Saturday, March 30, 2013


Writing a blog was a lot easier on the farm.

I began writing to chronicle some of our experiences so the children would have stories to remember.  I loved hearing my parents and grandparents tell stories throughout my growing up.  I have written most of my life.  I have boxes of journals.  Filled with lists, stories, cries, prayers, hurts, recipes, sermons, grocery lists, bad poetry, cuss words and fears.  I still journal.  Not as frequently as some years, but still fairly regularly.

I don't mind if the children read those journals at some point.  But somewhere along the way, I realized that I wrote in journals when I was confused, sad or angry.  It was a great way to get things out of my system.  A place to safely process junk.

After a year or two on the farm, reading other people's blogs, I saw the blog arena as a place to capture some of the lovelier moments.  The perfect venue to photograph with the written word a moment in time.  I have strived to keep it real.  To me, the most lovely things are not perfectly sanitized.  Sometimes the most beautiful things are painful, a bit messy, and occasionally confusing.  I want the kids to see that the good life is real and full.  And to see that God is in the middle of every bit of it.  Having the discipline of writing in the blog was helpful to me.  Better than only writing when miserable!  Although you may remind me that there have been seasons of misery, and I have asked you to walk along with me, and it has amazed me how much beauty and joy have been woven into the painful times.

Everyday on the farm there was something to catalog.  The first day we heard the peepers every year.  The blooming of the cherry tree.  The different seasons of the willow.  If I needed to know when a certain lamb was born, I could search it on the blog.  My almanac of sorts.

In our new life I enjoy the seasons.  Love to feel the way the air touches my skin on an early morning these days, moist and full of springtime and birdsong.  (and pollen!)  The desert never ceases to amaze me.  But the cares of the world, work, managing, all that stuff, seem to fill me up with boring things.  I don't know what part I want to capture for the kids anymore.

God is still in the middle of every bit of our life.

Bear with me as I ramble, because I am trying to figure out why I am still blogging.  Or why I don't feel like blogging anymore.  Ever since we moved here, I have been feeling a bit wobbly, not knowing what my blog's goal or objective is anymore.  I could make it a bakery blog, which would clearly define things, keeping it fairly simple.  I could continue to write about our grief journey, which is still very real.  But depressing for some people to be faced with deep pain.  Then there is single parenthood life, small town life, desert living, healthy living.

Perhaps this blog is suffering from a drought.  Maybe a gentle, metaphorical spring rain would nourish me.  Perhaps an electrical metaphorical thunderstorm would help inspire me.

In the meantime, the laundry and dishes are waiting.  The Saturday cleanup is not happening.  Easter dinner sides and rolls must be made.  Church needs dusting.  And here I sit, typing a bunch of nonsense into my computer!!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Simple Pleasures or Abundant Living

Two days ago the trees were bare.  Yesterday green leaves appeared all over the neighborhood!  Redbuds seem quite proud of themselves.  Perhaps they think they are pretty spectacular.  Fact is, they are!  On Saturday the wisteria was covered in clusters of almost ready to explode blossoms.  When I got up and went out to the backyard Sunday morning, I noticed bare wisteria branches.  Nibbled bare, by deer, I presume.


Blackie and Brownie are now on nighttime patrol, since we have begun to plant our garden. We live kitty-cornered to the golf course, which supports a herd of 25-40 deer.

I think the dogs probably feel proud to be called back into service after leading a pretty cush evening life, sleeping on pillows on my bedroom floor.  If the deer thought the wisteria blossoms were tasty, who knows what they might think of the new garden!

A very long day in the bakery left me feeling pooped this evening.  I guess all the springtime springing made me feel creative.  Along with the other goodies, I made some freshly milled whole grain Mile High Biscuits.  Using the same Southern Living recipe I used to make back in college days, but now instead of white flour I use a combination of hard white wheat berries and spelt berries, milled.  And coconut oil instead of crisco.  And sucanat instead of sugar.  And raw milk instead of the other stuff.

They are still yummy!  Even better tasting, in my opinion.  Light.  Tender.  And especially good if you can grab some butter and apricot preserves when they come out of the oven.

I roll out the biscuit dough, cut the rounds with a half pint mason jar, and then freeze the raw biscuits, ready to put into a hot oven for a fast food breakfast that makes my children and customers smile.  I sold several batches and put the rest in the freezer for future deliciousness.

I also made spelt tortillas.  Another staple I used to make regularly in my college years once I moved out into my own apartment.  Except back in the day, it was white flour and crisco.  Coconut oil works beautifully in my tortilla recipe.  So does spelt.  The hard white wheat is a bit more family friendly, and very tasty.

After all the bread and cookies and biscuits and tortillas and brownie mixes and granola, kids trickled in from track practice.  This year Maggie and Patrick and Rose are all in track.  And Maggie and Patrick are mentoring the kids in Special Olympics.  I am proud of them for being so proud of their big brother Thomas last year when he ran in Special Olympics that they would share the love with other special kids in their school.  That said, they come home late and hungry and eat  a dozen cookies in a few seconds, and consume close to a dozen cold biscuits.  Then it is time to think about supper.  I was going to cook some chicken, but Maggie is going to a baseball game with friends and Patrick has homework and I have bakery dishes to do (so why I am writing in this blog???).  We nixed the chicken and sliced a loaf of spelt Milk and Honey bread, grabbed some mayo, sliced roast beef, sliced tomatoes, pickles, a sliced jalapeno, and piles of raw spinach from our farmer's market haul.  We declared that never was there a better sandwich crafted.

Patrick was not so fond of the jalapenos, so I ate his.  But Maggie and I liked the mild burn.

