Living has preempted writing.
Actually, I did some writing over the weekend. The unplugged type.
After an amazing Thanksgiving dinner shared with friends we enjoyed a couple of days with some out of state visiting friends who helped with firewood harvest. We shared meals around candle light and blazing fire. Our family then participated in our first Tacky Tractor Parade with friends over in Bent Mtn. What fun!
The dear Bent Mtn friends have a little cabin tucked up on the side of the mountain, far removed from electricity, running water, phones and computers. Philip gave me the gift of taking care of the kids and the farm and left me, a bag of old journals, paperwork, Bible, novel, notebook, wool socks and picnic basket of provisions to enjoy a silent retreat cozied up to a blazing woodstove.
I had a bit of an agenda. Behind in paperwork and taxes, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to add and subtract, multiply and divide without a big pile of other priorities staring at me. What better place to work than that amazing little jewel up in the woods.
Magnificent trees, tall and straight, surrounded my retreat. Piles of leaves carpeted my walk to outhouse and woodpile. I think I heard a deer once, but other than Spot, the hound dog, I had few animal visitors.
The kettle maintained a constant simmer, perfect for many cups of tea and the most delicious lentil stew I have ever made (if I do say so myself!). I will have to remember to give you the recipe at the end of this post so you can try it.
It was a great retreat. Many odds and ends were taken care of, business tended. Productive. But perhaps the most productive time was spent in quiet reflection. I read some journals from 1997 and 1998. Remembered some very painful periods. Wished I could go back and tell myself it was going to be alright. Smiled as I scanned the yearly garden maps, the wish lists I wrote out each winter as I surveyed the seed catalogs, remembered holiday feasts shared with friends as I perused the scratchy notes scribbling out menus and recipes and ingredient lists. Pain, grief, turmoil, illnesses and accidents and meals and gardens and children learning to read and walk, camping and marveling at nature. I reread the prayers cried out in anguish and despair and the prayers of delight and joy.
I don't know how I managed to write all those years with babies and toddlers. I can't even imagine how I was brave enough to write things I would never wish to share with anyone! Didn't I know that anyone could have picked up those books and have a window that opened up into the scariest most intimate parts of my soul?
What in the world does all this have to do with farming?
I think that taking the time to process and write and journal the good, the bad and the ugly helped make me a stronger person. I believe it was a part of a journey that led to healing and growth. Taking some time to revisit that journey reminded me that we have come along way, baby. Those hard times prepared us for this life. God was there.
It was pretty special to read in one of the journals a conversation I had with my dear friend, the very friend who owns the cabin on the mountain. I wrote that I wanted to be sure and pray for her and her husband. I smiled. Full Circle. Never did I imagine at the time that I would be reading my words sitting on the floor of her cozy little refuge. That we would all be living this life that we are living. Here in Virginia!
Along with moments of introspection, I reviewed farm vision, worked on an updated farm inventory and made lists of tasks I hope to accomplish this winter. With over a dozen ewes hopefully expecting to lamb come February and March, building some new stalls in the upper barn is in order. With two cows expecting to deliver babies this winter, i need to come up with an efficient way to milk those girls in a sanitary place in the barn. I have a feeling that Priscilla is not going to come up to the back door to let me milk her.
The silence ended all too soon. I didn't get to solve all the problems in the world. I didn't even get to solve all the problems on our farm! But Philip and the kids managed without me and I came back home refreshed and ready to get back to work. Driving home on Monday morning, misty grey and damp, the gentle hills gave me a great big hug. Driving through our little valley, my heart ached with gratefulness. Home. More than any other time in my adult life I feel an incredible sense of home. How can I explain? Some of the angst I felt back in those journals was pointing to a need for home. Some of the angst was necessary to put us on the right road to reach our home. Even as I miss my mom and dad, sisters and other relatives right now, the longing is definitely tempered by the sense of home we experience here on the farm. When I opened up the gate at the top of our driveway, the sheep paused in their grazing to give me a stoic nod. Home.
Well, dogs and coyotes are at it again. The moon is very bright. My eyes tell me it is time to head to bed.
But first, my recipe for you. The perfect camp stew, or top of the wood stove stew.
Lentil Chard Stew
Red or green lentils
generous amount of fresh or dried garlic
a few peppercorns
a pinch of mustard seed
a pinch of celery seed
a pinch of coriander
a pinch of cinnamon
plenty of salt
Put the lentils and the other ingredients in a mason jar if you are headed to your own weekend retreat. Once you get the fire rolling, place the lentils and spices in a pot and cover with water. Plenty of water.
Give the stew an occasional stir and watch to make sure your water doesn't boil away. If it does, add more water. The lentils will get nice and mushy. The smell will make you intensely hungry. Don't rush the stew. Slow cooking makes for a very creamy stew.
Once the lentils are creamy, add some chopped chard. Or kale. Or spinach.
I think the earthiness of the chard goes so nicely with the curry flavors. Cook until the chard is tender. Maybe 20 or 30 more minutes. Salt to taste. Make some toast by putting your bread on a cast iron skillet or directly on your wood stove. Enjoy all by yourself or share with a friend. Either way, I think you will love it!