Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Too Busy Living to Write!

So many things to write about...

Many days have passed since the last post. I wanted to write a Father's Day post.

I wanted to write about how great my dad is, how he taught me hard work, hospitality, pancake making and butchering. How he taught me the joy of storying. How he taught me that it is important for a husband to love his wife like he loved mom and helped me know instinctively that Philip would be a good husband because he loves me like Daddy loves Mom.

I also wanted to write a post about what a great dad Philip is to our kids. They think he is much nicer than me. He makes us laugh. He works hard. He reads stories when it is way to late and teaches our children that daddies should love the mommies in the house.

BUT, I was out on a date with Philip eating a yummy cheeseburger, fries and fried okra at a BBQ joint downtown while Holly babysat the kids.

On Monday our friends Kathryn, Max and Mary came for their summer visit from NJ. We are so happy anytime they come. The kids wander the woods, build forts, play in the stream and come in the house occasionally for food. Patrick, Max and Rose set up the tent in the woods this visit. Mary and Maggie kept it a bit closer to home. Many glasses of milk are drunk, toast eaten with jam.

Holly and I had to run to town to get some Blenheim Ginger Ale for the occasion. When the peaches are ripe and juicy we have to have that stuff. It is unlike any ginger ale you have ever tasted. We found some in Fresh Market. We never go in that store because it is too wonderful. There are some proverbs written about that store. I have to drive far around it so I will not go into debt. But when the peaches are ripe we have to make a trip to buy a six-pack.

I recommend that you cut up some peaches, put them into a glass and then pour part of a bottle of the spicy ginger ale over those peaches. Eat with a spoon or just drink it down. It is an amazing taste sensation. The Blenheim ginger ale is the spiciest drink I have ever tried. It will burn your lips. But married to the ripe peaches, the burn simmers down to a glow. Pure delight. PLEASE try this treat sometime!!!

We had our peaches and ginger ale for dessert after our nice farewell feast for Holly. Holly loves duck. So of course we thawed out a couple of ducks, boned them and seared them, made a sauce with some of our plum jam from last year, sesame oil, garlic, rice vinegar, and a few other odds and ends. Then we served it over a delicious salad made from the nice lettuce in our garden. What a feast!

So after a good bye to Holly, we welcomed Krystin and Ingrid who dropped in to work in the garden for the day. They joined Kathryn and me and we pulled weeds for hours. Row by row we worked. Stopping for lunch, frittata made with the days eggs, homemade cheese and onions and squash. A big salad and some bread gave us enough energy to head back out and rediscover several rows of green beans. The gals were such hard workers. I wanted to cry as I saw how much we got accomplished. It was hard work but so very pleasant. We chatted about work, faith, friendship and metaphors. They asked Kathryn and me to tell them our thoughts on gardening and marriage. Much laughter. We marveled over the wonder of onions and potatoes.

Today we started the day a little slowly, worked on chores, laundry, paper work and food distribution. Our dear friend, Sean, came over and took Max, Patrick and Thomas for a hike up to Tinker Cliffs. When they reached the summit we ran out to the field to wave. I think they saw us, but they were invisible to our eyes. Mary, Kathryn and Maggie had a girl's trip to the art museum and a birthday party. We wrapped the day up with a delicious feast. Of course we had to have a salad with the remaining sweet and tender leaves. Olives, almonds, cheese and some raisins with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I picked a basket of potatoes and made salt potatoes, as per my friend Dawn's recipe. So simple: boil the whole new potatoes in water that is heavily salted with at least a half a cup of salt. We also pan-fried lamb steaks in garlic and olive oil. Bowls of melted garlic butter for dipping the potatoes manned each end of the table. Mmmmmm. What a treat. After Thomas cleaned up all the leftovers(how can one teenager eat so much?) the kids lit sparklers and danced in the starlight.

After such a long hike, the kids are happy to sleep in beds in the house. Sean is happy to sleep in the tent in the woods. Tomorrow is a new day. I will have to get feed. Chores will have to be done. Philip will have to leave early for work. But now we are tired and satisfied. Ready for bed. Just had to share how delicious good friends are!

