Posted by: Diane | October 6, 2013

More interesting local history

I meant to write this post weeks ago, but life got in the way.  So that means I can’t remember what prompted me to start searching for information about the area that we live in and what evidence of past cultures might be found locally.

But I ran across a couple of interesting items.

The first is that there is an old Indian trace, or trail, that ran just south of where we live.  It is called the Caddo trace and my guess is that it was a feeder trail into the Cherokee Trace that I wrote about in an earlier post.  It is documented in a map of Upshur County dated 1897.  It was neat looking at the old map, but it can be difficult to figure out exactly where things are in relation to what you know now.

Enter a very cool resource, Historic Earth.  It enabled me to take the old map and overlay it with a current Google map, so that I could see the location of new roads and have a reference point for objects on the old map.  Here is a screenshot of what I’m talking about:


You can see the Caddo Trace as a dotted line running from upper left to lower right on the map.  I think I know about where it crosses Rose Trail on the map but there really isn’t any obvious trail there anymore.  Which is to be expected, I know.  Trails disappear in the undergrowth fairly rapidly once they stop being used.  I suspect that the trail may have been used as a basis for part of Begonia Road in Upshur County.

However, the Caddo Indians also left larger evidence of their culture in this area.  They were one group of Indians who built mounds as part of their settlements.  I found a fairly recent article describing some large mounds located on the Sabine River south of Longview.  The location was not given as the mounds are protected and they don’t want them disturbed by souvenir seekers.  I also ran across this little tidbit about a place near the community we live in:


Glasco, J. M.—There are many ancient remains, such as mounds and earthworks, in Upshur and Camp Counties, Texas. One in southeast corner of Camp County, on property of Nathan Lee, three miles east from the town of Lafayette, and a road-bed 8 feet wide and from 1 to 2J feet high leads from this to another about one mile northeast. Still another road leads from the first named to a mound four miles off on the land of W. 11. D. Ware. This road passes through a square inclosed by a bank 18 inches high. There are twenty-five or thirty mounds on the Sarah Powel league in a group. Near a large one is a raised burnt clay floor. Another group is on the property of S. P. Monyhhon, with a burnt place. They are on Walnut and Gum Creeks, tributaries of Little Cypress. A few of the mounds examined indicate a wooden pen covered with soil. Mr. Glasco also mentions rock-carvings and other interesting remains which he has not visited.

Wow!  How cool is that?  I would love to go hunting for these places and see if any trace of them remains, but not enough to do the sleuthing and finding of property owners that it would require.  So it simply remains a curious piece of local information.

Posted by: Diane | October 4, 2013

Homemade Sauerkraut

By request, I am going to discuss my homemade sauerkraut today.  Oh good!  I knew you would all be excited to learn about this sour, salty, crunchy, mouthwatering  gourmet treat!

Gourmet?  This stuff that used to be in every German grandmother’s cellar?  Yep.  $6 for a (smaller than quart) jar at the health food store.  Yes, I know that you can buy it in cans at the local grocery store, but that stuff is only a dim shadow of the goodness you can ferment in your own kitchen.  I haven’t tried the sauerkraut that they sell in refrigerated bags in the deli meat section of the grocery store, but it has “extra” ingredients besides just cabbage and salt.

And sauerkraut really is that simple:  cabbage and salt.  How much cabbage and how much salt?  Well how big of a jar or crock do you have to fill?  Or in my case, how many sauerkraut loving children do I have to feed?

The best fermentation results come by using about 3 tablespoons of salt for every five pounds of sliced cabbage.  Less salt gives you faster fermentation , softer kraut and more scum that has to be skimmed.  More salt slows or prevents fermentation.  So the amount given above is a happy medium which gives about a 4 week fermentation process, crisp kraut and little scum to deal with.

But HOW?  How do you make sauerkraut? 

Have your jar with a lid or crock ready.  That means it should be scrupulously clean.  Have a large clean bowl and clean hands, too.  If you don’t have a handy dandy mandoline cabbage slicer, you will need a cutting board and a large, sharp knife.

Cut the whole cabbage into manageable size pieces and cut out the core.  Slice the cabbage VERY thinly.  As in, the thickness of a dime.  Yes, that thin.  This is hard to do with a knife, but don’t sweat it too much.  Slice, slice, slice.

