File this under my “Reality Check.”
     “To me, this flag DOES NOT represent racism! It represents the South! It represents MY heritage & history,” insisted a Facebook friend as she posted yet another image of the Confederate flag, accompanied by the meme’s words, “Stand up people. Share and KEEP this flag going. Let’s see how many shares we can get[.]”
“Here we go again,” I sighed, the historian in me cringing. Then it occurred to me that her family was from an area of Arkansas where many people supported the Union, meaning the US government.   Hmmm. I could have responded with the long list of reasons why the flag doesn’t make such a great symbol, but I restrained myself. Since I didn’t say them there, I’ll say them here. Then I’ll let you in a little secret about my friend’s great grandfather, because her roots may be Southern, but they aren’t Confederate.

The Short Version of the Flag’s History:
What I Didn’t Say (this time) on Facebook

     I knew I could respond to my friend by begging her to read Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephen’s Corner Stone speech. He states two things unequivocally in it: (1) that slavery was the “immediate cause” of the war and (2) that the Confederate Constitution was designed to preserve racial inequality. Being an old guy, he also harped on the decades-old conflicts over tariffs and internal improvements, but he did not say that those things or states’ rights started the war.

     I could respond by pointing out that the South attacked a US fort. Today we’d call those people home-grown terrorists.  (I’m all about home grown, but not when it comes to terrorists.) Would you wave an ISIS flag proudly today? Furthermore, the South attacked because Lincoln had been elected, not because he’d actually taken any action against slavery. He had repeatedly said he only wanted to stop the spread of slavery; he also stated he had no legal basis for ending it where it existed already. In other words, more than half a million Americans died because some wealthy politicians were afraid of something that hadn’t even happened.

I could point out that the flag is actually an oddly shaped version of the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, a battle flag of people who raised arms against the US, not the true flag of the Confederate States of America.

I could point out that Robert E. Lee, leader of the Army of Northern Virginia, rejected the battle flag after his surrender and demanded that he not be buried with it. He knew it was a flag of losers.

I could remind her that all Confederate flags, battle or otherwise, disappeared from public buildings in the South until the 1950s and 1960s, when white politicians resurrected the Northern Virginia battle flag as a symbol of resistance to integration and civil rights for Black Americans. It was most definitely a symbol of hate then.

Who’s Your Great Granddaddy?

     I mentioned none of these things in my reply to my friend. Instead, I spent a little while in the US Census and some other records, tracing her family via her maiden name. I was looking for a male ancestor in the right age range. There he was: her ancestor served in Company A, Third Arkansas Regiment. And therefore an Arkansas Confederate soldier, right? Case closed?  No, because both the Confederacy and the Union (US government) had a Third Arkansas Regiment. I saw her ancestor’s date of enlistment: fall 1863. The Confederate Third Arkansas was long gone from the state by then. Could the ancestor have enlisted and then followed the regiment east? It seemed unlikely, so I checked the Union records. There he was:
Private Robert Rackley: http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers-detail.htm?soldierId=B4A4A7C5-DC7A-DF11-BF36-B8AC6F5D926A .
And he fought against the Confederacy, in the Union Army. In other words, if she wants to wave a flag celebrating her heritage, it had better be the US’s stars and stripes.

Armed with her ancestral information, I asked her to help me understand how the flag represents her heritage, and I gave her the link to her great grandfather’s records. And I’m telling you about it because her case is not unusual. Huge swaths of the South were pro-United States in the Civil War. About seventy-five percent of Southern households owned no slaves, and it’s not surprising that many white Southerners opposed dying so that a small percentage of wealthy Southerners could have slaves. In many cases, like in Marshall, Arkansas, the majority of men resisted being drafted into the Confederate military. Among Confederate soldiers, however, thirty-six percent of their households did own slaves, and it was the largest slaveholders who dominated Southern politics. Those men used racial inequality deftly to hang on to power. Under their racial rhetoric, even the poorest white Southern dirt farmer was better than every Black person. Politicians used many white Southerners then, just as they have tried to do in recent years. Apparently that racial rhetoric did not work on my friend’s ancestor, however, because when he turned eighteen, he enlisted in the Union Army.  And my friend’s heritage may be Southern, but it does not appear to be Confederate in any line I was able to trace in a quick search.

