Spring in Montana – This Means Snow!

This week has been full of reminders of what spring in Montana is like.  Snow and more snow.   Almost everyday we woke up to snow.   We were just above the snow line.   Spring will not happen for us until the snow line moves up another 1,000 feet.   For us that means sometime in June.   Today it feels like  an eternity into the future.

Even the chickens are wondering if we will have snow every morning this summer.

Even the chickens are wondering if we will have snow every morning this spring.

As much as I am ready to turn the soil and put seeds in the ground I know that we will have night-time freezes for weeks to come.   For some reason this year I am not ready to wait that long.   It means that I am going to need to explore season extenders that will work with my low temperatures, occasional snow, regular frosts, howling winds and a small budget.  No putting  seedlings in the ground and covering them occasionally with sheets.    This is going to take a plan and daily effort to get things to go all the way to harvest.

So I hope you will follow along and give me your thoughts and suggestions as I figure out how to extend my growing season on a shoestring.

Four Years and Counting

I have been blogging now for just over four years.    Sometimes I feel like what I write about is a bit of a retread, and I began to ask myself had this blog run it course and it was time to move on.    I’ve spent lots of time the last a few weeks thinking about this  and have come to realize that I am going to continue share my perspective of what I see when I look out on to the window of the world.

I am in the second  half of life.  I have a whole amazing collection of experiences to draw upon now.    I think it is an interesting perspective, in that some of what happens to me is ” been there done that” and I am so much smarter now.   Yet there is much of this happening for the first time.    Those things that are happening  first time  are things, are  likely such that my decisions ware more critical in that I will have much less time to make corrections and have fewer opportunities at  re-dos.

In the second half of my life I am much more committed to somethings and willing to let other things go.   I take much more joy from life now and this reflection about my blog has reminded me to not waste my time. There is lots more to write about, and even old things may look new.   I am still passionate about life and writing.    So I hope you  will hang around on my blog for awhile longer and visit as I reflect on life as I look out the window.  There will be more stories about wrangling my backyard flock of chickens, recipes and foodie stories, photos and sharing the beauty of nature,  life with my friends and RangerSir along with reflections that come with life.

 

Easter Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

Each year we spend Easter with friends, and my job is to bring rolls.   Over the years I have brought rolls from various recipes, when I stumbled in 2011 the one that has been declared the winner.    It is based on a recipe I got from the following cookbook: A Montana Table, Recipes from Chico Hot Springs Resort by Seabring Davis.

It is a favorite such that when these arrive the women chatting in the kitchen are known to eat these  a quarter and a half roll at time.   Often by the time the actual brunch time arrives there are only a couple of rolls left   These rolls are decant in every manner, but once a year it is OK to make a small indulgence in half a roll.  If you fall off the “good” eating wagon, make sure you had something rare, tasty and enjoyed it.   Make it worthy of no regrets.

My Buxton Caramel Rolls

Ingredients:
Rolls:
  • about 3 cups good white flour (I use Montana Wheat White), extra as needed
  •  1/4 plus two tablespoons of white sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, general all purpose
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons Crisco
  • 1 egg, room temperature
Filling:
  • 1/2 pound butter, soften/room temperature (no margarine)
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (it should hold its shape when taken out of the measuring cup
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon ( 1 teaspoon general all purpose cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon Vietnamese cinnamon) this is a critical secret I am sharing.
Topping:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Instructions:

Melt the Crisco and butter in warm water (120 degrees).   When it is at 110 degrees add 1 tablespoon sugar and yeast.   Set aside about 5 minutes.   You want a layer of bubbles on the yeast mixture (you are making sure that the yeast is active).   Add the room temperature egg, mix well.   (Do not use a cold egg!)

Set aside about 1/2 cut of flour.   In large bowl mix all dry ingredients except that flour you held back.   Add yeast mixture and mix well.   Using your hand add remaining flour until the dough cleans the side of the bowl.  Do NOT add too much flour as it will make your rolls dry and tough.     Rub with oil, cover bowl with plastic wrap and towel.   Allow to double in size, about 45 minutes.

