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Grocery Shopping

GroceriesI went grocery shopping the other day.  And, I spent more than $100.  That isn’t a big deal – it is just that I don’ t do it very often.   My grocery bill is typically $30-50 a month for food – and another $50 or so for other essentials like TP and shampoo.  That isn’t much considering that the “average” family spends between $150 – $290 a WEEK according to the USDA.  Why is our bill so much lower than the national average?  Mostly because we plant and grow our own veggies, raise meat and eggs, preserve our bounty, process in the home dairy and cook at home.   Simply put, we produce more than we consume.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, my feed bill is not inconsequential.  I spent $240 at the feed store last month and I do get the hay pretty cheap ($195 last month) but that still puts our food costs at about 25-50% of the cost of the average family.

Which begs the question — is there really that much savings in fermenting your own pickles??

I guess so.  I mean, we do ferment our own pickles (there are 2 gallons of cucs in brine sitting on the counter right now and if the kitchen wasn’t such a mess I would snap a picture for the blog!), preserve jams, jellies, green beans, salsa, tomatoes, grape and apple juice, apple sauce, and pickles, and make our own yogurt, butter and cheese…which is a bit more “Pioneer Woman” than most folks.  But we don’t make EVERYTHING.  This should be pretty obvious since there are s’more fixin’s and potato chips on my receipt!  I am thrifty, but not insanely DIY enough to make my own marshmallows no matter how easy that America’s Test Kitchen says it is.  You will also notice that there are potato chips (You MUST have potato chips for a BBQ!) and a couple loaves of bread on there – because I haven’t had time to bake bread lately.  Like I said, we are thrifty – but not Amish!

So what is the single thing that saves us the most $$$ on our food budget?  I cook at home and I make most meals from scratch.  Snacks are homemade (chocolate zucchini bread anyone??) and ingredients are fresh, local or homegrown, and unprocessed.  Simple.  But time consuming at times because we are more scratch than most.  Take my lasagna for example  The cow is days away from calving so we are a little light on milk right now, but I love to make lasagna because is uses 5 gallons of milk!   The mozzarella cheese takes three gallons and with the left-over whey and two more gallons of whole milk I make the ricotta.  Then, a pound of hamburger and a pound of ground pork (from our own beef and hogs), canned tomatoes (from the garden), garlic, onion (ditto!) in the sauce and the only store bought input at this point is the lasagna noodles.  My recipe makes two 9×13 pans of lasagna – which should be at least  four meals unless I am feeding the hay crew dinner.  Pop one pan into the freezer for another day and I have  a couple of cheap, quick meals for busy nights down the road.

The real cost of this kind of cooking and lifestyle?  My time.

One can feel just a bit like the “Little Red Hen” (I milked the cow, I made the cheese, I assembled the lasagna…) because it is time and labor intensive.  Is this the most efficient use of my time?  Perhaps not when one looks at the cost of a pan of frozen lasagna in the grocery store or Costco.  Is my time really worth only $9.99 for a whole day’s work?  Depends upon your perspective.  At the same time I am making the lasagna I am building relationships with my children who work with me, passing on skills that many have forgotten or never learned, and making a conscious decision about the value of producing rather than consuming.

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” ~ Albert Einstein


Plan to Can?

BI Q&A FLier

WSU Small Farms Team is here to help!   The Bainbridge Grange has invited us for a Home Canning Q&A  on August 13th at 7:00pm!  The grange is located at 10340 Madison Ave NE, Bainbridge Island.  Topics covered will include basic canning principles, water bath vs. pressure canning, types of equipment, and approved recipes and resources.  Pressure gauge testing will be available at the workshop for $5.00. Whether you are just getting started or would like to update your knowledge of home food preservation, join us and learn!

If you can’t make it to the workshop WSU is available to answer food safety and preservation questions by e-mail or phone.  Contact Diane Fish ( or call the Small Farms Program at 360-337-7026.   Online food preservation and safety information is available on the WSU Kitsap Extension website (   Pressure gauge testing is available by appointment for a $5.00 fee.  Gauges should be tested annually.


Rubbing shoulders with the people who feed you!

