“Narcotic-Addicted Dog Trapped Under Ramp!”

Yes. This was this morning’s headline here at the Boston News.

I’ve not been dwelling on the historical delights of tea-drinking this week because of this:

“You look miserable. So here’s a stick.”

This is our one-year old Border Collie, Agnes. Aggie for short. She’s part of the herding dog category, and is exceptionally good at chasing balls, frisbees, cats, small children, lawn mowers and four wheelers.

You can see where this is going.

She also likes to herd vehicles. She’s been doing this since she arrived at our house. This means she runs around and around the moving vehicle until you go fast enough that she finally deems you worthy enough to race you down the driveway.

It’s rather nerve-wracking for the driver, who can’t see her but we’ve all learned to drive slowly until she takes off on her “race”.

Well, last Saturday, she apparently didn’t get her timing quite right.

Scott took off in the Big Red Truck for an oil change and came to the back door a few minutes later, with Aggie in his arms and such a worried look on his face.

“I think her back leg is broken”

Off we went to the Emergency Vet who x-rayed her and confirmed that yes, the femur was in a good number of very crunchy pieces.

She came home in a splint, with enough drugs to knock out an elephant herd.

If you’ve ever tried to get a Border Collie to be still for five minutes, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

She went back into surgery two days later, so we can safely say the first couple of days she was safely ensconced in a cloud of anesthesia. Except when she realized she was wearing the dreaded Cone of Shame on the way home from the vet and we took that off lickety-split to avoid spontaneous combustion…

As you can see, this was not a small thing. She is stitched, pinned, splinted, drugged and completely confused.

She was medicated enough for the first few days to be quite an easy patient. We occasionally had to open the door and prop her up on three legs so she could go do her thing outside, Long-John-Silver-style. Sans the parrot…

We noticed a pattern with the Tramadol effects. About ten minutes before the medicine completely knocked her out, she seemed to hallucinate and suddenly get up and run to some random location in the house or garage. I swear she was seeing things, scary things.

I’ve heard it does similar things to humans.

One morning after medicating her, I went outside to take care of the chickens. I figured I had a good 15 mins to feed and water before dealing with Aggie’s pink elephants.

When I came back into the garage she had disappeared. Except for the small splinted foot sticking out from beneath the ramp in our garage.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a wonderful ramp. We put in in when we built the house as Scott’s late grandfather was using a walker, and it’s been incredibly helpful ever since for a variety of things, particularly this last week with Aggie the Peg Leg.

However, there’s a bit of a hitch. She can get waayyyy under it. And does when she’s worried or has seen something scary. She’s done this a couple of times during thunderstorms. But never with a large brace attached to leg.


I woke the kids up in their most favorite way, by calling in a very panicked tone that I needed help (this happens frequently, there’s always something going on on this farm). After investigating we decided she was well and truly wedged.

We started extrication proceedings with a “yummy” hot dog which we had little faith in, since I’ve been known to be over-feeding her since her injury.

You need an extra 300-500 calories a day with broken bones, apparently. Don’t try it, not a sensible diet move…

Then we got a 2×6 to try and shimmy her along to the “taller” part of the ramp. No luck there either. The Tramadol had well and truly kicked in.

I sobbed a couple of times and talked about calling the Fire Department, and Frankie, who was laying on the floor doing all the dog-coaxing and project engineering, kept getting up to console her rather unhelpful mother.

We decided to utilize some of the Boston male brawn contingent. We finally managed to get Will out of bed and he crow-barred the entire ramp up an extra six inches, to allow Frankie to shimmy under with Scott’s Shepherds Crook that we got him for Christmas in England last year and she dragged the dog out.

The dog was completely oblivious to all of our last 45 minutes worth of endeavors. She quickly plopped herself on her pillow and was out like a light. I rapidly constructed a ramp-hole barricade that looked like something from Les Miserables, and the kids managed to get out the door on time.

My friends in England were probably watching BBC and chugging tea that time of the morning.

But I fell in love with an Illinois farm boy….❤️

The Confusing Cream Tea

Photo by CulinaryGinger.com

Here’s my scone recipe again.


1 tblsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2-1 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

5 tblsps sweet salted butter

1/2 cup raisins or preferably currants

Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450F. Sift flour twice with baking powder and salt. Dice the fats into the dry ingredients and lightly rub in with cool fingertips or a pastry blender. Stir in raisins. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk. Lightly mix with a fork until ingredients form a soft dough.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead very lightly for only about 30 seconds into a loose, smooth dough. Pat with hand to about 3/4 inch thick.

Cut out circles with a 2 inch cutter (I used a small glass for years). Lightly knead together any leftover dough and cut circles again. Place onto the hot baking sheet – you should hear them sizzling. Bake near the top of the oven for 10-12 mins or until golden brown and well risen. Lift onto wire rack to cool.

