Saturday, October 30, 2010


Rose is sick and cuddled up in my bed with a cold. Patrick is frying up some hashbrowns for us. Home-grown organic potatoes from the farm with Redmonds Real Salt. Our favorite comfort food. We tell him it is too bad to be cursed by being the hashbrown king. No one fries up hashbrowns as well as Patrick. Crispy. Tender in the middle. Perfectly salted. He only hesitated a minute when Rose and I pleaded from our comfortable spot on the bed, the two of us with books and him on the computer.

Is there anything better than a fried, crispy homegrown potato?

We need some comfort food because we have been having a pretty hard grief week. All the literature, the grief counselor, our friends who have walked this journey before us, have told us that each season brings new waves of pain. Funny the things that trigger the pain.

For me, cleaning out the old homeschool curriculums was about more than I could take. Wow. I had no idea it would stir up so many things. I found old card Philip had written to me. Thought about how he would never write me another birthday or anniversary card. Found old stories and nature journal entries written by the kids over the years. Thought about how our life has changed and we won't be doing nature journals like we used to. Set up the bakery ingredient shelves. Worked on business strategy. Got tired. Thought about how I don't have another grownup in the picture to help share the financial burdens of the family anymore.

So many different things to grieve.

I didn't want to write about it in the middle of the hard stuff because it was too painful. But now that I am a couple of days out, it is a little easier, and I decided that for those other grievers out there (or future grievers, as we all have to grieve at some point or another), I would share a bit about grieving on the farm this week.

I cried pretty darn hard. There were days that I wailed. Sobbed. Moaned and groaned and threw up my hands to God. There were moments all I could do was say "Jesus." It hurt.

I was a bit taken aback and surprised that we had such a raw week of pain. The kids felt it too. We all occasionally felt mean, cranky, out of sorts, and mostly miserable. Because I had gone through most of my pain while here at the house alone, when I saw it surface in the kids, somehow it was recognizable. There were moments when I would take a child in the lap, hold her and let her weep, because she was so sad. All I did was rock and cry and say I miss him too.

Other moments I scolded and fussed.

It was hard.

One child told me he was cleaning his room and found an old birthday card that Dad had written him. It made him depressed and pain-filled for days.

The season has changed and we are experiencing a new era without Philip. The leaves are blowing away, the wind has returned, the cold is here and Philip isn't. All is new. We are having to figure out how to navigate life in our world in a new way.

It is hard.

The bread still has to be baked. The bills still have to be paid. Ingredients have to be ordered. Chickens have to be fed. Buses have be be caught. Homework done. Meals have to be made.

We walk onward. We read stories. We live. But it is occasionally very hard. Especially when six living people have to bump into each other's grief on a daily basis.

I thank God for our dear friends who do not grow tired of us. Who contine to lovingly support us and to listen and to help and to bear with. One might think that at this point we would be healed. We are doing well. We are surviving and thriving and working and healing. But not yet healed.

You know the awakeness I mentioned the other day? Another level of grief anesthesia has worn off and with that a new level of pain. I am feeling MUCH better today, but that feeling better has come after buckets and HOURS of tears.


Feeling is hard work.

I don't even know why I am sharing all this stuff, except for the fact that there are grieving people who read this blog who see all the stuff we do on the farm and might mistakenly get the idea that there is a way to get through grief without ending up a puddle on the floor wailing occasionally. We thank God for the capacity to keep moving, but I must acknowledge that we are sometimes moving while weeping and wailing. And sometimes we aren't moving, but are sitting in a puddle in the middle of the floor.

All that said, there are moments of extreme joy these days. And pleasure. And gratitude. We do smile. And enjoy amazing miracles. Like hashbrowns made from our potatoes. From potatoes grown on the farm during a time when we really shouldn't have had the wherewithal to even plant potatoes. But miraculously we did. And somehow got them harvested. And cooked.

The main reason I wanted to post tonight is to mention the amazing sight out my window this evening. Just as the sun set, I looked out to the east and saw the most beautiful gift. A pink wash spread over the ridge, the fields, the garden. It reminded me of one of my favorite paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I can't tell you the artist or the name of the painting, but it is a small one. Tiny, compared to the huge masterpieces. It is harvest time, and I bet you a dollar it was painted in late October. The fields and the harvested hay are green and brown and golden and orange and a pink wash spreads over everything.


And for a moment this evening, I felt an intimate connection with that artist, long dead, and felt washed in beauty. And felt that even after all the tears and pain of my own grief, and my dear precious children, there is joy. And life. And goodness.

But now, I better go finish those hashbrowns. And enjoy a movie with the kids. Goodnight.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's For Supper

It has been so warm the last couple of days. Nora has spent time every afternoon riding her bike up and down the driveway. I went out to pick a few more ripe tomatoes. A gentle breeze is blowing and things are still damp from the morning rain. The ridge looks like November. Mostly golden, heavy on the brown with a dash of cayenne here and there. The fields are still green. Cattle, sheep and goats are grazing happily.

All the beautiful colors outside have inspired my supper menu: Bright green broccoli, sauteed in olive oil with garlic and salt. Deep orange sweet potatoes, sliced and roasted in the oven with, yes, you guessed it: olive oil, salt and more garlic. I think I will give the kids some grass-fed hamburger meat, made into little bitty steaks and I will have the last lamb chops, to make room for the lamb to come. Of course that will be prepared with some rosemary and garlic. The arugula is so vibrant and healthy looking out in the garden, I think I will go pick some of that to saute with some, yes, more olive oil and garlic. A couple of red and yellow tomatoes sliced on the side, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and we are set.

Bon Apetit! And everything locally grown. Yum.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Trying to find a new normal. Still

I remember the day Philip cut down the big old poplar tree and Greg came over, picked it up to mill it into boards.

Philip and Daddy turned a lot of those boards into a stock rack for the pickup truck to haul animals here and there. Then Philip took another big stack of them and made me a huge bookshelf that spanned the wall of our breakfast room/school room. He wanted to sand them down, I asked him to leave them rough, and just paint them. I wanted to remember that these shelves came off our property.

I remember the days I spent organizing our school materials. American History. Advanced American History. Elementary World History. Middle school World History. Intro to Biology. Intro to Physics. Nature studies. Biographies. All the math curriculums we tried: Making Math Meaningful. MathUSee. Saxon, several years of that. Teaching Textbooks, 4th grade, 6th grade, PreAlgebra. Art books. Music stuff. Supplies for science experiments, some of which we got to. And then the literature. Oh, the literature.

As the years went by the books got a little disordered. I found that the kids tended to pull books off the shelf out of order, because they would find something interesting and read it in their spare time. This year a few people have given me advice to clear it out, now that we are not homeschooling, to make better use of the space for the bakery.

I couldn't do it until this week.

So Sunday night I began the task of sorting, clearing out, setting aside. I decided that even though I could probably sell a lot of stuff, it would take too much labor and time, and will end up sharing some with a couple of friends and take the rest to Goodwill tomorrow. Hopefully someone will find a great deal that will help their homeschool and Goodwill can use the money to give someone a job.

I am keeping the good stuff. Literature that is. And nature guides. And the good history and biographies. After getting rid of twaddle (that is what Charlotte Mason, educator from the 1800's called worthless books) there was more room on the several bookshelves in the front hallway. Especially when I removed the old game boxes that were missing pieces, and the old Mother Earth and Gourmet magazines that I will probably never miss. And the extra sets of encyclopedias.

Why am I writing about clearing out homeschool books on this farm blog? Well. I guess a reminder to myself that this is a blog about our life here in our promised land. A land that involves a farm. And a bunch of kids. And a bakery. And former homeschooling mom and wife and mother of five who is now not a wife, or a homeschooling mom, but still mother of five who needs the bakery to run more efficiently, especially as the market season slows down and I wish to incorporate cooking classes here on the farm.

So I feel really teary right now. Grieving the many losses that have led to such drastic changes in our life. And happy. Thankful to see the wonderful shelves filled with packages of yeast and grain and Real Salt and spices and cheese making supplies.

The boys carried out boxes and boxes and laundry baskets and laundry baskets filled with books out to the car. I will distribute them tomorrow to get them off the property. I feel like I did a good job of keeping the good stuff and getting rid of things we no longer need. I hope to never ever need to see a Saxon math book again in my life.

Somehow all this production makes me feel like I have reached a new level of awakeness. But it is stretching me and it hurts. Little girls are unhappy to see halfway used up coloring books go. They are afraid when they see the cleared out shelves that the good books are all gone. But I reminded them to look in the umpteen other bookshelves in the house to see that the good stuff is still here. We will always be a book family with too many books.

Now the bakery is looking like a bakery.

