November 27, 2023

The Mad Canner: Southwestern Corn

One of the few vegetables the Lord of the Manor willingly eats is corn. Years ago we discovered a corn from either Green Giant or Del Monte called Mexicorn. I guess it became politically incorrect to call a product "mexi" anything because it went bye-bye and Southwestern Corn took its place. 

Southwestern Corn, from Del Monte, is at this writing $2.09 a can. I'm not paying that for a can of corn with a smidgeon of peppers tossed in. 

I made my own southwestern-style corn, and it was pretty good, good enough that I decided to try canning it. 

Corn is easy to can. Peppers and onions can only be canned in small bits as part of a larger recipe, which is what I did. Because seasonings can turn bitter during the canning process, I used kosher salt only. I'll add a pinch of cumin and chipotle when I open a jar for a meal. 

I processed eighteen half-pints of corn at a cost of $5.50.  And in smaller jars, none will go to waste. That's for the corn, the pepper and onion, and the jar lids. The jars are indefinitely reusable so they aren't part of the cost. They'd all been used before and unless I drop one, they will be again. Eighteen cans of the Del Monte corn would cost $37.62.  

And that is why I'm now The Mad Canner.

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Del Monte Southern Corn, home food processing, rural living, country lifestyle, canning, food preparation, survival skills, a writer's life, saving money

November 26, 2023

Deer season - it's not what it used to be around here

When I was a girl, deer season was a big deal. My dad wasn't much interested in hunting deer, but he'd traipse along with my grandfather and great-uncles on a "rabbit hunt." Yeah, rabbits. Take a walk through the fields in the middle of the day and then play poker until midnight. But, I digress...

My grandfather was the deer hunter. He was part of a group that went several hours down into the wilds of Virginia every year and set up camp for a week. Pop did pretty well on those outings. His best two bucks got mounted and hung on the wall, much to my grandmother's displeasure. Why did he go hours away to hunt? We didn't have many white-tailed deer around here sixty years ago. We do now.

Deer are everywhere here, so much so the state parks allow hunting. Maryland's white-tailed season stretches from September through January. The schedule is posted online and is six pages long. 

Thirty years ago, when the Lord of the Manor joined me, the first day of rifle season caught him off-guard. It was noisy at daybreak. The gunfire echoed off the mountain and the deer scampered into our woods for safety. 

I suppose laughing at him when he jumped straight out of bed with a "What the fuck?!" wasn't very kind, but I couldn't help it. I hadn't thought to warn him about the locals.

As I write this, it's Sunday morning, and we didn't expect to hear any hunters having at it. I commented that I'd heard two shots yesterday, that having lived here all my life, I knew emanated from the hunting area in the state park. That led to the realization neither of us had heard many shots since deer season had started. 

Things change. It's not because there are less deer. There are more and they are destructive. They can decimate a garden in one night, eating food some people depend on to survive. I no longer have flower beds because it's not worth the hard work required just so the deer can eat everything. My great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and myself all had beautiful flower gardens. As the last in a long line, it pains me to abandon the descendants of plants my great-grandmother grew in her garden. 

Without the hunters, the deer population will increase to the point the animals will starve. There isn't enough wild grazing left for them. They come to populated areas and eat gardens and crops. They cause numerous auto accidents every year, sometimes with fatalities. With the increase in deer, the coyotes are getting bolder. I've seen one in my woods and I don't like it at all. 

My yard is full of lead. Yes, I fire a gun at the ground so the noise scares the deer away. Even then, they are getting used to the sound. I can't actually shoot one of them for more reasons than I don't get a deer permit. I can't bring myself to kill them. They aren't spiders. What I am going to do is get a slingshot and bop a few of them with golf balls. I hope it stings! 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, white-tailed deer, hunting season, rural living, country lifestyle, coyotes, gardening, crop damage, Henry 001, hunters

November 25, 2023

Growing ginger and general grumpiness

Growing ginger is easy, or so the plant gurus on YouTube said. Well, okay. I'll give them that. It was pretty easy to get it growing. I went to the grocery, selected a piece of ginger that had green nubs on it, and stuck it in the dirt. It grew.  

I don't bring a lot of plants inside in the fall, but I brought in the ginger. It now looks sickly. At the same time, it has new shoots coming up. I'm befuddled. I'm also tempted to cut it back and see what happens. 

