owl in winter

owl in winter

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Distant Hours by Sarah Morton v. The Family Sheedy at Springlawn Farm

Has a novel you've read ever reminded you of a real life event, an event you've been intrigued by and studied, without having read the novel in the first place?

I find myself in such a place, having read The Distant Hours by novelist Sarah Morton, and being fascinated with Springfield history, having done some research on our local Sheedy family and Springlawn Farm.

The Distant Hours concerns three spinster sisters, one of whom is certainly crazy, and maybe the other two are just as crazy but on another level of crazy. The sisters live in a castle in England, the estate of their forefathers, a place the sisters share a passion for. None of them ever married or had children, although the youngest sister had the opportunity to marry her true love but that opportunity was later thwarted by her eldest sister who murdered the girl's one and only by accident. Eventually, after much intrigue and drama, the castle was burned to the ground, and all three sisters perished in the blaze. Never more, never more, to sound like Poe.

Well, Springlawn Farm, here in Springfield, belonged at one time to Mike Sheedy, a potato farmer from Ireland, who brought his substantial family over to the US and eventually settled in north Greene County, prospering like a maniac. He had sons, of course, but for whatever reason, it seems the sons died young. He had daughters also, the last three of whom remained on the Sheedy property, known as Springlawn Farm until their deaths. The last Sheedy daughter, Helen, passed away in 1979 and in 1980, a mysterious fire engulfed the beautiful Sheedy home and the place burned to the ground, only stone pillars and a stone fireplace remain.

Supposedly, Mike Sheedy committed suicide on the property and his ghost now haunts it. But, I have to ask, are we referring to Mike Sheedy the original purchaser of the property, or his son, Mike Sheedy? Can't find any details on that, but it's intriguing just the same.

Springlawn is a mysterious place now. If you drive out North National, past Greenlawn North, and take the first left after the cemetery, you will find a new subdivision named aptly "Springlawn." Just a mite farther from the last house in that subdivision, on your left, still heading north, you will notice the stone pillars, and the stone entrance to something on the property that was at one time important. The barn, much prized during Mike Sheedy's time, has been destroyed. Only the silo remains. You may notice a path over something that could have been a creek once.

Sad that such a magnificent footprint has been erased.

Driving out past the new Springlawn subdivision, I am heartened by the glimpse of a street sign, Headley Place. Nice. Mike Sheedy bought the acreage from someone named Headley and so, history remains.

Back to The Distant Hours and a comparison. Whether or not the stories are related, and most likely they are not, it's a fascinating sketch into the past and the passions governing the characters sought.

Have you had such an experience? The melding of the past into the present? If so, do tell.

Apple Crisp

I haven't posted a food post in I don't know how long but I had to today because it's autumn, and I particularly love the autumnal spices and herbs, the bounty, the whole crisp deliciousness that speaks to autumn.

So, today, we're making an apple crisp - perfect for fall, a great compliment to a meal of pork and potatoes and root vegetables. But enough about that. Let's get to the apples!

Okay, here is what I do.

Now, if you know me at all, you know that I support local growers and I urge others to do the same. So for my apples, I went to the local farmers' market and purchased five big Honey Crisp apples from a local grower.

So now we have apples. Goodie. Let's move on.

Like me, you are in your kitchen now, pulling out your casserole dish, assembling the items from your pantry and your refrigerator and here is what you will need:

1 lemon, make it a good one, large and medium soft
1/2 cup of white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger

So, peel and core your apples, cut them into generous chunks. Squeeze the lemon juice over, partially to prevent your apple slices from browning and partially because the lemon adds a clean, fresh element to your dish. One caveat here - do not, and I repeat, do not, buy the reconstituted lemon juice stuff from the local grocery store. Buy real lemons and squeeze. It's better.

Throw the rest in and stir. Give your baking dish a generous swipe of unsalted butter. Drop your apple mixture in.

For the topping, you will need, and here it gets dicey because I don't measure anything, so go with your gut.

3/4 cups of flour (3 or so palms)
1/2 cups of white sugar (or maybe two palms)
1/2 cup of brown sugar, or possibly a bit more if you're like me and you like the brown sugar action more than white
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
Oatmeal - how much depends on your take on the flour but I'd say a cup
Unsalted butter - five or six tablespoons according to the packaging.

Now really, it's all about your taste buds and your flavoring so work the ingredients to your specifications. Mine are simply general.

So, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter your baking dish, doesn't have to be huge, just a nice baking dish, not a 13 x 9 baking pan. You want the topping to bake down over the apples to soften them so no big dish is required.

Put your topping ingredients together, use a fork and combine and drop it over your apple mixture already in the baking dish. Bake for one hour until the apples are tender and the crust is browned. Serve with ice cream or a nice home made whipped cream.

Shop your local markets, folks. Fresh is better, support your local growers.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Good News for Local Writers - Local Publishing House Opens

It's starting to rain for unpublished, local writers, like you and me. I really believe that. We can self-publish, we can epub, we don't necessarily have to submit query after query, only to receive the form letter - "it's not you, it's us" kind of thing.

I believe there are more opportunities for local writers than there have been, well, ever.

One of those opportunities comes in the form of a local publisher, Paperback-Press.

I don't know about you but the big publishing houses wear me out. What they've done, I believe, is pay outrageous royalties to authors, and then failed to recoup the money in sales. One by one they're folding, merging, doing what they can to keep that bottom line. But, problem. They're now afraid to take a chanced on anyone who isn't Stephen King, or a celebrity (gag). Celebrity-authored books in print make me cringe. I know there's an audience for celebrity work but I mean, it bothers me that good stories aren't being published by the big guys, stories that could potentially save the book business, but the big guys seem all too eager to publish a missive written by a rock star/actor/porn star, etc.

Thankfully, there is an alternative for the little guy, and that is an auxiliary publisher. Paperback-Press is such an entity. Paperback-Press is owned by Sharon Kizziah-Holmes, a former road musician and current Master Barber. Her passion is to help local writers become published without the high overhead and demands of the big publishing houses.

What can she do for you? Sharon is able to format your manuscript for e-publication, soft cover and audio book. She can do cover art and artwork for your CD/DVD/Audio covers.  Her prices are reasonable.

Check her out at www.paperback-press.com or contact her at Sharon@paperback-press.com.

Take care and keep writing!