Tag Archives: Montague

Is Valerie Crazy?

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I thought I might have your attention.  <chuckling>  Anyone who knows me may have actually asked themselves that very question.

You may not know that I went from business executive to helping others learn about a more simple life, one that includes hands-on messy work…(compost comes to mind).  Why not just keep doing what I was doing so I could just BUY anything I thought I needed or wanted?

It took me a bit, but I learned what others already knew.  One cannot buy the best things in life.  Love.  Happiness.  Health.  Those things come from a bank of a different sort.  And you have to work for them.

But…I digress…Is Valerie Crazy?

Yep.  Just crazy enough to open two businesses, in MICHIGAN, in this poor economy..and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  It is quite an adventure too!  Crazy enough to trust the relationship my husband, John, and I have.  Although, maybe he’s crazy-er for smiling and helping to make all this happen!  A very good friend, Gordon, reminds me once in a while that “John didn’t sign up for that.” when I get a bit ahead of our plans.  (John says I do everything fast.)

Bygone Basics is nicely established and picking up steam.  I am thrilled with the uniqueness each guest brings to an experience.  I feel truly blessed by them.

Amanda’s Bequest Bed & Breakfast is just now opening.  (click the name to check out the website) John and I look forward to every guest.  I’m all excited too…MORE PEOPLE TO COOK FOR!  (I can’t help it, I grew up on a rural country farm in a big family….food was a very important part of life…and you fed people as a means of letting them know they are welcome)

Here is the perfect example of why I do what I do:

Bygone Basics' guests sitting down for a hearty farm lunch.

This family planned a vacation in March 2012 around their Experience with Bygone Basics.  They drove through two states plus part of Michigan to get here.  They were a brother, sister, husband, mother.  And oh did they know how to enjoy each other’s company (I can only imagine that road trip)!  They make a point out of celebrating holidays with a unique theme every time so noone takes any holiday for granted.  Isn’t that a great idea?  It might sound odd, but think how memorable a “Mexican” Easter would be.  As each is different, it isn’t as likely that these special family times will fade from memory.  They learned how to can at Bygone Basics, both pressure canning and water bath canning.  I feel certain they will take that knowledge home and have much quality, happy, family times, canning produce from someone’s garden together.

Canning CAN be fun!

People of the past always knew, but we’ve begun to forget.  Many hands make light work and lighter hearts.  Think barn raisings and Amish summer kitchens.  It’s not much work when you are enjoying the company of others while using the time industriously.  Some might even call it a vacation.  Is that crazy or what?

Light is the task where many share the toil. – Homer

On a completely different note:  Here is a link to the March “I Can at Bygone Basics” Newsletter.  Try the dried apples recipe.  They are easy, healthy, and delicious.

There’s Always Time for a Quickie

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There’s Always Time for a Quickie

Having just returned home from Kansas after being away for quite a while, helping a very ill family member, I find myself buried in about 7 pages of “to-do’s.”

BUT…I didn’t want to let this week go by without a bit of a “quickie” blog post.

It is hard to believe so much food can come from such a little box.

This post is a gentle reminder about one of the FUN parts of winter….planning your garden and ordering seeds!!

My package containing all of my summer’s bounty arrived while I was in Kansas. …so far I’ve been able to restrain myself from borrowing Dorothy’s “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”….oops… 😉  Just can’t wait to sink my fingers into the dirt and plant those little seeds while thinking of all of the good nutritious foods that will come of them.  I’ve made some changes in what I plant this year and am looking forward to gardening with an eye for massive production in small spaces.  I’m going as vertical as possible, using the fence around the garden to grow the cucumbers up, for example.  Also there will be even more companion gardening, as that was quite successful last year.  Growing beans right in between the cornrows was perfect!

If you have any great garden tips, share them!  I love to learn new ways.  ICan@bygonebasics.com

So…..plan that garden….or even just a few container gardens if you don’t have much space.  There’s still time to order seeds and get them growing for summer’s bounty.

I officially CAN'T WAIT for Spring now...

CRAZY INSANE, ALMOST THOROUGHLY, AMAZING WORLD

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Squash in the Bygone Basic's garden...before it snuck out of the fence.

Just letting you know that I’m still here.  I’ve …well…you read the title of this Blog….a bit overwhelmed by life.  It is truly amazing, but gets crazy too, doesn’t it?!

