Reliving My Youth

IMG_3929 Root Beer Making Supplies.JPG

This past weekend my husband and I did something that brought back memories of my youth, and also memories of us being young parents with three little boys.  What we did was decide it was time to brew some homemade root beer!

A couple things combined to make us decide it was time to give it a try again. My son built us this awesome rack to hold our brewing bottles of pop. We also are helping host a baby celebration for the upcoming birth of our newest grandson. We decided it would be kind of fun to have homemade root beer as one of the beverages.

IMG_3942 New Pop Bottle Rack

 

Somehow during the years, since we last made root beer, we had managed to bury the bottles and equipment in a back corner of the garage. My husband dug out the crates and boxes of bottles from that back corner, and I spent an entire afternoon cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning those bottles. I was never so glad to own a bottle brush, as that afternoon!

The bottles, themselves, brought back lots of memories for me. As a kid, my Aunt Jean always brewed root beer. We begged and pleaded with my mom to give it a try also. My siblings and I spent countless hours going through ditches, looking for glass pop bottles. (This was in the days before the nickel deposit for bottles….and long before pop cans.)

Once we had amassed enough bottles, my dad purchased a bottle capper and we were set to go. That root beer was some of the best around on a hot summer day. When we were kids; pop was a luxury and our folks didn’t purchase pop very often, so we savored every sip we took. It always had a slightly yeasty taste but we thought it was wonderful.

When our sons were small we inherited the bottles and the capper. Through the years we also gathered more bottles to add to the collection. The bottles ranged from 7 ounce bottles to 32 ounce bottles. It is kind of fun to see where those bottles come from. Places like Fort Dodge, Ia, Spirit Lake, IA, Sioux Falls, SD, Mississippi, and who knows where! It is rather like a collage of old pop bottles.

IMG_3939 Bottle Hodgepodge.JPG

Our sons fondly remember drinking ice cold homemade root beer on steamy summer days. My husband and I remember, not quite as fondly, the sound of a bottle blowing up in the middle of the night during the brewing phase.

The sound of a bottle blowing is slightly like hearing a cannon go off. At that time we lived on a different acreage and had the bottles brewing on their sides, on the steps in the upstairs stairwell. It took a long time to get the sticky, sugary root beer scrubbed off those stairwell walls. I do remember it smelled wonderfully to root beer for a long time.

This time my husband and I decided we should fill bottles in the garage as we could hose off the floor if we spilled too much. It worked great and was kind of a fun thing to do again. We ended up with 70+ bottles of root beer.

The real test will be at the end of this week when we do the taste test on a bottle. Hopefully, it is as good as we remember!  I have a feeling this is an acquired taste as this root beer always tastes a little yeasty. I guess there is a great reason it tastes that way; as yeast is what is used to carbonate homemade root beer.

I am hoping that the first sip will bring back memories of years past. Memories of time spent drinking root beer with cousins, time spent making root beer with our sons and new memories to be made with family and friends.

When I was looking for quotes on homemade root beer (and not finding any!) I discovered that August 6, 2017 is National Root Beer Float Day in the United States!  How amazingly cool is it that? That is the day of our baby celebration complete with homemade root beer for root beer floats.

“Life has an odd way of making things work out in the end.”
Unknown

“…root beer floats are the stuff that toasts are made of.” 
― Sandra D. Bricker,
If the Shoe Fits

  I am editing this post to add the recipe I used.  I had a request to do that so here it is:

Homemade Root Beer
1- 2 ounce bottle Root Beer Extract (I used Schilling)
 5 gallons water
5 pounds white sugar
1 large teaspoon dry yeast
1 cup warm water
Put the yeast in the cup of warm water with 1 teaspoon of sugar
Mix the extract with the rest of the sugar
Pour the rest of the water into a large bucket (not metal)
Add the sugar/extract mixture
Add the yeast mixture
Stir well
Bottle in clean sterilized glass pop bottles.
Cap with bottle caps (can get these from bottling companies).
Put bottles on their side in a warm place for 2-4 days.
Move to a cool place to store.
Chill well before serving.

 

 

 

Drumstick

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Every so often you end up with a chicken who can be defined by the word ….. moxie.  I don’t typically name my girls but I may have to name this one. A couple weeks ago (the night of July 4th to be exact) this Rhode Island Red came close to being a late evening snack for a raccoon.

