Thursday, September 30, 2010

Far From Perfect, Thankful for Grace

I didn't bake for the market today.

Had a headache, didn't feel great. Went back to sleep for a bit after the kids got off to school, then hopped up at 9:30 and worked on home chores and paperwork. It is hard to know when to stop and when to go. All of us have been fighting back to school germs.

After a very productive day, kids got home. It was nice being with them instead of being at market. Patrick and I discovered that Carmelita had outgrown her halter. We cornered her and I was able to remove it. I was so very sad to see that it had rubbed her little nose raw since she had grown so big. It made me cry to think that I had neglected her. So many farm chores, so little time. So I guess instead of being mad at myself for neglecting Carmelita, I should be thankful for being home from market today to take care of her.

But for the moment I was mad at myself and had to go to the garden and rip out old towering sunflower stalks and toss them over the fence to work out my frustration.

Then we ate our supper with the Thomas' clan. Beef curry with tomatoes, eggplant, carrots and onions and lots of green beans. Said our goodbyes, washed up the dishes and then I took a friend's advice and got the big kids to join the little girls for our story time together.

All troubles were long forgotten as we sat around the dining room table and listened to George MacDonald's story of The Princess and the Goblins. Oh, the great theology that is covered in children's literature. Then we prayed the Lord's Prayer together, remembered to pray for our many friends and family, and now to bed with us all. School projects laid aside for the time being. Farm projects laid aside for the time being. Bakery laid to rest for a few short hours.

The wind blows, warmly tonight. Moon rises way past my bedtime. And I can be thankful for the margin given us to share stories and dinner and good things together with family. And friends. And for Rose who told me to be sure and write in the blog, even when I was telling her it was too late and I should go to bed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

First Fall Fire in the Fireplace

I quickly milked Coco this morning after the little girls got on the 6:55 bus. Drove to pick up almost a ton of grains and other ingredients for the bakery and my other customers.

A drizzle fell off and on and chilled me to the bones, so I broke down and lit a little fire in the fireplace. It was so pleasant to take care of some of my paperwork with a cup of coffee and a fire in the fireplace. Thankfully the rain stopped when it was time for customers to pick up their bags of wheat and other goodies. It is drizzling again and I almost feel like a wimp for having a fire when the temperature is at 57 degrees.

Makes me think of my Great Aunt Dee-Dee. She loved to play the piano. She loved fudge. She loved her many nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews. And she loved a fire in the fireplace.

So perhaps after a nice shower, I will take my book and sit in front of the fire and celebrate fall. And warmth. And the luxury of a fireplace in the dining room. If the forecast is correct, we have several cool, damp days ahead of us.

PS Tonight it was apple butter and spelt milk and honey bread for supper. But yesterday I sauteed some of Aah Organics ultra lean grass-fed organic ground beef with onions, garlic, some cumin, a pinch of cinnamon, sea salt and a big bunch of kale. It was so delicious. The only thing that could have made it any better would have been a handful of raisins and some pine nuts. Even so, the spices with the kale and beef were quite yummy. It is fun to cook with unusual flavors.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

All Washed Clean

The gentle rain fell all night long Sunday night. It fell all day yesterday. Into the night.

But this morning the rain has stopped. The crow of the roosters echoes down our little valley. Looks like the sun is going to come up on a fairly clear day.

The pond is not full, but it certainly looks better than it did a few days ago. The green of the grass and trees is brilliant. I want to enjoy it thoroughly because I know that it is fleeting and we won't see it for a very long time, once the first frosts hit.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gentle Rain, one of my many very favorite things.

Contrasted against rainy grey sky, the yellow turning leaves are brilliant. Marigolds and zinnias in the garden glow like neon.

I love sunny days, but there is something about a long gentle rain that makes a Texas girl's heart tender. Maybe because it is such a rare thing in the Lone Star State.

Long gentle rains have been a rare thing around here these days and that makes today feel great. Makes me happy to fold clothes and putter in the kitchen. Even makes filing paperwork almost sort of enjoyable, in a surreal sort of way.