Lately, I’ve been putting by everything that doesn’t run faster than me.  And if I can find someone who will do a bit of hunting for me…well then…all bets are off on that too.  Smile  We also have had a lot of Bygone Basics guests come to learn how to make these heritage recipes themselves, while immersed in old-farmhouse style atmosphere and tools…they are always surprised how easy old-fashioned baking and home canning really is.  Especially when I show them (if they wish to know) how a few of today’s tools can speed things up with out reducing the quality of the food.

I’ve also added pies to my line of baked goods that you can order through the Bygone Basics pantry.  Right now a lot of various types of apple pies are going through the ovens.  Pumpkin pies are following in popularity.

I’ve submitted an application for a Special Use Permit to turn our old manse into “Amanda’s Bequest – A Heritage Immersion Bed & Breakfast.”  More on this in the future.

As the season changes into autumn and the weather is colder, so is my house (because when I’m the only one in it I can put on a sweater and I hate high fuel bills). 

Did you know that in the past, home baking served a dual purpose?  Food was baked, not only for the table, but also to keep the house warm. 

I follow that principle as well.  Lately, I’ve been baking squash for pies, breads, and savory dinners.  Squash is such a nutritious and versatile fruit.  It is just as tasty in desserts as it is in the main meal.  It is surprisingly cheap and easy too.  Here’s my simple treatment of it:

Cut the squash in half or smaller if it is really large (by squash, I refer to pumpkins and other winter squash such as acorn, Hubbard, and butternut).  About 4-5 inch chunks are good.  Don’t worry about peeling, just wash and cut up.  Remove the seed portion with a spoon easily once it is cut.

Line a large pan (cookie sheet or 13×9) with foil and spray or wipe with oil.  Place the squash cut side down.  Place in oven (as many racks as you can fit for maximum energy use) at 325 F.  Bake until fork slides easily into squash to shell.  This may take two or more hours and is dependent on ripeness, variety, and cut up size of squash (smaller pieces cook faster).  Really easy right?  I must warn you, it will start smelling really good towards the end and you will want to serve some of that for dinner!

Once soft throughout, take out of oven and cool for 15 minutes.  Use a knife or spoon to scrape the flesh from the shell.  At this point it is perfectly useable in recipes and for dinner.  I take it one step further.  I press it through my cone shaped food mill with a wooden pusher (that is ages old, but works like a charm!).  That takes all of a few minutes.  You can use any type of food mill you have.  Voila!  Yellow Gold! 

Make pumpkin pie using eggs from your free range chickens (I do anyway); serve it with butter (or bacon grease) and salt/pepper for dinner; can it for future yums!!  It makes great sweet breads and even baby food.  You can even add brown sugar and butter for a great “Thanksgiving sweet potato” taste…

I promise to look the other way if you decide to add marshmallows to the top.

Squash we grew for the sense of humor in its name...Great Warty Thing. It is true to its name!

If you didn’t have the space to grow squash, it is incredibly reasonable to buy this time of year and stores until you have time to bake it.  I’ve even been known to bake the flesh of my jack-o-lanterns on Halloween eve.  Why not?  I’ve already gone through the work of removing the seeds and since I carve my pumpkins the day of Halloween, it is still fresh.  Waste not – Want not.


The Outhouse Was Good Enough For Grandma…

The outhouse was good enough for Grandma, shouldn’t we still be using them then?

Lately, it seems that nearly every time I tell people what I do at Bygone Basics, a common comment is made by someone in the circle of conversation.  “Oh, my daughter-in-law (or whomever) wants me to teach them how to can.”  Of course that piques my interest and I ask about what they’ll can and which methods they’ll use.  Almost always, the response is peaches or tomatoes to start with and they use the same method that has been in the family for a few generations, open kettle.

If I’m beating a dead horse I do not apologize.  I know I’ve touched on this subject before.

I cringe when I hear open kettle or water bathing vegetables, or many other dangerous methods.  Open Kettle refers to a pot on the stove of the product to be canned, boiled, and then pour hot into clean jars and lidded with no following water bath or pressure canning.  When I let the person know that open kettle is not a safe canning process AND ALSO that meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables should ALWAYS be pressure canned (not water bath canned because water only boils at 212 degrees so the food product never gets hotter than that), the next (sometimes indignant) comment is as predictable as the one that led to it….

 “It was good enough for Grandma, its good enough for us!”

Let’s explore that comment.  Why?  Because I need to get this off my chest as I’m going to explode the next time I hear it as a reason to pass along outdated and unsafe actions.

    • Grandma used an outhouse, the sears catalog for toilet paper, and probably didn’t have a sink with nice hot water and antibacterial soap near it either.  It was good enough for Grandma….how about you?
    • Grandma (and Grandpa) butchered the hog and hung it to dry or cool.  Did they hang it in the clean USDA certified cooler or smokehouse?  No.  That didn’t exist for most homes.  This too, was good enough for Grandma…..would you be ok with this meat today?
    • Grandma got her water out of the ground and used it as it was…..how many plastic bottles or purified water have you consumed or given your family lately?

