Infinite Child 2

Infinite Child 2
Our Beautiful Dolphin motorhome

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Road Less Traveled

The Farm is outside of town, on a mixed stretch of washboard pavement and dirt & gravel.  This time of year it's got patches of ice and snow in various places and the roadsides are covered in snow.    Every time we make the trip into town, or back home we see something that catches our eye. It could be a little farm tucked into the trees that we only noticed because it stood out against the white sparkling snow or the way the light sparkling snow blows across the road.

The other day we drove into town and spotted something lying on the other side of the road.  It isn't a frequently traveled road so we agreed to stop on the way home and check it out.  By the time we ran our errands and headed home the sun was beginning to set, the temperature was dropping, and there was a faint golden glow on the snow in the distance.

We stopped and got out of the van.  Lying there, crumpled and broken was a beautiful ringneck pheasant.  We thought perhaps it had been hit by a car, after all in California dead animals on the road are "road-kill".  Bob carefully picked the pheasant up out of the road and gently place it on the snow  beside the road where it would not be flattened by speeding cars.

As we stood alongside the road we felt a great sadness for the beautiful bird, but as we looked around on the snow ground the story told itself.  There were feathers scattered over a wide area as if there had been a struggle.  Then we spotted the tracks leading away from the road . . .up through the snow and away.  Perhaps a fox, maybe a coyote had fought for his dinner only to be frightened away by a car on the road.

It would be normal to feel some small vindication that the predator had lost, but in this unforgiving landscape there was a sadness that he had lost his dinner.  Survival of the fittest really is the law of the land.  The weak, and those unable to adapt to the cold and the wind do not survive.  It is the circle of life.

It seems strange to me that a crockpot I've owned for 30 years, and hardly ever used since my kids were little, has re-surfaced and is now my favorite thing.  A pot roast can simmer in beer and seasonings until it's butter tender.  Parsnips, carrots, turnips, and onions go in to complete the meal.  Of course for two  people that's a lot, so after dinner the leftovers are cut into bite sized pieces and returned to the crock pot with some wine and refrigerated overnight.

In the morning it goes back into the crockpot on low where it simmers to perfection while the day's projects are done.  In the afternoon a half cup of hulless barley is cooked and added to the crockpot along with a can of mushrooms and a can of cannellini beans.  By dinner time the temperature had dropped lower and a big bowl of steaming hot beef & barley soup was the perfect ending for the day.  Leftovers took on a whole new life. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Spendid Day & A Spledid Meal

We got up again this morning to find there had been a heavy fog and the temperature had dropped.  It's called hoar frost, and develops from the moisture in the ground rising and freezing.  The beauty is always stunning, never exactly the same twice.  Everything looks like it's been powdered sugared, with beautiful crystals forming.  This is the 3rd day in  a row that we've seen this specatcular sight - although it's a little lighter than before.

Monday, as the sun burned the fog off, we were stunned by the beauty of our world. Some giant power had frosted everything with lovey sugary crystals.  Power lines, tree brances, even the most mundane things were made more beautiful than we could believe.  

Clothes pins on the line became beautifully decorated with the frost.  It was amazing against the brilliant blue of the skyl  

The windrows of trees looked like they were in full bloom with frosty white blossoms so delicate and fragile that the lightest breeze would blow clouds of them to the ground. 

We watched out the windows that day, the sun playing with light and shadows on the rolling prairies made a constant show that was better than any TV.  As little puffy or wishp clouds blew over they would cast shadows on the snow cover hills.  The view changed hourly - it was hard to not just stand a gaze raptly out at the beautyful countryside.

Even the little weeds on the ground, poking up where the snow had been plowed looked like little frost covered trees.

Of course life calls, and we had to move on to the "projects" (sounds better than"chores" doesn't it) that we had lined up for the day. Some of the members were planning a MLK memorial review dinner.  There were a few variations but the general theme was cold oil fried chicken, and banana pudding.  Appetizers ranged from deviled eggs to bread & butter pickles, sides varied widely.

We picked the cold oil fried chicken, bread & butter pickles, and corn & goat cheese grits, and finished with Maya Angelou's incredible bread pudding.  

The cold oil fried chicken was a revelation for two reasons - I gave my electric frying pan to a dear friend,  and we couldn't remember the last time I'd fried chicken.  Oh, two big mistakes.  Now I'm on the hunt for an electric frying pan.

I think one of the reasons the chicken was so amazing was that it was totally organic from an Amish farm, tender, and tasty!