Hunger is a wonderful thing when you have good things at hand to help satisfy the pains.  We are so blessed with the abundance of delicious, nutritious options here in our home.  I realize that if I did  not have this bakery we would not be able to eat as well.  If we didn't have money and bread and cookies to barter for veggies and milk we would not eat as well.

I am grateful for the many hands that helped make our supper possible.  And I hurt for the many men and women and children who will go to bed hungry this evening.  Please God, show us and the other folks out there who are able how we can share this bounty wisely so we can all be nourished, satisfied, grateful at table, even when it is as simple as a sandwich.

PS Here is a very sketchy version of my Mile High Biscuits.  I bet if you googled it, you could get a much more detailed version from Southern Living.  These biscuits are slightly sweet.  Amazing with butter and jam. If you want to make sausage and gravy biscuits, I would nix the sucanat or decrease it by more than half.

Patrick usually makes these biscuits and does an amazing job.  But his junior year of highschool keeps him much busier than back in the old days on the farm.

Mile High Biscuits

3 cups freshly milled whole wheat flour, a bit more if you use spelt
1/4 c. sucanat
1 1/2 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (yes, it really does make a difference if you leave this out)
1 tsp salt
1/2 c. coconut oil (back when we raised our own pastured pork, on organic grass and chemical free grains we made our own lard.  It made the best biscuits.  I could not recommend store bought lard. Butter works, but makes a completely different texture.  Liquid oil doesn't work at all, at least if you are from my part of the country and expect a particular crumb.)
1 egg
1 1/4c milk

Mix dry ingredients.  Cut in coconut oil, rub it in to the flour.  Beat egg and milk  together and mix with dry ingredients.  knead dough briefly until it comes together.  Let it rest for a few minutes.  Roll the dough out on a floured surface to just under a half an inch or so.  I like these pretty thick (Mile High Biscuits, right?)  Cut into rounds.  Place on lightly greased baking sheet and bake in preheated 475 degree oven until golden brown.  OR double the recipe, bake half and place half the biscuits on freezer paper or a baking sheet, freeze then transfer the biscuits to a Ziploc bag.  You can take the frozen biscuits out of the freezer, place on baking sheet and place right in a hot oven.  They take a couple of minutes longer than if they were fresh.  Perfect for Sunday morning breakfast, or tea time!  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Apricots! or perhaps I should say I see glimmers of hope!

A couple of days ago Judy and I went out to survey the latest work on the garden.  We were delighted to see a few blossoms on the apricot tree.

Last year we delighted in the blossoms, but delighted even more in the fruit the tree bore last summer.  We made tarts and jam and I felt pleased since I had wished for an apricot tree for years.

So, the apricot tree is about to be in full bloom.  The algerita bush in the side yard is covered in tiny yellow flowers that will eventually make berries.  The oak tree is blooming with little catkins.  The fig trees are covered in teeny tiny baby figs.

A couple of weeks ago I was miserable, cold and feeling hopeless.  An acquaintance asked if I still felt enthusiastic about my bread baking.  I laughed a bit bitterly, saying that Pollyanna enthusiasm wasn't exactly the way I would describe my livelihood.  I do feel deep gratitude for my customers, and am 100% convinced that being able to transform wholesome, freshly milled grains into delicious breads and cookies is a great vocation and job.  I LOVE my job.  But it is hard, my ingredients are quite difficult to source, they are getting more and more expensive, and occasionally I wonder if it will be possible to continue to offer my products if I can no longer afford their ingredients.  The hours are long, the piles of dishes are gigantuan, and enthusiastic isn't really the way I would describe how I feel about my work.

But the gratitude sinks down into my bones, and while I am not exactly bubbling over with effervescent enthusiasm, I am thankful for this bakery, and the mill, and the smells of yeast and honey and the feel of bouncy dough being worked by my hands, the warmth of the blast of steam from my oven, toasting my face, the smile on a child's face as she pops a warm, nutritious cookie into her mouth.  The gratitude of a customer who discovers my bread doesn't make him sick.  I am thankful to be able to fill up my children and their friends with granola and dozens of cookies and lots of homemade pizza and cinnamon toast.

But wait a minute, I think I got off track!  So, feeling cold and miserable and hopeless, I told Raymond that I was going to give up on gardening.  It was too much, the soil was too rocky, I didn't have the time, energy or optimism to figure out how to garden in southwest Texas.  R. hasn't gardened much.  That siad,  I think he must love me an awful lot.  Because he brought a load of boards and stakes and wheelbarrow and shovels and got to work on the garden beds even though I protested halfheartedly.  He and Maggie and Patrick set about repurposing boards from a broken down picnic table into several raised beds.  The kids dug up beautiful soil from a year's worth of sheet composting for the lasagna garden that never quite happened last year, except for those volunteer pumpkins.  They found dirt that was chocolatey brown, and while not exactly teeming with worms, it did have a few!  Which is pretty amazing.  All of a sudden, I felt hope begin to show some teeny signs of growth in my heart.  Like the little bitty figs.

Seeing Raymond and the kids work on a project that was primarily for me, since I am the one who loves to garden, made me feel deeply loved.  Can you believe that they fixed up a screen to sort out the rocks from the dirt and then hauled of a couple of truckloads worth of rocks, to make room for soil we grew last year?  It is not a gigantic garden space.  Compared to the farm in Virginia, it is tiny.  Sufficiently big enough to grow quite a bit of food for this little spot.  Who knows if anything we plant will grow and survive and produce.  But I feel much more optimistic about gardening today than I did a couple of weeks ago.

I am hoping that the springtime, rebirthing optimism, will pour over into my bakery business, growing like yeast in a nice, warm bowl full of grain and milk and honey, giving me some new energy and creativity.  Perhaps some hope and optimism will enable me to be able to see new solutions to challenging situations.  Perhaps rote work will be transformed into enthusiastic vocation.  Or something like that.