February 2011 Chickens in the Road Newsletter

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*Feature: My Mammy Janes

*Kitchen Extra: Frappuccino Science Laboratory

*My Favorite Thing Right Now: Free Wallpaper

*Recent Highlights: A Coffee Can Flower Pot, Old-Fashioned Nut Cake, Beeswax, and More

*Sneak Peek: CITR Retreat 2011

*Farm Bell Recipes: Maple Bacon Popcorn

*Blast from the Past: Bouncing Annabelle

*Feature: My Mammy Janes

As captivated as I was this past month in the story of Mammy Jane, I’ve probably gone as far with Mammy Jane as I’m going to go–other than returning to visit Irene sometime this summer when the dirt road to the Mammy Jane house is dry. A few readers suggested I might consider writing the real Mammy Jane story, but in fact, Mammy Jane is not singular in her great story. We are all descended from amazing pioneers who did in a day what we couldn’t accomplish in a week even if Mammy Jane was standing over us with a blacksnake whip. And so while I’m not interested in pursuing the Mammy Jane story further, it did make me think about my own Mammy Janes.

I am fortunate to be the recipient of a vast amount of family research meticulously gathered by my father, who grew up across the river from our farm on my great-grandfather’s farm. Part of that farm originally belonged to one of my great-great-grandfathers, and another great-great-grandfather’s house still stands a couple of miles up the road. I live in the midst of two centuries of family history. Back in the days of my father’s boyhood, this was a thriving community complete with a church, a one-room school house (where my grandmother taught–and it still stands), a couple of small stores, and even a boardinghouse for the men who worked in the oil and gas fields here.

My father, who is more like Irene (intrigued by facts and solid research) than her sister Sibyl (the author of the Mammy Jane book), spent decades digging up wills, marriage, birth, and death certificates, census records, and more. And of course, when he was a boy, he also heard many stories first-hand. It was the end of the pioneer age, but there were still “Mammy Janes” alive then, people who remembered the Civil War and the times before it. Those were the older people of his boyhood. He wrote their stories down–and having grown up here, when he wrote them, he wrote them with a real-life understanding of the world around them. He knew the sounds, the smells, the feel of this land. He knew the taste of molasses fresh from the fire, what the world was like without electricity, how to walk two miles to school uphill both ways (and in West Virginia, that is TRUE).

Part of my father’s research is here on my Stringtown history page. There’s more that I’ve yet to transcribe. I have pages and pages he wrote about my grandmother’s side of the family in West Virginia, along with copies of wills and other documents and photos.

My father took a restrained literary license with his writings. He knew enough from his own background to add a descriptive flair but he was meticulous with his facts at the same time. His history of my grandmother’s side of the family begins this way:

“It was a quiet summer day, the tranquility being broken only by the song of the birds and the murmur of the little, old Broad Run as it sped on its way to the winding Middle Island Creek and then on to the great Ohio. Soft breezes whispered of the past as an old gray-haired lady (Olive Virginia Curtis Seckman Samberson) sat on the porch with her head bent over some neat sewing. Down beside her knee sat her little twelve-year-old granddaughter (Susan Bell Minnick Cornell), her blond head, too, bent inquiringly over the written notes on her knee. As Grandmother sewed, the scroll unrolled revealing the ancestors of bygone years.”

Thus begins his telling of all the stories he knew from boyhood or had gathered later from those still alive through interviews and his own research.

I’m not sure what my father ever intended to do with any of this material. After he completed his work (through the 1960s), it languished for many years in his file cabinets and drawers. Recently he gave it all to me (after some amount of badgering on my part).

As fascinating as I found the story of Mammy Jane, I have my own Mammy Janes. We all do.

Here are just a few of my Mammy Janes.

My grandmother, Olive, teacher of the one-room schoolhouse across the river.

Love the scraggly, barefooted kids! My grandmother is in the back row, far right.

My great-grandmother, Osa Samberson Elliott.

My great-great-grandmother, Olive Samberson (with her husband Abraham Samberson).

Go find the oldest person in your family, or whoever has done the most research, and discover yours!

*Kitchen Extra: Frappuccino Science Laboratory

When I read this post at Farm Bell Recipes about CindyP’s homemade mocha Frappuccinos, I knew I had to try to make a vanilla Frappuccino for Morgan. She’s addicted to vanilla Frappuccinos. Not that she gets them very often. They’re expensive. But she’d like to get them often. I told her I was going to make her a homemade vanilla Frappuccino. She gave me a doubtful look and told me that I was insane. Kind of how she looks at me when I tell her I’m going to make her some homemade coconut shampoo. Which I’m working on. But back to Frappuccino!

I started with CindyP’s mocha Frappuccino recipe (get the handy print for her recipe here) and concocted a vanilla version. Morgan worked with me. Despite her initial reluctance, she got into the “Frappuccino science laboratory” spirit, challenging me to make something she would like. It took a few stabs at a mixture that was just right, but we finally came up with this recipe. She loves it. Now, every morning before school, I make her a vanilla Frappuccino and she bounces off to school on a coffee/sugar high. If you want a coffee/sugar vanilla-flavored high, too, here’s the recipe!

How to make Morgan’s Homemade Vanilla Frappuccino:

4 cups water
1 cup vanilla-flavored coffee grounds
1 cup sugar
milk to mix (1 cup milk per 1 cup brewed coffee)

Brew coffee with water. Mix brewed vanilla coffee with sugar. I store the vanilla coffee/sugar mixture in a quart jar in the fridge. To make a vanilla Frappuccino, mix 1 cup of the chilled vanilla coffee/sugar mixture with 1 cup milk. It’s delicious. And it’s a lot cheaper than buying Frappuccino at the store.

