Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Year of Blessings in Disguise

You know those people who automatically - effortlessly, it seems - can find the good in almost every rotten situation? I am not one of those people. But I really want to be! I often struggle to find the good in the bad. This year has been one lesson after another in recognizing the blessings in times of Trouble. And, I'm (slowly) learning.

The series of unfortunate events started with the spring flooding that destroyed what was left of the garden perennials still in the ground, as well as a number of trees. However, it also brought in some wonderful wildlife that we have never seen so close before. A family of geese must have floated over the fence and then became stuck here when the waters subsided. At first, I thought they couldn't figure a way back out, but then after a couple weeks, they left at night and returned in the mornings. They roamed the driveway and hung out with the chickens. The goslings pecked adorably at seeded dandelion heads all day long while the ever-vigilant parents stood guard. It's no wonder there are so many geese around - from what I observed, they are excellent parents. What a joy it was to have them here. They've long since migrated on, and I miss them! My neighbor mentioned that geese return each year to the same nesting spot, so I really hope we see them again. How wonderful that would be.

The flooding also brought in many birds of prey using our land of flushed out rodent holes as a hunting ground. There was a family of owls that visited for a couple nights just before dusk. One perched right outside the bedroom window! That same night on my walk to lock in the goats, I spotted five (the same family, I think, as three of them appeared to be juveniles) perched together along the old wooden fence posts at the far western end of our property. So majestic!

We lost more animals this year than any other. The increased predator load from deforestation and housing development encroaching on all sides of us brought the coyotes ever closer, taking the lives of many livestock. All our efforts to keep them safe seemed to no avail, and it was heartbreaking. I had finally purchased a beautiful Nubian - we named her Cassiopeia - and only milked her for this one season before she was taken. A sacrifice to the wolves, as it were. But all that gave us a front row seat to Nature. Literally right outside our window. The agility of the coyotes, the majestic vultures...the reminder that just being able to have a small bit of land to raise animals and food is marvelous and still worth the struggle. It is a humbling that comes in so many forms.

We also laid to rest our beloved Aki dog, the freeing of a spirit...which also brought a profound realization of our purpose in stewarding these animals who are with us for whatever time we are gifted. We found an inner strength we didn't know existed as we stayed always with him, until the last breath. We miss him.

The final undercurrent throughout all this has been a tightening of our purse strings, of which is the one challenge I didn't instinctively begrudge! I know firsthand there are people in this world in deep, deep poverty. I know how very fortunate we are. I've sold off my "valuables" - well, I suppose the things considered valuable in our society - and it further deepened my resolve about what's truly important in life - health, family - and that things really are just things.

So perhaps this has just been the Year of Growing Up. Or the Year of Wisdom. Whichever - I'm as grateful for it as I am for the time to move on.

Wishing you the happiest of New Years, friends.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

around the farm

Popping in for a little update!

Our first asparagus harvest, such a treat. My little girl eats the straight up raw, freshly cut stalks!

The kids and I have a slight addiction to chocolate goat's milk, of which copious amounts are consumed daily; so much so that I don't have enough milk left for cheesemaking! I'm hoping to acquire a Nubian in milk over the next month or so, if one finds her way to us.

We have four new laying hen chicks in the brooder, a couple varieties we've never had before - two dark brahmas and two brown leghorns. They get lots of love, and my girl spends hours each day holding them, reading stories to them, and rocking them to sleep in her little rocking chair. It is the sweetest.

I've never grown such beautiful tomato starts! Except I'm noticing some leaf curling now, and have declared a Tomato Plant Emergency, which I hope to avert tomorrow by getting some proper potting mix and larger containers. These are growing in compost right now, and I have a feeling the soil is too damp and heavy for their liking. Oh, if I could just get them to hang in there for a couple more weeks, they can go into the great outdoors!