Let's raise a toast to summer! Here's to dear friends, old and new.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


The peaces are getting ripe. I have eaten two or three in the last 24 hours. Am about to eat a couple more. Holly and Patrick brought a basket to the house this afternoon. Juice dripping down the chin tangy sweet delight. What a gift. Just yesterday I was weeping over the loss of the cherry crop. The peaches are not as loaded as years past, due to the frosts, but they are there nonetheless.

If everyone had a peach tree in their yard or apartment complex, and if they could all go out and pick a basket and eat drippy squirty juicy peaches in the summertime I think the world would be a happier place.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Holly arrived for her visit yesterday.

Holly is my partner in culinary crime. Right now, as the loaves are rising and baking, Holly and the girls are driving to WV to pick up our pork. What a relief. I suppose we will have pork this weekend.

Last night we had salmon. Wild caught and bought at Trader Joe's when I was in NJ. We don't eat fish very often. Maybe someday we will expand the pond and try bass or perch. This week we had salmon, encrusted with sesame seeds and pan-fried. We braised baby turnips in ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar and a pinch of sweetener. When almost tender, we threw in some of the Depret-Guillaume's peas and a generous glug of toasted sesame oil. Holly chopped up some shiso from the garden and tossed that in with the rice. She made an asian salad dressing to go with our fresh lettuce-lemon, rice vinegar, minced garlic and ginger, toasted sesame oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt. It was SOOOO good. Unfortunately, most of the kids liked the peas and turnips and the fish. Except for Nora. She brought some peanut butter to the table. I didn't mind because I ate her share. What was left of the salad I consumed for lunch today.

I think the turnips braised in butter and garlic were better, but the ones we made last night managed to disappear quite quickly. We will have more ripe in a few days. Wonder if Holly will still be here? Creamed turnips for the next go round?

PS: Say a little prayer for Thomas. He walked out the front door and got nailed by some very nasty hornets. Hornets don't like hot steamy thunderstormy weather. They went straight for him and worked him over. Patrick ran outside and got some plaintain, chewed it up and we applied it to the stings. For good measure I gave him a couple of benadryl pills as well. He is sleeping it off, so I think he will be fine, but we were a bit scared for a few minutes. Guess what Philip will be working on this weekend?

PPS: I have to brag on Philip. He took the not working dishwasher out, took parts off of it that did work, reassembled another non-working dishwasher and got it up and going by 12:30 last night. He is a very clever man. I really appreciate how hard he works to take care of us and to keep things running around here. I am grateful that our children get such a good example.

Better check on the bread.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Patrick, Rose and I slogged in late last night. The rainy drive made for a slow drive. Oh well, books on cd make the drive much more bearable.

After we pulled in the driveway, we opened the windows. The smell of clean air and grass greeted us. The gentle sounds of whispering chickens and singing frogs and gurgling creek met us at the door. The clouds obscured view of the moon. Actually, I think there isn't much of a moon to see right now anyway.


Philip and I stayed up later than we should have catching up on the trip to NJ and the goings on here at home.

The dishwasher is broken again. The garden is full of weeds. Never would a person believe I had it all cleaned out last week.
There are stagnant pools of water here and there across the farm. The cherries are molding in the tree, it is so wet and warm. Maggie and our friend Krystin cleaned out the barn 2 days ago. Since the animals have been hanging out in the barn instead of the fields, it was hard to tell.

This morning I mucked out barn, we swept and raked, we washed down concrete. I moved all the animals into a new field since this wet weather is horrible for parasites. I gave them a big trough full of water and some Shaklee Basic H2. It is an organic cleaner we use. Joel Salatin recommends it as a gentle dewormer. We will try it.

I want to cry when I see how much the rain is impacting the farm right now. Then I am reminded that we need a wet season to help the earth repair herself. The constant rain may be impacting my short-term goals. Some things are not going to work this year as a result of all this rain.

However, the water tables are in desperate need of help. All this rain helps. Last year springs and ponds were drying up. Not to mention fields. This heavy rain fills them up. The hay we cannot cut is developing seed heads which will turn into new grass later on. The hay we did cut and will cut that is past the point of good use will be left to decompose on the fields, adding tilth and nutrients to the soil. The flooding streams and ponds pour nutrients out onto our garden and hay field also.


Everything is a matter of perspective. Can I get myself to see beyond this growing season, this year, this lifetime? Can I think about all the longterm benefits to the land we hope to leave better than we found it?


