Wanda

Wanda (not her real name) is one good cook. Just ask Tanner (not his real name either), he will be the first to say so. Bubba (another alias name) would be the second one to agree with that opinion. They are not alone, I agree as well.

Wanda is one good cook.

Tanner is Wanda’s husband. Bubba is the fortunate single brother-in-law that gets invited to supper with them often. So she gets to hear from two men just how great her cooking is. They are good at telling her so too.

Cooking is an art and science. There is also a sense of wonder and surprise to it as well. Sort of like the wonder one feels when watching a soft snow quietly, and gently falling through the air to the ground. It has a way of making one feel content. The smells of cooking throughout the house has that same sort of feeling. The feeling of comfort and contentment. I recall, as a child living in the suburbs, how smells of a supper cooking somewhere wafted on the air while playing outside. We all hoped we were getting that good meal when called in for supper.

So whatever happened to cooking at home?

I cannot help but first wonder whatever happened to “home”? I have read that ‘sayings’ should not be used in writing. But why not? They say so much, i.e. “Home is where the heart is”. Well, where is our heart? Are we afraid of the answers our hearts may whisper to us? Have we even given our heart a chance to answer? Sometimes that takes a while.

I am not talking about feelings. Feelings can be most misleading. I have found that my feelings many times are negative: ‘I don’t feel like getting started on this day’; ‘I feel ugly’; ‘I don’t feel like being nice today’; I don’t feel up to visiting anyone; ‘I don’t feel like cooking’; ‘I feel fat’….on and on those feelings ramble through my thoughts. Do you have similar feelings? I have more than I would like to admit.

I am now a senior citizen. Wow! I thought getting old would take longer! Anyway, when I was young, cooking was not high on the list of fun, interesting things to do. Except for bread baking. That was an early kitchen joy for me. Baking bread was truly magical back then and still is. All the same, I did notice how well my momma cooked. She made it seem easy, getting everything together at the same time, and having it taste so good. Funny thing though, she did not like cooking, and as soon as we girls got old enough, it became our job. Fair enough, we took our turns and learned.

Wanda is young. She has two little robust boys in her happy home. Wanda knows the power she holds by being a good cook. She knows the affect cooking has upon her house. Did you know that homes sell better when there is the smell of home-baked cookies in the air? How about that? Apparently home feels more homey with the smells of food in the air.

I was like Wanda when I was young. Most especially after children started arriving. It became important to eat well, and stay well (it was not easy managing five children and one doctors appointment). I also noticed how important my cooking was to the family unit. Once a week we had a big meal with my in-laws. There was not one person who did not look forward to that meal. To this day the smell of fresh green beans cooking on the stove, and home-made rolls takes me back into my sweet mother-in-laws happy, steamy, busy kitchen. It was the heart of her home. It is the heart of mine as well, and of Wanda’s.

With fast food, and quick dinners available at our fingertips, and working mothers outside the home, cooking has fallen out of favor. But it is not impossible nor over complicated to prepare a meal for your family. In many ways it is a mind game. What do I mean by that? The most difficult part of cooking (for me at least) is the planning. It must be done every single day, unless you think smarter! Bulk recipes. For example, lasagne, chili, beef stews, spaghetti, soups of all sorts, pot roasts, macaroni & cheese. These recipes afford leftovers. Not only that, they are simple and easy to make.

I have been made fun of by my more culinary minded cooks for the simplicity of my food. Wanda has been teased as well, but she is strong and knows her mission. I am proud of Wanda. I am proud of any woman, or man that goes against the grain of current popular thought and follows their heart.

Cooking for one’s family is not for every one. It takes time, effort and planning. Men do a lot of cooking when they get home from work these days. They tell me it is calming, therapeutic, and they like to make people happy. How great is that? Would you like to try? I promise one of the sweetest sounds you will hear is this: “Man! It smells GOOD in here! I could smell it as soon as I got out of the car!”

I actually heard those very words last week while cooking just onions in the iron skillet at my twinsters house. Music to my ears. Oh! Did I mention that cooking is musical too?

Wanda knows all this and it has made her life rich and full. This joy is found in cooking for yourself and your loved ones. Would you like to try? Is your heart urging you? Start small. There is power in little. Pick one day, plan a simple one pot meal, have fun. Light a candle! It is fun cooking with a candle burning. Be sure to serve your meal with candles on the table as well. It is lovely and adds to the joy of it all.

Just ask Wanda, Tanner or Bubba. They will tell you.

A big pot of chili makes for several yummy meals.

The Keezletown Community Cannery

“We deliver everything but babies”. If this is not the motto of the trucking industry, perhaps it should be. Indeed, this industry keeps the world moving.

Here in the Shenandoah Valley, we locals love to complain about the number of trucks traveling on I81. What would happen, though, if the trucks stopped? Even for just a few days? Ever notice how quickly food sells out of grocery stores with the announcement of snow over the radio? It does not take long. How long could anyone last in regards to food supplies should trucks not run?

These are questions worthy of some thought. Not to cause a panic, but rather to elicit the thoughts of a ‘plan B’ should our food supply deliveries suddenly, for whatever reason, come to a halt.

