Sunday, April 27, 2008


Saturday was the debut of our Botetourt Family Farmers Farmer Market. A local business, Ikenberry's-a farm orchard, allowed us to start up a weekly farmer's market. The newspaper wrote up a little blurb. We expected a few people to show up. I stretched myself and made labels and signs and started the application process for a tax id number. We borrowed a table, got our tablecloth and bouquet of flowers. I baked bread for hours non-stop. Got up before dawn to make cinnamon rolls and chocolate brioche. Philip and the kids got up before 7am to help load up the goods. On a Saturday. Those of you who are remotely connected to this family know what an amazing feat that in itself is. (Well, those who really know us probably can guess who DID NOT make it to the first market!)

Table set, instructions given out to Maggie and Patrick, my backup. They were to man the booth while I went to a Biodynamic composting workshop in another county. Whoosh. Customers started pouring in before 9 oclock and by 10 we were nearly sold out of our delicious freshly ground whole wheat goodies. What a surprise! It was such a blessing to see all of the farmers briskly handing over their fresh eggs, herbs, cookies and asparagus. Neighbors chatting on a beautiful spring morning. The best part, even better than seeing people taste and purchase the bread I worked so hard on, was seeing Patrick and Maggie interact with customers, instructing adults on the nutritional value of freshly milled whole wheat and eggs and poultry raised on healthy pastures.

Farmer's Market is definitely a new phase in the farm vision. We are all going to have to learn to adjust to a few more chores. Saturday morning sleep in may need to be a once a month luxury. Even so, I consider myself the luckiest working woman I know. Three years ago we had a dream that we could produce a good bit of the food we consume and produce enough extra to share with friends and to sell and pay a few bills. We have, and I feel most certain, may continue to hit a few bumps in the road as we try to figure out what we are doing as we forge full steam ahead. Nevertheless,it seems like we were made to live this life. As the Teacher says in Ecclesiastes 5:18: "Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot."

Now, if I could just figure out a system that would keep all the laundry washed, folded and put away... Wait a minute- that is what Mondays are for!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Family Time

Even before farm life we had fun family nights around the dinner table. We will never forget the night Philip danced the fat belly irish beer dance and made Maggie laugh so hard she threw up.

Even here on the farm one would think we would sit down together at table every single evening and have great family time. But on Sunday, big kids have church stuff at night. Monday is hurry, sit down, eat and get to boy scouts. Tuesday we have friends come over for Bible study, so let's all get chores done and eat homemade pizza or pita standing up. Wednesday the kids take the bus to a neighboring church so that means hurry and grab your peanut butter sandwich and glass of milk the bus is going to be here soon.

Thursdays. We try to get as much farm work done as the sun allows. By Thursday I am hungry for a sit-down meal with everyone at the table. Even if it is 8:45pm.

We ate the last package of pork chops tonight. With a marsala sauce and the first fresh sage leaves of the season. Asparagus from the store since ours never came up. Carrots with ranch made with our own real sour cream cause I accidentally left some in the back of the fridge last week. Sliced bread for dipping into more of the marsala sauce.

As I tried to get the pork chops to cook more quickly, kids come in crying, mad, dirty, grass all over because they had a grass throwing fight. Hmmm. Wonder if the yogurt and tortillas they ate 6 hours ago wore off?

Hands washed, table set, milk poured (wine for the grown-ups for this special occasion). Patrick offers up prayer of thanksgiving, for our farm, for the garden, for the pork chops-his favorite. Somehow we got on the topic of drugs, and prison, and how in the olden days prisoners would work on farms, and what if prisoners today had to work on farms, and wouldn't that help them to offer a way to help people who need healthy food, and wouldn't that make the prisoners better human beings because working on gardens makes you feel better, and maybe we ought to write some letters to congressmen to remind them how vital working on making food is for improving life for everybody.

Then, as we licked our plates, Philip made funny belly baby and fish faces. And Rose laughed so hard. So then we all tried to keep serious faces, but none of us could. And I thought that seeing everyone, Thomas, Patrick, Maggie, Rose, Nora, Philip and myself laugh really hard was a great way to celebrate Thursday.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Today we finished our task of cleaning out the barn. Floors are washed down, new sawdust is spread. We have blisters on blisters since the tractor only worked on Saturday, and hasn't revved up since. We think the starter and the starter switch need to be replaced. Maybe Thomas should pray for someone to come over and help Philip with the challenging task of replacing the starter.

Spring is in full swing. Redbuds and dogwoods are blooming everywhere. The ducklings and broilers are now residing in their pasture. Baby goats gambol and frolic, playing king of the mountain on top of their longsuffering mothers lounging in the apple tree field. Guineas scour the woods and fields for bugs.

Not so long-suffering mother shovels and throws out directions to family. Children work much longer than they really want to because the paycheck for all their hard work is a trip to Pop's, a local ice-creamery serving delicious icecream from a local dairy.