And I am tired. And grieving loss. And change. Some days I wish we could rewind and go back to being what used to be normal. Shelves of disorderly homeschool books, chores, spelling lessons and history and working out ways to learn math, all of us. A smaller garden and a smaller bakery and all seven of us here. And kids with a dad who loves them and their mom.

Nobody ever promised that living in the land of milk and honey wouldn't have its share of tears and grief and hard work.

PS Don't worry too much. By tomorrow I am going to feel so good having those shelves organized and excess clutter removed. But it does kinda hurt tonight.

Late October in our Valley

Amber colored ridge
Glows through cashmere shawl of mist.
Warm in morning chill.

Morning Worship

Yesterday morning, Patrick helped me walk the sheep into the barn and corral the ram lambs into Coco's old stall. Maggie guarded the door. As the sheep dashed from one side of the stall to the other, en masse, Patrick and I dove in, grabbed for some wool and a horn, and captured the intendeds. Five years ago we couldn't have done that job. Ten month old ram lambs are big, are strong and agile, and rather intimidating if they are Jacob sheep with those amazing four horns.

Patrick commented on how grateful he was that our sheep have wool. You see, the sheep are part wild, since they are raised on pasture, instead of in the barn with a bucket of grain. They don't just follow us like the dogs. But a few years ago we had a lot more trouble getting them to cooperate, and it is nice to see that some experience, along with developing some confidence and muscle bulk, has made lamb loadup relatively painless.

We dove in, grabbed a fistful of wool with confidence and gently but firmly moved each fellow through the barn door and up into the bed of the truck. No need for a trailer for such a small load.

Then we showered up, kids got on the bus and I headed to West Virginia to our butcher. Somewhat sad to say goodbye to the trio of January rams I like to call the Three Musketeers. They have played together, hung out, bullied, chased the girls and consumed their fair share of nice green grass. If one is raising sheep for meat, one can't get terribly sentimental about taking lambs to the butcher. That is the destiny for most of the male sheep. We have a handful of wethered males and keep them for wool, but our farm can't sustain any more without overgrazing.

So instead of thinking about the destiny of most ram lambs, I drank my coffee and enjoyed the most amazing drive through the mountains. Maybe it is because I am from Texas and long drives are a part of your destiny if you want to get from point A to point B. Maybe because I am around people a LOT and a nice long drive means solitude for me. Who knows, but taking a drive, especially on a fall day, seemed like a pretty nice gift for this girl. And no guilt for driving all the way to West Virginia on a Monday when there was laundry to be done and floors to be swept when the drive was work related. I had to take those lambs! People are waiting on that delicious, healthy meat. And I need to sell that meat to pay bills over the winter.

So, I put in a Fernando Ortega compilation of hymns and cranked up the volume. Growing up in a little Southern Baptist church out in the country, with a piano playing mom and music leader dad, meant lots of hymn singing for me. We would sing around the piano with our friends, Keith and Kathy Hamburger for hours in the evenings when they would come over for supper. We would sing as we drove around. We sang in the church out at Naruna, over a hundred years old, surrounded by live oaks and graves and farms, deer munching acorns and the big old windows open, my dad adjuring the congregation to sing out like they meant it.

So maybe you think hymns are boring and can't imagine why anyone would want to listen to them cranked up loud while driving through scenic countryside in the Allegheny Highland, but to me, they sound like home. Especially if they are arranged by Fernando Ortega and he sings in just the right key for me to join in with a tenor or alto part.

The leaves in the mountains were just barely past their peak. Reds and browns and golds fluttered and whirled. Heavy grey clouds and misty rain caused the color to be even brighter and more spectacular.

As I drove the words to the hymn "How Firm a Foundation" spoke to me like never before. We have felt like we were going through the deep waters, way before Philip died. We have felt like we were being pushed along in a river of woe. I thought about that as I drove past the James River and saw it tumbling over the rocks and boulders. In our fiery trials, we have been provided exceedingly abundant grace. And when I felt my soul shaken by hell, I knew, deep down in my inmost parts, that I was not forsaken. My God has given me aid, has walked by my side, has carried me, never abandoned me.

I sang and worshiped God. I thanked him for his grace and provision for me. Each hymn pouring out my heart, lifting it up as a small thank you note.


Trees and river and rocky escarpments the most amazing of sanctuary and my truck a great pew.

