Tag Archives: things to do in Montague

Holy Cow

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Holy cow, it has been a very eventful summer.  My apologies to you for a prolonged absence.

We have had twin grandaughters and a grandson born.

We have also learned of another grandchild on the way, and were saddened by the loss of a grandbaby-in-womb.

Our garden has been prolific lately, but as a result of much tending and watering due to the extreme high temps this summer and drought.

Our bed & breakfast, Amanda’s Bequest Bed & Breakfast, in here in Montague, Michigan  www.amandasbequest.com  has been busy.  Certainly for its opening year!  We operate as a farmstay and guests are immersed in a real working farm-stle home.  They collect eggs and can help churn butter or gather food from the gardens for breakfast if they wish.  We have enjoyed many wonderful and diverse guests from all over the world now!!  (How cool is that?!)  One guest, who was a world traveler, rated us as top two B&B’s in all his travels.  Turns out I’m I’m an ok cook.  He couldn’t decide who was better, a B&B in Scotland, or us.  I have to tell you, I was so dumb-struck at the remark.  After all…we are just..us.

Also busy for us has been our Bygone Basics culinary experiences.  www.bygonebasics.com  People are really wanting to know how to go back to the healthy nutritious foods that were on our predescessor’s tables.  I teach them how to use what tools they already have to get that heritage “kitchen is the heart and soul of the home” healthy foods back into their lives and in their “today” lifestyle.

We have had kitchen guests from 7 countries and 44 USA States now.

To top it all off, I’m now a licensed kitchen and am baking and selling heritage recipe and artisan foods.  All made to order and by hand from natural foods and basic ingredients (nothing you can’t spell or say!).

We have grown our little flock of hens from 6 to 12…plus a duck…but don’t tell Daisy, she thinks she’s a chicken.

My loving husband has been amazing as our journey has brought us to this kind of activity.  He just smiles and builds what I need.  🙂  I wish this kind of a husband on all of our daughters.

Anyway….

My niece Jade is now “apprenticing.”  Leaving me with a few hours at the end of the week to blog and do other things that I’ve been too swamped to do.  I taught her how to hoe the other day.  I told her she was going to be a great hoe-er someday.  She laughed.  I realized what I said.  Too funny.  She’s been learning to bake, make pies, artisan breads, hoe, can, make soap…she’s been a treasure of help to me too!

I will “talk” with you soon.  Just needed to catch you up on my busy-bee “holy cow, what changes!” summer.

Yours,

Valerie Hanson

A Sprung Spring

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See the plant nursery in the window? Pretty nice “digs” for them, if you’ll pardon the pun.

We try to use as much space as possible for planting. Even vertical shelving and mismatched planters. Soon the pots and shelves will be screened by moon flower and morning glory vines.

Rhubarb!! A seriously under-used food plant.

One of the lucky pepper plants that survived the greenhouse demolition. We don’t really know which of 4 varieties if may be!

Finally!  I got to plant my garden.  It has been a crazy spring.  80 degree March and 30 degree April.  Wind heavy storms.  I happily started seeds in the parlor windows in mid February so my little pretties would be ready to transfer out to the big outdoors greenhouse by mid to late March.  The weather was so nice in March, I was pleased to re-pot the now leggy tomatoes, ground cherries, and peppers, etc. and haul them all out to the sunny warm shelter of the outdoor greenhouse.

That’s when it started.

The Crazy Spring.  It was like Spring sprung a spring and went bouncing off its track.  The weather didn’t just turn cold, it turned frozen with night temperatures plummeting to 23 degrees and daytime ones nudging 40 and 45.  Certainly not growing weather.  I took to hauling the many flats of plants back into the house at night and then, out to the greenhouse by day.

Eh…it’s Michigan.

That’s what I told myself.  You do what you have to, to garden in Michigan springs.

Then, it warmed up a smidge and I let the plants have a sleep-over in the outside greenhouse.  That’s when disaster struck!  Fantastical high winds.  They arrived as if on a freight train and demolished my greenhouse and spilled my lovelies all over.   Broken stems and dashed harvest.  I did my best to find and re-plant what I could and hauled them back into the parlor to stay.  Then, fortunately, I had more seeds, I started new plants.

Here is a young row of strawberries interplanted with asparagus. In normal years, the asparagus would be much shorter! Plus, it has been left to grow healthy roots instead of stalks this first year.

That is one of the great things about starting a garden with seeds instead of nursery plants.  Extra seeds.

Well.  I finally got my gardens planted.  The recovered older plants are in the ground with smaller ones.  Rows of seeds are now sprouting into red trails of beet leaves and fine tendrils of newly emerging green onions.

There’s cabbage, broccoli, rutabaga, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, horseradish, sweet corn, peas, beets, ground cherry, squashes, beans, pickles, lots of herbs, nasturtiums, sunflowers, morning glories, marigold….and lions and tigers and…

Beets make a pretty row of red and green. My how the chickens love the little ones I pull out to thin the row.

