Thursday, April 30, 2009

Never a Dull Moment

Yesterday afternoon I skirted the fleeces on the deck. That is a process by which one removes the organic matter from the wool (i.e. poop, straw and burrs). A very unusual sight caught my attention down in the pasture by the pond.

Rose riding a pig, holding on for dear life!

There wasn't much protesting from the pig, that I could detect, anyway, so I assumed there was no damage being done. I couldn't stop laughing as they "squealed" around the corner of the garden fence. Earlier Rose had been complaining of being bored, with nothing to do. I guess she found something to do.

Maggie and I delivered the new baby lamb to her new owner last night. The handoff took place at a birthday party. We met up with Rachel, of Little Acorn Farm, Patricia and Angie, of Blue Ridge Poultry Coop, and Kirsten at her Arcadia Farm. A birthday celebration for Rachel was in order. We toured Kirsten's garden and I tried not to envy. We ate homemade cheeses and grass-fed beef tenderloin and freshly picked salad. We laughed and laughed and laughed at farm stories, kid stories and mom stories. I had a wonderful time doing non-farm stuff with my farming friends and acquaintances. Am grateful for community.

I think we better try to plant garden this morning before the rain falls. May the Lord grant us a fruitful year with sufficient rain and sun. And strength to cultivate and plant and pick weeds.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sense Memory

This morning the air is moist. The birds are singing. I saw the sheep drowsily leaving the barn a few minutes ago.

Something about the way the earth smelled and the air felt on my skin made me remember early mornings in May in New Jersey. Getting Rose and Nora buckled into the double stroller. Asking the kids to hurry and grab their backpacks. Wait, get your snack! No, you don't need a jacket today. There goes the train, we know we need to head down the sidewalk right as the train rumbles commuters toward the city if we don't want to jog the whole mile.

Did we use to live in the suburbs? The memory is so subtle, I wonder if it is just a dream.

Was there a time we didn't milk the goats and the cow? Did we ever have to go to the store for such ever-present things like milk and eggs and butter and cream and yogurt?


Anyway, guess what? Tarkheena, our year old ewe, born in the woods last spring, birthed a little girl yesterday morning. Perfect little Jacob spots. So tiny and lovely. Lucy, Tarkheena's half sister, was behaving very strangely last night. She usually doesn't hang out with Boaz, but he wouldn't leave her side. I was pleased to see him be so protective of her. We put her in a stall, just in case her time of delivery is near. No babies yet this morning. Maybe this afternoon? Is she going to make us wait?

Patrick reminded me that when the oak leaves are as big as a squirrel's ear it is time to plant the corn. He assured me that it is time. Philip tilled up some more rows for me. The farmer's almanac assures me that tomorrow is a great planting day. The paper assures me that rain is coming. On Sunday night the moon was a thin, porcelain bowl. Both sides tipped up. My Oklahoma farming grandpa always said that when the moon was a bowl, it would hold all the rain up. You would never see rain when the moon is a bowl. But when one side tips up, all the rain will pour out. I noticed last night that the slightly thicker crescent moon was starting to tip. The morning air feels like rain is coming in a day or so. Thick and fragrant.

Guess we will see!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Sabbath Was Made For Man Not Man for the Sabbath (or Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, Have You Any Wool?)

Last week I missed church. Was tempted to stay home again this morning but I really missed taking communion, so headed in to early service. The eucharist is special to me and I felt complete getting to share it with everyone.

But back to home early, wash dishes, make lunch, herd sheep, reherd sheep who escaped from the barn, eat lunch and get ready because today was sheep shearing day.

Derrick Spangler of Lord Willin' Shearin' came out with his girlfriend, Amber and a neighbor down the road came over to help. Two other friends and farmers brought their sheep over to join the fun as well.

The children's song about Mary's Little Lamb might lead one to believe that all sheep frolic along, following their leader anywhere the leader might take them. Our sheep have never heard that song. Maybe we should start singing it to them.

When we request the sheep to line up, come and sit down on the tarp on the barn floor, they roll their eyes wildly, look at each other and bolt for the farthest corner of the barn en masse, in total horror. Many sets of muscles were used to maneuver 17 sheep to the shearing floor. Derrick brought all his lovely equipment and did a great job. We would tackle and compel sheep to the tarp, he would sit them on their bottom, and then after shearing we would trim their little hooves. Naked and ashamed, they would stagger in shock out to the pasture, where they quickly recognized the benefit of losing 30+ pounds of heavy wool on a 90 degree day.

