Saturday, December 1, 2012

Farm Story 3 The Ahh of Warmth

     Our farm has just completed two weeks with the return of electricity.  Hurricane Sandy made the trip up the coast and then made an incredible sharp left turn into New Jersey. The storm was unique in its size not necessarily in its strength.

     It was strong enough though to knock out so many trees.  Unlike Little House in the Big Woods, we are in an area of Big Houses in the Big Woods.  So many homes tucked into wooded areas were previously safe hoping "the big storm" may never come, but it did. Trees came down like dominoes and their fingerlike branches grasped the power lines as they fell.  For the first time ever, the road was impassable in either direction and remained so in one of the directions for one and one half weeks.

     So most of New Jersey was in darkness as well as without cell phones, land lines, and easily available gas.  Many roads were impassable. Creature comforts? Gone and not to return for two weeks. Discomfort, mental and physical, entered with electrical and technological isolation woven together in the midst of a very populated usually connected area. Silence, darkness, isolation, and cold were all wrapped together.

Cozy warmth from a  wood stove
    Aunt Ethel had always spoken of the wonderful feeling of warmth when she and her husband Walt stepped through the doorway and  into their toasty warm home.  It was a home that was kept warm enough so as to not need that extra layer.  Who of the younger generation should fault this? If an unheated home is not part of one's memory then it's hard to "get it" when someone describes how wonderful it is to open a door to enveloping  heat.  Surely, if a power outage occurred only a relatively small amount of time would pass and all would be right again with the world.
     But then, Ethel grew up on the farm where walking through the farm door didn't automatically mean heat. That cozy warm fire could only happen as a result of some work.  Warmth in the farm house came from a wood burning stove in the kitchen and a caring parent that kept the home fires burning.  Someone had to keep the fire going.  When the children were small that job would be one among many that her mother completed in a day.  She would drag in the branches and chop the pieces for the family stove.  Eventually, this chore could fall to the brothers.  The stove in the front room warmed that room plus provided enough heat to go through a grate in the ceiling leading to the upstairs bedrooms. Everything was comfortable as long as the fire kept burning.
     This storm has brought a true understanding and gratitude for Ethel's  "ahh" of warmth.

Yes, you do like dates, or you will after trying this!
Maple-Date Bars 
1 3/4 cups finely chopped pitted dates (about 12 ounces)
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1 cup regular oats
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
Combine dates, water, and maple syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil; cook 12 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. (Mixture will look like jam.) Stir in rind; cool completely.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Beat sugar and butter at medium speed until smooth.  Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture (mixture will be crumbly). Press 2 cups flour mixture into bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Spread date mixture over flour mixture. Sprinkle with remaining flour mixture. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely.

Tip: Wrap these moist bars individually, or place them in a cookie tin between layers of wax or parchment paper.
Adapted from Cooking Light Nov. 2005

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