Who We Are



The past few years, the area where I live, Crawford County, Ohio, has seen a wonderful explosion of younger families who are embracing the joys and challenges of living off the land. Because of them, amazing things are happening which have been embraced by our community. Farmer’s markets have been created and on-farm stores have opened. Families dedicated to growing organic produce and naturally raised meats are meeting the public’s needs for locally raised foods. And at the heart of this movement are the women.



Ohio Country Journal is my attempt to share the essence of farm life, focusing on, but not limited to, women. My goal is to bring you into our circle of friendship by inviting you to share your stories and experiences with us. You don’t have to be a full time country woman to benefit from joining us; you just have to be you.





The full-time country women featured in Ohio Country Journal are an inspiration to anyone who dares to follow her dreams, whether it is to live in the country or to bring the country life-style to their urban neighborhoods.





Saturday, July 22, 2017

Country Girl Convert: Part 3

***Disclaimer***

This post was set to auto publish on July 22, but for some reason it didn't :(


I can't say that this last installment of Rachel's story is the conclusion because her journey did not end with these words. Like all of us, Rachel is living a life that is in constant  progress.

Marcheta *ever onward


 

Country Girl Convert: From the city to the country one day at a time Part 3
And the air – the air was crisp and sweet every morning, not like the smog-filled dusty air we tried to breath in the city.


My husband built a desk for me by a window so I could write each evening after supper. I was able to finish my first novel in nine months.


We sat outside listening to the evening noises, swatting the few mosquitoes that made it past the yard spray and rejoiced at the absence of arguing neighbors, bright lights and sirens.


We thanked God for good neighbors who helped us, accepted us for who we were, gave us lots of free advice from years of country experience and knew our names instead of neighbors who ignored us, avoided us and told us in no uncertain terms that we had too many children.


No one complained about the dead car in our driveway. No one called the cops because of a fight in the upstairs apartment. No rental manager gave us a letter saying baby number three was not an option at this establishment – only two kids per apartment. No gang kids knifed our tires or broke into our cars. No rebellious teens walked past our house smoking dope, yelling obscenities.


I wanted out of the city to escape the noise, the crime, the danger. But I realize now, looking back on 20 years of country living I traded even-up for incessant tree frogs, raccoons and poison ivy. But that's fine by me. Tree frogs sing for a season. Sirens are year-round.


Now, on lonely nights when I can't sleep, I open a window in the living room and sleep on the couch, glancing at the picture window watching for a moth, listening to the semi trucks going by on the highway and remembering the good times at my grandmother's house.


Dreams are hard work. But they are worth it.



Bio
Rachel H.T. Mendell lives in Morrow County, Ohio. The family raises rabbits, chickens and cats, puts in a large garden each year and plants lots of trees. Rachel can be reached by emailing mendell.rachel7@gmail.com. If you enjoyed this article you can see others like it on her blog Domestic Mobility (http://www.domesticmobility.blogspot.com) and her website Rachel H.T. Mendell (http://www.rachelhtmendell.com).

 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Country Girl Convert: Part 2

Today guest blogger Rachel Mendell continues her story of how she and her family adjusted to country life after years of urban existence.

Marcheta *learning a thing or two :)



Country Girl Convert: From the city to the country one day at a time. Part 2

“Let's get chickens!” suggested my husband one day. I was less than excited. I was exhausted. Chickens would be one more thing on a long list of duties I couldn't keep up with. He talked of his dreams as well, “running a few head” of cows, pigs, “maybe even goats.” All I could think of was the stench of the dead raccoon deposited by a high-velocity truck right next to our mail box and imagined living with similar smells for the rest of my life.


And the garden... Gardens to me were nicely tilled forever patches to plant seeds in every year. Our reality was six to ten inches of solid sod to cut through before a vegetable bed could even be ready to prepare.


Yes, I was immature. Yes, I had been starry eyed.


Then one day I sat and had a long heart to heart with myself. This was my dream. Yes, the dream had been unrealistic, but I sure didn't want to move back to town or give up on making something of the property we had worked so hard to buy.


