My dear, dear friend Gina Caceci and former neighbor sent me a request this morning: would I help her son William, who is trying to build a photography business and who is very talented, win a prize for one of his portraits?
Of course I would. I’ve watched this young many grow up and have always known he is loaded with many talents.
Take a look at his portraits and other work on his web site? Vote if you like what you see?
Like many of you, I’ve been spending LOTS of time at home. Ha! But I’ve been deep cleaning, culling “stuff,” repairing broken things, washing winter coats and sweaters, getting out spring clothes and storing winter ones, sewing, spending time connecting with people via internet, and on and on. My life is, actually, pretty full.
Spring is coming in slowly this year. The new raspberry and blueberry plants arrived Thursday. I planted them all yesterday—which was a BIG job made moreso by having to plant the 5 blueberry bushes into soil that had quite a few rocks embedded. It was warm in the sun, and I really enjoyed being outside with some outdoor work to do.
The raspberry canes are in the dark soil—and the box they came in will keep the center weed-free. The cold frame is FULL of delicious looking lettuce. I keep it covered until each day warms, then cover it at night as our temps are still dropping too low at night for tender plants.
These raspberry canes fruit on the second year growth, so the canes will spend this summer getting established and growing new canes.
Here’s the cold frame—taken a few days ago. The lettuce is now filling out the box as the plants are getting much larger.
Here’s where the blueberry bushes went in: 3 varieties that will pollinate with the two bushes I have in the back yard. Research says mixed varieties is a good idea. (You can see our leaves have not yet started to pop out.)
I decided last year some time that the current raspberries on the hill in front of the house were a bad idea: too hard to get to, the whole bed there was a weed-infested mess, etc. So, I dug them out, got some help with the weeding and pruning, and things are looking MUCH better. That hill is just too steep for me to manage safely now.
Here’s where the blueberry bushes went. Each needs about 3 feet of space.
Inside, my sewing has been a bit slower as I’ve had other jobs that needed my attention—to include a daily long outing with my boyfriend, AC Slater.
But, here is the “Elvira” quilt top finished—from a design by Erla Gudrun released by her free for a one-day quilt-along online. I was drawn in by the movement with the slashes, but I’ve never done BIG blocks like this block, and they are really way out of my comfort zone. Still, the project used up a lot of stash and the quilt will be a sturdy, functional lap quilt.
The “Gumdrops” top, designed by Tara Faughnan for Sewtopia’s The Color Collective, is finished. I took this picture with another quilt underneath, so it looks a bit “bumpy” on the design wall.
Papers will come out now, and I’ll layer it. It will be a wall hanging. I’m thinking of matchstick quilting it on the domestic machine up and down with a pale grey thread. Maybe a color here and there? Don’t know… The fabrics will all lay flat with the templates out. (We learned how to make templates with card stock run through a printer for the pattern.)
Here’s the quilt underneath—a mini Galactic block with which I’m playing.
I have no idea what shape this quilt will take. I have lots of fabric from the big Galactic project (which is layered and ready to hand quilt now), so will just see where this idea goes…
I am RESISTING starting anything else new until I clean up the ongoing projects: there are 2 dresses cut out, a knit top pattern copied and ready to use up some leftover knit fabric, four quilts now ready to quilt, and pieces for an improv quilt prepped and ready to make. And, Sugaridoo’s row 7 to make before row 8 arrives in May.
The main reason I have to go to the grocery store about twice a week is that I need to buy white fish and sardines for AC Slater’s diet.
I can’t buy more on each trip because our local fish has been frozen at sea and then defrosted locally. It needs to be cooked and not refrozen.
Packages of frozen white fish, like cod, come individually wrapped, which is a pain to unpackage and an environmental nightmare with all that plastic. Plus each packaged fish piece is full of water or some solution, which makes the resulting mixture really watery.
So, why does AC Slater need white fish. Since last summer, AC has been struggling with MASSIVE food allergies that resulted in him chewing and clawing holes in himself as he was itching so badly. It has been a nightmare for me as I cannot bear to see him suffer. EVERYTHING I fed him caused him to react.
