Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nearing the End


End of October.

Today was end of official farmer's market season at Grandin Village and Ikenberry's Orchard. The season has been long and tiring. I haven't had a weekend off from baking since very early April. The last two weeks have felt a bit like torture. The grueling final 100 yards of the marathon, aching, sweating, pain coursing through the body.

Well, I have never actually run a marathon so I have no idea what one feels nearing the end. But in the case of market season, it has been painful. Too many hours on my feet. Too many hours awake in a row. But with an end in sight.

After a week off we will return to the site of the market and make bread drop offs. We will deliver bread to people who order ahead of time. I am absolutely humbled and astonished at the loyal support of our customers. Today I felt loved and appreciated by our customers. They love our breads and other farm goods and are grateful for my labor and efforts. They want to see our farm succeed. They are kind and make me feel loved.

Sometimes at the end of a 20 hour work day I wonder why I do this job. I feel a bit jealous of those other gals and guys who get to put on nice clothes, have adult conversations and do important work. Work in a clean office. Work that makes a salary and garnishes respect. I occasionally feel a bit envious of those folks watching TV, hanging out at the restaurants, or listening to the musicians. But if I wait long enough I remember the reason I chose this vocation.

Farming? Vocation?

I think so, at least for me.

One of the reasons we moved to the farm was to create the opportunity to raise health filled food for our kids. I wanted them to have the opportunity to eat nutrient-dense foods that would build healthy bodies. I also wanted them to appreciate the value of real food, to know the cost of real food, to know how it gets from dirt to table. All about food but somehow very spiritual for me. So many verses in the Bible speak of food, the land, agriculture. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

After over 4 years on the farm those Bible lessons have become amazingly pertinent to us.

Real food has also become very pertinent to us.

When we eat it is an exercise in gratitude. When we prepare foods for others it is an opportunity to transfer blessings to others. Every baking day we pray that the people who need our breads will find their way to market. That our breads and meats and milks and veggies would bring nourishment to the bones of those who partake.

Today we enjoyed steel gray clouds, fleeting sunshine, pumpkins, princesses, giant banana children, dogs on leashes who love our cornbread, hugs, chats, plans and farewell until the next growing season. We shared abundance, enjoyed others' abundance, we reveled in community.

Customer seems like an inadequate description when I think about the relationship we have with our grain, the mill, the milk and honey, the steam, the oven, the smell of yeasty goodness, sweat, tears, vitamins, sunshine, butcher paper, and families sharing grilled cheese and peanut butter and family pizza night. Guess I feel silly trying to describe the emotions. I guess if I were to distill it, it gives me joy to work hard and produce something that nourishes another person's body and spirit. I am probably going to feel pretty silly when I reread these lines later on. But I want to remember that even though at times I get tired and want to quit and run away to a town job and paint my fingernails I don't really. It is a satisfying thing to have a job with a purpose. Eating food that comes from a real person instead of a factory is a good thing. On many levels.

So the marathon is important. The aches, the outpouring of energy and sweat. All help us to remember that there is a cost to making really good foods. If it were that easy, everyone would do it. I was designed to work hard. Trained well by my parents!

But, oh joy! Am I ever going to enjoy sleeping in next Friday morning!!!

BTW, Philip is being the wonder Dad, taking the kids to trick-or-treat with friends in town. Thomas is dressed up in his grandfather's suit and hat. What a handsome guy! Patrick is an army man, of course. Maggie is a Greek princess. She looks stunning. Rose is Laura Ingalls, Her braids and bonnet, her freckled nose and mischievous grin are perfect. Nora is an angel. Silvery white, wings, and very, very excited about all the candy which she assures me she will not eat in one sitting, but will enjoy one piece a day and make it last for a very long time. We shall see. And don't I wish you could see Philip! He made himself a body builder costume! He looks just like one of those cartoon body builder characters, barbells and everything! What a good sport!

I am going to watch a Spanish scary movie, El orfanato(The Orphanage), and go to sleep.

Guess I should mention that as we drove home from market today, I noticed that the fall colors are nearing their end. Maple trees have their feet planted in pools of molten gold. The ridge is dominated by tired grey tree trunks, getting a little rusty around the edges. The air today was warm. Sultry. Or sullen. Over 70 degrees in town and slightly weepy. Maybe it wants to burst into storm but is waiting for the children to get tucked inside to count the candy and divvy up. Kids are more than pleased that the forecasted rain has not made an appearance yet.

PS OK, I know this is getting long, but everyone is gone, the house is still and I am enjoying myself!

I wanted to note for the record that my children have been making fun of me behind my back. They told Philip they have been watching my dance moves with George, the Royal Palm turkey. George agressively approaches me, I back away, desperately looking for a stick to use in my defense. He gobbles. I threaten. I tell him I am going to eat him for Thanksgiving dinner and he puffs his feathers in a dare. I skirt around the yard, looking for a way to get to the house without being flogged. The children laugh at me from their safe position behind the windows in the breakfast room.

Thanks a lot.

I told them I wasn't afraid of George. I believed what I said until I noticed that even Nora commands more respect from George. She doesn't even carry a stick. Hmmmm. Whatever the case, he better watch out! Or I had better pick up some tips from Nora.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Other White Meat

The boys and I drove back to Lewisburg, WV, to pick up our pork yesterday. The drive over the mountain was so beautiful. We had a great time talking about farm vision, winter plans, and learning how to drive.

We got home and were greeted by the scene of three little girls making pumpkin pie. Homemade whole wheat crust, pumpkin puree from the garden, eggs and cream.

I fried up pork chops for supper. Obvious choice! They were delicious. Baked potatoes on the side, milk and honey toast, goat's milk gravy over all of it. Pumpkin pie for dessert.

Maggie is ready to live on her own now, but I hope she stays here for a few more years. She can make omelets, cook veggies and meats, make amazing cookies and wonderful pie with homemade crusts. The first pumpkin pie of the season was consumed, I mean inhaled. So was most of the second one. We were quite satisfied with ourselves as I read the evening chapters of a biography we are studying for school.

This morning I cooked pork sausage for breakfast. We were so pleased to have that back on the menu. I am going to have to ration the sausage. We won't sell very much. It is moist, but not greasy. Well flavored but not overly salty. Let's hear it for pastured pork.

This afternoon I rendered the fat into lard. The ground up fat went into the kettle. I stirred and stirred as the fat melted and the little bits of cracklings popped. The lard was strained into clean mason jars and now sits to cool. I wish everyone had some snow white lard in their kitchen, ready for pies, stir-fries, fried eggs, whatever. Especially lard made from pastured pork. I read that lard from pork that ate lots of grass is a decent source of vitamin D. Hmmm. Isn't there a problem with people being deficient in vitamin D?

Anyway, that lard is white gold to me. Maybe Patrick will make some freshly milled spelt or whole wheat biscuits with that lard tomorrow to eat for breakfast.

Now, I better go check on the split pea soup that is cooking on the woodstove. The rain is chilly. Split pea soup and cornbread is on our menu for tonight. Cornbread with cracklins leftover from the lard. Come on over!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cheese, Glorious Cheese

The other day Thomas ran up to the mailbox. He returned to the house bearing a big box.

What could that be?

I hadn't ordered anything. We looked and it was a package from my dear friend, Julie.

She mentioned there was a gift on the way and I had forgotten.

What in the world could that girl have sent?

We hurriedly tore open the tape and dug into the box. It was heavy, unwieldy.

I pulled it out of the box and my mouth opened wide. Julie's dad made me a beautiful cheese press. Perfect for making hard cheese. Some time ago I had mentioned how one of these days I hoped to get a cheese press for making hard cheese. She mentioned it to her dear old dad who is an accomplished wood worker. He looked up plans and made the most lovely of practical objects.

What an incredible gift. I have wished for a press for a couple of years. This press is not only lovely, but such a practical gift. And one that will last for years and years. And I know the hands that made it. Amazing.

Happy early birthday to me! What will the first cheese be? Romano? Cheddar? Can I please learn to make gruyere?

PLEEEEEEASE, Priscilla. Hurry up and have your baby. (I am wondering if she was not bred by the neighbor's bull and maybe she was bred by Duncan in March? Could that be true? Could it be possible she is only 7 or 8 months pregnant and we have to wait until December? Oh, well, if that is true, we better enjoy the break because when winter rolls around we could possibly be milking two cows,)

Dear friend, Julie, and Grandpa Ted, thank you so much for your kindness. Your gifts to me are so sweet. I will always treasure that cheese press. Functional Art. I can't wait until I can give you some cheese made from it!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rachel Banks was Back!

Our dear friend Rachel came for a visit this afternoon.

If you have been a long-term blog follower or family friend, you might remember Rachel. She lived with us for a time last year and worked as an intern on the farm. I have never known a lot of 19 year olds who would volunteer to shovel manure, wash dishes, milk goats and other hard labor for any length of time. Rachel not only volunteered, but consistently went the extra mile as she served our family. Guess I have to say that that has also been the case of every other young person who has come to help work on this farm. She not only worked hard, every day, she also loved our children and blessed them richly. As a result, they loved her right back.

We still love her, even if it is from afar, as she is now going to college in another state.

When Nora heard the news that Rachel was coming for a quick Saturday afternoon visit her eyes opened wide with delight.

"Rachel Banks is coming?!"

The girls immediately went to work on birthday card projects, remembering their sweet friend.

Along with Rachel we enjoyed getting to meet her dad. We walked around the farm, showed them the new forts built by the kids over the summer, showed off the barn full of hay, introduced the new lambs and the four little pigs. Explained that if George the turkey tries to chase you, don't run, just get a stick!

When we left for the farmer's market this morning the dark clouds dumped rain. As soon as we got to town it seemed like a curtain was lifted and the blue skies and sun came out. Fall turned into Indian Summer. Sweat dripped. It was over 80 degrees! What a change after the 26 degrees the other day.

Perfect for a walk on the farm with our dear friend, Rachel Banks and her dad. Glorious fall is now more orange and brown than red and green. We are nearing the end of October. Halloween costumes are definitely the most urgent concern of all children 12 and younger.

After saying goodbye to our precious friend, we prepared to go to a hoedown at the home of some neighbor friends. The bonfire raged, the wind picked up, the kettle of hobo stew bubbled in the cauldron. Children played fun games, homemade doughnuts were consumed, new friends made.

Tired, we headed back home to quiet.

The moon is a crescent, tipping down. Growing. The wind is growing as well. I am growing sleepy and am so thankful to have a nice warm bed to fall into.

Most of all, with all the other fun people we were around today, I am especially thankful for the special bond we have with someone who slept in our house, ate our food, worked, played and prayed with us. What a dear friend is our Rachel Banks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pumpkin Soup

Today the children and I cleaned out the barn for school. We raked stalls, swept floors, general cleanup.

Manure is so daily.

We also moved the four little piggies out to their new home in the portable pen in the garden. That is, the royal we. Actually, Thomas and Patrick caught the little boogers, put then in a cage and carted them out. I love delegation! The four little pigs were absolutely delighted. They went right to work rooting up weeds, eating grass and frolicking with each other. Their little pink ears flopped in the breeze.

It was such a lovely day I let the turkeys out of their portable coop. They too were delighted. George, the royal palm big daddy turkey herded them around the farm, introducing them to the most tender grass spots and the best places to catch bugs. What a big world.

I met a gal at the Grandin Farmer's market this spring. She and her hubby work on a farm in Floyd. We grab quick hellos and hey, how's it goings while we busily tend to market business. Ever since May we have wished to grab some time to swap stories and dreams, but alas, the life of a farmer is pretty full. Hard for either to get off the premises.

Today they were able to take a day to hike up to McAfee's Knob. Afterward they meandered over here for lunch.

What fun to spend the day hanging out! We made curried pumpkin soup and homemade spelt naan. Naan is a fluffy Indian bread that we LOOOOVE. I love getting to hear dreams and share our journey and laugh. These folks are about to move to start up their own farm in another state. We won't be seeing them at market next year.

Too bad.

But thanks to their willingness to travel a fer piece, we got to make a sweet connection and internet is a handy way too keep in touch until their path flows this way again. I believe they have their own blog so it will be fun sharing farm journeys.

In case you have a pumpkin sitting around, I hope you will eventually roast it. Best thing to do is cut it in half, scrape out the seeds and goo, put cut side down on a cookie sheet and roast at 350 degrees til soft. Scoop out the flesh and run it through the blender. You now have pumpkin puree that is wayyy better than the canned stuff. Especially if you grew it yourself or bought it locally. Make your chicken broth and add lots of pumpkin. A generous serving of curry powder. Use a hand held blender if you have one to blend the soup into a silky concoction. I like to add heavy cream (WHEN we are milking the cow!). Taste then salt to your preference. A dollop of sour cream and a dash of tabasco are nice touches. With or without, it is a great soup for warming your belly.

Sometime I will have to give you my recipe for naan. Homemade whole wheat or spelt naan is so much better than storebought.

I hope everyone is enjoying this weather. Warm. Indian summer? Absolutely delicious. Just like pumpkin soup and friends!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First Hard Freeze

Monday morning the temperature was 26 degrees at around 7am.

Cold. I lost my gamble with the garden. I should have placed sheets and blankets over the tomatoes, the peppers and the okra. Was too tired.

This morning the temperature was 30 degrees. The squash plants are dead. The green beans are gone. The okra is over.

That is okay. I will miss all the fresh summer garden vegetables but I am a bit tired of gardening. We gathered in the pumpkins, the mountains of spaghetti squash and the remaining unscathed peppers. Hopefully the broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and turnips will bear before long.

The day warmed up to the 60s. Our uninvited guests, the ladybugs, came back in full force. They stormed the house. They swarmed and dive-bombed. They snuck in through cracks and crevices.

Those little invaders look sweet and innocent. After a few years on the farm, however, we know better. See my ladybug post from last year for a very funny story by Ross. Whatever you do, please don't let any ladybugs crawl into your ear, your nose or any other orifice!

So, we are full of beans and cornbread. Philip and Patrick are chasing away coyotes. The rest of us are off to dreamland. Another day of adventure awaits.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Another Trip to West Virginia

Today we delivered the big pig to the butcher. Nora accompanied me. She is so excited to know that sausage is coming to our house very soon. Sausage and eggs are some of her favorite foods. Next to candy.

We drove the short/long way home down 311. Went through Paint Bank. It was a glorious fall day and Nora and I enjoyed each other's company as we wound our way home. My main mistake was not stopping at the Paint Bank General Store to buy Nora an icecream. Next time.

We ate a late dinner. Maybe some people wonder why I feel compelled to write about so many of our meals. Maybe they think I am bragging. I hope not. I guess I want to highlight the wonderful foods we are grateful to eat. I also hope that maybe some of our menus will give you readers the hope that you, too, can create amazing dinners out of local foods.

For example.

Tonight we had whole trout from Jimbo, I put chopped up ginger and garlic in the cavity of the fish, nothing else, and pan-fried it in a big skillet. We put some of Randy Deel's delicious sweet potatoes in the oven whole, nothing fancy. I had collard greens in the fridge courtesy of the Good Food, Good People friends from Floyd. What to do with collard greens? I have never in my life cooked collards. Have always seen them, semi-grey in a can. Well. We don't really like semi-grey things out of a can. SO, I rinsed them, cut them up, put some olive oil in the wok, sauteed our garden onions, some ginger and garlic. When the onions were soft, I put the collards in the wok. Added a couple of tablespoons of toasted sesame oil. A splash of soy sauce. A small handful of sesame seeds. A splash of water to help the collards cook down. While they simmered and the sweet potatoes baked, the trout fried. Crispy skin and tails. I had a jar of garlic chili sauce that had been languishing in the cabinet for nearly a year. Warmed it up for using as a sauce for the trout.

