Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Things I Like

Aahh. Spring break. Family taking care of projects together.

The kids mowed the grass today. What a beautiful sight! Fresh, green carpet. Perfect for Rose's cartwheels and flips. Just so long as she washes her green feet before entering the house!

PS I got an email from Farmer's Almanac warning about Dogwood Winter. I spose that means that we should all watch out, there is a chance of one more cold bite, but then it is time to get that corn planted.

PPS Can you believe it? Our black heart cherry tree is covered with little green cherries. My mouth is watering in anticipation. After the success with damson plum brandy last summer, we will have to try black heart cherry brandy, to go along with the pies and jam. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, Ginger. One day at a time.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cloudy with a pretty good chance of tear fall.

Heavy air blanketed the farm. Dark clouds rolled in, thunder boomed, raindrops fell, but intermittently. The green of the fields and the green on the ridge seem neon-like this thunderstormy afternoon.

Mr. Hill picked up Priscilla today. She is going to live on their farm, next door to Rachel and Jason. It kind of makes me feel better knowing that Sophie, Boone and Mec (and Sam) will get to be right over the fence from her. Sort of like keeping her in the family.

But even so, as I look out my window at the most lovely of valleys, graced with clouds, I feel pain. I remember when she came as a teeny baby to our farm, glued to Coco's side. I remember when she birthed Dulce, and how Philip and I were by her side, and how he had to give a pull on that baby when she took just a little too long. He was so happy to be a farmer. That was just a few weeks or so before he died.

I remember when she got mastitis and we had to spend hours for days massaging and milking her, and how Patrick got to be an amazing milker on her.

I know that most beef farmers or even large, mechanical dairy farmers would probably scoff at my sentimentality. But there is a unique relationship that develops with a person and their hand-milked cow. Every morning and every evening, you squat by their flank, smell their sweet smell, pause and be still while white gold steams into the bucket. The seasons come and go. You learn the personality of that milk cow, her idiosyncracies, and she learns yours.

For some reason, seeing Priscilla leave, more than about any other animal on this farm, makes me want Philip back. I miss him. I wish he didn't have to die. I wish we could go back to how it was a year, two months and two days ago. Funny how different kinds of grief get all tangled up, isn't it?

Monday, April 25, 2011


PS I had to sit out on the deck for a few minutes by myself tonight. The air feels like velvet. How many different varieties of frogs are singing their songs, accompanied by gurgling stream? Moon is dark, at least for the moment. Stars are bright, as they intermittently peak out shyly behind veils of cloud.

A creaking chicken house door sounds. A couple of guineas murmur in the night. Children breathe quietly. So do dogs.

Sheep are amazing alchemists

Sheep are amazing alchemists. If not alchemists, then wonderful machines. They convert grass into wool and meat. Amazing. Those little lambs, so fragile and tiny, so quickly turn into stocky fellas, able to leap manure piles in a single bound.

You remember my story, was it last week? getting rammed by a couple of the little ones when we cornered them in the barn.

Well, several of the little guys have gone to live on other farms, mostly to be 4H projects for young ones.

Today was the day that last year's little baby lambs, now great big ram lambs, were slated to go on that long journey to West Virginia.

We have been going to West Virginia to a butcher shop for several years now. A family owned place, about an hour and a half more or less. We have had a hard time finding a USDA certified butcher, but these guys are friendly, competent, and have always done a great job for us. And I kinda enjoy the drive. Sometimes I go by myself and listen to music, and fret and pray. At times I listen to a book on cd or chat with a friend. Today Nora accompanied me since kids are on spring break.

But first, let me tell you about getting ready to head to West Virginia. Patrick and I made sure NOT to shower first. We rounded up the sheep, moved them into the barn, and separated the big ram lambs, the yearlings, into a stall. I remembered our early days on the farm when we didn't know how to round up sheep and move them easily into the barn.