Already in the ground were the perennial plants.  Strawberries, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Onion, Garlic, Blueberries, Raspberries, Currants, Apples, and Pears.  I’m loving my rhubarb harvest right now.  Couldn’t pick the asparagus as it was planted only last spring and it is best to give it a year or so without harvest to let the plant focus energies on the root growth.  The first crop of strawberries froze off but there’s more on the way.  We surely lost the pears and apples to the Crazy Spring.  I’m also getting lots of spring perennial herbs and the onions that make our food practically dance with flavor.

I can’t wait to start canning season.

I’ve been teaching a lot of canning lately and it is certainly the season

Herbs! Oregano and tarragon in front. Planted area for basil and cilantro next. Then, fennel, lavender, lemon balm, pineapple sage, dill, chives…

for canning pickled asparagus.  Bygone Basics guests enjoy taking their green jars of treasure home.  Now it is my turn.  This weekend…I’m canning as much as possible of this neat treat…for ourselves and our guests.

After that…Jam!…of the strawberry rhubarb varieties…and then…summer produce will be in full swing and all harvest will break loose.

What is your favorite food to grow?

What do you look forward to “put by?”

We grow things in the ground and in pots and buckets….here is some basil that will flourish in vertical space.

A newly “grounded” plant. It had just been rained on so it looks a tad bedraggled.

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.

Therapy Cookies and Suzanne’s Lesson

Therapy Cookies and Suzanne’s Lesson

Back from yet another long trip to Kansas.  This time for the funeral.  A 43 year old vibrant wife and mother of five passed on Valentine’s day.  I really do want to shake my fist and rail at the universe for its injustice to good people.  But, while was mentally considering how to do that without getting struck by lightening or something, I baked cookies. (It’s how I wrap my head around things, I bake)
As it turned out, there was therapy in those cookies as well as the realization that I had just been taught a huge life lesson by my sister, Suzanne.
Abraham Maslow said that we could define therapy as a search for value.
I suppose that defines my thoughts this morning.  I set to work doing my Bygone Basics’ bakery orders (www.bygonebasics.com) with the very recent death of my brother’s wife, Mary, weighing heavy.  Seeking reasons or value to this tragedy.

Toasting the walnuts, tossed with cinamon sugar.

I began by making my special recipe for chocolate cookies.  The first thing was to create small walnut pieces out of whole walnuts.  I will admit to excessive force.  The walnuts were cracked with some malice.  Then I put the walnuts in a heavy plastic bag and whammed the heck out of them with a french rolling pin. …Beginning to feel a bit better.  🙂
Next, everything needed to be measured out.  The flour, rolled oats, chocolate chips, butter, eggs, spices….By the time I was finished, the concentration on accurate measurement had actually taken my mind to a better place.  Of course tasting fresh cookie dough helps too.

By the time the cookies were going on the cookie sheets and being baked, I was thinking more deeply about the recent events.  My brother had chosen an unusal passage for his wife’s funeral service.  It began “Rejoice Always.  …In all circumstances, give thanks,…” (Thes 5:16-24).  He had explained that when he was at his lowest point, when it was obvious Mary was slipping away, he heard this passage at Church.  It angered him at first, and then, it served to bring him out of a very angry and dark place.  It caused him to look around and find that there was still good in his life.  His children especially.  His family was brought close by this.What did I have to rejoice in?

What gift has Mary’s passing given me?

The example set by my sister, Suzanne.  Not too long ago, she lost her own husband to cancer at 41 with a young son at home.  It was a long and hard path to (and from) his passing.  She endured a lot that I can’t even imagine.  Yet, there she was, the first one to understand that our brother was alone several states away and needed help.  Placing her job in jeapardy, she made two extended trips to help him.  I was blessed to go with her.  Even though it caused her to relive her own deep pain, she cared for our sister-in-law with such depth and consideration.  She talked with our brother on a level that only those two could understand.  She cried at night and was a pillar in the day.  She made sure our young nieces had what they needed.

I loved my sister before.  But now, I rejoice in the heart and soul of such an amazing woman.  Her selfless example of care will live on in me and in my priorities in life.

Add the oats, toasted walnuts and chocolate chips

Such was Suzanne’s lesson for me.

I feel better.  The cookies are baked.  I’ve had a bit of an epiphany.  I even went on to get my french baquette order done and restarted the Sourdough starter.

…..Heck, I might even feel like doing my blog.  Hope I don’t get to philisophical…..  😉

By the way…Did I ever tell you that I have started to “Tweet”?  Find me at @ApronsRUs.  (Yes, it is an odd twitter name, sometimes, I just can’t help myself…my humor is a bit …quirky.)

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…wearing a fetching apron,

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“And now have a look at you! You’re so pretty … wearing a fetching apron, of course, and your hair’s neat and beautiful, held back by a ribbon”

The title of this post comes from a line (the rest of it is above) in one of my favorite interests…older cook books.

Aprons are fun and VERY handy. I am not sure why they fell out of use. This is one of mine.

This one in particular is special.  It was my first foray into old cookbook land.  I bought this First edition 1955 “Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cook Book for the Hostess & Host of tomorrow” about 15 years ago at a yard sale.  My daughter Jessica was getting interested in the kitchen and I wanted to encourage it.  At the time she really didn’t see the charm in the old book, like I did.