So I wrote. I scribbled the 10 levels of wind velocity I charted in my head – from lovely warm breeze suitable for laundry hanging (1) to icy-cold-rip-the-neighbor's-tree-down-and-throw-it-in-our-driveway wind (10).  I found inspiration in the orb spiders that created little parachutes to travel to places unknown. I pondered the pros and cons of our naturally really hard water versus mechanically produced soft water.


And I worked. I dug holes for trees – one hole for every four that Dave dug. I planted pines, oaks and apple trees. I cut weeds. I went for long walks around the property gathering specimens and using library books to identify strange and wonderful grasses and flowers. We put in a garden that did okay.


And when things got tough I thought about my high school days dodging drug dealers and prostitutes on my way home from school in inner city Phoenix. If I could do that, I sure could run off the dogs from who-knows-where that came to see what we were up to. If I could stand up to a drug pusher and say “no,” I sure could brandish my broom and scare away curious critters.


And I realized one day that we were winning back the land. A little bit at a time I could see civilization forming. We carved a front and back lawn out of a five-plus acre weed patch. We built a fire ring for roasting hamburgers and marshmallows. The boys were building tree forts in the old trees by themselves. The girls were dressing barbies in leaves and flowers. My children learned respect for the hunters who asked permission to track deer through our back lot in the fall. We shared the wonder of new bird song, new flowers every spring, new bugs, snakes, frogs … and even a weasel. I found wild black raspberries, dew berries, blackberries and elderberries – free food if I could brave the creatures who were willing to share with me.


 


Bio


Rachel H.T. Mendell lives in Morrow County, Ohio. The family raises rabbits, chickens and cats, puts in a large garden each year and plants lots of trees. Rachel can be reached by emailing mendell.rachel7@gmail.com. If you enjoyed this article you can see others like it on her blog Domestic Mobility (http://www.domesticmobility.blogspot.com) and her website Rachel H.T. Mendell (http://www.rachelhtmendell.com).

 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Country Girl Convert


For the next few days I will be sharing the story of the power of determination. This is guest blogger Rachel's account of the journey her family took from city life to country life. And, as most journey's start, it all began with a dream.
 
A BIG dream!
 
I know that you'll enjoy reading Rachel's story as much as I did :)
 
Marcheta *lover of Big Dreams
 
 
 

CountryCountry Girl Convert: From the city to the country one day at a time



By Rachel H.T. Mendell


When I was a little girl growing up in the small town of Kimberly, Wisconsin, I used to love visiting my grandmother in the country a few miles from Waupaca. She lived right on the highway so it was easy to find. She enjoyed on 40 acres of meadow and woods so there was plenty to do. She kept a garden path mowed for us to walk to the scattered apple trees and the line of plum bushes without having to battle high weeds. There was a little slope next to her screened in porch that we would sled down in the summer using flattened cardboard boxes. I wanted to live there forever and cried when we had to go home.


Inside my grandmother's house was a mysterious collection of books, art supplies, old furniture, moth-balled closets and musty basement. It was a glorious place to visit and I looked forward to my one week alone with her each summer. I got to sleep on the cozy living room couch. On warm nights she kept the porch door open so I could listen to the tree frogs, night birds and the occasional passing semi. Somehow hearing those trucks going by comforted me. Sometimes, when I was afraid of the dark, she would leave the lamp by the large front window lit. And that produced even more wonders, including a large mint Luna Moth resting on the glass trying to get to the light.


When my family moved to Phoenix I mourned the end of my Gramma's House Days. I loved the desert and still do, but I missed the green everywhere and the snow and the seasons.


When Dave and I got married, we both dreamed of living in the country. I wanted to live in a house like my grandmother's. He wanted to live on a farm like his uncle's.


Then, in 1997, we realized our dream. There we were, atop a hill, drinking well water and having bonfires every night.