It wasn't that difficult. Every bit of it was local and seasonal. Took less than 20 minutes to cook (with the exception of the sweet potatoes.) Less time to cook than to order chinese, that is, if we lived in an area where we could order in chinese. All of it, with the exception of the seasoning, was bartered. If we had purchased the ingredients, they would have cost less than chinese takeout.

So, the method to my madness, or the compulsion to record delicious menus... I want everyone to know that they too can come up with tasty, unusual, creative ways to eat food grown by themselves or their neighbors. I want you to be brave and give it a shot. I believe that good food is an incredible way to know that there is a God who loves us and wants us to enjoy good things.

Coming up with menus is a lot of fun for me. I have a few friends who call on a regular basis around five o'clock and ask me to give them suggestions for their dinner menu. We discuss the ingredients they have on hand and come up with a doable plan.

Well, anyway, the trout was fantastic. The creamy flesh, the spicy ginger, garlic and chili sauce contrasted nicely with the collards. The collards definitely had more substance than, say, spinach, but were tender and the sesame seeds gave them a nice crunch. The orange sweet potato gave the plate color and the nutty sweet root, salted and peppered, not even buttered, offset the spicy chili sauce.

Tomorrow we will probably have beans and cornbread. Curried butternut squash soup another night. But this weekend, pork.


Glorious pork. Sausage, pork chops, roast and bacon.

Nora, I foresee many breakfasts in our near future consisting of fried eggs and sausage. Yummm.

"Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who trusts in him." Psalm 34

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Another Day at the Market

Philip and Patrick are gone this weekend. Left yesterday at noon.

That left me baking and the rest of the family to tend chores and get ready to sell at market.

Believe me, I am thrilled that Philip and Patrick had the invitation to join friends to watch the Blue Angels perform. They work hard and it makes me happy to see them get a down day.

Even so, I was a bit concerned how the rest of us would handle a working weekend.

A cry for help went out to Rebecca, my dear friend.

She not only volunteered to help sell breads, etc, at the Grandin Farmer's Market, she even volunteered to show up at our house at 7am on a SATURDAY to load up and take the girls to show her the ropes. When she got here we had been up for hours, doing chores, baking, separating, picking garden and other farmer's market type of stuff. She just jumped in, helped write price lists by hand when the computer quit working, carried stuff out to her car and basically took off to market with virtually no instruction, just a blessing and a hug. I guess I had faith and total confidence in the ability of Maggie and Rose to show her the ropes.

I headed north to Daleville with Thomas and Nora to man the Ikenberry Farmer's Market. Patrick's territory. He has been the young man in charge all 2009 season.

It was such a pleasure to hug necks of other vendors and loyal customers. I loved seeing all our Botetourt friends. It was a real hug back to see that they missed me too and were happy to see me. It was also a real treat to hear so many people comment on Patrick and his wonderful salesmanship.

The downside was the blustery breezy brisk 41 degree temperatures that assaulted us. A wonder any customers came out at all. The hours ticked by, the bread, beef and other goodies slowly made their way off the table and into bags and we gratefully headed home to drop off our leftovers and run into Roanoke to pick up Maggie and Rose and our other farmer's market paraphenalia.

Tired. low blood sugar, we cruised into Grandin neighborhood, picked up gals, deposited moolah into the bank. We really needed a good weekend to cover several rather large financial needs this week. Considering the weather I figured we would come up short. What a sigh of relief when we added up the sums and found out we had made JUST enough. Not too much, not too little. Made me think of that wonderful verse in Proverbs 30:8-9

"Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, "Who is the LORD?" or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."

Once again I was humbled by the generosity of the people who chose to buy from us instead of Wal Mart. I know Wal Mart is cheaper. I know times are tough and everyone is having to be more careful with their pennies. I was grateful.

Tired, but grateful.

Upon coming home, we unloaded, checked on Priscilla (still the same), the turkeys, the sheep, the garden. I opted out on covering up plants, hoping for a light frost, not a hard freeze. Wanted to go straight to bed but needed to eat.

We had some leftover steak uncooked from the other night. That seemed like not only the most logical, but the most sensible option.

With some money I had received from someone as a tip I bought some shiitake mushrooms from one of the other farmers at the market. I also got some more butternut squash and sweet potatoes. Didn't feel like a muti-course meal so I stashed the other veggies and sauteed some of the shiitakes in the very last of Coco's butter. Added a little garlic. Then carmelized one of our onions in that very same butter. Then threw on the ribeye, coated in cracked black pepper with garlic. Medium rare. Just barely. Generous with the sea salt. Opened the bottle of wine I bartered for some lamb chops. Took my feast into the living room, lit beeswax candles the girls made (because our light doesn't work in there and I didn't feel like fixing it.) Ate my carniverous feast whilst the girls ate their baked potatoes. Thomas joined our cozy retinue and we had the best time discussing holidays. First we covered halloween costumes as that is the pressing concern of all the 12 and under in our house. Then we talked about Thanksgiving and our hopes and expectations. We discussed our sadness that we might not be able to go to Texas again this year. We wondered if we needed to stay home because maybe there were some friends out there who might need to have a family with whom they need to share their holiday. We remembered our former Thanksgivings with friends and how fun it is to share tradition with friends.

Then we got on the topic of Christmas. We had so much fun, each one of us, sharing what we would get for each other if we had all the money in the world. Or if we only had a few dollars. I was amazed at how well the children knew each other and how appropriately they chose. They never even thought about themselves. We laughed about silly gifts people give that are never used and the ones we treasure forever. We wondered about how nice it is that some years we have more money to get fancy stuff and other years it is more simple but every year is terrific. The fire died down, the plates emptied, the candles flickered out. We yawned, hugged and headed each to our cozy beds.

