Sunday, September 13, 2009

Is it Fall yet?

The maple tree near the neighbor's house is turning orange and red.

It was 48 degrees this morning. Crickets are chirping. The sky is incredibly clear. At night the stars seem a bit brighter than usual. Coyotes were yipping late last night. Very near the house. The dogs went ballistic and chased them off. Hopefully before they got to any animals. I didn't notice any stray feathers or fur anywhere.

I love this season. The pumpkins are growing large. BTW, Priscilla is growing large, too. When is she going to drop her calf? She came back from her 2 month visit with the neighbor's bull in early December. I think that baby should be here soon. She walks so funny right now. Definitely the pregnant waddle. Boy or girl? Either way, we will be happy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oh, My Aching Back

It is probably a good thing that we did not bale more hay last night.

I can barely move from all the hay we hauled Monday and Tuesday.

It wasn't even a lot of bales, but they were larger and way heavier.

I could barely squat to milk the cow this morning. The low back is pretty much shot. Sometimes I think I am so healthy and strong I can do anything to which I set my mind. The boys were complaining about how heavy the bales were this go around and I guess maybe I showed off a bit.

"Come on, boys! Surely if your 40 something year old MOTHER can throw these bales you strong young men can handle it!"

Well, the boys are moving around just find today.

The mother is taking ibuprofen, arnica, green tea, naps, whatever she can get ahold of.

As I rested after chores this morning the girls brought me a mason jar filled with boiling water, wrapped in a towel. Patrick went outside and gathered goodies to make me a potion. Calendula, willow bark, red clover and rose hips boiled together to make a tea. Even though I never take honey in my tea he recommended I try it with at least a teaspoon. I did. It was pretty good and I think it really did help ease the spasms. Maybe he better make me another pot.

I was relieved that the kids were big enough to take care of themselves. I groaned and moaned and did homeschool preparations. The kids picked more mint to dehydrate for winter teas. They made fruit leather out of some jam that never jammed. Patrick planted onions and turnips and mulched the broccoli with some hay. Kids folded clothes and played board games.

We all wore sweaters because it is cool and damp today. If it were a day in October we would have a fire going to take off the chill. Not yet.

Epson salt baths, more ibuprofen, some more arnica. A walk. Exercises. Stretches.

I do not feel strong and powerful right at the moment. I feel whupped.

Pride goes before a fall. Or is that an aching back?

PS The broiler chickens in the moveable chicken tractor are doing well. They get fresh grass every day and do not have to compete with the ducks, geese, guineas and other chickens for their food. They have grown much larger on much less food. We put the turkeys in the tractor with them. They seem to be thriving. Hope they get nice and fat by the holidays.

PPS Every time I walk past the barn the perfume of the fresh hay grabs my attention. It is a lovely smell.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Broken Baling Equipment Happens

The sun came out and the cut hay dried beautifully. Brian couldn't make it yesterday to rake and bale but promised to be here this afternoon. We were so happy at the thick stand of hay, so nice and leafy. I was trying to keep from counting all the bales we would potentially sell. Don't count your chickens before they hatch!

We washed many loads of clothes today and hung them out to dry. Swept floors. Swept barn. Kept an eye on the internet weather.

The forecast predicted a nice day with rain coming around 8pm.

Brian got here around 5 and got the field raked by 6:30.

We ate our supper, the kids dashed off to an evening activity. I continued my afternoon task of organizing the home school materials. All the books got pulled off the shelves. Papers sorted. Notebooks sorted. Books and papers and materials organized according to subject and grade. The mess grew immense.

I paused and headed out to the barn, wondering why we were not loading bales onto the trailer.

The baler was broken. Three men worked on trying to fix an impossible situation.

Clouds build.

The drama builds.

That baler is not going to be fixed tonight.

I return to a mess that I can control.

Sort papers. Line up books neatly. Ahhh.

At precisely 8 pm the raindrops begin to fall. Heavy rain drops.

Soaking raindrops. Fill up the pond kind of raindrops.

Brian is frustrated and mad. Philip goes to pick up Patrick from 4H. I sort papers and clean up my mess.

Life on the farm. I am sorry for Brian who has a big problem to fix. He needs the money he will earn from us for his labor baling the hay. We have a good bit of hay in the barn already. Enough to feed lots and lots of animals for many months.

We aren't in a shortage. I won't cry. For us, anyway. We have a whole other field that is ready for a second cutting and the rain doesn't hurt it one bit. But I am sad for Brian and the problems associated with heavy equipment ownership. This is why we are paying someone else to cut and bale our hay instead of spend lots of money on big equipment that occasionally breaks down and then has to be repaired. We will say a prayer for Brian tonight, for the problem to be an easy, not too expensive one that can be readily repaired. And for God to comfort him and give him a hug. He could use one about now.

