"Gather ye rose-buds while ye may." Robert Herrick

"Gather ye rose-buds while ye may." Robert Herrick

Hello Friends!

Friends, Romans, countrymen...y'all. Foodies, gardeners, artists and collectors - let's gather together to share and possibly learn a thing or two in the mix.

Donna Baker

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Sign

Look what I found for Christmas. I found it in the Sundance catalog and just had to have it. I have always liked signage and collect it, and this serendipitous find had my name all over it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Peanut Brittle

Here's a recipe I wanted to share with you for Christmas. It is the crunchiest and best peanut brittle I've had - and it is made in the microwave. No gummy brittle here. This stays crisp to the last morsel. You use raw peanuts with this, but I have even used salted cashews and it was wonderful. So imagine it made with almonds, macadamia nuts...

Peanut Brittle

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup light Karo syrup

1 1/2 cup raw peanuts

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tsp. butter

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. soda

Combine sugar, Karo, salt and peanuts in a microwaveable bowl. Stir well. Put in microwave for 5 minutes (this is in a more powerful microwave; in a less powerful one cook it for 8 minutes), with waxed paper loosely covering it. Remove. Mixture will be bubbly. Add butter and vanilla and stir. Cover and cook 2 more minutes. Remove, add soda. Stir; mixture will be foamy. Pour on lightly buttered cookie sheet and spread around. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some of my friends

Thought I'd share some of the deer and other animals on our Peaceable Hill Farm this year. Currently, I'm feeding whole corn to about 27 deer as there aren't many acorns this year. I think a late hard freeze this spring hurt the oaks. The doe standing on her hind legs is snap kicking or boxing the others to get them to go away from the corn. They do this a lot; must be some kind of hierarchy. The kitty is one of our barn cats that followed me from the barn to the pond where I was taking pics of the deer. He is so sweet. More about the barn cats later. The geese at the pond just wanted bread. They ran honking and hissing after the deer and the cat shortly after the photo.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Almond Toffee Grahams

Almond Toffee Grahams

This recipe is really better than toffee. I don't think you'll find an easier recipe. It is rich and buttery and if you like it even more decadent than it already is, you can sprinkle some milk chocolate chips atop the hot finished squares and swirl the melted morsels with a knife; gilding the lily is good right?

1 package graham crackers
1 package slivered almonds
2 sticks butter
1/2 c. sugar

Break graham crackers up into fourths. I saw mine with a serrated knife for perfect edges. Lay onto a cookie sheet with sides. In a saucepan, bring the sugar and butter to a boil over medium heat. Boil 3 minutes, stirring until thickened. Pour over graham crackers and sprinkle with almonds. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Let cool and break cookies apart.

This recipe is also known as poor man's toffee and I guarantee, rich or poor, you, your friends and family are gonna love these.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Peanut Butter Truffles

I thought I would do some recipes for the holidays. If you like peanut butter cups, this recipe is for you. These are probably my most oft requested candy for Christmas.

Peanut Butter Truffles

1 box confectioners sugar

1 12oz. jar creamy peanut butter

2 sticks butter

1 pkg. milk chocolate chips

Combine sugar, butter and peanut butter with a mixer. Roll mixture into bite sized balls and place onto waxed paper. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. Dip balls into chocolate and lift out with a fork or slotted spoon and let cool on waxed paper.

Now how easy is that?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blackberry Sauce in Framboise

In this part of the country, wild blackberries grow in abundance. The only drawback are billions of 1/4" thorns curved backward in an arc. Because of these killer arcing thorns, one can go in for the biggest and plumpest berries then not be able to pull your arm back out. It has happened to me too many times to count. When we first moved to the farm, I'd go berry picking in the summertime in my white cotton dresses that billowed out in the wind and immediately become impaled. I never learned - just kept sticking my arm in with my summer dresses plastered to the bushes wondering how long it would take for someone to find me.
A few years ago, we fenced in an acre or two and planted thornless blackberries and grapes. Why hadn't we done this long ago? I wouldn't have permanently embedded thorns and scars aplenty. Nevertheless, we now get gallons of big, juicy berries. What to do with so many said berries? We eat lots of them fresh. The rest we freeze for cobblers. We also eat them in a bowl with sugar and cream; when you pour the cream on the frozen berries they look like little snowballs. I also juice them and store the nectar in the freezer and sometimes make jam though we don't often eat toast etc. I also make a blackberry liqueur which is very good and potent. This year I tried something new. I canned a blackberry sauce(syrup really) with Framboise in it. The sauce is a sweet/tart topping for ice cream and is very good. It is a delicious way to remember the abundance of summer on those long winter nights.

Blackberry Sauce in Framboise

4 c. blackberries
1/2 c. Framboise
3/4 c. sugar
1 TBS. very fine lemon zest
1 TBS. lemon juice
1 pouch liquid pectin

Wash blackberries; drain. Combine berries, Framboise and sugar in a saucepan; let stand 2 hours; stirring occasionally. Add zest and juice and bring to a boil. Stir in liquid pectin then return mixture to a rolling boil (this is a boil that cannot be stirred down). Boil hard one minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Remove from heat. Ladle hot sauce into jars leaving 1/4" headspace. Adjust 2 piece caps. Process ten minutes in a boiling water bath.

