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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Don't Idealize the Seasons, Look Around You

It's been a long, strange winter in many places. The weather has morphed into a long, wet (and in some places, very destructive) spring which follows a rather destructive fall. It's what's happening outside my window. In my garden, which has been planted in fits and starts, plants *are* sprouting and growing, though observations of the bloom cycle of local woody plants is telling me the season is lagging. Normally I have lilacs in full bloom by traditional Memorial Day (nature does not recognize our need to be master of the calendar and lust for 3-day weekends). This year, they are only beginning to bud and the benchmark day arrives tomorrow. This is also the traditional time for "everyone to plant everything" and for me to set out the warm season plants and seeds. But I won't.

I won't wait long, mind you, just until the first of June, to let a predicted overnight low in the mid-40s pass. Things would probably be ok anyway, but as I notice the blooms lagging -- only by a week at most -- I am choosing a bit of a delay.

All of these thoughts bring to mind my frustration, and even anger, at the myriad of folks around me who seem to only listen to the advertisers to mark the seasons. Or perhaps refer to folk traditions from Gods alone know where, or when. Somehow, they seem to think, The Powers That Be have been commanded to adjust the weather programming when Memorial Day (now Memorial Day Weekend... which is even earlier) rolls by. Suddenly, *we* seem to expect warm temperatures, sunny days and mild nights, as if the Gods themselves were chomping at the bit to attend our weekend parties on our newly cut lawns, gathered around the grill and quaffing a brew. As if there was a Universal Digital Thermostat setting for *Summer* that kicked in from Maine to Arizona, around the end of May.
That's as silly as the focus on snow for the December holidays in lands where such weather never happens.  And bears no relationship to reality in many northern or mountain locations. And while I am ranting, have you ever walked into a "big box" store and frozen from the AC in the spring or been driven out by the heat in the fall? That's what happens when the climate in your location is out of sync with that at their main headquarters!

Summer, just to change up the season we are talking about here, begins *astronomically* on June 21. That marks not MIDsummer, regardless of the many traditional midsummer celebrations but the longest day of the year, which is more like the beginning of summer weather, which lags behind the day length.  The lag in temperature occurs because even though the minutes of daylight begin to decrease , the earth's surface and atmosphere continues to receive more energy than just what it receives from the sun.  Average temperatures continue to climb until the sun drops lower in the sky.  (reference

Therefore, come September, while the advertisers have been pushing autumnal images for two months with their "back to school" promotions, and the last things we want to see in the stores are sweaters and heavy coats,  we think "autumn," regardless of the fact that the equinox which opens the door -- tipping the balance toward nights longer than the days -- does not happen until September 23. And again, this is only the beginning of the season as the lag we noted above continues year 'round.  In the words of the poet Ogden Nash: It's Never Too Late to be Uncomfortable, or September is Summer, Too.

And along with our cultural disconnect from the actual seasons, we also seem to value daily weather beyond even what they sang about in the musical Camelot.

I don't expect everyone to like the same kind of climate, but I do get tired of the expectation that I am *also* fixated on a desire for hot days of unremitting sunshine. I am not. In fact, while I know sunshine (or at least bright overcast, which is much prefer) is necessary, it does not seem that there is even close to as much respect for cool days, wind and especially rain. But think about it, folks... without rain, where would your water come from? (And if you say "the store" or "Poland Spring" all I can do is shake my head an offer a "bless your little heart.")

And I hear it now -- regarding the rain -- but there can be too much of a good thing! And yes, it's true... as the storms and flooding attest. But to the contrary, there are few comments in similar vein during prolonged warm-to-hot, dry periods. Even when water use restrictions come into play, the day to day weather comments do not decry the lack of moisture nearly as much as they currently cry for sunshine.

Listen to the world around you, people. Sit on the Earth, with your back up against a tree. Feel his or her thoughts. Run your hand along the grasses... stroke them as you would a cat or dog and learn to know them as well. Walk in the rain, and the wind, and the snow; they are as important to the other beings with whom we share this earth as the sunshine and bathing suit weather are to you.

Monday, May 13, 2019

I love interacting with my clients and customers!

I was up later than hoped last night, waiting for pain meds to kick in enough for sleepy to knock on the door of my brain. A hot Epsom salt soak helped set the sleepy in place and I hit the bed and was out for the count. These spring days, with the extra activity they necessitate, does a number on our aging bodies.

