Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Wana Shipshewana!

It has become a yearly ritual to visit Shipshewana every Memorial Day. Shipshewana is actually a gorgeous area of farmland in northern Indiana and is known for being in "the heart of Amish country." 

Ryan and I go to the world-famous Shipshewana flea market.  We find quite a few treasures. And I tend to use my father's training a la Juarez to make some good deals. 

We have spent the night twice in Shipshewana. It is almost an indescribable experience. It is calm, small, and quiet - except for the clomping of the carriage horses' hooves. 

Amish cooking is also an experience. Noodles, amazing pies, mashed potatoes... 
The Blue Gate Restaurant is a few blocks away from the flea market and has the most excellent banana cream pie I've ever had. Another thing I think is so commendable about Blue Gate is that they make an effort to use local foods for their menu offerings.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention one of the best reasons to go to Shipshewana. JOJO's Pretzels. 

They are so amazingly delicious. I never really knew what their secret to deliciousness was. This year, the pretzels we got were so fresh, we had to wait a few minutes for them to be ready. And it was thus that the secret was revealed:

 Is that not achingly delicious-looking? Also a reason to probably indulge just once a year. 

Next on the agenda for this Hoosier-in-Training: Berry Picking. I plan to do more than just freeze 'em this time around. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Farm Fresh

The bounty has begun!

The first offerings from Ryan's Grandpa Mills' farm included some fresh, hand-picked radishes

and asparagus!

Ryan and I grilled half of the asparagus during our Memorial Day camp-out. We had the other half roasted in the oven and served with Annie's mac n' cheese. I will let you in on a little secret: If you forgo the milk and butter and use two tablespoons of Greek style plain yogurt, you will have the Best. Mac 'n' chee. From a box. Ever.

As life tends to do, we got too busy to get up to the secret stash of morels. Sad, but like a true Cubs fan, I say unto you: "We'll get 'em next year."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Country Friendly

2496 E CR 125 N...

Just a few years ago, this combination of letters and numbers completely threw me. It seemed strange. A modified GPS configuration? Jargon? Actually, maybe a bit of both. The above is actually an address - they way addresses are written in the country roads of rural, northcentral Indiana. Allow me to translate: 2469 East County Road 125 North. The actual road is County Road 125 North. The address is 2496 East.

I have the unique opportunity of working out in the country. In the middle of farmland.

[The barn - it shares the parking lot with my office]

This entails a lot of flora and fauna - which can be beautiful both right out my office window and on the drive over.

[Lilac tree right out the front door of my office - it smells divine walking into work!]

[One of my favorite views driving to work...]

Driving on backcountry roads took some getting used to. I share the road with tractors and birds...

[A turkey vulture! One of five that I actually caught on camera.]

 well as the deer (my biggest fear is too much "sharing" with these creatures!) and having little room for two vehicles passing each other on opposite sides. However, what is peculiar about passing other vehicles on country roads is what my everlovin' informed me as being country friendly. Whether you know them, see them regularly, recognize them or not, the folks driving country roads almost always wave a friendly hello to each other. At first I thought this was just something farm or country folks did - until I tried it myself. I admit I had to practice. You have to get the 'wave' right or sometimes it won't work. But when it does -- I essentially feel that the world itself is wishing me a good day. I can't help but smile when everyone I pass appears genuinely happy to see me.

Another thing I have noticed about driving in small-town Indiana is that there are a ton of four-way stops. This does not bother me, but rather fascinates me due to the friendliness with which people approach the courtesy of allowing others to go first. I have been given the "go-ahead" nod or wave several times at a four-way stop. As a former city-dweller who has handled her share of traffic, this was bizarre behavior. But it is so nice! One of my 2009 resolutions was to try to be the first person to wave on another at a four-way stop. It's tough - because most everyone at least seems to be trying to be first as well. It is small, and maybe silly, but every time I get to let another person go first at the stop, I feel really pleased -- like I've let a little joy into the world.

On the agenda this upcoming Sunday is going to our undisclosed, secret morel hunting location. It has been both rainy and warm - perfect conditions for those fun guys. Pictures will be forthcoming.

P.S. - This blog has been brought to you by my new-to-me iBook G4. Oh my goodness how I enjoy it!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bring on Spring!

After the harshest, longest winter I have ever endured, I am so much more than happy to welcome spring. Having lived most of my life in New Mexico and Washington state, I never really had to *deal* with winter. However, the 2008-2009 season in Indiana has officially created a wise winter driver out of me. Having lived in mostly metropolitan areas, I used to bemoan driving a stick in traffic. Now that I have a rural commute, driving a stick is a true fortunate experience in the winter!

This will be my fourth spring in Indiana. What I am looking forward to most is the following:

Morel hunting!

(cross your fingers. Ryan -- a.k.a my everlovin'/the farmboy -- and I found three bags' worth last year, this year could be a bust...)

Berry picking!

(strawberries, blueberries and raspberries)


(don't know what we're going to have yet - garlic, herbs and chiles have been mentioned)

This year will be even more fun because we were generously given canning equipment and we bought a food dehydrator. Last year, through the farms and gardens of our families, Ryan and I did not have to go to the grocery store for more than a few things here and there for about six months! This year, the plan is to freeze, can and dry even more and see how we can last. I am really excited to try all kinds of what we have dubbed suburban homesteading.

Spring also means that I don't have to wait very long for Farmer's Markets.

I have one within walking distance of my apartment and one on the way to work.

Local Food and Local Farms

I am a big proponent of the idea that people should try to eat and support local agriculture. Check out American Farmland Trust above and the 100-mile diet.

One more thing I really want to share: I said in my last post that I might not talk about my time in St. Louis because it wasn't pretty. I have to admit that it was quite difficult at times, but after publishing my first blog, my first follower was a friend I made in St. Louis, and the second comment on my blog was from another friend I made in St. Louis. I am humbled that despite my harsh words, the goodness that was part of my St. Louis experience became clear to me. Thank you, my St. Louis posse, for reminding me that I had the amazing experience of learning about new cultures, laughing 'til I cried, and got through it with you being there for me!