My Southern Heritage

     Truth be told, if you shake my family tree, a fair number of slave-holding Confederates will fall out.  That doesn’t mean that today I want to raise that flag over my homestead.  I’m proud of other parts of my Southern heritage, and I propose that we embrace a different symbol.  I like to think that my heritage is all about Southern hospitality. It’s about a big front porch, storytelling and honeysuckle, an open door, and a table laden with homemade, homegrown food. It’s about a shared past of white and Black and Indian and Asian and other people.  The Confederate soldiers in my past are not the models for my life today. Instead, sharing a gracious life as my grandmother taught me is my heritage.

I’ll try to be back soon with recipes and news of our ever-growing flock of chickens.

Regular readers, you have been so patient to wait for new posts here during my long hiatus.  For those of you who have checked in with me via email and posts here, I am grateful.  I’m still here.  There’s been a lot of good in the past several months but also a great deal of sadness, and as time has gone on I’ve been overwhelmed with how to begin.

First, let me say that no humans to which I’m deeply attached are gone.  Mr. Homesteader had a little cancer scare that lasted for three months, but it was mostly scary because his doctor hyped his reaction to a test result and because I was so worn out from the summer.  I did spend most of the summer, from late May onward, in and out of hospitals with a dear relative, who has made a near miraculous recovery through his sheer will (and a really good orthopedic doctor who did emergency spine surgery over Memorial Day weekend and then helped get the patient into one of the best rehab centers in the region).  I have a lot to say about how a family member can survive in such situations, and in time I’ll say it.

I also more recently had experience caring for a relative whose dementia–probably Alzheimer’s–was much more advanced than we realized when we scheduled her visit.  My beloved grandfather died from complications of Alzheimer’s, so I knew what to do, but the time involved in caring for her during her visit was not something I anticipated.  I’ll need to do a post on that as well, because dementia care can be fraught with danger and frustration, if you aren’t prepared for it.

As for the animals, well, those are the longer stories.  We have more chickens than we had when I last posted–a net gain of two–only when I say net gain, I mean that some are gone.  I’ve learned hard lessons in chicken raising.  I’ve done a lot of things right.  I built a gorgeous chicken tractor myself that I can’t wait to show you.  And I and Mr. Homesteader made one big mistake with buying chicks.  I’ll give you a clue. Go look back at my chick pictures.  Look closely.  Do you see what’s wrong?  It’s okay; this story has (mostly) a good ending.

The last story that will unfold here has to do with my beloved male barn cat, Tucker.  Tucker is gone.  He died much too young.  I’ve spent countless hours second guessing everything I did that day, what I might have done differently to prevent his untimely death.  He knew so much about surviving in the woods, and he was really good at exploring the places he loved most and coming home safely.  He also knew that he wasn’t supposed to cross the road–yet it was there that he met his maker.  I do not want to revisit my grief, but I will post a tribute to the biggest, best barn cat ever–not counting his sister, who, thank goodness, still lives, albeit a much sadder cat than before.

Of course, through all of these events, life has gone on.  I or Mr. Homesteader has still cooked from scratch almost every day.  We had a really tasty pizza tonight with kale, roasted butternut squash, and turkey kielbasa, for instance.  We’ve planted things.  We’ve canned.  We’ve prepared new land.  Life has gone on, and I’ll have plenty to share that way too, and I promise what I share will be happy and tasty and, I hope, creative and helpful.

No pictures tonight, just stories to come.  And you’ve been forewarned.

Mmmmmmm. Peace ice cream.

This summer we’ve toyed with triple-digit temperatures repeatedly, something that is increasingly becoming the new norm.  When the thermometer on our north-facing, shady porch says it’s 100 degrees F, it’s time for ice cream!  It’s peach season in Arkansas, so I can’t resist finding ways to use peaches. Why not ice cream?  Today’s recipe is for a peach ice cream that’s not too sweet, letting the natural goodness of the peaches shine.

Making ice cream at home is easy, as long as you have lots of ice, a little bit of patience, and an ice cream maker.  No, I’m not talking about Mr. Homesteader.  I’m talking about an electric machine.  I remember fondly the days that my family and friends took turns on a hand-crank ice cream maker.  I also remember when we bought our electric machine.  It’s the same one I use today, decades later.  Still, if you’ve got the muscles and time, go for a hand cranker, and burn off the ice cream before you ever eat it!

Now, let’s talk about two crucial ingredients that don’t go in the ice cream.  You need lots of cubed or crushed ice, at least one large bag if you need to buy it.  You’ll also need rock salt, also known as ice cream salt.  Some stores keep ice cream salt in the seasonal section, while others keep it with spices, salts, and baking staples.  We’ll use about a cup of rock salt today.