Maybe wanting to cut off the ginger is just part of my general grumpiness this morning. It's a balmy 25F/-4C at the moment. I checked the hourly forecasted temps and it looks like all I can hope for this afternoon is 47F/9C. And of course, I need to bring in a tractor bucket or two of firewood today. I'd like it to be about 57F, but as Mick and the boys say, you can't always get what you want. 

I also need to hop on the John Deere x370 mower and make one last pass over the lawn to chop up the remaining leaves. Then there is the new story I'm working on. I'd like to have time later today to work on it a bit. "They" say write first and then do chores, but I'm living in the real world here. If it is to be it is up to me. I no longer have the luxury of a helpmate. 

So I'm grumpy. I don't expect to get over it any time soon. Spring is 115 days away. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, ginger plants, firewood, leaves, John Deere x370, rural living, country lifestyle, grumpy, a writer's life, 

November 22, 2023

A foggy morning after a day of rain

Yesterday, we had a true soaking rain. It lasted for hours and was a welcome event. We weren't really in a drought, but a good soaker has long-lasting benefits. It not only put nitrogen into the soil and filled up my cistern, but it gave me a mostly restful day. If I hadn't had to meet the pastor for lunch, I doubt I would have gotten out of my PJs. (Lunch was good, by the way.)

This morning I was up before dawn. Deuce decided he needed to go out and go out NOW. I didn't doubt it because I knew he didn't take care of all his outside activities last night. Apparently, the dog can't go in the rain.

Even before I turned the outside lights on, I sensed that it was foggy. Fog has a way of making the world silent. I stoked the fire in the woodstove, and then the dog and I retired to the sunroom and waited for daylight. 

I wish now I'd thrown on some clothes and taken Deuce for a walk. The fog brings a peace to my soul, a stillness. I settled for taking a few pictures so I will remember the morning. It will do for now. 

Perhaps I should make myself a hooded cloak to wear over a warm coat so that next time I can walk in the fog and become one with the mist. I like that idea, so we shall see. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, foggy mornings, walking in the fog, rural living, country lifestyle, black Labrador Retriever, a writer's life, m/m romance

November 20, 2023

The task of the day just got expensive

Being retired, most days I set one task for myself inside the house and one task outside the house. It varies if one task, such as splitting firewood, is on the agenda. Nothing else gets done on those days when a big project takes over. Today I planned to use the leaf blower on a few areas and de-dog the bedroom. 

De-dog the bedroom? Yep. Move every piece of furniture and vacuum beneath them, use the Swiffer to wipe down the walls, take the throw rugs outside for a good shake before vacuuming them, clean the HEPA air filter, and use the steam cleaner on the floor. 

It almost went as planned. 

Everything is done except under the bed. Why is that? The vacuum cleaner quit working, that's why. 

We tried to remember just when we got that vacuum, but I think it's at minimum ten years old. It's a Dyson DC35 and it has been used hard. It's rare for us not to vacuum an area every day. If you've ever had a Labrador Retriever, you know how they shed. It's a year-round proposition with those dogs. We don't have dust bunnies, we have black fur bunnies. 

We're going to get another Dyson based on the service we've gotten out of the DC35. We just need to wade through all the horseshit on Amazon to figure out which one is best for us. I've typed in "Dyson cordless vacuum" in the Amazon search box and I get every other brand out there, too. NOT what I wanted and a waste of my time. 

We'll get it figured out, and we may just take a cruise into town and buy it. We're not happy with the Amazon delivery drivers. They drive on the grass. I do not like this. 

De-dogging the bedroom was a good idea. I just wish it hadn't cost me a couple of hundred bucks. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Dyson vac, black Labrador Retriever, dog fur, clean house, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, search box 

November 19, 2023

Sunlight on the hillside

I'm in a bit of a funk at the moment. The last several weeks took me away from doing the things I wanted to do and left me doing what I didn't want to do. I retired for a reason and yet I agreed to fill in at the old job. It hasn't left me feeling warm and fuzzy. 

My life has been spent working for others. I got my first part-time job when I was sixteen. I wanted a car and cars cost money, ergo, one works to earn money. I didn't stop working until I turned sixty-five. 

