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Category Archives: Retirement

Down on the Farm

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I grew up a city girl. I have no idea why I became a country lover. Most of my relatives for the past few generations lived in and around Baltimore.

We made the big move out here 17 1/2 years ago, and I can honestly say I want to live out my life surrounded by trees, fields and streams.

What happened to trigger this posting? Just a simple random comment at a mini-reunion luncheon. earlier this month. A few comments there, actually, made me think about sitting down to write more often. It seems my classmates do read the ramblings of mine and enjoy them.

The interesting comment was about my life in the country, down on the farm, so to speak. We don’t consider our property a real farm. No animals. No crops. But we are surrounded by rural residences with chickens and horses. We once had goats a few homes down. We may be getting some cattle close by soon.

We love it here. Now, peace and quiet has been restored. The commuters are gone, finally. The new road behind us is done. It is now safe to cross the street to get our mail. The garbage truck and the recycling truck workers have a much easier job without the long line of impatient commuters threatening them from behind because of their delays.

Our roads are narrow and can be dangerous, but still so scenic.

The wildlife abundant. Last night my husband counted 14 deer in the field grazing on whatever the seasonal weeds are. We now have a resident fox who is marking his territory on all the sidewalks, the driveway and the edge of the patio. Thankfully we relocated the groundhogs last year.

The bunnies still live under our low deck, and the crows have moved on (hopefully) because we did manage to get rid of the grubs in the mulch.

We have a new view out of our bedroom window when we wake.

Our neighbors built a new barn.

Life is lived at a slower pace in our little corner of the country. My gardening takes up much of my time and The rewards are trickling in.

The first tomatoes. Including the green one that fell while I was fastening a vine to the cage. The hot peppers. Okra. Swiss chard.

The flowers from two places I planted them.

Here’s to life in the slow lane. Enjoying the herbs from my garden, and the goodies from my CSA. Cantaloupe and snap pea salad, with ricotta salata and mint.

Twelve

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Another year. Another anniversary of retirement.

We still live in the same place. We aren’t looking to move. We really want to “age in place” and are taking steps to make our house even more comfortable for us old folk.

I am happy these days being a homebody, since we spent so much time on business travel when we worked. I also am not enamored of living in close quarters like we would be if we moved to a retirement community.

What are we doing differently than when we first retired? Anything? We are having more outdoor work being done by contractors.

We have been retired twelve years. Are we bored? Certainly not. Could we stay here if we want a single level home? Definitely.

Coming up? A summer of renovation. New second story windows to make the house much more energy efficient.

A newly configured laundry room, and maybe the master closet. Still not ready to tackle the master bath or the kitchen.

I decided to cut back on the garden plantings since we will be dealing with contractors all summer, but I still plan to have tomatoes, onions and herbs. Most of my plot will be planted for food bank harvest.

I did find my first asparagus of the season which will go onto a flatbread tonight with some leftover Easter lamb.

I actually cut these below the soil line to get them out of the ground before our Sunday night frost warning. Gives them that white asparagus stalk.

Besides that, the cooking bug is still alive and kicking. Lots of experimentation using old magazines and a few new downloaded cookbooks.

Yes, that’s a nine year old Virginia Chardonnay, the last one from the cellar. Absolutely exquisite, served with another version of the clams and pasta dishes we’ve made this winter.

Here’s to many more seafood experiments this spring and summer. Can’t wait for crab season to get here.

Retirement. Doesn’t get much better.

Milestones

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Today is the tenth anniversary of this blog. I registered the domain name on 2 November 2011. Because? I wanted to write about my retirement and the things that interested me.

I was pretty prolific in the early years. Sometimes daily. Now, new topics are rare but I still enjoy writing. My phone has replaced my camera for taking the pictures. The iPad is my writing desk and the big bulky PC is a door stop, so to speak.

I am sitting at my desk in the study and looking at the scenery in the rain.

Waiting for the conditions that made this shot more than a decade ago.