The honeymoon lasted a week – tops. The reality of country living hit me hard, so hard that I began to regret my dream, so hard that I complained about my new house. Poison ivy plagued me and the children. Dave was gone 10-12 hours every day because he still worked in Columbus. The dead groundhog began to stink – we figured it was killed when the construction men back-filled over the foundation. The push mower was too heavy for me to mow more than 20 minutes at a time so the yard was composed of tall weeds. Then there was the cleaning, cooking, tick inspection, thorns from the hawthorn bushes embedded in balls, evil bugs like yellow jackets, long shopping trips, library trips for overdue fines … a million trips “to town” to get what I needed. And mud. So. Much. Mud.


This was hard. Really hard.

Bio
Rachel H.T. Mendell lives in Morrow County, Ohio. The family raises rabbits, chickens and cats, puts in a large garden each year and plants lots of trees. Rachel can be reached by emailing mendell.rachel7@gmail.com. If you enjoyed this article you can see others like it on her blog Domestic Mobility (http://www.domesticmobility.blogspot.com) and her website Rachel H.T. Mendell (http://www.rachelhtmendell.com).

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Babe in the Woods



Just look at this adorable newborn, all snug in its grassy nest, trying to figure out what life is like on the "outside". :)


Jim came across it when he was mowing an open area by the woods.  The baby was in tall grass beside a tree. I guess the mother thought it was a great hiding spot. How could she know that it was a danger zone; that the humans who lived on the property occasionally mowed around the woods to help keep ticks, etc, at bay?

I am thankful that Jim saw our baby fawn in time to avoid catastrophe!


Lawn mowers aside, this baby had a rough first day. Although its nest was in the shade during the morning, by late afternoon the sun was beating down on him. But maybe the baby enjoyed the heat, what do I know?

I staked out with my camera in one of Jim's truck (which was parked within camera range of the "nest") that evening to see if the mother would come be with her baby, or move it to another location (which is what they do, put the baby in tall grass in hopes of hiding it from predators during the day and the tending to them at night).

Soon after I was set up in the truck, it began to rain. :(

It was twilight, and no mother to be found. The temps dropped quite a bit, the rain became more intense, and it started lightning. Surely the mother would come protect her baby, I thought.


But.... she didn't.

I wanted to set up the EZ up awning that we use for our farmers market stand over the baby for shelter, but I knew better than to interfere.

When it got good and dark, I gave up watching for "mom", snuck out of the truck and made a dash for the warmth and dryness of my home, feeling sad about the baby deer's predicament.

The next morning the baby was still there. Did the mom come during the night? I have no way of knowing. It was Memorial Day and we left to spend time with our kids in Columbus.

When we got home, the baby deer had been moved. An imprint of the baby's body was all there was left in the tall grass to document that new life was there for a while.


I felt happy that I was able to see such a young deer, and even more happy that the mom did her job.

Jim told me not to worry about baby deer. Their fur coats shelter them from the weather, and their moms know what is best to keep them safe.

The World of Nature has many lessons for us. The textbook is free, all we need are our eyes and ears. :)

Marcheta *loving the wonderful Memorial Day memory

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Solar Snow

"Unusual weather we're having, ain't it?" ...the Cowardly Lion



The weather this winter has been one crazy ride, for sure! Flipping from mid 70's to low 30's and then back again, all within a few days, has most of us wondering, what season is it, really? This year winter felt more like Autumn, with a few Summer and a few Winter days tossed in just for fun.



And the past few days have been extra interesting. It is very cold again and snowing extremely hard for short bursts while the sun is out in full glory. Seems like Old Sol doesn't quite know what season it is, either. It's getting on in years, you know, and I wonder about its mental health. Either that, or it likes to have a few good laughs now and then at Earthling's expense. :0



The other day, while waiting on a train during a trip to a neighboring town, we had a nice bout of what I call "solar snow". I wish that I had my Galaxy EK-CG 110 point and shoot camera with me because it does a wonderful job capturing blue and pink rays from the sun. My Canon 7D...not so much. But it is the camera that I had with me, limiting my options.

*****IMPORTANT******

Never, EVER, look at the sun through the viewfinder of a camera. It will severely damage your eyes, maybe even blind you.

