Followup to Trading Favors

After we retrieved the log splitter from our across-the-street neighbors, and dropped off some of our excess heirloom tomatoes on Sunday, we were invited to meet them for dinner Monday night at a restaurant a couple of towns away.  We knew exactly where it was, had eaten there before a few years ago, and agreed.  Figured they were going to insist on paying, but we offered, and would have, if they’d accepted.

Turns out they were at the outdoors bar area, and we had no trouble finding them.  They also met their son and his girlfriend there, and there were others they knew.  Those people paid their own bills.  Not one person they knew there was someone we had not at least briefly met at the Christmas party last year.  Of course, there were so many people at that party that we probably met half of them at most, and half the people we did meet, we didn’t remember.

OMG, we were there at the bar for a good three hours sharing appetizers and a couple of entrées between the four of us.  It was after dark before we left, and we had parked in the high school lot, more out of habit than anything else, because it’s free.  It’s a known quantity, so to speak, rather than cruising around for 20 minutes, looking for a parking spot.  It was only a five block walk to the restaurant from there.  Our neighbors gave us a ride back to the HS to our vehicle.  It was on the way out of town, anyway.

I appreciated the assist on that; I was not looking forward to walking half a mile uphill the whole way on mostly unlit streets to get back to the vehicle on a very full stomach.  I had a flashlight in my pocketbook, and wasn’t worried about getting attacked, but the brick sidewalks are so uneven that’s it’s easy to trip, especially in sandals.

I learned a few things talking not only to our hosts, but also those they knew.  One of them was a county historian.  Evidently, our farm was originally large enough to take up half the neighborhood, including the relatively new subdivision that has a couple dozen McMansions on two acres or less apiece, the nearest of which is  not within 200 yards of us, as the crow flies.  It was a dairy farm, with pastures and fields for hay.  My guess is that it was alfalfa grown for the hay; that’s the most commonly grown here for that purpose.  There are loads of hay fields around here, but there aren’t many dairy farms left, so the hay fields are for the horses.

Also, the house across the street was not named what it was before my neighbors bought it.  It had no name, other than its street address, so they named it, and put up a very nicely painted wooden sign at the street end of their driveway with its name.  I’d wondered about that, but never had asked them before.  As it turns out, I like what they named it, and the reason.  It fits the property.

Great neighbors are so wonderful to have.  Of course, we must return the favor.  They might like the Publick House, which is one of our favorite pubs.  They’re not into fancy places any more than we are.

Summer Favor Trading

This is that time of year.  Our neighbor from across the street came by to borrow the log splitter, which isn’t even ours, but is on semi-permanent loan from our next door neighbor.  All three of our households sort of know each other, and we made it clear that the log splitter wasn’t ours, but they could use it for a couple of days.  It’s all lubed up, with a full tank of gas, so it’s ready to use.

Anyway, he palmed off a dozen brown eggs he got from his son, who has a flock of chickens this year that are producing more eggs than any of them can use.  Oh, boy, do we know what to do with eggs!  Between “squasheroles,” frittatas, and stuff like zucchini, winter squash, or banana bread, we can go through a dozen eggs in a flash.  The quick breads freeze really well.  The casseroles and frittatas don’t, but we seldom have any more leftovers from supper than one person can consume for brunch the next morning.

Now that we know the neighbors across the street are around, we’ll bring over some of our heirloom tomatoes.  Wanted to do so earlier in the week, but couldn’t get a hold of them to ask whether they wanted any, so we gave away what we were going to give them to another neighbor, along with what we were going to give them, anyway.

20:1 we’ll be invited again for their Christmas party this year.  They go all out for that.  Of course, we’ll bring a bottle of wine, if we do get invited.  I’d never show up to a party without bringing a hostess gift.

Pickles

Our cucumber crop is in full swing.  We have one hill that is a typical vine variety that produces ordinary cucumbers, and another one of a bush variety that produces cukes that are perfect for making into dill pickle spears.  So far, I’ve used the regular cukes to make bread & butter pickles, and the “picklebush” ones for dill pickles.