Home canning is a versatile heritage art.

My point isn’t to suggest that someone is taking the easy road.  My point is that:

Grandma did the best she could with the equipment and the knowledge she had, shouldn’t we? 

Science has come a long way in the last 75 years.  Botulism isn’t the only organism to be concerned about, but it is a VERY serious one.  We now know that botulism actually only grows in the absence of oxygen.  So when a person does an open kettle canning process, they are creating a bit of seal on the jar, but the product inside never reached the temperatures necessary to kill organisms if they were present.  (botulism is killed beginning at 240 degrees F.)  The perfect environment to grow a nice bit of toxin.

How do we know that no one ever got sick from her home food preservation methods? Back then did we do a state-of-the art autopsy on every death?  Did anyone ever just get sick? How do we know it wasn’t from the food they ate hours prior?

I’m sure many, many jars of home canned food was just fine from Grandma’s kitchen.  It was tasty and nutritious.

Were they all?  Probably not.   Why wouldn’t we make the most of science and today’s advancements to make our home prepared foods as safe as possible?

For more information from the USDA on updated home canning recommendations check out this link:

http://www.csrees.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2011news/home_canning_guide.html

For other comments on canning safety, check out the Bygone Basics August 2011 newsletter:

http://bygonebasics.com/web_documents/bygone_basics_i_can_news_august_2011.pdf

You can find more information on safely learning to can and read other newsletters at www.bygonebasics.com

Spiced Beets, canned in the Bygone Basics kitchen.

Of course, I’d like you to come to Bygone Basics to learn about safe home food preservation while having a fantastic heritage culinary experience in an 1874 home.   As always, thank you for preserving your heritage through food and fun….because …. You CAN.  🙂

 

Bunny Laid an Egg!

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I know.  It isn’t Easter but it almost seems that way here.  Bunny worked magic and laid an egg last night.  I should mention that Bunny is a chicken.  Bunny’s story is humorous and inspiring.   She came to us on Easter morning this year as a practical joke.  A friend learned that we had aquired a chicken tractor and had ordered chicks.  He thought it would be funny to toss one of his old used up hens into the coop with some plastic easter eggs.   “She wasn’t good for anything but the frying pan anymore.”  She was rough looking and a bit dirty.

I woke up on Easter morning to one of my daughters at my bedside telling me that my chicken had scared her.  What?  A chicken?  Yes.  She said.  In the coop.  Of course I had to go look into this.  Sure enough.  There she was on a nest of pink, yellow and blue plastic eggs.  Angry as a wet….well…hen when I reached in to love her up a little.  As it turns out she believed she had laid all those eggs and when I removed them the next day.  She was ornery and wouldn’t get off her nesting spot.  When we figured out who put her in there, I asked him if she was lonely.  He laughed.  OK.  Evidently not lonely

As all of her drama was occurring, my baby chicks had arrived and were immediately put in a box in the shed under a heat lamp.  Bunny might have heard their cheeping as they where nearby her, gave no indication of it.  A few weeks later.  The weather was warm and the 8 little chicks had out grown their box.  Bunny seemed ornery still but I had finally gotten her flushed off her nest and wandering about the yard each evening. 

My baby “girls” were introduced to Bunny in her tractor.  I worried she would peck them to death.  I needn’t have

These little chicks couldn’t have known a better mother. 

Bunny took them under her proverbial wing.  She taught them what to eat as free range chickens.  Those little ones learned how to consume kitchen and garden scraps with relish.  I barely have to buy food for them.  She marches them into the coop every night to bed.  All I have to do is close the door.    

As summer has progressed, Bunny’s little girls have grown to tower above her.  She is a little white Brahma hen.  She has filled out and is a plump smooth sturdy little lady, but little she is.  The other chickens are a mix of leg horns and other large egg layer breeds….well there is one anomoly…but that is another story.  One chicken at a time.  She still ushers them about as the senior member of their little flock.  When a dog or cat happens through, she flaps and screeches and runs AT the threat to chase it away.  Pretty good for an old bird. 

Bunny is the little white hen in the rear at the coop doorway.

Guests at Bygone Basics have come to to love feeding the chickens as part of their visit.  Everyone loves Bunny’s uniquely feathered feet.  Her red comb and pure white body are even the colors of the Bygone Basics logo.  She became quite a pleasure to have, and a character too.