The grits were stone ground, slow cooked and wonderful.  But, the hit of the meal was Maya Angelou's Banana Pudding.   I have made lots of meringues - all of them either cookies or as pie shells for a Lemon Angel pie (from back in the 70's).  I've never made one that goes on top.  They weep, they do all kinds of strange things if you screw up one little thing.  But this is the new fearless me - so I made it!  OMG.
I will do this gain.  I may even try lemon meringue!

Maya Angelou’s Banana Pudding

3/4 cup plus 1 T. sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
3 cups milk
8 eggs, separated
3 T. butter
1 T. vanilla extract
3 cups vanilla wafer cookies (‘Nilla wafers, I’d use)
4 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large saucepan; stir until blended. Stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and boiling; boil 1 minute, then, remove from heat.

In small bowl whisk egg yolks, then whisk in about 1/2 cup of the hot custard until blended. Pour yolk mixture back into custard in saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in butter and vanilla until blended.

Place half the vanilla wafers on bottom of shallow 2-qt. casserole. Top with layers of banana slices and custard. Repeat layering, ending with pudding.

Beat egg whites and 1/4 cup sugar in large mixing bowl at low speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar; increase speed to medium and gradually beat in remaining sugar. Beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

Immediately spoon meringue over hot custard, being sure the meringue touches baking dish on all sides (this helps prevent it from shrinking). Transfer to oven and bake until golden, 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.   (I set mine in a big pan, covered with foil, and stuffed it in a snowbank to chill.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Retire to North Dakota????

I have been derelict and I apologize.  When I frist started this blog it was going to be about our trip from California to North Dakota - highlights and low lights; the food, and the events.  Some day I'll post some of the pictures - most taken from the van because we couldn't stop; the truck with all of our belongings was at least 2 hours ahead of us every day.  It became a pain.

There was absolutely No decent food on the trip until we hit Montana.  Of course that was our fault - if it had a drive through we ate there.  By Montana we were sick of it, and the friend driving the truck was going to meet us a bit ahead.  Luckily we found a little place called Clark's Crossing and we were at the point where we needed to sit down and have someone bring us food on a plate.

I ordered the Wasabi Chicken wrap (wasabi . . .  in Montana???) and the cole slaw, which for me is always an iffy proposition.  I usually wind up with some over-sweet mess with raisins, pineapple, and enough sugar to make a dentist grin.  Not this time!  The slaw was spicy, bright, just the right amount of "creamy" and a perfect compliment to the spicy chicken wrap.  I was a happy camper.

Arriving here, we found a lot of hard work to get the mobile home ready to actually live in.  That accounts for most of my absence. The first view of the farm was mind boggling.  It's rugged, needs work, but exudes peace and quiet, the absolute beauty of the country here.  I couldn't even wait to get out of the van!

We were busy, many, many trips to the hardware stores for materials.  Few expeditions for fun.  Our first night our "Farm Mates" treated us to dinner and beers at one of the (two)local bars.  Hand formed hamburgers patties were cooked perfectly and overflowing the sides of the buns, the fries were crisp and hot - and the ice-cold beer was Killians, on tap!    Bob and I slipped into Medina one day for lunch - Knoephla soup.  This is comfort in a bowl; potatoes, carrots, celery, all in a creamy chicken based soup with little dumplings.  Oh, so hooked.

Most of the work is done that can be done until Spring now.  We're warm and cozy, the views out our windows are amazing -  this the view from the living room window on a sunny day.  I love the funky "hip roof" barn and the lake.

When we first arrived we would frequently see cows grazing in the field around the barn. Oh, and the geese and swans that crowded the surface of the lake to rest on their trip south were so beautiful.

After the Christmas day snow storm - same barn - and there's the frozen lake with a huge snow drift.  Wow!  I am stunned by the beauty.   The snow here is like sugar, light and sparkling in the sun.  The wind blows the light sandy snow so the drifts and patterns are different every day.  Who needs TV?????

Now for some snow shoes so we can go for walks where the snow is deep, or not plowed or shoveled. 

This is the view from the kitchen.  Looking out at the treeline and the snow certainly makes dishes more fun.

Every time we go somewhere we see something new, the light touching the snow at different times of day, the tracks of an animal in the snow, a little farm tucked back in the trees, an old barn in a field,  When people ask why we retired here we are amazed that they don't seem to see all the beauty or appreciate all the wonderful  things we've found.  But I guess if you're not fond of the cold (or sick & tired of it), don't enjoy a feeling of isolation, (in our case on 40 acres 5 miles from a tiny town), and the snow you might not think North Dakota is special.  We don't agree!