This recipe is easy to make and even better to eat. If you want to skip the canning, just invite friends over and there won't be any left. Or, hide it in the frig and have it all to yourself. Serve it puddled under a scoop of vanilla ice cream or drizzled atop puddings, pies, cheesecakes...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

chicken and dumplings

Grandma Merriott's Chicken and Dumplings

Grandma Merriott lived a long life. She reared four kids by herself. They were very poor. At one time, they lived in a chicken house (those of us who have raised chickens can only shudder). Some summers she had to go west to California and pick produce as a migrant worker. Supposedly the soil in Arkansas where she lived was so poor and full of rocks, it was a miracle she could even feed her family. When her garden had produced enough, she would take her baskets full of produce and along with her children , walk miles to a cannery where her vegetables would be canned for her. Her family would wait outside in the hot summer heat all day under a shade tree then carry their jars back home. I once asked her why she didn't just can her own produce and she said she couldn't afford the jars.

Because of her lean times, she became very thrifty. She saved tin foil, pieces of thread, bread bags, made rubber band balls, etc. She drank powdered milk and had a cup of hot water in the morning instead of coffee. Up until the age of 89, she still tended a huge garden until she was finally too bent to stand. Did I tell you Grandma Merriott was a good cook? She cooked most of her life on a wood cookstove. I've heard she could make sausage that didn't have a scrap of meat in it and yet it tasted like the real thing. I'm putting Grandma Merriott's recipe for chicken and dumplings out there - I've never had any better. Of course our eyes would pop when we saw the backs and necks floating in it, but her broth was rich and sumptuous. Add the stewed chicken and dumplings, and it is to die for.

She's gone now but her recipes live on. Bless Grandma Merriott wherever she is.

Chicken and Dumplings

Cook chicken pieces in 2 quarts water. Add 1/2 stick (she called it a knob) of butter and 1 small can evaporated milk. Salt and pepper to taste. (I also add 1-2 tbs. of chicken bouillion, but be careful adding any more salt).


1/4 c. vegetable oil

1 slightly beaten egg

3/4 c. water

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

Add enough flour to make a stiff dough (start with 2 cups, then another...). Roll out dough on heavily floured board to about 1/16th in. thick (they need to be thin). Slice into strips about 1" x 3" and add to boiling mixture. The flour from the dumplings will thicken the broth but if you want it thicker add a tbs. or so of cornstarch to 1/4c. water to make a slurry and add to broth. It will only take a minute to thicken.

To get my kids to eat some vegetables, I always added carrot pennies, corn and peas, but Grandma Merriott's dumplings never had anything in it but chicken and dumplings. Also, you can use deboned chicken pieces, but the bones add flavor so cut your own up then pull it from the bones. Also, make sure and use evaporated milk instead of regular milk because it makes the broth so much richer.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Canning 101

I have been growing and preserving fruits and vegetables for most of my adult life. It tastes wonderful, is easy to do and fun? Anyway, I hear more and more people are getting into it. Left to right are my Amish paste tomatoes (like Roma), pinto green beans (these, picked at the green stage, are incomparable), dill pickles, strawberry jam, bread and butter pickles, wild plum jam and green peppers. So, listen up foodies and gardeners too.

This recipe is for my famous dill pickles. Yes, I say famous because they were chosen for Smith and Hawken's the GARDENERS' COMMUNITY COOKBOOK that benefited Second Harvest (Alice Waters, Thomas Keller and Emelie Tolley among others have recipes in it too). They took creative license with my recipe so here's the real deal.
1 quart white vinegar (5% acidity)
3 qts. water
1 cup canning salt
Bring to a boil.
To pint or quart canning jars (wide-mouthed are easiest), add sprig of fresh dill, 1 dried red chili pepper and 1 clove of garlic and 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. of alum added to each jar. Use a mandolin to slice pickling cucumbers (not the kind in the store for salads) and arrange in the jar. If you are a fellow perfectionist, layer or arrange them carefully and your jar will be beautiful. Pour the boiling brine over the cukes and seal the jar. Now here's the decision you'll have to make for yourself. This is an old farm recipe and the farm wives used to invert the jar after sealing until cool, then set upright and stored away. Nowadays, the extension folks don't like this method. They want you to give the pickles a waterbath which to me ruins my product. I simply put the finished product in my fridge and they keep for at least a year till I begin the process anew each spring...I can't tell you how many fans I have that tell me they've never had a better dill pickle. Guaranteed.

I need to add here that if you've never canned before you will need equipment and a general knowledge of the process. Don't let this scare you away. Get a Ball (as in Ball jar) canning guide. It is thorough, has pictures, many recipes and will give you step by step instructions. Also, the equipment is inexpensive and can even be bought at garage sales for next to nothing.