What I did was to aim near where I wanted to shoot, took it away from my face and moved the camera up a bit to get a corner of the sun. I also do not want to damage the camera's sensor, so I was careful to not get the full sun. This seemed the safest way to get what I was going for with the camera I had with me.

With a point and shoot camera, of course, you can frame the sun how you want it using the LCD screen. Again, be mindful of how intense the light is on your camera's sensor. I could have done that with my SLR, too, by switching it to "live view", but these solar snows do not last very long and I had to work fast. After just a few shots the snow had stopped...see how it is?  Very camera shy this winter.

I do like "Solar Snows". They break up the monopoly of the bleak weather we've had this winter by giving us something unusual to marvel at.

Marcheta *I DO believe in Global Warming, I do, I do, I DO believe in Global Warming


Sunday, October 2, 2016

The "Trick" to this "Treat"





Pretty good for a crab-apple tree, huh? Sprouting plastic Jack-o-Lanterns just like it's Halloween time, or something like that!

This is not an original idea; I saw one somewhere last fall and thought it was brilliant because the multiple Jacks are so large that they are easily seen from a distance, and when seen up close and personal, they're downright impressive! 

I was inspired to do this at our own home, so I set out for my local Goodwill where I found a good amount of plastic pumpkins (the kind that kids use for trick or treating) for 50 cents each, which makes this decorating idea even more awesome. I found even more at another Goodwill, which made enough to fill the tree as far up as we could reach with our tall orchard ladder.

When the sun shines at just the right angle, it lights up the lanterns with solar energy, which is really cool. Maybe this year I'll buy some small solar lights and place them in the pumpkins to see if they will glow at night or on dark days. 

Installment was easy, I simply used chenille stems wrapped around the handles, and then around the tree limbs. Simple and satisfying!

Marcheta *Shine on, Orange Lantern

Thursday, August 11, 2016

How Corney Can it Get?




 


How appropriate is it that a sweet corn grower's last name is Corney? :) Read on to find out!

This year full-time country woman Denise Corney's brother, Terry, planted his usual acre of sweet corn. Despite the epic drought that we are experiencing this year, Corney Corn is thriving. So much so that Denise feels like she has corn growing out of her ears.

Several times this past week I've helped Denise with her corn stand. Our friends and owner of Galion's KFC on St. Rt. 598 north of Galion has graciously allowed Denise to set up shop in front of the restaurant. Denise also sets up at NorthSide Farmers' Market in Heise Park on Thursdays (4 -6:30 p.m.)



And, this is what is wonderful about living rural: not only do our friends allow us to sell produce in front of their business (on a busy highway, which really helps move product), but part of my payment from Denise was in sweet corn. One night I cooked and froze eight dozen ears after a hot day of selling. It sounds like a lot, and I guess it is, but it really did not take that long.

Here's how I did it. First I shucked the corn and put the naked ears in a large plastic storage tub. Next I got out my large stainless steel stock pot that has a colander basket that fits inside and put about 3 quarts of water in it and got it boiling. When this stock pot came with my set of cookware, I thought, Holy Smokes! Who eats this much spaghetti? It seemed like it would cook more than even the largest Italian family could devour in one meal, and I should know because my best friend comes from a super-sized Italian family. But, know what? I love this stock pot. Not only for steaming food like corn on the cob, but also because it serves as a water bath canner when I make jam. :)

I let a batch of corn steam for about 10 minutes. As soon as I took it out, I added another batch to steam while I cut the first batch from the cob. All I used was a sharp, thin-bladed knife. No fancy-dancy corn cutter is needed unless you really love kitchen gadgets that only accomplish one task. Then I say, go for it!




Because the smallest freezer bags I could find were quart sized, and that there is no way that the two of us could eat a quart of corn, I put enough corn for a meal in sandwich bags (about a pint). Then I put two bags in a freezer bag for the best protection.

As soon as each batch came out of the steamer, I put in another, which gave this process great momentum. All-in-all it took about 3 hours, from shucking to processing to cleaning up the kitchen.