We drank lots and lots of water, iced tea and diluted kombucha. Didn't take breaks because the job was big and needed to be done. Now that I am sitting still, I am starting to feel a bit stiff. But overall, that hard physical labor was empowering and energizing. I am thinking about all that endorphin release. For some reason, the endorphins felt a bit more powerful a couple or three hours ago...

It was hard for the sheep to submit to their shearing. Some of them were a bit more patient than others. The impatient ones got a nick or two that could have been avoided if they hadn't fought the shearing. One might think that all that rough handling was cruel and unusual punishment for the poor sheep. Until you think of the hot summer sun and look at the thick coats of wool. Since the weather started to heat up the sheep wouldn't even graze. They just lay in the shade panting. As good shepherds we had to think about what was best for the flock health, not what was the most comfortable for their mental status.

A few weeks ago I thought it might be a good idea for us to purchase shearing equipment and DIY during these trying economic times. After this afternoon, I think we have a pretty good thing going with ole Derrick. He charges very reasonable rates, and having some other friends bring their sheep over, and sharing transportation fees with an alpaca farm down the road made the setup charges much more affordable. And noone had to go to the gym for weight lifting or aerobic exercise today! We definitely got that covered...

As for the sheep. Well, the wool will grow back. In the meantime, they are looking a bit like overgrown dogs with horns. Kind of embarassing. Please try not to laugh too loudly as you drive past our farm.

And as for me, I am going to try to think about the heavy hot coats of the sheep when going through uncomfortable moments, and hope to remember that sometimes good "health" is not very comfortable. Meanwhile, a shower, 2 ibuprofen and a bed are the most important things on my agenda!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


What in the world was I doing this week? I can hardly believe it is Saturday night already.

Monday I decided that it was much more important to make romano cheese than any thing else we could work on, so there is a round of romano cheese aging in a humid part of the fridge. I don't know how it will turn out. Let you know in 10 months.

Thomas got glasses and a haircut on Tuesday. He can see! He looks like a professor. Even sounds like it sometimes, when I overhear him speaking to his dad about WWII literature. He picked up The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and is planning on reading it this next week. He asked Philip if we could get a copy of Mein Kampf and the two of them had a long discussion about why it is good to read what crazy leaders and wicked people think and believe even if you don't agree with them. I am surprised at times at the depth of Thomas' knowledge about things we have never covered in "schoolwork" but he picks up in his leisure reading.

We had friends over for farm tours and we sold a couple of wether baby goats. Maggie was very pleased. One of them was Cornflower's baby, and since Cornflower is her goat, she got a nice paycheck. The other belonged to Clover, and Maggie has 50% ownership in Clover and offspring, so she was pleased to get a payday there as well. More than anything, she was happy to see Willie and Nelson go to live with some friends who will keep them as pets instead of future dinner.

We had a couple of rainy cold days that were miserable. Hail. A few snowflakes. Rain.

The baby chicks got to move to the outdoors. They were beyond thrilled to eat worms and green grass.

The pigs finished their tilling projects and were released to graze with the cattle and sheep. We were afraid they might run off, but the only running they do is around the pasture, kicking up heels, then straight to a cool spot in the barn for naptime.

The children have spent every spare moment playing on their new raft on the pond. Most everyday they find a few hours to get out on the water, and most everyday they have come into the house soaking wet, dirty and thrilled with spring.

The cold weather turned into 90+ degrees today. I have been milking in short sleeves, even at night and early morning. Coco's coat is turning grey as she loses her winter coat. Maggie is milking all the goats in the morning, now. We made our first chevre and yogurt of the season. Yummy.

The black heart cherry tree has green leaves. When did that occur? Thursday night? The tart cherry is still covered in blooms. The peach tree has teeny baby peaches. So does one of the plums. The willows are no longer chartruese but emerald green. The grass is thick and lush, thanks to the Lord for providing the rain.

The other day I read that there is a shortage of songbirds in suburban areas. I wish those poor suburbanites could come out to the farm for a visit. At nighttime I cannot count the different songs I hear. I have tried. Maybe in a little while I will sit out on the deck for a few minutes and try. In the early morning hours it is the same. But different songs! So many birds, trrling, twilling, tweeting, twrring, peeping, cracking, not to count the frogs and bugs and farm animals! And the breeze and the creek. And the trees. So much sound. My favorite song.

Yesterday I didn't enjoy much sound, except for when I milked Coco. It was time to prepare for farmer's market. I am pleased to have Thomas on board to mill our wheat. We had a pleasant day at Ikenberry's, sweating. How could it go from so cold to so hot? Springtime, I guess. We put all the winter coats into the attic, in faith.