Maggie opened and closed the gate as we separated the ewes and this years' little lambs. For a few seconds Patrick and I looked at the rams, their horns swept back, their eyes glaring. These guys are a mischievous bunch, akin to Peter Pan's lost boys. Mostly wild. Full of spunk and glee. Quite possibly the perfect metaphor for a full dose of testosterone. After having been taken down a time or two, during shearing or sorting, one might go into this sort of job with a small bit of trepidation.

We did.

Yet, after a few years, I have noticed that both Patrick and I have gained significantly more confidence in the sheep grabbing department. And it helps that Patrick has gained a great deal more muscle mass, too. Perhaps there are a few big guys out there (you probably are NOT reading this blog) who have no trouble plucking 175 lb rams up and throwing them in the back of the truck. But for us, it is a stretch. Patrick grabbed horns and moved the fellows toward the barn door. I grabbed the wool on the backside and the two of us maneuvered them toward the waiting truck. One of us would throw open the tailgate, heave, ho and get the dead weight up and into the hold with his comrades.

In our early days of farm animal maneuvering we would typically have at least one or two breakouts. But not this morning.

I was pretty proud of ourselves.

So Nora and I said our farewells and we headed west.

She played with her dolls and I listened to a murder mystery. The redbuds were so pretty as we entered into West Virginia. I remembered all the joy I got from watching the six comrades leap and run and eat grass out in our pastures. The picture of healthy, humanely raised animals.

We pulled into the parking lot, I waited my turn, then backed up to the chute. I remembered the first couple of times I delivered animals, I had to ask the nice man to back the trailer up for me because I just couldn't do it. I would freeze and then jack knife, and then blush, then try again, then give up. Now it isn't quite so hard.

We got situated. The fellow from the slaughterhouse came around, with tags and notebook, I opened up the camper top and tailgate, and waited.

Those lambs, so darn eager to avoid the truck, would not budge to get out. I asked them nicely. I prodded them gently.

No go.

Never mind that I had already changed out of my sheep wrestling clothes and into my go to town clothes. And shoes. Never mind that the back of our truck was now a not so pretty sight after six non-potty trained lambs made that trip through the mountains.

The nice fellow with the notebook seemed a little afraid of the rolling eyes and the swept back horns.

He lit up a cigarette.

Nora stood off to the side, watching to make sure no fellows broke loose.

No one seemed too terribly interested in breaking loose.

After a few minutes I realized I was going to have to get them the hard way. I climbed up into the dirty back of the truck, grabbed a set of horns and pulled. And pulled. And jumped down and dragged the stubborn thing off the truck. Hoping that the rest of the fellows would follow.

Not so.

By the time I had reached the fourth lamb, I had a few streaks of manure on my clean clothes and shoes, but that was okay. Then he decided to make a break for it.

Thank goodness for horns. I grabbed him, threw myself into a slide and got dragged pretty much under the truck. Now thoroughly scraped and covered in manure and sheep grease from top to bottom.

Oh well.

At least he didn't get away! The other two followed, with only minimal dragging, I put in our cutting order and then Nora asked where we would have lunch for our special date.

We went to Hardees, I sheepishly headed to the bathroom to wash the hands and arms, hoping the smell of the french fries covered up the smell of the sheep debacle.

I guess it seems weird, but I think I will miss the physical aspect of farming. The feeling of satisfaction that comes with doing hard things, making my own body work like a machine. A sheep wrestling machine. The feeling of muscles, sore, and a bit bruised here and there, but at least alive.

Glad to have been a part of the process of bringing healthy, delicious food to the table for quite a few families. Those lambs got to live their albeit short lives, fully expressing their personality, enjoying green pastures, fellowship, spunkiness. We got to be a part of the whole process, from the day of their birth to the end.

PS Today was a hot day. Pretty sticky, threatening thunderstorms that never came. When I milked Coco this evening, the breeze was so sweet. Felt like summertime. Leaves are lush. All is green.

Easter on the Farm

Little girls in pretty dresses.

Boys in brand-new khaki pants and handsome shirts. All of us gathered around the table in the dining room since the wind was too blustery.