Slice into two halves, and while warm, spread jam on each half, followed by a spread dollop of whipped cream!

The trick is to handle the dough as little as possible, while still getting it to become doughy enough to cut circles. It does take some practice to get them to rise well. Freeze very well. The above recipe makes 6 scones.

And where I’m from we say “Sconn” not “Scoan”. We can’t be responsible for the people from the North Country. 😆

I’m sure at this point, my English family are wondering what the problem is. They all know what a cream tea is.

However, for 26 years I’ve been arguing with Americans who seem convinced that the cream part of “cream tea” refers to what we delightfully lighten and mellow our black tea with.


It took me forever to figure this out. When I first came to America I apparently struck people as a true imperialist, who certainly would be looking to demand and confiscate hot tea. Which was very thoughtful of them, and also wise, since I was. They would drag out their Luzianne and Lipton bags (😩), let me insist on boiling some water in a pot on the stove instead of using a coffee maker (😳) and even find a teapot to put the bags in.

And then they would always say, so sheepishly:

“I’m afraid I don’t have any cream…”

I wasn’t really sure how to respond.

Were they concerned about their dairy cow’s health?

Were they planning to whip up some butter to make sandwiches? Nope, couldn’t be that, Americans only use mayonnaise in sandwiches.

So I’d say, confused. “It’s ok…”

Because I didn’t know what else to say.

And then they’d again nod sheepishly and hand me the freshly made cup of black tea. To which I’d then say, “can I have a spot of milk, please?”

And then they’d look confused, but fetch a big gallon from the fridge and we’d both sit awkwardly while I tried to navigate the giant milk vessel carefully around Great Aunty Anne’s antique tea cup that they’d especially pulled out for the occasion.

I’m English, and so I never think to try to clear things up because that might be confrontational and impolite, even if we did barge into the Americas wielding large weapons. We’re still a bit embarrassed that Americans resorted to throwing tea in a harbor. It was a touch demonstrative for our stiff upper lips.

Several years after moving to the US, I was asked to do a couple of programs on the History of British Tea Drinking. It was great fun, and I took all my teacups and pots and made scones, and everyone seemed to enjoy it immensely.

At one of these events a few ladies called me over and asked what the little jug of milk was for on the table.

“It’s to put in your tea..”

“What’s this for then?” She pointed at a little dish of whipped cream.

“Oh, that goes on top of your scone, after you’ve spread a nice layer of jam around…”

Lightbulbs went on in everyone’s head, including my own. There were giggles.

“We always thought cream tea meant you put that whipped cream in the tea! We always thought that was a bit strange…”

Well, in this day and age of Frappuccinos and Cappuccinos perhaps not so odd, but back then maybe.

It did occur to me that when I was living in Australia, my best friend Lisa and I would always read Trixie Belden Mysteries, set in the Catskills. Trixie would always eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Well, in England and Australia, jelly is not jam, but rather, jello. And so Lisa and I made endless sandwiches with peanut butter and jello, trying to figure out why on earth the Americans thought this sandwich so great. The jello just slides right out between the slices of bread so exactly how did a child carry one to school?

Anyway. The cream confusion all made sense. Some things just need explanation. Or experimentation, perhaps.

This was my favorite because Jim gave Trixie a bracelet which was very romantic to my 13 year old mind.

So, then, a cream tea is a hot tea (with milk and sweetener) served with scones which you slather with jam and cream, and usually presented mid to late afternoon. If there’s no scones, it’s just an afternoon tea.

If you’re ever in England wondering about this confusion, look on the tea table for a wee milk jug, like these.

Let’s call it a milk pitcher. You Americans are weird about the word Jug. But these little things are much easier to handle than a gallon of milk.

Anyway, it will always be on the tea table because you’re supposed to put milk in your tea. If you ask the English waitress for cream, she will bring you coffee, and then the World will just Turn Upside Down and you already did that with ditching the tea in the Harbor so just behave yourselves, for goodness sake.

Ooh, one more interesting ramble while I think of it. The Americans didn’t throw loose tea in the Harbor, but Tea Bricks, like this:

Bit of a challenge to use in our modern world. Requires a grater.

Just to make things more confusing, the cream in question is often clotted cream, which hails from the West Country (think Poldark) where Cornwall and Devon are.

It’s the preparation of the cream that creates the difference. Whipping cream is simply whisked until thickened. Clotted cream is cooked at a low temperature for hours until the cream clots and thickens on the top and it is these delicious, yellowy clots that are used. It almost looks like butter.

Cream teas, whether clotted or unclotted, are available everywhere in England. They tend to spring up in many touristy locations, a bit like our “World-Famous Fudge” shops, but your local cafe will often serve them as well, along with everyone’s mum, grandma, Aunty and sister. It isn’t a light snack, by any means. A couple of scones with the condiments will likely run you a good days worth of calories, but heck, it’s Christmas, or a rainy day, or Tuesday, or something.

