Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Home. Again.

Oh dear.

My fingers managed quite nicely being away from the computer, and now I have a mountain of posts ready to explode like a volcano.

Where to begin?

We just got back from a two week trip to Texas. Our dear friend baby sat the farm, fed the chickens, watered the goats, counted the sheep and the cows and stacked lots of firewood. The kids and I loaded up the truck and headed West.

We discovered that Ella Enchanted makes for great audio book listening. The unabridged Sense and Sensibility is not so great for one small truck and an audience of six of various ages. We skipped the eat local challenge this year, with the simple goal of making it there and back again in one piece.

Mom and Dad fed us all our favorite foods (except for the fish fry, have to do that next time.) We hiked around Enchanted Rock. We visited briefly with both my sisters and their kids. We went to Big Bend National Park and sat in the hot springs under the full moon. We camped. We rafted. The kids swam and skipped rocks. We hiked. We cooked lots of food and read stories and didn't think about work or school. Well, we did work on lots of homework and piano practice, but it was in a lovely setting. We soaked up sun and high 80 degree temperatures.

It was all wonderful, but I am learning that the human psyche has the capacity to feel many emotions all at the same time, and it was shocking how much pain was threaded through all the good.

Holiday grief hurts.

We missed Philip in the Big Bend. We missed him at the Thanksgiving table. We missed knowing he was not back at the farm and would be gone this Christmas and the next and the next.

Our trip was amazing. Full of friends and laughter and joy. Family and love and hugs and kisses. And the continuation of a pain that for some odd reason hasn't lessened. Maybe it is even more intense now than it was some time ago.

First thing we did when getting back (besides getting that woodstove cranked up) was go to grief support group.

Yesterday morning the farm was 18 degrees. The fire had only coals and we were cold. What a shock to the system. The physical sensation brought about a visceral response in me, as I remembered last year's hard winter and all that went with it. Gripped with cold and pain, I sobbed and sat in front of the fire with tea, feeling nearly paralyzed.

Thankfully the temperatures are warmer and the monstrous pile of wood hasn't even been dented by the last couple of days of fire. The living room is so warm you can barely stand it. The house is cozy. We are working on trying to navigate these uncharted waters of holiday grief, the six of us. If anyone would have told me nine months ago that it would still hurt so badly, I wouldn't have believed them. Actually, I believe several people did tell me and I didn't have a clue.

I had a few minutes before supper this evening and went to the piano. I can't play, but I can pick out a tune in the hymnal and so found the advent section. My favorites. I sang and wept, thankful to remember that advent is not about happy elves and shopping and jingle bells.

I can't do jingle bells right now.

Don't want Christmas lights.

The kids and I have decided we don't want a tree until right before Christmas.

Advent is about pain. And sorrow. And suffering.

Angst and longing for help to come.

Faith that help is on its way. Hope that our mourning will eventually turn into joy. Belief that dawn is upon us.

And as I hurt, and the wind howls, and I wonder how I am going to manage the farm and the bakery and the needs of the kids, I sing with thousands of others who cry out to their creator in HOPE.

So there you have it, poor loyal blog readers. I have lots of happy stories to share and amazing pictures of the wonders we enjoyed on our trip. But today the wind blows, I hurt, and I have a feeling there might be a few other folks out there who can relate. Hope is simmering away, just like the turkey broth bubbling on my stove top, made from the bones of the turkey the Thomas's gave us. I didn't have the energy to put that fresh turkey in the freezer, all 30+lbs of it, so I shoved the whole thing in the oven with some salt and roasted it, and we ate it with our fingers for supper, putting the leftovers in the freezer and fridge. Joy and goodness are definitely a part of our big pot of soup. All mixed up with the salt of our tears, the sting of onions and garlic. Perfect for wet, windy Advent.

We wait hopefully. And figure we will make it through this first Christmas just the same way we did Thanksgiving. One step at a time.