I sit now and type for a couple of minutes, desperate with the need to capture, for at least a moment, the relief at not missing an opportunity. I thought I wanted to go isolate myself, leave the kids to themselves, read a book and go to sleep by 7:45. The kids would have been fine. They know how little sleep I get on the weekend. They love to read a good book themselves.

Thank goodness.

Tonight we had a fire in the woodstove, a feast, even if a simple one. After so many different wonderful faces at the market this morning, we needed a dark room and comfortable chatter and fantastical imaginings. Dreams and laughter and thoughts of castles being built in the hay field and crowns and fancy dresses and commercial kitchens and housekeepers, and lots and lots of books and billions of dollars of dark chocolate and rooms full of doll clothes and grand pianos and collections of knives and a lifetime supply of chewing gum and New York and lifetime tickets to Yankees baseball games. And oh, so much more.

I almost missed out.

But I didn't.

So glad.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Beef, It's What's for Dinner

We drove to Lewisburg, West Virginia today to Greenbrier Foods. They are the family owned business that processes our meats when we need USDA inspected processors. Greenbrier does a great job. We appreciate their hard work. I have helped butcher lots of animals and believe you me, it is a joy to pick up nicely packaged white papered portions of meat.

Today we picked up the beef. We ate up the last of our beef a month or two ago. Even though we have had lots of other types of meats, there is something about red meat that makes me feel quite satisfied.

We have a tradition around here. The day we bring home the beef we have steaks for supper. A way to celebrate the abundance.

It is a bit surprising how few steaks come with a whole beef. Steaks mean a celebration.

Tonight we celebrated red meat. And Moose. And Coco, the mother of Moose.

The last steer we had processed was in February. It was good meat, nice and lean. But this meat is a bit more tender, a bit more fat. We think it is due to all the milk he scammed off of Coco every chance he could. That steer never was completely weaned. Probably all the nice grass this summer had something to do with it too.

Anyway, we are thankful. Thankful to have a nice way to enjoy grass in its red form. Moose never ate more than a handful of grain. He was a happy steer, free to range over our farm.

What a beautiful thing to have so many different wonderful things to eat that come off this farm.

PS It has been wet and cold around the farm. Drizzly. The wood stove has been fired up. We have kept it going yesterday and today. What a great way to dry clothes when the clothesline is out of commission! We felt quite proud of ourselves using the woodstove to dry clothes, heat house and cook our supper yesterday (vegetarian black bean soup). Multi-tasking the old-fashioned way.

PPS I have been looking up recipes for turtle soup. Anyone want to hunt some turtles?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Patrick the Courageous

Yesterday we had our homeschool coop. At one point I went out onto the deck and looked at the pond. We noticed a group of wild ducks were visiting our Rouens. They swam around and chattered with each other. Maybe catching up on the news from up north.

All of a sudden one of the wild ducks began to struggle. It flapped its wings, trying in vain to take flight. The other ducks, wild and domesticated, swam to the side of the pond and looked on in terror.

"Patrick! Come quickly! Throw something! Get that snapping turtle to let go of that duck!"

Patrick ran out to the pond, barefoot, and grabbed a stick. He waded into the silty cold muck and was finally able to get the snapping turtle to release its death grip. The visiting duck sped across the pond to the rest of the gang and they all flew away.

They didn't come back for a visit.

Patrick was wet and cold.

We were proud of him. I felt so helpless looking on at that near brush with death. But I didn't rush out to stick my feet in the cold wet pond. Patrick did. Thank you Patrick for helping the little duck. The snapping turtle will have to find his supper some other time.

I think we have an out of balance ecosystem with a few too many turtles. What is the natural predator of the snapping turtle???

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What We Had for Dinner Tonight

Tuesday is homeschool coop day and ladies Bible study night.

While the kids hunted for hickory nuts before lunch I strolled down the field to check on Priscilla, the heifer. The woods were filled with breezy chatter, soft wind rustling and blowing colorful leaves like party confetti. The grass was green, the stream bed was dry. Priscilla and Coco were cuddled up next to one another, giving each other affectionate nuzzles.

I can't really tell if she is farther along or not. I guess she is definitely farther along, but just how far, I don't know. After the kids took off after drama class I went out to check on the boys' clean up work in the barn. They were doing a great job. Coco's old stall is now ready for Priscilla, raked out, nice and clean layer of hay. The afternoon was so lovely I had to take another stroll down the old hay meadow to visit with Priscilla and Coco. Priscilla let me scratch her face and back. Very unusual. She never lets me near her on any typical day. Imminent signs of delivery? Who knows.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on paperwork and emails. By 6:30 I was very hungry. We had to cancel Bible study since several of the ladies couldn't make it. I was glad to have the opportunity for a family dinner. Here is what we ate:

Fresh trout fillets bartered from Jimbo with Big Pine Trout Farm in New Castle.
Sweet potatoes bartered from one of the other Botetourt Family Farmers at ikenberry's.
Fresh green beans and onions from the garden and a tomato salad from the garden.