We had spent the day with family at Lake Okoboji and by the time we got home, after the fireworks display, the evening had cooled off nicely. We opened the windows to let some of the cool air in and headed for bed.

We woke, from a deep sleep, to the sound of a chicken squawking in terror. My husband grabbed a flashlight and saw the glowing eyes of a raccoon, who had decided our chicken was extremely edible. He (my husband….not the raccoon) grabbed the gun and headed outdoors.

It didn’t take long and I heard a lot more squawking. My husband came back in the house and told me that, that chicken was one lucky bird. He had found her and put her in the coop with the rest of the girls.  He also told me he wasn’t sure what shape she was in, as it was dark and he could see, by the flashlight, there were lots of feathers in the back yard.

When morning came and I went to let the girls out of their coop, I could see red feathers strewn across the yard. I reluctantly opened the door of the coop, dreading what I would see. I was sure I was going to find a dead or half-dead, bloody chicken.

When I did open the door, the flock of hens blew past me like nothing had happened during the night. I peered in the coop and the only girls still in it were the broody ones that will not leave the nesting boxes.

I started hunting my chicken down, as I was curious to see where all those feathers had actually come from.  I discovered that she had been plucked on her back and on one of her legs. Amazingly, there wasn’t any broken skin!

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My husband has actually started calling this girl, “Drumstick” and I have to agree she kind of looks like a walking drumstick!

I cannot believe she escaped from a raccoon with only losing feathers! I also cannot believe that it has not seemed to slow her down at all. She doesn’t seem in the least traumatized by the whole event. She is living life, like any normal chicken and has her feathers have even started growing back in.

The only difference in her behavior is that she no longer hides outside at night anymore. She now makes it a point to be one of the first girls in the coop when evening comes. Somewhere in her little brain she has figured out that following the rules equals safety.

I have a feeling that we, as people, are often like Drumstick.  We like to live on the edge….go where it isn’t safe….and hope for the best. We tend to think that bad stuff will only happen to someone else and we will be okay.  Every so often, that bubble is shattered and if we are fortunate, we will make it safely back in the coop.

I am thinking Drumstick, might end up being an awesome object lesson for my grandkids (and for me!). A lesson that there are rules for a reason. A lesson that when bad things happen to you….don’t let it take over your life. Drumstick is a good reminder that one should live, really live, as long as you are alive.

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.
– Henry Ellis

 

 

Not So Lazy Days of Summer

IMG_3921 Soybeans and Fireflies

I am quickly discovering that summer is a hard time to keep current with a blog. For some reason the days are spent outdoors trying to maintain the lawn, garden, soybean fields and a bunch of other important things.  So I will apologize, up front, for not keeping up with your blogs!

It makes me wonder about that saying….the lazy days of summer.  I keep waiting for those to show up. I have discovered things during these not so lazy days. I discovered it is really hard to try photograph lightening bugs over the bean field….so all you really are getting with this post’s photo is soybeans!  Those little flying lights are there…you just can’t see them! Though I do think all those little white dots are actually the bugs…..

I am also discovering that heat and humidity will sap any creative writing thoughts that one might have. (I would hate to admit it might be age and just being really tired at the end of the day!) I headed over to the daily prompt site for some words that might generate an idea for a riveting post……(I am still wondering and searching for a marvelous idea.)

My husband and I were sitting in the house after another morning spent walking the beans. (See prior post for what that is …. in case you are wondering.) He made the comment that it is “hotter than a banshee outside”.

Once he made that comment, we both wondered what that really meant! How hot is a banshee? And what is a banshee? Perhaps my friends from over the pond have that answer?

It also caused me to wonder about other “hotter than” statements……”hotter than Dutch love.” (Hmmmm, I am mainly dutch ancestry and think I will just let that one totally alone!)  “hotter than a pistol” (?????)…….. “hotter than a cat on a hot tin roof”(why is that cat on a tin roof anyway?) ……”hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk” (pretty sure I will stick to using my fry pan.)…..  Any other “hotter than” comments out there?

It is one of those “hotter than” days where there will be no scampering about.  It would get entirely too hot and sweaty. It is hard enough to kind of slog through a day like this; without trying to look perky and alert! One weatherman said it exactly right…..”the next few days will have air you can wear.”