A while back I posted about Kitsap Farmer’s Markets for those folks who were looking to get up close and personal with a farmer (sort of like going to the zoo but it costs less and you get zucchini!)  If you have taken that baby step and want to get even more farmy there are lots of events coming up this summer and fall where you can even see farmers in their natural habitat!

July 20th – Poulsbo Farmers Market Kids’ Day / Touch a Tractor

Bring out the kids for a day all about them! To start, show the kids how all of the delicious food at the market is grown by taking them around to all of the tractors that will be scattered throughout the market – some brand new, some 60 years old! Next, grab a fun tie-dye shirt, for which the PFM is famous! Choose your own size and colors!

August 3rd – Manette Edible Gardens and Chicken Coop Tour

Recalling the self-sufficiency of previous generations who planted Victory Gardens, Manette edible gardeners are opening their gardens to their neighbors to show techniques for growing food in small urban spaces. The tour is also a great way to learn about animal husbandry in the city.

August 15th – Friends of the Farm “Farm to Table  Dinner”  

All welcome to join us for the third annual Farm to Table Dinner on Bainbridge Island. Enjoy local food and spirits with delicious tastes from ten local restaurants, bakeries and wineries. Live country and western swing music provided by The Jangles.  Tickets available online.

Time: 6-9 pm
Location: Bainbridge Island Town Square (Madison Avenue by City Hall)

August 21-25th – Kitsap County Fair and Stampede!

So much fun you will have a cow!  Livestock exhibits and shows, educational displays and much more!  Come on Saturday, August 24th for the Kitsap Junior Livestock Association 4H and FFA Market Animal Auction and bid on hogs, lambs, goats, steers, rabbits and broiler chickens.  Auction begins at 11:00am.  Complimentary lunch sponsored by Kitsap Bank!

Kitsap County Fair Logo 2013

August 24th – Picnic at the Pig

Join the vendors and more after the market for a kid-friendly event, fun for the whole family! Pulled pork picnic dinner, live music, farm games and contests, a raffle, and a silent auction featuring goodie bags and baskets generously donated by local businesses and regular PFM vendors.

Time: 3:00-7:00pm

Adult – $15 (includes 1 free drink, alcoholic or non-alcoholic)
Child (10 years or younger) – $5.

September 15th – Peterson Fall Farm Fair

Proceeds from the Petersen Farm Fall Fair support the Kitsap Agricultural & Community Alliance (KCAA) and the Kitsap Community Food Co-op (KCFC), who are partnered in this effort to increase access to local food to the Kitsap community.

Come to this family-themed fair and enjoy hayrides, hay bale maze, carnival games, live music, farm tours, vendors and much more!  In Silverdale, WA off the SR3 Trigger Avenue Exit.

Peterson Fall Farm Fair

September 23rd – Kitsap Grown Harvest Dinner

Local chefs prepare an amazing Kitsap Grown meal!  Hosted by KCAA.  Follow them on Facebook as more information becomes available!

September 29th – Friends of the Farm Harvest Fair

Friends of the Farms sponsors and organizes the annual Harvest Fair at Johnson Farm on Bainbridge Island. This educational and fun event brings our community together to celebrate, appreciate and nurture local farming.  Not just for the kids, Harvest Fair encourages everyone to take a day and join us on the farm.

Time:  11:00am – 5:00pm


October 6th – Poulsbo Farmers Market Harvest Dinner

 The PFM Harvest Dinner is an annual fundraiser which showcases the very best that the market has to offer! Hosted by Chef John Nesby at Mor Mor Bistro in Poulsbo, this dinner features fresh, local ingredients purchased primarily from the PFM. The event begins at 5:30pm with cocktails, followed by dinner and a live auction.  Tickets available at the market starting in July.


Farm Breakfast!

A bunch of my friends have reclaimed sit-down Sunday Dinners by posting their menus on Facebook.  If you do a big sit-down it is a chance to see if you measure up, if you just graze on left-overs from the week after church, it is a bit ego-busting!  While we do the full meal deal periodically, Sunday sit-down’s aren’t a tradition at our house – but Saturday Farm Breakfast is a big deal!