All seems subdued and calm. The sound of steady rain makes me feel serene. The pond is far from full. Even after a whole day of precipitation. But I can see rivulets forming and have hope that after a couple more days like today, we will see it nice and full.

BTW, not too long ago we couldn't make it through a church service without weeping. I noticed today that we smiled together as a family. Laughed. Enjoyed our cuddles, but not in a desperate, pain-filled way, but in a more normal, we love to cuddle with each other in church sort of way. I didn't feel like I stuck out as a sore thumb all through the service or as we took communion. Before, I felt my aloneness, my being without Philip, as a glaring spotlight. But today, not so. I felt happy.

It is good to feel happy.

Not that I don't miss Philip. We ran by the cemetery after lunch and told him we missed him. We wished he were here. We shed a couple of tears, but then before we left the cemetery to head home the kids were chattering and joking. It is hard to believe he is gone, but I rejoice that we can feel joy again. And happiness. And hope.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hot Sun

Hot sun tries to deceive us. She tries to tell us that summer is never going to end. That we will sweat forevermore. She tells us that no matter what the calendar says and the moon says and the farmer's almanac says we will never more see rain or cool breezes, but I know the truth!

Fall is here and cooler weather is coming.


Thank goodness.

By the way, despite glaring sun and sweat and squinty eyes, farmer's market was great, as usual. I know I say this every single week, but I love going to market. We have made amazing connections with our community. We feel loved. We feel like milling grains and milking cows and making bread is a worthwhile endeavor that truly makes a difference in someone's life. Getting to barter with our other farmer pals and take home a cooler full of other people's amazing food to enjoy around our table is a spiritual event. Really.

I am one lucky woman to have such a great job. But now that the dishes are washed, the counters wiped down and the suburban emptied, I think I better take a nap. Hope the kids can play quietly.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall is officially here. Welcome.

The kids and I have repeatedly determined that whoever invented the saying "Don't cry over spilled milk" never milked the cow or the goats.

While straining the milk, I dropped an entire gallon jar onto the floor, and let me tell you, one gallon of milk can cover a lot of territory. The kids rushed to my rescue, grabbing dirty towels from the laundry. Rose volunteered to mop after Patrick grabbed the bucket and the mop off the deck. We picked up broken glass, and didn't cry one tear, but maybe we should have!

Thank goodness for team effort.

The moon is full, it is the autumn equinox today. Hard to tell, when it felt like 90 degrees at the farmer's market today, sun toasting both the bread samples and the baker. I hear rumors that cooler weather awaits us next week. Yeay.

We had a nice market this evening, despite the heat. Slow, but that meant for lots of vendor interaction and bartering. We came home with lots of goodies: tamales, cookies, chestnuts and a gorgeous bouquet. One of our sweet customers brought us Spanish tortilla (a spanish omelet with potatoes.) It was so good I ate a quarter of it with my fingers, savoring each mouthful of tender deliciousness. Yum. What a gift. What could be better than eggs and crispy tender potatoes and olive oil? Well, a glass of red wine to drink along side. Perfect stand around the counter with the kids and the dirty dishes food at the end of a very long day. And I didn't have to cook it myself. That is true love! But next time, I vow to sit outside to watch the moon while I eat such a gift.

So the floor is mopped, the tortilla is gone, the glass of wine finished, the moon is up and time for kids and mom to go to bed. Tomorrow is another day.

Let's hope the coyotes take a trip to the other side of the mountain tonight.

PS Funny things that happen on the farm:

I was taking a shower to get ready for the farmer's market. Took my hair out of a pony tail to wash it. Found two big old burrs tangled in my tangled mess of hair. Wondered how that happened since I had been working indoors since 4am this morning?

