Monday, April 23, 2012


This morning Thomas and I drove to Odessa.  He had an evaluation.  I had an eye doctor visit.  I also had a list for Sam's a mile long.  And a motor that wasn't quite perfect that had to be returned. 

A few years ago, I walked out of Sam's Club in Roanoke and swore I would never cross that threshold again.  I was disgusted by the box store.  At the time we were raising our meat, our dairy, our fruits and veggies, milling grain and baking breads, and bartering for soap and wine and coffee. 

I felt privileged and lucky to throw away my Sam's card.  I felt a bit superior.  Special.  As if I were a part of the REAL club. 

Well.  Just like the rabbit in Winnie the Pooh, I am a bit humbled.  A bit put in my place.

I got a new Sam's Club card a few months ago.  It has my picture on it. 

I typically drive the two and a half hour drive to Midland/Odessa once a month, whether I wish to or not.  A combined population of over 200,000 people, with all the stuff that tiny towns like Alpine do not have, like specialty doctors and specialty equipment.

And when I do, I grab the card, the great big cart, and go shop.

True confession:  last month the girls and I were on a mission to buy parts for the broken down mill.  We ran into Sam's to get the laundry detergent, dish detergent, dog food and yeast.  We had to pass by the electronics section to get to the good stuff.  As we passed by the tv's, I thought about the Christmas gift from Judith and Ned.  We used part of it to buy needed clothing for kids, and a pair of shiny red high-heeled shoes for me.  But the other part was being held aside for us to go horseback riding at Big Bend Ranch State Park.  However, everytime I called the park to schedule our ride, we were unable to sign up.  The drought means that the price of hay is exhorbitant, so the horses are out to pasture (well, out to desert) and are not being saddled up for tours.

When we wished to watch a family movie, we would huddle on the futon, (thanks, Terri!) and crowd around, kids on laps, elbows in ribs, to try to watch a dvd on my tiny laptop.  Great for family togetherness.  Sort of.  But when I suggested the kids invite friends over to watch a dvd, they would decline, saying it was just too crowded. 

Seeing those tvs drew me in like a magnet.  With all the other problems that were unfixable, they seemed like a beacon.  One thing I could offer. 

We conferred in the aisle and agreed upon a 32 inch Vizio.  Who knows how it rates in the Consumer Digest.  All I know is that when we set it up in the library, I think the kids realized I might have flipped my lid.  The boys were speechless.  And that next night, as we hooked it up and watched a movie together, we thanked God for Judith and Ned and their Christmas gift, and trusted that the horseback riding would happen eventually, but probably the corporate movie watching would offer longer lasting joy. 

So, tonight, after a very long day and over five hours of driving, Thomas unloaded the car and I prepared a nice meal.  With food purchased from my old nemesis.  And I had to chuckle to think about evolution and adaption and dealing with the life we have to lead under different circumstances.  We appreciate our farm-raised pork and freshly milled grains and creamy, raw milk.  But we are having to compromise in a lot of areas these days and I trust that as we do, the kids are learning lessons of gratitude and grace. 

Legalism is not so nice, is it?  And adjustment comes in many different flavors. 

PS We still don't have the tv hooked up to real tv.  Netflix and dvds are bad enough.  But who knows?  One of these days I might break down and get cable.  But I doubt it.  The kids would really know I had lost it if I were to stoop so low!  (HAHA)  We will enjoy it when we go visit our other dear friends and be thankful for their cable tv. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Friday Night

Yesterday was a long day in the bakery.  I finally got around to developing a recipe for healthy, delicious gingersnaps, made with freshly milled hard white wheat, yummy, local farm eggs, organic coconut oil, sucanat, sorghum, and double the spices.

Not only did they smell heavenly, they tasted great too!

My customers have led me to believe that man cannot live on bread alone, but needs a few goodies on the side, like cookies, chocolate cupcakes and baby spelt pound cakes.  Even though I do not have a sweet tooth, I am happy to accomodate these wonderful folks with my healthy version.  Which pleases my children to no end.