In the meantime, we capture pounds of free fertilizer since those animals all decided to poop in the barn. We enjoy the cherries we do harvest. Throw the quickly rotting ones to the chickens. Organic cherry chicken food. Lucky birds. Whine a little, cry a little, then go on out to scoop some more poop.

I'll take it, the whole messy deal.

Home. So glad to be back. Being away for a bit does help put things into perspective. Hope I can remember to keep that perspective going.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Old Friends

Yesterday I took the train into NYC. Hopped on a subway and made my way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I love New York.

Instead of frogs and guineas and goats and roosters filling my ears, I was assaulted by the sound of trains and cars and horns and voices. I like it! So many different colored faces, so many souls quickly walking from somewhere to somewhere.

Smell of hot dogs, diesel, expensive perfume and coffee remind me that I am not in Virginia anymore.

So many bodies so closely packed and able to avoid eye contact is also a sign I am no longer in the country.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is comfort food to my soul. When we lived here in New Jersey I would try to go in quarterly. Now it is a yearly trek. I thought about going to the Cloisters. Even considered the Modern Museum of Art. But I was hungry for some comfort food.

The familiar steps up to the entrance are littered with bodies resting, coming or going. We offer up bags to be checked, we make our "donation" to the establishment and then it is time. Time to examine the huge arrangements of flowers in the entrance hall. I consider the effort of the team in charge of daily flower arrangements that are sometimes as large as a chicken house!

Which way to go. That is the next consideration. Back in the day when I would take the kids with me we would start with the ancient Greek and Roman, head to the Egyptian section, then on to the masters. But yesterday I was all alone and with only so many hours. I made the executive decision to start with lunch in the Petrie sculpture garden cafe. Armed with the map and a notebook I made my plan as I ate a ridiculously overpriced salad composed of pan seared calamari, arugula and calamata olives. A glass of red wine and a hard roll with butter was a fabulous dessert.

First the sculptures. For some reason the sculpture of reclining Sapphos by Compte Prosper D'Epinay moved me greatly. Larger than life, lyre in hand by her side, I halfway expected her to breathe and stretch out her arms and legs. I never paid her much mind on previous visits, but this time she caught my attention.

Things have been rearranged at the Met. It was a bit disconcerting to not know where some of my favorite pieces were placed, but I had fun looking for them and met a few new acquaintances on the journey.

Cavalier and Nude by Picasso welcomed me back. So did the Man with Lollypop and Woman in White. Pierre Bonnard's works: After the Bath and Poppies in a Vase were a sight for sore eyesSo was his painting: The Children's Meal. Those red slippers always make me smile. Edourd Vuillard's painting Still Life with a Pheasant is one of my favorites. I love seeing the children under the tree in the yard outside the kitchen door.

I love portraits. The larger than life visages tell me it has been a long time since my last visit. Consuelo Vanderbilt looks fabulous with her little fellow, Lord Ivor Spencer Churchhill. I think Giovanni Baldini must have made her very pleased with that portrait. What a different world back in 1906.

One of my favorite museum friends is The Horse Fair by Rosa Bonheur, painted in mid 1850s. I can smell the sweat and dust, feel the tension and energy. What an amazing piece of art. My mom introduced that painting to me. It is one of her favorites. Back in the day, women artists were supposed to paint lovely things like flowers and soft landscapes. Not sweaty men and horses. She would dress as a man and go to observe the horse fair for weeks, making her sketches. She was not afraid to tackle a project that her peers felt better suited to male contemporaries. I love it.

I saw a new piece this visit. Jules Breton's The Weeders, 1868. Pale pink of evening, peasant women kneeling in the fields, pulling weeds in the cool. Lovely. If we dress up in peasant clothes and weed in the pale pink of evening will that make the job more fun?

Oh dear. I see my list is stretching before me, so many friends by Renoir, Monet, Inness Church and Bierstadt, Matisse. That is not even mentioning the joy I feel as I pause before the Garden landscape and Fountain by Tiffany. The jeweled colors remind me that God is a god of Beauty and joy. Even the mosaic columns stir me. The creaking parquet floors, the smell of history wafting from the old furniture, the hours pass quickly and before you know it it is closing time. Thank goodness. My eyes were fully saturated, filled to the brim with beautiful images. Shocking images. Some disturbing images. Memorable images. I want to close my eyes and lie down on the steps outside the museum. But I don't.

