Things To Do While The Kids Are Home

Getting ready to put a foil-wrapped banana on the coals.

Getting ready to put a foil-wrapped banana on the coals.

I am blessed to live in a rural area.  With young kids this can, sometimes, be a challenge though because many of the things kids want to do are a good distance away.  On the other hand, we are able to do things that city dwellers don’t have easy access to.  One of the favorite activities this time of year are bonfires.  Yes, this can be a little hard in the city, but with the advent of the Chiminea it is not impossible.

One of the old stand-by’s for bonfires is S’mores, which are roasted marshmallows and a piece of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker for those unfamiliar.  Variations include using Reese’s cups instead of chocolate bars or Oreo cookies instead of grahams.

Another, perhaps less well known fireside treat is roasted bananas or apples.  If using bananas, leave them in the skin but slice them lengthwise.  Don’t cut all the way through, leave the skin to act as a “banana boat” to hold the goodies.  If using apples, pears or other similar fruit, cut the core out but don’t go all the way through on these either.  Next take your favorite fillings and stuff them inside the cavity.  For bananas you can use chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallows, jellies, nuts, caramels, etc.  For the apples I like brown sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup, peanut butter, walnuts, raisins, dried cranberries…you get the idea.  Let your imagination run wild!  After you stuff these fruits to the point they are no longer resembling health food, wrap them in foil and stick them in the embers.  You may need to turn them a few times to cook them evenly.  While you wait, roast a few dogs or marshmallows.  When they are soft and steamy pull them out and open the foil enough to allow cooling.  This is the hard part.  DON’T burn your tongue!  They will be VERY hot!  Once they cool, dig in and enjoy!  You can, of course, bake these treats in your oven, but you will miss the ambiance of the fire.

At our last bonfire we asked each other where the term came from.  Can you guess?  We couldn’t so we Googled it…most sites refer to the origin as being “bone fire” where animal bones were burned to get rid of the waste.  Now you know.  Perhaps this bit of trivia will further enhance your youngster’s enjoyment of your next bonfire!  In any event, be safe, have fun and make sure not to leave any hot embers unattended.  Please share with us what sort of things your family likes to do together!

Self Sufficiency

I haven’t written much in the last few days because I was otherwise occupied with getting food in the freezer.  We processed a pig…yes, we butchered a real pig in its entirety.  Many people don’t think about such things as they simply go to the grocery store and purchase their meat, produce and condiments.  Some people never see raw meat, they only eat packaged foods that they stick in a microwave or oven.  But what would happen if the grocery store shelves went bare?  This is not as unlikely as one might think.  After Hurricane Sandy or an ice storm, or flooding, or any number of natural disasters, deliveries can be disrupted and inventories strained or depleted.

Some of us who live in the country are blessed with gardens, livestock and other resources.  Our supply chain is more dependent on our labor and Ma Nature.  In fact, in talking to many who remember the Great Depression (and there aren’t many of you left) I have learned that those who lived in the cities had trouble feeding their families while those who lived in the country were not nearly as affected.  To hear these country folk talk about the depression they recall not being able to get things like tires or new clothes, but their food source was what they grew or raised so it was still there.  This concept is not so outdated as one might think.  It just takes some backbone and some planning…you know, that responsibility thing that goes along with freedom!

We had two huge marine coolers full of meat!

We had two huge marine coolers full of meat!

So back to this weekend.  We cut up a pig into pork chops, loin roasts, hams, bacon, ground sausage and vacuum sealed the meat.  Today I emptied some freezer space and packed all the meat in…all except the hams and bacon.  Those have to marinate in the seasonings for a while before they are smoked.  Then they will join the rest of the meat in the freezer.

Freshly ground breakfast sausage

Freshly ground breakfast sausage

We had some help from volunteers who wanted to learn this valuable skill and we held an informal class.  We were fortunate to have a teacher who has been a professional butcher show us how to get the greatest yield from the harvest.

Some of you will probably think this is cruel, and you have that right.  Others will be content to eat supermarket meat that has been raised on commercial mega-farms and sent to USDA slaughter houses for mass processing.  On the other hand, the pig we just harvested lived a happy life on a farm with its sister, ate fresh grass and loved life.  It wasn’t fed hormones to make it grow faster or antibiotics to counteract the effects of overcrowding that occurs on commercial farms.  The harvesting was quick and the animal didn’t have any pain or stress.  The processing was sanitary and efficient and the meat is healthy and wholesome.  This is the way it has been done for centuries, maybe millennia.  What better way to honor the circle of life than to let the harvested animal nourish us?

Self sufficiency is a virtue.  There are many necessary skills in life and this is but one.  Being a part of our world, communing with nature, isn’t always pretty, but it is part of life and has its own rewards.  The natural world is checks and balances, life and death.  The trick is to find the life in the death…to complete the circle.  Then it is not all for nothing.