I am thankful for the good rest last night, as today it's time to cut another 4' hex, for which I received the order for yesterday. I also got a delightful email from the client, sharing their intentions in detail. THIS is what I love about this work, which is not just art, but also spirit. The big
48 inch Dutch hex sign being painted
Women's Empowerment hex sign in process
one I am currently working on is not ready to go out yet, but I want to get the next big disk cut and in so, rain or not, things move forward. The current sign I am working on is this 48" diameter version of a sign for Women's Empowerment that I worked up last year, especially for a one-time
PA Dutch hex sign for Women's Empowerment
original 8" diameter sign
local event. Those signs were all painted with artist acrylics on smaller, pre-made disks, like this one to the right. This is the first time that I have designed a sign to be made in a smaller size and then had a request for a large one. Scaling up is a new challenge; I drew grid lines, 3/4 inch apart on a small print of the original and  4.5 inches apart on the large disk and used them as reference to draw the very non-geometric design. It's been years since I used that technique, but I am pleased with the result and hope the client will be as well. He has emailed me recently, inquiring about two smaller copies of a slightly different interpretation of the design, but also for outside display, to be cut from plywood. Of course this delights me, but even more so as I note these signs are being ordered by a father for his daughter. Way to go, Dad!

The remaining smaller versions can be found HERE on the Dutch Hex Sign web site, where there is also an email link to request orders of custom designs or sizes.

On non-related notes, I am crossing fingers that we get the tiller up and running with electric start today, as I could really use to get more seeds in the ground. In many places in our fair land, the time for pushing the early planting season and for getting the cold-loving plants and seeds in the ground has long past.  Here in the northlands,  I am not in panic mode, not even close. Especially not with threats of overnight snowfall which are flitting about on the Internet with folks all a twitter (lower case). Snow, per se, is not a deal breaker and *can* happen even if the temperature on the ground is above freezing. And the "last frost date" for many of us here in central Maine is *not* until the end of the month, later for y'all in "the county" (as folks here say.)

Where ever you garden, learn your hardy crops from the tender ones and make the most of the "shoulder season" without feeling the need to coddle your little green babies with tunnels or the like. Green growing things LOVE to feel the wind on their leaves, real rain around their roots and the sun helping them to create the food they need to feed themselves so they can feed us. When your ground is no longer *soggy* you can plant onions and potatoes, spinach and lettuce, peas, carrots, beets and turnips. Just hold off on the peppers, tomatoes, and all the delicious viney things that we love - melons and cukes and squash of all sorts. They are the tender little ones that need extra time in the house.

Of course, those of you in the southlands will have a very different routine. I remember "summer gardens" and "winter gardens" with the winters being the time for cooler weather crops and the summers sometimes a struggle in the heat for even the most well adapted vines and tomato plants. Now, though, I am thankful for my winter's rest!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Spring Comes (slowly) to the Northlands

The first forsythia blooms outside!
Some of us thought it would never come. Spring, that is. We had a long winter here in the northlands. Many of you across the country have shared this experience. Our snow did not pile up badly, late in the season; instead we got soaking rains on top of snow on top of ice and then as the melt came -- oh, so slowly -- more rain. It is raining, again, as I type this. But ever so slowly, signs of spring appear even here in the country where we have fewer buildings and paving to moderate the climate. The first of the forsythia bushes has burst into bloom. There must be several varieties around, because this one had joined the neighbor's bush in blossom, but the rest of mine, clones of the one that "came with the house" and one sent as a start from a daughter in Utah, are budded but lagging.

 On my trip to town yesterday, I noticed a distinct green tint to the deciduous trees which appeared almost overnight. The birch grove to the north has joined in the display and the ground has warmed to nearly 55F, which means it's time to begin planting! At least that's what the soil says, and I have got some garden work done as the land dried a bit during a brief respite from rain.

The garlic has been up for a couple of weeks, and I have been gazing hopefully at the early seeding of spinach, hoping that the occasional bit of green that I spied was food-to-be and not a weed. In an attempt to keep weeding to a minimum, I have been deploying the paper weed block strips that I make from feed sacks, as you can see to the left. The left-most strip is a walkway between the spinach row and an equally early seeding of some "iffy" lettuce seed. I threw it out when I planted the spinach, hoping that a few -- but not too many -- of the seeds would grow and I would not have to thin them. At this point I am still not sure.  The other two shorter rows of paper are my onion beds; seedling onions planted three abreast through holes poked in the paper.

brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale..)
Brassicas (left) are waiting on the porch for their turn to be transplanted out and a flat of tomatoes (right) push against the lights in the kitten-resistant shelf on the grow rack.

