Friday, January 29, 2016

The Sunshine State

Florida, the Sunshine State, lived up to its name today.



The temperature was perfect,

the wind non-existent.

Dinner was at Crab E Bill's on the water,

lobster bisque and blackened mahi mahi.







Entertainment was


by the pelican fly team.







Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Forgotten Fields -- Carolina Gold Rice

We live in the Low Country area of South Carolina where rice once thrived, a crop that was a perfect fit for South Carolina's geography and weather. The first rice seeds were brought here on a ship from Madagascar in 1685, a variety that came to be called Carolina Gold Rice.



This old rice field is about a mile and a half down the road from our house, and in the foreground you can see the embankment or dike that held the water.


Slaves from the west coast of Africa were brought here for their expertise and methods of growing rice that made the Low Country plantation owners some of the richest men in the American colonies.

From the slaves, plantation owners learned how to dig, dike, and flood a rice field.





The rice fields were built out of marshes by slaves. They built dikes to control the water and canals to transport the crop.

Men, women, and children spent most of the year knee deep in mud and swamp water. Already weakened by the long journey over here, slaves succumbed to tropical diseases, smallpox, pneumonia, heat exhaustion, and malaria. They dealt with alligators, snakes, and malaria carrying mosquitoes.

Altogether they cleared 77,000 acres and built 780 miles of canals, and by the start of the Civil War, they were producing 160 million lbs of rice a year.

(The above two photos are from a collection at the Library of Congress.)



The rice seed was planted in April in rows in a dry field, then the rice fields were flooded by raising a system of wooden gates that let the water flow in.


In September it was harvested using hand tools like these sickles and then bundled into sheaves.











The sheaves were carried to higher ground, sometimes by barge via the rice canals, sometimes by mule-drawn carts along the dikes, sometimes on the backs of the slaves.

Finally it was dried then threshed by beating the stalks against the ground with wood and iron flails.


The dried rice was pounded using a wooden mortar and pestle (lower left) to loosen the hulls. The hulls were blown away by slaves using fanning baskets (lower right) woven from sweetgrass, leaving clean rice for the farmer to sell.


Packed in barrels, the rice was taken by water to markets in Charleston and Georgetown.




With the advent of the Civil War, plantation owners lost the slave labor necessary to make rice profitable. After 200 years, last field of Carolina Gold Rice was grown in 1927 and the heirloom seed was pretty much lost for the next 60 years.

In the 1980s a Savannah eye surgeon hunted down some of the old seed from a seed bank and brought the rice back into cultivation to lure wild ducks to his plantation not far from where I live. Today 149 acres of the heirloom rice is grown and you can buy a 2lb bag for about $18 plus postage. Yikes!

I haven't tasted it but Anson Mills, who sells it, says:

"Milled to emulate fresh, hand-pounded rice, Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice has a clean, sweet flavor and mouthfeel superior to modern long-grain rice."

I'll let you know when we find some and try it.


Monday, January 18, 2016

On the Road

The small town we live nearest to, Ridgeland, just opened a town museum in an old gas station donated by a citizen. It's called the Morris Center and its first exhibit is about Highway 17, a historic road in South Carolina that put Ridgeland on the map and then took off again when Interstate 95 opened and bypassed it.

Highway 17 is an extension of the King's Highway commissioned by King Charles II as a postal route for the king's couriers built between 1673 and 1735.

The original King's Highway ran along the coast for 1300 miles from Boston, Massachusetts to Charles Town (Charleston), South Carolina.




(Photo from public domain)


But back to Ridgeland and the Morris Center.

Here it is today, looking a lot like it looked in its heyday.


It was built in 1937 at a cost of $5000 and served motorists traveling Highway 17, the Coastal Highway, through Georgia and as far south as Punta Gorda, Florida.

I found this old photo of it from the early 1950s.








Around the service station "motor courts" sprang up to provide automobile travelers places to sleep and restaurants to feed them.