In the garden, I'm looking forward to the first rhubarb harvest, although it seems to be growing slower this year (or maybe I'm just more impatient!) Our garlic beds are growing well, and a large bed of about 100 onion bulbs are just starting to poke up. There's also a bed of potatoes. I'm going back to the raised bed method this year (I need about 10 more built! Hmmm). With our springtime flooding issues and high winds bringing in loads of weed seeds, I think raised beds will be easier to maintain. And as a bonus, it also prevents my little helpers from accidentally stepping on things I want to grow! We've planted peas and various cool weather greens in this cold frame. Stuff is starting to sprout there, too. I plan to grow my cabbage and cucumbers in here next month, maybe keeping them under cover to prevent pest damage and also hopefully allowing the peas and cukes to vine up the frame.

Okay, off I go now. We've a baptism to prepare for this weekend, and although I've finished giving everyone haircuts, there's ironing to be done and a little shrug to try knitting in time (read: a sink-full of dishes to avoid washing).

Saturday, April 11, 2015

this sweater

This sweater is a metaphor for my life right now.

It was supposed to be a Christmas sweater for my baby girl, which then turned into a potential St. Valentine's Day sweater, which ultimately became a "please still fit and good thing Spring is pretty chilly here" sweater. It's still not really finished, but I'm calling it done. Like so many things in my life at this moment, I'm learning to accept good enough when I see it.

This sweater is filled with little mistakes (I actually tried to remember the mistakes I made while knitting the first arm so that I could duplicate them in the second. Ha!). Little mistakes, but good lessons.

I have this irrational fear that while out and about, someone (some mythical one) will be appalled at the incomplete collar and the fact that one sleeve is a half inch longer than the other, and will admonish me to please not dress my sweet baby in such a way. This is the same mythical someone, by the way, whom I also fear will show up on my doorstep with a shaking-of-the-head "tsk, tsk, tsk" at the current state of my house.      

This sweater took such a long time to complete, with unanticipated hurdles and frustrations and even thoughts of abandonment altogether. And really, it looks nothing like the pattern said it would. But, in the end, it really is still beautiful. Beautiful, messy, honest, unfinished...Like life - yes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

my sourdough

So with the understanding that this is coming from a complete sourdough bread making novice, I thought I might share a recipe that's been working for me and that we really love. Having been a tad intimidated by some of the recipes I collected for sourdough bread, on a whim I decided to modify this old no-knead crusty bread recipe (which I've made successfully many times). Familiarity breeds comfort, right? Right! And it worked!

Overnight No-Knead Sourdough Bread 

Note: You'll need to start this process about 24 hours before you actually want to consume the bread.

2 1/4 Cups flour (I use organic spelt and white)
1 Cup active sourdough starter (my starter is quite thick, by the way - I usually keep it going by mixing in spelt or white flour and just a little water)
1 Cup water
1 1/4 teaspoons salt


1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Dough will be "shaggy and sticky." Cover and let rest 12-18 hours.

2. Place dough on floured work surface. Fold dough over on itself and let rest 15 minutes.

3. Shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a tea towl with flour. Place dough ball seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Cover and let rise 3 hours.

4. When it's ready, the dough will be at least double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

5. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Put cast iron pot (covered with lid) in oven as it heats. Place hand under bottom towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up. Shake pot to even up dough. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes.

6. Remove lid and bake another 15-30 minutes (closer to 15 for me) until loaf is browned. Cool on rack.

I love this recipe for its very short ingredient list and the fact that there's very little hands-on time required. Oh, I cannot even describe how busy my hands are tending to the littles these days!! I'm curious if this recipe works for anyone else, so if you try it, please let me know how it turns out for you.

Friday, January 2, 2015

easing back in...

with a few knitting projects. Here we have:

The Finished 

Booties! Still a little big and often kicked off, but oh-so-warm for my fast-growing and otherwise cold-toed baby girl.

The Begun

Tree garland inspired by Julia's. I'm doing a very long knitted i-cord version. Yes, I've just begun knitting it; This way it's sure to be done by next Christmas!

The Abandoned

A rag rug made of old worn out bedsheets, which I cut into strips and then tied together and wound into a ball for knitting. It is just too hard on the hands, and I've lost all motivation to keep going! I may try braiding it instead.

Happy New Year, Friends! Wishing you every blessing in 2015!
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