In hex central, I have just completed a new version of the popular Abundance hex sign and two domestic
Abundance hex sign
animal protection signs for German Shepherd dogs and am about to begin construction of a sign for women's empowerment on a 48" diameter disk! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The things spring brings

Many small hex signs share table space with
the growing offering of eggs from chicks and ducks.
Spring brings all sorts of busy-ness to the farm and some to the hex painting table as well.  We have had a wet and cold spring thus far, here in the northlands, but with May Day's arrival, things are looking up in the temperature department. The forecast also shows more sun and less rain, which means I will be able to get into the garden and do some serious work.

Because we have struggled with spinach, I pushed the limit of the soil being "workable" and the soil temperature still showing (6" down) at a bit below 50F. Scratched up a bit of a row and threw in some spinach seeds, then a few days later, during another intermission in the rain, a few more feet of them and some lettuce as well. This year, for some reason, I am
Older Troybilt "pony" tiller
struggling to grow transplants and most of the lettuce seedlings did not make it. In the coming week, there is a good chance that I will get my new-to-me "pony" out into the field to cultivate. This is a good thing, in many ways, as Tractor Guy is having health issues and Fergie, the tractor, does not like backing and filing to get into some of the odd corners on the perennial garden. Fergie also needs maintenance, and my being able to till, and start the thing, even (electric start sold me immediately!) means I can work when I need to instead of having to wait on TG's energy and pain levels.

Thus far this year in the hex world has been a challenge, largely due to Google follies. I do not know what part their having killed Google Plus and other features have in the issue, nor how much of it is because my site was never designed to be "mobile friendly." These days, many folks seem to use mobile telephones or tablets for their only tools of Internet access, and my site does not even come up anywhere on a Google search unless you know that I am in Corinth, Maine and search for hex signs in that village! I feel like I desperately need to solve this, but at this point I do not have the skills to re-build the site in the modern mode, or for that matter the time and brainpower to learn, nor the big bucks that it seems to require to hire someone. Oh, for the days when college students who were learning these skills looked for projects like this to add to their practice and portfolio, and offered their services for free... like I did back in the day! LOL 

Somehow, I will work through this, but for now, sales are lagging and the much-needed, small bits of extra income that allowed me to comfortably raise a few extra fowl (chickens, ducks and turkeys.... though the turks are
L-R Rigby, Enterprise, Major Tom
out of the picture this year due to the high cost of day olds of the standard/heritage bronze when you have to buy over a dozen and only want 3) and the three sheep. The wooly crew are looking forward to being shorn soon, and I am looking forward to the arrival of sufficient grass to attempt to pasture them again. Major Tom is an escape artist, so the electric fence may need some extra grounding rods.

But all in all, spring is a hopeful time, and I hope that everyone will make an effort to find and share the link widely. When/if you buy a sign, please add a review on Google! 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Tale of a Duck

April 10 snow
You may never have wondered about what goes on here at hex central under the sign of the Fussing Duck when there are no sign ordered to work on, but I can assure you life is never dull. 

Here in Maine, the coming of spring is not only a much anticipated event, we get to anticipate it over and over, as late season snow falls creep into April on a regular basis. We had broad vistas of pasture and garden last week. And we will again in a day or so, once the approximately 8" of snow that fell over the course of 2 days early in the week, melts.

Despite the snow, the ducks stayed outside the poultry house, as they do in all but the most blustery weather. This duck hen, being of the "dabbling duck" variety, kept some evidence of
Ducks join a hen waiting for food.
her exploration under the surface of the snow. All of the fowl, hens and ducks alike, were happy to play outside once the snow stopped falling. None had any issues with the fluffy white stuff, except for a couple of the smaller bantam hens who ended up bringing their still-unclipped wings into play after being "goosed" into untrod snow as the pecking order sorted itself out at the feeder.

Pallet and tarp poultry house
After feeding and watering, I remembered that I needed to tighten up the twine that was securing one of the roost poles in place and after doing that, I turned to work my way back out of the poultry house. Boy, was I surprised!