By the time the bakery products were packaged, the counters washed and dried, the floor swept, it was quite late and I was quite warm.  A cool breeze outside drew me to the glider in the backyard. 

Have you ever felt that magic moment where the air feels delicious?  I wanted to drink in the breeze as I rocked in exhaustion.  Stars twinkled.  Tree leaves rustled.  Nightime town noises murmured. 

It was kind of weird.  All of a sudden I felt so connected to God and the universe, sitting there in the glider in the backyard in the dark in our little town.  I prayed for my children, then so many faces came into my mind and as I prayed for them, a deep love flowed through my heart.  I prayed for them to know how much they are loved.  For each of my children and the dozens of other folks, friends, family, acquaintances, randomly appearing on my mind, to be able to be who they were created to be. 

I wish I could somehow express how magical it felt to be surrounded by sweet breezes, starry sky, fresh, healing air, loving dear ones all around the world, through tender prayers.  But I am running late and need to head to the Farmer's Market.  I figured if I jotted down a few notes it would help trigger the memory for me in the future when I need something to savor.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Milk and Honey

I know you guys must get sick and tired of me writing about how much I love my customers, but the truth is, every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday I end my day tired, but thankful. Thankful for local economy. Thankful that enough people come to buy bread and cookies and grain and granola to get my basic bills covered.

Do you remember the Bible story about the widow and the oil? When I am tired and sad, worried about things that are beyond my ability to change, I fear that I will run out of strength or that I will run out of ingredients or that I will run out of customers. But every time, there is just enough. Just enough strength. Just enough ingredients. Just enough customers. Just enough money to pay the bills and get more ingredients.

I bet that biblical widow lady must have felt a similar wonder as she, exhausted, stressed, worried, kept on filling up those oil bottles, jars and vessels, and managed to keep her son fed.

Have you noticed how much of life is a miracle? And how many miracles require a significant amount of work? Okay. I will try to get back to blogging about other things. Besides my sweet customers, who buy their daily bread and freely give out hugs. Thanks for bearing with me and the sentimentality. I really can't help it. I am very grateful, and there are days when I realize the ability to be grateful is a pretty big miracle. At least for a grouchy old mama like me.

If you were living here in the Chihuahuan Desert, you would be enjoying lots of flowers. The claret cup cactus is one of my favorites. Desert willow is blooming down south and should be opening up here in Alpine in a few days. The temperatures are brisk in the morning. 47 degrees when I took the kids to school. 80 by the time they headed back home.

Occasionally the wind blows violently, but today she was calm. Trees are glossy green with leaves and they make my eyes feel better.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Vinegar. You Have to Taste it to Believe it.

I began to write a post about our Seder, but then had to go take care of kids and got distracted and the post never got finished.

It is a worthwhile post, so I hope to eventually get to it.

But tonight it is all about the vinegar.

Which is actually a pretty good metaphor, considering that many associate bitterness with vinegar, but in my experience, in a rather holy and mystical way, somehow the bitter times are always tinged with a sweetness that make it possible for me to keep on getting up to mill grain into flour, bake bread and greet the world.

My dear friend, Stewart, you know, the one with the husband who used to help me butcher chickens and stitch up our wounds at the kitchen table?

She knows me. The other day we got a care package in the mail, filled with goodies that are attached to other stories. Precious goodies. But the one featured in tonight's blog is the slim bottle of elixir. Date Balsam Creme Vinegar- she discovered in a shop, Oil and Vinegar on Barracks Rd in Charlottesville, VA.

Having enough emotional resources to cook up a Sunday dinner is a pretty good indicator that things are beginning to look a little brighter around here. Not perfect, but better.

Before leaving for church, I put on a pork shoulder roast to braise. This is a roast from the hog I purchased from our milk suppliers, Z-Bar Ranch a few weeks ago and Daddy helped me butcher. Pan-seared it, then put in a dish with onions, carrots, celery, garlic, lots of thyme, sea salt, a few juniper berries, a bay leaf, some red wine and water, covered, stowed it in a hot oven (500 degrees) for 15 minutes, turned the temp down to 350 while I showered and dressed, then to 275 when we headed out the door to St. James.