Get the handy print page here: Morgan’s Homemade Vanilla Frappuccino

*My Favorite Thing Right Now: Free Wallpaper

For you!

You can now buy prints of all sizes and finishes, posters, notecards, mousepads, mugs, even t-shirts, with CITR photos, if you are so inclined! You can find it all at the new CITR photography shop here (via SmugMug). (And I’ve added a link in the sidebar as well.) More importantly, I’m offering desktop wallpaper there, too, making one photo a month available FREE, for you! I’ll change out the free wallpaper selection during the first week of each month. Enjoy!

*Recent Highlights: A Coffee Can Flower Pot, Old-Fashioned Nut Cake, Beeswax, and More

It’s still all about babies at Stringtown Rising Farm! We’ve got a Romper Room in the goat house with growing goat babies while we’ve got New Life in the sheep meadow with February lambs. I’ve finally made peace with the “old” baby, Glory Bee–see our peace pact in The Way to Have a Cow. Find all my farm animal stories here.

I’ve been baking up a storm! Try Dilly Bread, Pear Clafouti, or An Old-Fashioned Nut Cake. Don’t miss a thing in my kitchen! Get all my recipes.

February was the month of Jane as I got caught up in an amazing book about a West Virginia pioneer. First I tried to be her for a day in The Day of Being Jane and then I had to find her. Read the whole story: In Search of Mammy Jane. And if you’re new around here, I’ve got an updated Chickens in the Road Sampler to get you up to speed. See all my country living stories.

Check out all The Things to Do with Beeswax then come with me as I get ready to dive into The Downstairs Project. Browse all my posts in crafts.

Make a Coffee Can Flower Pot (it’s fun and easy!) or try Growing a Sweet Potato Vine. If none of that suits you, then just take a walk with me Into the Rainy Woods. Don’t let your teenager lock you out. Be sure to see all my garden stories.

*Sneak Peak: CITR Retreat 2011

It’s nearly here!

A Hands-On Experience in the West Virginia Mountains. Cheesemaking, soapmaking, preserving, candlemaking, homemade beauty products, breadbaking, and special woodworking projects. The CITR Retreat 2011 will be held at Camp Sheppard in Roane County, West Virginia, September 2 and 3. Registration will open March 1 and space is limited. Don’t miss it! Watch for my post on Tuesday and hold your spot for this fun adventure!

*Farm Bell Recipes: Maple Bacon Popcorn

I’m crazy about popcorn, so when I saw community member Larissa’s post on Farm Bell Recipes about her twist on my favorite snack, I had to run right out to pick up maple syrup and bacon. (I usually have these on hand, but I was out.) Maple syrup and bacon are two of my favorite things, so you combine them with another favorite, popcorn, and I am SOLD. It’s just as delicious as it sounds. Try it!

How to make Maple Bacon Popcorn:

4-5 slices bacon, cooked, chopped (reserve fat)
1/2 cup popping corn
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons sugar
salt to taste

Pour the reserved bacon grease into a pan. Set heat on high. Add popping corn to pot. Sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar and some of the salt onto the kernels. Place lid on pot. Mix maple syrup and bacon together. Shake covered pot repeatedly during popping process. Use a towel or oven mitts to help hold lid on. You don’t want to burn yourself. Once popping has slowed, remove from heat. Mix in maple syrup and bacon; add salt to taste.

Get the handy print page on Farm Bell Recipes to save it to your recipe box: Maple Bacon Popcorn. You can find Larissa at The Henway.

There is a fantastic new post from community members every day on the Farm Bell Recipes blog. Don’t miss a single one. Read the Farm Bell blog here. Would you like to contribute a post to the community blog at Farm Bell Recipes? You can! See all the information here for submissions. We’d love to hear your voice!

February 2011 Farm Bell Recipes blog contributors:

Ann Wurden — Lavender Bundle
art and lemons — Art & Lemons
Astrid — Apple Tree Acres
CindyP — Chippewa Creek ~ Our Life Simplified
Jim in Colorado — Granddad’s Corner
KathiN — Granddad’s Corner
Kelly in TX — Sowell Farm
Kellyb — Yahoo’s Canning2
Kerrie — City Girl Farming
Larissa — The Henway
Sheryl — Providence Acres

THANK YOU! Please give them a visit!

*Blast from the Past: Bouncing Annabelle

She’s taking the world by storm.

Last March, I took a little video of Annabelle playing with Boomer in the meadow bottom. In the past few months, that video has gone crazy on YouTube, racking up nearly 300,000 views. The video has appeared on numerous websites and even made it to the Welcome page on AOL. Unfortunately, for the most part, it’s shown unattributed (including by AOL). While that’s disturbing, the magnitude of the video’s spread made it impossible for me to address the issue unless I wanted to make it a fulltime job, so I’m trying to have a positive attitude. (Work with me here.) Watch Annabelle and Boomer playing hide and bounce around a hay shed in the sheep meadow–see the post that started it all and the video here!


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What are you fixing for supper tonight? Browse the goodness at Farm Bell Recipes — your cooking community!

*I’m giving away a Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving once a week (sometimes more!) so don’t forget to watch the blog for The Ball Blue Book Project days.

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