Our next door neighbor is growing cucumbers, too, and keeps palming off a few rather large ones on us.  The last time he brought us a bag of his produce, a couple of days ago, he literally left the bag on one of the seats in my other half’s truck, rather than putting it on one of our doorsteps.  Shades of Minnesota in August.  If you don’t want free produce, don’t leave your vehicle unlocked.  I don’t think our next door neighbor is growing canteloups or butternut squash, so maybe we can give him some of those when they’re ready.

Some of our excess can be given away in the office.  If the company owner doesn’t want some of it, his office manager will take it.

For tonight’s dinner, I’m going to work our way though some of this.  Cold cucumber soup, Caprese salad, corn on the cob, and maybe some grilled or pan fried chicken breasts.  Cucumber soup freezes really well, as does zucchini soup (and zucchini bread, for that matter).  Gazpacho would work, too, and use tomatoes in addition to the cukes.

Considering that both we, and our next door neighbor, grow our veggies without using pesticides, we’ve had remarkably few fruits with blemishes, or have to be thrown away.  Some do get partially eaten by whatever critter gets in the garden, and have to be tossed, but it’s a lot less this year than in previous years.

We missed most of the rain and t-storms we were supposed to get over the past two days, which is good, because if we had gotten it, the tomatoes would have cracked near the stem end, making them useful for canning, but not worthy of giving away.  Nobody wants to give away tomatoes that look any worse than something you’d buy at a farm market or grocery store.  I don’t, anyway.

Update: Heirloom Tomato Giveaway

Yes!  We found a neighbor who wanted some of our excess Black Krims, Jubilees, and Brandywines.  This is the neighbor who brought over Christmas cookies after she and her husband met me at another neighbor’s Christmas party last year.  They’re very nice people.  I called ahead of time to make sure they wanted them.  Oh, yes, they wanted them.  They only have harvested two of their own home grown tomatoes so far this season.  Told her I’d drop them off on her front porch within 15-30 minutes, and did.  Rang the doorbell when I dropped them off, but didn’t really expect her to answer before we left.  She didn’t.  I’m sure she’s found them by now. I would never give away tomatoes that looked like they weren’t worthy of selling at a roadside stand; we can those, not give them away.

She gave me one of her Christmas cookie recipes for peanut butter chocolate bars, after I sent her a handwritten “thank you” note for the cookies, asking whether she’d be willing to share the one recipe.  Those were more like candy than cookies.  The garden produce (organically grown) is about the only thing I could do to reciprocate that would have made any sense.  Anyway, I hope she and her husband enjoy them; they’re both wonderful people.

We still are harvesting 20-25 lbs. worth of tomatos every day, so it’s down to: eat a lot, can a lot, and give away a lot.

There’s a joke in Minnesota about never leaving you car unlocked in August, because you will find a big bag of tomatoes in your back seat when you return.  It’s only half a joke.  It sort of applies around here, too, but at least we ask, before dumping them off on someone else.  If she had a glut of tomatoes of her own, we would have found someone else who wanted them.

I love neighbors like this.  When I called her to ask whether she wanted them, she remembered me from eight months ago, and seemed happy to hear from me.  Good.

ETA:  My neighbor who got the tomatoes called to thank me.  She recognized the Jubilees, but not the Black Krims, which I explained were supposed to look purple with green “shoulders.”  The Brandywines aren’t immediately recognizable from other pink or reds, except to people who have grown them for years.  Anyway, I appreciated the return call to thank me.  It was nice of her.

Sofa King Annoying

A lot of things tick me off, but nothing more so than Skype’s insidiousness.  It’s integrated with Win10 so much that I can’t even completely remove it.  It hogs up anywhere from 190-233Mb of RAM, and every time I shut it down, it reloads itself.  “Search and Cortana” is almost as bad, but it never hogs up more than 110Mb of RAM.  I never use either one of them.

On another subject, my Sony “boombox” arrived today.  It’s portable, obviously, and can run on either AC or C batteries.  The AM radio reception sucks, even for a local 50Kw station, but FM is great, as are the CD and cassette tape player functions.  For some bizarre reason, I can’t find more than one of my BoDeans CDs, and all but one double album of my Bottle Rockets ones are missing.  They’re not in my CD rack, nor are they out in my car.  I did manage to round up three of my Live CDs, so that’s good.  I have no use for the bluetooth functionality, but have to assume it works.