When I got home today, Philip and the kids were heading out to finish a handyman job. I was so sleepy I wanted to take a nap, but a walk in the woods detoured me. I guess I was hoping I would see some mushrooms. I searched high and low and found nary a one. I did gather a nice mess of fiddlehead ferns, anticipating a saute with sesame oil and sesame seeds and a dash of soy sauce. Or butter and garlic with crumbled chevre. But I spilled them out of my shirttail "basket" somewhere and was sad. I was also sad to not find any mushroom cache on our property. I guess it seems silly, but deep down, I was thinking that since God loves me so much and he knows how much I love wild mushrooms, it only seemed natural that he would give me a pile of big glorious mushrooms. I mean, really, how difficult would that be for God? We have woods, stream, all the right conditions, so it isn't like I am wishing for something totally outlandish, like bottles of malbec to be found in a cave behind the pond! ( although I would take them in a heartbeat!)

Scrambling along through the dogwoods and redbuds and brushy brush I noticed the ferns and the trilliums and the wild violets and countless other woodland beauties. I wondered about how I know God loves me and how he gives me so many things I ask for in life. But not everything. Some of our prayers are answered so supernaturally and instantly, I could never doubt that a higher power exists and that this power connects with my life. At the market today we got to see in the flesh a beautiful answer to prayer: Nicholas Caldwell Price, new little son for Scott and Lara Price, fellow farmers.

But walking along, desiring mushrooms, I thought of the other truly significant prayers that were not selfish (like my food cravings are!), but were reasonable and just. Like praying for my 40 yr old friend, Nicole, to be spared from cancer. For our friends in India to be restored their homes. For other friends to be able to have a baby, or for marriages to be made whole or for many many other things we have prayed, wishing for an answer. Receiving none.

I thought about how some people would say I am silly for continuing to pray my silly and not so silly prayers. But I can't help it. I talked to the Lord about how I just can't understand so many things, and frankly, don't like the way everything turns out sometimes. But that doesn't mean I will quit talking to him. I thought as I worked it out that in a lighthearted novel, this revelation would occur and then I would find the big pile of mushrooms. I would rejoice in the God who hears. Everybody would know how much God loves me by seeing how much stuff he gives me. How my friend was delivered from cancer instead of taken by it.

But our life isn't a silly book. I didn't find any mushrooms, I dropped my fiddlehead ferns, and we have some significant challenges in our life right now that haven't disappeared. We have friends with even more challenging crises than we have ever faced.

Why in the world did my afternoon walk bring about such thoughts?

Beats me. But I had this weird feeling that my Father God was walking along with me, listening to my ramblings, and wishing he could give me everything my heart desired. Slightly amused with his whimsical child. Mostly endeared to her. Wondering if she remembered that his only son Jesus prayed an even more serious prayer one night that couldn't be answered in the way that made the most sense.

Whew. I think I better go sit outside and listen to the nighttime songs. Might catch the last of dusk. It is 8pm and not yet dark.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Springtime means alfresco

Our valley is quite shocking in its array of color. So many shades of early green, blooming trees everywhere, red, pink, orange and white, patches of wild daffodils glowing along the side of the creek. The lilacs are about to bloom. So is the ornamental peach. There are a few blossoms glowing this misty morning. The cherries are in full bloom. The black heart cherry is now putting out leaves.

Everything sounds different with all this nice greenery bursting forth. Softer.

We had a nice rain last night and this morning. Happily received because the garden was looking a bit dry. Philip planted several rows of chioggia beets this weekend. Some of the lettuce we planted is sprouting up. The onions are shooting up some green. Gardens in the baby stage are one of my favorite pictures of hope and faith. I can't eat the salad yet, or roast those beets to go with our Sunday dinner. But seeing the little teeny leaves and shoots gives me hope and in faith I wait!

We had a lovely beginning to our farmer's market season, even if I am still tired from the hard work. So happy to see our regular customers. It is really something wonderful to think about all the relationships we have enjoyed as a result of the farm. So many acquaintances have come about because of the market or farm interest.

Yesterday we had an after church potluck with our Tuesday night ladies' Bible study group and families plus a few other friends. It was warm. We all hung out on the deck, much to my chagrine, because I hadn't done any cleaning out there, but nobody seemed to mind since it was 70+ degrees and we could watch the kids take turns playing on Patrick and Maggie's homemade raft on the pond.