Monday, September 7, 2009

What I Picked in the Garden This Afternoon

Butternut squash,
a few tomatoes,
some yellow crookneck squash,
a big mess of green beans, a few Providers, a smidge of Romanos, mostly Dragon's Tongue,
a couple of measly okra (PLEASE will you bear more okra??),
some peppers.

The kids picked some calendula and some mint to put in the dehydrator.

Hay Making-Part 2

Brian Burrell came out to mow on Saturday morning.

This afternoon Brian raked and baled as we watched the sky.

Rain? Sun?

The weather has been kind of funny. Very dark this morning. Felt like late October. The air was dense. Not really cold. Not really warm. The sun didn't come out and shine until late in the afternoon.

Thankfully the rain held off and we got most of the bales in the barn. Some friends came by with a trailer and picked up a load for their barn as well. Thomas and Patrick had another class in Organic Driver's Ed. What huge grins! Thomas is definitely improving on the start up and slow down.

If the rain continues to hold off we hope to make more hay tomorrow. Thomas, Patrick and Maggie are praying for sunshine. They want some more driving opportunity.

Everyone has finished up their scrambled egg sandwiches for supper. Patrick is cutting up some Ikenberry peaches to put in the dehydrator. We have to finish a couple of outdoor chores. Philip wanted to do something special for the kids since they worked so hard today. They helped clean out the old milking parlor, the tractor shed and the usual barn mucking. Then we hauled hay.

What to do?

We then remembered the Blue Collar Joe's Late Night Special! From 8-9pm our very favorite place of indulgence offers half priced doughnuts. It has been several weeks since we had some of their treats.

Seemed like the perfect plan. Cheap, local, decadent. And the best part is we have several hundred more bales of hay to move around so none of us have to worry about the calories!

I better pour the milk. I wonder what doughnut I will get? Botetourt Bog? German Chocolate? Chocolate Cheesecake? Nutty Buddy?


Hooray for Local Foods

This weekend at the farmer's market we bartered a pair of our locally grown wool hiking socks for some more fresh trout from Big Pine Trout Farm.

I have written in the past about my childhood Sunday dinners.

Sunday feels complete to me when we sit down as a family to a meal served on pretty plates with plenty of iced tea. We had some plates with a brown harvest pattern. The meat platter had a big rooster on it. Every Sunday after church we would come home to the smell of roast beef and onions, we would finish cooking up the vegetables, set the table with the fancy dishes and the special silverware, filled up the glasses with lots of ice and iced tea (not the sweet kind.) Mom would put on some classical music on the record player and we would sit down, give thanks and feast. Sometimes with guests, like the preacher or other church friends. Sometimes just us. Of course Daddy would have funny stories to tell and we would eat until we couldn't eat more. Most of the time Sunday involved some kind of dessert.

This Sunday we set the table with the pretty Blue Danube plates that used to belong to Philip's dad. We even set out the pretty old-fashioned glasses. We pan-fried the trout in butter. Sauteed some green beans from the garden with our onions. Boiled some of our potatoes and mashed them with homemade butter and cream. Made some homemade mayo with our eggs, added dill and capers for a delicious sauce for the trout. Peeled some carrots that we were given from our friend, Kevin Roberts. Served them on a fancy crystal dish with homemade pickles from the garden and some cute little cherry tomatoes from the garden. Had some homemade bread and butter on the side. For dessert Maggie made a blackberry cobbler with fresh stone-ground spelt.

It was so good. Even Nora tried teeny tiny little bites of everything, because as we all know, now that she is six it is a good idea to start trying more foods. She didn't really care for much of anything except the bread and butter, carrots and pickles, but at least she tried. Oh yes, she did care for the cobbler.

I felt complete.

So grateful for all the different flavors. Grateful for all the hands that helped make our meal happen. Eating locally makes such a difference. I can be grateful eating grocery store food. I know that many people were involved in getting that food to us and am thankful for them. But they are invisible. I know Jimbo, even if only casually, because I see him and his wife and daughter every week at the market. As we prepared the fish for the skillet I was thankful for their family raising the trout and catching it and especially gutting it! As we ate the crunchy carrots I thought about Kevin, who buys our bread every week. Kevin is a great supporter of the local foods movement. He brings the kids samples of his dried fruits and other goodies on a regular basis. We have already consumed our early carrot crop. What a treat to have some more from his garden. As I peeled them and cut them into spears I thought about how long it takes for carrots to grow and how generous he was with the fruit of his labors.

I remembered the day that Thomas and Philip planted the potatoes, the many days of harvesting those potatoes, the work of my dad making drying racks in the basement so the potatoes would not rot. Patrick planted the green beans, and many friends helped weed them so they would not be choked out.