The only thing that seems to be full of life is the bugs.  The monarchs float effortlessly on the breeze. I always wonder if they are drawn by the delightful scent the milkweed blooms send out. Bumble bees and honey bees are busy gathering pollen from my flowers and typically leave us alone….as long as we leave them alone. The fireflies are like twinkling little stars stretched out over the bean field at night.

It is good to see that this type of weather is at least good for all of them. It has been so droughty here that we don’t seem to have nearly the mosquito population that we usually do….that is one upside to our lack or rain.

Maybe this weather is really given to us so that we can truly appreciate when a cool front comes through? Maybe it teaches us perseverance? Maybe, just maybe, we can be grateful it is this humid in our area. If it wasn’t so muggy, our corn fields would begin to shrivel and burn up, rather than flourish as well as they do, even without rainfall.

I guess this is when I must learn to be “content in all things” (Philippians 4:12-13)  and not just when life is exactly as I would like it to be. Maybe it is time to be happy to just enjoy the butterflies and lightening bugs.

It is good to acknowledge that God is God and I am not. He knows what I need, when I need it. His timing for my life and for the world I live in; is perfect. And for that…..I am indeed grateful!

I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times,
what is still to come.
I say,
‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
Isaiah 46:10
New International Version

 

Surviving the Heat and Humidity

IMG_3907 One of My Favorite Corners.JPG

My Favorite Corner

We are now officially in the weather pattern in Iowa that has two temperature settings…..hot and muggy or hotter and muggier. When we walked out our door this morning it didn’t feel too bad as it had cooled off slightly during the night.

We decided we had better walk some beans (also known as swinging a hoe in the soybean field and whacking weeds) before it became too hot and unbearable. We were fortunate in the fact that until 10:30 it was overcast and we had a breeze. You learn very quickly to ignore the heat, humidity and grit that sifts into your shoes.

By afternoon, that overcast sky had left and the sun beamed bright and hot in it’s place. I found this out when I ventured out again to weed in the vegetable garden. This has been a prolific season for weeds around here! As I was plucking out weeds and finding the carrots back; it quickly felt like I was cooking in the sun.

By evening, my husband even had to admit that it was indeed humid. He usually seems to be immune to the mugginess. When he mentioned how bad it was…..I knew it was indeed like swimming through the air when we walked outside.

I will have to admit that this weather is excellent for growing things.  The melons in the garden are vining out and I noticed some of the watermelons had marble sized melons on them. I have lettuce, that for some reason, seems to want to hang out in the carrots….and I am good with that as long as they all keep growing and get along!

My peas are spotty, but the ones that are there, are blooming. They had to be planted twice due to rabbits eating them the first time. I think they munched them to the ground as fast as they came up.

I have a feeling that is why the second group I planted came up pretty thin also. I did have one plant with a few pods on it and those pods were an excellent snack while working in the garden.

Once I had done enough weeding, I wandered around to see how the flowers were faring in this heat. It turns out they are doing wonderfully!

The elecampane is hugely tall and I think I will have to move it this fall as it is really too large for the space where it is now growing. I was given the seeds from my friend Sara; and had no idea what this plant would look like….now I know and it needs a little more room than I have given it.

IMG_3887 Elecampane

Elecampane

I had to stand on our porch to get a picture of the flower of the elecampane…..it was that tall!  If I remember right Sara told me they are of some medicinal value but, for the life of me I cannot remember for what….I may have to turn to my other buddy – Google.

My lilies are also doing wonderfully this year and have lots of buds, promising lots of blooms.

IMG_3886 Lilies

Lilies

The phlox are also in full bloom at this time. Every time I see those beautiful blooms I think of my friend, Darlene, who sent them along with my daughter-in-law (her daughter) for me to add to my shady area. It just makes me smile.

IMG_3903 Phlox

Phlox

The flowers and growing vegetables make all the heat and humidity worthwhile. I know they would not flourish like they do without the sticky weather. It is kind of a trade off but a lot of things in life are like that……two sides of the same coin.

It is good to remind myself that, if not for the sticky weather, our crops wouldn’t grow like they do…….nor would my flowers be as beautiful and scent the air with that wonderful sweetness that I get to enjoy.