We started this tradition years ago because my boys needed a decent meal because we sell hay from 9:00-1:00 on Saturdays and by the time they came in for lunch about 2:00 they were famished.  Cereal just didn’t cut it.  After a while a couple of our hired hands started showing up a few minutes early to catch what was left of the meal.  That became an issue because we would have customers lined up and the help would still be sopping up gravy in the kitchen.  Hence the rule, “Be here by 8:30 if you want breakfast!”

Most of my kids have moved on to other adventures, but we still do the Farm Breakfast for the hay crew, hubby and the occasional hay customer who has figured out what is going on! Recent offerings include buttermilk pancakes with fresh raspberries, french toast, breakfast casserole (eggs, potatoes, sausage, bacon, onions, peppers, cubed bread), eggs and hashbrown potatoes, and of course, biscuits and sausage gravy. I couldn’t do this without the farm.  Eggs from the chickens, milk from the cow, pork sausage and bacon from the hogs we raise, potatoes and veggies from the garden, and buckets of raspberries from the berry patch make all this possible.   Without this ultra-local bounty feeding 4-8 people every Saturday morning would be cost prohibitive but my girls (Lexie and the chickens) keep up their end of the bargain.

We’ve been blessed with a bunch of great helpers over the years – and the community we have built around the kitchen table has forged relationships that are why we keep doing the hay business – and the Farm Breakfast!  This week it was fresh chorizo, eggs, beans, rice, homegrown salsa, and tortilla!  Next week it is biscuits and gravy with fried red potatoes and eggs – by request.  Carlos is moving on to a new adventure as he leaves to go on a church mission for two years!  We will miss him, but when he comes home I am sure he will join us again for an occasional breakfast!  They always do!

Here is the recipe for the chorizo – it is also great for a quick taco dinner!  I always have the butcher grind my pork and leave it unseasoned when we do a hog – that gives me lots of flexibility in meal planning.  You can have most butchers grind up pork shoulder and do the same thing or buy some boneless pork spareribs and grind it yourself.


  • 2# ground pork
  • 1/4 c vinegar
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or more too taste)

Grind the meat if needed, blend spices, pour over ground meat, mix well with hands.  Best if it can sit in the fridge 24 hours to allow flavors to blend before using.  Fry it up and make a breakfast burrito!

Public Hearing on Agricultural Sign Ordinance – TONIGHT

A while back Dragonfly Nursery and Farm in Hansville ran afoul of county ordinances for their signage (among other things) and it brought up yet again the tenuous position many farmers in which many farmers find themselves.  I commented recently that every farmer I knows breaks the rules – somehow, someway!   There are so many federal, state, and local regulations that compliance is incredibly challenging.  Worse yet, many farmers often don’t know that they are breaking the rules.

Ag sign

Ag signage rules are just one of the areas where there is a lack of clarity.  Many small farms have seasonal produce available and put up signs to attract passing motorists – savvy business practice or illegal signage?  Depends!  Title 17 (Agriculture) is scheduled for a rewrite in 2014 (postponed from 2013).  This project definitely needs to go forward because farmers are wanting clarification on zoning codes that impact farming.   Like confusion over the sign ordinance.  So, for 2013 a group of farmers got together and worked with the Department of Community Development to come up with an interim solution to the problem.   DCD hasn’t always been completely responsive to the needs of the farming community – so this ordinance was a big deal for local farmers.  There is an informational flyer on the DCD Website with the main points are outlined below:

The agricultural sign registration program is being administered by Kitsap County Department of Community Development (DCD). Please follow this link for on-line
registration instructions:

Terms of participation in the program include:

  • Up to four off-premise signs (sellers name and contact info on back)
  • A-board signs shall not exceed twenty-four inches by thirty inches
  • Stand-alone (post driven) signs shall not exceed three square feet
  • Signs may be placed up to three days prior and shall be removed within one day following the event or sale being advertised
  • Signs shall not create hazards for vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians
  • Attachments, including balloons, shall not be placed on signs
  • Wire shall not be used to secure signs within the County right-of-way
  • Symbols and arrows are preferred to minimize wording and enhance legibility
  • Signs shall maintain a 200-foot setback when approaching an intersection or a  yellow and black county warning sign

There is a public hearing on the interim sign ordinance TONIGHT.   If you are a farmer and want to speak out about how this ordinance helps you and your business, now is the time!    The hearing takes place at the regular Board of Commissioners public meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Board of Commissioners Chambers, 619 Division Street Port Orchard, WA 98366.  Written comments can also be submitted to the DCD point of contact Katrina Knutson, or (360)337-5777.