I had thought that our two duck hens, after starting the season giving me an egg each per day, had for some reason backed off on productivity to give one each every other day, as they did when production was ending last fall. I had gone from finding two duck eggs each morning, and the chickens' offerings in the afternoon, to only one duck egg each morning. But as I prepared to leave the coop, a full nest in the most unlikely of places, caught my eye.

My poultry house is constructed of pallets, and the depth of the walls is that of a pallet -- the width of a 2x4. Not all pallets have equally spaced slats inside and out, but in between two slats, in the depth of a pallet, a duck had made a nest. In that particular location, she would have had to have squeezed through an opening not much more than 4" tall and then settled herself into a space no wider than that. There was a depression into the ground below the level of the pallet -- remnants of a former rat path I think -- into which the eggs had been laid or fallen, so the nest was almost as deep as it was wide. I had to really squeeze my hand to extract the eggs and one, that was mostly buried in the earth... well I was not sure I would ever get it out!

I did not have anything with which to block access, and thankfully the eggs were cold so the hen(s) had not yet gone broody, though I am hoping one or both will soon. I had the dregs of loose hay from having fed the sheep with me, so I made a nest of it inside the actual house, and left 6 eggs to encourage laying there, and hopefully broody behavior.

Silly duck!

And just so you do remember what else I do, here is a pic of the latest hex sign, shipped to PA, a 4' diameter Protection sign. Now that the weather is warming, and I don't yet have a backlog, this would be a great time to order the sign you have been wishing for!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Maine Farm Life

I just got a copy of Maine Farm - A Year of Country Life and started reading. A few bits in the first chapter resonated strongly with me: The first years I came close to failing. There was far too much work for a single person, or maybe even two people, to do. and "...everything seems to take much longer than we anticipate." And the observation that the Nearings "did not make it sound easy."  I will continue to read it, but to me it is a view of a microcosm in a microcosm and very much different from my experience and possibly that of very many small farmers here in Maine.

This book is NOT about homesteading, though the author espouses self-reliance, but rather seems to portray an idyllic look at the four seasons on an established, successful small commercial farm in coastal Maine. Thus far what I have read draws heavily on themes of the iconic quaint Maine seacoast. And being placed in a coastal climate, even in Maine, their experience is bound to be quite different from those in the larger part of Maine that is made up of the western mountains, the central highlands and the vast, still largely rural and agricultural "crown of Maine" aka The County.  Here, I see fewer picturesque villages and many more small towns struggling to stay marginally alive (to heck with having a marketable identity) in the face of population drift. Often they are, at most, now, bedroom communities for those who cannot afford to move and struggle with long commutes, or worse, unemployment.

They say that work on the farm takes up "most" of their time from spring through fall, even though they manage to round up help for major projects. My experience is that -- with or more often without help -- we are always way behind.

And then, they leave the farm in the winter! Farmers who take vacations?? The farmers I know struggle to be able to get enough time away to attend necessary family functions (weddings, graduations) and all of them have at least one family member working off farm for an additional income.

Snow shoe and sled - winter chore tools
There are many benefits to the homestead/small farm lifestyle that they describe well. There are beauty, magic and miracles potentially around every corner, every day. Like today, when I took to my snow shoes for chores, thankful that I did not have to break trail *once again* on account of first falling, then massively drifting snow. The walk, pulling a sled full of feed and water behind as I made my way from pen to pen, was pleasant, no
Rigby, Enterprise and Major Tom
arctic wind sucking the warmth from my thrice-gloved hands, no sun in my eyes, no rain or sleet seeking to soak my chore coat or hat. The sheep came along the fence, following me as always but carefully lifting their hooves and stepping through snow drifts nearly up to their bellies. No frolicing today, just careful treads to beg extra scratches and attention.

