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June 2017

Rocky Rates It! Paisley Memories: The Beginning of Me by Zelle Andrews

 

Paisley

At times poignant and at times comical, Paisley Memories traces the angst and gaffes of a high school drop-out thrust into the hard-knock world of survival. With her only support system buried and a special needs baby on her hip, an unwed and virtually penniless Tess travels to Florida in a beat-up old Thunderbird to grasp at an “anywhere but here” future.

Andrews creates a totally believable teen, struggling for a toehold amidst regret and despair. Tess wrestles with the idea of giving up her baby, vacillating between her own egocentrism and her view of her less than perfect child as a reflection of her less than perfect life. She is not the most likable character-petulant, selfish, and awkward-, but I found myself rooting for her to recognize her own worth and accept the circle of people surrounding her who teach her that picking yourself up doesn’t mean everyone is trying to knock you down.

This is a coming of age story artfully told with a colorful cast of characters. The pacing is quick, but not hurried, and the depiction of the psyche of the protagonist is spot on.

Rocky Rates It…5 Stars!

Rocky Rates It! The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 2.59.30 PM

Philippa Gregory never disappoints! She is my go-to escape to the Tudor world author and I eagerly await each book. Having read several of her Plantagenet/Tudor novels, I am consistently drawn into the story and fascinated by the level of detail Gregory provides. Meticulously researched, Gregory’s work has the ring of authenticity without the dryness of textbook history.

The Taming of the Queen has readers immersed in the character of Kateryn Parr, last wife of Henry VIII. Any casual fan of Tudor history knows how this is going to go, but Gregory succeeds in creating a sense of urgency, intrigue, and struggle of conscience for Parr even in the clutches of a megalomaniac. I found Parr’s relationship with the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth most intriguing, as well as her devotion to theology in a most turbulent time.

I enjoyed this book immensely!

 

Hug from Heaven

fried pies

I have my brand spanking new bionic knee!  In the midst of all the hobbling, icing, medicating, and napping (unbelievable how much I have slept in the last two weeks),  I’ve hardly been able to put three thoughts together, much less write about them.

A few days back, I was feeling energetic enough to make a small batch of peach preserves.  I had everything going before I realized I didn’t have pectin.  I may not have needed it anyway and didn’t bother to look it up.  Anyhow, I switched gears, and cooked that goodness down so it could top some ice cream.  Unfortunately, we were also out of ice cream that day.  That was about all the disappointment I could stand for one day, so I popped it in the fridge and went back to my ice treatments and medicine.

That night I had a dream.  Now, painkillers can bring on some pretty vivid dreams!  I must’ve had that peach filling on my mind because my grandmother, who’s been dead these many years, suggested I make old-fashioned fried pies.  Suddenly, I was transported to my childhood.  I was standing by the stove watching my grandmother make this tasty treat.

When I woke up the next morning, I had it!  Recipe, technique, grease temp, everything…just like I’d watched an instructional video.  Russ took me to the grocery store (a story for another day, right there) and I patted that dough, filled it, and fried up those pies just as pretty as you please.

Remembering that old recipe and enjoying a fried peach hand pie was just like getting a hug from heaven!

Monsoon June

birds hay
A thick layer of hay to dry out the coops

With all the wet weather, everything on the farm is growing like crazy…including the stench emanating from the poultry pens.  The birds were churning up mud like pigs in slop.  They have a really nice setup, though.

Our flocks are protected from predators from land and sky, but the quagmire needed to be dealt with because we want our birds to remain happy and healthy.  So, it was time to get to work.  Here are some things I learned about farming through Operation Feather Ruffle:

  1.  Poop happens.  It happens a lot.  It happens so much you need wading boots.
  2. Spiders like chicken wire, especially chicken wire “roofing”.  I now understand why we don’t have a mosquito problem here at the farm.
  3. Russ is a brave, brave man.  There he was wrapping spiders on a hoe handle while wading through muck.  When he came out of the pen, he had TWO spiders (the big, scary woods spider variety) on his head and a writhing staff of web and spiders.
  4. I am a brave, brave woman.  I VERY GENTLY knocked the spiders out of his hair and off his back.  I did not run screaming from the Hoe of Terror.
  5. Round bales aren’t wadded up;  they are rolled tightly.  Remember when you made snails out of modeling clay?  That’s the idea.  It takes A LOT of work to un-bale one of those puppies and they hold A LOT of hay.
  6. You need gloves to handle hay.  Well, I did.  Russ just manhandled his way through this project.
  7. You need strength to handle hay.  All that pulling, squatting, lifting, and chucking makes for a great workout.  My core was sore for two days!
  8. Once you get toward the center of the bale, it gives off heat just like a little furnace.
  9. Working with hay doesn’t get you dirty.  It gets you nasty.  I’m talking hose off before you hit the shower nasty.
  10. Our chickens, turkeys, geese, and guineas now have clean, dry pens!

Growing Weather

a baby pecan
A line of baby pecan trees ready to make a grove

The Ryans (our sextet of goslings) are loving these cool, rainy days in early June.  They’re honking and carrying on as the droplets pitter off the porch roof of the Muse, door flung wide to let in the damp breeze.  Our backyard is better than green.  I believe the word is verdant…you know, that kind of green that sinks down into your soul and fills you with promise as if the scorching onslaught of August is a world away.

The farm is rarely truly quiet.  Aside from the Ryans, Captain Kirk the rooster is crowing for all he’s worth.  The wild birds in the trees are singing, chirping and dive-bombing one of the cats who must’ve wandered a bit too close to a nest.  The guineas are socializing and Jack the Ass brays every once in awhile to announce all is well.

If you listen, you understand the farm language.  The timbre of Jack’s bray shifts if he’s sounding the driveway alarm.  Daisy the cow often joins him if someone’s approaching.  You can almost hear the grass growing!

The evenings have been pleasant so far this summer, too.  We spent the cool after suppertime this week working on the new pecan orchard.  If my count is accurate, we’ll have a 30 tree orchard.  Russ used string and a tape measure to form a planting grid so that the trees will be evenly spaced in straight rows.  He dug holes with his new backhoe implement and loaded up the front end loader with fill dirt.  Each hole gets a big bag of potting soil, some fill, a baby pecan tree, and a protective layer of straw.  My job is to drive the tractor from hole to hole as Russ plants.  The girls give the new trees a good watering.  Of course, they have great fun squirting each other as well.

A well-maintained pecan orchard is a thing of beauty,  where you can admire the rows on the straights or on the diagonals.  If I’ve ever liked an aspect of geometry, this is it!  When the trees are mature, they cast a uniform shade, and, of course, give us delicious pecans!

So, be sure to mark your calendars.  If all goes well, Moore’s Creek Farm will take its place in the pecan belt of the world round about 2027.

The Skinny on Pulling Pork

butt
Pork Butt-No Sauce Required

Y’all know that the meat you buy at the grocery store has been all trimmed up for you nice and pretty, don’t you?  It looks invitingly succulent in its cellophane packaging with its little meat maxi discreetly wicking away anything unsightly.  When you have your meat butchered (We are SO NOT to the farm level of butchering our own), it doesn’t come with, pardon the pun, all the trimmings.

I decided to roast a pork butt earlier this week, mainly because we just bought a beef quarter and I needed to make some room in my chest freezer, at least enough so that I can organize my beef collection.  So, I pulled out package after package of beef and a loaf of French bread that somehow got lost in the depths to dig down to the bottom for the pork butt.  After heaving that joker out of the freezer, I lugged the butt to the kitchen to thaw.

Now, this was no little butt like you get at the grocery store.  Unless you’ve been fortunate enough to take out a mortgage with Le Creuset for their Jonathan Swift Commemorative Crock, this butt called for a planned cookware approach.  I rested it, still wrapped in its white butcher paper with the words butt not for sale on it, on my largest jellyroll pan in the fridge for a couple of days until it thawed enough to cut the fat.

I can testify that we raised one well-fed pig!  I used the butcher knife to trim a good 2 inch layer of solid fat off the butt while the oven preheated to 425º. Then, I massaged that butt all over with a spice rub, salted it down good, and put it on the big broiler pan with that jellyroll pan running interference beneath it just in case the fat dripping off it became more than the broiler could handle.

I covered it up in aluminum foil despite the recent outcry against aluminum poisoning…both my grandmas used aluminum foil as a baking staple and both lived into their mid eighties.  So did my great-grandmas.  I’ll take my chances.  Besides, it’s the silicon and melamine you need to worry about.  Anyhow, I baked it at 425º for 90 minutes, then turned the oven down to 300º for the rest of the afternoon.

Talk about a house smelling GOOD!  By suppertime, I’d done smelled about 10,000 calories worth of pork, so I just let it cool down and sent Russ for some pizza!  By the time we ate the pizza, I was too tired out to face pulling the pork, so back into the fridge that butt went.

Pulling pork is time-consuming and borderline disgusting.  If it didn’t taste so good, it wouldn’t be worth the work.  Not for the weak-stomached, you need to keep a pair of pans handy as you pull:  one for the good stuff and one for the dogs.  Even though I trimmed off A LOT of fat on the front end, there was still a bunch of inedible parts.  I prefer to pick the meat by hand so that the pulls come out in bite-sized strips.  Fat and gristle turns my stomach, so I’m real careful as I render the yumminess.

In the olden days, real farm wives would use all that fat to cook up some soap or something like that.  No part of a hog went to waste.  It had to be a tremendous amount of work judging by the effort necessary for just one butt.  I can’t even imagine what this would’ve been like before electricity and refrigeration!  By the way, if you like reading about the olden days (and pigs), I recommend Robert Newton Peck’s A Day No Pigs Would Die.  It’s a beautifully written story that depicts many details surrounding farm life in the early 20th century.

It just so happened that our church had a Pentecost Picnic, so I took a big batch of butt for sharing.  That’s some mighty fine eating!

PS.  I really REALLY wanted to work in a reference to “Baby Got Back” in this post, but I restrained myself…well, almost.  🙂

 

 

Moore’s Creek Farm: The Blog Is Back!

farm blog

Back by popular demand…seriously, well over 20 people have told me they miss the farm reports, and maybe only 3 were related to me…it’s the farm blog.  I promised I’d get back into the swing of posting about our experiences here at Moore’s Creek Farm as soon as school got out good, so I’m making good on that promise.  Go ahead and subscribe to http://www.rockyporchmoore.com  and I’ll be sure to dish all the manure on farm living .

Think of me kind of like Pioneer Woman, only I’m right here at home, hold down a full time teaching job, write creepy books, AND take care of chickens. I don’t have a line of cookware or home goods at Walmart, but they do carry my novel…so there!   I’m not as handy with a camera, but I can hold my own with PW as a cook.   I can even do it without a six figure kitchen!  You’ll just have to trust me on that since I haven’t published any cookbooks yet.  It’s hard to pin down recipes when you refuse to measure and cook by “feel”.  I’ve got a Boston Butt in the oven right now.  It’s been slow roasting all day and is flavor-packed with a  homemade dry rub I massaged into it this morning after shaving a good deal of fat off it. Later this evening, I’ll pull that pork–which came from a pig we raised right here at Moore’s Creek Farm–and freezer bag it for multiple BBQ meals in the coming months.

We’ve been working on ramping up our fruit game this spring.  Russ (that’s my husband) planted several satsumas, sweet kumquats, meyer lemons, and ruby red grapefruit trees around the perimeter of our backyard.  We already have two established satsumas, a fig tree, and a scuppernong arbor teeming with young fruit.  Russ also put in a stand of raspberry canes.  Our blueberries and peaches haven’t done worth a hang since we’ve lived here on the farm.  I think he plans to take a do-over on those in the near future.  He’s having a blast planting things because he got himself a tractor with a front end loader and a backhoe.  If you need a hole dug, give him a call.

My addition to all this fruit tree planting was to make cute little signs to identify the trees. It was a tough 15 minutes! That way, if I can’t tell a grapefruit from a kumquat, I’ll have a sign.  It pays to be organized!  Of course, I’ll get to have all sorts of fun making jams, jellies, marmalades, and disinfectants when the fruit comes in.

Be sure to tell your friends that the farm blog is back in business, and thank you for reading.

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