Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More stories to come

All is well, but quite busy. So for now, I must let you know that the leaves on the oak tree in the front yard are lovely, I had to bring a few little branches into the house for decoration. The dark green is turning russet red. Magic.

The smell of a Depret-Guillaume rooster out of the freezer, simmering in a large pot for tomorrow's soup is drawing studious children out of their rooms for a snitch of chicken.

The evening is cool, but not quite cold enough for the down comforter brought out of it's spot in the shed.

For the moment, calm reigns in my heart and I am thankful.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tomorrow is my Birthday! 11/11/11 Am I lucky or what?

So much for family togetherness tonight.

I worked on some major house projects today then headed out to the yard. I thought about boiling up a couple of roosters from the farm, turning them into homemade chicken Kamut noodle soup for the kids.

But the kids didn't feel nearly as enthusiastic about our outdoor chores as me.

It took me a bit longer than I planned, but my soul definitely needed to be outside raking leaves and putting them on top of our compost and future garden beds. One child, who will remain unnamed, came out to help for 2 minutes. This child asked why we have to cart the leaves over to the compost and the future site instead of just bag them up "like all those other normal people."


My answer was brief, believe it or not. We are a different normal than those other normal people. And we need dirt. And leaves and compost layered on hard, desert soil equal rich black dirt, eventually. And I take joy in gathering leaves and putting them onto our garden.

So said child went back into the house and I pouted, but raked anyway. And ran out of time to make supper, and so ordered Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza for the kids' dinner.

Life is full of contradictions, isn't it? Another child, one who is probably most like me, came out and helped gather. And another one came out and picked up dog poop. And another one took out piles of trash and old boxes. They all took care of their tasks, normal or not!

Tomorrow is my birthday.

Eight years ago or so I had an epiphany.

Seemed like every year I would sabotage my birthday. Nobody could do enough to satisfy me.

I hate to admit it, because admitting frailties is a scary thing and I hate to be judged. Or to be thought self-centered and silly. But it is true.

That pivotal year I decided to ask God to help me know what I wanted for my birthday.

Isn't that silly?

I asked, and then when random silly ideas came into my head, I told Philip and the kids. Who loved me and were more than eager to please me, and had been trying all along, but with no direction from me. I had carried this silly notion that people who love me should read my mind.

That was one of the best birthdays ever. And from then on, instead of being depressed and morose, I actually had fun! And I gave my family room to bless me, which they had wanted to do all along.

Some years, all I wanted was a hike with the fam. I think I posted about that a three or four years ago on this blog. Another year I wanted a KitKat clock. And dinner in a restaurant. And a visit with the family to the family cemetery in Boonton, NJ. One year, Philip, Ned, Kathryn and Peter met up with me in NYC and we ate at my favorite restaurant, La Bonne Soup, Kathryn and I went to the Frick Museum and saw beautiful things, and then we went to a Blues bar and stayed out way too late.

Another year, on the farm, Philip and the kids bought Strawberry Shortcake decorations, strung streamers, hung balloons, made a cake, invited friends, and Philip bought me lipstick (still one of my favorite colors). Not too long ago they decorated with Hello Kitty, and even sent me an invitation, and went wild with fun decorations, and Philip even took an old newspaper article from the Wall St. Journal, about influential women, and cut out and glued my picture all over it, and hung it on the wall.

I came across that newspaper the other day as I was cleaning out the secret drawer in the buffet.

It made me sob.

And remember how much better it was to have birthdays after I started to pray to God to help me know what I want.

Tomorrow I plan on baking, so early in the week, I prayed to know what would be the best to help me feel a bit celebrated, and to rejoice that I got to be born and be alive this year, surrounded by friends and family.

Since I love to hike so much, and since I am within sight of my favorite national park, I decided to wrap up my tasks early yesterday, and drive to Big Bend National Park, meet up with my dear friend, have a lunch of curried pumpkin soup, then take a hike up into a beautiful canyon. I sat on a hill, above a big pour of slick rock, with sun on my face and thanked God for my life and asked him to satisfy me and help me to be grateful.

Even though life is so very good, and I am right where I want to be, sometimes the pain is rather intense, and all I can say is that it hurts. Especially around holiday times or birthdays, when so many memories come in an avalanche.

So today I took care of a sick Nora and worked on helping girls organize their tiny bedroom, shared by three girls. Emptied out boxes, found winter clothes. Put stuff away. Washed piles of laundry. Raked and carted and ordered pizza. Felt a bit of self pity because I had wanted to go to the Highland Home and Garden party this evening, with a bunch of other like-minded ladies in the community, but I was dirty, grumpy, and too busy working on my home and garden to go...

Deep in my heart I knew that going would be a good gift to myself.

But for a few minutes I took a bit of sick joy in enjoying the self-pity as I threw another load of laundry in the washer.

Then the phone rang.

One of my new friends called. I was so surprised to hear her voice. She was wondering why I wasn't at the gathering, and suggested I come anyway.

So I did.