Peach Ice Cream

makes about 1 1/2 quart

Ice Cream Ingredients

As always, you should be able to find everything listed here in organic form, so buy organic if you can.

  • 4 egg yolks (Save the whites!  Use them for an egg white omelet with seasonal vegetables, and you’ll have a light, fluffy, flavorful summer breakfast.  Ask me if you want a recipe.)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • optional:  1/4 cup nonfat dried milk
  • 2 cups half and half (or whipping cream if you’re feeling decadent)
  • 2 cups milk (whole or 1%)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
  • 4-5 ripe peaches


Using a whisk, stir together the egg yolks, the sugar, and at least one cup of the cream in a heavy-bottomed pot.  (Whisk in the nonfat dried milk too if you are using it.)  Heat over medium heat, whisking regularly, until the mixture is too hot to stick your finger in and hold but not boiling.  Adjust heat to hold it there as necessary.  If you have a candy thermometer, we’re looking for about 140 degrees F, held for 5-10 minutes.  Whisk more as the temperature rises.  The mixture should thicken a little as the egg cooks, but don’t let the milk curdle!  Now take the mixture off the heat and add the rest of the half and half, milk, and vanilla.

Next peel and pit the peaches and dice them.  You can do this step in the early stages of cooking the egg mixture if you’d like.  Add the diced peaches and any liquid they’ve given off to the mixture.  Chill it well, even to the point of putting it in the freezer if you’re planning on making the ice cream in a few hours.

Is your mixture good and cold?  Break out that ice cream machine.  Using the method that comes with your ice cream maker, put the ice cream mixture in the cylinder, add the paddles, secure the top, and pour in the ice and salt, alternating as you add them.  We let our ice cream mix inside, in the air conditioning.  At 100 degrees F outside, the ice cream may never properly freeze.  Inside at about 80 degrees F, it freezes easily.  You’ll know your ice cream is ready when the paddles slow down and the machine starts to sound labored.  Hand-cranked machines will get harder to turn as the ice cream freezes, so save your best muscle at the party for last!

Quickly scoop the finished ice cream into a freezer container, being sure to share the paddles with your favorite people before the ice cream melts.  Avoid letting the ice cream thaw and re-freeze, as without commercial emulsifiers the ice cream can become hard.  You can dish up the ice cream immediately soft serve, or let it freeze a bit harder for those perfect round scoops!

Our next dessert will be rich chocolate ice cream, but before that I’ll post a tasty ratatouille Provençal recipe, to help you use up your bounty of summer garden and market vegetables.

Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2011, including photographs.

Friday and Saturday nights, I put the chickens on their roosts, knowing that they are a bit high for pullets but still hoping to train them.  Imagine my surprise last night when I went to close the pop hole and discovered all five pullets roosting on their own!  I’m so proud of them.

Why is she opening the big door and flashing us with that bright light?

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Longtime readers may remember that I restrain myself from eating fresh tomatoes out of season. Nothing compares to a homegrown summer tomato, in an heirloom variety that may not ship well but tastes delicious on your table. For those beauties, I like the simplest preparation, such as slices on my dinner plate with a little salt and pepper. If the tomatoes are really good, come morning I still want more. That’s when I make a fried egg and tomato sandwich, with or without (turkey Canadian) bacon. Butter some good bread and then toast it while you slice the tomatoes and lightly fry an egg. I like mine open-faced and over easy.

This is really my sandwich, straight out of the camera, no retouching or boosting the color.

That’s a classic brandywine tomato, by the way, plus a country egg, of course.  If you don’t like yours runny, break the yolk in the pan and cook it a bit more.  It’s tasty that way too!

What’s your favorite simple summer breakfast?

Copyright 2011 Ozarkhomesteader.

The chicks arrived a week ago.  My first opportunity to take pictures came on Friday, when the chicks graduated to being pullets.  I had some old kale in the garden that was infested with caterpillars, so I cut and gave it to my pullets as a graduation present.  They loved it.

Okay, gals, it's time for your group shot.

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Life has kept me from blogging lately. A relative had some emergency orthopedic surgery that kept me away from home. I’m headed back there on Wednesday, but meanwhile I’m desperately trying to get caught up on planting. Mr. Homesteader has been keeping himself busy too. Take a look. Can you guess who’s coming to breakfast soon?
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