In London they now have a “Tea Bus” you can ride around and sightsee London on, along with cute sandwiches, cakes and scones. Here’s one we went on this summer:

My mummy and I having cakes. The tea had to be in travel mugs, since everyone’s starting to sue everyone else, even in England. 🙄
Unfortunately they forgot to serve the scones, so I can’t really brag on this particular tour. I’d highly recommend the Ritz Hotel. Can’t go wrong there.

I’m already hearing the next question.

“Isn’t that Scone just a biscuit?”

No, a biscuit is a cookie, and nobody serves gravy on their cookies. We talked about this last week….

It took me a while to figure that one out, too.

Time for Tea, continued…

This is my favorite tea mug. Hands down.

I don’t know why, it just feels right when I use it for my tea. It was given to Scott and I as part of a dinner set when we were married. It’s part of the Bilton range, and I only had one left until I discovered, to my great delight, several more on EBay last year.

I can remember tea cup selection being very important growing up. Relatives actually used to get in bad moods if the preferred type of cup wasn’t available. Which is a bit difficult for the hostess to figure out since it’s such an incredibly individual choice.

My Nana, for example. When roadside caravans selling tea popped up, it wouldn’t have been too unreasonable to have imagined seeing her approach one with a crucifix.

Because they had foam cups.

No, no, no. Tea does not taste the same out of a foam cup. Ideally, tea should be served in a fine china cup, with a white interior, and preferably with a saucer. If you really had to go steerage, a mug (with a white interior) would do.

It’s all about how the cup feels at your lips, according to my mum. I’ve seen her in nice department stores, holding up a variety of china cups to her lips “to make sure it feels right…”

I’ve noticed myself doing this of late…

And then there’s the tea-making itself.

As far as I can remember, my family has always used tea bags, although I don’t think they’d been used in Britain with great hurrah for very long when I was born. A “proper” cup of tea was always made with loose leaves, in a tea pot.

One teaspoon of loose black tea (known as English breakfast tea stateside) per person plus one for the pot. In a separate kettle, water was boiled (completely boiled, do not even think of suggesting to me that the hot water tap on a commercial coffee machine is hot enough…) and poured on top of the leaves.

Don’t even think about microwaving the water. You’re welcome to a weird grey cuppa if you do.

Let it brew for 2-3 mins and pour it through a strainer into your cup. Add milk and your preferred sweetener, and that my friends, is a proper cup.

While the American population took to tea bags with enthusiasm, the British were naturally wary of such a radical change in their tea-making methods. This was not helped by horror stories told by Britons who had visited the USA, who reported being served cups of tepid water with a tea bag on the side waiting to be dunked into it (an experience which is still not as uncommon in the USA as it should be!).

Teabag and loose leaf tea

The material shortages of World War Two also stalled the mass adoption of tea bags in Britain, and it was not until the 1950s that they really took off. The 1950’s were a highly popular time for all sorts of gadgets, and the tea bag, eliminating the need of emptying out the pot of its dregs, fell right into the idea of American and British Dream!

Well, maybe.

When I first arrived in America, to my dismay, I discovered that I couldn’t find a proper tea bag anywhere, let alone loose leaf. My mum, when she visited, used to stuff her shoes full of PG Tips tea bags and tuck them all over the place in her suitcase. We worried that we were breaking some rule and a little sniffer dog would arrest her at the airport, but the desire for a proper brew countered that.

It was either that or Luzianne.

Blggh. What is this iced tea nonsense, my friends?

It’s like someone was making a perfectly good cup of tea, forgot about it, and left it on the counter to get cold and bitter. 😝

We throw that away, not add ice for goodness sake.

What in the whatee whats ?

I tried, really really tried hard to like iced tea. In fear that I would never find a respectable tea bag for hot tea again, I tried iced tea with ice, with sweetener, with lemon.

Couldn’t do it. So we just smuggled them past the customs Beagle, which turned out to be a total non-crime anyway.

And then Amazon solved the problem forever…

This is my current favorite tea. I’m trying out a new sort of patriotism since I recently found out that I’m a descendant of the Duncan clan, right on the edge of the Highlands. My Poppy is a Duncan, so I’ve been slowly tracking back, hitting a few stone cairns along the way….

It actually looks like I have a many-greats Aunty from Tranent who was executed as a witch, simply because the poor woman knew her herbal medicines and successfully fixed people’s ills.

Big no no.

It was the 1500’s so apparently we are supposed to let that slide 🙄. I bet she would have liked a chance to brew up a really good cup of “tea” for her bailiffs….

She was far from being the only woman tried for witchcraft because they did common sense things like giving dandelion tea to someone with swollen ankles, or swinging a newborn lamb to clear its lungs. By goodness, if it worked it must be the black arts apparently….

Sorry, Aunty Gellie.


