Saturday, November 14, 2015

Farewell to Paradise

We’re in Tucson now, recovering from a big wedding celebration and settling into our little casita. Looking back at Paradise, our home of 39 years, the things I’m missing already are my friends, the chickens (in Laurie’s good care for the winter), and all the good food in our big freezer (especially our home-grown tomatoes). I know that I’ll miss seeing the evening light falling across Chicken Creek valley’s beautiful sycamore trees, their bare white arms illuminated by the last rays of sunlight.

At the same time I’m looking forward to living in the Sonoran desert, learning the names and natures of desert plants, meeting new people, enjoying winter warmth, living in proximity to a much younger generation, and watching the pomegranates outside our kitchen window slowly ripening.

This is my last post on Chicken Creek Journal until next spring. Now it’s time to take up posting on

Au revoir.

Copyright 2015 by Shirley Domer

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Iron Skillet

Years ago, after rheumatoid arthritis began to take its toll on my hands and wrists, I gave away my well-seasoned, treasured iron skillets. I simply couldn’t lift them any more.

Searching for a good alternative, I discovered that a stainless steel skillet is worthless for sautéing because everything sticks to the pan. The only remaining option was an aluminum non-stick skillet, so I bought one, and another, and another. No matter how careful one is, the non-stick surface becomes scratched and worn through. Toxic, so the whole pan has to be replaced, and where does the old pan go? Into the landfill, of course.

Recently it was time to replace yet another non-stick skillet. I shopped and shopped but couldn’t find an acceptable replacement. Then, while grocery shopping, I walked down an aisle that featured pots and pans. (I still find it strange that one can buy such things in a grocery store, but I guess that’s why they’re called supermarkets.) There an iron skillet caught my eye. Eureka! It had two handles. All of my 2-quart saucepans have two handles and I can lift them even when they are full.

That iron skillet was so tempting I had to try to lift it just to see if I could. Yes, I could! I tried tilting it. I could easily do that, too. Into the cart it went and we’ve been using it ever since with great pleasure. Not only does it have two handles, it also had been pre-seasoned, so there was no breaking in period.

Last evening I decided to bake cornbread in the iron skillet. The results amazed me. The cornbread was moist in the middle and nicely browned on the top and bottom. It popped out of the skillet as easily as a loaf of whole wheat bread does. Sorry I didn’t get a photo until most of the cornbread was gone.

Hooray for Lodge iron skillets, made in the U.S.A.! That’s the kind my grandma used, and no other skillet measures up to it.

Copyright 2015 by Shirley Domer

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Tonight the outside of our lighted kitchen window is covered with several kinds of moths, drawn to the light. I tried to photograph them from inside, but captured only my own reflection.

Moths are nocturnal creatures so their attraction to light is a paradox. It makes no sense. My reflection in the window reminds me that I, like the moths, am sometimes irresistibly drawn to something that is not good for my wellbeing. Oh, what fools we mortals be, moths and humans alike!

Copyright 2015 by Shirley Domer

Friday, October 16, 2015

Neither Here nor There

Becoming a snowbird has had me neither here nor there. My mind has busy thinking about what to do with the last of this year’s garden vegetables, but it’s also been trying to anticipate what we will need to furnish our casita kitchen in Tucson. I have more lists of things to do than you can shake a stick at. But last week I stole a few moments to photograph the true beginning of fall – the turning of the ivies in our woods from green to red and orange.

Quickly the flames spread to the leaves of the trees themselves and leaf fall began in earnest. What’s more, last night our first frost finished off the garden peppers, the last plants in the garden other than perennials such as strawberries and raspberries. Yesterday Dennis picked the last tomatoes and this morning he brought in all the salvageable peppers. I had fun sorting the produce*, and I’m happy knowing that I can soon leave food preservation behind and focus on packing up for our sojourn away.

*We didn’t grow the two Jonathon apples; they just happened to be on the kitchen worktable. They, along with three or four others, soon will become apple pie.

Copyright 2015 by Shirley Domer

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Corn off the Cob

Although I love the taste and texture of fresh corn, eating corn on the cob has never been one of my favorite mealtime activities.  The corn takes up too much room on the plate, for one thing, and the butter runs off and pools under the cob instead of staying put. Those reasons are good, but what ruins corn on the cob for me is my memory of feeding the hogs on my dad’s farm.

In these days when the field corn has dried on its stalks, farmers drive huge John Deere combines through the field. They are called combines because the machine combines all tasks into one operation. It gobbles up the whole corn stalk, chops it up, removes the kernels from the cobs, spits out the debris and pours shelled corn into a waiting grain truck. A whole field is harvested in just a few hours.

In my dad’s day, corn was harvested by hand over a period of weeks. Dad would hitch up Babe and Belle to the farm wagon and drive to the beginning of a row of corn. He climbed down, pulled on his gloves, and twisted ears of dried corn off the stalks one by one, tossing them into the wagon while the big horses waited patiently. When Dad was ready to move down the row, he spoke softly to the team of horses, who moved forward until he called, “Whoa.”

Later Dad shucked the corn by hand and stored the golden ears in the corn bin, conveniently located on the side of the barn nearest the pig pen. Dad always kept several brood sows that produced litters of piglets twice a year. The dried corn on the cob was a principal part of their diet and when I helped Dad with the evening chores it was my job to fill a bucket with ears of corn and toss them over the fence into the pig pen. I was forbidden to go into the pen, for mature hogs are powerful and dangerous omnivores.

The sows were in hog heaven, crunching, snuffling, grunting, and slobbering as they stripped kernels from the cobs. Somehow, after witnessing their eating habits, I lost interest in eating corn on the cob.

A better way for humans to consume fresh corn is to heat some butter in a saucepan or skillet, cut the kernels off the cobs, put the corn kernels in the butter, and sauté them for a few minutes. Finish the dish off with some salt and pepper, and eat like a civilized person.

Copyright 2015 by Shirley Domer.