Huckleberry Heaven

One of the highlights of the long trip I took last week is that it put me in in huckleberry heaven, an area of Montana where they are so plentiful if you are willing to get out your checkbook you can buy them.Local folks collect them by the gallons and sell them for crazy folks like me.    I did just that, took out my hard-earned cash, and came home with a gallon of the rare delight, huckleberries  

I had never heard of huckleberries before moving to Montana other than Huckleberry Hound and Huckleberry Finn.   Once here, like all the natives I became enamored with the fruit.     For those of you who have not experienced them here is a little primer. They are sort of like a blueberry, but they have a much more distinct fruity aroma that any blueberry.   They will create stains on any and everything, and huckleberries make the stains from blueberries, beets and black walnut skins look like amateur hour.   If you intend to pick them you need to go in twos one to pick and one to carry the bear spray.    Don’t expect anyone to take you to their spot to pick.  Spots are more sacred than a gold find and are never shared with anyone.   

Huckleberries

Having said all that I now have five pints of huckleberry sauce that can be used on everything you can think up.   Last night it was served on ice cream.   For breakfast we had it on french toast.   Tonight we plan to have it on cheese cake.   Tomorrow a little will go on my yogurt with my granola.   There is nothing that isn’t a little better with a little huckleberry sauce.  

 

 

Home Again

I just spent the week on the road traveling to the far corners of Montana for work.  We covered about 1800 miles in five days.   We traveled from the mountains to the prairies.   We saw our big cities and some of the remotest areas of Montana, even natives never get to.  I learned how to say the names on the map correctly.

I stopped in Opheim and could see Canada at the far end of Main Street.   I was in Plentywood just miles from the North Dakota border.    I was in Alzeda just miles from South Dakota and Wyoming, and the local bar claims to be conveniently located in the middle of nowhere.  I don’t think that they are stretching it one bit.

Now I am home again in my corner of southwest Montana.   I am thrilled to sit here in my living room ,  a space larger than a pick up cab.   Enjoying the holiday weekend that celebrates the fact I work and my blessings of home.

End of the Line – Land Line That Is

Today I cancelled our land line.  It was a bittersweet end since I can remember the days when a landline was all there was.   It was a sort of security blanket that had become more expensive than it was worth.  As I thought back about  my life long affair with the telephone I thought of all the changes that had occurred in something seemingly so simple as the telephone.   Here are some of the things that I remember

This looks much like the first phone I remember having.

  1. I remember when our phone had a cloth-covered wire cord that was not permanently coiled.  The handset weighted about five pounds.
  2. I remember when the local phone company was the Morrison Telephone Company and you could pay your bill right there at the local office, the only office, in Morrison, Illinois.
  3. I remember when you only had 4 numbers in your phone number.
  4. I remember having a party line.
  5. I remember when Ma Bell bought the Morrison Telephone Company out and they came to our house to replace our heavy clunker phone with the cloth cord with a new shiny black plastic phone with a permanently coiled cord.
  6. I remember when we got a private line.
  7. I remember when you dialed the operator you got someone you knew at the local phone company, and they actually could help you because they knew your family.
  8. I remember phone booths.
  9. I remember three-tiered telephone rates, daytime, evening and nights and weekends.   You called long distance according to the clock to save money.
  10. I remember calling “home” person to person to let my folks know I arrived without paying for a long-distance phone call.
  11. I remember when you phone was hard wired and you could not just unplug it and move it.
  12. I remember when you paid extra for extra extensions.
  13. I remember when you called directory assistance you were re-routed to the town you were calling about, and they could actually help you, because you were talking to someone in that town.
  14. I remember when your exchange (the three numbers between the area code and your phone number) meant something.   Beverly8-1511, meant you lived in the Beverly neighborhood and your first two numbers were found on the numbers were B and E appeared.
  15. I remember when rotary dial was the only option.
  16. I remember when you dialed the operator for an emergency not 911.   The operator knew who was calling and where from, heck she even knew my folks.   No need to tell her why I was calling.
  17. I remember when Ma Bell was broke up

Yep I grew up with the telephone.   I watched the marriage of Ma Bell and every little company she found.   I saw the demise of Ma Bell and all the came with it.   Now I am part of the huge exodus from the phone company.   They are not changing with the times, I wonder what it will look like just 10 years from now.   Will I recognize it or will it be as foreign as the little company that serviced the first phone I remember?

Slaving Over the Stove

We picked up a small bunch of apricots last week at Costco.   They were the last package and they called my name as I love apricot jam.  I love to can and make jams but have no need to make or desire to have a dozen pints of anything.   I have been doing lots of reading about small size jam making and decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try it out. I was going to make two or three half pints of sunshine in a jar…apricot jam with a little bit of apricot brandy in it.

I grew up with a mother who canned and have done a fair amount myself over the years, but nothing like I was going to try this time. Part of it plays into the fact my house is at 6,000 feet above sea level and that impacts how long things have to process and the temperatures that it reaches are not the same as the cookbooks state.   I was going to have adjust for where I lived.   The second factor was most of my tools were nothing like what I had used in the past.   No big old white and blue speckled enamel canner and not measuring ingredients in pints, quarts and pounds.   I was going to use my stock pot to do the water bath not the big old kettle.   I bought a nifty little jar holder on Amazon. It was a simple wire rack just like Mom had, no sturdier or fancier.  This one fit in my much smaller stock pot (just under 9 inches across) and could only hold 5 half-pints.   I also used my largest in diameter skillet to cook the apricots, no big heavy old pot.     The theory in all of this is that the larger air surface allowed for “quicker” evaporation i.e. shorter cooking times.   I honestly don’t know if it was true, but I ended up with jam.