Autumn is our favorite time here. Even with all the yard work to prepare for winter. We still suck up all the pine needles for our friends who use them on their berry plants. Many of the trees in the picture above are gone. Between the tornado and other wind storms that large grove across the street is no longer a dense screen and we see the neighbor’s lights in the evening.

What else has changed in this decade I have been retired? More traffic. More houses. More businesses up the road. I think we have more restaurants and carry outs less than a mile away than we did when we lived in Columbia. Five restaurants. Two carry outs. A coffee shop in the doggy day care house.

Jenny’s Market is now open seven months, and is taking turkey orders to fill with TLV farm turkeys. We have the ShoNuf turkeys in Maple Lawn and at Boarman’s market. No turkey shortage here in Howard County for Thanksgiving.

I will be getting a half turkey at Jenny’s since it’s just us again this year. Not quite ready to travel or eat indoors yet and I am not a fan of the choices from the local restaurants for the Thanksgiving packaged deals for take out and reheat at home. I like making the turkey my way and having all those leftover parts for future meals.

So, where am I going with all this rambling? Do I continue to occasionally write what I am thinking? Do I return to those endless posts about what I got in my farm share?

I hope we have more road trips, more restaurant meals, more new places to review in 2022. We are cautiously venturing out more and more. Have a visit planned to Linden Vineyards for a pre-release party.

Attending Iron Bridge University in the tented dining area where Rob is doing crazy things like pairing wine and potato chips. Seriously. By the way, Utz’s Dill pickle chips go really well with lightly oaked Chardonnay.

Well, enough rambling. I am off to do some errands and pick up my first fall CSA share which includes boneless chicken breast, chèvre and honey in my omnivore basket. Sounds like a ready made trio to make dinner this evening.

Eleven

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I am sitting here watching the news and thinking about eleven years ago. And not having to get up to go to work on Monday morning. Ever again.

I retired April 1st 2010. A good way to spend April Fool’s Day. I have never regretted retiring as early as I could. Particularly when years like 2020 come along and recalibrate your plans.

I think retiring in the spring is a smart move. My husband retired in January. Dark. Cold. Stuck indoors most of the time. It is hard to transition when you are limited in things to do.

I found my hobbies and interests kept me busy. My garden. Cooking.

I then discovered the Conservancy and volunteering and the last ten years have been filled with activities that keep me busy even during the pandemic.

Last year I spent every other day for six months in the community gardens, tending my own plot, and helping with the food bank.

We have done more than a ton of food each of the past two years. Many of us who are retired use this outlet as our way to give back, while keeping active.

I also volunteer in many ways to support my husband’s hobby. Amateur radio. I cook for Field Days. For the annual “Fowl Fest”. I hope we get to conduct those activities soon, as we miss our friends and the good times we have when we are together. Like our crazy summer emergency preparedness field days. In the heat. Or rain. Or wind. But still, enjoying our hobbies with our friends.

I miss cooking for the radio guys. They are so appreciative of what we make for them. Yeah, we enjoy our meals here, but I have been cooking dinner every night for almost 400 days now. I really want to have those restaurant nights again, and want to cook for friends and family.

I know. This evening I am reminiscing, and also whining a bit about this lost year. Missing friends. Missing family. Missing my 50th reunion, which I hope will someday take place. Missing the gatherings. The sharing.

We just need to hang on a while longer. Beat this virus. So we can enjoy decades more of retirement.

But one good thing about this forced isolation. My husband got back into cooking. making a number of dinners now. Like the clam and fennel chowder I wrote about. And just simple things like pasta.

Here’s to better days. And meals with friends. And dinners at restaurants. And travel. Yeah, I miss travel. We will get there. Won’t we? I have faith. And I want to get out there.

Coping

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It’s been three weeks of not going anywhere non-essential.

It’s not fun being “old”.

In two days we were going to go celebrate my ten year anniversary of being retired. Now, we will raise a toast here at the house. We are really glad we have the luxury of staying home, and the privilege of getting things delivered.

