Fridays Weekend Column
Happy Animal Tracks
by James Glaser
And you might ask, how does he know they are happy animals? Well I will tell you. All winter I have been going out and looking at the animal tracks in my yard in the morning and figuring out who was here at night.
Some tracks tell a very unhappy story for at least one animal, as the track will be going along in clean wind swept snow and it will end right in the middle of the yard and that area will look messed up and that is the spot that the owl got its meal.
Other tracks will tell you that it is very cold out, because animals, like humans know a straight line is the shortest way to get from one place to another and their tracks reflect that with pretty straight lines in the snow.
Happy animals, animals that are not too cold, animals that can sense winter is on the wane, animals that know they did store enough food to make it till spring will meander all around the yard like they are having a good old time and that is what my animals have started doing this week. I see "happy tracks" all over my yard every morning now and that puts a smile on my face too.
I know I have enough LP Gas in the tank to keep me snug until it is warm again and enough canned goods from last fall so I won't starve. I really don't have to worry about that with a café in town and a store full of food, but it lets me know how my ancestors felt toward the end of winter, when they knew they had made it through another one.
Today is bright and warm. The snow is melting off the roof, at least on the south side and my thistle feeders are covered with yellow American Goldfinches and even a few female House Finches. A while ago they left and I saw a group of about 15 Blue Jays. They seem to be nasty birds that keep everyone else on edge. I went out on the deck and spread out a lot of black sunflower seeds and that made everyone happy with the finches coming back and the Jays on the other side of the house eating sunflower seeds.
Of course I made fudge (The Patriotic American Candy) this week and it is called Triple Chocolate Fudge, I think it was the best I have had this winter. I did an experiment trying to make smoother fudge and it worked. This recipe calls for one cup of hard packed dark brown sugar. I made the fudge according to the recipe, but I made a second experimental batch. For the second batch I took an extra 3 ounces of evaporated milk and the cup of dark brown sugar and brought them to a boil for a couple of minutes and set them aside. I then made the rest of the recipe like before, but I added the cooked brown sugar when I was stirring in the chocolate and it was so smooth and creamy that I had to send much of it away in the mail. The two batches made eleven pounds of fudge and that is a lot of temptation sitting there on the counter. You know I had to try them hot and then again when they were warm, and of course after they set.
Like all fudge, you cook the butter, sugar, and milk together first, getting it to a boil and keeping it there for 5 minutes, stirring all the time. If you have a candy thermometer, keep it at 238 F for 5 minutes.
I don't know what "large" marshmallows are, so I added a few extra to make sure. Hey with this much sugar what is a little more? I bought 3 big Hershey Bars, but when I got home I saw they were only 4 oz each, so I added another couple ounces of bittersweet chocolate to make up for that.
On the second batch I took the dark brown sugar I had already boiled and set that on the stove so it stayed hot. I mixed the marshmallows in first after taking the sugar/butter/milk pan off the heat. Then the chips, broken up candy bars, and then the dark sugar and last was the bittersweet chocolate and vanilla. I used no nuts in the second batch.
I have put the extra fudge in the freezer with tons of stuff on the lid so I won't be as tempted to sneak pieces. The second batch did set up, but it stayed real creamy. You really owe it to yourself to try this recipe. Maybe it would be a good idea to first buy a big container of milk to have with this.
My house is total chaos right now. It is so bad that I have taken pictures. I am taking out my old kitchen cabinets and moving in new cabinets. I bought one extra base cabinet, so I am going to put my stereo on that and right now it is sitting on two three foot wide file cabinets. Everything must come out of all the cabinets and as I remove an old one and put in a new one, I can fill that new one and the clutter gets a little tiny bit smaller.
It will be nice when I am done and that has become my new mantra. I keep telling myself that this is going to be nice. It might look like the pits today, but in a week the house will look splendiferous. I sure hope it is only a week.
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