Who Needs A Weed-Eater? Scything Caesar Creek 1

“The old man, holding himself erect, moved in front, with his feet turned out, taking long, regular strides, and with a precise and regular action which seemed to cost him no more effort than swinging one’s arms in walking, as though it were in play, he laid down the high, even row of grass. It was as though it were not he but the sharp scythe of itself swishing through the juicy grass.”

                                                                         – from Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

The snath is the wooden handle to which the scythe blade is affixed. Both are available at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio or at Lehmans.com.

The snath is the wooden handle to which the scythe blade is affixed. Both are available at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio or at Lehmans.com.

If you have ever been curious about scything and wondered if it might be for you, consider treating yourself to reading Anna Karenina, chapters 4 and 5. The description of hay-making with scythes, the sounds and smells and feel of it, is wonderful. For those of us who enjoy closeness with nature and the feel of working outdoors, it is enchanting

That’s what did it for me. I purchased a snath handle and two blades from Lehman’s and made hand-haying my goal.

Lesson #1: It takes a bit more planning than that to start a hayfield.
Not to worry. I’m working out a plan for the hay. But a few weeks ago I had a more immediate need.

Caesar Creek runs through a beautiful farm property adjacent to mine, on which I have permission to ride my horses around the crop fields. The part where I have been riding is a large field, over 100 acres, with the creek making up almost half of its boundary.

View toward the boundary creek.

View toward the boundary creek.

It was a boundary to me, anyway, because it was impenetrable. High, steep banks made most approaches impossible on horseback, and the wooded vegetation on both sides was deep, dark, and full of nettles — painful to both horse and rider.

Then one day, on a long ride down a local country road, I discovered the actual back side of this property. It was so much bigger than I realized!  And the most beautiful and tranquil parts of it were on the other side of the creek, a maze of rolling, picturesque crop fields linked by decades-old paths through wooded glens.

I just had to find a way to cross the creek.

This is just a small portion of the huge nettle patch that I had to get through.

This is just a small portion of the huge nettle patch that I had to get through.

Lesson #2: Nettles cannot be bargained with.
These weren’t just nettles. They were uber-nettles — tall, dense plant-warriors, ready to sting at the slightest disturbance.

But then I realized they had taken over so completely that little else grew in the woods surrounding the creek – a uniform population, with tender, juicy stalks that wouldn’t bother my scythe one bit.

“I came; I saw; I scythed.”   – A. A. Jones

I studied an aerial map to figure out where I should start making my path to the creek.

Then I had to decide how to get there with my nettle-neutralizing gear and enough energy left to do the job. The starting place was at least a mile from my house through fields — too far to walk and still be a threat to the nettle population when I got there. The nearest road would put me within 200 yards, but there was a bog in between — also no good. I decided packing everything in on horseback was the best way to go.

scything_05I chose the shorter of my two scythe blades, designed more for weeds than hay.

The snath handle was the biggest transportation challenge.

My solution was to attach a banjo strap and sling it over my shoulder.

One banjo strap, and my snath is ready to go!

One banjo strap, and my snath is ready to go!

Everything else fit in my cantle bag on the saddle, even the carefully-wrapped scythe blade. I was all set!

Lastly, I used my favorite knot from my youthful days as a wrangler to secure a lead rope safely around my horse’s neck. This would make tying up quick and easy once we were on the trail.

With my sensible 17-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse mare loaded and ready to go, we headed out to the site.

Safe from flies, and with green to graze, my Tennessee Walker waits for me to conquer the nettles.

Safe from flies, and with green to graze, Robin, my Tennessee Walker waits for me to conquer the nettles.

My first order of business was to knock down enough nettles to give my horse a comfortable place to stand under a shade tree, at the edge of the woods. Then I removed her bridle, attached her fly mask, loosened the saddle, and asked for her patience.

Minutes later the scything began in earnest, and I didn’t stop for two hours. I didn’t mean to go that long without a break, but I found myself hooked by the same almost Zen quality that comes with playing golf.

Once I got my technique down, nettles dropped right and left.

Once I got my technique down, nettles dropped right and left.

For me that means initial frustration, followed by working at it too hard, followed by more frustration, until I am about to give it up for good, then I finally relax and … Thwack!  The golf ball sails, and I can’t wait to do it again.

I kept trying to remember all I had read about proper scything technique, but it was difficult to apply in the moment. When I would notice myself struggling, I realized I was making choppy strokes, all arms, and the cutting was difficult. So I would take a breath, and then swing smoothly with my body, letting the blade do the work. And voila! The nettles cut like soft butter.

Oh yes, I kept going.

After two hours I had made it deep into the woods, well out of sight of my horse who grew nervous and whinnied for me. That’s what reminded me to take a break. After checking in with the The Boss (her name is Robin) and rehydrating, I went back in to make a final push to the creek, which was now almost visible. I went straight for the sound of water, ready for this job to be over.

A perfect bank for crossing Ceasar Creek!

A perfect bank for crossing Caesar Creek!

