Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Near the end of June?

No margin for blog writing means no margin for quiet time.
Need to try to carve some quiet moments out if I wish to maintain what little shred of sanity left me.

I will say that we have one pekin duck who hatched out a cute little duckling. Only one, but it is certainly cute.

And today in the garden I picked a nice bowl of green beans and some jalapenos. Nora picked an onion for my tuna salad. The beets are ripe. The onions are almost ready to pick. The lettuce has bolted. Things are terribly dry, even with the occasional afternoon thunder shower.

Today I also worked on cleaning the barn. Swept, raked and shoveled. I attempted to close off the biggest part of the barn to the animals who have been lounging and soiling every square inch they could find. This heat wave has been uncomfortable for them as well. Even so, I suggested they find a shady spot under a tree, out on the grass.

Another hen is sitting on a clutch of eggs. Guinea mamas are on nests throughout the farm. The rouen mama duck must have lost her ducklings because she is back in circulation.

Days are hot. That means the chicory is blooming everywhere. So is the milkweed. The milkweed is a problem weed, but it is worth having around for the lovely fragrance we enjoy, especially in the moist evening hours.

There are many things I wish to write but for now, a summary so you know all is reasonably well over here. Remind me to tell you about the a/c meltdown at some point in the future. Tata for now.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Little Things.

The best thing about a hot sticky day is the cool shower at the end of it. I am so thankful for clean running water.

Grain is milled, bread, pizza crusts and spelt pound cake baked and all wrapped up, ready for tomorrow. I went outside twice today, both times to milk Coco. It was hot in the morning when I went out and cool this evening. As hard as it was to force myself to go out to milk, once I squatted down by Coco's generous udder, the cool breeze hit my face and I was glad.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Peaches are ripe, the moon must be about full

If I were not so tired I would compose a haiku about delectable peaches that explode with flavor and drip with juice and make me happy, but make Patrick sad, because he was stung on the eye by a hornet while harvesting the ones way up on the roof of the milking parlor and how I felt like I would fall off the ladder that Thomas held steady, but it was worth it for such a treat, even if we were exhausted from baking and selling at the farmer's market.

But since I am tired I will merely mention that the sky this evening appeared to glow with a peachy washy glow and it looked just like the taste of the explosively ripe peach I consumed while on a very rickety ladder.

I wish everyone in the world could eat an explosively ripe peach while perched on a ladder in the cool of the evening. I believe if they could we would be much closer to world peace.

Thank you God for ripe peaches. And a moment of peace. And please help Patrick's eye get better very quickly.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer, Moving right along

Two days into summer and I can believe it. Hot, an occasional rain shower, and green.

We are thankful for each drop of rain and even for the heat, because it makes things grow so well.

Today the tractor came home. I wish I could put her to work, but not quite yet. Need to get the brush hog worked over and sharpened up. All this maintenance is going to make me very smart, indeed.

This afternoon's task was delivering milk and locating food grade grease for the mill. The grease gun I had was very small and not locally available, so I bought a huge one. I guess most of you guys would have been laughing your heads off if you saw me try to figure out how to load the blasted thing. I think I unscrewed some wrong part because all of the coiled spring wire popped out. The boys spent several minutes trying to help me shove it back in. I gave up and grew smart enough to realize that they had a better chance of getting it fixed with me out of the equation. We think we got some grease into the mill. I plan on milling and baking tomorrow, with God's grace. Some little tasks on the farm seem so hard, but my friends tell me that they are only hard the first few times.

I remain skeptical.

Bedtime comes early for me this evening. Looks like the animals are getting ready to settle in early themselves. I see Priscilla paused outside the garden fence, three hungry calves drinking up their supper from her generous udder. What a good mama. I think I forgot to mention that Coco and Priscilla have their lovely blonde summer coats on. So pretty.

Another thing, the dragon flies are back. I think they look like fairies.

PS please don't forget to eat your summer veggies. We had ours curried with sauteed deer steak on the side. Started with some of Coco's butter and a sliced onion. Added Terri's yellow squash and our eggplant. Sauteed for a few minutes then added garlic and Terri's tomatoes (she lives in warm Tennessee) and some delicious sweet curry powder. Lots of it. All of it cooked down so nicely. It tasted great with the gifted garlicky venison.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is this my lucky week or what?

Daddy is home from the hospital. I am relieved.

The temperatures here are not much cooler than Texas temperatures, but we have a lot more humidity in our little valley this week. Thankfully this isn't the norm. I did some garden work very early this morning and still worked up a nice sweat. The boys and our friend unloaded his delivery of wood chips onto pathways in the garden, continuing our work on the no-till garden preparation. I think I read somewhere that sweat is very healthy, as it carries toxins out of the body. We must be so very healthy.

