County Fairs and Canning

Summertime is still County Fair time for our neck of the woods, and we try to support the local events against the inexorable march of modernity.  I’ve been saddened to see the volume of exhibits dwindle in past years, as I’m sure it is an indicator that we are losing our rural life skills.  This year I decided to learn how to can, having grown up with my mother’s freezer jam – and reminded by my husband (who apparently loves to sleep on the couch and can’t figure out how he keeps winding up there) that his grandmother’s canned peaches were the best on the planet.

After much ado, buying jars and scavenging recipes, I came up with a nice selection of jam, spreads, and some fairly fantastic spaghetti sauce.  Now for some human testing… Oh yes, the Fair is coming up.  Nice, anonymous subjects to spring my creations on.  Practically untraceable if anything should go wrong.

Off to the Fair.  Everyone in the family entered this year, with some surprising results…

Drew was thrilled to receive a red ribbon for his wooden model of a catapult, while Kendra was pleased with her double placement in drawing and painting.  David’s Tri-Loom for weaving was on display with other wood-working exhibits.  I snagged some blue ribbons in spinning and dyeing wool, and placed in knitting, weaving, and yup…canning.

Most surprising of all was a grand champion ribbon awarded to my Plum Surprise Chutney.  What the judged didn’t know, is that I don’t even like chutney, never tasted my recipe, and still haven’t opened any other jars of it in the pantry!  (Although I was able to pawn some off on dear Uncle Fred – it’s vinegar bite nearly killed him, but he recovered enough to stir it up with something else and swallow it down.)

We also viewed the livestock and vendor exhibits, cooling off with sweet tea and lemonade, and having our favorite fried green tomatoes for a treat!  So, the fair was another grand success, and can be counted as a proving ground for mad kitchen scientists…  Check out their site below (they may be looking for new food judges next year).

“Ozarks Perspective” Receives Recognition

I was so tickled to open the mailbox and find something besides bills!  My essay, “An Ozarks Perspective” received Honorable Mention in the 2011 Literary Awards from Whispering Prairie Press, publishers of Kansas City Voices.  Here’s a tidbit…

Diversity is the new catch-word for our american society, but as any old farmer knows, diversity is a way of life in the country.  Especially is this true of Ozark Mountain country.  Perched at the top of the Boston Mountain chain in the Midwest, the Ozarks’ rounded tops, natural springs, and rocky outcroppings make for some of the loveliest scenery in the land.  Some have likened the Great Plains to a giant patchwork quilt, stretched flat.  But if you take that quilt and allow it to fold and bend, you get the Ozark Mountains – with its spectacular panoramic views, but hidden in the folds are countless nooks and crannies of intimate beauty.  And so the land offers its diversity, and demands we do the same.  Traditional crop farming won’t suffice here, so the settlers learned to widen their net, to cultivate every talent and skill and opportunity available to them (or as my mother would say, to have a finger in everyone’s pie).

Like the native flora and fauna, life here is still governed by the seasons.  Our actions and our economy must change with the whims of the weather.  In the financial difficulties of current times, experts encourage us to have multiple sources of revenue – and perhaps that is why the Ozark Mountain people seem so unchanging.  Throughout the fluctuations of modern society and culture, we simply continue to quietly work at what works for us: run a few head of cattle over here, plant a garden there, sell a bit at the farmer’s market, barter handmade wares, and pick up the odd paying job to fill in the cracks.  The wisdom to not “carry all your eggs in one basket” is a neccesity here.  Generations of working diversely have rubbed off on our very DNA.  We can’t be interested in just one thing.  Always, the questions return – How can I make it better?  Can I do it myself?  How far back in the process can I go to truly make it from scratch?  Where can I adapt my new knowledge to make it work for me?

A woman who loves to knit soon finds herself spinning her own yarn, then raising the sheep to produce the fiber.  A man delighted by the taste of freshly-picked berries must then plant his own fruit-bearing bushes, then invites others to share his over-abundance.  A weekend gardener is fascinated by the interplay of insects and flowers, and is soon become a beekeeper and purveyor of honey.  A vibrant working woman develops a mysterious illness and must make her own soap and household products to survive, then creates a home business built on the variety and charm of her designs.Not one of these endeavors is sufficient to feed and clothe the family, but that was never really the point, was it?  To Learn.  To Love.  To Share.  That is what makes us tick.  And when one area is exhausted, we begin another, and another, until our array of knowledge and skills rivals any financier’s portfolio.  Perhaps not in monetary value, but we’re certainly diversified!

This Month On the Lane…..July

Sometimes weeks go by and I wonder what in the name of laundry we did with the time. After reviewing the calendar, homeschool assignments, and pictures taken this month, I’m going to quit being so hard on myself!

July 2011

(Take a deep breath and hum the William Tell Overture)…Attended a writer’s conference, saw the doctor, had lunch with the girls, sent out monthly newsletter, taught 2 knitting classes, finished “lava slug” scarf, spun 260 yards of ice-green wool/silk blend, wrote 2 pages of 6-word memoirs and submitted them to SMITH Magazine , read an unknown number of books, started new Language, History, and Science books with kids, got a haircut, groomed the dog, buried Kendra’s hamster, bought Kendra a new hamster (which promptly had 2 babies – she’s thrilled), got rid of surplus roosters (don’t ask, it probably isn’t legal), had dinner with Mom, celebrated wedding anniversary (one week early to accommodate David’s surgery the next week), put on a “quiz show” for the kids….in costume, started writing seriously again, outlined the next school year, picked up the cello again, started learning hammered dulcimer and celtic harp, hosted going-away party for friend, dropped off entries at the Fair, cheered winning entries at the Fair, cursed stupid judges for non-winning entries at the Fair, took Kendra to zoo class for time of her life, saw a movie, and wrote a song (Karen’s Waltz).

And THAT’s why the laundry didn’t get folded!