Anyway, following on from last week’s story, Scott is now a big tea connoisseur and has gotten into Darjeeling loose leaves from India, which is a touch flowery for my taste. I like a good strong black tea that leaves you somewhat twitchy after two cups.

Because “I’m a Scot, Scott…” I decided to try this delicious Scottish Tea Blend. Apparently it’s “especially blended for Scottish water” which clearly, is a bit hard to find in Central Illinois, but nevertheless makes a fabulous cuppa.

My other favorite is this one:

This one has a bit of a story. We used to order PG Tips on subscription from Amazon, for years. The story is that PG Tips has tea blenders, who go out to India and other locations and pick out which teas make up their signature blend, usually a very consistent thing.

And then all of a sudden, one day we opened a box, made some and decided something had happened. It wasn’t the same. Apparently the tea blenders had gotten a bit uppity and changed the blend up.


So we switched. We love the Yorkshire Gold.

Couple of important points about tea making:

We don’t use lemon, Just milk and sugar or sweetener. Yes, I know they do lemon in the rest Europe and this is why the British argue with all their neighbors across the channel.

No lemon.

No cream! Cream is only for coffee, and milk is for tea. People get confused by this in America because they’ve heard of the term “cream tea”. That term has nothing to do with cream being put in tea, and I’ll clear up the confusion next time.

Ooh, one more thing. When you serve someone a cup of hot tea, there should not be bubbles. I’ve never been grounded, but I came close one day when I made my mum a cup of tea with bubbles.

But we’re a fairly easy-going nation otherwise….😁

Time for Tea

So. The English Tea thing.

I know, you’ve all been waiting.

But I’ll start you off with my favorite scone recipe, so if you want to cook and not read, read, read, you can get right on with it. I’ll tell you about scones next time, as they are a bit confusing if you’re not English or Australian. But here’s the recipe in preparation.

Back to tea. From the time I was a child, maybe even a baby, I’ve drunk tea! I was probably very spoiled, because I can remember as a child, my brother as well, announcing we were awake by calling to my mum:

“I’m ready for my cup of tea now!”

My own children would never have gotten away with that.

But hot tea, with milk and sugar, was just the way you woke up. Still is. Scott and I always head to the kitchen and turn on the kettle first thing in the morning.

Tea is actually how Scott and I met. Let me tell you the story.

At the University of Wales, in the lovely Welsh town of Aberystwyth,


is where “it” all began.

Yep. There.


Anyway. It was the beginning of my second year of college and I was headed back to my dorm room, up the stairs, with a stack of very weighty law books I had just purchased.

My knight in shining plaid appeared. I wish I’d taken a picture at the time, but that would have been weird.

But I still have the plaid shirt. Here it is.

It really only fits yours truly now.

I’d met him a couple of days before and we had chatted and I knew right then I would marry this man. Sounds corny, but apparently it was true.

He was an American exchange student from the U of I and I really didn’t need to know much else.

Anyway, he saw me hulking these textbooks up the stairs and asked if he could help.

“Why, of course, you perfect piece of Creation!”

I didn’t actually say that, I said thank you in a very English manner and he brought them all the way up to the top floor into my room and put them on my desk.

At which point I immediately launched into English mode.

“Would you like a cup of tea?”

It wasn’t as strange as it sounds to most Americans. All British college students drink tea on the hour, every hour, and at every moment of transition in between.

You come back from class:

“Let’s have a cup of tea.”

You get ready to go to class:

“Need a quick cuppa..”

It turns 10am:

“Tea anyone?”

Tea solves most problems, and tea with lots of milk and sugar is apparently great for “shock” although I’ve never quite figured out what this means. It certainly solves low blood glucose, let’s put it that way…

If you visited a friends room in college at any time of the day or night, tea would always be offered. If they weren’t there, they probably wouldn’t have cared if you popped the kettle on anyway.

Biscuits, (or “cookies” for the anti-Redcoat gang) are usually involved and you dipped these in the tea while discussing the deep things of life. There’s a knack to “dunking” it long enough so that it becomes delightfully melty and soft and yet doesn’t collapse into one’s tea, which is a big disaster.

You can find the best ever biscuit, called a HobNob here:


Hob nob means to drink socially, which is EXACTLY what you do with tea! Clever, huh?

This way of life is just a thing we’ve always done and always will. And the best part about it is that it creates a huge unspoken social understanding of how long someone is going to hang out with you. In England, if you’re planning to stay and chat for more than one minute, then by golly, you will accept the tea.

“No, thank you.” he said.

Rats. He’s not going to stay and talk, I thought, because at that point, I wanted nothing more.

Well, no, I wanted to marry him, but felt that discussion should probably wait until after a cup of tea.

Nevertheless, three hours later, he was still sitting in the chair in my dorm room, talking away, and the whole time I’m wondering, “why on earth are you still here, you didn’t want tea…?!”