Local Cookbooks

Every so often, I refer to some local cookbooks I’ve inherited for inspiration.  The Southern ones invariably use lots of butter, heavy cream, etc., unless they’re for BBQ, or something deep-fried.  The Midwest ones typically use ground beef, some sort of pasta or rice, and lots of canned goods, often with things like prepackaged taco spice mix.

Tonight, I’m trying out one from the Stevens County Cookbook.  Stevens County is in western Minnesota.  It’s for something called Big Catch Casserole.  It doesn’t involve a can of creamed corn or creamed spinach (which I never buy), but it does call for canned salmon.  I don’t have any.  As much as I love salmon, canned is disgusting.  I suppose I could have substituted canned tuna, but I have a side of salmon that I had bought fresh, then cut into thirds and froze.  One of those ought to be roughly the same as “a large can of salmon, drained, and boned.”  Salmon thaws quickly, and it only takes about 20 minutes to bake in a medium oven.  Then, when it cools, I can easily flake it.  I do have some tins of canned soup, which I never consume as soup, but are such a common ingredient in these casseroles, that I keep a few on hand.

There’s a problem with this recipe, though, which is very common in these ones that are contributed by women who are not professional chefs.  The directions at the end tell me to mix in the onion?  What onion?  That’s not on the ingredients list.  What size onion?  Sautéed first, or raw?  I’m going to go with a medium sized one, sautéed.  It also calls for “salad dressing.”  It’s possible the author meant Miracle Whip or its equivalent, but I’m going to use mayonnaise.  If she had meant sour cream, she would have said so.

I’ve made enough of these recipes, not necessarily following the directions exactly, to make a good guess what the author meant, or choose an appropriate substitute, and if I get it wrong, it still comes out pretty tasty.

It’s obvious that so many of these recipes were created back in the days when fresh produce was only seasonally available, not everyone had a refrigerator/freezer, and it was a real time saver to open a can of cream of something soup than make it from scratch.  The “newer” recipes call for a lot of frozen stuff — spinach, broccoli, etc.  I’ll buy it fresh and cook it myself, rather than use frozen, with the exception of peas and corn kernels, which freeze beautifully, and are some of the few veggies that we can’t get fresh off season.  Carrots also freeze well, but they’re available fresh all year, and they’re inexpensive.

We’ll see how this particular casserole turns out.  It sounds a lot more appealing than your average ground beef and macaroni with a “packet of taco seasoning” hot dish slop that kids would love.

Evidently, I’m My Mom

Every time mom calls me, and tells me to go buy something for her, I end up getting hit with suggestions for other similar things.  Evidently, buying some replacement “skis” for her walker is enough to send me email for wheelchairs, and all manner of canes and crutches.  Ordering the very specific hard to find facial moisturizer with SPF10 that she insists upon is far easier done online than driving to three or four bricks and mortar stores, but it also means that I get bombarded with suggestions for anti-wrinkle creams by at least a dozen other manufacturers.

I’m no spring chicken, but seriously, I’m not in the market for any of that for myself.  An ordinary bottle of eye drops from a dollar store works great on puffy eyelids, under eye bags, and crow’s feet.  So does a slice of cucumber.  As for mobility, I can still scamper up and down stairs just fine.  Yeah, I’ve had a few knee and foot injuries that sort of made me wish I had a cane while they healed.  Still, I could hobble around just fine without one.  Stairs get a little interesting when it hurts more to go down them than up them, but it’s temporary, and if all else fails, you can descend them slowly, on your butt, then get up, and carry on.

When mom tells me one of her “skis” is broken, it probably means the nut on the bottom of the bolt fell off, and she can’t fix it herself.  She can’t change a light bulb, either, even if it’s at waist or chest height, like some of them are in her kitchen.

I do her bidding, and she does repay me for the cost of what she asks me to buy for her, but some of this is ridiculous.