After another 20 minutes of work, I realized I was about eight feet too high. I had come out on one of the creek’s many steep, high banks. I retraced my path and continued cutting parallel to the creek another 50 feet or so until the contour looked more promising, and tried again. This time I came out at a small step-down bank opening onto a wide sand bar — perfect!

I went back for my horse, and we tried out the new path. A few tree limbs needed to be cut, but it was passable.

Once we were in the creek, I took a few minutes to survey the other side — only steep, high banks in sight.

Now aware of how tired I was, I would leave it for another day to find an exit from the creek on the other side.

Look for the second installment of Scything Caesar Creek on Wednesday, September 3.

The Wheels On The Bus…

Ecobags lunch sack at Lehmans.com.

A blank, recycled canvas! Ecobags Lunch Sacks are fun to decorate, and are washable, great for allergic kids. At Lehmans.com or Lehmans in Kidron, Ohio.

Where did time go? My  baby girl is suddenly five years old and getting ready for her first day of kindergarten. Wasn’t it just yesterday I held her in my arms and sang the song with her- soon she will be stepping on the bus.

I had hoped that she could be a carefree lunch eater and able to participate in every pizza party- but that is not her reality. Around age one she was diagnosed with milk, egg, wheat and sunflower food allergies. While we were hoping that she would outgrow them by now, she still has reactions to all.

So along with the normal supplies there will be an Epi-pen and care plan for the school follow. I hope that she will not carry all my fears and worries, but that she can find a safe balance of being cautious and being normal. Continue reading

Gluten-Free Peach Cake Cooks Up in Cast Iron

Peach Upside Down Cake in Cast Iron Pan

It tastes as good as it looks! And a cast iron skillet cooks everything evenly.

This is my gluen-free peach cake recipe. Originally, I made the recipe from the  “The Gluten Free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy” book by Bette Hagman.

But I’ve changed many of the ingredients to suit me! For instance, I don’t use butter, I use honey and yogurt, and I bake it off in a cast iron skillet. I think my version is healthier, and (after trying the original) I think my version is tastier!

Now that peaches are in season all over this a perfect time to give this cake a try. If you cook for gluten-intolerant folks, it’s a natural, but I’ve found that nearly everyone loves this peach cake.

Skillet Peach Upside Down Cake Continue reading

Submit Recipes Now For 60th Anniversary Cookbook

Lehman's 55th Anniversary Cookbook

Our 55th Anniversary cookbook is now out of stock.
Be a part of our history, and contribute to our 60th Anniversary Cookbook!

Lehman’s will be celebrating our 60th Anniversary in 2015. As with our 55th anniversary, we’re putting a cookbook together. This time around, we’re collecting recipes from both Lehman’s employees and customers.

We’re searching for those crowd favorites, family heirlooms and those recipes that you just love to make. Old-fashioned, new tastes: we’re looking for it all. Even gluten-free!

Recipe categories include:

·         Appetizers, Beverages & Dips
·         Breads & Rolls
·         Cookies & Candy
·         Desserts
·         Gluten Free
·         Main Dishes
·         Miscellaneous
·         Slow Cooker
·         Soup & Salads
·         Vegetables & Side Dishes
·         5 Ingredients or Less

We will select at least 100 recipes from those submitted by customers to be printed in the book. From those selected recipes, 10 lucky customers will receive a FREE cookbook as a thank you for contributing. Those cookbooks will be autographed by Jay Lehman, our founder; Lehman’s president, Galen Lehman, and Glenda Lehman Ervin, vice-president of marketing.

If chosen, your name will be printed with your recipe. Submissions must be received by September 8, 2014.

Click here to submit your recipe.

At A Glance: Pressure Canners, Water Bath Canners, Pressure Cookers

“I need a pressure cooker for canning season.” Here at Lehman’s, we hear that sentence often! And we know what you mean, we really do. You want a pressure canner to put up your produce. Here’s a quick comparison of pressure canners, water bath canners and a look at what a pressure cooker can do for you.

You should be able to click on the photo for a larger, linked image if necessary.

Click here to find out more about Lehman’s high-quality, reliable, gasket-free USA-made Pressure Canners.

Continue reading

Lactofermenting for the Time-Challenged

Alrighty then, it’s that time of year. The garden is starting to really gear up and I have more produce than we can eat before it goes bad. My plan for filling the pantry with wholesome and delicious foods that have less than 5 ingredients, none of which came out of a lab, is working.

Pickling for people disinclined to boil vinegar
So, what is a girl to do with all this bounty?

Stainless steel bowl available at Lehmans.com.

All the root veggies are washed well, not a speck of soil remains. Then they air-dry. Use a colander, or spread on your counter on a clean dishtowel. Stainless steel bowl for photo spiffiness only! (Lehmans.com has ‘em.)

I know, I’ll lacto-ferment it all. I like lacto-fermented veggies, so does the hubbin, and I really actually find cutting up veggies to be enjoyable. I’m weird that way!

And as a completely unrelated bonus, lacto-fermenting things is so incredibly easy that even *I* can’t mess it up. Though I thought I had and threw out the first batch I ever made: more on that later.

Lacto-fermenting is what creates sauerkraut, kimchi and cocktail onions, to name some of the more commonly known results of the process.