PS I really did miss blogging, but it was GREAT to be disconnected from the web for awhile. Great to be forced to write in my journal all the deep stuff that doesn't make it on the blog. Now I am happy to be back.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Real Life Happens When the Computer is Unplugged.

Greetings, friends! The kids and I are spending time with family and friends for a few days and I am going to unplug from electronics. Journaling with pen and notebook will be a good discipline for me. Look forward to more posts in a week or two! We shall see if I can truly manage to keep my fingers off the keyboard for that long. Hasta luego!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday's New Routine

The moon is a waxing crescent. It looms so large over in the west. The stars are bright and sparkly. The sky is very clear.

Coming home from Wednesday farmer's market in the dark has at least one advantage. I get to enjoy the starry sky while opening the gate. I wonder why the sky is so particularly clear this evening? Has some weather system pushed out the particulate matter that sometimes obscures the constellations?

Another short sleeved day. Nice.

PS I am so very grateful for our customers. Many have made their way to the new venue. It is a bit hard to find. Off the beaten path. Yet they go to the trouble to buy their bread and lamb from us. And their veggies and chicken and beef from other small farmers. They know we depend on them, and it humbles me. Coming to this farm has meant many good things to me. Seeing our community expand through the local farmer's market has been one of the best things that could have happened to our family. I am thankful for the new market and all the people who make it happen. So many lives intersecting. What a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Indian Summer

Seventy five degrees today. Short sleeved weather is a treat after several days of non-stop woodstove action. I had an order for six dozen loaves of Milk and Honey bread so the day began even earlier than usual.

Not too fun to wake up before three am, but the benefit was seeing the glorious sky sparkling with diamonds. The stars were so bright and clear.

The wind howled throughout the night, and I guess she is responsible for blowing in this lovely weather.

Thank you, Wind. Seems as if you have calmed down. I wonder if you will be back again this evening, moving the warm weather somewhere else? You guys can stick around for a couple of days. Really.

PS I forgot to mention a terrific gift we received the other day from our friends, the Guzo's. FIVE free range, healthy, happy plucked and ready for the oven chickens.

YUM. They were so beautiful, I had to cook one the next day for my supper. Have you ever had chicken that has never been frozen? It is soooo good. Tender and luscious. I cut the bird down the breast, heated up an enameled cast iron skillet, put in some coconut oil (works better with high temps) then placed the whole chicken, smashed flat, skin side down, onto the very hot pan. While the skin began to sear, I smashed some garlic and scrubbed a bunch of parsnips. When the skin was brown, I flipped the chicken over, meat side down, and put the parsnips and garlic and plenty of sea salt under and around the bird. Cooked it another few minutes at high heat (all this time with a lid on, since it is very messy otherwise.) I turned the oven onto 450 degrees, then placed the whole pan in, now with no lid. In minutes, the chicken was done to perfection, juicy. Parsnips were caramelized, creamy flesh, sweet, with a nice crusty skin.

I can't tell you how good that dinner tasted to me at the time. Nora and I ate our meal, watching Heidi, as the other kids were out. We gave thanks for our dear friends, the Guzos. What a blessing to enjoy food raised by our friends.

PPS I ate the whole bunch of parsnips, all by myself. Thank goodness Nora didn't like them. What a treat. I am roasting some more for our dinner this evening. Seasonal eating is the way to go...

PPPS Just so you don't get any grand ideas or anything, I should confess that as much as I love real food, organic living, seasonal menus, etc, I love my fried chicken and french fries as much as the next junk food junkie. I can't help it. So REAL FOOD most of the time, to leave room for some junk food occasionally.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Ridge Glows like Burnished Bronze

This morning we slept in. Then we enjoyed a nice breakfast of waffles. And the newspaper. And plenty of coffee.

What a nice thing to have a break from the farmer's market. Our first family at home breakfast on a Saturday for months. The boys took care of some farm chores. The girls played and practiced the piano. I washed clothes and made my bed. And filled out some papers and filed some papers.