The Vintage Life!

Vintage is in…totally.  There are etsy shops, tag sales, Facebook pages, storefronts, museums, ..all dedicated to vintage wares and lifestyles.  You can hardly turn around without bumping into an instagram photo of a toddler in a wading pool taken yesterday but looking for all the world like circa 1974.   I get it – because I love the kitschy, whimsical, and fun bits and pieces of a life gone by!  But while it takes us back to a simpler time, remember there was no etsy, Facebook or instagram then!  Those orange floral dresses and bouffant hairdo’s were real life!  We lived it and wore it and worse yet, thought it was hip and tasteful!

On the farm we have lots of vintage stuff as well – the 1930s vintage Allis Chalmers tractor that belonged to my father-in-law, the 1960s vintage International B-414 tractor that belonged to my dad …. and the 1980s vintage Isuzu pickup with more than 300,000 miles on it that my husband loves and refuses to part with.  Now, the tractors have both been rebuilt and run well.  As for the Isuzu, well it runs, but not well.  The seat is sagging, the floorboards are leaky and when you turn on the heater/defroster the cab fills with an obnoxious blass of antifreezy air that promptly fogs up all the windows (which rather defeats the whole “defrost” function!)  I think that there must be a hole in the heater core.  All this makes rather entertaining driving during the winter.


Old stuff on farms is nothing new.  Years ago when we were making hay down in Lewis County at my mother’s farm my son had a friend come and spend a couple of days.  James and Trent were about 10 or 11 and thought they were in heaven.  Haymaking took several weeks so we moved the entire family down to the farm and the kids enjoyed long summer days playing while the men made hay and I cooked and drove tractor!  My mom still owned my father’s old pick up truck and we used it for pulling wagons and short trips into town for tractor parts and the like.  It was the quintessential farm truck – dented, smelly, even more beat up than the Isuzu. Someone had removed the bench seat and replace it with bucket seats – that were sort of attached to the frame of the truck but came adrift occasionally – just often enough to make turning corners a bit interesting!  The person sitting in the middle perched on a block of firewood with an old pillow on it.  In defense of the mechanic who made the change – he did leave the seatbelts in it!

James and Trent (who was probably sitting in the middle at the time!) and I made a run into town one day and as we were sitting at the stop sign (Toledo doesn’t have a stop light!) waiting to turn and head home Trent said, “Mrs. Fish, why does everyone here drive junky trucks?”  I looked around town and sure enough, there were more than a couple farm trucks parked along the street!  I explained that farm trucks work hard and don’t always get taken care of the best but they run just fine.  The contrast between vehicles on the farm and in the ‘burbs was pretty noticeable – even for a 10 year old – but because of the need to be thrifty every bit of use and life was squeezed out of vehicles and machinery!  And, when it didn’t run anymore chances were it got parked out back where it became part of the “strategic reserve” and stripped for parts.

This spring my mother had a stroke and had to leave the farm where she has lived since 1978.  We stopped making hay on the place about 10 years ago when it was divided up into five-acre parcels and sold for building lots.  Now, the neighbors still mow the old hay field with John Deere tractors – only they are lawn tractors instead.  Cleaning out Mom’s house was a bitter sweet experience.  So many lovely memories of summers in the shade of the huge oak trees, long hours spent exploring the woods and swimming in the river, the sweet smell of hay as you entered the barn to feed the cattle during the winter.  It was sort of like a bit of July during the cold, wet months of winter.  My middle son was especially sad about her leaving the farm and the apple trees that he loved to climb in and so we are going to get some scion wood from them in the spring and visit the Peninsula Fruit Club‘s spring grafting show!   We will plant the new apple trees in our orchard and perhaps our grandkids will get as much pleasure from them!

