Sunday, July 31, 2011

Where's Waldo?

"Waldo" is the name I have affectionately given to the Praying Mantis in my flower garden.  He is named after the main character of the classic children's book, which bears his name.

As weather permits, I occasionally sit out on my front porch between visits of customers.  While out there I have the opportunity to view another world - that of garden insects.  My garden is adjacent to my porch, and affords me a good vantage point.  Waldo is just one of the many different species who inhabit that world inside my garden.  I have observed spiders, walking sticks, ants, bees, butterflies and all sorts of others, who I don't know by name.  It takes patience and careful observation to see these tiny creatures in their natural habitat; but the show is worth the admission!

Waldo caught my eye one day, even though he was well camouflaged. (Much like his namesake!) I have seen him many times since, but have never seen what he is "praying" for - which I assume would involve his devouring a fresh meal.  I'm not sure I'd really like to see another insect eaten alive by him anyway!  But, it is always an astonishment to me to get a glimpse into the vast realms of God's creation.

If you want to learn more about "Praying Mantises" you can go to on the internet.
Oh, and remember to pray before you eat your meals!  The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

"The voices of nature do not speak so plainly to us as we grow older."  Laura Ingalls Wilder

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Farmer Boy Blackberry Cobbler

I've heard it said that, "You can tell if a fella is from the Ozarks by the blackberry stains around the outside of his mouth."  Well, that's probably not far from the truth!  If there's a farm in the Ozarks - there are blackberries growing there!  It is said that, as a small child, Rose (Laura's daughter) picked berries and sold them to help finance their Rocky Ridge Farm.

Once you get past the ticks, chiggers, and the thorns; you can enjoy picking those big, juicy berries!  I have a patch out back with tame, Jumbo berries.  If I had to do it over, I'd choose a thornless variety instead.  Either that or I would have stock in a bug repellant company!  But I'm not complaining.  Every bite and scratch is worth it!

Cobblers became a popular dessert item in this country in the early 1800's.  I'd bet they would have been popular before that if the Ozarks had been open for settlement before that!

I've seen (and tried) a number of different cobbler recipes over the years, but this is the one I've adopted.  It is quick and easy, so you can enjoy it as soon as possible!  Life's too short to wait for something as good as this!  I'll even sacrifice and heat up the kitchen in the summer to get to eat this dish, made with fresh-picked berries!  But it is great anytime of the year, made with frozen berries.

  • 4 Cups - fresh Ozarks Blackberries
  • 1 Tablespoon - lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon - ground cinnamon        
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Cup - sugar
  • 1 Cup - all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tablespoons - butter (melted)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place the berries in a lightly greased 8 inch square baking pan.*   Sprinkle with the cinnamon and lemon juice.  Stir together the egg, sugar and flour in a bowl - till the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.  Sprinkle this over the berries.  Drizzle the melted butter over the top.  Bake for 35 minutes or till lightly browned and bubbly.  Let it stand to cool for 10 minutes.  (Wow, the longest 10 minutes of your life!)
Serve warm, topped with whipped cream, if desired. Or, if you've really thought ahead: serve with a scoop of homemade Vanilla ice cream!
* You could also bake this same amount, using 6 ramekins (8 oz. each).  You'll need to put aluminum foil under the baking so that it catches the overflow.

I sure feel sorry for you, who don't have Ozarks blackberries!  You'll just have to use whatever variety you can find.  If you make this, let us all know by leaving a comment here.  Thanks. The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

"People used to have time to live and enjoy themselves, but there is no time anymore for anything but work, work, work."  Laura Ingalls Wilder

Handmade Lap Robes & Pillows

In my shop I have a few handmade treasures to share with Laura fans.  Lap Robes and Pillows are just such examples.  (Lap Robes were a small quilt-type blanket worn on the lap when you would go out in the open buggy during a cold season. You can read about them in Laura's books.) These lap robes and pillows are handmade by Esther Jones.  Esther is now 93 years old.  Up until last year she was still able to make these wonderful works of art.  Now, arthritis and other ailments of the aged artisan, prevent her from completing any more.  She had made them for decades; from her own design.  She did all her work by hand - without the use of a sewing machine!   Now, that is a lost and dying art!

You may ask, "What is her connection to Laura?"  Well, Esther was a friend of Neta Seal.  Neta was a long time, close friend of Laura and Almanzo; having first met during the 1930's.  One notable adventure was when Neta and her husband shared a road trip to California and South Dakota with Laura and Almanzo. But that is another story.
Back to Esther -
As Neta grew older she needed someone to care for her and her house.  It was Esther who did that.  She moved in with her and took over all the necessary duties.  She faithfully cared for Neta till her dying day.

