Home Cooking


Seems like everywhere you look, there are cooking shows, new cookbooks and a variety of exotic kitchen tools (spiralizer, anyone?). Celebrity chefs are big-name attractions, as are reality shows that feature them. To judge by these, Americans are cooking up a storm and home cooking is a big deal. The reality is quite different.
According to this article, fewer than 60 percent of the meals eaten at home were actually cooked there last year. Had the survey been completed 30 years ago, the proportion would have been closer to 75 percent. In the mid-1960s, low-income families ate at home 95 percent of the time; middle-class income families did so 92 percent of the time. Today those percentages are 72 and 69, respectively. According to the research, the primary reason for the lack of home cooking and so few home cooks is that more women are working. Supposedly, we don’t have the time for cooking that we used to. I think that’s nonsense.

I grew up in the 50s and 60s. My mother – a surgeon – cooked dinner for the six of us just about every night, as did the other women on the block, most of whom had some sort of job outside the home. Even the stay-at-home wives had all sorts of outside activities like the garden club, church activities or PTA. Occasionally the men in the family would barbeque. Restaurant meals were few and far between, usually to celebrate a special occasion. At 69, I have two jobs plus the ranch work, but I’m still cooking breakfast and dinner six days out of seven (I take leftovers to work for lunch). I occasionally break down and get one of my daughter’s pizzas for dinner (she owns the local store and her hand-made pizzas are becoming famous in the community).

I don’t think time has that much to do with it – we all have 24 hours in a day. It’s how we choose to use those hours that makes the difference. Among the things I see chewing up those hours are:
Scheduled activities for the kids – sports, play dates, dance or gymnastic lessons. Supposedly, these “enrich” the children’s lives and build “connections” that will be useful when they go out into the business world. I could understand one or possibly two such activities, but many families have something going on almost every night and weekends.
Television – saturated with nonsense like reality shows starring the Kardashians, Duggars, Gosselins, Robertsons (Duck Dynasty) or house flippers and real estate agents. Occasionally I’m stuck somewhere such as a doctor’s office and can’t get away from the TV, which is the only reason I know about such things. The inanity of this stuff makes me nauseous.

Iphones – supposedly these keep us in contact. What I see is that they stop people from talking to each other. Walk through a restaurant and see how many of the people at each table are focused on the electronics in their hands instead of talking to each other. There’s evidence that the growth of social media is leading to all kinds of mental and emotional health issues in our children. People are walking into traffic (or into bears) because they’re focused on the small screen. Others are foolish enough to text while driving.
Frankly, I’d rather cook.

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Saving Leggy Tomato Seedlings


“Leggy” is probably a bit of an understatement for these seedlings.

I’ve spoken (probably ad nauseam as far as some are concerned) about my preference for growing my own seedlings. But sometimes, you get a present that while not ideal is still salvageable. In this case, it was several overgrown (as in VERY) tomato seedlings that were starting to blossom. In addition, these leggy tomato seedlings were badly root-bound. They were varieties I don’t have, however, and the seeds come from plants a local gardener has been growing and saving for years. In other words they are well-adapted to this area. I also got a few bell pepper seedlings that luckily were not nearly as far along as the tomatoes. So – not a variety I have, home-saved seed, well adapted to my locality and free. OK, time to make lemonade out of these tomato “lemons.”

There won’t be much left of it when I get through.

Since these tomato seedlings were so far along, drastic measure were necessary. First, I watered them well for several days to make sure all the plant cells were well hydrated. When I dug the planting holes, I dug them at least a foot deep. The soil was reasonably moist, but I wanted those roots to really start reaching, so I filled each hole with water and let it seep into the bottom and side of the planting holes.

This should make for a good reservoir of soil moisture.

When you have a root-bound plant, some gardeners advise cutting the sides of the soil to “open up the roots.” I disagree, as what you’re doing is disturbing the tiny feeder hairs. However, I did cut off the lower leaves on the stem so I could plant the seedlings deeply.

Poor root-bound seedling.