I was happy to have a nice supply of spring eggs because after all the baking on Friday, I had no interest in complicated cooking. Frittata was the perfect Sunday afternoon potluck solution for me. A frittata is an italian omelet or quiche, no crust, easy to throw together, especially if you own a cast iron skillet. We sliced up some bread leftovers from market, mixed up some brownie mix we sell at market, and put it all out with the wonderful offerings from everyone else--enchiladas, salads, fruits, deviled eggs, pastas, artichoke dip, veggies. What a feast!

Here is the recipe for frittata. Of course, like any eggy dish, there are many variations on this theme. Basically involves using what you have available. Options will be much more interesting come mid summer!

Preheat oven broiler.
Heat oven proof skillet on stovetop. Add olive oil. Saute onions til crispy tender. Add a bit more olive oil. Search freezer, back of fridge, veggie crisper. If you have peppers, dice them and toss them in skillet. If you have bacon, slice it up and toss it in the skillet also. For a vegetarian feast, skip the bacon. I happened to have a few artichokes left in the back of the fridge in a jar, so I set those aside along with some kalamata olives that DEAR JULIE gave me. Beat a dozen eggs in a bowl. Add a couple of pinches of sea salt. Pour into hot skillet. Season your frittata however you like. A few pinches of chopped fresh herbs, freshly ground black pepper, garlic. If you have fresh spinach, that is great, too. We like to put cheese on the frittata at this point, cheddar or mozzarella or chevre, whatever we have available.

When the eggs are bubbly around the edge, put the skillet in the oven under the broiler. Your frittata is done when it is all puffy. Take it out, slide onto a platter. Cut like a pizza. It can be eaten at room temp, so it is a great dish to make a little bit ahead of time. Served with a salad and some bread, you have the quintessential springtime lunch. I am going to have to buy some asparagus off of Donna Janezcko at Brambleberry Farm for our next frittata. If we are so lucky as to find some morels I think asparagus-morel frittata sounds lovely! Kids have been bringing me fiddleheads from the woods. That might be yummy, too. Wild forest frittata.

Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Weather Report

I just have to report that several children were sighted in bathing suits playing in the creek back of our house yesterday.

They also were sighted dripping mud, freezing cold, running to a hot bath. But they seemed to think that 62 degrees temperature outside means SWIM. Crazy!

These same children scoured the woods for mushroooms for their mother. One teeny patch of teeny morels was found. A few oyster mushrooms. I think with another day or two of warm weather we should see more. I hope so!

I was supposed to be up at 5 this morning with Thomas, beginning the farmer's market season by baking. We had a bit too much fun with three of my girlfriends, 11 kids, supper that lasted a very long time, divvying up our bulk food order. Couldn't get up before 6:30. Well, It is hard to get back into the routine but I have had my cup of coffee, the brain is waking up, will wake up Thomas and get the mill to grinding. We will see how many pounds of wheat and spelt we can alchemize into breads before nightfall.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Why is it that every day the farmer's almanac suggests as a good planting day is rainy and cold here?

Chilly, damp. April showers bring May flowers, at least that is what I always heard. But we have had a hard time getting many of the seeds of those May flowers in the ground.

Never mind. Somehow or another I have a feeling it is all going to work out just fine.

As I look at the amazing glow of the red buds and red maple blossoms and cherry blossoms and forsythia and oak blooms and who knows what else out there that is blooming, not needing my help, not needing my intervention, just blooming because an invisible force said "Bloom!" I know that there is something bigger at work. My little efforts are important. A nice contribution. But not the end all. Just as the chickens decide to lay more eggs, the grass decides to grow nice and green and tall and the trees send out leaves I have to plant seeds. Feeling a bit thwarted by the weather I do other things instead, knowing that in a day or two the sun will shine and like it or not, something will be ignored as we plant turnips and beets and broccoli and more.

Julie and Allen and Emily have come for a visit with Toby and Chloe and Roger (the dogs). They left their chickens and geese and turkeys in the hands of dear old dad and came to spend a bit of spring break with us. The kids gathered interesting bits of outdoor stuffs to try to make dye for eggs. They boiled dozens of eggs and dyed some with fake dye and some with their collections. The green stuff definitely worked best. The yellow eggs came out pretty well too. Even so, I really don't understand why anyone has to dye eggs when we have beautiful blue and green and pink and brown straight from the chicken...