Canning our own food. What? Whoever does that anymore? How in the world does anyone do it? Oh! Only the hillbillies can their own food anymore. It is not sophisticated enough for us. We have risen above that silliness and hard work. One might get sweaty and dirty. Right? Suppose that depends on ones point of view. We all still need and like to eat. Funny thing is, very few folks like to cook, much less grow their own food. That is far too much effort and hard work. Who has time for that anyway?

The Keezeltown Community Canner could help with many of these questions. I say ‘could’ because it is due to close this November—for good.

So come take a peek inside and see why it would be sad to have this community cannery close its doors.

This community cannery is a plus for folks in the area for many reasons. Come take a peek inside and see why.

Victory Gardens. Isn’t that a wonderfully invigorating name? Ever heard of them? They found their beginning during WWI to aid in the war effort. Commercial food was shipped in great quantities to feed the soldiers. Farms had been turned into battlefields. Farm workers were recruited into military service causing food to be in short supply. Our government encouraged we citizens to grow food to assist in the war effort. A school program was even initiated by the federal Bureau of Education to encourage children to enlist as “soldiers of the soil”. It was called the U.S. School Garden Army (USSGA).

The results were huge. In 1918 an approximate 1.45 million quarts of canned fruits and vegetables were generated. The canned food was shipped overseas, and the extra was put up for our own supplies here at home. Smart, effective and proactive. It was the patriotic thing to do. By the end of WWI many folks had stopped gardening though.

Image result for world war one victory garden posters
Image result for world war one victory garden posters

The onset of WWII however brought on a renewed interest in the victory gardens. Food rationing began in the spring of 1942. This caused an even greater interest in gardening. Again, it was very successful. These gardens promoted patriotism, boosted morale, and provided protection from food shortages. The year 1942 saw an estimated 15 million families gardening. By the time 1944 came around, victory gardens had grown to around 20 million. This provided over 40% of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the US. This amounted to roughly 8 million tons of food. Is this not amazing?

A Victory Garden was even planted on the White House lawn by Eleanor Roosevelt!

The Keezletown Cannery began in 1942 in the basement of Keezletown School. It has been operating every since. It is one of the oldest in Virginia.

The cannery makes fast work of putting up food supplies because everything is there, except the food.
Innovative tools have been created to make the process even more efficient and fast. RT Hammer made this clever and fast apple slicing tool.
This amount of canning cannot be done in a private home. There simply is not enough space or equipment.

RT and Trudy Hammer ran the cannery for seventeen years. Sandra Hammer runs it now.
The wall behind the desk has several interesting articles about the cannery.
Sandra Hammer with my sister, Kay. Sandra has been at the cannery for fourteen years, the last three she has run it alone. She also bears all the expenses of running it.

What newbies do not know about canning, Sandra can answer. She is adept with the entire process. It is all run by steam and pressure. It is an amazing, efficient process.

This past week I canned one bushel of apples at my house alone. It took seven and one half hours! In October, my sisters and I canned three and a half bushels of apples in five hours. It is amazing the amount of food that is able to be processed at this cannery.

Home-canned lard. Neato!

This cannery serves as a way for non-profits to make money as well. Many a pint of apple butter have been processed by local churches to sell for fund raising every fall in this richly historic building.

There is so much to learn about food, physics, machinery, timing, providing for oneself , and of course canning food inside the walls of this cool shop.

Open only five months of the year, first Monday in July to the second Friday in December. The middle, end, and canning portion of our gardening season. This cannery has provided a great service to it’s community over many years. Located in the quaint town of Keezletown, VA, in the shadows of the lovely Massanutten Mountain. It is a treasure I would hate to see go. In fact, I’d love to teach canning to our next generation in it! That would be grand!

Preparing the jars for packing. They must be hot, hot, and sterile. This steamer makes one fast job of this part of the process.
The weight used to hold the door for steaming jars.
The setting is beautiful. Set in the shadows of the Massanutten Moutains.
The boiler room, where all the steam is generated.
We share lunch together around the desk. Wonderful fellowship time.

The Keezletown Cannery is a productive piece of community history in this area of Virginia. It has served it’s community members well over these many years, and still does to this day. To see it close would be a sure loss of vital history and active productivity for surrounding area folks, myself included. Growing, preserving, and being an active part of our food source is an important part of life that in these days and times should be of top interest to everyone who has to eat to live.

The cannery has served it’s community well over these many years, and still does to this day.

La Petite Tronconneuse (The Little Chain Saw)

It is fall. Time for wood cutting and chain saws. This post is still true today. Happy wood cutting with your chain saws!

Primary Farm Operator

It seems smart, when one has free fuel, to use it.  The free fuel here at Blue Rock Horses & Farm is wood.  With a wood stove in the  basement and fireplace on the main floor, this fuel is welcome heat.  The one thing not free about it though is gathering it.  Oh well, just another reason to be beckoned out-of-doors into beautiful fresh air and thoughts.

Moving out to this 14 acre farm last summer made two tools obviously necessary for this PFO.  First things first, a Z-trac John Deere mower was purchased.  Before the ink dried on that sales ticket, the baby chain saw arrived.  Every working farm around has a ‘farm boss’ chain saw or similar.  These are for the men to operate.  This PFO can hardly pick it up, much less start the engine and carry it!   That is why we brought the baby home…

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