The drive home took a secular turn and I had fun belting out contemporary pop songs. Believe it or not, I think that was an act of worship as well. The whole package deal. Hymns, clouds, sunshine, colorful leaves, seasonal changes, harvest time of produce and meat, solitude, peace, even the coming home to be with the kids and hurry hurry to get everyone where they needed to go for the evening.

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise him all creatures here below,
Praise him above, ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen."

Sunday, October 24, 2010


This evening some friends came over to help me reattach the camper top to the truck. Tomorrow I plan to load up three lambs and take them to the butcher.

I thought I might pen up the fellows this evening, but after a quick walk about, decided that morning with the help of the kids before they take off for school would be a better economy.

Even so, the walk out to the fields was a gift to me.

What is better perfume than the smell of grass, with a note of sheep's wool, leaf mold and moist, late October air? The leaves are so beautiful, green rapidly replaced by browns and golden with a little dab of red here and there. While the sun was up, I was happy to be out in short sleeves.


Even the heifers could feel the fall energy as they and the rest of the herd walked up the field to the barn. They frolicked and cavorted, kicking up their heels. They gave each other kisses, then returned to their work of munching grass.

I stretched out my arms to embrace it all and spent a few minutes loving on my farm. I wanted to drink it all in.

How could a person have such a deep and grand affection for a little spot on the huge globe? Marigolds glowed, the chickens contentedly clucked and dogs wandered about by my feet. Blue sky turned dark, I moved back inside as the cool, moist air fell onto the evening.

Sentimentality set aside, I began to tackle the job of going through old homeschool literature, setting aside a give away pile, determining the keepers. Sneezed old book dust. Listened to Nora read. Felt energized to do necessary tasks, thanks to a few minutes of peaceful restoration.

I wish everyone could realize how valuable it is to spend even a few minutes outside, looking at the marvelous world that surrounds them. Sky, trees, plants. Just breathing the air for a few minutes, noticing the seasonal smells helps to center me and give me enough ummph to keep on moving.

Now, it is time to read some more of our book. Tomorrow let's hope the lamb loading goes smoothly. The drive to West Virgina should be amazingly beautiful. Perhaps I better make sure to schedule five extra minutes to sit at the top of the mountain on the drive home to breathe.

Good night.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What an amazing moon!

I was in town with Rachel and another girlfriend this evening when we saw the moon begin to rise. It was brilliant.

We oohed and aahed as we marveled at the rainbow that surrounded it.

After getting home, I had to take my glass of wine and sit on the deck to watch it continue to ascend in the east. There are a few clouds, but not too many and it shines like a spotlight. The coyotes howl a mile or so up the woods. The neighborhood dogs take turns barking back.

Now I sit in my bedroom and look out the window, getting a crick in my neck. If I had any sense at all, I would bundle up and take a walk and bathe in moonbeams.

Instead, I will bundle up under the covers and read a library book by lamplight. Hopefully to dream of wonderful things. Like moonbeams.

The moon makes me think of the great great grandmother's silvery globe in The Princess and the Goblins. A comforting guide, shining the light on the safe path home.

I am glad to be all safely home, kids asleep or reading their books. All quiet on the homefront. For the moment. Sweet dreams!

First Frost

There was a nice frost covering the farm this morning, with temperatures hitting the thirty degree mark. After getting home from the farmer's market, I headed out to the garden and picked a few red tomatoes and checked out the sweet potato patch. Looked like things didn't get bitten too hard. Too bad we don't have a few more weeks. We have loads of green tomatoes and baby peppers.

Chickens and ducks ate quite a few sweet potatoes, but it appears that they left us a few. Which is wonderful, since I have grown to adore roasted sweet potatoes and olive oil.

Before heading out to the garden, I had a wonderful chat on the phone with my former Spanish and French professor from college. Isn't it amazing how true friendships can last for decades? Since it was so sunny and warm, I took the call out on the deck. And watched the asian ladybugs swarm around the house. Rose went out with a jar to collect them. Maybe she should start a business selling them, except I would hate to be a part of an industry dealing in invasive bugs.

Those bugs are crazy. Look back to November 1st,2008,in the blog to find a very funny story in the comments by Ross about his ladybug experiences!

After mentioning Indian Summer the other night in the blog, I did a little research. Looks like a true indian summer occurs after the first frost. I suppose today would qualify. 70 degrees outside, warm sun, slight breeze. Couldn't get much prettier.

And speaking of pretty, when we drove onto the farm this afternoon, I said to the children that our firewood pile looked much larger than it did early this morning. I guess a firewood fairy came while we were out. Wow. And there were three different people who came up to me to give me a gift today at the farmer's market.