Eating locally means eating well. Eating richly. It is almost a spiritual experience. Well, for me it is a spiritual experience.

I know that it is not practical for every person to eat like we do. It is much easier for us now that we live on the farm. For those who do not live on the farm it requires many more steps, greater expense, more effort. When I see our town friends make the commitment to support us and other small farmers I am amazed and humbled. It is easier to go to Wal Mart and get the ingredients for Sunday dinner. Easier and cheaper.

Thank you so much, Kevin, Jimbo, and Philip and kids for a yummy Sunday dinner.

And thank you, so much, locavores, for supporting us and all the other small farmers out there. You enable us to live a very rich life.

Hooray for local foods! And Sunday dinner and fancy dishes and a moment to sit and be still and enjoy.

Now, back to work. Labor day means Philip is home to help with the labor! Better go and make it count!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

New Things

A couple of weeks ago our home kitchen grain mill burst. Right in the middle of a busy baking morning.

The kitchen mill worked for a good long bit at commercial capacity but finally reached its limit. It would not go on one more day.

Philip and I decided that it was time to upgrade to a commercial mill. I researched and found a company in N. Wilkesboro, North Carolina called Meadows Mills. They are the only company in the US to still make stone burr mills out of granite. Most companies use a composite stone which sometimes has heavy metals and other bad stuff in it. The pink balfour granite mills the grain at a low temperature so that the nutrient content of the wheat is preserved.

On Nora's birthday, she, Thomas and I headed to North Carolina. We made a slight detour to my friend Julie's house.

"Julie, we are on our way, can we crash at your pad tonight?"

By the time we got there, bathing suits were set out, we jumped in their sparkling pool and enjoyed a very relaxing evening.

Julie has chickens, guineas and a turkey named George. George has take to chasing the children. He is a Royal Palm turkey, not terribly large but large enough to present a rather intimidating figure to children.

Next morning we headed to N. Wilkesboro with dried figs, homeschooling books, full tummies and a big packed lunch for the drive.

Oh, yes, and a big turkey named George in a cage in the back of the car.

George gobbled for a few minutes then settled down very nicely for the drive. He seemed to enjoy a nice lecture on the benefits of narration in the learning process. He really enjoyed the apple cores left over from our lunch. He didn't seem to have an opinion when we loaded up the new mill.

Philip asked me if the guys at the factory were curious about the live turkey in the back of our car. I told him they didn't seem curious at all. Maybe they are accustomed to customers with live turkeys picking up big grain mills. it was a new thing for us.

Nora suggested we call George "George Washington, like the president, Mommy." I think that is appropriate since we are going to study American History this year.

George seems to be happy here on the farm. He roosts on the top of the chicken yard fence, so high. I am amazed at how well he can fly.

"Gobble, gobble, gobble." He chases the kitties and wanders the farm. I hope we can find him a wife.

As for the mill, we set it up in the breakfast room.

It is a wonder.

Amazing how having the right tools can simplify one's job. Now I hope and pray we can acquire a used hobart mixer and another oven for the bakery. Thomas was pretty happy with the mill, too. His job has become a lot easier. We hope to add a line of stone ground flours and cornmeal to our market goods. Another farmer in our area has specialty corn this year. It will be fun to mill it for her. As we adjusted the stones to find the right spot for our grind we could smell if the stones got too close. Philip and the kids reminded me that the origin of the phrase "Keep your nose to the grindstone" didn't mean to push the stone with your nose but to smell the stones to see if they were too close. I felt like we were smelling and touching a piece of history.


So thanks, God for amazing gifts of technology and inventors who come up with tools that make our life easier. And thanks for friends like Julie who give us turkeys and sushi and homeschool cds. And thanks for the fun new noise on the farm, "Gobble gobble, gobble."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Nora, Honora Kathleen Hillery, September 2, 2003

Nora turned 6 yesterday.

She is growing tall and strong.

Yesterday we went to Thelma's Chicken and Waffles to enjoy our birthday mom and daughter date. Nora and I discussed all the things she learned during her 5th year.

She learned to count. Nora counted up to 40 or 50 for me. On her 5th birthday she could only get to 10 or 12.

By her 5th birthday Nora could write her name. Now she can easily recall (at least) most of the letters in her siblings and friends' names. Can write and copy. Her drawing has improved amazingly. I believe that 2009-2010 will be the school year we see Nora begin to read fluently.

Nora loves creative play. She spends a great deal of time with her dolls and little toys making up stories and acting them out.