I take in the sight of the mountain high buildings, the lamp posts, the taxis, the hot dog stands. Briskly make my way back to the subway and the train station. Not once did I think about farm work. The train ride home was a pleasant time of rereading one of my favorite books: At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald. The commuters crowded in with their papers and Blackberrys and briefcases and backpacks. We rode together quietly.

Back in Madison, I arrived to our friends' home in perfect time for supper. Time to see the kids play silly games with Fred the dog. Visit and eat. Now it is time to go back to the farm. I think I am rested and ready.

Ready to hear and smell and see my family. Philip, kids, roosters, garden, stream, frogs, roses, goats, barn, Coco's warm flank, stars and weeping willow.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Cherry Picking!!! and other beautiful things

The cherries started to ripen this past week. Big black heart cherries. Sweet as can be. We have a couple of trees, very very tall. Too tall to reach the top half, even when we climb on the back of the suburban.

Time to make cherry pound cake, cherry tart, brandied cherries, cherry jam and hopefully cherry wine.

I am in New Jersey right the moment. Our dear friend, King Max, graduated from the American Boychoir School yesterday. We went to the ceremony in Princeton. What a special occasion. It was held in the gothic Princeton University chapel. The stained glass took my breath away. So did the pipe organ and the magical singing of the choir. Afterward we were invited to attend a party with the other friends and family of the graduates. It took place on a farm.

When I think of a farm in the Princeton area I think of a pristine 6 and a half acres of manicured lawns, a cute little red barn with a horse, 3 sheep and 6 chickens. As we got ready to head over there I started to make my assumptions, feeling a bit insecure about our own farm, the lack of landscaping and the not lacking of real manure, broken tractor, weeds, etc. Then we pulled up to a real farm. With cattle, sheep and pigs, a bit crowded, but obviously a working farm. Producing food for their family and plenty more to sell. A tent was set up, barbecue, loads of good italian food, drinks and desserts. We celebrated the accomplishments of those sweet young graduates, visited, ate and watched the kids play. Boys who were children four years ago, now on the brink of manhood. It was great fun. I sure had to laugh at my assumptions as the smell of manure drifted over the crowd every once in a while.

Last week I reached a real point of exhaustion. Baking for another farmer's market is a real stretch for me. The garden is out of control and the rain has been non-stop. Coco ate many of my pretty flowers and I yelled at her about it the other day.

"Get out of here, Coco! Don't eat those flowers! I need to look at something beautiful."

I growled. Then I cried. So much work on important practical stuff has left little margin for pretty things.

"I used to have beautiful gardens," I cried some more and felt great self-pity.

Sometimes it seems like all I can see are the dirty dishes, the dirty clothes, the dust and the weeds.

Coming away from the farm for a very short visit is reminding me how lovely our world really is. Sharing farm stories and vision with old friends and new refreshes my spirit. It reminds me of the vision we have that sometimes we lose when we are deep in the weeds. Getting a little rest is helpful as well.

I am grateful to Philip and Thomas and Maggie and Nora for holding down the fort. I have to trust that they will also get a turn for a break very soon. In the meantime, Patrick and Rose are hiking with friends today. I had lunch with a friend and have spent time with other friends singing hymns around the piano. I hope to see something beautiful tomorrow. Maybe my old friends at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then back to the farm for more cherry picking.

I think my eyes will be so happy to see our beautiful farm and the blue mountains and the mounds of red roses at our driveway and our wonderful family. I will even be happy to get out and milk Coco. But for now, a book is calling my name.

But before I go, I have to tell you about the fresh turnips we had with supper last week. The first ones out of the garden.

I love turnips. Since it was a small bunch I figured I would get most of them since typically my family doesn't eat them at all.

I quartered them. Braised them in lots and lots of Coco's butter and garlic til they were carmelized. Sprinkled with sea salt. Set them out on the table with deer steak, greens and bread. Happy that I would get to eat them all up, all my self.

Til Rose took a bite. And Patrick. Philip,Maggie and Thomas tried them too. They liked them!

Darn. I only got a normal portion of those delectable turnips, and all of us hungry for more.

Except for Nora. She didn't try them. Thank goodness.

