This is a blog about everyday life. Food, gardening, photography, and nature. What you won't find are pictures of lots of people.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Kentucky Derby

If you live in Kentucky or are a fan of horse racing you cannot escape the hoopla surrounding the Queen of all thoroughbred races, The Kentucky Derby.   The small city where I live is surrounded by horse farms and this business is integrally intertwined in our economy and population.  When I first arrived I didn't like the city because it was NOT the country and the rich snobby folks didn't suit me either.  Now that years have passed and I have aged and mellowed out I find this place I live has the best of both worlds in many many ways.  We are small, yet very cosmopolitan (for Kentucky) and in a few minutes from downtown you can be sailing down country roads.

In the past I have remembered a couple of memorable Derbies.  My all time favorite running for the roses (the garland the winner accepts is made of red roses) was when Alysheba clipped the hooves of the horse in front, nearly fell to his knees then got up pissed off and ran to the finish line to win.  Another one was the year Winning Colors won.

This isn't Winning Colors, but a horse near where my brother lives.  I've always admired a gray horse and I nearly always bet on the gray.  Winning Colors was a gray and a filly!  It is always a treat when a filly wins the Kentucky Derby because she has to compete against the boys who are usually bigger.

The Derby is almost always the first Saturday in May but for some reason this year it is on May 9th, my father's birthday.  They may change the date, but they can't change the weather!  Rain, sleet, snow or sunshine the ponies run. 

There is a lot of fuss about Derby Pie around this time, but I favor strawberry pie.  The berries are usually ripe after the derby but now that we have supermarkets I can get pretty nice strawberries now.  I still make the pie like Momma taught me.  As you can see I cheated and bought the graham cracker crust, something she never did.  We crushed the graham crackers with a rolling pin and melted margarine and then packed them in this old old pie pan.  As you see sliced berries were added while the filling was cooked on the stove.

Its simple.  A bit of butter or margarine (or not) and some sugar.  Cook til the strawberries begin to break down and then thicken with cornstarch.

How much cornstarch?  Well add it til when it thickens and you stir you can see the bottom of the pan.  the liquid will suddenly turn very clear too.  Pour it over the sliced berries and that is it.

There is a secret ingredient that my mother put in all her fruit pies, but when I tell people they look confused so now I just keep it to myself.

I once upstaged the hostess at her party with this simple pie.  I felt terrible because you never should do that, and I had been asked to bring a dessert.  This wasn't as beautiful as her fancy cake, but I was informed later that everyone had eaten my pie first.  She was an elderly lady I dearly loved who made the most excellent pies.  I suspect it was a compliment but I respectfully hung my head in shame and blamed it on the whipped cream.  Southern manners you know.

I cleaned out the freezer and used all the old berries.  The end product was the pie and 3 jars of jam!

See the little half full jar on the end?  It used to have blackberry jam in it.  Wonder where it went?


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Birdhouses, Gingerbread Cookies, and Some Folklore

I don't know if you have ever grown gourds, but many people do.  I got these from a neighbor at home and brought several back with me.  We immediately started making birdhouses because the birds here are busy looking for nesting sites and mates. 

  I drew a circle on the gourds and started drilling little holes around the perimeter.  Before I knew it we had a birdhouse!

Getting the wire through was too hard and I ended up using  nylon string too.

I made a couple and gave them to my neighbors but I couldn't part with these odd shaped ones.

They have the most interesting seeds.  A bit like George Washington's teeth I once saw when I visited his birthplace!

The silver thing is a wire I used that was left over when  I scooped up everything lying on the porch and put it in my "dipping gourd".

As you can see I've made a dipper out of it already.  I put a loop of wire in the end so I can hang it up and let it dry in the sun so it doesn't rot.

This brings to mind an old American folksong so indulge me while I go on one of my American History/Folklore tangents! Follow the Drinking Gourd is a song that refers to the constellation The Big Dipper which served as a guide for slaves from the south to escape to freedom in the north via the Underground Railroad.  They could flee under cover of night and find their way to the Ohio River and thence to freedom.  For those of you outside the USA the Ohio River forms much of the border of Kentucky which lies along the Mason Dixon line, the divisor of north and south.  Anyway, I thought of the song because of the gourd (of course) and also I learned the song when I first learned to strum a guitar.  It is in a minor key.  In this case I played it in e minor which is just about the easiest chord of all to strum on a guitar.  A minor is easy too but it forced me to learn that finger tipping monster B Major 7!