Esther, a good friend of mine, has lived in Mansfield most all of her life.  She wasn't of the same era as Laura and only knew her at a distance, as a nice lady who attended the same church.  But she told me a story of how, as a young girl, she had seen Rose, (Laura & Almanzo's daughter) out, riding on horseback with some girl friends. Esther recalled how she and her friends laughed about it, because not only was Rose wearing britches, (not common for a young lady in those days and almost shameful!) but, they were odd-looking English Equestrian type britches!

Esther also mentioned how, while taking care of Neta, people would come to see where Laura had lived and visit with Neta.  They would ask Neta all kinds of questions about Laura.  Neta did her best to answer them all.  They also were hoping to take something home that had belonged to Laura.  Neta was as obliging as possible, without giving away anything of real value or that which was really treasured.  Esther came up with a solution - she would package up some stones from the yard, explaining that it was ground that both Neta and Laura had walked upon.  The visitors treasured this as much as anything!  And today, I have taken Esther's suggestion and have packaged up stones, twigs, leaves and other things collected off the ground at Rocky Ridge Farm.  I ask only a minimal price to cover the packaging and my efforts.  And visitors are still very appreciative!

You may not need a Lap Robe to go out riding in a buggy, but they are nostalic of Laura and her lifetime.  I have priced the last of Esther's Lap Robes and Pillows far below what is a normal price for anyone's lap robes; so they are quite affordable.  If you hurry, you might still be able to snatch one up before they are all gone!  In the meantime, we'll have to just enjoy this picture of them.   Soon, all we will have is a great memory and this picture.

Esther observed that, "If you give people what they want, they will be happy."  I thoroughly agree!  That's why I have my shop and the treasures in it available to all.
I thank the Lord that I was able to become friends with such a great lady.  And it is nice to think of the connection I have to Laura through Esther.

"Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you."  Laura Ingalls Wilder

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thanks for your comments!

Thanks for your comments!  Because of a technical glitch I am unable to answer your comments here directly. But Please don't stop making comments here! Every reader is important to me.  I need your comments to know how I'm doing and what you enjoy reading on this blog site.  If you haven't made any comments - don't be afraid to do so.  You are appreciated!
Thanks! The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Monday, July 25, 2011

Farmer Boy Recipe - Country-Style Ratatouille

This is not a story about an animated Rat in a movie!  (Even though that is a cute movie.)  This is my concoction for a special summer garden harvest.  It differs from the traditional Ratatouille recipe with the addition of summer yellow squash.

Ratatouille comes from the French region of Provence.  The first part of the name (Rata) can be translated as, "Chunky".  The second part comes from a French verb, meaning "to stir".  The slang, or common use, is that it is "Chunky Stew".  No matter what its names means, it is good!

I usually try to plan a garden so that all the veggies come to harvest together at the time I need them.  This year my Eggplants didn't co-operate!  I had to buy some to prepare this dish.  But that's okay; when they do come to harvest I'll be able to make this again!  Shakespeare said, "the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry."  That's the way it is in gardening; some years it all works together and others it doesn't.

This is a dish that you can run wild with!  I even save some to cook in scrambled eggs for breakfast!  And I'm not opposed to the addition of sliced mushrooms!  I've made this dish for over 25 years now and have many variations.  And there have been some failures; which we won't go into here!  So, remember, cooking should be fun!

  • 1/4 Cup - Olive Oil
  • 1 medium - Eggplant (peeled & cubed into 1 inch cubes)  (I like to grow the oriental variety)
  • 1 large - Zucchini (cut into 1 cubes)
  • 1 large - Yellow Squash (cut into 1 inch cubes)

  • 2 Tablespoons - Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 Cups - sliced Onions (I prefer Vidalia)
  • 2 large - Bell Peppers (cut into 1 inch strips)
  • 3 cloves of Garlic (chopped)
  • Salt & Pepper - to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons - Basil
  • 4 medium to large - Tomatoes (unpeeled & unseeded - cubed) (Plum work best)
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese - to taste
Directions: (you may wish to salt down the eggplant in a bowl and let it sit to release extra moisture & then drain before cooking)
In a large skillet or Dutch Oven - saute the eggplant, zucchini and squash in the oil, stirring on high heat, till tender (about 10 - 12 minutes).  Remove the veggies from the pan.  Add 2 Tablespoons of oil and saute the onions over medium heat.  Add the Bell peppers and garlic.  Cook till tender (about 8 - 10 minuts).  Return the other veggies to the pan, along with the tomatoes.  Season with the salt, pepper and basil.  Cover over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. 
Serve over cooked rice or noodles, topped with Parmesan cheese.  Tastes really good reheated the next day!   *Please note: No rats were harmed in the preparation.