Is there anything that makes a person feel more loved than the smell of an herby roast in the oven when coming home?

I roasted up some sweet potatoes, sauteed green beans, then remembered the bag of greens. The one given me by a lady who wished to barter for bread at the farmer's market. I pulled it out of the fridge and discovered fresh parsley, celery,a bunch of chocolate mint, kale and swiss chard. The parsley and celery went into the meat juices with a slug of vermouth to make a nice au jus, boiled down until thick. The chocolate mint was rinsed and placed in a jar. I poured boiling water over it to make a nice iced tea for our dinner. The rinsed greens went into the wok with loads of garlic and a bit of oil. A great big pinch of sea salt.

I pulled out cream and cheese, thinking about the children. You know their preferred way to eat greens is smothered in cream and cheese. Which is pretty darned good.

But a little niggly voice on the inside reminded me about Stewart's gift of vinegar. Hmm. Thick, earthy, just enough twang to remind me of its origen, but sweet and rich, right for Sunday dinner. I then remembered the bartered pecans from the fellow at the market who really likes my Almond Raisin Granola.

Oh yeah.

So, while the greens simmered in their juices for a couple of minutes, I threw a handful of chopped up pecans in another skillet to toast. When they were done, I placed the greens in a serving dish, generously drizzled them with the Date Balsam Cream Vinegar, then dumped the pecans unceremoniously out of the skillet, right on top.

Raymond even ironed the tablecloth and napkins, which was a unique treat at our table, as most of my friends know, I don't iron. We haphazardly gathered, guests helped set the table and fill up the glasses and carry the food. Maggie grabbed the toast out of the oven. We prayed and gave thanks and food made its way to the plates.

I cooked up a huge bunch of the kale and swiss chard and can you believe? Not a bite leftover. When everyone else left the table, I grabbed the serving bowl and slurped up some of the remaining vinegar, but don't tell anybody, because then they will know the truth that I am an uncultured slob. But I bet there are a couple of you out there who would have done the same thing. At least if no one was looking.

Thanks a lot, Stewart. Thanks to you, we are now addicted to a specialty treat that can't be found here in Alpine, Texas. Unless you send us more. Or we figure out how to make some ourselves. Which is a pretty good idea, because I am thinking that there are a few folks out here who might be happy to add that to their weekly bread order! For those of you who are in the Charlottesville area, I highly recommend you rush over to Oil and Vinegar in the Barracks area. You might need to drizzle that magical substance over fresh strawberries. Or peaches in season. Or use it on all those greens you keep getting in your CSA and don't know what to do with them.

I am so very thankful for Sunday dinners. For that hungry feeling you get in church, knowing there is something good waiting at home. For the smell of roast that takes me back to childhood. For lots of food at our table, maybe not all grown by us, but brought here directly from other peoples' hands, via friends of the farmer's market. Leaving our Va. farm meant leaving a lot of things behind. It is a comfort and joy to see that with some effort, we are able to keep the important things. Sunday's dinner was a helpful reminder.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pressed Down, but not Crushed, Troubled but not quite in Despair. At least not yet!

I hope to be back soon.

I miss blogging and sharing community here in blogworld.

The last few weeks have been veiled over with gray and dark for me. Which is ironic, seeing as the leaves are bursting forth, the blossoms have been blooming and the days are growing longer.

I have enough energy to barely run the bakery, tend to business and kids. But not another ounce for anything else. I can't remember when I went so long without writing anything. I am pressed down, wrung out, and terribly concerned about some matters dealing with a child.

It is shocking how many of you check in on me. You are dear to me, and I appreciate you.

Yesterday I reminded myself that the Lenten season is a good time to feel one's weakened state. To feel needy.

So, as we near the end of this season of hunger, I pray we would all be filled. That as we witness the resurrection in the world around us, birthing life and color and green, we would be restored, refreshed and renewed. (I'm guessing there must be at least one other soul out there feeling like I do!)