I live with my Mom and Dad and their weimaraner "Spencer". My Dad has multi infarct dementia

We all come from Vermont and we grew up during the 60's and 70's. One of our favorite things is cooking and so we try and stay sane by writing about cooking. I have an old cookbook from Rutland VT called "Out of Vermont Kitchens that we are going to try and cook from and see what the food tastes like.

The cookbook has some prepared foods in some of the recipes. But we will try and adapt them perhaps to modern cusine.

We also try other recipes but will dive into our Vermont roots as often as we can.

Marion Ballou Smith
The daughter of Orris and Margaret (Mageen) Ballou, Marion Ballou Smith grew up in Rutland, Vermont, graduated from Mount Holyoke College (1914), and taught botany and mathematics. In 1927 she married Esme A.C. Smith, a businessman in Rutland. Active in local business and civic affairs, Smith was the co-compiler, with Alice Chaffee Bowker and Ruth Sutton, of a fund-raising cookbook entitled Out of Vermont Kitchens, published in 1939, to benefit the Trinity Mission of Trinity Church in Rutland, and the Women's Service League of St. Paul's Church in Burlington, Vermont.


Getting Ready for a busy season

The loft is getting to be like a backyard hoophouse with all the seedlings coming along in the windows. We have too many roma tomatos already and not enough brussels sprouts. I'll have to buy some pre-started brussels from one of the growers around here and bawl out Johnny's Seeds.

We have to spray them daily at least once and we continually keep trying to find more pots to transplant more growing seedlings.

My 8 chicks are coming along and are now almost 6 and 5 weeks old. Hopefully they will replace any grown chickens who develop problems throughout the coming warmer months. I've got them in an old cow trough with a brooder light over them.

Dad continues to mentally go down hill each day. He reads the paper all the time now. I doubt he has a clue what he is reading but at least it occupies him for awhile. He asks so many questions now and yesterday was insistent that his mother had just died and my mom and myself had to pull our weight now that she was gone. She died in 1961.

It is becoming tougher now to deal with his fantasies and keep him from becoming frightened. I like to look at old pictures of him when he was young. They help me remember what he was like. He is no longer able to think clearly now.

This picture was taken on their honeymoon at Groton Pond in Vermont in June of 1948. I used the photo for a class project and tinted it using Photoshop. I hardly knew what I was doing at the time but I still like the photo.

My father was an energetic man and age did not go well with his character. He liked to stay busy most of the time and that is how I remember him, burning brush, cutting wood, building stone walls, talking into a microphone at the radio stations he worked for, and outside all the time. He never watched much TV or sat for long periods. He had an uneasiness that my sisters and I all inherited. I think sometimes that is why I have a tough time helping him now. There is not much I can do but sit and watch and try and converse with him from across the table or try and distract him from some crazy notion that he won't let go of.

I think the chicks and the seedlings help us forget what is going on with my Dad and concentrate on new growth. I'll try this summer to work with my Dad and still find time to have a farmers market stall in Corning, raise a few meat birds for the Fall and keep the house and grounds outside looking good. Its alot of work but I love eating my own home raised food. Hopefully with some good weather and some help, we can have it all.


The Henhouse

My chickens may not be the best layers that ever graced a backyard operation but they at least try and keep me and my neighbors in some eggs. Right now the yolks are a very bright orange and make a simple omelet into a mardi gras of colors if I add cut chives and sun dried tomatoes.

We added another section to the hen house recently with big windows that let in the light. I kind of hoped they'd lay a few more eggs but the addition made little difference. Then I invested in some temporary poultry fencing and strung it across the yard. After they had been free-ranging for over two weeks, they were positively dejected with the new fence. I never knew hens had attitudes about their habitat.

My Dad is somewhat intrigued with the hens. He asks sometimes about the eggs and how the chickens are doing. Then later he wonders where the eggs came from. At least the chickens make for a limited conversation with him now.

I love walking this time of year. The soft greens and yellows are lovely and give at least a semblance of peace. Spencer enjoys his walks in the sun with me through the fields and woods close by. He's no longer a wild and crazy weim that dashes through the swamp and chases everything in sight. The geese are passing through this area now and land on the pond for a few hours. He watches them and they keep their beady little eyes on him. Both parties pretend not to notice one another too much but the tension is discernible to anybody.


Li'l Besterds!!

We put them out tonight in the barn and up in the loft. On the storage site. I wanted to put them up in the straw but with the heat lamp going and that little guard protector, my mother ops for the storage area free from straw. Not that it would matter.