It makes the heat of the day more bearable when there is beauty to be found. It helps through the uncomfortable seasons when you get to enjoy something as simple as flowers in bloom.

We all have obstacles.
The feeling of satisfaction comes by overcoming something.
Marta

Pictures of the Day

Old Glory

I had planned to get a post out much sooner that this! Sometimes, life just gets really busy….in a very good way. Family and special days like the 4th of July come along and blogging gets put on the back burner. Throw a wedding in the mix and the weekend gets very busy!

I thought I would share some of the photos that make up our annual 4th of July celebration. I come from a family that is very solid in their American values….God, Family and Country. Freedom is a concept that is firmly embraced and celebrated with everything from bubbles to fireworks.

Time to Blow a Few Bubbles for the Dog to Chase

My granddaughter found a great way to pass the time while the adults visited and caught up with each others’ lives. There is always lots of laughter, good-natured teasing and hugs when this bunch of people get together. This is a holiday that is a bridge that draws our groups of family and friends together….it is a meeting place that we can count on at least once a year.

Building Sand Castles on the Beach

We also found that spending time on the small beach was so much fun. The water was so cold, the day was hot; so it was a great mix.  Whenever you mingle sand, sunny days, water and kids you have a sure winner for a great morning.

Walking Past Arnold’s Park With Grandpa

Time To Imitate The Statues

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day is filled with eating, boat rides, swimming, eating some more, sharing recipes, laughing, eating again, walking to the Emporium for snacks, and of course the fireworks display at the end of the day. They have one of the best firework shows in our area and it has become a family ritual.

My grandkids thought the bottom photo looked like a firework rainbow. They were in awe of the loud booms that sounded like cannons echoing across the lake. The shore line was alive with people sending up bottle rockets and patriotic music was piped through local radio stations. The songs were synchronized with the fireworks.

We did have to sit through a drizzle type rain but it was well worth it and most people stayed for the entire show. I think it was because we knew when the Grand Finale was over…..so was our holiday with family and friends.

Arnold’s Park at Night

The day ended as it had begun…..hugs, smiles, and seeing our flag waving  in the breeze. It was an amazing day (as always) and was even better because of who we spent it with. I hope you enjoyed a day that was fulfilling and fun all rolled into one!

 

 

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle,
but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees,
the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.
You may think you have overeaten,
but it is patriotism.
~Erma Bombeck

 

 

The Wonder of Birds

IMG_3722 (2) Kestrel

Baby Kestrel

 

This morning brought a rare treat for me. For some reason, unknown even to me, I really like kestrels. I have no idea why I find these little hawks fascinating but I do.

My husband was outside for a bit, this morning, and suddenly came back to the house. He told me to follow him and bring my camera. He would not tell me why, he only assured me that I would not be sorry.

I found my shoes, grabbed my camera, and headed out the door after him. After being married to this man for nearly 37 years I have learned to trust him when he tells me to follow.

We went down to what used to be the hog house/lambing shed. Once we got there my husband looked really disappointed. He showed me a cinder block that a baby kestrel had been perched on just a few minutes before.

We stood there a bit and started to look around to see if the little bird had hopped somewhere else. (We weren’t sure if he even knew how to fly.) We found the little kestrel hiding under a roll of woven wire that stood next to the building.

I moved in to take a few pictures, which did not make the little kestrel happy at all!  It was pretty sunny and that also made it hard to get a good photo.

We disturbed him enough that he did fly to another outbuilding, which answered the question of his flying ability.  We stood and watched a bit, and heard him calling to his parents who were flying overhead.

I went back to work in the house and it didn’t take long before my husband came to the door again with the same request…..follow him and bring the camera. This time he had spotted a pair of Baltimore Orioles bringing food to their babies in the nest.

IMG_3735 (2) Papa Oriole

Baltimore Orioles

 

It is always amazing to me how they build those sac-like nests. It is also amazing to me that those baby birds don’t get motion sickness when those branches are swinging during the windstorms that we have.

Those nests are so hard to see when the leaves are full on the trees. My husband said the only way he spotted it was by watching to see where mom and dad Oriole landed each time. (If you look closely the nest is the brownish blob beneath the male Oriole.) You could also plainly hear the baby birds begging for food every time a parent landed with lunch.