Lilac bouquets offered beautiful resurrection incense.

We read the scriptures. We sang. We prayed.

We went outside to take pictures before all the clothes got dirty.

One young seven year old friend climbed up the willow tree. "Boone, get down from the tree and come here for the picture!" We ate our hair as the wind blew and all smiled.

Then Rachel and I raced back into the kitchen to finish up our Easter dinner. Freshly milled spelt rolls rose up nicely. The huge ham warmed. We mashed potatoes, warmed up last year's green beans. Carmelized carrots. Chopped up broccoli for our yummy salad. And for the most exotic portion of our meal, Rachel stripped the nettle leaves off their stems (ouch!) and I simmered them with garlic and balsamic vinegar. And we creamed the most delicious leeks ever eaten. That Rachel had just picked out of their garden.

We all crammed around the dining room table, along with some of Jason and Rachel's family who joined us for the occasion, and ate and ate and ate.

How was there room for dessert? I guess we sat around the table long enough. Maggie's spelt Queen of Sheba cake was a hit. And Patrick's spelt pound cake, in the traditional lamb mold, was too. Not to mention all the other desserts brought by the Thomas' family grandma's!

Boiled eggs were hunted several times by kids. Wiffle ball games were played. Lots of dishes were washed. Grownups visited. And Serge even came over to shoot target practice with the boys.

Friday, April 22, 2011


On April 22, 1889, folks lined up to race for their new home. The Oklahoma Land Rush.

Just read that bit of trivia in the online New York Times. So much bad news in the rest of the paper. I had to skim through the majority, because reading too much bad news makes me depressed about things I cannot change. So I pray for those horrible situations across the world, then see the little line at the bottom of the headlines, What happened today, 122 years ago?

Reading that little bit of trivia brought back a flood of childhood memories. When I was an elementary student in Prague, Oklahoma, we would have pioneer days. And on April 22, we girls would wear our bonnets (special-made for the occasion by better moms than me!) and who knows what the little boys would wear. The teachers would tell the story, then we would line up on the playground to reenact the land-staking.

I don't know why that activity pleased me so. Perhaps a little country girl would like any school activity that involved being out on the playground during school hours, given permission to imagine and run and compete. Perhaps the springtime air was so intoxicating, it made the teachers eager to go outside themselves and the positive vibes of sunshine and happy kids made for great attitudes.

Perhaps even then I was attracted to story. Racing on the hard red clay playground with wind rushing through my bonnet made me feel connected to another group of children, long, long ago. I was attracted to the thought of adventure, fresh starts, and the ability to endure to overcome hardship.

The Oklahoma Land Rush. That simple little line in the New York Times headline brought me many pleasant memories. I can just see my little sisters and me, with our bonnets and little braids, imagining ourselves to be something like Laura Ingalls (since the TV show depicted her with bonnet askew and similar braids and freckles, just like us.) Racing to find the perfect little home site, next to a sweet stream, with some oak trees offering shade.

But enough reminiscing. I look out the front window and see sheep grazing in our front yard. Appears they had their own land rush this morning!

PS As a child, I really had no idea or at least any understanding about the story behind the story. The Trail of Tears hadn't yet impacted me. I couldn't comprehend that the land rush came about because all of a sudden the white folk realized that the land they gave (or rather, forced the Native Americans to live on while they took over other valuable property) was desirable. Isn't life crazy like that? Stories, behind stories, behind stories. But for this eight year old, back in the early 70's, it was all about the adventure. Later on came compassionate tears shed for the folks who were driven off that land.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Signs of the Times.

A fellow farmer came over today at noon to take a look at this year's lamb crop. She bought one of Ophelia's little girls. It was funny when my friend put the lamb in the crate to carry her home. The little thing stomped her foot, just like her mama. It made me laugh.

Another farmer acquaintance came over with his wife to take a look at Priscilla. They are going to buy her. As they looked up at the ridge, they wondered if we had lots of mushrooms. I said I have looked every year to no avail.

It is time for morels. Should we look again? What I would give to have a nice big mess of morels, fried up in butter with some garlic. And an omelet with fiddlehead ferns and goat cheese on the side.

Spring is here. So warm.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Goodbye Boaz, We Will Miss You.

Today was kind of hot and sticky. The girls played wiffle ball in the yard after school. They sat in the hammock and read books. They chased after goats.

Patrick and I got the trailer hitched up to the truck. For the first time, all by ourselves. Before moving to the farm I couldn't back up a trailer. We loaded it up with a bunch of junk that will be headed to the scrap yard.

Yesterday we said goodbye to Philip's old 77 Dodge truck. And the Mercedes. Neither of them could start up after sitting out for over a year. I sold the "junk" vehicles to a young man. He came over several days to work on the autos and I was thrilled to see him and his dad start them up and drive them down the road. Philip would be so pleased.

Today we sold some lambs to a young lady. And Panda and Tenderloin and Boaz, the ram to a gentleman. I know it seems silly, but I will miss them. Especially Boaz; his distinctive horns and personality, not to mention all the beautiful lambs he has given us.

After we loaded up the calves and Boaz, the fellows who came to buy them wanted to take a look at the flock of sheep. The sun went down. Pink tinged the sky. The moist air felt like an embrace. I was glad to have to be outside this evening.

A little worried when I came in the house at 8:30 and realized we hadn't had our supper yet.

Thank goodness, we had some jars of homemade chicken stock (from the roosters) hanging out in the fridge. It was thick as jello, but melted right down when I put it into the pot. After it came to a boil, I added a generous splash of soy sauce, four raw eggs, scrambled, toasted sesame oil, a tablespoon or so, and several handfuls of spinach.

I didn't feel like cooking. But that soup was so easy it really didn't feel much like cooking. We scooted the piles of laundry to the side of the table, joined Nora with her homework and slurped our soup, Japanese style. I thanked God for those roosters and eggs. And spinach someone else grew. And for warm air. And for customers who buy our animals.

And now I thank Him for my bed. And children sleepily tucked into theirs.

Just Smell It

Breakfast tacos are made. The little girls are already at school and big kids getting ready to get on the bus. Coco is mooing. Time to go milk.

Just had to mention that it smelled like spring when the girls got on the bus. Made me think of my own early childhood days, rushing out the door, running to the bus. Having to stop and pause to smell greening earth.

Thank God for the invention of the nose. Even if I couldn't see the green grass and chartreuse leaves and pink redbuds and white dogwood, I could still sense the changing of the season.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


The fields are the most brilliant of green.

Easter is coming.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with Palm Sunday. It required great effort to get out the door to church today.

Perhaps I hate to be confronted with my humanity.

Palm Sunday is the day that sums up brutal humanity for me. Jesus comes in to Jerusalem on the donkey with her colt walking alongside. People are astonished at the miracles he has performed. Water to wine. Blind able to see. Out of control wild man, now dressed and in his right mind. Lazarus, his dear friend, dead, buried, but now walking around fully alive.

After years of oppression, these folks are ready for a savior. A savior who would come in on a stallion to defeat the Romans, restore justice and rights for the Jewish people. They are ready for a super-politico who will make their life easier. After seeing this man go around changing lives and making people whole, they just KNOW that everything is going to turn around.

Caught up in the moment, they welcomed Jesus with laud and adoration. But when he chose to come in on a donkey, did they get it? His was not the path of the conquering warrior.

A female donkey. With a colt alongside. No fancy saddle or chariot. Someone's old cloak.

The branches waved. Hosannas shouted. Caught up in the moment, everyone forgot his or her troubles and rejoiced.

About this time in the story I grow cynical. Irritated. I know how this story turns out. Within days, the same crowd is shouting out to crucify their hero. Not just throw him in jail.

Crucify him.


So that is the part of Palm Sunday I hate.

Knowing that given the right circumstances I could be right there with those folks.

The part I love? I believe Jesus knew enough about humanity to know exactly how quickly those worshiping people would betray him. And yet he still received their honor. As weak and frail and fickle as they were. If I had known how quickly they would turn on me, I would have been spitting on them as I rode my donkey down the street! See what a mean person I am! If not spitting, at least glaring cynically at them.

These days I am feeling feeble and frail. Grieving many things. Oh, I had no idea how well acquainted with grief we would become. Still grieving Philip. Especially as we enter Holy Week. Grieving as I sell animals. Grieving as I try to learn my new identity as a single mom. Grieving as I see the beauty of our valley increase exponentially as the trees leaf out and the flowers bloom and the fields come alive. Sometimes my humanity, the ugly part, comes out in the form of a cross word to the kids when I would rather give them a tender hug.

And yet, the message of Palm Sunday to me is that Jesus knew all that about me from the very beginning. And still chose the path of the cross. He chose the humble way, the road on the back of the mama donkey, the way of peace, to make a way for me to have peace in the middle of my transition, grumpiness, fears and tears. Hosanna.

I wonder if the trees were so very brilliant in dusty Jerusalem on that spring day so long ago?

Maybe I don't hate Palm Sunday as much as I like to think.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday After the Storm

Big moon is rising over the ridge.

The storm has passed. Streams are running full. Ground is soggy. We had buckets of rain dump, the winds howled, a fury of a storm.

It is a wonder that there are still blossoms and leaves on the trees, but there are. The fields look so green and lush. What a blessing is that furious rain.

Peepers are singing out in gratitude this evening.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


This evening I am blogging while sitting out on my deck, thanks to Tom Landon who set me up with wireless internet!

The waxing moon is overhead, thinly veiled with a sheer cover of clouds.

George gobbles quietly. Peepers chirrup loudly. Guineas settle in. A distant dog barks at the night. White and pink blossomed trees glow in the near dark. Even in the twilight, the willow tree by the pond looks like a young girl with tresses brushing the top of her shoulders, no longer the aged woman, thin and grey.

I am home.

Thank you so much for your concern, blog friends! I was in Texas, hunting for a new home, visiting schools, making decisions.

Thankfully many many friends made it possible for me to be away by taking care of kids and farm. It takes a pretty large village to care for five kids and a farm!

I am glad to be home. Glad to be with the kids. But it was an adventure realizing that as much as I am grieving the farm, I am also looking forward to beginning a new chapter in a region of the world that is so very dear to my heart. A region that has caused my soul to quicken since I was a little girl, tagging along with family as Mom went to paint and show her art in galleries in the mountains of Southwest Texas.

Just as the smell of the locust and the fescue stirs me, so does the creosote and dry air. The color of the golden grass and the bright green mesquite tree makes my heart sing just like our willow tree and the cherry blossoms.

It is hard to fathom the capacity of the human heart to feel so many different emotions at one time. Grief, sorrow, loss, pain, anticipation, hope, expectation, anxiety, thrill, peace, fear, joy.

While looking at properties I witnessed a tremendous wildfire. A couple of them, actually. They burned more than one hundred thousand acres. Mountains and plains were blackened. A dead horse lay near a fence. It couldn't escape the flames. Over 50 homes were burned.

Drought is hurting that part of the world. The fire was astronomical. Yet as I watched it burn, as men fought to prevent it from doing any more damage to human structures, I thought about the value of a wildfire for grasslands. The pronghorn antelope have been dying due to parasites getting out of control. A predator for the parasite? Natural wildfires that used to burn regularly before towns took over certain areas. The fires burn out invasives and brush, making more fertile soil for tall grasses.

The sight of thousands of acres of charred land is gruesome. But if it rains, within a year or two, the land will be lush with grasses. Even so, I can't imagine how hard it will be for those people who lost livestock and homes and fences. They will have to buy and feed hay for months.

So many things in life are hard and bring about change. Sometimes it isn't really pretty for awhile.

Imagine my delight when I realized that all the Sunday readings in the little church I visited were on the resurrection. Dried bones brought back to life. Lazarus raised from the dead.