Then I remembered that while I milked Priscilla and Coco this morning they both whacked me with their tails and the tails stuck to my hair like velcro. I guess that they both left me a present. BTW, we decided to take Priscilla away from the nursing calves who need to be weaned so we can have some extra milk in the freezer for winter months. Such a good girl. Both girls behaved very sweetly for me this morning. With the exception of the occasional tail whack across the back of the head. I hope the babies (not really babies, but very big adolescents) will quit their bawling.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Today was hot.

A hazy mist covered the hills. The sweat rolled as I worked on my tasks.

A milk customer reminded me that it was supposed to rain this afternoon, but I had a hard time believing it.

The boys were supposed to unload the feed from the pickup when they got home from school, but at some point I went into the bathroom and saw Blackie crouching in the tub. Certain sign of pending thunderstorm.

Sure enough, I ran outside and was able to move the truck into the tractor shed moments before the first drops of rain hit.

The wind became furious. The willow tree thrashed about. Dark clouds and thunder rolled over the Jefferson National Forest and onto our farm, delivering buckets of rain. I raced to the porch, but had to stand at the door. Finally settled on the couch to enjoy the storm while writing a letter. Kids got washed in off the bus. Lethargy turned into happy electrical energy.

Moments later the storm had passed, the rain had stopped and the thunder was a distant echo. But the cooler temperatures felt nice.

And the ducks enjoyed their bath in the temporary stream at the bottom of the driveway.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Twilight (on the farm)

Twilight happens a lot earlier these days as we rush headlong into fall.

As I milked I watched the sheep come down from the upper grazing field. All in a line. I imagined them carrying their jackets on one arm and an empty lunch pail on the other. "Tough day?" "Nah, same as usual." "Wanna meet me down at the waterin' hole?" "Sure."

They met in front of the barn and then re-formed their line to head to the pond and stream for the evening drink and switch to the western paddock.

Boaz (our Jacob ram) had decided he is a ram again. Most parts of the year he likes to pretend he is part of the cattle herd.

He walked over to Ophelia and gave her a gentle nip on the butt. She looked at him in scorn and disdainfully walked away. Unperterbed, he walked away and cavalierly approached Tarkheena. Who joined the other sheep as they meandered, in their orderly line, down to the field by the pond. Poor Boaz. I bet he and the ewes will work out their courtship season, all in good time.

The evening is still.

The willow trees are quiet, pensive, but an imperceptible breeze causes the leaves on the cherry tree to tremble. Like a very old woman, with thinning hair and an unsteady hand, she loses her leaves. One by one. Seems like yesterday she was still covered in leaf. She is clothed in dignity, unashamed of this stage of her life. But trembly nonetheless.

Now the sun is down, chickens go to roost and I am going to enforce and extra early bedtime for young ladies and gentlemen. The moon will rise, she is almost full. And before you know it, the alarm will sound and we will all rise again for another day. When sheep will put on their jackets, grab their lunch pails, and head up to the upper fields for another day of hard labor, turning grass into meat, wool and baby lambs.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Morning Glories

One of my favorite September flowers is the humble morning glory.

I know it is a terribly invasive weed, but it gives me great joy. When we lived in Japan for two years I studied The Way of Tea with a sweet sensei (teacher). It is a traditional green tea ceremony, with ritualistic ways of entering the room, offering hospitality and respect to your guests, calming your spirit and enjoying the subtle beauties of the seasons.

The tea is made with hot, almost to the boil water, dipped out of an iron pot with a bamboo dipper. Poured into hand-made pottery bowl, whisked into a mountain of powdered matcha (the powdered, emerald tea.) The steam rises, the fragrance of the tea fills the rice matted room. And each season the tea is accompanied by a different little treat, typically made of pounded sweet rice and bean paste. At first, the taste combination was very strange to me.

I grew up in Texas, eating lots of beans with garlic and onions, not pounded together with cups of sugar.

Isn't it wonderful how our palates can adapt?