Here's what I did with them:

quartered the sweet potatoes, dusted with curry powder and sea salt and roasted at 350 degrees with coconut oil.
Sauteed the green beans with onions and garlic in a bit of oil, generous sea salt.
Quartered the golden and red tomatoes, tossed with toasted sesame oil, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, apple cider vinegar and sea salt.
Pan-fried the trout fillets in a bit of coconut oil til skin was nice and crispy.
Made a peanut sauce to top the fish by sauteeing fresh ginger, garlic and minced onion til fragrant, added 1/4 c. soy sauce, 1/4 c. vinegar, 1 small can coconut milk, 1/2 natural peanut butter, 3 tbsp succanat. Simmered until nice and creamy. Added red pepper flakes.

Most of the family thought the peanut sauce was weird, but Maggie, Philip and I loved it. I will use the rest of the sauce in a cold noodle toss or something.

It was really yummy. All the colors on the plate made me quite pleased. The yellow and red of the tomatoes contrasted with the pale pink of the fish, the brown nutty sauce, and the green and yellow beans and orange potatoes made me think of my afternoon autumn walk. Eating our familiar foods dressed up in foreign clothes pleased my taste buds. But what pleased me most of all was having us all around the table to listen to Philip tell silly stories to make us laugh.

BTW, Philip thinks our friend's cow's milk tastes just like Coco's milk. Everyone drank several glasses of it at dinner so I think they are pleased to have any cow's milk, as long as it is fresh and raw!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Coco's milk supply is truly diminishing. We are down to 3/4 gallon a day. Not enough for cow shares, family and baking.

We get 3/4 gal goat milk a day, give or take and that is used for yogurt, cheese, baking and goat shares.

Goat's milk is great but I want the feel of heavy cream in my coffee. Thick, creamy like a hug from a good friend, like a blazing fireplace on a cool winter's night, like fog on a warm night. Strong coffee with Coco's cream is a meditation for me every morning. An assurance that whatever the day might bring, we will make it. We have riches. Abundance.

Drinking Coco's cream is more than a ritual. After almost two years of milking, it is a relationship. I can feel her warm flank and smell her hay smell and remember the sound of milk streaming into cold stainless steel. I can feel her tail whack me when she grows impatient. Drinking her cream, I drink the clover and the sunshine, the wind and the rain.

Okay, okay, maybe you think I am getting a little ridiculous. But it really does feel that way to me.

Which is why I felt like a traitor the other day. Our farm acquaintance has a family cow and I requested some milk from her to get us through the dry spell at the end of the week. I needed milk for baking bread and for cream for the coffee. We were so short I wanted to make sure the kids had plenty to drink. We even had to cancel some of our cow shares. I picked up a couple of gallons, thrilled to have some extra raw milk.

The milk was great. Really. My coffee tasted fine.

But something in my gut felt like I cheated on Coco. I wanted to rush outside and tell her I was sorry for drinking someone else's milk. That it was terrible. That nothing could measure up to her milk. I wanted to tell her I would never again savor a cup of coffee until she was back into the milking game.

I didn't.

But I wanted to.

Maybe I will.

The kids did ask me if the milk in their cereal was from another cow since they didn't think it tasted the same.

"Was it bad?" I asked.

"Not as creamy," said they (once they heard it was not Coco's milk. )

I think they felt a bit odd drinking someone else's milk too. But not so odd we won't continue to supplement during the dry spell.

We are so thankful for the wonderful milk that does indeed taste every bit as creamy and sweet as Coco's milk.

And thank you even more, Coco. I love you so much, I can't imagine going a few months without your milk. But in a few days you will be on a nice pre-maternity leave. We want you to have plenty of time for that baby to grow healthy and strong. Then we will be back together.

What I Picked in the Garden This Afternoon

A few okra.
A nice mess of green beans, provider, dragon's tongue, but mostly romano.
Some beautiful golden tomatoes.
A big bowl of juliet paste tomates.
Chile rellenos and poblanos.
MORE spaghetti squash. We must have over a dozen waiting in the garden for me to carry in. Maybe more. One monstrosity is as large as 2 and a half footballs. That is a lot of spaghetti squash. I know what we will be eating all winter!

There are several cheese pumpkins ready but I am leaving them out to cure.

Poor Maggie

Last Thursday the kids went out to the barn to do some general pickup. Old buckets strewn about by the colossal winds. Boards pushed or pulled out of place by big animals. Feed bags. Detritus. They were especially working on picking up some boards with old rusty nails. Boards knocked out of place by Boaz or some other big horned creature. We certainly didn't want any kids getting stuck with an old rusty nail.

Rose came in bearing news that Maggie stepped on a board with a dirty rusty nail while picking up the other board with a dirty rusty nail. The nail went through her shoe and up into the ball of her foot. It really hurt.

Rose fixed her sister up with a hot epsom salt foot bath, we made Maggie and cup of tea and then went about our business.

Rose did the milking for Maggie, all by herself.

Maggie's foot continued to hurt.

Next day it hurt even more. She did another salt soak and was given permission to sit around with the foot up. Great opportunity to catch up on her history reading. The pain was severe so she took an ibuprofen. We didn't even think of calling the doctor because most of our little bumps and bruises fix up pretty nicely with a few herbs, a hug and a prayer.

Saturday morning I noticed that Maggie's foot was starting to swell so she stayed home from farmer's market with Rose to play nurse. When I gave them a call and heard that there was a red area appearing on the top of Maggie's foot I had a feeling we had a problem. Called our family doctor who directed us to the the ER. We rushed home, dropped off our market paraphenalia and headed back to Roanoke to the hospital. The doctors assured us that it was not a frivolous visit as foot puntures can be very serious if not deadly when infection develops. They gave us a prescription for an antibiotic and we got home after dark, tired but happy to have nipped the problem in the bud.