As I was packing up the bits and pieces of her life I thought a great deal about the current fascination with vintage items.  Since my mother embodied the adage “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without!” her entire life was vintage!  However, rather than being displayed on a shelf or being a “decorator accent” these items were used every day!  All her pyrex dishes and bowls were chipped and stained – not museum pieces but kitchen workhorses that served thousands of meals for her family.   There was precious little to send to thrift stores or garage sale.  It was all worn out!   I packed up a few boxes of keepsakes and precious mementos, but there was very little worth saving.  I kept her recipe books, a few dishes and heirlooms, and some linens.  In the bottom of the kitchen towel drawer I came across a few worn but serviceable items.  One homemade muslin dishtowel had a bric-a-brac trim sewed on by Mom years ago.  I brought it home along with a couple of others – and put them in my towel drawer – because these things were made to be used, not just displayed on a shelf.

Kitchen Towels3

Heat Wave!

According to weather guru Cliff Mass we are warming up!  That is good news for local farmers who have been battling unseasonably wet weather the last couple of weeks!   A rare summer atmospheric river brought thunderstorms and lots of moisture to the area.  We are used to this phenomena during the winter months here – though we get enough rain so that perhaps you hadn’t noticed it!   But, it is rare during the summer months – as Cliff explains!

We need the warmer weather – berries and cherries have suffered this year due to the rain.  Talking to a friend who farms cherries in Eastern WA and last week they took pickers into the orchard to see if the crop could be salvaged.  They left after a couple of hours.  Depressed and tired, he was philosophical.  “You win some, you lose some in farming!”  Local strawberry farmers have also been battling the weather with high losses due to mold on berries.  Both berries and cherries are high value crops, and with high value comes a high risk!  Other farmers report damage to locally grow early maturing garlic as well.  When garlic is just about ready to harvest it needs a couple weeks of warm, DRY weather to cure and lots of rain during that time can cause mold damage and reduce storage life.  Later maturing varieties should be better off with the warm spell forecast!   My garlic isn’t quite ready yet…but not because I am some weather predicting savant.  I was just so late getting it planted that it is later maturing!  Sometimes being too busy to farm is a good thing.  Regretfully, this spring the weeds have taken over a couple sections of the garden, so procrastination isn’t always the best way to manage!

Farming certainly isn’t for sissies.

In one regard the wet weather has been good…transplanting tender young plants in hot weather is challenging and cool damp days are the best.  But, with all the rain we have had it is lucky that it hasn’t washed away!  Farmer Nikki over at Pheasant Field Farm has been busy making raised beds and putting out crops for her fall CSA and market customers.   Kale, cabbage, cauliflower!

Nikki Tractor




What is at the Farmers Markets this week!

I have been on a(n) embarrassingly long hiatus from blogging – had to take care of my Moms (shout out to Trudy!) after she had a stroke and moved off the farm and up to Bremerton.  She is settled in, doing well and we are all adjusting to the new normal.  Hopefully now all of the mentally composed but unwritten blog posts can come to fruition!

Farmers markets represent a visible and tangible evidence of farming activity in Kitsap.  I was talking to a couple friends the other day about the changes I have seen in the last five years – we have 14 farms offering CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs, there is USDA-inspected meats in almost all of the markets in the county, there are five Grade-A dairies licensed by the WSDA (with at least three more in the process!), we have a county strategic plan for agriculture to help guide policy for farming and farmland preservation, and we have a new agriculture signage ordinance.  We are making progress – but we need your help!  You need to buy local farm products, and a great place to start is at one of Kitsap County’s seven Farmers Markets!  We have seen them blossom and grow over the last few years!  The Kitsap Sun has covered openingschickens, new products and other news!


Photo by Larry Steagall/Kitsap Sun.

Fresh in the markets this week are strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, lettuce and greens, carrots, beets, garlic, radishes, eggs, beef, chicken, pork and lamb, dairy products and value-added baked goods, jams and jellies, and much more!  Take the kids, make friends with a farmer or two, and buy dinner!




Market Dates



Bainbridge Island Summer Farmers Market


9 am –  1 pm

4/13 to 10/26

Bainbridge Island

Town Square at City Hall Park, 280 Madison Avenue

Map It!

