2-Year-Old Coffee

2-Year- Old CoffeeIn life, we go through phases. We might go from being shy to being outgoing, then get wierded out by people and become more reserved again. We might go from being extremely excited about traveling, then never want to step foot outside of our town, or vice versa. Some people change up their friends then cycle back to their old ones, realizing that they had it pretty good the first time, or passionately love artichokes for half of life and despise them the other.   Life phases are not textbook, and although many developmental theorists would disagree with me, I believe they are relative to situations and to individuals. That said, I would add that I have been through a thousand phases, and one of them was my foo-foo coffee phase.

I spent my long hours of daytime at the farm at McIntyre Hollow as a little one, as Grandma was my child care provider. Although she and Pap-Pap did have a TV, the Allegheny Mountain Range made reception close to impossible, so Captain Kangaroo and Sesame Street were shows I could only watch at home when my Dad had the day off.  Instead, I would sit in the kitchen, observe Grandma in her morning routines, and taste the many good things that were on the table.

The McIntyre Kitchen was never off limits, not even to small children, and whatever Grandma had to eat was fair game for anyone who wanted food. There were always bags of bread, bowls of fruits and vegetables, apple butters, jellies,  and other homemade goodies lying around, so I often made myself my own little snack. Uncle Mark, who was just a year older than me, was always the first to get out of bed and join me in the kitchen. Sometimes Grandma made us Cream of Wheat, bacon and eggs, or shredded wheat with hot milk, butter, and salt and pepper. In any case, we sat together in the peacefulness of the morning and talked quietly, experimenting with various ingredients that we could add to our breakfast and chatting about what we were going to do that day.

Although food was plenty, beverages were limited in Grandma’s kitchen as there were usually three choices: water, fresh cow’s milk, or coffee. Neither I nor Uncle Mark liked fresh cow’s milk straight, and we thought water was dull, but coffee from the industrial size coffee maker that stayed full all day and night appealed greatly to our senses of adventure, and was not off limits to small children. It was a necessity, a mainstay, the house drink, and the family beverage. As soon as we were off the bottle (baby bottle), we drank coffee.

When you are a two-year-old just starting out with drinking (coffee), straight, black coffee is a bit extreme, so Uncle Mark and I added various ingredients to our joe to make it more enjoyable. We tried cream, milk, sugar, molasses, maple syrup, jelly, apple butter, and even bacon grease in our java, but the best two-year old coffee I ever drank was a concoction consisting of marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate syrup and milk, and we drank it that way until we had to leave the farm and go away to school at Allegheny Elementary.  Sadly, we left our foo-foo coffee phase behind as well.

These days I drink my coffee straight-up black, but once in awhile I’ll get a mocha or a latte with my daughter, who loves a good foo-foo coffee, especially Pumpkin-Spice Latte. It always takes me back to a time when life was simple, safe, and sweet,  and I know I’ll serve hot coffee to my grandchildren when they’re toddlers so they can carry on this wonderful family tradition.

Copyright 2018, Christine M. Snow

The Country Porch Swing

country swing photo collageAs you begin to make your way in the world, you will, at some point, venture to set up housekeeping, whether it is in a tiny cabin in the wood, a neat house in a safe and well-manicured neighborhood, an apartment in the big city, or perhaps a cozy, refurbished Shasta camper trailer. Regardless of your accommodations, my first bit of advice for keeping with McIntyre family tradition, is to install for yourself and your future folk, a country porch swing.

The country porch swing is the most important feature of the country home, and it is ever-so-vital to country living to own one in order to experience, to the fullest potential, the fresh breezes, refreshing beverages, and half-true tales that might be told there.  I’d have to say that I received almost all the education I would ever really need to survive in the world while sitting on a porch swing.  It is where my mother rocked and prayed over me, where Grandma played “Eensy Weensy Spider” and sang “Oh Jolly Playmate” for little ones, where my aunts skinned tomatoes, husked corn, and kissed their boyfriends, and where our uncles smoked cigarettes, spit chew, played cards, planned hunts, argued about the government and devised strategies to challenge the wisdom of the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Some people regarded our humble, God-fearing grandparents as poor country folk, but late at night, after everyone went home, they rocked together on their creaky old porch swing and gazed out upon their sixty-two acres of farmland that was thick with flourishing crops, flickering lightning bugs, and toys that had been scattered by joyful grandchildren.  They were rich above most modern definitions of wealth… the King and Queen of McIntyre Hollow, and every time I see a porch swing, I remember who I am, where I come from, and what I’m about.

