Wigglers

Looking for something new to do with spaghetti? Wigglers makes a well balanced, one-dish meal.

2 lbs ground beef
5 slices bacon
1-1/2 c celery
1 can mushroom soup
1 pkg spaghetti
1 qt tomato soup
2 onions
2 c potatoes
1-1/2 c carrots
1 qt peas
3/4 lb cheese

Fry bacon and crumble. Fry ground beef and onions in bacon grease. Put in bottom of roaster. Add cooked potatoes, carrots, celery, peas and mushroom soup. After cooking the spaghetti add the bacon and cheese. Add this spaghetti mixture to the roaster. Pour tomato soup over top and bake 1 hour.

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Lawn Discussion

Mowing my 2+ acres, once again, reminded me of the story of God and St. Francis discussing lawns.

God: St. Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the USA? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees and flocks of songbirds.

I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

St. Francis: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers weeds and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

God: Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

St. Francis: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great lengths to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

God: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

St. Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it, sometimes twice a week.

God: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

St. Francis: No, sir — just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

God: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

St. Francis: Yes, sir.

God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

St. Francis: You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

God: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural cycle of life.

St. Francis: You’d better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away..

God: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

St. Francis: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

God: And where do they get this mulch?

St. Francis: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

God: Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

St. Catherine: Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It’s a a real stupid movie about….

God: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

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Hot Chocolate or Cappuccino Dip Mix

Getting tired of the same old dip mix? Here’s a recipe for a different mix. Give it a try.

2 c Cool Whip or a Whipped Topping
2 heaping Tbsp (or more to taste) of your favorite cappuccino or hot chocolate mix

Mix whipped topping and hot chocolate or cappuccino mix together. Serve with Honey Cinnamon Pretzels, Animal Crackers, or Graham Crackers.

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Pest Control, Naturally

In a matter of days or weeks we’ll have fresh fruits and veggies laying on the counter or in fruit baskets for our snacking pleasure. Along with this bounty comes the pesky little fruit flies, ants and what ever else develops that thinks they have free run of the place. If you want to deal with these pests naturally, here are a couple of remedies.

Fruit Flies

Find a little-used cup from the kitchen cabinet or an empty half-pint jar to use as a container. Fill this container half full of apple cider vinegar. Using a rubber band, secure a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the container. Punch 6 or 7 small holes in the plastic. Make sure the holes are big enough for the fruit flies to enter but small enough so they can’t get out. Dispose of the contents of the container once the fruit flies are gone. Remember the female lays several batches of eggs so it also is recommended to wipe down any areas where the flies have been.

Ants

Mix together 1 cup of warm water with 2 tablespoons of Borax, and 1/2 cup of sugar.Place a dime size drop of this mixture onto a small piece of cardboard and place where you have seen ants. The ants will collect this mixture and take it back to their queen, so you may have to place these cardboard squares in various places and replenish the mixture if necessary. Once you haven’t seen any ants for a day or two, wash the areas where they have been with warm water and soap to destroy their scent trails. Make sure you keep these ‘bait stations’ away from children and pets.

Fungus Flies

Place a 2 inch layer of clean sand over the soil of house plants to disrupt the life cycle of fungus fly larvae.

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Charm

If you ever travel through Amish country in Eastern Ohio make sure that you visit the small village of Charm. This small town is not your typical tourist trap. Don’t plan on staying in a national hotel chain or eating in a corporate restaurant or fast food venue because there are’t any. Two of the village offerings that we like to frequent are the Charm Engine Shop, a couple of miles north of town, and Keim Lumber with a 125,000 square-foot show room right in the village. There are many other places with a Charm address that we also enjoy every time we are in the vicinity. Charm’s biggest tourist event has been Charm Merchant Days, held every October, but Keim Lumber and a number of other local businesses offer a big 3 day sale event every April, which is the event we shoot for.

This year’s trip to Charm will be a rememberable one. As Ohio has acres upon acres of natural woodlands that are composed of mainly hardwood trees, lumber mills and Amish furniture shops are quite abundant. I forget right now which township road we were on, but we happened upon one of the many local sawmills. This one grabbed our attention as there seemed to be many Amish buggies as well as ‘English’ (Non-Amish) vehicles in the parking lots next to many bland canvas canopied exhibits. I’ve seen shingles and laths being made at different tractor and engine shows back in South Dakota and felt for sure they could easily top that in this area.

