Saturday, January 23, 2010

The fruits--and veggies, of our labors

As the snow flies and we wait out ice storms and blizzards, we occasionally sneak a stash of our yummies that we canned last fall. We were determined to try canning. It was our third year attempting a garden. Our previous efforts have not been overly successful. The year before we didn't really get enough to can--but the vegetables did supplement our summer diet. We gained a lot of experiences--we spent three weeks solid standing in the kitchen peeling, mixing, researching, and canning. It was hard on my feet to stand so much--near the end I was having problems with even walking. I went to bed crying in pain. I questioned how in the world this could possibly be worth it.

I could only think "Three weeks and we barely have anything to really show for it!" It gave us a new respect for the pioneers and our ancestors. It didn't look like a lot and certainly didn't seem cost effective. However, I think we learned a great deal and we did get some quality products. There is a point that I don't think it pays to can items that can be purchased on sale at a reasonable price--but there are some exceptions that I think are noteworthy and worth the effort. I found a apple pie filling recipe that is better than any I have ever purchased. Our apple tree isn't doing fantastic, so we had to make a trip to the orchard and spend far more on apples than I am prepared to admit to even myself.

Another item we have done really well at--and am very pleased is the salsa we made. Salsa is soooo good for you--it spices up just about anything with all the right things-vitamins, antioxidants, no fat and much lower in sodium than commercial stuff. Can't go wrong. My daughter used this to make omelets the other day--cheese, soy crumbles, mushrooms, peppers and lots of yummy salsa! Of course, we managed to set aside the best jars for fair time next year. Maybe that time was worth it after all.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sue the T Rex visits Minnesota

Sue the T Rex recently made a visit to central Minnesota. The Stearns County Historical Society hosted the dinosaur. Though the exhibit (in St. Cloud--central Minnesota) was quite a distance from us--we have to go very near it when we bring my mother back from my home in Southeastern Minnesota. When she returned home after the Christmas holiday, we were able to sneak a visit at the end of her stay.

Sue was discovered in Western South Dakota on a private landowner's land who was part Sioux who lived within the bounds of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. After her discovery, there was an extensive legal battle over her. After five years, the skeleton was placed in trust for the landowner. Eventually the government put her up for sale for the rancher and was placed on the auction block at Sotheby's. In eight short minutes, Fields Museum had the highest bid with $8.4 million. The traveling Sue is a cast of her skeleton. There is also a touchable cast that goes with the traveling exhibit. At 42 feet in length, she is thirteen feet high (The Fields Museum website states that she is both 12 and 13 feet high.) Sue may in fact be a male--but was named after the dinosaur's discoverer.

The museum has allowed both researchers and visitors to see her. It was exciting to see her, but there were some interactive exhibits that allowed visitors to experience the sight that different species of dinosaurs may view Sue in. It was difficult for my kids to see with the eyepieces set at angles that are simply not compatible with human beings. The sight enabled the others to better watch for their predators.

We also went through the rest of the County Historical Society. It was interesting to see the industrial history and the mock quarry that explains the rock that has been so crucial to the area's economic development. The granite that has been used in buildings throughout the United States.

This wedding cake is on display as well. Made for Max and Veronica Mock of Avon, they were unable to eat it because grandparents became ill. Though they intended to eat it shortly afterward, it was never consumed. On their 25th Wedding anniversary, it was encased in glass. The frosting was tan--I am unsure if this is because the icing turned color or if it was made this way. The cake was baked on October 25, 1932. EWWWWW GROSS! I am left wondering how it survived without the preservatives that we use today. Makes me think that snacks may not need as many as are put in. It looked like the museum may have some promising exhibits coming up--we will be keeping an eye out.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

American Fences at the Zumbrota Area Historical Society

Near us, in a small town about an hour south of the Twin Cities named Zumbrota, there is a local historical society. I love that people are working to preserve their heritage. While larger organizations may have more resources--they also have larger responsibilities. Despite the Minnesota Historical Society's impressive record on statewide history and their archives, (I toured their archives once, very cool and state of the art) larger groups simply cannot preserve all the little nuances of small town life. There are just too many small towns and too many stories.

Many people assume smaller history centers lack quality because of their lack of resources. I worked in a county museum once--it had some very good work. However, that did not keep me from wondering how good a small town museum really could be. I admit it and I admit I was wrong. Very wrong. The Zumbrota Area Historical Society turned the old fire hall into a museum. It has gotten grants for their work and they recently lobbied to get the Smithsonian traveling exhibit on fences.

Years ago, I visited the Smithsonian in Washington with my then four year old daughter. It was massive, left me breathless and feeling like I had barely scratched the surface. (Because I had barely scratched it!) I questioned when I would ever get their again. I am lucky--the museum came to me. Well, not me personally but it came to my area. In their exhibit on fences, the museums are able to convey how important they are. From the earliest split rail colonial fences to the invention of barbed wire, fences have reflected the careless approach to natural resources that horrified 17th century Europeans who knew of the clear cutting of American forests to the mechanized manufacture of the barbs that made fencing easier and more economical.

The exhibit also discusses the history of free range laws--how people used to build fences to keep livestock OUT of areas, rather than confined IN areas. While some states still have free range laws, incoming residents are challenging those laws and sometimes creating conflict. The laws also reflected discriminatory attitudes of the time. African Americans and immigrants who had often had sheep were often required to fence in their livestock, while white males who owned cattle could allow their stock to roam free. The same needs, but different animals of different peoples were treated differently. It is a very thought provoking exhibit. I am impressed with both the quality and the value of it. Fences will be at the Zumbrota Area Historical Society until the end of January. It will then move onto the Minnesota towns of Fergus Falls and Roseau.

Zumbrota was fortunate--I understand that it was only one of five places in the state to be chosen for siting of the exhibit. I had wanted to bring my mother before she returned home. I discovered days before that it was only open on the weekends. I felt silly. On the door was listed two contacts to arrange an alternate time. Only in a small town could I contact a person and have them open the museum just for us. Though the museum was free, it was only right to make a donation. Thank you A for doing that for us!! There are many traveling exhibits, people may visit the website for American sites to find a local one. I caution Minnesotans: the map link for the state seemed to be dead today, however, clicking on the word name will work. Exhibits also travel the globe; people interested in that may visit the traveling exhibits home page. This is something that I would definitely do again!!!