The house was becoming thick with their dust. Ah... nasty li'l things they are...but so damn cute.

So I will say a prayer that the chicks survive the night inside a steel cattle trough covered in pine shavings and a gore-tex tarp over a couple of plastic planks. I put the water way up on a tower I made out of old bricks so they wouldn't stop up the water system with all that pine shavings. And then under the heat of the 75 watt bulb, I gotta hope they stay at least at 70 degrees body temp. Then I'm reading about this bacteria...begins with c 'osis of some kind that comes from their shite. The chances of getting it are high in my circumstances. I'll have to investigate anti-biotics for them just in case. I hope too I don't burn the barn down. OMG. This sucks. I could'a had a V8. Chicks looked fine tonight. Hope tomorrow they will still be there within an intact barn.

So thats why Denis I have to get a few more or at least try. You want to gurantee some good layers and as time goes by, the older layers lay less so I would have to cull some of them. I had to kill a chick (well chicken) that I raised last week. It was very had to do. She was such an outcast and the rest of them were picking at her more and more. It was best to send her over the chicken rainbow bridge.

I'm also going to get 12 meat chickens. They are called Freedom Rangers that sounds like something Hugh Jackman played in. They take over 12 weeks vs the nasty, stinky mutant cornish x's that are born mentally challenged but taste real good. The Freedom Rangers can be pastured and are said to be the best tasting chicken. They are an old heirloom breed and forage well and cost not so much to raise.

I will try the Freedom Rangers and hopefully they will survive my mistakes. I'll say more prayers for the barn tonight.


Springtime and all the fun it brings

Early Spring around Western NY has a remarkable effect on me. I start freaking with the amount of work coming at me. I have way too many project lined up by the time the snow melts and the ice breaks from the pond.

I've pulled out all the stones from an old walkway my Dad built and now I can't find the right limestone to use as a grout between the stones. I've called all over the area and I'm still looking for crushed limestone. I can get plenty of river rock but no limestone.

I count the days by the flowers that are out now. The wild daffodils come first, then the lilacs, then the tulips as I clean out my composter, clean out the hen house, arrange the started tomatoes and peppers in the upstairs windows. The days are counted by whatever cut wild and partially wild flowers arranged on the kitchen table.

My rooster, "Earl the Pearl" is as horny as a goat as the weather moderates. If one of the brahma hens comes up to me for a treat, Earl sneaks up from behind and jumps her. Its a show of power I guess. He annoys me but I love his crow in the morning.

I have bought 8 tiny chicks that are now smelling up my bathroom and shrieking every time I try and take a shower and trip over the brooding box while trying to get to the toilet. They watch me with averted heads as I brush my teeth. Hopefully by late this week the weather will warm up enough to put them in the barn loft. We will all be happier then.

I have attended seminars and workshops on chickens and I still have much to learn about getting the hens to lay eggs and to understand that roosters are not sentient beings.

I cleaned their hen house this week and spread the manure and straw at the back of the garden for next year. It had all turned to a fine powder over the winter that had a sour smell that permeated the air as I shoveled the stuff into the back of the gator. But it does look nice spread around the back of the garden. Hopefully it will make for some good soil next Spring. The hens love to "help" me dig out the manure from the entrance to the hen house. I find worms in the soil as I dig and the hens wait for the shovel to lift like they are watching a magic act. They dive for the worms and I have to wait until they are finished examining the area for more worms and return to watching me dig.

They have been "free-ranging" for a few weeks now as the grass greens up. Their egg production has been way down because they are far more interested in the grass and the worms than in the mundane job of laying eggs. But when they lay them, they are wonderful to taste and see. The eggs are now bright yellow like mustard and have a light creamy taste. I love to make an omelet with them and put them in pretty dishes. The dish in the picture was my grandmother's. She got it from a little boy when she was a school girl. He had a sandwich wrapped on it for lunch one day at school and my grandmother Irene was attracted to the little painted cupids frolicking naked in the center. She somehow convinced him to give her the plate. Its cracked and chipped but still its fun to remember her telling me about the little boy and the plate.


Ovens are wonderful things

We made rolls this weekend using the sour dough starter again. We also sprouted wheat berries that helped give them an interesting texture and taste. I like them the best in the mornings with coffee and some jam.