Allen and Thomas and Philip gathered some old wood from the fallen down apple tree, killed by the horrible wind that blew that horrible day in April when horrible things happened on the campus of Virginia Tech. They made a fire. We ate our grass-fed steak, pan-seared with butter and hot curry powder, green beans and carmelized onions, mashed potatoes and candles because the light bulb went out and I didn't feel like searching for another. We drank some very tasty very cheap wine that Julie (God bless her) brought from Trader Joe's. Maggie even played some beautiful piano music before she headed out to feed baby goats. Thank goodness I milked Coco early so now all we have to do is go to bed.

The almanac on my calendar says that the next days are barren days, no good for planting.

That figures. On Friday I start baking for the farmer's market. A perfect day for planting. When I will be in the kitchen all day long. Oh well.

We were talking about the sabbath earlier this evening. About how the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. I wonder if I could suggest that the almanac was made for man, not man for the almanac???

Somehow or another those turnips and beets and lettuces and peas will be planted. On time or not. They can't help it. Something deep is crying out "Spring is here! Plant! Bloom! Wake up and live!"

Monday, April 13, 2009


Saturday Thistle went into labor. It went on for hours. I tried to examine her but she would not cooperate willingly. So after Maggie and the gang got back from Easter Egg hunt at the Gibson's house down the road, she helped me and we were able to intervene. Thistle had one baby girl. We named her Lily. She is as big as some of our one month old babies! Unfortunately, her legs were twisted around and required quite a bit of intervention. Thankfully all is well. Mama is fine and baby is fine.

Goat birthing season is done for the year.


I was a bit disappointed because I had planned on doing Easter preparation on Saturday afternoon. I like to make a nice Sunday dinner, rolls, iced tea. Patrick usually makes a pound cake in the lamb mold. I like to help the girls decorate eggs and fill up easter baskets.

After the activities of the weekend I had absolutely nothing left to give. I cried when going to bed Saturday night because I was so tired and spent from midwifing. Philip had to work late on Saturday and didn't have any extra energy either. After milking and doing other chores I threw a pork roast in the oven and we headed to church.

Not feeling especially full of joy.

I was so grateful sitting in church as everyone celebrated the resurrection of our Lord.

Grateful that redemption isn't all about how much emotion I can summon up with a fake smile painted on my face.

Grateful that I can rejoice even when exhausted and sad and disappointed in not being able to live up to my own expectations. God knows me. He knows that sometimes I am strong and sometimes I am weak and he loves me ALL the time. The sermon was meaningful. The scripture was relevant. I was blessed to sit in a pew with Philip and all the kids around me.

We got home and the pork roast was done but the broccoli and carrots and rolls and mashed potatoes were not. At almost 2 o'clock in the afternoon. A few more tears flowed and I felt very homesick for my family. Wishing I was with my mom and dad and sisters and their families. Feeling a decent bit of self-pity, wishing that we were all working together on the meal since I still felt so worn out.

After a big hug from Philip and a few more tears we decided to take all the earnings from some meat sold the day before and go to Cracker Barrel for dinner. Not exactly home cooking, but at least they did the cooking and the dishes! And Philip was thoroughly beaten by Rose in checkers and Maggie pretty much stole a couple of victories from Patrick on the front porch as well. We drove the long way home. Not exactly what I would plan or choose for Easter Sunday. Oh well.

I guess I like to believe that we celebrate Easter all year long, not just the one day. So much pressure to try to make it all happen on one day. Redemption. Resurrection. Supernatural overcoming of death. New life. Sounds like every week here on the farm!

So we will try to boil and decorate eggs tomorrow with our friends, the Webbs who are visiting us for Spring Break. It will be more fun to play with Easter eggs with our visiting friends anyway. We'll make those rolls and iced tea later.

By the way, Thistle and baby are doing beautifully. Thistle is a pretty good metaphor for our life on the farm. She is a bit prickly, sometimes a bit hard to get along with. But she is hardy, blooms beautifully, giving great milk and babies. I would like to think that she enabled me to keep Easter real this year.

May we all get to truly know redemption and resurrection this year. And recognize it when it comes.

Tradition! Tradition!

Sixteen springs ago a friend invited us to participate in a seder meal.

That experience changed our life. (Thanks, Bill, wherever you might be!)

Philip and I decided that we must integrate that family ceremony into our own set of family traditions.

No, we aren't Jewish. We are Protestant christians. But when we opened up the haggadah and celebrated the deliverance of Moses and the Israelites from Egypt, we just knew that we were celebrating our own history. All of a sudden the Lord's supper made sense. When we dipped the parsley into salt water and our matzah into charoseth we were sharing in a supper of tradition that Jesus and the apostles shared right before the crucifixion.

