unless you happen to miss a seed … then things get a little hot.

After the Chilies finish roasting, to remove the skins some people place them into paper bag. I happen to have an old ice cream bucket with a nice tight lid that I toss the hot peppers into the let them steam and cool. I then peel the skins off, remove seeds and sometimes the stems.

Roasted chilies in bucket ready to peal

Roasted chilies in bucket ready to peel

pealing the skin on the chili pepper

pealing the skin on the chili pepper

 

In the meatless version I peel open the pepper remove the seeds and veins and stuff each one with an easy to melt Quesso  cheese. My husband also likes to use Monterrey Jack or Cheddar. I place the pepper seem side down in the base of a baking dish covered with a tomato sauce. Personally use an enchilada sauce made from roasted tomatoes.

Chilies stuffed with cheese

Chilies stuffed with quesso cheese

I then cover the peppers with more sauce and a layer of shredded cheese and back then 25 mints at 350. We usually serve this with re-fried beans, rice and cornbread. Making a wonderful meatless Monday dinner.

 

Stuffed Chilies ready to bake

Stuffed Chilies ready to bake

 

Recipe for cheese stuffed chilies for two servings

6 to 7 med Pablano peppers.

1 1/2 pounds Quesso cheese. We use a good melting kind.

1 jar roasted tomato enchilada sauce

1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese or blend

Roast peppers then remove seeds, veins and stems.

Cut Quesso cheese is long chunks that will fill the peppers full.

Pour 1/2 can enchilada sauce in bottom of 13×9 pan add stuffed chilies to pan pour remaining sauce over the top of chilies and top with shredded cheese.

bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

 

Categories: cooking, country cooking, gardening, pepper /chilies, Tomatoes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Mystical Mushroom Photos

When my family mushroom hunts I take lots of photos. Some of them are just your average record keeping photos but others seem to bring back to life the feeling of the fairy garden and the deep woods legends. I have a dear friend ( Beverly) who reminded me years ago that it is important to still have contact with that magical place where we are children and free to explore and imagine. So over the last few years I have attempted to take the time that we spend in the woods to a more arcane place. To find the and photograph as many mushrooms as I can. Making the fungus seem larger than life and full of magical stories. So since I am still a novice mushroom hunter and photographer I hope you will bear with me over the next few years as I discover and explore my love for mushrooms on film.

poly-spore on tree limb

poly spore on tree limb

 

As a kid I was always drawn to the fairy art work that showed mushrooms in some way. I hope to add that feeling to my photos although some of the first photos I took of this subject matter were just about documentation of the verity that we had found. Like this first photo that actually got my interest peaked and made me want to find more. This photo shows a cluster of different mushroom we found growing on one log in one afternoon… I only wish I could find this type of thing again. I should have slowed down and taken my time with this photo but excitement got the best of me.

Large mushroom group growing together on the same log... amazing

Large mushroom group growing together on the same log… amazing

Then as the year past and I was unable to keep up with my sons and husband in hunting the eatable mushrooms I started looking at them with a more artistic eye and started to slow down ( broken bone in the foot really helped with this). So I started to look at them from that child point of view, with wonder and amazement and with the help of some photo editing I started to get photos that not only documented what we were finding but also started to show signs of the mystery that I find in the woods and with its inhabitants.

Honey Mushroom  in fresh spring dirt

Honey Mushroom in fresh spring dirt

double scarlet cup

double scarlet cup

 

Then on early morning this spring I found myself alone in the woods sitting on a high bank full of Poplar trees with no one around. Tom and I had headed to the woods to look for the famous Morels and I was just not able to keep up with them on the soft, wet, steep soil. So I sat for a long time looking at the tiny honey mushrooms that formed a Fairy Ring around one tree…. they were every where hundreds maybe thousands all smaller than a penny. I thought about the fairy ring and wondered if I could somehow capture parts of it. This is the result of thinking about our cultures mythology of the fairy ring and the mushroom.

mushroom with faded edges

mushroom with faded edges 2014

Fairy Mushrooms under the poplar trees.2014

Fairy Mushrooms under the poplar trees.2014

I have even begun to see my mushroom photos in a  way to communicate with others about my feelings as this photo shows. I took this photo along a road side on a broken trunk of a tree. I also love the way it looks with no words at all just a quite image of the slow decomposition process.

Einstein and the mushroom tree

Einstein and the mushroom tree

white tree mushroom

white tree mushroom

Some how these mysterious fungus have captured my heart and my imagination and I hope to continue to explore my woodlands for images of them that show off the beauty and mysterious world that we inhabit. So for now I will be keeping my eyes on the ground looking for my favorite thing in the woods.

Tree shelf mushroom on elm tree

Tree shelf mushroom on elm tree

Chanterelles waiting to be washed  and fried

chanterelles for dinner

turkey tail mushrooms on log with wild flowers

turkey tail mushrooms on log with wild flowers 2014

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Foraging, Mushrooms, mythology, photo review, Photos | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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