Yes, those years are now paying dividends. I'm not rich, but I have retirement funding. More importantly, I have time to enjoy my home. And what do I do? I say "yes" to filling in while a girl is on maternity leave. Someone should beat me over that. 

Yesterday morning I was reminded of WHY it's important for me to be here tending to my hearth and home. I'm working on a new story and I'm spending a lot of early mornings in my office, which happens to be the sunroom. I glanced out the window in time to see the sunlight hit the hillside. It's in these quick, quiet moments that I know I belong here on the manor. 

I live on the west side of the mountain. To the west of the manor, I can see the pink sky and the small town in the valley. The townies already have full sun, but I'm in the shadow of the mountain. It is on the hillside that I first see bright sunlight. It starts with a sliver of brightness that grows as it makes its way down the hill. It is constant, there in all seasons, present in every day, even on cloudy days when the rays of light slip under the clouds for far too brief a moment. These moments soothe the ache in my soul. 

I did the right thing by agreeing to fill in at the old job. But if they reach out again, the right thing will be to say no. I know this because of the quiet early morning hours and something as simple as the sunlight on the hillside. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

simple country pleasures, sunlight, peaceful mountain, right things, a writer's life, working hard, retirement, sunroom

November 16, 2023

Just when I thought it was safe to be retired again

It was going so well - for thirteen days. I thought I was finished and in the clear. My lovely protégé had given birth to a little girl, enjoyed her maternity leave, and was back at work. I was FREE!!!

Back it up for a moment. The poor girl was back to work for three days and came down with Covid. They called me to ask if I would do this one specific task. Just the one thing. And I said yes. 

The good news is that [probably] unbeknownst to the higher-ups, my protégé had it about fifty-percent finished. I just needed to tie up a few loose ends, correct a few typos, and voilà! It's done. I'll drop off a few printed copies and, please Lord! - I'm retired again. 

I hope it lasts this time!

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, retirement, country lifestyle, rural living, 

November 14, 2023

Frosty morning

We've been busy here at the manor. Work in the woodyard is progressing, albeit slowly. I cut and split a lot of the smaller logs on my own, and now the cousin needs to take care of the bigger logs. Usually, we work together, but our schedules haven't meshed the last two weeks.  

We had our first frost back on November 2. It wasn't a hard frost, though. The only plants I lost were the begonias, but they're pretty tender. The herbs in the Greenstalk are still green. 

The garden area is empty. The five-gallon buckets are empty. The grow bags are empty. It would seem a sad end to the season, but it's not. It's a readying for renewal. I've already got some seeds for next year and I'm planning what I want to concentrate on. This year I grew a little of a lot of different veggies. Next year I want to have one large crop with only a few smaller items. 

The mercury has dipped down into the low thirties at night and I've been firing-up the woodstove. Himself is happy because the living room gets toasty in the evening. I close the doors to the back of the house to keep the heat out. I like my bedroom to be cool so I sleep better. Opening the door about half an hour before I turn in warms the room up just enough. 

On the writing front, I finished Sumner's Garden and it's live at the vendors I use. Finishing that story was bittersweet. I've been writing for over twenty years and with the advent of artificial intelligence, I don't know if I want to continue to read, much less write. I was happy to see Amazon asking if the book I was offering for sale used AI in the writing. That's a NO. I don't like the idea of AI at all. I think its hidden dangers will be revealed too late to those who embrace it. 

It's time I got busy with freeze-drying again. I let it go over the summer in favor of canning, but I've laid out a plan to keep that unit working. 

The trees have shed almost all of their leaves so it's time to clean the gutters. Tomorrow looks to be the day with afternoon temps forecasted to be in the low sixties. After that, it'll be time to hop on a mower and chop some leaves. And if there's time, I'll bring over a tractor bucket of firewood and drop it outside the basement door. 

A frost isn't a bad thing. It simply signals it's time for different things to happen. It is a portent of the changes ahead, of the slide into winter sleep. The manor is ready for it. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, country living, rural living, changing seasons, frost, firewood, woodstove, home food preservation, freeze drying, Greenstalk, trees

November 5, 2023


Our planet, the Earth, spins at a particular speed of about 66,660 miles per hour. (We're all doing zoomies, we just don't know it!) It takes the Earth approximately 24 hours to complete a rotation. The hours of daylight versus darkness depend upon the angle of the Earth's axis as it rotates. The number of hours of daylight we have every day is not dependent upon a manmade clock. 

