Monday, July 2, 2018

Art in Rural America

I recently had a conversation with a teacher from an affluent, urban school that ended with this statement, “Your kids don’t have art in their school?  That breaks my heart”. And I felt reprimanded, like I was doing my children a disservice. Should we pack up our things and move to an area where our kids could experience art?  Are they missing out? And then I took a breath and began to think.

Living in rural America, options are often limited in our small, rural schools.  We may not have art, or photography, or any number of elective classes of large, urban area schools. However, our children experience art, just on a grander scale.

Our children have watched their daddy take a piece of broken ground, mend it, and over time begin to tend it.  They’ve seen a tiny seed placed in the ground and watched it grow into a corn field that spreads to the horizon.  They’ve watched the dark clouds move across the sky and bring highly anticipated rains that fall from the sky onto dry, parched ground. They know the importance of the rain, the sun, and time.  

Our son is learning the art of welding from his grandfather.  My father, who has spent a lifetime honing his craft, is patiently passing that knowledge on to my son.  I’ve watched them stand together, side by side in the their welding helmets, sweating, practicing over and over that straight bead weld.  Knowing that one day, Jack will use this skill to repair equipment to keep the farm running. To keep his daddy in the field, or his brother or sisters.  Not an art to pass the time or for sheer enjoyment, but an art borne of necessity.

They’ve watched their grandmothers and great-grandmothers create masterpieces in their kitchens.  They’ve heard stories and been taught recipes passed down through generations. Our daughter has learned to make the same pound cake recipe her great-great grandmother made years ago that fed her family during the Depression years.  She knows the satisfaction of opening an oven and seeing that rising, golden cake. She’s waited patiently until she could turn it out on a platter and hear the perfect moment when the knife first breaks that delicate, buttery top.

In the cold winter months, our children load up in the truck with their daddy to check heifers.  They know the slow steady sway of a momma cow that is close to bringing a calf into the world. They’ve finished a late night supper only to load back up in the pick-up and check that momma one last time before bed.  They know the signs of distress. They’ve helped their daddy walk up that momma cow under a starry sky. They wait patiently, shivering in the winter air, blowing frosty breaths. They’ve watched as he artfully helps that momma cow bring her first calf into the world.  Helped that calf to breathe its first breaths on this earth. They’ll watch that calf nurse, and grow, and thrive in the dark green grasses of spring.

They’ve stood in the garden, under a plum tree in late spring or a muscadine vine in late summer.  They stand with sticky hands, sticky faces, and full bellies as the orchestra of pond frogs and crickets proclaim the start of the most sacred time of day.  When the temperature shifts, the day is suddenly cooler, and the sky begins to welcome the evening. By graduation, they will have seen thousands of sunrises and sunsets from the seat of a pickup truck, a tractor, or the seat of an ATV.  They will see the work of the master craftsman in the sky at the beginning and end of each day. Colors and scenes that can seldom be replicated on canvas.

So no, my friend, our children do not have art in school.  Our children’s life is art and the process lasts a lifetime.  

And so now, my response would be, “Your child doesn’t get to experience life in rural America? That breaks my heart”.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Canning Tomatoes

It's about that time of year - fresh tomatoes = canning tomato juice.
We usually can a lot of tomato juice every year and enjoy "fresh" juice throughout the year for soups and chili.  I know there are lots of ways to put up tomato juice, but this is the way my grandmother Pruett taught me (and my mom continues to do her juice the same way). 
I remember standing in mamaw's kitchen with her talking me through all of the steps and telling me tips along the way.  This was just a few years before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer', so I am glad I have this sweet memory.  One thing that stands out in my mind is washing tomatoes and cutting out the cores and bad spots - Mamaw said if you miss a bad spot it can make your whole batch of juice taste bad.
We like to do pretty large batches at a time, but you could really do just a few jars at a time.
**fyi - these pictures are from last year. 

A sink full of tomatoes usually equals a cooker full of juice,
I guess depending on the size of your sink and/or pot!
I planted several Roma tomato plants because I have read they produce a lot of juice.  I also had several other varieties and used those too.  I just removed the stems, cut in half or quartered for larger tomatoes, and added them to the pot.

Add a few inches of water to keep anything from scorching on the bottom.  Use medium-low heat and let the tomatoes cook down until they are "soft".  Be sure to stir a lot in the beginning, again, to keep anything from scorching.