I got such wonderful news this afternoon, I wanted to shout "Wahoo!" Our friend called and told me that the tractor is ready to leave the tractor hospital and come home.


We have received so much help from so many people, it is very humbling. And life affirming.

Awhile back the children and I were talking about the tractor and the many functions it serves on the farm.

I told them we could pray about it getting fixed, but I trusted that God would bring it to us right when we needed it most. What a relief to have our helpful servant come back. Time to mow fields. And cart manure onto fields. And carry heavy stuff in the front loader. Wahoo!

By the way, the moon is waxing. Way past the halfway point. I have a feeling the peaches are going to be ripe about the time the moon is full. I sure do hope that is not during our busy farmer's market weekend. I want to make preserves and put up a bunch in the freezer.

PS We are happy to be eating garden veggies. Roasted beets with olive oil and garlic. Most of the family doesn't really care for them, but bite by bite I am training myself to enjoy them. We also sauteed beet greens the other day with garlic and olive oil. They were out of this world. Much more tender than I imagined and they didn't even taste like blood and dirt like the actual beets. Eggplants are getting ripe and we put some on the grill the other night with my sister's squash. Delicious. The good eating season, if I can get myself in the kitchen to cook. I have to get some of my recipes online for the market newsletter. I am thinking about a Catawba version of Salade Nicoise, with fresh green beans, potatoes, Jimbo's smoked trout and fresh herbs. If I can get it together, I will post it here, later this week. Otherwise, look for it at the market on Thursday.

Monday, June 21, 2010

They Are Back!

This evening I went out onto the front porch to take a phone call from a long ago friend. As I sat waiting, the cool air felt fresh compared to the stuffy house. Fireflies flashed, peepers peeped and the bull frog sounded off. Coco quietly munched grass not too far off. The children settled in for the evening and as I listened to their chatter another sound caught my ear.

Whipporwill! Whipporwill!

There were two, echoing each other on the front part of the farm.

I wanted to cry, hearing that favorite sound of mine. Worries about my dad, along with worries about my ailing, almost 99 year old grandpa, along with other troubles that try hard to capture my attention seemed to fade away, at least for a few minutes.

Their call is the most lovely serenade, the sweetest hymn. It makes me feel loved. Safe.

I wonder why? Plaintive, their song, brings back sense memories of Central Texas and home and being young and cared for.

Maybe I just like that music. Slightly rare. Special.

Dear whipporwills, I thank you for coming back to the farm. I hope you will find a nice place to nest and bear young. If there is anything I can do, besides not mow down the fence rows and not spray poisons on our grassy areas, let me know.

You are so very welcome, humble bird friends. Please stay for a very long time. Your song brings me great joy.


My mom called last night and told me that Daddy had to be taken to the hospital. They thought it was gall bladder problems, but it wasn't. Nevertheless, he has to remain in the hospital until at least tomorrow while they give him some very high powered antibiotics to cure a bad infection so they don't have to operate.

I spoke to him on the phone this evening as I ate my supper on the deck. We discussed gardens. I told him how I worked for many more hours today to weed and mulch our veggies. The day was hot, even though I started early. Today I wore a long sleeve shirt over my tank top and was drenched in sweat before too long. I think the temperatures reached the high 80's in our valley. It was in the mid to high 90's in town when I ran errands late this afternoon.

Daddy's green beans are almost done. Ours are about to make. His okra is just starting to produce. Ours are babies. He wants to try planting some Silver Queen corn. I told him I would send him some of our extra seeds, but I thought it would be way too late and hot for it to make in his part of Texas. We both figured it wouldn't hurt to try and experiment. He suggested that if it never made corn, at least it would make compost.

Daddy told me about the hospital food he had been given. Terribly overprocessed. Why in the world have our hospital nutritionists not gotten the fact that sick people need real nutrition to get better? You can't tell me that a bunch of white pasta and processed pork products and mushy vegetables can help a body heal. I wish we were closer so we could take him some soup made out of real food. He needs some pretty bland and soft foods right now, but at least they could be real bland and soft foods, instead of chemically treated, dehydrated, rehydrated garbage.

My dad is strong and healthy and should overcome this little bump in the road in no time. Then he will be back home and cooking up his own chicken soup made with his good tomatoes and peppers and onions. I have no doubt the kids and I are right where we are supposed to be, and so does Daddy. But I feel sad to not be able to go and give him a hug and a big bowl of homemade food right now.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

Today was organic farm church.
It was hard. Tears were shared.

The day was warm but we set the pews and the altar underneath the shade of the willow tree and a breeze kept us cool.