Each year we try to invite different friends to share the table. This year, our friends and fellow farmers, Thomas family and Moekkels family came. The girls picked reams of flowers, redbud, forsythia, weeping willow, daffodils for extravagant bouquets. We pulled out the table to seat 15. Out came the tableclothes and fancy silver and lots and lots of candles and wine glasses and big plates and little plates and fancy dishes and salt water and boiled eggs, shank bone and horseradish and matzah.

Kirsten brought horseradish and parsley and hyssop from her garden. (Along with a HUGE fresh salad from her green house) And cute little ramekins for Maggie to use in making our dessert.

Rachel brought beautiful boiled eggs from their chickens and made charoseth from apples from their last years' harvest and wine they made from local grapes. They also brought homemade dandelion wine to share with dessert. And last years' peppers from their garden which we carmelized with onions and vinegar.

We roasted a beautiful leg of lamb, farm raised, of course, studded with garlic and a paste of our friend, Stewart's rosemary, mustard, garlic and olive oil. We also roasted a couple of last December's chickens, stuffed with Stewart's sage leaves and some lemon and onions and garlic. Plenty of different homemade pepper jellies on the side. Since it is spring, we had to have some roasted asparagus (from Kroger). Also some roasted sweet potatoes with more of the fresh sage and olive oil and garlic. DON'T forget the matzah ball soup made with broth from our chicken necks and legs. Yum.

For dessert Maggie made the MOST delicious dessert of sunken chocolate cakes, using tons of Patrick's eggs, topped with a dollop of Coco's creme fraiche.

It was truly a magnificent sight, all the children (nine of them) seated around the table with parents, for hours, taking turns reading out of the haggadah, raising cups, speaking blessings, remembering that slavery is bitter, but God sweetens it with his grace. That out of sorrow comes joy and redemption and deliverance. The familiar tastes of bitter horseradish and charoseth and matzah stimulate years of sense memories.

We laugh as the kids bravely try new and strange tastes, making their own sense memories. These memories even more special as they have such appreciation for all the different foods on their plates. Last year they witnessed the birth of the lamb we ate. They named him and watched him grow. When they read that Jewish families back in the time of Christ would set apart their most perfect lamb and tend him in their yard to make sure he remained unblemished, they can imagine the heartbreak involved when it came time to butcher the little ram. We grownups look at our sweet children and try to imagine God the father allowing his perfect son, Jesus to offer up his life as a ransom for sin.

Tradition. The seder is probably the most important meal of the year for our family. Every little bit of it. Hearing the children as they grow up and learn to tackle reading out loud. All of us stumbling over unfamiliar Hebrew blessings that are so comforting. "Baruch etah adonai, elohaynu melech haholahm..."

Here is the final blessing in our haggadah:

"Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, for the vine and its fruit, and the produce of the field, and the delights of the land which is the inheritance of our fathers to en joy and love. We thank You for all Your lovingkindness to us. Have compassion, O God, on Your people Israel and build Jerusalem, Your holy city, rapidly in our days. Blessed are You, O God, for the land and its fruits."

And here is the recipe Maggie used to make our yummy dessert:

1/2 c. butter (from your own cow if your are TRULY blessed!)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate (don't we wish we could grow chocolate!)
3 large REAL eggs, separated (surely you know SOMEONE with some chickens)
1/3 c. sugar, (we use succanat)
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbsp sugar (or succanat)

Preheat over to 400degrees.
Butter 4- 3/4 cup ramekins or custard cups and dust with sugar.
Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler. Beat egg yolks and 1.3 c sugar in med bowl. When thick, pale and fluffy, add vanilla and then fold in chocolate mixture. In a clean bown, beat egg whites til frothy. Add cream of tartar and continue to whip. Add the final Tbsp of sugar and whip til stiff peaks form (or until you get too tired, it worked for us even though the whites wouldn't get stiff. Fold the whites into the chocolate very gently then spoon into ramekins. Bake for10-15 minutes or til the outside edges of the cakes are set but middle is still soft. Remover from oven. Turn out of mold, or just serve in the dish, garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche or cream or sour cream or brandied cherries or something. Taste and see that the Lord is good. I think this will definitely be served at the big feast in heaven, and then we won't even have to worry about the calories!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Full Moon

The red buds are almost in bloom. I believe they are waiting to show off Easter morning.

The plum trees lost the top third of their blossoms, but the middle part is loaded. The cherry tree seemed to survive the freeze, at least for the most part. The peach is iffy. I see some little teeny babies. I think we did not lose all of its fruit.