Isn't it strange how humbling it is to receive? It is hard. I can't pay everyone back for all they have done for us. I feel like we don't deserve the help and others are in more need. What to do?

Say thanks? It is so inadequate.

I am grateful for the many gifts we receive every single day. The gift of the warmth. The gift of the seasons and colors. The gift of our garden and our food. Our friends. The labor of others. Firewood. Money. Broccoli. Fish. Hugs. Phone calls. Running water.

I know this is rambling, but I felt the need to record a few little things before moving on in our day.

Friday, October 22, 2010


As I went to open the gate of our driveway yesterday, a rose bud captured my attention.

She was perfect. Brilliant. Crimson. Tucked down, part way on the giant bush by the road. I couldn't help myself and reached out to pluck the pretty flower. Sprawled on the ground was a blue chicory and a tiny little patch of what looked like miniature daisies.

I gathered up my little impromptu bouquet and enjoyed it all the way to the farmer's market. Afraid to miss the moment, because any minute now we will have a hard freeze and all the flowers will be gone. I marveled at the perfection of that little rosebud. But when I got to market, I forgot to put it in some water and by the time I got home last night, the little bouquet was wilted and looking far less than perfect.

I stuck the little flowers in water anyway, and put them on the windowsill and as I work this morning, I see them and think about the fleeting perfection of that rosebud.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pretty Much Full Moon

The wind blew throughout the farmer's market this afternoon. It was nice and warm until the sun dipped below the horizon, then temperatures dropped about 20 degrees (at least it felt like that.)

As we packed up our wares, a full moon became visible toward the east. I know that the newspaper says that tomorrow is the full moon, but I don't believe it. What a gorgeous sight.

I wish you could have seen the golden evening light wash over the gold and orange trees, all lit up by the full moon, larger than life. As I drove in to the driveway, the sheep munched on the little field by the road, the house loomed large and comforting, and all was bright and alive.

Made me think of the lyrics to my favorite song by Andrew Peterson, The Magic Hour. Remind me to post those lyrics someday, or find them yourself on YouTube and listen.

Now the moon is a large spotlight, rising high. The evening is clear and cool, but the house is still warm. We enjoyed our supper around the table and another couple of chapters of Where the Red Fern Grows. Mashed potatoes and roast chicken were every bit as good tonight as they were last night. Another jar of home canned green beans hit the spot. Along with several slices of Milk and Honey bread, carrots and fresh lettuce from another vendor. Now Thomas washes up the dishes, little ones try to go to sleep and tomorrow is another day.

I wonder if we will dream about pups and little boys and Ozark river bottoms? Or full moons and bread and the wind?


Milking Season Has Come To An End

The bread dough is rising. Not quite so much dough today since there is a high wind warning and many of our fall vendors are done for the season.

Sun is shining and not a cloud in the sky.

I am grieving the change of the seasons today as I feel a bit chilled to the bone. Coco is now dried up and I am using store-bought cream in my coffee.

Isn't it weird that I could be so tired of going out and milking for ten months or so, but that when it is all over, I miss it?

Milking Coco is my quiet reflection time. A lovely practice in meditation as the breeze blows, the milk streams into the foamy bucket. I watch the chickens and goats in the distance. The leaves on the cherry tree and willow tree offer a different story almost every day. Each month I see the moon in a different location, the fields a different color, the garden in a different state.

Squatting down by Coco's flank, sometimes in a jacket, sometimes in pajamas, sometimes in shorts and tank top, I feel her warmth and the switch of her tail and feel connected to something big and old and good. I feel connected to my dad, to my grandparents and the many others in past generations whose strong hands brought forth cream and milk and cheese and butter from the dear animal who magically transformed grass into white gold.

Milking Coco this year offered a seriously difficult form of grief therapy as it forced me to get up and move when I didn't know if I could even walk, let alone wash up the milk bucket, go outside, grab grain and force my hands to work mechanically. Coco munched her grain as the milk streamed. And as my tears streamed down my face. I felt tiny little bits of healing wash over me as each week progressed, the seasons changed and the grass greened and the trees flowered and the garden grew, all while squatting by Coco's flank.

Coco is now pregnant (we presume) and needs a couple of months off to put all her resources into the new baby. Before you know it, winter will be here, baby will be born, and another cycle of milking will begin.