In fact, the breeze was occasionally so strong I had to keep a tight hold on my Bible and Book of Common Prayer. At one point during the sermon we paused and listened to the cracking of a falling tree across the road on a neighbor's property. Never heard a big thud, but the cracking noise sounded powerful and scary.

I love farm church. The geese come round to listen. The guineas are our chorus. Fairly off-key chorus, but what they lack in nice tune they make up for in exhuberant volume. The dogs curl up by the pews set out in the grass and at least one cat came to worship today.

The boys set up our worship area early this morning and I sat out with the hymnal and sang while I waited for our congregation to arrive. Familiar hymns from my childhood felt like balm to my hurting soul. Funny how I was able to sing, all alone out underneath the willow tree, but when we started church I couldn't make it through a few of our songs. Hurt too badly.

We read from Zechariah this morning. And Luke. And the Psalms. And Galatians. Muddled through the sermon. Prayed together. Shared in the great feast and then sat on the deck and shared in a little feast of Jason's venison stew, Josh and Laura's fruits and cheese and our tortillas and Terri's cucumbers. The day started out sober and sort of remained that way. It was good to be with our people who understand real living, real church and real pain. They gave me great hugs (wish my back were not so sunburned!!!). Gave the kids great loving.

This evening the kids and I went into town, listening to Philip's collection of Frank Sinatra best hits. We picked up a bag of cheeseburgers, went to the cemetery and remembered. We remembered him doing human statues with the kids. Telling his version of Batman stories. Throwing them around in the swimming pool. Taking the kids to McDonald's. Teaching the little girls the Lord's Prayer by having them walk on his back as he was laid out on the bedroom floor. Watching old history movies with the boys late at night. Reading stories to the girls way past their bedtime. Dancing with me and the girls in the kitchen at dinnertime. Laughing. So many memories. Hiking. Camping. Fireworks at Fourth of July. Butchering chickens. Him building the chicken plucker.

We spoke together about the things we miss about Philip. We all cried. We told him we miss him dearly, but we are so happy that his heart is no longer weak and his knees no longer hurt.

I know there are other good dads in the world. My dad is one of them.

But this Father's Day we are thinking about Philip and feeling a giant sized hole.

I am relieved to be almost through with this day. As I took a nap this afternoon I spent a few minutes reading the book On Grief and Grieving by Elizabeth Kubler Ross. It was comforting to read that the emotions we are experiencing are a part of the natural process of grief. I also am rereading A Two Part Invention by Madeline L'engle, a memoir of her life and marriage and the illness and death of her husband.

I tried to find a poem that would capture my feelings this weekend but couldn't. I did find the poem by Shelley that Philip memorized and recited to me in the early days of our courtship. I smiled as I thought that that poem was partly responsible for my falling in love with him and his silly romantic exhuberance and how, because of that, we have all these children and he was able to be such a great father. "Love's Philosophy." I must go milk the cow and tend the children, but maybe if I have time tomorrow I will add that poem to this post because it is such a sweet memory of a long ago time back when we were young and sweet springtime breezes blew and we dreamed of love and marriage and babies.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Weeding as Character Building

After some deliberation, I decided that a good dose of vitamin D was in order.

I spent hours working on the garden today.

It was wonderful taking the day off from the bakery. I found all sorts of growing things under cover of demon weeds.

After a pleasant dinner, just the six of us, out on the deck, I am sore, hot, sticky and sunburnt. Maybe a cool epsom salts bath is in order. Then a little evening entertainment, watching lightening bugs. It is so good to be back home.

My sister and her family are coming in late tonight for a very quick weekend visit. I am glad.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Home Again, Home Again

After a brief time away, I have returned home.

I thought I might try to have a little fun, but what I got was a very intense time of working through some grief. Not that I have worked through it and am now done, but it was the first time to be able to be alone for a couple of days.

It was pretty painful. But I think it was probably good to have the margin to be able to feel. Feeling certainly can be intense.

During the couple of alone days I was able to see that we need to take a break this weekend from the farmer's market to be able to come together as a family to figure out how we can honor Philip's memory this Father's Day. It is a bit hard for me to take off when I think about the responsibility I have to take care of our family finances. However, part of taking care of our family is taking care of each other and non-stop work makes that very difficult.

If I bake anything at all this weekend, I will be baking for my children. We will love on each other, work on the garden, milk the cows and the goats and spend time with family.

Grief work is exhausting and I am trying to believe that sometimes the best thing for the family and the farm is to stop and regroup periodically.

I have so many things I wish to post, but you might be happy to know that I spent the days away writing in pencil in my beautiful journal. I probably won't post most of it because it would be rather repetitive, talking about how alone I feel with Philip gone and how painful it is and how alone I feel with Philip gone and how painful it is.