If you prepare this dish and like it, please let us all know by leaving a comment here.  Thanks. The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

"There is something in living close to the great elemental forces of nature that causes people to rise above small annoyances and discomforts." Laura Ingalls Wilder

Friday, July 22, 2011

Farmer Boy Recipe - Zucchini Bread

Zucchini plants take up half of my little veggie garden bed; and I was hoping to get the crop in and the plants out in order to plant something for fall.  But for weeks the fruit of the plants stayed tiny.  I thought I had done everything to help them to grow normally.  But, for some reason, they decided to stay stunted - till yesterday, when they took off!  So I had to gather them before they became behemoth size!

I have specific plans for the smaller ones and I'll share those recipes as I'm able.  Since these got out of hand so quickly, I'm sharing this recipe with you now.

Farmer Boy Zucchini Bread

  • 3 Cups - flour (I use 1/2 whole wheat & 1/2 all-purpose)
  • 1 teaspoon - baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon - salt
  • 3 teaspoons - baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons - pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 Cup - chopped nuts (I prefer Pecans or Walnuts)

  • 3 - eggs
  • 1 Cup - dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 Cup - regular granulated sugar
  • 3/4 Cup - oil (use which ever kind you like)
  • 3 teaspoons - vanilla extract
  • 2 Cups - shredded zucchini (drain off all moisture)
  • 3/4 Cup - raisins

Combine all the first 6 dry ingredients and set aside.  Beat the eggs, sugars and oil on high speed, till mixture is light and fluffy. (about 3 minutes)  Stir in the vanilla, zucchini and raisins.  Add the dry ingredients gradually.  Divide into 2 greased and floured loaf pans.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 55 minutes. (test with toothpick)  Remove from pan to cool on rack. 

If you make this recipe, please let us all know how it turns out for you by commenting here.  Thanks. The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

"The remedy for the evils of high prices is increased production." Laura Ingalls Wilder

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Unexpected Visitor

Last week I had a very special unexpected visitor pop into my shop.  It was internationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder researcher, Nancy Cleaveland!  Up till this point, we had only corresponded by E-mail - since she lives a few states away from me.  So it was a delight to meet her in person.  While I still had my B&B up and running, she had made a reservation to stay with me, but had to cancel at the last minute.  So it was sure nice to finally get together with her.

Nancy has been a consultant to just about every venue of the "Little House" world.  She has aided many authors who have written books about Laura.  She has done vast, (seemingly endless!) research on people, places, and events in Laura's life; as well as that of most everyone in Laura's family and friends.

You can view some of her work on her web site which is linked on this page - "As a Laura Ingalls Wilder Researcher Thinks".  If you are an enthusiastic Laura fan, I urge you to take a look!  You'll be amazed and pleased at what she offers.  She has a copyright on her work - so don't copy it as your own!

I was truly blessed to be able to spend a few hours with Nancy, sharing our Laura.  I don't claim to be an authority on "Little House" lore, but I have gained so much knowledge from Nancy that I am able to share much more with visitors to my shop now.  As time goes on, and as the Lord allows, I'll share some of these things with you on this blog site.

And she even brought some things for me to sell at my shop.  You'll have to come and see what she brought!

Nancy, I hope to see you again real soon! 
The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Farmer Boy Recipe - Ozarks Blackberry Ice Cream

What happens in the Ozarks in July?  Well, I don't know about everybody else, but for me - my tame, Jumbo Blackberries begin to ripen.  What do I do with ripe blackberries?  That's a "NO-BRAINER"!  So, here's the recipe:

Ingredients: *Note: You'll need an Ice Cream Freezer to make this.
  • 8 Cups (about 1/2 gal.) - Blackberries (washed & dried)  (see the rest of the directions)
  • 1 1/2 Cups - Whole Milk
  • 1 1/2 Cups - Buttermilk
  • 6 Cups - Heavy Cream (Whipping Cream)
  • 2 Cups - Sugar
  • 2 - large Eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon - Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon - Vanilla
Thoroughly wash the berries.  Place them in a large bowl to dry.  Pour off the excess liquid.  Cover with the lemon juice.  Add 1/4 to 1/2 Cups of sugar and gently mix.  Cover the bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator.  Place the milks in a large saucepan & scald.  Let it cool down, then add the beaten eggs (be sure to temper them, by adding some of the warm milk to the eggs in a separate bowl and then add the eggs to the milk).  Add the cream, sugar and salt and bring to a simmer for at least 2 minutes.  Remove the pan to cool and place it in the refrigerator for anywhere up to 2 hours.
Combine the berries and the liquids.  Add the mixture to your machine & crank away!  Remove the ice cream to containers and place in the freezer to harden - it takes about 3 hours - but it is well worth the wait!  Makes about a gallon of rich, luscious, "to-die-for" ice cream!

If you don't live here, in the Ozarks and don't have Ozarks blackberries - I feel sorry for you.  You might try visiting here and talking me out of some.  (Fat Chance!) :)

Watch for more blackberry recipes later in the year.  If this recipe sounds good to you and you prepare it, please let me know by leaving a comment.  Thanks.  The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

"In the Ozark hills, neglected ground will grow up to wild blackberry briars, loaded with fruit in season.  As the shiftless old farmer said, 'Anyone can raise blackberries if he ain't too durned lazy.' "   Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tea Time with Laura Ingalls Wilder

I adhere to the statement, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!"  I try to remain optimistic in the face of adversity, trusting in the Lord to go through "The Valley of the Shadow of Death" along with me.  But this isn't about any of that - it's about:
"When the garden gives you mint, make tea!"

I've tried growing mint, catnip and other herbs in containers from seeds; but it never seems to work as good as when it just grows wild.  So when I discovered I had some wild mint growing in my garden, I cut some and dried it out to have as tea.  Life is just full of little surprises - some good, others not so good.  The mint tea is tasty as well as soothing to the stomach and relaxing, when those not-so-good times come!  Mint tea reduces stress, boosts the immune system; being rich in vitamin B, calcium and phosphorus.  During the hot days of summer I add about a cup to mint tea to a gallon jug of decaf sun tea.

Now, I'm not an Herbologist and don't recommend you just dive into cups of herbal teas without knowing what adverse effects it may have on any particular health condition you may have.  All I can do is tell you what good I get out of it.  If you have concerns for youself, I suggest you ask your physician or consult with an authority on herbs.

I enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of iced tea.  I think it tastes good and relaxes me.  And I think that herbal teas, without caffeine, are better than your "Run-of-the-mill" teas.  But these are just my opinions.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was a frequent visitor to my house.  She belonged to a number of women't discussion groups or clubs.  They would meet in each other's houses and have tea as they discussed things.  So when I have the opportunity to sit down and sip some tea, I think of Laura and her friends and neighbors.  I can pretend that she will be coming in to join me.

It is always a good thing to stop work for a while and sit down, relaxing with a cup of tea.  Sometimes you just have to force yourself to do what is good for you!  (And not feel guilty about it!)

"Work is like other good things in that it should not be indulged in to excess, but a reasonable amount that is of value to one's self and to the world, as is any honest, well-directed labor, need nver descend into drudgery."  Laura Ingalls Wilder

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Laura Ingalls Wilder - Alive and Well!

Laura Ingalls Wilder still lives today in the hearts of her readers.  There are still a handful of folks living in Mansfield who knew her personally.  But as an average of 50,000 fans annually come to visit here, she lives on.

She died in 1957, after living in Mansfield for some 63 years.  Her grave is found in the Mansfield Cemetery, along with those of her husband, Almanzo and daughter, Rose.  Many visitors leave flowers by her headstone, expressing their love and admiration.

She is also immortalized by a bronze bust of her in the park on the town square.  It is not a national monument, but I think it is amazing how a little pioneer lady could have such a huge and personal legacy!  Everyone who reads Laura's books feels like they know her personally, and perhaps they do.  If you are a fan of Laura's writings, a visit to her hometown and her historic home & museum may help you keep her alive in your heart.  And if you do visit here, I hope you'll stop by Laura's "Sweet Memories" and visit with me.  In the shop you can view the "Wall of Memories", which is a pictorial history, showing some of what happened during the lifetimes of Laura & Almanzo.  While you are here visiting, I'll be glad to introduce you to Laura.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Garden Fireworks!

July 4th saw new fireworks in my garden - Gladiolus in bloom!  I planted them a couple years ago and nothing came of them last year, so I was surprised and happy to see them.  You just never know what your efforts will bring!