After all that hard work I had to make my visitor some of his favorite cookies.  I pulled out my trusty old cookbook of tried and true southern favorites .....

I found some molasses cookies and gingerbread cookies so I adapted my own recipe.  I mean really, with sugar, molasses, butter, flour and spices who can go wrong?  The result was a success and the 4 dozen little cookies disappeared in a few days.  I was delighted that they keep very well.  Now I really must write down the recipe before I forget!

Next time I will make twice as many and freeze half the dough.  This is an excellent way to use up old sorghum that is getting hard.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap for the Math Challenged

I decided it was a good time to finally make that laundry soap.  So that is a grater and this is soap!

It looks good enough to eat.  Next I put it over medium heat to melt.
When it was melted I added the half cup of borax and washing soda.

I gave it a good stir and poured it into a big kettle and added another 8 quarts of hot tap water and let it cool.  Now I'm ready to wash!

My bucket needed to be about half a gallon bigger to hold it all, but I like having the bucket there on the dryer where all sorts of homeless items end up.  Let's peek inside.

Its kind of globby and colorless.  Definitely not as interesting as store bought with the bright color and perfume.  But this is much cheaper and much nicer to the environment.  In fact, I bought two big boxes of borax (76 oz each) and a box of washing soda (55 oz) for a bit less than ten dollars.  A rough estimate of cost using $3.50 per box (they were roughly the same price but a little less than $3.50 each) winds up being :
(4/76)*$3.50 = 0.1842  or 18 cents for the borax
(4/55)*$3.50 = 0.2545 or 25 cents for the washing soda
1 bar of ivory soap @ 3/$1.00 = 0.333 or 33 cents

Grand total of  0.76 or 76 cents to make around 2.5 gallons.  AMAZING.  Even if you throw in a dollar or two for water and electricity it is still very cheap.  I just priced the cheapest name brand detergent on sale at Walmart for $10.97 (ALL) for 150 oz. and the other sale was name brand GAIN for $14.97 for 150 oz.  with a claim it will clean 96 loads (folks that is like a shot glass full per load do you believe that?)  My batch will make 80 loads using a half cup per load and I will use 4oz per load for the store bought to compare and ignore sales tax as well.

Cost Comparison

Homemade costs $0.0024 per ounce.  Not even a penny.    Let's assume we do a load of clothes a day at 4oz a load.  Over a month you would need 120 ounces to do 30 loads.

ALL                          30*0.073*4= $8.78
GAIN                        30*0.0998*4= $11.98
HOMEMADE          30*0.0024*4= $0.29

Savings of $10.09 for a month if you only do one load per day.  I averaged the leading brand price to get that number (used $10.38 for the monthly ALL/GAIN cost).  If you average more like 3 loads a day then the savings of course triples to $30.27 per month.  Over a year that becomes $363.24.  And this is only relevant if you are a WALMART shopper.  If you are a more responsible/eco friendly consumer and buy from a locally owned business those savings skyrocket.  I would have loved to have bought the ingredients from a locally owned business but they didn't carry them.  Well, not the borax and washing soda. I had the bars on hand.

One last thought.  If you want to scent your laundry soap I just add a drop of essential oil to the soap before I drop it in.  Lavendar, tea tree whatever scent you like.  If you want to use a natural fabric softener try vinegar.

After several loads of wash I am very satisfied with the result and like having a product I know will be consistent to use, easy on the environment and serve more than one purpose as it can be used for general cleaning as well.

The recipe is generic and can be adjusted if you want thicker or thinner soap and there are many variations to be found on the internet if you look.  Try one and adjust it to suit your needs.

Lastly,  the inspiration for this activity comes from Rhonda.  I do not ever want to steal her thunder so all the credit needs to go to her blog Down To Earth.  Thank you Rhonda, I no longer feel like a freak going about my homespun tasks while the world flies past me at the speed of light!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I've been making birdhouses!  This one isn't mine but very close to the ones I've made from gourds.