I have been working on updating my resources, sadly neglected, on this web page to highlight the small local businesses that we support.

I also realized that maybe writing more will calm the nagging anxiety we can’t shake.

I know we are lucky. Right now, we get our weekly farm share from Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op and our monthly meat share from Evermore Farm.  We have curbside service at Wheelhouse and at Harris Teeter.

Thankfully, my chest freezer in the basement is still full of tomato sauces and roasted tomatoes, blueberries, stocks, soups, grains, flour, nuts and pesto. The freezer up here has a good variety of meat and some frozen vegetables.

The pantry? Beans galore. Condiments. Oil. Vinegar. Spices and herbs. Pastas and lentils. Oats. Rice.

I started making my no-knead bread again.

The simple version. Flour, salt, yeast, water. An 18 hour rise. Google Jim Lahey no-knead bread if you want to try it. We were lucky to find yeast at Harris Teeter. This recipe only uses 1/4 tsp so we can make 8 loaves from one envelope.

The other staple? My simple tuna dish. Tuna, onion, white beans, salt and pepper.

The recipe calls for tuna with olive oil but anything will work. Over greens is our preferred way to eat it.

I am making soups. Omelets. Pasta with sauces. Eat one night. Freeze the other half for later. Minimizing the amount of protein in the dish. Heavy on the greens and grains.

Hanging in there. Praying for friends and relatives on the front lines.

How are you coping?

Fourteen Years

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Time flies when you’re having fun. This week it’s been 14 years of living here. I actually find that hard to believe. Nine of those years I have been retired.  Looking back I wonder where the time went and what did we do during those years.

I was a city girl. Now, I just can’t imagine living someplace not surrounded by nature. I don’t miss the smog, the congestion, the hurried pace, the light and the noise. I really like the peace and quiet, and the darkness. Sitting on the porch on balmy evenings watching the sun set. Getting up early and watching the animals at the feeders and the bird bath. Battling the squirrels as they try to destroy my feeders. Moving the occasional snake.

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The first time I saw the sun turn the trees to “fire” I was hooked.

We have been lucky out here. The chance to put up the radio towers for my husband’s hobby. The garden, for about eight years. Then I did have to move to the community space which keeps me involved with others in a social gardening setting. And giving me protection from the deer who tried constantly to defeat my fencing in the yard. I still put certain things in the small enclosed space in my yard, like potatoes, garlic and herbs.

I have become a homebody. Not wanting to leave for extended periods of time. Letting the passport lapse for the near term.

While decluttering, I found a box of old government papers that included many travel forms. I estimate I spent years of my career on the road. Easily five years, maybe more. I don’t miss it at all. We still take overnight or weekend trips but being cramped in an airplane isn’t my idea of a fun time. Give me a B&B in the country and good restaurants and I am happy.

The outdoors and the weather drive our activities these days. There’s garden season. And the prime time amateur radio season. Let’s not forget mowing season. We fill our days with activities and projects, and keep relatively fit taking care of things.

I also don’t think I would have gotten into cooking and baking if we lived in an urban environment. Certainly the way we eat has been influenced by the farms and family businesses in our area.

Fourteen years have flown by. We are happy we took the plunge and moved out here, and look forward to many more years in our peaceful place.

A Quiet Christmas

As I noted last month with our 40th Thanksgiving, this is also the 40th time we have celebrated Christmas together. Now, retired, and free of the shopping angst of the season, we are enjoying the peace this year. No big commitments. Just a few cookies baked. A completely different approach in decorating. We are spending today at home, after a Christmas Eve dinner with some of our longtime friends.

This year, I did the massive grouping of poinsettias again. I also decided to pull out my favorite decorations from my mom and my MIL. They grace the stairs in the foyer, along with a ribbon wrap, a wreath and tiny white lights. Flowers in the kitchen and dining room. A few candles. That’s it. No tree. No outdoor lights. I have embraced the concept of minimalizing. No stress.