I looked outside as I drove and recollected the scripture that describes beauty coming from the ashes.

Still need to finish things up around here to put the farm on the market. I am beginning to sell animals. A lady came over to buy one of Ophelia's adorable little lambs. A blog reader left a message about goats while I was gone. I promise I will call back! Lettuce is growing like crazy. I guess I had better thin some out. The day was lovely and as I hung sheets and towels on the clothesline, I thought of Wheeler and Ross and the other fellows who put that line up last spring.

Well, the air is now chilly and I am ready to run to bed. So glad to enjoy the deck with you all (or perhaps I should say Y'all!)

Good night.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Trees on the Ridge are Leafing Out

Blustery wind blew beautiful clouds across the sky. I gathered up errant goats and cattle. I worked on fencing. Didn't finish it, but got a start. Patrick continued the project when he got home from school.

He also separated Ribeye, the steer, into another pasture. "Ribeye" and six lambs are slated to go the the butcher in a couple of weeks.

Tonight the wind is calm, the peepers are loud, and we are heading to bed early. We are full of beef curry and another chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird. My room is a mess with construction projects and paperwork here and there, but in the middle of it all, my desk is graced with a jar of beautiful blossoms, courtesy of Nora. Perfect metaphor.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Is There a Chicken in the House?

Certain things you never hear while living in town.

This afternoon I was working on invoices upstairs in my room. I thought I heard clucking. I usually hear clucking, but from the window, not the kitchen.

I asked Patrick if there were a chicken in the house.

He verified that indeed there was. He removed it from the premises. Apparently the dogs pushed open a door and the hen took that as an invitation.

We have had a bizarrely warm and blustery day today. The temperatures reached 86 degrees in town. The wind is howling and the trees are swaying. Coco would not let me milk her. She danced in circles, agitated by the weather. I finally gave up, will have to milk extra early in the morning.

The warm air and sunshine brought out blossoms on the cherry tree. Sure is pretty. Makes me remember days of cherry blossom picnics.

Nora and Rose spent hours outside playing around the pond and stream. I smiled to see their camaraderie. They found an old rope and made a swing on a big branch of the willow by the pond.

Mom and Dad drove out the driveway this morning as the kids headed to school. I was sad to see them leave. But happy to know we will see them sooner rather than later. What a gift to have them in our lives, even if long distance for the moment.

I have to share Daddy's recipe for tacos chihuahua and pico de gallo. It is so good, my mouth waters, just thinking about it. This is the meal I first requested after being in Japan for two years. A taste of home.

Tacos Chihuahua

chopped bacon
chopped onion
minced garlic

Saute in a big cast iron skillet. amounts depend on how many servings. Daddy never measures. Guess you will have to improvise. I like lots of bacon! You know how I feel about fat!

Take the bacon and onion and garlic out of the pan when they are almost done.

Add a couple of pounds of raw chicken, beef or lamb, to the hot skillet, (cut in slices or cubes). We had some of our home-grown lamb last night, cut off the bone, and it was phenomenal. Brown the meat, at a fairly high temperature, and then add one or two chopped up fresh tomatoes.

Okay, you local seasonal folks, I, too, love to eat my foods in season. Fresh tomatoes and peppers taste better in summertime. However, there is a time to celebrate and compromise. Like when your Daddy comes to visit and offers to make your favorite food.

As the tomatoes cook down, stir in a chopped up jalapeno. Return the bacon, onion and garlic to the skillet, give a generous dash of soy sauce (Daddy's secret ingredient) and toss in a bruised and minced bunch of cilantro. He says that bruising the cilantro, by crushing it together before chopping, releases more of the musky fragrance. Well, he doesn't really use the words musky fragrance, but you get the idea.

By this time, your mouth should be watering, the kitchen smells sooo very good.

