Sunday, October 28, 2007

Wood Stove Chili

Ruth cooked up a pot of chili on our wood burning cook stove on Saturday. Took me right back to my growing up years on the farm when Ma cooked everything on such a stove. Something about the smell of chili simmering mixing in with the hint of wood smoke that makes the experience special.

Ruth used my mother's recipe, which is found in my LIVING A COUNTRY YEAR book.

Here's the recipe:

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion
1 cup macaroni
1 quart V-8 vegetable juice
1 (16-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (could use more)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sugar

Brown ground beef and onion. Drain excess fat.
Cook macaroni in boiling, salted water for about 8 minutes.
Drain. Place V-8 juice in large kettle.
Add beans, meat, onion, and cooked macaroni.
Stir in spices and sugar and simmer for 45 minutes.
Add a little water if too thick.
Serves four people.

Goes especially well with a thick slice of home-made bread, buttered.

The Old Timer says: "Whether climbing up a ladder or coming down, it is equally frightening."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Making Wood

Steve and I spent two days last week "making wood" at the farm. We heat our cabin with two wood stoves, including a wood-burning cook stove we use for some of our cooking when we are there. Nothing beats bacon and eggs sizzling in a cast iron skillet heated by a wood stove.

I mentioned our "making wood" project to someone the other day who promptly corrected me. She said, "Trees make wood; people chop wood." I didn't argue with her. Never thought of it before, but"making wood" is likely country talk in the same category as "making hay."

The old timer says: "Those who heat with wood stoves are twice warmed."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wisconsin Book Festival-2007

Sat in on Michael Perry's delightful performance at Border's Madison West last Thursday evening (Oct. 11) as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival. And what a crowd turned out. Learn more about Mike's work by going to He's a "comer" in the writing business, no doubt about it.

I read a little from my novel, IN A PICKLE, at a Book Festival offering called "Renewing the Countryside and Celebrating Wisconsin" at Madison's main library on Saturday afternoon.

I shared the podium with Jan Joannides from Minneapolis, who, along with Jerry Hembd and Jody Padgham edited an informative and beautifully illustrated book, RENEWING THE COUNTRYSIDE OF WISCONSIN. The book is available from The University of Wisconsin Press.

Michelle Miller from the University of Wisconsin's Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems moderated the program. Check out the group, they are doing interesting work.

Following our presentations, we had an interesting discussion with many questions from the substantial audience.

Interest in rural life and examining ways of preserving it appears on the increase.

The Old Timer Says: "Do nothing in haste, except running away from an angry dog."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Old and New

Too often these days, in our haste to embrace what is new, whether it be a new building, a new piece of technology, or a new approach to doing things, we fail to recall what of the old should be retained--an old building refurbished, an old idea revisited, a long standing set of values maintained.

When decisions are made about change, in my humble judgment, we should slow down and ask: What of the old is worth keeping, what of the new should be rejected?

The Old Timer says: "The land not only nourishes our bodies, but feeds our souls."

Any and all comments welcome.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Disappearing Family Farms

IN A PICKLE presentations and book signings going well. This week at Cobb, WI and New Berlin, WI public libraries.

Questions about the family farm, what it was like, what it meant to rural America. Discussion moved around to what of the old is worthy of keeping and what of the new should be avoided.

What beliefs and values emerged from these small family farms that we ought to hold onto today, as change engulfs society? Preserving the land. Pride in workmanship. Love for family. Maintaining neighborhoods. Understanding the importance of community.

The Old Timer says: "Hard to know where you're headed unless you know where you've been."

Upcoming Events:

Midwest Booksellers Association, Oct 6, Minneapolis Convention Center.

Westfield, WI Historical Society, Oct 8, 6:30 p.m.

Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Bayshore (Milwaukee), Oct 9, 7:00 p.m.

Sheboygan Falls Public Library, Oct 13, 9:30 a.m.

Wisconsin Book Festival, Madison Public Library, Oct 13, 2:00 p.m.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Garden Season Over

I put my vegetable garden to bed for the winter. This meant I dug the potatoes (good crop this year), forked out the rutabagas, rounded up the scattered gourds, chopped the dried sweet corn stalks, cut the remaining heads of red cabbage (it had done well this year), pulled the tomato vines and took down my deer fence. Then I hooked my tractor to the disc and turned over the soil. Finally, I planted the entire garden to winter wheat, which I will plow down next spring.

I have followed this same ritual for many years. Putting the garden to bed is in the same category as geese flying south for the winter, and sandhill cranes migrating--a sign of the winter to come.

The Old Timer says: "Some of us have a terrible time stepping out from behind ourselves."

Officially launch of IN A PICKLE: A FAMILY FARM STORY last week. More than a hundred people turned out at Barnes & Noble West in Madison. Watch for upcoming IN A PICKLE events.