Sunday, October 25, 2009

Beware of the Bags!

I feel crabby today..I could blame the weather...the lack of sunshine or the cold...but I'm going to blame those darn bags! I think it's their fault.

They're beginning to pop up here and there...I know you've seen them. I'm talking about those orange Jack-o-lantern leaf bags. People start filling those things with leaves from their yards this time of year.

I think they may have been created by a dad who wanted more help from his kids and thought it would be a good way to involve them. (Hey, kids...if you're reading's just like bagging leaves into regular garbage bags...except these are orange. So don't fall for it!)

I've just never liked them...never bought them...never used them...and I wish they'd go away...completely! Whatever happened to raking leaves into huge piles and jumping in them or hiding in them? Or what about raking leaves together and setting them on fire. While they burn you can roast marshmallows. Mmmmmm....nothing better on a cool fall day than smoked marshmallows!

People normally line up these orange bags in a row by their houses and leave them there until spring! Sooner or later the color fades, the bags rip open and remnants of orange plastic start blowing around the neighborhood. "Hey, kids, let's go out and re-rake the deteriorating leaf fungus that is falling out of our faded, wind-shredded leaf bags. It'll be fun!"

With Halloween only a week away and the leaves too wet to rake, maybe there won't be as many of the baggies showing up. I can only hope!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Perfect Saturday Morning

It was an extra busy and stressful week at the office and I spent too much time staring at a computer screen. And, it snowed, it rained and was cold...all week.

On Friday, someone asked me if I had anything fun planned for the weekend. I had to stop and think, and then realized that we had no plans. Nothing! Nada!

We hadn’t really planned anything because we had expected to be busy harvesting soybeans, but that wasn't going to happen with all the rain and snow we’ve gotten lately.

Saturday morning, we got up early and had our usual coffee in the kitchen with WCCO radio -- the Good Neighbor to the Upper Midwest -- providing background noise. We chatted about this and that as we looked out the window at the heavy dense fog. We took turns saying it, “If only the sun would come out…”

As Paul went through the huge stacks of newspapers and mail that had accumulated during the week, I got out the Fron Church Cookbook and opened it right to the yeast breads section. There it was...the best recipe in the whole world... Ebba’s Buns. I made them a lot when the kids were little and I was a stay-at-home mom. I’m not sure what I liked best: eating those warm fresh-from-the-oven delights, watching the kids smear them with layers of peanut butter, or just enjoying the great aroma that floated throughout the house and lingered all day.

Before noon, I had made three dozen buns, put a ham in the oven and sliced and diced enough of our fresh garden potatoes to make a good-sized casserole of scalloped potatoes. I scrubbed the floor, cleaned the bathroom, washed a couple loads of clothes and helped Paul look for the owner’s manual for his combine.

It was a perfect morning......and at noon, the sun came out!

Ebba’s Buns
2 Cups boiling water
½ Cup sugar
2/3 Cup Crisco

Combine and cool to luke warm. Then combine 2 packages yeast and 1/3 cup warm water. Add that to the first mixture. Add 2 tsp salt and enough flour for a soft dough (about 7 cups). Knead well. (I use my big mixer with the dough hook and let it run slowly.) Let rise in a big bowl, covered with a dish towel in a nice warm spot. Shape into buns, cover and let them rise 2 more hours. Bake at 375 for 15 – 20 minutes until nicely browned. The softer the dough...the lighter the buns!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I labored in the vineyard today…and what a blessing it was!

As we pulled up to the Black Oak Vineyard in Central Minnesota, we quickly realized that this wasn’t a tour day as we had thought…it was a work day. We weren’t dressed for the cool wet conditions but we walked into the vineyard anyway and met Terri, one of the owners. She carried her camera and a box of clippers. “We’ve come to help with the harvest,” I said. And after the ‘short course’ on harvesting grapes we joined the 30 others who were standing along the vines, snipping and clipping under the cloudy October skies.

I caught on fast and before I knew it, I had five gallons of the little beauties. They smelled so sweet and I wanted to taste just one...but wondered if it would be proper. Then I saw one of the other workers, perched on a yellow pail, popping one grape after another into his mouth…and I followed suit! Mmmmmm…so fresh…so sweet!

After several hours of clipping the beautiful blue bunches...and tasting a few more grapes, our little crew had harvested nearly 8,000 pounds of Frontenac Gris grapes…and the fruit of our labors filled a small semi truck!

We were invited to stay for lunch...and wine.

Here are some things I learned from my day in the vineyard:
Prior to grapes forming on the vine, there are no blossoms.

Had a frost come to the vineyard before the scheduled harvest, the grapes would be left on the vines and the harvest would be delayed until December when they’d be used for a special ‘ice wine,’ a much sweeter dessert wine.

Pests can be a problem: deer, birds, bugs and even mice!

Frontenac Gris wine presents aromas of peaches or apricots with hints of enticing citrus and tropical fruit.

I love the wine made with Frontenac Gris grapes!

Managing a vineyard is quite labor intensive and requires a significant commitment of time and money on the part of the grower.

The Bordeaux wine region in France is roughly at the same latitude as Minneapolis. So Minnesota is a perfect place to grow grapes.

A vineyard…what a wonderful retirement hobby for the two of us! Paul likes growing things and I like wine. Perfect match!

In that day, sing about the fruitful vineyard. Isaiah 27:2

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I know an old woman who has trouble with sleep
And when that happens, she doesn’t count sheep.
She rises from her cozy warm bed,
And shuffles her way to the window instead.

She stares out yonder at a sleeping land,
Of resting bird and quiet sand.
She wonders if sleep will come soon,
Then turns around and moons the moon!