The motels also still exist in Ridgeland, although now mostly as cheap rooms for the poor and transient to rent by the week.













Claude Dean worked in the station for his uncle and later bought it.

Here he remembers Ridgleland's heydays.







Here's what was recommended for automobile travelers to carry with them in the early days of long distance travel.












My family traveled a lot and I had seen most of the United States by the time I was a teenager. Every summer we would pack up the car with camping equipment and head out for a few weeks to explore the country.

My sister and I favored Sinclair gas stations because we like the dinosaur.




On the road, early 1950s

Is it any wonder I love to travel?


Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Winter Beach

The sun was shining and the temperature hit 65 this afternoon after a day of pouring rain yesterday.

The sea called; we had to go.

Folly Beach, Hilton Head Island


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

This N That

Just to be clear, strawberries are available in the large grocery stores here pretty much all year,

but those have little flavor. They are picked too early and the variety is chosen for its firmness so it can travel thousands of miles from California to the Midwest and the East Coast.

The strawberries at the farmers market were grown in Beaufort County, a few miles from where I live. In January.

That's what made them so special.


Now that Christmas is over I thought I would show you some gifts I made this year. At the time I didn't have many of my belongings here so it was hard to think of something. I did have my sewing machine and this is what I came up with: potholders made from recycled fabric.

Some of the designs are my own and some are inspired by designs on the Internet.

The padding is from a cut up Polar Fleece jacket and the outer fabric is from soft recycled men's denim shirts.

There were more but I forgot to photograph them.


The cat one has a pocket to put your hand in to protect it from the heat of the oven.



Fun to make, handmade, and useful!

That's what my family likes.


(Since I updated my iPad, I can't flip photos anymore. Bummer!)




And speaking of Christmas ...



Here is Mason, age two, teaching my mom, age 89, how to use an iPhone.

Let's hope he isn't phoning Africa.









I observed that adult coloring books were very popular in Christmas stockings this year. If you didn't receive one, here is a page for you. I don't think it will take you long to finish it.

And since cold season is upon us, here is a little advice.

I don't know if it works, but it sounds like it tastes good, unlike some of the other remedies I've read.

Stay warm, my friends!


Friday, January 8, 2016

What? Really?

Could it be true?

I got an email yesterday saying there were local strawberries at the farmer's market. I was pretty sure it was an error, but what if it was true?

It's been the strangest winter here with record temps and things blooming that shouldn't be blooming,

so just maybe? We had to go see.



We found a parking place and entered with high hopes.







Lots of nice green things, all local and fresh.

Pretty exciting for a Minnesotan to see in the dead of winter.


Bread Man is here.

His loaves are amazing, baked in a wood-fired oven, so crusty and chewy.








Bags of beautiful buttery pecans.

And then, there they were!

Homegrown strawberries! The sweetest, strawberryest strawberries you ever tasted.

In January!

Once we found the strawberries we returned for a loaf of bread and some pretty red kale to make kale potato soup later in the week.

We rinsed the berries and ate a handful each. We had some more for breakfast with yogurt this morning.

Yup, all gone now

but the sweet memory

of fresh strawberries in January.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

And The Winner Is . . .

The sculpture chosen by the jury to remain was this one:



Not the one we would have chosen but if you think of it as a palmetto frond instead of a sunset, it does fit into the landscape. Its permanent location hasn't been chosen yet.

Purchase price : $30,000.





People's choice, first place went to the sea turtle. My photo doesn't do it justice. It's a sea turtle, which this area is known for, swimming under water with the Carolina moon in the background.

It's gorgeous and I really wanted it to be the one to stay.






Second went to "Hanging". I think that is hanging as in "hanging out".

Notes from the artist say the purpose is to "provide the community with a place to meet, rest, play, or think."

I'm wondering if the artist has ever sat on a tractor seat. They are not very comfortable and conducive to hanging out!









Third place went to "LoveArch". It would look nice in a courtyard with a door behind it, I think.