We went into town to run an errand and greet a friend. Came home and enjoyed a visit by some friends who dropped in. Nora and I took a walk up to the upper fields to check on the sheep and the cows and to get some fresh air. The setting sun lit the ridge on fire. It looked like burnished bronze. Nora and I were happy to get warmed up by the nice woodstove.

Hamburger patties, organic grass-fed, of course, seasoned with some soy sauce and carmelized onions, went deliciously with sauteed cabbage and red peppers and onions and garlic. Liberally dosed with toasted sesame oil. The girls played Uno while I read from an anthology of poetry. I had forgotten how I loved Shelley.

Sad and lonely feelings, worries about the unfinished tasks, all quite heavy and burdensome, seem almost bearable, in such a homey setting. For a moment I forgot that today has enough troubles of its own as I worried about the mountains of worries that loom in my future. We are so exhausted from the year, I sometimes wonder if I can keep moving. But then the girls practice the piano, I taste delicious dinner, I see the ridge light up, I feel a sweet daughter play with my hair and a son massage my neck, and I know we will be able to keep moving. Step by step. Day by day.

PS I thank God for the many friends who have supplied us with firewood. Our house is cozy and warm. May they have their gifts returned to them a thousand times.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wind like a crisp green apple

Yesterday evening at dusk I stuck my head out my bedroom window to look at the ridge and the pond. The willow tree on the pond looks like a sweet eighty year old lady. Her wispy hair was gently blown by the autumn wind. Why is the willow tree on the western end of the hay field still so green? She must still be in her forties and feeling fine. Does she know that time passes quickly and in a few days she will be walking in the footsteps of the old lady by the pond?

Yesterday when I breathed in the evening air, it was like a big gulp from a mason jar of green apple hard cider. Bright. Cold. Tart and brisk.

This evening it is different. Still cold. More depth. A little spicier. Wind like cinnamon.

I can now see through the silvery woods. Carpeted with what looks like the brown and gold shag carpet we must have had at some point in my history. Didn't everyone live in a house at some point in their life with brown and gold shag carpeting? Some designer had a good idea, probably looking out her window at the woods at the lovely carpet, and tried to translate it into synthetic fibers and flooring materials. I think I will stick to the hard wood floors and use my imagination as I look out at that gorgeous, yet ephemeral carpeting on my ridge.

I meant to look at some weather website to see the origin of our wind. Sometimes it smells like Marblehead, Massachussetts. Sometimes it smells like the south. Weird that wind can have a smell, but the other day a friend was mentioning to me the snow up in the midwest that would occasionally be covered in red Oklahoma dust. The wind makes me amazed to live on such a very big globe.

The sky was grey today, promising snow flurries. I wonder if those promises will come true? The kids have extra energy this evening and are using it to corral chickens to move them into winter housing. They are also moving the steer into the small goat field. We intend to gentle him down and give him a spot with less competition before he becomes our grass fed beef. Goats found a way out of their field this afternoon and Maggie got them resituated.

Today is my first Friday in ages to not bake for farmer's market. Yesterday was the first Thursday. Seasons change and so do markets. Wednesday was busy, and I am happy about the new venue. It is indoors, so we don't have to worry about the weather. There are so many wonderful veggies still available. I hope people won't forget about us. I shared some leftover breads with other vendors who shared some of their leftover veggies with us. Spinach and red peppers, which I sauteed this morning and threw in an omelet (please don't think me selfish to use our meager supply of eggs!). Wow. That spinach was rich and decadent. Yesterday for lunch I roasted sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, beets, onions, parsnips, garlic and yellow squash, all with plenty of salt and olive oil. Decadent. And every bit of it from our farm, or from our friends' farms. Except for the olive oil. Don't you wish we had some friends in the mediterranen with a nice olive orchard? Last night we had homemade pizza, freshly milled whole grain, of course, salad from market friends, sweet and tender greens with flakes of Jimbo's smoked trout, red pepper and carrots, topped with sesame vinegarette. I ate the leftover carrots today with ranch.

They were the best carrots I have ever eaten in my life.


