Friday, March 29, 2013

"National Mom & Pop Business Owners Day"

This is a day which I celebrate on both sides - as a small business owner and I appreciate all the other small businesses as well.

The Mom & Pop businesses of our nation are the unsung heroes of our economy.  Not only are they open to compete with large corporations, but they often work long hours, put in hard work, and very often don't have much to show for their efforts.  Sometimes the only real reward they receive from all their hard work is to see happy customers from their goods or services.

Mom & Pop businesses have been around since the beginning of organized society.  They are the backbone of communities.  They bring people together over their goods or services.  And they usually do so by giving people something at a savings to them.  They are there when you need them.  And they are usually your neighbors.  They are usually someone you can trust.  And they usually put their profits back into the community.

Now, more than any other time in the history of our country, the small business owner is threatened by more governmental regulations than ever.  This usually means that they are not able to expand.  It also means that when they do expand, they can expect to take more away from any profit they are currently making.  This makes running a business very risky!

It is a shame that small businesses are treated this way, considering that this country was built on the backs of small business. Most of the large corporations that we have today, had such small beginnings.  And this has always been "The American Dream" - to build from a small business and make such a success that one becomes well off.  Today, that dream is being threatened!  Ask yourself this question, "What incentive is there to build a big business from a small business?"  It used to be that you were rewarded when you did this, by keeping your money.  You used to be able to put some of that money back into your business as well as taking something to the bank for yourself.  And, if you would, you might put the money into hiring others.  But now, the incentives are falling away!  If this governmental incursion keeps up, it will be the ruination of our country!

As a small business owner, I can tell you that I know I'll never become wealthy by being in business!  It was never my intention to become wealthy. My main emphasis has been to run my business as a ministry to help others.  My "Mom & Pop" business lacks the "Mom" part; it is just me working it myself.  I have put myself into all that I do to run my business.  But, even if I never see a profit, I know that I am giving people what they desire!  I know my customers go away happy!  It would be nice to make enough money from my business to meet the incurred expenses.  It would be nice to go beyond that, and be able to add to my own income. (Which was what I had in mind, and my intention as I opened my shop.)  But, so far these things have not manifested themselves. I didn't start out with a whole bunch of capital; I had no sponsors.  So, I have used my savings to help get things going and keep them going.  Someday I may have to stop putting in all that outlay of cash.  If that happens, I'll join the number of Mom & Pop businesses that just couldn't make it!  Until such time as that, I'll keep doing what I can to provide good products and services for my clientele.

One thing about being in business for yourself - you'd better love you boss! :)

I urge you to support your local Mom & Pop businesses everyday!  You'll be glad you did - and so will they!  On behalf of all of them, Thanks! 

I guess it worked out good that this was the day I re-opened my shop for the 2013 tourist season! 
Hope you'll stop in soon! 

The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Transition From Winter To Spring

Transition is change from one state to another.  As we transition from winter to spring, we are seeing a lacey mantle of snow falling here in Mansfield.  How beautiful it looks!  But it's not what I had in mind as the time approached for the re-opening of my shop for 2013! 

I worked hard all winter to get produce some new handmade items for my shop.  I accomplished most of my goals and have new items for visitors to take home more memories from their visit to Laura's hometown!  There are Christmas ornaments, bookmarks, decorated keepsake boxes, candy jars, and even pew fans; all with hand drawn pictures of the Ingalls/Wilder family!  These are unique, one-of-a-kind items that you won't find at any other Little House Site! 

If it's been a while since you've visited my shop, you'll find that I have expanded my candy stock as well!  As I observed what people were interested in, I adapted my stock to fit their desires.  You'll still find a great variety of candies - more than you'll see in most shops! 

Please note: I have much more in my shop than I could tell you about or show you in this posting!  If you want to know more about what is here, see my web site:   Thanks.
The shop hours for springtime are:
Fridays & Saturdays - noon till 5pm.

As the year progresses, I hope I see more visitors than I had last year.  I haven't raised my prices, in order to fit everyone's tight budget these days!  And I believe that everyone who stops in to visit will be pleased to take home something to remember the great time they had visiting Laura's hometown!  With affordable prices and quality gifts and candies, who could ask for more?

