November 29, 2022

Christmas cookies - ginger snaps

Having a close friend is a blessing in life, at least until they abandon you and move five states and a thousand miles away. Then baking Christmas cookies together becomes problematic. 

We used to get together every year, either during Thanksgiving weekend or the next to bake. We each had five baggies of cookie dough ready to go and spent a Sunday afternoon slaving by a hot oven. Wine helped us get through. Then we split everything down the middle. I had cookies in the freezer for months. 

One of the cookies C- always brought was Ginger Snaps. It's a good recipe but it's finicky. It's one of those things that can't be doubled, and we never did figure out why. I would occasionally make a batch just for me and Himself, but I hadn't done so for many years until this week. 

These are a good change of pace, but I confess that chocolate chip cookies trump everything else for us. Oatmeal cookies with white chocolate chips and cranberries come in a close second. 

We'll enjoy the ginger snaps for the next week or so, and then there is the possibility I never make them again. Some things are best left in the past. 


Ginger Snaps

¾ cup melted Crisco (do not substitute!)
1 cup white sugar
¼ cup Brier Rabbit or dark molasses
1 egg
2 tsp Baking soda
2 cups flour
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp clove
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Liquefy shortening and cool. 
Add sugar, syrup and egg. Beat well.
Add remainder and chill dough over night. 
Form into small balls.
Roll in sugar and place on cookie sheet, then flatten with fork.
Bake on greased sheet at 350 for 8 minutes. 

For best results, do not double this recipe. Make individual batches. 

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Ginger Snap, Christmas Cookies, rural living, simple country pleasures

November 19, 2022

Orange Marmalade

Making orange marmalade was more than I bargained for. I'm pretty sure this batch will be a one-off. I scorched the first batch when I stepped away from the stove for mere seconds to open the door for Loki. The second batch turned out great, but it's very labor-intensive.  

To make it, you have to peel the zest layer of the oranges and lemons without getting any of the pith. I then used a food chopper to cut that up instead of cutting it into the traditional thin strips. Then you have to get the fruit removed from the pith and the membranes. Nope. After this is gone, I'll purchase orange marmalade. 

Yeah, I say that now, but by the time I've used twelve little jars of this marmalade, I may feel differently. Himself doesn't touch the stuff. He's a grape jelly kinda guy. So it may be three or four years until this batch is gone. By then I may have (probably will have) forgotten what a pain in the ass this was to make and do it again. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, orange marmalade, home food preservation, rural lifestyle

November 17, 2022

Whole berry cranberry sauce in little jars

Thanksgiving is next week! Seven days from now! 

Yes, I am a bit excited about roasting a turkey and sitting down to a traditional dinner. The two of us will be on our own again, and you know what? We really rather prefer it that way. We've had the big dinners with the clan gatherings, which are stressful. There is no stress when it's us in our cozy little house in the woods.

We aim to eat close to one o'clock. No one shows up at noon to try to "help." The turkey is done when it gets done. I always liked to make some sort of baked veggie casserole to make my mother happy and forget that. I'll open a can or a jar (or two) of veggies and nuke 'em. The Lord of the Manor makes the candied sweet potatoes the day before - just heat and serve. He'll also make biscuits. He does have a few culinary talents so I make use of them on Thanksgiving. But I digress...

Cranberry sauce is a traditional part of our dinner. While at the grocery, I noticed they had fresh cranberries on sale. There's a recipe for cranberry sauce in the Ball book, so I got a bag and preserved eight half-pint jars of whole-berry cranberry sauce. There's also half a jar in the fridge and it is good! 

There are two upsides to this. This sauce contains cranberries, orange zest, and sugar. That's it. No additives with strange names. Get over the fact it has sugar in it. We believe the chemicals are worse.  The other thing is that these portions work better for two people. We won't be discarding the last third of the can because it sat in the fridge and went to water. 

Maybe the third thing is cost. On the surface, four dollars worth of cranberries made enough for at least eight meals. An industry can cost at least a dollar and a half for one. Even figuring in the cost of the sugar and one orange, it's cheaper to make at home. 

My next trip to the grocery, I'm going to get another bag of cranberries and put them in the freezer. It's not that I don't trust our supply chain...Oh, yes. It's definitely that. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, cranberry sauce, home food preservation, Thanksgiving, rural lifestyle, country living, family stress, simple country pleasures, supply chain

November 15, 2022

Gaining on it? Aye. Right.

We are still splitting wood, but maybe, just maybe, we're gaining on it. 

For some reason, we just can't get finished. We were doing pretty good, almost finished, and then one of the neighbors took down a large, dead cherry tree. She contacted my cousin and said if he'd do the cleanup, he could have the wood. He called us to lend him a hand for half the wood.

Then another neighbor at the other end of our adjoining properties had a large oak tree fall over the stone fence onto my cousin's property. My cousin and his son-in-law brought me some of the oak. 


We need a few more tarps and bungee cords to get everything under cover for the winter. I need to finish splitting a small amount of older wood that can be burned this season. 

I am thankful for the abundance of firewood and for my cousin's steadfast help. I'm thankful to have cleaned up some older downed trees before the wood rotted. I'm thankful for the ability to be out in the woodyard working on laying in firewood. Honest work never hurt anyone. 