We have grown delicious carrots. Buy great organic ones when we don't grow them. But these were out of this world. Sweet. Crunchy crispy.

Perfect. From Patchwork Farm. Orange and Yellow.

I am terribly spoiled now. I will have to find out what variety they planted and their technique. And in the meantime, I sure do hope they continue to enjoy eating our bread, because that is one barter deal I hope to pursue... And I hope that you local people will make your way out to West End on Wednesdays to try some of Patchwork's amazing carrots, parsnips and red peppers. Great stuff.

Well, I hear kids coming in from the dark cold. Boys split me some firewood and the woodstove is blazing. I think the kids will eat popcorn and watch a movie. A book is calling me. And so is the rocking chair in the living room by the woodstove. I'll miss market in the morning, but not too much. Plenty of things to work on, but my spirit is crying out for rest. Think I will listen. To that and to the wind.

Welcome to November.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Thistle didn't make it through the night. We didn't think she would. But we are glad we did what could be done to give her a chance.

Since the other goats show no sign of distress we are curious as to what happened. Why did she not go drink? We wonder if she ate a poisonous weed? Sometimes you just don't know.

Otherwise, all animals seem healthy at the moment. I hope they stay that way. We will miss seeing Thistle on the farm.

Monday, November 1, 2010

November is brown and gray.

November is brown and gray.

Amazing how much things can change in one month. Even in one day.

Today the trees on the ridge are silvery gray. Silvery gray with a hint of brown and gold. Most of the leaves have been blown away by the wind. It was oddly comforting to hear the wind these last few evenings. Comforting in that it seems like the right time of year to hear the howling wind make her entrance. She is still tonight, but never fear, she'll be back.

This evening I made meatballs for supper. Mixed a pound of grass-fed beef and a pound of the remaining pork sausage with a couple of our precious eggs, garlic, onions and a little oatmeal. Italian seasonings and salt. Fried them up in the cast iron skillet. While they cooked I made up a quick tomato sauce out of the very last tomatoes from the garden. And olive oil. And onions. And garlic. And oregano. So very simple, yet so delicious. After the meatballs were almost done, I placed them in the tomato sauce to simmer. Sliced a loaf of baguette (thankfully we had a couple leftover from market), brushed with olive oil and toasted. Warmed up a jar of home canned green beans.

End of season meals are poignant for me. I feel sad about the end of the tomato era, even though we will enjoy the canned variety throughout winter. For now, it is done. The act of cutting up the vibrant reds and yellows is an act of worship, celebrating summer sun and compost and sweat and weed pulling.

Maybe foods don't speak so vividly to others out there in the world, but they do to me.

So I enjoyed the meatballs and the green beans. And remembered summer days, and was thankful to have a nice fire in the woodstove so that our house is toasty. Not too long ago we were so very hot, we could barely move without dripping sweat.

Now November is here and we give thanks for chilly nights and sunny days. And for friends who have generously given firewood.

On another note, we are worried about Thistle, our Nubian-Saanen goat. Maggie found her isolated from the herd this afternoon. She was dehydrated. Wouldn't go drink or eat. We aren't sure why.

Her eyes were nice and brown, so we knew she wasn't anemic from parasite overload. Coat was shiny. We aren't sure what is the problem. The other goats in the herd seemed fine.

Maggie took her into a stall. Had to place her on a sled because she couldn't walk. She gave her baking soda and water. Later gave her some karo syrup and nutridrench. When animals are dehydrated, they have to have the electrolytes balanced, and need a big glucose boost to overcome the ketosis. Maggie took charge, with the little girls' help, as I finished making our supper. I went out and took a look.

I don't know if she will make it through the night or not.

But at least we tried to do our best. Maggie cried. I did too, a little, and we said a prayer to ask for guidance. That was when I remembered the karo syrup. We l0ve Thistle. We hope she will make it. We are so grateful for the many gallons of milk she has given us, and for the sweet babies.

But after so much real tragedy and loss, we are trying to keep our perspective. Will keep you posted.