Was it worth it? You betcha! Now I have our winter's worth of sweet corn in the freezer, just waiting to be put in tasty winter fare.

Writing this post today made me think of the song Jubilation T. Cornpone, from the play Li'l Abner. Why? Well, just take a gander at what was left of those 96 ears of corn! You can listen to the song here.



Marcheta *Jublilated


Monday, May 23, 2016

A Series of Fortunate Events

~ or~
How I Squeeze the Beejeesus out of a Single Lemon



Ahhh, those lemons! They are always available in markets and are inexpensive. Lemons can do much more than flavor water, a condiment for fish or used in salad dressings. Here are beneficial ways that I squeeze the life out of a lemon.



First I zest it, even if I don't need fresh zest because it easy to dry by putting it on a paper towel lined plate. To keep it clean, cover loosely with another towel. After a few days it should be dry. I like to use dried zest in "melt and pour" soaps. I love the baby buttermilk formula that I buy from Planktown Hardware and More.


Now I am ready to use the lemon.

Body Scrub


After zesting cut the lemon in half. We only need one half, so put the other half in the fridge. Juice the half that you kept out.  Put about half of the juice in a glass of water to sip while you work. Put the remaining juice in a small cup and mix a few tablespoons of granulated sugar until you get the consistency that you like. 

This makes a delightful sugar scrub. Since it has no added oils, it is perfect for use in the shower. Believe me, you will feel SO refreshed, and your skin will be so silky smooth you’ll wonder if you somehow grew new skin because lemons are a natural source of vitamin C, is a natural astringent, and is a natural exfoliant since the citric acid acts as a gentle "skin peel" that removes the top layer of dead skin cells. The natural qualities of sugar are glycolic acids which are used in many cosmetics. If your skin is sensitive or dry, dilute the lemon juice with water before adding the sugar.

The sugar scrub in itself is plenty wonderful, but wait! We aren’t nearly done with this lemon just yet.


Kitchen Cleaner


To clean the kitchen sink, turn the lemon half inside out after you’ve juiced it. Dampen the sink with water and sprinkle salt over the bottom. Then simply use the lemon half as a scrubber, going up the sides of the sink, too. Lemons have anti-bacterial qualities that make it a natural disinfectant, and the salt acts as a mild abrasive. *BONUS*…before rinsing the sink rub the salted lemon over your damp hands…Viola! You’ve just given your hands a lemon salt scrub treatment on top of cleaning the sink. Now rinse out the sink, dry your hands. Your sink and hands are now lemony-fresh.


And, There’s More!  What about your microwave oven? It wants to be clean, too. Take the same half lemon, salt and all, and place in a bowl of water. Place in the oven and microwave on high for about two minutes. Remove the steaming bowl with an oven mitt and wipe down the inside of the oven with a kitchen towel or paper towels. Isn’t this nice?


One Final Thing…this lemon has practically given its life for us: lemon water, lemon body scrub, cleaned kitchen sink and microwave oven. Let’s give it a proper burial, one that will keep on giving. Since I live in the country and have gardens, I cut what is left of the lemon up into large chunks (so that it will break down faster) and toss it in the compost.  

I do not have a garbage disposal, but I have heard that putting the lemon down the disposal last will help clean it and make it smell as nice as the rest of your kitchen.


I believe that these tips give specific meaning to the lyrics, Lemon Tree, Very Pretty because *W*O*W*! That’s a lot of uses for one half of a lemon, isn’t it? The added, extra bonus is that I feel so thrifty after I’ve had this date with one of my favorite scents. And, I still have the other half to repeat the process in a day or so. 


Marcheta *Sweet on Lemons (who says they’re sour?)  



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Morel of the Story

 
 
 

Simple is best!

Yes, I cut right to the chase and got to the heart of the moral of this post. Or, in this case, the morel.  Mushrooms, that is. J

This wonderful spring treat is a real trooper this year; growing despite the cold, wet weather.

One of the reasons that morels are so special is because they have a short growing season and are hard to find. For these beauties we have to take a hike in the woods. And since they resemble the dead leaves they grow from, finding them is no easy task.