There will be plenty of opportunities to go outside and watch my world. But rarely is there another activity that forces me to squat down, be still for 15 or 20 minutes to simply watch and listen and feel.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gentle October Rain

A gentle October rain is falling on the farm this morning. Silvery green willow is brushed with a little gold dust. The woods along the stream glow through the strands of mist. Each day reveals more and more of their grey limbs.

I can never decide which is my favorite part of my favorite season.


I think each moment is my favorite part. Right now, the riot of colors contrast so beautifully with the remaining green of fields. Seems like we typically get our hard freeze by now. Must be about to strike, anyday now. Then the fields will get with the program and set aside the green outfit for a more suitable wheaten color. Cows, goats and sheep are eating grass with a vengeance, they must know the green is soon to be gone.

The sound of rain is sort of bittersweet. It is the perfect accompaniment to the remainder of my pile of paperwork. The house is still and quiet. I am almost tempted to open up every window, try to get the temperature down a bit and light a fire in the fireplace. Almost, but not quite. We have plenty of fireplace days ahead of us. Guess I better get to the retail sales taxes, the winter budget, and farm plans for the next season.

More later!

Friday, October 15, 2010


Just a note to let you know that the farm is still happening, but we have had a houseguest and I have not been spending much time at the computer! Stories are piling up in my mind, so before you know it, they will come tumbling out onto the keyboard and into this blog.

Meanwhile, the bread bakes, the breezy clouds fly by, and fall leaves flutter and fly like butterflies. More later!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Indian Summer?

Today was balmy. So is this evening. It was nice milking Coco in the darkening evening with short sleeves. Before you know it, we will be donning coats and hats. Jupiter was bright, over the ridge. The crescent moon was spectacular in the west. Every day brings more color to the farm.

I took a vacation day today and stayed home from church. Woke up early. Went back to sleep. Luxuriated in laziness. Made coffee. Spent a very long time reading the Bible. Cleaned my room while the girls made waffles. Organized a few things. Filed papers. Washed laundry. Ate tuna fish on the deck with Nora.

Amazing how great it feels to spend the entire day at home. I feel refreshed and relaxed. Yesterday we had a great day at market, and when I got home, Jason's dad was out working on my garden. I joined him for a while, finding rows underneath the weeds. The soil looked great. Not much feels better to me than soaking up the sun, working out in the garden. God bless Jason's dad for investing in us!

Then we drove to Bent Mtn to a party out on our friends' property. Bbq, all the good stuff to drink, panoramic views of the Blue Ridge, a bonfire, plenty of friends, old and new and the most amazing sunset I have witnessed in a while. Sometimes it is hard to make the effort to drive somewhere far, but am I ever glad we did. I believe God made us to spend moments together with our community, and also moments alone, with our thoughts.

What a lucky girl am I, to get a decent dose of everything I needed this weekend. And with enough time this evening to dive into a good book. Monday doesn't look nearly as daunting when we carve out some margin in our weekend. Maybe tomorrow we will put our NEW PRESSURE WASHER to use! You know how I feel about pressure washers. Look out barn, here we come!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thank Goodness for Fridays (the overwhelming feeling for kids home from school)

This morning was nice and cold. 37 degrees when I woke up the girls.

By late morning, the sun was up and the chill was gone. By midday, the temperatures were up to 70 something and I felt like pouting.

Of course, by now you know I love to bake bread. Milling grain into flour and mixing it up with Coco's milk and honey is alchemy. I love witnessing magic as the natural glutens develop and gloppy dough becomes satiny loaves.

However, there are days like today when the sun is shining and I feel distracted and wish more than anything that I could be out working in the garden, pulling weeds, finding rows, mulching and preparing for the winter so we can be ready to plant in the springtime. Hence the pout.

At some point I ran up to the mailbox to get the newspaper and took it out to the garden and sat in the middle of the weeds to read. Yanked some monster lamb's quarter. Found some ripe tomatoes (however in the world did the chickens miss those three?). Shed an almost bitter tear and went back into the bakery to resume my work.

So I guess the point of this post is that sometimes farmers have to go to work to be able to pay the bills to be able to stay on the farm. And sometimes the things you really want to do have to wait. I will get to the garden, soon. Won't get it all done, but I think that the pouty feeling was a good indicator that I better find some time to work outside. Winter days are coming and I need to take in some Vitamin D!