We gave thanks the other morning when we saw the temperature only dropped to 30 degrees instead of the 24 that was forecasted.

Spring is forcing her way into our valley, ready or not. The grass is getting nice and thick. We were quite pleased to see the difference in this week's butter. Golden! The eggs are so orange! You should hear the animals munch. If you sit in the pasture with the sheep you can hear the most steady comforting sound. Warm sun. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. I do believe it could be used as high blood pressure medicine it is so calming.

The peepers at night are just as medicinal for me. Rachel came in this morning and mentioned how weird it was to wake up in the night to quiet. We have been hammered by wind, barking dogs, coyotes and other howling noises for a few nights. It was so silent. I hope the quiet lasts for a night or two. Right now the guineas are settling in. Peepers make great accompaniment to Andrew Peterson. Time to hit the sack. I feel a bit lost since I just finished rereading Anna Karenina. If I weren't so tired I would love to discuss Levin and agriculture and peasantry farming and spirituality. I love Tolstoy. Will read a Donald Hall essay instead. And listen for the moon.

Good-bye Rachel!

Our friend Rachel headed back to St. Louis this morning.

We tried not to cry.

She will be sorely missed. I will miss our chats, walking the fences, planting the onions, tending the kids (2 and 4 legged ones).

The girls will miss their friend. Maggie will especially miss her helper with the goats.

It was quite a great visit. Rachel got to experience a taste of spring on the farm. The miracle of birth, the sad reality of death. She learned how to castrate little bucklings. Helped trim a lot of hooves. She didn't get to do nearly as much gardening as we had planned, due to rain and cold. I think she got to see that eating isn't nearly as fun in late winter as it is late summer, and sometimes worries of the world make stressed out families butt heads as much as the goats sometimes, but prayer and laughter get us through.

I guess the thing that blessed me most about Rachel's visit was how she lived with us as family. Our joys were her joys, our pain her pain. She has become much more than a friend and intern. Big sister to kids, little sister to me ( I can't say daughter, it would make me feel too old!).

So I guess I will cry a tear or two and be sad that we had to say goodbye to Rachel. We miss you! I hope that your journeys will bring you back to the farm soon! BTW, Thistle hasn't had her babies, but looks like she is going into labor! And Lucy and Tarkheena are acting very suspiciously. I moved them into the barn with Ophilia. Maybe we will have Easter lambs!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Ophelia, one of our Jacob ewes, met me in the field on Sunday afternoon as I headed out to work on the fence. Rose asked me if I should be working on Sunday, and I was happy to tell her that working on the fence in short sleeves on a breezy Sunday afternoon was a treat for me, washing dishes or laundry would be work and I certainly didn't want to do that on such a lovely afternoon.

But back to Ophelia. She is a delicate thing. A bit shy. You might remember our friend Julie brought her up from a farm in North Carolina. Well, she usually doesn't greet me in the field. This Sunday she came up and baahed at me. I asked her if she needed anything. She baahed again. I said to her, "You are going to have your babies, aren't you?" Then she meandered off to graze with the rest of the flock.

Early in the morning yesterday I noticed Ophelia was not out grazing with the gang. Sure enough! She was waiting in an open stall with two healthy little ram lambs, white with black spots! What a good girl.

Well done, Ophilia. Welcome home little fellas.

By the way, we started milking the goats yesterday morning. Maggie and Rachel separated the babies at night and we went out to start the process again. Portia was so cooperative. We were very pleased to see how well she went back to milking. Her daughter Clover is a challenge to milk due to her small udder, but she behaved just like her mother. Nita, on the other hand, is still the dancing queen, and surprisingly (?) enough, her daughter Cornflower is just like her. Nita always eventually settles down. We hope that Cornflower will as well. We remember when Cornflower and Clover were born. Hard to believe they are mothers and milkers now.

The wind is blowing and the temperatures are dropping. We walked around our fruit trees the other day in the sunshine, praying that God would protect their fruit crop from the freeze that should hit tonight. They are all half full of blooms. Year before last we lost all the fruit to freeze. It was pretty devastating for our family to not get peaches, cherries, apples, plums and pears that year. That made us really think about the folks who depend on their fruit crop for their livelihood. I sure hope the freeze is a fast one that will not damage all of the crops in the region. We will be praying that warm winds will push that freeze away from us.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Rain is Falling

"The rain is falling all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea."

Robert Louis Stevenson

The ducks are so happy. They waddle in the fields. They swim across the pond. They quack with delight.

The rest of us are a bit soggy. I take that back. We are thoroughly drenched.