Along with the very sad moments I had enough margin the spend time thinking of very lovely memories. I cried buckets of tears and I think it was valuable to have the space to do that.

Now, I am happy to be home. To hug my dear children and to see Coco and the other animals. To let green wash over my eyes.


So don't worry. All is okay, at least as okay as things can be for me right now. No serious depression or isolation. Just a brief pause. More stories coming right up.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Change of Pace

Sometimes it is good to have a change of pace. Kids are well cared for. So is the farm. I went to have an afternoon with a friend, driving around, enjoying the rainy afternoon and a pretty park. We shared stories, prayed together, cried a little and laughed a lot. Didn't even pull out the kleenex box. Then I enjoyed someone else's cooking. Cheese, red wine, hummus and crackers. Beef cooked out over a fire, green beans, a huge salad with Max's amazing radishes. More red wine and PORT.

I miss the farm when I take a little break, but even so, it is good to have a change of pace. Especially when it involves someone else's cooking! And cheese. And beef. And wine.

Here's to a new week. Happy Sunday.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Nose wasn't at the grindstone today.

It was great sleeping in until 6:30 this morning.

It wasn't great not being able to turn on the mill to grind our flour.

It was great having the day to straighten up the house, sweep the floors, tend to some business and be able to cook dinner for the family. Jason's dad took the kids to hang out at Straight Street in Roanoke today so it was unusually quiet.

One of our cow share people came to pick up their weekly milk while I was out milking Coco. When we went in to the house to strain the milk, they were surprised that the room was not full of bread. I mentioned our mill troubles and our friend gathered up tools, took the machine apart and ended up carrying the motor home with him to see if he or his employees could figure out what was the problem.

He understood that the mill is my livelihood and hated to see me have to pay someone to come out to work on that machine.

I cannot begin to comprehend the kindnesses others have shown to us.

You can well imagine that when the kids and I sat down to our Friday night dinner of Jimbo's trout, pan seared with a vermouth, garlic and cream sauce, some new potatoes from our Catawba farmer's market neighbor and a nice fresh garden salad, we prayed a prayer of thanksgiving.

Every aspect of our evening touched by the generosity of friends' hands.

We asked the Lord to bless these many people who touch our lives.

We also asked God to help others who have had their lives turned upside down to experience the blessing of rebuilding and adjusting.

Tomorrow will be weird not packing up to sell at market. We will make milk deliveries to our shareholders and I envision a cup of coffee somewhere in the middle of it. It will be nice if it cools off to be able to mulch the garden.

But for now, I go to bed, tired, but not exhausted. It is good to have a rest.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Waning Moon This Week

This morning the sky was dark when I arose.

At some point in the middle of the early baking I looked out the window toward the dark east and saw a waning crescent moon hanging. Thin, barely hanging on, tipped upright, pouring out the little that remained. I believe she will be dark very soon. Thinking about the moon reminded me of one of my favorite fairy tales, "Little Daylight" by George MacDonald. It is a story within a story, At the Back of the North Wind, one of my favorite books. In the fairy tale, the princess, who was cursed by a bad fairy, waxes and wanes with the moon.

I hope someday you will read this delightful fairy tale. George Macdonald was inspiration for many authors I love, like CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Madeline L'Engle and others.

The moon looked sad to me this morning, but I have hope that she will be growing cheerful and full again, probably before I even turn around to notice.

The baking went well today. Except for when the mill overheated and stopped at the very end of the milling. I tried to flip the breaker but that wouldn't work. I left it alone while we were at the farmer's market all afternoon and into the early evening, but I still couldn't get it to turn back on.

I wonder if it is time for me to take a vacation? Will try again tomorrow morning, but I won't get my feelings hurt if I can't figure the mill out right away. There are plenty of other things I can do to occupy my time. Sleeping in until 6:30 in the morning is one of the first things I will do.

Keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Weeding is Good Therapy, oh wait, I think I already said that...

Today I weeded more vegetable garden.

I weeded out some flower beds that had completely been ignored the entire season. Just looking at them look so ugly made me feel out of control with my life. Pulling out mounds and mounds of dock and plantain and all sorts of other weeds and grasses made me feel a bit more in control with my life.

It is a far cry from beautiful, but the baby steps are making me feel better, even when I feel terrible.

I was surprised to see jalapeno peppers almost ripe. Green tomatoes cover the plants and there are actually a couple of baby eggplants! The eggplants were almost decimated by flea beetles. The other day I broke down and bought some certified organic bug dust, called bonide and Patrick dusted the eggplants. This is usually the time of year that our eggplants bite the dust, but they seem to be surviving.