I had a good time a few weeks back, when I answered a request from an old friend to help them decorate their new place. I was happy to see some of my old decorations getting a new lease on life and get used, instead of being stored away. Large wreaths. Folksy hanging items. Ribbons. Wrappings. All those things that we no longer use.

Soon, I will head off to pan fry a couple flat iron steaks. Roast some root veggies. Try out my latest fermentation goodies. I pickled beets last week, and spicy rutabaga relish. Using the last CSA veggies.

Doesn’t everyone have spicy, Korean style pickled vegetables with Christmas dinner?

I am in the process of making a list of things I want to do in 2019, including writing more than I did this year. I may actually get another one or two posts written this month.

In the meantime  —

Home for the Holidays

The holiday weekend is over. Now to get ready for Christmas.

I realized this was our 40th Thanksgiving together. Our first, we headed to PA so I could meet my future in-laws. After that, we regularly spent the day with one of our families.

Usually we went to PA. Then, for the past 12 years we headed to Annapolis to visit my mom and my brother’s family. All of that changed this year. With mom’s passing, and my brother in the midst of a move to eastern VA, we found ourselves without plans for the weekend.

It was weird but also quite peaceful. No last minute crises. No traffic woes. We spent the last five days doing what we wanted when we wanted.

It was heavy with local influences, in a series of meals. We spread it out. I did oyster stew one night with oysters from Boarman’s. We had our Maple Lawn turkey on Thanksgiving.

I made sides and seasonings that we like. My dressing used chorizo and fresh bread cubes made from my CSA ancient grain bread. My homemade cranberry sauce was tangy from the lemon and orange in it. I made creamed spinach instead of green beans.

My husband went up to Dandelion Bistro Wednesday night to pick out a dessert for Thursday. Smith Island cake. Not traditional at all. So, so good though.

Tonight we used more of that leftover turkey along with some of the stock I made from the turkey bones. Pappardelle’s orzo bought from Secolari at Mary’s Land Farm.

We have enough turkey left for sandwiches, and enough soup for another dinner.

As for other things we did, we had a wonderful meal to celebrate my husband’s birthday at Hudson Coastal. We went Saturday night during our latest deluge. The restaurant was busy but not overwhelmed, and the food was excellent.

Today I watched the traffic backups and was thankful our days of nail-biting drives are over. But, we miss our parents. We are thankful we had so many years to share holidays. We just need to adjust to new routines and make new memories.

Tomorrow? Baking for the Conservancy holiday sale, where we make a potluck lunch for volunteers and vendors. The sale is Saturday and is a highlight of the start of many activities leading up to Christmas.

Eight

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Eight years retired. This weekend. Time does fly when you are having fun.

What have I learned? Have I made mistakes? Do I regret it?

I have learned much about myself. Made just a few errors, nothing big, though. Don’t regret it a minute.

Retiring can be immensely rewarding, or a real let down. I know many people who went back to work, because they were bored and retirement wasn’t what they thought it would be. So, here’s my top five things that make it work for me, and for us – when I include my husband’s retirement a few months after mine.

One — have a passion for something other than work. Without that passion, things get boring very quickly. My passion. Gardening and cooking. My husband’s? Amateur radio.

We have so many things going on with these hobbies. Groups. Social activities. Trips. Immersion into the processes. Maintenance. You get the picture. It’s a time sump. Keeps us busy enough, and provides structure to our days.

Two — social networking. Find new friends. The work ones will disappear. Trust me on this one. You lose the connection quite quickly. We have many new networks. Blogging friends. Garden people. Radio people. Wine lovers. Locavores. Volunteers.

Three — projects. We try and keep up with the house, the grounds, the decluttering. We do it in small batches. We tackle something every year. It may be maintenance. It may be renovation. It keeps us focused, and maintains those project management skills from our work years.