It's been a lot of work, and the Lord of the Manor is pretty tired. It's not good for him to overdo it, but he's hung in there with us as best he can. He's now researching log splitter options. Our splitter has a pull rope start, and it's hard to pull. There are splitters that work off the hydraulic system of a tractor and that sounds like the way to go for us. We'll see what the finances are at the first of the year.  

Rural America is, as proved by this past election, ignored. But we are alive and thriving and we will continue to do so as long as we don't embrace the ways of the townies and turn our backs on honest work. I'm proud to be living RURAL.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, rural America, country living, a writer's life, firewood, thankfulness, hard work, log splitter, woodyard


November 10, 2022

Four short months

In just four short months, I can start some seeds for the 2023 garden. That may sound crazy - it sounds crazy to me - but according to the Old Farmer's Almanac, you can start brassicas seeds in early March.  

Short lesson: brassicas include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, turnips, and a few other things I've forgotten and am too lazy to look up at the moment. 

My brassicas of choice are cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. I've never had kohlrabi, but I've been told it's bitter even when properly prepared. That's the sort of thing that I could probably grow tons of - something I wouldn't like. 

In the 2022 growing season, I had good results with cabbage. Not so much with the broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. I'll take a pass on them since it was the first year I tried to grow them and it's all part of learning. I was happy with the cabbage as we love fresh cole slaw. The downside to cabbage is it can't be home-canned. I ran a batch through the freeze drier but as of this date, I don't know for certain how well it's storing. It may be bitter as hell when rehydrated for all I know. I'll test it before I start the cabbage seeds to judge how many cabbages I want to grow.

With cold weather fast approaching, I got my butt in gear to move the garden corral and greenhouse to their new home. I purchased some woven ground cloth from Grower's Solutions and got that put down before moving the frames and greenhouse. Getting that done now is, I hope, a win-win. I won't have to do it in the spring when the ground is damp, and it helps me visualize how I want to plant next year.  

Another big plus is that with the corral moved, it frees up the pad for its original intent - our small pool. It's been a few years since we put the pool up, but we both wished we'd had it this past summer, so we're going to give it a go in 2023. 

Planning ahead helps keep things moving along. Next spring I can concentrate on the fun stuff (planting) and not worry about moving everything. The pool can go up in May and begin to warm. And I'm sure that next summer, there will be new projects to plan and execute. That's just the way it goes here at Holly Tree Manor. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, country living, rural lifestyle, gardening, greenhouse, swimming pool, planning ahead, a writer's life, growing vegetables, success, failure

November 8, 2022

Almost forty years ago

November 8, 1983. 

That's the day my father died of lung cancer. 

I think I was too young to fully understand the loss. Yes, I felt overwhelming grief and everything else you would expect. But almost forty years on I know the true depth of the loss of the man who was my father. 

I was twenty-six when Dad died. We'd just really begun to have an adult relationship. I was always going to be his daughter, but we were discovering how to be grownups together. We could sit and talk about grownup topics openly, and ask opinions of each other. And we could sit at the picnic table that he built and I still have in my backyard, sip iced tea, and not talk at all. 

My father was very well respected in the family. A quiet man, I remember times of family gatherings when the "discussion" turned spirited and someone would say, "what do you think, Gene?" My father would speak, and that was the end of the discussion of that topic. It's just the way it was.

My grandfather stood at Dad's coffin and cried. Dad had become another son to Pop. Pop understood the loss of someone dying at the age of fifty-four better than I did at that time. 

I can't believe Dad has been gone for almost forty years. It seems the blink of an eye. I feel cheated, twice over, that I only had him so few years. You see, my mother was widowed for ten years and then she remarried. After that, she told me point blank we couldn't discuss Dad any longer because she didn't want to hurt the new husband's feelings. 

What? I didn't have any feelings? I most certainly did at that point and none of them were kind. 

Life has marched on, but I still miss my father every day. The years stretch behind me, a gulf I can't breach, and it hurts. It always hurts.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, death of a parent, remembrance, dying, country living, rural lifestyle, respect, family

November 4, 2022

Help needed

I hate to admit it, but I think I need to find a willing young man to help out a few hours a week. The real dilemma is which of the young men in the family wants to actually work for some cash? And I do mean work. I'm not handing out money for nothing. 

Keeping the manor going isn't all that difficult, but there are times I really do miss having Himself able to help me. It bothers him, too. We used to work as a team, and we still do to the best of his abilities, but the fact is that he is physically limited. And while I'm a strong woman, I lack a man's physical strength. These are simply facts. 

There is a saying, "if it is to be it is up to me." That's another fact here at the manor. It is up to me now and I need to adjust my way of thinking, doing, and accomplishing. How do I do this while including the Lord of the Manor? The most expedient way would be to put him in charge of "the hired help," but I know in my heart that won't always work. 

It hurts my heart to admit I need help. I can afford it - that isn't the problem. The problem is trust. I won't allow just anyone to have access to my home. It also hurts my heart that some of my need is predicated on the fact there have been some less-than-positive changes in the way Himself processes information. Things that are important to me are no longer important to him. This is a reflection of his physical health and not of our affection for each other. 

My grandmother used to tell me, "don't get old." Well, time marches on, doesn't it? 

I want to enjoy my retirement, not make myself sick over those things left undone at the end of the day. 

I need help and having admitted that I must now find it.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, needing help, handyman, aging, giving up,