She once drove her car through the front end of her garage, leaving a nice big hole in the wall, then told her home care assistant that I was the one who did it.  I’ve never driven her car in my entire life.  I did repair the hole in the wall with tape and spackling compound for her, but it wasn’t my fault, let alone my responsibility to repair.  And, I resent being blamed for something that happened when I was at least 45 miles away at the time.  She does shit like this all the time to me.  The good news is that we only have to visit every other weekend, and on holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

Kale, Swiss Chard and Collard Greens

My neighbor brought over a huge armload of this, plus a couple of really gorgeous looking cucumbers.  I had to look up recipes for the leafy greens.  Seems it can be done by de-veining it, chopping it up, and sauteeing it with bacon and garlic.  Sort of like you’d do with Brussels Sprouts.  I always thought that stuff was fed to rabbits.

Anyway, I thanked him for it, stuck it in a 5 gal. bucket with water, and told him that he was welcome to come harvest whatever he wanted out of our herb garden, since our veggies aren’t ready for harvest yet.  Basil, oregano, sage, thyme, mint, and rosemary are all there for the harvesting.  I don’t care how much he takes.  We’ll dry the annuals, and sort-of-annuals in fall.  We can’t use all of it fresh in marinara, salsa, and on chicken before then.

We will bring him real produce when our garden gets a giddy-up.  He’s got his own garden, but we don’t grow all the same things.

Yukata

The last time we visited my mom, she sent us out to run some errands for her, because it really was too hot and muggy for her to last more than 10 minutes outside.  This really wasn’t my reward for doing that, but she gave me a yukata that used to belong to my deceased father.  “It’s really long, so it might not fit you, but if you want it, it’s yours,” she said.

I wore one of my dad’s old yukatas in a grade school production of The Mikado.  I was a Geisha.  The way my mom dressed me up, tied up my hair, and stuck a couple of wooden knitting needles in it must have looked fine to anyone who wasn’t Japanese.  That old yukata is long gone.

This one has probably never been worn in 50 years, so the cotton fabric is still really stiff.  It’s obviously a men’s version, though, given the sleeve length.  Still, the hem barely comes down to the top of my ankles, so there’s no possible way I could trip over it.  I tie the sash the way I want to, though, not by some prescribed ritual.

I am not engaging in any cultural appropriation.  If my dad’s Japanese business contacts thought that would bother them, they never would have gifted it to him.

This could use a run through the washer to soften up, but otherwise, it’s fantastic!  It makes for a great summer robe, or pool cover-up.  I freakin’ love it!  Besides, it’s a lovely reminder of dad.

Independence Day

I am so goddamn sick of reading about how awful the 4th of July is, and how horrible it is to have a parade in D.C. that has the usual fireworks, but also displays some army vehicles instead of beach Boys music.  Thank you, Jim Acosta for your Beach Boys memories.  I’m also ticked off about how the Betsy Ross flag is suddenly racist.  It’s not just U.S. lefties claiming this.  The Brits have joined in about how horrible this all is.

There is nothing at all racist about the Betsy Ross Flag.  Blacks fought in our Revolutionary War, our Civil War, and every war in which we’ve since fought.  That flag has 13 stars, and 13 stripes, symbolizing the 13 former colonies, which became states.  Obama flew two of them during his 2013 inauguration.

If the weirdos have their way, not only would the entire upper left corner of our flag be obliterated, but also the 13 stripes.  Well, if they want to fly a solid white flag of surrender, they can, but I’m going to fly the Stars & Stripes.  This is my country, and I love it.

The three states in which I was born, raised, and moved to as an adult are all among the original 13.  There’s a lot of history around here, especially where I now live.  I don’t want to see it wiped out by whiny pantywaist milllennials who think this country sucks because it doesn’t give them what they want, for free.

Rant over.

Enjoy your Independence Day!  Have a cookout, a beer or two, and watch whatever fireworks are in your area.  I’m going to shoot off a few fireworks of my own, but nothing that requires a mortar launch.  Those are perfectly legal here, but they’d have every dog within a half mile radius thinking it was Armageddon, and spook my cats.  Not worth it.