When you’re all done slicing, see how much the cabbage weighs (or just guess like I did) and measure out the correct amount of salt.  Remember:  3 Tbsp. for every 5 lbs. of cabbage.  That’s about 2 tsp. per pound.

Put the cabbage shreds in the large bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Mix thoroughly with your hands.  Keep mixing and start squeezing and squishing the cabbage so that it releases juice.  Keep mashing and mixing until the shreds get a little wilty.
It may take a while, just keep at it.  Squish, squish, squish.

Now you can start packing the cabbage in to the jar or crock.  Pack it in layers and use your fist to pack it down really tight.  You don’t want lots of air pockets and you want the juice to start coming up to cover the cabbage shreds.  Pack, pack, pack.

Once the jar is about full, make sure that the briny juice covers the cabbage.  If it doesn’t, mix 1 tsp. salt with 1 cup of water to make a little “instant brine” that you can use to cover the cabbage.

I like to put a water filled ziploc bag inside the top of the jar to keep the shreds submerged.  Put the lid on loosely and set the jar in a cool (about 72° F) place to ferment for several weeks.  Check the top of the jar occasionally for scum or mold.  Skim it off if it’s there. (I never saw any on mine.)  After about three or four weeks, uncover the kraut and use a clean fork to take a taste.  Not quite sour enough?  Cover it back up and wait another week or two.  When it tastes the way you want it to, take out the bag of water, tighten the lid and put it in the fridge.  The flavor will continue to improve but it will stop fermenting.

Whenever you want some sauerkraut to go with your sausages, just dish some out and eat it!   Eat, eat, eat!

I like to eat mine cold from the fridge to take advantage of the wonderful enzymes and natural probiotics that real sauerkraut contains.  But if you want to heat it up that’s fine, too.



Posted by: Diane | September 2, 2013

New old blog entries

Today I spent some time (quite a bit of time) cleaning up some old pieces of me on the internet.  I would really like to consolidate my internet presence down to just a few things, so that it takes less time and less mental effort.  As part of that process, I have imported some of the posts from an older blog that I had prior to this one.  

Up until today, these posts have been simply sitting out there in cyberspace, drawing a few views, but not being followed up on or added to.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my posts, knitting instructions for a pair of baby booties, has 2500 views!  Wow!  Of course, I think I did share that one on Ravelry.

Anyway, two of my all time favorite blog posts are in this imported batch, and as a service to you, I’ll share the direct links so you can enjoy them too.

Little Boys

(Still) The best Mother’s Day present ever

Posted by: Diane | July 9, 2013


Wow, have I been busy!

We have most of the underground plumbing complete on the house.  The only thing left is to run PEX pipe for the water supply.  Allen has also put up the forms for the concrete floor and has been poisoning the grass inside the forms.  Then he tills it and the kids rake the dead grass out.  Next step will be to level the ground.

Ollie and I have been learning lessons lately.  I think maybe Im learning more than she is!  The past two days I have been introducing her to lunging, where she walks in a circle around me on the lead rope.  Today she went both directions, although she still wants to tell me when she’s going to stop.  I try to work with her for about 30 minutes each morning.  Some mornings that means halter, lead rope, lunge whip, and learning new things.  Other mornings it means just going out and spending friendly time with her.  I don’t want her to think that every time I go out to her pen it’s only to halter her and walk her in circles or challenge her thinking skills.  🙂  

And the garden, well…this is definitely the year for tomatoes.  Last year it was cucumbers and peas, but this year it’s tomatoes.  I have canned until I’m about sick of tomatoes!  I’ve got over 60 pints of tomatoes in one form or another, and they are STILL coming.  My new experiment this summer was Green Tomato Mincemeat.  I’d post a recipe, except that I simply used the very basic Ball Blue Book recipe and then added this and that based on some other recipes I found online.  (I do that a lot when I cook.)  I made a four pint batch, just to try it, and Sunday evening I used one pint to make Mincemeat Bars.  They are so easy to make and really yummy!  So now I guess I need to pick more green tomatoes and make more mincemeat to can.

Micah is off at Boy Scout Camp this week.  He should be able to finish the last few merit badges he needs to be an Eagle Scout.   He’s growing up and starting to get peach fuzz on his upper lip.  Where have the years gone?  The girls are growing up, too.  Madlen is eager to fly the coop, although I’m not entirely convinced she is fully aware of all the responsibility and burden that entails.  But were any of us fully aware of what it meant to be “grown up”?  And yet we dove off into it, head first and head strong. 

