We are having a real summer this year! I spend every minute I can out in it. My backyard is my vacationland. I still have my "farm swing" — with the great long ropes from a bar between two of my tall white pines. What perfect exercise. You pull your weight one way, and you feel it in the muscles of your arms, back and gut — and even in your neck. You kick your legs to go back and feel it there, too. All that exercise and no strain on your knees or hips. How perfect.

I have a hammock in the full sunshine and one under the shade trees, and I have my chair swing, with cushions, that is long enough to lie in for glorious naps in dappled sunlight, in which I can be found reading, painting, napping or just enjoying the day.

I have my patio table where I can "eat with birds,"  have breakfast or lunch with the birds. Hummingbirds zip around my head to their feeders, the petunias and the pink comfrey blossoms, while goldfinch and purple finch have their thistle seed snacks as well as liking the black oil sunflowers seeds. Nuthatches, downy woodpeckers and phoebes feast on suet in between the visits of raucous blue jays. A pair of cardinals, who have made their home in a nearby tree, come early mornings and at dusk to enjoy the black sunflowers seed. A red-breasted grosbeak pair stop by occasionally, and often, the loud "yuk yuk yuk" of the big pileated woodpeckers can be heard.

All this and even when there’s no perceptible breeze combing through the maples, pines and oaks, the leaves of the poplars (aspen — or “quiver leaf”) are always fluttering in the sun, like a live French Impressionist painting.

So what need have I to leave such a sanctuary to go somewhere else to celebrate the Fourth? You can have the traffic and the noise and the crowds. This is where I will have my Fourth of July salmon luncheon.

Over the years, I have discovered, through “involuntary research,” how to stretch pennies, how to nickel and dime it in reverse, as it were. And I have found that it isn’t just folk like me, of the limited income genre, but folks who have plenty of that illusionary “discretionary income,” who find ways to stretch the dollar.

Most bills, like mortgage and taxes and insurances, are cast in iron, but others, like electric or heat or food, can be tweaked.

Food "tweaking" can be a real challenge. It takes thinking outside the box — or like a chef, scrap the recipes and go for it.

These days, we can’t go to the market with a pre-planned menu for two weeks, like we used to do decades ago, because the prices change so that you don’t know what’s going to be affordable from week to week — or hour to hour.

I “plan” after I get to the store, depending upon what’s on special that day. And I always watch for salmon to be on sale, it being one of my favorite foods. Actually, it’s getting so that salmon is cheaper than steak — or hot dogs.

But still, it’s not something I can buy in quantity, particularly not a whole one to celebrate the traditional “salmon and peas” for the Fourth.

Salmon can be fixed every which-way, from smoked salmon with cream cheese and cukes, grilled accompanied with a tossed salad, poached along with new red potatoes, baked with a fancy mustard sauce "frosting," etc. But this last week, I came up with a new recipe that I’ve neither seen nor heard of before. I call it: “Ma’s Salmon Soup.”

I had one salmon steak and needed to feed four people. Ergo:

Salmon Soup


One salmon steak

1 cup thin Thai rice noodles (thin rice noodles) cooked ahead, separately

½ small onion

2-3 Tbs. butter (organic and not margarine!)

Handful of fresh spinach

Pinch of rosemary

Pinch of dry mustard

1/2 tsp. crushed celery seed, or some finely diced celery

1 quart plus 1 cup of chicken broth

(I do not use canned broth. To me, that's little better than water that a chicken foot has been dragged through. I use the jarred broth paste by Better than Boullion, or the jarred concentrated broth by Kitchen Accomplice, both organic, if I don't have my own homemade broth.

1 cup fresh or frozen peas

(And a few snow peas, if available.)

One small grated carrot (optional)

Salt & pepper

First, cook a couple of handfuls of Thai noodles and set aside.

Next, poach the salmon separately (never cook it in your soup broth!) in boiling water to cover, until flaky and cooked through. Set aside. Then sauté onion (and celery if using fresh) in butter and when at that translucent stage, add spinach sliced in thin strips and wilt for color — and nutrition. (Popeye knew his energy food!)

Add this to a saucepan large enough for adding the 5 cups of broth. For spices, add rosemary, dry mustard, celery seed, salt and pepper.

When the broth reaches a boil, pour in a cup of frozen peas and grated carrot and take off the heat. (If I don’t have fresh peas, I use frozen but only let them little more than heat up, rather than cook them to death. This way, they taste like fresh peas.)

Keep the salmon separate from the soup pot, only putting it into the individual soup bowls when served. Never put the salmon into the soup pot.

When serving, put a handful of the pre-cooked Thai noodles in the individual soup bowls, divide the salmon into the bowls and ladle the hot soup over the salmon and noodles.

This provides a generous portion of salmon in each bowl and is delicious. It’s great served with a side of tossed salad and Italian bread with rosemary flavored olive oil for dipping or sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, drizzled with your favorite salad dressing.

(I like coconut or grapeseed oil and lemon juice.) Or a dish of Grammie Tucker’s country cucumber slices: Sliced pickling cukes soused good in apple cider vinegar (I use organic, but you know that already) and salt and pepper. This is so popular at my house that I have to make a double batch — one for my son-in-law and one for the rest of us.

Also, blue cheese and cracked pepper water crackers and grapes make great side dishes.

So there you have it: Affordable salmon for the Fourth.

Bon appétit.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools. She now lives in Morrill.