Tim O’Brien

Bainbridge Island Winter Farmers Market


9 am –  1 pm

11/2 to 12/21

Bainbridge Island

Town Square at City Hall Park, 280 Madison Avenue

Town Square at City Hall Park

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Tim O’Brien

Bremerton Sunday Farmers Market


10:30 am – 2:30 pm

5/5 to  10/13


2nd & Washington Street

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Julia Zander

Bremerton Thursday Farmers Market


4 pm –  7 pm

5/2 to  10/17


1400 Park Avenue

This may be an approximate address
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Julia Zander

Kingston Farmers Market


9 am –  2 pm

5/4 to  10/12


Corner of Central Avenue & Washington Boulevard

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Clinton V. Dudley

Port Orchard Farmers Market


9 am –  3 pm

4/6 to  10/12

Port Orchard

Waterfront parking lot near Bay Street & Harrison Avenue

This may be an approximate address
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KC Pearson

Poulsbo Farmers Market


9 am –  2 pm

4/6 to  12/7


Corner of 7th Avenue NE & NE Iverson Street

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Brian Simmons

Silverdale Farmers Market


10 am – 4 pm

5/3 to 9/24


In Old Town Silverdale
Between the Boat Launch & Waterfront Park

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Monica Phillips

Suquamish Farmers Market


3 pm – 7 pm

5/24 to 10/16


Across Suquamish Way from Suquamish Village Shell and the Suquamish Tribal Government Center

 Map It!

Alan Trunkey



REAL Farm to Fork

Busy canning, freezing and putting up right now.  I keep meaning to put together a blog post, and I have composed 100s in my head, but regretfully they haven’t come up with a way to plug the USB cord into my head!

While I am neglecting my farm to fork responsibilities you have the chance this fall for a REAL Farm to Fork experience at the Kitsap Community and Agricultural Alliance Harvest Dinner on September 14th.  Whether you are looking for a cool date night, want wonderful local food prepared with care and attention to detail by talented chefs, or are looking for a chance to rub shoulders with the local farmers who feed us, the Harvest Dinner is the place to be!


Cooking for the hay crew

Came across this column in the Tacoma News Tribune about shortcake suppers.  She talks about her grandmother cooking for the farm crew and it struck a cord in me because I grew up helping my mother put on the big spread for farm workers and cooking for the hay crew happens at our house too!  When I was growing up my dad had 3-4 good farm friends he swapped labor with for things like haying and chopping silage.  Each farmer had a couple pieces of machinery (tractors, mowers, wagons, forage harvesters) and they would share machinery and help each other at crucial times of the year.  The really cool thing is that each farmer did slightly different things – one was a dairy farmer – another raised beef cattle – so their busy times were not at the SAME time!

As my Dad and the other farmers traveled from place to place doing the big, shared work projects like haying and silage, the wives would always put on the big spread for lunch.  In the 70s there wasn’t many arenas where women competed – except in the kitchen.  Title IX was a few years away and most women were relegated to pink collar jobs.  But, in the domestic domain it was full-contact homemaking!  Just like the Amish women at barn-raising events, the tables would be groaning under the weight of baked goods and breads, mashed potatoes, gravy, roast beef…and dessert!  Cobblers, cakes, and PIES!

Now, my Dad was a bit of a joker and he liked to egg people on.  So, when they were having lunch at Charlie’s and Marion was feeding them he would say things like, “Well, you know, at Hank’s last week we had apple and lemon meringue pie!”  Sure enough, the next day Marion would produce, apple, lemon meringue AND cherry (with ice cream!)  It is a wonder they ever got any work done given the amount they ate, but they were also doing hard physical labor and could justify the big meals.

At our house we typically feed the helpers who work with us on hay deliveries.  Sometimes we have 3-4 of them on busy days so dinner is a big, sit down affair.  On Saturday we do a big farm breakfast for everyone who shows up by 8:30 in the morning.  Last week we had eggs, sausage gravy, fried potatoes, toast and jam.  I do this as a carry-over from the tradition when I was growing up.  And the crew is always grateful which provides a reward for the work of cooking for them.  While I don’t have other farm wives to contend with in a contest of pie-baking skills I need to be careful because occasionally a mom will ask “So, what did you feed them this week?” in a my-kid-seems-to-like-your-cooking-a-bit-too-much tone of voice.  But the fact remains, I like to cook for an appreciative audience.  The other night we had one of our former helpers who was home to visit family for the 4th call and say that he was coming over to help us for a couple hours for old time’s sake and the last thing he told my husband was  “….and I will stay for supper!”  Game on!