Here is the topping in the pan before I put the rolls on it.   This will turn into a caramel topping as the rolls cook in the oven.

Here is the topping in the pan before I put the rolls on it. This will turn into a caramel topping as the rolls cook in the oven.

 

While the rolls rise make the filling and topping. Mix filling ingredients until like a paste and set aside.  Mix topping ingredients with mix-master until it reaches the consistency of a frosting  or a cream that will hold its shape when the beaters are removed.  Pour into a 9 x 13 pan.

It is a paste of cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar ready to be rolled up in to the spiral of the rolls.

It is a paste of cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar ready to be rolled up in to the spiral of the rolls.

When the dough has risen, dump out onto a floured board.   Roll  out into a rectangle 18×10 (yes I use a ruler, because you don’t want it to get too thin)  Spread with filling.   Roll up.  Cut into 12 equal pieces.   Put pieces into the 9×13 pan.

Yes there is a ruler on the bread board.   Making sure that the rolls are of uniform size is critical for even cooking.

Yes there is a ruler on the bread board. Making sure that the rolls are of uniform size is critical for even cooking.

Spray with oil, cover with plastic wrap and towel.  Let rise until double in size about an hour.  (they should nearly be touching)   Bake in preheated oven at 350 about 30-45 minutes.  It is about 35 minutes for me in the convection oven.

It is important to cover the rolls with oil and plastic to keep the rolls soft and make rising easy.

It is important to cover the rolls with oil and plastic to keep the rolls soft and make rising easy.

 

When you remove from oven, immediately flip plan, scraping any sauce left in the pan over the rolls.   Allow to cool slightly and serve.

These are for me some of the absolutely best caramel cinnamon roll that I have ever made or ate.

These are for me some of the absolutely best caramel cinnamon roll that I have ever made or ate.

 

Granny’s Take on Holy Week

When I was a kid we still got  Good Friday and Easter Monday off of school.    Many businesses also operated on abbreviated hours during those days as well.  Growing up I often spent Easter with my Grandparents.   My Grandparents in Chicago would drive  from one edge of the state to to the other to pick me up; a long drive before the advent of the interstate system.  Being with them during  holy week  left memories about the holy season that has stayed with me all my life.

My Granddad was a Methodist minister, and Granny was the standard good minister’s wife.   She belonged to to all the ladies clubs and could be seen at church each time a service was held.   She rode shotgun and supported him and the message he delivered. My Granddad  went to work each day and I was left to spend the day with Granny.    It was she who shared with me that from her perspective that Easter was the biggest Christian holiday.  She felt that the rising of Christ clearly trumped Christmas.   The completion of miracle of the triumph over death for us was the single thing most important thing to a Christian, when Granny told the story.

One of my most vivid memories was of going to church several times during holy week.  Of course we went to church on Palm Sunday, the first day of holy week.   It was full of hymns that in my memory were the same ones sung every year.   It seems  that hymns sung were known to everyone in attendance; those who came to church every Sunday and those who only came a few times a year.  None of the mumbling along a note or two behind the organist, with people wondering who had picked this obscure hymn to sing. I always enjoyed it when the whole congregation could sign a hymn together, those who had wonderful voices and folks like me who were tone deaf and could not sing on key no matter the tune.    We would then go to church again on Maundy Thursday, the day of the last supper.      Finally Good Friday would come and we would go to church acknowledging the death of Christ. Lent always seemed like a time of a great dark cloud to me.   We’d get dressed up in our going to church dud and go to church over and over knowing what the outcome would be the same.

Granny would during the Easter season play Handel’s Messiah over and over.   It was through this repetitive exposure, that this I came to understand that this oratorio.   Granny caused me to  actually came to listen to the words and came to understand that much of it came from a version of the Psalms.  I love to hear it during the Christmas season when so many do public performances of this are done, but during Eastertide I dig out my classic version done by the London Symphony and the non-traditional Soulful Celebration.

Granny has long since passed away, and before that time it had been years since I spent any time around Easter with her.  Yet this holiday season I think of the foundation  and perspective they gave me.

 

Comfort Food – What is yours?