Nora has a generous heart. I shared this story before, but I believe it is worth retelling. As I prepared to go to India this past winter Nora approached me. She gripped a worn dollar bill in her hand and extended it to me. She asked if I would take that dollar and use it to help the children in India. I took it, tucked it in my bag and gave her a big hug, treasuring her generosity. We prayed that God would take it and multiply it and use it in a wonderful way for the children in India.

During my trip I prayed for God to show me a significant way to use Nora's dollar. So many needs. A dollar seemed so little. What could we do when so many children were desperate?

The last leg of our trip was spent at the home of an Indian minister. He and his wife had taken in a dozen children whose families had lost everything in the Khandamal riots. I asked the wife how she was managing to feed them, and if they were able to afford milk for the children. She shared that she was worried about their growth as she did not have money in her weekly budget to afford milk. When I asked her how much one day's milk would cost she informed me it was equivalent to one dollar.

I found Nora's perfect gift! Nora, my milk drinker, was able to buy a big glass of milk for TWELVE growing children!

We went to the store, bought several days worth of milk and other nutritious foods and even some jam. We prayed that every time those children needed calcium for their bone's growth they would have enough money to buy some more milk.

I cried, thinking that God would use Nora's generous heart and generous gift to help those sweet little friends. Amazed at the reminder that our small gifts matter. Amazed at the opportunity to see my little Nora make a difference in the life of someone else.

Nora. She is sensitive. She is generous. She is grateful. She loves story time with Dad, cuddled on his lap.

Nora. She has chores. Last year her chores included cleaning up the shoe cubby area and cleaning her room. She made great strides in her 5th year in the room cleaning department. I anticipate even greater success this year. I suggested yesterday that now Nora is 6 we will be adding another chore. I know she can handle the responsibility.

Six will be a great year. A year of learning. My mother-in-law copied out a poem for Thomas when he was 6. She died before she was able to share that poem with any of the other kids. I share it now with you, Nora, consider it a card from your Jersey Momma, the one you never got to meet, but she was so happy when she found out you were going to be born. I think she would have loved to share this funny little poem with you.


When I was One,
I had just begun.

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

When I was Five,
I was just alive.

Now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever.
I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.
-from NOW WE ARE SIX by AA MIlne

Happy Birthday, Nora! I love you so much! I am so glad you were born. You add much to our family. It will be great fun to see you learn many many things this year. May you be blessed richly all through your life with opportunities to share your gifts with others.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Last night Philip and I had a team meeting.

Thomas made brownies yesterday afternoon around 4:30 and the kids ate the whole pan by 5:30 (with the exception of the two little pieces that I snagged). I was taking a walk around the farm when they scarfed down those treats. They were "Good For You Brownies" in that they were made with freshly milled spelt, succanat and real farm eggs. But I don't think it would qualify to be good for you if you ate the entire pan in one sitting.

So the kids had brownies and milk for supper.

They did chores, went to bed. Philip and I had Seedy Loaf bread cubed up, tossed with fresh tomatoes, fromage blanc (from Coco's milk), calamata olives and capers, saturated with balsamic vinegar, plenty of cracked pepper and sea salt. We took our little peasant meal out to the deck and discussed strategy, business, money, God and kids. We had to each get a long sleeve flannel shirt on as the cool breeze picked up. Last day of August and we needed a sweater--guess we aren't in Texas are we?

The bread salad was yummy. As we covered some topics that needed to be discussed we watched the three musketeers (little lambs) frolic and bounce. The moon rose over the ridge. It is past the half full state. Full moon is coming. The chickens and ducks discussed their own business as they settled in for the night.

Earlier in the day Philip and I talked about trying for a date. Things didn't work out for us to go out on the town. Never mind. A date on the deck was just as nice. Way cheaper, too! Guess it was a good thing that the kids ate all those brownies and didn't need supper...

We didn't solve all the problems of the world but we do believe that we have some strategies that will help us move into fall on the farm. We both are very positive that the farm is exactly where we are supposed to be.

Team meetings. Peasant food. Moon rising. Farm animals going to bed.

Of course, the reality of the evening was upon us and Philip and Thomas had to go change a tire on the suburban, I had to go clear the table and hit the sack for the early morning. But everything felt a lot better knowing we were on the same page.

PS On my walk around the farm I saw so many varieties of wildflowers. Amazing. Brilliant blue lobelia, stick weed, Queen Anne's lace, Black-eyed Susans, jewel weed, cardinal flower and many more I can't name. Patrick went out and picked me a bouquet of the cardinal flower and the lobelia. Stunning. Each of the flowers are so fantastic. The jewel weed looks like orchids. The weeds are high right now. As I strode through the overgrown section of pasture I disturbed a quail. Was grateful for all the habitat we have available for birds. Wonderful. Please go take a walk and look at your weeds. If you examine them closely you might be surprised at their beauty.