Feelings of Thanksgiving and Heartaches!

The difficulty of feeling thankful and blessed when such a tragedy has hit our mountain home in East Tennessee.  Debbie here from Rural Resources in Greeneville, TN.  Last time I reported about playing hide and seek with Mr. Rain.  We ran into him briefly a week ago, right before our smokers started running for Thanksgiving.  Then, this week we were extremely fortunate to get hit with rain, some places in excess of 2″ this week!  The rain is desperately needed after many wildfires have been sparking all around us.  We have had poor air quality many days each week from the fire hazes, causing many respiratory issues.  I am just recovering from our last big fire haze last week.  We have not had wildfires, thankfully, in our county, but neighboring counties have been less fortunate.  And, the rain was such a blessing this week, but as I am sure everyone has heard, ahead of that rain came heavy winds that blew a forest fire into a rage in Gatlinburg and Sevier County.  Those fires blew and blew till so many acres, last I heard 17,000, had burned, over 700 structures destroyed, 10 deaths, and 80 injuries.  Our hearts have broken for our neighbors.  Many organizations have stepped up and helped with recovery needs.  We have reached out to TEMA requesting our need to help and what we can do, bring warm meals when the time is right.  They are excited to have this help, especially that we can come in at a later date than right now.  Some of our teens have already contacted me, asking what we can do to help relief these volunteers and victims of the blazes.  We are all ready to jump on the bus and go, but are patiently waiting to help when TEMA feels it will be most helpful.  In the meantime, please keep these Smoky Mountains in your prayers!

Beyond mother nature’s fury and tears, the teens were humbled with serving a Thanksgiving Dinner to our low-income senior retirement home.  The teens prepared turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, fresh lettuce salad (from our garden) with a red wine vinaigrette, roll, and fresh home made pumpkin pie!  Many many of the residents were thankful and blessed with the food, young faces, conversations, and service the teens offered them.  The teens served meals to those who came down to eat, and for those who could not get down, the teens boxed up to-go trays and went floor to floor, door to door, making sure each resident who wanted or needed a meal were fed.  Many residents were able to take extra meals to feed them the next day.  The teens enjoyed giving back to those who were in need, to their elders, to loved ones, to men and women who have lived full young lives, and enjoying their memories of days gone by.  Here are some pictures and recipes to share from our dinner:

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Sweet Potato Casserole (this recipe is also good for freezing!)

2lbs sweet potatoes (from a local grower)

Grated rind of 1 lemon

Grated rind of 1 orange

4 eggs  (from our farm)

½ c honey (from our farm)

½ c melted butter

1 c milk

½ teaspoon (tsp) salt

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp allspice

Chopped pecans or walnuts

Butter for serving

Scrub the potatoes, but do not peel.  Boil in water to cover until they are tender (30-40 minutes).  Remove the skins and mash the potatoes well.  Allow to cool.  Combine other ingredients in a bowl, and beat well.  Combine with mashed sweet potatoes.  Butter each casserole dish, then fill with casserole.  Dot with butter, wrap, and freeze.  When ready to serve, Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Bake 40-45 minutes, uncovered, until heated through.

 

Fresh Pumpkin Pie (my families recipe we have used for years.  I have been told it is very yummy, and I agree!)

Makes 1 – 9″ pie

1 can of pumpkin (or 2 cups of home baked pumpkin puree like we used)

2 eggs (from our farm)

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 c. sugar

1 c. milk

2 tbl flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Mix dry ingredients with pumpkin, set aside.  Beat eggs and add milk.  Add to the pumpkin mixture.  Pour in crust, bake at 425 for 20 minutes then turn oven to 325 for 20 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.

We are off to create our next meal for our teen families, supporters, and friends of our Farm and Food Teen Training Program.  Next Tuesday, our teens will be serving up a pork roast from our farm, with all kinds of roasted vegetable fixin’s from our garden or our neighbors.  They will also be making a pumpkin cheesecake, finishing up the pumpkin puree they made for the Thanksgiving dinner.  This dinner is a time we celebrate what our teens have learned, gleaned, and accomplished through the year, acknowledging them for their work.  We also take a moment and recognize those who have supported them and helped them to reach the height of their new skills and desires.  So, off I must go to prepare for next week!  May you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

About the Author:

I am from a farming community in Indiana where my family farmed over 200 acres. As a teen, my family moved to Florida where I became heavily involved in 4-H and developed a love for service and passing knowledge onto others. I graduated and began working at the local girls club while attending college for a Business/Administration degree. I realized that teaching youth was my passion and stayed at the girls club for 12 years before moving to East Tennessee. In East Tennessee I was able to reconnect with my farming roots and began a home garden. In growing, I tapped further into my roots and began canning and freezing food for my family. Really enjoying putting to use all the long hours working on the farm in my youth and realizing how important that was for me to learn, I wanted to get back into teaching youth again! Skimming help wanted adds, led me to Rural Resources who was looking for a coordinator to run their Farm and Food Teen Training Program. All my loves in one - youth at-risk, farming, gardening, cooking, and business planning! What a wonderful life to share my passions with others, play on the farm, enjoy local home cooked food, and advance these youth to a better future! Here I have been for 6 beautiful, happy, and productive years!

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