To make a long story shorter, I finally took him to a terrific holistic vet who tested him for the foods that were the worst offenders—five foods, some of which are in pretty much in all the commercial dog foods—and started him on a holistic remedy protocol that has stopped the reactions for the most part. He is not out of the woods yet—and we are taking things a day at a time—but his sores are healing and he is not going at himself tooth and claw. When he starts to react again, I give him the remedy.
Here’s his food, which I make fresh about twice a week. I put broccoli and carrots (chopped pretty fine) in a big pot, add about an inch of water, and lay the fish over the veggies. I cover the pot and cook the fish and veggies, and then break the fish all apart. I add to this mixture, a cup of blueberries or some peeled and chopped apple and 4 tins of sardines. Sometimes I add a few tablespoons of good coconut oil. Each bowl is topped with a vet product that helps heal the gut (Antronex) and two squirts of Dr. Mercola’s krill oil for pets.
AC is lean and full of energy and is quite happy. He loves his fish meals. BUT, I worry about the heavy toxins in big fish and that, long term, he is not getting the right nutrients.
What went wrong here?
I will go to my grave believing his 1-year rabies booster started this cascade of issues. And poking around the internet revealed that allergies like what AC has can and do follow a rabies vaccination.
I also learned that there is no scientific basis for the current, legally mandated, vaccine schedule. I know rabies is a problem. It is a serious problem here in Maine. I also know that it would be wiser to check for antibodies with a blood titer rather than mindlessly giving animals more and more boosters that can and do harm them—just so vets get a steady traffic into their businesses. And, that factor is the rational for the legal rabies schedule, not animal health. It was a deal cooked up between vet business people and public health officials.
I did try to work with our local vet at first, who is very nice and caring. But her toolbox didn’t work. That protocol was to use a drug that suppresses the immune system reactions in combination with a prescription dog food. I have since read that the drug used comes with serious side effects.
Also, the prescription dog food is one of the worst industrial products, in my opinion, I’ve every seen. Protein is broken up (hydrolyzed) into tiny bits that are meant to fool the immune system. The protein source is…wait for it…CHICKEN FEATHERS. And the first ingredient is corn starch. The product smelled terrible; it reeked of a heavy chemical odor. AC loved it, until he went off the drug and reacted to it. He thought it was candy, with its sweet, sticky nature.
That left AC with getting more of the drug and switching to the only other formulation of hydrolyzed protein, soy beans. As it turns out he is wildly allergic to peas, so that clearly was not going to work. And this whole fake, chemical food solution would cause other problems down the road.
The other problem is, as I said above, that other kibble concoctions all contain one of the 5 foods that AC is allergic to. So, fortunately, I’ve always fed my dogs real food anyway, and I don’t mind cooking for him.
And one of my unanswered questions is whether or not his immune system reacted to certain foods willy nilly or whether it was because they were in his diet as I tried to find food that didn’t make him sick.
I suppose time will tell.
For right now, he is healthy and happy.
The fish diet is EXPENSIVE, however. And in this pandemic, sometimes I have trouble getting the cheaper versions of available fish.
It’s time for a change in how we treat our beloved pets, from their food to their medical treatment. It’s time for science to prevail, not business models.
It is impossible to keep AC Slater OUT of water, and, truthfully, I don’t try as he loves water so much.
BUT, even though he has webbed feet, he is very cautious about keeping his back feet on solid ground. He has yet to “launch” out into a real swimming adventure.
I suspect he will this summer, but maybe not. And whatever he does is fine by me.
This little series of videos tells its own story.
I have a “hammock” on the back seat of the Subaru, so it is ok if AC jumps back in with some dirt or sand on his feet and legs. The hammock catches everything and can be shaken out or washed every now and then. When we get home, I towel him off. His coat is short-haired and thick, so it is easy to dry him up and knock off any remaining dirt.
This lovely piece was created by friend and neighbor Marina Schauffler. She writes the Sea Change column for the Pine Tree Watch Organization, which, as I understand it, publishes columns on their web site and seeks to place columns into Maine media sites.
Frances Hodgson Burnett is, like me, 75 years old now. She lives on her beloved Crystal Lake Farm.
Turkey Tracks: Roast Chicken: The Backbone of Many Meals
What’s your favorite part of the chicken?
