The first culture shock


To be fair, we all knew this would be a thing, and I should’ve been prepared. Mainly I figured the difference might be the use of Velveta cheese. (That was mistake #1, since we’re in DAIRY country now, duh!)

After a long day of unpacking boxes, it was late and we went to the first thing that was still open and not obviously McD’s… a drive-thru Mexican place.

The menu board astonished me in that they served their ‘alleged’ burrito with NO beans . instead it had potatoes (with meat)! Then the clincher - it came with a side of smashed, fried, tater-tots (highly salted potato coins)!

A meat & potato burrito, with a side of fried potato! I thought my head would explode (I was too tired & hungry to cry!)

If by "Mexican" they meant "Swedish" (potatoes, cheese, meat and more potatoes) then their food combination might make sense.

There is Viking ancestry here, and apparently Germans too, so maybe potatoes are a go-to comfort/fill food for them? I am a full quarter Norwegian but I despise potatoes - it will be a self-enforced diet to avoid them (but I could use a diet, lol!) 
I’m married to a German guy, and he misses the beans and pico de gallo too, so maybe we’re just weird, or we’ve just been spoiled, but it’s a small thing; I guess we’ll get used to it.

I know this isn’t fair - I learned to cook in a Mexican house in Mexico, in a small mountain town (that was much like the Old West). Unfortunately now I can never really like restaurant Mexican food, (and to be fair, this wasn’t even a restaurant)!

I try not to compare - I tell myself ‘it's different due to regional differences', or the fact that a food industry biz must curb costs… so I hope to just get my money's worth. Actually that part is usually easy, since there’s invariably a lot of kitchen prep involved that I don’t often take the time for.

[As an aside, salsa alone takes half an hour with all the chopping. Well, what I call “salsa” is chunky and fresh. It’s often called “pico de gallo” for “peak of freshness” (I’m making that up, since I don’t know what it means): Tomatoes/onion/jalapeno/cilantro and maybe add Anaheim chilies too!]

But they don’t appear to have pico de gallo here - all the ‘salsa’ is SAUCE –and in a liquid form (“salsa” = “sauce” after all). It can be made in a blender, after you skin the tomatoes, and it’s good … but it's not the same.]

I suspect the potato additions are attuned to the local population - who's heads might explode if they eat a jalapeno, (just kidding, but not). 

To be fair, jalapenos are not all-American fare, and my taste expectations are bent from having lived in California for too long. It's just that once you learn to include such things in your everyday diet, (and we're trying to eat more consciously with fresh foods as a priority), lacking the option leaves one feeling kinda deflated. 
Why middle America doesn't include beans in their burritos is quite another thing. Maybe because it's potato-growing country? That is not something I'll ever learn to live with... besides, even beans and potatoes can go together!  

I guess it's a bigger deal to me than most, because I'm kind of a 'bean affectionado'... I collect different colors of dry beans like a kid might collect marbles. I love the feel of them, smooth and solid in my hand, and like to study the colors and patterns. 
I'm not strange either - there are lots of bean collections out there!
As an aside, one that I fell in love with (after the Anasazi, which rates #1 for several reasons) is one called Koronis.... here's what I'm talking about:

Picture from f'resh picks of the week' at the Certified Farmers Market .org in Palm Springs:
Their names - Yin/Yang (also known as Black Calypso), Purple Koronis, Hutterite Soup, Jacob’s Gold and Good Mother Stallard –and the yellow ones (I think they are the ones going unnamed here). 

If YOU would like to get started in this fascinating venture, check this out - 
'Over 90 varieties of rare & endangered heirloom beans'.

I love to plant beans- they are not fussy (creating their own nitrogen, you don't have to mess with fertilizers, or add things like eggs shells - like you do for tomatoes, for instance), and they grow fast! So fast, reliable, and sturdy in fact, what pre-school hasn't had the little ones plant beans in a cup? 
And then, if you're going to save the beans for soup (dried beans that you soak and then boil), to save the beans is easy- you just leave the pods on the vine to dry! No hassles. Knock the pods into a paper bag, then simply crush the dried pods and collect the beans in a jar... where they will sit on a shelf, shining nicely like pennies, or in layers of different colors - like a sand painting if you want. 