Copyright 2016, Christine M. Snow

Tomato Time

Garden Tomatoes Cover SheetIn my early childhood, Grandma took care of me while my parents were at work, so I was privy to everything that went on at the McIntyre Farm on a daily basis.  Pap-Pap went to a job, but he got up early every day and did farm work, then came home in the evening, had Supper, and tended the farm some more until bedtime.  I loved helping pick vegetables with Grandma in the Summer and bringing them to the porch in big baskets.  One of my favorite harvests was the Tomato Harvest.

During Tomato Time, all of our aunts, uncles, cousins and good friends regularly came to the Farmhouse to pick tomatoes and to help peel tomatoes for canning until every last tomato was harvested.  There were always happy sounds of the pressure cookers on the stove and chatter and laughter of friends and family on the porch.  Several times a week, Grandma fried up a skillet of green-fried tomatoes and Pap-Pap and I would eat plates full with big glasses of milk, and I looked forward to these special times every year.

If you grow your own tomatoes, you know there is nothing like home-grown tomatoes.  With their vibrant and varying colors, they are the shining stars of garden and an absolute summer staple. Tomatoes from the grocery store simply do not compare to tomatoes from the garden in color, variety, and flavor.

During winter, it can be very difficult to find decent tomatoes for salads and salsas, but tomatoes on the vine can be a pretty good alternative.   However, when our little backyard garden starts to produce tomatoes in July, August, and September, we eat tomato sandwiches, tomato salads, salsas, and green-fried tomatoes until tomatoes come out of our ears.  We do this because we love tomatoes, but we also do this because we love our heritage and it is part of who we are.  I have literally cured my own broken heart a time or two by simply sitting down to a plate of green-frieds.

A year after we married (July, 1996), my husband and I moved to Idaho.  We were living in an apartment in Boise, and it was the first year in a long time that I didn’t have even a little tomato plant.  One day a package that had been Priority Mailed from Pennsylvania arrived at our door and we wondered what it could be as the contents rumbled and tumbled when shaken.  Upon opening it, we found ten perfect, whitish-green, beefsteak tomatoes, and a letter from Grandma.  She knew I wouldn’t have my own tomatoes that year, but she wanted to make sure I got my green-fried tomatoes.

Copyright 2018, Christine M. Snow

10 Reasons to Have a Backyard Orchard

Top 10 Reasons OrchardThe ability to own a home orchard and vegetable garden and enjoy an abundance of fruits and vegetables is a privilege that I believe every family on earth should be able to take pleasure in . In our century, we have been able to enjoy the convenience of obtaining a variety of fruits and vegetables by simply purchasing them at our local supermarkets, but not long ago, it was responsible home ownership to grow one’s own fruits and vegetables.

While local farmers often provide good, quality, organic produce, it is questionable if the produce grown on corporate farms is healthy and untainted by pesticides and hormones. Fruit from your own backyard orchard can benefit you in so many ways. Here are the top 10!

#10

While local farmers often provide good, quality, organic produce, it is difficult to know exactly what chemicals it may have been exposed to in its lifetime.  However, fruit from your own trees can ensure that what you feed your family is pure, wholesome, and without chemical damage, as long as you do not treat them with chemicals yourself.

#9

Fruit trees are lovely and add splendor and charm to any landscape.  Since their leaves, blossoms, and fruits change throughout the year, they are also a natural and colorful sign of the seasons.

#8

Fruit trees provide flowers for your table when they are in blossom. Many a happy mother and grandmother have received little bouquets of apple and cherry blossoms from tiny hands that finally reached the branches of blooming boughs in Springtime.

#7

Fruit can be expensive when purchased from the grocery store, but fruit trees from your yard will provide free food for your family!

#6

Picking and processing fruit with your family and friends is a great way to make the    Fall Harvest part of your family’s traditions.

#5

Fruit harvests are often so abundant that there is plenty to share with neighbors, and sharing produce is a great way to foster friendly and generous relationships in your community. I know I’m not alone in longing for a time when it was common for neighbors to share all of their good things.

#4

You can repurpose the branches of your fruit trees when you prune them. When I prune my apple tree, I cut the branches into 6 inch pieces, let them dry out, then use them in our smoker for a nice, apple wood-smoked flavor in our meats.

#3

Some fruit seeds have disease fighting properties and are expensive if you purchase them in a health food store. For example, grape seed extract and apricot seeds are believed to have cancer fighting properties as well as other health benefits.