Last night, Bunny laid an egg. 

She went from a washed up old chicken who was no longer laying to a vibrant, healthy, contributing member of her society.  I wish I understood fully how this transformation happened.  We women sometimes find we have to move on and rediscover ourselves at various phases in our lives.   Bunny did it.  She was old, terrified, tired and useless….or so the people in her life thought.  She was tossed aside.  And landed in a strange environment.  She didn’t just lay down and die.  She transformed herself.  She made a community and gave herself completely to it.  She is now a beautiful and valued senior member of my little society of girls. 

In many ways I relate to my little fiesty Bunny.  Transformations are hard, but if a chicken can do it……

Bunny is the little white hen with the very red comb.

You CAN be safe.

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I am finally finding myself with my head above (sort-of) water in this whole “restore an old house” endeavor.  🙂  I will be blogging once per week going forward.   

Look forward to learning about my girls in future posts…..they are chickens really….and having a flock of chickens and vegetable gardening while living within “City” limits.   

Check out the facebook Bygone Basics page for daily updates or quick photo shots.   Here is a link….Click LIKE to keep notified of updates or just to let me know you like what we do here at Bygone Basics.  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bygone-Basics/135169416537153?sk=info#!/pages/Bygone-Basics/135169416537153?sk=wall

Please read the August 2011 issue of “I Can at Bygone Basics” newsletter.  I am especially concerned about canning safety (page 2) as we get heavy into harvest season.  There are a lot of old family methods that are just not safe.  http://www.bygonebasics.com/web_documents/bygone_basics_i_can_news_august_2011.pdf

I look forward to blogging more!

Happy Harvest.

Valerie

The manners of violets….

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A loaf of Bread, a jug of wine, and thou. Try our Artisan breads....no guarantees on a perfect date, but it sure helps!

I saw a quote the other day that really gave me a moment of deep thought. “When the time is ripe for certain things, these things appear in different places in the manner of violets coming to light in the early spring. –Farkas Bolyai”

Initially, I dismissed it as a ‘pretty’ thought but then remembered how ill mannered and unpredictable spring violets are.

It is as if Mother Earth gave these pretty little heathens a free will that dominates all others.

Once planted, they proceed to grow in other places and fill other’s spaces if the conditions are unpredictably (to us) right to them . They are determined to outlive all attempts to corral (yes, even kill) them. That seems to be how Bygone Basics is growing. It seems to have found spaces and places that I didn’t see coming when I dreamed this big dream of starting this business.

We have now enhanced the Bygone Basics Experience to include the opportunity for people to enjoy our hand dipped taper candles and wonderful artisan soaps. Just this week we added a line of farmers breads (both loaf varieties and stone baked), delectible scones, and old-fashioned cookies. Soon, jams and jellies will be added to the line of products.

You can order using our online system using PayPal or just call or email with what you would like and I’ll send an invoice. I have more items available that what I’ve had time to put on the website. I ship in well packaged boxes to prevent breakage. Of course, you can pick up your order too, by preset appointment.  I need to make sure my guests who are enjoying a Bygone Experience are not interrupted.

I love it. It is a lot of variety and is so energizing! People have all along asked me if I sell the things I make, but I always said no. The time was ripe. Now I do.

Speaking of violets…I’m getting laying hens!  The time is ripe.  🙂  (sense a theme yet?)  I have always talked about getting hens agian.  When a girl, it was my job to collect the eggs on our family farm.  I practically live on eggs and bake with them too.  I happened across someone who was practically giving away a system that contains them, while allowing them to be free range grazers and in the same week, found someone else who had a few chicks to part with.  Normally, one must buy large orders of 15 or 25 of each type of chicken.  With all the space Amanda has here for us (Remember we named the place “Amanda’s Bequest”) it just worked out.

We will also be at the Montague Farmers market with our food goods.   AND at the new Artisan Marketplace in Montague with our artisan candles and soaps.  WOW.  A lot going on this year.  My husband tells me I might want to control those violets, lest they consume me.  He is right.  I’ll have to hire help this year.  Our daughters are growing into adults with jobs and homes further away. (very sad about that)

I just posted the latest issue (April/May 2011) of the I CAN at Bygone Basics Newsletter.

In it is an article about what to do in April and May.  I’ve been busily planning a large garden.  After container gardening the last couple of years in our previous location in suburbia, I am really looking forward it.  We dug up the front lawn and put manure on it, then tilled it in.  Hey…in my defense it was the best sunlight area.  Now…if only it would WARM UP and act like spring!!

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. –– Doug Larson