Supper is almost finished, the bread is wrapped and the kids are playing together outside. Patrick is desperate for someone to practice lacrosse with so I saw him teaching Rose how to hold the stick. Nora is setting out some mums to make things look nice and fallish. Thomas is taking a nap and Maggie is working on something. The evening sky glows pink and blue like a baby blanket.

For some reason, this time of fall makes me feel steeped in melancholy. The colors and the feel of the air touch my spirit like a winsome violin piece. Guess I better run downstairs, milk Coco and enjoy the piercing music of the dusk and appreciate the ability to feel. Melancholy, grateful, pouty, tired, sad, happy, expectant, at least not mad for the moment!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rise and Shine, Please

Steel gray clouds scud across the sky. They are headed south; a migration, slowly working their way over the mountains, feeling the nip of the autumn wind at their heels. Dawn has yet to come. But I can see a glimpse.

I enjoyed my omelet breakfast this morning. With shorter days and longer dark, the egg supply has diminished to next to nothing. I know we could set out lights and extend the egg season somewhat, but for some reason we never do. The bright early sunshine mornings filled with never ending omelets are screaching to a halt as we struggle to get up in the dark. Now we enter oatmeal season. And watch dark clouds sweep along and give thanks for socks and sweaters.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Little Hike (Or All Work and No Play Makes for Grumpy Moms)

The bakery season has been a long one. Many long hours make for one tired woman.

This morning I ran into town to take care of some business. Was planning to rush home and get back to work, but somehow my car got pulled into the McAfee's Knob trailhead parking lot, as if by a magnet.

I used to hike a lot. These days the only hiking I get is when the animals escape to the wrong field. Which is alright. We live in the shadow of the Appalachian Trail and hiking around our property is a joy. But did I mention those long bakery hours?

A perfectionist enjoys long hard hikes, minimum 5 miles, up to 12 or 14, to feel like she is really accomplishing anything. I decided that it would be good therapy to take a nice hour, hour and a half hike, with no real destination in mind, to enjoy the beginning of fall. Didn't have any good shoes with me or water or snacks, but a stroll appealed to me greatly.

Blood pressure dropped, even as heart rate accelerated. The smell of earth and moss and leaves was the sweetest of perfumes. Fluttering falling leaves made me feel as if I were in the middle of a snow globe, but with autumn leaves instead of snow. Much better! The trail was quiet, as I headed toward Dragon's Tooth. Knew I couldn't reach that point, but the point for me was to be outside, to be quiet and to listen.

For a time I only listened to my heart beat. Tried to take in the colors of the mosses and lichen. Some so soft and green, like a leprechaun's faded velvet coat, a bit worn around the edges, but fine and dandy. Other mosses were emerald and glowing, inviting like a fancy wing back chair set in front of a fire, with a little table beside, upon which rested a nice old pipe. The lichens were curled and frayed, grey and worn, like pages of a book scattered in a rain storm. Mountains in the distance were soft and blue and comforting to me.

At some point along the trail I reached the giant boulders. A place where we used to bring the kids when we would travel between Texas and New Jersey. We would pause the trip, spend a couple of hours hiking, let the kids crawl over the boulders and stretch from the endless miles. We would look into the valley and dream and wish we could live here.

After we moved to the farm, we would take the kids and hike and marvel that our dreams came true.

Last time I hiked with Philip and the kids along that spot was my birthday a couple of years ago. I told Philip that a nice hike with the family was what I wanted for my birthday (which falls in fall). He took the morning off of work and we all meandered along, crawled over the boulders, sat in the autumn sunshine and reveled in family time, crisp air, colorful leaves all brown, red and gold.

What a surprise. As I reached those boulders, I was racked with sobs. Out of nowhere, grief welled up as a fountain. No more will we hike together as we did back then.

I allowed myself the space for sobs. Wept and embraced the loss. Sat for a few extra minutes, then headed back down the trail.

It may sound weird, but oddly enough, I didn't stay sad. A bit bittersweet, but more poignant than sad. I deeply miss Philip and our family times together. But we will still hike as a family. Probably not as often as I would like, but it is part of who we are. I am thankful to have had a few moments to be still and feel today. But now, back to work! I hope you readers will take the time and go outside to feel today. Sometimes that involves some pain, but trust me, I think it is a good thing.

Stone Soup

Whew! Long time, no write.

I have been happily distracted from the computer by kids and friends. I have found that since the kids are gone to school all day long I want to enjoy more time with them in the evenings. We have been sharing reading time with the whole family. Reading books out loud around the table with the kids is one of the most favorite things in my life. Currently we are in the middle of George MacDonald's Princess and the Goblins. Irene is a wonderful princess and one can see, over and over, why CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and Madeline L'Engle were influenced by MacDonald's writings.

