Muskrats…

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Now there’s something you probably have never thought about, or at least have thought very little.  Me, neither.  But for some reason, muskrats have recently shown up at my sister’s pond out front.

When I visited in October, we spoke of them, but this visit, I began to wonder, “How did they come to be here?  Did they throw their belongings, hobo-style over their shoulders, saunter along the fields, and say, ‘Hey, this looks like a nice spot.  Let’s build our village here,’?”  It gave me an interesting visual, so I googled.

Wisconsin muskrats (not sure there are other kinds) are rodents, that live in and out of water.  They have burrows, but my sister’s muskrats have lodges that stick up above the surface of the pond,, and that was what I was seeing.  Those are the humps you see in the photo below.  Yes, the pond is frozen.

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Muskrats can be aggressive, but they are nocturnal, so I’m not too worried about myself or the dog or my family.  We are early go-to-bedders.  Muskrats are beneficial, in that they help maintain marshes, which in turn provide habitats for aquatic birds, and here, those will be the Sandhill Cranes, of which I am so fond.  Plus the muskrats feed on cattail, and those things, while attractive, can be a mess.

Muskrats live for about three years in the wild, and the babies are called kits.  They can have as many as three litters a year, though the number of babies in a litter was not revealed.  Guess they hold their privacy.

So far, I have not actually spied a Muskrat, adult or child.  That’s probably due to the nocturnal bit, but the pictures don’t show them as all that cute to me.  Nevertheless, with three litters a year, if they grow and stick around, could increase the number of lodges that show up in the pond.

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If the coyotes don’t take them out, and if they like the spot, (and why wouldn’t they?) we may have quite the Muskrat town here next year.

That seems to bring me back to my question of from where did they come?  Their last area of residence may have gotten too crowded for the population, and they followed the waterway that cuts through the fields.

No matter.  They sure hit payday here!

 

 

Year Word, 2020…

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In lieu of making New Year’s Resolutions, which I have never been able to keep, the list being lengthy enough to paper a wall, I choose a word for the year.  I heard about this some years ago, from a Today Show interview on January first of said year.

“Whoa,” thinks I.  “I can focus on one word, but this wallpaper list thing isn’t cuttin’ it.”

And so, here are some of my year words on which I have focused:  Look, Listen, Give, Accept, Wait, Quiet.  I write the word in a variety of scripts, and I place these words at very visible places in my home.  I meditate on the word.  I pray about the word, and I find that it presents itself to me in ways I would have never anticipated throughout the entire year!  So…

This year’s word…ta-dah!  IMG_1272

This is what I want to replenish:  my spirit, my creativity, my bank account, my relationships, my optimism, my hope, my joy, my health, my sense of adventure, my spontaneity, my reservoirs of lost self.  It will be interesting to see how I replenish other aspects of my life which are not apparent right now!

May you have a joyful 2020.  May you find the focus for your future.  May you love, laugh, and may you replenish whatever you need.                          And so, Amen.

Finnan Haddie

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Don’t know what that is?  I didn’t either.  But my sister invited me to join her for Finnan Haddie, and hey!  A new experience.  Why not?

Finnan Haddie, I found on Google, is also known as “milk fish.”  It is of Scottish tradition, which I guessed.  I mean, what does it sound like?  Scottish, of course.  It is also from Maritime Canada.  Prob’ly the Scots settled there.

And I am going to say, Finnan Haddie is delicious!  It is served with boiled potatoes and peas!  I LOVE boiled potatoes and peas!  Ima guessin’ that’s the Finnan part.  The Haddie part is smoked haddock fish baked in a thin milk gravy.

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Here’s the general recipe, sort of, in the fashion of my mother:

Smoked Haddock Fish Filet                              Wondra Flour

Butter                                                                    Milk

Make a white sauce with the butter, flour, milk.  Plop the fish in the milk sauce, Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (don’t hold me to that).  Boil small white potatoes.  Cook peas (we used the Steamers and microwaved them).  Serve hot.  You can pour the white sauce over the peas and potatoes.

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Now, I am NOT a picky eater, and I don’t turn down many culinary opportunities, and I am so glad I was down for this meal.  Again, it was delicious!  Oh.  Caution, though.  You don’t need any additional salt.