Because you know something I wanted for my birthday? To go for a quick bike ride in the evening, under the brilliant, full moon. And to be in a BEYOND beautiful setting in a round the corner new neighbor friend's home, with amazing food, and wine, and music and a fire, with other gals who are real, and funny and made me happy and relaxed and okay to be myself.

What a gift.

And when I got home, the kids were so thankful for the things I had done for them, they made me feel loved.

I don't feel the slightest bit alone. Or pitiful.

Actually, I feel happy to be alive, and grateful to my mom that she went to all the trouble to birth me, and to her and Daddy for all they did to bring me up, loving me, telling me stories, teaching me things, showing me that they have rich lives as well, always coming to the rescue when the car would blow out, back in college days, cheering me on through thick or thin. They gave me opportunities to see that I live in an amazing and beautiful world, full of art and music and books and a great big outdoors. They willingly allowed me to travel far, perhaps they were afraid, but they didn't show it to me. They let me buy lots of Scholastic book fair books. They let me go get a job. They let me go on mission trips to Mexico. They blessed me every single major decision I made. And prayed to cover over all the weak spots.

And somehow, Mom, through all those times I saw you pray, it must have stricken me deeply, and as silly as it seems, praying to be satisfied and content on my birthday has helped me in so many ways, all through the year.

How thankful I am to have been born that day, 45 years ago tomorrow, November 11, 1966, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to my parents, John and Fran Rowe. And even more thankful, beyond words, that my life includes Thomas, and Patrick, and Maggie, and Rose and Nora. And the old friends. And the new. I hope someday my children will remember to be thankful that they were born, and to ask God to remind them what it is that they most deeply want, and I hope that they will be content and satisfied in their life.

But now, I had better say goodnight and evening prayer and get myself to bed. The bakery awaits. I think I will make my favorite cake tomorrow sometime in the middle. Remind me to share the recipe.

PS I told the kids that what I wanted for my birthday, besides a clean house and a picked up yard, was a pair of slippers. We have tile floors which are pretty cold in the fall and winter. Can't wait to see what they pick out!!! I think that next year I will ask for a replacement KitKat clock...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Nora and I shared a sunset bike ride yesterday evening. The air was balmy as we cruised around the golf course. The sun dipped below the horizon in the west and the moon rose over the hills to the east. She is getting plump, quite pleased with herself as she makes her rounds.

The goat meat curry was nicely cooked down by the time we got home, and the house smelled rich. Leftover pita bread was drizzled with olive oil and toasted in the oven. Can you believe five children consumed a dozen and a half spelt pita? The last dozen was smeared with honey and made for decent dessert as I read our chapters of Holes, by Louis Sachar.

Science project was spread all over the dining room floor, other various homework notebooks were piled here and there around the meal, but at least we were all together, at the table, at the same time. I had no idea how much effort it would take to make dinner together with all my children happen. But it is effort worth the while.

A cold front is blowing in. Maybe tonight we will huddle around warm goat meat guisado for supper. I never thought we would be eating goat meat on purpose. When we raised goats ourselves, they were for dairy purposes and were our friends and pets. For some reason, eating meat that was raised and butchered by someone else, doesn't offend my senses nearly as much as it did back on the farm. Especially when the freezer is nearly empty of our own farm raised meat. So thankful for real meat raised and butchered by friends!

Here is my very basic recipe for curry. You can use goat meat or lamb or beef or chicken or pork or venison or tofu, or skip the protein all together. It is still quite tasty! Especially if you have some wonderful farmer's market veggies!

Curry Recipe

Saute onion until tender. Add celery and saute until translucent. Now add the cubed meat and saute at a fairly high temperature until the meat is browned on most sides. Toss in sliced carrots, garlic, peppers, okra, eggplant, whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand, some chopped fresh tomatoes or a can of crushed. Give the veggies and the meat a stir, add a generous bit of curry powder. I like to use Penzey's Garam Masala and Sweet Curry powder, at least a couple of big spoons of each, in my gigantic skillet, but you should go by your own taste. After sauteeing the spices for a half a minute or so, add water or broth to cover everything, and a generous pinch of salt.

Turn the temperature down, start some brown basmati rice on the side, and go for a bike ride with someone smaller than yourself. In about the time the rice is done, your curry should be thick and the meat tender. This is when I add a big bunch of chopped cilantro and some cream or coconut milk if we want to be very decadent. Yum. A great way to get big kids to come to the table.

PS fresh ginger makes this dish if you have some tucked in the bottom drawer of your fridge. Add it when you add the garlic. If not, it is still quite tasty!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Saturday, What a Day

The morning was brisk, it seemed as if the wind woke up on the wrong side of the bed. She yanked on the branches, tugging and pulling, scattering leaves as she made her way around our yard, pounding the carport with pecans.

Patrick got up and it seemed like old times as we divvied the market goodies. "Hmm. Think we can sell this many loaves of Milk and Honey bread at the Alpine market? I wonder how many I should take to Terlingua?" We grabbed the extra table, the extra tablecloths and cutting board and knife and receipt book and I deposited Patrick and half the goods at our usual spot. It was barely daylight when we headed down the street around 8:15. After unloading his things, I pointed the car south, heading toward Terlingua ghost town.