We pulled into the ‘English’ lot and soon found ourselves standing among both Amish and English watching a sawmill worker demonstrating quarter sawing lumber. He dropped a tri-square, bent over to pick it up, and accidentally got an ear cut off by the circular blade. His hollering drew a crowd of coworkers. These coworkers, as well as a few of us onlookers, started searching the sawdust for his severed ear in hopes that it could be reattached.

Sawdust was flying in every direction as we combed the area around the saw. After a few minutes one of the searchers came up with an ear and handed it to the injured man. He examined it carefully then tossed it away. I thought, “What the hell is he doing?” About that time he said, “That ain’t it,” resuming his search. One of his coworkers, taking the words out of my mouth, said, “What do you mean, ‘That ain’t it’?” He looked up from his search and said, “Mine had a pencil behind it!”

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The Lowly Dandelion

Now that I’ve whet your appetite for dandelions with recipes for dandelion wine and dandelion gravy, perhaps a little knowledge on the pesky weed might be in order.

The common dandelion  was brought to North America in the mid-1600’s. European settlers brought the dandelion with them and grew it in their gardens for both food and medicine. Like all good things, it got away from them and spread across the continent as a weed. It spread easily because it has adapted itself to different climates and doesn’t have to cross-pollinate with another dandelion to set seed. They develop seeds completely on their own. You may have seen one lonely dandelion plant in your yard and the next time you look, there’s more.

I can’t vouch for the accuracy but various websites make the following claims concerning this lowly plant.

  • 1 cup of dandelion greens contain the same calcium as 1/2 cup of milk. It has 14,000 i.u. of Vitamin A, 19 milligrams of thiamin, 26 mg. of riboflavin and 35 mg. of ascorbic acid which your body turns into vitamin C.
  • The milky substance from the stem treats warts, although it can cause an allergic rash in some people.
  • The Chinese use dandelion root for treating tonsillitis.
  • The French grow and eat dandelions much like we eat lettuce.
  • Dandelions have been used as liver tonics and diuretics. They may help balance blood sugar and stimulate digestion.

Dandelion roots can be harvested during any frost-free periods of the year and eaten raw, steamed, dried, roasted and ground into a coffee substitute. Their flowers can be used for making dandelion wine or added to salads. They may also be made into jellies or dipped in batter to make fritters. If none of these spark any interest, you can always go back to blowing the seeds off the fluffy heads or checking to see if someone loves you by rubbing the flower under their chin.

It is very important that you only harvest dandelions from chemical free areas. You want to harvest the leaves as soon as they appear. The younger, the better to eliminate the sharpness/bitterness. The freshly picked greens are very frail and will wilt quickly. They should be cleaned in very cold water and dried thoroughly or spun in a salad spinner. Keep the clean, dry greens on a paper towel in a plastic bag or bowl. Keep them covered and chilled until you are ready to use them.

Once again, harvest only from chemical free lawns or other areas.

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Dandelion Gravy

If you are traveling through the Amish country of Ohio, try to plan your trip so that you are there during the end of April through the beginning of May. During a time period lasting approximately one month Dandelion Gravy is available at the restaurants that the locals frequent. This year, Boyd and Wurthmann Restaurant in Berlin, Ohio started their once weekly offering of this delicacy on Wednesday, April 20th and we were there for this delicious meal time special. If you have never had the opportunity to try this great menu item, here is a recipe you can try at home.

4 strips bacon
4 hardboiled eggs, sliced
3 Tbsp flour
1 c water
1 lb dandelion greens, washed and chopped
1/2 c sour cream
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Boiled, mashed, or home fried potatoes
Fresh chopped parsley, optional

Chop bacon and cook in skillet until crisp. Leaving bacon in the pan, remove all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat and stir in the flour until smooth. Add water and dandelion greens and cook over medium heat until greens are tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. add more water if mixture is too thick. Turn off heat. Combine sour cream with sugar and vinegar and stir into the dandelion mixture. Gently blend in the hard boiled egg slices. Adjust seasonings. Spoon gravy over your choice of potatoes.

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