We washed up, changed clothes and shoes and piled into the Suburban. Everyone ordered exactly what they wanted; for me:hot fudge sundae with chocolate espresso icecream, plenty of whipped cream, cherry and peanuts on top. And a bite out of everyone else's icecream just for fun. After we finished our banana split, single, double and triple cones, we were still hungry. So we ordered the most incredible grilled cheese sandwiches I think I have ever eaten. What a treat. I think we have discovered a new family tradition. Supper at Pop's after barn clean-up, mandatory dessert first.

Once we got home, off to do chores. I headed to the garden to weed and mulch. The moon is growing. Hard to tear myself away, what with all the hours of garden chores that remain to be done. Never mind. Off to bed. Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Yesterday, our friend Serge came over and he and Philip did some reconfiguring of the Whizbang Chicken Plucker, getting ready for May. Imagine my delight when he handed over a little bag containing 4 big morel mushrooms. A friend had shared with his family, so they shared a bit of the bounty with us. That's what I call community!

Rachel and her children were over to pick up homemade bread, mainly to play. So when the last baquette and pan of cinnamon rolls came out of the oven, we headed outside into a beautiful 60+ degree sunshiney day. The men seemed to have the mechanical work under control so we headed out to pasture to inspect some of last week's hard work: manure spreading.

This past week we undertook the springtime task of digging out the barn. That means, everywhere animals bedded down over the winter is filled with layers of manure, straw and sawdust, with many gallons of urine thrown in for good measure(and nutrients!) Thomas and I worked for hours in the cow zone while Maggie, Rose, and our pal Laura worked over the goat zone. Patrick worked the chicken zone and Nora played. Thomas prayed that Dad would get the broken tractor working. (It has a front-loader) Radio jammed and I promised pizza for when the job was fait complit. We shovelled, we pitchforked, we drank water and sweat. The fragrant aroma of marshy swamp and earth vitamins filled our nostrils. We compared blisters on hands and muscles on arms. Backs ached. I gave thanks to God for all that manure and laughed when I remembered that an acquaintance summed up the organic movement as "A bunch of bull sh**." He didn't really mean it as a compliment, but as we shovelled and loaded tons of manure, I realized that it is all about the manure! A perfect package of fertilizer. So many life applications out of that picture, wish I had time to write them all down!

After we got halfway through with our dig out, Philip moved the trailer to the front of the barn and Thomas and Patrick proceeded to load it up. During the middle of our Saturday work, we got a call from Mr. Peery, the neighbor across the road who was born in this house. He wanted to bring visiting grandkids over to see baby animals. It was a pleasing sight to him to see the boys moving manure as it brought back many memories to him and his son of that springtime backbreaking chore. The kids oohed and aahed over the cute baby goats and ducks. They helped us move the ducks from barn to field. They walked around and grandpa and dad remembered. They saw Philip still working on the tractor and jumped in to help. God heard Thomas's prayer and the tractor started, Yippee!

That evening, Philip helped us with tractor to load up the trailer and the kids and I rode in the trailer, driven by Philip in the Suburban, through the field, tossing manure onto hungry land. The children declare that tossing manure off the trailer with pitchforks is so much fun! I think that working together with family in early evening dusk with fresh air and sunset is so much fun. And, BTW, peanut butter and honey sandwiches at 9 pm after a big day outside taste really really good.

Soooooo, manure spreading. As Rachel and I inspected the teeny portion of the hay meadow we had covered so far, the woods beckoned. If someone else has found morel mushrooms, maybe they are already here. Who knows? Rachel and sweetie-pie Mec, baby boy, and I cross the stream and climb up into the woods. We see tiny flowers, lots of beautiful wild flowers. We see baby ferns. I remember seeing the fiddlehead ferns served in Japan as a seasonal delicacy, so I pick as many as I can find. We discover a few mushrooms, but not morels. I pick them anyway, with the plan of looking them up on the edible mushroom website. Too bad, they weren't the edible kind, so we threw them away. Not that much of a risk-taker!

Maggie searches and finds some little bitty morels in the driveway, near the flower bed. We say good-bye to Serge and James. We say good-bye to Rachel, Sophie, Boone and Mec. I pull the lamb chops out of the fridge as menu ideas crowd my mind. Hmmm. One of the last packages of lamb from last year. I coat them with garlic and rosemary, Make couscous. Rinse fiddlehead ferns. Grab homegrown butter. Saute ferns in butter and garlic. Set aside. Saute morel mushrooms in butter and sea salt. Set aside. Green beans from last years garden. Sliced baguette. Lots of butter. Top the couscous with the fiddlehead ferns and morels, lambchops with pomegranate glaze on the side. Family at the table, just the 7 of us, dinner served way too late, listening to Philip tell stories about Charles Linbergh's flight from NYC to Paris. Pass the bread, more butter please.