He figured it out later, the “tea thing”.

And the rest is a 26 year history….

More tea next time. There’s so much to tell!

Why Don’t Ducks Feet Freeze?

It’s a beautiful day. It really is.

It’s also 6 degrees Fahrenheit.

For my Aussie and British friends that’s a balmy -14.444 Centigrade. The .44444 infinite is very important so don’t ignore it. Every post decimal number is important at this temperature.

The temperature in the British Isles is, well, incredibly temperate. Annual temperatures average a daily high of 56F and average lows are 43F. So not a huge range.

There’s generally a lot of discussion and sometimes chaos if it goes above or below the above stated temperatures. The British really enjoy discussing weather, and feel it generally very intentionally affects their lives, like it has a rather vindictive or occasionally charming personality all of its own. You often hear things like:

“Well, the rain just ruined our picnic, didn’t it?”

Or, here’s a classic:

“Bloody weather…”

The Australians, in contrast, just tend to go out and herd cattle, dig for gold nuggets, lay on the beach, and fight bushfires without feeling like the weather hates them. Even when clearly, sometimes it does.

Americans are much more practical about Weather’s life choices. In Illinois, over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 22F to 83F. With quite a few extremes on either end.

Conversations based on weather generally go as follows:

“Is the heated chicken waterer keeping up with the temperatures?”

“They’ll be combining on Thanksgiving!!!!😬😬”

“Bring in some wood for the fireplace”

“Someone go chip at the ice around that sheep’s feet so she can move again.”

And my favorite:

“Where’s the axe? I need to break ice in the pond for ducks…”

All things said around here during winter.

(Don’t worry, I was kidding about the frozen sheep.)

But back to the ducks. Ducks are truly stunning creatures, and I dearly love mine. I have some Khaki Campbell’s, which are good egg layers, a couple of Pekin Ducks (like the juicy ones on a Chinese menu), a couple of mutts, and then an endangered variety called Shetland Ducks.

The Shetlands are the black and white ones. The brown Khaki is called Jamie. He had a Claire but she was eaten by a raccoon. It was very tragic but he has moved on and seems to have taken up with the White Pekin…

The Shetland Ducks are an endangered breed that come from, weirdly enough, the Shetland Islands. These islands lie in the North Atlantic Ocean between Scotland and Norway and the ducks were brought there by Viking invaders way back in the depths of time.

Jamie with Vikings

My friend Sonja Solomonson raises a variety of heritage breeds and if you’d like to contact her, take a look at her Facebook page Rustic Red Poultry. I got my wonderful Shetlands from her, and have loved every minute of raising them.


She’s an expert on feathered things, and an exceptionally wonderful human, to boot.

So these ducks, being somewhat used to Arctic conditions, do very well in our Illinois winters. Most ducks seem to actually, which is bizarre to me, because if I had had a little webbed, or even non-webbed foot, out on that ground this morning, it would have snapped off in about 2.1 seconds.

So how come ducks feet don’t freeze? Ok. Get a cup of tea, because here’s a little science.

They do this, for a start:

They sit on their little feet. Chickens don’t, which is why chickens end up in the coop on cold days. Ducks want to be out fishing, and worming and bugging and everything else. So they start with warming their feet with their little bellies.

In addition, they are very cleverly designed for swimming around in icy cold water. Even in mid-January, I’m down at the pond every morning, hacking through the ice with an axe, so Jamie and friends can have a nice warm swim. Whatever.

How on earth does this non-frozen webbed foot work? I have trouble believing this whole design was made up by some accident. ❤️

There’s a very clever heat exchange taking place. The smaller the temperature difference between two objects, the more slowly heat will be exchanged. Ducks, as well as many other birds, have a counter-current heat exchange system between the arteries and veins in their legs. Warm arterial blood flowing to the feet passes close to cold venous blood returning from the feet. The arterial blood warms up the venous blood, dropping in temperature as it does so. This means that the blood that flows through the feet is relatively cool. This keeps the feet supplied with just enough blood to provide tissues with food and oxygen, and just warm enough to avoid frostbite. But by limiting the temperature difference between the feet and the ice, heat loss is greatly reduced.

Pretty clever, huh?

And yes. It’s still beautiful. But the Big Guy is pretty generous with His scenery.

Even when your eyelashes get tiny icicles.

Spring is coming, friends.

The Pear Dare

My biggest pet peeve is having to scroll through someone’s description of their fabulous weekend and how much time they spent in their vehicular office today, in order to find the recipe.

So here’s the recipe. Thank you to my very talented husband for his food photography.