Maybe we will get to eat our own eggplant this summer.

And maybe I will find the flower that the cow and the goats won't eat when they escape into our yard. So far, salvia seems to be a safe pick. Maybe we will grow lots and lots and lots of salvia. At least it is pretty and drought hardy, in case it stops raining.

Speaking of beautiful things, like eggplant and flowers, I should mention the the big rose bushes by the front driveway are absolutely spectacular this year. Rose and Nora brought in armloads of the blossoms to decorate our dining room. If we have flowers on the table I feel like things are going very well.

Those beautiful red roses speak hope to my hurting heart and I am glad for them.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


There are many things about which I could write this evening.

But I think instead of writing about those things, I will mention that as I walked back to the house from the mailbox, I stopped on the driveway, knelt down and observed a couple of bees at work on the clover.

They weren't honey bees, although there are a few of our old honey bees gone wild. They were big bees. The yellow and black puffy sort. One worked about two feet away from the other. I wonder if they were pals.

They hovered over the clover, working their way, through the delicate white, nectar laden blossoms. No stress. No panic. No sense of being overwhelmed.

Simply and thoroughly the bees worked on their task for the day and made me aspire to be more like them.

With all the other difficulties of the day, I am glad I made the wise choice to pause on the driveway for a few seconds to observe the bees giving God glory by going about, doing what they were created to do.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Thunderstorms seem to have moved on for the time being.

This morning I took care of my chores, left the kids with theirs and headed into town for a couple of meetings and for the bank.

Yesterday afternoon and evening I was very sad. Instead of remembering all the alive parts of Philip I found myself remembering him the night of his death, after he collapsed onto our bedroom floor when his heart quit beating. I found myself remembering him in the casket at the church.

Such a mystery, how someone alive and warm can change so brutally. A very deep magic that can take someone's aliveness and transport it to another country far, far away. I realize many people have their thoughts about what happens to oneself after death. I believe that our soul leaves our body.

As the dark night enveloped me and a warm breeze caressed me I wept myself to sleep.

I don't know what stirred up those thoughts of Philip's death, but I decided that since they arose, I should try to process them, and made time in my day to go to the group sponsored by Gentle Shepherd Hospice. Martha Furman, a counselor, facilitates the group.

This was my second visit.

I didn't want to go and sit and cry with a bunch of strangers when the garden needed to be weeded, but the car drove over there anyway. And I had the excuse that I needed to drop off the kids' paperwork for camp.

It was good to go. Martha gave us a list of statements prompting us to express what grief means to each of us.

What is the most difficult part of grieving.

What is the most intense grief ever experienced.

What feelings come up in one's grief.

What is the hardest emotion of grief.

What have I never full grieved.

What helps me most when grieving.

As we shared our reasons for being in the meeting, it was comforting to hear others express similar moments of confusion and of pain. It also helped to hear people share tactics that worked for them to move through their grief. Just talking about how I miss Philip's warm hands and face to people who also miss someone else's warm hands and face helped.

I believe that our farm offers the best grief therapy on earth. I have many reasons to get up and move each morning. Taking care of animals and the garden and most of all the children offers me the opportunity to see that I am not going to die, just because Philip is gone. Even so, hearing that it is normal to still have intense moments of sadness and aloneness helps me know I am not losing my mind. Hearing that now is the time the numbness wears off makes me think that it would be logical to have memories of the night of his death and the funeral.

I started to think of our formerly flooded barn. Which, you will be very happy to know is NOT flooded, despite the rains. Thank God. I was so pleased to walk out there this morning and see only a couple of damp spots, instead of the sludge lagoon.

So, the barn. I was thinking about how dangerous it was, leaving all that sludge and muck to sit. Bacteria developed. So did parasites. Who knows how many mosquito larvae.

I was tempted to shut the door and ignore it, hoping that maybe it would evaporate on its own. I was tempted to ignore the gutters and the drains and just go tend the garden.

Same, I think, with grief and other festering things that can build up in our insides. Feeling the pain and acknowledging the grief is just about as hard as shoveling out a couple of tons of sludge, but I have this feeling that we will all be better off for it, just like that barn.

A paradox. Going out there today and admitting how badly I was hurting seemed to make the pain lessen exponentially.


After I got home I felt energized to work on the weeds a little and to take care of some other minor tasks.

The humidity has disappeared and has been replaced with cool crisp air. The no see-ums didn't even attack me. Milking was an entertaining moment for me as I watched the new lambs frolic and cavort. The words frolic and cavort were invented for little lambs.