Should have a big mess of golden turnips ripe and waiting for us when we get back home. Should I wait and make them when Holly comes for a visit? I guess the Bible says to share... Maybe Nora can tell her how yucky they are. Everyone knows how gross turnips are. I used to boil them like potatoes, but no more. Braised in butter. Yum. Now that is a beautiful thing.

What's New on the Farm?

A couple of weeks ago I received a call from dear friend, Julie. Julie has chickens and guineas and geese and turkeys on her little farmette outside of Charlotte. Pilgrim, the heritage breed Pilgrim goose and his two goslings decided that her lovely pool made a lovely pond. They took up residence. Few people get a kick out of swimming with geese. Not to mention all the other things that might be swimming in the pool if the geese spend much time there.

She called. Could the happy little geese family take up residence at a real pond? In Virginia?

Of course.

Pilgrim and Lily and Daisy immediately took to the pond at Full Circle Farm. They swam, ate pond weeds and preened for us. The ducks made their acquaintance. The guineas barked at them and let them know that by no means were they to get the idea that they were in any way dominant. That is the guineas' role. The cattle and sheep just took a look and went on to their grazing. We are thoroughly enjoying the view of those lovely geese on our pond.

Welcome to the farm, Pilgrim, Lily and Daisy! We are glad you are here!

And thanks a lot, Julie! Pilgrim probably misses you and the cement pond, but we hope he will be happy here.

By the way, a few days ago our little hen, Specky, hatched out by another hen on the farm two years ago, hatched out eight little red chickies! We are proud of her for doing her thing. They will stay in the barn for a couple of weeks til they get large enough to handle the big out doors. We let the mama ducks take their baby ducklings out way too soon and those silly mamas lost their babies. Sad. They were so cute while they lasted. We have snapping turtles in the pond and we assume that they had teeny baby duck for their meal the other day. Next year we will lock the mama ducks and their babies in the barn for a couple of weeks, too.

Live and learn. At least we hope the new babies will live to learn...

Back to business...

At least the online variety. Jeff, you were right and I finally had some margin to get at least one computer upgraded.

I thoroughly enjoyed a break from the world of internet. If I didn't miss blogging so much I might have delayed fixing the problem another week or too.

So all is up and running. Glad to see everyone via the e-world again!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Computer Woes

I have written quite a few posts in my mind and at least one in my notebook. Unfortunately none of them have made it to the blog because of computer woes.

Farm life is too full to stop and figure out the problem, so please be patient! Hopefully you will hear more about rosebushes and transparency and weeds and new geese very soon!

Will trade farm stuff for computer help!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Love Notes

I heard a whipporwill crying out this evening as I milked Coco. The plaintive song conjures up a feeling inside me of longing for something I can't even begin to understand. When I was a girl in Oklahoma I would set up a cot on the front porch in early summertime so I could listen to the song of the whipporwill. Even then it made me hungry for something I could not identify.

Many years passed without hearing my favorite bird. A plain bird. Not much to look out.

I don't think I would recognize it if someone were to bring me one in a cage.

Last year I prayed to God and told him that I would truly appreciate a love note from him in the form of a whipporwill. When we moved here I heard one. But not again. For a long time.

When I heard the song a night later I wept.

About three or four weeks ago, I am not sure when, I heard it again. I felt hugged.

Three or four times this year I have been outside at the right time to receive my love note.

I didn't want to milk tonight.

We butchered around 60 chickens today. Started early. Worked hard. The kids did an amazing job. The Depret-G's were here to help as per their wonderful usual. No injuries. No stitches needed. We even got things cleaned up, chickens wrapped up, and showers taken in time for the ladies Tues. night Bible study. Coco mooed to me as I said farewell to the ladies, telling me I was an hour late.

"Ughhh. Could you please milk yourself, Coco?"

I looked up at the faint streaks of lightning flickering miles down the valley. The growing moon glowed. The fireflies sparkled in the treetops.

Mechanically I walked into the house, washed the milking bowl and headed out to call for Coco.

As we settled in to our routine I heard it. My love note. The precious song of the whipporwill. I felt like God was giving me a big pat on the back, letting me know that he recognized all our hard work and was pleased. Streaming creamy milk, smell of crushed chamomile as we milked in the grass tonight, sight of Rose and Maggie catching fireflies and putting them in jars made the exhaustion not so painful.

"Whipppp--o-willl! Whiiip-ooo-willlll!"