Mine, hands down, is the roasted skin, followed by the drumsticks, wings, and thighs. Most of the time, the breast in today’s quick-growing chicken tastes like sawdust to me—dry and tasteless. But, I persist. And from time to time can buy locally grown pastured heritage chickens. They are delicious.
It’s so sad to me to see all those skinned chickened pieces in the grocery store because they are tasteless and dry out so fast when you cook them. And the best nutrients and fat in chicken is right under the skin. I can tell you that my grandparents ate the skin, ate meat fat, and they lived to ripe old ages and were not fat.
Anyway, you can see this chicken is accompanied by a sweet potato and a handful of small red and golden beets. You don’t have to peel them when they are small. Just wash them good, quarter or halve them and drizzle them with some fat and whatever herbs or spices you want.
Enjoy this first meal—I hope you add something green to it. I added fresh asparagus cooked in boiling water for only a few minutes. I like my veggies crisp/tender. Asparagus is in season now—it is an early spring crop. The raw apple is for dessert.
So, now you have leftover meat. That meat can go into a salad, sandwiches, stir frys, etc. But the biggest asset you have is the chicken carcass. Put it in a pot that will hold it and add water to more than cover it. You can add some savories as well: onion, garlic, celery, carrot. Cook at least one hour. Longer is even better as you start to get a genuine bone broth, which is so, so, so healthy. By long, I mean 12 hours or more—and if you use a crock pot, there are no worries about leaving a cooking pot on the stove unattended.
Drain the stock through a strainer, throw out the spent veggies and bones, and DO NOT SKIM AND THROW OUT THE FAT from the broth! You would be throwing away a nutrient dense ingredient.
At this point, you can refrigerate the broth or make a soup or stew right away. Don’t let the broth hang around for longer than one day. Freeze it or make something.
Here’s the chicken rice soup I made. I froze half of it and had three or four hearty servings over the next few days. That’s a heated corn tortilla with raw butter slowly melting—it’s the closest thing I can get to that is like bread. Sprinkle it with salt. The apple is for dessert.
I eat one fruit serving a day most days. Apple works best for me as it has natural antihistamine properties. My favorite is a Honey Crisp apple, but they don’t keep well, so I have to eat as many as I can in the fall. Fruit sugar, like all sugars, can cause inflammation, so cut back to reasonable amounts?
Hey! For added nutrients, try dropping a spoonful of raw milk yogurt or raw heavy cream on your soup. And any soup can be made into a cream soup by just adding…cream. Or some whole milk. It’s a good way to change a soup that you’ve already made for a new taste.
Here’s the start of a roasted veggie dish. I used Red Palm oil, which I melted right in the pan here. Red Palm oil is a powerhouse, medicinal fat. I’ve written other posts on this oil, which comes solid, like coconut oil. You can search on the right side bar for more information. And I have not used toxic aluminum foil in two decades. What you see here is parchment paper, which works just fine. It can take up into the 500s with no problem.
So here’s my meal with leftover, reheated gently, chicken. The roasted veggies only take about 30 to 35 minutes to roast. To heat the chicken, put it in the roasting pan for about 10 minutes or less. Drizzle some water over it to keep it from drying out.
No, I do not have a microwave and haven’t had one for decades now. Microwaves heat food, but they also distort the food and the taste of the food. I can taste microwaved food from a restaurant (or could, when I could still eat in restaurants). It does not taste right. It has a whang to it. And this microwave thing is one thing that has destroyed human abilities to taste real food.
Another Week, Another Chicken
It’s another week, and I’ve roasted another chicken. This soup is lighter as it is going over rice noodles as I can’t eat pasta. Noodles are a real treat for me! They are highly processed though, and all I have to do is look at them to put on weight. (All grains turn into sugars in the body.) But when I have a yen for some noodles, and I have not had them recently, they are such a joy.
I also added chicken parts to enrich this broth. This time drumsticks, as that is what I had on hand. When they are done, I’ll take the meat off the bone. I add the spring onions and kale last and basically let them cook only about 10 minutes.
Here’s the finished soup.
And here’s my noodle soup dinner—look at those fresh berries just coming into our markets now’!
The next day, I added a two chopped up boneless chicken thighs, a handful of quinoa shells, and some corn to the soup.
The day after that, I added some cream and put some shredded mozzarella on top.
