Some things are better when they don’t come too easily, aren’t they?
Like making butter yourself. When I was a child, I had the chance to do just that.
On a visit to my grandparents’ farm, my grandmother handed me a closed jar with rich cream inside it from their dairy cows. She instructed me to shake the jar vigorously.
I did so, but didn’t see much happening. I wanted to give up, but Grandma told me to keep agitating the jar. I obeyed, and soon started to see clumps forming inside the jar.
Grandma knew it wasn’t ready yet, however, and instructed me to keep going. My little arms were getting tired, but eventually Grandma told me I could stop. The cream had finally transformed into the right consistency.
I had made butter! (Well, technically, I suppose most of the credit should go to the cows.)
It was hard work making that fresh butter, but the taste of it was heavenly on fresh bread. It was vastly superior to the blocks of chilled butter you buy in the supermarket. Not only did it taste wonderful, I appreciated the butter more because I’d put in the work myself to make it.
Sometimes God lets us go through the effort of doing things for ourselves, doesn’t He?
Gardeners may not realize it, but they’re a bit like soldiers in wartime. Their enemies aren’t people, of course, but an even more insidious foe:
Weeds infiltrate our gardens like enemy invaders: dandelions, nettles, thistles, couch grass and garlic mustard, to name a few. They may seem innocent enough when there are only a few of them, but make no mistake: their ultimate aim is to take over and occupy your territory.
One vanguard weed may sneak in and settle, and you think nothing of it. If you’re not vigilant, though, that lone plant will soon multiply into an overwhelming host.
Or you pull up a dandelion and think that’s the end of it, but unless you’ve been very thorough, part of the taproot remains deep in the soil. The weed will come up again long after you thought you’ve eradicated it.
The seeds of weeds may stay in the soil of your garden and remain viable for years. They lie in wait like sleeper agents, waiting patiently for the right opportunity to spring up and attack.
The mission of weeds is simple but deadly: to compete with other plants for light, water and nutrients and crowd them out so they die. They’re dastardly adversaries, often needing less sunlight and water than other plants to survive.
And the worst part of it is that they’re very hard to kill.
We humans can’t help but react instinctively to a beautiful smell, can we?
In my last post, The Perfect Recipe for Bread, I mentioned how wonderful the smell of freshly baked bread is in your own home. The same is true when you bake a cake, cook a roast, light a scented candle, or when you bring a bouquet of flowers inside: the aroma fills the whole house and gives you a deep sense of pleasure.
You get the same pleasing effect when you take a walk in your neighbourhood and can detect cooking smells emanating from houses as you pass by: here someone’s making a rich stew, over there a spicy curry. Even better is strolling by someone’s garden and being enveloped by the scent of the lilacs or roses growing there.
But what if a beautiful aroma could permeate an even bigger area?
Last week, the Scots celebrated “Hogmanay,” or New Year’s Eve. A particularly delicious treat often consumed there on this holiday is shortbread, which is a Scottish invention. It’s not really a bread, but rather a buttery, rich, crumbly type of cookie (recipe below).
But why is it called “short” bread? Is it vertically challenged? Well, yes, it’s quite a flat cookie, but in this case the word “short” means something different.
Do you like Christmas fruitcake? Or do you just pretend to? Some people look forward to making or receiving fruitcakes at this time of year. Other people dread the prospect of eating fruitcake yet again.
If you’ve been faking enjoyment of Christmas fruitcake all these years and would really rather not eat any more of it, I think I have a solution for you:
I read a delightful fact about Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne. Apparently, he keeps nuts in his pockets to feed the red squirrels that live on his Balmoral estate. He so loves these little rodents that he even lets them into his house!
Prince Charles writes about the squirrels in the November 14, 2018 edition of “Country Life” magazine, which he guest-edited: