Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quote by Philip Hillery: "Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday."

Thanksgiving in the Hillery home means lots of traditions. Many have to do with food. (I guess by now you had that figured out.) This year we tried to raise our own turkey but something else ate them before we could. Oh well. We purchased a fresh free-range, non-GMO, pastured turkey from Sunrise Farm in Stuart's Draft. It was the best turkey I have ever eaten. Honestly! Moist, flavorful, delicious. No brine, no preservatives, no basting. I stuffed it with my friend Kirsten's fresh sage(since someone weed-eated my bush). Rubbed it with butter. Yummm.

Nora and Rose helped make the dressing. We milled the corn and made cornbread. Crumbled the pan of cornbread with a loaf of our milk and honey bread and added lots of onions, celery, home-grown butter and broth, more of Kirsten's sage. Lots and lots of eggs.

Maggie made pumpkin pecan pies. Rose made pumpkin pies. Thomas made apple pies. Patrick made our family recipe of cranberry salad with fresh cranberrys, black cherry jello, marshmallows and lots of pecans (hush you health food nuts out there! It is a holiday! Jello and marshmallows once or twice a year aren't going to kill anyone!) I milled wheat and made it into whole wheat and honey crescent rolls.

Our friend Regina made her family-recipe sweet potato casserole and their delicious cranberry jello mold. She also brought wonderful green beans.

I am afraid to calculate how many pounds of butter we used in the making of our feast!

Another Thanksgiving tradition has to do with friends around our table. Thanksgiving is a holiday we like to share with friends. Sometimes they are old friends and family. Sometimes new friends who have no other place to go. Seems like every year is a different crowd. This year we had old friends from New Jersey and old friend from Texas join our table. Every bed was full. A couple of people got the floor. We ate popcorn late at night while board games were played. We ate late breakfasts in shifts while chores got done. NJ friends had to move on to other places. North Carolina friends joined the festivities.

One of the reasons Philip likes Thanksgiving more than all the other holidays is because of the emphasis on family and friends and gratitude, not consumerism. Decoration is easy. Beautiful winter squash. Indian corn. Brown leaves. Turkeys crafted by little girls. The food is familiar. Bountiful leftovers ensure easy meals for a day or two.

We started what I hope is a new tradition. On Thanksgiving Day, Philip, Joel and the big kids went for a hike to McAfee's Knob while Regina, Nora and Rose and I cooked. They came back tired and hungry! Grateful for dinner! On Black Friday we ate pie for breakfast and instead of heading to the mall we headed to Andy Lane Trail with a picnic which we enjoyed on the banks of a beautiful stream before we headed up to Tinker Cliffs. After another small feast that evening we enjoyed MUSIC! John played the piano. Samuel played the violin. Charla played the dulcimer and piano and guitar. Rose and Maggie played duets on the piano. We all sang and ate more pie. On Saturday afternoon, friends gone, we processed the two deer that we had been given. Wonderful venison in the freezer to accompany the grass-fed beef, pastured pork and chicken and duck.

I am thankful to have a special time set aside to feast with friends and family. We are so thankful for the bounty in our world.

"Taste and see that the Lord is good." Psalm 34 We have tasted and we have seen!

Thank you God for warm house, loving family and friends, plenty of food to eat and share with others, firewood, hot water, toilets, grace and mercy and compassion and forgiveness. Thank you for beauty and poetry and music. For newspapers that help us know how to pray for other hurting people like those in Mumbai. For books and animals and waterfalls and gardens. For programs like Heifer and Compassion that help us help others. For the people you place in our life to teach us important lessons. Even the hard ones. Thank you for bringing us this far. Thank you for loving the entire world. Thank you for loving me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Venison, the ultimate organic grass-fed red meat. Or Brotherly love.

Does anyone really like Mondays? It is hard for us to get rolling with the schedule. Even more so when it is so cold and grey outside.

Yesterday morning was no exception.

We all enjoy reading the paper with breakfast. Philip, Thomas, Patrick and I read the whole thing, plus parts of the Wall St Journal. The rest of the kids read the Extra section, the comics, and the classifieds, just in case. (just in case someone might be giving away a free horse and Dad might be completely changing his mind about having horses.)

We occasionally have to mediate disputes over who gets which section first. After having to aggressively drag kids out of bed I was not in the mood to deal with newspaper disputes, but sure enough a fight broke out. We won't name names, but while those fellows went out to do their chores, I quickly read the newspaper then disposed of it to prevent further complications.

Of course every family has fusses and fights. All part of the growing up process. I grew up with two sisters and we did our share of bickering. Now we are all very close and love each other dearly. I have seen some siblings who never did get over their feuds and sadly carry bitterness through childhood and the rest of their life. After the newspaper brawl I decided to pray. I asked for an opportunity for the boys to work together on some project that would engage them and draw them closer together.

Rachel went to Stuarts Draft to pick up feed for the animals and enroute dropped off girls to play with friends. The boys got to their math and I got to some laundry. A knock at the door surprised me. It was a gentleman who has property behind us. He brought us a deer he had shot that morning. The lesson plan abruptly shifted into biology and life skills as the boys went out and watched our neighbor eviscerate the deer. After sharing a cup of coffee, our cold hunter friends departed and Patrick and Thomas got to work figuring out where to hang the deer. We were anticipating guests for dinner so I really didn't have time to oversee the deer operation. I recalled a parenting column by John Rosemond. He suggested the parental over-involvement was doing more harm than good for our children. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to test his theory.

Patrick and Thomas have seen their grandpa skin a deer. They have watched us as we process meat. Both are Boy Scouts and have had knife training and handling experience. Patrick has a video on deer processing and loves reading survival books. I told Patrick to call his grandpa for some advice and then went back to my own chore list. After a brief long distance consultation with an expert Patrick sharpened the skinning knife. Then he and his brother went out to get a stick to use as a gambrel, got a rope for tying it up, and decided to work on the deck, out of the rain, near a water source.

I peeked at them a time or two, but left them completely on their own. It was a job that required four hands. They worked together for the rest of the afternoon. Absolutely no brawling. I am so proud of them.

Patrick asked if he could soak the deer hide in the upstairs bathtub. The one I had just finished scrubbing.

Oh well. ( he promised he would clean it out afterward. He wants to tan the hide)

If you come for a visit, please don't use the upstairs bathroom. Maybe I should have asked how long this process takes. Maybe I better mention to Patrick that the hide absolutely must be gone before Thanksgiving guests arrive.

Sometimes God answers prayers in mysterious ways!

Friday, November 21, 2008


The temperatures have been hovering in the low 40s by day, low 20s by night. The pond has a skim of ice on top. When snowflakes fell this morning, the wind blew them and a few stray leaves over the surface of the pond. It was lovely. The willow trees grew old this week. Once beautiful manes of green, they are now wispy gray strands shivering in the breeze.

Everytime the hill has a powder sugar dusting the children rush to get warm clothes on, grab sleds and head to the steep ridge on the other side of the creek. The girls make sure and get dollies dressed in warm garb, and they too enjoy the thrilling ride, gliding on crumpled leaves, grass and a wish that there were more snow, but let's sieze the moment. I think they are afraid there will be no snow this winter. They don't want to waste one single flake.

I love to bake bread. I love my job of milling wheat and baking wholesome food for people. It is a satisfying work for my hands. (Are you anticipating the big but yet?) On days when there are hills to slide down and hot chocolate to make and stories to be read in front of the fireplace with red-nosed children, I find it a difficult task. Right now the table is loaded down with nicely wrapped loaves of milk and honey bread and pizza crusts, and pumpkin pecan pound cakes, brownie mixes, pancake mixes and freshly rolled oats. The dough for cinnamon rolls is rising for the morning. The sorghum is waiting to be stirred into gingerbread in a few short hours. All those good things will feed us and many other people seeking to support local industry and to eat healthily. The money we earn will buy nice food for our animals. BUT, as I sit here, tired, unwinding so I can quickly go to sleep and get right back up again, I have a niggling feeling that I missed something because I was so busy.

I am so grateful to have a team working with me when so busy. Rachel and the boys drove to W. Va to pick up our pork from the processor. I will be able to sell wonderful sausage and pork chops tomorrow, thanks to them. Rachel and Maggie worked on trimming goat hooves for me while I baked. Patrick started the butter making process and made several quarts of cream into butter. Rachel and Maggie took over and finished the project. Rachel and I marveled at the wonder of milk. Out of a cow's body comes this liquid magical substance that makes butter, buttermilk and drinking milk, just like that. How? It is truly a wondrous thing. Rose and Maggie played the piano and made beautiful music. Nora made her bed. Patrick milked Coco for me both morning and night. Philip cut pieces of butcher paper for me to wrap bread and Thomas cut masking tape to make it easier for me. Everyone brought in loads and loads of wood to keep our house warm on such a cold day. We fussed a little. Fought a little. Said our sorries and hugged a little. I laughed listening to Philip and the kids laugh while watching The Pink Panther on dvd.

Thank you God for a warm house. Please show us all how to share the warmth to those who are cold.

PS Anita Firebaugh wrote about the Fuel Assistance Program run by the Botetourt Social Services in her blog, and in the Fincastle Herald. There must be programs like this one in most regions. The program helps out people who are in a jam because of circumstances that make it hard to pay the heat bills, like being laid off, sick, whatever. Sounds like a pretty good way to help out a neighbor if you ask me... There are many places, like the Rescue Mission that need winter coats. Got a few tucked away taking up place in a closet??? We do. We need to share.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It snowed last night. We woke up to a white farm. The dogs yipped with glee as they ran outside. The kids yipped with glee as they spent 45 minutes rounding up the right clothing to do chores then play outside. Like so many other fleeting pleasures, the snow did not stick around for long.

Our friend Rachel is back to stay with us for awhile. We are so happy to see her face again. Philip has been working on what was originally a small milk processing room. It used to be our trash barn. He has insulated it, painted it, and put in a wood floor. This afternoon he found a teeny little woodstove at a consignment shop and worked on getting it installed. We hope the little room will be a cozy place for Rachel to hang out when a noisy family of seven gets a little too noisy!

Tonight Nora accompanied Rachel to put up the goats. It was very dark and windy when they returned to the house. Nora commented that she couldn't see the moon at all. It was so dark it couldn't be a full moon. She told Rachel that the moon must be at someone else's house tonight. I hope they are enjoying it!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Dinner or Taste and see that the LORD is good(psalm 34)

Growing up in a church-going household living on a farm meant Sunday dinner. Dinner on Sunday, any day, for that matter if you live in rural America, does not mean the meal you eat after dark. It means the meal you eat after breakfast, the one that has meat, potatoes, at least a couple of vegetables, bread and iced tea. For my family, it meant smelling the roast beef the minute you stepped out of the car and walked up to the door. It meant pulling out the fancy plates that had the brown turkey on them, and filling up the glasses with ice for the iced tea. It meant sitting around the table for hours on Sunday afternoon, and more often than not, with several guests.

These days, with kids' youth group activities on early Sunday evening, and the price of gasoline, we don't all come home every single Sunday for Sunday dinner. I kinda wish we did. At least once a month or so, I have to get my fix. In faith, I put two chickens in the oven to roast, stuffed with lemons, garlic and thyme. Peeled and cubed butternut squash and roasted them with garlic and thyme, cream and chevre. We thawed out some of summer's green beans. I picked a big bunch of arugula and sauteed it with garlic, onions, tomatoes and sea salt. A pan of rice instead of mashed potatoes because I want to make sure and have enough for Thanksgiving and Christmas. A couple of loaves of fresh bread. Plenty of iced tea. Extra friends who like spontaneous Sunday dinner invites. And....gingerbread. With whipped cream on top. It was just what I wanted. Maggie and I made a huge pan. It smelled so good. I found an old-fashioned recipe and doubled it. I think the next time we make it I might add a bit more ginger and some lemon zest. Even if we don't change a thing, we will definitely make it again. I think that the freshly milled wheat added a nice nutty taste.

We sat around the table for hours, covering many topics of conversation, even hitting politics, ever so delicately, since there were several different opinions sitting around. Is it any wonder that heaven is going to involve a huge feast? The ultimate Sunday dinner.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Is It Saturday Night Already?

I woke up this morning to an otherworldly warm. It was balmy and misty. Decided to set up on Ikenberry's porch in case of rain. Good thing I did. The rain came pouring down. Going to the farmer's market is my social hour. Thanks to Jonathan at Star City Coffee, we have plenty of good beans and big carafes of hot coffee. Thanks to Coco we have plenty of heavy cream. What more could you ask for on a Saturday morning? Friends, coffee, a chat with neighbors and plenty of brownie and bread and butter samples.

The wind blew in a cold front. Philip and the kids were home cleaning out the barn and splitting wood and I was enjoying my alone time way too much, so I went for a drive down some country roads. The sky was incredible. Steel blue cotton batting banks of clouds whizzed along as I drove. The sun peeked out, causing the golden trees to glow in the middle of the gray forests. Most of the leaves have fallen, but there were a few holdouts. I laughed as I saw the brown leaves scurrying across the road. They were running like crazy. I wonder where they thought they were going? Someplace warm, I hope.

I got home as the sun dipped low. Rose and Nora and friend Anita were running in the hay meadow as fast as they could run. Brownie and Blackie ran right alongside them. There was a big pile of freshly split wood courtesy of Thomas. Philip, Maggie and Patrick were finishing the barn floor wash down.

There won't be much cooking happening around here tonight. The oven wants a break. So does the cook. BUT, I bought some locally grown and processed sorghum from a man who lives not too far from here. When I tasted it, I went straight back to my grandma's house in Oklahoma. I remember the time we made taffy from sorghum molasses. It was so much fun. We ate and ate. And got very sick. Great opportunity to learn about knowing your limits. With those quart jars of sorghum sitting on the pantry shelf I am thinking about homemade gingerbread with whipped cream on top. Maybe not tonight. But soon. Very soon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quintessential Fall

One of my favorite signs of fall: pumpkin curry soup. We had little to no success with pumpkins in the garden this year so I purchased some from the local health food coop. This afternoon we "gutted" them by scooping out the seeds. I quartered the pumpkins, put them flesh-side down on cookie sheets and roasted them til they were soft. We scraped out the roasted pumpkin, ran it through the blender and put most of the puree into jars to pressure can. The kids made pumpkin pecan cookies with last year's remaining jar. What puree didn't fit into the canner went into the soup pot. Here are two YUMMY recipes:

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Cream: 2 cups succanat(or brown sugar)
1 cup butter
2 eggs

Add to mixture:
2 cups pumpkin puree
3 cups freshly milled flour(or a mixture of unbleached flour and wheat germ)
2tsp.baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1tsp. allspice
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp nutmeg
1cup pecans

Bake375 degrees for 15 min or til firm. Have plenty of cold milk or hot coffee handy. Watch them magically disappear!

Curried Pumpkin Soup

Saute chopped up onions and garlic with butter. When onions are tender, add several teaspoons of a good curry powder, and or some cumin. Put cubed pumpkin or canned pumpkin in pot, cover pumpkin with chicken broth or water and simmer. Use a hand held blender or standard blender and CAREFULLY puree. Salt and pepper to taste. Add enough cream, or half and half. yogurt or sour cream to make the soup nice and silky. Sometimes I add an apple with the pumpkin, or even some apple jelly to give a little more flavor. If you want to get really fancy, toast some pecans in a pan with butter and salt. Sprinkle on top of soup. If you want to get even fancier, skip the curry powder, make the soup with sage and fry up fresh sage leaves in butter, and sprinkle those and some pecans and crumbled chevre on top.

Don't forget to toast your pumpkin seeds in the oven! Wash the stringy stuff off them, put on a cookie sheet with plenty of olive oil and sea salt and toast in a hot oven til crispy. I don't know for how long. Just pay attention!

PS It has rained today. I have been happy to see puddles. The pond looks much better. The chickens are a bit scraggly as they scratch in the mud, but I think they like the worms. Philip, Thomas and Maggie took Victor, the daddy goat home today. They did some chores over at his house to barter for his services. We are glad he got to visit and hope to meet the fruit of his labors come March and April. Priscilla, the heifer, is at the farm next door, visiting a bull. She will come home soon. We have missed her playful self. Hopefully next summer she will be a mama cow. The dogs are sleeping in the house these days because it is hunting season. We don't want them to anger the hunting neighbors by barking and scaring off the deer. Will have to report on the rest of the animals later. Better check on that canner full of jars of pumpkin.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Today is my birthday!

This morning the family showered me with pretty little cards and gifts and then Philip and the children took me on a hike. Just what I wanted! We made fairy houses in the little mouse house that lies in the base of a tree trunk on the Appalachian Trail headed to Dragon's Tooth. We remembered our family hikes along that trail when Rose was only a year old or so, and Maggie was not even 5. We would look down at the valley and dream and wish that we could live on a farm down there.

We slid in the leaves, oohed and ahhed at the colors. Patrick dug up a little sassafrass root for all of us to taste. I got to have an extended lunch with a friend over a Japanese Bento box. A nice cup of coffee. Early supper with Philip and the kids. I didn't cook a single meal. When we got home in time for the ladies to come over for Bible study, I was so surprised to see balloons and red and pink ribbons and all sorts of decorations the children used to make a festive party. Maggie made a 2 layer cake from scratch. It was delicious. Pound cake with strawberries and icing and lots and lots of candles, and of course the kind that don't blow out!

I am grateful for this family. They make me feel loved.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Night

Things are kinda quiet on the farm. Well, sort of. The dogs are outside and barking like crazy at shadows in the light of the brightening moon. Kids and Philip are out on special mission, getting ready for mom's birthday! For some reason, I was inspired to clean out the freezer of our fridge this morning. Procrastinating some other chore, I'm sure. The pigs were happy to receive a big bunch of goodies from Thomas, stuff unrecognizable any longer. I found some old chicken feet and bones and was inspired to make a huge pot of chicken stock.

Am enjoying the evening, pressure canning quarts of stock, doing laundry, reading a book in between, listening to a best of Emmylou Harris album downloaded from ITunes for an early birthday present to myself. Eating a grass-fed roundsteak fried up in butter with some of my birthday curry powder from Julie. In front of a nice fire. Ahhh. Here's to multi-tasking!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Cold Front?

I just went upstairs and opened the bedroom window to take my final look outdoors. When I was outside milking, around 7 or 8 it was humid, cloudy and cool. Very dark. Now, at 9pm, the moon is crystal clear. Amazing, really. Must be nearly three quarters full. Cotton puff clouds are scooting along in a brisk breeze, heading east. The moon has a ring around it, filled with an otherworldly sparkly blue. The farm is bright in the moonlight. The air is cold November campout air. Crisp. Like the gala apple I ate at Ikenberry's today. I wish I could cuddle in blankets outside and look at the clouds as they hurry off to wherever they are going. Alas, I will not.

Nothing too exciting...

It was supposed to rain this morning. It didn't, and I was glad and sad. It is much nicer setting up at the farmer's market on a sunny day.

There aren't many of us at the market these days. Gardens are done. Produce is not in abundance. Freshly milled whole wheat products, on the other hand, are still in season.

We have our little farmer's market set up on the property of Ikenberry's Orchard. Just outside of Daleville, on the road to Fincastle, we are on a little knoll with a beautiful view of some neighboring farms and fields and colorful mountains in the distance. The girls and I enjoyed seeing some nice fat deer strolling through the pastures across the highway. They must be quite content deer with all the apples they have to munch. I wish some of them would stroll through our pastures sometime during deer season!

Market day is a long day for little girls. They always try to take colors and papers and books and that lasts for a good long bit. After 5 hours or so of listening to mom talk about freshly milled wheat and the advantages of pasture-raised meats and dairy, little girls are antsy and ready to go. This week we read in the paper about a new business that opened up in Daleville called Blue Collar Joe's. They are a family-owned doughnut/coffee shop. I have been telling the girls we would go check them out soon. Figured that after 2pm they would be closed, but might as well drive by anyway. WELL, happy day for Rose and Nora! They were open. We had the best doughnuts I believe I have ever had in my life. I used to eat a lot of doughnuts, back in the day when I could eat all the high carb processed foods I wanted without gaining weight. Then I started studying nutrition, the benefits of whole grains, and got older. All that to say, we don't eat a lot of doughuts anymore. But of course we, as a family, want to support local industry and welcome new businesses to the area. Our children are especially eager to welcome places like Blue Collar Joe's to our part of the region. Their shop is adorable, the couple who owns it are hard working and friendly, and best of all, they have an amazing variety of treats, plenty of coffee and smiles. I thought the german-chocolate was the best. The kids liked the Botetourt Bog(chocolate with chocolate frosting and oreos crumbled on top). Nora says her favorite was the vanilla with white frosting and sprinkles, but she wishes she could taste them all.

Ahhhh, freedom. The freedom to enjoy whole foods, organic veggies and fruits, dairy and meat, bread milled and baked with our own hands. The freedom to eat an occasional treat like a doughnut from Blue Collar Joe's.

Well, the cow is milked. The sky is cloudy. Stars and moon are hidden. It is a bit chilly, but not cold. The moon has been coming out in the daytime. It should be getting full in the next few days. Bread rises pretty nicely when the moon is large. Philip, the children and I have been having some very weird dreams. Wonder if it is the moon? I hope it will rain soon. Our pond is drying up and the creek bed is very dry. Someone left the waterhose on to water the pigs and ran the water out. It will take all night to build up pressure again. Guess we will take baths in the morning. The kids are not too upset about that. We have had a few rains here and there, but are still in a drought. Hope it will end soon.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Yesterday afternoon was most magical. As the sun tipped toward the west, a pink glow washed over the hay meadow, the hills, the barn and the autumn trees on the ridge. I wish I could describe it. One of my favorite paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art captures the essence of that glow. It is a small painting. I can see it in my mind's eye, but can't remember the title or artist. I knew that I had received a gift from God, being outside, right at the moment the glow fell over our little valley.
The sky was an enchanting shade of blue, a blue only seen in early November, on a magical afternoon, streaked with salmon brushstrokes.