I don't think I feel like crying tonight. Glad I was able to last night, though. Interestingly enough, one of today's Psalms reminded me that God cares so much for me, he takes note of my every tear and records my sadnesses. And in Ecclesiastes, the author mentions that it is better to be in a house of grieving than in a house of feasting, as death is the destiny of every man. Well, guess we are in good shape, but I have to admit I am looking forward to some feasting days, myself.

That doesn't make a great deal of sense to me, unless I think about how we have experienced love beyond measure during our days of grief, and we have seen friends who stick closer than a brother. Deep magic...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday in June

Yesterday after market we took our many bags of dirty clothes to the laundromat to wash since our washer is broken. I was grateful for the machinery and the opportunity to take care of many loads of laundry in one afternoon. The sun was baking and it was way too hot to do any productive work at home anyway.

We got home and as we drove up the driveway I saw Annie walking her new lambs to the barn.

She was walking.

They were bouncing.

Everyone needs to see new little lambs at some point in their life.

I don't feel like doing a lot of laughing these days, but watching those creatures bounce like rubber balls made me laugh out loud.

The girls and I spent the rest of the evening sitting on the front porch doing one of my many favorite things: we shelled lots and lots of peas I purchased for a pittance from our kind market vendor neighbor. I then cooked some up in butter alongside some fresh trout and we ate, exhausted, at 9pm. I was so tired I fell asleep in the bed with almost every light left on in the house. Turned them off at 4:30 and gratefully went back to sleep.

Today has been restful.

We went to church early. Thomas went with a couple to spend the afternoon with them and go to youth group. Maggie and Patrick each went with church friends to lunch and are now at a Salem Avalanche game. Nora and Rose are enjoying each other's company on a lazy afternoon and I read for almost 2 hours, undisturbed, watching gray clouds build and almost break loose over the farm, but not quite.

The colors here are so brilliant on an early June evening after an almost thunderstorm. The golden sun gilds the hay fields that need to be baled. There are so many greens in the trees and the grasses and the gardens that I couldn't begin to count them. I bet my artist mother probably could!

It was hard ignoring the work that needs to be done.

But not too hard. Tomorrow is a new day.

I thought I should mention that this morning as I drank my coffee and read the Psalms for the morning out of the Book of Common Prayer, it felt a bit rote and dry. The first Psalm was one with which I was very familiar. I remembered memorizing it with Thomas in his early elementary homeschool years. I like it.

But it felt dry and empty this morning.

I kept reading, out of habit and reached the next Psalm. Psalm 29. As the Psalmist calls out the the gods to give the LORD worship and glory, he describes the voice of the Lord upon the waters, and the glory of God like thunder. He describes the voice of the LORD as such a tremendous power that it could make giant cedar trees in Lebanon break. I imagined the storms and the wind we have and the crashing of the trees.

Then the Psalmist, a former farmer/shepherd, tells that the Lord makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox. I thought of our calves and lambs, frolicking with joy and delight. I wondered if he could make a nation skip like our happy animals, could he make me filled with joy and delight?

Sitting tired in my chair, nursing my coffee, I read the last verse of the chapter and wept with gratitude; "The LORD shall give strength to his people; the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace." Psalm 29:11

I don't know why I wept, but I was touched, and the scriptures no longer were dry and rote for me.

The evening is early. I may inspect the garden and weed in the cool if the no-see-ums aren't too bad. I wonder if the girls would be content to skip supper this evening? Scrambled eggs on toast? A glass of Coco's milk?

Oh, and another thing, as I ramble on, where is my friend the whipporwill? He has usually been singing me love songs by this time of the year. I feel sad to not hear his voice. The bull frogs are singing, so are the many nighttime bugs. The fireflies are in full sparkle once dark falls upon us, and let me tell you, they put on a fantastic display that rivals any Christmas light decorations, in my humble opinion. But oh, how I wish to hear the song of the whipporwill as I lay down my head to sleep.

If he is at your house, could you remind him to come over to our part of the valley at least occasionally?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cherry tart in a couple of days?

Thunderstorms finally came to chase the sultry heat away. It is raining steadily. I have finished the baking and the wrapping of the bread.


The kids went to a homeschool event with some of our coop friends. They were gone from morning until evening. I was able to hyperfocus on the bakery.

Even with the long hard work, I managed to pause to eat a delicious salad made with organic lettuce, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Jimbo's smoked trout. Then put my feet up for 15 minutes. I was grateful for the rest.

Raymond and his friend Martha came out this morning to work on the garden. He may not know it yet, but he is earning a nice young lamb we will help him butcher. I am still amazed at the outpouring of generosity we are STILL receiving from our community. The garden is still too wet for planting, but they weeded and worked on our compost and mowed. Then they got baskets and went to work picking cherries.