Making jam in a very small batch

Making jam in a very small batch

When I was done I had two 8-ounce jars and two 4-ounce jars of jam.  It all set up very nicely, in spite of the fact I could not find my thermometer and had to use the sheet test.  Thank heavens I still had an old Ball canning book from years ago when people tested by look and not temperature on a thermometer.    Some of the jars  did not seal, but I attribute that to the instructions having me pulling the jars and setting them on a towel while I cooked the jam.   In the future I will leave them in the pan of hot water until I fill them like in times past and the old Ball book suggested and I used to do.     So my first small jars of sunshine in a jar  will need to be given and used as gifts immediately instead of saving for the winter, but oh well I had fun and it is pretty yummy.

IMAG0105

Bounty for my larder

Procarstination Caught Up with Me

We have been working on redoing our kitchen now for a couple of years.   We have been doing the pay as you go plan and are nearly done.   I have a few things yet to do, but the one I knew was coming but had been dragging my heels on was the refrigerator.    It had been freezing certain areas of the refrig  causing me to loose tons of fresh produce.   Yet it was always  frosting up areas of the freezer as though the door was left open.   Our trusty appliance repair man had looked at it and told us it was time to move on.      The refrigerator was old enough  that from an energy standpoint it needed to go; technology and energy efficiency had moved on.   It was so small that it really wasn’t large enough for us since we don’t shop groceries very often.   Suddenly this week the freezer portion of it went nuts and the time to replace it was NOW.

All my months of browsing the  appliance department every time I was near a large box store or the local appliance store had come to a halt.   Time for research and looking had come to an immediate end.    My quirky demands for some things that could only be found on the highest end refrigerator  and the desire for other things that could only be found on the lowest end models no longer mattered.    I could  no longer refused certain things and demanded other things.  Compromise and prioritize were my first and second names.   I also was a realist that I wasn’t going to find any refrigerator that I wanted for the price point I was seeking.   Nothing in my research had even come close to what I wanted to spend.    I checked online and the big box stores would take 10-14 days to deliver to my local.   So  I took some time off of work Thursday and went to the local appliance shop and found my new refrigerator.

It reminded me again of the joys of shopping locally.   The local store doesn’t keep much  stock on hand, but then what store does now days.   They did have white refrigerator, that they were willing to deliver out to my place the next day even if Friday was rural north and I was rural South.   It was just too small and I was giving up everything I really wanted, so I passed.   My salesman had already talked to the owner and they both knew I was in a bind but wasn’t going to just settle.  So we looked at things I liked and looked at when the next shipments were coming from the various makers.  Calls were made to see if they could x or y and how soon.   We got lucky in that a shipment was coming from one manufacture and they were able to add an add-on item and it will be in store on Tuesday.  It will be at my house on Wednesday (still not a rural south delivery day).   These folks understood my dilemma.   They wanted my business because each of them knew it made a difference.  Most of all they had no corporate policy that could not be changed or bent, they right then and there could make a decision that was out of their normal practice to make my life a little easier.

It wasn’t easy to get here, but now that the purchase is done I am ready for it to arrive and be one step closer to done.   In the meantime all the stuff that used to be in my upstairs refrigerator is now in the deep freeze in the basement and the meter wheel on my electricity is whirling like crazy.

 

Summer is Short – Enjoy it Your Way

Today we took our bikes out and rode in the Mt. Haggen Wildlife Management Area in SW Montana.    It was a great way to spend a summer day for Mr. RangerSir and I.   We climbed too many hills but the vistas were wonderful.   They reminded us of some of the many joys that we have without spending lots of dough or really leaving home.    The temps were perfect.   The Indian Paintbrush was blooming.   The sunscreen worked.  No mechanical problems.   Mr. RangerSir had control of  the camera and went crazy capturing the day. We enjoyed the day and each other.

wpicSo whatever it is you enjoy, do it.   Have no worries about what will happen tomorrow it will arrive right on schedule.   Summer will be here only for a short while.

Where were you?

Fourty-five years ago today was the historic moment when man first stepped on the moon.   I was a young girl and not in to all that space stuff, like my husband was, yet I can remember that day. It was a defining moment in history of what we could do if we set our minds to it.

July 20, 1969 Man on the moon.

I was at the cabin on Pike Bay in northern Minnesota.   It was a cabin like so many at that time, without running water or telephone.   I had been there many times and would be there many more, yet this was the only time that we ever had a TV at the cabin.   The portable television with tinfoil on the rabbit ears sat next to the Victrola.  Granny, Uncle Phil and I sat on three hardback kitchen chairs around the snow screen watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon as a Super8 movie camera on a tripod captured it all.

Space travel was real and walking on the moon seemed possible, but until it happened it was just a wee be incredulous.   Suddenly it was real, it had happened and I had seen it.   We, the US of A,  had done it.   As a family full of military men it was a moment of great pride because we had done it first.  We had won the space race ahead of the Russian, in the midst of the Cold War.

It was an amazing time and I got to experience it.