Try it, if you can find the smoked haddock!  In the words of Julia, “Bon appetit!”

 

 

 

An Evening at aWisconsin Supper Club

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What’s a Supper Club, and why are they a Wisconsin phenomenon, you may ask.  Heck.  I ask the same question.  Sister Number 2 and her boyfriend have made Friday night Supper Club visits a “thing” for them, and many a time, at the folks’ kitchen table, Supper Clubbing has been a topic of conversation when my Atlanta brother and sister-in-law visit the farm.

So, to answer the question, a Supper Club is a restaurant, mostly family-owned, which features Friday night Fish Fry, steak dinners, and cocktails.  The traditional cocktails being Old Fashioneds, Martinis, and Manhattans.  That sounds sort of 1950’s-ish, and not that unique, but for some reason, Supper Clubs are a big deal here.

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Supper Clubs didn’t even originate in Wisconsin.  According to my Google research, the first Supper Club was begun in Beverly Hills, California by a Milwaukee native in the 1920’s.  Before that, they actually began as Speakeasys to cover up serving alcohol during Prohibition, and flourished in the 50’s.  I actually remember Friday nights at the Log Cabin, owned by my classmate, Melvin Silver’s family in Indianapolis, Indiana, though I didn’t know then I was in a Supper Club.  I’d get my Shirley Temple, and my mother would get her Martinis.  It was the way to begin a weekend.  That was years and years ago, though.

Last night, Sister Number 1 and her date took me to The Green Lantern for dinner.  When we hung our coats up, it dawned on me that I was about to have a cultural experience.  In North Carolina, we just flop our coats over the back of our chairs.  Here in “cold country,” the coats are too thick and heavy to be comfortable clumped up behind us, and the tables are too close together to allow for the extra space taken by outerwear.  People arrived in couples and groups, the wait-staff was fast-paced, and the background conversations were loud and lively.

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While we all passed on the cocktails, we did enjoy a glass of wine or beer and the Friday Fish and steak.  I have to say, there is a definite “atmosphere” that makes it a whole different kind of dining event.   Though there is nothing really that unique, inexplicably, it is.  Maybe it’s the cold, the frozen lake with the ice fishermen and their shacks, or the glow of the holiday lights, festivity reigns.  It was like going back in time, and for me, that was a very sweet trip.

Baking Christmas Treats…

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My mother, God rest her soul, was beyond a doubt, with no competition whatsoever, the absolute worst cook in all captivity.  And I say that in the most loving way.  One time she baked steaks (pot roast style), and trying to eat them was literally like trying to eat the soles of the oldest work boots, evah.

But…she could make, and actually excelled at, Christmas candy and cookies.  Go figure.  One of the last times I was with her, just before Christmas, 2011, she gave me the “recipe” for her Date Nut Log.  Here it is, and you can make your own judgement.

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I think she meant Sweetened Condensed Milk.  But how much nuts?  Are the dates whole or chopped?  And 1 pound of mini-marshmallows is a helluva lot of marshmallows, let me tell you.  Also, I never like those things anyway.

However, when my brother-in-law brilliantly suggested we honor the first anniversary of my sister’s death by making Mom’s treats, I was very happy to oblige.  So we did.  We made the Date Nut Logs, we made Mom’s Rocky Road candy, we made Peanut Butter Fudge, and we made my personal favorite, Mexican Wedding Cakes, which are really tiny snowball, shortbread-type cookies.   We stood, and cooked, and questioned, and told stories, and laughed, and I’m pretty sure our eyes leaked a little, too.

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I think that it’s going to be a tradition.  We’re going to have to practice, though, because none of it was all that good.  It didn’t matter, though.  As my brother-in-law said, it was worth twice the money spent to have a happy day with loving memories to honor both these incredible women.

Ironically, who’s really the worst cook, evah?

If You Like to Eat, Thank a Farmer…

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Recently, I reposted a meme from several years ago.  It said, “Without farming, you’d be hungry, naked, and sober.”  So true.