  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups chopped peeled ripe pears


  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, 3 tablespoons sugar and salt; cut in butter until crumbly. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks and lemon juice; stir into dry ingredients with a fork. Remove 1 cup to another bowl; stir in the remaining sugar and set aside for the topping.
  • Press remaining crumb mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
  • Meanwhile, for filling, combine the sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, salt and cinnamon in a small saucepan; slowly stir in water and lemon juice until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in butter and vanilla.
  • Toss pears with remaining cornstarch; spoon over crust. Top with filling. Sprinkle with reserved topping. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
Nutrition Facts

1 piece: 430 calories, 20g fat (12g saturated fat), 119mg cholesterol, 511mg sodium, 60g carbohydrate (28g sugars, 3g fiber), 5g protein.

Ok, so now that’s done, we can chat, knowing that some poor thumb somewhere is not scrolling through my endless withering to find the ingredient list.

It was delicious, by the way, and went a tiny way to solving some issues I currently have. Namely this:

Scott’s Uncle and Aunt kindly gave us a couple of boxes of pears a week ago. We never refuse food here on Boston’s Ridge.

Only trouble was this:

I’m done canning, friends. I cannot do anymore this year.

But then there’s also this, which is definitely NOT a bad problem to have.

No one’s getting scurvy round here this winter, not if I have anything to do with it….

At one point, though, I really did have NOTHING to do with it.

I grew up, as I told you, on the south coast of England. A good, solid, very comfortable middle class household.

But we never grew veggies.

In England, the class system very much defines everything about how you choose to live your life. Of course, during the war years, everyone had a victory garden, but generally speaking, veggie growing seemed to be reserved for both the upper and lower- Middle classes of society.

Both segments of society are smart enough to have greenhouses. The Uppers, of course, have “help” in their greenhouses, the Lower Middles (sounds like a village name..) pride themselves on their magnificent red orbs that emerge from these glass sheds, completely orchestrated by hard work and a few sunny days.

The Middle-middles however, want nothing to do with veggies.

There’s a little class anxiety going on here. I’m unlikely to offend anyone, as my mum and I have giggled many a time over Mrs. Boo-Kay’s (a.k.a Bucket) behavior in the TV show Keeping Up Appearances. Conscious of the unlikely ability to move to the untouchable Uppers, and worried about being perceived as Lowers, a lot of time and energy goes into planning one’s meticulous garden, to look Just So.

Roses are preferable to Marigolds. Biggest example I can think of. Marigolds are definitely lower class. Forget the fact that this is one of the most useful flowers on the planet (bug control, my friends, a cream made of marigolds keeps every biting bug at barge-pole distance). However, the poor Marigold is just not in the same class rank as the Rose.

Veggies are considered a bit unsightly for the Middle-middle garden.

“ We can afford a tomato. We don’t need to grow it.”

These probably aren’t things that most British people worry about. However after chucking myself in passionate fashion down said Rabbit Hole, I found myself very definitely in the land of John Deere moldboard plows, and “yes, by goodness, why would you NOT grow it?”


The first summer after Scott and I were married, in 1994, we were fortunate enough to have a spot of land to grow a garden.

I had no clue. I had had a couple of fabulous and very clever Uncles that would emerge from the greenhouse with a hefty and appropriately timed tomato at family dinners, but I assumed it was all slightly magical, like the glasshouse was some sort of alternate universe you went into when you needed stuff.

Apparently not.

“Sam, you even have to get those little weeds. They get much bigger if you don’t…”.

I’m telling you now, it took poor Scott quite a while to be able to recover from my wrath following that, albeit, completely true, comment….

But I’ve always felt pretty adaptable, I think. I’ve enjoyed becoming part of where I lived. So despite some extremely sturdy initial resistance, I eventually grew to LOVE my garden.

Scott’s Mom taught me to can, both boiling water and the slightly terrifying pressure-can version, and I’ll forever be grateful for that. My own Mum sent fun English recipes for things like green tomato chutney (we English do love a bit of cheese and chutney, be sure to Google a Ploughman’s pub meal, my friends) and it’s become a wonderful part of life.

Our family goes through roughly 45 pints of salsa and chili sauce a day, it seems, so my eventual enthusiasm paid off.

But I still need to work on this😳

Happy fall, everyone.

Hints for Success


Good afternoon friends, from the lush kelly-green grass of the Other Side of the Fence. I’m taking over for our lovely owner today as she wandered away muttering that she needed a cuppa.

I’m not sure what the contents of said Cuppa were to be, but I’m thinking from her snarky attitude, it needed to be something unleaded.

I’m the only black goat in the herd. Apparently I’m lucky to still be here, they say. Not sure what that means, but since I’m going to be soon enjoying a promotion to what sounds like a high class establishment, known as the Market, I thought I should seek to educate any apprentice black ruminants out there.

There are just a few simple rules to successfully aggravate your humans by getting your head well and truly stuck in a fence. I’m not sure why it’s so difficult for the lighter colored goats to figure this out.