Whoa! That bowl was way too full. This overflowing bowl is a case of neatness: cleaning out the pot. I only ate half at lunch; the other half I ate at dinner, alongside plate of sauteed zucchini and a pan-fried little cube steak.
Have you been counting how many meals I get off of one roasted chicken? Add in at least two or three days of meat for salads at lunch. The point is, good food can be expensive, but if you take full advantage you knock back the per item initial cost AND you have healthy, fun meals.
I’m sure you’re happy by now that I did not buy a whole chicken this week. OK, I did, but I put it in the freezer. Tonight: braised lamb shanks with onions and carrots, a baked potato (Russet), fresh asparagus, and more of the DELICIOUS blueberries and raspberries that are on sale in my local market.
I will never go hungry because I have not cooked for myself.
Back in the day when I was young and during the first 20 years of my marriage, one only went to restaurants for special celebrations as they were scarce and expensive. I cooked. We all cooked. And as my mother grew up in a farm community, gathering food, cooking, and eating were important and fun parts of each day. Frequently, during one meal, the adults would discuss and plan the next one! Food and eating tasks were shared and enjoyed by all members of the family as the men often were the prime food gatherers and instigators of special meals. The men were definitely in charge if outdoor cooking was involved.
OK, I’ll confess. These days I HAVE to cook with my Histamine Intolerance issues. Restaurant food has too many unknown ingredients that could trigger a reaction. Ditto any food someone else cooks for me. And the smells in restaurants don’t work for me either—food particles in the air are a problem. And the smells that reside on other people (personal body products, laundry products, etc.) are serious triggers for me. But I come to this issue well prepared.
And I don’t let this situation hold me back. I just take my own “safe” food with me. And in good weather, I especially like to take a picnic somewhere scenic—or to my own back deck with a good book.
Here are some recent meals I’ve enjoyed. I try to cook for more than one meal at a time, but not too many as “old” food acquires too much histamine and sets me to itching. If I make a big soup or stew, I freeze about half of it. Then, yeah!!, I have a “free” meal to enjoy.
There is nothing for breakfast that I can eat without tempting fate. My breakfast is a big cup of coffee loaded with our local raw heavy cream and a bit of our local honey. By lunch, I am hungry.
Lunch is, most often, a BIG salad with lots of raw veggies and a meat protein. I use herbs, salt, and a drizzle of EVOO olive oil since I cannot do vinegar. The taste of the veggies comes through loud and crunchy and, often, very sweet. I don’t miss the vinegar because once I got away from it, or lemon, my tastes changed. Suddenly I could really taste the vegetables, and they were delicious.
This salad has a bed of mixed lettuce, some diced roasted chicken, a bit of organic cottage cheese (which I seem to be able to eat even though it has a bit of vinegar to make it…cottage cheese), some cooked snow peas and broccoli, and raw red onion, red bell pepper, carrots, cucumbers, some dried dill, sea salt, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of EVOO olive oil. My garden is emerging, so soon I’ll have fresh herbs galore.
Look at this pretty beef stew. Some of this one is frozen, and I could eat it for lunch or dinner.
Any stew is easy peasy. Saute the meat (1 1/2 or 2 pounds of stew meat or lamb shanks or short ribs). in some beef tallow or chicken fat until it starts to brown—in a really oven-proof HEAVY pot. Add some liquid, enough to cover the meat, herbs, garlic, onion, and stick it in the oven for an hour at 350 degrees. Add chunks of potato and carrots for another 30 minutes. If you want chunks of cabbage, add that so it cooks 15 to 20 minutes and call it a day. Make sure you don’t let the liquid run dry. You could add some rice flour or wheat flour if you want a heartier gravy when you add the vegetables. Only 2 tablespoons or so. Those of you who can eat tomato could add them. Or spices you like.
Here’s the start of a stirfry that might get some meat added at the end or might just be a side dish. For fat use, chicken fat, beef tallow, REAL pork lard, or coconut oil. Add salt and spices/herbs you like and cook on fairly high heat. Turn often so the veggies don’t burn. If the pan gets too hot, add a little water and cut it out. That can make the veggies limp though—just so you know. Adding meat cools the pan too and adds enough liquid to stop the overheating. You can use ground meat, thinly sliced raw chicken, or cooked meat. For the cooked meat, you won’t get liquid, so add a little.