I have come down with one of the nastiest bugs that I have had in ages.    I went to the walk-in clinic after a couple of days, waiting for the virus to pass.   It turns I have a strep throat, a monster ear infection, and the beginnings of bronchitis.   Today I ended up feeling worse than I had in the three prior days even though I was now on antibiotics.  It turns out I was coming down with a migraine this afternoon along with everything else.   Life’s a bitch no two ways about it.

Each of us have memories of mother, grandmother or someone dear to our lives making something special to eat when we were in sick as children.   Tonight RangerSir offered to make my comfort foods: mother’s chicken with rice soup and tapioca pudding served warm with cinnamon sugar.     Mother’s chicken with rice soup is bland and thick, almost wallpaper paste thick, but nothing hits the spot better when I am feeling poorly.  Tapioca pudding is not something I crave any other time and once it cools it does not have the same appeal as it does warm.  Two of my grandmas made it form me.

As I write about my comfort foods, I come to realize they sure don’t sound like tasty treats, but they do the trick when nothing else will do.  I eat them when I don’t want to eat, it hurts to eat and nothing will stay down.    What are your comfort foods when you are under the weather?

Joy of Pets

blog-04-13I just spent the better part of the week on the road for work.   I am home again and reminded the joy of owning pets.  Each of them brings something different to the the household.   My dog brings a sense of spunkiness and a challenge of a stubborn personality.    My cat brings that that quiet acceptance.  All of it so enjoyable after a week away from it.

I Get My Best Work Done While He Sleeps

10 am isn’t too late for RangerSir

My husband is not a morning person.    The only times I have known him to look forward to getting up early is when he is either going fishing  or trying to experience some wilderness/wildlife that you can only see as the sun breaks in the morning.    I on the other hand am up at the crack of dawn and ready to go.   Though this can be a source of constant frustration after over 35 years together I have learned to embrace the man who is still sleeping.   He relishes his extra time in bed and I relish my time alone.

Yesterday while he was sleeping I spent the morning in my studio space making cards.   I had five cards I had created the base for, but they somehow became a mind cramp.   I had put them aside hoping they would once again move me.    They had sat there for several weeks.   I had received a new die packaged on  Friday. Time to pull those half-finished cards out and top them off with new creativity.   I listen to music and watched the world come alive outside my windows. It wasn’t long and my cards were finished.    I had not only used my new dies but finished off some odds and ends in my stash of trash and tried some techniques I had seen on YouTube.

This morning I spent some time again in my studio space, purging some things that needed to go.  I used to teach quilting and have quite a collection of reference books and patterns I used over the years.    I am finally ready to let go of some of them.   I also did some more dusting and cleaning as I found more corners that the chick dust had settled in.    It  got my creative juices going.    It was time  to spend a few minutes with all of you.  I knew what to blog about.

This is desire to sleep in is not to say if we have plans he can’t be up on a Saturday morning, but you need to decide on what time you need to be out the door the night before  in order for it all to work.   RangerSir takes a minimum of  an hour to join the living in his own special way.    So if we decide to go to the city to shop big chain stores  at  8 am it  means he sets his alarm at least two hours before that and we don’t talk until we are in the rig driving down the road toward the interstate.   He gets ready in ways I can’t imagine, while he after all this time he is still astounded that I can go from bed to door in 15 minutes including a shower.

As I sit here writing about all of this I think he could be writing about how I am ready to be quiet each night by 8pm.  I am not a night owl when I don’t have to be.   He enjoys when I check out for the day it frees him to pursue things I don’t get.    If I had my druther we would not have TV while RangerSir finds it to be an unwind tool.    RangerSir  really enjoys good sci-fi of several different genres in books, movies and TV.  He looks forward to the time I curl up in my chair or bed, listening to my end-of day-playlists on my iPod.   He then drags out either DVDs of favorite series he is watching for the umpteenth time or streams a series that he has not had the opportunity to watch correctly (in order/without commercials).    Like my morning time it is his time to do just what he wants how he wants.

While we do so much together, our lives have naturally somehow have a built in time for each of us to recharge alone.   It wasn’t something we planned.   Life just worked out that way.