You could even add spices and you have an instant soup mix, or a frugal gift with a nice presentation. There are LOTS of ways to save and use beans...


                                     Anasazi Beans -my favorite bean by far, so far:
                                         photo credit: http://sensiblesurvival.org/
photo credit: www.eatingwell.com/


I can only imagine the people here simply have not been as fortunate as I have, to know the creamy richness of soft, plump, Anasazi beans, and have only been exposed to the paste form of 'refried' pinto beans from a can. No one could be blamed for not liking those. So I'm fairly confident that they would change their views (if not their menu) should they ever be so 'culinarily exposed'... and I'll close with the wish to share that opportunity some day.






Hatching a little dream

Is it really all about chickens? YES! Yes it is.

Let me explain...
Last November we found out we had 6 months to move (in a previous post I explained how we were renting and the house was being sold).

Right after this news, I said goodbye to the old gray Roo (his time was up). It was just as the juvenile roo (Red) was ready to step into his place, so things for the flock continued on smoothly.

We had 12 pullets come through that winter and things were really buzzing along when spring started to show up.
Every day I was collecting about 10 eggs: greens, blues, and beautiful shades of brown… it was the best part of my day, to see and hear the latest goings on at the coop, collect the eggs, and toss them a treat. And see if anyone would let me pet them, lol.

The valley was greening up (a lot of unusual rain this spring!) and a rare rainbow at sunrise!

About then we decided we weren’t going to find a decent rental, much less one worth the asking price. In fact, there were hardly any rentals at all! 

Skip this little rant if you wish to....: 
(One reason that  the ones we checked out were most certainly NOT worth the price –because for the last 11 years that town kept publishing newspaper articles bemoaning the problem of a lack of affordable housing (rentals). If it has been a known problem for OVER 10 years and NOTHING had been done to alleviate the problem… well, we heard rumors that city planners (and those rental home owners who voted for them) were really more interested in creating another “Aspen-like community”.  One which works well only for some, and is NOT a very friendly place.)

So we decided to quit fighting that system - to spread our wings somewhere else; and planned a move to Minnesota.
That meant everything we didn’t need or love had to go... from the piano to the pottery:

Of course, I felt my flock was important! … and every week that passes there is ever more reason to provide our own sources of food, including meat or eggs or other protein (I think what’s happening to the living standards in Greece right now will eventually reach our shores – even if it is by another route and reason).

*See my original post "is-it-really-all-about-chickens?" for why I got them in the first place (and the costs of keeping them and things like that). 

But chickens are not like dogs. They are not a member of the family. They can be replaced. I could not move them cross-country, I could not keep my roo (raised from an egg), I could not keep even “just two” of the EE's (colored egg layers). I knew we were moving into a house within city limits with no fencing or coop, and that this country has very harsh winters! No, I had to let them all go.

Of course I had felt that their big sturdy coop was worth too much to sell cheaply just to get rid of it (I could never expect to get, and never pay again, the amount it would cost to replace it!!)
But when someone came along and offered way too low a price (not even ¼ of its value), but would also keep all the birds… I realized what was good for this buyer would be good for the birds and would also be good for me. I could let them go to a good home and not have worry or regrets, follow me.

It will likely be a couple of years before I am situated to get chickens again. But I’m planning for that day already!

I am taking great care to know what kind I’m getting then (I think, lol).
It’s still hard right now… because I miss the birds I raised, and I wonder how they are doing and what they are doing - and I miss having chickens altogether!
In life though, timing is everything. It’s simply not the right time.

It’s good  that I can hone down what I really want to do with a new flock, and time to decide what breed(s) I want based on that. And to build another coop. And hopefully time for this avian flu to run its course (that’s currently taking down turkey farms here in Minnesota). And to have the ability to grow supplemental feed and garden produce, to help offset feed costs!
Maybe most importantly is that avian flu has affected birds on bird farms in this state (and others). Though it's mostly turkey farms, I wouldn't want to start a flock right now for that reason alone!
  • number of birds affected in Minnesota: 9,024,632
  • number of farms affected: 108
And so in this planning, scheming, research stage… perhaps I am finally coddling hatching the start of another dream.  Just a little dream, of having a flock again…

What do YOU dream of? (Little things count!)