All of the fowl were out in their yard, as well, walking on the
Cock (and hens) "au vin"
area that had been shoveled and trod down by human and ducky feet, and making their way over the top of the drifted snow as well, leaving chicken tracks and trails as they tired to find their usual favorite spots -- now bluried under the mid-week snowfall. I stood for much longer than usual after feeding and watering them, just watching. There are three hens and a roo, hatched late last year at a friend's farm, who came to live with me as their mom was not terribly protective. Three are mostly white and one is mixed black and white. "Barnyard mix" they are, and they flock together within the larger crowd. There are three black Langshan hens, and a fourth that looks like them, but is a bit smaller though. She was hatched here and is another barnyard mix, with obviously one of the other three as her mother, though I was at one point gathering random eggs to put under a broody bantam hen. There is another rooster (in addition to "Old Roo," an elderly Rhode Island Red who is the senior chicken in the flock); the other "hatched here last year" success story. He is a beautiful, and very colorful feather-footed bantam that got the name Bullseye for his accuracy in pecking K's eye as a chick. He and his clutch mate, the smaller "Langshan" that we call Buckshot, used to hang together but of late Bullseye is often the first one out of the coop, the last one in and the chicken who wanders the farthest from the flock. I found great peace as I just stood and watched them this morning.

These times come, when you can slow your pace a bit and look for them. Sometimes they reach out and whack you 'long side the head, too, even when you are going gangbusters with hyper-focus
on a project. 
You see a picture-postcard scene; I do too.
But I also see that there's going to be lots of work
to dig out the truck to get hay!

So, as my word picture above shows, we do have idyllic moments. But if you read that book, don't think that's what life is like for most of us "back to the land" folks here in Maine. Even my best rose colored glasses can't change life that much.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Food Habits Can Sabatage Self Sufficiency

I have been thinking a lot about food, traditions, habits and unconscious "programming" that we may get as young children today. Food and tradition was on my mind because I was baking cookies for our Yule celebration.

As a homesteader, this is one act in the year when only one of the ingredients was actually grown here. I am using eggs which I froze during the summer, when the hens were laying in abundance. But I do not grow enough wheat for flour, have a milk-beast from whose offering to make butter, nor do I have bees. Of course, sugar (granulated and powdered), baking soda, molasses and most of the candied fruits would have to come from off site, as do the nuts, as my trees are all just babies. For a once-a-year special occasion, I bring in the necessary supplies - as the pioneers did, if they could. I do try to keep as much local as I can; the honey and the sifted wheat flour are both standards in the pantry. 

But I was also thinking about tradition. Some of my friends are grandparents with their grand littles near at hand but not all of them are happy cookie bakers, with or without pint size helpers. While I do remember helping my mom with much that she did in the kitchen, cookie-baking included, "baking cookies with..." was not a designated traditional holiday happening. Mom baked, I helped just like any other day. The root of my holiday baking tradition comes from the year I was 11 or 12 and in 6th grade.  We were studying other countries that year and each of us picked a country to research in detail and present an oral report. I picked France, and included Napoleons that I had made, one for each of my classmates and the teacher, as a "visual (and edible) aid." That got me thinking, later in the year, about Christmas
traditions around the world. I researched many counties traditional cookies and picked a large selection to bake for our
Lebkuchen need to age
with an apple or orange
to add moisture
holiday celebrations. Many we did not like, but lebkuchen from Germany and Thumbprint cookies from Sweden made the cut as did Russian tea cakes and I have
Russian Tea Cakes
made them, as well as the Spritz that were my mom's favorite, for many years. The closest the tea cakes every got to Russia was their name, but I think I included them as a verbal nod to my German ancestors who were among the "Volga Deutsch". I also used to make sugar cookies; they were a traditional staple and I guess I figured they were required in a family with kids. But I sent my cookie cutters to a daughter who collected them many years ago and never looked back. They were far from my favorite cookie. In point of fact, I pretty much dislike icing and they usually kinda need it.

I modified my tradition (yes, even though I am not an experimental eater, I do that from time to time!) years ago, swapping in pastry whole wheat flour for the white stuff and now I just use the Maine Grains organic sifted wheat flour for everything in my kitchen.

Butter cookie suns, moons
(full, crescent and gibbous),
stars and wreath shapes.
After completing some butter cookies (yes, cut shapes! LOL I bought a star and some round cutters last week, with the intention of making star, sun and moon cookies, as well as wreaths with only colored decorator sugar for topping. These cookies I like. They are not overly sweet but boy, are they good. Not the easiest to make though. I still have the spritz to fight with tomorrow (my cookie press does not like me.)

Having got the cookies done for the day, it was time to think about supper. I wanted something quick and easy and do keep a few commercial meat products on hand for such times, in addition to the home grown poultry, local pork from the whole pig we bought from a friend and processed, along with home made sausage, ground turkey and a delicious supply of venison shared by a neighbor who could not fit both the deer she shot and the one her husband took into the freezer.