It was an amazing way to break up the chores of the morning. To stand in the sun and watch the birds. It really was a treat to be so close to a small kestrel. I loved knowing that the kestrel pair had successfully hatched and raised at least this one baby.

I am so blessed to be married to a man who loves the outdoors and loves to share it with me. I have seen so many beautiful things because of him. It is a wonderful thing to be able to stand with him and just watch the birds…..and the next time he comes to the door and tells me to bring the camera and follow him….I will!

“Everywhere we look….
the complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes.”
Van Gogh

The Best Laid Plans…….

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Sometimes things don’t always turn out how you think they will when you make a plan. I am not sure if anyone else ever has this issue…..but I seem to run into that rule more often than I like.

Let me back up here a little. The next weekend/week are going to be busy for us over here. We have a wedding of a nephew that we need to attend this coming weekend. Family from four states will be coming this direction for the wedding and there is lots of planning to be done.

We want to gather as often as possible, so meals are being planned, there is housecleaning, baking, cleaning some more, bedding to be washed, lawn to be mowed, cleaning, field work to finish, weeding, and of course some more cleaning.

There probably wouldn’t be so much cleaning….but I would rather be outside than inside so now I am hitting crunch time to catch up on all the stuff I let go while I was outside. There are also some projects that I have been hinting I would like done. (I think I need to do more than hint…..) One of those projects involve a chair.

In a bedroom upstairs there is a chair that I have wanted to get rid of long ago. As of two days ago it was still there. Yesterday, I as I was putting clean sheets on the beds, I stood and looked at that chair. I looked again at the chair, I assessed the doorways, I pondered on the stairwell and decided I could get that chair out of there myself.

I put the chair on its side as it was too wide to make it through the doorway. That worked great! My confidence was boosted. Through one more doorway and I was at the top of the stairs. I found if I stayed on the step above the chair I could ease it down step by step to the landing.

Things were progressing wonderfully up to this point. The chair and I negotiated the 90 degree turn on the landing and started our way down step by careful step. I discovered that gravity is a wonderful thing when trying to get a chair down the steps. In looking back…I realize that might have just been an illusion!

I was incredibly impressed with myself….right up until the legs of the chair became firmly wedged in the doorframe at the bottom of the stairwell. No matter how much I tugged, pulled, pushed, coaxed, pleaded and sweat glistened, would that chair budge.  (It was kind of reminiscent of giving birth…..)

Another problem soon became evident.  I was stuck on the stairwell above the chair. My husband was outside and would never hear me holler for assistance as he was hooking up a cultivator to a running tractor. It was time to once again assess the situation.

I decided I could possibly stick my left leg over the chair and carefully feel for the steps below the chair. I started that maneuver and half way through it realized that there was really no way my legs were that long. I also realized that never in my life, have I ever been able to do the splits and this was not a good time to try them again.

I finally managed to get my left foot on a step, while firmly (or should I say frantically) hanging onto the doorframe. I still had one issue….my right foot was stuck, higher than my waist, up on the chair. It was so sad…..I actually had to use my hand to unhook my foot. In my defense….there is only so far a woman my age can stretch and only so long you can keep your foot at a level somewhere between your waist and head.

When looking at the chair from the bottom angle I realized I should have started with the other end of the chair. I briefly wondered if I could get it turned around and try again. I had an entire conversation with myself over that idea and decided against it as I did not want to get stuck on the steps above that chair again!

I wandered outside to find my husband. I told him the problem, told him there was no hurry as that chair wasn’t going anywhere on it’s own and then did some other things while I waited for his help.

I should have had the camera and got a picture of the look on his face when he saw the chair wedged on the stairs…..then again….maybe that wouldn’t have been a good idea. It was kind of a look that alternated between a cringe and wonderment at how his wife managed to get a chair stuck like that.

I am happy to report the chair is released from the stairwell and nothing (and no one) was damaged in the incident.

So…..now this has me wondering…..how has your week been going? Tell me I am not the only one to end up doing stuff like this!

(I just could not resist the first quote! I laughed out loud when I read it because, I should have read it before my journey down the steps with that chair!)

“That’s a horrible plan.”
“Yes, but I have chosen to ignore that.”
Christopher Moore, Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art   

 

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Winston S. Churchill