Here’s a meatloaf dinner with thawed frozen berries for dessert (with some maple syrup or special honey from DIL Tami).
Here’s how this meatloaf started out:
Two pounds of ground meat (this one was local grass-fed hamburger and lamb), a handful of oats, two duck eggs because I can get duck eggs locally and do better with them, grated carrots and zucchini, some red onion, some grated mozzarella cheese, some herbs, some salt, and a bit of milk to help combine it all. The grated veggies and cheese keep the meatloaf moist.
Here it is ready to cook—with some tomato ketchup drizzled over. I can’t always do the ketchup, but today I could:
Half of this meatloaf is in the freezer. I started to really freeze seriously in case I did get a bad case of the virus. So I will not hurry to eat this saved food quite yet.
My food is simple—and filled with herbs. (Yes, I miss spices.). Because the ingredients are local and fresh and clean, they taste really good. But, I have to say that my food does not need a lot of spices to jazz it up because it has not lost its own “good.”
PS: Look for the upcoming post on roast chicken—it’s the backbone of many meals.
I am doing two rows—one in the rainbow colors Sugaridoo designed and one with Cotton+Steel fabrics I have on hand. As you will see with the C+S rows, it isn’t always possible to replicate Sugaridoo’s colors exactly. And that’s ok by me.
These are the first rows that one could sew together with its adjacent row, made earlier. Sugaridoo may separate rows with sashing strips, but I thought these two rows wanted to be together. I can always take them apart if I change my mind later.
I made my braids the same size, except for the accent pieces—which differs from the Sugaridoo pattern, which used different sizes across the row.
I had “something” that knocked me back for about 10 days, but never developed beyond extreme fatigue and, sometimes, a dull headache. Gradually my energy returned, though I still get tired off and on, and a nap feels good then. I had one of those yesterday.
On Wednesday night and all day Thursday we had a heavy wet snow here that tore up trees and power lines. On Friday, this area looked like a war zone. Again, my generator leapt into the power abyss and ran sturdily for two days and two nights. The worst loss was no internet for an entire day. Folks, we are addicted, aren’t we?
I got about 7 to 9 inches up here on the hill. But by today, Sunday, the spring bulbs are emerging through the snow.
And today, AC and I visited the beach in what was a glorious Easter Sunday. He ran and ran and swam and swam and washed his ball in the water. People waved and enjoyed the antics of the dogs. There was a female rat terrier in the mix. AC and I both fell in love. I could feel the sun warm on my back—and I only wore a wool sweater for the first time this spring.
I finished the knit dress, and it fits well. I feel like I did a really good job on this dress. The learning curve is going down fast. On to the expensive fabric next.
When I was arranging the dress, AC put his yellow next to it. He’s always hopeful. This ball is carried EVERYWHERE we go inside the house—and outside if I don’t stop him.
I’m sewing the Gumdrop rows together now. (Tara Faughnan, from The Color Collective online class.) I don’t know yet how I will stagger the rows.
I have no idea why I started this quilt, but there is something about it that drives me on. It is so far out of my comfort zone, I can’t even…
And then there are some masks…
I’ve tried three different ones—and am not comfortable in any of them, truth to tell. They fog up my glasses, and I feel like someone with a plastic bag over their head and breathing in their own exhaled air, which makes me feel dizzy. The one with elastic ties interferes with my hearing aids, and I worry that I’ll lose one. This one is the MOST uncomfortable, and I thought it would be the best. I’ll try again, as the ties work, and the pipe cleaner nose guard works, but it’s too long I think.
I’ve almost finished the March Sugaridoo QAL row(s). (I’m making two each month—one in the solids and one in Cotton+Steel fabrics I seem to have acquired.) This March row is a braid, which is always fun.
I’ve been deep cleaning as my energy has returned and have culled lots of “stuff” that will be rehomed. That feels good. There is just too much “stuff” in this house. It is hard to know what to get rid of and what to hold on to in case grandchildren setting up houses need “stuff.” As nothing can be dropped off anywhere right now, I’ve put it all on the garage steps in boxes and bags.
I’m getting used to the block editor on WordPress now. It is easier, but like all new things, one needs to slow down to master the “new.”