Four — travel. We don’t travel far these days. We did that for so many years. Touched five continents. Cruised 160 days. Now, we like our simple weekends and day trips. Exploring our local world. Getting very deep into it. Weekends in Virginia. Overnights in PA and DE. Festivals. Concerts.

Five — challenges. Mine is cooking. The cookbook club. Learning to bake. Learning to cook ethnic foods, like India, or next month, Thai. Exiting my comfort zone.

We don’t feel old. We still love the challenges. The new experiences. The new friends. Retirement has been awesome, to say the least.

My advice, though. Before you decide to retire, find your passion. Without it, you may not be satisfied, or you may not find enough to do to fill your hours.

Us, we go crazy. Not enough hours some weeks. But, it is great. Doing what we want, day in and day out.

Can’t wait for the azaleas to bloom. Picnic at the reservoir.

The Yeast Beast

Conquering yeast breads. One of those “bucket list” type items on an old list of things I wanted to do in retirement. With the challenge in my cookbook club this month being “Genius Recipes”, this one had to be included.

The famous No Knead Bread from Jim Lahey. Catapulted into the limelight more than 10 years ago by Mark Bittman in the New York Times. According to his website, it is one of the top ten recipes that are visited there.

There are many variations. The ratios, though, are fairly constant. The one from the book is a bit different in that it calls for active dry or instant yeast. As I learned later, every other recipe calls for instant yeast. It works with active dry as that is what was in my pantry at the moment, but I think it would be better with instant.

Here is what I did. Twice, now. Once plain. Once with dried rosemary added. First, I invested in a digital scale and made this recipe using weight, instead of measuring with cups and spoons.

Not a fancy scale, but certainly useful. Zeroed out with the bowl in it. Started with 400g of bread flour. Added 5g kosher salt, 1g yeast (I just used a 1/4 tsp for the yeast as it was so little change in weight). I thought it was interesting in the recipe that the 1 1/2 cups of cool water (55-65 degrees F) to be added used 360g for the measuring.

You mix it all together and then let it sit covered with a towel in a warm corner of your kitchen, out of direct sunlight. I let my first one rise for 12 hours, the second one for 20 hours. The longer rise gave me a bread that was definitely different. This scientific approach, although simple, is really quite educational and erased my trepidation with using yeast.

After the first rise, you flour a board. Dump the wet, sticky dough and pull into a round shape. Recommendations to use parchment paper for this will decrease the messiness of using a floured towel. This second rise or 1-2 hours wrapped loosely in the towel will just about double the dough ball. I used cornmeal for my first bread, and flour for the second.

Here is the first bread.

The crunchy cornmeal coating added to the flavor. It was crusty on the outside and dense, chewy, but with lots of air bubbles inside.

The directions call for you to use a heavy covered pot, like a Dutch oven. I used a Pyrex baking dish. It has to have a lid because what you are doing is creating an oven in your oven. The dish has to be preheated for a half hour at 475 degrees before dumping the dough from the towel into it. It will spread across the bottom. If you want a higher small boule, you need a pot that size.

This was my rosemary bread, dusted with flour. It was baked, covered, for 30 minutes, and uncovered for an additional 15 minutes. I have convection ovens so that last timing with the cover off will vary for those without air circulation. The recipe calls for 15-20 minutes uncovered.

The rosemary bread rose a bit more than the first bread.

Fresh from the oven, lifted out of the pot with a large spatula. Be careful as that pot is screaming hot at 475 degrees.

I will be making this easy recipe every chance I get. I do want to try some of the variations, like using a drizzle of olive oil, and adding sliced olives. Or, making a sweet bread with mini chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.

Google NoKnead Bread, if you want to mess around in your kitchen. Me, I need to get some instant yeast and see if it makes the bread rise more than mine. The slow “fermentation” of that 18 hour rise time makes this bread. It is almost foolproof.

Thanks to the Genius Recipe book by Kristen Miglore for rekindling my interest in baking bread, without fuss.