So I can truly say that things are going well on the farm. Just busily distracted.

Yesterday we had home church. It was a lovely day. Began briskly. For the first time in the season I noticed steam rising off Coco's milk as it streamed into the bowl. Trees are dusted with color. All seems vibrant and alive. One last hurrah before the frosts come and freeze away all memory of summer.

We set up our church under the willow tree. Sun was shining. Maggie picked a beautiful bouquet of deep purple parilla, dark orange marigolds, and pink and white cosmos. I especially enjoyed the different readings from the Lectionary. Psalm 37:3 is a verse I would like to claim as a theme for my life:
"Put your trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed on its riches."

I think about what it means to dwell in the land and feed on its riches. Our lunch seemed to me to be the perfect illustration for that verse. After milking and pouring myself a cup of coffee, I went upstairs to prepare for the sermon and the service. Kids were fussing around a little. I wasn't sure what we would eat for Sunday dinner. I felt tired from the bakery marathon. Empty. Wondered what in the world I had to offer.

Feeling a bit frayed around the edges, well, more than frayed, more like a moth eaten wool blanket, full of holes, I lifted up hands to heaven, and asked God to take me, as I am, and let his light shine through me. All of a sudden, I felt a renewed energy, and the scriptures came to light.

An old rooster, thrust into the freezer, became a huge pot of "stone soup."
Perfect for a blustery afternoon. (see end of post for recipe)

Bible verses that previously fell flat all of a sudden gave me inspiration and hope. We read from Habakkuk, a 7th century BCE levitical choir member and minor prophet who reminded me that we can pour out our complaints to the Lord who listens with a tender ear. His poetry moved me. Second Timothy was also a tender passage, a sweet letter from Paul to his son in Christ, reminding the young man that it is not because he works hard and does everything perfectly, but because of God's purpose for his life and grace that is poured out that he can fulfill his calling. Jesus' words in Luke were the cherry on top of the icecream for me. The disciples were asking Jesus to give them more faith. He told them that if they had faith the size of a tiny mustard seed, it would be more than enough to accomplish the most major of tasks. We passed around mustard seeds and marveled. Asked God to help us use the bit of faith we already have.

Instead of sweating and getting a sunburn like last church service under the willow, we shivered in our sweaters, wishing for one more sweater. But it was worth it, to see our glorious valley, lovely in its richness, decorated with goats and cows and sheep, polka dotted with roaming chickens and ducks and geese.

Thomas made a big fire in the fireplace and we dined in the coziness. No feast could have been more satisfying than our big pot of soup with bread on the side. Followed by dessert, gifted to us by one of our farmer's market friends. (Thanks, Thistle Dew Farm!!! The pound cake and lemon roll were enjoyed by everybody! We licked the platter clean.) We were truly thankful to dwell in our land and enjoy its riches.

Here is how we made our stone soup (and if you do not know the tale, I hope you would look it up, it is an old story about ingenuity of a couple of travelers and how they used their craftiness to make a delicious supper of which the sum was infinitely better than the parts.)

Old rooster in the pot, covered with water
Several onions from the garden
Several cloves of garlic
Several carrots from the garden, peeled and chunked
a head of cabbage from some of our market friends, chopped up and added the last half hour of cooking
a couple of peppers from Rachel and Jason
a couple of bay leaves
generous pinch of sea salt
a cup or so of wild rice scavenged from Rachel's cabinets
the remains of a bottle of Pace picante sauce
a generous amount of cumin and chili powder (are my Texas roots showing?)

We let the pot simmer for several hours, pulled out the carcass and picked off the meat, chopped it up and threw it back in. By the time the table was set and the bread was sliced, a very thick soup, very nearly a stew, was ready to eat and we delighted ourselves in it.

Every pot of stone soup is different, depending on what ingredients you have at hand. It would have been great with parsnips and green beans and potatoes. Could have been fantastic with butternut squash and rosemary and little white beans. With a dollop of pesto, a can of tomatoes and some kale and beans it would have morphed into a nice italian peasant soup.

I hope you will make yourself a pot. Soon. And share with friends. Such a wonderful picture of enjoying the riches of the land in which we have been placed. A little bit of this and that, all thrown together, simmered and stirred. Mmmmm.