Two days ago the cherries were almost ripe. With the extremely heavy rains, they have gone to mold. Nevertheless, my friends picked me a nice tub of cherries, black and sweet. Won't sell these cherries, will keep them for the family.

Last year we lost most of them to mold as well. We have been getting rains here in our little valley when all the surrounding areas have missed.

That's okay.

Drought comes upon us more quickly than we can imagine and I will thankfully welcome the rain. It makes me think of one of the lines in on e of my favorite songs by Nanci Griffith, Trouble in These Fields. See if you can guess?
"Baby I know that we've got trouble in the fields
When the bankers swarm like locust out there turning away our yield
The trains roll by our silos, silver in the rain
They leave our pockets full of nothing
But our dreams and the golden grain.

Have you seen the folks in line downtown at the station?
They're all buying their ticket out and talking the great depression
Our parents had their hard times fifty years ago
When they stood out in these empty fields in dust as deep as snow
And all this trouble in our fields
If this rain can fall, these wounds can heal
They'll never take our native soil
But if we sell that new John Deere
And then we'll work these crops with sweat and tears
You'll be the mule I'll be the plow
Come harvest time we'll work it out
There's still a lotta love, here in these troubled fields.

There's a book up on the shelf about the dust bowl days
And there's a little bit of you and a little bit of me
In the photos on every page
Now our children live in the city and they rest upon our shoulders
They never want the rain to fall or the weather to get colder
And all this trouble in our fields
If this rain can fall, these wounds can heal
They'll never take our native soil
But if we sell that new John Deere
And then we'll work these crops with sweat and tears
You'll be the mule, I'll be the plow,
Come harvest time we'll work it out
There's still a lot of love, right here in these troubled fields."

That song is on her Dustbowl Symphony album.

Well, I really did not have time to process over a hundred pounds of cherries into jam this season. Having them mold on the tree due to excess rain is way better than having them mold in my refrigerator because I didn't get to them in time. We have enough to make a couple of our favorite cherry almond tarts made with spelt, maybe a couple of little jars of brandied cherries for me and my grownup friends, and plenty to eat by the handful over the next couple of days.

Before you know it, peaches will be ripe, then apples, plums and pears. Not to mention the wineberries and blackberries.

Oh, I thought of a funny oxymoron to share with you. After a long hard day of milling and baking fresh stone ground chemical free grains and making healthful foods, preparing to sell them and our pastured, grass fed meats at the farmer's market, the kids got home with a bunch of regular hot dogs on white buns leftover from the event. I put some nice and spicy dijon mustard on mine and gobbled down two, lickety split. They tasted heavenly!

As I have said on numerous occasions, legalism is unattractive, in religion and nutrition! I don't often eat a hot dog, but I told the Lord "Thank You" for providing me my supper, ready made. Didn't even need to use a plate.

The rain has paused and a golden green washes over our not-so troubled fields. I have things to think about, like marketing strategies and hay making and intensive grazing and Quickbooks, but I think for now I will rest. So grateful to be off my feet with tubs of healthy bread ready to load in the morning.

See you at the farmer's market!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tastes Just Like Chicken. Really.

We all worked together to continue barn remediation.

It was tough. Tedious. Monotonous. Hard.

Having all of us work together made the impossible happen even sooner than I imagined. We moved out the mud and got most all the water out. We listened to 99.1, hits from the 80's, 90's and today and sang along. Rose asked why they didn't include hits from the 60's and 70's.

As we worked I noticed that Annie moved her sweet babies out to graze. They look terrific. Patrick worked on repairing the barn roof leaks and Thomas worked on mowing and filling in the ditch left by the flash floods. The girls worked on house chores and playing on a homemade slip and slide while I took a "break" from work and fried up the turtle that Patrick and Thomas butchered yesterday.

We laughed when we tried to tell a difference and couldn't. It tasted just like chicken! Some of the darkest meat tasted like gizzards, but really, it tasted like any young rooster we have butchered. A little chewy, but good.

I soaked the meat in milk overnight with garlic. Then made a mixture of freshly milled whole wheat, sea salt and Old Bay. Dredged the little bite sized pieces and fried in coconut oil. Next time we will try making a turtle curry. Or tacos de tortuga.

Nora wasn't terribly excited about the offerings so she skipped lunch.

We spent the rest of the afternoon working out in the barn and I am pleased with our efforts. Now we have to wait for a rain and see if there is any improvement. Our fixes are not permanent. We will have to dig out some big trenches and put in bigger culverts and see if we need some larger gutters and bury the pipe under ground. But hopefully the temporary fix will make a difference. Will let you know, since we are due some more thunderstorms.