100th post! And Update (part 1): We up and moved! Minnesota, "don' cha know"!

Yep, we took the plunge and left the state we worked so hard (for 10 years) to move to.... 
from a country lane in a valley at the foot of the Rockies, to the heart of real Farm Land.
We're temporarily living at the edge of a small town - in city limits. Ugh. 
But on the other hand, there's pizza delivery! LOL

But right here in this little spot, if you look straight ahead, or straight back, the views are great! There is precious space.No, no mountain view, no valley view, but tall green trees and green grassy fields. Haven't seen that green in over 10 years (I'd have to go waaay back to the Megatropolis. Those were the days before the lawns succumbed to the new Mega Drought).

But it's green everywhere here....
A grass field and where it's mowed are sections of the city's community garden plots. ($15 for the season for something like 12'x12' square of garden dirt and free use of the hose.)

Some of the grass -on the other side of those garden plots -is not mowed...
In some places it stands 6' high! And I saw a young skunk going into it. LOL

 But many nights there are FIREFLIES dancing over the field!

 I know, farm land is flat - no trees (except wind breaks), right?
Well, the farm houses are all surrounded by layer upon layer of established trees. Those are surrounded by flat fields. But here in town, each block has a row of towering elms, maple, and flowering trees. There's a heavy population of birds and squirrels... and other wildlife. Deer, skunks...

On mornings when the sun is allowed to shine through, are sights to behold:


Of course things are different here. So many things. 

One day,  there was no way to discern where the sun was all day, nor if it were lunchtime or growing late.....(that song I always hated, "Does anyone really know what time it is?" occurred to me).
The light was a diffused and gloomy. It was an ugly, white, pasty, sky. It was the same all day!


Nothing moved all day.No gentle breeze. No clouds skittering past like smoke signals. No red-breasted robins hopping around.  No cheery light at all. Oh my eyes!

In Colorado, people would give directions like "at the stop sign go east". If they did that here, you would not know which way to turn! (Actually the phone GPS SUCKS because of that!!!)

It was turning into a lonnnnnng day! I had to stay busy so I wouldn't notice - but not too busy, because it was also humid. Blah!
I called family, who are all now so much farther away, and then comforted myself with freshly baked cookies. Then we sweltered until the next storm rolled through. Luckily it was not too long!

I marvel at the difference of these normal spring rains compared to the ones I grew used to in Colorado.Here the rain can go steady for hours! And the thunder ROLLS... on and on and on, like an echo through a cave. The lightening mostly stays up in the clouds.

Not the frightening angry strikes that came with monsoon storms, but not the towering thunderheads that reflected sunlight in colors either.




I miss the blues right now... Colorado Blues!



But I'm not singing the blues here... 

In the back is more green. (Not one yard has sprinklers!)
And I'm attempting to grow veggies that can tolerate deep shade. (We're talking less than 1 hour of direct sunlight!) It will be an experiment for sure... after 2 weeks of this, the onion stalks already look like droopy green onions.
Here is my little plot (12' x 20'?)



You can see that there are MORE tall trees shading the back side of this property... but through the trees is a great view....
The little house there is really a normal-sized 2-story house, but from this position it looks like a country schoolhouse in 1880. 
The light plays across the field during the day, and the mowed path makes it look so quaint - tho' that may be hard to see in the earliest light:

While transplanting seedlings today I made a discovery in the dirt; I've seen 'tree frogs', but this is the tiniest toad I've ever seen -  this one was under half an inch. Sooo cute (for a toad).

The other day I made another discovery in the dirt. I had a momentary panic attack... but
NO it's NOT a tick! It's a mite, one that eats 'bad' garden bugs!

So that's part one of the update! 

I quit for today because blogger is not responding to commands. 
And my afternoon cup of joe is ready.
See you soon!