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April 2010 Chickens in the Road Newsletter

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April 2010 Chickens in the Road Newsletter

IN THIS ISSUE:

*Story: Little Flower on the Ground

*Kitchen Extra: The Incredible Glass Canning Jar

*Embarrassing Photo of the Month: Mr. Funky Pumpkin

*My Favorite Thing Right Now: Fresh Cream

*Recent Highlights: Homemade Butter, Great-Aunt Ruby’s Aprons, Prodigal Sheep, and More

*Sneak Peek: A Sneak But No Peek

*Blast from the Past: Feeding Baby Birds

*Forum Feature: Roasting Coffee Beans

*Newsletter Sponsor:

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*Story: Little Flower on the Ground

Now is the time when all the world is a free florist shop.

I don’t know how the real florist shops stay in business in April and May! (Oh, proms……) Get outside and get some flowers!

Press them (see Candle Jars with Pressed Wildflowers) or make bouquets for vases. Stick jarfuls of them on every windowsill. Use flower petals in homemade soaps. Make violet infusion jelly! (That’s a neat one!)

Make a garland for your cow!

Unfortunately, Beulah Petunia ate the garland in one giant slurp. I’ll have to work with her.

So forget that.

Whatever you do, just stop and smell them and….

….know that it is Spring.

Little flower on the ground,

do you bloom without a sound?

Or you do sing so quietly

to just the fairies and to me?

*Kitchen Extra: The Incredible Glass Canning Jar

Dried parsley in one of my old Atlas jars.

Back in the day when I was a suburbanite, glass canning jars were mysterious objects. I didn’t can and I didn’t have any canning jars other than the occasional pint or jam-size jar that came to me by way of Georgia. I’d take the kids, head off on a days-long drive from Texas to West Virginia, to stay in the old farmhouse and let them play in the river. I thought this place was the back of beyond. I was amazed they even had a school here! The little store where I now shop regularly seemed like something on another planet with its handful of aisles. I just thought it was a place to stop for a burger at the deli in the back after spending a day with the kids at the river. It was impossible to believe people actually shopped for food in such a tiny store! I mean, seriously, it was hard to believe people actually lived here at all and didn’t just come here on vacation.

I’d always head back to Texas with a few jars of jam courtesy of Georgia and those jars were prized possessions after the jam was gone. Not that I knew what to do with them, but they looked like antiques! It never occurred to me that you could still go to the store and buy them. I was quite silly back then. And I was missing out on more than canning. The glass canning jar is one of the most useful household items ever invented.

Besides all the canning….. I use glass canning jars to store homemade mixes of all kinds. Dried herbs. Bulk yeast after I open the package. Homemade dough enhancer. Cream (and of course I also use them to make butter). Pencils. Cotton balls. Sewing and other craft notions. Coins. Fireflies. Flower vases. Candles. Drinking glasses. Pasta. Dried beans. Chick feeders and waterers. Sprouting beans. The list goes on and on. What did I ever do without them before?

Bit of trivia: The first glass canning jar was invented in 1858 by John L. Mason (of Mason jars) followed by “Lightning” jars and Atlas jars. Today, the canning jar kings are Ball and Kerr, of course. I’m lucky enough to have some vintage Mason and Atlas jars. They are the real antiques. I’ve come a long way since the days I prized my ordinary jam jars Georgia sent home with me–I actually know the difference.

I’ve got boxes and boxes of canning jars now. I’m a canning jar addict, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the glass canning jar!

*Embarrassing Photo of the Month: Mr. Funky Pumpkin

Another seriously tragic revelation.

Remember Mr. Funky Pumpkin from the Pear Pressure tale? I was excited about finding out what wondrous something would be inside this strange pumpkin, but I was so busy with pears, I never cut into it. And so Mr. Funky Pumpkin lives! Or….something. It’s still sitting on the porch rail, decayed and slightly creepy. Perhaps it would make a good head for my creepy scarecrow in my garden?! As a bonus tragic revelation this month, beside Mr. Funky Pumpkin sits my Christmas amaryllis which never bloomed.

*My Favorite Thing Right Now: Fresh Cream

Since I got my milk cow, I am completely and irrevocably spoiled to fresh cream.

Light cream for my coffee. Heavy cream for homemade butter and whipped cream. Cream cheese. Cheesecake. I’m swimming in cream. Please don’t rescue me.

*Recent Highlights: Homemade Butter, Great-Aunt Ruby’s Aprons, Prodigal Sheep, and More

Have fun with Prodigal Sheep, see my amazing Gift in Ohio and what happens when I discover that Cows are Strong. Find all my farm animal stories here.

Bake up a spring treat with Lemon Cake Pie, try some Maple Sticky Buns, and go homemade all the way in Let’s Make Butter. Don’t miss a thing in my kitchen! Get all my recipes.

Blue skies, wildflowers, and 70-degree weather, join me in The Spring on My Content. Read the story behind my Vintage Glass Milk Bottles and hum along with my Milking Song. See all my country living stories.

Take a trip to a day gone by with Great Aunt-Ruby’s Aprons, see some of my farm animal photographs transformed by an artist in Animals in Oil and learn how to make Funky Marbled Easter Eggs with me. Browse all my posts in crafts.

Get in the garden! See my Ghost of Gardens Past and what I’m really doing when I’m Working in the Garden. Don’t forget that there’s still time to Have Your Ramps and Plant Them, Too. Be sure to see all my garden stories.

*Sneak Peak: A Sneak But No Peek

I have a surprise coming! A surprise, a surprise, a surprise! And that’s all I’m gonna say. Don’t miss Monday, May 3rd at Chickens in the Road for the big unveiling!

*Blast from the Past: Feeding Baby Birds

It was almost a year ago when Morgan brought home a nestful of wild baby birds she’d found near the riverbank on the ground.

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Read the trauma, the drama, and the happy ending in Feeding Baby Birds.

*Forum Feature: Roasting Coffee Beans

This tutorial for roasting coffee beans at home in an iron skillet just like our great-grandparents was shared by CATRAY44.

CATRAY44: I set my gas stove burner on 6. I get my cast iron skillet hot then add my grean coffee “peas” as they are called at this stage. The trick is to keep them moving by stirring constantly. Scorched beans are not good! After about 15 minutes, they will be a golden color and you will hear them start to “crack”. Keep moving them until you reach the level of roast you like. I take mine to a chestnut color. Which is probably a dark city or light french roast. The neat thing is, you will have little bit of variety in the roast, some darker and some lighter, which gives it a really nice flavor.

There will be a layer of chaff coming off the beans as you roast. Dump the roasted beans into a colander and take it outside. Shake the beans in the colander to remove the chaff and cool the beans. Let the beans cool and place them in a jar, out of the light. Once they have cooled, put the lid on the jar or container. The beans are best after about 12 hours, though some grind them sooner. You will notice the aroma will be much stronger after a few hours.

You can order grean beans off ebay or try googling them. It is cheaper. The beans look small, but they expand as you roast them. Green coffee peas keep for a long time. It is only after they roast that they loose freshness, so go ahead and order a lot!

I only ruined one pan full because I did not realize I had to keep stirring (failed to read the directions well). There will be a little bit of smoke, but not bad. Just turn on your overhead vent. It isn’t smoke like burning food, not as smoky. Have fun!

Thank you, CATRAY44! See more ideas and details in the roasting coffee beans discussion on the forum. (And see this tutorial with pictures here.)

***

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Thank you for your comments, your support, and just for being there. Here’s hoping to see you on the Chickens in the Road Forum (make friends, have fun, come join us!) and every day on the farmhouse blog!

Love,
Suzanne

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"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....



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