Tacos chihuahua are best served in warmed corn tortillas with sour cream and a generous serving of pico de gallo. They also taste great served over rice, with black beans on the side. Daddy first ate this dish at a little restaurant on the Mexican side of the border in Ojinaga, Mexico. He wheedled the ingredient list out of the waiter and it has become a family staple.

Pico de Gallo

Another thing that tastes better in July, but in a pinch, use some hydroponic tomatoes and be thankful for diversity!

Finely chopped tomatoes, two or three
1 minced jalapeno
minced onion, a sweet one is best. I like red for this treat.
a few cloves of garlic. Daddy is the best chopper-upper I know. He cuts everything into a very fine mince and it causes the flavors to meld so nicely.
a bunch of cilantro, again, be sure to bruise the leaves and stems before chopping, it really does make a difference
lime juice of at least two limes, maybe more if they aren't limey enough
sea salt

Mix everything in a bowl. Find someone to be your taste tester. Give them a bag of tortilla chips and then watch that bowl of Tex-Mex ambrosia disappear!

Daddy is the best pico de gallo maker I have ever known. He also loves to go fishing and throw a big fish fry. One of his specialties is tartar sauce made by mixing mayonnaise with the pico. Yum. We didn't get any fish fry this visit, but maybe the next. For me, that lamb with the pico was about the best thing I have eaten in days!

Daddy liked the lamb, but he thinks that chicken tacos de chihuahua are the best. I guess that the next time a hen ventures into the kitchen I will invite her to dinner. As our most honored guest!

PS My mom is a great cook, too! Just ask me about her potato rolls and pecan pie!

Sunday, April 3, 2011



The sun rose brilliantly. What a nice change after the last few days weather. We went to church to worship, after a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs and venison. And of course the coffee with lots of Coco's cream.

Springtime in the Roanoke valley is a foretaste of heaven.

We are in a transition period of springtime. Funny how long springtime can last here. In Texas spring lasts about three days. Here we have weeks of spring. The forsythia is still brilliant in our little pocket, but just about done in town. The dogwoods are about to bloom, but not quite yet. Daffodils are ready to sit out the next dance. They look tired. Lilacs are standing by, ready to leap into action, with just a word. After church we went to Mill Mountain with a fried chicken picnic and soaked up the sunshine, along with the mountain laurel, also waiting to spring forth into bloom.

Daddy made the most fabulous supper for us tonight. Cynthia came over and joined us for tacos chihuahua, made with our lamb. Truly one of my favorite dishes in all the world. Especially with a big bowl full of his pico de gallo. I have to go to sleep now, but hopefully will post his recipe tomorrow. The house still smells yummy. And I will have garlic breath for a week. But it was worth it.

Tacos chihuahua made by my dad is a very wonderful gift. I wish you didn't have to go home tomorrow. Already miss you. Glad you came and helped me with so many projects. And glad I will be seeing both of you before you know it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

All In a Day's Work

Friends came over. They helped move out garbage, old stuff that no longer works, broken chairs, hand-me-down sofas, the garage sale mantel I bought that we never did use, the second hand freezers that no longer freeze, along with lots of other assorted trash.

How can one family have so much junk?

It is humbling to receive help. Especially when dealing with your own junk.

But I am very grateful.

While we loaded and hauled, Daddy worked on a project in my bedroom. It is an amazing improvement! Hurray for Daddy's who can fix anything. Mom drove Nora to a birthday party. Kids carried and swept out and raked.

I managed to get most of the laundry washed, got all the books in the three bookcases in the front hallway packed, and Mom and I even packed up my most precious Japanese antique tea cups and pots so they can drive them carefully to Texas.

In the middle of it all, the wind howled and the sleet blew. I only cried a couple of times as I thought about how real this transition is becoming. Nevertheless, spending time with my mother and father confirmed my decision. Being near them is a very good thing.

Trees are about to burst into leaf. They are waiting for a couple of warm days.

So am I.

But for now, the Mexican bear meat stew is reheated, ready to enjoy with tortillas and salsa. Maggie and Taylar made a chocolate cake for dessert. Daddy bought some ice cream to go on the side. I better head to the table.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Are We Done Yet?