  Daylight’s burnin’ and I’ve got tomatoes to put up…  I’ll save the deep thinking for another day…


Over half a bushel of tomatoes picked the past two days

Posted by: Diane | June 2, 2013

Interesting local history…

The honeysuckle has been blooming for 3-4 weeks now and the wild climbing roses are kicking in.  The roses are fantastic because a vine will have several shades of pink flowers ranging from the palest blush to a dark, clear pink depending on the age of the bloom.  People around here call them Cherokee roses and claim that they were planted by Indians to mark a trail called the Cherokee Trace.

I decided to investigate this tale and here is what I found in the Handbook of Texas Online:

” The Cherokee Trace was a historic trail that traversed East and Northeast Texas. The Cherokee Indians are credited with blazing this route about 1821. It is also possible that the trace may have evolved from one marked by other Native American groups or French traders a century earlier and that the Cherokees further defined and smoothed out this course. According to folklore, the Indians dragged buffalo skins behind their horses to flatten the tall grass and then cleared the path of brush and logs. They charted a road that encountered the best camping places, river fords, and springs. They also planted honeysuckle and rose bushes along the route. The white blooming hedgerows functioned as bright and effective indicators of the trace, and the stiff branches and briars of the Cherokee rose later became noted by settlers as a dependable shrub for fencing.

The trail ran from the vicinity of Nacogdoches north through Northeast Texas including present-day Gregg, Upshur, and Camp counties. The road then crossed Big Cypress Creek into Titus County near the historic location of Fort Sherman and continued north to Indian settlements in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Serving as a travel and trading route for East Texas Indians, the trail also enabled the migration of many settlers into Texas. Popular tradition holds that Sam Houston, David Crockett, and other participants in the Texas Revolution first crossed the Red River into Texas on the Cherokee Trace. Early land grant surveys of the 1830s and 1840s mention the trail as a landmark and also reference roads that subsequently evolved from this route such as the Fort Towson Road and Clarksville-Nacogdoches Road. In 1839, after their defeat at the battle of the Neches, many Cherokees fled Texas on this trail. Remnants of the old Cherokee Trace along with hedgerows of roses can still be found in Northeast Texas today.”

Laurie E. Jasinski, “A History of Lake Bob Sandlin State Park” (unpublished manuscript, Cultural Resources Program, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, March 2001).
Marker files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin (Cherokee Trace—Camp County, Gregg County, Upshur County).
Traylor Russell, History of Titus County (2 vols., Waco: Morrison, 1965, 1966; rpt., n.p.: Walsworth, 1975).

Laurie E. Jasinski, “CHEROKEE TRACE,” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed June 02, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


Honeysuckle and Cherokee roses

Posted by: Diane | May 9, 2013

Horse training update

Ollie is quickly growing more trusting of me.  I was able to put a rope halter on her last Saturday.  We put it on and took it off three times.

On Monday, I went out and put the halter on her again and this time attached the lead rope.  She backed herself into a corner twice when I tried to get her to lead, but wasn’t totally freaked out.  We ended on a good note and she got some treats.  The hardest part of getting the halter on is that she likes to mouth everything: the halter, my pants, the zipper pull on my jacket…I have to work quickly and smoothly to get it on her, cinched up and tied before she senses pressure and backs away.  Even if she does back away, I just let her go and she stops and moves back towards me again.  She never runs away.

Today I went out in the pasture with the halter and rope, I put the halter on her without much trouble, snapped the lead on and we walked around the pasture for a while.  I’m not going to say that I was leading her, because she tends to like to follow me around anyway, but that’s ok.  She’ll get the idea.  I also spent time working on “back up” because she likes to get in my space.  We also need to work on that while she is following me; sometimes I feel like she’s right on my shoulder. 

After that we took the rope halter off and tried on a flat halter.  No problem there.  A flat halter is the kind that you typically see horses wearing, especially if they wear a halter out to pasture.  It has buckles and metal fittings and the straps are flat.  A rope halter is more for training a horse to respond to pressure and signals.  It is easily made from 1/2″ diameter rope and you can find the directions online.  I even made one once.  It is a length of rope that is knotted in a certain way to make a halter.  When put on the horse, the knots are easily felt by the horse, especially when the lead rope is pulled.  The horse quickly learns to “give” to the pressure and turn or stop or lower his head.  With a flat halter, it’s easier for the horse to pull back and not give.  This also makes the halter more likely to break in a high stress situation.