Patrick moved the chicks to a larger room. They have tripled in size. No new babies from Thistle. All the other 14 kids are hanging out in the barn, eager for some sunshine.

The two-legged kids played in the rain for a little while, but came in soaked and grumpy. We made thick chicken soup with homemade egg noodles and cream for supper. Yum. I sure am glad Patrick and Max and Rachel butchered those roosters yesterday! Here is the recipe for a cozy supper:

Butcher one mean rooster (or get some chicken on the bone)
Cut up an onion, celery and carrots.
Saute veggies in a big stock pot with some lard or bacon grease or olive oil.
When tender, add chicken parts, several cloves of garlic, some peppercorns and water to cover everything.
Simmer until meat falls off the bone. Debone the chicken, toss the bones out and put the meat back in the pot. Add salt.
Continue to cook the soup and let the broth boil down and thicken up. If you have some other vegetables you want to add, now would be the time. Maybe some peas. Chopped up peppers.

Make the noodles:
Beat 2 eggs in a measuring cup and add cream(or milk) to total 1 cup.
In a large bowl blend together 3 cups of freshly milled whole wheat (or unbleached flour).
Pour the egg/cream mixture into flour and mix together. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes
Roll out the dough on a flour-dusted surface. Try to get it as thin as you can. Cut the noodles with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.

Put the noodles in the pot with the boiling chicken soup. Simmer til tender. If you want to make it really good, add about a 1/2 cup to a cup of heavy cream, and or some cheese. Top with some freshly cracked black pepper. Feel the comfort.

Max has to return to NJ tomorrow morning. We will miss him so much. So glad he got to come for a visit, even if it didn't stop raining.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

WORLD RECORD! Nita delivered 7 healthy baby goats!

Happy April Fool's Day! She actually delivered 3 healthy baby goats and we are glad to see them here. Now we are waiting for Thistle to have her babies. She is always late for everything so I suspect we have to wait awhile longer to meet her babies.

BTW, Portia's floppy babies are all perky today.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

The sound of rain woke me up this morning. It is wonderful seeing the pond full and the fields green. Even so, I have to stifle a few qualms as I ponder yet another delay in planting garden. It still had not dried out yesterday. Now we have even more soggy mud to deal with. Oh well, goat babies have been consuming every spare moment, just about, so the garden would have to wait anyway.

We were so happy that Portia decided to wait and have babies when Rachel was here and our dear friend, Max. Max arrived in Charlottesville on the Amtrak. His first solo journey to Virginia. What joy to have him back on the farm!

In between royal council meetings, exchanging amazing homemade gifts, picnics by the pond, doing of chores, and other assortment of important farm visit stuff, Portia went into a very long, unusually long labor. Usually she walks around, pushes, pops out babies. Yesterday one of the babies had a foot tangled the wrong direction. After the troubles we had the other day, of course we were a bit apprehensive. After much effort and some assistance, Baby Number One was delivered. Very quickly afterward, Number 2 and Number 3 popped out with no troubles whatsoever.

Portia is a Mini-Nubian, one of our best milkers. She gives the creamiest milk, and to be so petite, she gives copious amounts. Her triplets were quite large and apparently there was no room in the belly for them to readjust themselves, as they typically do. She did a great job, and got those babies pushed out. They are a bit floppy, due to the oxygen deficit during the traumatic delivery, but otherwise healthy and hungry. That makes 11 babies, with two more mamas yet to deliver.

Our friend, Donna at Brambleberry has over 50 babies. We are small potatoes. Even so, it looks like baby goats are everywhere! Seeing them tumble and hop and leap makes me laugh out loud. If you have troubles these days, I recommend you find some baby goats to watch. Baby Goat Laughter Therapy. Hmmm. Maybe we should head out to the barn and work on a proposal. Line up with some therapist' office. Instead of charging money for the therapy session, we could charge farm labor hours. Which would also be good therapy. I have never shoveled manure without sensing a definite improvement in my mental health.

Back to the rain, I guess we will shift gears for todays' activities. The boys told me yesterday they had prayed for sunshine the whole week of Max's trip. Maybe the sun will poke his head out a bit later. I guess we will talk about the fact that sometimes when we pray for something, there is a greater good that needs to occur. Like bring an end to drought. Wish it could rain at nighttime while we all slept. Maybe kids better bake cookies while it rains so they can have them on a hike when it quits.

Max, we are soooo glad you are here for spring break. We love you so dearly. I hope you enjoy your visit to the Kingdom/farm. Rain or shine!