#2

You can start a side hustle and earn income with money you make selling fruit from your little orchard.

#1

Fruit trees are timeless. Though life may take us in many directions, impressions made upon us when we are young children can last a lifetime. We never forget the promises carved into an old pear tree, alliances made in fortresses atop cherry branches, jelly made from our own grapes, cherry pies made from our own cherries, or pacts we made with our cousins while sitting up high in an old apple tree… to never, never, NEVER forget to be best friends forever.  That, my dear one, is the really good stuff, and it just cannot be bought in the grocery store.

Copyright 2018, Christine M. Snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marriage Proposal Pie

farmhouse apple pieWhen I was a little girl, I was not allowed to use paring knives because they were dangerous, so sometimes I would sneak off to the high rafters in the barn to sit and cut pieces off an apple one at a time with my pocket knife (named Mack). I would put them in my mouth with Mack’s blade and savor the tangy sweetness, just like my uncles did. When I looked at the apple, I didn’t only think of the family and the community that worked together to process it. It was beautiful, and I could see its future.

One day, a boy would come to the Farm House and Grandma would say to him, “I just made some apple dumplin’s. Sit down and have some.” The following Spring, if the boy was still hanging around, he’d get his own apple pie. Of course, that would lead to his proposal of marriage, and, consequently, there would be an applesauce cake for a wedding shower, then a baby shower. In time, one of the baby’s first foods would be applesauce, then she would cut her teeth on homemade bread with apple butter. Soon, she would be able to help with the apples, get dumplings to eat with her friends, share a pie with her sweetheart, and make applesauce for her baby, bringing everything full circle. It was predictable and perfect, and it gave order and meaning to my life.

Recipe for Farmhouse Apple Pie/ Marriage Proposal Apple Pie

First, prepare Farmhouse Pie Crust by combining:

1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoon of lard or shortening (but lard really DOES create a more classic crust)
3 teaspoons of ice-cold water (the cold of the water mixed with fat creates the flakiness)

 

Blend and fold the ingredients with a fork, but do not overmix or overwork the dough. Next, gently shape into fist-size balls to roll out for a top and a bottom pie crust layer.

Second, mix:

8-10  pared, cored,  & sliced apples
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 Teaspoon of cinnamon
1/3 cup of melted butter

Finally…

Line the bottom of pie pan with one ball of dough rolled out into a circle of about 11 inches in diameter.  Fill the pie shell lined with rolled dough with your apple mixture.  Roll out your second ball of dough into an 11 inch diameter circle and cover the apple mixture.  Pinch the two layers of pie dough with your fingers so that the juices do not leak out while baking and burn on the oven floor.

Cut 5 1-inch slits into the top of your pie crust to allow heat to reach the apples and fully cook them.

Sprinkle the top with a few pinches of cinnamon and sugar to make the pie pretty.

Bake at 400 degrees until the crust is a golden-walnut brown and the house is engulfed by the smell of hot apple pie.  Serve with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream.

Copyright 2018, Christine M. Snow

 

 

Harvesting Apples

Country Apples pinBefore Grandma and Pap-Pap were married, Grandma was a Diehl, and the Diehls were German. German food and customs reveal a very strong connection to faith, farm life, food preservation, and traditional cooking, and there is a fierce and deep-rooted commitment to family and community.   These values are also reflected in the lifestyles of the Amish and Mennonites (also German) who live nearby and naturally influence rural community culture. It is not surprising, then, that many of our family’s ways include recipes and events that are also near and dear to the Pennsylvania Dutch. One example is our family’s treatment of the Holy Grail of fruit…the apple.

Apple-picking time came around in September in the Allegheny Mountains, and every year there would be some kind of schnitzing, which is just a Pennsylvania Dutch term for an apple processing social. The men and boys would gather in the cellar of The Farm House to peel and core the apples and (sometimes) make cider, and the women would sit together in large groups on the porch and cut them up for making apple butter and apple sauce, and for packing in freezer bags to make pies, dumplings, and cakes all year long. With the scent of cider, bonfire smoke, and crispness of chilly Fall evenings, it was a blissfully exciting time of year.

Copyright 2018, Christine M. Snow

The McIntyre Family

Our Hayseed Heritage Photo CollageDear young one, once upon a time, a tall, strapping “city boy” from Chimney Rock named Dave, who had a belly laugh and eyes as blue as cornflower, clumsily held hands with a shy, German country girl named Evie, who had soft, cottony, dark hair and a kind, lovely smile that could make even a nun feel ashamed of herself, for she was so good.  These two, oh, these two.  Sigh… they were in love, and they dreamed of the good life that is not often pursued by the youth of this day and age… a life of faith, of family, of farming, and of building a future, home, and a legacy.

