Friday, November 26, 2010

How to Render Raw Suet for Bird Feeding

Reeve keeps cattle and gave me 13 lbs. of suet, or the fat from around a cow's kidneys, raw. I froze it but knew I'd eventually have to "render" it, or cook it down to pure lard the way store-bought suet is. Never done this before. Put on an apron expecting grease as I cut room-temperature hunks into one-inch pieces and tore off the "silver skin" or membrane, but it was more like handling cooked chicken breast. Cooked first batch on low flame (45 minutes), second batch on medium flame (20 minutes) until I got a golden liquid, then scooped the "cracklins" out of it...the cracklins are edible but don't taste or smell good. I was afraid rendering beef fat would stink, the way they say sheep fat stinks, but it wasn't unpleasant. Poured the liquid into disposable pans and put it on the porch to cool, and within an hour it was perfectly white hardened clean LARD, aka beef tallow, which because it's purified will stay fresh for my bird friends even in summer. Cleanup was the greasy part, because when that stuff cools -- fast -- it's hard as flint. Will I do this again? Probably not; easier to buy. But I'm proud to have done it for my birds. Finished product at right.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Buy Missouri Tree Seedlings Super Cheap

The Missouri Department of Conservation asks you to plant these native trees wherever you've got the space and desire -- their chart tells you what type of soil the trees will thrive in. Oak, Sycamore, Tulip Tree, Osage-Orange, more -- if you are Missouri, your small investment of $8 or so per seedling will last several lifetimes! Look here for the details.

Friday, November 19, 2010

More Reasons to Like November

A sundae of colors this late afternoon. And yet another reason to like November: escarole soup, made today, the VERY BEST I've ever made, and economical too; found the recipe online. Serves about 4:

Escarole-Sausage Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
2 hot italian sausages
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 potato, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 head escarole, chopped
Chicken broth, about 4 or 5 cups
salt and pepper to taste

Crumble the sausage into the heated olive oil, and then the onion and garlic. Saute until the sausage is almost crisp. Add potato and carrot and saute until they are barely tender, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, drained white beans and the chopped escarole. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer about 25 minutes. Add salt and pepper to adjust to your taste. Mangia from Missouri.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sex First, Work Last: Is Anyone Surprised?

"When asked to rate their feelings on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being “very good,” the people having sex gave an average rating of 90. That was a good 15 points higher than the next-best activity, exercising, which was followed closely by conversation, listening to music, taking a walk, eating, praying and meditating, cooking, shopping, taking care of one’s children and reading. Near the bottom of the list were personal grooming, commuting and working."

The above is from the NYTimes today, results of a study on daydreaming and "wandering minds".

Monday, November 15, 2010

How Not to Hate November

1. Remember it is only 8 weeks until the days start getting longer.
2. There's Thanksgiving.
3. It's a good month to sit in a nook and write poetry. It's also National Novel-Writing Month.
4. November -- after deer season begins -- is the month to wear that awful orange sweater.
5. Flannel sheets on the bed; flannel pajamas; don't they feel nice?
6. Those south-facing windows get more sun.
7. The constellations Taurus and Orion, with their spectacular stellar phenomena, rise soon after sunset.
8. You can see the birds' nests in the trees, and if they're in low branches you can even collect some.
9. The sun is so low in arc that the bare trees cast fantastic shadows even in the daytime (see above).
10. The weather is great for soup-making and baking.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Healing Spring

Back in the woods, off the Infirmary Road, under this little tin roof, is the Healing Spring. I have stuck my whole head into the spring and breathed the water in, and was cured of sinus infections for several days. The trees along the quarter-mile path used to be decorated with pictures of the Pope and signs saying "Silence" and "Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife," and there was even a wicker gate, very narrow, with a sign tacked to it that said "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way," but the path has undergone flooding and the monk who decorated the path and kept it nice died some years ago, and now there's a chain and a sign saying "Keep Out," but my business was too important. I had many choices and needed to ask God what I ought to be doing. So I went and knelt at the spring (which is behind the stone railing) and then lay down on a wooden bench looking up at the sky hoping to hear a directive. After a while I heard Him say, "Do SOMETHING. ANYTHING." Got up immediately, feeling energetic, and started for home where I began doing things, not paralyzed by fear of choice anymore, walking by faith and not by sight.

The Return of the Walking Stick

The Walking Stick hung around yesterday, this time on the porch screen, and he put on yellow hosiery, and you really can't see it in this photo but he striped and checkered his underside so he looked like a windowscreen from inside the porch, where I'd been sitting and reading. Today, however, a good 30 degrees colder, no sign of him.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Stick Who Loved Me

Let me put to rest all your doubts about my suitor, the Walking Stick, hangin' on my kitchen storm door trying to impress me, this time for three straight days. He's really sweet but not my type. One year he had a girlfriend, and maybe just to be spiteful he and she did you-know-what on the window screen all day. I do mean all day. Enough time for me to call people, ask them to drive over and see it. Very tantric, just joined and didn't move a muscle. But when the Walking Stick is single again, who does he call on? Not his ex, but old reliable me. I like how he automatically ASSUMES I am single and available. He does the fop thing, changing colors, and I just smile kindly, say a few admiring words, tell him the right female Walking Stick is somewhere out there waiting for him, he just has to join a church or the Beginner Aerobics class down at the community center.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Who Dresses the Acorns?

Acorns by the shovelful are falling this year, bouncing from car roofs, picnic tables, right on my shoulders as I stood out of the sun under a tree, scrubbin a pot with steel wool (don't ask me what I burnt in it). Picked up a bunch and put them on a Corelle plate to model for yall. All fall I didn't have to pepper even one squirrel for stealing from my bird feeder, there's just so many acorns...they're all beautiful, I love them. Emily Dickinson has that poem about acorns (#1371) that begins:

How fits his Umber Coat
The Tailor of the Nut?
Combined without a seam
Like Raiment of a Dream—-

Who spun the Auburn Cloth?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Persimmon Week

One week a year, right now, the persimmons are ripe -- peachy-apricot-orange fruits ranging from cherry sized to apple sized. I've eaten one, but what matters to me is their BEAUTY and secret ability to forecast winter weather! And, darn, the only fruiting tree, absolutely leafless, that I found was on private property and the fruit you see pictured hung just about a foot out of my jumping and grabbing range, and that's all that kept me honest. (Demetrius called stealing other people's produce "stealth gardening.")

Persimmon trees, related to the ebony tree, are strong and hold fast against flooding -- good riverbank trees. Longbows are still made out of 'simmon wood. Persimmons grow mostly in the southeastern U.S. and Pacific, MO is in the northernmost part of their range. In the Ozarks people say if you cut a fruit in half, you can read inside how severe the coming winter will be. Their tannin makes them inedible unless ripe.

Technically the persimmon fruit is a berry, and its formal name is Diospyrus virginiana, and I still want me some.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pond on the LaBarque

Near the intersection of Highway F and St. Joseph Infirmary Road is a medium-sized pond. Someone made an earthen dam on the LaBarque and put one lone park bench on top of it, and if you sit there today this is what you will see. As always, the reflection is as enchanting as the reality. But aren't they both reality?