Terlingua used to be a mining town back in the day. It was rich in cinnabar, from which mercury is extracted. In the late 1800's the village grew to a population of around 2000, serving several mines in the district. The desert is boiling hot in the summer, and mild in the winter. The area is remote, on the road to Big Bend National Park. There is no dirt. Just dry powdery white dust as hard as pavement, dotted with ocotillo, creosote and scrubby mesquite and cat claw, with many varieties of cactus thrown in for free. Interesting draws and canyons make one curious to take a hike, just remember to take your water and watch out for snakes and vinegaroons. And wear a hat. The Chisos mountains in the distance are a brilliant backdrop in what is some of my favorite country in the world.

Can you imagine a farmer's market in such a spot? Almost 80 miles due south on Highway 118, over some mountains, across some desert flats, through a pass, and then turn right and go up and over a few dark rust colored hills, turn onto the dirt road, past the old time cemetery, and there, tucked in between the cactus, is nestled a community garden and almost a dozen vendors.

Today's venture was a bit of an experiment, because I am rather partial to community living and farmer's markets and local economy (have you noticed?). I know it is crazy to drive so far, but this does happen to be one of my favorite drives in the world, and as I listened to Motown and drank my coffee, it almost felt like a vacation, watching the ribbons of cottonwoods, glowing golden under the pink and gray sky, weighted down by heavy piles of clouds.

For a moment I wondered if all those hours of baking yesterday were going to be for nothing. I mean, really, just how many loaves of bread can one ghost town of 200 something people, spread over 40 miles or so, buy? Would I even be able to recoup the gas money? If not, at least I would get to spend the morning meeting some new friends, hanging out in one of the state's totally hip spots...

Well, Shannon and Zoey greeted me with hugs and genuine delight and I was was delighted to see the huge garden they have been working on for the last three years. is their website. These folks are all about everything we have been trying to do in our own life for the last several years; help the community develop viable ways to use resources available to them to grow their own food and create an economy with their local infrastructure.

The garden is lovely, even in the middle of the desert in a horrible drought, and the vibe of the farmer's market was a joy. I couldn't believe how many locals came out to buy bread and peppers and milk and cheese and other goodies. Tourists who happened to be in the ghost town for the big Chili cook off came out to sample and walk away with Pumpkin Kamut muffins and Spelt Apple Challah and Seedy crackers.

Along with some great chat, I sold as much at that little ghost town market as I did back at our Catawba market. Crazy. Good. And got a significant dose of Vitamin D.

Patrick was a wonderful partner here in Alpine and I was thankful he was able to represent the bakery for me and that the other kids managed in town while I worked on the experiment.

I won't drive down to Terlingua every week because that distance isn't practical for our family. But once or twice a month is a good economy. Especially if next time we can continue the short drive on to our favorite national park for a nice hike!

Running the bakery is hard. Sometimes so hard I think it is going to do me in. Yesterday I woke up and got to work at 3am. Put the head on the pillow at midnight. It is hard to run the family as a single mom. The lines between work and home get really blurry when work is at home and vice versa. But farmer's market day is a good reminder why I am doing this. I am filled to overflowing with gratitude to all the folks who make the effort (and in regions like Alpine and especially Terlingua, it is a HUGE effort!) to go out of their way to spend their hard earned money on my bakery goods. The truth is, no matter where you live, it is a big effort to get out to buy locally produced foods and products. It is well worth it, but it is expensive and inconvenient. I am humbled and thankful to imagine that my freshly milled whole grain breads and other things are contributing to the good health of other people and they are contributing to the good health of our local economy. And so far, (Please, God, let it continue!) we are able to pay all our bills.

Well, the wind is calm, the sky is tinted pink and I get an extra hour of sleep tomorrow morning!!! Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Friday, November 4, 2011

So Thankful to Have Lights on My Bike Now

The night is dark.

The air is cool.

I just biked back from our church after our First Friday event. Each first Friday we host a musical event, followed by a wine and cheese and other goody reception. Our little town of Alpine is small, under 7,000, but we have a very diverse and talented population. This evening we had the Big Bend Chamber Music Consort provide pieces by Bach, Hayden, Copeland and others. Flute, Clarinet, grand piano, soprano. Our little church was comfortably filled with neighbors from all over town. Some St. James church goers. Some other church goers. Some non-church goers.

We all were nourished by the lovely music. And then we enjoyed treats in the Parish Hall, getting to know one another.

I still have granola to bag and challah to bake and bread to wrap.

But I was terribly hungry this week and was praying to God to satisfy me.

After having my soul fed by the lovely performance, framed by peaked roof and stained glass, and after a couple of meaningful conversations and some helpful advice, I feel a bit more equipped to handle the rest of my hard-working weekend.

I think I will put on Beethoven to accompany the rest of the evening. Spelt Apple Challah, here I come.