1) Always make sure you are impossibly limber and flexible to achieve the most superior measure of stuckness. The very best extrications take place from a location where it is clearly anatomically impossible to get both your skull and horns through in the first place. Not just millimeters of impossibility. To be really impressive, it needs to be inches.

It’s good for your human. Keeps them wondering.

2) Always, always choose the wooden fence. The wire fence is too flexible and too easy for the human to get you out. Only once have I been able to cause them to get the wire cutters – big failure. Will haunt me a lifetime. And possibly them too.

In contrast, the wooden fence has no give. And requires tools. It’s more interesting when the boy is involved as he wants to experiment with things I think won’t work. She just always comes at me with a crowbar. No fun.

3) Always choose somewhere that is the furthest possible distance from the house. Throw in a tight schedule and you score ten extra points. If they are late and on their way to church, double those ten extra.

4) Always get them in their best clothes. A three-piece suit scores the highest in this category, but milady’s nice meeting clothing is perfectly satisfactory.

Doesn’t count if they are in any type of bib-overalls or Wellington boots. Face the challenge head on, furry friends.

5) Always be sure to get stuck only when that big handsome guy is not home. He’ll have you out in two minutes flat which totally destroys all your hard work.

Feel free to touch base any time if you are “ruminanting” on any questions. You can contact me here, or hopefully, at The Market.

Late Night Lancing

Yes. Lancing. Not dancing.

I wasn’t going to blog again quite so quickly, figuring the suspense was good for “business” and so on.


We had some exciting late-night pasture surgery last night, which is typical of my new world and so I thought I’d tell you all about it. Whether you like it or not.

I grew up on the very long suburb called the south coast of England. You’d sort of have to be English to get my drift here. It’s very lovely, post war homes and newer homes, intertwined with charming thatched-cottage villages with names that sound like something out of Tolkien’s Shire. Places like East Wellow and Farleigh Wallop.

I kid you not.

Nature was not something I was particularly exposed to, certainly not in a hands-on manner. We occasionally had a fox in the backyard which caused enormous excitement .

Here’s Mr.Fox, enjoying the sea view from a construction site at the Lee on Solent seafront when we were in England this summer.

We also had a wonderful house cat, Tiger. And you had to drive 30mph in the New Forest because if you hit one of Her Majesty’s wild ponies there was a harsher punishment than if you got too close to an Illinois road construction worker, heaven forbid.

So, medical procedures in the dark on not-so-wee beasties STILL strikes me as a new and exciting thing. Every time. Even though I’ve been known to deliver a lamb or two while the kids are setting the table for dinner…

We have a few dogs at our house, all important members of the family and farm. Agnes is our Border Collie and lives outside around the house. She keeps smaller critters out of the pet food. Last week the power went out in the middle of the night, and the next morning we found a very stiff raccoon laying on the ground under the electric line. It looked like a stick-figure drawing with fur. Apparently Aggie had chased it up the pole.

And then we have guardian dogs. Frenemies of Agnes, who never crosses into their territory. Moose, our guard dog, our great protector of goats and sheep and slayer of raccoons, possums and the occasional unfortunate bunny, is a Great Pyrenees. We have two of these dogs, the other is Duke, who is older and heavier.

Duke in front, waiting for food. Moose in rear, keeping watch for “dangerous” starlings.

Moose definitely has the better work ethic. Spends all day barking at any bird larger than a sparrow, always looking out, And thoroughly scares the hoards of coyotes that creepily yelp and howl around here after sunset. Yes, I know, it also makes my skin crawl. There was a bobcat carrying a squirrel on one of our trail cams recently. I’ve no doubt I’ll get back to that later….

Duke is also fabulous but not quite so motivated unless there is a donut involved. That’s ok. He growls nicely when you scratch his ears.

Great Pyrenees have double dewclaws. Dewclaws are those odd higher up claws on a dogs leg, and the Pyrenees got lucky and got an extra set.

These are healthy paws by the way, so it’s safe to zoom in….

And there’s a reason for that. The Big Guy knew what He was doing ( I don’t care if you want to argue with me, but first you have to tell me about when you last designed a sea anemone 😝) and so these claws tend to be found on more of the mountainous/harsh terrain dogs who needed greater traction. St Bernard’s, for example, also have them.

So these extra toes, with their own individual bone structure, are delightfully useful.

Except, sometimes they get infected. Well, all claws can really, and our dogs are working pretty hard in timber and probably snag their nails like everyone else.

Moose had been gimping around on three legs for a couple of days and Scott had noticed a badly abscessed double dewclaw. I made an appointment to take him in to the vet today when Will got home from school. The dog weighs more than me and I needed either a strong boy or a small crane to hoist him into the vehicle.

But Moose seemed under the weather, listless and laying around and not caring about your average pigeon as much as normal. The normal “mom fever test” with the back of the hand on his furry forehead didn’t work, but his ears felt hot, so I “diagnosed” a fever.