While the oven was heated, we baked a round of cookies. We made the old farm hand molassas cookies we made a few months ago but this time blackstrap molassas was used and the sticky stuff gave the cookies an almost chocolate appearance and more robust flavor.

I remember once when I was a kid and my sisters and I had made friends with a girl near Underhill, VT whose parents worked on one of the first big corporate owned farms in VT. They raised swiss brown cows. We went into the kitchen and her mother was busy baking pies, and cookie sheets full of cooling doughnuts. The kitchen smelled of deep fat frying, a method of cooking my own mother hated. I was captivated with the scene and all the food.


Bread baking

Our sour dough starter has somehow survived another year and we continue to use it in breads. I have gotten into searching out flour from small mills. I recently bought a sack of whole wheat flour from New Hope Mills. I also brought home some wheat berries that we soaked for a few days and mixed into the bread sponge.

The fun of bread baking is trying various flours and experimenting with textures. My sister came back from Amish country a few months ago and brought back some overly sweetened raisin and cinnamon bread. My mother rolled out the dough much as the Amish ladies had done and spread the surface with a layer of brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. It made for great toast.

We usually have the bread toasted in the mornings along with alot of coffee. My Dad tends to drink too much coffee and munches day old doughnuts he prefers to the bread. He gives Spencer a few bits of the doughnuts that has the dog salivating all over the rug.

So next we'll try the sprouted wheat bread again with about 2 cups of the sprouted berries instead of the measly 1/2 cup we started with last week.

This week we baked Irish soda bread in honor of St. Pat's day. I worked as a data-entry clerk for a few months at the county court house and met quite a few policemen and security guards. One of the sheriff's deputies gave me his grandmother's recipe for soda bread and we've been making it ever since. I had sampled it a few times in the past and always found it a little dry and not very flavorful but this one called for over a cup of raisins that kept the bread moist for days.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp double acting baking powder
2 tbl spoons caraway seeds (or more to taste)
1/4 cup butter
2 cups raisins (I use dark and white)
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 egg unbeaten
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg yolk, beaten

Heat oven to 375. Grease cast iron fry pan. Into mixing bowl sift flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in caraway seeds with pastry blender. Cut in butter till its like course corn meal. Stir in raisins. Combine in another bowl, buttermilk, egg, soda. Stir this into flour mixture until just moistened.

Turn dough onto lightly floured board and knead lightly till smooth. Place in pan. Leave center higher than sides. Cut across 1/4 " deep in center. Bursh with egg yok. Bake about 1 hour or until done. Let cool 10 minutes in pan before removing.


Getting Ready for Spring and Summer

I'm starting to look forward to Spring and all the projects I have planned. I got a small babysitting job until the end of school getting two boys to school on time. I'm going to buy some fencing with the babysitting money and set up some pens for the chickens. I just can't free range them because of stray dogs and hawks. Also want to get a truckload of top soil to surround the garden and create some flower bed borders that will help deter pesky bugs.

I've been studying temporary fencing made from plastic. Although its only good for 10 years, it'll hopefully help me rotate the chicken pasture and keep them in fresh grass.

I stopped in Ithaca last week for a visit and some shopping. I bought some lemon grass that I'll sprout and plant. The lemon grass makes a great landscaping bush during the summer and you can harvest it in the Fall and freeze the stalks for Asian cooking. You just stick them in water until they have rooted and then plonk them into pots until the warm weather allows outside planting. Right now, in a big vase with glass beads at the bottom, the bouquet of lemon grass looks like some crazy window display.

I've begun planting peppers and eggplants upstairs near the big window. I've never had a much luck with eggplants from seed. Eggplants have to be the slowest of all plants to get started, but I love baba ganuj and like any addict, I just keep trying.

I am going to buy some portable fencing soon for both the chickens and possibly to extend the garden a bit more. Not sure how the garden will go this year with my Dad's illness. I've bought multiple packets of greens and lettuces from Johnny's Seeds and I'll start thinking about getting my Farmers Market gig going again. I'll bag mixed greens and lettuce that sold very well last year when I had a stall at the Bath Farmers Market. Its a ton of work to get up at 4 am and cut wash and bag greens but satisfying. People liked the bagged greens and I had a small group of people who bought from me each week.

So I'll start planning the garden, begin working on the chicken coop extension and think about all the other summer work I'm now going to have to do. Mowing the lawn, bush-hogging the field, trimming, fixing the rock walls and keeping the pond clean and weed whacked.

Its going to be a very busy summer.