Monday, October 13, 2008


I used to break roly polys in half. They were fairly large and inside of them were tiny white crawly things. Babies, perhaps, or parasites of some sort. Ick. I can take most anything except parasites. Now, I don't kill anything. Karma you know. Oh, I do pinch fiddleback spiders, and the yearly cottonmouth water moccasins that take up residence in my gold fish pond... It's not that they eat my goldfish. There are generations from the calico goldfish my young son won at the carnival years ago. But, I do mind the snakes killing two of my ducks that wondered up to the house and don't want them to bite us or my pets. Supposedly, this venomous snake is aggressive though I have never seen that. All the snakes around here seem to want to get away asap. Be that as it may, if I see the watermocs out sunning on my lily pads...
Notice this year's fawn and my male goose running after it. The rest of the geese are his babies from the spring hatch. Also, my female Bourbon Red turkey peeking out from behind a hosta on the back porch. Which reminds me, did anyone go to the annual turkey drop in Yellville,
AR last weekend? This is a town of about 1500 and they have a celebration every year on the town square and the highlight is a plane flying overhead dropping turkeys. When the turkeys land, (some land dead but don't tell anyone I told ya), the celebrants scramble for the fleeing turkeys. I heard one little boy carried his around the entire day like it was an Oscar. No kidding! I'll see if I can get a still photograph or two.

This is my Emmy; the sweetest, most wonderful dog in the world.

This is Sister; Emmy's ornery little sis; field rat killer extraordinaire.


Whether gathering dust in an attic (or barn in my case) or lovingly placed front and center over the mantle, collectibles and antiques have been just as volatile as the stock market in recent years. The true worth of an antique/collectible is basically whatever you can get someone to pay for it. It's true. Many small dealers have been priced out of the market (moi included). They lament Antiques Roadshow as the major cause - made everyone think that their Mona Lisa print was worth as much as the original - the consensus was because it's old it must be valuable. Tip - remember age isn't the number one criteria in pricing. Condition and rarity are usually paramount and sometimes a red hot market for an item. I bought and sold antiques for about fifteen years before finally getting priced out of the market. Antique malls, flea markets (my personal fav) and even garage sale prices kept creeping up until finally it was no longer profitable to buy and sell. Even the large venues like Round Top and Marburger Farm (where I used to set up) became so pricey I could no longer haul a truck and trailer load down to Texas and still make it worth the cost of inventory, overhead and profit margin. Nevertheless, it is still a huge kick to go to the fleas and shows. I could literally do it every day. So remember, another tip, buy what you love cause you may still be holding onto it many moon's down the
road. And really, it's just stuff.

Part of the many chocolate and ice cream molds I have.

Notice my columnar bottle posts at the front of my barn aka my art studio. Also known as poor man's stained glass.

This is an old stepback hutch I painted in trompe l'oeil.

Arts and Crafts

I'm pretty prolific in the arts and crafts department - all over the place really. I draw, paint , sculpt, make jewelry, do gourd art using turquoise inlay, burn images on them and also do oil painting on them. They have been at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Ok and sold at retail outlets. I've done a few art and retail shows. Currently, I'm working on life-sized mixed-media paper art sculpture. Would you believe I have a life-sized horse sculpture in my dining room? I don't know why I like doing life-sized pieces as they take up a lot of space and even longer to make. Craft wise, I've just about done it all - at least it seems that way, but I have been doing it for many years now. If I ever get this blogging stuff down, maybe I can share some demonstrations/techniques.
In the pics are some of my paper art. The red dog is titled Picasso Can't Have A Dog. You'd have to read the text on the dog to understand the meaning. His tail wiggles. A couple of months after I finished it, a book about Picasso came out and on the cover was Picasso and his beloved dachshund. Who knew? The spotted dog on the ground pointing is titled Good Dog. I wish you could see his expression; his top lip curled back slightly. It's too funny. The basset hound on the bench is a work in progress. Some naughty boy tied the goose on its back with a rope and I still have to fashion a working pinwheel onto its tail. I am interested in automatons, but after researching them I couldn't get past the physics (pulleys, levers, etc.) You have to be an engineer to figure it out and I'm too old, er young to start a new career. Anyway, will the twosome be able to become airborne and fly away?

This is a pencil drawing of mine.

Back to the garden

My Meyer lemon. It is about three years old and four foot by four foot. I make limoncello from it and it's my pride and joy. I've propagated many cuttings from it and even shared a few with friends. Incredible recipes from my lemons coming in the future. (Just as soon as I figure all this technical stuff out. ) I began gardening with annuals, then vegetables. Perennials became more of a favorite and now I'm really into tropicals. Logee's Tropical Plants (on-line or catalogue) has a wonderful assortment and I've made purchases from them many times. I now have a passion fruit vine, Meyer lemons, Ponderosa lemons, an etrog lemon, Key limes, Persian limes, Naval oranges, Valencia oranges, and an arabica coffee plant. And two Arbequina olives. Also, an 8' tall bay laurel tree I've had for several years and a ruby red grapefruit plant I started from a seed. In zone 7 they can't withstand the winters, so I'll be hauling them up to the barn this weekend. Gardening is a big part of my life and in the future I'll be sharing tips and begging for tips (especially on pests/deer/squirrels etc.)