But there is more!  The shop is inside the oldest house in Mansfield, (now 132 years old!).  Also - Almanzo Wilder's cousin, Freda, is still my houseguest!  She is now 91 years old and still loves to visit with folks who stop into shop.  I'm not aware of any other Little House Site that has an attraction like her!  She is filled with such joy as she sees folks bring home some memories from the shop!  She has much to share as she visits with folks, and I'm not sure who comes away with a greater joy!  Please keep in mind - Freda takes a short nap between 1pm & about 3pm - so if you want to visit with her, keep your schedule in order. If you come by and she is napping, I'm sure you'll be able to pass the time making purchases and looking at all the things in the shop.  Thanks

Lord willing, by the time summer gets here (and the snow is completely gone!), I'll be increasing my shop hours to the regular Monday through Saturday.  I'll be sure to let everyone know as that becomes a reality.
For now, I just hope to see you here soon!

The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Farmer Boy Recipe - Authentic Irish

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day with this special authentic Irish recipe. This one does not come from my family collection, but from Freda's family! (Freda is my house guest & she is Almanzo Wilder's cousin.)  This recipe was passed down to her from her mother.  Her mother's family came directly from Ireland in the mid to late 19th Century.  But Freda doesn't remember eating this, because her mother died when Freda was only 5 years old.  And she never made this recipe, because she didn't think she'd like it.  Well, when I made it the other day, Freda had a great surprise!  I didn't tell her that I was making it and served it to her.  I had her try to guess what it was.  She guessed a few things, but never thought of it as being her mother's recipe!  When I told her, she was shocked!  And she commented, that she always had it in her mind that it would be heavier and not desirable, but this was great!
Farmer Boy Irish Soda Bread
  • 2 Cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1/4 Cup of sugar
  • 1/4 Cup of softened butter
  • 1 teapoon of caraway seeds
  • 1/4 Cup of raisins
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 Cup of buttermilk
Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place a clean iron skillet inside the oven.
As the oven heats up, in a bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Stir in the egg, butter and buttermilk, then the seeds and raisins.  Stir to form a ball.
Take the warmed skillet out of the oven.  Brush the bottom of the skillet lightly with butter.
Gently drop the ball of dough into the skillet.  Gently press the dough out to the edges of the skillet.
With a sharp knife, score the top of the dough with a cross, going all the way to the edges.
Brush the top of the dough with buttermilk.
Place the skillet into the oven.  Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, till golden brown and no batter is left uncooked in the center.
Serve warm.

I have another recipe that I collected from an old friend, who also had an Irish heritage.  In that one, you don't have the raisins. And it is served with Cheddar Cheese and Apples.
As I see it, rural American cooking and Irish cooking are pretty much the same - you use what you have available!  This recipe reflects that and turns out to be wonderful, "Comfort Food".

"Success actually becomes a habit through the determined overcoming of obstacles as we meet them one by one." Laura Ingalls Wilder

At 91 years of age, Freda found out that she had missed out on a great memory of her mother by not having made this recipe years ago.  But now she has a great memory of her!  It brought tears to Freda's eyes.  You are never too old to learn!

I hope you'll try this recipe and then come back here and leave a comment on your experience. Thanks.  The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Monday, March 11, 2013

"Johnny Appleseed Day"

When I found out that today was, "Johnny Appleseed Day", my mind took me back to childhood memories of seeing the story of Johnny Appleseed, as depcited by Disney Productions.  And then I thought about the saying, "An apple a day, keeps the doctor away".  Next my mind went on to thoughts of my Great Grandfather, who played William Tell in some sort of theatrical production.  And I couldn't leave out my experiences of growing apples myself, on my farm.

So I hope to share some of my thoughts on the subject of apples in general in this blog posting.

Let's begin with Johnny Appleseed, himself; since this a day to, presumably, celebrate his contributions: Johnny Appleseed, as he was called, was a real man named John Chapman.  He lived in the United States, from 1774 till 1845.  The common awareness of him is that as told in legend.   Most people who have heard that legend, believe him to be a simple man, who walked around the country spreading apple seeds as he went.  This is a misconception.  He was a nurseryman, who planted seedlings, making a livelihood doing so.   He was also what some might call, a vagabond.  He believed in a simple way of life; living by little means.  He was described as wearing ragged clothes and walking barefooted all the time, with a tin pot on his head for a hat.  Isn't it funny how some of the most eccentric people seem to become folk heroes?  But the truth of the matter is that his efforts in establishing apple nurseries, is probably why we have so many orchards around today.

As far as "An apple a day" is concerned; yes, the apple is a very nutritious food source.  And if you eat an apple each day, you will be contributing to your good health, and thus, keep the doctor away!