Sandor Katz The Art of Fermentation at Lehmans.com

Make your own healthy, pure lacto-fermented veggies, vinegars, pickles and more! Pick up The Art of Fermentation now at Lehmans.com to get started fast.

It is a bacterial process, utilizing critters that are present in any environment that has not been completely sterilized (it will not work in outer space, so those of you reading this from the Mir Space Station, sorry, try it when you get back home), so yes, when I first got into this process I had to get over my germophobia and embrace the little things (metaphorically speaking). It’s similar to the fermentation that creates alcohol, just with different microbes.

Which brings me to examine exactly how one goes about lacto-fermenting, rather than creating carrot booze accidentally.

We want to attract the right kind of microbe, so we have to create the right kind of environment. Think of it as very, very small game trapping, because the microbes are all there, hanging out together. We want to encourage the lactobacilli, while discouraging the yeasts (alcohol) and other things that would spoil our food. Continue reading

Youthview: Touch-Activated Book Lights Go to Camp

Four Lehman’s Touch-Activated Book Lights spent the summer at YMCA Camp Tippecanoe in Harrison County Ohio. Kimmy Kettering, 15, the niece of a Lehman’s employee took them along, and put them to work.                          —Editor, Country Life

Kimmy's been a Tipp camper for 7 years. This pic is from last summer, when she'd stood still long enough for a photo.

Kimmy’s been a Tipp camper for 7 years. This pic is from last summer, when she’d stood still long enough for a photo.

I used Touch-Activated Book Lights for many different things this summer. They were fantastic. They were lightweight and easy to use. Each one only needs one AAA battery, and the LED lamp doesn’t get hot. I could keep one pair of them in my backpack and use them whenever they were needed. Campers even used them to take bathroom trips at two in the morning and could easily carry the lights with them. We kept a pair in the cabin for anyone to try out and use. I personally used them for reading in my bunk during siesta, a period after lunch where campers and counselors go back to the cabins to take a break from the busy day, when the counselor turned off the lights. At night, I laid in my hammock and read while using one of these lights too. Continue reading

In a Pickle…and Those Darn Tomatoes!

Try pickled beets in the Perfect Pickler! It's available now at Lehmans.com.

Perfect Pickler: large size fits your 1 gal to 2-1/2 gal wide mouth jar; small size fits your 1/2 pt to 2 pt wide mouth jars.

Beyond Pickles I have always made a lot of pickles. We eat something pickled nearly every day. Pickled beans and beets are our favorites with carrots and cauliflower nearly as popular. We like bread and butter pickles too but by now, last year’s are are getting a bit soggy and nobody likes a soggy pickle. Lately, I have been making a lot more lacto-fermented pickled than traditional canned pickles in brine. We can make a ½ gallon of pickles and eat them over the course of a few weeks and then just make up another crispy batch. The process is really simple too. All you need is a sharp knife and a cutting board and some ½ gallon jars. Almost any vegetable can be fermented although a few things don’t appeal to me. I have tried pickled greens and found them, well…odd is all I can say about them. Continue reading

Farmer Hannah Sees Low Impact, High Return With Olive Oil Lamp

Make Your Own Olive Oil Lamp Kit Large for Pint Jars

The 6-pack Large Make-Your-Own Olive Oil Lamp Kit fit pint mason jars, and are just like Hannah’s. Also in Small (half pints) and Votive sizes. At Lehmans.com.

I am constantly in a quest to see what I can produce to satisfy my own needs and wants, rather than relying on an outside source.  I try to use an ethic of intention rather than of convenience.

A lightbulb with a switch is certainly a convenient thing, and I use them a lot.  Of course, I try to only keep lights on in rooms that I am occupying, and then only enough to do what I need to do. If I’m cooking or cleaning and using a large space, I need more light than if I’m sitting in one spot and reading or writing, for instance.

When I saw Lehman’s olive oil lamps, though, I was intrigued.  Maybe it was the fact that all you have to do is put a wick in a mason jar with oil, which satisfies my “make-do-with-what-you-have” sensibility.  I was intrigued enough by the idea to obtain a kit. Continue reading

American Gardens: Buckeye Garden Nears Harvest

Tough Cherry Tomatoes survived well. They're in the front bucket.

Tough Cherry Tomatoes survived well. They’re in the front bucket.

American Gardener Tim sent us tons of new pictures–we’re saving the “how to build a raised bed” for the planning days of wintertime.

Right now, let’s take a look at how his gardens are growing. He’s managing two–one small one in the suburban home where his family now lives, and one on land he and his wife will retire to in a few years. There are photos in the gallery below.

“Things are growing so fast now, and I’m just trying to keep up,” Tim says. “Thanks, Lehman’s, for sending me seeds to grow. I had a fail on the cukes, with that late cold snap. And squirrels kept digging up the carrot starts in the suburban garden.”

“I’ll tell you what, though. Those Black Cherry tomatoes are seriously hardy. I wasn’t able to get water to all my tomatoes for about four days recently. But look at that picture! The front barrel are all the Black Cherries. The rest–well, they aren’t. I know for sure I’m coming back to Lehman’s for tomato seeds next year!” Continue reading