She was 10 and the cookbook was “soooo….yesterday.”  🙂

If you can get past the chuckles you’ll have at the quaint language and gender assumptions, older cook books are fabulous peeks into our history.  They are windows into how family life was conducted in homes during period in which the cook book was printed. By reading them, we are peeping-toms of a sort.  Through the ingredients, we learn what were common staples in the pantry.  In the description of tools to use, we know how much time was spent in the kitchen, or how tricky cooking over a wood burner or early gas or electric range may have been.  Even the portion sizes change over the eras.

One of our fun cookbooks.

I love my old cook books.   I have a lot of them, including one from the White House circa 1901, filled with hand written notes and old news clippings. (and yes, I do wear an apron. We have many of them so our guests can put one on too when they are experiencing our heritage kitchen.)  What makes me sad is that the recipes don’t please the average U.S citizen’s palate today.  The cook books of today use far more sugar and shortenings in recipes.  The scone of today certainly isn’t the scone of a 100 years ago.  I wonder why we have an obesity epidemic in the U.S…?

Now…a recipe from the BH&G Junior cook book:  “Everyday drumsticks”

1 lb. gr beef

1 tsp salt

1 egg

12 soda crackers

6 wooden skewers

3 slices bacon

The Drumstick recipe. Easy for a child...and adult.

Set oven to 450.  Put beef, salt and egg in a bowl.  Mix.  Divide into 6 parts.

Put crackers in a bag.  Roll with a rolling-pin to form crumbs.  Put crumbs on waxed paper.

Shape the balls of meat around skewers to look like drumsticks.  Roll in crumbs; place on greased baking pan.  Bake 15 minutes.

Cut bacon slices into 4 pieces.  Put on meat.  Bake 15 minutes more.

This recipe is what a little girl of 9 – 12 in age could be expected to do in 1955.

If you have older cookbooks that are at least 40 years old, have a look at them with an eye toward looking at the home and family life.  It is a unique way to look at cook books and may just inspire you to make a dish you’ve never tried before.  Share your own cookbook discoveries and new old recipe attempts in the comments area below or by emailing ICan@bygonebasics.com.

A side note of news for you….I’ve completely redesigned our Bygone Basics website.  Please, have a look at it and tell me what you think.  It is easier to navigate, cleaner, and uses photos to show people what an experience is like here at Bygone Basics.

Check it out:  www.bygonebasics.com

Parting quote from the old cookbook:

You’re about to turn the page to a heap of fun. So…hands washed? Have on a pretty apron, and is your hair looking mighty smooth?  O.K., Kitchen, here we come.

And a parting photo…how fun!:

Boys and girls can have fun in the kitchen...even in 1955. Though, it would seem from the photo that boys do take a bit of a back seat ...

….New News…?

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For a lack of a better title to this post….

Sorry for the obviousness of it. But I do have new news.

Actually it is a few links to new news.

For the most recent newsletter, read it by clicking here

Even better….Bygone Basics just posted the NEW Calendar of Special Events!!  I’m very excited and plan to hold these sessions with approximately 6 – 7 people.  By keeping it small and personal, it will be a blast …and a half!  🙂  Click here to access the website page that holds the calendar.  You’ll see how to view the calendar at that point.  It is as easy as….pie.  😉

We have been asked to be part of the Holiday Home Tour here in the White Lake Area.  I asked three times if they were sure.  (they’ve now been dutifully warned)  You see….  I believe in Christmas as a time of faith, food, family, and fun.  It is not about how much gold and lights I can get on a pine tree.

Photo of Amanda’s Bequest taken on 11/4/11. We recently found an old photo of her taken a very long time ago. She had “gingerbread” and a beautiful front porch. We will strive to replace these in time.

Christmas at Amanda’s Bequest and of course, Bygone Basics, is filled with stringing popcorn and cranberry garlands.  Making pine cone and fruit ornaments.  creating evergreen decorations.   All while music and goofy fun is had.  And the food…oh boy, the food is made in abundance and flavor to get you through until next Christmas in your memories!   (A side note….I refuse to decorate anything until Thanksgiving has had its deserved attention and the home tour is on December 4 so WOW, we’ll be busy!)  More on this tour in the near future…

Lastly, we are still waiting to learn the outcome of our Special Use Permit request to make Amanda’s Bequest into a Bed & Breakfast.  The public  hearing/planning commission meeting is next monday night at 7:30 pm in the Montague City Hall.  I’m all aglow with nerves and “what-ifs”  But, I guess I put my faith hat on and keep moving forward.

Until next time….Have a wonderful November.

Be sure to rate this note with stars (at the top) … and of course, share it with friends.  We really do appreciate it!  I look forward to seeing you in a calendar event or two!  Better yet, schedule your own private heritage culinary experience with Bygone Basics and get the holiday spirit in a wonderful way.  They make great gifts too.  (click the logo at the top right to go to our website and learn more.)

Yours Truly In the spirit of Thanksgiving,

Valerie Hanson

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.