I will have a blog later on about the ones I've made.  Happy Spring and Fall to All!  And thanks to Rhonda over at her Down To Earth blog for sponsoring this Friday's photo.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Visitor!

I have finally gotten to a place in my life where I have a home with room for other people. That may sound strange. Growing up my mother always opened our home to others that needed a temporary home to finish out the school year, or a place to stay between jobs, and other reasons. These people were not all family, in fact, most of them were not. And it seems that karma has followed me around all my life. Everywhere I have lived I have had a family adopt me like Momma did others. Finally, I bought my first house and settled down and have began doing what my mother taught me. Do we all get more like our mothers as we age?  I know my mother would be proud of me.  I'm bringing her favorite brother to stay with me for awhile.

This is the little church we attended and where a lot of my people are buried.  It saddened me to see that the stained glass in the steeple was broken.  I can still see and hear the after church chatter.  Men stood to the right at the bottom of the steps and talked about the crops.  The women clustered to the left and talked about what was for Sunday dinner.  The old ladies wore hats they had probably had since the 1940's.  I loved those hats!

This is down the road a piece.  The field is fallow right now but beautiful.

  Farmland.  A lot of farms are still active but many have been lotted out and sold.  At one time I could have named who owned this land.

If you look closely you can see the silo back by the barn.  When I was there only the big time farmers had a structure for silage.  The others just put up hay in the barn.  There is nothing in this world that smells as sweet as a newly cut field of alflalfa.

Life is a bit different right now.  It is filled with old memories of bygone times.  Lovely really.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

This is on my Mind

Thanks to our host Rhonda over at her blog down-to-earth.  Today I have my visitor on my mind.  I've gotten his room ready and I hope he is comfortable and happy there.  I go to get my visitor this weekend.  He is my elderly uncle who is very very near and dear to my heart.  I'm sure you will hear more about him in later posts.  He was raised living the life so many of us are blogging about. 

It isn't fancy but it is clean and comfortable and full of light.  And so fitting I put this up here today.  It is his mother's (my grandmother's) birthday. 

Monday, April 4, 2011


While blog hopping I found this curious recipe for jam on  Rose's site.  I am so unimpressed with the omnipresence of high fructose corn syrup I'd been wanting to make my own jam, but dreading the mess it makes.  Perfect!  Check it out...
I even made notes how I did it.  Serious jamming this is!

Fresh blackberries.  Still on sale so I used up about $3 of berries.

Everything goes into the bread maker.

The pouch of pectin was 3 ounces so I did a bit of measuring first.  Next time I'll probably just use the powdered kind.  Here is liquid pectin.

It came from this box...I think they just charge more because its liquid.  This box was almost $4 and it claims one pouch will set a quart of most fruits.  I had 2.5 cups and used almost a whole pouch.

Next I had to study the breadmaker instructions.  I found them online as my breadmaker was bought half price or more 15 years ago at a discount outlet for damaged and open box items.  I have another identical one someone gave me.

I opted for the quick bread selection.  I wish I had played with the controls first because it automatically sets to 30 minutes.

I punched a bunch of buttons and got it to "Quick" and hit start!
Lookin good!  After I realized I couldn't change the setting for it to bake longer I got out the other machine and figured it out.  Did a bit of synchroniziation and when this maker quit I grabbed the bucket and put it in the other maker to finish up.  Next time I'll just arrow up to 65 minutes and be done with it.  Hindsight, as you know......

I won't need jam until the wild berries ripen in July!  And yes I tasted it and it was very good!  I don't know how it will set up yet but it doesn't matter.  I'll eat it even if I have to sop it up with a biscuit!  I mean really, what self respecting Kentuckian doesn't sop up their plate anyway?

Thanks Rose!

Friday, April 1, 2011

This is On My Mind

Thanks to Rhonda over at down-to-earth my photo Friday submission is about birds.  I took a stroll one lunch hour and found some nests so I could watch and see what kind of birds came back this year.  Here are a couple....

And my favorite......
This little avian family was resourceful and trying to warn us about the cold winter to come I think!  They were shielded by plastic.