We avoid antibiotics and doctor visits at all costs. However, there are times when a case warrants such intervention and I am so thankful for the people who discovered and developed such wonderful help for us. Rusty nail infections can be very serious. I hope Maggie's foot heals very quickly.

In the meantime, we are all filling in her milking shoes (or should I say milking hands?). Maggie gets to hang out in bed and rest. I carried her breakfast in bed this morning and it was a joy to serve her as she serves me so often. It was a boring day for her since the rest of us left her to go to church.

She hobbled out to the garden with me for a bit this afternoon and cuddled Tabby her kitty while I picked veggies. She spoke to the goats through the fence as they grazed around the pond. They ignored her. I think they are a bit put out that she is letting someone else milk them. What sassy creatures are our goats.

Get well soon, Maggie!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I just have to mention that the mornings are brilliant this season. Dark gray gives way to many shades of sky blue. The emerald fields glow in early morning sunshine (actually, not so early morning due to the ridiculous daylight savings time). Fall colors seem to burst forth as I scan the tree line. The air feels crisp, like a macintosh. Definitely jeans and sweater weather, even if we might be sweating by midday.

Fall. My absolutely favorite season. That is, until winter comes along. Then spring, then summer. But for now, it is fall. Glory to the God who created oranges and browns and greens and goldens. Who created the smell of fallen leaves and smoke and apples. Who made the earth tilt so the sun would have the opportunity to come up from the other side of the ridge for a change of scenery.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

Thank you, Mom, for all you are. You showed me beautiful things. You taught me to love rocks and waterfalls and clouds and music and Sunday dinners. You taught me to pray. You taught me to make biscuits. You encourage me and believe in me and remind me to take a break.

I am so glad you were born. I am proud of you. You are a great example to me. Thank you for continuing to follow your dream as you paint.

I hope this is a really great year for you. Wish you lived closer. PLEASE come and visit. We will keep the fires burning high so you won't get too cold!

Love you, Ginger

PS If anybody wants to see some amazing art, check out my mom, Fran Rowe. You can see some of her paintings at You can also see a few of her pieces here at the farm!

What's the Deal, Priscilla?

I looked up last year's blog to determine when we should expect Priscilla to deliver. She was at the neighbor's farm with a bull from October to mid-December. We thought she would have a calf by mid-September.

Still no baby.

She is definitely pregnant.

She waddles. Her udder is a bit bigger. Her stomach is huge. She looks terribly uncomfortable and is quite irritable.

Rose goes out to check on her every day, at least twice to three times a day. Very little change.

Sometimes we think maybe she isn't even pregnant. How long could this take, for goodness' sake? She never did go into heat when Duncan the bull came to live with us in March, so that is a pretty good indication she was already pregnant.

Guess we will find out eventually!

Speaking of babies, Willie, the billy goat, came for a visit last week. I believe all the big goats are bred to deliver in late February-early March. We are thinking that WIllie will make for cute babies. He is an Alpine goat. But what a nasty house guest. Let's just say that you should NEVER want to be called an old goat. Yuck. Stinky old thing!

Continuing to speak of babies, Boaz is back to thinking he is a sheep and has been hanging with the ewes. We expect a nice crop of lambs come late February or early March.

As I type, the dogs continue to bark.

Daddy, would you please come to visit and help remedy our coyote problem???

Even More Harvesting

Last Thursday we got up early and butchered around 30 some-odd chickens. Broilers, roasters and roosters.

Bob and Jeanine came and helped. We had a few snags with the chicken plucker but thankfully Bob knows how to mechanic and he made it work for us. Everybody had their role. Patrick was on slaughter duty. Maggie and Rose caught and carried chickens. They also helped eviscerate. Thomas was on the water scalder. I gutted. Jeanine plucked stray feathers. Nora kept herself entertained. We were all done by noon then I headed to West Virginia to pick up the lamb at the butcher.

What a joy to have meat in the freezer.

The broilers were raised in the chicken tractor this time. We let them grow to a full 12 weeks since that is what is recommended for the French organic standard, the Label Rouge. The broilers weighed from 6.5lbs-8lbs. We roasted one for Sunday dinner to share with the Thomas family after church. It was amazing. Not only a delicious, tender bird, but the roast fed all 12 of us, everybody having seconds and thirds, plus lunch the next day.

We may not raise all the broilers to 12 weeks but we certainly will raise enough to have a nice big fat one for Sunday dinner every once in awhile. Sure was good.

Saturday night we had lamb chops. Tender and sweet. Garlicky with a side of peppers from the garden, cooked with vinegar. Baked potatoes from the cellar. Sauteed green beans. Fall equals GOOD FOOD!

A Time To Harvest

We delivered Moose and a lamb to the butcher a couple of weeks ago.

Moose was our first calf to be born here. He was an almost 2 year old steer and it was time for him to fulfill his purpose in life.

I sort of wanted to cry when I took him off the trailer but I didn't. I told him goodbye and said thank you. I still miss him and find myself looking for him in the pasture.

Haymaking is Over. Maybe?

A couple of weeks ago I could barely move thanks to my overly exhuberant hay hauling. About the time the back was better our friend Bryan got his baler fixed and finished baling the hay that Tuesday night around 8pm.