The man who gave me the horse also gave me the flat halter and a lead rope.  I prefer not to leave a halter on a horse in the pasture as it could easily snag on something and the horse could get caught and panic, causing injury.  So I just put it on her to see how it fit (I don’t think it will fit too much longer) and then I took it off of her.  After that we just kinda hung out together and I rubbed her nose and neck alot.  She also let me rub her chest, her withers and down the side of her belly to right behind her leg.  Since I was on the other side of the fence I couldn’t reach much further than that.  When she had enough socializing and scratching, she turned and started to walk along the fence away from me, I let my hand trail along her side and over her backside.  She didn’t flinch or hurry.  More good progress today!

Posted by: Diane | April 19, 2013

Old quilt

I did a little maintenance work today.  On an old quilt.

It’s an old square quilt that was my mother’s that we use for a picnic blanket.  It’s not a large quilt, about 4-5 foot square-ish, but it’s a handy size for utilitarian purposes.


It was residing in the trunk of the car, because we would use it when we went to Movies in the Park last summer to sit on the ground while we enjoyed the movie.  The trunk got cleaned out when we traded the car in and I took the quilt and tossed it in the washer.  When I took it out of the washing machine, I noticed that the batting had shifted and bunched in a few places.  Now, I call it a quilt, but in truth, it isn’t quilted.  In fact it’s not even tied off except for around the edges, I guess just to tack the batting in place.  So, I decided to tie it off to prevent the filling from shifting around.

As I looked at this quilt and gently shifted the filling back in place, the sun happened to shine through it and I noticed something that I hadn’t seen before.  There was actually a quilt inside this quilt.  The batting was made of an old scrap quilt that had been repurposed into this new blanket.  Perhaps it was even the best usable remnant of a larger quilt that they turned into this handy little picnic blanket.


Since my mother and aunt were coming for a week-long visit today, I decided to ask them about this quilt and where it came from. My mom said that my grandmother had made it from feed sack material and that she knew about the quilt inside, and thought it was one of their baby quilts. About that time I held it up to the light coming in the window so that she could see the quilt inside and she said “Oh! I remember that quilt! I remember seeing it on a bed!” So I think it was actually part of a larger quilt. The discussion then turned to other quilts that they remembered including one they called the “dolly quilt” which sounded like a very small quilt that was meant to be used for their baby dolls, and another quilt that was white with a red ruffle with appliqued cherries on it.

So the quilt is now all tied off, though perhaps I could have done a more neat and precise job of it. That feed sack material is pretty tough stuff, because there isn’t a single hole in it and the colors are still bright. I bet it could hold up for at least another half century if we take care of it. Amazing to think that in this age of “throw away” goods and crazy consumerism, I’m still using a blanket that my grandmother created out of recycled materials, some of them TWICE recycled!
Thanks, Grandma…

Posted by: Diane | April 12, 2013

Truss installation video works now!

Sorry it has taken me so long to fix the permissions on this video.  You can now watch it without having to sign in to Facebook.

Here’s the link again.


Posted by: Diane | April 12, 2013

Meet Ollie…

This is Ollie:

She’s a 9 or 10 month old filly that was given to us by a neighbor after wandering into our yard to graze one day.  She has never been handled, as far as I know, unless it was to run her through a chute into a trailer.  I think she was the baby of somebody’s “pasture decoration.”  As such, she wouldn’t let anyone touch her.  I decided to name her Ollie because she’s “another fine mess” I’ve gotten myself into.  (I need to see if I can find some old Stan and Ollie shows online.  Haven’t thought of them in years until this.)

The first thing I did was buy some sweet feed.  The first time I fed it to her she would pick up a little bit, roll her lips back and toss her head.  Grain flew everywhere.  It took her most of the afternoon to come around to the taste and eat what I gave her.  The next day, however, she licked the bowl clean. 

To start gentling her, I went out into the pasture where she was grazing, carefully ignoring her and sat down on an old cedar log and started playing with the weeds around me.  It didn’t take her five minutes to get curious and amble over to check me out.  It didn’t take her much longer to stick her nose out to sniff me.  I continued to keep my movements slow and my eyes low.  She decided I wasn’t too much of a threat, but still was pretty jumpy.