The sweet red bean paste is the perfect contrast to the bright and almost bitter, but not quite, very pungent tea. Mmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Anyway, I was thinking of tea ceremony this morning as I milked Coco and enjoyed looking at the tangle of blue morning glories, wrapped around weeds and cosmos and mounds of shiso (a VERY invasive Japanese purple basil.) Seeing those morning glories brought to mind the taste of the most luscious tea ceremony treat I had, the last leg of our stay in Japan, mid-September. The silken pounded rice had been formed around the bean paste in the shape of a morning glory and had been colored to perfection. Like a watercolor.

That tea ceremony, with the morning glory treats, tasted like the bitter sweet end of a season, holding great promise for the more of the next. Milking Coco, I wished for the calm and meditation that the ceremony would give me. I think I will see if I can order some mid-quality matcha, pull out my bamboo whisk and try to remember. I doubt I can find Japanese treats anywhere in this region, but my sensei always reminded me that The Way of Tea was not about getting everything just right, but about putting our hearts in their proper place.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Fall may be coming, but the temps were in the 90's this afternoon. I woke up chilly, but by the time we were almost halfway through our church service under the willow tree the sun had moved directly over my head and did a good job baking me.

I was happy to celebrate Sunday with our friends this morning. Things felt just right as we gathered around for the opening hymn and processional and the strong, masculine scent of billy goat wafted over the altar. Not exactly the kind of incense I would expect for a worship service, but it did seem to fit, in an organic sort of way.

Cliff, a nigerian dwarf buck is over for an extended stay. The female goats are quite happy to see him. Stinky billy goats are a necessary thing on the farm, if for only a short visit, to make certain we will have baby goats and a milk supply next year.

My favorite part of the lectionary today was Psalm 138. We discussed the many reasons David gave for worshiping God and fleshed out the scriptures. I am a teacher, not a preacher, and enjoyed the opportunity to tease out the meanings of certain words. So many words we take for granted.

Church under the willow tree isn't perfect. But I think that there is something perfect about imperfection. The more I read the scriptures, the more I notice the amazing story about all the imperfect people, working it out in imperfect ways, with a God of grace, mercy and compassion, lovingly helping them all along.

After reading to the girls, getting them to bed, I sat down to work on a to-do list. Wrote out the different categories: bakery, home, farm, garden. The list was long. I felt overwhelmed. Then, like David in the Psalms, cried out to God to help me to know how to do the next thing. To remember the big picture. To trust that imperfection on our farm, in our home and church are part of a lovely reality.

One thing at a time.

This evening I took a walk around the garden before milking Coco. The moon was starting to rise. I noticed more okra. Green beans are done. Cherry tomatoes are blooming. The eggplant are still surviving, those poor runty plants. We haven't exactly had a bumper crop, but we have enjoyed a few nonetheless. Peppers might produce a few more. Don't know. It certainly is dry. The ground is looking terrible. Pond is half dried up again. Let's hope for rain!

Well, time to sit outside and enjoy the moonlight for a few minutes before bed. All is still and quiet. Tomorrow is another day. Goodnight.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Have to take a very brief pause from the bakery to mention that there is a gentle breeze blowing. An expectant breeze.

Not hot. Not cold. Not blustery.


I can imagine the turning of the leaves, the smell of smoke in the air, the shivery evenings that require a sweater.


The willow tree turns up her silvery leaves and waves a gently greeting. Palette of green gives way to dusting of gold, here and there. Crickets chirp, all throughout the day, making certain to not waste a moment.

They know.

Alright, already. Back to the bakery. But I had to pause and feel for a moment. I hope you pause to breathe in and breathe out a few times and enjoy the turning of the season.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vacation is Great, but there is no place like home!

Am back on the farm after a few days vacation in Texas. Found a spur of the moment Name Your Own Price flight to Austin, asked Mom to pick me up at the airport and take me somewhere.