My own memories of our grandparents’ home are of lush, green mountains with thick grass and ancient walnut, oak, and elm trees rolling over them like a lullaby… the luxurious meadows and woody hills on a quiet countryside in Western Pennsylvania.  I picture a haze hanging low and bluish-purple underneath the summer sun that warms the backs of our grandparents hunched over in an overgrown garden of red, orange, and green tomatoes and golden-yellow snap beans.  And there are whispers… the whir of a breeze through hickory and maple branches, the slapdash swaying of cow tails, the flutter, plucking, and clucking of chickens, and the snip-snaps, chitter-chatter, and whine of rusty chains as my mother and aunts pinch beans on the porch swing.  There is a quieting aura of love and protection in this refuge, this McIntyre Hollow, and it is the place our people gathered after a hard day of work, a busy week, or at the end of a broken dream.

The McIntyre Farm was in Duncansville, Pennsylvania, a rural area west of Harrisburg, and all of life in our family sprang from it.  Food and family were intertwined.  We grew, harvested, and prepared food together, always together.  The culmination of all of these activities was eating (yea!).  A large painting of Christ’s Last Supper hung above the main table, so that as we laughed, told stories, and ate, we would always remember that the ultimate feast was not without sacrifice, and that it was by the Grace of Christ that we could work, eat, and live.

 

Farm life revolved around the seasons, and in the Spring, it brimmed with new life as we watched calves being born, mares protectively nursing new colts, chicks cracking out of their shells, and baby bunnies snuggling together against their mamas.  Spring was also a time for planting, and the boys rode the tractor with Pap-Pap as he plowed and planted corn, potato, tomato, onion, red beet and cucumber fields.  Grandma and her girls would start cleaning jars to get ready for canning, as there were hundreds of them.  The canning shelves would be wiped and cleaned to prepare for new storage, and the boys would sweep the barn to make room for new hay.

Summertime was hot in that part of the country, with temperatures reaching 90-100 degrees, often with 100 percent humidity.  But from the clumsy two-year-old with a plastic sandbox rake to the strapping, muscular teenager, to the oldest hunch-backed woman with a shovel, our family worked and sweated together to hoe and weed the fields.  In the evening, there was Supper, with fresh strawberies for weeks… the first of the Summer Harvest.

Mid-July was Berry-Picking Time.  We braved the thickets of Pap-Pap’s woods in groups of four dressed in long pants and shirts (and often boots and winter hats) to avoid being cut by thorns or stung by hornets.  Even the little children filled their cleaned-out and “worshed” butter tubs, making berry picking a game of hide-and-seek, as they lifted barbed branches to find clusters of juicy raspberries or blackberries.

Of course, with all of those berries, there was jelly to be made.  As with every harvest, this was an event!  All of the relatives came to Grandma’s and sat on the porch, in the cellar, and in the kitchen to prepare strawberries or berries for jelly making.  The women told stories to the girls about when they were young and the men would laugh and tell jokes and stories about eachother.  Meanwhile, we children ran in and out of the house sneaking handfuls of berries, staining our faces and clothes, proof that we were redneck and purple-fingered little thieves!

Indian Summer was Big Harvest Time.  Our uncles would ride on the back of the hay wagon and buck hay while Pap-Pap drove the tractor.  Back at the farmhouse, our aunties were busy with the vegetables and fruit.  The potatoes and onions were stored in “the cave,” which was a room at the back of the house that was built into the side of a hill.  It kept foods (like potatoes and beets) cool and dry, and was also the place where Grandma stored the hundreds of jars of canned foods, which, even we children would help to prepare.

It took weeks of non-stop picking, cutting, and pressure-cooking to pickle, pack and freeze all of the farm’s produce.  This required the hands of all of our Grandparents’ children, children-in-law, grandchildren, 2nd cousins twice-removed, and innocent by-standers.  The entire months of August and September were spent on Grandma’s porch sorting produce, paring flaws of fruits and vegetables, and snapping beans from the time morning chores were over to well after the first star twinkled.  We drank lemon Kool-Aid with ice out of Mason jars, listened to stories, and were together as a family, as a unit, and as our own culture, believing that the way we lived was the ONLY way to… to reallylive.

Copyright 2013, by Christine M. Snow

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