Back in the day, in the late 50’s and early 60’s, I remember going mushroom hunting with my parents in the woods behind our rented farmhouse. We took brown paper grocery sacks and in no time could fill several bags.

Now days, not so much. Even though we always leave one or two to send their spores out for next year’s crop, we find less and less each year. Morel mushrooms have become an expensive delicacy, selling for $32.00 a pound at the local produce auction. How lucky I feel that are we are finding them this year!

Sure, you could use these mushrooms in many recipes, but the absolute BEST is to just enjoy them simply for what they are. Slice the shrooms down the middle length-wish because the stems are hollow and may house a bug or two. Small bugs may make homes in the deep honeycomb-like crevices of the mushroom cap, so it is a good thing to wash each one separately under running water. Then  give them a quick soak in a bowl of water, just to make sure the mushrooms are clean of any unwanted tenants.

Pat the mushrooms dry with clean kitchen or paper towels. Melt real butter in a sauté pan, when the butter begins to bubble, add the mushrooms. A bit of salt and pepper are all they need. Turn to cook the other side. This does not take very long. And there you have it, the most tasty, most delicious mushroom in the world, ready to plate and enjoy. Morel mushrooms, if you are lucky enough to find them, are a fleeting pleasure, which makes the experience all the more special.

 

Marcheta *a-hunting I will go!

PS Because morel mushrooms are a wild food, you need to know what you are looking for so that you do not pick poisonous imposters. This website has good information about morel mushrooms.  Here is an excerpt on safety.

Considerations

Wild morel mushrooms must be properly identified to be sure they're safe to eat. Mushrooms known as "false morels" resemble the real morels but their caps are round and they're poisonous. If you're not experienced, don't hunt for mushrooms without first obtaining some instruction. Mushroom-hunting clubs, mycological organizations, botanical schools and some community colleges offer mushroom-identification classes and guided forays that send an experienced expert with a group of novice mushroom hunters to teach identification techniques. Never eat morel mushrooms raw. Cooking eliminates substances that may make you sick. Edible morel mushrooms can cause allergic reactions, so if you’ve never had them before, eat a small amount and wait several hours before eating more. Use morels as you would any other mushroom, but remember their flavor is stronger and stands on its own better than other mushrooms such as the white button varieties.

Top of Form

 

 

 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gateway to Healthy Meals...

 



 
I found this young fellow taking a break from
helping his parents at their family market stand
 at Bellville, Ohio Farmer's Market.
Farmers Market Season has begun! And what a blessing and joy they are.
 
Our area is a cluster of three small towns. Once Upon a Time, not so very long ago, we did not have farmers markets here. Farmers markets were more of a "city thing".
 
 
Well, all of that began to change about 10 years ago. A few markets have sprung up and failed, for various reasons. Now things have seemed to have leveled out, and all three towns have successful markets. It meant some shuffling around a bit to achieve this. For instance, Galion's NorthSide Farmers Market (which I helped to get started) has moved to Thursdays to not be in conflict with Crestline Famers Market, which is on Tuesdays. Bucyurs' Farmers Market will continue on Saturday mornings.
 
 
 

I feel that these markets contribute to the quality of life here in our rural part of the state. People who do not garden now have access to fresh, local food sources. It was here all along, but without the markets not available to the general public.

Local honey and maple syrup are natural sweeteners available at
farmers markets.
Jim and I are not vendors until July, when our fruit harvest begins with Lodi apples. But you can bet your sweet bippy** that I'll be perusing the markets for items that we do not grow or produce. :)
 
       **Yep. I am old enough to quote Laugh In.....!
 
Holistic Acres! What a fantastic name for a small
family farm. :)
What to look for now: rhubarb, asparagus, greens such as spinach and kale, fresh herbs, herb plants, bedding plants, veggie plants, fresh eggs, honey, pure Ohio maple syrup, local meat (beef, pork, chicken), baked goods, and handmade items such as soap.
 
Happy Fresh Food Shopping, everyone!
Marcheta * fresh!