Tomatoes will root along a buried stem, and planting deeply gave these leggy tomatoes better support. Next, I trimmed back the tops enough to cut off the blossoms and give the plant fewer leaves – which meant the roots didn’t have to supply as much water during the next couple of weeks while the plant gets over transplant shock. Again, I watered the plants in well.

Bottom trimmed; deeply planted.

If I had had more space in this particular bed, I would have been able to salvage the tomatoes that were not just leggy but growing sideways. For these, you trim off all the leaves but the top three or four sets and bury the whole length of the tomato in a trench about a foot deep. If the plant has blossoms, you pinch them off. The top sets of leaves may lie sideways for a few days but they will quickly straighten up as they reach for the sun. I didn’t have the room, however, so I planted a couple of the slightly sideways plants and made sure I kept them as straight as possible in the hole while firming up the soil.

This is one that could have been trench-planted.

All tucked in; now I cross my fingers!

Now we’ll just have to wait and see whether these drastic measures result in lemonade…

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IANS – Animal Intelligence


It’s feeding time; I’m waiting!

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. ~ Mark Twain

When George Gershwin composed the song It Ain’t Necessarily So, he was onto something. I’d love to have a nickel for everything I was taught or told or just accepted as fact in the course of my life. From food preservation to gardening to animal husbandry to medicine to finance, there have been a lot more ‘not-so’ things than ‘so’ things. A while back I did a post on not needing to waterbath jams and jellies; I got more than 100 comments corroborating my “not-so” position. At which point it occurred to me there are lots of other not-so things out there, and shazaam, I had an ongoing blog topic. Here’s the latest “it ain’t necessarily so” (IANS).

Smart girls.

Animals aren’t very intelligent.
Depends on the breed and the individual animal. I once had a Quarter Horse mare who could open any kind of gate except one that was chained and held closed with a metal snap. She taught her colts to do the same thing (or maybe it wasn’t deliberate and they just learned by observation). Sheep are not the brightest bulbs in the socket, compared to most farm animals – especially when compared to pigs. But our sheep know the difference between a four-wheeler coming in the evening to shut them in the nighttime pen (when they get treats for going inside) and a four-wheeler going down at about the same time to work in the garden or irrigate. In the first case, they move into the area of the pen. In the second, they either ignore the sound or merrily race the four-wheeler toward the far end of the field. Even my chickens (who have a brain about the size of a walnut), know the sound of the gate opening in the morning means they’re about to be let out, and start talking as soon as they hear the chain rattle. Pigs can be house-trained (although I admit I’ve never tried it – don’t want a 400-pound pig in the living room, thank you!) and taught a variety of tricks.
My father used to pontificate about the intelligence of dogs, maintaining that a dog could only understand about a dozen different commands. He was chagrined to discover that my McNabb/Queensland Heeler cross understood at least 30. Moreover, many of those were full sentences like “Aren’t you supposed to be on your rug?” rather than one-word commands like “sit” and “stay.” The Border Collie is considered one of the smartest (if not the smartest) of all dog breeds; one female Border Collie named Chaser knows over 1,000 commands. My Border Collie Pip has a visual defect that limits her vision. She is smart enough to compensate in such a way that most people don’t realize she can’t see very well. And both my dogs know that they can’t lick the cat food dish until all the cats have finished and walk away from it; I don’t have to supervise – they just wait patiently.

Supper time. the black one walking down Mama’s shoulder is just trying a new approach!

Take a Missouri Approach
Missouri is the “show me” state. The mental attitude of “you’ll have to prove it to me” is a good one. Use your common sense. When your experience or that of people you trust is contrary to accepted scientific wisdom or expert recommendations, odds are very high the scientific wisdom and the experts are out to lunch. Ask the old homicide lawyer’s question, “Cui bono?” Loosely translated as “Who benefits?” what it actually means is “To whose profit?” When big bucks, company survival or professional reputations are on the line, ethics quite often take a back seat. Circus entrepreneur PT Barnum is credited as the person who coined the sucker-born-every-minute rule. In fact, there’s no evidence that he did say it; however, there is some evidence that it was said about Barnum’s tactics, by a banker named David Hannum. Don’t be a sucker and remember: it ain’t necessarily so.

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