Mostly book stuff

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I am in avoidance mode again. I should be cleaning the kitchen. Or vacuuming or something. It is a good thing I left The Help by Kathleen Stockett at the library tonight, or else I would be reading it instead of blogging. I guess they are making a movie out of it. I am somewhere in the beginning of Chapter Two waiting for the third bathroom to be completed. I am really liking it so far, what’s not to like about three bathrooms? (Well, in the case of the book it is rather insulting, but I could sure use another bathroom in this house.)

I went to my favorite spot in Valentine; Plains Trading Company this weekend. This bookstore can kick the butt of any bookstore in existence for sheer quality of selection. I find it impossible to walk out of a bookstore empty-handed, so I chose The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks on Mom’s recommendation. Wow. Great choice. I bought it Saturday and finished it Monday. This might be why I should be cleaning my house- I didn’t this weekend, but to lose myself in a book like that? It is hard to beat a book about a book.

Because I had a four hour drive (not counting the stop to visit Mari) I checked out Ape House on CD by Sara Gruen from the library. It is really good. I have a new favorite line from a book. The guy is trying to make up to her and sends her flowers. Her friend says something along the lines of: “Sending her dead plant genitalia isn’t going to change her mind.” I had never thought of that, but I also have never received flowers from someone who was trying to make up to me.

My children’s book recommendations are The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate which is a book about the little girl I would have been if I were born in the late 1800s. I am also addicted to The 39 Clues. I guess there will be 39 books in the series. That would be almost as many as Carolyn Keene wrote! Sort of. I think the whole series thing is kind of a racket.

I hear the dishwasher calling.

Poets’ Corner

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I may never make it to Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, but I did visit the gravesite of Mari Sandoz.  

You are all readers, do you have a favorite Sandoz book? Have you read any of them? Mari is buried where she grew up. Her father was a tyrant and a dreamer who chose to live in a pretty uninhabitable place then encouraged lots of other people to homestead the area too. He felt the Sandhills would support fruit trees, even though God didn’t see fit to plant anything but the occasional cottonwood or willow in the Sandhills. Some of those trees still remain. You can also see the orchard (the brown trees) in the landscape shot taken from the gravesite.

 

Sandhillers tend to trust people to be on their best behavior- as you can see the site is privately owned. Old Jules is the story of her father. Mari went on to write 16 books about the west, mincing no words and not romanticizing like many authors of her time.

I attended a wedding this weekend and drove through God’s Country, the Nebraska Sandhills. Folks, there is a whole lotta nothing out there, and it is gorgeous. Unfortunately it does not really lend itself to amateur photography.

I stayed with friends and got to see Naked Maiden Falls.

(And from the top of the falls)

I also came home with two dead bugs to add to my collection! Traveling with me is lots of fun. I am forever taking photos of flowers (or digging them up) and trying to catch bugs to take home. At first it seems charming, but after a couple of years I suspect it gets old. This gorgeous fella kept flirting with me last week. He has no idea how badly I wanted to take him home with me. I might even go back for him tomorrow…

Guns and Roses

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In my previous life I got paid to drive around people’s pastures and look at plants. Of course I was being paid to look at grasses not mulberry trees and plums, but in the spring sometimes I would pop over a hill and see daffodils. Daffodils and tulips are not found on the USDA list of plants native to Nebraska. These bulbs had been planted by hardy pioneer stock, but somehow proved to be hardier than the homesteader herself. I often found them growing in a box shape under a cathedral of cottonwoods, the box outlining an invisible sod house which had melted back into the earth.

A flower garden tells us a lot about a person. I am no landscaper. My gardens tend to be filled with hardy perennials, often native plants transplanted from various places. When I can’t find the real thing in a native version, I will purchase the sub-standard greenhouse version. What does this say about me? I don’t like to spend a lot of money or time on my flowers, either designing the layout, planting them or watering them. But I like them, and first thing this spring I found a scabiosa to put in my garden so it felt like home. Scabiosa is not native, but it has sentimental value for me and it blooms all summer if you remember to water it.

Grandma had a variety of bulbs scattered around, and now I see some brave poppies thinking about blooming. But Grandma was known for her roses. I am now the proud owner of about 15 roses. Fussy flowers, if you ask me. They are every color you can imagine and she seems to have found the perfect place for them or they would not have lasted this long.

My back yard is surrounded by a lovely chain-link fence, and growing through the fence is a nasty vine. The same kind of vine that looks nice on my mother’s wall. I have declared war on it, because last fall when it died I noticed that the schoolhouse rose underneath had not quite choked to death. I call it a schoolhouse rose; it came from a cutting somewhere because it sure didn’t come from Jackson-Perkins. These yellow rose bushes have survived like the daffodils beside abandoned schools and ghost-houses, they set down deeper roots than many of the pioneers who struggled to raise dryland crops out here.

In an effort to save the one rose I can relate to, I have resolved to jerk all the vine’s runners out until the whole thing dies. I expect we are looking at ten years before it is completely gone. Tonight while I was yanking on all the new vine growth I noticed my rose was blooming!

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You can see the poppy in the background.

A friend of mine is also living in his grandmother’s house. I remember her raising (even breeding [corming?] if you could call it that) iris, so I asked if any had survived the many years since her death. He said that his grandfather’s second wife had removed the iris. Clearly she was not my kind of gardener, as I look at any kind of perennial as a great place to start with a garden. Then we visited about the hikes I have been taking the kids on in the hills behind Dad’s house. My friend asked if I was packing a gun along with the sunscreen and water. I had to admit I was not. He said people had seen mountain lions up there last year. This leaves me with all kinds of unanswered questions, like how do I hike with a sidearm and four kids? And what the heck kind of gun can I bring along with any amount of safety, or should I just risk being eaten raw by a mountain lion?

Rhubarb Ice Cream

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This makes a quart. Who ever made a quart of ice cream? Double it or even triple it.

 

Rhubarb Ice Cream

3 C sliced fresh rhubarb

2 C sugar

1 C milk

1 C heavy cream

2 t lemon juice

1 t minced fresh gingerroot

Place rhubarb on an ungreased 13X9 pan. Sprinkle with sugar; toss to coat. Cover and bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Or you could just stew it. Either way, after it cools run it through the food processor in batches. Refrigerate until cool.

In a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients then add rhubarb. Fill ice cream maker and freeze.

Best. Ice cream. Ever.