BTW, I am thankful that we have made all the rows into raised beds out in the garden. Due to the flashfloods, there is standing water out in the garden, but the planted vegetables are safe and sound, up and out of the flood zone. What a relief. Last year was extra rainy and we had several plantings rot.

Well, tomorrow is another day, and since it is a baking day, it will begin nice and early at 3am, I hope. We look forward to our second week at the Catawba Farmer's Market. I better get off the computer if I want to read a couple more chapters of Candide tonight.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Getting Smarter?

This week I have been reading in Ecclesiastes.

Funny how a chapter I read in Candide, by Voltaire, seemed to echo my Bible readings.

When I am not quite so tired, remind me to do a compare and contrast.

BUt for now, a time and a season for everything.

Today was the time to start the work on the barn.

I began my day asking God to make me smarter than I am. Seems like every task on this farm is a giant-sized task and I am not giant-sized. Almost every section of our barn had standing water. Giant lagoons of water. Mosquito larvae infested water. Mixed with mud and manure. And straw. Very heavy mud and straw and manure muck.

Patrick and I retrenched the lower section, aiming to let some of the water drain out. I shoveled and shoveled heavy muck onto the concrete floor and Thomas loaded it onto the wheelbarrow and carted it to the muck pile. Patrick used a sledge hammer to break up a section of the concrete pad to open up a pathway for the drainage. We must have moved a couple of tons. Or more.

Then we moved up to the upper section of the barn. The inner suite of stalls in the middle has standing water. The upper area where the sheep like to camp out had a section pretty much the length of the barn, and 4 to 5 feet wide of puddles and muck. At least 5 or 6 inches deep.

As we moved out the sloppy lagoon, I thought of victims of major floods. I said a little prayer for them. Such a hard work reclaiming a place after a flood.

Didn't take long before I was covered in manure and muck splashes. It got on my glasses. On my face. In my hair and in my mouth. I asked Patrick if he thought I would end up in the hospital after consuming so many germs. At that point, I was so tired and sore I thought I might enjoy a brief hospital stay. I could watch tv, maybe catch the food network, have a/c and plenty of time for a nap.

In the middle of the shoveling and carting, I heard a wee little baaa. It sounded too little for our last crop of lambs. Setting down the shovel, I walked over to the far back stall. The only dry spot in the barn. There, behind the little family of teenager hatched out chickies was Annie. And two little newborn lambs!!!

I picked them up, one by one, to investigate. Very healthy. Not todays' babies, perhaps born yesterday morning. One little girl and a little boy. Annie was so proud of them. Both perfect little Jacob specimens. Boy, that Boaz is quite the father.

The sweet moment was over very quickly. Emptying the lagoon was even more urgent, as little babies are terribly susceptible to wet and germs and parasites in the heat.

As we worked, I tried to figure out the problem and why the barn was flooding so terribly. Many people have shared their opinions, but for some reason I felt like the gutter system was at fault. The roof of our very large barn captures hundreds and thousands of gallons of water. Seemed like something in the system was not working as it had. We had never had such flooding in the upper section of the barn.

Patrick informed me that during some construction project out at the barn the drain pipe for the gutter had been damaged and since I didn't know about it, it was never replaced. When walking around to inspect the gutter on the north side, I found that part of it had gotten detached from the roof. We also discovered that the minimal leak from the roof seam had become a very large leak, due to weakened patch. We also found that one of the other big drain pipes for the rain runoff had become blocked.

Before I was finished, but right about the time I was worn out, it was time to take Thomas to town for an appointment. We then ran to Lowes to purchase some drain pipe to make a temporary rerouting for the gutter downspouts. A friend helped to nail the gutter back up to the roof. We also purchased patching materials for the barn roof.

Farming is a scary task for me because of the size of the problems. Sometimes they loom so large, I want to stick my head under the covers and hope that they will disappear. Since they don't tend to do that, I was thankful for the opportunity to take a little bite out of the problems. Tomorrow we will attack again. We may discover that I was way off and that we haven't found the solution. But at least we will know that we tried, and then we can try again.

And in the meantime, all this exercise is making me stronger. And I bet I have the best immune system in the valley, thanks to all the probiotics. And having to strategize to figure out solutions to our problems is HOPEFULLY making all of us smarter.

By the way, Patrick took a break for the barn work to butcher his turtle this afternoon. He and Thomas used teamwork. The white meat is in a bag in the fridge, soaking in milk. It looks remarkably like chicken. Guess we will find out tomorrow. I think we will fry it. Keep you posted. If it is good, I will give you a recipe. One turtle in the fridge means one less menace to our duck flock.