The weather forecast predicted rain the next morning so as soon as the Bible study ladies said good-bye at 8:30pm, I headed out to the field to join the family. The night was pitch black. Friend Bob came to join us with his trailer, we found a rhythm and hauled a--, I mean hay. We were all so tired but we knew that if those bales got rained on they would mold.

What a relief! My back was healed. We worked together and got several hundred bales put in the barn or in Bob's trailer by 12:30. As luck would have it, the rains did not come the next morning. But you and I both know that if we had left at least one bale of hay in the field to pick up the next day it would have rained three inches. Oh well.

We are very grateful to have plenty of hay for the animals this winter. And grateful for all the hands that make it possible to get the job done. Hay hauling is hard work but we kind of like the camaraderie.

Wile E. Coyote

The dogs are barking outside my window.

As they have done for at least two weeks.

Ever since we moved here we heard coyotes howl far off in the national forest or up on the ridge behind our farm. Never up close.

'Til now.

Some point last week they woke me up. Sounded like they were right by the pond. The dogs were barking and howling and the coyotes were yipping. It was around 4:30am. I opened up the window to see but it was too dark. They calmed down and I went back to sleep. Next morning I looked out to the ridge behind the pond. A snowy trail led from the pond halfway up. Feathers.

They got Pilgrim, our gander.

Poor Daisy and Lily. They cried for two days as they fruitlessly searched for their beau.

I couldn't believe the coyotes came so close.

Philip got the gun and slept out on the deck to listen for them. That was one of the first nights of real big wind. He nearly got blown away (not by the gun, by the wind), but no predators came up that night.

Next night Patrick went out to gather in the cows from the field. There were three coyotes on the other side of the fence, a few yards away. They stood their ground and didn't even run away when Patrick yelled at them.

He and Philip set out some traps. Almost every night they have come up to the farm, 2:30am and 4:30am. Boldly they cross the stream and yip and screech and bark like demons right by the garden fence. The dogs bark back but do not chase them off as they are outnumbered. One morning Philip went out and nearly shot one. "Boooom!" The shot echoed throughout the valley but alas the shadowy creature eluded Philip's aim.

The two remaining geese and the ducks have taken up residence in the barn. The sheep and cattle and goats stay up there as well. My friend's husband loves to hunt coyotes and wants to come try to shoot them.

I guess that it might sound mean to wish to kill a wild animal. Maybe I would have thought so a few years ago.

But those predators have killed a gander, a few guineas and a couple of ducks. There is plenty of wildlife for them to eat in the woods since we are not in a drought right now but they find our farm animals much easier prey. Coyotes could wipe out our flock of sheep or a brand new baby calf in no time so I hope that we can at least scare them off our property.

Besides, I would definitely appreciate an undisturbed night's sleep. So would Philip. So would Blackie and Brownie!

Be Still My Soul

My friend Becky's daughter, Brooke, died Friday, September 25th.

She was 22 years old.

Brooke fought a valiant battle with a rare muscular cancer. It was painful. She was a vibrant, energetic, absolutely beautiful girl with so much life.

We prayed and prayed and fasted and prayed some more.

Hundreds of people prayed and fasted and prayed some more.

We said goodbye to Brooke at church on Monday the 28th.

Her body was tired and death was a merciful deliverance. A very severe mercy. One I cannot understand nor begin to comprehend. Her family has already had to endure the loss of Brooke's dad a few years ago.


I have repeatedly spoken to God about the fact that it must be very hard for Ashley and Mitchell, Brooke's siblings, to believe that he loves them, considering the huge loss that has washed over them. Becky has a huge faith. Faith large enough to move mountains. But Ashley and Mitchell are still kids. Hurting kids. I love them, even if they aren't close by, hang out with the family on a regular basis kids. I love them deeply. I don't know what to do to help, since there is nothing to do to make things better. Go by and make them some chicken soup and bread every once in a while. Keep on praying. Pray that despite all the horrible circumstances in their life they would somehow know that they are loved.

When grieving over the loss of Brooke I kept thinking of the different hymns we used to sing back in my childhood in the little country church. Hymns written back in the days before antibiotics and chemo and prenatal wards. Songs about crossing the river Jordan, about a land far away, joining our loved ones over on the other side. Hymns written by mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who had experienced loss and grief.

Their music voiced hope that welled up even in the middle of the darkest pain.

Here is a hymn that has comforted me many many times.

"Be Still My Soul" by Catharina von Schlegel

Be still, my soul. the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still my soul; thy God doth undertake
to Guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul' thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all he takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
Catharine von Schlegel, 1752 tune Finlandia

You can hear Libera perform this hymn on YouTube. I think I need to pull out the hymnal and sing it out in the hayfield tomorrow. And continue to pray for the Smith family. I will miss seeing Brooke's mischievous grin and hearing her laugh. I will miss her dear sweet and sassy self. I will be happy to see her on the other side.

I Missed You Guys!

Due to technical difficulties (a broken adaptor) all blogging, googling, facebooking, online poetry reading and almanac searching was temporarily halted.

Life didn't slow down. Opportunities to share it did.

I guess I had taken for granted my blogworld friends. You guys share a lot with me and I appreciate your comments and the cool way we get to share front porch friendships.

So now to catch up. Bear with me. I have lots to say. Just fast forward when you get tired of reading.