We've "turned back the clocks" again this morning. Yeah, so I'm up and blogging a 5:41 a.m. and I know it's really 6:41 a.m. 

My DOG knows it's really 6:41 a.m., too. He knows when it's time to get up to go outside to do his morning activities. My dog is smarter than the average human. 

I'd prefer we stay on Daylight Saving Time all year, although now that I'm retired it hardly matters. When it's daylight and the outside temperature is conducive to whatever chores need to be done, I go do them. It was different and more difficult when I had to drive to a job five days a week.

I remember my grandfather saying he'd do *whatever* when it was time to do it. After he retired only two times on the clock mattered - what time did the Orioles baseball game come on, and was it time to go bowling? I thought he was crazy back in the day, but I understand it now. 

You can't harvest in the garden until the sun has dried the dew off the plants. You don't mow wet grass, either. You work in the woodyard in the daylight. You feed chickens in the daylight. You go fishing when the bugs are flying. On the homestead, you don't live by the clock but by the sun and moon. 

The clock on my computer now reads 6:02 a.m. It's still dark. That's okay. I can do my computer work before daylight. The time doesn't really matter. And there is time to enjoy a cup of coffee before daylight. 

Deuce has been outside, but when it's daylight we'll go for a stroll and I can keep an eye on him. A black dog disappears at night. The time on the clock won't matter. Later in the morning I'll go out to the woodyard and split another tractor bucket full of wood. The time on the clock won't matter, but the temperature will. 

Changing the time on the clock is a way to manipulate people and control when and how we do things. Is it really necessary? No one breezes through the bi-annual time changes. Everyone gets surly even if they manage not to show it.   

Changing time was likely a good and necessary wartime maneuver back in 1916, but one hundred and seven years later, it feels like government interference. Our modern lives don't need it. Farmers and country folk have never needed it. City dwellers depending on the grid don't actually need it either since their lives are spent more indoors than outdoors. 

Yes, everyone is adjusted to the "new time" within about a week, but I wonder how much longer humans will be able to adjust. On the whole, we're no longer a well-adjusted bunch. Something is sure as hell going on with humans and messing with our sleep patterns doesn't help. 

I have questions and concerns as to whether this time change nonsense is still a good option.

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Daylight Saving Time, time management, government interference, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, black Labrador Retriever

November 4, 2023

The days go by fast

I'm happy to have completed a six-week stint filling in for the young woman who took my position when I retired. She's been on maternity leave and I was asked to help keep the office afloat. It was a lot more stressful than I thought it would be, but now it's in the past. I posted a bit about it over on my writing blog, Between the Keys. The bottom line is that I'm delighted I can return to my real life here at Holly Tree Manor. 

Even with spending time back on the job, I managed to get a few things accomplished. The gardening season finished and firewood season began. The firewood for the 2024-25 winter got a big boost when I hired a service to take down the leaning maple. That maple had been leaning since 2003 when Hurricane Isabel hit us. 

The Mad Canner was busy, too. I made and canned apple pie filling and curried apple chutney, plus chicken and beef broth for the pantry. 

Autumn is waning and we're drifting toward winter. The nights have really cooled down and I've had the woodstove burning. We get some rather wide temperature swings this time of year so I need to pay attention to the weather forecast to balance using the woodstove with cycling the heat pump. On sunny afternoons, I don't need either one. 

I don't mind the changing of the seasons. There is beauty in each one, and each brings a set of chores to be done. Yesterday, I worked in the woodyard for about an hour and a half, then hopped on the X370 John Deere mower to chop leaves. This time of year the leaves are a never-ending task, but I can't let them smother my poor grass. I estimate I'll need to mow the leaves two, possibly three, more times, and the leaf blower will get a workout, too. I don't mind that job, either. I love being outside. 

Dawn has passed and there is blue sky overhead. It's time to join the Lord of the Manor for morning coffee and to find out if he's feeling up to helping me any today. I'll get more rounds cut if he's on the tractor using the brush crusher to lift and hold them for me. But I can do it by myself if necessary.

That's one of the things living in the country has taught me. It is up to me. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, firewood, John Deere x370, John Deere 1023, autumn, country lifestyle, rural living, empowered women, home food preservation, apple pie filling, a writer's life