She grabbed me, we picked up my little sister, and we headed south to our family's favorite runaway place: Big Bend National Park. Stayed with our old friend, went hiking, tubing down the Rio Grande, more hiking, ate lots of delicious food, looked at the stars (the stars at night really are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.) I tried desperately to lay aside the guilt, knowing that many many friends were involved making it possible for me to go away. Can't say that I was successful with eliminating the guilt every moment, but I can say that it has been a very long time since I had so much fun and relaxation. We didn't do every single long hike that I like to try to fit in, but we enjoyed long breakfasts and peaceful suppers.

Even more sweet was knowing that the children survived very well without me. I missed them greatly, but feel so much more rested and ready to jump back into farm life. I guess that the rest made me realize that it has been a very hard season and I am quite tired.

Breathing mountain desert air makes me feel alive and healthy and happy. But driving in to our driveway and seeing two little girls race to the car was even better medicine. Being away and then coming back made me feel so thankful to be loved. We sat around the table and everyone shared stories about their weekend experience. They were shocked that I went inner tubing down the Rio Grande.

"That just doesn't sound like you, Mom!" they all exclaimed.

Maybe they haven't gotten to see the fun version of their mom for awhile.

Temperatures dropped outside and I enjoyed cuddling with the little girls, reading our chapter for the evening. We accidently read two, we were having so much fun. Big kids did homework.

Peace reigned in our home last night.

Will try to regale you with more adventures later, but must get ready for the bakery tomorrow. If I forget, ask me about Jason and the chicken(s) who spent two days in our house. Let's just say that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, and that would be Jason. I came home to such a clean house.

Home, sweet home.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The computer needs to be put to sleep for a few days.

Dear Loyal Readers,

I am going to take a few days off from the computer. Will resume posting in a few days with lots of farm adventures to come.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tough Luck

Coco kicked me in the knee this evening.

I was looking forward to milking this evening. Cool air. Bright stars. Chirping crickets.

Coco was sore from calves biting her. She would not let me touch her. It has been ages since she gave me troubles. I wonder if she is wanting to be dried up to be ready for calving this winter. That would make sense.

I was hoping to get at least another month to 6 weeks of milk.

We will try again at dawn in the morning. My knee doesn't hurt too badly. If she really wanted to hurt me it would be worse.

We ate a tough old rooster from the freezer turned into chicken and green bean soup this evening. He could have used another three or four hours in the pot. Good taste, but, let me tell you, those roosters are tough old birds.

Maybe tomorrow will be a sweeter day on the farm. Or maybe not. I read a weather alert that said wind would kick up. There is a fire ban. Fall is blowing in, despite the last ditch effort summer is making with these high afternoon temps.

PS Thomas and Patrick had a great brotherly bonding time on the deck this evening. Patrick shaved Thomas's head.


Right before school pictures.

I bet they will never forget that experience. Neither will I.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saturday Night

Today was a blustery day. Earl blew by us and left us holding onto our hats, our hair, our market tents.

He also blew in cooler temps and lots of customers to the farmer's market. We were sold out of bread before 11 am this morning. I am so grateful for the many customers who go out of their way to swing by and buy our breads. They could get cheaper bread much more conveniently at their local supermarket. I am thankful they get it from us. It is hard to believe that we have been able to get a business going that makes enough money to pay bills. It is a miracle, really. A miracle that involves many many human hands. The ones who helped us buy more equipment, who help me with the kids when I need it, the ones who come out to wrap bread on occasion and run buy butcher paper when I run out. The ones who hang with me at the market and drive Patrick to the other market.

Really amazing when you think about how God uses so many people to do little and big things to make a miracle.

Anyway, market was blustery, but pleasant. Patrick sold out too. We came home with peaches from Gwen Ikenberry, peppers from a Botetourt farmer, eggplants from Thistle Dew Farm and the Anselmis(I just can't get enough eggplant in summertime!), and some potatoes and onions from Raymond. I think for potluck tomorrow we will have roasted eggplant with garlic and olive oil even though we have it at least once or twice a week. Maybe we will throw in potatoes and peppers to mix it up a little. Rosemary? And a nice frittata. We have plenty of eggs in the fridge. Frittata is the italian version of the omelet. Frittata with peppers and goat cheese. And some of Hillbilly Heaven's pesto for good measure.