"If we wish to help make beauty and joy in the world, living in it and becoming lovely ourselves, we must follow the example of the lotus (flower) and strive toward the light and purity into the sunshine of the good." Laura Ingalls Wilder

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

This just in...

It may not be big news for you, but it is for me!  My first crop of the year has come in from my little veggie garden!  And it may not be your favorite, but it is mine!  It is high in vitamins A, D, K and C, along with a host of others.  It serves to lower Cholesterol and aids in detoxification.  And it has a wallop of flavor!

Today' secret ingredient is --- Broccoli!

Farmer Boy Recipe
Here's another farm-fresh foods recipe:  This one comes from the "Caroline Ingalls School of Culinary Invention".  Ma Ingalls could seemingly put food on the table when there weren't any ingredients on hand!  She had to feed as many as six family members at one time and others as they arrived on the scene as well.  I've never had to do that, but I've often looked around the pantry and wondered what I could make for myself with limited provisions!  This is just one of those such recipes.  I call this one,

"Happy to meet you, Broccoli & Cheese"
  • 6 Cups - Broccoli (chopped - fresh or frozen)
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons - Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3-4 Tablespoons - Butter or Margarine
  • 1/2 Cup - Milk
  • 8oz. - Sharp Cheddar Cheese (grated)
  • 3/4 Cup - Cottage Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup - Bread Crumbs or Cracker Crumbs
  • Pinch of Paprika & Nutmeg
Blanch the broccoli and drain.  Make a dark roux with the flour, butter and half the milk.  Beat the eggs with the remaining milk.  Add the cheeses and the broccoli to the mix, along with the roux.  Stir till mixed well.  Pour into a buttered or oiled casserole dish.  Sprinkle with the Paprika & Nutmeg, and the crumbs.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 40 minutes, till the top is just turning a golden brown.
This is good as a side-dish with baked ham, or fried chicken or with any other meat dish.
You may be forced to find another veggie instead of broccoli - I've used spinach and it works well!  Just improvise, like Caroline would have!  Cooking should be a fun adventure!                                     If you like the outcome, please leave a comment to let me know.  Thanks. The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Humorist, Will Rogers said, "I've never met a man that I didn't like."  My saying is, "I've never met a vegetable that I didn't like."  (But it does make a difference how it's prepared!)

There are more veggies to come from my little garden this year (Lord Willing!) and I'll let you know when they come in and I'll try to include some in my "Farmer Boy Recipes".  Stay tuned for more!

"All is good for us if we but reach out our hand to take it."
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Friday, July 1, 2011

Let Freedom Ring! "Thoughts about Independence Day, 2011"

Wow, what happened to the last 235 years?  Seems like only yesterday that we got together to declare our land free from the rule of the British!  Well, I wasn't there at the time; so I guess that's what happened.

Amid the fireworks and picnics, many forget what why we are celebrating in the first place.  Let's see - was it freedom or liberty?  What's the difference?  Simply - "Freedom" gives us the opportunity to do things without being held back.  "Liberty" is a little more constrained.  Liberty puts you under the rule of conscience and has a limit through consequences of your actions.  Liberty must be exercised by the restraints of laws, morals and ethics.  These must be collectively decided.

This is why we have the form of government we have in the U.S.A.  It was designed, having three branches; to keep each in check.  We enjoy a republic; not a democracy.  What's the difference? Simply again - in a democracy the majority of the people govern.  In a republic the people decide, through elected representatives, the rules by which to govern.

Perhaps, after 235 years, we should take a look to make sure things are running properly in our government!

Thomas Jefferson, who was the primary writer of the Declaration of Independence, clearly understood the responsibilities of those who would govern America.  Below is a partial list of some quotes from Jefferson.

  • I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
  • The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.
  • I think myself that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, to many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.
  • The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
  • When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
  • The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.
  • The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.
  • I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
  • To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
  • Most bad government has grown out of too much government.
  • Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.
Comparing our situation under British rule and that which we are now allowing from those we have elected to Congress, makes it more clear as to why the "Grass Roots" movement is now called, the "Tea Party"!

I agree with Patrick Henry, who said, "Give me liberty, or give me Death!"  Should this year's Independence Day celebration be our last?  God forbid!  May the people work together to make things right again!

"If we, the people, hold fast to and live by beautiful ideals, they are bound to be enacted by our government, for, in a republic, the ideas of the people reach upward to the top instead of being handed down." 
Laura Ingalls Wilder