Nothing really spectacular happened yesterday. Normal Monday. That moment outside satisfied my soul. I felt refreshed.

I noticed today it really looks like November outside. A breeze knocked off a few more leaves from the trees. The ridge is now orange and russet and gray. The sky has been gray all day. At some point I went for a stroll through the garden, trying to find the secret egg hiding place of our rogue chickens. A playful gust scattered golden willow leaves. I had to walk underneath the tree and pretend I was in a giant globe with golden willow leaves instead of snow! Ok, silly, I know, but fun.

It was a brilliant drive back from the polling place at a local elementary school. I was glad to go vote. I thanked God for a ballot with both a black man and a woman listed. At some point the votes will be counted, the controversies over, a candidate will make ready to take on huge responsibilities. And winter will come. Then spring. Summer will follow and before you know it, a gray sky will contrast with golden leaves and hopefully we can say we have paid attention the the things that really matter.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Moon

For the last couple of evenings I have noticed the moon in the late afternoon. I suppose I will look in the paper tomorrow morning to find out what time the moon is rising and setting. It is growing. Still a crescent, tipping down. The skies have been very clear at night and still. It would be great for star watching if I could manage to stay up that late. I am amazed at how people ever figured out that the earth spins and the moon revolves and the planets are set in order. If I think about it for a very long time my head hurts.

I have been trying to pay attention to the moon phase. I wonder about the many naturalists who observed things for days and days and nights and nights. The ones who noticed that on months when the moon was tipping and had a ring about it there was rain to follow in so many days. And when the moon was shaped like a bowl and lying horizontally, the rain never fell.

I can't understand it. But I still like to look and wonder.

It is very important to observe things that are beyond our capacity to understand. The ocean. The stars. The moon and sun. A river. A beautiful painting. The fingers of a little baby.

Makes me feel small. There is more to life than me.

Thank goodness!

"When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" Psalm 8:3&4

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Foster Mother

Ophelia has been here for a week. She and Boaz hit it off immediately. They stroll through the fields, side by side, nibbling grass, nuzzling. Before she came to live with us, Boaz would hang around the cattle and the lambs would hang with the goats. Now they all cruise the pastures together. A sweet family. I love to look at her in the early morning light. She is elegant and holds her head with great poise.

Thank you, Julie, for such a grand gift to our farm!

Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home. Please.

Ladybug,ladybug, fly away home.
Your house is on fire and your children alone.

Mid to late October means the ladybug invasion has returned. Every time the temperature warms up the ladybugs swarm.

I used to think ladybugs were symbols of goodluck. Such cute little things. They eat aphids, for goodness' sake. They are red with black dots. People like to special order little packets of them to put out in the garden for organic pest control.

That was then. This is now. As I type there are 15 ladybugs congregating around the light fixture in my hallway office. There are probably 250 in our dining room. I haven't yet ventured upstairs to our bedroom, but for some reason (related to temperature, I feel certain) those bugs congregate in the hundreds and thousands in our south-facing room. They swarm and crawl, covering many inches of the area around our windows. They get in my hair. They drop in my shirt. They tickle the back of my neck and arms. YUCKKKKKKKKKK!

Never would I have been able to comprehend a person's hatred of the venerable ladybug. Til now. You might notice that the ladybugs congregating in your house are not red and black, but come in several shades of orange. This is a variety of bug imported from Asia called "harmonia axyridis." Unlike our red ladybugs, these guys do not burrow down in leafy mulch out of doors to overwinter. They want warmth and they want it now. Indoors. They will make their way into your house via attics, doors, cracks, whatever. They emit a very pungent(stinky) odor. Especially if they get squished.

A vacuum cleaner or broom is about the best way to get rid of these unwelcome visitors. Sometimes I brush them out the window. Sometimes I just look at them. Funny thing, I usually see some cute little child dressed up as a ladybug for Halloween. Not last night. Maybe I'm not the only one with ladybug issues.