It is hard to have so many great ingredients around and not think about food all the time. Maybe I am hungry because we cleaned house instead of eat supper tonight. After washing so many dishes I didn't have it in me to cook. Everyone grabbed what they could. I had a handful of cashews. Plenty good, but Sunday dinner will be much better, God willing!

By the way, it is cool this evening. Clear skies and lots of stars. Entering the dark phase of the moon. Perfect for planting fall root crops, if I were so lucky as to be able to plant garden right now.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fall is Coming, fall is coming!

Hurricane Earl rushed up the East Coast. He sprinkled a few rain drops our way, but didn't stick around our neighborhood.

This morning I noticed that summer was over.

We are still getting temperatures up to the 90's in town, but when I milked, the sky had a color that isn't seen during the summer. And the breeze felt like a promise. Different than summer. It promised that in a few short weeks the leaves will put on their fancy clothes and give us a show. And we will pull out our sweaters and our firewood and start feeding hay.

I have been attempting to bake more to supply the demand. Over a hundred loaves today and 50 pizza crusts. From grain to flour, to kneaded out loaves by hand, I am one tired baker. Can feel that it has been a long season and fall is around the bend. So very thankful to have a job that is my own. That nourishes others and uses my skills.

Very thankful that at least most of the dishes are washed, even if the floor hasn't been swept yet. Tomorrow is another day.

Sat on the front porch for 5 minutes. Noticed that the fireflies are gone. Will miss them.

The breeze is a delicious one. Balmy and gentle.

The hurricane is driving in a nice cool spell which we will enjoy. There are a lot of things I will miss about summer. But welcome, Fall. We invite you to come and stick around for awhile!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September 2, 2010


Cow milked. Grain milled. Kids breakfast made. Bread baked. Granola baked. Birthday cake baked. Made it to the farmer's market late and begged for help with my table so I could run back home and help with Nora's birthday party.

Fellow farm vendors are awesome. One of the alpaca fiber ladies sold my bread for me and I was able to come serve hot dogs, sing Happy Birthday, serve cake and watch kids hit the pinata. When I returned to the market, the bread was all sold out.

Hard to believe that my baby is now seven. We found out the news about our fifth pregnancy right before Christmas eve. What a pleasant surprise! We were taking care of Philip's ailing mom and dad. Had just moved to NJ.

Nora was born in Texas in my parent's home. We wanted a homebirth and it was illegal in NJ so we made the journey back. Met up with an amazing midwife who had delivered babies for some of my old friends. My baby sister Christine got to catch the teeny little bundle.

Nora is my cuddle bug. I love cuddling with all the children, but Nora is the one who especially likes to climb onto my lap and be loved on. She is affectionate and perceptive. Nora sees things that others miss. She understands more than most teenagers do.

Nora is the rememberer of our family. Ask where someone's shoes are, she will remember. If I want to remember to take something to someone, I will ask Nora to remind me. She rarely fails. She is also a good finder. On Sunday morning Nora was cuddled on my hip during the singing. As she sang along with the chorus, I was amazed at how sweetly she sang, in perfect pitch. Her words sweetened my ear and made me cry.

Now that Nora is seven, she is growing. Before you know it she will be way too big to hold on my hip. I guess she is probably too big now, but I am going to enjoy her cuddling for as long as I can. She is clever. Learning to read. Great at math. Funny.

School is a transition for her and she is tired, but I think she is going to do just fine. Nora is making friends and loves to play with Boone and Sofie and Meck and enjoys sitting by Micah in her classroom. She is clever and inventive and enjoys creating little worlds during her private play time.


Honora Kathleen Hillery. Named after the Irish great-grandma who came to America. And Kathleen, my mom's best friend and my second mother.


My now sweet little seven year old who is brushing her teeth and getting ready for story time. Better run find our book. I think it is time for a cuddle.