Since the oven was already hot, I had Tractor Guy halve a butternut squash from our garden, which I baked. And then, since the oven was still already hot, I pulled out a bag of fish sticks (we call them stick fishes just for fun) and put them in the oven. BUT I did not want to take the time to peel and slice and oil potatoes for oven fries -- a common starchy side with the stick fishes -- nor did I have a fresh cabbage from which to make slaw.

Let me take a step to the side here and say how glad I am that Tractor Guy is being able to move away from strictly traditional food pairings -- that quite often would require (a) something processed from the store or (b) eating out of season. It's something many of us may not even be aware of, and others struggle with:
  • sandwiches "require" chips or fries
  • fish "requires" chips and slaw
  • pork "requires" kraut and/or applesauce
  • meat "requires" gravy and gravy "requires" mashed potatoes
  • chili "requires" corn bread and/or cheese
  • eggs "require" meat
  • beer "requires" pretzels
That last one is a bit of a joke, but the idea remains.  Yes these pairings are delicious, but in a situation where your goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible, they need to be reconsidered.

Eating what you have stored, and what is in season, requires change. And in the spirit of this article, our supper consisted of a baked winter squash as a veg and rice, cooked with dried pieces of onion and bell pepper, since I had a lousy crop of onions this year and we used our last fresh onion last week. Typically I cook the rice and then add it to a skillet in which I have sauteed some veg: onions and celery, usually and sometimes frozen bell pepper. And for me, since fish "requires" lemon, (we do have some frozen lemons, but I did not want to take the time to thaw one) I tried the Brit thing with vinegar... our own apple cider version, not the malt. Eh. Not as good as with lemon, in my mind about like eating the fish un-garnished, which I will likely continue to do when lemon is not at hand.

Food is so much more than "just something to eat" in so many ways. It can be consolation, perhaps help us sooth stress (or at least make us think it can) or even bring back strong memories of times of not having enough.  I learned this last lesson from my former husband, who said soup never filled him up. Now, I never served watery or (Gods forbid) commercial soups. My soups, whether vegetarian, with meat flavor or actual meat, are all thick and substantial. In fact, many of them could easily be mistaken for stew, except for the smaller pieces into which the ingredients are cut. In talking with former hubs, I learned that through much of his youth as a latch-key kid, on his own during summer school vacations, his mom would set out a single can of commercial soup for him to warm for lunch. That was it, he said. Just the soup, no crackers, bread or anything else. This continued as he became a teen! Now, maybe not all teenagers have the voracious appetites of legend, but it was obvious from his story that the soup was insufficient. Why he did not "graze" on other foodstuffs or ask his mom for more is not for this story.

I had noticed that he loved and often complimented me on my "hearty, meaty stew" even when the only "meat" in the stew was the flavor from stock and no actual pieces were present.  So I began an experiment. For a month, we ate a lot of soup and stew. It was winter, and that was not that uncommon a dish for us, so no red flags were raised. But what I did was to make my usual run of soups (potato, bean, vegetarian veg, veg with meat, chicken noodle, and even split pea) and made notes on the calendar when I served each one, the side dishes and Hubs' comments if any. Then I used the same recipes (well.. as much as I do recipes LOL) but cut the ingredients in to larger pieces and called the meal "stew." That was the extent of the difference. And yes, we had some strange stews. Potato stew, anyone? Vegetable stew? Chicken noodle stew? Strange thing was, Hubs did not make any comment on the names or the dishes, other than declaring, with great fervor near the end of the experiment, after a meal of vegetarian vegetable stew "now THAT was a meaty, filling dish!" I could not help it, but ended the experiment early, telling him first off that there was no meat at all involved, not even beef broth (which, at the time, I happened to be out of!) I even had to show him the cabinet where the broth and bullion cubes were kept, because he kept insisting he had tasted meat. But then I dropped the bombshell and told him that was exactly like my vegetarian vegetable soup, except cut into larger pieces, and that I had been doing this all month. It took dragging him to the calendar to show him my notes and then he had a hard time believing it. He never did get to the point where he felt satisfied after a meal of "soup" but from then on, we had many fine meals of stew, some with large pieces and some with smaller ones and all satisfied the man.