I began to worry about septicemia and other scary things I hear Scott talk about, And we discussed “emergency clinics” and so on at dinner. Then Scott said “well, I could lance it!”.

So immediately this bad little creature on one shoulder says “but you’re not a vet…” immediately followed by the little angel on my right shoulder saying “um, you know full well he’s done a million of these on actual people, Sam, seriously woman…” (actually maybe it was Scott saying that, lol) and so after dinner, Scott and I kitted up and headed outside in the dark. We had some antibiotic and a syringe, a few clean towels, a flashlight, a random unopened scalpel we found laying around (don’t ask- we went through a Prepper phase) and some Dettol which is an English antiseptic that is also amazing to keep buffalo gnats away. Try it next spring, Illinois friends. It’s on Amazon 😁)

All set.

It was great. After a nice dose of penicillin, Scott lanced that big abscess and the PSI on poor Moose’s paw dropped like a blown-out tire. You could practically see the relief on his face, bless his heart.

Really all I did was point the flashlight, and there were a lot of “not in my eyes, please” moments from the surgeon, but I felt very important and useful. And I also said kind things to the dog. Which may or may not have been helpful.

Don’t zoom in on this one too much.

Really, our “date nights” have some amazing substance to them, don’t they?

Anyway, he’s doing much better today. Still being hoisted to the vet for follow-up on the emergency field surgery, but much better.

Definitely not something I would have done on the other side of the rabbit hole.

After all, where would I have found a random unopened scalpel?!

The Star-Spangled Rabbit Hole

So. It’s only taken me 26 years to write this. To quote the White Rabbit, I’m certainly late for a very important date.

I’ll blame Molly, it’s easier.

My dear friend, Molly, (who will be frequently quoted…) recently texted and asked if I would like to attend a Writer’s Workshop at our local library next weekend. I did a big internal sigh and said yes. And knowing what very was good for me, she signed me up and sent me the workshop information, which had one basic idea:

Just Write Something.

So here I am. I feel a little smug, because I am, very unusually, slightly ahead-of-the-game, and I can turn up on Saturday and answer truthfully, when the scary author asks the Big Question, with the answer:

“I’m writing a blog…”

On that note, I’m certainly not going to be the most original thinker at this workshop. People have been journaling and pre-blogging since the beginning of written Time. My daughter, Cerys, and I were discussing this recently, after her dad had said that John Wesley’s Journals, were, after all, just old-fashioned blogs. The time it took to get it “uploaded” might have been a touch longer, but really, no different as far the idea of keeping times and memories in their places goes. So Cerys and I started discussing all the famous “pre-bloggers” of the world: Lewis and Clark, Ann Frank and later in her life, Laura Ingalls, although she sort of blogged in one long after-the-fact effort, rather than as a journal, kept on a regular basis.

So why now, why start journaling now?

This is a very beautiful-smelling journal currently available from Barnes and Noble if the good people there would like to sponsor me 🙂

Well, for a start, I am simply horrible at filling up those glorious, beautiful, fragrant journals you can buy on the shelves of certain bookstores. Most of the ones I have come to a screeching blank halt after a page. It’s apparently genetic. Our son, at the start of our year living in Australia in 2015, began his beautiful journal very diligently on the first afternoon we arrived, his first fresh, clean blank page stating:

“Today we visited the Sydney…”

At least it has the date…

We all think he meant to say Sydney Opera House, but we were all quite jet-lagged and none of us can remember enough to actually prove it. But even without jet-lag, I have too many similarly unended entries in journals. And I’m getting terribly old, half a hundred years next year (it sounds more impressive to say it that way) and I thought maybe someday I should write something down. At least it will be down, and this way the great- grandchildren won’t have to feel guilty about deciding what to do with Granny’s journals. They can just be left to float around cyber-space. We all found Laura Ingalls’ constant and necessary grinding of wheat in the coffee maker fascinating in The Long Winter, so perhaps it won’t always have to be exciting either!

This summer it was 26 years since I moved to the USA when Scott and I married in England in 1993. I had traveled quite a bit as a kid, and I knew what that was like, to live elsewhere with people in a completely different culture I hadn’t grown up in. I felt fairly invincible.

No, this is not our wedding picture but I was appreciating somewhat of a Mad Hatter quality…

I was probably naïve. But at 23 you are allowed to be. I didn’t realize at the time that I was about to step through the Rabbit Hole, like Alice, and that it might take a while to get oriented to my wonderful new world. I still am figuring it out, some days. But I suppose we all are. Since then I’ve learned that my home will always be wherever my Scott and my children are, and that humans can make a home anywhere their heart is.

But that doesn’t make my New World any less different, or any less exciting for that matter. Just ask me about making tea…..or how to handle queues.

So maybe, this way, in words, and pictures, and discussion, I can hopefully entertain you with the journals I should have written. Because, as Alice says:

And that, my friends, is where this story will begin…..