I’m in Wisconsin, again.  I’m grateful to be able to visit here two or three times a year.  It is a blessing.  My dad turns 95 years-old next week.  He and my step-mother have been married 65 years on Christmas Day.  I have two brothers  (sadly, one of whom is deceased) and two sisters who live here, two fantastic sisters-in-law, four grown nieces, a nephew, and a growing number of great-nephews and nieces, all who live near-by.  Arriving soon are another brother, his fantastic wife, and another grown niece and nephew.  You’d have to be crazy not to appreciate this bunch, actually a small city, of fun and loving family members!

My youngest brother is a farmer.  Among other endeavors, he and one of my sisters raise Scottish Highland steers for meat.  I’ve written about this before, and you can read back about the rogue steer and the butchering episode. 

This week, I was sent to pick up the remains, I mean meat, of some of the most current residents, now no longer with us.  I have to say, that after the pick up, I was once again a vegetarian.  This is what greeted me when I pulled up to the processing place:

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My sister-in-law gave me a lesson on the difference between deer and cow toes.  (Deer toes, close together/Cow toes spread apart)  Who knew?  Who cares?

Then we entered the store, where the smell near knocked me over.  “Doesn’t it smell wonderful?” she asked.  NO!  It did not!  But, ready for the experience, I took a few photos, and collected two terrifically heavy bags of frozen hamburger, steaks, and roasts, and breathed through my nose until I could get out in the fresh air.

Though it’s not my cup of tea (today), I am grateful to those who do the work (breeders, growers, butchers, processors, and y’all who are the eaters), because this is economy, People.  And these are the ones who feed us, clothe us, and give us wine, beer, and booze.  And though I’m a vegetarian, at least for today, I have an affinity for clothes, and I like my wine.  And, I especially love my family!

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So, on behalf of my brother, I say, “Thank a farmer.”  God knows, they deserve at least that much.

Squirrels Don’t like Kale, either…

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I’ve been mulling over this post for a while, now.  What’s been holding me up is a picture.  The picture I should have taken was of the withered kale that lay atop the concrete pillar in my backyard, compliments of Baby Sister, as are many of my unique “treasures.”  I often put old bread, watermelon rinds, the remains of the Spring Greens bag, and stale crackers there for the squirrels, because, hey, squirrels gotta eat, too, ya know!

Once, I thought I’d write a book entitled “Do Ducks Eat Pork and Beans?”  The book never got written, because all I really had was a title, and uh, I’m not a book writer.  But the answer to the question is, “No.  They don’t.”  And squirrels don’t eat kale.

As it happens, neither do I.  I tried.  I really, really tried.  But, no, I don’t.  And I and squirrels don’t eat kale, because kale is vile.  It is consistently awful, and this is coming from a person that will eat almost anything, well, except kale (now) and okra.

So, to tie this all together…I’ve been experimenting with vegan-ism and vegetarianism, says the lady who admitted above that she will eat almost anything.  Turns out I am not a vegan.  I can do without the meat, I can do without fish, although I found that for-going shrimp has been a struggle.  BUT, I cannot do without eggs and cheese. 

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As I have written before, cooking for one is difficult.  I am here to tell you cooking without meat, cheese, dairy, butter, mayonnaise, eggs, and fish, including tuna and shrimp, has left me with nearly nothing to eat.  How do I even make a sandwich?  Especially now that tomato season is nearly done.  Is plain bread with…what?…between the slices really a sandwich?

That brings me back to the kale.  I tried it in soups.  Course.  I tried it as chips.  Crumbly.  I tried it in salads.  Bitter.  What’s the point?  I took my remaining kale out to the pillar, and two weeks later, there was a pile of sun-dried kale bits.  Nothing has lasted two weeks on that pillar.  Proof that even the squirrels don’t like kale…either.

And as for vegan-ism, I’m all for saving the planet, but eating fake meat (or plant-based meat, as it is called) just seems silly.  If one is going to eat fake meat, why not eat the real meat?  Plant-based meat doesn’t taste like meat, anyway.  It is rubbery.  If I wanted rubbery, I’d eat calamari. 

No, I’m not vegan, and I’m not a confirmed vegetarian, either.  But no matter what style of eating du jour I practice, kale is definitely off the menu for me and my backyard squirrels.  I wonder, though, if they like plant-based meat.  I’ve got some of that left in the freezer.