Let's move on to the William Tell story now. This fellow lived in Switzerland, around the 14 century.  He was made a folk hero, when his son declined to bow down in respect the emperor's hat on display.  The emperor condemned the boy to death, but allowed his father the opportunity to save him.  All he needed to do was to shoot an apple off of the boy's head with his crossbow.  Turns out, William was an excellant marksman.  He was able to shoot the apple without harming his son.
Now, I'm not real sure what my Great Grandfather had to do with this.  There was nobody in my family who could explain exactly how he came to portray William Tell.  I'm not sure if it was in a production of the Rossini opera or just some local lodge play.  (Looks like some of his performing genes were passed down to me!)

What's left?  Oh yeah, my growing apples in my orchard.  That was my first large-scale attempt at farming.  I had about 6 acres of apples in my orchard.  I grew them organically.  It probably made more work out of it for me, but the end result was a product that was worth the trouble!  I can understand why you pay more for organically grown produce at the supermarkets!

I would be short-changing everyone, if I didn't include a simple recipe today, to go along with this "Apple" theme.  So here is:
Farmer Boy Apple Brown Betty
  • 3 tart apples, peeled, cored, sliced
  • 1 Cup of wunseasoned bread crumbs
  •  3/4 Cup of graham cracker crumbs
  • 6 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 Cups of brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice (separated)
Directions: In a bowl, combine the cracker & bread crumbs, along with the melted butter.  Divide into thirds.
In another bowl, mix the sugar & spices together.
Spread 1/3 of the crumb mixture into the bottom of an 8 inch square pan.
Place 1/2 of the sliced apples on top of that.
Sprinkle with 1 1/2 Tablespoons of the lemon juice and then 1/2 of the sugar/spice mix.
Cover that with another 1/3 of the crumb mixture, then the rest of the apples and then the rest of the sugar mixture and lemon juice.
Cover the whole thing with the remaining 1/3 of crumbs.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 40 - 45 minutes, at 350 degrees F.  Then uncover the pan and continue to bake at 400 degrees F, for another 15 minutes, till it is browned up.
Serve warm.  It is great topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

By the way, it wasn't an apple that Eve ate in the garden of Eden!  If it had been, she would have made this - it is so tempting to eat the whole pan yourself!  :)

I you make this recipe, please come back here and leave a comment.  Thanks. The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Friday, March 8, 2013

"National Peanut Cluster Day"

I am still getting things ready in my shop for opening again this spring.  Some of the items that people love are my "Little House Nut Clusters".  All my Nut Clusters are covered in luscious chocolate.  They are handmade in the Ozarks.

"Peanut Clusters" are just one of the varieties of Nut Clusters that I carry in my shop.  I also have "Cashew Clusters" and "Pecan Clusters".

But that's not all!  There are also some extra special Nut Clusters called, "Laura's Special", made with nuts and shredded coconut.  Then there's a really special one, called "Rocky Ridge"!  That one is made with nuts, coconut, golden raisins and mini-marshmallows!   Yum!

This year my "Little House Nut Clusters" are larger than the ones I was supplied in previous years, and I believe they are even better tasting!  When you come to visit, let me know what you think of them.  Because of the special deal I got on them, the price hasn't gone up from last year!  That may make them taste better too!  :)   Is your mouth watering yet?

I hope you'll be coming by for a visit to my shop soon!  Thanks.
The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Monday, March 4, 2013

Special Farmer Boy Sugar Free Recipe

Here is a special recipe that I converted from regular to diabetic, by using "Sugar Twin" sweetener.
It is also special (for me anyway!) because I got to use a very fresh lemon.  A friend in Arizona sent me a fresh-picked lemon from their lemon tree!
Farmer Boy Sugar Free Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf
  • 2 1/2 Cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 Cup of Sugar Twin*
  • 1/4 Cup of poppy seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon of lemon zest
  • 2/3 Cup of applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites, slightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 Cup of milk
  • additional for topping: 1/4 Cup of lemon juice & 1/4 Cup of sugar twin*

Directions: In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  In another bowl, whip the egg whites slightly.  Add in the egg, milk vanilla, oil and applesauce.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well.
Pour the batter into a lightly greased loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40 to 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven, leaving it in the pan to cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Pierce the top of the loaf with a fork and brush with the lemon juice and sugar twin mixture.  Cool completely and slice to serve.
* If you don't need to make a diabetic loaf, you can use regular sugar in place of the sweetener.

It was really nice for my friend to send me that lemon!  Thanks.

"By the sacrifice we make in giving we show our love for humanity, our pity for the helpless, and our generosity toward those less fortunate than ourselves." Laura Ingalls Wilder

If you make this loaf, please come back here and leave a comment about it.  Thanks.
The Old Man in the Bib Overalls