Gradually over the past two weeks that we have had her, I have used that curiosity to get her to the point where she will walk up to me in the pasture, let me pet her nose, and will take treats and grass out of my hand.  My biggest concern right now is that she needs to learn to accept handling so that we can give her proper care.

I have been spending lots of time reading books and websites and watching videos on horse training.  Unfortunately, most of these assume that you are starting with a horse that accepts a halter and will lead a little bit, and that you have a small square or round pen to work with them in.  So the challenge has been to figure out how I get her to the point of getting a halter on while working her in a 2 acre pasture!

I finally found the website of a couple in California who gentle and train BLM mustangs so that they are more easily adopted.  Another website that is loaded with information is KBR Horse Net.  They also work with wild horses and donkeys with many of the same techniques and with the same great sounding results.

I have ordered a video on “pole gentling” where a bamboo pole is used to get the wild horse used to being touched without having to be close to the horse.  I have already begun to use the concept with Ollie, but boy, is she jumpy!  I wait until I feed her grain in the evening.  The grain keeps her close by and gives her something pleasant to reward her for putting up with me.  The first time I tried, if I so much as brushed a lock of her mane near her withers she would jump and skitter away, looking at me suspiciously.  Yesterday, she only flinched and looked at me.  Today I will do only what I did yesterday and then maybe tomorrow I will actually touch her withers with the end of the lunge whip that I am using.   The point is to get her to understand that I’m not out to eat her, or hurt her and that I can actually be very good at scratching those itchy spots that she can’t reach, while I maintain a safe distance between me and 900 lbs of horse!

While I am gradually trying to get closer to her, I also have to make sure that she respects my space and doesn’t try to shove me around.  She is a large, heavy and potentially dangerous animal.  Horse herds have a pecking order, and she needs to understand that I am the lead horse.  That means that I use my body language and pressure from training tools like a halter or the lunge whip to make her yield to me. 

For example, this morning she decided that I was holding out on the treats and got a little sassy with me.  I used my body language to back her up.  When I feed her grain, I don’t let her just walk up and start eating.  I stand between her and the bowl and if she comes forward I tap her on the chest with the end of the whip.  She backs up and stands still, and THEN I move aside and let her eat.  I don’t want her pushing me, walking on my heels, or turning her backside to me.  Another dominant horse would bite or kick her and make her move away.  What I do is a milder form of that, but it works amazingly well.  I want to establish our pecking order now and I fully expect her to challenge it from time to time.

Another website I found that, although it is not free except for the first 30 days, seems to give a lot of value for the money is Parelli Connect.  There are many trainers who promote the “natural horsemanship” model of training.  Of course they sell videos, books, tools and tickets to seminars.  Pat Parelli is one of those trainers.  For $10 a month, you have access to tons of videos, magazine articles and a social network of trainers and other horse owners who use the Parelli method of training horses. As a member, I got four free tickets to one of their seminars that will be held in Arlington, TX this fall.   Since one “natural horseman” is pretty much the same as another with small variations in methods and philosophy, I think I’ll stick with Parelli for the training that Ollie will need after I get her halter broke.

Since this is a major, long-term project for me, I’ll use my blog to record our progress.



Posted by: Diane | February 19, 2013

Progress on the house

All of the trusses got put up just fine.  It was quite a production and we recruited a little help from neighbors and friends, but we put up most of them ourselves.  Here is a video of how we did it.  It takes us about three minutes to put one up.

And here is a picture from Dec 30 when the last ones were put in place.


Since then we have braced them all thoroughly and started putting up the purlins that the metal roofing will be attached to.  I have spent a couple of days painting the end of all the trusses white where they stick out past the walls of the house and will be under the edge of the roof.  Figured it was easier to paint them now than after we had put the roof on.  They may end up covered by soffit in the future, but for now we will leave them exposed.

We will be ordering the metal roofing pretty soon, probably half at a time.  Allen says he really likes to look of a tan or light brown roof, so that’s most likely what we will get.  Once the roof is on, I plan to string twinkle lights on the rafters for the summer so we can sit out there in the evening.

I’m still thinking about making furniture and cabinets.  The next time I have a little extra money I may pick up some of the tools I need…

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