"The steps of a man (or woman) are established by the Lord..." Psalm 37:23a.

I had several plans for my day today. I was going to finish the laundry. Pack up excess toys in Nora and Rose's room. Pack up the books on the shelves in the front hallway. I was going to work on clearing out the basement.

After making breakfast for kids, sending them off to school, I enjoyed reading the Daily Office with a second cup of coffee. Then visited with Mom and Dad as they ate their breakfast and we marveled at the sleet and wind.

I milked Coco, strained the milk and went down to the basement to work on the laundry project.

Here's where my steps got reestablished:

I opened up the big chest freezer to get out meat for our supper and found a bunch of thawed out meat. Over 50lbs worth.

The breaker got thrown and I didn't know it.

Daddy came down and helped me carry up the five roosters, the many packages of lamb chops, the stew meat, the venison, the remaining grass-fed beef, the lamb shanks, the chuck roast. And the remaining bear meat.

I didn't even cry or curse.

Just let out a sigh as I realized my day had just gotten rearranged.

Daddy paused his tasks and with the help of my new cleavers (thank you, Julie!) we chopped up tough old birds, threw them into a huge pot and began to make broth. Mom ran to the store and picked up more onions, carrots and celery.

I made four meatloafs. Several quart bags of taco meat. A huge pot of beef curry. A Mexican guisado with the bear meat. Five quarts of boned out chicken for future meals. 7 quarts of delicious broth, ready to go into the pressure canner. The lamb shanks are marinating. The chops are ready to be made into dinner tomorrow. I think there might be more, but now I am tired and can't even remember what we did.

But a near catastrophe has a silver-lining. We know have many meals ready to go for the busy weeks ahead. Thankfully most of the meat in the freezer was still frozen. I had been meaning to cook up those roosters for some time, but didn't want to deal with them.

Meanwhile, Tim and Daddy worked on different house projects. Mom assisted me. We even got my old highschool prom dress ready for Maggie to wear to a homeschool dance! And worked on selling a few farm animals. And folded the clothes. And milled some flour for a friend.

Why in the world am I recounting such boring, mundane tasks in this farm blog?

Well, I suppose everyone has certain expectations for their day and sometimes plans go awry. I still wish I had other tasks done. My pride winces when I look around and see the unfinished stuff in that has had to be set aside. But at the end of the day, at least we averted near disaster and found the gold at the end of the rainbow in a huge pot of chicken soup. And meatloaf. And guisado de oso (bear stew.)

I hope you can find your own pot of gold, metaphorically speaking!


This Tuesday I was out in the lower pasture. It was late morning. Cloudy, jacket weather. But even so, it smelled green.

Seems like every spring there is one day in particular which emits a green smell. Not an icky green, but a lively, sweet fragrance, that is pure essence of springtime. I wonder if it came from the willows? They are covered in their little catkins, and the bees are quite happy.

Yesterday, Ribeye, the big steer, rubbed against the gate to the lower hay field and managed to open it. The cattle were more than happy to walk through that gate and down to the far side of the fields. Why is that one tiny section on the neighbors' property so darned delicious? I walked down to round them up and wire up the gate so they couldn't open it themselves again. The air didn't smell green yesterday morning, it was breezy and wintery smelling. As if it were blowing in a bucket of snow blossoms.

Seems like the fruit trees have managed to survive the little blast of cold with minimal damage. Even so, we are having to keep the fires burning. Things are damp and chilly. Poor Mom. Why couldn't we be enjoying the 70 and 80 degree temps the week they are here for their visit???

At least the fields are a bright green and the forsythia and redbud and crab apple and bradford pears are exquisite. Dogwoods should be blooming any day now. Before you know it, we will wake up one day, the sun will be shining and the trees will be covered with leaves.

PS We are enjoying so many eggs! The chickens know it is springtime. Fried, scrambled, boiled, omeleted, made into cakes and brownies, we sure do love our eggs.