Thursday, December 20, 2012

these darker days

*Christmas baking is in full swing (cookie recipes here, here, and here). My girl dons Oma's apron, grabs a wooden spoon, and carries around bowls which are much too heavy for her as I work away in the kitchen.

*The egg basket remains empty as the hens take their winter break (and I dip into my freezer stash).

*Advent candles burn bright. The greenery I collected for our advent wreath (just as I did last year, complete with the same cast of characters!) already dried up to fire-hazard proportions, so I replaced it with this old felt garland, made into a wreath shape. Taking inspiration from here, we also now have the perfect candle holder, cut from one of our dead aspen trees. And I sprung for some lovely beeswax candles! A very proper advent wreath to light our December nights. Our feet are still firmly planted in this advent season - waiting for the Light.

*Sometimes we eat a very early dinner and run outside at 4:00 to soak up the last bit of fading daylight. My need to rearrange what little furniture we have seems to peak at this time of year. All this indoor time is certainly good for fluffing the nest! (And for knitting. Lots and lots of knitting).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

back to knitting

Which is what I do when I'm not sure what else to do.

While searching for the perfect yarn to tackle baby's sweater-coat project, I whipped up these fingerless mittens as a gift for my sister. She's very fun and fashionable, and I hope she likes these! (Wearing knitted gifts is coming back into fashion, right? Right.) I used a light sock weight yarn, since she lives in Texas, and doesn't usually see much of a winter there.

I will never be a hand model. 

Back to the sweater, I purchased some beautiful, natural merino wool from Grace. Much like knowing the farmer who grows your food, I think it wise to know the people who know and care for the animals your fiber comes from. It really is the way things ought to be, I feel. My very ambitious goal is to have this project completed by Christmas. I work well with deadlines. And so far the pattern isn't frightening me into avoidance (much).

Saturday, December 8, 2012

on letting go

When I was a child, I used to save shiny little candy wrappers in an old shoe box. Mostly made of colored foil, I would take care not to rip the wrapper when removing the candy. I'd then smooth the foil out gently, admire it, and place it in my treasure box. It seems many of us have a tendency to want to keep or hold onto beautiful things or things we find uniquely special. I hardly even looked at my wrappers, but there was comfort knowing I rescued something beautiful from the trash, and that it was mine.

Possessions - how easily and innocently they turn into comfort or obsessions. And how much fiercer we tend to cling to them as we age, perhaps most especially those things which aren't meant to stay with us forever.

We recently harvested one of the meat-birds-turned-layers who was becomming unhealthfully fat. It was a bit difficult for me, as I honestly just wanted to keep her around because she was so different-looking (the only darker one of the bunch) and special that way. Harvesting animals is certainly an exercise in letting go.

Why do we feel we must have something in hand to carry it with us? The intangible aspects, like a memory, just don't seem the same. We want the baggage. Or at least, I used to. But I'm finding with this lifestyle of less is more, that I'm becomming more at ease with the passing of things/beings/seasons - time - and less enamored with what was. For somehow we must carry all these experiences in our bones, even if we can't readily recall all the moments of our past. Maybe what I'm trying to say is that it's truly the present that matters, and that living in that doesn't negate the past or hinder the future, like at one time I thought it might.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

eggnog french toast

English muffins soaked in a mixture of eggnog, one beaten egg, and a little cinnamon and sugar. Then fried in butter and sprinkled with powdered sugar and a tiny bit of maple syrup. Oh my. So festive and good.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

animal composting

I know this is a rather grim subject, but when you have livestock, you need a way to deal with animal carcasses in cases of unplanned and untimely death. Winter is certainly one of those untimely seasons to lose an animal, being that burial isn't really an option when the ground is frozen solid. And, unfortunately, it seems winter is when most animal losses occur.

The animal compost pile, about a third less high than when we originally made it. Next year I'm going to plant sunflowers around it. 

We first learned about this composting method after we lost our 'Stella goat. The first link on this website also has very well-researched and in-depth information on the subject. We used the same principles mentioned in these articles, but applied them on a smaller scale. We fenced off a small area in a spot away from the ponds and streams. We used pine shavings (A LOT of pine shavings!) as the composting medium, and after some initial wetting of the pile, it has pretty much taken care of itself. I've only turned it once (to see if things were actually decomposing in there - they were!) and we've added a variety of critters to it (chickens, mostly) since the original goat. In spring, we'll spread the compost around the trees on our property. I'm still reading up on using animal compost on fruit trees or in the garden, as there's some conflicting information about the safety of it.

Pine shavings are excellent for proper air circulation and water retention/drainage

A few benefits of composting carcasses as opposed to other methods are: 

*Less risk of groundwater contamination
*Less labor intensive than burial
*Less costly than cremation, and I like knowing our animals are still a part of this place after they pass. Plus, I do think dealing with the carcass yourself helps with the grieving process, and returning them to the earth in this way feels like a natural way to honor their contributions here.

Digging down into the pile reveals beautiful, rich compost

I hope all of this doesn't sound too clinical - death on our farm always has a profound effect  - but I wanted to share this because it really has worked for us. Having a system like this in place makes dealing with the death of an animal a little less stressful when the time comes.
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