Ok, here comes the "juicing" part.  Below is a picture of the juicer that came from my Mamaw's house.  I guess there may be a more modern piece of equipment that can be purchased now, but this is what we use.
Put in a few cups of your cooked tomatoes and get to turning!
This juicer makes a distinct grinding sound when you turn it, I remember hearing it a lot when I was a little kid.  Turn clockwise several turns, give it a spin counter-clockwise and then back clockwise until all that is left is the pulp, peeling, and seeds.  I am sure there is a use for this stuff, but we usually just throw it out.
You should be left with this beautiful juice -

Put your juice back on the heat to make sure it is really hot before putting it in the jars.  This will help ensure the jars seal.
Tired yet? Take a bologna break -
Ok, prepping the jars.  We usually run them through the dishwasher to maker sure they are good and hot. Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar to each quart jar. 


A funnel helps when adding the juice to the jars.
Meanwhile - Put your flats in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Use a clean cloth to clean the rim of your jar, use tongs to retrieve a flat from the boiling water, place on the jars and screw on a jar ring. 
I don't know why, I am sure there is a good reason, but Ben's grandmother always turns her jars upside down to let them cool down and seal.
Make sure to check the jars after they have cooled to ensure that they have sealed.  The flat should be tight, there shouldn't be any "give" if you press on the top of the jar.
It would be easy to do a few jars at a time, we just like to make one big mess at a time!
HEre's an even easier way to can tomato juice -
  Ben's grandmother picks her tomatoes, cores them, quarters them, and then puts them in the food processor.  She doesn't cook them down and put them through the juicer, but leaves pulp, peeling, and seeds in her juice.  She then heats her juice and puts it in jars.  It's really a personal preference whether or not you want the seeds and "extra" stuff.  Either way, this will give you delicious juice that will be ready to use anytime.  Try it, you'll love it!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

This is where we are....

SOOOooooo -

Track season, teaching school, both of the big kids in preschool, farming, MOVING HOUSES, Jack has turned 5, Lola has turned two, baby brother Charlie was born all within the past six months.

 Oh and Ben and I just celebrated our 7 year wedding anniversary!

A lot of craziness? YES.  Would I trade it? Not in a million years.  God has blessed us and life is really good. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pea Picking

So, I have some great pictures on a new camera, but I can't get my pictures to download from the camera to computer...but, I have taken a few pictures with Ben's phone this week, so here they are - 

boys on the farm learn to drive pretty quickly...

Don't worry, these are just in the driveway at the farm!

LK has learned to use a lightsaber from her brother  -

watching Turtleman

Call of the Wildman

Lola has to help Ben drive to the hay field...

while Jack and I ride along and goof off!

 We stopped by mamaw and papaw's for lunch and the kids found plenty to work on -

Checking the mail

Shelling peas

Jack found mamaw's garden hat...

and Bart's big hat!

There is always plenty to do this time of year and thankfully
plenty of help as well!

You can always count on something being broken down at the farm,
Jack is already a big help around the farm.  They are working on the bat-wing

They didn't even know I was taking this picture or did they realize they were
doing the exact same thing, sweet boys...
 The temperature reached 102 today... things are so dry, we have been praying for rain and now we are waiting on the storm clouds...

Friday, June 22, 2012


Guess what we have recently started picking this summer -

Blueberries!  Definitely in my top three with corn and tomatoes!  Dad has several big blueberry bushes at his shop and the kids and I met mom to pick a few mornings ago.  By the time we got there, she had already picked this bucket full (good for Jack) -

 Before Jack ate them all, we decided to strap on our buckets and pick some of our own -
Dad makes these great berry-picking buckets out of coffee cans... 

Jack was a little upset because his bucket was empty, so he stole some of mine

Dad stopped by to help and of course LK needed him, so he just plopped down on the ground and they picked blueberries from there...

 The fruits of our labor -

Time for a break and a little sidewalk chalk -

kids these days...

This was Lola Kate's artwork from Vacation Bible School.
Apparently my sweet darling would only let them paint one of her hands,
hence the double right-handed flower!

We helped mom in her yard and it wore LK out
 Corn Update: Remember this picture from a few weeks ago?  Well, I swung by this field yesterday to look at the corn and this is what it looks like now -

Pretty, don't you agree?  We're still praying for rain, but things are still holding up fairly well. 
 We saw this truck in town -
Maybe we can get the Cornfield Cadillac to haul for us

And then this last random summertime picture for today -

Sweet cousins sharing a picnic